Creamy, Dreamy 650B Conversion

With his latest project, our neighbour Somervillain is quickly establishing himself as Vintage Bicycle Refurbisher Extraordinaire. This dreamy creature began life as a 1984 Shogun 1500 - a good, yet unremarkable touring bike. It has now been transformed into something quite exquisite.

The 25" frame was stripped of its original paint and powdercoated a creamy "almond," the lugwork then outlined in copper.

I think that it's pretty difficult to get the perfect shade of cream: If it's too pale, the bicycle looks bland and if it's too saturated the bicycle looks yellow. This shade looks just right to me: classic, soft and a little mysterious.

The Shogun frame had a high bottom bracket and sufficient clearance for wide tires with fenders, making it a great candidate for a 650B conversion. However, the cantilever bosses had to be relocated in order to accommodate the new wheel size. Both this and the powdercoating were done by Sugarcoat/ Geekhouse. Notice also the internal routing for the dynamo lighting.

Internal routing exit for the tail light. I will not even try to describe the routing, but Somervillain shows the step-by-step process here.

Rear cantilever bosses, Mafac brakes, KoolStop brake pads.

The headlight is the Bausch & Mueller Lumoteq IQ (I have this light on two of my bikes and love it), and the DIY bracket is fashioned out of a caliper brake.

The tail light is a vintage Soubitez converted to LED with Bausch & Mueller innards.

Tires are the red Grand Bois Hetres, with Zeppelin fenders from Velo Orange. I have this same set-up on my Rivendell, only with the cream version of the tires. The Grand Bois Hetres are absolutely magical in their cushiness and a 650B conversion is worth it just for them alone.

Shimano dynamo hub (which Somervillain says causes slight vibration at high speeds when the light is on, so he is considering changing it to a Schmidt SON).

Huret rear derailleur. I forgot the details of the cassette, so perhaps Somervillain will remind me or post the specs.

Huret front derailleur.

Beautiful TA crankset.

VO Moderniste bottle cages.

Belleri Randonneur bars, VO Pass Hunter front rack, Ostrich handlebar bag.

And Brooks B17 saddle.

Perhaps Somervillain would like to go into further detail in the comments, but one interesting thing about this build is that many of the components - or at least the manner in which they are installed - are modified in a way that makes them better integrated with the frame. The result is an exceptionally clean and harmonious look.

Having tested this bicycle out on a metric century ride last weekend, the owner is well pleased with its comfort and performance. Sadly, I am not tall enough for this 25" frame, so I will have to take his word for it. Given that Somervillain has other beautiful bicycles, I am curious how this one compares and what role he ultimately sees it occupying. Will it be his long-distance tourer? Time will tell. Either way, this project was a major accomplishment in its marriage of vintage and custom elements. The frame, the modifications, colour, the components - simply dreamy.


  1. Congratulations to Somervillain on a suburb conversion! More details would be welcome. And thank you V. for the great writeup and photos. Very inspiring. Steve in MD.

  2. It's a beaut! It's great to see bikes like this out on the road.


  3. It's beautiful, but I wouldn't tour on it...but only because I like having a triple crankset! Granny gears for the win. I use mine on tour all the time.

  4. april - What is your touring bike?

  5. It looks like he's chosen to use a really wide great range, so even without the triple I think you'd find granny gears in there someplace. He's given something up in terms of having the exact right great to match needed cadence, but I don't think much in range.

  6. Wow, I don't know what to say, Velouria. Thanks for the props! I had wanted to experience the hype of 650B firsthand, but couldn't justify commissioning a custom bike from scratch just to satisfy my curiosity. Plus, none of the bikes in my rotation are really capable of going off-road or on fire trails, something I've been wanting to do lately. Plus, I needed a winter project to keep me challenged. I had done some due diligence with regard to which types of frames make the best candidates for conversion (the main criteria of which you mention above). I was able to acquire this touring frame which fit these criteria for very little money, and it was a quality frame to begin with. Importantly, it was my perfect size! So I felt like I could justify spending the money to have it modified and repainted to my specifications, even if the experiment were to ultimately fail (thankfully it didn't!). I got to support a local frame builder without braking the bank, and I got to try some things that I'd never tried before (like the internal wiring, and some creative fender bending techniques).

    I can say that after one long ride on this bike, I'm sold on 650B Hetres... they are the smoothest, cushiest tires I've ridden on, period.

    As for what purpose this bike will fill? I'm entirely sure yet. I certainly have faster bikes, but none of them are capable of taking on trails, and none of them have the gearing to handle extreme climbs. I've been itching to do more dirt-road riding in the Catskill mtns where we have a summer house, and it's impossible to find a route without serious climbs. I designed this bike to have a 500% gearing range, so I should be able to tackle any type of hill, paved or dirt, and still be able to go reasonably fast on normal roads.

    April- I considered a triple along with a vintage 5- or 6-speed rear cluster, but I decided to go with a modern 8-speed cassette and "compact double" setup in front. It does have a granny gear, providing an extremely low gear when needed (lowest gear is 21 gear inches, if that means anything to you). The biggest benefit of a triple, other than having a granny gear, is that the two outer rings create closer gear spacing for a 5- or 6-speed cluster. Triples are not necessary with closer-spaced 8, 9 or 10-speed cassettes.

    Thanks again, Velouria!

  7. Jon, you're right. If maintaining very close gearing to be able to match cadence at all times, a triple would be the way to go. That's why they're essential for classic 5 and 6 speed freewheels.

  8. I think that this is your most successful project thus far. Looking at this bike and your Jeunet makes me want to take a bite out of those mushrooms in Alice in Wonderland - i.e. grow rapidly so that I can fit the frames. This "reality" stuff is such an annoyance!

  9. Velouria, in retrospect, the Jeunet should have been converted to 650B! It would have been much better at being a "porteur" than it is now with its stock, narrow-ish 700c wheels. But it does ride very well on pavement and it is my primary city/commuting bike.

    Don't eat those 'shrooms just yet, because once you do, you'll experience the frustration of trying to find 24-25" frames!

  10. What's the max tire size it would have allowed as a 650B?

    The mushrooms come in a set of two: You take a bite of one to grow, then of the other to shrink.

  11. Very beautiful conversion job there. I am a big fan of the Huret Duopar rear derailleur- in fact, your whole drivetrain minus the chainrings is identical to that of my long-gone Peugeot. I even had the same shifters. That is a *fabulous* alpine touring setup.

    I am trying to figure out what to do with a 24" all chrome Mongoose mountain bike frame in my basement, and you've given me some ideas...

    (Velouria, this one has a chrome lugged double- flat-crown fork)

  12. Corey, those old-school Mongoose mtb frames are AWESOME. I would love to get my hands on an 80s lugged mtb. Alas, finding them in 24" frame size is nearly impossible.

    The 26" wheel size gives you a lot of options without any frame modifications, and they have gobs of clearance. Have you considered Schwalbe Fat Franks?

    Velouria, even with 650B, the Jeunet could fit 30-32mm tires, at best. That would have really limited my options. As is, it fits 700 x 28 Paselas and those are the widest it can handle in 700C.

  13. "Have you considered Schwalbe Fat Franks?"

    (Gene Wilder as Phroederick Franken-Shteen)


    (/Gene Wilder as Phroederick Franken-Shteen)

    Dithering between giving it a sturmey 3-speed with dropped north roads or Lauterwassers
    or giving it the business with a wide-range derailleur like the Huret. Original wheels have nutted axles, and I already have a townie'd '85 Stumpjumper, so right now it's looking like a Sturmey 3-speed conversion.

    You have done some inspirational work on your Shogun and Juenet builds.

  14. That's has to be one of the most beautiful 650b conversions that I've ever seen. Congratulations!
    I plan to study your taillight conversion as well.

  15. That is a beautiful looking bike. It's rare that I see a bike like that in my size. How can you not love a tall headtube. If I'm lucky maybe this year I can find something similar.

  16. Dangit, Sommervillian, that is MY perfect shade of cream! How did you get it so right? Now I'm too jealous of a bike that's already super-beautiful.


  17. I rode a 1985 Miyata two-ten all last year, but it was originally a ten speed (hence the model name) and it was made into an 18-speed before I ever set eyes on it.

  18. Y'know, I just looked at the pictures again, and I hadn't noticed the itty-bitty granny gear in there! I think it's about the same size as mine, and you have lower gears in the back, even.

    I hereby revoke any complaints I had with the bike. The bike is awesome.

    (Does it have a problem going between them? I've had bikes that didn't want to make a jump anywhere that big, especially into the teeny one under any kind of load.)

  19. 2 words:

    Classic beauty. =)


  20. Beautiful job! and JUST my size too ;-)


  21. Sommervillain, did you do the lug lining yourself, or did geekhouse do that too?

  22. Beautiful and inspiring! Good to see the restoration!

  23. Corey K said...
    "I am trying to figure out what to do with a 24" all chrome Mongoose mountain bike frame in my basement... (Velouria, this one has a chrome lugged double- flat-crown fork)"

    Um, step 1: post pictures?? : )

    sausend - He did the lug lining. It is not as difficult as you'd think, if you're able to find the colour you want in paint-pen form.

  24. Now that is a Gorgeous bike. Very elegant. And, the tires are perfect! Hat's off to you Somervillian!

  25. Thanks, all!

    aprillikesbikes: no, the Huret derailleurs handle switching between all the cogs with aplomb. The only thing that I don't feel is perfect is the combination of the Suntour friction bar-end shifters and the 8-speed cassette. The shifters were really designed for 5- and 6-speed freewheels. Because of the tighter physical spacing of the cogs on an 8-speed cassette compared with a vintage 5-speed freewheel, the shifter only requires a couple of mm of movement to shift from one gear to the next, making trimming touchy. I may upgrade to modern Shimano 8-speed bar-end shifters.

  26. I have long been an admirer of Somervillain's work every since I saw the Boston Retro Wheelmen's post of his bike.

    After you outline the lug work do you clear coat it, or is it such a small detail in a sort of out the way place,(regarding nicks and scratches)that it isn't necessary? Also what modifications did the frame builder do?

  27. V, how has your paint-pen lining held up? The lug-lining section on Classic Lightweights UK claims that isn't a very permanent method. I'm torn: on the one hand, if I'm getting my frame repainted, I feel like I might as well go all the way and have a professional do the lugs. On the other hand, if I'm paying per lug, the cost will really ad up on this particular frame.

  28. Re: pen lug outlining--You can always go over it again if it wears off. Get several pens (or write down where and which).

  29. I hate friction shifting as much as the next person, and don't really buy into Grant's love-signing of the Silver friction shifters, but there is one small detail: the (much) longer levers on those help shift 8-speed cassettes with more precision. On the other hand, they poke you in the thighs.

  30. Very nice. Love the color. Is there an RAL number for that paint? Tnx

  31. AC- no clear coat over the lug outlining. Depending on what type of paint pen you use, it will be more or less permanent. The most permanent seem to be the enamel paint pens by Deco Color. I've had problems with other paints rubbing off over time, but not the Deco.

    The frame mods were:

    - lower the four canti studs 23mm
    - remove the original brake bridge, replace with new one placed 10mm lower, and with a bottom-mount for a fender
    - drill two holes for internal wiring (one on down tube near fork, the other on the underside of the bottom bracket. Reinforce the one on the down tube with a ring.
    - respace the rear triangle to 130mm to fit a modern cassette hub

    Anon 6:30: the color code is RAL1013.

  32. My favorite of Somervillains bikes had been his Raleigh Competition G.S. but this is even nicer. I am totally going to duplicate that lamp mount made from the center-pull brake caliper arm. I promise not to claim it as mine too.

    I have been messing around with converting 80s MTB frames for road duty too. I have a 1983 Shogun that I converted to a Sturmey Archer 5 speed hub brake. I'm using NOS Avocet26" X 1 1/2"(I think that's the size, you cant read it on the sidewall anymore) slick tires that ride really nicely but I'm soon going to have to find modern replacements as these are 28 years old...

    I made some bolt on, curved cro-mo fork truss bars (ala old vintage Schwinn) to eventually allow me to mount the fenders to a bracket on the truss close to the tire(it's got 1 1/2" of mud clearance between the tire and flat-top fork crown) and give me a nice attractive generator and lamp mount. It makes the whole bike look convincingly aged too and only weighs 12 ounces.

    I've been trying to decide what fenders to use and really like the zeppelins on Somervillains Shogun. I wish they made them in 26". I really want to finish the fork and get some fenders on this bike to finish it off. It rides so well and will really look the business once I chew my way through the couple of customer projects that are keeping me away from my own. I'm going to have to do something better than the (careful and rather attractive) brushed black enamel paintjob if I'm going to approach Somervillains Shogun for appearance though.


  33. Somervillain, Would you be interested in a pair of Berthoud Lyotard platform pedals for this faux French confection? I have a vintage pair that are close to new that I just can't learn to love. I've had them forever and tried them on a half dozen bikes but they just don't look right. They don't owe me nuthin'.


  34. Spindizzy-- sure, let's talk: atutter AT gmail DOT com

  35. sausend said...
    "V, how has your paint-pen lining held up? The lug-lining section on Classic Lightweights UK claims that isn't a very permanent method."

    The last bike I outlined was my Gazelle, back in September. It's been ridden almost daily in rain and snow, and the lining shows no signs of fading.

    There are different paint pens out there, and you need to make sure and use a permanent one. Not all of them are, but the labels make it clear.

  36. I would like to add that this Busch & Mueller headlight model is called Cyo.

  37. That definitely qualifies as a "Lovely Bicycle!"

  38. For Somervillian & Velouria-

    I *finally* got pics together of the Mongoose frame & fork:

    This one turns out to be a 56 cm/22" frame, but with a 58 cm/ top tube, and very high standover, as I recall.

    Perhaps I ought to see what the crazies on BF might suggest.


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