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  1. #1
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Choosing WHEELS for a Mountain Bike for a South American Tour: Part Deux

    Hi again.

    Thanks for all the help so far. My questions are becoming more and more specific, and so I thought I'd clarify myself with a new OP since the other thread was getting very confusing between what I was currently asking, and what I had already asked.

    Here's where I'm at so far:

    #1. The bike HAS to be a steel frame. Even if other materials could, perhaps, fill the niche, Steel is just the safe bet.

    #2. I need to use 26" wheels so I can replace them if necessary.


    I have taken a look at the Surly Troll and the Silkroad, and decided both were overkill for my UL Touring ideal. My body, gear, food, and water comes in at less than 200lbs. When you have to lift the bike onto your shoulders and hike a few miles, 5-10lbs makes a big difference, and the right frame will be just as reliable with less weight.

    Salsa looks like a great bet. In a couple of days, I'll be calling them to see about an El Mariachi-style frame with a 26" wheelset. My LBS is also a Salsa dealer, which is very convenient for me.

    bikes_ElMariachiSS_2013.jpg


    Here's what I still need help understanding, if anyone has some experience. This is the only question I've got left: Buying wheels: do they need to be handbuilt? What types of wheels are specifically designed for bikepacking and what are they made of?


    Thanks again for all the help. Please PM me if you have anything to suggest on safety, routes, or anything else in regards to the trip. Since I have lots of time, I haven't yet begun my research on the area beyond expected terrain, so it has no place in this particular thread.
    Last edited by mdilthey; 09-08-12 at 07:16 PM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member huie's Avatar
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    I don't agree with #2 but if it's important to you than that's fine. I toured down there with 700c wheels and it was fine.

    I can't answer your questions about wheels... in fact I'm curious about this too.

    What I can offer is route ideas. I was down there a couple years ago for 7 months (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/vagabondingsa). You'll hear a lot about the Carretera Austral and the Lake District which are great but there are other gems. If you like stunning views of the Andes you have to hit the passes.

    Paso Agua Negra is amazing! I write about it here, here, and here.


    Another great pass is not far from Santiago which I write about here and here.


    Finally the Atacama Desert is often avoided but it was probably my favorite spot. It has an endless horizon with nothing but sand but it lets you explore your mind and the night skies are amazing. I write about it here onward for two weeks.


    You'll find lots of route ideas at crazyguyonabike. Check that out and see what looks prettiest and feel free to ask.
    Finished my tour up South America and across Canada. Now I'm nearly on the road to ride Southeast Asia with my fiance.

    Follow our ride at hojobiking.com and my twitter

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    . When you have to lift the bike onto your shoulders and hike a few miles, 5-10lbs makes a big difference, and the right frame will be just as reliable with less weight.

    Salsa looks like a great bet. In a couple of days, I'll be calling them to see about an El Mariachi-style frame with a 26" wheelset. My LBS is also a Salsa dealer, which is very convenient for me.

    bikes_ElMariachiSS_2013.jpg


    Here's what I still need help understanding, if anyone has some experience. This is the only question I've got left: Buying wheels: do they need to be handbuilt? What types of wheels are specifically designed for bikepacking and what are they made of?


    Thanks again for all the help. Please PM me if you have anything to suggest on safety, routes, or anything else in regards to the trip. Since I have lots of time, I haven't yet begun my research on the area beyond expected terrain, so it has no place in this particular thread.
    You must realize that a lighter frame will not be 5-10lbs lighter but a lb. lighter.

    Wheels should be hand built. Focusing on light weight rims when tire weight can vastly exceed the range of rim weights should suggest that robust rims can allow for light tires but light rims will not be more durable with heavy tires.

  4. #4
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I think we'll definitely be having conversation, my friend!

    But on another note, can you elaborate on your wheel experience a little? Did you find 700c support in South America, or did you just not have any flats/breaks?
    My life is going downhill fast... MAXTHECYCLIST.COM

  5. #5
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    You must realize that a lighter frame will not be 5-10lbs lighter but a lb. lighter.

    Wheels should be hand built. Focusing on light weight rims when tire weight can vastly exceed the range of rim weights should suggest that robust rims can allow for light tires but light rims will not be more durable with heavy tires.
    A Giant mountain bike is about 25lbs, but it's aluminum. A Salsa, fully loaded with a fork, is 28-29lbs. A Surly Troll or Surly Ogre is 33-34lbs. A Silkroad is 35lbs. But my research is based on manufacturer measurements, so it may not be that big a disparity. However, the Surly Troll has incredibly beefy tubing compared to the slightly more conservative Salsa. This is what I've found so far.

    I understand that the more money you put into tires, the less they weigh. For instance, Schwalbe Marathons are 800g's, and Schwalbe Marathon Supremes are 440g's. For rims, I have to say that I do not care about weight. I do, a little... Unlike frames, I'll be perfectly fine buying rims that are heavier and overbuilt. I'm not slamming the frame all day, but I am slamming rims. I need bulletproof ones.

    Any suggestions?
    My life is going downhill fast... MAXTHECYCLIST.COM

  6. #6
    Senior Member huie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    I think we'll definitely be having conversation, my friend!

    But on another note, can you elaborate on your wheel experience a little? Did you find 700c support in South America, or did you just not have any flats/breaks?
    Knowing that 700c would be in short supply in South America I brought two spare tires (only used one) and 3 or four tubes which were plenty. I even went so far as to bring spare spokes and a heavy cassette removal tool but didn't need anything. Like I said I don't know much about wheels so I went down with just the stock rims that came with my Trek 520 and they held up to the rough roads. Even if one split you could easily have one sent down and have it built up. Just go prepared and chances are you won't have any problems.
    Finished my tour up South America and across Canada. Now I'm nearly on the road to ride Southeast Asia with my fiance.

    Follow our ride at hojobiking.com and my twitter

  7. #7
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    I know this is going to be like talking religion or politics and may get me in trouble, but here goes...

    There are two common beliefs in touring that get repeated so often, they have become dogma.

    The first is that a dollar bill can be used if necessary as a tire boot. Have you actually tried this? I don't want you to tell me what you've heard. I want to know from real experience. Dollar bill=tire boot ? Rubbish.

    The second is that traveling in foreign lands with anything but a steel frame is asking for trouble. Afterall, no matter how remote the location, you will find a villager with a full machine shop in his mud hut and you will be able to have a broken frame welded. Once again, has this ever happened to you? I'm not interested in speculation, or remote theoretical possibilities. I want the facts, just the facts. Where were you when your frame broke, and how did you get it mended?


    Now I'll stand back and watch for arrows and insults.
    Is this what they call "trolling", stirring up trouble with inflamatory statements on the internet?
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Something like old late 70s' stumpjumpers would be good,
    because of their long chainstays and stable 71, 68 degree head and seat tube designs

    offer a solid stability , if built with a low trail front fork
    the steering with the front pannier load would be easy to handle, and as trail goes lower
    with more rake, a J bent fork tight radius near the tip, would add a bit of give.

    Building with a Horizontal oval top tube vertical oval down tube
    and a brazed on as part of the frame rear rack would also be good..


    NB I Did seek out some welding assistanceMid tour, this was in Killarney Ireland,
    got help from a shop that made A/C heating, air distribution Ducts of stainless steel ..

    My wheels were hand built by Me, so I knew how to cope with problems should they arise, and had extra spokes aboard in all 3 lengths.

    My 26" wheel trekking bike , has a Rohloff hub, was built 3 X, [sort of like4 cross in a 36 hole
    but Koga missed the key spoke on that set, so pattern was Off..
    so I rebuilt it 2X which Rohloff recommends.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 09-09-12 at 04:16 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skilsaw View Post

    The first is that a dollar bill can be used if necessary as a tire boot. Have you actually tried this? I don't want you to tell me what you've heard. I want to know from real experience. Dollar bill=tire boot ? Rubbish.
    Obviously you haven't done it. I have many times with 700x25-28mm tires.

  10. #10
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    OP, can't figure out how you came up with the bike weights, but I can assure you a typical steel frame is about 1-2 lbs heavier than a comparable aluminum frame. Your total bike weight differences come from other components or possibly slick marketing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    OP, can't figure out how you came up with the bike weights
    OP is apparently just making stuff up.

    A Surly Troll frame weighs about five and a half pounds. By comparison, an Ibis Tranny frame weighs about three pounds.

    And nobody is going to lift the bike onto their shoulders and "hike a few miles" with a loaded touring bike. Ever. (And yes, I have had to portage plenty of times.)
    Last edited by corvuscorvax; 09-09-12 at 01:33 PM.
    My speculation was that it applies to some degree in cycling, and I used the previous proof as my reasoning, but I can't prove how exactly it applies to it and to what degree. That, I have admitted, is speculation based on reasoning, but not at this point provable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by corvuscorvax View Post
    OP is apparently just making stuff up.
    I'm pretty sure he's looking at complete bike weights. Which if he's building the bike up himself, are totally irrelevant. Not sure if he is though.

  13. #13
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    I think we need to sort out exactly which bike the OP is talking about. His link about the El Mariachi goes to the single-speed version. There are geared MTB versions, but are they what he wants?

    A quick check on google shows a price of $1900 for the El Mariachi 2 (SRAM components), and $1400 for the 3 (Shimano). Already a bit out of the OP's stated price range, especially when the No Tubes rims on the 2 have to be replaced by good old traditional tubed versions at 36H instead of 32H, and 26" instead of 29".

    I won't go into whether the dropout arrangement could support a rack, because we don't know if a rack will be needed or not. The dropout arrangement itself is a bit of a worry, too, because extra screws and moving bits mean more things to go wrong.

    And I won't mention much that frame weights usually are with the fork included. The weight for a medium frame is 2409 grams, and the fork with uncut steerer tube is 1080 grams, making an all-up weight of 3489 grams or 7.6lbs. The Troll, according to the mtbr link is 7.3lbs.


    The devil really is in the detail.

    As to tyres, well, anyone can recommend their favourite tyres. I used to love Conti Town and Country 26ers until they transferred manufacture from Germany to Thailand (IIRC). Picking a tyre by weight is only one factor -- feel, ability to handle rock or mud (or whatever the majority of the terrain will be) and harshness through the handlebars plus ability to handle low pressures are all factors.

    Wheels? I have a pair of Velocity 26" Deep Vs in 36H form on my MTB at home that are tough as nails. Suns have a good reputation based on their Rhino Lites.

    The El Mariachi might be supplied as a frame so that the OP can fit his own 26" wheels, but that might upset the intended handling characteristics of the bike, and void the warranty. I'd like to be a fly on the wall of the Salsa office when he calls.
    Last edited by Rowan; 09-09-12 at 02:43 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post

    Here's where I'm at so far:

    #1. The bike HAS to be a steel frame. Even if other materials could, perhaps, fill the niche, Steel is just the safe bet.

    #2. I need to use 26" wheels so I can replace them if necessary.
    Max,

    I think it's good to listen to recommendations because you asked for them, but please don't confine yourself to steel and 26-inch wheels. That's what I have, but I wouldn't limit myself to them.

    Recommendations here generally migrate towards steel, 26-inch wheels and then possibly a Brooks saddle, Schwalbe tires, quill stem, and cantilever brakes. Next will probably be whether to use racks/panniers or a trailer system. How about neither. Another option is sacks, frame bags, and straps with our without a rack, especially if going ultralight or missing bike mounting points. (See link below.) I like what you did with the Raleigh Townsend for your recent tour. Ride and tour based on your own style and the knowledge you accumulated.


    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    Here's what I still need help understanding, if anyone has some experience. This is the only question I've got left: Buying wheels: do they need to be handbuilt? What types of wheels are specifically designed for bikepacking and what are they made of?
    If you are going lightweight, you probably don't need custom wheels although they are probably nice to have. Rims probably do matter to some extent if you use rim brakes because they wear the rim metal.

    By the way, it's little known that a 700c wheel can be mounted on an old rigid mountain bike fork with a reflector hole at the crown for road brakes. A 700c wheel for the rigid mountain bike back may require an adapter or very vertically adjustable brakes.

    Speaking of bikepacking, check this site for bikepacking setups. I really like the one where rider sewed some velcro straps to a regular stuff sack for an inexpensive huge saddle bag. It doesn't appear like strapping stuff to the bike is necessarily lightweight.

    -Lance

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    And I won't mention much that frame weights usually are with the fork included. The weight for a medium frame is 2409 grams, and the fork with uncut steerer tube is 1080 grams, making an all-up weight of 3489 grams or 7.6lbs. The Troll, according to the mtbr link is 7.3lbs.
    It's pretty common (in my experience anyway) for MTBs to quote the frame weight sans fork, since anybody who is doing their own build is probably going to select a fork separately. Regardless, the difference between a heavy touring frame and the lightest stupid-light race frame you can buy is around two pounds, not ten. Significant for an XC race bike, but pretty much totally irrelevant for a touring bike. I mean, a pint of water weighs a pound. You can take a pound off your rig by having a good crap in the morning.
    My speculation was that it applies to some degree in cycling, and I used the previous proof as my reasoning, but I can't prove how exactly it applies to it and to what degree. That, I have admitted, is speculation based on reasoning, but not at this point provable.

  16. #16
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    M,

    DT Alpine III spokes are excellent, among the very best for your application. I've had zero problems with them. Sheldon Brown has written highly of them, and Joe Young (a great and very experienced wheelbuilder) recommended them to me.

    Yes, I think an ace wheelbuilder is worth finding. They don't cost that much, even the best ones; and the added reliability is worth it. This is one of the most important things to get right, if you want reliability and the freedom from mechanical issues while touring.

    Years of experience can really make a difference when it comes to mechanics and wheelbuilders. Some of these guys have seen so many failures and breakdowns, and the good ones understand what works, far better than the vast majority of cyclists and less experienced mechanics and wheelbuilders. Some are also very conscientious and perfectionistic.

    These guys also know rims. If you give your weight, trip length, terrain, riding style etc., they'll recommend the most appropriate rim choices.

    If Joe Young is still around, you could give him a call. He is a good guy to work with. Last I heard he was in Texas. It's easy to ship the wheels via FedEx. Gravy Wheels in San Anselmo, CA, used to be good. Don't know the current situation.

    If you want to learn about wheelbuilding, there are good, detailed books by Jobst Brandt and Gerd S(c)hraner. I woul still recommend a crack wheelbuilder, though. They'll have some extra levels of skill and understanding compared to anyone doing it for the first time, even with these books and other resources. Some people do it themselves and it works out fine. I would still recommend an excellent builder, though. Along wth understanding as much of it as you care to go into.

    Another approach to finding ultra-reliable rims is to see what companies like Co-Motion use on their tandems and touring or touring-expedition bikes. They have a ton of experience with many high quality builds, and a wide variety of riders -- they've seen a lot and know what works. Same for other longterm high-end, quality tandem builders.

    Tandems see extra stresses, especially touring and expedition tandems; and these setups need an extra level of reliability. You might not need to go all the way to the end of their spectrum, but they might have some good recommendations or indications for you.

    Downhill mt biking is another field where you will find exceptionally strong rims being used. Mtbr.com reviews might be of interest.

    In general, the narrower rims are not as suitable as the wider ones for your application. Someone like Joe Young could explain this well.

  17. #17
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corvuscorvax View Post
    OP is apparently just making stuff up.
    Making stuff up does nothing for me, so why would I? Please don't come in here to pick fights...


    A Surly Troll frame weighs about five and a half pounds. By comparison, an Ibis Tranny frame weighs about three pounds.

    And nobody is going to lift the bike onto their shoulders and "hike a few miles" with a loaded touring bike. Ever. (And yes, I have had to portage plenty of times.)

    I hiked 2.2 miles from the road to the summit of Mt. Hurricane with a 46lb touring bike, gear and that night's food and water included. My touring bike alone was 29lbs.

    In fact, LAST NIGHT I biked up Mt. Greylock in MA, and then carried my bike 1.5 miles down the trail. This time, we were leaving from town, so it was only a 15 mile ride up the mountain. I put a 25lb backpack on my back for the entire excursion, so I was carrying a backpack AND a bike when I took the thunderbolt.


    If it means a summit with a view, I'd hike 5+.

    Maybe you don't walk with a bike on your shoulders, but I do- it's part of getting to the best camp spots for me, an experience I am not willing to give up. 2.2 miles of hiking with 46 lbs balanced across my shoulders got me this:


    2012 Northeast Bike Tour (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts) by Max Roman, on Flickr

    There's my motivation for shaving pounds off the frame. So, for the last time, NO SURLY TROLLS!!!

    Much love for full touring setups like 4x panniers, those who do it enjoy life. But it's not me- my gear is minimal. I may use a back rack if the frame supports it. More likely, I'll be bikepacking it with Relevate Designs frame bags, as other users suggest. Please make reccomendations with this in mind!



    Alright, addressing other posts:

    I see Rolhoff a lot on this forum, so I'll look into that. Also, I got to see an expedition tandem this summer and the wheels were burly, but if I'm not mistaken, considerably wider than most wheels. I doubt there's a direct translation to be had here, but I'll keep the materials in mind and check these out anyways.

    I will not be building this bike up myself, since it's considerably cheaper to get a fully built bike. The El Mariachi picture was just so you all could see what kind of frame I was interested in. 26" wheels won't fit on it. What I need is a DIFFERENT bike frame that does fit 26" wheels, salsa or otherwise. The Salsa is a great example of a minimalist steel frame without too much overkill in the weight department.

    A big thanks for the advice on handbuilt wheels. Anyone know of pre-built wheels that also fit the bill? The stock rims on my Port Townsend are absolutely beastly, I've never even untrued them and I've had to "mountain bike" more than once. There must be some rims out there that I don't have to get custom made, since that'll cost a small fortune (though, I'd do it if I had to).


    Also, my pricing on the El Mariachi was off of mtbr.com, and they had it at 1500 even. That may have been for the steel fork version, though.
    Last edited by mdilthey; 09-09-12 at 10:47 PM.
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  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Thorn, out of SJS.co.UK, makes frame-sets used for lots of world adventure tourists..

    they weigh a few Oz more for .. reliable durability.. offered in R'off friendly frame designs
    and those for Derailleur drive trains.

    if in the US, QBP has their own wheel building cubicle division,
    ships out of the same wholesale distributorship ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 09-09-12 at 11:00 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Thorn, out of SJS.co.UK, makes frame-sets used for lots of world adventure tourists..

    they weigh a few Oz more for .. reliable durability.. offered in R'off friendly frame designs
    and those for Derailleur drive trains.

    if in the US, QBP has their own wheel building cubicle division,
    ships out of the same wholesale distributorship ..

    Thank you! Will look into both of these. What's QBP?
    My life is going downhill fast... MAXTHECYCLIST.COM

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    Do a google search. You might be surprised at what bike brands they control.

    The type of bike the guy is looking for in Thorn is probably the Sherpa, and they are quite expensive, let alone landing on inn the US with the freight. Over $2000 when last I looked, but I notice they have a special on right now for ex-display stock of 1,000 pounds. The Raven Sport Tour frames start at 600 pounds.

    A new Rohloff hub generally will cost as much as the OP has budgeted for a whole bike.

    A simple google search on bike models also will reveal the actual asking price (on-line) by bike shops. mtbr is not the best place to get that sort of current pricing.

    And about the only worthwhile suggestion your best buddy Niles has made is in regard to the Jamis Dragon that came in at the price you wanted and in steel.

    I really like how you now have prioritised this thread to concentrate on the wheels to go on your bike. But you aren't going to avoid devolving this thread back into discussing the bike, when you haven't progress any further than steel, 26" MTB, and like the El Mariachi, off the shelf.
    Last edited by Rowan; 09-10-12 at 01:20 AM.
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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corvuscorvax View Post
    Regardless, the difference between a heavy touring frame and the lightest stupid-light race frame you can buy is around two pounds, not ten. Significant for an XC race bike, but pretty much totally irrelevant for a touring bike.
    The frame is probably the last place to worry about weight on a touring bike, but one thing is often overlooked when folks say that a pound (or two) doesn't matter. That 2 pounds may not make a big difference, but it is one of many choices and they all add up. With choices of 2 pounds here, 8 ounces there, a couple more ounces somewhere else, and so on pretty soon you have a very substantial gain in weight.

    It may be worth the extra pound or even two in the frame, but I would caution against too liberally applying the logic that a pound doesn't matter.

    Paying attention to the weight of each and every item can make a big difference. I think that I went from something a bit under 80 pounds of bike and gear on my first tour to 33 pounds of bike and gear. Despite a 45+ pound reduction, I maintained comfort. the ability to cook and camp, and was actually better prepared for cold weather on the more recent lighter tours.

    You do need adequate durability and probably more so on a South American tour than a US tour and there always is the question of where to draw that line. Taking heavier items may make sense, but the weight should be considered and balanced against the required durability.

    Bottom line, choosing to take extra weight for added durability or even added comfort may make sense, but it is a slippery slope to say that a couple pounds for one item does not matter.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 09-10-12 at 06:09 AM.

  22. #22
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    Damn no Trolls.... Why the hate

    I think Rolfhoff's are a 135 mm dropout. Whatever that means. Its way over your budget anyway, your looking closer to 1700 bucks for the wheel/hub alone.

    Hand built wheels are nice. I'd rather spend a few extra bucks and stronger wheels that might last a little longer. Your looking at getting a factory bike, different wheels will likely be out of your budget.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by skilsaw View Post
    The first is that a dollar bill can be used if necessary as a tire boot. Have you actually tried this? I don't want you to tell me what you've heard. I want to know from real experience. Dollar bill=tire boot ? Rubbish.
    Will you accept a twenty crown note or an energy bar wrapper?

  24. #24
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SparkyGA View Post
    Damn no Trolls.... Why the hate

    I think Rolfhoff's are a 135 mm dropout. Whatever that means. Its way over your budget anyway, your looking closer to 1700 bucks for the wheel/hub alone.

    Hand built wheels are nice. I'd rather spend a few extra bucks and stronger wheels that might last a little longer. Your looking at getting a factory bike, different wheels will likely be out of your budget.
    True, those wheels are way out of my budget. Still, my LBS owes me a favor, so if I need to replace the stock wheels with a $200-400 wheel, they'll internalize the cost of the stocks to cut me a bargain. Probably. I'm going to ask really nicely.
    My life is going downhill fast... MAXTHECYCLIST.COM

  25. #25
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I really don't want to derail my own thread, but here's a question:

    The Dragon 26 Sport is an extremely good bike, but it's 2011. All the 2012's are 29. If I were to find a frame, is it taboo or just a bad idea to buy up the Deore or SRAM Component group off of ebay over the next 6 months? Has anyone done this successfully?
    My life is going downhill fast... MAXTHECYCLIST.COM

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