Repeat customers are great. Several years ago, Ian and his girlfriend Sierra (now his wife) ordered a tandem from me. Even at that time though, he was overdue for a new single bike. The years of waiting have finally come to an end and last spring he took delivery of this one. Mostly, it’s a randonnuering bike, but when the front lowrider rack is installed, it will work great for light touring. I’m sure it will see a lot of gravel miles too.
I posted some teaser shots of various parts of the bike on Instagram a few months ago, but I never got a chance to take pictures of the whole thing after it was done because Ian was immediately headed to California and Nevada for a 1000km brevet. The season has slowed down a little bit now and I was finally able to get the bike back for a couple photos. Judging by the amount of wear on the chain and tires, he’s been really enjoying it!
This customer had been dreaming of a nice randonneuring bike for years and decided to treat himself for his 50th birthday. Happy Birthday!
It’s hard to believe the new year is nearly half over already. It’s been a busy spring in the shop with lots of fun projects. Here are a few of them.
This was a fun project with lots of cool features like a thru-axle Schmidt dynamo front hub with automatic electrical connection integrated into the dropouts, a Rohloff 14 speed rear hub, and S&S couplers.
Mike brought me a ’70s Raleigh Competition for a make-over. I added numerous braze-ons, 650b wheels, modern drivetrain parts, and a hub dynamo light system. My friends at Forever Powdercoating matched the original color.
Lesli got a new randonneur bike with all the bells and whistles- fully internal wiring for the lights, a stem top light switch, a usb charging port for her phone or GPS, and a set of low rider racks for light touring loads when she’s not doing brevets. I look forward to seeing pictures of this bike all over the world.
John got a new bike too, and was in such a hurry to rush off to his first ride that I didn’t even get a picture. Hopefully he’ll bring it back soon so I can take one because I think it’s pretty interesting- he chose SRAM etap wireless electronic shifting and it turned out to be the lightest randonneur bike I’ve built at 20.0 pounds with rack, fenders, lighting system, and pump!
I have big plans for 2018. There are lots of bicycles to build, but also lots of travel and new adventures. Of course all the travel and adventures involve riding bikes!
I didn’t post as often as I should last year, so before I head back to the bench tomorrow here are some of the projects and adventures from 2017.
Flèche Northwest on a team of tandems!!!
Recently two different frames came through the shop with broken right rear dropouts. Usually, it’s a pretty straightforward repair. The best way to approach it is to source an identical part and then simply replace it. Sometimes that’s not possible so a little creativity is required.
The first frame was a Miyata. It had Shimano SF dropout like many good quality Japanese frames from the 1980’s. I found a full set (fronts and rears) on Ebay and got them on the way. The fronts will go on the shelf and eventually be used on a new fork, the extra left rear one will probably languish there forever.
The broken dropout is removed by first cutting it in half to separate the part that attaches to the seat stay from the part that attaches to the chain stay. Each piece is then heated with the torch until the brazing material holding it in place melts and it can be gently pulled free. After the stays cool down, they get sanded carefully to remove old brazing material, and any old paint or grime that didn’t burn off during the removal process. The new dropout is sanded to expose clean bare metal, inserted into the frame, alignment is checked carefully, and then it’s brazed in place. After it cools down again, a little filing and sanding is needed. The idea is to make it look exactly as it did before so after repainting no one will ever know the bike was repaired. This one went well and was done in less than an hour, even including time for things to cool down. The frame is now at the powder coat shop getting a new color and a fresh set of decals. Here’s a photo of the new dropout:
The next repair was an old Gitane. This particular frame has very rare dropouts that were only used by Gitane for a year or two, and were unique to the brand. I emailed a few friends to see if anyone had a damaged Gitane frame with those dropouts- if they did, I could have cut the stays and harvested the intact dropout. It was a long shot and of course and I wasn’t able to find a replacement.
There are a couple options left to the builder in a situation like this. The best is usually to replace both dropouts. In this case, a repair was preferred in order to preserve the look of the frame. The problem with a repair is that the part which broke is still there, along with all the accumulated fatigue that caused it to break in the first place. Here’s what the dropout looked like when the frame was brought in:
First, I filed away the raised face around the axle slot on each side of the dropout, and carefully filed and sanded away all the chrome. At the two points where it was broken, I filed away material at a 45 degree angle all the way around each break. Then I TIG welded the broken spots and filed them down until they were invisible. I could have stopped there, but as I mentioned earlier, there is still fatigued material on each side of the repair. To reinforce the area, I brazed a thin sheet of steel over each face of the dropout and cut to match the shape. The repair is visible, but you have to look very closely.
The customer sourced a complete new set of decals and chose a color. It would be possible to have the old chrome stripped and redone, but expensive. Instead, we elected to coat the previously chromed areas with a shiny silver powder coat.
While the frame was in the capable hands of my friends at Forever Powdercoating, we evaluated which of the old components we would reuse, and which we would replace. In the end, only the handlebar, stem, seat, seatpost, and brakes were kept. The rest of the new parts were either ordered in, or supplied by the customer. I built a new set of wheels and had everything waiting and ready to install as soon as the frame was ready.
Nearly 36 years to the day after he got the frame for his 16th birthday, James got his bike back looking like new.
Thompson Custom Bicycles has a new home. The old shop was always too small, but it had lots of positive attributes like affordability and convenience. Working out of a ten foot by twelve foot space was difficult, but I did it for a long time.
The new shop has around four times the square footage. It’s in an older warehouse building near the Olympia airport. If it’s a nice day, I can see Mount Rainier from the lobby or the parking lot. The other side of the building, the one with the roll up door that will be open whenever the weather is warm enough, affords an excellent view of the sunset.
Midway through the move, I got a call from my powdercoat shop telling me I had a frame to pick up. I managed to find enough tools to assemble the new tandem shown below. In the background, you can see the fabrication area and my new big steel workbench, as well as my personal tandem. The surface plate is now on the other side of the central post.
There is lots left to do, but the space becomes more workable every day. I’ve been doing small projects which help me to decide what tools should be kept where, find the things that are missing, and get a general feel for how work will best flow through the space.
I couldn’t have done the move without the generous help of lots of friends and the patience of my wonderful customers. If you’re reading this and that sounds like you, thank you!!!