Time for some more Bike Talk; a part 2 to my initial review.
My Troll’s taken on various incarnations since I first set it up in Costa Rica. It’s that kind of bike; its character lends itself to experimenting with different builds. Run it with discs or V brakes, fully rigid or with a suspension fork, as a singlespeed or with gears (be it conventional derailleurs or an internal hub). Whatever takes your mood, fits your riding style, or suits your pockets.
A couple of recent questions on details of its build have spurred me into listing the parts that currently reside on this chameleon of a frame. Bear in mind that despite the changes and tweaks, the underlying theme has always been the same. At its core, it’s a ‘peace of mind’ build for overseas, dirt road and singletrack touring.
A go-anywhere, ride-anything kind of bike…
Surly Troll frame, 20in.
I had eyelets added below the downtube for extra water carrying duties. Big Brother Ogre is fortunate enough to have these fitted – as well as Anything Cage mounts on the fork – from new. It would be nice to see the same on the Troll, as plentiful H2O capacity is always a good move.
2004 Marzocchi MX Comp ETA – an Air/Coil heavyweight, but as tough as they come
The 105mm Marzocchis are known to be on the long side in their measurement from axle to crown. I’d prefer a shorter travel fork – still coil sprung for peace of mind – as the front end feels too high on climbs. Despite their added complexity, I prefer a suspension fork for exploring more technical, singletrack side trips. Otherwise, I’d stick with the stock rigid blades and a fat tyre.
Steering and contact points:
Ragley Carnegie handlebars – a generous 25 degree sweep, a spacious 685mm wide.
Ritchey – 31.8mm clamp, 110mm length, 10 degree rise
Cane Creek headset – basic, reliable
Ergon GP1 grips – helps minimize tingling in the hands
Thomson Elite seat post – 16mm lay back, 410mm long, light and strong
WTB Speed V saddle – each to their own!
I favour a handlebar with more sweep than normal, as it helps take pressure of the wrists. It does, however, rule out the use of my favourite bar ends – Cane Creek Ergo Control IIs.
Avid BB7 - low maintenance, mechanical disc brakes, fitted with 160mm rotors.
Shimano XTR brake levers – an old set I already had, lots of adjustment and modulation.
I’ve moved from my original V brake setup to discs to maximise mud clearance. Spares pads are easy to source nowadays in major cities all over Latin America; I’m currently trying out Yokozuma Long Life pads.
Rigida Andra 30 rims, CSS coated.
Hope 32 hole front disc hub ( replaced a Chris King hub that failed twice), Rohloff 32 hole rear.
Stainless Sapim spokes.
I started my ride with V-brakes. Teamed with Swiss Stop Blue V brake pads, the CSS coating on Rigida’s Andra rims proved unbelievably tough and long lasting – mine look almost new, despite 20 000kms of hard use, and haven’t needed a single true (great wheelbuilding by SJS Cycles). I’m running the non-eyeletted versions drilled for Rohloff use, which lessens the chances of broken spokes. The downside to these rims, whether CSS coated and Rohloff drilled or not, is their heft (735g) – all this rotational weight really deadens the ride. For derailleur use, the super tough Rigida Sputniks are cheaper and lighter (630g). Both of these are overkill if you pack light, or pull a trailer, in which case the 540g Rigida Grizzlies could be a good choice. For those in the US, the 580g Rigida Cliffhangers look to be a sturdy, middleweight option.
I prefer a large volume tyre for extra comfort and grip – particularly with a rigid fork. For heavy duty, long distance dirt road touring, I used to run a heavyweight Schwalbe Marathon XR at the back teamed a lighter, grippier Extreme at the front. Unfortunately neither of these are made anymore. The equally hefty Mondial replaces the XR; I’d pair it with a lighter and grippier front tyre for off road riding, as tyre wear isn’t really an issue up front. Although I prefer Schwalbes, I’ve also run CST Caballeros for dirt road touring in the States, as they’re cheap and do the job.
As an aside, it’s best to pair your front and rear rims. Failures generally come at the back, in which case you can migrate your front rim, using the same spokes, and find a cheap front wheel to replace it. This is especially important if you run a Rohloff, as the short spokes can be a pain to find. Another word of caution – don’t pump large volume (2in +) tyres too high, or you can split the rim.
Rohloff Speedhub - 14 evenly spaced gears, come rain, shine, mud or snow…
Shimano SLX cranks – cheaper than XT, almost as light
Standard 8 speed chain – generally Sram
Phil Woods outboard BB – spendy/heavy, but tool-free bearing replacement
Thorn 38T chainring – reversible and hard wearing
I ran a square taper bottom bracket initially, as I figured this tried-and-tested system would be long lasting and easy to source. As it happens, outboard bearing cranksets are omnipresent in any high end bike store in Latin America (of which there are many), and arguably easier to find than the exact bottom bracket shell/spindle length configuration you may need.
I’ve run the same Rohloff Speedhub for seven years, moving it from frame to frame. Aside from oil changes, it only recently needed replacement bearings, so has more than recouped its cost. The Rohloff is heavy but it’s less delicate than derailleurs – good news when transporting the bike. It allows gears to be changed from a standstill – useful when the bike is fully laden. Keeping cables clean and kink-free is my main concern, as this can adversely effect how easy it is to shift gears. Another downside to the Rohloff is that you’re locked into a particular rim. This isn’t such an issue on a long tour, but hampers the bike’s versatility when you’re back home.
Topeak Modula Cage XL – holds 1.5 litres of H20 below the downtube.
King Cage Top Cap Cage Mount – allows an extra bottle of easy access water on the stem
Anything Cages – extra stowage on the fork, without resorting to front panniers
Tubus Cargo – sits a bit high, but tough and relatively light
Seeing as my Porcelain Rocket framepack rules out water bottle mounts within the frame, these two cages give me around 2.2 litres of water carrying capacity directly on the bike. I tend to remove the Top Cap Cage mount when mountain biking, so carry a spare standard top cap. I’ve also sometimes added a couple of hose-clamped water bottle cages to the fork for another 1.5 litres.
When I run a rear rack, I prefer the Tubus Cargo as its relatively light (620g) yet will still carry some heft. A little more mud clearance would be nice. For a extra stowage on the fork, Anything Cages are an option, holding 4L apiece, for just 100g each. They’re more delicate though.
You can build up a Troll as simple and low tech as you want, but I like to embrace the advantages of internal hubs, disc brakes and suspension.
If you travel light, the setup I’ve listed is certainly overkill. Yet, despite its expedition-style build, I’m still always pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoy riding the Troll, both stripped down on technical singletrack, or loaded up to the gills on a big tour.
You can never shoehorn everything into one frame, or build a bike up and expect it to shine in every kind of condition. But in my book, the Troll let’s you get pretty close.