Starting from scratch: building a new bicycle for randonneuring

December 1, 2017 Posted by Lenore Koch

I’ve been PMing with a few folks about their bikes, but I’d like to start a discussion in the open forum here.

Just by way of background, I have two bikes. One is a carbon frame from Ribble that I got on clearance and built into a 19 pound road bike. It has an Ultegra triple groupset that has a combination of 6600 shifters with the remainder of the 6700 group. The wheels are Shimano RS-80s that I got used. It only fits 23mm tires and has rim brakes. The fit on this bike is very aggressive and while I can and do ride it for a few hours at a time, I don’t think I’d want to do more than a 200k on it. I seldom ride it but I did put a few thousand miles on it over the past 6 years since I built it.

My second bike is a 2015 Surly Disc Trucker that I built myself from a frameset. It has a Shimano 105 5700 group except for the crank, which is a 48/36/26 trekking triple. The wheels were hand built by a local shop with a Shimano Alfine front dynamo and XT rear hub, 32 straight gauge spokes, and unknown rims. I recently bought a scale and weighed it with my usual seat bag, bottle cages but no bottles, fenders, pedals, computer, dyno lights, and a fuel tank bag on the top tube, and it was 16.3 kg (35.8 pounds). The fit is quite relaxed on this bike with something like 50mm of headset spacers and the bars relatively flat with the saddle. My fitness is quite a bit better so I could probably stand to adjust this slightly and have a bit of drop. I completed a 200k on this bike in September with 3300 feet of climbing and I ride it 3-400 miles a month. It has 26×1.6″ tires and is very comfortable other than the weight when climbing.

I’m considering building another bicycle to bridge the gap between these two. Honestly, I didn’t pay quite enough attention to weight on my Surly build and it’s probably carrying an extra ~5 pounds as a result, but the frameset is also 3 or so pounds heavier than a high end custom steel frameset. I intend to ride this bicycle on a SR series in 2018 and on PBP in 2019.

I want to build a bicycle that has:
26 (559) wheels
disc brakes
(probably) steel frame and fork
1.5″+ tires (probably going to use the Compass 26×1.8″), probably tubeless
dynamo lights and fenders
low trail fork and set up for a front rack + bag
(maybe) travel couplers

These are pretty much non-negotiable. I want to do 26″ wheels because I ride a 50cm bike and I fit better on the smaller wheels. 650b or 700c will be too many geometry compromises for my taste and too much toe overlap.

What I am interested in suggestions for are lightweight 559 rims. How light is too light on the wheels? My current wheels are too heavy, but with 26″ mountain bikes going by the wayside, options are limited. I want brute force durability, but I weigh 155 pounds, so I don’t need extreme overkill, either! I am thinking 32 spoke, but light. What rims should I use?

Who would you consider for the frame? Options I’ve considered are Waterford/Gunnar, R+E Cycles, Lynskey, Elephant, or possibly something full custom where I meet with the builder in person. Are there any others I should consider that you’d like to suggest?

Is it worth it to build a bike from scratch just to save ~7 pounds of weight? Ideally it would have shorter chainstays, low trial geometry, a mini front rack, but otherwise, my vision is for it to be pretty similar to my Surly. I love the fit of my Surly now, so it’d be hard to part with it, but it’s really going to be somewhat redundant in my stable if I build a specialized randonnuering bike.

If I don’t build a new bike, I would consider replacing my spokes + rims with lighter ones, running lighter tires, and generally trimming off the excess fat, but of course I want another bike, so I can’t help but ask.


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