Monday, October 6, 2008

Niles: All Built Up

[Note: If you are reading this out of sequence, this is the completed frame I built for myself in the course of Doug Fattic's framebuilding class. He's the first frame I've built. Accounts of his gestation can be found here and throughout the blog.]

I was very surprised to wake up this morning and see Niles nearly completely built up. I went to bed thinking I had lots of work still ahead of me. As it turns out, I just had to put on his bar tape.

The thing I thought would take a long time was the following: his front wheel wasn't sitting straight in the fork, which I figured was because of a badly aligned fork. Sure, I didn't remember this being the case, but I also don't trust myself particularly. In a fit of tired haste last night, I even angrily did a bit of dropout filing to correct the issue, but had no effect. The plan was to do lots of filing today and get everything just right. I was not looking forward to it.

Luckily I thought to check that the wheel was itself properly centred before doing any filing. It wasn't. The wheels on Niles were the last ones I had built for me (before I learned to build them myself.) For an inexplicable reason, the front wheel is "dished" about a centimetre to one side. (Update: 1cm was an exaggeration, and now I have the wheel properly centred, and it's still a bit off. I shall consult experts before filing the dropout!)

Here is a complete built list, with many photos to follow below. I'm really pleased with him. I haven't done any serious riding on him yet to my lack of trust in his wheels, but will get on that soon. What limited riding I've done suggests that he fits me perfectly, that his BB drop is not as issue, that the Grand Bois tires are great, and that I want my handlebars a bit lower.


A.Hammond (hehehe), Mixed Deda/True Temper tubing (mostly 8/5/8), Henry James lugs, Richard Sachs Fork Crown, Kaisei fork blades, Campagnolo 1010A and Suntour GS dropouts (thanks to Dave Wages). 73 degree head tube angle, 73 degree seat tube angle, 53mm rake.

Paint by Velocolour. Grey/blue with dark blue decals and pinstriping. Noah did a really, really nice job. Custom stainless headbadge by Suzanne Carlsen.

Stronglight Delta, stripped of anodizing and polished. (I think the one black spacer looks cool.)

Phil Wood low flange.

Mavic CXP33

DT stainless

Grand Bois Cerf 700x28

Campagnolo Nuovo Record 27.2 (thanks to Rudi Mayr and R.C. Broderick)

NOS Brooks Professional (thanks to Eric Ellman)
Rear Cog

Phil Wood 15 tooth

Salsa 42 tooth


Shimano Dura Ace Track, stripped of anodizing and polished
Bottom bracket:

Shimano Dura Ace

GB Randonneur

Nitto Technomic "short quill" 10cm

Tektro R538
Brake Levers:

Shimano Dura Ace

TA Track
Pedal Clips:

Christophe "Z"
Handlebar Tape

Tressostar Blue

Bottle cage:



Time for some photos. Note how many different shades of blue he manages to be! Indoors, a very grey blue. Outside, brigher, blueyer.

It took lots of hammering of the fender directly underneath that front brake to allow the brake arms to open sufficiently to allow the brake to clear the inflated tire. But it now works.

I really like that crown! Try to note all the parts on the bike that have the "A" shape, and thus mirror my various logos. This is one!

This stay does its job, but I cut it too short. I'll likely do another one in the next few days. I just bent it in a vise...

My stainless headbadge, in all its glory. The subler seat tube decal hiding in the background.

The one detail I'm not 100% sold on is the brake levers. I wanted aero levers for this bike (I wanted it to stay reasonably "modern looking") and I really don't like the newer Shimano ones with the huge logo on them. These are nice, have that shiny band on them, but the grey doesn't really match. Well, they're staying. (The hood shape also mimics my "A" shape!) Also: it would be nice if the bar tape colour was a bit darker to match the box lining/decal/fender stripe colour — but I assume as it gets dirtier, it will naturally darken... [Update: I took some sage advice and clear-shellacqued the tape, and now it looks perfect, and will stay clean.]

Yes: the randonneur-bend on the handlebars mirrors the logo shape. So does the shape of the Stronglight Delta.

The Nitto cage also incorporates "the shape." I really like the minimal contrast of the decals against the paint.

The pinstriping looks great around the bottom bracket! (Lug points: another "A" shape).

I ran out of time in class for cutting that slot. I was a bit nervous about doing it with my cheap Home Hardware hacksaw and files, but it worked out.

I made this mud flap from "rubber floor mat" stock from Honest Ed's. It cost $3.99 for a foot, and I'll likely be able to make 50 mud flaps from it. It's held in place by the rolled edges of the fenders. See instructions in Bicycle Quartlerly 5.2.

One of my favourite touches! This loop-and-stop system eliminates the need for a ferrule, and looks really nice. (Also: the brake action on the rear brake is as nice as any I've ever felt, so it must work!) Using a derailleur-type stop also keeps the cable nice and far away from the top tube and any possible scratches. Many other photos now follow of this detail.

(I again note how nice Noah's pinstriping is!)

Note the beautiful box lining on the fork blades.

Very clean looking — everything is right where it should be! Also: all that lug filing paid off. They look nice.

Nice pinstripes on the seat and chainstays.

The polished Dura Ace track cranks fit in pretty well to the "classic but modern" look. They certainly look nicer than they did with their anodizing intact.

Little things like these make me very happy, and really distinguish handmade, purpose-built bikes from production ones. Mounting these fenders still took a long time, but it was made easier and certainly cleaner-looking by details like the threaded fender-mounting boss.

The Tektros angered me with all their "I won't open up sufficiently to get your tire out" business, but they're working now, and wrap around the Honjos without any problem. They also sort of resemble a winking toad. And the cutout is reasonably bell-shaped...

My "comically high-up" scallops don't look so bad in the end...

My "wrap-over" decals are quite obscured by the pump. But I know it's there... Also, I had to fight for the radius in the fork blades, but it looks just like I wanted.

In the process of taking these photos (outside my apartment, and down the street in the schoolyard) I was asked by five or so people about my bike. My upstairs neighbor offered to buy it outright! I consider these good signs.


steel said...

Been following your progress since the beginning - very well done. Quick question: does your rear wheel drop out w/o deflating the tire? Reason I ask is because you've produced a clean fender line – w/o the huge gap usually seen with forward facing dropouts.

AH said...

Well, that was definitely one of my design goals... but unfortunately not. The only real casualty of the BB drop this was this: the frame was designed for 25mm tires, and they would have easily popped out without deflating the rear tire. With the 28s, they need to be at about 50psi to slide in easily. (Yes, it's that close). Also: if I used a half-link on the chain to bring the rear wheel forward a bit, the fender lines would be even better...

Otherwise, the BB drop issue improved the bike. The 28s are cushier and arguably faster, and they fit just fine; the bigger fenders are more useful, and have those pretty grooves to fill in with dark blue paint!

j thurow said...

That is one classically beautiful bike. Congrats. What type of mount did you use for the front fender? Are you using a Fork Crown Daruma or did you braze on a threaded boss?

AH said...

I used the "daruma" (apparently, this is a literal Japanese translation of "eyebolt"). It makes mounting the fender much easier, as you can slide it around a bit and cheat on fit.

Jon Muellner said...

Really nice work! Love all the details and the logo is superb.

AH said...

Well that means a lot coming from the owner of one of the coolest bike I've ever seen (a Hetre-equipped Pereira, for those who don't know!)

The logo, by the way, is taken from here:

Wyndham Lewis, the editor/writer/graphic artist of BLAST, is one of the people I'm writing my dissertation on, and my favourite writer.

seaneee said...

Amazing. Looks so nice. Congrats. Some shellac will darken up that bar tape and it should match the fender stripes perfectly!

AH said...

Yes, a BOB list member suggested that too, and it's ingenious! I already have Niles all covered in newspaper, ready to receive (and not be splattered by) the shellac!

Chips said...

Beautiful Bike!
Where did you get those bars?

AH said...

I got them from a Raleigh Grand Sports I found used and converted into a swept-back-bar bike for my sister. They're old! I just got another pair for my cross bike -- they were quite common in their day, and not too hard to find (or expensive) used. The clamp is 25.2, I think, but they clamp fine in a 25.4 stem.

Tom said...

Beautiful bike! The pinstriping, lug work, and all the little details really set it apart.

XO-1.ORG said...

Your bike is absolutely spectacular! Congrats and kudos! Are you ready to take an order? - Chris Kostman

AH said...

Thanks for the comments! I am trying to figure out a work space, and my roommate will be getting a frame as soon as I do. I then have some frame ideas for myself, of course — and then, perhaps, it will be time for orders!

AH said...

ps: having now officially received positive feedback on Niles from all my favourite framebuilders AND Chris Kostman, I am actually beginning to consider my retirement, since I'm not sure there's much further to go!

XO-1.ORG said...

Well, you can't retire until you build me one! - Chris Kostman

Robert in Windsor ON said...

Very nice work, not least for refuting the silly notion that English PhDs can only teach. One question: if you wanted to carry anything, like groceries, would you have to use another bike, or have you considered setting this up with racks of some sort. I'm always looking for the do-everything bike. Does it exist? A randonneur bike?

AH said...

Robert: Sorry for taking so long to respond -- I need to set it up so Blogger notifies me when comments are made! Yes: a randonneur is probably the best "do everything" bike there is. Add a trailer and you can tackle everything but a camping vacation. Personally, though, I like having several bikes: a beater for daily use (I like fixed gears for minimal maintenance and steadiness in snow); a racing bike; a tourer/randonneur. A dedicated city bike can be nice; a fixed gear road bike like Niles; a cyclocross bike... well, it's pretty endless.

Chris: Some day!

Anonymous said...

Just researching frame building schools, came across your blog. Really handsome bike, that paint job is fantastic too!

smontanaro said...

I stumbled on a reference Doug made to his frame building school, and since I live pretty close (Chicago area), I started searching. Yours is the first blog I hit. Lovely bike!

I'm curious about one thing. If you intended to create a fixed gear bike from the outset why did you use dropouts and not track ends? I didn't see that explained in the text or the comments.

AH said...

Hi there. Fenders and track ends are a match made in hell. You need to actually remove the fender in order to remove the wheel in case of a flat, etc. with track ends. Dropouts allow the wheel to "drop out" -- and have no real disadvantages