Thursday, March 26, 2009

Clive Begins

For my amusement, and for the possible amusement of a very small minority of the more detail-obsessed among you, I have included a copy of the monstrous email I sent to Dan Polito last week. It's the beginning of Clive. Very thankfully, Dan seemed not to mind the obsessive detail.

All references to GAHB are to our mutual friend,
The Golden Age of Handmade Bicycles.


The frame I built in Doug Fattic's class is nearly perfect. My one aesthetic issue with it is that I'd like about 2cm less seatpost showing. But the main consideration when designing this frame will be getting my handlebar position perfect, which it needs to be with that clamp-on stem. I want the top of the handlebars to be 7cm below the top of my saddle (80.5cm).

So the frame should probably look something like this. All measurements c-c, in mm.

BB drop: 82.5
Seat tube length: 640
Seat tube angle: 73
Top tube length: 590
Head tube angle: 73
Fork rake: 61

All tubing:
Reynolds 531.
Fork blades:
Reynolds 531 Imperial Oval.
I have a nice semi-sloping Imperial Oval crown...
Dropouts:Single eyelet F&R, Verical rear.


Headset:Stronglight A9 1" threaded
Front hub:
Schmidt SON28
Rear hub:
Phil Wood "Riv" 135mm for 7spd freewheel
Rims: Mavic MA 700c x 20
Tires:Grand Bois Cyprès 700x30
Rear derailleur:Mavic 840
Front derailleur:Rod-operated, made by you.
Freewheel:Shimano 600 6-speed 13-26
Shift lever:Simplex Retrofriction
Engraved Mafac 2000s mounted to brazed-on studs
Brake levers:
Mavic-branded Modolo, non-aero (w/ adjusters)
Crankset:TA Pro 5 Vis, 48-32
Bottom bracket:TA Axix
Handlebar:Philippe Professionel 25.0 clamp
Stem:Made by you, 10cm extension.
Saddle:Brooks Team Professional.
Pedals:Shimano PD-A520
Seat post:Campagnolo Nuovo Record 27.2 12cm from centre rails to minimum insertion mark
Front rack:Mariposa
Fenders:Honjo 45mm hammered
Bottle cages:King stainless
Pump:Zefal Solibloc.
Handlebar bag
Berthoud GB28


I would like this to be very much like a randonneur version of your Capriolo city bike. By this I mean:

— fillet brazed
— using that cool handmade lug at the ST/TT junction — although I'd prefer it without the "seat tube extension"; ie., with the top of the clamp more or less level with the top of the TT.
— using the Alex Singer-style two-bolt seatpost clamp (which will "rhyme" with the 2-bolt clamp on the stem)
— using a "continental" seatstay attachment (though I'd prefer a longer "cap" — around 5cm long.)
— having those nice, low bends on the fork blades.

... though of course the randonneurish twin principles of "performance" and "reliability" should be kept in mind, which aren't necessarily the city bike's ambitions.

The bikes I think mine will be friends with are the following (all from GAHB):

1946-47 Alex Singer (pp. 42-43). Black like mine will be, fillet-brazed, similar seat cluster, similar stem, FD...

1947 Concours des Machines René Herse (pp. 44-47). I'll have a very similar colour scheme, I love the fork bend.

1947 Alex Singer Porteur (pp. 58-61). Beside the fact that it has no clamp bolts, this seat cluster is perfect. Beautiful fork bend. Perfect proportions of seatpost and stem: I would ideally like exactly that much seatpost showing, and have my stem about there (though I want it level with the TT).


— Mafac brake bosses F&R
— Brazed-on loops for generator hub wire on inside drive side fork blade.
— Front rack mounting points (water bottle bosses)
— One downtube shift lever boss (drive side)
— Mounts for 2 water bottle cages: 1 DT and 1 ST.
— Stops for brake cable on drive side of top tube. "Loop and stop" style.
— Pump pegs brazed on underneath top tube for 48.5 compressed pump. See GAHB 64.
— Cable hanger of some sort.
— Light mount on seat tube.
— Fender mounting points on chainstay bridge and seatstay bridge.
— Slap protector braze-ons on drive side chainstay (for Champion slapguard).
— Derailleur cable stop w/ loop.


— Nice fender lines.
— Sufficient clearance between fender and tire, tire and chainstay, crankarms and chainstays, and big rings and chainstays.


I like nice, low bends on fork blades. The ones on your Capriolo city bike look pretty much perfect. There is something magical about the bend on the Rene Herse pictured on GAHB 44.

Some way of attaching the fender to the fork crown will need to be worked out. I don't want to use a "fork crown daruma" since I want to keep the brake bolt holes clear for wire routing. So probably a water bottle mounted under the crown. Mike Barry makes little tabs and brazes them to the crown:

On the inside of the drive side fork blade, I'll need loops brazed in to guide the generator wires. Like here:


My favourite detail on the bike I made are the cable stops for the rear brake cable. They're of the "loop and stop" (the stops being derailleur stop braze-ons) variety. See them here:

Note that on this bike, since I'm using non-aero levers, these need to be on the drive side side of the bike. Or, if you want to get really fancy, you could do the cross-over style like the Alex Singer on pp. 54-55 of GAHB.

I'd like these to be used for the derailleur and for the rear brake cable. Herse and Singer didn't use loops on the rear brake cable stop, but I think they make sense. My loops are placed 5cm in from the edge of the seat and head tubes, and the stops 9cm.


I want to use eye bolts to attach the fender stays to the dropout, so there might be clearance problems on the drive side of the rear dropout. I am using a 6-speed freewheel on a hub designed for a 7-speed freewheel, so there is some room for manoeuvre. But maybe "offsetting" the eyelet on the drive side rear dropout would be a good idea.

Another option is to do what Mike Barry does and construct custom stays out of steel tubing. Only if you're interested, of course. See:


I like the Alex Singer stem on Jan Heine's Grand Bois quite a bit.

— I like the placement of the steerer and bar clamp bolts. I like two bolts for each (to match the seatpost binders!)
— I would like a bell mount (a wattle bottle boss) in the same spot as on this stem.
— I like the stem cap/switch
— I like the cable hanger also. Though if you think a hanger right in the stem extension makes more sense, I'd be fine with that.

The clamp area on my handlebars is exactly 3.1cm wide, and would enjoy being clamped by a stem clamp of the same width. The clamp diameter is 25.0.

We'll need to figure out the inner diameter of the stem-clamp tube needed for the switch to fit into.


Tony Pereira's design is pretty and apparently works well. Something like that would be great.


I could probably make an ugly one myself. But if you're at all interested in making one (perhaps Peter Weigle or Curt Goodrich would have tips?), that would be great. Theirs are pretty. (But they're battery-powered; this would need to be generator-powered, of course.)


I have a Velo Orange headset-mount decaleur. The part that attaches to the bag is fine. But if you were interested in making the other part, and finding a way of attaching it to the stem, that would be way better.


Here is a photo of my Mariposa front rack:

Here is a photo of a similar one in action:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For Sale: De Bernardi "Brain" Road Frame & Fork w/ Headset

Note: This frame is now sold, but I'll leave the photos up for the world's general edification.

Seat tube: 59cm c-t
Top tube: 56.5cm c-c
Tubing: Columbus Brain (steel)
Dropouts: Columbus
Bottom bracket threading: Italian (of course!)

The fork is fully chromed, and the seat and chainstays are chromed, as are the dropouts (the paint in that area is very nice!). The frame has internal cable routing for the rear brake — very fancy! Columbus Brain tubing (strange as its name may be) is an "updated" Columbus SL — nice, light road racing tubing.

This frame is brand new and has never been ridden. It has been built up, however. It came to me fully assembled, and I removed all the components except the headset (a beautiful, also brand new Campagnolo Chorus 1" threaded headset). There is one small paint chip, shown below. Beside that, the frame is perfect.

De Bernardis are handmade in Italy. As the Yellow Jersey site says, they don't look like Italian racing frames or ride like Italian racing frames — they are Italian racing frames! Lugged steel frames of this quality are increasingly difficult to find. Indeed, De Bernardi no longer make these; the steel bikes they make now use threadless steerers and are generally less attractive.

Read more about De Bernardis on Yellow Jersey and Road Bike Review.

And see many photos, in numerous environments, below:


Columbus Brain tubing decal

Made in Italy

Internal brake cable routing and pump peg

Lugged, chromed fork. Downtube bosses, for STI/Ergo stops, downtube shifters, etc.

Lower headlug with heart cutout.

Downtube decal.

"Fastback" seatstay attachment.

Chromed Columbus rear horizontal dropouts.

In the sunlight.

Top view of top tube paint job.

Headtube decal, etc.


Side view.

Decals, brazed-on front derailleur tab.

Chorus headset and pump peg.

The small white spot is a paint chip. The frame has a white base coat; the red has chipped here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Phoebe: My Mom's Bianchi

This bike is built around a frame I purchased, in my more naive days, from a person either deceptive or uninformed. It came to me completely unpainted and clearcoated and set up as a fixed gear. It was very attractive, but of course as soon as I started riding it, it began to rust. This is because clearcoat doesn't protect bare steel from oxidation (clear powdercoating would work; but primer is needed for wet paints). Lesson learned!

It was a bit small for me anyway. Not so for my tall mother! Using a variety of parts I had around the house, I built this bike for her last spring, and she rode it all summer. Noah of Velocolour did the paint job with some extra paint he had left over from Mike Barry's Torpado project, and it looks great. The crankset is a 48/39, and she says she's only used the "big" ring once. She loves the bar-end shifters and the rear rack. Even though the bars are level with the saddle (an old B.17), she still wishes they were a bit higher. She calls her bike "Phoebe."

(Most of the photos below were taken before I'd connected the derailleur cables. I have a bad habit of photographing my projects slightly before completion. I also added a nice brass bell on the stem quill, which makes the long quill look less odd.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Barnaby: Sam's Alan Super Record

Here begins a series of posts on bikes I have put together for other people.

This is Sam's Alan Super Record, which is actually still in progress (proper pedals needed; black cloth finishing tape to be properly glued!). The frame dates, I believe, from the late 70s. It's a top-of-the-line racing frame — many races have been won on such frames. I have an Alan cyclocross frame from the 90s, which I like very much. This frame seems equally well adapted to its purpose: racing.

It came to me (from Mike Barry) with a Mavic bottom bracket installed (and its BB shell chamfered) and with an odd, old Shimano 600 headset. The headset was overhauled and kept. The bottom bracket was put "on file," and every other component was taken from a complete bicycle purchased on eBay. (The frame from which will be for sale soon!)

Everything, that is, beside the brakes. The Spidel Mafac Competition-like brakes are my favourite part of the bike, I think. They're contemporary to the frame, and they work better than anything else currently on the market. The front cable routing might look a bit awkward, but it works very well.

All in all, a bicycle that sacrifices nothing in performance or style.

Sam calls him "Barnaby."

Saturday, March 7, 2009


In the last week I've stared the prospect of setting up a small frame shop in the face—and been stared down. The costs of the tooling—even basic stuff—is well beyond my current means. And the fact that I have no place to build (my landlord nixed my idea of building in the spacious, concrete-floored basement of the house where I live) revealed the futility of it all. I'm going to gather tools, fixtures, etc.,—but slowly. Maybe I'll build my second frame in a few years.

There is very good news in the meantime. I met and befriended Dan Polito at NAHBS with no intention of ordering a frame from him. But I just did. He's excited about the bike, excited about collaborating on the design, and able to deliver it relatively quickly. This is a very good situation. I'm excited. The bike's tentative name is "Clive": a snootified contraction of the city he'll be built in. (Above and to the right, sporting a baffling and unfortunate hairstyle, is Clive Bell—art critic, brother-in-law to Virginia Woolf, generally irritating person. My Clive will be nicer, better-behaved, better-dressed, have better style—though he too will be interested in art, no doubt!)

Also, yesterday was very warm and sunny, so I took Briggs out for a ride. Every aspect of my bike obsession is pleasant, but the best one is still riding. I can't wait for consistently nice weather.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Last Wednesday evening, a few hours after my first committee meeting, Noah Rosen (of Velocolour) and Suzanne Carlsen (of Suzanne Carlsen Headbadges) picked me up for our two-part, ten-hour drive to Indianapolis. We stayed over in Flint, Michigan at a Super 8, and arrived at the show in the mid-afternoon. Things were already well underway: the Vanilla shipping crates were being unpacked, the Brooks people were laying their temporary hardwood floor, and the Signal Cycles guys were hanging photos on their booth's wall. (At right: Noah, Suzanne, their U-Haul, and the frightening but beautiful "steam factory" right next to the Convention Centre.)

I was along, so I thought, to display Niles at Doug Fattic's booth. Doug was planning on displaying his new design jig at the show, and also showing off some student bikes. Unfortunately, Doug didn't get his booth. (Though he did triumph nonetheless — his students took home big awards; on which, more later.) But very luckily, Noah was willing to show off Niles in his booth. The paint job was very nice, after all. (That's the Velocolour/SC booth below, with Niles peeking out down the centre.) It took us until quite late to get the booth set up. Then we checked into our (distant) hotel, got a meal, and rested up for Friday morning's opening.

Friday I spent looking at bikes. It took me several hours just to get a mental overview show, and to decide on spots to revisit in more detail. The main builders who stood out were Dave Wages of Ellis Cycles, Mitch Pryor of M.A.P. Bicycles (that's him below on the right), and Dan Polito of Cicli Polito. In a nice congruence of factors, I liked their bikes, they were all nice, and I spent a lot of time talking to each of them.

The craftsmanship was what impressed me most about the Ellis bikes. It's very clear how many years Dave has spent building bikes; don't let the relative newness of his company fool you. I also love the understated elegance of his paint choices and decals. The M.A.P. bikes were impressive for their nicely integrated racks, brazed-on centrepull brakes, and nice constructeur details. The style of the Polito bikes was really impressive; as a whole unit (paint/craftsmanship/component selection/design) his Jack Taylorish bike was my favourite at the show.

Friday night I had dinner with an extremely friendly group that included Curt Goodrich. I always suspected (based on his articles in the Rivendell Reader and his blog entries and posts) that Curt was a really nice guy, and this hunch was completely verified. It was a real pleasure getting to meet him. The food wasn't bad either.

Saturday at the show was incredibly busy, so I spent most of the day working in my hotel room. But I did get a chance to see Doug Fattic, his assistant Herbie, and my classmate Dan. I got a peek at Doug's jig, which he'd brought along in his car. I was sufficiently impressed to want one very badly. Mike Barry was at the show that day also, and Saturday's dinner included his retinue as well as Richard Sachs. I didn't sit very near him at dinner, but even from a distance it was obvious white a nice guy he is. The difference of this congress of framebuilders to the academic conferences I'm used to attending was stark: these people are so genuinely passionate about what they do, and so eager to talk about their work. The social side of the weekend was incredible.

Sunday I slept in a bit and arrived for the awards presentation. I was extremely happy to see Ellis Cycles take "Best Lugged Frame," Mitch Pryor take "Best City Bike" (he thanked Doug Fattic, whose student he is), and Dan Polito win "Best in Show" (he also took Doug's class; that's him at right, before he and his bike had received their award). It was great to see my favourite bikes take the big prizes. My favourite painter didn't do badly either. Noah and Velocolour took the award for "Best Paint" back to Toronto for his work on Mike Barry's 1951 Cinelli. Very well deserved.

Now (after another 10 hour drive) I'm back in Toronto and trying to get all my framebuilding equipment in place. After a weekend like that, my patience is very low and my enthusiasm incredibly high. I badly want one of Doug's jigs and hope I can afford it. Then I need a reasonably priced surface plate and a fork jig. If I could get all this for the price I was going to pay for the Velo Orange I would be extremely happy.