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September 2012 - The start of a new Era! Changing the Drivetrain to the Gates Carbon Drive System.

We've been thinking of replacing our Thorn Sterling Frames with something a bit more heavy duty as Thorn Cycles do put a 15 kg load limit on the Sterling Frame. We generally carry slightly more than this when we tour and we've been over some very rough roads, but we can report that we've never noticed any sort of problem with them. It did however start to worry us a bit during the Sweden-Finland Tour, so on return to Australia we started to look for other options.

We considered the new Thorn Nomad Mk2, but having wanted to try a Gates Carbon Drive for some time, we were steered towards frames which have a split in the rear triangle so that the belt can be fitted.

Having investigated most of the frame manufacturers listed by Gates, we eventually decided on the Van Nicholas Pioneer frame. Being titanium it also offers some advantages over other frame materials, with the biggest disadvantage being cost. As titanium frames go, Van Nicholas seem quite reasonable (particularly since the perfectly sized bike was listed in their Outlet store).

With that, the selection of components began, with the final list as shown in the Table below. Much of the list is made up of our previous gear which has performed so well.

We'll give the Gates Carbon Drive system a few months of daily commuting before providing some feedback on how it compares to the normal chain drive system that we are used to (LINK to Review). If you're interested, you can check out our experiences on the specific components that we have used up to now, which is getting considerable as most items have done approximately 54,000 km on Mike's bike, and over 39,000 km on Judith's bike.

Table of Current Touring/Commuting Bike Components (Click on the links within the Table to see our reviews below)

Component Mike's Bike Judith's Bike
Frame: Van Nicholas Pioneer Titanium Touring Frame, Size 58 cm Thorn Nomad Mk3 Frame & Fork, Size 55L
Van Nicholas Pioneer Titanium Touring Frame, Size 52 cm (Frame cracked (seat tube) and was replaced by Van Nicholas under warranty - Thorn was purchased in the meantime)
Eccentric Bottom Bracket: Bushnell Featherweight Thorn Mk3
Bushnell Featherweight
Crankset: Truvativ Stylo 1-Speed, 175 mm, 104 BCD Truvativ Stylo 1-Speed, 175 mm, 104 BCD
Bottom Bracket: Chris King ThreadFit 24 Chris King ThreadFit 24
Chainring: Gates Carbondrive CenterTrack 55T Gates Carbondrive CenterTrack 50T
Gates Carbondrive CenterTrack 55T
Gates Carbondrive Belt: CenterTrack 122T, 1342mm Length CenterTrack 122T, 1342mm Length
Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial 7 Avid Speed Dial 7
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT T780 Series Brakes with SwissStop RX (Blue) / Kool Stop R16 V-Type 2 Pads for CSS Rims Shimano Deore XT T780 Series Brakes with SwissStop RX (Blue) / Kool Stop R16 V-Type 2 Pads for CSS Rims
Drivetrain: Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub (CC Ex DB Model) Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub (CC Ex DB Model)
Rear Sprocket/Pulley: CenterTrack 22T for Rohloff with Snubber Pulley CenterTrack 22T for Rohloff with Snubber Pulley
Front Hub (Winter & Touring): Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo (36 hole) Schmidt SONdeleux Dynamo (32 hole)
Front Hub (Summer): Chris King ISO (36 hole) Chris King ISO (36 hole)
Front Rims: Rigida Andra 30 CSS Rim Rigida Andra 30 CSS Rim
Rear Rims: Rigida Andra 30 CSS Rim (drilled for Rohloff) Rigida Andra 30 CSS Rim (drilled for Rohloff)
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition DT Swiss Competition
Tyres (Commuting): Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26x1.35" Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26x1.35"
Tyres (Touring): Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 26x1.75"Continental Travel Contact 26x1.75 (Not nearly as durable as Schwalbe) Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 26x1.75"Continental Travel Contact 26x1.75 (Not nearly as durable as Schwalbe)
Tubes: Schwalbe MTB 12 Presta Valve
Continental (valve stems keep unscrewing)
Schwalbe MTB 12 Presta Valve
Continental (valve stems keep unscrewing)
Headset: Chris King InSet 1 GripLock Chris King InSet 1 GripLock
Stem: Van Nicholas Titanium Stem 120mm Thomson Elite X4 110mm
Handlebars: On-One Mary (mounted upside-down) Van Nicholas Titanium Handlebar
Grips: Brooks Plump Leather Grips Ergon GP2 for Rohloff
Seat Post: Thomson Elite Layback Seatpost Black 27.2 x 410mm
Van Nicholas Ti Seat Post, 15mm Setback
Thomson Elite Layback Seatpost Black 27.2 x 410mm
Van Nicholas Ti Seat Post, 15mm Setback
Seat Collar: Thomson Seat Post Collar 34.9
Van Nicholas Titanium
Intergral to Thorn Frame
Van Nicholas Titanium
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather Rido R2
Fork: Van Nicholas Touring Fork Thorn Mk3
Van Nicholas Touring Fork
Mudguards: Gilles Berthoud Stainless Steel SKS Bluemels 60 mm
Gilles Berthoud Stainless Steel (too expensive to ship from France)
Rear Carrier Rack: Tubus Cosmo (pictured below with Tubus Cargo) Tubus Cosmo
Front Light: Schmidt SON Edelux LED Light with Hanger Schmidt SON Edelux LED Light with Hanger
Rear Light: Busch + Müller Toplight Line Plus LED Busch + Müller Toplight Line Plus LED
Pedals: Nukeproof Horizon CS
Shimano XT PD-M8000 (without fail these start squeaking after 1500km on tour (Everytime))
Nukeproof Horizon CS
Shimano XT PD-M8000
Stem Accessory Bar Thorn 150mm extension Thorn 55mm extension
Gear & Brake Cables Jagwire LX3 Brake Housing, various inners Jagwire LX3 Brake Housing, various inners
Bottle Cages Blackburn Mountain (1)/ Blackburn Outpost Cargo (2 for touring) Blackburn Mountain (1) / Blackburn Outpost Cargo (2 for touring)
Bottle Cage Adaptor Mount Skidmore (Shifts Cargo cage up the downtube to avoid it clashing with the cage on the seat-tube) Mount Skidmore
Panniers & handlebar Bag Ortlieb Back Roller Plus Ortlieb Back Roller Plus
Cycle Computer VDO M4.1 WR VDO M3.1 WR

Photos of the Van Nicholas Pioneer Belt Drive Bikes



 
 
 
 
 
 Gates CenterTrack Belt
 
 
 
  

September 2009 - Converting Hardtail Mountain Bikes to Rohloff Speedhub Specific Frames

After 32,000 combined kilometres of using our Rohloff converted hardtail mountain bikes as touring/commuting machines, in September 2009 we decided to take the plunge and order frames specifically suited to the Rohloff Speedhub. We had narrowed the selection down to steel frames made by Thorn in the UK (http://www.thorncycles.co.uk/) and sold through the shop front of St. John Street Cycles (http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/), but the decision as to which model was difficult. Requiring a Rohloff Speedhub specific frame narrowed the choice down to either the Thorn Sterling, or the Thorn Nomad with S&S Couplings.

Details of the two bikes can be found at the Thorn website, but basically the Sterling has a mountain bike geometry and can be used for "light" off-road touring, while the Nomad is a stronger do-it-all round-the-world heavy-duty tourer. Thorn have no faith in disc brakes, but both bikes do have mountings for disc brakes at the rear, but the fork which is included with the Nomad does not allow for these to be fitted (the Sterling does not come with a fork, but is designed for suspension forks). As we prefer the durability issues of disc brakes (and less rim wear being a major factor for winter commuting in Perth), the significant cost saving, the lighter weight, and what generally seems to suit our bicycle touring better, we decided on Sterlings (with the thought that we wouldn't have lost too much if we ever decided to upgrade to the Nomad).

Out of the box, the Sterling is beautiful in its Matt Black finish and has all the brazed on fittings for the EX Box Rohloff, mudguards, cable routing, etc. It comes with an FSA headset (which we would replace with a Chris King Headset) and a basic Thorn seatpost (which we would replace with a Thomson Elite seatpost) - So basically it was just the frame we were after. One surprise was that the frame didn't come with any bolts to seal the bottle cage mounting holes, etc.

As with the previous bikes, these were built from scratch with the components described below. Thorn advised that they couldn't treat the inside the frames prior to shipment (air-travel) so we ended up trying Heavy Duty aerosol Lanolin by Lanotec (http://www.lanotec.com.au/) to treat the inside of the frame tubing. It was applied very easily and initial impressions are that it should do a good job of preventing internal rust.

When choosing components for the bikes, we always try and use what we believe is the best equipment for the job at hand. All components have always been ordered separately from many suppliers and put together by ourselves. Having built the bikes from scratch, one also learns how all the pieces fit together which may help with maintenance if/when stuck in the middle of nowhere. Besides being very rewarding completing the build ourselves, it was also great to select each component individually based on its merits.

Details of the bikes are as follows: