Velo Orange Porteur and Constructeur Racks

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When I built my Bob Jackson World Tour last year, I had a plan to fit racks at some point. I’d considered a number of options, but given the overall aesthetic of this bike – think French Randonneur – replica parts seemed the order of the day rather than fitting more purposeful Tubus or Surly load luggers.

Although it may never have been my intention to carry camping kit on this bike, my hand has been forced by next week’s Way of the Roses ride. Frames to replace my trusty but just–too–darn-small Surly Troll are either in transit or can’t be collected until May. I’d be pedalling coast to coast on the Bob Jackson then, and I needed racks to suit.

The hunt for the right replica parts normally means Velo Orange and I’ve been chewing over options from their range for a while. I eventually settled on a minimalist but rather elegant Constructuer rear rack and the more substantial Porteur front, which provides a sizeable platform for a large bag that I hope to acquire some time in the future. (There are some rather nice options from this cottage manufacturer in the Netherlands.)

The two VO racks arrived last month and I was immediately struck but how burly the Porteur is. By contrast, the Constructeur feels somewhat under gunned with its svelte lines and thin tubing. Both are made from stainless steel and rather nicely finished, though. Reading the VO specs they should be adequate to carry my slimmed down camping kit with control.

Fitting the racks was a bit of a faff… but isn’t it always? Both allow for the option to drill mudguards (if you have ‘proper’ alloy or steel mudguards that is) and it’s worth measuring, praying and drilling for the additional stability this provides – both for the racks and the guards.

You’ll note from the pictures I’m running the Constructeur rather tight to the mudguard while the Porteur is a little higher (and there’s a stack of M5 washers helping to keep the ‘guard put). In both cases I have to cut the tabs which attach to the drop out mounts – make sure you have a quality hacksaw for this job as the metal is reassuringly hardy.

This is a huge frame and having the Porteur rack a little higher gives me the perfect distance between its platform and handlebars for the aforementioned large ‘porteur’ bag. I’ve angled the rack back slightly too so the bag will be inline with the angle of the head tube. A personal quirk that may or may not work when the bag is ultimately in place.

Initial shake down rides now done and I am a big fan of the Porteur. I’ve carried reasonable weight up front with little discernable effect on the handling. If anything, the rack has made the Bob more settled if that’s possible for this most predictable of bikes. The rack will carry a drybag next week containing tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat along with lighter clothes and food.

The Constructuer, while looking dandy, is not so practical. It will just ferry a pair of small Caradice Super C panniers with some adjustment of the hooks. The platform will take a small drybag of some description too.

I’m hoping this three-bag solution will take care of my gear. I have the option to add an Alpkit framebag to spread the load a wee bit further. The Porteur will take front panniers too if needed but I’m trying to avoid the additional weight.

I’ll report back after next week’s trundle.

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Mad dogs and Englishmen (and women)…

… go out for a day-long pedal into the Peak District without checking the forecast.

Sometimes the plan is just set. I was always going out for a ride on Easter Day this year. I wanted a long, but sedate, day on the bike, more for endurance ahead of the Eroica and my coast-to-coast next week. The miles also would pay dividends when I sheepishly get off the plane in Nice in a few weeks helping me believe I can pedal over some real mountains.

The day started well. I puffed over Chunal Moor to Chapel-en-le-Frith and picked up Eroica routes past and headed to Whaley Bridge and that sublime pull out of the Goyt Valley to Derbyshire Bridge – for my money some of the best climbing inches in this lovely district. If you haven’t bowed your head to this route on a bike yet, you simply must.

A very chilly drop down from the Axe Edge Moor led through through Earl Sterrdale before picking up NCN Route 68 and the High Peak Trail. Rail-bed paths followed – the Peak’s very own Strade Bianche.

At Hartington I diverted briefly before picking up the lovely Cardlemere Lane (NCN Route 548) for more excellent traffic-free gravel before picking up the High Peak Trail/Midshires Way again through Gotham (no, not that one) and Friden – scene of this year’s Eroica Festival.

Back at Parsley Hay, I hit the road through Youlgreave and ultimately Bakewell where the Monsal Trail pointed me in the direction of home.

Here, the day delivered the sting in its tail. Rain swept in and I reluctantly left the relative protection of the trail for lonely windswept roads through Wormhill, Peak Dale, and Dove Holes before picking up Route 68 again near Chinley for some knee-grinding climbs back to Glossop. I met a group of women road cyclists also enjoying the conditions. We could only exchange feeble smiles.

I pressed on and the rain intensified. The air had the tang of smoke from woodburners and I gazed – somewhat pathetically – through the windows of cosy cottages  as folk sat down to a family dinner.

Home, at last, and my sodden cycling clothes sagged… my shoes were frigid foot spas. Never has a shower and pizza been quite so sweet.

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Hear the Lion, erm, ding

Regular readers will know I’m partial to the odd ride along a mixed-use trail. Normally, these mini-adventures are undertaken with that fine fellow Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane and, more often than not, are an excuse to indulge his baffling affinity for the Trans Pennine Trail.

Riding these routes has its problems though – largely confined to other trail users. We always try to be considerate on these Troll-fests, normally favouring a polite ‘on your right’ when overtaking walkers. Horse riders are given a respectful wide berth too.

However, increasingly I hear grumbles from walkers as I trundle by along the lines of ‘Where’s your bell?!’ Both Tim and I feel the bell can be more offensive than a verbal warning but, in the interests of ‘scientific’ enquiry, I decided to equip the Bob Jackson with one ahead of this year’s Eroica.

As this was the Bob I was looking for something suitably retro. I’d found a fine example for a tenner amid Eroica’s tempting stalls but then came across Lion Bellworks. Their rather splendid brass bell was another fiver. Maybe it was the quantity of gin I’d consumed or the fact that Lion bells are assembled in Manchester that prompted me to cough up the extra dough. Actually no, the Lion emitted such a becoming ‘ding’ I was immediately hooked.

Lion bellworks brass cycle bellAware of the importance of the sound, Lion have posted an audio file on their web homepage. It’s easily described though. Flicking the elegant hammer against the brass body produces a sound that would summon Andrew Sachs as Manuel in Fawlty Towers.

The Lion is beautifully made and fits securely to a quill stem, a strip of cork on the bracket ensuring the bell remains put and is free from rattles in use.

So, how did folks on the Peak District trails respond? Mostly with a smile, exactly the response I was after. It was a bit much for one daydreaming pedestrian though who spun round with a start and blurted ‘Jesus f@cking Christ!!!’

Hmmm, can’t please everyone I guess.

This is a lovely product and is highly recommended. The only downside is the bell will tarnish so requires regular polishing.

An Eroica thank you

I think it’s fair to say that I’m basking in a warm glow after riding this year’s Eroica Britannia. I’ve tasted the event before  as a day visitor so was familiar with the vintage vibe on site. The ride underpinned my affection for it though.

hero-badgeThe route was similar to last year – no bad thing – save for a lengthy and agreeable diversion into Staffordshire.

It was challenging, too, particularly the section heading to beautiful Ilam and another wonderful food stop. I think this was more to do with poor nutrition on my part during the ride rather than the terrain. My depleted state was soon remedied with – ahem – four cups of soup, numerous sandwiches and, naturally, cake.

There were some wonderful bikes on show again making me want to redouble my efforts to find a genuine vintage ride that fits my ungainly frame. I think I may struggle, but a Hetchins with gorgeous ‘curvy’ stays would be a lovely addition to the fleet!

eroica-finishMy ‘mongrel’ Bob Jackson performed effortlessly as you might expect from a modern/retro bike. It’s pretty clear why the cycling community have largely steered away from toe clips and straps though!

Some folk in the 100-mile class take it very seriously and I doff my cycling cap to them. My approach is perhaps too haphazard and riding a tourer with a triple (wash your mouth out!) a little disrespectful of those grinding their knees to dust on old groupsets with unhelpful ratios.

Perhaps the 55-mile route would make more sense for this trundler?

I hope I’ll be in a position to ride it again next year and encourage one or two other cycling friends to take the heroic plunge. It’s a fitting showcase of the Peak District and its fabulous riding.

 

Voila! Il est Bob

In March’s post about my post-apocalyptic snow ride across the Pennines, I pointed to difficulties in ‘real life’. I’m afraid more ‘life events’ have monopolised my time and energy of late. To say things have been difficult would be an understatement. Nevertheless, life must roll on and, with a deep breath, I can now quickly post about the Bob Jackson I started to build last year.

After many a false start and component challenge, the bike I will ride at this year’s Eroica Britannia looks a bit like this…

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I’ve had to make one or two compromises along the way but I’m pretty happy with the final result. I say ‘final’ but the pedals need to change to meet l’eroica specifications (clips and straps) and it needs some bottle cages. You get the idea though.

And before the purists start squealing, I know this is not really kosher… it’s not a road bike, but sourcing a pre-1987 bike in the right size (ginormous) was nigh on impossible. It apes the old French randonneur and touring bikes and is very much in that spirit, but with (hopefully) more reliable modern replica components. And besides, it’s a fair old stretch for those downtube shifters on a frame of this size. I guess they make it heroic if nothing else!

The chainset is now a triple – a simple Stronglight Impact – after supply problems from Middleburn and Velo Orange. This was not my original plan as I hoped to fit a ‘super-compact’ double. The Stronglight works well though and is aesthetically right.

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The brake levers are positioned a bit high too, I will adjust them ahead of the ride if I get the time.

The build is as follows:

Frame: Bob Jackson World Tour 26.5 inch, Reynolds 631 (yes, it’s a monster)
Bars: Velo Orange ‘Rando’ 46 cm
Levers: Dia Compe Gran Cru drilled
Bar tape: Brooks tan
Stem: 3ttt Status quill 130mm
Headset: Chris King threaded
Mudguards: Velo Orange 45mm hammered finish
Tyres: Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 32mm
Hubs: Dia Compe Gran Compe ENE, 36-hole
Rims: H Plus Son TB 14, Polished
Brakes: Velo Orange Zeste Cantilevers with anti squeal blocks, Dia Compe roller hangers.
Shifters: Dia Compe downtube micro-ratchet shifters
Front mech: Campagnolo Veloce
Chainset: Stronglight Comp triple 175mm, 50,40,30t
Bottom bracket: Stronglight JP 400, alloy
Rear mech: Campagnolo Comp triple
Cassette: Sram 8 spd, 11-28t
Seat post: Velo Orange Gran Cru (layback)
Saddle: Brooks Imperial
Saddlebag: Caradice zip roll

I’m riding the 100-miler on Sunday. It’s a lovely route on roads and paths I know well. I can’t wait!

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

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