All Black

Recently, some alterations have taken place to my Thorn Raven Sport Tour.  Actually, it’s more a case of Grandfather’s Broom – it’s completely original except for two new handles and four new heads…..

Regular readers will know that I bought said bike secondhand, and after six months of riding it very regularly, I have finally admitted to myself that the frame size, known as 561L, is slightly smaller than I would have liked.  My cycling buddy and Northern FR Correspondent, Mark, possesses a very fine Thorn in the larger size, and during our recent hill-climbing sojourn in Huddersfield I was able to sit on this larger frame and assess its suitability.  Feeling that simply knocking him out and stealing his bike was a step too far, I began to consider procuring one of my own.

Well, I have now made the change.  The pic above was taken after the first test ride; I bought a frame and forks in the larger size [and in the very cool matt black, with no logos on the frame apart from a Thorn badge on the head tube] and built it up from the components on my old bike.  This in itself was an interesting exercise; after a summer of buying tools here and there I am now lucky enough to have a pretty well equipped workshop.  So the process has been rather less fraught than when I built up a Thorn Audax Mk3 earlier in the year.

The steerer was cut down with a hacksaw to fit; you don’t get two chances to get this right!  My spacer stack was perfect and I fitted a new, matt black stem.  The old fittings were mainly in silver alloy which would not have fitted in with my colour scheme; stems and the old Thorn comfort handlebars went reluctantly onto the ‘for sale’ pile.

Assembling the components, once I had fitted the forks and steerer/stem securely, was quite simple in most cases.  The XTR V-Brakes simply screw on and the torque wrench makes getting them fixed on safely an easy task.  I then found a pair of matt black Kona handlebars with almost the same rise as the excellent Thorn Comfort Bars in my LBS for £15 (half price on account of them being scratched).  With these fitted, the fiddly bit was getting the brake levers, Rohloff shifter, Ergon grips and bar ends attached and torqued up.  This then enabled me to start work on the cables; the brakes were first as they were already in place.  Saddle and seat post were next – pretty easy to get in place and the tube greased prior to insertion – I have heard too  many horror stories about seized seat posts.

The real hassle with building a bike is getting the bottom bracket into place and lined up.  In many steel framed bikes you have to ‘face off’ the metal, i.e. grind it til it’s absolutely level in profile such that the bottom bracket can rotate in a true fashion.  But with a Rohloff-geared bike such as the Raven Sport Tour, there is an eccentric bottom bracket shell holding the [£8 sealed Shimano] bottom bracket.  To move this from one bike to another, you simply remove two screws in the frame, slide everything out and screw it into the new frame [after greasing].  Simples!

Wheels were next, and then one final obstacle which has probably taken more time to get right than everything else put together.  The Rohloff gears, for those of you not lucky enough to use such fine machinery, have a twist-grip changer on the handlebars [you can see it on the picture above].  This allows one click shifting through the entire 14 gear range.  Inside it are two cables, one operating gears 1-7, the other operating gears 8-14.  Now my old bike was 4 years old and cables, when in constant use, tend to fray at this age.  So it was that my gear cables were in a terrible state when I took them off, so I decided to replace all the cables – brake and gear.

The brakes were easy.  The Rohloff gear cables were less so. You have to remove two cables guards from the handlebar shifter, slide the old cables out, and then carefully insert the new ones.  Then, once you have made sure the cable outers are in place, you have to measure the cables in a rather unreliable fashion at the rear wheel.  Attached to the rear wheel hub are two shorter runs of cable, and to make the wheel removable, they are joined on to the shifter cables via some small metal bayonets that you can unclip.  Without wishing to bore you too much, there is plenty of opportunity for messing this up!

So yesterday, after a stupidly busy week at work, I got the chance to ride the black bike in earnest for the first time.  It’s a beauty.  The larger frame makes finding a comfortable position far easier.  I’ve still got some tweaking to do, but I’m well on the way.  I love the fact that it is capable of looking like a £25 clunker bought from a car boot sale, when in fact it’s a £2500 bike.  Given the fact that most modern bikes seem to have every component plastered with infantile white italic lettering, it’s a refreshing change to see no logos!  Revolution, brothers and sisters, as the mighty MC5 would have said.

******The old frame and forks are for sale.  Leave a comment if you want to contact me! **********

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