Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Superba Progress

Ta-da! Look what I found sprouting up amidst the grass after the snow melted. Okay, not really. But I thought this would be a good time to update on the progress of the Bella Ciao Superba. I've already been told how nice the new frame colour looks, but this is actually the same colour as before - it's still my bike, only with different components. The colour does look different with the cream tires and brown accessories; less beige and more green. The production frame colour will be one step further in this direction: Imagine a mix between the shade you see here and that of my Roya H. mixte.

Some aspects of the prototype are still in flux, but this is the basic idea of how I envisioned the bicycle: Fully equipped, yet classic and very simple - inasmuch as such a combination is possible.

As I had hoped, the Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub works nicely with the overall design. Not only do I prefer its functionality over Shimano's (just a personal preference), but visually it is more in sync with how I see this bicycle. One of my favourite parts of the Bella Ciao frames are the elegant fork-ends with the chain tensioners. And to my eye, the Sturmey Archer hub - with its glorious indicator chain - integrates perfectly with these elements. I think I drove everybody a little nuts making sure they order the specific version of this hub I wanted, but I am comfortable with that.

The classic trigger shifter frees up the handlebars for a larger gripping area and looks very natural here. For the brake levers, I decided to go with the retro city levers from Velo Orange. They are long, providing good leverage from a variety of gripping positions, and I find the curvy form to be delightfully ergonomic.

The grips pictured here are just placeholders to match the saddle; I am not sure yet what the grips on the production bike will be. It's a tricky one, because I know that no matter what I choose it is likely that the new owner will replace them anyway with their own grips of choice. Therefore I wonder whether it is even worth it to focus on this aspect too much. My personal choice would actually be a set of hard classic plastic grips. But the Portuguese natural cork grips from Rivendell may be a bigger crowdpleaser, so those are a possibility as well.

One aspect of the bicycle that I initially wanted to change, were the crank arms. The stock ones are not too bad, but I had hoped to find something more classic. Turns out that's not actually possible, as none of the retro-styled cranksets on the market are available with chain rings that are compatible with the Bella Ciao chaincase. I've put a lot of effort into researching this a few months back and short of extremely expensive options, it is just not feasible to get different cranks. At that point I had to ask myself: Will the ladies this bicycle is meant to appeal to be willing to pay $150 extra for this bike in order for it to have vintage looking crank arms? And I think the answer is "no," because even for me it would not be worth it. So fairly early into the project it was decided that the stock cranks would remain.

More recently, I have also decided to keep the stock pedals. It is no problem at all to source a more classic rubber platform pedal and remain within budget, but here's the thing: After riding with the stock pedals since October, I find them to be functionally superior, so I think that replacing them would be a disservice to future owners of this bicycle. The pedals have been tenaciously grippy with all of my shoes in the rain and snow, and they are light. Rather than replace them, I think I'd like to get a couple of more sets from Bella Ciao for personal use on some of my other bikes.

The Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires are a perfect match for the bicycle, and I decided to go with the version with reflective sidewalls for additional visibility after dark. The dynamo lighting system currently installed is passably elegant, but needs some tweaking - I don't like it that the headlight partially obscures the headbadge and sits so close to the headtube. The simplest and least expensive solution would be to place the headbadge higher  - I think there is room to raise it maybe another inch without it looking too weird. I am also trying to find a mounting bracket for the headlight that would place it further forward. Looking at other Italian city bikes, I see that many of them have the headlight installed higher up, mounted above the headset. However, this presents the additional problem of routing the wires for the dynamo lighting. Yet another possibility would be to ask the framebuilder to add a braze-on to one of the fork blades and mount the headlight there, but this would increase production costs, and might look a little bulky on this particular bicycle. So... I am still thinking about this one.

And finally, the rear rack. To be honest, this has been a more challenging endeavor than anticipated, and I do not as of yet have a finished prototype that is financially feasible for the production bikes. I thought carefully about whether I should even post pictures of the rack, lest it be a disappointment if in the end it proves impossible to offer the one shown in the pictures. But I decided to go ahead, because I would like to document the experience of working on this bike - including instances where "Plan A" ends up not panning out. I will eventually write a separate post about the challenges of rack design and production, but for now I am trying my best to get it done while fitting into the timeline and into the budget I have to work with.

It's funny, because I have been warned against taking this project too personally - but have been unable to heed that advice. I do take things personally when I am passionately involved in something; it's just how I am. As with everything, this experience has both highs and lows, and perhaps I take both to heart more than I should. But when I walk past this bicycle in our apartment now, I pause every time and think "Oh my God, this is my dream bike!" - so I think overall that's a good sign. More progress reports to follow, and if you have questions regarding availability please contact elton[at]harriscyclery[dot]net.

82 comments:

  1. It's looking great! My wife saw pictures of this bike and said "What kind of bike is that? I LIKE it". I agree.

    I had some thoughts on the overall flow of the rear rack: that central vertical strut seems to end abruptly at the top and disrupts the graceful curvature of the rest of the bike. A nice curved split at the top would be very elegant.

    The colors all go great together. It's really come a long way since the original.

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  2. It's a wonderful bike. I wish I could get one.

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  3. somervillain - Thanks! There is something about this build that attracts people. You know how close the spot where these photos were taken is to my house - and I got comments from 4 strangers on my way there.

    The rack is not there yet in many ways, and I'll resist outlining them all right now because I'm a little stressed and exhausted about it. But hopefully will post specifically about the rack in the next week or two.

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  4. Velouria: can I ask why you spell 'colour' the British way? As a Brit it just seems strange to see an American spell it the British way.

    On another note the Superba looks excellent. Will there be a rear light and will it be dynamo powered?

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  5. Aaron - You are making assumptions : )

    Yes, there is a tail light - you can see it in the pictures. Dynamo powered, with standlight.

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  6. Velouria, not to stress you out further or incite a big discussion when I see that you are still grappling with it, but I agree with somervillain. I just wasn't able to articulate what the vertical bar was or what I felt it did to disrupt the flow.

    The bike is just plain sexy. In my opinion, the sexiest Frascona Curve out there. :) You are only enhancing something that's awesome and making it more versatile. I love the new hub, the handlebar set up, wheels, tires, crankset and pedals doesn't bother me at all, I think those work well. It seems like it's almost there? I hope you can take your time with it to make it just how you want it--people can be patient. :)

    I simply cannot wait to see what the color might be like, though. ;)

    Have you considered silver braided cable housing, like the stuff VO sells?

    I like the idea of the of the headlamp being further near the bars. I would not use a front load on this bike anyway.

    Great work so far, and thanks for the post!

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  7. Ah-ha, I understand :).

    Oh yeah. For some reason I thought it was just a reflector. Very neat.

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  8. which headlight is that? Looks like the one that came on my Velorbis scrap deluxe, a Bush & Muller. It was a total piece of junk, although it seemed like a good idea, especially the sensor which turned on automatically when it was dark. Plus it looks vintage. Mine developed some problems in operation after about 7 days. I went into Harris Cycles to see what they could do, and they told me that this particular model has a lot of problems, and I'd probably be better off with a different model. I took their advice and the replacement (also a Bush & Muller) works great!

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  9. jb - This is a Buechel headlight, but we are still deciding between it and Busch & Mueller. I am surprised about your problems with the Busch & Mueller, unless Velorbis used a model I don't know about. The one on my Pashley and the Co-Habitant's Pashley worked/ continue to work with zero problems.

    There are not many classic-looking dynamo headlights to choose from these days; as far as I know these options are basically it.

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  10. FJelltronen - I don't necessarily disagree about the rack, I only meant that I'll go into it in more detail in a later post.

    The silver braided housing is not compatible with this shifter, it has to be the housing pictured. However, while initially I too thought silver would be a good idea, I held it against the frame and changed my mind: black actually works better here.

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  11. Many bikes nowadays are sold with no pedals. Tastes do vary.

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  12. The bike looks grand except for that mortuary shade of green it's painted. Yuck!

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  13. Steve - I don't think that's usually done on transportation bikes though! Imagining customers switching out the stock pedals for clipless...

    Walt - Okay, you win. Neon green it is!

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  14. Walt, perhaps we could convince Velouria to emulate the two color paint job of my first bicycle:

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5164/5267588464_e9c5317a4d_b.jpg

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  15. You read my mind. And one can only hope that they can paint the handlebars to match. That polished alloy is missing some neon spice.

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  16. I really really like this bike!++

    Colour is totally beautiful. What about brown housing? Is it possible to find that?

    I like that you got rid of the Shimano gearhub.

    Pedals look great. Classic utility style but still not the cheap looking steel rubber ones.

    badmother

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  17. "Velouria said...
    Walt - Okay, you win. Neon green it is!"

    :() Well not THAT bright. A simple yellow will do thank you! :?))

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  18. Which grips are those? I think they could be just right for certain bikes. Could you tell why they're just placeholders and not contenders?

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  19. Neon. PLEASE. I've had as much "high vis" as I can possibly stand!

    As for "transportation," how can it be a transportation bike if it isn't ugly, dented, and painted black?

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  20. Evan - These were actually sent to me by a reader to go with some handlebars as part of a trade, but I've made ones like them myself as well. They are regular cork grips, stained a deep brown, then shellacked over the stain. If I'm going to have cork grips, I think I'd rather have the Portuguese whole-cork. But these would be an option as well if I start to go overbudget.

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  21. My first bike that I chose is too neon and hi-vis for Walt. I need a drink. ;)

    Seriously though, I like those Portuguese ones a lot, but I like the budget option too. The cork option seems like it might be nicer than plastic because there's an opportunity to match the saddle. Nice pick.

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  22. My daughter got all excited about it. Even more when I showed her the post on how it's ride quality. I think you've really got something here. I wish Bella Ciao would get a distributor... I just don't think I can justify getting a bicycle from Boston to Los Angeles! But I know some shops that would love to carry such bikes, at LEAST on special order...

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  23. A city bike without the weight of the big hi-ten steele clunkers. What a great concept. Don't assume that only 'ladies' would want this bike. I'm a gent, and if I were in the market for a bike with this functionality, I'd consider it.

    Funny you should mention the cranks. I saw the photo before reading your comments and thought they looked rather nice. Not retro, but nice. My vote on the light mounting would be +1 for fork blade mounting, though I know you are not doing design be commity.

    When is the projected availablity?

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  24. Phil - I think that someone did place a custom order from CA and shipping was $100 or so. Don't quote me on that, but it wouldn't hurt to ask Harris.

    arevee - Some time in May!

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  25. GORGEOUS!

    So sleek and classy. I think it would look great with the head badge raised a smidgen. Then - perfection. :) Kudos!

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  26. Huh?

    "One of my favourite parts of the Bella Ciao frames are the elegant fork-ends with the chain tensioners."

    The shifter is mounted at an awkward wrist angle, the headlight in front of the headbadge is a bit off, the rack longer and more useful than your mixte's VO, the coaster brake peculiar but the aesthetics for an Atlantic North East bike pretty good.

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  27. Jim - And a "huh" back at you? (Not sure what's confusing - my love for the fork ends?)

    The shifter angle works for my wrist, and see the text of the post about the headlight.

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  28. Fork ends are on the, uh, fork, where there is no chain. Or tensioner. Drop outs at the back.

    Yeah, I got that about the light. Handlebar mount is a natural choice, but again the wires. Allows for front rack and sundries. Handlebar mount for rack is def no good. See comments from previous post.

    You mean I was right about a wireless system?

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  29. Jim - They are fork ends.

    This particular bike is not meant for a front rack with sundries; it is meant to be kept light and minimalist, so ideally I still envision the light on the fork crown as the optimal solution. The lights are not wired in the pictures, pending the final headlight placement decision. The production bikes will be internally routed.

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  30. "A bicycle dropout is a type of fork end." Thanks for not being so all-knowing, Wiki. We calls them drop outs on the west coast to not confuse them with, uh, fork ends.

    Looks like utility resides in the back. More usefulness resides in the front. Light, fast bikes can have front racks. Minimal is another story, usually one that starts with pretty and ends with, "I wish I had more carrying capacity."

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  31. Don't make this an East coast/ West coast thing, cause we'll take you on.

    Re front/rear racks and utility... Look at it this way: there is a right bike for every need and those who build up frames from scratch all do it differently. Those who want to carry heavy loads on their daily bike should buy a different bike. There is Gazelle, Workcycles, even Surly. The "target market" for this particular bicycle? Women who need to carry a work bag and/or grocery bag and who want dynamo lighting and a step-through frame, but otherwise want a bicycle that is light, simple, not overbuilt, and handles hills well with minimal gearing. And who like coaster brakes. If 12 such women exist in North America, this project is a success. Remember that there are only 12 bikes, this is not meant to be a crowdpleaser that wows everyone on Earth with its good-for-all design.

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  32. You don't know who u r messin wit, girl.

    I knew you'd respond this way, as I know it's limited production.

    A bike for every purpose, like some like a shoe for every outfit, an outfit for every occasion. I'm guilty, to an extent.

    Work bikes are overbuilt and overbuilt for a reason. To overcarry. A teensy little front rack can support a purse, which is all this target market needs. Accessibility to essential stuff NOW, non-essential can ride in the back.

    Saying goes, party in the front, biz in the back.

    Of those 12 some will give up cycling, some will want more. Be a shame if those who gave it up would've stayed if...

    Go to friggin' bed, already.

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  33. Jim, it would be more appropriate to call them dropouts if they didn't finish high school, or perhaps were vertical or horizontal. We all know what you mean, of course, and I often call track-style forks dropouts too, but at least I recognize what it means when someone appropriately calls them fork-ends. :)

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  34. MDI,

    You're one of the East Coasters too, no doubt, with your funny vernacular and Ye Olde English writing.

    Bring it!

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  35. Jim - To suggest that women who buy this bike might give up cycling as a result of my not including a front rack is venturing into the territory of the absurd IMO. I mean, I could counter by saying that forcibly including a front rack could have the same effect, as some might find the bike unwieldy and overwhelming as a result of that choice. As a designer, you can apply that way of thinking to pretty much any aspect of the bike, and be frozen with indecision as a result. Oh my God, will they give up cycling because the bike is too heavy? too sporty? has a coasterbrake? doesn't have a coasterbrake? Oh why bother, they'll just give up cycling no matter what I do! Here's the frame girls, enjoy building it up! (...Oh wait, or will they give up cycling because the frame requires building up?...)

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  36. Jim and Veloria - why don't you two compromise and call them front or rear dropouts? I grew up on the East Coast, but have live on the West Coast for almost 25 years (not quite half my life), so I'm not sure which side to take!

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  37. I would bet the (my?) farm that no woman looking for a city bike would give up cycling after purchasing this bike. I am an east coaster, though. And London-born so I clearly can't be trusted.

    I love how the white wheels and brown saddle soften the color of the frame. And I can't wait to see the rack!

    I look forward to having a Bella Ciao of my own.

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  38. arevee - You mean rear fork-ends : )

    neighbourtease - The Neorealista? It's insane, but I want the Moscova in addition to the bike I have. Single speed, no chaincase, no lights, no racks, totally impractical. And yet...

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  39. lovely lady lovely bike - regarding the pictures above and what they show - may i say...

    BRAVO!

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  40. Velouria, I have a Bontrager rack and basket on my vintage Peugeot (you would hate the colors). Would you ever consider something like that for this bike? Here is a picture of it on my bike.

    https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-u2Wi9tlnDnw/TXJW79LU8zI/AAAAAAAAALI/rdXBttdWuOg/s1600/2011-03-03_09-29-46_769.jpg

    The basket can easily be removed and carried, yet it is very secure. The only thing is that you need to have a Bontrager rack.

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  41. Thanks jens : )

    Julia - I like the removable basket option as offered by this rack and some Pletscher racks. But the design itself (especially that square rear portion) is just not what I have in mind for this bike. It is too modern compared to the rest of the bike, and the lines dominate/overshadow the lines of the frame. I know it sounds kind of abstract, but when I try the majority of the racks on this bike, they just look extremely off.

    The Tubus Fly is the only production rack I have found thus far that works visually, but it is too small for this bicycle. Technically I can get it on, but then there is not enough fender clearance to use it with panniers, so it kind of defeats the purpose.

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  42. It is truly a Gorgeous bike! Congratulations to you!
    I do like the Delta Cruisers. An overall fantastic looking bike. Wow!!

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  43. Velouria, yes to Neorealista! She kills me. Though the plain black Corvo Citta donna also appeals to me. And the Moscova is incredible. Obv I think you should get it. :)

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  44. You say to-maht-o, I say to-mayt-o...

    I understood about the fork ends, although it does sound weird for me to hear dropouts referred to as fork ends, since the modern convention seems to be dropout, or "DO" in bike forum shorthand... even though they're both technically correct. I have heard some people call them fork-ends. Then again, those same people would call a derailleur a gear changer.

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  45. somervillain said...
    "... I have heard some people call them fork-ends. Then again, those same people would call a derailleur a gear changer."


    fantastic idea : )

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  46. I do not believe in a "shoe for every outfit" in this context and I am certain that is not a Lovely Bicycle philosophy. So why go there?

    I love that this bicycle isn't going to have a big basket or rack in front. I think it's not practical for maneuvering. However, I do think about my purse. I'm wondering if I could install something like this (http://www.thebicyclemuse.com/shop/bicycle-purse-rack-p-148.html) later and if it works well? Does anyone use it? I like how thin and small it is and that it's tucked inside the handlebars.

    Velouria, do you carry a purse? Or do you transfer your purse things among your panniers?

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  47. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but the paint color looks too Army-ish to me. I keep thinking of WW II army bikes (say, http://www.theliberator.be/BicyclesImages/2xMG.jpg).

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  48. Fjelltronen - I don't carry a purse. I carry either a larger handbag that fits my laptop, an almost equally large photobag, or nothing at all (placing keys and wallet in my pockets). Neither my handbag nor my photobag would fit into that handlebar thing anyhow, I need a proper pannier system. Also, on a visual/tactile level I am uncomfortable with things flapping about in my field of vision (like the handles of a purse often do in these carriers). I prefer for my handlebar area to be clear of clutter.

    Jon Webb - That is precisely why it is not the production colour. Read the first paragraph of the post.

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  49. The bicycle is beautiful and very practically appointed. Regarding front versus rear storage, I only use front storage on tours, although I do augment my rear storage with a trailer for large grocery hauls. My aesthetic sensibilities definitely prefer an uncluttered front, and so I am glad that the graceful lines of this bicycle will not be cluttered by a large basket or front rack. I love the understated color -- and since I won't be buying the final version, anyway, I don't have to care that the production color will be different. Once the kinks are worked out, this bicycle will be a true modern classic: practical and lovely to behold. Good luck on finishing the project.

    Aaron in Boulder

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  50. Jeez, I thought you’d be able to extrapolate a bit more from my comments. I see you have and run an entirely unexpected direction.

    I never said to include a front rack. It’s your project, do what you like. What I said is the placement of the light disallows the use of a rack in the future. Putting it directly in front of the headbadge doesn't integrate the design.

    People give up cycling for all kinds of seemingly trivial reasons. The lack of ability to carry one’s essentials isn’t trivial, but really one or two less riders on the road isn’t a big deal. There are only 5 billion people on the earth, after all.

    Ride as you like, design accordingly. Then grow as a rider and design another bike if you like.

    Good design incorporates a depth of experience.

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  51. V., of course I read your post. I was just warning you away from that color. You didn't say you were going to change the color so it didn't look so Army-ish. (Though the Army bikes are kind of cool in their own way, I don't think it is what you want.)

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  52. Jim - Come on now. All right, let me attempt to break it down for you one more time in an attempt at mutual understanding, misguided as it may be:

    1. A rear rack painstakingly designed to accommodate almost any pannier system hardly translates as "the lack of ability to carry one’s essentials". Most women I have spoken and corresponded with prefer to carry stuff on the back of their bike, not on the front. Even their purse. When they do have a front rack, often it sits empty. The biggest problem they have with transportation bikes is not that they are missing a front rack, but that something is wrong with the rear rack in terms of its ability to accommodate different panniers and baskets. So, if I have to fight one battle within my budget, that seems like the more worthwhile now. Make a good rear rack, a versatile rear rack. Focus on that, because lots of women complain about it - including myself. That is my thinking process and I find it reasonable.

    2. "Putting [the light] directly in front of the headbadge doesn't integrate the design." You say that as if I plan to keep it there and insist that it's great design. I've already explained that I too see this as a flaw and am working on finding a solution. What else can be said? We agree here; we are on the same page.

    3. Should a new owner of a Superba wish to install an aftermarket front rack, they will have problems no matter where the headlight is and will have to remount the light (on the rack itself) after the procedure. Look at the bike - specifically at the size of the headtube - and think about it. Imagine the headlight at headset level. Now imagine a rack above the fork crown. Now imagine that rack with a cute basket and stuff piled upon it. It will obscure the headlight; there is not a whole lotta space there and the owner is bound to feel frustrated with the light placement. Now imagine the light on the fork blade. It will almost certainly interfere with the rack installation, which will suck because the light will be on a braze-on.

    So the most reasonable solution is actually to leave the headlight at the fork crown (but make some adjustments so that it does not interfere with the headbadge and sits further from the top tube). Then if the owner wishes to install a rack, they remove the light, install the rack, then re-mount the light on one of the rack's stays like so.

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  53. What don’t you think I get?

    1. Most of my female cycling friends find panniers fuddy duddy and prefer to carry things on their backs, on top of the rear rack on in a front rack. Phone on person or in bag in front rack. Whatever. Chalk it up to demographic differences.
    2. I was recapping what I said earlier.
    3. As I mentioned earlier a handlebar-mounted light rises above the basket contents on this kind of bike.

    You are constrained by design choices, you’ve made your decisions. You’ve posted about it. What do you expect—a chorus of hallelujahs? I’m critiquing some design choices. Big deal. It’s a good overall design but not perfect. Nothing is.

    I mean, seriously, you've used your readers as market research for various things in the past, and designed a bike that isn't finished. I'm giving you feedback, something you've asked for previously.

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  54. Jim - I do not at all expect a "chorus of hallelujas" and I think that I generally answer questions in a reasonable manner.

    Some of your statements and criticisms were confusing and seemed argumentative for the sake of being so. If I am wrong, my bad.

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  55. Jim,

    I don't see what the big deal with the light placement is. The bikes are going to be sold at Harris Cyclery anyway. If a customer wants a front rack, or basket, I'm sure they'll be more than glad to move the light and figure out how to mount it on the fork or rack support. Ta-da. Don't see how it could be a problem.

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  56. Veloria, I'm not a fan of that color either (too army for me too), but I do love the bike. I'm trying to envision the color you're describing and I can't. Is there a reference we can see?

    Personally, I want a tangerine bike. Not orange. Tangerine! I suspect this will not happen any time soon :).

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  57. Fun read. Jim's comments are legit and Velouria is responding appropriately. It's always difficult when one puts ones work up to scrutiny. Both a thick skin and an open mind are required.

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  58. Sorry, but I can't help but stick up for Velouria here, regardless of whether or not she wants it!

    There is a polite way to deliver criticism and pose questions--just a friendly reminder. :)

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  59. Velouria - "To suggest ... is venturing into the territory of the absurd IMO."

    You say it like that's a bad thing. But that's kinda my side of the tracks. :)

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  60. lyen - Good point re absurdity. Since when is that a bad thing!

    Anyhow, there is really no problem here. Jim, I don't always "get" your comments, that is all. Feel free to criticise me any time, really.

    Mil spec green / puke/ old pea soup... Yeah, it's not everyone's cup of tea. The production colour will be close to that of my mixte. A "fresh mint" if you will.

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  61. It really is a lovely bicycle, with a number of nice details. But I've got a fundamental question -- what's with the love for a coaster-brake rear hub? I'm a regular city rider on an old-fashioned, upright, step-through (loop) frame, and whenever I've ridden a bike with a coaster brake I go absolutely nuts at the impracticality in the city. (I think I'd go nuts with it anywhere, but in the city, where you may have to stop at every single block, it seems particularly impractical.) Do you only use the front brake to stop, thereby keeping the pedals in a decent position to start up again? Or do you stop by using your non-dominant leg on the coaster brake, freeing the dominant leg to be in position to start?

    -- Liz

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  62. Liz - Ah, see here.

    Let's see... As I coast to a stop, I automatically bring the appropriate pedal into starting position. So I guess that would be the left pedal, and I tend to start with my left foot. But sometimes I do the same with the right instead. Honestly, it's hardly an issue, and those who use coasterbrakes usually say the same. It's something your body just seems to automatically get used to after some route memory training.

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  63. Velouria,
    This is looking good...two observations/questions. Does Sturmey-Archer make a shifter without the black plastic anymore? The older, all metal versions were so much more elegant. Also, not sure what your fender constraints are, but it would be nice to see the front fender extend further on the top/front, without sacrificing its coverage on the back.

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  64. I think you are really, really close. If it were *my* design decision, here are the two things I'd modify:

    1) move the light down to the fork blade on a curved bracket. The builder can make a jig very quickly that will allow for a braze-on tab, and it will be repeatable. I would use a bracket that is curved forward and upward, as a slight echo of the Frascona curve.
    2) I would also change the seat-stay mounting bracket on the rear rack for a curved one to further echo the Frascona curve, and to tie the whole thing together visually. It would also visually soften the vertical mounts for the rear rack.

    I think the color key looks great with the tire and grip change, and look forward to the unveiling of the final frame color.

    And you already know I'm a fan of the S/A trigger shifter and the hub with indicator chain.

    Corey K

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  65. Oh....and upon viewing the top picture, Herself took in a deep breath and said "...so, when is mine arriving?"

    Corey K

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  66. Erik - As I understand it, that covering on the SA hub can be removed to reveal a metal shifter that looks just like the original. The fenders can't be messed with within the budget.

    Corey - The builder can certainly make the bracket, but (1) it will be an additional cost and as it is I am running overbudget for the rack and need to cut costs elsewhere rather than increase them, and (2) see my very long response to Jim at 12:06, point 3: The bracket could prevent installation of a front rack. I agree about the center stays on the rack; something more elegant will go on there.

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  67. Jim said...
    "... a handlebar-mounted light rises above the basket contents on this kind of bike"


    I assume you mean that it would be on that bolt at the stem and not on the side of the handlebars. How would you route the dynamo wiring with that set-up? I can't see how it's possible without looking meh, but maybe I'm missing something.

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  68. What makes the light placement possible on these bicycles, but poses a problem with the Superba? I don't get the technical problem.

    I don't agree with the comments about placing the light down by the fork. The light is fairly big, and classic. That approach seems more modern or not right for this type of bicycle [prove me wrong] and might throw off the symmetry?

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  69. I don't care too much about aesthetics, but for your bike it would have to be internal. Through the quill, through the fork steerer, down a leg.

    To hide the wire requires a custom fabrication.

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  70. Fjelltronen - Well, remember that these are dynamo lights and they will have a wire stretching to the hub. When the light is mounted on the fork crown, that's easy: the distance to the hub is quite short. But when the light is mounted at the level of the headset, what are you going to do with that long stretch of wire?

    Notice that all the bikes in that post that have headlights at the headset are equipped with rod brakes. This allows the wire to be more or less unnoticeably wound around one of the rods right down to the wheel. Do you see what I mean? The Superba obviously has no rod brakes, so it's more tricky. I can't just let the wire hang loose, it will look terrible.

    As a separate issue, look at the picture in that post with the pink bike, the one that has the basket on the front rack. Notice anything? The headlight pretty much hits the basket. And it's a small basket, too. Not very elegant either. What do you think?

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  71. Oh, boo. I do see that I figured that maybe you could wave a magic wand and make the wire go away? I wish the wire could be inside the frame, or something.

    I'm not a big fan of the basket on that bicycle, or that bicycle period (those colors distract me!). The light and basket are not placed very elegantly, but I thought you agreed that the Superba is not a bicycle intended to have a front basket or rack? That, even installing a simple rear rack was a step outside the company's philosophy? I do like the simple design of the rear rack on the pink bicycle, however. :) Thanks for asking. I didn't even worry since heavier, bulkier loads on the front end of a bicycle haven't worked out for me yet. I liked the other Italian city bikes without a basket and the light placed near the bars. I understand the technical problem now, sadness.

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  72. The wiring will be internally routed from front to rear, but making it also internally routed from the headlight to the hub is more difficult and more costly, if you think about it. On my Gazelle, where the headlight is placed high, the proprietary stem is drilled out and the wiring is routed through there. But again, once something like that is done, not only does it add to production cost, but the light placement is no longer versatile at all - if you move it, there will be a hole in your stem?

    While I do not envision this bike with a front rack or basket, I was addressing Jim's point about the difference between (a)me not including these things, yet it being possible for the owner to add them if so desired, and (b)me not only not including them, but also making it impossible to add them, ever. I agree that Option (a) is desirable here. And what I was trying to explain is that ironically, leaving the headlight at the fork crown is actually the best way to facilitate that.

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  73. @Velouria: Whatever you do with the front light, I think the position of the headbadge should be right in the middle of the head tube, or just slightly above (I don't know the proper term for it, but I mean something like the 'visual center').
    Another 'classic' option would be to mount the front light on the front fender, as I found it on the Swiss-Italian bike of the type I mentioned in another posting. But in this case the fender may be to short and even to weak to carry this comparatively large head lamp, so I would love to see it mounted as on the other Italian bikes you mentioned above. Just as an apropos: Mounting the front lamp (a bit) higher much improves the lighting in front of the bike ...

    @Erik: "Does Sturmey-Archer make a shifter without the black plastic anymore?" - This model was introduced in the early 1970s (see http://genetics.mgh.harvard.edu/hanczyc/pdfs/satriggers.pdf for information), and has been the standard type since then.
    I very much dislike the plastic cover too, and as I am kind of re-designing my new Pashley Guv'nor at the moment, I tried to remove the black plastic cover yesterday in the evening and to my great pleasure found that the casing beneath the ugly plastic part is chromed beautifully, so you could remove this black thingy to have a very classic all metal shifter. I went one step further and peeled the thin aluminium medaillon (as it is called in the document linked above) from the plastik, cut the upper edge a bit with a pair of scissors, cut off a small corner on the left so that no part of the aluminium would protrude from the shifter case, and put it right back on the front plate (even without adding glue), et voilà: There's your classic all-metal Sturmey Archer-Shifter ! :-) This can only be done reasonably with the Taiwan made versions of the Sturmey Archer shifter, because the typography (without a 'Made in England' remark) is favourable for such an action.

    Matthias
    Matthias

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  74. You could also coil the dynamo wire around the brake cable, running it as far as possible, then down the inside of the fork leg. Painted to match, maybe.

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  75. I have thought about it, but I admittedly know very little about bicycle building and wiring, so it would not matter how much time I might spend musing on the subject, hah! I suppose I thought if there was some wiring already internally routed all the way from rear to front, maybe it wasn't that big of a deal to completely or partially internally route the wiring from head light to front hub as well? Again, I don't know the technical aspects of accomplishing something like this, or the cost involved--I was just curious if it was possible at all.

    I'm also curious how many people would prefer to have a permanent hole in the stem so that the light is placed higher up and so that the head badge can stay put versus people who would prefer is as and to have the flexibility to move it around to accommodate a front rack or basket? Maybe where it is, is fine, and people can make whatever changes to suit their own needs when the bicycle is in their possession...? I think that's fair, as I understand budgetary constraints.

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  76. Matthias - I like the plastic & aluminum cover of the shifter : )

    The visual center of the head tube is actually somewhat higher than the actual center, because of the caliper brake. I think just 1/2" higher will will get it out of the way of the headlight and will remain visually harmonious. The fender can probably support a headlight, but is too short for it.

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  77. Reading this post I can only guess how frustrating and difficult this project must have been, e.g. seeing that even you could not find a better solution for a headlamp and fender-mounted taillight. The first seems to be a retro-style b&m headlamp which looks ghastly, while the latter, I assume, is a bubbly see-through LED à la seculite, which suits the classy looks of the bici none the more.

    I have two suggestions though (not sure if it' not too late though):
    - The wire stays of the front fender are dangerous to cloth and skin, and they will cost the owner as soon as the rubber cover get peeled off.
    - Have you considered sturmey-archer's x-fdd drum-brake/dynohubs? They are more reliable, more forgiving and almost as powerful as long-reach calipers, and they should not add to the cost at all.

    p.s. I've fallen for the bici anyway as soon as I saw you found that special kind of brazen bell!

    Regards,
    late-anon

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  78. I want to say that I LIKE the color(colour). It is out of the ordinary and if it looks a little military when you stare at it, it doesn't(at least to me) when you see the bike as a whole. Add a rider and it just looks subtle and tasteful in a natural, understated way. I hope the up-dated shade for the production bikes will still be close enough to this to keep some of that vibe.

    City bikes never really appealed to me until some actual designers started doing things like this, unusual accessories, unique but traditional configurations and focusing on a particular aspect of purpose or aesthetics. I don't think this bike would have much personality if it was trying to appeal to 20% of the market.

    I hope the end result of all this leaves you feeling good about the process and encourages you to do it again, I'd like to see an Italianate interpretation of a Pashley Guv'nor done by someone with your brand of taste and commitment.

    Spindizzy

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  79. steelshwinnster54May 15, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    V, I know I'm comming to the party late... The "Twelve" may already be gone. It appears very beautiful and elegant. Your best labours exemptlified. Well done!

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  80. Hi Velouria,
    This is an amazing bicycle! All of your carefully considered design decisions make it not only beautiful, but also very practical. Will it be an okay fit for a woman who is just under 5'4"? I am very tempted to get one, but am a little hesitant since I can't test ride it (yet).

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  81. Velouria, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! I hope to make it happen that I can purchase one of these lovely bicycles! I am fortunate to work out of my home, but use a bicycle for everything else (going to the store; running errands; etc.) I only recently purchased a 'box store' Schwinn - it was all I could afford at that time. It came with a rack and fenders at least, and is white (not neon!). I live in Atlanta, which is very hilly, and all the features you are describing for the Superba sound to be perfect for me as well after riding daily for the last 6 months, rain, shine, and even ice (still have a bump on my head after experiencing a freak ice storm on my way home one night)... Its fortunate for me that you are 5' 7" because if you were a more 'average' size female, this bicycle wouldn't work for me. I'm 5' 8" so the size should be fine. Now to check and see if I can still reserve one and then to work my butt off this month to make enough money for the balance! I can do it! This bike will be going inside with me whereever I go. (the used bicycle I had before the Schwinn was stolen, even though locked). It may yet be a dream, but I'm going to give it a try.... and if it doesn't work out this time, I hope you will be collaborating again soon for another similar bike! At least I have a dream bicycle worthy of aspiration.

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  82. Hi Velouria. Lovely blog. Can you recommend a rear rack for the Bella Ciao Neorealista Veloce? I'm stumped. Something functional but doesn't ruin the lines of this beautiful bike. Thanks!

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