Category Archives: Bike Building

Santa Cruz Chameleon-off Gets a Renthal Cockpit

Although I didn’t get round to finishing putting my Rohloff on the Santa Cruz Chameleon I did make one last modification before heading to the US. As usual it involved bargain parts off eBay. The parts in question came from Renthal, I think you will agree the results look pretty dam sexy. Yeah the Renthal bars are heavy, but the stem is superlight which balances it out a bit and the whole package looks so cool.

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Santa Cruz Chameleon + Rohloff = Chameleon-off

For my off-road tour in 2011 I had my Rohloff mounted on an Orange P7 frame which was a bargain from eBay (mostly because its neon pink). Part of the reason I was looking for a P7 was because I had recently purchased the P7 Rohloff specific dropouts for pretty much nothing. It’s a common frame in the UK (for good reason) so generally they don’t fetch too much secondhand, also they are made from steel which I like.  The P7 worked really with the Rohloff however changing the chain tension was a bit of a faff due to the sliding dropouts. I also fancied getting a bigger frame so I could run a shorter stem with a burlier front end as this would give me lots more confidence on rough trails.

My neon pink Orange P7 Rohloff at Coed-Y-Brenin

My neon pink Orange P7 Rohloff at Coed-Y-Brenin

To get round the chain tensioning problem there was really only one solution, a frame with an eccentric bottom bracket. When you start looking for a long travel hardtrail frame with an eccentric bottom bracket it doesn’t take long before you realise the list is pretty damn short. The two on mine were a Santa Cruz Chameleon and a Chumba HX1. The Chumba was a great option, it looks awesome and is pretty cheap so I could have bought one new (very unusual for me as i’m such a cheapskate). There is a really nice example with a Rohloff here: Chumba HX1 Rohloff . The problem was that there is only one outlet for them in the UK and they had sold out of large frames. After some more internet searching I happened across a burly Santa Cruz Chameleon in Switzerland with a Rohloff  and was smitten.

Swiss Santa Cruz Chameleon with Rohloff from:

I kept my eyes peeled and eventually managed to grab a nice green example for a good price. My forks took a bit of a hammering during the off-road tour and it wasn’t really worth spending money getting them serviced. I decided that it would be more sensible to put the money towards a newer (still secondhand) pair of 20mm bolt trough forks and a bolt through front wheel to stiffen the front end up for that proper hardcore hardtail feel.

Santa Cruz Chameleon-off starts to take shape

Santa Cruz Chameleon-off starts to take shape

I started building her up with my Rohloff in the summer however after hitting a number snags I never got round to completing the build before moving to the US. The first issue was changing the axle plate on my Rohloff, I will post about this separately as it’s a common problem with a ballsy solution. This delayed me for a while. There are a number of solutions for running a Rohloff on a frame that isn’t designed to have one. The guy in Switzerland used a Rohloff speedbone which mounts on to the outside of the disc brake mount with a bar to stop the hub spinning. I think this is a bit of a clumsy solution for a company that produces such a clever highly engineered hub. The method I decided that I would use is the much neater and far more ingenious monkey bone adaptor (more about this in another post later). There were lots of other little problems such as sorting out the Rohloff cable routing on a frame that isn’t designed to hold one. This doesn’t sound like a big thing but correct and secure cable routing is very important to ensure smooth shifting. 

Santa Cruz Chameleon as a singlespeed hardcore hardtail.

Santa Cruz Chameleon as a singlespeed hardcore hardtail.

Eventually as it was taking a while to put together I got impatient. A mate invited me back home to go riding and I decided to give in and converted it to a singlespeed for the weekend. The bike is great fun to ride, I’m pretty sure I was riding one of the most hardcore pimped singlespeeds on the trails that weekend. I will finish the Chameleon-off on my return to the UK, it’s sure to be one of the most fun Rohloff equipped bike on the trails, I might even add a dropper post just for good measure. Keep reading to find out what happens.

My Troll Gets Fat For Winter

I decided that as we are ‘supposed’ to get a proper winter here in Chicago with lots of snow and ice I would give my troll a makeover and turn it into what I like to call a semi-fat bike.


I decided to go with a lightweight set up as I quite fancy using it for trail riding over the summer, the fat tyre should help take out some of the trail buzz and make it easier to clear tricky sections. I started with some White Brothers SnowPack carbon fat bike forks. I was going to just get some Surly steel forks but these popped up on eBay and only ended up costing about $100 more so I decided it was worth it. They are the 450mm axle to crown version which is exactly the same length as the trolls original forks (although the fat tire adds some height) and also super lightweight at 919g. They have a pretty huge offset as well (42mm) so it will be interesting to see how this changes the wheelbase and if the extra length affects the handling much.

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For the wheel I couldn’t resist going home grown and getting a blue Hope FatSno hub from the UK, this is a 135mm fat bike specific front hub that allows you to build a strong symmetrical wheel. I paired this with a Schlick cycles Northpaw-S 47mm rim. At 47mm it’s much narrower than other wide rims such as the Surly Marge Lite which comes in at 65mm. However this brings some benefits, it’s super light for such a large rim at 550g, this is only 155g heavier than the Mavic XC717 cross country rim I run on my standard wheel. This is mostly due to the pretty awesome looking cut-outs. The 47mm width also makes sense for trail riding, it allows the use of a fat tire but helps it keep more rounded profile so it should corner better on the dirt. It also helps avoid catching the rims on rocks etc when the trail gets gnarly.


I picked up some Surly Endomorph 26×3.7 inch fat tires cheap of eBay so I’m using one of them up front. Out the back I have my Rohloff mounted to a 21mm rim already which should allow me to use up to a 3 inch tyre. This is actually one of the main problems I have discovered there really isn’t much choice when it comes to 2.5-3 inch tires. I have ended up going with a Maxxis Ardent 2.6 Inch DH tyre which was one of the largest volume tyres I could find. The only problem is that it’s a DH tyre so it’s crazy heavy and also has some pretty hardcore knobs on which don’t really fit with the semi-slick tyre up front. I’m still on the lookout as I have more space in the frame, so let me know if you have any ideas? I’m secretly hoping Surly bring out a 26×3 inch Knard similar to the tyres on the new Krampus.


I’m a novice at wheel building having only build a couple before so I had one or two issues building up the front wheel. This was partly due to the width of the rim. The hub isn’t completely symmetrical so the wheel has to be slightly dished, i used spokes with a couple of mm difference. It took a while and a considerable amount of swearing to get it laced up nicely and all tightened up right.


The only other issue I came across is that although the Hope hub is front specific it still has a rear specific disc brake mount. This becomes an issue if you are using a symmetrical fat bike fork with 135mm spacing, which just so happens to be what mine is. Its worth noting that White Brothers makes an adaptor to allow front specific 135mm hubs to be used with these forks, i just didn’t get one with my secondhand forks. I ended up having to splash some cash and pick up a Carver rotor spacer kit which has a nice machined aluminium 5mm spacer and some longer torx bolts to keep it all secure. There are cheaper solutions, you should be able to get washers from a good hardware store (note they have to be pretty narrow to fit on the disc mount. Typicall all the stores near me didn’t have any washers the right size.  Hope also make rotor spacers which come in 1 and 2mm varieties so I would need a few and the shipping was going to be crazy expensive. Syntace make rotor shims but they are only 0.2mm so I would need a fair few. In the end I decided that although expensive ($20) the carver option would be the strongest (also coolest) and if you going to do something you might as well do it properly, right?

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The bike is all built up, looking suitably pimped and working well. All that remains is for the weather gods to cook up some of the bad winter weather we are supposed to get here in Chicago and deposit some snow and ice so I can put it through its paces.