Tim Fairbrother and his Brother Cycles Big Bro
Tim Fairbrother’s custom Brother Cycles Big Bro features a fantastic group of high quality components and bags sourced out from a variety of manufacturers. Tim, a bicycle mechanic by trade, left the UK over 10 years ago for British Columbia. We meet up for a quick overnighter to learn more about his Big Bro and to get some tips on spring bike maintenance…
I’ve been working with Tim Fairbrother for a few months now at a bike shop in British Columbia, and it’s clear we were destined to hit it off. Perhaps it’s our shared appreciation for good quality bike parts and well executed Instagram accounts, or just maybe it’s our dry, often sarcastic humour that broke the ice. In any case, Tim’s a good guy, an even better mechanic, and his custom built Brother Cycles Big Bro is a definite head turner. Along with some of Tim’s friends, we snuck in a quick spring overnighter to Golden Ears Provincial Park, which happens to be a short ride from where we work. I asked Tim a few questions about himself, his bike, and some bike maintenance tips that could be useful for those getting ready for their first bikepacking trip of the season.
How long have you been a bike mechanic? How’d you get started?
I started in the industry in the early 2000s. I kind of stumbled upon it, really. I had recently moved to London and was looking for work. I saw a sign in a bike shop window for a sales person. I’ve always had a keen interest in bikes passed down to me from my older brother. I had worked on and built my own, and knew a little so decided to apply. I started a couple of days after my brief interview. I spent the first week on the sales floor attempting to sell bikes before they decided to move me to the workshop, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.
Tell us more about your hometown and your move to Canada.
I’m originally from a small village called Forest Row on the edge of Ash Down Forest in the South East of England. I moved to Canada nearly seven years ago now (time flies) with just a bag of clothes and a bike. I first came to Canada in 2011 as my best friend had moved out a couple of years earlier and I decided to pay him a visit. During that trip I met the woman of my dreams (now my wife) and fell in love with the country and the outdoor lifestyle it offers. It took some leg work to get out here, but after many failed attempts I found a bike shop owner willing to sponsor me to come out and work. The rest is history, I’ve been a permanent resident for four years and I’m currently in the middle of applying for my citizenship. I now live in Maple Ridge, BC, roughly 40 minutes outside Vancouver, surrounded by lakes, rivers, mountains and seemingly endless trails and gravel roads. I couldn’t be happier.
How long have you had the Big Bro and what led you to it in the first place?
I brought the Big Bro in 2016. I owned a Brother Cycles Kepler beforehand, which was an awesome bike, but I wanted something a little more off-road capable. The Big Bro ticked all the right boxes.
Your Big Bro features an impressive array of parts. Care to give us a rundown on the build and why certain components were used?
I planned for it to be my dream build and I knew exactly what parts I wanted to use. I wanted keep it looking classic, but durability was also super important. Of course, I wanted it to be comfortable too. The DT 350 hubs are superb and I run them on all my bikes. They’re easy to service and upgrade and there’s very little to go wrong. I’ve always love Paul components (I mean, who doesn’t?) as they’re beautifully made, bombproof, and the Klamper brakes being completely rebuildable just appealed to me. The White Industries MR 30 crank really caught my eye since it’s light, very stiff, and stunning looking! I wanted to run a 30mm axle on my crank so the introduction of the BSA30 bottom brackets in my opinion are perfect, especially for a bigger guy like myself. I’ve run Thomson parts for years, they kind of speak for themselves. The Ti bar was a bit of an impulse buy. I picked it up used and it was worth every penny. The combination of Ti, the sweep of the bar, and the ESI ergo grips are unbelievably comfortable.
- Frame / Fork2016 Brother Cycles Big Bro
- HeadsetChris King
- CranksWhite Industries MR 30
- ChainringWhite Industries TSR 32T
- CassetteSram Eagle XX1
- ChainSram Eagle
- HandlebarsThomson MTB Ti
- StemThomson Elite
- SeatpostThomson Elite
- SaddleFabric Scoop
- GripsESI Fit CR
- PedalsCrank Brothers Stamps
- ShifterSram Eagle XX1
- BrakesPaul Components Klampers
- Brake LeversPaul Components Love Levers
- Front HubDT Swiss 350
- Rear HubDT Swiss 350
- RimsVelocity Blunt SS 29er
- TiresMaxxis Ikon 29 x 2.2″
- OtherKing Cage Many Things Cage
Tell about your bikepacking bags.
I looked at a bunch of different brands, but ended up going with Oveja Negra initially. As a company they really stood out to me and they make some fantastic products to boot, winning the 2019 Wright Award just goes to show that! The Porcelain Rocket frame bag was a recent purchase. I’d been running a half pack for a while but needed something with more volume. It’s such a great bag, fully waterproof with a roll top and the thing is cavernous, especially in the XL size (benefits of riding such a large frame). It fits like a custom bag. From a bag/packing point of view, I feel like it’s dialed. I can carry everything I need for a multi-day trip and have room left over for a few extra luxuries.
As a mechanic, any recommendations for important spring tuneups that our readers should consider? What’s being overlooked these days?
This is a tough question. All bikes benefit from a thorough annual service, but how detailed really depends on how much service they see over the course of the year, the mileage, and the conditions they’re ridden in.
I try to stay on top of things with my personal bikes. I try and keep them as clean as possible, as making sure I get into all the nooks and crannies allows me to inspect my frames and wheels for any damage/cracks. I keep track of my mileage/hours riding and check my chain wear regularly. This is not as easy on Eagle system as standard chain tools don’t work. At the start of the season I give them a once over. I check and torque all fasteners, I inspect shift cables and housing, making sure they are in good shape – no corrosion and the housing hasn’t blow out – same with the brake cables. If you’re running hydraulic brake systems, a flush and a piston clean will do wonders, new pads too if needed.
I check all bearings, making sure they are still running smooth. Bottom bracket, headset, hubs. If they are running rough I will replace them. Hubs will get an overhaul if needed, internals will get cleaned and some fresh grease. I’ll check my spoke tensions to making sure they are even and where they are supposed to be, which is very important when carrying weight. As far as things that get overlooked, probably suspension and dropper posts. Most people aren’t aware of their service intervals. Definitely read through the owner’s manuals and do your best on getting the work done when needed, it will save you money in the long run for sure.
What kind of tool / repair kit do you carry while bikepacking?
My tool kit is probably quite generic to be honest, but it does seem to be forever evolving. I use a Yanco Ramblin’ Roll as my tool roll. I can squeeze most things in there. I try to have all bases covered when it come to tools and parts, but what I carry changes depending on where I’m going and for how long. Touch wood, I have never had any major mechanical during a trip.
My kit consists of the following :
- Spare Tube
- Shift and Brake Cables
- Zip Ties
- Electrical tape
- Multitool / Chain tool
- Valve Core Tool + Spare Valve Cores
- Dynaplug Micro Pro
- Tire Patches
- Traditional flat fix kit
- Piece of chain
- Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers
- Spare Quick Links
- CO2 Cartridge
- Small Pump
Lastly, what do you have planned for the summer?
This is the first year that I have three-day weekends (super lucky to have this working in a bike shop), so I’m planning on making the most of them over the summer months. Other than the odd local overnighter, I have a few things planned but nothing set in stone right now. I’m hoping to head out to the Sooke Potholes at some point for a long weekend. I have a Sunshine Coast trip in the pipeline and hopefully going to get HBC Brigade Trail tackled.