Having decided to proceed with the project in Autumn 2014, we then needed to establish what form the bike would take. I already had a brief list of essential requirements, which follows. 1. The bike should be comfortable, with steady steering; I didn’t want something which would respond to the slightest input, as required in a peleton, but rather something which wouldn’t require constant micro-corrections to the steering, which I find fatiguing on a long ride. I didn’t specify wheelbase, frame angles, bottom bracket height, weight, etc. As far as I was concerned, I would trust Darron’s experience and skill to produce the riding characteristics I required. 2. The top of the handlebar should be level, or nearly level, with the top of the saddle, because this was to be a bike for leisurely rides, not a racing machine, and because an accident 30-odd years ago had made me particularly prone to neck-ache if my head is tilted back for any length of time. 3. The steering should be stable with or without a moderate front load, since I intended to use a large Gilles Berthoud handlebar bag. 4. It should be built to take mudguards (fenders). 5. It should be built for 42mm section tyres, with ample clearance between the tyres and mudguards, to minimise the risk of mud and debris building up under the mudguard and jamming the wheel, something I’d experienced on other bikes with close clearances. 6. It should be built for derailleurs, with 10- or 11-speed indexed gearing and double chainwheel. Bottom gear should be around 27 inches. 7. It should incorporate a rubber chainstay protector.
8. It should have brazed-on centre-pull brakes, such as vintage MAFAC Racers. Cantilevers work fine, but to me, they look inelegant. Disc brakes are great, but wouldn’t suit the aesthetic I was looking to achieve, which is basically traditional French randonneuse with modern, but appropriately-styled componentry. For the same reason, I waned to use traditional MAFAC brake levers, rather than modern STI/Ergopower types. 9. It should be elegant and classic-looking, with delicate steel fork legs, curved to absorb road shocks. I find modern carbon fibre and aluminium bicycle styling brutal and inelegant by and large, and also dislike the current use of straight fork legs on modern steel bikes. I imagine that these are chosen for reasons of fashion rather than function, although I stand to be corrected on this. 10. It should be functional as well as elegant, with no embellishments solely for reasons of style. 11. There should be no compromise on quality of materials, components and accessories. This didn’t necessarily mean using the most exotic or expensive items, such as carbon fibre components, but rather high-quality materials and well-built, well-designed and elegant parts which would be durable, and perform well and reliably. All other details were to be subject to discussion. Darron was entirely supportive of this; even better, this was a bike he was really keen to build. Over the coming weeks, we met frequently to discuss the design in minute detail, and my next post on the subject will describe what I found to be a most enjoyable and fascinating process. (To be continued).