30 January, 2008

Tom's New VO Gentleman Bike


Tom saw my VO Gentleman bike at Cirque last year and was impressed enough to order a frame on the spot, even though he already had a city bike on order from another builder. He also got the first one in the new brown color, which I really like. The frame was fillet brazed by Ahren Rogers.

Here are a few quotes:

"The ride is something spectacular, I've never ridden a frame that had fork trail and rake that allowed such a short slow turn that didn't also handle badly in higher speed turns , or feel like the bike could only track well in a straight line, but not the case with this frame , the ride is just terrific."
And later:
"The bike is now in one configuration the I call "light errand" and one such errand was ridden today in light rain and wet roads to pick up by car from servicing. Later when it is warmer I'll install a front rack for regular runs to the winerys in the area to have lunch and pick up a couple of bottles of wine. ( The bike is so light right now I am almost reluctant to add any other weight.) The ride today was the first test of 650b tires (Panaracer Col de Vie) over rough surface, railroad crossings , and wet roads, all of which I am familiar with on my other bicycles, and the contrast is remarkable, what a nice ride."
And what a nice build, neat saddle bag, Belleri Portuer bars, CLB guidonet levers, Simplex 440 long cage dérailleur, Suntour shifter... The photos speak for themselves. Thanks for sending them Tom.

As always, click on the photos to enlarge them.

55 comments:

Hal said...

That is one gorgeous bike. It makes the bikes you see in stores (even the high-end stuff) look like toys in comparison.

fixedgear said...

I've got a Flickr group called 'bikes leaning against white garage doors' and I posted this picture there, hope you don't mind.

wool chamois said...

Really nice, but I'm afraid if I get one, my wife will expect me to start doing "light errands," whch can only lead to heavier and heavier errands, and I'd wind up spending all weekend on my bike. Hey, wait a minute ...

Anonymous said...

This is a "nice build"? A "NICE BUILD"? Ok, so what would a "good" build look like? How bout a "darned good" build"?

geez, that's nice alright.

best,
mw

Anonymous said...

Even if you are just doing light errands, regardless you probably want to tighten the rear QR.
M Burdge

lamplightsg said...

Absolutely beautiful. I searched and searched, but couldn't find a single thing I dislike about it.

James said...

Looks good enough to eat.

Joel said...

Bravo! Very well done in every aspect. Especially like that it is done up as a 5 (or is it a 7) speed. No need for a double crank for city riding.

joel said...

A five!

reverend dick said...

Those brake levers have the same elegant sweep as a gentleman's moustache. Fantastique!

The selle anatomica(?) looks odd to me after prolonged contact with Brookses. I think I like the Brooks B17 better, the skirt looks to shallow and flared here...

Anyone?

Anonymous said...

What kind of seat bag is that?

Anonymous said...

For those that find no fault...

It's nice, but I'm not liking a lot of the details. For one thing, way too many accent colors. Purple housing, copper rivets, Phil Wood orange at the hub, tan tape (and what is going on with that tape anyway? Is there cork tape wrapped under it? Partly sewn, partly wrapped leather?). The multicolored stickers could safely come off of the rims. Same for the logo sticker on the fender, I don't think anyone is going to get confused as to whether those are Honjos. The QR, well, there's a little bit of Fred in all of us, though I'd like to see them at least match. The worst part, though, is the lugged stem on a fillet bike, perfect example of opting for the expensive part over the right one. I'd also have gone with the T cage rather than the R given the fillet joint lines and curving bars, but that's just me. The old school spring coil style housing on the RD looks great, but it's also functionally wrong, as unless someone is making a lined version these days it's the worst possible housing for a bike that might get wet. Also, it would knock the paint off of the keeper loop the first time you tried to pull it through there to clean and lube the cable, which the split stop makes possible and the unlined cable makes necessary. The levers are great, though I'm worried that they're going to take a chunk out of the paint on the top tube. The light is just wrong, the arguments for having the front light low and left don't apply on the rear, and the unit itself is junky looking.

The Surly cable hanger continues to be one of the most unexpectedly elegant parts out there, though, and I really could get behind the housing if there weren't so many other colors mucking it up.

Whoever asked about the bag, it's not bike-specific. NTTAWWT, but it's not some new VO product or something else exciting like that, just looks to be a leather belt pack.

I don't mean to be hard on this thing, but a bike that costs this much and has this much potential deserves to have the details done right.

B-K said...

Aside the stickers - I think the colors are great. Aesthetics are opinions though and I didn't buy or make this bike.

Are there different QRs? To me that is much more odd than a beautiful lugged stem on a lugless frame- however, lugs anywhere are classy imho.

And about things like product stickers and craft prices - I for one would not want to buy a perfect bike (in that someone else was made to take care of even the most simple details) - I want room to own the machine myself too. As silly as that sounds in the context of removing your own stickers. I would want to wrap my own bars, inflate my own tubes, adjust my own seat, attach my own accessories (like a leather belt bag - if it fit), etc, etc...

As far as mismatched accessories too - the cost of my craft rack, and craft calipers is more than I paid for my frame - it's what I wanted - be it homogeneously appropriate or not - and they function lovely!

Beautiful bike!

Mark Manson said...

Perhaps Anonyme 3:14 didn't catch that this is a Gentleman's bike, to be enjoyed in like-minded company. This hyper-critical commentary reminds me of why I stopped reading the Serotta forum. This bike is done to a very high level of craft and is elegantly executed.
Cheers to Tom and Chris.

Steve said...

More photos on flickr:
http://tinyurl.com/2ux4y6

An actual rider said...

Anonyme 3:14 is the most anal, idiotic bike snob I have ever come across! Sounds like a rich mama's boy who collects fancy bikes to show off and never rides. My advice to you: go ride and get a life.

Michael S said...

I think it's a very cool bike. I can't wait to see it with the rack (and chainguard?) attached.

I talked to Tom at the PPTC Century, and he seems like a good guy. Enjoy!

Smasher said...

The fenders don't go with the garage door.

Shame!

Hal said...

Anonyme 3:14 is trolling for responses. It's sad when people feel compelled to make themselves the topic of every discussion.

Lovely bike!

hal.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:14, back for more:

Never said it wasn't very nice, just that it could be better done in the details.

Look folks, just because all of the parts come from VO, Riv, Phil, Paul, Peter White, or the NOS cabinet in some dusty French shop with a picture of the owner with his arm around Tulio Campagnolo behind the register, the colors are all earth tones, the fenders are Honjos, leather is used wherever possible, and the wheels are 650B, doesn't mean we all have to swoon. There are better and worse ways to put all of this stuff together, and the beauty is in getting them right, not just in buying them and bolting them on. Porteur bar bikes are wonderful, but this one is like a beautiful melody fallen prey to occasional flourishes of cheesy orchestration.

Re: the flikr set, the front brake needs a cable stop with more drop. That's not even arguable, the current setup simply produces murderously bad cable routing and could be fixed for a dollar. The gentleman should also look to remedying the water intrusion points created by the chainguard mounts with some flush hex bolts and beeswax. The whipping should also be removed, I understand that this is mandatory on "classic" bikes of this genre, but it's superfluous and in my mind rather contrived on a sewn bar covering.

I should restate that I like the bag, I was just saying that it's probably not to be found at a bike retailer, and that only the rear light is wrong.

I'll entertain arguments about taste and mechanical detail, but I'll ask that my snobbery simply be stipulated.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--bike nerds are one VERY small step away from the nerds at the the dungeons and dragons store. Anon 3:14--it is a bike, nothing more. Aside from the question of having a grocery-getter that costs more than my grandparents paid for the house they raised six children in, the owner is free to decorate it how he wants. Also, if you are going to give out these sorts of opinions, please own them, instead of hiding behind the skirts of 'anon.'
M Burdge

Steve said...

Anon 3:14, I think it's time for you to tell us your name and stop hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

Chris Kulczycki said...

I think there are times when it's best to smile, nod, and move on. ;<)

Lesli L said...

Actually--I enjoy this level of hyper critical analysis. Like a "What Not to Wear" episodes for bikes (even if you disagree, it's interesting to see someone drill down to this level of critique). Wondering if I should submit my own bikes up for analysis. I work with a local mechanic who has similar, granular, finicky tastes regarding bike set-up, sticker placement, color schemes, etc. I could never ape this optic (or recreate the results on my bike) but I do like to see how much one could say about what appears to be a perfect bike assemblage.

James said...

"bike nerds are one VERY small step away from the nerds at the the dungeons and dragons store"

I had an encounter with a similar 4th level dragon slayer outside the market. He lectured me, about 3 inches from my face, about the build flaws on my bike. He found the XT especially offensive. I just wanted some eggs.

Is the brown now a standard VO colour?

this one guy said...

I really like the bike. The levers especially float my boat.
AS for anon 3:14. Well, I'd agree stickers are not attractive. The bike and parts are well chosen and speak well of themselves without signage. And the curvy cage would echo the bars, though that's a detail I would have missed had it not been pointed out. I personally dislike bottle generators, finding the hubs to be so much more elegant and quiet...but they have their good points, too. And they work. Then too, if you have one already, why not use it? The housing color? It's pretty complimentary, imo. Saddle? Non. (I'd agree with Rev. Dick there, but haven't ridden this model)Also, since I'm nitpicking, Matching the dark tone of the saddle with a richer brown/oxblood bar tape would appeal. Or conversely, a lighter saddle to match the current tape. The seatbag looks slapped on. How much nicer to have a Nigel Smythe green plaid with echoing maroon in the weave?
You know what though, nitpicking aside, that IS a damn fine looking bike. Look forward to seeing it with a (fancy) chainguard.

ANDY said...

Tom, When you're hanging on to the bars towards the ends, can you get a good grip (with two fingers I assume) on the levers? Looks like a reach unless you're nearer the curve.

James said...

That a nice saddle bag. I'm all for using readily available bags as saddlebags. If it's something that gets left on a locked bike and used as a sort of bicycle glove box why buy an expensive bag? Army bread bags also work well and are a good match for Ostrich and Rivendell bags.

Phillip Franklin said...

This is certainly one very cool bike. I think most of us understand what Tom is trying to do here with this very cool bike. And to the critic who kind of tore into some of the build features ... I understand your criticisms and for the most part you certainly offer some insight into the finer aspects of overall build aesthetics and useful technical qualities. But it seems many detected an un-Gentleman-ly tone to your comments. Perhaps revealing your name and a more pleasing tone could have a more positive effect.

With that said I do agree with much of what you said, but I would say it in a less critical tone. As most of us here who owns what we think are fine bicycles that we really enjoy working on and perfecting to the best of our financial and time constraints let it be said that all of our "custom" bicycles are nothing more than a work in progress. And sometimes they are no more than trial and error. It takes time, (money ... oh yes too much money!) and a loving interest to get that cool bike just right for any loving owner. And we all know it will never be truly perfect.

Again you have pointed out some things that may improve the overall quality and aesthetics. And when one posts photos of their treasured bikes here or on any website they should be prepared for those comments. And if we actually go here and post out such unimportant worldly issues then we are most certainly bicycle nerds. That goes without saying.

I enjoy reading your comments and personally would never take any offense at them. After all I am a bicycle nerd and this is what we do when not actually riding our bicycles. But like I said maybe a more friendly tone and giving yourself a name might ease the tension.

j' said...

Anon 3:14

I agree he is being a bit hard, but I think he is using this bike here to illustrate the point that the art of a great looking bike is not in the having the money to buy these well craftet parts and copy some old french bikes... but to actually create something beautiful and cohesive with them.

Otherwise this whole market of french copy bikes becomes nothing more then that... copy and paste so and so clb/mafac/TA bla bla

Phillip Franklin said...

I just wanted to clarify one thing here. There is a big difference between a bike nerd and a bike snob. I just realized that some might use this term interchangeably. Bicycle nerds are just people like most of us who read this blog and simply enjoy creating a wonderful and fun to ride bicycle. To some like me bicycling is a big part of their daily life and love to share it with others.

However I see a bicycle snob as just another common variety of any type of snob who is basically a jerk to start off. Most bicycle snobs are those who IMHO go out and buy the latest most lightweight or technically advanced 14 pound racing bike and dress in total spandex racing costumes and thus feel they are in a position to pass judgment on some one else's enjoyment of bicycling in general. Generally IMHO they are hypercritical of anyone who does not meet their expectations of the current commercial trend. And I guess this could apply to those who think unless you are cruising a museum quality Rene Herse than you are inferior to them.

And of course not all spandex clad Tour of France wanna be's are snobs ... by no means. But I just wanted to clarify that and I think most people here understand my point.

an actual rider said...

You know, after reading all the nitpicking, whining and snobbery about this luxury item (when I was young I would've laughed if anyone had told me a bike could be a luxury item), I was really bothered by the whole thing. The idea that grown men and women will engage in all this childish bickering over a bicycle is simply amazing and tells a lot about our society.

Then a friend e-mails me the following link and the pampered whiners become an even sadder scene to behold:

[url]http://www.sunherald.com/311/story/333207.html[/url]

Does this put things in perspective for ya?

Anonymous said...

I am the one who brought up the term 'bike nerd' and to mind the term connotes a guy in his middle age without a lot else going on in his life and has made bicycles--and the aesthetic of a very specific subculture of cycling--his priorities.
And what I think people are picking up in Anon 3:14's comments is an undertone that places value on the aesthetic choices, and then judges these choices according to anon 3:14's self-made value system. Anon 3:14 has chosen to not to own these opinions he so freely lobs at the owner of the bike, so we don't know who he is, even if we have our guesses.
Most snobs I have met (and I have met a few) have their strong opinions and value-judgments. However snobs generally are above writing snipey report cards of someone's new bike. It takes a hobby-specific nerd (or insecure 14 year old girl) to go to this level.
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

After putting my girls to bed, I realised I had abused Chris' goodwill in this blog re: anon 3:14. So I apologise for that Chris. I wouldn't want bunfights like this to deter you from making your space here available for the mostly civil discussion about bicycles and the broader cycling subculture. I still think mr. Anon 3:14 was being unpleasant and wish he would identify himself when making pointed comments like he did, but as the saying goes, 'while three lefts make a right, two wrongs don't.'
M Burdge

j' said...

isn't the snob the one who buys the custom bike and the $300 dollar cranks but never bothers to setup his brakes so they function properly?

gunnar berg said...

Gosh,I think this is just a stunning bike. Just beautiful. As to the accent colors, I think they work really well. Sometimes bicycles are just too co-ordinated (and Lord knows I'm guilty of this) and they end up cold and soulless. This seems to have struck just the right balance of order and spontaneity.

Anonymous said...

I think the brake levers are hot. Although I am pretty certain the handle bar is on upside down. ;)

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

no comment on THAT thread...

Chris or Tom, I'm wondering if there are any problems with the chain coming off of the chainring. I have a 1x7 with a similarly wide range of cogs, and as I downshift, the chain likes to bail - too much slack being created in the system, but I can't take out links since the rear cog is so large. I resisted undue tinkering and just put a front derailleur on as a chainguard, and that works just fine. But, if I want to measure up to such criticism as is meted out on this blog, I'd like to find a way to keep that chain on there without the front derailleur hack.

Also, check out this latest find: http://tinyurl.com/3b8rn3

Phillip Franklin said...

As to your chain falling off on a 1x7 ... it could be quite a few things. I would look at the chain line. You should have a perfectly strait chain line if you are in middle gear. And the next question would be the condition of your chain. If it is stretched out then it simply will not perform well and most likely tend to fall off. And it could be the condition of your chain ring.

Obviously what is occurring is that as the chain line angle is moving the chain ring does not have enough solid grip contact to hold the chain on. And most would probably conclude it's a stretched out chain or extra worn ring or it could just be a very bad chain line or even the wrong width chain. A very narrow ten speed chain could be flexing too much. Using a 5/6 speed chain may help.

Anyway this is a hard problem to diagnose without seeing it in action and measuring the chain alignment. But rest assured there is no reason for this to happen and there is no need for the front dérailleur.

One can usually tell when the tension of chain is correct when the chain is in the low gear.

random nerd said...

I thought Anon 3:14 was making an elaborate joke. It was very funny. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe he needs a girlfriend.

Anyway, that is one very cool bike! Thanks for sharing.

reverend dick said...

Check the tension on the return spring . Your derailleur could be played out.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Anon 3:14's wife should weigh in on the girlfriend issue. (Although it would be interesting to hear the assessment of any person, flawed as all of are.)
mb

AR said...

Tom,

Phillip Franklin has good technical advice all around on the 1x7 chain dropping issue (though you say slack in the system causes it, by which I think you mean to say it drops it when you _upshift_, i.e. to a smaller cog). However, I had a 1x6 that would do the same thing, and all the technical details were right (good chainline, proper chain length, r. der. spring good). I couldn't figure out how to fix it and couldn't stomach a dummy f. der. aesthetically, so I ignored the problem, and eventually it went away. It seems as though I subconsciously learned to shift more smoothly, and in a few thousand miles on that bike since it hasn't dropped once (though of course I've jinxed it now and it will tomorrow). I'm not saying you're shifting poorly, but in my experience it seems that 1x rigs are like free rollers for friction shifting: using them shows you tiny things you never knew you were doing wrong, and fixing those things is not an entirely conscious process. Of course, I could be totally up a tree and my ring and chain have just worn together better or some such, but as with many things it may be worth trying to adjust the nut that joins the saddle to the handlebars before seeking a technical solution.

yankee_dollar said...

anon 3:14 comments make me feel like taking a shower to wash off the creepy verbal grime and happily riding a crappy beater with ashtabula cranks and a wobbly rear wheel-plus my simplex/huret bits cobbled on for good measure. blech. why does every blog end up with a troll?

nv said...

That's a really sharp bike!
Too may positives to list - but I guess I'm the only one here that doesn't care for the brake levers? I'd prefer a simple flat bar lever or an inverse lever.
My other nit to pick would be the hubs/freewheel. I'm all for less gears but when building up a new bike, I always choose a cassette hub and run a 7 or 8 speed cassette with a single ring up front. I just prefer everything about cassette hubs over freewheel hubs. That said, it's possible this gentleman already had the hubs and reduce, reuse & recycle is always a good thing...
Great work Tom & Chris.
nv

Tom said...

phil franklin, rev. dick, and AR - thanks for your comments. I think the return spring is definitely too weak, that had been a concern from the start. my chainline and chain condition is dandy. I honestly think the biggest problem is the megarange cassette - 11-34 is do-able, but so big that the chain tension can never be quite right if you've only got one chainring. My other two 1x projects have worked fine, and those used 6 speed freewheels, 13-28. Worked without a hitch (ie without a dummy derailleur).

On another tack - how do those very cool guidonnet levers work on drop bars? Perfectly? Too flexy? Would you trade in your standard levers for a pair?

Joel said...

My city bike is currently a 1x7. No problems at all shifting.

I got lucky -- Mariposa Bikes happened to have a lightly used TA cyclocross 46 chainring for my TA cranks. These are very hard to find. However, Mike told me some people will take older TA chainrings, grind off the teeth then polish them. Works the same and could look good provided you (or the person you hire) has good metal working skills.

NV: I am not a huge fan of mustache style bars either. To each their own, I guess. I have three bikes. One (the city bike) has a casette 7, my touring bike has a freewheel 7, and my cross bike has a Rohloff. I do not see much difference between the casette and freewheel, except that the latter is attached to a beautiful Pelissier hub which looks wise anyway puts the durable but humble Phil Wood casette to shame.

Joel said...

One response to Anon 3:14: It is obvious - to me anyway - that the photos of the bike were taken before the owner mounted a chain stay. Plugging them up for a photo shoot seems just a tad silly.

Anonymous said...

Bikes with a single chainwheel and large numbers of derailleur gears (well, 7 or more anyway) seem to be rather prone to the chain falling off. Although AM7s and AM8s seem to suffer from this particularly, they are not unique in this respect, and I have had the same problem with other makes of bike with a single chainwheel. The front changer on a multi-chainwheel derailleur system obviously serves a useful purpose in helping to keep the chain in place, as well as shifting it from one chainwheel to the other.

Soon after the NS (New Series) Moulton was introduced, a small accessory known as the chain keeper was added to the bike to prevent the chain coming adrift on that model. A slightly modified version of this is now available for the AM 7 and 8, and I have recently obtained one of these. It is very easily fitted, simply fixing to the upright part of the rear triangle alongside the chainwheel. A report on its performance based on the first 2 week's use follows the photographs.

http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/mchaink.html

As you can tell from this photograph http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/mchaink2.jpg
it doesn't take much to keep the chain on. Obviously the device made for NS moultons won't work on a standard seat tube, but if I recall correctly, there's a chainguard fitting on Tom's bike that could serve as the attachment point for a device like this one, if it turns out this bike needs a chain keeper.

--sfp

nv said...

sfp-

that chain keeper is great! Easily the nicest I've seen. I've always wanted such a device - the deda dog fang and it's ilk are so ugly and only keep the chain from moving towards the frame. A home brew solution would work but likely wouldn't be as elegant as the Moulton solution.
Chris - you should make a version of this that elegantly attaches to the seat tube! I'd take at least 3.
nv

RIH said...

Hi , I am the owner of discussed bike , and am astonished at the response, and want to thank all for the comments . I would like to address some questions asked.
1. Brake levers/handlebar : These levers are terrific if your hands live on the curve and inner reaches of the bar, the lever is accessable with all the variations of such , and moving at speed where you might need the brakes quickly this is where my hands are .I've seen them on drops before , again a city application where hand positions are seldom on the drops. Also the frame is not going to be damaged by the levers if the stem is adjusted just right.
2. Drive train: The wide range rear cluster was a concern, I would have preferred a closer ratio, but the hills in my area demand the wide ratio . THE MOST PLEASANT surprise is in how well it works , no indication at all of any chance of a thrown chain. The NOS standard six , the NOS Simplex rear and suntour ratchet lever is very smooth and a delight . ( BTW, if you get one of these Simplex rears from Chris you will have to remove pulley bushings for polishing and lubing.)The rear hub is a Phil for thread-on cluster and a big advantage of this is that the rear wheel lacing has zero dish.
3. Chainguard : I have a very nice old chainguard, but it is not compatible with the TA crank and multispeed derail set-up , a modern crank with closer ratio cluster would work , and of couse the brazeons for such will be plugged.
4. The esthetics are mine and you have to realize that I hark back to the days when hodge-podging bikes was common . When I started racing in the late 60s , if you looked around in the peloton you didn't see very many perfect gruppo bikes , mine was a mix of Simplex, Stronglight , Universal and a smidge of Campagnolo . So I've been hodge-podging bikes for a long time and even though I carefully chose the parts for this bike, there is still evidence of my past practice. What I really wanted intially with this frame was a fixed gear application and dixcussed this with Chris , the decision to go with geared was based on the fact I am not up to riding fixed in the hills as I once was , and I already have a fixie.
5.In closing , I can't stress enough what a bargain this frame is, the quality , the custom fit , fillet brazed with so many brazeons is remarkable, and thank you Chris for making it available. I have a 1970 Paramount city conversion and this bike rides better. I have a 1950s Olmo and this bike rides better.
Thanks for reading.
Tom R , Virginia

Rollomite said...

To everyone who's coming down on anonyme 3:14: What's wrong with a little constructive criticism? I think we could all learn something from his/her comments, no matter how curt they may seem. It urges one to pay attention to the finer details when working on their bicycle.

That said, I appreciate Tom's bicycle as much as the next guy and would probably swoon if I saw it in person. Have a nice ride, Tom :)

Anonymous said...

I think it a beautiful bike, perhaps not everything I would use, but then it isn't mine, is it.
RE:guidonnet levers: I use a set of Mafac en plastique on a porteur bar, and the action is as quick as with any other lever...but I put a metal cable cap on the brake cable in between the hinged piece and the inside hole where the cable comes through the lever itself..a sort of metal sleve... that brings the lever up closer to the
handlebar...this improve the action quite a bit. I have a pre-WWII peugeot with guidonnet levers similar to the ones pictured, and they are quite good as well...they were the inspiration for the "sleve" fix I did later on to make Mafac white delrin lever less "squishy".
Fenders: I find that the long front extension of the fender needs a third stabilization point..either a connection to a front rack or another set of stays at the front of the fender, otherwise the fender waves around too much for my liking.
RE:Short cable hangar:I have about a dozen Mafac front and rear brake cable hangars if you'd like one..they are I think, longer than the ones you have.
Doug Wagner
Richmond, KY

reverend dick said...

Doug's correct about the fender bending sans 3rd contact point.

Does no one ride that dang saddle?