Bike build update, March 2020

It’s been a month now since the Mason hit the road, so time for a quick update.

I have covered about 800km now since the bike was finished and like all these things there are teething issues, so I thought I would share them, and who knows it may help if you with parts selection if you are contemplating a similar exercise.

Signs of Spring

Firstly, I have to say that I love this bike and it was so worth the investment. It’s more comfortable, and responds better to both pedal and steering input, making it a very rewarding experience. I can’t wait for everywhere to dry a little, making the local off-roads tracks possible, currently they are just bog land.

With this build I was conscious that swapping old, non “gravel specific” components may compromise the overall package, but I had a budget to consider, and I had upgraded most of the components over the last few years, based on my needs, on-road, off-road and touring.

I am still undecided regarding the 34/50 chainset I have fitted. I have a 32-tooth cassette which should be OK when loaded (34/32), but I am not sure how much use that 50 chainring will get off-road and touring. However, most of my riding so far have been on-road, training rides and I have been knocking the hell out of the 50, when I can. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

The only new additions during the build were the contact points, cables and the disc rotors.

The choice of a Fabric saddle was the Mason standard, and so far, I have found it perfect, but then I don’t really suffer from saddle discomfort. The only historic exception being the Fizik that came as standard on my Whyte mountain bike, numbing!

The steering is courtesy of Deda, a Zero1 stem, which is light and very stiff, and the Gravel 100 flared bars. The flare is only 12o, so not immediately noticeable when you look at the bike, but keeping the width at the hoods to 42mm (od), brings the drops out to 48mm (od), which is really comfortable and gives greater control on the loose.

Under the Humber Bridge

The brakes have been a bit if a different story; firstly, choosing to fit a set of Clarks CFR-02 floating rotors turned out to be a nightmare. They were not an even thickness all the way round, so became too grabby to use, making you feel nauseous when coming to a stop. I tried to clean the surface with wet and dry, just in case it was some form of contamination from road dirt….it wasn’t, so they are now shelved. I put the original discs back on and they have been fine.

I also decided to use Teflon coated brake cables, which are known for low friction, so they have to be better than just steel…..right? Wrong, the back brake, which has a long outer cable running inside the frame all the way to the chain stay proved to be unusable. It was hard to pull on, had no feel and did not release the calliper fully when the lever was released.

I was beginning to think it may be the length of the outer cable, and the fact that it ran inside the frame that was going to be the issue. That could have been disastrous as the next solution would have been hydraulic brakes, a whole new can of worms. It would mean new brake/shifters, moving to 11 speed, etc., etc. Effectively a new groupset.

However, something as simple as replacing the Teflon coated cable with a quality steel inner cable proved to work as smooth as a smooth thing, and now the rear has loads of feel and can be locked up if required. Perfect.

On the NCN 65 (TPT) between Ferriby and Hessle

The only addition since the build has been a small tool canister in the bottle cage under the bottom bracket. With the mudguards fitted it proved difficult to fit anything in a cage down there, but I found that Topeak do something called “Alt-Position Cage Mounts” which provided an extra 32mm of space. Spot on!

Topeak – Alt Position Cage Mount

I have my eye on a couple of trips to put the bike through its paces, both on and off-road over the coming months, but with the outbreak of Covid-19, things are having to remain fluid as far as planning is concerned.

Let’s hope it passes quickly and everyone remains safe.

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