It was time for an upgrade. Thanks to my racing team, Bike Rack Racing, our shop sponsor hooked us up with a grassroots deal with Giant Bicycles that offered deep discounts on their entire line of bikes. I wanted versatility so a cyclocross bike made more sense to me than a pure touring bike since I could change a few things (like tires) and have the bike be at home on asphalt, gravel, or dirt (given the bike's large tire clearance), and it could serve as a pit bike for cross races. I also wanted an alloy frame with eyelets so I could install a rack and fenders without having to superglue them to the bike. Front eyelets were also important so I could install front panniers if and when needed. Finally, I wanted disc brakes, preferably mechanical so I could fix them in the middle of Namibia if needed.
Enter the Giant TCX SLR2, which checked all the boxes that were important to me. The stock version wasn't the lightest out there with heavy components and you could get slightly lighter aluminum or even steel frames, but the deal was amazing and the frame was plenty good. Besides, being ultralight isn't a primary concern for touring bikes given they're typically strapped down with heavy pannier bags anyway.
Here's a picture of the stock bike that I picked up from the shop:
|Stock and heavy|
The most important upgrade I wanted was a dynamo front hub. This would eliminate the need for external power for lights and also take care of all garmin/iphone/vibrator charging needs. Given Natasha and my preference for seeking out far flung adventures (e.g. 3-week self-guided bike tour in rural Africa), having an independent, reliable, and consistent source of power was quite essential.
So I called up my wheel-building buddy in NY, Eric Gottesman (who btw is widely considered as one of the best wheel builders in the country), and he hooked me up with a stellar wheel build as well as a nice set of front and rear lights from Busch and Muller -- IQ-X headlight and Toplight Plus Line taillight.
Out: Stock Giant SX-2 Disc rims with Sport Tracker hubs
In: Custom wheels laced to Boyd Altamont (tubeless ready) rims with Son Delux Disc Dynamo front hub and Bitex rear hub.
Out: Stock Schwalbe Super Swan 700x35 cyclocross
In: Hutchinson Sector 700x28 tubeless road
Out: Shimano 105 shortcage Rear Derailleur with 11-28 105 Cassette
In: Shimano Ultegra mediumcage Rear Derailleur with 11-32 Ultegra Cassette
Out: FSA Omega 46-36
In: SRAM Quarq 50-34 with old style (but still perfectly functional) Cinqo Powermeter. Because I like data.
Out: Giant Connect
In: Bontrager RaceLite
Out: Giant Connect
In: 3T ARX Pro
Out: Giant Contact
In: Bontrager Evoke 3
Out: FSA PressFit
In: Wheels Manufacturing BB86 PressFit
Out: Stock 160mm
In: Shimano XT Ice-Tech 140mm
Out: Heavy ass stock bike
In: Lightweight touring rig. Still *heavy* compared to race bikes but touring is not racing.
Outside of these swaps, I added a few more essential components. First, I wanted clip-on aero bars. Much of our touring is me pulling in the front which I'm happy to do but having another hand placement and some protection from the wind would be welcome. So I asked my crazy ultracyclist friend, Damon, for his advice and he recommended the Zipp Vuka Alumina setup. So I installed the clips and extensions and covered up the whole cockpit with double bar tape for added comfort.
|Notice the headlight attached to my garmin mount|
Here's an example of my often-compelling OCD: the wires that attach the headlight to the dynamo and taillight are quite thin, so I wanted to protect them somehow. I considered running them through the frame but short of drilling holes myself, this would not be possible. So I ventured out to the hardware store looking for some kind of lightweight protective tubing. After a thorough search of the whole electrical and plumbing isles, I hit the jackpot with 1/4 inch vinyl drip tubing that is used for irrigating gardens. Most importantly, it is black rather than the widely available clear tubing!
You can see the tubing in the picture above as well as in the picture below where it runs the length of the bike all the way to the taillight. OCD can be a good thing.
|Drip tubing will keep that wire safe!|
Other small things I added were some Gorilla carbon bottle cages that I had lying around, Shimano SPD pedals, and my Old Man Mountain Sherpa rear rack. Granted this rack isn't the prettiest thing on the planet, but it is rock solid and fits a disc brake bike without any weird retooling. Besides, with panniers on, no one is going to see the rack anyway.
The final upgrade, which hasn't happened yet, is the Sinewave Reactor steerer tube cap USB charger. Once this sucker is installed, I'll have all the power I need to charge up anything on the fly.
Looking forward to many miles on this new rig!