Unveiling Rodriguez UTB - The Ultimate Touring Bike!
For the past year or so I have been looking into building a new touring bike. The frame (the heart of a bike) needed to be capable of:
- Being comfortable at the top of the list - A bike that suited me like a glove!
- Reynolds 725 frame
- Loaded Touring/Randonneuring - PBP 2015?
- Using 26” wheels for worldwide use. I live in Mexico, so this requirement was a true necessity even more.
- Fitting wide rims and tires. I felt I was looking for a “Gravel Grinder” - a bike that could perform really well on tarmac but that would also be at complete ease on dirt roads such as those found in the San Juan Huts trail in Colorado or the Carretera Austral in Chile.
- S&S couplers - What seemed like a pricey option in the beginning turned out (after some research) to be something that would pay off easily after just a few flights given how much airlines have increased their sports equipment fees. My Ultimate Touring Bike needed to be capable of flying anywhere in the world with no constraints or high-fees.
- Disc brakes - Researched this very thoroughly and at the end decided that, for off-road purposes, mechanical disc brakes (Avid BB7) would be the way to go for me. The frame should not have me stuck with only a disc option, however. Therefore, the frame would be ready for V-brakes or even cantis if ever needed. A disc option also gives me the ability to go with 650b wheels for randonneuring if I ever want this.
- Being able to grow with my needs. How often do we find ourselves wanting a different bike because our current (touring) bike no longer fits our needs?... Oh, I wish it had this or I wish it had that. A new touring frame had to tackle both my current and future needs. Flexibility with brake and wheel options mentioned above were two of them. Another important factor was its drivetrain. My current needs/budget call for a nice ole derailleur system. But I also wanted a frame for the point below...
- A Rohloff IGH which is something I see myself having in the future. Will I want a chain or belt drive? Don’t know, yet! The frame needed to be ready for both with its appropriate eccentric bottom bracket for chain tensioning, cable routing braze-ons and frame (seatstay) splitter, just in case. Off-the-rack bikes will give you one option (even from high-end manufacturers), but never two and forget about three - Standard Derailleur, Chain Rohloff or Belt-drive system? Believe me, I searched but encountered the following replies:
A. Simply cannot do all three! - The vast majority.
B. Can do it but have little expertise with Rohloff, especially with belt-drives (i.e., often the case with very small one-person custom builders.) Will cost you beaucoup money!
C. Can do it, have credible expertise - Will still cost you a LOT of $ (more than what I was willing to pay.)
- 460mm chainstays for absolutely no heel strike. Obviously, no toe strike with 175mm cranks and 11 (45) size shoes.
- Other small but important things: kickstand plate, incorportated chainstay protector, 3 water bottle cages, uncut steering tube to raise/lower handlebar as I please.
FINDING THE RIGHT BUILDER
I was thrilled when I found Rodríguez (AKA R+E Cycles) and their UTB model: ULTIMATE TOURING BIKE. They’re based in Seattle, WA. and have been doing business since 1973. They are known for their tandems and touring bikes handmade right in their facilities. In the last several years, however, these guys have also become renowned for their Rohloff bikes in the Northwest. After some extensive research I can see why:
- They own the patent to the Bushnell Eccentric Bottom Bracket for chain or belt tensioning which they distribute worldwide. If you do your homework on Rohloff, you’ll learn why this is so important.
- Deep understanding of how the Rohloff system works and all the requirements to make it work smoothly on a given frame.
- They have a dedicated Rohloff frame builder who trained extensively at the Rohloff facility in Germany.
- The above points crowned them as the #1 Rohloff dealer in the U.S. in 2011 (I wonder how many people know this little fact.)
At that point, I felt I was completely in good hands. BTW, Rodríguez does little advertisement and does not participate in fancy national tradeshows. It’s mainly all word of mouth or web search! Their website doesn’t mention several options indicated above, but they are available to anyone as very reasonable extras. They are the only ones who satisfied my needs with a “Yes, we can!” to ALL of my requirements. Their pricing structure is such that I felt the overall package was quite reasonable and within my budget. These guys have also the expertise of working long-distance with their customers across the nation or internationally. Since I live in Mexico, we exchanged tons of email and phone correspondence. They provided a step-by-step video for fitting (body measurements) and processed all data into a computerized fitting system to catch any errors. They also provided me with a free DVD to disassemble and assemble my S&S coupled bike which made everything so easy when I had to use it for the first time last week. The final product was delivered as requested. Nothing was missed!
UNVEILING FINAL PRODUCT - My 40th B-Day present, BTW :)
So, without further delay, here is my RODRÍGUEZ UTB:
Main shot! - Yes, I still have to get a rear rack for it. :p
26" wheels w/ wide tires - up to 2.1" w/ fenders and up 2.4" w/o fenders (1.75" shown):
Splitter in seatstay for Belt Rohloff / Chainstay Protector à la Miyata 1000:
Eccentric Bottom Bracket for chain tensioning on a Rohloff:
S&S Couplers + Brake/Derailleur cable splitters + 3 water bottle cages