Bike Building

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Fast-forward to May 4th 2016…pictures start leaking on Twitter of the completed frame, wearing a fresh coat of paint.





With abated breath I await confirmation that the frame has been picked up from David’s in Cape Town. I’m holding thumbs it’ll hit Johannesburg on Saturday morning so I can collect from the courier depot.

Confirmed, en route!

Like a kid before Christmas, I battle falling asleep on Friday night. I wake at 03:15am on Saturday. Bike Build Day.

After some minor errants in the morning, we rush off to the courier depot. With great expectations, I pitch at the counter. The chaps behind have no idea how much excitement I’m containing. Giving the waybill number is met with blank stares. Hmmmm. If the waybill is not there, the parcel is not there. Logical, if ever so slightly unacceptable, sir.

A man trudges off the find the waybill (or even better, a huge box). After a while he strolls back, past the counter. And back the other way IN A FORKLIFT. Looks like business, siree.


Finally the box appears. Today is the the day.

I always experience a slight hesitation when confronted with something unknown. This box holds something which I have been looking forward to for MONTHS. Of course, in my minds eye, this is now THE most amazing frame ever built. It is blemish-free. It is perfect. I guess the hesitation comes from a lifetime of disappointments. Its like I’m idling on the verge of Utopia, hesitant to have this image shattered.

As I slowly open the box, I marvel at David’s meticulous attention to detail, even in bracing the box to withstand side loads. A bundle of bubble-wrapped THINGNESS lurks in the recess of the box. To one side, I see a smaller box with my crankset in. This gets lifted out, glanced at and carefully put aside. I reach deeper to get a grip on the top tube of what I hope is the frame.

It finally emerges, protectively, no – seductively, cloaked. I have an expectation, of course from the pictures David sent before boxing it all up.


No picture could prepare me for the sight that unfolds though. As I carefully wield a Stanley knife to loosen up strands of sticky brown packaging tape, the signature head badge is revealed first.


It glows shiny copper, set against the most amazing gold-speckled green paint. The gloomy May-light is just enough to make it come alive.

I slowly work my way through this process of removing layer upon layer of wrapping, careful not to gash the frame with the knife.

Finally, it is revealed in all its glory:


The details are amazing. David adds a name-plate of your choosing to each of his builds. I opted for “Chameleon”, shown here in beautiful copper, against near-liquid paint.


The fork has been left uncut to this point. I quickly add spacers and the stem I plan to use to mark up the height. The frame is dropped off at Hunter Cycles where Jean does his magic to cut the carbon and do the initial seating of the headset bearings.

Back at home, the frame is carefully clamped to the work-stand, ready for the build to commence. I make a coffee and just look at it. In my head I’m working out HOW to tackle the build, the order of events to follow. I make another coffee and drink this absent-mindedly too.

Turns out, the crankset goes on first. After greasing the BB spindle, the spider glides on, followed by the signature Campy Record crank bolts.


I cannot remember the last time I saw a triple crank mounted on a “road” frame. It looks odd at best…

I’m about to hit my 1st snag…sweet, sweet oblivion…

I’ve spec’d a triple crank, running 30/42/53 blades. The 53 looks like a disc on the bike, but will hopefully be put to good use on the long alpine passes.

Upon mounting the front derailleur, I moved it to the top-most position in the braced-on mounting tab. When moving the cage outward (i.e. simulating a shift the the big blade), it catches the teeth, maybe by 2mm.

What to do? I start scrounging in my box of bike parts to find a Campy 52 blade, hoping this will solve the problem. Of course, I don’t have such a part. What else can be done? Get a round file and extend the upper part of the tab. An option, but this would get rid of the paint in that area (with possible chipping) and likely delay the build by a couple of days. Yeah, I could (and would) repaint this, but aaaaargh, who want to do such a thing to a new frame?

The route of least destruction (and cost…and time) is to grind the outer plate of the derailleur away a little. I think about this over a cup of coffee and then get cracking at it.

A build is not a build unless you need a grinder.


After several takes, I’m happy with the clearance, albeit not a consistent 1mm across the arc of the blade. I guess this can be fixed with more precise finishing, or by swiveling the derailleur slightly upward at the mounting point. This will attended to in the final finishing.

With a naive notion that this was the last snag of the build, I grab the next item: rear derailleur. The gods smile at the thought of my lack of mechanical sympathy. They know what follows…

You guessed it. No amount of careful greasing can stop this man from cross-threading a perfectly good drop out. FFS. As soon as I realise what’s happening, I back it out, throw my hands in the air and stomp off for a coffee.

With a somewhat cleared head, i restart from the opposite side, re-cutting the  thread that way. It takes a couple of tries (and tense moments), but all’s good in the end. Close call number two.

To celebrate, I quickly fit the handlebar with shifters, the seat post and the saddle. Wheels go on with very little hassle. Its starting to take shape!

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Next to go on are the TRP calipers. It takes a bit of fiddling to figure out which way the adapters go, but once fitted handtight, everything just line up perfectly.

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I read somewhere that the older Campy 10s brake levers don’t generate quite enough cable pull with the standard setup of the Hy/Rd’s. A simple modification to where the cable runs sorts this out. It does require the use of a hacksaw on a brand new component. Ah well, could have been a grinder…


The picture above shows the cable running through this new position.

Experienced builders will know that when the bike starts to LOOK like a bike, you’re actually still FAR from complete. Though all major components are fitted, the most time-consuming bits are still to come: brake and gear cables, setup, bar tape, bottle cages. None of these particularly tricky, it just takes time and patience.

In the meantime, the day turned to night and I light up a cigar.


I’ve never worked with compression-less cable housing and have been warned it is super-stiff and difficult to cut and route. I was thus expecting this to be a really HARD part of the build. Actually, this turned out to be no more onerous than working with standard issue campy kit.

Taking it slowly, I route the housing (no cables yet) for the right-hand shifter, taping it down as I go. The dry fit seems fine, even with the bars fully turned. The cable goes in next, followed by some test shifts and minor set up (chain not yet fitted). Everything seems seated.

The complexity of getting the rear derailleur set up is increased by having to fit the JTEK Shiftmate jobbie. So, I’ve never worked with one of these before, and it takes some figuring out…

It basically converts Campy shifter pull ratio to that required by the Shimano cassette (and visa versa, of course). The cable enters the device on one side and onto a larger diameter pulley, only to cross over through one rotation onto a smaller diameter pulley.



Super-simple once done, and it seems to work like a charm.

The front shifter follows, and proves to be significantly easier having already done the other side. Of course, the routing for the front shifter is much simpler, not having to go all the way to the back. Again, all connected up and initial seating done.

The chain goes on next: a relatively cheap 105 unit – no challenge at all. While I’ve recently started using quick-links exclusively, I decide to do the fitting in this instance with the Shimano-supplied link kit. I have an additional chain and cassette, which will go on just before the start of the trip. This will be run with the quick-link.

Suddenly, I have a working bike! There’s no stopping yet though, since the brakes are not yet connected.

For all my worries about using the compression-less cables, and getting decent braking out of the TRPs, the setup of the brakes, though time-consuming, proves to be no hassle at all. I follow the same procedure as with the gears: Fit the housing to determine and cut to length, followed by feeding the cables through and connecting to the caliper. After a couple of test-pulls, becoming progressively more powerful, the housing seats and the cables stretch just a little. Time to tighten everything up and get the bar tape on.

Working with the Brooks leather tape is a first for me, but what a pleasure. In my days as bike-shop hand, I’ve managed to rip cork tape while installing due to using too much force when wounding it on. With this in mind, I become rather tentative in maintaining tension on the tape. The obvious trade-off is that you get some slippage of the tape over time – something I HATE.

With leather tape, there is very little risk of tearing. I tried before the actual installation and could not get to rip it. Good stuff!

This means you can pick the line as you wind it on and REALLY knuckle down on it to ensure the fit is snug. An added advantage is that this takes away all movement of the housing underneath, reducing any brake/gear flex.

Finally, the bike is a bike…


I set the stem to +6 degrees for a more relax position (compared to what I normally run on my racer). It looks odd to my racing-inclined mind, but my lower back smiles in anticipation of the first ride…

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Dream, build, ride, repeat