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.
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:
- Low spots. This took me way to many times to figure out.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- First time using my torch
- First time on S3 tubing
- First time fully brazing a whole bike
- 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.
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.
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.
If anyone out there is looking to build in June, here is a bit of perspective that I find myself in again.
One of the most difficult things to do in any sport is enter the season midstream and perform. I always dreaded the when one of my athletes had an injury at the beginning of the season and had to get back into racing in June/July. It is very difficult to replicate game/race intensity in training. Additionally, there is a rhythm to get back into of how the bike moves, how the race plays out, etc. Then comes the first few races for the athlete, where they find themselves suffering and not placing well.
So this is where I find myself. I discussed my training camp to kick it back in and I have now been consistently getting on the bike. I raced last Tuesday and had mixed results. I didn’t finish last, but I didn’t finish 1st either. The race is on a course that I have had plenty of success and I haven’t finished out of the top 10 in a long time, years. And I often have contended for the win or won. This week I finished out of the top 15. Two days later I hit up the Bus Stop ride and did a bit better, winning the intermediate sprint and getting 2nd in the final sprint. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many super fast folks on the ride, so those results are with a grain of salt.
I have a lot of holes right now in my fitness.
1.Endurance : I would say my endurance is at a 7 out of 10. I have good tempo endurance, but not as big of a base as I should have this time of year.
2.Climbing: 8 out of 10 (which is like a 5 out of 10 for most folks). I am climbing well for me, but that doesn’t really help me out too much in my racing.
3.Speed: 6 out of 10. This is a big weakness right now. I just don’t have the high end. It is an odd feeling because this is usually where I am strongest. I love the 53×11 roll and I am struggling with how uncomfortable I am when the pace is high.
4.Sprinting: 7 out of 10. I can almost always uncork a fast sprint, no matter my fitness. However, repeatability is quite low. I have 1-3 good sprints in me on a ride. I need to both improve my speed and my ability to recover quickly. Another previous strength.
So what am I doing about this? For one I am completing a balanced training plan that will have me overreaching and playing with overtraining. I will be working on the endurance and speed portions on the list the most. Long rides, extended race pace efforts, and repeating high intensity efforts. The balance of pushing myself, and not going over the edge, in an effort to improve to quickly will be the difficult part of the equation.
There is also the mental portion of this, I have to have confidence I’ll get there. It is so odd to have the elements that are usually your go to strengths not be there in June. One advantage of being a “seasoned veteran”(code for old guy) is that you have been there before and there isn’t too much panic. I know that if I put in a solid month and do the critical training that I will be at 9 out of 10 quickly. I’ve simply gone through it enough times.