Goodbye, Little ALAN

1980's ALAN Cyclocross

I have enjoyed riding around on this tiny ALAN cyclocross bike.  I originally purchased it several years ago for a family member who is about 5′ tall on a good day.  She had been riding a small framed newer Trek with 700c wheels, and while the Trek has nice components, the geometry is pretty awful.  But, many shorter riders have never experienced anything different, because the cycling industry has not met their needs.

Enter the ALAN.  It was designed around 24 ” wheels, with a 48 x 48 cm frame.  When I spotted it on eBay it looked like this:

alan

Those are 170 mm Dura Ace cranks – on a bike with a 24 cm bottom bracket height.  Needless to say, there is no way that you would pedal through corners on this configuration.  So, I began the process of modifying the bike,  and at first I tried this configuration:

I changed out the crankset for a single 152 mm 52T vintage crank.  Unfortunately, this just did not provide the right gearing for the bike.  So, I reconsidered the whole build.  The deep drop Cinelli bars made no sense for a small rider with short arms.  The downtube shifters were also a bit of a reach.  That made me think that a city-type build might be best for this bike.  So, I came up with this set-up using a double 152 mm 50/39 Sugino crankset.  I replaced the rear Dura Ace derailleur with a Shimano Deore XT long cage, but kept the Dura Ace front derailleur, Dura Ace headset, and Dura Ace bottom bracket.  I used some vintage upright bars with a Shimano 7 speed index system.

ALAN in city mode

And this is how I rode around on this bike for the last 2 years (test riding is very time-consuming).  Finally though, my thoroughly enjoyable test riding has come to an end.  So, I needed to really rethink how the new rider would use this bike, as well as how her small size would effect the choices I made.  Since she is used to a road bike configuration, I decided to replace the city bars and shifters with a narrow SR Randonneur bar, bar end shifters (for an easy reach), and these beautiful Modelo drilled levers, which have very small hoods and a short reach to the levers.

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I kept the rest of the bike pretty much the same – here are some photos of its features:

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Dura Ace calipers

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ALAN logo

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Beautiful engraving on the ALAN head lugs, Dura Ace headset

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Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur

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American Classic 25mm seatpost

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Sugino 50/39 crankset with 152 mm arms

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Dura Ace front derailleur

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Shimano 600 tri-color front and rear hubs on Mavic 24″ Open 4 CD rims

If you haven’t ridden an ALAN before, you are in for a treat.  The frame is very comfortable, and hill climbing is a breeze.  The aluminum tubes are screwed and glued into beautiful stainless steel lugs.  This little bike weighs in at 19 lbs!  I used this bike often for my daily Pdx commutes – what a joy.  The tiny wheels make for quick acceleration.  It has been one of the best city bikes I have ridden.

There were some challenges in setting up the bike.  The very short chainstays mean that it is not possible to select certain gearing configurations – namely the biggest ring on the biggest cog and vice versa.  But that is a normal limitation on many bikes.  Also, while I agree with most of the frame geometry decisions on this bike, I am puzzled by the amount of bottom bracket drop selected.  It would have been easy to build the bike with less drop, and that would make it more feasible to use a longer crankset without worrying about pedal strikes while cornering.

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Here is the bike now, ready for its transport to Central Oregon where I hope it will be well-loved and well-ridden.  The seat post and stem height are still set up for my size, showing how small this bike really is, given that I am 5’4″.  I’ll be test-riding it for a few more weeks to make sure everything is just right, and then it will be time to say good-bye to this wonderful machine.  It is a rare bike, and a great testament to the ALAN company’s frame building skills.  Thank you for building this little bike – it is a treasure.

1980's ALAN Cyclocross

 

1980’s Viner City Bike Conversion

1980's Viner

A few posts back I featured this Viner that I had purchased with the intention to disassemble it and keep the frame on hand for a potential build.  Well, I kept looking at the frame and couldn’t help thinking how much fun it would be to convert the bike to 650c (from 700c) and to build it into a city bike.  A city bike in Portland, Oregon is not the same as a city bike in other cycling hubs across the globe.  We have hills here, we have bridges, shockingly little cycling infrastructure, and hence relatively fast commutes compared to more laid back cities such as Amsterdam.  The ideal city bike in Portland (at least for now) is a bike that is nimble, fast, and lightweight.

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

So, I built the bike back up, keeping as many of the original components as would make sense for the build.  However, once I got into the project I could see that the only components that should be kept were the original crankset (Ofmega Mistral with Campagnolo rings), Shimano Italian threaded bottom bracket,  Shimano 105 front derailleur, Atax stem, and Shimano 105 shifters.

During the time I was working on the bike, I heard from a reader who asked me how you can tell a real Viner from a fake one.  Well, I was surprised that anyone would even try to fake a Viner, but apparently this has happened.  After doing some research I found an informative blog that helped to clarify this point:  all real Viner’s have their bottom brackets stamped with the seat tube length ( in cm) on the underside of the BB.  This is how you can be certain that you are riding a real Viner vs. a fake.  This Viner has “49” stamped on the underside of the BB, and it is a 49 cm frame.1980's Viner

The success of converting a bike from 700c to 650c depends on the original frame geometry.  A bike with a lot of BB drop, and with a shallow head tube angle can present more of a challenge than a bike that has a steep head tube and not so much BB drop.  Also, a bike with very little fork rake combined with a slack head tube angle can also present a challenge when converted to 650c.  Unfortunately, this little bike had all of those frame geometry problems.  It’s a small bike that should probably never have been built for 700c tires.  To shorten the top tube a very steep 74 degree seat tube angle was used, combined with a slack 71 degree head tube angle, and very little fork rake at 45 mm.  The result:  a bike with more wheel flop and trail than is ideal in my opinion.  However, converting the bike to 650c IMPROVED the wheel flop and trail numbers substantially – going from a wheel flop factor of 21 to 19 mm and a trail measurement of 69 to 58 mm.  I did this frame a favor by converting it to 650c.  Some vintage Viners (all of which were hand-built) feature very fancy lugs with cutouts.  This frame is simpler, but all of the finish work is outstanding.

Beautiful finish work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Beautiful work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Columbus drop-outs, fully chromed chain stays

Columbus drop outs, fully chromed chainstay

I used a Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur in case the new owner of this bike wants to use index shifting (which works fine with the Shimano 105 downtube shifters and this derailleur) and/or larger cogs in the back.  With the 42/52 rings, lower gearing in the form of larger cogs for city riding can be helpful.  The cassette I installed is 12-30, giving a low gear of 34 inches for this wheel size.  If the new owner wants to convert the bike back to a road bike, all that is needed would be to swap out the bars and levers for road-type equipment and possibly change out the cassette.  Here are some photos of the rest of the build:

Omfega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

Ofmega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

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Mavic CXP33 black rims with silver sidewalls

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Nitto Northroad bars with Lizard Skin red white and blue grips and original Atax stem

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Ultegra hubs with 32 holes front and rear

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Ofmega Mistral crankset – considered one of the nicest cranksets ever made

One of the nice things about this Viner is the color of the frame.  It is seemingly black – but also purple/brown in low light.  The black Mavic rims with the silver sidewalls seemed to be just about perfect in highlighting the frame color.  I had fun building up this bike, but I do NOT want to have too much fun test riding it – I have too many bikes in my stable already.

 

Extreme Bike Makeover: 1980’s Guerciotti

rando conversion

I’ve been riding this 1980’s Guerciotti for several years now.  When I first purchased it, as a frame and fork, I converted it to 650c, and turned it in to a city commuter, as shown in the photo below:

When my Nitto city bars were recalled, and the promised replacement bar never arrived, I decided to convert it back to a regular road bike, emphasizing its slightly garish 1980’s color scheme:

1980's Guerciotti

I really enjoy riding this bike – it is fast and a great hill climber.  My theory about its superior performance is that its small diameter seat stays and the short wheelbase make it fly up hills.  I won’t say whether the bike “planes” as I am not convinced of this theory, although I do find it interesting.  Whatever the case, I can ride this bike over hill and dale and not tire out the way I do on my other bikes.  Converting it to 650c made the handling a little more responsive, with more stability a lower speeds due to the lower trail.  It also lowered the bottom bracket which theoretically stabilizes it on descents.  One problem, though was that the bike was built for racing and so it lacks fender and rack mounts.  I was using clip-on fenders, but those really aren’t adequate for riding through Portland’s winter rains.  So, I decided to try installing full coverage fenders, and to take advantage of its relatively low trail by mounting a front rack so that I could use a rando bag.

fender mounts fender zip tie

In order to mount fenders to a frame with no eyelets, p-clamps normally work pretty well.  The fork was fairly slender at the base but I shimmed the clamps and got them to hold.  The rear mounts were more difficult.  The seat stays on this bike are very small diameter, and even with a shim, the p-clamp could not grip the stay.  Instead, I used 3 zip ties and mounted them to the hole in the Gipiemme dropouts,  with one of the ties serving as a block to the open loop of the stays.

Planet Bike fenders

I like these Planet Bike Cascadia fenders.  They have dual stays front and rear which makes for 4 mounting points at the rear and 3 in the front.  Plus, they have nice long mud-flaps which really help keep your feet, drive train, and other riders drafting behind you dry.  Because this bike uses recessed brake nuts, I needed to find a way to mount the fenders to the brake bridge and fork crown.  On the front, I simply mounted the fender in front of the fork crown, but for the rear I needed Sheldon Brown’s “fender nuts“.  I didn’t want to wait around for a shipment, so I made my own by tapping 6 x 1 mm threads into the 5 mm nut head.  I didn’t tap too far down, and used a short bolt, so that I wouldn’t compromise the allen head at the base of the inside of the nut.

made by Wilken inspired by Sheldonfender spacer

Then I needed a pretty big spacer at the chain stays to make the fender line right (the fenders were designed for 700c wheels) and also to allow enough room for the front derailleur to move freely.  This set-up is a bit “spring loaded” with pressure from the rear fender going toward the seat tube.  If it starts to rattle, I’ll try something else.  The chain stay bridge was not drilled so I fashioned a hook to insert from underneath the frame.

Mounting the Nitto front rack was a breeze.  It is fully adjustable and should fit just about any kind of front end.  Good job, Nitto.

cloth bar tapebar end lights

For the rest of the build, I re-taped the bars with more conservative black tape, using the traditional method of starting at the stem and working toward the bar-ends.  In this way, there’s no ugly electrician’s tape, but you need solid bar end plugs to make it work well.  I have these nifty bar end lights, and although they don’t put out a ton of light, they definitely help others see me while riding at night.  Of course I use a head and tail light as well.

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I swapped out the white Tektro long reach brakes (Model R556) for some silver ones, but kept the rest of the build the same, including the Campagnolo Record head-set, bottom bracket, and Centaur crankset.  I am using Shimano shifters and derailleurs in friction mode and this bike shifts quicker and more silently than any other bike I own.

700c to 650c conversion

I am pleased with the bike’s new look and new utility.  Being able to use a front bag (Velo-Orange model shown above) will be really nice.  And commuting through the winter on this bike will be much more enjoyable with the full coverage fenders.