Tuesday, September 18, 2007

But it has a really good "personality"...

This bike is the equivalent of your friend that when you try to set them up, you use choice descriptive phrases like "really smart", "has a good heart," "great personality, "practical" and "owns and doesn't rent."

I introduce to you...Uglycycle (the name is still pending...SurlinGary, GaryCycle, The Big Ugly Dummy are other names in the running).

As some of you may know, I went on a recent tour and removed my Xtracycle from my Trek 520. That was a beautiful combination. The classic touring frame of the 520 with leather highlights (brown Brooks...shellaced bar tape...bar-end shifters) married to the functional bliss of the Xtracycle. It said, "Yes, I am a working cargo bike, but I like to have tea and small cucumber sandwiches for lunch."

When I removed the Xtracycle, I was quickly on the search for a donor body. The first and only option that presented itself was an old Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Roo (who the hell named that thing?). It was an ok body. Sorta on the low end with Shimano STX (sounds like a metal band don't it?) components and craptacular wheels.

I began the transition in earnest but hit a number of problems. For one, my Xtracycle was spec'd for 700C wheels and I was putting it on a mountain bike with 26 inch wheels. This meant I would be running two different wheel sizes, 700c in the rear and 26 in the front. So I built a nice rear wheel (36h, Salsa Delgado Cross Rim, XT hub).

Another problem I ran into was there was some strange brazing on the chainstays that held some strange metal thing, whose function is only known to Gary Fisher. This made mounting the Xtracycle difficult. I eventually had to take a dremel to the frame and cut them out.

As if that wasn't enough, I very much dislike suspension forks for the road. They look piggish and Mad Maxish when they need not be. So I tossed the suspension fork and bought a Surly fork that was corrected for suspension. That also required getting a new headset.

I also wasn't fond of the straight handle bar so I bought a Soma Sparrow bar. The brakes were also a mess. The bike was built specifically with canti's in mind, so the braze-ons on the rear led the rear brake cable down the center of the frame. Well, I was using V-brakes and an Xtracycle and the braze-on was throwing everything out of whack. So I had to work around it with some creativity and no less than three hose-clamps so I could get proper tension to get the rear brake to work.

So now, the bike is more or less complete. It's still very rough looking. I haven't cut the steerer tube on the fork since I haven't settled on a height yet. It certainly is functional. Not the prettiest bike on the block but it will carry all I need for my assignments.

In building this monstrosity I tested out several bits of gear that may be of interest to others, so I'll write a short review of each.

Falcon Friction Shifters
These have to be the cheapest shifters money can buy ($10). No frills. You clamp them on to your bars with a screw and that's it. However, they amazingly do something that no $300 Campagnolo Record carbon fiber brifter will let you do. You can use the shifters with everything from a 5spd to a 10spd cluster. You can also trim the derailleurs so there's no chain rub. You can also use them with any combination of drivetrain parts (Campy cassette, Shimano rear derailleur..no problem...SRAM derailleur, Shimano Chainrings, Campy front derailleur...no problem...etc.,) Practically maintainence and adjustment free. Yes, they're ugly as sin but uber-functional. The next equivalent of these would be to get a set of Paul Thumbies ($50) and some Shimano 9spd bar ends ($70).

Soma Sparrow Bar
I settled on these bars after trying out quite a few. Nitto Moustache bars, On-One Midge bars and the Origin 8 Mary bars have a similar shape but are waaaay to wide (unless you like to pretend you're paragliding down the bike lane). I wanted a bar that was similar to the old school 3spd touring/porteur bars but without the width. Amazingly, the folks at Soma have somehow tapped into my subconscious desires and created this bar. It's lightish..not chrome..and is probably more of niche market thing, but it does it's job well. The hand position is a lot more ergonomic for me compared to risers/flat bars. I can get good leverage on climbs. Most importantly, they're narrow, so you don't feel like you're steering a boat and you can still crouch and get into a semi-aero position.

1 comment:

grape said...

Have you tried the Misfit Psychles FU-Bar? http://www.psyclestore.com/products/FU-Bar-Handlebar.html

I find them to have an extremely natural hand/wrist position -- the best I have experienced yet. A Soma Sparrow bar arrives for me next week, though, and I am looking forward to trying it.