Friday, November 27, 2009

Merry Christmas Clive: Front Brake Hangers and Stops

My lucky bike Clive has already received his first Christmas gift.

Since my stem came hanger-free, I have been thinking over what the ideal location is for a front brake cable stop. Originally my idea was that the stop should be put smack dab in the middle of the stem extension. This is a crude implementation of the idea. I was thinking one could put a water bottle boss on the top of the extension, tap it out to M6, and then put an adjuster in the top. Two complications with this plan: you'd have to angle the boss such that it follows the angle of the headtube, which is the angle the brake cable needs to be at. And you need to drill an exit hole in the bottom of the extensions in the right place to follow that same angle. And then other questions: would it weaken the stem having a braze-on there? Stems are under a lot of stress, and you don't want them to fail. And would it be annoying that raising and lowering the stem would tighten and loosen the front brake? Also: this idea is pretty awful if you're using aero brake levers (I'm using these).

The other option for a stem-located front brake cable hanger is the one on this Singer stem. Very attractive, and simpler than the above-mentioned idea, since it doesn't pass through the extension. Also, it doesn't cut through the extension, so no chance of weakening it. The drawback of stem-adjusting affecting front brake position remains. And any stop located below the stem is going to cause the housing to rub against the stem, producing rattling and wear of the chroming.

Finally I decided that a headset-mounted stop—the most obvious idea—was probably the best one. Regular steel Mafac hangers are nice looking but don't have cable adjusters. Weinnmann hangers have adjusters but are funny looking. The nicest headset hangers are again those on Alex Singers. Since these need to be made by hand anyway, it would be easy enough to made the stop a threaded boss capable of handling an adjuster.

I sent the above link to my friend Olivier and he got an idea to made a headset-mounted hanger using wires rather than a tube. Before I knew what was going on, he had designed and built the hanger!—the one photographed above. And it's glorious! It's very attractive, it incorporates an adjuster, and it even has an extra "loop" to guide the housing into the stop and possibly reduce rattling and finish-wear. Ingenious! The only possible downside is flexiness—maybe prolonged braking force will serve to "flatten out" the bend of the wires. We'll see! Update: Some actual testing has revealed that it's way too flexy! Back to the drawing board!

Some of you may remember that I was originally going to locate the adjusters right in the brake levers, Mafac-style. I had my Mavic levers tapped for some very attractive Dia Compe adjusters. But since the brake lever body on these Mavic levers is split, the threading was a bit "loose." I'm happier having the adjuster anchored somewhere more stable—and those nice adjusters will look nice on Olivier's hanger!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clive Arrives

I am very pleased to announce that Clive—my randonneur frame by Dan Polito—has finally arrived on Canadian soil. His arrival was pushed back by many months due to a series of delays. But he is now with Noah at Velocolour. Since I myself am still living in Hungary, my friend Olivier has kindly sent me a whole bunch of photos of the frame and stem. (The custom rod-operated FD accidentally got left behind. It will arrive soon.)

Based on what I've heard from Olivier and seen in these pictures, Clive seems like he's in good shape. As some of you may remember, I sent Dan an extremely detailed order sheet. I'm a very picky customer, so Dan had a tall order. All the basics are right: the brazing is good, the finish is nice, and the clearances are all within a 1/4" and seem right. He also added a number of nice, original touches: nice dropout treatments, an interesting seatlug/sleeve. As a pleasant surprise, he built my fork from Jack Taylor Special Reynolds 531 imperial-oval blades and an old sand-cast crown.

Photos and commentaries follow.

Headtube, fillet-brazed joints, and single shift lever. Also note the very nice loop-and-stop treatment for the brake cables, as I did on my own bike Niles.

"Hellenic" (Dan calls them "continental") stays, seat lug/sleeve, and "where did it come from?" rear brake cable stop. A bit further down, that's the mount for my generator-powered taillight.

Rear brake cable hanger. Might be prone to flexing (thus mushiness), and it's brazed to the thin butt at the top of the seat tube. Pump pegs on the outside of the seatstay might cause the pump to block a bit of light from the taillight.

Fillet brazed bottom bracket area, fender mount braze-on, and thoughtfully indented seatstay for big ring clearance.

Very interesting dropout treatment and slapguard braze-on. Seatstay doesn't follow the angle of the dropout.

A better look at the seat lug/sleeve, which follows the contour of the fillet.

Fender mounting point and rear Mafac braze-ons.

The front dropouts also have interesting attachments. And the big dropouts are striking—and appropriately "English-looking," given the heritage of the fork blades.

A look at the bend of the fork blades. Also English-looking to my eye.

The lovely fork crown, onto which the Mafac bosses are attached. I sent Dan a front rack made by Mike Barry of Mariposa. It looks like I'll need to use a fairly large spacer to have it sit level. I might try making another rack myself...

Big loops for the generator wires on the left fork blade.

Dan's lovely custom quill stem. I still need to add a bell mount and put a cable stop for the front brake. I think I'd like the stop right in the extension, so that the brake cable passes through the stem. Not a very popular design for some reason—maybe because raising/lowering the stem affects the brake action, though that's not a big issue for me; and might even come in handy if I needed to drastically loosen the front brake for some reason...

A look at Dan's unique flush mount of the quill bolt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Soviet Bike in Riga

I'm sorry for the sparsity of my posts. Being "on the road" leaves less time that I would like for writing about bikes! And, I must say, generally bikes have not been among the more interesting things I've seen on this trip.

I did learn, on further travelling in Poland, than what I saw on the seaside and in small Gorzów isn't by any means typical of the country. In Wrocław—a university town—I saw lots of interesting city bikes, comparable to the sorts of bikes students ride in Toronto. I also spotted the fellow to the right riding an interesting bike outside of Warsaw. I didn't see any road bikes, however, until I arrived in Lviv (Lwów to Poles) in Ukraine. (I also saw an interesting, old French-looking mobylette in the window of an antiques shop.)

Budapest, where I am now, has a lot more bikes, and a lot more road bikes. But they are for the most part like bikes in Toronto—lots of steel road frames and fixed-gears. Nice, but not very different from what I'm used to.

The most interesting bike I've seen on my trip is the Soviet bike photographed here, which I saw in Riga. The brand name transliterates from the Cyrillic as "Start-Shossyeh," which I would investigate if my meagre internet connection allowed it. The most interesting detail of this bike for me is of course the Soviet Mafac-copy brakes. A close zoom reveals the brand name "XB3" ("Kh-V-Z"), which also appears on the headbadge of the bike (perhaps "Start-Shossyeh" is the model?). This bike is worth a look, in any case, and can be found in the newly created "Bicycles of Central and Eastern Europe" set I've created on my brand-new Flickr site. (Numerous other photos, including a set of cats, can also be found there!)

I was very lucky to be lent a cool 1990s Peugeot bike by my friend David this week, which I still haven't ridden very much. But if the weather is nice tomorrow, I'll head out for a ride to the Buda Hills and post a report here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bicycles and Bicycling in Poland

I had been in Poland for the past week, and while not exclusively engaged in bicycle research, I have noticed a few things.

Firstly, there are plenty of bicycles and people riding them. This is no doubt due in large part to the excellent bicycle lanes. Next to most roads—and certainly all newer roads—there is a dedicated bike lane. Generally this is on the other side of the sidewalk from the road—it's doubly separated from traffic, in other words. With all the excitement I've been reading about at home, this car/bicycle segregation doesn't seem like such a bad idea. (On the road outside my girlfriend's grandmother's house, where I'm staying, there was a fatal bike accident yesterday, when a truck driver turned right into a 50 year old cyclist without seeing him. It's an old road, and there's no dedicated bike lane.)

Secondly, the bicycles are generally "practical" rather than sporty. While Poland is an increasingly wealthy country, and car-ownership is certainly the norm, many people seem to use their bikes as "second cars"—for example, my girlfriend's aunt, who uses her bike for grocery shopping and errands when their car is in use. The example photographed is fairly typical, if somewhat newer than average (I'm afraid I haven't seen any weird Soviet-era bikes; they all have English names). I have yet to see a single drop-bar road bike. Mostly you see 1990s-style mountain bike with flat bars, V-brakes or cantilevers, and knobby tires. (Yes, the disease has spread!) But almost every bike I've seen does have a bottle generator-powered headlight, generally attached at the fork crown. The bike photographed, which I saw at the seaside town of Rewal, is distinguished by its neat internal routing.

Another notice, while I'm on the internet: Clive, my Cicli Polito randonneur, is now en route from Cleveland to Toronto, where it will be painted by Noah Rosen of Velocolour. My friend Olivier will be taking lots of photos when it arrives. God bless the internet—I'm dying to see it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Cyclist's Guide to Killing Plantar Warts

After my year-long struggle with these painful, irritating things—known to my mother as "planter's warts"—I have discovered the much-sought "fool-proof" way to get rid of them. As with most things (are you listening, Malcolm Gladwell?), the key is hard work.

The Backstory

Toward the end of last summer, I felt what I thought was a sliver on the bottom of my right foot. It even looked like a sliver—just a little black spot beneath the skin. But the main symptom was that when I went over a bump on my bike, I'd feel little bolts of lightning strike my foot. I tried picking at the "sliver" with a needle, to no avail. I spent the rest of the summer hobbling around. Standing in the shop during Doug Fattic's class for 14 hours a day was a particularly painful experience.

Some time after I got home, I looked at the Wikipedia entry for plantar warts, and realized that was what I had. I began treating it with salicylic acid, and then my mom told me to try duct tape. I combined the two techniques, and within a few weeks, wart #1 had fallen off.

But it came back. It didn't hurt as much so I didn't treat it as aggressively, though I did still keep duct tape on it. But over the winter (for instance, walking to and from my hotel in Indianapolis during NAHBS) my foot still hurt in that same spot.

Then, about a month and a half ago, I noticed that while my wart was not very good at making me hurt, it was a prolific reproducer. I had two new warts on my feet. This time I got serious. I tried a lot of different things, and now know exactly how to kill them.


First, don't bother with duct tape or anything else. Just use salicylic acid. I used "Duofilm," but I'm sure Compound W or any other brand would work just fine. The other things you'll need are band-aids (the Life brand ones pictured above and available to Canadians at Shopper's Drug Mart are particularly sticky and good), 100ish-grit sandpaper, and some sort of basin.

Next, follow this routine very faithfully. It's hard work; it's annoying; but it works. Every evening, soak your foot in warm water for 5-10 minutes. Then wash the wart and let it dry. Once the skin is dry sand the wart quite vigorously (say 20 swipes or so) with a small square of sandpaper. Once you've removed all the skin you can, put on a few drops of the salicylic acid. Then (and I think this is important) put the bandaid on the wart—but not the "padded" centre part. Instead, cut off one of the sticky thirds of the bandaid with some scissors and apply that sticky part directly to the wart. In the morning, peel off the bandaid (skin—and maybe the wart itself—may come off with it...), put on some more salicylic acid, and apply another sticky bandaid section. One of my theories is that the twice-daily pulling of this sticky bandaid serves to loosen the wart's contact to your foot. But I'm an graduate student in English, so I'm probably wrong.

After a week or so of this routine, faithfully followed, the wart will probably either fall off or come off during one of your vigorous sanding sessions. It is important to keep treating the wart! If you stop now, it will just grow back. I came to regard warts not as "things" but as processes: as little skin-producing factories. What you've done now is gotten rid of the skin produced by the factory—and exposed that accursed factory to the light of day. So keep soaking, sanding, and applying acid. When you get right down to the source of the wart, you'll probably see a little ring of skin with a sort of a ball in the middle. Sand off the ball—it's the factory! When you apply salicylic acid at this point, it will hurt really badly. This means you've won!

With each of my warts, I kept treating them for a few days after I was sure they were dead. Then I stopped treatment, let the normal colour return to the skin around where the warts had been, and checked for that tell-tale funnel/hole. If there is no disruption of the normal pattern in your skin, the wart is gone and dead. But it will take a while for your foot to get over all the trauma it's been through and grow back normal skin.

Once all this is done, it's time to get back on the bike. And avoid ever getting a wart again!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clive is Dead, Long Live Clive!

Due to a truly bizarre and unforeseeable circumstance—and one not at all his fault—Dan had to scrap the frame he made for me and build a completely new one. The bad news is that I probably won't get to see the frame all painted before I leave on a long trip late this month. So I won't be able to post setup photos, etc., until I get back in January. The good news is that Clive #2 is nearly done, and ready for viewing on Dan's flickr. The dropouts look very nice, and that seat collar is something I've never seen before.

In other news, in the last month I have finally defeated a trinity of dastardly plantar warts that have been hampering my cycling and ruining my life since last summer. In something of a departure into medical blogging, I will put up a post soon about my method for killing them—which is deadly and effective!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kermit the Cobra

I'm afraid, friends, that Kermit has emerged from his tadpole stage a very angry and menacing creature indeed! With his frightening new jaws, I am now quite sure he is not a frog at all but a deadly cobra.

Olivier came over last night and added a rectifier to the LED circuit, which now functions very well. We had a very difficult time with it at first, and couldn't figure out what was wrong. As it turned out, in our tests of the taillight with the Edelux headlight, the circuit was shorting out on the aluminum casing of the Edelux—another reason to consider the plastic-cased Cyo! Well, once we sorted that out, everything worked perfectly!

Clive will be here Sunday. He is discussed in this article in Cleveland Scene magazine, which literally transcribes Joe Bringhelli's Italianate English to very humorous effect.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clive's Taillight, Kermit

My friend Olivier and I have been busy over the last couple of weeks. Which is to say: Olivier has been busy, and I've been busy watching him. He's been making the "guts" for my taillight shell.

Originally I thought we would put a whole bunch of LEDs, in a circular pattern, into the light-shell. But since the lens wouldn't come off, we needed to sneak the LED unit in "the back door," which limited us either to one large or two small LEDs. Olivier, who knows more about electronics than I do, informed me that it would be better to use two small LEDs, since otherwise we'd need to use a resistor and waste some current. (I suppose this has something to do with AC, but I'm not sure.) So we ordered two tiny Luxeon "Rebel" LEDs and one larger "K2," just in case the Rebels didn't work. Both are "red-orange," even though my red lens seems to do a good job making white light red.

The next step was to machine the body for the LED unit. Our idea was to machine a cylinder out of plastic to the inside diameter of the "entry point" on my taillight. Then we would drill a hole through the centre, which we would then tap to accept a hollow chainring bolt. Then we'd machine a little piece of aluminum to act as a heatsink and a mounting plate for the LEDs. I wish I had photos of this process, but I don't—anyway, it all went as planned.

Then last night we hooked everything up. Olivier cut slots in the plastic and aluminum to allow for the passage of wires, and he soldered the LEDs together. Then (after some difficulty) we epoxied the lights to the aluminum plate, and the aluminum to the plastic. Then we passed the wires through, and soldered a ground wire to the inside of the chainring bolt (it will ground itself through the frame.) The photos will no doubt explain all this much better than I could have. We the light up to my Schmidt wheel via Olivier Cyo front light, and let me tell you—it's BRIGHT. Perhaps even too birght—but we'll see!

Many thanks for M. Scholten for his excellent ideas, and his offer of doing all this work for me!

The plastic "body" of the light, with the headless triple chainring bolt in place. It attaches to a seattube braze-on thus.

The same piece from the other side. It's hollow, like the bolt. The slot is cut to allow the wires to make it through.

The aluminum heatsink/top, with slot.

Two Luxeon "Rebel" LEDs all wired up. (They look like a frog—thus Kermit.)

Olivier soldering the ground wire to the inside of the bolt. This required filing off some chrome plating...

The LED unit partially inserted into the light housing. I'm going to cut off at least half of that "tube."

Another shot of Kermit, still in his "tadpole" stage.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Slight Delay

Well, Clive's arrival has been delayed by car troubles on Dan P.'s end. So he'll be here next week some time.

In the meantime, I offer this "artist's rendering" of my fork crown. (By which I mean, I was so curious about what it would look like 'in context' that I decided to just draw it and find out.)

Also: there have been big taillight LED-ization developments, so those posts will come soon. And the proposed series on my other bikes is on hold—for much excitement is about to take place!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Updated Due Date

Since I have now spoken at length about all the most exciting components on Clive, I will get on to some actual news: Clive will be done on Saturday. Then he will be delivered the following Friday, July 10th. After that he'll be painted fairly quickly, and we'll have an actual bicycle to discuss! (That's Clive's medieval-looking fork crown on the right.)

Once Clive is a bike, I will talk at length about things like bottle cages, which really don't merit individual posts!

I think I will fill the next gap in Clive activity by describing my other bikes, individually. Coming soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clive's Rear Derailleur

This, friends, is a tale of an embarrassment of riches—of my struggle to choose between two very fine Mavic rear derailleurs.

Originally my plan was to use a Mavic 851 rear derailleur that I had picked up for no particular reason on eBay. I knew from the beginning that I would be using friction shifting. Weight was also a concern; and of course aesthetics are always in my mind. So why, I thought, use anything else? The Mavic 851 is a friction derailleur, is unbelievably light, and is for me unequivocally the most beautiful derailleur (nay, component!) ever made.

Well, the answer began to suggest itself when I tried actually using it. I installed in on my Fuji one day last spring just to "make sure" that it worked as well as the Campagnolo Centaur derailleur I'd been using. At first it didn't work at all; it simply wouldn't shift onto the big (24 & 26) cogs. Eventually I was able to figure out how to slide the cage to allow it to wrap around the 26—but then I lost all chain tension. So I took it off. Recently I gave it another try, and figured out the chain tension issue. But even perfectly set up it (1) couldn't take up all the slack on my 48/32 13-26 setup; (2) still skipped around on the big cogs; and (3) shifted really, really badly compared to the slant-paralellogram Centaur.

By this time I had grown very attached to the idea of using a Mavic derailleur. And though I knew the 840 existed, I wasn't very enthusiastic about it. For one, it seemed needlessly heavy and bulky compared to the 851. For another, new old stock 840s were going for $200+ on eBay. And though I liked it strange-looking cage plate, I didn't find it very attractive. This was especially evident in comparison to my very special 851, whose previous owner (a kindred spirit!) had taken the time to disassemble it, strip off all the clear anodizing, and polish the aluminum parts.

This dilemma resolved itself in three steps. First, I got over the weight issue and resolved myself to the fact that slant-parallelogram derailleurs work really well and I need one. Secondly, I found some poor soul who couldn't spell "derailleur" and whose listing for a "Mavic derrailer" (along with a nice pair of Mavic/Modolo brake levers!) attracted very little attention and came to me very cheaply. Finally, I disassembled the derailleur and sanded and polished the silver parts.

The result is a beautiful, functional derailleur in whose beauty I have a hand. Being involved in the "production" of one's posessions—rather than just "consuming" them—always adds enjoyment.



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Clive's Cranks

Clive's cranks will be the venerable TA Pro 5 Vis, with 48- and 32-tooth chainrings, in a 170mm length. It would be hard to argue for any other crankset in a randonneur application: the TAs are exceptionally light, can take an incredible range of chainring sizes, have a very narrow tread, and are the nicest looking cranks ever made. That they have been made continuously since the 1930s (if we allow for a momentary confusion with the Stronglight 49d) doesn't hurt.

These particular ones are the "60th Anniversary" model, spruced up with crankarm decals and some NOS dustcaps. I bought the crankset from Mike Barry shortly after he officially closed Bicycle Specialties. They were the last pair he had. He didn't have any of the newer-production 48-tooth outer chainrings, so I got an older one, with holes for the cyclocross chainguards (these will be as close as Clive gets to "drillium"). The day that I picked these up there was a meeting of the "No Click Club" at Bicycle Specialties—a group of collectors and enthusiasts of vintage bikes. I somewhat shyly attended, using the crank-pickup as a pretext, and have been a regular ever since. Indeed, I'm going tonight!

The issue of which bottom bracket to use with this crankset has been a vexing one. I bought a 116mm TA Axix BB on eBay last year, assuming it would be fine. But on my Fuji, and with a 135mm rear hub, the clearances were very tight between crankarms, chainrings, and stays. I also got pretty carried away with the desire to use a "Singer-style" bottom bracket at one point. I was going to use the 116mm axle from my Mavic bottom bracket (it has locating areas for sealed bearings) and have Dan Polito make me a 74mm BB shell. Well, luckily a 35mm metric reamer (which was necessary) costs something like $1,200, so my plan was quickly made ridiculous. Now I have a cheap Taiwanese 118mm BB in my closet, which I'll use if the TA doesn't work. (By the way: during my lengthy deliberations over a BB for this crankset, the closest thing I've been able to get to an answer to the question, 'Do TA cranks take ISO or JIS BB spindles?' is 'Probably something halfway between the two.')

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cive's Brakes

For these images I have had to dip into my embarrassingly extensive collection of photographs of my bikes parts. The brakes themselves are in Cleveland.

The brakes are the beautiful and fairly rare engraved Mafac 2000s. The 2000s are distinguished from Racers by their always-brass bushings, their anodized finish, and their impossible-to-find proprietary, non-length-adjustable straddle cables. They have a longer reach that the otherwise similar Competitions. Unlike the later 2000s with the sticker logo, mine have a lovely round contour and, well, an engraved logo.

Though these are in retrospect the perfect brakes for Clive (well sized for 700x30 tires plus fenders; pretty, light, French) I didn't go specifically looking for them. I got them on my first ever visit to Bicycle Specialties in late 2007. All I knew was that I wanted some Mafac brakes, which I had been told were cheap and worked very well. I asked Mike Barry if he had any, and he came out with a dirty pair of old brakes. I was very much in awe of Mike at this point and so was too shy to ask how much they cost, or to refuse them. So I just bought them, and was a bit miffed to see that he had charged me $40 for the shabby pair. I consoled myself with the thought that it was at least cool to have bought something from such a legend, and to have done so in the last week the store was in business. Of course, when I got home and did an eBay search for completed listings of engraved 2000s, I realized what a favour Mike had done me.

I never did like the dull anodized finish, however. These brakes were my first experiment in anodizing removal. Taking lots and lots of time, I scraped all the anodizing off with sandpaper. I also did my first filing and took off the casting marks. The next step was to get some decent brake pads: the Kool Stops for old Campagnolo brakes, which also fit in Mafacs. The result of all this is a pair of beautiful and extremely good brakes. For Clive, they'll be mounted by Dan Polito on brazed-on pivots. And on the front, these pivots will support not only the brake (which I bought from Mike Barry) but also a Mariposa front rack (which Mike Barry made.) Clive is a bike with many makers!

"Before and after" shots below. (Note that I also got some brand-new, never-used straddle cables from Mike recently; further proof that the "impossible-to-find" is often neatly stored in one of Mike's many drawers.)

Before: a derelict duo.

After: a suave set.

I heard from Dan earlier this week, and he says Clive is coming along well and nearly done. His internet connection has been down, however, so there still aren't any new photos. Soon!

Update: Another email from Dan, who is about to begin brazing, and notes these final specs:

640 c-c seat tube
600 c-c top tube
80 bb drop
880 standover
650 front center
435 chainstays
805 saddle height from bb
105 stem extension
73* hta / 73.5* sta

Interesting that I can ride a 64cm c-c frame and still have 3.5cm standover clearance in bare feet. I'm taller than I imagined!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Clive's Handlebars and Brake Levers

I consider my handlebars to be the one compensation for my otherwise incredibly annoying experience with the Velo Orange Randonneur. While I was waiting (and waiting) for the frame (which of course never materialized) Chris K. posted on his blog about a treasure-trove of handlebars he had discovered. Among them was an all-black Philippe randonneur bar. I'd never seen one before and haven't since. I wrote to Chris right away to ask if he would sell it to me, and he, wishing to see it on one of one of his VO bikes, sold it to me. (NB: I continue to like Chris K. and VO very much. My "beef" with the framebuilder himself, however, remains!)

Besides being pretty, the bars have a nice shape: a long reach, shallow drop, medium flare, and flattish-but-not-flat ramps. They're about 40cm wide at the hoods and 42 at the drops. I think they'd look pretty bad on anything but a black bike—but since mine is black, I think they'll look very nice indeed! I'll use amber-shellacqued orange cloth tape on the bars, though at various points I've also considered white and black.

The brake levers are Mavic-branded Modolos with anatomic Modolo hoods. I bought them together on eBay, but they're actually not a proper pair. One of the two has a "hinged" cable anchor that can serve either in aero or non-aero mode. I will, of course, be opting for non-aero. The cable adjusters were taken from some Dia Compe Grand Compe levers. I had the Mavic levers threaded to accept them, since it didn't seem like I could put adjusters anywhere else. Hopefully they'll work well. (The adjusters still need little rubber o-rings.)

Further note: Why did I decide to use the adjusters from a pair of Grand Compe levers, but not to use the levers themselves? Well, a big reason is that I have a Mavic derailleur and skewers, and like for things to match. Another is the damning condemnation of Grand Compe levers in Eugene A. Sloane's legendary All New Complete Book of Bicycling (3rd edn., 1980). He compares the GC levers very unfavourably with Campagnolo levers (of which the Modolos are copies). His reason is that the Campagnolos have independent fittings of clamp and spindle—so the lever turns easily regardless of how tightly it's clamped, which isn't the case with the GCs. See pages 424-5. And for a glowing report on the GC's adjusters, see p. 440. (He's a thorough man!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taillight Post-Polishing

Imagine what must be going through this poor little guy's head. He sits happily oxidizing away in a French barn for forty years. Then all of a sudden he's dragged out, photographed, advertised on eBay, bought by a Canadian, packed in a box, sent halfway around the world, delivered, unwrapped, photographed, blogged about, sanded, polished, and then—if luck goes my way—stuffed full of LEDs, screwed on to a bike, and ridden many thousands of miles of year.

This state of polishedness is the result of about 30 minutes of sanding with 220, 600, and 1500 grit sandpaper and then Simichrome polishing. He could definitely get shinier—but I'll wait to see if he works as an LED conversion. The problem in that regard is that his lens almost certainly won't come off. I'm pretty sure it's glued on to the aluminum housing. Luckily he has a fairly wide opening at the back (almost exactly dime-sized) into which I'm hoping we can jam sufficient LEDs to make him bright. Maybe just a single, very bright LED? I know shamefully little about lighting.

Below is a photo of his opening (poor guy!), and another of the beautiful Star of David pattern his lens creates.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Clive's Lights

These both arrived today, so I'll discuss them now.

Clive's headlight, as I've already mentioned, was originally going to be an E6. But then Schmidt introduced the LED Edelux, and so I've bought one of those. It's brighter than the E6, just as attractive, and has a big added bonus: an automatic on/off switch, which also controls the taillight. I thought the one advantage of the E6 over the Edelux was the ability to mount it upside down. Well, the Edelux can't be mounted that way, but it's not a big deal for me: my Mariposa front rack places the light nice and low and (or so I presume) out of the way of the bag.

The taillight arrived today from France. It's a good thing I didn't need its "guts," for this little taillight is a gutless empty shell. I have no idea how we're going to get the red lens off and the circuitry in, but I'm hoping for the best. It certainly is beautiful—and with some polishing, it will be as shiny as its fancy German brother.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clive's Saddle and Seatpost

In Part Two of our Series, we look at the saddle, and its means of attachment to the frame.

I got my first road bike (a Marinoni Special, no less) when I was in my second year of university. I rode it semi-seriously during my undergraduate years, and when I got to grad school finally met another cyclist. With him, I did my first "serious" ride: a crazy tour from LA to Eugene, Oregon on which we averaged about 160km/day (we were aiming for 220km/day, and Vancouver, BC).

I rode this tour with incredibly inappropriate equipment: a Marinoni racing bike with a bolt-on rack, all the weight on the rear, no fenders, awful battery-powered lights, etc. And though my friend encouraged me to at least buy a Flite, I rode the tour on an awful, cheap "Velo" saddle that hurt my bum the whole time. When I got home, the owner of my local bike store told me, "You should have used a Brooks."

Clive will take this advice.

I bought my first Brooks saddle a few years ago, drawn by their legendary comfort and gorgeous appearance. This first one was a black Professional, and it felt so perfect (even without breaking in) that my saddle experiments pretty much ended there. I did read various reports, however, about degradation of quality in post-Selle-Italia-acquisition Brooks products. Apparently they're not using the best leather these days, and the saddles tend to "sag" and wear out more quickly. While my own newly-made Pro was fine, I thought I would try to find a "NOS" Pro while I still could.

As it happens, I found two—both for less than the price of a new one. I've been using one made in 1999 for the past year, and have put many kilometers on it. The one photographed was made in 1989 (the serial numbers are pretty self-explanatory) and has small rivets, which is odd for Pros. But since this one isn't broken in, in all likelihood I'll put the 1999 saddle on Clive.

(The pictured saddle is the one I've been using on Niles. I tried out a Selle Italia Flite on Niles last weekend, just to make sure the 300 gram lighter Flite wasn't as comfortable as the Pro. And it's not.)

With the selection of seatposts, of course, there is much less at stake. My choice of a Campagnolo Nuovo Record 2-bolt post is based mostly on aesthetics and general "coolness" (if only I could use it still in its box!) But these posts do also work very well and never come loose. And this one's very short, which must mean it's fairly light.