I’ve been rid­ing the same bro­ken-down GT fix­ie that I bought on Craigslist in 2004. Nine years is a good life for a city bike. And it nev­er real­ly fit me any­way. With the slight­ly longer com­mute that came with my new job and house sit­u­a­tion, it was final­ly time to upgrade to a win­ter-capa­ble com­muter bike that could sup­port all my weird require­ments:

  • Lugs for racks and fend­ers (I want a front basket–more on this lat­er!)
  • A way to car­ry a choco­late malt on the go (Pos­si­bly not in the win­ter.)
  • Clear­ance for wider 700c tires (to absorb the pot­holes) and stud­ded win­ter tires
  • A guard to keep my pant leg from get­ting greasy or snagged
  • At least one disc brake for stop­ping pow­er in dirty, wet con­di­tions
  • Main­te­nance-free belt dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy from the future!

Since I was look­ing for a most­ly off-the-shelf solu­tion, this list nar­rowed my options down to basi­cal­ly one bike, the Spot Wazee, which arrived Sat­ur­day. I got mine through Bel­mont Wheel­works, Spot’s unof­fi­cial non-deal­er in the Boston area.

L1003573

Yeah, it’s great!

L1003567

The frame is made in Tai­wan, but it still has some nice touch­es that are usu­al­ly found only on US-made bikes, like this brake bridge detail:

L1003583

The rear hub is fair­ly heavy but it shifts like a dream. This is my first inter­nal­ly-geared hub and I’m impressed.

L1003584

The Gates Car­bon Dri­ve is real­ly well made. At low speeds it is less effi­cient than a chain, but the dif­fer­ence is hard­ly notice­able. It’s qui­et and smooth. And clean to the touch!

L1003576

November 24, 2013 December 23, 2013 bikes by Scott 4 Comments

Road bike

This detail shows the braze-on front derailleur, bringer of so much trou­ble. The star-shaped water bot­tle boss rein­force­ments are almost also vis­i­ble.

In hind­sight, I should have put more dis­tance between the bike and the back­drop to reduce the shad­ows and reflec­tions. I guess if I were more com­put­er savvy I could remove them dig­i­tal­ly, but we don’t do that kind of thing here.

September 26, 2009 September 26, 2009 bikes by Scott 4 Comments

Road bike

Look what dropped by my, um, stu­dio the oth­er day.

September 26, 2009 September 26, 2009 bikes by Scott 1 Comment

We have some catch­ing-up to do, don’t we?

July 12: My first ride on the new bike is like a dream. It’s fast, nim­ble, smooth, and incred­i­bly light! Got my first com­pli­ment after just 5 min­utes of rid­ing. The tem­po­rary stripe of black spray­paint and jury-rigged rear brake are tem­porar­i­ly for­got­ten, but I can’t wait to get every­thing fixed up.

July 16: Stripped the bike back down and returned it to my frame­builder, who will repair the mis-placed brake bridge and re-paint while I’m on vaca­tion.

July 21: My frame­builder decides that low­er­ing the brake bridge will be too dif­fi­cult. Instead, he will buy me a new pair of longer-reach brakes. This is frus­trat­ing because I already spent $200 on brakes that match the dark gray col­or scheme of the oth­er com­po­nents. The new ones will be heav­ier and are only avail­able in sil­ver. Fine, I give up!

July 27: Back from vaca­tion. Bike is at the paint shop await­ing paint.

August 3: Await­ing paint.

August 10: Await­ing paint. Appar­ent­ly the painter is back­logged with com­mit­ments to a vin­tage motor­cy­cle show.

August 13: Bike is not ready for my company’s all-hands bike ride. Instead I ride a tan­dem with my boss (which is actu­al­ly pret­ty fun as kick­ing every­one else’s ass becomes a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort).

August 20: Frame deliv­ered! The painter must have got­ten word of my impa­tience, as he took one last oppor­tu­ni­ty to tease me:

Do not open till x-mas.

Con­tin­ued in part 8…

August 21, 2009 August 21, 2009 bikes by Scott 1 Comment

After a frus­trat­ing night with my unbuild­able bike frame, I was relieved to hear that my frame­builder, upon hear­ing the news, shared my frus­tra­tion and eager­ly pro­posed a two-tiered solu­tion. First, he would devise a tem­po­rary fix that would get me rid­ing this week­end. Then, he would take the frame back when I leave for vaca­tion next week. While I’m out of the coun­try, he would move both of the trou­ble­some parts, strip the paint, re-paint and bake the fin­ish. I didn’t even have to ask. I like the way this guy thinks.

The front derailleur brack­et was off­set by exact­ly half the diam­e­ter of the bot­tom brack­et shell. This dis­tance turned out to be too short to drop the derailleur with an ele­gant cus­tom-machined adapter, so Christo­pher melt­ed off the brack­et with a torch, moved it to its final loca­tion, and gave the heat-effect­ed zone a tem­po­rary coat of black spray­paint. A lit­tle fil­ing on an old rear brake would solve the caliper reach prob­lem for now. He picked up the frame at break­fast and returned it after lunch. Impres­sive ser­vice for a Sat­ur­day!

So I’m build­ing the bike this week­end after all. And I’m not angry any­more.

Con­tin­ued in part 7…

July 11, 2009 July 11, 2009 bikes by Scott 2 Comments

Good news and bad news about my new Igle­heart bike.

Finished frame

The good news is that the frame looks incred­i­ble. The crafts­man­ship is superb, the styling is dis­tinc­tive, the welds are exquis­ite, and the col­or looks so good I want to lick it. My ini­tials are weld­ed into the bot­tom brack­et. I own this thing. How excit­ing!

Bottom bracket

The col­or is exact­ly what I want­ed. My desire to have a unique col­or was grant­ed: the painter mixed the tint by eye. There will nev­er be anoth­er bike in this shade! It has a beau­ti­ful gloss.

Since I was promised deliv­ery by the end of May and I just got it on Wednes­day, I am under­stand­ably anx­ious to get it on the road and start rid­ing. I haven’t gone for a long ride in prac­ti­cal­ly a year due to the poor con­di­tion of my old road bike! After weeks of scour­ing bike shops and the Inter­net for just the right parts—another epic sto­ry which I won’t both­er to tell here—I set about assem­bling it after din­ner.

Front derailleur gapAnd that’s where the bad news comes in. The rear brake bridge is set 2 mm too high, a prob­lem that I think I can work around. More frus­trat­ing­ly, the fan­cy braze-on mount for my front derailleur is attached about 15 mm too far from where it’s sup­posed to be, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to install any kind of front shift­ing sys­tem. So my build is abort­ed, my planned week­end vic­to­ry ride is can­celled, and I con­front the very real pos­si­bil­i­ty that I need to unbuild the bike and have Christo­pher strip the paint off, move the offend­ing parts, and repaint it. That could take weeks—and, iron­i­cal­ly, there’s no guar­an­tee it would be the same col­or when I get it back. Who knows when and if I will ever ride this bike. Depress­ing.

Con­tin­ued in part 6…

July 10, 2009 July 10, 2009 bikes by Scott 4 Comments

Unpainted frame

Bare weld­ed steel frame, pri­or to addi­tion of braze-ons.

Unpainted fork

Unpaint­ed steel fork, hand made.

Con­tin­ued in part 5…

July 9, 2009 July 9, 2009 bikes by Scott No Comments

At the lathe

A one-off bike design is a labor-inten­sive endeav­our. The tub­ing must be cut and fish­mouthed with sub-mil­lime­ter pre­ci­sion so that all the pieces fit snug­ly together—no small accom­plish­ment con­sid­er­ing there are dozens of crazy angles, off­sets, and diam­e­ters to fac­tor in. All the pieces of the frame must then be held secure­ly by a jig while the joints are tack-weld­ed. The fin­ish welds must be made care­ful­ly to min­i­mize twist­ing and stress buildup caused by uneven heat­ing. To avoid cre­at­ing an area sus­cep­ti­ble to future cor­ro­sion, a welder should be as con­cerned with the appear­ance of the inside of the joint as well as that of the out­side. For this rea­son, argon gas is used to dis­place the air inside the frame dur­ing the weld­ing process.

Beyond pure crafts­man­ship, there are plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties for artis­tic touch­es on a cus­tom frame. My rear dropouts, for exam­ple, pay homage to those of a Wright Broth­ers bicy­cle at the Hen­ry Ford Muse­um. The seat tube is rein­forced with a hand-carved lug. Above, my frame builder turns a cus­tom seat­post binder bolt on the lathe.

Con­tin­ued in part 4…

June 29, 2009 June 29, 2009 bikes by Scott 4 Comments

12