Gear Report: Homebrewed Components

Anyone who rides a single speed long enough will soon find themselves looking for replacement cogs and chainrings. I had since moved to a splined hub about a year ago and found swapping the rear cog to be much more friendlier. There is something about using a pipe wrench with a freewheel removal tool and a cheater bar that just left me feeling, let’s say, over-torqued.

Now that I’m free of freewheels, I quickly went out and bought some rear cogs. Good, mostly round blue-collar cogs. They worked great, moved the chain forward one tooth at a time, yada yada. Not sexy, but they generally aren’t supposed to be, right?  My long-termer Middleburn crankset from the UK never complained nor loosened but it was wearing out and it was looking iffy to spec another ring this side of the Atlantic anytime soon.
The drivetrain adds color to the otherwise paint-free bike.

Sometime last October I’d glanced at a basic, photo-driven quarter page ad in Mountain Flyer Magazine (excellent quarterly!) from Homebrewed Components. This relatively new, circa 2009-2010) one-man machine shop offered chainrings for the Middleburn crankset so I was instantly intrigued and ultimately sold. Homebrewed’s main picture was of a spiderless chainring for the Sram XO crankset. Unique.

The spiderless chainring that matches the Middleburn interface… Now that’s serving a niche market. Thanks HBC!

Using his easy-to-use dynamic Chainring Finder I quickly found my chainring/cog options for the Middleburn crank. I quickly got lost window shopping on the site and perused his bash rings and even read a tutorial on how to make your own chainring (which HBC was interviewed and published in Wired Magazine)

The only catch was the lead time…

Homebrewed Components (HBC) tries to fulfill orders in about 30 days but some orders ship out 45-60 days later according to online reports. I received my order about 45 days after the original purchase date. My credit card wasn’t processed until the product shipped so it kept the financial side of things tidy.

My simple order of a replacement aluminum Middleburn ring (32t) and aluminum rear cog (18t) shaved about 21 grams from the Lynskey. Not much, but it all counts doesn’t it? The rear cog alone knocked off 12 grams despite offering wider flanges to interface the freehub and prevent notching – which had already occurred as my old rear cog silently ate into the soft American Classic freehub body. Oh well…

HBC offers an anodized rainbow of colors for you to choose from. I opted for the ‘safe’ shiny / red theme on the Lynskey so I ordered some Red up. But the orange sure looks awesome, too. When I opened the US Mail package the shiny rings looked like jewelry. They were both perfectly round. The craftsmanship is also top-notch. Knowing they were made buy a single guy in his personal shop might classify them as bike jewelry. ‘Merican-made to say the very least!

While the aluminum rear cog will wear much faster than titanium, you can buy two for the price of one… I wanted some color so that sent me over to the aluminum camp.

Not only do they does he offer aluminum rings but HBC also specializes in titanium and stainless rear cogs and titanium chainrings. Yes, they are more expensive ($105.00 avg) and are not available in any colors other than, er, titanium, but the rings will wear much, much longer than the more affordable $45.00 aluminum cogs. Color vs price vs longevity – oh, the problems of personalizing your bike. Better make a matrix chart and start analyzing.

The rings and cogs offer a narrow profile as I can attest: I unknowingly attached a 10 speed chain to the drivetrain and only discovered the error when the quick-connect wouldn’t quickly disconnect… at all. Whoops. The 10 speed chain tracks beautifully over the teeth so I’d say his 3/32″ tooth widths work just fine. Just remember to use a 9-speed chain with a quick-connect or a tried-and-true bombproof BMX chain.

I plan on ordering some more rear cogs in different sizes. I better order soon as I hear HBC continues to grow in popularity but is still a one-man shop. Think it through: If you want some functional bike candy for summer you’d better be dialing up your Internet radio signals and selecting your gear now.

The ‘virtual’ line is around the block leading to the door of this machine shop.

Highly recommended.