A New Bike!
Yes, after 8 years, I´m going to have another custom frame built. No photos of it yet, not British this time, but a few explanations to start off with.
What´s the background?
I´ve had custom frames made off and on for the last 30 years, and I´ve never rued any of those actions – financial, organisational, time wise a custom frame is a real action, but its advantages grow with each Centimetre of frame height, and I need between 65 and 67 of them.
I started with my Mercian, a tourer as nice as they come, and not much in use nowadays as I´ve moved away from loaded cycletouring. I was quite inexperience then, so dealing with the people in Derby was an eyeopener; see my blog post on the matter. Just enter “Mercian” in the search box top left, and there you go. Matter of fact, you can enter the names of all bikes I´m going to mention this way, if you like. I used the Mercian to go all over Europe.
Then, in 1991, I had Dave Miller build me a curly Hetchins track frame, which also was great. I did some track training at the time, and loved it, now the bike is a fixed with a three speed Sturmey. Luckily, Dave suggested at the time that I order mudguard clearance and some braze ons like a classic road/track layout. I´ve even used the Hetchins for century rides, actually, and it´s not bad at all.
After that, there was a 2nd hand custom frame – yes, something like that exists. Our dream at the time was a George Longstaff expedition tandem which we couldn´t afford new. One day in 1995, a small add showed up in the Tandem Club Journal, and off I went to the UK to pick up a bike which was absolutely our dream machine, down to the choice of colour. No mean feat if you consider that we need 65/51 frame size in a Tandem. The machine has given the family endless satisfaction, not least with our son as the stoker, progressing through all stages of kiddy cranks and so on. It actually got our son into cycling.
During my son´s and my century riding we met a rider from a place near Dortmund who was foolhardy enough to swap his wonderful custom made Rickert for a carbon framed machine – so another huge coincidence delivered a 2nd hand Rickert custom road bike to my doorstep, again perfect down to the colour. I must admit I have not used it much, but it belongs in the group of bikes which are my size and which I would have or actually did order according to my wishes.
Next, some years after my son and me had started century riding in earnest, my son going through a procession of machines which I built from all sorts of frames and parts, me riding an old bike which had changed roles so often I had lost track, my son´s growing came to a foreseeable end, and we ordered randonneuers from Ellis Briggs in Shipley because Doug Fattic had recommended them to us. I had spent the precending season (2007) taking notes after each ride and thinking about the machines, and Andy at EB got them just right. We have enjoyed them hugely ever since finishing them in 2009.
Of course I´d be able to carry on with the bikes I´ve got. But, shortly after I had started riding the EB, Jan Heine´s influence had grown important enough to re-popularize 650B wheeled bicycles. (Which reminds me, BTW, that I have to take out another subscription of BQ.) At first it wasn´t clear if 650B was a fad or if it would last, but 23 mil wide tires are tougher to ride than 42 mil ones, and my back hasn´t been very kind to me, or vice versa, I don´t know, so this summer my decision grew that I had to have a 650B bike. I had played with the thought for some time, but now, due to my job situation and other things, I also felt I could do with a reward for some very hard work which had kept me out of the saddle for the whole season.
Also, there is this factor that my EB randonneur is not replaceable now. When Andy was still around, we could always send a damaged frame to Shipley (as we did twice) and we could count on the repair being perfect. Paul of course also is a great framebuilder as I have heard, but Andy has passed away, so I feel that I should give my EB a less hard time. I now treat it less than a bike but more as a monument to the marvellous craftsman who built it. That´s not just talk; after nearly 40 years of cycling I have recently for the first time crashed and damaged a frame. Nothing spectacular, but still.
What sort of bike?
I decided to get a 650B shod road bike, all the rage now in the US, it seems. The French would have called it a sportif in former times. No lights, no mudguards, just a decaleur in front. The funny coincidence that triggered that decision was that an acquaintance of mine who does house clearances offered me an old beat Trek 2300 dirt cheap, and I quite came to like it. It is a bit small for me, but hols in France and Belgium using it were very enjoyable. So the bike that was used as a working basis to start from actually was alloy framed with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra parts. Who´d have thunk.
How far has it progressed?
Well, given the fact that a frame builder has been found, lots of decisions about the frame have been taken, and a number of spares have already found their ways to my box, I think the bike has progressed quite far, but of course there is nothing to view at the moment besides a few documents and said box.
You will have noted Suntour bar ends, a pair of Phil threaded hubs, a 27.2 Campag seat post, a Regina block of sprockets, and outside the box there are already a bar and a pair of wide non-Ergo Campag brake levers. In the plastic bag there is a set of CLB cantis. Also due to the great kindness of a fellow Classicrendezvous member a Suntour GT rear and a Vx front should arrive here soon, so that the Shimano derailleur in the box now will hopefully replaced by something much more stylish. Oh yes, some Stronglight cranks are also somewhere.
Who will be the frame builder?
That question actually didn´t really pose itself; I didn´t shop round or send off long enquiring emails to all corners of the world, I asked Marten Gerritsen because over the last few years my fascination with his work has grown.
I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Marten, not only talking bike and filling in forms, measuring and taking decisons, but also being invited to dinner and going for a cycleride too, during which Marten watched my cycling habits, which to him, the former race team mechanic, will have looked very amateurish I´m sure. The whole experience was very enjoyable and I felt taken very serious. Also I hit the limits of my Dutch which I found a bit embarrassing.
Now dig this: My beloved EB randonneur frame on which I have spent more than 40.000 happy kilometers and which fits me like a glove was built by a man who, when asked what features he, from his own cycling experience, could recommend additionally, just answered in a Yorkshire accent “I don´t ride a bike”.
Marten has since emailed a very detailed and professional sheet on which all angles, lengths and other measurements are mentioned.
I´ll keep you posted.
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