have been riding in the at the Trexlertown Velodrome over the last two
summers. I take the adult basic course where I learn competitive bike
racing techniques and race other amateur cyclists. I started
riding my friend's fixed gear Colnago on the road to train for the
track this summer and it really helped me with my racing. I
decided that I wanted my own "fixie" to ride. When I was
young I rode a track bike on the street as my daily ride.
Life without brakes was a challenge. The
Colnago had front and rear brakes which made much more sense on the
street. I wanted fixed gear bike with brakes that I could
commute and take longer rides on. I began to search ebay and Craig's
list for a suitable ride. I was thinking of converting an old
steel frame to fixed gear, or adding brakes to an old track bike.
my youngest son Matt passed away unexpectedly during my search. I loved
my son dearly and it was a tragedy to loose him at 17. Matt
recently gotten into riding his bicycle, riding it to his job and on
errands. He purchased a road bike with an aluminum frame and STI
shifters. He liked this bike because it was fast. Matt knew all about
fast, as he spent 11 years as a quarter midget racer. We had
taken the occasional ride together which we both enjoyed. He
was quite a fast rider and I had to work to stay ahead of him.
the cycling bug had bitten him. There were so many rides that
I wanted to take with him that will never happen. I decided to sell his
bike as I did not need another road bike and it would make me sad to
see Matt's bike without Matt.
had an old Cesare track bike that he raced at the velodrome in the late
1990's and early 2000's. It was a very nice bike, but it was not being
used. It was hanging in his garage for the last 10 years or so and the
steel framed bikes at the track had been replaced by aluminum and
carbon. This bike's racing career was over and he offered the bike to
me to make into a road bike. He wanted to see the bike used.
This bike was a pure race bike and it had no brakes.
To make it road worthy, I would have to install front and
rear brakes. It would also be nice to have bosses for
mounting bottle cages. It would take a lot of work to give it
the features I wanted.
|Matt's Tireno Razza
||Matt and his bike before the
decided that I would take my friend up on his offer and also make this
up as a memorial to Matt. I would paint it the British racing green of
his old bike and trim it in white. I wanted to do the best job I could
so I decided to braze on the water bottle bosses and add an internal
guide for the rear brake cable into the top tube. As a finishing touch
I would mount his racing number "84" on the head tube to mark it as
his. I figured this bike would remind me of Matt and respect his memory
without making me sad that I was riding his bike or he was not riding
along with me.
|Trek donor bicycle
||Shimano 105 Brakes
||Aero Levers, Stem, and Bars
ran into a bit of luck when I found an old Trek bike that was being
discarded by the side of the road. It was a nice aluminum
that was 15-20 years old. Besides being a bit of an
it worked well. It had a nice set of brakes and levers which
needed for my project. The bars and stem would also end up
getting used. I actually put a seat on the bike and
a rear tube and went for a 10 mile ride.
to ride the bike a bit to make sure it was what I wanted and fit
me well. I figured it would be a good idea to install brakes.
I made up a couple of little bushings to braze onto the brake
stay to act as a reinforcement for the brake. I cleaned the
off the tube and clamped my little boss in place using a small bolt.
I used the typical bronze brazing alloy to make the
attachment. The original track wheels were for sew up tires
did not have braking surfaces. These would not do for street
duty. I found a nice set of wheels in white that had a rear
flop hub. I mounted the brake and put the brake levers on the
track handle bars. I used the cables from the donor bike and
managed to get everything to fit and work. This was a good
to see how the components worked and how I liked the bike. I
also waiting for some mail order components and I was itching to ride
|Cesare Track Bike Ready for Test Ride
real fun started when I got moving on the actual frame
modifications. Where does one get the little threaded things
that go into the frame that let you mount the bottle cages for a steel
frame? How do you attach them? What if I screw up?
A quick Google search turned me onto Nova Cycles where I
found they had water bottle bosses for just this
purpose. You could even get these cute little
reinforcing plates to help strengthen the area you drilled to
mount the boss. Cool. The next thing was to figure
out how they run the rear brake line inside the top tube.
Google came to my rescue again when I found the Kirk
Frame Works blog that showed the details for installing the
brake guide. I went back to Nova cycles again and found the
brass tubing and the cute little reinforcing plates to go over the
tube when it emerged from the frame tube. Super cool.
did not want to screw up the real frame so I went on a search for
suitable bicycle tubes to practice the installation. It turns
that another friend had a bike that had been hanging from his garage
rafters for years with a broken frame. This would be a
donor for real tubes to practice on. I placed an order with
cycles for two sets of parts. One to use and one to install
practice tubes. I brazed one set of the bottle bosses onto
tube and it went fairly well using my oxy-acetylene torch.
heat was difficult to control and the braze came out a bit lumpy.
It was a real challenge to file them smooth after brazing.
All in all they came out well.
on practice tube
went to the Philly Bike Expo
to see some cool bike stuff and possibly talk to a real frame builder
to make sure I was doing things right. It was also a great
to take a long test ride on the new bike. I rode 25 miles
the Schuylkill River Trail from Oaks
to center city. The ride was great and it turns out there
were a bunch of frame builders
in attendance. I learned that one should not use the typical
bronze brazing alloy on bicycle frames, especially on the thin
tubes. The correct material is silver braze. This
a lower temperature and flows better. The borax flux is also
easy to clean off with hot water. These were key
tips. (Thank you Tom Faust)
I got back from the expo I was able to start striping
another piece of the donor
frame and making ready for installing the brake guide. My
problem was how to bend the thin wall brass tube to fit into the frame.
I knew that trying to bend it by hand would only kink it.
Google disappointed me by not providing me with any sure-fire
bend the tubing. I tried to bend it by filling it with ice
using a form. This kinked badly. I wrote to Nova
did not have any good answers. I then tried annealing it by
heating it dull red with a propane torch and letting it cool.
This made the brass much softer, but it still kinked.
then found a set of bending springs at Home Depot for $10.
was the hot ticket. I could now bend the guide tube without
next challenge was making the oval hole for the tube.
That turned out to be fairly easy. I drilled three
next to each other that were slightly smaller than the tube.
connected them with a die grinder, then made the hole oval with a
rat-tail file that was about the same size held at an angle.
bent the brass tube into a gentle arc and pushed it in one hole and it
came out the other. I fitted the little covers over the tube
everything fit well. I brazed it using my newly acquired
alloy and my propane torch and Bob's your uncle. I used a bit
much alloy, but I was able to grind it off. The finished
tube looked very nice.
|Tube bent and ready for
||Tube in place
||Reinforcing plate installed
|All brazed up
||Looking through the tube
time was over and it was time to get busy on the
actual bike. The first step was to remove all of the components and
strip off the paint. The old paint was not willing to let go of the
frame it had known for so many years. It took many, many
applications of stripper with lots of scraping to get it down to the
bare metal. After the frame was scrapped clean I sanded and
brushed the last vestiges of paint off the frame. I mocked up
bottle cages on the frame with masking tape to get the right location.
I would hate to put the mounts where the bottles won't fit.
Mounting the bottle bosses was fairly easy. I
holes carefully and drilled. A sharp, high quality drill is a
real plus. I used a carbide center drill to spotface the hole
that worked well. I slathered the frame with flux and then
dropped the bosses and plates into place. The brazing went
with just the propane torch. I touched up the fillet with my
grinder and 3/4" disks.
|Mock up for the bottle mounts
||Bottle mounts with
||Complete bottle mounts
next big step was to install the brake line. Having done the
practice tube made this much easier. I heated the brass tube
red to anneal it and then bent it using the spring into a gentle arc.
The actual installation into the top tube was a bit trickier
the practice tube as I needed to go quire a bit further along the tube.
This meant that the tube would not fit directly into the tube
bent as the distance between the two holes was too long. I
the tube into one hole and when I pushed hard the tube straightened
just enough to keep advancing down the top tube. I was
to get worried when the the tube kept going in and I could not see it
coming out. It did not come out until it was almost all the
in. It turns out I only had about 3 inches extra.
it up and then cleaned up the excess and trimmed the tube. It
came out quite well.
was relieved when a piece of cable housing passed through without a
|Using spring to bend annealed brass tube into arc
fit into frame tube
||Brake guide tube installed into frame tube.
The excess shown was all that was extra.
||Reinforcing plate installed and flux applied.
||Finished front joint
||Finished rear joint
next step was to make the numbers for the head tube. I wanted
match the font used on Matt's race car. The font was not one
the ones that came with the computer. I searched around a
of sites before I found the right font. I was able to
the font adjust the size and print it out. I glued the paper
piece of polished stainless and tried to cut the numbers out using my
jeweler's saw. The stainless took the teeth right off the
I tried several different pieces of stainless with no luck.
At this point I thought I may be beat, but I remembered
that my dad used called German Silver. I looked it up and
that it is a common name for nickel brass. It has the same
as silver, but is stronger and is more corrosion resistant. I
ordered up a little piece.
German silver was much easier to
cut. I cut the numbers out and filed the edges smooth and
polished the face. The next challenge was to get the numbers
they fit on the head tube. They had to be bent on the proper
so they would be inclined at the correct Italic angle. I
them on a piece of masking tape at the right angle and then placed a
second piece of tape over the numbers. The head tube was
1/4" in diameter so I used a 1" drill to form a trough in a piece of
scrap wood. I figured I would make it smaller to account for
spring back of the brass. I placed the numbers in the form
placed a piece of 3/4" pipe over it and gave it a couple good whacks
with the dead blow hammer. They came out perfect!
The curvature and angle were just right. I improved
the fit a bit more by wrapping a piece of fine sandpaper around the
head tube and rubbing the numbers back and forth.
|Matt in his car
||Close up of numbers
||Numbers cut from German Silver resting on masking
tape in the proper orientation
|Numbers in wooden form
||Number formed to curvature of the head tube
||Numbers resting on frame tube
next challenge was to hold the numbers in place as I brazed them.
They could not move during brazing, but I would need to
perfectly before brazing. I got a tip from the framebuilders
use a wire and pull it tight to the seat tube with a rubber band.
used stainless steel wire and a bungee cord. This worked
It held the numbers securely, allowed fine adjustment and did
interferer with the brazing. I was very pleased with the way
out. Matt would be happy.
|Numbers with flux applied and held in place with
stainless steel wire
||Bungee cord attached to seat tube keeps proper
tension on wire
||Numbers brazed into place
everything was brazed in place it was time for paint. I
decided to have it painted at ZRZ
who I knew would do a great job. It came back looking great.
color was a perfect match for Matt's old bike. While the
was away I kept myself busy polishing all of the aluminum bits.
This included the brakes, brake levers, seat post, handlebar,
stem. This removed the scratches put there by previous owners
removed the brand markings from the parts. Just like taking
the badges off a car this really cleaned up the way the bike looked.
The shiny parts also looked nicer.
little issue was
the quick release on the brakes. When I buffed the brake
parts the little plastic caps that covered the quick release pivots got
messed up. They were a little knackered anyway so I removed
them. I needed something to cover the pivot. It
turns out a Mercury dime would fit just right. I cut the
dimes down to the proper diameter then I ground the back away to make
them thinner. I then dished them so they would fit properly
in the cavity on the levers. I glued them in place with JB
with a K810ST chain because it was unique and came in bright
nickel plate. The last thing I did was change over to a white
saddle and bar tape to match the other white trim items. I
did not start out to make a hipster bike, but that is how it came out.
I am sure Matt would approve. I like how it came
out and I really like how it performs as it is very responsive.
I have big plans for this bike in 2015:
|#84 all polished up
||Starting to look like a bike
components were "de-branded" and polished up. I replaced the
plastic cap on the quick release with a modified Mercury dime.
|Brake line installed
||KMC chain with holes
||The brake line came out well
|All finished, with white seat and tape
||After my first long ride
||On frozen pond
(May 22nd 1997 -
September 26th 2014)
The Matt Bike #84
loving memory of Matt. My beloved
son who I only got to spend 17
short years with. I will think of you every time I ride this
bike and remember the great times and fun that we had together.
I will remember all of the time we spent racing either
racing at Oaklane or traveling to other tracks. The memory of
winning the dirt states race is particularly precious to me.
I also cherish the countless time we spent practicing and
working on the car. We were a great team. I know
impressed with my cycling and I believe you were proud of me when I
raced at the Velodrome. I enjoyed
out annual end of summer rides towards Philadelphia on the Schuylkill
river trail where every year we would get closer.
This last time we made it the full 25 miles to Center City
and spent the day together. Rest in peace.