Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Planned Modification for Specialized Sequoia

how the bike was set up initially
after almost a year, I have spent more than 1000 miles on the Sequoia. I think the bike is mostly where it needs to be in terms of position. The tubing on this bike responds well to my pedaling with planing-like behavior. Yet when I get off the saddle with a load on, the bike doesn't feel noodly at all. The low-trail fork allows me to measure my input more precisely, and is pretty impervious to weight in the front bag. I don't know if the shorter wheelbase has anything to do with it, but I have ridden on long rides with a significant load (~ 15 lbs) in a rear pannier and the bike doesn't fight me when I ride out of the saddle. I really like how the bike rides overall and happy with the decision to keep this bike instead of its two predecessors--the Rawland cSogn and the Rivendell Bleriot.
How the bike is set up today

When I was building it up, I did not put too much thinking at the time. I simply threw all the parts on my old Rivendell Bleriot on it. Even though I replaced the fork few months later, and had to replace the headset in the process, there are still several details on this bike that I am not 100% satisfied with.

The first and most glaring weakness for me, is the bike's brakes. Currently I am using Dia Compe 750 centerpull brakes that I used on the Bleriot. They do an adequate job of braking, though when the bike is loaded and coming down on a long descent, I still find the stopping power wanting compared to cantilever brakers I have on my other bikes. Even though the braking power is mostly adequate, and stronger compared to ultra-long-reach sidepulls such as the Tektro 556, I couldn't get used to the hand feel as I am braking. To me, it lacks the crisp feeling that a good cantilever brakes generate at the brake levers. 

The second part that I have been mostly OK with, but would prefer to improve upon is the front rack. I have been using a VO front constructeur rack, also from the Bleriot. The rack is actually quite sturdy and even looks pretty nice, but I want a rack that has mounting point higher than the dropout eyelets, as I want to use my Tubus Tara lowrider rack when I have to carry a load on tours. The VO rack also makes putting the bike on the front rack of a bus less secured, as I can't swing the clamp as far back on the front wheel as I can with a rack that mounts on the mid-fork braze-on or higher.

Another aspect of the bike that wasn't dialed in completely was the saddle position. Because of the steeper seat angle on the Sequoia, and the slightly shorter top tube (even though the bike has a 58cm seat tube, it only has a 56cm top tube), I feel slightly cramped when I reach for the handlebar. 

Finally, even though I have created a kind of attachment using Ortlieb lower hooks on the bottom side of the VO Campagne bag and it sits very well and secured on the rack, the hook does allow the bag to rattle slightly to make just enough noise, especially on rougher pavement or descents, that is beginning to bug me. 

So I contacted local builder Mike Cleaver to add cantilever brake bosses on the bike. Mike is moving his shop to Berkeley so he will help me after his move in early July. I have purchased a set of Avid Shorty 4 brakes. They were so cheap on eBay ($18 for a bike worth of used ones that come with replaceable brake shoes/pads) and I had good experience with them on my Raleigh One-Way.

I also planned to replace the Vo front rack with a Nitto Mark's Rack I have sitting in my parts bin. I have thought about purchasing a Nitto M12 or VO Pass Hunter front rack with integrated decaleur, but since I purchased the Mark's Rack several years ago, the price of racks, particular those made by Nitto, have gone up very much. In the case of Mark's rack it had gone up 50%! Since I already have this rack in my possession, and my Kogswell fork has fork crown braze-ons, I can use the two shorter struts that typically are used when one installs Mark's Rack as a rear rack in the front to make it a sturdy rack for a front handlebar bag.

To improve the sitting position, I put on the selle san marco Ischia saddle that I bought from Jan Heine. it has very long seat rails to allow the saddle to sit further back. It's pretty firm and narrower compared to the Terry Liberator saddle I had on the bike, so I won't be able to know whether this is a long term solution until later. Anther option here is to put a laced Brooks B17 that I have in my parts bin on. But I want to give this Ischia saddle a try first.

To improve the bag attachment, I decided to take the route I did with my Inujirushi bag on my Ebisu. I took a pair of top Ortlieb hooks and fasten them on a short rail, then attach the short rail to the bottom of the bag. The hooks clamp on to the middle rail of the front rack very well, and sits both securely and quietly on the rack.

I will take more pictures of the bike once I get the cantilever boss on and switch out the front rack.

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