The Building of Sheila's Bike: 99% Done

We finally have some photos of Sheila’s touring bike in an almost-done condition.  As a friend recently stated, Sheila’s bicycle is “very elegant”, and we tend to agree.  I’ll walk you through some of the finer points of her bicycle in this post.



Right off you’ll notice her bike’s odd looking stem and lack of handlebar tape.  Our wonderful friend David from the Winooski Bike Shop let us borrow this handy adjustable stem in order for Sheila to dial in what feels comfortable as far as stem reach and height are concerned.  A very useful tool, this adjustable stem allows her to experiment with different positions on the fly; by loosening a couple of bolts most any position can be achieved.  This is a thousand times easier process than what many are likely used to.  A far more common experience is for folks to visit their local bike shop for “fitting” appointments which usually consists of endlessly riding a stationary bike and having shop folks stare at you for hours on end.  Other times, the only option a shop can offer is to keep swapping out stems on a rider’s new bike until the rider finds something they like.  In Sheila’s case, she’s got essentially an entire drawer full of loaner stems bound up in this one device – very handy indeed.  I think she’s already close to finding something that will work.  She started with the handlebars at the same height as her saddle and is making small adjustments in length and height to find the perfect fit.  Once that is achieved, its back to the Winooski bike shop so we can sit down with David to measure up her choice and find a matching stock stem from amongst the many permutations available.

Front Rack

You may notice that Sheila’s bike has two rear racks, a stainless steel Tubus “Cosmo” on the back and a matching Tubus “Cosmo” on the front.  Hmmm.  Why did she opt for this funny arrangement?  Three reasons really.

One, I first came across the idea of mounting a rear rack to the front of a bike by reading Tim Haus’s blog and noticing that in addition to riding a Fat Chance bicycle and using a Hilleberg Tent, he had mounted a rear rack to the front of his bike.

Second, I came across some older pic’s of Rivendell’s Bombadil frameset showing bosses brazed into the fork flats.

And thirdly, both Sheila and I wanted stainless racks with platforms to be mounted on the front of our bikes.  Curiously, no one makes such a thing (short of custom).  Out of options, I personally opted for a Surly Big Front Rack.  Sheila, on the other hand, decided to take me up on the idea of a fork with low rider bosses and bosses on the flats, the latter of which would allow her to mount a stainless rear Tubus rack up front.  Pretty cool.  She now has the option in the future of hard mounting practically any front of rear rack made onto the front of her bike.

Fork mounted water bottle cages

To address our fear of running out of water while on the road, I mounted two Minoura adjustable water bottle mounts to Sheila’s fork blades (one of each side).  With a 27oz bottle in each, plus another in the triangle plus the half-gallon in the Bike Buddy she’ll have the ability of carrying over a gallon of potable water just on her bike (not including any other stashed bottles or water bags).


Rack Standoffs

These nifty standoffs will greatly minimize the chance of us breaking a rear rack eyelet while on our round the world expedition.  To find out more details about why we decided to use these standoffs, read our last post.

Rohloff Speedhub & Eccentric Bottom Bracket

As discussed in an earlier post, Sheila chose to go the route of a 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub and integrated eccentric bottom bracket.  In these pictures you can see the final result of designing a frame around this German “wonder-part.”  Our hope is that the almost complete lack of maintenance required to keep this transmission operating (versus the almost constant care, relatively speaking, required of conventional drivetrains) will make Sheila’s life on the road relatively easy (when compared to mine).  According to Rohloff, the only routine maintenance required is an oil change every 5000km.  Given our rough itinerary, Sheila is going to put this device to the test and we aim to report on her experiences along the way.

You can also see the Rohloff ‘grip-shifter’ mounted in the end of her drop bar (drive-side) using a HubBub bar-end adaptor.  This is in keeping with her old bike which featured two bar-end shifters.  In the case of the Rohloff, however, a single shifter moves the transmission across the full range of 14 gears.

This takes all of the confusion out of keeping track of what gear you’re in and also eliminates the trouble of chain overlap.  Explained simply, conventional drive-trains may advertise “27” gears but only about fourteen gear combinations are really available since the extreme angle of the chain between the front and rear gears renders many gear combinations unusable.  So, with a Rohloff, you get basically the same range of usable gears you have with “27” gears but in a fourteen speed sealed and low-maintenance package.

Since a Rohloff setup for a non-suspension rigid frame does not utilize a derailleur or spring-loaded chain guide, Sheila went with a Phil Wood eccentric bottom bracket (EBB) to keep the chain tensioned.  Phil sells oversized BB shells which are designed for their EBB.  Sheila’s builder fillet-brazed all of the main tubes of her frame to the EBB shell plus brazed the standoffs (the two fixed ‘nuts’ that with the addition of some beefy bolts allow the EBB to be clamped into the shell) to complete the system.  Now all Sheila needs to do as her chain “stretches” from wear, is loosen the two bolts in the standoffs and, using a hex wrench, rotate the EBB (along with the Phil Wood stainless bottom bracket threaded into it) to tighten the chain.  Pretty simple and straight forward.


Pump Peg

Sheila wanted to be able to carry a frame pump on her bike so Ryan at Folk Engineered brazed a so-called “cranked” pump peg behind her seat tube.  This permits a properly sized frame pump to compress between the drive-side chainstay and the pump peg.  This is a nice feature since it keeps the pump out of the way and allows the bike to be handled by its top-tube without having to remove the pump that commonly resides there.  I ended up getting hold of a tube-mounted Rixen & Kaul Pumpfix so I too could mount my frame pump in the same place on my bike.  We opted for frame pumps for the additional volume that they provide.  Big touring tires are high volume and therefore require a lot of air (especially when compared to a little skinny racing tire) so rather than fight with the tiny pumps that folks sometimes rely upon, we went full size.



Taking a page from Alex Whetmore, I visited our local hardware store and picked up a black vinyl stair-tread and some 1/8” X 1/8” stainless steel rivets & #6 metric washers.  Using Alex’s directions as a rough guide, I cut out four mudflaps and proceeded to drill two holes through each fender (and flap), fastening each flap to each fender using two rivets and two washers.  A very simple project with great results.  I highly recommend it!

One note – the tread I found had a molded lip (to fit over the lip of a stair) which ate up a lot of material, so rather then have to buy two and end up with a lot of waste I used an iron and a clean rag to gently heat the vinyl up until it was very flexible.  I then placed a flat board over the entire tread and on top of that piled some heavy object to weight down the makeshift ‘press’.  The next morning the whole tread was flat as a pancake, perfect for maximizing the material.  The quick addition of some high quality 3M reflective tape finished up the project.  We rode back in the dark from a cycle Japan slideshow given by fellow cycle tourer Ross Guberman and sponsored by Local Motion and both of us commented how remarkably well our mudflaps refelcted the headlights of approaching cars.  Very bright indeed!


4 comments to The Building of Sheila’s Bike: 99% Done

  • Long wheelbase… adjustable stem… low BB ground clearance… Brooks Flyer…

    Good moves 🙂

    • I’ve been out on the bicycle the last couple of days and she feels really stable. Incredibly nice to ride. Folk Engineered’s frame/fork is beefy yet beautiful – a real classic. Kai helped me make sensible decisions along the way and did an absolutely fantastic job building it. I feel incredibly lucky. 🙂

  • Interesting read and obviously a lot of thought gone into the bicycle. It looks great and some really nice touches. I can recommend the Bike Buddy by the way. Had a couple of them for a few years and they’re fantastic. Happy travels.

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