Bike Tinkering Notes: Why build one randonneur bike when you can build two?

The problem with having multiple bikes is that they are always in various states of disrepair or transition. As soon as I finish one bike project, another needs to be overhauled. I always tell myself it’s the trade off for not buying gas or paying car insurance. I ride things until they fall apart – shop mechanics often marvel at how much abuse I give my drivetrain – so I get my money’s worth. Usually. As is often the case when you start working on a bike, one thing leads to another and in this case me and my credit card went far down the rabbit hole, pouring over Sheldon Brown charts and trying to decipher Peter White’s rambling… It was supposed to be a simple tune up.

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Since I’m doing the brevet series in preparation for Paris-Brest-Paris this year, I took it as an excuse to build a lighter and faster bike & found a 1993 Bridgestone RB-1. This was a rather flimsy excuse, because the touring bike has S&S couplers for flying and I knew I would be riding that if I make it to Paris anyways, but what’s one more bike? The RB lives up to the legend, I love it and the way it feels, but after the 400K I realized the fit wasn’t going to work for me on anything longer than 200 miles.

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So with the 600K in just two weeks, it’s back to riding the tried and true Soma, except of course it needs a major tune up and overhaul. I trimmed it down – fenders and rack gone, heavy 35c Schwalbe’s swapped for 28c Gatorskins, and I replaced the very high mileage triple crankset with a brand new compact double, along with a new chain and cassette.

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So far I have basically bought not one but two complete drivetrains, both 9 speed so I can swap parts back and forth and also because those parts are practical and reasonably cheap. Nothing crazy. This is when I decided to say fuck it and splurge (for Paris!) and called Box Dog and had them build me a much fancier and lighter dynamo wheel (SONdelux 28h to Mavic Open Pro) than the heavy duty monster I use for touring. My justification being I have a spare B&M lamp and I can put this wheel on the RB after Paris. There really is no comparison between battery lights and a dynamo, I tried going back to the battery lights but I can’t do it for the night riding required on these brevets (and the 600K is on a new moon!).

Anyways, that was fine until I finished the tune up and realized that my new-ish $120 brake levers have developed a jam in the quick release on the right hand side, and my 20k+ mile veteran bar end shifters will no longer index in the middle of the range at all (I usually run them in friction, but still, a failing shifter is not something I would want in the middle of PBP!). My first thought: kill two birds with one stone and get a set of STI brifters. I’d prefer that for brevet riding, and I can warranty the levers (however long that will take) and the bar ends will still be fine for friction duty in the future.

Except the 9 speed brifters only come with the cabling coming out of the side, which is where my randonneur bag is. This seemingly small design choice on the part of Shimano’s engineers has my whole plan screwed. The 10 speed brifters have the cabling reversed, but the cable pull ratio is different than the 9 speed, so you can’t mix the parts.

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BEHOLD! The JTEK Shifmate Model 2. One of 5 versions made by a tiny British company that are all completely sold out except for the one I need, hopefully. No one I talked to has any idea if this thing will actually work, but we will see.

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