Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show Photos

I finally had some time this afternoon to post some of the photos from the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show which I attended last weekend. More photos will be coming in a second post this week. This was the first show ever for the OBCA and I think they felt it was a great success because my wife overheard the people at the door talking about how great attendance was. Well no, wonder. Portland is a real bike town and these are the nicest machines from the state's builders. The one negative of the show was that the lighting was terrible. Pardon the photos, I did the best I could given the dark environs.

There were lots of builders present, including Strawberry, Ahearne, Vendetta, Pereira, Sweetpea, Bike Friday, Lyon, Stewie, Davidson (Washington), and probably some others I missed.

In my opinion absolutely the coolest bikes at the show were those of Joseph Ahearne. Not only does he built incredibly attractive bikes, but the accessories that go with them are unique and highly functional. Yes folks, that's a fully-functional, detachable "spork" on the front of that bike. The matching racks and U-bolt holder are unique handmade creations formed from chromoly tubing, as well. That rack screws into custom fit receptacles on the top of the front fork. Beautiful work.

Ahearne does something else I've never seen on another maker's bike: a flask holder that screws into standard water bottle lugs. Now, tell me you've never had a moment where you wished you had your flask along for the ride. You can order those from his website if you're jonesing for one.

Really the next nicest bikes that were fully lugged were the Strawberry bicycles but sadly my photos are not at all good or representative of the quality. Their stand was half in the shadows and the flash-shot photos look terrible.

So I'll move on to Bill Davidson's bikes which were also outstanding. Bill is from Seattle as I understand it, but they let him show anyway. Hey Oregon is like that. This green bike is his work and it's a stunner. The sticker says Nervex Professional, and if they are the real thing they must have bee n around for awhile. They sure look great.In the close-up you get a better idea of the detailed lug work on this beautiful ride. I like how the pump is fit behind the seat post. I now wish I had more photos of this bike. I can't imagine how much it must have cost, but it's just stunning.

There was also this and another beautiful bike made of bamboo. These are from Daedalus Cycles and are really nice looking. I don't know how bamboo will hold up with age, but these are sturdy as new. There's a bit of the fixed gear crowd aura surrounding Oregon bike building but Ill forgive them when they make cool stuff like this. It would be so much cooler with derailleurs and two brakes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show

This Sunday the Oregon BCA is holding the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show here in Portland. There are some incredible builders here in town and they will be showing their wares. The prices on most of the handmade frames start at well beyond my price range, but hey, it's worth going and drooling. I'll be interested to see works from Ahearne Cycles and Vanilla, among others. I've seen a few of their constructions on the street and they are gorgeous machines. Lots of new steel being put on the road. Pics will follow when I can get them off the camera early next week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marin County

On the same trip to San Francisco, we spent some time up in the Marin Headlands. You may know of Marin County as the birthplace of the mountain bike. Well it turns out to be a stunning place to ride a road bike, as well. I found myself really itching to ride. We drove up to a nice lookout spot below a set of disused WWII era fortifications and looked out over the Pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. While we were eating lunch, a guy stopped on his Rivendell Rambouillet to catch his breath and enjoy the view. I talked to him and drooled over his bike for awhile. Unfortunately I didn't get to ask to take a picture of his bike in this backdrop. But this is the kind of road you just need a bike for. A road bike, that is...


I just got back from a trip to San Francisco this weekend, which included a stop at Rivendell Bicycle Works, home of some of the very nicest lugged steel bikes on the planet. I went hoping to get a chance to ride an Atlantis, which looks like it could be my next bike (down the road). The guys at the shop were super helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. Marc Brandt, the nephew of Jobst Brandt (of The Bicycle Wheel fame) helped me fit and test a couple of bikes. The quality of these frames cannot be overstated. They really are beautiful, and lighter than you would think considering how often Grant mentions that lightness is not really a design feature. "They're as light as they need to be." The shop was so low key that it was difficult to find.

Rivendell don't post an address most places and say "call us for directions." I can see why. It's tucked off in a building with a few muffler shops, upholsterers, small-time auto repair, etc.

So for general impressions of the bikes I road: extremely comfortable. I got the feeling when i came home that my Peugeot is actually perhaps a little small for me. After riding the 64cm Quickbeam they set up for me, I discovered that it was so comfortable that I wanted to take one home on the spot. Well, that didn't happen, but I now have the bug for sure. I road those odd-looking mustache handlebars, too, and they turn out to be just as comfortable as Grant claims. But they're weird looking, so don't expect to see a set on my Peugeot any time soon.

If you're even in SF... drop by Rivendell in Walnut Creek. It's very much worth the trip.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm Back

After a vacation and short hiatus I'm back and cycling. It has been wet this week in Portland and I'm going to finish installing my Vélo Orange fenders so I don't get filthy riding on damp roads. I may make a stop to pick up a decent rain jacket for riding as well. I'm intending to ride all through the winter, otherwise known as "the rainy season." We'll see how it goes.

On another note, I am going to be building my wheels finally this week. With everything going on it seems I have just never gotten to it. I'll post pics of the process and the finished wheels.

The Raleigh Competition I picked up just before leaving for England for two weeks has not yet been touched. I may build it up with parts in my bins, including the Shimano 600EX cranks I picked up when I got the Fuji. Pics as that progresses, too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

531 DB for Me

I got it! Trawling Craigslist finally paid off. This morning I went and picked up a 1976 Raleigh Competition frame! It has a dented top tube, but is otherwise in good condition. This one has Huret dropouts on the frame and fork. I may investigate getting the dented tube replaced, but I have no idea how much that will cost. It's rideable and straight as is. I'm now not sure about the fate of the Fuji America I picked up the other day. The Fuji is a bit small for me. I'll strip it down to take to the powder coater and we'll see how it compares to the Raleigh. Either way the Raleigh stays. Pics when I return from nearly two weeks of vacation... in England. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fuji Identified

T-Mar from Bike Forums is an expert at all things vintage and, particularly it seems, all things vintage and Japanese. He helped me identify the Fuji as a 1977 Fuji America. It's not a 100% ID without the paint and with some original components swapped out, but that's what it looks like. I weighed the bike as equipped and it came in at 22 pounds which is nice and light for a vintage ride. If this is an America that would make it the 4th from the top in Fuji's lineup. I'm impressed. The Fuji Professional must have been an outstanding bike.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fuji Find

While still waiting for my spokes to show up I went to a bike swap in Washington this weekend. There was a lot of really old stuff there, including some very cool 1880's and 1890's bikes. A couple had shaft drive which I think is really cool, and one of the bikes with shaft drive had three speeds with a multi-plate clutch. That was kind of cool to look at. Not much in the way of 30's-70's drop-bar bikes, but a lot of cruisers and kids bikes from that period. But I managed a few scores anyway.

The first was this as yet unidentified Fuji I picked up for $35. It's a nice and very light Japanese bike and I'm still trying to identify it. Possibly a 197 7 Fuji Newest. The bad repaint makes it hard to say for certain. It has had the wheels substituted for Schwinn equipment, but those are beautiful Rigida rims and some kind of fairly nice Japanese-made high flange hubs (perhaps Sanshin?). Nitto Olympiade handlebars and stem, and a nice SunTour Cyclone M-II rear derailleur. SR Apex cranks are forged, not swaged and are in great shape. It's not the touring bike I'm looking for and it's not Reynolds 531 (heck it's not even Euro), but it's a fun toy nonetheless. With those half-chromed stays and that curved, sloping front fork it looks almost French. The tubing appears to be double-butted Fuji 331 and without the cables and levers the bike appears to weight in at 21 pounds. It is on the small side for me, but we'll see how it rides.

I also picked up an insanely cheap ($10) like new Campagnolo Nuovo Record front derailleur and a nice set of Shimano 600EX arabesque cranks in very good condition ($8). I couldn't help grabbing a few others odds and ends, too. Looks like next weekend will be spent putting the Fuji on the road if my spokes don't arrive.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tearing up Highways

It's not very often that a city tears up a highway and replaces it with a park and multi-use recreational path. Can you think of a city that has removed a highway? Portland did just that in 1974 when the city constructed what became known as Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park. I get the pleasure of riding my bike through this green space every day on my way to and from work. The park has been supplemented by a pedestrian/bike bridge on the lower deck of Portland's Steel Bridge since 2001, connecting the park's path to the Eastbank Esplanade. I read that in excess of 900 cyclists per day crossed the Steel and Broadway Bridges in 2006. All of this is part of why Portland is the only large American city to have received Gold status from the League of American Bicyclists. I ride my bike to work every day in no small part due to the transportation system that has been built to support cycling. As we all work to fight global warming and reduce waste, we need more cities to step up to the plate and build networks of bike paths and bike lanes. Lets hope that the foresight and determination that led Portland to replace a highway with a bike path in 1974 can serve as a model to other cities.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Due to the shockingly high price of decent spokes in recent years I thought I would not be getting double butted spokes, nor even the highest quality spokes, but on a tip-off from Steve I started poking around European eBay sites and ended up picking up a set of Belgian-made Sapim Race 14/15 double-butted spokes for a completely reasonable price. Sapim also have a nice spoke length calculator which makes it really easy to get the right length spokes. I had calculated these numbers with Spocalc and got the same measurements, but that was more work than the Sapim calculator because the measurements are easier to take the way that Sapim figures spoke length and my hubs weren't already in the Spocalc database. I encourage anyone to use Sapim's calculator. A little research shows that Sapim have been supplying top riders since 1918 so I'm pretty confident I'll like what I'm getting. Shots when they arrive.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pélissier P1001 Hubs

My hubs and fenders arrived and now I'm busy measuring the hub dimensions so I can order the right spokes to build up my Super Champion rims into wheels. Here are some shots of these really nice hubs. I wasn't sure what to expect, having never seen a set in person, and I sort of expected something around the quality of a Normandy hub. Normandy hubs were very strong, solid hubs that look nice and last nearly forever, but they are not top of the line. These Pélissier hubs are not top of the line, either, but they are definitely a step up from the Normandies. All the research I have done shows that Pélissier hubs were a brand of Maillard by the time these hubs were made but I haven't found much more than that. If anyone has a more complete history of this hub manufacturer, please share it! In any case, I'm delighted with the hubs. These will make great wheels!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Waiting for Hubs

For my birthday my wife bought me a beautiful NOS set of Pélissier hubs and some nicely-designed, brand new in-house fenders from Vélo Orange. I'm waiting for them to arrive so I can measure them and order my spokes. Due to the almost outrageous price of spokes these days I will not be buying double-butted spokes from DT Swiss or Wheelsmith. Of course stainless is the only real choice so I will be buying Union spokes which I think are of moderate quality. But heck they'll be better than the period-correct high tensile steel spokes anyway. Oh and about those hubs: if you haven't read the history of Henri Pélissier check out the Wikipedia article.

On a side note, the other day I helped a guy lug a bunch of bikes to his house in the trunk of my old Volvo. In return he gave me a really nice 700c wheel with a near-perfect Helicomatic hub and freewheel, and stainless 14 gauge spokes. Not sure what I'll do with it yet, but it's a nice piece.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nevr Dull

When you pick up some cool vintage bike parts the first thing you want to do before you put them on your bike is make them look as good as they can. A lot of times that means you've got a nice old aluminum or chrome part and it's not looking its best. I've done a lot of polishing of old parts, first for my 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV car (yes heresy, a car on a bike blog) and now for my vintage Peugeot, and the sweet mixte frame I recently sold on Craigslist. After I picked up those nice Super Champion rims I needed to polish them so I turned to the product which provides the name for this post. Nevr Dull. Bad spelling or not, it does a fantastic job of shining up any old aluminum or chrome part. Even things which you might think are destroyed.

I know a lot of people talk about Simichrome for polishing bike parts and I've never used it so I can't compare, but Nevr Dull is available in pretty much every city and town in the US and Canada, right off the shelf in most auto parts or home improvement stores. It's pretty economical and 1 can lasts a really long time. And those Super Champions look good after about 30 minutes of polishing. The top one has been polished lightly and the bottom one is as it arrived.

I didn't have to use this trick on the Super Champions because they're in good shape, but if you have some aluminum with some scratching you can use 320 or 400 grit sand paper to remove the scratches, finish off with a bit of 1000 grit and then use Nevr Dull to smooth it out and it will look as good as new. Those MAFAC Racer brake levers on the mixte needed a bit of work. After the treatment they looked as good as new.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Super Champion

I went down to the Recyclery today to their every-so-many-months bike swap. I was looking for a couple of things: new full hoods for my Mafac Racers and a decent set of rims to lace to some Pélissier hubs I'm eying from Vélo Orange. I struck out on the Mafac hoods, but I found a beautiful pair of vintage Super Champion Model 58 aluminum rims in great condition. I picked them up for $15 and now I need to order my hubs and get to wheel building.

Super Champion was a French manufacturer that made some of the nicest aluminum rims of the era and they came as factory equipment on everything from mid-range to top of the line bikes from all over Europe. As always Classic Rendezvous has more information on this great manufacturer. This particular set was hardly used and will make a great accessory for my vintage Peugeot.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet Mixte Single-Speed

I recently built up a Peugeot mixte frame to sell. It's on Craigslist at the moment, but I was so happy about how it came out that I wanted to put some info up here on it. The number one thing I tried out on this one that I had never done before was I bought traditional white cloth tape and shellac'ed it in the traditional manner. I wonder why people stopped doing this. Wow does it look great. Everyone who has seen it so far commented on how great those bars look. If you're thinking about redoing a set of bars, this is really a good way to go. And it was cheap, too, another plus. I understand from other riders that you can just re-shellac the bars at any time afterward if they start to get worn. That's a much better solution than buying new cork tape at $14 and this looks better!

I took all the single-speed gear that had come with my green Peugeot before I put the gearing back on, and set this bike up that way. These mixtes look good as single-speeds I think. Better than the diamond frames anyway.

Also a trick, for any of you who are converting a Nervar or Stronglight cottered crank to a fixie or single-speed, if you turn the bottom bracket spindle around, you can get a perfectly straight chain line. Better functioning and it sure looks nice.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Garage Sales

I've sometimes gone to garage sales looking for bike finds. This last weekend I was out for about an hour hitting sales as I saw them in the St Johns neighborhood of Portland. I picked up a nice tap and die set but was striking out on anything cycle-related. I decided to hit one more sale before heading home and it was a gold mine! I had been looking for a decent bike rack to carry my bike and my wife's. On craigslist they have been too much money. I picked up a newer Yakima rack and one "raptor" bike tray (the kind where you don't have to remove the wheel) for $45. I need to find another tray for cheap, but for now I can tote my Peugeot wherever I like. Here's to garage sales.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Peugeot UO8

Peugeot made a lot of bikes, particularly in the 70's and 80's. There was a whole range of bikes, and somewhere near the mid to low end of the pack was a great bike with light touring geometry called the UO8. A lot of people got in to cycling on this bike, and my Dad was one of them. I always loved that bike growing up and finally when I was in high school my Dad gave it to me when he bought a new Trek. But it was near the end of its life at that point and I only had it until I went to college. Its parts were sacrificed at some point to keep other bikes going (we had a few) and that was the last it was seen.

Well I recently decided to get back into riding a bike. I have a job where I can commute by bike now, and so I decided to seek out a nice UO8 just like my Dad's. I found one on craigslist that fit, looked right and was in beautiful condition, but it had been converted to a single speed. It's a 1971 or so as far as I can tell. I bought it anyway, because it was the nicest one I had seen. I rode it as a single speed for awhile, but it's no way to commute up a big hill out of the Willamette River valley. So I decided to put it back together. I had most of the original parts, but they were scruffy compared to the frame and so I decided to cheaply upgrade it to decent parts, using period, or almost period parts wherever possible. Off came the steel cranks and cottered bottom bracket. Off came the Shimano BMX freewheel and chain. Here's the equipment list now:
  • Mafac Racer brakes (came with bike)
  • Mafac Racer (sweet) 'drilled' brake handles (came with bike)
  • Wrights W3N leather saddle (very nice seat) (came with bike)
  • Rigida steel rear rim (came with bike)
  • Schurmann steel front rim (came with bike)
  • Normandy high flange hubs (came with bike)
  • TTT long stem (came with bike)
  • Vittoria Zafiro tires (came with bike)
  • Nervar Star lightweight aluminum cranks (
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record 115mm Bottom Bracket (
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record Front Derailleur (French tube size) (
  • SunTour VGT Luxe rear derailleur (local guy)
  • SunTour Perfecte freewheel with 14-32 spread (The Recyclery)
  • SunTour down tube shifters -- just like Rivendell Silvers (Citybikes)
  • MKS Sylvan Road pedals (River City Bikes)
  • MKS toe clips and ALE straps (Bike Central)
I briefly had a beautiful pair of Maillard platform pedals that I picked up on vacation in Boulder, CO, but promptly lost a dust cap and that was that. If you have a dust cap for those, I still want to put them back on my bike. :)

Things left to modify are: aluminum wheels (this is a priority) and a Stronglight aluminum roller bearing headset. I also want to pick up a Zéfal Lapize pump to go on those nice brazed-on pump pegs. A friend gave me a nice set of Belleri aluminum handle bars which I'll swap on when the tape wears out.

It's a blast to ride, and even with those heavy steel wheels and steel headset it weighs in at only 26 pounds, which is pretty good for a 62cm bike with straight gauge tubes!

Monday, July 30, 2007

True Temper

It has come to my attention that I left out a modern manufacturer of extremely high quality cycling tubes in my recent post about tubesets. Renowned golf club manufacturer True Temper began building steel bicycle tubes during the 1990's just as many of the older generation of tube makers were disappearing or moving on to other products. Kudos to True Temper for picking up where others like Tange and Ateliers de la Rive left off. Like many other great framebuilding parts, you can pick them up from Henry James.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Missed it!

I found a great vintage tourer on Ebay and the shipping was reasonable. Bid on it and... missed it as you might have guessed from the title of this post. Research shows this would have been a great loaded tourer--probably one of the under-appreciated buys from the 80's. It was a Miyata-built double-butted Univega Gran Turismo. Had a bag and a rack and looked to be in very good condition. Well I missed it, but I'll find something else. Unfortunately craigslist is down this afternoon so that narrows my resource pool a bit!

Friday, July 20, 2007


It's not true that the tubing makes the frame, contrary to what many people believe. Geometry is king, but geometry seems like something everyone (well most people) could learn to understand in time. Not to belittle it, because as I have said, it's the geometry that determines 99% of how your bike rides. But all of the different material makeup, metallurgy and different thicknesses, weights, and reinforcements manufacturers have devised for tubing over the years invoke a mystique that geometry just doesn't seem to have.

Different cycle manufacturers have slapped different labels on their tubesets over the years as a marketing tool and to an extent they were highly successful in promoting the tubing brands perhaps even over their own cycle brands. Many of the bike manufacturers who marketed these tubesets are gone, but some of the tube makers remain in good financial health. Reynolds, Tange, Columbus, Ishiwata, Vitus (Atèliers de la Rive), and Miyata are some of the best known steel tube makers. More recently there is also Dedacciai in Italy. Some of these makers have come and gone, but the mystery and magic attached to their products remain and live on in the thousands of their steel frames out on the road.

Interestingly most people think that the lightest tubeset you can buy is always the best. I've spent some time recently going over what the different aspects are and it turns out that for someone of my size (6'3" 225lbs) that there are many tubesets that are just off limits. At first that kind of irritated me, but then as I thought about it was a pretty simple formula: I weigh enough that I can easily lose 5 pounds--a whole bike frame worth of weight--so it's a moot point to an extent! This site has a great chart of all the different dimensions, weights, and aspects of many popular, historic tubesets: So it seems that fitness for a purpose, and weight of the tubeset and rider all go hand in hand to determine what you should be riding. The good news is that there are lots of tubing sets still available, and for the touring I intend to do the heavier but still top-shelf sets are the best choice.

I'm thinking of picking up something like an old Miyata touring frame in Tange Champion or Miyata proprietary tubing. Or if I'm very very lucky a Trek 620 in Reynolds 531. If I had the money I'd be calling Woodrup Cycles in the UK, or if I had more money, Chris Kulczycki at Vélo Orange and ordering myself a new touring frame. So maybe I'll start saving. In the meantime I just need to find a good deal in the right size (62cm).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vintage Commuting

In Portland, we're lucky enough to be in one of the great bike towns in North America. As a result of all the great urban planning around bicycling (bike lanes, paths, bike signals, etc) there are a lot of people who commute by bike, with me among them. One of the coolest things is seeing all the great vintage bikes people use as their daily workhorses. I ride a heavily modified green 1971 Peugeot UO8 touring bike and I often share the road with old Motobecanes, Schwinns, Miyatas, Treks, Univegas, and on and on. There is a LOT of vintage steel on Portland roads. I need to start carrying a cheapo digital camera to grab shots of the coolest bikes (if their riders will let me). I don't know where they're all coming from, but all the old bikes seem to be coming out of basements and are found on the road or chained up all over town.

I've been watching Craigslist a lot lately and I keep seeing the prices rising on the best vintage steel. Is steel back? Great people like the guys at Rivendell have been preaching the joys of lugged steel for a long time now. And I keep reading on the web about all the new amateur framebuilders playing with brazed, lugged steel. Personally I'm hungering for a classic Reynolds 531 frame in touring dimensions for weekend rides. I better hurry up and get one before all the guys on the new multi-thousand-dollar bikes catch on to how great these old vintage rides are!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

vélo de route

The name of my blog means "Road Bike" in French. I took this name because it's what I ride, where I ride it, and what I'm interested in. This blog will be about the experience of owning and riding classic and vintage (or cranky and vintage depending on your perspective) steel-framed (and mostly lugged) road bikes. I'm particularly interested in European bikes, but old Japanese bikes can be just as interesting. My own classic Peugeot UO8 is now a hybrid with a mix of Simplex, Nervar, Campagnolo, SunTour, and MKS parts.

My philosophy is that there are lots of parts you can hang on your bike. But you want it to work and you're going to be looking at and using it a lot so it really should look good. What works well and looks good is worth putting on your bike. If it works well but it's ugly, there's probably something older and better out there for less money and it probably looks 10 times better.

The "secret" and best part about all these old parts is that they're cheap if you keep your eyes open. I have a set of old SunTour shifters from the early 80's that I think are one of the prettiest sets I've seen and they were a whopping $12 in like new condition. My SunTour freewheel with a 14-32 span (5spd) in great condition but dirty, was $5. These are non-indexed parts but they shift as well as (or very close to) any friction parts ever made. You can get top of the line vintage parts that are superior to all but the most expensive modern parts and they are a fraction of the cost.

And I'm always looking for good deals if you know of any. :)