Wrapped black-bike handlebars

Wrapped my black bike’s handlebars. Still pending bottom bracket adjustment. They’re the old aluminum ones that came with my white bike. They actually have a little more flex in the drops than my carbon ones. Stem is 40 degree (vs 8 on the other, so it’s more upright. The Microshift levers are okay, but the levers themselves aren’t shaped right. Makes it hard to brake with 1-finger from the hoods like I can do with my 105 brifters.

Black Bike Drop Bars

Recently wrapped drop bars on my Nashbar CX bike.

CX bike work

My black bike was a build-up hybrid. It’s the Nashbar Cyclocross 60cm X-Large Frame, with Fuji FC-770 Carbon Cyclocross fork. Headset bearings are FSA BIG-PIG (not sealed, but heavy duty and cheap).

Originally, this was built up as a mountain bike, limited to about 38mm wide tires due to the frame. All was well until I began road riding. I tried to ride the flat-bar and realized just how uncomfy it was. I explored different types of handlebars: Just the base bars from an aero setup; mustache bars; bullhorns; butterfly; flat bar with bar ends; etc. Really, I like the hoods on my drop bars, so I decided to convert this bike to use drops.

Rear mech is 9-speed, so road vs mountain is no different. Front is 2-speed, so while technically there is a difference, it’s not enough to require changing the FD. What I really needed was just a set of brifters, and I could reuse my aluminum drops that I’d pulled from my white bike when I got it.

I decided, on the Microshift R9 due to cost, and just finished installing them. Here’s my review of the Microshift kit. Microshift R9 Double 9-Speed Group Set is made by Sunrace. It’s a low-cost, entry-level kit made in Taiwan. Price on this entire groupset is about on-par with the price for a single lever of Shimano’s bottom-end 9-speed kit. Build and performance are mixed, but much better than you’d expect for the price.

The included Front Derailleur is for mounting to a braze-on fitting. The cage is fairly small, so while this says it’s rated for a 9-speed double front chainring, I would expect this to want a standard double (39/52) and not a compact double (34/50). If you need a clamp-mount FD, use the one that is formally paired with your crankset and chainrings.

The included Rear Derailleur is Road Long Cage, or a Real/Mountain Medium Cage (SG, not SGS). Build quality is on par with Shimano Deore, or Tiagra levels. There’s no clutch, and the spring is decent but not super-stiff. It should handle up to 28T on the large sprocket, and up to a 14T difference between small and large sprockets. If you’re hoping to run a “Megarange”, alpine, or mountain casette, then you’ll want something with a real long-cage.

The levers are pretty standard brifters. There’s a lot of plastic inside here, and it’s fairly hard plastic. Any serious impact will crack or split rather than absorb. Build quality is probably about par with Shimano 3500 Sora, but there’s no optical display.

The shifter cables are decent steel. No hint of rust, so they may be low-grade stainless. They’re plenty long. The ends are torch cut, so they won’t unravel, but you’ll probably need to trim them and use the end caps. You can always flux and solder/braze the ends if you want.

The brake cables are the same type of steel, but a thicker twist. These are a little short, so you’ll need to keep any housing trimmed to minimums. Alternatively, pick up some bulk road-brake cable which will come longer.

The included housing is mild-steel coil with no liner and visible rust. The ferrules are soft, chrome-dipped pot metal. They’re only good for coil housing. Don’t save them, because using them on compressionless housing will cause cable failure at the housing. Pick up some bulk compressionless from your local shop, or pick up SRAM Slickwire, Shimano PTFE or Jagwire housing. Alternatively, you can get a complete cable/housing kit. I like Jagwire Racer/Road Pro as a complete brake & derailleur cable/housing kit. It comes in a bunch of colors. Note that the housing will be the same between road and mountain. It’s just the cable ends – mountain ends are cylinders, and road ends are spherical.

Right/rear shifting is Shimano STI (9-speed) compatible. I’m using a Shimano XT M786 Shadow Plus SGS 9-speed long cage rear derailleur because of my wide-range rear cassette and compact double front chainring. After dialing in the RD, I find up-shifting to be spot on. One click of the small paddle, and I go to a smaller sprocket within one revolution. I haven’t tested under load yet. The click is loud, but it works just fine.

Downshift is another story (large lever, large sprocket). It lags a bit. I thought it was an indexing issue at first, but it’s just that the levers don’t have much extra throw past the selected gear. Some twiddling and fine tuning can help a bit, but expect it to be easier to downshift 3 + upshift 2 rather than to downshift 1.

Left/front shifting is 2-speed. While it is formally rated for a road-FD pull, it also works fine on my Shimano FD-R440 Mountain/Flat-Bar Front Derailleur. There’s the mid-click for large-large cross-chaining support, but a compact-double cage will most likely have the clearance to not need this. Upshift from small to large is noisy as one would expect, but it’s effective. There’s enough extra throw in the lever to make it quick. Downshift with the small lever (small lever, small chainring) is quick and effective. Having the FD dialed in, this shift lever was happy to make it go. You should have similar results with any 7-9 speed width, 2-speed front derailleur.

Brakes are stronger than expected the plastic internal construction. I’m using these with Problem Solvers Travel Agent to drive Shimano Deore M590 cantilever brakes since I have a CX frame. A hard pull on the brakes will flex the downshift lever. Not a serious concern, since you’re probably going to downshift then anyway after a full-power brake. Still, something to note.

So for me, the levers were the sole purpose for buying this groupset. The price made it completely worth it. My alternative was to buy something “better” but used, and hope for the best, or shell out 3x the money for new 4700/Tiagra.

I need to sell the FD and RD on eBay or Amazon. I should be able to get $10 and $25 respectively. Maybe. I still need to tinker with rear indexing, wrap the bars, clean my chain, and snug up my bottom bracket (maybe even retap the threads, but that’s spooky since I killed a frame doing that already.) Also, I may need to replace the cables, as the ones that came with the group don’t seem to be super great, and my leftover housing had to be cut a little short because of the short brake cables. The PSTAs seem a little fragile, so I worry about re-installing them too many times (rear has been pulled 4 times, and are soft aluminum).

UPS delivered my replacement CX frame

UPDATE 1: If you replace the frame on a bike, is that a replacement, or a new bike?

When I re-tapped the threads on my Genesis’ bottom bracket, they tore out after 1.5 miles of riding. After a lot of research and patience, a new frame from Nashbar was my best option. Their “CX” frame had the cantilever posts I wanted, so this box from UPS is it.

Upon inspection, the maker is Kinesis, the same as my road bike (Windsor brand, Fens model). The geometry is almost identical. The difference is disc mounts, canti mounts, and black paint. The geometry is almost the same as my Genesis too – same top tube, shorter head and seat tubes by an inch, same chainstays.

It took 5.5 hours to ream, face, and install headset, transfer all of the parts including forks, then adjust everything. The head tube was already reamed, so very little was removed, other than paint on the top side. I installed the cups with wood blocks and a brass hammer. My thick head didn’t really realize I should have just used the reamer handles to screw against wood blocks for a compression fit. Whatever. It all fits and is flush.

I forgot my right shifter needs to be reassembled, so I still can’t get into 1st gear, but that’s okay. I swapped back to the 40 degree stem, but it’s still not quite right. Maybe the bottom race isn’t smacked down enough. I’ll have to re-mount this to take up some slack in the upper bearings.

I forgot that the frame doesn’t have a kickstand mount, so now I have 2 bikes that fall over. I have some wood under the porch I can probably make a rack out of, but there’s no real room to hang these and still fit the car in the garage.

OH, I just found that the old bike frame makes a really nice bike stand.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the rebuild. It’s a Nashbar CX 60cm frame (21″ top tube, 24″ seat tube, 700x35c spacing, canti and disc mounts (I have Deore 550 canti brakes). Drivetrain is XT 752 rear der, FSA Vero compact double (about tiagra level, with square taper). Levers are all metal, but shifters are SRAM MRX grips (whole cassette at once!).

Fork is Fuji FC770 (carbon forks with aluminum steerer) with an FSA Big Pig headset. Bars are Orbea Cat III carbon with an Avenir 40 degree 120mm stem (lighter and more rise than the matching Orbea stem). Seat is a Cloud 9 from sunight. it’s heavy, dorky, and great for really long rides.

I need to re-weigh it, but I think it’s about 30 pounds with the 5-pound tool bag (spare tube, lots of tools, spare chain, etc). I’m 265LBS, so I don’t really care about the weight. In all of my testing, performance really is mostly the parts, geometry, posture, and my own stamina.

UPDATE 3: New build is 30.4 pounds with tools, spares, etc but not bottles.
Totally frankenbike, but my only complaint right now is that I need to rebuild or replace the right shifter, and figure out a stand for it (no kickstand). It’s a great CX-Hybrid (CX for mountain parts, wider tires, and cantilever brakes on a road frame, and hybrid for flat bars on a road frame).