Thursday, March 31, 2022

Aluminum 650 single speed MTB frame for a local

This one has Ahrens sliding dropouts with Paragon inserts. The frame will be equipped with a Fox fork and dropper post. Both the rear brake and dropper post have internal routing. 
The seat stay yoke is also from Ahrens. 


Monday, March 28, 2022

7005 gravel 650 frame going to Montana

This one is pretty light , low and long. It should be nice and stable at high speeds. 


Steel gravel frame going to Canada

This one has a few unusual features. It has a steel fork that is tapered and has internal routing for a front light powered by a generator hub. It also has rack and fender mounts.
Another feature is the oversized seat tube for a 31.6 mm dropper post with internal routing. The frame also has rack and fender mounts. 
The customer sent an aluminum stem to be painted to match the frame. This one is a Ritchey.

 The whole package is finished off with a copper Jen Green headbadge.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Steel rim brake 650 gravel frame and fork going to Kansas

Here's another level top tube frame with steel fork but this time its a 650. This one is built for long reach TRP brake calipers and should take a 650x45 tire. The geometry is similar to the 40th anniversary touring frame I built for the last NAHBS in Sacramento. 
Since there's no big hills where this bike will be ridden there wouldn't be much to gain from having diac brakes. Also, the customer has wheels and parts to build up the bike already so this way he does not have to shell out a bunch of cash to build his new gravel bike. With room for 45 tires, this bike should handle the long gravel stretches in Eastern Kansas well but still be pretty quick on the pavement. 
There's a lot of nods to tradition with the level top tube, crowned fork and road cable routing. I think I have a lot of the same parts in my spares so you never know- I might build something like this up as well- first I have to sell a few bikes to make room !

Friday, March 18, 2022

Fillet brazed road frame with crowned fork for bay area rider

This frame and fork pretty much occupied my week in its entirety. Constructing the frame did not take long but the fillet finishing was pretty much a whole day's work. I think I took it to the level where it should look very nice after paint.
This frame is a copy of a Saturn frame made by the late John Padgett about 30 years ago. I think that the Saturns were some of the nicest fillet brazed frames of the last century, particularly the tandems. I hope that this one looks as nice when it is all painted and assembled as the original bike. The only departure from the Saturn is that this bike has a 1-1/8" steerer - a small concession to modernity-essentially making it easier to source the headset and stem. It will also stiffen up the front end a taste.
The customer even supplied NOS Shimano SF-22 dropouts- the dropouts of choice back in the '80's. They were tidy looking and durable. The only issue I had was that the angle between the seat and chain stays didn't work with this tall of a frame so I had to do some bronze filling to make the seatstay intersection look a bit nicer. It was a fun project but very labor intensive- the more I looked at it , the more finishing I wanted to do. Today I was able to look it over and say to myself : "pretty good for not having done one in about 15 years plus !"


Saturday, March 12, 2022

The end of an era : UBI frame building school

 A few months ago the last UBI frame class was held. Since around 1992 United Bicycle institute in Ashland, Oregon had been holding classes in frame building that were arguably the best anywhere in the country , if not the world. Nobody else had a facility and a system that was so well thought out and so complete - this was a factor of not just the founder Ron Sutphin's input but the experience of the staff and all who came to the school to teach. There were a lot of cooks in this kitchen over the years and the result was a truly all-encompassing approach to teaching people how to build their first bicycle frame.

While I state that many people shaped the style of instruction at UBI, it all started with Ron , the founder. He had an uncanny ability to put together nearly fool-proof systems to make it possible for unexperienced people to grasp the fundamentals of frame construction as quickly as possible- this was very important as the class lasted all of two weeks. In the two weeks a person who had never held a torch in many cases would learn the skills and exit the class with a rideable frame. Considering the amount one has to learn to put a frame together - bicycle design, welding , brazing, alignment , some minor machining, fixturing , it is really remarkable that someone with no prior experience would complete the class and have a frame that they themselves built in just two weeks. 

The class starts out pretty low key but in a matter of days turns into a stressful pressure cooker for many of the students. The frustration with what is not a simple or easy process was a lot for your average student at UBI to deal with. The staff-including Ron- also had to deal with stressful situations, constantly trying to keep the students on track and on schedule. I know this as I was a guest instructor at UBI for nine years. I learned quite a bit from the experience and value my time at UBI a great deal. I think that I am better at my craft for having been part of the UBI family in my limited way, only one class per year, usually in August. I deeply regret that there will be no more classes in frame building at UBI. 

The whole frame building fever really got going around the late 1990's. UBI already had building classes but the demand for the classes started getting to be too much for the small Ashland school to handle. After a number of years UBI opened a second school in Portland to handle some of the volume. This lasted for around a decade and after awhile the demand for the classes started waning. Around six years ago the Portland campus stopped having the classes. Once Covid hit the writing was on the wall for the frame building program-only half size classes were permitted and the economics to keep the program going were not adding up. I can't say for certain what was the complete reason for the school to end the program but there were many difficulties in keeping it going- probably too many. 

Many great people have come through UBI- both as students and instructors or in some cases, both. Some of my students went on to form their own companies building frames. On thing about UBI that I really admired was how they were very upfront with how difficult it would be to go from being a student at UBI and then attempting to make a living building bicycle frames. They didn't tell fairy tales about how after a two week course they would be ready to put up a website and start a successful business. On the last day of the two week class there would always be a Q&A session with the instructor about the business of frame building. Since I am a full time builder , I would be able to tell the students what I went through to get established and become a sustainable business. What I would say would not be very upbeat or positive- I really struggled for years before I considered that I actually could make a living building frames- and I'm one of the few lucky ones. I let each and every student know that building a frame is something almost anyone can do- however, building for a living is something that almost nobody can do. UBI backed me up on this opinion completely .
Now that these amazing classes are no more , it signals kind of an end to a period marked by huge enthusiasm for the craft of building - both at the school , on the internet and at the bike shows and by the bike riding public. People still order frames and many builders are busier than ever. The difference is that the rabid curiosity about the building process seems to have run its course. It might come back and there might be need for a frame building school again but one thing for certain, it won't be UBI - that ship sadly has sailed. I am glad that I was a minor part of the program as it was truly a rewarding experience for me and it taught me ways to do things that I had not fully thought about, even after building 100's of bicycle frames for several decades. I want to thank Ron, Denise ,Gary ( yeah, even you Gary..), Rich, Nate, Mike, Jeff  and all the UBI crew for letting me be part of the whole experiment. It was some of the best times of my frame building misadventure- I could count on every August to be a break from my own shop and a chance to do something to bring the next generation into the craft. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Steel gravel/commuter for Austin, Tx.

It was late in the day so the photos are a bit dark but I wanted to document this one before it got hung up waiting for powdercoat. 
This one has a fairly stout mix of Columbus Zona to withstand the rigors of commuting and long dirt road events. There's routing for a rear light and three bottle mounts. 
The frame will be paired to an Enve Adventure fork and will be able to take 700x47 tires. It also should be OK with 650x2" tires if you don't mind a little pedal scrape in the turns. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Steel Gravel frame for Marin county.

I still need to build a fork for this one but here's the frame ready for paint. It will take 700x47 tires and will be mated to a shop-built steel fork that will have flat mount. I have been building a lot of these forks as of late as some people prefer the lower cost and longevity of steel. Having to replace a carbon fork every 4-5 years can get costly, even if it is only very 4-5 years. 
This frame is all Columbus Zona so it will be pretty durable over the long run but it is definitely not the heaviest steel that I build with. I have not weight the frame yet but it is probably somewhere in the 4 lb. 6 oz. range - not bad for a steel frame in this size. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Steel 29er SS/Geared

There's a few different ways to build a single speed and this is the version with Paragon 'Rocker' dropouts. The other two methods are EBB or Paragon 'Slider'dropouts. The rockers are maybe the most economical and clean looking style so that's what I used on this build as this frame might wind up being my own bike.
I also used a head tube that will take an integrated drop-in headset. This is the style I use on nearly all my aluminum frames but rarely use on steel. The advantage of this style is that headset bearing replacement is easier and the head tube winds up being a bit longer - this works well on bikes like this where the tubing is fairly large diameter and head tubes are usually short enough to make a small landing place for the top and down tube to be welded to. Frequently the top and down tube will overlap, creating a more difficult mitering and fit-up situation. 
This frame also has internal dropper post routing. The rocker dropouts are angled such that the rear brake is down tube routed rather than top tube routed. There are several inserts available for the rockers so that post,IS or even flat mount brakes will fit. The rocker dropout is usually a $ 130 upgrade on the stock steel frame price.