Building The Bike For Project Transrockies Challenge

To prepare for the TransRockies Challenge and the first thing that I’m going to write about is the bike build I’ve put together for the race. In addition to giving me a test bed to try new parts, I feel that I have something that will work extremely well for the Trans Rockies Challenge, and all around for that matter.

Keep in mind that the goal of this project bike was to build something that will be at home for all day backwoods type riding or at a 24 hour enduro race. Light weight wasn’t the highest priority because of durability concerns but a downhill bike with 9″ of rear wheel travel wouldn’t fit the bill either. I wanted something that could be pedaled up the hill and still handle the downhill afterwards.

The frame: A Moots Cinco

On 12 April, I received the frame that would be used specifically for the Trans Rockies race, a custom Moots Cinco. I’ve seen my fair share of beautiful frames from Seven, Merlin, Moots and Titus but I’m glad to say that this frame didn’t disappoint — it’s as nice as they come. The welds are clean and have a distinct quality found on all of Moots’ frames and components.

Moots is a small company, and you can literally call and talk directly to the guy who designs and welds your frame. In fact, the frame comes with a work tag that has the initials of all the people at Moots who worked on your frame during its making. The frame has a nice, brushed satin finish so others can tell it’s a ti frame but not in a loud, “look at me” kind of way. The rear swingarm, which uses technology licensed from Ventana, looks great and has been proven to work well in the field.

The drivetrain: meet the Rohloff Disc SpeedHub

I approach all of my bike projects by building a bike for its intended purposes. For this project, my goal was to build something that was suitable for the Trans Rockies. It had to be reliable, durable, require minimal maintenance, and deliver all weather performance. Weight wasn’t as high on the priority list as the other points.

Mike, one of SpokeWrench’s resident testers, has done the Trans Rockies before, so I had some help in terms of knowing what to expect. When he competed in 2004, his bike got really muddy, and that’s without the waist high stream crossings thrown into the mix. Basically, Mike told me that I’ll probably have to replace the drivetrain — derailleur, cassette, chain, chainrings — at the end of the event.

For all intents and purposes, the derailleur system is ideal for cycling; it’s efficient, reliable, lightweight, versatile, cost effective. and relatively low maintenance. However, its performance drops when conditions worsen and efficiency drops with wear and tear.

Keeping these things in mind, I wanted to go with something different.

Enter the Rohloff Disc Speedhub. I’ve always been fascinated by this hub and have built up a few for my customers. I’ve always wanted to review one but never found an event long or challenging enough to give it a good honest test. What better way to test it than putting it in a six-day bike race across the Rocky Mountains?

When I was considering the Rohloff, I sat down and looked at the benefits and drawbacks of the hub:


  • Sealed from the elements (ie. mud proof). No more chain suck and misshifts. Performance is not affected in varying weather and trail conditions. Derailleur systems never perform the same as when they’re new and everything is clean.
  • Low maintenance. Benefit of having a closed system vs. an open derailleur system. Lube and go. 5000kms or once a season.
  • Durable and reliable from all accounts from other owners and customers. I know of tandem teams doing the Trans Alps using Rohloffs.
  • Efficient shifting system. Versatility of a derailleur system offering 14 gears with no overlap providing the same gear ratios of a 27 speed system. All 14 gears are evenly spaced out in 13.6% increases.
  • Ease of setup. Once they are setup initially, there are no more fine adjust screws to mess around with, cables, etc.

strong>Dishless rear wheel. Symmetric or”dishless” wheels center the rim between the hub flanges. With equal spoke lengths, tensions and angles on both sides of the wheel, dishless wheels distribute the load equally instead of forcing half the spokes to carry a majority of the weight. The result is a stronger, more reliable wheel.


High initial cost. This is probably the biggest perceived drawback to the Rohloff. However if you break it down, the cost is very comparable to a traditional derailleur system such as SRAM 9.0/X.0 or Shimano XT/XTR with any aftermarket rear hub. And don’t forget that derailleur systems require comparable high performance chainrings and front derailleurs to perform as intended.

Often times, people look at just the cost of the rear derailleur, hub and cassette. For this particular race, I was looking at the cost of two derailleurs, cassettes, chain rings and chains. So in the end it’s not going to be that much different – after the initial sticker shock.

Weight. I figure the Rohloff system will be 1.5 – 2lbs. heavier than an XT / XTR system, and that’s something I’ve accepted given the added benefits of the system.

Since my partner (Mark) and I aren’t not out to win the Trans Rockies, having the lightest bike at the race isn’t a priority. If I wanted a really light bike or if I was looking to claim the “King of the Mountains” title, I might have though differently; I could have gone with a ti or aluminum hardtail and built it up to 22lbs. And it might even last the event, although I don’t know how much fun it would be on the downhills.

At the end of all this, the project bike will ultimately be my play bike and testing platform, so weight is not that important. Given all the added benefits compared to the drawbacks, it became clear that the Rohloff was the way to go.

The rest of the build

The different pieces are coming together nicely. I’ll be building it up slowly for the next week to two weeks as more parts come in. I’ll be weighing the bike / parts as I get them and you will see a build up of the bike as it progresses. When it’s finished, I estimate that the bike will weigh around 27.5lbs.

Here’s a look at the build I’m planning for the Trans Rockies Challenge:

  • Frame: Moots Cinco Small (custom) 6.08lbs
  • Fork: 2006 Fox RLC 4lbs (uncut steerer)
  • Headset: Chris King 1 1/8″ Threadless 125g
  • Stem: Moots Ti Beam 165g (90×0)
  • Handlebars: Moots Low Rise Ti bar 230g
  • Brakes: Magura Marta SL Front 350g (110g 160mm rotor, 30g mounting hardware); Magura Marta SL Rear 370g (110g 160mm rotor, 30g mounting hardware)
  • Pedals: Shimano PD-M959 345g
  • Skewers: Salsa Flip-Offs 95g
  • Chain: Rohloff S-L-T99 300g
  • Tires: Kenda Blue Groove 26×2.0 L3R Pro 900g (front and back)
  • Seatpost: Moots 27.2×340mm Layback 220g
  • Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Ti 150g
  • Drivetrain: Rohloff Speedhub Disc with external shifter, chain tensioner, cables 2470g
  • Tubes: Generic 26″x1.75 175g x2 350g
  • Grips: ODI Lock On 135g
  • Rim: DT XR 4.1d 32h (rear rim) 425g
  • Spokes: DT Competition BLACK 2.0/1.8/2.0 mm 238mm 32pcs 176g
  • Nipples: Brass 32pcs 33g
  • Cranks: FSA carbon with XTR Large 46T chainring 535g
  • Bottom bracket: XTR M952 215g

Total: 26.80lbs

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