This is it - my latest personal build. There’s still a few tweaks to come - like a more posture-appropriate saddle, but what you see here is essentially the final product. Everything I’ve learned and experimented with over the past few years culminates in this bike. This is the latest in a series of “antler bikes” I’ve been building using this frame, so-called because of their handlebars, which loosely resemble deer antlers. This ride has been steadily evolving from tame comfort cruiser to hardcore urban monster over the years. For anyone interested, what follows is a rather long-winded history of how this - the bike that got me back on two wheels after spinal surgery - has evolved into what it is today.
The first in the antler series was the Jackalope - a mostly stock 2008 Schwinn Sierra GS with a few modifications - most notably the aforementioned bars, achieved by slipping an old pair of mountain-bike bar-ends into the bends of cruiser bars. The Jackalope’s bars were much higher-rise (and less swept) than those I use now, but the effect was similar. This bike was so-named because of these bars - and because of its otherwise small stature. It looked like a tiny rabbit with giant antlers - a Jackalope. This sprightly bunny of myth was a fun little ride - and excellently did the job of rehabilitating my injured spine - but I wanted more. The suspension was terrible, and very squirrelly in tight turns. The low-tech 7-speed setup was reliable, but limited. The wheels, pulled from an early-90’s racing MTB, were aging and brittle. It was time for the next step.
That next step came in the form of the Buffalope: a cartoonishly bomb-proof cruiser, and the origin of my friend’s “strong cruiser” designation. If a Jackalope is a jackrabbit mixed with an antelope, then a Buffalope is one of those mixed with a bison. The dainty suntour throwaway fork was replaced with a Bomber 22-R, which added at least 20mm to the travel, and had a much more forward-swept rake. This significantly raised the bars and stretched the wheelbase of the bike, dramatically effecting the feel and handling. The cheap-o crank was replaced with Deore XT with extra long crank arms for leverage. (Too long, actually.) The front v-brakes were replaced with an Avid BB5 disc brake, and both wheels were replaced with much sturdier, wider downhill Rhyno Lites. The rear mech was replaced with a super-heavy-duty Shimano Saint with 10mm steel through-axle - paired with its own hub. The front wheel was an even wider XL version with 36 spokes. Tires were the ultra-heavy Michelin Pilot City Max - the most bulletproof tires I’ve ever used. Needless to say, while this monster could smash through a pile of timber with impunity, it wasn’t exactly light on its feet. Really, its feet - sure as they were - felt more like sandbags. And so, I sought something much lighter, and faster.
That’s when I built the ZUM - basically my dream bike for a few years. Think super solid, super light mountain frame with all road components. It was a very sweet ride, but the posture just didn’t work for my spine - so I took all the sweet roadie and cyclocross stuff from it, and put it on my good ol’ Sierra frame - and took it a little farther.
This brings us to now. Keeping with the antler theme, (and making a small reference to one of my favorite bourbons) I decided to call this bike The Stag. I ditched all the downhill equipment in favor of lighter, faster road and cyclocross gear. 26” x 1.75” bear-paws gave way to 700c x 28mm roller-blades. (More specifically, the super-awesome but discontinued Mavic Speed-City wheel set - designed for the very purpose of converting a 26” mountain bike into a 700c city speedster.) The 100mm 22-R fork gave way to an 80mm Corsa - which aside from being lighter and providing a tighter wheelbase, has the awesome feature of remote lockout. (That is, you can push a button and the fork firms-up. Press another button, and it goes squishy again. Super cool, and useful for the ever-changing urban environment full of climbs, descents, and rubble.) A v-brake and a BB5 gave way to a pair of BB7’s - with no small help from Brake Therapy. There are a few things that make this build unusual, and one of them is this excellent rear disc-brake adapter. Supporting itself on the axle and v-brake boss, this adapter holds disc calipers as if they were attached to the frame.
Using rear disc brakes is what allowed the fully-functional conversion to 700c, as I liked this option more than trying to find one of Mavic’s out-of-production v-brake adapters. This ride also now features a short travel Thudbuster - the most high-tech suspension seat-post out there. The thing is fantastic - it dampens vibrations, and really helps cut out the surprise knocks for my sensitive upper spine. It manages to do all this without making the ride squishy - hats off to Cane Creek for that one.
Another unusual feature of this bike is that the brakes are accessible from both points on the antler bars. I’ve been using the antler bar setup for many years now, but I’ve only just recently been able to implement my long-standing plan of adding levers to the bottom hand-position. There were two tricks to doing this:
First, I had to find a way to make two levers communicate smoothly with one brake - and after a couple years of searching and emailing machinist workshops in Canada, I did find it. Problem Solvers has had a “cable doubler” for years - a device that takes one pulled cable and makes it two - suitable for tandems or polo bikes. More recently, they created a version that takes either of two pulled cables and makes it into one - and to my knowledge, this is the only part capable of this that’s actually sold on the market. In case you’re wondering, they work flawlessly - and the engineering behind them is quite cool.
The second trick to having brakes on the lower-half of my antlers was finding a pair of levers that would actually fit. The bar-ends I use for the antlers are the same diameter as a normal handlebar, but they have a significant bulge in the middle for ergonomics. This means the lever had to have a hinged clamp instead of a normal one - and since I was using the mountain version of the BB7’s, it also had to be long-pull. Preferably, I wanted a fairly small lever. It took me over two years to find the right lever, as almost none on the market meet all those criteria. Paul Components make some very cool single-finger levers - but I just can’t justify spending $160+ on two tiny brake levers. I had just about given up when I found the Tektro Sabres - at $14 a pair. They work like a charm, and look pretty cool, too.
This post is getting long-winded, but I think I’ve saved the best for last. Gone is the brutish Saint / XT gruppo, replaced with a lightweight full road setup. There’s a Sora crank and front mech for budgetary reasons - they were the last parts to be ordered and the project was already getting expensive. Part of why is what I put on the back: 9-speed Ultegra SL with custom jockey wheels. And the brains behind this gorgeous derailleur? Probably the most opulent part on the whole bike: Shimano XTR Dual Control levers - for mechanical brakes. The best flat-bar STI’s ever made - and an unusual variant thereof. Absolutely perfect for my build, and completely sublime to operate.
What all that adds up to is a reasonably-light, comfortable bike that is laid-back and predictable - until you decide to tear through urban traffic, back-alleys, or mountain descents at 40+ miles per hour. It does that rather well, too. I can get aero when I want to haul it, or sit straight up when I want to give my back a rest. And best of all - I can finally keep up with my roadie buddies again.
I think it’s safe to say that this is the most boss Schwinn Sierra ever to hit the road.