Friday, March 3, 2017

New Touring Rig

Post Sexification
I'm relatively new to bicycle touring, having picked it up a couple years ago, and have grown to like it a lot. My previous touring bike was an old cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes, which I converted to a touring setup by throwing on road tires and a rack. As most people who have ridden canti brakes know well, they're simply a suggestion for the bike to slow down. Descending down steep mountain grades, potentially in the rain or dirt, is not something I'd like to do without reasonable stopping power.  

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
Once in hand, the upgrades began almost immediately.

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.
Here's a run down of all the upgrades on the bike:

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 

Bottom Bracket
Out: FSA PressFit
In:  Wheels Manufacturing BB86 PressFit

Disc Rotors
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.  
New Cockpit
The other thing I wanted was an elegant headlight placement. The TCX fork does not come with any kind of bosses on the front so the light would have to be strapped on there somehow. This did not sound like a secure solution to me, so I asked Eric and he suggested a gopro mount with the middle tab filed away so the B&M IQ-X headlight could fit. He was so right! I bought the Barfly TT mount which comes with an integrated gopro mount for the camera to hang under your garmin. After filing away the middle tab, like magic the light fit in there perfectly.
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! 
Front view

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