What We Ride (Part 3): Steve’s FrekJan Heine
This mini-series shows the bikes of the Bicycle Quarterly Team. These are the bikes we’ve bought with our own money and/or built with our own hands. They aren’t show queens, because we ride them hard. They’ve proven themselves over many thousands of miles on the – often quite rough – mixed-surface roads of the Cascade Mountains.
The Frek may be the most famous bike here. After Steve wrote up his story of converting a 1982 Trek 614 into a 650B randonneur bike for Bicycle Quarterly, many riders followed his lead and converted similar bikes. Fortunately, there are plenty of 1980s Treks to supply this new demand!
The 614 was Trek’s top-end 700C ‘sport’ frame, so the main triangle was made from high-end Reynolds 531 tubing, with a geometry (short, but not ultra-short, chainstays, 73° head angle) that is well-suited to a randonneur bike. As an early 1980s Trek, it’s still a classically constructed hand-made frame that doesn’t have the labor-saving shortcuts found on later Treks. That makes it the perfect base for this kind of conversion – much better than the touring Trek 520 with its lower-grade tubing and ‘relaxed’ angles.
Steve believes in keeping what he can, and replaces and modifies only what he considers necessary. So the Frek retains its original frame and fork. Steve indented the chainstays for more tire clearance. He brazed on pivots for direct-mount centerpull brakes – in this case Mafac Raid’s that he refreshed with Rene Herse parts. He’s built a lightweight rack and added a few other braze-ons. Those are already all the modifications he’s made to the frame and fork – apart from the repaint with custom-made ‘Frek’ decals.
Steve’s philosophy is obvious in this photo: He kept the Trek’s old SR stem, but installed Rene Herse Maes Parallel handlebars (for comfort) and one of our original decaleurs (to keep the bag securely in place). He drilled the stem to mount a bell. This combination of new and old works well, and it’s kept the conversion within his budget.
Some compromises are inevitable when you convert an old bike. Horizontal dropouts can make wheel changes a bit more difficult on bikes with fenders – but fortunately, wide tires mean that flats are a very rare occurrence these days. I don’t recall ever having been on a ride where Steve had to remove the rear wheel. The 1990s mountain bike derailleur works well with…
… the classic Simplex Retrofriction shift levers.
The front derailleur is a Suntour Cyclone, and the huge gears of the original 52×42 cranks have been replaced with a more sensible 46×30 combo.
Steve prefers crank bolts with Allen heads, so he installed those on his Rene Herse cranks. They work just as well as the originals.
Here are the specs for the Frek:
- Frame: 1982 Trek 614 with a Reynolds 531 main triangle with 0.8/0.5/0.8 top tube and 1.0/0.7/1.0 downtube (standard diameter). Stays and fork blades are Ishiwata.
- Custom modifications including centerpull brake mounts, dented chainstays to allow wider tires, shift lever bosses, additional H2O bottle bosses, pump mount on seatstay, mount for Rene Herse taillight, generator wire guides/ports, and modified rear brake cable guides
- Fork: original Trek 614 fork with mods including centerpull brake mounts, generator hub wire guides, and front rack mounts
- Based on the geometry published in the 1982 Trek brochure, the 614 has a headtube angle of 73 degrees and fork offset of 55 mm. That suggests about 45 mm trail.
- Cranks: Rene Herse 46×30
- Derailleurs: Suntour Cyclone FD, Shimano Deore LX RD, Simplex Retrofriction levers
- Pedals: Shimano M520 SPD
- Front hub: SON Delux, 32 hole
- Rear hub: Shimano 105, 32 hole
- Cassette: Shimano 8 speed, 11-28
- Rims: Pacenti Brevet
- Tires: Rene Herse 650B x 42 mm Babyshoe Pass Extralight
- Tubes: Schwalbe SV14A Extralight
- Brakes: Mafac RAID on frame mounted posts
- Brake levers: Shimano BL-R400
- Headset: original ‘Trek micro-adjust’
- Stem/decaleur: original SR stem with Rene Herse decaleur
- Handlebars: Rene Herse Maes Parallel 42 cm
- Seatpost: Thomson Elite
- Saddle: Brooks C17
- Headlight: SON Edelux II
- Taillight: Rene Herse
- Pump: Zefal HPX
- Handlebar bag: Berthoud GB25
- Weight: 26.5 lb (12.0 kg) including pedals, bottle cages and pump
Here’s what Steve says about his favorite bike: “I own a couple of other bikes, but Frek has been the one I ride the most since I built it up a little over four years ago. It has all of the features and capabilities I need for the kind of rides that I love to do. But what inspires me the most about Frek is its personality and history. I love the fact that I was able to take a beat-up, old bike that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill, and with a bit of creativity, a few tools, and not a whole lot of money, I was able to turn it into an amazingly capable machine. It brings a smile to my face every time I ride it.”
He reminisces on the most memorable ride on his bike: “The Oregon 6 Passes Super Randonnee 600k that I did with Mark, back on the hottest two days of 2018, stands out as the most demanding test for Frek so far. It was incredibly challenging, but Frek disappeared beneath me for the entire ride. It felt like it was just me, Mark, stunning scenery, and an endless succession of hills.”
Steve’s Frek shows that you don’t need an expensive custom bike to enjoy great rides. In fact, Steve feels that the world doesn’t need more bikes as long as there is a healthy supply of old Treks!