Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Unscrambling an egg

--> There was a time when you could build up a complete bike, starting with a frame and a box of bits, without too many stumbles on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  You’d even have time for a spin round the block.  That time, it appears, has passed – at least that’s been my experience of building up a new Canyon.

I got a hint that modern frames are a little tricksy when replacing the Mudge’s rear derailleur cable on her Avail.  Unlike the R5, where cabling is all externally routed, the Avail has everything running through the frame.  Fortunately, an inspection port under the bottom bracket shell facilitated pinpoint threading of the subterranean wire in question – but it took quite a bit of fiddling (and swearing) to get right.

The Canyon frame-set arrived some 6 weeks early, and I was keen to throw the thing together.  Like the Avail, all cabling is internally routed.  The frame was fortunately plumbed with plastic sheaths connecting the entry and exit ports for brake and gear lines.  As the ends of these plastic tubes extend beyond the portals, it was clear that whilst they would initially guide cable passage, they would then have to be removed.  Should you subsequently want to remove a cable to facilitate, for instance, trimming the external housings to the correct lengths, the cables would first have to be re-sheathed with the guide first so that the cable could once again be chaperoned out the correct port.  In order to have a tidy arrangement under the handlebars whilst permitting proper rotation and limited cable-sheath rubbing (on frame or each other), this can sometimes take numerous re-threadings. 

Needless to say it was all quite fiddly and testing my patience somewhat.  With everything in place I finally got round to installing the press-fit bottom bracket – yet another BB standard I’d not used before (BB86).  Fortunately, the one I’d ordered on-line fit like a glove.  On went the cranks, pedals, rear derailleur, chain, and in no time I had the chain dancing up and down the cluster with precision.  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.  And don’t you hate it when you’ve screwed it up all by yourself.  I was then ready to install the front derailleur but this should, of course, have happened prior to setting the chain.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if Shimano supplied more than one connecting pin per chain, which used to be the case.  I’ve tried punching out then re-seating standard pins with narrow chains but it’s hard to get right, compared to the 7 and 8 speed chains of old, where it was standard practice.  I was just about to throw the thing in the bin when the Mudge produced a SRAM 11 spd magic connecter, which did the re-set nicely.

By this stage it was dark and I’d conceded defeat, resigning myself to the concept of giving the Wombat one last trundle on the Sunday morning.  Morning arrived, and with no third party teed up for a ride we opted for a sleep in, before having another crack at getting the new bike finished.  If this happened quickly, then I’d take it out after all.

However, try as I might I couldn’t quite get the tension of the front derailleur cable dialed.  Ordinarily there is a tension adjuster attached to the frame housing.  However the cable port was too narrow to accept a standard barrel adjuster, and I’d foolishly eschewed installation of an in-line barrel adjuster, which I now conceded I’d have to introduce somewhere under the handlebars to have everything “tickety-boo”.  Hampster, if you are reading this don’t make the same mistake! 

This, of course meant the cable would have to be sacrified and a new one installed and re-cut, but not before re-threading the guide sheath!  Not a biggy if you are dealing with swaths of extra length of an uncut cable, but less trivial if the cable is already short to begin with.  Sure enough, I had trouble threading the guide sheath through the U-turn round the bottom bracket shell, let alone having it re-emerge, and when I tied to pull some cable through to help its passage I inadvertently sucked the end of the wire down the other rabbit hole, never to see it again.  It just wouldn’t come out.  Damn and blast!  (insert more swearing).

All appeared lost, as was my appetite for a Sunday spin at all.  I’d now have to remove cranks and (expensive) press-fit bottom bracket so that I could re-thread a new cable.  Normally removal of press-fit shells requires extreme violence in the form of a screwdriver and hammer, which I was preparing myself for, as well as a trip to the LBS for a new BB, as I sucked down my coffee. 

It then occurred to me that I might, in-fact, have a tool for such a removal, even though I’d never installed a BB86 before.  Sure enough, some years ago when contemplating servicing press-fit bearings, as well as purchasing an Enduro Hub Press (beautiful piece of kit, BTW), I also purchased a BB86 cup tool (I think for the Mudges mtb).  After rifling through my chest of knick knacks I found the box.  The BRT-003 was still in its wrapper.  Ikarumba!  The cups were eased out as smoothly as they went in, and are hopefully undamaged.  Time will tell.

Already long story short – the rest of the bike went together and got tweaked, including another “aheadset” variation I’d not used before (“Acros iLock”).   

Even though I’ve previously put numerous bikes together, this one really was a notch more complicated – and it didn’t even have junction boxes and electronics to consider.  Hopefully by the time I succumb to electronic shifting wireless will be all the rage and there will be fewer cables altogether.

With C24 wheels it weighs in at a touch under 7.2 kg – which is a little heavier than the similar vintage R5 (7.05 kg) kitted out with the same wheels, bars, saddle,pedals and Ultegra mechanical 11 spd groupset.  Some of this extra weight is in the frame itself (the R5 is a particularly light frameset), and some is in the crankset – Ultegra is, I suspect, a little heavier than the Rotor equivalent on the R5.

The ride.  As with the R5, I jumped on this after an extensive spell (in this case 4000K) on the Wombat.  Whilst I found the R5 harsher than expected, which consequently took me a while to warm to, the Canyon is plush and probably the most comfortable road frame I’ve ever straddled.  No breaking-in period required.  Hopefully I’ll steer it free of garage doors for a long time.
 As clean as it'll ever be
Yes, clearly I've yet to get red highlights out of my system.  
In commuting mode.

PS:  highlight of the Sunday afternoon twitch at the Chiltern Track (apart from loads of Scarlet Honeyeaters) was a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater vying with a New Holland for stag supremacy.


  1. Mission accomplished: you've successfully convinced us not to ask for your help assembling a new steed. What do you think makes it a nice ride? Is it the fancy seat stays as the marketing folks would have us believe, geometry or something else?

  2. I think it is largely what can't be seen - the layup of the carbon strips that go into the mould. Even though i thought the R5 a little harsh, going back to the Wombat was actually far worse - zero dampening at all (el cheapo frame just slapped together). The Canyon is just as stiff as the R5 under pedal load, but the feedback through the seat is far "dead-er", in a good way.

  3. Dave, surely if you'd gone for electronic you'd have avoided all the shenan(egans) with the cable tension on the front mech? Just sayin' :-) It's the future my friend.

  4. Oh and should add, very nice bike. Glad to hear you like it, there has been a stink here in the US as Canyon just announced they would sell direct to consumers in the US (a la Australia / Europe) and from the comments you would think no other consumer business had ever done that before. The end is nigh!

  5. I know its the future, i'm just a slow adapter....although maybe I contradict this assertion by going Canyon in the first place. I think I just prefer technology i can wrap my head around. The whole garmin thing has been headache enough!

    1. Couldn't resist the Di2 jibe :-) Agree that cable activated shifting option should be the default in all cases. I've got the inline cable tension adjusters on the Giant and they work pretty well. It does seem in the quest for speed some fundamental and I would argue well tested standards have been abandoned. Maybe it's good news for the LBS after all. If you were struggling with the set up the average punter will definitely need professional expertise.

  6. An advert for steel is real (or at least externally routed cables) if ever there was one, but well done for persisting, Dave, I am sure it's a great ride. I'd been wondering how you were getting on with it.