Meet Bob

So it all started when a good friend and ‘fellow velo’ bought me a copy of ‘The Golden Age of Handbuilt Cycles’ – a large-format photographic tribute to French bike constructeurs and a book that has found permanent residence on my work desk at home.

This tome mainly confines its scope to the randonneur machines of Alex Singer and Rene Herse, bikes that tick many boxes for me in terms of cycle aesthetic. The more I leafed lovingly through its pages, the more I wanted to attempt my own incarnation of this venerable, long-haul cycle.

Ideally, I would have caught the Eurostar to France, got a cab to Victor Hugo Street just outside Paris’s Boulevard Périphérique and talked to the folk at Alex Singer direct – hoping my clumsy French would suffice. Linguistically I may have been onto a winner, but my wallet couldn’t support such a venture.

The same was true of commissioning a bespoke frame. For this project, my focus had to be a wee bit more modest so I settled on a Bob Jackson World Tour – my early French affair taking a distinct Anglophile turn.

Bob jackson World Tour in a whopping 26.5
Bob Jackson World Tour in a whopping 26.5″ size

This is an ‘off the peg’ frameset which essentially fixes the frame’s angles. You can specify quite expansively around this template, though, which gave me welcome licence to order a larger size than ‘stock’ and add a proper headbadge. The rest of the spec was very standard.

Sizing, as ever, was a key consideration. After a bit of email tennis with the helpful folk at Jacksons, I settled on a 26.5-inch version in standard oversize Reynolds 631 tubes, which manage to retain a traditional look on such a large frame and should improve the ride. The oversize set was complemented by beefed up stays compared to my French reference machines.

Offering this traditional geometry up against my custom Woodrup confirmed the decision on sizing. The Bob has relaxed head and seat tubes compared to the semi-compact Sportivo but is slightly longer in the ‘effective’ top tube. This should allow me to get a (nearly) like-for-like position, although with the bars a little higher for a more upright ride.

If you are interested, the seat tube is 67.3cm in new money, with a 61 cm top tube. The headtube is 24cm.

Bob Jackson optional headbadge on the World Tour
Bob Jackson optional headbadge on the World Tour

The frame is painted a simple Oxford Blue enamel to show off the shiny components that will ultimately grace it. In that vein, I opted against lug lining to keep the canvas as blank as possible (although it may have been a good idea to request just one set of builder decals in retrospect). Unbeknown to me, Jacksons took the liberty of lining their makers initials at the top of the seat stays in white. These ‘BJs’ will no doubt elicit the odd titter for some!

Bob Jackson's 'BJ' marking on top of the seat stays - titter ye not!
Bob Jackson’s ‘BJ’ marking on top of the seat stays – titter ye not!

Other nice touches on the frame include braze-on cable routing under the bottom bracket shell (something I wish I’d have specified on my Woodrup) and a chain hook on the rear stay. I decided to keep the guides for STI cables on the headtube in case my plan to fit downtube shifters proves a wildly romantic nod to the past.

On the subject of components, I have been caught in a tussle between form and function. It’s very tempting to think of freewheels, first generation Campagnolo Rally rear mechs, Simplex shifters, ‘New Old Stock’ etc etc. Tempting, that is, until you see some of the prices this kit now commands on eBay, a market charged by the crop of l’Eroica events around the globe.

My component set will be a bit more modest but will resolutely avoid carbon and black anodising. This means looking to Taiwan, the USA and Italy for the shiny and some fun experimentation with mongrel drivetrains… More of that soon.

Bob Jackson World Tour rear adjustable drop outs
Bob Jackson World Tour rear adjustable drop outs

19 thoughts on “Meet Bob

  1. That’s a very beautiful frame. I’m also rather taken with the French constructeur’s machines that you mention, and might have gone for a low trail frame inspired the French designs, had I discovered them early enough.

    I bought myself a Bob Jackson End to End in late 2013. It sat in my study for over 18 months before I finally got around to completing the research on all the parts, my preferred transmission, wheel build, etc.

    I finally got it on the road in June this year, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I’m sure the World Tour is just as good. Mine’s a 24.5″ frame, also built with 631. The ride is sublime. Responsive, yet extremely comfortable, even though I’m only on 28mm Panaracer Paselas.

    I went for a 44/28 double on the front (René Herse cranks, from Compass Bicycles), and a 10 speed cassette on the rear with bar end shifters (a first for me, but a successful experiment).

    I found your blog this morning by stumbling on a post in which you mentioned Keep Pedalling in Manchester, which is only a couple of miles from me. If you’re local and fancy a chat about components (or to see how I built mine, or how it rides), feel free to get in touch.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and your comments. I must admit had I been in possession of the funds I would have commissioned a bespoke frame for this project with the low trail you mention. C’est la vie. That said, I am rather fond of the look of this Bob. I think it will come together nicely.
      We are certainly on the same page re components as I too am looking at a Compass/Rene Herse crankset in a 46:30. I’ll plonk an eight speed block on the back with friction downtube shifters. This will be an experiment but means the bike will meet the 10 commandments of l’Eroica Britannia where I plan to ride the century next year. Would be good to see your ride at some point and have a chinwag. As for Keep Pedalling, I can heartily recommend the guys there (although they might ride off road too much 🙂 )

      1. I was at Eroica this year, but didn’t ride it as I was on a camping tour at the time (riding a Thorn Nomad – hardly suitable!). I’ll be tweaking my 1970s Dawes Galaxy with a few period parts in time for next year…

        I’ve only used the Nomad for touring on road so far (with a tent, using 2 or 4 panniers), but I’m gravitating towards bikepacking. I’m working on making my Thorn more suitable. It’ll take 2.3″ off road tyres, which is a start. I suspect a Surly is in my future, but I’m having a devil of a time working out which one (that they released the Wednesday this morning isn’t helping!).

        I got a Wildcat Mountain Lion (from Keep Pedalling) a couple of months back, which makes an overnight bivvy without panniers pretty straightforward (in fact I’m bivvying out near Glossop tonight 🙂 ).

        Your expedition rack looks great. I’m thinking one would make my Camper longflap an excellent stand in for a seat pack.

        I’m not seeing the supports that bolt to the seat stay braze ons in the photos on the Carradice site. Are they are a standard part of one of their racks?


      2. The design has changed. The rack is now steel without the supports and probably more reliable. Mine broke on my Scotland trip this year. I am planning to replace it with a Nitto model which should prove more reliable. However, my large Apidura seat pack has done a sterling jobs of late so I may just stick with that.

      3. How did the bivvy trip go? Wandering around Glossop this morning it looked like you had a decent evening. Re Surlys, given my height I’m glad I plumped for the ECR. It just seems in proportion and the ride/position is great for the way I like travel off road – slow! I’d love a proper fatbike and the Wednesday looks about right but the frame will be too small, just like my Troll. One thing I’ve learned in this life – not to make do with bikes that are too small.

      4. The bivvy was great thanks. The rain held off and the ride was good fun:

        I quite agree, on frame sizes. I’m only 6′, but got my Thorn Nomad X in the largest frame they made. It still looks too small to me (there’s a picture in my blog post), with loads of spacers, miles of seat post, and a very long stem.

        I did consider swapping the Nomad frame for a Troll, but I think I’d have the same issue with that. I’d prefer an Ogre, but then Rich at Keep Pedalling got me considering a Krampus, and it soon got a lot more involved than just a quick frame swap.

        I’ll stick with the Nomad for a bit and get some miles in (and more off road experience) first.

        Thanks for the info on the Carradice rack. I’ll order one. The Apidura bags looks really good, but I ought to give the stuff I’ve already got more of a go first.

  2. just ordered an off the peg world tour in a 23″ british racing green. will have non-indexed barcons and an 8 speed drivetrain with a 40-26 velo orange cyclotourist knockoff crank. this is my bucket list touring bike. will suplant my all city space horse as my go to touring bike. space horse will remain my city bike.

    1. Hi David. I’m 6′ (with longish legs and a relatively short torso) and have an End to End. I got a 24.5″ frame (1.5″ larger than what I’d been riding before) which has a 62.5cm seat tube (centre to top). I only mention this in case you want to double check your measurements before they get heavily into it.

      The top of my saddle is a further 18cm away from the top of the frame (measured along the line of the seat tube). I’ve got about 4″ of seat tube visible between the frame and the saddle.

      With a 90mm stem and short reach bars, it’s extremely comfortable. Here’s a shot of it, before I put the short reach bars on:

  3. Graham, thanks for taking the time to write. I’m getting the frame made by Vetta, in Italy. This frame (intended for touring, by the way) was designed after I spent more than an hour on a fitting jig, and the whole geometry is based around me. Because of my back issues I can’t reach too far, either, so I’m pretty confident that this design will work for my specific needs.

    1. Sorry David, I (daftly) inferred you were getting a Bob Jackson built, which are all a similar shape since BJ don’t do custom frames any more. Congratulations on the Veta – they look lovely!

      1. I could have been clearer myself. Yes, Vetta do look great. Aside from custom orders from individuals, they make frames for Racer Rosa, Scatto Italiano, as well as some awkward sizes for major companies where mass production wouldn’t be cost-effective.

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