I’ve now fitted the rear dérailleur, which is from the SRAM Rival series. I’ve also changed the cassette on both my main and training wheels to 10-speed 12-27 units from Shimano’s 105 line. Happily, and as advertised, these two systems seem to be compatible. To align a dérailleur you first release the tension completely (highest gear for the rear, lowest for the front) and line it up with the sprocket or chainring it should be over with the limit screw. You then tighten the cable tension until the tension and the limit screw are holding the dérailleur in the same place. Then you shift to maximum tension (lowest gear for the rear, highest for the front) and set the other limit screw so everything lines up. Having done all that, a single up- or down-shift should move the derailing mechanism up or down one gear respectively. The SRAM rear gear system (Red shifter, Rival dérailleur) was easy to set up.
I’ve also finished the brake connections off properly, and I can confirm that the SRAM levers and Shimano callipers are compatible. Worth mentioning too is the adjustable nature of the Red levers: you can position the gear lever and brake lever at any sensible distance from the bars that you like (provided the gear lever is closer than the brake lever). The gear lever adjustment is a bit fiddly: it is done by rotating a small cam. The brake lever adjustment is by contrast very easy: you peel back the hood and a small Allen-bolt reveals itself, along with a helpful arrow encouraging you to bring the lever closer. It would be a better system if the gear-lever position was set relative to the brake-lever position rather than being set absolutely. With the current design, the gear lever can be set further out than the brake lever in such a way that it cannot return after shifting, which is the cause of some dire warnings in the setup guide.
The other visible change I have made is to fit new gel pads and bar tape to my handlebars. The gel pads are from Bike Ribbon and are thicker than the ones which came with the bike, so that should take a bit more vibration out of these horrible Hampshire roads. The bar tape is a bit of a risk, in that it’s Cinelli Lumen tape which glows in the dark and I am not yet sure whether that’s cool or terribly terribly pathetic. In daylight it appears white, which is cool for historical reasons but may mean it gets dirty quickly. It’s also relatively ineptly fitted, so it will probably need replacing quite soon: by the time that happens I hope to know whether it was a good idea or not.
Less visibly, I have changed the bottom bracket. The original unit looks like a non-series Shimano component, and it might well have been compatible with the 105 cranks I’ve ordered. However, when I removed the chain and tried to spin the cranks I was appalled by the amount of friction there. When I built my XC bike in 2002 if you spun the cranks as hard as you could throw them with no chain attached you’d get seven or eight complete revolutions before it stopped. Applying the same test to the cranks/bottom-bracket combination which came with the bike got less than 2 revolutions, which is not so much. I’ve replaced the bottom bracket with a Hope unit which has ceramic bearings. Whether this will have less friction than the cheaper steel units initially is up for debate, but it should prove more durable: the bottom bracket bearings have to bear a lot of lateral load when a rider is as heavy as I am tries to dance up a hill; with any luck it’ll be a worthwhile investment. I’ll let y’all know whether it’s better than the OEM bottom-bracket when my new cranks arrive.
I’ve also changed the gear-cable routing. The bike came with the front- and rear-cables crossing under the down-tube, but it doesn’t look like the frame was designed for that because the cables touch each other if you do that. I’ve therefore straightened them out by swapping which braze-on each cable uses at the top of the tube. With any luck that will increase my gear cable’s life.
Finally for this post I’ve fitted Crud Roadracer mudguards. They’re a little bit fiddly to fit, but they look great. I can’t say much more yet, as my bike is currently unridable pending cranks.
Next thing to go on is the 105 50/34 compact chainset when it arrives. After that I can put on the front dérailleur, the chain, the pedals, sort everything out properly and take it for a test ride. It’s rather annoying to be missing only one piece!