Friday, April 3, 2015
The thought of building a 20er has been brewing for a long time. However, I wanted it to be a bit special. Unlike the Vert commuter bike, this one needs to be a bit more serious; it should be an alternative to the bigger bikes with minimal differences in feel. To make a 20er feel like a 26er or 29er is not an easy task but with the Java Sports bike, I think I did not missed the mark too much. While the wheels may be smallish, the frame is actually not very different from a standard 26er. Tubes are extended where necessary to suit the geometry. Standing over the bike, you will not notice much difference when compared to the bigger bike.
The cockpit area is purposely kept simple. An 8-speed Shimano Alivio rear shifter changes the gears effectively. The initial build had a 10 speed transmission with Shimano Tiagra flat bar shifters but the chain line of a 10 speed derailleur was too wide to complement the front chainring. Shifting was very poor and luckily, there was a spare 8 speed set-up in my parts bin. The brake levers are Shimano Tiagra brake levers designed to complement road bike brakes. Lest you think any brake levers can be used with any brakes, you are wrong. If you want your brakes to work efficiently, always use the correct brake levers for the brakes on your bike.
The wheels are 406 Xero shod with Schwalbe Marathon Plus 1.75 tyres. I could have gone with 451 wheels with skinny tyres for better speed but since the bike is also designed for long distance rides, comfort was important. The Schwalbe tyres have a layer of foam for protection against punctures and provide some cushioning but it also slows down the bike considerably. The feedback is also not great and you can feel the drag as you move along. I would have them swopped for racier tyres later but for now, they serve their purpose.
The NESS carbon fibre integrated stem and handlebar is light and strong. It looks a bit weird but somehow gives the bike some personality. The problem with such handlebar is mounting lights onto it.
The crankset is from a MIT V8 folding bike. I bought it from a guy who removed it the day he bought the bike so its virtually brand new (you can still see the plastic wrapping). It was for an 8-speed transmission which may account for the reason why it did not work well with a 10-speed rear derailleur. The pedals are from Shimano with a flat side and SPD on the other side. They work great and I will probably replace some of my utility bikes with these pedals.
Microshift rear derailleurs are understated compared to Shimano and SRAM. Fact is, they work very well actually at a fraction of the price of Shimano and SRAM parts. They are still making 7-8 speed derailleurs and thats great if you need a replacement for your old bikes. The shifting is smooth and never skips a beat.
The comfort zone comprised of a Kore 27.2mm I-beam seat post coupled to a SDG saddle. The I-beam system gives good adjustment and saves much weight but saddle selection is rather limited. The SDG saddle is light and comfy.
While others are using multiple small spacers to achieve the length required, I managed to find a 1-piece carbon fibre spacer. It makes the front end look tidy and gives rigidity compared to the multiple spacer configuration.
Hayes mechanical disc brakes looks great in shiny silver. Besides the look, it provides enough braking power. Its not as powerful as Shimano which I used on most of my bikes but I like the look of it.
The rear disc brake was a real pain to fit. The supporting posts on the bike was not aligned and thanks to my own creativity, I was able to solve the problem with half a washer. I am actually quite proud of this!
How many iterations can you do to one bike? Plenty. I have lost count of the number of changes made to the Java and I hope this will be the last. The single speed has been replaced by a 2 x 10 drivetrain. The front crank is now a FSA compact 50/34.
The seat has been replaced by a WTB for weight saving purposes without compromise to comfort.
I put on the front rack to give it some practicality. Besides, the rack was just being wasted in the corner.
I like the new look. It screams, "get out of my way." The only niggle about 20" wheels are that they carry very little momentum and once you stop pedalling, the bike slows down very quickly.
Its a rocket to ride and with its smallish wheels, you can chuck it around. Its a great bike to ride to the hawker centres along the paths.
The Shimano LX brake-shifter combo is finally put to good use. I should have done this much easier because this stuff is great. Smooth, light and the braking is oh so sweet.
In spite of having two chain rings, the crank is actually lighter than the single speed crank it replaced.
As usual, new used components were installed. I firmly believe that you should never have to spend more than necessary to achieve the results you want.