Miles’ Why Cycles S7 Dream Build: Why Not?
Having moved into a van full time and with space at a premium, Miles decided to build one bike to rule them all: A Why Cycles S7 paired with We Are One Composites’ new Convert wheels, bar, and stem, a sprinkling of green Wolftooth Components bits, and a modified version of The People’s Liberation Drivetrain. Check out all the details here, including photos and a complete component list…
Emily and I have recently moved into a converted cargo van as our full-time residence, and before we get into the logistics of how we shower and where we go to the toilet, let’s dive deep into the real van life dilemma—only having space for three bikes under our raised platform bed. Right off the bat, I’m losing (though not really a loss at all) one spot to Emily’s mountain bike, and a second is reserved for review bikes, leaving me with one lonely spot for a personal bike. I could have offset the costs of the expensive DIY conversion by holding on to my two-year-old Surly Karate Monkey, but after getting my first taste of titanium last summer, I had a new addiction to satisfy.
For me, a good chunk of last summer was spent meeting various bag makers, industry folks, and the people who bring so much to the bikepacking community. It was overwhelming how friendly and humble everyone was, whether it was a planned site visit or I was just dropping in. The same can be said for everyone who attended last year’s Bikepacking Summit in Gunnison, Colorado, where I met Chris Reichel. He’s the Why Cycles marketing guy and he who lured me in with his charm, great attitude, and titanium. The Why S7 was already partially on my radar since Ben Handrich rode one to tackle the Oregon Timber Trail last summer. It’s got all the curves, and plenty of great features that lend themselves well to loaded bikepacking. Plus, it’s a 27.5+ hardtail, a setup I’ve become particularly fond of. So, I said “why not” and purchased a large S7 frame this winter and started my dream build. I’ll add that this was also my first custom build from the frame up, a big deal for me, and it was a very special experience.
The components I selected come in part from previous experiences, as well as conversations I’ve had with mechanics at the shop where I’ve been working. Thanks to Eric, Tim, and Dan, the gentleman responsible for the build itself, I can say that I’m extremely confident in every aspect of this bike. Skyler Des Roches was also a go-to resource for drivetrain related questions, and helped me piece together a modified version of his People’s Liberation Drivetrain, which uses some Shimano XT parts with a sprinkle of high-end glamour. Truthfully, I picked a lot of people’s brains when selecting the various bits that make up this build; a shoutout goes out to everyone who assisted me.
The Big Picture
As mentioned above, I’ve been fairly devoted to the 27.5+ hardtail platform over the past few years. After trading my Surly Krampus in for a new Karate Monkey, a loss I’ll likely never get over, I appreciated the nimbleness that the smaller 27.5” wheels offered on technical singletrack and steep descents—especially when compared to the 29+ Krampus. Although I’m eager to try the S7 with a wide trail 29er wheelset at some point, I feel the hoops I’ve chosen will get me into some great trouble this summer. As recommended by Why Cycles, I’m running a Fox 34 Performance Elite with 130mm of travel up front, which suits my medium-aggressive riding style and the demands of most singletrack-focused bikepacking routes out there. I’ve also been running a PNW Components Bachelor dropper post with a matching Loam Lever since day one, which very well might be the best dropper combination I’ve had the pleasure of using. The PNW Loam Lever was also my personal favourite in our recent Artisan Dropper Post Lever Shooutout.
- Frame: Why Cycles S7 (large) 148x12mm rear dropout
- Fork: Fox 34 Performance Elite (130mm)
- Headset: Wolftooth Components IS 42 / 52
- Handlebar: We Are One Composites Da Bar
- Stem: We Are One Composites Da Stem (45mm)
- Seatpost: PNW Components Bachelor Dropper (31.6, 170mm)
- Dropper Lever: PNW Loam Lever
- Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17
- Grips: Ergon GA3
- Brakes: Shimano ZEE w/ 180mm rotors
Although it wasn’t a top priority, I wanted to keep the weight down where I could. Running plus tires meant that the wheels were a good place to start to minimize rotational weight. After being introduced to British Columbia-based manufacturer We Are One and their made-in-Canada line of carbon wheels, the decision was easy. We Are One’s new Revolution lineup includes the Convert, a 35mm internal width rim designed specifically for 2.5 – 3.0” tires, falling within the enduro/all-mountain category of riding, which is often nicely aligned with bikepacking, too. The Converts come built up with Industry Nine’s Hydra hubs, by default, and are available in both 27.5″ and 29″ diameters. I stopped by We Are One’s manufacturing facility in Kamloops this spring to learn more about their company and products; find my first impressions on both the Convert wheels and Da Package bar and stem at the site visit article.
As for tires, I initially tried running a set of 27.5 x 3.0″ Teravail Coronados, which ended up measuring closer to 3.5″ on these rims. Although there was enough clearance in the fork, things were a bit too close for my liking in the rear stays. I opted to swap them for the semi-slick 27.5 x 2.8″ Teravail Cumberlands, which feature a fast rolling centre tread accompanied by massive side knobs. The combo make them a great option for mixed surface bikepacking, although I may end up adding a more aggressive tire in the front.
- Rims: We Are One Composites Convert
- Hubs: Industry Nine Hydra
- Spokes: Sapim Race
- Axles: Wolftooth Components
- Tires: Teravail Cumberland 27.5×2.8
A Nod To The Mechanics
The build itself took place at the bike shop where I’ve been working in Port Coquitlam, BC. Considering the quality of components I gathered up and the attention to detail a bike like this deserves, Dan O’Connell (@Dano604) takes all the credit for making it happen. Not only did Dan assist with figuring out certain component specs I needed, he also executed the build itself with an attention to detail that is well worth the money. Although I’m always learning new skills myself and getting more comfortable maintaining my bikes on the road, I realize the value of having professional mechanics take the reins on certain projects. This was definitely one of them.
A good mechanic will have conversations with you before, during, and after the build to ensure everything is exactly how you want it. For Dan and me, this meant considering singletrack-heavy bikepacking as my focus for the bike, which can have an influence on suspension setup, the position of handlebar controls, and the length of housing and hoses. It also means that when I return to the shop this winter, Dan will be able to take another look at the bike and see what’s wearing fastest and whether anything needs to be addressed. Thanks, Dan!
Drivetrain & More
As mentioned earlier, I enlisted Skyler’s expertise to design a slightly upgraded version of the People’s Liberation Drivetrain. Around that time, Shimano XT 12-speed was also about to be released, which might be the ultimate drivetrain for XT lovers everywhere, but wasn’t available to me. I ended up using an XT shifter and derailleur alongside SRAM’s X01 11-42 cassette and Wolftooth’s GCX 46T Cog. Titanium goes well with even more titanium, so some Cane Creek eeWings cranks paired with a Wolftooth CAMO spider and stainless steel ring provide all the stiffness and durability I could ever need—plus the whole package is delightfully lightweight. Ultra smooth shifting and spinning was achieved by using Jagwire’s Elite Sealed shifting kit, recently updated to provide better long-term durability than the previous version, plus a Kogel bottom bracket and derailleur pulleys.
- Bottom Bracket: Kogel w/ Cross Seals
- Crank: Cane Creek eeWings
- Chainring: Wolftooth CAMO w/ 28T Stainless Steel Ring
- Chain: KMC X11 DLC
- Cassette: SRAM X01 11-42 w/ Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog
- Shifter: Shimano XT 11-Speed
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT w/ Kogel Speed Pulleys
- Bottle Cage: Widefoot LiterCage
- Pedals: Shimano XTR
So, How Does it Ride?
The Why S7 has proven to be exceptionally stable feeling on every trail I’ve ridden so far, and that’s partly why I love it. Its 67.5 degree head tube angle is noticeably more slack than that of my previous Karate Monkey, making it shine on steep descents and chunky trails. It took a little bit of tweaking to dial it to my preference for climbing, which is expected considering its longer cockpit. I think I’ve now found a sweet spot where I can climb 95% of what is in front of me and descend anything that doesn’t have the potential to brake my bones. And best of all, that doesn’t seem to change, whether I’m loaded up for bikepacking or riding unloaded on shorter day rides, which isn’t always the case for bikepacking-friendly hardtails.
Although Why’s titanium is primarily responsible for the bike’s overall comfort, I think We Are One’s carbon bar and the Ergon grips I’m using do a lot to add to it as well. I’m also looking into options for adding more hand positions with small bar ends for longer trips. I’ll also add that the Fox 34 Performance Elite fork, with 130mm of travel, has been buttery smooth since the day I got it. The latest fork also allows for more adjustment than I’m used to, so it gives me room to tinker between rides.
The Why S7 has proven to be an incredibly versatile machine, one that I have nothing but positive things to say about. I think my thoughts on the bike align well with TJ’s recent Reader’s Rig article, which showcases the bike’s ability to tackle pretty much anything that is thrown at it, with a big focus on technical singletrack. It’s nice knowing that no matter what kind of trailhead I roll up to, I’ve definitely got the right bike for the job.
Bonus: The Van
The other part of the dream build? The van. All DIY thanks to many hours on youtube and browsing various blogs online, and a long winter converting it into a full-time home on wheels. The garage is the most important part, providing a safe storage place for up to three bikes and a surplus of gear storage on the neighbouring gear slide, under the bed, and anywhere else I can stuff things. I’ll be travelling throughout the eastern United States, heading south, this summer – hopefully making it to the Bikepacking Summit in Georgia. Come say hi and check it out in person. I’ll make you a tea.
For those interested, it’s a 2018 Ford Transit high-roof, long but not extended. My water pump, LED lights, and other internal electronics are powered by a 250W solar panel on the roof and a 275-amp-hour battery bank. The van is insulated well, thanks to sheep wool from Havelock Wool – a no-brainer for anyone thinking about living in a small space. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below, or simply shoot me a message.