18 February, 2020

A Future-Proof Polyvalent Touring Bike with Downtube Shifters

by Igor

This Polyvalent build was a lot of fun. I think this is the quintessential touring bike that straddles old and new, practical and elegant, modern and timeless. There isn't anything particularly special about it, but that's the beauty of this composition. It just works and will be dependable for years and years to come.

Let's begin at the drivetrain and gears. Touring bikes should be geared properly because you're either going to be doing a lot of walking or a lot of coasting. Basically, your setup should be wide enough that you can climb most any hill, but also tall enough that you aren't really running out of gear. So while 1x drivetrains definitely have their place in the bikepacking and mountain biking world, I think in traditional touring and Sport Touring, the 2x compact/subcompact really is king.

Most recently, I've been working on builds that are fairly complicated. Well, not as complex as triathlon and full suspension bikes, but still they feature hydraulic brakes, integrated shifters, cables and hoses running every which way. Narrower 11 and 12 speed cassette spacing means your cable tension, derailleur hanger, and limit screws must be perfect, and your front derailleur needs to be perfectly aligned, so your shifting is perfect. The Microshift 9 speed Advent Rear Derailleur is a breath of fresh air. It's easy to set up and the clutch is really a bonus to navigate the rough stuff.

The front derailleur doesn't have the most elegant cable routing but it is very functional and it shifts well. Additionally, the curvature of the cage is the perfect match for our 50.4 46/30t Crankset, so it really looks buttoned up.

11sp Dia-Compe Downtube Shifters pull the derailleurs around. Shifting is clean and easy. I had almost forgotten how much I like good downtube shifter setups. While I could have gone for the regular (non 11sp) version, I may go to 11sp or 10sp Shimano in the future. Interestingly enough, if you want to talk future-proofing, these downtube shifters are gold. They work with every 10 and 11sp rear derailleur.

The cockpit is our Nouveau Randonneur Bars and the brake levers are an aero offering from Shimano. I have always been a fan of these. The profile is slender, medium amount of hood length, great lever throw, and they do not overwhelm the appearance of the front end of the bike.

The tape is a sample. It has a nice texture and thickness, but I'm a bit skeptical of its longevity. We have two other samples we're currently testing that we really, really like. Stay tuned.

A Removable Faceplate Quill Stem secures the handlebars to the threaded fork.

Braking is handled by my favorite mechanical brakes, the TRP Spyres. They are super easy to set up and braking power is great once the pads are bedded in.

Clean, internal routing for the rear brake.

The Polyvalent prefers a front-bias, so a Campeur Front Rack handles the load of both a Randonneur Handlebar Bag and panniers. Be sure to check out this blog post I wrote a while ago about Front Loading Basics if you're front-load curious.

The front fender is mounted directly to the underside of the front rack so that the fender is secure over washboard trails.

The wheelset is our 26" Voyager Rims laced to our Disc Touring Hubs. They're all wrapped up in Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass 26x2.3" Tires. While the tires are exceptionally smooth over gravel and are lightweight, we find they need to be set up tubeless for durability. 

When setting them up with Orange Seal (our preferred sealant) you'll likely need to use a lot more sealant than you think since the sidewalls will both weep and absorb a lot of sealant. I think I ended up using about 7 oz of sealant per tire to have a reserve of sealant inside. As a reference, a 26" mtb tire needs about 3oz. The cost of suppleness.

The Day Tripper Saddle Bag houses all of my tools, tube, and repair bits and bobs I may need out on the trail. By the way, the next round of Day Trippers will have new YKK buckles (not pictured) that will be easier to open and close when using bulky gloves.

And the Randonneur Handlebar Bag is convenient for quick access to my camera, snacks, extra layers, and the like.

Lastly, the fenders are our 650b Smooth in Polished Silver which also have a great radius for these tires.

Can't wait to take this thing out on some Sporty Tours this season! You can find the full and complete build list here, and if you're interested in having us build up something similar, check out our Bike Build Ideas and give us a shout!

11 February, 2020

Fender Mounted Light Bracket for Blinky and Dynamo Lights

By Scott

Introducing the Fender-Mounted Light Bracket, a nifty way to affix a rear light onto your fender! We've stocked the E3 light mounts from Frame Builder Supply for a number of years now. Last fall, Igor and I were talking about light mounts specifically to mount to the rear fender. A lot of us ride with generously sized saddle bags without quite enough room for a seatpost mounted light. Alternately, if you use a rear rack top bag, the bag will likely cover the light. We find that mounting the light elsewhere like a dropout or seatstay is too exposed, or will be covered up by panniers.

So we took a couple of the E3 mounts that we sell and looked at the rear of the Polyvalent, and what we wanted to see was the light attach to the fender, in a similar way to the reflector we sell, attaching directly to the fender. We mocked some brackets up using scrap paper, and came up with some ideas to send to Tony at FBS. We went back and forth about the measurements and such and voila - a new light mount. The great part is that you can use it for a blinky light or a dynamo light. There is still a slot in the middle of the bracket so the wire can pass through easily.

An added benefit to this setup is the ability to run multiple rear lights. Coming from a randonneuring background, I always had two battery powered lights. For night time riding, having two rear lights really helps. You always kept a spare on hand in case something happened. You could also set them up in different positions, which I found made me more obvious to drivers (I always ran them in solid mode - being in a group of riders with a blinking rear light was seen as impolite as the riders behind you would have their night vision ruined by the constant blinking and power of the light).

I think it looks really cool and certainly makes for a more classy/elegant mounting solution.

Cost is $15.50 ea and can be found on the site here. They're currently only available in Silver.

07 February, 2020

Today's New and Re-Stocked Arrivals

by Igor

Though the weather outside is frightful, we were greeted with a container this morning filled with fresh frames, parts, and accessories!

First, a big thank you for everyone who pre-ordered Neutrinos this go-around. They're currently getting inspected and sent off. If you're outside the lower 48 States, keep an eye on your emails with additional shipping details and if you wanted to get anything else along with your order, let us know.

If you plan to travel with the Neutrino, check out this step-by-step video we made disassembling the bike and putting it into an Odyssey Traveler Bag. We're getting some of these bags next week, hang tight.

Because the Neutrino uses a 31.6 seatpost, we decided to adapt our current Zero Setback integrated clamp design to a 31.6, 400mm Seatpost with Medium Setback. The original design of the Neutrino spec'd a 27.2 seatpost, but with the increased post lenth exposure, we found it a bit too flexy for our liking, thus we went with 31.6 and it was a good choice.

While the seatpost's intended application is for the mini-velo, 31.6 is turning out to be the new standard for stouter bike applications and bikes with dropper posts. It's currently available in Polished Silver and Noir.
The Polyvalent gets a new look wearing Rainbow Sparkle Black paint! All of the specs and geometry remains the same. I can't wait to see these built up! We also still have a few 51cm Polyvalents in Emerald Green on super sale. Get them while you can.

We also still have a few 51cm Polyvalents in Emerald Green on super sale. Get them while you can.

We also restocked on some popular parts and accessories: