Rob’s TransAm race bike

Rob’s TransAm race bike

Two-and-a-half weeks until the race starts on June 3rd! A fair bit of background on the fabrication here (including photos) – scroll down for the finished bike pics! This all seemed like such a good idea a year ago……

My interest was piqued when I heard that there was now a race on the TransAm route. I mulled it over for a while, eventually deciding it was the challenge I needed for the year I turned 40. I toured the Western Express version of the route back in 2003 – going back to ride it fast was for some reason appealing! I have a background in endurance mountain bike events, road racing and time trialing, as well as extended touring. So this kind of brings all that together.

Of course I would need a bike – not a big problem there of course….. But what would a fast, ultra-light road touring bike look like? The end goal is efficient speed, so aerodynamics is important, but it also needs to be comfortable for very long days in the saddle. Plus be able to carry a minimal amount of gear.

I went back and forth on rim brakes versus disc brakes for a while – eventually discs won out for a couple of reasons: Firstly, the rims will be carbon for the best aerodynamics/lightest weight, and if I am descending mountain roads in the dark and rain then I don’t want to be reliant on carbon rim braking.  Secondly, wider (28mm) tires will give lower rolling resistance and better comfort, but need a much wider rim to not hinder the aerodynamics – as I was figuring this out, DT released their excellent new ERC 1100 Endurance wheel, and very kindly set me up with a set for the race. Schwalbe provided their Pro One 28C tubeless tires – they inflated and sealed easily with a handpump, a definite plus point!

Having selected the brake type, I then needed a suitable fork. I could build a steel one, but I could save a little weight by going with carbon. There are not too many aftermarket aero forks available, let alone disc aero forks. But then I remembered that Parlee had introduced their new TT bike with disc brakes, so I gave them a call to see if I could get just the fork from them. They were able to help me out, along with the caliper fairings for front and rear. When the fork arrived, I discovered that the crown had an airfoil shape to mate up to the headtube. And the hose routing was fully internal, up through the steerer tube. That is a routing method I have used a few times when building custom bikes, but for this application I didn’t think it was sensible not to have easy access to the stem and headset. Fortunately Ruckus Composites were able to add a hose exit at the crown to resolve this for me.

For the frame design, it is my standard road position, but the geometry has a few changes from my race bike. I lowered the BB a little, which gains me a little stability since I don’t plan on aggressively pedaling around corners as I cross the country. I also stretched the front center and chainstays a little to lengthen the wheelbase, again for increased stability. I went with a -17 degree stem to lengthen the headtube, and very little slope on the toptube – these two features give me more room inside the main triangle, since I will fit two large bottles and a frame bag there. The seatstays are dropped a little, which gives room for a third bottle cage on the back of the seattube.

I have been running SRAM eTap on a couple of bikes for a year now, and am very happy with it – using it for this application allowed me to add Clic shifters on the aerobars so I can easily shift from there or the drops/hoods. SRAM set me up with a complete Red eTap group, along with a couple of extra chains for training and racing.

The Parlee fork fits a Cane Creek 1-1/4” lower bearing, so I custom machined a lightweight headtube to directly fit this bearing, with a 44mm zero-stack race at the top. A nose cone was fabricated to match the profile of the fork crown, and brazed to the front. The rest of the frame is fairly standard, with a mixture of True Temper S3 and Columbus Life tubing. The rear dropouts are Syntace X12, machined down to match an Extralite thru-axle. There are additional bosses under the toptube for a custom framebag to bolt in place.

Once the frame was built, it went off to Colorworks for some super bright orange paint and chrome logos.

I was fortunate to be able to work with Brian at Kaibab Customs for the bags – he is here in town so that made collaborating very easy, and he was willing to take my ideas and apply his expertise to create some awesome bags. The frame bag is fairly conventional – a nice tight fit where it bolts into the frame, and with two internal dividers to give me three compartments for organising. The inside is also lined with orange fabric to make it easier to see. Then I had an idea for a food storage box that would sit under the aerobars. We figured out that the map case could act as a flip-up cover for it. I created the shape that I wanted in cardboard, then Brian transformed that into a plastic-reinforced fabric creation that velcros to the bars. He also made a custom map case that integrates into the top – everything worked out just as I had in mind.

I have a standard bento type bag bolted to the top of the toptube, then we get to the rear….. My goal was to add storage and also hopefully improve (or at least not hinder) the aerodynamics. So I wanted to do a carbon aero-shaped box that would sit up behind the saddle, and hopefully help clean up the airflow coming off the rider. Ruckus were willing to have a crack at this. I carved the shape out of foam, which with much work they were able to turn into a fabulous, lightweight carbon fiber box. I then built a steel support frame for it, that bolts to the seatpost and triangulates from the saddle rails. The rear of the support also integrates a mount for the taillight.

The lights are provided by Exposure from the UK, with their Strada 800 in the front, Blaze for the rear, and the front/rear combo Link Plus to mount on my helmet. Other parts on the bike include the excellent Mandible bottle cages from Arundel and a pump from Silca (also helping me out with tools and lube). I’m also very grateful for the support from Castelli for clothing, and Kali Protectives for the Tava aero helmet.

Weight as shown (including all bags, lights, pump) is just under 22lbs.

That is the bike all ready; I feel that my training has gone fairly well – now just to see what happens!

38 Comments

  1. Awesome! I knew this was going to be a good one!
    Best of luck with the race Rob. I’ll be watching the dots!

  2. Are you going to post a kit list?
    I’d be interested to see what you’re taking.

    • Yes, will do! Almost have everything together…..

  3. Hey nice set up !
    I didn’t liked to have something on the back of my seat post even if stable
    I had a strange feeling with that kind of storage for the transcontinental race …

    Won’t the map on top of food box be annoying when in aero position
    When I see the pictures I’ve the feeling , your arms will rest on the map no ?
    It seems to be on the same level

    • Thanks! No, I have clearance between my arms and the map case. I can’t notice the rear box so far, need to load it up a bit next week.
      Cheers, Rob.

  4. Best of luck on your adventure. The bike is phenomenal. We all look forward to hearing all the stories in the near future. Cheers!

  5. Hey Rob, comgrats and good luck on the TransAm!

    This is build is mental mate! One question tho, aren’t you concerned of running a lot of battery gadgets (high power lights, cellphone, garmin, derrailleurs) and no way of charge them at some point (not even a dynamo)?

    Cheers,
    Mario

    • Thanks Mario – I will be stopping at a motel every night, so will have power for charging.
      Cheers, Rob.

  6. Awesome bike.
    Is the bottle cage behing the seat mounted with (very) short screws or is the seatpost modified?

    • Yes, the bosses are offset to the outside slightly, then short bolts used.

  7. Hello Rob,
    what brand is the handlebar/aerobar bag? custom?
    Cheers and good luck!
    andy

  8. That is an amazing build once again! Are you not running a dynamo hub? Lighting through a battery pack then?

    Also trying to find the website for Kaibab Customs, doesn’t he have one?

    • Thanks! Yes, battery lights – the Exposure models run for well over 12 hours. I can charge at night so no need for a dynamo.
      Brian doesn’t have a website, just his instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/kaibabcustoms/

  9. wow rob, what a machine. what forks are they? can you just order the disc brake fariings? when are you riding ?

    • Hey Chris – the forks are from Parlee’s TT bike, they make the caliper fairings too. But they only fit their fork (I modified the rear one and added bosses to the frame for it). Race starts on June 3rd.
      Cheers, Rob.

  10. That is a simply stunning bike. Good luck for the race, and let me know how I go about acquiring such a steed. This is a perfect marriage of all the things I want from a long distance speed machine.

    • Hi Christophe – currently my waiting list is a ways out, but if you would like to find out more and perhaps put a deposit down for a custom build, please just send an email.
      thanks, Rob.

  11. beautiful-great-nocomment-bike-work! pfff…

    are you on 170mm cranks?
    how tall are you?

    all the best for the preparation & TransAm race! 😉

    • Hi Mircea – yes, 170mm cranks. I am 5’9″.
      thanks, Rob.

  12. Beautiful bike! Should be an adventure. Curious how you’re powering the lights and recharging eTap batteries…didn’t see a dynamo hub in front. Solar?

    • Hi Brian – I’m stopping at a motel each night, so charging is easy!
      thanks, Rob.

  13. Front tire clearance is looking pretty ballsy for those short Kentucky gravel sections! Good luck Rob!

    • I don’t remember those from 2003…. always good to have a bit of variation though!
      Cheers, Rob.

      • I’ll keep an eye on our progress. Would be happy to set you up with a nice bourbon milkshake recovery drink in Kentucky. Beautifully integrated machine. I hope I get to see it in person.

        • Thanks! Roadside cheers always appreciated 🙂

  14. Stunning build and fabulous bike. How can we follow you live?

    • I’ll post the link before the off!

  15. Looks awesome, this frame set needs to go into production. Question, I am curious about your groupset setup I know your are running Sram eTap Disc but the hoods does not look like the HRD hoods….Never-mind I just glance the TRP caliper.
    Ride safe.

  16. What handlebar is that?

    • Enve aero, with their matching aerobar.
      thanks, Rob.

  17. Stunning!

    I’m very curious about the mount you used for your front light. Is that a custom adapter that zip ties to the aero bar? I’ve always struggled to find something strong enough to hold a light off the aero bars. I might just have to go make my own like that!

    • Hi James – yes I just took a section of the carbon aerobar tubing from where I shortened it. Mitred to fit, machined a slot for the sturdy ziptie. The feedbag prevents the bracket rotating under the weight of the light.
      Rob.

  18. Googly eyes! Have a fun, safe race and best of luck!

  19. That looks amazing! Good luck with the Trans-Am.

    Only tiny critique is with regards to Aerodynamics – 2 Parts – Bento Box – I appreciate that your frontal area is unchanged, but figured you’d use the opportunity of as custom bag to somehow redirect headwind with something that starts narrow at the front and widens closer to the bar. That said, on review around the web, it seems that it should not really make too much difference.

    Secondly, side profile is really going to make you suffer if you catch any wind from the side – and given the long exposed stretches of tarmac you’re going to cover, this is almost a certainty.
    Do you think hanging the box behind your cycle (and possibly in your body’s wind shadow) is going to be more effective than hugging the bottom of your seat.

    Irrespective – that machine looks like it is built to kick some serious a$$. Best of luck – ride safe.

  20. Good luck on your ride Rob!

  21. That’s an amazing build. The details are what makes it so special. The way elements are attached to the bike, in a way that only could happen if it’s truly a custom and on purpose build. So special. And the attachments make it so clean, slightly magical actually. 🙂

  22. Hi Rob, I have always wondered why the rotor is attached to the wheel and not the bike frame as with other vehicles like a Car. Would this not facilitate faster wheel changes in pro racing? Shouldn’t an Engineer like yourself be looking into this? If it works I want my 5% :-D.

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