Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bike Fit is everything - Carver custom bikes - Gnarvester

Of all the aspects of cycling I have come to conclude that nothing, not frame materials, components, what some racer won some race on, nothing is as important as fit.

I became interested in the cycling activity known as Randoneuring. It is a french word roughly meaning to wander. After World War II in France people often had to search for food outside the big cities. Because there was no fuel for cars they rode bicycles. It was a way to escape the bombed out cities and enjoy the countryside. But it required them to ride long distances. Up to 300 miles a day.

Modern Randoneurs are a hearty bunch who try to duplicate the long rides of the French. I was impressed that reading about what Randoneurs use for equipment is not the who's who of lightweight equipment. They are focused primarily on fit. Every little thing that is an irritant on your 40 mile ride is going to be a big problem on your 200 mile ride. So it is more important to them to have a heavier bike that fits perfectly than a modern plastic rocket.

Modern manufacturers working in carbon and aluminium make even fewer sizes than the age of steel. It was not uncommon to have every size from 50 to 62cm in half sizes during the steel age but now customers are lucky to get a choice of small medium and large. If you happen to land in the exact size of the "average customer" then you might luck out. But many people don't.

There are three places we touch the bike while riding. The handlebars, seat and pedals. Each point of contact can be adjusted to accommodate fit. The stem can be replaced with a shorter or longer offering, fairly inexpensively. The seat can slide back and forth on it's rails and the seatpost can move up and down. The cranks come in varous lengths for a very small change in leg reach.

But when these options are not enough to adapt the small medium or large frame offerings to you a custom frame is in order. There is a surprisingly vibrant steel handmade bike business in the US with many young framebuilders joining the ranks of the skilled craftman and artisan builders. But custom steel frames, although many times are beautiful works of art, are expensive. Most custom steel frames start at $2500 and many more start at $4000 on up. There is also a long wait time, with some popular builders having wait lists for years.

I spent a lifetime trying to get a good fit following the advise of so called experts. After I started to get numb hands quickly after the start of any ride I started to get serious about figuring out what my problem was. I first realised that frame designers have stretched the top tube, or the reach between the seat and handlebars, over the years making typical bikes longer and longer. In doing research  I found that frames made in the 1970's had much shorter top tubes. I  finally bought a number of old steel road frames off Ebay and built them up and rode them until I found my perfect fit. It made a huge difference for me.

I have had the same problem with mountain bikes and now that I know what the right fit is for me I decided to get a mountain bike made to order. I could not afford the price of a custom steel frame so I went searching for an alternative.

I found Davis Carver in Woolwich Maine. Davis has a bike shop and online webstore called He also developed a relationship with a frame shop in Asia that works in titanium. He offers stock frames for many different purposes from Road to Mountain but also will do custom work. For a simple change in standard geometry, like I needed, he charged a $200 up charge from the standard $1400 cost. He also claimed he could get the frame finished in 8-12 weeks.

I have had a number of custom frames made over the years and never had a frame builder meet their stated delivery time. With some builders it was off by months. Even so the shortest time I have gotten delivery was 6 months. I simply did not believe Carver could deliver in 3 months.

But he did.

I ordered a 29+ frame he calls the Gnarvester. I had him shorten the top tube considerably from stock. It is a beautiful frame with sliding adjustable rear drop-outs, great welding quality and a nice brushed finish. Davis was really responsive to deal with and was a big help. The built-up bike fits great and really feels so much better than my old MTB bikes.

If you find yourself needing a custom fit you might give Davis a call and see what he can do for you.

Carver bikes

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pinarello Dogma MOST 55mm bottom bracket adapter converts to 68mm threaded english BB.

The last time a metal bike won the Tour de France was 2006 when Oscar Peiero was awarded the winners jersey after Floyd Landis was stripped of his win. Peiero rode a Pinarello Dogma made from Deda AK61 magnesium. This frame came with a unique Pinarello proprietary 55mm press fit bottom bracket. Looking back it is an offering that failed the marketplace. This makes these frames a bit of a difficult item to support and maintain. I see a lot of forum posts asking about alternatives.

In doing research I found the US distributor Gita has an adapter that converts the Pinarello MOST 55m bottom bracket to a standard threaded 68mm english BB. I am very thankful that Pinarello did not abandon this generation of frames and provided a route to keep these frames maintainable.

You remove the original axle and bearings and install the very simple adapter.

Another possible solution is the

Carver Bikes Eccentric Bottom Bracket.

Carver's unique nylon sleeve eliminates the creak associated with EBBs. Machined aluminum body with nylon sleeve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Marinoni the Fire in the Frame

Every collector of steel bikes knows that Giuseppi Marinoni is one of the best. He has been making frames, since he emigrated to Canada from Italy, just outside of Montreal for decades.

The story of his life and effort to set the cycling World Hour Record for the 75 year old age group, cycling for as far as you can in one hour in a velodrome,  is the subject of a new movie.

It will be shown in Hayward, Wisconsin at the Park Center Theater as part of the annual Bicycling Film Festival Saturday May 28th at 7:30pm.

"If you think it is just another film about the career of a frame builder, kind of like the Ernesto Colnago saga, you are wrong.   It is a film about the life of a man, his youth in Italy, witnessing the horrors of WWII, his early racing career, coming to Canada to race in 1965, and emigrating there, and a 40 year career making some 20,000 lugged steel frames, mostly by himself.   It includes many people from his life, including his wife, old friends and family in Italy, his Canadian sponsor - an Italian restaurateur in Montreal who is still a close friend - plus Francesco Moser, and especially Jocelyn Lovell, whom he had not seen since his tragic disabling accident in 1983, and who had never had an interview with the press, much less been in a movie.   The movie got Marinoni and Lovell back together!   That part is a real tear jerker.   It's all you never knew about Marinoni and more.   A thread throughout the film is Marinoni's training for and attempt at a new hour record on the track for age 75, which happened in 2013.   I won't spoil it for you and tell you whether he gets a new record.  You will just have to see the film to find out.   But it is entertaining watching him train, and they keep the suspense going until the attempt.   The bike he rode was Jocelyn Lovell's bike, the one he won all his medals on.   Lovell gave it back to Marinoni when he retired.   He talks about how he sweated red for two years when he started to ride again after 20 years of not riding.  Red rust, from polluting his body for all the years making frames.  Finally he sweated it all out.  He is extremely fit now and rides 8000 km a year.   I am going to try to get him and the film to come to Eroica California next year!  I think Marinoni would really enjoy riding in it.  He is a hardcore cyclist from the old days."