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Spanner Bike – Project S.Y.D. aka the ultimate Titanium Hardcore Hardtail by Titan

It’s getting late now, maybe 10 or 11 at night and the garage is pretty chilly. I’ve got a furrowed brow and I’m starting to get stressed. For the past few hours I’ve been feeding various cables in and out of the frame trying to work out if the ‘impossible’ internal routing I’ve specced is going to work!

Checking the Internet it looks like people have had good results from some of the ones with super flexible outers made from individual metal ‘beads’. Perhaps one of those will work? Buy Now <Click>.

At least the end result was worth it!

Phwoar, look at that!

Saying ‘hello’ to Project S.Y.D.

Given that I’ve just signed off on ‘Mark II’ I thought it was about time I put some words down about the first Project SY.D., aka ‘Screw You Death’!

As some of you might remember I’ve been running a Sonder Transmitter to see if I like the idea of a plus tyred hardtail. And funnily enough, yes I do! I think super grippy tyres with a bit of give in them work really well for a rigid frame. The spooky thing is that for most of the riding I do in the UK it’s just as fast as a full suspension bike, if not quite as comfortable!

What are we trying to do here?

Well, obviously make the best handling hardtail possible while also trying to make it the most stylish. I also wanted to be sure you’d see things on there that you’d never seen before. It was that decision that would come back to bite me later!

Super contemporary stance:

Naturally I wanted the latest thinking in design. I took the major frame dimensions from the Sonder, so a 63 degree head angle (with a 150mm travel fork), 73 degree seat angle and a nice roomy reach. I didn’t go quite as mad with these as I could have done – as we’ll see later…

A straight line between the top tube and seat stays was a must. I also wanted to have a frame with shape to it, an inboard rear disk calliper meant I could curve the chainstays and seat stays to meet the dropouts. I also put a nice little bend in the downtube where it meets the headtube.

Huge dropper post:

I’m always annoyed to see how long manufacturers leave their seat tubes so people have to run short travel droppers rammed right the way down. Given you’ve got a huge lump of post there why not use some of the strength? I did my sums to work out what the minimum insertion depth on a 170mm dropper was, and then added about 50mm to it. This gave me a tiny seat tube length but still made sure there was plenty of support. I can now sink the saddle waaaay down when I need to.

This is how it should have worked in theory!

Internal cabling:

I’ll confess here, I hate having loads of cables flapping around all over the frame. Not only do they spoil the lines of the bike but they start to rub where they hit the frame and make it look scruffy! Easy solution is to run everything internally, although that can give you some fun and games when trying to thread things through the frame. Help was partly on hand here from the Park Tools Internal cable kit (IR-1.2) which uses wires with magnets on to make the whole job much easier.

I’d noticed the trend of extending the seat stays and attaching them to the top tube in front of the seat tube. I’m not sure if there’s any mechanical advantage but I thought it looked cool, and I hit on the wizard idea of how it would allow you to run cables right the way through the top tube and down the stay.

My real ‘genius’ moment occurred when I saw what could be done around the headtube. A few brands use the tiny clearance between the steerer tube and the head tube to run hoses and cables directly into the front of the frame. Et voila no more cable rub on the headtube – sounds great, right?

I knew this was going to be tight, it was a gamble that I partly took as this frame was the result of calling in a favour from Titan, a ‘thank you’ for featuring them on my blog. You’ve probably guessed how this detail worked out!

For the dropper routing I knew I’d have to run it directly into the down tube which meant wrapping it around the headtube. I added a zip tie mount to the head tube to hold it in place and stop it rubbing! Most internal stealth routings go via the bottom bracket shell. I hit on the notion that I could make use of the overlap between the down tube and the seat tube to route the cable through. Sure enough it’s a goer and means you don’t have to disturb the bottom bracket should you need to change the dropper hose!

Big clearances:

Finally, I went with a C-cup plate chainstay bridge to make sure there was plenty of clearance for running fat tyres in sticky clag. Plate chainstays are heavier but are a super neat way of fitting everything in down there.

Fair enough, but how did it all workout?

What went well?

Come on – it looks stunning! The ‘raw’ finish I was after had been cleaned up a bit too much, but otherwise I found I could sit and just stare at this bike for half an hour solid without getting bored!

The welding and the accuracy of the construction were all spot on, full marks to Titan. If there were any errors they were all made by the designer!

The internal routing for the stealth dropper works really well and the headset, bottom bracket and seatpost fitting went without a hitch, everything was spot on to the tolerances on the drawing.

It feels beautifully solid and rides awesomely, not surprising really as it was based almost totally on the Sonder Transmitter it replaced.

This is how it should have looked. Sadly the radius was too tight for the gear cable!

But you’re planning a Mark II already – you must have cocked it up somewhere, right?

That cabling!

Well, OK, the plan to run the cable and hose via the headtube might not have worked out so well. The angle around the steerer and into the top tube is pretty tight. The only brake hose I found that would work was Hope braided, and even then it was a lot of work to get it threaded through. Once in place though it works fine, which is more than can be said for the gear cable…

I’ve now discovered that the world’s most flexible, and no doubt most expensive, gear cable is the Alligator Mini I-Link. Sadly even it’s super flexible micro beads are not quite enough to allow for functioning gears after being bent round the tight radius of a headtube. I eventually waved a little white flag and lashed up an external routing for the gear cable using some bolt/stick on guides and zip ties to hold it on under the chainstay wrap.

The cable ports weren’t the neatest solution either. Being exactly the right size for the cables gave no opportunity to wrap the cables in anything resulting in some noisy ‘tinging’ on super rough sections. I even tried stuffing sponge into the top tube to quieten things down, with some success!

Mark II will have some more sophisticated cables entry points with bolt on inserts, this lets you open the hole right up for feeding the cable (plus any rubber coating) through.

That seat angle…

Contemporary thinking would match a super relaxed head angle to a super steep seat tube angle. Call me an old roadie <You’re an old roadie!> but I still hung on to the idea that there’s a fixed position that gives the best mechanical advantage to pedal from. Sadly, I think I might be wrong!

Climbing the super steeps would benefit from being perched further forward, roll on Mark II with a 76 degree seat angle to try out. Not surprisingly reach has increased to allow for the forward seat position which has also stretched out the wheelbase some as well. Has it stretched it too far though? Watch this space as they say…

The wheel size?

It’s hard to keep up with the latest brane thinking – but everyone is sticking road bike wheels on mountain bikes these days and insisting that they’re faster! I hadn’t designed Mark I with the additional clearance needed for 29’er wheels because I wasn’t sure what the effect of raising the bottom bracket height would be.

It’s common thinking that 27.5+ and 29’er wheels are the same overall diameter but… the difference is still around 20mm so the bottom bracket height will change by 10mm between them. I hit on the cunning weeze of using an eccentric bottom bracket to give me around 15mm of vertical adjustment which should take care of things nicely.

Another side effect of the larger wheels is that it lifts everything else up too, which meant trimming a little off the headtube to keep the bars in the right place. Something I’d not really thought about before!

Lovely neat looking rear calliper details…

So, the next one will really be the definitive hardcore titanium hardtail?


Right up until Mark III 😉

The good news is that you can own one too if you like! Why not profit from my mistakes and have your own unique Spanner Bike branded hardtail. Or any other type of bike for that matter! Drop me a line via the contacts page if you’d like to know more.

PS. ‘Screw You Death’? Seriously?

I’m afraid so – this originally came from an observation that my girlfriend had bought some ‘age defying’ moisturising cream (“I defy you, age!”). We wondered what the next step up from that might be and of course the rest is history! Look out for some ‘Screw You Death’ hand cream appearing on shelves shortly…

With thanks to:

Eric from Titan who offered to create this special project for me – unfortunately I’ll have to pay for the next one!