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ti473

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hello folks,
I never really do any reviews or anything like this, but I feel like I've been an information leach over the years, and it was time to give back. I got some good knowledge from the Carbonda thread, but since this is not a Carbonda, I figured I'd start its own.

Firstly the main purpose for which I chose this bike: I wanted a do-it-all bike that I could take with when I go visit my family in Italy once or twice a year. There's all kinds of riding there: mountains, flats, gravel, road, dirt, you name it. And since I can only bring one bike, something like this would be my best bet. An Open UP would have been amazing, but I had a much lower budget for this, as I might even end up leaving it there. So I figured... what better part to skimp on than the least important one?? So I started researching the Chinese frame route.

There were other middle ground options like some nice steel framesets, but I couldn't find any with 650B x 2.1" clearance. I may not need such a wide tire, but there's definitely a lot more rubber options when you go up to 2.1". Plus I thought this frame looked really cool, it is essentially this  http://meritbikes.com/en/gravel-plus/
Other brands/models that you may find this under are:

Workswell WCB-R-125
Faraoll GF-001
Tideace FM-CX072

There were slightly variations between all these (BB shell size, and frame bosses locations mostly), I am sure they are all made in the same factory though.

Even Smile Team had two different versions listed of this, I ordered the one with less bosses on the frame, but I received the one with more. I kind of expected it be honest, I figured that was the most updated version and probably what I'd get, no big deal really.

I ordered mine through Aliexpress, and I must say the process was super easy and quick.
No lengthy sign up procedures, and I felt like I was pretty protected if something went south.
I got it in plain matte black, no fancy custom colors, and the delivery time was outstanding. I placed the order on Jan 30th, bike shipped on the 2nd I think, arrived to the States (San Fran) on the 7th and delivered to my work near Chicago on the 9th. Mailman even made a second trip to my office in the middle of a snowstorm. Who ever said USPS was slow??

Anyway, I got home and I unpacked it, here are some pics:

IMG_20180209_202645.jpg  IMG_20180209_202731.jpg  IMG_20180209_213214.jpg 

This was the first moment of truth, so I started looking at this thing with a very scrupulous eye, as it was my first Chinese frame. Now that I think about it, my first frameset period as I normally just buy complete bikes. I was pretty excited about getting this actually, almost if it was some kind of S-Works or Titanium exotic. I think they main reason for the excitement was that, after reading so many mixed reviews,  I'd finally get to satisfy my own curiosity about generic name brand carbon. I was fully prepared that my $540 might be pissed into the wind (and that's still a possibility), but I was willing to take that chance.

Overall, my first impression was "ok/decent". It had a bit of that "cheap Chinese" feel, which I will expand on shortly, but I think it's something I can live with. Mostly it comes from the aluminum small parts and the paint job. Bear in mind that right now what you see is all there is to it, but once the bike is fully built I think the focus will shift off of these things. 
As far as the paint job, it is not terrible, nor it is great. I was expecting more of a raw finish, but it's not that; it's just painted matte black, which I feel like could hide some of the flaws.

What I am about to point out may make me sound like I was disappointed, but I assure you I am not. When you get into something like this it's all about the expectations I believe. If you go into a fancy steakhouse and they serve you a Whopper JR and charge you $80 dollar for it, you might be pissed, but if you go to Burger King and order a Whopper JR you may not think it's that bad. And If I wanted a steak I would have got an Open UP (which is also made in China btw) and paid 5 times as much.
My purpose here is simply to educate people that are looking into going this route on what they may be expecting.
Anyway, to me the real test will be the carbon itself: how the bike will ride and mostly how safe and durable will be. Remember... Italy... Alps... (if I don't report back to you by mid June it's safe to say this didn't go well by the way)

I did take some close up shots to kind or illustrate what I meant about "cheap Chinese feel". 

This was the insert for the bottom cable cover screw. It would get in the way of a sleeve type BB (which I will be using), so I dremelled it off to less than a MM. It doesn't leave many threads for the screw (which I had to grind off as well), but hopefully with some locktite it won't fall off or strip.
IMG_20180209_213246.jpg  IMG_20180211_114358.jpg  

These are the thru-axles: looks like they probably use the same axles for Boost spacing and they just change the collar, hence why it's so bulky. Not really that big of a deal though.

IMG_20180211_114416.jpg  

Speaking of axles, the rear didn't really slide very well into the dropouts (haven't even tried the front yet). The tolerances were pretty tight and the dropouts were slightly misaligned, again I can live with all that, it's not that far off. What is weird is that the collar/nut where the axle threads into has a smaller OD than the ID of the dropout where it slides into. There's a threaded hole for a set screw but it wouldn't really do you any good once you take the axle off, as the nut/collar would just fall off.
Fitting the nut backwards is not an option as the flange OD is too big, but maybe it can just be machined down to size.
Either way, another example of cheap Chinese and poorly engineered part. Again, I can live with all this though, just a matter of some fiddling.

IMG_20180211_114310.jpg  

They were kind enough to send me an extra hanger (I asked for two, which I would have gladly paid for, but hey, one is better than nothing right?). Also here's the seat clamp... Hey, thanks for pre stratching it with a drill bit to provide that needed extra friction... Not really sure what to think of that, but whatever, as long as it works and doesn't slip, I don't care, only time will tell.

IMG_20180211_114537.jpg  

Head tube: just some paint over spray, could have been worse I guess (some carbonda guys reported some carbon fraying in this area)

IMG_20180211_115654.jpg  IMG_20180211_115730.jpg  

I saved the best for last... This is my only major concern actually and would like to hear your feedback on this. I looked down the seat tube and there's some good carbon fraying where they drilled holes for the bosses.... not good. What do you think? I am not sure what the top and down tube look like, but there are bosses on those too, and I don't have a scope to look in there.

IMG_20180211_115040.jpg  seattube.jpg 




That's all I got for now. I am waiting for a few more parts or I would be building it this weekend, I didn't expect it to come in so quickly. Will report back once fully built and once ridden. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, even if they don't pertain to this particular model but to the whole Chinese frame buying experience.

Thanks!

Bonus pic... someone is eager to route some internal cables...


IMG_20180209_213413.jpg 




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Lovetoride

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi ti473

Thanks for the info on your gravel frame purchase. I recently ordered the same frame and are still waiting for mine. Can you perhaps confirm if the frame is made for flat mount brakes or post mount? If I look at it it looks like flat mount. Do you perhaps have some more photo's of how the bike is built up with components?

Thanks!
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovetoride
Hi ti473

Thanks for the info on your gravel frame purchase. I recently ordered the same frame and are still waiting for mine. Can you perhaps confirm if the frame is made for flat mount brakes or post mount? If I look at it it looks like flat mount. Do you perhaps have some more photo's of how the bike is built up with components?

Thanks!


Hey there, yes it's a flat mount frame and fork. You can use post mount brakes on it with the adapters, just not the other way around.
And I haven't built it yet, I am waiting for a couple more parts, but I'll post pictures when it's built. Probably by this weekend
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Lovetoride

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Reply with quote  #4 
Cool, thanks for the info. Just one more question. What cranks are you going to fit on them? I'm thinking of going with sram force 1 groupset but aren't sure if I must get the GXP crank with an adapter or the BB30 crank to go with the BB386 bottom bracket of the frame.
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #5 
I have 2 sets of sram cranks both with bb30 spindles that I may use. They have slightly different spindle lengths, I believe the shorter one will fit better as it is exactly the same length of a set of FSA 386 specific cranks I had laying around. I may have to swap spindles though because the other set are the crank size I want to use (172.5). SRAM made a lot of crank variations in terms of spindles and spiders...
Personally I wouldn't use spindle adapters as I find they may creak or make funny noises. If you haven't got the bottom bracket yet, wheelsmfg makes 386 shell BB (46 mm OD) with bearings for either GXP or Shimano (and of course 30mm spindles). I wouldn't use the Chinese supplied BB anyway.
Did you get this frame from Smile Team? I noticed that other suppliers like WorksWell offer the same exact frame but with the smaller BB86 shell. I went with the SmileTeam because I already had the bottom bracket laying around. Either name is equally as ridiculous anyway...
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #6 
IMG_20180223_234559.jpg 
Got some progress done today. Not quite there yet though, I'm still missing a couple of things.

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VTGraveler

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Reply with quote  #7 
What do you think of the seatpost? I bought a road bike from http://www.velobuildmall.com and have been pretty satisfied. They now have a gravel: http://www.velobuild.com/2017-velobuild-carbon-fiber-gravel-bike-frame_p0095.html

Which is the same bike as yours. What steers me away is the aero post. I like the idea of using a traditional post so I can use what I have and easily replace it if need be.

But...I like the idea of 2.1 tires compared to the Carbonda and its a few hundred less.

To simply get me a gravel bike...was thinking this is the route for me to go.


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tim.bikeparty

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Reply with quote  #8 
gotta love it when the wheels are worth 3x the frame [biggrin]
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tim.bikeparty
gotta love it when the wheels are worth 3x the frame [biggrin]


lol more like 5x had I bought them new... But I actually took those wheels from another bike just so I wouldn't have to lay the frame on the floor, aero post sucks as you can't clamp the bike on a stand properly. I got some cobalt 3 650B for this bike, still waiting for the guy to send me the XD driver he said he would...
I might also get a set of 700c  built for it, I'm thinking nextie hoops and a fancy dynamo hub for those after hour adventures.
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VTGraveler
What do you think of the seatpost? I bought a road bike from http://www.velobuildmall.com and have been pretty satisfied. They now have a gravel: http://www.velobuild.com/2017-velobuild-carbon-fiber-gravel-bike-frame_p0095.html

Which is the same bike as yours. What steers me away is the aero post. I like the idea of using a traditional post so I can use what I have and easily replace it if need be.

But...I like the idea of 2.1 tires compared to the Carbonda and its a few hundred less.

To simply get me a gravel bike...was thinking this is the route for me to go.




Yeah that's the same exact frame. Looks like a good price too, I paid about 540 shipped to my door so this 60 bucks cheaper.

I was also very leery of the seatpost to be honest. I went back and forth between a few different frames before making my decision, and none of them was perfect in what I wanted but eventually I pulled the trigger on this.

What scared me was the proprietary design. Well I don't know if any of the brand name bikes they copied uses the same post, but I am assuming this is proprietary and that if I break it I will have to wait for however long it takes to get a new one. For that reason it's kinda nerve wrecking tightening that clamp.
I just went light the first couple of times and as soon as I sat on the bike it slid down. I went up to 6nm I think and it seems fine now, but  I haven't ridden the bike yet. I will add carbon paste once I am ready to and let you know. Of course I would have preferred a normal style post, but it seems like even people who bought carbondas are having a lot of issues.
Just getting the seat post in the frame with that clamp is kind of a pain in the ass actually, but once it's in it's not so bad.
Also, I'm usually not one that feels things like flex or that can really tell frame characteristics, different geometries and all that, but the vertical flex in the post is quite noticeable, even as you just sit on the bike (and I am not particularly heavy at 160).  It could be a good thing I guess, as it should translate in comfort. To be honest I've never really looked at my other bikes to see how much the posts flex, so maybe it's normal and I am just being overly critical.
The last thing I can tell you is that the way the seat clamps on the post sucks. The front bolt is an allen head bolt that is tightened from the top. Well guess what... the saddle sits on the top so you kinda have to pre tighten in and then tighten the rear. As you tighten the rear the angle of the seat moves up so you have to just go by trial an error with the front bolt first. I will be replacing it with a normal hex head bolt so I can tighten it with a regular wrench. The head of the bolt doesn't sit flat with the surface of the post either (I will take a pic later to illustrate this).
This is really not a big issue and not really something that is specifically related to the aero post. More like piss poor Chinese engineering.

Once again the real test will be once I ride this thing. If it doesn't slip and it doesn't break, I will be a happy camper.
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VTGraveler

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Reply with quote  #11 
Thanks for your reply. The seatpost and binder for my road bike was/is awful. The Velobuild post was crazy stiff. I could feel it. I put in another one I had and immediately it was more comfortable. That is what I'm hesitant with this one. Stuck with what I got. If there is terrain I want a more flexy post, its the gravel/dirt here in Vermont. Given costs,  may lean towards a used Cannondale Slate, but I really do like the idea of 2.1s for around here. Some of our Class IV roads are rough.


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angusR

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Reply with quote  #12 
Hello all,

I've been lurking here too so felt I's better surface. I really have appreciated the info on these boards and used it to build up a Faraoll GF-001 at the end of last year. I tried to keep it simple as it was the first bike I built. I went for 650B Road plus which has been outstanding - amazing how versatile the bike is. Planning on riding the bike around Mongolia for a few weeks in July then riding it across to Beijing.
  • No issues with the quality of the frame from Farroll.
  • The wheel set was from Speeder Cycling (Penny was great!) which I can strongly recommend. They also sell a version of the same frame too!
  • I live in Australia and had no issues with delivery or service from either Chinese companies.
  • I was initially concerned with the quality/durability but the open mold bikes are great from what I read and seen first hand. The wheels are sensational too - the value for money is fabulous. I think alot of the people who say the quality of Chinese carbon is no good have never bought them themselves - or have assumed that it is all in the same league as the "Chinarellos" or copy bike. Each to their own however.
  • I'm totally stoked with the result and from my perspective/budget and planned use, have ended up with a way better bike that the retail versions (spec relative to the money of course). Building was really straight forward too - I found so much info on the net. I did get my LBS to fully check it over before I went out on it - and all was good! I'd really encourage anyone to do it as well. Not too much time - and the massive benefit of really learning a huge amount about the bike and parts. Hopefully that may be of use when stuck on the side of some remote Mongolian hill!

Basic spec is:
  • Force 1* 40 on front 10- 42 on back (tried 11-36 and found it wasn't quite right.
  • SRAM Hydraulic Disc with Shimano 160mm discs - like the black look
  • Wheels 650 B Speeder asymmetric CX wheels  SC-30GD35AC, DT 350 hubs, tubeless with WTB Byway shoes
  • Ritchie comp venture max hbars
  • HSC ceramics bottom bracket (novice builder so was confused on compatibility - so played it safe - great but $$!)
  • Cane creek headset
  • Carbon Stem and bottle holders from Faraoll - (cheaper than aluminium!)
lots of little compromises were made when buying components - but don't really regret it - eg frame is for flat mount discs, but the cheapest way to get the group-set included post mounts. Had to buy adaptors, but saved a fortune vs buying the components from Australia (unfortunately cost here are crazy) In the reverse direction, I spent probably more than I wanted  to get a bottom bracket that I was sure would fit the bike/cranks.

The 650B big volume tyres really make this bike a dream to ride - on road it still handles amazingly well - better than my Trek Domane anyway - and soaks up the bumps. A big safety plus too when riding on rads as you can stay right near the edge if the road is narrow and not worry too much about what is on the road. The bigger tyres get blown around a bit on the road in the wind and I put in a few more watts to keep up with other roadies, but big picture, with the slick centered tyres, it is really only limited by the gearing. Epic in the dirt and gravel - like a magic carpet - so smooth and comfortable.

A great bike for my purposes and I'm really happy with it.




Black Yak 1.jpg 

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ti473

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Posts: 36
Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by angusR
Hello all,

I've been lurking here too so felt I's better surface. I really have appreciated the info on these boards and used it to build up a Faraoll GF-001 at the end of last year. I tried to keep it simple as it was the first bike I built. I went for 650B Road plus which has been outstanding - amazing how versatile the bike is. Planning on riding the bike around Mongolia for a few weeks in July then riding it across to Beijing.
  • No issues with the quality of the frame from Farroll.
  • The wheel set was from Speeder Cycling (Penny was great!) which I can strongly recommend. They also sell a version of the same frame too!
  • I live in Australia and had no issues with delivery or service from either Chinese companies.
  • I was initially concerned with the quality/durability but the open mold bikes are great from what I read and seen first hand. The wheels are sensational too - the value for money is fabulous. I think alot of the people who say the quality of Chinese carbon is no good have never bought them themselves - or have assumed that it is all in the same league as the "Chinarellos" or copy bike. Each to their own however.
  • I'm totally stoked with the result and from my perspective/budget and planned use, have ended up with a way better bike that the retail versions (spec relative to the money of course). Building was really straight forward too - I found so much info on the net. I did get my LBS to fully check it over before I went out on it - and all was good! I'd really encourage anyone to do it as well. Not too much time - and the massive benefit of really learning a huge amount about the bike and parts. Hopefully that may be of use when stuck on the side of some remote Mongolian hill!

Basic spec is:
  • Force 1* 40 on front 10- 42 on back (tried 11-36 and found it wasn't quite right.
  • SRAM Hydraulic Disc with Shimano 160mm discs - like the black look
  • Wheels 650 B Speeder asymmetric CX wheels  SC-30GD35AC, DT 350 hubs, tubeless with WTB Byway shoes
  • Ritchie comp venture max hbars
  • HSC ceramics bottom bracket (novice builder so was confused on compatibility - so played it safe - great but $$!)
  • Cane creek headset
  • Carbon Stem and bottle holders from Faraoll - (cheaper than aluminium!)
lots of little compromises were made when buying components - but don't really regret it - eg frame is for flat mount discs, but the cheapest way to get the group-set included post mounts. Had to buy adaptors, but saved a fortune vs buying the components from Australia (unfortunately cost here are crazy) In the reverse direction, I spent probably more than I wanted  to get a bottom bracket that I was sure would fit the bike/cranks.

The 650B big volume tyres really make this bike a dream to ride - on road it still handles amazingly well - better than my Trek Domane anyway - and soaks up the bumps. A big safety plus too when riding on rads as you can stay right near the edge if the road is narrow and not worry too much about what is on the road. The bigger tyres get blown around a bit on the road in the wind and I put in a few more watts to keep up with other roadies, but big picture, with the slick centered tyres, it is really only limited by the gearing. Epic in the dirt and gravel - like a magic carpet - so smooth and comfortable.

A great bike for my purposes and I'm really happy with it.




Black Yak 1.jpg 


Awesome build dude, thanks for chiming in!
I got some of the same parts for my final build: Ritchey venture Max bars, WTB byways 650b, and sram cranks.
Right now I'm facing an existential crisis with the cranks actually... I have 2 sets: 172.5 and 175. I want to use the 172.5 but they have a slightly longer spindle and by the time I space it out to make cranks equally distant to center of the frame, it throws off my chainline.... If I mount chainring in outside position it's too far in, if I mount it outside too far out.... So frustrating....
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angusR

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Reply with quote  #14 
I feel the pain! I got so confused with the different spacer/shim configurations etc when doing my homework. Part of the reason I went for the Ceramic BB/Force 1x combo I did was from all the stuff that I'd read where things didn't quite fit. Mine fitted straight out of the box. Good luck with yours! Insufficient expertise at this end to advise! Worth it though for when you get the byways running - likewise the ritchie bars are really nice. I put Pave tape onto it to finish them off - really nice on the hands!
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ti473

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Reply with quote  #15 
Finally got it all together

Attached Images
jpeg IMG_20180311_175658.jpg (667.52 KB, 41 views)

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ti473

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Reply with quote  #16 
Hello folk,
I put about 500 miles on this bike so far, so I wanted to do a little follow up review on it. 
As I said the plan was to take this bike to Italy and ride a bit of everything, and I did just that. From road rides up in the mountains, to riding stuff that should probably require full suspension and a dropper post. I could only take one wheelset with me and ended up with the 700c enves. From the couple of rides I did by my house, I just felt like the 650b where too heavy and slow to be honest.
Well the postives: The bike didn't break! yet at least. Seems stable enough to handle 40-50mph descents, as well as some pretty gnarly loose rocky steep trails, either up or down. I actually enjoyed the challenge of having the wrong tool for the job, people look at you kinda funny when you go by them.
Now for the two major negatives:
The seat post keeps slipping... usually not by much but it still does every time. I shimmed it with two layers of coke can (which weren't easy to go in due to the post shape and wedge clamp) and a double strip in the back where there seemed to be be biggest gap. I obviously used carbon paste and torqued the living crap out of it (not sure how much at this point cause TSA confiscated my torque wrench) but it still goes down a few mm. I'm surprised it hasn't cracked to be honest, I've had an Easton post crack with much less torque. I put electrical tape around it to keep an eye on it and it seems like once it gets sucked in a few mm the tape holds it from slipping further. So maybe I oughta leave the post a little higher and wait for slippage... really janky though, I don't like it. I may try the spray paint on the post trick next, and loctiting the wedge clamp bolt, as that may be coming loose from vibration. This is really unacceptable in my option and makes me want to reconsider bringing the bike here again. I don't have a lot of tools at my disposal and I just want to ride. If anyone has any suggestions let me know.
The other negative is the brakes... I am pretty OCD (clearly) and I spent a day yesterday chasing brake noises. They were either squealing or pads were rubbing. I am almost certain this has to do with the caliper mount surfaces not being properly faced. This causes the calipers and pads to not being perfectly parallel to the rotors and makes adjustment very difficult. I already buffed out some of the extra paint on the fork but that wasn't enough. Park tool makes a facing tool for this, which cost as much as this frame, but I am not sure how it would even work with carbon. My bike shop doesn't even carry it.
This is a small detail can ruin your ride... imagine climbing for 45 minutes with a constant whining noise. Again, any suggestions are welcome.

Other things I'd do differently but not necessarily related to the frame itself.
maybe 2x for riding mountains or a 10-42 cassette. I started with a 48 chainring and 11-34 cassette, but I stopped being a hero after running into some 20%+ inclines and put on a 40T chainring that luckly I brought with. Still, I felt like you have really bad chainline when always riding in your largest cog, and, while using a waxed chain is great for travelling (no mess), it also wears the wax really fast with that chainline.

Anyway, here's some pictures, bike looks cool at least!

IMG_20180423_135326.jpg  IMG_20180423_141448.jpg  IMG_20180424_185301.jpg  IMG_20180425_150456.jpg  IMG_20180425_152735.jpg  IMG_20180425_154200.jpg  IMG_20180425_154629.jpg  IMG_20180425_161517 (1).jpg  IMG_20180426_123631.jpg 




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RLB

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Reply with quote  #17 
Thank you for posting this info, especially the tip on the cable cover bolt and thread... that would have been a little nerve wracking had I not seen your post and pictures.  Also my thread together BB for GXP SRAM cranks did not need as much removed so it went pretty easy with plenty of thread left over. 

Was looking at gravel type bike frames from direct from China and my wife mentioned how great she thought this one looked... she NEVER gets anything for herself, she needed a smaller bike and I just wanted to build one so it worked out perfectly  😉     

She only has about 70 miles on it due to pouring rain almost every day since I finished it, but loves it so far. 
DSC07627.jpg 
DSC07629.jpg 


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andrewins

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RLB
Thank you for posting this info, especially the tip on the cable cover bolt and thread... that would have been a little nerve wracking had I not seen your post and pictures.  Also my thread together BB for GXP SRAM cranks did not need as much removed so it went pretty easy with plenty of thread left over. 

Was looking at gravel type bike frames from direct from China and my wife mentioned how great she thought this one looked... she NEVER gets anything for herself, she needed a smaller bike and I just wanted to build one so it worked out perfectly  😉     

She only has about 70 miles on it due to pouring rain almost every day since I finished it, but loves it so far. 
DSC07627.jpg 
DSC07629.jpg 



Hi! Great build! What is the weight of this bike and what tires did you use?
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RLB

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Reply with quote  #19 
thank you

The weight is a hair over 19lbs.   Specialized Sawtooth 42c tires, I use the same ones on my bike and really like them but I read that they are a little heavier than many other 42c tires at 615g.

The pedals are Shimano Deore clipless trail pedals and a low end steel SunRace CSMS1 11-36 both pretty heavy compared to some other options. 



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andrewins

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RLB
thank you

The weight is a hair over 19lbs.   Specialized Sawtooth 42c tires, I use the same ones on my bike and really like them but I read that they are a little heavier than many other 42c tires hat 615g.

The pedals are Shimano Deore clipless trail pedals and a low end steel SunRace CSMS1 11-36 both pretty heavy compared to some other options. 



 


Thanks!
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