28 July, 2006

A Tournesol 650B

I asked Steve Hampsten to send a few photos of one of the terrific Tournesol bikes he builds. To be honest, I was hoping for pictures of one of the carbon fiber randonneus he creates. But his new 650b bike is even better.

This is Steve's personal bike and it reflects his opinion that bikes should be built to be used. We spoke today and both agreed that some of the top end bikes are so superbly finished and expensive that their owners might be afraid to take them on a dirt road. So Steve's bikes, while still beautiful, are a little simpler in finish. And they are a bit less expensive. He thinks of them as the ultimate semi-custom bikes, rather than as your final custom bike.

This is not to say that he skimps on the details. Look at the rear rack attachment. On the other hand don't; it makes Velo Orange racks look ordinary. And the lug work is hardly simple. And note the slap guard and rear cable hanger.

Click on the photos to enlarge them. And please tell us what you think.

18 comments:

Adam Alpern said...

Wow.

Also: Wow. Very classy.

The desaturated photography really works for this bike too - it makes me think more about how it will ride than how it was painted.

Ernesto Garcia said...

The Tournesol is a beautiful bicycle, a gorgeous machine. I had the pleasure to ride one once, over about 20 km, and it was just sublime. Are there any in Japan? I don't know. I live in Niigata, in snow country (Alps on one side, Sea of Japan on the other), and I am sure this bike would feel right at home in this environment. I would love to have one of the first (if not the first) Tournesol 650Bs in Japan...but on a teacher's salary, it isn't likely!

david_nj said...
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david_nj said...

I don't think the rear rack attachment is any nicer than can be done with the V-O rack. While I guess I have very minor issues with the design of the front V-O rack, the rear one is a Perfect Product. Nothing need be added or detracted. Chris K. has touched on greatness.

That being said, _anything_ associated with the Hampstens is classy. Andy was one of my favorite riders. The Giro stage in the snow (?Gavia Pass?) was simply epic. I mean, that's the very _essence_ of "epic".

In fact, many years ago when I raced we actually received an in-person visit from Andy, as our sponsor was friends with him. Hilarious and grossly inappropriate that hoi polloi Cat III pack fodder like me should have a chance to rub shoulders with the greats.

But I don't really get Tournesol's whole carbon randonneur thing. I'm not even being retro or anything else: it just seems like putting a pimpy air dam on your SUV ... why bother? Why not just get a steel bike and a couple of _really_ fine bottles of wine -- wouldn't that be more fun?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful bicycle and an excellent choice of colors to highlight th crafstmanship.
How does one change/replace the slap guard?

Steve H said...

David,

Thank you for your comments; however I feel compelled to take issue with one of your points.

The thinking behind the carbon randonnee bikes is that it really is a good use for the material. It has a cushy, comfortable, dampened ride and it allows us to build a very strong yet light frame. These frames are expensive so we don't market them very aggressively for that reason. Carbon is running the risk of turning into the "new aluminum" which doesn't help this type of one-off high-end product very much. My hope with the carbon bike was that we could interest a Paris-Brest-Paris rider to try one of these; we have and I look forward to Joel’s report next year.

Our bigger idea behind Tournesol is that we want to offer frames built from all materials: steel, aluminum, carbon, and titanium. We're also happy to offer either modern or oldparts builds. It may make us sound wishy-washy, and the use of carbon may seem gratuitous, but it's not - we simply have a wide range of what we consider acceptable for a given style of bike. Neither Douglas nor myself are wedded to any single material or method of joining materials: welded, brazed, or bonded – whatever works and looks pleasing to the eye, we’ll do it.

But we do agree on those nice bottles of wine. Cheers!

Steve H said...

Slap guards pop right off and replacements are available from Velo-Orange or Jitensha.

C said...

I love that Hampsten is being material neutral. Anyone who says one material is better than another is ignorant at best. You can make great bikes out of any material. It's how you use a material that counts. Contrary to what ignorant retrogrouches think composites can be extremely durable.

Composite helmets in the military offer FAR more impact resistance than the old steel pot helmets they replaced. The problem with composites in the bike biz is that too many companies use them solely to achieve light weight. Anytime you make lightweight the goal you're going to end up with a less durable product.

What I like about the Hampsten/Parlee is that they didn't design solely for lightweight. Ounce for ounce I'd wager good money that the carbon bike is far more durable than a steel bike. I'd take a 1.5kg carbon bike over a 1.5kg steel bike anytime!

Goon said...

I consider myself a pretty hardcore traditionalist in many ways, and my copy of "Golden Age" is is grease-stained and dogeared, but . . .

I think it's _marvelous_ that Tournesol is building true randonneuses in carbon.

The key to this kind of bike is not material or equipment, but building the best possible machine for rider and the task, and the beauty is in the little functional details that would never be found on a production frame. If someone is willing to pay for the lightest possible fully integrated bike, while realizing that the frame will probably not last x years (where x is the life expectancy of a steel frame) then more power to them.

This lugged bike is fantastic too!

Lugs are lovely, but I've realized that what I really love is not necessarily the lug itself, but the handmade craftsmanship and attention to detail that it represents. Well, that kind of approach is possible with other materials as well, as demonstrated by the aluminum bikes in "Golden Age" and various issues of VBQ, and of course the non-steel Tournesols.

C said...

I wouldn't assume that the carbon bike won't last as long as a steel bike. Remember that it's custom built. Parlee may well have used carbon to make the frame more durable rather than simply using it to make the frame light. I've seen Look, Trek and Calfee frames that are still going after 10-15 years of use. I've had steel frames that didn't last that long!

I do wonder what someone like Herse would do if he'd had access to titanium and composites.

Of course I've yet to see a carbon frame that looked as good as a lugged frame!

Anonymous said...

what bar is that? nitto randonneur?

david_nj said...

C/Steve, you know, thinking about it, I see your point. Nothing wrong with a carbon randonneur bike. A major mistake of which would be to regard this type of machine only through the lens of "retro" -- the point is, brought up to date, they could be superb bikes in their own right.

Steve H said...
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Steve H said...

Thanks David; it does work well but the price can be a bit breathtaking. I have a yen to do an aluminum randonnee bike with front rack - any takers?

Anon: yep, good ol' Nitto Rando bars. Wacky-yet-elegant.

C said...

I'd be all over an alloy rando bike. I love the way my Easton tubed bike rides. It's a good material for my particular weight and riding style. For me, it planes very nicely. Now if I can just convince the wife to put off the kitchen remodel! ;)

shrewboy said...

Wow, that's just a fabulous bike! And I truly appreciate the comment about how things are understated in an effort to encourage owners to ride them without the overwhelming fear of the first scratch. So I took a look at the Tournesol web page. Did I read it right? Welded 853 frames designed by the same guys for $1400??? Does that include the fork? If so, that is VERY reasonable for what you are getting, compared to many other builders I've priced. And not out of line if it is frame only. Kudos to Steve and Dr. Brooks!

Amy said...

Jan Heine rode one of these on Kent Peterson's nice ride recently and from the look of the pictures taken on the ride all the rando boys were oohing and aahing over it. He is going to write up review for his magazine.

Grey said...

A beautiful bike. Wow. And I like the chainstay protector. I have never seen one like that.