First, let me say that I’ve got lots of bikes. Bikes are like tools, and depending on the job you are trying to do you need to choose the right one. Sometimes a guy needs a lot of tools to choose from. I already have a brevet bike that I love! It’s a Co-motion Nor’wester that I had built for me about 5 years ago. It fits me perfectly and is all I could ask for in a brevet bike. I consider it a “legacy bike” and ride this bike at most brevets and in all of my big events (including PBP in 2007).

We travel to Portland frequently and have a condo there. I like to keep a couple of bikes in Portland so that when I am there I have something to ride without having to transport anything. I haven’t really had a suitable brevet bike there but there is some great riding in the Portland area. Oregon Randonneurs is a very active club and puts on some great events. I decided that I needed to have another brevet bike in Portland so that I could ride more of these events. I felt that I already had one “legacy bike” but to buy another one might be a little over the top, so I decided that I would see what kind of budget brevet bike I could find and set up for my rides in the northwest.

I chose the Surly Pacer as the basis for my experiment. It is a steel frame and has a geometry similar to my Co-motion but with a slightly shorter wheelbase. It has good clearance for larger tires and fenders but comes with a lower end Shimano Tiagra spec. I am a Campy guy but I thought for this bike I could live with Shimano. I bought it through REI and rode it a couple of times before starting the project. It goes pretty well even with the lower end components and I think it will be a good choice. What follows from here is step-by-step account of the changes I will make to this bike to make it suitable for brevet use. I have good mechanical skills and lots of spare parts around and will re-use what I can to keep the cost down. This may in some cases yield less than an ideal result in the end but it will help with the cost. I will also try to account for the costs involved so that you can see what it might take to buy in at the low-end of this sport. You may have to check back periodically on this post to see what updates have been made until the project is complete. It will probably take a few weeks. Your input during the build is encouraged, please feel free to comment on the project.

Step 1

The first thing to do is to put the bike up on the work-stand. This Surly Pacer comes with a pretty basic seat. In the miles I’ve ridden it so far I don’t care for it so that is one of the first things to go. I like Brooks saddles for long rides and I happen to have a spare B17 lying around. I also have a Rock Shock suspension seat post. I like these for long rides, they take a little of the edge off rough roads. They are also pretty light, quite durable and almost maintenance free. I picked this one up on ebay for about $35. These items are easily installed on the bike stand. The wheels come off for the next job while the bike is up.

Step 2

I’ve ridden with generator hub powered lighting systems for about 5 years now. I prefer them with their reliability to all other options so I’ll be installing one on this bike. I happen to have an older Schmidt dyno-hub on hand. I upgraded to a lighter model on another bike and this one was just lying around. I guess it is time to put it back into use.

First, I disassemble the old wheel and prepare the parts. The spokes are good quality DT spokes so I will re-use them. Since the dyno-hub has larger flanges than the original hub the spokes will be too long. I need to cut 5 mm off of the spokes and re-thread them. I have a Hozan spoke threading tool and that work doesn’t take too long.

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Next, I start to build the wheel around the old dyno-hub. Once you get the spoke pattern down it goes pretty quickly. These hubs prefer to rotate in one direction so make sure the electrical connectors are located on the right side.

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Assembly continues until all the spokes are in place. At this point the wheel looks complete but it really is just a collection of loose parts. The spoke nipples need to be tightened up some here to take out some slack.

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Once the wheel is on the truing stand it can be finished properly. I alternate between working on the radial and lateral axes and make many small adjustments rather than large ones. Eventually the wheel will come true. If you grab and flex the spokes in opposite pairs you can check for uniform tension as well as pre-loading the spokes for a final truing.

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The complete process including disassembly of the old wheel, cutting and re-threading the spokes, cleaning the parts, re-assembly, truing the wheel, applying a thread lock compound and mounting the tire again took about 2 hours total.

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The finished wheel looks good and I expect that it will serve me well. I take great comfort in building my own wheels. Over the years I have only suffered a few broken spokes on my wheels, and these only after much use. I know these wheels will run straight and true for many miles.

Step 3

Most bikes don’t comes with pedals these days. Pedal selection can be pretty specific depending on your needs. I don’t have any special problems that require a unique pedal so I am using an off the shelf SPD compatible pedal. It’s made by Wellgo and in pretty inexpensive but still pretty light-weight. I like this pedal for rando riding because it has the on one cleat side and a flat pedal on the other. This gives you more flexibility while riding since you can take your foot out of the cleat to change your foot position if needed. These work best with a recessed cleat shoe that you can walk in since there is a tread for the flat pedal side and a cleat for the other. This is the type of shoe I prefer for rando ridng.

Step 4

Fenders are a must in many areas that I ride so that is my next step. This bike has fender eyelets and good frame clearance for wide tires etc. The website says it will accept fenders with 28c tires but the caliper brakes create a problem spot. My fenders wont fit with the stock 28c Continental tires. It is an obstacle that may take some creativity to overcome.

I like the Planet Bike Cascadia fender for an inexpensive option. They are easy to install and have a long flap for tire spray. They are just a little on the heavy side but still a good value at about $40. I use them on some of my other bikes as well.

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This bike comes with 28c tires which are my preffered size for rando riding. With fenders however the brake calipers would limit the tire size to 25c. My creative solution is to cut the rear fender at the brake caliper and add brackets to support the fender at each end. I haven’t done this before and there may be some unknown “side effects” with this solution but it is what I came up with. This is the reason that many riders prefer center-pull or cantilever brakes for rando bikes. This is a limitation imposed by most bikes in this price range but one which I felt I could overcome.

The finished fenders look pretty good I think and seem very sturdy. Fender clearance to the tire is about 3mm at the closest points. I think this will be adequate but a few test rides will probably be required and there will likely be some tweaks as well.

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Step 5

Wheels are the most important thing (in my opinion) you can improve any given bike. On this bike I have already mounted a new Schmidt Dyno-hub on the front, so I thought I should do something to improve the rear wheel as well. I decided to put on a new Grand Bois rear hub. I have no experience with this particular hub but if Jan Heine (Compass Bicycles) likes it then it should be pretty good. It has sealed roller bearings and is much lighter than the original Tiagra hub. You could also use other Shimano 9 speed hubs (105 or above) and do pretty well.

The first step is to take down the old wheel and then measure the components. I use an online spoke calculator to determine the correct spoke length for the new wheel. It all depends on hub diameter, flange width and rim size. After measuring all the parts I input the data into the calculator and get my new spoke length. I also measure the old hub and spokes and input that data as well. That way I can confirm that my numbers are correct when the old wheel data corresponds. Measure twice cut once!

In this case I have to cut 2mm off the old spokes to get the correct length. It is easy to rethread them and it saves the cost of new spokes and nipples! This wheel came with DT Swiss, straight 14 guage spokes. They are excellent quality so I can re-use them with confidence.

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The wheel builds up quickly and after pre-tensioning the spokes and re-truing it is ready to go. A newly built wheel like this will change its spoke tension and true-ness after a period of time even when just sitting and not riding. You should expect to do a follow up re-true before you ride it and then again after 50 or 100 miles.

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Step 6

Choosing the correct gearing. This bike came with a low end Shimano 12-25 cassette. It also has a 50/34 tooth crankset. I normally have a triple on my brevet bike but this compact crankset may work if I can use a bigger rear cassette.  I’ll use a 12/27 cassette since Shimano doesn’t offer anything bigger that will work with this derailleur. Campy has a 12/29 cassette that I really like but Shimano,,,, not so much. It’s just one more sacrifice that brevet riders who use Shimano must make!

Step 7

Brevet riding means riding in the dark sometimes. If your riding in the dark you need a light. My experience has shown me that for dyno-hub powered lights there are but two choices. There is the Edelux LED which is the best currently available in my opinion. Then there is the Cyo IQ, which has an equally excellent output and pattern but is less than half the price. The Cyo is less rugged and weather-proof but you could buy 2 of these and still save money over the Edelux. For this “budget bike” I will use the Cyo although I use an Edelux on 2 of my other bikes.

Step 8

You will probably want to carry some stuff on a brevet so some kind of bag is needed.  Since I will use this bike mainly on 400k events or shorter I can use smaller bags. Mainly what I will want to carry is; tires, tools spares etc. Also I need room for some personal gear; cell phone, sunscreen, food and misc items. A little storage for extra clothes is always good too!

For the front I found a bag on ebay made by Detours. It has about 240 cubic inches capacity and includes a water-proof pocket for maps or route sheets. The cost was $30 total for bag and mount. It also comes with a rain cover and carrying strap. One note here is that with Shimano  9 speed you are limited to using smaller handlebar bags. The cable routing of STI shifters generally prevents use of a large bag.

For the rear I had an older Detours bag that I have used on several bikes. It is not ideal but works okay. Its cpapcity is 200 cubic inches but has an expansion zipper that allows it up to 280 cubic inches. It also has some straps to tie stuff on the outside. A good place for wet raingear! You could substitute any kind of seat bag here, perhaps one you have lying around and save a little money.

This is essentially going to be the finished product. Of course as with any bike, actual use will dictate some changes be made in the future as issues are discovered, but for now this is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Running cost summary

I’ll keep a running total here of the approximate costs of creating the final rando ready bike. This will reflect my out of pocket cost only and will not include the value of parts I have lying around. You may have some stuff lying around too and you will probably re-use what you can. I will do all of the work so there will be no labor cost included. I guess the final number will represent the minimum buy in for a new rando-ready bike for someone who has the skills and time available. If you already have a bike to work with then you have a good head start. The step by step changes or additions reflect my preferences or needs in a rando bike. Your “needs” may be different.

$1179.00  Surley Pacer bike, delivered and complete (no sales tax in Oregon).

$  -95.00  REI membership dividend

$    35.00  Rock Shock seat post (ebay, used price)

$    39.00  Wellgo pedals

$    40.00  Planet Bike Cascadia fenders

$  150.00  Grand Bois 9 speed rear hub

$    40.00  Shimano Ultegra rear cassette (new on ebay)

$  110.00  Cyo IQ LED light (new on ebay)

$    30.00  Detours handlebar bag

$1528.00  Total to date

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