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.
Yeah, it’s great!
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:
The rear hub is fairly heavy but it shifts like a dream. This is my first internally-geared hub and I’m impressed.
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!
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.
Look what dropped by my, um, studio the other day.
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
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
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:
Continued in part 8…
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…
Good news and bad news about my new Igleheart bike.
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
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.
And 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…
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
Above, my frame builder turns a custom seatpost binder bolt on the
Continued in part 4…