Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Road Bicycle

Though I've eluded to my primary whip is a few times, I haven't gone into depth about its build/development. So here is a post devoted to it.

The frame is an 88' Lotus 'Classique'. The name seems fairly inappropriate give the flamboyant paint job, and doubly given that it was advertised as their 'triathlon' model. It's a fairly traditional late 8O's road frame, with 7OOc wheels, down tube shifters, 6 spd freewheel, high gearing, and 26mm tires. There were only three very compelling reasons why I bought it: 1. it was cheap, 2. it had fender eyelets still, and 3. it was a 65cm frame c-t-c. The last reason was the selling point.

Based on the stickers that were scattered on the frame, the original owner, though not much of a wrencher, frequented long distance group rides in Texas similar to what the STP is here. The saddle was this chunky gel contraption and the bar position too aggressive for my taste. At some point, the rear wheel was trashed, and some generic hybrid wheel with too wide of a rim was installed, probably due to budgeting. The whole thing was outfitted with some impressive early 1O5 components, most notable were Sheldon's favorite short reach 1O5 side pulls. I rode it around like this for a short period; hunching over to grab the bars and shit skinny tires are not my calling.

After debating whether to make a 'true' racing machine or match my riding style, I eventually went former route first and then the latter. Back then, I was a pretty die-hard Grant Petersen follower and thought highly of fat kevlar belted tires and high and wide bars. Since then, I've change a few of my philosophies but retain a lot of those roots. After some exposure to Bicycle Quarterly, I decided to turn this bike into a bit of an experiment.

After doing some measurements with brake reach and bottom bracket drop, I determined that the bike would be a good candidate for a 65Ob conversion. I used Wheelsmith double-butted [swagged] spokes, Velocity Dyad rims, Ultegra rear hub, and a Chris King Classic front I had lying around. I didn't want to push the tire/fender clearance envelop, so I stuck with 32mm Grand Bois instead of 38 or 42mm tires. I threw on a 1O spd drive terrain and called it good.

The current set up features centerpull brakes [Dura Ace front and Dia Compe rear] 8 spd el cheapo SRAM wide-range cassette, 44-22 Deore LX cranks, Silver bar end shifters, SKS Long Board fenders and Shimano aero levers. Embarrassingly, I have a Sora long cage rear derailer that works fine with a Dura Ace front derailer... Dura Ace cartridge headset and nitto bars and stem. Handlebar bag from Rivendell.

 Though this set up has been optimized so far, there are still a number of small problems. The q-factor on the LX cranks is crazy wide, and I think I would be happier with some of those retro TA or Stronglight small BCD cranks. The handlebar bag is too high and far away from the head tube, detracting from the handling. I'm pretty displeased with the high trail fork, which feels weird both with and without the bar bag. I have wide 45cm bars to compensate for wheel flop. If I were to keep the fork, I would like to invest in a largish saddle bag. A new fork would use Imperial Oval fork blades, Grand Bois fork crown, brake post mounts for center pulls, mounts for a rack, and maybe a True Temper Platinum steerer. The Surly rear brake cable hanger is bent due to the weird shape of the binder bolt... a brazed on hanger would be cool, as well as brazed-on brake post. All of these steps would significantly improve handling, braking power, and shit hauling capacity. Metal fenders would keep water from splashing around the cleanly cut curves of the plastic fenders.

The frame is made of Ishiwata EXO 'quadruple' butted tubing. It isn't the lightest thing in the world, yet the shear size of the frame still causes a fair amount of frame flex. After this trip to Seattle and doing some reading, I've concluded that the large size of the frame enables good planing for me, as it flexes to my pedal strokes. If this was more of a touringish/load carrying build, I think the result would be less than optimal. I would install a 'diagnatube' through the main triangle if that were the case, and maybe additional stays for rear loads.

 This photo was taken at 9PM, still so much light though...


  1. Nice bike. I'm tall too -- what's the top tube length on that bike? It's always hard to find bikes with nice butted tubing in really big sizes. I usually ride 66-68cm c-t-c bikes, with 61-63 top tubes. Sometimes the top tubes on Japanese bikes of this era were short, at least for tall bikes.


  2. Top tube on it is around 60 I think. Your sizing sounds ideal for me as well; even this thing comes out a little small for what I want to do with it... It works out okay though since it has 2 or so degrees of upslope on the top tube which is kinda rare. Every time I see a frame that looks bigger than 64 or so, I get pretty excited and my head goes weird places.