nr's blog

The Joy of Groupsets 6 January, 2011

Filed under: Cycling — nr @ 10:35 pm

If the frame is the heart of any bicycle (as I’m assured it is), then I think it’s safe, and not unduly pretentious to say that the groupset is the nervous system. The groupset contains the components necessary for control and feedback. Without it, the heart cannot beat. The wheels cannot fly. And the rider is left with an expensive pile of bits wondering how to get them all working. And, as with frames, there is a bewildering array of available groupsets. For the sake of brevity, I’ll get straight to the point and say that I’d selected an Sram Apex groupset for this build as it gave me the range of gear ratios that I wanted, looked good, and there were some good deals around at the time I started looking.

In fact, while I was looking, most places were selling the groupset for around £500, which sounds a lot (well, it is a lot) but given that the individual components would cost over £700 to buy seperately that’s not a bad deal at all. And then a couple of days back I found somewhere selling them for £400 all in. I normally fall firmly into the “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is” camp, so I called the seller, expecting to hear that they were waiting for stock and I needed to wire the money to their holding company in Ghana. But, I was told that yes, the price was correct, and yes, they were in stock. So yesterday I placed an order, and expected sometime next month to be instructing my credit card company to begin proceedings to recover the funds. Only it didn’t happen. At 10 this morning, a big box turned up on the doorstep…

First thing to do was to take back all the bad things I’d been thinking to do to the seller when they failed to deliver, or sent me a half-finished order with the wrong bits. So, with my trust in humanity restored, I decided what to do first with the box of goodies on my desk. The obvious choice was fitting that extraordinary 11-32T cassette. This was remarkably easy to do, and probably took all of five minutes. To get an idea of the size of that largest sprocket, just look at the picture. That’s a normal 700c wheel, but it just looks like a wheel from a BMX that someone has fitted a normal 10 speed cassette to.

So, with that completed, the next task was to fit the brake calipers. Again, no real surprises here, as really it’s just a case of fitting a single bolt at this stage before the cables are installed. The only thing I needed to do was to lop about 3mm off the supplied nut, as it was a bit too long for the beautifully proportioned bridge for the rear caliper. This really would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t lent my hacksaw to James last week, 2 days before he cleared off for a skiing holiday… Not to worry. For the time being I’ve just popped a couple of small washers between the bridge and the nut. Once I get my hacksaw back, I’ll make the necessary cut and clean it all up a bit. Either that, or I’ll see if I can get a titanium washer made up of the correct size.

Next up – bottom bracket and crank… The bottom bracket bearings are a simple thread, so I gave them a smear of anti-seize, threaded in the drive side, slipped the inner sleeve into place, then threaded on the non-drive side. The manual stated to tighten these up to 40Nm, but seeing as they are such a strange fitting that they need a proprietory spanner to get a grip on them, there’s no way I could get a torque wrench on there. So I just gave it a good grunt with the correct tool rather than try and bodge up an old socket with an angle grinder. The drive side crank was slipped into place through the bearings, and the other crank arm was tightened up on the other side.

Last thing for the evening was fitting the beautiful ‘double-tap’ controls and running the brake cables. I can’t run the gear cables yet, as I need a cable guide to go under the bottom bracket. The one that I had didn’t fit, but seeing as they’re about £2 a go, I’m not unduly worried by that. I’ll just keep trying different ones until I find one that works. Anyhow, back to the brake cables. This was certainly the fiddliest part of the operation so far, but also the most enjoyable. I’m not sure that I can be fussed to describe every step of the operation, as it’s really pretty self-explanatory if a little involved. The hardest bit was cutting the inner cable to length to fit the little knobbly bit once I’d finished everything. I tried three pairs of wire cutters before ending up butchering it with the biggest pair of pliers I could find. Still, it worked in the end, and I had my first moment of controlled movement when I pulled the brake lever and watched the caliper move. I half expected a crash of thunder and some flickering lights so I could savour the moment with a gutteral laugh and an exclamation of “it lives!”. Instead I was singing along to Preposterous Tales by I Ludicrous which seemed apt.

So, next plan is to fit the cable guide when it arrives, get the gear cables installed and routed, and fit the chain. All that will be left then is the bar tape, which I haven’t yet bought – I’ll pop along to my local bike shop at the weekend and see what they’ve got. Of course, it’s going to be black. Very black.


One Response to “The Joy of Groupsets”

  1. Sol Says:

    Looking good … and I’m really looking forward to “can I have a go Mr.”


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