A JP Weigle Classic
A week or so ago, I came across a picture of a beautiful J.P. Weigle bicycle that got my attention because of its small size - "small enough for me to try!" was of course my immediate thought. And that is when I noticed something else: The location of the photo looked familiar... Could it be? Good Lord, this bike was in Boston! Turns out the owner (Mark) was not only local, but "wicked local" - his woodworking studio is 10 minutes away from my art studio. A visit was swiftly arranged and soon I was swooning over this bike in person.
Based on the aesthetics I had assumed this was a recently made low trail 650B randonneur. But in fact the frame was built in 1982 as a sports-touring bike with 700C wheels, narrow tires and mid-trail geometry. This bike has an interesting, bitter-sweet history. It was made as a birthday gift for Mark's father - who at that point was in his 70s. Shortly before he passed away, he gave the bicycle to his son. Prior to this Mark had not been especially interested in cycling, but inheriting the bicycle drew him in. The bike was comfortable, fast, beautiful, and served as a tangible reminder of his father.
Over time Mark rode the bike more and more, eventually getting the frame repainted and updating the components. The current set-up is comfortable and racy in equal measure - reflecting the owner's enjoyment of spirited cycling, as well as his preference to ride in everyday clothing.
The lugwork, the craftsmanship and the overall aesthetic are impressive.
There is a crispness, precision and sense of harmony to everything that is just right.
Mark's choice of components enhances the elegance of the frame further still.
A harmonious, personal, functional and beautiful build.
Being a custom frame, the proportions were made to suit the original owner - who was of short stature with a long torso. Mark's proportions are similar, though perhaps he is a bit taller. Having quickly measured the frame, the figures I got are 50cm x 54cm, which makes sense given how this bicycle felt to me. With the saddle set back and the handlebars considerably lower than the saddle, I was leaning forward much more than I normally would.
To say that I test rode this bicycle would be to overstate the fact. I rode it up a gentle hill, circled around a pothole-ridden parking lot, then rode it back downhill. Mark's saddle height was just right for me. The brakes were difficult for my hands to squeeze, but doable. The downtube shifters I did not even try, not that I needed them for the duration of this ride. The ride felt great over potholes, very easy uphill, and stable downhill. The tires felt much more cushy than 23mm, which was interesting. The bike did not have toe overlap with the 23mm tires and fenders. Though I would need to make some adjustments before I could confidently take this bicycle on a proper test ride, I can certainly see why the owner enjoys it so much.
It is not every day that one gets to see, let alone ride a 30-year-old J.P. Weigle that has been passed on from father to son, and once again I feel extremely lucky to live in a region where such a thing is within the realm of possibilities. I enjoyed meeting Mark, the bicycle's owner, who is an interesting person and makes some beautiful chairs I now crave. Some day I hope to meet Mr. Weigle and talk to him about his work, which I have great respect for. More pictures of this bike here!