Being a mountain biker at heart, my only real experience of riding on the road is either commuting or touring on a mixture of quiet roads and bridleways, so the idea of a skinny wheeled road bike had never really crossed my mind.
Fast forward to a friend getting a job in a bike shop, along with access to heavily discounted bikes, and I suddenly found myself in possession of his (rather nice) old road bike – for free. Eighteen months later, I’d managed my first 100 mile ride (which was actually easier than my earlier 95 mile MTB ride) gradually began to get into the habit of generally riding in the big ring (something that I don’t do with my other bikes) and succumbing to the full lycra look (it’s just so much more practical, on the road)
Having always struggled to get the miles in, and keep my fitness up, the appeal of road riding quickly became apparent. The possibility of ‘just nipping out for a quick ride’ increases significantly, as roads tend to dry quicker than trails, so not getting home with a filthy bike means that less time is required for the whole process and you’re therefore more likely to do it.
There was, however, one remaining niggle – rim brakes. Now, I don’t want to get into the whole ‘Disc brakes are better than rim brakes’ discussion, so I’ll merely say that my years of experience with MTB riding has resulted in a ‘feel’ for disk brakes. Given the higher speeds attained on a road bike – mainly due to the ‘gravity assist’ effect provided by weighing 90kg – and the extra stopping power required – again, the 90kg has an effect, here – I just wasn’t confident enough with rim brakes, so it was ‘new bike’ time.
So, the first question raised its head – do I buy, or build?
My first MTB was bought as a complete bike but all subsequent bikes have been built from parts, so I know the pros and cons of each approach – complete bikes are generally a bit cheaper, but custom builds allow you to get the exact spec that you want.
I initially went down the complete bike route and lots of internet searching, coupled with a few shop visits, almost lead me to a purchase. The two things that stopped me, however, were a frustratingly disinterested shop (“don’t you want my money!!?”) and one of the other controversial talking points of the bike bike world – press-fit bottom brackets.
The bike that I’d (kind of) settled on had a carbon frame and, therefore, employed a press-fit bottom bracket. Initially, I wasn’t too concerned about this, as it seemed that there were enough bikes using this system for it to have settled down as an effective technology. More internet time revealed a mixture of apathy, displeasure and evangelism, leading me to do a lot head scratching and soul searching, before deciding that spending a reasonably large amount of money on a bike that may end up creaking, really wasn’t for me.
My challenge was now clear – find a steel/alloy framed road bike, with disk brakes. Given that my other specification requirements were hydraulic brakes, internal routing, mudguard compatibility and ability to use flat mount calipers, things weren’t looking good.
It was only when a friend suggested the Kinesis 4S Disc , that a solution seemed within my grasp. I couldn’t believe that I’d overlooked this option, as I’ve been following this monster thread on the Singletrack world forum and should have been more aware of the Kinesis product range.
My only real hurdle, now, was the fact that this bike is only available as a frameset, making it very difficult to try one for size before buying. This lead to a LOT of measuring, researching, and comparing to the bike that my friend had loaned me, before I finally settled on a size and went for it.
When the box arrived, and was placed next to the other pile of boxes that I’d already accumulated, the gloriously satisfying (if not a little frightening & frustrating) build process could begin.
The frameset consists of the frame, a fork, and a box of various parts that can be used to build the bike up.
- Crown race, headset bearings and steerer bung for the fork
- Seat clamp (of the bolt-on variety)
- Blanking plates and cable stop plates for the internally routed cable/hose entry points
- Cable guide for under the bottom bracket
- Hose clip for where the rear brake hose attaches to the chainstay
- Post-mount brake caliper adapters for front and rear (I didn’t need these, as I went for the flat mount calipers)
- Spacers that allow the rear dropout to be set up for either 130mm or 135 mm axles (I used 135mm, so didn’t need these.
- A blanking plug for the hole in the seat tube, if you aren’t fitting a Di2 system. (I didn’t fit Di2, but didn’t get the plug – must remember to try to scrounge one)
- A clip for attaching the front brake hose to the fork. (Didn’t get one of these either, but wouldn’t have used it anyway, as I prefer a good old reliable cable tie)
The build kit that I decided upon, and bought separately, consisted of.
- Bontrager Affinity Comp TLR 700c disc wheels – these were chosen mostly because I was familiar (and happy) with the Bontrager TLR system that I have on one of my MTBs. If I’d done a bit more research, I may have been tempted to go with Hunt Wheels as they are not only well respected, but based fairly close to my house.
- Bontrager R2 Hard-Case Lite TLR Road Tyres – this was to be my ‘Sunday best’ bike, and not to be ridden in inclement weather, so full slicks were the order of the day. (Being part of the TLR system made these a fairly easy choice, as I was eager to avoid posting a ‘Please help me to get my tubeless setup working’ post on an internet forum)
- Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset – well, this was to be my ‘Sunday best’ bike (Did I mention that, already?)
- Due to the Ultegra 6800 series not having an ‘official’ hydrualic brake option, I went for the ‘non-series’ option…
- ST-RS685 Shifters/Brake levers – so much nicer than the ugly 105 offerings
- BR-RS805 flat mount calipers – to take advantage of the frameset capabilities
- SM-RT99 centrelock brake rotors – for the cooling features (and the bling)
- Deda Stem & spacers – because (to me, at least) a stem is just a stem, so I could have more or less picked one at random
- FSA handlebar – not particularly fussed (or informed) about features, so just made sure that I got one that suited my shoulder width
- Madison Flux saddle – probably not classed as road saddle, but I have one on my MTB (to replace the not-so hard wearing, but oh-so-comfy Charge Spoon) and it suits my bum.
- Pro LT seatpost – again, I’m not too fussy about seatposts, but the single bolt adjustment on this just looks nice.
- Shimano M540 SPD pedals – because I’m used to the M520 type on my MTB, and wanted to be able to walk more comfortably, off the bike, than would be possible with Road style pedals/cleats.
I’ve fitted several forks to mountain bikes before but needed to devise a new way of seating the crown race, as the ‘gentle taps with a large screwdriver & hammer’ technique, in the vicinity of a carbon steerer was too scary to even contemplate.
I finally arrived at a solution that involved the creation of a home made tool, to avoid metal on carbon contact.
Once the crown race was fitted, the integrated headset used in the frame made assembly of the headset really easy, allowing me to judge the number of spacers required, and – more importantly, where to cut the steerer.
Cutting the steereer was something that I was going to be a bit more careful about, so I invested in a cutting guide and a 32TPI saw
Things I discovered along the way…
- Cutting a carbon steerer to length is WAY more scary than cutting a metal one – even before you consider the danger that carbon sawdust poses.
- Mounting the crown-race to a carbon fork/steerer is quite daunting, as a wayward hammer blow has far more serious consequences than on a metal one. (My solution to this was an entirely plastic tool, fabricated from plumbing parts that are readily available and easy to assemble)
- The internal routing on this frame is really easy to deal with, as the entry ports near the head tube are large, and the supplied blanking ports slip easily over the cable/hose and then attache to the frame via a small bolt. Exit from the frame is via a generously sized slot under the bottom bracket, so threading isn’t at all tricky.
- Shimano list the lengths of their brake caliper mounting bolts according to the thickness of the chain stay that they pass through NOT the length of the bolts themselves. This led to two ‘order/wait/collect’ cycles, at the LBS
- Bontrager Affinity road wheels have quite large diameter axle spindles, due to being able to swap between qr/12mm/15mm axles. This means that the standard lockring tool used to secure the centre lock disc rotors won’t fit over the axle. Bontrager very kindly supply 15mm compatible Shimano lockrings that are tightened with a hollowtech BB tool.
- Fitting the front wheel revealed that the 15mm lockring is considerably thicker than a normal one, so fouled against the mounting post of the brake caliper. This was finally solved by obtaining a centre lock to 6 bolt adapter, which comes with a thinner 15mm lockring.
- Applying bar tape for the first time was interesting – as was the second, and the third…
With these little problems out of the way, the build was complete, and here are the results…
The last two were taken on its maiden ride – stopping off at the frame manufacturers place, and Stan’s Bike Shack
I am very pleased with it – everything feels so solid and pedalling is rewarded with totally silent acceleration. Had to take it a bit easy, due to the frosty roads, but I’m really looking forward to letting it rip, when conditions allow.
Very happy Bob