Archive for the ‘Bike Building’ Category

Jeff’s Rando Fixie

Wednesday, 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!


Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

OK, so the off-road fest continues, with Dan’s old-school mtb and Charlie’s S3 cross bike:


I’ll start with Charlie, keeping it chronological. It’s the brother bike (or sister ship) to Cindy’s from last time, a superlight cross racer made from a mix of True Temper S3 and Deda Zero and Zerouno tubing. Again, the S3 is challenging to work with, but the results are pretty spectacular.


It was also another couple weeks of welding, which regular readers will know is a bit rare around here. Here are some shots of Dan’s mountain bike in process. To note: 26″ wheels. Rigid fork. Canti brakes. Single speed. WHAT? No full suspension, hydraulic brakes, 29er 30 speed? Not here. Light, simple, fun.


And the finished product. Dan wanted to be surprised by the paint; he did specify earth tones and general subtlety, but we had to push a bit, right? So here you go, just in time for foliage season.


Dan picked up his bike while working – it’s always fun to see a bike ride away, I just wish he had a brake on that fixie…


Next: finally, Bert! Patricia! Also some repairs and other stuff!

Cindy’s Featherweight Cross Bike

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Cindy is one of the luminaries on the Bikes Not Bombs-Circle A Cycles ‘cross team, and for this season she wanted something with a better fit and lighter weight. Something to win on. She’s not tall, and was eager to engineer in some toe/tire clearance. This is what we came out with.

The frame consists of a True Temper S3 front triangle, with Dedacciai rear triangle featuring Zero chainstays and Zerouno s-bend seat stays, and weighs in just a tick over 3 lbs. The fork is by Enve. I’ll be building a steel rando fork for her as well, so I’ve included rack and fender mounts. Putting the “light” in light touring.


The S3 tubeset is a bit tricky to work with; only the seat tube is round, and the extremely thin walls (.5 mm at the butts!) make it easy for it to tear in the mill, so every miter is done by hand. And they have to be tight if I’m not going to burn through while welding. Also the small size of the frame demanded a funky compound miter at the head.


Next: Dan’s single speed MTB, Charlie’s ‘cross machine, Bert’s rando rolls!

We Build Bikes, All Kinds

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

It’s been an exciting few weeks – just out the door are two bikes that, apart from both being 700c road bikes, could not be more different. Take a look:


On your left, Bobby’s welded S3 Club Racer in mind-bending black and white; on your right, Mike’s fully loaded randonneur, lugged, with integrated generator lighting. Folks, if you’re riding on pavement it doesn’t get much different than this. First, Bobby. Yes, it’s one bike! I know! My head hurts too.










Bobby wanted a light but durable racer and training bike; he’s had some bad experiences with carbon forks so wanted to stick with steel. To keep the weight down we used True Temper S3 tubing, one of the lightest steel tube sets available. The 54cm frame comes in just under 3 lbs, and the complete bike with the custom steel fork is under 18. I also made him a custom steel stem whose angle matches the 5 degree slope of the top tube.

As for the paint: Bobby is a fan of French new wave cinema; “L’OBSCURITE” & “LUMIERE” (dark and light) are painted in the font that Jean Luc Godard used for his credits. The scheme was his inspiration, I just made it happen.

Ok, now Mike:







Mike’s frame is a mix of True Temper OX Platinum and Verus HT tubing; the lugs are from Richard Sachs, and the crown is a Pacenti PBP. He’s running a SON generator hub with Supernova E3 lights. As with Tom Walker’s bike I called on Benno to do the wiring; he installed disconnects under the fork crown and behind the BB, so that fork and fender removal are easy. Mike also has a Kimura battery light mounted under his chainstay just in case. The eagle-eyed may have notices that he’s running Campy 10 speed ergo shifters with an Ultegra 9 speed drivetrain. I know! This is made possible by a Jtek Shiftmate. These are available in all sorts of combinations to allow all manner of mismatching of shifters and drivetrains.

Coming up next: a Rhygin gets a new rear end, a Nishiki gets a new lease on life, and it’s a Raleigh restoration marathon!

Laura’s Century-Hauler, Seven Switcharoo

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

A long time coming, last week saw Laura’s custom road bike roll out the door. She (and partner James and son Baxter) had been welcome distractions around the shop for the last few months as we planned and plotted. When it comes to the process of designing frames, we often say the easiest job is someone who loves their current bike, and essentially wants a replica of it (but in steel, lighter, with rack mounts, for example); and the second easiest is someone who comes in riding a bike they hate, and says, “anything but this!” Well, with Laura we have the greatest challenge. She had been riding an ancient Raleigh called Tillie (tall, upright, super slack angles), and also occasionally borrowing James’ Lynskey (aggressive, compact frame, modern geometry); tends to tow Baxter about in a Burley trailer (note the axle mount); and plans to ride some centuries coming up. Neither bike really fit her, but both could serve. Also Laura is extraordinarily tall. I mean you have no idea. Just look at the head tube on this thing, and keep in mind those are 700c wheels:




Those are VO fenders, and the orange was a custom mix to compliment both Brooks saddle and Cinelli bar tape. Medium reach brakes to accommodate 28 or 30c tires and fenders, and a mostly Rival group rounded things out. Those are the Mini-6 lugs, much beloved by us, with stainless dropouts. In the end we settled on a nominal 58cm seat tube and 55 top tube, and we’ll be adjusting saddle and bar positions as she puts the miles on. Go!

I also did a rare welded dropout replacement for someone who til recently I knew only as The Dude. Sometimes there’s a man… anyway he had Seven Sola and wanted to rock it single speed, so we were happy to oblige. The vast majority of dropout replacements we do involve road bikes with some sort of forged dropout, brass-brazed in place, and then swapping that with some of our own laser-cut plate steel track dropouts. Lots of torch work. Well, as you may know, Sevens don’t have forged dropouts, and brass is not a metal they tend to associate with. These would be CNC’d dropouts, tig welded directly to the stay caps. Fortunately our friends at Paragon have a lovely track dropout (with der hanger and bottle opener, just, you know, in case) that were adapted without too much trouble.

To jump ahead, here are some pics of the finished product:


Because most of the frame was in good shape, we just painted black “socks” up the stays to cover our work, and I matched them on the fork. Here are some pictures of the job itself; after making sure the existing dropouts where perfectly aligned, I cut off the drive-side dropout, and after carefully grinding the new dropout to fit, tacked and then welded it in place, using a threaded rod as a dummy axle. With the new dropout located, I could then cut off the other old dropout and match it.



Next: Michael, and belt drive fever heats up!


Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

What’s been happening? Repairs, repaints, and an exciting new coupled rando bike for Conor in Texas. Once again we’re using S&S couplers; and some Richard Sachs lugs, True Temper OX Platinum tubing, and full rack & fender mounts in the bargain. I’m painting it this week, but here are some pics of the progress so far. The first shots show me brazing the coupler into the tube, and then fitting it up in the jig. The black nut is an assembly nut, I’ll put the pretty polished nut on before paint:


Here I am test-fitting it in the case; the goal is to be able to leave the fork and cranks on. It’s a 58cm seat tube, so it’s going to be close. And some more shots before paint (and waiting on closed-end bosses for the low rider mounts).



I also did a dropout replacement on Travis’ Colnago; it had some funky proprietary socket dropouts, so I had to use some big track dropouts (shaved down considerably) to make it work. Fortunately the customer didn’t ask me to match that unique paint:


And we’ve got some paint: an Igleheart for NAHBS, a vintage Brennan for Blaine (check out those wild head lugs), a Raleigh for Andy, and here’s a couple of the seven (!) Gaulzetti’s I painted:


Next: Conor, painted! Aaron! Mike! Laura! Tom! Two belt drives, one family!


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Allow me to introduce you to the Incomparable Thundercraft, Sara’s 650B mixte commuter:

We’ve got a Nexus 8 speed internal hub, dual monostays, Honjo hand-hammered fenders, a generator hub (lights to come!), Velo Orange stainless steel front rack, and a custom head lug. But more on that later…





OK, so when I went to make a bike for Sara, my girlfriend, co-habitator and the mother of my son, I knew I wanted to do some sort of skirt-friendly step through frame; but what kind? There are 3 common types: using a curved top tube, a parallel top tube, and a mixte, where two skinny seatstay-like tubes go all the way from the head tube to the dropouts, around the seat tube;


Although I like the curved-tube look a lot (this lovely one is courtesy of Mike Flanigan at ANT), I wanted to use light tubing and therefore wanted the extra strength of a mixte-style design. In a head-on collision, the force applied to the front of the bike is transferred along the top tube into the middle of the seat tube, so often you see old step-through frames with a bent seat tube (warning to yard-sale shoppers!). But twin-top-tube mixtes are everywhere, so I was particularly inspired by this by our friend and co-conspirator JP Weigle:

And I’m a big fan of the slender look of monostay (or wishbone) rear ends; and if one monostay is good, obviously two is better, right? Clearly.

Now, in order to make the top tube & intermediate seat stays form a straight line back to the dropouts (for strength and aesthetics), the position and angle of the top tube had to be very precise. Not a stock placement, and typically when we’re using unusual geometries, as with mountain bikes or really anything without a horizontal top tube, we will fillet braze or weld the frame. Lugs are cast pieces that we buy, and are available in a handful of conventional geometries. But Sara had her heart set on lugs, so what’s a boy to do? Well, make a lug, I guess.

We had some extra Rene Singer lugs from our friend Richard Sachs, so I decided to use two down tube lugs: one as-is, for the down tube, and the other I would modify for use with my top tube. This involved grinding off the socket for the down tube, and mitering a sleeve that would fit over the 28.6mm top tube.


Then I trimmed the Sachs lug to fit the new smaller TT socket, and welded it all together. It starts off pretty ugly, but a little grinding and filing and the next thing you know, it’s just pretty.


I didn’t have to make a custom seat tube lug, as the geometry allowed me to use a modified Henry James seat lug, upside down. The other issue is, how do you connect 3 sets of stays to dropouts that are designed for 2? Well, here’s one way, as well as some shots of the 50’s sci-fi inspired graphics.


I also painted a vintage Raleigh, a Riordan, and started Holly’s 26″ tourer:


Last, but so desperately far from least, is this fantastic picture of Stevil, taken by the wonderful Pamela Palma. Check out her site for other great bike pics!

Next: Holly! More bikes! More paint! Watch the skies!


Friday, June 11th, 2010

First, for your riding pleasure, is Rachel’s 26″ touring bike. The main concern here was toe/tire clearance; on a strict touring bike that can be less of an issue, but this bike will also do duty pulling young Virginia in her trailer around western Massachusetts, so we wanted to make sure she could negotiate crosswalks and sidewalks with ease, as well as style. Also, personally I like the proportions of smaller wheels on smaller bikes.

It’s a lugged frame, Dedacciai Zerouno tubing and Mini 6 lugs that give her a 6 degree sloping top tube. The fork features a Pacenti PBP crown, and it’s built up with a 105 Triple drivetrain on Deore MTB hubs.




Matt was looking for a bike that could serve primarily as a fixed gear, but have the option of running a rear derailleur. To this end I used Paragon track dropouts with a derailleur hanger (and bottle opener!), and put a water bottle boss under the down tube that he can screw a cable stop into when he wants to be multi-speed. I also did internal cable routing for the rear brake so it will look nice and clean when he’s running it as a fixie. In a bizarre coincidence, he chose the same green as Rachel.



I also did a couple of frame repairs and modifications: a new chainstay and track dropouts on Sean’s Bianchi mountain bike, and new Paragon sliding dropouts and new down tube on Patrick’s Soma. Just goes to show, steel bikes never die, they just get fixed! And finally, Josie doing some lug lining on a Royal H – check it out in the sun!



Next: Charlie’s cross bike!


Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

First off, if you’re in the area, or even if you’re not, please stop by on Saturday May 1 from 1-4pm for our annual Open Haus Extrordinaire. You will there meet a fine selection of our friends and bikes, and there will be food and drink and general carousing. Don’t miss it! Afterwards a bike contingent will be rolling down to the May Day rally at the Statehouse.

Among the bikes you hopefully will see is Benno’s fabulous randonneur sportif. This has been one of most labor intensive and rewarding bikes I’ve ever built. Sometimes we have customers who give use their measurements, maybe a general direction, and let us have at it. Benno is not that customer. He essentially designed the bike himself, providing me with a BikeCad drawing, and was involved in all the details, including the design of a new fork-blade bending fixture!

Well the frame is done and mostly built up, and Brian will be making a custom front rack… here it is before parts:

Details to note: box lining by Josie Morway, a rear brake cable stop design stolen shamelessly from Peter Weigle, grommets for the coming internally-routed lighting, posts for the Mafac brakes, spoke ends for the electrical routing… and of course the gorgeous and super-light G.P. Wilson dropouts. More on those in a sec.






And here are some more pictures of the bike in process. Note the custom plugs I machined that allow me to silver braze the G.P. Wilson stainless dropouts.



I used an internal plug for the chainstays, as I did on the fork tips, but a stepped internal/external for the very skinny biconical seat stays, similar to what I did for Eric’s belt drive bike. Those are Dedacciai seatstays, as are the chainstays; the main frame is Reynolds 853.


Old spokes are super handy. Here I’m using one to hold in place the front fender boss. Also to note: matching the Mafac posts to the width on the original.


I also did a restoration on John’s Nishiki. Here’s a picture of it as it came in (with an old downtube shifter boss repair we did a while back still in primer gray), followed by pics of the finished product. I also removed the old cable guides for the rear brake and added slotted stops:



Next: Dawson! Rachel! And Mike’s single speed/multi speed lugged beauty!


Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

At long last, I’ve begun work on Benno’s randonneur sportif. Often a bike starts with a drawing, but it doesn’t always look like this:

Benno had designed us a new fork blade bender. He’s been reading Bicycle Quarterly and wanted a super tight radius bend at the end of the blade. And who could blame him? In theory, it’s strong, as you’re concentrating the bend on the thickest part of the blade, but also provides a plusher ride, because a tighter bend means a longer lever for a given rake. And it looks totally hot.

So we want to make a new jig, and Benno has provided us with a plan. Where are we going to get a custom-cut hardwood block to his exact specs? Fortunately, we know a guy, or in this case, we know Mark and Liane at Kingsland. They are some of our best and favorite customers, in addition to which they do custom millwork with all sorts of badass cnc wood working equipment – they cut with water, fire, ice, they cut with their MINDS. It’s awesome.

So I gave them a call and said, we’re looking for something like this, say in maple, and they said send the design over & we’ll take a look. So I sent them Benno’s design, above – didn’t hear back for a couple days – was about to call to see what they thought, if this was something they could do, and before I can pick up the phone there’s a package containing a perfect maple block, needless to say precisely to spec. These are the kinds of friends you want to have.

Brian actually put the bender together, so I’ll let him describe that saga, but here’s a picture of him, the proud father:

Benno also wanted to use very thin-wall blades (.9/.6mm), and he wants the curve to go all the way to the dropouts – no straight bit at the end. AND he’s going for 60mm of rake for super short trail. All of this means I need to rake these very thin blades to the equivalent of about 80mm so that I can cut off the tip before brazing in the dropouts. This is dangerous stuff. So I packed the blades with sand and gave it a go:


Success! Now, complicating things is that I’m using these very expensive and very light GP Wilson dropouts. These things are like bird bones. And what’s more, they’re stainless steel, which means I can’t, or shouldn’t, use brass, the normal technique for installing a plate-style dropout. So I needed to machine some plugs so that I create a fine enough gap between dropout and plug, and plug and fork blade or stay, so that I can use silver. That looks a little something like this:

More on that continuing saga later; I also replaced a down tube on Patrick’s Soma. It had cracked at the head tube weld after taking a serious drop, so I cut out the old DT, and threw it on the alignment table to get it back in shape:


Then I mitered a new True Temper tube, and welded it in:


Next, he gets sliding Paragon dropouts! Also, I’ve been painting a lot for folks preparing for NAHBS; here’s a carbon wheel I painted with Red Pearl for Ian at Icarus:

Next: building Benno’s! and then: Matt’s fixed/multi speed lugged road machine!

Circle A Cycles   |   523 Charles Street   |   Providence, RI   |   401.831.5221
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