Archives for the month of: November, 2013

Work has been rather busy of late, leaving me not much time to continue with my passions being either riding, photography, or this blog. But I am snatching an opportunity on a Sunday night to kick on again.

The next and easiest parts to assemble for my new MTB build are the forks and stem. The forks have been canabalised from another one of my bikes (my new BMC Fourstroke FS02) which were replaced by a set of kashima coated Fox Racing suspension forks. As a result, these forks are a reasonably high and recent spec being Fox Float 32 RL 100. These were pretty much standard on the medium level 26″ bikes and are a pretty decent set of kit. As the name suggests, the forks have 100mm of travel. The other aspect of the fork spec is that the fork stem is straight at 1 1/8″ in width – again standard at the time, but a lot of the newer forks are now tapered (I assume to allow for more stability and force to flow through the forks and subsequently the headset).

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Being canabalised from another bike, one of the trickest parts of the construct – install of the star nut – had already been done. In addition, the length of the fork steerer tube was pretty much cut to the desired length, so no tube cutting required.

This is a star nut not installed.

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And this is where it sits within the steerer tube.

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The other parts that would be going on are the stem, for which I grabbed a 3T ARX PRO at 110mm in length. This component is not uber light, but then again I could stop eating sweets and lose a few kgs to achieve a more efficient weight saving.

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There is one thing that is fiddly with this component, the torque setting on its six clamp bolts. For that I would need the first of many specialised tools that I will need to use to build this bike, a torque wrench. My Park Tool TW5 Torque Wrench is my new pride and joy in the tool box, though it does take some getting used to (that is another story).

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And of course I would need a headset top cap with compression bolt and a couple of headset spacers (again recycled from old bikes). I will replace the cap with a bit of personalised bling, but I have to procure that part first.

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The next part of the assembly was to place the lower crown race onto the top of the fork crown over the steerer tube. This is an important part to keep both the headset bearings sealed and fork into position (it is effectively a big washer).

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I then pushed the fork through the headset, but without the wheels this was tricky because the wheels and weight of the frame were not pushing the forks up – I had to apply pressure on the frame to keep it in place.

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The final step of this part of the assembly was to place the spacers, stem, and then compression bolt / cap onto the steerer tube and tighten everything up. I must admit that I had to do this a few times, as the first couple of times I either hadn’t got the components compressed down tight enough or spacer combination sorted properly. I used the torque wrench to tighten the clamp bolts to the required 5NM to ensure everything was the “right” tightness. The Zinn MTB maintenance bible also noted that it is important to put grease on the inside of the spacers and the stem so that they don’t seize up onto the steerer tube.

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I will probably have to check the alignment again once I get the handlebar in place.

Here is the build so far, it is starting to look like a bike :-). I probably would have preferred to colour code the forks to the frame, but the second hand forks are too good to not reuse.

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Next part of the assembly will be the wheels, and I already have a head start – that is for the next post.

After a torrential downpour and thunderstorms the night before, my planned morning Saturday ride was put on the back burner. To be honest, since my biggest ride down in Melbourne a few weeks back for Around the Bay I have backed off the cycling a bit to have a bit of a rest for both my body and head. But Summer is only a couple of weeks away now and I have got the itch to first complete my new MTB build and get back in the saddle and ride. Funny thing was this morning as I was about to add the next bit of my new MTB construct, the forks, my boy (AKA “The Pok”) turned around and said “Can we go for a bike ride?” He had a grip on the left side of his handlebars with one hand and his helmet in the other hand. But he didn’t just want to go for a spin with me walking (more like running to keep up) behind him, he wanted me to ride my bike with him. I thought about it for a split second, then told him “put your shoes on and let’s get ready to roll!” I was going to take my MTB steed with some road / urban shoes on it and take him for a ride.

Our First Ride Together

Living in the city, it is a bit dangerous for a little man to be riding, but fortunately we live within walking distance to one of the many parts of Sydney Harbour where there are walking paths along the shoreline. So as soon as we got down there we jumped in the saddle and off we went. There were puddles everywhere which was like waving a bit of candy in front of The Pok. Every puddle was a target to ride through, which meant for him wet shoes and socks (he is on a balance bike) … and a huge grin from ear to ear. Our destination was the corner store at one of the wharves around the corner from Darling Harbour in Sydney, and the reward was ice cream. I didn’t realise that this was going to be 2.5km riding away, but he didn’t balk at it for a second. The Pok was even foxing a bit with me in the set of mini races that we had, where he would slow down and lag behind waiting for me to back off a bit before he would shoot off and ride ahead of me yelling back “Daddy, I am winning and you are the slowest in the world”. This bit of trash talking was muttered several times, and I had to hold back my competitive rebukes (I will smash him in a few years when we are in a proper race so he understands the pecking order while I am ahead – hehehe – Dad’s rights). When we hit the propellers, we turned around and I couldn’t let this moment not get caught on film. Here is the video I took riding alongside him.

By the time we got back home we had knocked up 5km, pretty impressive for a recently turned 3 year old boy. The Pok came up to just as we reached our street and said to me in a contrite tone “Sorry for teasing you Daddy.” I didn’t get it and replied, “What were you teasing me about?”

He said “Sorry for teasing you about being slow.” Then he burst out giggling to run back and tell his Mum about our ride together. In recounting our little adventure he told his Mum, “When I get bigger and get a bigger bike, me and Daddy are going to go on a long ride together.” I am looking forward to that (and in kicking his butt in our next “race”

Over a year ago I started on a dream of mine to build my own custom mountain bike from the ground up. I had sourced a carbon hardtail frame (after getting approval for my home’s minister for fun and finance – I know, a confused portfolio and one I continue to fall afoul of), and over the course of 9 months sourced every single part from all over the world for half price or better. This project was my custom Trek Elite XC 9.8 – and it got stolen! The NSW Police caught the drug addicted thief and my insurance company came to the party and replaced it with my wonderful BMC Fourstroke FS02 – which is better than its engine (me). But it is such a good bike that I don’t want to ride it to work, or even get it scratched for that matter (I know what some of you are thinking – it is a mountain bike for crying out loud, it is going to get PLENTY scratched).

More importantly, I want to build something again that I can say is by my hands. I had plenty of assistance from my LBS on my last build, but this time I’m determined to build this one as much as is feasible by myself. I had recently acquired a copy of “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”, which is practically the bible for fixing MTBs.

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But this book is so gorgeously detailed that it goes beyond maintenance and will be my guide to my new project. My new project being a custom build hardtail MTB. Time to build something!

The New Project

So I searched high and low for a frame, and found one. This is the base for the new project. I don’t have the skills (yet) to fabricate a frame from scratch, and even if I did I would probably want to fabricate a cyclocross / tourer. In all practicality I was not going to find an affordable carbon fibre hardtail frame like my last beloved. eBay was the source of my find, and it was a good one – even though it was from a couple of years ago. I grabbed a BMC Team Elite TE03 hardtail alloy frame from 2008 from a seller in Singapore. It probably “fell off the back of a boat” on the way from Taiwan to Europe, but they don’t sell these babies anymore. She is a looker with silver / white / dark red scheme. For an aluminium alloy the frame is reasonably light at 1.6kg, but definitely heavier than the old Trek hardtail. Here is the start of the project, the naked frame:

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I was a bit nervous acquiring the frame online from a seller in Singapore, as this was a few hundred dollars of investment. But the bloke who sold them had a 100% record and the frame came shipped in immaculate condition.

The build has effectively commenced with the first component installation being the headset bearings (an FSA headset that the eBay seller provided with the frame). I had to get my LBS to press it in using the specialist tool that costs about $600 to purchase, and therefore not practical for a one build owner to ever buy. I could have used the old wood block and mallet trick, but to be honest I don’t have vice that can lock in the frame while I bashed the bearings in. But this is probably the last component that I intend to get assistance with. I might need rescuing with the black art of cabling, but I will give it a go first.

The high level spec for the bike will be a 26″ alloy MTB hardtail fitted for urban and gravel trail type riding. I will detail the specification as the build comes along.

The whole mantra for the bike is going to be the best for the cheapest. I already have the forks, wheels, brake discs, and rear cassette. I have acquired 75% of the other components, and looking for the sales on the online sites to finish procurement of the components. Most importantly I now have the tools to undertake the assembly with the prize being a Park Tool torque wrench (the best tool a man could own).

I don’t just want to be a dumb consumer. I want to know how to build something and then do it. I don’t get this fulfillment from my day job. More importantly, looking at the way my son has taken to ‘building’ things, I want to show my boy that there are skills that shouldn’t be lost – even if he is growing up in a disposable consumer society. By the time the new build is finished I will have hit S-1 in the stable (if you don’t know what I am referring to then look up the Velominati Rule  #12).

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Delicate. I found this theme tough, because I realised that I don’t shoot delicate “things”. I shoot grand things (architecture and landscape) or things of interest to me, but not delicate. I marvel at the delicate, but not where I shoot the delicate. But here is my crack (and as usual the images link through to my larger photos on Flickr).

Starting in Maui, Hawai’i, USA, is a shrub that can only be found on the slopes of the grand Haleakala volcano – the Silversword. It is a tiny and delicate shrub whose fine leaves are protected by the National Park Rangers and visitors alike. It has a lovely silver hue to it. For the record, the altitude for this shot was over 10,000 ft.

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Moving to the Western side of the Pacific Ocean, and the Western side of the Japanese island of Honshu is the beautiful gold leaf artisans of Kanazawa. It is such a delicate art and the Kanizawa artisans account for 90% of the gold leaf pieces in all of Japan.

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Back home in Australia’s capital of Canberra is the immaculately preserved 1297 copy of the Magna Carta on display in the Parliament House. Not only is the document delicate, but the tenets of what it decrees are so delicate to the protection of a modern liberal society (and is the foundation all modern liberal democratic constitutions). In some respects, this document is more important than the bible.

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This tiny spider was delicately perched in the rain on his (or her) web. I found this one in the shrubs of the coastal bush land at Calalla Bay in Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia.

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Travelling not much further than the city centre of Sydney, Australia was this delicate sculpture promoting a book festival of some kind in the Galleries Victoria. I can imagine that this would have been a bugger to put up and take down. Pretty cool though.

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The annual vivid festival in Sydney, Australia is always a light show feast for the eyes. I loved this delicate (and oversized) chandelier which had the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House. It was almost impossible to shoot without my tripod.

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But the most delicate thing to me (and my wife) is our boy, who we nickname “the Pok”. While he is growing up big and strong (now 3) and not so delicate anymore, I still remember how tiny and fragile he was. This was him some 5 days after he was born, almost like he knew the camera was on him.

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And my wife is awesome with him, when he looks at these photos with me now on the computer he recognises that it is him with his “Mummy”.

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With the city of Sydney shrouded in the smoke that was a by product of back burning, it was a strange warm day. But the Pok was itching to get out and go for a ride on his bike, so I decided to go for a walk with him and bring the camera in tow. Spring is very much in full bloom with Summer only one month away now. It is going to be a scorcher (hopefully) and the local fauna is putting on its annual show in the rev up for the beach months.

The urban landscape can’t hold back Mother Nature, this flower was definitely not planted.

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This bottle brush, while a native plant, was showing its wares at the park near the harbour. A tiny insect was playing the pollination dance.

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I don’t know the name of this one, but it looks a bit creepy with its blooming claw like petals.

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The eucalyptus tree bark was healthy and lush, a far cry from the dry tinderbox in the mountains and national parks surrounding the Sydney basin.

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Of course the Pok (AKA my son) wanted to pose for the camera while he was “mountain biking”.

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The Ocean Shield was docked again around our way, and it looked like it was taking on board specialist supplies.

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The Pok was pushing hard on the switchbacks to attain that KOM.

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One last flower for the road.

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Sydney is starting to kick for the best time of the year. Bring on the balmy beach weather I say.

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