I’ve already put up a few teaser pics of Jackie’s road bike. Below are a few professionally taken photos taken by Scott Quinn, a photographer that has a studio in the same building as my shop.
But first, let me tell you a little bit about the bike. Jackie’s bike was an interesting and very unique project. Like all of my projects, the process starts with a conversation about the rider’s intended use of the bike, their cycling history, physical condition in relation to size, age and previous injuries. I want to know as much as possible to make sure I will be able to make the bike the client is seeking. Jackie explained to me that she was relatively new to cycling but was having a hard time finding a bike that fit her as she was relatively short and had some previous injuries that made it difficult for her to be comfortable on her current bike. She wanted a comfortable road bike that she could enjoy on the country roads near her house west of Fort Worth.
After our initial conversation, I sent her to see Ron at Benbrook Bicycles for a fit session. Ron did a great job fitting her, and was able to address some of her issues. I took the fit data and designed the frame geometry. Jackie’s height made squeezing 700c wheels into the frame a little problematic. As she was not going to race the bike I decided it was better to go with smaller wheels to make a more balanced bike. I first compared designs using 650c and 650b wheels. Finally, I opted for 26″ wheels as there was the biggest range of tire widths available, and also greatly eliminated any toe overlap issues.
Jackie specified that she really wanted lugs, and I did a little carving into the standard diameter Henry James lugs. The tube set is Columbus SL, and I put a slight slope in the top tube to get the handlebars a little higher. Jackie left it up to me to choose the components. To avoid breaking her bank account, I chose nicer parts where I thought it mattered, and saved money in places where we could. The bike uses a mix of Shimano Ultegra and 105 for the drive train, Velocity Synergy rims laced to White Industry hubs, and Tektro brakes. I saved a little money for Jackie by using a Ritchey headset, along with bars, stem, and seat post from Civia. I got her a special set of 160mm cranks from da Vinci as these are better for her height and helps her cadence in regards to her previous injuries. All of this is topped off with a lady’s Brooks B-17 saddle. Maybe it is the size of the frame and wheels, but this is one of the lightest bikes I have made.
Ok, time to get this boxed off and shipped back to the Lone Star State.
All photos were taken by Scott Quinn. You can see more of his work at www.scottquinnphoto.com
The other big news is that I am organizing a framebuilders’ show. It will be held on September 27th in the gallery space of the building that houses my shop at 999 Vallejo Street, Denver, CO.
I am in the process of getting everything organized and more info will follow soon. I already have quite a few builders lined up to exhibit, so things are looking good. And to make things better there will also be beer and BBQ served at the show.
I hope everyone is having a great summer thus far, with plenty of big miles covered. The above photo was sent in from Matthew while he is enjoying his vacation riding his Gallus along the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota. As for me, its been a busy one, as usual. After completing the 200, 300, and 400km brevets earlier in the summer, I have now been focusing more on running as I have a couple ultra-marathon trail runs coming up in the next few weeks. I plan on doing the 600km to complete the series, but will have to travel out of state to do so as I was unable to do either of the ones offered in Colorado. I am still getting on the bike daily for commuting and did make it out for a nice ride last weekend with a jaunt up the switchbacks of Lookout Mountain.
As for shop life, things are going well. I recently got Jackie’s bike back from paint and have it built up. I will follow up with some more photos soon and a description of the design. Here are a couple of photos for now.
I am nearly done with Kevin’s bi-lam frame, just braze-ons left. Here is a sneak peak of it.
Much more to follow soon, so check back. In the mean time, get off that computer and go for a ride.
Now that I have the 100th blog post out of the way I can get back to some regular posting. I’ve got quite a photo sets of projects to put up. It’s interesting seeing them side by side as each project is very different from each other. All road bikes, all steel, but 3 different joining processes, 3 different wheel sizes, not to mention each one will have entirely different components and set ups, but that is custom bike building for you.
First up is Jackie’s bike. Jackie lives out in the country side just west of Fort Worth. She wanted a comfortable road bike that she can enjoy the local country roads on. She is relatively new to cycling, but had issues finding a bike that fit her well as she is only 5’2″ and has a few previous injuries. Before we started the project I sent her to get a fitting with Ron at Benbrook Bicycle. I wanted to make sure we could make her comfortable on the bike before we went through the whole process. Ron did a good job and Jackie was happy with the results, so I got started on the bike. I opted to build the frame around 26″ wheels due to Jackie’s height, and there actually being better availability of tires than both 650c or 650b. Jackie is a fan of lugs, and I did some custom carving to the lug set on her bike. The frame came out well, and is now in paint, I should get it back soon and will have build pics up thereafter.
Next up was Jeremy’s bike. Jeremy is my first Denver customer. He was running a neighborhood bike shop named Estelle. I had stopped in there to get some inner tubes and started chatting with Jeremy. I told him I built frames and showed him my bike. He seemed really into it, and a few weeks later called me up and ordered a frame. The frame is a fillet brazed cross-commuter bike. It has CX geometry and clearance, but with braze-ons for racks and fenders. The bike will take disc brakes, which gave me an opportunity to use the road fork disc tab I designed. The bike also has room for some fat tires. This bike is a beast and will survive most any conditions.
My current project is for Kevin in Oklahoma City. Kevin is a bicycle historian and has written a book called the American Cycling Odyssey, 1887 about George Nellis, a twenty one year-old newspaper man who road his bike from New York to San Francisco in 1887, setting a record for the transcontinental journey. Kevin already has an impressive bike collection containing an Engin, Bob Jackson, and an Assenmacher. He used to have a pink Mark Nobilette mountain bike and wishes he hadn’t sold it. I am honored to become part of this collection. The bike I am building for him is a French inspired 650b road bike. It will have hand-cut bi-lam lugs, fitted for fenders, big tires and will take many vintage parts that Kevin has been collected. The frame is almost done and I will have more complete pictures soon, but here are a few of the lugs being cut.
Hi folks, it has been sometime since I last posted. It has not been out of lack of cool things going on the shop. This is fact my 100th blog post, and I wanted to do something special to commemorate it, which has taken a little longer to put together as planned. Thanks to everyone who has followed my blog over the last few years. Much like my framebuilding, it’s more about the act of creating something then seeking out an audience and I am never really expecting anyone to take notice. That said, it does put a big smile on my face when people tell me that they enjoyed something they either saw or read on my blog, so, thank you. For those of you wanting to see what I have been doing in the shop, check back soon as I will drop a lot of the recent build pics in the next few days, or you can follow Gallus on facebook.com/galluscycles or on Instagram @gallusdude. Ok, enjoy the story.
I am sure I had to read Old Man and the Sea back in High School. I don’t have a very strong recollection of it as it came after the also required reading of Camus’ The Stranger, which only served to bolden my teenage apathy and the dismissal of anything that was presented to me thereafter by anyone over the age of 35. It wasn’t till I accidently discovered To Have and Have Not, only because the British Punk/Folk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg had named a song after it, that I realized Hemingway was a total bad ass.
Last September, when I picked up a used paper back copy of The Sun Also Rises I was hoping for the same kind of suspense and action. The description on the back cover pinned it as a story about a group of ex-pats in 1920′s Paris, a romance between the protagonist Jake Barnes(Hemingway) and Lady Brett Ashely, and the disintegration of the group during their stay at a week long bullfighting festival in Spain.
The book begins simply enough. It follows the group as they go from one late night cafe to another, staying out drinking till the wee hours of the morning. Luckily most of them were writers, and as long as they typed out a few words every now and then, hangovers had few consequences and bills still got paid. From their first encounters, it is obvious that the “romance” between Jake and Lady Brett was not that of archetypal love story. Firstly, she is in the process of going through a divorce, shortly there after has a string of affairs and by the second half of the book she is engaged to someone else. Apparently she is the kind of woman that any man she encounters falls hopelessly in love with her. Personally, I did not see the appeal. Her dialouge was extremely drab, and she obviously had commitment issues, nor much consideration for anybody other than herself. Maybe the men liked that she could keep up with them on their boozey late nights and binges, or maybe they were enticed by her free-spirited energy . Though Hemingway never gives much a physical description of her, though I must assume that she had to have been very beautiful to garner such attention. A glance or a smile from a beautiful woman has surely made me think I had found true love on countless occasions.
Occasionally Hemingway gets fed up with the endless line of suitors chasing after Lady Brett, but for the most part he seems to be preoccupied with drinking, fishing, drinking, bull fighting and a lot more drinking. Though they rarely are able to spend any time alone with one another, their connection and love for each other is undeniable. They understood and deeply cared for each other, they also both understood why they could never be together. They were not troubled by this, but simply accepted the situation and each other. This love of theirs was clearly ahead of its’ time, and inconceivable by their peers or most anyone of that era. The other men that were infatuated with Brett did not understand her as a person. They would first be attracted to her sense of freedom, but would then try to put her in a more domesticated role. Obviously, this would not bode well with Lady Brett, and she would promptly end the affair(s) and then men would disintegrate into a deep heart broken despair.
Luckily the very unsteamy love story in the first chapters of the book read quickly, and I did not abandon the book before things got good, and a little more pertinent to this here bicycle blog. Jake and his friend Bill left Paris for Spain, first to go fishing in the Basque region and later were met by Brett and the rest of the gang in Pamplona for the San Fermin Bullfighting Festival. Images from the Vuelta a Espana, that coincedently was running while I was reading the book, painted a mental backdrop of the dusty mountain roads that Hemingway and Co. were crossing in the Pyrenees.
When they arrive in Pamplona, Jake and Bill checked in to the Hotel Montoya. This hotel was exclusive to only the real aficionados of bullfighting. Hemingway explains that the term “aficionado” comes from the root word aficion which means passion. After glazing over the first half of the book, this description made me stop and I re-read it several times. Unlike its’ French and Italian counterparts of connoisseur and cognoscente, which equates more of having an extensive or elite knowledge of a subject, aficionado was more of an emotional understanding. A deep understanding that could only be felt and could hardly be explained or even expressed with words.
Maybe its the European heritage of cycling, especially the deep Latin roots, but cyclists – more so than any other group of people with the exception of committed cultists — understand and are fueled by passion. It’s why we ride endless miles, through all sorts of weather and terrain. It’s why we wake up early in the morning to commute to work, pack our panniers and go bicycle tours, or tackle the highest mountain roads. It is why so many of my friends and acquaintances are bike messengers, mechanics, have opened their own bike shops or even become framebuilders. It is not because it was the easy path to take, and it’s certainly not for the money.
Reading about cycling on the internet, knowing who-won-what-race, learning all of the tech data for full lines of components might make you an expert, but it doesn’t make you more of a cyclist. Only being out there riding gives you an understanding of cycling. It’s a feeling. It creates an empathy and camaraderie among us, and helps us slightly grasp the near immortal performances of the pros we watch every July in the Le Tour. Maybe it’s the degree of suffering synomonous to cycling that creates such passion as the gap between pain and elation is so vast. There are easier, less trying things we could do with our time, but we are chasing that buzz, that feeling, only cycling provides.
As I read further, Hemingway then went into a very indepth and at times brutal, description of bullfighting. My vegetarian sensibilites aside, I was entralled by this insight to a world I had no previous knowledge of. I also began to see more and more parrallels between bullfighting and cycling. After the pagentry of the festival with the running of the bulls, and the staging and viewing of the bulls in the arena, Hemingway explained the difference between a good matador and a great one. A good one would survive and not lay victim to the bull’s horns. But to do so, they might have selected to go against a bull with shorter horns. A great matador would go against any bull, and they would have the finesse to draw the bull in as close as possible, and then their practiced technique, form and reflexes to remain unscathed.
The matadors weren’t only competing against the bulls, but they were also competing for the crowds’ adoration. In such a passionate setting, death of a matador would be the most unthinkable outcome, to point that even coming close to death was described as being “tragic”. The closer the matador got to the bull’s horns the more tragic it was, and thus, the more the crowd loved him. I was intrigued by this choice of words, as this death defying performance somehow surpassed suspense, and entered the realm of pure tragedy.
I could visualize this tragedy going down. The split second as the bull would pass would appear in slow motion. The matador would not simply step out of the way or back down to the approaching bull, instead he would stand firm if not even moving closer to the bull, and then would bend his torso around the bull’s horns, escaping their grasp by mere millimeters. Professional athletes combine technique, reflexes, and physical strength to master their given sport, and provide us spectators with entertainment. We are mesmerized not by the end result of the game, match, or race, but by the graceful movement that the athletes’ years of training has created. In essence, they are the human embodiment of “form and function”, having good form makes the athlete more efficient and thus perform better with less energy. Not only is it more efficient, but it also is more captivating to the eye. As a spectator, to witness such fluidity of movement is to experience a sight of beauty.
Maybe I day dream too much. Maybe I see everything through rose-tinted glasses that enables me to relate so much of life to cycling, and vice versa, but when I started reading about the matadors I began thinking about all of the bicycle messengers I have known and ridden with. I remembered the grace that the experienced messengers I rode with back in Glasgow would have when cutting through traffic or how the guys in Denver float over sheets of ice during a cold winter’s rush hour grid lock. It looks simple enough, as it appears to just be someone riding their bike through traffic but too see a good messenger handle his bike is to witness the same finesse that a professional athlete exhibits. Their technique and form was developed from years on the bike and the job. It’s not the same as seeing some kid hammering around town, recklessly, on a fixed gear bike. The messenger operates out of efficiency. Their route, cadence, and the line they take through traffic is done so in order to get their delivery done quickly and with as little energy used as possible.
Like the matador, the messenger dances with danger with both refined grace and strength. They face up against possible tragedy everyday, all day long. But this is were the comparison stops. The matador is matched against a bull. Though the bull appears wild and is equipped with sharp horns, and there is the possibility of severe injury and death, the matador actually has very good odds. The bull’s movements are predictable, if not dictated by the matador. The bicycle messenger is pitted against cars, trucks and buses, along with scores of absent minded pedestrians glued to their smart phones jumping out in the street whenever they feel like it. Though the vehicles appear to be a civilized man-made creation, absent of sharp horns(unless you are in Texas), they are operated by people, who by nature, are very unpredictable at best, reckless and even aggressive at worst . The matador is also competing for the adoration of the crowd, whereas the messenger is better off riding as anonymously as possible. It is more efficient to glide through traffic relatively unseen then dealing with the unpredictable reactions of the many unskilled and careless drivers that clog our city streets.
The bullfighter’s theater of tragedy would earn them glamour, popularity and a hefty income. The bicycle messenger’s theater are the city streets, and his stage has even more danger than the bullring. The streets are not lined with hordes of spectators cheering for them. They are here simply to do a job. And as far as jobs go, they are not paid nearly as much as their effort and constant risks should garner. If it is not for the pay or for the glamour, why do they do it? Is it because they are attracted to the sense of freedom being outside on the bike all day provides? Are they addicted to the buzz that riding through city creates? Or is it being part of the strong camaraderie that is shared among the messenger community? The reasons might be different from person to person, but one thing is shared between all of them, and that is aficion.
Most of the time I get caught up with building the actual frame. The frame is the heart and soul of the bike, and my main concern is usually what I get done at the work bench. My daily effort is judged by either what tubes got brazed together or how big the pile of metal shavings on the floor is. Its easy to loose sight of the whole picture, which also includes paint and the components that actually make the thing ride-able. The last couple of frames I built got shipped out and then assembled by either the owner or a shop mechanic, so I will admit that it was quite nice building this bike up myself and seeing it complete, especially as Colin had chosen really nice components to go on the bike. Colin is originally from Petaluma, CA, which is also home to White Industries. We used their components whenever possible, and filled in the gaps with whatever it took to make this bike a total crusher. I was very happy with how this bike turned out. It looks like a simple, classically styled track bike, but there are many subtle details that sets this bike apart. I’ll stop talking and let y’all see the pictures.
P.S. I will be at the Detroit Bike City Expo next Saturday so if you live in the area please stop by to say hello. This beauty will be there too.
I just received a shipment of t-shirts. I have plenty in both styles and sizes. For $20 plus s/h you too can look as good as these dapper gentleman from Bilenky Cycle Works. Email me with size and color requests at jeremy(at)galluscycles dot com and I will send you the paypal info.