Monday, March 31, 2008

If the Cannondale sale didn't shake things up...

The sale of Specialized to GM certainly will. Yep, you heard that right, GM is now the owner of Specialized. The owner. Not a 49% shareholder or even 51%, but they got the whole kit and caboodle. If the thought of Cannondale being sold through Performance Bike shops was enough to throw the dealer industry into a tizzy, the thought of Specialized being sold through GM car dealerships will sure rattle some cages. "Specialized will maintain commitment to the IBD as well as now being available across the nation in GM dealerships" - Mike Sinyard. That's going to go over well. Can you say electric bikes? April fools?

Just had this alarming image. Car salesmen selling bikes. You want a Hummer with that Epic?

What's playing: Led Zeppelin Black Mountain Slide - no kidding, just came up on random shuffle of my iPod's almost 10,000 songs)

Flip side of Jr. gearing...

If you are racing as a junior in any USA Cycling road event, you are limited in your high gear to a roll-out of 7.93 meters. Basically, that means your top gear is about a 52x14. I find it interesting that there is no limit to junior mountain bike racers. The top ratio of a road gear at 52/14 is 3.71. The top gear of a mountain bike with 44/11 is 4. That makes absolutely no sense and further goes to show just how uncoordinated USA Cycling is.

But this isn't about the lack of logic in rules for junior by USA Cycling. This is about Sr. gearing. As I get older, I just can't assume either the position on the bike I once could nor turn the pedals with the gearing that is supplied on most of todays bikes. When I started riding, 52/42 was the standard front chainring set and freewheels were 13-21 (or 23). I don't know how it happened. But somewhere along the way, Shimano and Campagnolo thought we were much stronger riders than we actually were and started giving us 53t big rings and 11t small cogs.

I was probably a stronger rider in my 30's than I was when I was in my 20's. And probably up until a couple of years ago, I was a stronger rider in my 40's than I was in my 30's. Even in my strongest riding years, a 53/11 was reserved only for those rare occasions when I was faced with a long steep downhill.

And then compact cranksets came out. Actually, "compact" cranksets have been out for years. The 110mm bolt circle was the common size for mountain bike cranks. There was even a Ritchey Logic double road crank in '94 that was a 110 BCD crank with 53/38 rings. I ran one for a long time. Then I switched from 6-speed down tube shifters to 9-speed STI shifters and went back to a 53/39. When compact came out again about 4 years ago, I jumped all over it. Ran it with an 11/23.

I'm still on a 50/34 with an 11/23, but after today's ride, I calculated (based on my WAG calculation) that I was in the 50 about 90% of the time and between the 16/17/19/21 about 90% of the time as well with 8% spent in the 23 and the remaining 2% spent in the 11. Boy, when you are in the 11, you sure have to bump that 10s shift lever a lot to get back to your 19 when that descent ends.

So, I start to thinking (and remembering) that if there are junior gears, maybe there ought to be a limit to senior gears - hey, I'm 4 years away from qualifying for AARP membership. Thankfully, I'm riding Campy parts because they have the gearing I need - a 13-26 that will be on my next parts order. With a 13-26, I'll be able to spend more time in the middle of the cassette rather than the upper end. By reducing my cross-chaining, I'll also save on chainring and chain wear. If I was on Shimano, I'd be SOL because all they gots is a 12 (you listening, Daniel - 13-25 10-speed Ultegra level, you know you guys need it). (edit: Evidently, they were listening because right there in the QBP book is an Ultegra 10, 13-25. Wow, you guys are fast. Must be using the gmail custom time option.)

I guess I'll be the guinea pig for my new proposed senior gearing. Heck, I've already started in on my senior approach to bike fit with my new acquisition, a 120mm x 30 degree Ritchey Pro stem. The funny thing is, even with this stem, my bars are still 4" below the top of my seat so I haven't gone all Rivendell quit yet. Maybe I do need a bigger bike though...


(What's playing: Tears For Fears Mad World wow, where'd that one come from. And for those not familiar with precision forecasting WAG = Wild Ass Guess)

Riding time is thinking time...

Riding time is thinking time and this morning was no exception. I don't like (maybe because I never have) riding with music via an IMD (impersonal music device) so I'm left to my thoughts. The problem is I have these revelations on my ride but rarely seem to remember them by the time I get home. I swear I have come up with a completely universal plan to rid the world of war, hunger, medical maladies, and Carrot Top. But I can't remember by the time I return home. It's not that I forgot what I was thinking, it's just that I didn't remember to remember.

However, I did remember what I was thinking about on my ride this morning. I resolved to remember. That's probably why I forgot to turn around at the point I had planned to turn around at and rode and extra hour. Not a bad thing.

Things I thought about and remembered on my ride:

1. Write something about the recent claims that the sky is falling in the bike industry because of raw material price increases.
2. Write something about remembering to remember (check that one off).
3. Reply to an e-mail from the Marin County Bike Coalition and their request of granting members a discount in my shop. My brilliant idea was not to offer a discount, but to donate a percentage of sales by MCBC members back to the MCBC.
4. Write something about gearing and stem position, which I'll knock off promptly.
5. Weed whack the back-yard (ow - not only are my legs done in, but now my upper body is toasted).

(What's playing: Elvis Presley Don't)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kimberlee Caledonia...

Kimberlee Caledonia, one of the pioneers in women's mountain bike racing, passed away March 19. I met her on an exploratory mountain bike trip to Baja in 198...can't remember the exact year now, '87 or '88. I had met the owners of Baja Expeditions/Boojum Expeditions previously. They wanted to add mountain bike tours to their Baja kayak tours and were going to take a bunch of folks on a trip to explore the interior of Baja near Laguna Hansen, up in the Sierra de Juarez mountains. I don't think they ever added this area for mountain bike tours, but I went back a couple of times. The area was incredible. Pine trees, granite boulders, single-track trails made by the many cows that call the area home, clean air....a far cry from the multitudes of Tijuana and Ensenada.

Besides Kimberlee, Jacquie Phelan, Charlie Cunningham, Chuck Hoefer, Ricky ?, and a few others whose names I can't remember now were on the trip. It was a full-fledged, catered trip. The food was great (turkey mole prepared by a tiny lady who moved to the area with her husband from mainland Mexico and ran the rancho where we stayed). Rafael, one of the guides who was from Costa Rica riding in his sandals and another guide who used the expression "don't be shy" a lot, mainly when we were lining up for food. Sounded more like "doan be shy."

I also remember the outdoor shower that was simply a shower head on an outside wall of the cabin and thinking as we all waited in line, "well, guess this is where I lose any inhibitions about being nekkid in front of a bunch of people." Doan be shy.

Kimberlee, she was always smiling. I remember her husband, Dan, telling me at Interbike several years ago that she was diagnosed with brain cancer and that the outlook was not good. She made it to March 19, 2008 - probably still smiling at the people around her.

She wrote Kimberlee's Courses for Bicycling San Diego. It would be fitting to follow these routes and remember Kimberlee.

This is the only photo I could find from that trip to Baja 20 years ago. Kimberlee is the one changing the flat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's in the stand today...

Just noticed that the previous post was #100. I don't know if I should be proud of that or if it means I'm sliding into computer geekdom.

Thought this was post worthy - two vintage Stumpjumper Sports in the stand at the same time. One was in for a new rear tire and the other was rescued from a dumpster by its new owner who found it worthy and was in for new cables, chain, and seatpost. Both bikes also had the original, uncut bullmoose bars. Guess what! Twenty-eight inch bars are back in fashion after 25 years, I'm thinking these are 1983 model year bikes.




This was also in recently. The brake hoods had melted like the Wicked Witch of the West in a spring shower. Guess this is what is meant by "gum hoods."




(What's playing: Carlos Santana Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This always cracks me up...

My parking lot is dirt. Makes for some dusty days when some yahoo goes all Dukes of Hazzard through it, but I like it. Old school. I also like riding my road bike on dirt roads. Makes me feel a bit of what it felt like to ride and race road bikes in the early part of the last century. When men were men and men road bikes with one gear, bandolier style spare tire, and cork topped water bottles. You had to really want to ride a bike in those days.

So, it always cracks me up when I see someone walking his bike through my parking lot. Caught this guy walking (and carrying even!) though the lot today. Maybe it's me, but if your bike can't take 30 yards of graded dirt parking lot, I'm not sure I'd want to spend much time on the road with it. The thing that further gets me is he's waking on his road cleats that is far worse than riding the bike in the dirt. "Hey, why can't I get out of my pedal?"


(What's playing: Johnny Cash Down There By the Train - actually, I've got the whole American Recordings playlist going)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's in the stand today...

Well, actually, what's on the work bench today. This sweet little trike came in a while ago. It's owner was looking for new pedals and "headset" parts. By chance, I found the pedals right away as I was called to duty to install new pedals on the trikes at the local preschool where my wife works. I was able to get an extra pair for the trike in the shop.

After spending way too much time trying to find "headset" parts, steering axis busing is probably a more appropriate name, I came up with this little fix. The original headset parts were a brass/steel shim that took up the space between the steerer tube and head tube. Someone suggested that most trikes used plastic bushings and that I might be able to find something at the hardware store. As you can see, there was a bit of play in the "headset."


A trip to the hardware store and I picked up these plastic plumbing fittings (cold water only, it says on them).


I cut the threaded section off and took a file to the inside to get it to fit over the steerer tube. A little filing to the head tube area was all it took for the new part to fit in the frame snugly.




And it's just like new! Well, maybe better than new. No slop in the front end assembly and nice easy steering.




A far cry from the Fox fork I serviced earlier in the day.

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

A few neat things from Taipei...

Road bikes are road bikes, mountain bikes are mountain bikes, ho hum, yawn. Fun to ride, but they're a dime-a-dozen and they all look the same except for paint color and decals. What was fun to see were some of the commuter/urban/e/transportation type bikes.

The name on these bikes was Novo. I like the simplicity and the location of the battery pack. The models with the battery pack integrated in the rack seems like a little bit too much weight too high on the bike, but overall, I liked the style.














The wiring was pretty clean hiding withing the confines of the fender...


...and through the frame.


That little spring thing attached between the down tube and the fork was fairly common on a lot of the similarly designed bikes at the show. I hadn't seen it before, but it seems to be some kind of a system to keep the front wheel straight. The bars still turned freely. It would be interesting to see how it worked in a riding situation. Actually, on second thought, it might be a good addition for a lot of road and tri bikes to keep them on the straight and narrow. A kind of anti-squirrel feature.

(Rant on)
I don't know why it happened or why it seems to have stuck, but the spec'ing of suspension seatpost, adjustable stem, and suspension fork on these types of bikes is really a disservice. Those suspension seat posts are heavy and klunky with a simple spring inside them much like a pogo stick. Most seats that are perched on top of suspension seat posts have more comfortable travel than a suspension post. The suspension seat post just adds unnecessary weight to the bike.

Adjustable stems. Does anyone adjust them in any position except bolt up-right? Why not use a fixed stem? There's plenty of adjustment within the quill extension. All those bolts and adjustment pieces on the stem just add to unnecessary complexity and possible problems.

A nice aluminum rigid fork would save a bunch of weight. Most of these types of bikes have such a rearward weight bias that a suspension fork does little. In addition, those cheap suspension forks for comfort or trekking bikes usually feature a rust-prone upper legs and very little sophistication in the suspension system. Again, the suspension system usually consists of pogo-like springs. The cheap suspension fork (while looking cool on the sales floor) is a huge disservice to the bicycle industry. Not usually serviceable, difficult to replace after the initial sale with a nice rigid fork. Heavy. How many asphalt roads/paths are so rough that a suspension fork actually offers a performance benefit?
(Rant off)

This contraption looked pretty neat. His and hers bikes that can be ridden separately or that could be joined together for a nifty tandem.


By removing the front wheel of one bike and attaching the fork into the QR block just above the rear wheel of the front bike...instant tandem. The wheel that was just removed from the trailing bike can be stowed on one of the bikes in the "dropouts" that you see on the frame.




This sweet little design was probably the coolest bike at the show. I couldn't find much about the GoCycle on the internet except what was noted in today's Bicycle Retailer. Magnesium frame, battery pack that fits into the main frame "tube," and wheels that are interchangeable front-to-back, back-to-front. The "fork" and rear stays are single sided. All it needs is some sort of nifty rear rack and bag system that matches the design of the rest of the bike.


And last, but not least, I give you "Brownish Bugs." These little guys were available for NT$ 200 or about US$ 6.25 at one of the Taoyuan International Airport duty free shops.


(What's playing: Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good to be home / Drinking 101...

As much as I enjoyed my trip to Taiwan, it makes coming home that much better. One of the things I enjoy in Taiwan is lunch at a local restaurant. Sitting around a big round table as piles of food are laid out on the Lazy Susan while beer flows freely with calls of "hodala" and "kanpai" abound is a favorite activity. "Hodala" and "kanpai" are the equivalent of "bottoms up" and you are expected to drain your glass - usually a small 3-4 oz. size. However, a lot of 3 oz. glasses add up quickly. A call of "cheers" means you only need to take a small (half glass) drink.

Drinking in Taiwan is an activity that requires a strategy. Taiwanese businessmen enjoy drinking and drinking as part of a business meeting results in better business relationships. Being a "strong" drinker nets you an elevated standing in those relationships. I'm definitely not a strong drinker, but I know how long a typical business lunch will last and I know what my tipping point is. Knowing these two, I can keep up nicely which results in a reputation I earned in Taiwan as being strong. Good acting is what I call it.

Rule #1: Don't drink by yourself. You are going to be drinking a lot of beer. No need to take a drink by yourself because it only compounds your intake. If thirsty, take a sip of tea.

Rule #2: Don't drink unless you've been asked to drink. If you are the lone customer sitting around a table with a dozen or so other Taiwanese parts makers, you will be requested to drink with each of them on multiple occasions. No sense compounding your intake.

Rule #3: While observing rule #2, you should, as a gracious customer, make an offer to drink with each of the other drinkers around the table.

Rule #4: Don't use rule #3 to make an offer to drink with a co-worker or other customer who might be sitting at the table. No sense compounding your intake.

Rule #5: When your host asks you what you would like to drink at the beginning of the evening, request beer. If they ask if you prefer wine or beer, always, always pick beer. Otherwise, you will be pounding wine instead. Think about it, 4.3% alcohol by volume or 14% - you figure out the result.

Rule #6: Eat a lot of food to help fill up your stomach. And eat at least something of everything that is served. Refusing to eat is bad form. And let's face it, you aren't a picky 10 year old kid anymore who won't eat your peas. Overall, the food is exceptional.

Rule #7: Enjoy the experience. It's fun.

But it sure if nice to be back home in quiet Point Reyes.

The main street this morning.

What a typical street in Taiwan looks like. No brainer which is nicer.

(What's playing: The Carpenters I Won't Last A Day Without You)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Same as it ever was...

It's been two years since I last visited Taiwan. I'm here to report it hasn't changed. Well, there is one thing that has changed, the high speed rail from the airport to Taichung is way faster than driving. At some points, the speed flashed on a display in the cars indicated we were traveling over 300kph - that's roughly 185+ miles per hour - fast.

It feels like yesterday since I was last here. Maybe Taiwan really is my second home. It will be interesting attending the Taipei Cycle Show after 2 years of not seeing folks I used to see on a bi-monthly basis. I'm looking forward to it.

Say, do you know how that tube in your bike frame was made? Well, we visited a tubing maker yesterday and the process of turning 10,000+ kilograms of crome-moly steel rolls into tubes is pretty darn interesting.

Start with 10,661 kg of SAE 4130 crome-moly rolls.


Load it on a roller and run it through several rollers/dies to change it from flat sheet to a tube in an incremental process.




In one of the final steps, the seam is welded closed, all while the tube is being pulled through at a rapid pace.


The fresh weld is then trimmed leaving very clean outer surface. Those two "reddish" strands being pulled off and up is the excess weld being peeled off the tube in two strips.


What a cool machine. After the raw tube is worked, butted, swaged...the seam is virtually invisible and probably stronger than the rest of the tube.


(What's playing: The Doors Break on Through - day destroys the night, night divides the day)

And hey, Bruce Gordon just pulled up. Gotta go.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Taiwan bound...

Welp, after making my last of over 70 trips to Taiwan two years ago, I'm heading back to the island for a week of taking in the sights. Actually, I'll be meeting the the folks I'm working with on the development of my frames as well and I'll be hitting up the annual Taipei Cycle Show for a couple of days. I'm looking forward to seeing friends in the industry I haven't seen for two years and sitting around a big ole dinner table with a heap of food in the center and drinking some Taiwan Beer. Good times.

Had a pretty good day yesterday. Didn't get anything done on time that I had planned, but sometimes that's good because it means actual customers were in the shop. Jim G came up from the city to get his frame aligned so we headed over to Steve Potts' work shop where we tweaked the frame a bit to get it nice an straight. I also finished up a certain Otis Guy. Pictures when I get back. And had a bunch of repairs dropped off - one of which is a frame and parts to build up a race bike for a high school kid who races the Nor Cal mountain bike league and finished in the top three last year. Fast kid.

(What's playing: the sound of silence this morning. Sometimes, quiet is pretty nice.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

www.blackmtncycles.com...

Guess I should have included a link to the site but in all my excitement, just overlooked a little minor point. www.blackmtncycles.com That should help.

Might as well make use of this space to post this little fun bit. Working on an old Cannondale today that needed shift cables (they had been removed prior to bringing it in) and it also needed a barrel adjuster for the old Deore thumb shifter. So, I pull one out of one of those little plastic compartment bins where I keep little trinkets. A little grease on the threads, thread it in to the shifter. I go to thread the cable through the adjuster and dang it all to heck, I can't get it started. Poke the cable around trying to find the hole. Finally, I go to poke the cable through from the ferrule end to make sure the hole goes through. No go. What the heck? Looks like my friends at Jagwire forgot to drill out this adjuster. Had to laugh at the situation.


(What's playing: Bob Dylan Thunder on the Mountain)

Friday, March 7, 2008

It is alive .......

After much delay, procrastination, and general over-thinking the dang thing, I got my website up and running. There are a few bugs I need to work on and some things to add, edit, revise, but it's up.

We got iLife for our mac for my son for Christmas because he wanted Garage Band. Hmmm, what's this? iWeb? Oh hey, that's a web creatin' program. Looks easy enough too. Hey, maybe I can create my website by my own self. After all, mama didn't raise no idjits. So, a week's worth of fiddling between 9:00 and midnight and several hours uploading the ftp info on a weak connection and it's up!

I can't say "it is alive" without thinking of this:

(What's playing: Elvis Costello Pump It Up - that's kinda appropriate)

Reason I ride #2...

Reason #1 is easy enough, after years of running, playing basketball, volleyball...my knees were shot. During the summer of 1984, having just graduated from college, I was watching the Olympics road race taking place live a scant hour away from home. Watching the race and Alexi Grewal win put my mind in motion "hey, I'll get a bike and take up cycling - looks fun enough." So, off I went.

Flash forward 23 years and I'm still riding and Alexi is still the only American man to win the Olympics road race. In July, 2007, we moved to Point Reyes Station to open a bike shop and find a community that enabled us to live without rampant development and consumerism that was happening in our neck of San Diego. Steve Potts was a great inspiration in our move to Point Reyes. That first week we were here, we didn't have a refrigerator so we headed over to Steve's for dinner our second night here. As we enter the house, I see a very familiar face in Steve's kitchen - Alexi Grewal.

Wow! Alexi Grewal, the guy who really inspired me to start riding bikes, right there in the kitchen. Turns out he really isn't the bad boy of racing any more. He's got great, fantastic stories of his racing days. And he's definitely got his opinions on the state of racing. Miguel Indurain and Greg Lemond are, in his opinion, the great true champions of the sport. Images of Big Mig effortlessly stomping the competition and Lemond winning the World's ahead of Sean Kelly and Dimitri Konyshev are imprinted in my mind (that image of Lemond winning is, I believe, the best racing photograph ever).

His story of the Olympic road race is really cool. On the final lap, he was in the lead climbing out of the saddle and thinking he wanted to grab an easier gear. Not an easy feat when the shifters are on the down tube if you are out of the saddle. As he's thinking this, Steve Bauer motors past him and he thinks "shit, I don't need an easier gear, I need a bigger gear." As history notes, Alexi must have found that bigger gear to come around Bauer.

Turns out Alexi is in town for a while to help with a project before heading to Oregon for the winter. While Alexi was in town, I let him hang on to my Mary 29er with Jones bars. We go on a few rides and even without riding hardly ever, he's still got it and within a few days can stomp us on the climbs. He rides in work boots so I offer to put flat pedals on my bike for him. He shrugs it off and says that the SPD's on it are fine - no problem.

Here's where the story gets good and could potentially swell my ego. Alexi says that my Mary (that I designed while at Haro) is probably the most fun bike he's ever ridden. Ever - and he's ridden a lot of bikes. If that doesn't stroke one's ego, well, then you must be in line for the Dalai Llama's position.

And after all these years, I also saved a copy of the February 1987 Bicycle Guide magazine featuring Alexi's Olympic bike. Not the actual Olympic bike, the magazine notes that it is in the Smithsonian, but one of his spares. The article notes that the only thing different is the crank and pedals. Alexi used Shimano Dura Ace AX cranks with DynaDrive pedals preferring the pedals' low rotational axis. This was a concept he still mentioned he favored during our rides.


(What's playing: Danny Elfman Batman from Music for a Darkened Room - highly recommended)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's in the stand today...

Have you ever put your boxers on backwards, drink a lot of water and then rush into the ...? Oh, yeah, um, me neither. But hey, look what's in the stand today. A very nice man-sized Steve Potts Break-Away cross bike. It gets used as both a road bike and cross bike with two sets of wheels. Road wheels get road gearing, but the owner wanted to run the cross wheels with a 34t large cassette cog and with the Dura Ace 27t max capacity derailleur. Just slapping on the wheels in the frame with the stock Dura Ace derailleur and the chain length such that big/big is just possible yielded an upper pulley wheel that rode on the 34t like ... well, let's just say, there was a lot of noise.

There are ways to get a derailleur to work with a freewheel that has a larger big cog than what the derailleur is rated for, but a 34t is pretty big for a road derailleur. On some frames, simply screwing the B-tension screw all the way in is sufficient. On others, running the stock B-tension screw in from the back side works. Still others it may be possible to simply run a longer M4 B-tension screw. On this frame, however, once a longer B-tension screw got to the point where the derailleur was being pulled back sufficiently, the screw was hitting the screw stop at such an obtuse angle that the screw was slipping past the stop. I probably could have bent the screw slightly so it hit the stopper perfectly, but if you needed to remove the screw it would be a pain.

Plan B (pun intended) involved modifying the derailleur main pivot spring tension itself. Here's an untouched Dura Ace upper pivot area. Drilling a hole where the arrow is will yield a higher spring tension once it's reassembled. And this is just what I did - drilled a new spring fixing hole, reassembled the unit, ran the B-tension screw all the way in and it worked perfect. That is how to convert a 27t max cog Dura Ace derailleur to run quietly on a 34t cog. (and no, the derailleur taken apart in the photo below is not the same one that is on the bike as you can tell by the smaller pulley on the one in the photo.)



Look at that upper pulley wheel nicely pulled away from the large cog - quiet.

This is what it looks like when you run the B-tension screw in from the back side.


(What's playing: Leonard Cohen Tower of Song. Number of times B-tension is mentioned: 5.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reason I ride #14...

It's days like this (well actually, weeks like this so far) that make riding my bike so fun. Took a little spin out to North Beach on the Point Reyes Peninsula this morning. As you can see, it was a pretty nice day.

Fresh asphalt, no cars, slight breeze, cloudless skies. This one's for you Big John.

Turn around point.

Empty beach for miles and miles.

One of the many working dairy farms on the peninsula.
(What's playing: Prince 1999)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Reason I ride #137 & #291...

Beautiful spring day on the road.


Black Mountain from the east side looking over Nicasio Reservoir.


A ride with the dog up to Mt. Vision this morning.


(What's playing: The Replacements Alex Chilton)