Saturday, January 21, 2012

Selecting part-icular-s

Not long ago I posted about the new gravel racer I’m building. I finally had the chance to review the first draft of the build earlier this week with Chris at ProPeloton. We reviewed some of the dimensions and discussed the implications. We did make some changes to deal with toe overlap and stand over height, but these were minor. The final specs came in this morning and it looks unique. The tubes may be cut as soon as the end of next week. Looks like I may have a new ride before the end of February.

I've compared myself to a new parent with this bike. You know how new parents have a reputation for overanalyzing their first child and obsessing about things? Then their second or third kid comes along and these same things are no big deal? Yeah. That’s me. Mea culpa. I’ve definitely been overanalyzing the build specs of this bike. But it’s a dream bike, it’s not cheap and I get to choose EVERYTHING! What drivetrain? What shifters? What crank? Do I reallllllly  need top shelf stuff here? Where should I act the weight weenie and where should I go with the heavier known quantity? Where is it important to buy the best and where does it make little if any difference? What are the pros and cons of each? and where do I get it from? While I’d love to source everything new from my LBS, this thing is a narrow margin so I’ve been looking for the best deals by trolling CL and eBay. It’s been driving me a bit batty and I’m honestly glad that I’ll have all the parts purchased by the end of this week. Two big changes have occurred since the last post about this bike a little over a week ago. 

I ended up going with SRAM parts, mostly Force, but with Red shifters, over Shimano. After switching between riding the Vaya (Shimano) and the Ridley (SRAM) I was less and less stuck on Shimano. The Shimano shifting seems a better up front and the hoods are slightly better on my hands, but the ergonomics of the levers and shifters have always fit my hands better with SRAM. It’s also hard to dispute that SRAM is lighter and cheaper overall. 

Compatibility was another consideration. While I really like the Dura Ace crank, you’re stuck getting only DA rings, which are damn expensive. When the Force rings need replacing I'll be getting some WickWerks rings.With SRAM I can also use a mountain rear derailleur if I ever choose to. Lastly the next gen DA looks to be 11 speed and it also looks to be NOT reverse compatible. Bummer. Verdict = SRAM. At this level of quality it's hard to go wrong either way, but this is the direction I chose.

The fork not taken
The fork choice also changed, but for very different reasons. I had planned to use the Whisky Disc Cross fork. The only other fork I considered was the ENVE disc cyclocross fork. ENVE has a great reputation and many of their parts are US made (the forks are not). Whisky is pretty new. Comparing the forks over the last couple months the specs looked nearly identical.  The weights were essentially the same (ENVE 460g, Whisky 459) both had similar clearance, both offer a matte finish. Both were also only offered in full carbon tapered steerer tubes. The ENVE lists for $546 while the Whisky lists at $345. A big difference for nearly the same fork! Plus who wouldn’t want a ride that says Whisky on it!? :)

When the fork arrived I inspected it and weighed it – 530. WTF? I understand that variance can and will occur in weights, but 71g is pretty far off from what they listed! Bike Rumor actually found theirs to be 546, so I guess I got lucky. Inspecting the actually build I was a little disappointed there too. The finish was not UD matte but clearly matte paint. Not a big deal, but even for paint it looks a little less than stellar. There were a couple imperfections near the post mount and rear fender mount where you could see slight paint drips. When I attempted to thread a screw in one of these it was rather tight and seemed like the machining quality was pretty poor. Some of the finishing on the carbon of the steerer tube was also lower quality. All in all I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

I’ve followed the Whisky’s Facebook feed for a while but thought it better to contact them through email and give them a chance to respond in a little less public forum. (I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.) Well, the email on their site is restricted. Foul. If you want to be taken as a professional high quality company then in this day and age you need to have a site that works and one that’s up to date (many dates are way off on the site). Consequently, I contacted them through FB. To their credit Whisky responded fairly quickly stating that the weight was a misprint they need to fix, and mentioned that I could return the fork. Rather than go through Whisky, I contacted the shop I purchased the fork from, told them the story. They were pretty awesome about the whole thing. They immediately agreed to take the fork back (the shop guys even said they would do the same thing and came to the same quality conclusions when they looked at the stuff) and swap it for the ENVE. They also did a price match against a competitor which saved me a Benjamin and earned them a loyal customer.

Did I really need the top shelf kit here? Well no. I probably could have stayed with the Whisky and been fine, but to be honest I lost a little faith in the company after seeing the product and the pretty big misprint. That combined with the pretty outdated website from a new company that’s not really a known quantity were big factors. When it comes down to it, I’m building a custom Ti frame I expect to last decades. Something I plan to ride thousands of miles every year. The difference in price is minor when compared against the total build, and the fork is an integral part of the bike. It’s something that’s not cheap to replace or upgrade, something that can greatly affect ride quality and something that in the end I decided was in fact worth getting top shelf kit. I’ve never heard one bad thing about ENVE products and my wheelbuilder and many other custom builders have nothing but positive things to say. When the fork arrives Tuesday I’ve no doubt that I’ll be happy.  When Dirty Kanza happens in June I’ll be there riding this beauty. 


  1. You're doing DK200 also? Excellent news! I'll see you at the Anti-Epic and in Emporia!

  2. Sweet! I'll see you there. Hopefully I'll have this ride built well before the AntiEpic.