Focus Mares, the second maiden voyage

After removing the old hoods and swapping handlebars, installing the replacement hoods turned out to be a bigger job than I expected.  But with good weather I wasn’t going to miss a chance to get out and ride, even if that meant riding without hoods or bar tape.  My riding buddy also happens to be my mailman.  He noticed the packages coming from bike shops, and we got to talking about riding.  We met up for a ride at the Muscatatuck park in North Vernon on a really nice Sunday afternoon.

We headed south out of town and came to an intersection where continuing south was a gravel road.  Riding a gravel bike, going straight seemed the appropriate choice.  The bike rode fine, I didn’t fall off, and I got some mud on the bike (and on me as well).  So the Focus Mares is officially a gravel bike now.

We worked our way east and south to the Commiskey Corner Store, but they were closed.  Oh, well.  We went west on 850S for a ways and then headed back north towards Vernon.  Greg met his wife in Vernon, and I continued up IN-3/7 to the east side of the park.  Riding through the park had some unexpectedly steep climbs, almost 18%, and then I was back to the truck.

A good ride, no bike issues – except for the unwrapped bars and shifters with no hoods.  Made my hands a little achy, but I’ll get the hoods on and the bars wrapped and that should take care of it.  That’s my task to work on next.

Focus Mares, the maiden voyage

The weather has been somewhat unpredictable lately, so the maiden voyage has been postponed a couple of times.  Today is the day – sun and a high temp in the 50s.

I think the handlebar and levers are pretty close to their final positions, but I haven’t wrapped the bars yet.  Today’s ride will tell me if any adjustments need to be made.

I’m going to try 45F/50R tire pressures for today.  That’s probably higher than I will run at Unbound Gravel, but it’s just a starting point, not the end.

I’m really looking forward to the ride.  It seems like this build has taken a long time, but in reality it has not.  Mounting the tubeless tires was a frustrating exercise, but I learned how to get it done, so that’s a plus.  The hydraulic brakes were a bit frustrating for a couple of reasons.  First, the Shimano BH90 hose kit didn’t have enough hose to do the front and rear brake.  Coming from brake/housing kits for rim brake bikes that have enough housing and cables to completely replace both brake sets, this was really annoying.  There’s not really much of an excuse to short the consumer in this way.  Secondly, there are tools that make the job much easier, but they aren’t cheap.  Since this is (hopefully) a one-time task, I chose to have a bike shop install the hoses.

I’ll report back after the ride, and add some photos too.  Once I get the bars and levers in their final positions, I’ll wrap the bars and this build will be done.

No major issues during the ride, but I had to tighten the levers after the first mile or so.  They would twist inwards but not outwards.  Took a couple of minutes but after that all was good.  The bike rides well, the 45F/50R tire pressures worked well for pavement.  Will probably lower the pressure 5 psi or so for gravel and see how it rides.

The bar position is fine, no change needed.  The bars are wider than I used to, and the lower part of the drops twists out even further.  I’m not used to them yet, but riding in the drops wasn’t uncomfortable, just unusual.  Give me some time on this one.  I have a drop bar that’s 42cm wide, and I might decide to use it instead.

The pedals aren’t the ones I will use going forward but I had them so I used them.  Pedals are pretty much pedals.  No issues shifting or braking, I did a couple of hard stops to heat up the pads, and then a couple of long brake applications as well.  No squealing or chattering – this is with the organic pads (not the sintered pads).  The BB is working well, no squeaking at all, just smooth rotation as you’d expect.

The chain lube seems to be working very well.  No noise from the chain, and wiping a finger on the chain after the ride showed clean.  No black streaks like wet lubes generally leave.  One ride doesn’t make a very complete evaluation, but the next few rides should give me a pretty good idea if it will live up to the advertising and the online reviews.

Sorry, no photos tonight.  It’s too dark.  I’ll take some first chance I get and post them.

Focus Mares, part 4b

Now, on to the brakes.  I decided to replace the Shimano calipers with Hope RX4+ calipers.  The Hope calipers are 4 piston units, machined in a single piece of alloy, and are well regarded as quality calipers.

Spending some time researching them, and found that they have an M5 port for bleeding, whereas the Shimano calipers use an M4 thread.  When I opened the box, it was great to see that they included a syringe and fitting for bleeding the brake system.  Pads are included as well, both sintered and organic – I will install the organic pads.

I also decided to install new BH90 brake hose at the same time.  I have the Shimano brake bleed kit which includes a cup reservoir to use on the levers so that extra fluid can be pushed out the top of the system when removing air bubbles.  Coupled with the Hope syringe and fitting that should be all that’s needed to maintain the brakes.  I’m using Shimano brand mineral oil as well.

I had Columbus Cycling replaced the brake hose for me, since they have the tools to do the job.  While I like tools, they aren’t cheap and I don’t see this task as something that will need to be redone very often, if at all.  It didn’t take them long to finish that job.

Bleeding the brakes was a bit trickier.  The Hope calipers are known for hiding air in the pistons and can be difficult to get a firm lever.  They have a process to use to get the brakes bled and working properly.  I followed their procedure and the front brake is firm and works well.  The rear brake works, but the lever isn’t as firm as the front.  I’ll try rebleeding it and see if I can improve things.

I was able to firm the rear lever up a bit more, but it’s still not as good as the front.  I’ll try again after a ride and see what I can do.

Focus Mares, part 4a

Getting close to the finish line is upping the anticipation for the maiden voyage.

Two things remain – Installing the Hope RX4 calipers and new brake hose, and finishing up the drivetrain.

The BB seemed a little rough when I installed the crankset and set the preload, so I decided to replace the BB.  I chose the Wheels Mfg PF30-Shimano BB.

Removing the RaceFace BB was fairly simple.  I didn’t have the bike-specific removal tool, so I improvised with a 3/8 socket extension and a ball peen hammer.  A few taps at a time, working my way around the cup and the NDS cup came out.  Same for the DS cup.  The BB had quite a lot of dirt in it so I cleaned that out.  The missing grommet for the FD DI2 wire gets the blame for the dirt in the BB.  I definitely need to get grommets to seal up the DI2 wires and their openings in the frame.

Installing the Wheels Mfg BB was pretty straightforward.  I used Mobil 1 Synthetic Grease on the threads, cups, and the first half inch or so of the BB shell.  The DS cup pushed in without tools, and the threads that join the NDS and DS cups mated up easily.  I have wrenches for the BB, a flat one and a 3/8 drive tool that works with a torque wrench to complete the installation.  I torqued the BB to 45nm, and that’s the BB replaced.

Then I reinstalled the crankset and bearing seals, and set the preload.  Bearings are very smooth, much better than the old BB.  Now that the crankset is installed, I can mount the FD and plug it in.  The new, full length chain went on next, and I left it at full length for now.

Testing the shifting is next.  I activated the synchro-shift mode, and set up the RD first, using the adjustment mode to line the jockey wheels up properly under the cassette cogs.  I set the hi and low limit screws and that’s all the RD needs.  The FD is pretty much the same.  There was more extra links than I expected, so I shortened the chain to big-big plus two rivets.  Shifting up and down is working well.

I’m trying a new chain lube. Tru Tension All Weather lube.  It’s wax based and contains tungsten disulfide.  Reviews were positive and if it works for me I’m hoping to eliminate the chainring tattoos I seem to get with regularity.

I soaked the chain in mineral spirits to remove the factory oil, then blew it out with compressed air.  Installed the chain dry, and applied the lube.  It dries to the touch in a few minutes, and is not sticky or oily once it dries.  I’ll follow up after a few rides to let you know how it’s working.

Focus Mares, part 3

And we finally get to the tubeless tire part of this project.  Having zero experience with tubeless tires, I read and watched some youtube videos.  Somehow it looks a lot easier than my reality turned out to be.  I’m not really surprised, there are abundant stories about adventures with tubeless tires.

I picked up the Muc-Off tubeless tire kit.  It includes sealant, rim tape, and valve stems and cores.  It’s a good value and the pink sealant is, well, PINK.

I decided to mount the Maxxis 40mm file-tread tires.  They actually mounted pretty easily, but they wobbled left and right.  The rims are true, so the problem was with the tires or the beads weren’t seated properly all the way around.  I tried spraying soapy water on the tire bead and rim, then reseating the beads.  It helped a little but not enough.  Finally I gave up on them after multiple attempts and took them off.  So much for Plan A.

Plan B was to mount the GravelKing SK+ tires I bought to ride at Unbound Gravel.  They went onto the rims easily enough, and I did the soapy water thing again.  The beads would not seat at all.  I need a plan C, or more experience, or possibly both.

Given that experience is what you get when you do things wrong, I came up with Plan C.  That was to remove the tubeless valve stem, and put an inner tube in and inflate it.  Of course, the beads seated right away and the tire is rolling straight and true as it should.  I decided to leave the tire mounted with the tube, under pressure, for a day or so to help convince the beads that this is their new home.

A day or so turned into 2 days.  A winter storm is imminent, so making sure everything is ready including stocking up the pantry and refrigerator/freezer took priority.  That’s done, so I’m fresh out of excuses and delays.

I took the tube out and of course, both beads came loose.  I put the tubeless valve stem back in, sprayed the beads with soapy water, and the compressor seated the beads instantly.  Put the valve core in and pumped it to 80 psi.  I let it sit under pressure for a while, then let the air out and used a syringe to put approximately 70ml of the pink Muc-Off sealant in.  Then cleaned the soapy water off the spokes and rim, and the rear wheel is ready for brake disk and cassette. Finally, success.  Now that I know what works (for me, anyway) the front tire should be a bit less of a mystery.

The front tire was about as easy as it could have been.  The beads seated instantly with soapy water and the compressor, so I didn’t need to use the inner tube.  Same process as with the rear wheel, and the front wheel is ready to go.

I definitely need to pick up an air tank that I can fill either at home or at a gas station.  Makes re/seating beads very quick and easy.