Rivendell Appaloosa

Photo courtesy of Rivendell Bicycles Works https://www.rivbike.com/

I recently ordered this lovely 2018 Rivendell Appaloosa frame.  It is designed for 650b wheels (a 51 cm frame) and has 135 mm rear spacing.

Why?  I have many wonderful bikes that I thoroughly enjoy riding.  But one thing I have never had since 1999 is a bicycle soul mate – that’s the year I crashed my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour.  Since then, while I have ridden many excellent bikes, I have never found that one bike that speaks to me, a bike that will take me into the next decades of riding, with comfort, competence, and a spiritual connection that is hard to explain.

In 2012 I built a 650b frameset while attending UBI’s frame building class here in Portland.  That experience helped me realize two things:  experienced frame builders have much knowledge and lore that newbies should respect and value. And, many cycling “experts” don’t know a thing about frame geometry, especially as it applies to riders under 5’6″.  One of the (few?) nice things about being an accountant by trade is that math comes naturally to me.  So, understanding the complexity of frame geometry has always been a high priority.

The 650b frame I built back in 2012 is currently being repaired with additional brazing on one of the lug joints that I didn’t do so well at filling with silver the first time out.  When that frame has been sand blasted and painted, I’ll build it up.

Rivendell Appy in shipping garb

Meanwhile, I received shipment of the Rivendell Appaloosa and 650b Velocity wheelset I had ordered earlier this winter.  When the frame arrived I was amazed to see that Rivendell had protected and packaged the frame in a way that only bike geeks can appreciate. As a buyer of bike frames, I have received countless frames shipped with no tubing or drop out protection.  Some eBay sellers simply do not have a clue as to how to properly ship a bike frame, so: Caveat Emptor.

As expected, this bike’s paint scheme is lovely, in fact, extraordinary for this price point.  The fork crown has ornate patterns, with mounting holes on top to accept stays for a front rack.  The Appaloosa head badge is fun and interesting (it’s a Rivendell!), and all the lugs have been filed and well brazed.  For a frameset that costs the consumer a mere $1,300, the value is clearly reflected in these features.  A Rivendell frame is one step away from custom, but inexpensive compared to custom options.

Is this a cargo bike?

Horseshoe seat tube/seat post drilling

Whether you want a kickstand or not – here is the bracket for it

Beefier than any other dropout – and with two threaded eyelets.

Two more eylets on the rear dropouts

3 rack mounts on the seat stays, plus the eyelets on the dropouts.

Silver tubes – butted and cro-mo

One thing to note about Rivendell frames is that they can have a longer wheelbase and longer chainstays than expected.  This Appaloosa has 51 cm chainstays. That means it is in cargo bike territory for its wheelbase.  For this frame (advertised as 51 cm size), I measured the seat tube as 50 cm and the top tube as 55.5 cm.  These measurements differ from the specs shown on Rivendell’s website.  My measurements are center to center.

There are a few condition issues with the frame.  The seat stay cluster was filed very thin, but the upper portion extends outward, and with a little paint loss, is not ideal.  Also the rear canti stud braze-ons are not well executed.  They look unprofessional, but after examination I think they will be safe to ride.  The head badge was not glued evenly to the head tube, as shown above.  Naturally, I am documenting these issues in case anything arises with the performance of the bike.

Because the frame is heavier than other frames that I ride, I expect to replace the FSA headset and the low-end Shimano bottom bracket.  I’ve got lots of interesting vintage options in my parts bin that are lighter weight and probably more likely to last through the ages, as well as provide better performance.  Smaller riders can benefit from weight savings, and I intend to focus on that as I consider options for components.

Setting Up a French Cyclo Rear Derailleur, Part II

Cyclo rear derailleur with cable installed – 1941 Goeland

The 1941 Goeland I have been gradually “restoring” (translate: preserving and making rideable again) was equipped with a French Cyclo rear derailleur.  The French model is not to be confused with its British counterpart.  Although the two derailleurs operate with a helical sliding bolt and friction shifting, the set-up of the cables and shifters is different between the two country’s versions.  The French model features a c’est la vie attitude:  no cable stops; no housing; set up success determined by your close connection to someone in the know.  The British version has cable stops at both ends and cable housing for the entire length of the one piece cable (often described as a two piece system) which has a nipple welded to the middle of the cable to fit the slot in the helical bolt.  The two Cyclo models seem to be a case of British pragmatism vs. French ingenuity.  I think both are to be enjoyed and experienced.

A British Cyclo 3 speed model

According to Classic Lightweights, the Cyclo rear derailleur was first introduced in France in 1924.  It was the most widely used rear derailleur from the 1930’s through the early 50’s.  Disrealigears has a more extensive discussion of the company’s history which you can read about here It seems that while the British version of this derailleur thrived in the 1920’s through the 1950’s, the French version was under attack by and ultimately succumbed to Simplex.  That may explain the difficulty involved in setting up the French version of this rear gear changer.

 

Shifter cable routed through derailleur spring.

Once you have sourced an appropriate cable (I harvested a NOS cable from a British Cyclo, which had its nipple welded on to the cable – you can also source a nipple that can be threaded on to any tandem length shifter cable), one of the most baffling elements of the set up is how to keep cable tension on the rear nipple, which must engage the helicoid bolt in order for the gear to shift.  The photo above from a 1956 advertisement shows that the cable is routed through the derailleur spring. This definitely helps keep the cable nipple in place, but it is not a perfect solution.  Nevertheless, this is how I set up the shifter cable for the 1941 Goeland.

The 1940s Cyclo shifter is a pretty little thing, weighing about nothing, but looking very nice.  The arm of the shifter angles away from the frame just enough, but the length of this shifter’s lever is short compared to others of this era. The entire device is made from aluminum alloy, except for the outer steel cover, shown above. 

This is the “conjoiner” which connects the two shifter cable ends together.  It is probably actually some kind of evil spirit.  No joy can be derived from working with this little device.  It fits into the slot on the inside of the shifter.  I can’t really comment from here except to say:  watch out!

Here is the conjoiner coming out of its slot  (of course!) on the shifter.  I had become too confident when I thought I had my cable tension dialed in. So, when the conjoiner popped out of the shifter, I realized that where was no way to avoid the double wrapping and shifter twisting steps that I used when setting up a 1947 version on my Camille Daudon.

French 3 speed freewheel prior to cleaning and lubrication.

Rigida 650b wheelset with 1941 rear hub – a flip flop version with butted spokes.

I am still in the process of restoring the 1941 Rigida Deco 650b wheelset.  That has involved re-tensioning the spokes, cleaning and reviving the rims, and rebuilding the hubs.  The freewheel has now been removed, cleaned and lubricated.  The threads on the filp flop rear hub are in good shape, so once I have the freewheel back on the rear wheel, with a period correct chain installed, the set up of the rear derailleur should proceed with haste – or so I hope!

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural Restoration – a Brief Test Ride

Mid Century Mercier Meca Dural – Autumn 2017

MId Century Mercier Meca Dural – Winter 2017

Today I ventured out for a test ride on this Mid-Century Mercier Meca Dural – a bike which had been incorrectly modified when I acquired it last fall.  I spent the winter restoring it and replacing many of the incorrect and missing components. But, I hadn’t had time in my schedule to get the bike out on the road for a test ride until now.

Vintage Rigid Chain Guard

Carradice Long Flap saddlebag – stuffed with all the possible tools need for a first test ride.

Unfortunately, I chose a bad moment to take the bike out to Sauvie Island – one of my favorite low key cycling jaunts.  It’s the weekend before Halloween, which I realized only too late upon arriving at the Sauvie Island parking lot where cyclists normally unload their bikes for a journey around the bucolic beauty of this little island treasure near Portland.  That meant hordes of cars heading to the Pumpkin Patch – a place where kids can enjoy all kinds of thrilling Halloween activities.  There are no shoulders on the flat roads of Sauvie Island, so cyclists who venture there rely upon the good will of the Island’s drivers, which is usually just fine.  Today, however, was not the right day to take an untested bike into this environment, and that realization dawned on me after just a few minutes of cycling on the Meca Dural’s duralumin frame.

Original alloy Guidonnet Levers.

The ride I cut short to avoid the stress of a steady stream of vans and SUVs passing too close provided some valuable information.  One thing I learned was that these original guidonnet aluminum alloy levers have an unusually long reach, so if you need to brake suddenly and don’t have gigantic hands, you may not stop as quickly as you would like.

C.M. long reach calipers.

The C.M. long reach brake calipers have quite a bit of flex under hard braking.  This caused the front brake to jump a bit when I attempted to stop suddenly.  That may simply mean that the brake mounting bolts need a bit more torque – so that’s an issue to sort out.

Chain guard mounting hardware.

I also discovered that the lovely vintage Rigid chain guard which I had installed using a combination of new and vintage mounting hardware needed adjustment, as the chain rubbed against the guard in the lowest gear. Fortunately, this mounting hardware makes it very easy to adjust the position of the chain guard by turning the nuts on the long connecting bolts.

Vintage Simplex Grand Tourisme rear derailleur.

The 3 speed freewheel is mated to a 46 tooth Louis Verot chainring on Stronglight 49d crank arms.  The small cogs make for high gearing, which was almost too high even on the totally flat roads of Sauvie Island.  One solution will be to locate a vintage french threaded freewheel with larger cogs.  The bell crank actuated Simplex derailleur worked perfectly and can definitely handle larger-toothed cogs. Shifting was straightforward, with no noticeable over-shifting required. Since I didn’t have the original chain, I had guessed at the chain length.

The ride quality overall was comfortable. I attribute this primarily to these wonderfully preserved vintage Mavic 650b rims and the new Panasonic tires, inflated to fairly low pressures, as well as to the flex characteristics of the duralumin frame.  This bicycle’s frame design doesn’t include an extra set of mixte stays extending to the rear drop out.  Initially, I experienced a bit of a wobbly feel at the front end, which would likely become a non-issue once a rider gets this bike underway for a few miles.

Meca Dural ornate aluminum lugs joined by internal steel expanders. Kitty is optional equipment.

After this brief ride I know what is needed to make the bike more useful and reliable.  And, I didn’t worry about the Meca Dural aluminum tubes – they performed no differently than any steel framed bike I have ridden.  The bike as pictured weighs 24 lbs – very impressive considering the full fenders, chain guard, and dynamo lighting system.  The next time I ride this bike, I hope to have a bit longer and more enjoyable ride.