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Waffa House…… Bicycles?

If you've found this page, I've most likely referred you here directly. This is not a primary feature of the WHR website and, as you may have guessed, it has absolutely nothing to do with reptiles. You probably know already that bicycling is my other lifelong passion, and that restoring old bikes is a hobby that I enjoy very dearly. In 2012 after getting so many compliments on my own bike collection, I decided to take my restoration endeavors in a new direction: rather than just building bikes for fun, only to have to hunt for new owners when the time came to let one go, why not help match riders with their dream bikes right from the beginning? Which is most likely what brought you here…

What follows is some general information that I hope will help guide you in answering the questions in the order portal at the bottom of the page. The more information you can give me, the more accurately I can find and design a bike to your specifications.

Why vintage bikes?
An important first point to understand is that being "vintage" does not automatically make a bike "good." However there are some wonderful advantages that many vintage bicycles offer. For starters, almost all bicycles built prior to the 80s used some sort of steel alloy. I won't launch into a discussion here about the infinite metal alloys that have been used to build bikes, but suffice it to say that not only does steel offer a delightful ride performance, it is TOUGH. Well taken care of, steel will survive for centuries which is why these bikes -- sometimes 20, 30 or even 40 years old -- are still in great shape to ride. Unlike almost everything else we buy and own today, these bicycles have stood the test of time and will likely become heirlooms you can pass down to the next generation.

Which vintage?
Bikes built in and before the 1950s, particularly those still in good condition, are among the most beautiful, curious, and historical machines in the world. However, they also represent a time when bicycle racing and building occurred on a very local scale, and the technologies were just not what they were today. Many people collect these wonderful bikes, but far fewer people enjoy riding them for most purposes. A "three speed" bike is just not what you want underneath you when mounting a large hill.

The 1960s represent a time when American began building bikes of exceptional quality, and a time when mass-production was fairly limited. Consequently bikes from this era are very valuable and also expensive and hard to come by. The "bike boom" of the 1970s saw an explosion of 10 speed racing bikes, many of which were excellent, others of which were designed simply to meet the demands of an undiscriminating public. However, even some of these mid-range frames were solidly constructed and still enjoyable to ride today.

The 1980s and 1990s saw some radical changes too, not only in radical paint jobs, but also in technologies used. Many builders began gravitating towards aluminum which is comparatively lighter in weight, so although steel frames were still built at this time, they can be a little harder to find.

Of course modern bikes, although they use much of the same classical geometries, are in an entirely different league. Many employ carbon fiber and other interesting alloys in their construction. Most use integrated shifter/brake levers. Some of these bikes are extremely lightweight by historical standards, but the jury is out -- and will be for another few decades -- about how well they will stand the test of time.

Country of origin?
To be clear from the get go, there are and have been some excellent bicycles designed and produced in virtually every country in the world. That said, there are places that are famous and sometimes notorious for building bikes in a certain way, some more so than others. French bikes, for example, are famous for their rich history, their connection to the country that made bicycle racing a worldwide phenomenon, and their performance. They are also notorious for using their own complicated sizing standards for certain components, and also for having atrocious paint jobs. Rather that discussing my opinions on the matter, I would encourage you to look around, look at images, and try to get a feel for what's out there. Modern bikes made in Asia are stigmatized as they sometimes represent the "outsourcing" of labor; however classically Japanese bikes were extremely well-built.

Which Color?
You are on your own here! But be daring and choose something you'll be happy with for a long time. Some people choose their favorite color and coordinate the colors of everything down to their components and cycling gear to match. Others could care less. Some people want a bike that's particularly representative of a place (the red/white/blue of France or the USA) or of a time period ("hot" and neon colors of the 80s and 90s). Be fun, bold, and expressive, but most importantly be you!

What are your goals and what type of riding will you do?
When you consider the goals of a performance athlete versus those of a collector, you might appreciate how they could lead to two very different bicycles! Some collectors may not even ride their bikes, so sizing and weight would be of little importance, whereas they would be critical importance to virtually anyone else. If you plan on touring, or riding more than a hundred miles in a weekend, comfort is going to be utterly paramount. If you envision yourself only racing, hill training, or exercising in short spurts, then the weight of the bike may be more important to you than the plushness of the ride. Having a working understanding of your goals and expectations will lead you to a better, more enjoyable fit than arbitrarily grabbing a fancy looking floor model.

What kind of shifters are for me?
Truthfully you could ask this question about virtually any of a bike's components, but for those who have never ridden a bike with down tube shifters, this represents one of the most intimidating learning curves to riding a classic, vintage bike and thus warrants some discussion here. Prior to the late 70s, virtually every multi-geared bike had shift levers that occurred on the down tube. This meant that any time you wanted to change gears, you had to remove a hand from the handlebars, crouch lower in your position, and reach down to push or pull a lever. To further intimidate the unfamiliar rider, many of such shifting systems used a technology called "friction shifting" which means that rather than feeling and hearing the familiar "click" between gears you're used to hearing in modern "indexed shifting" systems, the gear change mechanism occurs via a continuous pulling or releasing of cable tension from your shifter levers. Confused yet? Imagine that you're pedaling along and suddenly want to drop into a lower gear in anticipation of a big hill, you would have to let go of the bars with one hand, reach down to a shifter lever and - assuming you're using friction shifters instead of indexed shifters - pull down on the lever to feel a continuous climbing of your chain up the chain ring. If your chain didn't align nicely with the cog and the pedaling felt funny, you would reach down again and make a minor adjustment until the chain sat correctly. If you're used to trigger shifting from your brake levers, this is a lot to think about. Many experience riders who would feel comfortable doing this find it unnecessarily complicated; while still others are terrified of the thought of having to release a hand from the bars to change gears.

And yet down tube shift levers and friction shifting have some wonderful advantages. For one, they represent a pinnacle time in the technological evolution of the bicycle. There is something that just feels proper and authentic about experiencing the ride of a bike exactly how it was designed to be ridden. They are preferred by some racers too as they are much quieter (no clicking between gears) and allow you to sneak up on a rider from behind. Furthermore, the simplicity of the technology means that not only does it rarely break, but it's extremely simple to repair when it does. Also, parts for down tube and friction shifters are abundantly available online and represent a major cost-saver to a project for at least two reasons: 1. they're abundance keeps their prices low and 2. friction systems are compatible with virtually any cassette or freewheel, meaning that I don't have to go hunting for a different size or a make to accommodate your project. Remember: everyone from professional racers to commuters and hobby bicyclists used this technology regularly for over 30 years. If you're on the fence about down tube shifters, consider giving them a try! If you just can't learn to love them you can always change them later.

How much will it cost?
Your budget is an extremely important consideration, particularly since it influences everything from how I shop for a bike down to which components I add, upgrade, or completely ignore. Do I buy a complete bike and "fix-et-up" or do I buy a frame set and shop for components individually? Can I afford to shop for something very specific online and pay to ship it, or do I need to work with what's available locally? The beauty of ordering a bike through me is that I can work with you very flexibly to try to stay within your budget and still meet the criteria most important to you. My fee is simply 20% the total cost of the bike build, which basically pays for my meals and snacks during the countless hours I will spend preparing it for you; everything else goes directly into your purchase. I have also been known to barter for bikes, so if you offer a great service like pet sitting or house cleaning or car repair let me know and we might be able to work something out! Occasionally incredible deals come along that allow me to build a great bike for far less than it's actually worth, but as with anything you do get what you pay for. I can typically build you a great, rideable bike for about $500 total, however a $1,000 budget -- still far less than you'll pay for a high-end bike from a retail store -- will get you a masterpiece. Sometimes these builds take months as I hunt for rare parts, which means you may have the option to make a down payment up front and then add incrementally on a weekly or monthly basis as your budget allows. Let me know what kind of a price range we're working with and I'll do my best to accommodate.

Have any other questions? Shoot me an email!