Randonneuring bike

green frame

Some time ago, I decided that I had delusions of grandeur and wanted to do some serious long-distance cycling.  To that end, I had a bike built to spec for that intended purpose.

I thought a great deal about what I wanted in that build.  Relatively light weight, comfortable, and easily maintained were some of the variables I decided on for this bike.

I started with a brand new-in-the box dark green metallic aluminum frame and fork from Nashbar tha I acquired from Craigslist.  Truly NOS – not even out of its wrapping.  The color is a dark green – like British racing green – metal flake metallic.

 The bike is sitting on a custom set of wheels with sun rims and 32 spokes apiece, with a Son 28 dynamo hub to power the lighting. Panaracer Pasela Tour Guards in 700 x 35c handle the roads nicely – not much loss of roling resistance, but easy on the body and soak up road nasties easily. 

Velo Orange hammered fenders keep the garbage off the bike and me, and a Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack holds the front bag.  No name silver aluminum rack does duty on the back.  A Planet Bike ARD saddle keeps my toosh comfy. 

I had wanted Nitto Randonneur bars, but they came in as the wrong size.  I ended up with Bontragers that have a bit of an extension at the ends – good for bar ends and easy on the hands.  Shimano 3 x 9 bar ends (Dura Ace) do shifting duty, Origin8 brake levers handle stopping pressure, and tektro brake calipers handle the actual stops with ease.

I have ridden the bike some miles- for an all-aluminum ride it is surprisingly comfortable.   Very stable handling makes it fun to ride and also fun to travel with.  I have a pretty huge 9 speed cassette on the back – 12-36 -and it lets me climb  hills with ease.  While I wasn’t sure how the rig would turn out, it has suprised me with being beefy, yet light, and comfortable and stable, yet easy to move.  Overall, for this application, it gets a good solid “thumbs up” rating. 



1983 Centurion Pro Tour

Early this past fall, I acquired a used Centurion Pro Tour cheaply on one of the local Craigslists.

This one is not mine, but is very similar to the condition in which my bike was procured.

initial purchase centurion

The big differences were that the rear wheel was not the original 40 spoke rear, and mine had black handlebar tape. 

Mine is a 54cm measurement, and fits pretty well.  I decided I wanted to make some changes to it, so I set about upgrading.

Originally, it came with a 5 speed rear and half-step gearing.  I kept the crank, maintaining the half-step gearing, but changed the shifters and rear free wheel to a 7 speed, operated by RSX STI shifters.  It also got a new saddle, silver plastic fenders, a new wheel set, brakes and brake shoes, rear rack, and front rack.  The rear rack is a period-appropriate Blackburn silver aluminum rack. The front rack is a silver Velo Orange Porteur rack – it looks really nice with the medium blue metallic paint and other silver/chrome bits.  I substituted some different handlebars – they are an anatomic bend, not the original bars, as the originals weren’t wide enough.  Holding the bars to head tube is a converter so that I could use a stem, not a quill, to hold the bars and get them into the position I wanted. I went with Salsa grey handlebar tape and Jagwire ice grey cables.  The bike is also sporting brand new Panaracer Tour Guard 27 1 1/4″ tires.  I tried 700c, but they unfortunately did not want to fit where the cantilevers were hitting. Additionally, the chrome on this nice old bike is still very much intact, and so if I ever want to go completely shiny, I can 🙂 . 

I have gotten to take it out once since the build, and it is really nice.  The frame is Tange Champion 2 and has that famed, Steel ride, springy without giving away all the nice road vibe absorbing qualities that I love. 

I plan to use this bike as a tourer, light or loaded, and as my grocery getter and around-town runner.  A very comfortable ride and well worth having it rebuilt.

Props to the nice folks at Hub City for getting this one up and running.  They do fabulous work, and restoration is not beyond their understanding.

I will post follow-up pics when I can get to the shed.



A Word About Fenders

Fenders are an integral part of my own personal riding preference. Of the 10 or so bikes that I own, better than half of them have fenders on board. If they are ones I have built or have had built, I make sure there is room for fenders before I ever build them. The bikes that I own that do not have fenders on them typically do not have room under the brake bridges to include fenders as part of their daily appearance. For those bikes, I keep a set of SKS Race Blades (strap-on fenders) around so that if the weather has been unpleasant or wet, I can still keep the road grime off me and my drive train.

Why the fixation with fenders?

Several reasons.

1. Protection from road grime and objects. I personally hate have road grime, small pebbles, and other garbage sticking to my legs. In the summer, I sweat enough that dirt and small stones stick to my legs and leave me looking as if I have unreasonably dark legs and nothing else. I also just don’t like feeling that sticky, if I can help it. Additionally, I don’t have to worry about the skunk-striped appearance of the back of my jacket or jersey if I have fenders on the bike.

2. Protecting paint and drivetrain. Fenders are good protection against things jumping into the drivetrain of your bike and also from keeping larger objects from impacting your down tube, fork crown, fork legs, and other areas. Fenders also will funnel water away from you and also your drivetrain should you be bicycling in foul weather. Instead of having wet, clammy feet that are uncomfortable and also having a wet and then rusted drivetrain, you will be some drier if you have fenders on the bike.
3. Appearance. Some bikes just beg for fenders. For instance – I have a late 70’s – early 80’s Kabuki Bridgestone HT that just absolutely begged for a set of fenders in chrome. I obliged, since I had an old set, and it really added to the vintage look of the bike, as well as adding the functionality of protection against the elements. I also have three touring bikes that wear fenders constantly (a giant OCR touring, custom-built Nashbar frame, and Salsa Fargo) and, to my eyes, wouldn’t look right without them. I’m also putting fenders on my Surly Troll just as a matter of personal preference.

Types of Fenders

I’ve ridden with many types of fenders. I’ve used everything from SKS Raceblades to Cascadias and multiple narrower styles on various types of bikes. Some were better than others. For instance, the Cascadias I have on the Fargo are some of the best I’ve had as far as coverage and prevention of wearing mud and objects. They were also some of the easier ones to install, even over disc brake mounts. The hammered Velo Oranges I have on the Nashbar touring frame, on the other hand, are quite attractive and get many compliments. Once they were properly fitted, they were fine, but they were hard to put on and required a lot of fiddly work to get them right. There have been several other types and styles, but they were close enough in type and size that those areas were non-issues. For the most part, if you have the proper size fenders for your brake bridge and tire size, the fenders will offer protection from the wet and also from dirt and other objects.

As far as added weight, most fenders are light enough that unless you are a road racing sort, or doing serious downhill, the weight is really a non-issue. If your bike has appropriate attachment points, you should consider adding fenders to your bike. For a minimum trade-off in weight, you can have reasonable protection from dirt and other elements while you ride.

What every Randonneur (or wannabe) wants for Christmas . . .

I haven’t started my official randonneuring “career” yet (I have however, joined RUSA and the DC Randonneurs) – I plan an early spring start (mainly so I can “train” some for it and get used to the randonneuring bike I built – see previous post). However, I have indeed fallen in love with bicycles in general, and the early constructeurs in particular. I admire their building style, the integrated fashion of the their designs, the functionality and efficiency of the finished bicycles. I have often said, that if I ever won the lottery, I’d by either and Alex Singer or a Rene Herse before I’d buy a car.


Above is a picture of the new Rene Herse book, put out by the editor of Bicycle Quarterly, Jan Heine. My HH (Handsome Hubby) is getting this for me for Christmas, even though it will be delivered a bit later due to production issues. I absolutely cannot wait to see it! According to the website, “The book comprises 424 pages and includes more than 450 illustrations.” I truly anticipate that this will be a book well worth reading and enjoying over and over again.

Test Ride on the Rando Bike

I had picked up my new randonneuring bike from Dennis at C & O Cycles on Sunday but didn’t get to ride it until yesterday. I have to say I’m impressed. It rides beautifully and is faster than I thought it would be. It’s also lighter than I thought, given everything that is on it. It really rolls down the road quickly without beating me up. The stiff(er) aluminum frame really transfers power well, but doesn’t feel chattery on the road at all. The turning is in-line with this style of frame – not twitchy, but quick enough to get the job done. I can also easily ride this bike with no hands, denoting the steadiness I hoped I would find here. Below is a pic of the frame from Nashbar.


Build specs – will update a little more when I have the bike beside me –

I started with an 54cm dark, metallic-green, aluminum Nashbar touring frame and fork that I got from Craigslist in Lancaster, brand new, still in the box. I then added a set of Dura Ace 9 speed bar-end shifters that I got from the C-list in DC. After that, everything was new. I put an Ascent carbon fiber seat post on the bike, supporting a black Planet Bike A.R.S. men’s saddle ( which I like because it is longer than the women’s version, and wider at the back, with nice gel cushies for your sit–bones and lots of cut out room in the center for your soft tissue). I then added Nitto Randonneuring bars at 42 c wide, with Fizik soft touch black bar tape and vibration dampening gels under it. The stem is an Origin 8 17degree stem with a white origin 8 headset and spacers. There is also a white Origin 8 seat collar adding a bit of bling to the seatpost area. An Origin 8 trekking crankset with Origin 8 front and rear derailleur make up the drive train. Gracing the black crank arms are white Shimano double sided spd pedals. The wheels are custom-built Sun double-walled rims with a Schmidt Son dynamo hub for the front, with 28 spokes supporting the rim. The back is a 36 hole Sun rim, double walled as well. A Shimano 9 speed cassette – 12-32 – handles the gearing for the bike. Carrying the bike down the road are 700 x 35c Panaracer Pasela Tourguard tires with a wire bead. Velo Orange hammered fenders keep the grime off me and my drive train, and the Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack will support a bag before too long. A Vetta silver rack does duty at the rear of the bike so that I can haul a rack bag or whatever.

I also wrapped the chain stays in black electrical tape on the chain side and black handlebar tape on the other side. I figured if I didn’t do this immediately, the paint job wold suffer before long.

Overall, this bike felt comfortable and easy to handle – I believe it will fulfill its purpose – randonneuring and long distance rides – admirably and with aplomb!!!