In the Stable, Part 3: Giant OCR C1

My first carbon bike, refurbished and rebuilt by me.

My first carbon bike, refurbished and rebuilt by me.

My newest addition to the ol’ bike collection is this Giant OCR C1. It’s allllll carbon fiber, baby—and my first ever carbon bike. I was in the market for a “legit”, modern, race-ready road bike for a while. I ended up finding this bike—sans wheelset—listed for about $500 on Craigslist by a college student who needed some cash to pay rent. Apparently, someone had stolen the wheels months, possibly even years ago, and the guy had the frame & components lying around since then. It all looked to be in pretty good shape judging by the photos included in the advertisement, and it had some decent components on it.

However, when I actually laid eyes on the bike in-person, something became apparent to me that was conveniently omitted from the Craigslist ad: this thing had been utterly neglected, with severe corrosion on most components and an eighth-inch-thick layer of filth covering everything. It was actually hard to image how the owner could have managed to let it become so destitute-looking; after all, this thing was brand new in 2008. It looked like it had been laying in my Grandma’s root cellar for 30 years.

I said, “WOW, didn’t realize it was so beat up… couldn’t see all this corrosion in the photos… It’s in pretty rough shape. I don’t know...“ And this guy says, “But it was, like, $2000 brand new!” Yeah, great, duly noted.

After a few minutes of examining this mess of a bike before me and some internal deliberation, I decided that a little TLC and elbow grease—also known as WD-40 and steel wool—would go a long way, and that a good deal could still be had. I made an offer of $300 and I went home with a fixer-upper.

Over the course of the next week, I stripped all the parts off the frame and cleaned it up. It wasn’t too bad, with exception of the steerer tube being stubbornly stuck in the headset/head tube, frozen by some strange gunky corrosion that accumulated in the micro-layers between carbon fiber. I got it free eventually by sort-of chiseling away at the carbon stack spacers to loosen them, one by one, followed by the various top headset pieces. Needless to say, the headset needed to be replaced.

Stripped down to the frame, except for the crankset & BB.

Stripped down to the frame, except for the crankset & BB.

Despite the indexing feeling surprisingly crisp, the Ultegra brifters were in terrible shape, nearly garbage. In fact, they were garbage. I replaced them along with the front derailleur, brakes, handlebars, stem, cables, housing, seat post, and saddle.

I managed to clean up the Dura Ace rear der, which was notably less corroded than everything else (the Ultegra parts, go figure), as well as the crankset, chainrings, and seat post clamp. The bottom bracket felt fine, so I didn’t investigate further—it’s like the underside of your car; you know it’s going to be filthy, but as long as it doesn’t affect functionality, it’s better to not even look at it.

I found a nice Specialized Roval wheelset with a 10-speed Dura Ace cassette (that’s titanium, dude!) and new-ish Continental Grand Prix tires on Craigslist for about $250 bucks. They’re very slick-looking wheels with no gaudy graphics, just jet black rims with a slight aero depth. The spokes interface in a fancy way that hides the nipples inside the hub (they spokes are oriented 180 degrees opposite of your conventional setup), further aiding with the low-profile aesthetics.

Spoke nipples are hidden inside the deep rims of the Roval wheelset.

Spoke nipples are hidden inside the deep rims of the Roval wheelset.

I then proceeded to sell all the old rotten parts on Craigslist (did I mention how much I love that shit?) and recouped a bit of cash. Even the garbage STI shifters sold! I met this young guy after dark, without much light, and I said very clearly, “You might want to shine some light on these shifters and take a closer look—they’re pretty beat up.” The kid hands me the cash and barely looks at them: the deal is done and we part ways. Thirty minutes later, he’s texting me saying he wants to “return” the shifters. Sorry bro, this ain’t Walmart!

As of writing this, I’ve put about 1000 miles on the bike and I absolutely love it. It accelerates with noticeably more ease than any bike I’ve owned and it climbs like a champ, due to its lightweight carbon frame and overall stiffness. Having a serious road bike has enabled me to join local weekly group rides that typically have a very fast A-group. So, I’ve been learning about etiquette, tactics, pace lines, drafting, and pulling as part of a group. Pretty fun stuff! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the precarious combination of risk and efficiency that exists in a high-speed pace line with experienced riders. Although I will admit, when combined with the dual horrors of O’ahu traffic and road infrastructure, it can get a little hairy once in a while.

This bike has acted as something of a stepping-stone in terms of what it means to be a “cyclist”. One small step for Jabez’s bike collection, one Giant leap for Jabez’s cycling. What I mean is, I’ve become enthralled with getting fit, going faster, and racing—none of which I was particularly interested in prior to experiencing the near-flight feeling of a lightweight carbon bike.

In the Stable Part 2: 2009 Raleigh Sojourn

One of the many incarnations of this bike over the years... endurance adventure gravel grinder.

One of the many incarnations of this bike over the years... endurance adventure gravel grinder.

I bought this Raleigh Sojourn from my friend, Jessop Keene, while living in River Falls, Wisconsin back in 2013 or so. Jessop had a knack for touring (the stealth-camping kind), so I was initially confused about why he wanted to sell such a beautiful steel touring steed for a mere $450 or so. This thing was decked out with Brooks leather handlebar tape, a Brooks saddle, full fenders, a solid rack, Avid BB5 disk brakes, and Shimano Dura Ace bar-end shifters. Plus, the frame and fork had TONS of tire clearance (like, 45cm) and the 3x9 gearing was great for climbing under load. Basically, it was a bicycle tourist’s dream-come-true.

Looking back, I think the reason why Jessop didn’t want the bike was because he was also a hardcore road biker, and the weight & beefiness of the steel bike with all the accessories was not his cup of tea. A couple years later, in 2016, Jessop road cross-country from west coast to east coast in only a few short weeks, averaging something insane like 170 miles a day. He used a lightweight road bike with a teeny little seatpost-attaching rack, foregoing the usual panniers and oodles of gear typically used for trips like this (all he had was a small bivy sack and the most essential of belongings strapped to the top of the rack). His ultra-light setup made it doable, although I’m sure he still suffered at that pace. A heavy steel touring bike, like the Sojourn, would have made such a feat nearly impossible.

Anyway, I pretty quickly swapped out the Avid BB5 brakes for some BB7’s, undoubtedly the best mechanical disk calipers available. The main difference between the two models—and also between the BB7’s and just about everything else on the market—is that the BB7’s allow for fore-and-aft adjustment of both brake pads, not just the outboard pad. You can very quickly dial in (literally) the distance from pad to rotor with ease.

I also switched handlebars to some nice shallow-drop, non-ergo road bars. Instead of the stock semi-mustache, flaring drops that came on the bike from the factory, it had some nasty Nitto track drops on it… not sure whose idea those were.

When I moved to Honolulu, Hawai’i in 2014, this was the only bike I shipped.

Prepping the frame for shipping to Hawai'i

Prepping the frame for shipping to Hawai'i

More recently, I ditched the bar-end (aka bar-con) shifters and put on a pair of your typical integrated shifter/brake levers (STI, brifters, etc): Shimano Ultegra. I have been using this bike as a daily commuter (and sometimes as an adventure/gravel bike) and do not foresee using it for serious touring anytime soon, so this switch was a no-brainer. (Hint: bar-end shifters have a distinct advantage over fancy integrated levers for touring, in terms of surviving a bought of mechanical failure. The STI’s are very expensive and nearly impossible to fix if something went wrong out in the middle of Nowhere, USA, let alone Nowhere, Underdeveloped Country. In contrast, bar-ends are easy to repair with basic tools. However, they pale in comparison to the comfort, convenience, and efficiency of modern, STI-style levers.)

I also upgraded the shitty rear derailleur to a nice XTR (this thing has a long-cage mountain bike der on it to accommodate the large range of the cassette) and, while I was at it, replaced the entire crankset, chain, and cassette.

Shiny New drivetrain, freshly installed

Shiny New drivetrain, freshly installed

I almost forgot to mention that I wrecked the stock rear wheel—I was abusing it like it was a gravel/adventure bike and ripped some spoke nipples right out of the rim. So, I bought a brand new set of Shimano wheels with “centerlock” hubs. Thing is, I was too cheap to buy the centerlock rotors, so I bought adapters instead and reused the old 6-bolt rotors. Works fine.

After completing a recent century on this bike, I experienced a bought of weakness and numbness in my hands and fingers, especially on the right side. For days on end, I could barely pick up a pencil and write my name. I self-diagnosed it as destroying my ulnar nerve (in your wrist at the base of your thumb) from inadequate padding between it and my aluminum handlebars for 100+ miles of shitty roads. The culprit: that damned Brooks leather handlebar tape.

I loved that leather so much that I reused it over and over again for years, re-wrapping it and even supergluing it back together. The leather may look and feel sexy, but you may as well have a bare-naked, raw metal handlebar in terms of shock absorption. I picked up some cheapo black cork tape and couldn’t BELIEVE the padding I’d been missing out on through YEARS of riding this bike as my daily commuter, not to mention my primary road bike… and on relentlessly unforgiving O’ahu roads, to boot.

Anyway, I doubt anyone is going to read this long of a blog post about a 7-year-old steel 9-speed commuter, so this is THE END.

In the Stable, Part 1: 2012 Surly Krampus

 
Pupukea / Sunset Hills trail system on North Shore, O'ahu

Pupukea / Sunset Hills trail system on North Shore, O'ahu

I picked up this Krampus 29+ from a local bike shop (e-bike shop, to be exact) employee who built it up with 9-speed Sram stuff. I pretty quickly swapped it to 10-speed Shimano XT and Zee components. It also had a beefy MRP chainguide on it (the kind that mounts on the bottom bracket shell) that I thought was really ugly. I mean, it just ruined the whole aesthetic of the 1x drive train. Long story short, in order to ditch the chain guide, I had to get a rear derailleur with a clutch mechanism (and nobody makes a 9-speed der with a clutch). This keeps the der arm much tighter than typical, which results in less of your chain flopping around like a.... well, you get the picture. Less chain flop = less chance of it falling off the front chainring. Oh, and I got a Raceface narrow-wide chainring as well, which has an every-other-tooth width difference that aids in not dropping the chain.

Of course, the chain-drop issue is especially pertinent when you try to ride a rigid steel bike on gnarly Hawai'i trails -- we got plenty da kine roots and rocks, jus' gotta work 'um and geev 'um (that's da pidgin kine the local downhill riders talk). Anyway, the plus-sized tires (3.0 inches wide) do allow for slightly lower tire pressure and the resulting slight increase in shock absorption. However, it doesn't amount to a whole hell of a lot on these trails where everyone in their right mind rides a full suspension rig.

Speaking of 29 plus... It's a 29er wheel with a fatter rim (50mm vs your usual, like, 25mm) and a 29 inch tire with more girth (3.0 inches vs, say, 2.3 or 2.5 inches). Doesn't sound like much difference, but it makes for a floaty ride with a less-pronounced snowshoe effect like you get from a true fatbike.

The krampus is not afraid

The krampus is not afraid

I also set this thing up tubeless, DIY-style (also known as "ghetto" or "split" tubeless). This means you make non-tubeless-ready tires and rims into tubeless by using stuff like a cut-up tube, maybe some tape, and some tire sealant like Stan's (or nock-off brand or homemade). So, in case you don't already know, and to be totally clear here, tubeless = relying on tire sealant instead of an inflatable inner tube. Maybe I'll do a blog post on how to do this ghetto tubeless thing yourself... or, to be more politically correct, since you won't find many bike-blog-reading, english-speaking mountain bikers living in our many fantastic GHETTOS in this world, I'll call it split tubeless instead.

I love the feel of a rigid bike. Whenever I hop on a friend's FS bike, it feels like a ridiculous bouncy johnny-jump-up toy of some sort. And Surly always nails it with finishes and graphics -- that's the whole appeal of the brand. BUT, ALAS..... as I become more speed-oriented and serious about racing, I must admit, this thing is a beast. Climbing hills feels like I'm dragging along a dead horse behind me, or at least a small dead pig, really. It's also a total pain in the ass to put in my car, in anybody's car, in the bike stand, in my house, or anywhere, really. In case you don't know that I'm talking about, IT'S HEAVY AND BIG. Most days I wish it were carbon (please don't tell the Surly gods I said that) and just normal 29er, minus the plus.