Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lug Shapes

It's incredible how much work it takes to carve a set of lugs. I've been working on these for hours and hours, and I'm still not quite happy with them. Investment cast lugs: they make so much sense!

They began as Prugnat "Type S" stamped lugs. They're probably down to about 50% of their original material at this point. I think I'll probably shorten the point on the downtube a bit, and certainly thin it out some more—but I'll wait until I've settled on a fork crown, i.e. if I can get a Pacenti "Artisan II" in time for building.

For now, here they are:

The "curve" along the top of the headtube is the thing I like most in this lug shape.
I've made a pretty serious "spoon" on the underside of the TT.

The point seems a bit "heavy" to me.

I don't think this seat lug is ever going to be especially gorgeous, but I've done what I can.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shop Tour

I have officially begun work on my second frame. Since I live in an apartment and have only sporadic access to a shop, I have converted the corner where I do my normal, grad student work for double duty. I clamped my vise to the corner of my sturdy oak desk (using a tablecloth to hopefully prevent damaging it!) and used some nails to create a little file-rack. The French-English dictionary and Serge Gainsbourg CD box set are equally important to the creation of this second bicycle. Enlarge the photo to make sense of it.

For now I've done some practice brazing (including the practice fillet-brazed stem visible in the photo) and have done a full-scale drawing of my frame. I am nearly done carving my Prugnat lugs into a shape only vaguely resembling the original one. Then I'll get to work filing out the lugs from the inside so that they'll accommodate the tube set, and I'll begin brazing. Hopefully I can get the steerer/fork crown, the dropouts, and possibly the ST/BB joint done a week from Saturday.

The sale of the items below (only 1/3 completed!) is to fund these framebuilding adventures!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Sale: Velo Orange Front Rack

I took this rack to Doug Fattic's class with the idea that I would integrate it into Niles. I never did, however, so I'm offering it for sale.

This is one of the Nitto-made fillet-brazed and chromed Velo Orange front racks. I milled a slot in the tang for easy attachment to a daruma bolt below the fork crown. While the slot is a bit ugly, it will save whoever buys this rack a lot of time—and it was done on a Bridgeport mill, however amateurishly!

This rack is unused and in perfect condition. Asking what I paid, $85, plus shipping from Canada.

Contact me via my gmail email account, ahammondcycles.

For Sale: NOS Campagnolo Nuovo Record 27.2 2-Bolt 1044 Seatpost

New Old Stock Nuovo Record seatpost with box! 27.2 size.

This is the shorter of the two Nuovo Record seatposts. Condition is extremely good, as befits new old stock, though there are a few tiny dings. The box has sustained a bit of water damage over the years also.

Contact me through my gmail email account, ahammondcycles.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mavic Derailleurs *sold*

I'll leave this up for fun. These derailleurs sold within minutes of being posted!

It's time to clear out some stuff I'm not using. First, two rare and nice Mavic derailleurs.

Mavic 851 rear derailleur

Absolutely beautiful, very lightweight derailleur used by Sean Kelly in the 1980s to win races! This one (lightly used) is especially attractive, since all the silver sections of the derailleur have been de-anodized and polished to a mirror finish. The cage plate slides side-to-side to allow use with freewheels up to 32 teeth. For best performance, though, I've found it prefers a narrower range. Includes hard-to-find washer!

Mavic 862 braze-on front derailleur (NOS)

More info here. This is NOS and perfect. Not a perfect match for the above, since the black anodizing is really black here, whereas it's more dark grey above. Also this has the outlined logo.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"25 Years of Cool"

Since I like bike racing, I subscribe to VeloNews. And since I subscribe to VeloNews, I receive their Buyer's Guide. I got my 2010 edition yesterday.

This year it has an interesting feature called "25 Years of Cool," in which they compare products and bikes that have survived for that length of time. Look pedals from 1985 and Look pedals from today; Stumpjumpers from then and now; HED disc wheels of yesterday and today.

In some cases, the advances are obvious. In others, it is excruciatingly painful to see beautiful, sensible things placed beside hideous, extravagant ones—and called inferior to them. The Trek bicycles at right are not even the best example. That white aluminum Trek 2000 isn't even all that nice. But compared to the monster beside it, with its Satanic crankset and billboard rims, it is a veritable beauty.

Far more serious is the comparison of the 1985 Dura-Ace group and the new Di2. The 1985 Dura-Ace introduced all sorts of genuine innovations. That is the very first slant-parallelogram derailleur with a spring-loaded pivot. It's also the first SIS system of reliable indexed shifting. Dura-Ace was still using non-aero routing, which I consider sensible for certain applications, but not most—but at least these are high-tech non-aero levers, with SLR spring-return. It's hard to improve on the light, simple, infinitely reliable 7spd downtube shifters. On top of all this practical stuff, this group is absolutely beautiful. Look at that shiny derailleur, with its cool black logo! The beautiful brake levers with their understated white line beneath the hoods! The engraved shifters!

Now look at that disgusting Di2 group! Battery packs and thick wires abound; everything is black and plasticky; the front derailleur appears to have sprouted a tumor. "Di2 allows you to shift when standing on the pedals under full power, on the front and well as the rear, with just the tap of a button" the editors tell us. "It also automatically trims the front derailleur to avoid chain rub in cross gears." With a bit of riding technique, the first point is moot. With a rod-operated front derailleur, so is the second. With a 1985 Dura-Ace group and a 1940s derailleur, you'd have a component group just as functional, way lighter, and a billion times better looking. Not suitable for racing, but superior for everything else.

With Super Record the case for progress is stronger. The 1985 Super Record group is extremely nice-looking, of course; especially that glorious crankset and those levers. But she shifting really is awful, and to my eyes the derailleurs don't even look very nice. While not my thing, the new Campagnolo parts look better than anything else of our era. It's a shame that the genuinely attractive 10-speed alloy-bladed levers are a thing of the past; these curvy freaks are decidedly unnatural-looking. But those cranks and derailleurs are, by today's standard anyway, attractive. Unlike the Dura-Ace stuff, I'm sure the new Super Record is a lot more pleasant to use than the old.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pretty and Ugly Things

Let's begin with the ugly thing.

That is my first, and very poor, attempt at brass-brazing a lug. I carried out this monstrosity yesterday, during my first visit to the shop where I will make a few frames this winter. Olivier and I were only really intending to look around, see what tools were present, and work out a schedule.

But we ended up making one such hideous joint each. We used 1 1/4" straight-gauge tubing and Ceeway practice lugs. It took an hour at least using files and a die grinder to open up the sockets in the lug wide enough to accept the tubes. Then we make the hand-miter with an undersized file, so the fit was a bit crude. Then we drilled a vent hole and did what we could with the torch. Brass certainly doesn't flow as nicely as silver. But then I intend to use silver on my frames, so I didn't take it to heart.

Now, the pretty things.

#1. Shimano BL-1051 brake levers

I bought these this week from someone on Craigslist. The anodizing is a strange colour, and it looks nice with the white hoods. These are very early aero levers, also, and have a weird SLR system. It's pretty difficult to explain, but the spring feels a bit stronger. I think I'd rather have the silver version (or some early 600 aero levers), but these are nice. If anyone wants to trade...

#2. Shimano RD-A551 rear derailleur

This is for my "city bike," the second one I want to make this winter. A simple, clean-looking derailleur that will no doubt work very well. It has the "normal" spring for immediate, jammy Uniglide-friendly shifting—but was made in 1997. I just tried polishing off the logo and a bunch of anodizing came off with it, so I may need to sand and polish the whole thing.

#3. The Selle Italia Flite saddle box

This box is incredible.

After a very comfortable ride in the Hell of the North last winter on a Flite, I'm considering using one on my randonneur. Weight savings of 350g (175% the weight of a Flite) over a Brooks Pro, so I'll give it a shot. Some people find these just as comfortable, and perhaps I'm one...

If only I could ride the box! Or a Concorde!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


My resolution to sell stuff I don't need is still very much in place. But nowhere did I resolve not to buy anything. Today I purchased two NOS sets of Shimano Deore DX f/r hubs, for $25/set.

I love Shimano stuff from the late 80s and early 90s. For one thing, it often looks nice. Some groups are painted grey, true. But some (Santé) are painted white! And the rest have that most desirable of finishes: clear anodizing, which combines the shine of polished non-anodized aluminum with the durability of their usually dull anodized counterparts. These hubs have that finish. (The rest of this mountain bike group isn't anything too special, though those cranks aren't bad, and the derailleur is pretty nice).

And technologically, 80s/90s Shimano stuff it's exactly where you want to be. Reliable indexed shifting is available, freehubs are in, Hyperglide is not yet universal (immediate Uniglide shifting is available!), nice aero brake levers have arrived, and nice-quality 7-speed is still available. These hubs mix numerous incredibly desirable features. They are spaced at 135mm in the rear, yet are designed for 6/7 speed—so low dish. And they will accept Hyperglide or Uniglide cassettes. It's hard to imagine a better set of hubs. And they're $25! And the skewers are nice!

One set (or rather, the rear hub—with my "obsolete" SON28 in front) will be used on my forthcoming city bike. The other, perhaps, will find its way on to a customer's bike some day!

Update: I have so convinced myself by writing this post that I'm seriously considering using the second rear hub on Clive. The spacing is right, 6spd Uniglide cassettes (good for friction shifting) are available, and I could certainly sell my Phil Wood "Riv" hub for more than $25. Perhaps I should prepare to un-build my second wheel...

Also, the cool photo above is from Mombat.org.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

After four months in Central Europe, I'm back in Canada, and absolutely dying to get on with all sorts of bike things. Let us look to the future, and make some plans!

#1. Finally have a randonneur.
This has been mostly out of my hands to this point, but not any longer. I ordered a Mariposa in 2007, and they stopped building frames. I ordered a Velo Orange in 2007, it was supposed to be ready in summer 2008, and in winter 2009 I was told they'd discontinued the semi-custom randonneur program. Now, after considerable waiting, I have a frame. I went to see it before Christmas. There are a few changes I want to make before it's painted, but it certainly is serviceable. There is a tremendous amount of "construction" (prononcé en français) still to be done: wiring to set up, fenders to mount, racks to make level, perhaps even a derailleur to build. But I hereby resolve: I will have my randonneur ready for spring rides!

In that spirit, today I built up my new generator hub into my old front wheel. (That's the new wheel up there, in front a Greg Curnoe poster and postcard.) One of the sure signs that you've been waiting too long for your custom frame is that the parts become obsolete. When I ordered the Velo Orange in 2008, I bought and built up a SON28 hub into Mavic MA rims. Since then, the SON 20R has appeared, and it made too much sense not to use. So I bought one, and yesterday unlaced the SON28 from the wheel, and today rebuilt the wheel with the SON20R. (See the two hubs side-by-side below.) The SON20R an incredibly cool hub. It's very nice-looking, it's light, and the upside of its narrow flange spacing is that it's probably more aerodynamic. I think, by the way, that the flange spacing is more or less identical to that on my Phil Wood "Riv" rear hub. Matching—always important to me!

#2. Build more frames. If there is one thing that my experience as a customer has taught me, it is that there is room for improvement in the "business" of custom bikes. My experience as a student in Doug Fattic's class taught me that—a surprise to myself!—I possess the mechanical aptitude to braze, file, and otherwise build bicycle frames. The fact that I am still writing this blog, over a year after the fact, has proven that my passion for handmade bicycles has not lessened. And the frustrations outlined above have taught me a lot about running a custom bicycle business.

Of course, I have a lot of work to do before I can start thinking about starting a business. The first thing is of course to get more experience building frames and racks. This will, hopefully, begin soon. This will be the main point of interest in the blog in the coming year. I'm planning on building two bikes at least: one designed for riding in snowy Toronto winter conditions, and an all-season city bike. These are more or less designed in my head, I've started getting parts ready, and hopefully construction will start soon.

#3. Ride more. Mostly because I didn't have a proper bike, I didn't ride as much as I normally do this year. 2010 will be different! I'll try to ride at least a 200, 300, and 400 with the Randonneurs—maybe even complete a Series. Paris-Brest-Paris is next year, and I intend to be there!

#4. Sell things I don't need. This will finance points 1-3, and make room for the frames I'm going to build! I'll post the more interesting things here.

I am always surprised at how many comments I get on my posts on this blog. In 2010, I will try to provide lots of interesting posts to comment on!