Thursday, December 10, 2009

Equipment - The First Ultrasound

One of the cool things about a Tsunami custom frame is you can see your frameset "become".

Meaning you see its birth. I suppose this is like when you order some exotic car or if you're Jenson Button waiting for his new McLaren F1 car. Since I've never ordered an exotic car and the closest I've ever come to a McLaren is playing an F1 game, this is the next best thing - ordering a custom frame.

I suppose in the frame world the front triangle sets the tone for the bike. If you show someone a picture of a super aero front triangle, it has a different genre than a frame with, say, really skinny tubes, or even one with really large diameter tubes. The front triangle leads, and the rest of the frame follows.

And, apparently, the Tsunami gods have seen fit to start up my new custom frame.

Therefore, like a proud parent-to-be showing off an ultrasound, I'll play a proud Tsunami-owner-to-be: The First Ultrasound.

"You can see the bottom bracket shell over here..."

I won't go into sexes or names, because my bikes aren't gender specific, nor do I name them. I have an idea of what this one will end up looking like, even after I've received the frame (it won't stay stock), but that's for a different time.

I left tube selection totally up to the builders. I don't know anything about aluminum tubes, nothing about wall thicknesses, blah blah blah. I can tell you that Columbus SL used to be 0.9/0.6/0.9 mm for the down tube (unless you get the "stallion build" SP, then it's 1.0/0.7/1.0), that Prestige could get down to 0.7/0.5/0.7 for the top tube, and some other useless information about steel tubing.

Ask me about aluminum or carbon or titanium and you'll get one of those glazed-over blank stares.


Based on the picture above, the downtube looks massive. Like Gibraltar massive, like it needs its own lighthouse massive.

This is a good thing.

Massive means a rigid front end, predictable steering, and responsiveness to pedaling input.


Next up is the critical head tube. 1 1/8" on both ends, since there isn't the 1 1/4" option (yet).

Head tube length?

Slammin', as they say. It should come in under 10 cm, a full 1.5 cm shorter than the SystemSix. Combine that with a headset (no integrated stuff here) and the full height should be about 10-10.3 cm.

Holy Sore Backs, Batman!

Yeah, I'm looking forward to finally being able to hunker down in the bars and feel totally and completely solid, no knee-elbow interference, no nothing.

The top tube looks pretty tall. I don't have any real reaction to that - I really don't know what it'll do. I figure if it keeps the bike from doing the shimmy I'll be pleased. My knees should be able to clamp that top tube on rockin' descents.

Or, since it's such a small frame, my calves'll do the clamping.


Actually, come to think of it, the frame doesn't quite resemble an oversize BMX bike. But we'll see when the rear triangle makes its way into the picture.

And the seat tube looks, well, like a seat tube for a 27.2 mm seat post. Kinda sorta skinny. Round. Holds a front derailleur, a waterbottle cage, and an N-Gear Jumpstop.

Fine by me.

I have to admit that I've never been so interested in a frameset before. I've never felt quite so involved in the purchasing process, the research process, because of one very simple reason: Custom Geometry.

Selecting a stock frame is exactly that, selecting a frame. You look at some limited number of variables (like frame size, and, to get different geometries, frame manufacturer). You hone in on something that kinda sorta fits you, that you can kinda sorta afford, and you get it.

But when you buy a custom frame, you decide what you want.

You don't think, "Oh, the top tube is only 53.5 cm. I should be able to get by on that."

Instead, you think, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a 58 cm top tube?"

And the builder says, "Um, not really. Trust me on this one."

Then you say, "I really meant to say 56.5 cm."

And so on and so forth. Within certain boundaries you can do anything you want. Make the bike more comfy, less comfy, more rigid, super long, super short, slammin' head tube, whatever you want.

It's yours. Man, this is so cool. I feel like a little kid again.

How's that ad go again?

Cost of calls to order custom frame: $6.50
Custom frame: $650
Feeling like a little kid again: Priceless


Anonymous said...

very cool, aki. and wow - great prices for the work by Tsunami. a bit ridiculous, in fact. i'm really interested in reading about the bike once it's in your hands. i suppose you're eager for that time, too.

Aki said...

I have to admit that seeing this (cell-phone I think) picture of the frame made me realize that this will be my frame, with my geometry, my ideas, not someone else's thoughts on what should sell the best.

My short legs and long torso put me at the edge of the bell curve, making normal frames fit sort of poorly. By going custom, I can spec out an "edge of the bell curve" frameset.

And yes, I'm really looking forward to trying out the frame. Even if I need to tweak it, I won't mind - the fact is that this frame represents a quantum leap in what's possible.

And, yeah, the price seems low. I was expecting to double the price of the "stock" frame with custom geometry, and praying that it would be $1000 or so. I never expected "no upcharge", that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that if they're cutting their own tubes it's not a huge increase in labor for them to tweak their cuts and angles. Seems to me like a good market niche to fill, without trying to convince people of the value by putting a big price tag on it.

I sympathize with your sizing issues. It's pretty hard for me to find a short enough headtube, and I tend to have to stick to "fistful of seatpost" sizing standards.

Giles said...

Just as a minor aside, the McLaren F1 originally got its name "F1" not from Formula 1 racing, as in, F1 racing [games], but because the McLaren designers wanted to point out that it was 49 steps better than a Ferarri F50!

Aki said...

Heh. I always wondered why McLaren called their F1 street car an "F1". It's confusing when someone wants to refer to the ultra-street-illegal Formula 1 racing car as the F1 (which is my case). Although I think that McLaren is coming out with a new F1 (ultra-street-performance-and-legal version, not the racing car).

But then the explanation makes sense, especially when you consider the feeder series to F1 to be F3 or some other "higher" F-version.

The Cycling Chronicles said...

That's cool Aki, can't wait to see the final build - I'll be interested to read your posts on review once you get it!

Aki said...

I'm actually up because I started thinking about the bike and got a bit too psyched. I went from dead exhausted in bed to "lemme do something".

I've looked around for reviews but I couldn't find any. Trust me, I'll be dissecting this thing when I get it.