Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meet Marcel

Oh dear, sweet blog, what a long time it has been.

The catastrophe that has struck me is best described as the onset of adult life. I finished my Ph.D., ceased being a grad student, and have begun teaching. On the balance I can say that the adult world is what I expected it to be—which is why I was so studiously avoiding it.

I did however find some things to get obsessed with and preoccupied by in the adult world. And since, in the true spirit of obsessiveness, I get truly obsessed with my obsessions, I have had almost no time for bicycles in the last year—either riding them or building them. But the teaching year is now over, and so it's time to make a slight return.

Let me begin by catching you up. In December, my shop partner Olivier and I learned that, alas, our shop space was being reclaimed. This was no surprise, as I wasn't using it at all, and the space was needed for other things. So since December I have been shopless. Not so Olivier, who had a perfect little space in his recently-purchased house, and moved the stuff in there. He has been building away ever since.

He said he needed a project, and I was more than happy to give him one. Since 2007 (yes, that is five years ago) I have been trying to get a randonneur built. I have had all the parts—TA cranks, Schmidt hubs, Mavic derailleurs, and so on and so on—in my closet for each of those five years. I placed orders with two separate custom builders, each of which look quite a long time to not work out. Then I tried making the randonneur myself (he was called "Adam Jr." in this state), but I messed up the BB drop, and so Adam Jr. became Jocelyn Lovell Bike. Then I got caught up in Greg Curnoe bike; and then I got caught up in the aforementioned adult life. Thus the project passed on to Olivier, who has done an absolutely superb job of it. (I should add that what took two professionals and myself five years to not complete took Olivier about one week to finish.)

This bike is a "collaboration," which is another reason to like it. I built the fork, "investment-stamped" the lugs, shaped them and then filed them. Olivier did most of the work: everything else, including the frame, a front rack, a stem, and a d├ęcaleur.

I have named the bike Marcel, to reflect this spirit of collaboration. Marcel Proust, you see, is one of my favourite writers. He is also French, like any good randonneur. The name of his great work, In Search of Lost Time, sounds like it could be the title of a time trialist's autobiography, which adds to the fun. It so happens that Olivier, whose first language is French, has among his surnames "Proulx," which is a nice North American relative of Proust's surname.

So: Marcel. Let's have a look at him.

One of many "constructeur" glory-shots: the little area where the taillight light braze-on mount meets the seat tube pump peg. God Bless you, Olivier! (Amusing side note: it was no fewer than three years ago that Olivier and I built the taillight that will screw in to that hole [at the time, it was to screw in to a bike named Clive.] I named the light Kermit.)

Olivier's lovely curved SS bridge, between Mafac bosses almost centred on the stays.

Olivier's equally lovely stem. Some things that I did in this shot: I put a fun shape into the handlebar clamp and I prepped and filed those beautiful Cinelli CS lugs. I hardly modified their basic bird-beak shape. The more I look at and think about lugged bikes, the more I think that is the proper lug shape.


Olivier's extremely elegant front rack, with extra-simple and extra-beautiful internal routing. It mounts to the Mafac bosses on the fork, which I made long ago, and whose inarguable loveliness is largely the result of fork blades bent by John Medclay.

I just love Olivier's way of attaching stays: strong, light, and leaves the stays at a perfect spacing for Mafac bosses. A great hanger, too. I didn't go crazy with lug-filing; just made things reasonably even. (I've photographed this bike from the non-drive side, incidentally, for Greg Curnoe-related reasons; and no, I won't use that Sugino post, whose flutes are unfortunately too long.)

Oh, say! What's that? New logos? A new name? "Bis"? Lots of lines and dots? What is all that about?

All questions answered in the next post, which will, I promise, arrive in fewer than nine months.