Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Focus Paralane: 2x11 Speed Drivetrain Installation

As a commuting bike, the Focus Paralane is nearly perfect, as it is a fast road bike with high end components. However, since I use it a a road bike for group rides as well, I find that the gear range is not quite enough. This is most apparent when riding down slope, as the highest gear (Front 40T and rear 11T) is 98 gear inches, which is not enough when riding fast down the slopes.

Therefore, if I am using it as a road bike for group rides as well, I need more gear range. There is already a wide 11-36T cassette on this bike, so I cannot use a wider range cassette without sacrificing the close gear steps. Best way is to install a front double system with two chain rings, to get the wider gear range and yet with close gear steps.

When I installed the Dura-Ace R9100 crank arms onto this bike, the chain rings were kept aside. Now, what I need to do is to just reinstall the chain rings onto the Dura-Ace crank arms.

Before that, I needed to check if this frame can accommodate a front derailleur properly. The stock Curana fenders had a cutout to avoid interference with the front derailleur, so with the SKS mudguards, there might be some issue.

Attaching the Dura-Ace FD-R9250 Di2 Front Derailleur to the front derailleur mount to check it out.

The derailleur body is close to the mudguards, but there is no interference. This is good news.

Since I already had all the required parts, swapping from the front single to front double setup is not a problem. This time, I used the new press-fit BB installation/removal tool from Toopre, which is really awesome. Traditional tools to remove the press-fit bottom bracket requires a lot of hammering to push out the bottom bracket cups from the frame, but this new tool does not need any hammering. Check out the other post to see how this tool works.

With the bottom bracket removed, so that the front derailleur Di2 wire can be routed through the frame and connected to Junction B.

Front derailleur installed and tested to be working, now to reinstall the bottom bracket.

I found that the clearance between the chain ring bolt and frame to be very very small, and a scratching sound can be heard when I spin the cranks.

A scratch can be seen across the letter "U" of the word Focus, caused by the chain ring bolt.

Solution is to add a spindle spacer, to push out the right crank arm slightly. I used this 1 mm plastic spacer from the Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket which is used on the Cervelo Aspero.

All seems well, until I started spinning the cranks. There seemed to be quite a bit of friction and rubbing sound, but I could not find the problem. The chain ring bolts were not rubbing against the frame any more. 

This rubbing sound only occurs when I tighten the plastic crank arm fixing bolt on the non-drive side. If this bolt is slightly loosened, there is no sound.

After a lot of troubleshooting, I found the this friction and rubbing sound was caused by the plastic spindle spacer that I just added.

The plastic spindle spacer is slightly larger than the internal bearings. This causes the spacer to rub against the outer cups of the bottom bracket which is fixed to the frame.

After identifying the source of the problem, I needed a smaller spindle spacer which does not cause interference. This modification is turning out to be more complicated than I expected.

Luckily, I found an extra spacer from the Ascent Revolution bottom bracket, which is exactly what I needed.

1 mm thick spindle spacer from the Ascent bottom bracket.

Fits nicely on the spindle, with a smaller outer diameter to avoid interference with the bottom bracket.

Healthier clearance between the chain rings and the chain stay.

However, this was not the only issue that I faced. During alignment of the front derailleur to the chain rings, I found that no matter how I adjusted the front derailleur, I could not make it parallel to the chain rings.

Once I tightened the fixing bolt, the front derailleur will tilt to one side. Time to troubleshoot again!

The top left corner of the derailleur mount is interfering with a portion of the front derailleur.

The mount seems to extend too far to the left, so I had to manually grind away the top corner of the mount as shown to avoid interference with the front derailleur.

After the interference was removed from the front derailleur mount, I was able to align the front derailleur to make it parallel to the chain rings. Although I was only installing the crankset and the front derailleur, both gave me problems. Luckily I was able to find solutions for these issues.

Dura-Ace crankset and front derailleur installed!

With a fresh KMC EPT chain installed, as a longer chain is needed due to the larger chain ring.

Just enough clearance between the mudguards and the front derailleur.

Happy to see that it fits well! Cutout on mudguard not necessary.

2x11 speed drivetrain! 50/34T crankset with 11-36T cassette for a wide range.

With a front derailleur installed, the Di2 system display now shows a L and T for the smaller and larger chain ring respectively.

Random testing at the gravel track around Pandan Reservoir

This road bike on the gravel track rides just as fast as the Cervelo Aspero gravel bike. The terrain is smooth enough that wider and softer tires are not required to go fast.

Great view of the 2x11 speed road drivetrain on the Focus Paralane. 

Actual wet weather usage with wet components after getting caught in the rain.

Not necessary to clean or dry the components, as all the parts are either rust-proof or very rust-resistant.

With the new setup, the gear range has been expanded to 25.5 - 122.7 gear inches, which is a really wide range. Not only do I gain 2 faster gears, I also gain 2 lower gears compared to the previous 1x11 speed setup.

This makes the bike even more versatile, as it can climb steep slopes as well as go fast down slopes.

Wide gear range with 50/34T cassette and 11-36T cassette.

With this upgrade, the weight has been increased slightly, due to the addition of the front derailleur, the double chain rings, and a slightly longer chain.

Weight without pedals and mudguards is 7.2 kg, which is pretty good for a disc brake road bike.

This is a good setup for all purpose road riding! It's basically a fully qualified road bike with mudguards for wet weather riding. Other than the slightly heavier setup and slightly more air resistance due to the mudguards, it is 100% a proper road bike.

Toopre Press Fit Bottom Bracket Tool Set

If you deal with bikes that have a press fit bottom bracket, you will probably dread removing a press fit BB from the frame. The traditional method requires inserting a metal tool behind the BB cups, and hammering the tool from the other side.

I always dread doing this process, as applying a high force to a carbon frame is always risky. It takes two people to do it properly, as the first person needs both hands to brace the frame properly, while the second person will hold the tool with one hand and a hammer on the other hand.

Sometimes the BB fits into the frame very tightly, and it takes a lot of hard but careful hammering to remove it from the frame. I dislike this kind of brute force method as there is chance of damage to the frame, and the BB will most likely be damaged after it is removed.

I had a few bikes that uses a press fit BB, such as the Java Freccia mini velo, the Canyon Endurace, the Cervelo Aspero and now the Focus Paralane. Installing the press fit BB is not an issue, as there is a threaded tool to press it in smoothly. However, the tough part is removing the BB to access the Di2 wires, hydraulic hose or other stuff inside the frame.

Traditional press fit BB removal tool. The flexible prongs at the end will brace against the back of the BB cups from the inside, while you hammer on the other end.

Insert the tool from this side, and pull the tool through, which will close up the prongs...

...until it passes through the inner diameter and expands to rest against the rear of the BB cup.

Once the tool is in place, hold the frame securely and hammer on the other end of the tool, hoping that the BB comes out smoothly. This has to be the task that I dislike most when servicing a bike.

However, I recently came across this new wonderful tool that makes it so much easier to remove a press fit BB from the bike! If you deal with press fit BB regularly or even just occasionally, you should  seriously consider using this tool. Let me introduce this amazing tool to you.

Press fit BB tool kit by Toopre. This is just part of the set, there are different adapters for different BB sizes.

The key innovation is this split ring adapter which goes behind the BB cups, instead of the flexible prongs on the traditional tool.

The 2 parts of the ring will fit into the inner diameter of the BB. Once inside, use the centre shaft to expand the split ring, such that it rests nicely behind the BB cup as shown.

Another view showing the two flanges of the split ring resting on the BB cup. These flanges will push out the BB cup from the rear.

Add this long threaded rod with large handles, it will be rotated to push out the BB.

The long threaded rod passes through the shaft and sticks out the other side, this keeps everything well aligned.

Then, attach an adapter (various step sizes available) and the tool cup, which has a female threaded hole in the middle.

When assembled, the threaded rod will thread into the tool cup. Rotate the large handles on the other side to push out the BB from the inside.

When the handles are turned, the centre shaft inside will push the split ring, which in turn pushes out the BB cup. Easy!

This tool works very well, as there are ball bearings at the handle side to ensure smooth rotation. Instead of hammering the BB out, the tool steadily pushes the BB cup out evenly and smoothly. I am very impressed with how well it works! This tool can be easily used by just one person, with no loud hammering needed and almost no risk of frame damage.

When the BB cup is removed, there is no visible damage, unlike when the hammering tool is used. This allows the press fit BB to be reused if you wish to.

Installing the BB is somewhat similar to existing tools, using appropriately sized adapters to fit the press fit BB. Rotate the handles to press in the BB smoothly.

During installation, the tool cup guides the threaded rod on the other side when pressing in the BB.

This press fit BB tool is highly recommended, there is no reason to use the hammering type of BB tool when this better tool is available.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Bestrider Pump Pro 16: Stem Upgrade + Exploration

This is probably the last upgrade post for this Bestrider Pump Pro 16 that I will be writing in a while. Starting from the stock bike, the drivetrain was upgraded from single speed to a 3 speed internal hub system. The tires were changed to slick type for lower rolling resistance, while the saddle and seat post were also changed to allow saddle position adjustment.

Now, I will be changing the stem, to improve the handling of this bike. I placed a GoPro on the stem cap of the bike, to record some riding videos from my kid's point of view. It is very interesting, and I found that the handlebar swerves left and right quite a bit even when riding in a straight line.

As I am unable to ride the bike myself to check the geometry, I suspect that this could be due to sensitive steering. It could be due to insufficient trail on the fork or some other geometry problem. Instead of being able to self-center when riding the bike in a straight like, the steering might be too sensitive, requiring constant input and correction to prevent it from steering towards the left or right side. I encountered this issue when I used a handlepost that was too short on the United Trifold.

Stock setup with a super short stem, MTB style.

The stock stem is super short, which may contribute to the sensitive steering condition. I decided to swap the stem to a longer one to see if it improves the situation. As the reach is not too far for my kid, this change of stem length should be OK.

Stock stem length is 35 mm

I have a few spare stems of various lengths, and I found one that may be suitable. This is a 60 mm FSA stem that I used on my Avanti Inc 3 bike 5 years ago.

Going to try this 60 mm FSA stem on the Bestrider Pump Pro 16 kids bike.

Side by side comparison of the stems. The stock 35 mm stem is a lot chunkier with excess material everywhere.

Stock 35 mm stem weighs 121 grams, which is considered heavy as it is a very short stem.

60 mm FSA stem weighs less at 115 grams.

Unfortunately it is not a straightforward stem swap, as the handlebar clamp area is of a different diameter. The stock 35 mm stem has a handlebar clamp of diameter 25.4 mm, which is why I got a 25.4 mm carbon handlebar during the earlier upgrade.

However, the FSA 60 mm stem has a larger and more common 31.8 mm clamp diameter, which is normally used with modern wider MTB handlebars and road drop bars.

I had a few options here. I could get a new 60 mm stem with 25.4 mm clamp diameter, but this is probably hard to find. An alternative is to find a new 31.8 mm handlebar, but I didn't want to do that as this handlebar is very new.

So, I chose the easy way out which is to use a handlebar spacer to enable the 25.4 mm handlebar to fit into the 31.8 mm stem clamp. This spacer will go around the handlebar, boosting its diameter to match the larger stem.

Handlebar spacer with an internal diameter of 25.4 mm and external diameter of 31.8 mm.

Weight of 32 grams for this spacer, which unfortunately means added weight.

Finally, I did a weight comparison before and after the stem change. Due to the stem height, there was a change of the stem spacers used as well.

Stock setup is 141 grams with the short 35 mm stem and aluminium stem spacers.

New setup is slightly heavier at 156 grams, inclusive of the handlebar spacer. Th use of carbon stem spacers help to reduce the weight increase.

New 60 mm FSA stem installed with the handlebar spacer, and also with carbon stem spacers used this time. Check out the PRO GoPro mount which is the stem cap.

Out for a ride at Marina Bay Sands!


Lovely view of the skyline and also the bikes.

Beside the Merlion

With this slightly longer stem, I noticed that the handlebar wobbling is greatly reduced. This longer stem is helping to stabilize the steering geometry and making it less sensitive. Not only that, it gives a more sporty feel as the reach is slightly increased. Both myself and my kid are very happy with this bike!