The One and Only 'Constance'! a Mixte by Royal H. Cycles

Trying to write a definitive post about the completion of my custom mixte (whom I have named "Constance") has been overwhelming, but I am forcing myself to do it before too much time goes by. Perhaps it will help if I try to cut down on the sappy stuff and just write about it briefly, matter-of-factly. After all, it's just a bike forgoddsake... Right! 

In September of last year I met Bryan Hollingsworth, who is the framebuilder behind Royal H. Cycles, and asked him to make me a custom mixte frame in the tradition of the French constructeurs. The frame was finished on my birthday this February. One by one, I purchased all the components, and the Co-Habitant and I put the bike together at the end of the summer. The bicycle was complete in September 2010, about a year after its inception. If you are interested in the step by step details of the process, you can read all about it by scrolling through these posts; they document the bike from the initial stages of frame design to tweaking the component choices.

To start with a basic description of the bicycle, it is a classic, fully lugged mixte frame with twin lateral stays. The tubing is eclectic, designed with comfort and strength as the main priorities: The downtube and seat stays are Columbus. The seat tube is Nova. The chainstays are Vitus. And the twin stays are domestic 4130 straight gauge.

The 52cm frame has a 54cm virtual top tube, 73° seat tube angle, 72° head tube angle, 53mm fork rake, 54.5mm trail, and 430mm chainstays.

The liquid paint and lug outlining were done by Circle A Cycles in Providence, RI.

The "dusty mint" colour was matched to a swatch I provided. The Royal H. insignia and lug outlining were done in copper.

As far as construction goes, several neat features make the bicycle special. To start with, it is nearly impossible to have a fully lugged mixte built nowadays, because the twin headtube lugs are no longer made. These were procured new old stock.

The "bullet" style seat stay caps were the framebuilder's idea and I was not sure I wanted them at first, but they look spectacular.

The flat-top fork crown has a small custom embellishment, and notice the little lugged braze-on for the shifter boss. I should mention that this bicycle has clearances for 35mm+ tires plus fenders...

Everything that could possibly be lugged on this mixte, is!

- including these amazing triple sockets on the rear dropouts. Read more about them, and other aspects of the lugwork here (not to mention the custom stainless steel kickstand plate!). 

There are braze-ons for both front and rear racks, and the bicycle was built to accommodate reasonable front and rear loads.

If you are interested in a full technical description of the components, you can find that here. But for those who just want the main points of interest, I will describe a few.

The 700C wheels were built by Peter White, with a Schmidt SON dynohub to power the lights. The headlight and tail light are the same as on my Rivendell, and you can read about them here.

Braze-ons along the inside of the fork accommodate the wiring for the headlight.

The handlebars are the Velo Orange Porteur bars, used with a 10mm stem, inverse brake levers, and Silver shifters inserted into Paul thumbies - which were heavily modified for the purpose.

The bicycle was built to accommodate centerpull brakes, as this is my preferred style of brakes. The  brakes are Dia Compe centerpulls from VO - which function great, but had to be slightly modified to fit properly (which, as I understand, is a problem other have had as well).

The crankset is a Sugino Alpina double. You can't tell in this picture, but there is a neat braze-on for the front derailleur.

The rear derailleur is the Shimano XT "Shadow". I love this derailleur, because it tucks in closely to the wheel, so that it is less likely to get dinged if you are riding off-road, or even if the bike gets slammed by a door. Given that I have nearly destroyed the rear derailleur on my Rivendell in half a year's time, I think the "Shadow" was made for me. Oh, and if you are wondering what that monstrous-looking cassette is, that is a Sheldon Brown custom touring cassette. Please be honest about this one: how bad does this look? I considered switching the biggest ring (currently a 34t) to a slightly smaller one, so that it blends in with the others visually - though over time the weirdness of it has grown on me.

The bicycle is fitted with the beautiful Honjo "Le Paon" fenders (similar to the VO "Zeppelins" I have on my Rivendell, but shinier and somehow more elegant), and the front rack is a VO Randonneur.

The rear rack is a VO Constructeur, which is small but can nonetheless fit a standard Dutch-size pannier. Oh, and the tires are (big surprise!) Schwalbe Delta Cruisers, 700C x 35mm. And I think I will stop now with the components, before I put everybody to sleep! If you have questions after reading this post and the spec list here, please ask in the comments and I will be glad to answer.

My impression of the mixte is multi-layered, but all the layers can be placed firmly in the category of "love". The bicycle handles differently than I had imagined, but only because I had no way of imagining something I had never experienced before. It is freakishly light, and luxuriously, almost abnormally comfortable while at the same time being faster and more responsive than any upright bicycle I have ridden before. It is more responsive than the vintage mixte, "Marianne," I used to own, which I had complained was "twitchy". Somehow, on the Royal H. the responsiveness does not feel scary; I can control it. No idea how this all works, but I am certainly happy about it.

The fit of the mixte is just perfect for me, and I can feel that my proportions have been taken into consideration - everything just feels "right". The bicycle handles best with a 10cm stem, with the handlebars close to level with the saddle, and with the saddle pushed back a bit.

I have ridden the mixte all over town since early September, and have taken it on two longish rides (40 miles and 30 miles). Everything is beyond perfect and there is zero pain. I have tried to describe the ride quality here and here if you are interested in the details. One thing I love that I would never have expected to love, is the high bottom bracket. I feel almost majestically tall on this bicycle, even when leaned over and holding the front of the bars.

Given that this is a custom bicycle, I should probably conclude with a few words about the framebuilder. Bryan Hollingsworth is a young builder with considerable experience working for the world-famous Seven Cycles.  He is a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, easy-going, and genuinely nice person. I knew that Bryan was the right builder for me, because he immediately understood the kind of bicycle I wanted, and got excited about building it. He was surprisingly pro-active about design solutions and pointed out possibilities that even my detail-obsessed imagination had not considered. As a result, my frame has some unique features that I cannot take any credit for what so ever; they were Bryan's idea! Additionally, now that I am actually riding the bicycle, it is clear that Bryan had put a lot of thought into making it comfortable for me, while, at the same time, giving it a degree of fiestiness that I had not expected.

I will also address price and affordability, since some have already been asking about this.  I would rather not disclose the cost of my frame - mainly because that figure will no longer be of use to anyone. When I met Bryan, he had only just begun building custom frames under his own name, and that is how I was able to afford the project. A year later, Royal H. has taken off like a rocket, and, naturally, the price structure has changed somewhat. As for affordability, my advice would be to find a frame builder you like, and then discuss the possibility of breaking up the payment into several installments. This makes paying for the frame considerably easier. Furthermore, no one says that you must buy all the components immediately, and all at once. I saved up for them gradually, which is why it took nearly a year for my bicycle to reach completion. And yes, it was worth it!

I named this bicycle "Constance", because I hope she always remains in my life. Thank you to everyone who made my custom mixte possible, both directly and indirectly.


  1. I've loved following the development of Constance--and you as a cyclist--on this blog.

  2. Thank you Justine; means a lot coming from someone with your experience.

  3. What a beautiful combination of bike and rider! My compliments for you and Constance, Thomas from Germany

  4. Um, nice bike. Sorry for the unrelated question, I don't have an email address. A "guy" friend recently asked me about him buying a bike for his new wife.(They also have a new baby.) Guys buying their partners a bike is a tried and time-tested story that rarely seems to work as planned.

    I gave him some tips that seemed relevant. I linked him to your first post, to hopefully introduce the mindset of someone getting back onto a bike. etc.

    Here's my question. Looking at your page of your bikes current and past, if they were all lined up in a row. Which one would have inspired the most comfort, sense of safety, and interest in you, if you had the bike on your very first couple or rides. Remembering back to your beginners mindset, and your current expert knowledge, which of your bikes was a best fit for you just as you began riding. And why. :) Thanks

  5. Chris - My advice: don't spend too much on the first bike! Unless you're a wizard, the first bike won't be perfect, but it will help you figure out what works and what doesn't and then you can splurge on "the one."

    Velouria - Constance's fabulousness leaves me speechless and trembling! At night I dream of my own custom Royal H. But he would be a custom roadster, glossy black with silver lug outlining, super slack geometry, light tubing and Art Deco touches. Oh, baby. It would be the two-wheeled version of Ralph Lauren's Bugatti.

  6. As a mixte fan and good friend of several beginner framebuilders, I very much enjoyed this article!
    Such a lovely bicycle ;)

  7. Wow! Great build and wonderful details. Thanks for documenting too, it's good to have something to cite when showing others.

  8. truly a lovely bicycle. and as the pictures show it fits - and suits - you perfectly.
    so does the rider's coat btw. - who makes those?

  9. Such a gorgeous bicycle, and well worth the wait! I've really enjoyed reading about her development. So, when's the next custom bicycle! ;)

  10. Chris - Depending on the funds this person has available, I'd say either a simple step-through 3-speed, like a restored Raleigh Sports, or a Rivendell Betty Foy. Of the bikes I own, my Gazelle is the most comfortable for a beginner, but the "Lucy 3-Speed" I used to own was better still for those purposes.

    I agree with Herzog re not spending too much money on a first bike. I thought that I did all the right research before I bought my Pashley and even test rode it twice, and I still missed. I do not regret it, because it taught me a lot, allowed me to provide info to others through this blog, and I was happy with the resale value when I sold it. But if I were to go back in time, I would have restored "Lucy 3-Speed" and called it a day. Would have been perfectly happy. Having said that, if a person has money and $2,500 is no big deal, I don't think one could go wrong with a Rivendell Betty Foy as far as both comfort and prettiness go. The Retrovelo Klara or Paula would be another recommendation.

  11. Amy - no next custom bicycle. Constance is a very jealous woman and she won't have it! She even hisses at Graham, the Rivendell a bit.

    jens - Thanks. The coat is something I found randomly in a shop; I cut out the tag, but it was not a recognisable brand anyhow.

  12. beautiful build, with very thoughtful details!

    "Please be honest about this one: how bad does this look? I considered switching the biggest ring (currently a 34t) to a slightly smaller one, so that it blends in with the others visually - though over time the weirdness of it has grown on me."

    i think it looks just fine, especially when mated to a long-cage mtn derailleur such as the XT you have. however, if it bothers you you wanted to replace it with a 32 or 30 yet retain the same gearing, you could replace the front crankset with one that has a smaller granny gear than the one you have (this would keep parity with the new 30 or 32T rear cog). i also happen to think that tiny granny gears on cranksets look great. can you get a smaller inner ring for your current crankset? or would you have to replace the whole set?

  13. Ah, bickering bicycles. Lock 'em in a room together for awhile, they'll learn to get along. :)

  14. p.s.

    "- though over time the weirdness of it has grown on me."

    weirdness almost always immediately appeals to me. - do not dare to change this precious detail. ever.

  15. I stumbled on your blog and I've been hooked ever since. What a beautiful bike!

  16. What a truly successful build! Mr. Hollingsworth may need to consider using the specs for a base model, if he can find a source for the head tube/split-stay lugs. (Or find out where V-O is getting theirs.) It sounds like that is a truly pleasant bicycle to ride.

    Now, that cassette does not look weird to me- it is identical to the old "Alps-buster" cone I had on my long-lost Peugeot. I ran an original Huret Duopar long-cage derailleur and Suntour barcons on it. That bike could be ridden up the wall and parked on the ceiling, the gearing was so good.

    I expect Constance is easily as capable. Brava!

    (Oh, and Herzog, I think you'd be onto something very special with that roadster idea.)

    Corey K

  17. I have become obsessed with having to check you site daily. Love you new bike and I'm a guy too. You have inspired me to have a custom ANT Truss 3-speed ordered, and I'm really excited about getting, hopefully about March.
    Keep up the great pics and good reading.

  18. "Alps-buster"! : ))

    I love Herzog's bicycle idea as well; hope it becomes a reality and I see it gliding through Boston.

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone, and for reading the blog. I hope it's not too distracting from the important things in life... like working in order to save up for a bike : )

  19. Amen! You're bike is so awesome it almost hurts me to look at. I'm inspired to commission a bicycle someday.

    Oh, and how do you handle security for this bike? Does she have a 24/7 bodyguard? Do you plan on using her around town for errands or only certain trips that don't require her to be left alone? Does Boston not have a bike theft problem? That would be one of my main concerns going forward with a project like this...

  20. Fjelltronen - I haven't yet decided how to handle security in the long run. For now I have been leaving her locked up for short periods of time, and if at all possible arranging it so that I can see her from a window. It works in my favour that I do not have a 9-5 office job, but am always out and about and don't stay in any place for longer than a couple of hours. Also, ironically, I think this bike looks so much like a vintage mixte that perhaps the thieves will not consider her worth stealing. After all, who wants to steal an old mixte!

  21. The cool thing about a 46/34 with a 13/34 in the rear is that each chainring provides a useful gear range (96" to 46" and 71" to 27") so that you can select the large chainring for level terrain and the small chainring for hilly terrain once during your ride and stay in it for the entire ride, never worrying about adjusting the front derailer and just adjusting the rear derailer (which the XT does so well) up and down, almost like a hub. It's not a big deal, just kind of neat.

    Getting rid of the 34 rear cog or changing the 34 inner chainring wouldn't terribly upset things, but we followed Sheldon's advice when selecting components and it seems to be very reasonable.

  22. " After all, it's just a bike forgoddsake... Right! " Not right in my opinion.
    Perfect name for a perfectly beautiful bicycle. Congratulations on this stunning individual! Hope you have many years of enjoument together.

  23. That frame is incredible. The details are completely obsessive, but the result doesn't come off as ostentatious, like a Vincitore Special. I like the base color, the accents,and the majority of the components. a nit to pick: a bike inspired by the constructeur tradition wouldn't have Honjos. It'd have Royal H fenders. Still,the build comes together very nicely,and i think it assuages the dichotomy that seems to have infected the bicycling lobe of your brain: speedy versus comfy.

    I do, of course, have an opinion about the rear-end. I mentioned in a remark back when you first told us about the shifter debacle that the SGS rear derailer seems out of place on a bike equipped with a double. You simply don't need all of that chainwrap capacity. Now, there's no foul here; i've built parts bin bikes with doubles and SGS cage rear derailers in the past,without a twinge of guilt. But, a GS would suit ya so much better, and they make a top-normal gs-cage shadow in XT trim,so... The rear derailer is the only thing on the bike that looks weird.

    The cassette looks fine to me, but it might look chintzy to some, due to the resemblance to a shimano 7-speed megarange cassette or freewheel, all the rage on bargain bikes around the turn of the century. I wonder if you'll ever need a 1:1 ratio on that bike, but i reckon it doesn't hurt; better safe than sorry.

    A final question: why the "silver" shifters, when shimano 8speed barcons come cheaper, offer an option of friction or index in the rear, and mount to the thumbies with almost zero headaches? The dia-compe shifters do look a little more pimp, but that goes back to your last post, re: the form n function equation....


  24. If I knew what a royal pain in the ass Silver shifters would be on thumbies, I would've never done it. Besides, Shimano SIS/Friction shifters are all the rage. But, some people insist on Silver friction. :)

  25. The rear derailer works so well and swallows all that unshortened 8-speed chain with such grace that I really don't want to change a thing. It goes from a 34/13 to a 46/34 and back without a hiccup. It's also really simple to remove/reinsert the rear wheel w/o letting that fat tyre out. :)

  26. rob - I admit that my definition of the constructeur tradition is a bit shallow... but at least I got the crankset and derailleur period-correct, non?

    The bicycle does look surprisingly subdued in person. Part of that has to do with the fact that the lugs, while numerous, were fairly simple. No floral arrangements or celtic themes. I actually prefer lugs to be on the simple side: the most elaborate I could enjoy would be Nervex or Herse. Stuff like Hetchins would be over the top for me and I would probably sell a Hetchins frame if it fell into my hands.

    The other thing contributing to the subtle look is the low contrast between the colour of the insignia and the frame. That is usually not done nowadays, and Circle A asked several times whether I was absolutely sure I wanted the copper paint for the insignia, warning me that it wouldn't stand out. I had considered something more contrasty, like a saturated orange or a black, but ultimately decided to go for the soft look. I think it works well on this bicycle.

  27. "But I stop well short of putting aesthetic factors before practical ones, which I hope comes across clearly throughout Lovely Bicycle."

    I think that answers your question about the cassette. If you're willing to use that (excellent but funky looking, given its setting) derailleur, then using that cassette should be a no-brainer provided that its function is ideal for you. The bike is gorgeous, and the way that you gush about how well it suits you should make anyone envious.

    -Matt Pewthers

  28. Constance, yes, not just right, but somehow just right; as is the insignia color. Very special all the way around.

    Herzog: "Ralph Lauren's Bugatti"

    While I consider myself at heart a T35 fan, that particular car is my desktop wallpaper right now. Very lovely bit 'o kit, innit? Right up there with the wood bodied Hispano-Suiza. Considered by many to be the most valuable car in the world, but it's monetary value could only be established certainly by putting it on the auction block, something "Ralph" isn't likely to be doing in a hurry.

    Something else I suspect it has in common with Constance; particularly as "Ralph" has no claim to title.

  29. Matt - touché! All right, I will keep the cassette as is... and smile tolerantly when I am asked why I'm rocking that additional disk brake on the rear wheel : )

    Ralph Lauren's Bugatti - are you talking about this one?

  30. As it appears after restoration and on my wallpaper:

  31. kfg - Oh my, much too extravagant for me. I have but simple tastes in classic cars.

  32. Velouria - You need to watch The Prisoner more.

  33. Constance could actually be the nicest bike on planet earth right now, a perfect synergy of rider and machine. I like big sprockets, they last longer and transmit more power. Small chainrings suck, literally. I think more men would ride mixtes if they were as well designed as yours - never again would we snare our foot on childseats/bags as we attempt a clumsy dismount whilst trying to look cool at the same time...

  34. PS apologies if this question has been covered elsewhere, but which brake levers are those? they are the first good-looking AND anatomically correct inverse levers i have seen.

  35. since we've digressed onto cars, here are my all-time faves, in order:

    1) citroën DS:

    2) BMW 3.0 CS:

    3) BMW 2002 tii:

    if i am at all lucky, i will have at least one of these cars with which to grace my garage before i'm too old to enjoy it.

  36. somervillain - I share your attraction to #2 and #3. So what kind of bike rack will go on them once you are fortunate enough to acquire them? : )

    Samuel - Thank you. The brake levers are silver Tektro inverse levers, with the black ends removed and the metal mattified a bit. The silver version of these is only available from Velo Orange, otherwise they come in black.

    kfg - I don't have television.

  37. Your patience is truly admirable!
    My "dream bike" frame arrived on a Friday and I took my first ride on Sunday.
    I had to pillage two perfectly functional bikes to make it happen, but just couldn't wait to get my new baby out on the road!


  38. kfg - That's the one! I love it so much in part because it's audacious and totally over the top.

  39. It is a completely gorgeous bicycle -- amazingly so, and as Anonymous 10:38pm pointed out, it's gorgeous but not at all ostentatious; perhaps because the details are so well thought out, and it is once again beauty following function. It's inspiring. It's also great to hear about the ride quality, and how the framebuilder translated your thoughts and ideas about what you needed into physical properties that resulted in that magical ride. That ability to "translate" is a gift.

    Regarding the high bottom bracket -- my bicycle has a very high bottom bracket too, and when researching it, I came to the conclusion that it's meant to make the bicycle more agile and "lively" in feel. Is that your sense of it? It really does feel wonderful to ride high...

    Congratulations; it sounds like all your thinking and reading and research paid off in a truly lovely bicycle (and a great blog, too!)

  40. velouria said "somervillain - I share your attraction to #2 and #3. So what kind of bike rack will go on them once you are fortunate enough to acquire them? : )"

    rack? no stinkin' bikes are gonna touch those cars! hey, as much as i like bikes, if i had one of those classic cars i'd be driving them for *driving's* sake, and leaving the bikes at home!

  41. Ryan - It's not patience, it's underfundedness : )

    Jeannette - I don't think a high BB has much to do with that, as many (most?) racing bikes are made with low bottom brackets. Typically, track bikes are built with high bottom brackets, because it's impossible to coast on corners on a fixed gear, and if the bike leans aggressively a pedal can strike the sloping track. Some city bikes are also built with high bottom brackets, to get the upright cyclist to sit up even higher and see traffic better.

  42. Velouria, thanks -- yes, the bottom bracket height can improve pedal clearance, and the other argument I've read is that it can change the bicycle geometry.

    Raising the bottom bracket even a little, shortens the chainstays and the down tube on the frame, as long as wheel center, rear dropouts and front fork remain the same. Shortening some of these lower tubes in the bicycle frame is said to make the frame stiffer and more responsive and can compensate for (for example) the relative sluggishness resulting from the lax angles of a city/utility bicycle.

    Anyway, that's the argument I've heard, for what it's worth....though I am sure there are counter-arguments aplenty!

  43. I've never seen a bike that was so well thought out and which seems so perfectly suited to its owner. Congratulations!
    I like the large rear cog. Someday, while toiling up an 8 percent grade, you'll be glad you have it. We fans of Lovely Bicycle! are anxiously awaiting your next project. Perhaps a custom roadster for the co-habitant?
    Forgive me for being so forward, but I think Sheldon would be a perfect name for such a bike.

  44. Nice looker--do you have an as-built weight for Constance?


  45. Jim - I would say 25lb, though I have no way of weighing it.

    MT Cyclist - The Co-habitant has got his roadster needs covered, but he does need a nice new roadbike (he says no, but I disagree). Hopefully that will be the next project.

  46. Velouria - "I don't have television."

    Neither do I. That's WHY I can watch The Prisoner more.

    I may have ridden to the store this morning on a 50 year old bike, but my "media" is 21st centuryish. I have reason to believe yours is as well.

  47. Jeanette wrote:

    "Raising the bottom bracket even a little, shortens the chainstays and the down tube on the frame, as long as wheel center, rear dropouts and front fork remain the same. Shortening some of these lower tubes in the bicycle frame is said to make the frame stiffer and more responsive and can compensate for (for example) the relative sluggishness resulting from the lax angles of a city/utility bicycle."

    This is quite right. Cyclocross frames tend to have a higher BB, partly for obstacle clearance, but many ppl select 'cross bikes with meaty slicks for commuting, b/c the short stays/high BB bracket combo makes for a nimble ride during rush-hour. The tire clearance helps, too. These past 5 years, much has been made of 29" mtbs, and how they compare to 26". Aside from the more efficient rollover angle and other aspects of wheel physics, the BB on the 26" is higher in relation to the axles than it is on the 29". Which is why, more so than because of the wheelbase, the 26"bikes seem flickable and lively, while the 29" seem more steadfast and stable.

    Personally, for bikes like Constance, i prefer a high BB if the bike isn't likely to carry substantial loads frequently. Eyeballing Constance, and reading Velouria's comments about the handling, I'm thinking the geometry must be pretty close to spot-on.


  48. What a beauty! I love all the little details, like the gold cables, and her name is perfect.

  49. Is there a reason that the bike does not have a chainguard?

  50. Thanks Dottie!

    kfg - okay, okay. I will check the modern technologies! (though netflix does not offer it to watch instantly).

    rob & Jeannette - So why do many racing bikes have low bottom brackets?

    Anon 11:24 - There are no chainguards made for bikes with front derailleur. I may get a custom one made some day by Red Barn, but it will be a lot of work to get the shape just right and to think of a way to connect it.

  51. most road-racing bikes have a bb higher than a touring bike, but lower than a 'cross-racing bike or an xc racer. The reason for this is because roadracing is high-speed with few technical switchbacks. You don't want twitchy handling at high speeds, especially if you're in a paceline and most of the turning you're doing is of the swoopy sort. Now, if you're racing off-road, on singletrack, you'll need something more responsive for the highly technical sections.


  52. If I may...there is a danger in taking a single metric (bb height/drop) in ascribing handling characteristics of a bike. If you've ever had a chance to play with BCAD, the software nearly all custom builders use, you'd find changing one metric would result in a change in others you might not have foreseen, even if you had a lot of frambuilding experience.

    That said, I do agree with rob's analysis of road racing dynamics and road race bikes' design choices, but will respectfully disagree on his off-road assessment 8^)


  53. It's nice to have this dialogue going about frame geometries. This mixte is such a pleasant bike in every respect, putting it together was a joy (in so far as working on a bike can be joyful). I hope you have lots of fun riding it.

  54. Velouria - Here is the segment directly relevant to the conversation, available at a click:

    Remember, you thought you wanted a Pashley, but ended up really wanting a path racer. I suspect you THINK you want an XJ, but really want a 7.

    You should watch more The Prisoner anyway (everyone should, but anyone with Anglophilic bents in particular). I get mine faster than Netflix by taking a cruise to the pulic library which has upgraded its "media" to late 20th centuryish. I suspect you may be able to do the same.

    ". . .roadracing is high-speed with few technical switchbacks."

    True, and yet not. Many urban crits are quite technical. Roughly speaking the lower the bottom bracket, the lower the center of gravity and thus the higher the possible cornering speeds; and racers turn at as close to the grip limit of the tires as they find themselves comfortable with. However, unlike a motorcycle, a bicycle needs to be pedaled through the corners and the grip limit of the tires is at greater lean angles than crank length allows, so at maximum grip you're going to have to coasting with the inside pedal up anyway. Raising the bottom bracket degrades handling slightly, but allows the bike to be driven further into the corner and earlier drive out and fastest lap times are achieved by minimizing acceleration periods into the corners and maximizing the periods of acceleration out, rather than the highest possible mid corner speed.

    Back in the day raising the bottom bracket to make crit "specials" was tried, but it turns out that harmonic vibrations caused by pedaling at those torque levels upsets the bike enough to break the rear tire free at much lower speeds and lower "road" BBs are actually, in practice, faster, even though you have to coast a bit more.

    On a fixed gear, of course, you can't coast in the corners and may find some advantage in giving up ultimate torque for greater lean angle by using shorter crank arms (plus being able to spin a bit faster). I don't corner (or descend) as hard I used to and live in hill country, so I have 170 cranks on my fixed gear bikes, but I also have grind marks on my pedals from touching down, not something everyone is going to be comfortable doing even once in a while.

  55. what a lovely bicycle this is! I just only recently discovered your blog and its full of little jewels like this but this must be the best I've seen so far;-) ( p.s. while I write this I see I automatically used the name of your blog to describe this bike...did not even do it on purpose!)
    so..compliments with not only your passionate wheeled creations but also on the great pictures and settings, its a pleasure to read your blog, looking forward to much more.
    many happy cycling miles with this and your other bicycles;-)

  56. I could never get tired of looking at those lugs. This is the most beautiful bicycle I've ever seen.


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