To read the full story on Chipps’ frame building experience, check out the feature in Issue 111.
I’ve known people build up an entire bike based on a particular blue seat collar. My Performance Pub Bike was a little like that. Like all good projects, I diligently thought about the intended use and then made the bike fit those criteria. The bike needed to be simple, as maintenance-free as possible, fun to ride and look at. Its typical mission would be to leave my house, ride down the bumpy, muddy lane I live on, down the main road to the Golden Lion (or further afield, perhaps down the canal to the Old Gate in Hebden Bridge), where I should be able to lock it up without too much fear of theft.
Frame – an assortment of steel tubes.
As you’ll have seen in issue 111, I built the bike on a week (and a bit) long framebuilding course at Downland Cycles in Kent. I’d arrived only with the vague plan of building a pub/town bike as that was a bike that I could see myself actually using and where the custom-built nature of a framebuilding course would be handy in crafting it to my needs. I’d not really thought about the spec much other than I was interested in having hub gears and brakes for easy of (lack of) maintenance.w
As the frame took shape, there were various aspects of the spec that became apparent that I’d have to conform to. If I wanted Sturmey Archer hubs, then I’d need to build in the cable stops and brake mounts to fit – which resulted in my building a whole fork as there aren’t any stock 27.5in, hub brake compatible forks – anywhere in the world…
The frame itself was pretty simple in design. A tall head tube to give an upright town bike position without stem spacer madness, rear spacing for 135mm Sturmey Archer hubs. A big 31.6mm internal seat tube in case I fancied fitting a dropper seatpost later on. I added some stealth mudguard eyes to the bike – on the back of the seat tube, under the skinny plate seatstay bridge (which I copied off what Zinn used to do back in the 90s)
One last minute braze-on was the gear shifter. My Sturmey three-speed hubs had come with an indexed thumbshifter, but on taking the clamp off, I saw the familiar square of a downtube shifter boss. A braze on was obtained and I brazed it on to the frame, relying on a bare cable run under the BB shell for a minimal look. It’s quite a reach to get to, but with a three-speed, you’re not shifting that often and I love the purposeful ‘I am shifting gear!’ clonk that comes with it.
The whole bike and fork was powdercoated Norlando Grey by Orange bikes, who happen to have a full paintshop near us. And the final touch was a handmade headbadge that I’d been given ten years ago for a birthday and that I’d never found a worthy home for.
The wheels were an adventure themselves. Having decided on Sturmey three-speed hubs and 27.5in wheels, I discovered that Sturmey hubs only come in 36H – and there appeared to only be one, skinny, French touring rim in that drilling and diameter. Fortunately, Bryan from Downland found a brand new rim from Mavic that was 36H as well as being chunky and wide (and tubeless!) so that was sorted. Bryan helped oversee the lacing of the wheels on one of our regular late night workshop sessions during the week. The guy is tireless!
Once built, I thought I’d go for the biggest tubeless slicks I could find. The Maxxis Re-Fuse tyres were just the job; tubeless and coming in at 2in wide and with a file tread. This did immediately show up a shortcoming in my fork measurements in that, while there was plenty of side to side room in the fork, the tyre was only 10mm from the top of the crown, not leaving any room for my planned mudguard. However, I have plans for a half mudguard that’ll extend back from the fork and keep most of the spray at bay.
Gears and brakes
My Sturmey Archer three speed hubs come with drum brakes. The brakes are simple and work a little like a car drum, where a couple of shoes expand and press on a steel ring inside the spinning hub. I’ve used these brakes in the past and find them pretty reliable. I’ve not done any mountain biking with them, so that might throw up some challenges. The brake levers are beautiful polished units from Paul’s Components and they work well and look elegant on the bars.
The hubs themselves aren’t amazingly sealed, but they are easy to re-build and I plan on repacking the hub bearings with waterproof boat trailer grease for durability.
The hub came with a 20T (I think) sprocket and my ‘whatever I had around’ RaceFace narrow-wide 32H chainring seemed to give a pretty good ratio. I spin out on the long hill into town, but it’s fast enough – and the gearing is low enough that I can get back up the steepish hill to my house in the evening. A little easing of pressure is needed to shift, but that becomes second nature – especially given the over-obvious nature of my shifting arrangement.
Bars and stem
I wanted some ‘North Road’ style W-shaped bars. They’re the right shape and they’re cheap to buy. Unfortunately, they only coming in pre-oversize diameters, so again I had a bit of a compatibility search for a 25.4mm stem that would work with the 1 1/8th in threadless steerer. Luckily Hope Technology still have some NOS stems and I got one in a medium, 80mm length. While I was there, I got a matching headset and seat clamp too.
Post and saddle.
Given the proliferation of dropper posts in my life, I didn’t actually have a 31.6mm rigid post in the spares box, so I bought a COD (cheapest on display) post online as I hope to one day upgrade it to a crotch-handled dropper post. The saddle though, was carefully chosen. It had to be a Brooks B17 on a bike as classy as this. And, thanks to a couple of wet rides and some obsessive saddle oiling, the leather has softened already and is super comfortable.
And that’s about it. The bike has a Timber! bell on it for gentle jingling along the busy canal paths around here and there are usually blinkie lights mounted. Now that the evenings are lighter and the canals and back roads are drier, I reckon it’s time to start seeking out some distant pubs and putting the bike to the test.