Work in Progress

I spent all my roughly 50 sportives in 2007 thinking about my dream Randonneur. I had a piece of paper on my desk at home and would note down any changes I would like to make with regards to the 1986 Revell Romany I was riding then. Towards the end of the season I had assembled quite a wish list.

My trusty 1985 (frame) Revell Romany, in use for about 20 years of its life

It was clear from the outset that I would not be willing to spend extraordinary amounts of money on this dream bike as I have other hobbies too and as I´m a rider who is  – at best – described as weak, so capital outlay on a super rando bike would just not reflect any practical use. Any Singer or Herse or other marque in this league would be out.

Or so I thought. During the winter of 2007/8 when I started planning in earnest I contacted several people I know who are deep in randonneuring and/or framebuilding, and it was Doug Fattic who gave the decisive hint: Ask Ellis-Briggs, the people Doug had learned framebuilding with.

It became clear very quickly that I would be able to afford a custom randonneur frame built by E-B, and as we had planned an English holiday anyway, I made an appointment and went to Shipley. There I was helped by Paul in the shop and with finances, and Andrew, the framebuilder. Wishes included all sorts of useful and weird things, my list had grown to 14 extras, and nothing seemed to be a problem really.

I found that I could have a frame to rival the best French ones, save constructeur parts like Herse cranks and perhaps the top 10 per cent refinement in angles and dimensions, and still not pay more than I could see myself paying with regards to my cycling abilities. Short: Have a frame with PBP qualities and a sportive price tag.

Up came Feb 12, 2009. The postman had dumped a huge parcel quite unceremoniously in our neighbour´s hall, and after lugging it up to my study I started to unpack. In the meantime I had also ordered an off the peg frame for my son, and it too was in the parcel. This will be dealt with in a later post. (This is MY blog, after all.)

The first glimpse

I had already amassed a great deal of parts, some of them custom made to achieve some sort of integrated bike. There were a SON 28 hub, some Mafac Racers, a Brooks, a 9sp. Veloce geartrain and rear hub, the one with annular bearings, and so on. Most of it I got used to keep the price down. Building the bike up could have started right away, but as I was fascinated by the build quality of the frame I hung it on my study wall for a few days to gloat over it. I hope to be able to reproduce some of the gloating in a number of breathless, uncommented photos.

The Mafac studs and brass bushings had been machined by a friend of mine, the Nervex lugs came from my stash. When Andrew showed me his choice of lugs, plain, modern ones, I couldn´t see much difference, and asked him which ones he preferred. His answer was that he´d just love to work with Nervex lugs once again, but that he was out of them. So after a while a parcel with a set of lugs winged its way to Shipley, making both of us happy bunnies; me anyway, as for Andrew I sincerely hope so.

Also in this parcel was the seat tube. Paul was unable to source a quality lightweight seat tube with a length of 72 cm – my 67 cm frame height plus a reserve needed when building. For a while I thought this would be it, but then Tobit Linke, who has worked in many places, told me about a shop in the south of Germany, Walther, who build bike polo bikes and who make everything on their own, including the tubing which they get in a raw state by the lorry length – length, not load, and then process it in house. People there were friendly enough to let me have the length I needed. Phew.

Andrew cut the Mafac studs and brazed them onto standard cantilever braze ons for the rear. What wonders he worked with the bog standard Nervex lugs you can see in the pics. Look into the bottom bracket – can you see where the chainstay begins and the b/b shell ends? Neither can I, and one can´t feel it, either.

After a while…

First try. It rode well, but there were changes to come.

The first was the saddle. Tony Colegrave made this Swallow on the slightly wider B17 rails. I still had nice chromed ones. The idea was that a Swallow uses the narrow width, but at 6´6″ your bum also is a bit wider than usual, and if you want a wide saddle, but still a Swallow, you´ll have to have one made. It has been great all the time.

Next was this carrier. I rode a sportive with Marten Gerritsen of M-Gineering, and he said he could make one to measure. I revamped a standard bag so that it would have tapes that go over the decaleur of sorts, the inverted U sticking up. It also has worked great.

Then there was this brake cable hanger. The same lathe wizard friend who made the Mafac studs made this hanger. It, too, has worked great.

Now it seems the lathe wizard is also a wizard at the bending machine – he´s made the second carrier from stainless tubing. OK, I´m now stuck with one white and one silver coloured carrier, but I just don´t care. Both are wonderful.

So here we are, end of story for now. I was lucky enough to be able to buy four racing bikes in three years kitted out with good used Veloce 9sp. parts but rotted out frames (light alloy – small wonder) so that I now have a nice comfy stash. One of the parts bikes also rendered the silver mudguards which replaced the red Bluemels set.

The bike as is rides great. Hardly any shimmy, which at this frame height is super. It climbs well, despite its weight, but at 103 kilos for me, the bike, a full bottle or two and the rest, what use is there in saving a kilo or two on Record Carbon bits, or whatever comes to mind. I rather have a p.. before I start the ride.

The brakes were worth all the effort three people put into them. They are two finger operable, even on the steepest decents. The 9sp. chain keeps for nearly one season, gear change is OK. There is not a single adjustable ball bearing on the whole bike as far as I´m aware, so bad weather (which we get a fair share of) is not a mechanical problem.

This is the bike as it presents itself in the summer of 2012 during a tour of the Cotswolds in England.

I think I´ll pass the 15,000 km mark this season, and hope for many more.

What else can I wish for?

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3 Comments

  1. Posted January 20, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Toni, we seem to have similar tastes in colour combinations! Bob

  2. Posted September 29, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    Moin! Just a quick private comment… Very sad that Andrew’s now passed away (I never met him), but I guess all the frames he built over the years means that something of him still lives on. This is one of my favourite posts – a great testament to his handiwork, and the reason I first got in touch with Ellis Briggs about a custom randonneur frame earlier this year. I met Paul in the shop in March and he seems to have a real eye for detail too. He’s now building the frame for me. Hope yours has given you many more miles of happy cycling since. Dave

    • Posted September 30, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Dave,
      well I´ll never, my post was the reason for you getting a frame at E-B´s? Great.
      Yes, my frame´s still going strong, although I´ve hardly had time for any cycling at all over the last year or so. Next season will hopefully see me back in strength at Century events, though 🙂

One Trackback

  1. By An Old Friend « starostneradost on April 26, 2014 at 11:16 am

    […] then graduated to a real randonneur (https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/work-in-progress) and the Rossin got laid off and parked in the cellar. As a recompense I had repeatedly promised […]

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