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by Craig Simons
March 25, 2016
Photography by Wade Wallace
In our latest ‘Bikes of the Bunch’, Craig Simons from Melbourne recently received his well considered custom Jaegher straight from Belgium. In this piece, Craig tells us about his rationale for the build and what drew him to this new love of his life.
The first ideas for this build came a few years ago after restoring an early ’90s frame bought back the memories of racing on my steel Kenevans 25 years ago. Even at 10kg the steel bike still rides with a quiet smoothness and stability that carbon frames can’t produce. It really comes into its own in the hills although the braking performance has come a long way since then. I liked the idea of modern electronic groupset on classic steel to give the best ride with the improved functionality and options for future.
I spent around a year looking at what to build, after always riding Campagnolo, I bought a second hand Focus with Ultegra Di2 to try it out and after a few weeks I was sold. So at the least the frame had to be Di2 or EPS wired. I’d had discs on my CX bike for a few years and several more on the MTB but I’m only 64kg so don’t really need them on the road so kept the choices to frames with standard rim brakes.
I priced up quite a few frames from some US and UK frame builders but as well as several local builders but it wasn’t until my mum got me the book ‘The Bicycle Artisans’ that I discovered Jaegher from Belgium. Their history goes back to the 1930’s and their philosophy and skills of frame building have been passed down through the generations, building frames for other famous Belgians such as Eddy Merckx. Over the years they have stayed as a small family business, not moving into mass production they’re able to keep the workmanship in the frames as their signature.
Ordering and pricing up the frame was simple but It took a few weeks of emails back and forth while I decided on the options. Their website goes through all the frame options from materials through to paintwork and build so you can order direct from that. They also build fully made to measure or standard sizes which go up in 1cm steps so picking a size was a matter of measuring up my existing frames several times, double and triple checking then working out the nearest match. The geometry of the 52CC frame was almost identical to my Focus, so it should be the right size but without trying it out the size selection was what kept me up at night.
The Jaegher site also had several photos for paintwork and graphics, all done beautifully but it was what they call the ‘Gritty Grey’ finish with the orange graphics that had me sold on this frame. I also added the matching stem and arranged to send a Di2 compatible seatpost I had over to be painted to match at the same time. All up this came to just under AU$4000 including shipping so I transferred the money and waited a few days until they confirmed it had arrived and my build was in the queue.
Around this time I’d also been talking to Tristan at Wheelworks in New Zealand, they were building up some nice rail 34mm carbon wheels at the time that had been getting good reviews so I settled on them but had to wait for more funds to be approved. A few months later, Tristan e-mailed me back with some details on their new Maker35 that they had been working on but had only just released, these rims were built to their own specifications and requirements as wheel builders and came out at around the same price as the Rail rims, built with White Industries T11 Hubs and they could even do orange decals to match the frame. Funding was approved.
The guys at Jaegher kept me up to date when my seat post arrived and sent a photo of the frame when it was built up ready for painting. As this went on I collected the components together and took a scuffed up Selle Italia SLR saddle to Mick Peel at Busyman to re- cover to match the frame. He sent me back several designs for the saddle and matching bar tape which both turned out beautifully with the orange stitching and perforations to match the frame.
I had some delays on the frame shipping when the fork and seatpost had to be sent back to the painter but then after spending a week tracking a box as it travelled halfway around the world, the box arrived with the words ‘Dear Craig, Your Jaegher is Ready to Hunt’. The frame was packed well, so well that they’d forgotten to put the forks in the box though. Some quick emails back confirmed this and the forks were sent, arriving a week later. The build quality of the frame was immaculate, from the smooth welds to the crisp graphics it was everything I’d hoped for, but how would it ride?
I entrusted the build to Dan at Shifter Bikes, after seeing the immaculate work he does on Di2 builds and the Busyman Bar tape wraps there was no way I’d do it that well myself and didn’t want to risk rushing it and doing a half-arsed job. It was the right choice, he did a beautiful job on the whole build down to the heat shrunk cables, and after the first fit, the only adjustment I had to make was the reach on the levers.
The first ride on the Jaegher was a mix of relief and joy, making the first few pedals out I was amazed how well it fitted, the seat was in exactly the right place and the drops were exactly where they should’ve been. It felt like a bike I’d been riding for years that had just had a full service and was quiet and smooth as new again. The Di2 shifting was flawless and exact and the freewheel clicked with that crisp new hub sound.
I’ve done about 1700 km on it so far and it’s exceeded my expectations in all the riding I do from the morning Hells 500 smashfests to the alpine climbs it feels as lively in the hills as any other frame I’ve ridden and descends and corners with a reassuring stability that lets you relax and enjoy the speed rather than be clinging to the edge of control. It’s also so comfortable and quiet to ride, I can’t see myself getting back to smashing out crits on it but I’m sure I’ll be riding it for many years and it will see plenty of epic days in the hills.
At this stage I don’t think I’d do much different on the build, apart from maybe travelling to the Jaegher factory in Flanders to pick up the frame myself and have a few beers with the team at Jaegher. Maybe next bike. I see they’re doing a new stainless steel gravel grinder …
Frame: Jaegher Interceptor Columbus Spirit Steel
Fork : Columbus Carbon
Stem: 3T ARXII
Headset: Chris King
Bars: 3T Ergosum Carbon Stealth
Seatpost: Focus Concept Carbon Di2
Wheels: Wheelworks Maker 35 carbon on White Industries T11 hubs
Tyres: Vittoria Corsa SC 25mm
Groupset: Shimano Dura Ace 9070 Di2
Cranks: Rotor 3DF 52-36
Bottom Bracket: Rotor
Pedals: Look Keo Blade 2
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Busyman Custom
Bar Tape: Busyman Custom
Cages: King Stainless