Bike building for dummies #1

Rule 12:  n+1

‘The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.’

I fully blame my competitive streak and Ellie.

‘Try my single speed’, she said.  ‘You’ll love it.  Your gears are slowing you down.  I’m on holiday from Wednesday, why don’t you borrow my bike while I’m away?’

I LOVED it.  I was expecting it to be hard, but actually it was probably really similar to cycling my bike on hills.  It was just like being in a low-ish gear, all the time and  So on ‘2’ on the left hand side (I only have two big rings) and probably 4 out of 10 on the right hand side.

Because it was lighter than my bike, I felt like I was flying up the hills and had got fitter overnight.  Which I obviously hadn’t.  Back in 2015, when I first joined Cycle Seahaven, I couldn’t work my gears at all, just didn’t understand whether I should be changing up or down, pressing the left hand one or the right hand one, so for quite a few of my initial rides I just boshed along, caning it up the hills as fast as I could, getting up out of my seat.  So going back to that frame of mind and attacking hills made sense to me.

The bike was a Niner, rigid (which means no suspension) and made from steel.  I found out afterwards that being made from steel is a good thing for a rigid bike as the steel apparently has a bit of ‘give’, unlike carbon and aluminium which are stiffer.  You learn something every day.   I didn’t really miss the suspension, I mostly do cross country and although it was pretty bumpy going downhill on chalky bumpy paths, in general it was OK.  I’m not really a bomb craters sort of girl so that wasn’t a problem.

I loved it so much I didn’t want to give it back….Which is when Rule 12 came into force.  It was time for n + 1.

Step #1:  Choose a frame

But which bike to go for?  All I knew for sure is that is sounded like steel was a good idea and I liked the big 29er wheels as that is what my existing bike and the borrowed single speed used.

The problem is that there isn’t anywhere where you can go to try out lots of different single speed bikes.  I did try a cycle shop in London after a tipsy lunch, but was extremely disappointed to find out that they only sold road bikes. Which sort of makes sense but I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: ‘I’ve got money to spend in here’ and no bugger even approached us to see what we were looking for!

So I looked at bikes online until my eyes were bleeding.  So many choices!  I could go for a safe option, a factory built model like the Kona Unit, or perhaps an On-one In-bred 29er.  (I decided against the On-one because I emailed them and they didn’t reply.  Their loss!)

Or maybe I could try to pick up a frame and have someone build it for me?   I thought this sounded like a good idea as then I could have it built how I wanted.  For example, all bikes come with a standard saddle.  Having had blisters on my lady parts at the end of my Tanzanian ride which meant I couldn’t sit down comfortably for a week, I am actually quite particular about my saddle.  (It’s a Selle Italia Gel Flow Diva, BTW, if you’re interested.  It has holes for your lady bits which means it meets Rule #61.   Brilliant!)

Selle Italia Diva Flow. No more blistered lady bits.

It seemed like a bit of a waste to pay for a bike with a saddle and then immediately discard it to be replaced, so I decided to start looking at second hand frames online.  I liked the idea of reusing and recycling and it *should* be cheaper too as a bonus.

I trawled Ebay and pinkbike looking at frames.   I searched for bikes that my fellow MTB’ers own.  The Salsa Mariachi got great reviews and is beloved by its owner, but he’s on the 3rd frame as they have a tendency to break in the same place.  Another Mariachi owner said that his also broke in that same spot, so that ruled it out.

I looked at the Cotic Soul, but 26inch wheels ruled it out.  I had loved the Niner I rode, but they are an American brand and hard to find here.  I considered a Surly Karate Monkey too.  Not just because it wins hands down the bike name of the decade prize, but they seem to be a great ride from the reviews…

It’s fair to say that I was bamboozled by choices.  Something will become something of a theme…

Voyeurism & Dogging

I found I had also become a bike voyeur.  As I cycled alongside my fellow cyclists, I was doing sneaky sideways glances, checking out their single speed stallions from the corner of my eyes. Which is how I came across Singular.  They’re a small British company and have a small range of good quality bikes, and my fellow MTB’er loved his Singular Swift, although he said that there weren’t many of them around.

I headed back home after my Sunday morning ride and checked Ebay.  There was a Singular Hummingbird for sale, steel frame, 29 inch wheels, single speed, fairly local (Dartford) and ending in 6 hours!  It seemed like a sign and would put an end to wasting hours fruitlessly mooning over random bikes online.  I swiftly made an offer – and won!  Yay, decision made!

We arranged to meet in a Tunbridge Wells park the next day for me to collect the frame.  I was slightly concerned that Google maps seemed to indicate that it was ‘Dogging Central’ but on the basis that I had my husband and 4 children with me, I thought it was probably safe enough.

Less than 24 hours after putting in my bid,  I was the proud owner of a Hummingbird Swift Frame in medium for the total sum of £230.

I was chuffed with myself for making a decision.  Discussing it later in the pub amongst ourselves, I was inspired by my girlfriend, who had just got a new bike frame from the Friston MTB group and was really pleased with it.  The guys on the chat group had been super helpful, giving loads of advice.

‘Maybe I could do that’, I thought.  ‘But maybe I could build the bike myself.  I know loads of blokes who will be happy to advise me as to what I need and can probably help me out if I get stuck.  And it would be a BRILLIANT way to find out how bikes work as I literally have no idea.  What could go wrong?’

 

Next Week:  69ers, more car parks, and a brand new language….

 

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