08-19-09 - Done Bike

I got the cables on, and after a few more stupid mistakes and redos, it came together pretty fast. The finished bike :



(yes the bar tape is fucked up because I had to take it off and redo it and had already cut it; I have to order new tape and do it anew).

Some links I used :

Sheldon Brown - Cables
Sheldown Brown - Derailer Adjustment-How To
Park Tool Website - installing new chain
Park Tool Website - derailleur overhaul
Park Tool Website - Cranks
Park Tool Website - cables
Park tool - bar wrapping
good - how to adjust headset
Bicycle Repair Washing Cleaning Your Bike
The Compulsive Soul's Guide to Cleaning the Bicycle

Some random things I've learned :

Having a clamp on front derailleur instead of a braze-on is kind of nice because it gives you infinite easy adjustment capability. However, it means the front derailleur clamp needs to be *REALLY* tight or it will slip. Even very tiny slips will fuck you up because the FD cage needs to be right next to the chainring, so even an 0.5 mm slip is no good. I read some advice on the net to put a piece of electrical tape inside the FD clamp to keep it from scratching the downtube. This is terrible terrible advice. The tape makes the FD clamp slippy which makes it impossible to get a good adjustment.

Some good advice from the internet : for wrapping bar tape, inside out electric tape on the bars is awesome. Take some electrical tape and wrap just one loop around the bars in the curving part, wrap it very tight so it stretches. Now when you put on the bar tape it will hold in the corners much nicer. Another good piece of advice is to work your hands around the bar tape in a rotating fashion like you would when riding to get it to tighten up before applying the end piece of tape. Also in general, really pull the tape very tight as you wrap, you want to really stretch it as you put it on.

If you want to seal on electrical tape really clean and tight, you can use a little heat - even a hair dryer will do the trick. It gets the tape a tiny bit melty and it contracts and shrink-wraps and gets rid of any little bubbles or folds. Warning though, it makes it much harder to remove.

Once you have all the tools, putting together a bike is really very easy. I don't think there's a single hard step; even getting all the cable adjustments just right is pretty trivial. The guide sheets that come with Shimano gear are actually really excellent. I always consult my two bike books plus the internet to get many opinions, but I could've actually just used the product installation sheets and been fine.

You can't cut cables and housing with basic wire cutters, but any good quality long-lever wire cutters will do the job just fine. You don't need a fancy "cable cutter" tool, just use high-leverage cutters and make a quick hard cut. Once the cut is made, if you want everything to be just perfect, a dremel rotary grinder does a really nice job of cleaning up the cable ends. A push-pin makes a perfectly good "awl" to open up the cables (mainly an issue because the dremel will melt the outer plastic).

A work stand makes life so much easier and is totally worth the $100. Even if you're just servicing bikes and not building, I highly recommend it.

The correct chain size seems too tight! Don't worry, trust the Park Tool / Sheldon Brown advice of going big-to-big plus 1 inch. You will think "no way is this long enough to work once it goes through the rear derailleur". Yes, in the big-to-big position this will pull your rear derailleur really far forward - that is the intent! You should really never be in that gear combination, the goal is just to make it *possible* to get into that gear so that you don't break the bike if you do it by accident. The more important thing is that when you're in the small-to-small gear the read derailleur doesn't coil up right onto the sprockets so that the jockey wheels almost touch the sprockets. The rear derailleur is meant to be tugged out under tension, not slack and balled up.

Ferrules don't seem to go into the brake barrels. I tried to get them in at first and was dismayed, but then I noticed that both of my other bikes don't have them either. It seems the brake barrels are made so small that you can only just get the cable housing in, the ferrules are too fat. Ferrules do work of course at the lever end of the cables.

It seems to me you can adjust a headset just fine with only one headset wrench. I don't have two so I just did it with one and it seems perfect and tight to me. We'll see if this comes back to bite me.

Oh, there's some clusterfuck with saddle rail spacing. I didn't even know this, but there appear to be two different sizes. I'm not even sure what they are because I can't find anyone else talking about this, but I think they're something like 42 mm and 44 mm - which is too different to be compatible. You must have the right seat post for your saddle. If you look at pretty much any saddle online it won't say anything about the rail spacing. I assume if you buy a new saddle and new seat post they will match, but if you are trying to match an old-to-new you may have a rail spacing problem. If anyone can find any authoritative info on this issue I'll add it. (I'm not talking about the rare 30 mm very narrow Keirin NJS rail spacing).

Don't cut anything or put cable crimps on until you're sure everything is right. When you wrap the bar tape, just temp tape it down and leave the rest hanging off at first. When you thread the cables, just leave all the excess length hanging out and bolt them down. Then go through and check everything and adjust it. You can even do all your derailleur adjustment with the cables just long and flopping around. Once you're sure it's all good, then cut and crimp. Once you crimp, you can't run the cable back through the mechanism to get it out, so you can't make any big changes if you discover you did something wrong.

And in general about the bike. The good :

Holy shit the shifting feels good. Better than any new bike I've ever ridden in a shop. I assume this is partly because it's all brand new Ultegra, and unlike most shops I didn't try to save money on cheap cables or cheap housing or anything. Maybe partly because it's down-tube shifting which does give you a shorter tighter line. I also assume it's partly because I did everything slowly and carefully and tried to get everything just right. There's no slack anywhere, you just think in your head that you want to shift and it's already done and it's whisper quiet. Amazing.

The compact double front chainrings are great. I thought they might make the front shifts rougher because it's a much bigger step for the chain, but I see no problems at all with it. It gives me a much easier gear for the steep hills here. I'm very happy with 12-27 on the back too.

It feels crazy fast and nimble. Mainly I think it's because the drive train is so stiff, there's no play in the bottom bracket or the chain, you touch the pedal and you instantly go without all the mush I have in my old bike.

The bad :

I made a huge mistake. The geometry is not what I thought. I tried to be really careful ordering the frame, getting all the sizes right and checking angles, but somehow the frame is not what I expected. The way bikes are measured is really insufficient, the main measurement used is the seat tube length. So my new frame has the same seat tube length as my old bike - but the bottom bracket on my new bike is much lower to the ground. The result is that the top of the seat tube is much lower, so the top tube is lower, the whole bike feels lower even though it's the same "size". The size anomaly comes because the angle of the chain stays is a lot steeper on my new bike - they go up a lot to attach to the wheel, while on my old bike they are closer to horizontal. Then the fork on the new bike is shorter, and the wheel is much closer to the down tube. I'm not happy about the geometry change, I thought I was getting the same geometry as my old bike (which seems impossible to find in new bikes sadly; I don't understand why classic road geometry has been so abandoned, it's totally the way to go). I think that I can switch to a really short stem (60 or 70 mm) to fix the geometry, but it's a rather annoying issue.

I'm not loving the bullhorns. The main complaint I have is just that they're too long, you have to stretch too far forward to get to the brakes. I guess they're not really meant for the brake usage like I'm doing, but a lot of people do it these days, it's not good. If you compare to how far forward you would be on the hoods on normal drop bars, it's a good 'nother two inches to get to the ends of the bulls - and the bullhorns I have ( Nitto RB-018 ) are just about the shortest you can buy, most of then are even much longer which would be insane (and many of them are actually drop-down to make you lower which is also nuts). The flats on the sides don't look that long when you have them off the bike, but they're actually way longer than you need, you could get away with a few inches less. I think I might go back to plain old drops. (on the plus side, I saw some forum posts saying it was hard to get bar end brake levers in the RB-018, which seems to just be nonsense, the Soma Pursuit levers go in just great).

The Selle Italia Gel Flow saddle ain't got no gel. I think it would be an okay saddle for use with padded big shorts, but it's too hard for city riding that you do without padded shorts. Amateurs don't know this, but serious bike saddles are intentionally made very hard because you're supposed to have the padding in your shorts. It's stupid to ride a hard saddle on a city bike though, because you're just riding directly on the hard. On the other hand, the super-padded saddles made for the casual market are even worse. There aren't many good saddles that are made for serious riding without padded shorts. I might try a Specialized Body Geometry Avatar. On the plus side, I did find the Specialized sizing advice based on measuring your sit bones to be pretty good.

Anyway, I'm gonna try riding it for a few weeks and see how everything feels and then make a few changes. Right now I'm thinking go to a shorter stem to reduce the reach and just go back to normal drop bars. The handlebar that I want is just the top part of normal drops and brake hoods with no actual bottom drop part. Maybe I'll get that custom cut.

This was always intended as a learning experience, but it got a bit out of hand and turned into a serious build. Part of the problem is there's such a small price step for incrementally better stuff, it's very tempting to upgrade each piece. Like a full 104 grouppo (without STI levers) is maybe $400, while full Ultegra is $550. Of course you should upgrade. A cheap saddle is maybe $75, a great one is $150, well that's your butt and gonads, it's important, upgrade. Cheapo wheels are maybe $200, awesome Mavic Open Pros are only $300, of course you should upgrade. And before you know it you spent $2000.

Oh well, I'll do better on the next one.

In general I really advise against trying to buy a frame on ebay. Yes, you can find great bargains, but people don't measure things right, and measurements are crucial. Usually they will only post a "size" (which is a seat tube length). But is that the actual seat tube length c-c (center to center) or c-t (center to top) ? Or is the manufacturer's nominal size which may not exactly match the c-c or c-t seat tube lengths? They never post other crucial sizes, and if they do they're probably wrong. Pretty much the only way I would ever buy a frame on ebay again is if it's a frame where I know the exact model and year and manufacturer's nominal size, and I can look it up in the original catalog and find all the measurements. Even then I might have to cut out a cardboard replica of the frame to see it in person before buying. And by then the auction is over or somebody else insanely overbid it out of reasonable price range. It's just not worth it.

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