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. :)