UPDATE – Cyclocross set-up
For my birthday in 2016 Odette bought me a 1998 Litespeed Classic. At the time she was training for our planned tour in France and she was very focused on getting her requisite miles. She settled on a pattern of riding tandem on weekends and riding her 2003 Rodriquez Stellar two or three times during the week. Since it was spring in Seattle she wanted a bell and fenders (we got Gilles Berthoud fenders from Peter White Cycles and they are gorgeous, they have the right curvature for 26″ wheels, but they are not light.) She also has a frame bag with an accumulation of junk that she always brings and she can’t leave the house without a pound-and-a-half of keys. As I got accustomed to the Litespeed I was impressed by how heavy her Stellar seemed in comparison. It struck me that the wheelbase on the two bikes was identical and that the Litespeed was a taller bike, yet it was at least ten pounds lighter than the Rodriquez – probably 15 pounds lighter the way she loads it. As I rode with her I noticed the clattering when she shifted and even after cleaning the bike and lubing her chain it still was not quiet.
So… I decided that I would build up a light bike for her birthday. My last project had been an upgrade of the Ibis Tandem to a 10-speed drive train with Rene Herse cranks and Ultegra derailleurs. I’d completed that in late 2015 (later adding Gilles Berthoud fenders and a Nitto chromoly rack) and I’d been toying with the idea of building myself a full-suspension mountain bike. Then I’d received the Litespeed and put any more builds on hold – but the Litespeed was a functioning bike when I got it and there wasn’t any “project” involved.
My thinking was that I would take my time and find a carbon or titanium frame small enough for Odette and then buy used components to build it up for her. I planned to make it a full Campagnolo build because she’s been riding a Campy bike for the the last twelve years and has never used Shimano brifters. I wanted something that would shift as smoothly as my Litespeed and that would climb well. I wasn’t looking for another Litespeed since neither of us enjoy appearing as “twinsies,” but I wanted a frame that was relatively high-end that had enough of a bling factor to attract some attention.
I measured the seat tube on her Stellar and determined that it was a 48cm frame. She has the seat post up pretty high and has an extender to raise the bars so I figured she could probably take a slightly larger frame, but my preference was for exactly the size she had been fitted to. I’ve always put 26″ tires on her bike – originally 26 X 1″ and later as wide as 1-1/2″ – but they were probably really 650c rims and I just didn’t know any better. I didn’t really think about what wheel size I was looking for when I bought a frame, but I knew that I didn’t want a 50cm frame if I went with 700c wheels.
I let the guys at Recycled Cycles know that I was looking for a small lightweight frame but they told me they rarely saw anything smaller than a 54cm. I saved a Craigslist search and saw a bunch of interesting bikes but none that I wanted to buy. I monitored Ebay and figured out that in general there weren’t a lot of older high-end frames sold separately – and very few small ones. I saw several Lynskey frames in their small size (which must be about 48cm) but they were all from last year and besides mostly being the wrong style they all ended up being too expensive (I bid on a couple but didn’t come close.)
In early May I saw a 48cm Litespeed Tuscany listed on Ebay. It was a complete bike but the description was kind of wacky and didn’t give much information about components (or even about size:)
This is a very special bike for that person who needs a hard to find small frame. Please look closely at all of the pictures to answer specific questions that you may have and to see the condition that it is in (in detail). The frame is 3Al/2.5V titanium and the forks are LSP Carbon. the outside diameter of the rim is 23″ x 25.4 = 584.2mm and the markings on the tires are 23-571 26×1 c145. I don’t know the age of the bike or how many miles it has on it, but the pictures show that it is in excellent shape and well taken care of. The tires don’t have air in them and I do not have a presta pump to inflate them, but everything else looks right.
I saw from the Litespeed catalogue that the Tuscany came in a 47cm or a 49cm – not in 48cm – and that the smallest size had 650c wheels while the 49cm frame had 700c wheels. With the markings reported on the tires I figured that this bike probably had 650c wheels and a 47cm frame. I guessed from the Ebay photos that it had Shimano componetry – presumably a 105 groupset. It looked like it had a threadless stem.
I decided that I would treat it as a stand-alone frame and if it came with wheels or components that I could use it would be a bonus. As nearly as I could tell I was the only bidder. To make a long story short the bike arrived professionally packed with a good-looking Shimano 105 groupset, clunky 650c Sun Venus rims, and the same Serfas saddle that Odette had on her Stellar. I managed to get it into the basement and hide it without Odette noticing. I stripped off the drivetrain and found little wear and no scratches or dings on the frame. The bottom bracket was hollowtech with an octolink spindle so my crank-puller wouldn’t work. Google educated me about using a bolt to push against the opposing crank or using a dime – I didn’t have a bolt the right length and the dime turned into a mushroom on me. I took the frame in to Recycled Cycles and bought the appropriate crank puller and then had them remove the cranks and bottom bracket for me. They had trouble breaking the bottom bracket loose and advised me to use anti-seize compound when putting it back together, so I think I made the right call there.
I emailed Litespeed asking when serial number 55520 had been made and got a reply from their account manager saying that it had been built in 2000. I was proud that I had guessed 2000 based on the location of the cable-stops and the presence of a separate seat post clamp.
As soon as I won the auction for the bike I ordered a Campy Record 10-speed groupset on eBay. There were several Record 10-speed group sets listed but the others were all from eastern Europe and this one said it would ship from Boulder. I clicked the “buy it now” button and paid the asking price, which was more than I’d paid for the full bike, and I paid through PayPal when I committed to the purchase. A couple of days later the seller contacted me from the Ukraine saying he needed to cancel the auction because his PayPal account was blocked. I wasn’t too happy but after consulting with the Reddit Ebay forum I figured that I wouldn’t loose my payment. The seller did in fact cancel and refund and then relisted the groupset. Despite my better judgement I clicked the “buy it now” button on the new listing and repaid through PayPal. A couple of days later I got the notice that the item had shipped – from the Ukraine. I had to go to the post office to pick it up, but it actually arrived really quickly and was exactly as described – except that he included a bar of Ukrainian chocolate presumably because I’d stuck with him.
I needed a bottom bracket to be able to install the cranks and it occurred to me that Odette might be happier with compact gearing than with the 53/39 chainrings that they came with. Google helped me figure out that square taper Campy cranks from before 2005 would have a 135 BCD that would not take a chainring smaller than 39T. I was deliberating between Phil Woods and SKF bottom brackets, but neither of them seemed to come in a 102mm which was was the web said I should be planning to use. I also figured out that I was going to need a Campy free hub body to mount a Campy cassette on the Shimano hub. I went to Branford Bikes on capitol hill – a new shop to me but listed as a Campagnolo Pro site – and they sold me a Chorus bottom bracket and an 11-25 10-speed cassette. They have a very different vibe from my usual haunts at R+E or Recycled Cycles and they were skeptical that you could put a Campy free hub body on a Shimano hub.
I went to Recycled Cycles looking for a free hub body and after some poking around figured out that the series 5500 Shimano 105 hub I had simply wasn’t compatible with Campy free hub bodies. I bought a pair of vintage Campy Veloce hubs (with wide flanges and 32 holes) and had Recycled Cycles build me a pair of wheels with NOS Mavic CXP 14 rims. (The rims were a bargain since they are no longer in production – they are a deep-section alloy rim without a machined braking surface. At 520 g they are not super light, but they ought to be very stiff, they’ll look great and they are period appropriate.)
While I waited for the wheels to be built up I mounted the bottom bracket, cranks, derailleurs, brakes and brifters. I didn’t use anti-seize compound. Everything went on just right. I replaced the alloy stem which had no raise with one I’d bought for an earlier project with 17% rise and I put the whole stack of spacers below the stem. I figured that this was about as high as I was going to get the bars without using a stem extender as was done on the Stellar and I wanted to try it first before resorting to that kind of hack.
I bought Jagwire brake and shift cable housing and installed cables for both derailleurs and brakes. Campy levers are interesting but by pulling back the hoods I was able to get everything to seat properly. I had worried about mounting the front derailleur because I couldn’t see from the photos if it was braze-on or clamp mounted. It turned out to be the clamp type and the size it came with worked on the frame. I couldn’t operate the derailleurs to adjust the indexing because I didn’t have wheels or a chain installed, but they moved in and out with the levers just like they should.
In the middle of this process I decided to take the Shimano 105 groupset and use it to build up another bike – an ’84 Centurion Elite that wasn’t getting any use. Since I had the frame and the components that project was relatively inexpensive (especially since I ordered enough cable and housing stock to do a couple of bikes.)
It took a couple of weeks, but I got the new wheels from Recycled Cycles after the wheel builder called to say that he couldn’t true the front one perfectly and that I might feel some pulsation when braking. I mounted continental grand prix 4000s II tires and ruined one tube because the tire was so tight. The tubes I had didn’t have long enough stems so I couldn’t inflate the tires after I did get them mounted – so back to Recycled Cycles for valve stem extenders. (Ultimately I got 650c tubes with 48mm valve stems and that solved the problem.) I put the wheels on the bike and installed a new chain (after taking out two links.) Out of the box the front shifted okay but the back wouldn’t go into the three smallest cogs. I fiddled with the brakes and got them pretty much where I wanted them. I mounted the pedals. I decided that I wanted to get a pair of carbon bottle cages instead of using the one that came on the bike. I made a note that I needed to assemble the stuff I needed for a wedge-bag toolkit.
I persisted with tweaks to the derailleurs and the issue on the rear resolved with a couple turns of the limit screw. The front derailleur never seemed to get beyond requiring two clicks to shift, but it worked in both rings. I mounted a couple of serfas carbon bottle cages – the same model we have on the tandem – and put together a toolkit. When I ordered the tire levers and stuff for the toolkit I went ahead and got a stem extender and some spacers so that I would be ready when Odette said she wanted the bars higher. I unbolted the stem I had on it and mounted the extender to confirm my suspicion that I was going to need to recable if I wanted to position the bars three inches higher. I was able to figure out that with the extender and the 17-degree stem I could get the bars up almost as high as the ones on the Rodriguez. It does look like a huge stack of spacers but it isn’t as ugly as the Rodriguez. (I wonder about putting that much leverage and clamp-pressure on the end of a carbon steerer-tube, though.)
I took the bike in to Recycled Cycles a couple of days before we left for a bike tour in the south of France. I overheard some of the guys up front whispering “Litespeed” as I wheeled it back to the service desk, so I think I achieved my bling objective. I explained that I was going to be out of town for a couple of weeks and wanted them to torque everything and get it adjusted while I was gone. They said that would work with their schedule. I also asked them to pull the bottom bracket and put some anti-seize compound on it. Then I took Odette’s Rodriguez and rewrapped the bars and cleaned and lubed the chain. It’s a pretty good bike – I hope I haven’t made a mistake with the Tuscany.
Here are the as-built specs:
Bicycle Type: Road race & triathlon
Weight: 21 lbs (with pedals, pump & toolkit)
Frame & Fork
Frame Construction: welded titanium, tapered, butted
Frame Tubing Material: “symmetrically enhanced” 3Al/2.5V titanium
Fork Brand & Model: Look
Fork Material: Carbon fiber composite
Component Group: Campagnolo Record
Brakeset: Campagnolo Record
Shift Levers: Campagnolo Record 10-Speed Ultra
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 10-speed
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 10-speed
Crankset: Campagnolo Record Titanium (pre-2005) 39/53 teeth
Pedals: Speedplay Frog
Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo Chorus 102mm spindle
BB Shell Width: 68mm English
Rear Cogs: Campagnolo 10-speed, 11-25 teeth
Chain: Wipperman 10-speed stainless
Seatpost: Thomson, 27.2mm diameter
Handlebar: Salsa Moto Ace Short ‘n’ Shallow
Handlebar Stem: generic 17 degree rise
Headset: Cane Creek 1 1/8″ threadless
Hubs: Campagnolo Veloce
Rims: 650C Mavic CXP 14, 32-hole
Tires: Continental Grand Prix 4000s II
Spokes: Stainless steel straight gauge
Spoke Nipples: Brass nipples
Here’s a gallery of photos