Saturday, July 3, 2010

Origami, Part 6: Tweaking The Beast

Yes, dear reader, you can give me a "Finally! Gosh!" (in your best Napoleon Dynamite voice) now. It's the long-awaited Xootr Swift customization post. Break out your pocket of tots and get comfy.

Back when the Swift was just a gleam in my eye, I had some ideas about how I would tweak one to make it uniquely mine. That should tell you a lot about me and my bike habits... even the ones I'm just thinking about owning in the distant future are already in the queue for my workstand. The actual bike thwarted some of those imagined customizations -- sometimes for the better, sometimes not.
  • Drop bar conversion. The SRAM drivetrain uses one of their non-Shimano-compatible rear derailleurs with the 1:1 cable pull ratio... and the dumb thing works! I have a bad history with Grip Shift (dating back to the "X-Ray" models of the mid-90s that worked for about two dirty rides), but unlike me, they've learned a LOT in the intervening decade and a half. The relatively inexpensive SRAM stuff that came on the Swift is as crisp as any twist shifter I've experienced... so until it dies, it's staying on there, and I'll defer my drop-bar delusions (since the shifter won't fit on drops and the derailleur can't mix-and-match with drop-bar compatible Shimano shifters).
  • Brake upgrade. Dang, another inexpensive product exceeds my expectations. I also have a long history of loathing when it comes to Tektro v-brakes. Flexing, howling, impossible to keep centered... but enough about me. These Quartz models (methinks they're the M710 shown on that page) have been a pleasant surprise, though, displaying none of those qualities and looking kinda neat in the process (a very industrial, I-beam sort of thing). The stock pads are meh, but they'll do until they wear out.
  • Extra stem/bar for accessories. Thwarted. I expected the stem riser to be an inch and an eighth along its entire length, but it bulges not far below the stem to something bigger (I haven't measured, but my guess is an inch and a quarter). If I find a stem to fit that fat section of the riser (yeah, because there are SO many inch and a quarter threadless stems out there), I might still try it, but it hasn't been a priority yet. If  I go there, I suppose I could move the Grip Shift to the accessory bar, allowing me to go ahead with my drop-bar conversion plans.

So what did I actually change? Well, I always take the provided contact points (saddle, bars/grips and pedals) as little more than a manufacturer's suggestion, and the Swift was no different. The saddle was a bit squishy for my tastes (it's the newbie's paradox... the softest saddles can hurt the most) so it went to the parts box for something a little firmer, narrower and lighter. The stock pedals were swapped for some BMX platforms... not because the stock ones were bad (they're all metal and very nice, a big improvement over the usual OEM plastic disposables), just because I could. And I'm trying out some Ergon grips (a sponsor of the great Kent P and his recent -- epic! -- Tour Divide ride) -- jury's still out there. Tack on a big saddlebag, a bottle cage, a bell, and some clip-on fenders, and it's a bike!

Oh, there was one other thing: theft resistance. Des Moines isn't exactly a hotbed of bike pilfering, but I always try to make sure my bike is a harder target than the one locked next to it. To that end, I replaced the wheel quick releases with hex-head skewers, and even went so far as to do the same with the three quick release binders (two at the seatpost and one at the stem riser) that accommodate the folding process. CAUTION: I do NOT know if Xootr would recommend that last bit. I just assumed that since the folding QRs looked like seat binders, I could replace them safely with non-QR seat binders. So far, it's working out fine. It does slow the folding process, but since I plan to use the fold as a fairly rare "take it on a trip/shove it in a trunk" feature rather than a part of my daily commute (more on that in a future post), I don't mind.

Here's the final result, in bad, blurry, phone-photo form:

Folding bike at rest.

Hey, where'd my helmet go?

I like it! The bike, that is, not the crummy photography.

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