30 December 2012

Rohloff-Equipped, Belt Driven Co-Motion Americano Touring Bike

We built this steel touring bike for a customer in Henderson, NV to replace the Surly Cross Check that he had been riding.  He came to us two and a half years ago to build a rear wheel with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 to replace the derailleur system on his Cross Check, and a couple months later, we built him a matching front wheel with a Phil Wood Touring hub.  Having been happy with the performance of the Rohloff drivetrain, he decided to upgrade to a dedicated Rohloff frame and swap out his chain for a belt while he was at it.  The Americano model from Co-Motion offered all the options that he wanted.

Co-Motion is one of the few US bike companies that offers dedicated Rohloff-specific frame models.  They build bikes out of steel and aluminum in their facility in Eugene, Oregon.  They are well known for their tandems and touring bikes, though they also offer road, cyclocross, and commuting frames.  Their catalog includes a wide variety of models with stock geometry, with custom geometry available for a moderate up-charge.  A few years ago, they decided to design a Rohloff OEM dropout and offer stock Rohloff-specific frames to accommodate a growing number of custom Rohloff frame orders.  Since many of these customers also wanted to use the Gates Carbon Drive belt drive system, they incorporated a split point into the dropout so a belt could be inserted in the frame.

01 December 2012

Independent Fabrication Factory Lightweight Titanium Road Bike

We recently posted a full-suspension fat bike; this week we're going the complete opposite direction with a lightweight road bike.......with derailleurs even.  While we typically showcase Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 builds on our blog, this Factory Lightweight Titanium road bike stands out as a fine example of the work that Independent Fabrication does as well as showing off some nice custom wheels.  IF builds bikes out of steel (chromoly and stainless), titanium, carbon fiber, and a mix of carbon fiber and titanium.  Everything is custom-built to order, and their quality and attention to detail is top notch.  Their in-house paint department can handle all sorts of custom finish requests, including the orange-blue color block pattern used on this frame.  We've enjoyed working with IF for many years providing tech support for their Rohloff frames as well as building wheels for their complete Rohloff bikes.  We featured a Rohloff touring bike from IF back in April and currently have a steel belt drive Rohloff mountain bike frame in their build cue for another customer.

This tricked-out road bike was built for one of our local Rohloff customers in Berkeley, CA.  The customer has a penchant for high-end titanium bikes, including his Rohloff-equipped mountain bike, but made an exception for this beautifully painted frame with carbon seat mast. Lots of high-end carbon parts are used in the build kit: Campy Super Record groupset, SRM power meter on SRAM carbon crank arms, and ENVE Composites handlebar and carbon rims.  The ENVE rims are laced to Alchemy ELF and ORC hubs using Sapim CX-Ray spokes for what we think of as the ultimate all-around set of road wheels.

13 November 2012

Rohloff-Equipped Rivendell Sam Hillborne

We built this Rivendell Sam Hillborne up for a local customer in Redwood City, CA.  He had originally purchased the frame from Rivendell with the intention of building it up with a conventional drivetrain but later decided he wanted to use a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14.  He came to us for the Rohloff hub, rims, spokes and a wheel building lesson and later came back for a Schmidt dynamo front hub.  After building his first wheels, he then came back to have us check them over and assemble the bike.

Rivendell markets the Sam Hillborne as a value-oriented all-around/do-everything road bike.  Like all Rivendell frames, it is built out of steel.  It has clearance for 40mm tires so you can take it on dirt roads more comfortably.  Rack and fender mounts allow it to be set up for regular commuting or running errands.  As built, the bike is set up with tall, swept-back bars for a very comfortable, upright riding position.  The rest of the parts are all top quality items from companies that we work with regularly, selected for performance and durability.

This project shows a good example of an aftermarket Rohloff conversion.  The Rivendell frames have no Rohloff-specific features nor disc brake mounts that the SPEEDHUB 500/14 axle could be anchored to.  A torque arm is connected to the left chainstay to handle the output torque of the SPEEDHUB 500/14, a Rohloff chain tensioner is used to keep the chain in place, and the shift cables are zip-tied to the frame.

The cables follow our preferred routing: down the down tube, under the bottom bracket shell, and along the left chain stay.  However, with the torque arm in place below the left chain stay, the external shift mechanism cannot be positioned below the dropout due to interference between these two components.  In this situation, the cable routing is often changed to follow the top tube, then down the seat stay with the external shift mechanism located above and behind the dropout. As with the Spot Acme conversion we did earlier in the year, the top tube cable routing option would have resulted in interference issues, this time with the rack, so we looped the cables down and under the torque arm.  A re-usable zip-tie is used to tether the cables to the torque arm and still allow for easy wheel removal.

Build details
  • Frame: Rivendell Sam Hillborne steel
  • Fork: Rivendell Sam Hillborne steel
  • Stem: Nitto
  • Handlebar: Nitto Albatross
  • Shifter: Rohloff
  • Grips: ESI
  • Seatpost: Nitto
  • Saddle: Brooks B17
  • Front Hub: Schmidt SON Delux
  • Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
  • Spokes: Sapim Race
  • Nipples: Sapim Brass
  • Rims: Velocity Dyad
  • Tires: Schwalbe Big Apple
  • Skewers: Shimano
  • Cranks: White Indsutries VBC
  • Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood
  • Chainring: White Industries VBC
  • Chain Tensioner: Rohloff
  • Brakes and Levers: Tektro
  • Pedals: MKS Grip King
  • Racks: Nitto

04 November 2012

Rohloff-Equipped Carver Full Suspension Fat Bike

This fat bike was built by Carver Bikes for one of our customers in Marin, CA.  He was looking for a new bike that offered the ultimate in plushness and traction.  Having ridden Rohloff-equipped full suspension 26" and 29" wheeled bikes for many years, he figured a full-suspension fat bike would be even better, but finding a bike that met this description proved to be challenging.  We've seen an increase in fat bike wheel builds over the past few years as these ultra-wide-tire bikes have transitioned from being used only as snow bikes to year-round trail bikes.  These bikes have almost all been rigid, as suspension fork availability has not followed the increase in popularity.

There are currently no cross country forks available in the US that offer the needed tire clearance.  People have built one-offs with the now out-of-production Maverick SC32 fork or the also out-of-production aluminum Cannondale Lefty forks with removable crowns.  The one in-production option, the German:A Flame Wide fork (or the custom version made for Sandman), are not currently available in the US.  As a result of a lack of suspension fork availability, frame builders have not brought any suspension frames to market. So, Carver Bikes to the rescue!

After a long search for someone to build a full-suspension fat bike, the customer found Carver Bikes in Maine, who are willing to build just about anything one can dream up.  They decided to build the bike around a Risse Racing Trixxy downhill fork, which had the tire clearance for the wide tires and was modified to 100mm/4" of travel to prevent the tire from scraping the crown at bottom out.  After several revisions and a long wait, the bike finally became a reality.

The frame is nearly all titanium, save for the bearings and pivot hardware.  It uses a 4-bar suspension system similar to what is used by Specialized, Ellsworth, Titus, etc.  The non-drive side dropout is Rohloff-specific as is the cable routing.  Tire clearance is built around the 3.8" wide Surly Nate model with a 135mm spaced symmetric rear end for the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14.  The wide chain line of the SPEEDHUB 500/14 allows for a symmetric rear end, which maintains the dish-less wheel build that the hubs normally offer.

The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 offers a great drivetrain choice for fat bikes, whether used on snow, sand, or trail.  All the gear changing components are housed in the rear hub with an oil bath that keeps the gears and bearings well lubricated and cannot get packed up with snow or mud.  Since the chain never moves from the single front and rear sprockets, it cannot fall off during a shift.  The shifting mechanism also won't freeze in the extremely cold temperatures that snow bikes see, though a thinner cleaning/hub oil mixture is recommended to maintain consistent shifting.  In addition, an internal gear hub allows the rider to change gears without pedaling, which enables a rider to get started again after stalling out.  The ability to shift after getting bogged down in the sand was the inspiration for Mr. Rohloff to design the SPEEDHUB 500/14 over a decade ago.  These features make the SPEEDHUB 500/14 an ideal setup for the unique terrain and riding applications that fat bikes can handle.

 Build details:
  • Frame: Carver Custom Titanium Full Suspension
  • Fork: Risse Racing Trixxy
  • Headset: Chris King NoThreadset
  • Stem: Thomson Elite
  • Handlebar: Race Face Turbine
  • Shifter: Rohloff
  • Grips: Ergon GP1
  • Seatpost: Salsa Shaft
  • Saddle: Selle Italia SLR
  • Front Hub: Risse Racing Front Disc Hub
  • Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
  • Spokes: Sapim Race
  • Nipples: Sapim Brass
  • Rims: Surly Rolling Darryl
  • Tires: Surly Nate
  • Rear Skewer: Salsa
  • Cranks: Surly Mr. Whirly
  • Bottom Bracket: Surly
  • Chainring: Surly
  • Brakes and Levers: Avid Elixr
  • Rotors:Avid/Rohloff
  • Chain Tensioner: Rohloff 

27 October 2012

Rohloff-Equipped, Belt Driven Spot Rocker SS 29'er Mountain Bike

This steel Spot 29'er was built for a customer in Lynchburg, VA.  The customer came to us looking for a bike with a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 and a Gates Carbon Drive belt system.  These two products offer the high durability, low maintenance setup he was after for a high-mileage off road bike.  After considering some stock titanium options as well as custom options in steel and titanium, he decided that this mostly stock steel frame offered the right combination of weight, ride quality, and affordability.  Saving some money on the frame left a little more for the component package, which is made up of top quality parts.

For the wheels, we laced the Rohloff rear hub and a Chris King ISO disc front hub into a pair of No Tubes rims using Sapim double-butted and brass nipples.  This gave a relatively light wheelset without being too delicate.  The customer is fairly light, so we went with No Tubes lightest front rim, the Crest.  Since the rear wheel sees more weight and impact, we used an Arch EX rim in the back, which has the same shape as the Crest but with thicker side walls.  Race spokes are the standard double butted option from Sapim and were chosen for their combination of weight vs stiffness.  Brass nipples were chosen for their strength and corrosion resistance.

The Rocker SS is Spot's steel hardtail mtb frame.  The geometry is optimized for predictable single-track handling and all-day ride comfort.  You get the lively, comfortable ride you expect from steel in a frame that is lighter than many other steel frames.  Owing to the steep, technical Rocky Mountain trails in the backyard of the Spot facility, the head angle is about 2 degrees slacker on the Rocker SS than on your typical 29'er frame.  This gives the bike more stability on steeper descents and at higher speeds compared to typical 29'er hardtails, which are often designed around XC racing.

At the time this frame was built, we were able to request slight customization in the form of Rohloff-specific cable guides instead of derailleur cable guides.  This, along with the Rohloff-specific dropout that Spot designed for their sliding dropouts, gives a clean, integrated look for the SPEEDHUB 500/14.  Unfortunately, with a shift to offshore manufacturing, customization is no longer an option directly from Spot.  We can, however, have one of their current frames modified by one of the quality frame builders we work with to achieve a similar result.  The alternative would be to use zip-ties to attach the shift cables to the frame as we do on most builds when using an off-the shelf frame.

Build details
  • Frame: Spot Rocker SS Steel
  • Fork: Rock Shox Reba RLT
  • Headset: Chris King NoThreadset
  • Stem: Thomson Elite
  • Handlebar: Groovy Cycle Works Luv Handle
  • Shifter: Rohloff
  • Grips: ESI
  • Seatpost: Thomson Elite
  • Saddle: WTB Silverado Pro
  • Front Hub: Chris King ISO Disc
  • Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
  • Spokes: Sapim Race
  • Nipples: Sapim Brass
  • Rims: No Tubes Crest/Arch EX
  • Tires: WTB Bronson
  • Skewers: Shimano XT
  • Cranks: Race Face Turbine
  • Bottom Bracket: Chris King
  • Chainring: Gates Carbon Drive Center Track Pulley
  • Chain: Gates Carbon Drive Center Track Belt
  • Brakes and Levers: Magura Louise
  • Rotors: Magura Storm


20 August 2012

Rohloff-Equipped, Belt Driven Firefly Custom Titanium Dream Commuter

These photos of a titanium super commuter were submitted by Firefly Bicycles.  This bike has all manner of bells and whistles and an amazing level of component integration.  The guys at Firefly have nearly three decades of experience building top quality bike frames, but what really sets them apart is their amazing level of creativity and attention to detail.  The finishes on their bikes are often understated, but striking.  Small touches of color in minimalist graphics, logos, or head badges tie components color accents into the frame for an aesthetically pleasing package.  Browse their gallery to see more examples of their work.

Firefly came to us for the wheels, belt drive components, and gear ratio advice.  The Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 had been chosen for the gearing system based on its reputation for ultimate durability.  The Gates Carbon Drive Center Track belt system is a natural partner for the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 as it offers a very long lifespan and almost no maintenance.  Together, you get a drivetrain that you never have to worry about, which is key when you rely on your bike for daily transportation.

12 August 2012

Ultralight, Rohloff-Equipped Cannondale Flash Mountain Bike

These photos were submitted by one of our customers in British Columbia, Canada.  His Cannondale Flash carbon fiber mountain bike weighs in at just shy of 20 pounds without pedals, making this the lightest Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14-equipped bike that we have worked with.  The carbon frame is as light as many high-end road frames and the parts spec includes plenty of lightweight carbon bits.  The Lefty fork also helps bring the total weight down.

This customer purchased a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 from us last summer for his tandem and fell in love with its shifting performance.  So, when replacing his mtb this spring, a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 was his preferred drive train for the new bike. We built up the wheels and helped troubleshoot a few installation complications.

For the wheels, we laced the Rohloff rear hub and Project 321 Lefty-specific front disc hub into No Tubes Crest rims using Sapim Laser spokes and alloy nipples.  This gave the customer a lightweight wheelset to complement the rest of the bike.  We have long been fans of the No Tubes rims for their ease of tubeless tire setup and chose the Crest model for this build based on a light weight rider.  The Crest model is billed as a general XC rim and is offered in 26", 650b/27.5", and 29" sizes.  Its 24.4mm width is typical for an XC rim, but at 340g, it is lighter than just about all other aluminum rims on the market.  We generally prefer to use these rims for lighter riders or race day wheels for moderate weight riders.  The Laser model is a thin double butted spoke from Sapim that sheds weight without the higher cost of the bladed CX-Ray model and also makes for a more comfortable wheel.

As with many current mountain bike frames, this Cannondale Flash frame has post mounts for the rear brake instead of the traditional international standard mount.  This makes our Monkey Bone (or Rohloff Speedbone) incompatible with the frame and the torque arm must be used to keep the rear axle from rotating during use.  Normally when using the torque arm, the cable box gets oriented so it points upward and the cables loop up and over the brake caliper and along the left seat stay.  This is done because there is interference between the cable box and the torque arm if the cable box is positioned under the dropout for our preferred cable routing along the left chainstay.

On this frame, the position of the post mounts caused interference with the cable box if it was oriented such that the cables would loop up and over the brake caliper.  The only cable box orientation that cleared both the torque arm and the post mounts was to point it downwards and loop the cables under the torque arm.  We ran into the same issue on this Spot Acme conversion, which also has post mounts instead of an IS mount.  Functionally, this orientation shifts just fine, but it does position the cables closer to the ground as well as create a loop that could snag a branch.  In the photos, the cables dangle quite far under the torque arm, but the customer has since anchored them to the torque arm with a reusable zip tie as we did with the Spot Acme mentioned above.

Chain tension is controlled by a Beer Components BB30 eccentric.  These US-made eccentrics allow a frame with standard vertical dropouts and an oversized BB30 bottom bracket to be set up without a chain tensioner.  The only caveat is that you have to use a crankset with a 24-mm integrated spindle, such as the Race Face Turbine; square taper or BB30 cranksets will not work.  Also now available from Beer Components is a slightly larger diameter version for Press Fit30 bottom bracket shells, which are becoming the standard shell size for BB30-compatible frames.

Build details
  • Frame: Cannondale Flash carbon fiber
  • Fork: Cannondale Lefty Max Carbon XLR
  • Headset: Cannondale
  • Stem: Cannondale for Lefty
  • Handlebar: Ritchey WCS Carbon
  • Shifter: Rohloff
  • Grips: Ergon GP1 for Rohloff
  • Seatpost: Ritchey WCS Carbon
  • Saddle: Tioga Spyder
  • Front Hub: Project 321 Lefty
  • Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
  • Spokes: Sapim Laser
  • Nipples: Sapim Alloy
  • Rims: No Tubes Crest
  • Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph
  • Rear Skewer: Shimano XT
  • Cranks: Race Face Turbine
  • Bottom Bracket: Race Face X-Type
  • Chainring: Race Face Single
  • Brakes: Avid XX
  • Rotors: Hope/Avid 160/160mm