Why you should buy a Boulder Bicycle randonneur bike?

13 04 2012

Me and Boulder Bicycle All Road 650B randonneur bike....

I talk to a lot of people about my Boulder Bicycle All Road and about what randonneur bicycle to buy. When I was looking for a randonneur bike I went through all the production options and determined the Boulder Bicycle offerings were the best.

Here is why:

  • you get the proven Rene Herse low trail steering geometry
  • cost is reasonable
  • you can have 700c or 650B in all sizes
  • you can have lugs or TIG welded frame by Waterford
  • you can have oversized or skinny tubing
  • ultra light tubing available
  • semi-custom sizing option is available for reasonable up charge
  • custom paint available
  • frame/fork is design for integrated use of front rack and fenders [everything fits perfectly as a whole]
  • front and rear lighting mounting has been designed into bike
  • available as a complete or as a frame/fork/rack
  • exception support and customer service from Boulder Bicycles
  • reasonably quick turn around on orders
  • designed & built by randonneurs for randonneurs

When taken all together there really isn’t another production randonneur bike option that comes close to this level of performance, customization and price without going the full custom route.

A lovely profile shot...

Here is what Boulder Bicycle has to say on the matter:

“A Boulder Bicycle frame represents the latest step in a journey to build frames that perform without compromise.  The designs of our randonneur frames are obtained through careful study of classic Rene Herse geometries and those of other French makers.  Some of the “classic” designs work better than others, and we obviously select those from the best-performing historic examples.

Over the past 10 years the French randonneur bicycle saw a rebirth in the United States.  Mike Kone, lead designer at Boulder Bicycle, was one of the early proponents of French randonneur machines.  In fact, some of the most notable writers and modern proponents for this style of bicycle saw their first Rene Herse bicycles in Massachusetts when Mike Kone owned Bicycle Classics inc.

Classic geometries are juxtaposed with modern materials to create the current line of Boulder Bicycles.  Waterford Precision Cycles does the actual frame construction.  Waterford was somewhat reluctant to embrace the low trail and light tube specifications used on Boulder Bicycles, but they have come to appreciate the performance of these machines.  In addition, Waterford brings expertise to the Boulder Bicycle line which is unique to the industry.  Waterford has arguably built more custom and semi-custom high-end steel frames than perhaps any builder in the county.  Their understanding of materials combined with their access to proprietary materials is an invaluable asset.  They are unyielding in their quest for reliability.

There are many builders constructing randonneur style bicycles.  But our extensive experience yields advantages.  We know what geometries are most likely to perform well.  We know when we are pushing the envelope with extra light tubing.  And as students of bicycle history with many examples we’ve personally ridden, we know what is most likely to work well for a rider.

Many of our Boulder Bicycle customers think of their purchase as a stepping stone to a Rene Herse.  They are welcome to think that.  But in reality, there is no performance gain in going to a more costly frame.  If there was a better tube or a better geometry for performance, we would use it on the Boulder Bicycle.  But there isn’t.  Now a Rene Herse frame (or a frame from some other wonderful builders such as Peter Weigle) may offer cleaner wiring integration or more elegant lug shaping or fancier racks.  But when it is you and the bicycle and the mountain, your Boulder Bicycle will deliver the same ride and performance as a frame costing many times more.  So please take advantage of our experience and eye for value, and let us supply you with the bicycle that will provide the ride of your dreams.”


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19 responses

16 04 2012
AC

Vic, I’m getting ready to order a semi – custom frame, so I have been looking at Boulder Bicycles. I know you’re not a weight weenie, but a lightweight frame is a good starting point in my opinion. I have purchased many of the parts and believe my build will be similar to yours. Do you know how much your bike weighs without the bags? About how heavy is your front bag and do you think the low trail is a must? How does the bike ride without a front load?

16 04 2012
thelazyrando

@AC – I can’t tell you what my frame/fork weighs by themselves, but they are made from narrow ultra thin tubing so it’s got to be on the low end of the scale. Mike at Boulder Bikes probably has those numbers if you ask him.

I don’t have an overall bike weight as I don’t own a scale sorry.

I can’t tell you how heavy that front bag is although I think that info is online if you google it. Note the bag has a heavy cardboard stiffener you can remove dropping a good chunk of a pound of weight.

I never ride the bike without a load up front since I always ride with the front bag which holds tools, tubes, etc…

Low trail isn’t a must for a bicycle, but after having owned one I’ll never go back and I’ll be switching my touring bikes over to low trail geometries as opportunities present themselves. The benefits are many and the only drawback really is that you have to hunt down a builder who understands low trail and can make you a great bike. The proven Rene Herse geometry Boulder uses has stood the test of time for many decades.

16 04 2012
thelazyrando

@AC – I would add that if you are looking at other steel road bikes the weight in the frame/fork will all be in a pretty similar range. The density of the matter is not going to change and a builder isn’t going to use heavy duty tubing for a road bike.

17 04 2012
Aaron C

I couldn’t be happier with my Boulder Bicycle. You get the quality and performance of a much more expensive bike. Like he points out you could spend three times as much for something from an esteemed builder, and though it will certainly beautiful it’s not going to ride any better.

17 04 2012
Aaron C

On a side note, my bike weighs about 25-26 lbs which is pretty decent considering it has a rack, fenders, built in lights, etc. That’s without a bag sitting on the rack, mind you.

19 04 2012
Ryan

I’ve got what I believe is Boulder All-Road Prototype Number one.
I’m very grateful to Mike for giving me a great deal on it. They called it the “Shimmy Monster”‘ but the Miche needle bearing headset calmed it right down and I’ve had no issues. It’s got light, skinny tubing, and is in the 26-27 pound range even with dynamo, lights, fenders, rack, berthoud #25 bag, tools, pump, bell, spare tube, a thin cable lock, and a few other essentials.
It’s seen over three years of heavy use and is still going strong.
Quite simply the finest bike I’ve ever had!

Ryan in NM

PS: I just stumbled upon your blog during a slow night at work, very nice!

19 04 2012
thelazyrando

@Ryan – I’d love to see some pics of your bike. These low trail bikes definitely need a needle bearing headset to deter shimmying, but it’s well worth it for the rest of the ride characteristics. I know Mike has been honing his design skills as he builds more large bikes with skinny ultralight tubing so he can keep folks away from frames that would shimmy badly.

19 04 2012
Ryan

Yes, I think Mike has it pretty dialed in now.
Check out my Flickr page:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7556426@N06/
I’ve been lazy about tagging the photos, so you might need to poke around to find all the Boulder ones.

24 04 2012
Michael

Hey, love the blog – thanks.

I have a 650b question. I recently aquired a Rawland Drakkar frameset and am trying to figure out which rims to use. Wondering what you are using on your Buolder Rando rig? And if you have ideas on a good all around wheel for on/off road and maybe some touring/trail riding?

Cheers,
michael

24 04 2012
thelazyrando

I use Velocity Synergy rims on my 650B Boulder. I use it on rough roads, dirt MUPs and such.

They have other 650B rims that are beefier as well:

http://www.velocityusa.com/

24 04 2012
Aaron C

I’ve got the same rims on my Boulder and I am NOT gentle with it (and I weight 235 lbs). They were built by Anthony King of Longleaf Cycles. No signs of going out of true yet…

I think they are the best option for this sort of bike with fat 650B tires. You can also get the rear with offset spoke holes which makes for a stronger wheel with less dish.

24 04 2012
thelazyrando

My friend has the Velocity P35 rims on his MTB and they look nice. If I was building up something for dirt/gravel more than road I’d give them consideration. Especially with a wide 2.3″+ MTB tire.

24 04 2012
Michael

Cool. Thanks for the tips. The Synergy was at the top of my list. I was checking out the P35’s too and also the Pacenti TL 28’s.

Since the Rawland is disc specific is that an issue with a non-disc specific rim? I have never dealt with disc brakes before. I read somewhere that folks get an off center front rim to counter the one sided torque the disc brake creates? I dunno if it matters or not….

I’m really looking forward to building this bike up. I am planing a road/gravel tour from PDX to Mt. Shasta, CA on it.

Thanks,
michael

24 04 2012
thelazyrando

@Michael:

– you can use any rim with disc brakes [disc rims just lack the brake track on the sidewalls]
– there is no reason to use an offset rim up front on a disc or rim brake bike
– on the rear the offset rim helps even out the spoke tension resulting from a dished wheel

Sounds like a great bike and ride…send me some photos!

24 04 2012
Michael

Thanks. Will do, should be fun!

12 09 2012
Matthew

Vik,

What about a Velo Orange Rando frame?

I understand there is no custom geometry, and I also understand that you are limited to a maximum of 28cc Tires with fenders due to the centerpull brakes.

Basically, I see the big difference as the VO doesn’t use Canti brakes, so there is a limit to tire size, and there is no customization…

With that said, the VO frames are on sale for $500.

Considering, at least in my position, this is going to be a purposeful Rando bike, for actual rando’s, I don’t see the need to ever run larger tires than 28cc with fenders.

For $500 I can’t think of any reason why this frame wouldn’t be a valid option.

I’m definitely not arguing AGAINST the Boulder frame … it’s worlds ahead of the VO in terms of style and crafmanship, and also in price.

In terms of pure function, the only drawback I see is the tire size limitation with fenders – and since I’m not riding full rack or through the mud, I don’t see Canti brakes as being mandatory…

So I guess I’m really trying more to justify a purchase of a VO frame over a Boulder frame due to price, so I hope I haven’t spoiled the point of your thread!

What are your opinions on this Vik?

Thanks!

12 09 2012
12 09 2012
thelazyrando

Matthew – for a 700c rando bike the tires I would want to run are Grand Bois Cypres 32mm tires and fenders.

http://www.compasscycle.com/tires_gb_700_32.html

Not being able to run them would be a deal breaker for me. The difference in tire volume due to 4mm of width is significant.

Looking at it another way I have spoken to a number of randos who didn’t think they needed/wanted generous tire clearance when they bought a new bike only to change their minds and regret that choice. One in particular came to that realization just as the new bike was delivered that could only fit 28mm tires. He was bummed.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the VO frame. I’m just pointing out why I wouldn’t.

12 09 2012
Matthew

Interesting!

The comparison of the Cypress to a 23mm racing tire is very compelling.

/sigh

I guess I’m going to have to wait and save my money – which means that I may not be able to build up in time for the ’13 rando season.

At the end of the day, I want to build it right, and since I actually don’t have any experience riding rando’s, perhaps I should listen to those that do.

As always, your opinions are greatly appreciated Vik.

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