Glen’s had his thinking cap on in the Workshop this month and produced what we think may just be the perfect one-of-a-kind gravel bike...
I started working on this project about 2 months ago, on my own ‘cross bike, when an idea struck me that it was possible to completely conceal a Di2 set-up – no ugly junction boxes and only one cable partly on show! At the same time a customer of ours was enquiring about a similar build so I began testing some ideas out on my own bike – once I was sure that everything was going to work I gave Pip in the shop the green light to order some bits and got started on Tim’s custom Parlee Chebacco.
The frameset is Parlee’s answer to the latest “Gravel” trend, which in essence is a ‘cross bike that’s built for high speed road and mixed terrain whilst being strong enough to handle some light off-roading. Tim’s gone for a fully custom paint job of his own choice – an option that’s available on all of Parlee’s bikes. We’ve built a couple of these now and they always come up looking amazing.
Talking to Tim very early on it was clear that he wanted something a bit different and a bit special – I relished his challenge to conceal the cabling and get rid of the ugly junction box from the stem area. To do this I came up with several options (on my own bike I’ve hidden it underneath the saddle) and decided eventually to hide it in the downtube, underneath a cable cover that just happened to be the right size.
The box is easily accessed to check battery levels and charge via a small cable I’ve attached to it. The lack of front mech on the 1x set-up means that I actually ended up using one less cable than you would normally, which has allowed me to move the position of the lower junction box – this in turn has allowed me to conceal the cables and lower junction within the bar, hiding everything nice and neatly.
All of this has been possible due to the re-programming of a mountain bike rear mech which crucially features a clutch – this allows us to run the whole system with a single ring up front. The mech itself is large enough to handle a very wide range cassette and easily takes care of the 10-42 gearing that Tim will be using. XTR uses the same cabling as Dura-Ace and so everything plugs in nicely. After a bit of head-scratching I re-programmed the R785 levers to work with the XTR rear mech and set it up so that both left and right shifters can operate the single rear mech.
Braking is taken care of by the normal hydraulic R785 calipers and is impressively paired up with a set of carbon ENVE mountain bike 29er wheels – a great balance of light weight and high performance. Big gravel tyres sit tubelessly on the carbon rims. Again the finishing kit is full Parlee carbon and really sets the bike of nicely. First test rides have concluded that the whole bike works perfectly on all terrains and like my ‘cross set-up the hidden 1x system seems to be operating exactly as planned – the best thing about it is how clean it looks and I’m really proud of being a part of sorting Tim’s bike for him.
Photos by Glen Whittington #aeightracer.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He writes his own blog at aeightracer.wordpress.com and contributes to Simpson Mag. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and 'Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer