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

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