La Vie Velominatus: One Piece at a Time

Its a 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 bicycle.
Its a 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 bicycle.

Patience has never come naturally to me – I’m more Calvin than I am Hobbes in that regard. Yet I am meticulous and demanding of myself and those with whom I journey through life. It is a conflict that has caused its fair share of grief; my childhood is piled high with memories of incidents where I made choices and mistakes that robbed me of the satisfaction of a job well done.

One such episode involved my eagerness to have bar-mounted shifters in the early nineties. STI had just come on the market, and they were priced so high it would require disciplined saving in order for me to afford them. Rather than patiently saving, I spent my money on lower-cost options which differed in their implementation but shared in their failure to quench my thirst for STI. At one point, my father pointed out that with what I’d spent on cheaper compromises, I could have already bought what I really wanted.

Some lessons in life are easily learned, but to practice them is another thing altogether. While I have learned patience, it is often stretched to its limit as I have also become more exacting in my expectations. What the Prophet giveth, he taketh away.

I have finally reached the point in my life where I enjoy the journey as much as I do the destination. I can’t imagine buying a complete bicycle and forgoing the process of hand-picking the kit to dress it up in and embarking on the quest to source it. For me, a bicycle begins as an idea which slowly materializes through the curation of its frame and components. The process of assembling it is a ritualistic undertaking, a kind of spiritual offering to the Elders on Mount Velomis. The assembled bicycle marks the end of a journey during which we’ve already bonded.

Only as this journey comes to a close are we ready to begin a new one, one where we evolve through prolonged exposure to The V. The path to becoming a Velominatus is built on taking the time to do things correctly, and building our machines is no exception.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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94 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: One Piece at a Time”

  1. As I am in the market for the next N+1 venture in the form of an older steel frame to build up this article rings true. I have seen a couple of the stages your Bianchi has seen Frank and the picture above is by far my favorite. Are those open pro’s on record hubs? 

  2. Usually the process that ends with a new bike for me takes around one to two years. A lot of time, well spent though!

    PS forgive me, but I’ve to post this photo, for the only reason that I like it.

  3. Strong work from Pedale as ever.  @Frank, I am outraged that you could title this article without even a passing reference to the Man in Black.  Some might mistake this for a cycling website if you are not careful!

    I publish a correction on your behalf! (Great article)

  4. @Deakus

    The ironic thing is that your impatience appears to have gotten the better of your attention to detail. You should try clicking the link in the following paragraph, before jumping to conclusions.

    I can’t imagine buying a complete bicycle and forgoing the process of hand-picking the kit to dress it up in and embarking on the quest to source it.

    I prescribe you 25 hill repeats as penance.

  5. Nice one, Frank! At least once a week I tell the VMH, “I have something very important I need to discuss with you.” She assumes it’s about our union or work or something. Nope, a bike needs new tape or has grown stale and needs some sort of jazzercizing up and I want a second opinion.

    I’m more or less in bike stasis these days, which is a pretty nice place to live. Oh sure, dream changes and such, but for now all the steeds are in full health and the fall is going to be spent riding. (aside from the cross race bike, which has a broken right Force shifter that I’m warrantying and waiting on).

    I’ve had the chance to build from a frame up and I’ve also had the chance to alter a full bike purchased used (early days, before I Followed). Both can be satisfying and enjoyable, I’ve found.

    DCR – three steel frames here, of varying levels and quality. Mine with Columbus Genius tubing has Record/OP wheels. Hooboy, with nice tires and tubes, what a great bike to ride. Have fun with your search and build!

  6. @TBONE

    My winter project this year is to learn how to braze, then I’m going to build one of these up as a single speed.

    http://www.framebuilding.com/Tubeandpartsbundle.htm

    I’ve already got the parts picked out, I figure for $2000 I can do the whole thing, start to finish, including the brazing course at BCIT.

    Chapéu to you for your brazing project! The hardest part is chosing the paint scheme!

  7. @frank

    @Deakus

    The ironic thing is that your impatience appears to have gotten the better of your attention to detail. You should try clicking the link in the following paragraph, before jumping to conclusions.

    I can’t imagine buying a complete bicycle and forgoing the process of hand-picking the kit to dress it up in and embarking on the quest to source it.

    I prescribe you 25 hill repeats as penance.

    Shit!  I have ridden today for the first time in 8 weeks (don’t ask…minor operation followed by wound infection)…Lungs good…legs bad.  Then thought fuck it and played squash tonight..hill repeats…tonight…in the dark!  O go on then, why not!!

  8. @DCR

    As I am in the market for the next N+1 venture in the form of an older steel frame to build up this article rings true. I have seen a couple of the stages your Bianchi has seen Frank and the picture above is by far my favorite. Are those open pro’s on record hubs?

    She’s undergone an interesting evolution. After building her up with Record 10, I found myself not riding her because on sunny days when I was willing to take her out, I always favored the carbon. I love the feel of steel, but with how hilly it is around here, I just rarely find myself choosing the heavier bike.

    In the latest incarnation, its such a different feel that I take it out on sunny mellow rides where I point away from the hills. Its getting more road time this way, and I love how it looks.

    The Evolution:

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2013.11.25.14.54.29/1//”/]

    Here is the current rig.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2013.11.25.14.54.29/2//”/]

  9. @sthilzy

    @TBONE

    My winter project this year is to learn how to braze, then I’m going to build one of these up as a single speed.

    http://www.framebuilding.com/Tubeandpartsbundle.htm

    I’ve already got the parts picked out, I figure for $2000 I can do the whole thing, start to finish, including the brazing course at BCIT.

    Chapéu to you for your brazing project! The hardest part is chosing the paint scheme!

    Pearl white is my choice, maybe get some metallic flakes in there as well.

  10. @Pedale.Forchetta

    Usually the process that ends with a new bike for me takes around one to two years. A lot of time, well spent though!

    PS forgive me, but I’ve to post this photo, for the only reason that I like it.

    @Deakus I play Folsom Prison regularly, I mean I play it with my guitar…

    Always a classic! We used to play Folsom in my band in college as well – we rocked it up and it was always a crowd pleaser. Surely I have a recording of it somewhere…

    @Deakus Not to mention the caption of the photo…If its nighttime, then I suggest pounding 4 pints and then hitting the trainer for a late-night loopy interval session until you puke.

  11. @TBONE What a cool project, the ultimate in bonding with your bike, of course. Then building your own wheels. Then assembling the frame, to put it in the order of awesomeness.

  12. @frank

    Excellent, again.

    Having bought my last three steeds “off the shelf” then proceeding to change them to something that I like i.e. different wheels, different saddle, different cranks, different pedals, you would have thought that the penny would have dropped by now.

    The differential between just a frameset and a complete bike is not that big a gap when you take into account the post purchase changes and cost involved.

    Next steed will definitely be a frame purchase only and pick and choose parts as we go.

    Surely that is the most enjoyable part, seeing it all come together, and also the thrill of the hunt for that desired part or piece of the puzzle.

    Mr Baum, expect a call in the future !

  13. Speaking for Nashvillians everywhere, I approve of the obesiance given to The Man In Black.  He’s the musical equivalent of The Prophet here, and our city’s patron saint.

  14. I’m also in negotiations with my VMH. I have a tradition of presenting her with my annual cycling Dream Sheet. Last year I did pretty well – new DA Group-San, wheels and a cycling camp. It is of key importance to accompany said Dream Sheet with the statement, No need to do anything special for me this Christmas. The humble assertion that one shouldn’t expect to upgrade AND celebrate the holidays cuts through the resistance like a hot knife through chamois cream. We shall see if I’ll be building the new gravel grinder this winter.

  15. This is the most enjoyable way of building your steed. One piece at a time.

    Since borrowing long term from my dad as a kid, a Raleigh Europa, which had Simplex parts, the the RD DT lever broke. Repaired with a garden hose heated up and pushed over the broken lever. Worked, but got in the way when wanting the smallest cog – a 14T. This was the first trip to my LBS and got some shiney new Shimano 600 EX levers. Next trip replace the steel cotter pin cranks with alloy Stronglight’s, set, Kalloy bars, Kalloy pedals, 600EX RD, 600EX FD, 600EX brake levers, replaced Wienman centre pulls with Dia-Compe G’s (still got them). The most exciting upgrade was replacing the 27×1 1/4 steel wheels with Mavic 700c aluminium rims and alloy hubs and 25mm tyres.

    All upgrades were funded by doing paper rounds which started at 5:30am 6 days a week. 

    My LBS owner said I should try racing. I thought that was for when I was over 18 years old. I was 13-14 years. The next weekend I rode over to watch a local club crit. The week after I had a number on my back!

    My early cycling life, my steeds were built with what I liked looking at. At times the steed may have had Campag with Shimano with Suntour with Huret with Ofmega with what ever. I worked at said LBS and some of the senior guys would upgrade their parts and I end up with their downgrade as my updgrade. Always wrenching on/off new/old parts. Enjoyed every turn of the wrench. Learned how to build wheels. When I could afford enough coin, bought the rims, hubs and spokes and built the wheels up. Great times!

    Later on after some time off, the late teens, I always wanted a “off the shelf” bike. Purchased a Balance AL350 MTB and a couple months later was stolen along with my road bike – Super Record built at that time. Insurance replaced the bikes and the road bike was from another shop. All I had to do was point to one that was on the floor and it was mine. A Columbus MAX with 600/Ultegra STI. Heavy as, and still got it. That was about 15 years ago.

    Now still enjoy the trill of the hunt seeking parts and wrenching around a rebuilt Moser aluminium.

  16. @frank I love how it looks too. I want to replicate that bar wrap. What is it exactly — please? I have also been nudged and inspired by your comment to take my MX Leader back to a traditional quill stem. Wiscot dug up a 140mm 3TTT glossy black quill stem — incredible. So after Thanksgiving I will have transformed The Sword back to the future. Replaced the original build Record headset with a Chris King black 1 inch headset — 10 year warranty. Now a stem — 3TTT black. Next looking for 3TTT Competizione due or Cinell Giro 64 bars or ITM Super Italia Pro 2 bars — 44 ctc. Thanx again Wiscot and Frank.

  17. @Barracuda Ditto the “off the shelf” experience.  The exercise was enjoyable as components were swapped out until arriving at the sweet spot.  Hence the dilemma when casting lustful eyes on the latest iterations and realizing that the process would begin again…perhaps not such a bad thing.  Just can’t resist such pretty things!

  18. @The Pressure

    @Barracuda Ditto the “off the shelf” experience. The exercise was enjoyable as components were swapped out until arriving at the sweet spot. Hence the dilemma when casting lustful eyes on the latest iterations and realizing that the process would begin again…perhaps not such a bad thing. Just can’t resist such pretty things!

    Im going the frame only option next time, then sourcing bits independently, gotta be close to same $ value, but much more rewarding.

    The Ti factor may blow that theory out of the water though !

  19. “…what I’d spent on cheaper compromises, I could have already bought what I really wanted.”

    It took me the long way to learn this lesson.  I’m just glad it finally stuck.

  20. @Barracuda Sounds like fun.  A friend just finished a build of a Spesh Tarmac (after an nasty crash lunched his last ride) after obtaining the frame off e-bay.  There was no shortage of high quality, reasonably priced components available (presumably from swappers like us).  The result is brilliant.  He just has to wait for his collar bone to heal!

  21. @Optimiste

    From my favorite Johnny Cash album, The Baron; which is unavailable digitally. I have it on vinyl, but I copied to digital so I could have it in my iTune library.

    The hard way taught me well

    The hard way

    Sure put me through some hell

    The hard way

    It taught me how to tell

    The right way from the wrong 

    And on which side I belong

  22. Call me crazy, but a good chunk of what makes this group tick is this; We not only know how our components work…we understand why they work.

    …and in addition to understanding the why and the how, we live to experience the nuances between the gruppo, grup-san, etc. It’s one thing to read Penthouse Forum (do they still do that?) and yet quite another to say, “I never thought this would happen to me, but I just experienced something I never thought I’d feel…”

    One piece at a time is so approprié…

  23. I kinda want to respond to everyone that’s commented. It’s all so true.

    I’ve done both off the shelf, fully built rigs and frame up builds. But either way I do it, there’s always some change to be made. Something a little better, or the same performance wise, but looks right. And I’ve found that it almost never ends up being what is the most technologically advanced.

  24. Bike #1 is far from complete. when I got it, I got what I could afford and have slowly been making it to my liking. all thats left is wheels, new group(cranks and brakes included). its been fun curating it to my liking.

  25. This concept of patience is something I still lack, even at my somewhat advanced age. If I’m to truly follow the path, I have to commit to my next bike teaching me some patience. As long as it does it quickly!

  26. All so true. I’m about a third of the way through a new number one build right now and am just making up for a less than ideal fork decision. It’s all sorted now but a Rule #11 violation clouded my judgement and caused me to purchase a good but not ideal fork.

    What really gets fun then is the domino effect moving from one bike to another. As new number one gets built up that leaves current number one’s frame available for the group-san on current number three. The group-san on current number three is appropriate for what’ll be new number three (now number one). Then the 9 speed group-san from number one 10 years ago (which has gone unused for a couple seasons) can go on number three right now as it would be more period appropriate and thusly becomes number four. So by building up a new number one I not only get a new number one but freshen up number three and create number four. Number two holds its spot but gets overhauled. Make sense? By all calculations, that’s a solid 2 days of shop time. 3 if I take my time and drink beer.

  27. @frank FUCK!!!  Amazing what the right saddle will do to the overall 50 meter effect of a bike!  Just awesome. 

    Is your seatpost Campagnolo as well?  Looks like it. 

    My steel ’92 Merckx is only a 53 frame (told it was a 56 when I bought it on line and I ride a 58) and it came with the aero Dura-Ace post from that year’s group-san which does not extend at all secondary to being very short. 

    I need a new seatpost for her and have tried desperately to find a ’92 DA seatpost that has enough length for a decent fit but have so far been unsuccessful. Do not want to mix components and I really want to keep it all ’92.

    Might have to switch groups just for the seatpost as at least I will be able to ride her but really do not want to have to do that.

    But, as it is, I do not ride it as it is way too small at the moment.

  28. @unversio LOVE that version.

    Someone posted a helmet cam vid of a mountain bike hill climb race set to that music over on faceplant around a year ago and I have been trying to find it ever since.  It was amazing.  Wish I could find it again somewhere!

  29. @the Engine Nope.  That’s not it.  I have found that one.  The one I saw was purely a guy on a mountain bike climbing a single track and trail steeply for the whole “Hurt” cover by Cash and the vid had only that song and he was passing people and getting passed and it was all hemet cam view from the riders perspective.  Much better than the one you posted in my opinion (no commentary on your tastes intended!).

    But Thanks for trying!!!

  30. @frank

    @Optimiste

    From my favorite Johnny Cash album, The Baron; which is unavailable digitally. I have it on vinyl, but I copied to digital so I could have it in my iTune library.

    The hard way taught me well

    The hard way

    Sure put me through some hell

    The hard way

    It taught me how to tell

    The right way from the wrong

    And on which side I belong

    “Had to do it wrong just to get it right”

    Brilliant lyrics.  Story of my life.  I’ve always like The Man in Black, but even more so now.

  31. In my process of building I have included my VMH on HER builds. What a cool process AND gets you more negotiation with your own builds! Thus, My wife’s girley ride!

  32. Frank, I met that Bianchi before I met you! How amazing is that? And what a good impression that bike made on me, once I lowered the saddle. This guy rules if this is his number 3 bike and he is loaning it out to a stranger.

    Regarding the article, yeah, the Peugeot was the only road bike I bought fully built then I proceeded to remove and replace almost all of it with glossy Campagnolo bit of forged love.

    @marko  I love the cascade effect when new parts arrive, every bike benefits.

  33. Great topic.  Pandora served up One Piece at a Time to me Sunday night.  Hilarious song.

    I had such a good time building up my Kirk this summer after it arrived.  Being in the build/paint queue for over a year, I had plenty of time to stew on the component choices and make my purchases.

    I’m itching to do some more wrenching this winter.  Might have to transfer the 11s Chorus group on my plastic bike over to the Pegoretti.

  34. @Frank – What’s your opinion of those Gommitalia Calypso tires?  They look interesting, especially at the price (~$80/pair).

    Of my last four bikes, three were bought as framesets.  The exception is an ’87 Centurion Ironman, which promptly had its entire drivetrain, bars and stem switched out for modern components…including rebuilding the rear wheel with an Ultegra 600 hub with a current freehub.  My first road bike, a CAAD9, was bought off-the-shelf, but has only its original frame, fork and headset remaining; everything else has been replaced. It just makes more sense to outfit the bike the way you want it in the first place.

  35. @Buck Rogers

    @the Engine Nope. That’s not it. I have found that one. The one I saw was purely a guy on a mountain bike climbing a single track and trail steeply for the whole “Hurt” cover by Cash and the vid had only that song and he was passing people and getting passed and it was all hemet cam view from the riders perspective. Much better than the one you posted in my opinion (no commentary on your tastes intended!).

    But Thanks for trying!!!

    Dang

  36. @Buck Rogers

    As far as I know there were only two versions of the DA 7400 post, fluted and aero, both the same length. But, the 7410 post, which came out around 94, is a good 6 to 8cm longer and matches the earlier stuff well.

    74xx is great that way. It went through enough refinements and advancements that you can mix and match between indexed and friction, downtube and STI, freewheel and cassette, 6/7/8 speeds, single or dual pivot… Current project is an early 90s TT, which so far has 7400, 7401, 7402 and 7410, but it all works and looks good together.

    Only problem with that 7410 post is they’re NJS certified and coveted by hipsters building “authentic” Keirin bikes, so a little pricey. Maybe not enough setback if the frame’s that much too small. The Velo Orange post frank is using is obviously pretty long and has lots of setback.

  37. I will confess that I can’t really imagine walking into a bike shop today and walking out with an off-the-rack bike.  To say nothing of the fact that most LBS’s won’t stock my ridiculously tall size (198cm, thanks for asking — almost in Frank’s territory); more so, I’ve developed strong opinions on pedals, saddle, handlebar width, stem length, and tires.  (Merckx!  Are we finally getting past the stupidity of putting 700×23’s on every bike that rolls out of a shop, when the local pavement is shit and a touch or gravel now and then is amazing fun?)

    Perhaps I tell myself this to assuage my resentment over Velominatus Budgetatus status, but it seems more enjoyable to go piece-by-piece hunting the right component at the right price, whether through closeouts or NOS or friends or online forums.

    Of course Frank’s right that in buying things piecemeal, multiple times, I probably could buy a new bike with a perfectly functional aluminum frame and 105 parts for the same cost.  But then it would be Specialized’s bike, or Trek’s bike, or Fuji’s bike rather than my bike.

  38. @unversio I get that; it’s just that with chrome stays, a chrome fork, and polished silver components, my aesthetic would be to finish off the job.  But then, I remember when the black-paint or black-ano components started to proliferate in the late ’80’s and were sought-after, rarer, “cooler”, and pricier — so I can see sticking with the black.

    I still think a polished Cinelli grammo would kick it up another notch, though.

  39. Johnny Cash and bike building discussion… the only thing I’m missing here is an appropriate beverage.

    Love you guys.

  40. @unversio

    @frank I love how it looks too. I want to replicate that bar wrap. What is it exactly “” please?

    Fizik performance black – I tried Benotto and some fake leather wrap; but this stuff just looks and feels better. I may try cinelli’s leather wrap at some point.

    I have also been nudged and inspired by your comment to take my MX Leader back to a traditional quill stem. Wiscot dug up a 140mm 3TTT glossy black quill stem “” incredible. So after Thanksgiving I will have transformed The Sword back to the future. Replaced the original build Record headset with a Chris King black 1 inch headset “” 10 year warranty. Now a stem “” 3TTT black. Next looking for 3TTT Competizione due or Cinell Giro 64 bars or ITM Super Italia Pro 2 bars “” 44 ctc. Thanx again Wiscot and Frank.

    This is the right direction to go in; I’m happy to hear it!

    @DCR

    @frank Surely your valves and tire labels are not in violation of Rule #40?

    Not a chance.

    @cognition

    @frank I can’t help but think that a polished silver stem would be the final piece, bringing the Bianchi back into the realm of gleaming metal bits.

    I had a silver bar/stem on it but ultimately didn’t like it as much as the gunmetal. Just a call of taste – who’s to say I won’t change it back some day.

    @revchuck

    What’s your opinion of those Gommitalia Calypso tires? They look interesting, especially at the price (~$80/pair).

    They are good tires. Very supple and vittoria-esque. I would have to validate this, but I think the company was started by some old Vittoria people. They are handmade, light, and cheap. What’s not to like?

    My only complaint is the sidewalls were a little yellow at first; they eventually darkened, but it took a year or two.

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