The Slow Spoke is a place where I put my thoughts to words and hopefully some will read them. Since I'm a major bike geek most entries will be bike related but, not always. I'm also guilty of thinking far too much so you never know what the topic will be. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Guru; A Fait Accompli.

Well, I did it again: another bike. 

Another bike I mulled over for quite some time: a bike, slow to come to light. I imagined a bike, matched and worked with different component combinations and different color combinations over and over in my mind. Countless builds were dreamt up over the last year or so and often, it’s what helped me fall asleep on many nights in that time. 

I imagined and planned how I could bring this to fruition. This second, pure, personal “dream bike”. Once again I thought about how would I make this happen? What would be the best way to build exactly what I wanted. What DID I want? What would I hang from the frame? How would everything tie together to satisfy my needs. More importantly, how would I do all this and still keep a reliable bike possible? I didn’t want a “show bike”. I wanted a workhorse but one that also looked good (at least to me). So many unknowns. So many options. The only thing that was certain was that it would collect many miles and that the frame would this time be titanium.

Yes, another alloy ride. One that would perhaps help satisfy my insatiable appetite for them. 

Those who know me or read fairly regularly will know that I have a ridiculous penchant for alloy builds. I’ve done every material under the sun and keep coming back to steel. I had yet to own a ti ride so now was the perfect time to delve into it. Why wait for a knee or hip replacement to experience the benefits of titanium? Why not have a road frame made of the stuff?

I turned 40 this year and so, at 39 looking forward, I felt the appropriate gift to myself would be a bike that, to me, is as beautiful to look as it is to ride. A bit selfish perhaps but..............cycling is my thing and I'd hit a rather large milestone. 40 sucks. It even SOUNDS shitty. How could I make it less so. I could have gone and bought a Corvette like many guys my age decide to do but, no way. After awhile, I knew what I wanted but, it took some serious time to plan out.

My visions and nightly reflections had eventually lead me to one place: a frame with classic geometry, classic tube shapes and a classic titanium finish. I’m not a retro grouch by any means but my desire for a bombproof bike guided me to stick to what I know works - and will work for years to come. 

I avoided press-fit BB’s and tapered steerer tubes and opted for a classic threaded BB shell and standard 1 1/8 headtube to house external headset cups. Nothing wrong with any of the features I chose not to add but for the sake of simplicity, known reliability, and the aesthetic ride I was going for (with a classic look) I went old-school. Sure, the bike wouldn’t be as light as it “could” be but, I’ll always give up a hand full of grams for something that will be a nice representation of my vision and meet my needs on the road. I had finally decided on a manufacturer; a step that actually turned out to be one of the hardest things to do. 

I went with Guru Cycles: a company based out of beautiful Quebec, Canada that has a strong race history, a strong support and backing of their product and a reputation that is out of this world! They offer fantastic carbon, titanium and steel frames ranging from full blown custom tubesets, geometries and finishes to standard frames and finishes...........and built in house. The fit and finish of all the bikes I’d seen from them have always impressed me so they were a consideration right from the get go.

Early on I reflected on the possibility of a full blown custom build and driving out to their facility for an all out fitting and assessment but, one day, while nerding out during a coffee, I began drawing up a rough sketch of numbers I was looking for. I didn’t get a pic of the final drawing as it became quite elaborate but drew a second one up later to absolutely ensure no changes to my plan would be required (again, not the final drawing but, you get the idea about how bad I can nerd out).

I jotted down numbers that were currently working for me on the road bike that I’d be retiring (my Bianchi L’Una). What I’d discovered was that, based on the geometry of Guru’s standard Praemio frame, I could easily mirror my current numbers. It was a win! I didn’t need to go custom thus freeing up some money for other details I’d need to get this beauty built precisely as envisioned. 

The Praemio was also offered in countless finishes and paint colors/combinations but, although tempted, I decided on a naked look. Remember my longing for a “classic” looker? 

To me, ti should be shown off. I love the look of the stuff: always have. I love welds that are perfectly symmetrical: completely uniform. The proverbial “stack of dimes” if you will. The meticulous work that one pays for essentially. A look that makes a titanium bike - a titanium bike. You just know it when you see it. Why cover those details and take away from the impressiveness that those welding hands laid down in Quebec? No way. For me, I love a well built bike whether I own it or not. The finer details of a build capture my attention and seeing as I was in charge of my bike’s destiny, in terms of its appearance, naked it would HAVE to be. It was final.

My friends James and John at Blackwell Cycle  (and on facebook Blackwell Cycle) were the obvious choice for me to help see this all through. Guru dealers themselves, friends, riding buddies and experienced with my “I’m-on-a-mission” ways I knew they’d survive another run with me building a bike.

I opted for the Praemio “Pure” with raw brushed tubes followed by the bead blasted logos and black fork. No decals for any logos and, aside from the fork, no paint. In a way I got lucky because for once, my vision lead me straight to the lower end of the price point for this particular frame therefore, again, freeing funds for the remainder of my build. It was working out great so far!

Despite my desire for as much ti as possible, I knew that at least a little color would be necessary to make this ride special to me. Not a large overpowering splash but a minuscule amount. Just enough to tie everything together. What color would that be? Once again, I got lucky, thanks to the sticker.

"A sticker? What the hell are you talking about?” is what you’re probably thinking.

Well, here, one will see a glimpse and be able to validate just how fixated and unwilling I can be to deviate or change course once I have an idea in my head. I know it’s been discussed amongst friends through which they (and I) laugh. Yes it’s true at times but, in my defense, I don’t build really high end bikes too often but when I do, I want it right. I want it my way and exactly my way.

So, where does the sticker come in? Well......

Guru frames just happen to come with a sticker expressing its Canadian origin and these stickers just happened to be largely red. Again, luck was on my side as I’d planed to reuse at least a few of the parts from my previous ride. Namely my Eurus wheelset, FSA K-Force calipers, seat post and K-Wing bars. All were consistently black, white and red. Even my ti bottle cages were going to be reused and they themselves have red accents. The red sticker just sealed the deal. Red was my decided target accent colour.

The first red accent piece purchase was a new Chris King headset with the Sotto Voce styled logo to steer me over a billion miles and pop some red into that area of the bike.

I also decided to order a red seat post clamp for something to do. Why not?

Some aspects needed nothing for me to admire as they were though straight from the factory. The rear dropouts are works of art as far as I am concerned. Good lord!

After a dozen or so years with Campagnolo, I decided on making a change to SRAM. Nothing against Campy. I absolutely loved everything about my Campy groups over the years and they ran flawlessly (still do as I still run it on my cross bike) I just felt that to make this new bike “new”, I needed change. I’d heard great things about the SRAM Red groupo and I’ve always been a fan of their stuff in the mountain bike world (have run SRAM X.O. for years). Besides, as an added bonus, the Red groupo is, you guessed it, black and red! Perfect! I was confident it would all work great and fit in nicely with my black and red motif. I also decided on the SRAM Red ceramic BB to finish it off. The BB came with nice red cups of course.

I made my list and ordered the remaining parts. The distributers/SRAM were a little weird in getting the parts to me initially and I became quite concerned about crankset colours.  A colour change was in the works at SRAM and a large backorder was in effect. Luckily however, everything eventually arrived as planned. 

While I waited for a final part (Shimano freehub body for the Eurus wheelset) I assembled the bike with parts that were being swapped from the now retired Bianchi.

Then off to the shop to measure 14 times and cut a perfectly good carbon steer tube once. This part always makes me nervous. I measure, check and re-check so many times. HAHAHA.

Once everything had arrived, I retreated back to my house and into my basement. A straight forward assembly saw me emerge the following morning after a good night's sleep with my new ride. My 40th b-day gift to myself.

My fait accompli. 

Bead blasted logos.

I LOVE how the headtube looks.

Sadly, I also built this bike in a year that refuses to allow me to ride. Things beyond my control are keeping me from the bike(s) but I am not concerned. I am determined to make up for this year’s loss of saddle time in spades next year and seeing as this particular bike is made of ti, it’ll be ready and able for many years to come.

It does have a few hundred KM's on it already but it's been mostly, so far, a collection of shorter outings but hey, better than nothing. Soon enough I will get to know this bike well with the epic days in the saddle that I crave. I'm looking forward to working this bike out on the road and making it earn its keep as all my bikes do. I had one person suggest that the bike was "too nice to ride". Although thankful for the comment, I replied "Not a chance." Besides, if I don't ride this wife will kill me.

Cheers, thanks for reading.

Special thanks to Lesley for not getting “too” mad at me for this one. I owe you again! :-)

Thanks also to James Grant and John Elliott for allowing me to stop in for coffee and talk shop with respect to the build. Appreciate the help boys! 

Steve A.

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