Build, Bodges, Conversions and Crashes

Back in the summer, I went to one of the well known UK outdoor retailers. They had on display Kona DEW. You can clearly see where they cut the price. The tyres, drivetrain, wheels and brakes are the cheapest of the cheapest.

We starred with my son at the bike and we couldn’t figure out who might be the “target group” for bike like that. Commuter? Maybe. Anyway, the bike was ex-display, they knocked off £100 to (almost acceptable) £399, and suddenly I’ve seen this bike with dropped handlebars as 650 gravel bike. So, after selling my old road bike and parts from the Kona, I ended up having frameset (with stem and seatpost), plus £410 for the rest of jewellery to figure out. All ended with a mixture of components: (used) hydraulic Shimano shifters, Deore callipers, GRX rear derallieur, 11-42 SunRace casette, KMC chain and China special crankset (snail) ;-).

I exceeded the £410 slightly shy of £100, which I think is pretty good (some parts I had already: hubs, saddle, handlebar).

In natural environment on nice day…
and on normal day 😉

Some challenges I had with the build below

Crankset. I had a bit of a struggle with that. Tested road crank Shimano 105, with chain line 43.5mm, seemed perfect in terms of chainline, but pedals were hitting chainstays (just shy of 2mm each side). Not good.

Then GRX crank has been purchased. Rather expensive piece of kit (but looking awesome). Unfortunately I realised too late that the chainline is 50mm.

So, I ended up, buying cheap crank of ebay, which is surprisingly good so far and doesn’t look bad IMHO. (we’ll see how the bottom bracket is holding after UK winter)

Wheels. Yeah, the original were awful. So two things came together. I had rear hub already lying around and the front hub became free in the meantime :-]

DT Swiss G540 rims plus spokes have been ordered. All laced and old crap wheels sold covering the cost of spokes ;-). There you go. Tubeless setup WTB horizon on DT Swiss rims. Sweet.

Loose bottle cage mount. Bloody annoying, but discovered at the end of the build, so all sold, stripped = no warranty. Have a look at the video below. Based on that one I made scaled down “tool” which worked as treat.

My version of the tool from the video.

Basically it’s M4 screw with (from left) M5 nut, washer and M4 nut. Plenty of grease everywhere. Screw everything into cage mount, then holding the screw (in my case with hex key), turning M4 screw to pull the barrel of the rivet until all feel stiff.

Frame drilling. Bike down tube is not welded completely to bottom bracket leaving gap for cables (see the photo below). Tube has welded stoppers and inner shifter cables routed inside naked. So, then exposed at the bottom bracket and routed through cable guide. Why to bother hiding cables and then exposing them again in most awkward place, where mud is sprayed from front wheel? I drilled stoppers inside the frame and put whole length of housing to rear mech, and as I haven’t got front dérailleur the same procedure has been applied to the other side and brake hose has been routed inside down tube as well. Voila!

cable stoppers has been drilled to pass through whole cable
Down tube join bottom bracket (cable guide removed)

Tyres. That was a bit weird one. Apparently the original tyres are not tubleless ready… but who cares, right? I put some soapy water around to bead them down on the rims easier first time, and then I spotted this:

The air is leaking through the wall ;-).

Then I spotted this on the other tyre:

The bead is made not on the edge of rubber

After a bit of fight and I beaded that one as well. I put sealant in, TADA! (BTW sealant did the trick sealing inside walls as predicted). I convinced myself all is ok, went for test ride and… surprise surprise, the tyre went bang 5km from home, leaving bushes on the side of the trail in “white x-mas mode”, plus me walking back home. Basically the tyre slipped from the rim, CO2 didn’t help this time and I took Schrader valve innertube having Presta drilled rims. Dick.

Quick email to WTB, explaining what has happened. They informed me that actually these tyres are not tubeless ready, but as this one is defective and visibly jumping up and down on a rim, so they sent me proper foldable 650 horizon as replacement. Amazing. Thanks WTB!

BTW. When I put new one on the air is just leaking like mad through side walls same way. No idea why they’re designed like that. Anyway as always sealant did the trick.

At the moment I’m waiting for a pair of WTB Sendero in same size (riding in Dorset became a bit challenging on slicks), so keep tuned.

Brakes. In case you wondering if Shimano Deore callipers work with Shimano road shifters. Yes, they are work ok, but… there is extremely small gap between disk and pads. I mean really almost no room for rotor play.

There you go, swapped to gravel from road without regrets and braking the bank.

Keep them rolling!

Spoke calculators which I’m usually using:

diy camping air pump

It’s quite an old idea, not mine, you can google it or go here, here or here to see how other people doing it. Below my variation of same old trick. The biggest benefit IMHO is that the moisture is not building up inside air bed, and obviously is super quick. You can still splash £30 on Thermarest NeoAir Mini Pump if you like, but that’s couple bottles of wine or new Schwalbe Marathon (plus beer for fitting procedure), or 6 bags of coffee… all above better than another unnecessary gizmo.

I cut threaded part of bottleneck from PET bottle and make hole in the cap

from piece of plastic (ice cream box or sth) a circle has been cut same diameter as bottle neck with hole inside, which makes kinda washer

3 inch piece of road (18-25c) inner tube for nozzle

inserted plastic “washer” into inner tube

like so…

everything put back together

I made a hole in plastic bag and put nozzle through

to seal the connection, wrapped a piece of velcro ( might be a rubber band or something)

alternatively the bag can be trapped underneath cap, just screw the bottleneck in

now you can “grab” some air with the bag and squeeze it into sleeping mat. Once technique is mastered should be a bliss. On the picture is Big Agnes Air Core and took about a minute to inflate it. Basically 3 bags of air squeezed in, job done. The small rubber o-ring I added for extra grip on the valve.


Avenir front rack (plus Ortliebs)


I had couple thoughts about distributing weight on the bike. I’ve been thinking about Salsa anything cage with some dry bags. Neat solution, quite like it, but will be a bit tricky to attach it to the fork in my case. What I really don’t like is the price for whole setup. One Salsa Cage in is UK £29 (need two). On top of that is pair of fancy Salsa bags or other dry bags (Porcelain Rocket) with size suitable for the cage, or DIY something.

Other option was Blackburn Outpost cargo cage. This one is around £17 per one. That’s better. Acceptable price, but again, a bit problematic to attach to my fork.

Finally I gave up and started looking for standard front panniers and rack. I’m not really original and went for Ortlieb. As I don’t really see the point paying more for Classic model, I bought “Front City”. Minimalistic design waterproofness guaranteed by Ortlieb and costs 51 quid per pair. Good.

Then I had a bit of dilemma with front rack. I found quite a lot of different designs, but really liked Avenir front rack. Googled about 2 days tried to find any information about dimensions and if they’re compatible with Ortliebs. No luck. The other thing to consider was compatibility with disc brakes. Anyway I decided to purchase the rack and try. I can always return if won’t be possible to fit them. Turned out the rack fits perfectly Ortlieb panniers. So just in case someone is searching for dimensions here we are:


IMG_1004 IMG_1003


Two things you might don’t like. At first of all there’s no front joining so theoretically they can be “sucked” by front wheel and cause very nasty OTB. But I think as I have mudguards, the mudguard stays will be enough to prevent this from happening.

Once I checked the panniers fit and brakes won’t be a big problem, started to think how to securely attach them to fork. As I expected none of the fittings were ok for my setup and probably most bicycles will have same problem. The internet is full of similar stories as below:

“This front rack is great if you have very thin front forks, otherwise they just will not fit. I am ashamed to say that I resorted to hammering the fixing to make them fit and put dents in the front forks. If you are ordering online check and check again all measurements……now they fit and are very solid indeed !!! “

Well…, the guy gave 2 stars rating the product. On the other hand I’m just wondering why Avenir decided to give only small brackets (U bolts), which  in most cases won’t fit? Why they didn’t supply with another, bigger set of U bolts? Or just simply bigger U bolt? Cost for end customer will be probably around +£1.20. Strange.

Anyway at first of all, I needed bigger U bolt. as the one supplied originally with rack was way too small for my fork (the one suplied it’s really 20mm across, nonsense unless you’re owner of old steel frame). After measuring the fork 5 times I purchased suitable U bolt stainless steel 6mm (6 quid) 37mm across. Put some heat-shrink to protect fork. And here we are.

IMG_0977 IMG_0989

Next I made two spacers instead of original one. The spacers are made of 5mm thick plastic. I’ve chosen the plastic as is incredibly easy to work with, but that can be done using alloy bar or something else.

IMG_1009 IMG_1010 IMG_1011

The mudguard stays eyelets are “sandwitched” between slightly oversized washers (I decided to use same threads as for mudguard stays).


The other option for using mounting points only for rack only is Axiom axle runners or DIY similar thing from alloy sheet (might actually try it for my other bike which hasn’t got eyelets at all)

34954 diyr2 ditr1

Everything mounted, medium thread lock applied on all bolts. Done

IMG_1014 IMG_1017

Keep’em rolling. Cheers.

Polaroid cube (thoughts and a bit of diy)

I grabbed one, just before going to Gran Canaria this year. Main purpose is to shot some picture/videos underwater, as well as some on the bike using it as “action cam”. So this is more like review.

Some facts at first of all. Polaroid is no longer Polaroid as you might remember (at least some old buggers like me). Now is more like mid range Chinese electronic company, but I found quite a bit of sample videos on YT and comparing the price I decided to splash some money and have a go with it.

Camera does exactly what says on the tin. Recording video in 1080/720 (in 5 minutes chunks ~300Mb) and shooting photos in about 5mpix. On the back under small lid is SD card slot, switch 1080/720 and microusb port, on top one button which is used to operate camera (all functions).


Sounds crazy but I think one button operation is brilliant. Whole thing reminds me of an lomo camera and lomography idea. Picture quality is acceptable lets say, and that’s why the connotation with lomography – which is more focused on series of pictures and catching a moment and mood rather than quality. Even among the accessories you can find pendant and have it always handy.

Camera itself is not expensive – about £75 in EU, and comes without any mount at all (apart from magnet on the opposite side to switch button). Adding the mounts, on the other hand, might be a bit expensive affair. Mounts usually £15-18 for strap, helmet, tripod, bumper case and bike mount. Waterproof case is about £20 version with suction cup around £25. So all together, mounts might double the price easy.

These I think, all available mounts at the mo:

In my case the camera been used mostly for taking pictures on a move, snorkelling, cycling and will be used for wind/kite surfing in the future. I decided to slightly cut the costs in terms of mounts. For me one strap mount looked like will do almost all the things I need. I can attach it to helmet, I can attach it to bicycle handlebars (after a bit of tweaking*), I can attach to stick, to boom, etc. Tripod mount? maybe but at the mo I don’t think I’ll need it, suction cup? thank you, but no thank you ;-). Don’t like the idea at all. Anyway, it was unavoidable buying waterproof case, but again I’m able to attach waterproof case to strap mount, sorted. Bumper case? Not really essential thing, but again a piece of inner tube plus carabiner and I’ve got same functionality. So I ended up with standard strap mount and underwater case, plus a bit of diy’ing and it’s covering all usage.

Some samples. (youtube unfortunately cut the quality I’ll try upload again in full hd in the future)

Polaroid CUBE Polaroid CUBE

Polaroid CUBE

Some underwater shots:

Is not really a con but after using it for two weeks I’m really missing intervalometer. I know that’s quite an ask for this kind of camera but anyway that will be quite nice feature. Just shot pictures every two minutes or so.

Camera needs quite a bit of light. Night shots not as nice as in daylight. For me that’s not an issue as it’s used as “action cam” almost exclusively. Haven’t got really a sample in poor light but that can be found on YT.


Light and small. That’s what you need on a bike. Example shoots below. Quite a bit experimenting with different mounts, and I’ve ended up with simple solution attaching the cam underneath my Garmin with simple silicone band which is ultralight 😉

IMG_0871 IMG_0873

Love the one button operation. Intuitive and functional.

Looks like is well build and Polaroid claiming it as “splash proof” which I think is true.

* To attach the strap mount to handlebars I had to make custom adaptor using black Suguru plus short strap which I believe might be even better option than clamp from original bicycle mount. Pictures will tell the story. Basically I’ve used cling film to prevent Suguru sticking to handlebars and camera.

Suguru + cling film + handlebar

everything wrapped in cling film to prevent Suguru sticking to handlebar and mount

a blob of Suguru squashed against handlebar

desired shape with “center point” to prevent sleping the pad from underneath the mount

after 24h hardening

velcro sewed to strap

ready to go

A bit About configuration. Once camera is attached to computer and clean SD card inserted the software is copied to the card as well as directory structure created. At first I was thinking that the only way to configure the camera is to run supplied software (Windows/Mac), but as I’m not using windows I found actually quicker way to do it. In root directory of the card there are two files: settings.txt and time.txt the only thing the supplied software is doing is changing content of those. I found that once camera is connected to pc by supplied cable settings.txt can be easy edited in any text editor and saved. All you need is change UPDATE to Y (yes) and save file.
Structure of the file is quite simple:

0 ~ 1, def:0, 0:60Hz  1:50Hz
0 ~ 1, def:0, 0:Off   1:On
0 ~ 1, def:0, 0:Off   1:On
0 ~ 50, def:5

Four parameters to change and underneath the description.

Time.txt – same thing. Set up date and time in supplied format, switch UPDATE to Y save file job done.

Keep’em rolling


Sealed gear cables on cheap

After a few mucky rides this winter I decided to try sealed gear cables. Instead of splashing 100odd quid on fancy Nokon system I’ve tried figure out how to make it cheap.

I used Shimano Shimano SIS SP41 with “long nose” (about £1.4 each) plus Nokon teflon liner (£11 for 5m – enough for two bikes maybe three) and standard gear cables set from Shimano (about £14-17).

There is two most problematic points: bottom bracket cable guide and rear dérailleur ferrule mount an chainstay so the idea was to make the gear cables running “inside a pipe” all the way from levers to mechs.

At first I,ve fitted handlebar parts of cabling as usual, and instead of standard ferrules I’ve used “nosed ones”.

The bike is upside down as it was more convenient to clean/fit bottom bracket guide.

Then I measured/cut the liner, fed the inner and put through bottom bracket guide. Beforehand I’ve greased whole inner cables with Rock’n’Roll cable magic.

bb cable guide with fitted Nokon liner


Surprisingly the liner fits inside bottom bracket guide without any modifications.

To seal the connection between ferrules and liner I’ve used heatshrink.

heatshrink in place

rear ferrule shrinked

front ferrule shrinked

Also I’ve used another piece of heatshrink to make “telescopic” connection between liner and inner cable.

partially shrink heatshrink pipe to create “cover” for liner

fitted on the bike

Stuffed with silicone grease to prevent water going in. hard to show on the picture…

For the rear mech I’ve used alloy ferrule with seal (Shimano is adding this to all new cable kits and that suppose to be fitted on chainstay).

a bit of liner added to cover the end of inner cable

testing with highest gear TODO: I need to make similar connection as for front mech

Quite like the look of these liners. Slick, completely black, doesn’t spoil overall look of the bike. Definitely better than exposed cables. Will see in the future how it performs, but so far no problems.

Happy days!

Holowtech 2 (again)

Below you can see my “high tech” tool for changing Shimano Hollowtech 2 bearings. This time I’ve upgraded to cheap and cheerful Chinese ceramic bearings (size: 37x25x6mm; bearing symbol: 6805N). Faster method comparing to old one.

Basically I found piece of alloy pipe (quite hard not sure about the alloy type). I made eight cuts about 20-25mm deep and bent the strips as you can see on the pictures (pic 1, 2, 3) (the hole on the inside of the cup is slightly smaller than inner dimension of the bearing). Couple of gentle taps with hammer to remove plastic dust caps (pic 4, 5), pry off the seal with thin screwdriver (pic 6, 7) and finally not so gently taps to remove bearings. I had two bottom brackets, one was smooth and easy and second required quite a hammering to remove bearings. I’ve cleaned all the parts, the cups with 800 sand paper (pic 8) and greased inside. Pic 9 showing my stack mounted in a vice to press new bearing into the cup. Can be anything just two thick washers and 8-10mm screw. I’m quite lucky to have piece of alloy matching bearing dimensions but outer race from old bearing might be used to press new one (pic 10, 11, 12) (bearing needs to be pressed by outer race).

IMG_0686 IMG_0687 IMG_0689  IMG_0691IMG_0690 IMG_0693 IMG_0694IMG_0699IMG_0700IMG_0696 IMG_0697 IMG_0698

Shimano RT81 Ice-Tec rotor with BB7 caliper

Quick one as promised to give heads up if the marriage is actually possible. Anyway, both of the components are not compatible. Officially. What I’m describing below is (successful) attempt to save my ass, rather than 100% planned action. So if you want to follow me do it on your own risk, and be careful so you can send the rotors back and have a full refund.

The Shimano rotors are stiff and light (due to steel-alloy sandwich technology and thick alloy spider). In my opinion the price (£21) is reasonable for the quality.


In my case the alloy spider was the only problem. Shimano have completely different calliper system, where pads are fit from the top, and they’re combined with bigger plates and heatsinks (quite neat system, just wondering how effective).


as you see below Avid got completely different system:


They have small “handles” to make the pads installation easier. So basically after fitting the rotors I realised why they won’t fit. At first glance is visible that the only problem is right pad. The small “handle” is overlapping about 2mm the spider arms. Scratched my head, pull out hacksaw and I’ve cut it. I deliberately left about 4mm to leave something I can grip on with pliers in the future.


And voilà! Slightly forced but marriage is possible ;-). The spider is just missing the calliper about a 1mm or so, phew! Quite lucky escape, but judging from scratches on the rotor, in worst case an extra washer (added underneath the calliper) will do the job in case of too small clearance.


The only problem might be removing the right pad with fingers but you can easily remove them with pliers.

Basically, handlebar change (to road one) forced me to install mechanical brakes I’ve chosen Avid BB7. Then I didn’t want to buy Shimano centerlock to 6 bolts adaptors (SM-RTDA10) but also didn’t want to pay 40 quid for one Avid rotor. So I’m aware that I created the whole situation by myself ;-). Anyway strange exercise, but with happy ending.

Keep’em rolling.