Friday, June 27, 2014

Disc-Brake Road Bike (Part 3: The Build)

In a continuation of parts one, two, and the related wheel-build post, I've now finished assembling my Yishun FM145 disc-brake road bike and been using it for a few months -- it doesn't get ridden as much as the daily commuter, but I've put a little over a thousand miles on it and I am loving it.

Here's a photo I took a few months back; I've tweaked a few of the normal things since then (stem, bar height) as I've ridden  it more.  In short, though, I am really happy with how it came together.

A few things changed from my original plan.

  • Originally, I was planning to buy the Whisky No 9 fork and use that  instead of the fork that came with the frameset.  The Whisky fork is 15mm thru-axle and would save a little weight, but at ~$600 it's pretty pricey and I discovered that using a DT Swiss 9mm thru-bolt does an excellent job of preventing any brake rub.  So I'm gonna leave this -- unless my fitting tells me that I cut the steerer too short, then I'll have to reevaluate :)
  • I was also going to move over my Sram Rival group from my previous bike, but in the end I decided to sell that bike complete (instead of frameset) and found a good deal on a Sram Force group (without the cranks, which I already had) for this bike.  I love the zero-loss shifting, though now that I am used to it -- it shifts before I expect it to, so I had been over-shifting in the beginning.
The build in the end came out at 17lbs 4oz (7.82 kg) (weighed with cages, pedals, garmin mount, etc.)  So not a weight-weenie build, but a reasonable road bike weight.

Build Highlights

Obviously the highlight of the build is the disc brakes.  I opted for the TRP Spyre brakes, since the dual piston design seems superior (to Avid/Hayes), the weight is better (than Avid/Hayes), and the calipers are narrow to avoid any heel-clearance issues.  And I decided to get the regular version -- not the carbon-armed SLC.  This was mainly driven by stock availability; I had to wait until the post-recall brakes were released and the non-SLC was available first.  But also price and to a lesser extent aesthetics.  I also had read a couple of reports -- granted, from tandem users -- about failure of the carbon arms on descents and I decided that I would be a little more comfortable with the alloy model.  Same reason I opted for 28 instead of 24 spokes in the wheels: I don't want to be  feeling like I need to be careful with this equipment.

The Yokozuna Reaction cable housing is pretty impressive.  That stuff ain't cheap, so I guess one would hope to be impressed.  I'm also a big fan of the Avid HSX rotors.  I have used the TRP Spyre brakes with the stock rotors (and same cables/housing) on my commuter bike and the stopping performance of the Spyre calipers with the HSX rotors is markedly better than the performance with the TRP rotors.

A few people ask about the stickers.  I just went to and ordered some text ("hozn", a nickname) scaled to fit on the downtube.  I think it looks great and it's held up just perfectly for the past thousand miles.  The skull and crossbones on the headtube was just a sticker from an ebay seller -- that has held up great too.  While I would probably get it painted by the factory next time around, I think it looks great in raw black with the gloss black decals.


It's hard to compare bikes since there are so  many variables.  I came to this bike from a Motobecane Le Champion CF frame with an Enve 2.0 (straight-steerer) fork that I had built up with SRAM Rival and 50mm Farsports carbon clincher wheels.  Compared to that bike:

  • This frame is lighter.  The overall build is around the same weight (maybe slightly heavier), but the frame itself is at least 200g lighter than the Motobecane.
  • The frame feels more forgiving (aka a little less stiff).  This may be in my mind (especially given the next point), but it feels both a little more comfortable over bumps (which makes sense given how thin the seatstays are and that this is a 27.2 mm seatpost instead of 31.6) and also perhaps very slightly less stiff in the bottom bracket when climbing (though still much stiffer than any of the ti or steel bikes I have owned).
  • The frontend, though, feels very significantly stiffer.  I didn't think my frontend on my other bike was flexy until I rode this new one.  It might be the tapered steerer.  It might be the beefy fork.  It might be the 9mm thru-bolt -- or some combination of these factors.  I do appreciate the stiff frontend when climbing, though.
  • These 45mm light-bicycle wheels also seem a little more susceptible to crosswinds (than the 50mm Farsports wheels).  I'm not sure if that's due to differences in geometry (I think I had placed myself too far behind the pedals on previous frame), differences in build (e.g. 28 spokes vs 20), or the actual aerodynamics of the rims themselves.  It's not really a problem, just a subtle difference.  Of course, the hugest difference with the wheels is that these actually stop spinning when I apply the brakes :)

I don't have any real regrets with the build; every time I ride the bike I think that it's just fantastic.  I guess there are a couple of things I would consider doing differently, though, next time around:

  • I would probably have the frame painted / decals done at factory.  Not that there's anything wrong with how they turned out, but I kinda took the easy black-on-black path, whereas something a little original might be nice next time.  (Of course deciding on color scheme could take weeks!)
  • I would build the rear wheel with an 11-speed compatible hub.  Saving $20 for the 10-speed hub was a dumb choice.  I'll have to rebuild the rear if I want to upgrade to 11 speed in the coming years.  I am happy with the Novatec hubs, though; granted they are still very young, but they seem to be working great and have a nice sound (not too loud,  but loud enough to be heard which is nice).
  • I  might have gone down a size.  Right now this works great, but if I wanted to drop the bars much more I'd need a -17 stem.  Probably a 58cm frame size would have been a better choice given that the seat tube angle is steeper (73 vs 72.5) so the effective reach wouldn't be that different and the it would provide more bar height and length adjustment.
Here are a few more photos of the build!