So, I'm starting to want some physical targets to chase, to go along with the creative and career ones I tend to set myself. At 37, I'm probably not going to start racing, but long distance riding does appeal to me. I haven't found the time to get to an appropriate level of fitness before, but I'm selling my car and trying to cycle as much as possible (not quite car free - keeping the wife's car), and that should get my base miles up sufficiently. What I'd really like is to ride the PBP, but I'm definitely not going to be ready for that in 2011. As I understand it, the next running will be in 2016, and I certainly feel I could be ready for that, though I'll be 44 that year. I'll ride as much as I can this summer, commute etc all winter, and aim to ride my first century next spring (or perhaps this summer, we'll see how things go), but frankly, I can use my vintage 531 roadie for that, and pretty much any one day ride. It's when I start to move up and ride some real Brevets that I think I'll need a dedicated machine.
So, my thoughts start with vintage steel. The bike needs to be relatively inexpensive, and I have to want to ride it. I love lugged steel, plus there's no reason to assume it'll be degraded, and it should ride cushy. I'd be looking for a 531 frame from my local master builder, Rotrax. Something like this, but 24".
Comfy frame geometry, style, and fender eyelets.
I'm thinking that my aims componentry wise would be that it should be cheapish to build, tough, easy to self repair, and use parts that are available anywhere. Therefore, I think I'd look at 7 speed cassette stuff, probably Shimano 105 rear hub and derailleurs, but with non-indexed bar-end shifters rather than brifters (I don't want to deal with a broken brifter in the middle of nowhere, whereas there's always a way to fix friction shifting). Triple up front should give me granny gears in case I find myself low on energy, and probably Shimano 105 dual pivot calipers and hooded levers (unless the reach is an issue - the frame will undoubtedly be designed for 27"ers, so I might need to find a longer reach brake). A Brooks of some sort is a must, and I might be tempted to try an Imperial. I don't have perinieal issues with my existing Brooks, but my current biggest mileage is 50, so if I start to suffer as I do longer distances, then perhaps in building this bike I'd consider the Imperial.
Fenders are obviously a must, and I guess that with 700c wheels, I'll buy even more clearance (older bikes had more anyway) for fitting larger tyres with those fenders. This is a big question mark for me; riding home through central London today in the rain on my single speed with Vitorria Rubinos, and feeling the skittishness made me realise I don't want to be making a descent at night in the wet on tyres that don't stick, but the Marathon Supremes on my tourer/commuter sap a lot of energy. What can you recommend that's cushy, sticky, and still fast?
It seems like lighting would be a big consideration, and I guess a dynohub is the way forward. The Schmidt hubs don't fit my "relatively low cost" thinking, whereas £35 for a Shimano hub does, but do they cut the mustard? I've loved the double front light rigs I've seen (yes, I'd like to have a little of the constructeur look), but what lamps are you all using for that? I'd back it up with my Dinotte lights, since AAs are readily available, although I have better rechargeable lights. I'm thinking that a small front rack as a bag support and light carrier would be wise, but no rear rack, just a Carradice bag support. I'd probably go with a Carradice Camper, because it seems to me that the space would be useful, and I don't imagine the extra weight over the smaller models is significant when you don't fill it right up. I guess some sort of big bar bag is wise, but how big do you need? If I went for one of the really big ones, would I have any reason to regret that?
The reason I'm asking all this now, before I even start training, is twofold. Firstly, to build the bike at a sensible price, I'll be trying to acquire stuff slowly and at bargain prices, so the more time the better. The second is that I sense I would be very glad to have this bike even if I don't really get into the Brevet thing. It seems like a bike like this would be tremendous fun for big day rides, regardless.