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Less is more. Finding Nemo.

Less is more. Finding Nemo.
The Final Frontier.
Last year I awakened a whole new passion: singlespeed mountainbiking. I hadn’t ridden a singlespeed bike for well over 20 years.
I brought a cheap, but good value, Vitus Dee 29er from Chain Reaction Cycles for commuting. it proved to be something of a personal revelation. I had been a bit of a sceptic when it came to singlespeed mountainbikes, partially dismissing them as ridiculous, and a hipster fashion accessory. I was wrong (well partially wrong, they’re still a hipster fashion accessory).
After 15 months of regular use I decided to build myself something a bit more suitable to my all round needs, a bit more trail friendly if you like. Fortunately I have a shed full of components stuffed in boxes or just laying around so the actual build hasn’t cost me an awful lot of money (well it cost me money once upon a time but not on this occasion).
Also considering the support I have had from Alpkit over the last few years I thought it was about time I stepped across one of their very highly regarded Sonder machines.
So my starting point was their new entry level hardtail frame & fork bundle – The Frontier – a bike they have designed as an all-rounder for everything from “campsite and crag” to “trail centre and bikepacking”. It’s sound like just the bike for me, plus I was particularly enamoured with the “Nemo” blue colour scheme, and the ability to run plus sized tyres should I wish to. 

Because it sports the latest boost geometry I would also need a matching wheelset which is were their Love Mud Hobo 29er’s came in handy. The fact that they were having their September Sale also came in handy and saved me a few quid.
I set the wheels up to run tubeless with 34mm WTB tubeless rim tape and Stan’s No Tubes Universal Valves and Sealant. The Maxxis Ardent Race tyres I had kicking around popped on lovely and sealed perfectly first time.
I also had a set of anodised red Hope QR skewers which I converted to boost by swapping the skewers rods with the ones supplied, for no other reason than I like a bit of Hope bling. Lovely Jubbly 🙂
When I get the time to have some adaptors made I intend to convert them to my preferred 10mm/9mm bolt-through set up.

When I came to fit the fork I discovered that the headset was a fully integrated type and not, as I wrongly assumed, semi-integrated. The Hope one I had spare is still spare, and I picked up the correct one, a Love Mud Rumour, from Alpkit when I next passed by. I prefer semi-integrated if I’m being honest because if anything happens to go wrong then the bearing cups wear and not the frame but I’m sure it will be fine.
I also fitted a Hope Head Doctor instead of the star spangled nut.

Marking out for cutting the fork steerer tube to the correct length:
I marked around the circumference with a biro, with the stem and spacers in place (Always remember to cut 3mm lower than the mark). It’s advisable to cut the steerer with a proper tool. As an engineer I have the confidence to do it with a hacksaw and files and everything went swimmingly.
I topped it off with a Love Mud Piskie 55mm stem and a lovely pair of Love Mud Scope 740mm carbon riser bars.

I had an old 30.9mm seatpost spare and a Fizik Gobi saddle which I chucked on next and clamped it with a Hope 34.9mm seat clamp. I actually elected to buy and fit an Easton EC70 carbon seatpost later, to help with vibration damping from the aluminium frame, a personal preference that’s all.

It was beginning to take shape 🙂

With the big stuff out of the way it was time to tackle the drive train and brakes.
Once again Nellie’s Bicycle Emporium (my shed) came to the rescue with a Hope Bottom Bracket, Shimano XT Crank, and a handy set of Shimano XTR Disc Brakes I had laying about (every one has a spare set of XTR brakes in the shed, don’t they? :D). Oh, and a couple of Ice-Tech rotors in 160/180mm for good measure.
They were all diligently thrown on.
I had a bit of trouble getting the front brake caliper to line up properly, thankfully Alpkit’s bike guru Neil Sutton sorted me out with a suitable set of spacers and they were perfect thereafter. Cheers dude q:)

I went with a spanky 38/19 gear set up, most of which I purchased from Charlie the Bikemonger, which eventually included a Surly 36t stainless steel singlespeed chainring, a Surly 19 tooth rear cog, Charlies own spacer kit, a KMC Z610 singlespeed chain and 1/2 link in 3/32″, a Surly Singleator Chain Tensioner, and a nice set of E13 single ring bolts anodised in blue, which, if I say so myself, is a beautifully engineered set-up. The dog’s dangly bits, yes indeed.

Taking shape, I was just waiting for a few bits to arrive.

Whilst awaiting the arrival of some of the said spanky bits I had the task of threading the brake hose through the internal routing ports to get on with (or, as I like to call it, infernal routing).
Fortunately, being the ingenious chap that I am, I came up with a system to assist with this procedure.
I got hold of a length of TIG welding wire to thread through the ports, after several attempts and a number of modifications to the wire (i.e. I bent it into different angles) I managed to get it through. I then whipped a bit of fishing line to the end of the wire and the end of the hose and pulled it back through. I then re-attached the hose and bled the brakes.
Tickety boo, job done.

The arrival of the last few components saw a flurry of activity so that I could get it finished in time to pootle around on during Alpkit’s Big Shakeout Festival (I was due to speak in the Daring Deeds Yurt. It seemed to go down quite well after I accidentally told one of my epic poo stories).
I duly fitted the spanky bits and the final accoutrements to finish it off.

Surly 36t chainring and E13 bolts.

Surly Singleator chain tensioner.

Easton EC70 carbon seatpost and Fizik Gobi saddle.

It was then a simple matter of trimming everything up with some nice accessories.
Odi Ruffian grips, Love Mud front fender (I had to punch a couple of additional holes to fit the rigid fork), Bottle cage and Alpkit Swig bottle, Alpkit medium Fuel Pod, and a shiny pair of blue anodised MOWA presta valve caps.
A judicious application of 3M helicopter tape was used to protect the chainstays from heel rub  and the headtube from cable rub. Thumbs Up Lenny.
Most of the time it will be shod with Shimano SPD pedals (a godsend on tough climbs) and some Profile Design T1+ Aerobars for getting, well, aero and stuff.
I’ve now got no excuse for not commuting to work.

XTR brakes, bling bling.

Swig bottle and Fuel Pod.

Love Mud front fender, adapted to fit.


So there you have it.
Even though I am now a fully committed singlespeeder with a spanky new steed, and some ever-so-slightly geeky aerobars, I won’t, however, be buying a messenger bag or growing a beard. Sorry ladies 🙁

The full build spec:
Alpkit Frontier frame & forks (In Nemo Blue).

KMC 3/32″ Z610 HX singlespeed chain.
WTB tubeless rim tape 34mm.
Stan’s universal 35mm valve stems.
Shimano XT crankset.
Fi’zi:k Gobi XM K:ium saddle.
Hope 34.9mm QR seat clamp.
Hope QR skewers (adapted to fit boost hubs from the set that came supplied with the wheels).
Hope Head Doctor (rather than the star spangled nut supplied with the headset).
Shimano XTR hydraulic disc brakes.
160/180mm Ice-Tech rotors.
Shimano XT SPD pedals.
Odi Ruffian grips.
Love Mud front fender.
Mowa presta valve caps.
With Aerobars and SPD’s.

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Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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