650b Gravel Grinder Midsummer Update

IMG_20130723_120303Well, as much as I enjoyed the last “gravel bike”, I became inspired to try something new (above) and found an appreciative owner (buyer) of the last one.  Found a 90something mountain bike frame, with nice light steel tubing, and one day started to imagine it as a gravel bike.  Built to accomadate the once standard 559 ISO/26″ wheel size, the frame seemed like it had the room for the bigger 650b/27.5″/584 ISO wheel, and a fairly fat tire. Not a lot of 650b tires out there still, but a niche growing in the mountain bike world right now.  And then I found the Vee Speedster in 1.95″ size, and thought “this could be a gravel tire”.  And then I started imaging this bike being a pretty versatile and capable off and on road, gravel or paved, machine.

Some of these parts I had, some were borrowed from another bike build (Karate Monkey), which was great and super fun, and I never posted about!  The Karate Monkey will take a different form soon, but I wanted to get the new gravel machine ready for September and October events.


Build highlights–

~Eric Noren at Peacock Groove happily obliged to weld on for me a disc brake mount.  And wicked fast he did.  Thanks, Eric.  This solves the brake problem…

~Vintage Shimano 600 crankset, and derailleurs, with Salsa and Ritchey chainrings in 38 and 48 tooth

~New SRAM chain and cassette, 8 speed ~Campagnolo 10 speed Ergo shifters (do they still call them that?)-(YES, 10 speed Campy shifters shift a Shimano/Sram 8 speed cassette, with a Shimano derailleur, Perfectly!)

~A Kona Project 2 Disc only Cross fork was pretty key in making this all work without blowing the budget, allowing a disc brake, with room for the 650b wheel/tire in width and height, without disrupting the original geometry and handling of the frame, and with the bonus of rack and fender mounts, should I ever gear this thing up for longer than one day events.  The frame has rear rack mounts, too.

~New hand built wheels.  I love building wheels for my bikes.  I’m always a little budget conscious, though.  Wishing I could spring for more prestigious and probably better hubs, I chose an Ebay find which seem very nice and a good value, and I hope prove to be a durable hub.  They do spin nice and look pretty good, too.  The rims are Sun Inferno 27 in 650b size.  I think the rims are great, and were one of the easiest to build ever.  And Sapim Race double butted spokes to tie them together, also a great spoke, if you ask me.

~Hayes Disc Brakes, good brakes

~And the Rubber—Vee Rubber Speedster tires.  Kind of new, a company not previously prominent but coming out with new products now, and hitting the 650b size with some interesting offerings.  These are cool tires, I like them but need to put them through some more to reach my full opinion.  I am setting these up tubeless, BTW. IMG_20130723_124021


So how is the bike?  It’s pretty cool.  I like it.  Actually, I was riding it around with 700c wheels, and 38c tires, for a while, while waiting for my 650b wheel parts to all come in.  And it worked really well like that, too.  And I think that might be a cool twist, that this bike could accomadate another wheel size and tire, which might be more appropritate for a particular race or ride.  An interesting idea. I had a good ride yesterday, a trail that runs through our sister city, St. Paul, in which you encounter mud, rocks, deep sand, railroad ties, broken bottles, and sometimes garbage and various dumpings.  There is a nice stretch where it goes down giving you some speed, with some really deep sandy sections, which are very dry now.  And the bike handled it all really well.  I will say that I did notice the wheel size changes the ride characteristics, from 700c to 650b.  The smaller wheel feels different.  And the tires both had tubes on that ride, but will soon be both tubeless, and I think will feel and handle a little differently.  So, so far so good.  I think this might be a good gravel bike.