Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Going Custom: Part 8 Arrival, buildup, initial impressions

This is part 8 of the Going Custom Series that has chronicling the adventure of buying a custom road bike.

Part 8: Arrival

That frame had been delayed a little due to a problem with the clear coat. It was sent back to the powder coater for a do-over. It arrived yesterday. This placed it at about 8 weeks after approval of final design. Estimated delivery was 5-6 weeks from approval. So no big deal considering the problem with the paint.

Initial Impressions
If you've never gotten a custom frame, it is worth it just to come home and see the box and go through the process of opening it. Pulling out the packaging little by little until you catch a glimpse of the bag with the frame in it. Slowly lifting it out and peeling off the final layer to see the shiny paint.

Gloss black, white decals. Subtle. Awesome simple headbadge


Okay, I was really proud of myself that I never once asked Jim how much the frame would weigh. You know I am a weight weenie, but in the grand scheme it's at the lower end of the priority spectrum, especially considering the heavy components I've got. But we all know the very first thing I did was stick it on the scale.

3.41 lbs with seat collar, shifter bosses, and bottle bolts. The Ti bike this is replacing was 2.75lbs. This is all neither here nor there at this point but I wanted to know and I'm sure others wanted to know.

Frame Prep

Jim owns a tool sharpening business that specializes in frame tools. So as you can imagine, the frame was meticulously prepped. Head tube, BB faces were shiny and smooth. The BB threads were SHARP. I almost sliced my fingers when putting the anti-seize in it. All other threads were tapped nicely as well. The painters sprayed in frame saver pretty thick which is good considering my MO of riding and putting away wet my bikes.


It's always tough getting a new frame and being so gung-ho to get to it when regular life is also going on at the same time. Dinner, playing with the kids. Ok time for a short movie before bed..Ahh some time to work on this with me.....

Better wait till they go to bed.

The build went very smoothly. BB threaded in so smoothly. I use anti-seize on the threads, and Teflon tape on the BB. The rear wheel was a little tight, but I think it's because the powder coat needs to wear a little at the axles, that's how tight the tolerance is. Headset pressed fine,

no issues.

Well..except one. After I set my saddle height, I didn't have enough room to clamp by the seatpost. So I clamped on the seatube. I put a rag in the clamp so as not to mess the paint up, but there was a small decal under this spot and it got buggered when the frame twisted in the stand. Jim is sending me a new one.

Initial rides

It's 11pm pitch dark and I'm riding my bike down the street. I think my neighbors don't think twice about it from me as this can be a common occurrence.

I put it on the trainer in the morning to do my workout and dial in some little things like saddle tilt and handlebar tilt.

From a fit perspective it is no surprise that it feels great. We spent a lot of time designing the frame around my Serotta fit numbers. The real issue is how that fit interacts with the weight balance. That is the problem I had with my previous bike. The fit was fine, 3 points in space matched the spreadsheet from the fitter. But the stem length required to get the fit threw off the weight balance. So this sweet US made Ti frame didn't ride like it should...

After the trainer, I took it out for a real spin around the block and down a few side streets. In one word:


Leading up to the arrival of this new bike, I'd been nitpicking my Ti bike on every ride. Focusing on all the little nuances that were bugging me about it. The feeling of it moving slightly side to side with every pedal stroke. The awkwardness of getting out of the saddle on climbs. How it would all of a sudden move over a few inches while riding. All indications of a weight balance issue.

Immediately I noticed the improved balance of this bike. Just straight tracking, every pedal stroke working towards forward motion. I'm not talking fireworks or anything. Sort of like a cold beer after a hard days work, or sitting down in a really comfortable chair or laying down in one of those really expensive hotel beds.


The best feeling was standing up and climbing out of the saddle. The longer stem and more weight on the front made it feel like it should.

Road feel
One thing I was surprise with when I first threw a leg over it was the smoothness of the feel. I've had high end steel before and I know it is smooth compared to Al. But I've been on a Ti frame for the past few months. One that is buttery smooth to the point of almost being vague. I was expecting that going back to steel would exaggerate the difference in damping characteristics between steel and Ti. But this is a smooth feeling ride. It has that lively springy feel that high end steel is known for (This is a Columbus LIFE tubeset). I had a FOCO frame once that felt tinny under vibration, but this one feels solid.

Now for the long term

I'm smart enough to know that there is a new bike love that can be blind. So I'm going to stop talking about how the bike rode, and revisit this in a few weeks after I've had some serious saddle time. But from the one ride, I'm really stoked.

Stay tuned for another look in a few weeks.

Oh here is what it looks like and how it's built up:

The build

The powder is a little thick but Jim's welds are known for being amazing. This almost looks like micro-fillets instead of TIG-welding.
1999 Campy Chorus 9 (rebuilt shifters few months ago)
Dura Ace cassette + Jtek Shiftmate
Bontrager Flattop handlebar. Looks weird but comfortable. The drops are just the right depth too. Reach is on the shorter side.
1999 Cane Creek Aerohead wheels
$75 ebay special Alpha Q pro fork
$20 ebay special ITM Millennium -10degree 110mm stem
1'st generation IRD Technoglide headset. This run has a 1mm gap between the cap and the cup. But it still works great.
Thomson Seatpost
WTB Rocket V Race saddle (same as on both my mtn bikes)
Shimano 600 pedals
American Classic flimsy Bottle cages
Bontrager Grippy tape especially selected for the white stitching

The extra spacers will be removed once the fit is totally dialed in.

Total weight: a hair shy of 19lbs.

Considering the heft of 1999 Chorus and the Cane Creek wheels, it would be easy to cut up to 2 pounds. I might get some new wheels or components someday but everything works well. Having a good frame creates a canvas that can be changed as desired with new parts.

It's a good solid build that just keep on ticking.


At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Cory said...

Wow. Nice looking frame Ashwin. Glad to hear it fits well. You need to pimp that baby out now...

My Masi has finally been ordered! After a few false starts, I should have it by the end of this week...

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Nice build, and a beauty frame. I'm waiting for my Strong (at the powdercoater). All the parts are lined up in the garage, waiting for something to hang them from.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Jim said...

What kind of bar is that, btw? I like the reach.

At 9:55 PM, Blogger ashwinearl said...

Bontrager Flat top

I really like the feel of the flat top. Great for climbing.
Good reach. Ritchey Biomax has a really short reach too, but the drops are small and I felt like I was slipping out of them.


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