The Boulder: Nearly Finished.

Sometime in the next day or two I’m going to receive a call on my cell from a local LBS. They’ll be phoning to let me know that my rear derailleur is in and ready to be picked up. I’ll install the rear mech on the Boulder, fit a chain, and fiddle-faddle around with the cables to get the shifting properly adjusted. And then, just like that, the Boulder will be ready for a test ride.

Oh sure, some of the spokes will probably need to be re-tensioned after carrying the weight of a ride or two, and sure, as the cables seat and stretch I’ll need to fine tune them also. (I also note, with some trepidation, that the next few days threatens to bring heavy rains – just in time to delay the inaugural ride, no doubt.)

I’m very pleased with the overall aesthetic of this bicycle thus far. The honey saddle and similarly hued Salsa bar wrap pair nicely with the touches of chrome/stainless steel and the Robin’s Eggshell Blue finish of the tubing. A part of me wishes for chrome “socks” on the fork and stays as a further nod to the bygone era of road bikes that most appeals to my personal tastes, but I am otherwise very happy with the package as designed.

The front fender line is not yet where I want it, but with a slightly shorter bolt to anchor the fender to the front rack I can remove the rubber grommet I currently have installed between them. By replacing the grommet with a narrower leather washer, I will lift the fender closer to the rack by over 1/16” – sufficient, I believe, to correct the front line of the fender.

I opted for 170 length arms on the VO compact double crankset, and this will very clearly be an experiment for me. I normally run 172.5 or 175 on my other bikes, but had 170’s on my Shogun. I’m reasoning that the shorter length will encourage more spin and less “mash” … and of course, if I find that I miss the length I will simply replace the 170s with a 175 and be done with it.

I’m excited to test the comfort of the wide 48cm VO randonneuring-style bars out on the road. Sitting astride the bike while mounted to a trainer, my impression is that they feel very good indeed. The true test will be out on the road, over many hours and miles.

Some of the parts originally used to build up my Shogun 2000 have migrated to the Boulder. Fenders, racks, saddle, the brass Crane bell – even the vintage vinyl tool bag, which comes damn close to a color match, seemed a no-brainer.

I debated about leaving the rear VO Constructeur rack off this build. It would save a little weight by doing so, and I’m not convinced that it adds to the overall look. But I argued with myself that having a rear rack provides me with the option of adding small rear panniers when I need them; I can also opt for a trunk bag as well. So for now the rear rack stays.

Another purely stylistic issue: I love the look of hammered Honjo fenders and really debated going that route here. However, the fluted fenders echo a sort of Art Deco aesthetic that – if nothing else – is mirrored in the choice of typeface Boulder uses on the frame to identify themselves.

The tires I’ve chose are 28 x 700 Schwalbe Marathons. These get great reviews as a touring tire and they look pretty beefy on the bike, as if they could handle rough trail pack as easily as paved roads. (They not only look beefy, they feel beefy as well: they’re a pretty heavy tire – so we’ll see if that is a significant factor with regard to impacting speed.) A nice little coincidence that had nothing whatsoever to do with the choice of tire is the small light blue graphic on the sidewall, which I only noticed after photographing the bike. This is purely a serendipitous design touch, but I won’t fight it: once a designer, always a designer!

I put a lot of miles in last year riding on the Brooks Flyer saddle and Salsa bar wrap, enjoying the feel of both … especially when it comes to long hours on the road. My only complaint with either points of contact relates to the sprung saddle: sometimes, when I hammered it, I found myself bouncing on the Brooks. Perhaps that will be less of an issue on a frame that better fits me than did the Shogun. I certainly hope so, because in all other respects the Brooks is an uber-comfy saddle!

The rear mech that I ordered is a Shimano Ultegra 6700 GS. It’s a medium cage road derailleur – which in roadie parlance is actually a long cage. In any event, it will cover the 11-28 cassette I’m running, along with the capacity for the 48/34 compact double up front. I got a pretty decent price on this gear changer from Performance, but it was out of stock when I ordered it. Once the arrival date finally came around, I discovered that the back order date had moved out another couple of weeks. Not knowing whether that date would change again left me feeling frustrated and I visited Heather at The Wheel Cyclery, a local LBS just a few minutes from my office. Heather located the same rear derailleur and promised to have it for me in the next couple of days. And the difference in price? Ten dollars… ten measly clams! And for chump change I waited six weeks for my back order??? (Reminder to self: Always check the local guys first before trying to save a few lousy pennies online.)

I currently have a vintage Shimano 600/DA front derailleur installed, but I’ve also got an Ultegra front changer that could see duty if for any reason the 600 doesn’t work out. The 600 is a braze on model, but I’ve used a mounting ring that allows you to adapt a braze on to a clamp style. I’m curious to see if this solution works. (I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t.)

The overall construction of the frame is impressive, the joins are smooth, the frame – while not a feather weight – is yet still light enough. It’s built by Waterford and if my Waterford-built Paramount is anything to judge by, the craftsmanship should be assured.

I don’t kid myself into thinking this will be “the last bike I’ll ever buy” – most assuredly, I enjoy finding and renovating road bicycles. But I built this one thinking it would be “The One.” The one I ride most often, the one I take with me to ride when I go out of town, the one I choose to ride for hours at a time, and the one that I plan to still be riding when my legs finally start to give out decades in the future.

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2 thoughts on “The Boulder: Nearly Finished.

  1. The paring of the bar tape and saddle look fantastic, Mark. Great combination.

    I also agree with the Art Deco feel of the fluted fenders. I too had these on my ’90 Voyageur and felt the same way about them. I believe they give a rather stately and structured (but not stuffy) feel. Although, depending on what kind of overall feel you want the bike to have, I’m certain that either the hand hammered or fluted fenders would work exceptionally for your application.

    Perhaps I missed it in an earlier post but what brand/model cassette are you using?

    Keep up the great work. I enjoy watching this build!

    • I’m running a Shimano 11-28 cassette. I’d thought to run a 30 low end but the Ultegra is only spec’ed to 28t. I probably could have pushed it but decided to go conservative at first and opt to the lower gear later if necessary.

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