Sunday, March 8, 2009

More info on First Frame

Well, in case any of you are out there wondering just what bits and pieces I used to put together a bike designed and built by me for me, here goes!

The frameset itself is built from cro-moly steel tubing provided by United Bicycle Institute, and I believe most of it is Deddaciai brand from Italy. The main tubes are "oversize" outer diameters, which for steel road bikes means the seat and top tubes are 28.6mm and the downtube is 31.8mm. The wall thickness of the main tubes is .9mm at the ends and .6mm in the middle. The variable wall thickness is what is known as "double butted" tubing, and a special process in manufacture gives you extra thickness at the joints, and thinner walls in the less-stressed middles of the tubes. The lugs (the sleeves that help connect the tubes) are from Henry James, a maker of frame components and framebuilding tools. They also make the remarkable jigs that we used at UBI to set up and braze the main triangle of the frame. The bottom bracket shell is from Pacenti Cycle design, and the fork crown is an Everest cyclocross model. All of these components were easy to work with, although the bottom bracket shell needed a fair amount of tweaking to accomodate the large tire clearance and curved chainstays I chose. That's not a fault of the shell... it's just a reflection of the challenges inherent in what I was trying to achieve.

Now, once it came time to turn this all into a whole bike, I picked out a combination of components that I have used before and found reliable and suited to the uses I planned for the bike. As I've said before, one of the ideas behind this bike was to create a solid, stable, comfortable bike for loaded touring on and off road. By "off road" I simply mean dirt roads and moderate dirt paths, along the line of canal towpaths and such, not serious singletrack better suited to a true mountain bike.

With this in mind, I started with the idea that I wanted some very solid, reliable wheels. I've really grown to appreciate the Velocity Dyad rim from Australia as a touring rim. I first saw them on a visit to Co-Motion Cycles in Oregon, a maker of tandem and touring bikes, and I was quite impressed at the time. I have since had the opportunity to build a number of wheels with them, and very much like the results. It's a solid, strong rim, that builds up nice and straight and round without a lot of effort. And it seems to result in a very reliable wheel. The hubs on both wheels are Shimano XT mountain bike hubs, which I like for their excellent seals. There are certainly more expensive hubs out there, but I'm not convinced I'd have gained that much, if anything, by opting for something else. The spokes are tried and true DT Competition double butted spokes, 2.0mm/1.8mm/2.omm, stainless steel with brass nipples. Not exotic, but strong and reliable. The cassette on the rear is an eight cog, 12-32 tooth cassette from Nashbar... I don't really need an 11 tooth cog, and there aren't a lot of other options out there. It's a good combination with the Sugino XD600 crankset, which has 26/36/46 tooth chain rings. I've used the same tooth counts on my Miyata 1000, and it seems pretty much ideal for loaded touring for me. The pedals are the new Shimano M530, a really nice design that features an SPD fitting on one side and a very comfortable flat platform on the other, so I can use either special cycling shoes (or sandals, for me) or any old shoes I have on.

The derailleurs are Shimano LX series. The rear is pretty much a current model, but the front is a couple of generations back. At the moment, the shifters are Shimano Rapidfire thumb shifters, but when I swap the handlebars out, I will go to Shimano bar end shifters instead. One disappointment with the shifters is that they don't have a "trim" function to prevent chain rub on the front derailleur, but other than that, they work just fine. The bars on the other hand, aren't really working for me. I designed the bike based on my Miyata, and how it fits me, but it has drop handlebars, and a short top tube. This bike, with the same short top tube, but with bars that sweep further back and don't sweep as far forward as drops, feels too "upright" in position. So it's drop bars next. I'm not sure if I'll just use my tried and true Nitto 115 bars, a pretty classic "Maes bend", or if I'll branch out and try something else. Lots of folks seem to love the slightly upswept "randonneur" bars, but when I tried them briefly years ago, they felt a little odd. Chances are I'll start with the 115s, since I have a set handy.

The brakes are older Shimano XT II cantilever brakes, which work really well, and look pretty to boot. I managed to buy a set of new old stock brakes a couple of years ago, and that was what I had in mind when I built the frame. Unfortunately, after building the frame, I changed my mind and bought a set of modern Shimano cantilevers... but spacing on the brake bosses is different with modern brakes, so they didn't really work. That's ok, the XTs are really great, and I'm sure I'll find a use for the newer brakes another time.

Finally, the accessories! I toyed with several options for fenders, but settled on the Zeppelin style from Velo Orange, a small importer of classically styled bicycle parts in Annapolis, MD. I wrote about a visit to their showroom with a friend a while back. Very cool stuff, and a very neat company. And the fenders are great! A very pretty shape, and a very useful profile and sturdy construction, while still lightweight. They were a little trickier to install than my usual SKS plastic fenders, but worth it. And the retail cost on the two is very nearly the same.

The rack is a Tubus Cargo, a very nice tubular cro-moly steel rack from Germany. I've not owned one before, but have seen and installed some on bikes at our shop, and they're really excellent racks. My only regret is that the silver version isn't imported to the US. Ah well. For future tours, I plan to install a "low-rider" style rack from Tubus, the Tara. I didn't get the chance to braze on the mid-fork mounts for that rack, but they make a very nice adapter clamp that will work just fine. With that combination I should be able to carry anything I could possibly need in front and rear panniers and on top of the rear rack if need be. For day to day use, I have the Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag. Plenty big enough for the stuff I carry to and from work or on day rides, and there's even room for a few groceries, if need be. That's where the "Longflap" comes in... the top flap on the bag actually has an extended panel that folds back on itself for normal use, but unfolds to give you a bit more capacity if you need it. It's kind of like the expansion feature of a nice piece of luggage, and very handy.

In the smaller accesories, I fell back on what I've used and liked before, with one exception. The tail light is the same Planet Bike Blinky 7 I have on most of my other bikes... it's bright, easy to mount, and has a very wide field of view. Plus, the company contributes lots of money to bicycle advocacy programs. On top of all this, it's a very affordable light for all of it's qualities, at about $18 retail. For the headlight, I opted to try something new... that's a Cateye EL530 on there, a single LED with a very well designed reflector that casts a very bright beam of light at the center, with a good amount of "spill" around the main beam so you can see things at the periphery and motorists can see you from the sides. So far, I'm really impressed with it. I'm not as fond of Cateye's mounting hardware as I am of Planet Bike's, but currently this light is the brightest I've seen of the self-contained battery powered lights. For warning fellow path users, I have an Incredibell Brass Duet, which lets out a very nice double-ding tone, which seems to get folks' attention without startling them too badly. And to track my mileage and such, I've just installed a Sigma BC1106 computer. I'm not really Mr. Cyclecomputer, but I do like to know how far I've gone on a ride. I record the information on a spreadsheet pretty consistently, but never really do anything beyond enter it. It's not a "training tool" or anything... just a curiousity I guess.

So what's left? At the moment I need to figure out the handlebar situation, which will also mean new brake levers and shifters, as I noted above. I have a set of wider tires on order as well. The current tires are a favorite of mine, the Panaracer Pasela 700x35, but since I designed the bike to take wider tires, I will be getting a pair of Schwalbe's Marathon Supremes in 700x40mm, which should be great for rougher surfaces like the C&O Canal. Other than that, the bike's basically done, and now it's all about riding it and enjoying it!


Peter said...

Hi Tim,
Saw your posting on the Bridgestone RB-T and need some suggestions. We're in Dunn Loring, right next to Vienna. Going thru the basement we came across my daughter's Bridgestone RB-T, unridden for the past 12 years and all dusty. Since I'm not a bike person, can you suggest who might be interested and what it might be worth. I've taken a photo but don't know how to attach it here. If you have an email address, I could send it.

Tim said...

Rochelle -

My email address is Depending on the size, I may know someone who might be interested in the RB-T. Please do send a picture and info.

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