The bike people at our only international customer-dealer—the fantastically named BLUE LUG, in Tokyo—wanted a simple pure beautiful single-speeder frame to commemorate or celebrate or something their 10th Anniversary. The requests: Drop-bar compatible (so not too longa top tube); fairly horizontal but not totally horizontal top tube; clearance for 38mm tires; most models 700c; nearly entirely lugged, but fillet brazed BB was OK; and no way to back out of the deal by mounting a rear derailer.
“We’re not as tall as your superb Dennis Rodman,” they cautioned, in so many words, “but it should work alright for a rider a few centimeters more than 1.5 meters tall.” (Paraphrasing again.) One size should be under 50cm, then.
(Just because BL is a Japanese company and I'm showing an image of Dennis Rodman with an Asian doesn't mean I don't know that Kim Jong-Un is North Korean. He just happened to be in the scene with Dennis Rodman.)
“Well, 700c tires won’t work in the smallest size, if we’re talking about something under 50cm” I said.
“OK then—if you say so, that one can be 650B,” they said.
“Are you locked in to the drop-bar compatibility thing? I’d love to design this for Bosco bars and make it incompatible with everything else.”
“That sounds like a great idea, but not right this minute, please. Drops. ”
“OK, and it’ll be good for Albatross bars, too.”
"It’s a new bike model for us. We don’t have a badge, decals, or the rear dropout. It’ll take some time and you’ll have to commit…and by the way, do you have a model name in mind?”
“We can commit, but you come up with a name,” was the order.
Model names are always challenging. One doesn’t come up without our fantastic ones—including a Leo, Sam, Homer, Joe, Clem, and Rosco—without a lot of thought. So I started on that stuff and the names came first, and I thought something to do with it being a one-speed and came up with five names: Solouno, Solamente, Unocorn, Veluno, and Frank Jones Sr.” There was no hesitation: Frank won hands down.
“…but we need it before the end of the year, or else we miss the 10th Anniversary,” added they.
“Piece of cake!” I exaggerated.
As I type this, BLUE LUG has its frames, about 55 of them. We added 25 to the order for ourselves, figuring it was one time only, and the bike—with such a neat combo of custom head lugs—never before used on a non-custom frame, the new ball-o-socket seat lug, and the new name and graphics, and the alligator rear dropout—is something we’d want to have around here and could trickle out into the USA world over the next year or so.
Well, unlucky for us, we need to sell them fast because, as is often the case, we’re desperate for money to pay a few bills coming due in January and February. No lie, this is a serious need, and it’s so serious that Rivendell employees aren’t allowed to get a Frank unless they skip the usual discount they get on stuff we have a lot of. It means I, who want one oh so much because I designed it and I dig the name, may not get one because I still have to pay for my HHH. I am the Not Rich Boss of Rivendell Bicycle Works.
Frank Jones Sr. Technical Matters
- the rear dropout is angled up 17-degrees, about the same as a traditional horizontal dropout, and is long enough to account for a 7-or-8 tooth chainring difference, if you try to make Frank into a 2-speed by using two chainrings.
- all main frame tubes are 28.6mm diameter, which is normal around here for the seat and top tubes, but in Frank’s case, the down tube is that diameter, too. Put a pin in this math: 3 x 28.6mm = 85.8mm. That makes the frame less stiff, but before you get it into your head that it won’t be stiff enough for you, consider that thru the mid-’80s, all professional cyclists on steel frames rode bikes with two 28.6mm tubes and one 25.4 tube, for a total of 82.6mm. Frank is 3.2 percent fatter, and the tubes aren’t as wimpy, so it’s got to be stiff enough for anybody under about 200 pounds. Eric Heiden, remember him? He rode a bike less stiff than this, so you could be as buff as him and still fine on it.
- it’s for single-speed freewheels, not fixed gear bikes. But if you ride a 33mm tire or bigger, your pedal clearance will be about the same as on a pure fixie bike. And this one, with more drop, will feel and ride better.
- brake reach is about 59-60mm. It requires brakes with that much reach. The same sidepulls as the Sam and Homer use will be fine. There’s no Shimano-Campy-MARS option, but there’s Paul, Dia-Compe…
- if you ride with a freewheel, you can go with a skinny tire, but it would be like buying a Westfalia and never sleeping in it.
- it’s fenderable up to about a 35mm tire. And there are rack-mounts on the seat stays and fork blade, and two-eyelets on all the dropouts. It’s not a camping bike, but you can rack it out and carry stuff. It's a useful single-speed.
- the bottom bracket is fillet-brazed. We asked for and paid for and got a deluxe job of it.
- the top tubes for the 48.5, 51.5 53, 55, 57, and 59 are 53.5, 54.4, 56.2, 57.5, and 58.1 respectively. I don’t like listing top tube lengths because doing so suggest that I think they’re important isolated from other dimensions, and that I assume they’ll be meaningful to you, and that they should be meaningful to you. But some will ask, so there they are.
- two bottle mounts! no pump peg! it’s so easy to carry a pump without a peg.
- fork crown is the same as on Sams: RC-03, our own.
Colors: dark silver and Homer blue, with the usual cream accents.
Making it into a bike
We can help you or you can do it yourself. Keep in mind these dimensions when you go bottom-feeding on the dark net:
seat post: 27.2
rear wheel: 120mm
stem: quill, 22.2
max tire diameter and width: 38mm/315mm (700c); 40m/675mm (650B)
We’re conjuring up a complete build kit with flexibility to account for most tastes—different handlebars, stems, tires….generator or no, flip-flop rear hub or no. When you order a bike we’ll be in short touch and ask what it is you’ll need. If you get it all here (minus pedals and saddle if you have your own), Mark will assemble it for free, unless you want lights hooked up. Inquire about costs there, but it's a Schmidt hub, it's gonna cost you $100 to rig it. The others, maybe $40. Let's talk about something funner.
Recommendable FRANK JONES Sr. parts, decent ideas, not far off from perfection
Bars: Drops, Albastache, or Albatross. $68 to $92. There’s only a 3-deg upslope on the top tube, so if you aren’t used to drops, get the Albastache for sporty speed, the Albatross for general get-around. Drops are good, too, but this shouldn’t be your foray into them.
Stem: To match bars, probably in the 8-9-10-11 range. $73
Brake levers: Those Shimano generic road levers are super good, un-beatable. $50
Brakes: Easy perfect: Tektro R559, Paul centerpulls, or wait for the new Dia-Compe Mod. 610 centerpull, probably available in April. Centerpulls require cable hangers front and rear, and we have them. Brakes range from $77 to $316/set.
Crank: Silver or Sugino XD. Both are available as doubles or triples, and here you’ll have to get a little creative and greasy (or we can do it for you). Two good SILVER options: 38 x 32 (start with the 38x24, take off the 24 and sell it on eBay, and buy and mount a 32, which we have). This is a good hilly-road way. For less hilly, start with the SILVER triple 44x34x24 and turn it into a 44x36 or a 42x36. $220 + the other chainring. We're not going to buy back the unused ring from you at full retail. We already bought it for less than that, and it doesn't make sense to have more into your spare ring than we can sell it for.
SUGINO-wise, just get a wide-low double, 40x26, and sell the 26 on eBay and put on a 32. That’s the original Quickbeam/SimpleOne gearing, and it still makes sense. $146
Single-Speed freewheel or fixed cog?: Fixed cogs don’t let you coast, so they’re more dangerous, no getting around that, no arguing, it’s just a bicycle fact. You’re headed down a hill and the pedal speed is controlled by the bike speed, and if the speed is high and the hill is steep, it’s not that hard for all hell to break loose. On the other hand, fixed cogs are the original “pedal assist.” When the bike is moving, the speed of the bike is driving the pedals. “Dead spots” at the top and bottom of the stroke are vanquished, and you can climb any hill in a harder gear.
At our most sincere and prudent, we recommend 16, 17, or 18t a freewheel. It’s often going to be a hair too hard or easy, but that’s part of the charm. Cost, $30 unless you get fancy with a White Industries DOS (2-speed freewheel).
Pedals: With a freewheel, any pedal you like. We’d go for a 2-sided grippy platform. With a fixed cog, it’s way safer to have some degree of lock-in—toe clips and straps, or clipless—because if your feet come off the pedals when they’re whirling around, the smart money has you crashing soon. Pedals, about $40. If you're not going to build it up till March, be on notice that we'll have a new pedal then. But the pedals we have now are good, so...
Headset: Included, our standard FSA sealed—saves you $55.
BB: If you get a cranks here, get the Shimano UN-55 in a 110. $42. We can get you anything, but this is the way to go.
Seat post: 27.2mm, Taiwanese NITTO knock-off, usually $30.
Front wheel: 32-hole fronts, Velocity Dyad rims on Velocity track bolt-on hubs.
Rear wheel: 120mm spacing. Matching the front, but both 36H or 32H.
Cost for the wheelset: $400 (our road wheels are $420).
Tires, tubes: 32mm to 40mm. Smaller tires make it easier to slide the wheel back and forth in the dropout as you switch the chain between rings. (tip from Will, but he rides 40mm tires, so he must not care that much). Jack Brown Blue 700x33.333 is a good all-rounder for roads. Schwalbe Little Big Bens at 38mm in the mid size. Fattest, Conti Contact-Speed 700x42 (AKA Basketball Tire). If you are the one person who gets our 48.5cm/650B-er, get the Soma New Express 650x36, or Panaracer Pasela PT 650x42. Price depends on the tires, but count on $45 or so each.
Saddle: you’re on your own, but we have some if you want ‘em. $20 to $160
Chain and cables: We have them. Go with a 3/32” chain-same as road. This isn’t a track bike. Get an 8sp chain, $20.
Colors: "Grilver," our confusing way of saying part gray, part silver. Medium dark....and A. Homer Hilsen blue. Both with cream details as per most of the time.
AVAILABILITY (pay in advance, arriving here late Jan/early Feb)
48.5cm: 0 silver, 1 blue (650B)
51cm: 2 silver, 2 blue (this and all biggers, 700c)
53cm: 2 silver, 3 blue
55cm: 2 silver, 2 blue
57cm: 3 silver, 3 blue
59cm: 3 silver, 2 blue <---I really want one of these. Grrrrrr....
More info next week. Prices, etc. We're not taking orders until then, but are here to answer any questions you have.
Thanks for reading these 2,000 or so words. Seriously...
Flash! More numbers, but first wade thru my qualifier:
The Frank is a Rivendell, designed the way all our bikes are designed--same values as they all have, same priorities, same process. Numbers are fascinating, but can be mesmerizing, too. A 56cm horizontal top tube on a frame with a 74-degree seat tube and a standard lug with no build up and a fork with no extra, and a Cinelli stem, and on a bike sides the traditional too-small way, will feel LONGER than a 58cm top tube on one of our bikes. "Reach" isn't the key, either, because reach doesn't account for the headube and fork and longer quill build up on our bikes.
The top tubes on these bikes account for all of that, and are shorter than I'd do on a more Sammish/Homerish single-speed. But they are in the normal range for American and Italian road bikes--as are the front center measurements.
Frame size TTcm SADDLE HEIGHT PBH range
48.5 53.5 64.5-67 75.5 - 78
51.5 54.4 ! 66.5-69.2 77.5 - 80.2
53 55.3 ! 68.5 - 72 79.5 - 83
55 56.2 70.5 - 73.5 81.5 - 84.5
57 57.5 72.5 - 75.5 83.5 - 86.5
59 58.1 74.5 - 79.5 85.5 - 90.5
These recommendations are rough, loose, and assume a Nitto stem with at least a 190mm quill. We now stock the Tallux with 225mm, which is probably too long for the 53cm and smaller. With the Tallux on the smaller bikes, you won't be able to get it even level with the saddle. I'm not computer-modeling any of this, sorry, but it's pretty close to right.
Last gasp, just a 53. Irrelevant or potentially confusing dimensions, or those dimensions that would make it easy for somebody to supercopy it, or those that for whatever reason--nothing heinous-- I opt to not show, are blocked out.
Note there is no pump peg. That doesn't mean you can't carry a pump.