B. Carre

Yes, I know I swore off French bikes forever. I know the objective is to thin the herd. I know I’m susceptible to the guiles of a  French beauty, especially one that’s “been around the block” more than a few times.

I also know I’m guilty of impulse purchases.

I know all of these things all too well. What I don’t know is much about this frame, and until this object of my horse trading arrives in the USA, it’s not likely I’ll know a whole lot more for a while.

Here are the facts, as I know them. This is a Bernard Carre frame. Every Carre frame I’ve seen – at least those I know for certain were built by Carre – are embossed with “B CARRE” on the seat stay caps. The frame is nominally my size at 58cm square.

I’ve no idea what tubing was used. Many French bikes of the 1970’s use a 26.4 seat pin; this one purportedly uses a 26.2.  The dropouts are spaced at 122. The frame is showing up with a TA bottom bracket. I’ll measure the spindle after it arrives to see if it matches any of my French cranks.

I’m a fan of Stronglight headsets, one of which accompanies this frame.

The dropouts are Campagnolo, as are the cable retainers along the top tube. The bottle holder appears to be a TA, or similar. The cantilever brakes are Mafac Criterium models. I’ve never used them before, but others assure me they are much easier to adjust and fine tune than earlier model cantis.

Cantilever brakes mean a couple things. For one, I’m locked in on the wheel size the frame was designed for. So if that size turns out to be a 27 inch wheel, there’s not a whole lot I can do about that. (Whereas, with center pulls or side pulls, one can often fit 700c or even 650b with a little luck.) The other thing is that cantilevers raise the question of whether or not this really is a randonneur. Cantilevers are a favored brake for cyclo-cross bikes, so the possibility is that this bike was designed for that purpose. I am leaning toward cycle-touring at the moment, but not a full bore touring model.

I’m left with a slight dilemma here: I’m in the queue for a Jeff Lyon frame. I’d planned to have that frame painted in a pale lavender or lilac color. Yet here I find myself with a frame in that color range already. Is that a problem, I wonder? (As I type these thoughts, it occurs to me that I have a pair of NOS toe straps that are the same color as this frame, just waiting for a new home. Hmmmm.)

Adjusting the Fit

Yes, I’m fiddling around with things again. Although I really love the look of the gold anodized bars, stem, and levers that have graced my 1971 Raleigh International, I’ve run into a problem recently: The stem no longer wants to snug down. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but having the bars come loose as I’m barreling down a steep hill is not a thrill I want to experience. In fact, having them come loose as I pedaled from a dead stop through an intersection at about 2 MPH was freaky enough. (For those interested in a first hand account, let me just say that I felt like I’d hit an oily or soapy patch on the road…no control whatsoever.)

I gritted my teeth and pulled over. This was the third time in a couple of days and I had finally come to the realization that if I wanted to ensure a future where I could grit my teeth at other things, I’d better reconsider my cockpit. I already knew that my optimal setup, like my Boulder, involved randonneur handlebars and more rise. I prefer the feel of rando bars while I ride. And as it happens, I had an unused set of bars and a long rise stem hanging about.

The first bike tool I reached for was my camera. I needed to make some precise comparisons between the control (my Boulder Brevet) and the bike I wanted to adjust. After a lot of adjustment and experimentation, the Boulder fits me better than any other bike, so it operates as my baseline.

In this photograph, notice that I’ve placed guidelines to indicate the top of the bars and saddle position, as well as the location of the bottom bracket. These the the relevant points of contact for me. The bottom bracket, regardless of location on the frame, isn’t a variable. The pedals meet my feet, and that simply doesn’t change so I make two photographs of the bikes in exactly the same position, then superimpose the images with the bottom brackets oriented to the same location. Because everything else is a variable, I can compare the bike I want to adjust to the variables on the bike I want to adjust.

Notice how in this superimposed image the two bottom brackets are aligned, but that the other points of contact – i.e., the saddle and bars – are clearly located in different places relative to the bottom bracket. Because I already know that the Boulder is an optimal fit, I can begin my analysis with this information.

A couple of notable observations can be made here. First, the saddle is lower on the International. Raising it is easy, of course. But doing so would play havoc with the reach and drop to the bars. But that’s ok because the second thing of note is that the bars need to be raised in order to better match the fit of the Boulder. Seems simple, but there’s not enough rise on the gold stem…and heck, it’s not staying secure anyway.

Assuming I had adequate rise with the original stem (which I don’t), simply raising the height doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the rise or grip points of contact on the Boulder. This is where the randonneur handlebars come into the picture: because the curves rise and the bars themselves have a more forward position, my points of contact are higher, with a more stretched out and longer reach. I happen to like longer reach, and raising the original bars would effectively shorten the reach.

All of which takes me back to the photo at the top of this post. Replacing the lovely, but unworkable gold bars and stem with a tall Nitto and rando bars combination left me with a ride that rivals my Boulder. The superimposed photos are precise enough to have helped me adjust the new setup with almost no additional adjustments after the initial installation. Yesterday, I pedaled up and down the street feeling like I was riding a completely different bike. Please remember that I already liked the ride of this International, so discovering that the comfort and bike position was now almost the duplicate of my Boulder, and then realizing that this adjustment left me with a significantly more efficient pedal stroke… well, let’s just say that I’m more than pleased.

An afternoon shakedown ride today confirmed my initial assessment, by the way. A quick fifteen mile route of hills, mixed terrain, and flats; stopping and starting, curves, etc. takes away some of the chagrin I feel at having to put the gold stuff up on the wall.

Think I’ll celebrate this win over an excellent glass of wine. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day.

 

Glow

Sub-atomic, nuclear glow; snowy whiteness, bleached and silvery – like the hoar frost that only days ago crusted the windshield of my car; pallid, colorless, ashen, and pasty…washed out and waxen, entirely bereft of warmth or color, pale and anemic looking  legs that haven’t been kissed by the sun since last November, when old Sol simply wasn’t even at his best even then, betraying my Gaelic-Nordic ancestry.

Yesterday was the very first “shorts day” of 2017.

Idle hands

Brief, beautiful side light in the studio…

…and then it was overcast again. I’ve been hard at it for the past nine hours, engrossed in writing. From time to time I noticed that despite the heat churning out of the small furnace I have out here, my feet seem to be bone chillingly cold. The day is a murky gray for nearly the entire time, and my eyes are suddenly growing weary just as I am almost ready to wrap up. Then suddenly I hear a bird singing and the day turns bright and looks quite cheerful through the glass – this, despite the December cold I know is on the other side. From my perch at the drawing table, I look up and notice the sun has bathed the tubes on my bikes with a beautifully diffused light. Time to knock off work for the day.

Knocking off work, but not  elbow grease. A quick sandwich of leftover turkey and a bit of muscle applying and rubbing out Mother’s, this nice long point GB Hiduminium stem is nearly ready to be used on my Hobbs. I’m going to pull the bolts on Christmas afternoon to tidy up any grunge under them, then polish the bolt head best I can while they are out.

This next week holds the promise of riding weather and there’s no school, of course, due to the holiday break. I plan to get a bit of riding in to make up for the past couple weeks of below zero temperatures and boring revolutions mounted to the indoor trainer. The GB Hiduminium stem should be a nice pairing on the Hobss. I look forward to installing that, along with the Williams 1200 crankset I picked up recently; I trust they will occupy a pleasant few hours of my time one morning this coming week.

It’s winter and time to do a little reorganizing as bikes gather in the studio. It seems that access to the south entrance is a little difficult to negotiate at the moment. The 2016 frame purge continues and these are the bikes I plan to keep. A couple more have been set aside – the last three, in fact – to be photographed and put up on the auction block. As the hooks go vacant, I try not to get too excited about the frame that will be coming my way in February. (More about that when the time comes.)

I find myself overly rich in components and wheels. Shall I auction some of those off as well? Or hang on to them on the off chance some worthy frame comes my way? It’s a tough call. Generally, soon after I pass along a particularly choice part that I “will never have a use for,” I find myself in great need of that very thing.

In my sedentary state I find myself pondering many things that aren’t top of mind during my more active riding months. For instance, it occurred to me to look over the rando-style bag I designed and constructed over a year and a half ago. I used a really lightweight cotton duck on this prototype bag: the result is absolutely minimal heft. However, I worried (needlessly, as it turned out) that it wouldn’t hold up in use.

The bag doesn’t rely on a decaleur at all. Instead, I have fashioned a solid and relatively “quick release” system that mounts the bag to the Jim Blackburn rack on the underside.

These are the sort of things occupying my thoughts at the moment. I’m in no real hurry to work on the Hobbs because until my new project arrives in February, I really have no other to busy my idle hands.

Time to Layer Up

32 degrees. Wasn’t it almost 80…umm… day before yesterday? My face is actually windburned, my cheeks a rosy, warm, cherry red; my nose and forehead are matching dumplings of scarlet. I had to dig around in my drawer of cycling duds to find the warm stuff buried underneath cotton t-shirts and shorts. Happily – and surprisingly – I came across two thermal under layer shirts I bought on clearance last May, and then forgot about. So, an undergarment, a top layer, then a lightweight jacket. My arms and core are in good stead; a similar approach for my legs, a wool cap and a pair of gloves, and I’m off and down the road.

Somehow, when it’s cold, every bump in the road seems to be magnified until my legs and ears warm up. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Head up a hill. Soon enough, I’m no longer aware of the cold except on my toes. They’re always cold, it seems to me.

No need to fill my water bottle with ice today – my water is cold enough as is. I’ve a small chunk of Genoa Dry Salami and some Brie in my bag, a snack for when I stop in a remote spot along the railroad tracks near the river. A few minutes to enjoy my tiny repast, take in the sun, and peel out of my top layer.

Then I’m off again.

I Like to Tinker.

Shiny. I’m like a crow when it comes to chrome frames and parts. I love the stuff.

At the moment I’ve got two chrome frames left in the herd. There’s my Freschi Supreme Super Cromo, which is a fun, quick racing bike. And then there’s this one, my Katakura Silk.

It was very nearly original when I acquired it, save for the saddle and the handlebars. In the beginning I was set on keeping the bike as close to original as possible, but I like to tinker. The more I tinkered, the more components got switched around, swapped in and out. I was surprised and pleased when I discovered the bike easily converted over to 650b. I ran that configuration for a while, then put everything back onto my Cycles Toussaint Velo-Routier.

Well, the Cycles Toussaint didn’t make the final cut and I sold the frame and fork. The component kit and 650b wheel set are back on the Silk, and I’ve been taking the rebuild nice and slow to avoid any temptation to take short cuts along the way. Besides – and I may have mentioned this before – but I like to tinker.

I’ve no idea why I began this iteration with a Vetta saddle installed. I know it doesn’t fit my sit bones correctly. That’s why it’s in the parts cabinet and not on a bike. I sincerely hate padded saddles, and I know that Brooks Pro and Selle Regal and Brooks Cambium fit my butt like a glove. Should’ve started there, but I didn’t. In fact, I tested out several Vetta saddles I have on hand. And while they looked pretty cool, that, in fact, is simply not the point. So, with several Brooks Pros to pick from, I finished tinkering with Vetta saddles and mounted one that was nicely broken in.

Lightweight randonneur bars with MAFAC levers. Damn, I love how MAFAC lever feel in my hands! I set the bars up pretty high, so this is a very upright riding bike.

The fender line is almost right, but I still need to correct it where the rear fender meets the stays. A longer bolt and spacer solves that problem. I’ll tinker with that a bit more this weekend. I probably also need to add a chain link.

So, cool! More tinkering!