Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tsunami - 1.0, Take Two (1.1?)

A while back I got that first wonderful custom-fit frame from Tsunami Bikes.

It changed my world.

That year I found I could train longer, race harder, and, for the first time ever, managed to get a Cat 2 upgrade.

Even so I found a few details that I could change. The biggest was the chainstay length - with a front end so much longer than before, the geometry unweighted the rear wheel significantly. I found that going through corners under power I could almost always break the tire loose. On particularly fast laps I could break the tire loose even without pedaling.

Okay, fine, I could move my weight back a bit and anchor the rear wheel more, but after seeing a few pictures of me cornering I realized that it would be better to bring the wheel closer in to the bottom bracket. If Mohammad can't go to the mountain, move the mountain to Mohammad.

This led to the second Tsunami frame, the black one. Although its aero styling made it look different, it fit exactly like the orange frame. Out back, though, the stays were shorter. 39 cm for the chainstays to be exact, the shortest the builder could do without massive tire rub.

It's tight. I'm going to file/sand it down a bit.

(I get some pretty horrendous sounding scraping going when I ride over sand and such - the sand sticking to the tires scrapes the frame, jamming into it. I can feel the grit jamming my tire and frame, slowing me down. It's that tight.)

The second frame gave the nod to aerodynamics over weight. I asked for it with the thought of running just a CamelBak, i.e. no bottles, and trying to get more aero by eliminating the big clunky things in the frame. Real world experience led to me installing two cages - my aero bike experiment failed, mainly because I found it so cumbersome to take a sip of water with the CamelBak on.

The experience made me look at my lighter (by over 200g) orange frame with a different eye. I wanted the slightly lighter frame back but with the shorter stays.

This is where Tsunami Bikes made the difference.

Joseph Wells, the welder behind the name, agreed to modify my frame with shorter stays. He'd have to cut off and replace the seatstays to accomplish this, in order to relocate the brake bridge. He would be sending the frame back unpainted (I asked him to strip off the rest of the paint).

Just unpacked after it arrived.

After several weeks I got the frame back. Shorter stays, no paint, and looking admittedly a bit sad. No glowing Candy Orange paint, no decals, no battle scars.

 I weighed it out of curiosity. Without a rear dropout, without the cable adjusters, no bottom bracket cable guide, the frame weighed in at 1210g, a full 230g lighter than in its original form. I'll weigh the small pieces but I don't think they'll break 50g, leaving the frame at about 200g lighter. I'm guessing the shorter tubes will count for about 40-60g (based on the 30g I saved by cutting down my heat treated aluminum bars), so the luscious paint probably weighed about 150g.

After talking with a few people I decided to make some unauthorized changes to the frame. I started by drilling holes in the bottom bracket shell, swiss-cheesing the dropouts, and even the back of the head tube. I also honed the inside of the head tube and bottom bracket, thinning the tube diameters. Finally I acid etched the tubes with muriatic acid to thin them out.


Okay, I didn't do any of that.

I did start filing down some welds, shaping some of the cable stops, and and basically trying to get rid of any superfluous material. I gained a new appreciation for the artisan frame builders; I also realized that I could do this shaping stuff for a long, long time and not be satisfied until it was perfect.

(I realized I was paralleling another rider's experience, albeit in a slightly different way. When Chris Boardman was laid up for a while after breaking a bunch of bones, he whittled away at a Mavic crankset. It looked beautiful when he was done but, based on seeing and feeling others done the same way, it was probably super-flexy. Nonetheless the idea of "honing" a finished product appeals to me in some way, I guess the same way I want to mod a brand new car.)

I've been filing a little at a time, after my trainer rides, maybe once a week. I weighed the frame after a few filing sessions - 1190g, or 20g lighter than before. I wanted to get rid of any excess weight but not reduce strength. I even looked at pictures of the frame bits before they got welded (I looked them up) so that I'd have an idea of what I was working with.

A friend happened to be painting his Mini a bright red color. He is doing part of another project for me, and when I realized he was painting yet another Mini (this is his fifth one), I asked if he could maybe shoot some paint on my frame. Since I had to work around his schedule I had to accelerate mine - I dropped off the frame at about 80% complete.

My friend promised me some miracles, using a really heavy (gulp) primer that puffs up and fills stuff out. He'd then sand it down. I must have looked a bit alarmed because he looked at my face and mentioned that he'd try and keep the weight down.

(On an aside I realize now that I could have spent months filing and sanding the frame, and if I were selling the thing under my own name I'd feel somewhat obligated to do that if the finish was an issue.)

With Junior occupying my time a bit, I kinda sorta forgot about the frame. Then I realized, oh, he's probably done with it. I went to call him and saw that I had a missed call on my phone.

From him.

"Dude, your frame's all set."

I headed over.

With Junior in the car too, of course.

 Frame hanging up.
Mini is in the background, with "Actual Size" already in the window. Right now he's doing the jambs and stuff, the stuff that isn't visible until you open doors.
Painter is off to the right.

My painter friend said he brushed on the primer around the joints so as not to spray too much of the heavy stuff on the frame, then went over it with a bunch of different sandpaper, then shot the whole frame. I haven't weighed the frame yet so no report on the total paint weight.

I had to take this shot. Expo Wheelmen's sponsor Manchester Cycle sells Bell helmets, and because of Expo I now race in a Bell. That Bell sticker is on the Mini.

The frame is now red. It happens to be a Hyundai color (I think).

Originally my friend was going to paint the mini a Viper red. Even though that would have dovetailed nicely into my "what car should I buy" post because I briefly contemplated a Viper, ultimately it was his choice. If he picked yellow my frame would be yellow.

 Note the smoothed out welds.

 I also filed away at the base of the cable stops. I wanted them to be more "formed" than just triangular blocks.

 Another view of the front end, with the formed cable stops on the downtube.

 The bottom bracket got cleaned up a lot.

So did the welds around the rear drop outs.

The Missus said "Wow" when I opened the door holding the frame. I'm psyched to build it up now. I have all the frame's small parts downstairs (dropout, seatpost collar, stuff like that), a lighter fork, and the actual parts kit. I also have a second SRM crankset, including the special 104mm spindle, for this frame.

I hope to incorporate a couple pieces off other frames - I have a Ti seat collar, for example, that I'd like to use.

We'll see how it goes. It's not that I don't have the stuff to put the bike together - it's just finding the time that'll be the trick.

1 comment:

StevenCX said...

Be sure to face the BB and head tubes before you build it up.