My new Nomad arrived last week, and I have been busy assembling and customizing and testing it since. I can safely say there is no bike on the planet that is better designed, assembled, or packed, and it arrived in absolutely *perfect* condition. Thorn did a magnificent job on it, and I am thrilled and completely delighted by their efforts. A lot of care went into it, and it truly shows.
Though I have not yet taken it on a fully-loaded tour, it has performed brilliantly in my test runs, even fully-loaded over a lumpy, dried-plowed field several streets away. It has handled dirt, grass, rocks, very coarse poured gravel, and pavement with aplomb. I have every reason think it will be as brilliant on-tour as it is now.
Unlike the "Danneaux's Sherpa" thread, which started with the bike a bit better than 99% "there", "Danneaux's Nomad" will be a journey to an end...showing the bike from beginning to full evolution. I hope you'll enjoy seeing the process as I make the bike truly my own and style and customize it to my needs -- and then use it. As you read and follow along, please remember our bicycles reflect our personal needs. What works for me might well not work for you, and my needs are somewhat specialized for extended, solo, self-supported journeys across desert regions where I must haul a lot of water and food through wilderness. My Nomad will probably look a bit "strange" compared to others, but it is the most beautiful thing in the world to me because it meets my requirements.
Though "different" from others' Nomads in many ways, perhaps some of my kit will find application to your own needs. If so, great; I'd love to hear about it, as well as your thoughts and ideas. The Forum is a wonderful hive of collected wisdom and ideas, so if I miss something, I can count on you all to chime in, helpful as always. My thanks in advance!
Let's plunge in, shall we?
Choosing a size by first choosing a handlebar
Andy Blance was ever so kind to work directly with me on every spec of the bike, and I truly appreciate his help in getting the correct size and in consulting with me on basic specs. Though we sometimes differed in our views, he worked as a colleague to find the best solution for me, with my needs and preferences respectfully in mind, and Robin reviewing the specs as well. I could not have asked for better.
Andy strongly prefers straight or comfort handlebars, and has specified them now on each of his bicycles for very good reasons; they simply work best for him, and they provide a lot of leverage with a full touring load. With bar-ends, they very closely mimic the road cyclist's most common "on the hoods" riding position, and they simplify shifter options. One can even segue from "straight" (15°) handlebars to riser or "comfort" handlebars to accommodate changes with age and time. Straight 'bars allow use with a longer frame; in turn, that longer front-center aids stability. They're really a versatile option, and I can see why they have become so popular with the majority of cyclists.
I, however, have found I must go with drops. Old injuries are quickly aggravated unless my palms face each other when riding, and straight 'bars with bar-ends just didn't quite work. I tried a neighbor's setup that was as close as possible to what I would need, and...no. Comfort aside, part of it is preference. I've ridden on- and off-road with drops exclusively for over 35 years, and they're familiar. I love riding on the hoods for most of the time where I can always cover the brake levers, and going to the drops for headwinds. There's 6 separate hand positions on drops, and I can fit interrupter levers for use on the tops when I really need to get my weight back over the saddle for steep descents on goat tracks and trails. I realize drop handlebars are a dying preference among trekkers and tourists worldwide, and I may face more limited options in future (i.e. Tektro/Cane Creek are at present the only vendor of truly v-brake compatible levers), but they're great for now, and I do have the option of going to straight 'bars and bar-ends later, or even comfort 'bars, provided I fit a longer stem.
So, even facing some compromises, it was drops for me. Deciding on the handlebars provided the foundation on which I could build.
Once I went with drops, then I could choose a frame size. Standing at 5'11"/180cm with average proportions, there were two possible candidates -- a 565M and a 590M. Andy recommended the 590M, and I'm glad he did; it is a perfect fit. The 565M would have been a bit small for me and my intended use. By going with a "Medium" (M) frame, I picked up a bit more load capacity, thanks to the stiffness of shorter tubes.
To make the 590M Nomad work with drops, I needed a much shorter than usual stem. The 560M Sherpa used a 110mm stem, but had a shorter top tube. An 80mm would have been "perfect" with the Nomad's longer top tube with the levers in the usual position, but Andy got me to nearly the same place with a 90mm stem by moving the levers higher on the handlebars, and I made up any difference by adding a 12mm spacer, which also moved the bars back a bit, thanks to the head angle. The levers are in the same position on the 'bars as the ones on my favorite randonneur bike -- which also uses an 80mm stem extension; ideal.
The result is identical to my other road frames with similar length top tubes that are also fitted with 80mm stems. The tops of the handlebars are level with the saddle as is my preference, and reach is good. Check and done.
Trying to duplicate the Sherpa as much as possible, I again chose matte black over a brighter color for the same reasons:
= Ideal for stealth camping, as the bike shows up less. The rest of my camping-gear is inconspicuous, and it helps the bike is too.
= Timeless and pretty well fashion-proof. It is a common color among work-bikes worldwide.
= Lower theft potential locally, where eye-catching bikes are stolen in the wink of an eye.
= Very easy to touch-up invisibly if needed, so the bike will remain fresh-looking and rust-free for decades to come.
I went with pretty basic spec for the most part, with a couple exceptions:
= 44cm drop handlebars, as noted above.
= Plain (non-CSS) Rigida Andra rims for their proven wet-weather braking. I often have to make steep descents in the rain as I ride from the Valley over the mountain ranges that separate me from the High Desert, and I have been so very pleased with the braking provided by plain Andras and Kool-Stop Salmon-colored brake pads. I have found both pads and rims to last a very long time -- I still have a set of bonded, Mathauser-branded Kool-Stop salmons from the early 1980s with well over 28,000mi/45,000km on them that work great on the original rims.
= As on Sherpa, a long-layback seatpost to get the proper saddle-BB relationship.
= My preferred 170mm crankarms...in a Deore HollowTech II external-bearing crankset. I really like the stiffness and easy field-maintenance and bearing replacement of Shimano's HollowTech II crankset...even knowing its limitations. Shimano's basic design (cribbed from Roger Durham's original Bullseye tubular cr-mo design) is fine; what really kills it for long-distance use are the bearings. They are small in size, small in number, poorly sealed, and supported outside the BB shell in soft alu cups. Having surveyed the market and end-user reviews for a number of years, I believe the ultimate cure is a Phil Wood Outboard-Bearing Bottom Bracket. I snagged one on sale at a 36% off, put it away, and will install it around the 1,200mi/1930km mark when HollowTechs start to show problems in severe use. The Phil unit uses plastic liners on the inner bearing races so if one does seize, it won't immediately scar the spindle, unlike the majority of separate bearings that can be pressed into the original Shimano cups. The Phil cups are heavy, being milled from a billet of stainless steel, and the bearings are of very high quality, shielded nicely, and packed with my preferred Phil waterproof grease...the only grease I found to withstand the corrosive effects of Mt. St. Helens' volcanic ash. The Phil seems to hold up a bit better in long-term use than the Chris King injectable unit, so Phil it is. Time will tell.
= After a lot of thought, I went with Andy's common recommendation of 40x17 gearing. This provides the lowest "Rohloff-approved" combination with a physically larger chainring and cog. This is not the even-even combo endorsed by Sheldon Brown, nor is it the odd-odd combo increasingly endorsed by high-end makers such as Idworx, but it should get the job done and wear well. Yes, it limits my use of a chaincase such as the Hebie Chainglider, but if worse comes to worst, either the chainring or cog can be changed.
= I chose a Thorn pie-plate/bash-guard style chainring protector instead of a Chainglider out of concern for the effects of alkali dust in the desert. It is corrosive, talc-fine, and gets in everywhere. This guard is open, the chain can be cleaned and re-oiled, and my leg is protected from grease that would soon soil my sleeping bag and the 'ring is shielded from the far more remote possibility of a rock-strike.
= I decided to go with the black-anodized Rohloff hub to deter corrosion in the alkali dust I frequent, and spec'd the disc option to future-proof the hub. The frame already has a disc-mounting tab, so this seemed a good time to specify a hub to match, keeping my options open.
= I chose the standard Deore M590 v-brakes as simple and reliable for my needs. I have seen some examples of higher models develop play in their parallelogram linkage that led to squeal, and the basic model serves my needs well with powerful, reliable braking so long as I use the Kool-Stop Salmon/plain alu rim combo.
= I spec'd the new SON28 dynohub with the "ball-shape" for my power-generating needs. Compared to the Klassik, it does seem to have less drag, and power output is the same or very nearly so, unlike the similar-looking but lower-output Deluxe model. The newer hub is a bit lighter, and the smaller shell has less volume to be affected by changes in temperature. Again, I chose black-anodized to resist the corrosive effects of alkali playa dust in the desert.
= I went with the same Brooks B.17 saddle that I used on Sherpa. It is comfortable, proven in my use, and my favorite touring saddle. Black, of course.
= I love SKS P55 mudguards (known to me as "fenders") because they catch so much of what would otherwise be flung by the tires onto me, the bike, components, and gear. Because of them, everything lasts longer and looks nicer. Like helmets, these are a personal choice and preference, but fit my requirements well. The can be removed and carried when I unexpectedly encounter wet playa that would soon pack the wheels to stoppage if they remained in place. I chose the P55 model to nicely cover my 26x2.0 Schwalbe Dureme tires, a model I have found to be a true all-rounder for my on- and off-road use.
= The Rohloff shifter presented a special problem with drop handlebars, and I ended up choosing the traditional Rohloff shifter, mounted on a T-bar. The execution, however, is very different from what is generally seen. I owe my friend Andre Jute a nod here, as he reviewed my original placement and said, "You've got it all wrong, Dan" -- and he was absolutely correct! The new placement is perfect for my needs, and I'll address it in detail later. I think the execution cost me a few gray cells, but it was well worth the effort. I have another idea for placement that might work even better for others, yet remain as simple, reliable, and accessible. I decided against the Gilles Berthoud shifter after considerable research into how I turn doorknobs (yes, really!), and reports by Dutch friends in the industry. I am not casting aspersions against Berthoud's shifter, it is simply another case of choosing the product best-suited to my special requirements.
So, here you have it -- Installment One, The Arrival.
All the best,