Author Topic: Bitsy in pieces

James Clerk Maxwell

  • Pataphysicist
Bitsy in pieces
« on: June 13, 2022 »
I'm gathering parts for a new frame to be built, which is a whole other story involving a cart that turns out to be a fair distance in front of a horse. Today brake cable, bar tape, a chain, and pedals were delivered. I'd take a picture, but you know, brake cable, bar tape, a chain, and pedals. Maybe when the cranks arrive.

Here's a nice shot of today's birthday boy instead, informing his wife that he'll be needing the dog for an experiment which laid the foundation for Schrödinger's cat.

"Don't worry, it'll be quick and mostly painless."

Steel is real boring*
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2022 »

I remain frozen in indecision, which has the benefit of being the cheapest state if you don't count my new overstock of parts. Pulled then unpulled the trigger on a Burls titanium frame. Formerly Russian made, these now come from a Farther East supplier who might be fine, but I'm not thrilled about being a test case should warranty issues arise. This is not a knock on Justin, it's just the way it is.

Titanium is more of a gamble than steel. That hasn't stopped me from wanting it, and heart usually wins over head. I'm currently passing time mooning over a Seven with a trustworthy lifetime warranty priced at approximately twice my means.

Direct from China remains a possibility if you don't mind setting aside some of your savings for shipping for possible warranty repair.

Head says go with a high end steel frame & veteran builder.

Meanwhile my 15 year old £300 aluminium Langster keeps on keeping on.

* I'm willing to entertain the notion that it isn't. The problem is, I simply don't have experience with quality steel. It doesn't matter how many glowing references it has: I've got to feel it for myself. Call me Doubting Vladimir.

Bikes on the brain
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2022 »
Gregor, born 200 years ago today, put me in mind of my first bike after becoming a born again cyclist: a 'hybrid', long since stolen. Curious about the difference between that and gravel bikes, I consulted BikeRadar and got as far as "The major difference between most gravel bikes and hybrid bikes is the cockpit" before fleeing. Maybe the heat has sucked the curiosity out of me.

As for my next bike, yesterday my wife suggested a coin toss. Titanium won the first one, which should have settled the matter, but we ended up doing half a dozen just to make sure. The law of averages bowed to steel.

Early this morning on my ride, making a serious attempt to use my brain, I made what seemed like a firm decision. By the end of the day I had done a 180.

To be continued.

(Not what I would call the most perspicacious lyrics, but "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice" has always stuck in my head.)

Long strange trip
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2022 »
Woodrup have landed the account. They are being instructed to fabricate a bicycle using their finest Reynolds 853 and/or Columbus whatever steel, bearing in mind all my needs:

• Track ends to facilitate singlespeeding
• 130mm OLN so I can use regular road wheels with rim brakes, which I understand are rapidly becoming irregular as 135mm disk brake equipped bikes muscle them out; I'm content to sink deeper into the retro mire
• Horizontal top tube, which I shall be checking with a spirit level
• Must be light enough to make my heart sing
• Yet strong enough to withstand the awesome forces of honking up the hills surrounding NACF HQ
• I'll be having a steel fork while they're at it, which I may wish to initially exchange with a used carbon fork if it isn't too forked. [Looks forked. - Ed.]
• You mean it has to be painted as well? Goddamnit.

When my Litespeed bit the dust through no fault of its own
the horror
A younger and more foolish version of myself had holes drilled in the down tube to admit shifters. The holes finally sprouted cracks. I had it repaired. They cracked again. The end.

I was left in a quandary, which is not necessarily an unpleasant state for a cyclist provided not too much time is spent there. My stable was now down two road bikes, one strictly an emergency ride because reasons, the other (the Langster) fine, but given its composition

and that it was getting on in years, not suitable as an only bike.

As I have loudy lamented, letting go of titanium was difficult after 22 years of the stuff. Believe it or not, its most prized quality to me wasn't its lightness – carbon obviously wins there – but that it wasn't painted: that plain fact meant that I didn't have to be precious with it. No worrying about scratches. And I just liked the look.

Stock singlespeed ti is pretty thin on the ground, as are those companies which offer an affordable custom build bundled with confidence, which in any event had taken a battering lately.

I've never been big on eBay, but started checking in every day, apparently willing to trade confidence & bespoke for big $avings. At one point I spotted what looked like a catch. The man's story was that he was a gardener who liked to collect bikes. Very nice bikes. The more I heard ("After work I pick up odd jobs...") the more I realised the provenence of his collection might be in question, and it would perhaps be best to give this one a pass.

Then one morning I was riding my break-in-case-of-emergency bike, which I take out now and then even when there isn't an emergency, and two things struck me: I could live with paint (it's a nice shade of blue, though that's probably not the future for my new bike), and it doesn't fit me that well; in other words, fit is important (duh). My main bike has to feel as good as possible. That means custom, and due to my economic station in life, steel. And that was OK. In fact I should be grateful I can access good steel. So the decision was made and I was finally at peace.

For about a week.

Then this bloody thing came roaring in:

I'd seen it before but immediately dismissed it because IT'S CLEARLY UNSUITABLE. And yet... could it be made to work? My Litespeed took a magic gear; if I crossed my fingers hard enough, maybe this would too.

(The other ways of stripping your gears are too clunky, except for the eccentric hub option. Unfortunately White Industries don't seem to be making theirs anymore. Used was a possibility, but the only one I saw on eBay didn't look so hot.)

Hell, why not get two Spitfires? One as a backup to double the 2 year warranty (such is the way my mind operates). It would still be cheaper than one good steel bike.

The measurements looked OK, though as others have pointed out, the sizing is a head scratcher.

Less than an hour after the idea had impacted my brain, I had bought one. The next day it arrived. I'd ended up with a Waltly after all – apparently designed by none other than Mark Reilly.

I'd also ordered a chain tensioner from Wiggle, somehow having relented in the clunky dept. You see what ti can do to me? It's a sickness.

No need to repeat myself. I wasn't immediately thrilled. The fork was also on the scary side of lightness, which was kind of great but also kind of terrifying.

There was no headset. Given the already jawdropping bargain it would be churlish to bitch about that. As it happens, this omission undid the entire mad plan. It gave me time to contemplate the likelihood of success as I eyed that too shiny finish.

The tensioner was hideous. A regular derailleur would also do the job and might look nicer. If only I liked derailleurs. As much as I wanted this plan to work, my sense of aesthetics was going to have its way after all. Almost as quickly as I had fallen in love with the idea, I wanted out. The only thing that would turn it around is if a magic gear was indeed possible. 

This was tricky. To show any sign of use at all would endanger the possibility of returning the frame. I partially installed a new bottom bracket (no grease of course) and proceeded to try the four combinations of chainring and sprocket available to me, taking care to not even let the chain touch it.

And there we have it (along with that work of art). I might’ve gotten away with it if the chain wasn’t new and unstretchedworn. It also wouldn't have been ideal being stuck with one specific chainring which has never been available in abundance anyway.

It doesn't exactly sound like I'm running into the arms of Woodrup, does it. And yet I'm confident they'll do me right. They're happy to base the measurements on an existing frame (despite dire warnings), and they can put together a good email; amazing how many can't manage even that. They also keep active social media accounts, which while nowhere on my list of requirements, is a welcome sign of life.

Three or so months from now a box will be heading back down that drive and I'll be riding my new non-titanium bike back up it.

Dialling it in
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2022 »
This is the guy who will be building my new frame.

Kevin Sayles

We had a chat yesterday. Unless I misheard, he'll be using a quadrupole mass analyzer to get it just right.

It's all a bit beyond me.

It's real alright
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2022 »

Not quite the colour I was after, but working from a picture isn't ideal. Having painfully decided against titanium, I didn't want to ape it, and was hoping for something a little darker.

click then quickly unclick

It was fillet brazed, which I must have been told before immediately forgetting, at the time not knowing the difference between that and the sort of welds I'm used to. It turns out I'm not enamoured of the look. It'll grow on me, like the colour.

The Idiot
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2022 »
Quote from: Maxim Gorky
When everything is easy one quickly gets stupid.

I'd sent Woodrup a frame from which to gather measurements, as well as a headset and bottom bracket to install. I'm not equipped to deal with headset cups (the rest of it took some figuring out too!). While I'm a veteran when it comes to fitting old fashioned square taper bottom brackets, I decided to treat myself to the luxury of having it done for me. Alas they lost it, I'm guessing because I'd put it in a bunch of bubblewrap to help fill the box and the whole wad must have gotten thrown out. I didn't discover this until the new frame arrived sans BB, which did vex me greatly.

Off to Hubjub for a replacement. Woodrup reimbursed me.

Getting it in was unexpectedly hard. (Likewise the seatpost didn't just slide in like I'm used to. Something to do with steel or it being a new frame?) I barely managed the last few turns of the wrench when it slipped and smacked the seat tube, leaving a trail of heartbreaking scratches

and a bleeding knuckle.

Join the club

I rarely lose my temper, but off it went into the chilly autumn afternoon along with the wrench, which very much needed throwing, my workshop being the great outdoors. I was mad at they who had inadvertently set in motion this series of unfortunate events, and incandescent at my own stupidity for not thinking to wrap swaddle all tubing in harm's way. A restrained email to the shop asking for their advice yielded a "Bugger!" and promise of a pot of paint.

Have I mentioned how much I hate paint?

The colour, as it turns out, is fine. I could've gone for the hue of the sky above

Lighten up

That's more like it

but chose road below because I'm a roadie. Call it pewter. Classy, I think. Boring, my wife thinks. Most would probably agree. One must be a connoisseur of subtlety as the light plays on it to achieve a true appreciation.

As to the geometry… people had warned me against trying to replicate an existing frame, but it made sense to me, given that I had been measured for it. The salesman assured me this wasn't a problem. I'd taken note of the figures on the final drawing and not raised a fuss over inconsistencies because they seemed slight and I was after all in the hands of a very experienced builder. It was only when I got the wheels on and straddled it that I realised how high the top tube is. Let's just say that some very relevant parts of my anatomy reflexively hiked themselves up on first contact. So that was a worry.

The chainstays are longer than those on my other frames; not much on paper but looks like more when it's in front of you. My understanding is that shorter is better for climbing. I'd mentioned, possibly several hundred times, that I do a lot of climbing.

First impressions of the fork had been negative, because although it's actually rather lovely, my old carbon fork seemed to suit the frame better. It rapidly grew on me (fortunately not à la Flann O'Brien).

I finished putting it together

This is about two and a half pounds/whatever that is in kilos heavier than the aluminium or titanium that I'm used to, and is most noticeable when carrying it up and down our loooong (1/10 of mile / 0.160934 of a km) and seasonably muddy drive.

and went for a quick spin, still in a foul mood and more than half convinced I'd spent £1500+ on a bike I'd loathe.

I didn't loathe it. In fact it did exactly what it's supposed to do: carry me comfortably, apart from the saddle working its way clockwise because some idiot hadn't sufficiently tightened it or brought along a hex key. (I wasn't immediately a fan of the built-in seatpost collar either, but hadn't noticed it in the drawings. The upside of course is less scratched paint.)

A few more adjustments, including replacing what turned out to be a shockingly unround Stronglight chainring, then another test. It was looking like we'd get on well.

Today I took it on its first proper outing and can announce a verdict of pleased.* Rides no-handed like a dream, which is far more important to me than most would deem sensible. I'm not yet sure if it's worse up hills than what I'm used to on, say, my lowly Langster – there are a lot of variables that go into such a calculation, including mood, preoccupation with world events or what I'm having for lunch, and the influence of alarming articles about chainstay length – but if it turns out to be a touch harder I'll live with that: just have to get stronger on hills, which is my life's work anyway. On the flat it's speedy enough.

The high top tube isn't a bother.

Should've had the track ends polished. Didn't because of added cost and I assumed the fact that I brought it up meant that the plate where the hub bolts bite would simply remain unpainted. Which brings me to the list of things I would've done differently:

– Made more of an effort at school. Too far back?
– Not assumed anything. At all.

That's it. Short list.

The bolt hole in the chainstay bridge admits none of the bolts in my large collection. Maybe some paint got into it. I've reduced the point size to show that this is a niggle, but still.

There's a tiny 'S' in a heart on the seat tube which I wasn't expecting.

Steel? Sayles? Sam?

To celebrate a fresh start I've made a significant change of cage location from downtube to seatpost tube. Who knew you don't have to be looking at the water bottle all the time.

Go on, judge me

Here it is on today's ride (with incognito pyramid), to give you another chance to appreciate the aforementioned subtle pewter whatever:

Those two will be seeing a lot of each other in years to come.

* I took it out the next day and was marginally less pleased. It doesn't seem quite as springy as my Langster. I may have just been tired. To be honest (a policy not always popular in the cycling world) it's going to take a lot more riding to settle on a verdict.

13 Nov. Not looking as dreamy no-handed downhill, as the full embrace of gravity appears to destabalize it somewhat. We'll see if I can compensate, as they say on Star Trek.

14 Nov. BB? Creaking.

18 Nov. Contacted Woodrup for ideas on what might be causing the noise and got the usual laundry list in return. Didn't really expect them to be able to help long distance.

My current theory is that it's the headset or something else in the front end. Am giving it to a shop to hopefully figure out.

19 Nov. Shop couldn't figure it out. They thought they had – "Rear skewer has to be really tight on your fixie" (it's not fixed gear) – but they hadn't. Suppose I'll have to give another shop a try.

I notice the act of carrying the bike has made an impression of the brake cable on the underside of the top tube. I've also managed to nick the top tube, with a pedal wrench as it happens.

26 Nov. Another shop has discovered that the headtube is slightly deformed. I hadn't seen it as the frame arrived with the headset cups installed. This in addition to a deformed steerer tube (mea culpa: it looks like slightly too many spacers squeezed the top of it into the hollow of the stem). Woodrup suggests that’s what caused the creak, and they may be right. In any event, the frame is on its way back to them for a new head tube.

7 December. Cogitating. Btw, I'm glad I didn't opt to have the track ends (a mini-saga on their own) polished: for some reason, I wasn't aware that this isn't a good idea on a SS.

9 December. Came to the conclusion that the bike should be rebuilt - see previous link. They offered a refund instead. I've accepted it. Thus ends the short life of this frame, at least with me; I expect they might still be able to sell it.