|*Image from bicycletutor.com|
Parts of the front derailleur... the "thingy" is the derailleur cage
1) The bicycle must be supremely comfortable, yet also allow me to ride long distances
2) The bicycle should be aesthetically pleasing (at least to me), so that I want to get on it and ride
3) I should understand, at minimum, the basics of this bicycle, and be able to change my own flat tires (still working on this one - the changing the flat part)
4) Be able to utilize the bicycle for multiple purposes (such as riding to the store, or going for a 50 mile ride)
Okay, so you'll note that my number one necessity for the Hillborne was that it be comfortable. I read, and read, and read, and then read some more about people's experiences with a variety of things like handlebars, saddles, seat tubes, tires, handlebar stems, etc, and decided on particular items based on my reading and my experience with past bicycles. What I learned from that process is that reading alone does not a perfect bicycle make (unfortunately). Suggestions can be made based on body type, frame geometry, possible weak points for the rider, and so on, but the rider will never truly know what works until the bicycle is used... and used more than once.
For example, I purchased a Brooks Champion Flyer S saddle, believing that, after so many reviews of this saddle, and even the high endorsement of the guys at Cycle Analyst in Denver, that it would be a perfect fit for a touring bicycle. What I did not take in to account is that I intended to place my handlebars higher than the saddle (and quite a bit higher) for comfort reasons, and my hand/wrist issues.
|Brooks Flyer S saddle|
When I rode the Hillborne, I would get about 20 miles in to a longer ride and realize that it wasn't comfortable - at all. It wasn't the leather (there was plenty of flex for my needs), but rather that my sit bones weren't being supported. I rode on this saddle for several months, just thinking that there was something wrong with me. What I hadn't taken into account was the fact that I would need wider support because I was riding more upright than many road riders out there on the streets. My choice was to either lower the handlebars to alleviate the strain on my sit bones, or go with a different saddle. I ended up selling the Flyer and purchasing a B72 saddle (which really is more of a "city ride" kind of saddle).
|Brooks B72 saddle... the better choice for my ride|
Beyond the saddle, there were changes to the handlebar stem (I purchased one originally that was too long for my reach, and had to resell it to obtain a shorter one),
|The reach on this stem was too long for me|
|The Hillborne with one Schwalbe tire in back, and one Grand Bois tire in front|
|The first set of fenders were these Honjo hammered fenders... they didn't last long|
|One of the first of many incarnations of bar tape for the Hillborne...|
at least my wrapping skills improved in the process
Through all of this I realized that no one can tell another what to ride, nor what will definitely work. It's a process of trial and error for the individual, and at times, a costly one. I don't know if it would be possible to have everything perfect the first time around because, 1) I didn't precisely know what I would like, 2) What is comfortable to me, may not be for someone else, and vice versa, and 3) It really does take some time with riding the bicycle to get everything perfect. Even after riding this bike for awhile now, I still know there are some (small) changes that should be made to optimize the Hillborne. I think anyone looking to build a bicycle needs to be prepared to add some funds to the budget (even if the extra parts are re-sold) because inevitably, something will require a substitution, an addition, or some sort of modification.
In the end, I am extremely happy with the Hillborne, and it is definitely a forever kind of bicycle...It's just been a more involved process than I ever anticipated to make it my bicycle.