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Kimmo's Hillman rat rod

Bike tags: Road bike | Commuter | Hillman | hot rod | lugs | more tags >>

Hillman Tange / 53cm / late 70s / 9.57kg

Bontrager Race Lite 42cm / Zero 130mm, 8�

Giant carbon aero, threadless ally 1" steerer / bottom of a 600 headset, half a steel 1" threadless job

Shimano WH-R540 with really rusty spokes / Maxxis Re-Fuse 28mm

Shimano WH-R540 with really rusty spokes / Maxxis Re-Fuse 28mm

Shimano Tiagra (A550) HT2 130mm, 175mm / generic Shimano

WTB / some faded crap, 27mm (will be upgraded to Giant carbon when I ream the seat tube to 27.2)

Shimano PD-A550 / YBN 9s

Shimano 105 5500 STI / Dura-Ace 7700 RD, 600 6400 FD / Nokon Slimline shift housing

Front: RX100 (A550), rear: none / 105 STI / Specialized interrupter lever / Alligator iLink brake housing

12-23 Ultegra 9s / BBB 53/39

Super-cool rat rod. This bad boy's rocking more drop than some low-pros. Those with an eye for technical detail will enjoy the spec.

The frame is a nice bit of work, with forged dropouts and nifty cut-outs in the lugs, even for the brake bridge. There's no clear over the decals and no tubing decal, which seems a bit odd, considering it sure looks like the paint is original; it's proper stuff, plenty thick and no rattlecan job, and it seems of the era of the frame both in style and condition. Seems like it might have a very short serial number on the BB, but it's unintelligible.

Despite it being a couple of sizes too small for me, I couldn't resist when it came along, since I have a soft spot for Hillmans (having owned another nice old one years ago), I've been wanting to build up a steel bike, and I had a 130mm stem sitting around.

Typical messed-up geometry of a little bike made big, but otherwise I'm not getting this sort of drop without a small front wheel, and this is a fun mix of parts. I've had folks question the carbon fork, but they just don't grok the aesthetic, of which the grey primer is part (I considered painting the fork to match, but found the idea too tryhard and out of step - plus there's no way I'm cutting a 1" threadless steerer that short). Even the crap-looking decals on the wheels work with the look. The bar tape is half a dozen offcuts and old bits I scrounged up. Since the brake bridge is for a nutted brake and is too nicely made to drill out, I figured I'd just go without since I barely use the rear. The unused brake lever is locked out with a pinch bolt stashed behind the interrupter.

This is pretty close to hipster fixie style, but applied to a proper bike; bit of an ugly mish-mash with slightly silly badass-looking wheels (I don't believe in carrying redundant spokes, but paired spokes are a rim weight-expensive vanity). I dig the gestalt when it all comes together to create such a purposeful-looking weapon as this... there's a touch of whimsy, but it's incidental, utilitarian in origin; accentuating the purpose. The rusty wheels were $ 5, the whole bike owes me maybe $ 30 (I volunteer at a bike co-op).

People who friended this bike per.k, campystamp, Splined


How do alloy spokes rust and what is up with your saddle angle?


You don't know your wheels - very few wheels use aluminium alloy for the spokes (That's what's commonly meant by 'alloy'; I use 'ally' to avoid ambiguity). Mavic do it a bit; Shimano has never tried ally spokes AFAIK. If you mean stainless steel alloy (and you probably do, since ally spokes aren't just rare, they're fat), the grades of SS used for spokes generally don't rust (although there are grades of SS that do rust slightly). Shimano's WH-R540 wheelset was one of, if not the, first with black spokes, and as such, I surmise that the manufacturing processes to blacken SS spokes either hadn't been developed at the time or were prohibitively expensive, most likely due to no economies of scale. These were simply painted, back in 2003. Back in the early days, SS spokes used to be markedly inferior in strength to steel spokes, and I understand some grades of steel still have the edge over SS, which would explain why Shimano didn't go with SS, along with the fact paint doesn't stick well to it (maybe well enough for frames, but not for the painted SS spokes I've seen).

As for the seat angle, it's a fair question; I've copped flack for it in the past. But for years I used to run a level seat (actually pointing down a degree or two maybe, yet within what's generally regarded as the acceptable range), having accepted the general wisdom. But one day I scored a nice light sexy seat that was too longitudinally flat for me to get comfortable on, which prompted me to try colouring outside the lines.

Lo and behold, I found that for my position, physiology, and style of riding, I actually prefer a more radical angle on most seats; look at my other bikes (the silver one is sporting the seat that prompted this revision). Although I'm thinking of tilting this one back a notch, it is a tad much. Probably most relevant, aside from the amount of drop to the bars in my position, is the fact I'm rarely on the bike for more than 20-30 minutes at a time; I suspect I'd revert to a flatter angle for longer rides.

If you ride aggressively and rock a fair amount of drop, I suggest you give it a try. By having something at the back of the seat to push backwards against, you can better cantilever the weight of your upper body against pedalling effort. And with the nose of the saddle lower, you can rotate your pelvis further forward and put more pre-stretch on your glutes for more power. This also straightens your back some if you can stretch out, opening up your breathing.

If you look at the evolution of the bike over most of the last century, you can see that position has changed quite a bit over the decades, and although we're almost certainly closer to having it optimised these days, it's not like we'll know the moment the evolution has reached its pinnacle. I'd say there's a chance this angle could work for many in the same context and the possibility's just been overlooked because it's unconventional (road cycling is traditionally mired in tradition), otherwise it's just something odd abut my physiology. But there's the fact my boss liked it enough when he tried it on his bike to keep it...

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