26 February 2014

Monkey Ride: Bike Friday with Belt Drive and Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14

Bike Friday built this frame for us to showcase at tradeshows as well as to offer to customers visiting our office wanting to test the Rohloff SPEEDHUB and Gates Carbon Drive drivetrain. Bike Friday hand builds each of their folding bikes to their customers’ specifications in their Eugene, Oregon workshop. They are the only U.S.-made folding bike-specific company, and they have built a devoted following for their craftsmanship and functional designs. Their goal of producing "bikes that fold" as opposed to "folding bikes" comes through in the handling of their bikes. We added a few special touches to make the bike stand out, including red anodized components and a custom build kit. The result is an ideal travel or commuter bike that is easy to fold up and pack into a suitcase or trunk of a car or take into an office or onto a subway train.

This bike is built around Bike Friday’s Silk frame, which was designed to work well with the Gates belt drive system. They offer the Silk frame setup for a variety of uses including road, touring, and commuting. Sliding dropouts adjust belt or chain tension, and 20 inch wheels are used as on most of Bike Friday's other models. The 20 inch wheels offer more comfort on bumpy roads and a more usable gear range than the 16 inch wheels they use on their commuter-specific Tikit model. The fold point for the rear end maintains the relationship between the crankset and the rear wheel so that the belt or chain will stay tensioned when folded.  The frame folds vertically around the bottom bracket, which results in a quick and user-friendly folding process. When completely folded up, the bike will fit neatly into a suitcase for easy travel.

While Bike Friday was building the frame, we sent a few components to our local anodizer to match them to the red color of the Rohloff SPEEDHUB and Schmidt SON28 hubs: front sprocket, rims, headset cups, Rohloff external gear mechanism cable box, and shifter housing. Once we had the parts back from the anodizer, we laced up the wheels using Velocity’s 20” Aeroheat rims with Sapim spokes and nipples for fairly light, strong and durability setup.

On most folding bikes, the shifting components are particularly susceptible to being damaged. The rear derailleur is one of the most delicate components on any bike, and can easily be bent or broken if it is bumped. On a folding bike in particular, the rear derailleur sits close to the ground due to the small wheels and is also exposed to being hit by the handlebars or front wheel during the folding process. It is also likely to be hit or damaged on a crowded commuter train with people filing in and out past the bike on the ground.

Additionally, small-wheeled bikes often use much larger chainrings compared to larger-wheeled bikes to account for the effect that wheel size has on the gear development. Front derailleurs are shaped to shift the size chainrings found on 26" or 700c-wheeled bikes, not the larger sized rings needed to maintain the same gear development on smaller-wheeled bikes. As a result, the shifting is usually slower and less crisp than is usually expected.

The Rohloff SPEEDHUB offers an optimal shifting system for a folding bike because the shifting components are all protected inside the hubshell and no shifting parts are exposed to being bent or damaged. It is also typically used only with one front chainring, so there is no impact on shifting precision by changing the ring size.

A conventional bike chain is also less-than-ideal on a folding bike because you're often coming in contact with the greasy, messy chain during the folding, packing, and transport processes. A Gates Carbon Drive belt requires no oil or grease, so your clothes and hands stay clean. This also means that no maintenance is required on it. Additionally, since the belts do not stretch, you get a service life that is significantly longer than with a chain - minimum twice as long and up to ten times as long depending on usage conditions.

We chose a variety of components that put the rider in a comfortable, ergonomic seating position. A custom Groovy Cycle Works Luv Handle handlebar with 45 degrees of backsweep mimics the natural resting position of a rider’s hands, Ergon’s GC1 grips feature a wide palm rest to take pressure off of the hands, and Selle Anatomica’s Titanico leather saddle is very comfortable right out of the box with or without padded shorts. We rounded out the component selection with Magura’s MT2 hydraulic brakes, which provide good stopping power and require minimal maintenance, and Schwalbe’s Big Apple tires, which feature a flat-resistant casing and large air volume to absorb the bumps.

When we took this bike out for a test ride, it felt very comfortable and handled much like a bike with larger wheels. It was hard for us to tell we were riding a folding bike until we looked down at the frame, which is the litmus test for any good folding bike. If you’re interested in the ideal folding commuter bike or would like to take this bike for a test ride, please contact us.

Build details:

• Frame: Bike Friday custom Silk
• Fork: Bike Friday
• Headset: Cane Creek Solo
• Stem: Controltech
• Handlebar: Groovy Cycles Luv Handles
• Shifter: Rohloff
• Grips: Ergon GC1
• Seatpost: Thomson Elite
• Saddle: Selle Anatomica Titanico
• Seat Clamp: Bike Friday
• Front Hub: Schmidt SON28
• Rear hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
• Spokes: Sapim Race
• Nipples: Sapim Brass
• Rims: Velocity Aeroheat 20”
• Tires: Schwalbe Big Apple 20x2.0”
• Cranks: Middleburn

19 February 2014

How To Video: Rohloff SPEEDHUB Oil Change

We're excited to introduce a series of videos showing you how to set up and service your Rohloff SPEEDHUBThe first video covers the oil change process and can be viewed above.

18 February 2014

Monkey Ride: Ventana Zeus with Rohloff SPEEDHUB

Last fall we built up this full suspension Ventana Zeus for Xan, a friend of Cycle Monkey who helped us out part time over the summer and is now in college in Colorado. Chief Monkey Neil coached Xan on the El Cerrito High School Mountain Bike team and watched him progress from a novice cross country rider to an experienced, technical rider favoring all mountain-style terrain. Xan planned out this build over the summer and we got it together just in time for him to take with him to Colorado Springs, where he knew he would be riding challenging and technical terrain regularly. Xan has been riding his Zeus hard, including on a trip to the famed trails of Fruita, and said the Rohloff SPEEDHUB is perfect for his riding style.

11 February 2014

Monkey Ride: Neil’s Rohloff/Belt Drive-Equipped Moots 29er

In preparation for the 2008 North American Handbuild Bicycle show in Portland, OR, Neil worked with Moots on this custom 29'er soft-tail as a test bed for the then-recently-launched Gates Carbon Drive belt system. The previous fall, Gates released the belt system, which promised improved durability with comparable efficiency to the tried and proven metal chain. In terms of improving overall drivetrain reliability, the new Gates belt system looked like a great complement to the highly durable Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14.

03 February 2014

Surly Pugsley Fat Bike with Suspension Fork, Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, and Gates Belt Drive

Fatbikes are known for their wide tires’ ability to provide grip and traction in just about all trail conditions. We've built many of these bikes with Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 gear hubs and several with a Gates Carbon Drive belt system as well, but how would a fatbike be improved if you added a suspension fork to the equation? That was the question we intended to answer with this Surly Pugsley build. Apparently the same question had been on many other peoples’ minds because the bike attracted plenty of attention when we showcased it in our booth at the Interbike tradeshow last September.

The goal for this Pugsley was twofold. First, we wanted to experiment with a more aggressive handling trail-specific fatbike. We also wanted to create a bike that would pique the interest of bike shop owners and industry insiders at Interbike, which is the bike industry’s largest trade show. Like the Surly Krampus build that also drew people into our booth, this Puglsey is one of the few Monkey Lab creations not built for a specific customer but rather as an experimental show bike.