Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bike Porn: This is how I roll.

Yeah, I have been pretty lazy lately. I have also been kinda loud and negative as well. While I have no intention of changing, I consider this my attempt at getting the Anger Monkey off my back for a day.

I figured today is a good a time as any to dig through my personal bike porn folder and show you how I roll.

Working at a Waterford dealer has its perks. Not only do I get to build some of their most beautiful custom bikes, I also get to build my own.  In December of 2012 I placed an order for my first Waterford product. A Gunnar Roadie. It started as a diagram on a piece of paper and became more than I could have ever hoped for. Let me take you on the journey...

It was the day after Christmas, and we closed up the shop to take a field trip to Waterford, Wisconsin.
The home of the Schwinn Paramount, this facility (who's proprietor shares the legendary Schwinn name) is still turning out some of the finest, hand made bicycle frames available. From full custom tubes, lugs, paint, and assorted sundries, to simple, yet elegant TIG welded frames with stock geometry, there is a Waterford product available for just about any budget.

Without deep pockets I had to choose wisely. I wanted performance with all around good looks, so I chose the aforementioned Gunnar with stock geometry, but opted for custom paint to "make it my own."

When we visited the factory, I must say that I was stunned at its size. Having seen so many beautiful things come out of there, I could only imagine it to be a very large and busy place. It was quite the opposite. There was an intimacy there, a place small enough to feel like home, yet large enough to build and house hundreds of frames, both new and old. As they not only build their own products but also offer restorations of classic frames. From concept to reality, painted and shipped in house, this was a neat little outfit.


We were greeted by Richard and Johanna and given a tour. They began with the office where it all begins. Once a design is submitted, it is poured over by the technical staff to be sure there were no mistakes made before being filed for building. That is where I saw on the wall, two or three plastic file boxes reading, "lugged frames," and "TIG frames." So of course, jokingly, I asked "where is mine?" Johanna indulged me a bit and pulled out a spec sheet with my name and bike on it. I got a kick out of that for sure and still think about it when I ride my bike, "I remember when this was just a piece of paper."

One of my favorite things that I saw while I was there was under the mitering table (yes, while everyone else was watching tubes being mitered, I was on one knee taking a picture of this...)


What appears to be a very old, and possibly very original power unit for the mitering table. Bearing a Schwinn serial number, this one piece of equipment has likely seen thousands of frames over the years, and I was tickled to death to have noticed it.

As it was the holidays and all, the shop was pretty void of employees, having just finished a very large and beautiful lot of frames for Shinola of Detroit, their rest was well deserved, as this was about the loveliest thing I had seen in a long while...


The trip was nearing its end, so we talked some more, laughed a bit, and then I, like a gigantic bike dork would, argued with Richard about where my Schwinn was made...


I was under the false assumption that it was made in Japan with Columbus tubes (thanks to Jeff for the incorrect info ;) but found out quickly that when a Schwinn tells you it was built in Mississippi in 1985, you just have no choice but to take his word for it ;)
(Thanks for setting me straight Richard!)

Anyway, our trip was over, we came back to the misery that is a snow covered South Bend.
A week or so later a picture popped up on the Gunnar Cycles Facebook page...


With everyone back from vacation, the production "line" was a buzz with new frames. This pic on it's own was an amazing thing to see, I quickly thought however, "Holy crap! I bet mine is in there somewhere," which of course led me to respond thusly...


Upon seeing that reply, I giggled like a school girl. Every day following, I was a fricken wreck let me tell ya. Every time UPS showed up, I was just waiting for a frame box to come off that truck with my name on it. When it finally arrived*, I wasted no time unboxing this beauty.


 Orange Glow over Sterling Silver

 *(It may be possible that Waterford has the BEST frame packaging available. Always packed safely and securely, suspended inside the box.)

Excited as I was, it was snowing out so the bike had to spend its first two months on the trainer. But damn did it look good...


As soon as the roads were clear, I took it out for the first time, and took the obligatory "bike lean" photo...


This bike has seen many changes since this photo, but at this point was decked out in SRAM Rival with carbon bars and Shimano Wheels. Not the world's greatest set up by any means, but road worthy for sure. Initially, it was a blast to ride. That never changed but I made a couple of changes over this most recent winter and then took this photo just a few weeks ago...


The Fred in me just had to make this bike a little more my own, so I ditched the carbon bars, and seat post, changed the saddle, went "Berzerker," and loaded it down with Campagnolo Athena 11 Speed with a Shamal wheel set. Just when I was starting to think, "alright, this thing is awesome." I decided dropping a pound of wheel weight would be awesome-er.  

Wonder what it would look like with a set of Campy Zonda's instead? I did too...
 

I wonder no longer, and I think I might be finished building it after two years. It has seen a new Brooks Cambium since this picture, but as of now, it's "finished" and here are the specs:

Gunnar Roadie OS2 54cm
Orange Glow over Sterling Silver
Chris King Sotto Voce "NoThreadset"
Easton EC70 fork (the only bit of carbon on this sucker ;)
Ritchey 4 Axis stem
Zipp SC 70 Ergo bars (42cm)
Thompson Elite seat post
Brooks Cambium saddle
Campagnolo Athena 11 speed. 53/39 crank, 12-29 Miche cassette
Campagnolo Zonda wheelset 

The absence of carbon was planned on my part. I have no need to make it the lightest bike ever so why pay ridiculous amounts of money per gram saved just to say, "my bike is lighter..."? 
Having a beautiful, reliable "whip" like this is something to be treasured. I mean hell, this thing is worth more than all three of my cars!
But having a steel bike that weighs in at 19lbs with pedals and bottle cages, is pretty fricken RAD!

(...Yeah, I said "RAD." I'm bringing it back.)

I want to say thanks to the folks at Waterford for being such gracious hosts' and can't wait to get my next one. 

...Be waiting for my call. ;) 

Cheers everyone! Thanks for reading. 

Love, Queso