Friday, May 13, 2011

Specialites TA Pro Vis 5 Re-issue

Specialites TA are re-issuing the Pro Vis 5, Cyclo Touriste.  Again.

After an approximate 3 year hiatus, I read today that the Rene Herse store will be selling a new batch of TA Pro 5 Vis Cyclo Touriste cranksets to the US market starting May 20, 2011.  This is no less than the third re-issue of this classic crankset despite repeated balks of a "final" re-issues .  The photo of this crankset shown on the Rene Herse store website appears to be decorated with the modern TA Specialites logo, but is posed with the original foil stickers that are still available, but at an extra cost.

Photo from Rene Herse store website

The re-issue may have been prompted by the successful, Taiwanese made, Velo Orange Gran Cru 50.4 bcd crankset.  These cranks aren't cheap.  As a matter of fact they make the price Velo Orange used to sell them for a few years back seem like a real bargin. But also remember that batch also sold out very quickly (maybe a few months tops) and will likely add fuel to the price of vintage versions of these cranksets that sell on ebay too.

Just posting this as a heads up to anyone has been looking for a new or vintage set of these, better decide soon.  The price is just way too rich for my blood.  I first read of this news at a great blog called La Reuda Tropical.  Definitely a great read and resource on fine bicycles, components and various other cycling related materials.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More Parts and a Nice day

I've been picking up a few more parts lately, all vintage Dura Ace from the 74xx group.  I've managed to pickup a NOS 7410 front derailleur, as well as used 7402 rear derailleur and 7400 seatpost.  The front derailleur was chosen purely based on looks.  The seatpost was a good deal, it also has a nifty extra screw which helps with saddle adjustment, not to mention the lovely engraved 80's Dura Ace logo.  Will post more info about these parts soon.

The weather has been great this week here in Toronto.  Here's a couple of pictures from the lighthouse at the end of the Leslie St. spit during a quick after work ride.

Alternate view from lighthouse overlooking beach and Lake Ontario
Quickbeam taking a breather out at the Leslie St. Spit.  Forgot to bring water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Suntour Bar-con Control Lever

This posting is off topic from the sportif bicycle, but still relevant.  I recently had the bad luck of breaking one of the Suntour bar-con shifters I had installed on my commuting bike.  Fortunately I was able to track down another set quite quickly and for a decent price.  Since these shifters were obviously used, I took the time to disassemble and refurbish them.  Here is a rundown of how to disassemble and re-assemble one of these shifters.  First off there are a few tools that you will require for disassembly, all of which are pretty common except for the lockring pliers.  It is also a good idea when disassembling any component to try to track down an exploded diagram of the component as this clearly shows the way the parts are to line up when it comes time for re-assembly.

Suntour Bar-con exploded diagram

Exploded Suntour Shifter

The first step is to remove the shifter from the shifter body using a flat-head screwdriver.  Be sure to remove the locking nut to the left of the shifter first before attempting to remove the screw on the right side.  Next, use a phillips screwdriver to remove the shifter assembly cover.  I found this screw to be quite tight, so be sure to use the appropriately sized screwdriver and be sure to push the screwdriver firmly into the screw head to prevent stripping.

Once the shifter assembly cover is removed, there is is a clip which requires the lockring pliers to remove.  Once this clip is removed, the rest of the shifter easily comes apart.  Even with the exploded diagram for reference I still lay the parts out as them come off to remind myself how to put the component back together.  Below is a photo I took of the disassembled shifter.  Be especially careful not to lose the spring when removing the ratcheting pawl, which I found easiest to do after the rest of the assembly had been removed.

Lockring pliers ready to disassemble shifter

Once the shifter was disassembled I used degreaser to clean up all of the parts and then applied new grease generously.  BICYCLES LOVE GREASE.  One thing to note during re-assembly is that the ratchet is not reversible.  There is an engraved dot on one side of the ratchet, which must be installed to the right/facing out.  If you install the ratchet backwards, the stack height won't be correct, which makes installing the final clip not possible.  As well, if it is not obvious to users of this shifter, both shifters are identical and completely interchangeable.  After I finish cleaning up the shifter body with a bit of elbow grease and simichrome I'll post a fully re-assembled shifter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


A set of tires I have been riding on for a few years and really like are the made by Panaracer for Rivendell, blue (435g) Jack Browns.  These tires have a low rolling resistance and can handle a high air volume making them cushier/rugged.  These tires are also less susceptible to flats due to the Kevlar belt and casing as well as a thicker tread.  Rivendell also have a lighter weight version of these tires which have a thinner tread and casing with no kevlar belt.  This model has a green label (295g).  Aside from the neat checker pattern these tires also have the always desirable tan sidewall.

Jack Brown, 700x33.33333.  Green 295g, Blue 435g.

Other tire options, which that are slightly lighter, are a couple of tires made by Grand Bois.  Both the Cypress and Cerf models have a fairly similar tread which are meant for mostly road applications.  The Cypress model is available in 32 and the Cerf in 28, so the tire size would be the determining factor when deciding between these two tires.

Grand Bois "Cerf", 248g

Grand Bois Cypress, 700x32, 290g

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Seeing that Mavic MA2 or Module 4 rims are too pricey and difficult to find these days I have been looking for a comparable modern version.  The MA 2/Module 4 rims offered features including box section construction, polished (not anodized) finish, double stainless eyelets, non-machined side walls and fairly light to boot.  FYI, the MA 40 rims are identical to MA 2 as are Module 3 rims and Module 4 with the exception that they are anodized, which makes them more susceptible to failure.  See this link by Jobst Brandt for info on the damage associated with anodized rims.

Mavic MA 2, with 80's style decal, approx. 460g for 32h

When I first started looking into box rims I came across a model designed by Grand Bois.  These rims have a single eyelets, wide construction, 23mm, which allows for the use of wider tires.  These rims are also pretty light at 520g with a nice looking polished finish and non-machined side walls, but, dear in price.

Grand Bois, 23mm wide (accept 28-40mm tires), 520g

The next box section rims I came across are made by Velo Orange.  Both the PBP and RAID rims have features that include highly polished finish, extra wide non-machines side walls and stainless steel eyelets.

Velo Orange PBP, 19mm wide (accepts 25-32mm tires), 450g

Were these rims vary is in their weight, width and construction quality.  The RAID rims are quite a bit heavier than the PBP rims, but this is because the RAID rims are wider, accepts tires from 28-38mm, but also uses double eyelets.  The advantage of double eyelets is that they are the stronger that single or no eyelets.  They allow the tension from the spokes to be distributed between both sections of the rim box.

Velo Orange RAID, 22mm wide (accepts 28-38mm tires), 530g

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


When I began thinking about building this bike up I knew I would be using friction shifting.  Aside from selecting the appropriate shifter, my thoughts turned to what speed cassette I would be using.  In previous posts I have said that I would be using a 6-speed cassette, which have pretty much perfect spacing for friction shifting.  The spacing between the 6-speed cogs allows for a better feel and control while friction shifting, which can be considerably more forgiving than say a 10-speed cassette.

Shimano Deore XT FH-M730-QR Hubset, 36H, 422g.  The rear hub pictured has been upgraded with a Hyperglide only freehub body, although this was not available from the factory.

Out of all of the gear/cassette/hub combinations, Shimano created the pretty much ideal hub in the form of the Deore XT M730.  This hub offers 130mm spacing, a one piece polished aluminum shell, sealed bearings with oil ports and a wider pawl design that lasts a really long time.  The 130mm spacing is perfect for modern road frames and allows for the rear wheel to be nearly dishless, meaning it will have symmetrical spoke lengths on the rear wheel.  This greatly strengthens the wheel making it extra durable.  I have been lucky enough after a few months of looking around to procure a NOS set of these hubs, but there are a couple of other Shimano hubs that I was also looking into that would also make a 6-speed setup with 130mm spacing possible.
Shimano Deore XT II, catalogue page with hub specs (top left of page) 

Around the same time period (late 80's/early 90's) as the M730 hub, the Ultegra 600, FH-6402 was also available.  This was apart of the first wave of 8-speed compatible hubs that were both Uniglide and Hyperglide compatible.  This means that you can use a Uniglide 6/7/8-speed cassette or if you like to tinker, you could theoretically use any 6 Uniglide/Hyperglide cogs using 6 or 7-speed spacers (3.65mm for 6-speed, 3.15mm for 7-speed) capped off with a regular track cog to achieve a well spaced friction shifting setup.  This hub is also spaced at 130mm, which again allows for super strong nearly dishless wheel build.

Shimano Ultegra 600, FB-6400 (212g) & FH-6402 (426g) 

Shimano Ultegra 600 data sheet

If the Ultegra 600 hubs aren't fancy enough for you, the Dura Ace FH-7402 hub also holds true to everything I said about the hub above, with the 130mm spacing and Uniglide/Hyperglide compatibility, with the exception that Dura Ace used an exclusive proprietary thread for their Uniglide hubs, so bear that in mind too.

Shimano Dura Ace, FH-7402 (460g)

Shimano Dura Ace FH-7402 data sheet

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bottom Brackets & Pedals

When I think of bottom brackets, the first brand that comes to mind is Phil Wood.  For years they have been the go to manufacturer for almost indestructible bottom brackset, but I have also been reading about an even older bottom bracket manufacturer that I'm also considering using.

Phil Wood Bottom Bracket, Stainless Steel, 197g + 34g cups

SKF have been a part of cycling since the 1940's, supplying bearings for Campagnolo and builders Alex Singer and Rene Herse.  Their bottom bracket as with the Phil uses a sealed cartridge design, but uniquely uses roller bearings on the drive side.  SKF also uses larger ball bearings on the non-drive side which increases the durability of the bottom bracket greatly, so much in fact that SKF offers a 10 year or 100,000km warranty!  

Exploded diagram of SKF bottom bracket

The SKF bottom bracket may not be as pretty as the Phil Wood, but you'll almost never see the shinny bits anyway.  As well, the SKF uses a standard install tool and the cups are included, unlike with the Phil.  The Phil BB has a small weight savings over the SKF, but that is accompanied with a higher cost.

SKF Bottom Bracket, 240g

What I find most interesting about both of these bottom bracket manufacturers is that neither have a primary focus on cycling per se.  What I mean by that statement is that was a Phil Wood himself was not an avid cyclist, but was a talented machinist who set out to create a superior bottom bracket and hub designs.  Similarly, SKF, aside from this bottom bracket is almost exclusively a bearing manufacturer.  In fact SKF was recently about to cease the manufacturing of this bottom bracket until Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly fame stepped as SKF's world distributor for. 

MKS Sylvan Pedals, 390g

The last part to accompany the crankset are pedals.  I have used several different designs from early Shimano mountain bike/BMX pedals, MKS quill and track pedals.  I am likely going to stick with my favorite pedal on this bike though which is also made by MKS, their sylvan or touring/cyclocross pedal.  For my foot they are the perfect width and I love the fact that they are double sided.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crankset Selection: Part 2

Since determining that I would need to use a 46 tooth chainring as my big ring, I feel that using a 110 BCD crankarm would make the most sense.  I think that crankarms should be chosen based on the the larger chainring size, the reason being is that if crankarm's spider is lager then there will be less flex on the chainring and less stress on the crankarm itself.  I am also trying to achieve a wide range double crankset too, which wouldn't be possible with a 144 or 130 BCD as I have already determined my largest chainring will be 46 tooth.  If I was to use a 144 BCD the smallest ring I could use is a 41T and 38T with a 130 BCD crankset, but with a 110 BCD crankset I can have a chainring as small as 33T.  To find out about probably every other crankset's BCD, here's a link to Sheldon Brown's site on the subject here.

I have found some some examples of modern cranksets that I will be considering for this build.  All of the cranksets I have included in this post are cold forged aluminum with CNC machined chainrings.  Cold forging is the best method for manufacturing cranksets or any bicycle parts for that matter as this method makes aluminum its strongest.  Again, Sheldon Brown has a great article on his webpage describing the different methods of parts manufacturing.

Sugino Alpina, 665g, top.  Velo Orange, Grand Cru 110, 670g, bottom.

There are basically three cranksets I've been eying, one of them being the Sugino Alpina.  What I like best about the Alpina crankset is that it does away with the spider pattern the use on their other cranksets, which hides a chainring bolt behind the crankarm.  This crankset has a slightly more modern styling than the others I have been looking into, comes with 48-34T chainrings, weighs 665g and is also made in Japan.  IRD and Velo Orange both offer pretty much identical 1970's vintage looking cranksets.  The main difference between these two is chainring sizes.  The Velo Orange crankset comes with 48-34T, weighs 670g and the IRD comes with 50-36T, weighs 680g.  The IRD crankset is likely heavier due to the larger chainrings.  Velo Orange has already done a great contrast/comparison between the Sugino and Velo Orange crankset on their blog.

IRD Road Double, 110 BCD, 670g, 50-35T

Finally, I am also open to the idea of using the crankset seen below.  This is a copy of the old style TA and Stronglight cranksets starting from the 50's manufactuered by Velo Orange.  This crank claims to have extra strong chainrings to help alleviate flex and also offer by far the widest selection of chainring combinations.  Stock, this crankset comes with 46-30T chainrings, which are exactly what I was hoping to use, and is the lightest of all of these cranksets at 550g.

Velo Orange Grand Cru, 550g, 46-30

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crankset Selection: Part 1

When it comes to selecting a crankset my main consideration is gain ratio.  There are a couple of  web sites out there that allow you to calculate this, but I have found that this one by Mike Sherman the most useful.  It not only  gives you the calculation for gain ratio (the Sheldon Brown calculation), but also gear inch, speeds at a particular cadence and a roll out table.  Basically what all this can help you determine is the appropriate cassette/freewheel and chainrings sizes to use.

Sugino Mighty, 144BCD, 53/42

For my sportif bicycle I am going to be using a six speed cassette with a double compact double crankset.  The reason for selecting a double crankset instead of a triple is because where I live and ride, there just simply aren't that many inclines, and the ones that are around can easily be tackled with an appropriate sized inner ring.  Initially I was pretty set on using a 1970's, 144 BCD (bolt circle diameter) Sugino Mighty crankset I had acquired a while back, which was fitted with 53/42 chainrings.  52/42 chainrings are pretty common for road bikes, but I feel that gearing is not too useful.  After reading up on 144 BCD cranksets I found that the smallest chainring I would be able to get for this crankset is a 41 tooth, which when matched with say a 48 tooth chianring would make for a lot of very close gear combinations.  What I am hoping to achieve with this crankset/gears is a setup where I can ride in the large chainring for at least 90% of  the time and only have to shift into the smaller chainring for climbs.

6-speed cassette, 13-15-17-19-21-24

To achieve a suitable chainring size I first figured about what gear I ride with most often.  On one of my bikes I ride at a gear ratio of 4.6 and on the other 4.75.  That being said, I would be trying to achieve this gear ratio in the middle of my cassette, meaning that when in the larger chainring and in the middle of the cassette I should be able to ride with a gear ratio close to my most common gear ratio.  The cassette I will be using has the following cog sizes: 13-15- 17-19-21-24, therefore, the large chainring should be 46 to achieve this.  Here's what the gain ration chart would look like for this setup:

         13     15      17      19      21      24
46   7.12   6.17   5.44   4.87   4.41   3.86

Enough about technical data and chainring selection.  Next posting I'll outline my options for possible cranksets based on chainring compatability and quality.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Side Pull Brakes

As I have written in a previous post, I am keen to use brazed-on center-pull brakes with this bike.  This may only be possible if I end up going the custom route, so in lieu of center-pull brakes, I'm also looking at some single-pivot brakes as an alternative.  A problem with nicer single-pivot brakes is that they can be difficult to find with a reach suitable for mudguards and tire since they were mainly available in short reach ranges, 39-49mm.  Underneath those mudguards I'm thinking of using 700x32 wheels, so this means that I will likely require brakes with a standard reach,  47-57mm.  Of the options that I have been researching, there were some great brakes made by Shimano, Dia Compe and Suntour.  Here's some brakes that I've been looking around for so far. 

Shimano 600, br-6207, 353grams.

The Shimano 600 brakes shown above were apart of the EX group and were available from approximatley 1984-1987.  What generally makes Shimano 600 and Dura Ace parts more expensive than other groups, and this is also true amongst other parts manufacturers, is that they are generally made with a full metal construction, which means no cheap or easily breakable pieces.  If you were to compare these with say the 105 groups brakes from the same time period, you would see plastic barrel adjusters and quick-releases.  Another nice feature of these brakes is that they have recessed brake bolts, which save a small amount of weight and is more compatible with modern frames.

Dia Compe, NGC 500, 320 grams

Dia Compe was also producing very nice brakes during the mid 80's as well.  A side note, I wonder if the folks at Channel ever sued them over their logo.  Dia Compe was also producing a line called Royal Gran Compe and Royal Gran Compe II, which had more expensive finishing.  All of these models were cold-forged and weighed the same, but you could actually get them gold plated or anodized a number of different colours.  I personally prefer the polished look of the New Gran Compe line over anodized.  

Suntour Superbe Pro, CB-4100, 346 grams. 

Last, but not least, the Suntour Superbe Pro.  Pretty much in the same vein as the above two brakes, but you could consider the Pro model to be in line with a Dura Ace tiered component, where as the other two are more second tier.  This doesn't really have much bearing on my decision between these brakes, I'll probably pick up which ever of these I can find in good shape.  I do like the Shimano 600 brakes slightly more just based on the engraved logo.

Shimano, BR-R650, 385 grams

If my quest for these lovely vintage brakes fails, then I will likely go with the brakes pictured above.  They are  Ultegra level, BR-R650, Dual -pivot brakes.  A final point that I wanted to add is just to say what a great site Velo Pages is.  Their site is where I found the catalogue pages shown in this post.  I'm really glad to see that someone is taking the time to archive these difficult to find documents.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quill Stems

One thing that I will not compromise on when it come to bicycles are threaded stems.  I find threadless headsets and stems about as ugly as bike parts come.  Both threaded and threadless systems have they're benefits and detractors, but the main thing being that threadless stems are slightly lighter.  As far as quill stem selection goes, I feel that probably the best quality and looking stems ever are being produced today, all of them by Nitto.

Nitto Technomic, 100mm, 427g

Nitto have been producing stems and a good number of other parts since the 1920's under they're namesake and for pretty much ever other quality bicycle manufacturer.  When it comes to quality, their stems are all very reliable, but you pay more depending on the lower weight and quality of finish.

Nitto Technomic Deluxe

I currently have the technomic deluxe on my bicycle.  My finance has a standard technomic on her bicycle.  I like the look of both of them, but I especially like the technomic font.  The main difference between these two are the finish and stem height.  The pearl stem shown below is also a nice option, but with even less height adjustment when compared to either of the technomic stems.  I could easily go with any of these stems, but I think I'll leave the decision up to what my stem height requirements will be.
Nitto Pearl, 100mm, 325g

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beautiful Single-Pivot Brake

Another option that I've been looking at in lieu of using center-pull are single-pivot brakes.  I was under the impression that they were no longer made, but I recently discovered this offering by Bontrager.  Too bad they don't come in standard reach.

Bontrager Speed Limit, single-pivot
They're great because the can track out of true/irregular rims and don't have the extra mechanical advantage like double pivot brakes.  I'll write some more about them once I find further examples.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Headsets are one of those components that no matter how much or how little you spend on them they will perform well, that is under normal-ish, road riding conditions.  I'm not talking about hardcore, jumping down a cliff, mountain biking.  Chris King headsets clearly has that market locked down, but for most riders, when it comes down to selecting a headset its more how the part looks than worrying about performance or even weight.  Sure if you are obsessed with weight you could definitely save precious 10s of grams.  Cane Creek AER headsets can weigh as little as 46 grams, but even a run of the mill alloy Tange headset only weighs in at 160 grams.  

Stronglight, A9

For this bicycle I want to try out a roller bearing headset, also known as 'needle' bearings.  The most famous of the roller bearing headset is the  Stronglight A9, which is no longer made with roller bearings, but with sealed cartridge bearings instead.  There are a couple of benefits to a roller bearing over standard ball bearings or sealed bearings, in that they do not develop indexing and can reduce handlebar 'shimmy'.  Indexing is when you can feel bumpy steering or that the handlebar kinks when turned to a certain point.  Basically over time, flat spots on bearings or pits on the races where the bearing sit can develop, which can be felt when turning the handlebar.  This is a sign that either bearings need replacing or the headset all together depending on the source of the indexing.  'Shimmy' is a sort of vibration or shaking that can also be felt in the handlebar.  I would say that this can be more strongly felt when going hands-free on you bike.  The front wheel/forks can slightly wobble.  

There are only a couple of manufacturers who make roller bearing headsets today, the models that I am  aware of being Miche Primato and Velo Orange Roller Bearing.  Both use what appear to be the same style of bearings Stronglight used to, but they both (Velo Orange mostly), are really lacking in the looks department.

Miche, Primato

Velo Orange, Roller Bearing 

Another headset that Stronglight was also famous for was their Delta model.  The Delta was very similar to the A9 headset, aluminum body with the same roller bearings, but also incorporated rubber seals, which helped to keep dirt and gunk out of the bearings.  As well, the Delta had cool looking bulbous shape, which I find quite nice looking.  I was lucky enough to purchase one of these headsets from ebay and I was pretty set on using it until...

Stronglight, Delta

...I found the Saavedra Super Competition.  I have yet to track one down, but this to me this is probably the nicest looking headset ever.  I especially like the engraving and spanner bolt pattern.  According to Arc-En-Ciel Bicycle Studio blog, these headsets are especially easy to setup, which is apparently a bit more challenging with the Miche and Stronglight models.

Saavedra, Super Competition

Monday, February 7, 2011


I have always known that I would be using drop bars for this bicycle.  I have been riding with 44cm Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle) handlebars for a while now and they were the original contender to be used on this bicycle.  I like the width of them, the almost totally flat ramps and swept back bars are very comfortable.  I usually ride with my hands behind the hoods or on top of the bars, so they are pretty ideal for that style of riding.

Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle)

I was pretty set on using the Noodle bars until I came across the Grand Bois Maes Parallel handlebars, which are actually made by Nitto too, but to Grand Bois specs.  A somewhat trivial/preferential feature is that the Maes Parallel bars do not have a sleeve, which if you bother to pay attention can make a slight creaking noise while riding.  I do notice this noise while using the Noodle bars from time to time, but it's really not a big deal.

Grand Bois, Maes Parallel.

Another option could also be the Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course handlebars.  They are very similar to the Grand Bois handlebars, except they come in the slightly wider 44cm and cost nearly half the price.  The finish on theses bars are quite nice too, highly polished and engraved logos.  Both the Grand Bois and Velo Orange handlebars are based on 1950's Philippe Professional.

Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course

Here are spec's that compare how there bars differ:
Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle)
C-t-C Width: 440mm
Reach: 96mm
Rise/Drop: 140mm
Clamp: 26.0, Sleeved
Made in Japan

Grand Bois, Maes Parallel
C-t-C Width: 430 mm
Reach: 115mm
Rise/Drop: 125mm
Clamp: 25.4, Non-sleeved
Made in Japan

Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course
Drops: 440mm
Reach: 115mm
Rise/Drop: 125mm
Clamp: 26.0, Non-Sleeved
Made in Taiwan

These specs show the main difference between the handlebars being reach and drop.  This means that the Noodle bars have more room for when the rider is in the drops and there is a shorter reach to the brake levers.  As far as cosmetics go, the Grand Bois handle bars have no logo, where both Nitto and Velo Orange having nicely engraved ones.  To finish the bars up I'm thinking about upgrading from my usual cork to either the new silver Nitto or the classic, black rubber Velox bar-end plugs, which are a teeny bit lighter.  For me it'll be purely an aesthetic choice.

Nitto bar-end plugs

The final decision on which bars to use may come down to price with the Grand Bois costing nearly double my other two choices.  Aside from the bar-end plug choice I will also be sticking with shellacked, cloth bar tape.  Colour to be determined after the bike