Tag Archives: Rourke

Karbona KTB-19 Stem – First Thoughts

For those who’ve already seen my Rourke 853 build, I’ve felt the need to swap out the slightly long Salsa stem for something a bit shorter and more comfortable for my poor back … being tall is not always as good as you’d expect.

During a trip to my local bike shop, I picked up what appears to be a cheap Aluminium and carbon ahead stem from a Taiwanese manufacturer I had never heard of before: Karbona. Quite why I did this, when known-branded stems were available for a similar price, I do not know. Below is an image of the KTB-19 stem, taken from the Karbona webpage.

I’m not quite sure what to make of “3D forged CNC machined design, AL + 3K carbon tube wrapped”. I can only guess this a combination of forged aluminium to make the main body of the stem, with some CNC machining to finish some detail, then with carbon added on to the main tube of the stem.

My hope is that the use of some carbon will result in extra damping of some trail buzz. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that vibrations transmitted up to the stem through the steerer tube will bypass the carbon section, by passing through the aluminium under the carbon wrap.

In terms of cosmetics, the finish looks OK when new, but not quite up to the offerings of some top brands. Once home and starting to be fitted to the bike, I noticed the paint flakes off very easily. Moreover, this 1-1/8″ stem is a very very tight fit on the steerer tube, which caused a bit of a headache when the time came to put the top cap on and tension the threadless headset. I can only guess that the designers failed to account for the thickness of the paint. If Karbona ever bothered to test whether this stem actually fits the intended steerer diameter, they would have noticed this. This lack of attention to detail doesn’t bode well, and I feel this stem will merely be a placeholder until I manage to find something that inspires more confidence (preferably another, shorter, steel Salsa).

But now the only thing left to do is to try the stem out on a real off road ride, and if the weather permits, that’s exactly what I plan to do this weekend. So watch this space!

Rourke 853 first ride

Finally built up and ready to ride, this is my Brian Rourke 853 mountain bike. 20150206_125313 After collection from the bike shop, I couldn’t resist taking it for a spin around downtown Porto for a little test ride. 20150206_132106 I love the chrome together with the polished aluminium of the Shimano Deore DX rear mech. 20150206_125432



Overall it rides like a dream, most things work as they should. The Deore XT thumbshifters provide surprisingly crisp indexed shifting across the cassette, and the XTR V-Brakes stop exceptionally well. The Pace RC 36 suspension fork looks great, but will need a bit of tuning to get the sag and damping set up to my satisfaction. And the long stem and narrow bar are going to need changing for something a little more practical!

Rourke 853 mountain bike build

And now for something special in the steel mountain bike department – my ‘new’ Reynolds 853 Rourke frame.


The frame seems to have survived its journey over from the UK, and once unpacked it’s clear I’ve landed a truly stunning frame.

Hand-made from Reynolds 853 tubing sometime slightly after 1995, this is a real work of art.After the tubes were welded together, legendary framebuilder Jason Rourke (son of Brian Rouke of Brian Rourke Cycles) added finely crafted, decorative lugs, and other sublime details such as the wrap-around chain stays (see below for a close up from Brian Rourke Cycles’ webpage).

The red and black paint job is awesome enough, but the chrome-plating on part of the rear triangle is the icing on the cake. Cosmetics aside, I have high hopes for how this frame is going to feel.

My build philosophy for the Rourke takes what I hope to be the best aspects of 90s and modern mountain bike technology, with a mix of Deore DX, XT and XTR groupsets, and other parts (Hope, Salsa, Middleburn, Titec etc.) I had lying around the man-cave begging to be attached to this splendiferous frame.

Photos of the final build and first thoughts from testing riding to be added soon!