Introducing... CRANKENSTEIN: Building a Cyclocross Bike

Here's my latest project! I am so thrilled to have just finished it after a couple of months of acquiring parts from all corners of the internet and working on it whenever I had a chance (occasionally). My goal was to have a light, fast, functional, and reliable bike for racing cyclocross (new!), light offroad/gravel touring, and hopefully the Oregon Outback (infophotos) or something similar in the future. Another goal was to keep the cost as low as possible because a) bicycle pricing is weird and it actually costs less to buy a whole bike assembled than buying all of the parts separately, b) there is a sea of perfectly good used parts very available to me through The Bikery (co-op where I volunteer), craigslist, ebay, and other local shops, c) it adds another dimension to the challenge, and d) it would be no fun and I wouldn't learn much by just buying a brand-new bike that actually works. Knobby tires, integrated shifting, and aluminum/carbon materials are all relatively new to me as most of my projects tend to be vintage steel road bikes, so this was an awesome opportunity for me to dip into new areas, expand the bike-knowledge parts of my brain (though they may be taking over other parts...), and keep my hobby fresh.

The entire project cost about $460, although it is a little difficult to add it up exactly because I was pulling parts off of my other bikes or from the depths of my garage, didn't use all parts from a few bulk purchases, and often had to ditch some that just didn't fit. For instance, a lot of it came off of a Raleigh Team Technium road bike with Shimano 105 components that I bought on Craigslist for $90, almost entirely dismantled, and re-sold the frame, fork, and bars for $40, easily resulting in 50 dollars' worth of bike to me. Anyway, I kept a detailed spreadsheet outlining my purchases.

framenashbar aluminum cx frame (NB-XFA)nashbar$107.00
fork2010/11 bontrager satellite plusebay$73.00
headsetritchey wcs logic cross w/ cable hangerebay$50.00
headset spacer1 1/8" x 1" aluminum2020 cycle$6.00
barssalsa cowbellCL-2batch purchase of parts for $80
stemritchey, 100mm, 110degCL-2
seat postritcheyCL-2$80.00
wheelsetmavic cxp22, deore hubsCL-2135mm spacing on rear hub :(
wheelsetmavic open sport w/ shimano 105 hubsbasement / commuter$0.00
cranksetShimano 105 - 175mmCL - Raleigh$0.00
bottom bracketShimano octalinkCL - Raleigh$0.00
pedalsShimano SPDCL - Raleigh$0.00
chainringsunmarked 46T, 39T2020 cycle$20.00Look good, feel good, but have no idea what they are
front derShimano 105CL - Raleigh$0.00
front der clamp31.8mmCL - Raleigh$0.00had to re-bend
rear derShimano 105CL - Raleigh$0.00
brakesTektro cr720amazon$48.00new!
briftersShimano Sora - 2 x 8 spdCL-1$0.00
seat post clampNashbarNashbar$5.60
saddleSelle San Marco ConcorCL - Raleigh$0.00
cables + housingbulk - bikerybikery$15.00
rear cable hangerorigin 8 "seat binder" + microadjuster2020 cyclecable bend too tight. paid $5.
rear cable hangersurlyelliott bay cycles$6.00
bar tapegeneric - corkebay$8.00
cassette9 spd, removed 14t gear -> 8spdCL-1$0.00ratio: 12 13 15 17 19 21 23 25
tiresMaxxis mud wrestler - 700x33c clincherbikery$12.00
tubes4x Meetlocks 700x28-35Camazon$23.002 extras
chainKMC 8/9spdbikery$8.00
bottle cagePerformance bikebikery$1.00
TOTAL $462.60
Here's an abridged, graphic representation of the build process!

Parts in Craigslist order #1 (cost: 2 6-packs of beer). Ended up only using the brifters and cassette. Bottom bracket wasn't wide enough, had to use a different crankset with the other BB because it was Octalink instead of square taper, Ritchey seatpost was nicer, etc...

Frame, fork, parts

Very fresh

Installing the headset

Headset install

Headset, fork, stem, bars installed

Bringing the Raleigh to the slaughter

Raleigh BB removal (octalink!)

Not one, but TWO bikes in a car2go

BB, crankset, chainrings. pedals installed

Seat, front brake (later replaced), levers, wheelset from Craigslist #2 (later replaced), spare chain (running as single speed just to get to the shop and back)

Rear brake cable hanger that didn't work out (note the awful angle of the cable). Hanger was too short, seatpost collar is notched on the wrong side from where the cable is routed on the frame.

Rear brake cable hanger that DID work out! Sooo long, so nice. Steel, made by Surly.

The Great Wheelset Swap Day - swapped wheelsets, cassettes, and tires among 3 bikes. Commuter wheelset (on creme bike, left) gets CX tires for new bike, other wheelset (standing) is too wide for any of my bikes but I used its cassette (below), and wheel on the right gets a new cassette, "new" tire, and goes on the commuter.

Cassette cleaning, removing one cog to make it an 8-speed instead of 9.

9th cog replaced by spacer (left)

Wheelset, cleaned up, with tires!

SECOND brakeset that did not work out. Trying to find proper replacement springs and their housing is impossible.

NEW front brake. Third time's a charm, right? The first 2 sets I tried were vintage and missing parts (difficult to find replacements), so I figured it was some sort of a sign and that if I should spend a little extra for any functionality, being able to stop reliably is somewhat important.

New rear brake

Looking like a bike! Still single speed to get to the shop.

Derailleurs installed

Front der - had to bend the derailleur clamp very carefully with a vice to fit because the Raleigh had a slightly ovalized seat tube.

Rear der

All cables run, new brakes

Bar tape - layer #1 (old used Planet Bike cork tape, great for a comfy base layer)

EVERYTHING FUNCTIONAL! Derailleurs on, all cables run, 2nd layer of bar tape on. Just need to cut the excess on the steerer tube.

Cutting the steerer tube. Hacksaws are fun, 100x easier with the guide.

Steerer cut, fork, headset, stem replaced! Star nut to be installed.

Star nut installed, stem cap in


DONE. Very pretty.

Overall, I'm really pleased with how it turned out! It's really responsive, light, and gearing should be plenty fast offroad, not to mention looking like the Batmobile in all black. The only parts I ended up getting new were the frame, headset, and brakes, in addition to odds and ends like cables and housing, chain, bar tape, etc - little stuff that is infinitely easier to just buy new without a big hit to the wallet. To me, sub-$500 is a fantastic price for a totally unique bike that I can honestly say I know down to every last bolt. I'm hoping to still throw in another small tour this fall (hopefully mostly offroad!) and will most likely be entering my first cyclocross race next weekend, so I'm excited to see how Crankenstein performs!



Kitsap Weekend Tour + Photo Recap!

Potentially one of Seattle's last sunny, warm weekends means... Get out on your bike!

I started the weekend tour from the city after work on Friday, bolted straight to the ferry downtown, and rode up at 5:29 to be the last cyclist let on board (phenomenal timing incident #1, there were a few this trip, I'll keep count!). I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island (about a half hour) and stopped at the T&C for the weekend's groceries - pitas, peanut butter, granola, an apple, a fruit cup.

Next was the ride about 7mi north, the length of Bainbridge, to a campsite at Fay Bainbridge Park. Mostly pleasant, only one huge wall of a hill, which could be mostly my fault for choosing a random side street to take me off of the main road. This was the only point at which I wanted to call it... PAINBRIDGE ISLAND.

The campsite was busy and pleasant - right on the water, lots of cars and RVs, but bikers/hikers camping got priority on the little sites closest to the beach. I met a guy, Josh, who was touring fully loaded from Vancouver to Santa Barbara! Awesome trip! We hung out and nerded out over bikes, gear, tours, and upcoming routes over beers and a campfire before crashing.

Day 1:
Dist: 8.12
Time: 36 mins
Avg speed: 13.29
Max: 38.11

Ferry to Bainbridge

Seattle shipyards+stadiums

Seattle from the ferry

There must've been 35 cyclists getting off of the 5:30 ferry. What a cool commute! Getting off looked like starting blocks at a race.

Sweet campsite!

Being stoic

Josh's awesome vintage Bridgestone MB-1

Day 2 I got a relatively slow start in the morning, breakfasted with Josh, split up and planned to meet in Port Townsend in the evening. I had an awesome ride up North over a sketchy bridge off of Bainbridge, through Suquamish, to Point No Point (my favorite) and its lighthouse at lunch, back down South past Port Gamble, North across the 104 bridge (very cool), and North again, following the coast on some side roads suggested by lighthouse volunteers, to Port Townsend. We each got a few bike compliments from a local bike shop owner, caught up over incredible burgers at the Owl Spirit Cafe in Port Townsend, and entirely lost track of time in a state of burger bliss. I snapped out of a burger coma when I randomly decided to check the ferry schedule - the next one was leaving in 7 minutes and there wouldn't be another for another hour and a half! Shit! We bolted and were the last ones onto the ferry (phenomenal timing incidents #2&3) after a 1/2-mile sprint. Excellent. The ride to Mukilteo was about 20 minutes and our campsite was right next to the terminal at Fort Casey State Park. It had a ton of cool old war relics, but unfortunately the cyclist/hiker section of the campground was behind a wooden fence amidst a sea of RVs with generators running. We made the most of it with a 10-mile round-trip nighttime beer run (the closest store to us - not much happening on Whidbey, apparently) and battling wet wood and condensation for an extremely disappointing and difficult, underperforming campfire. The stars were phenomenal, though, so I used my rain fly as a blanket/dew shield, opting for a stellar night sky view (pun very much intended).

Day 2:
Dist: 76.61
Time: 5:49
Avg speed: 13.16
Max speed: 38.49

Weird painted rocks. Island people...
This bridge was terrifying to ride on...

...but had some excellent views.

Pointless venture
At Point No Point

Cheez. Nice lighthouse wall.

Lunch at Point No Point Lighthouse - Apples, PB, Cinnamon+Flax Granola on a whole wheat pita. Also solar-charging devices and scopin' boats with my 'noculars.

Pointless beachgoers at Point No Point

Great place for a farm!

Some fall coloration happening in Port Gamble

Really contesting the acclaimed king-sizedness of this ice cream sammich but it was still the best $1.50 I spent that day.

I do these borderline-escapist adventures largely to get away from my 9-5 writing code all day... but it continues to haunt me. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_(programming))

Josh, dinner at Owl Spirit Cafe
Oh My Burger

A fine ship

You put your jacket on because it's cold on the front of the ferry

Yeah, like that.

Cheezin' for Tenspeed Hero


Into the campsite on Whidbey

The next day I woke up and got on the small non-RV-park side of the RV park and watched the sunrise while a ferry came in and out. Weirdly surreal and picturesque! After breakfasting on a fruit cup and some more granola, I decided to ride with Josh back to Seattle even though he was carrying a lot more crap than I was due to his coastal expedition (of which I am still envious). We had a leisurely pace and made a ton of stops, took scenic routes, and talked more than would have been possibly had the exercise actually been consistently strenuous. Friendship! Very cool to ride with someone else for a change. We made it pretty consistently through the center of Whidbey because, again, there wasn't much going on. Still very pretty in parts, though! Some stops included: potentially abandoned ferry terminal POWER HOUSE (always all caps), sign into Useless Bay (even worse than Point No Point, what is going on with these islands?!), and a self-service pottery sale. The ferry to Mukilteo was short, and we then became the grossest patrons of Patty's Eggnest, a fine diner with a few locations around town - I'd been to one in Arlington, so I was thrilled when I found out I could once again drown myself in sausage gravy in a new location. Not a lot of beautiful scenery for awhile as we bounced through Seattle's North suburbs over to the tip of Lake Washington to go to 192 Brewery Co. on the Burke-Gilman trail for a few beers to get us the rest of the 16-ish miles home. Possibly a bad idea, as we had to stop again halfway to rehydrate and refuel on pitas while laying on the side of the Burke. No problem, though! We made a full recovery and made it back to my place through familiar bike paths before it got too dark.

I also GoPro'd basically the entire day from my handlebars, save for a little bit of time after batteries died and were then charged. The GoPro is a really neat little camera, but I wish the battery life weren't so atrocious - even on a timelapse, the battery only lasts about 2.5 hours. Doesn't help me too much when I'm out riding for 10 hours a day. I'm sure they're working on it.

Day 3:
Dist: 64.34
Time: 5:29
Avg speed: 11.71

Max speed: 34.71


Cliche PNW

Holiest log 
Modest campsite


Outfit for the day. Almost.

2 power houses



Spooky POWER HOUSE overgrowth

It gets worse

Honesty-policy-based pottery sales. I like it.

Ferry - gopro
Cool shadow gopro

Burke-Gilman - gopro

THE LAST - gopro

Overall, perfect distance, breakpoints, amenities, restaurants, and weather for a quick summer/fall weekend trip! My slick tires and skinny rims performed admirably, although I am pretty sure I beat them up more than I should've. Will most definitely get my more indestructible wheelset out for any heavier venture. Anyway, enough writing. Time to plan the next tour.