Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our Beautiful Experiment

When Bryan Hollingsworth phoned to tell me that "our" frame was back from the painter's, I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my camera and was there within minutes. For weeks I had been nervously anticipating the results of my emphatic description of what I wanted this frame to look like - a description presented in an illustrated 3-page document, then further clarified in a tête-à-tête with the painter. He must have thought I was insane to wax lyrical about the precise shade of "stormy seas" I had in mind. But no matter, because it's done and it looks just as I had imagined!

So what exactly is this frame? I have mentioned before in passing that I am collaborating with Bryan of Royal H. Cycles on a classic randonneuring bicycle. I provided the geometry and tubing specs (don't worry, I had a lot of help), came up with the colour scheme, and specced the components. Bryan built the frame with his signature touches, and will be putting the bike together - including internally routed lighting. In other words, he did the real work while I talked, gesticulated, sent emails, and took pictures. It takes all kinds.

It's difficult to tell at the drawing board how a frame will really look once it is finished, but this is pretty much what we hoped it would look like. The Everest lugset and Grand Bois fork crown are just perfect together. The tubing is True Temper OX Platinum, with Kaisei Toei Special fork blades.

This is a classic randonneuring frame in the sense that it has low trail geometry and is built for 650B wheels with wide tires. Specifically, we will be using the Grand Bois Hetres, and you can see them fitted onto the "naked" frame here. The build will be fairly classic and high quality, but nothing too flashy. We are going to try to keep the weight down as well. The frame and fork themselves feel very light.

Bryan had just ordered these custom RHC (Royal H Cycles) end caps for seat stays, and this is the first frame that will have them. He also made the cantilever cable hanger.

Front derailleur hanger.

Zink-plated dropouts, eyelets for fenders and rear rack.

Bottom bracket, cable routing, stainless kickstand plate. There is much more to this frame, but I will save it for when the bicycle is finished!

Bryan has several options for decal designs that he uses, and I wanted the frame to have aspects from different ones. So the head tube insignia design is from one set, while the downtube insignia is from another, and I love the way it all came together here. I also really wanted this band around the seat-tube, which reminds me of a vintage candy wrapper.

The main frame colour is a slate-blue-green metallic paint with very fine pearlescent particles. I suspect that this is the same or a similar paint as what Mercian uses for their polychromatic colour family, which they describe as resembling "the underside of tin foil." While it's not for everyone, I am crazy about this finish, and the colour really does resemble a stormy sea. The lugwork is off-white with a similar metallic shimmer as the main frame colour, resulting in a sort of mirror finish effect. In person this creates an interesting illusion, where the lugs sometimes look white, and at other times resemble the main frame colour. The lugwork is subtly outlined in gold.

Before this bicycle is sent off to the customer, I will be test riding it for a few weeks and inviting a couple of more experienced cyclists to test ride it as well. Neither the framebuilder, nor the customer, nor myself have any idea what to expect from this bike and that is part of the excitement. We all wanted to try a classic randonneuring bicycle, and creating one ourselves was an interesting way to make that happen. I will post more about this bike once it is built up, and will most likely be writing about it for Bicycle Quarterly sometime later this year, so stay tuned. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. It is a beautiful experiment, and I can't wait to find out how it rides!

63 comments:

  1. holy crap...that bike is pure awesome. Very nice looking.

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  2. Oh my.

    I think I see where this is going.

    Oh my.

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  3. Thanks : )

    It will be built up similarly to my Rivendell, but with a double instead of triple, if you can picture that. Or, similarly to my mixte, only with drop bars instead of Porteurs.

    Interestingly enough, riding the Seven for the past several weeks has made me a lot better equipped to test ride the Randonneur. Otherwise, the Rivendell and my vintage bikes were my only points of reference. Going by what I've been reading in BQ, the randonneur should be like a marriage of the Seven's lightness and speed and the Rivendell's versatility and practicality. Sounds too good to be true, but I am hopeful!

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  4. it's refreshing to hear someone else wax on about the color and finish of paint. it turned out beautiful. I'm excited to see it built up!

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  5. why the clamp on?

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  6. I think the role of colour and finish is too often underestimated and undervalued. No shame in obsessing about it at all from my POV!

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  7. Absolutely lovely.
    I want to know more about the internal wiring.

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  8. Okay, tell the truth... are you going to become the next Grant Petersen? Start up your own bike company? Become a full-time designer? Sounds like you're heading in that direction.

    Speaking of which, if I called Royal H right now, could I order your mixte or this new frame? (Your mixte is the most beautiful bike ever and I want it. :-)

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  9. I am not a businessperson and I think this would stop being fun for me if I made a thing out of it. Occasional freelance designer/consultant is good enough for me.

    Unfortunately you cannot order my exact mixte for a number of reasons, but a similar one yes. In fact I have designed one that is supposed to be "even better" than my own but we need a customer to order it : )

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  10. This is an outstanding execution of all the elements that go into a great frame. I can't wait to see this baby transport the owner in high style!

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  11. This looks like a cool bike, but just a note: A bike like your Seven is much much more common among randonneurs than a bike like this.

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  12. Anon - I know that : ) And it's not my Seven, sadly.

    I am being very honest here when I say that I am lured by BQ's and others' descriptions of the classic (i.e. old-style) randonneuring bicycle. Whether it lives up to my expectations remains to be seen, and I will report on that honestly. I will also be asking a couple of velo-friends with serious racing and touring backgrounds to try the bike and let me know their honest impressions. We'll see!

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  13. That's one sweet looking frame. The color/graphics/workmanship are stunning. Can't wait to read your review.
    The other day I stumbled across a site that featured a bike with an adjustable-trail front fork. It resembled a rear fork end on a track bike. Unfortunately, I didn't bookmark it. Does it ring a bell with anybody?

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  14. Oh God, it does ring a bell. Will try to find it.

    We may be adjusting the trail on my mixte's fork, albeit it is not technically "adjustable" : )

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  15. MT Cyclist,

    GT made some frames awhile ago that came with a fork with longer, angled, front drops, that could be used to change trail.

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  16. Agreed the color is beautiful. No headbadge though??? If you want to be really awesome, find a matching nail polish color that can be recommended for touch up paint!

    I love the reinforcements for a kickstand. Nice touch. A plate would be better if you're 100% sure of running one, but this gives flexibility as the plates are ugly if you're not using them.

    Is it going to have integrated racks/fenders (was just reading Jan's blog :-)). The only question on the design is why you went with the horizontal drop outs? I have those, and regret going with them. My hubs end up slipping over time, no matter how hard I tighten up the QR. And then I worry about over-tightening and damaging the bearing surfaces. Maybe as I use real low gears (22X34) and use it as a mountain bike???

    Will this end up being a semi-production bike put out by RHC? Would be nice to have such a bike on the market! Once again, beautiful!

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  17. This thing is feckin hot. Did Circle A do the paint? Pearlescent works so well on bike frames. The lug color works great with the slate background and classy decals too.

    This looks big for you too - 56ish? No matter, the Seven works.

    You're right, coming off the Riv or vintage to this isn't fair to them. This is going to be way faster than those.

    Is the geo specific to the owner or is it a generic standard? Too bad no pix of the low trail fork.

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  18. Magical color. I love it. Can't wait to see the finished bicycle.

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  19. Have to agree with cyclotourist, I would have gone with vertical dropouts. I have horizontals on one of my bikes with fenders and wide tires and removing/installing the wheel is pain in the a**. Dropouts aside, it's a very nice frameset,

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  20. I rarely wax lyrical about bicycle frames, but this one is just stunning. Stunning.

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  21. That's a beautiful bike! Brilliant work. I can't wait to hear how it rides!

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  22. Did you consider powder coat before electing paint? I'm pondering having my Falcon undergo a "ugly-duck-to-swan" transformation and the powder coat would be much more durable.

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  23. Luv the color! I remember when I brought home my first new bicycle... I didn't even want to take it out on the street because it looked so fabulous inside. A lovely bicycle indeed!

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  24. Lovely frame, though I'm really into bicycles with heavy beausage these day, a slight problem since I'm actually getting my first new frame in over a decade--the rSogn is due to arrive some time this month. I was fortunate to be part of the online ad hoc "input" group that Sean of Rawland was kind enough to set up. Obviously not the same level of involvement that you had with your Royal H, but one thing in common was that probably the most discussed element was the paint.

    The bicycle with the adjustable rake is the GT Tachyon. Here's a link to a few pics of mine. Tbe third image shows a close-up of the front drop outs.


    Due to a current lack of sufficient funds, I will be taking the wheelset and drivetrain/handlebars from this bike and putting it on the rSogn. I'll be running the proprietary 700d wheels (587) with 650A Col de la Vie tires (590--already installed and work great) on a 650B frame (584).

    It will be interesting to compare the 8/5 tubing of the rSogn with the Tange Inifinity 9/6 of the Tachyon.

    Mark
    ironfish

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  25. OMG --- that is one hot bike. I think I need to go smoke a cigarette.

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  26. cyclotourist - I have the stainless reinforcements instead of a plate on my mixte (see here) and they are fine. But this is a matter of taste of course.

    Horizontal dropouts are in case the owner decides to convert it to a fixed gear : )

    Paint was not done by Circle A, but by a local painter, whom embarrassingly I only know by his first name (Tim). I will get his full business info and post it here.

    We did not go with powdercoat, because powdercoat tends to obscure lugwork and does not give the same options for colour and finish. My preference is powdercoat for heavy-duty transportation bikes, liquid coat for elegant roadbikes.

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  27. Oh and the geometry and other details are customer-specific. He is just a bit taller than me, but I should be able to ride this bike. Slam the saddle down as usual and no prob : ) But seriously, when looking at the frame size, keep in mind that the build is 650B. There are no plans to make production or semi-production frames.

    GR Jim - What makes you think that this will necessarily be faster than the Riv? Not saying it won't be, but I don't get the certainty with which some have told me this. Once this is all built up, I am sure it would evoke the same "wrong bike" reaction from the paceline riders. It will have wide tires, fenders, racks, handlebar bag...

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  28. I am wondering why I said that so looked this up: "The Sam Hillborne is the replacement for the Bleriot, with some differences. It's a cross between the Atlantis, our cantilever-braked touring bike, and the A. Homer HIlsen, our roadish country bike. "It's a cross..." means it has tubing halfway in between the two (in wall thickness...)"

    I'm assuming since this is a rando-specific bike it precludes the heavier loads the Sam was built to carry, so the builder can get away with using lighter, more resilient tubing, which usually results in a speed gain. OX Platinum is a popular tubeset for building fast bikes, but of course I don't know the gauge, diameter, butt lengths or whatever, nor would I know how to assess if given them. I was making a general assumption. Generally, rando bikes are made to go faster than tourers because of time limits.

    Of course once you start putting things like fenders and handlebar bags on it becomes more of a parachute. I keep forgetting about the 650B factor too.

    Hypothetically once stripped down w/o fenders, racks et. al. and skinny 650Bs it would rail, but probably still come up short against the Seven for when you're at ten tenths. My feeling is the Riv can't be modified enough to compete with these.

    Custom geo - the standard Seven geo might work better for you than this custom, but it'll be interesting to find out.

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  29. Last weekend I rode my Rivendell SH after riding only the Seven for two weeks straight and it was a very strange experience. I had trouble re-adapting to it and everything seemed off. I definitely need a longer stem, and to bring the saddle forward. Like a foot forward. Well not really, but it felt as if my weight was pushed too far back and I was poised for reading a newspaper in an armchair instead of riding a bike. Just a hunch, but this may have a little something to do with the difference in speed as well.

    The Royal H Randonneur definitely has lighter tubing than the Riv SH, and also somewhat more aggressive geometry. Wheels, components and accessories will be similar, but a bit higher-end and lighter on the Randonneur. Should be an interesting comparison.

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  30. I have a friend who rides road a lot and is very fast. When he walks he has the exact position as when he rides.

    You probably had the Riv set up more like your transpo bikes vs. fast road. Lots of setback, short stem.

    Once you get your core stabilized and everything below it stronger you can lay out more, rotate and still be supported, using a longer reach, long stem.

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  31. Who is getting this gorgeous bicycle? I am very curious about proper randonneurs and would like a lady one. The paint job is stunning and will have to keep it in mind when/if I get my project bikes painted. Too bad Royal H is on the other side of the continent...

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  32. Gorgeous indeed! But what’s with that space before exclamation mark on top tube label? Is it too late to fix it? Or it is on purpose?

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  33. I have horizontal drop outs on my bike, that I have bee riding for about 15 years now and never a slipped axle, must be the hubs?

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  34. @Velouria: That close up makes them look even better! That's definitely an option over a plate. My hunch is that you still have to worry a bit about over-tightening, which you wouldn't need on a plate. As for the horizontal drop outs, when I ordered them I was thinking versatility over time. Maaaaybe I'd run SS or fixed or an IGH someday. A decade later and so far it hasn't happened :-) Plus White Ind. has the marvelous ENO eccentric hub out now.

    @Dave Talsma: Different hubs, same problem. And trust me, I crank down that QR so tight, it's hard to open it back up! I think it's the 22X34 wall climber gearing. It slips forward on the drive side. It's not an all the time problem, just when I'm really mashing up a trail in that low gear. By the time I'm at the top of the hill, it'll be pulled forward on the drive side so the wheel is out of alignment by a couple degrees. A hassle I wouldn't have w/ verticals.

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  35. i once had an actor ask me to paint his fancy sportscar [289 Cobra] to match some malibu- beach-blanket-bimbo's red toe nail polish. insane or not , it's more fun to work with someone that has an idea and can describe what it is they are looking for. i hope this came close to your vision. the painter

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  36. Oh, that paint is so pretty it hurts.

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  37. Magnificent! Can't wait to hear more about it!

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  38. @cyclotourist - I can't say for certain without seeing your quick release levers, but many of the modern open-cam QR levers, particularly the lightweight post-market ones, are simply not strong enough to secure a hub in a horizontal drop out - it doesn't matter how tight you feel you are clamping them on, they simply don't bite.

    And your drive side is naturally where you'll see it shift forward.

    You need the traditional closed cam QR. they will work just fine.

    I have a Pegoretti road bike - his retro-classic Luigino, with horizontal drop outs, and Centaur hubs and accompanying closed cam QR and have no trouble whatever.

    Roff

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  39. Would horizontal dropout travel adjustment bolts help? I have the same style dropouts on my Surly and I sometimes mash pedals pretty good and my axle stays put.

    They don't prevent forward travel, I guess, so probably not.

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  40. @Anon & MDI: Hard to say. One QR is a XT, the other is an older Mavic. Pretty run of the mill stuff.

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  41. Do you have bite marks in your dropouts? Mine are gnarled from the QR eating into it. I also overtighten my QRs. Bearings can eat it.

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  42. Looks like you are building a "Lovely Bike" version of things Jan Haine has praised in Bicycle Quarterly: low trail geometry, 650B-42mm tires, the same OX Platinum tubing that "planed" well on two different Terraferma review bikes, and the particular Imperial style fork crown and blades Jan offers through Compass Bikes.

    I like your choice of lugs. The colors look great but the spacing of words and exclamation point in the Lovely Bike logo on the top tube looks off, and also clashes somewhat with the block cap style letters of the nearby seat stay caps. (Sorry to nitpick, but I think a beautiful bike deserves beautiful typography as well as beautiful colors).

    I really look forward to hearing your independent set of reviewer comments about the ride and performance. Jan Heine's articles suggest that the performance of this kind of bike, including heavy wide tires, fenders, and lights, will meet or exceed that of 10 pound lighter modern racing bikes. You have now tried paceline rides on both the Rivendell and Seven, so let us know what happens if you try this bike on some paceline rides as well.

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  43. Anon 2:36 - Yes, it is exactly that. I had direct contact with JH and specifically asked for his recommendations. We wanted to experience the alleged magic he describes, so tried to do everything just the way it is recommended in BQ.

    One thing to note is that this will be a smaller bike than any of the ones the BQ people have test ridden. I am also a very different kind of cyclist than their regular testers, so my experience will shed some light on how "beginner friendly" this type of bike is.

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  44. Congratulations, V. It's a beautiful bike, so beautiful I would be afraid to ride it. I like the "old-clothes" feel of my bikes, but I love the eye candy of yours.

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  45. Re the spacing of the "Lovely Bicycle" inscription - I like it, because I think it makes it look more casual. Oh and it's a decal.

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  46. It the lack of a full side view of the frame a purposeful omission so that there is a big reveal once the bike is built up? :)

    I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's a lovely colour and love the lug work.

    www.rookblog.com

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  47. The color of the sea, with foamy wave caps for the lugs. Very romantic. Monet would approve, and he grew up by the sea in Le Havre, (not far from Brest...)

    DT shifters?

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  48. Phil: DT shifters?

    Or maybe brifters? Velouria has described why the brifter choice may be more compatible with fast group rides, when you don't want hand motions misinterpreted as unintended signals. If the bike lives up to the kind of performance claims in BIcycle Quarterly, it would be a shame to be leading all those other riders, but having them think each reach for the downtube is a signal of a road hazard or announcement that you are going to move position!

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  49. the " Lovely Bicycle ! " is actually paint. it's hard to see , but it's the same as the pearl on the lugs.

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  50. Regardless of any debatable past TCO qualms, Bryan appears to be consistently capable of producing some exceptionally fine work.

    Tim appears to be a wizard with paint, as well. It's enchanting. Obscure(?) reference intended.

    PS- Are you SURE its a decal? Anon 9:00 seems pretty adamant that it's paint.

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  51. Don't know who Anon 9:00 is, but if it is either Bryan or Tim then they are right and I am wrong. When the bike was going off for paint, I understood that it would be a decal. Either way, personally I like the spacing.

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  52. "The color of the sea, with foamy wave caps for the lugs."

    Yes : )

    I don't know why I associate bicycles with the sea, maybe just because I like both. An endless coastal ride is my idea of heaven.

    "DT shifters?

    Or maybe brifters? Velouria has described why the brifter choice may be more compatible with fast group rides..."


    The bike will have bar-end shifters. If it were mine, I think that I would want Campagnolo Veloce Ergos, but that is a separate issue.

    To clarify, I meant that brifters are necessary only if it's the sort of ride where everyone else has them. In which case they would also probably all be riding racing bikes, so whether a randonneur has them or not is a moot point.

    Either way, the customer for whom this bike is being made will not be going on paceline rides. This bike will be mostly for exploring.

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  53. I can't wait Velouria. It looks gorgeous!! I am very excited to see what you think about it after you have ridden it some. Any new bike is going to feel different at first just as when you started riding the Seven and when you went back to the SH. So, give it a chance to "grow on you" before you come to any conclusions. No, no paceline rides for me but yes, exploring along the coast and just enjoying a bike designed by you and built by Bryan. The paint job, by the way, is perfect! I Love it!!

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  54. I have always associated bicycles with the sea. Perhaps it is because my very first long, independent rides were by the sea.

    And so I love the paint of that bike. Interestingly enough, I stumbled across this early '70's Motobecane Le Champion that was repainted in a similar way:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stronglight/2446006779/in/set-72157601826150825

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  55. Justine - Thanks for the link, hadn't seen that one! Question: why did some of the higher end bikes not have braze-ons for cable routing?..

    JimP - Of course; I'll diligently take it on loads of rides : ) Thanks for letting us test it and write about it. This has been a wonderful project.

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  56. In those days, it was believed that braze-ons weakened the tubing. Some say that brazing techniques for add-ons have improved since then. However, prewar constructeur bikes, as well as many from English builders, had braze-ons for cable guides and racks.

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  57. " it was believed that braze-ons weakened the tubing"

    Justine - Thank you, I did not know that!

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  58. Justine,

    "I stumbled across this early '70's Motobecane Le Champion that was repainted in a similar way:"

    Just to point out- that's the original paint on that Le Champion, which is owned by a friend of mine and fellow velo-obsessionist!

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  59. @Velouria That has to be one of the single prettiest frames I have seen in a long time that besides your Moto mixte :). The color combo is just gorgeous can't wait to see the finished bike. That was a nice touch With the Lovely Bicycle decal paint?!
    Cheers
    Jim

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  60. Somervillan,

    Thanks! That was the first Motobecane I saw with that paint scheme--and I worked in two shops that sold Motos. So I assumed it was a repaint. Sorry, and congratulations to your friend on the restoration job!

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  61. Thanks, Justine. The owner of that Moto has one of the most enviable collections of vintage lightweight bikes from England, France, Japan, and the US. He is quite obsessional about them. If you look at the other closeups of that Moto, you can see the crazing in the paint from age.

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