Well, here she is, with the tan leather bar tape from Velo Orange. It's not really the same color as the saddle, as you can see... it's closer to the color of the straps on the saddlebag. I'm hoping some neat's foot oil, as Velo Orange recommends treating it, will darken it a bit. It's still a nice look... the leather saddle, leather straps on bag, leather bar tape, leather mud flap on the fender... they all harmonize, even if they don't match perfectly.
Also new are the tires. I designed the bike to accept tires up to 42mm wide, with the fenders, and I wanted to get a set of tires that size, both to prove the point and for use on rough surfaces like the C&O Canal here in DC, or even the footpath I ride part of the way to work. So I took off the original Panaracer Paselas that were labeled 700Cx35, and put on a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, labeled 700Cx40, with an ERTRO size of 42-622.
Okay, to make that somewhat decipherable...the "700Cx40" designation is the generic "size" designation of the tire. 700C is the most common nominal diameter of "road" tire.. the second number, after the x is the width... theoretically. In the ERTRO (I can't for the life of me remember what that stands for now) standards, the first number before the dash is the width, the second is the diameter of the tire at the bead, where it hooks on the rim, which is 622mm for road tires. But wait, you say... the Schwalbes say they are 40mm wide in the "size" designation and 42mm wide in the ERTRO! Yeah, well welcome to the fun of bicycle tire sizing, where nothing is even remotely clear or consistent. GENERALLY, it's been my experience that the width listed under the ERTRO system is more accurate. Guess what? In the case of these tires, it's NOT! Turns out they measure a tad shy of 40mm wide, more like 38 or 39, actually. Argh. The whole point was to put the widest tires I could fit, and these really aren't more than 2 or 3 mm wider than the Panaracers. Ah well... they're supposed to be really good tires for touring, and are probably a bit more rugged than the Panaracers... and besides, I've paid for them already. The only real bummer is that the tan sidewalls of the Panaracers were nicer looking with the various brown bits on the bike. I can live with the black sidewalls for now. I just wish these were really 42mm wide.
Anyway, at this point the only thing I don't have on the bike is a front "low rider" rack for panniers. Until I'm ready to head out on a multi-day camping trip, I can hold off on that, but eventually I'll be putting a Tubus Tara rack on there. Those bike-savvy readers with sharp eyes will notice that the fork lacks brazed on upper attachment points for that rack... yeah, I know. I ran out of time in building the frame. It's ok, because the folks at Tubus have what looks like a really good mounting bracket to attach to the fork. Not as slick as a braze-on, but it will work fine.
So there she is, basically done! I'm very pleased with how the bike has turned out.. it looks sharp, but more importantly rides really nicely! Stable and smooth and comfortable, but by no means sluggish. Sure, I wouldn't use it for road racing, but it's nimble enough unloaded for my purposes. Sometime this spring I'll load it up with camping gear and head out for at least an overnight. I'll write then how it handles a load. Stay tuned!