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What We Ride: Pete’s one-of-a-kind self-built PM road bike

Pete Muir
4 May 2022

Editor Pete’s steel-framed road bike is very, very personal

You won’t have heard of the PM bike, but it is quite simply the greatest road bike ever to have been fashioned by human hands.

Of course, I may be a touch biased, as it was my hands that did the fashioning. As such, the PM – named after my own initials – is a one-off, entirely unique, none other like it in the known universe. It may look a lot like other handbuilt steel road bikes, but this one is different, because this one is mine.

A few years back I enrolled in a two-week framebuilding course with the Bicycle Academy, based in Froome, Somerset.

The course teaches everything anyone needs to know to get started as a framebuilder and a number of former pupils have gone on to launch their own bike brands – several of whom have featured in the regular ‘Me And My Bike’ section of Cyclist magazine.



Playing with fire

On the course, a lot of time is dedicated to the skill of brazing (I would say the ‘art’ of brazing, but the Bicycle Academy frowns on that term, as framebuilding is all about perfecting techniques, not exercising creativity). Brazing involves joining two metal pieces using a hot flame and a thin rod of brass.

 

It’s a tricky business. The flame from the brazing torch has to be just the right temperature and the just right length. You need to heat the area around the joint just the right amount before introducing the brass rod at just the right moment, at just the right place, at just the right angle, for just the right amount of time.

My initial attempts resulted is messy splodges, and the bin soon filled up with my discarded off-cuts. But practice make perfect, and after two weeks I could create neat ‘stack-o-dimes’ brazes that – if not exactly Dario Pegoretti standard – were perfectly serviceable and functionally acceptable.

As well as the technical skills of brazing and mitring, the Bicycle Academy course also teaches the theory of frame geometry – understanding how an extra degree of tube angle, or an extra millimetre of tube length will affect the way a bike fits and handles.

I found it all fascinating stuff, and the best bit was that at the end of two weeks, I walked away with a finished frame, built to my own spec, sized to fit me perfectly, and absolutely personal to me.

Frame details: Pure road and modern classic

So, what kind of bike is the PM? Firstly, it’s a pure road bike. There’s no concession to tyre clearance for going off-road, or hidden bosses just in case I decide to go touring around the world. It’s a road bike. For riding on the road.

Secondly, the PM is what I grandiosely refer to as ‘modern-classic’. That is, I wanted it to have the elements of a classic road bike – horizontal top tube, undropped seatstays, round tubes, rim brakes, shiny metal parts – but with all modern materials and components.

The steel is Columbus Life, one of the Italian company’s most advanced tubesets, being light, stiff, triple butted and robust. The finished frame, unpainted, weighed in at 2kg on the nose.

The paint is something I agonised over for weeks. When you can have any colour, any design, any wording, it becomes almost impossible to narrow down the options. After toying with numerous extravagant designs, I eventually decided to keep it simple and classic, but again with a modern touch.

I opted for just a single colour, but the deep blue has a delicious sparkle in the paint that makes it radiate in sunlight. And I wanted a traditional down tube logo, but the wraparound PM add a bit of funkiness. The whole thing was beautifully and expertly painted by Cole Coatings in London.

My PM build

Keeping up the modern-classic theme, I wanted lots of shiny chrome on the bike, but still up-to-date, high-performance components.

The wheels are Hunt Sprint Aero Wide. The alloy rims mean no buttock-clenching moments when descending in the wet on rim brakes, and while they may lack some of the performance elements of top-end carbon wheels, they are still light at 1,497g (claimed), stiff and aero.

More importantly, they look great (I’ll admit at this point that nearly all the components were chosen for their aesthetics ahead of their functionality – just as it should be).

Originally I paired them with a set of 28mm Hutchinson Fusion 5 tyres, which were supple and smooth-rolling. They currently sport a set 25mm Continental GP4000s – not the perfect match, but all I had lying around when the Hutchinsons finally passed away.

Like the wheels, the bars, stem and seatpost are in a luscious, polished metal finish, all from Ritchey, and the matching metal bottle cages are simple and unfussy ones from FWE at Evans Cycles.

The saddle is a Brooks Cambium C13 – a modern take on a traditional saddle. It’s not the most butt-friendly seat I’ve ever used, but I’m prepared to allow a modicum of discomfort because it looks the part and perfectly complements the build (call me shallow, I know).

The final piece of the jigsaw is the Campagnolo Super Record mechanical groupset. This is the newest iteration, so it ticks the modern-classic box.

Harking from the most traditional of Italian cycling marques, the groupset looks beautiful but is also dripping in carbon and titanium and has a crisp functionality that is a pleasure to use – you can feel each click and clunk, unlike the fuzzy whirring of electronic groupsets.

The ride

The first time I sat astride my pride and joy and pedalled off down the street, my initial emotion was one of relief. At least it hadn’t collapsed into a pile of metal tubes.

The feeling soon changed to one of surprise. ‘Hey,’ I thought to myself, ‘this is actually pretty good.’ The handling was sharp without being twitchy and the ride feel was buttery smooth, as is the case with decent steel bikes.

My final emotion was simple joy. Here was a bike that was beautiful – to my eye, at least – and fun to ride, and it was uniquely personal to me. The icing arrived when a stranger at a set of traffic lights said, ‘Nice bike,’ and asked me where I’d got it.

Today it remains my favourite bike to ride and is among the most precious things in my house (the kids narrowly beat it, although on occasions I’m not so sure). After all, what is the greatest bike in the world if not the one that always puts a big smile on your face?

Pete’s PM spec

  • Frame: Columbus Life steel
  • Fork: Columbus Futura carbon
  • Weight: 8.5kg
  • Groupset: Campagnolo Super Record mechanical 12-speed, 50/34, 11-29
  • Wheels: Hunt Sprint Aero Wide
  • Tyres: Continental GP4000, 25mm
  • Bars, stem, seatpost: Ritchey Classic
  • Saddle: Brooks C13 Cambium
  • Pedals: Look Keo Classic

Frame building photos by Adam Gasson, studio photos by Tapestry, outdoor photos by Pete Muir

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