Friday, April 27, 2012

Back In Black ... Or Something Else!

When the original leather cover on her Terry Butterfly saddle wore out, Marianne decided that it was time to move beyond basic black. Jason Moore at Recovered Saddle helped her pick out this auburn leather to be used for recovering the saddle, and he provided the matching leather bar tape. Jason did a great job restoring this saddle with new padding and finely tailored leather cover.  This custom frame is painted in House of Kolor chameleon green/blue, and this auburn leather also looks good when the bike's blue tone appears.

The opportunity to recycle that favorite, but well-worn, high end saddle is kind of a no-brainer ... why not?  Beyond that, this service from Recovered Saddle opens up a whole new world when it comes to selecting a bike's color scheme.  I've seen too many bikes with poorly matched colors on "not black" saddle and bar covering. I know that this is what happens when one is limited to off-the-shelf tape and saddles, but my eye is drawn to that mismatch, and it kind of detracts from the overall appearance of the bike. For my custom frame customers, selecting the paint typically is a big deal. Now they can extend that color scheme selection to include a complimentary - and matching - color for the saddle and bar cover.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Lug Edition

For an upcoming mixte (step-through) frame project, I needed a lug set which includes the two special lugs to carry the steeply sloped top tube. Despite the variety of modern cast lugs available for traditional frames, there are no non-proprietary lug sets currently being produced for the mixte format. Searching the offerings of old-stock components, I found a set of vintage pressed lugs which, under all that tarnish, showed some potential.

But I never really cared for this Nervex style, and the sockets for the top tube and down tube are cut too blunt to carve any sort of nice point. This called for a major overhaul....

The first step was to square off the end of the down tube socket, and braze on an extension which can later be shaped into a point. In the photo below, the junction has been filed to reveal the fine brass-colored line of the joint.

This lug-shaped-object then was carved to create a new long point, and to remove most of the original Nervex features.

This new overall profile is consistent with the simple lug styling that I had envisioned for this frame. But I wasn't done yet... the shorelines needed refinement, and this lug needed to be thinned.

The photo below shows the brazed lug, sporting a completely new style for this old lug set. Who would ever guess how this lug started out?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Caramelos de Naranja Mas Hermosa

It was almost 9 pm when the UPS driver finally pulled up at Jose's house. By 11:30 there was an email on my phone ... "holy cow, what a beautiful frame you have created, up close the workmanship is just stunning as is the paint color, really beautiful and the rack is just a piece of art." Now, that's a bedtime story that I like!

Jose is a tall, lean long time cyclist who, at age 50, is experiencing a resurgent interest in riding long distances in any weather. He owns a lovely high-end Italian racing bike, but that machine simply is not designed for the fenders, front rack/bag and the wider tires favored by randonneurs. And, while he finds this race bike to be reasonably comfortable on century rides, I felt certain that we could make an improvement in that department too.

The result is a 63cm (c-t) low-trail Randonneur, as shown below in its mock-up state before being broken down for shipping. Designed for 700cx32 tires, Honjo 43mm fenders, braze-on Mafac Racer brakes and a dynohub powered front light, we covered Jose's wish list. The frame uses a collection of modern "standard" diameter tubes which were selected to mimic the feel of the classic Reynolds 531C tubeset. The fork blades are NOS Reynolds Imperial Oval tubes, set in a modern Grand Bois crown.

Since this frame features a front-loaded steering geometry, the project included one of my signature racks, built using a one-piece deck and backstop. In this configuration, the rack mounts to the braze-on bosses for the Mafac centerpull brake. Jose elected to do without a decaleur for now, but I always can build a stem-mounted unit if he decides otherwise after testing a stout internal stiffening system in his new bag.

Below is a photo of the Mafac Racer brakes mounted on custom-made bosses. This started out as a dingy used brake, but a few days in the vibratory polisher restored that like-new appearance. I also made a set of hand-wound stainless steel springs, which not only look nicer, but also are softer to provide smoother modulation with modern levers and lined cable housing.

And finally, let's talk about the PAINT. Jose was looking through Keith Anderson's photo gallery of painted frames and picked out a gorgeous burnt orange example. It turns out that he was looking at the result of applying an orange candy over a green-tinted base. Keith did that again, and the result is simply stunning ... even under the shop lights where these photos were taken. Out in the sunlight it is truly the Most Beautiful Orange Candy. But some of you already knew that, no?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Life, Reconfigured

In my introduction post on this blog, I wrote about how a thoughtfully designed bicycle could, by changing a few key components, evolve along with a rider's changing preferences and abilities. Once the designer has established a good fit between frame and rider, that frame may be usable for a variety of riding styles and venues, with little-to-no performance penalty for the built-in versatility. I just completed one such reconfiguration, on a once-favorite bike that just wasn't seeing much use.

Ten years ago, I built a Road/Sport frame designed to use a simple 1x9 drivetrain and a single shift lever. A few weeks after it came back from getting a durable powdercoat finish, that bike and I began a supported transcontinental ride from Seattle to Boston, with an improvised victory lap around Nova Scotia. I loved that bike. It climbed the Rockies, it turned South Dakota into a blur (well, maybe the heat helped that), it went fast when the big boys decided to play, and it was stable under 20# panniers at the end. Two years later, I used that bike to follow the Lewis and Clark route from St. Louis, MO to the Pacific Ocean, and, once again, it was just perfect - simple, reliable, and comfortable. Back home, it became my favorite bike for group social rides, centuries, and a variety of supported and credit-card tours.

Five years ago, I built a replacement frame, using the same geometry and tube set. But this time I carved a set of Pacenti Artisan lugs (not yet available the first time) and sprung for a gorgeous Joe Bell paint job. The first frame had been a plain workhorse, and, even though the components were all the same, there was something about the new frame's beauty that made the ride even sweeter. This was still going to be the lead dog on my sled.

Shortly after finishing the "beautified" 1x9, and without proper warning, my cycling preferences took a sharp turn toward fat tires, low-trail geometry, riding in "normal" clothing, and adapting to an aging body. I rode my 650B bike the most, and tried out (and liked) Albatross bars on it and on my low-trail 700C loaded touring bike. I bought clothing from Rivendell. I swapped my SPD pedals/shoes for naked cage pedals and sticky-soled Adidas flats, and re-discovered how pleasant it is to ride with free feet. I confirmed that the social riders at the back are laughing lots more than (and often about) the racer wannabes out front. Cycling life was good. In September, it dawned on me that I had not taken the 1x9 off the hook at all this year. Oh no! This called for a makeover.

The photo above shows my 1x9 in its reconfigured state. The component changes include
a Nitto moustache handlebar on a shorter 8cm stem, light cage pedals, a lower tread-width classic Dura Ace crank, and a slightly smaller (38T) chainring. The frame was built for standard reach (47-57mm) caliper brakes at full slot, which easily accommodated the new wider (700c x 35) Panaracer Pasela tires. With the same old 9-sp 11x34 cassette, the gearing ranges from 31 to 95 inches.

Equipped as shown, weight is 21lb -12oz. I'll hang a candybar bag on the bar, and there's also a small custom rear rack if necessary.

Medium-trail steering geometry (originally built for 28m tires) seems OK with these new wider tires. The new "head up" body position tends to lighten up the front wheel, and the effect of some extra pneumatic trail seems to counteract that lightness.

I also milled the DT shift lever and its mounting base to change the lever's orientation on the bar-end mount, such that the lever points straight back (instead of 45* up) when the chain is on the largest cog. This gives a much nicer hand position on the shift lever when the bar-end is this high.

After 10 years of riding this drive train without a chain keeper for the single chainring, I finally installed a Paul unit. I need to fabricate a keeper that's not so bulky, and silver.

All together, this new configuration represents an amalgam of my evolving preferences and needs over the past five years. It remains a beautiful bike, and is once again a joy to ride. It has more competition than before, but it certainly is a contender once again for the Favorite Bike title.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Case for Custom

"I love the bike, it's really comfortable, and felt that way instantly. It's nice to finally ride something that fits me!"

That's a perfect ending to a story about a classic case for acquiring a made-to-measure frameset.

Being tall, with proportionately long legs, Vivien is the type of rider that bike shops will put on a small stock frame in order to satisfy the reach requirement. The saddle gets jacked up extra high and, with the short head tube and a threadless steerer which typically has been cut short, little can be done to raise the bar to follow the saddle. (Even those popular, ugly clamp-on extenders have their limits.) That's how she ended up owning a Surly that, with a very large drop from saddle to bar, produced a lot of pain on long rides.

Vivien had other requirements which couldn't be found in a stock frame. She wanted an all-conditions rig with wider tires and fenders, but didn't like the toe overlap that comes with this setup on a bike with a shorter front-center dimension. And she would benefit from the use of lighter-gauge tubes in a frame that is resilient enough to work in harmony with her slender build. And, of course, there were all of those braze-ons for lights and racks that make a complete rando bike.

The solution is a big 61cm (c-t) All Road frame, with a top tube length like you would find on stock frames that are 6-7 cm smaller. The contact points design places the handlebar about 4 cm below the top of the saddle. The 650B wheels and the corresponding low-trail steering geometry help to eliminate toe overlap. The tubeset is a custom seletion of tubes from Kaisei, Dedacciai and True Temper, in light gauges overall, and "standard" diameters in the front triangle. A custom front rack completes the package.

Did I mention that Vivien's favorite color is pink? The assembly-day photo below really doesn't capture the stunning paint job, done in a shade called "Two Lips", but you get the idea.

OK boys, if you're out there on one of those dirt roads that figure into most rides in Vermont, and something pink rips past you, that was a girl. Understand?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Silver Bullet

Just the basics ... no racks, no fenders, no lights. And a customer who was clear about this being a tool, not a piece of art, so no fancy lugs. Not exactly my normal type of project, but there were fit issues to make things interesting.

John is a strong, 40-something rider trying to balance family, career, and a love for racing on a bike. In our first telephone conversation, he described his body type as "hockey player", like many of his fellow Canadians. And then he mentioned his short legs.

With my encouragement, John went in for a session with a local fitter, had his current bike adjusted by a bit, and rode enough to conclude that he liked the new arrangement. Using that model for the rider's contact point dimensions, I designed the frame shown above.

The 49.5cm (c-t) seat tube provides the amount of standover clearance which John requested, and the 6 degree upslope on the top tube places the top of the head tube up high enough to keep the stem spacer stack reasonable. The longer stem works with a good amount of saddle setback to balance the rider over a 98.3cm wheelbase, creating this agile little racing machine. The frame was built with the Columbus Spirit for Lugs tubeset, which is manufactured with the longer butted ends that are essential for fabaricating such a small frame. The styling is kept simple with the Llewellyn Mini-6 lug set and the new Pacenti Mitsugi fork crown.

The paint is a high "sparkle" content metallic silver, which is very reflective. With this base, the clearcoat tends to pick up and emit a faint hint of nearby bright colors, which is a pretty cool effect.

Update ..... John sent this photo of the bike, built up old-school style with toe clip pedals, DT friction shifters operating a 2x7 drive train, and a
Modolo master pro brakeset. Quality parts throughout, including the Campy Ti seatpost and the beautiful leather Berthoud Ti race saddle. Nice job, John!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dressed For Work

As promised, here is Randy's new All Road, completely outfitted for long rides down any road, in any weather and any light. These are a few selected photos from a larger gallery.

Along with the frameset, I also built a custom front rack and decaleur, as shown below. The rack attaches to the brake bosses used by the vintage centerpull brake, using special double-ended bolts. Hidden wire guides continue the course started on the fork blade, and the special mount neatly tucks the B&M LED headlight underneath that big Ostrich bag. In the head-on view, you can see the fixed portion of the decaleur which remains attached to the stem when the bag is removed.

And finally, a bit of rear brake and fender detail. But really, I can't take my eyes off of that stylin' tail light, sitting proud on its dedicated mounting boss.