Belt Drive Touring Bike

Amy approached me late last year with interest in a unique bike. She had done her research and had a list of attributes that she wanted in her new bicycle: belt drive, Rohloff 14 speed hub, lights, fenders, and a rear rack, among others. Amy also had her own fit data on hand from a Retül fitting that she had done locally. After months of planning, design, fabrication, and assembly, I am pleased to present photos of her new bicycle!

The bike is great. We went for a ride yesterday and it rode like a dream. ...

The build process was a wonderful collaboration experience for me. I feel really fortunate to have stumbled upon your web site.

Thanks for the kind words, Amy!

Though the bike looks like it has been painted black in lower light situations, Amy picked out a really sweet, subtle metallic color that reveals itself in bright sunlight. The color’s full name is, “Malbec Black Metallic.”

The bike has 26” wheels, custom 155mm crank arms, and a slew of other custom features. A small pump, painted Malbec Black Metallic to match, fits nicely behind the seat tube.

The Gates belt drive is quiet and clean, and it never needs to be lubricated. Amy chose a set of highly efficient LED front and rear lights by Busch and Müller, powered by the Schmidt SON generator front hub.

Amy’s rear fender was deliberately shortened so that she can “wheelie” the bike around in tight situations when not pedaling. The bike will be ridden in a city environment where tight spaces make the wheelie a necessary move to get on and off trains, into tight parking spaces, etc.

Though it looks like a lot is going on in the pic above, the underlying design is still pretty simple. “Rocker” style dropouts allow belt tension adjustment with the help of a pair of PDX Ti Rockerbones. A Gates “snubber” wheel sits behind the belt and cog just to prevent the unlikely event of a skipping belt. The rear light wire passes through the chainstay and into the rack tubing itself, where it is routed to the rear light. The frame has a split in the rear triangle to accommodate belt installation and removal, and you can see that here as well.

Custom built wheels will accommodate heavy touring loads and the inevitable encounters with city potholes. Multiple bosses on the fork allow all sorts of rack and bottle cage options.

The non-drive view shows the shifter cable box and its interface with the Rohloff hub. All cables are cleanly routed underneath the down tube, and all feature full housing to keep dirt and water out.

I love the look of the the silver parts on Amy’s bike! The polished hub shells look great.

Check out a complete gallery below. It was a true pleasure working with Amy on her new bike!

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. Or, you can get in touch with me directly.

Long Overdue Spring Update!

It’s been a busy year so far, not that you could tell from the activity on this blog! As the sole proprietor here, I am often juggling many projects at once, and as so often happens with blogs, this one was neglected a bit.

In an effort to remedy the recent lack of content, I have a few photos to share from various projects around the shop, and a full photo set of a recent build is coming up within the next few weeks.

First up is a 650b conversion that I did for a friend’s old Trek 660:

With apologies for the dark exposures, this was a really fun project. The frame and fork were slightly modified with a few new braze-ons, powder coated orange, and then a fresh build kit was added to breathe new life into a well-made steel frame and fork. The wider tires and triple gearing are well-suited to VT roads, and the new bar and saddle setup are made for comfort and cruising.

I don’t get to work on projects like this very often, but they can be really satisfying! Knowing that an older frame set is now being enjoyed in a whole new way is pretty rewarding.

Next up are a few shots from around the workshop. Really, I’m just looking through my camera’s memory card from the past few months and picking out the good ones. ;)

Above is a nice front wheel build, using the excellent Schmidt SON 28 dynamo hub, for disc brake and thru-axle. Below is the venerable Rohloff 14 speed rear hub. These two hubs form the basis for a wheelset that belong to a new belt drive touring bike (pics forthcoming!).

Above are some cleanly brazed water bottle bosses on a down tube. I like to use the little 4-pointed “star” reinforcements on some builds. It’s super satisfying when brazing goes this smoothly and doesn’t require any clean-up with emory cloth, files or scotch brite… that doesn’t always happen though!

Head tube welds. Reynolds 853 tubing, which is some of my personal favorite for TIG welded frames.

Finally I have some teaser pics of a really cool cross/gravel frame. Stainless steel couplings by S&S machine were installed to make this frame travel-ready. It splits into two halves that allow the whole bike to fit into a large (airline-friendly) suitcase. This particular frame also features adjustable rear dropouts and belt drive compatibility.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Léger, Rapide et Confortable

Presenting a new, French inspired, fully integrated randonneur bicycle!

It has everything, and it is truly light, fast, and comfortable. 

While I have been interested in building a bicycle like this for some time, and while I have built bicycles before with some of the specific features that make this bike unique, this is the first one that I have made that integrates all these features into one machine. 

Indeed, many of the features found on this bicycle are directly influenced by the work of the great French constructeurs active in the mid-20th century, including Alex Singer, René Herse, Jo Routens, and the like. 

The fully-integrated randonneuring bicycle is quite popular these days, largely due to the influence of Jan Heine and his publication, Bicycle Quarterly

Features like integrated LED lighting and a generator front hub, full coverage fenders, a front bag and rack, 650b x 42mm tires with lightweight casings, and low-trail frame geometry for optimized handling all contribute to a randonneur bicycle's general usefulness. But one cannot simply add these features to a bicycle and expect to end up with a high performance, durable machine. Rather, It is the way that all of these elements are carefully considered during the design phase that ends up being so important: each element has to work in concert with the rest.

Take the front bag, for example. This fine bag was made by Dave Cain of Waxwing Bag Company based in Waitsfield, VT. I have worked with Dave before, and he continues to impress with his handiwork and design sensibility. While the general design of front bags like this has been mostly "figured out" by now, it is the small details that make this bag so functional. Things like a map pocket on top, a top flap that opens out so that the bag can be accessed while riding, elastic closures with nifty little leather tabs underneath the hooks for extra security, and the general dimensions of the bag are all wonderful. 

The bag attaches to the minimal front rack underneath with a pair of Grand Bois bag clips, in addition to the ingenious Dock-It decaleur that was designed by Tom Matchak. These three mounting points make a solid, sure connection while also allowing the bag to be easily removed when the bike is parked. 

Normally, a bag filled with an extra few pounds of gear on the front rack of a bicycle will upset its handling characteristics. By designing the bicycle's geometry around a particular front load configuration, handling can be optimized to minimize the effect of this extra weight. This particular bicycle has relatively low trail, and when combined with wide tires (run at low tire pressures) and a small front load, handling is precise and cornering is intuitive. 

A curved handlebar (somewhat exaggerated in this photo by distortion from the wide angle lens) is comfortable on the hands for long rides. "Old school" down tube shifters are lightweight and simple, and almost never break or need adjustment. Wiring for the lights runs inside the frame tubing to make things simple and clean and reduce the likelihood of a wire getting snagged. The front generator hub's electrical contacts are built into the fork dropouts, eliminating the need to connect wires when installing the wheel (this is especially handy when fixing a flat tire out on the road). 

Super light frame tubing provides a lively feel and absorbs bumps. 46/30 chainrings and a 12/28 cassette provide a nice gear range for spirited riding and hilly terrain. A Shimano Dura-Ace long cage rear derailleur (from almost 20 years ago!) shifts perfectly, and a newer Shimano CX 10-speed front derailleur works very well with the small chainrings. Centerpull brakes provide excellent modulation and ample power. The full-coverage Honjo fenders are beautifully hammered, super light, and durable. They make riding in the rain almost pleasurable! 

Besides being a real challenge to build, bicycles like this are so full of little details that, on their own, are lost. But each part has its purpose, like the small leather washer in between the rear fender and the seat stay bridge in the pic above. The end result is a bike that rides wonderfully, quietly, and requires very little maintenance. A bike like this can take you pretty much anywhere there is a road to be found (be it paved, dirt, or gravel), day or night, rain or shine. 

See below for a slideshow of the complete photo set.