Sunday, October 1, 2017

A bicycle built for me - Part 2

I don't recall exactly when I first met Patrick Crowe-Rishworth, but it would have been not long after he started working at Capital Cycles in downtown Wellington.  As is true of many of Paul Davies' employees, Pat has a lovely manner, and knows how to make a customer feel both welcome, and confident they've left the shop with just the thing they needed.

About a year ago, I discovered he was a frame-builder, and while I found that impressive, his kind and friendly manner were really the qualities that most impressed me.

For several months, I fretted over replacing the CRX, and it may even have been Pat himself who told me about the Open Cycle U.P. (unfairly, but at least anonymously, described as hideous in Part 1).

Blind to something that had been in front of me the whole time, my eyes were finally opened by the wonderful Tom Lynskey, who had commissioned Pat to build him a frame.  While I regard Tom's taste in riding outfits sometimes questionable, I've no doubt the man knows his bike kit.

Tom's build in progress.  Photo: Michael Hayward
I'd seen Tom's bike pop up on social media, but it was bumping into the man himself one day at Capital, that triggered the eureka moment.   (Thank you, Tom!)

"Hey Pat - how would you like to build me a frame?"

And, as simply as that, we were underway.

We sat down over a coffee in early April, and I ran through the things I wanted:  same or similar geometry as the CRX, disc brakes, 35mm tyre clearance, and mounts for mudguards.  Simple, he said.

A work trip to China a couple of weeks later was a good opportunity to drop the donor to Pat, so he could take a much closer look at what made it tick, and to note where the various contact points were relative to one another.  Based on that measurement of the CRX, Pat thought that a front triangle which had been made to fit him might work for me, and if so, we'd save a bit of time. 

I was given a short shopping list:  wheels and brake calipers to account for the format change in the stopping department.  Pat said he would take care of seatpost, fork, head-set and stem.  Otherwise, the donor bike would cover most everything else.

I proved to be much more hands-off than Tom had been, and simply left the man to it.   I had plenty going on at work, and while it would have been interesting to see how it all went down, didn't really have time to spare.   From time to time I would get an email or txt update, and of course whenever I popped into Capital, it was good to hear how things were progressing.

Near the end of the building process, we got together to chat about finishing options.  Pat has a degree in Industrial Design (specifically, a Bachelor of Design Innovation from Victoria), and it was clear to me over the next hour or so, that to him, building a bike was much more than just getting the tubes in the right place and picking a colour. 

While I had absolutely no qualms about my choices to date, these last decisions were stressing me out a bit.  Pat had some novel ideas stemming from his theoretical background and hands-on experience since, but I was nervous about regretting my choice.  In some ways, I wanted to keep the bike to myself - have it look understated so that to a casual observer, it might not look like anything particularly special. 

Prior to our meeting, I'd asked Pat about whether or not reflective paint was an option.  We'd both since done some homework, and discovered that while possible, it would be an expensive option and the frame would have to go to the US to be painted.

In the course of our conversation, the possibility of using 3M reflective tape for the decals arose, rather than faffing around with the paint.  We were both excited about the idea, and both left looking forward to the final stages in the project.  I was confident Pat has sensed my conservatism, and once again, left him to it.

I'm notoriously impatient, especially when it comes to shopping, but this process had been very different.  It was nice to let Pat control the pace and therefore enjoy the build without stressing about me asking "are we there yet?" at every turn.  Better late than rushed, we both agreed.

Then again, two months from first conversation to "here's your new bike" was nothing to be sneezed at.  Before long the request for the donor came, we did our last ride together, and soon after that it was time... 

I'm just the operator

I'd collected the bike before Pat sent me some glamour shots taken by the very talented Digby Shaw.  I was bemused at the time I spent in those first evenings looking at the bike on my phone while the real thing was downstairs in the garage.  But that didn't stop me from looking at that bike on my phone.  I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked.

Material:  Patrick Crowe-Rishworth.  Photo:

And another angle.  Photo:

But I wasn't just looking at it.

I'm aware of post-purchase rationalisation, so I tried to be a bit critical each time I felt the need to proclaim how awesome the bike was.  But, every time I threw it around a corner on one or other of my regular road loops, or simply looked at it, I really was astonished at the extent to which Pat really had nailed every aspect of this build.

I've ridden some very nice bikes in my time, and it genuinely staggered me how wonderfully this one performed.  As you would expect from a steel frame with mudguards, commuting lights, a wide range 11-32 cassette and a mix of 105 and ultegra componentry, it was heavier than most roadies - just as well, otherwise the superlatives would have got ridiculous.

The decals were a source of pride for both of us, I think...

No flash (top) / Flash (bottom).  Flash!
... and I had some fun on early commutes trying to enjoy the effect while out and about.

Makara loop shake-down.  Fooling around with the decals

I realised that with this bike, I could be fussy.  I lost a plug out of my bar-end - something which happens from time to time - so replaced it with a lock-in variety.  Yes, slightly heavier, but unlikely to ever frustrate me again.

I had a challenging experience with the cockpit.  Neither an out-front mount for my GPS, nor a position on the stem would allow me to take the GPS unit off for charging without rotating my commuter light out of the way.  It dawned on me that this could be solved by running the GPS mount asymmetrically - it was designed to be mounted on the right of the stem, positioning the GPS dead-centre, but putting it to the right gave me the latitude I needed. 

Days later, I was still wrestling with this solution, trawling my life for instances where things weren't in the middle yet were unquestioned (including the god-damn light that was part of the problem...).  I got there in the end.

Off-centre.  Ridiculously hard to get used to...
Things reached somewhat of an equilibrium with the installation of a 52-36 105 chainset, and the second-hand Spur Cycle bell was an extravagant, but wholly fitting, accessory. (Diiiiiinnnnggggggggg!)   A visit to Oli for a couple of R O A D W O R K S stickers to mount to the otherwise bare top tube were another simple but important tweak. 

It's almost there, I think, bar a couple of minor changes.  When the bar-tape is next replaced, I'll get some gel pads added (and maybe buy something a bit more durable that the Lizard Skins tape), and I'm contemplating replacing the TRP Spyre brake calipers with a cable-actuated hydraulic set, just to eliminate the occasional faffing with the pads.

Having clocked up the best part of 3,500km on it already.  In the wet, and dark, loaded, and not, it's rocked my world again and again and again, and has proven itself a worthy upgrade of a very versatile and well-loved bicycle.  I was prepared for it to feel same-old-same-old, and with the exception of the brake upgrade, I wasn't expecting a big change.  How wrong I was. 

Loaded, in front of le Sphinx, Hienghène, Nouvelle Caledonie

I'm pretty fussy on some aspects of my bikes.  Saddle height is an obvious thing that must be right from bike to bike, but the thing that drives me most crazy when it's wrong, is the angle of the brake hoods (on a roadie), or the brake levers (on an MTB).  On the other hand, things like stiffness and ride quality are things that I can perhaps detect, but not in such a way that I really know what's causing what.  I've always been told "steel is real", but I honestly have no idea why...

The nitty gritty

I asked Pat for a bit of a run-down from his side of things, information I hadn't bothered to seek prior to engaging him. 

I'm assured the frame is made from 4130 Columbus chrome-molybdenum steel tubing.  The drop-outs, cable guides, mud-guard mounts and drink bottle bosses (a modest number, see later) are stainless steel.

The geometry is part-genius, part-miracle.

The front triangle had been pre-built for Pat himself, around a fairly aggressive road-racing design.  Pat wanted to keep my contact points in the same places, without cheating by use of radical placement of the seat on the rails, or wacky stem length.  He wanted the wheelbase and bottom bracket position relative to the wheels to be pretty much the same as on the CRX.  And he wanted my hands to be in the same place relative to the front axle, but what happened in between to reflect the switch to disc brakes.

Despite his front triangle being designed for a different rider, and a distinctly different purpose, rotating it slightly to bring the front end up:
  • made space for a cyclocross fork to give me the tyre clearances I wanted;
  • slackened the head tube slightly in fitting with the more powerful disc brakes;
  • slackened the seat tube to put my saddle in the centre of the rails;
  • transformed Pat's long road chainstays into standard CX/gravel lengths; 
  • and all the while lengthened the wheelbase to match that of the Giant.  
He was fully prepared to start from scratch, but delighted that he wouldn't have to.

Pat spent considerable time finding the right fork for me, eventually settling on the Selcof carbon gravel fork.  The difficulty he both faced and overcame, was the mudguard mounts - a funny little detail over which to choose such an important component, but one which I demanded.

Here's to the long road ahead...

This bike has taught me a few things about myself.

I was surprised at how beautiful I found it - I'm not unused to admiring something's appearance, but this has been one of only a few possessions I've had that I actually wanted to look at for the pleasure doing so gave me.

The bike was well-used by the time Sarah and I got back from a short cycle-tour in New Caledonia, and so I had a massive catalogue of good experiences on it already.  Despite knowing full well its ride quality, and that its looks were not contributing to that one iota, I nevertheless almost burst into tears when I took the frame-bag off.  I'd managed to avoid damaging the paintwork up to that point, but gentle vibration over hundreds of kilometres had taken a toll on the finish.  The bike was not ruined, far from it, but boy-oh-boy did I have a moment...

Pat sensed my distress, and invited me around to his workshop where he would take a crack at the paint to see if some of the discolouration would polish out.  By the time we met, I'd recovered significantly, realising that the scars we (or our things) carry, often become an important part of our story.  I'd also acknowledged that a bike is there to be ridden, and as pleasurable as looking at it might be, the real value of it is what you see from it.

The polish worked a little, mellowing what had been harsh lines initially.  More than that, it had given me a perfect excuse to visit Pat in his workshop.  I apologised that this blog remained unwritten despite Part 1 "hitting the newstand" almost two months ago - not really necessary, but because I'd indicated then that it was imminent.  That said, I realised the delay was important (for me), and that the story had still been writing itself in the meantime.

I'm overwhelmingly grateful to Pat for his fine work.  It was a business transaction, fair and square, so the gratitude is not what I might have directed towards Santa Claus as a kid.  Rather, I appreciate the way he conducted the process, and in particular, the way his interpretation of my needs resulted in a bicycle with the best ride quality I've ever experienced.  (Yes, and that's saying a lot.)

Apart from general parameters, my contribution to the outcome had been very limited.  I'll claim the 3M tape call, and Pat reminded me of my response to the question of bottle mounts:  "It's not a fucking Surly...".  He was quite taken by that, and in hindsight, I'm rather proud of it.

Pat reckons my frame was number 25 or thereabouts, and I've seen a couple of stunners hit the streets since.  If you're interested in Pat's work, check out his portfolio at or follow him on instagram @raddnessnotmaddness.  Maybe there's some magic up his sleeves just waiting for you...

For my part, I thank you Patrick - I really couldn't be happier to be riding my very own Crowe-Rishworth, a bicycle built for me.

Where (and by whom) the magic happened


When I finally got around to picking up the CRX leftovers from Capital, I was perplexed as to why the seat post was sitting loose in the frame.  As it turns out, my stunning Crowe-Rishworth sports one part of the original off-the-Burkes-showroom-floor Giant CRX.  Pat repurposed the seat clamp, and by doing so symbolically marked this as just another transformational step of the original bike (a whopping one, no doubt) rather than a complete reincarnation.  The clamp is showing a bit of wear and tear, with a hairline crack in it - but, Pat reckons that crack may have been there for years, and may survive many more.  When and if it goes, that'll be a special moment too, but the continuity has been established, and that's all that was needed.