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.

2014-11-06 001 015 2014-11-06 002 007

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

2014-11-06 001 006

Dura Ace calipers

2014-11-06 001 005

ALAN logo

2014-11-06 001 012

Beautiful engraving on the ALAN head lugs, Dura Ace headset

2014-11-06 001 010

Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur

2014-11-06 002 006

American Classic 25mm seatpost

2014-11-06 001 008

Sugino 50/39 crankset with 152 mm arms

2014-11-06 002 004

Dura Ace front derailleur

2014-11-06 001 019

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.

2014-11-06 002 002

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

 

Theresa’s New (Old) Raleigh

1976 Raleigh Gran Sport

1976 Raleigh Gran Sport

My partner in all things, Theresa, has been riding a Raleigh Alyeska touring bike for the last decade or so.  While it is a great bike, it is a touring bike and relatively heavy.  So, when we ride together I often feel that I am cheating by zipping around on one of my nimbler machines.  And, the Alyeska’s top tube is just a bit shorter than she prefers, so I decided to build up this Raleigh Gran Sport, which has a longer top tube, into a lighter weight iteration of its original self.

The early 60’s version of the Gran Sport was something of a sought after machine, with Sheldon Brown describing his lust for its Campagnolo components, even though at this time the frame was built with standard tubing.  This model, which I have dated to approximately 1976, is built with Reynolds 531 tubing for both the frame and fork, and it sports a Carlton logo as well.  However, some of its original components left something to be desired, such as the low end plastic Simplex derailleurs and shifters.

2014-09-14 001 009 2014-09-14 001 010 2014-09-14 001 012

I admit to a great fondness for this beautiful sky blue color scheme.  It is reminiscent of my 1976 Centurion Pro Tour.  With the white accents, I decided it was really necessary to use white cable housing.  I set up the drivetrain using Suntour components.  I had a NOS Suntour V-GT rear derailleur that I mated to a single bar end shifter.  I used a vintage Sugino crank with an SR drilled 42 tooth ring.  The freewheel is an early index version 6 speed 14/30 Shimano.  Index freewheels actually work better with friction shifters than non-index versions.

2014-09-14 001 004 2014-09-14 001 008

I wanted to keep this bike very light and simple, so there is no front derailleur or extra shifter.  To add to its elegance and feathery weight, I decided to use my treasured Campagnolo/Mavic wheelset.  This was one of the first sets I built, using smooth as butter vintage Campy hubs laced to new Mavic Open Pro 36 hole rims.  That meant a conversion to 700c, from the bike’s original 27 inch wheel diameter – not a problem at all.

2014-09-14 001 007 2014-09-14 001 006 2014-09-14 001 014

The blue color in the Mavic logo nicely accents the sky blue frame.  For the riding position, Theresa expressed a preference to be more stretched out as well as upright enough to make city riding safe and enjoyable.  I was thinking of using these big ol’ Soma bars, but I knew I would need a pretty long reach for the stem.  I found this Nitto stem with a whopping 130 mm of reach, but it had to be shipped from Japan!

Soma Oxford bars Cardiff saddle

I also ordered this very pretty Cardiff saddle, a brand which I have come to love (one is installed on my Meral), and I will be curious to see how she likes this compared to the Brooks on her current bike.  I used Mafac Racer centerpull brakes, and installed a small TA randonneur rack to mount to the front calipers.  Probably we will add a minimalist rear rack at some point, as well as some fenders.  These 35 mm Panaracer Paselas will be perfect for the kind of riding we do.  One of the very nice features on this frame is the elegant cable stop for the rear brake.

2014-09-14 001 005

I found some light blue cloth bar tape from Velox that matches the frame perfectly.  To keep with the vintage appearance I used Velo Orange’s City brake levers.  Now this nice old Raleigh has a new look and a new lease on life.  I am looking forward to Theresa’s first test ride!

2014-09-14 001 001