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My New Bike, Part 4: The Build-Up

Friday, April 18, 2014

This the fourth part of my blog series about my new bike, the one that I've built up. It's taken a long time for me to get jazzed about writing this post, mainly because now I can't ride it. Long story, check the blog post two back to see the reasons why.

When last I left the story, I had completed the course, and completed the frame.

Now came the fun of getting the rest of the build-up done.

First, I had to get it painted. When my wife agreed that I could do the course, one of her few conditions was that I had to maximize visibility, so my thinking was that I would get it painted the most garish violent neon yellow I could. I then decided that I would get the majority of the rest of the components in black (duh!) with some silver, and minimize the appearance of any other colors. That meant first I had to look into aluminum annodizing. You see, the sliding dropouts for my Roholoff hub are aluminum, but one was already anodized black, and the other was flash anodized silver, and I wanted them both to be black.

Anodizing is an electrochemical process that hardens the surface of aluminum parts by growing a thin layer of aluminum oxide. While the oxide is growing, it can be dyed a wide range of colors, which results in a nice even long-lasting color - this is the process that Apple uses on iPods to get those beautiful colors.

I then had to look into paint. I decided early on that I wanted to powder coat the frame. Powder coating uses an electrostatic process to deposit dry paint powder onto metal surfaces which are then baked in an oven to melt the powder to form a very hard, very smooth, drip-free and long-lasting surface. There are lots of powder variants that can be used to give different surface effects, but I wanted it simple: a nice smooth glossy surface.

Calling around, I found three local companies that do anodizing, and several that do powder coating, and one that does both. I took the frame in to talk to a couple powder coating companies about pricing and timeframes, and in the end decided to go with the company that did both. Neon yellow is, as you can probably guess, not a stock powder so it would be a special order from the United States. Tony, the manager, said that every time they order powder they get dinged for brokerage fees crossing the border so he usually recommends customers that do custom orders make the order themselves, because they usually don't get dinged. He showed me several samples, and sent me to browse power supplier web sites, and in the end I ordered 5 pounds of Prismatic Powders PSS-1104, Neon Yellow:

That was 5 pounds mainly because they need to flush the hoses of the powder applicator between colors, and because this was the first time they had ever shot this particular color Tony wasn't sure how the equipment would respond and what the coverage was, so he suggested that I order more than they needed.

Once that was underway, I e-mailed back and forth with Ed (the LBS) to finalize component selection, then got that order going. While waiting on the powder to be delivered, I spent a couple more hours carefully filing down and doing final shaping of the fillet brazes, especially focusing on the seatstay connections to the seat tube, the seatstay and chainstay bridges, and on the various braze-ons. Browsing a local frame builder's blog, I saw a cool effect where he had painted the handle bar stem plate to match the frame, and I though that looked pretty cool, so I had to go back into the LBS to change out my stem for one that could be powder coated (the original one had an inset epoxied into the front, and the epoxy would fail during baking.

Then I took the frame, the stem plate, and dropouts down to be painted and annodized.

And then I picked it up a couple days later. Beauty. It practically GLOWS!

The only problem: what do I do with the 3.5 pounds of powder I have left? Anyone want something powder coated neon yellow???

Now to do the build-up.

So far, I've gone with a Rohloff SpeedHub for the rear:

A Velocity front hub:

Hed Belgium C2 32-hole Rims:

And a Salsa Vaya Fork:

To this I added:

A Black Sotto Voce Chris King NoThreadSet Headset:

420mm FSA Compact Road Bars, the same as I used on my Brodie Once:

Tektro RL-520 Brake Levers:

A Thorn Accessory Bar for mounting the Rohloff twist shifter:

A Brodie 4-bolt 120mm stem (taken off another bike in the shop)

A 6-bolt 160mm Avid front disc brake rotor:

A 4-bolt 160mm Rohloff rear disc brake rotor:

Spyre Mechanical SLC Disc Brake Calipers

Shimano Alfine 170mm Cranks, off another bike. These came with a chainguard and a 39-tooth front chainring installed:

Shimano M505 pedals, off another bike. These are actually the same as on my Once:

A Praxis Bottom Bracket:

A FSA Road Pro 53-tooth chainring. We somehow managed to screw up the BCD dimensions on the original chainring I had purchased, so this was a last-minute replacement from Amazon:

I only purchased the larger chainring from a standard 53/39 double set. I had originally been planning on putting on a 48-tooth front chainring, but I couldn't find one that I could get delivered on time, so after crunching the numbers and realizing that a 53-tooth chainring gave me almost the same lower gear as I already had with my existing bike I decided to go with it. I can always put on a smaller chainring and a different chain if I ever decide I need a lower range.

An aluminum BBB seatpost:

A Fizik Arione Tri 2 Saddle:

A set of Axiom DLX Roadrunner Fenders:

And finally two cheap aluminum bottle cages, a seat post collar, black synthetic cork bar tape, and a set of headset spacers.

When I went to pick up the components, the Spyre brakes were recalled the day before, so I got a set of loaner Avid BB7 brakes instead. I also picked up a generic chain (more on that later), and purchased a couple small bags of M5 bolts, and I already had a small box of miscellaneous washers.

Once everything was together, the build-up happened in stages.

Just before Christmas, and started with mounting the bottom bracket and the headset onto the frame. The bottom bracket was relatively simple - I purchased the tool for doing that. However, the headset is a bit tricker. Park sells a tool to press-fit the headset into the head tube, but it's rather pricey. Instead I borrowed a "ghetto" tool from a co-worker, a big threaded rod, two big nuts, and a couple big washers. Getting everything aligned, it was just a matter of slowly tightening the bolts to put tension on the washers and push the headset into the frame. If you take your time and make sure everything is straight, it is pretty easy. To install the headset crown race onto the fork, I used a piece of 1 1/4" pipe and a rubber mallet.

At that point, I was ready to start mounting the rest of the components. First was the rear dropouts - those were pretty easy because they just slid right on in. Next was the fork, the auxiliary bar, the stem, and the handebar. I didn't cut the steerer tube yet, so everything was being held on by the screws on the stem. Next was the seat post, the collar, and the seat. I installed the disc rotors to the hubs, then attached the wheels to the frame and it was starting to look like a bike, not just a pile of components.

Next was the cranks and crankset. I have to admit - I screwed up here, and I put the chainring on the inside of the spider, leaving the chain guard in place. However, that caused me some grief because the 53-tooth chainring was making contact with the drive side chainstay, and that's not a good thing. I cut a couple pieces of plastic from a milk carton as a temporary spacer. I then installed the pedals.

Then it was Christmas, and then we headed over to the island for New Years. I packed up everything so that I could work on it over the break. Over on the island, I ran into a couple issues. First, I realized that the loaner brake calipers I picked up instead of the Spyre ones were missing two M6 mounting bolts, so I couldn't mount the font caliper. Grrr. Then I realized that the generic 100-link BMX chain that I had picked up was 3 links too short. Double Grrr. On the 30th, I sent out a emails to several possible sources of the the bolts and a chain - I was on an island and didn't feel like getting on a ferry.

I wasn't going to waste my time, so I kept on going. I cut and ran the cables for the rear hub, installed the shifter on the auxiliary bar, and connected the cables to the rear hub. I installed the brake levers, did a couple quick fits, decided on the lenth of the steerer tube, and cut it. I installed the spacers and the headset cap, cut and ran the cables for the brakes, and installed the bar tape. I built the bike with bottle bracket mounts on the chainstay and seatstay bridges facing inwards to the wheel for mounting the rear fender. The fender is normally installed with one bolt into the chainstay bridge and with a second bracket into a cantelever brake mount on the seatstay bridge. However I didn't have a cantelever brake mount, so I drilled a second hole in the fender to attach it to the seatstay mount. The result was a fender that was a fair distance from the wheel, so i realized I needed to do something about that, but I didn't have the necessary bits and bobs to do that right then.

As this was going on I got a whole series of negative responses to my component quest emails. It was looking like I wasn't going to get the missing components, but then I got a phone call from my last hope, a bicycle builder who lives on the island. He was home, and thought he might have what I needed, so I threw the bike into the van and drove over to meet him.

He then went over the bike with me, looking at everything, looking at the components, examining the hub closely (he had never actually seen one), and commenting how he liked the paint color. He commented that he liked the bike. We then went through his stash of components. He builds a number of recumbent and hand cycles, so he has extremely long chains, and we broke one to the exact length I needed. He had the M6 bolts too, so I paid him $20 for the chain, the bolts, and his time, and he wished me good luck.

At this point, I had everything, but it was also time to stop for the day.

The next day was the 31st, and I installed the chain, the brake calipers, and then hooked up the cables. The chain line was a bit wonky, but I was already knew that I had to do something with the chainring location. It was time for a 2km shake-down ride. It was very short, just long enough to confirm that I needed to do some tweaking of the handlebar placement and to confirm that the wonky chainring made things a bit stiff, not just pedaling but also shifting. It was the last day of the 2013, and I had a new bike. One that needed a bit of work, but a new bike nonetheless.

My daughter's comment: "It looks like a REAL bike!" Thanks, Sweetie. That was kind of the point.

Bringing the bike home, it was about a week before I was able to do any work on it. In the meantime I had realized my error in installing the chainring - I should have removed the chainguard and installed the chainring on the outside of the spider. Doh! Taking the cranks off, removing my make-do spacers, and moving the chainring to the correct location and the chainline was perfect. I picked up a small package of rubber gromets (for kitchen faucets) from Walmart, and I used those as spacers to move the rear fender closer to the tire. I also cut a small piece of aluminum and used it as an extension to move the front fender closer to the tire, and I spent the time to bend the fender struts to run cleanly around the disc brake calipers.

I also finally moved the rack from my other bike over to the new bike:

When I build planned the rear dropout inserts, I put in two mounting holes, one for fenders and one for a rack. I had done a lot of math when I did that, mounting the rack as far forwards as I could and still have adequate heel clearance to my panniers, but until this point I hadn't confirmed that I had done everything correctly. I always had a back-up plan, moving the rack mount further back to the same point as the fenders, but that's the arrangement that I have today on my older bike, and it's sometimes a pain. What a relief when I installed it, put on the panniers, clipped in one of my cycling shoes, and confirmed that everything worked! I also installed lights, a blinky rear light on the seatpost and a high-power LED front light on the auxiliary bar. I ran the wires for the front light back to the rack and put the battery mount there. I also moved the mounting point for my older front light to the handlebar so that if I run out of battery for the main light I had a backup, and installed a quick release mount for my ForeRunner 305 onto the auxilary bar. I adjusted the spacers to move the handlebar around slightly, and I took it out for a longer shake-down ride. Awesome.

From there, I rode it to work three times the next week, and on the fourth day (Friday) I hit a patch of black ice, and you know the rest of the story.

Two weeks ago, the replacement Spyre brakes came in, so I took the bike in to have those installed and to have Ed and his crew give it a once-over. In Ed's words, "You did a good job."

Part 5 will be a set of beauty shots.
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