Wednesday, April 27, 2011

monster x 1.0

Introducing my newest rig, Monster X 1.0:

(Bad iPhone 3G photo.)

After my Gary Fisher Paragon died in December, I had to quickly buy a replacement mtb (because who can be without a mtb for more than a week or two, especially during the winter?), which I did, but when the warranty replacement came what was I to do but find a creative use for it?

So I built the monster cross--which, in this case, is essentially a fully rigid mountain bike with drop bars and road shifters.

I finally finished the build last week* and I'm happy to report that I really, really like it. It's heavy, which is a bummer, but it's a lot of fun on the fire roads and bits and pieces of mild single track that make up the majority of my forays into the woods. For that purpose, it's perfect.

There are still a few kinks to work out, however. First, the X-9 rear derailleur that I'm using does not play well with the Rival shifter it's paired with. Though the derailleur was obviously designed for nine-speed use, I didn't figure it would be a problem using it with the road shifter and a ten-speed cassette. But it is--the derailleur won't hold the furthermost inward position no matter what I try. I'm not sure if that's a problem with the derailleur design or perhaps a problem with this particular derailleur, which may be bent from abuse from previous mtb applications.

Second, I've got to make a decision as to whether to run a single-ring setup or a double--a matter on which I waffle daily--and then complete the build, either with an appropriate derailleur or chain guards, depending.

Third, I'm dissatisfied with the fork. It's a nice steel 29er fork, as far as that goes, but besides being heavy (it is), the crown doesn't fit well with the 1 1/2" lower headset bearing. The headset has an adapter to fit the 1 1/8" steerer, but the crown of the fork is so skinny that it doesn't rest nicely up against the bearings and I'm worried about the long-term reliability of the patch. So I have one of those beautiful new Niner carbon forks on order (it's now been two months) and am super excited to see it installed on this rig. Presently, I'm salivating over my mental picture of its awesomeness.

Finally, I've got to find a better solution to the stem situation. I knew I would need a super short stem to replicate my road position on this bike, so I grabbed a 50 or 60 mm downhill number from one of Merv's bins and it works nicely, but probably weighs close to a pound on its own. Finding a nice lightweight stem that's as short as it needs to be on this bike has not been easy. Really, this is a low priority problem--what I have on there works fine, it just distracts from the overall aesthetic of what I've got going on. In time...

Anyway, I've been out three times on this little beauty and I'm really taking a hankering to it. I'm much more comfortable in a road position than on mtb bars (when not truly mountain biking) and a suspension fork is superfluous for a good deal of my adventures off-road. Once the shifting issues are resolved, I'm excited to plot some nice long backwoods routes and really put it to the test.

And of course the bike offers tremendous flexibility too, depending on tire choice, which is one of the reasons I was so excited about this build. I have a nice pair of 700c X 28mm road tires on order that will work nicely for long rides from Ship to the fire roads of the Tuscarora State Forest and back again...or for exploration further south in Michaux and into the Maryland mountains. Knobbies are great and all, but they are not fast...

* Getting this thing together has been way more of a hassle than it should have been. Here's a list of some of the difficulties I've encountered, other than what I already discussed:

(1) The derailleur hanger wouldn't fit on the frame until the frame was modified by file. Personally, I was unconvinced the hanger I had was the appropriate hanger for the frame (as I imagine most people would assume when it doesn't immediately fit), until assured by a Trek dealer that it was correct. I let them do the filing.

(2) The new Trek BB90 or BB91 or whatever the heck it is was a tremendous hassle. In all internet-dom I could find only one supplier that seemed to know what he was talking about and could sell me the appropriate Shimano BB. Even then there was some confusion between the road and mtb versions of this BB, with Trek customer support telling me one thing and the Trek dealer something else entirely. I'm happy to say, however, that the first BB I eventually did buy fit perfectly.

(3) Lack of careful measurement (and an overabundance of wishful thinking) on my part led me to believe I'd be able to use a Dura-Ace 7800 crankset with the frame. But that was foolish--it didn't work at all. So that left me scrambling to find a new crank that would fit the frame. (I ended up cannibalizing the XT crank on my Superfly and buying a new crank for it, but even that was fraught with complication--when one is considering the purchase of a new crank, one wonders if an entire drive train upgrade wouldn't be in order, in this case to a two-ring setup. In the end, I decided against it, primarily with financial considerations in mind.)

(4) It wasn't until I installed derailleur cable and chain that I realized my setup afforded no means of adjusting derailleur cable tension--no barrel adjusters on the derailleur (they're on the levers on mountain bikes) and no barrel adjusters on the levers (they're on the derailleur on road bikes), and of course mtb frames don't have a place for frame-mounted barrel adjusters on the down tubes like many road frames. Anyway, I ordered an inline barrel adjuster and the problem was easily solved, but it's just another one of those things...

(5) SRAM Rival front derailleurs don't have enough reach to get a chain on the outer chainring of a three-chainring mtb crankset.

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