Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blast from the past

I'm not sure how long it has been since I have built a fillet brazed frame....years for sure. This week I get to re-live the 1984-1991 part of my career-laying down fillets of bronze. Here's some head tube collars I modified and welded up.....they look like something you would find on an Ibis from the early '90's. I'm using a lot of these this winter, partly for aesthetics, partly for keeping the headtube from ovalizing.
This is probably the first fillet I have laid down in about 5-6 years. I do remember how to do it but I'm glad I have some nice new files to really get the finished product looking smooth and uniform. I'll be putting up pictures of the finished product next would be too much for me to think that i would have it done this week. Fillet frames are about twice as labor intensive as welded frames. It's cold in my shop and the combination of the torch and the manual labor will help keep me from freezing !

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fixie magazine from Japan

I am very fortunate to be on the comp list for Loop magazine, a fixie culture pictorial. I don't read a word of Japanese but I definitely am entertained by this glimpse into the whole take on bike culture from this part of the world. It's weird, it's wonderful and not to be missed.

Team Miyata circa 1979

For all you classic bike junkies out there I'm going to occasionally feature an older bike , some from my own collection and others that just happen to come by my shop when I have my camera handy. This one was a project I took on a number of years ago. I got it as a frame, fork, headset and derailleurs. I had to find everything else and it wasn't easy. The old Dura Ace EX equipment was not really popular and never produced in great quantity. It took especially long to find the brake calipers. I still have to put on the AX wheelset I found for the bike and I really need to find the Dura Ace stem to complete the bike. As it is now, it is nearly complete and it is one of the best riding bikes I have ever owned.
Here's that ancient EX drivetrain , the seldom seen EX crankset and really hill unfriendly gears.
The top mounted 'Bunny rabbit' shifters were actually a great invention at the time-great they were but the buying public for the most part were not impressed. Moving the right shifter actually trims the left shifter a innovation that would foretell the direction of Shimano's 'integrated shifting system' of the future.

Road frame, fork and stem

Way back in the '70's the thing to do with your custom frame was to have a Silca pump painted to match. The paint of the day was not powdercoat but Du Pont Imron catalyzed polyurathane enamel , a paint that when sprayed on properly yields a really smooth surface and deep luster. The metallic blue was a very popular color back in the day and though this frame is a more current design, the paint really harkens back to the era when I first became aware of custom frames.
The head tube collars are also something from the past, this time from the '80's and the dawning of mountain bikes.

The color didn't photograph properly as my camera has been acting up lately but you can see that I did a little work to the fork crown to make it look a bit like a '70's Ron Cooper fork.
The customer asked for a matching stem so I built one-one of the two or three stems I built in 2010. This one is made for a 31.8 mm handlebar , pretty much the standard these days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Another Della Santa

This Della Santa road bike was made in 1978 and it is mine. I lucked into it around 8 years ago-a friends housemate was selling it. It's pretty close to my size and it is in really good shape. It is the only bike I own built by another American builder.

Tall road frame ready to build up.

This frame may be tall but it is under 4 lbs. True Temper S-3 builds up very light. I used a lighter head tube and brazed on some collars for a little strength and style .
When a frame is this tall I leave the seat stays straight rather than put some bends in them.
The rider is 6'5" so the head tube is really long . The build will be Dura Ace with Enve fork and seatpost . I'm also getting some Reynolds carbon clinchers for it......this should be a really quick steel bike.

Big tire road bike gets dirty

After a long wait I finally got the time and resources to build up the 'Big-tire road bike' that will hopefully find its way to a magazine this winter. To prove that the bike was at home on any type of road surface, I took it out on a short ride that involved HWY 1, some dirt road along the railroad tracks and a muddy stretch of double track along the ocean where the cyclocross team trains in the late summer. Getting a bike this dirty on the first ride is probably not the best idea,especially considering that I built it with the purpose of attempting to get a review in print.
As you can see, I did get it pretty muddy in short order as the recent rains have turned the normally dry dusty conditions into a quagmire of slop . Although the Challenge Parigi-Roubaix tires are well suited toward dry dirt conditions , they were a bit slippery in some of the muddy corners , almost letting go completely and sending me into the muck. Fortunately , a season of 'cross racing has made me a little more centered on the bike and I didn't fall. The mud was sometimes so deep that I had to stop and carry the bike over sections that would have swallowed up the wheels up to the axles.
Shortly after these photos were taken I hosed off the bike and got it looking nice and new again. Now I'll get an email out to the media and see if anyone else wants to get this bike all muddy again. The whole idea of a bike like this is having the ability to ride just about anywhere without having to compromise on comfort and efficiency. This bike goes down the pavement pretty fast, even with the big tires ( 700x27c). Although it isn't a proper cyclocross rig it still handles the dirt well , if not a little bumpy with the 70 psi tires. It's a nice comprimise and a classic looking machine that will make people do a double-take when it is seen on the single track.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Travel bike fully assembled

I have been working on building up this bike today and it is ready to roll at last. The photos do not really do it justice as I feel this bike really came together looking better than I imagined it would. The bottle cages were a request from the customer......kind of a throwback to the mid-90's when Elite cages were on every pro's bike. They still are the most stylish, if not the most current.
The bike is the 'Big-tire road bike' that I have been seeing a surge in popularity as of late. The S&S couplers add a bit of weight but will really pay for themselves over the next few years of plane rides.
Matching Chris King hubs and headset make this a bit classier of a build than the stock 6700 group. The King stuff is also lighter and needs less maintenance. The couplers blend into the frame almost seamlessly. Not being a very large frame, it should pack easily.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 5 foot solution

This is not the first one of these that I have built. This particular edition "low standover 'cross frame" will have disc brakes. I like taking phots of frames in this state as they look really clean before all the cable guides and other bits are welded and/or brazed on. This is the first steel frame I have built in about three weeks so I'm going slow and the welds are pretty much as good as I like to see. The rider is 5'1/4" with a 27 3/4" stand over. She likes her handlebars up pretty high so the front end of the bike will accomplish that with no headset spacers and no need for some spastic-looking stem reaching up to the sky. Lots of spacers and/or a wacky stem usually means that the bike isn't as good of a fit as it could be.
This part of the frame has a bit more going on than usual. The extra tube that joins the top tube to the head tube will keep the bike strong enough for some rough dirt riding.
It's always a happy day when I can put the frame on the drawing and see that I actually built what I set out to build. A long time ago it wasn't always the case ! Bike frames can fight you many steps of the way......nothing fits , everything needs to be clean and you can't be pissed off and expect to do good work. I used to play a lot of Nirvana in the shop years ago but i found that I would really get angry easily while listening to it. I figured out that really funny stuff is a problem, too......trying to weld a delicate pass while cracking up to some really stupid music usually yields some sort of embarrassing tatoo on the frame where you slipped and melted something you shouldn't have.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bet you haven't seen one of these......

Yes, it's a mountain bike. Yes, it is a Della Santa. I believe this one is from around 1985. My friend Joe is the original owner. He has a Ritchey from about 1982 and one of my bikes from 1995. He rides them all but I seldom see him on this one. There are supposedly only three in existance........that's pretty rare in my book.

My bike.....again !

Yeah, I have seen this bike too many times ! I thought I'd put a post-race photo up of my ride in its current state , complete with the wheelset I built up a couple of month ago. The course had a 200 foot mud pit and it was really sticky, hence the muddy tires. Funny, the mud didn't get on much of the rest of the bike. This was my first race after being in the hospital ony five days previous. I came in 3rd.......impressive until you know that there were only four in my group and only three finishers ! Hey, it's a slow-mo.

29er bound for So-Cal.

This is the first frame I have built since getting my kidney stone blasted out. I took it a little slow on this one and I'm pretty proud of the results. All in all, I think this frame should handle the rigors of racing well as it has the beef where it is needed-the tubing is really stout here and there but the whole thing only weighs 3 lb. 7 oz. ! I guess that's what you get with 7005 aluminum.
The headtube is short as the 29er shock fork is pretty long and the rider is under 5'10".
I used one of Mike Ahren's seatstay yokes....there's nothing better to make for good tire room , lots of rigidity and some style as well. I use US made and designed hardware as much as I can.
Here's a tiny bit of hardware, or more like it-cobware.......a small brace to keep the disc brake from twisting the rear end into a pretzel. A lot of builders like me learned a number of years ago that any bike with a disc brake that is going to be ridden hard needs extra metal.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The rig loaded for the commute.

I have not been in the shop this week as I have been laid up with a painful kidney stone. While i'm in enough discomfort to not be able to tolerate the unheated shop, I can still build wheels at home. here's my town bike loaded with the last few day's work, my truing stand, dishing tool and whatever was cluttering my kitchen. Tomorrow I see the doctor to get the kidney stone removed.......after 9 days of pain I am more than ready ! This painful interlude has slowed the bike builds but barring complications , I assume I'll be back at it next week with a full head of steam. Normally I like going to work but now it will be like a celebration !

Yes, I am still alive.....

Here's the frame I made with couplers a few weeks ago. I'll be building up the whole bike including wheels pretty soon. The tubeset is almost all Columbus Nivacrome.
This is not a touring frame but a rack will fit . My hope is that this travel frame will feel nice and snappy-fun to ride just about anywhere in the world......that will be handy as this bike will most likely circle the globe in travels over the next decade or so.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Forks, forks , forks.

Getting caught up on my work these days involves building all the forks and stems that have been on order , some since June ! I'm probably known as a guy who delivers custom frames pretty much on schedule and is horribly slow on building forks-even more so on stems. It just so happens that my shop is efficiently laid out for building frames but not so for smaller stuff. All this said, I rarely refuse an order for a fork-I just have a caveat : You can't be in a hurry if you want me to build you a stem or a fork.
The black fork above has one of the remaining few Ritchey/Bridgestone crowns out of my collection. I think I have four more out of the original 18 or so that I bought back in about 1995.
This unicrown fork will be used with a 29" wheel but on a 26" wheel single speed. The fork with the wheel will add up to about the same height as a 26" wheel in a 100 MM shock fork. I have been thinking about doing this conversion with my single speed.......might be fun to have that big wheel and no boing.
Here's a detail of the disc mount and the little cable guide on the back of the blade. I used some larger diameter rod for the 1/4" thick plate on the mount. I think it's easier to weld with and there won't be a problem with anything not staying together under hard braking.
Here's another crown with a finite supply. Kirk Pacenti is selling his business so all these nice bits he has been selling might possibly be a thing of the past. This is a great resource that framebuilders are losing.....maybe we just didn't support him enough with our dollars. It's tough for me as there is little that I build with lugs,crowns and the like. Ironically, I have built more lugged forks in the last year than in the previous 7-8.
This Paris-Brest crown is really a terrific design and it will be sad to no longer be able to use it.There's plenty of metal on this crown , so much that I'm sure one could build a fork for off-road with it and feel sure that if anything bent in an accident, it would not be the crown. I have to use a rosebud tip on the torch...the largest flame at my disposal to heat up this massive casting.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Canadian transplant 7005 29er built up

I don't know about you but part of me wishes I had Canadian roots just so I could put little maple leaves all over my bike. It really looks like they are blowing in the wind, just like what would be happening around this time of year. The build is pretty nice on this one and it is really light for such a large bike.

Single speed bound for Pennsylvania

Most of the 26" wheel MTB frames I build are single speeds, though not exclusively. This one will have a rigid fork that I made but also accommodate a 100 MM shock as needed. The Paragon slider dropouts are welded on and really a stout design. This bike is set up for disc-only , a good thing for a place where it isn't 300 plus days of sunshine a year like here in Santa Cruz. I have plans to make a 29er version of this bike in my size early next year but it will have cable guides for the use of an internal geared hub......more on that later.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Built up disc 'cross bike

Yes, disc brakes are UCI legal now so you'll be seeing more cyclocross bikes with disc brakes. While hydraulic brakes are still not available , it is looking like that will change soon. This bike is going to be more of a trail bike than a pure race machine. The buildup parts were for the most part provided by the customer. The cranks are some carbon Stronglites that I have never seen and the drive train is all Sram Red . The bike feels like something one could ride just about anywhere.