A Shiny Thing I Built: Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty...

Xipe Totec

Frrrg rrrrf yrrrr crrrnds
...And collapse in fits of hysterical laughter.

Or - A Road Less Travelled (because it will break & I'll need a lift home. Twice a week.)

So, like many cyclists of, or at least approaching A Certain Age, I have found myself increasingly drawn towards the beguiling shimmer and gleam of semi-precious metal, tempted by promises of silky, magic-carpet like ride quality, and notions of 'a bike for life' (oddly realistic when one's Inner Nihilist is - for no identifiable reason - doggedly estimating one's remaining lifespan in low single figures). And an inexplicable attraction to shiny, shiny things.

A Ti build always felt prohibitively expensive (bloody HOW MUCH for a sodding pushbike frame???) but Covid put me in the position of inadvertantly saving enough to make a modest but well-specced build within reach. I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted: a ride-all-day bike - relaxed geometry, relaxed riding position, clearance for big (32+) tyres (for bloody awful local tarmac & a bit of light gravel-ing), room for guards if necessary, discs, road-oriented gearing. So endurance/allrounder/gravel/road - or what GCN used to call an 'Enduralgroad' back when they were funny.

Anyway, a Planet X sale and an occasionally impulsive nature led to this coming through the letterbox back in May:

frame1.jpg


'This' being a Planet X Tempest frameset. Wheels & groupset next. I had an idea aesthetically of what I wanted & (despite myself) found myself drawn to deep-ish rims. A quick look at carbon wheels within my vague budget demonstrated that there was no appreciable adavantage over alloy so I decided on Fulcrum Racing 400DBs.

Groupset next - well, that's obvious, innit? 105, Groupset Of The People! Oh - out of stock. Unavailable. Available for pre-order, delivery date unknown... Wait - what - it's in stock? Hooray! But... It's how much, you say? But, but, but, that's twice what it cost last year - and I'm pretty sure that's £50-odd more than when it launched, you know, nearly 4 years ago... And the crank lengths I want, and the chainring & cassette sizes aren't available? Oh. OK then...

And this is where it gets weird. And where I may well (if you have persisted thus far) lose the room...

"Taaake a journey back in time
Leeave the western world behind
Croooss the mountains to Peking
Wheeere the paper lanterns gently swing..."


Still here? Oh good. The journey in question was not so much to the Isle Of Wight circa 1983, rather than to AliExpress and the glittering Oriental hinterland of obscure bicycle components which, for various reasons (one suspects broadly copyright-based) are unavailable in That There Western World.

And a choice, then. A Shimano 105 groupset with a selection of dimensions & ratios I don't want, for a little under nine hundred quid; or an ad-hoc 'groupset' of random weird components with names you can't pronounce, for the princely sum of £242, delivered to my door?

What could possibly go wrong?

In due course (about 10 days) a package arrived. I admit to having had some preconceptions about what would pop through the door, maybe something like this?
sensah-empire-2x11-speed-22s-road-bike-groupset.jpg

Reality can sometimes be sobering...
group1.jpg


However, once all the sticky tape & bubble wrap was off...
group2.jpg


So - 11-speed shifters & mechs very closely based on SRAM - Sensah was apparently set up by former SRAM employees. Brakes are cable-operated hydraulics, with fluid housed inside the calipers, chainset is a Hollowtech/SRAM hybrid styled a lot like Rotor. The chainrings are one-piece, machined from a single piece of aluminium. The random other parts were sort-of thrown in, incuding 140mm discs I didn't use & an 11-32 cassette, which is wider than I would prefer, and a suspiciously cheap-looking chain that I probably really shouldn't use...

If you're still here you're probably wondering if you're actually going to see a finished bike at any point. You are - but I have to tell you, the treasure trove of weirdness that is AliExpress is more than obscure (and possibly dangerously unreliable) components. Have I mentioned I like shiny things? They have shiny things. Lots of very shiny things.

More parcels arrived, and after a few weeks, this is what I had:
parts2.jpg


And so, about a month ago, I was finally able to adjourn to the shed, dig out my hammers, pipe-wrench, superglue and nailgun, and after innumerable hours of banginging, snorking, drilling, grinding, waving arms about and screeching this emerged, blinking its bleary little eyes in the light of a new dawn...
TiBike001.jpg


And you know what? It's great! It's smooth, comfortable, everything works -the gears are slick and very precise, the brakes better than either the Ultegra calipers on my Dolan or the Avid BB7 mech discs on my Boardman. It's early days yet - I've so far only put 250-odd miles on it but it seems to be everything I wanted. Clearly I have no idea how reliable any of the components will be in the long term (the cheap chain already went in the bin!) but for such a comparitively small outlay I don't really mind. Well, unless it maims or kills me, I suppose.

If I survive, the longterm plan theoretically involves upgrading components to 105 or something similar, when it becomes available & hopefully more sensibly priced - but to be honest I really like my weirdo groupset & random other parts. I sort of hope it lasts.

TiBike002.jpg
 

fossyant

Ride It Like You Stole It!
Location
South Manchester
Looks good. I've thought about a cheap hard tail build using the Chinese components.
 

Milkfloat

An Peanut
Location
Midlands
:popcorn: for the knock off components. I must admit I have looked in the past for a commuter hack bike, but never jumped in. I am very interested to know how tricky setup was and how long they last. So please head out in all sorts of nasty weather and try to break them. I am going to subscribe to this thread as I want to know more.
 

T4tomo

Guru
Excellent frame to build from and the groupset looks fin, if changes gear and stops the bike that's what you want!!

Titanium needs a bit of shiny bling to liven it up....I'm not convinced by the bottom half of the bar tape though, that maybe a step too far...

Wheel and tyre combo is lovely.
:okay::okay:
 

cyberknight

As long as I breathe, I attack.

View: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLT-oEzVFV--c6iZAiomqKKQF9q4yfDz0Y

This guy has bought lots of Chinese bike parts and used/reviewed them, some are better than others
he tested the shifters and a piece inside broke as it was made of plastic rather than metal in the sram originals, i think they fixed the issue later on
 
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OP
Xipe Totec

Xipe Totec

Frrrg rrrrf yrrrr crrrnds
Well - it's both a surprise and a relief to get such positive responses to my little exercise in absurdity! Cheers! ^_^

:popcorn: for the knock off components. I must admit I have looked in the past for a commuter hack bike, but never jumped in. I am very interested to know how tricky setup was and how long they last. So please head out in all sorts of nasty weather and try to break them. I am going to subscribe to this thread as I want to know more.
Setup was really straightforward - everything goes together, adjusts & works as you'd expect. In the past I've found setting up SRAM to be less finicky than Shimano and this (being a total knockoff) appears to have inherited that - other than a couple of cable tension tweaks, nothing's required fettling since assembling it.

Excellent frame to build from and the groupset looks fin, if changes gear and stops the bike that's what you want!!

Titanium needs a bit of shiny bling to liven it up....I'm not convinced by the bottom half of the bar tape though, that maybe a step too far...

Wheel and tyre combo is lovely.
:okay::okay:
The bar tape is a bit odd! The pics don't do it justice though - it's colour-changing, iridescent & reflective, and changes from different angles & under different light. I've honestly never seen anything like it. Which may or may not be a good thing. It was a bit of a pain to fit - it's not particularly flexible & fairly thick and was impossible to get as tidy a finish as I'd prefer at the bar ends. It's also not a texture you'd want to hold onto all day (quite slippery) which it's why it's on the drops. Where I seldom am...

View: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLT-oEzVFV--c6iZAiomqKKQF9q4yfDz0Y

This guy has bought lots of Chinese bike parts and used/reviewed them, some are better than others
I watched his vids when doing research about the Sensah stuff - there's really very little info out there. As he said, the plastic actuating lever that's prone to breaking has been updated to a metal component - when I ordered, I was basically crossing my fingers that mine wouldn't be turn out to old stock, & fortunately they do have the uprated part.
 
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