Boys and Bicycles

A week or so ago, the Co-Habitant and I met up with Somervillain as part of the Boston Retro Wheelmen project. It has taken me a long time to upload these pictures, because I would start laughing when trying to process them. Behold what happens when you get two obsessive men and their bicycles together...

Somervillain brought his meticulously restored 1984 Shogun 2000, which he built up as a classic randonneur. The Co-Habitant brought his 1976 Motobecane Super Mirage (a lower-end model than the Shogun - but still nicely done up) to compare.

And compare they did.

This went far beyond test riding each other's bikes, and gradually turned into what seemed like a millimeter by millimeter comparison of various measurements.

There was a question of whose top tube was longer and no effort was spared to investigate the matter. I wish I were joking.

My Mercier stood back and stared in amazement. Having no top tube, she could not understand what all the fuss was about.

Having resolved this issue to their satisfaction, a discussion of component choices ensued.

I think the conclusion is clear: Both bicycles are gorgeous, because I helped choose the accessories when they were being built up. Obviously! I will post more about Somervillain's newly built up randonneur soon - it really is something, and I took detailed pictures.

The same morning, Somervillain helped us out by replacing a cotter on the Co-Habitant's 1972 Raleigh DL-1. Yes, that is a cotter press right there on the sidewalk.

Cotter press in action.



And voila.

Boys. Bicycles. Boston.

There will be a group meet-up of the Boston Retro Wheelmen this coming Saturday, so come join us if you want to experience the fun for yourself.


  1. Heh, whose top tube is longer :) A classic argument :)

    I'm feeling like I really need to invest in a cotter press, and a flat file. Though hopefully I shouldn't have need of one for a while now...

    Curious, since you mentioned Somervillain being a cotter expert and source of cotters, does he manufacture them, or have someone who makes them for him, or does he just generally have stock of them sitting around? :)

  2. i am just finding the joys of classic bicycles and you blog is beautiful.

    I am desperate to get a frame to start a project like the two above. any hints and tips about what frames , where from , how much etc? I am in the uk by the way. Thanks for the post! Cheers Dean

  3. haha - they were comparing the size of their 'equipment' *ahem*.

    i hope i can make it to the next 'retro wheelmen' meetup.

  4. portlandize - There is this one side street in Somerville where cotters grow on trees, so it's just a matter of harvesting them at the right time of the year really. I will let somervillain chime in and explain it better.

  5. What a better way to spend the day than geeking out about bikes. So very amusing.

  6. Hah! I would love to have a good flat-file; but not one of the tool/bicycling variety... that's just a strange sort of bike/art homonym, I guess.

    "Boys and Bikes" oh boy, do I know what you witnessed. (having been part of such things before ;) Sadly, my 76' Fuji Sports 10 cannot quite compare to their rides... perhaps my Cannondale? lol.

  7. Portlandize,
    Somervillian may beat me to it, but I have the same cotter press (bought it after it was pointed out that getting the press was cheaper than going down the road of trying to retro-fit a Raleigh BB with square ended spindles). The place to get them is Bike Smith, (google will get you there, and he makes the presses, and a nifty tool for removing BB fixed cups that are welded in place by time. I bought both, although if you dig into the sheldon archives, there's a pretty good alternative to the BB remover with just normal bolts.
    He also sells cotter pins. I would bet you can find cotter pins in Portland as well, as there are at least three places here to buy them (Harris, Cambridge Bicycles, and Cambridge Used Bicycles).
    Perhaps more than you wanted to know.

  8. It's not the size of your top tube that's important, it's how you use it. :)

  9. portlandize: the real question is whose touring bicycle can really go the distance :-)

    and yes, we have cotter trees here in somerville, and they were in full bloom for the picking last week. when they're not in bloom, i get them from mark stonich of, based in minnesota. his cotters are machined, not stamped like the variety sold by LBSs, and they fit raleigh cranks perfectly without filing. he also makes the cotter press that i have, and is probably the only source of presses these days, as most tool companies have stopped making them!

    dean: being in the UK, you are actually quite lucky from a bike perspective! the UK has a rich history of classic touring bikes, and i'm sure you can unearth some gems much more easily than we can here in the US. the dawes galaxy was the ubiquitous english touring bike for decades (and a darn fine touring bike), and there should be an abundant supply of them languishing in garages and barns all over the UK. that's not to mention all the smaller UK framebuilders who made equally nice, high end bikes (bob jackson, mercian, etc...).

  10. ha. I love men.

    I look forward to hearing more about Somervillain's bike.

  11. I fail to see the humour in two gentleman discussing important issues in a calm and dignified manner while squatting on their hunkers in the street.

  12. This post reminded me that in 1984 I was working in a shop that sold Shoguns.There was a maroon touring bike on the wall with all the options, leather wrapped toeclips,bar-ends, racks, 300 braze-on fittings etc. Being a speed crazed 19 yearold I thought the whole thing faintly rediculous, especially the aluminum water bottle with a CORK for cryin' out loud! You couldn't even put a regular bottle in the stupid cage. Fast forward 26 years and what did I just spend 3 evenings making for my faux vintage pathracer? A vintage style aluminum waterbottle with a cage made from stainless steel welding rod. And a cork. The whole time I was trying to remember what that bike on the wall with the alloy bottle was. Now I know. Does Somervillian's stil have the bottle?

  13. Boys and their toys. Just brilliant. I can see why you had trouble processing the pics... I would have too!

  14. "portlandize - There is this one side street in Somerville where cotters grow on trees, so it's just a matter of harvesting them at the right time of the year really. I will let somervillain chime in and explain it better."

    I. Knew. It.

    -low, wry chuckles-

    Thanks for the pointer, somervillain. I think Cyndy The Neighbor and I will be hitting up Bikesmith soon, and laying in a cotter press and an array of spare cotters. The local co-op has a Bikesmith press, and it is a joy to use. One can never have too many obsolete spares.

    Spindizzy's story makes me laugh a little. As a 19-year-old in college, I used to work around the corner from this very minimalist bicycle shop in Berkeley CA called Jitensha Studios. Talk about touring bike heaven. I used to be afraid to get nose prints on the window glass.

    Corey K

  15. Corey - the Jitensha Studios?... Yum! I try not to look at their website too often for fear of fainting and wanting yet more bicycles!..

  16. A very dapper couple! The bikes are nice, too ;) I love the mixte not knowing what the big deal is.

  17. speaking of jitensha, a local cyclist and avid bike collector has this bike:

  18. Comparing top tube lenghts? I'm sooo over that! ;-)

  19. Justine, that's right, you're getting a mixte - congratulations!

  20. That Ebisu is beautiful, and that is a huge handlebar bag. The Ebisu owner's entire collection is here for those interested.

  21. @cycler, @somervillain: Man, I need to get one of those cotter trees and plant it in my backyard.

    I've gotten cotters from BikeSmith as well - the reason I was asking is I've had a weird issue with my Raleigh Sports, where on the left (non-drive) crank, all the cotters I had (mostly ones from BikeSmith), I could basically fit all the way in by hand, which meant that they obviously weren't tight in there, and in order to get them tight, the wide end of the cotter where the threaded part starts would be sticking out very slightly from the crank, so the nut was tightening on the cotter itself, not on the crank, if that makes sense.

    I got some Raleigh pattern cotters from and they seem to fit well on that crank, so I think I'm good there, just need to order a couple pairs so I have some spares.

    Oddly enough, the BikeSmith cotters do fit just fine on the drive-side crank. I'm not sure why there is the disparity there, but hey.

    It is possible to find cotters in Portland sometimes, but I've found it easier to get them elsewhere, as I know they'll have them, and I don't have to go potentially all over town trying to find them.

  22. velouria, the ebisu owner's website is only a *partial* listing of his entire collection :-0. it's vast...

  23. Both bikes are stunning. I would definitely stop on the street to gaze upon them. The boys are cute too.


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