All posts by varcocycles

The VarcoFrog?

Yes sir, the VarcoFrog! My buddy Lawson aka: Frogi was looking for a frame that fit him to be used in fixed gear road crit races and to bomb around the streets of the ATL on. 

We chose Columbus Zona tubes because of it’s toughness, ride quality and light weight. The top tube is 7/5/7 wall but to add to the stiffness I used an 8/6/8 wall downtube. These numbers refer to the wall thickness of the tubes. Most tubes used in bikes have “butted” tubes. This means the wall thickness is thicker at the ends, where the junctions are and thinner in the middle where strength is not as important. 7/5/7 means the tubes wall thickness changes from .7mm at one end, tapers to .5mm in the middle, then back up to .7mm at the other end. 

Miters need to fit tight even under lugs! 

Vent holes. I’d like to make em bigger. 

This frame has a 100mm head tube so the lugs had to be modified to achieve such a diminutive number. 

Here my QC department checks that the seat tube slot lines up with the slot in the lug. 

They’re not impressed. 

120mm track width!

Doing a fastback again. I love fastbacks thanks to Ben Serotta!

Next is badges. I wanted to use the Gaviota logo and add some type of BB tag with name and number of the frame. 

This Froggy is done!!!

Frogi is going to paint it himself so I can’t WAIT to see what he comes up with. I really like the way this frame came out and I hope he does too! I also hope he rides the shit out of it!

Have fun and stay safe everybody! 

Allan Varcoe

Frame Jig Rev2.0

After I built my frame jig I noticed flaws immediately! It was almost too adjustable and I didn’t make a good way to release the frame from the jig while keeping the dummy axle in place. Ya doof! 

So, with a little advice from David Saul from Diesel Frameworks, Joe Roggenbuck of Cobra Frames and good ole Google Images, I came up with an improved design that worked in my head. You know, the cool thing about frame jigs is that as long as the components of the jig are nice and aligned up, there is almost (note the “almost”) no wrong way to make a frame jig. Sure there are BETTER jigs out there but they all hold tubes at angles to one another.

David Saul makes jigs for other people and his jig was similar to what I had in mind so I asked him some questions. Getting advice from an expert is so paramount when investing some time and money into a project like this and I think it paid off. 

Joe Roggenbuck made sure I wasn’t a complete moron when designing the rear dummy axle fixture. Thanks buddy! 

Here is my first rev. You can see the rear dummy axle is just a piece of threaded rod and the HT and ST angles are not all that easily adjustable. 

First to address was the ST angle and BB attachment. I ordered a piece of Aluminum and got designing on Mastercam.

Then onto the Horizontal CNC. Unfortunately we didn’t have the right inserts for our face mill so the surface came out a little shitty. 

…and because I can, I did a little engraving. 

 I also added the upright extrusion on the right for the HT fixture but based on Davids experience I later changed that to slide along the main extrusion. You’ll see later. So, here’s the HT plate all Mastercamed up. 

Now, I had to mount a frame in there to calculate the the bottom bracket centerline and adjust the cone accordingly on it’s 1/2-20 threaded center stud. In this pic you can see how the HT and ST cones are higher than the tubes. 

Taking Joe’s word on using Anvil dummy axles, I got 137mm and 122mm. 137mm is for 135mm frames like QR mtb’s and 10-11 speed road bikes. The 122mm is for track frames as they are 120mm wide. 

Designing a way to hold the dummy axles was the next task. The reduced center diameter is 2.500″ long so I machined the holder 2.495″ thick to allow the axle to come in and out easily. As you can see below there is a clamp that allows the dummy axle to be removed from the bottom by loosening one bolt. 

Next I designed and machined a plate to mount the whole rear dummy axle fixture onto and it’s pinned into the slots in the main extrusion to allow it to slide back and forth easily. 

Now, I mentioned being able to slide the HT fixture along the main extrusion. Well, it’s a simple plate with holes for guide pins and bolts. I made it L shaped so the weight of the HT fixture would be somewhat centered over the guide pins. The plate has a bunch of extra holes in it because it was once a machining fixture. Sometimes you just can’t turn down free material! 

At this point it is a usable frame jig BUT I still need to mount it to some sort of stand. A mill vice on a plastic stool just won’t do. Haha!

 Giving this a try. For $40 it’s a decent platform to start from. Harbor Fright! (Not Freight)  

It needs to be about 20-25″ taller. I’m 6’3″ so this would work great if I had no femurs. I’m thinking of a height adjustable multi hole system. I’ll update this post as I progress on that. For now, I have to finish the “VarcoFrog”! A small street crit frame for a small, strong track racer named Frogi! Look for a post on that soon!
Eventually I will buy nice handles to make the jig easier to use but for now I am really happy with how Rev2 came out! Can’t wait to use it! 
For now, keep it rubber side up! Have fun and ride safe! Turn your lights on and watch yo asses out there! 

Edit: Raising the Jig! 3/1/17

I’ve never MIG welded before and this was a perfect spot to try it out. So, I hacked up the engine stand, drilled some holes, made bushings and went to the MIG welder. 

This mod raised the jig up 16″as it’s currently set up. It can still go up another 6″ and down 6″! 

I have another build about to be finalized so I’ll be throwing some Spirit tubing in the jig and making a light weight gravel bike! 

 Allan

Cyclocross Frame Finished, Assembled and Ridden! 

I thought this deserved it’s own post. I had the frame powder coated and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out! 


I run a shim in the seat tube because my son’s trailer bike has a 27.2mm clamp.

Green headsets are cool. 

Now, onto riding it! The fit seems right on! Really comfortable. Steering is responsive but calm on the road and seems to be razor precise off road without reacting to every imperfection. The 425mm chain stay length makes for quick response and a “light” front end when it comes to lifting the front wheel over bumps/ruts/rocks….

These WTB Nano tires are AMAZING! They are smooth and fast when going straight on the road but they absorb a LOT of road noise and bumps. Even at their max pressure of 65psi. But off road is where they shine! I’ve ridden it on packed dirt, sandy dirt, rough crushed stone (larger stuff too, 3-6 inch stones) and rocky/rooty trails and the Nano’s have handled it all! 

While I’m talking about WTB, the Volt saddle is probably the nicest fit for me I’ve ever found. 
I went with a SRAM X7 10 speed derailleur because they are silent and cheap! Paired with an Apex group shift lever the shifting is really effortless. After going over 500 miles on a 1994 Bridgestone RB2 with DT shifters I only reached for the DT a few times. Surprised myself!

The Rival1 crankset with 42t Narrow/wide chainring is silent! I was wondering if the narrow/wide tooth profile would make for a grindy sound like a fixed gear bike but it is dead quiet! 

Disc brakes are new to me and DAMN do they work! The BB7 caliers are like a vice to the 160mm Avid rotors! I still have to completely bed the pads in however. 

Basically, a total blast to ride! And all with fairly low cost components. I have under $1200 total into this bike! Way WAY more satisfying than going to the LBC and paying $1200 for an off the shelf Trekalized! 
If you aren’t the type of person who needs the latest iPhone or the biggest TV available, then using 10 speed drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes with a custom steel frame or a frame off of Craigslist may be a great way to get an amazing new bike without spending a ton. If you build a bike piece by piece from the ground up you will learn SO much about cycling. 

I built this frame to closely resemble the geometry of a Cannondale SuperX. Slightly lower TT, steeper HT angle and slightly lower stack height than their 61cm frame. So I get a custom fit, and saved $7300! Some would think “But you’d get better parts on the Cannondale.” Well, I find it hard to believe that you’ll be $7300 faster on an 11 speed bike with hydro brakes! 

Well, if you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU! I really do appreciate it! Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment. 

Go find a trail and ride it! (and wear your helmet!)

Allan Varcoe

My first YouTube edit.

Cyclocross frame and fork! 

Since #CrossIsComming and I have never built a disc frame OR a fork at all for that matter, I figured my next build should be just that. 

The thought of a frame with a taller head tube, higher BB, more laxed head tube angle, more tire clearance, internal cables, True Temper tubes just sounds too good to pass up! So many new (to me) things to do on this frame.

The real challenge will be the fork. Never built a fork at all let alone a disc fork with a 15mm thru axle but hey, let’s give it a shot! 
Starting with the frame, I chose True Temper tubing. They’re made in the USA and may be the last American bicycle steel tube supplier for a while. While the lugs I am using are made in Asia, I do try to keep frame parts as American as I can. That’s why I have Paragon Machine Works dropouts, front and rear. PMW’s low disc mount rear dropouts are so simple to use and look amazing! The front dropouts are their new 15mm thru axle dropouts. These dropouts work with PMW’s own axles too! They have rack mount tabs but I will be removing those. I also have a Paragon front caliper mount that has a long fork blade stiffening extension on it. While I am using straight blades it’s nice to know if I wanted to bend the blades Paragons mount would be there to reinforce the bend. 

I really wanted to try internal cable routing. Nate Zukas (Zukas Cycles, Athens, GA) is an absolute master at this and he inspired me to do this! But I chickened out and only ran internal through the downtube and not into the DT and out the chainstays (through the BB). I’m happy with the results though. 

I also gave a shot at carving a “V” into the top head lug. Why not. Looks like it was done by a 7 year old. Ha! 

I have some more practicing to do. 

One Saturday I was home alone and I got started quickly! Knocked out 3 joints in an afternoon! I was pumped on the progress! 

I needed to build some tooling for the chain stay and seat stay slotting. Joe from Cobra Frames (www.cobraframes.us) came through AGAIN! He suggested a set of V blocks with a pin to allow one V block to follow the taper of the chain stay. So I made a set and they work bitchin’! (I can say that now because I live in California)

They work like this:

I also am going to try a stainless steel headtube badge on this mother feller. 

Cut in the shape of the S&M shield as I have relied on many S&M BMX parts for, idk, my entire BMX days. Even today! So, thanks Chris Moller for always making serious quality parts! 

On to the seat cluster. This is, what people say, the joint that gives the builder a chance to show off his artistry. Since I have no artsy side, I figured I’d give it my all. But first I needed a way to hold the tubes in rotational phase and at the same angle. My non artsy fartsy side came up with this double V block. 

The 5mm Alen wrench in the slots keep the two SS’s in phase and the V grooves hold the tubes. Then in a machine vice at an angle. What angle? Any frikin’ angle. This is art not math class damn it! Oh, that little strip is a chunk of leftover top tube. It’ll make sense soon. (If not already)

This little pic stitch kinda tells the rest of the story. (Now reread that last sentence in Paul Harvey’s voice. And if you don’t know who he is you probably have never cranked up windows on a car or used a rotary phone!)

Now just to braze the SS’s to the seat lug. Let’s get artsy! 

I am REALLY happy with how it came out! I know I over filled it. Hey, it’s not the Mona Lisa that’s for sure! 

Back to dropouts for a moment. I removed that little tab where the red arrow is just to make the transition from dropout to seat stay flow a little nicer.

I’m really happy with how the Paragon Machine Works Low Disc dropouts came out. I also like that I can get a longer derailleur mount from them too if I wanted to go up to an 11-40 cassette. 

At this point the frame is mostly done. The tire clearance is sweet, rear alignment is dialed, front end looks good to the best of my abilities, happy happy! Now I just need to do a couple cable guides along the top of the chain stays and braze the head tube badge. Here is where it is today.

FYI, the top tube is not bigger in diameter than the down tube. Haha! 

Edit (9/29/16): Here’s the mock up. 2° sloping top tube lookin good! It’s at powder coat now. Watch for updates sooooon! This is sitting now with a Surly Disc Trucker fork because I won’t have the fork done by CX season

So, next it’s onto my first fork build! I already made a jig, I just haven’t used it yet. This outta be good. I need to come up with a disc tab fixture. Sure I could buy one, and there are some nice ones out there, but I enjoy making my own fixtures as much as I enjoy building the frame. 

If you’ve made it this far you probably have little to do right now as I tend to babble about this stuff, makes me all giddy. And if you can get past my misspellings and ghramar errors then you’re a friking CHAMP! HIGH FIVE! 

As always, stay safe out there! Love your family, adopt your pets and RIDE YOUR DAMN BIKE!!! Whatever you have, whatever terrain you want, however far you want, Strava if you want, wearing whatever you want (as long as you at LEAST have a helmet on)! Just ride. It’s good for your body, mind and the planet.

Allan Varcoe

Our son’s first ride with a GoPro Hero 4 Black.

Click the pic for the video.

Our son LOVES to be on camera and to ride his bike, so why not mix the two? We ride bikes to school every morning. I think in the short .5 mile ride he is learning how to safely ride with obstacles. Having to go around walkers and to watch for cars turning into driveways and whatnot. 
I ordered the GoPro brand handlebar mount from Amazon for $14 and was disappointed to see it’s made of plastic. As you can see it slipped during the ride, but I was able to tighten it up enough. His crossbar on the handlebars of his MiraCo BMX bike is 3/4″ so with a little piece of rubber it’s almost all the way clamped. I suppose if you needed to go smaller you could use more rubber. However, it works on my 1 3/8″ downtube without any rubber and hasn’t slipped yet. 

I may machine myself a similar mount out of aluminum but there is a company called K Edge that makes mounts that clamp to 31.8mm road or mountain bars that is made in the USA, anodized black, red or grey for 40 bones! It would cost that to get material, program a CNC mill, buy hardware and it still wouldn’t be anodized so I’ll probably just get the K Edge mount for my bike.

Go Big Pro Handlebar Mount

We are definitely looking forward to having a lot more fun with our GoPro mount and it seems well worth the $14 on Amazon! 

And now, our feature presentation

And as always, have fun and ride safe, Allan

Edit:

Here is a link to my first GoPro Ride. 

Click pic for video.

The camera was mounted on my seat tube like this:

On the ride home I tried more things. Top pic is mounted on the Top Tube and the bottom pic is mounted on the head tub . 

Good bye to True Temper tubes.

True Temper

So, I have built 2 of the 4 frames using full True Temper tubing and I must say that I was sold! Completely ready to exclusively use True Temper tubes from then out I stumble upon the news of their ceasing to produce bicycle tubing. I was happy with the straitness  of their tubes, the finish, durability and the fact that they are made in the USA.

As a noob hobbyist builder this won’t effect me too much. Not near the effect it will have on all the full time builders who have used True Temper since their inception. Built a business around the fact that they use American steel and source all materials from the USA.

According to the article below it seems like I’ll be able to get tubing from True Temper through December 2016. I will use as much True Temper as I can for the remainder of that time. However, then, I’ll have to go another route. I have always wanted to try Reynolds tubes!

For now all we can do is hope the suits at True Temper see that the small builder market is growing and change their mind or sell the bicycle tubing “division” to keep the “Made in the USA” people going .

True Temper Discontinues.

Enjoy, ride safe!
Allan

1992 Bridgestone RB-2 for a Temporary Commuter.

Picked myself up this Bridgestone RB-2 for two reasons.

1. I wanted a geared bike quickly because commuting on my single speed was killing me! I’m currently building myself a geared cyclocross frame but I’m not yet even done with the front triangle so it’ll be a bit.

2. Since I build frames mostly using double oversized tubing I wanted to try an old traditional tubeset.

This showed up on CL and I figured it was going  to be trashed for the price they were asking. And it kinda is, derailleur cable for a rear brake cable, rear pads were almost gone, tires were dry rotten, bar tapes shot, drive line had a decade of WD-40/mud on it, frame and fork have chips and scrapes, Shimano DeoreLX derailleurs and wheel set… so I bought it!

Here it is right off of CL.

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That Deore though.

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It’s a 59 cm, which from the best I can tell is to the tip of the top of the seat tube. The top tube measures 585 mm. So far this thing is right on for fitting me! Head tube is about 160 mm tall and the rear end measures 410 mm. Head tube is about 74° and seat tube is about 72°. The fork has an axle to crown of 375 mm. So yeah, race bike geometry. Oh and the weight, 24lbs flat with 25c tires and a water bottle cage. Not bad IMO.

That short rear end doesn’t leave room for much more than a 25c Gatorskin.

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Time to get into it. Braking has been addressed, bar tape, tires and tubes, cleaned the shit out of the driveline, cleaned and regreased the hubs, trued up the wheels, put SPD pedals on and just washed it!

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I finally got to commute on it today. First impression is “Wow! This thing is FAST!”. My 8 mile commute involves about 600ft of climbing into work and 850ft home so this was a good chance to see what gears could do for me. The small diameter tubes surprised me! This frame is very stiff! That nice short rear end makes for some nice power transfer! The steering is razor sharp and the fork flexes enough to give some forgiveness on the bumps without unraking the fork too much under heavy braking.

I had always heard that Bridgestone bikes were highly regarded and I can see why now! According to Strava I had a few PR’s!

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I’ll probably be sad to get rid of this bike since I’m only really buying it for a temp commuter till I can finish my CX frame. I would love to give it a 22 speed SRAM Rival group and some compact ergo bars! But then it would need paint first and better wheels. Oh the snowball.

I guess that means I’ll just enjoy it for what it’s for. Besides, the feeling of riding a bike you designed, built the frame and fork, speced the EXACT parts  you want and assembled it all together FAR outweighs this bikes cool factor.

Hopefully next post will be of my next build but until then I’ll be enjoying this little rocket!

Ride safe and have FUN damn it! We’re only on this planet so long, don’t take the shortest way, don’t skip dessert, smell those damn roses, ignore bullshit, get lost, laugh hard, hug your kids often and just be a nice person!

Allan

Adam of Rotten Gear’s Track Frame

My buddy Adam is a hard workin’ family man, a fan of horror and metal who also rides fixed gear bikes. His body was getting beaten up riding Aluminum fixed gear frames that look good but never fit him well. So, I got talking to him about building him a frame. I wanted more frame building practice, he wanted a frame to fit and be comfortable. WIN! He also wanted a triple triangle which is something I hadn’t done yet. WIN! Being that Adam isn’t a track racer I gave him a more laxed head tube and the ability to run a longer rear end. But, the dropout slots are long enough that he can tuck the tire within a CM of the seat tube if he wants.

I started this build WAAAAY back in May of 2015 but due to other projects and moving from LA to SD, I finished it JUST in the nick of time. You see Adam and his wife are from Phoenix, AZ and took an impromptu two day vacation in LA. Luckily all I needed to do was some odds and ends finishing work. So we meet in Corona as they were on their way home for the delivery. Let me tell you it was SO rewarding watching him see his frame for the first time. Made the whole build worth it!

Proud moment!

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Soak anyone?

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Here’s a lesson learned moment right here. I needed longer seat stays, so I made these nifty little extensions, mitered them all up THEN checked the alignment of the chainstays! Aaaand they needed just a smidge of adjusting. Ugh. So after aligning the CS’s the miters didn’t line up. Oops.

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Paul Kettelar from AU’s influenced rear trip jig. Kept the dropouts centered nicely. The ST to CS angle was so slightly off on the right side. Not bad at all if I had only checked that before mitering the seat stays.

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Miters need to fit tightly even under lugs.

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Well, that’s it. Thanks Adam! I really enjoyed this build!

Next up, a disc CX frame AND FORK for me. Yay!

Ride safe!
Allan Varcoe

Rear Triangle Fixture.

I think all I do is build fixtures. I have a fixture for just about everything. Having apprenticed in a prototype / tool and die machine shop back in the late 90’s and still working in the same field today, I guess I feel the need to develop a fixture everything. I built the frame fixture (jig) and that should cover everything I need to do on a bike frame. Or does it?

You see, due to the nature of working with lugs I have gotten decent at going without fixturing or with minimal assistance from fixturing. So, after I built a frame fixture I kind of started to feel it was over constrained. While I know this isn’t the case, I’m actually having a little trouble wanting to use it to finish a frame that I started a while back.

This fixture isn’t revolutionary or anything, heck, it’s probably hardly even evolutionary, but I got the idea on fucking Pintrest of all places. The idea is using the HT and ST from your front triangle to project the alignment of your rear triangle.

As with most fixtures, you need good straight surfaces. While there are probably straighter, a couple pieces of 1/4″ thick aluminum angle are lookin’ mighty fine for this job. Also, it’s cheap and easy to store.

I’ll be using my 2″ Paragon tube blocks with this fixture so I need a 2″ spacer with holes for a bolt and the dummy axle. Like this.

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Next is drilling holes in the aluminum angles. I used this block as a guide since it has the exact hole size and spacing I need.

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Trim the ends of the angle to clear the dropouts.

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Bolt it all together. Then using 3″ C-clamps to hold the aluminum angles to the tube blocks on the HT & ST I can align the dropouts and set the ST to chainstay angle.

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I can also use this fixture to align the front triangle for brazing the DT to the BB lug. Simply leaving off the rear triangle and clamping the HT and ST together in alignment. I have a feeling I’ll be using this one a lot.

Next mission is to finish this frame up. I’m looking forward to doing the triple triangle seatstays on this one!

Thanks for reading and PLEASE ride safe out there! Now that it’s dark at 5:15 you’ll need to light yourself up like a Christmas tree to be seen!

Allan Varcoe

EDIT!

Paul Ketelaar from Australia gave me some pointers on a way to really make this fixture more effective. There is 2 separate stages and I have only done 1. But I did make the parts for the second stage also. Stage 1 mod is basically adding a swinging arm to the end. This allows me to push the dropouts down (or up) without having to fiddle with the clamps that hold the fixture to the tube blocks.

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Stage 2 involves another segment between allowing articulation. This allows the use of traditional vertical road dropouts. You see with a horizontal dropout Stage 1 works fine because the dummy axle will slide in the dropout while the angle is being adjusted. Not in a vertical though.

Thanks Paul!

Check his FB out! He’s a badass!

https://m.facebook.com/steeltherideideal/

Frame Painting #RattleCan

Rust. Bare steel frames last just fine in the desert that is LA county. However now that we’re in San Diego county, 12 miles from the beach, I couldn’t keep bare metal clean and shiny. So, it’s time for paint. Not just any paint, no no no. Rattle Can Paint! Budgets suck. Ha!

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But first I wanted to add water bottle mounts. My handy, dandy little fixture here makes quick work of the drilling.

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And brazing water bottle mounts is among the quickest braze jobs on a bike.

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Now, time to prime.

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Paint.

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Add frame decals like a pro builder, reassemble.

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BAM! I even did the stem. Love how it looks!

Next I’m finishing Adam from Rotten Gear’s frame finally!

Ride safe out there people! Road raging morons are out there waiting.

Allan Varcoe