Monday, April 14, 2014

Road, cross, MUSA frame updates + rider's rides....

Cross frames
That happened much faster than I expected.  Within 4 weeks after receiving this latest round of frames, I am sold out of the 59cm cross frames.  I do have a few 59cm orange frames from the previous round of frames.  I will be placing another order today for more frames.  No changes to this V3 design.  Maybe a new color (a maroon/burgundy with a metallic/pearl look) to go with a current color like orange.  Lead time for new frames is roughly 4 months.  More conservative, I probably won't see them for 6 months - that's mid-October.

Road frames
The road frames are on the water.  ETA for arrival at the Oakland port is April 28.  Colors are light blue and orange.  The APL England left Kaoshuing two days ago en route to Oakland.  I've got pre-orders for several frames.  If you ride a 56cm frame size and are on the fence, there is only one orange and one light blue available.  Time to get down off the fence.  

MUSA frames
Another round of the MUSA frames made by Cameron Falconer are scheduled.  Cameron's schedule is pack full.  The next available slot he has that he can dedicate to making Black Mountain Cycles cross frames is October.  As with the last run of frames, we need to make at least 3 per size to hit the target price (which will need to go up $100 to $1700).  I've got deposits for 59cm frames.  I've got to say, my frame that Cameron made is on of the best riding, most fun bikes I've ever had.  Call or e-mail with questions.

Riders rides
A lot of the frames that I sell get built up by the riders.  I see the frame and then that's it.  It's gone and, hopefully, it's being enjoyed by the rider.  I always like to hear back from owners that they are having a fun time with their new bike.  Here's a few recent riders' rides.

Mike's cross bike looks a lot like a bike I would have put together with the Sugino cranks and Shimano components.  Mike got on board with the custom color program with the V3 frames and chose root beer.  Clean, classic looking bike, Mike.  

Craig also went with the custom frame color for the V3 frames and chose light blue.  It's the only light blue cross bike on the roads today.  This bike will see plenty of action in the Dakotas and it is planned on tackling the Almanzo 162, Dirty Kanza 200, Odin's Revenge, and the Gravel World's this year.  Wishing you good fortune for your events, Craig.  If anyone else sees this light blue gravel grinder at those events, say "hey" for me.
 Stripped down.

Ready for action.

Eric's bike on trail 680 in Marin County.  
I built Eric's bike so he could tackle the variety of mixed-terrain rides in the bay area.  He is not wasting any time hitting the trails. 

Heather's bike
Heather's husband, Jeff,  has an orange cross bike and he wanted to get Heather a 35th wedding anniversary bike.  This 53cm frame was built with SRAM bar-end shifters, White Industries crank, White Industries T11 28h hubs and Velocity A23 rims.  Her personal brown leather Selle Anatomica seat is a nice match for the Salsa bar tape.  



Chris' bike
You simply cannot get an off-the shelf bike with components as varied as Retroshift, Pacenti, and Paul Components.  Unless, of course you're having me build a bike for you. 

Wheels
Had a rush of custom wheels the past couple of weeks too.  Interesting that they were all H Plus Son Archetypes.  These are great rims.  Very nice wider road rim that is going to work great for cross or road applications.  Hubs on these builds included Chris King, White Industries, Schmidt, and Phil Wood.  Variety.

(What's playing:  James Brown Cold Sweat)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Your weekend bike maintenance tip...

Chains wear out.  When they do wear out, they also start taking cassettes and chainrings with them.  Just last week, I replaced a chain on a bike that had also killed the cassette cogs and all three chainrings.  Not a cheap repair.  It all could have been avoided by replacing the chain.  

The question is "how do I know when to replace my chain?"  If you know from historical data that you get X,XXX miles out of your chains, replace it after that many miles.  In the shop, I use Shimano's TL-CN42 chain wear tool.  It's more accurate than the simple tools that push against two rollers and give you a percentage wear.  Some of these tools will show that a brand new chain is almost at the recommended replacement mark of .75% "stretched." 

However, you don't need a fancy tool to measure your chain.  A simple metal ruler works great.  Each link in a chain is 1/2" from pin center to pin center.  Twelve inches of chain will contain 24 links.  A brand new chain will measure 24 links at 12" on center.  If you measure your chain and find that 24 links is measuring 12 1/16", it's probably okay - for a little while.  The old train of though was that to replace the chain at 12 1/8", but with modern drivetrains requiring a higher tolerance of adjustment, replacing the chain before it gets to the 12 1/8" mark is prudent.

I didn't start out wanting to write about chain wear.  I came here to talk about shift cables.  Wait?  Shift cables and chain wear?  Ah, yes, they go hand in hand.  I'm talking road bikes here, and specifically road bikes with Shimano shifters, and even more specifically, Shimano shifters with external shift housing from the 7800, 6600, 5600 era and prior.  Although, the recommendation is wise for any shift/brake lever. 

A brake lever body isn't very big.  When it also houses the shift mechanism that is essentially a spool that takes up cable pull, it all gets pretty small.  It's not uncommon for shift cables to break inside the shifter mechanism.  When they do break, they can be a horrendous pain to extract.  Frayed broken cables do their best to make removal difficult.  But wait!  There's a way you can avoid the hassle of surgically removing broken shift cables from your shifter (or having me do it in the middle of your ride while you wait).  When you replace your chain, replace your shift cable as a general, routine service.  It's highly unlikely you will ever get stuck out on a ride if you stick to this routine.  

Here's a shift cable I replaced a couple of days ago on a bike that came in for service.  The chain was just at the point of needing replacement.  New chain and at Black Mountain Cycles, that means a new shift cable as well.  Good timing because the shift cable was just starting to break.  

Go measure your chain.  Replace it if it's worn and do your shifter a favor and replace the cable as well.  



Here's some more good info on chains:  Sheldon Brown Chain Maintenance, Chain Wear Measuring Tools.

(What's playing:  Johnny Cash On The Evening Train)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One for the weekend...

La Primavera, Milan-San Remo, is tomorrow.  In 1967, Eddy Merckx won the 288km race with a time of 6h 25m 40s for an average speed of 44.8kph.  That's an average speed of 27.8mph.  AVERAGE.  Over 179 miles.  On a steel bike with toeclips and straps, down tube friction shifters, 5 speed freewheel, wool shorts, and no power meter.  Only twice (1990 and 2006) has anyone had a higher average speed.  

My question is what do you really need to ride your bike fast?  I mean really, really need.  Look at your bike and ask yourself "does that help me go faster?"  Then look in a mirror into your eyes.


Thanks to Tom for the inspiration to this post.

(What's playing:  Eddy Merckx at Milan-San Remo 1967)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bikes and cars, cars and bikes...

I had a post all planned out.  Technical.  Pretty good info.  Then I read this and recalled a letter to the editor in last week's Point Reyes Light.  The link highlighted there for the Point Reyes Light doesn't actually go to the letter, just the paper's webpage.  The "this" link does go to People For Bikes' website and an article about how cyclists can be our own worst enemies.  In our quest to get along with automobile drivers on the roads, we cyclists sometimes alienate ourselves to drivers.  

The letter to the editor was titled "Assaulted By Cyclists" and describes how one 68 year old, local driver came to be assaulted by cyclists.  It makes me angry at the driver.  And it makes me angry at the cyclists.  In the letter, the writer states that there "were six bicycles riding three abreast, blocking the lane...  Then I passed - not close to the bicycles, but honking my horn continuously until I had passed.  I was expressing my dislike of rude behavior, as the Second Amendment permits."  Really, he used the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms as justification for his dislike of rude behavior?  I interpret his comment as he was using his car as a weapon to defend himself against bicyclists while he passed them blaring his horn.  That right there is a recipe for bad things to follow.

And bad things followed.  The cyclists were able to surround the car and stop it and that's where it escalated.  A lot of yelling and shouting and screaming.  No bodily contact between parties, but incredibly high tensions.  

The letter writer goes on to write:  "I have always wondered what these spandex idiots, these narcissistic sociopaths that seem to come here looking for a fight.  I am amazed that six of them would have the nerve to assault an old man in the middle of the road, in the middle of a Sunday and in the middle of town."  

There's a couple of things that I notice in that last quotation.

1.  Coming into town, the speed limit drops to 25mph.  The town of Point Reyes Station is small, spanning four short blocks.  Cars are parked along the entire stretch.  Twenty-five mph feels too fast when driving through town - that's how small it is.  There is no shoulder.  The only safe spot for a cyclist to ride is in the middle of the lane through town.  It takes about 15 seconds to ride through town if you're going at a decent clip.  
2.  The assault started with the driver of the car laying on the horn as he passed "not close."  The writer/driver even verifies that it was an assault on his part by claiming he was bearing arms as is his right stated in the Second Amendment.  
3.  I'm pretty sure that those cyclists did not head out on their ride looking for a fight.  That was brought to them.  Should they have been riding three abreast?  Probably not, but if they were doing it in town, even one solo cyclist riding in the lane could have brought on the ire of the letter writer. 

As a resident and cyclist in this small community that is part of a hugely popular route by cyclists of all varieties, I keep hearing from locals how they are fed up with cyclists hogging the road.  I agree.  There are a lot of cyclists, from big groups to a handful of riders, who do hog the road and don't or won't string out the ride to a single-file.  The roads out here are great fun to ride, but there are no shoulders.  There are no bike lanes.  There's just the traffic lane and bikes and cars don't have much room to share.  But it's possible.  And there are plenty of riders who are considerate and get along great with drivers.  I think I'm one of them.  

So, how do we all get along?  Not sure.  One thing I do know is that everyone needs to be more considerate and patient.  That situation in town would have never happened if the driver simply passed without continuously laying on his horn or if the cyclists weren't riding three abreast, but even that's questionable.  That event did not need to have ever happened.

Now here's where we get to a sticky point.  It seems that most drivers think it is illegal for bicyclists to ride two abreast in California.  The fact is, there is no law on the books that says riding two (or three) abreast is illegal in California.  The California vehicle does does state that "no person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic."  If cyclists want themselves to be viewed as vehicles (I do), then this means if you are impeding traffic because you are 2 or 3 abreast, it's time to string it out single-file, or break a big group up into smaller groups.

This is what the California Vehicle Code says about operating a bicycle on the roadways:

21202.  (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Practicable.  Able to be done or put into practice successfully.  This means that to successfully (and safely, I might add) navigate a bicycle on the roadways, it may be necessary to take the lane so vehicles do not pass in an unsafe manner.  In the Point Reyes area, I take the lane when riding through Point Reyes Station (even on my cargo bike commuter).  I take the lane when crossing the green bridge near town (there's not enough room for two cars and a bike to pass each other safely).  I take the lane when crossing other narrow bridges in the area (one down by Five Brooks, the other on Levee Road).  I take the lane when going through the cluster of businesses that make up Inverness and sometimes through Inverness Park depending on the situation of parked cars at Perry's.  Taking the lane in those situations is legal, prudent, and safer for me.

All this car/bike hate is a huge reason why I ride solo.  And that's also why I now fear the letter writer because he lives where I live and drives where I ride and now has an incredibly bad taste in his mouth for all cyclists on the road.  That's what I think about when I ride.  When I ride and I hear a vehicle behind me slowing up because it's not safe to pass me at that particular point, I give them a wave of thanks when they do pass safely.  Maybe that one act of saying "thanks, man" with that wave will be enough.  Maybe, if we all give a wave, that will be enough.  Maybe if drivers look at the group of cyclists in front of them and think "maybe one of them is my nephew, maybe one of them is my neighbor, maybe one of them is my best friend's daughter-in-law, maybe that's the guy who fixed my son's bike last week."  Maybe we can all ride on the roads together.  

(What's playing:  Neil Diamond Solitary Man - seriously, that's what's playing)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Must be Spring...

There's lots of green in the shop.  Spring must be fast approaching.  Well, a little gray and orange too.  Variety and all that.  It's been a busy several weeks since the frames arrived.  A lot of frame prep happened.  Frame prep involves:
  • Chasing and facing the bottom bracket.
  • Facing the head tube and crown race seat (and installing a headset if required).
  • installing dropout adjusting screws (grease on the threads and a bit of Loctite on the end where the nut is installed).
  • Installing the front derailleur roller.
  • Cleaning the paint out of the rear brake and front derailleur threaded bosses and installing the adjusters with grease on the threads.
  • Repacking frame in box and either sending it to its new home or building it up.  
In the category of building up the frames, there are five folks out there pedaling around on their new Black Mountain Cycles monster cross (I usually just call them cross bikes) bikes.  Three are in the area, but two required packing the bike after assembling it and dialing in everything.  That's always a mixed bag for me.  I spend quite a bit of time building the bike, getting the cable lengths just so, taping the bars...then I have to take it all apart, pack it as carefully as I can knowing that the shipping company won't be so kind with it, and hope it all gets to its destination and can easily be reassembled.  So far so good with all the bikes I've sent out.  

Here's a few of the recent builds and more to come next week.  

Sam's cross bike was built with the cross build kit #1 with upgraded White Industries cranks, Paul Components Mini-Moto brakes, and I built the wheels extra stout for him with 36 hole Mavic A719 rims.  

Mark's cross bike was built with parts from his Cannondale road bike which met an unfortunate end.  The cranks, shifters, bars, stem, front wheel, seat were salvaged.  A new rear wheel, TRP mini v brakes, rear derailleur and cassette, and it's like a new bike.

Eric's cross bike got a full custom parts spec build.  It's mainly Shimano 105 with a triple crank and wide range cassette with and SLX rear derailleur.  Brakes are the great Paul Components Touring Cantis.  Rear hub is White Industries and front is a Son Delux wide that powers the B&M Luxos U light with USB charger.  This one will see a lot of Bay Area mixed-terrain rando rides. 

This is Chris's cross bike which has already seen a bit of riding in Idaho despite the snow.  This was built with Shimano 9-speed bar-con shifters and an LX T661 rear derailleur.  I'm glad Shimano has these more traditional looking derailleurs available still.  Wheels are 105 hubs with Mavic Open Pro rims.  Brakes again are Paul Touring Cantis with Shimano BR-600 levers.  White Industries crankset with a CX70 front derailleur and Thomson stem and seat post round it out.

Joe's first Black Mountain Cycles bike was one of the first root beer colored frames.  It was built pretty much just like this with Nitto Moustache bars.  However, it was stolen in Portland last year.  This is the replacement.  That's an IRD Defiant triple crank with that same LX T661 rear derailleur and Shimano 9-speed bar-con shifters.  Brakes again are Paul Component Touring Canti.  For all the bike press is doing to kill off the cantilever brake in favor of discs, I'm sure installing a lot of these Paul Touring Canti brakes.  They just work great.

Well, that's what I've been doing the past couple of weeks.  Not much riding, but I did get out on my cross bike recently on a foggy morning where there were a lot of newts doing their slo-mo newt walk across the trails.





(What's playing:  Kris Kristofferson Me and Bobby McGee)

Friday, February 28, 2014

It's good to live close to the factory...

This newest run of cross frames were ready to ship in January, which meant that owners had to wait about 4 weeks for the frames to arrive.  However, a couple of new owners live in Taiwan and they got their frames before I even had a chance to see them.  Lucky.  Here's one from Jack who lives in Daliao in the southern part of Taiwan.  I'm sure the opportunities for dirt road riding in Taiwan are abundant as the eastern half of the island is dominated by an impressive mountain range with peaks in the 3,000+ meter range (286 mountain peaks over 3,000 meters with the highest being 3,952 meters).  And out of the cities, there is plenty of lowland country with criss-crossed roads - dirt and paved.  Perfect terrain for a cross bike.  

Jack built his bike with Sachs drivetrain, TRP brakes, and Kinlin/105 wheels.  Thanks Jack.  I hope you have many miles of fun riding on your new bike.







(What's playing:  Chris Hillman & Steve Earle High Fashion Queen)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jam packed with a ride too...

Some good news on the tire front.  WTB announced over the weekend that they're doing a "gravel" tire.  I'd talked with them going back on 5 years in an attempt to put out their timeless Nanoraptor in a 45mm version.  At that time, there wasn't demand in such a size.  I guess there still isn't demand, but don't tell that to all the happy riders on Bruce Gordon's Rock 'n Road tires (yeah, they're 43s, but it's close enough).  The gravel tire WTB will put out will be a 40mm version of the Nanoraptor.  Should be a good all-rounder based on the tread pattern that is still one of my favorites. 


The last 59cm US made cross frame finally got it's build on last week.  A mix of new King R45/HED Belgian wheels with Bruce Gordon tires built with Campagnolo 10 speed parts donated from the customers older road bike that was rebuilt with 11 speed.  Paul Component Mini-Motos in Amigo Orange rounded out the build.



 
It's been a long wait, but more cross frames showed up yesterday.  It was a spectacular, clear, sunny day with a high of 73.  It was also my one day off and yeah, it would have been a great day to be on the bike, but I did get a little spin in the morning and a longer ride the day before.  Sixty three frames are here.  Fifteen are going out as framesets and 4 are getting the full build.  It's going to rain on Wednesday, so I've got my chores set for some rainy days prepping frames and building bikes.  

There still are available frames in both gray and green in all sizes (except 59cm green - those are sold out).  

Waiting to be prepped - two at a time.

And speaking of that ride on Sunday, the recent rains we've had, after zero rain in January, have started turning the hills green again.  One of my favorite rides is the road out to Pierce Point.  On Sunday, it was socked in with fog, but in one of the clear areas I came across this Red Tailed Hawk perched on a fence post.  It didn't seem too concerned with me as I stopped on the other side of the road and snapped a couple photos.  When I got clipped back into the pedals, it finally flew off.  It was a big bird!



(What's playing:   John Lennon Whatever Gets You Through The Night)


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sonoma County ride...

It's rare that I throw the bike in the car and drive somewhere to ride.  But, with Monday being a holiday, the shop's closed on Monday, and the calm before the storm of new cross frames arrive, I thought it would be a good call to do just that.  I had planned on a loop out of Freestone (natural, since there is a good bakery there) that would encompass riding up through Occidental and Cazadero before heading to the coast via Fort Ross Road and Meyers Grade Road before heading back up and over into Freestone via dirt on Willow Creek Road.  

The weather cooperated nicely with temps in the high 50s/low 60s and a slight headwind early, followed by a nice tailwind when I needed it most at the end of the ride.  With a later start than I usually have, it seemed like a long day out on the roads.  I must say that there are some great rides in Marin County, but there's just not a lot of them.  Up in Sonoma, however, there are a lot of narrow, twisting roads that traverse the hills in the west part of the county.  Plenty of steeps and plenty of views.  World class road riding.  

Paralleled Austin Creek for a while on Austin Creek Road.

Came around a corner on Fort Ross Road and saw this.  It ended up being a clever wooden cutout of a mountain lion silhouetted up on the ridge.

Fort Ross Road was washed out, but without workers on the scene, I could traverse the edge on foot.

Plenty of greenery out on the ride.

And one huge moss covered boulder.

Fort Ross Road is 10 miles of this.

Finally at the top overlooking the Pacific.


A welcome sign after spending a long time climbing.

It's a fun descent back down to sea level.

Old barn on Willow Creek Road.

Dirt road climb on Willow Creek Road.

(What's playing:  KWMR "Silver Dollar Jukebox" and Patsy Cline Walking After Midnight)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Updates on important stuff...

A few pretty cool updates happening listed in no particular order of importance because they're all special.  

#1  Pink Floyd t-shirts!  Floyd, the shop frog, was first immortalized on a nice, olive colored t-shirt.  He's now got his own limited edition pink t-shirt.  Limited edition because once they're gone, they're gone.  $20 each.  Mens's sizes medium thru XXL.  Women's sizes small thru XL.


#2  Steel pints!  Made by Klean Kanteen, these stainless steel pint glasses prominently feature the Black Mountain Cycles logo.  The best thing they do is transport the beverage of your choice safely from source to vessel to your mouth.  They are guaranteed to not leak as long as they are upright and not being shaken violently.  $12 each.


#3  New Monster Cross frames are imminent.  The container ship with the frames was docked in Oakland yesterday.  I anticipate their arrival in Point Reyes Station by the end of next week.  Colors coming are gray and green and some custom colors that were pre-ordered months ago.  Sizes 50cm, 53cm, 56cm, 59cm, 62cm, and 65cm.  Green and gray are available in all sizes except 59cm.  Green 59cm frames are sold out.  Price is still $595 (65cm frames are $545).  

Here's Blair's frame that was shipped direct from the factory in Taiwan to him in Japan.  Can't wait to see these in person.  


(What's playing:  Dave Gleason's Wasted Days How Am I Supposed To Live (Without You))

Monday, February 10, 2014

Care for your bare aluminum frame...

Aluminum doesn't rust.  But it can corrode to the point it becomes irreparably damaged.  Usually anodizing helps protect aluminum - to some extent.  Bare aluminum is most readily corroded.  The culprit in aluminum corrosion is usually salt.  Salt air if you live near the ocean.  Salt from roads that are salted in the winter.  Salt from sweat that is secreted out of your body.  

What can you do to reduce corrosion and protect your frame and aluminum parts?  Number one, clean your bike periodically before corrosion sets in.  Number two, clean your bike periodically before corrosion sets in.  Once corrosion sets in, more drastic measures are required.  Here's a process recommended by Charlie Cunningham to protect your bare aluminum frame.

It's much easier to work on a frame once all the parts have been stripped off it.  Trying to work around parts takes longer and in the case of leaving your crank installed, you are guaranteed to get cut by a chainring at least once.  With the frame stripped down, wipe off any excess dirt or grime before starting.  Then with a 3M #7447 Scotch-Brite™ pad apply Fluid Film.  I use the brush can because it doesn't take a lot and the brush top makes it easy to apply a bit to the pad.  I also use nitrile work gloves, because your hands will get black from working with aluminum and even through the info on it says it's non-toxic, it's probably wise.  There are also several other applications for a bicycle, but I'm not sure I'd use it for headsets.  Could be a good option for seat posts if yours tend to become frozen.

I cleaned up three Cunningham frames recently.  One frame took only one application of Fluid Film to clean it up.  The other two took two and three applications respectively.  I've also used it on hub shells that got a new wheel build.  Sometimes corrosion builds up under the spoke elbow as it passes over the flange.  A little Fluid Film and it will resist further corrosion.  

Once the frame is cleaned up, the fluid film leaves behind a treatment that will help prevent further corrosion and with the #7447 Scotch-Brite™ pad, leaves the bare aluminum an nice buffed out appearance - not too polished looking.  The next step is an application of Nu-Finish car polish (liquid in this case).  This is applied with a finer Scotch-Brite™#7445 pad.  This seals and gives a great bare aluminum look.  This finish will last longer than if it's been polished to a mirror finish.  

Here's some before and after shots of the worst of the three Cunninghams.


It will get new decals


There's still some deep damage, but the Fluid Film and polish are protecting the surface from further damage.





Some riders sweat profusely and some of them have what I call caustic sweat.  It's just gnarly, damaging sweat.  I've seen carbon headset spacers fused to steerer tubes.  Top tubes on steel bikes that get eaten up resulting in rusted out cable stops.  And in this case, aluminum handlebars with tiny holes that are eaten away by sweat.  In this case, it's time for a new bar and instructions to remove bar tape, clean, and retape every 6 months or so.  Easy to picture the end of a bar folding over because your sweat ate away at the bar.  



(What's playing:   Bob Dylan Freight Train Blues)