2 Wheel Fetish

The Budget All-Rounder Project

Overview: The budget all-rounder project is a result of liking drop bars both on and offroad. Back in the very early 1990s I began running drop bars on mountain bikes, which I used both off and on road. On all but the most technical riding I found that I preferred the positions--hand and body-- and the weight distribution that drops provide. I did a century on a mountain bike with drops as well as several multiday multihundred mile tours on mountain bikes with drops and never felt particularly hampered by the small wheel size.

But there's one issue with drop bars on mountain bike frames: the top tube is often too long and the seat too high. So when I found a used Diamond Back Apex frameset from about 1989 or 1990 that measured 58cm c to top of seatpost clamp, and 58cm c to c on the top tube, I snapped it up. The tubing seemed decent, and is claimed by a seat tube sticker to be double butted; the tig welds were a little toothpasty in spots, but there were lowrider braze ons on the center of the fork and really, the deal maker for me was that immense size for a mountain bike. There were also single eyelets on the front and rear, and double bottle cage bosses.

Since I have been working on my brazing skills, I decided to add on an extra set of bottle bosses under the downtube, a pump peg behind the seat tube, and extra eyelets front and rear. I also added threaded bosses for a portage pad on the top--seat tube junction, and finally, fabricated a brake stop bridge for the seatstays to use instead of the aluminum dangling one suspended from the seatpost clamp bolt.

Below I've recorded  parts of the process of adding the pieces. I spent $28 including shipping for the braze ons from Nova Cycles (who overcharge for shipping, IMO, since the braze on small pieces were only about $11), with some extra items left over for other projects. I used a mixture of brass brazing rod and silver jewelry brazing rod, and mostly an oxy acetylene torch setup, though I did some with plain MAP gas and a plumber's torch.

Below: the home fabricated rear brake cable stop  bridge, using a piece of scrap steel cut with a hacksaw and shaped in a bench vise, with a sleeve bearing brazed on to take the threaded adjuster in the center already silver brazed on.

Brake bridge 1.

Below: The brake bridge held on to the frame with wire (as a jig substitute). After this, flux, torch, and silver.

Brake bridge 2.

Below: brake cable stop bridge brazed on.

Brake Bridge 3.

Below: the seat cluster and rear brake cable stop bridge, showing the pump peg behind the seat tube.

extra bottle bosses, bottom of down tube.
Below: extra fork eyelet, the front one.

fork dropout.

Below: the extra eyelet on the rear drive side dropout.

rear dropout drive side.

Below: the extra eyelet on the non drive rear dropout. Some rust from proximity to the Pacific Ocean and winter fog.

rear dropout non drive.

Below: the bottomside downtube bottle bosses (for a fuel bottle).

extra bottle bosses, bottom of down tube.

Here are some photos of the powder coated frameset, fresh from
sandblasting and powdercoating.

The frame is about 6lbs 1oz with the powdercoat on it; the fork is about 2lbs 5ozs, for a total prebuild weight of 8lbs 6ozs.  Not a lightweight frame, though Diamond Back's seat tube sticker claimed double butted tubing. The added bits probably added about 2 to 3 ozs of weight.

The color is a John Deere tractor green, as the first image below shows: an almost perfect match with my vintage model John Deere tractor.

 powdercoated frameset

Below: it would be nice if the fork were curved rather than straight. But the lowrider braze ons in the center partly make up for the somewhat ugly fork, at least for me.
powdercoated frameset

powdercoated frame detail.

Below: the somewhat crude tig welds on the seat clamp area.

seat clamp area with powder coat

Below: the brake bridge shows a bit of melted silver brazing compound on the drive side; I should have done a little filing instead of leaving it as is after the brazing job. I was in too much of a hurry to get it to the powder coater so I could get it done before Christmas break ended. Next time, I'll file. I also was not sure this time how much sandblasting actually removes; now I have a better idea.

powdercoated frame detail

powdercoated frame detail

powdercoated frame detail

Below: the bike built up and almost complete. With 3 bottle cages and every single threaded boss filled with an M5 stainless steel bolt, and with bar plugs and bar tape not yet installed, it weighs an even 27lbs with no racks attached.

powdercoated frame detail

The build

I basically moved the parts off of an previous bike, a Bianchi Incline MTB that was 21.5 inches center to top of the seat tube, changing only bars, stem, seat, and seatpost, and shifters and brake levers. The Bianchi frameset is lugged and is slightly lighter; it's also for sale for $180 for the frame, fork, headset, and seatpost. It's made in Japan; if you're interested, email me at (write intent at g mail dot com); remove all spaces for the address to work properly.

Drive train: Suntour Command Shifters, shifting 2 generations of Shimano XT mountain bike derailleurs. The rear is an old Shimano Deer's Head XT that was so scarred from a crash that I smoothed the body off completely, removing the deer's head for a generic rather than a damaged look; the front a more modern 7 speed era XT, and a XTR first generation M900 crank, probably my favorite crank ever made at least of Japanese ones.

Wheels: Suntour Superbe Pro 28h front hub; Deore XT 8 speed era Parallax rear hub; eyeletted Mavic rims; DT stainless steel butted spokes; brass nipples. For touring use, I'll build up a 36 hole wheelset or at least a 36 hole rear wheel.

Braking: 1990s 600 SLR brake levers pulling mid 1980s high profile Shimano cantilevers.

Bar, stem and headset: Ultegra sealed cartridge bearing headset, a generic silver threadless stem with rise attached to a threadless stem to 1 inch threaded fork adapter, clamping  older 46cm wide Modolos with minimal ergonomic bends.

Seat and seatpost: Specialized early 1990s Italian made MTB black leather perforated saddle with tubular chromoly rails (one of those wonderful parts that deserved to stay in existence, and very light and comfortable) attached to an OEM generic silver seatpost.

Water bottle cages: 3 US made King Cage bottle cages: 2 Iris models and a standard under the down tube.

Pedals: For now, silver MKS Touring pedals with chromed steel clips and straps.

Bar tape and plugs: Probably will be silver Fizik brand, which seems more durable than many more of the soft foam kinds of tape. Black rubber Velox bar plugs.

Some more photos of the complete bicycle

The inaugural ride, in New Mexico near Crownpoint, to the Chaco Canyon outlier site called Kin Ya'a. This ride was a mix of double track, dirt road, and pavement, with some of the astonishingly goopy mud that melting snow or rain generates in this part of the southwest. But the bike feels really good on both dirt and pavement.
Note that the bars have not been taped yet.

Below 2 images:
There are no bikes in the photos, but I thought I should include one of the ruin itself. It's full of pottery fragments, with quite a few animal bones mixed in; I want to imagine people from 1000 years ago eating small mammals inside the walls. The third bone from the bottom looks like a hip socket of some sort.





Where I hope to go from here

I hope to build tubular chromoly front and rear racks specifically for this bicycle. I'd also like to build a custom stem tailored specifically for this frame, but this comes a distant second or third. And I'd like to do an on and offroad tour on the bike.

 Credits and thanks

Thanks to Kwang Paik for advice with brazing; to Genevieve Fenster for help in assembling and cleaning up the components; to Victor for selling me the oxy acetylene torch setup; to Jorge Barreda for teaching me so much about working on bicycles, and to all the fine volunteers at Bikerowave for their help and patience.