Saturday, November 2, 2013

Disc-Brake Road Bike (Part 2: Frame Received)

As I outlined in part one of this series, I'm building up a disc-brake road bike -- the FM145 from Yishun Bike specifically.

The frame shipped out within a day or so of my "two week" estimate (wasn't built yet) and I received it exactly one week after it shipped (EMS).

The Frame

In short, the frame looks great (as I was expecting it to)!
The weight for the 60cm frame (with hardware) turns out to be 1080g (a little under the claimed 1100g).
This is a raw UD matte carbon finish.  As such, when you get closer you can see the layup seams for the UD layer (I assume this is just a superficial layer).  This is also true for my UD carbon wheels and perusing other raw carbon finishes from bigger names (e.g. Canyon is notorious) this seems to be normal.  It definitely gives it some "character", though.

I'm not sure I love this carbon aesthetic, but some people do; I'm sure it'll grow on me or I won't care.  (I realize now that my Motobecane Le Champion CF frame must actually be painted a matte black, as it has a completely uniform -- no seams -- finish.)  You can see the additional port there under bottle mounts; I assume that's for Di2 wiring, so won't be applying to me in the near future.

Looking down into the head tube you can see some artifacts from the construction process.  Inside the seat tube and BB junction the tubes look very clean, but this shot reveals a little about how the sausage is made.

The caliper post mounts look clean.  I have read of issues with lining up the calipers on some frames; obviously I haven't gotten that far yet.  These is configured for a 140mm rotor (and I would guess that a larger rotor would not clear chainstay).
The derailleur hanger arrived without incident and looks to be well-secured (I have left the rubber guard on it).  Quite an sharp angle there from the chainstay to the dropouts.  I know some comments on the FM166 frame (which seems very similar if not identical) suggest needing to take out the skewer to remove wheel.  Even if that proves to be the case, I don't anticipate that being a problem.
You can see the guide for the derailleur cable sticking out there.  I imagine it's standard practice, but I'm glad these are included! :)  I don't know much about internal routing, but it seems that some frames want you to route solid housing and others, such as this frame, want just cables in the frame; there are stops for the housing and only room for cables in the guides under the BB.

I received this frame with some expectation that there would be some imperfections. The first one (and only one so far) that I have had to deal with is the right-side grommet for the derailleur cable inner routing.  At first it appeared it just wasn't all the way screwed in:
Some more careful study revealed that the hole in the grommet wasn't lining up with the hold for the screw in the frame.  There was more material on one side of the port, so I took a file and evened it out.
After evening out the port, the grommet snaps in and the screw lined up perfectly..

While I had it on my work bench, I went ahead and measured the rear dropout spacing.  I wanted to confirm that it was 135mm, since the schematic had listed 130mm (definitely *not* what I want for a disc-brake hub).  The sales rep had assured me it was 135 and that the drawings were wrong, but I still wanted to confirm.
Well that looks to be just about exactly 135mm, so that's great.

The Fork

This appears to be the same fork that is sold with the Hongfu/Dengfu FM166/FM079 frames.  Including the somewhat tacky sheet metal cable guide.  While the fork seems very solid, I'm planning to buy the Whisky 15mm thru-axle fork instead.  I'll just sell this later to perhaps offset the rather hefty price tag of the Whisky No 9.
Weight came in at 448 grams (claimed weight 440g) -- not super light, but not bad for a disc-brake fork.  (For comparison, the Enve road disc fork has a claimed weight of 435g.  The Whisky No 9 is 375g.)

I think the finish on the fork is excellent.  Unlike the frame, the seams are not obvious.

Of course that sheet-metal cable guide is a little tacky.  Painting it black would be a good first step.  (If I were keeping the fork, I would give this more thought.)
Here are the UD seams inside the fork legs.
And the disc caliper post mounts.  (This is for a 140mm rotor; 160mm will need an adapter.)

So, on the whole I'm very pleased with the frame.  Next step in this process is likely going to be building the wheels.  More to come on that topic once I've received all the parts.

(Update: continue on to part 3 for overall build & impressions.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Disc-Brake Road Bike (Part 1: Frame Research and Sourcing)

Behold the beginning of a new bike build.
Notice the little nubs near the dropout on the NDS chainstay.

Yes, I have decided to build a disc-brake road bike. I have used disc brakes on my mountain bikes (of course) for years; this past year I have done most of my day-to-day riding on a disc-brake equipped touring/cross bike (which is setup pretty much like an all-weather road bike). Ultimately, I am convinced of the value of disc brakes on the road. Not just for the wet days. Sure, disc brakes stop better when its wet, but they also stop better when it's dry. They also solve the problem of carbon clinchers and brake heat -- and the inferior braking on carbon brake tracks, in general. I love the idea of not worrying about taking carbon clinchers on rides with significant descents.

There are many that say that disc brakes on road bikes are unnecessary; I agree with that, but this same argument could be made for any number of cycling innovations over the past hundred years (indexed shifting, 10-speed cassettes, 11-speed cassettes, electronic shifting, etc.). Disc-brake systems are (still) heavier and give up some aerodynamics, but the technology is indisputably better at one thing: stopping the bicycle. It is clear that discs are here for the long haul on road bikes. You don't have to look much further than the current cover of Bicycling magazine to see that this is an idea whose time has come.

Of course, disc brakes are still not UCI-legal for racing, and the marketing machine for bicycles is heavily driven by the pro peleton.  So buying a disc-brake road bike now is jumping the gun a little, because despite there being an option from most of the bike manufacturers, the market hasn't quite exploded yet and some of the components are still a bit pricey (hydraulics, for example) .  And because they're not UCI legal yet, the vast majority of the frames that are out there are "endurance road" which basically split the difference between a road and a touring frame (longer stays, taller head tubes, clearance for larger tires, etc.).  While I don't need a pure race bike, I definitely want something more race-y than my commuter.  This bike won't need fenders or tires larger than 25mm.

Frame Research

I do love titanium, but my only marginally affordable titanium option is [somewhat ironically] building a custom frame through Habanero -- or custom frame direct from China. No, for this first foray into disc-brake road bikes, I am going to purchase a stock carbon frame direct from China.

I started by surveying the market to figure out what the options were and which frame was going to be the closest fit.

There are a few few main / "big-name" (relatively speaking) frames and then a few additional ones that can be found on; I'll just address the main ones here. Also I'm only looking at frames which offer a 60cm size or similar reach (the stack/reach numbers vary quite a bit), which definitely narrows the field.

Hongfu/Dengfu (Flybike factory) FM166

Hongfu and Dengfu are just distributors here; the FM166 is the same frame. Ordering from Hongfu or Dengfu seems to be more a question of customer service than anything else.

Here is a good youtube review of this frame:
Hongfu/Dengfu FM166 Geometry  
(The headtube angle appears to be wrong in this table.)

On the whole this frame was near the top of the list for me.

Hongfu/Dengfu (Flybike factory) FM079

For 2014, there is a new bike available from these guys which looks very similar to the FM166; however, it has significantly different geometry options. If the FM166 does not fit, you might wish to check this one out.
Hongfu/Dengfu FM079 
This frame provides more reach but also more stack with a 200mm headtube (for size 60); I want the flexibility to have a slightly more aggressive drop without a -17-degree stem.

FlyXii FR-320

At time of writing, this is the only Chinese disc-brake road frame that is available on ebay.  This one doesn't come in a size 60; I briefly considered it anyway, since the geometry matches my Motobecane frame almost exactly (and with a short headtube the reach is comparable to some of the 60cm frames).  The deal breaker for me is the 402mm chainstay length. For comparison, the other frames here have 410mm or 412mm stays (even that may be pushing it, we'll see).  I cannot fathom how the heel of my size-48 shoe would not be hitting the calipers (or the chainstays) with 135mm rear spacing.  It's close enough on my 405mm chainstays with 130mm rear spacing.

Carbonal Talia Disc

I don't know much (anything) about this company, but I came across their products and they seem legit enough to mention here.

The geometry on this one is fairly short, though; the 60cm has a 58cm ETT.  So that was pretty much dead in the water.

Yishun FM145

Yishun is primarily known for their wheels, but they also make (or distribute) frames and they've been in business for at least a few years. Their frames come with a 2-year warranty, which is a little less helpful when shipping is over 10% of the frame price, but it's something. The reviews I could find were generally (but not all) positive; that seems to be about par for the course with these better-known mainland manufacturers. Gavin Wu responded to my email to their sales department and he and I were in regular communication through the ordering process.

FM145 60cm

(Note that there is an error in the schematic; the rear spacing is 135mm on this frame. Gavin was quick to respond that the schematic was wrong; hopefully the factory knows that too...)
One of the primary reasons I decided to go with Yishun was the excellent communication -- both in terms of responsiveness and in terms of language skills and bicycle knowledge / understanding (which definitely puts one at ease when ordering something sight-unseen like this).

I decided to not opt for any decals or painting. I'd kinda like to personalize it, but I honestly couldn't think of anything specific, so I ordered it in the [quite trendy] matte black UD finish.

The size I wanted was not in stock with the BSA bottom bracket, so a new one had to be ordered from the factory. It is scheduled to ship out this week, so I should have it in a couple weeks.

More to come!

Update: See part 2 for a look at the received frame or part 3 for the final build & impressions.