Before you order your new frame make sure it has enough clearance for the tires and fenders you intend to use. It’s not rare for people to change their view of what size tire they want to use on their bikes or decide that fenders are a good idea. With generous clearances in the frame and fork you can always run smaller rubber, but if you start with your tires taking up all your spare room and decide you want to install fenders you are out of luck.
I’m a fan of bigger tires. They aren’t as slow as people think they are – in fact they can be downright fast if you get a light supple set. They provide a comfortable ride on rough ground and can handle mixed surfaces much better than narrow rubber. For a 26″ wheel a something in the range 40-50mm provides good balance between speed, comfort and good handling. I don’t like narrow tires on 26″ wheel as the ride is harsh and the handling can be nervous.
Surly designed the LHT to fit decent size rubber so it was easy to mount up some 2.15″ Schwalbe Big apples. There is room left over for full fenders. I decided to give the Big Apples a try since they were hanging up in my garage from Sharon’s city bike’s first incarnation. I mounted them up on some wheels that I had left over from previous bikes. The front wheel is a nice custom built unit with a XT hub and a Velocity Aeroheat rim. The rear wheel is a low end WTB disc hub mated to an unbranded rim. It’s a bit of a pig and not something I’d want to use long term, but I figured I might as well roll with it for now until I decide what I want to use on the rear.
Custom wheels are nice, but they cost a lot and aren’t needed for most applications. You can buy lower cost machine built wheels that will be fine unless you are very hard on your gear or very picky. If you do buy machine built wheels get something using mid-grade hubs/rims and have a human go over them to ensure the tension is even. That last step is low cost [$10-$15], but is the difference between having all sorts of problems and being satisfied with an affordable set of wheels. Don’t skip it!
I’m not going to get too hung up on the wheels for this bike until I try some 650B hoops with Grand Bois Hetres 42mm tires. If I stick with 26″ wheels in the long run I’ll get a better rear wheel and probably run something like a 2.0″ Schwalbe Kojak for better speed.
I moved the Brooks Champion Flyer saddle and seatpost over from my 700c LHT. The tan leather will add a touch of class to this black frame that will get built up with silver fenders and components. I’ve even considered using leather bar tape, but we’ll see that may be one step too far for me!…=-)