Bullwhip

11 Speed Belt Drive Snow Machine

November 20th, 2011

Some commuters are unstoppable, and our friend Matt was going through two chains a year commuting in snowy, slushy, salty and gross western Connecticut winters. He had the weather-proof solution: an 11 speed Alfine internally geared, belt driven, disc-braked super commuter, and I’m psyched he asked us to build it for him.

I’d done one belt drive before, a single speed, but the Alfine hub, coupled with the desire for fat tires, creates some new technical challenges. Belts are wider than chains, but more importantly they need to run perfectly straight – if not the belt will literally walk off the cog or sprocket. [This is one reason for the new Center Track system, which allows for more flexibility]

Even with chain drive, providing clearance for chainrings and wide chainstays can be a problem. Here, it’s worse – the belt is wider, the “belt line” has to be perfect, and to top it all off, the rear cog on an Alfine hub is set in away from the dropout, to accommodate the shifting cable. I did some fancy crimping of the chainstay, so here it is, built up with 26×2.3 tires, ready for action:

  

  

Here are some shots of the build in process:

  

When Matt and I began discussing this bike last year, we weren’t sure how best to break the frame (the belt doesn’t come apart, unlike a chain, so you have to be able to get it inside the rear triangle). Fortunately, Paragon came out with a belt option for their sliding dropouts. These are great for disc brakes, because the caliper stays aligned to the dropout, and for belt drive systems, as they have integrated tensioners. Belt tension is super important for proper performance. Here are some shots of the dropouts during construction, and of the frame before components. You can see how I weld on a section of tube, similar to how we do capped stays:

   

And here are some shots of me mocking everything up before the wheels were built:

   

And some of the completed frame. The Paragon dropouts are stainless, so I was able to polish the interface where the frame breaks:

   

And some more shots before components. Note, the bottom bracket below is just one I had lying around that I used to determine the alignment; in the complete bike pictured above, it’s a narrower Phil that fits properly.

  

Next up: Belt drive again, this time a single speed! And super-lightweight S3 tubing fever! Weld-o-Rama 2011 continues!

Michael’s Super Commuter, TiG time!

October 12th, 2011

So I recently built up Michael B’s super commuter. I had just repainted his Lemond, and he had wanted a more upright city bike that he could really thrash. So we did a welded frame with Sram Force components, including double tap flat bar shifters.

  

 

He went with a very subdued paint job, a deep blue pearl with no logos, just the head badge, and full rack and fender mounts.

  

  

I also repainted an old Raleigh International (including pounding out some stubborn dents), and painted 4 Mostowys, a couple of which you see below. And and in family style, I repainted Mark’s IF (with matching fork accents – a good way to go if you want to tie the room together without rebuilding the fork) and started his brother Matt’s belt drive, 11 speed Alfine commuter – ready for the snow!

  

  

Here’s the beginning of Matt’s. He’ll be running disc brakes, so we opted for the Paragon sliding dropouts with new detachable stay for the belt. Although we’ll be starting with a rigid fork, it’s suspension corrected for future full off-road use.

   

Next: Finishing Matt’s! Bobby’s S3 club racer! And Dawson’s belt drive single speed mtb! It’s all tungsten and argon for me!

Laura’s Century-Hauler, Seven Switcharoo

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!

Mike’s Road Machine

July 28th, 2011

Last week Mike picked up his lightweight road bike. It’s constructed from Columbus Spirit for Lugs tubing, with bikini lugs and stainless dropouts, fork crown and such for some bling. He used a mix of old and new components (no shame in that!), for a classic, durable race and recreation bike.

  

  

I also did a dropout replacement on our friend Eric’s Slingshot, and modified the cable routing for easier removal of that very complicated 8 speed/roller brake rear wheel. With some added cable stops, he can detach the brake and shifter cables without getting his fingers caught in that infernal Nexus cable stop. We used classic Campy road dropouts so that the wheel slides forward, easier for getting out from under his fender. Eric will be using this bike to ride around Maine plotting the next routes for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, so we want to keep him happy. I just painted the effected area, a good strategy when doing a dropout replacement if you don’t want a full repaint.

 

Next: Laura’s commuter/tourer/trailer hauler!

The Integrated Bicycle

June 20th, 2011

Often, when we finish a frame & fork, that’s it – maybe we install a headset or bottom bracket, but it goes into a box and flies off to distant lands. There it will be assembled into a complete bike by unseen hands, and hopefully the customer will send us pictures…

Sometimes, we assemble the bike ourselves. And rarely, we have a project like this – custom wheel builds, full fenders and racks, generator hub, internally wired lighting. We often say that installing Honjo fenders requires all the tools in our shop – and usually it’s true. Lathe required. But more on that in a sec.

Here is Tom and his completed 650B Randonneur.

  

  

  

As for the lathe? The Nitto front rack needed a custom spacer between it and the front fender; the Velo Orange light mount needed a similar spacer; and the Paul brakes needed special washers to allow the rack to be bolted to the canti posts. Here I am machining one of those washers, followed by some shots of Benno doing the super elegant wiring. Note the wire for the rear light which is hot-glued into the fender:

   

And here are some pics before assembly so you can see the details of the frame. Because of the 42c Grand Bois Hetre tires, I used s-bend chainstays for clearance, dimpled for the 34/48 chainrings. With his 12-36 9 speed cassette, Tom has some crazy climbing potential. Also note the grommets where the wiring enters and exits the frame; there are two on the fork, one on the underside of the down tube, and one at the rear of the bottom bracket.

   

   

We also did a seat tube and seat tube binder replacement on an old Harry Quinn. First a shot of the old clamp, then the repair:

   

Last but not least, Ron has embarked on an incredible cross-country adventure:


I’ll link to his blog tomorrow. Next: Mike, Laura, another Mike!

¡No pasarán! Rando explosion!

May 21st, 2011

It was a real pleasure to make a randonneur frame for Aaron, as it’s not every day I get to build a bike directly inspired by the Spanish anarchists. This is the poster Aaron sent me:

The frame is prepped for a full generator lighting system, and is designed to run medium reach brakes and fenders for tires up to 700x28c. Our friend Dave W at Broadway Bicycle School will be building it up, so watch this space for pictures of the full build.

  

  

  

I’ve also began building a 650B rando bike for Tom; he’s running the big 42c Grand Bois Hetre tires, so we’re running s-bend chainstays to give him room for his 55mm Honjo fenders, as well as giving a reasonable Q factor for his Sugino cranks.

  

  

Next: Finishing Tom, Mike’s Spirit for Lugs road bike, Laura, and another MIke! Then – belt drive mania!

CONOR ROLLS, VIVA LA FRANCE!

April 10th, 2011

So Conor’s coupled rando shipped off a few weeks ago in an alarmingly small box. Here are some pictures of the finished frame, and it being packed. He’s providing the rest of the components, but it should all fit in there! My main concerns as the builder were making sure that the cranks & fork could stay on; toward that end we shortened the seat tube to 58cm from an ideal 60, and used a 1 degree slope in the top tube to get the front end up. I also took care to mount the couplers as close to the seat tube as possible to maximize room for the crank.

  

  

  

  

I also worked on a dropout replacement on a De Rosa, but most exciting was a repaint of a Jean-Pierre Danguillaume from the 70’s. This bike belongs to our friend Matt, whose father bought it new a year before Matt was born! They were made by Mercien, this is from Matt’s account of the bike:

“Jean Pierre Danguillaume was featured (barely) in A Sunday in Hell, the Paris Roubaix movie. It appears he was one of a long line of Danguillaume cyclists, he won a fair amount of races and some tour stages. Somewhere I found that he got busted for amphetamines in the 70’s. My dad said that Cycles Jean-Pierre Danguillaume closed down a couple years after. He mainly used the bike to ride to the Bois du Bologne to play softball on Sundays…”

I love this, maybe because I like saying “Bois du Bologne.” Matt’s going to try to find a picture of him, age 3, sidesaddle on the top tube. Anyway, we blasted off the rust, modernized the cable routing, and Matt came up with these graphics:

   

Next: Parts are shipping for frames for Laura, Mike, Aaron and Tom! We’ll see whose stuff gets here first!

CONOR, COUPLERS, CHAOS

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!

HOLLY! and SO MUCH PAINT!

January 13th, 2011

At long last Holly’s 26″ tourer is ready to send out to Austin, TX. She wanted something for loaded touring, as well as between-tour commuting, and wanted it sturdy and retro-compatible. To that end, we used a mix of True Temper OX Platinum and Verus HT tubing; she’ll generally be running slicks but the frame is built to accommodate 26×2.1 tires; Henry James dropouts with enough of a slot to allow the bike to function as a single speed in a pinch; and the down tube shifter bosses will work with, you guessed it, down tube shifters in case her integrated shifters blow up on the road. She’ll be running full Nitto Campee racks, and also sports 3 (count ’em) sets of water bottle bosses, as well as spare spoke holders on the chainstays.

The color is a variation on Brian’s commuter, a slightly sparkly ochre, with some tasteful white and blue highlights. It’s mostly debadged, but Holly promises to talk it up, so if you see it please ask her about it and report back to us! Apologies for the sun-bleached photos!

   

  

I also painted a raft of bikes for other people. Perhaps most unusual was this vintage Raleigh Chopper for local hero Sean:

   

But that’s not all a – a Cuevas restoration, a Geekhouse, a lovely lemon Icarus, and an old Fat City!

   

Finally, Dawson sent these pics from his epic cross-country adventure. You can read more about his bike here.

Next: dropout replacements! also, more bikes!

the INCOMPARABLE THUNDERCRAFT

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!

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