Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

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Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby avecReynolds531 » 26 Mar 2020, 9:14am

I'm not sure if this is the correct section of the forum, so my apologies in advance.

This was a happy labour of love, over a few years of planning, saving and finding the right parts: a special birthday gift for my wife.

The idea of a custom frame had been in my brain for a long time. It was a subject of great interest, a huge amount of learning that reinforced many times how little I knew - and still don't know - about frame building.

Having no toe overlap was a primary consideration after experiencing the dangers of and resulting road rash of small frames & 700c. I realised that 26 inch wheels were correct for sizing - the mudguards and wheels were the first items bought. The basic aesthetic idea was for a performance frame with a horizontal top tube, mudguards/ fenders, and a fork that had a fine crown and a low (French) bend.

Here is the finished article: it's part fillet brazed, part lugged Reynolds 853 - some of the detailing is just beautiful (the stainless steel cut out from the head badge is silver soldered to the seat tube, the fork crown & low curve, that seat cluster with sleeve & stainless steel top eyes).

Our many thanks & appreciation to Winston Vaz for the exquisite frame, Mario Vaz for the custom paint, JRA providing a very light wheelset and Herbert Cycles for the great build.

It's a 26/40 double chainset running 10 speed Campagnolo (12-27 cassette). Velo Orange Grand Cru calipers stop the bike fantastically well. With Berthoud saddle & stainless steel mudguards, plus some Nitto finishing kit.

We couldn't have asked for more with the end result. How well it performs, and how well proportioned the bike turned out: it looks in real life as if it's been shrunk - perhaps the only indication of scale is the bottle cage.

Any comments & insights are welcomed.

Thanks, Tom
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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby pedalsheep » 26 Mar 2020, 2:04pm

Stunning looking frame, your wife is a lucky lady! I hope she has many happy miles on it.
'Why cycling for joy is not the most popular pastime on earth is still a mystery to me.'
Frank J Urry, Salute to Cycling, 1956.

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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby slowster » 26 Mar 2020, 2:23pm

Very, very nice.

Do you know what tube thicknesses were used? All other things being equal, a smaller frame will be stiffer, so I wonder if Winston Vaz used thinner tubes to counteract that. I think Reynolds 853 Pro Team is the name given to some of the 853 tubes with thinner walls.

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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby reohn2 » 26 Mar 2020, 2:27pm

It's certainly a nice looking bike and looks well made too but,and there always is one.To my eye the headtube could've been longer with a slight angle on the toptube and the mudguard eyes/brazeons on the front would've been better just above the fork bend.
I cycle therefore I am.

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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby 531colin » 26 Mar 2020, 6:01pm

As long as she loves the bike, the jobs right.
For diminutive riders it can often be a case of you can have either toe clearance or the bars within reach, but not both of those things. But that is more often the case with drop bars than flat bars, simply because drops place your hands much further in front of the headset than flat bars.
Having a smaller wheel is one way of getting more toe clearance for a particular reach; another way is to have longer fork offset and a slacker head angle. Spa's smallest Wayfarer (47cm) has effective top tube 544 with front centre 610 (for 700c) with 72 deg seat tube angle. This is achieved with a head angle of 69.5 deg. and 59 fork offset. I would be interested to compare this with your numbers.
Of course I would have done other stuff differently as well; I would have had the seat tube length as it is now, but with the seat cluster dropped down 50 or 60mm; then sloped the top tube (I know!) up a bit. This gives the same standover but makes the extended head tube a bit less prominent.
The point about frame stiffness is valid, it looks to me like the slimmest possible tubes have been used, 25.4 top tube, 28.6 seat/down tubes.
I would have used a sloping crown on a little, light bike.
I wish you both many happy miles!

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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby Brucey » 26 Mar 2020, 6:15pm

I recommend fitting a second (near vertical) rear mudguard stay; breakages near the brake bridge are very common otherwise.

I'd obviously have chosen a few bits differently (esp the handlebars) but the bike looks nicely made, and if she likes it, its a result!


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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby MikeF » 26 Mar 2020, 10:00pm

The problem with most smaller framed bikes is that the saddle cannot be set back enough, but that looks as though it's OK.
"It takes a genius to spot the obvious" - my old physics master

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Re: Designing a small roadster - Varonha Frameworks

Postby avecReynolds531 » 26 Mar 2020, 10:11pm

All the replies are much appreciated. Thank you for taking time to contribute.

From my point of view & learning of a strict amateur, I recognised that the horizontal top tube and fork crown choices were influenced by my much loved John Perks 531 (attached photos).

Having spent a fair amount of my childhood in France, I had seen many French bikes. The elegant fork curves of those bikes stayed in my brain and I was really pleased to see the outcome of the Varonha fork. A nice piece of history involved; it was Bill Hurlow's fork bending machine that shaped this fork curve.

I found the linked set of articles here (involving Chris Juden), to be a valuable learning experience:

We had my wife's bike fitting measurements, and both the standover height and front centre figure of her old roadster (which importantly had no toe overlap). Those were the basic measurements we would work from and bring to the Varonha workshop.

With Winston having extensive experience in building small frames, we had complete confidence in his choices of tubing, dimensions and geometry (within the idea of 26 inch wheels and the requests of top tube and fork design). My wife had a fitting at the Varonha workshop and was asked if she would like her initials cut from stainless steel for the fork crown. There's an attached photo - this piece of individual design and skill was described as beautiful by a very happy lady!

I believe the seat angle is 74 degrees & the head angle 70 degrees. I'm sorry I can't recall the front centre figure, though it was an interesting coincidence that the proposed front centre of the Varonha was the same figure as the old roadster. Top tube length is 505mm. The 853 is certainly thin walled (though I do not know for certain if it is the Pro team tube set), and of classic 25.4 top tube, 28.6 seat/down tube dimensions.

Thanks again for the insights and comments posted: valid and knowledgeable beyond what I know. It is a fascinating topic - even for an amateur.

In conclusion, here's a bicycle that delights it's owner with a performance, beauty and originality. Something for a lifetime.
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