Pretty custom rain bike


by Andrew Martin on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:58 PM

I’ve already stated my preference for disc brake rain bikes. My Trek Portland is perfect for my needs of a training bike and longer-distance commuter. When I’m old and paid off college (and college for my kid(s)) I’ll probably be riding a custom steel bike. There’s nothing more comfortable for the money. A local guy — Brian Marcroft has gotten into building custom rain bikes and his efforts seem pretty solid. If you have the means and are in the market send him a note and support a local framebuilder.


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I’ve been looking for a rain bike—-something to allow me to keep my Gunnar off of the sandy, gritty wet Florida roads. I had my first commute in the rain on Monday, and the worst part was the disintegrating Ultegra brake pads. I’ve ordered some salmon Kool Stops, but I think discs and aluminum would be the hot ticket.
  The Trek Portland is more than I want to spend on what would essentially be a beater. I’ve found lots of really cheap ‘cross bikes(Motobecane, Ibex) but they all have cantis. Does anybody make a CHEAP(sub $800) aluminum bike with discs and rack/fender eyelets? The rear rack is optional, as I could make do with a saddlebag, but fenders are a must. Real fenders, not something like an SKS Raceblade.



You raise a good point about spending money on rain bikes and what I’ve opted to do is ride a custom rain bike build by [Davidson]( because of all the time I spend on it, in Seattle—it doubles as a touring bike. Most go as cheap as possibly on a rain bike, but to me, for riding hours in the rain, it’s better to have a nicer bike that fits.

I’m with Byron - I want a good rain bike because it’s the bike I ride the most.  I’m currently looking for some updated wheels and am having a heck of a time finding 130mm disc brake hubs (apart from the Phil Woods which come in at over $700 for the hubset - YIKES!). 

For lower-prices options - see if you can’t chase down a used Kona Sutra or something.  Redline Disc-R frames pop up from time to time as well. 

Another way to go is to build your own from scratch.  Nashbar makes a pretty nice looking cross frame that would be a good place to start as well.  Since you’re in Florida - you could probably get away with just running a 1x9 setup with only a single bar-end shifter.  It’s a luxury to be able to get out and ride without fear of putting your “nice bike” through a downpour.

Isn’t it missing something? Like fenders?

Good point Fritz - yeah - that’s still on the “todo” list for that bike.  Brian’s blog makes mention of that fact.  For some, fenders are a real personal “art” so maybe that’s what this guy was thinking.

I know I wouldn’t let someone fender my bike.  Unless of coarse it’s Davidson or someone who does paint-matching to get the fenders and the frame the same.  That can be pretty cool.

Thanks for the suggestions. I believe that fenders are an essential—-am I going to be able to find a disc braked road bike which will accept fenders? Fenders are a must. Sand in your teeth is bad for the enamel. I understand wanting the rain bike to be a nice bike because lots of time is spent on it, and I will be riding this a lot. People don’t seem to think Florida gets a lot of rain, but we are in the tropics. :-) I would like to keep the price down to a grand or so. However, if I can’t find one with discs I suppose cantis would work well, too, with salmon Kool Stops.

Sorry for the confusion - disc brake bikes take full fenders without any issues.  There is extra clearance where there were once calipers, and at least on my bike - there are a number of convenient mounting points.  Depending on where the builder puts the brake itself (my Trek is in the triangle) you need to bend the mounting hardware to fit.  It works well either way.

Mike - I sort of forgot about Florida’s tropical weather.  I’ve been so used to the 7 month rainy season here in Seattle.

And those SKS race fenders actually work really well. What’s nice about my [Davidson](, and I bet the Marcroft is fender mounts built into the frame and shipped on the fork. That makes an enormous difference in set up and quiet ride.

DL—I actually used a set of Raceblades on my Schwinn Peloton, which had no eyelets, and found them pretty unacceptable. Rattly and not substantial. I’m looking around for acceptable bikes. The disc option may end up scrapped, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with cantilevers and Kool Stops.

FYI - A couple pics of the felder mounts on my rain bike (I promised Mike):

Front Mounts inside the fork

Clearance isn’t an issue without calipers

Full fender coverage

Rear mount is easier with the brake mounted in the frame

I think in Florida that cantis are probably fine because it’s mostly flat.  In the Seattle rain, I was never that certain of my brakes when coming down my hill.  I could actually feel the brake pads try to squeegee the rain off the rim before I got much grip.  Discs solve that for sure.

Another thing to consider, is the “ride” of the bike.  Most cyclocross bikes have higher bottom brackets for riding obstacles.  This can really shift your position and ride characteristics on the bike.  The Portland has a longer wheelbase, but it’s much more similar to my other bikes than my old Kona “Jake the Snake” cross bike.  If you go custom - you can have the frame builder match the exact geometry of your road bike (or any other bike you find comfortable).


I should quantify what I meant by works well, the Raceblades do work well for their application, but not as well as bolt on fenders.

The bike is indeed missing it’s fenders. They are silly easy to take off and on. I added bosses on the rear of the bike and on both bridges so by removing four bolts the rear fender comes off. The front fork has three mounting points that are very easy to get to.

Rain bikes in the NW get a huge number of miles put on them so having a comfortable bike the is set up just like your race bike is important. Imagine how many times you’re really going to want to ride a fendered aluminum ‘cross bike for 5 hours in the rain. That thing will kill you after 3 hours.

DL—Hopefully I wouldn’t end up riding the cheapo aluminum ‘cross bike for 5 hours in the rain, but I see your point. The longest I would ride in the rain would be the length of my commute, which is just over an hour. Still, maybe I would be better served with a traditional road bike. I like the Surly lineup, both the Pacer and the Long Haul Trucker. The LHT may be better as a rain bike due to its’ having cantis, but either would work. Then there are the Motobecane/Mercier/Windsor Chinese bikes sold by and eBay sellers. Reynolds 525 frames, clearance for fenders—-and cheap. I figure if stuff starts wearing out I can replace/upgrade. 105 derailleurs are cheap enough.

Andrew—Thanks for posting the pictures of the Portland. Seems like an awfully nice bike. I wonder why other manufacturers haven’t followed suit? There are plenty of ‘cross bikes with discs and fender eyelets, but they have ‘cross geometry.


How do you like the fork that comes stock with the Trek Portland?  I test rode one today and liked it, but read some reviews that complained about the front fork chattering under hard braking and feeling too flexy.  Thoughts?

I didn’t like that fork when it was marketing as a Wound Up. Both aesthetically and for performance. It was definitely a chatterer when it was a Wound Up. Not sure about this iteration with Trek.

Yes, I’m posting on a 1+ year old story. :)

I’m wondering if anyone has any comments on squealing disc brakes while riding in wet weather.  I know my Avid Juicy’s on my mtb squeal like crazy when they’re wet (with Avid pads), and I’ve considered replacing the pads with another brand to try and help that.

I have a new commuter on the way however with Avid BB7’s, and I’m afraid of them also squealing like crazy.  Does anyone have any experience with this?  Byron?

I run discs all winter and the squealing is usually a result of dirty rotors more than just wet.  What seems to work for me is to just spray them down with some fresh water while rolling to remove the gunk.  That’s usually good for a while - at least until it gunks up again.

I’ve yet to accept disc brakes on road bikes, especially on team rides because of the squealing. But I’m weird that way—I can’t stand a creaking bottom bracket either, where other cyclists will ride a bike that creaks all the time. Our recent projects, [the Modal](/tag/modal), could’ve been spec’d with discs, but we didn’t because it was made to travel, and pack into a suitcase. The extra weight, and space for the disc ruled it out and also I don’t want to hear the squeal.

Well, I don’t mind a little squeak from the brakes here and there if they’re doing their job, but I know my mtb can get that total bone-rattling, full-frame vibration, dogs barking for miles around kind of squeal.  *That* is what I’m afraid of having to live with. :)

My current commuter/beater/rain bike is a fixie (with a road brake up front that rarely gets used), and I’m kind of a nerd about having a pretty quiet bike because of the quietness of that bike.  But, as I said, I’m willing to deal with a little squeaking for the extra versatility the new bike will allow me.  Hooray for after work trail rides!