So here it is. The end product. One of the perks I love about owning a bike store is building my bikes my way. I do it a lot. Every bike that I personally ride I build. Up until today I was riding a stock 9.8 (with some personal touches) and it’s a great bike. But there is something about starting with a frame, a blank canvas, and hand picking every single part, nut and bolt. The first ride on a bike you not only built up from scratch but spec’ed out is still the best day for me. It’s one of the reasons I love owning a bike store.
2016 Trek Farley 9.8. Shimano 1 by 11 Di2 drive. Shimano XT trail brakes. Bars and stem are also Shimano (Pro) and feature internal wire routing. Battery is in the steer tube. Bontrager Hodag 27.5 by 3.7 tires on WTB Scraper 50mm rims. DT Big Ride hubs. Alpine II spokes. KMC SL chain. Next carbon crank. Bonty Montrose seat with XXX post. XXX bottle cage. Let’s break it down….
I’ve added a bit more red to the bike with the chain, ring and crank arm covers. The ring is the same thing the stock bike comes with. Just red. Same crank too, just added the red covers. The chain is a KMC SL that retails for about $180 bucks. Thats nuts. But I just wanted to splurge. Its red.
For wheels I used WTB 50mil Scrapers on Bonty’s 27.5 Hodags mounted tubeless. And there’s a story there. I had planned on getting a set of Bonty’s Wampa’s, and I still have the order in for them, but I really will switch to 29+ right after the Fat Bike Birkie early March. So if I got the preferred Wampa wheels, would just look at them all summer anyway. So a friend wanted these wheels for his Farley 9 for the summer. I made him a deal on them, built them up and I can use them until I go 29+. And Im not afraid of running a narrower rim as I’ve done it many times before. Its a pretty small fatbike rim\tire combo but perfectly legal to run in the races. I do stand to be in difficulty if the trails get soft. I’ll take that chance. Remember it was not that long ago all we had were Surly Marges at 65mill.
So when Trek released the Farleys I got a stock 9.8 for myself. Looking at the spec’s, it was pretty close to the way I would build it anyway. The only thing I did was put a Bluto suspension fork on it, my personal bars and post, and build some 29+ wheels to use until it snowed. But in the back of my mind last Sept I knew I would still want to build my own, even if it was going to be close to stock anyway. So I got me a frameset also. Really, the production bike came with a pretty high end Sram drive so the only way to one up that is Di2. So even tho this bike was born just a week ago it’s been on the back of my mind for several months.
So when Randy Niesen from Shimano offered me some factory training I figured it was go time. This guy forgot more stuff about bikes than I know. So I started the ordering process about two weeks before he was stopping in. Made a few mistakes with wrong parts but recovered nicely every time.
Once we got going on the bike it was apparent I ordered too short of wires so I was dead in the water that day. But Randy just ran a temp wire to the rear D and set it up. At that point I didn’t even have the chain on yet as I had to remove the crank to stuff the B junction in the downtube anyway. So Randy pretty much eyeballed the derailleur up.
Fast forward a few days and I finally get the right length wire, hook everything up and it’s spot on. I just plugged it in and rode the bike. Amazing. I was so amazed I didn’t believe it at first and started messing with the micro adjustments and soon found out it was not needed. The only thing left was to ride it.
After all these years the maiden voyage on a bike I build is still one of the most exciting things I do. Everything comes together at one time. Everything works perfectly. Its quite the feeling and every time I do this I feel like a kid in a candy store again. Sometimes when you own and operate a bike store you become somewhat numb to all the expensive cool bike stuff. You see it every day all day. But I still get pumped.
Now, I’ve been on Di2 on my road and cross bikes for years but this is the first for XTR for me. Granted, I don’t have a front derailleur so that takes away the allure of auto trim as you shift up and down the cassette. So, does the rear shift better than cable? I mean, on any drive worth its weight you click the shifter and its shifts. Very nicely. “You don’t need Di2. My bike shifts just as good” is what I hear all the time.
Let me tell you, after riding it twice now, it shifts better than cable.
What I found is when I hit a small unexpected climb and need to shift up quickly I can do so better than cable. Both rides I shifted while climbing many times. And my fancy red million dollar chain is just fine. It shifts so fast and precise you can time the shifts much better. I’ll hit a hill in the wrong gear, let up in the pedals and shift and the power is back on in less than 1/4th of a crank rotation. Less than 1\4th. In fact Ive moved 3 gears in less than half a rotation. You just can time the power off\power on much quicker than a cable derailleur. You can time the shift much better.
And I really like that. It helps me when I hit a grade that needs shifting, sometime those sneak up on me.
Another concern you can excuse is battery life in the cold. Last nite we had our weekly nite ride and I left the bike on top my car all nite with temps at 5 degrees this morn. Full charge and full function. No worries.
So in closing. Should all of you run out, take a loan and buy XTR Di2? Probably not (unless you buy it from me 🙂 Its luxury shifting for sure. Does it do it better? Yes. Is the better shifting worth the price? That’s a decision you need to make for yourself.
And if you do, rest assured you’re not just adding a battery to the bike for the same shifting. It’s better. Nicer. Cleaner. Easier. I like it. Worth it to me.
Now… the only thing left is to ride the crap out of the bike. Most likely, I will go 29+ on the bike come spring and ride it this upcoming summer too.
Thanks for reading.