Darkside of the hoon

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.

It does exactly what it says on the box

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.

Build steps.


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… wink.gif

With these little problems out of the way, the build was complete, and here are the results…

Build pictures

Cranks RearBrake Controls FrontBrake WholeBike ComingHomeDownAtTheShack

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 smile.gif

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MYOG : Crown Race Tool

Fitting a fork is one of those things that most bike owners don’t get to do very often, so they find it difficult to justify the cost of a professional tool to do the job.

If you fall into this category – or you’re just a bit tight – then you may want to know how I built my own version of this very simple tool.

The parts are very simple to obtain, and very cheap, with the whole lot coming to less than £5, and consist of a length of plastic wastepipe a 32mm coupler and a 4omm coupler.


The pipe needs to be cut to length, but should be at least a couple of inches longer than the longest steerer that you’re likely to encounter.

The 40mm coupler is pretty much the exact size required for the crown race that I was fitting, but you may want to take your crown race with you, when purchasing the parts, to make sure it suits yours.

The purpose of the length of pipe, is not only to keep the 40mm coupler in line with the steerer (as the pipe’s internal diameter is a pretty good match for a 1 1/8 steerer tube). Unfortunately, the 40mm coupler doesn’t fit onto the 32mm pipe, so the 32mm coupler serves as an adapter shim, between the pipe and the 40mm coupler


Couplers, err, coupled…


Couplers attached to the pipe…

To use the tool…

  • Slide the crown race into the steerer by hand, pushing it firmly into place, as far as it will go, making sure that it isn’t sitting at an angle.
  • Place the tool over the steerer tube, until it is sitting flush againt the crown race.
  • Hold the pipe in one hand and the crown of the fork in the other.
  • Turn the whole thing upside-down, and tap the end of the pipe onto a hard surface (concrete floor, etc) whilst maintaining a gentle downward pressure on the fork crown.
  • A few firm, but careful, taps are all that should be required.
  • Check that the crown race is seated evenly, and that there are no visible gaps underneath it
  • Fit the fork to your bike.

A few points to note…

  • There is no need to glue the parts together, as the alignment is good enough for the way that they are used.
  • It may be possible to mount a 1 1/8 inch crown race, by using just the pipe and the 32mm coupler, but I haven’t had the chance/need to do this yet – maybe somebody can check the sizing and let me know.
  • This worked for me, but you will have to use your own judgement, as to whether you want to do it yourself , or get your LBS to do it for you.
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I’ve started, but I may not finish.

As the saying goes “You must lead, by example”, so I’ve started on my own personal odyssey on the County Town Network

Over the Christmas period, we were visiting friends in the Midlands, so I took the opportunity to bag the nearest county town to their house.

Add in the aspect of seeing two castles (Kenilworth and Warwick) on the trip, and visiting the rather excellent Wild Boar Pub  and it was a worthwhile trip.

(The pub is a whole 443ft from the railway station, has a micro-brewery on site and they’ll unlock the side gate to the garden, so you can get your bikes in)

Warwick is now well and truly crossed off my list.

For future reference, I’ve started a Flickr page to record my exploits.

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The Empire Strikes North

Ooh, look Luke, we made a Saltire!

I’ve now added Scottish county towns to the network – welcome chaps.

(Rather appropriate blog entry title, as I understand that it’s not unlike the Ice planet ‘Hoth’ in certain parts of Scotland at the moment)

Scotland officially has ‘unitary local authorities’, rather than counties, but they serve the same purpose, which is to define an area of influence of a division of local government, so that’s near enough for me. As was the case for Wales, a railway station was not available in all cases (particularly understandable on the islands) so I’ve used the council offices where appropriate.

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County Town Network heads west

As mentioned on the CTN website I’ve now included the Welsh county towns in the network.

Some of the Welsh county towns are similar to Newport (Isle of Wight) in that they don’t have a railway, so I’ve followed the pattern of deferring to the town hall/county offices as a reference point.

Head over there and check it out.

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Scratching an itch

You may be familiar with the situation where you have an idea but never get round to doing anything about it – well I had one of those ideas a while back and have finally got round to unleashing it on the outside world.

A little bit of history is in order…

I’m a pretty keen cyclist and, having previously completed the classic C2C route and a Devon South to North trip (well, almost), as well as organising several runnings of the now infamous “Cutty to Butty”™, I have recently been spending an unhealthy amount of time looking at maps, reading bikepacking posts and bike trip blogs – such as this one by Daniel Groves ,this one Japan by Bicycle  and this one from some rather nice young ladies  .

All of these have inspired me to embark on further adventures on my bike.

Whilst looking at the maps, and contemplating the predictability of the classic LEJOG (Hats off to those who complete it, though), I noticed that three of the towns on the map in front of me were towns whose names can be followed by “Shire” to form the name of a county. Then I started to wonder just how many of these (English) counties I had visited – it turned out to be all but one of them

Things progressed from there and I started to wonder about the county towns themselves, and the count dwindled somewhat, with 22 of the 47 having eluded me so far – so the idea of the CTN (County Town network) was born

In a nutshell, the aim CTN is to provide a the starting point for bike rides that will, hopefully, inspire people to get out on their bikes and explore a bit more of the countryside. When adding the extra criteria of having to arrive at a county town by bicycle, my tally drops to a rather dismal 1 out of 47 – not very good at all.

For me, the appeal of the CTN (if Sustrans can have a network, so can I) is that, unlike the classic LEJOG route, most people live within striking distance of the network, and could quite easily bag a few of their ‘local’ county towns. Due to the size of the network, it’s not really feasible to do the whole lot in one go, so it is best suited to short periods of exploring, allowing the participant to do as much or as little of the network as their ability or available time will allow.

I’m not promising that I’ll ever complete the challenge myself, but it’s given me a new focus, and I’ll certainly be eyeing up more bike trips whenever I travel to another part of the country.

So, get out your maps and get out on your bike – but pop over to the CTN website for a bit of guidance, first…

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