Saturday, May 23, 2015

Habanero Rebuild, 2015 Edition

Habanero before the 2013 build
My last rebuild of the Habanero came about after Max introduced me to Merlin Cycles, and their bargain basement component prices. It started out as a component swap to Ultegra 6700, but I eventually replaced everything but the frame and the seatpost.

Habanero after its 2013 build

So perhaps it's fitting that the current rebuild resulted largely from a great sale Competitive Cyclist was having on a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset (6870). This time I kept many other bits, but the seatpost did finally get swapped out.

Habanero after this build

More than a couple obstacles were encountered, and (mostly) overcome in this build.

The Components

I picked up a set of Di2 components a while back. And then they sat in the box. For a long time. It's a daunting thing, rebuilding a bike with Di2, largely because while I understand in principle how to do it, I haven't ever done it. The first time is always frightening. Doubly so because this bike has been my daily driver for many years now. So I wanted to do a good job with minimal downtime. Hopefully I accomplished the former, but definitely not the latter.

See here's the problem. I quickly figured out that CC had sent me Shimano's newer seattube battery. That makes for a much 'cleaner' install, but it assumes you've got some way to get the battery connection out of the seattube and into the junction box. My habanero doesn't have such a thing. So I bought one of the older batteries that uses your bottle cage mounts. I don't like those batteries, because they look ugly. But whatever. But my frame's cage mounts are so close to the BB that there wasn't room for the battery. So I bought a Shimano cage relocator. Still didn't give me enough space. So I bought a bottle cage mount. Man, that thing is ugly. Not a chance that I'm going to stick that thing on the bike.

Finally I took my frame to a local framebuilder and had them drill a hole in the bottom bracket to route the seattube battery wire out. Cost $75, should have done that at the very start. Lesson learned, I guess.

The next round of purchases came in the form of different length wire. The CC kit came with wires that would have worked, but everything would have more slack than I wanted. With internal wiring you can hide the slack in the tubes. Not so with external wiring. So I ended up ordering new lengths for every wire except the seattube battery (since it's hidden in the seattube, after all).

So much for saving money on Di2 by getting a great up-front price. Now I have a bin full of parts to put on Craigslist :)

About A Frame

The frame shop that drilled my BB gave me a bit of bad news. They found a hairline crack on the interior of the BB shell between two vent holes. They say that it will propagate and fail, but not catastrophically. But over time the speed of propagation will accelerate, and the frame will need to be replaced.

This is a real bummer because I love this frame, and have had every intention of riding it forever. Now I'm not sure what to do, but for now it's still riding just fine.

The Rest Of The Bike

The strong dollar has given us great prices on stuff from overseas, so I picked up a set of Dura-Ace C24s from Merlin.
Unfortunately the strong dollar hasn't lowered Specialized's prices one bit, but regardless I installed their Cobble Gobbler Seatpost (with Zertz technology!)
Zertz: The Z is for expenZive.
I've long wanted to try the highly lauded Compass tires. Because I don't have a lot of spare room on this frame, I picked up a pair of 700x26 Cayuse Pass. I also bought some Chinook Passes, just in case 700x28 will fit.
Good thing the tire is extralight, cause I'm extraheavy.

Finally I also replaced my aerobars. For many years I've used the Profile Design Airstryke, with its folding arm rests. These are nice because they let you use the top of your bar. However they also rattle an insane amount when in the 'up' position. Half the time I use them when I might not otherwise, simply to stop the rattling.

Fortunately Max found some Profile Design T3+ with J4 risers on sale.
The risers give just enough space under the pads to fit your hands. It's not perfect, and I might try to pick up some larger risers at some point, but good enough for now.

The Build

Once I got the hang of wiring Di2, which is of course actually very easy, the build was a piece of cake. With external cable routing you need to attach the wires to the tubes. I suppose one could use zip-ties, but I ended up buying a Shimano Di2 wire cover kit. The annoying thing is that it's black. I'd really like it to be titanium colored to sorta blend in. I'm ordering some grey electrical tape to try out.

Junction Box B. The new hole in the BB is right below the screw.
The E-Tube wire is running up the head-tube, but isn't that noticable. Or won't be, once I trim the zip-ties.

19 pounds, 15 oz. But who's counting?

First Impressions

The shifting is very good. I still need to tune it a little; I'm not getting good automatic trim adjustment in the big ring. Apparently those in the know can adjust their shifting while riding. I'm not in the know. That said, I'm not sold on Di2. Well-tuned mechanical shifting is also excellent. I guess what remains to be seen is whether the shifting stays excellent, which would be a nice improvement over mechanical which needs occasional lubing, cable replacement, etc...

I went with a 50-34 chainset and an 11-32 cassette. So far I don't think I've used either my 28T or 32T cog, except for testing out the shifting. That 34 inner ring really lets you climb almost anything. I may end up swapping the cassette out for an 11-25, which probably also would let me use a short-cage derailleur.

New Brakes
The braking... Is excellent. I'm not a brake engineer, so I don't know how they do it. My old 6700 brakes stopped me just fine. But the 6800 brakes just... feel better. Firmer, something. I don't know if it's the complete redesign of the caliper, or the new brake compound, or the braking surface of the C24. But they feel fantastic. By far the most noticeable part of this upgrade.

Have I mentioned that I really like these wheels and tires?
The wheels are nice. They go round and round, which is pretty much their intended usage model. What I do like is that they are very quiet, relative to any other wheel I have. My old Ksyrium ES hubs were like a chorus of cicadas. In truth I probably got stronger simply because I never wanted to coast with those stupid hubs. Everything I've read implies that the Dura-Ace hubs should last a long time with minimal maintenance. I'm thrilled about that.

The tires too, are nice. I've been riding Grand Bois something or anothers for quite a while, and these feel comparable. Flat resistance is yet-to-be-determined, but so far so good. They do look fantastic.

Gobbles Chipseal Too.

I've become a big fan of the Cobble Gobbler seatpost. Two of the riders I've crewed for recently used them. One as he cruised to overall victory in RAO, and another in a great ride at Hoodoo. Washington County has taken to chipsealing roads, and the Cobble Gobbler really smoothes out the roughness.

Specialized claims that "smoother is faster", and there is some basis for that. I don't know if this seatpost makes me any faster, but it does keep my butt from hurting after a couple hundred miles in the saddle.

Overall Impressions

I started this project a little apprehensive because I hadn't ever built a bike with Di2, and obviously my frame, circa 2004, was not built with Di2 in mind. I learned a lot about Di2 in the process and if I were to do it again, things would go much smoother.

While there's still a bit of wiring cleanup that I'll be undertaking, most notably with the grey electrical tape, overall I think that even without internal cable routing the install ended up looking quite clean. A big part of that was getting the seatpost battery to work. The two things that have always bothered me about Di2 are the external battery and the adjustment thingy that hung off the handlebars in the first generation. Neither of those are an issue here.

The ride is great. For the last several months I've been putting miles on my touring Habanero (62cm cross frame compared to 64 on this build). The touring habby has a Long Haul Trucker fork, and the geometry between the two bikes also feels quite different. As a result it took most of a ride to get the hang of riding this one again. At first it felt really twitchy, but I've gotten myself dialed back in now. With about 100 miles on the new build, I'm loving it as much as I used to.

Of course the frame crack is a real bummer. For now I'm just trying not to think about it.