Brothers and Sisters of The Wheel:
As I might have mentioned in a previous post or two, I recently attended a two week chromoly brazing class at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. I was asked by a couple of CR Listmembers to "report back to headquarters" with a full report. Below is a description of my experience at UBI...where I built myself a lugged steel bicycle.
First off, I feel that I ought to strongly recommend that anyone with an in terest in learning about the framebuilding process look into UBI. The reas on that I was drawn to UBI over other framebuilding programs was that it se emed to me that it would help someone looking to "get in at the ground floo r", so to speak; meaning that they would skim over/touch on a wide array of basics across the spectrum of the framebuilding experience. My experience there was just that. And more. The two instructors for my session, Ron Sutphin and Gary Mathis, were top-n otch...and there were fewer students in the class than I expected (8 per se ssion), so the instructor-student ratio worked out very well. Students came from a variety of backgrounds; some hoping to start a framebuilding busine ss, some hoping to build as hobbyists and some on vacation who spend a coup le of weeks a year learning to do something that brings them closer to the craft which creates something they love and appreciate.
My original plan was to build a late 70's (my birth year, 1978 to be exact) style American tourer, with a design based on the work of the American Mas ters of the era. I thought that given my recent 30th birthday, It'd be fun to build a bike in the style popular at that moment and use framebuilding parts and components from the era too. I had a VERY clear picture in my he ad of the bike I wanted to build. Loaded with braze-ons for racks, fenders , cables, etc. My thought was that I'd benefit more from a complicated bik e (because I'd have to practice all of my braze-ons and ask a ton of questi ons) than I would from a basic track bike. I was supposed to attend UBI at the end of the summer, but got an email a c ouple of weeks before I left saying "Can you be in Ashland in two weeks? A spot in class just opened up and you are on the waiting list." I spent the following two weeks frantically trying to get my ducks in a row . Airfare, lodging, time off work, cash in hand, etc. But more importantly, trying to QUICKLY get my hands on the parts I needed for my bike.
CR folks were VERY helpful and generous with my expedited preparation. Som e of you might recall a thread I started called "1978", in which I asked Th e List for building tips...and then parts to help me make the vision I had a reality. UBI does include all tubing/lugs/etc. for the frame you will build in class in your tuition cost, but I wanted to make this first one special and roun ded up my own bits (with your help): a NOS Reynolds 531 tubeset, NOS Cinell i CS lugset, NOS Campagnolo long 1010 eyeleted dropouts, NOS Cinelli fork c rown, NOS Cinelli braze-on cable guides and cable stops, and some Campagnol o "over the top" braze on cable guides for the bottom bracket shell. I was just thrilled that I was going to get to build something that really embodied a lot of what The List means to me; a sharing of stories, knowledg e, comraderie, advice, parts, etc. The cable guides, for instance I got from a member who himself was a builde r for a larger bicycle manufacturer. They had actually been brazed onto a frame in roughly 1980, only to have been removed just before paint when the manufacturer decided to switch all of the new frames over to the much cool er/newer style of routing derailleur cables under the BB. So even the cabl e guides had a story to tell...How cool is that? As The Listmeister himself put it, I was assembling a pile of bits with qui te a bit of "mojo".
Beginning on the very first day, the sessions were a mix of in-class instru ction and "hands on", when we actually worked on our own framesets. The in structors built a frame with class, so we could follow the sequence and lea rn through demonstration first, practice second.
After our first day of class, when we worked on practice lug preparation an d our first brazes, I had my first "oh sh*t" moment. It was not during or after my first practice headlug assemblies, which we eventually sawed in ha lf to evaluate the quality of our lugs...It was when I compared the lugs I brought with me to the array of investment cast lugs available at the schoo l.
Even the modern investment cast lugs needed a bit of pre-braze file work to ensure a proper fit...But by comparison, my Cinelli lugset looked like it came from the bottom of the ocean or an archaeological dig or something. I became concerned that the old pressed lugs I had would need LOADS more pre p time than class would afford...and I would end up hindered by trying to u se them, falling behind the schedule needed to keep up and finish a frame a nd fork in 2 weeks. I brought the lugs into the instructors on the 2nd da y and they agreed..."Very Cool...Save 'em for bike number two, or you'll be filing them while the rest of class is brazing away, leaving you no time f or the braze-ons you want, etc."
I was a big disappointed baby for a few hours, as I had dreamt of this perf ect touring bike...But the reality is that the first bike is never perfect, and I needed to readjust my thinking in order to maximize my class experie nce. Bike number two will be better than bike number one, and I can make i t at a pace I am comfortable with. The "Matthew Bowne Thirtieth Anniversary Commemorative Frameset" project wo uld have to be on hold. Quite a bummer, but only a temporary set-back. On the bright side, bike number two is already underway!
[This explains why my luggage was full of framebuilding parts on the way BA CK from Oregon, leading to a T.S.A. inspection and the ultimate loss of my beloved Campagnolo belt buckle mentioned yesterday.]
So what now? Back to the old drawing board, so to speak. Which worked out quite perfectly, because our next day in class was, in fact, spent at an ac tual drawing board. After covering bike design, fit and tube selection we began work designing our frames.
Now, part of why I wanted to build a touring bike was that I want a touring bike in the stable...I already have a track and road machine. It was whil e I was digging through bins of lugs and dropouts that it dawned on me: I h ave a growing obsession with British "all-rounder" bikes of the mid-century . The bikes that blue-collar racers would have because they could only aff ord one bike. The bikes that spent time with a freewheel, brakes and fende rs for training...only to be ridden to a velodrome where everything was tak en off, a spare fixed wheelset fitted, the bike raced, reconfigured as a r oad bike and then ridden home. Perhaps that same frame was ridden in a Tim e Trial. Or perhaps a derailleur hanger was put on and it was taken out f or a country tour or long distance ride. One bike. Purpose built...but MU LTI purpose built. As one whose own bicycle collection is hindered by the spacial constraints of a Brooklyn 4th floor walk-up apartment and the wages of a artist's assistant, I gotta love that.
No longer thinking of this as the precious and perfect dream machine, I dec ided to build a frame that I could ride in as many different ways as possib le. I could avoid getting trapped in minutia, concentrate on the basics an d save the bells and whistles for a time when I could build a machine at my leisure and with plenty of practice under my belt.
I decided that I ought to take advantage of the parts UBI had available, ge t her home, get a coat of paint on her, build her up with parts on hand and get it on the road.
So I'm calling my first frameset an "all-rounder".
It's built with a mix of Columbus and Deddacai tubing, Henry James lugs and an Everest fork crown and bottom bracket shell. On the rear, I used Parag on track ends with a derailleur hanger. The fork got eyeleted Gipiemme dro pouts. I added fender eyelets to the rear and drilled for both front and r ear brakes. It's pretty much built for a mannequin: 56cm square, with an average BB dro p and chainstay length. The angles are also the tried and true angles of t he average racing roadie: 73 degrees parallel.
While the plan is to build it up as a fendered fixed-gear at first, I wante d the flexibility to ride it as a 10 speed, so the rear is spaced at the st andard 120mm. I might eventually put a wheel with a 5-speed freewheel on b ack and build up a 70's style TT bike. Because I'll use a clamp-on shifter , I brazed a small triangle (from a lug point) on the underside of the down tube, to keep the shifter from sliding down. My '74 Raleigh International had that feature and I always liked it.
I have a pile of old Campy and chrome Cinelli bits to use, but will likely have a couple of WTB posts in the near future to bring it closer to the roa d. Completed pics will surely be posted to The List as soon as possible.
For now, LOTS of finish filing and final alignment checks...And hopefully n o more "oh sh*t" moments.
Thanks again to all of you for your inspiration, help and support. You can count on frame number two in the near future. And then number three, numbe r four and so forth...
Looking for time, space and money in
Brooklyn, New York