Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I started a post on Sunday about the build I've got underway with the Motobecane, but somehow I lost it.  No big deal -- was still pretty rough.  And in truth the build still has a ways to go, and I probably shouldn't rush that post anyway.  Later... later.

I am inching indirectly forward on that build, though, by making progress lacing wheels for two other bikes!  I have laced Juliana's tubular wheelset (above), and the front wheel for Allyson's Puch, and I'll lace the rear in a demo for both Allyson and my kids on Thursday night.  So when I next step into class on Sunday night, I'll have two 3-cross laced wheelsets to begin tensioning, truing and stress-relieving.  Most exciting is that I laced the front wheel for Allyson here at home, and I pretty much remembered what to do.  I did peek at Jobst Brandt's book here and there, for reassurance, but didn't have to undo anything along the way.

One of the wheelsets these will land on the Motobecane.  I'm growing more and more convinced it will be the more modern wheelset (105 hubs, Velocity rims), and that I won't swap them out over time.  But time will tell.

I also repacked the coaster brake hub the other morning, which was easy and fun.  That hub will ultimately be laced into an alternate rear wheel for the Motobecane, as well.  I even found online a close match in a Velocity rim to the ones on the 105 hubs, for a reasonable cost.  Fun!

So:  Indirect progress on the Motobecane, apparent wheel-building knowledge retention, a (surprisingly gritty and stiff) repacked Bendix 76 coaster brake hub, and eyeballs on a Velocity rim to lace it into.  Not a bad set of achievements, without actually working at all on the Motobecane itself.

Next time I'll remember to save the post more often, though.

All for now,


Update, 2/1:  I laced the rear wheel last night, as I mentioned I would.  And it became less of a demo than a group effort.  My younger daughter, Ava, was eager to try lacing some spokes, and seemed to really enjoy the process.  Allyson also participated, lacing a bunch of the spokes up.  Even Juliana, who started out paying no attention at all, focused instead on her iPod, eventually asked to lace a few spokes.  OK, so I'm a bike geek, sure, but I have to say it was a lot of fun to share the experience with all.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Building New Wheels

Tonight I'm starting another wheel building class at Broadway Bicycle School!

I took the class 2 1/2 years ago or so, and built a set of 650B wheels for Juliana's last bike.  It was a great experience, and it resulted in a great set of wheels for that bike.  But now I find myself in need of multiple sets of wheels, and unfortunately I don't really remember the details of how to build them well enough to get the job done.  For that matter, neither do I have the handful of specialized tools I should have to do so -- nipple driver, dishing tool, tension meter and wheel truing stand.  So I'm taking the class again, and am hoping to sneak two sets through the build process.  I'll augment that time renting a bench at Broadway to get the remaining wheels built.

Let me explain...

Juli's Tubulars
This is way overkill, I'll admit.  I mentioned that Juli seems to like going fast, and she loves that new Pinarello of hers.  I've initially set it up with a wheelset built from a set of Shimano 600 (6200) hubs (freewheel rear) and Matrix MA40 rims.  These are great wheels -- virtually unused.  But they're a little old, almost certainly machine built, and could probably use a re-lacing.  They're pretty stout, too, with 36 spokes, and those Mavic rims aren't the lightest things around.  Juli is pretty light, and being only 12, her leg strength isn't tremendous.  So I've been thinking that she would benefit from a lighter wheel/tire combination.  And by sheer coincidence, I've had this desire to play with tubulars sometime before I die (no announcement there, just a statement).  You know where this is headed.

I have a set of once-laced 6207 hubs on-hand from another bike, and found a set of unused old Ambrosio Formula 20 Chrono's on eBay for short money.  The rims are scary airy-light, and I'm going to build the wheels with butted spokes, to keep them light and quick.  With 36 spokes, they should be strong enough to deal with the weight and strength Juliana brings to the table, and they'll give me the opportunity to play with tubular wheels and tires on the cheap.  I'm excited!

Allyson's City Wheels
I haven't spent much time writing about the Puch I built for my friend Allyson to use around Cambridge, but I will at some point.  I built that bike with a 7-speed clincher wheelset, with the 105 (1050) hubs that came on my Shogun (upgraded a while ago with a Hyperglide freewheel body), and 32-hole Velocity Aerohead II rims.  Now, as old and obsolete as the hubs are (mid-1980's), these are a relatively light and fast wheelset, and they have no doubt contributed to the spritely feel of Allyson's new-to-her Puch mixte.  The thing is, though, that I don't really feel like I've given her a wheelset well-suited to the role that bike is intended to serve.  With 32 spokes and sporty rims, this wheelset doesn't seem at appropriate for city riding, trips to the grocery store, or things like that.

So I've been thinking for a while about a swap.  I picked up a 600 front hub (same as the other 600 hubs I have kicking around), and a Shimano Sante rear hub.  Sante was a short-lived groupset that slotted between 600 and Dura-Ace for a couple of years in the mid/late 1980's.  They were nice parts saddled with a poor/trendy choice of finish (pearl white), and they were not embraced by the market.  But the designs essentially evolved into Ultegra, which ultimately replaced both 600 and Sante.  Both of these hubs are 36-spoke, so they have the potential to be stronger than the otherwise similar 1050 parts already in place on that bike.  I'll be swapping the 7-speed Uniglide freehub body on the Sante hub for an unused Hyperglide body I've had on-hand for a few years, and lacing these to a set of sturdy Sun M13-II rims with butted spokes.  The rims have a nice polish, and a classic box shape, and will look better on the Puch than the v-profile black Aeroheads on there now.  They will likely have a bit more heft than the other set, but they'll be stronger, and that's the primary goal.  The bike wears 32mm Panaracers now, but if the spritely feel is diminished too much with these new wheels, I can mount a set of lighter tires to help offset that.

So those are the two wheelsets I'll be trying to build in class, or shortly thereafter.  The two wheelsets being replaced are slated to land on other bikes, at least temporarily, and possibly for longer.  So what's next?  Read on!

Tubulars for my Colnago
I don't have hubs for this project yet, but I do have a set of FiR tubular rims (36 hole) and my eyes on a set of nutted Shimano XT hubs from the late 1980's that would make a fabulous set of road hubs.  I'm pretty sure I could swap the Uniglide freehub body for an 8-speed Hyperglide, and the nutted axles for QR skewers.  In any case, I have the rims, and need to find some hubs, and will build myself a set of tubular wheels to play with on my Colnago.  There's no real rush, but I'm looking forward to playing with tubulars on my own bike, not just Juliana's.  I'll keep the clinchers I have on that bike around, just in case I'm not fond of the feel and upkeep for the tubulars.

Coaster Brake Wheel for my Motobecane
I'm in the process of rebuilding my retired Motobecane as a single-speed bike with a more upright posture than it had before.  It'll still be a mongrel, but it'll be a different mongrel than it's been to date.  I'll eventually need to settle on a wheelset for it, but I'll start with a 105SC/Mavic wheelset that once served on my retired Kestrel, fitted with a single-speed hub converter kit.  Later, once Juli has some experience with her tubulars, it may make sense for me to commandeer the 600/MA40 clinchers I mentioned above, and relace/respace the rear for a single speed freewheel.  But I don't want to do that until I'm sure tubulars are a good idea in her case, so I'll make do with the 105/Mavic wheels for now.

Whichever the wheelset, the Motobecane should be fast and fun as a single-speed.  To add to that fun, I'm planning to build a coaster brake rear wheel for it, too.  Coaster brakes aren't terribly efficient, but they're an absolute hoot to ride.  The last time I had one, I almost immediately put the bike into a pallet of cinderblocks, crushing the front fork.  But once the bike was fixed, I could be found regularly snapping the brake on at speed, leaving lengthy stripes on whichever street I happened to be on at the time.  Clearly, I need to have another.  So I've picked up a Bendix 76 rear hub with 36 spokes, and when I settle on a wheelset for the Motobecane, I'll look for a matching rim (Mavic MA40 or Matrix Open Pro) to lace the coaster brake hub into.  I'll keep the front and rear caliper brakes in place, regardless, but will have a second configuration to play with when the mood strikes.  The prospect of all this quite frankly makes me giggle!

There's a lot to do, here, but I'm looking forward to it -- hands-on work and experimentation alike!

All for now,


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Juli's Pinarello Treviso

Nearly two years ago, I built an old Schwinn World Sport frame into a 650B, step-through all-arounder for my (now 12 y/o) daughter Juliana.  The result is a neat little bike, and the build kept me entertained, with a couple of challenges requiring unorthodox solutions.

With its step-through frame, a 48cm seat tube, smaller wheels, a short-reach stem and narrow bars, it was easy for Juli transition from her little 24" Fuji to the Schwinn, and she seemed to enjoy most everything about it, save for the color.  But I noticed two things over the two seasons she rode the bike.  First, it seemed to keep getting smaller and smaller, as Juli's limbs and torso stretched out (eh... it happens).  And second, when we were out riding, if another cyclist passed us, her natural reaction was to give chase.  For that matter, if we crested a hill and saw another cyclist off in the distance, she tended to want to chase them down, too.  She's a little competitive, it seems.

Now, my elder daughter is artistic and bright, but also disorganized and argumentative.  She plays soccer, but she's like me in that cycling seems to be the sport she's best at, and it's not clear to me that team sports or ball sports are her thing.  So... despite the very good advice Grant Peterson gives to parents not to make cycling a 'sport' for kids, I decided to get Juliana onto something more aggressive than she was riding, to see if I could nurture the road cycling bug just a bit.

At the time, a friend had a bike in storage that we'd rebuilt together a few years ago - a Bertoni Corsa Mondial which seemed it might fit the bill.  She was planning her return to the states, and we'd talked about her cycling needs going forward.  She agreed a city bike would be a better fit for her needs than the Bertoni, so we arranged a swap -- I would rebuild a Puch mixte I had salvaged from my family's homestead as a city bike, and take the Bertoni in trade.  More on the Puch another time, but it's a truly lovely bike to ride.  Not light to carry, but with a spritely and nimble feel just the same, and much more useful than the Bertoni.

Unfortunately, that Bertoni was too small for Juli.  It was sportier and faster than her Schwinn, and she loved riding it, the handful of rides she took on it.  But it's a 46 (I thought 48), so it was a step in the wrong direction, size-wise.  So it now sits in storage, again, waiting for Ava to stretch out a bit.  Which is fine -- it's a nice bike for her to graduate to in the coming years.

With probably three bikes worth of components sitting in my parts closet, I was perfectly well equipped to build a bike up for Juliana, so as last season drew to a close, I started looking for a frameset.  I made the call that Juli should get a 53, after measuring the Schwinn and Bertoni, and studying her fit.  That seems like a big number for her, but on the other hand, I've been riding undersized frames my whole life, with posts at their max and long reach stems -- I should have been riding frames 5cm larger (and am today).  So 53 it would be!

After bidding on a couple of Colnagos on eBay, I happened upon a 53 Pinarello Treviso frameset.  It has Columbus tubing and a nice complement of braze-ons (including bottle cage braze-ons inside the seat tube, which I initially mistook for a hack job).  It  came with two forks -- the original with some deep scratches, and the newer chrome Pinarello fork you see here.  And let me tell you - the paint is simply gorgeous.  It's not pristine, but it is a deep red metallic with an almost luminescent quality.  The rear triangle has chroming on the right chainstay and  at the tops of the seatstays, and the decals are large and white.  Juli fell in love with it, and insisted that I build it with a period Dura-Ace groupset I was also watching at the time, in fact.  But I talked her down to a 600 (6207) group I had on-hand.

The cranks are 600, in 170, and the bottom bracket a Phil Wood with Italian stainless rings.  The hubs are 6207 (freewheel rear), laced with 36 spokes to Mavic MA2 rims.  The rest of the drivetrain is all 12-speed 6207, with a SRAM chain.  The headset is 600 from the 6207 line, which means it has one of those cool star nuts up top.  The seatpost is an inexpensive but nice Kalloy Uno part (the forged one that looks like a Ritchey), because the other 27.2 posts I had on hand all had aero shaping or fluting up top, and I didn't want water getting into the frame (the post sits way down in the frame for Juliana's needs).

I also departed from 600 when it came to the brakes, bars and stem.  I have been impressed by the first generation Shimano SLR brakes that came on my Shogun.  They don't center as cleanly as current dual pivot brakes, and they're not quite as powerful, but they still work way better than most I've tried, and require only a light touch.  The ones I have are Exage Sport, which was the trickle-down group under 105 in the late 1980's.  Not a fancy label, but a good cosmetic match with the 600 groupset, and they work much better than the older 600 brakes I had on hand with the rest of the groupset.  I upgraded the plated anchor bolts to stainless with allen-heads, and paired them with the matching SLR levers and Tektro cross levers.  The bars are old Olympics (I think) and the stem is a Nitto Dynamic II in 90mm.  Juli isn't used to leaning way over her bars, so the 90-degree bend and short-ish reach will make her happier than something more traditional.

The current saddle is a Brooks Team Pro S, which she is tolerating but not altogether fond of.  The build has progressed from the state shown above, and I've since bolted on a full complement of accessories.  A Zefal frame pump -- the last accessory needed) is on order.  I'm also planning to build a tubular wheelset for her, around an identical set of hubs, using Ambrosio rims.  More on that another time.

The resulting bike is a great ride.  I took it for a spin after I finished the build, and all I could say is wow.  It feels light, fast and nimble -- definitely the nicest bike in the family, including my Colnago, which is pretty nice.  No, the drivetrain doesn't shift as crisply as a new one, and no it doesn't have brifters.  But it's still a Pinarello with a 600 drivetrain!  It'll carry her through her teens, I expect, and if she wants something more contemporary, we can have that conversation when the time comes.  In the mean time, she has a delightful old-school racing bike, far better than anything I rode before I was twice her age.

All for now,