To recap, I want to build a bike for having a blast in the woods. For relatively short, fast rides primarily along the North Downs and in the Surrey Hills. To achieve this, I want a bike whose limits are easy to approach and fun to reach. So, I’ve come up with a geometry for the frame with this in mind, something that I have discussed in previous blog posts. However, just as important are all of the components that will hang off it, so I thought that I’d explain some of the key choices that I’ve made (so far).
One of the most prominent selections is probably the handlebar. I spent a long time searching for the right one. I knew that my position on the bike would closely resemble that of a Motocross bike, so I was looking for a mountain bike handlebar with a similar shape to that of a Motocross ‘bar. Nothing seemed to fit the bill, and then it dawned on me – stop searching and just use a stock Motocross ‘bar. So, I did the decent thing and ordered a set of Renthal’s!
The next challenge was to workout how to connect the ‘bars to the bike. They have a constant diameter along their entire length of 22.2mm. So, fine for bolting on my shifter and brakes, but slightly less straight-forward when it comes to the stem. While a 22.2mm stem clamp may not sound familiar to many mountain bikers, it’s actually one of a few standard sizes for BMX ‘bars. But I wanted something that was just 35mm in length and I could only find one stem that fitted the bill – a Colony Exon Flatland. (I’ve actually had one on back order since March and it only turned up in November, so it doesn’t even appear to be particularly popular with the BMX crowd!)
Another important item is the fork. I wanted something relatively long to help me achieve the necessary stack height, something torsionally stiff for decent steering precision, but with a bit of fore-and-aft flex for some comfort. As it seems to have been with many of my component choices, the options available to me were pretty limited. I could only find one fork with a tapered steerer tube, 15mm axle and boost spacing, that was at least 480mm long and all for a decent price – an Identiti XCT ticked these boxes.
With the handlebars set much higher than normal there will be much more weight on my backside when seated than on a bike with more traditional geometry. As anyone who has ridden a Dutch-style town bike will know, this means that the Selle Italia Flight Titanium that I wanted so badly for my 1993 Diamondback Apex would probably just slice me in two on this bike. So something with a bit more width and padding is likely to be the order of the day. I’ve got a few options – a Fabric Scoop Radius and a Charge Spoon are both current favourites, but I don’t think I’ll really know what’s going to work until I’ve actually ridden the bike.
Tyres are the other big decision. To help achieve the type of bike that I want these need to provide consistent handling above all else. So, I wanted something with a repetitive tread pattern that extends from one side to the other, rather than something that’s lower profile in the centre with more aggressive shoulders. While this might blunt my straight-line speed and cornering grip respectively, it will hopefully mean a more predictable transition from grip to slip as I lean the bike into a turn. The tyre that I’ve gone for is a WTB Bridger.
The rest of the build will be pretty straight forward. In my opinion, a bicycle should be both elegant and economical. If people want to spend £8,000 on a bike then I won’t stand in their way, but when those new to the world of mountain biking are given the impression that they couldn’t possibly have anything other than a miserable time unless they spend upwards of £2,500 on a bike my heart sinks. So, some of the components will be bits that I have hanging around the shed after two and half decades of riding, together with some new stuff to plug the gaps. It should all be pretty workman like, but that’s no excuse for it looking like a dog’s dinner – who doesn’t love a bit of colour-coordinated anodizing!