This color is called Awesome

April 14th, 2014

This is Sabine’s lugged commuter/tourer. It’s one of my favorite bikes. Lovely long point lugs, exquisite candy, 11 speed Ultegra on King wheels… delicious.


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And here are some shots of just the frame set:


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I also modified a Rivendell Atlantis for a Rohloff hub. David had been running the hub for years, but awkwardly; I cleaned up the install a bit, with long Campy dropouts to allow for chain tensioning, a tab on the chainstay for the Rohloff cable stop, new dropouts for the SON SL generator hub, and internal wiring. On a custom install we’d be able to avoid the torque arm with sliding dropouts, but we wanted to keep the Rivendell look so we compromised and moved the cable routing from the top tube/canti post to down tube/chainstay:


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I was also reminded why we love steel. You’d think it would be self evident – we spend lots of time restoring old bikes, from a 1895 Rudge to a 1950′s Thanet to any number of 70′s and 80′s Italian steeds – but riding at Battenkill last weekend, I got a stick in the derailleur:


Note the screen shots from my Gopro below; after wrestling the derailleur out of the wheel, you can see how the cage is nearly vertical, ABOVE the axle. Then, I muscled it considerably to make it more or less in plane with the cassette. The cage was so crushed that the idler pulleys were fouled, but it shifted a little in back and the front der shifted fine. I was most lucky in that the chain wasn’t compromised, and was able to make it the 4 miles back to our car. Even with a replaceable der hanger, on an AL or carbon bike I’d be walking.

But once back to the shop, a dummy axle and hanger alignment tool made it all better.

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A new derailleur and all is right with the world.

Superlight Club Racer with Stainless

April 2nd, 2014

Well this has been a fun one. We have a complicated relationship with stainless steel: we’ve always loved it for things like dropouts, where the paint is sure to get chipped anyway; and we love the all weather durability. But it’s expensive, and even from three suppliers there are a limited number of tube profiles available. Part of the benefit of a custom frame is that we have so many options to choose from in order to optimize performance and comfort.

So, for Myles’ club racer, we decided to use a mix of True Temper S3 and OX Platinum tubing, along with a KVA Stainless drive-side chainstay; and then we upped the ante by doing all the interfaces in stainless: rear dropouts, cable stops, H20 bosses, and brake bridge. A true all-weather steel bike, where it matters.


The frame comes in a tic over 3 lbs, and with some very nice components indeed (King/Enve wheels; Enve fork, cockpit, and seatpost; and Sram Red/Black group) the complete bikes is a svelte 15.75 lbs. Not bad for a durable and repairable heirloom!

I used the Enve 1.0 fork with a 50mm rake and a 72.5 HT angle – this setup is eerily comfortable over rough roads while still being whip-quick, and gives a little longer front center for a stable wheelbase with short chainstays – 41 cm with a 73.5 ST angle and 25c tires. ST center to center is 52.5 cm and effective TT length is 55, with a 10 degree slope.

But enough talk – first more pics of the complete bike, then some shots of the frame before building up.

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Jay also painted a 1895 Rudge Penny Farthing:


And I modified a Surly Ogre to accept belt drive with an 8 speed Alfine hub – they said it couldn’t be done, but after a little chainstay crimping and some fine tuning of the chain, er, belt-line, it’s an all-weather commuting monster:

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And finally I repainted a very rusty old Serotta in the trademark fade:

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Next: Sabine’s lugged beauty!

Mark’s belt drive commuter with BLING

January 4th, 2014


Local hero Mark wanted an all-weather commuter that would keep him and his scrubs clean. So right off the bat we’re thinking belt drive, internal hub, full fenders, disc brakes… and he had his heart set on the Sturmey-Archer 5 speed, seen here in rare disc version. We decided on Paragon sliding dropouts to make belt tensioning easy – but then the question was how to set it apart from the typical tig welded commuter. The first thing we did was put together a unique tube set – a variety of shaped Columbus Zona tubes that had a sort of faux-aero “coffin” profile. This was a purely aesthetic decision, we liked the flat planes and wanted to come up with a paint scheme to play off that. And yes, they were fun to miter.

And about that paint. The orange is a candy flake that needed 6 coats (as opposed to a more typical 2 or 3) to cover properly, but in the sun it’s deep like the ocean. Lots of fun pinstriping along the creases of that crazy tubing.

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And here are some shots of the mitered tubes:

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I also repainted a Gitane which had been languishing under a thick blanket of powder coat:

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The fork had a bent steerer so I was also charged with building a replacement. The great thing was that I could get a Newvex crown from Richard Sachs that would nicely compliment the frame’s Nervex lugs, and of course we’re all about the continental bend to the fork:

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Next: Sabine’s road beauty and some internal hub retrofits. And, more belt drive!

Lugs are just pretty

November 14th, 2013

Especially with some lovely silver Campy components. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong. I know you’ve seen other Circle A’s this color, but as always the devil is in the details, and Ron’s road bike is lousy with them. Details, that is.

Lots of parts courtesy of Richard Sachs, lots of stainless bits… lots of subtle awesome.


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Next: Mark’s belt drive Sturmey-Archer commuter will melt your brain. Count on it.

Goodbyes and Hellos

September 13th, 2013

Usually this space is devoted to whatever projects are rolling out the door,
but this spring brings some exciting changes to Circle A.

It’s with a bittersweet mix of pride and sadness that Brian rides away
from the Circle A nest and hangs up his own shingle under the banner of
Chapman Cycles. He started as a friend, became a customer, then an
apprentice, and leaves having served as a true partner who was
instrumental in moving Circle A Cycles both physically (to our current
location) and professionally, as we pushed each other in new directions
and to new levels of quality.

I look forward to seeing Brian on rides and over beers, and to casting an
approving eye over his work. Best of luck, Brian.

Meanwhile, Jay and Josie are in the process of setting up their studio next
door, and we’re excited to welcome them to the compound. Look for a spike
in outrageous lug- and box-lining and handpainted details!

As Circle A enters it’s 13th year I’m psyched to be surrounded by so many great and talented friends and comrades. Keep loving keep riding!

It’s HOT, so let’s paint!

July 26th, 2013

There’s no winning around here when it tops 90 for days in a row. The choice is Tyvec suit or torch. Choose your poison. While I finished the details on Mark and Ron’s frames, I painted a couple of Italian beauties for our friend Dave – a Colnago and a rare Masi.



Both were interesting restorations with various degrees of chrome degradation. If it’s really bad, we blast it off and paint over, like the Colnago’s chain stay. If it’s good, we hand-strip the paint around it, polish it, and make it pretty.

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Here are some details of Ron’s club racer. I’m painting next week, watch this space for the full build – and finally, Mark’s belt drive, 5 speed Sturmey/Archer super commuter!

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Rehabs & Repairs

May 8th, 2013

OK, so I’m happy to say this Waterford went out the door looking a bit better than when it came in:


Bob brought it in for a repaint, but upon inspection we found some… issues…

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Bob decided the frame was worth saving, so I cut out the old stays and brazed in some new ones.

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With that taken care of, I could proceed with paint:

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I also did a frame repair on local legend Jack Madden’s Atlantis. He had an altercation with car that left the top tube bent and the head tube tweaked. Time for more surgery!


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And then with paint:

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I also repainted a Zancanato:

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And replaced a dropout on a Gunnar:

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Next: Mark’s aero-tubed, 5-speed Sturmey Archer commuter! Did I mention the disc brakes and belt drive? I KNOW!

Alfredo’s Coupled Club Racer

March 18th, 2013

Here’s Afredo’s smashing coupled club racer/light tourer/travel bike. His design for the paint, and I’m very happy with the final product. It’s a mix of True Temper, Dedacciai and Columbus tubing, and of course the always fabulous S&S couplers. There is a Ritchey Pro Carbon fork, painted to match; and that’s a 6 degree slope to the top tube, a gentle compact geometry that makes for easier packing (no need to remove the cranks).


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And here are some shots in progress:

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Also, Alfredo is a journalist and photographer, and took these great shots of me working on the frame:

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And here are some of the built up bike, with stem, bars and seatpost painted to match:

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I also painted a Raleigh, a Bottecchia, and a Rivendell, and made a touring fork for Cindy’s S3 cross bike.

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Matt’s 29er

February 25th, 2013

Allow me to introduce Matt’s 29er. We are big fans of repeat customers – among other things, they are our most reliable test-beds to see how our bikes hold up, what fitting or handling tweaks me might consider, etc. I built a cross bike for Matt back in September 2010, but now he was ready for some more serious off-road action. Here it is:


Those are Black Cat Rocker dropouts, and some fun paint (three color logo!) that was Matt’s idea. Here are some pics in progress, including making sure that the fork cleared the down tube:


I also painted a new Mostowy, an old Bottecchia, a suspension fork, and am building a 20″ fork for a folding bike. All well and good, but some of us can’t wait for spring:

Next: Alfredo’s coupled road bike, and Mark’s belt-drive internal-geared commuter!

Jeff’s Rando Fixie

December 19th, 2012

The Rando explosion continues, this time in fixed-gear flavor. Truly a return to tradition, seeing that well into the 1930′s most bikes were fixies. 650B wheels, Henry James lugs, Pacenti PBP crown, SON generator hub, Paul and Phil components… this is a nicely trimmed light tourer. New for us was the SON SL hub from Peter White – no pesky connectors at the hub, a special dropout conducts the juice to the lights. More on that in a sec, first some pictures. I left the rear fender struts long to handle chain stretch, gear ratio changes, and the fact that Jeff will also occasionally be running the 42c Hetre tires from Compass (show here are 38c Lierres). It can be a bear getting a good fender line with horizontal dropouts.



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Other things to note: Supernova E3 lights, Campy Cross brakes, and a painted-to-match Lezyne pump. So about those dropouts: one is specially machined to accommodate in insulating washer and a contact that runs up a wire thru the fork blade. Similarly, the drive side of the generator axle is isolated and provides juice for the lights. Here it is going together:

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Now, this means that this wheel will only work as a generator in this fork. But come on, if you have that many 650B bikes around you have bigger problems than that… the advantage is quick and easy removal and installation of the wheel, which is especially great if it gets packed or put on a roof rack a lot. And it just looks smoove.

I also installed a frame break to adapt this Soma for belt drive use:


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And finally, I’ve been doing a dropout replacement on Bobby’s Wojcik. He’s going to use it as a single speed, with Black Cat Rocker dropouts. They’re pretty cool:


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Next: Bobby’s finished, Tim’s Bottecchia repaint, and it’s 29er o’clock!

Circle A Cycles   |   523 Charles Street   |   Providence, RI   |   401.831.5221
background: a well dressed jack bringing his 'cross racer by the shop. (reveal)

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