Cloudy, Rainy Day of Cycling

Not really pushing things hard at all, simply path riding at the lake, bouncing along on paved trails that are – well, paved - but in desperate need of repair from previous years of frost heaves; the tarmac ripples like an ocean, but so much less forgiving than water. Thank goodness for the comfort of low pressure/high volume 650B tires!

We’ve already tried to ride at Smithville, but got cut short less than half a mile down the path…the trails are closed for a managed hunt. Not wanting to be mistaken for a deer, we pack things in and head to another locale.

On this day, I stop occasionally to play with my newest toys, supplemental lenses for my iPhone, which has become my defacto camera the past couple of years. This selfie – and oh, how I loathe that term! Whatever happened to “self portrait?” – anyway, this self portrait was taken with the Photojojo Fish Eye Lens. Is it an awesome toy? Too early to tell yet. I’m frustrated that the lens kit which works “with just about any iPhone case”… well, it turns out that the Otterbox I have paid big bucks for is the exception. Still, it’s a fun way to extend the functionality of my iPhone camera, even if it is a pain in the ass.

I haven’t updated The Early Morning Cyclist is a month, and I feel a bit guilty for that. Weather has conspired against me riding. Work has been busier than usual. And I’m grumpier than normal for having had to ride the indoor trainer while the thermometer hovers in the teens. Needless to say, it was nice to be outside, no matter what the trail conditions.

And if you do happen to see me out on the road, please don’t shoot!

Perfect Day.

Perfect weather.

Perfect riding conditions.

Just a perfect October day.

And just about a perfect end to a perfect day, with an ice cold mug of Warsteiner Dunkel to enjoy while smoked brined pork chops seared on the grill. The bike got cleaned up after a day of riding. Chops picked up at The Local Pig this morning were liberally seasoned with roasted garlic, Rosemary, and sea salt. A generous rind on the chops held in the flavor, and I’m thinking to myself that these very may be the best tasting pork chops ever.

I’m quite content at the moment. And the dog got a pork bone, so she’s very content as well.

Sitting down to write, I’d actually planned to review the Cambium C15 saddle that Brooks sent me to test. But the World Series is on, and I’m feeling so satisfied at the moment that I think I’ll save my comments and comparisons for another day. Go Royals, and play ball!

All done. Now what?

OK, I’ve had my fun playing around with this project. I just need to swap out the old chain for a new one, add the pedals, and dial in the cable adjustments. The challenges on the back end turned out to be some squirrely decisions that the amateur builder made regarding dimensions and measurements. Tightening down the stem, the seat pin – and even getting the bottom bracket properly adjusted – well, let’s just say there have been a few irregularities.

All the same, it’s turned out to be a classic looking gent’s bike.

I need another bike like I do a hole in the head. What the heck am I supposed to do with this thing now?

The build up begins.

I found a nice set of “almost” porteur-style bars, complete with Hunt-Wilde grips and some sort of no-name levers at the bike co-op yesterday. They asked five bucks; I gave ‘em ten just because it’s a great organization and because it never hurts to have Karma on your side. Anyway, they cleaned up very nicely. The grips look and feel almost new after a bit of elbow grease. The bars are gleaming, and even the levers are looking sharp after a treatment with Evaporust.

I’ve had this nice vintage bell for a long time and have been waiting for the right build to come along: This is the first project where both form and function seem to coordinate. The problem I’ve run into is the mounting strap. When I tighten the bell down it slips off the nut that should hold it snuggly in place. I’ll likely have to kludge together something that looks and functions a little better than the original collar.

The tires are what came on the wheel set and will get replaced. I’ll likely use a pair of Panaracer Paselas that I got for another project last year, but wound up not using. Those aluminum fenders with the matte finish have just enough patina that I think they fit the build well. And I’m pleased to say that the big butt Brooks saddle seems to have been nicely reinvigorated.

I like the wide spread of gearing for this bike and will keep that triple in place.

I’ve re-installed the bronze/brass “head badge” that has the builder’s name and coat of arms engraved into it – it just seems like a wonderful way to honor the guy. Once I finish, I’ll try to track him down to share the re-build with him. (I sure hope the guy is still alive.)

Porcine Lipstick

After stripping and priming the frame I began to clean up the components. Evaporust works wonders on the surface rust that defaces steel parts. A stiff nylon brush, Dawn, hot water, and elbow grease take care of the chain rings and cranks. A wad of aluminum foil and a dab of spit cleans up the worst of the aluminum grunge. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the rear derailleur since it seems mismatched with the rest of the kit.

The Stronglight 99 (new style) crank arms are just recent enough that I could use a standard puller for removal. This is a good thing, because I loaned out my Stronglight puller about two years ago and never got it back…

I decided to give the frame a quick primer coating to protect the frame from rust until I figured out what the heck I was going to do with the darned thing. I like lugs, and the window lugs on this frame add a touch of class. Unpainted, the brazing looks pretty amateurish but the paint sure does seem to hide those ugly joins!

After tracking this frame back in time, I’ve discovered it was brazed together by a local engineer who was also an amateur frame builder. And with this revelation, finally, the unusual combinations make sense to me! The head badge is not only the marque, it is also his name. From what I was able to gather, this was his personal bike (his third); he built ‘em to ride ‘em. That’s kind of a cool piece of history to me.

I debated between a very clean white, some sort of very practical middle gray that might disguise the inevitable scratches, or a simple and elegant black. Black wins. I was also debating about a thin red lug lining, and possibly filling the lug windows with red.

I had thoughts about making up a name and adding it to the down tube, maybe in a sort of Art Deco typographic treatment. But now that I’ve discovered some of the story behind the bike, I’m tempted to put his simple name plate back onto the head tube instead.


I used a Sharpie metallic gold marker for the lug lining. Even though I’m a professional artist, I’ve never had much success pin striping with a brush: like calligraphy, I simply don’t have the hand control for that type of thing. Sharpie makes this great opaque metallic gold marker that made lining so much easier for me. I had to pull the head set again after striping – I put the cart before the horse, re-installing it before I had added a final clear coat to protect the lining.

After giving this a lot of thought, I’ve pretty much decided to keep the wide range of gears, but run porteur-style bars for a more upright ride. I’ve not done much cycling with this type of setup, so it will be a very different type of experiment for me.

So, the frame turns out to be a homemade affair. Is this all simply putting lipstick on a pig? If it is, I’m good with it.

A Tale of Two Bikes

The headline is a little misleading, so let me explain: The two bikes are really one – this is part two of a remarkable before and after affair. We began this story with the gift of a crusty mystery frame. With the exception of the rear derailleur, I was able to determine with pretty fair certainty that the remaining components date from early- to mid-70’s.

A crusty frame, yes. And a toasty looking Brooks – also yes. But I plan to coax a bit more life from the leather with saddle soap.

The RGF bottom bracket is one of the few things I find before stripping the paint that yields any real clues. These were made in France and – maybe – were imported to England and the States by Ron Kitching.

And here’s where things began to get interesting. As I stripped the paint, the lugs began to reveal a few more details.

Perhaps this frame really is custom made after all. The crappy paint was poorly applied; under that rather pedestrian coating, and layers of crud, a much nicer frame begins to emerge. My original assessment was that the frame was, perhaps, a midrange production model, but the bare metal reveals a much more intriguing machine.

And lookee here! I certainly wasn’t expecting to discover Campagnolo dropouts under the old paint.

Taking a break from the frame stripping, I began to clean up the parts. The rear derailleur may function fine, but seems a bit lower end than the frame deserves. The Stronglight Model 99 (new style) triple crank set is a little different story though, and I plan to keep it in place.

For now, I’ll leave you with this teaser: the primer coated frame and fork.