Insider Rides looks at the bikes that we ride, the bikes that industry insiders ride, that racers ride, and everyday folk ride. This time out, we take a look at the road bike of head-Slapper Brett, a bike conceived over many years in the mind, and eventually realised in the spiritual heartland of cycling.
Cyclists love to talk about bikes and equipment, often to the point of ad nauseam. But we still do it. A lot of the time is spent pondering what our “dream bike” would be if we got the chance to build it, but how many of us actually ever achieve the dream? No matter how nice our bikes are, there always seems to be something better, and there probably is, but ‘better’ may not necessarily be the right bike for us.
When I stumbled upon the Flemish artisan frame builders Jaegher, I knew immediately that these were the people to build my dream road bike. I had the template already in my head from the endless discussions: Steel, Campa, boutique… well that was about it really. Anyone could’ve made a frame for me, not everyone could’ve done it in Flanders with a long history of building frames for the likes of Eddy Merckx and Sean Kelly. After a flurry of emails and realising these guys were on the same wavelength as me, there was no way that I couldn’t realise the dream. A plan was hatched; I’d pick up the bike from their workshop in Ruiselede, West Flanders (that’s in Belgium!) and ride it on the hallowed pavé of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix routes. Perfect.
Jaegher offers a full custom option on their frames at no extra cost, so you can send them your body measurements, preferred geometry, or go and get measured if you’re in that part of the world. After much deliberation and number crunching, I was pretty well spot on with their standard geometry for a 57cm frame, and as I figured these guys knew how to build a cobble-muncher, that I’d go with that. As soon as I hopped on it and rode it down their driveway, I knew I’d made the right choice. It was like I was riding a bike I’d tweaked over years, whereas all I needed to do was get the saddle height right and ride.
We went with Columbus Spirit tubing, TIG welded. Jaegher also offer lugged frames and Columbus XCR stainless options, but the Spirit seemed the right mix of light weight, comfort and stiffness that I was after. It rides like it’s on a bed of feathers, the smoothest bike I’ve ever ridden including many carbon frames.
Being a Campa-file there was no deliberation over what gruppo to use. I went with the previous generation Super Record as I prefer the look of the 5-arm crankset to the current one, although that has grown on me and my next Jaegher will have the latest groupset. Also, I got a great deal on this from Worralls so it was soon on its way to Belgium for the build. Then quickly on its way back after some problems at Customs, so me and my sympathetic friends each took a few pieces in our luggage when we flew over. 53/39 chainrings were chosen not because I’m some sort of big-ring crunching animal, but it just looks right on a bike like this. Bugger the knees.
With the bigger rings up front, I chose an 11-27 cassette to get me up the bergs of Flanders and have had no trouble around Wellington too (as long as the fitness is there!). The dropouts are Ritchey/Breezer style made in-house by Jaegher, and the tapered chainstays add a degree of comfort to the stiff rear triangle. A chain-hanger (top of pic on seatstay) is a nice classic touch too, and comes in handy when the wheel is out of the bike.
Super Record 11 speed shifters, it doesn’t get any better than this. The ‘Bull’ bend of the Cyrano bars is close to a classic bend and is shallow enough not to hurt an old guy’s back.
Chris King headset naturally. I went with a straight non-tapered head tube as once again it just looks right. How smooth are those welds? Diel files them to a jewellery-grade finish. Cable stops brazed to the head tube prevent unsightly rub, and I went with external routing for ease of maintenance and the ‘proper’ look.
The Shamal Mille wheelset was suggested as the perfect fit by Josh at Campagnolo in Italy, and he was spot on as always. Alloy rims and spokes, medium depth rim for just the right look, they are stiff and light and don’t cost as much as some carbon options. The G3 lacing pattern on the rear stood up to the unusual test method of a mate’s pedal getting jammed in them too. Vittoria Pavé CG tyres in a 27mm width roll fast and more importantly gave a smooth ride over the rough stuff, with not one puncture.
Carbon shelled hubs with ceramic bearings are, as it says there, ultra smooth and roll and roll and… the front Shamal uses a radial lacing pattern for its 16 spokes.
A fizik Cyrano R1 carbon bar smooths out the ride and keeps the weight down, and I didn’t need to double-wrap the Performance Soft Touch tape for the cobbles, it’s that good. Cloth finishing tape adds a nice touch… It’s the little things.
King Cage titanium cages are specced on most Jaegher builds, and I can see why. They never hinted at ejecting a bottle over the roughest goat tracks of Northern France, they don’t leave black marks on your bidons, they are light and look the business too.
Straight-as seatstays are stiff-as. A Flandrian bike deserves a Flandrian lion, in this case a custom V-lion. Our great friends at Pavé Cycling Classics also deserve a look in, as they are the ultimate partners to guide us across the cobbles and also make a pretty good Belgian beer.
The Super Record brakes are plenty powerful and discs were never an option for me for this type of bike, classic all the way. The blue pads mate to the special braking surface of the Shamal Mille rims and pull the bike up with impressive bite.
I wasn’t sold on the idea of a matching painted stem at first, but I’m glad I listened to the Jaegher guys as it looks fantastic. fizik, natch, 120mm.
Time Expresso pedals are my preferred choice, easy entry and release and the grey matches the bike.
An English-threaded bottom bracket shell was a no-brainer, easy to service, no creaking, looks right. Vaneenooghe is the surname of the framebuilder, Diel, and the family has been making frames since 1934. Not sure of the 1961 reference. The BB junction welds don’t get the filing treatment, but are impressive anyway.
Picking the paint scheme was the most difficult part of the project… After seeing Diel’s personal bike finished in Gritty Grey, I went with it and added my own touches like the orange on the inside of the Columbus carbon fork legs. The paint is done by a custom painter in Ruiselede, and they use a super-hard-wearing paint which is also used by Mercedes-Benz. Jaegher also offer beautiful custom steel forks which I would’ve gone with if I was building a lugged frame.
Laser cut-out head logo, another nice feature, and you get to keep the cutout for a key ring.
A classic steel frame deserves a classic frame pump, and the Silca Impero looks right at home nestled under the top tube… which of course had to be horizontal.
More fizik in the Aliante saddle and Cyrano R1 carbon post. My long-time favourite road saddle shape, topped off with carbon rails, can’t go wrong.
Meeting the guys who built your bike in the factory it was built in is as custom as it gets. And when they are bald brothers, it’s even more special. Only the bald will understand!
Diel gets to work on my frame. Watching him in action when we were there was one of the best parts of the project, a true artisan and seeing the precision methods used is a real eye-opener for any bike geek.
Those tubes are about to become a masterpiece.
What better way to christen a new bike than to punish it over 150km of Paris-Roubaix cobbles in the wet? I can’t think of one.
As you may be able to tell, I’m really happy with this bike. Not only because it rides like a dream, but it came from a dream, and to have a hand in the process from conception to conclusion is something special. When the people who build your dream are also people who become friends, take you into their home, ride with you and share beers afterwards, it makes it that much more special.