Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's In The Stand Wednesday

Oh look, another Cunningham.  I really do enjoy each of the Cunninghams I get to work on.  This one arrived with its owner on vacation from Southern California for a frame restoration, new paint on the fork and stem, and some overall get-it-back-in-shape.  

First things first, the frame and stem (a later sourced Ibis made LD) went over to Charlie Cunningham to have a few of the cable stops replaced since they had cracked.  The original stem was a flat bar stem with a taper interface.  There is a tapered quill silver-brazed into the steerer tube.  A flat bar stem uses one bolt from the top to secure the stem.  An LD stem, however, needs to fit onto a non-tapered stub.  Charlie made a taper adapter allowing the LD stem to be secured.  

Once the cable stops and taper adapter were made, off went the fork and stem to Joe Bell for some fresh original silver paint.  While the fork and stem were off for repaint, the frame got stripped of its parts and old decals and restored using a method Charlie recommends to protect the bare aluminum frames.  New decals were applied after the frame was refinished, a sourced WTB/King headset installed, and brakes disassembled and cleaned before reinstalling.  And then the almost like new frameset, sans wheels, bars, seatpost was sent back to its owner to finish assembling (yeah, I wish I could have finished building it and dialing it in).  #007 back in action.

The parts after cleaning, before reassembling

Swiss cheese roller-cam


I left the original NORBA sticker on the frame - probably can't find one of those these days.


I dremeled out the lip on the headset lock nut so it would thread fully over the fork's threads and allow the taper adapter to seat fully engaged on the taper.



The grime on the frame before cleaning and refinishing

Another before

After

The after luster

Feathering the edge of the neoprene chainstay protector so it conforms better to the tight radius of the chainstay and stays adhered better.

A couple tools to help ensure the decals and overlays are aligned properly.

One of the brake pad holders was broken, so a replacement was sourced.

Ready to go home.

(What's playing:  Led Zeppelin Black Dog)

Monday, April 20, 2015

MUSA Disc Cross Build

The first order for this current run of MUSA disc frames asked if he could get his powder coated green - specifically RAL 6018, a very bright green.  I thought, "well, okay, I guess a few green frames will sell, eventually."  I don't know what it is, but dang, this green bikes looks HOT.  I'm really digging the look of the frame once it has decals applied and is built up.  The new owner also thinks it looks HOT and that's what's important.  

The new Shimano RS685 mechanical/hydraulic system is really sweet.  It feels great.  Brakes are there when you need them and Shimano shifting is flawless.  The rest of the build is a really great complement to the bike as a whole:
White Industries CLD hubs with Pacenti SL25 rims and WTB Nano 40 TCS tires
White Industries VBC road cranks 44/30 with a Phil Wood bottom bracket
Thomson X4 stem, Masterpiece seat post with a WTB Devo seat
Salsa Cowbell 2 bar
XTR pedals
Ultegra derailleurs with an 11-32 cassette
King Cage Iris cages and a Chris King headset round it out

How much does it weigh?  I don't know.  Didn't weight it.  But it rides and feels great.  And that's what matters.  It weighs what it weighs.  No more, no less.





This bike will remain local and could be spotted out on the vast array Marin's trails and roads.  Enjoy Chris!

(What's playing:  Devo Clockout)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What's In The Stand Wednesday

Rather than dedicate on post to each bike this will be one big ole WITS photo dump because I've got the time and I need to get it off my to do list.  So, here goes - first up is one of the new MUSA Falconer Cycles made disc cross bike.  For some reason, I didn't get a full bike shot in the stand (yeah, I suck).  But here are some cool details.

Segmented fork

Front end

Rear end

Seat cluster

De Rosa at dawn

The De Rosa was a rebuild after a repaint by Rick at D&D over in the east bay.  It was built with some of its original parts and some newer, less worked over, parts the owner brought in.  It turned out really nice.  Just felt right.  The actual color of the bike is more like the shot of it above taken just after dawn with sunlight coming in through the front door. 

I heart De Rosa

3TTT


Details and chromed lugs


Proper

This Serotta Ottrott got rebuilt with new Super Record 


Super Record

Such a cool r/d design

Ti and carbon Ottrott


Not a lot of clearance.  25mm Michelins that measure out to 28.

This CS1 inherited the 10 speed Campy from the Ottrott complete with rear shifter overhaul.


Just like new with new g-springs

Rear wheel also got an overhaul

And this older wheel with Campagnolo Record hub got a rebuild.  The old "Z" bend aero spokes got ditched in favor of new DT Swiss Competition spokes. 

(What's playing:  Percy Sledge It Tears Me Up)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

West Marin Eroica

Over the past weekend, the California Eroica happened.  I had hopes of getting away to ride it with some Dino friends.  But alas, business first.  Next year.  Yeah, next year.  Instead, I thought, "hey, pull out the old Bridgestone and get out for a morning on/off road ride!"  I hadn't ridden the old girl since I converted it back to gears from the fixed gear bike I had it set up with for many years.  Air in the tires and it was good to go.  

This '94 Bridgestone RB-1 was the last 62cm frame to leave their San Leandro warehouse in 1995.  I was working at Haro and heard that Bridgestone was shuttering their doors.  I always hand a big hankering for their bikes having sold them in the shop I worked at in Carlsbad, CA.  However, their largest mountain bike was still a touch too small and I had a custom road bike.  I figured this was my last chance to pick up an RB-1, so a call to someone I knew who worked at Bridgestone and I was informed that they had one 62cm RB-1 left and soon than bike was in my hands.  I built it up with odds and ends I had at the time.  Today, those odds and ends are fairly coveted parts, but back then they were just parts.

Salsa quill stem
Mavic bars
Specialized alloy headset
Cloth bar tape and Velox bar end plugs
Simplex retrofriction shifters
Mavic 851 rear derailleur
Shimano Dura Ace front derailleur
Ritchey Logic cranks - 110 bcd, 53/38, 177.5mm
Sedisport chain
Campagnolo Lambda Strada rims
Campagnolo Record 32h high flange hubs
Dura Ace 13-22 freewheel
Suntour XC seatpost
Selle Italia Turbo seat
Shimano 600EX brake levers
Dia-Compe Gran Compe brake levers
Schwalbe Durano 28 tires



For the longest time, I had this bike set up with a fixed gear.  I don't know why, but as soon as I got on it and started riding that morning, I rode it like I would ride a fixed gear.  Always pedaling, not coasting...there's a certain way you ride a fixed gear bike compared to a bike that freewheels.  Hard to explain.  Maybe it was because I had been commuting on my fixed gear Ibis Scorcher, but when I got on the RB-1, I felt like it was my old fixed gear bike.  It didn't take long to get more into the groove and get 'er going.  Until the climb out of the Tomales Bay watershed and over into the Point Reyes National Seashor.  Then I remembered that a 22t large freewheel cog was the climbing gear of a young man.  But, I got up and over the hills and it wasn't bad at all.  Just a bit of grit.  And maybe half a lung.  And a lot of out of the saddle.

Out onto the seashore's roads, I headed out to the dirt L Ranch Rd. which is very much like what the dirt roads of l'eroica look like.  

As I got to the end of the road, the cows scattered at my approach.

But as I leaned my bike against the fence and took a photo or two, they drifted back.  Probably thinking I had food for them.

Pretty soon, they were all about crowding up to the fence.

Looking out at Marshall across Tomales Bay from the Marshall Beach trail.


After not having ridden a bike with down tube shifters for a number of years, I found it to be completely natural shifting.  Like I never forgot or like it was yesterday when I last road a bike with down tube shifters.  Simple.  The one thing I did discover was the drop position of the old Mavic bars was pretty damn low and far away.  The tops and hoods were fine.  The drops were a fairly uncomfortable position.  Did I used to be that flexible?  And if I'm going to continue to ride it where I need brakes, I'll have to fit new brake blocks because 20 year old brake blocks are pretty much like bricks against the wheels.  Not optimal when approaching an increasing radius turn at speed.

An excellent day on the bike.

(What's playing:  KWMR Silver Dollar Jukebox)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nice Wheels

Wheels may be one of my favorite things on a bike.  Wheels are the main connection to how a bike feels and rides.  Wheels and tires are the point of contact between the bike and the road.  So, why would you want to ride on anything but a set of wheels that makes the riding experience more enjoyable.  

I recall years ago when parts makers would court me to get their components spec'd on to the Masi road bikes I was designing and developing.  There are some parts from that era that I still use and are my favorites today.  One being the fi'zi:k Arione saddle.  Still use them today and still ride one that has a "prototype" sticker on it.  One of the parts I ceased using after spending considerable time on is the Mavic Ksyrium wheelset.

The day that I decided I didn't much care for the Ksyrium wheels because I found something better is a day I remember well and I don't have many moments like that I recall easily.  Setting the stage, the Mavic Ksyrium wheel is stiff.  It's built with a tallish aluminum rim and some fat, bladed aluminum spokes.  It's a road racing wheelset.  Not built for all-day comfort.  The wide bladed spokes are supposedly aero - until the wind comes at your from the side, then they move you side-to-side on the road with the wind gusts.  But, if that's all you know and all you've been riding because they represent "the best" wheelset on the market at the time, then that's all you know and you just get used to them.  

Then the day Ric Hjertberg of FSA shows up with a new set of RD-400 wheels.  Ric is the second half of a brother (Jon) team behind Wheelsmith and knows a thing or two about wheels.  Ric's an engineer/designer at FSA and arrives for an OEM meeting with a set of unusual wheels.  The rims of the wheels have an unusual shape.  The shape, Ric explains, is toroidal* and is aerodynamic and is an ideal shape for a rim that gives it great strength when spokes are tensioned in it.  There were probably a bunch of other technical features about the wheels that I forgot.

Ric leaves me with the set of wheels and soon I fit them to my bike and head out for a lunch ride.  "Whoa, these wheels feel friggin' great on the road.  They're so smooth feeling and I'm not getting blown all over the place in the wind."  What I discovered was a nice set of wheels that made the bike feel more alive and smooth and comfortable than those Ksyrium wheels felt.  The spokes were much thinner stainless aero spokes that do what stainless spokes do - flex with the road imperfections.  Just enough to smooth out the ride.  The thick aluminum blades of the Ksyrium wheels didn't flex.  They didn't budge.  They just transmitted all the road shock through the frame into me.  

Now, what was the point of this post as I got side-tracked about the past.  Oh yeah, nice wheels.  I love building nice wheels.  Here's some recent wheel builds.

No Tubes Flow EX with White Industries MI6 and an XD driver

HED Belgium rims, Chris King R45 hubs, Sapim CX-Ray spokes, Continental GP 4000s II tires

Pacenti SL25 rims, Industry Nine hubs, DT Swiss spokes

Not wheels yet.  I really like the Pacenti SL23 rims and really like what they did with the minimal branding on the silver version.

Velocity A23 offset rim + old Shimano XT 135 spaced hub = dishless wheel.

Velocity Blunt 35 rims, White Industries CLD hubs, DT Swiss spokes - and 36h for extra durability.  Big thanks to rim and hub makers who continue to offer 36h wheels.  

*You may have heard about toroidal shaped rims the past several years from the folks at Zipp who "pioneered" the shape.  However, Ric and FSA showed off this shape in a rim years before Zipp.  I don't think the design lasted very long with FSA.  Designs that are too far ahead of their time generally don't gain quick industry recognition initially. 

(What's playing:  The Jimi Hendrix Experience Hey Joe)


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jersey Design!

It's been almost 8 years so I figured it was time to put together some artwork for a Black Mountain Cycles jersey/shorts.  A big shot of thanks to Ken Prosser of Kenji Designs for taking my chicken scratch sketches and putting them to something that looks damn fine, if I do say so myself.  I'm working out details of the how, when, and how much with Voler and as soon as I have info, I'll post it.  Suffice it to say their production schedule is such that end of June is the initial time when they would be available.  More details soon!

I'm particular proud of myself for the last minute concept I had of using a classic herringbone road tread pattern and the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tread pattern on the jersey pockets.  The blue and orange represents the two most popular frame colors I've done (and, coincidentally, it's the classic livery of the Gulf Racing Team).

(What's playing:  The Blasters Justine)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ride Post

I have been completely derelict (first person to identify Daryl Licht's* real name wins a Black Mountain Cycles t-shirt and water bottle of your choice) in posting here.  Not for lack of stuff to blog about, but lack of time and energy.  Well, here goes a flurry of blog posts starting with some rides.

Starting off the ride photos is one I took out to Pierce Point.  This is probably my favorite ride out here.  It's about 36 miles or so with about 3500' of climbing and has an option of getting some dirt on the way back (or out, but I prefer back because of the condition of the cow trail).  It involves a somewhat sketchy initial section that involves hopping a couple fences/gates, traversing a ridge that sees more cows than humans, and, if it's wet out, navigating a few mud pits that may or may not be full of cow shit.  But then the cow path turns to L Ranch Rd., which is a super fun dirt road on a road bike.  Some days it's fogged in to the point you have about 50' of visibility.  Some day's it's sparkling clear.  Like this day.  The few miles to the old Pierce Point Ranch are through the Tule Elk Preserve.  It's common to see bucks locking horns during the rutting season or you might have to stop and allow the elk to stampede across the road in front of you.  

Pierce Point Rd.

Off-piste as you get off the cow trails.


Or it could be socked in.

Elk crossing

On the way out to Pierce Point, you can take a dirt trail excursion out to Abbott's Lagoon.  It's a little under 2 miles round trip.  On some mornings, it's a great spot to stop and eat a snack before heading on.

Barbed wire fence and cow hair out at H Ranch on Pierce Point Rd.

Another of my favorite rides is the loop from Point Reyes Station out to Inverness, up the dirt road climb to Mt. Vision Rd., and across the Inverness Ridge Trail to Limantour Rd and back to town.  It's about 90 minutes of high quality riding - some road, some fire road, some single-track, and all super fun on a cross bike.  The weather changes so much and so fast out here that every ride is different.

Up on top of the ridge in the fog.
The climb up on a clear day. 

At the top of the dirt road climb out of Inverness

Single-track section of the Inverness Ridge Trail

Again at the top of the dirt road climb that puts you at a dirt parking lot on Mt. Vision Rd.

On this day, it was overcast/foggy on top of the ridge, but the sun was out at Drake's Beach way out there.

Another of my favorite rides is an early morning spin down Hwy. 1 to Stinson Beach followed by a climb up Panoramic Hwy. to Mt. Tam and back to Point Reyes Station via Ridgecrest, Bo-Fax Rd. to Fairfax, and west on Sir Francis Drake.  Lots of climbing.  Lots of descending.  Lots of fun.

Bolinas Lagoon on a clear, calm morning

Bolinas from Ridgecrest.  Some days, it can be viscous up on this stretch when the fog rolls in.

*The Daryl Licht I'm looking for was a mountain bike racing pseudonym way back in the day.  What is his real name?  Correct spelling only.

(What's playing:  The Beatles Come Together)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lever Position

A lever is an ancient tool that allows one to exert more force on a subject.  A brake lever allows the user to, with a light touch, stop a couple hundred pounds of rolling mass to a stop with only modest effort.  Position the lever incorrectly and the operator won't be able to take advantage of all that the brake system has to offer.  Modern levers and brake calipers do work much better than levers and calipers of years past from both the hoods and drops. 

The bicycle to me is a highly visual item.  I love the look of a bike that's set up properly.  Sure, there are variances, but there's a reason why the components are designed they way they are and that design assumes a certain position.  Today, handlebars and controls are designed fairly ergonomically.  Handlebar shape is designed to be set in a certain position so it is comfortable in both the drops and the tops.  Control levers are shaped to be positioned such that the lever is easily operated in the drops and the hoods offer a comfortable hand position.  I cringe when I see bars and levers tilted up and back.  Aesthetics.  Chances are if the owner feels the need to rotate the whole bar assembly back, their fit is not correct.  What that rider needs is likely a taller/and/or shorter bar position, achieved with a different stem, not rotating the bars.  But I digress.  

Back to the purpose of this post - positioning your levers.  When I build a bike for a rider, the first step in my dialing in process is bar positioning.  I put the bike on the ground, sit on the seat, put my hands in the drops and set the bar to a spot where it's comfortable in the drops.  A position where I can imagine spending time either pedaling into the wind, or descending a tricky downhill that would be comfortable and natural feeling.  Tighten the bar clamp.  

Time for the levers.  Back in the old days, bar shape and brake lever shape were pretty consistent across brands.  The way to set brake levers was to hold a straight edge against the bottom of the drop portion of the bar and setting the brake levers so the tips of the lever brushed against the straight edge.  Done.  Easy.  Then bar shape and lever shape changed dramatically.  Some bars are slightly curved along the entire bottom edge so a straight edge is no use.  These days, I set the levers on the bars loosely with a bit of tension on the clamp so they can be move, but not fall down.  Using the drop portion as my main gauge, I put my hands in the drops and put the levers in a position where my pointer finger can naturally and easily reach the lever.  I'm a one finger braker.  There's really no need to get two fingers on the levers.  One does the job great.  But that one finger should be at the end of the lever where you have the most, get this, leverage!

With the levers still not tightened down, I check the hood position and make sure that they are comfortable and easy to operate the levers from the hoods.  I may go back and forth a couple of times - drops to hoods, hoods to drops - to make sure the position is dialed.

Levers rough set.  Good on top, good on the drop.

Now the tricky part.  Chances are good that after doing this, the two levers are probably fairly evenly set up on the bar.  But, I'm not perfect and there may be a slight discrepancy.  This is where the straight edge comes in.  I set a yard stick (meter stick doesn't have quite the proper sound) across the top of the levers with the hoods peeled back.  Sighting across the straight edge at the bar, I make sure the levers are parallel with respect to the center section of the bars.  I check against logos on the bar, the bar top, and maybe even the stem face plate.  When I'm sure the levers are even, I tighten the clamps.  Done.  

Making sure everything is parallel.

There are other methods I've used, but don't rely on because I've found discrepancies in bars.  One is to set the levers according to a scale that is sometimes printed on the back of the bars.  However, as is clear in these photos, the scale on this set of bars is off by a good amount.

 The scale markings on this bar were way off.  When the levers were even and parallel to the bar top, the clamp was at .9 on the right side and essentially zero on the left side.

Another method is to measure from the end of the bar up to the lever body.  Again, if the bar is not perfectly symmetrical, you may end up with one lever higher than the other.  

And another method requires the use of an expensive tool.  I can see this method being used if you need to set the same lever on the same bar on a bunch of bikes, fast, and want them all to be the same.  Think race team mechanics setting up a fleet of race bikes.  But, you still have to get the levers to the position that is comfortable in the drops and hoods first.  A tool won't tell you the levers are comfortable, that's the job of your hands and body. 


"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." - Archimedes

(What's playing:  The Jimi Hendrix Experience Gypsy Eyes)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Joe's Bike

Four years to the day tomorrow, I blogged about Joe's road bike after building it for you.  Four years ago, Joe was 76.  After 4 years and thousands of miles and a joint replacement or two, Joe couldn't swing his leg over his bike to ride.  He came in looking for a new bike with a step-thru frame.  While there are plenty of step-thru bikes on the market, they are all pretty much heavy, non-inspiring comfort or hybrid bikes.  Nothing that could easily converted to a bike that offers a spirited ride.  Well, there was one that I knew of that could fit the bill.  Soma Fabrications make a pretty nifty mixte framed bike called the Buena Vista that would be an easy convert to drop bars like Joe likes.  

Buena Vista ordered, arrived, built, call to Joe - "that looks fabulous!"  Take it for a spin, Joe, let me know what you think.  And that's where Joe's limited flexibility showed itself.  Even with the lowered top tube of the mixte design, it was still too high for Joe to lift his leg over.  Back to the drawing board.  

"What would you think about cutting the top tube out of your road bike and welding in a new "top tube" as low as possible, Joe?"  Joe liked that idea as it used everything he already had and didn't generate excess.  Now I just had to figure out how to get it done.  A call to Cameron Falconer, fresh off my recent MUSA disc cross frame production to discuss the possibility of converting Joe's frame and because Joe's 80 and still rides a bike and loves riding bike, Cameron agreed.  We talked about cable routing, how low the tube could get, and to work Cameron went.

The result?  According to Joe, it's fabulous.  I did have to move the seat tube bottle cage to a place high up on the new tube with a Two Fish cage adapter.  As I was riding to work one morning last week, I saw Joe pedaling towards me.  As we passed, I asked how was the bike.  "Fabulous!"  And away Joe pedaled.  


Yes, the bike is a bit flexy, but for Joe and his riding style, it's perfect.  Ride on, Joe!

Post script - this was the first and last step-thru conversion from Black Mountain Cycles and Cameron Falconer.

(What's playing:  The Jayhawks Baby, Baby, Baby)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Enduro

Long before Enduro™ was a thing, there was a company named Enduro selling bearings.  Good bearings.  One of my favorite jobs to perform on a bike is replace old, worn out bearings in hubs and bottom brackets.  The difference is immediate.  There's nothing quite like transforming a dried out, crusty bearing that barely spins and crunches in your fingers into a smooth spinning part.  

Up until recently, if your Shimano Hollowtech II bottom bracket wore out, your choices for a new bottom bracket were either another Shimano or a Chris King with a hefty price jump.  Basically, you had a choice between replacing your worn out bottom bracket with the same thing for about $30 or $40 or dropping about $150 for a King or other pricey, but good, bottom bracket.  

My preferred method to deal with worn out Shimano bottom bracket bearings was to remove the offending bearings and press in new Enduro bearings.  Enduro make a nice kit for performing this task - two new bearings and a nice dust/dirt shield.  The bearings Enduro used to replace the Shimano bearings are slightly larger since they don't use the plastic sleeve that fits into Shimano's bearings.  Bigger bearing means they should carry a bigger load.

For about twenty bucks in parts and another thirty to forty in labor to remove cranks, bb, press out old bearings, press in new bearings, reinstall cranks, check shifting...you can have a sweet smooth rolling crankset and not have to have to dispose the entire bottom bracket unit.  Reuse the cups and center sleeve and keep on pedaling and have a better bottom bracket.

I was reminded of how much I like this fix when a bike came in for new chainrings and chain last week.  After removing the chain, I marveled at how smoothly and easily the cranks spun.   Give them a spin and they spun round and round and round and ...  They spun around a lot.  I then remembered that I had replaced the bottom bracket bearings with Enduro bearings quite a while ago and they were still fresh as day one.

I also recently discovered/realized that Wheels Mfg. had produced their own bottom brackets with prices that sit comfortably between Shimano's and Chris King's.  For $55 you can get a new bottom bracket that is assembled with Enduro's radial ABEC-3 bearings and for $75, you can get their bottom bracket assembled with Enduro's angular contact bearings.  Twenty bucks is a good upgrade to get a bottom bracket with angular contact bearings since they are better at resisting a side-load - and it's very common for Shimano bottom brackets to be overloaded from the side when the left arm crank arm fixing bolt is overtightened.  That act is probably the main reason why Shimano Hollowtech II bearings fail prematurely.  The Wheels Mfg. bottom brackets are a new addition to the shop, because they work great and offer a nice option on a new build or repair job.

"DO NOT DISASSEMBLE" - yeah, right.

Disassembled

A fresh Enduro bearing ready to be installed

Enduro bearings still like new after miles of off-road riding.

Or if you're starting from new, this $75 Wheels Mfg. bottom bracket with Enduro angular contact bearings is a great choice - and it's made in the USA.  Shot doesn't show the included secondary shield.

(What's playing:  The Byrds Hungry Planet)