Archive for May, 2015


Heavy Metal

The embarrassing thing is that I’ve gotten so behind on the updates that, well, I sort of don’t know where to really restart the tale.

I could just pretend that this little hiatus didn’t happen and pick up where we left off: fork done, and me around 80% finished with the frame.  And that wouldn’t be a bad strategy.  I’ve got a lot of pictures that I could show and tales that I could tell.

But, really, that all seems a bit anti-climatic when one has actually finished the damn thing (except for the paint – that comes later), hung parts on it, and gone for a ride.

So here it is, in all its glory.


Oh, I do have a story about the latter bit – my going ahead and riding it.  I finished the frame over Mother’s Day weekend, and my plan was to build it up over the following week and show up with it at next Sunday’s ride.  However, I was short a few parts.  Actually I was short just one part: a seat post binder bolt.  Specifically, a Campagnolo binder bolt.

I know, for want of a nail, etc.

The story of how this all-Campagnolo bike ended up with a (*gasp*) hacked-up Sugino seat post bolt rather than the Campagnolo bolt that it should have as its birthright is  both tedious and irritating.   At least to me it is tedious and irritating.  Granted, having the proper binder bolt to secure the seat post in the frame is a small detail, but the mind-roastingly-beautiful Richard Sachs seat tube lug that I consciously selected for my project and lovingly brazed into the bike that is before you is specifically designed for an old school Campagnolo seat post bolt.  And because it is specifically designed for a Campagnolo seat post bolt, onlly a Campagnolo seat post bolt will do.

You see, Campagnolo bolts are a bit different than your run-of-the-mill Sugino bolts.

Sugino binder bolts are as common as pig tracks on Old MacDonald’s Farm.  Cheap, sold everywhere.

And mechanically different from what I needed.

The problem with a Sugino bolt in a Campagnolo universe is that Sugino seat post bolts are held in place by a little key that is cast into the female end of the deal that fits into the seat collar.  That key, in turn, matches up with a notch in the seat tube collar that is designed to fit that key.  The key fits in the notch and holds the bolt in place as you tighten it.

Campagnolo bolts, on the other hand, aren’t keyed.  They are held in place by some serrations that are machined into the female end of the bolt.  Campagnolo engineers also designed the bolt to fail if you over-tighten it, preventing more serious damage and mayhem.

It’s an elegant engineering solution, and the ONLY appropriate fitting for a Campagnolo-equipped bike.

Except that I couldn’t source a new Campagnolo binder bolt to save my life.

I went to all of my usual sources for parts, and came up with nothing.  I then tried  all of my unusual sources for parts, and came up blank as well.  EBay, the Market Place Of Last Resort for traders of vintage Campagnolo wasn’t a real option either.  I wasn’t going to pay extortionate prices on eBay for a used part, especially a used part that is designed to fail if you over-tighten it.

Oh, at one point I actually placed an order for a binder bolt from a rather large and reputable internet bike shop.  Indeed, I was even told that, yes, the part was in stock and that it had shipped.  Oops!  Turns out that wasn’t quite true.  Then I was told by another large and equally reputable internet bike shop that, no, they didn’t have one in stock but that it could be ordered from their supplier.  Confident that we were finally getting close to resolving the Campagnolo Binder Bolt Imbroglio, I was understandably annoyed when, after two weeks of waiting for the bolt to arrive, I received a rather sad email from the store saying that the bolt was no longer available but thanks for shopping with us!.  

See?  I told you it was irritating.  The next bit is the tedious part.

On top of being unable to source the Binder Bolt Of The Gods, my schedule got hectic and, when the smoke cleared, I basically was left with just Saturday to get the bike built and on the road if I wanted to show it off on the upcoming weekend group ride.  So my new plan was to build it Saturday morning, give it a short shake down, and then show up with it on Sunday.

So Saturday morning rolls around, and the first order of business was to throw a cup of coffee down the hatch, grab a file, snatch up the Sugino binder bolt that I just happened to have sitting on my workbench, and spend 15 highly-productive minutes hacking off the offending locating key.  Voila!  Shorn of its key, the bolt now fit a Campagnolo seat lug.  Sort of.

Quick and dirty, but done.

The rest of the morning went smoothly.  That is except for the fact that the second part of my plan – a short test ride to ferret out problems and check my work.  That didn’t happen.  Just I as was finishing the last few jobs, adjusting the gears and brakes, the heavens opened up.  It rained the rest of the day and into the evening.

Well, who needs a shakedown ride anyway.

So without so much as having thrown a leg over the bike, I rolled it out into the sunlight early Sunday morning to go and ride with the guys.  On tap was 35 or 40 admittedly easy miles.  Oh sure, I was confident that I had done a good job and that, no, the frame and fork weren’t going to fold up beneath me like a cheap lawn chair.  But, you know, even test pilots wear parachutes when they take up a new plane for the first time.

So I was a little nervous.

I made it to the meet-up point without anything falling off or exploding, which was a good sign.  Waiting in the parking lot for the rest of the guys to show up, I attempted to appear nonchalant as I surreptitiously checked the bike over for indications that it was about to kill me.  Adding to my nervousness was the fact that the roads were still a bit slick from Saturday’s deluge and, yes, it was threatening to rain again.  Not exactly the friendliest environment for test riding a steel bike with no paint.  No matter; I took it easy, hung out at the back of the group and just enjoyed the ride.  Okay, I will admit that once or twice that I bent over and pretended to cinch up a shoe strap when we were stopped at an intersection just so I could make another check to see if things were still holding together.

The report: Zero issues.

Number 4 is a damn fine bike.  With 35 miles under my tires we are just getting acquainted, but I can already tell that this one is one effin’ spectacular ride.

1.  Artistic Shot With Azeleas

2.  Obligatory Bike Against A Wall Shot

3.  Details, Details….

This shows off one of the little bits on the bike that makes me smile.  Look at the end caps on the seat stays.  They are antique Cinelli pieces that I bought from a framebuilder who is liquidating his stock of parts.  Cinelli 409 to be precise.  Beautiful.  The Ass Harpoon seat stays were cool, but this turned out very nicely, if I say so myself.  And I just did.

Campagnolo Athena 11.  In silver.  It was really the only choice for this bike.  I went with the compact crank and, after exactly one ride, I am a convert.

Here’s the other side, showing the hidden brake cable.

4.  Celebratory Twizzlers

When I got the box of tubes and lugs from Richard Sachs, it was packed with Twizzlers candy.  I’ve been slowly munching on them as I built up the frame and fork.  I decided that I would save a couple so I could have a celebratory liquorice fix when I finished the bike.  The first ride went so well that I picked two out of the box and chowed down as I ran a rag over the bike after the ride.  (I’ve saved a couple for when I paint it).

5.  Buster and Sybil Say That It Is Time To Ride


(Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely)


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