New bike (Sequoia build)It has taken me a while to get this all written up - but I finally have all the details in one place, in case anyone wants to reproduce the build, is puzzling through similar design/build choices and the inevitable problems, or is just curious; I started putting this bike together last October, and got it on the road in early November 2017.
BackstoryMy trusty Miyata six-ten bike was swiped by some cretin in downtown Mountain View last summer. It was right out in the middle of a busy area, on a main street, during daylight, locked to a pole… the bike (and the lock) were long gone when I came out of a store. I had that sinking feeling in my gut when I walked up to the pole, only to find no bike there.
That bike has been my every day, go-to trusty steed for more than ten years. I rescued it from atop a buddy’s van when it returned from Burning Man adventures, and re-built and/or replaced nearly everything on it. I rode it nearly every day as my commute bike, in sun, rain, wind, and torrential “atmospheric river” events; it went to France with us on a tour; it schlepped three people’s gear on multiple family camping trips around California. It wasn’t my fastest bike, nor the lightest, nor by any stretch the most expensive, but it may have been the closest to my heart after all the time I spent refining it into just the bike I wanted.
ConsiderationI knew it would not be a trivial bike to replace, and gave a lot of thought as to what I wanted to get out of the next bike. When it came right down to it, the only things I could think of that I would have changed or improved on the Miyata, if I could have, was disc brakes, and room for bigger tires. I wanted largely what I had in the Miyata - an all-round, do-it-all bike capable of undertaking pretty much any adventure thrown its way (short of something so extreme that only an actual full-suspension mountain bike, or a fat bike, would do.)
The current fad of “gravel bikes” was definitely up for consideration - but I found most of them are not really oriented to carrying much (if any) gear. They’re great for pseudo-racing on mixed surfaces, or going for long, hard one-day rides; as soon as you’re looking at longer trips, they aren’t the right tool for the job. Yeah yeah, you can make do with bikepacking bags and go for it, but these bikes are still a lot closer to road race bike than a touring rig.
There certainly are some excellent bikes out there for hard-core long-distance loaded touring! At least one of those, the Specialized AWOL, had strong appeal for me. It’s a load-it-up-with-the-kitchen-sink machine that can easily handle the roughest sketch of a road or trail, anywhere from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. But as much as I would love to be doing those rides, they aren’t what I’m riding now, and the added weight that enables such fortitude isn’t what I want to be carting back and forth to work every day.
I (eventually) landed on the Specialized Sequoia, which looked like Erik Nohlin had practically read my notes on the “perfect do-it-all bike” and designed from there. My only real reservations were (a) the bikes were spec’d with higher gearing than I would want, for hauling camping gear up a hill, and (b) the bikes all were spec’d with 700c wheels, which, when run with a suitably big tire (e.g. 42mm), didn’t leave much room for fenders. After test-riding Erik’s own bike that he had equipped with 650b wheels and 48mm tires, I decided that was the way to go, and that building up a Sequoia from scratch would give me the combination of features I wanted.
|Erik’s bike - inspiration for my build|
There proved to be an interesting set of challenges to make everything I wanted work successfully on this bike - for example, this is a drop-handlebar bike, but I wanted to use gearing that is much more in line with mountain bikes, on the low end of the range, while preserving a high enough gear for road-riding. The low end (24 or 26 tooth chainring) is available on MTB cranksets, but not with a decent-sized big ring; likewise, a road crankset that offers big rings of 42–48 teeth is unlikely to accommodate the desired small ring. I eventually found the holy grail - White Industries makes a crankset with interchangeable chainrings, that can be spec’d with just about any combination imaginable! As long as your derailleurs will handle the range, you can run as big or as small as you want, in whatever combo.
|White Industries crankset, chainrings and bottom bracket - 26x42|
While both Shimano and Sram offer currently-very-popular “1x” (one-by) drivetrains, e.g. with a single front chainring and a very wide range of cogs in the back, as well as double- and triple-chainring drivetrains, it’s quite difficult to find an off-the-shelf combination that works with “road” brake-shift-levers and a wide-range rear derailleur. Just a few years ago, Sram really had this figured out, and their road and MTB shifters and derailleurs were interchangeable. Enter 11spd components, and even Sram has degenerated back into a nearly impossible to decipher quagmire of non-interoperability. I found some helpful advice in this guide, and it looked like I could make it work with a slightly-outdated 10spd MTB rear derailleur, but it felt like a risk and the component wasn’t quite the same level of finish as the rest of the bike… but it was comparatively inexpensive, as well as being literally the only thing I found that seemed likely to work.
Next after the drivetrain complexities, came the wheels. This was, fortunately, a little more straightforward, as I knew that I wanted a dynamo front hub and lighting from Schmidt - I had this on the Miyata and absolutely loved it. I also had a White Industries rear hub on the Miyata, and found it to be robust, good-looking and a complement to the shape of the Schmidt hub, and good value; so I decided to go that route again. The Sequoia has disc brakes, and I’ve found that when travelling with bikes, it is much preferable to have center-lock brake rotor mounting, rather than the more-common 6-bolt style. The new bike also uses through-axles front and rear, rather than quick release skewers, but fortunately both the hubs I wanted were available in 12mm through-axles and with center-lock disc brake rotor mounting. So that took care of the hub selection!
|Schmidt dynamo hub|
|White CLD rear hub with titanium driver - visually a great match to the Schmidt front hub.|
On to rims. I knew from riding Erik’s bike with somewhat heavy rims and tires, that I wanted much lighter wheels; and I wanted a wide channel to spread out the footprint of the tire, and planned to run lightweight tubeless tires. The 650b size has become much more available over the past few years, with the popularity of “27.5” mountain bikes, but it is still a little challenging to find a really light rim – the market is dominated by beefier MTB-oriented rims. I vacillated between three rims, before settling on the Velocity Blunt SS because it looked good, was available, and has been around long enough for the bugs to have been well hashed out.
|Velocity Blunt SS rim - Made in USA!|
From the outset I knew I wanted to use Compass’ 42mm “Babyshoe Pass” tires - they would be the perfect match to the bike. I considered getting the ‘Extralight’ model, but opted for the ‘Standard’ as I knew I’d be beating these up on trails. I elected to use 28 spokes, front and rear, as even if I carry a load on the bike, I don’t weigh that much and I ride carefully, and with a load I won’t be going bashing through rock gardens at speed anyway.
There are always a bazillion little details necessary to build up a bike from scratch. The frameset thankfully came with the seatpost and handlebars that I liked from demo’ing Erik’s bike, as well as a stem, saddle, bar tape, bar end plugs. You can see the entire parts list here; it gives a good idea of just how many individual pieces there are that have to be accounted for!
What isn’t obvious from that list, is that you can’t just go buy everything from one place. No one source has all the items. Some shops have some of the parts, other shops have some of those and some of the others you need, but where they overlap the prices may not be advantageous… In short, it gets very complicated very quickly to both locate all the bits and pieces, and then batch them into orders that make sense. I ended up with a rather large and complex spreadsheet to keep track of it all. Additionally, one hopes that one didn’t make any mistakes in the ordering, and that what is delivered is also accurate. In the event, I only mis-ordered one thing, and it was quick and easy to exchange for the correct part.
The final obstacle to building the bike was the frameset; once I picked it up I was ready to start putting everything together.
|Pile ’o parts|
BuildingI really couldn’t put anything together without the wheels, so building them up was the first order of business. They went together without a hitch, the Velocity rims lacing up nice and true. The front wheel popped into the fork perfectly. When I tried to put the rear wheel in place, though, the through-axle would not pass through the right side of the hub! After much consternation and deployment of my digital calipers, I discovered that part of the hub was machined 0.2mm undersized. Grrrr… but these things happen; I emailed the company and pretty quickly got a response that a replacement part was on the way. After a week and a half, I hadn’t seen anything in the mail, and they’re located just a couple hours’ drive north. Another email to inquire; they responded “you should have had it in a day or two! We’ll pop another in the mail.” OK. This time I did get the part quickly, but IT WAS THE WRONG PART. Double-Grrr. Yet another email exchange, with photos to illustrate the problem, and in a few more days I had a working part, and thus a wheel installed in my frame. Whew, at last!
Next was the front rack, as it had to be in place in order to route the wires for the lights. Then came tires; to get the fenders aligned and space properly requires that the tires be in place. Being tubeless, they were a royal PITA to get on to the rims, but once there they inflated easily to seat the bead, and then I injected Orange Seal into the tires to seal them up. They’ve been holding pressure wonderfully, and ride like a dream!
I routed the wires for the lights through the frame (the Sequoia thoughtfully has the right holes in the fork and frame to allow this) and got the lights all set up. Both front and rear lights are the German-made Schmidt LED lights, with that classic German attention to function and quality. The Schmidt headlamp is one of the few lights that I feel confident to use descending at speed on a dark night. Lots of comparative info on the Schmidt headlamp at Peter White’s site.
The drivetrain went together beautifully. The White Industries bottom bracket and crankset are very, very nicely made, and were a joy to handle and install. I love the little details like the message to their riders/customers found on the bottom bracket!
|A nice touch|
The Sram Force levers/shifters are easy to set up, and if you have the top-level bleed kit, it is pretty straightforward to cut the hydraulic lines to length and get the bubbles out. The only issues I ran into were with the calipers, in that the flat-mount pads on the frame were covered in paint, which caused the rear caliper to be canted relative to the rotor; I had to have the pads cut using a Park DT–5.2, but that sorted it out. The front caliper’s hose mounting bolt clipped the front spokes ever so slightly, and I couldn’t make the interference go away by nudging the caliper to the outside… after trying to adjust everything I could think of, I decided the only option left would be to shim the rotor out a little. An online post offered some great leads, in particular from Dave at November Bicycles, that indicated this would be a good solution. Well, good luck finding shims! The only place I could find what I needed was McMaster Carr, which, while they carry damn near every industrial bit of stuff you can imagine, charges for the convenience. I ordered a bunch of 0.1mm shims, unsure of just how much I’d need to move the rotor. I ended up using 4 to do the job. I initially tried to wiggle them over the splines of the hub, as suggested by the on-line post, and I could see that technique maybe working with a thinner shim, but I couldn’t make it happen. However, looking at the load direction here, I realized that there was no reason not to just cut the shim! The shim is compressed axially between the rotor and the hub; there’s no radial load or motion, and the cut makes it much easier to put the shims on or, later, take them off.
At this point, I could ride the bike around, and just in time for Anna and I to take a little trip to the Paso Robles / San Luis Obispo area in early November. We put quite a few miles of dirt and rough pavement under the tires, including the great single-track route up Rinconada trail, along the fire roads on the ridge to the condor lookout, and down some rather neglected forest service road to the (sadly closed) Pozo saloon. It was a great shake-down test for the bike; everything worked great and the drivetrain was super quiet and shifted perfectly across the entire (wide) gear range. The only issue that arose, was the headlamp mounting nuts worked themselves loose on a dirt road descent and fell off along the way, leaving the lamp dangling dangerously close to the front spokes. It was my fault for not tightening them sufficiently, I think, and easily remedied the next morning at the SLO hardware store.
After we got home, the next order of business was to fashion the mounting bracket (decaleur) required for my Giles Berthoud handlebar bag. My old decaleur was lost when the Miyata was swiped, but even if I had it still, it would not work with the new (modern, 4-bolt) stem. I decided the easiest way to get the decaleur I wanted was going to be to make it myself. Back when I ordered the shims from McMaster Carr, I justified the shipping cost by adding the raw materials I knew I’d need for the decaleur. A piece of 1/4" 4130 steel tubing and a chunk of flat 4130 stock gave me plenty of material to play around with, if the first design didn’t come out right.
A few cuts, miters, and some filing and I had all the pieces; the hard part proved to be holding the pieces in the right orientation to allow me to braze them together! I must have spent a couple hours playing around with different schemes, before finally hitting on something that would work. It brazed up fine, and installed on the stem just right, but when I went to put the bag on I was horrified to discover that the attachment rod that slides horizontally through the decaleur to hold the bag onto the bike, ran directly into the brake lever body! Drat. I eventually got it to work by lowering the stem, but it resulted in placing the handlebars a bit lower than I’d like. Unfortunately, the geometry is such that even making a new decaleur won’t fix the problem, so I may just have to learn to love the lower bars.
|Fancy jig here...|
|Third and fourth hands necessary|
Is that everything? Ah, no – I haven’t put the fenders on yet! I saved them for last, because getting them installed just right requires a lot of focus and concentration, and that was in short supply until I had some time off over the Christmas holidays. Even though these are big, metal (aluminum) fenders, they are remarkably lighter and stiffer than the plastic/aluminum sandwich ones that I’m used to. The mounting actually went very smoothly, once I worked out just where they needed to sit, relative to the tires, to look and work right. They can’t have too much or too little space, it has to be just right! I had to make a bracket to support the fender under the fork crown, as the Sequoia fork doesn’t have the usual hole under there. It does have well-positioned fender mounting bosses for the rear fender, on the seat stay bridge and between the chainstays. I had to find some plastic spacers to use as shims, to get the fenders into the right position, but I found some in a drawer that were exactly the right size.
With the fenders mounted, there’s nary a rattle! I’ve had the Sequoia off on several rough dirt jaunts, and in the rain, and it is handling everything I throw at it with aplomb. The next step is to load it up with panniers on a front low-rider rack, and see how it likes touring!
|On the road!|
Parts and supplies
|Frame module||Specialized Sequoia Pro, 56 cm||1||Includes fork, bars, stem, headset, seatpost, collar, saddle, bar tape, bar plugs|
|Hub, front||Schmidt SONdelux 12, black, 28||1||12mm thru-axle. Centerlock disk|
|Disk lock ring for thru-axles||Shimano SM-HB20||2|
|Hub, rear||White Industires CLD, black, 32, 12mm x 142 OLD||1|
|Spokes||Sapim Laser 2.0 - 1.5 - 2.0, 274mm, black, bag of 20||3||274mm fits F & R both sides (need 2 x 28 plus some spares, so 3 boxes)|
|Nipples||Sapim Polyax brass 12mm, black, bag of 100||1|
|Rims||Velocity Blunt SS 650b||2|
|Tires||Compass Babyshoe Pass 42||2||Compass Switchback Hill 48 should also fit|
|Tubes||Schwalbe SV14A||2||As spares; nominally running tubeless|
|Rim tape||Orange Seal 24mm x 12 yards||1|
|Tubeless valve stems||American Classic||2|
|Crankset||White Industries MR30 172.5||1||Includes lockring for chainrings|
|Chainring, inner||White Industries VBC, 26t||1|
|Chainring, outer||White Industries VBC, 42t||1|
|Chainring bolts||White Industries VBC, set||1||Special bolts required for VBC chainrings|
|Bottom bracket||White Industries BSA||1|
|Chain||KMC X11SL DLC||1|
|Cassette||SRAM PG–1170 11–36 11 speed||1|
|Rotors||SRAM CenterLine X, Centerlock, 160mm||2|
|Levers/shifters/calipers||SRAM Force 22 flat mount||2||Front and rear|
|Derailleur, Front||SRAM Force 22||1|
|Der. Braze-on adapter||Problem solvers, 28.6 diam||1|
|Derailleur, Rear||SRAM GX Type 2.1 10spd Long cage||1||Works with Force 11spd “exact actuation” shifters|
|Fenders||Honjo Grand Bois hammered 650b (for up to 42 tires); for threaded eyelets (pair)||1|
|Light, front||Schmidt eDelux II black, with co-ax connector||1|
|Light, rear||Schmidt SON taillight, seatpost mount, black, clear lens||1|
|Cages||King Cage stainless||2||Could mount more - up to 5 on the frame!|
|Pedals||Shimano XT Trail PD-M8020, pair||1|
|Cage Bolts||Wolf Tooth (4 pc)||1|
|Front rack||Compass UD–1 extralight||1|
|Light mount||Compass, to fit adjustable strut on rack||1|
|Centerlock brake shims||McMaster Carr 35mm ID x 45mm OD, 0.1mm, stainless||5||To correct for disk rotor offset|
|Fender spacer||Standoff, M5 x 40mm, stainless||1||Fits between M5 male screw on front rack and top of fender|
|DECALEUR To fit Berthoud handlebar bag|
|1/4 in x 0.028 wall tubing||McMaster Carr 4130 steel, per ft||1|
|flat stock||McMaster Carr 1" x 1/6 thick x 1 ft length||1|
|spacers||McMaster Carr 8mm OD x 5mm ID x 10mm length, Al||2|
|stem bolts||5mm socket head cap screws, stainless, length TBD||2|
|TOOLS These are just the ones I didn’t already have|
|BB Tool||Park BBT–79||1|
|Bleed kit||SRAM pro bleed kit||1|
|Brake line cutter||SRAM||1|
|Through-axle adapter for truing stand||Park TS–2TA||1|
|Anti-corrosion||Weigle frame saver, spray can||1|
|DOT grease||SRAM, tub||1|
|Tire sealant||Orange Seal, 32 oz bottle||1|
|Face rear brake mounts||Shop, requires Park DT–5.2 tool||1|
So too does Compass, with Jan’s Rene Herse crankset, but I wanted something in black and theirs in only in bare aluminum. It’s a lovely crankset, though. TA makes a similar set, also very nice, also only silver. ↩
I will note here, that as much as I believe in supporting my local bike shops, they are priced so far above the on-line shops as to be unreasonable. I can tolerate some markup by the local shop, and will preferentially patronize them because I recognize the value of local bike shops and how hard it is for them to make a living, but there’s a threshold where my own economic interests take over. My compromise is to favor the smaller mom-and-pop on-line businesses, that have grown out of (and often still are working from) independent bike shops where someone anticipated the boom of internet commerce and set themselves up in that market. ↩
November now stocks the shims, but they’re thicker (0.25mm) and kinda pricey. ↩