Saturday, August 18, 2018

Dahon MuSP: Frame, Fork and Handlepost

Time to start another bike project! This time, it is to build a bike with drop bar, so that it is more efficient for riding fast. Once again, it is not for my own use, as I already have too many bikes.

Main requirements:
1) Blue wheelset
2) Drop bar setup
3) Geometry for shorter rider (1.55m)
4) Di2 electronic shifting
5) Folding bike is preferred for easy storage and transportation

Although these requests does not seem to be restrictive, it is actually not easy to build a bike with all these requirements. Some requirements are easy to fulfill on its own, but if you combine it with another requirement, it becomes much more challenging.

For example, a drop bar setup is easy to fulfill. However, requiring a geometry to suit shorter riders (shorter reach, lower seatpost height, lower stand over height) would usually also mean a folding bike is required, as even small-sized road bike frames have a relatively long reach and stand over height.

The requirement for Di2 electronic shifting is because the rider's hands are small, and it is difficult to push the lever to operate the shifter. Using Di2 electronic shifters would solve this issue, as shifting gears only involves pushing the buttons.

Secondary requirements that result from the main requirements also makes it more challenging to find a suitable frameset. For example, using a drop bar road shifter will mean that the most suitable brakes to use would be standard road caliper brakes or disc brakes. Although disc brakes are nice to have, they add weight and are more difficult to set up. OK for full sized bikes but not for folding bikes.

Most folding bike frames use V brakes, but these are not directly compatible to road shifters due to different cable pull ratios. Although there are adapters such as the Travel Agent, they are not ideal as you can read from my previous experience.

A table which I created long ago to summarize the compatibility

Previously I have also used long reach caliper brakes, so that I can use caliper brakes on 20 inch folding bikes that were not originally designed for caliper brakes. Even if I use 451 wheels on 406 frames, standard reach road caliper brakes cannot reach the rims without a brake pad adapter.

Also, I want to use a frame that can use standard reach road caliper brakes, without needing to use any adapters which will decrease the braking power. Ultimately this means that I need a folding bike frame that is designed to accept standard reach road caliper brakes. This type of folding bike frame is surprisingly rare, but I managed to find one in the Dahon MuSP.

Stock Dahon MuSP9, comes in red or black frame colour

The Dahon MuSP comes stock with a Shimano Sora 1x9 speed setup, with 451 wheels and flat handlebar. Most importantly, it comes stock with a standard road brake caliper setup, which will match perfectly with a drop bar with road shifters.

However, the stock components are not what I am looking for, as I will be installing a 1x11 speed Ultegra Di2 groupset. Therefore what I need is actually just the frameset, without almost all of the components. After buying the whole bike from the bike shop and getting all the components removed, what I have is just the frameset! It is kind of expensive this way, but it is the only way to get a genuine Dahon MuSP frameset.

Dahon MuSP frameset in black colour! Stripped of all the stock components.

This model has all the welds smoothed out as seen here. Hand polished after welding to remove the characteristic overlapping scales of aluminium welding. 

Same for the centre frame joint area. Welds are polished to be smooth.

At the seat tube junction, where the rear seat stays are welded to the main frame.

Model name of this frame is MuSP

Smooth welds even at the bottom bracket junction area

This frame design does not have traditional chain stays, and so it has two large "arms" to act as support for the two seat stays.

Another interesting characteristic of this frame, other than the smooth welds, is the internal cable routing! This is not common among folding bikes, due to the need for the cables to move during folding. Although internal cable routing has the potential to make the cabling look neater on the bike, it will also make it more difficult to set up the cable routing.

The cables enter the main frame near the head tube area, through the centre frame joint, and out to the rear brake caliper and the rear derailleur. In this case, the biggest challenge is routing the cables through the centre frame joint, as it will open up and fold. How does Dahon prevent the cables from getting overstretched or bunching up during folding and unfolding respectively?

By encasing the cables in a metal coil, it helps to protect them during folding and unfolding, as shown below. This metal coil is actually just a metal spring that guides the cables internally across the centre frame joint.

Metal coil running across the centre frame joint, with the cables enclosed inside.

Frame weight (inclusive of headset cups, seat post clamp, rear dropout hanger, seatpost shim)

Strictly speaking, the weight of the headset cups should be deducted from the frame weight. That means the main frame weighs exactly 2400 grams. For comparison, the carbon Java Freccia frame only weighs 1060 grams...

The stock Dahon MuSP aluminium fork does not have smooth welds. However, the road caliper brake mounting hole is special and not found on other forks.

Front fork weighs 480 grams

Weight of the steel compression bolt weighs 45 grams

Although the Dahon MuSP already comes stock with a handlepost, I think it is not suitable for mounting a drop bar. First, the stock handlepost uses a quick release clamp, which means that it is difficult to get sufficient holding torque on the drop bar. Second, the stock handlepost is relatively tall (around 31.5cm from my estimate), which puts the handlebar quite high up.

Since this bike needs to be sized for a shorter rider, the saddle height will also be lower. It will be strange and not ergonomic if the handlepost was tall, while the saddle position is low. Therefore, a shorter handlepost will work better to follow the lower saddle height.

Other than reducing the handlepost height, the reach from the saddle to the handlebar also needs to be reduced. My idea for reducing the reach for this folding bike is to follow the example that I used on the Dahon Vitesse last time, which is to put the handlebar behind the clamp on the handlepost. This means that a stem is required to offset the handlebar position behind the centre of the handlepost.

To do that, I decided to get a shorter handlepost with a T-shaped top, similar to what I had for the Dahon Vitesse, but shorter. This was because when I previously used the 31.5cm T-shaped handlepost, I had to position the stem angled downwards, to put the handlebar in a lower position.

Previous setup used on the Dahon Vitesse, to reduce the handlebar reach.

Comparing the stock Dahon handlepost (left) with the new T-shaped Fnhon handlepost (right).

Measuring the length of the handlepost, starting from the joint line at the bottom clamp area.

This T-shaped Fnhon handlepost is 27cm in length, which is exactly what I wanted.

It was not easy to find this handlepost on Taobao, as it has a rare combination of features.

1) T-shaped
2) Short (27cm or so)
3) Inward folding

Most handleposts (Dahon or Fnhon or otherwise) can fulfill 2 out of 3 of these requirements, but not all 3. The inward folding requirement is so that I can fold down the handlepost and handlebar in a special way, to reduce the folded size even though it has a drop bar. This method only works if you have an inward folding handlepost.

This handlepost is the lightest that I have used, at just 494 grams. It is even lighter than the 4 bolt, 27cm Fnhon handlepost that I previously used on the Dahon Boardwalk.

With the frame selection complete, we can now move on to the other components. The difficulty is not over yet, as I need to run a Di2 setup on this Dahon MuSP frame, which was not designed for Di2, plus the challenge of internal cable routing!

As for the blue wheelset requirement, we shall take a closer look when we study the wheelset.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers

While ordering the DropStop chainring from Wolftooth recently, I took the chance to include a new tool from Wolftooth with the same order.

As chain quick links are becoming more common, I found that these quick links are also becoming harder to open by hand. Many years ago, when I first used a quick link on a 9 speed chain, it was still possible to open the link by hand, as it is not so tight after installation. However, with the latest 11 speed quick links, these links are very tight and quite impossible to open by hand.

If you do need to open a quick link when you are out riding, it will be very difficult if you don't have the proper tools. This tool from Wolftooth aims to solve that problem, by creating a portable quick link tool that also has multiple other functions.

Pack Pliers from Wolftooth, which is primarily a quick link tool. There are other colours offered for the gold coloured bolt in the middle.

Other than opening and closing quick links, it can also store quick links, open Presta valve cores, while also acting as a tire lever.

Overview of the Pack Pliers

The Y-shaped slot is designed to fit around a Presta valve core, if you need to tighten it while on the go. It is useful as I have encountered situations where the valve core loosened when unscrewing a pump head.

Tip of the plier is designed to open or close a quick link, or to clamp anything if needed. I expect it could be used to hold or rotate a nut if needed.

Weighs 38 grams, with no chain quick links included.

The lever body has space to hold two pairs of quick links, via a round magnet in the middle. Quite innovative I must say. The magnet also holds the other arm of the lever closed.

With this additional tool, it improves the ability of the tool kit to deal with most situations that we might encounter while out riding. The most significant addition is the ability to open or close quick links easily, while the other function is to tighten a loose valve core. I will not need to use the tire lever function as I have a pair of Schwalbe tire levers for that.

With the addition of this Pack Pliers, the tool kit on my Canyon Endurace now weighs 518 grams.

500+ grams is a big addition to a road bike, but I know it is necessary if I want to be prepared to deal with mechanical issues on the road. The contents of this tool kit are:

1) Wolftooth Pack Pliers with 1 pair of quick link
2) Schwalbe tire levers x 2
3) 700C Inner tube
4) CO2 cartridge + valve
5) Topeak portable chain tool
6) Park Tool tire patch and inner tube patch
7) Topeak portable tools
8) Cash
9) Cable ties

If you add a half-full water bottle to the bike, the total additional weight of the tool kit plus water bottle plus Lezyne portable pump would be around 1.1 kg. Add the rear lights, front lights, cycle computer + mount, 2 x bottle cages and it is probably another 400 grams.

This means that even a relatively lightweight road bike of 7kg (without pedals, 7.4kg with pedals) will finally weigh something like 8.9 kg with all the accessories included. Not lightweight any more, so unless you want to take the risk of going without tools or lights or water bottle, this is additional weight that you have to carry around.

In comparison, this additional 38 grams from the Pack Pliers is nothing!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Canyon Endurace: XTR Trail SPD Pedals PD-M9020

I have been using the A530 pedals for many years. It is a versatile pair of pedals, as it has SPD on one side and a flat platform on the other side. This is very useful as it allows me to ride both in my SPD shoes or in my slippers. Very useful on my multi purpose bikes as I sometimes do take it on short rides where I am not in my cycling gear.

However, I realized that ever since I got my Canyon Endurace road bike, I only ride it on the road, and it is always with my SPD cycling shoes. On shorter rides, I will just use another bike, such as the Dahon MuEX or the Brompton M6R.

In this case, I don't need the flat pedal side on the Canyon road bike. To improve the chances of clipping in from 50% to 100%, I decided to change to a pair of pedals that has dual sided SPD, so that I don't need to flip the pedal to the correct side before clipping in.

I am not a fan of road SPD-SL pedals as I cannot walk properly in those shoes. I already find it slippery to walk on normal SPD shoes on tiled floors, walking in road SPD-SL shoes will make it even more dangerous. That is why I prefer to use the MTB type of SPD shoes and pedals.

MTB dual sided SPD pedals are quite common, now I just need to choose the one which I like. I was deciding between the Deore XT and the XTR pedals, but decided to get the XTR just because it looked nicer. Of course, it is more expensive, but the difference is not that great.

XTR Trail pedals, PD-M9020.

These pedals have a pedal body around the SPD mechanism, to make it easier to find the pedal and to have a more stable pedaling surface.

Weighs 372 grams for the pair, which is just slightly lighter than the 380 grams of the A530 pedals. Quite good considering that it now has two sides of the heavy SPD mechanism instead of just one side.

The stamped metal surface apparently has a Teflon coating on it, to minimize mud build up and to assure smooth clipping in and out. The colour is a bit different from standard SPD mechanisms.

Slim spindle body for lightweight and sleek appearance.

Aluminium pedal body with the XTR logo visible from the side.

Machined pedal surface to mate precisely to your shoes for a stable pedaling platform.

Comparing the size of the A530 pedals on top with the new XTR pedals below. The XTR pedals look much more lightweight!

Comparing the width, the XTR pedals are narrower, with a more premium looking spindle.

The pedal body on the XTR pedals are slightly longer than the A530 pedals.

Due to the dual sided SPD mechanism, the XTR pedals are thicker. However, the actual platform height (distance from SPD mechanism to centre of spindle) is lower on the XTR pedals.

Comparing the side profile

Model number is laser marked on the XTR pedals, and cast out on the A530 pedals.

Finally, installed on the Dura-Ace R9100 cranks!

Dura-Ace with XTR, not a common combination.

As seen on the Canyon Endurace!

The new pedals clip in and out so smoothly and crisply, while the dual sided SPD mechanism means that I don't need to flip the pedal to the correct side before clipping in. Works really well and looks really good!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shimano Deore XT Trekking SPD Pedals PD-T8000

On mountain bikes, either SPD pedals or flat pedals are used, depending on the rider's preference. For flat pedals, there will be traction pins on the pedals to enhance grip. This can been seen on the Saint MX80 flat pedals that I installed last time on my Polygon Cozmic CX3.0 mountain bike.

However, one small issue that I have is that sometimes, I want to ride the mountain bike on the road, with my SPD shoes. I cannot do that when the mountain bike has flat pedals as the SPD shoes cannot grip the flat pedals.

On the other hand, when I do go off road on the mountain bike, I prefer to use flat pedals as I want to be able to pull out my foot quickly to touch the ground on more tricky terrain, so that I don't fall over. These flat pedals need to be those with traction pins, for sufficient grip when going off road.

There are some pedals that have SPD on one side, and a flat platform on the other side. However, most of them are only for riding on road, which means that the flat platform side does not have traction pins. An example would be the A530 pedals.

Recently I found that there is one particular pedal that has SPD on one side, and traction pins on the other side. This is perfect for my needs as I can go off road using the platform side with traction pins, and ride on road using my SPD shoes on the SPD side.

Deore XT Trekking pedals, PD-T8000.

With 8 traction pins on one side, and SPD on the other. Perfect for my needs. SH56 SPD cleats and longer traction pins are included.

Clean looking trekking pedal, which combines the best of flat pedals and SPD pedals.

Weighs 426 grams for the pair. Not the lightest, but acceptable for the features that it has.

Closer look at the flat pedal side. Aluminium pedal body is strong and OK for some off road riding.


The traction pins seem a bit short, but you can switch them out to the longer ones if you want.

Standard SPD on the other side

Slim spindle design, similar to that used on high end road pedals.

This is a pedal that is somewhere in between a dual sided flat pedals with traction pins on both side, and a SPD pedal with the SPD mechanism on both sides. It may seem to be a compromise, if you are either a dedicated flat pedal or SPD pedal user. However, if you are an in-between user like me, this is a good pedal combination that gives you the best of both worlds.