Saturday, January 22, 2011

Greg Curnoe Bike is In For Paint

I thought the day would never come, but at last it has: I have done everything I can for the Curnoe bike; Noah must take it from here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg Curnoe collaborated with a specialist in silk-screening to make the print on which my bike is based (I can't recall where I read the details; if you know them, please leave them in a comment). This was a considerable technical feat, and his work was much admired. Noah of Velocolour is no less an expert, and his challenge will be no less considerable. This is going to be a complicated, time-consuming paint job. I can't wait to see it.

It's very fitting also that my bike will be roommates for the next few months with what's left of the original "Mariposa T. T." As you can read here, Curnoe crashed the bike that served as the model for his painting and had Mariposa rebuild it as a low-profile time trial bike. This bike is in Mike Barry's collection and resides at Bicycle Specialties, where Noah does his painting. Above you can see my frame posing with the seat tube, rear triangle, and (I presume) fork of the original bike. Note the family resemblance in the seat lugs.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Which Headset?

One of the few things I haven't completely decided on for the Greg Curnoe bike is the headset. Here are the sources of this very important dilemma.

The Nuovo Record headset, photographed in the gold medal position, has many things going for it. For one thing, it (or the slightly lighter Super Record) is the one in the painting. For another, it's really good looking—look at all that engraving! It's definitely the best-looking from the rider's-eye perspective, for instance:

And it gets serious bonus points for the totally unnecessary stylish engravings in invisible places:

It's also in really nice condition, with only the tiniest indications of wear. The downside is that it's made of steel and weighs twice what the others do.

The Campagnolo Chorus headset provides a nice compromise of engraving and weight. It's aluminum with steel races, and weighs around 100 grams. It's also in good condition. But its lower stack height is 12mm rather than the 14mm my frame was designed for—which, according to Olivier, would change the head angle by a really-not-important 0.2 degrees. But still. Plus, let's face it, it's not as shiny or scripty as the Nuovo Record.

Then there is the Stronglight A9. It uses needle bearings, which make a lot of sense for headsets. It's the lightest of the bunch—and Curnoe was obsessed with weight savings, as evinced by the somewhat absurd second incarnation of the Mariposa TT, which had useless plastic Modolo brakes. And the Stronglight was around in the 70s, unlike the Chorus.

I'm leaning toward the Nuovo Record—but let me know what you think. It is, I think you'll agree, a life-or-death situation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Greg Curnoe Bike is Ready for Paint

With the kind assistance of Noah Rosen of Velocolour (who, in addition to painting bikes, also repairs them) I finally tracked down some brake cable stops. And so, with the exception of some inevitable fiddling, the frame is done.

Soon—once I have a chance to match the colours to the original Curnoe print—the really exciting part will begin: painting. As I said in my first post about this bike, it's a bit funny that the most distinctive part of this bike will be the paint job, which I won't do. But even this is "artistically justified": while Curnoe did do a watercolour painting of the bike, I'm more interested in the silk screen print on plexiglass he later produced—for which he required the expert help of a silkscreening specialist. So his was a "collaboration," and so will mine be. (The print, incidentally, was made using enamel paints—very close to the sorts of paints Noah will use.)

While I wait for the paint, I'll be sorting out a few last little build details. For one thing, I would like to find a really pretty matched set of barrel adjusters—one M6 (for the rear) and one M5 (for the front—I tapped a Mafac hanger.) If you know of any, let me know. I'll also get some red donuts for the brake cable (another "trace" of the original bike, which used continuous red cable housing on the top tube), some more Kool Stop Mafac pads, a red chain (apparently technology has progressed to the point where this is practicable), and a few other little things. I really can't wait to see it all built up—I think it will be really spectacular. When it's ready, I'm planning to ride it to London, hopefully to visit Curnoe's (former) studio.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bar Tape and Fenders for Greg Curnoe Bike

As I was getting a bit sick of working on the grey-and-rust-coloured bare frame—this is, after all, a bike inspired primarily by a very colourful painting!—I decided last week to wrap the Curnoe bike's bar tape.

I drive myself a bit crazy with explanations and justifications for every choice on the bike. The handlebar tape is no different, of course. Since the bike in the painting is a time trial bike, only the drops are wrapped, and its Super Record brake levers have no hoods:

Since mine is a road bike, I wanted hoods, and I wanted bar tape everywhere. But I needed to compromise somehow with the painting. The first solution was to use clear hoods on Super Record brake levers—that way you can see the grey-purple brake lever bodies, but also actually put your hands on them. I thought about wrapping clear or grey tape on the tops of the bars, but decided in the end I'd prefer the look of red all the way up. But to preserve a "trace" of the painting, I decided to leave the clamps exposed. (They're especially pretty clamps, by the way—from Victory brake levers. Since the Curnoe bike has a Campagnolo decal in the painting, take this as justification to show off as many Camagnolo logos as possible.)

The bars and stem are Nitto—copies of the Cinellis, much as my bike is a copy of a different original. The clear hoods are Modolos.

Set up with the levers even with the drops. Note the nice clamp decal.

I began the tape-wrapping process by "masking off" the clamp with two lengths of red tape purchased at Hoopdriver. (I've since begun to wonder if it would be possible just to wrap the bar all the way, and then slip the clamp over the tape. Some quick experiments suggest that it is not.)

Then, using the normal methods, I wrapped the rest. I doubt the bike in the painting had shellacqued bar tape, but that's part of my style, so mine got it. (Bike on stem-holding duty: Marinoni.)

It was really, annoyingly difficult to pull this off cleanly. (Indeed, it didn't come out all that cleanly.) Some tape runs end very abruptly in awkward places on the bar. The trick of cutting tape at an angle in order to finish it cleanly—which works with cork, or with tennis racquet grip tape—does not work for cloth tape. Anyway, I used some Gorilla Grip glue to hold the awkwardly terminated ends down securely, and then this ad hoc fixture to hold down anything else that tried to pop up in the shellacquing process.

If you tape a step back, I think this might be the coolest-looking handlebar ever. The red is really luminescent, the clear hoods are incredible, and the poppy-red housing I have matches the tape surprisingly well.

I really like how the exposed clamp looks, and I love how the red housing shows through the clear hoods where it meets the lever.

I also fitted the fenders in the last few days. I've been working on these for a long time, but this is the first time they've been installed on the bike. I was sort of worried that fenders would spoil the "sporty" look of the bike, but I don't think they will—especially when they're painted orange. The fender lines are pretty perfect (they're maybe a bit tighter on the rear than the front, but not much.) I was hoping they would just cover the tread, to give the effect that the orange-painted fender "is" the tread, and that came off pretty well. (Ignore the screwy fender lines on the front: my draw bolts are all loose here; trust me that, with them properly tightened, the lines are good—tighter on the top and looser on the bottom!)

Aren't radial front wheels beautiful?

The good rear fender lines. The fender pulls up a bit right at the back when tightened—I'm not sure why. The inflated tire does go in!

Here is the external evidence of the internal reinforcing plate for the rear fender. On the inside is a used hacksaw blade drilled with four holes. I got this idea from Mike Barry—and the beautiful bolts from Martin at Hoopdriver. (My leather washer is a bit fatter that I thought it was—but the tire-to-fender clearance still seems to be around 1cm.)

I just love forward fender stays.

I followed the fender-installation instructions in the latest Bicycle Quarterly to the letter. The stays are pre-bent so that tightening the bolts does not serve to bend them.

This picture, if I may say so myself, presents a tour de force of stay-bending: the forward fender stay is bent so that it leaves the fork at a perpendicular angle, then meets the fender perpendicular to the tangent, and is then also bent to meet the eye bolts straight; and the front fender stay too is bent to meet its eyelets.

Finally, this is the actual seatpost, at the actual height, with the actual saddle and actual stainless steel clamp bolt. The saddle in the painting is not one my bum would be very happy on, and the seatpost seems like a rather junky straight post with a bolt-on clamp—so I felt utter freedom here. I love Flite saddles, and this one has yellow and red details that will fit in well. The seatpost is marked with a sharpie so that I know where to polish it.

It looks like I've finally tracked down some brake cable housing stops for the top tube, so I should be able to finish all the brazing some time this week. (The demise of has been most inconvenient for the building of this bike!) Then just a little bit more filing to do. Close!