After nearly a year of incremental upgrades, my Space Horse Disc has reached its final form (for now).
April of 2017 marked one year since I started cycling. My first bike acquisition had been a Canyon Inflite 'cross bike. A great first choice as a double-duty road/off-road bike and I'd recommend this approach for anyone buying their first “road" bike. Yet the occasional commute through the damp and gloomy Berlin winter quickly made me realize its shortcomings in this environment. The meager tire clearance with mounted fenders and complete lack of any kind of rack/light mounts severely curtailed its usage as a daily ride.
I spent most of last spring researching different frames and comparing virtual part builds in spreadsheets, all under the very real constraint of a student budget. The goal was to build an all-weather supercommuter that could shred dirt and gravel mercilessly and also pull double-duty as a light tourer - all while being quick enough for the odd winter group road ride. I wanted dynamo lighting and a front basket, because they're so damn useful.
In the end, for the more mellow riding conditions around Berlin, the nimble Space Horse Disc won out over my runner-up, the heavier Wolverine. I sourced the frame from The Gentle Jaunt, a local bike store specializing in bikepacking and all-road “adventure” bikes that had opened just six months prior. I picked up my frame the very instant they started stocking All-City.
The initial build was a hodgepodge of used parts. I compromised on certain components, like cranks and headset, prioritizing the areas that mattered to me, specifically the wheelset and dynamo lighting. Full hydraulic brakes were out of the question, due to the price point of the SRAM Rival 1 groupset, so I settled on the TRP HyRd semi-hydraulic brakes. They're alright. The flared bars are the Easton AX70 dirtdrops in 44cm. Speaking purely for myself, Easton's marketing is bang on: 16 degree of flare strikes the perfect balance between a comfortable position on the hoods while maximizing the leverage in the drops.
I chose a 1x drivetrain for its simplicity and clean lines. A fairly plain Sugino square-taper crankset is mated to a Hopetech 40t chainring. The cassette is the de-facto gravel standard 11-42 into a clutched 11 speed XT derailleur. Shifting was initially provided by a Shimano 105 STI + Wolftooth Tanpan setup, which worked flawlessly except for the fact that my upshift was limited to two gears per swing due to the lever colliding with the basket. I recently switched that out for the Gevenalle GX1 shifters, taking the Tanpan completely out of the equation and eliminating any interference. The ergonomics of this setup are on par with the Shimano STI's and I'm in love with the retro aesthetic they bring to the cockpit.
Venturing off the smooth tarmac, Berlin and the surrounding area basically presents you with two choices: cobbled roads or sandy, rooty trails. I selected the Hunt AdventureSport Disc 650b wheelset for its (going by road standards) wide internal width of 20mm and paired them with the fantastically versatile WTB Byway tires, in a tubeless configuration. The tires mounted on the rims by hand and held air without sealant just using a regular track pump. A+. So far, no flats in the streets of Berlin, where glass shards are everywhere. The flotation provided by the 47mm slicks through the sand pits we call forests is like none other. The side knobs provide grip while cornering, confirmed on the fireroad descent down Mt. Tamalpais. At pressures around 25 PSI the Space Horse in this configuration is a legit cobble gobbler. It positively glides over rough roads.
After a year of use, I can safely say that the Wald 137 basket up front is my favorite part about it. It's augmented by the Outershell Adventure (pre-production) basket bag that Kyle graciously supplied me during my short stay in SF. It's a supremely versatile bag for day-to-day use. Too many groceries? Sling it over my shoulder like a regular messenger bag and fill the basket. Hauling camera gear? There's padded inserts for that!
Into the dark
Just before the dark winter months set it - and as funds finally permitted - I had a Shutter Precision dynamo hub laced into the front wheel. It powers a duo of Busch & Müller LED lights, creatively mounted using brackets to various frame and rack bosses. They provide plenty of light for road and light off-road use. The peace of mind afforded by dynamo lighting cannot be overstated. On long road rides through the contrast-less winter landscape or running out for quick errands past sunset, I never worry about visibility. With fenders (quick to bolt on, usually removed during summer), it's truly an all-weather workhorse for any adventure. After a couple thousand kilometers spanning fast & dry road rides, winter 'cross, 250k rando loops, to the steep gravel roads of the Marin Headlands, I couldn't be happier with it. I can't wait to take it out on some short weekend basketpacking jaunts this summer! See the full gallery at the link below or click on one of the images!