Monday, 31 August 2015

New Bike #2

I like epicyclic gearing, that's probably no great surprise to you given the original content of this blog. I have and ride examples of most of the exotic stuff that Sturmey Archer made in their heyday. These are the ones that collectors pay silly money for on Ebay. As an aside it tickles me that the ASC trigger featured on the Sturmey Archer heritage web page is one of my reproductions rather than an original. That's one of my early ones, note how the escutcheon doesn't quite fit the trigger body and that the detail is not an engraving. The internals were a perfect match with a genuine ASC trigger though. I sold these with full disclosure but it seems that subsequent sales weren't quite so transparent...

Let me know if you need one, I have a few left over. 

Given this love of the tiny whirring gears, I was hugely excited to learn of a new 14 speed epicyclic hub gear about to hit the market. Subsequently I became an early adopter of the Rohloff Speedhub, buying #1045 new in 1999. Rohloff have made over 200,000 since then. It has always lived on my mountain bike and has covered many miles with no real issues. The only time it let me down was when it lost its oil on the descent of Mount Ventoux in France. Now that was exciting, I can tell you. The oil seeped out of the hub and down the spokes and onto the rim. V brakes don't work well when liberally oiled. and 25 km up a big hill is not a good place to have it happen. The very early hubs had faulty seals that were replaced under warranty. I don't really do much actual mountain biking since I can't afford to come off with my back issues. Where I live we have lots of gravel roads that would be ideal for a new type of bike, a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. Naively, I thought I'd invented the genre but apparently it's already a thing and they're called Monster Cross bikes. Not a cyclocross bike, that's different and very traditional with fairly skinny wheels often with tubular tyres. I mean a bike with all the advances of recent mountain bike technology but with a road oriented riding position complete with drop handlebars. And the Rohloff I already have.

Paragon Machine Works make Rohloff specific dropouts.

I wanted disk brakes as the technology has settled down since the early versions. My 1996 Ibis tandem was made with early Hope cable disks which whilst adequate simply do not measure up to the modern equivalents. My lovely wife and I took this tandem to France to watch the '98 Tour, the year of the Festina scandal. We rode it up and down the Col du Tourmalet and as a result I think I can say with some authority that modern disks are an improvement. We still have the tandem but these days it's mostly myself and my giant son that set Strava KOMs on it. He's an awesome stoker, he weighs nothing yet is unnecessarily tall and has a huge power to weight ratio. I ask for more power on the uphills and the machine lunges forward. One day, real soon now, he'll be thrashing me on two wheels. But I digress. The first job was to send off the Rohloff to the local NZ agent to get it converted to a disk brake version, this is an easy swap that simply requires a new endplate to mount the disk on and a new external shifterbox. Chris emailed me a few days later to say that it has arrived but with damage despite being well wrapped. The result was a very stressful 6 month battle with the courier company to get them to admit liability and pay for the damage. I'm pleased to say that I was successful but the original #1045 hub shell was damaged beyond repair, it's something that still irks me. The upside is that the replacement hubshell is bright red (naturally) rather than the original silver.

Mmmm. Shiny red...

The Rohloff doesn't have a great choice of shifters for drop handlebars, there are a few twist type shifters available but most solutions look like the most awful bodge ups. The new Cinq5 shifters looked just the ticket so ordered a set from Pure Sports.

Right lever for lower gears, left lever for higher gears. shifts two at a time.

Nice clean installation.

In the meantime I hunted around and engaged the services of a local NZ frame builder. I know, I know, I could have built one myself but I enjoy and admire craftsmanship from other builders too. I needed to provide all my critical dimensions and the family and I had a good laugh getting the measurements one evening. Having had a fair few frames made for me over the years, I've always known that I have relatively long thighs. Being such a freak means that I generally can't get my seat far enough back on off the peg frames. The brief was simple, full width 29er wheels, disk brakes, Rohloff hub, single chainring, 80mm suspension forks and obviously it has to be red.

When the frame arrived, I was like a dog with diphallia.

I'd been collecting all the parts required over the previous months and spent a happy day assembling it as follows:

Frame: CCC Columbus Xcr 29er
Fork: DT Swiss XMM 15mm axle
Headset: Hope mix 'n' match
Stem: Thompson 110mm -17 degrees
Handlebars: Salsa Cowbell 46cm
Drop brake levers: Tektro R200A
Auxiliary brake levers: Tektro
Seatpost: BBB carbon
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C15 (the new skinny rubber one)
Bottom bracket: Hope stainless steel
Chainset: 170mm Middleburn RS8-X type with Rohloff spider
Chainring: 38T Middleburn Mono
Chain: SRAM PC 870
Brake calipers: Avid BB7 road SL
Brake rotor front: 180mm Avid HS1
Brake rotor rear: Rohloff 160mm
Front hub: Hope Evo Pro 2
Rear hub Rohloff 16T
Rear skewer: 90's Hope titanium
Gear shifters: Cinq5
Rims: Stans ZTR Crest 29er
Spokes: DT black stainless double butted
Tyres: Continental Race King 2.2 tubeless using Stan's NoTubes system.
Pedals: old Shimano spds

I would have willingly given one of my testicles for a bike like this when I was young.

So far I'm loving the tubeless tyres. OMG how good are they? The bike is not trying to be a mountain bike but is reasonably capable on pretty harsh terrain. I rode the Contact Epic on it this year and whilst not well suited to the second half of the course it was OK. For its intended purpose however it excels, the bike disappears beneath me and rides as well on gravel as on seal. It has opened up lots of local unsealed roads including some spectacular climbing within a short ride of my house. Just this last weekend, I rode a 50km fully offroad loop with 900m of climbing right from my front door. I'm such a lucky boy.

The little green tag on the Brooks gives me access to hundreds of kilometers of empty forestry
roads at the weekends. I highly recommend you join if you live in or near North Canterbury.

I'm afraid that the jury is out on the Cinq5 shifters, I really, really want to like them, but they've let me down on a couple of big rides since I've had them. I'll write a full report on them later.

[Edit - The Cinq5 Shift:R system has now been replaced by a Gebla Rohbox, Take a look at my long term comparison of both systems]

In other news, I've knackered my back again. I bent down to pick up an allen key from the workshop floor and popped one of my existing prolapsed disks again. I spent yesterday in hospital on morphine which was where I wrote this so apologies if it's a little garbled. I hope that normal service will be resumed shortly. My goodness me, morphine is a powerful drug...


  1. Bob, nice bike!
    That red hub is way better than boring old silver on this type of bike,


    1. Hi Stephen,

      thanks, I'm really enjoying riding it at the moment. Oh yeah, I got that Mansfield saddle this week. I'll do a post on it next.



    2. Hi Bob - had a look at an old blog of yours about a rim that you were working on! I have a rim problem & was wondering if you could help me?! Please!? Stuart

  2. Hi Bob-

    Seems as though I'm a late comer, but your work is inspiring. I recently acquired a lathe, and you've given me a lot of ideas as to what to do with it!


    1. Thanks Jim,

      I don't know how normal people manage without a lathe to play with. I'd be lost without one. I hope to start work on a new project in the new year. I've had so little time lately, you know how it is...


  3. Hi,
    I need a "face" of asc trigger. Please let me about the cost and the shipping cost. I come from Greece.

    1. Hello, I can't email you back. Could you please send me an email using the "email me" link at the top right and I can give you the details and send you some photos.