It’s been almost two months since I last updated this blog. Damn. My excuse is that I’ve been doing other things, like building a flat tray for my new townie.

“New townie?” you ask. Yes, the Claud Butler is getting a makeover. You might remember it from my earlier classic-inspired build, which funnily enough I posted up a year tomorrow. That build never really worked out, the geometry was really lax 60s roadie and no good for a fixed ride. The frame, with its 53cm top tube, was also on the small side for me which meant running a tall seat post and a ridiculously high saddle to bar height; cool on a true track or pursuit frame, not so cool on an old road frame with a shallow rake. In the end I stripped the frame and mounted it on the wall in my room where it stayed until now.

I’m going to run a set of box section wheels with a coaster brake on the rear. I’ll be ordering this wheelset from the States soon. Other than that the bike’s almost good to go. I have a spare set of low-end Sugino cranks where the driveside arm, spider and ring are all one piece. Not so good for high-stress fixed drive trains, but perfect for this townie build and coaster brake setup. The front rack is my own design with parts bought from my local hardware store. It’s a bit of a work in progress but will hopefully be strong enough to hold a 12 pack when finished.

More pics to come once this build it rolling, watch this space.

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The Olympic bands

May 29, 2010

My regular Trade Me hunting saw me stumble across this frame and fork in early January. I nabbed it up for the sharp price of $130 from a bloke down in Wellington. It’s a 1968/1969 Claud Butler Electron Super Five according to the catalogues. The frame is in very good nick considering its age. The delicate and slim metal tubing really can’t be beat, it just has so much more character than a welded alloy frame. It has beautiful lugwork throughout and still bares the Prugnat Lugs sticker – mostly intact. Plus there’s plenty of patina all over which makes the bike look even better, especially juxtaposed with all the new and shiny bits I’ve built it up with. I coated the frame with a clear spray paint I bought from the hardware store. The idea behind this was seal the frame and prevent any further corrosion. The clearcoat has also had the effect of bringing out the colours of the frame. It was well worth the effort.

With the frame sorted it was just a matter of sourcing all the other parts needed. I’d actually picked up a set of brand new Dura-Ace 7600 track hubs before I’d found the frame. These beautiful high-flange hubs set the standard for the build – silver. It had to be silver. Admittedly not everything on the bike is comparable to these gorgeous  hubs. The headset and bottom bracket are entry-level Modus and Truvativ units. I couldn’t justify buying a Campy headset but the Modus one came in silver and looks the part, so on it went.

The hardest part to source was a seatpost. The frame uses a rare 26.4mm post. They’re actually quite easy to get hold of in black but a completely different story when it comes to silver. Once I’d finally got hold of a 26.4mm silver post from the States the whole project came together in a matter of a few days.

The finishing touches bare the longstanding name Brooks. The saddle, handlebar tape and toe straps are all Brooks. I reckon the ‘honey’ colour leather looks great against the red and the shiny silver. The standard of Brooks’ parts is second to none and you just can’t beat the look and feel of high-quality leather. And, aren’t those cork bar ends just awesome? The saddle is Brooks’ cheapest and most popular, the B17. Although the leather tape is fantastic it’s a shame it’s covering up the quality of Nitto’s finish. The bars are Nitto B125 – a chrome-finished steel bar. Most people go for the B123s but I prefer the more shallow drop of the 125. Either way, you can’t beat these NJS bars, the feel of steel is real, and like the frame, it’s great.  You can’t see the bar’s chrome, but you can see the excellent satin finish of the Nitto Dynamic stem. The stem has a 26mm clamp but I was stoked to find it clamps nice and tightly to the 25.4mm bars. I’m glad I didn’t need to source a shim as it would probably have ended up dragging the project out like the damn seatpost did.

All in all I’m very happy with the way this bike has turned out. It’s great to see ideas finally materialise, and having only taken five months, I can’t complain.

Here are the specs and some more photos. They’re shot with a 450D and a Canon 50mm USM 1.4 prime.

  • 1968/69 Claud Butler frame and fork
  • Shimano Dura-Ace 7600 track hubs laced with double-butted spokes to Velocity Aerohead rims – 28h front and 32h rear
  • Sugino Super Mighty 165mm  144BCD track cranks with a 45t French TA chainring and Uzumi chain
  • Nitto Dynamic stem in 90mm with 40cm Nitto B125 Steel Keirin bars
  • MKS Sylvan track pedals with MKS toe clips
  • Brooks B17 saddle, leather handlebar tape and toe straps
  • Continental GP4000S front and Continental Ultra sport rear

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Teasing is pleasing

May 26, 2010

I finally managed to snap a few shots of the completed bike when the rain briefly stopped this evening. More to come along with write up about the build. Watch this space.

My Brooks package from Wellington arrived at work yesterday. I actually thought the courier hadn’t delivered it until I was leaving work and noticed a package the size of a shoe box wrapped in brown paper sitting on the steps. I’m not really sure what part of “Level 2” couriers don’t understand. How did they know it was going to me who picked it and not someone else? No harm done, but with slack service like that I can foresee you-say-they-say situations of disagreement which are frankly a pain in the arse.

But enough of this. Here are a few pictures of the Brooks saddle, handlebar tape and saddle treatment. The saddle is a beautiful piece of work and it’s amazing the B17 design is over 100 years old. I’m expecting it to be incredibly comfortable once it has bed in. And at $150NZ, it’s very good value when you think about it.

I like to think I’m relatively immune to advertising but I have to admit I love the way Brooks markets itself. The packaging is gorgeous and the attention to detail really hammers it home that I’ve bought something of worth. I love the way the tensioning tool is bound to the packaging with twine and the mock post-stamped envelope which contained the saddle’s maintenance instructions. To top it all off a “newspaper” was included. It’s an advertising vehicle no doubt but it has some beautiful layouts and design throughout – well worth a nosy. I’d compare it to the inserts in CDs. I dig this kinda thing along with attention to detail. But time will tell if this is in fact a mark of genuine quality – as Brooks’ claims – or just very astute marketing – my money’s on the former, though.

I’m still waiting on my other bits from the States. It looks like there’s a delay with it stuck in Honolulu. I’m hoping it will arrive on Monday.

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After a few months of searching for parts for my 1969 Claud Butler build it’s finally rolling, well sort of.

A quick test ride today has proven  shimming a 26mm seatpost up to 26.4mm is just not going to cut it as I can’t get the post to clamp down tight enough. Half way up the road and I was starting to pedal by knees into my elbows.

I’ve ordered a silver Kalloy Laprade-style 26.4mm post from JensonUSA. A decent length seatpost in this size and in silver has been one of the hardest items to source so I’m glad to have finally found one.

Another little snag  holding things up was sourcing a reasonably priced 1″ quill stem. As the frame is relatively small for me, I first tried it out with a fugly 130mm 90s-style stem. This made the bike’s handling feel very odd. A long stem and shallow rake aren’t a good combination so yesterday I got hold of a tidy 95mm Specialized branded stem for just $29. Now that’s the kind of price I’m after when I’m still at the testing stage to work out what length I need. The stem’s nice – it’s  styled very similar to Nitto’s offerings although it’s a bit too rough to match the rest of the standard I’ve set for the build – but it won’t be staying for long as I’ve also ordered a 90mm Nitto Dynamic stem, also from Jensen.

So the bike’s not finished yet, but it’s close. So very close.

Now I wait, for orders to arrive from both Wellington and the US.

From Capital Cycles in Wellington comes a brand spanking new Brooks B-17 Standard saddle and Brooks leather bar tape. Both in honey colour.

And from the US comes the seatpost, the Nitto stem and Brooks toe straps – in honey of course to match the saddle and tape.

I’m hoping that all these bits arrive by the end of the week in time to finish off the bike on Sunday but this might be too optimistic.

Once the bike’s completed I’ll post up some pictures along with a spec list and then a ride report.