Albatross reconfigurated

Things have been decidedly unfixed (broken?) and non-single (multiple?) around here of late–what with all sorts of blathering about the travails of the Pugsley, long rides in the rain, the seemingly endless saga of building up the La Raza, and some hills. This happened mostly because the Kona Jake died a semi-peaceful death and the Albatross has been in dry dock since its post-Almanzo teardown.

Let’s get back to our roots, shall we? The spinning heart of things, the single cog. The Albatross has returned to service, this time as a all-terrain, go-everywhere, urban assault vehicle–or some such thing. I swapped out a bunch of stuff, and removed the the decals on the downtube, seatstays, and fork. It’s evolution is by no means complete, but here’s how things stand now.

What’s new…

Drivetrain. A new 36t stainless Surly chainring mated with a 16t VeloSolo bolt-on cog, tied together with a new SRAM PC-850 chain. This gives about 65 gear inches (or 5.2 meters of development). The 32×16 freewheel setup did not survive the limestone grit of the Almanzo (though it’s still mounted because I don’t have the correctly tool to remove it).

Brakes. The rear Avid BB7 has been removed–in part because the caliper badly gummed up with limestone and partly because the bolt-on hub takes the place of the disc rotor. Because one doesn’t need a rear brake riding fixed. And because one less mechanical disc brake in the world is a good thing.

Tires. I’d originally planned to ride the WTB Vulpines for a while, but then had a nasty rear blow-out while I was barely out of the driveway while testing the new drivetrain. Since I had to fix it anyway, I mounted a set of 35mm Schwalbe Marathons, but found the handling with the narrower tires to be a bit odd. Now, the Albatross is wearing a pair of my favorite meaty all-rounder tires: 2.15″ Schwalbe Big Apples. Plush doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Fenders. Among other things, I’ll be commuting some or all of the time on this bike, so it needs fenders (most bikes need fenders–but we can discuss that some other time). Given the size of the Big Apples, there’s really only one type that are wide enough: Planet Bike Cascadia 29ers. Fender mounting on the Albatross requires a little bit of creativity, especially under the fork crown. The Cascadia 29ers are made to be (more or less) compatible with disc brakes, so that helps somewhat.

The fenders still need some work, especially to remedy the ugly curve along the ugly curve of the ugly-curved seat tube. That would be a lot easier if there was a fender boss at the chainstay-BB cluster–but there isn’t, so things are just zip-tied for the time being until I can come up with something better.

Grips. I swapped the Ergon GP1 grips (which somehow migrated to the Pugsley) for another pair of Ergon GP1 grips. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, quoth the Raven (bonus points if you know who really said this).

What’s next…

First of all, riding. I’ve not put nearly enough miles on this bike and that’s about to change. Besides commuting and general riding-about-town, I’ve got several mixed surface (path, trail, road) rides planned and I imagine I’ll also take it north to the Wife’s ancestral homestead for some gravel road explorations. Maybe even some single-track, if it’s dry enough for the Big Apples (I’m tired of changing tires).

However, there are a few other things I have planned.

Cargo. As things stand, I’m limited to a frame bag (the awesome Relevate Tangle) and a small underseat bag. For longer rides and for commuting in the warmer months, I’d rather avoid having to wear something on my back. This means either a support for the Carradice Nelson or some kind of rando- or porteur-like front rack/bag combo. Not sure what to do about that, just yet–but I’ll try the Carradice first, probably in combination with a bag support.

Crankset. The 175mm Stylo cranks are, strictly speaking, too long for me–whether riding fixed, single, or otherwise. Sooner or later, I’ll replace these with something shorter from the parts bin, but first I’ll have to pick up a 73mm square taper bottom bracket. This will also mean a chainring change, but there are plenty of options in the bin.

Brakes. I’ve left the front Avid BB7 mostly out of laziness. In the end, I’ll switch back to cantilevers so that I have run both a front and back while using the bolt-on cog (or when running as a single-speed). Now I just need to find brake posts. This will also allow me to use road brake levers, should I choose, which brings me to…

Handlebars. As much as I love the On-One Mary bars, I’d like more hand positions for rides longer than 40-50 miles. I’ve both Salsa Woodchippers and 48cm Nitto Noodle bars in the parts bin–and I’d like to try both of them mounted relatively high in relation to the saddle.

Saddle. It’s still wearing the ancient Selle Italia XO that seems to make an appearance on most of my single-speed and fixed-wheel bikes. In the normal course of things, this will be replaced with one of the several Brooks B-17s that I’ve got floating around from bike to bike.

Drivetrain. As much as I like riding fixed, I also like riding up hills and coasting down them. Sometime after I’ve switched to cantilevers, I’ll re-space one of the 130mm rear wheels to 135mm and mount both 16t and 18t freewheels. A wheel swap will change things from fixed to free/free.

But enough ruminating. It’s time to go for a ride.

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