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My Rambouillet-Now With 7 Gears

by Sheldon "Don't Say 'Rambo'" Brown

I got my Rambouillet in 2003 and set it up as a fixed gear. I liked it very much, even though the frame was not ideal for fixed-gear use. In 2004, I acquired a Quickbeam, which is basically the same frame as a Rambouillet except for the fork ends and brake setup. The Quickbeam is designed as a singlespeed, but I quickly converted mine to fixed gear. This, however, made the Rambouillet somewhat redundant, and I found I was not riding it any more.

Due to a gear and wheel upgrade on my Brown, I had a nice, if somewhat antiquated wheelset available. These were 1970s Campagnolo Record hubs (small-flange front, large-flange rear, as I used to prefer them) with 630 mm (27 inch) Araya A20 rims, among the lightest, narrowest rims ever made in that diameter.

I also had an urge to try out a couple of the popular parts we sell, but which I'n never used myself: One of them the remarkeable Shimano MegaRange 11-34 7-speed freewheel, and another the super-skinny Avocet 27 x 7/8" tires we are the exclusive source for.

I had some other parts lying about that would be useful, specifically a set of Ultegra 7-speed downtube shifters and an LX400 rear derailer.

I haven't used down tube shifters for a long time. Last time I did, I found them very hard to reach, but I've lost about 60 pounds since then (thanks, Dr. Atkins!) and am in much better shape, so I though I'd give it a try. I liked the idea of only a single derailer for its simplicity.

The 11-34 is such a wide range that it really gives a quite satisfactory range of gears with just a single chainring. I'm using the 42 Biopace that I already had on the bike. The resulting gears are:

Gain Ratio:
This gear range is wide enough for pretty much any terrain, at least for me, and for a light fast bike like this. It's not what I'd choose for loaded touring, and I have to coast down some hills, but all in all it's pretty nice. The "alpine" design with the big jump at the bottom provides a nice low "bail out" gear without causing excessive jumps in the cruising range. Given the relative awkwardness of down-tube shifting, the wider jumps are more tolerable than I might find them with a handlebar-mounted shifter.
Rambouillet Side View

Rambouillet drive train Shimano LX400 Rear Derailer

Below is the original page I made about this bike when it was a fixed-gear, in March, 2003:


My Rambouillet Fixie

Rambouillet is a beautiful forest, chateau and town west of Paris. I used to do a lot of riding around there, and have cherished memories of the place. I'm delighted that the name is also used for a splendid bicycle frame, but dismayed that so many people have trouble pronouncing it.

It is actually quite easy to pronounce (spelling it is the hard part!): "Ram" "Boo" "Yay". See, that wasn't so hard!

If three syllables are too much for you, I won't bark at you for saying "Ramboo" (rhymes with "bamboo.")

However, you can't be my friend if you call it a "Rambo." "Rambo" has such unfortunate associations with the Sly Stallone film, associations that are utterly disconsonant with this lovely object.

Rambouillet Side View

I've admired Grant Petersen's frame designs for quite a while, but most of his older designs had longer top tubes than I like, so I never found one that was a good fit for me.

As a result, I was delighted to find that his Rambouillet does, indeed fit me quite nicely, in the 58 cm size. With a conventional frame, I like about a 60-61 seat tube, but most frames that tall are too long for my short upper body. The 58 Rambouillet, however, betwen the somewhat sloping top tube, extended head tube and extended steerer, permits me to get the bars high enough for comfort without even needing a tall Technomic stem.

I had not seriously considered a Rambouillet until recently, however, because I'm seriously addicted to fixed gear riding, and the Rambouillet has vertical dropouts. While there are various ways to kluge a fixed gear into working with vertical dropouts, I didn't want a kluge.

Then, early in 2003, the new White Industries eccentric fixed-gear hub became available, and suddenly all that changed! This truly elegant design makes all frames "fixable!"

Here's the result!


Rambouillet Front Quarter Rambouillet White Industries Eccentric Hub Rambouillet Headtube

Here's what's on the bike:


The Rear wheel is a Mavic Open Pro rim, connected to the White Industries hub by 32 Wheelsmith Æro spokes, with aluminum nipples.

The front wheel shown is borrowed from another bike. I have since built up a new wheel with a Phil Wood 28 hole track hub radially spoked to a Mavic Open Pro rim to match the rear. This way, both wheels will use the same 6 mm Allen wrench.

When the photos were made there were Continental 25 mm Grand Prix tires on it, but since then I've replaced these with Roll-y Pol-ys, makes it much more comfy but not noticeably slower.

Drive Train

The crank is an older Shimano 600 EX, 170 mm, with a 42 tooth Biopace chainring*. (Sorry, Grant!)

I used a Shimano UN73 bottom bracket. The 115 mm length puts the outer chainring position at the 47.5 chainline the White Hub is designed for.

I'm running a N.O.S. Wipperman chain to the Dura-Ace 15 tooth fixed sprocket and 17 tooth Shimano freewheel.

The pedals are N.O.S. Shimano 525 SPDs.

Handlebars et. al.

The handlebars are a pair of older SR "Randnner" [sic] bars, 42 cm, with a 60 mm SR stem. I'm not sure if these are going to stay for the long haul.

White Hunt Wilde textured tape.

I don't like white stuff, but the frame came with a white head tube, so I felt obliged to keep that as the accent color. Fortunately the Hunt Wilde tape is easy to keep clean.

Shimano Ultegra cartridge headset.


I just love the current Shimano Tiagra brake levers, though I substituted white cable housing for the stock black stuff.

The front brake is a Mafac Racer centerpull, with Kool Stop Eagle 2 brake shoes, works great!

The rear brake is a Shimano R550 caliper, with Kool Stop BMX shoes. The eccentric White Industries hub doesn't just move the wheel back and forth, it also moves it up and down. Due to the excellent clearance of the Rambouillet frame, there's room for me to have it in the "up" position, with the brake pads at a compromise setting that works OK with both sides of the flip-flop wheel.

Saddle and Seatpost

The saddle is an older Brooks Swallow, mounted on a recycled Campagnolo seatpost.


Esge/SKS P35 fenders with milk jug rainflap **

Zéfal HPx 4 pump

Carradice SQR block (holds my Nelson Longflap saddlebag)

2 Blackburn "mountain" bottle cages.

CatEye OS 1.1 computer (not shown.)


My Fixed-Gear Articles

My Fixed-Gear Bikes

My Singlespeed Articles

  *Biopace chainrings are not round, and many people suppose that this makes them unsuitable for fixed-gear use...but they are wrong.

A 42 tooth chainring is basically going to engage 21 chain rollers at any given time, regardless of its shape.

The angle between the upper and lower straight chain runs does change with the orientation of the chainring, so when the long axis is vertical, it's a bit tighter, when it's horizontal, a bit looser.

I've never found this to be a problem in practice, and I have Biopace rings on several of my fixed gears. I am quite careful about chainline and chain tension however.

I use good quality parts, and am careful in setting them up. I've seen fixers with round chainrings that have more tension variance than my Bioace setups have.

See also my article on Biopace Chainrings.   ** The white fenders didn't come that way. Esge/SKS fenders come in black and in silver with black lines. These are silver ones, which I painted with Krylon rattlecan spray enamel. The spray paint adheres quite well to the plastic covering of the fenders. Masking tape keeps the hardware shiny.

I also painted the Zéfal pump, but that didn't work quite so well. The black anodized aluminum of the pump barrel doesn't hold the paint all that well. I probably should have used a primer coat.

Copyright © 2005, 2007 Sheldon Brown

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