Utility bike re-build around S&G Muddy Fox frame

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  • After converting a Dawes Galaxy to a utility / city / camping bike a few years ago, I gradually realised the geometry was all wrong, so swapped things over to a 90s Marin Bear Valley frame, which got different bars (VO Tourist instead of Nitto Albatross) and eventually an Alfine rear wheel, which I got secondhand. Despite 26" wheels feeling better for what I wanted, I gradually realised (again) that something wasn't right with the reach and no amount of faffing with saddles and stems sorted it, so I looked for something else.

    Anyway, I decided I wanted to stay with 26" wheels, partly cos I had the Alfine already, but to look out for an older MTB frame - in particular one with a three-piece fork, as I got a bit obsessed with them on MTBs, but they're pretty hard to find. I was eventually offered a nice but pretty knackered-looking 1986 S&G Muddy Fox Explorer for £30, so I bought that. Its top tube is a little longer, but overall geometry is also much more relaxed. My thinking is that it'll make something similar to, but cheaper and possibly even better built that a Surly LHT.

    When I got the frame, I realised that the chainstay bridge was totally shot (the guy who had sold it to me was upfront about this and all other shortcomings - he was really helpful in general); also that the frame only had one set of bottle braze ons. I rang around locally (Norwich) and got a couple of wildly different quotes for the bottle braze ons - one bloke quoted £40 a set, which seemed really expensive and not worth my while; another quoted £10, so I went with him - Angus Taylor of Taylor Made Bikes. He was great.

    Anyway, to cut to the chase, after faffing around for most of the weekend fashioning DIY headset crown removal tools out of copper piping and failing miserably to remove the rest of the headset, I took it to my LBS (possibly the best in the world - the reincarnation of much-missed Specialised Cycles in Norwich in the form of Andy Panks' AP Cycles) and he did it for me in minutes.

    I spread the rear triangle yesterday from 126 to 135mm using the threaded rod 'n' bolts method, which worked a treat. Now off to the powder coater to get it painted. Think I'm going for RAL 5021 but might change my mind mid-journey. Here's what it looked like in its former life.

    Going to build up with similar components to my last build but wondering about (a) trying this thumbshifter in place of the regular Alfine one and (b) possibly mounting my dynamo front light on the side rather than front of the Nitto campee front rack, like this though with the regular bracket for that purpose as I'm not cool enough to be able to fashion one out of an old chainring. Does anyone have any experience of using the Microshift Alfine shifter?

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  • New braze ons

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  • Pleased with the powder coat. They masked everything very efficiently and threads are super clean now. Here's the frame, for anyone who's interested. RAL 5021, with clearcoat as they didn't have gloss powder in the end.

    I've now built it up - pics to come.

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  • Looking good!

  • Nice project, don't know how I missed the start but looking forward to seeing it built up.

  • thanks both of you! Start was a bit rambling and there was a big pause, so that might be why...

  • I meant to post it bit by bit but ended up just doing it. Here are some pics of the final (so far) build. I re-used most bits from my previous build but cleaned them all up. Some were secondhand bits I had lying around but weren't on the other bike. New bits were just mudguards; seat post (different diameter to before);VO cork grips (old ones destroyed in disassembly); BB; cables and outers; brake pads, that kind of thing.

    I transferred my old tyres over but realised they were cracked badly (seems to be common with Paselas - those were the second pair I had after sending the first back, and the same has happened again despite being under 2yrs old). Plus, they made it look a bit too precious, I thought. So I went nuts and got some really meaty Marathon Mondials. Not totally sure what I think of them but I took it out for an overnight camp with a friend after work last week, and they rolled surprisingly nicely.

    I was going to see about getting a half link for my chain and doing away with the chain tensioner, but so far haven't. I managed to salvage the original headset and pressed it myself. Easy really with a home-made tool via a youtube video but the first time I'd done it, so I was pleased with myself...

    Anyway, so far I'm pleased with it. The colour is a bit of a shock - once built up it looks a bit too happy or pastelly or something - but I think that'll pass.

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  • I like this... only critical point. Is the rear rack should be silver.
    Looks like it would be fun to ride.

  • Thanks, and you're totally right. I was going to order a silver one but didn't have the funds. Figured I'd use this for now and get one as soon as i can. Really the rims could do with being silver too...
    I did get a couple of nice King bottle cages in stainless steel which look just right, though.

  • That fork crown is great.

    I reckon you might regret didn't put brazeons for front racks and lamp bracket before painting.

    But nonetheless it's goddamned excellent!

  • Also ... for proper dyno cabling tidiness, you could try using the sticky backed Di2 cable sleeves things, they've worked a treat on my Armchair Tourer.

  • @Skülly hm, you're probably right about the brazeons - at least the fork blade ones. Didn't cross my mind at the time and while I'm not so fussed about the lamp, rack brazeons would've been good. Much neater than P clips. I guess I might swap the rack for one that mounts to the canti bosses at some point if I'm bothered.

    • thanks for the cable sleeves tip. Sounds good; will look into it. Really hate cable ties. I did see this v nice build which appeared to partly use what looked like wrapped wire (and a chainstay protector made from copper tubing) but rushed to get the lamp wired up in the end. Opted to wind it around the brake cable along the top tube which I figured looks slightly better than cable ties but would be nice to sort it. cheers!
  • Get some strong oven cleaner on the rear rack, it should strip the black anodising. Haven't done it myself but plenty on here have used it on cranks etc.
    It will eventually eat through aluminium if left to so be careful

  • aha, neat tip, thanks! Would you then coat the aluminium in some way or leave it raw?

  • Soz didn't want to be a party pooper - it's a RAD bike.

    Try the Di2 cables dude, it's so pleasing to sort it. I rode with cable ties & tatty winding for ages, but such a revelation to do the cabling nicely! For the rear cable, for instance, where you jump fom fork to frame (and need some slack for turning) if you wind that section of cable flat and tight onto a thin allen key or something, you can get a nice phone-cable coil. Also good for jumping gaps like from mudguard to rack.

    I stripped a alu rack recently (using brute force & abrasion) and sealed it with a coat of varnish. Seems to have stopped alu oxide forming for now.

  • No not at all... it's good to have tips, and that was one thing in particular I was unhappy about. What would you do on the top tube, though? Stick the Di2 cable sheath thing to the tube, or piggy back on the brake cable outer?

  • Thats really nice. I'm going to have to find myself a steel MTB frame now.

  • Lovely job on this; looks really smart. I can't imagine those marathon mondials are particularly plush though - what is the ride quality like with them fitted?

  • Thanks @tallsam @sylem - the Mondials roll better than I'd expected. Too early to tell for sure but on the two decent-ish rides I've done so far it felt as though the relative weight penalty over the Panaracer Paselas I used to have was cancelled out by the feeling of stability and comfort. I was fully loaded though so will have to see how it feels day to day. Panaracer are sending me some replacement tyres for the ones that cracked so I always have the option to go back, but I feel like I might like the Mondials - they'd go anywhere, for sure.

  • I send my rear light cable down the down tube, under the BB, into the mudguard, round the inside, back out near the light.

    I'd use the di2 strips under the top tube. I just like having no loopy/twisting slack bits of cable around.

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Utility bike re-build around S&G Muddy Fox frame

Posted by Avatar for adam77 @adam77