Monday, October 20, 2014

Sometimes you want to keep them

I love building wheels.  Feeling the tension slowly increase.  Seeing the wheel become round and true.  Checking the tension to confirm it's ready.  Installing tires and cassette.  Fitting into the frame.  The wheel goes from a collection of loose parts, (roughly 66 individual parts, sometimes more, sometimes less) that are useless by themselves, into a structure that can support you and your bike across terrain that ranges from dead smooth to chunky pavement or rocks without flinching.  The right wheel for the application it's destined is a thing of beauty.

Sometimes, I'll build a wheelset that gives me such a good feeling about it that I want to keep it for myself.  It just feels so improbably right that I want it.  However, that means that the customer the wheelset is destined for will simply get this great wheelset.  They are going to get to feel what I can only imagine as they pedal their bike and know that wonderful smooth, singing feeling/sound of a superb wheel on the tarmac.

This is one of those wheels.  After I finished building it and installed the Challenge Strada 25 tires, I spun it in my hands a bit and realized that this wheelset was about as nice and sexy as I can imagine.  I wanted to fit these to my bike and spin out to the Point on one of my favorite rides, maybe ride some dirt too.  

The frame these are intended for is not going to be disappointed in having these babies clamped in its dropouts.  That will be for a future post.  Stay tuned...

(What's playing:  The Scorpions The Zoo)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Get on board with a US made cross frame

There's still a bit of time to get in the queue for a US made cross frame.  Cameron Falconer will, once again, be making these frames for Black Mountain Cycles.  Cameron's been getting some well deserved recognition recently, including this post on The Radivist.  Well done, Cameron.

Here's the skinny on the frame particulars.  We're doing both a disc and a rim brake frame.  Each one will be unique to its purpose and brake requirements.  In order to make this project work for both Cameron and me, we need to make at least 3 frames per size per brake type.  Right now, I have deposits for 56cm frames for rim brake and 59cm frames with disc brake.  If you want a 56cm disc frame, then I'll have three of those made.  If you want a 62cm canti brake frame, then I'll have three of those made. 

The particular particulars of the frames are:

Canti frame - This will be the same as the previous frame.  True Temper Verus tubing, Paragon Machine Works hooded type dropouts, s-bend chainstays, top tube cable routing, Pacenti Paris-Brest-Paris fork crown w/curved fork blades.  Geometry is the same as the Taiwan production frames.  

Disc frame - My first thought was to use a low-mount dropout to fix the disc caliper to the chainstay.  However, this is easier said than done if we want to make the frame have clearance for 45mm tires, 50/34 chainrings, and narrow q-factor road cranks without dimpling the heck out of the stay.  A low-mount makes it easy to mount racks and fenders, but does little to help with the actual fitting of the components that are likely to be used.  If we wanted to reduce tire clearance to a 35mm tire, that would be easy, but that's not what this frame is about.   

So, the disc frame will get the same s-bend chainstay as the canti frame and the same Paragon dropouts.  The brake will be mounted to the seat stay with some super clean disc mounts Cameron sources from another area builder.  There will be an hour glass shape braze on to facilitate rack mounting a rack and we'll have something for fender mounting as well.  

The fork on the disc frame will also be made with a disc brake in mind.  The slender, curved fork legs aren't, in my mind, a sufficient anchor for a disc brake.  Cameron and I talked about forks and we think a segmented type fork with straight legs and the Willits/Paragon disc tab will be the best design to work with a disc brake.  We will also make the wall thickness of the left fork blade thicker.  There will be eyelets added for fender mounting or the dropouts will have eyelets.  No provisions for mid-blade low-rider bosses.

Colors - two options there; either the same International Orange or a bright green RAL6018.  

Options - there are only two options available for either the canti or disc frame.  The first is a third water bottle boss on the bottom side of the down tube.  The second is eyelets on the front of the fork legs for mounting a small rack like the Nitto M18.

There you have it. Production will be happening at the end of October.

(What's playing:  Brasil '66 & Sergio Mendes Mais Que Nada)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More cross frames on the way

The boat carrying the newest run of monster cross frames was docked in Oakland on Monday.  The customs bond, import duty, and dock fee have been paid.  I'm assuming they are clearing customs now and should be on their way here soon.  Based on what I learned with the last shipment, the trucking company who will deliver the frames here only makes deliveries to Pt. Reyes Station once per week.  I can't recall if it's Tuesday or Thursday, but I'm anticipating the frames will be here next week - unless customs drags their feet and the once-per-week delivery is missed, then it's another week wait.  Ugh.  Hopefully, that's not the case.  

What's different with these V4 frames?  Somehow, each production has been referred to as V2, V3...  Version 2, Version 3...  I'm not sure if I started referring to them with that term or if someone else did.  Anyway, each version has had minor changes that improved on the previous version:

Version 2 got a machined type headtube reinforcement, 130mm rear spacing, some fine-tuning of the rear brake cable stop location on the smaller frames, longer steerer tubes on the 56cm and up frame sizes, and a 65cm size.

Version 3 received a chainstay make-over with a slight s-bend shape for better crankarm clearance.  With this version, any 2-piece design crankset's arms clear the stays that are widened for big tire clearance.   It's not so simple to have clearance for a 50mm tire and road cranks.  This version also saw the bottom bracket dropped a few millimeters for improved stability.  I've become a bigger fan of lower bottom bracket heights.  Makes sense for a lot of riding.  

This new Version 4 is the same as Version 3, but is getting mid-fork braze-ons for folks who want to run a low-rider rack or, with longer struts, a small rack fit above the wheel.  While these frames are not touring frames, there have been plenty of owners who have taken them on tours and they report back that they've worked very well.  But, I will reiterate, these are not touring bikes.  I was hesitant to put eyelets on the forks because these frames are really extensions of myself and that's not how I would build out a bike for myself, but I'll get over it.  

Colors.  Version 4 will be available in a metallic maroon or Dazzling Blue (which is a Pantone® fashion color pick for 2014).  As soon as the frames are here, I'll take some pics and post them.  In the mean time, here are some photos of recent rides in the area.

(What's playing:  Boston More Than A Feeling)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kenda Slant Six 29x1.8

I don't have much time to keep up-to-date on new product via cruising the web these days.  And I don't have reps visit me to keep me informed on new products.  So, I take it upon myself to try to seek out new goodies.  I get most of my parts from Quality Bicycle Products - a really great distributor out of Minnesota.  Because of their super easy to use website and the fact they have just about everything, I end up ordering more things than I actually need.  Recently it was Oberto's beef jerky that fell into that category. 

Every so often, I'll cruise the tire category.  The ability to narrow down a product search like tires is really great.  I'll start with 622 bead diameter tires, narrow that down to folding and/or tubeless compatible.  Then I'll narrow it down to widths.  Oh, what's this?  A 1.8" size?  Hmmm.  Narrow down and it tells me that Kenda now has a 29x1.8" tubeless compatible Slant Six tire available.  I've got to check that out.  

Here they are.  I don't know how long these have been available, but dang, this is a pretty nice off-road tire that fits very nicely in the Black Mountain Cycles monster cross frames.  I got some in today and mounted one up on a Velocity A23 rim with out sealant, just to check fit.  Sure enough, with just a floor pump, it inflated easily and looks great in my frame.  Actual width on an A23 is 43mm casing and 45.5mm tread width.  The claimed weight is 601g +/- 30g.  I weighed one at 590g.  

Will I immediately change out the Nano 40 tires I'm currently running?  No, but I would definitely consider mounting a set up if I found myself wanting to take my cross bike on an all off-road ride that was more technical than the fire roads and trails I currently ride or if I needed a bit more cush because I was getting soft in my old age.  Regardless, this is a great option for tires in this mid-40 size range.  Good stuff.

The offset nature of the A23 OC rim means that securing a tubeless valve may be tricky because the nut doesn't pull the valve's seal straight into the rim.  Okay, not ideal.

9mm of clearance, Clarence.

Probably a bit buzzy on the road, but good on hardpack.

(What's playing:  The Specials Ghost Town)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cross frame updates...

Two updates on cross frames today.  First, the Taiwanese made cross frames are ready and will be in a container on the way here next week.  Container shipments leaving the factory are typically done on Tuesdays, if I recall.  What that means is that 57 cross frames in Maroon and Dazzling Blue in all sizes, 50cm - 65cm, will be making their way across the Pacific with an estimated arrival 3-4 weeks or so later.  Once I know the vessel the frames are on, I can track the shipment a bit closer.  

Has anything changed on the frames?  This 4th production run of frames is the same as the 3rd run with one exception:  the addition of a mid-leg, low-rider braze-on on the fork.  That was a lot of hyphens.  I opted for the mid-blade eyelet because that one is most versatile, allowing low-rider racks to be mounted and with a long option strut, the Nitto M18 rack fits as well. 

As of this writing, the availability of frames is wide open.  There is one 59cm blue frame spoken for and that's it.  It's been a very hectic, busy summer so I haven't had much time to do much flag waving on the sale of these new colors.  And yes, two brand new colors for me - that makes me a bit trepidatious, since, except for the first run, all frame runs have used a popular previous color.  Gotta throw things at the wall to see what sticks. 

Just as a reminder, here is the Dazzline Blue and Maroon (ignore the red) colors for the frames.  I'm hoping to get a photo from Taiwan today of the frames before they get boxed to post.  I'm curious to see them too!  

Fork boss location configuration.  The forks are only getting the low-rider boss added.

The second update is on the MUSA cross frames.  Still taking deposits for a run of the MUSA frames that is scheduled for October (that's next month).  I'm looking at offering two colors - the same International Orange as the first run, and a green that was chosen as a color by a customer who has one of the frames on order.  RAL 6018 will be a second color option for this run of MUSA frames.  Price will be $1700 for frame and fork - same specifications as the first frames.  These are a yearly (if that) offering, so don't hesitate if the idea of a really great US made cross frame for $1700 appeals to you.  

I've been enjoying the heck out of mine.

(What's playing:  Tom Waits (Intro) to Nighthawks At The Diner)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road...

I was pretty stoked to be asked to build this bike for Bruce Gordon.  It's funny, though.  Bruce is always cited for being a traditionalist when it comes to his bikes.  Steel tubing, 1" threaded steerer tubes...  The reality is that couldn't be further from the truth.  One look at some of the showstopper bikes he's produced for NAHBS, including this amazing lugged carbon fiber bike.  Yes, a carbon fiber frame.  It's a fallacy that frame builders who focus on steel shun carbon fiber.  A good frame builder works with the materials they know and the right material for the right application.  And Bruce works with steel, titanium, and, yes, carbon fiber.  He is a constructor, or constructeur, if you prefer, making frames and components.  

For this customer, steel was the material of choice and the parts of choice were the newest electric/hydraulic system from Shimano.  The "rust" powder coat finish is nicely set off with the Rock 'n Road gold/blue decals.  It turned out really great.

First prototype tubeless compatible 650b Rock 'n Road tires.

Wires and junction box neatly tucked into the down tube.

Shifting done and adjusted.  

(What's playing:  KWMR Release Me)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Build, build, build...

Is the saying that August arrives like a lamb and leaves like a lion?  If not, then I changed that.  And you can trademark that.  August started off like any other month, but by the time it was almost over, I had a stack of complete bike orders lined up in the queue.  First the Black Mountain Cycles builds + a Seven.  Then I'll save a really fun build for a separate post.

Build boxes and wheels on tap and ready.

The first build was Dan's cross bike.  If you check out the parts closely, you may be scratching your head and saying "what the..."  Campy 10s shifters, RaceFace mountain bike crankset, Shimano 9-speed cassette and derailleurs...  It works.  I'll go into more detail in another post.

Emerson's cross bike was destined for Michigan.  Pretty much a straight forward build kit #1 with Clement MSO 40 tires.  A sharp looking bike and the last 56cm green frame to leave the building.  56cm and 59cm green frames are sold out.

Tylers's 62cm gray cross bike was also based on the build kit #1 with SRAM bar end shifters, but had the brakes upgraded to Paul Components Minimoto. 

Ken's cross bike.  This is one of the 62cm MUSA frames build by Cameron Falconer last year.  It got a special treatment with the Enve carbon fork and parts from his other cross bike transferred.

Aaron's single-speed cross bike destined for New York City.  I dug how this bike turned out.  It's a 65cm frame with some back-swept bars.  It feels really good.  Paul Components Hi-Flange 36h hubs with Velocity Dyad rims, Phil Wood bottom bracket, Chris King headset - a really sweet, together bike.

Nathan's cross bike.  We wanted to get the weight down on this one.  The basis for the build was the Shimano build kit #3, but we upgraded the cranks to the CX70, seat to the Rocket V Pro, seat post to a Ritchey WCS, and tires to the 120tpi Clement MSO 40.  As it sits there it weighs 21lbs. 13oz.  Watch out South Dakota!

And finally, this new Seven was built with existing Zipp wheels and new Red 22 parts for a great customer.  We created a 52/36 Red crankset out of a 46/36 crank with a 52 ring replacing the 46.  He'll add in his front wheel and seat / seat post when it arrives.

Watch this space for something off the charts cool from Bruce Gordon.

(What's playing:  The Raconteurs Many Shade of Black)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cliff's cross bike...

This is Cliff's cross bike.  Usually, I get complete bikes built and shipped withing at least 2 weeks.  This one took a mite longer.  Between the time I announced the green frames last summer and the time they actually arrived, quite a few months passed.  Then Cliff did some traveling and we exchanged e-mails to get the specification of the bike dialed in.  A few changes, a lot of silver, and Cliff's sure to have fun with this ramblin' bike as he explores the back roads of Virginia on day rides with his fishing pole, note pad, and time to explore.

Wheels are Phil Wood Touring hubs, H Plus Son Archetype rims, Paul Components quick releases, and Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires.

Had this LX all silver derailleur that fit the bill very nice on this build.

White Industries 42/28 VBC crankset with a Shimano CX70 derailleur.

Paul Components Minimoto brake in high-polish.

That says Black Mountain Cycles in Chinese.  Cliff spent some time in China this year.

(What's playing:  Aretha Franklin I Say A Little Prayer)

Friday, August 15, 2014


Every so often you see something on a ride and are lucky enough to capture it.  Each of these photos was taken out in the Point Reyes National Seashore a week or so apart.  The long buck is a White tailed deer with an impressive set of antlers.  I saw him silhouetted on the ridge out near the lighthouse at Point Reyes and got one shot off before my camera battery died.

The second shot is of a group of Tule elk crossing the road at Pierce Point on the northern end.  This small herd crossed the road in front of me in one direction and then turned heel and crossed it in the other direction.  Both times it was pretty neat as their hooves clattered across the road.

File this under things you see riding.

(What's playing:  Curtis Mayfield Superfly)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Still here...

Sometimes, most times, it's too easy to ignore the blog due to posting images on the shop Facebook page or on the What's In The Stand tumblr.  And then the next thing I know a month passes just like that.  So, I'll try to rectify that situation with more quick and simple posts.  Here's a start.  

In the category of what's in the stand, here's some work that has passed through the doors at Black Mountain Cycles.  

Saratoga Frameworks cross bike came for a tune up and new tires.  Found out that, somehow, the original builder (not me) had fit a 10 speed cassette to the 11 speed Ultegra built bike.  It worked.  Sort of.  Works better now.

This 59cm cross bike was built.  The owner secured the frame several months ago and we got to building it around existing wheels.  SRAM build with White Industries crankset.  I can attest to the fact this will be a fun Marin Headlands ripper for the owner. 

Rebuilt front wheel with new SP dynamo hub that will see duty on the Tour Divide solo ITT soon.  Proud to build this for Leo Pershall. 

The owner of this 87/88 Ibis Custom brought the frame and parts to me for a build up.  The stem and bottle cages were recently painted to match the blue in the frame.  Sweet classic mountain bike.

White Industries freewheel overhaul.  Flushed and regreased the bearing.  Cleaned and lubed the pawls.  Just like new.  White Industries makes great bike parts.

New wheels for this Soulcraft.  White Industries hubs (have I mentioned I love White Industries parts?) and Enve M60 rims.  

Potts mountain bike came in for new cables, chain, brake pads, and overhaul of the King rear hub while the owner was out riding his Potts cross bike in the area.

Dialed in this Potts road bike with new cables and bar tape.

And finally, this Shimano Ultegra 6603 triple shifter needed to be replaced because the spring at the lower right corner was broken and it would no longer hold the pawl that works with cable pull in place.  Even if that one spring was replaceable, it would have been nigh on impossible to replace it with the level of disassembly required to get to the spring. 

(What's playing:  Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues)