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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

Custom Frame for Long Distance Riding

Old 05-06-20, 09:33 AM
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Babbitt
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Custom Frame for Long Distance Riding

I have a couple of bikes and am probably going to add an endurance bike to the mix this year. I currently own a Cannondale mountain bike, Lemond Poprad CX BIke, Viner road bike, and Co-Motion tandem. Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale all make great endurance bikes. However, I am thinking of making the investment in a custom frame.

For those of you who have purchased a custom frame what has your experience been with the actual bike? Was it worth the investment? Any regrets? Is the riding experience noticeably different from your stock bikes? I am not looking for a frame builder recommendation this is more of a question about your custom frame experience.

Thanks
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Old 05-06-20, 12:29 PM
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pdlamb
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Back before the airlines decided they wanted to court bicycle riders, I bought a very nice custom bike with S&S couplers so I could fly inexpensively with it. It's a lovely bike; tricked out with just what I wanted. Worth the investment? I don't know; I doubt I saved enough to cover the price in lower baggage fees. However, I never had to worry about finding a decent bike to rent, and I took it on a few trips where I wouldn't have traveled with it otherwise. It's the lightest, sportiest bike I own. I'm not giving it up.

On the other hand, you can buy a very nice stock bike and have it fit to you rather inexpensively (compared to custom). Pay for a bike fit, get a new stem, put on your favorite saddle, and fit-wise and comfort-wise, most people end up right where you'd be with a custom bike.

On the other other hand, maybe you'd rather have a specific crank, gearing, shifters, braking system, and refitting a new bike with your favorites could significantly increase the cost.

My recommendation: buy a high end production bike unless there's some reason not to. It could be fit (are you built like a gorilla, or Andre the Giant?); it might be that you've always wanted some special bling, whether it's Phil Wood headset and bottom bracket or 180 mm disc brakes on a road bike or your name etched into the titanium top tube. Bottom line, only you can decide if it's worth it.
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Old 05-06-20, 02:17 PM
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unterhausen
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You didn't say you were looking for a randonneuring style bike, so maybe that's not what you are looking for. There aren't really any mass-produced bikes made in that style, so custom is about it.
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Old 05-06-20, 02:41 PM
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Russ Roth
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I bought 1 18 years ago and had to sell it after several years of use. The next one is ordered and hopefully shipping soon. You can also do semi-custom like the Bob Jackson audax which has a dozen sizes, multiple tube options, add ons, paint and decal options. You build it up to suit your style so 90% custom but more affordable, if my gravel bike ever fails I'll go that route as well.
Other upside to custom can be making the build, I've invested just less then 2k in the build which gets me Chorus 12sp drive train with record levers and disc brakes, mid-range deda bars, stem and post (its cross, not breaking carbon), a really nice selle italia saddle, while industries hubs and headset with nice lightweight rims, cane creek tape. The total will be under 4k but finding a 4k bike as well equipped won't happen. If you know what you're doing and what you want then you build with the parts you like and there aren't upgrades later. My last custom the only upgrades later were the shifters when one ripped off in my hand after a crash and a rim when they were damaged and newer rims were better. Just don't compromise and get it the way you want it to begin with and you can save money later not worrying about what you'd like better.

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Old 05-06-20, 03:54 PM
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Thanks this is good feedback.

I am not sold on the randonneuring style bikes. I agree, however, if I was going to buy a bike designed for a large front bag that would be my choice. I have never ridden one but have heard without a loaded front bag the handling can be odd.

Waterford could also be an option for semi-custom.

I will do a 200k and probably a 400k this year but doubt I will get to the point of a full PBP style 1200k. However, if I ever did this would be the bike I would want to do it on.
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Old 05-06-20, 05:49 PM
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A 200k can be ridden on any bike, especially if it's in the summer. A 400k a lot of times features some radical changes in the weather, so storage is necessary for extra clothes.

A low trail bike can feel a little wobbly until you get used to it. Low trail and rando bikes doesn't always go together. There is a range of trail that works well with a front bag, it's just that the current fashion is on the low end of that range. My next rando is going to be a little higher trail than my existing bike, which is very low trail.
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Old 05-06-20, 06:41 PM
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My body shape is close enough to average that I find it very easy for me to fit off the shelf frames very well, thus I have never considered custom.

But, if I was thinking custom, i would be thinking of the kinds of attachment points that I might want for attaching a variety of stuff. For example, you might never plan on a low-rider rack for front panniers, but some front platform racks use the low rider mounting points on the fork.

I find that my S&S bike might not be that cost effective now that some of the USA airlines have dropped their oversize luggage fees, but being able to pack my bike in the S&S Backpack case that will fit in a Prius taxi trunk is much more convenient than a full size bike would be for flying international. Having a more compact bike when packed is more than just a cost saver for flying, it makes ground transport much easier.

All of my touring bikes have a third bottle cage under the downtube. For around town riding near home, instead of a third water bottle there I have a bottle with my spare tube, some patches, small multi-tool, etc. The bike I built up for rando lacked that cage mount so I have a third cage held on with some straps the same way that bottle cages were always mounted half a century ago.

If you would ever want a rear rack on the bike, if the bike has disc brakes the brake unit on a chainstay instead of a seat stay can make fitting a rack much easier. That is where the brake is on one of my bikes.

A couple years ago the question for rear hub would be simple, do you want 130 or 135mm spacing, but now you need to think about through axle options too.

Would you want a bracket(s) added for dyno powered lights, if so how and where? Wiring?

Presumably, this bike would be a derailleur bike with derailleur cable runs, not an IGH. But an IGH makes things more complicated for chain tension, or splitting a stay if you want a belt drive.

Steel or Titanium?

These are the kinds of questions I would be asking myself.

ADDENDUM ADDED A COUPLE WEEKS LATER:

If hydraulic brakes are used, attaching the hoses to frame or fork is different than you would use for a bike that only used cables and would never use hydraulic. But, the types of attachment points you use for hydraulic would allow cables to be used too.

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Old 05-06-20, 10:48 PM
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I'd always leave open the possibility of hunting around for a higher end secondhand frameset to suit in your geometry. Won't have to wait for the build time.

For example, I watch The Paceline Forum quite a bit for bikes/frames like that which come up often.

There was a not-quite-so-low-trail steel wide-tyre rim brake Jeff Lyon 55cm recently on there. I was kind of shocked its still for sale.
Perhaps as its rim brake.
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Old 05-08-20, 07:45 PM
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I have a Waterford ST-22 that I purchased about 5 years ago and the ride is absolutely dreamy compared to any of my other road bikes. No comparison, even with same GP4000 25mm tires. Has the steel lugged fork and a Brooks C17 saddle on it. I can't ride really long distances anymore (feet issues) but if I could it would be on this bike. It was a display model at a well-known bike shop in Portland and I bought it off the shelf since it was gorgeous and fit perfectly with just a 1cm shorter stem. It is also a work of art with the lugged frame and nice bits. When not in use it sits in front of the beehive fireplace in my living room where I can admire it.

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Old 05-08-20, 08:55 PM
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That is good to hear. Waterford has always been towards the top of my list.
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Old 05-10-20, 03:36 PM
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My experience with custom is that I didn't know how comfortable I could be on a bike until getting one. Now that I've been that comfortable on a bike, I've been able to hop on a stock bike for a quick test ride and know that it fit/didn't fit during a quick test ride, even before dialing in the fit/replacing the handlebars/saddle/etc.

So it was absolutely worth it even if there would have been a stock bike out there when I got it that would do all I needed -- the point was I couldn't find that bike. (Mine is a Seven and I'm delighted with it, but one of the things I think was most key in this being the right bike was the shop that did the fitting rather than which specific custom builder.)

(I'm not super-oddly shaped in terms of fit; I'm on the short side, but as a long-torsoed woman I'm actually basically the proportions they assume for a guy my height, which means more bikes will fit if I can get the shop to put me on the right size instead of a size too small. And if that sounds weirdly specific it's because I've had it happen repeatedly.)

I'd go custom again if there was something specific I wanted; I was contemplating saving up for a second custom gravel bike when I found a Co-Motion demo model marked down at a local shop for an amount I could just buy rather than saving up for. (Hence my description of being able to hop on a bike now and know it fits.)
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Old 05-10-20, 03:55 PM
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I've got a custom Bob Jackson. While I don't regret getting it, in general I would recommend:

- If your body fits an off-the-peg bike that you like, no reason not to get that.
- If you start getting into custom geometry, you need to either trust in the builder to translate your general intentions into a specific plan, or have a very well-informed opinion of exactly what you want. I kind of boxed myself in with my Bob Jackson with some decisions I made and some specifications I didn't specify specifically enough.

There are a number of bikes built specifically for long-distance riding. I get the impression they disproportionately come from the UK. Right now I've got my eye on the RTD from Kinesis UK.
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Old 05-12-20, 07:50 PM
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I went custom with Mercian, no regrets.

The cost to stay in the US was about double and then some. I checked almost all the boxes on an 853 Vincitore Special with all the paint fixings and extra braze-ons for a hair over $2000 USD with shipping and duty. Complete made-to-measure build. Granted this was almost 4 years ago now and their prices have gone up a bit but if you can get your order in when the dollar is decent against the pound it looks like you can still easily come in under $2300. Pretty hard to do that with any US builder. That was also the most expensive model they made.

I agree with Adam about going off the peg.

My purchase was special as it was a wedding present from my wife and we were in England for our honeymoon so I went to Mercian for the fitting.
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Old 05-12-20, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by softreset View Post
I went custom with Mercian, no regrets.

The cost to stay in the US was about double and then some. I checked almost all the boxes on an 853 Vincitore Special with all the paint fixings and extra braze-ons for a hair over $2000 USD with shipping and duty. Complete made-to-measure build. Granted this was almost 4 years ago now and their prices have gone up a bit but if you can get your order in when the dollar is decent against the pound it looks like you can still easily come in under $2300. Pretty hard to do that with any US builder. That was also the most expensive model they made.

I agree with Adam about going off the peg.

My purchase was special as it was a wedding present from my wife and we were in England for our honeymoon so I went to Mercian for the fitting.
Mine is going to be about that same price point, they exist here in the states you just have to look, and it can be with long established and well esteemed builders.
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Old 05-13-20, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Mine is going to be about that same price point.
Interesting, would you mind sharing the name of the builder/website? I looked pretty high and low for a Reynolds steel frame builder that did custom lugs for 2k and the closest I could get was $2500+
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Old 05-13-20, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by softreset View Post
Interesting, would you mind sharing the name of the builder/website? I looked pretty high and low for a Reynolds steel frame builder that did custom lugs for 2k and the closest I could get was $2500+
I went with brazed steel, not lugged and ordered from Rock Lobster, Rock Lobster Cycles | custom bicycles built in Santa Cruz, California Paul has been great to deal with. His website does mention doing lugs, don't know pricing on that
Been to this shop, seemed like a decent person and I've seen his frames. Pricing

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Old 05-14-20, 07:58 PM
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Several years ago I had the idea that I wanted to modify an old racing frame I had. The frame fit me perfectly but it had a very odd quirk in the geometry. It was a custom for someone, so maybe this was intentional. Rather than try to pass it off to someone else, I thought I could fix it and customize it into the perfect bike. The serial number on this frame and fork was 4, and I concluded the builder had measured something wrong.

But when I contacted a builder to do this for me, he sold me on a full custom. He said, just give me the dimensions, geometry, etc. So I copied the frame geometry of a 1951 Raleigh Record Ace, but built for 26" balloon tires. To cut cost to me, he fillet brazed it and let me file the fillets myself and get paint onto it myself. This bike was designed as a randonneuring bike that can handle the roughest roads.

I wanted it for riding the sand roads in the pinelands of southern New Jersey. I love riding down there, but the roads get really bad sometimes and i wanted the fattest tires I could get. And I want this to be a comfortable, fast bike for riding long distances. i think it was about four years ago that he started work on my frame, and I've been riding it since late summer, 2016.

So in retrospect, I can honestly say that I like the bike very much. I rode it around Lake Ontario last summer, did the Mac & Cheese 1200 on it the year before. It's a very comfortable bike and I have no regrets. That said, it's not especially good on the sand roads. When the sand roads are just right, some time between a thunderstorm and a drought, there comes a time when the sand is firm enough that you can ride them with just about any bike. And when they are completely dried out they turn to powder and no bike is getting through. Once I learned that, then I realized riding in the pines is a matter of better planning rather than a better bicycle.

And after all that, I still wanted to modify that old racing frame... but that is another story.
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Old 05-15-20, 01:54 AM
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I am a short rider and in the past (10+ yrs ago), XXS bikes were not so common, would not mind getting a ladies bike but also not common then, especially for Tri bikes.
Also did not want to deal with 650c wheels/tires as they are hard to come by and even more so if I have a puncture in events.
As such, I got a custom tri bike made from titanium.
IMHO, unless you have special size needs, it makes more sense to just get an off the shelf frame.
Far cheap and the RnD and design philosophy of the company already goes into that frame model.


As for the Ti Tri-bike, it fitted me well for 3-4 yrs and then I eased off the events (and got older) and the aggressive low cockpit did not suit me anymore, so I replaced it with an angled stem for a higher ride position.
So "custom" was somewhat for that 3-4yrs only.
That said, the rest of the bike fits like a glove.
The titanium also took my nonsense of 'no maintenance" for a good 4yrs (due to a busy schedule) where I just road it and hung it up after the ride. (no rusts)


I have just gone for another custom Ti breakaway all road bike.
Again the needs are niche which is why I have gone for custom.
Ritchey Breakaway system for a smaller box for flights, All Road bike specification to cater for all sorts of roads I encounter during a tour and of course something that fits my diminutive size.
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Old 05-15-20, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by pinholecam View Post
...
I have just gone for another custom Ti breakaway all road bike.
Again the needs are niche which is why I have gone for custom.
Ritchey Breakaway system for a smaller box for flights, All Road bike specification to cater for all sorts of roads I encounter during a tour and of course something that fits my diminutive size.
Just curious, does Ritchey license their Break-Away system to other builders or are you getting a custom bike from Ritchey?

I got a Raleigh Grand Prix two years ago with the Ritchey Break-Away system, I assumed that Raleigh licensed with Ritchey but later a bike shop manager that had sold several of those Raleighs told me that Ritchey made the frames for Raleigh.

FYI, if you are not aware, you will want to have a torque wrench for the lower coupling. A torque wrench did not come with mine, I had to e-mail Ritchey to ask what to torque setting to use.
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Old 05-15-20, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Just curious, does Ritchey license their Break-Away system to other builders or are you getting a custom bike from Ritchey?

I got a Raleigh Grand Prix two years ago with the Ritchey Break-Away system, I assumed that Raleigh licensed with Ritchey but later a bike shop manager that had sold several of those Raleighs told me that Ritchey made the frames for Raleigh.

FYI, if you are not aware, you will want to have a torque wrench for the lower coupling. A torque wrench did not come with mine, I had to e-mail Ritchey to ask what to torque setting to use.

I am having it built by Walty Titanium in China.
AFAIK, they do offer this system for their bikes as well as S&S (and also a mix where the downtube is S&S and the seattube is Breakaway )
I'd reckon that they are offering 'like' systems but not official.
The breakaway couplers look a bit different and chunkier... (I think).

I had my eye on that Raleigh Grand Prix, but because of the Raleigh diaspora, US/EU/Asia don't operate under the same body and over here Raleigh has become a brand for cheap market bikes. Asia market does not offer nice models like the Grand Prix and Clubman.

Thanks for your tip on the torque wrench.
I have one, and I doubt the maker provides one, but lets see.

I expect the frame to be ready in about 2week as I have just finalized my custom logos, then another perhaps 1 month for shipping.
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Old 05-24-20, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Just curious, does Ritchey license their Break-Away system to other builders or are you getting a custom bike from Ritchey?

I got a Raleigh Grand Prix two years ago with the Ritchey Break-Away system, I assumed that Raleigh licensed with Ritchey but later a bike shop manager that had sold several of those Raleighs told me that Ritchey made the frames for Raleigh.

FYI, if you are not aware, you will want to have a torque wrench for the lower coupling. A torque wrench did not come with mine, I had to e-mail Ritchey to ask what to torque setting to use.

Since the frame is on its way, I have begun a write up about my experiences on getting a custom bike.
https://www.bikeforums.net/folding-b...road-bike.html
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Old 05-24-20, 05:56 AM
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Originally Posted by pinholecam View Post
Since the frame is on its way, I have begun a write up about my experiences on getting a custom bike.
https://www.bikeforums.net/folding-b...road-bike.html
Good write up at the other link.

You may want to find out if the frame has a replaceable (breakable) derailleur hanger, and get a spare when you get the frame. Also, find out if anyone other than the manufacturer makes the hanger as an aftermarket option instead of having to go back to the original manufacturer. I mention this because nobody makes the hanger that I would need for my Lynskey, other than Lynskey.

***

You will need to figure out what you want for a case, just throwing out my two cents worth on that.

I have not flown with my Ritchey Break Away bike yet, but I have the case. It is a few inches bigger than the 62 inch criteria that most USA airlines use for luggage, but the Break Away owners I have talked to said that the airlines only rarely measured it. One owner said that he on one occasion had to pay the oversize fee. That was the only occurrence that I have heard of where the fee was charged.

I have flown with my S&S Backpack case. I like that case. It has no wheels, but that is not a deal breaker for me. I have on a couple occasions carried it on my back as a backpack. It meets the 62 inch criteria. I added two 26 X 26 inch (corners cut round to fit) sheets of Coroplast to stiffen up the case better, bought the Coroplast at Home Despot. My S&S bike uses 26 inch wheels, I can't comment on fitting 700c wheels into a case.

If you wanted to carry tools and other stuff in the case, a luggage scale is the travelers best friend.

***

I find it easier to pack my folder into my S&S case when I remove the cassette first. I use a combination of zip ties and two sided velcro to tie all the large parts (frame, fork, wheels) together into one big item when I pack the bike. And include a note to TSA that they should just lift that out of the case if they need to visually inspect it. Then if they do not cut the zipties, they should be able to do their inspection without damage to the bike when re-packing it. I carry a small side cutter to cut zip ties as one of my tools.

I have to remove the fork from the frame to pack it into the case. I put all the headset pieces back on the steerer tube in correct order and orientation. And on my phone I have a photo of the headset parts in correct order and orientation. Also have a copy of the manufacture diagram for the headset so I never get that messed up.

I remove the chain and put that in a ziplock.

Carry shop sized tools instead of a little multi-tool for assembly and dis-assembly, it is worth the weight to speed that up.

You are going to like that bike.

ADDENDUM ADDED COUPLE DAYS LATER:

I have to remove the cranksest from my S&S bike to fit that into the S&S case.

I think I can keep the crankset on the Break Away bike and pack that into the Break Away case, which is a good thing because I do not have the crank tools for that particular bike.

Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 05-26-20 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 05-26-20, 01:24 PM
  #23  
David in Maine
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I'll echo others. I went custom because I have a long torso for my height and I wanted to see what a bike built for me would feel like rather than making compromises with off-the-shelf. Another reason is these days is wanting a higher end bike with rim brakes--in my case long-reach calipers that clear 700 x35c tires. Custom is only as good as your fitter--I am thrilled with the results of working with Ride Studio Cafe on my Seven. The bike really is a revelation to me, although my planned randonneur series this summer is obviously on hold.

David
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Old 05-26-20, 01:56 PM
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Babbitt
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That is a great looking bike.

I am glad it worked out so well for you.

Tom
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Old 05-26-20, 07:04 PM
  #25  
pinholecam
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Good write up at the other link.

You may want to find out if the frame has a replaceable (breakable) derailleur hanger, and get a spare when you get the frame. Also, find out if anyone other than the manufacturer makes the hanger as an aftermarket option instead of having to go back to the original manufacturer. I mention this because nobody makes the hanger that I would need for my Lynskey, other than Lynskey.

***

You will need to figure out what you want for a case, just throwing out my two cents worth on that.

I have not flown with my Ritchey Break Away bike yet, but I have the case. It is a few inches bigger than the 62 inch criteria that most USA airlines use for luggage, but the Break Away owners I have talked to said that the airlines only rarely measured it. One owner said that he on one occasion had to pay the oversize fee. That was the only occurrence that I have heard of where the fee was charged.

I have flown with my S&S Backpack case. I like that case. It has no wheels, but that is not a deal breaker for me. I have on a couple occasions carried it on my back as a backpack. It meets the 62 inch criteria. I added two 26 X 26 inch (corners cut round to fit) sheets of Coroplast to stiffen up the case better, bought the Coroplast at Home Despot. My S&S bike uses 26 inch wheels, I can't comment on fitting 700c wheels into a case.

If you wanted to carry tools and other stuff in the case, a luggage scale is the travelers best friend.

***

I find it easier to pack my folder into my S&S case when I remove the cassette first. I use a combination of zip ties and two sided velcro to tie all the large parts (frame, fork, wheels) together into one big item when I pack the bike. And include a note to TSA that they should just lift that out of the case if they need to visually inspect it. Then if they do not cut the zipties, they should be able to do their inspection without damage to the bike when re-packing it. I carry a small side cutter to cut zip ties as one of my tools.

I have to remove the fork from the frame to pack it into the case. I put all the headset pieces back on the steerer tube in correct order and orientation. And on my phone I have a photo of the headset parts in correct order and orientation. Also have a copy of the manufacture diagram for the headset so I never get that messed up.

I remove the chain and put that in a ziplock.

Carry shop sized tools instead of a little multi-tool for assembly and dis-assembly, it is worth the weight to speed that up.

You are going to like that bike.

ADDENDUM ADDED COUPLE DAYS LATER:

I have to remove the cranksest from my S&S bike to fit that into the S&S case.

I think I can keep the crankset on the Break Away bike and pack that into the Break Away case, which is a good thing because I do not have the crank tools for that particular bike.

Thanks again for your advice.

So far, I have been travelling with a cardboard box that fits a folded bike or I make one using 2 regular sized bike boxes.
The requirements for box size is much more relaxed in most destinations in South East Asia and the carriers that operate there (exceptions being US carriers )
I am however still attracted to how more manageable a bike is when its packed down to regular large luggage dimensions. (esp getting up transportation )


Can I check with you what is the torque required to secure the couplings on your bike?
TIA
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