If I could only keep one: Custom Waterford 1900

The bike is built up as a commuter in this photo. It has been well used over the years, ridden hard and put away wet. The color is Pale Primrose, which is a vintage Jaguar color.

If I had to get rid of all my bikes except one, I would keep my 1998 custom Waterford Precision Cycles model 1900.  While most of my bikes are decent at many things, the Waterford is great at almost everything. For those of you who don’t know, Waterford is the bespoke bicycle factory of Richard Schwinn and crew.  It is located in Waterford, WI, the Saville Row of custom bicycles in the US. Waterford, WI is where the old Schwinn Paramounts were made and also the home town of Ellis Cycles.  

Click on this image from the original Bridgestone catalogue to enlarge it.

How I got the bike is an interesting story.  I used to have a 1993 orange Bridgestone XO-1 that I had modified with S&S couplers so it would fly free of extra baggage charges.  The legendary Bridgestone XO-1 was the forerunner to the Rivendell All Rounder and the still made Rivendell Atlantis. My bike was super clean because it had been repainted to add S&S couplers. It was a great bike in every way and one of the true classics of US production bicycle history.

The XO-1 had roadish geometry, but clearance for fat mountain bike tires.  One day I was sitting in my home office working when I heard a big crash outside in my garage.  When I went outside to investigate the entire flat concrete roof had collapsed. Needless to say, my beloved XO-1 was crushed and beyond repair.

The only upside to this story is that I pay extra on my insurance so that if my bikes are stolen or damaged in a crash, I get full replacement value, not a depreciated value. So I went shopping for a new bike.  I could not find another 1993 X0-1 for sale so I got the insurance company to agree to replace the bike with either a Rivendell All Rounder or a custom-built equivalent.  I tried with Rivendell first, but Grant Peterson, the owner of Rivendell and former product manager for Bridgestone, did not want to sell me a bike even though I explained the situation. If you have ever met him, you know that Grant is a funny guy.

Enter my buddies at Waterford Precision Cycles.  Waterford was perfectly happy to build me a bike to replace my XO-1.  I asked for the same geometry as the X0-1.  Waterford complied, with the only differences being they used their tubing (big upgrade over the Ishiwata) and they used Henry James vertical drop-outs instead of the semi-verticals that were consciously spec’d on the Xo-1. Oh yeah, the other upgrade was that it was built by EJ at Waterford.

The Supernova E3 light is super bright and super well designed. Note how the straddle cable fits through the mount.

Like the XO-1, my Waterford has 26 inch wheels so it could take mountain bike tires. At the time it was built there were no 29er tires. Waterford built the fork with a Rivendell crown, which at the time was the only flat fork crown that had room for real mountain bike tires.  Now there are other options from Bob Brown and Kirk Pacenti.

I have taken this bike all over the country for everything from three-day business trips to multi-week, self-contained touring from Glacier National Park to Canada and even full-on mountain bike touring in Durango, Colorado. The builds vary from trip to trip. But right now I have it built up as a commuter bike.  Last winter I had it outfitted as the snow bike with studded tires.

Somewhere between Durango and Silverton. This build used a suspension seat post and a suspension stem.

The current cockpit human interface begins with black Origin 8 Tiki handlebars, which are kind of like a Nitto moustache bar with extra drop. They let me ride like a drop bar for touring and commuting, but also have great hand positions for mountain biking.  The brake levers are Dia Compe 287Vs, which are no longer available, but have been replaced by these very similar brakes from Cane Creek. I throw the chain with traditional Shimano bar-end shifters set to friction. I could run index, but I like the friction.

The rear hub is an old White Industries 8-speed I picked up at the annual Brazen Dropots swap meet in Madison, WI.  The front hub is an SON (Schmidt’s Original Nabendynamo) dyno hub, also purchased at the swap, but a different year. I have regular SKS fenders and an old Avocet Touring II saddle on the bike.

You can see the powder coating is wearing though. This whole bike really needs new paint from top to bottom.

I built the rear rack myself from 4130 chromoly tubing.  I designed it to have a rear low rider mount to easily remove panniers even when I have a trunk rack on top. It also has fender mounts, water bottle mounts to add a fuel bottle and a mount for a rear light.  I had it powder coated locally, but the quality is not very good and the coating is wearing though. I have a Tubus Duo front rack that I use for loaded touring but I took that off for commuting.  Surprise, I bought that rack at the same swap, again, a different year than the hubs.

The Glacier trip was so perfect in so many ways, it may never be duplicated: great friends, great riding, great camping, great swimming and a great bike.

The Waterford is really good at most things, which is why if I had to get rid of all my other bikes this is the one I would keep, but it comes into its own touring.  I think the bike actually behaves better when fully loaded, unlike me, as they guys on the Glacier trip can testify.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

9 thoughts on “If I could only keep one: Custom Waterford 1900

  1. One of the first times I saw that bike was during the Washington Heights annual neighborhood rummage sale. I thought I was pretty cool transporting ( wearing) freshly purchased scuba gear and a lawn mower by bike. Then, you rolled by hauling a huge kitchen table on your trailer. I was elated and deflated at the same time :)

    • Thanks for the update on that Troy. I guess I do have vague memories of that bike now that you remind me. I wonder why the insurance company did not want to pay to fix that frame. Maybe they considered it a liability.

    • Some time ago I realized that I regretted selling every bike (that fit me) I ever sold. I never got a lot of money for them and I always missed riding them at one time or another. So I have been keeping my bikes even if I add another one with duplicate purpose to the stable.

    • Well at first Grant balked because a Rivendell All Rounder was a big upgrade from an XO-1. I think he thought I was scamming my insurance company. But after I explained that I pay extra for replacement value, he kind of reluctantly agreed to fax me the order form. I sat by the fax machine for an hour and it never came through. So I called Grant back and asked again, he said he would fax it right away … again I waited and waited. I called once more, and he said he would do it as soon as we hung up. I hang up, wait, no fax. I gave up and assumed it was Grant’s way of getting out of something he did not feel comfortable with.

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