Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Superba Progress

Ta-da! Look what I found sprouting up amidst the grass after the snow melted. Okay, not really. But I thought this would be a good time to update on the progress of the Bella Ciao Superba. I've already been told how nice the new frame colour looks, but this is actually the same colour as before - it's still my bike, only with different components. The colour does look different with the cream tires and brown accessories; less beige and more green. The production frame colour will be one step further in this direction: Imagine a mix between the shade you see here and that of my Roya H. mixte.

Some aspects of the prototype are still in flux, but this is the basic idea of how I envisioned the bicycle: Fully equipped, yet classic and very simple - inasmuch as such a combination is possible.

As I had hoped, the Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub works nicely with the overall design. Not only do I prefer its functionality over Shimano's (just a personal preference), but visually it is more in sync with how I see this bicycle. One of my favourite parts of the Bella Ciao frames are the elegant fork-ends with the chain tensioners. And to my eye, the Sturmey Archer hub - with its glorious indicator chain - integrates perfectly with these elements. I think I drove everybody a little nuts making sure they order the specific version of this hub I wanted, but I am comfortable with that.

The classic trigger shifter frees up the handlebars for a larger gripping area and looks very natural here. For the brake levers, I decided to go with the retro city levers from Velo Orange. They are long, providing good leverage from a variety of gripping positions, and I find the curvy form to be delightfully ergonomic.

The grips pictured here are just placeholders to match the saddle; I am not sure yet what the grips on the production bike will be. It's a tricky one, because I know that no matter what I choose it is likely that the new owner will replace them anyway with their own grips of choice. Therefore I wonder whether it is even worth it to focus on this aspect too much. My personal choice would actually be a set of hard classic plastic grips. But the Portuguese natural cork grips from Rivendell may be a bigger crowdpleaser, so those are a possibility as well.

One aspect of the bicycle that I initially wanted to change, were the crank arms. The stock ones are not too bad, but I had hoped to find something more classic. Turns out that's not actually possible, as none of the retro-styled cranksets on the market are available with chain rings that are compatible with the Bella Ciao chaincase. I've put a lot of effort into researching this a few months back and short of extremely expensive options, it is just not feasible to get different cranks. At that point I had to ask myself: Will the ladies this bicycle is meant to appeal to be willing to pay $150 extra for this bike in order for it to have vintage looking crank arms? And I think the answer is "no," because even for me it would not be worth it. So fairly early into the project it was decided that the stock cranks would remain.

More recently, I have also decided to keep the stock pedals. It is no problem at all to source a more classic rubber platform pedal and remain within budget, but here's the thing: After riding with the stock pedals since October, I find them to be functionally superior, so I think that replacing them would be a disservice to future owners of this bicycle. The pedals have been tenaciously grippy with all of my shoes in the rain and snow, and they are light. Rather than replace them, I think I'd like to get a couple of more sets from Bella Ciao for personal use on some of my other bikes.

The Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires are a perfect match for the bicycle, and I decided to go with the version with reflective sidewalls for additional visibility after dark. The dynamo lighting system currently installed is passably elegant, but needs some tweaking - I don't like it that the headlight partially obscures the headbadge and sits so close to the headtube. The simplest and least expensive solution would be to place the headbadge higher  - I think there is room to raise it maybe another inch without it looking too weird. I am also trying to find a mounting bracket for the headlight that would place it further forward. Looking at other Italian city bikes, I see that many of them have the headlight installed higher up, mounted above the headset. However, this presents the additional problem of routing the wires for the dynamo lighting. Yet another possibility would be to ask the framebuilder to add a braze-on to one of the fork blades and mount the headlight there, but this would increase production costs, and might look a little bulky on this particular bicycle. So... I am still thinking about this one.

And finally, the rear rack. To be honest, this has been a more challenging endeavor than anticipated, and I do not as of yet have a finished prototype that is financially feasible for the production bikes. I thought carefully about whether I should even post pictures of the rack, lest it be a disappointment if in the end it proves impossible to offer the one shown in the pictures. But I decided to go ahead, because I would like to document the experience of working on this bike - including instances where "Plan A" ends up not panning out. I will eventually write a separate post about the challenges of rack design and production, but for now I am trying my best to get it done while fitting into the timeline and into the budget I have to work with.

It's funny, because I have been warned against taking this project too personally - but have been unable to heed that advice. I do take things personally when I am passionately involved in something; it's just how I am. As with everything, this experience has both highs and lows, and perhaps I take both to heart more than I should. But when I walk past this bicycle in our apartment now, I pause every time and think "Oh my God, this is my dream bike!" - so I think overall that's a good sign. More progress reports to follow, and if you have questions regarding availability please contact elton[at]harriscyclery[dot]net.


Post a Comment

Ping Blog

Step 1
Blog URL:

Blog Title (optional):

Blog RSS Feed (optional):

I agree with terms of service.

Step 2
Copy the following code and put it on your blog/site to help our blog ping tool track your submission (Need help?):

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best Buy Coupons