The Fargo Build

There's something really magical about building up a bike that was purchased for the express purpose of being ridden around the world (although it's maiden tour will be a slightly more modest 500 mile trip around the Olympic Peninsula next summer). I hemmed and hawed over each part like never before. Weighing the pros and cons of frame materials, disc brakes versus rim brakes, standard 26 inch wheels or 29er, drop bars versus flat bars versus trekking bars. The list goes on...

Bike parts galore, spread out like a buffet for our building pleasure!

Behold the "Funguy Green" Fargo by Salsa... and its family of future stablemates in the background.

First things first, the frame. The Salsa Fargo is billed as an adventure touring bike, a steel framed mountain bike built to accomodate drop bars (think road bike handlebars), six water bottle cages, fenders, racks, and panniers. It's a 29er (sorry, but I can't ever go back to 26-inch wheels after four years of riding the bigger hoops) and it's disc-brake only. It even has welded on bosses for a downtube shifters, should the need arise for an on-road repair from parts salvaged from third-world bicycle parts. I fully loved the concept of the Fargo, but didn't intend to buy it. That is until I saw the frame hanging in a forgotten corner of a bike shop. The manager, a generous supporter of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, told me that nobody wanted just the frame, that they could only sell complete builds. I, however, only wanted the frame. I was expecting him to take enough off the price to make me really have to think about it. When he quoted me $375, I jumped on it. A savings of almost $200!

Itemized list of price (including shipping/handling) and where I bought the parts.
This had to be a true DIY job (a learning experience), hence the profliferance of online shops. Sorry local guys.
Aside: I know the bike-touring community is slow to embrace 29er wheels and disc brakes as disc brake and 29er parts are quite a bit harder to come by in the undeveloped corners of the world. Then again, so are a lot of things. I'll take my chances and plan for the worst. I'll carry extra pads and a spare rotor for the brakes and a spare tire and tubes. Worse comes to worse, I'll order parts from Jenson. They ship to just about every country in the world. I'd rather have to suffer an occasional headache and maybe pay a little extra later for shipping in new parts, but spend most of my time riding a bike I am comfortable with. Your mileage may vary.

As for the rest of the parts, my thinking was to opt for the most reliable, quality parts I could when it came to parts that, if they failed, would render the bike inoperable. So I splurged on a Chris King headset and Thomson stem and seatpost. I've never heard of any of these failing. They're pricey, no doubt, but they're virtually bombproof. After four years of flawless shifting from the Sram X0 twist-shifters that are on my Moots, I knew I wanted that style shifter for the Fargo (not to mention the ability to make on-the-fly micro-adjustments to remove any chain-rub is wonderful!) which demanded a Sram rear derailleur. I opted for X9, as it's cheaper and a bit more stout than the X0 grade. Shimano XT triple-ring crankset and front derailleur round out the drivetrain with Sram cassete and chain. This is virtually the exact build I have on my Moots, although I have XTR and X0 on that bike. And yes, it's perfectly fine to combine the parts from the two different brands in this manner.

Had to pilfer the wheels off the Moots to help with shifter/brake lever positioning.
Waiting for a battery to charge to drill out the valve hole on the rims for this bike to accomodate schraeder style stems.

Though I was definitely going with disc brakes, there was never even a moment's thought to installing hydraulic disc brakes. While it's true that they are very durable and need very little adjusting/service, the service they do need is not something I'm completely comfortable doing on the side of the road. And lines do get yanked out of the caliper and/or levers occasionally (I saw it happen on day one of our Moab trip this past May). The natural choice was Avid's BB7 mechanical disc brakes. They operate much the same way as a rim brake, but they're disc-based. They came on my Kona singlespeed, and I love them. The BB5 lacks the adjustability of the BB7, hence my decision to go for the better grade.

Huge thanks to my friend Doug for teaching me how to build a bike and
for bringing over his various torque wrenches.
In attempt to add a little style to the bike, I opted for a Brooks leather saddle and matching bar tape (not pictured). The seat will be a torture device until it breaks in, but it should be worth it. I'm waiting to pick up some gel handelbar pads to put under the bar tape.

Nothing like a shiny new drivetrain!
Lastly, there's the wheels. I didn't include wheels in the pricelist above because the plan is ultimately to order a custom set of touring wheels that may or may not contain a dyno hub for lighting/recharging capabilities. In the meantime, I had picked up a spare set of 29er wheels before doing TransRockies stage race in 2007 that I never used. They have XT hubs and WTB SpeedDisc Trail 29er rims. These rims can take a beating, but I want 36-spoke wheels with heavier gauge spokes before I head out for a longer tour with 50+ pounds of gear. I mounted the Schwalbe Marathon Plus touring tires that I was using throughout this year. They have thousands of miles left in them.

Still needs bartape, fenders, racks, and a slew of bottle cages, but she's ready to be ridden!


Jessica A. Walsh said...

Looks great! Congratulations!

Friedel said...

How fun, building up a bike. That was our alternative to buying new ones. Maybe next time...

As for the wheel size debate, yes, you might get stuck somewhere waiting for replacements but as long as you're willing to deal with that, it's not a big deal.

I think in a way, there are no "wrong" or "better" choices (or at least very few) in bike touring, aside from safety and comfort.

Is a Rohloff better than derailleurs? No, it's just different. The same goes for wheels. You just have to weigh up all the pros and cons of the various options and find a balance you're comfortable with, which it seems you have done. Congrats!

When's the tour start?

Doug Walsh said...

Hey Friedel, thanks for the smart comments. We're still in saving mode and we have a very healthy 11 year old dog that will keep us close to home for a couple more years (knock on wood) but we're hoping for a Vancouver-to-Tijuana shakedown tour in fall of 2013 to work the kinks out, then head out in spring of 2014. Seems an eternity from now, but we're eyeing a bunch of 1-3 week trips between now and then. Can't wait to read about your trip around Andalucia!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting project. I'm curious about how your shifters mount and worked out for you on a bar like yours. Would you be able to post a photo of the handlebar set up?
Nate in Portland

Doug Walsh said...

Nate, will do. Look for another post in a day or two.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Great looking build! I have a Fargo built up as a SS and absolutely love it. I too went with the Brooks and now, after several hundred miles, it is really very comfortable. I can easily ride 20 miles or so without any need for biking shorts. Enjoy the Fargo!!