I’ve come to realize I have a thing for lugs – particularly polished lugs on steel road bike frames. For those who don’t know, lugs are the ‘sockets’ used when joining two steel tubes in road bike construction. Wikipedia has a great entry and photos of lugged steel contruction. The lug boom kind of went out of style somewhere in the late 80’s to early 90’s, particularly as other materials such as aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber started coming on to the scene. There has been a resurgeance in the past few years of bikes with lugs in the larger manufacturers, but vintage frames with lugs are often sought after, and custom frame builders like Portland’s own Ira Ryan (lugs show above from one of his frames), Vanilla Cycles and many others, have carried on the tradition of crafting beautiful, solid bikes using lugs. But I digress.
I love lugs. In fact, I sorted through several domain names around lugs…nwlugs, fortheloveoflugs, luglover, longlivelugs, but every time I ended up choosing a more generic location based name instead. All that to say, still lovin’ the lugs. When I recently rebuilt my 20th Anniversary Torelli, I wanted everything in a more classic look than the funky conglomeration of carbon and lightweight, multi-colored parts it came with. Something that would compliment the vintage, polished lug look of the bike.
Finding a polished seatpost for a bike is not that difficult. There are many out there, and many from years gone by. However, the tricky part is, when you have short legs and longer torso, like I do, you need more setback on your seatpost…like a bunch of setback. On this particular frame (and yes I’ve been dialed in on fit…I don’t need another frame, it’s how I’m built) this is the current setback to get my knee over the pedal, and correct angle on kneebend at each position:
Since everything else on the bike was selected to accent the red/green/white of the frame, I went with greys for cable, seat, wrap, and polished or at least aluminum for components. But, as shown above, I had to go with the Easton for setback, which unfortunately is only in black. I really wanted something that would line up more with the rest of the bike, which looks more like this:
I looked at many options. FSA, Kalloy, Nitto, Raceface, old Campy, old DuraAce…all up and down Ebay and the rest of the web, but couldn’t find anything that had enough setback, looked good, was in stock, or hadn’t been panned already by someone else. Finally I hit upon the Nitto Wayback on the Rivendell website. And after pondering for a couple weeks, finally went ahead and ordered it. Easily the most expensive, non-carbon stem I’ve seen at $185 (yes, there, I said it outloud) – it’s also the most unique, and the specs lined up with what I needed. Here is is, out of the box, waiting to be installed:
First observations – it’s really pretty out of the box, the lugged look is super attractive to me. The clamp really does look like a frog, as mentioned on their website. Once you see it that way, those ‘eyes’ stick out everytime. Also, it is heavy…again, they warned of this on the site. Not like baseball bat heavy, but heavier than my normal stems. I’m not a weight weenie, and always say that I can lose weight quicker off my body than my bikes for a long time yet to come, so again, not a deal breaker.
The bummer of the day was that the seam where the lug meets the post is imperfect. I really hoped it would be a one-off factory flaw, but the product manager at Rivendell said that after checking the supply, they all pretty much looked like that.
So, I’m torn. For the money, I wanted it to be perfect, and yet the reality is, I’ll likely have a small back tied to the post and probably not ever see it. It’s on the non-drive side so any poseur photos I’ll take won’t show it (ha!) — but will I know and think about it every time I ride it….I don’t know. I doubt it, but I’m not sure. Will it bug me more than the black stem I have in that does not match right now…I doubt it. The great thing is the product manager said ‘if you’re going to think about it every time you ride, and you’re not going to enjoy it, by all means return it — we want you to be happy,’ so I’m thankful for the attitude and customer service from them so far.
Yes, I know there are greater things in life to worry about these days. This is my ‘special ride’ bike, and just want to make sure everything is indeed special. Decisions, decisions…..I’ll let you know what I decide later.