Years ago I had to sell my Cannondale CAAD 8 to buy my TT (Time Trial) bike and I have missed it ever since. The sport and Triathlon & Duathlon is not exactly cheap with membership fees, grocery bills, equipment, clothing, racing and much much more. It becomes a lifestyle, a healthy addiction in a way but expensive none the less. Like most people I started on a road bike but soon realized that I was missing out on the “aero” advantage offered by a TT bike. I won’t get into detail here but in the quest for speed I sold my 1 year old road bike to afforded a TT frame. Purchasing a 2010 Argon E112 frame and building it up over the years and now it is a real race machine. While it gets the job done aerodynamically speaking there has always been something missing that the road bike had. This is important because now no matter the occasion on my TT bike I can not ride slow, I am wired to work hard to push and racing is all I think about while I ride it. Gone was the feeling of freedom that I associated with my road bike gone was the freedom the sense of enjoyment to a certain extent. Until I decided to do something about it this feeling was not going to go away. I started to slowly put away money every month some months it was $20 or $80 I had a plan an idea of building something budget conscious that would hopefully restore the part of bike riding I was missing.
While all this was hapening I read a Facebook post from John Salt, Founder and President of MultiSport Canada and he talked about how after years of riding he became wired to think of his bike as “work”. This resonated with me in a astonishing way because I was in the middle of building my “fun machine” in the hopes of restoring the love of riding to my own life.
I think I may be in love…..well, at least smitten. For 14 years the bike was simply a workout and a means to an end. It was all about 2, 3, 4, 5 hours or more, it was about numbers, improving, pushing and always work. Once I stopped racing in 2012 there were times when I got on a bike, but it was never about fun…it was like I was wired to think of the bike as work.
With a plan hatched I started just after the race season ended in late September/October. Even into the Fall I realized that I kept passing on group rides and could not enjoy cruising around on a sunny day on a TT bike in full aero. Being this was budget build I set out on a task of buying only used parts or using what I had in the parts bin to build my road bike. The only brand new parts I planned on purchasing was a chain, cables , and bar tape sourcing everything else through various used parts places on the inter-webs like eBay and Pink Bike.com. There was no rush this entire process was to be relaxed and enjoyable.
Sourcing Parts and Assembly
The first thing was to decide if I was going to run Shimano, SRAM or a combination of both. I already had a Shimano Ultegra Crank but that was it. eBay led me to a seller in Ireland that had a SRAM Force shifter set from 2010. With an amazing price tag I committed to them and the start of the build was on. This early generation shifter is carbon and has SRAM’s “double tap” technology so I was happy to say the least. Carbon components were never on my must have list and not even having a frame yet this meant everything was still up in the air. This build was focused on the best components for the best price. SRAM shifters meant SRAM rear derailleur because you have to match the cable pull ratios of these components. The front is a entirely different story and I will talk about that more later on. I found a previously enjoyed rear derailleur on PinkBike.com from a seller in Vancouver and after some negotiation I had secured it and was told it was on the way. This part ended up getting lost in the mail and I EVENTUALLY got it from Canada Post but it took over a month to surface. In the mean time I had bought yet another rear SRAM derailleur on Pink Bike. The second one was also a “RED” edition and I couldn’t say no for the price.
After the original rear derailleur was bought I knew I had to start looking for a frame and decide what style I wanted. Carbon, aluminum or a mix of the two?? Racing or comfortable geometry?? Internal or external cable routing?? Colour !!! So many things to look for in a bike frame.
I searched for a frame for months never finding the one that was the right price or in Canada. until one day there it was a frame that met all my needs and most of my wants. Contacting the seller on eBay we exchanged emails and once I was satisfied it was exactly what I was looking for I pulled the trigger. Clicking that “Buy it Now” button is easier than I expected because I knew it was the frame I had been looking for. The seller was located in Quebec and the frame was a 2013 BH, race geometry, came with a seat post and was was full carbon. It was shipped to me via Canada Post and all I could think was I hope this doesn’t get damaged or lost like my rear derailleur. After a couple days glued to the parcel tracker I saw the notification it was available at the post office. I picked it up and rushed home where I eagerly opened the box! I inspected it meticulously and after going over every inch put in the seat post and clamped it in the work stand it was ready to build, now I needed the rest of the parts.
It was time to order cables, chain, cassette and find some handlebars. I went to my usual UK suppliers for a KMC Chain, bar tape and found a 10 speed cassette in my parts bin. This left cables, searching online yet again I finally came across a bike store in Alberta called “ Crankys Bicycles ” they were having a sale on a full cable build kit for a road bike. The only downside was my colour options were limited to gold but for $28 for a complete JagWire kit I couldn’t complain. While I waited for the cables to arrive I installed my existing Shimano crank into the FSA BB386 bottom bracket and luckily the frame included proper adapters to accept the 24mm spindle. BB386 is a 30mm diameter unless you have these. To my surprise the press fit FSA BB was very very smooth and this meant one less thing to buy! I needed bars so back on eBay I found a set of FSA bars from Quebec that were 40mm wide. They arrived within days and on they went followed by the shifters and cabling which had come from Alberta. Working on the bars and getting the cables just the right length things were starting to shape up. Running internal cables is always a pain in the ass and especially on a TT bike with aero bars luckily this was more a lot easier than I had anticipated.
At this point the bike was taking shape the only outstanding parts were both derailleurs, a seat, chain, bar tape and few other small pieces. The rear derailleur had still not arrived and after opening a investigation with Canada Post they indicated there was no hope in finding it. I decided to buy another one from Vancouver through Pink Bike and even though it was an extra cost I needed it. I pulled a spare Fizik arione try 2 saddle out of parts bin along with some sram brakes and pads and it was on the drivetrain. By now the chain and other UK parts had arrived. After sizing the new chain, installing the rear derailleur (this one actually showed up unlike the first one), rear cassette went on some existing wheels and a bottle cage the bike was near completion. I wrapped the bars in the red tape and it was looking spiffy. Missing only the front derailleur it was time to take a rest from building this bike.
Sourcing a front derailleur after a few days rest I knew it should be SRAM to match the shifters but you can mix and match some parts between Shimano and SRAM. I ended up ordering a brand new front derailleur from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) because it was $45. I had looked at used one (SRAM) but for 30+shipping it just made sense to go new. This ended up being a two week struggle in itself because the first one showed up and was a clamp on style, not a braze on so it was useless. After talking with MEC customer service and explaining that what showed up was in the right box but the wrong product they agreed to exchange it. The box was beaten up and already open so clearly someone had removed the proper one and fiddled around… This led to yet another delay because I had to return the wrong one and then wait for MEC to receive it before they would ship another. The replacement arrived and everything was correct this time so on the bike it went. Getting the mix of components to work is hit and miss and no matter what I did this new Shimano front derailleur was not working with the older SRAM shifters to my standards. Growing frustration with the project I took a step back and let the bike sit for a couple days before going back to it. This bike was supposed to be about creating something I loved it was supposed to be fun. The resolution ended up being a swap between my TT bikes with its older Shimano 6700 and the new 6800. This swap left both bikes working properly my TT bike got a new front derailleur and the older Shimano was working perfectly with the SRAM shifter!!
It was done, finished, complete the only things now was to test ride it. With the help of some measurements of my TT bike and my Retul fit report from Scott Kelly at DUNDAS Speed Shop I was able to dial in a position that was conducive to my knees and road geometry. I will eventually get a proper 3D fit from Scott but remember this is for fun and on a budget!!
The Maiden Voyage
The first ride on any bike is special, with the wind and sun on your face there is nothing but the sound of a perfectly tuned and clean drivetrain with the occasional car…… I had hyped this build up so much in my own head that once the time came for that maiden voyage I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic. Countless hours, days, months had gone by sourcing and fitting parts in the quest to build something that I would love to ride. This machine was exactly what I hoped it would be light, comfortable, fun and affordable all while sticking to a budget. With any project you complete with your own two hands it brings a feeling of joy, accomplishment and despite all the headaches or problems along the way it was worth it.
The first ride was wonderful with no mechanical issues at all, knowing every piece was tightened by my own two hands I was confident in the build. I rode for 2:20 covering 73km and the whole time had a huge grin from ear to ear loving every second of it. The feeling of freedom had returned because I was not out watching a power number or pushing myself to hold a specific cadence I was just riding. Despite it’s aggressive geometry and stiffness the bike is very comfortable and fast to ride. It has excellent power transfer thanks to a large/stiff bottom bracket and is very responsive yet smooth.
With the build done a shakedown ride completed this bike had lived up to its intended purpose returning a smile and happiness to my riding. This bike will be used as a source of enjoyment, group riding, comfortable cruising and long endurance riding when I want the wind and sun in my face. Anytime I need a reminder of how much I love to ride a bike I will take this machine.