Friday, December 30, 2016

Updates and Upgrades on my Goshawk touring bike

So, I've made some changes to my custom, handbuilt-by-me Goshawk touring bike over the last year or so, and I thought I'd share them here.

It all started when a mishap happened involving a roof rack.  No, no, don't worry, I didn't drive into a garage with the bike on the roof or anything catastrophic like that.  The bike was in one of those roof racks where you remove the front wheel and clamp the fork to the rack at the dropouts.  A sharp turn, luckily at low speed in a parking lot, and the bike ended up on its side on the roof.  Not sure exactly why the clamp didn't hold, but it ended up bending one of the dropouts pretty badly.  Being a steel frame, I was able to straighten it out, but the powder coat suffered in the process, so I figured I'd get the fork re-coated.

Rack mounts and cable guides brazed and cleaned up
While I was at it, I decided to take the opportunity to make a few additions to the fork.  When I built the frame at United Bicycle Institute, I ran out of time to do all the various brazed on bits and pieces I had hoped to include.  With the clarity of hindsight, I now realize I could have added them during the window of time after I brought it home and before I got it powder coated in the first place, but oh well.  Really, the major item I didn't get to add in the initial build was a set of mounts for a "low rider" style front rack for panniers, and since Tubus makes a clamp on adapter, I figured it wasn't the end of the world.  That being said, it wasn't particularly attractive.  Sturdy yes, pretty no.  So while I had the fork off the bike for repair and re-coating, I added a set of mounts for a rack, and while I was at it, a few guides for running wires up the inner face of the right fork leg for a dynamo lighting system.

Once I got the fork back from the powder coat shop, I started thinking about other changes I wanted to make.  For one thing, I never really fell in love with the handlebars I had chosen.  I had read over the years that a lot of touring and long distance cyclists like the randonneur style drop bar that has a bit of a sweep upwards from the stem to the top of the drops.  I really tried, but just never liked them all that much.  Over the years I've become rather fond of fairly wide (44 - 46cm) drop bars with a nice long flat stretch on either side of the stem, so that's what I installed this time.  The bars I seem to keep coming back to are made by the Japanese company Nitto, their model B115, a classic "Maes" style bend.

Nitto B115 bars, Shimano and Tektro brake levers
The other part of the "cockpit" (a term I don't really like for bicycles, but at the moment I can't think of a better shorthand) I wasn't thrilled with was the brake levers.  Again, based on others' recommendations and preferences, I tried out a set of levers from Tektro.  Some folks really like the bigger, chunkier hoods, and I can certainly understand that, but after years of using more traditional, skinnier levers, I didn't love them.  Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that I was already changing the handlebars, and had a different set of levers in my parts stash, I would have left them alone.  They didn't bother me, I just didn't love them.  The other change I made was purely aesthetic, in changing the "cross" brake levers with a set of all silver ones in place of the silver and black.

Shimano CX50 brakes
One final, unplanned component change came about as I was re-assembling the bike.  For some reason I can't fathom, when I built the frame, I positioned the mounts for the cantilever brakes too close together for most modern brakes.  I must have read the guide book wrong or something, I don't know.  When I first assembled the bike, I tried a few different options, but none of the modern brakes I had available to me at the time worked, so I went with a set of really nice old Shimano XT brakes from the late 80s or early 90s.  They worked fine, but were frankly kind of a pain to get adjusted just right, and when I went to re-install them in this build, it just frustrated me to the point I decided to try something else.  So after some research, I decided to try a set of Shimano CX50 cantilevers that come with three different spacers for the brake pads, to adjust to different mount spacing.  They worked out really well, and were very straightforward to set up.  Shimano gives very thorough instructions for setting them up with the various spacers, and they seem to stop just fine.  I don't have a lot of miles on them yet, but I think they're going to be fine.

V-O bag support
While I had it all apart, I also decided to make some changes in the luggage racks.  Specifically, I wanted to change from black racks to silver, and the best combination of features I wanted seemed to be in Tubus brand racks from Germany, so you'll see their Cosmo on the rear and Nova low-rider on the front.  Sturdy and stable, they work really well with all kinds of panniers, especially the Ortlieb brand that I typically use.  Completing the package is a handlebar bag support from Velo Orange. An interesting feature of this one is the integrated "decauler", which makes it easy to attach and remove the handlebar bag, yet doesn't leave an ugly piece of hardware on the bike when the bag isn't there.  The top part of the rack comes with an inverted "U" shaped piece that fits onto the open ends and makes it look like a normal rack.

Here she is, with bar bag
And without bar bag

As a final touch, I replaced the Mirrycle Duet bell with a more stylish (and louder) Crane lever-strike style bell.  It looks great, and has a terrific sound and amazing sustain.  A minor thing, but fun.

Shiny and loud!

Now all I need is the time and the weather to take her out on a tour, or at least a good overnight trip on the C&O Canal.  I designed the bike to take wide tires under those fenders, and now she's wearing Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires in a 700x42mm size, so she makes a great towpath camping bike.

Plans for the future?  Well, I mentioned early on that I had added guides for dynamo hub wires up the fork, so obviously at some point I want to install such a system on the bike. I've got dynohubs on a number of bikes, and it sure would be handy on a touring bike.  And one day I might just get some decals made for the frame.  Stay tuned!

And if you want to see more pictures of the bike, from raw tubing through several variations in components, check it out here:  Goshawk - My First Frame