Monthly Archives: January 2014

Kessels Time Capsule

It´s not easy to find info on early Eddy Merckx labeled bikes, that is what many people who have written on the subject on the internet agree on. So it´s always nice to find a completely unmolested specimen, hardly used actually, to make more judgements from.

KdownttransfSome weeks ago a friend did just that: He saw this

Kfullbike on Ebay, and after a quick phone conference we decided to hit the “spontaneous buy” button, or whatever it´s called. Often of course this proves to have been a spontaneous self combustion of hard earned money, but this time I think the friend was perfectly right to have bought the bike. This

Kftdois the only place where any serious wear is recognizable.

Some research on the net reveals that the Merckx name was big business in the seventies, when this bike was made. There were numerous makers licensed by Merckx to use his name, some consecutively, some actually at the same time. One of them was Ets. Kessels S.A. in Oostende, Belgium. From what one reads on the net, they made a range of Merckx bikes when not selling under their own brand name Main d´Or.

I think this bike must have been second tier from the top, the upside being the full Record equipment (save the brakes, Universals)

Kcampaglevers

Kftder

Kreardo

Kblock6spthe good quality handlebars,

KCinnice rims,

Krim

and the full 531 tube set.

KReyn531Seatt

KforkReyn

On the other hand the frame does not look as if it had been made very caringly.

KseatclThis seatcluster for example doesn´t exactly ooze quality, and these lugs have not received much attention, either.

Ktopheadl

Ksteeringhead

Also I´m not too sure about the forkcrown design. It does happen that especially lesser bikes carry numerous instances of their makers´ names.

KforkcrIt is, however, a nice touch, and the crown seems to be cast. too.

There are no braze ons at all, save the derailleur cable ones, for example over the b/b.

KbbtopEverything else is band-on which of course might as well be a sign for the frame´s age rather than any lack in quality.

Kcampaglevers

KttCampagbandon

Here´s the typical Kessels b/b shell, though, with some hand painted letters and numbers. It seems to be clear now that the abbreviated name was the name of the shop which sold the bike, or the name of the first rider if the bike was bought direct. I found this info on the Flickr Group for Kessels, and it makes a lot of sense.

KbbShellSign

Hoever, here´s what Hugh Thornton of classiclightweights says about this:

There is not a lot of information available online on Kessels.  My own Kessels-built Merckx is, I think, top tier or close to it, and more in the ‘well-used’ category.

Hugh´s Kessels can be seen on his website (which is worth a visit anyway). Hugh continues:

I was advised that the names under the BB denote the frame builder, not the customer.
 
If the Pernod Trophy sticker on the blog bike is original, then it cannot be earlier than late 1974.  I also take that type of head tube decal to be a later style, whereas mine has a borderless picture, which would have had an Eddy above it to match the Merckx below it.  The seat tube decal though has a border.
 
The blog bike is exceptionally well preserved.  A very nice example with the same performance as the top tier models, just a slightly lower level of build and a small saving on components.

The colour of the Universal name goes well with the frame colour, but this is a coincidence.

KrearbkHere are some more pics of the really very well preserved foil stickers the frame abunds with.

KFotoseattube

KKesselsdownttransf

KseattubeTdFDid you note how the “Giro d´Italia” sticker near the front derailleur is pink, and this French language one is yellow? The jerseys, it seems, are responsible for this.

KtttransfLastly, here´s the Brooks Pro saddle, an item fitted by the current owner.

KBrooksCplate

Two issues: One, I forgot to snap the places in which the Campag components are date stamped. I hope to able to do this soon. Second, the hasn´t been ridden yet, but this also is on the agenda.

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Fashion Blog Post

For the moment I´m going to change the denomination of my blog from steel frame bikes to clothes. No, I´ve not been sponsored by some Big Name fashion chain, and this post is not about sunglasses. But here´s the magic wand, and bingo:

HoodyFtSome time ago, a member of the Classicrendezvous mailing list kindly offered to have T-Shirts printed with the Johnny Berry logo, for which he had received the placet by the Berry family. I really needed to have one as Berry is my favourite frame maker (https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/by-special-request/), together with Ellis Briggs, M-Gineering and a few also ran – others.

This nick of the woods being somewhat printed T-Shirt unfriendly because you can only wear them visibly for a few days each year, I asked if a hoodie would also be doable – it was.

Hoodyrear

The hoodie is nice and comfy, and fits well. Also the water based print gives a very good impression, and the whole thing looks rather unobtrusive. I couldn´t resist ordering a T-Shirt, too, but as the print is basically the same, one pic must suffice:

TshirtrearSo if you also feel you need to have a Berry merchandising article, drop me a line via the comments, and I´ll pass the message on.

Here´s the magic wand again, and I´m back to my regularly scheduled programme.

De Eenzame Fietser

Fleamarkets again and again are the sources of nice surprises. Look at this vinyl record, for instance:

RGrootIt´s by Dutch singer-songwriter Boudewijn de Groot (b. 1941), who had some hits in the sixties and seventies. The translation of the title would be “How strong is the lonely cyclist”, and the record first came out in 1973. The sleeve being a gatefold, this is what you find in the inner expanses:

RGrootinner

Here is another cyclist, head bent down, obviously battling a headwind. Don´t we all know the feeling.

On Sunday, 05 Jan, through the good services of a friend, my son got a press pass for the Dutch Sixdays in the Rotterdam Ahoy arena, Europe´s biggest event centre. Understandably, he was very keen to go and assemble the raw material for another cycling film. I also thought it was a good idea, and as the press pass would grant us free and uncomplicated parking, we took the Volvo with my Ellis-Briggs Randonneur inside, because the weather forecast was brilliant, and I just felt like getting out and going for a ride in a place I´d never really been before. My aim for the day was to reach the sea, or, failing that, at least have a look at the van Herwerden bike shop in Voorburg, a suburb of the Dutch capital Den Haag. Why van Herwerden? Easy:

https://starostneradost.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/is-this-art-or-can-i-chuck-it/

So here we were, shortly before the gates opened, looking at what must be one of Europe´s biggest billboards:

RAhoyPlank

A cycling event of the highest order…RAhoyrekl6d

The Rotterdam Sixdays…RAhoytmFrom January 2nd to 7th, 2014.

My son picked up his press pass, met up with the friend, and I had six hours off. So getting on the bike, asking the super friendly Ahoy staff for directions and zooming off was a matter of minutes. Soon I was completely taken aback by the spectacular Rotterdam architecture:

RHavenHighriseI nearly overlooked the markings on the cyclepaths.

RTdFSome minutes later, I had left the bustling city behind me and could start cycling for real – the first outing this year.

ROrtssleaveYou can´t call this Dutch landscape spectacular at first sight, but if you look closely, what you can make out is that most canals actually are above the level of the fields – and both are below sea level. This landscape is wholly man made, and as such it is spectacular after all.

RKanaal2The infrastructure behind this system is huge – locks, pumping stations, dams, canals. The authority looking after the security of canals, roads and the railways is called Rijkswaterstaat – the canal system giving the name to the whole Dutch traffic authority which prides itself to ensure “dry feet, clean water and speedy traffic” – again in this order.

There´s water everywhere, and people don´t just live with it, some seem to live in it.

Rhousekanaal

Anyway, the cyclepath system is also quite spectacular – even in a place you´ve never been to you don´t need a map as there are signposts everywhere. The rough direction is all you need to be aware of. The importance of the cycle for the Dutch becomes clear when you take in the meaning of this frequently found signpost:

RDoorgaandIt says Through Traffic, meaning of course that the Dutch use their bikes for relatively long distances.

What´s missing? Yes, of course:

RWindmillBut then again, not everywhere it´s idyllic. This is what expects you shortly before you reach Voorburg:

Rmotorway

And then you´re there: A typical Dutch town of which I can never get enough.

RVoorbortssch

RVoorbpedestrOozing history and good life, somehow. I don´t know if I´m alone in this, but I still feel quite privileged to be able to just go and visit – no visa, not even a passport control on the border, the same currency, friendly people showing me the way. Just hopping on their bikes and enjoying a ride in Holland isn´t something my grandparents could have done, so I think I should feel grateful that I can, and I do.

On my way back I met with a number of interesting views, like this, of the Rotterdam skyline from about 10 miles away,

Rskylineor this, of a high rise in Nootboom, a suburb of the Hague:

RNootdbuilgMostly the roads signposted for bicycle traffic look like this, though,

RSmallrdor like this.

ROpenkanaalDutch is a language I really like and try to speak acceptably. Sometimes my English gets in the way, though. The little orange sign of course doesn´t mean that the driver is having a snooze, but it is attached to a vehicle being “on tow”.

RSleep

Soon I was nearing Rotterdam again, and had a minute or two to look at this magnificent roundabout.

RroundaboutIt being a Sunday, many Rotterdammers had the leisure to visit the Da Vinci Exposition in the former post office on Coolsingel.

RdaVinciqueueTwo spectacular things were waiting for me still. First, the Maritiem Museum, with a lot of colourful outside exhibitions.

RMarMusEB

RMarMusNameplRMarMusfullIn the third photo, the second attraction is already visible: The cable stayed Erasmus bridge. Named after one of Rotterdam´s most famous sons, it was opened in 1996 and has since been nicknamed “the swan”. The high rises flanking it make the whole ensemble absolutely worth a visit.

RErasmBrfull

ERasmbrcables

RErasmbrstütze

RErasmbrEBSoon I was back at the Ahoy, arriving at the car park within a minute of my son. He said that he had had some spectacular opportunities of capturing track racing (which will appear on your tube sooner or later), but I was glad I had chosen my lonely ride.

Framebuilder Interview – Marten Gerritsen

Reading the blog of someone the other day who has helped with finding my way to blogging, I saw that there was an interview of another blogger there. Then the idea entered my head that it might be interesting to see not only what other bloggers say, but also what the people on the other side of the blowtorch think about steel frames, maybe to find out a little bit of their histories and their build philosophies.

I then proceeded to write a questionnaire, sent it off to a few builders to begin with, and Doug Fattic was kind enough to develop the questionnaire further than I had been able to. Marten Gerritsen of M-Gineering was the first to return it (Thank you, Marten!) together with some photos, so here is what I hope to be the first of a long series of posts.

If any of my readers build frames, pro or amateur, and would like to be interviewed too, I will be happy to e-mail the questionnaire. Please contact me via the comment function of this post.

 

Your name and company name:

Marten Gerritsen, M-Gineering

Warmup: Finish these sentences, please:

A bicycle is…

a vehicle with two wheels by definition, but hopefully an extension of your body.

A steel framed bicycle is…

a bicycle, just like bicycles made of  aluminium, bamboo, carbon or the rest of the alphabet.  It just happens that I like steel and build with steel.

The best frame I ever rode is…

There isn’t  ‘A best frame’  (you’ll need lots of different ones 😉 ) But it starts with good fit and decent tyres.

 Some personal questions:

Who is your favourite steel frame builder?

To quote one of several: WCAMO

(Editor´s remark: I do, else I wouldn´t have asked :-))

Who are other framebuilders you would buy a frame from (if you didn’t make it yourself)?

If I need a bike to ride I might just as well make it myself.  Seems a bit silly to build a load of frames to have enough left over to pay somebody else to build a frame for me 😉

What for you is the best looking frame ever?

When I look at a frame I look at all the details, the good, the bad, what can inspire me etc.  I don’t bother with marking all the aspects to arrive at a ranking.

What type of frames do you build most?  Has this changed over the course of your career?

I do mostly touring frames, either randonneuring style or for heavy duty touring in fillet brazed construction.

I started out building bikes with front and rear suspension, and the occasional racing bike, but the market has changed.

What type of frame do you like best?

Anything which puts a smile on your face

Which is your favourite cycling book?

I could probably recommend half a dozen or more, all for different reasons. But is a cup of tea better than a sandwich?

(Another remark: Marten has written one himself, of course.)

Do you have any favorite cycling references in popular culture (like in movies, TV, or on youtube)?

Again, I’m no good in rankings.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a framebuilder?

Do your homework!

Your history:

What made you become a frame builder?

Chance?

When did you start building?

Define start. I’ve been tinkering with bikes and scooters from very early age. Got a welding set when I was 18 or so.

Who taught you to build frames?  Were there others that helped or influenced you after you got started?

Taught myself basically, but a degree in Automotive Engineering and teaching machining classes (read drinking coffee with proper machinists)  helped.

What are some of your future goals?

Better paint, more reliable delivery dates

Your customers:

Which customer behaviour do you like best?

I like them to have done their homework first.  Being difficult to find in a small village up north helps in weeding out the less motivated 😉

Which customer behaviour do you dislike most?

I don’t let it worry me, if it gets too bad you can always fire them.

Do you fit your customers before building them a frame (find their bicycle contact points)?  If so, how do you do it?

Measure them, run the measurements through a fit programme, measure the current bike, observe the customer riding the bike, compare the findings and discuss their wants.

Describe how you deal with customers that can’t be measured or fitted in person.

Try to avoid it really,  it is much better for both parties and the end result to have met in person and to have talked bikes.

Your workshop:

Which of your tools would you least want to do without, save whatever you use for brazing?

If you have enough tools, you can always use an alternative.  But a framebuilder without a vice (or several vices) is unthinkable

What methods do you use to check frame alignment? What type/brand of fixture/jig/tooling do you use in it?

I’ve got a 1x1m cast iron surface plate, all other tooling and fixturing is of my own making.  I align the rear triangle to the headtube, the BB is secondary.

What equipment do you hope to get in the future?

A better Tig welder, and perhaps a decal cutter and an expresso machine

What would you get if you didn’t have budgeting restraints?

Tempted to say a CNC mill and a water jet cutter, but would i find the time to get them operational? And of course a bigger lathe, a horizontal mill, DRO’s all round, a bead blaster,  a heavier pillar drill…. (you get the picture, I like machines)

Production methods and materials:

What is your preferred way to join tubes?

Filled brazing

Which are your preferred lugs, if any?  Why did you choose them? What are your other favorite materials?

Don’t do much lugs apart from forkcrowns,  and usually use flat dropouts for slotted stays. Basically I use whatever does the job, and is affordable, I don’t have much call for the ueberfancy stuff. I like doing the occasional bilam though.

MartenBilam

What differences do you see in tube brands? What brand(s) do you prefer?  What is your philosophy in choosing tubing brands, diameters and wall thicknesses?

I use a lot of Reynolds as they have gauges suitable for touring frames and are a reliable supplier. But a frame could easily have Reynolds frametubes, Deda stays, a Columbus steerer and some Mannesman cromo.

Do you expect/wish for any new developments in tubes or lugs?

With all the classical suppliers going to the wall (Like TCI who made most of the forged dropouts)  we’ll see the continuing trend to parts made with processes more suitable to small scale production.

Marten Reardo

What do you think the future will hold for steel frames?

They haven’t changed much over the last 125 years…

What process do you use to design your frames?

Determine the basic dimensions defining fit, the wheelsize , the loads and the desired look,  feed it into a computer program i’ve written and play with all the variables untill i’m happy. If things get complicated I’ll make a 2d drawing.

Do you paint your frames yourself?  If so, do you offer repainting services?

No

How important are the looks of your frames?  Describe any artistic aspects you incorportate into them (or can do if asked).

The frames I build are tools to do a job. Styling is secondary to function, but I’ll play with    dropouts, seatstay attachment, the shape of the bridges etc. But you’ll have to look for it, I try to keep it restrained.

MartenHead

Getting rid of frames:

How do you market your frames?

Website, word of mouth, occasional bikeshow

Where is your biggest market?

Netherlands and Belgium

Numbers:

Approximately how many frames have you made to date?

I’m not counting, maybe a dozen a year on average.

Would you disclose your frame numbering system, please?

6 digits:

first two build series , eg 01 = radical, 99 is a custom build

middle two: year of construction

last two : sequence number

Lastly:

Ask yourself an additional question, please.

What sort of riding do you do?

Started out touring , my first proper lightweight (after a horrid Peugeot) was a Champion Mondial. Rode to the Mediteranian and back at age 16. Did some racing at University but nobody had a clue (as I found out later when playing team mechanic) so wasn’t any good at it.  Did some HPV racing. Still trying to ride, but long tours don’t mix with running your own business, so have to steal the occasional weekend or week for some road or off-road touring

Any remarks?

Thank you for your interest

Photos courtesy of Marten Gerritsen/M-Gineering.

2013 Stats

First, of course, a happy new year to you all. And I think I can say this now, „you all“, as there are more and more of you, which I find flattering.

I just received the annual ride report from WordPress, as usual nicely retro styled

2013header

and laced with facts and figures.

2013Stats

There is now an average 1,000 views per month, reckoned over the 23 and a half months I´ve been blogging, meaning that there are less visitors, but as each visitor reads about two and a half posts, it´s still quite a crowd. I´m not doing anything re advertising my blog, like having accounts with all sorts of social media to propagate it, and I´m very sparse with tags, too. I like it this way, and I´m not going to change it. I´m not after high rates, because then I know that visitors mean it when they come, and even more so if they perhaps return.

In 2013, viewers came from 81 countries, which I find amazing. Which Hungarian would want to read my musings? Who from Mongolia? In general I was just fascinated – until my son, who is very à la mode in all things internet – told me that these places are only where the servers are, not necessarily readers. However, I think I have a pretty good idea who my Thai reader might be, for instance.

What I love about bogging is that I am allowed to stumble, to blindly find my way. Would I have thought that the reports on the French cyclist riding from Copenhague to Paris would prove interesting for so many of you? Did I guess when writing about it that Marten Gerritsen´s Open Day would net the highest view rate in my nearly two years of blogging? No.

Everywhere else we all need to be scientifically precise, innovative, and as perfect as possible – at work, else there´ll be trouble; in traffic, else you´ll get killed, and so on. Blogging is one of the few activities in which I don´t have to think about too many things, still people seem to appreciate what I´m doing, and I guess that´s why I´m feeling so flattered.