Thorn Sherpa – Pre Build

After years of deliberation and countless hours on the road in the UK, New Zealand and Tasmania dreaming of a new bike-build, I settle for an English number!
I arrived back to Blighty from Tasmania in May 2013. One of my first port-of-calls was to cycle up to Bridgwater, Somerset from Poole, Dorset to test ride a Thorn bicycle. Thorn Cycles.
Thorn Cycles
WOW… look at all these fabulous bicycles. There’s a bicycle heaven, and it’s in Bridgewater of all places!
A decision though had to be made on what gearing to opt for. A Rohloff or not a Rohloff, that is the question?
A Thorn with a Rohloff, is a ‘Nomad’ and with a standard derailleur, it’s a ‘Sherpa’!
Why? It’s down to how the frame is designed round the gearing. Apart from that, the frame is the same specification. With a Rohloff, the rear dropout and bottom bracket (eccentric) are different to a normal rear derailleur and square tapered/hollow tech bottom brackets.
Rohloff Speedhub
The Rohloff with ancillaries, would set me back near £1000 alone… ouch I hear you say!
I couldn’t justify the cost. Also considering, I’ve components on my ‘Orange P7’ that still had countless miles left in them and could easily be swapped over. It’s a no-brainer.
Thorn Nomads
Thorn Nomads. The ultimate expedition-touring-bicycle.
Right, first thing a few months of work as a Maritime Controller in Poole… throw my hand to anything!
The frame is delivered to Cornwall before I head down to New Zealand in November, again! Well, why not, it’s out of a UK winter. SiMpLeS!
Thorn Sherpa arrival
A small box arrives from Thorn Cycles in no time at all. Three days from order to delivery.
Thorn certainly pack the frame well, and it’s in a box no bigger than the frame… bugger! I need to get a whole bike in there for the flights. And it’s not like I’ve bike shops anywhere near where I live in very-rural-Cornwall.
Thorn wrapping
The box contains a 565L Sherpa frame (fits my 5’ 11.2” height) and FSA headset bearings. Along with:
Thorn ST1 fork
Thorn ST1 forks
Thorn seatpost and touchup paint
Thorn saddle-stem, with touch-up paint
Shimano PRO handlebar
Shimano Pro Riser handlebar 31.8mm
SKS Chromoplastic 26 Inch Mudguards with Fitting Kit 65mm
SKS P65 mudguards
Thorn bar bag extensions 50mm and 100mm
50 and 100mm Thorn T-Bars (not sure which one is going to work!).
First things first, cannibalise my ol’ Orange P7 bicycle. Needs must my dear!
Old touring bike Orange P7 frame
Components to migrate over:
Shimano Deore XT groupset, including crank-arms
Brooks B17 saddle
Tubus Logo rear rack
Rigida Sputnik, SAPIM spokes hand-built rims (Spa Cycles), LX hubs and Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres
Bike Buddy bottle cage
Taxc bottle cages
Thorn Sherpa 565L
Now for some new Gucci kit!
Shimano XT brake levers
Shimano Deore XT brake levers
Shimano XT brakesShimano Deore XT brakes… NICE!Ergon GS3 bar ends and grips
Ergon GS3 grips (The GP5’s were overkill)
Bontrager Trip 5W wireless computer
Bontrager 5W Trip computer (the Sigma failed!)
Crankbrothers Iodine stem 100mm
Tubus Tara front low-rider rack
Shimano M520 clipless pedals 
Now, the part I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time… ASSEMBLY.Thorn Sherpa build
I’ve never had the comfort of having all the components to hand in one go. So nice. Feels like a real bike shop!
Thorn Sherpa build racks
Things move swimmingly. Only hitch, for some reason my used Shimano UN55 bottom bracket will not thread on. I’m not going to force the issue, as I might end up re-threading the Sherpa…  eecckk!
As with anything from Chain Reaction Cycles it’s here in nano time.
It’s screws in perfectly… phew!
Brooks B17 saddle
Next, a part I always fear, cutting the handlebars to length. I don’t like wide bars, except may be on a mountain bike.
Handlebar build
Shoulder width to the palms, works well for me. As my Grandfather (carpenter) used to say, mark twice, cut once.
Me, mark a dozens times, cut once. Then think hmmm… may be should’ve been wider!
Handlebar cut
Just have to watch-out I’m leaving enough room for the handlebar furniture, due to the rise of the bar.
Handlebar extensions
Sweet, all fits, just!
Handlebar frame joined
As with any bicycle build, adding the handlebar makes for exciting times, as one can now see a huge transformation.Thorn Sherpa cable routing
The task of feeding the cables through brings life into the build. Don’t want them too long or too short. If too short, the bars won’t swing freely. Too long, just catches everything.Shimano XT 'Shadow' derailleur
The largest-rear-cog is a 36T and the front-small-chainring is a 22T. Ample low gearing for BiG hills. Rohloff can’t match that!
My completed Thorn Sherpa.
Thorn Sherpa leftside
I’ve yet to add the SKS mudguards. No fine tuning of brakes or gearing also, this can wait until I get to New Zealand.
I’ve done away with the Topeak Turbo Morph pump. Served its purpose, but the floor footplate is rather fragile, eventually snapping off in Tasmania. Now, I’ve gone with a Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV ABS Pump with gauge. First impressions, very BLiNg and well-built!
Thorn Sherpa rightside
The ride is ‘SWEET’!
I’ve only enough time to take her round the houses a few times, before she goes into a box.
I set about extending the lid of Thorn’s frame box.
Resizing box for travel
The real skill is packing a full touring bike into a smaller than normal bike box.
Packed for flights
But, with careful placement and a bit of jiggery-pokery, I get it all in, along with my MSR Hubba Hubba tent. The tent also serves as a core component between the racks. Creates rigidity.
Sealed for flights
With a roll of packing tape applied, jobs a good’n!
Total weight 22.5 kg’s. Not bad, considering a tent is in there too.
Next stop New Zealand and the ‘Thorn Sherpa – Final Build’.
You can click on each photo in this post for an enhanced Flickr view or the above Flickr slideshow for further photos for this post.

7 responses to “Thorn Sherpa – Pre Build

  • Danneaux

    A very nice photo-essay of your new build, Nigel, and a wonderful bike as the result! May many happy journeys pass beneath your wheels and with tailwinds all the way.

    All the best,


  • Norman

    Great post. Congratulations on building what looks like a super bike. Your story brought back fond memories of our visit to SJS in Bridgewater and the arrival of our Raven Sport Tours. Still going strong as you would expect and a joy every time we set off on them. Many happy, trouble-fee and safe miles to you and the Sherpa.

  • Nigel

    Tailwinds all the way, how great would that be!

    Looking forward getting her out in anger, along with trouble free miles 🙂

  • Warren

    Great photos and lovely build.
    I have a Sherpa too and it’s so good to ride.
    I really enjoyed your recent video postings on Vimeo.
    all the best !
    here’s my blog with a couple of tours i’ve done and some day rides:

  • Nigel

    Yes, certainly a well made frame.

    More videos of Wales to come. I take for ever getting round to editing them!

    Thanks for the link to your blog, will check it out. 🙂

  • Hamish Blanch

    Hi Nigel

    …great build and wishing you many thousands of happy kilometres peddling on it….it’s a big world out there, go and enjoy!!.

    Would love to catch up again….we’re still in Nelson NZ…but may be on the “road” for sometime from next year??

    I’ve also built up a Thorn Sherpa…same as your’s…stealth black and with flat bars…530L frame..and are loving it. Still have the Thorn Ripio for off-road.

    Best wishes Hamish and Joan

  • Nigel

    Hey Hamish and Joan,

    GREAT to hear from you. Have thought of you guys a lot and how the Ripio build went.

    I was back in NZ and down south last year managing a backpackers in Owaka. Had planned to get more cycling in up north but time did not allow. Visa 6 months … not enough!

    Since back in the UK I’ve cycled round my home county of Cornwall, then up through Wales. Both very very hilly!

    I followed your advice Hamish and went for the derailleur set-up. Still can’t justify the Rohloff price!

    Super frame and well built. I enjoy the bike immensely.

    Happy Cycling 🙂

I look forward to your comments

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