Planes, trains, and bicycles.

I haven’t made a journal entry in a while, in large part because of my recent close acquaintanceship with planes and trains. Nearly my entire summer has been traveling to someplace, returning from someplace, or simply being someplace other than where I’d prefer to actually be. I’ve found this to be particularly frustrating for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s been incredibly difficult to maintain my commitment to the daily nutritional regimen that I follow to moderate my Diabetes. Along with that, getting anything remotely like the exercise to which I’m accustomed has been seriously compromised. And to my chagrin, the results from my six month check up reflect how negatively all of this extensive travel seems to have been for me, goddammit. So, goodbye planes and trains; goodbye chocolate and carbs, goddammit again, and a big welcome back to the comfort and regularity that a meal-by-meal, daily regimen of nutrition and exercise holds for me.

I crave riding, and I feel like I’m starting up from scratch. The other evening was beautiful, a perfect opportunity for something I haven’t done in a while: a night ride. I like how the most memorable riding seems to just happen. Serendipity. In this case, I didn’t set out with any intentions in mind, other than a short ten-miler. My legs, which felt sluggish at first, began to respond a couple of miles down the road and I thought what the hell, let’s make it twenty. Passing through the countryside, I noticed others were of similar disposition: aviation enthusiasts were playing with their vintage aircraft at a small, private airstrip. A tri-plane was in the air, circling the area, as was a WWII fighter and a tiny personal aircraft. On the ground, their muffled voices and laughter carrying over the field and to the road, the group was polishing chrome parts, lounging in lawn chairs, and drinking beer.

The few opportunities I’ve had to ride recently have mostly been astride lightweight vintage speed bikes and I’ve been neglecting my main ride, the Boulder Brevet. On this occasion I’d left the Lycra in a heap, pulled on a cycling cap, ugly plaid shorts and a nasty green t-shirt before heading out for a moderately slow ride. The next thing I knew, I was miles from home and the sky had turned an intensely deep, dark indigo. My lights illuminating the road, I pedaled onward.

Riding gives me a chance to think and ponder. It’s often cathartic for me, quite frankly. If I have a project I’m working on, the act of riding may help me to consider how best to prioritize my actions, determine the series of steps I need to take, or puzzle my way through a process. All this in my mind, before taking any actual action.

I thought about the bikes I’ve been tinkering around with when the opportunity has presented itself. My Holdsworth Professional came to mind, for instance. I’d finally come around to the decision to make a few modifications that more closely acknowledged this bike’s heritage. The bars were replaced with model Cinelli 64-42 and a matching stem. Importantly, the angle was also adjusted to more comfortably meet my need to ride in the drops. The interrupters I’d placed on the bars – a wild hair, I’ll admit – were replaced with Dia-Compe road levers. I pulled the vintage brown Brooks Professional and in it’s place there is now a NOS black Brooks Pro. While I was at it, I figured I might as well replace the cables and housing… and while I was at that, I got rid of the butt ugly brown cork tape in lieu of black Tressostar cotton handlebar wrap. I really do like the feel of cloth wrap much better than the fake cork stuff – plus, it just looks right.

The fact of the matter is that I love the feel of cotton wrap on Cinelli bars. I was so pleased with how the Holdsworth bars turned out that I next turned my attention to my 1972 Paramount. A couple of rolls of fresh yellow Velox Tressostar seemed just the ticket, and I like how nicely it pairs up with the paint. The frame and fork originally came to me in rough condition and in true Frankenstein fashion I hung every conceivable working part on her during “the build.” A couple of mornings back I got up early and before heading into my office I trued up a very pretty NOS set of Maillard-hubbed wheels and hung an equally NOS 13-26 five-speed freewheel on the rear. Later on, after I got back home again, I added rubber and replaced the round stuff I’d had on the bike with shiny new wheels and 27 x 1 ¼” Paselas. I have one more NOS black Brooks Professional saddle in the wings that will probably find its way onto this bike, along with some period correct Campy NR derailleurs. The changers are currently in the throes of a final clean up. Those 105 levers, so far from being period correct, just work so damn well with the Weinmann center pulls (which, for the record, I have managed to adjust perfectly.) They’ll probably remain in place for a while. Those tires are cushy and comfortable, although disconcertingly close to the bottom of the rear brake. I’d sure like to see a few millimeters more clear air between tire and brake.

I began to think about how lucky I’ve been. The bikes I have to choose from for each ride are quite nice, and fit quite well. Each meets a different purpose and I can select one based upon whatever whim strikes me at the time. In the studio are a lot of boxes in which parts I’ve collected are stored. As I often do, I mentally shuffled through those stores, pondering which items I really ought to part with and which I really need to keep (because, of course, you never know how I’m going to build up the next bike. This n+1 thing is really quite insidious.)

I did manage to part ways with several items at our annual vintage bicycle swap meet. Of course, I also managed to bring some other equally interesting bits and pieces back home with me as well, so I was thinking that I hadn’t so much gotten rid of anything as I had simply displaced them.

Turning down the road leading to my house I realized I was returning hours later than I’d planned. Ah! But it really was a beautiful evening for a night ride.


10 thoughts on “Planes, trains, and bicycles.

  1. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    I have though about a new pump for my new Boulder Randonneur bike. My initial choice is Zefal’s HPX Classic pump. I have also considered a Silica pump. What pump do you use?

    • I use the Topeak MasterBlaster on my Boulder, because it both works very well and it fits perfectly. I will tell you though that the Zefal HPX 3 is my all-time favorite frame pump.

      • Rod Bruckdorfer says:

        Thanks for the reply. Indeed, the Zefal HPX is a great pump. I used that pump on my Canadian Rockies tour in 1984 and continued to use it until 1989, when I purchased the Miyata 1000 LT frame and fork. At the time I purchased a new black Zefal HPX and am still using it. For esthetic reasons, I want to purchase a silver pump for my English blue and cream Boulder Randonneur (Brevet) bike. The original HPX was silver with a black rubber grip at the valve locking head. Today, the HPX has black grips at the head and handle with either a silver or black body. I am beginning to think the all black pump will look better than a black and silver pump. I will mockup the black silver pump by wrapping the black barrel of my HPX pump with aluminum foil, dull side out.

        The one negative I see with the Silica pump is it does not have a locking valve head.



      • I agree about the Silca pump – for my purposes they are best for aesthetics rather than functionality. (Although they will do the job if nothing better is available.) On my Boulder, the Topeak meets my functional needs very well and the light gray color looks good to my eye to boot. Personally I like the looks of the black Zefal on 80’s era bikes and it also is very functional. The only thing I really dislike about the Zefal is the hard plastic on one end that is curved to fit snugly against the tubing joints. I fear it might scratch tube paint and preemptively cover it with rubberized material.

      • Rod Bruckdorfer says:

        I mocked up the black/silver/black Zefal pump. As you mentioned, the all black Zefal, looks best on classic road frames. The line of the B/S/B scheme is too broken up, whereas the black pump provides a continuous line under the top tube and is more esthetically pleasing. Regarding the hard plastic pump head, I stuck two pieces of clear “helicopter” tape under the top tube and on the seat tube where the pump head contacts the frame. Clear Contact lamination film serves the same purpose.

        I added three iPhotos of the Boulder Randonneur to my Flickr photo site - Since the photos were taken, I replace the long Nitto Technomic stem with a short Technomic stem. The reach for the stem shown is 70 mm and the reach for the new stem is 60 mm. The stem in the photo was “bottomed out” in the steering tube and was about 2 cm above the saddle. The new stem places the stem at the same height as the saddle. Because lowering the stem moves the handlebars forward about 10 mm, the saddle to handlebar reach is unchanged. Instead of using trig to figure this all out, I used a drawing to determine how far the handlebar was moved forward, when the stem was lowered 2 cm.



  2. Rod, I don’t find anything at all objectionable about the solid black of the Zefal with your bike (which is very sharp by the way – that color combination is really quite striking and has a classic look that I find very appealing.) How are you liking the 650B frame? I really debated about that option and although I am very content with my Brevet, I’m still curious about the smaller, fatter tires.

  3. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    When I ordered the frame, I took a leap of “faith” to specify a frame and fork designed to accept 42mm X 584 (650B) tires. My choice of wheel size was influenced by a photo of Paulette Porthault climbing the Calibier in the 1930’s. The “fat tires” on her bike started my quest to learn more about the 650B tire. I was also influenced by articles in Bicycle Quarterly and Royal H’s interpretation of a Rene Herse style bike with 650B tires. The idea of a road bike with 42 mm wide tires (650B) seemed both practical and esthetically pleasing.

    My first ride around our neighborhood did not disappoint me. There was something special about the combination of frame, fork and tires. The bike is comfort, handling and speed are outstanding. The bike climbs and descend very well. In terms of handling, the bike goes where you want it to go without over or under steering, even with the handlebar bag attached. These performance characteristics are a result of the frame, low trail fork and wide supple tires. The tires provide a sense of sure-footedness compared to the Miyata 1000 LT with its 700C tires which I rode for years.

    The first long ride was 54 miles. Road surfaces varied from very smooth to fresh laid chipseal. I was accuse of deliberately planning a section of the route on fresh chipseal to test the 42 mm wide tires. I was surprised and amazed how comfortable I felt on the bike, even with the new Brooks saddle, regardless of the road surface. The tires provide a sense of being connected to the road without lose of speed or handling characteristics. Climbing is a joy on two wheels. There is no lose of speed because the tires are 42 mm wide and weigh about 400 g each. On another ride, the rain goddess decided to test us. The tires shed water and gripped the wet asphalt. They gave me a sense of confidence the front wheel would not slip out when the bike was laid over in a tight turn. In summary after 250 miles, I am very pleased with the 650B tire size and the Boulder Randonneur frame and fork. The complete bike without handlebar bag attached weighs 24 lb.

    Technical “stuff”:

    The tires are Grand Bois 650B Hetre (42 mm X 584) and are fitted to Pacenti PL23 rims. I mounted the tire tubeless using Stan’s Notube tape, valves and sealant. The tires are easy to mount on these rims using soap suds to help seat the bead to the rim. Once the bead was seated, each tire was deflated, sealant added then inflated to 60 psi following Stan’s instructions. I have ridden the tires at the following pressure combinations: 40 psi (F), 45 psi (R) and 45 psi (F) and 50 psi (R). The tires seem faster when the front pressure is inflated to 45 psi and the rear to 50 psi. Ride comfort and handling are not compromised at the higher pressures. Ride weight is 175 lb. without handlebar bag and 180-185 with handlebar bag. The tubeless Hetres are very supple and according to Stan’s a tubeless tire is 12% faster than a tire with an inner tube.

    As a side note, the designation “A”, “B” and “C” are old French designations for very wide, wide and narrow tires, respectively hence the reason road tires are still referred to as 700C.


    Paulette Porthault –

    Bicycle Quarterly –

    Royal H Cycles –



    • Rod, Thanks for that very thorough review of your 650B Boulder! For the record, you have cited some of the very same references that have influenced my thinking over the last couple of years also. Skinny tired roadies abound in my neck of the woods and I have yet to see one single person riding a 650 B frame and wheel combo on the roads around here. I would love to try one out if I ever come across one in my size. I may have to stop into Boulder Bikes the next time I’m in Colorado to see if they’ve got something that I can test ride. My Boulder bike is by far the favorite I’ve ever owned… And I kind of think that’s really saying something, given the number of bikes I have owned and ridden in my life.

  4. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    We live in Baltimore, MD. Cycling in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor is very competitive. The serious bicycle scene is carbon fiber or aluminum-carbon fiber mixed with STRAVA or Endomondo. If you show up for a ride on a classic bike with fenders, they don’t talk to you. I test rode a Trek Madone and Trek Domane over a 3-4 mile route. The bikes are exciting to ride but carbon fiber was not me nor did I want to spend my riding time trying to ride like a Tour de France cyclist. Yes, it was a leap of faith but well worth the effort and money that went into the bike. I let a few of the mechanics – friends – at my LBS ride the bike. They all reported the bike rode extremely well, was very comfortable and all the components worked well together. “I have never ridden a bike that was as comfortable at this bike.” Our mechanics are seasoned cyclist and range in age from 23 to mid-30’s. My riding style is that of a cyclotouriste in the French and English tradition. Perhaps, I am just a retro cyclist who wants to ride in a different era when bikes did not look all alike and cyclist appreciated the details that went into building the bike. The Boulder Randonneur with 650B tires is the only bike I want to ride.

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