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Sunil’s XACD expedition bike

Sunil got in touch recently to let me know about the frame that he had made to complete the Tour D’Afrique, an 11,704 Km expedition tour across Africa, going all the way from Cairo to Cape Town! (You can read all about it on his blog: http://geekonabicycle.co.uk/).

He enlisted the services of Mosquito Bikes and their SizeCycle system to get the frame dimensions sorted out and then used XACD’s standard cyclo cross frame as a starting point for his design. What he ended up with certainly looks pretty smart:

Sunil's fully bling'd up expedition build, the brushed frame and custom decals look very smart.

Which came from this drawing, check out the unusual wishbone chainsays:

Sunil based his design on XACD's standard CX frame with a few tweaks.

I asked Sunil about his experience of working with XACD and if he’d do anything differently next time:

– We decided to go for mountain bike width rear hubs and omitted the disc brake mount. In retrospect, this pretty much rendered the extra width redundant. I’d either stick with road size hubs or go with mountain bike size hubs and a disc mount. This would make it easier to find wheels (29er wheels).
– Wish I’d known a bit more about tyres – for this sort of trip, the fatter tyres were almost necessary on some of the terrain (sandy unpaved roads). The frame would only accommodate up to a 35mm tyre – I’d increase this a lot, to perhaps a 45mm or 2.2″ even.
– Ask XACD to supply brake mounting studs. It was a pain trying to track these down!

(The brushed finish was amazing, for what it’s worth. Wishbone stays looked nice, not sure if they were worth the expense.)

Other than that, I was pretty much happy with it. If I was going to do the trip again, I’d probably go with front suspension but that would require a hefty amount of change to the frame geometry. For a rigid cyclocross bike though, it worked out very well. I had a crash in Ethiopia that managed to bend the crank but the frame survived intact. Definitely glad I had the bike fit done first – didn’t have any issues with my back or knees.

It certainly sounds like Sunil did his homework – and getting Mosquito Bikes to do the bike fit would have taken most of the mystery out of the frame geometry and critical frame dimensions. When designing a frame for this type of trip the line between road bike and mountain bike become blurred – as Sunil says:

It’s true – the guy who won the race was on a 29er effectively with a suspension fork and skinny tyres. A very confused bike.

I was admiring the smart decals too:

Decals were made by a local FastSigns, I think it’s a chain. They cost £40 approximately, including VAT. Apparently that’s a minimum charge, regardless of the size or quantity (the manager told me he had to fire up a £20,000 printer to make them!) – I had a few spares made too. They’re made out of vinyl and fairly durable but I found the ink rubbed off after a while (where my shorts brushed against the frame).

One of the key factors when designing an expedition bike is the availability of spares. The ultimate bullet proof setup would probably be something like a belt driven Rohloff hub; Sunil was partly supported and was able to take a good selection of spares with him which meant he could go with a standard dérailleur and chain to keep things straightforward.

The design of his frame looks pretty good too, he’s used standard 0.9mm gauge tube all over and has added options for the rack mountings on the dropout and seat stays. Sunil hadn’t made his mind up on which brakes he was going to use and could have added disk brake tabs and removed the cantilever hanger to give him the choice of disks or v-brakes without having too many extra bits.

The only thing that looks a little odd is the 35mm drop of the top tube where it meets the headtube, which would normally be around 12mm. Sunil could have gone for a shorter headtube instead to keep things neat, but he thinks that this probably came from extending the headtube to keep the handlebars at the right height and XACD not moving the top tube as it would have increased the standover height.

It’s good to see something a little different and the custom approach was ideal for Sunil as he was able to taylor his bike for his epic journey! Has Sunil’s frame inspired you to have a frame made? Or maybe you’ve already had a frame made by XACD – let me know if you have as I’d love to feature it in the Gallery section.