Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Building My Bike: #9 Stem, Saddle, and Fit

In the home stretch now. The stem and saddle are very easy to put on but they are the heart of a proper fit (after the frame's geometry, of course) so I wanted to try and get them close to the measurements from my fit.

First would be the stem. I did rough measuring and found that I would need to stack the steerer as high as I could to attach the stem, and even then I wasn't sure that would be high enough. If that was the case, there exist stems with steep angles that can raise the handlebar even higher but I was hoping we wouldn't have to go that far.

How high did I stack things, and how did I do it? Well, a couple of years ago a quick special came up on the old Bonktown site for some carbon spacers--cheap! I ordered them and put them on my old bike, saving the old ones that came with it (in bike repair, it pays to save as many of these spare parts as possible). I also didn't use all the spacers so I had some more spares there. I ended up using almost all the carbon spacers and the old bike's spacers to get the stack high enough, which turned out to be about 2 1/4". Yes, 2.25 inches. Someday I'll get some nice Chris King matching spacers but, for now, this alternating pattern will do.

Putting the saddle on was a piece of cake, of course. I did need to use anti-seize on the seatpost because it being metal meeting titanium. I set it to the neighborhood of the right height, based on the fit measurements. Then I tried adjusting saddle angle and forward-backwards position. After a few very short test rides around the driveway I decided that saddle fine-tuning would be better done by a professional.

Note that the steerer tube was still un-cut at this point. I didn't think it would need to be cut at all but I wanted to be absolutely sure and that would not happen until I finished my fit. For my 3T Funda Pro fork, this presented a problem. It has an insert that you epoxy inside the top of the steerer tube after you have cut it. The insert is where the top cap screws into the fork. Without that insert, the fork is loose. If you ride a bike much with a loose fork/headset, apparently you can really mess the headset up. Another reason to stop doing test rides and get the verdict on cutting the steerer tube.

So the bike was pretty much assembled, except for bar tape, which I couldn't put on until I found out about the steerer tube. Here is what it looked like at that point:

Time to go back to FinalFit. A lot had happened since my last trip there back in June 2012! They had moved and changed their name to ERO Sports but it is still run by Jim Manton. Once he saw the name on the bike he remembered my whole story and was eager to see how the bike turned out, since he might be able to recommend Carver to people looking for a custom frame. Jim took out his measuring tape to see how the bike compared to the fit numbers we arrived at in June and I was very happy (and relieved) when he said it was perfect (even my high stacking of the stem!). He even commented that the frame looked very well-put together. All we should need to do was tweak the saddle position (up/down/forward/backwards/angle) and that turned out to be the case. I'd ride (the bike on a trainer). He'd tweak. I'd ride. He'd tweak. We were very close but not quite there and then he made a very slight adjustment and everybody (I brought my girlfriend) could tell that that was the missing piece. I rode faster and looked more comfortable. I'm not even sure what he adjusted but the fit was now excellent!

I brought the bike home, marked the seatpost position with tape in case it slipped later (it did), took pictures of the saddle set-up, removed the fork and epoxy'd the insert to the steerer tube, put the fork back on the bike, and got ready for the last big challenge: bar tape.

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