Suburban Assault

Posts Tagged ‘Street Conversion

So I Upgraded The Gearing On My Redline Monocog

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Fix Flat Flowmaster

I’ve been documenting the conversion of my Redline Monocog, single-speed mountain bike, to a street-ready, Suburban Assault machine. Here is the story of my latest upgrade – the chainring.

To sum up, I bought the bike with the intention of getting back on the trails. Somewhere along the line, my taste in cycling has moved more towards street riding and commuting. Wanting to make the best of the situation, I started converting the Monocog to a street worthy machine. I’ve been happy with the bicycle, with the exception of it’s off-road gearing – too slow for riding around town. The ultimate goal was to upgrade the drivetrain to make it work better on the street.

The original set-up had a 32T chainring (up front) and a 20T cog (at the wheel), which gave it a 1.6 gear ratio (please forgive me if I butcher the science of bicycle gearing – my intent is to articulate a general basis of comparison). My first, and cheapest, solution was to switch out the cog from the 20T to a 15T. Click here to read about that. This brought the bike to a 2.13 gear ratio, which worked fine but I could tell I needed more.

Just recently, I decided to upgrade the chainring from a 32T to a 36T. This would bring my gear ratio to a 2.4 – just enough to make the ride interesting, without killing me on my commute to work.

32 to 36

Getting The Part (Sorry, but this is long. If you don’t want to read a rant, skip to the install):
I decided to support my local economy and do this upgrade with my nearby bike shop (which will remain unnamed for reasons that will be explained as you read on). I rolled the Monocog right to the service department so that there wouldn’t be a mistake about what part I needed. Changing out a single-speed chainring would have been an easy upgrade, but I was willing to let the shop do it – again, to support my local bike store.

After standing around for several minutes (they weren’t busy, but preoccupied with their repairs) one of them eventually made eye contact and, I guess, felt obligated to ask if I needed help. After explaining to the guy my intent, he was more than happy to check in the back for an available part. As expected, there wasn’t one available and he would have to special order it. He gave me a verbal quote for the price of the part and I gave him my name and phone number. He told me it would take a week to get the part in. I wasn’t in a rush, so I was more than fine with that timeline.

A week went by. No phone call.

I called them a few times. Although very helpful, none of the employees were able to locate my part. They all kept referring me the person in charge of ordering – who wasn’t available when I called. At the end of the second week, I went by the store and inquired about my part. Again, after standing around for a few minutes, I was eventually helped. They checked and no part. Not wanting me to leave empty handed, he gave me a business card with the name of the parts ordering person and the best time to call.

I managed to eventually get hold of him by the end of the third week. He looked, but couldn’t find the part. He checked his order log, and found no record of the order. He apologized and said he could re-order it for me. At that point, I still wasn’t in a rush, so I told him to order it.

Because it was such a hassle, I talked myself out of letting them install it. All of a sudden, I wasn’t so gung-ho about supporting my local bike shop.

Towards the end of the fourth week, my 36T chainring finally came in. When I went to pick up the part, another person – who was completely unaware of everything I went through – brought me my part. Although it wasn’t his fault, I felt completely deflated when he just handed it to me and walked off. I guess I was expecting another apology or appreciation for my patience. To add insult to ego injury, I noticed the price was $10 more than my verbal quote. I wanted to set it down and just leave at this point.

But, I’m a man of my word. They committed to special ordering that part, and I committed to purchase it. It took longer than expected, but they completed their end of the deal – I felt obligated to complete mine. However, I will not be supporting this store with any future transactions that involve special ordering.

The Install:
Installing the new chainring was pretty easy with just 4 bolts holding the old one on. Since I was going with a larger gear, I had to put on a longer chain. This is where the install got interesting.

I’ve used a chain tool several times over the years, but I have to admit, I’ve never been trained on how to properly use one. This being a topic for another post, I’ll give you the quick version of the story. As I was reconnecting the links, I discovered that I had done it wrong. In my attempt to undo my mistake, I bent the tip to my chain tool. Bad went to worse, and I ended up tearing up my chain – my quick install came to a halt. I decided to pack everything up, take it in and just get it done quickly.

Not wanting to return to the shop where I bought the chainring, I decided to take my bike to the Plano Performance Bike (Note, I am mentioning them by name – it was THAT great of an experience.) instead. I got there a few minutes before they opened, but they were happy to let me in. The service guy Henry, not only salvaged my chain, but he also showed me the proper way to use my chain tool. I even got a replacement tip for it.

Conclusion:
Overall, I am completely happy with my upgrade. The Monocog is now a perfect street-ready machine – well worth all the hassle.

The unnamed bike shop did manage to get the part – eventually. Although somewhat friendly, they did fail with their follow-through and customer service.

In contrast, Performance Bike is now my favorite bike shop with their outstanding customer service. They’ve restored my faith in local bike shops.

36T

Written by dickdavid

August 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Street Ready Redline Monocog 29er

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Redline Monocog, Single Speed 29er

Stock 2008 Redline Monocog 29er

I was looking for an off-road bike back in late 2008, and decided to go with a single speed 29er. After reading some great reviews in Mountain Bike Action Magazine, I narrowed my choices down to either a Haro Mary SS or a Redline Monocog 29er – both reasonably priced, good performers. Unfortunately, my local bike shops had trouble keeping them in inventory, so test rides were hard to come by.

I finally stumbled across one in early 2009. Richardson Bike Mart happened to have a 2008 Redline Monocog 29er on clearance and was priced to sell quickly. The frame size was actually large and I’m, borderline, sized to fit most mediums – I took a test ride anyway. Sure enough, it fit in both length and height and I immediately fell in love with the ride. It was mine.

Little did I know that my intent to get back on the trails would dwindle as my love for street riding grew. The fate of my new off-road bike was that it never actually got off-road. I still enjoy riding it around town, and with a few tweaks over the years, I finally turned it to a nice street bike.

Drivetrain
The first thing that I had to change was the gearing. Since it was an off road bike, it was geared for low-end torque to power through rough terrain and rocky climbs. The stock set-up was a 32-tooth chainring paired with a 20-tooth cog. This sucker was slow on the streets with a 1.6 gear ratio. My first thought was to put a 48-tooth chainring on the front to bring it to a 2.4 gear ratio, but my bike shop guy talked me into a much cheaper solution – replacing the cog from the 20 to a 15-tooth. This brought it to the current set up to 32/15, a nicer 2.13 ratio. Still slow, but for the price of $15, I can live with it for a while.

Update: scroll down to the bottom to see the newest update to the chainring.

20 to 15

Handling
The next change was the handlebars. The stock bars on the Monocog are wide – which I guess is standard for mountain bikes ( This is what the stock bars looked like). I prefer a narrow bar to give me quicker, more responsive turns. Instead of buying a new bar, I opted to just take a hacksaw to the stock one. With a little over an inch and a half off of each side and some new Lizard Skin lock grips, my turn was greatly improved.

Update: Scroll down to see how I’ve updated – somewhat reverted –  back to some wider bars.

Riding The New Bike Lane

Mounting
I’ve changed out the pedals several different times. The first switch was from the stock pedals to clipless, Shimano SPD pedals – which are my default choice for mountain biking. Since I never got this bike off-road, I found clicking in and out at every stoplight quite annoying. Not wanting to completely give up on SPD, I tried a hybrid Campus Pedal from Performance, giving me a flat pedal on one side for quick mounts.

I would have been happy staying with those pedals, but I was lucky enough to win a pair of really awesome VP-Components, VP-001s. Read my review on the pedals to see how much I love these things and why they’re my final choice.

VP-001 on the Redline

Gripping the Road
The Monocog still wasn’t completely street smart, so my next big upgrade was the rubber. The Monocog’s stock WTB knobbies, which were designed for some serious off-road traction, did not perform well on the street. Unfortunately, finding fat 29″ street tires in my local bike shops was next to impossible. I eventually found these Serfas Drifter City Tires at my local REI at a nicely discounted price. I was immediately impressed with the improved performance and traction of these tires. Also, their beefy 2.0 width keeps the pavement cracks and potholes from rattling my bones.

Rubber

Street Converted Monocog

That’s it for now. Slowly, I’ve managed to get this off-road beast converted to a slick, suburban assault machine.  If I were to make more upgrades in the future, I might look into a bigger chainring and a fancy saddle.

Street Converted Monocog Goodness

Street Converted Redline Monocog 29er

Click here to see all the pics of my Monocog.

UPDATE:

Through some wheeling and dealing (via sales, coupons and Team Performance points), I was able to obtain a Brooks, B-17 Saddle for quite a bit under suggested retail. Admittedly, at first, I wanted the Brooks because they look pretty cool. But it didn’t seem very practical having one on a utility, street scooter like this – but rather some fancy, expensive, custom built frame. Plus, having never sat on one, I couldn’t imagine anything built without a pad could even be comfortable. However, everybody that owns a Brooks, swears by them. Because of that, plus the incredible amount of heritage and craftsmanship that goes into their products, I had to take advantage of that special price and try one out.

The B-17 is one of the best upgrades that I’ve ever made to any bike. I was wrong to think that such a nice saddle should only be attached to just nice bikes. This saddle looks good, and improves the look of ANY bike – new or old. The styling is classic and timeless. Also to my surprise, the comfort of the B-17 is amazing, and is expected to get better as the saddle wears in over the years. I expect to upgrade all of my bikes – even the ones that I don’t own yet – to a Brooks Saddle, as soon as I can afford them.

Redline Monocog

Monocog With Updated Brooks B-17 Saddle

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Wanting to get more speed, I decided to upgrade my drivetrain again. This time I switched out my chainring from the stock 32T to a 36T. This will bring my gear ratio from the original 1.6 (32 front, 20 back) to a 2.4 (36 front, 15 back). Here is my write up on the not-so-fun experience ordering the part, as well as the unexpected problem installing it.

32 to 36

New Chainring

36T

ANOTHER UPDATE:

I was able to pick up another pair of the VP Components, VP-001 pedals – this set in black. Now, Monica is looking like a slick ninja. The old pair of VP-001 pedals went to my other bike.

Redline VP

Ninja Monica

ANOTHER UPDATE:

During last year’s work commute, I noticed that my hands were getting numb because of extended periods of time keeping them in the same position. I added some old bar ends back to my other bike, and having multiple places for different had positions seemed to help. Unfortunately, when I ‘trimmed’ the bars on THIS bike, I made them too narrow to add bar ends. I had to get a new handlebar.

I ended up getting a cheap Ritchey Comp riser bar. In spite of the instructions that came with it (see pic below), it was quite easy to install. I’m keeping the really wide stock width for now, but I may end up trimming them a little bit down the road. The new bars, along with some cheap bar ends, definitely gives me more hand position options.

Installation Instructions

Check out the installation instructions that came with these. Wow!

Wide Stance

Put The Old Bar Ends Back On