Monthly Archives: June 2011

All-rounder Update: 200km Mark

All is well on the bike front, and I’ve now made it up to the 200km mark. I know, not a lot of riding in three weeks, but I’ve been completing the final push of school into exams (I finished my Chemistry exam today, yay! Only physics left, which is tomorrow). The tires are wearing well enough, but the compound of the CST Critters is fairly soft, so even gravel skids have worn the rear tread down a *weensy bit*. Just enough so that the “herringbone” pattern imprinted on each of the knobs is barely visible.

The Herringbone pattern is wearing away quickly…
the skid spots are worse than the above picture.

So far, here’s what I’m liking:

– Off road handling
– On road handling!
– Overall weight
– Load Capability
– Comfortable seat/steam/handlebar height and position
– Top Tube length is good
– Rolling resistance ( Speed!)
– Gear range (it hasn’t been changed from before)

After about 125km offroad (light trails, gravel, a bit of chip seal road and a few muddy+technical bits of singletrack), I’m happy with how well the bike works. Lots of BB clearance for the roots/logs. The CST Critter’s are claimed at 2.1″ wide, but they are closer to 2.0″, in actuality. As many other tires are over-stated for width (see some tire specs here), you could fit a 29 x 2.3″ tire, if you want to really squeeze some large rubber in there. On road, the Critters sap energy, unless they are pumped up to their 65 psi limit. At this pressure, the small contact patch makes it pretty easy to stay going fast.

Below 40 psi, the tire makes a great shock absorber for trails.
Exceeding the reccomended limit is sometimes reccommended. 

The overall wight is 35lbs, complete. This is only 1 lb less than my previous bike, despite its frame weighing a full four pounds more than the O8 frame here. My hypothesis: the wheelset is the heavy hitter here, and adding 750g tires and 200g tubes to each wheel is only exacerbating the problem. When its time for those club rides/ summer rando sessions, you can bet I’ll shed these heavy tires and tubes and go for the 26mm semi-slicks I’ve got tucked away…

The frame nice dimensions to it, and the top tube is perfectly sized out so that the handlebars are not too far away for riding in the drops, and not too close to ride upright in the hoods or using the flat part of the bar. This upright riding is a lifesaver for quick downhill switchbacks & fast offroad turns, as well as getting over roots + rocks. An all-around nice ride quality and comfort.

This cheap Avenir stem is actually quality. Lightweight, and
it allows adjustment for offroad/touring/road handlebar heights.

Ooooh…. “Custom drawn”…. and “airplane grade”:
economic, and still fairly light, Cro-Mo tubing.

Here’s what I’m not so happy about:

– Delayed shifting/ Ghost shifting on rear
– Derailleur cable stop location
– Rear dropouts slightly misaligned
– Rear rack deck height
– Kickstand placement

The 17-year-old Alivio rear derailleur is shot, and has so much play that it allows ghost shifting and shifting under load, but won’t shift when the time comes! A well-loved (aka, used) Deore-level or higher mech. might be finding its way on the back as a replacement – “Bike Pirates” of downtown Toronto has a million of such used derailleurs in a box for dirt cheap. And such good quality derailleurs, if not too badly worn, can be cleaned up and will perform like new. The rear cable stop also poses an odd challenge – it was meant for full-housing cables, so I had to “improvise” with a ziptie, and was placed too far from the derailleur (the cable is almost too short).

I need to replace this. 

The wheel sits slightly too the left in the rear triangle, and I’m fairly sure it is because of the dropouts being misaligned. OTOH, it could be because of my 130-spaced hub, as I did add a washer to the left of the hub, and it helped a bit. The high-up rear rack allows lotsa tire+fender room, but it is so close to the seat, that only a few small bits of camp gear could fit atop it. The kickstand is overly bent, and mounts awkwardly on the rear of this new frame, and so a Pletcher 2-legger may be warranted soon, as well.

The cantilever brakes work well too, but lack a bit of the “punch” that
V-brakes or disks manage to have. No regrets, though.

Overall impressions bode well, and I think this will stay my primary rig for the foreseeable future.

A fine beauty, that!

The All-Rounder

Without further delay, I present to you the Origin 8 CX700-framed-all-rounder:

Origin 8’s Cx700 frame allows me to run 29er tyres, yet doesn’t
look out of place running skinny rubber.

The specs:
– Origin 8 CX700 Cyclocross/Touring/All-Rounder frame, 56 cm *
– CST Critter 29 x 2.1″ tyres *
– Mountain Equipment Co-Op Alloy Seatpost (rebranded Kalloy Uno) – 27.0 mm *
– Brooks B17 Standard, Honey
– Nitto B-115 – 40cm/25.4 mm clamp
– RSX 3×8 Brifters
– Avenir adjustable threadless stem w/ Origin 8 Spacers*
– FSA “The Hammer” 1 1/8 in Headset *
– Shimano BB-UN26 Sq. Tpr. *
– Alivio 22-32-42 Crank
– Victor VP-196 Pedals w/toe clips (VP-565 Platforms shown in pictures)
– SRAM 12-32 7-Speed Casette
– Alivio F. Der, 31.8mm clamp  *
– Alivio R. Der
– KMC Z-Chain *
– Wheels: Alivio hubs laced to 36h Araya PX-35 rims
– Jagwire “Basics” Cables + Housings *
– Tektro 720 Cantis
        A “*” means bought new. All other parts are scavenged from my other bike.

FSA “The Hammer” Headset; dirt cheap, but so far,
smooth and strong.



Misc Odds and Ends:
-“Greenfield” seatstay/chainstay kickstand
– Mountain Equipment racks (Blackburn Knock-offs)
– MEC “Wedgy” Seat bag
– Zefal water bottle cages
– Planet Bike ATB Pump

I must say that I am *very* pleasantly surprised at how well this new bike handles, and with the overall quality of the budget-conscious build. As I ripped almost all the parts from my previous “main” bike, the total build cost came in at $428 CAD, all told. Thats actually $28 over what I wanted to spend, but oh well; I wasn’t about to reuse my a 17-year-old bottom bracket and grind the old front derailleur to 31.8 clamp dia.

The Frame
The Origin 8 frame was a big surprise for me – it is a relatively new offering, not like the tried-and-true Surly Cross Check or LHT. But, without taking risks, I would have been missing out on something great. What makes this frame a better all-rounder base is the extra-wide clearance for up to 2.3″ 29er tyres, which is substantial considering the ~ 42mm tyre limit for the LHT. The specs for the Origin 8 clearly said “Fits 2.1″ tyres”, but they lied, because there is quite a bit more room to shove in a larger tyre. With my 2.1″s on, there seems to be just enough room to install a fender, albeit tightly.

2.1″ 29er tyre and still going strong; the Origin 8 CX700 frame
probably can squeeze in a 2.3″, if you don’t need fenders. 

The wheel can gain a few extra inches clearance if pulled back in the rear-facing
track-style dropouts (track ends).

  What I also like about this frame is the thoughtful lay-out of the rack mounting points. On the rear, they are placed high above the dropout, in the seatstay, which allows standard racks to be used with the over-sized 29er tyres by giving extra clearance. They also provide a helluva lotta heel room; about 3″ more to my pannier bags as compared to my old bike. Oh, and this layout also allows the unimpeded use of disk brakes on the rear. The only problem is that there is slightly less space to strap things to to top of the rack, as there is less room between my seat and the rack’s deck.

Rack and fender mounts are up and forward, in the seatstay.

As for the frame weight: For a $165 steel frame, its pretty good. The weight of the 56cm  frame and fork(uncut) together totaled 3.1 kgs, or 6.8 lbs (measured on fairly accurate digital scale). However, these numbers mean nothing without a frame of reference, which I will provide: the equivalent Surly CC weights 7.07 lbs frame+fork, the LHT weights 7.3 lbs, and the only truly off-roadeable frame, the Karate Monkey, weighs in at a good 8.1 lbs. Salsa’s “Fargo” is also slightly heavier for the same size; 7 lbs 14 oz (~3.5 kg), according to their website.  So, is my frame a “lightweight”? No. But it is a decent weight, and beats out some of the brand name frames and forks, for under half the price.

To have a 29er – im pretty pshyched.  The CST Critter tyres are dirt cheap; I found a pair for under $25. They are pretty puncture resistant, as I’ve ridden over nails/ construction rubble and no problems have reared their ugly heads. The rolling resistance is definitely higher than I’m used to, what with my road tyres, but they off-road and mud/dirt traction is amazing (to me at least). No comparison can be made to any tyre under 45mm wide, if only for a 29er’s ability to “float” in the muddier bits, as opposed to getting bogged down (as with my skinnier tyres!). More testing to be done, but so far, thumbs up on traction in most regular conditions; seek a tyre with greater volume and more aggressive knobs for the very soft stuff, or mud, but otherwise a very good all-round 29er tyre. Schwalbe “Big Apples” or similar might be warranted for lighter off-road riding, or just light gravel use, as the rolling resistance of the Critters could be a “drag” for long distances.

MMmn…big tyres =  traily fun and offroady goodness
The tyres do surprisingly well in light mud and on rock,
like on this crushed-brick-and-mud-based
road.

More gallery shots, for your viewing pleasure (click to enlarge):

Muddy hub.
Cockpit View