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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Speedvagen Part 2. The Race of Truth.

Since this blog is already a freakin Sacha White love fest, I'll dispense w/ my drivellings about the application and love of all bikes Vanilla and just stick to what I know/believe. So here goes.

The Geometry:
As I mentioned In Part 1, I've been riding a Steelman Eurocross for some time (it's not the only thing I've ridden in that time though, just the nicest). It's a "55cm". A 57cm tt, 72.5/73 head/seat w/ about 58mm-60mm of bb drop. Yep, that make for a high bb. The bike as built runs just shy of 19lbs with dura-ace/reflex wheels. The front end is quick and due to the bb height, the chain stays are short so it climbs well. I've never caught a pedal w/ my 175s....ever. Now, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to ride w/ Sacha. I have my fit pretty well dialed on the Eurocross so it was just a matter of translating this to the Speedvagen geometry template. I wasn't exactly sure what that was (Sacha is a man of few words) but I knew the bb would be lower. I rode his Vanilla SS and while a teenie bit small, felt natural. I'm game. The high bb, while great on bumpy courses, required a bit a finessing at times, so lower felt like a good direction to go. When I finally got the SV built up, I took it, my sniffles, and all my expectations to my local cross course. I managed to get in 3 hot laps before my energy bottomed but it was enough. The bike felt glued to the ground, but very nimble up front. With out knowing the exact geometry, I was guessing 73/71.5 head/seat because it felt like an old Lemond I had w/ similar angles. Sacha emailed that the bike was in fact a 72.7 square w/70mm of bb drop. Ever so slightly quicker up front than the Steelman, a smidge more stable in the butt, and A LOT lower in the BB. I doubt I could have discerned a 0.2 angle difference on it's own, but the change in opposite directions of both the head and seat angles and the significant change in the bb made for a ride that felt both quick and smooth. Cross bike Feng-shui maybe? Hey, but that was only 3 laps on a course I knew well. What about a Race. Well, I raced it. What did I think? I didn't have to. That really sums it up best. I thought about the race, not about the bike. I did catch a pedal twice. I'm use to taking pedal strokes soon after exiting. High bb's will do that to you. Most other turns I was able to rail through, pushing it each lap until I would break lose a tire. Dismounts at speed were smooth and stable. I'm sold.

The Craft:
I'm one of those guys who appreciates craft, but is not big on ornamentation. While I love wiling away work hours drooling over cut and polished lugs, It's not what I buy. A very FX4M kinda guy (1st one to guess that license plate in the comments wins a Snickers). The Vagen has that in spades. Everything that Sacha could think of appears to have been tried and applied. I'm sure everyone who gives a shit is aware of the seatmast and the Paul brake sleeves brazed directly into the stays, but the reason for the madness is a rear brake that's as responsive as the front. Perfect, just perfect. The seatmast-thompsonfrankenpost itself is a beautiful, all stainless piece of work. Very oomph! The dropouts are very trick w/ replaceable stainless plates. I've also never owned a bike w/ so much sweet steel swaging. The top tube appears to be a Life or Zona teardrop which flattens on the bottom as you move toward the saddle thus making for a much more comfortable portage. The downtube is swaged longitudinally along the headtube and laterally (are those actual words?) along the BB. Not new, but it still takes work. Nice and stiff. No need for gussets. The stays are swaged beyond belief. So much swoopy goodness. It gives the rear suspension characteristic I've never experienced on a cross bike. To cap it off, the seat stays are swaged again below the brake bosses into almost a rectangular section. Vertically compliant, yet laterally stiff. Sunday's race was lumpy, but the behind of the beast stayed in contact. My lower back is sending flowers. Thank you Sacha.

The Paint:
This was quite a suprise. After seeing the SV at NAHMBS, I figured the frame to arrive w/ a purposeful powdercoat. I love powedercoat. Not paint sexy, but so midwestern practical. What arrived was a beauty of a frame w/ paint and custom graphics care of COAT. The graphics are especially sweet. The alpha Q fork graphics are painted on the inside to match those on the top tube! The toptube and seatstay graphics are more than just icing, punching way above their wieght. She got hit on a lot at the races. K-murder, you own! As the girls would say, "Truffles!"

The Nitpick:
No one's perfect, but Sacha and the Speedvagen come as close as anything or anyone out there. In order to deliver 30 Speedvagens by early October, production was streamlined by having help, namely Mike Desalvo. I'm not sure what he was responsible for, but I'm assuming he at least TIG'ed the main triangle. I've seen Mike's work at various shows, and well, quite frankly, it's not his best and looks a bit rushed. It's perfectly functional and clean, just not the beautiful, single pass beads that I've seen him do. Again, I'm nitpicking, but hey, this was not cheap frame. The dropouts, while tres qule, need a bit of refinement. I needed to file them a bit so the r. wheel would slide in. I also needed to file a bit off where the seatstay brazes on so I could run my 14-25 junior cassettes. Granted, that's non-standard, but it's a super easy fix for '08 models. The swaged chainstay+dropout combo make for slightly awkward rear wheel changes. The chain gets hung up easily. It's nothing as nerve racking as those moronic KLIEN rear-facing dropouts, but it takes some getting use to none the less. Lastly, the bolts on my seatmast keep loosening. Thanks to the design, there's little adverse effect. The seat height doesn't change because there are shims underneath. The seat itself doesn't move fore or aft because it's still clamped, but it rattles towards the end of a ride/race. It's happened more than once, even thread-locked. Sacha is working with me on it so I'll keep y'all posted. I'm not the least bit concerned.

The Verdict:
A bargain. Not just a good deal, a bargain. Don't believe me? Look around, ask questions, ride lots of bikes, do the math. If you love racing cross and aren't sponsored by Ridley so you can score a new frame every two years, do you're damnedest to get one. I sold a bike, several wheelsets, a vintage coke machine that took me months to restore, and countless other crap to finance it...it was that or the kids went to JCC. I don't miss any of it.

The sickly sweet maraschino cherry:
17.5lbs w/ Dura-ace+reflex+Flexus! 16.9lbs w/ Hugi+ZIPP+FMB! Schwing!

In talking w/ Sacha, It was clear the Speedvagen project was a labor of love. A love of cross and a love for cross racers. It was a lot of work. Thanks to Sacha, Scott, Kmurder, Mike and anyone else (Molly?) who burned the oil to pull off the charrette! I may be having my worst season in years, but at least I'm enjoying it. Does that make sense?


Fixie Rider said...

TJH - You have been busy writing! I hope your finger are not too tired. :-) I will guess that the license plate is Function over Form.

I love my Speedvagen too. I can't put the words into as many technical details as you can. But I can say that it rides sweet and I feel like I can conquer any course out there. Now I need to work on my strength and conditioning so I can start conquering the people finishing in front of me each week.

I raced in the Master 3 45+ category yesterday due to an afternoon commitment that negated riding in the single speed division. I came in 14th and have to say I felt pretty good with beating people riding their multi-speed bikes. And I got tons of props from people on the course for riding single speed and the Speedvagen. My cred has shot way through the roof...

I'm off to bed now so I can get up early and hit spin class. I will have to catch up on the rest of your posts tomorrow.

tjh said...

oooh, so close fixie...maybe anhonorable mention.

gthoma88 said...

Yes, you do good work. You have been riding bikes longer than I have been alive (sorry, not a dig) so it is no wonder you can translate abstract sensations into words. Thorough, I like it. I think it is good you include the nitpick. Nothing is perfect, as you say, and there is no point in pretending so just because you have drunk the Sacha/SV kool-aid. I wish I had some more eloquent, constructive feed back for you, but, yeah, that’s all I got.

Andy A said...

Hmmm... Effects Forum? Forex Forum? The brain and I are still not quite 100%. So maybe half a Snickers?

Guys, I've been laid out by the flu or whatever the hell was going around; then work jumped me this week. The Vagen went out last weekend for a 2 hour spin. No racing last weekend cause I needed what little reserves I had for work. And consciously blowing off a race on one of our last killer weekends really sucked.

Anyway, feeling better. Our race this Sunday is about 2 hours away...lots of people are going Saturday and camping out which is always a blast. But this year, that's gonna be hard for me to pull off. So unfair. We'll see.

Great to hear your updates you all. My biggest takeaway on the Vagen as I told a buddy o mine, is that as nice as this rig is, I don't think about it at all during the race or a ride. I mean that in the best way; it just disappears and handles everything so easily that you can put your mind to other more pressing issues like your (lack of) form or (lack of) conditioning... and hey, no hand-ups on course at all this year so far!!! WTF is up with that?

Long live Vaagen!

tjh said...

No handups...yup. thems be UCI rules. Not fun when it's 80+.

tjh said...

Clue: think bauhaus.

Fixie Rider said...

I'm taking a second guess..

Function before Form (or maybe Function first Form second - ok that is a third guess!)

I had the handle bars come loose in my first race and had to ride the last lap on my pit bike. Like Andy said, I had brain capacity left to even realize that I had a bike in the pits I could ride!

I adjusted the bars to where I wanted them, tightend down the bolts oh so tenderly. And, voila, no problems this last weekend. The course was pretty bumpy so if the bars were going to come loose again I gave them a good opportunity to do so.

Sacha was good with the feedback and volunteered to help out if the bars continued to be an issue. For now, it looks like all is good.

Randy said...

What front cable hanger is on your speedvagen?

tjh said...

Randy, It's an IRD long drop.

MisterMo said...

Like you, I'm very happy with my Steelman Eurocross but am intrigued by the SV. Would you say it's a better road bike than the EC because of it's lower BB? ie. how would you rate the road handling (rather than cross) of the two? Thanks. As a newbie here, I couldn't figure out how to email you directly.

tjh said...

MisterMo, I'd say it's a better cross bike and a better road bike.
a true road bike will still have mroe bb drop (5-8 mm more), but the SV decends on the road better than the Eurocross dueto the lower center of gravity....I'm expecting delivery of a 2nd Vagen in the next few weeks.

D said...

Form follows function