Lugged steel, baby.

This is the first post. Not the low post or the high post, but the first post.

Come 2009, I’ll be buying a new transit vehicle/toy/tool/pleasure machine. A new bicycle. Yes, that’s right. “Moose”, the 42 lb purple Trek 720 steel hybrid I’ve been riding since the mid 90s will become the guest bike. The car will continue as is (no heat, cracked windshield, upholstery shot to hell, mismatched side view mirror). Engine still running smooth six years after Robbie rebuilt the transmission at 110K though. A few more years of smooth sailing brings me to 200K and then I take Robbie head out for his steak dinner.

After planning to scour the internets and ebay (have you seen this search filter?, thanks Mr. Roby for this hookup  Jaxed Mash ) and buy a used old school steel frame and fork, I’ve changed my mind.


First I thought, “fuck it” I’m going to get a Rivendell. Retro-grouch nirvana. Rivendell Bikes

But the more I thought about it the more it seems their lugs are a lil too ornate/loud, and while I buy much of their philosophy about bike fit and riding it seems like slightly more of an older country gentlemen or connisseur kind of bike. Or for the kind of 30 year old that has a big bushy beard. And I’m still on the shy side of 40, I’m too skinny for a beard to look good on me,I live in Durham, North Carolina, and I ain’t too proud to enjoy Miller Hi-Life out of a can. (Union made beer has a helluva logo too, both the type oriented logo, and the cowgirl hanging out up on the moon. When I die that’s where I wanna go). 

So then I thought… I’ll get a Surly Cross Check or a Soma Smoothie ES or a Salsa Casseroll.  Lil more indepenent/punk spirit what-ever and can take fattish tires. They are steel, tig-welded, not lugged, but steel nonetheless. They’re darn nice bikes and a helluva lot better ride than what I’ve got going on now, right?

Then I’m like… Hell no, I ain’t taking a knee. I will get what I really want. (FLASHBACK; a Saturday afternoon, not too long ago. State 41, UNC 10. What was that announcer thinking, take a knee on first and goal from the one with 3 minutes to go?!? Watch this, buddy.)

Or, as Tim put it… “no way in hell you’re going to settle for some mass-produced, built in a noisome, smelly maquiadora by some welding technician who wouldn’t ride a bike if you paid him and gets his lunch from a fast-food drive-thru or the vending machines in the greasy break room, TIG-welded, metallic beige compromise bike? While you’re taking food out of the mouth of a struggling artisan who lives and breathes Reynolds tubing, who can and will talk to you for an hour about the pros and cons of changing the fork angle 1 degree, who won’t be happy until you’ve put a thousand miles on your new bike and love it even more than when it was new, who rides a different bike to work every day, and who won’t even try too hard to dissuade you from clear-coating the bare metal instead of painting it?”

Ladies and gentlemen, Tim Schrand. Mr. Ten-Speed Carpenter. Clearly ready for a second career as a marketing copywriter.

The new strategy is to find a custom bike builder. I figure I run a custom design and letterpress shop, I should support like minded craftspeople who are all about building great bikes. The world is what we make it, right?

Lugged steel, relaxed geometry with a semi-longeish wheelbase, a rear rack, clearance for up to 35mm tires, and a 50/34 compact crank up front are the guiding parameters at this point. The bike has to do everything. First off, get me to work across pot-holed roads with Bella attached to the bike with a walky dog leash. It’ll also be for occasional grocery runs and errands.

It can’t be so heavy I can’t keep up with the boys on the Tuesday night ride. Our “10-Speed Carpenter” Tim the Schrandyman has two speeds. On. And Off. Not much in between. Thomas my website builder is right there with him while I tend to fade back just a bit on the uphills. You try riding Moose with these guys on their 9lb fixies. Back to my new bike…. It needs to make good time from Old West Durham to Carter-Finley so I can be assured proper time tail-gating before the State game. The new bike needs to be fun to take out on half-day weekend spins where I end up on the gravel roads around the ice cream store on Dairlyland or look for side spurs and check out the occasional fire trail. And you never know when you may end up on a dead-end road and need to throw the thing over a barbed wire fence to cut through some federal no trespass land to get to where you intended without involving a back-track. (Globe road anyone?). It should look good locked up outside the bar. Of course it must have some primo (but very tasteful) typography on the frame and in true retro-grouch style a kick ass head badge. 

The Circle A crew sure looks like they put out some great work. Eye Candy here  

Before I get my wish list too long I need to actually raise some dough re mi though. And Bella still has some training to prove she is Walky Dog ready. Back to work.

Love to hear about anyone’s stories getting a custom bike,  pictures of your favorite ride (noun or verb), or thoughts on bike builders who can make a kick ass lugged steel frame and fork for under two grand and without enduring more than a six month wait.

See you at the Handmade Bicycle Show


7 Responses to “Lugged steel, baby.”

  1. I wish I knew what the hell you were talking about.

  2. Meant to add: but I sure enjoyed the read.

  3. Riv is going to be introducing some Taiwan made frames with more sedate paint jobs. The Hillborne might be what you’re looking for. Otherwise for custom, ‘heard good things about Oswald.

  4. *sniff* yer makin me tear up over here. You’ve sold me on custom, fer sher. I lusted after ANT for quite awhile, but it looks like they’re utility-only at this point and have shed their road and touring options. With a long-term fondness for things circle-a, particularly the more spectacular among them, it makes sense to investigate the bikes, too (despite its use as a brand here – does it come with a pic of Che?).

    Keep posting here, I look forward to keeping an eye on this.


  5. forget checking the NYTimes, this is my new coffee break reading material.

  6. Seth Vidal Says:

    Coho is right here in NC and they do custom, lugged frames.

    Also recommend Fast Boy Cycles in NYC. Again, custom, lugged bikes. Gorgeous, too.

  7. RoadieRyan Says:

    I guess things are the same all over. I am in Seattle, been riding a Cannondale roadbike for 10 years. Have decided recently that I would like less “go fast” and more versitilty, less two tone fade paint jobs and more cool lugs and less “harsh” Aluminum and more silky Steel. I have a hankering for Riv and or Velo Orange/Davidson/Blinkey frames but the pocketbook says Soma Speedster. Well see, gotta save the pennies and hope the paycheck keeps coming. In the meantime I ride the old steed and smile knowing that on a good day my “local loop” will allow me to see two mountain ranges, Ferry’s On Puget sound and maybe even the monolith of Mt Rainer in the distance. What was I complaining about…? Hope you post your new ride once its built


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