Recent mods

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Since landing in Europe, I’ve tended to a few loose ends.  The bikes were fully operable upon landing (and reassembling).  With a few small improvements, they are even better.

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Lael has a new 36t Vuelta chainring to replace a 32t ring.  She hopes the bigger gear will allow her a little more speed along paved paths, without compromising her ability to ride in the larger ring most of the time with an 11-32t cassette.  The 22t inner ring is still perfect for mountainous exploits.  The bashguard is just barely undersized for a 36t ring.

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Looking for a suitable mounting point for my Supernova E3 Pro headlight, I finally revisited my first idea and drilled the fork crown.  The hole was perfectly sized so that the M6 bolt tapped the hole.  With so much thread engagement, the bolt did not require a nut on the backside.  I considered mounting from the brake bridge, but there is scarcely enough material there to feel confident about drilling a hole.  I also attempted to mount a top cap on the underside of the steerer tube (I drove a star nut inside), but the light arm would have been damaged by the brake bridge under full suspension compression.  I removed the air from the fork to test.  This was the best option, but limited space below the handlebars.  I switched to an XS 6L Sea-to-Summit compression drybag.

Also pictured, a buttery smooth Velo Orange Grand Cru sealed cartridge bearing headset— as a friend recently said, “because I like to know the history of my bearings”.  It is one less thing to think about.  I install cartridge bearings with as much grease as possible, to further resist contamination and corrosion.

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I inquired about USB charging from a dynamo hub in Amsterdam’s De Vakantiefietser bicycle shop.  The Busch and Muller USB-Werk AC seemed to be the best option for my needs, acting as a bridge directly to a USB out.  The system does not have a battery, and is only suitable for charging during active cycling.  So far, it seems to charge best with the lights turned off.  Without a battery, the system is very lightweight, excluding the existing hardware (hub, lights, wiring).  With a battery, I could capture all of the power coming out of the hub at all times as light, by directly charging a device, or by storing it in a battery for later.  I paid €99 for the device.

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Before leaving town I swapped the SRAM indexed trigger shifters, which performed crisply, for some top-mount thumb shifters.  I am accustomed to thumb shifters on my bikes, and index shifting in general.  Mostly, this decision was made for better cable routing with a drybag strapped to the handlebars.  I found a nice Shimano Deore LX rear derailleur in the parts bin at Two Wheel Drive, although it was missing two pulleys and a back cage plate.  I sourced these parts from a used Deore long cage derailleur missing a fixing bolt.  With some further modification and grease, I had a like new rear derailleur.

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Within a day of cycling, I noticed a broken barrel adjustor on my right shifter, most likely from spending time in a box on the airplane.  I have used these thumb shifter mounts on the Pugsley for nearly a year, without fail.  However, the aluminum adjusting bolt is a weak point.  A host in Rotterdam found a steel replacement in a parts bin.

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Repaired.  The replacement steel bolt should be no problem.

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Before leaving the country, I picked up a pair of GP1 BioKork Ergon grips at REI in Denver.

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A section of old inner tube and some zip ties make a durable chainstay protector.  The rubber also dampens the sound of a slapping chain.

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Finally, with the smell of cooking fuel permeating from my framebag, I couldn’t wait to attach some bottle cages to the fork.  In search of hose clamps, I encountered this solution.  John, our host in Rotterdam suggested I attach a standard bottle cage with a durable adhesive tape such as electrical or duct tape.  The solution is simple, lightweight, and presumably durable.  He claims to have done this on a Santa Cruz Nomad, eventually breaking the bottle before the tape ever failed.  The result is also more attractive than hose clamps.  Perhaps more aerodynamic as well?  Cleaning alcohol in high concentration is commonly available in the Netherlands as Spiritus for about €1 per liter..  Without the label and with the addition of a Porcelain Rocket decal, I now refer to it as ‘rocket fuel’.  Now, to tame those wires…

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A bit rainy and blustery along the Maas river near Rotterdam.  We might take some short days this week to wait out the rain.  Out looking for the GR5, and dodging rainshowers.

13 thoughts on “Recent mods

  1. Nice to see you’re under way and you’ve shaken out the bugs. Not sure how long you’ll be in Europe or where your route will take you, but if you make it as far south as Slovenia, let me know. It would be nice to cross paths. We’re spending the summer touring in the Balkans, basing ourselves in Ljuljana to research a book, ride, drink wine and enjoy the sun for a while…

    • Hey Tyler! Slovenia is on the list, although at this point it is too far in the future to guarantee a visit. However, if the draw of bikepacking in Spain (and Morocco) is not too great, we shall be traversing the Alps towards your summer enclave. Your summer plans sounds much like ours: ride, drink wine, and enjoy the sun. Thus far, we are still hoping for some sun. This must be our penance for a sunny winter in New Mexico.


  2. Hi,
    I pretty sure that we met last summer along the road in the Yukon (about two days after Whitehorse for you). I was heading north with a spanish cyclist who was cycling around the world since 1997. Did you remember?
    Anyway, I’m currently considering buying a Pugsley for winter biking and touring cycling. I had in mind your set up with the big apple and I made a google request and ended on your blog! What a suprise to recognize your purple bike and home made mud guard!
    Thanks for posting a lot of infos about your bikes, that’s really usefull.
    I read that you are in Europe now, is that right?
    Let me know if you come to Switzerland!

    Happy trails!

  3. I like seeing the little details of how you dial in your bike, especially the USB power source and your reconstructed rear derailleur. The new rocket fuel bottle is a nice update from your previous fuel bottle.

    I’ve been thinking about those Gran Compe shifters ever since I saw your bike in Denver. They add the perfect bit of timeless functional flavor to your bike, which crosses several technologies and eras in its parts kit. In that sense, the new bike is a perfectly logical successor to your past bikes, in particular your High Sierra and Pugsley.

    • Andy, I prefer the Suntour XC shifters that you’ve got stashed away. They are more rugged, and the result is also a smoother more controlled shift, although I can’t exactly explain it. Still, I do like the DC shifter. The action is very smooth. If you have followed any of the discussions of the ‘Silver’ shifter that Riv was raving about several years ago, this is the same hardware with a slightly different lever. The VO mounts (excepting the aluminum barrel) are great, and are a bargain at only $50. Of course, the VO mount will also accept most any vintage shifter.

      The XXIX is the spiritual successor to the High Sierra and the Pugsley, each bike more alike than different; each with its own virtues.

  4. How did the taped on bottle cages hold up in the long haul? I’m looking to add a bottle cage to a Salsa fork in addition to a cage on the existing bosses, and I was wondering if it was worth it to seek out appropriate clamps, or if I could save a few bucks and use the roll of tape that I already own.

    • I choose to use tape on my bikes after such a positive experience. Just be sure to wrap the tape at tight as possible, from the top of the cage to the bottom. I’ve since refined the system a bit by hacking off the mounting tabs. The cage then sits lower to the frame (or fork), reducing strain on the cage. In either case, it is a very good idea!

  5. How did drilling the fork crown end up working for mounting your light? Did you ever end up having any problems because of it? I’m considering doing the same thing on a Rockshox Recon… but of course the bike shop was like “Oh gosh no, that’s crazy.”

    • Zane,

      Yeah, this is a “not for the faint of heart” type mod, although I don’t see much reason to consider it foolish. It is certainly unconventional, and you’ll never find a shop that will do it. I first got the idea to do this after a customer who ride particularly hard managed to break the steerer free from the crown on his RockShox fork (he breaks everything, weekly). In an attempt to salvage the fork, we used a whole lotta Loctite and drilled the crown to install a bolt though it to prevent it from spinning. Eventually, we sent the fork back and they miraculously warrantied it, with the stipulation that they would never warranty a product for this customer ever again.

      Anyway, the thought of drilling the crown stuck with me when I was looking for a place to mount a light. The other leading idea is to drill the arch over the tire, but there is much less material there in a forged lattice pattern, which makes mounting the light hardware more challenging. There is a lot of material up at the steer/crown junction.

      When I drilled, I used a drill bit slightly smaller than the intended bolt size (6mm). Then when I installed the bolt I was effectively tapping the crown. If I’d had a proper tap I would have used that, but a nice stainless bolt and some Tri-Flow will do the job if you are patient. Best to use another bolt for the installation. Also, I only drilled through the front of the steerer tube, not all the way through.

      I never had any problems in use.

      • Awesome! Good to know it was never a problem. Just drilling through the front side of the crown/steerer sounds like a good idea. I’ll probably try and get some kind of lock-nut up in there on the inside of the steerer too anyway, maybe with a big rubber/plastic washer to deal with the curvature. Thanks for the info!

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