Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Elusive Finish



Most bicycle builds begin with a vision, a plan, an ideal of what it is the maker wants to accomplish. Then, somewhere along the way, reality intervenes. Unforeseen compatibility issues arise. Certain parts turn out to be unavailable when the bicycle is being assembled. Budgets shrink. Inevitably, compromises are made, and the end result can deviate quite a bit from the original vision.

It was exactly 4 years ago now that I built the frame and fork for this bicycle. And 2 years ago that I first assembled and rode it. In between these two events, I underwent some major life changes, including a move overseas. When I finally got the opportunity to put the bike together, I just didn't have the stamina - or the resources - to care about the details as much as I did back when I was planning the build. On a short visit to Boston, I dragged the frame, fork, and a burlap sac full of spare parts, to a friend's house. Mumbling "doesn't matter, let's just get it ridable," we used whatever compatible parts were on hand.



The result - promptly named Alice - was by no means bad. In fact I was delighted by how well the bicycle rode. Not only did the frame and fork not shatter immediately beneath me, but over the next two years the bike proved feisty, comfy and dependable. It was close to what I had in mind when I first set out to build it.

So what exactly did I envision when I conceptualised this bike 4 years ago? Mainly: I wanted to make a bike that was not a compromise between, but a combination of, a performance machine and a fully equipped mixed terrain traveller. The distinction is an important one. The former implies sacrificing performance for the sake of having fat tyres, mudguards and a rack for carrying luggage. The latter implies that, if done just right, both can be achieved. Inspired by Jan Heine's descriptions of sub-20lb fully equipped brevet bikes from the 1930s, I was convinced this was possible. And I built the frame and fork with this in mind from the start, using the lightest tubing and fittings - sometimes against the advice of my instructor! - and aggressive low-trail geometry, to achieve an exceptionally light and (I hoped) responsive frameset.

Aside from that, I wanted the bicycle to have a modern drivetrain with low gearing. And to look aesthetically pleasing, yet muted and unfussy. I did not want a gleaming remake of a vintage French museum piece, but a classic/modern melange that reflected my needs and preferences more than any textbook ideal.



The first iteration of Alice accomplished these things to some extent. There were, however, some niggles. Firstly, the fit. The too-long stem, combined with handlebars I had not originally meant to use, proved more uncomfortable than I anticipated. No matter what adjustments I made, I could never quite get the feel of the "cockpit" quite right.

I also knew pretty much straight away that the drivetrain - 10speed Chorus married to Rene Herse cranks - would not be staying. I will not go into detail on that topic here, but let's just say combining modern Campagnolo Ergo systems with vintage-style chainrings doesn't work perfectly for me, and I am done experimenting in that regard. In future, I would either go with an all-classic, friction-shift drivetrain if I wanted to keep the RH cranks, or all modern.

In the looks department, everything was good, except that the overabundance of silver-coloured parts began to bother my eyes over time. The bike was literally too shiny!

And finally, there was the weight. As those who've aimed for a lightweight bicycle build know, the only way to achieve this is to scrutinise every single component obsessively (see: Toward an Understanding of Weight Weenie-ism). Not having done that at all when the bike was first assembled, it is perhaps not surprising that it ended up heavier than I had hoped (just under 25lb complete). Now, weight doesn't bother me for weight's sake. But on a bike that is meant to be performance-oriented, ridden by a fairly lightweight and not very powerful rider, it does make a difference. I could especially sense the weight in the wheels, which felt noticeably more effortful to rotate than the wheels on my skinny-tyre roadbike, especially when accelerating and climbing.

While, visually, the re-build of Alice was quite subtle (so subtle that none of my local friends even noticed a difference!), it addressed all of these issues.



For the handlebars and stem, I considered several possibilities but in the end - influenced heavily by my husband's recent adventures -  decided to go for some used Italian racing parts. The 3T Prima199 bars have massive amounts of reach and drop with lots of hand positions, which is what I wanted. And with the 80mm Cinelli XA stem the reach is perfect. This stem and bar combination is also quite a bit lighter than the previous Nitto/Soma setup, so I saved some weight with this change.



In keeping with the Italian/ weight savings theme, I also replaced the original seatpost with a sexy carbon fibre Spada (imagines seatpost singing "I'm too sexy for this bike"...).



Having found new homes for the Rene Herse crankset and the 10-speed Chorus parts that made up the drivetrain previously, I then moved over the 11-speed Chorus bits from my Seven Axiom - except instead of using a Sram setup in the back as I had done there, this time I was able to go all-Campag. Because luckily, Campagnolo had recently released its new Potenza 11-speed group, which allows for low gearing.



The Potenza derailleur accommodates cogs up to 32t, and my cassette is 11-32t. The levers and derailleurs and chainrings all play together perfectly. I have tried to drop or jam my chain through deliberate awkward maneuvering, but have been unsuccessful so far. The 11-32t, paired with a 50-34t crankset, gives me a nice range of gears. My lowest gear ratio is not quite 1:1 as it was previously, but nearly. And so far, it seems that the missing low gear is well compensated by the bicycle's sudden weight loss and the rider's gradual fitness gain.



And finally... the wheels. The original wheels were built impeccably, quality-wise. But they were not performance wheels. I'd been planning to re-build them as soon as I could find a local willing to take on my "exotic" 650B setup. At last, I found one: Me! You can read about how this happened here, but long story short I can now build wheels. I will describe the 650B rebuild project step-by-step in a separate post, but to summarise briefly: I re-used the original Pacenti PL23 rims, re-lacing them with light double-butted spokes and a lightweight front hub (the original generator hub needs servicing, and is temporarily out of commission).



I also converted the wheels to run tubeless and fitted them with lighter tyres. All in all, I removed nearly 2lb in weight off the original wheel + tyre setup. And let me assure you, I can feel the difference when riding the bike - especially accelerating and uphill.



As pictured, Alice now weighs in at just over 21lb. That's including mudguards and front rack, but not including handlebar bag. I could have brought it down to sub-20lb by opting for a lighter saddle (the Brooks C17 being not exactly weight-weenie territory), using a rackless handlebar bag setup, and making a few other minor changes. But for the sake of comfort and utility I decided not to do any of that. Once I rode the bike with the new wheels and tyres, I knew the crux of the matter lay there. The current overall weight is fine with me, considering how well the bicycle feels in action.



In the long term, I will probably return to integrated lighting (a project for my friend Velo Lumino, formerly known as Somervillain, perhaps). But for now I am just sharing the Lezyne battery lights that we use on all our road bikes.

In the nearer future I might also outline the lugs in metallic copper, and finally get the poor girl some decals. Oh and I'd like a sexier brake hanger for the rear, than the one I currently have. But none of these are pressing matters.



I've been riding this bike in its revamped state for a couple of weeks now, and could not be happier with the end result of the modifications. It's the same bike, yet a different bike. With the dramatically lighter wheels (1490g for the pair), it is as fast and responsive as a skinny-tyre roadbike - no compromises. The drivetrain works like a normal modern drivetrain, freeing me from anxiety during tricky elevation changes. With the altered handlebar setup, the fit is absolutely perfect now, and the bike feels better balanced as well. Finally, the infusion of matte black and gray parts makes it easier on my eyes.

To my eye, the modern Italian bits also work nicely as a way of shaking up the French museum piece look, which I think can at times overwhelm these types of builds. I know that some people look at the "ugly" handlebars, and the drivetrain, and all the black parts, and the Tacx bottle cage and go "Huh?" But to me it all makes sense. (Oh and the plastic cage, before anyone asks, is to make it easier for me to grab and replace the bottle while I ride. I find the metal ones too grippy.)



But all the minutiae aside, the main thing is this: the bicycle feels finished, in a way it didn't before. Certainly when I look at it. But even more so when I ride it. It feels finished, finally allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction, in that the project I began 4 years ago is completed, as intended - with not only the frameset, but now also the wheels, that I built myself.

With sincere thanks to Mike Flanigan, Jan Heine, Somervillain, Curious Velo, Mr. Wheelson, and my very own O.G., for the help, advice and inspiration, Alice and I are off for our evening constitutional.

66 comments:

  1. "Once I rode the bike with the new wheels and tyres, I knew the crux of the matter lay there. "

    a million times this

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  2. Congratulations on learning a new skill, wheel building. Also I like the new proportions. Shorter stem with long reach bars looks much better here than longer stem with compact bars. Cheers!

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  3. "modern drivetrain with low gearing"

    Isn't that an oxymoron?

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    1. Not at all. My 1979 touring triple has a higher granny gear than my 2016 racing double. And the granny sprockets on some MTB drivetrains these days look straight out of a cartoon.

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    2. Unknown - Depends on how low you want to go. Sticking ti road groups only (no MTB parts added into the mix), Sram and Campagnolo now both offer a 34F/32R low gear. Shimano may have something similar, but I am not familiar with their groups.

      And if you *are* willing to put a MTB derailleur & cassette in the rear, you can go lower still as I previously did (see here).

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    3. I've got a Shimano 11 speed drivetrain (11-32 cassette) with an 11 speed specific Sugino crankset with 44/30 rings. It's as modern as you can get without going to electronic shifting, and the gearing is super low without using anything but off-the-shelf components. I could use an even bigger cassette by using a Wolftooth adapter or similar.
      Yeah, most modern road/racing drivetrains are super over-geared.

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    4. Shimano's compact cranksets are 50/34 standard, and their rear cassettes come in 11-28, 12-25, and 11-32.

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  4. The Velo Lumino integrated lights look so very good, best I have ever seen. I also like those hammered fenders, they show off that rear light to perfection. I still desire the wooden fenders from sykes though.
    My mother has agreed to knit me the 1940s men's cycling jerkin, she reckons that she can do the chain design, but might not be able to do the bicycles as it involves a technique she has never really mastered. I cheekily suggested that she could push herself and learn new skills and she did say that there were ladies in her knitting circle who might be able to help.
    By the way are all of your bicycles female? Both of mine are ladies, with no names. It's not something I have ever asked a lady cyclist.

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    1. {note to self: google sykes wooden fenders}

      The colourwork is not difficult to learn. But it is time consuming, which is why I am not a fan.

      I hadn't realised that all my bicycles are female, but bejeezus, I think they are. At least the current ones.

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  5. Just some weight weenieisms. The Brooks saddle is very heavy. Even prewar saddles could be lighter. Current high end saddles are under 100 grams, fairly ordinary saddles are under 200 grams.
    It appears the bike still has the Candy pedals. If weight is important those are heavy. And that is rotating weight.
    You could always switch to hex key skewers. They are cheap.
    See, your bike is now under 20 pounds.

    Those mudguards are to die for.

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    1. I know. Problem is I love the feel of that saddle, so I'm afraid to change it or even breathe on it wrong. Might change the Candys to a spare set of Eggbeaters I have lying around. Hex key skewers? Had to look that up. Hmmmm... (a whole new woooorld!)

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    2. Most of the very light saddles are quite narrow. But still worth a try. Everyone you know has at least a couple unused saddles. You ride the borrowed one to the store and back and if it doesn't feel good you're done. The grandfather of all these saddles is the Unica Nitor/Cinelli 55. About 1958. Mine is dated 1963. Shape and flex are so close to the Cambium you might not know if you didn't look. They are still made. Lighter, but not enormously so. Pretty much everything Italian is descended from the old #55. Everyone else copies shamelessly. If you like the grandfather you will like at least some of the grandchildren.

      Same with pedals. Guys looking for an edge go through a lot of pedals and the cast-offs are available to try. Once you know how to ride clipless they are all pretty much the same. You will have to change cleats to do a trial. But you want something half the weight of Candy, not slightly lighter.

      Shoes aren't weighed with the bike but you get to lift them a hundred times a minute. I do not know the Mavic lineup at all well, just have the impression they are heavy. Light shoes are a joy. The seriously light and cheap shoes are antique leather (kangaroo, ostrich, calf). Mounting cleats on those may require a cobbler. When clipless was new there were kits to make it easy and it was not that hard.

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    3. But if you change the pedals you'll lose the bit of color that goes with the spoke nipples and the cable caps. Subtle but effective as it is.

      Walter

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    4. That saddle is now available with carbon rails.

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    5. Not that exact saddle, but the C13 model. My husband has the original and it is way too narrow for me. However they've since introduced wider variations, so maybe a future upgrade if they also liven up the colour a bit.

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    6. Hex Key Skewers; I don't think that's the official name as much as a general description, the are skewers that don't have a lever and tighten down with an Allen key. Typically they are sold to reduce the chance of your wheels being stolen, but they many times have titanium shafts and tend to be quite light.
      Down side is you don't want to get a flat when riding if you've forgotten your Allen wrench. - Mas

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    7. Hex key skewers: I've used these almost exclusively for 25 years on all bikes with vertical dropouts, and I live in goathead land, and used to (before Orange Seal and Stan's) purchase Remas in multiple boxes of 100. Every bike multi tool has the requisite allen key.

      I buy my allen head skewers in steel from Gnashbar for $8 or $9/pair.

      About removing weight from wheels: I switched from the 800 gram "Superlite" model of the SnoCat rim shod with a 250 gram tube and the 800 gram "lite" Liteskin version of the 700C X 60 mm Big Apple to 430 gram Velocity Blunt SSes shod with tubeless 360 gram 700C X 50 Furious Freds and 4 oz of sealant. Total weight dropped per wheel: over 2 lb per *wheel*. Yes, does transform a bike.

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  6. I've always liked the looks of that bike. The shiny silver bits never bothered me and neither do the "murdured out" stuff you replaced them with. It would have been hard for me to lose the Herse cranks though, but using modern chainrings on old cranks always involves enough hassle re-drilling new rings or making adapters that I only do it when there's a good reason, and a 5 hole adapter on a 3 pin crank is never going to look svelte no matter how lovingly crafted.

    The fact that you put so much time and treasure into building that frame and bike and resisted the urge to give it "AWESOME", over-the-top paint makes it even more satisfying. There are way too many neat bikes out there rolling around with Streetwalker Paint-jobs. Well played.

    Spindizzy

    P.S. If that bike ever showed up at my place for even an afternoon, it wouldn't leave before we whipped up something to replace BOTH cable hangers with sleeker, stronger and more beautiful little dangly bits. The stuff some people will put up with...


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    1. Throw in some drillium work on the Paul's centerpulls, and you might just find Alice knocking on your door one stormy evening.

      Jeez, everyone's hating on my powder. See my reasoning below, but I actually think it looks nice, m'kay?

      I am fairly sure I will own RH cranks again in future. Maybe when I'm a big girl and learn to use DT shifters with easy abandon. It's on my list.

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    2. Hey! I was grooving on your paint/powder! Very subtle and understated. I hope you start a trend.

      RE Drillium; Let me know when you're coming over and I'll make sure to have my bits nice and sharp...

      Spin

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  7. Very clean looking work around the lugs, almost a shame you chose to powdercoat that frame albeit I like the color. I like the black Italian parts and the ugly handlebars better than the previous look. What size is that frame? James.

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    1. Thanks (though don't look too closely at the non-drivetrain side rear dropout, or you might be disillusioned). My initial reasoning for the powder was: I did not want to pay for liquid for a bike I was half certain would either break or ride poorly, because I might have messed something up. I could always repaint it way down the road, I thought, if it actually turned out to be good. Of course now I am used to the powder and might as well leave it. It is certainly durable. And also the fact that Mike Flanigan did it in his old workshop has sentimental value.

      The frame is 535mm (top tube).

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  8. Hi Velouria, do you know of any light steel frame (affordable and available online)?

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    1. If you can give numerical parameters for "light" and "affordable," I can offer some concrete suggestions. But Soma and Velo Orange might have what you are looking for.

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  9. An interesting post which has had me wondering since the moment you put it up and I held back on my thoughts. This is so close to the sort of bike I have been seeking but naturally have failed to find...

    Spindizzy is closest to my thoughts. centre pull hangers are some of the ugliest things found on most bikes which use them and brazed on rear was one of the first things I lusted after in the days when I still used that style of brake.

    Wish you had made it clearer why you abandoned are classic chainset to replace it with such an ugly one, I was a great fan of Campagnolo when they still had style... I checked the cost of the Rene Herse since they do such a range of chainwheel sizes and got heart palpitations! Yes on your stealth green bike the shiny alloy does look a bit brash.

    Those new handlebars say everything which is not "Lovely" about new bike parts! the poor bike looks like a demented graphic artist tagged it while drunk, pointless text everywhere.

    Step back seat posts have always puzzled me, an ugly response to the seat tube not being in the right place. That plastic one might be much lighter but is at the opposite end of the lovely scale...

    Several have gone into raptures over your mudguard / fenders. They are of a style which I ripped off my bike in disgust when still a youth. from across the room I can see that the fixings are those crude bits of thick wire which need an ugly cap of plastic to try and disguise the excess rubbish sticking up. Velo Orange's black fenders would transform your ride 100%.

    Personally I think getting bare wire control cable braze ons was the worst decision I ever made and have regretted it for forty years. ideally they should be lost inside the frame or I would keep them fully covered.

    I had better stop now before I get blocked from one of my favourite blogs.

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    1. Set back seatposts are necessary when fitting a smaller bike, since the seat tube would likely run into the tire/fender, or make front derailleur mounting semi impossible without them. I thought she made it pretty clear about the crank, the RH one didn't shift well with her other drivetrain components. A set of bars that is comfortable is lovely, regardless of it's esthetics. Choosing bars based on esthetics would be pretty un-lovely, especially if she plans on putting any serious mileage on this bike, which she likely does. (I personally do not like that style of bar, but handlebars are about as tricky as seats...)

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    2. The vintage fenders have sentimental value (bc of who gave them to me), excellent clearance, are easy for me to mount, and are lighter than most modern (including plastic) alternatives.

      It's impossible to debate aesthetics, so I won't even try. To me, the bike is absolutely the loveliest now it has ever been. And look at it this way: different tastes make it possible for people to trade parts, with each party feeling the winner.

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    3. Normal seatposts are now setback seatposts? No wonder there is no possibility of explaining center of gravity. No wonder neither this blog or any other will ever examine pedaling dynamics or biomechanics. But a few of us will try, though it always falls on deaf ears. The saddle must be in a position that permits smooth pedal action. The saddle must be in a position that permits confident handling.

      Forward saddle positions, and the seatposts that enable them, are great for instant immediate power. Your fitter sees that on his power meter and sees success. You can achieve the exact same thing by standing up. Except you can't ride a bike standing up all the time. To get around the corner safely, quickly, confidently, you need to sit down. There are enormous cohorts of bikes that have been fitted so that the sitting down position has been eliminated. Enormous cohorts of riders convinced they don't power the pedals, the seatpost and the saddle and the frame and the fitter power the pedals and the rider is almost superfluous.

      Setback seatposts are normal and have been for 125 years.

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    4. It's a pretty safe bet that this blog will never examine pedal biomechanics.

      Seatposts and setback... there is a degree of rider-specific subjectivity there. I prefer mine fairly minimal but know that others do better with more. It's all good.

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    5. Aesthetics is absolutely a personal element, like Coline I also do not like the chain set or fenders, I also do not like that seat post or the powder coated green paint which reminds me of the green paint used in colourbond fences here in Australia. I think the bike looks frumpy, despite being lightweight and appears very much a 'miss' assortment of parts. What is important is that you are happy with the changes and the bike works well for your purposes.

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    6. To my eye the overall appearance of the bike is more coherent with the black stem/bar combo and seatpost, and the all-Campag drivetrain also looks much nicer than the previous mixture of old and new Campag, Compass and SRAM. Those who think the crankset looks too modern should have a look at Campag’s most recent offerings…

      One thing that has been puzzling me since I first saw the initial build of this bike is the choice of brakes. Once set up, the Paul Racer works pretty well. On the downside, it is heavy, clears 42mm tires with fenders just so, and adjusting it requires numerous different tools. Whad made you choose the Paul Racer over, say, cantis or a (used) set of MAFAC Raid on braze-on posts?

      By the way, ’ve been riding a bike with Paul Racer M’s on braze-on posts for four years now and would definitely not recommend them. Yes, the Racer M does have enough reach for 32mm tires with 45mm fenders and proper clearance, but no, it does not open enough to let an inflated 32mm tire pass because the brake arms hit the fender. Is this an issue with your brake setup as well?

      I’ve not had any issues removing the same wheels on another bike with braze-on mounted MAFAC Racer brakes and fenders, by the way.

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  10. Veloria, please - "The bike was literally too shiny!" It is not possible for a bike to be too shiny!

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  11. I believe you have mentioned the fenders before, but because I'm too lazy to delve into the archives: What are they?

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    1. The rear is a Britannialloy, and the front a Bluemell Airweight : )

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    2. And when somebody scolds you about Alice's mismatched fenders you can say: "And I have another pair just like them in my parts bin." That response works for me when I'm reminded that I'm wearing mismatched socks.

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  12. It's a very interesting bike. I'm sorry to day that but I wouldn't call it necessarily pretty. Lugged frames are not exactly my style, neither is the whole rando thing. Nevertheless, 9.5kg bike with fenders and a rack is remarkable. Truly. I think you reached the level where any further upgrades or changes (such as a different saddle) would affect your comfort or the way this bike rides.

    It's one of a kind bicycle and I'm sure it rides great.

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    1. Thanks, and I agree re the weight/usefulness ratio. It rides surprisingly great, if I don't say so myself. Even my husband, who is skeptical of fat tyre rando builds, is now a fan after taking the new version for a spin.

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  13. A 2lb difference in the wheels is no joke. No wonder the bike feels different! You are discovering also that the more you know and can do yourself the better. Enjoy the well deserved ride.

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  14. I like what you've done here and understand all your decision making on this, the thing I like about this bike is the generous tire clearance and the way you've designed it, it can really be adapted to several different guises over it's/your lifetime as time goes by and your needs change. For me a versatile bike is always preferable to a one trick pony. - masmojo

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  15. I am wondering how much assistance you had with the design from your instructor. Im enrolled in a framebuilding course next year and unsure how it works. Are you expected to arrive with your own design or do they help you figure that out?

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    1. I didn't take a formal course; it was more like a mini apprenticeship. I designed the geometry and selected the tubing myself. But that is only because I had a very specific idea of what I wanted, and had previous experience in bicycle design.

      Every framebuilding course/situation is different. Some will provide you with a basic, simple design, to keep things uncomplicated and focus on learning technique. Others allow you to bring your own geometry if you already know how to do it, but don't teach it as such. And others still make the design itself part of the course. You are better to ask in advance.

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  16. I don't understand 90% of the content of this post, but as usual, the writing is excellent! You are amazing to finesse your bike to perfection. (I personally must be getting stronger biking through the winter on a heavy 3-speed with studded tires! Who knows how heavy exactly!) ;-) Oh, and congrats on building your own wheels -- that's super impressive!!!

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  17. looks great! keep an eye on the pacenti wheels. My rear one started developing cracks (on drive side spokes holes) after about 5 months of "normal" use. I'm a small guy (i weigh about a $1.25) and was surprised that this happened! Front one is still ok after 3 years...

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  18. My 59CM 650B MAP/S&P ended up breaching 27 lbs complete. My wheels are Velocity A23 rims laced to a 36H Dura Ace hub in the rear and a 32H SP SV-9 dyno hub up front, which I think is the lightest dyno around. Do you think much weight savings can be had there? The other obvious culprit is the VO crank and square taper bottom bracket. Any other thoughts for easy weight savings, other than ditching my comfy Selle Anatomica saddle for some plastic thing?

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    1. Square taper BBs and cranks are very often lighter than many of the similar quality splined or hollow axle alternatives so don't swap it out without actually checking the weights if you are serious about shaving ounces.

      One of the overlooked heavy bits on modern bikes is often the cassette. The typical affordable cassette with 10 or 11 individual steel cogs is sometimes the single heaviest part on the bike after the frame and fork, so that's a spot you should take a look at before getting too exotic in other areas. There is often as much as a pound to be saved there without going too crazy price-wise. Pedals are another component that vary widely in weight, even between similar versions from the same manufacturer. Likewise integrated brake/shift levers. Unfortunately,a nice bike that is over 27 pounds, probably got there 6 ounces at a time rather than from one super heavy part.

      Spindizzy

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    2. My 650B bike is of similar size, and is using similar wheels (same category of rims, same dynamo, DT Hügi rear hub); overall weight is about 25.35lbs including pedals and bottle cages. I guess that’s what you end up with when you use quality components, but don’t care about weight too much.

      If you’re already using lightweight tires and tubes, and your pedals aren’t of the massive bear-trap/downhill variety, I guess there’s no easy way of saving much weight (at a reasonable cost) without sacrificing comfort, functionality and/or reliability (or compromising appearance, if that’s an issue.)

      Modern cranks with oversized axles and outboard bearings aren’t necessarily any lighter than older square taper models; you could try shaving some grams/ounces by replacing the VO combo with a TA or Compass/Herse crank and lightweight bottom bracket, though.

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    3. The obvious light cranks are Campagnolo Nuovo Record and the near identical Stronglight 106 and Mavic SSC. Sample variation on those is quite large. Usually the older the better as they did more machining on the old ones. Just a lot more machining, differences can be 100 grams. Weigh before you buy. Red Clover Components tripleizers if you neeed more gear range. Reasonably light ti spindle bottom brackets for these are readily available. As light as modern carbon is quite possible, though you won't match absolute topend carbon. New in box will be astronomically priced, good cranks can be had for very little.

      Stronglight 49d cranks are also quite light and again the older ones lighter. Available chainrings may be frustrating for weight, quality, and shifting performance. For single chainring they are a great choice. If weight is what matters you could look.

      Hollow steel cranks from the 1930s through early 50s were as light as any carbon. Duprat was the best known. The model you want is octagonal outside, drilled inside. There were others. Good examples will be pricey. Very pricey. Chainrings are readily available, light ones as NOS are pricey and wide range will be difficult. There were light bottom brackets for these, you might never find one, or you could have one fabricated.

      On any vintage crank pay attention to all the bolts and spacers. They add up fast. Some are barely loaded and can be replaced with aluminum at no risk.

      If you like Selle Anatomica consider the ti-frame Brooks or old aluminum girder frame saddles, most commonly those are Ideale but many French and English makers had them. Also Cinelli 55 is not some plastic thing, it's a classic saddle. I just weighed two of those, one was 290 grams, one was 370 grams. Lots of parts have that sort of variance and you must pay attention if you want a light bike.

      Spin is completely on target with cassette weight.

      27 lbs just seems high. Did you use double butted spokes? No reason not too. Sealant instead of inner tubes.




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    4. Just weighed - Vintage Stronglight 49d with current production Sun XCD 46-30 rings and current production XCD steel bolts. 520 grams. The XCD arms are definitely heavier than the vintage arms, not by a lot. Lightness.

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  19. This is a really interesting post. I laid off LovelyBike for more than a year to blog about the election. Call it a year lost. I am happy to be back to the world of the sane.

    I am 68 and have been a serious adult cyclist since 1972. I raced, commuted, did 300+ mile four-day tours and then stopped for 15 years. Now I have a collection of five bikes including two Raleigh Sports ('72 and '78) for around town and rain (fenders), one of the kids 20+ year old Specialized mountain bikes, a Surley LHT I bought after losing my kidney to cancer in 2010, and finally, a project bike I built up last winter.

    This article captures a lot of the excitement, drama and plain reality of builds that do not follow from a new commercial frame where you can easily get parts that fit. I have two early 1970s Ron Kitching time trial frames and I decided to turn the one I used for racing in Texas in the late 70s into a city bike, with an upright (Soma Oxford) bar. Incidentally, last spring I converted my always unsatisfying Surley LHT into an upright with Surley's own city bar and now it is absolutely splendid, perfect for my 68 year old uprightness and for runs to the wine store. All that was wrong was my age and limited flexibility.

    I decided to put a Sugino 40-26 crankset with the third ring as a pants protector, sold by either VO or Rivendell--because this would work well enough with my collection of 40+ year old Regina Oro freewheels. I have enough cogs to make many variants and mostly use a 14-24. Well, even the difference of axle (spindle) length compatible with the standard bottom bracket shell of the early-70s frame and the triple I wanted to put on was a challenge. I found the solution and it works great, but it took several weeks of research to get beyond this obstacle.

    I wanted to use my Campy Record low flange hubs I built myself 40+ years ago. I broke a spoke trying to tune the wheel and had to fall back on another 40 year old wheel I had in stock. Now my this-winter project is rebuilding the rear wheel with the broken spoke from scratch, because if one spoke broke from age, they will all be equally brittle, and eventually I will be further inconvenienced.

    Wheel building is a very important skill to learn, which will prove very useful as one gets into generator hubs, 650B conversions, working on vintage parts like my 40+ year wheel with the brittle spokes, and even road repairs or tour rebuilds. Believe it or not, when my wife and I were on our bicycle trip from Le Havre to Florence and back in '75 - '76 I rebuilt the wheels in a campground in Genoa, four wheels in two days while she was visiting museums. I think the wheel I am going to work on next was one of those wheels. I suspect it from the Super Champion rim which is early 70s..

    The main point I don't want to leave behind is that rebuilds are fun but as noted, you need to be prepared for the unplanned and unknowable. The original bikes I built up on the Ron Kit early 70s frames were by following the first edition of Sutherland's Manual for Bicycle Mechanics, which had all the technical information you needed to build any racing bicycle from scratch: English, French or Italian standard. My first edition is half an inch thick. Last I heard, the current, or final print edition was three inches thick. Therein lies the mystery of building a bicycle works the way it was meant to.

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  20. Nice accomplishment. Beautiful bike. How much additional weight do you think it can safely carry?

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    1. Conservatively, I'd say recommended rider weight limit is 180lb; front load limit 15lb.

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  21. Congratulations on realizing your dream for this bike and build. Impressive that you stayed the course and made an ambitious goal a reality. Your bike loves lovely and definitely the real deal! Thanks! Jim Duncan

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  22. The heaviest component on a bike; the rider

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    1. Heaviest component on my bike; The riders conscience.

      Spindizzy

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  23. Steve from WestchesterDecember 21, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    Looks like a very comfortable ride. I know you're quite attached to your leather bar tape, but I think a dark blue color tape would be just the ticket for that bike; to match the color of your front bag.

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  24. What chainring/crankset do you have on it in the second set of photos? Looks quite nice.

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  25. Really enjoyed this post and was looking forward to it ever since the initial Instagram photo.

    Re modern front shifters; I gather they've changed, but Campy front shifters used to be more akin to power ratchet shifters without two or three indexed positions. That level of flexibility allowed me to run strange combos flawlessly. I know why the manufacturers went away from that to their shifting systems but I sure miss the flexibility.

    Will we ever see a head to head comparison with the Seven?

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  26. Was it worth all the time and hassles to get this bike to this point? So many years and changes. I did that sort of thing many years ago when about eight years of my life revolved around bikes and riding and building. Now, many decades later, I decided to give the task to a builder and committed to not say or suggest what I wanted but rather I'd just answer their questions of what kind of riding I do, daily, and what kind of body I was bringing into the equation. With two fit sessions and eight months wait and then it was done…finished….and not so elusive. I don't plan on doing this again but felt I should remind others that there are options for finding a perfect bike without the multiple years and hassles.

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  27. ANONYMOUS 11:14 WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! That's like asking the grumpy old Lady who works in the back room of the Bridal Shop(the one with the shawl and mustache) to find one a wife! Sure it will get you hitched and the Old Lady digs doing it for you, but REALLY? You must have an actual life and not be investing all your emotions in your bike or whatever....

    Spindizzy

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    1. Reverend Spindizzy, there's a lot wrong with me, seriously a lot. Thank you. That said, I've got to do the best with what I've got. I read this blog and comment, as you do…Many of my comments do not get posted but yours that completely put me down, did. I do not think the editing is balanced, but I'm not the Reverend Spindizzy.

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    2. Hey, I was NOT trying to put you down, it was supposed to be tongue in cheek and if I didn't get that across I apologize. I think alot of us take our bikes too seriously and get WAY too precious about them, I was trying to make the point that you weren't doing that.

      If I write something that comes over as mean or spiteful I need to do a better job because I don't want to be that guy.

      Peace?

      Spindizzy

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  28. I am guessing that for our hostess, the journey was the destination on this particular bicycle. Time and experience proved that there were other places she might like to go...

    V, the bike looks great. Akin to the Axiom when you first got it.
    There's an almost predatory, yet friendly look to Alice now. To my eyes, akin to a Rhodesian Ridgeback with a wagging tail. I look forward to seeing the little finishing touches.

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  29. So, this is what floats your boat? Happy travels to you and you steed.

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  30. Thanks for this write-up. I'm about take on a similar project (although I didn't build my frameset, I wish) and I think mine will take a similar trajectory. Put what I can on it to see how it feels and rides, and then most likely, put "better" stuff when I have the resources. I also appreciate your take on using modern bits with the RH cranks, as well as what you did with your wheelset to make them work. I'm hoping I can also find the right balance of performance and utility.

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  31. I experienced a similar feeling towards my kitchen renovation, a project I enthusiastically took on a year ago, with grand plans and a vision of what the final form would be... fast-forward a year, and my attitude has shifted to "let's just get this thing done already!". Changes were made. Plans abandoned. Compromises (and mistakes) made. But as it is nearing its final form, in some ways I am even more pleased with the outcome than I had predicted. But the joy of taking in the beauty of a completed job may never happen... at this point it will be a feeling of relief (similar rude awakening as when I finished my dissertation-- no joy, just relief).

    Good work on getting Alice to a form you are truly happy with. I remember that job!

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  32. V, discerning eye to pick the Cinelli XA stem and in black! One of the most classically beautiful stems ever made. Sure, people differ - I have a Nitto Pearl on another bike and the old Dura Ace hidden bolt version on yet another. I wish I had the XA in black, but silver works for several builds.

    As for the paint color upon which you honkers are expressing your opinion of distaste, well, your opinion doesn't matter. All that matters is that V is happy with the color. Powder coat is super-durable and considering the conditions in which V rides it should last many years. She can always highlight the frame with pinstripes or other graphic flourishes like the classic Raleigh stripes.

    One of the greatest things about a bike is you can make it however you want it!

    Cheers,
    Bill in Roswell, GA

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