I picked up the first batch of racks and decaleurs from the chrome plater on Wednesday. They turned out really well. I was originally going to have them nickel plated, but went with the chrome as the chrome is more resistant to wear. It also has a clearer shine to it. Nickel plating is a nice look as well, but the chrome has a silveriness (is that a word?) to it, while the nickel has an amber patina. Since the chrome is a layer on top of the copper and nickel layers, it will be more durable when the chrome plating is done well. It helps to get the racks polished up well before the plating process.
I'm really pleased with the racks and now they will be beautiful for a long long time. I prefer a plated finish on racks, over any painted or powdercoated finish, since they tend to get a lot of friction and rub marks from the bags that rest upon them. I'd hate to think the racks woud look poorly when there are no bags installed, since they are such a distinctive feature of a proper cyclotouring bicycle. My mantra remains, "everything in its proper place, in proportion to everything else." This is why I don't simply use a production rack on my complete builds. There are plenty of fine production racks out there, but nothing works or fits as well as a rack designed for its intended bicycle, nor is a production rack typically as lightweight as a one-off, custom design.
A slender tubed steel bicycle frame marries well with a delicate, shiny rack with graceful curves and small diameter tubes. A bicycle designed for more ambitious portaging pursuits (a full-on camping bicycle) would have racks of an appropriate diameter. Not only would this provide strength where necessary, but the proportions would match the appearance of the bike. You will see that with Robert's bike, I had some pre-existing design constraints to work around, which resulted in a creative decaleur solution.
Robert's frame and fork are also ready at the powder coaters. I'll get them early next week.
In the mean time, I'll snap a few photos of the racks when I get a minute away from the bench.
I'm working on the Oregon Manifest bike today. Some finish work and little braze-ons. I think I'm going to get it assembled for a test ride this weekend. The finish will be rough, but at least I'll get a feel for how it rides. I'm excited about this. No photos just yet. Top secret and all that shilly shally.
Stay tuned for pics.