Reconfiguring the bike: ie, replacing smashed components with some that work

20 December 2010

It’s a new bike.

Sort of.

Not quite like granddad’s axe, there are occasional original parts. But only the frame and forks, the squeaky Brooks seat and the straight bar will remain. As for the rest, it’s a new look.

Sadly Australian prices are ridiculously expensive and there’s usually little choice at hand at the LBS for the rugged touring market. If they have to order something in from Sydney you can get it just as quickly from the USA or UK yourself.

The strange thing, at least for this long in the tooth bloke, is that it’s possible to re-componentise your bike, actually the full travelling caboodle, using the internet from the privacy of your own bedroom. Before long couriers are knocking on the door with your requirements.

Thanks Wiggle.

There’s a few idiosyncrasies of the system: some USA websites won’t ship to Australia so it’s off to the UK. The Poms suffer less inhibition with whom fronts with their dosh. And the extraordinarily precise tracking system lists a bizarre trajectory: New York, Louisville, Anchorage, Seoul, Chenzen, Singapore, Perth. Maybe the boxes acquire frequent flyer points in transit.

You can also have the situation that someone can sell you the tent, but not the footprint, the camera but not the extra battery.

Having extensively tested to destruction the original 2001 KHS components of my old hard tailed mountain bike on the 17,000km leg of my Australia tour each new part has been extensively researched and then decisions made on the various options on the basis of strength and reliability, and, of course, internet opportunism.

Rather than make haste with the rebirthed machine the intention is to avoid remote breakdown.

Biggest change has been in the wheel department. Frankly I’m sick of riding great distances on four spokes short of the normal quota when the no-name hub is ripped apart by rogue spokes. That’s all been well documented here.

I plumped for the Rigida Andra with XT hubs and 36 × 14g stainless spokes. They have a carbide coating on the rims to bring you to a juddering halt even if covered in mud. (Err, I haven’t tested that yet.) When the built up wheels arrived, incredibly well packed, from SJS Cycles, I couldn’t believe the difference in strength of the rims from what I had before, Mavic 221s. Man, these are bulletproof, and it will take a plenty huge battering before they succumb. Mind you, an overloaded rig on unsealed tracks when I head back east next year will give them an extensive workout.

The chainset is an SLX, the full on touring version. Not as light as the XT but much stronger I’m advised. It’s a 44/32/22 version. Not a high top gear with the 44 but plenty of grunt at the lower end with the 22.

That’s matched with a 32-11T XT cassette. I’ve always used the 34 version there but with the 32 the grouping at the top end is much better: 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32 gives better options riding for hours into the wind than the old 11, 13, 15,17, 20, 23, 26, 30, 34. And I’ve found I’d rather push than ride the 34. In any case there’s not so many long hills in Western Australia, umm, except for the Munda Biddi which has 4000m of climbing.

The new derailleurs are LX for the front and XT for the rear.

LX brakes, the old ones were rusting up.

In the tyre department there’s one new 2.00” Dureme tyre to test out for any road travel when I head back to Perth to go with my last remaining XR. But for the mostly rough and unsealed Munda Biddi trail I’ll have a 2.00” Nobby Nic on the front with a 2.10” Maxxis cross+mark on the rear in an attempt to power through the rivers of pea gravel.

The leaky old tent, a cosy Northface Tadpole 23 with the busted zip, has been put out to pasture, 460 nights wasn’t so bad but there will be plenty of time to lay in a coffin later on. In with the Northface Roadrunner 23. An increase in weight from 2.1kg to 2.5kg is the price for the increase in size from 2.4m2 to 3.1m2 and much more headroom. (The Roadrunner is comparable in size, volume and head height with the Hubba Hubba with the two doors and twin vestibules but doesn’t have that poles fitting together issue, which I’m suspicious about.) I have a footprint for this one so that will help keep the base protected, and the two zips will have more care in their use this time around than the single one did in the Tadpole.

My battered old camera, a Canon Powershot 890, was struggling to focus, and the back LCD screen had acquired two giant black, Panda eye, spots. It was looking rather ugly so I have replaced it with a Pentax W90, the waterproof, drop proof, dustproof, carry everywhere camera. All point and shoot cameras seem pretty similar in the taking photo capability and this can capture a reasonable movie as well.

I’ll let you know how all these components perform.