21 November 2014

Co-Motion Americano Touring Bike with Rohloff SPEEDHUB and belt drive

This Co-Motion Americano was displayed in our booth at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) last March in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is equipped with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 and Gates belt drive, as well as a full compliment of racks and panniers for loaded touring. Co-Motion Cycles – a company who specializes in building bikes for touring, commuting, tandems, and other unique bikes at their factory in Eugene, Oregon – lent us this bike to showcase an example of a fully loaded touring bike equipped with a SPEEDHUB. It attracted plenty of attention among show attendees; a crowd made up of handmade bike aficionados, many of whom travel from all over the world for a chance to see these bikes in person.

Co-Motion’s Americano model is designed primarily for long distance touring and is made from custom Reynolds steel tubing. The frameset is designed to be extremely robust, with large diameter tubing ensuring that the frame won’t feel soft or flexy when heavily loaded. The geometry is fairly typical for a touring bike, with medium-long chainstays for a more stable ride and improved heel to pannier clearance. The seated riding position is somewhat more upright compared to a typical drop bar road racing bike for increased comfort during long days in the saddle.

This is the Rohloff-version of the Americano, which is built specifically to accommodate the Rohloff SPEEDHUB and Gates belt drive system.  It features a Rohloff OEM left side dropout, Rohloff-specific cable routing, and an eccentric bottom bracket. Co-Motion also offers the frame in a more travel friendly version with S&S couplers for packing into a smaller case, dubbed “Co-Pilot”.

The wheels feature Velocity Dyad rims, a versatile option which is popular for commuting and touring applications. Velocity rims are a favorite at Cycle Monkey because they are made in the USA, are high quality, and offer a wide range of options. These Dyad rims were laced to a DT Swiss 540 front disc hub and a Rohloff SPEEDHUB in the rear. Sapim Race spokes and Brass nipples were chosen for their quality and strength. Once the wheels were trued, tensioned, and stress relieved, we mounted Schwalbe’s Kojak slick tread tires.

The Rohloff hub and belt drive configuration was a hit among the visitors at the hand-built show. Many of the NAHBS guests are early adopters for new and unique components like the SPEEDHUB and belt drive system. The SPEEDHUB and Gates combo has earned a reputation as the most favorable drivetrain solution among adventure and trekking tourists. On a long trip, a robust drivetrain is paramount, since a rider may be far from the nearest bike shop for long periods of time. Racking up miles day after day can put a lot of wear and tear on a drivetrain and cause it to fail much sooner than it would under more typical riding conditions. The SPEEDHUB uses a series of hardened steel gearwheels that can easily withstand such high volume use.  Likewise, the Gates Carbon Drive belt system offers a noticeable improvement in lifespan over a metal chain, making it a great compliment for unsupported trips.

Since this bike is designed for long days in the saddle, many of the components were chosen for their ergonomics and durability. Selle Anatomica’s Titanico X leather saddle has a cutout that creates a flexible “hammock” design which flexes to conform to a rider’s body and is comfortable to sit on with or without padded shorts. Co-Motion's own Rohloff-specific twist shifter, mounted on the flat section of the drop bars, allows for shifting from a more upright position. Co-Motion created this shifter specifically to fit the top section of drop bars, since Rohloff's shifter must use an adapter to fit on the ends of drop bars and requires the rider to reach down to shift. Shimano’s SPD Trekking pedals, which have one flat side and one clipless side, ensure that the bike can be pedaled comfortably with or without clipless riding shoes.

As a touring bike, the Co-Motion is also equipped with Tubus front and rear racks and Ortlieb handlebar bag and panniers. These bags are all made from high quality, tear resistant fabric and are water proof in case of wet roads or rain. The racks position the weight in a balanced orientation that won’t negatively affect the bike’s handling – especially on the front, where mounting the weight low improves stability. Together, the bags’ capacity is large enough to carry all your gear for a multi-week trip.

This eye-catching Co-Motion was a hit at NAHBS, and we fielded many questions from show-goers. If you are considering a touring bike of your own, contact us to see what we can build up for you.

Build Details:

• Frame: Co-Motion Americano
• Fork: Co-Motion Americano
• Headset: Chris King
• Stem: FSA OS 150
• Handlebar: FSA Omega Compact
• Shifter: Co-Motion
• Grips: Black Bartape
• Seat post: Co-Motion
• Saddle: Selle Anatomica Titanico X 
• Seat Clamp: Co-Motion
• Front Hub: DT 540
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Velocity Dyad
• Tires: Schwalbe Kojak
• Cranks: FSA V-Drive
• Pedals: Shimano XT Touring
• Bottom Bracket: FSA
• Chain ring: Gates Carbon Drive
• Rear Sprocket: Gates Carbon Drive
• Chain: Gates Carbon Drive
• Brakes & Levers: Cane Creek SCR-5 levers, Avid BB_7 Road calipers
• Rotors: Magura Storm rear, Avid front
• Extras: Tubus Logo Evo rear rack, Tubus Tara front rack, Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic panniers, Ortlieb Barit handlebar bag

13 November 2014

Soma Rush Fixed Gear With Belt Drive

When a local customer contacted us about building a belt drive-equipped fixed gear for him, we were excited to execute his vision. He wanted a bike that would be simple, lightweight, and durable for commuting around town quickly. He gave us a few general guidelines for the build but asked us to make our own recommendations for parts that would fulfill his requirements. His primary requests were that the frame be chrome colored and that he could use a belt drive system. He planned to use the bike to zip around Oakland and commute across town to work - primarily short, fast rides without much climbing.

After some research, we decided the SOMA Rush frame would be a perfect fit. SOMA is based in San Francisco and offers a wide range of affordable heat treated chromoly steel frames that are resilient and versatile. SOMA has a reputation for making strong, no nonsense bikes, which matched our customer’s criteria perfectly. The Rush frame has a few features which make it unique compared to many track bikes on the market. It has nimble track-style geometry, with a steep headtube angle and short rear end to keep it nimble while retaining generous tire clearance. It also has the looks of a classic road bike and weighs only four pounds including the frame and fork set. The stock chrome color is especially eye-catching and scratch resistant. Investment cast horizontal dropouts and a one inch diameter headtube add to its vintage appeal.

As soon as we received the frame we sent it to a local framebuilder to have a belt drive splitter installed, and before long we had the freshly modified frame in hand ready to build up. While we waited for the frame to come back, we started putting the build kit together. The customer wanted bullhorn style bars, a comfortable, light-weight saddle, durable toe straps, and tires that would hold up to rough roads and stop skids. For handlebars, he chose Profile Design’s T2 Wing Base Bar, which has a time trial oriented design with a flattened aero grip area closer to the stem for a more ergonomic secondary riding position. For the saddle he chose a slate colored Brooks Cambium saddle, made of cotton canvas and vulcanized rubber. The Cambium is Brooks’ first non-leather saddle, and its rubber construction requires no break-in time, unlike their traditional leather saddles – it’s comfortable to ride right out of the box

He chose toe straps over flat or clip-in pedals so that he could use his regular shoes for commuting, yet maintain a high degree of pedaling efficiency. Fixed gear bikes ride better with foot retention like toe straps or clipless shoes, so the rider can control the speed of the rear wheel by applying backward pressure to the cranks as they rotate. Because the cranks are moving at all times, it’s important for a rider’s feet to stay securely connected to the pedals. In this case, a pair of Power Grips were used, which attach diagonally across the pedal and allow the rider to easily get out of the pedal with a twist of their foot. Lastly, we installed Schwalbe's puncture resistant Durano tires, with a thicker version in the rear for longer tire life when performing skids.

For the wheels, the customer wanted deep section, aero-style rims in white. Also, since he requested a front brake only because he planned to control the fixed rear wheel with his feet and legs, we hoped to find a matching set of rims with a machined brake surface for the front wheel and a non-machined rim for the rear wheel. H PLUS SON offered a solution in the form of the 42mm tall SL42 (front) and Formation Face (rear) rims. These rims are mated to track hubs made by Phil Wood, another local company that has gained a sterling reputation over the years for high quality machined bicycle parts, made right down the road in San Jose. We laced the front wheel with a radial lacing pattern for a racier look and the rear wheel three cross for greater strength. Both wheels used silver Sapim race spokes and brass nipples.

The Gates Carbon Drive belt system was a high priority for this customer. He loved the fact that belt drives are quieter than chains and won't leave messy grease stains on your legs – a realistic consideration for commuters who are riding in their regular work clothes. Chain wear is especially noticeable on fixed gear bikes when riders change from pushing forward on the pedals to drive the bike to pushing backwards to slow down. Wear or looseness in a chain results in an undesirable knocking noise and feel. As the drivetrain wears, chain tension needs to be adjusted regularly to prevent this knocking. Belt systems are ideal for fixed gear use because they not only wear slower, but they are also set up with pre-tension, so there is never any play in the drivetrain. You get instant power transfer in both directions.

If at some point he decides that having just a single gear ratio is too limiting, there is the option of adding the Schlumpf 2 speed crankset to the existing drivetrain. The Schlumpf cranks are the only way of adding multiple speeds to a fixed gear without removing the wheel. The Schlumpf cranks do no require an external shift lever, since the crank arm has a built in shift button that can be actuated by tapping it with your heel. We carry several different gearing options to accommodate different gearing requirements, including the Mountain Drive version which offers a 250% easier climbing gear. We posted previously about this Cinelli we built using the Schlumpf Mountain Drive crankset.

When our customer came to pick up his bike, he was thrilled with the way it looked and said it was exactly like he had pictured it in his head. He was very excited to take it out on it's maiden voyage around the East Bay streets. If you’re interested in building up a similar bike of your own, contact us to see what we can put together for you.

Build Details:

• Frame: SOMA Rush 59cm

• Fork: SOMA Rush

• Headset: Chris King

• Stem: Thomson Elite X4

• Handlebar: Profile Design T2 Wing Base Bar

• Shifter: Not Available

• Grips: Brooks Leather

• Seat post: Thomson Elite X4

• Saddle: Brooks Cambium

• Seat Clamp: SOMA Rush integrated

• Front Hub: Phil Wood Track

• Rear hub: Phil Wood Track

• Spokes: Sapim Race

• Nipples: Sapim Brass

• Rims: H PLUS SON SL42 front, H PLUS SON Formation Face rear

• Tires: Schwalbe Durano front, Schwalbe Durano Skid rear

• Cranks: Sugino Messenger

• Pedals: MKS Promenade EZY with PowerGrips toe straps

• Bottom Bracket: Sugino

• Chain ring: Gates Carbon Drive

• Rear Sprocket: Gates Carbon Drive

• Chain: Gates Carbon Drive

• Brakes & Levers: Paul Components Cross Lever, IRD B49 Dual Pivot Caliper

03 November 2014

Black Sheep High Light Titanium Belt Drive Single Speed with Faith Truss Fork

Black Sheep looking south from Albany Hill Park

This beautiful titanium bike from Black Sheep Bikes in Ft. Collins, CO came into the Monkey Lab for a Gates Carbon Drive belt conversion. While we are known best for our Rohloff Internal Gear Hub builds, we're big proponents of the Gates belt drive system, which is a fantastic option for single speed bikes as well as internal gear hub bikes. With Black Sheep's signature curved tubes, this bike is an exquisite example of the kind of creative fabrications that can be achieved by small custom frame builders. The whole bike weighs in at only 21 pounds but feels even lighter due to it's super light EDGE (now ENVE) carbon rims.

Gates Belt Drive with XTR cranks and Chris King single speed hub

The Gates CenterTrack belt conversion involved replacing the front and rear sprockets along with the belt itself. The belt system offers superior durability, lube free functionality, and quieter operation compared to the metal chain it replaced.

Removable seat stay yoke with Cane Creek top cap allows the rear triangle to be removed for travel

No modification was required to install the belt drive system due to the unique travel-friendly rear triangle design found on this frame. The seat stay yoke separates where it meets the seat tube and the telescoping chain stays slide apart from each other a few inches behind the bottom bracket to allow the frame to pack into a smaller case. As a knock on benefit, the belt can be installed while the rear triangle is removed and tensioned by adjusting the length of the chain stays. Once it's adjusted, the wheel can be easily removed just by undoing the quick release.

Telescoping chain stays adjust to set belt tension

Driving the belt system is a pair of Shimano's XTR cranks. These cranks make a great choice for a single speed drivetrain with a lightweight yet stiff hollow spindle design that provides an excellent pedaling platform. The polished outer face is a nice design touch that keeps these cranks looking clean and scuff free.

Titanium Truss fork with Chris King Thru Axle front hub in anodized Pewter

Up front, Black Sheep's Faith double bladed truss fork handles the steering duties with a thru axle front hub to hold the wheel securely in place. The twin blades allow the fork to flex, providing some passive suspension while remaining stiff enough to maintain steering precision.

Black Sheep Custom Titanium Truss fork with dual steerer clamps and an integrated Chris King sealed bearing headset

The truss fork accommodates a 2.4" Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire with ample room to spare. Steerer tube clamps above and below the head tube ensure a stiff connection between the frame and front wheel.

Eriksen Ti "Sweetpost" seatpost

Adding another touch of titanium is a Kent Eriksen "Sweatpost" titanium seatpost. These posts are a popular choice for riders choosing titanium frames due to their simple design, wide selection of colors, and availability of various sizes and offset options. A single bolt tightens the clamp once the saddle is adjusted making it easy to re-position it with a single wrench.

The top shelf custom-built wheelset on this bike is hard to beat. A Chris King single speed hub engages quickly and precisely thanks to it's 72 engagement teeth built into the patented RingDrive system. Since the Chris King single speed hub uses a cassette style interface, it's ideal for the Gates Belt Drive system as it allows the belt alignment to be adjusted for improved crank and tire clearance. This is especially important for alignment with Hollowtech and other 2 piece crank interfaces that have an integrated bottom bracket spindle whose size cannot be changed. The EDGE (now ENVE) carbon All Mountain rims are amazingly light, and help the bike accelerate like a champ. One of the purported disadvantages of larger 29 inch wheels is their greater rotating mass, but with these featherweight wheels the difference is trivial. The advantages of reduced rotational weight are even more pronounced on a single speed since you're frequently taking off in a higher gear than you might otherwise ride on a geared drivetrain. Even from a dead stop pedaling uphill this bike accelerates like it's floating on air.

Matching Blue Anodized Hope Disc Brakes and Quick Release Seat Collar and Rear Skewer

This bike would be an excellent candidate for a Rohloff conversion should the rider ever desire a wider range of gears than the single speed drivetrain offers. Functionally, the SPEEDHUB 500/14 system sets up similarly to a single speed drivetrain and maintains the clean, functional aesthetic of a single front and rear sprocket configuration. We've built many 3-wheel custom wheel sets for customers wanting to switch between single speed for shorter local rides and geared for longer back country adventures or serious touring.

If you have a single speed that you want to retrofit with a belt drive, or an idea for a custom dream bike that hasn't been built yet, get in touch and we can work with you to make it happen. If you have a bike that you'd like to equip with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB but you're not sure if it will be compatible, just send us a few pictures, and we'll let you know if it can be done. Most single speed frames are compatible, and we have years of experience equipping bikes originally equipped with a single speed drivetrain to work with SPEEDHUBs, so consider going to a 14 speed internal gear hub if you decide that one speed is no longer enough.

Build Details:

• Frame: Black Sheep High Light Titanium 29er

• Fork: Black Sheep Faith Titanium Truss
• Headset: Chris King Inset
• Stem: Moots Titanium
• Handlebar: Groovy Luv Handle Titanium
• Grips: ESI Chunky
• Seat post: Eriksen Sweetpost
• Saddle: WTB Rocket V
• Seat Clamp: Hope QR
• Front Hub: Chris King ISO Disc 15mm Thru Axle
• Rear hub: Chris King ISO Disc Single Speed
• Spokes: DT Swiss Aero Light
• Nipples: EDGE (ENVE) Internal
• Rims: EDGE Carbon All Mountain (ENVE)
• Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph/Specialized Fast Trak LK
• Cranks: Shimano XTR
• Pedals: Shimano SPD
• Bottom Bracket: Enduro Sealed X-Type
• Chain ring: Gates CenterTrack
• Rear Sprocket: Gates CenterTrack
• Belt: Gates CenterTrack
• Brakes & Levers: Hope
• Rotors: Hope Floating

28 October 2014

Merlin Roots Mountain Bike with Rohloff SPEEDHUB

This Merlin Roots came in to the Monkey Lab for routine service, and we were excited to check it out. Offered as a limited edition, the frame is modeled after the original west coast "Klunkers," the home-made dirt cruiser bikes that were ridden at breakneck speeds by the pioneers of mountain biking on the dirt roads and hiking trails of Marin County's Mount Tamalpais. Although the aesthetic of the bike is similar to early Klunkers, it's equipped with modern geometry, materials, and technology that didn't exist in the early days of mountain biking, including a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 and hydraulic disc brakes. This bike's owner was initially drawn to the bike because of its form, but his first few rides confirmed it is also an extremely functional ride.

The frame was built by Merlin Metalworks, one of the most respected of the early East Coast mountain bike frame builders, who is know primarily for their work in titanium. Merlin’s pioneering craftsmanship set the standard for high-end titanium mountain bikes in the 1980s and 90s and created a niche for titanium enthusiasts that continues to this day. This frame, named Roots, was styled after their classic Newsboy model, which debuted in 1994 and became a cult classic due to its striking retro looks. The Roots model was introduced in 2005 with a limited run of 50 bikes. Each of the these 50 bikes was built with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB, Rohloff-specific cable routing, and an eccentric bottom bracket to accommodate chain tension.

The original Klunkers were re-purposed Schwinn cruiser frames. These bikes were generally single speed and equipped with coaster brakes, wide swept back riser bars, springer saddles, and over-sized 26 inch balloon tires. Compared to most "high end" bikes of the time, they did an adequate job of getting down the mountain, but the downhills were often nerve racking due to frequently over-heating coaster brakes and a complete lack of front brakes. They also lacked lower gears for pedaling back uphill, so they were often pushed up the hills. With the Roots project, Merlin set out to preserve the simple, playful feeling that made the Klunkers so much fun to ride but add more functionality to handle longer, more technically challenging rides.

Beyond the frame, the Rohloff SPEEDHUB is the highlight of this bike, giving it the gear range of a modern mountain bike derailleur system with the durability to keep rolling year after year with minimal upkeep. The Roots also features Avid Juicy Seven hydraulic disc brakes, which are immeasurably more powerful and responsive compared to the Morrow and New Departures coaster brakes found on many of the original Klunkers. It includes a range of top shelf components to keep the weight low, including Truvativ Stylo carbon cranks, Seven Cycles 2 piece titanium riser bars, and a Thomson Elite seatpost. It was outfitted with a bombproof Chris King headset, double-wall Sun Ringle rims, and a well worn leather Brooks B17 for comfort.

The owner of this bike is very proud to own one of only 50 beautifully crafted Merlin Roots in existence, and we were glad to be able to showcase it here on the Monkey Lab. If you’re considering a similar retro-styled mountain bike of your own, contact us to see what we can put together for you!

Build Details:

• Frame: Merlin Roots Titanium
• Fork: Viscious Cycles Mountain Steel
• Headset: Chris King NoThreadset
• Stem: Truvativ Team
• Handlebar: Seven Cycles Titanium Mountain Riser Handlebar
• Shifter: Rohloff
• Grips: OURY
• Seat post: Thomson Elite
• Saddle: Brooks B17
• Seat Clamp: Salsa Flip Lock
• Front Hub: Paul Components Engineering
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Sun Ringle 0 Degree XC 2000
• Tires: WTB Velociraptor
• Cranks: Truvativ Rouleur Carbon
• Pedals: Shimano SPD
• Bottom Bracket: Truvativ
• Chain ring: Surly Stainless Steel
• Rear Sprocket: Rohloff
• Chain: SRAM PC 971
• Brakes & Levers: Avid Juicy Seven
• Rotors: Avid Cleansweep front, Galfer rear