The Disc Trucker gets a Mirror

Rhode Gear Quick Release Cycle Mirror

I was lucky to find a Rhode Gear Quick Release Cycle Mirror, “New in Box”, on Ebay for the Disc Trucker. This vintage, made in the USA, mirror was in very high demand when Rhode Gear replaced it with a plastic model. So much so, that it used to sell for far more than its original retail price. Now it is almost impossible to find at any price, so you can’t image how happy I was to find it for about its original retail price.

Although the Disc Trucker’s first thousand miles have been on rail trails, it still gets a mirror. You might wonder why a mirror would be needed for a bicycle used for riding rail trails. The answer is simple, to see what going on behind me. Unfortunately, there are a few riders that don’t practice good trail etiquette  by giving a friendly heads up when overtaking walkers and slower riders.

In addition, when riding with friends on a rail trail, it is easier to keep track of everyone with a mirror.   I find whether on the road or on the trail, a mirror is a good addition to a bike.

Disc Trucker Mirror

Ken Whittaker


Disc Trucker Gets Fenders

Disc Trucker with Fenders

The Disc Trucker is getting a lot of action lately. Ever since I was struck from behind by a car, I enjoy riding on rail trails without the worry of being killed by a distracted driver. Luckily, I have an 80-mile rail trail close to home that I can cycle. Nevertheless, one of the drawbacks to trail riding is the constant bombardment by dirt kicked up from the trail.

Fortunately, the Disc Trucker is designed to accept full-length fenders to keep me and the bike cleaner. In my case, I used an old pair of Zefal 65mm (approx. 2.5-inch) fenders although I’m only running 1.6-inch tires now. These fenders will give me full coverage no matter how fat a tire I might use later. I chose the Zefal fenders because they have two stays front and back making them strong and secure.

Perhaps it’s just me, but adding fenders makes the bike look like a real “Trucker” now.

Ken Whittaker

Complete Disc Trucker Specs

Disc Trucker without Thud Buster Seat Post


Frameset: Surly Disc Trucker 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double-butted. TIG-welded

Sizes: 50 cm with 26˝ wheels

Fork: Surly Long Haul Trucker, 4130 CroMoly, lugged and brazed. Proprietary sloping crown with threaded eyelets, tapered and butted curved blades with mid-blade rack eyelets, dual dropout eyelets

Seatpost clamp: Surly Stainless, 30.0mm


Crankset: Shimano XT FCM770 9 Speed Triple with 44-32-22T

Bottom Bracket: Integrated in crankset

Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M771 Front

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M771 Front & Rear Derailleur

Cog or Cassette: Shimano XT CS-M770 9 Speed Cassette

Chain: Shimano 9 speed with master link


Headset: Cane Creek S6 sealed bearings

Brakes: Avid BB7, G2 160mm rotors front & rear mechanical disc brakes

Brake Levers: Dia Compe Road Brake Levers, long pull and TRP, Tektro Top Mount Carbon Fiber Cyclocross Brake Lever

Shifters: Shimano SL-BS77 9-SPEED Bar-end Shifters

Stem: Weyless Carbon

Handlebar: Icon

Saddle: Brooks Conquest with springs

Seatpost: Cane Creek Thudbuster ST Suspension Seatpost


Front Hub: Shimano XT M775 GH Disc, 36h. 100mm, black w/QR

Rear Hub: Shimano XT M775 GH Disc, 36h. 135mm, black w/QR

Rims: 26″ Shimano XT M775 Tubeless Rims

Tires: 26˝ Continental Sport Contact, 26 x 1.6″

In the final analysis, while I didn’t keep track of the actual cost of the bicycle, I think the completed bicycle cost about the same as a stock Disc Trucker from Surly. Nevertheless, my goal wasn’t to save money. I enjoyed building this high quality touring bike and I know every part and piece of it. Not to mention the bike is pure joy to ride.

Phase II is to make this Disc Trucker into a self-supported touring machine with racks, bags etc. More to follow.

Ken Whittaker

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Fork, Seatpost and Saddle

Disc Trucker with Uncut Steering Tube

Cutting the steering column (top of fork) is the task I dread the most on a bicycle build. It’s not because it’s difficult. It is because whatever length I decide on now, it seems will be too short later. I’ve also observed a direct correlation between my age and my desired handlebar height. The older I get, the higher I like my handlebars.

Therefore, with this build I’m not cutting the steering column, instead I’m using spacers above the stem. That way I can dial in the height of the handlebar by moving a spacer from above the stem to below it to raise the handlebars. In addition, the extra column above the stem gives me a place to mount my GoPro camera. Only time will tell how well this idea will work.

I also installed the seatpost and saddle. Yes, those are copper rivets in the seat. If you have never tried a Brooks saddle, I highly recommend that you do. They may not look like it but they are the most comfortable saddle made once you break it in.

Brooks Saddle

Ken Whittaker

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Shimano FD M-771 Front Derailleur Again

Shimano XT FD-M771

The replacement front derailleur was finally delivered today. As I mentioned earlier, I added a master link to the chain so it was a snap to break the chain and thread it through the derailleur. Since cables may stretch but never shrink, it is always a good idea to make sure the barrel adjusters are run in tight and then back them off about a ¼ turn before attaching the cables. I must admit that I have installed new cables on a bike without running the barrel adjusters only to find that when the new cables stretched, I couldn’t take up the slack because I forgot to do this step.

With the brake and derailleur cables completed I trimmed them down, soldered the ends to prevent fraying and added end caps. I know soldering the ends of the cables sounds like overkill since I also put end caps on the cables. But this is a touring bike that may need to be adjusted alongside the road or trail miles from anywhere and the last thing I want is a frayed cable.

The Park Tool website does a great job on how to install a front derailleur.

Ken Whittaker

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Shimano RD M-771 Rear Derailleur

Shimano XT RD-M771 without Barrel Adjuster

I just realized that my Shimano RD M-771 rear derailleur doesn’t have a cable barrel adjuster. This feature is standard on road and older mountain bike derailleurs but has been removed on mountain bikes over the past few years by Shimano. This is not a good idea in my opinion. While there is a rear derailleur cable adjuster on the bike frame for making fine adjustments while riding, I really can’t see any reason for not having one on the rear derailleur. I think most riders would prefer to adjust their rear derailleur at the back of the bike where they can see the derailleur, gear cluster and chain while they are making adjustments. Since I am waiting for parts anyway, this gives me the opportunity to modified my derailleur and add the missing cable adjuster. It may not be the most elegant solution but it should work just fine.

Just the thought of adjusting a bicycle derailleur strikes fear in the hearts of many riders. And the rear derailleur is perhaps the most feared. It is generally viewed as a task that can only be performed by a qualified bicycle mechanic at the local bicycle shop. In reality, it’s not all that difficult. Once you understand how derailleurs work it becomes a relatively easy task. In fact, I find that once I’ve set the limit screws on the derailleur the job is 95% complete. All that is left is attaching the cable and making fine adjustments as needed. As always, Park Tool’s website is a great place to find help on this subject.

Shimano RD M-771 Rear Derailleur with Barrel Adjuster Added

Ken Whittaker

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Chain & Master Link

Master Link

Once the new front derailleur is mounted, I can install the chain. I always add a master link to the chain because it simplifies chain removal for cleaning and servicing. I’ve found that a master link pays for itself over replacement pins if I need to remove a chain just a few times. I even carry a master link in my patch kit just in case I break a chain on the road. However, it takes a little practice to be able to remove a chain by hand.

For this build, I used Master Link Pliers to open and close the master link and a Chain Hook to hold the chain together while working on it. Rarely is a chain the right size out of the box and must be sized for the bike. Using the old chain as a guide is not recommend if you’re replacing a stretched chain from use. There again the Park Tool’s website does a wonderful job on installing a chain.

Tip: A master link, master link pliers and a chain hook make this job much easier.

Master Link Pliers

Ken Whittaker

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Shimano Deore XT M771 Front & Rear Derailleur

Shimano XT RD-M771

The shim for the front derailleur arrived today, so I was able to mount the front and rear derailleurs and thread the chain through them. Unfortunately, the front derailleur I have is a top pull and I need a bottom pull derailleur for this frame.

Luckily, this bike build is with the older 3×9 Shimano Deore XT M771 derailleurs so I can pick up a replacement at a considerable discount. After installing the Shimano Deore XT 771 rear derailleur, I am on hold again until the new front derailleur arrives.

In the meantime, I’ve moved on to running the derailleur’s housings and cables. While I can’t complete this, I’ve adjusted the rear derailleur limiting screws and I’ll be ready to complete the installation once the replacement arrives.

Shimano XT FD-M771

Ken Whittaker

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Wheels, Tubes, Tires

Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack

My focus today was wheels, tubes and tires. It seems tires are getting harder to mount or my hands are getting weaker. There was a time when I could mount bicycle tires without any tools, but not anymore. This job might be a little harder because I am using tubes with a Shimano XT M775 GH Disc wheelset with Shimano XT M775 Tubeless Rims. I would use tubeless tires but I just haven’t found suitable 26” tubeless touring tires yet. As a result, I am using tubes with 26” x 1.75″ Continental Tour Ride tires.

If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, I highly recommend the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack for mounting bicycle tires. Pick one up at your local bike shop. If they don’t have them, you can get the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack on Amazon.

If you are unsure on how to use it, check this YouTube video out.

Tip: If your struggling to mount your tires pick up a Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack.

Ken Whittaker

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Brake Cables

In-line Brake Cabling

Today’s project is brake cabling. The interrupt brake levers (AKA cross top or In-line brake levers) are sometimes confused with the old safety levers of yesteryear. They are not safety levers. These are simply another set of levers installed between the brake calipers and the drop levers that allow the rider to activate the brakes with both levers.

I know this is confusing. However, check out Park Tool’s website. They do a good job of explaining the installation of this type of brake levers.

Tip: While you can cut brake cable housings and cables with a variety of tools, a good set of quality cable and housing cutters will make life a lot easier. On the other hand, a cable stretcher tool is a nice-to-have tool but not necessary.

Tip: I also use a grinder and or file to eliminate burs and ensure smooth ends on my housings.

Ken Whittaker

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