My brother Jonsan has always had some cool and interesting bicycles, including the very first fixed gear bike I'd ever seen, a mid-80s Schwinn Madison (which now lives in my garage, and sometimes roams the streets of Eugene). He'll find a rare and/or beautiful frame and then build it up with top quality components, and every once in a while he sends me photos of his incredible creations. I've asked him to do a couple guest blog posts about his latest project, a Gazelle "Crossframe" cyclocross bike (for part 2, click here):
"A couple of years back I started to recognize the benefits of tires wider than the 23 mm I had ridden for decades. I tried a touring bike, a fairly highly regarded one (Specialized Expedition), and it was yuck. I think the thicker walled tubing touring bikes have for carrying loads makes the bike feel sluggish when ridden unloaded.
I wanted something a little racier, but vintage-y, so I started looking for a vintage cyclocross bike. Cyclocross bikes are all the rage now and easy to find but in the 70's and 80's they were pretty much unknown in this country except for a few brought in for a very small core of 'cross riders. The easiest ones to find (and still not that easy) were the Italian ALAN aluminum ones. I found one and was pretty stoked about it, but after I built it up and went for a few rides it also had to go. With powerful cantilever brakes, the aluminum fork would flex like crazy when braking hard, so much so that I was afraid it would eventually snap. You could literally see the fork blades flex back an inch when coming to a quick stop. I sold the ALAN and started looking. And kept looking.
By some miracle I eventually found a Gazelle cyclocross frame, an ex race bike, that would fit me. The tubing is Reynolds 753 which was state of the art for its day and is the lightest steel frame I have ever owned. The serial number indicates it was made in 1984 but the decals are circa 1989. Apparently the rear dropout broke (presumably in a crash) and a new one was installed and the frame was repainted. Being a true cyclocross bike meant for racing, it has a high bottom bracket and no water bottle braze ons. Back then road racers ran 20-22 mm tubulars; this frame was designed around 28 mm cross tubulars which were considered wide back then, so it does not have the clearance of a modern frame. I ran it with 29 mm clinchers for awhile but after I acquired a Lyon frame, 29 mm tires didn't seem very wide anymore so I took the Gazelle apart and into the attic it went.
I recently decided to give it another shot using 32 mm cyclocross tubulars; the rear wheel had to be moved back in the dropouts to gain enough clearance. I was originally running 39/44 chainrings which would be similar to what it originally had. In 'cross racing there is no need for super low gearing as it is faster to hop off the bike and shoulder it up a short steep incline rather than spinning a low gear. I rebuilt it with some of the parts off of a disassembled Bridgestone XO-1. The front derailleur has a braze on mount and I had to stick with a 44 large chainring as I couldn't lower the front mech any lower. I am using a 32 small chainring and I have to be careful when shifting the front as I have limited adjustment for the derailleur.
With 32 mm tubulars at 45psi front and 50psi rear, it has a nice cush but still accelerates and climbs well. Without the pump and spare tire it is 20.5 pounds which ain't bad. I have a set of 30 mm road tubulars aging and someday will install them which should make the bike feel faster yet. I also need to install a stem 1 cm longer which will wait for another day when I can play musical stems."
Here's a couple of shots of the Gazelle's front end; check out the nice cut-out Bocama head tube lugs:
Click or tap on any photo in this post for a higher definition (larger) image.
The main components are:
• Campagnolo C Record hubs laced to Mavic GEL 280 rims (as in 280 grams, pretty much as light as they come)
• Challenge Grifo XS 32 mm tubular tires *see note below*
• TA Cyclotouriste crankset 44/32
• Dura Ace freewheel 14-16-18-20-23-26
• Campagnolo C Record braze-on front derailleur
• Suntour Sprint rear derailleur
• Suntour XC ratcheting thumbshifters
• Nitto Dynamic stem, 11 cm
• Nitto Jitensha bars, cork grips (mainly to match the saddle)
• Real Design brake levers
• Brakes are Velo Orange cantilevers with "peace sign" cable hangers. I found out the
hard way that some older canti brake studs are spaced differently and many newer
cantilever brakes cannot be adjusted properly when mounted on them. I'm sure vintage Mafac or Weinmann cantis would fit but I prefer to have more adjustability with regards to toe-in of the brake shoes and I like the replaceable Kool Stop cartridge pads
• Campagnolo Chorus seatpost
• Brooks Swallow Ti saddle
*Note - For those of us unfamiliar with tubular tires, Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary defines them as: "A type of tire mainly used for racing. A tubular tire has no beads; instead, the two edges of the carcass are sewn together (hence the term "sew-up") with the inner tube inside. Tubulars fit only on special rims, where they are held on by cement."
In Part 2, we'll take this vintage cyclocross bike out for a ride, and talk some more about this Gazelle and the Reynolds 753 tubing that it's constructed with. Stay tuned!