A love song for purple bike

Hello again blog! All sorts of things have been happening and are about to happen. But before I dig into all that, I have a love song for purple bike. A few years back I had a blog post, A love song to silver bike. Silver bike was stolen from my apartment in Baltimore: the building was broken into, and all of the bikes in the common area were gone. I also lost my bag, my lock, and a notebook with years of sketches and notes. It was a hard loss for me. At the time, I had just built up purple bike, a Gary Fisher Advance with a sweet purple/blue purple and silver/white splatter paint job as a wheelie practice/winter commuter bike. 


Here it is after the initial build. I got the frame, fork, headset, bottom bracket, and stem from the Baltimore coop, Velocipede Project. I initially used some wheels thrown out by a customer who abandoned their bike at the shop, as well as the cranks and derailleur. I bought the saddle, brakes, pedals, and hite-rite.  The tires are too big for the frame, but eventually fit. I later built a townie wheel set around an LX hub I pulled from the trash and a cheapo sanyo dynamo hub. After silver bike got stolen, purple bike became my commuter. I put a blackburn rack from the trash on the back and have ridden this bike not every day but many of them since. I took it to Blue Mountain once:


I rode purple bike through a couple of winters:



I have often compared this bike to an 81 Bronco. You can take to the grocery store, and it will get you some funny looks, but it will work great. You can also take it off roading, and you will get some funny looks, but it will work great. Recently I took it on a couple more serious off road trips:


Point is, purple bike is a mid-range bike from 2 decades ago. I did not spend very much money on it, and it gets me around town every day, lives outside in Brooklyn, goes camping, and still takes me mountain biking with some competence. Holy shit guys, this thing is incredible. It is not especially fast or light or fancy, but does many things alright. 

Back again.

Well, blog, it has been a long time. More than a year. It has been a very rough year, personally and for a lot of people around the world. I lost a friend unexpectedly and had my partner of 6 years leave me in quick succession just after I had taken on a new job with greater responsibility, and it has been a slow burn. As a result, I have not been as productive in the workshop as I had hoped when last we chatted. However, I do have some good results. Karen's mixte came out awesome after some issues with the powder coating. I took on a hardtail MTB project for a friend of mine in Baltimore, and I am pretty happy with the results. Since last we spoke, I rode many miles of single and double track in Baja, and will be returning in January 2018. My next project is a bike packing 29x3.0 frameset that will adapt well to a mid-travel fork when I just want to fuck around, but can take a rigid fork and load without issue when I need to go ride bikes in the wilderness for a while. My 29er that I built way back in 2013 rode really well, but did break 3 times while I was on expedition. Twice I fixed it en route, but there comes a point when you realize that a bike you built to be fun and take off of jumps and rocks just isn't meant to strap 10 liters of water, 3 days of food, and camping supplies to and then jump off of rocks. I tried, folks. I will try to be better about keeping this up to date in the weeks to come. 

Karen's Mixte project and big plans!

Hello again internet, i have been pretty busy out here in the real world. In the workshop, i have continued to work at Karen's mixte project. As of this afternoon, the fork is complete, the head tube/diagastrut lug is prepped and ready for brazing, the downtube is mitered, the head tube is trimmed, the chain stays are mitered and cut, and the bottom bracket shell is brazed to the seat tube, which is cut to length. The next step is to figure out bending the diagastruts- i am trying to shape them into a continuous arc, so that they sweep smoothly from the head tube past the seat tube to join the seat stays. the line of the diagastruts will be continued in the rear rack struts. but bending a single large radius like that is pretty tricky without some pretty fancy bending gear, so i have some feelers out to other people's shops to see if i can either borrow or use their benders. while i wait on those possibilities, i got the fork all done! it came out very well, it was pleasant to braze some lugs after all the time i have spent doing fillets of late. 

disc brake with wiring guides for the dynamo headlight.

There is still something magical about brazing a lug. You heat the lug and the tension grows and grows in my mind- is it ready? is it ready? why isn't it ready? OH SHIT IT'S READY. then you feed in the brass rod, and it just sucks right into the impossibly small seam between the lug and the tube. You play the flame over the lug and then, all of a sudden, as you flick the torch over a bit of the seam a quarter inch down from where you started, the brass pops out along the seam! it worked! the brass got so runny that it sucked all along the inside of the lug, and then it followed the heat from the flame. You know that is what supposed to happen, but there is still an indescribable satisfaction when you see it actually happen. Pretty fun. 

As the title to this post promises, I have big news. I will be riding the Baja Divide and then some this winter! I have been daydreaming about doing the Baja Divide ride basically as soon as i saw the blog that Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox started about it earlier this summer. As i kept dreaming, i thought to myself, fuck it! why not actually do it? i can get the time off from the shop for sure, and when else could i have such an adventure? Akratic is not yet running under its own steam/consuming my entire being, and it has been a long while since i had a real adventure. Then, I brought it up to my wonderful partner Emmeline. I did so with some trepidation: i anticipated worry and fear over such a long trip. But no! She was excited and wanted in. So we are going down to do the Cape Loop of the route with just the two of us from December 15 through January 4. Lots of riding interspersed with camping on beaches and surfing and eating fish tacos. Once Emmeline flies back to NYC for her spring semester on January 4, I will take a bus up to the top of the peninsula and join up with the group ride doing the route down the peninsula. I couldn't be more excited! Before then, I have to build a sweet bike packing hardtail for Emmeline. I already have sketches worked up and am working on putting the build kit together. The next two months will be busy for sure!

Back to the blog! Some new projects.

Hello again, internet. while there has been a bit of a gap in my blog updates, I have remained quite busy. After wrapping up Emily's bike project, I took on a fork build for my friend Sam, who rides a Surly Instigator. He is looking to commute on the bike this winter and didn't want to have to keep servicing his fancy Fox fork, so he asked me to build him something that more or less maintains the geometry of the bike but has loads of braze ons for the Salsa Anything cages, front racks/baskets, and internal routing for dynamo wiring. Right up my alley!

Here it is, installed and ready to shred. I have a complete gallery in my Projects section, here. It was a fun project and a chance for me to further refine my unicrown fork technique. For this style of fork, I draw my inspiration mostly from Tom Ritchey, who has made some of the most rugged and beautiful unicrown forks out there. I still look forward to doing one in the style of Steve Potts, where the top of the fork is brazed or welded together and then the blades of the fork are silver brazed into them, much as a lug would be assembled. Once I do that, my repertoire of forks will be complete: a segmented fork, a couple of lugged forks, a couple of unicrown forks, and a bilaminate unicrown! 

  In the new project department, I have taken on another frameset build for my co-worker and friend Karen. It is going to be a mixte, partially lugged, partially fillet brazed, with a rear rack to match and some pretty crafty u-lock integration. Disc brake, 1xn drivetrain, q/r wheels, dynamo wiring guides, tire clearance for up to 650b x 42. Here is my 1:4 sketch of the frame:

Here you can see two possible frame configurations, overlaid. the green is one option: a super traditional mixte design where the diagastruts go from the head tube lug down to the rear dropout intersection. In this case, I would braze the non-drive side diagastrut to a quarter-circular brace that supports the disc brake caliper brazed onto the seat stay. I got the idea from the great and tragically late Ezra Caldwell, who has been a constant source of inspiration for me over the years.

  The blue line represents the design that we ended up going with, a modified mixte configuration where the diagastruts will be bent to curve up and meet the seat stays on their way from the rear dropouts to the seat tube. This will allow me to use a seat stay mounted brake tab, and will provide some u-lock mounting real estate. I will make the rear rack to continue the line of the diagastruts up to the luggage platform. I got this idea from Signal Cycles' award winning mite from a couple of years back. I worked with Matt Cardinal of Signal at Bike Gallery in Portland for a while, and his work with Nate at Signal has been a permanent presence in my understanding of how custom bikes should be laid out and manufactured. 

Lots more on the mixte as it comes together! With some luck, I will be making the first couple of cuts and miters later on this week. Thanks folks!

Emily's bike completion!

Some of you who browse my  Flickr will have already noticed this, but i finally got Emily's bike all built up. She transplanted her SRAM Force 22 group from her cross bike, and built up a set of White Industries/DT Swiss wheels with TRP's Spyre brakes. A very nice set of parts, and aesthetically very complementary. I am quite pleased with how it came out- the paint looks great, everything installed and set up without any problems. 

Duke approves!

Duke approves!

Man, i love how small those 35mm cross tires look, even mounted to a wide-ish touring rim.

The sparkliness really comes out under direct sunlight.

Close up of the bottom bracket cable/hose routing solution. The cable guides are fully enclosed, allowing for lubricated sleeves and letting the brake line cross over without touching a moving cable.

All done! Now, on to Sam's fork project, wrapping up the long over-due Raleigh restoration, and then on to a bike for myself that is in the sketching phase. Thanks for reading and following the build, it has been a fun one. 

Powdercoating success!

Well it was a long day in the workshop on Thursday (thanks Lance and Jennifer for letting me work so late!), but Emily's frame and fork are looking good under two coats of powder. I am very pleased with how it all came out- I have put some preliminary photos up right now, with a full set of glamor shots to come soon. It is always a combination of excitement and relief to reach this stage of a project: it is all done and it is awesome. The powdercoating process went really well on this one, and I am actually looking forward to my next couple of little things, all of which will also need powder coating, as opportunities to play with it some more. 

It has been a minute since Emily and I first sat down to chat about the bike back in December, but it has been a very valuable learning experience for me. I am excited to put some of the things I have learned to use in my next couple of projects which are already starting to coalesce. More pictures and stories soon!

recent events and recovery

Hello again, blogoverse. I have been laid up the past couple of days with a particularly nasty strain of bronchitis, but prior to that I have had some good progress and exciting times. Emily's project is about 2 full days away from completion- some more emery-cloth work, and then powder coating and decal-ing. no real rush at them moment, as Emily doesn't have a complete parts kit for the bike yet. I may try to powder coat the raleigh restoration project at the same time and get that out the door. If anyone reading this has an interest in an enormous road frameset at a great price, or knows someone who might be, drop me a line at dylansworkaddress@gmail.com. If you get in early, you can choose the color too! 

For the next project, I took in a rigid fork for my co-worker Sam. He is looking to set his Surly Instigator up as a winter commuter next year. It should be a fun project- lots of braze ons for racks, baskets, lights, and some sort of provision for internally routed dynamo wiring. I have some ideas on that front, so stay tuned! I also have a couple of projects in the sketches and dreams phase, which are coming together slowly in the usual way, where my lovely partner Emmeline gets very sick of hearing me say "bikes" when she asks what i am thinking about as i stare into the middle distance. sketches and more definite notions soon!

The other exciting thing of late was a great party that my friend and shop host Lance threw at the Squarebuilt space a couple of weeks ago. A bunch of exciting bicycle people came out, including my friend Chris Bishop from Baltimore. Chris was in town for a presentation over at Maglia Rosa and it was very cool to get to show him the space I was working out of. Chris was very friendly and welcoming when I lived in Baltimore, and we have talked quite a bit about our projects in the past. Chris' work has long been an inspiration to me, and it has always meant a lot to chat with him about various ideas and projects. Jamie Swan also came out with a very good looking bike that he had just wrapped up. I also was pretty stoked to chat with Johnny Coast, whose work i first encounter at the Bike Works frame building expo a couple of years ago when i first moved to NYC. Dave from Bike Works also came out, which was very exciting for me. I had long heard rumors about Dave, but we hadn't met in person yet. We had a very enjoyable industry nerd chat- you know you are in the right place when you can make casual jokes about positron that are well received.

The day after the party, Chris and I joined his friend Nick Murray, who had ridden with us both at last years D2R2, for the classic NYC road ride up River Rd and back. It was a straight up death march- 45 degrees and steady rain. But then, I had only slept a couple of hours and had a pretty noticeable hangover, so a death march was pretty much par for the course. The ride was awesome- we took a pitstop at the new Rapha shop on Prince St., had a coffee, and then headed out. River Rd is awesome- rolling, pretty, and pretty low traffic. As we cruised up the last climb, the sun came out and the clouds started to break up. We rolled back to town, bagging the one switchback climb that drops you off by the road back into Ft. Lee on the way back. As we came back into town, we did a lap of Central Park together before Chris and Nick headed back over to Brooklyn. The park was full of trees just starting to bloom and the air had the special clearness that comes after a hard rain, and I was full of gratitude to spend such good time with such good people. 

quick update

it has been a while, already, since last i posted. i have been doing a lot of finish filing since completing the fork to go with emily' bike. i will have a complete pre-paint update, and some thoughts on working in the bike shop, in my next post, coming soon. for the meantime, here are some pictures, more of which are also up on my flickr:

winter, progress, and revisions

alright, internet, i'm back. we had some wintry fun in nyc at last with storm jonas a couple weeks back, which gave me the opportunity to make myself some studded tires and roll happily around the almost car free city for a couple of days:

monster commuter in the snow

monster commuter in the snow

i have also made quite a bit of progress on emily's frame build. we have reached the point where i do the seat stays, which are a visually central point of the frame. my first thought was to do something like what ritchey used to do with some of his chain stays:

man am i a sucker for these older ritchey frames

man am i a sucker for these older ritchey frames

my process was to miter one chain stay to the frame, and then miter the other stay to that stay, tinned in place, and then to the frame on the other side, making a overlapping section that i could file smooth. here is how it came out:

there was still some filing to do, obviously, but it was going to be sleek, understated, and a nice little reference to one of my favorite frame builders. however, i ran into clearance problems down at the disc brake side of things.

at the time i thought that i could sneak the caliper and adapter in, possibly by filing a relief into the seat stay and capping it to make extra room. however, after bolting up an adapter it became clear that there wasn't going to be enough space. the issue stems from the dimensions of the dropout, which does not extend so far upwards, with this bb drop, to clear a disc brake caliper. in order to get around the caliper, i ended up ordering a set of mtb wishbone stays and bending them on the fork bender (many thanks to lance of squarebuilt for this trick):

the completed first stay is on the right side of the photo, and i am about to bend the other stay to match. the tight radius curve in the stay comes that way, and then it is mitered to a single central piece of tubing to connect to the seat tube. once i had the bends matched, i put it all together in the fork jig to braze together as a subassembly.

i used the 137 mm dummy axle to locate the ends of the stays at the correct width for the rear dropouts and then clamped everything together in the jig.

here is the subassembly in place, with the first steps of mitering underway. the central member of the wishbone subassembly will eventually be at the same height as the top tube. lots of clearance for the disc caliper now, even with the big 160 mm rotor on my dummy wheel:

(forgive the sloppy appearance of the miter on the seat stay, it will be improved before brazing)

(forgive the sloppy appearance of the miter on the seat stay, it will be improved before brazing)

loads of space! and, just as cool, we now have loads of clearance for big tires and mud:

i brazed in a fender mount to the central member of the wishbone to make it easy and tidy if emily ends up wanting to run full coverage fenders. i will also do some fender/rack mounts down at the bottom once i braze it all together.

as much of a bummer as it was to have to cut out the stays i had just brazed in, it did provide me with a valuable opportunity to assess the inside of my joints:

i was very pleased to see that there was no scorching on the inside and plenty of internal fillets. even though i heated the joint quite a bit to fill in the small center section, i was able to keep everything in the correct range of temperatures so that the brass ran smoothly and was able to penetrate the joint but did not get to the heat where it starts to burn. not too shabby!

this week i hope to finalize the new rear triangle and also finish mitering the fork blades. i have one side of the fork pretty much ready to braze and the other still needs some work. i will leave you with one more glamour shot of the new configuration, as i am very happy with how it is coming together:

more news and photos soon!

Happy New Years! A ride report and lots of progress.

Hello again, internet. I had a very pleasant and restful holiday season this year, traveling up to Connecticut to spend some fun times with my parents, my sister, and my girlfriend. It was very restorative to get out of the city and out of my usual routine for a little while. On New Years', I went full old person and went to bed around 10:30 after a very nice 65 mile ride up to Nyack. I poached some trails on the way, which started out as a nice gravel-ish climb but then deteriorated to some pretty sloppy single track. A little ambitious for my trusty road bike, but lots of fun anyway.

my beloved ciocc, soon to be upgraded from its period correct build to a 10sp campy group.

my beloved ciocc, soon to be upgraded from its period correct build to a 10sp campy group.

Although i did not spend any of my holiday time in the workshop, i did get quite a bit done since last I posted. Emily's bike has made lots of progress- the front triangle is complete and aligned, the chain stays and rear dropouts are attached and aligned, and the seat stays are mostly mitered. I think we are a day or two away from being a rideable frame! Here is the bike in its current state:

I borrowed a wheel from work to use as a test piece in the rear end of the bike- it has a 38mm tire and a 160 mm disc rotor mounted, so it fits all of the critical dimensions that i need to make sure will clear the frame once everything is built. 

Before attaching the chain stains, i wanted to be sure that there would be enough tire and mud clearance, so i dimpled the stays. Dimpling is common practice among frame builders and designers, as it doesn't hurt anything, requires only a little bit of planning, and can save your bacon when it comes to clearance issues. I laid out the stay as it would be once installed to determine where the fattest part of the fattest tire would land. Once i found that, I marked it all up and set up the arbor press:

The arbor press is a simple tool that smushes things with a half-ton of pressure. I supported the chainstay in a wooden tubing block and then lined up the bit with my scribed marks. A little nerve-wracking for the moment that you feel the stay squish, but it came out awesome.

Here you can see the dimpled stay after brazing to the bottom bracket. It fell nicely where the fattest part of the fattest tire that this bike could accommodate would go. Success!

One of the challenges on this build was switching jigs partway through the build. I stared out on the Anvil jig, which is a wonderful tool that i was already familiar with from UBI and my earlier projects. However, our jig was on loan, and the owner took it back, so we were left with Lance's trusty Bringheli jig. The Bringheli is a very cool jig- it is hugely versatile and allows for a lot of different dimensions and standards without having to invest in additional small parts or tooling. However, it has no real indicators or labeling and thus takes quite a bit longer to set up than the Anvil did. Furthermore, given that this is my first build in this particular jig, I also spent a whole lot more time checking my work. Once I had the stays attached, I brought it right over to the alignment table to make sure that everything was straight and proper:

Everything came out great. Here you can see the bottom bracket shell clamped under the big brass block. The middle metal V of the contraption that is sitting in the dropouts in the picture starts out being pushed up against the centerline of the seat tube. That gives you the centerline of the front triangle (as long as your front triangle is straight). Once you have that centerline locked down, you bring it back to the dropouts and see where they land. Ideally, the center of the rear will be the same as the center of the front. 

Once I got all that squared away, I started mitering the seat stays. Looking good! With some luck I will be back next week with the stays attached as well. Once the frame is all together, we move on to the fork!

Emily's bike project

Well, my projects keep on moving nicely forward over here in NYC. The other project i took on, besides the big raleigh road restoration, is a really exciting dirt road shredder/light touring monster for my friend Emily. Emily and I go way back, at this point. We both attended the mossy intellectual haven of Reed College in Portland, OR several lifetimes ago. Although we didn't know each other at that point in history, it is a small school and we bumped into each other. After graduation, we both ended up working for Bike Gallery in Portland for several years. I started my tenure at Bike Gallery as a salesperson, and, not being naturally inclined towards sales, was somewhat lazy and spent too much time browsing pictures of people's custom bikes on the internet while Emily actually worked. When she packed up and moved, first touring down the coast and then to NYC, I said that someday i'd build her a sweet steel frame. Now that we are in the same city at the same shop once more, the time has come.

Initially, Emily came up with the bike as a touring bike. However, as we talked it over a couple of times, it evolved into a dirt road shredding machine with the capacity for a light to moderate  rear load. I did my thing with sketches and BikeCad, and spent a lot of time mulling over tube sets, axle standards, and brake systems. In the end, I felt (and Emily agreed) that if we were going to build a modern bike, in a modern category, for a modern drivetrain, it should adhere to whatever standards are most appropriate. so, given that a bike like this has disc brakes these days (for a lot of good reasons), i felt it should also have thru axles. Most of Emily's riding on the bike will be unladen, so i want it to be a little lighter than the Rando-Gnar. Here is the result:

Mixed Columbus Zona double oversize 8/5/8 tubeset, tapered headtube for carbon fork compatibility, clearance for up to 43 mm tires or 40 w/fenders, 12mm front thru axle tapered unicorn fork, 142x12 rear thru axle, and disc brakes.

So, I ordered up tubing, printed off mitering templates and dove in!

It has felt very, very good to have a full size project to sink my teeth into again. As much as I enjoyed Boson's cargo bike project, it is very nice to have jigs and fixtures pre made for me. And while all of my filing and emery'ing muscles are perpetually sore from mitering and cleaning tubes, it is a good sore.

Once I got all the miters cut and things lined up in the jig, I tacked everything up. The tacks held everything in place so that I could check the alignment before tinning the joints. As I spoke of earlier, tinning is a way to build up internal fillets within your joints. Here is the front triangle tinned:

As you can see, the fillets are not fully formed on the outside at all, but there is already 36" of 3/32" brass filler rod holding the frame together before I have even completed a single joint. For a bike that I would like to punch above it's weight class as far as being able to carry bags for a couple days while also being pretty light and confidence inspiring on mixed surfaces, strong joints are a must. 

Here it is all brazed up! I have a couple more photos up on the project page here. Lots more coming soon as I work through the rear triangle, and then a really cool fork!

back on the horse! a couple of projects

at long last, i have a couple of new projects at hand, both of which made big steps forward in the past two weeks. first, my friend nima in baltimore gave me a very nice raleigh team usa road frame in my size (64 x 62) with a cracked drive side dropout. as it happened, i had a very nice set of gipiemme dropouts that fit perfectly, so i sweated out the old dropouts, reworked the slots to fit the new dropouts, and brazed them on in. here is the frame with the dropouts roughly jammed in to check the fit:

here it is brazed up!

once they were in there, i re-spaced the rear end of the bike to 130 mm for modern road componentry, realigned the dropouts, and realigned the frame. a road wheel now pops right in:

i have made the first couple of passes at cleaning up the joints, but they all still have a couple of hours of filing and emery-clothing before i will repaint/powder coat the frame. i will also be building a matching fork for it, as it is quite hard to find forks that would match the bike, stylistically, with enough steerer tube:

that's a whole lotta head tube.

that's a whole lotta head tube.

i am not sure if i will keep the bike for myself or sell it, yet. it would make an awesome road bike for some tall person out there who can't find a bike long enough. 

the other project i have brewing is a sweet thru-axle disc brake gravel touring rando-gnar machine for my good friend emily. emily and i went to reed together, years and years ago, and didn't really know each other then. however, we then both worked at bike gallery in portland for a couple of years. she went on to run a branch of the bicycle habitat chain where i currently work in nyc. way back, several lifetimes ago, i had said that one day i would make her a sweet frame, and now that i am in a position to do so, we worked up the necessary dimensions and ordered up tubing. today i scribed the tubes, so as to be able to align the mitering templates relative to each other, and started to set up the first mitering templates. the next time i am in the shop, i will apply the final mitering templates, check my measurements again, and then start to cut and miter tubes! 

news! and a ride report

well, much has happened since last we spoke, internet. as some of you know, emmeline got into medical school up in mt sinai in nyc's upper east side, so at the beginning of october i moved on up. i got myself another job in a bike shop, which i am settling into, and promptly went and talked with lance, my friend and mentor over at square built cycles in brooklyn. all of my frame building efforts post-ubi and prior to baltimore were at his workspace, and we have set up the same arrangement that we had before.

i already have two projects lined up, one for myself, and one for a good friend of mine who went to school with me at reed and then worked at bike gallery with me in portland, several lifetimes ago. she is looking for a gravel shredding (much better than grinding), light touring gnar-wagon, so i have been cooking something up. this kind of bike is right up my alley, so it has been fun to research and draft geometries and consider all the drivetrain options and different configurations. i will have some sketches up soon. secondly, i have sad news that leads to hopeful news: two weeks before i moved up to nyc, my apartment building in baltimore was broken into and my beloved silver bike (along with the other bike in the shared bike space of the apartment building) was stolen. it was a loss for me. along with the bike i had since junior year of high school, the bike that got me into bikes, the bike i rode down the west coast, the bike i moved across the country twice, the bike that was the sketchbook and rough draft for so many of my other projects and dreams, the thieves made off with my bag that contained my helmet, lock, lunch bag, flat kit and zefal hpx 1, and, worst of all, my notebook with notes i took at UBI and all the notes and drafts that i have made since. 3 years of drafts and notions, ideas and scribbles, useful only to me. all of the misery aside, i have tried to see it as an opportunity to make myself a new silver bike, the silver bike it always was. so there will be lots more on that front, as i sketch and try things out. i have a couple of goofy notions on how to set the bike up, so it will be a somewhat unorthodox build, when i get there. 

aside from the news, i managed to get a proper road ride in today. i had done some mountain biking back in august, which was awesome, and a couple of short rides, but most of my recent mileage has been commuting. not to disparage my commute, which goes from central park into the foetid misery of midtown, running the bulls with the dinosaurian busses and trucks that clog columbus avenue around the upper 50s, down through the dapper folk of chelsea and finally emerging into the cabbies and delivery guy swarms of soho where i am working. it is about 7 miles each way, but you sure have to be on your toes. so today, i rode north up through the bronx and up into westchester county and my home state of connecticut. it was initially pretty rough going, what strava blithely refers to as urban cycling, as you ride up jerome ave under the elevated subway tracks. it feels like a set from firefly, a little bit. lots of bright yet somehow still shabby auto repair places and folks standing around or sitting on piles of tires. i did get some cheers and whoops out of bystanders, which i chose to take as a good thing. as this was my first longer ride in a while, i started out feeling sluggish and off pace with myself. i wondered to myself, am i going to warm up, or is this just what it is? this used to be fun, i thought. is warming up really a thing? thankfully, it is a thing, and eventually i cleared the bronx and emerged through woodlawn up onto rt 22, which goes by a beautifully autumnal reservoir. a luscious tailwind brushed my back, the road opened up, traffic practically vanished, and i looked at my garmin, saw the 23 mph, and thought, why not faster? i pushed myself harder and flew along, the sour patch kids i had just eaten vibrating through my veins. ah, i thought, i HAVE warmed up. as my heart rate rose, i kept pushing myself, up a rise and around some fun turns. holy fucking shit i am a living breathing god of fire and rage, i thought as the wind tore snot from my nose and tears from my eyes as i descended. not factually true, obviously, but man, did it feel good for a minute there. i later regretted my excess of enthusiasm on my way back into town, when i started to bonk and took things much, much easier against the same wind that had so helped me earlier. exhausted and ravenous, i showered and ate a frightening amount of sesame chicken over roasted asparagus and lo mein noodles from my corner store. life was pretty good.

D2R2 ride report, or, a love song for orange bike

So, despite some very hectic and challenging times that have culminated in me planning a move back to nyc in the first week of october, i still went out and rode the 115 km course at d2r2 up in massaschussets this year. i rode the same ride last year and it was spectacular, so i was excited to get out there again. it is a rugged course of dirt roads, jeep tracks, double track, and gravel roads that winds around northern massachussets up into vermont and then back down again. it is sort of a secret industry event, as most of the people you meet on the ride work in the biz somehow. my friend (and stunning frame builder) chris bishop also went up to ride, and several folks from the shop i used to work at in nyc were also present, so it was a pleasant social scene as well as a ride. i did the ride with my friend andy, who i grew up with and have gotten into any number of bicycle and gearhead related adventures with over the years. 

seen here in camping mode in the mt hood wilderness

seen here in camping mode in the mt hood wilderness

orange bike, the rando-gnar, akratic numero uno, was the obvious bike for this route. when i lived out in oregon i did a lot more of this sort of back country road riding, and orange bike was build expressly for this sort of ride. the rock n' road tires are spectacular, measuring 43 mm, nicely tubeless, and despite their aggressive looking tread, plenty fast for this sort of ride on and off of pavement. they, and the bike, really shine on rough gravel/broken pavement descents, when you can float away from folks on cross bikes or ambitious folks on road tires. while cantilever brakes are often sneered at, the paul components brakes i have set up with compression less yokozuna housing are phenomenal. it works if you work it, folks. set up a a nice quality set of cantis with good housing, appropriate straddle cables, and nice pads, and they work really, really well. both mushy when you want modulation but also strong when you want to reef on them. 

here in d2r2 mode! photo from the 2014 ride, but the setup remains the same

here in d2r2 mode! photo from the 2014 ride, but the setup remains the same

the weather was perfect on saturday, low 80s, sunny, not too muggy. we had all camped out the night before, grabbed some coffee and breakfast and hit the road at a casual 8 am. the route incorporates some savage climbs on gravel, including one particularly brutal chunk of 27 percent grade. yep, that's right. that is what i have the 34/34 gearing combo on the bike for, so i can just drop down into that one to one sucker and grind. i remembered the hill from last year, and it was just as bad as i thought. on the other side, you do get a delicious descent where you can go as fast as you want. want to break 60 mph? this is a spot you could do it. i don't want to break 60, so i reigned things in at a respectable 45 mph and still felt the bike get light going over some rollers. 

anyway, it was challenging, fun, and very pleasant to feel the bike doing exactly what i had made it to do. it is one thing to think that you know what you need, and it is quite another (and i think better!) to feel and see and know that you were right. it worked! and it was awesome! just what i needed.

"Nederlandse jongens zijn niet van suiker"

I went for a ride today which started out hot, muggy, and difficult and ended up turning into a thunderstorm death march. i had just been thinking i hadn't had a good death march in a while, so it actually turned out great. i saw the rain on the ridge line across from me, a grey sheet folding back and forth. it looked like it was coming towards me, so i pretty much went for it and took the next turn towards the front. the wind picked up very quickly and the temperature dropped all of a sudden as fat drops of water started hitting the ground. i'm coming for you, you fucking fuck!, i shouted, perhaps somewhat incoherently. then it really opened up, the wind tugged me all over the (thankfully empty) road, and i pulled out my wind shell. too little too late, but every little bit helps, i guess. i am working towards eventually speaking entirely in pithy aphorism. works if you work it, i guess. my grandmother was all about her aphorisms. dutch is a language full of them, and she had a habit of cracking them out. one of my favorites, which i didn't fully appreciate at the time but have come to love, is above: Nederlandse jongens zijn niet van suiker. translated, more or less, means "dutch guys are not made of sugar." it is usually used as a way of saying, toughen up, it won't kill you. for instance, if you get rained on, as you often do in holland, my grandmother would invariably tsk and say that you are not made of sugar (and thus you won't melt in the rain). i have come to appreciate the other meanings of the phrase as well though. not made of sugar, sort of bitter. 

 as i pulled up the hill on dover st, the rain really started and soon there was a stream 2 or 3 inches deep running down the road. mama, here comes midnight, with the dead moon in its jaahahaaws! but, just before the rain, on the previous hill, i had been muggy, sweaty, and sticky, feeling out of shape and beat. it was like taking the cool shower that i really wanted without having to go home and stop riding. something to be said for getting caught out in the rain.

Summertime and some thoughts

Well, now that the cargo bike is off to bosun's house and has been riding around town, i took a little time to ride bikes instead of build them. work at the shop is pretty busy, as per usual this time of year, and it has been nice to explore my surroundings a little further afield. in addition to riding bikes and working on bikes, i have been doing a lot of reading on the internet about and amongst frame building people. although i hesitate (as will become clear) to jump into conversations being held by veterans with hundreds and hundreds of frames under their belts, i did have some things to say. frame builders are a famously grouchy lot. gruff, reticent, hermit like, etc. lots of dudes (mostly dudes, white, sadly) who spend a lot of time in garages or garage-like spaces performing amazing feats of creativity, engineering, production, and design. the internet conversations of these people is fascinating and rich in helpful material for newbies like myself. however, it is not very welcoming at all to the newbies in several ways.

first, you have to kiss the ring of whomever you want to acknowledge as your personal frame building idol. there are a couple of choices as far as that goes. next, you must not cross one of many very thin lines in the sand. your ideas, however good you think they are, probably aren't that great. while often this is true of relatively inexperienced people, i would like to see more of an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to amateurs. god forbid we do something differently from the past generation, use machines or techniques that haven't been applied to bike frames before. the thing that rubs me, with which i have a serious love/hate relationship, is the extreme conservative, even reactionary, nature to the creative critique in the industry. i love to see bad ideas crushed, but i hate that all new ideas are approached as bad. there are some people who don't hold to this model, and they often produce the work that is the furthest ahead of the industry. 

one thing in particular: praxis is heralded as the ultimate god of production. what i mean is that the heavy hitters come from mass production backgrounds, have hundreds and even thousands of frames under their belts, and demand that anyone else in their field also have such a repertoire. while certainly there is a lot to be said for the abilities of muscle memory, and the mental abilities to reproduce quality that accompany it, that lot has already been said. if that really is your god, if the best measure of a frame's quality is how many other frames have been made by the same producer, then the best frame builders in the world live in taiwan and china and are, to the consumer, completely anonymous. my point here is that, as long as your techniques are good, your frames will be good. as far as i can tell, here is what you need:

-a good design. there are many good designs out there to produce a variety of qualities, and you can alter and modify them infinitely to suit your own needs. modifying and generating designs does require a knowledge of how different bicycles ride and how different riders ride them.

-good production practices. as long as you are careful and meticulous in your work, any idiot can stick metal together such that it will not warp and will last effectively for ever. cut your miters accurately, clean and prep your materials, use good quality tubes and brazing/welding gear, and your bike will come out well. that is how the various bike schools (u.b.i., the doug fattic class, the nagasawa class, the former mike flannigan classes, the josh muir program) are able to produce frames that hold up even though they are built by people with no experience at all. while those bikes might not be timeless classics of engineering and design, they generally do work. hang some parts on there, put your ass in the saddle, hands on the bars, and feet on the pedals, and off you go.

alright, that is off my chest and i guess i feel better about it. having said that, i did spend today in the workshop playing with brazing and doing some plating in preparation for the completion of ben's stem. 

i prepped and brazed a bunch of scrap pieces together to practice my mitering, material preparation, brazing sequence, and brazing. once they were stuck together, i cut them apart to see how well the brass had penetrated the cracks and to look for pits, bubbles, or cracks. while i was brazing, i practiced forehand and backhand technique to try and get an idea of which would be more comfortable for me and see which lays flatter to make the finish work easier. here are some production pictures:

first, the miter. i am still doing these old school/ghetto way with a couple of files. the bits here are a bottom bracket shell that i had just fucked up on the lathe trying to turn it down into a sexy shape and a scrap of steerer tube which is the same outer diameter as a seat tube. so, good practice for doing a seat tube/bottom bracket subassembly. your miter has to be tight, matching the surface tube that it is mating to as closely as possible. that way, once you start to braze it and the heat starts to warp things weirdly, the curves will (with some luck/practice) pull into each other rather than twisting out of shape.

next, the tack. a small blob of molten brass to hold the miter in place before you heat it all up. the sequence of tacks is critical to the alignment of your component pieces: if you heat the wrong bits of the shorelines of the two tubes up first, the tubes will pull away from each other. here, i am doing a faux head tube/downtube junction. i started with the center of the obtuse angle as i was taught at u.b.i. this minimizes the migration of the long down tube. immediately after that tack holds, i moved around to the opposite side:

and there is the second tack, which hopefully counteracts whatever distortion occurred with the first tack. i didn't take pictures of the next two tacks, which i did on either side 90 degrees around the mitered tube from the first two tacks. the next step is very important for the strength and longevity of the joint. it is called tinning:

here is the first side tinned. it is the smallest possible braze, not even a fillet, just the brass that sucks into the seam of the miter as the joint reaches temperature. while it is initially tempting to skip tinning, it is a critical step in that it builds up an inner fillet. brass actually percolates through the junction of the two tubes and then sucks up the inside of the mitered tube as far as the heat effected zone goes:

there it is, a nice little internal fillet. i had some internal doubts about the necessity of tinning- after all, it is an extra step, and given that the whole joint reaches temperature during the braze anyway, wouldn't an internal fillet form regardless? the answer is no. in the joint pictured above, i went halfway around tinning, and halfway around not tinning. i cut the joint open at 90 degrees so that a quarter of the radius would be visible on each side. as you can see above, the internal fillet only reaches halfway around the inside of the tube. tin it to win it!

now, i realize that this is already a long post, but i also got around to messing with some brush plating techniques that i first learned about from my friend lance at square built bikes. lance gold plated the lugs on a particularly baller road frame using a brush plating kit. it was time intensive but did not require a huge initial investment in gear. getting small parts plated is tricky and very expensive, so a possible way to use my time instead of my (limited) money is worth exploring. i nickel plated some of the steering harness hardware on boson's cargo bike, but that was all a practical sort of plating, designed to prevent rust rather than to look good. for a stem, it has to be sexy. i did a quick polish on one of my brazes and plated it up:

not too bad at all! the tricky thing here is that it is almost impossible to tell where the chrome plating stops and where it will thus be vulnerable to rust. i will leave this scrap down in my basement where it is muggy and see where the rust forms over the next couple days. but for how little prep i put into the joint, it looks awesome. i am hopeful that this will be a great method for stems and maybe lugs. more soon, with any luck!

Progress and nearing the end of the cargo bike odyssey

So, Boson found an awesome place to get the frame painted up in York, PA, which turned the job around much more quickly than i had expected. It is always amazing to me what a huge difference paint makes to a project. Now it is its own thing instead of an assembly of parts that i have been bouncing around my head for the past couple of months.

Good news, certainly, but i have somewhat of a scramble to get my ducks in a row for its final assembly. Remaining tasks: cut, drill, paint, and varnish the plywood paneling for the final cargo bay, and nickel plate the steering fittings at the front and back of the steering assembly. I will have lots of pictures of those and of the final assembly, obviously.

  In the meantime, I have returned to work on Ben's stem, a simple 105 mm, 7 degree 31.8 clamp piece with 79 mm of stack built in. it is nice to work with the stem jig, which is an awesome piece of tooling. I also like stems, as they feel a lot like the practice joints of which I have done so many. 

I have started in on the work of filing and polishing the stem up to make it all pretty and to check the brazes for pits or flaws. The joints are cleaning up nicely and it should look pretty good once it is all smoothed out. After things are smooth, I have to polish it all, as I am going to try to nickel plate it with my little brush kit. it should work out, but things sure do have to be smooth and shiny for plating to look like anything.  But, it has already come a ways- the next two photos are the stem body/steerer tube clamp joint unfinished and then after the first round of filing and sanding. 

More to come!

cargo bike: steering rig

So a big part of the coolness of boson's cargo bike, for me, is the way that the handlebars turn the front wheel in order to steer. on many bakfietzen, you will see a long rod going from the bottom of an extended steerer tube to attach to a pivoting mount on the fork crown up front. it is effective, but i've always thought it was a little crude and a lot heavy. josh muir's small haul is remarkable for many reasons, but especially because of its very slick integrated cable steering. my version is slightly more complicated than josh's, but i am a sucker for pulleys. here is the basic layout:

as you can see, two brake cables are routed through pivoting barrel adjusters that are attached to the bottom of the steerer tube that the handlebars are mounted to.

here they are! next, the cable is routed through the horizontal long members of the cargo bay by a pair of pulleys:

note the cable retention nail by the first pulley. safety first, kids. after threading through the internally routed upper cargo bay members, the cables are turned around by 2 more pulleys that direct them to the clamps on the "stem" that i fabricated to mount in the steerer tube that holds the front wheel.

here you can see the forward end of the cable steering rig against the picturesque industrial trash-chic backdrop that is the alleyway to my workshop. just after i took this picture i chased away a rat the size of my shoe. moving along. here is the forward cable clamp assembly:

it is basically a quill stem style expansion plug that holds the forward t in place for the pivoting cable clamps. the clamps themselves are pretty slick too, if i say so myself. i took a pair of water bottle bosses, capped them, brazed them in the end of 1/4" tubing, drilled a lateral hole through the hole affair, and then pinch the brake cable with a set screw that threads into the water bottle boss. tidy and tight.

the cable cradles and pinch bolts at both ends pivot on salvaged derailleur pulley bushings brazed to 1/4" tubing. there it is! when you turn the handlebars, the cable pulls on one side of the t-stem up front, turning the front wheel. the cable is pulled tight over the pulleys by adding tension to the barrel adjusters at the handlebar end. 

here it is in action! from here, the only task left is to increase the range of travel that the wheels and bars have. at the moment, it is perfectly rideable in traffic, but it would be nice to have more motion possible for negotiating tight turns when storing or parking the bike. my plan is to rotate the handlebar end mounts forward by a couple of degrees to give them a longer travel. it should work out great. i will also tidy up the front end cable routing by scooting one of the forward pulleys down to prevent the cable from dragging over the other pulley on its way to the cable clamp. i am pretty pleased with how will it rides even now, and i think it will be great once i tidy up those details. i anticipate that boson will have to replace the steering cables about as often as he would ordinary brake cables, and it is easy to keep an eye on the wear on those cables as the pulleys are all exposed. 

  the bike is almost ready for paint, at this point. i still will do some work to polish up some of the brazes, make the minor adjustments to the steering, and add the panel mounting tabs that will allow me to bolt the wooden paneling to the cargo bay. almost there!

test ride day!

today was a good day. i got the cable steering system up and running and had boson stop by the shop with his parts to do a test build and ride it around. it fits and rides awesome! i'm still doing some work on tuning the steering and i need to get my hands on an extra long brake cable for the front brake. but, the head tube angle is spot on, the bike is confident and stable at low speeds but still maneuvers nicely. 

here is boson navigating traffic down on central street by the shop. the maiden voyage! i am very pleased at how it has come together. pretty soon it will be off to paint, and then i can use the robot laser cutter to make some sweet wooden paneling for the cargo bay. at this point, i would say the fabrication itself is 95% complete. i did update the projects tab (http://www.akratic-cycles.com/work/#/bosons-bakfiets/) with some more photos, and i will have all the pictures of the raw joints and cable steering system up soon. 

cargo bike: head tube subassembly and cargo bay completion

well, the cargo bike is moving right along. i got the head tube assembly put together and installed correctly, completed the cargo bay, and started work on the cable steering setup. 

here is the assembly after i put it together but before attaching it to the front end of the chassis. the miters that attach the rail to the head tube had to be very precise, and they came out awesome. these were the joints that set the front head tube angle, which determines how the bike will handle. they need to hold the head tube vertical, in phase with the centerline of the rear bike frame, and set the front wheel at the correct angle. 

here i have attached the head tube to the cargo bay. first, i mitered the upright struts to the lower rail of the cargo bay. they are perpendicular to the long axis of the bike, but flare out in the short axis to add capacity to the cargo bay. once i cut the two matching miters, i supported the lower bay with a couple of struts that i put together out of scrap angle iron and threaded rod and leveled the whole chassis. 

here is the front view, after i mitered the front cross member to fit the flared upright supports and brazed it in place. i held the cross member with a couple of articulating welding clamps to tack it in alignment, and then added a lot of brass to keep it all together. man, the things you have to wrangle when you don't have a jig. 

once the lower cross rail was solid, i installed the long upper rails that also route the cables for the steering harness. here you can see the end of the guide that makes cabling the whole thing easier. once all that was in place, i completed the cargo bay by adding the last two members, the upper front cross pieces. 

here is the front end, complete and with the first big piece of the steering assembly test-fit. i will have a separate post on the whole steering rig once it i have it all together. for now, the chassis is complete! all that is left are the front cable steering pulleys, cable stops for the front brake, and the final mounting tabs for the wooden side and floor panels. stay tuned!