16 May, 2006

Top Tube Protector

I recently made a top tube protector for a customer. Kristopher wrote this wonderful description which I'll post in it's entirety.

" I won't be the first to note that one of the very best things about track bikes is their simplicity. I'd be loathe to add anything to my simple and clean old Panasonic, even if the velodrome officials would permit it. But a top tube protector is one track bike accessory is that makes sense. You see, with neither significant trail nor a rear brake cable to slow their momentum, the bars of a parked track bike can swing around in the blink of eye and easily dent the bike's gorgeous, skinny top tube. The damage isn't usually structural, but it's right there in the single most visible spot on the bike, reminding the rider forever not of some glorious crash but of a moment's inexcusable inattention. Who wants that? Even Japanese Keirin riders--who are notoriously hard on and indifferent to their equipment--clip top tube protectors over their track frames.

You can buy the same NJS-approved top tube protector that the Keirin boys use. It's made by Kashimax of rubbery plastic and steel, sold by a handful of North American shops, and costs an eye-watering $50.00. It looks cool in the package, in that odd Manga/microcar/Hello Kitty way that mostly serves to remind that our aesthetic cultures are not yet a perfect marriage. The Kashimax protector ages badly, though, with the plastic layer quickly yellowing and bubbles forming underneath.

With all this in mind, I requested of Chris Kulcycki that he make me a top tube protector in the spirit of the other products he's been introducing via his Velo Orange site. I received the prototype of thick leather two days later. The cowhide is reminiscent of that used by Giles Berthoud for bicycle mudflaps, but softer. The edges are cleanly cut and nicely chamfered. Chris had cut holes for stitching and enclosed some heavy wax string, two stout needles, and stitching directions. As a left-coast America-hating liberal (or so I'm told), I was momentarily stymied by the suggestion that I use a baseball stitch. Eventually a helpful daughter wrestled a baseball away from the dog and brought it to me. Five minutes later and the top tube protector was in place.

And is it gorgeous! The deep tan leather looks fantastic on my old black Panasonic. It's hard to imagine a bike whose looks it wouldn't improve. And it's nice to know that another decade of use might enrich the bike's patina, but that won't include any nasty old dents. I think the leather band makes a statement with which I'm comfortable; something about how I not only acknowledge that I'm riding a bike older than most of the riders against whom I am competing, but that I appreciate the fact. That I might actually seek out, rather than be settling for, an old machine. And that I deserve that bike, because I know how to treat it right.

Not a bad effect for twenty-or-so grams, a few dollars, and five minute's work. Highly recommended for any track bike or fixie lacking a rear brake."

These cost $12 in the Velo Orange store. Posted by Picasa


Andrew said...

Is this for bikes without cables routed along the top tube only? I'd love one for my all-rounder, but I fear that it wouldn't fit under the three cables running under the tube. Any thoughts?

Velo Orange said...


So long as you have 1/4" between the frame and the cables it should fit. I don't think there would be any harm in the cables brushing it, but you don't want to push the cables up.


Long Beach Chasid said...

you still selling these in 2009? :)