The logical choice for components for the MC286 is to install a road drivetrain and a set of mountain bike wheels because 142x12 rear wheels for mountain bikes are readily available for reasonable prices. It turns out one of the great challenges of making this frame work on a reasonable budget is the incompatibility between 11-speed road cassettes and mountain bike hubs.
When 11 speed was introduced to road components a couple of years ago, it required a slightly longer freehub body. (Note that this is all just from reading rather than experience; my road bike is still at 9 speed.) Mountain bike components didn't introduce 11 speed until more recently, and so far they have stuck with the old freehub body dimensions. This means that using a standard mountain bike wheel won't work with an 11 speed road group. There are very few road-specific wheels available with a 142x12 rear axle at this time, though I'm sure that's likely to change soon enough. The 142x12 standard is relatively new to cyclocross bikes and to my knowledge is not used anywhere (yet) on regular road frames. I suspect most cyclocross bikes being sold by the major brands that include 142x12 rear axles are using proprietary wheels. Because this standard is being introduced on higher end bikes, there aren't likely to be many budget-oriented options right now.
I did a lot of research and considered several options for wheels:
- Use a mountain bike wheel with the new Shimano XTR 11 speed cassette and a road group. Aside from the high cost of XTR, this may not be workable because it's only available with a 40 tooth large cog, which likely exceeds the capacity of the road derailleurs. This could become viable in the future if Shimano were to offer more options (in price and gearing ranges).
- Use a Campagnolo 11 speed cassette. According to this article by Lennard Zinn, the Campagnolo 11 speed freehub bodies can fit on most 10 speed road hubs. However, this requires finding a hub that has both 142x12 and a Campagnolo freehub body available as options. I don't know whether this exists, and if it did, it would be very expensive and also quite restrictive in the available gearing ranges.
- Find a wheel specifically built for cyclocross and through axle wheels. Right now the only thing I can find off the shelf is the Stan's Iron Cross wheelset. The new DT Swiss 240S DB hub is also designed exactly for this purpose, but I don't know what the cost is, and haven't yet found any wheels for sale based on this hub. In both cases, however, I think the cost is higher than what I was hoping to spend.
- Use a standard mountain bike wheel and install only 10 of 11 cogs from the road cassette.
For components, I considered Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival and eventually settled on Shimano 105 because in part because I was able to get a great price on the complete group without brakes from Starbike.com in Germany. They were one of the few retailers I could find anywhere that offered their road groups with brakes optional, and they also had a great price on the Mavic wheelset I wanted. Starbike's prices are such that I'm sure they would have been competitive even a year ago with shipping from Germany to the US, but the strong US dollar vs. the Euro right now made the price even better. For two wheelsets, two component groups and several other miscellaneous parts, shipping was only an extra 10 Euro for what turned out to be two very large boxes. The parts arrived in less than two weeks.
This is the drive side of the Mavic rear wheel. The freehub came with the sticker on the right wrapped around it, warning against using cassettes that use individual cogs as opposed to a carrier. I got a 11-32 cassette with my Shimano 105 group, which uses individual cogs for the first 8 cogs and a carrier for the last 3 cogs. The reason for this warning is the aluminum construction of the freehub body. Individual cogs will eventually dig into the splines of the aluminum feehub body, where the carrier spreads out the load and avoids this. Using the cassette that I have chosen will therefore have a risk of damage to the freehub body over time, particularly in the middle cogs, which will be subjected to more torque than the smaller cogs. For now I'm going to accept the risk and try it for a while.
This is the complete 11 speed cassette set in place on the freehub without the lock ring. The last cog spins freely in place because the splines are not tall enough to engage it. In addition, the threads do not extend far enough to properly engage the lock ring. It's possible to get it on, but it will only catch about 1/4 turn worth of the thread. So, it's clear this won't quite work.
The last important consideration for this bike is tires. The Miracle Bikes web page for this frame specified that the frame could handle a 38 mm tire. I went ahead and bought some 37 mm tires and installed them on the rims. I looked at a lot of tires trying to find a balance between smooth center for riding on pavement and some kind of tread on the sides for riding off pavement. I decided to try the Continental Contact, which is really more of an urban/commuting tire. Here it is installed in the frame.