A New Project, And Breaking Stuff In The Name Of Science (Sort Of)

Seeing as it has been, oh, about three months since I last updated this occasionally-updated blog, I figure that it is probably time to throw something up here lest I alienate the folks who constitute most of my visitors these days: spambots and a growing constituency of folks looking for Christmas-themed gay porn, specifically a genre of gay porn that involves guys with lots of body hair. Apparently having “Full Frontal” and “Nudity” appear in a title of a story or a post – like it does here – tends to generate a lot of hits for a website. That’s predictible. What wasn’t predictable was the respectable number of hits that you get when you combine “hairy” and, weirdly, “Santa Claus” on a website where you have also mentioned nudity. This particular combination generates a deeply disturbing amount of traffic. True fact. Apart from the story that I did a while back about repairing Campagnolo shifters, the one single post on this site that generates the most traffic is a story that features Santa and a character culled from the pages of the Performance Bike catalog known as “Hairy Catalog Guy.”

And based on the search terms that you people out in Inadvertent-Reader-Land are sending to Google in order to end up at my happy little Christmas story, I really don’t want to know what’s going on.

Anyway, the breathlessly-awaited update is this: I have another frame project. Working title for it is ….Number Four.

I know, too clever.

Bike Number Four is gonna be a bit special. The lugs and tubes were sourced from Richard Sachs. We’re talking oversized Pego-Richie tubing from Columbus, tied together with Richie-issimo Lugs and bottom bracket. The fork is from Sachs as well, with a nice Richie-issimo flat crown and curved legs.


The best part? The box that showed up was not only stuffed with cool bike bits, it was also packed with red Twizzlers candy, a shit-load of stickers, and a signed water bottle.


The fork is always the first thing that I build, so I’ve launched right into it. After building straight legged forks for Number 2 and Number 3, constructing a fork with a flat crown and curved legs is….different. For starters, compared to the sloping crown that I used on Number 3, the Richie-issimo crown is very traditional – a work of art.


The crown is also a bit beefier compared to what I have brazed up before, so I really wasn’t sure if my MAPP torch had the heat huevos to tackle a crown as substantial as this. The only way to find out was to actually dive in and give it a try. The first job is to join the steering tube to the crown.



And I fucked it up.

Worse, I only half fucked it up, meaning that I did get it brazed together, but I wasn’t totally happy with how it turned out. Okay, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to come apart but….shit….do I want to ride a fork that is probably okay? Deciding what to do next rested upon what I call the Dirty Harry Approach to Predicting The Likelihood Of Catastrophic Failure Of Potentially Compromised Bike Parts:

Do you feel lucky, punk?

I didn’t.

Eating the cost of a new steering tube and crown was much cheaper than the likely dental bill if the joint failed. So, I decided that instead of trying to sweat the damn thing apart and try again, it was better just to buy new parts and start over from scratch.

But first, I wanted to check my work and see whether and how badly I had fucked up. In other words, a little destructive testing was the order of the day.

First test: rotational shear. Could I get the steering tube to break loose in the crown by twisting it? Stick the presumably bum steering tube crown assembly in the bench vise, get a pipe wrench and a 5 foot long cheater handle to really bring the pain, and see if I could break it.

Long story short, I couldn’t. The steering tube stayed put, even though the steering tube started to deform. So my shitty braze job was starting to look better.

Second test: impact. This one was simple. I took a sledge and tried to drive the steering tube down through the crown. Or break the crown. Either would have been cool.

Nope. After a bunch of wacks with the hammer, nothing.

By this time I just wanted to see what the joint looked like inside. So I got out the hacksaw and split the joint, fixed the now-mangled crown in the bench vice, slipped the five foot long cheater bar on the steering tube, and peeled the steerer out of the joint. Or tried to. It eventually came out after a LOT of persuasion.

The verdict: despite being fairly strong, the braze job really was pretty half assed. You can see from the pictures that I didn’t completely fill the joint with braze – there were good sized voids.



The good news is that the replacement parts came, and this time the braze job on the steering tube was text-book perfect. Or at least I think that it is. Put it this way, I don’t feel the need to chop this one open. It’s good enough to finally make the pretty girl smile…



6 Responses to “A New Project, And Breaking Stuff In The Name Of Science (Sort Of)”

  1. 1 Touch)Gray
    December 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    You need to email me at Touch0Gray(at)tds,net, You could have salvaged that “badly brazed joint” and made it perfect (actually in a couple of different ways) potentially. Granted it would not have been NEARLY as much fun BUT your bragging rights would have read “first try” Again, not as epic as YOUR story, however…..LOL

    Breathlessly awaiting the next chapter…

    • December 15, 2014 at 4:04 pm


      Yeah, I probably could have salvaged what I had. I thought that, on balance, I might get more value out of cutting open the joint and seeing what I’d done than trying to sweat the joint apart and starting over. Plus I got to break shit.


  2. 3 Nick
    December 18, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Do you and Santa have a working relationship so I can ask for one?
    Hope you can make it to our Christmas party.

    • December 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Merry Christmas! My son is returning from school tonight, so I am booked. But THANK YOU for the invite. If he shows up, say “hello” to Dave “Doc” Richmond for me. He’s one of my regular riding buddies, and a volunteer at VeloCity.


      • 5 Nick
        January 2, 2015 at 4:30 am

        Sure will Greg, Doc (nice guy and I’ve known him for about 4 years) came in just before Christmas and helped clean up some of the children’s bikes we gave to the Alexandria Firefighters for their annual Christmas giveaway.

  3. 6 Anonymous
    January 2, 2015 at 4:25 am

    Happy New Year

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