Gifford: Powdercoat and Details

This color is hard to photograph. I’ve done my best at getting an accurate portrayal in these photographs. It is a brown with a lot of red in it. The Surly Karate Monkey comes in a similar color.

In this photo you can see how clean the fillets look with paint on them. You can also see the taillight cable getting hidden into the downtube:

The taillight wire comes out at the bottom of the downtube and runs under the chainstay to the light itself. The light is attached to the Rohloff shift box that is also under the left chainstay. In this photo you can also see the Rohloff cable guides (which I think look good now that they are painted) and the adjustment bolts for the eccentric bottom bracket.

I made a mount for the taillight using a stainless steel spoke. The wiring still needs to have the proper connectors crimped on and to be trimmed:

I built a new rack for this bike. It is probably the most nicely finished rack that I’ve built. It works with my Pass and Stow bag (which snaps to the rack) and my Acorn bag (which attaches with Ortlieb hooks to the front crossbar). It is designed to make the bicycle work well with Sportworks bus racks.The bus rack hook that holds down the front wheel can get right up to the fender.

The cable routing for the headlight on the fork was done so that the wiring can be removed without unsoldering the hub connector. The lighting is routed using pairs of hooks which are facing in opposing directions. You can turn the wire 90 degrees to remove it manually, but it won’t do so on it’s own. The hooks were made with 1mm diameter steel wire. There are two wires in this photo, one going from the hub to the headlight, and another going from the headlight to the taillight:

A final full bike shot:

There are some more photos on my smugmug site:

The todo list is getting very short and none of it prevents me from putting a lot of miles on this bike:

  • Custom stem
  • Build up my SON20 based front wheel. That one will be lighter than the current wheel.
  • Trim the wire for the tail light.
  • Make a fender guard so that I can remove the rear rack. It is only there to protect my rear fender from the spring loaded rear wheel hook on my employer’s bicycle shuttle.

This winter has been pretty mild and spring is coming fast. I expect the tone of the blog to change back from project statusto trip reports soon. I already have tenative plans for an overnight ride at the end of March if the weather is good.


  1. Dylan says:

    Wow Alex, it looks great! Must feel great to see this bike come to fruition.

  2. Fred Blasdel says:

    Ha, from the first shot I was thinking CUSTOM STEM!

    For the lift-dot posts, did you use just take the wood-screw versions and braze them in? I found an M5 version that’’s sold in England, but haven”t gotten around to threading the holes on my rack, much less importing them and trying it out.

    The opposing-hooks idea is brilliant! Why did you route the taillight wire under the BB instead of in with the shift cables?

    Did you cut down the front fender to get the bus rack hook up to 12 o”clock? I”ve left my berthouds unaltered, and the ~11 o”clock position has worked out just fine (especially with the yellow ratcheting hooks). I thought about adding a perpendicular mating hook to the front of my rack, but it doesn”t seem to be necessary.

    For the rear fender guard, are you planning on making it as a second vertical fender stay, just with a ledge for the hook? You might be able to turn it into a saddlebag rack, or maybe use a canti-stud handlebar-bag rack on the rear!

  3. AlexWetmore says:

    Good questions Fred.

    The Lift-the-Dot buttons are the ones with a machine thread. They have a #8-32 thread and I just tap that into little bits of 1/4″ rod, then braze the rod into the rack. I have a lot of these buttons if you need some.

    The cable under the BB seemed a little more hidden. Maybe I should have gone the other way.

    I did cut the front fender down. I went a little farther than necessary. It is at about 11:30 (instead of 12). My other bikes don”t let the hook go up quite as far and they work, but on the Microsoft Bike Shuttle I”ve had the hook slide down. This setup works just a hair better.

    The rear fender guard is going to be a piece of 1/4″ stainless steel that is on top of the fender and which replaces the stay. Probably overkill, but hopefully not too noticable. The rear hook on the bike shuttle is spring loaded and pushes on the fender whenever the shuttle goes over a bump (lots of those on 520) or when you put the bike onto the shuttle. It is an awful design (at least for practical bikes). I have a cell phone picture that I”ll post and link to here.

  4. Looks fantastic!

    I”m a bit surprised you decided to mount your taillight so low down. Wouldn”t visibility be better mounted to the back of the rack?

  5. AlexWetmore says:

    Dolan: The rack is not a permanent feature of the bicycle. The rear fender is not either (it gets removed when I run knobby tires). So the chainstay is the best location that I have for it.

    It is only about an inch lower than a fender mounted light. I”ve ridden behind this bike when someone else was riding it and visibility was good. I”ll probably add a fender mount battery operated taillight at some point too.

  6. Donald Genovese says:

    Congratulations! Wonderful in every respect. I like this bike a lot.

  7. dan says:

    i like that your front rack is a little nose up. i find so many people want racks dead-level, but IMO a little nose up works a lot better.

  8. AlexWetmore says:

    I always make them angle up by about 1-2 degrees. It just looks right to me, and works well. It is also good when building a rack for others (especially if they just give you the fork) because it handles any measurement error in the head tube angle. A rack pointing down always looks bad.

    I don”t think any of the photos here are on level ground though. In the last one the bike is already on an incline.

  9. Steve Chan says:

    Wow – that’’s pretty close to the ideal all-arounder bike (imo) and very smart, well though out details. Maybe if you ever cash out of Microsoft and retire, you can do bike frames as a way to keep busy?

  10. AlexWetmore says:

    I don”t know Steve. I”ve run some numbers for being a framebuilder, and it would be a significant change in my current salary. As a side project after retirement (in 20+ years?) it could be fun, but insurance costs (per year, not per frame) make it difficult to be a low volume builder.

    I don”t know how many hours I have in this bike, but the number isn”t small.

    I”d also need a lot more experience before I felt comfortable building for others. Hopefully I”ll do a few more bikes for myself and immediate family in the next few years.

    I”m happy to share my drawings and any details if other builders are interested in making a similar bike.

  11. AlexWetmore says:

    I”ve posted frame drawings here:

    They don”t have every last detail, but between the drawings and blog entries I think that a framebuilder or hobbyist could build a very similar bike.

  12. Josh says:

    The final product looks amazing. Congrats. It’’s been fun following the progress of the build. I”m starting to have some serious lust for 650bs and internally geared hubs.

  13. Vik says:

    Wow – very nice! I hope you get as much enjoyment from riding this fine bike as you did designing and building it….=-)

    safe riding,


  14. Jerry Wick says:

    Gifford turned out great Alex. You should be very proud.

    I bet you”re already thinking about your next frame.


  15. Joan Oppel says:

    Alex – looks like a wonderful bike, and a great set-up with the lights. I”m interested in the powdercoat finish. I”m about to have one of my bikes repainted, it’’s fully lugged steel and I”ve seen some very good work from Spectrum. But some people say that lugs really should have liquid paint. So, I”m curious about how you decided to do powdercoat for your frame instead of paint. Thanks.

  16. AlexWetmore says:

    Joan: I went with powdercoat for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is more affordable than liquid paint. Seattle Powder Coat did this for me for $125. A second reason is that it is more durable. The third is that it is cleaner environmentally.

    A downside of powder is that it can hide fine details. Spectrum does a very nice job, but their finish work still hides fine details (like well thinned lugs) more than wet paint. So on a bicycle with those details I would go with wet paint.

    Since this bike isn”t lugged there are few fine details and powdercoat was a good match for it.

  17. bob k. says:

    the bike looks wonderful, a sight better than my attempt at homebuilding a frame. keep up the good work. i hope we will be seeing more of this kind of thing from you in the future.
    -bob k. (from bilenky)

  18. Dr Codfish says:

    It’’s petty, and utilitarian. Good job on the front light cabel routing. That is the one thing that I think most bikes of this sort could use (removability). There are times when I”d switch out my Schmidt hub wheel, but alas, that light wire is trapped!

    I have often thought that the mounts used on a basketball hoop to secure the net would be a good
    adaptation, but then I”ve never suggested this because I thought I was a ”complainer of one”.

    Thanks for showing how this is done. (frame building). I have no interest in doing, but watching is fun and informative.

    Yr Pal, Dr C

  19. Leaf Slayer says:

    Awesome bike. I”m very much looking forward to your trip reports later this year.

    –Leaf S.

  20. Ben V says:

    Hi Alex

    Is the front rack sagging significantly as you load it? From the photos it looks lower as you add the small bag and even lower still with the large bag. Is that just an illusion?

  21. AlexWetmore says:

    That is just an illusion, probably me not holding the camera level (those photos weren”t taken with a tripod). The rack doesn”t sag significantly even if I sit on it.

  22. Gareth says:

    It looks fabulous Alex.

    You have quite tight clearances on the mudguards, have you considered the risk that the front wheel might lock if stuff gets picked up from the road?

  23. AlexWetmore says:

    Clearances on the fender are about 7 or 8mm. They haven”t been too tight so far. I don”t like the look of fenders which sit really high off of the tire.

  24. Steve says:

    Why do you choose an eccentric bottom bracket instead of sliding dropouts (e.g. Paragon Rohloff)? I”m thinking of building up something similar.

  25. Alex Wetmore says:

    I owned a previous bike with Paragon sliding dropouts and disliked them for a few reasons:
    1) They make getting a good fender line hard because you don”t have a fixed distance between the axle and bridges. I don”t like using spacers there, or reconfiguring my fender when I pick different chainring/cog sizes.
    2) I didn”t like the asthetics of having the dropouts cantilevered out behind the chainstay.
    3) Eyelets are usually not well thought out on them.
    4) Using sliding dropouts really means that you are building a frame with a roughly 145mm dropout width (the sliding dropouts take up in the space in between and drop it down to 135mm). The wide chainstays were too easy for my feet to hit with moderate (150ish) Q-factor cranks.
    5) They didn”t stay in adjustment for me as well as an EBB.

    EBBs sometimes get a bad name because the most common implementation uses set screws and that implementation does not work well. The concept of an EBB is a good one, the set screw implementations are easy to build but don”t work well.

  26. Alastair says:

    Alex, I”ve been giving this a lot of thought recently, I have one bike with horizontal drops and one with track ends, both hub gears. But I”m looking at a new custom frame and am hankering after vertical dropouts with disc brakes. I”ve been weighing up EBB v Paragons but am increasingly wondering if it might just be easier to run a chain tensioner. Maybe just a surly singulator in push up mode and have the disc caliper chainstay mounted? If I do this, and avoid rack/guard mounting issues then it’’s chain tensioner or EBB. As far as I”m aware there’’s no weight benefit to either so it comes down to aesthetics, simplicity and reliability. I”d be interested to hear your thoughts on this?…thanks….Al

  27. Alex Wetmore says:

    Tensioners work. I think they are ugly and they do add a bit of noise and limit your options for using a chaincase, but they work.

    I personally like the EBB option the best though. They work best with fenders, don”t look ungainly like sliding dropouts or a tensioner, and don”t have to be too heavy. Phil Wood makes a nice one that has half the throw but which is more compact (so lighter and nicer looking).

  28. Alastair says:

    Thanks Alex, I may do this as a two stage experiment beginning with a Salsa Vaya frameset(which I have on order) and using my findings to finalise my build options on the custom Ti frame. I had a good read of the Phil Wood site, and a huge amount more about EBBs. I note that, as well as the 1/4″ throw standard EBB insert you mention, Phil Wood has now brought out the Philcentric which will rival the Exzentricker from Trickstuff and the Forward Components one as well. These are all EBBs for standard shells but they require outboard bearing cranksets to work. Not cheap but they don”t seem to get the same sort of slippage/creak reports as full size EBBs. I”ve read negatives around the limitations of 1/4″ throw and changing gears re SS/fixed. But for hub gear use that shouldn”t really apply, as long as I set up the hub gear with as close to a magic gear as possible. I then wouldn”t expect to be varying cog or chainring sizes after that so 7mm of adjustment should be enough to accomodate chain wear. I”ll let you know how I get on…cheers….Al

  29. Semilog says:

    Hey, cool!! That bike is rather similar to the one that I”ve got almost done. Mine is an old Kona Hot (Tange Prestige Ultimate, built by Tom Teesdale), with a new fork made by R+E. Same cranks, same rear rack, similar fat slicks, drop bars, cantis… and a platform front rack is on the way — mine will be a CETMA half-rack.

  30. [...] and bike-tech wiz (who contributes technical articles to Bicycle Quarterly). His personal bike, the Gifford–a Rohloff-equipped, low-trail, 650B, wide-tire all-arounder–was the basis for [...]

  31. [...] variety of reasons, but the most common one is probably the 650b, all-arounder bike that you built, the Gifford. What sparked your interest in framebuilding and how did you learn how to [...]