New Vanilla and ride review
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  1. #1
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    New Vanilla and ride review

    Photos include your Fred-ness and Sacha White with my new Vanilla road bike (http://www.vanillabicycles.com). The entire experience of designing and building this bike was spot-on perfect. The tubing is a mix of Foco and Deddacai. I asked Sacha to optimize the ride for long days in the saddle on the chip and seal farm roads that are abundant here in Western Washington.

    Ride Report:

    One overarching thought sums up the weekend - Rip van Winkle.

    To understand how sweet this ride is for me, you'd need to appreciate where I'm coming from. I sold my car to buy the Carlton Raleigh below in 1981, and it's the only other road bike I've ever owned. It doesn't even fit me all that well, but I've spilled a lifetime of blood and sweat over the top of this frame.I honestly feel like I've woken up after sleeping for about two decades. We rode a little over 60 miles this weekend. Saturday was fairly hilly with some short climbs around 15% and some longer ones that stretch for a couple of miles at 8-12%. Sunday was a mostly flat 25 around the lake. My only regret is that I rode with slower folks all weekend and didn't really take the opportunity to push the envelope much. My first impression of the bike was that it felt like it wasn't there. The ride in the early flat sections was like flying along mindlessly. No real thinking about the bike at all. It just felt right. A quick note on the Brooks saddle. To those who worry about break-in etc., this saddle definitely has a stiff signature. But it felt right from the first mile on. We rode chip and seal for a good portion of the first day, and I didn't feel beat up at all. Had a bit of a dull ache, but it was nicely distributed.

    I've only ridden indexed shifting for about 25 miles prior to this. This was the true Rip van Winkle experience. Just tapping the little lever and hitting a gear spot-on without moving the hands seemed too easy. Hills took on a whole new personality. I know you guys have been riding STIs for years, so this must seem really wierd.

    The frame:

    This is a very silky riding frame. It almost steers as if via ESP. The power transfer is exactly what I asked for. It accelerates like BMW 5-series. It's not stiff/squirelly quick ( think 911) , but when you drop the hammer, it moves in a very straight line and takes everything you can give with a smile. The geometry is quite a bit longer than what I've been on for the past 20 years. I felt a bit dodgy in hard sprints and out-of-the-saddle climbs. Being in a more aggressive position has changed my CG a bit which is taking a bit of getting used to. But while in the saddle, this machine was excellent. I may move the saddle back a centimeter or so. I found myself wanting to just slide back and kick-over hills in the big ring.

    THe DA brakes are excellent. You guys know this already.

    The front DR isn't tuned very well for the compact yet, or else I'm experiencing some operator error. It's really balky about shifting from the small ring back up to the big ring. I need to tune this a bit and possibly improve my technique on these new-fangled gizmos.

    I feel like a total geek, but I find myself going to look at this bike for extended periods of time with no good reason. It's like watching a beautiful woman sleep.

    I wish I could tell you more about performance. Sacha had some issues with the computer so I don't have one mounted at this point. I felt much faster. I'll let you know over time if the data supports the feeling. Part of me says to punt the computer and enjoy the feeling.
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    Last edited by SMUGator; 05-04-2005 at 11:15 PM.

  2. #2
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    Couple thoughts...

    Being that this is a custom build... why so much seatpost and stem showing? My first thought upon seeing the pics was... the frame must be too small for him. Were you fitted properly?

    Second thought... what the heck exactly does "silky riding" and "power transfer" mean?? Did it ride like a bike or not?

    Why does everyone insist on absurd descriptors for a bike that rides enjoyably? Seems the more money one spends the more the descriptors become silly.
    Dig It

  3. #3
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    Thats a beautiful bicycle. Many happy and safe miles.

  4. #4
    Just Riding Along
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    She's a keeper...

    Thanks for sharing. Really like the paint/color scheme too.
    Bikes are like bottles of beer; as soon as you get one, you want another.....

  5. #5
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    With all due respect to Zen, the terms "silky riding" and "power transfer are meaningful to me. Maybe he expects his movie reviews to simply say, "This is a good movie," but I prefer a little more detail, which you supplied in a credible way.

    I think your bike is beautiful, and I hope you have many happy years putting many thousands of miles on it.

    Regarding the upshift from the small to the big ring with Dura-Ace: I've found that shifting can't be done in quite the same way as with the cogs. You need to hold the shifter in place until you feel the chain engage, then release it.

    I'm in western WA, too, and I had a great 40-miler on my Independent Fabrication on Sunday in the Fall City/Carnation/Duvall area. What perfect weather for a ride!
    "Is that your little friend in the wood chipper?"

  6. #6
    MB1
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    Dammmmm...

    I am struck down with bike lust once again.

    Now then, a first ride report is always positive or were you thinking that new parts, frame, wheels and tires wern't going to ride and work better than an ancient bike that doesn't fit?

    Once you get the cost of that sucker down to a buck-a-mile post again. This time tell us some things bad too. Sure tell us about what the bike does well but also tell us where it could be better (bike design is always a set of choices, by knowing the good and bad you are much more aware of what you have).

    Still that is a real beauty you have there.
    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

  7. #7
    Bike Dude
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    Beautiful bike!

    Congrats, she's a beauty. Sasha is a master. Just a quick two cents worth about your front derailluer: if you still are having problems could you add an inline adjuster to the cable? I ran a setup on a bike I used for work with a very small granny. Had to adjust on the fly when I needed the granny or the large ring. Anyway, thanks for sharing the picture with us.

  8. #8
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    I would love to have a Vanilla, but the 18-month wait is just too long for me (not sure if its still as long) and living in Europe is not exactly ideal when you want to get fitted. You have a beautiful steel road bicycle, one that will certainly last you another 20 years. Enjoy and thanks for the pics.
    Cheers, Wayne
    ps. Post another ride review after another 5k kms or so.

  9. #9

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    first off......wow. nice bike. you've got everything there is to desire: orange paint, stainless lugs, lugged stem, brooks saddle.......awesome build. truely an envy-inspiring bike.

    secondly - Zen - completely idiotic post. those descriptions are accurate. if you've ever ridden more than one bike, you know that each has a different feeling. now, since we're not all equipped with ESP, we need to describe the feeling of the bike in terms that others will understand. he did this very well. if you have a hard time understanding what he means, then you either do not ride a bike, or english is not your first (or second, or third) language.

    thirdly - again to Zen - there is NOT alot of seatpost showing, and the stem is right where it should be (where the bike rider wants it and feels comfortable riding). that stem is much more elegant than a remarkably long headtube, or a threadless stem with a lot of rise. now, let's take some motherly advice to heart - if you've nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. i think that applies rather well to your post.

    again, beautiful bike, and thanks for sharing it with us.

    the_dude

  10. #10
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    ... them rear dropouts are sick!!! Super Droooool...!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MB1
    I am struck down with bike lust once again.

    Now then, a first ride report is always positive or were you thinking that new parts, frame, wheels and tires wern't going to ride and work better than an ancient bike that doesn't fit?

    Once you get the cost of that sucker down to a buck-a-mile post again. This time tell us some things bad too. Sure tell us about what the bike does well but also tell us where it could be better (bike design is always a set of choices, by knowing the good and bad you are much more aware of what you have).

    Still that is a real beauty you have there.

    I may not hit that measure until late next year or early the following one, but I'll keep your request in mind. There are definitely trade-offs with any frame. I'll let you know about this one once I get better acquainted.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by My Dog Wally
    With all due respect to Zen, the terms "silky riding" and "power transfer are meaningful to me. Maybe he expects his movie reviews to simply say, "This is a good movie," but I prefer a little more detail, which you supplied in a credible way.
    Thanks for saving me a few keystrokes and the energy of crafting a tactful reply!


    Quote Originally Posted by My Dog Wally
    I'm in western WA, too, and I had a great 40-miler on my Independent Fabrication on Sunday in the Fall City/Carnation/Duvall area. What perfect weather for a ride!
    That's one of our favorite areas, and made up a good portion of our Saturday ride. If you see me out there, give a shout. We usually cover that stretch at least one day on the weekend and one evening before dark. I often ride with my wife who is on a bright blue Giant.

  13. #13
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    cool

    I've been thinking about a Vanilla fixed bike, but just can't muster the patience for it.

    I love look of the frame, especially the lugs. If it were me, and of course many of these things are in the eye of the beholder (and you buy a bike like this not just for function, but aesthetics, I assume), I would have done a few things differently. First, I'd have had an extended head tube made, so that you still get the same handlebar height but with less stem showing. I think that looks more balanced, and it probably more sturdy. While I love the look of the bottom bracket shell, the integrated bottom bracket detracts from the look; same with the dark crankset -- something polished would enhance the look of those gorgeous polished lugs. I think I'd run black handlebar tape, too; the blue sort of matches the graphic highlighting, but over all I think black would look better. I think I'd have had a braze-on front derailluer. Normally Chris King headsets look great, but here, with the writing on it, it seems to clash with the high polished look of the lugs; I think a polished Campy Chorus headset would look better. Same with the handlebars; I think something in silver anodized or polished would be better (I have a theme going, don't I?) Finally, as long as they are available now, I'd ditch the clutter of the speed sensor on the fork and go with a Mavic computer with the skewer sensor; it would clean it up a bit. Don't get me wrong, as I like it. This is just my idea of perfection, a matter of taste, like talking about fine wine in our own way.

  14. #14
    Bling Bling Master!
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    Adjectives

    I think "silky" is not only soft and smooth but since silk was used to make tubulars back in the day it doubles as a very cool way to describe a smooth ride esp. that of steel!

    Power transfer is how the bike deals with your pedal stroke from the shoe to the part of where the rubber meets the road.


    It is a awesome bike!
    Vanilla is cream of the crop.
    You would have to come up with what would seem like silly words while mounting such a beauty.

    Yes, I said mounting.

  15. #15
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    Pretty bike

    I love the orange. I think the lugs are beautiful. HAPPY TIMES on your new bike.
    never,never,never give up

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougSloan
    I've been thinking about a Vanilla fixed bike, but just can't muster the patience for it.

    I love look of the frame, especially the lugs. If it were me, and of course many of these things are in the eye of the beholder (and you buy a bike like this not just for function, but aesthetics, I assume), I would have done a few things differently. First, I'd have had an extended head tube made, so that you still get the same handlebar height but with less stem showing. I think that looks more balanced, and it probably more sturdy. While I love the look of the bottom bracket shell, the integrated bottom bracket detracts from the look; same with the dark crankset -- something polished would enhance the look of those gorgeous polished lugs. I think I'd run black handlebar tape, too; the blue sort of matches the graphic highlighting, but over all I think black would look better. I think I'd have had a braze-on front derailluer. Normally Chris King headsets look great, but here, with the writing on it, it seems to clash with the high polished look of the lugs; I think a polished Campy Chorus headset would look better. Same with the handlebars; I think something in silver anodized or polished would be better (I have a theme going, don't I?) Finally, as long as they are available now, I'd ditch the clutter of the speed sensor on the fork and go with a Mavic computer with the skewer sensor; it would clean it up a bit. Don't get me wrong, as I like it. This is just my idea of perfection, a matter of taste, like talking about fine wine in our own way.
    Good comments. Some of the folks over on the Serotta board echoed similar thoughts on the cranks and bars. It's interesting seeing everything in one place for the first time and considering the changes that might add to the classic look. I'll probably run it as-is for a bit and get to know the characteristics and then change out things over time. I still haven't seen a road compact in all silver that I love, but I'm always open to ideas. I absolutely love the Nitto cage. 20-20 hindsight, I would have gone with the plain king headset without the lettering as well. I'm not as bothered as some folks with the amount of seat post and stem that is showing. It looks and feels pretty balanced to me.

  17. #17
    eminence grease
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    Nice bike.

    Sacha is a master, no doubt.

  18. #18
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by terry b
    Nice bike.

    Sacha is a master, no doubt.
    Careful Terry...you've already got a Vanilla

  19. #19
    Well-read hooligan
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    Amazing bike, amazing builder

    Disclaimer: I was SMUGator's wingman for this pickup run so I'm a bit prejudiced.

    Zen - Love guys like you - you actually save me keystrokes by flaming yourself just by touching your keyboard. 'nuff said.

    All - After speding a few hours with Sacha and with the new frame these pictures don't do this bike a bit of justice. As a custom frame / paint / steel obsessive freak myself I am still left speechess when I look at this beauty. After hours with the thing in the car we were still finding cool, obsessive details on it. Truly a work of art that takes your breath away.

    Sacha is truly cut from Richard Sach's cloth. If we are all lucky, verrrrrrry lucky, he won't figure out how damn good he really is and double his prices (or at least after I order my next frame from him!). He's an obsessive, passionate artisan who lives the virtues that he espouses. This all comes out in his frames in their glorious detail. When probed on methodology, philosophy, and application of technology of traditional fram building he responded with well thought out answers based on a common theme and principles. Impressive, and consistent. Exactly what you want from a CUSTOM builder. He's a heck of a nice guy, too!

    Ride quality - cripes, let the man get at least a week of rides on it!!!

    BTW, I'm having his assistant (Ben) build me up a pair of training clinchers (Hugi 240, DT 1.1, 32x3, chorus 11/23 block, Vred's) due to both of their knowledge and attention. Again, thoughtful answers to probing questions with a few in-shop examples of their work. Ride report to follow in a few weeks as I compare them back to back against my current Chorus hub / Mavic Reflex / Tufo elite tubies. A friend has offer her Eurus G3's as a comparision standard as well.

    If you had any reservations about going Vanilla send me a private message and I'll gush more.

    ~EG

    Quote Originally Posted by SMUGator
    Photos include your Fred-ness and Sacha White with my new Vanilla road bike. The entire experience of designing and building this bike was spot-on perfect. The tubing is a mix of Foco and Deddacai. I asked Sacha to optimize the ride for long days in the saddle on the chip and seal farm roads that are abundant here in Western Washington.

    Ride Report:

    One overarching thought sums up the weekend - Rip van Winkle.

    To understand how sweet this ride is for me, you'd need to appreciate where I'm coming from. I sold my car to buy the Carlton Raleigh below in 1981, and it's the only other road bike I've ever owned. It doesn't even fit me all that well, but I've spilled a lifetime of blood and sweat over the top of this frame.I honestly feel like I've woken up after sleeping for about two decades. We rode a little over 60 miles this weekend. Saturday was fairly hilly with some short climbs around 15% and some longer ones that stretch for a couple of miles at 8-12%. Sunday was a mostly flat 25 around the lake. My only regret is that I rode with slower folks all weekend and didn't really take the opportunity to push the envelope much. My first impression of the bike was that it felt like it wasn't there. The ride in the early flat sections was like flying along mindlessly. No real thinking about the bike at all. It just felt right. A quick note on the Brooks saddle. To those who worry about break-in etc., this saddle definitely has a stiff signature. But it felt right from the first mile on. We rode chip and seal for a good portion of the first day, and I didn't feel beat up at all. Had a bit of a dull ache, but it was nicely distributed.

    I've only ridden indexed shifting for about 25 miles prior to this. This was the true Rip van Winkle experience. Just tapping the little lever and hitting a gear spot-on without moving the hands seemed too easy. Hills took on a whole new personality. I know you guys have been riding STIs for years, so this must seem really wierd.

    The frame:

    This is a very silky riding frame. It almost steers as if via ESP. The power transfer is exactly what I asked for. It accelerates like BMW 5-series. It's not stiff/squirelly quick ( think 911) , but when you drop the hammer, it moves in a very straight line and takes everything you can give with a smile. The geometry is quite a bit longer than what I've been on for the past 20 years. I felt a bit dodgy in hard sprints and out-of-the-saddle climbs. Being in a more aggressive position has changed my CG a bit which is taking a bit of getting used to. But while in the saddle, this machine was excellent. I may move the saddle back a centimeter or so. I found myself wanting to just slide back and kick-over hills in the big ring.

    THe DA brakes are excellent. You guys know this already.

    The front DR isn't tuned very well for the compact yet, or else I'm experiencing some operator error. It's really balky about shifting from the small ring back up to the big ring. I need to tune this a bit and possibly improve my technique on these new-fangled gizmos.

    I feel like a total geek, but I find myself going to look at this bike for extended periods of time with no good reason. It's like watching a beautiful woman sleep.

    I wish I could tell you more about performance. Sacha had some issues with the computer so I don't have one mounted at this point. I felt much faster. I'll let you know over time if the data supports the feeling. Part of me says to punt the computer and enjoy the feeling.
    "When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  20. #20
    fixated
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    again

    Quote Originally Posted by SMUGator
    Good comments. Some of the folks over on the Serotta board echoed similar thoughts on the cranks and bars. It's interesting seeing everything in one place for the first time and considering the changes that might add to the classic look. I'll probably run it as-is for a bit and get to know the characteristics and then change out things over time. I still haven't seen a road compact in all silver that I love, but I'm always open to ideas. I absolutely love the Nitto cage. 20-20 hindsight, I would have gone with the plain king headset without the lettering as well. I'm not as bothered as some folks with the amount of seat post and stem that is showing. It looks and feels pretty balanced to me.
    Again, in any iteration, this bike's looks exceed 99.9999% of those out there. I feel like I'm nitpicking a Duesenberg or Lance Armstrong's position on the bike.

  21. #21
    eminence grease
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneanneli
    Careful Terry...you've already got a Vanilla
    Isn't it the middle of the night over there? Go to bed.

    (you know, I'd have another one if the wait wasn't so darn long. )

  22. #22
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by terry b
    Isn't it the middle of the night over there? Go to bed.

    (you know, I'd have another one if the wait wasn't so darn long. )
    Yeah, time here is 20.08 and heaps of work to do tonight. Kids are already in bed and almost asleep. BTW, how long is the wait these days? I know you got your by pure luck and a cancellation, but is it still 18 months?

  23. #23
    eminence grease
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneanneli
    Yeah, time here is 20.08 and heaps of work to do tonight. Kids are already in bed and almost asleep. BTW, how long is the wait these days? I know you got your by pure luck and a cancellation, but is it still 18 months?
    Last time I talked to him it was 18+ which is just waaaaaaay too long for my attention span. I suppose it compares favorably to Sachs' which is 24-36 (I think.)

    No bike is worth that wait for me. But then I guess I can always wonder if the perfect ride is just around that multi-month corner.

    But then, let me tell you about this Holland Ti frame I saw last weekend at the Tour de Tucson Mountains. Black underpaint with a gold pearl overcoat - looked deep, deep olive green in the sunshine. Paint by Joe Bell. 2006 can't come fast enough for me.

  24. #24
    Big is relative
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    I want one.

    I ride a Soma Smoothie ES with a steel fork on my daily commute. I love the feel of an all steel bike. As far as the other posts saying that they would have done this or that differently, it is your bike. The Rivendell website has alot of discussion on bike fit and how we are all sheep to the racing setup of low aerodynamic positioning, when most of us just ride for pleasure. I like your more upright setup and will have the same on my "enjoyiing my retirement" bike in a few years.

  25. #25
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    Beautiful dropouts. Orange. One-off stem. Custom steel. Lugs. What else could you want? That is a beautiful bike. And I really liked your review. Go ye therefore and enjoy it!

    You may want to tune your front der. I just put the bling-bling FSA K-Force cranks on my bike, and my first impression was how incredibly fast it shifted onto the big ring. Yours might be *off* a tad bit.

    Very, very cool. Congratulations!

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