Bike Surgery

The diagnosis. Remember this? The L’Avecaise build that went together so easily, so smoothly…until I got to the front rack? I went with a Velo-Orange front rack because I’ve had excellent experiences with their product line and even with a previous version of this same front rack. But no amount of bending was going to level out that damn platform; the stays simply needed to be extended or the center bolt needed to be shorter.

The operation. One of the terrific members of the BikeForums community of classic and vintage enthusiasts reached out to me with an offer to surgically alter the stock rack by cutting the stays and adding material. After bending the center bolt to level the rack, I made several very precise measurements. The rack, along with this illustration (above), got shipped west to Seattle, and prepped for surgery.

The prognosis. This morning, a box awaited me on my front porch. I admit that I removed the rack with a little apprehension. Did I measure correctly? Did I forget to provide some critical detail? Would it fit? The straight and simple answer is that not only does it fit, it slipped right on and bolted down without a bit of muscle, bending, or drama. The platform has the very slight backward tilt that I wanted (rather than the bulldozer angle that the original rack had.) It’s elevated more than one might specify in a custom rack, but I was aware this would be the trade off for extending the stays. No worries there: I’ll build a custom sized spacer between rack and fender – I rather like having that additional one point to secure the fender anyway.

Time to fit a front bag.


9 thoughts on “Bike Surgery

  1. John Hawrylak says:

    I agree on the VO rack I bought a Pass Hunter but with integrated decailluer. It required bending the center post and the struts to fit on my 88 Schwinn Voyaguer, but it cam out level. The Voyaguer canti posts were set for 27″ tires, and only a small amount of bending was required. The posts are slightly higher on the fork, which may partially explain the misfit on your Boulder.

    The integrated decilluer is nice, compact. I had to use 13mm long rods inside the receiver to raise the decauillier bar to the high spot on the VO Campagne bag.

    Did you consider a front rack by Jeff Lyons??. The price seems high, but may be worth it to get a guareteed fit.

    John Hawrylak
    Woodstown NJ

  2. John, I think I’d probably go with a custom rack if I had to do it all over again. In this case I was penny-wise and pound foolish because I got the VO rack for a great price but wound up paying to have it modified, paying for shipping there and back to Gugie, and essentially waiting around until the mods were finished. Gugie did a great job, his turnaround time was fast, and yikes! I couldn’t have paid anyone locally to do what he did for the money I paid him. (I’m sure he cut a fellow BFer a deal and a half!) I can’t praise him highly enough.

    But that said, the smart thing would have been to have had Jeff Lyon build a rack that fit the frame he constructed for me to guarantee fit from the get go. I’ve never used a Compass or Nitto rack, but I’ve heard lots of good about both. I’ve also heard from at least one frame builder that both of those often require mods of one sort or another to fit a frame. This isn’t a criticism of the racks, by the way. They are, by necessity, “one size fits most.” Every frame is a little (or a lot) different from the next. Factor in different sizes, different angles, and different whatever else I’m not thinking of at the moment, and you’ve got a recipe for modifications. Case in point, I had to do some slight bending to fit the VO to my Boulder… just nowhere near as much as was necessary for the Jeff Lyon frame. The L’Avecaise required extensions just to be installed at all, so there’s clearly differences between the two similarly outfitted bikes. A little bit often adds up to a bunch!

    And me? Well, I continue to learn.

    Regarding the decaleur – I’m not using one at all on the Jeff Lyon frame. (As I type this, I realize I may not have photographed and shared the bag set up I’m using here. I’ll need to remedy that soon.) I’m using a Berthoud Alex Singer Mini Bag, which only requires a tombstone backstop and no decaleur. Here’s how Jan describes it on the Compass website: This small handlebar bag originally was custom-made for Cycles Alex Singer to fit on their small front racks. It slides over the backstop of the rack. The bag is small and light, so this is enough to hold it securely on the rack. An elastic at the bottom provides additional security for the bag. The bag can hold a lightweight rain jacket, a few small tools and a snack. Two small pockets on the rear can hold a spare tube and a wallet. This bag fits best on racks with backstops that are 60-65 mm wide. (Narrower is OK, but wider will not work!) The Alex Singer Mini Bag is available in the traditional gray-blue, or black, with natural leather reinforcements.

    My Swift Ozette is on the Boulder and it works great if I need to carry more stuff. I wanted a lighter, less “baggage-ish” thing for the L’Avecaise and the Berthoud fits the bill remarkably well. Just enough room for the stuff I always carry, plus a small sketchbook and pens … and still room enough for a snack. Very lightweight and easy to remove if I want to park my wheels and head into a cafe while out cyclo-touring.

    As easy as it is to remove, I have to share that absolutely nothing is as quick to remove and re-install as my Carradice Super C with Kwik Flix attachment. Snap on, snap off. I just hate the way it looks and how high it sits because it’s directly on the handlebars.

    • John Hawrylak says:


      Thanks for the detailed clarifications. I understand Jan Heine Blog on the Lavercaise said the Compass M-13 fit very well. I looked at the mini bag on Compass site It looks very spiffy, the elastic attachment is neat. Only drawback is no map case.

      I understand on the Super C & its height. Have same problem with the Nitto F-15 and Ostrich bag to fit on my 75 Voyageur II, nice but high, but the map case makes it tolerable.

      If I go with an Lavercaise, I strongly look into Jeff’s front rack. My idea is a for bag rack with a separate low rider with equalizing hoop. One picture on Jeff’s site shows a very French rectangular low rider, really fashionable but probably pricey. Don’t know if works better than a BG or a Tubus Tara, but t sure looks good.

      Is there enough clearance on the fork and stays for 52mm fenders??? Looking at the VO Zeepllins 650B x 52mm.

  3. Those are the exact fenders that I’m using on mine. It was the easiest fender installation ever! They fit perfectly with a perfect fender line right off the bat. Absolutely no modifications required on my end.

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