My final post on this build is all about the ride, except for the part about my naïve error.
So let’s just get it out of the way – I underestimated the strength needs of the integrated seat mast. After some research, I found that I really should have used a seat mast sleeve that would have created a much thicker and much more stable junction for the seat tube/top tube/ seat mast intersection. The super light S3 seat post just doesn’t cut it. In fact it really should be twice as thick through the intersection. As I was building the frame, I had my suspicions. So I really beefed up the intersection welds, but ended up crimping the area just above the welds after I rode the bike a few times. The great thing about steel is that it is generally fixable. I thought about a variety of fixes, but the one I felt the most confidence in is my patented “triple triangle” approach. In other words I welded a very small support tube to the seat mast and the top tube to create a very strong triangle that would allow the seatmast to have a much larger support at the juncture. While you can argue the aesthetic impact is not great, it definitely worked. I have ridden the bike on many a very rough dirt road at 30+ mph on descents and it has held up. Other than this “minor”[i] setback on my prototype frame, it has held up without flaw.
Other stuff I learned about S3, definitely use a thicker head tube or use some type of lugs/banding. The head tube is too thin to ride well and doesn’t take to brazing to well. As you can see, I created some cool sleeves to create a stiff head tube and a nice little frame detail. So back to the fun stuff.
The paint job. I happened to finish the bike around Father’s Day and my wife suggested the kids paint the frame as part of the event. As you can see, it was an awesome suggestion. After a primer and base glossy black coat, the kids did their thing and I finished with a few layers of clear. The paint job is holding up OK, but isn’t nearly as chip proof than a powder coat. I plan on adding a clear with a hardener eventually after I ride it for a while and touch up any chips.
So now for the ride. I simply love this bike. It descents stable and fast. Feels light and snappy. Sprints well, although just a bit less stiff than my Scandium Felt. And I don’t really mind. Handles a bit quick, but not alarmingly so. I know the bike rides well when I don’t even care if I am going fast. It is just so smooth and comfortable, without giving up the racing feel that I demand out of any of my frames. I don’t know if I could be happier considering this is a prototype approach. The only thing (besides the seatpost issue) that I would change is the rear dropouts. I wanted a seamless look and so I used inserted dropouts that I could only get in a semi-horizontal setup from Henry James. Unfortunately that make getting a tire in and out a bit difficult and I have already had the wheel slide a bit after rolling through some tough dirt roads. Not a huge issue, but an area for improvement. I would also add internal cable routing as well.
I think the frame is the best I have ever ridden for me. The fit is right on (as it should be) and it handles better than expected. I can’t say enough for the S3 steel. It is just perfect. And the brazing allows a builder to create a nice large platform for the areas you want to disperse force and by shaping the brazing you can actually control the contact patch for the force distribution based on how you want the bike to ride. The crazy thing is how light the bike can be made. I am riding a 56.5 cm top tube and the bike is weighing 16.3 lbs. as shown in the photos. I plan on making another frame with some added cool details and adjustments in the future, but for now I am really enjoying the bike.