It's been a good year for bikes. I'm pretty lucky to say that I've built up three brand new bikes this year. 2009 is going to suck.
The last bike that I built is one that I've been looking forward to for a long while. It's been in my plans to build up a city bike that I can run errands on, get around town and lock up outside stores without fearing too much for it's safety. I've been thinking about it and thinking about it and finally decided to do it.
I've guided a lot of people over the years to buy Kona Dew's and other bikes in the family. They're pretty cheap and have a bit of a mountain bike edge. They aren't perfect but beat the hell out of similar offerings from Trek, Specialized, Giant, etc. My problem was that I would end up replacing most of the parts so I'd be left with a cheap aluminum frame with decent parts hanging off it. That didn't really work for me.
I moved on to looking at a variety of cyclocross bikes, city bikes and 29ers. A cyclocross seemed like a good idea, and there were good offerings from both Salsa and SOMA. I came pretty damn close to placing orders on both of these and I also took a good look at their 29ers with thoughts of perhaps running fat tires on the thing occassionally. I also gave the Steel Wool a good look, but the geometry was just too wacky once I got the right top tube length. It was at that time that I looked at the pile of Rented Mules sitting in the corner and started thinking "Hey...wait a second..."
The first step was to figure out whether I could get a 700c tire to fit in both the frame. I went down to Dizzy and swapped some wheels around to show myself that there would be lots of room. Incidentally, they told me I was crazy and that it would never work.
After that, I tried to find a rigid fork that would work with my frame that was designed around a 6 inch travel fork. Even the longest "suspension adjusted" fork wouldn't work. I looked at some 29er forks and they were still too short. Luckily, I found a sale on a Rock Shox Revelation with 5 inches of travel. This seemed like a pretty good compromise to get the right fork length without adding too much weight.
Next up was wheels. I couldn't find a set of cyclocross wheels that would work due to both hub spacing issues and the fact that nobody seems to make disc compatible cross wheels. Why is that? I realize that the UCI doesn't allow disc brakes in cross competitions, but how many people are actually racing these bikes. Stupid. So I did a bit of research and learned that a 29er rim is the exact same diameter as a 700c rim and figured that as long as the rim wasn't too wide, any 700c tire should fit on a 29er rim no problem. So, after digging out a few old parts and buying a few new, I was ready to go. Here's what I got.
So, on to things that I've learned:
1) a 700x23c tire is almost exactly the same diameter as a 26x2.4 knobby.
2) anything larger than that probably won't fit into a RockShox suspension fork.
3) 700c tires are fast as hell.
Seriously. This bike is so fast. I can't even believe it. It's so easy to spin out a 38x11 gear. It's shocking. And as you can see, no problem on the tire clearance.
I'm pretty pleased with this bike, but I've created something that I'm not all that comfortable locking up at the grocery store. It's just a little bit too nice. In hindsight, I should have bought a $150 10-speed from the second hand store and built up a nice set of 700c wheels to fit my mountain hardtail. Oh well.