Sunday, October 27, 2019

Canyon Endurace: DT Swiss G 1800 Spline DB 25 Gravel Wheelset

The hottest and fastest growing bike segment right now is the gravel riding scene, with almost all bike brands producing their own gravel bike frames for gravel riding.

What exactly is gravel riding? To sum in up in one word: Fun!

Gravel riding! Picture from Scott Sports.

Gravel riding does not mean just riding on gravel, it is broadly defined as going off-road on a road bike. A gravel bike looks 90% like a standard road bike, with drop bars on a road bike frame. However, one key difference here is the type of tire that is used.

For gravel bikes that are designed to go for some light off-road, the tires have some rubber knobs for better traction when going off road, similar to mountain bike tires but with less aggressive treads. The tire width and thus volume is also much larger, from 32 mm wide to even 50 mm wide (2 inches!). Correspondingly, the tire pressure is also much lower, and many people run tubeless setups to improve puncture recovery and increase traction.

Other than the tires, the gearing is also lower, to allow easy pedaling even over steep slopes or rough terrain. A front single (1x) setup is also popular, as wide range cassettes can be used for a wide gear range, even if there are larger steps between gears. This is acceptable as close gear ratios are not so important for gravel riding.

Of course, the frame must be able to support wide tires, the wider the better. In order to get a large and wide tire without increasing the wheel diameter too much, some are using 650b wheels, which are smaller than 700c wheels. These 650b wheels, when matched with large 45 - 50 mm wide tires, have an external diameter similar to 700c wheels with narrower tires.

With wide gravel tires on 650b wheels! Looks really comfortable.

Disc brakes are a given, as that is the only way to allow wide tires and rims on the frame. Caliper brakes are not used as they cannot accommodate wide tires. Besides, hydraulic disc brakes work so much better, especially when going off-road.

And that defines gravel riding! If I were to sum it up in one sentence, it is to ride light off-road trails on a road bike, with some gravel specific components to improve the riding experience and capability of the bike. It is less serious than road riding, where it is usually about going fast and long. It is also less intimidating than serious off-road riding, where it can get very technical and challenging, especially for the unskilled rider.

Most road bikes cannot be converted to gravel bikes, as the frame clearance is too small to fit in wider tires. However, I found that the Canyon Endurace that I have is different!

Being an endurance road bike, it is blessed with larger-than-normal tire clearance. Officially from Canyon, the maximum tire clearance on the Endurace CF SLX frame is 30 mm, but in actual fact, it is much wider. The Canyon Endurace came stock with the Reynolds Assault Limited Edition wheelset, with 28 mm Continental GP4000 tires. As those rims are relatively wide (21 mm), the actual width of the GP4000 tires become about 32 mm in reality. This stock condition  already exceeds the maximum of 30 mm width as claimed by Canyon.

Even so, there is still a good 4-5 mm of clearance on either side of the tire, at the narrowest area (chain stay clearance). At other areas (seat stay, front fork, etc) the clearance is even wider. This is with the 32 mm wide GP4000 tires.

Still a good amount of tire clearance with 32 mm wide GP4000 tires.

With this realization, I had a plan to convert the Canyon Endurace to a gravel bike. Not a serious gravel bike with extra wide tires (>40 mm), as that is not possible, but sort of a light gravel bike with maybe 35 mm wide tires. At the same time, I want to use it as a road bike as well.

Instead of building a completely new gravel bike from scratch, I decided to modify the Canyon Endurace, so that I can swap in a gravel wheelset (complete with tires, cassette, disc brake rotors) and convert it from a road bike to a gravel bike. In other words, I will have a separate gravel wheelset that I can swap in to make it a gravel bike, without touching or adjusting any other parts of the bike.

Is it possible? Let's find out!

My plan is to have a totally independent wheelset, that can be swapped in to the Canyon Endurace, without using any tools. This will allow the bike conversion to be done easily in just a couple of minutes. Details to be shared in later posts.

First, we need a new gravel wheelset! Since a 650b wheelset needs to be paired to a wide tire, it is not possible in my case due to limited frame clearance. Therefore, a 700c wheelset will be used, just with wider tires (as wide as the frame will allow!).

To get more tire volume, a wide rim is recommended, instead of putting a wide tire on a narrow rim and creating a mushroom shape that can be unstable during cornering. Therefore, I looked for a gravel wheelset with wide rims.

As you already know, DT Swiss is one of the leading wheel manufacturing companies, and they recently launched the gravel wheelset lineup. My timing is perfect! There are 3 tiers of gravel wheels from DT Swiss:

GRC 1400: Best hubs, carbon rims, lowest weight.
GR 1600: Good hubs, aluminium rims, mid range offering.
G 1800: Decent hubs, aluminium rims, more budget friendly option. Also the heaviest.

With this 3 tier selection, there is a wheelset to suit different usage and budget. For me, carbon rims are not preferred due to risk of stone damage when riding off-road, and it can become an expensive mistake. The GR 1600 is nice, but still too pricey in this case as I don't need the lightest setup for racing. Therefore I settled for the G 1800 wheelset which is more wallet friendly. At this point, I am still not sure if I will like the gravel setup or not.

DT Swiss G 1800 gravel wheelset, 700c size. 24 spokes each for the front and rear wheels.

Nice decals, similar to other DT Swiss wheels that I have used previously.

Tubeless ready rim tape already installed.

The bead type is hooked, which creates a more secure fit between the tire and the rim. There is a central channel with a smaller diameter to allow the tire to be removed more easily.

Claimed internal rim width is 24 mm! Wider than the 21 mm on the Reynolds Assault wheelset.

Internal rim width is measured to be about 24 mm.

External rim width is measured to be about 28 mm.

Rim height is about 25 mm. No need for a tall rim for aerodynamic advantage as I will mostly be riding slowly on the trail.

Centerlock interface for use with Centerlock disc brake rotors. Much easier to remove and install as compared to 6 bolt rotors. 12 mm E-Thru axle type to match the frame.

11 speed freehub body. Pawl engagement is every 15 degrees (24 clicks per round) which is not so ideal. 12 mm E-Thru axle type to match the frame.

Front wheel weighs 864 grams, which is about 100 grams more than the 763 grams of the Reynolds Assault front wheel.

Rear wheel weighs 1005 grams, which is about 130 grams more than the 874 grams of the Reynolds Assault rear wheel.

The total wheelset weight is thus 1869 grams, which is considered quite heavy. For now, it is OK as I am just trying out gravel riding, trying to see if it is what I like. Next time, I will upgrade to a lighter wheelset if I plan to ride gravel for the long term.

This G 1800 wheelset comes with all the attachments and adapters that you need, to make it compatible to virtually every road bike frame.

Adapter contents:
1) 6 bolt to centerlock adapters
2) Front wheel adapter for 15 mm E-Thru axle type
3) Front wheel adapter for 5 mm Quick Release axle type
4) Rear wheel adapter for 5 mm Quick Release axle type
5) SRAM XD Driver for rear wheel + end cap
6) Tubeless valves

Next time, if I want to use a SRAM XD cassette, or use the wheelset on other bike frames, it is possible with the use of these adapters.

Next, we need to get the correct gravel tires, but that is a story for the next blog post...

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Bike Friday HaD: Portable Tools and DIY Roller Wheels

Finally, to make the Bike Friday Haul-A-Day cargo bike ready for active service, I need to add some tools to make it self sufficient, in case something happens while out riding. Then, to make it easier to wheel the bike around when in the vertical position, I added some roller wheels to solve this problem.

There are many ways to carry tools on the bike, especially on this cargo bike where there is plenty of space. However, as far as possible, I want to avoid using the side bags, and instead fix the tools onto the frame of the bike itself, so that it does not fall out or need to be removed.

As saw earlier when studying the frameset in detail, there is some space at the rear of the frame where a bottle cage can be mounted. This is where a tool bottle can be stored, to hold tools and spares inside, using a bottle cage.

I had this Specialized SWAT EMT tool, for almost a year already. However, I did not get to use it as all my other bikes already have some sort of spares and tools system in place already, and this is an extra set of tools. Now, I have the chance to use this! Let's see how this bottle cage and tool combination works.

Specialized SWAT EMT Tool. Basically the tools can be mounted below the bottle cage.

The portable tool kit, with all the essential tool bits and a holding bracket.

Fixing the tools onto the holding Bracket. It was a little tricky mounting everything onto the frame, together with the bottle cage.

The bottle cage, together with the tools, is mounted at the bottom side of the frame. This creates space for mounting other accessories on top.

Other than having spare tools for making adjustments, there are a few things needed to repair a puncture. Tire levers, spare inner tube, and an air pump. These three parts are essential, because if one part is missing, the other two are useless.

The tire lever and the spare inner tube can be stored in the tool bottle, but I need to find some space to install a portable pump. I am not able to install the pump mount directly to the mounting holes, as there is interference with the frame. 

Looking through my spare parts, I found the Shimano Bottle Cage Adapter, SM-BA01. This will allow the bottle cage holes to be offset, so that I can mount the portable pump on the frame.

Using the bottle cage adapter to offset the bottle cage holes, so that I can mount the Lezyne Pressure Drive onto the frame. This pump was previously mounted on the Brompton M6R.

With all the tools mounted together on the frame! This is additional weight, but since they are fixed to the bike, I will not need to remember to bring them every time.

With the portable tools mounted successfully, I can now focus on the last outstanding issue at hand, which is also the most tricky.

Whenever I need to bring the bike out of the house to ride, I need to wheel the bike vertically into the elevator. The problem is, when the bike is vertical, it is very difficult to move the bike, as it is heavy and there are no roller wheels.

There is no ready made solution, and so I have to create my own DIY system to allow the bike to be rolled around easily when vertical. After testing a few different ideas and configurations, this is the final setup that works well.

The parts needed to make one side of the roller wheels. 2 sets are needed since 2 roller wheels are necessary to balance the bike.

These parts are specifically chosen to work with each other, with the most difficult one being finding suitable roller wheels.

The roller wheels need to be the non-swiveling type, with mounting holes. They also cannot be too big or too small. Then, the holes on the mounting plates should match the holes on the bracket of the roller wheels. Finally, the black bracket is used to stabilize the roller wheels so that they don't move around when under load.

Final setup shown here. Looks quite elaborate, but it is necessary to ensure that the roller wheels are well supported from all load directions.

The roller wheels are clamped onto the frame, using 2 sets of plates, plus standard bolts and nuts.

One of the set of plates has an L-bend, which is then clamped with the black bracket. This prevents the plate and thus the roller wheels from collapsing when under sideways load.

Finally, the black bracket is secured onto the bottom of the frame, with 2 adapters to allow the diameter 31.8 mm bracket to be secured onto the frame (about diameter 25 mm).

Another view of the plates holding the roller wheels onto the frame.

Another view of the roller wheels.

Roller wheels plus the ends of the wraparound bars supporting the full weight of the bike when placed vertically. This is also the condition during vertical storage.

These roller wheels are not of really good quality, as they are simply plastic wheels with no bearings or rubber coating. The metal sidewalls holding the roller wheels are quite thin as well.

I would say that the weak point in this setup are the roller wheels, as the wheels are not of good quality. However, I could not find any other better roller wheels with suitable dimensions for mounting.

Initially I found that the roller wheels cannot roll smoothly when under load, which happens when the bike is being moved around in the vertical orientation. However, after I added some oil to the roller wheel axles, they became a lot smoother.

With the roller wheels, I can now wheel the bike vertically without any trouble. It is a lot easier compared to without roller wheels. The bike is now completed, with no planned additions or modifications in the near future.

Roller wheels seen at the back of the bike

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Bike Friday HaD: Side Bags, Lights, Mudguards

Other than the accessories for carrying the child, there are also other accessories which are necessary for safety and comfort. On the Bike Friday Haul-A-Day cargo bike, there are massive side bags available for carrying cargo. These bags will also be useful when bringing the kid around, as their legs can slot inside the bags.

Big side bags by Bike Friday, which are specially designed for this bike. Weighs almost 600 grams for the pair.

Side bags mounted, one on each side. Other than hauling cargo, it also prevents the child's legs from touching the rear wheel.

When not in use, it does not add to the bike width at all. The widest part of the bike, other than the handlebars, will be the kick stand and wraparound bars.

The bags are ideal for the child's feet to rest inside, to secure the legs and help the child to stay balanced and upright.

These side bags can expand a lot, and can fit even a big school bag such as this.

When parked vertically, the side bags will more or less keep their shape. However, small items will fall out from the back as the rear of the bag is not fully covered.

When the bike is vertical, the holes at the rear of the side bag will allow items to fall out.

The side bags are super useful, as they can carry a lot of things with no fuss. Helmets, kick scooter, big bags, etc, no problem at all!

It is also good to install front and rear lights on the cargo bike, even though it will mainly be used in day time only. You never know when you will end up using it at night when it is dark.

There are many ways to mount a rear light, but I decided to mount it under the metal plate, using a tube to simulate a seat post. It is actually just a QR Axle Extender.

It is bolted to the metal plate via just one screw. Since it is hidden under the cushion, it is no problem.

This rear light is similar to the Moon type, but it is of the Entity brand, which is Polygon's own house brand.

The rear light wraps around the tube using a rubber strap, same as if it is strapped to a seat post.

Rear light is placed in a very visible spot, but it is also well hidden from damage, even when the bike is parked vertically.

Front light is a Moon Nebula W, which is bright and powerful, while also slim and lightweight. It straps onto the handlebar easily with a rubber strap.

Finally, the mudguards will also be installed. Weighs 452 grams for the set including all hardware.

As the SKS mudguards are from Bike Friday, they have been customized to fit the Haul-A-Day nicely, without any further DIY work necessary. Instructions for installation have also been included.

Front mudguard installed, with plenty of tire clearance. Spacers are needed under the bolts, to create clearance with the brake calipers.

Rear mudguard installed. Quite tricky to install with the rear wheel and side bags in place though.

No issue bringing along a kids bike as well!