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« Russ Denny builds a Ritte | Main | My New Fuso: First Pictures »

My New Fuso: After 150 plus miles

At first glance my new Fuso looks like any other race bike; if I were to replace the Brooks saddle with something modern looking and jack the seat post up another 3 or 4 inches, it could sit alongside any other and not be immediately detected.

But the point is it is not a race bike. It is a bike designed specifically for me; an aging ex-racing cyclist who is looking for a little comfort in my old age. It is designed to fit my needs. My body is no longer flexible enough to ride in a low tuck, aero position.

I no longer need to go fast, but I do like to ride fairly long distances. My previous bike a 51 cm. Recherché that I built in 1985 was comfortable to a point, but it had a 3 ½ inch (90cm.) drop from the top of the saddle to the top of the handlebars.

I could only ride on the tops of the bars or on the brake lever hoods; the dropped portion of the handlebars was much too low for me to comfortably ride. The problem is setting up a race bike to do something that it was not designed to do. This was the problem back in the 1980s and is a problem still today.

People see bikes being raced in the Tour de France; they are being ridden by young professional athletes, who have trained their bodies to ride with their backs in a horizontal position at great speed, for insanely long distances.

This is not like buying a set of golf clubs and knocking a ball around a golf course; you will eventually get the ball in the hole, so you are at least playing golf, albeit badly. However, you need a certain amount of athleticism to just ride a road “racing” bike.

When Russ Denny offered to build me one of the new Fuso frames, it would be a one off, custom built for me. Here was an opportunity to have a frame built that would not only fit me, but would match my current needs.

We achieved this by making the bottom bracket height 10 inches (25.4cm.) as opposed to industry norm 10 5/8 inches. (27cm.) This is a considerable amount lower, and by doing so we have lowered the saddle by that amount in relation to the handlebars.

The great thing is that this has not affected the ride at all; and I really can’t tell the difference visually, as you can see by the pictures. The only difference I find is that I can put my toe to the ground while sitting in the saddle when I stop, which I feel is a huge plus.

By lowering the bottom bracket we have lengthened the down tube and chainstays, but the oversize tubes more than compensate for any loss in stiffness. The longer chainstays make for more tire clearance; I am running 25mm. wide tires, but with 40mm. of clearance between the stays at the tire’s widest point, means I could run a much wider tire if I wish.

The other design aspect of the modern frame that we were able to utilize to our advantage was with the sloping top tube, a head tube can be almost any length you wish. By lengthening the head tube we ended up with my handlebars just 1 ¼ inches (32mm.) below my saddle. Compare that to 3 ½ inches on my previous bike; a huge difference. I can now use the whole handlebar, including the drops.

I was a little concerned that the big saddle/handlebar height difference would take me a little while to get used to. This proved not to be the case; the new bike seemed a natural fit right from the start.

The one thing that seemed strange at first was the wider handlebars; 42cm. as opposed to 40cm. I was using before. However, since finishing the build on Friday, I have put over 150 miles on it and now I am used to the difference.

What I do love is the Campagnolo brake hoods with the top of the hood level with the top of the bars, and the large hand rest knob that sticks up above that. My favorite position is to have the side of my hand resting on the brake hood, and my hand lightly around the extension part like I was holding a pair of ski poles. My arm bends naturally, and my forearm rest lightly on the top of the bars.

I went with the Campagnolo Athena group, you can’t beat the quality and the price was competitive when compared with the other two choices. The only drawback with Campagnolo at the moment is availability.

I got the whole group except the rear derailleur, and after searching the whole United States found there were only two black Athena derailleurs available. I got one of them; a crazy situation that Campagnolo needs to get a handle on.

The gears work flawlessly; they are so smooth and quiet that I had a problem at first noticing that it had actually shifted. I have now learned not to listen for the “Clunk” of the old friction shift, but rather watch for the subtle change in the feel and cadence through the pedals.    

Speaking of pedals, I am using Shimano double sided mountain bike pedals. As I said at the beginning this is not a race bike, and I am not racing. If I am out on a long ride at some point I am going to have to walk off the road to answer a call of nature.

I tried road pedals, but found on such occasions the shoe cleats became clogged with dirt or mud and do not work properly. Mountain bike pedals are designed to handle mud, and the double-sided feature is nice; I never have to worry whether my pedal is up or down.  If I were racing, I would use road pedals.

The same with tires, if I were racing I would use tubulars; I gave these up a couple of years back. I found the cheap tubular punctured easily, often on the first time out. The modern tubular is just about impossible to repair because the base tape seems to be permanently vulcanized on.

I am using Continental Gatorskin clincher tires. I didn’t even buy the ones with flexible beads; I bought the slightly heavier and cheaper wire bead kind.

Finally I could write a bunch of bullshit clichés that one often reads in magazine road tests, but I don’t feel the need here. My new Fuso rides and feels exactly the same as if I had built it, so I really didn’t expect any less from Russ.

When he took over my business in 1993 he could do anything that I could. Since that time he has added another 19 years of his own experience. He has embraced all the new design aspects, materials, and building methods.

I think now he and I both have shown that you can design and build a frame that is comfortable for someone like me who is past their peak of physical condition, and proving that the bike can still look good.

Simply because this bike is designed to have 1 ¼ inch handlebar drop; rather than having a bike designed to have a 3 or 4 inch drop, or more, then trying to raise the handlebar after the fact.

Anyone seriously looking for a new frame or bike, and have similar needs to the ones I have described here; might consider contacting Russ Denny and have him build one for you.

Framebuilding methods have changed since I left the business, and it is now practical to build one off frames to suit the individual. I am happy to help out with design input if needed.



Reader Comments (16)

But...but...but Dave! Is it vertically compliant?
Beautiful build and it must be a dream to ride. I'm a Campy fan myself. I applaud that choice. ride on Brother.

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

It sounds like you made good choices all around. Enjoy!
It is a shame the US Campy distributor is not as good as what we have in Europe.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

Nice bike, and thoughtful, reasonable choices.

By lowering the bottom bracket, the original drawing indicated that the seat tube angle ended up being significantly steeper than usual. Was it possible to get enough setback on the saddle to attain a reasonable position behind the bottom bracket to pedal comfortably?

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdave_f

Lowering the bottom bracket didn't affect the seat angle, that just happens to be seat angle I have used for many years. My seat setback is the same as my previous bike.

July 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Doesn't Russ do some work for Ritte bikes and isn't that the color I see on their bikes too? I really like it!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Yes Russ does build the Ritte frames. Actually my frame is an aqua color, more green than shows here.

July 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Sweet. Sweet bike that rides sweet. Congratulations to you and Russ on a wonderful collaboration.

And, is that a sweet new pic of our host at the top? Little less rocker and a little more huggy bear if you ask me. :)

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Sweet looking ride Dave! Glad you went with Campy again too. Great move to lower the BB, something only a custom frame builder would provide, I bet.

One question - do you find that the Campy 11 speed hoods have a small bump between the hood and the bar? Drives me NUTS!


July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndyk

One thing I do notice with the bikes ridden in the TDF is that most have the brake levers up high on the bars and that they ride pulling on the lever hoods. I have tried this on my plastic bike and find that I get back ache when the levers are that high, I have gone back to lever hoods lower as on your bike Dave and now its much more comfy. Also I agree we OLD GEEZERS find it harder to ride on the drops,One thing WHEN on the drops now my vision is not good, I have to lift my head up to see where the bloody hell I am going, Guess the back is getting weak and the effort to lift the head is to much now? I would like to show you my plastic bike to compare postitions and get some feedback. John Crump

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Dave A thought about BB heights. I ride a lot in the mountains in Colorado and the local canyons, I decend some steep grades with hairpin bends, when the bike is tilted at acute angles. would a lower BB be a problem?, I can see that on a flat straight road it would make next to no difference. But roundabouts that we have in Parker, like in the UK would the pedals hit the pavement? I do remember that some frame builders in the UK did try lower BB for more stability, Track irons had higher BB.

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Obviously you have to be aware that you can't pedal round tight corners, but as I keep saying this is not a race bike.

July 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Going up you have to Dave Thanks for the imput!

July 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

I see that you have a 53x39 chainring set Do you have a 11x25 back? I am curious what ring do you use the most? I have tried a 50x34 and find that around Parker Colorado I would only use the 50 ring, even with the 11x25 rear the 34 is too small to use unless climbing. Around Parker on the flat trails I use the 39 ring a lot, I keep my revs to around 70-100with my cadance and the 39x11 seems fine. In fact I have not used the 53 ring at all the last few months. Maybe its the Brit in me but I was taught to twiddle(spin) There is a chap who is around 50yrs of age a weight lifter and fitness nut, on the trail that has a 56x39 and when he goes past me, Its like he is in slow motion. BUT past me he does go! I didnt see him for a few weeks and when I talked to him he said he had been of the bike due to KNEE problems, ANY COMMENT?

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

"... and proving that the bike can still look good."
How does one prove an aesthetic opinion?
I for one think it merely looks okay, not especially good.
But I can't PROVE it!

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSnarkster

Nice. Love the Campy as I have Super Record on my bike. The Athena wasn't available yet. My Lynskey is a ti version of your bike and I agree with your specification choices. Nice.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

Well i just turned forty last year and this week flipped my stem to raise the bars a bit. Yes ive given in a little to comfort.
Im with you on campagnolo Dave. Never used anything else, never will.
The great thing about buying off a bespoke builder is that they will ask you what you want the bike for.
The large retailers are not interested in that. The times i have heard someone say to me. Daz they sold me a 55 and it seems too big.
Dave would you agree that many first time road bike buyers are put off the sport quickly because they start to ride the bike they have purchased and it doesnt fit them. They get back, neck, arm and every other ache then pack up.
Bike sizing has come on a bit but its still an area that to me is woeful at times.
Chorus for me. You dont need anything better than that

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarren h
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