bikes canada gear general

Monkey metamorphosis

Well, my Monkey is finally beginning to turn into a proper touring bike. I installed the Rohloff, and then some time last year I sent Scott from Porcelain Rocket the sketch below, with a request to make me some bike bags:

In November, he finished them up, and I got an awesome early Christmas present. Which I have finally gotten around to photographing! As you can see, he rather awesomely brought my dreams to life.

The bags have had a bit of use already, as they’re really handy for longer day trips, and for just biking around town when you need some extra storage capacity. But what I’m really looking forward to is doing some overnight trips in summer. Without having to ride the final couple of kilometres to the camp site with one hand behind me, desperately trying to hold my thermarest in place as it tries to unravel and tangle in my spokes.

The next phase of the transformation is also underway. I have a front wheel built up with an SP PD-8 dynohub. I have a Exposure Revo light, designed to run off the hub. And I have an E-Werk usb charger, also designed to run off the hub, for the charging of GPS, phone, iPod, camera, satellite dish, portable microwave etcetera. All the necessary trappings of life as a modern cycle tourer/ bike packer.

The only tricky part is that all of these pieces are still in pieces, and I’m terrible at electronics. I’ve tried glaring at them, but so far no luck, they haven’t spontaneously self-assembled. I’m thinking of buying some sort of micro-switch, so I can build up a box that will let me switch between the light and the charger. And then somehow blackmailing an engineer to assemble the whole thing for me.

In the meantime though – look at the pretty bags!

bikes gear general

The Rohloff Monkey

Well, it’s been a long time in the planning, but I finally have a new bike for touring! This time with off-road touring in mind, as well as winter biking, and all year commuting (as it will be replacing my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker). Behold, the Surly Karate Monkey! (Please forgive the dodgy phone pictures for now, I hope to get out with a proper camera on a sunny day some time soon. When the sun returns. One day. Right now it’s just snowing and snowing and snowing.)

The Rohloff Hub

The stock build of the Karate Monkey is a single speed. After a lot of umm-ing and ahh-ing, I deciding that trying to pick one gear to ride in the valley would just be too annoying – especially as I would need to be towing heavy toddlers around with it. So it would need gears. Then there was a lot more umm-ing and ahh-ing, and I finally decided to use an internally geared hub rather than the standard derailleur setup.

After reading a lot of prolonged internet arguments, and getting a few in-person opinions about the Rohloff hub (they’re awful! they’re fantastic!), I thought one might suit me, and I may as well give it a go myself. After hunting around on the internet, I sent off an email to Cycle Monkey in California. They are fantastically helpful, and it was an easy decision to have them build up a wheel for me. This took no time at all, and so last weekend with wheel in hand a morning was spent assembling the bike, and ta-dah, the Rohloff Monkey was let loose on the world!

The Karate Monkey – Rohloff Hub build isn’t one I’ve seen very often, definitely less frequently than some of the other Surly bikes. I can’t really give a thorough review until I’ve got a few more thousand kilometres under the saddle, but so far it seems to be awesome. There were no difficulties in getting everything assembled, although there are a few make-do solutions that I might change in the near future. I haven’t been bothered by the low range noise that people mention, although it was nice to be aware of it beforehand(that’s the noise you get in gears 1 – 7, which apparently quietens down after the hub has worn in a little). And it does feel a little like it’s marginally less efficient when climbing, but not so much so that I think it will make a difference to me for my uses.

The hub installed is the:
Speedhub 500/14 TS (threaded spindle, so not quick release) DB (disc brake, for the Karate Monkey’s mechanical disc brakes) OEM black anodized, 32h. The rest of the set up used
Axle plate TS OEM2 long
Monkey bone instead of Speed bone
Magura Rotor 160mm 4-bolt

Currently the cables are held in place with a slightly dodgy cable tie setup. I’ll do something to make this look a little nicer some time soon.

There’s no chain guide used, and no tensioner required. Everything was built up on a No Tubes Flow Rim, as I’m planning to go tubeless in the summer. I do have chain tensioners on at the moment, just because when we were assembling everything, I didn’t want to shorten the chain until I had checked out how the gear range suited me. The smallest chainring that Rohloff says is legal to run with the stock 16T hub sprocket is 34T, but the stock Karate Monkey cog is 33T – Neil from Cycle Monkey said this was close enough that I was unlikely to have any issues. I am fairly light and small compared to a lot of Rohloff riders, that’s for sure. So far the range of gears seems to suit me perfectly though. I’m a bit of a spinner rather than a cranker, and I spend a lot of time riding up long climbs, or towing a toddler around, so having a good low range is perfect. So I might be shortening the chain soon, and removing the tensioners.

My beloved Ergon grips come in Rohloff style! And there is no thumb shift option (that I’m aware of) – the default gear shifting mode with the Rohloff is this little twist shifter.

Rohloff and Chariot towing

The good news is that it’s easy to insert and setup the Chariot hauling spindle to tow the Chariot. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t be possible, but it’s turned out to be fine. I’m not sure if it will sit quite so neatly once I remove the chain tensioners – so that might require some playing around with to optimise. Hopefully I won’t be towing the Chariot for too much longer anyway though..

Next up…

Now it’s just waiting for some awesome Porcelain Rocket bags, so when we go out bike-packing together I’ll actually be able to carry some gear. And maybe I’ll get a front fork at some point, as I’m not so much of a masochist as to want to ride the single track around here on a fully rigid bike. Maybe eventually I’ll get a new wheel on the front, with another No Flow rim – maybe a dynamo hub? That might just be crazy talk though. And of course, lots of riding.