New Bike Day: The story of Ben's bike.

Today, I finally handed off the all-road bike to my friend Ben. This project has taken me a very long time to complete, mostly because in the middle of it I moved from New York down to Baltimore. I actually commuted back up to Brooklyn on a couple of my weekends to get the frame and fork brazed up, as I didn't have my workspace in Baltimore set up yet. I had it powder coated locally and painted on my logo on the down tube. 

Here is how it all began! I do a 1:4 scale drawing to work out proportions, angles, and to start to get a line on whatever details i am going to include. you can see in the picture, I have it built up around 32mm tires, fillet brazed joints, a lugged fork, and capped seat stays. I had just received the tubing and braze-ons and was getting ready to put things together.

I took this while i was working on the miters of the seat and down tube. The top tube is about ready here, while the down tube still has a little ways to go. Once all the miters sit nicely on the tubes, it is time to tack them together. When everything is stuck together, I go back and complete the brazed joints. The order of operations is actually pretty important: if you just forge ahead and braze something while the other end isn't tacked down, the heat from the joint will pull the other end of your tube out of alignment. 

Here is the frame set, complete and aligned. I strapped it to my backpack, hopped on my janky little folding bike, and rode across New York City to catch the bus back down to Baltimore. This is the most deceptive point of the build process, for me. It feels like it is done, like it could sandblast it real quick, send it off to paint, and be up and running in a couple days. However, the longest part is still to come, the finish work to make everything smooth and nice. It also affords the opportunity to add extra braze-ons or make minor modifications. 

You can see the contrast between the finished bit where I have filed and polished the area around the rack mount and the blobby unfinished bits where the stays join to the dropouts. Eventually, after a couple of weekends of solid work, it was all polished up and good to go to paint.

Once everything else is ready, I put the actual parts that the bike is going to be built up with on, just to make absolutely sure that everything is going to physically work. If I do have to change something, I sure don't want it to cost me a whole extra paint job. Happily, everything on Ben's bike was good to go, so I dropped it off for powder coating. Three weeks later, I got it back looking good:

Now, it was just a matter of cleaning up threads, building everything back up, and then painting on my logo. It came out well, and today Ben picked up the bike and took it for its maiden voyage. 


It was very satisfying to be done with the bike, to build it and have it ride well. I took it on a slightly longer test ride to get a sense of its handling and ride characteristics. It is definitely more road bike than cross bike, and the handling is responsive but not twitchy. You can ride it hands free comfortably and confidently, but if you want to turn, it holds a line very nicely. The brakes are powerful but not crazy: the cable actuated hydraulics feel very much like a full hydraulic system, but with the benefit that they are compatible with a wide variety of different bars and brake levers. If Ben wanted to set it up as a townie with flat bars, he wouldn't have to change the brake calipers, just the levers and cables. Once Ben is satisfied with the fit of the bike, I will build a matching stem just for kicks. The 11 speed 105 group is awesome, it feels great and works very nicely. Although the complete bike weighs in just over 23 pounds, it does not feel like a heavy bike when you ride it. My coworker described it as "airy," which I took as a great compliment. While I know how I designed the bike, it is very nice to ride it and see that everything worked out the way that I had planned it to. There are some more pictures of the bike's details here:

I do have another project in the works already, a very different sort of bike. Once I get some details pinned down in my design, I will have some pictures up!