Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
It’s a mouthful, but for another commuter/all-rounder, it just makes sense! Again we’re using the value-laden Sturmey-Archer 5 speed hub, this time laced to a 26″ wheel to keep the scale of this smallish bike appropriate. But the focus for Manya is on practicality, yes (note the fenders and kickstand) but also on style and elegance, so we did our first curved top tube step-through. All it needs is a baguette and a beret.
As we didn’t have the requisite, or at least recommended, three-roller bender for the top tube, we sought help from Mike Flanigan at ANT:
Other concerns included fashioning a gusset to reinforce the seat tube, that would match the lugged BB shell and the collar point:
I also modified Bobby’s Ted Wojcik, as he wanted to run 650B x 2.4 wheels & tires in a frame intended for 26″. Previously I had installed the Black Cat Rocker dropouts; in this case I was able to retain the seat stays, replacing the chainstays and bridges to make more room. And I made a new fork that matches the build height of his old segmented 26″ fork but gives him some more room. Just the right amount, as he has promised to never try to use larger tires.
And an unusual repair, I replaced the head tube on a vintage Raleigh. See if you can spot the crack:
So this sort of repair involves cutting away as much of the existing headtube as you can, and then grinding out what’s left from inside the lugs. It does not. Go. Quickly. Note the sockets for the fork-crown steering lock.
Then a new head tube slides in, gets brazed, cleaned up, and painted.
Last but not least, I repainted a magnificent Nagasawa road/track bike for Marc:
Next: Henry’s MTB! Tom’s belt drive all-rounder! Irina’s do-it-all tourer! It must be summer!
Monday, 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.
And here are some shots of just the frame set:
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:
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.
A new derailleur and all is right with the world.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Next: Bobby’s finished, Tim’s Bottecchia repaint, and it’s 29er o’clock!
Monday, November 12th, 2012
I have the pleasure to introduce to you one of my favorite builds in recent memory, a road bike for Patricia:
Let us first note that some Conti Classic tires are destined for those white Velocity rims, fear not! This is just what was on hand.
So the most refreshing thing about this is all the lovely silver, am I right? This is Campy Veloce 10, great for anyone who thinks that 10 is the proper maximum number of cogs on a cassette, and just easy on the eyes as well as working flawlessly. The rims are Velocity Aeroheads in white, and a Thomson seatpost and stem and Ritchey Classic bars round it out.
Before I talk about the challenges of this geometry, some more pics of the frame:
Ok, so Patricia came to us with a Davidson custom frame that fit well, but she wanted some tweaking and more to the point, she wanted lugs. Conventional lugs are cast with a conventional geometry in mind – 73 degree seat and head tubes, 60 degrees between the DT/ST & DT/HT. Well. Not so much here. We were shooting for a traditional look, so didn’t want to go past a 2 degree slop on the top tube; and we wanted to do a slack head tube and plenty of rake in fork for toe clearance. All of that helps to use off the shelf lugs, but it left us with an untenable 57 degrees between the down tube and seat tube, which effectively ruled out any available lugged BB shell. So, we chose to weld all the BB joints, and I just promised to keep it soft so it won’t look too out of place.
Patricia chose the colors and layout, and all I can say is I approve.
Now, that was the start of a small frame – let’s look at one from back in the archives…
We don’t have the budget to do a lot of destructive testing, which is why we tend to stick with what we know. Fortunately, we have friends who are badass racer-types and every once in a while, one of these friends gets in a scrape. Liane was in the middle of a pileup on her nearly ten-year-old Cirlce A (pre-stainless head badge!) and this was the result:
Most important to note, not only did she walk away, she attempted to ride away. Then her front wheel hit the down tube… well. At first blush, you might think this is a terrible thing for a builder to see. But actually, it’s a great study in frame building, stress risers, and why we love steel.
First, let’s note that this was a serious, catastrophic impact. Clearly the front triangle has buckled in several places, but perhaps not clear from the pictures is that the fork is bent as well; the blades are bent slightly back, and the steerer is bent a touch at the crown. But what’s really interesting is what happened to the frame.
For the builder, the best thing is that Liane walked away. The second best thing is that it didn’t break at a joint. In other words, the forces applied to the frame were transferred from the wheel, through the fork and into the front triangle of the frame – which is what happens every time you get on a bike – and in this extreme situation, when those forces achieved a moment that was beyond what the frame could handle. it sort of broke all over.
It’s a study in stress risers; see how the top tube buckled at the cable stop, and the down tube at the shifter boss and the BB lug. Then you have the buckling in the down tube – exactly in the middle of the tube. In other words, it was trying to bend, but eventually the center could not hold.
This is what happens with well made, lightweight bikes. They can break. But they will usually not break at a lug (even a minimalist, bikini lug as seen here), at a fillet or at a weld. And, unlike aluminum or carbon, we can fix it. As I do here.
With a silver brazed frame, relatively little heat is used to join the lugs and tubes. So, you generally have the option of heating the joint and pulling the tube out, or cutting and grinding it out. In the case of a full front triangle, I generally will pull the top tube out of the seat lug, but I like to grind out the dt from the bb. This is mostly because there is so much mass at the BB, it takes a lot of heat on all four joints there. In general we like to keep the heat cycles down, but this is more important in a high stress area like the bb as opposed to the seat collar. When was the last time you saw a bike break at the seat lug? Ok, so here’s work on the BB shell:
For the seat lug, I cut the center of the tube out and use a bungee cord to pull it straight out. This helps keep the seat lug in shape; pulling by hand or trying to twist it out can distort the hot metal.
Note the shadow of silver on the top tube in the shape of the lug. This is what we in the frame building industry refer to as full penetration. In other industries this might mean something else.
Anyway, here’s the (re) finished product:
So, we hope this sort of thing never happens to you. But if it does, we can help.
Next: Jeff’s fixie rando! I know, what? And 29er fever takes hold!
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Yes it’s been a while, but wow have we been busy. It’s that time of year in New England, everyone wants to get rolling, and we’re doing what we can to oblige. Soon to make it’s way to him in British Columbia, here’s Russell’s rando bike:
I’ll be building it up next week with some choice parts: Nitto racks, Paul Racer brakes, a SON generator hub with Supernova lights, Ultegra drivetrain, Honjo fenders… Russell created the knot graphic, and yes, those are Space Invaders. The colors are inspired by the palette he saw in Morocco. Stay tuned for pictures of the built-up bike.
I also did a raft of repaints, some of which turned into unanticipated repairs. Bill’s vintage Raleigh ended up having a cracked chainstay (I blame his 56 tooth big ring and tree-trunk legs!); I replaced the stay and painted it up, with lug lining by Josie. Here’s the finished product, followed by some process shots. Note that the chrome was too far gone to save, this is a good example where paint can cover it and keep the original feel of the bike’s look.
At the same time I also repainted Sarah’s Raleigh:
Ted’s Nishiki MTB came in for a dropout replacement and repaint, but while stripping the paint we found this crack in the seat collar:
I made an internal sleeve that I brazed inside, and reamed out so he can use a standard 27.2 seatpost, not the odd early 90’s size he had been stuck with. Crisis averted!
In a collaborative effort, I did some braze-on updating on Bob’s Specialized Sequoia; Jay did the paint and Josie, of course, did the custom lining! The inspiration was a locomotive designed by Raymond Loewy, who also created the Studebaker Avanti.
It was a month of smashed rear ends, one of which was Richard’s vintage Abel Borne; after straightening the frame, there was a small crack above both dropouts; I brazed a sleeve around the area and then shaped it to mimic the original profile:
I also added a disc brake mount and brace to Avi’s IF:
And last but not least, and to cement that fact that it’s been Giant Bike Month, I replaced a broken seat stay on Tony’s Paramount, straightened the other stay, and repainted:
I cut out the old stay, heated it to pull off the brake bridge and seat lug, and created a cap to match the old one.
Next up: more pics of Russell’s rando, and then Bert and Bryan are up!
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!
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!
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!
Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
It’s been – how to put it? – an interesting couple of months for me. Most of the stress, drama, intrigue, hassle and tears have had to do with my restoring an old house, not an old bike; but that’s a story for another day, and in among the horsehair plaster and knob and tube wiring I saw some lovely beaten down bikes as well.
But first – Ron B and his singing 8 speed! This has been a long time coming, and it’s great to see it on the road. Just one shifter and one derailleur, 8 speeds, no waiting! Richard Sachs lugs, canti brakes – but the paint. Let’s talk about the paint. Ron went crazy old school with his designs, hand cutting the stencils, which he then applied after I did the black, and then I shot the bronze. Totally unique, very labor intensive, very cool I think you’ll agree:
I also did several frame repairs that are good examples of how we can do a touch-up on the paint job, instead of doing a full repaint. Keep your bike on the road without breaking the bank.
Below are shots of re-brazing a broken seat tube/BB joint, a dropout replacement, and re-brazing a cracked seat stay joint. The BB is interesting as you can see how silver flowed along the shore line of the lug but didn’t penetrate the joint. It looked good but was very weak – but despite that still gave years of service before cracking.
In the dropout and BB case, I painted black over the affected area, with vinyl bands to protect the edge of the new paint and create a panel. On the Gemini with the seat stay issue, I did a hard line above the seat tube decal, and faded the black on the top tube and seat stays to match the other fades on the bike.
I also painted a ton of bikes, both brand new and well worn: two from John Hollands of Baltimore, a Mustowy, an old St. Etienne, and 3, count ’em, Icarus… Icaruses… Icari… from our friend Ian:
Pay particular attention to these two Icarususes… these two from Icarus. The first is a purple with standard pearl over it; the second a pale celeste green with red pearl. The flake on the pearl really highlights lug shores and fillet joints. And the last shot is one Brian took of me applying the lug lining with a Paasche Flow Pencil. One of the more stressful things we get to do…
Next: Benno’s Randy! What? Chris K gets a-polishing! And probably some other stuff!