My last Circle A build—A Cinelli-esque Model B

Marc came to Circle A with his 64cm orange Cinelli Super Course to have me build him a new bike with the same angles but bigger. This is the largest standard sized tubed frame that I’ve built. At 68cm, it really should’ve been double oversized but this was a special project so heavier gauge tubes would have to suffice. It’s not a Cinelli but it’s made to look like a Cinelli. A combination between a Super Course and a Model B (there are fender mounts). Aside from trying to replicate the original Cinelli fork bend, the most challenging aspect of the build was creating the seat cluster (which on the original was a complete casting). You can see from the pictures the amount of fabrication that went into it. The decals were created by Marc and laser printed on waterslide transfer paper. I painted the white details prior to applying the decals. The final product is definitely Cinelli-esque but it is most certainly a Circle A.

Thanks to Marc for challenging me to make this bike. And thanks to Richard Sachs for the lugs, Peter Weigle for the tubing decal, and Billy Rounds for the olympic bands and binder bolt. Go team!

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Heavy hearts


Fate is a wonderful thing sometimes. I dreamed about making bikes since my childhood but never understood the concept of custom bicycles. I went to school for Mechanical Engineering so I could design bikes and possibly go work at Cannondale in Connecticut. After school I quickly realized that 10 years of bike shop wrenching experience and an engineering degree wasn’t enough to get into the bike manufacturing business. Fast forward to 2002 when I learned that there was a custom frame builder in my home town of Providence, RI right down the street from my house. I warmed up to Chris pretty quickly and had him build me a couple of frames over a two year period. It was about 200 cups of coffee later that I convinced him to let me apprentice with him.

Now that I’ve been working here for almost 9 years, I can see how this might’ve been perceived. My idea of frame building from a customer’s perspective was highly romanticized and unrealistic. But Chris took me on and challenged me to learn all the facets of the process because that’s how it works at this shop. The builder needs to tackle the learning curves of fitting, materials, brazing, metalworking, and painting. After a year of doing small repairs and paint jobs, I built my first frame in 2005 and I was off. I quit my “real” job in 2007 and have been building and painting full-time since.

There is no way my life would be on this path without Chris Bull. He is the reason I am a frame builder today and it is so much of who I am. That’s why I’m saddened to leave this shop. The rapport that we have developed over these years has been one that I cherish. We are like brothers who love and irritate each other and finish each other’s Simpsons quotes.

In 2010 I approached Chris with the desire to build some bikes under my own name—Chapman Cycles. The reason being that I wanted to try and create a brand of bicycle that was specific in style and focused on commuting, light touring, and city bikes (bikes with which I identify most). I built bikes for my family and friends and it was a fun side project for a couple of years. But the list has been growing and the time to part ways with Circle A Cycles is coming to a head.

I am not severing ties or burning any bridges with Circle A. I still consider Chris and Jay (our painter and soon to be builder) not as co-workers but as two of my closest friends. I will still be working at the shop finishing up paint work and frames for customers on my Circle A list. I wish the best for Circle A Cycles and I look forward to seeing Chris and Jay continue to make some of the best bloody bikes on the planet!

Lucas’ desert road bike

This bike is going to be ridden on the desert tarmac of the United Arab Emirates! I hope Lucas is as excited to have the bike as I have been to build it for him. I never expected the bikes I made to go farther than the back roads of Rhode Island so this is great. Circle A does have bikes in far away places but Dubai is a first. We hope Lucas can keep the sand out of the drivetrain and stay hydrated in the 120° heat. Enjoy!

[UPDATE 9.7.2013] Just got a great shot of the bike in its new environment. I’m blown away by the bike path’s flatness and the barren terrain. I hope there’s some water at the end of that stretch!

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Jacque’s touring bike

This fendered beauty is for our friend Jacque who will be using it as her work commuter and occasional tourer. It’s built with a 6 degree slope in the top tube to bring the bars level with the saddle. There are clearances for 35c tires and braze-ons for front and rear racks. The gearing is compact in the front (50-34) with a 12-30t cassette in the rear. The metallic royal blue highlights the lug lines nicely but the secret of the paint job is in the panels. There are stars painted in the pearl white that are only visible in direct sunlight.

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And this Coppi do-over was for our friend Katy who has it set up as a coaster brake cruiser. The unique color choice makes me so happy. Looks like such a fun bike.

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Sandy’s tall road bike

Sandy is one of those guys who has trouble just walking into a shop and buying an XL carbon road frame and making it fit. If anyone needed a custom bike, it was him. It makes me feel so good when I’m able to build a frame like this. The frame is fillet brazed with True Temper OX Platinum tubing throughout. It is double oversized to add a bit of stiffness and to be proportional on a bike this tall. The ENVE fork was painted to match and he built it up with Campagnolo Chorus. He’s getting some good miles on it and it is clearly taking him to some beautiful places.

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This Colnago repair came to us from far away for some internal cable routing, shifter bosses, water bottle bosses, frame alignment, dent repair, and dropout straightening. A solid light blue with yellow pantographing and it’s back on the road!

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AJ’s positive mental attitude

This road frame will be seen whipping up and down the hills around Greensboro, North Carolina. The lugs are carved to have some pretty sharp points and the fastback seat stay tops are carved to match. The seat stays also have an enhanced s-bend which gives the bike a slightly more modern look. Paint on the insides of the stays and fork also make it look more contemporary. On the top tube are two bits of text: “I Against I” on one side and “PMA” on the other. Both Bad Brains references that made me extremely happy. I remember as a kid taping 120 minutes on MTV and watching the video for I Against I over and over. And PMA is from the song Attitude which is also an anthem from my youth. Thanks AJ, and keep up the positive attitude!

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The Jack Taylor trailer has always been an intriguing item to me. They are incredibly rare so it was an honor to work on this. It is a direct copy of the French Goeland trailer complete with suspension. Imitation is the highest form of flattery but I can only imagine how difficult it was to make this thing. A lot of brazing and creative thinking went into this and it shows.

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Riser bar road bike

Jeff was looking for a comfortable road bike with fenders and a riser bar. He is a new father and will be putting a child seat on it in the near future so there are also rack mounts for that flexibility. He also has the option of switching out to a road drop bar with the use of the bar end shifters currently on Paul Thumbies. The paint on this one was creative on Jeff’s part with the request for the slanted bands. It was a bit of work but we’re both happy with the way it came out.

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The story behind Ricardo’s Alpine is a unique one. Apparently a shop in D.C. called Georgetown Cycle Sport contracted the build of these frames from many makers in the UK and just rebranded them as Alpine (or C.I.D. – Cycle Import and Design). Later ones were domestically built by Albert Eisentraut and then by Fred Kelly. This is perceived to be a Fred Kelley built frame. Decals were unavailable at the time so Ricardo recreated them on the computer and I ended up painting them on.

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Some other repaints leaving the shop in recent weeks have included this Paramount Design Group road frameset in Tour de France metallic blue…

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…and this Falcon whose paint job I’m very familiar with.

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The big makeover

I had built a bike for David several years ago and it came back to the shop for new paint, new stainless logos on the downtube, and new chrome on the racks. The transformation is amazing! Although I am a big fan of metallic brown, the “new” bike is a step up in the classy department.

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This Raleigh Super Course came in for some modifications too and is now a 650B conversion. I brazed on cantilever posts, added a derailleur hanger, added a set of water bottle bosses, aligned the frame, installed fenders, added braze-ons for a Nitto front rack, and dimpled the chainstays for tire clearance. Normally when we dimple stays, we do it prior to assembling the rear end of the frame. But I’ve found on several occasions the need for post build dimpling and this little creation of found objects does the job like a champ!

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Nick’s touring bike

This bike is for a guy who can’t sit still, in a good way. He’s originally from Rhode Island but has been traveling all around the world for the past year or so. I’ve been trying to build his bike by covering all the bases via email. It can be a drawn out process when communication is strictly text based with delayed responses. So much more can be accomplished in a phone call. But Nick is an easy going guy and it was still a pleasure working with him. He went with a touring bike that should match his lifestyle pretty well. The paint is a fade but done from a light to dark blue so it’s very subtle. We don’t normally do fades but will take the plunge under certain circumstances.


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I had never seen a Chamberlain (Alaskan framebuilder) in person before and this one came in with a serious case of internal corrosion. The drive side chain stay needed to be replaced. A nice blue paint job with pink details, a healthy dose of Framesaver, and it’s ready to get back on the road/track.

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This black Waterford came in with a lot of rust as well. It’s amazing what the salt from our sweat can do to steel. It’s a wake up call for me to clean my bikes more than once a year. This bike was stripped, repainted, rebuild with a new drivetrain, and is back in action.

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Fillet brazed 29er

I am not normally the mountain bike builder here at Circle A but I was more than happy to take this one on for Jared as I’ve built him a bike before. And I also just built a mixte for his wife Sara. This big hardtail 29er is the polar opposite of that mixte. It was built up with a SRAM X9 group and a Rock Shox Reba RLT fork. It’s ready for some roots and mud in the great white north!

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This Somec Promax frameset came to us from overseas for a repaint. There were also alignment issues with the frame. Aligning any imperfections in a Columbus Max frame is pretty tough. But with enough coercion the frame was straightened and repainted the specified Sport Classic Grau.

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I had made a unique low rider rack for our friend Benno some time ago. This time, our friend Ken was looking for something similar for his Circle A. I built the same rack but added a small strut from the rear for stability. We’ll definitely be testing this out on some short tours this spring!


And Francine had me repaint her S&S coupled Waterford. This unassuming dark blue definitely makes the silver couplers and components pop.

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