So, a few judicious purchases to plug the gaps in what I already had combined with some late nights in the shed have resulted in a rather handsome bike (in my humble opinion!) I find the contrast of old school 3-speed hub, box-section rims and square tapered bottom bracket against the rather more contemporary seat mast, matte blue paint and Fabric saddle rather compelling. There’s also a simplicity and aesthetic lightness to it that seems to be missing in many modern bikes, but maybe that’s just me disappearing up my own backside? Ultimately, I suppose it’s only my opinion that matters, which is probably a good thing given that most bike shops hardly seem to be awash with polished components and arrow straight frame tubes!
The build was relatively straight-forward. The Sturmey Archer rear hub (see previous blog post) needed some adjustment in terms of the axle spacing, but, other than a good clean and a re-build, is completely original. The chain line is pretty narrow on these hubs and, combined with some chunky chainstays, made achieving a half-decent chain line and sufficient crank-clearance a little tricky. Hence the relocation of the chainring to the inside of the spider. While the absence of bottle cage mounts and cable stops (or anything else really) on the frame has meant that some lateral thinking and some bolt-on extras was required.
Once again, my lanky proportions and lack of flexibility have meant that I’ve had to do some relatively unattractive things to the front end. A stack of spacers and Specialized’s Hover riser ‘bar are a bit clunky, but, sadly, a pragmatic reality. Furthermore, the flat Nitto stem has been flipped to get the bars even higher and give my back a fighting chance of surviving at least a couple of hours in the saddle. Whilst I’m on the subject, if you are in the (admittedly very small) market for a polished 90mm stem with 31.8mm clamp and 17 degree rise then the Nitto UI-22 EX seemed to be the only option available to me here in the UK.
So far, I’ve only had the chance for a single, two-hour ride that included a benchmark test up Boxhill, which was somewhat hampered by a very hearty Christmas. However, the bike was very nearly faultless. The biggest surprise was the hub, which, despite its age (37 years and counting) felt absolutely rock-solid under power and didn’t miss a single shift. Admittedly, I wasn’t smashing it between gears, but I was expecting at least a few ghost-neutrals and the odd slipping pawl. Instead, after the first 15 minutes of anticipating the worst I just completely forgot about it.
The one and only fly in the ointment was the bracket that connects the bottle cage to the saddle. It is designed to separate into two halves using a quick-release fixing not too dissimilar from my Cateye rear light. In theory this sounds like a useful thing as it means that if I don’t need the cage then I can quickly remove it without the need for any tools. However, the only way I could stop the two halves from separating unintentionally on a ubiquitous, bumpy British country lane is if my bottle was completely empty, which rather misses the point. The subsequent application of some black zip ties has hopefully (and discretely) solved the issue.
Other than that I’m a very happy man. It’ll be interesting to see just how reliable the rear hub will be. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.