LHT 26″ Wheeled Build PT2…

31 05 2011

Starting to add the ingredients for a great bike...

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.

Schwalbe Big Apples 26 x 2.15" of rubber...

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.

Fatties do fit fine...=-)

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!…=-)

Moab Meet Up?

30 05 2011

Hard to beat this scenery...

I’m keen on heading to Moab this fall – probably the first week in October. Sharon was going to come with me, but she’s thinking about saving her holidays for the dead of winter to get away someplace warm. I don’t blame her! I’m not super stoked about mountain biking alone so I thought I would throw out an offer to meet up in Moab to anyone who reads this blog that’s into trail riding. If you’d be into a Moab road trip drop me a line via email or leave a comment on this post.

I love desert riding...

You don’t need to be amazingly fit or an expert level rider as I’m neither. You do need to feel comfortable on intermediate terrain and be able to handle a bit of bouncing around. With Arches National Park right there you’ll have some great day hiking options if you want to take a break from biking.

If you want to get an idea what the riding is like you can check out the photos from my last trip to Moab in 2009.

La Salle mountains...

You can rent bikes in Moab if you don’t have a squishy mountain bike. There are all levels of accommodations available from free camping through nice pay campgrounds to hotels.

Sharon – Bike Commuting…

30 05 2011

Sharon and Donkey off in the morning!

Sharon has become a hardcore bike commuter. I’m impressed at her determination and zeal for the pedal to work. She’s progressed from a non-cyclist to riding her bike 4-7 times a week while her car collects dust in the driveway. She’s not just a fairweather cyclist either. Freezing temperatures and light rain don’t deter her. About the only thing that will keep her off the bike is heavy persistant rain or snowy/icy roads which is pretty lousy for biking to work. Happily that’s not very common here in Victoria – only a handful of winter days are truly horrible!

I will give myself a bit of credit for Sharon’s biking enthusiasm in that I helped make sure she always had a comfortable, reliable bike to ride that was setup for carrying gear and all weather day/night riding. When your gear is dialed it makes everything easier and more fun.

I will also give the City of Victoria some credit for the excellent bicycle infrastructure that makes Sharon’s commute safer and more pleasant. For about half the year we’ve been here she had to ride across town to the Royal Jubilee Hospital using various surface roads – many with bike lanes. Now that she works at the Victoria General Hospital she rides the Galloping Goose Trail [a paved MUP] almost all the way to work which is about as pleasant as it gets living in a city.

Finally I’ll give the Vancouver Island Health Authority [VIHA] for providing lots of secure covered bike storage for the hospital staff.

You know someone is riding a lot when you buy tires for their bike 4 at a time! Go Sharon…=-)

Hartland MTB Park

30 05 2011

Kurt up close...

Another great session Sunday afternoon at Hartland Mountain Bike Park. It blows my mind that we have such awesome trails so close to my house [15min drive] and that we almost never have anyone on the same trail we are on. World class riding is one thing. World class riding you don’t have to share is another!…=-)

Cruising Hartland...

I had one of my best days at Hartland yet. I was getting into a good rhythm and finding a way to work my Santa Cruz Nomad over obstacles reasonably gracefully. I’m more at home in the wide open terrain of Utah, Arizona and Alberta – so the tight, narrow and dark forest riding here on Vancouver Island is taking some time to adapt to. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of a road trip to Moab & Sedona, but the riding here is stellar I just need to spend more time on my local trails.

Happy to be riding the lush trails of BC...

My office gets so hot by 3pm in the summer that it’s hard to work so I plan on keeping my MTB loaded in my truck for the trip out to Hartland. Riding in the shade of the forest will be an ideal way to deal with the heat and to hone my MTB skills. I’m only an average recreational MTB rider and I’m okay with that. I just want to be a good average recreational MTB rider!…=-)

Feeling at one with the bike...=-)

Kurt’s been volunteering for trail maintenance with the South Island Mountain Bike Society [SIMBS]. I need to get off my lazy ass and do something to contribute towards the trails that I am ripping.

Ripple Rock 600K Start

29 05 2011

Mike C gives the riders a pre-start briefing...

I helped out at the start of this weekend’s BC Randonneur Vancouver Island 600K. 

A bent and a bunch of cool rando DFs...

I saw my first Vancouver Island rando recumbent. A Barcroft being ridden by Luke Galley. There were also 3 Berg custom bicycles in the pack.

Socializing at the start...

I showed up at the start to see the riders off and then ran a secret control early on in the ride. That allowed me to be useful and still get away to Nitnaht Lake to kiteboard this weekend.

Luke's Barcroft rando bent...

The weather looked great for the start. I hope the riders have a fun weekend on the road.

Riders' eye view of the start...

This is my second 600K of the year – without actually riding a bike! Next year I’ll have to enter the event…=-)

Rando-fied Kuwahara...

I’m planning on heading over to the finish to see the riders come in when I’m back from Nitnaht Sunday.

LHT 26″ Wheeled Build PT1…

28 05 2011

Rustproofed and ready to be built...

I bought my sage green Surly Long Haul Trucker frame back in the day when the only option was 700c wheels [for frames 56cm +] and complete bikes were just a dream. I was really pleased to see Surly introduce a 26″ wheeled trucker in the larger sizes recently. The 26″ wheel size allows you to use parts that are ubiquitous due to the proliferation of the mountain bike and to fit massive rubber plus fenders into the frame for a strong wheel that rolls like it’s on a cloud. If you are headed off paved roads or to a destination where roads are more an idea than a reality 26″ wheels/wide rubber make sense.

I’ve been curious how different a 26″ LHT would be compared to my 700c frame. A side by side comparison was on my mind for a while, but it took a little while to make it happen. Well I’m stoked to say I’ve got a 58cm black LHT frame in my work stand finally.  My plan is to try out a few different builds on this frame over the summer and compare them back to back with my 700c Trucker.

Some ideas I have:

  • trying 38mm and 50mm 26″ rubber
  • trying drop bars and Jones Loop H-bar
  • trying 650B wheels & 42mm Grand Bois Hertre tires
  • trying a porteur rack up front to see how the bike handles
  • possibly setting it up in lightweight mode with 650B tires as a rando rig

New Surly LHT dropouts...

One thing I really like about Surly is that they don’t trying and upgrade their frames needlessly each year like most companies just for the sake of giving you something new to buy. They come up with a solid design, test it thoroughly and then stick with it. The LHT has seen only a couple changes over the years. The rear dropouts are different from my LHT. The rack/fender mounts are supported much better in the new dropouts which is a plus if you carry very heavy loads on rough terrain.
The rough looking finish on the dropouts in the image above is due to rust proofing I didn’t clean off – not a problem with the powder coat.

Nice tall head tube...

The other difference I noticed is that the new LHT’s head tube is ~9″ tall vs. 6.5″ on my older LHT to accomodate the lower front wheel.

The blue LHT...

One thing I’ll be doing differently this time around is to document and post about each stage of the build so that someone who has never built a bike from a frame can see what’s involved. For this post let’s talk about sizing a frame and frame prep.
How to size a frame?
I’m no expert at this and I occasionally goof up, but my system works most of the time!
  • if you have a similar bike you like measure it
  • if not go to a LBS and find a similar bike that fits well and measure it or grab the specs from the net
  • if that’s not working for you ask your LBS to suggest a size
  • use the top tube length as the primary criteria
  • then check the stand over to make sure you aren’t going to have any issues straddling the bike [I have zero stand over on my LHT and it’s no problem]
  • get a second independent opinion [hopefully it agrees with your initial sizing result]
  • if you are not confident in the answer you get take your time and keep looking into it
For a bike like the LHT most people can ride two sizes comfortably. I like my 58cm LHT, but I can easily fit on a 56cm frame, but a 54cm frame is too small.

56cm LHT w/ 26" wheels - Photo: Hiawatha Cyclery...

Frame Prep:
  • inspect for any damage
  • clean threads [BB, braze ons]
  • face BB shell [for external bearing cranks]
  • face head tube and fork crown
  • rustproof inside of frame
I’ll be honest I’ve tried going nuts on the frame prep and not doing anything at all. I haven’t noticed much if any difference in outcome. I’ve read the same thing online from a lot of other folks so it’s not something I stress about. I had both my old trucker and the new frame rustproofed by the Fairfield Bicycle Shop. The cost was low and it seems like a reasonable precaution for a bike used in a wet climate. If you are not sure if you should get your new frame fully prepared by a bike shop find out how much it will cost and compare that to the cost of the frame.
You can always go back to your LBS for some frame prep help if as you build the bike you notice some issues with stuff like excessive powder coat on the threads. However, you do need to deal with rustproofing while the frame is bare so once you start the build it’s too late to reconsider without having to strip the frame again.
While you are at it look the frame over very closely for any obvious problems with the paint, welds and alignment. Most frames are shipped well packaged, but I’ve had 3 arrive with some form of damage. If you have to return a frame for replacement ideally you want to figure that out before you waste time/$$ preparing the frame and installing the headset.

Raleigh Wisdom…=-)

27 05 2011

A nice Raleigh I saw downtown...

Top tube wisdom...