The Frankenhybrid - Retrofiting hybrid suspension to a racer?

Discussion in 'Bikes and Buying Advice - What Bike?' started by Tassle, 3 Aug 2012.

  1. Tassle

    Tassle New Member

    Like many cycle nuts, I often dream about owning the 'perfect' bike - one that so totally suits my needs that even the most mundane journey is a pleasure. After a year of riding various store-bought bikes in this quest, I'm finally coming to the conclusion that what I want isn't available and, if I want it, I'm going to have to build it myself. This post is to sound out how feasible my Frankenhybrid would be, and any obvious problems that seasoned bike-builders might expect me to encounter.

    The Background Story
    I do most of my cycling across London. I value high speed and efficiency but I also want comfort, durability and an element of flexibility should I venture onto a dirt track for a few miles. I'm finding this a very tall order to satisfy.

    One of my favourite bikes to date has been a Specialized Langster single-speed. It was fast, light (8kg) & efficient to the point I didn't miss having gears for a moment. Sadly the lack of 'give' made London's rough road surfaces very tiring, especially being forced over undesirable patches of road due to proximity of traffic and consequent lack of manoeuvring space.

    I moved on to a Specialized Sirrus with rubber suspension inserts in the front forks hoping it would be the perfect compromise. It was a bit of a letdown. I hated the flat handlebars and the 'Zertz inserts' were unable to lessen the pounding that London's neglected roads and badly-planned cycleways dish out. It wasn't especially missed when it was stolen.

    Ignoring the efforts of friends to convince me otherwise, I came to the conclusion that active suspension was the way forward and I searched for a lightweight hybrid with drop bars and front suspension forks. Unfortunately they don't exist. In fact I struggled to find bikes that weighed less than 12kg at a manageable price and eventually opted for a 13kg secondhand Giant XR2 in order to test my suspension theory.

    To my surprise (and friends annoyance) I was right! The 5cm-travel Suntour shocks are dream in conjunction with rock hard 700c tyres. A beautifully smooth ride over imperfections and potholes alike, low rolling resistance and no 'pedal bob' (plus the ability to lock them out for major bum-out-of-seat hillclibing). Sadly the rest of the bike is disapointing. The flat handle bars are still hated, the weight is very noticeable and I use only 5 of the available 30 gears on a regular basis, often hopping 2-3 gears at a time, leaving me grumbling about lugging around bits of bike I don't use.

    The Frankenhybrid
    So... What I'm looking for is a very lightweight frame, 700c wheels, light duty front suspension, drop handlebars and a handful of gears! What's to stop me building this? Can a hybrid suspension fork be retrofitted to a racer frame? A carbon frame even?? With the addition of minimal gears (possibly single speed) and lightweight brakes to keep the weight as low as possible, can you see any caveats that might spoil the riding experience?
  2. The howling laughter from everyone you pass? :tongue:
  3. OP

    Tassle New Member

    A paper bag over my head won't add much weight... :tongue:
    smokeysmoo likes this.
  4. PpPete

    PpPete Guru

    Chandler's Ford
    I suspect you may find you need a custom designed frame or the geometry and handling will be all wrong.
    Talk to someone like Dave Yates to see whether it is feasible.
    Tassle likes this.
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