Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Well it sort of feels that way.  The frame came back last week, modified by Paul Villiers of Villiers-Velo cycles, who undertook the work for me and it came out great.  First, I had him remove the old shifter lugs from the downtube and fill a small dent or two there with brass.  The shifter lugs that came on the frame looked like a clamp-on shifter set, but welded to the frame.  Paul installed discreet bosses for the downtube shifters, which will be home to Dura-Ace adjustable cable guides; cables from the bar cons will route through nicely.

Paul then added cantilever brake studs front and rear at the correct level for 650B wheels.  I sent along the Shimano BR-R550 brakes, which I think are so nice and simple, so that the fit would be sure for them.  The studs are great, smooth and nicely mounted on the frame, no big cludgy connections.  We had considered moving the pump pegs from the downtube to behind the seat tube, but the pegs themselves are quite interesting:  little cubes set on one point atop small stems, with another corner of the cube set to hold the pump.  For such a small detail, I really like them.  So we left them in place; good call Paul!

So here are some initial mock-up pictures:

 A Profile of the wheels, one crankset option (TA Pro Bis 5), a random seat and post.  

This TA crankset, with a criterium chainring set on it, is one option for the build.  The other is a Stronglight 49D, but that will also have TA rings on it as well. 

The downtube gear shifter bosses with Dura-Ace cable guides and adjusters. 

Tange Falcon alloy needle-bearing headset, bottom race.

Front cantilever bosses.  Nice clean, minimal attachment for the brakes.  Plenty strong, not making your eyes hurt.  Great job, Paul.

Maxi-Car Hubs, Super Champion rims, double-butted stainless spokes, just as God intended.

The top race and nut on the Tange headset.  It's really so elegant, the only headset I think rivals it is the radical, yet again elegant Stronglight Delta, which is very cool but not really right for this build.

The rear cantilever bosses.

The Viking Severn Valley

The 650B conversion story started two years ago when I acquired a circa 1958 Viking Severn Valley.  It's a lovely thing, all 531DB with custom carved Nervex Pro lugs (I originally got the frame for the lugs; they remind me of my first serious bicycle, a Schwinn Paramount in the early 1970s).  It had an ugly paint job, but the lightness of the frame, the fluted seat stays, all said 'special' and I started thinking about how to set it up.

During its time in my closet, I started reading the hype on 650B conversions and thought that would be a lovely way to show off the Viking's details.  A set of ex-Rene Herse Maxi-Car wheels with Super Champion rims floated down from the Ebay heavens, and the conversion was on.  I identified a builder whose work seemed, well, old school, and he agreed to modify the frame by cleaning up some things and adding studs for cantilever brakes at each end.  I could have gone with long-reach centerpulls, but most of them look rather ungainly, to be honest, and the old French-style randonneur with cantis seemed to be the inspiration, so that's what we did.

This is what the frame looked like when I bought it (set on the 650B wheels with 42mm Hetres on them, so I could do some measuring).  The bottom bracket dropped a tad, but seems it should be right at 265mm, about standard for a road frame these days.  With a 170mm crankset on it clearance seemed fine:

Good clearance for mudguards.  I think the Gilles Berthoud 50mm bits will fit perfectly.

The lovely head tube lugs, just that much bit different from Nervex Pro standard cuts.

The even lovelier seat cluster, complete with fluted stays.  Seat binder takes a Campy bolt.

Tomorrow, I'll post pics of the frame now that it's back from the builder.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

650B conversion project

The Les Rigden Tandem is almost completed, and I'll be posting pictures of that beauty in a short bit (need to sort seats and handlebars so the stoker is, uh, stoked).  Fearing the ramifications of idle hands, I am embarking on a new project.

I have read with great interest the Jan Heine-inspired international rejuvenation of the French Randonneur-style bicycle, and last year was able to obtain a set of NOS--I'm not kidding--Maxi-Car hubbed 650B wheels from a trader in France.  Rims are Super Champion, spokes stainless straight- gauge.  Shortly before that I had acquired a really lovely 1958 Viking Severn Valley in my size, but had done nothing with it.  When the wheels came up, I thought it would be an interesting marriage, so I've sent the frame off for some 650B-esque mods, and it just came back today.

I will be posting some shots of the 'before' frame later today, as well as a couple of the modified frame as she sits at the moment.