January 23, 2012

Project for the 2012 new year

This year I have decided to take on a much more complex and rewarding bicycle related project.  I have finally decided that now is the time to construct my first lugged steel road frame.  I have been obsessing over the beauty of a well built steel bicycle, with classic lines and exquisite craftmanship, for a very long time.  Sadly, the type of custom bicycle that I have been coveting since a young boy, the classic Mariposa bikes built by Mike Barry,  are no longer available as Mr. Barry has closed-up shop and retired.  There are other custom builders, and some very fine constructeurs close by, but none can compare with a Mariposa.  So, It's all up to me to build a frame that I can admire (and afford),and eventually ride.  I'm glad that I am handy, or so I think.

My first exposure to frame building was when I began road riding in High School.  I had a glimpse of the construction process that is involved in creating a Mariposa for a school project.  Mr. Barry had allowed me and two of my classmates to bring a VHS recorder into the back shop at Bicyclesport on King Street East for personal tour and explanation.  I wish I still had that video.  Mr. Barry took the time to allow us into his workshop and learn about his craft.  I wonder if he realized the indellible mark it would leave with me? 

Since those years as a High School Student, and a novice road racer with the Bicyclesport junior team (for one season), I have come full circle with my bicycle habits.  I began with a fascination for road bicycles, racing bikes in particular. When the cost of racing became to expensive for me to manage on my part-time salary, I gave in to the temptation of mountain biking in the Don Valley in the mid 80's (before front suspension was cool).  I ruined a poorly constructed cromoly Kuwahara which I bought used. I slowly upgraded the parts on it as I continued to improve my bike handling technique in the Don, until one day the rear triangle gave way.  I caved-in and replaced that bike with a Giant Cadex CFM3, purchased on pro-deal through my part-time employer. Even with the pro-deal it was a big investment for me at the time.  I was the shit!  Carbon fibre. The allure of carbon fibre as a frame material quickly wore off.  As the years went on I became less fond of the carbon feel on the trails and later sold that bike as I pieced together one of my favourite mountain bikes.  I had found a KHS team mountain frame (True temper OX platinum) and slowly assembled a complete bike from sensible yet wonderful components.  I was ecstatic when I found a Judy 2000 XC fork on a blow out deal.  I only had a handful of rides on that machine when, with my girlfriend one day, I broke my cardinal rule.  Never lock your good bike up in Toronto unattended!!!  It was nicked! 

 I have since replaced that bike with a single-speed, fully-ridgid, Rocky Mountain Hammer (Reynolds 725) trail rider.  I have come full circle with mountain biking, back to rigid and back to riding the Don.  I also have in my quiver of bicycles a mid 90's Specialized Sirrus (of unknown tubing, but traditional diametre) that I have prettied up a bit.  It is the type of road bike some of my friends were riding back in the day with the smart and sensible Shimano 600 tri-colour gruppo .  It rides well enough, but I have always wondered what a Mariposa would be like in comparison.

I needed a decen bike (not a good bike) to ride in the city that I could afford to loose if it was stolen. I was about to find a good craigslist project when I remembered a bike hanging in the rafters in my Mom's garrage, my Dad's old bike. I commute to school (Yes, I'm back in school, full circle) on an older mountain bike without a sloping top tube (a Jazz by Trek) that my Dad used to commute down town on.  I had installed drop bars on it at some point in the late 1990's, but found the reach a bit too long with that set up.  It hung in my Mom's garrage for years until I finally took it down from the rafters in 2011.  I took the opportunity to use the shop at work one last time the summer I left my position as a Prosthetic Technican, before heading back to Uni.  I stuck the ugly teal green frame into the sand blaster and came out with a svelt raw steel frame.  Gone with the horrible colour as now the finished product  looks quietly unassuming, perfect for a commuter. I gave the bike frame a clear coat and configured the bike with dual racks and fenders for hauling books, and replaced the drop bars with a Bontrager bar with a shallow rise and slight bit of rear sweep.

  The second last project I completed was finding a 1980 Nishiki International for the grand sum of $0.00 at the tail end of a garrage sale.  The bike was far too big for me but I had wanted to restore a  bike for a long time and thought this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.  I later sold that bike at a handsom profit.  Here are a few pics I posted on Craigslist.

The Bar and Stem

Single-speed beater goodness.

I have one other bike project awaiting completion.  I found a deal on a Kona Smoke 26" that was missing its wheels that I picked up for next to nothing.  I purchased a set of wheels and went about overhauling the rest of the bike.  I discovered the rear triangle is a bit out of whack when installing the rear wheel.  The previous owner left the bike outside over the winter before selling it to me.  I believe that the frame was bent as it sat in the court yard of her apartment building.  Not to worry, the beauty of a stteel bike is that it can easily be straightened.  I have since decided that at some point I will install an Xtracycle FreeRadical long tail cargo extension on it and use it as an all-round city bike and grocery getter. 

For now my attention has been focused on school and anticipating starting the new frame construction.  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but somehow I miss not building things.  I spent the past 12 years building prosthetic devices every day, and somewhat miss the satisfaction of producing something tangible.  I hope the new bike will feel like an extension of my body, not that I'm 'missing' anything, but a custom bike will definatly feel like mine.

No comments:

Post a Comment