Six months of riding the Specialized AWOL

It’s been about six months ago that I bought a 2014 Specialized AWOL. I have the standard edition in size Large.  I’ve ridden it almost every day since I bought it, all through the Winter, but no long distance rides yet, at most 25km.  I have been mostly using it for commuting so far.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the bike, but the impressions are not all peachy.

First thing to die was the missing link (the quick connect link) of the KMC chain that came stock with the bike.  One side of it got torn apart; I managed to limp to a bike store with the link holding by only one side and replaced it with the SRAM power link.  Problem solved.

As the winter was coming to an end, I started contemplating end-of-winter overhaul of the bike.  I looked closer into the bottom bracket and the crank set that came with the bike.  My AWOL came with an FSA Megaexo BB-4000 bottom bracket and an FSA Omega Triple crank set.  Initial research showed that the crank is probably compatible with Shimano Hollowtech II bottom brackets, but a forum discussion revealed a problem – the BB-4000 bottom bracket is for 19mm spindles, whereas Hollowtech II spindles are 24mm in diameter.

If you don’t see a problem yet – the BB-4000 is only compatible with itself, no other bottom bracket can be used instead of it.  And, to add to the problem, it’s a fairly rare bottom bracket, I tried phoning several local bike shops, and none had it in stock (but could special-order).  It’s also overpriced, costing about $60, whereas a more ubiquitous HTII bottom bracket can be had for about half as much.

Another problem is that the crank, too, is not compatible with any other bottom bracket on the market.  In theory, an adapter to bring the 19mm spindle to the 24mm diameter is possible, but I don’t think it exists.

To add to the insult, there is nothing special that can be said about either the bottom bracket and the crank; in fact, I felt like I was suckered into a vicious circle of buying low end but overpriced parts, unless I replaced both the bottom bracket and the crank set simultaneously.

I hate to be in a position like this, so replace them I did.  I found a good deal for a 105 (5700 series) crank and bottom bracket for just over $100 and took the FSA crap off my new bike.  While it may sound silly to replace an almost brand new crank set, I think that I did the right thing because now I know that I can buy a replacement crank or bottom bracket in just about any half-decent bike shop should either fail.  One consolation is that the chain rings from the FSA crank set are compatible with the Shimano 105 crank set, so the old crank set is not completely wasted.

The second thing to die on my AWOL was the rear derailleur.  The bike came stock with a Shimano SORA (3500-series) rear derailleur; it worked very well, I had very smooth shifting with it, until its mounting bolt seized inside the knuckle.  If interested, you can read the thread about me trying to remove the damn thing from the derailleur hanger; ultimately I had to drill out the mounting bolt.  I replaced the Sora derailleur with a Shimano Deore 9-speed.  I’m having a problem with the chain jumping into the largest (9th) sproket when I switch to the second-largest (8th).  Not sure if it’s an adjustment issue or the road shifters disagreeing with the mountain rear derailleur.  To be investigated.

Now that I got the problems out of the way, I should say that I like the bike quite a lot.  This is my first touring class bike, so I don’t have a world of experience, but I really like how stable the AWOL is on the road, the stock handlebar is very comfortable and the STI shifters work very well.  (As a side note, I managed to ruin the stock handlebar, so I replaced it with a Salsa Cowbell 3, which is awesome, but the original bar was equally awesome).

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