So it was quite a while ago that I decided to get a new bike for this trip, but it took a long time to actually buy one.
I had some fairly clear ideas for what I wanted, and looked for quite a while for something that matched perfectly. I never found it.
The big problem is the big hills. I will be carrying a lot of gear, and the course goes up some fairly long and steep climbs. For a while my ego raged, and I thought I would just power up them. In the end though wisdom came back and I realised that the loaded bike will probably weigh about half what I weigh. I need a triple chainring. Many people see triple chainrings (three gears at the front) as something for the weak, something to be scorned. I’m not one of those people. Those same people tend to think that you can’t climb Tourmalet with a loaded touring bike, and I know that you can. It helps to have a triple chainring though!
I also wanted big wheels, a reasonably light frame, comfortable geometry and the ability to mount a pannier rack. I also realised that because I was moving back to Australia as soon as I finished the Giro all of my other possessions would have to spend several months on a boat – meaning that this bike would be the only one I had for a couple of months. So obviously best if it could be used for road racing… Then, of course, there was the fact that cyclocross is catching on in Australia these days and I have always wanted to give it a go.
In summary, I wanted a whole lot of things that it would be virtually impossible to find in one bike. So best I build something myself.
I looked around for a frame that was about right, finally finding it in a Stevens 105 cyclocross. The problem was that the drivetrain was completely wrong.
It had a compact crankset, but not compact enough for the mountains I was planning on riding up. So that had to go, replaced with a triple. Of course, that also meant a new front derailleur and STI lever. That improved things, but still didn’t give me the low gear I wanted, so on went the biggest cassette I have ever seen. Then I needed a new long cage rear derailluer to give me the capacity the cassette required. Now I had fantastically low gearing, but of course the chain was too short to go around it all, so on went a new chain.
Meanwhile up the front of the bike I wanted power. I will carrying a lot of electronic gismos with me, and don’t want to be forced into getting hotels just so I can charge the GPS and lights, so a dynamo hub seemed like a good idea. Was a good idea, in fact. I am very happy with how it performs. Quality German engineering, that hub is!
So basically this meant the only bit I hadn’t changed was the brakes. Except that all my other bikes are Australian and have the brake levers the other way round to the new bike, so I figured I had better swap them here so that it was consistent between my bikes. Of course I didn’t think about that until after putting the new lever on, so I ran those cables a couple of times. Did I mention how great the internal cable routing looks? Slightly less fun to work on though.
It all got done though, finished on Monday afternoon. I took it for a 2km test ride then packed my tools to ship them to Australia. I rode it for the second time today, this time about 4km, and it all seemed to work so I am happy!
With hindsight it was never a good idea for me to own a white bike, but until it falls apart under me half way up Stelvio, that is my only concern!
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