Chroming the Boxer: Mitch Hull makes a few changes

Big 42-mm tires and fenders to match. The long front fender with mudflap keeps grit away from the crank, and the flap on the back fender keeps water off the next rider in line. Good to know someone's looking out for Civilization.

Big 42-mm tires and fenders to match. The long front fender with mudflap keeps grit away from the crank, and the flap on the back fender keeps water off the next rider in line. Good to know someone’s looking out for Civilization. Photo by Mitch Hull.

Mitch Hull calls himself a one-bike guy who rides “only for fun.” Like a lot of one-bike guys, that means he has three bikes: a 1983 Santana tandem, a 2006 Soma Smoothie and his real bike, a custom-built Boxer Camponneur.

The Boxer’s tires are quite a bit wider than the Soma’s–42 mm versus 28 mm–which should make for a more comfortable ride–and a more confident rider.

Bicycle Quarterly’s Jan Heine writes about the difference air volume makes.

Mitch enjoys riding on paved and unpaved roads. Most roads in Appalachian Ohio are chipseal in “decent-good shape,” and most of his rides include at least one 15-percent climb that tops out at a manageable 300 feet.

Of course steep climbs have a way of turning into speedy descents. Mitch decided to buy a bicycle with wider tires after taking the Soma through a downhill curve on pavement that turned to gravel. He barely kept it under control.

So he ordered the Boxer, rode it a few years and then discovered something more frightening than skittering sideways on aggregate: Rust.

Why chrome the bike? Why not repaint?

Mafac Raid brakes go back to the 1980s, if not before. Note the pump mounted to the left seat stay.

Mafac Raid brakes go back to the 1980s, if not before. Note the pump mounted to the left seat stay. Photo by Mitch Hull.

I’ve wanted a fully chromed bike since admiring the half-chromed fork on my first good bike, a 1969 Raleigh Grand Prix. Some of my friends had the next-better Raleigh, and I loved the additional half-chromed seat stays and chain stays.

Plus chrome is supposed to be more immune to scratches than paint. My previous bikes always got scratched while parked in the garage, moved in and out of the car, and when they fell over.

How did you choose Franklin Frames?

Jack Trumbull works in rural Newark, Ohio, just a 20-minute drive from me, and he’s been building, painting and repairing bikes since the 1970s. He works with my most-respected Columbus, Ohio, bike shop, Baer Wheels, on repairs. He offered chroming. I saw my chance!

You must be pretty satisfied with the bicycle to go to the expense/trouble of chroming it. What else has changed since we talked in 2012?

You’re right on the satisfaction–and right that there have been a few changes.

Because a chrome frame makes the most of whatever daylight you have, it looks good at any time of the day. Or night.

A fully equipped bicycle is ready for the weather–and the sun’s  bashful retreat from the party. Photo by Mitch Hull.

I have raised my seat at least an inch. I got a professional fitting after the Boxer was built. Kind of dumb I know, but my knee, which has bothered me on and off all of my life, is now pretty much pain-free.

The Boxer originally had a headset-based decaleur that doubled as a cable stop for the brake. I figured I would raise the stem as I got older and less flexible, and a decaleur attached to the headset would allow me to avoid any issues with handlebar bag fit.

Unfortunately, it flexed too easily, so I paid Boxer to make a stem-based unit.

I also installed a Nitto-made Rivendell Tallux stem to raise the bars. It has some flex, but this adds comfort rather than any loss of control. The Tallux also allowed me to get the bigger Berthoud handlebar bag that I originally wanted.

Probably the biggest negative is the decaleur; its design does not allow the top flap of the Berthoud to fully lay over the rider-side of the bag. In other words, a very tiny nitpick.

Traditional handlebar bags can come in several sizes. The taller the stem, the bigger the bag. Photo by Mitch Hull.

Traditional handlebar bags can come in several sizes. The taller the stem, the bigger the bag. Photo by Mitch Hull.

I also had Jack add the new Compass seat-tube tail light.

Good lights make a big difference. In the 1990s, I used a 5-watt halogen powered by four C batteries. Almost hit two deer with that setup. The Boxer, on the other hand, has a SON Deluxe generator and Edelux II headlight. (Originally, it had the Edelux I.)

It’s just wonderful not having to worry about getting home before it gets dark. It really extends the cycling calendar on work days.

Here's a look at the chainrest and all the cassette cogs that blame it for the absence of the ninth member of the unit.

Here’s a look at the chainrest and all the cassette cogs that blame it for the absence of the ninth member of the unit. Photo by Mitch Hull.

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw the bicycle, which means you’ve put some miles on the parts as well as the frame. What can you tell me about their reliability?

I started with Grand Bois Hetre tires in red–loved the look. I got two nail flats and one sharp stone right through the middle of the somewhat worn tread in two years and maybe 5,000 miles total riding.

I switched to the 42 mm Compass Babyshoe Extra Leger in October, and I believe they’re a little faster. My speeds on the same routes went up about a half mile per hour, to 15 mph. I like them a lot. I weigh about 180 lbs and run 50/55 psi front/back on pavement. I will try lower pressures on a longer gravel ride soon.

The Campy/Shimano drivetrain has been tricky, but only for getting the front derailleur to move the chain onto the 20 tooth granny without overshifting onto the bottom bracket.

After setting up the bike myself post-chroming, I thought I had a problem with the springs in the Chorus Ergo levers, so I took them to Westerville Bike Shop, an authorized Campy dealer in Columbus. The guy said it wasn’t the shifters, so I brought the whole bike in, and he adjusted the shifting. I haven’t dropped the chain since. And I thought I was decent bike mechanic….

HardwareW

Photo by Mitch Hull.

The rear shifting is a bit slower than the Campy 10-speed Ergo setup on my Smoothie. The chain is a little noisier, too. I’m still running the same SRAM 9-speed chain (PC-991) and the custom eight-cog Shimano cassette, one cog short to make room for the chainrest. Most of the customization involved grinding down the spider. Its been very reliable.

This is what happens when you don't have a smartphone. The Boxer's handlebars, circa 2012

This is what happens when you don’t have a smartphone. The Boxer’s handlebars, circa 2012. Finally, a photo by me.

What’s your saddle maintenance routine?

I bought and applied the Berthoud wax a couple of times. I use Vaseline for butt lube and it migrates to the saddle along with sweat. I just wipe off the excess after each ride. The saddle has softened some, but I haven’t had to tighten it up after 2,000 miles. On the other hand, the leather isn’t as friendly to my sit-bones as padded saddles, so I may change back out again at some point. It’s the most difficult contact point for me.

What does the information cockpit look like these days?

After I chromed the bike, I cut back to the heart-rate monitor. I always carry an iPhone and use the Cyclemeter app to record distance and altitude. I may go to something like a Reflct gizmo at some point, but probably not this year.

 

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About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Becoming a bicycle, Equipment, Other bicycles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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