the little white bird

it’s the little details that matter the most. because once all the big stuff has been appreciated, written about, photographed and tidied away, it’s the little details that you either notice or miss. after the first of the alpine stages in the tour de france, we have alberto contador in that nice yellow jersey, mr armstrong with little option but to pledge allegiance to the flag, and the less than verbose mr wiggins now quite comfortably in third place, poised to take over robert’s mantle as highest british finisher in le tour.

the spat between cavendish and hushovd, if not forgotten, has certainly been relegated to yesterday’s news, while the specialist cycle press will be looking towards the time-trial later this week in the hope that, aside from the possibility that the top ten places may be juggled once more, there might just be some super-wow technical gizmos on display by those hoping to do the juggling. but with pretty much all the hardware sculpted from the omnipresent black gold, that little white bird has all but gone.

at one time, it could still be seen on the carbon fork legs of a colnago c40, but i am led to believe that this was more by association, than in any direct affiliative connection: now it seems to have gone missing altogether, at least from the professional peloton. and yes, whatever you think of carbon fibre, it is a crying shame, both from an aesthetic and athletic point of view, that the little white bird has flown.

however, step down a level from what we comfortably refer to as the professional peloton, and it can still be seen in the odd corner of some very fine bicycles, occupying its rightful place in the niche area at the top of the seat tube just under the joint with the top tube. or occasionally at the bottom of that very same tube, diffracted by a pair of spinning rings. and in its most forceful and spartan form, it will likely be on a fire engine red background.

co-invented by dario pegoretti and richard sachs towards the end of 2004, the columbus nobium steel alloy known as pegorichie (you don’t need me to explain that) found its way into the bicycle market around the same time in 2005. both dario and richard were concerned that builders such as themselves and their peers were surviving on the inventories of tubing that had existed for quite some time, not keeping up with the times now being dictated by the black weave. the rarefied atmosphere of steel framebuilding had become a trifle static. the two eccentrics (i’m sure neither will take exception to that epithet) aimed for a new set of tubing, made specifically for those endeared to the lugged method of construction; basically both wanted metal that would allow any builder of merit to make a frame of the times – as richard says ‘a 21st century frame set that felt modern and looked modern’. pegorichie tubing was born.

richard has used nothing but pegorichie tubing since 2006, and all the frames ridden by the sachs cross team have been built using the very same. lest you judge either man as a bicycle luddite, building with an allegedly outdated material, richard feels that non-ferrous materials have their place in our world of mass produced bicycles. as an independent frame builder plying his considerable expertise in the same modern world as the rest of us, he’s of the mindset that a lugged joint not only means a better joint, but has as much right to be considered cutting edge as the latest carbon monocoque. the good news here is that not only does this offer a branch for that endearing little white bird, but that its new nest is being feathered by mr sachs himself.

as of now, richard has dispensed with leaving the fate of pegorichie tubing to the various importers and distributors that have accompanied its brief five year history, and taken to dealing directly with columbus on your behalf. that is, if you happen to build lugged steel bikes. the little white bird may yet find itself closer to yellow than red one day soon.

The preceding article was originally posted on the washing machine post on July 20, 2009.