Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Bostonians: A Meeting of Cousins

On a lovely Sunday afternoon in Boston, my Royal H. mixte ran into a cousin... an ANT Lady's Boston Roadster of the same colour.

I promise the ANT is not mine. But whoever it was built for certainly has a similar taste in bicycles.

Sage green loop frame, cream Delta Cruiser tires, brown leather saddle, cork grips and huge copper panniers - I think the combination looks great. And notice that the rims are powdercoated the same colour as the frame.

It's fairly accurate to say that my Royal H. and this ANT are related. Not only because both were made by Bostonian frame builders and have similar "complexions," but also because some time ago Mike Flanigan (of ANT) gave Bryan Hollingsworth (of Royal H.) the new-old-stock mixte lugs that made the construction of my bicycle possible.

Like my mixte, the ANT roadster was built with racks and dynamo lighting. Looking at the "cycling landscape" in Boston today, I think it is important to credit ANT for resurrecting the notion that transport bikes should be built with these features. I see more and more bicycles now with dynamo lighting, whereas as recently as a year ago people would stop and ask me why my front hub was so large, amazed when I would explain that the lights are powered by pedaling. And racks are now pretty much the norm on city bicycles, whereas a year or two ago they were an anomaly. ANT bikes, and the younger local builders whose work is influenced by them, played a crucial role in this change.

It is nice to live in a city that is home to so many excellent frame builders, and to spontaneously "meet" other local handbuilt bicycles. The bike pictured here was actually the second ANT I saw today. Earlier, I was stopped at an intersection and heard the cyclist behind me say "Sick bike! Where did you get it?" I started telling him about Royal H. and handbuilt frames, then realised that he was riding a black ANT when he pulled up beside me. "Hey, yours is an ANT!" What a weird thing to bond over, bicycles. Encounters like these make me feel like a character out of a 1950s sitcom, where neighbours wave and smile to one another and the mailman whistles a happy tune. 

28 comments:

  1. Call the vet 'cause those puppies are siiiiiiick.

    :)

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  2. LOL@MDI.

    There's this hot couple that I often see riding around together near Beacon St, they're both ANTs, one black, one purple.

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  3. i have to say, i've been seeing more ANT bikes than ever before. business must be good for ANT! i particularly like the matching rims on that ANT loop frame bike. normally i'm not a fan of matching rims, but mike pulls it off on his bikes. and that sage green is beautiful! however, i wonder why he chose a straight road bike-style front fork for an upright bike that was built to carry a front load? that bike must have very high trail.

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  4. Herzog - I know who you mean; their bikes are in the last picture here.

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  5. somervillain - I would like someone to explain the fork thing to me once and for all. Some frame builders say that the curve of the fork does not matter, and that it's just the angle; others say it matters.

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  6. velouria, i won't go into full detail here, but trail is a function of fork angle *and* rake (which itself is a function of the "curvature"). dave moulton explains it a bit, and the first image in this old blog post of his illustrates the relationship between rake and trail.

    http://davesbikeblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/trail-fork-rake-and-little-bit-of.html

    in a nutshell, the less rake the fork has (a straight fork has no rake), the more trail you will have. the more rake a fork has (the large forward curvature that the old french porteurs had), the less trail.

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  7. forgot to mention, it's also possible that a fork is designed with dead straight blades, but the entire blade is angled slightly forward, relative to the steerer tube. this would result in rake just like a fork that is curved at the end. it's possible that the above bike has such a fork (it's hard to tell without a perfect profile view of the fork).

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  8. somervillain said...
    "forgot to mention, it's also possible that a fork is designed with dead straight blades, but the entire blade is angled slightly forward, relative to the steerer tube. this would result in rake just like a fork that is curved at the end. it's possible that the above bike has such a fork. "


    Yes, this is what I was talking about, and I am pretty sure that it is indeed that kind of fork. ANT also has classic curved blade forks and straight blade forks with segmented fork crowns; it depends on the model. But I am pretty sure that all of them are angled in the manner you describe.

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  9. I think people who say that curvature doesn't matter are simplifying fork design to two variables: (1) headtube and thus steer angle, and, (2) fork blade tip to bottom of headset angle.

    There's probably some validity to using only these two variables to describe fork geometry because the curvature would only really matter if the fork flexed or deformed. I don't know how much fork flexing really figures into things.

    Personally, I don't like the look of straight forks, whether they are straight all the way (variable 1 = variable 2) or bent at the headset to simulate a curved fork. I just don't like the aesthetics of it.

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  10. I used to have a set of those copper panniers. They are monsterous!

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  11. I like the look of segmented straight forks and would in fact prefer that over a fork with curved blades if I were getting a Boston Roadster like this one. But I am not a fan of the unicrown forks, whether straight or curved.

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  12. MDI, there's a third variable which can't be ignored, which is wheel size. the larger the wheel diameter, the higher the trail, given identical head tube angle and rake offset (the two variables you mentioned). a small-wheeled bike (one with 16" or 20" wheels) can get away with a much straighter fork (low rake offset) to arrive at a desired trail than, say, a 700c bike.

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  13. beautiful bikes -- both of them -- and, as always, lovely photographs!

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  14. somervillain: yes, I suppose wheel size matters when you introduce folding bikes and other small-wheeled things into the equation, but I meant to list variables that describe how a fork can be designed for a particular bike, wheel size held constant from the start.

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  15. Woooo~ seeing that ANT pictured in the wild is making me WAY excited for mine! Still need to decide on the color, I was thinking light dove grey, though that sage looks amazing in these shots (especially next to your Royal H in the same palette!)... :0

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  16. Watching a well-made curved fork do it's job in front of you is a real pleasure - yes I'm talking about my '63 Legnano again - if the metallurgy and design are correct (by which I mean to explain that I'm assuming that the the factory meant for this to happen) you get a kind of damped suspension-spring effect that smooths out the bumps nicely. Of course, this is with 120psi tubulars...

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  17. Anon 3:26 - How exciting, what kind of ANT are you getting? Have you seen the dark slate gray and olive green colours?

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  18. Velouria: I'm not sure if mine will technically be a light roadster or a boston roadster, but it will be a loop frame 3 speed with the new chain case painted to match. Components are in Mike's hands, I'm just choosing the aesthetics :)

    Mike's mailed me a color chart, as that seems to be the best way to discuss it without my painterly poetics about undertones. (They're sooo important when it comes to grey...)

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  19. Those panniers look great. Anyone have any idea who makes them?

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  20. Scott - see my reply earlier; they are Axiom.

    Anon - Sounds great; send pictures when it's done!

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  21. Straight bladed forks have rake!

    It does not matter if the blades are straight or curve, they can can even go in a zig zag...as long as the front axle is in front of the head angle [that is rake]. You can make any fork match any head angle to make any trail you want for any wheel size. It just depends on what you want.
    For ride quality it matters more to have a thin, strong material [so it will flex over bumps].
    I like and build all types of forks. Straight bladed uni crowns are easier to build than curved bladed brazed ones curved ones and the materials cost more for brazed curved forks. I charge $50 more for the lugged, curved fork.

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  22. Beautiful! Consider yourself spoiled in Boston - I've yet to see an ANT in real life in the Midwest.

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  23. Dottie, I only have about 4 or so in Chicago

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  24. These look fantastic -- both separately and together. I wish I could justify a really gorgeous bike like that but I think NYC and the limited amount of road bike riding I do at this point cannot justify it. So I'm thrilled for the vicarious experience!

    Geometry is fascinating. Geeky, but fascinating. I'm refurbishing my 30-year-old Bianchi "bike invasion" mixte, which has turned into a graduate course in the importance and effects of bicycle frame geometry and components, and your blog has been a great companion.

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  25. Gorgeous Bicycles! I need to come to Boston, not seen anything like that in England.

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  26. Nice hat that matches the RH in the second photo. You made it? Post the pattern or source? My daughter would love it.

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  27. Phil - Yes, I made it. No pattern, just improvisation. Some pictures here.

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  28. What Mike said, with the addendum that Colnago who started the whole modern straight blade thang say they did so because they tested various fork configurations for vibration damping flex and found the straight blade outperformed the curved blade; however counterintuitive some might find that.

    Aesthetically I think they both have their merits.

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