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All wrong

Old 02-21-13, 09:19 PM
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Chris_in_Miami
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All wrong

I'm a shameless tinkerer and have an interest in doing things in the spirit of experimentation. Sometimes this produces "so wrong, it's right" results, and sometimes it just goes wrong. Here's an example of the latter outcome:



It looks pretty innocuous - a mountain bike with cruiser bars and questionable taste in components, but it all goes wrong when ridden in anything other than a leisurely cruiser manner. Maybe you're rolling your eyes because this looks like a trainwreck to you, but it came as a complete surprise to me because I had just finished a similar build that was a great ride (but the frame was a bit too small, so I traded it away last week.) Here's the successful build:



I've always liked the way the Rockhopper rides, and I expected the nimble geometry to be toned down only slightly by the VO Left Bank bars, but I didn't anticipate the ultra-sluggish handling - it feels like the bike actually resists steering input, and I had to get off and check that I hadn't over tightened the headset. It feels exactly like I'm struggling against a gummed-up and notchy headset, but it's freshly lubed and with the wheel off the ground, turns as well as it did when I last rode the bike a few years ago. I didn't even attempt to ride it no-hands, I'm sure it would have been a disaster.

I expected the brakes to perform better with a set of proper (if ancient) MTB levers, but that was a disappointment also. The cantilevers are Tektro copies of WTB Speedmasters, and not exactly known to be good performers, but they're even worse on the Rockhopper. Looking at the top photo, I think I have too much housing in the equation, and maybe replacing the housing with some modern stuff would dial out some of the "squish" also. Here are the brakes when they were on the Lotus, tons of adjustability and good looks, crappy performance.



I took it out for a blast around the trails this afternoon, and discovered another issue: slide-on grips will slide off just as easily when it's least convenient (such as when I'm attempting a wheelie off of a plank.) Fortunately, the ground was pretty forgiving so I didn't break any bones this time, and I didn't even notice the new holes in the top of my foot from the chainring until I got home. I crawled around in the dirt like Velma from Scooby Doo looking for my glasses laughing hysterically the entire time, but sadly, I don't think there were any witnesses. Note missing grip, I found it and the end plug eventually:



Have you ever built a bike that just didn't live up to your expectations?

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Old 02-21-13, 09:23 PM
  #2  
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nope...have no ide-r what your talkin' 'bout
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Old 02-21-13, 09:34 PM
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I notice that on the succesfull bike you used a road touring stem and on the not so much one a cheaper riser stemm. My guess is if you changed the stem on the first bike to a road touring stem to match you bar choice it's ride should imrpove greatly. Mismatched stem and bars often tend to result in bad riding. When building up its best if the type of stem and bars are a good match also I personaly avoid quill riser stems on builds unless they are orginal to the bike.

As for no riders just didn't quit work I had one recently also a Lotus. Great wheels decent components everything set up right and it looked assume yet it just didn't perform when it came to ride. It was bad enough that rather than sell it I donated it back to the bike coop from where it came. Strange thing is the person who got it thinks its just great and it is still rolling around in my hood.


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Old 02-21-13, 09:40 PM
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Yeah, I think all of your cable housing is too long, but the front brake cable, and the rear cable where it passes the seatpost are particularly egregious.

I've definitely had 'wrong' combinations before, putting bars on a frame not intended for them always seems to require some trial and error.
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Old 02-21-13, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by zukahn1 View Post
I notice that on the succesfull bike you used a road touring stem and on the not so much one a cheaper riser stemm. My guess is if you changed the stem on the first bike to a road touring stem to match you bar choice it's ride should imrpove greatly. Mismatched stem and bars often tend to result in bad riding. When building up its best if the type of stem and bars are a good match also I personaly avoid quill riser stems on builds unless they are orginal to the bike.
I agree, the stem is probably a big part of the problem. The reach on both stems is fairly close (around 60mm I think,) but the rise is much higher with the new stem. I've never tried a stem this short on the Rockhopper, and the geometry is completely different from the Lotus, I didn't realize there would be such dramatic side effects. I'm going to try a 100mm stem without the rise, but I may eventually switch to an "arc" bar and the original stem - this bike was great with that setup.
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Old 02-21-13, 09:46 PM
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Interesting. There's a lot less trail in the Rockhopper's forks, and the wheelbase looks incrementally shorter. You'd expect it to be nimbler.
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Old 02-21-13, 09:56 PM
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Well this may actually be part of the problem really nimble and stiff isn't a good match for cruiser bars while a little more laid back with a slightly longer wheel base is actually what you want when setting a bike up as a modified cruiser.
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Old 02-21-13, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
Yeah, I think all of your cable housing is too long, but the front brake cable, and the rear cable where it passes the seatpost are particularly egregious.

I've definitely had 'wrong' combinations before, putting bars on a frame not intended for them always seems to require some trial and error.
I definitely sabotaged myself with the brakes - the housings are too long and I ran out of ferrules, so they don't seat square in the brake levers despite having ground the ends square. That stuff will be easy to fix fortunately.

Originally Posted by Ancient Mariner View Post
Interesting. There's a lot less trail in the Rockhopper's forks, and the wheelbase looks incrementally shorter. You'd expect it to be nimbler.
That's what I thought, and it was quite nimble in the previous configuration. The Left Bank bars and this stem give it a weird "tiller" steering feel. It even handled great with drop bars and the same stem:

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Old 02-21-13, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Velognome View Post
nope...have no ide-r what your talkin' 'bout
Come on, spill it!

Originally Posted by zukahn1 View Post
I notice that on the succesfull bike you used a road touring stem and on the not so much one a cheaper riser stemm. My guess is if you changed the stem on the first bike to a road touring stem to match you bar choice it's ride should imrpove greatly. Mismatched stem and bars often tend to result in bad riding. When building up its best if the type of stem and bars are a good match also I personaly avoid quill riser stems on builds unless they are orginal to the bike.

As for no riders just didn't quit work I had one recently also a Lotus. Great wheels decent components everything set up right and it looked assume yet it just didn't perform when it came to ride. It was bad enough that rather than sell it I donated it back to the bike coop from where it came. Strange thing is the person who got it thinks its just great and it is still rolling around in my hood.

Look at the chainstays on that beast! The geometry is actually pretty similar to my Lotus, I wonder how it would have worked with the cruiser bars? Your Lotus also reminds me of an oddball Peugeot touring bike that I had - it had slack angles and lots of wheel flop that never felt quite right, but it wasn't horrible.
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Old 02-21-13, 10:13 PM
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Looking at the position of your hands relative to the steer tube, and on the Rockhopper, they are a lot farther back. That would explain the 'tiller' sensation I think. On the Lotus, they're directly in line with it, and maybe even slightly forward.

I'm just throwing out ideas.
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Old 02-21-13, 11:14 PM
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Chris_in_Miami, The one thing I've noticed about Rock Hoppers and Stump Jumpers are that they really perform best with some weight on the front wheel. Your upright posture, compared to using flat bars may just be the cause of it's handling issue.

As to the last question. Absolutely, both major and minor errors in build judgement, but at the end of the day the mistakes were teaching tools.

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Old 02-22-13, 05:51 AM
  #12  
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That grip has opted out of this build, so you can put drop bars on this bike with a clear conscience.
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Old 02-22-13, 07:10 AM
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If you "like" the sensation of a grip coming loose while riding, you should experience the stem coming loose. Happened to me on a test ride, right after I had checked to make sure stem wasn't stuck, but apparently did not do a very good job tightening it back up. Got to blame the mechanic on that one (me).

Now that was a nasty crash, and a slap the forehead moment. And of course, I did not have my gloves or helmet, as I was just going to look at a bike. Priceless. Oh yeah, I then had to buy the bike (you wreck it, you bought it)....

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Old 02-22-13, 07:37 AM
  #14  
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I don't make mistakes on my builds.
They're "custom designs for special purpose riding."

Marry long enough, you can rationalize anything.
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Old 02-22-13, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris_in_Miami View Post


That's what I thought, and it was quite nimble in the previous configuration. The Left Bank bars and this stem give it a weird "tiller" steering feel. It even handled great with drop bars and the same stem:

The Echoplex will even all the bad stuff out. Just make sure you're using at least decent tape.
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Old 02-22-13, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris_in_Miami View Post

Have you ever built a bike that just didn't live up to your expectations?
Sure did! The first bike I ever wrenched, six years ago-- I converted a Cannondale rigid fork mtb to a cruiser/commuter, which came out with lackluster results. The bike always felt sluggish and heavy, and the geometry was all wrong:



That said, it was my "gateway" bike, in that it taught me how to wrench a bike, and that wrenching is really fun . I commuted on it for three years and I still have it, it lives up at my summer house and gets ridden on leisure rides with the family, nothing else. It no longer pulls the Burley trailercycle via the Burley rack, and I've ditched the VO porteur kickstand, but otherwise it's still just like in the photo.
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Old 02-22-13, 02:49 PM
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I've had similar results as you with north road, mustache, and cruiser style bars on these older MTB's. I'm comfortable on flat bars & risers so I just use these on my builds now and I don't have issues.
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Old 02-22-13, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
The Echoplex will even all the bad stuff out. Just make sure you're using at least decent tape.
Maybe, but I always felt like I was riding in an endless loop.

Originally Posted by southpawboston View Post
Sure did! The first bike I ever wrenched, six years ago-- I converted a Cannondale rigid fork mtb to a cruiser/commuter, which came out with lackluster results. The bike always felt sluggish and heavy, and the geometry was all wrong:



That said, it was my "gateway" bike, in that it taught me how to wrench a bike, and that wrenching is really fun . I commuted on it for three years and I still have it, it lives up at my summer house and gets ridden on leisure rides with the family, nothing else. It no longer pulls the Burley trailercycle via the Burley rack, and I've ditched the VO porteur kickstand, but otherwise it's still just like in the photo.
I'm beginning to see a pattern here, the Cannondale looks like a very similar setup to mine.
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Old 02-22-13, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris_in_Miami View Post
I'm beginning to see a pattern here, the Cannondale looks like a very similar setup to mine.
Yes, very similar!
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Old 02-22-13, 03:14 PM
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I'm kind of partial toward 86 Rockhoppers-
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Old 02-22-13, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris_in_Miami View Post
Have you ever built a bike that just didn't live up to your expectations?
I'm going to get some hate for this, but I had a Koga-Miyata that just felt like a slug to me. It was a "Prologue" road model, was meant for the Dutch market, and American Cyclery in SF had a bunch of 'em for fairly cheap. It had Miyata's proprietary steel tubing, and there was nothing to suggest bad design or bad construction. I built with nothing unusual (mostly Shimano tri-color 600, as I recall). It looked good.

And it rode lousy, at least to me. No bad manners, no death-trap tendencies. It was just . . . blah. None of the lively feel that I'd come to expect from steel frames. Not twitchy, not neutral, not . . . anything. It went where and when I told it go, but only because it had to. The most lifeless frame I've ever been on. I have no idea why.
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Old 02-22-13, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
I'm going to get some hate for this, but I had a Koga-Miyata that just felt like a slug to me. It was a "Prologue" road model, was meant for the Dutch market, and American Cyclery in SF had a bunch of 'em for fairly cheap. It had Miyata's proprietary steel tubing, and there was nothing to suggest bad design or bad construction. I built with nothing unusual (mostly Shimano tri-color 600, as I recall). It looked good.

And it rode lousy, at least to me. No bad manners, no death-trap tendencies. It was just . . . blah. None of the lively feel that I'd come to expect from steel frames. Not twitchy, not neutral, not . . . anything. It went where and when I told it go, but only because it had to. The most lifeless frame I've ever been on. I have no idea why.
Your description is basically a match for the lotus I pictured early. I'm starting to see a trend on these bikes as being late 80's when a lot of the companies where in the process of transitioning manufactuing between to different countries.
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Old 02-24-13, 07:58 PM
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I made some changes this afternoon - replaced the brake housings with quality stuff, and tried a longer stem with no rise. That made a big difference, and after I raised the saddle an inch and a half or so and moved it forward a bit, it improved significantly. The longer stem was the key, my weight is positioned more forward with more of it on the front wheel as bradtx pointed out (thanks bradtx!) The saddle height is now level with the grips (I took the photos before the saddle adjustments,) and it handles predictably. Thanks to all for the input!



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Old 02-24-13, 08:26 PM
  #24  
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Great job on your Rockjopper!
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Old 02-25-13, 08:30 AM
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Chris_in_Miami, Congrats on working it out!

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