Change Bike: Custom Drop Bar Upgrades
I have had my Change Bike DF-702 in black for a few months and it has gone traveling on quite a few journeys, and even a race! More recently, Nadiah has also acquired a Change Bike frame in white which she decided to build up from scratch.
The original Change Bike setup came with flat handlebars and a Shimano Claris 3x8 drivetrain. It's a decent build for most commuters and a good entry-level configuration for people who are just getting into cycling. You can read my review of the stock Change Bike DF-702 here.
As you get more in tune with the bike, there will be many things that are worth upgrading to make your time on the saddle more efficient and enjoyable. In this post, we'll share all the details about what we did with our Change Bike builds.
Custom build goals
For our project builds, we wanted to do a complete overhaul and create a fast touring bike with drop handlebars, and shed a little bit of weight in the process. We had the following primary must-haves when building our bikes:
Drop handlebars. We wanted to cover long distances in relative comfort, and drop bars provide multiple hand positions for long rides, and also lets you tuck in to go faster if needed.
11-speed drivetrain with double chainrings. The triple chainring that originally came with my bike had a nice range of gears, but it involved a lot of shifting between the front and rear to find the cadence I wanted. A 2x11 drivetrain would provide a much simpler setup with more gear spacing choices that allows me to find the right cadence. This translates to better efficiency which leads to less fatigue. On the 8-speed cassette, I found that the jumps between cogs were too big and it would have been nice if I had a few extra closely spaced cogs in between.
Lighter overall weight. By selecting a mid-tier 2x11 drivetrain, that in itself sheds a lot of weight in comparison to the entry-level Claris drivetrain. Other than the drivetrain, the most significant area of weight reduction would be at the wheels, as that is where you have the most rotational mass. Investing in a quality wheel set in general is the best thing you can do for your bike, and everything else are just finishing touches.
The overall geometry of the Change Bike frame is relaxed and well suited for long days on the saddle and long endurance rides. The seat tube and head tube angles are slightly more relaxed in comparison to a road racing frame. But should you choose to go on a race with it, it does a decent job in that department too – the bike performed well for GFNY Bali 2018!
The Black Change Bike build
The size M frame with stock components included weighed around 11kg without pedals. Stripping the bike down all the way to just the frame, it was time to rebuild the bike with practically brand new components.
Frame: Size M frame with headset - 2680g
Fork: Carbon fork with alloy steerer - 540g
Handlebar: Ritchey Classic 40cm - 300g
Bar tape and plugs: Brooks leather bar tape - 150g
Stem: Ritchey C220 Classic 90mm - 127g
Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece 31.6 - 194g
Saddle: Rivet Independence Titanium - 360g
Shift levers: SRAM Force 22 - 307g
Brake calipers: SRAM Red 2011 - 255g
Cables: All cabling and housing - 200g
Crankset: Shimano 105 50/34 - 730g
Bottom bracket: Shimano SM-BBR60 - 77g
Front derailleur: SRAM Force 22 Yaw - 79g
Rear derailleur: SRAM Force 22 medium cage - 230g
Cassette: SRAM PG-1170 11-32 - 300g
Chain: Shimano 11-speed chain - 250g
Wheels: Campagnolo Shamal Mille - 1459g
Tyres: Vittoria Corsa G+ 25mm and tubes - 684g
The total weight of the bike without pedals is now at 8.9kg. As far as touring bikes go, this is quite a lightweight setup, and it also just happens to fold! The weight could be further reduced with a lighter crankset, carbon handlebars and a lighter saddle, but the goal was to go for a classic look.
The White Change Bike build
For a short period of time, Nadiah inherited the Shimano Claris drivetrain upon getting her frame. The fun began when the shiny Campagnolo Potenza groupset arrived – in classic polished silver!
Frame: Size S frame with headset - 2450g
Fork: Steel fork and steerer - 980g
Handlebar: S-Works Hover Carbon Handlebar 40cm - 220g
Bar tape and plugs: Brooks leather bar tape - 150g
Stem: S-Works 75mm - 130g
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 31.6 - 223g
Saddle: Fizik Luce Carbon - 150g
Shift levers: Campagnolo Potenza - 370g
Brake calipers: Campagnolo Potenza - 320g
Cables: All cabling and housing - 150g
Crankset: Campagnolo Potenza 50/34 - 775g
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo BSA - 72g
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Potenza - 94g
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Potenza medium cage - 208g
Cassette: Campagnolo Potenza 11-32 - 292g
Chain: Campagnolo 11-speed chain - 257g
Wheels: Campagnolo Zonda - 1550g
Tyres: Continental Grand Prix Classic 25mm and tubes - 690g
With a frame size of S and a steel fork, the overall weight without pedals measures at 9.1kg. Imagine shaving off another 400g by just swapping out the steel fork with carbon! For now however, Nadiah enjoys the springy feeling of the steel fork and doesn't mind the weight so much.
Considerations for the bike fold
When putting the bike together with a drop handlebar configuration, there are a few things to note in order to retain its folding capabilities.
Rear brake cable routing
The original rear brake calliper was the Tektro 725 which had a cable noodle that could be attached from either the left or right. As the fold of the Change Bike frame folds away from the crank, it means that there needs to be enough room and cable slack for the rear cable to move when the fold is engaged.
When switching to the SRAM and Campagnolo brake callipers however, the cable is attached at the left of the caliper which is located very close to the locking mechanism. The same goes with Shimano or any other brake caliper from the big manufacturers.
In order to overcome this, the alternate cable routing approach is to wrap the cable around the seat tube as it exits the top tube. It looks a little strange at first seeing a cable loop going around the seat tube, but this works nicely with the folding mechanism as long as you have enough slack in the cable to give you room to access the locking hinge. As the bike folds, the cable automatically loosens in the direction of the fold.
Steerer spacer limit
Choosing the correct frame size is extremely important because you will have a recommended maximum of 30mm of spacers that can be used at the steerer. I have spacers stacked at 25mm and Nadiah has 20mm. This is to allow the drops of the handlebars to tuck in under the top tube and achieve the ideal folding position where the hoods will be able to go through the rear wheel.
I highly recommend getting a proper bike fit done first so that you know what your ideal frame size should be.
What's especially important is the measurement of your reach (saddle nose to top of handlebar) and the stack measurements to see if you can get a comfortable position with 30mm of spacers at the steerer for your handlebars.
Although it might be possible for 40mm of spacers to work, the issue lies with the angle of your handlebars. If you have either too many spacers or too much upward angle, then the hoods of the handlebars will hit the rim of the rear wheel when you try to fold it.
Wheels with a wide spoke pattern
This really isn't a strict requirement by any means, but it is helpful. The goal is to be able to easily slot the hoods of the handlebars through the spokes of the rear wheel so that the bike can be folded compactly.
We found Campagnolo and Fulcrum wheels to be the easiest to use in this regard. The widely spaced spoke pattern gives enough room to easily tuck the hoods through.
Wheels with dense spokes won't work. If there are too many spokes, there is no room for the hoods to tuck in. The bike can still be folded, but it would be a much wider fold where the handlebars can't turn in completely.
A little fine print
The only single disadvantage with this setup is that with drop handlebars, you will not be able to wheel the bike around in it's folded form since the handlebar and the rear wheel are interlocked. If you need to rely heavily on this functionality, then this setup is less than ideal. But since the weight of the bike has been somewhat reduced, it still isn't too bad if you had to carry it over short distances. Change Bike does provide a cover bag and a strap which is still usable and it does help you carry the bike.
The ride experience
Stating the obvious – It rides exceptionally well! It has the feel of an endurance road bike, and keeping up with the other roadies out there is not a problem. And on top of that, it's still a folding bike which continues to surprise many people!
It's a fantastic long distance travel bike. It's a bike with endurance geometry, and it just happens to fold so that you can practically bring it with you anywhere. The folding mechanism is easy to operate and fairly quick to engage. When you are touring in faraway places and need to sometimes stick the bike on a train or in the back a van, the fold comes in handy and makes everything possible.
Comfort, speed and efficiency. With the components we chose, it's an extremely comfortable bike to spend long hours on the saddle with. We've done rides that have lasted the whole day and still felt really good at the end of it. The 700c wheels lets you cover greater distances easily compared to a small wheeled bike, especially when you start hitting the hills and mountains!
Wheel and tire selection. Depending on the brake calipers you choose, the bike can be fitted with either 25mm or 28mm tires. Both of us are using Campagnolo wheels with an inner rim diameter of 17mm which rolls extremely well with 25mm tires. And with c17 rims, the 25mm tires actually inflate closer to 28mm (27mm for me to be exact). And when running at 70-80 PSI, it is comfortable for going on tarmac and dirt roads.
Change Bike provides a very versatile folding frame that you can build up with standard bike components. The carbon fork upgrade which was installed on my bike is also an option that you can order directly from Change Bike. And if you are looking for a fork that's even lighter (sub 400g), you can choose from any other manufacturer out there who makes carbon forks, as long as you get the one with the standard steering tube diameter of 1-1/8". Enve, 3T, and Ritchey all come to mind.