Friday, February 29, 2008

Ellis Cycles

Hope you enjoyed that documentary on the English framebuilders. The uninitiated might get the impression that what those gents do is a dying art but not so. It's true that the big companies have gone to faster and cheaper methods of frame manufacture. But as anyone who followed the coverage of the recent North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show already knows, we are actually in the middle of a new Golden Age of lugged steel bicycles. I have been corresponding with a gentleman who has just hung out the shingle after working for several years at Serotta and Waterford. That's him with the torch in the photo above working on the very first frame that will go out under his own name. He's David Wages and you can pay him a visit at EllisCycles

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cool Hotwheels

If every kid started out with something this beautiful, there'd be no such thing as ugly bikes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

English Torchmen

Here's a great old school framebuilding video

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Capello

Francesco Capello has done a whole series of bicycle paintings. To see them all, just visit his website

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Velo Loco

What's wrong with this picture? Everybody is going to have a different answer to that one. All I know is that I always wear both shoes.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Zero Emissions

Well, not quite zero emissions but close. The last time I bought gas was five weeks ago today and I still have well over a quarter of a tank. So you don't have to drive a Prius to minimize your carbon footprint. The simple way is to just not drive whatever vehicle you happen to own. We do almost all of our errands and a good bit of our socializing either on foot or by bike. Of course it helps to live in a situation where that's possible but you get the idea. Every mile on a bike means an ever-so-slightly greener planet and it all adds up when you do the math.

Now, about the painting...

Artist: Francesco Capello (Italian, b. 1944)
Title: Bike and Gas Pump, 1996
Medium: Oil on linen, 76 x 100cm

Friday, February 22, 2008


This fellow has spent a lot of time on a bicycle!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Those Clever Danes

I found this on a Copenhagen-based cycling blog. It's a combination bike rack and public tire pump. Very cool idea and flawless Scandinavian design. I read recently that something like 30% of all Danes commute on two wheels making them just about the bikingest people on the planet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Project #3

The Nottingham posts got me to thinking about that $5 Raleigh mixte townie out in the shed. I got it aiming to cannibalize it for parts (I recently saw a heron crank sell for $38 on eBay) but in the back of my mind I was also thinking grocery-getter for my wife. The rustworm has eaten the fenders but most of the rest is OK except for surface pitting so yesterday, I started tearing it down. Everything on this bike is steel: Some alloy components are definitely in order. I already have a suitable stem and handlebar and I know where to find some wheels for cheap. So all I really need is a mountain bike seatpost, a chain, tires, a patina'd Brooks saddle and a few bits and cables and she'll be ridable. Assuming the scrounging goes well, this shouldn't take long at all. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Bicycle Race

The Bicycle Race, 1912 by Lyonel Feininger (American, 1871-1956), oil on canvas 80 x 100cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Thanks to my pal Kris T for sending this one!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Raleigh Headbadge

Speaking of Nottingham, here's the Raleigh heron, one of the best ever headbadge designs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nottingham Calling

I used to own a 70's Raleigh Record. Like most classic Raleigh road bikes, it looked great but this one was made of plumbing pipe and must've weighed well over 30 pounds. With no regrets, I found it a new home. I'd love to have another Nottingham bicycle sometime, though one of higher pedigree. A vintage Record Ace would do nicely. Manufactured from 1933 to 1958, it was the company's top-of-the-line lightweight, built entirely of Reynolds 531 and available with either a fixed rear hub or a Sturmey-Archer fourspeed. All the components were the best available at the time. I suppose I'll be looking for one of these for quite a while as they are now rare as hen's teeth, especially in North America. The fixie in the photo above is the 1955 model that was ridden by Ray Booty on 6 August 1956 when he became the first person to clock a sub-four-hour 100 mile time trial. It is now owned by a fan who bought it directly from Mr. Booty in 1995. The restoration looks spot-on except for that red plastic water bottle!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One Is All You Need

Every day I ride and every day I am is all you need.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Eye of the Beholder

Even though I have two projects going, I still fantasize about building a new bike from the frame up. These days, new frames with threaded forks are getting harder to find. Most everything is threadless unless you get into the handmade realm which is more than my wallet can stand. I have no problem with the threadless technology. Seems great. Lighter and easier to work on. Having just wrestled with my 70's Motobecane's headset, simple maintenance is really attractive. Problem is that the threadless stems I have seen are all really unattractive appearance-wise. I was lurking in a bike forum the other day and some riders were talking about threadless stems so I Googled a couple they said were "beautiful". Whoa! They were both clunky, logo'd and hairy butt ugly. They looked like bones in a caveman cartoon. I couldn't believe those guys thought they were nice. To each his own I guess. Anyway, I'm thinking I'll never build a new bike with the threadless system just because I'll never find a good-looking stem. Enter Aaron Hayes and Courage Bicycle Mfg. Co. of Portland, OR. The stem in the photo above is his design and man-o-man is that elegant or what? Beautiful! So there's hope. Leave it to the indie builders to solve a problem the industry didn't even seem to know existed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sheldon Brown, 1944-2008

In a world filled with takers, Professor Brown just gave and gave and gave some more. The bicycle community won't see the likes of him again. Thank you Sheldon and RIP.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Cyclist, 1913

By Natalia Goncharova (Russian, 1881-1962), oil on canvas, 78x105cm, The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why Steel?

The text below comes from the Henry James website:

Steel has a lot going for it. No other frame material can make all these claims:

  • Tensile strengths of steel bicycle tubing have doubled in the last few years, leading to lighter and livelier, and most importantly, more comfortable frames.
  • Steel frames can be brazed at low temperatures with minimal metallurgical effects because, unlike in welding, the tube is not melted.
  • Brazed steel frames need little or no alignment after building.
  • Esthetically and technically superior brazed lug construction can only be used for steel frames. Steel lugs reinforce the joints allowing lighter gauge tubing. This leads to longer lived frames and a more responsive ride.
  • Steel has a higher density than other frame materials so it provides a more lively ride and better feedback when riding at close to the limit of traction.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Russian Fixie, 1935

Collective Farm Girl On A Bicycle, 1935 by Aleksandr Deineka (Russian, 1899-1969), oil on canvas, 120 x 220cm, The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. This artist did a whole series of cycling paintings in the 30's but I have not been able to find them online.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fourteen To Six

14 to 6 sounds like a football score but it's actually Phase One of the Bridgestone RB-2 conversion. I removed the 39 tooth chainring and replaced the 53 with a 50 I had laying around. Also gone is the front derailleur and one cog from the rear hub cassette leaving me with six gears instead of fourteen. Only 5 more to go. But it will likely be a while before the RB is a fixed gear ride. I plan to have a new rear wheel built around a White Industries ENO hub and a Mavic Open Pro rim but that little number will set me back some serious bucks so I'm waiting til I can finance the purchase with eBay sales or a windfall. I will also be replacing the crank with a 170mm spider and adding MKS touring pedals in place of the track units that came stock . Not shown in the photo but already on the bike are a Nitto 120mm Technomic stem, Nitto Noodle bars in 46cm and vintage DiaCompe non-aero brake levers. I may end up grinding off the braze-ons and having the frame painted but that'll be after the build is complete and I've ridden her fixed for a while. In the meantime there's a nice but hilly 20 mile ride in my neighbourhood that's waiting for me and my six gears.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

No Lycra

I have been riding road bikes for 30 years. In all that time, I have never once fantasized about racing. It never appealed to me at all. Not that I don't like to go fast occasionally because I do. Occasionally. But mostly I cycle for the exercise and to see the world at a slower pace than an automobile allows. And since I've never had the racer dream, I have never once considered wearing lycra. And not just because I'd look ridiculous in it (I would, trust me). I like to be able to jump on my bike in whatever clothes I happen to be wearing and I don't want to look like a Tour de France competitor when I arrive wherever I'm going. I'm just a regular guy who happens to ride a bike. So no lycra, no company logos, and no shoes I can't walk in when I'm off the bike. Maybe I'm a retrogrouch but I had the exact same mindset when I was in my twenties. Simply riding my bicycle is the only statement I need to make.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Patience Pays

When building up a project bike, having patience is definitely an asset. I started converting the Motobecane last summer and now I am still two steps away from being ready to send photos to the Fixed Gear Gallery. There is a little story behind the beautiful chrome, lugged NOS Phillipe stem in the photo. It was on eBay but I missed it. I wasn't outbid, I just didn't bid at all. I was kicking myself when I found out that French bicycles have a 22.0mm diameter quill spec and the Nitto stem I'd planned to use wouldn't work. So I wrote to the fellow who'd won the auction and let him know I'd be interested in buying it if for some reason it didn't work for him. Well, turns out he'd bought it just because it looked so cool. He didn't have a specific use for it and since I did, he agreed to sell it to me for what he'd paid + shipping. He's a bike mechanic so he understands the component fetish. So I sent him a check. It had to clear his bank in Georgia. A long, long time went by but two days ago, the stem finally arrived. I installed it along with a very elegant Gipiemme/Modolo brake lever and a period-correct Gran-Compe brake, both from eBay. I just need one last component before paint. The stem has a clamp diameter of 25.0mm which means only French handlebars will work. I am using the original bar for now but it's too narrow (39cm) for comfort so I will be ordering some 44cm rando bars in 25.0 from Velo Orange. I'll have to wait just a bit longer but she's almost done!