Friday, September 18, 2009

Back with Old School Framebuilding

It's been awhile. I've been lacking time and cyclistic activity lately so we've had a bit of a lapse. My apologies to anyone who was more bored in the meanwhile than they would've been reading my crap.

Here are some videos of how classic steel frames were and are still made by a master of the craft.

Years ago there was a DIY handyman article called "How to Lay Brick Like an Amateur." The premise being that a beginner cannot simply watch a journeyman bricklayer, do what he can see the pro doing, and then get the same results. Anyone who has attempted the seemingly simple and obvious craft of bricklaying will know this from the wavy wall or the lopsided barbecue pit. Here we have an even more subtle craft made to look very simple.

There are indeed some steps left out or abbreviated, but I'm sure that was in consideration of the normal, non-bike-geek people who might watch. Me, I could watch every step all day. This is brilliant. Many thanks to Marten on the Framebuilders List for the link. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Cool Bikes for Your Gazing

Now this is sexy.

Some very nice pic's of some very cool cyclage. Go enjoy.

New Project - Raleigh Sports

Picked up a Raleigh Sports in Lawn Ornament condition. I might have (maybe should have) held out for one in better shape. But I rarely see these at all and I've got no compunctions about making a project of it, so I jumped. I had one of these back when they were new. At the time I would've much prefered a race bike and I sorta punished it for it. I nonetheless rode it fast and far and had a tremendous amount of fun on it. So I guess it balances out - I rode one of these into the ground, and now I'll resurrect one.

The good news is it looks like the paint stays - on the frame, certainly, that will polish up nicely. The fenders and chain guard are a bit rough. Even those responded to a quick preliminary scrub in a way that makes me think they'll achieve the condition known as "patina." So probably won't get repainted. We'll see. Nothing is frozen and all bolts turn.

I've already started pulling parts and cleaning and de-rusting them as they come off. The handlebars and brake levers came out nicely. There's a crack in the bezel of the three speed shifter that someone had glued and the glue has yellowed (browned) and it ain't perfect but it'll work. Even that horribly rusted lamp mount looks okay with the rust removed. The headset isn't notchy and the drivetrain all turns and shifts.

The worst part is the rims - these are nasty, still relatively true but badly rusted.. I don't know how they'll turn out. The good news there is that Sun makes aluminum rims in this size in their CR-18 model. That's a damn fine rim and not expensive. It wouldn't bother me a bit to upgrade the wheels. Or anything else for that matter.

This is not going to be a restoration more of a repair and refurbishment. And like any bike I'll own it'll be for riding not looking at. So pulling a few pounds off and getting it to ride and work even better than new are all good things. Parts most in danger of replacement are the rims, seat post, stem, handlebar and brakes.

The seatpost in part because it's made to go with the springer saddle that's on it and the leather is simply gone. Damn shame because the frame is still in surprisingly good condition. Those guys at Brooks knew how to lay on the chrome. If I find someone who puts new hide on old saddle frames we've got a deal to make.

The rest of those possible changes would be for downweighting, style, fit and function. The brakes move smoothly enough and will probably work fine. But they are stamped steel and a bit ugly. The crank is safe, it's heavy and clunky, but it's got Herons on it and Herons are good. Besides the accumulated grease and oil protected it from rusting. I don't recall ever removing a cottered crank and I've got some trepidation about that. It will have to happen to service the bottom bracket.

Of course you all can look forward to voluminous updates as this project proceeds.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Peter Weigle is one of the finest frame builders of all time. There have been so many great builders of every era and style that to declare any the best would be impossible. But if someone wanted to argue that Peter has built the prettiest bikes of all time, I would not argue. I love his sensibilities and how they are manifested through his craft. The perfectly shaped, masked and painted lugs are lovely in ways no lug lining can match. They are intrinsic to the work rather than a nice addition.

So there I am, looking at the Gallery at Kirk Pacenti's gazing at the beautiful work that has been done by so many builders with his lugs. The pictures are unbig, but the work is gorgeous. And of course there are Weigle frames. And of course, I am looking at them.

Beautiful, huh. Bike porn at it's best.

Then we get to this.


Of course that's a Chris King headset, and obviously everything possible was done to minimize the awfulness with the knurling and all. But... But... Damn. That's like flipping through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and running into a photo spread of the 1972 East German Women's Shotput team.

I know, me ragging on bicycle aesthetics is sorta like a fat chav in a track suit ripping on fashion models. But... But... Damn. Big globular headset cups and spacers you could adjust a tractor power take off with under a stem that could be used as a blunt instrument. I'm sure the detail isn't fair. And yes, yes, before the types pile on, the threadless headset does a lot of things right and doesn't always look abominable. But... but... Damn.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Now for Something Completely Different

And by "Something Completely Different" I mean to instill the sort of borderline dread and anticipation of madness that Monty Python induced. These are not the sort of bikes we usually enjoy and celebrate around here. They are the sort that we look at and say "I really wouldn't want to ride it, but damn that looks fun." Kustom Kulture meets bicycles.

Rat Rod Bicycles in all their glory. Go visit the site, there are lots of guys playing with these things and God bless 'em. I'm sure there are some collectors of old balloon tire bikes who hate to see this stuff. But like the guys hacking old lightweights a lot of these bikes have been abused and corroded to the point of not being good for anything else. Most were never any damn good in the first place.

Looking around the Rat Rod Bikes I notice a lack of pinstriping. They need to get on that.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things I am Learning

So the Proteus / Mystery Bike proceeds. I've begun painting it and these are a few things I have learned.

"Painting" is the wrong word. "Sanding" is the correct name for this activity as it comprises 87% of the activity and 95% of the results. You could use a mop and with enough work and sanding you can get a decent finish.

Bicycle frames are a nightmare shape to spray. There is not one tube that does not have either another obstructing it or another down-range to catch the overspray. Because they are tubes at least four passes are required on each. This multiplies the opportunities for something to go wrong.

About that sanding, 3M makes sandpaper. There may be a few other companies. I don't care. Discount sandpaper is a sick fraud perpetrated on decent, honest people. Do not ever buy any form of wet & dry sandpaper that does not say 3M on it. Okay, maybe if you are already aware of some other brand sure. But the only way to test these things is with a lot of labor, labor that costs a lot more than sandpaper.

Painting bicycles is for the birds. I may do others in the future but it will be according to a far different plan. More on that later.

Also upcoming photo's and exciting descriptions of me, sanding and then sanding again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This is Simply Beautiful

And, it's an amazingly cool bike. This is not at all the sort of bike that usually interests me, aside from the accessories on this one, but the ultimate of anything is interesting and this is the ultimate cruiser bike. It inspires me. Oh, and it would be fun to break out the pinstriping sword and go at that bicycle frame too.

Edit: A coworker tells me the perfect name for the style of this bike "Ray-gun Deco." Love it. Perfect name. Now I'm back to staring at that photo again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Vintagey Goodness

One of my favorite sites is Classic Lightweights UK. They cover some beautiful bikes and a culture of cycling that is different from what we find now and in the US. There is a sort of blue collar brilliance at work, regular working guys, both the racers and the constructors taking the time and expending the effort to do something brilliant for part of each day or for a few hours each week.

This is particularly brilliant

Go check out the lug lining and seatstay caps.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vintage Cycling Posters

Courtesy of Clockwork Bikes I found this great collection of vintage cycling posters all collected up in a zip file ready for download and total cyclogasmic enjoyment.

Take a look around I hadn't heard of them before but the photo's of their work are very impressive. I didn't give a direct link to the posters, because I think anybody cool enough to provide something like this deserves a good look.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not Beautiful but Badass

Allow me to introduce you to the Beast. This is the wilderness escape vehicle. I love riding in the woods, It's out of the sun and moving along quickly I have a cooling breeze all the way Throughout the summer there ain't enough SPF for my German-Irish ancestry to stay out in the Florida sun. Singletrack is the answer. To the extent that I ever do stop and smell the flowers that is where they are. This is the bike for that Florida woodland singletrack.

I can't say for sure just what GT frame this is. I believe it's a late 90s Backwoods, but that's only a guess. The fork of course is a late 90s Girvin Crosslink, relatively little travel but well damped and more stable under my 200+ pounds than some rigid forks. Oh, and probably as light as any Clydesdale rated suspension fork ever built, then or now.

Contrary to expectations we do have some very serious trails here in Florida, no long climbs or descents but what there are run straight down, around and out of things like mining quarries. I don't have that where I ride regularly and this bike is a bit long and has limited travel for that sort of thing. But it does get me through when I do meet the stuff. Mostly, it is a winding, rooted, loose surface world I ride in. Oh, and occasional patches of soft, white, sugar sand ranging from 10 to 200 yards long. I can plow through some sand.

The drivetrain is mostly Shimano 8s LX; shifters, ders, rear hub, brakes, with Truvativ FireX cranks and rings. Someone really needs to talk to them about their branding. "Truvativ" sounds like some erstwhile Eastern Bloc knock-off manufacturer from the Cold War days. Yeah, that's a rollamajig or thingie or whatever the technical term is. It really does improve shifting and helps keep the rear cable housing out of the way. That's how old this bike is, downtube cabling with all the hassles that has off road. With the Rollagadget I can keep the housing real short and tied out of the way.

The aftermarket derailleur hanger is the result of trying to re-use a Shimano chain pin. Apparently there's a reason they insist on that replacement pin. This foolishness destroyed the hanger and the Deore der.

Yes, there's no small chainring. Soon there may be no large one either. The poise angle of sand being what it is, there is nothing so steep that I need the small ring that has enough traction for any human to ride in that low a gear. None of our hills here are long enough to need it either.

Here's the back end view, with a good look at the tractor like tire on back. It's the WTB Velociraptor set. Which aside from the fierce sounding name is a now traditional paddle wheel back, arrow pattern front. Most of my riding is on a loose mix of sand and leaf litter and this works well. The other pattern that works is the wide rounded tire with lots of smaller nubs, the Continental Vertical is the premier example. I'll probably go with those or something much like for the next set.

Front wheel is American Classic hub with a Velocity Aeroheat rim. Great rim, okay hub. Oh, the paint. There isn't any. No anodize either, just raw aluminum. The previous owner had defaced the clear coat in the process of removing the decals that told everyone that it wasn't the Zaskar that he was trying to represent it as. No I didn't pay Zaskar money. In fact it was barely "old GT with defaced decals" money. Actually the price paid was "this is what you get for telling lies and damaging a cool old bike frame" money, $15.

Here's another view of the rear quarter being inspected by geese. They did not attack.

This bike has been attacked on two occasions by armadillos. Apparently they are extraordinarily stupid creatures who when startled are as likely to bolt in the direction of the thing that alarmed them as away. Both times they were browsing about six feet away from the trail and then shot straight across the trail into me. Both times they bounced off the back of the front tire, under the bottom bracket and out the other side before being run over by the back tire. I am not entirely sure this was not the same armadillo both times - they sorta all look the same. Both immediately went back to digging for grubs or whatever they're scraping after. Two important lessons; the sound of an aluminum chainring scraping over the back of an armadillo will ring in your ears and make your teeth hurt for days. You will beg to hear nails on a blackboard and sand in a bottle cap. The other is that armadillos are tough enough to survive being so incomprehensibly stupid. A veterinarian who does a lot of wildlife work assures me that I was in more danger than these stupid animals.

So now we've reached the point where I wonder if this bike is "vintage" yet or just old. I am curious to see what new technology has to offer. As light as that fork is, the overall bike is still 28 pounds total and that isn't exactly a featherweight. Not too bad for something that can haul me over logs and rocks, but some time in the next year I'll have to see if I shouldn't be riding a bike from the current century.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beautiful Bikes, Ideas and Inspirations

I've pretty well decided how to proceed on the Proteus resto. I am going with wet paint, and because I am a maniac I will attempt doing it myself. This is slightly less deranged than powdercoating it myself and much less crazy than attempting to replate it myself which would surely turn the neighborhood into a toxic wasteland. Painting is completely reversible in this context. It can always be replated, repainted or powdercoated by a pro.

In a previous post I went looking for inspiration which I found in the form of this beautiful JP Weigle work. Those colors are delicious and I love the way the shorelines of the lugs are handled. It makes most lug lining look crude and inelegant. Scope the detail on that brake bridge. (as always click to embiggen)

The overall effect isn't so bad either. Just a beautifully conceived paint scheme superbly executed.

But that is a JP Weigle a great American framesmith, sure, but not the great American framesmith who built mine. Is that scheme appropriate for a Proteus, did they ever do anything like that. These are custom bikes so there's plenty of room for variation, but it would still be best to stay in character with the marque.

Then I came across this. The two-tone on the fork legs doesn't wow me, there's no natural line there with the Proteus sloping crown. Do the whole fork in white and a lot of things start going right.

Now, I've got ideas. I'm thinking Red. Yes, the kind of red that gets capitalized, "Red" red. Maybe like Ferarri red, maybe lipstick, maybe fire engine. Maybe the color of red a Ferrari uses for lipstick before going on a date with a fire engine. And white. White to bounce it off of. Maybe not a stark white, though it makes for good contrast and would be period correct, but perhaps a bit ivory for a more classic look. Hmmm. These things require thought and playing with paint and samples.

More awesome shorelines. And the more I look at that the more I am committing myself to a very ambitious job that I may yet chicken out on. Of course I will keep the business card of a local powdercoater and a Benjamin handy in case anything goes wrong. Powdercoat isn't beautiful but it is always pretty darned good and functional. I can live with functional, but then brilliant remains taunting and compelling. It tasks me.

In the meanwhile, I'm sanding away rust and prepping a surface. Beauty demands dog work. Damn shame, but you know what, anybody, even I can learn and do dog work. That's a beautiful thing in itself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Protecting Society

So people ask me all the time "Ron" they ask "why do you keep this large and disreputable looking pile of bike parts?" Well, actually nobody has ever asked exactly that. And to the extent anyone has discussed my pile of parts at all it has been family, neighbors and clergy in varying degrees of concern, disgust and fear (respectively, more or less).

What they do not know is that I provide the valuable public service of keeping unsafe bicycle parts off the street and out of the hands of the unscrupulous who would sell these on eBay or put them on a bike they're flipping on Craig's List.

Meet the scariest stems ever. At least one member of this gang, their leader "Icon" was the subject of a nationwide recall. He was bad in the way of all insert tab and tighten screw devices. Except toy trains and battery covers don't take your teeth out when they break.

The middle one was just born bad. No hope of gripping a headtube in the way that is expected of a stem in this modern world he just wandered the internets in piles of assorted bicycle parts being sold from one bike monger to the next until I incarcerated him for the duration and saved his future victims.

The last member of the gang, the guy with the "S" tattoo to prove he's in with the tough crowd had the option. He could've been a decent stem. A bit short of bar bolts for a modern MTB stem, but solid and able to grip. Until someone just had to save a couple grams and drilled him out. A sad fate, but one he could do nothing about. Once a bike part is drilled there's no going back for them. Ever.

So that's why I am the Curator / Jailer of these parts. There is no hope of their ever changing their ways so they will not be released upon the streets ever again. And that is why I have an ever growing pile of parts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Meet "Fetch" the Workhorse

Meet one of the world's great bikes. Fetch is a 1987 Gary Fisher HooKooEKoo, a sweet assemblage of True Temper AT tubes joined in a geometry that is fast and comfortable on all surfaces. These old rigid bikes were never intended for huge hits and big jumps but they opened up the forests and trails to cyclists in a way nothing else had before. I've ridden this one on all but the most extreme trails around and it handled itself better than I could.

The standard kit was Shimano Deore; cantilever brake up front, U-brake under the chainstay bridge, four-finger levers, and thumbshifters that are selectable for friction or six-speed indexing. Biopace chainrings in 48, 38, 28 feel just like any normal crank and are well suited to a wide range of riding environments. Mostly this bike lives in the middle ring.

Right now she's set up with fenders and a rack. The Kenda K-Rad tires are smooth and fast for road riding and not so bad off road. I never got the point of running skinny tires on an MTB for the road, why? Rolling resistance is the least thing holding you back and the fat tire is the great advantage of these frames. Enjoy it.

Right now I'm riding in friction mode with a 7s cassette on the back. The original rear wheel has developed a pretty serious case of the spokesies. About every hundred miles or so another one breaks. So there's a replacement wheel while I decide whether to build up with the original hub or just lace up a modern LX hub I've got waiting to go to work and put that on there. I don't need the extra gears, but they exist and I'm happy to use them when I can.

In present dress with that crap, heavy rack she weighs 31 pounds. Great fun bike, good for just about anything you'd want a bike for.

Oh, And Another Thing ...

You guys cracking wise about my seemingly unseeming enthusiasm for a new seat post. This is the old one. Photographed in its most appropriate context.

Yes, that's a galvanized steel clamp on that clunky and graceless aluminoidal cylinder. It's ugly and heavy and I'm glad to not have it on a bike anymore. Of course I won't actually throw it away. It's a bike part. There is no throwing away bike parts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Bike I Ride

All these posts about a bike I'm not riding are annoying me. Here, let's talk about a bike that isn't broke, has all its parts and a nice finish.

Just your basic singlespeed 'cross bike. Or, a comfort bike with delusions if my riding style is how it is judged. IRO offered a group buy for the cyclocross crowd. This got me a pretty darn decent steel frameset for a pretty darn decent price. Once I had the frame, I found a great sale on Bontrager Satellite carbon fiber forks, so picked one of those up. Even better, I was able to sell the original fork to recover most of the upgrade cost.

The wheelset is one I'd picked up on ebay ages ago when I was running 8s Shimano for 'cross. It's a 1988 Dura/Ace hubset with Matrix Iso C rims. Not the lightest things in the world, but very rugged and not all that heavy. These are pretty good, except when compared to my tubular wheelsets.

Tektro Drop V levers and mini V brakes do the stopping and a Sugino crank with an all-terrain friendly 39 x 18 gear set do the going. All of this works well and smoothly and requires absolutely no attention or worry on my part. All together this bike weighs 21.5 pounds and rides sweet and smooth on all surfaces including cobbles .

Yes, I got the fork with the bungs for a front lowrider rack. Why? In case it ever becomes necessary to lace up an internal geared hub and go touring on it. This bike is about options and possibilities. I can race SS on it, add racks for toting things, and having the long distance travel potential just makes it the ultimate. For now, it's the fun and fitness bike. Rides around the neighborhood or through the woods are it's main activities, though it's done a few short commutes as well.