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My last update on my MCL, hopefully.  It’s now been nearly 11 weeks since my injury and I hitting my stride (literally and figuratively).

As of this weekend I am clear to do whatever I want, at least from the Doc.  My lovely wife isn’t quite there on soccer and certain criteriums.

The knee feels better than before I injured it, which leads me to believe that I may have had a partial tear for a long time.  I still have random pains in my MCL area and other spots around both knees.  I think a lot of it is breaking up scar tissue and my support ligaments/muscles getting sorted out.   My knee is stiff if I don’t move it a lot and every so often my knee feels odd.

I can run 6 miles pain free.  I can ride my bike pain free.  I can play tennis with my kids.  I can swim all the different strokes without pain.  I have full range of motion, with some tightness on the quad stretch.

Am I healed?  No.  It can feel loose sometimes and have strange pains.  I suspect I will have occasional pains and a lot of work to do strengthening the support for my knees for a while.  However, as an active person, I don’t know what it feels like to not have little pains on a regular basis.  So, I suppose it is back to business as usual.  Just got to work on the wife about the soccer and those crits.

Bus Stop 2014

I completed my first Bus Stop ride of the year last night.  As I have mentioned before (http://everydayracer.com/2012/05/03/redemption-at-the-bus-stop/) this ride is pretty intense and is a good way to gage fitness.

This is only my 9th or 10th ride since hurting my knee, making it my 9th or 10th ride in 3 months.  Since we had all the flood damage, the ride has been changed quite a bit and the route was still in debate at the beginning of the ride.  We ended up going down 36 to St. Vrain road, then 75th to Hygiene and back again.   The loop is pretty easy, except the climb on St. Vrain, which is where I departed the group.  I usually have a hard time there when I am fit and only stay with the top 10 guys or so that make it over that climb when I am at my best.  I ended up hanging in longer than many on the ride and felt very comfortable.  The new bike was quite quick on the front, which took a bit of getting used to in a group ride setting.   I’ll have more of an update on the bike to finish my series on the S3 frame once I get a few more miles in.  My legs (including my knee) and lungs felt fine.  They weren’t too tired today and I was able to run 6 miles around the reservoir this morning.  So overall – a good outing for my first time in a group since my injury (really since February due to my lack of time on the bike this year).  I think the group went pretty slow and easy, which was perfect for me to get back out there.

My frame building partner in crime, Brent, received a request for some photos from a bike component manufacture.  Lucky as I am in life, my wife happens to be a great photographer and we hooked up a photo session to highlight some details of a few of Brent’s builds.  Here are some of my favs.  Enjoy.

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After finally getting the brazing figured out I was able to get the finishing started.  This did not go as planned.  I was up for the work, but I didn’t realize I would be so bad at it that I would actually kill off some of my tools.  I broke a file, broke the transmission on my dremel and wore out so many tips that I had to reinvest in my whole sanding/grinding system.  I must have refinished my welds at least 10 times each joint.  Talk about inexperience really coming into affect.  The enemies of a good finish are:

  1. Low spots. This took me way to many times to figure out.
  2. Pin holes. Contamination and too much flux seem to cause these issues. The great thing about pin holes are that they like to magically appear right when you think the joint looks perfect. If these aren’t remedied, they can make your welds look pot marked. No bueno.
  3. Out of proportion. Keeping the welds looked balanced and proportionate is an art. It actually pretty fun to sculpt the joints. However if you get this wrong its do over time.
  4. Not enough brazing laid down. Got to have enough material to make the joint strong and to work with to sculpt.

As you can see I eventually got there.  I developed some nice calluses in the process.

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Once the miters are all good and the geometry is the way I wanted, the welding commenced.  Braze welding is an art and I was starting from a big disadvantage.

  1. First time using my torch
  2. First time on S3 tubing
  3. First time fully brazing a whole bike
  4. First time using this type of flux and brass

Most builders would rightly start out on some cheapo tubing set and then move upwards to finally getting to S3.  I have a slightly different philosophy and mush less wise one.  I like to learn on what I plan on building with and know that if you can do the hardest stuff, then you can do the easy stuff if you want to later.  I also acknowledge that I may have to redo and start over a lot in order to figure it out. I did a decent amount of practicing with some old tubes before I started.  This was obviously needed just to get used to the setup, heat control and to learn how the brazing material behaves.

I did have one advantage, my buddy at Rabid Frameworks has popped out so many bikes with the setup I am using that he has a lot of lessons learned to share.  He also was able to be a resource for me to bounce questions off of and to brainstorm solutions together.  We actually were able to do some late mods on the frame late into the build together.  Another advantage – I was in no hurry.  The frame ended up taking 4 months to build because I wanted to use this build as a prototype and to take the time to learn.

I have attached a variety of my welds as I went.  As you will see they were pretty pathetic.   I am confident in their strength, but the finish was awful.  I kept having contamination from the torch due to build up and incorrect settings on oxy vs propane.  I also didn’t have a good sense of how to create a consistent depth.  I also didn’t understand the finish process and had to keep going back and redoing joints after finishing them up and not liking the results.  Eventually I was able to understand more about how to build up the brazing to create the finish affect I wanted.  But the heating and reheating caused a lot of warping of the steel and probably isn’t the best experience for a steel frame to go through.  I was able to get it all back to where I wanted and to finish it off in a professional way, but I got there the hard way.  (No surprise based on my philosophy of trying to race with the pros as soon as I decided to race a bike.)

One thing that happens a lot with this kind of tubing is that it warps. Things like the head tube ovalizing or the bottom bracket bananerizing or the seat tube bulging seem to be quite common for amateurs.  I learned how to avoid this and how to fix this as I went through the process.

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Next step was to begin the design process.  Up to this point, I have been using good ol’ AutoCad.  In my efforts to be a bit more professional, I used two programs (rattleCAD and BG101) to create my design and set up the jig.  Maybe I will post more detailed descriptions of these programs later, but safe to say they provide a ton of data and give you the jig setup, not just the bike geo.

 

As usual, I like to do something different with my builds than the standard bike.  What is the point of building custom frames if they are the same as any other?   I decided to go with an integrated seatpost (more on that later) and a ever so slight compact geometry.

 

Since S3 tubes come in some crazy shapes (only the seat tube and head tube are round), the miter templates were not terribly useful.  I am crazy about getting miters correct and I was pleased that I could really get a perfect fit.  A good bike jig is really helpful for miter fit. You can put the bike together without a single weld and check the miters.  I was able to refined the miters through this process and definitely get them spot on.  I was also able to check the geometry in this process and make design decisions as I went.  For instance, I was able to think about where I wanted my seat stays to connect to my seat tube with the bike put together and not have made any commitments on welds yet.

As you can see, this steel is paper thin.  Once I get in to brazing, I’ll talk more about working on such thin tubing.

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I have been wanting to build a new steel road frame for a long time.  Instead of a traditional lugged frame, I decided to go with a full brazed bike.  I have been doing a bit of brazing on all my bikes for certain joints, but this would be 100% brazed.  This look provides a near carbon frame appearance and gives the builder a much larger amount of leeway when choosing build options.   I also wanted to build a cutting edge frame, so I chose True Temper S3 tubing.  Instead of getting all custom with tubing choices, I decided to go with the full S3 build and trust True Tempers engineering.  Another big difference with this build is that I used the Anvil Journeyman Jig, lent to me from Rabid Frameworks.  Pretty crazy setup and it makes things SOOO much easier.  However, I would find out as I went that the jig is just a tool and like any other tool, the builder has to really know what they are doing to get the most out of the tool and get the bike right.

 

Poppa's Gotta Brand New Jig

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