Saturday, August 30, 2008

When the music stops, riders, find your bikes...

There's been a lot of frame manufacturer sponsor musical chairs going on recently. And I'm sure there will be more. I don't know why this interests me because I really could care less who's riding what and at what level. What is interesting is that once you sponsor a pro team, you really can't go back. Once you climb into the pit, there's no way out. It always has to continue and, likely, grow. It's a cycle that becomes an endless headache for the bike companies, I'm sure, as they spend countless dollars to have their frames raced by the sport's best. But does that sponsorship translate into sales? Do you ride your frame because your favorite team or rider rides it?

Cue music.

Team Columbia starts out with Giant. Silence-Lotto is on Ridley. Saunier-Duval rides Scott. Rabobank riders roll on Colnago. CSC-Saxo Bank has forever been on Cervelo.

Shuffle frames. Stop music. Where did they end up?

Scott frames will be under Team Columbia. Rabobank found themselves atop Giant frames. Ridley frames will be ridden by Katusha (formerly Tinkoff). CSC-Saxo Bank has found a sponsor in Specialized (not confirmed by Specialized yet). Cervelo, it appears is doing its own thing in creating the "Cervelo Test Team" (but that's likely to change when a big name corporate sponsor steps up - can't imagine a small bike company having that much extra coin around to throw at sponsoring their own team, and if they do, boy have they been getting a premium for their frames).

So, who's the unlucky bike company who wasn't able to find a seat? Colnago. What's happening to the storied European brands? Are they getting shoved aside by the upstarts? I'm sure Colnago will land a team deal with a strong team. After all, they're Colnago.

What a headache it must be for all players.

(What's playing: KWMR)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Did I just go for a ride today...

There are those few days when the weather is simply fantastic. The past couple of days were like that. Sun's out. Not too hot. Not too windy. Not too many cars on the road. This morning, I told myself that I was going for a ride before opening the shop - and I did it! Headed out to North Beach and back. Once I left Inverness, I hardly saw a car on the road. Just dang fun to be on the bike.

Nothing in front of me.
Nothing in back of me.

It was like I had the road all to myself today. And I'm not complaining about that.

(What's playing: Marvin Gaye What's Going On, Queen Bohemian Rhapsody, Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues - almost 10,000 songs on the iPod and these three gems randomly come on. Doesn't get much better'n that.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

SSWC08...

Closed up shop yesterday and headed over to Napa to hang out with Gordon and his friend Bjorn and watch the Single Speed World Championships. To say it was more fun than watching a NORBA race is an understatement. Spectators set up several "feed zones" on course. Feed zones in a NORBA race is the spot on the course where team members hand up fresh water bottles and food and if you have a sunglass sponsor, fresh sunglasses too. The "feed zones" at this race were more gauntlet-like with drunken spectators handing up beers - I'm not sure of the brand, but the colors on the cans were red, white, and blue. Beers were handed up, riders reached out and grabbed a luke-warm one, took a gulp, and tossed the can by the way-side with a "support staff" member racing to retrieve it before too much beer ran out into the dirt so they could hand it up to the next rider. Occasionally, an empty can was set down in the middle of the trail with a dollar bill sticking up. A few riders, coordinated and sober enough, reached down and were able to retrieve it.

The race started promptly when it started with a Le Mans style start. By the time riders got to where they left their bikes, it seemed like half of them couldn't remember where they left their bike and a few "friends" of theirs actually moved some bikes to further confuse a couple of racers.

On to some photos. Pre-race. Yes that is a guy standing next to Keith, one of the many Soulcraft riders.


Bikes lined up waiting for their riders.


And here they come...


Yes, that's a guy.


One of they guys sporting the tighty-whities. Race organizers handed out a dozen or so special riding shorts to guys who would wear them for the whole 3 laps. Finishers earned an unknown special prize.


Rockin' an IF cross bike on a nasty, rocky, off-camber switchback corner.


Carl Decker and Barry Wicks (two of the top US cross country racers) showed up with speedo-like outfits, capes and skate helmets. Didn't slow down Decker too much because he ended up winning.


Smilin' George Hope - local resident riding the bike I built up a few days ago.


Not sure why this event drew these guys out of the closet, but they did seem a little freerer during the race.




This guy wore the nacho libre mask the whole race. It was a fitting color combination.


One of the tighty-whitey wearers in a smashing sparkly blouse.


Not sure if this guy missed try-outs and decided to race.


Jacquie Phelan all business-like on her pink, uh, single-speed.


It's hard enough riding a single single-speed, but these folks (along with one other couple) raced their single-speed tandem.


(What's playing: Fresh Air podcast interview with Isaac Hayes)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gettin' ready for SSWC08...

Welp, looks like I'm going to head over the hill to partake in the festivities that are the Single Speed World Championships tomorrow. No, not racing, viewing. I don't think I could actually ride a single-speed off-road with all the pulling on the bars that is needed with my rotator cuff in the condition it's in right now (it probably has about 25% of the range of motion of my good arm). But I can lift 12 ouncers and pints and even 22 ouncers! My friend from down south, Gordon, stopped by the shop yesterday and convinced me to close shop for a day and head over to Napa. It was good to hang out at the shop with him and his friend, drink a few beers...Finally got to actually enjoy the couches I have at the shop.

It will also give me a chance to see this Soulcraft in action that I built up a few days ago - cutting it a little close for a race. George brought this by after deciding he wasn't sure if smacking the King headset into the frame with a 2x4 and hammer was a good idea. Trust me, George, you did the right thing bringing it to me because I also got to cut out a good foot from the hydraulic hoses and dial it in for you.





More photos from the race here.

(What's playing: Cat Power The Greatest)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Things I dislike...

You know when you buy something and it has some sort of product sticker that is intended to be removed but just doesn't come off? I hate those. This is a handlebar with one of those stickers right where the grip is supposed to mount. It has to come off completely. Because it's on an aluminum handlebar, I can't scrape it off with a knife. It has to be peeled and then scrubbed with nasty chemical-type stuff. Five minutes later, the handlebar was clean, but what a waste of 5 minutes. I got better things to do. There has to be a better option.

(What's playing: KPIG Little Feat Old Folks' Boogie)

Live at the HammerSchmidt Odeon...

As a companion piece to what I wrote a couple of days ago about SRAM/Truvativ's HammerSchmidt, I want to clarify the weigh issue. I've seem a few "yeah, it's cool but it weighs 1600 grams!" Well, actually, it's heavier. The all-mountain system is 1623g and the freeride system is 1785g. Yes, that is a heavy weight going by that number alone. However, please consider that it is a system. That weight is representative of the entire front drive train including a chain guide system.

If one was to calculate the weight of: 1) Crankset. 2) Bottom bracket. 3) Front derailer. 4) Additional links of chain. 5) Chain guide system, and then calculate the weight differences, it may be surprising how little the HammerSchmidt weighs. In all-mountain clothes, it does add 172g but in freeride form it adds only 11g.

Sure, comparing the HammerSchmidt directly to a single speed crank is not a fair comparison. However, comparing the system to what it is intended to replace, I don't seen how it can't be a huge benefit. And being that is is designed for hardcore off-road use, comparing it to a Schlumpf isn't really a fair comparison. Besides, I don't think Schlumpf can survive this.

And as a commuter item (once SRAM/Truvativ slims it down for commuter use because no one's going to huck off the train platform), I'm sure it will make a lot of sense for that application too. But this is all speculation because I have no idea if that is even on their project board (it should be, though - I know you're listening Bos). For the commuter types who say it's too heavy, well, again, compare it's weight (and for grins, let's say they trim it down to 1400g) to a triple crank, bottom bracket, front derailleur, about 20 links of chain...the weight difference becomes much less of a factor and may even end up being a weight savings in some cases. Additionally, no one really complains that a dynamo hub weighs so much more than a traditional front hub. It serves its purpose and the weight penalty is accepted.

(What's playing: Fresh Air podcast)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reaching beyond gravity inspired riding...

For quite a while, Truvativ teased the bike industry with HammerSchmidt (some interesting video commentary here - nice haircut, Bos). Caused lots of speculation. The most widely held opinion of what it would be was a gearbox for gravity type bikes. Close. Gearbox with two gears. Cyclingnews.com had a nice piece on it this morning. Since I am in no way a freeride or downhill rider, my mind doesn't quite look at this piece in the same way as the target customer. My first thought was, wow, that would be kind of neat on a single-speed bike. But then, it wouldn't be a single-speed bike, it'd be a two-speed bike. However, by incorporating it into a single-speed mountain bike, you could set it up to give yourself a bail-out gear for climbing steeps or to drag your sorry butt off the mountain when you have no more. Now, this gets into a whole different can 'o worms as to what is a "single-speed" mountain bike. At this point, my definition would lean more to a derailer-less mountain bike.

It would also be a neat set-up on a derailer-less commuter/urban transporter/cargo hauler bike. Pair this with an internal 3, 7, 8, 9-speed hub and you've just doubled your gears and give yourself the ability to possibly make that 3-speed more friendly for hilly terrain. Pair it with a Rohloff Speedhub and you've got 28 gears with almost infinite potential for getting up and down any thing.

I actually see SRAM moving more in this direction in the next couple of years by pairing the technology with their i-Motion internal hubs. I'm sure there is way more potential with bikes that employ internally geared hubs than with bikes that you can only drop off the face of mountains. Lots more places to ride in the urban jungle than freeride parks. I'm excited by this new development of SRAM's and what its potential is.

(What's playing: She & Him You Really Got a Hold On Me)

Another good read...

Cycloculture's interview with Grant Petersen.

(What's playing: KWMR West Marin community radio)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tag, you're it...

Dammit. I've seen this round of tag go through several of the blogs I catch. It was interesting to see it make the rounds from one to the next. I thought I lived in a sort of anonymity-ville, but I guess not. Thanks to Marty over to The Prairie Peddler, I've been tagged so I'll play. On to the questions.

If you could have any one - and only one - bike in the world, what would it be?
Ya know, I really don't have a favorite anything - movie, song, food, bike... If someone told me they would buy me any bike in the world, and I had to pick one, I would probably have a titanium Steve Potts frame built around a 700x45 tire, and that would perhaps also be able to squeeze in a 2.1 nanoraptor. Maybe it also have some custom Ritchey Break-Away connectors if I was to ever travel... It would have a tallish head tube for the drop bars I would run.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you're not working toward getting it, why not?
No, but I've got a steel version of it. I'm having trouble finding someone who would buy it for me.

If you had to choose one - and only one - bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
A little dirt, a little pavement, trees, a climb in the dirt, a descent in the dirt, a climb on the road, a descent on the road, a view, some flora, some fauna, some shade, some open sun, a good place to stop and have a peanut butter sandwich, and all that I can ride right from my door. Oh wow, I just described this ride.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride for the rest of his/her life?
Yeah, sicko!

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrow minded?
Yes. Yes. Ya know, you can ride a road bike in the dirt and a mountain bike on the road.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent?
Yes, on a test ride after repairing one. Didn't do much for me.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?
Isn't that that thing where a person's got to swim, bike, and run? Uh, no.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream of bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up and why?
When there's pie and cookies, who needs ice cream.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.
Dog or cat? Dog.

I'm also supposed to tag other folks, butcha know what, I don't know any others. The few that I do know have already played this little game so this thread is dead. Besides, I'm anything but superstitious. Superstition ain't the way.

(What's playing: Stevie Wonder Superstition - couldn't help but find that song on the ole iPod. What a fantastic album too!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Focus and the bike industry...

I probably really should be finishing up the Fox fork rebuild and disc brake piston replacement, but this'll only take a few minutes.

I read two pieces this morning that prompted this impromptu diatribe on focus in the bike industry. The first one was a bit about the Trek dealer launch of their ’09 bikes. In it, they announced the launching of a line of road bikes under their Gary Fisher brand. Wow, does that ever seem like an ill-conceived notion. Gary Fisher, one of the founders of the mountain bike, is not a wise choice for a brand of road bikes. Trek must really be reaching for straws in the absence of the Lemond road line. “We think it makes sense,” said Joe V., Trek’s head of product development. “We think it makes sense.” Think and know are very different statements. Thinking something will work is not very confidence inspiring. I think I can fly. Trek needs to maintain the Gary Fisher brand as a mountain bike line – and they should more specifically focus it further into 29” wheel mountain bikes. Twenty-nine inch wheeled mountain bikes is what comes to mind when Gary Fisher is mentioned.

Going one step further, I saw an ad for a new road shoe in the recent VeloNews. Seems Trek is further losing focus of the Bontrager range of bike parts and moving into shoes. I can’t imagine that’s going to be good long-term. Just because Specialized has shoes doesn’t mean that Trek has to follow in Specialized’s, uh, shoes. At least Specialized is focused on maintaining their core brand name.

The second one was a bit from Masi where they are introducing a model for the Japan market. The style of bike is what is called the “Mini-Velo.” Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Masi used to be a brand steeped in racing. Not so any more. It seems they’ll chase any market to get sales. I just hope Faliero Masi’s signature is removed from the artwork of these two-wheeled, uh, bikes. In fact, the signature should be removed from all non-road race bikes. What’s next? Masi shoes? If Trek needs a road brand bad enough that they put Gary Fisher on the down tube, maybe they need to consider purchasing Masi? After all there's already a connection: Dave Tesch worked for both companies.

There are a lot of companies in the bike industry who could benefit from a bit of self-reflection and a refocusing of their efforts. As any company begins to grow, the temptation to grab all the sales they can get is just too much of a temptation. It works in the short-term, but not in the long-term. Resisting the urge to dabble in a market or segment you are unfamiliar with will only result in strengthening your brand and its market awareness. Do what you know and do it well.

One company who did make a major change recently, and one which I believe was the right one for this company is Iron Horse. Recently, Iron Horse announced they would pull out of the IBD (Independent Bicycle Dealer) and sell only through big box stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods, The Sports Authority, LL Bean, Wal-Mart, REI (REI should stay away from this brand if it’s going to be in these other stores) and Performance. What this move by Iron Horse says is, “we know it’s super difficult to compete in a market dominated by Trek, Specialized, and Giant. So, we will acknowledge that fact and position Iron Horse in the big-box channel. This way we won’t have to discount all the end-of-the-year models, pay reps to sell bikes through the IBD and effectively eliminate that headache of trying to get floor space among all those Treks.” Smart move on their part. Why fight it?

However, Iron Horse should have also gone a step further and eliminated their high-end bikes totally instead of selling them through Iron Horse’s parent company’s CEO's son’s mail-order bike company (is it okay to have that many possessive nouns in a row?). Who wants to buy a brand of bike for thousands of dollars when the same brand is available down at the local Toys ‘R Us? They could save untold amounts of money eliminating their team and racing expenses. Iron Horse also announced they were going to license Ellsworth’s “Instant Center Tracking” design. Ellsworth must be needing that cash flow because I can’t see having Iron Horse – a brand that will be in Wal Mart – as a licensee will reflect well back on Ellsworth. It's a partnership that makes no sense at all.

Okay, back to the fork and brake. I hate DOT fluid...

(What's playing: The Traveling Wilburys Congratulations)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When less is more...

A long time ago, I learned that brake spring tension should be just enough so the arms return to open. The feel at the brake lever should be snappy, but not tight. Squeezing a brake lever shouldn't be like squeezing one of those spring loaded hand grippy things that all high school kids used to have. Squeezing that thing gets tiring after a while. Squeezing a brake lever with high spring tension does the same thing after a long ride. "Boy, that downhill sure pumped my arms." No, the high spring tension pumped your arms.

While this doesn't apply to hydraulic disc brakes, it certain does to a lot of the brakes I've been working on recently. I've had lots of v-brakes with the spring tension cranked all the way down and several rollercams with super high spring tension too. Backing off on spring tension produces a brake that instantly feels better. It's so easy to reduce the spring tension that I almost feel guilty about charging labor for this type of brake adjustment - almost.

On the flip-side of less is more, sometimes more is more...better. I've also had several bikes in for tune-ups this week that have, well, weak feeling v-brakes. Everything seems right. Spring tension is good. The cable goes through the housing fairly friction-free. But the brakes feel like poo when squeezing the lever. In a case like this, the first thing I do is check the orientation of the spacers on the brake pads. If the thin spacer is on the inside and the top of the arms are getting close to touching, chances are the arms are over-rotating. A v-brake gets its power as the arms close and become parallel. If the arms close to much with the tops closer than the bottom - icky feeling and lost power. This bike came in with not much brake pad left and the thin washer on the inside. New pads and correct pad orientation and it's like a brand new brake.

The bike above probably has the arms a little too wide at the top, but it's better than too narrow. In this bike's case the reason why the tops are a wee bit wide is because it has "S" bend seat stays. The brake boss is positioned at the narrowest part of the seat stay and the spacing between the bosses is just a little bit too narrow. Sure "S" bend stays look cool, but they tend to position the bosses a little on the narrow side. Exact spacing is also a function of rim width, but most frame designers probably just ball-park the dimension (I do) so brakes will work with a variety of rim widths (hooray for disc brakes !?!).

Anywhoo....lighten up on the spring tension!

(What's playing: The Blasters Border Radio)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Uh, thanks for that clarification...

Do sportswriters actually think the people who read their columns are idiots? As I was perusing Olympics coverage on CNN/SportsIllustrated, I came across this piece of brilliance by a reporter who says he normally covers track and field, but, by his tone, must have drawn the short straw to cover cycling, swimming, and horseback riding. As he attempts to explain those events in terms of what he knows (track and field), he writes that "cycling is track on bikes," "swimming is track in the water," and "horse racing (track on horseback)." I appreciate him putting those events in terms of track and field. I feel much better having this piece of information tucked away as I watch some of the swimming events.

Do sportswriters really think they can write about things they don't know anything about? Do they think they can fool readers? That'd be like me writing for an astronomy publication just because I know those little white dots in the night sky are called stars (track in space). With just a little information, anyone can be an expert (in their own mind) in today's internet age.

(What's playing: Tom Waits Glitter and Doom concert podcast from All Songs Considered - 2 hours and 12 minutes of a great concert.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Welp, it's going home...

Was lucky enough to have this hanging around the shop for a few weeks. Now it sits packed up in a bike box waiting for UPS to pick it up and bring it to its new home in the concrete jungle. It was pretty neat seeing people who recognized it and appreciated it. Most recently was yesterday when a couple from Sacramento came in and in a series of unfinished sentences got to see a Cunningham in the naked flesh (the bike, not the couple...).

"Is that..."
"Yep"
"Wow, I've never..."

And finally, one for JimG and my monster blueberry breakfast scone from, yep, The Bovine Bakery. Oh, yeah, it was good!
And finally a preview of an upcoming "What's in the stand" post... Yep, there's three of them.

(What's playing: The English Beat Jackpot)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Reason #1 why you need to gease your seatpost...

I picked up this old Merlin bike recently. Full complement of WTB Grease Guard bits (hubs, headset, rollercams, bottom bracket) and size XL made the decision pretty easy. Not often in find such a rare bike and even rarer parts in my size. After I cleaned it up a bit, I went to raise the seat to my position and ... nope, post wouldn't budge. Put a junk seat on the post, smacked the nose with a hammer to see if it would turn. Nope, it was firmly ensconced in the seat tube. Galvanic corrosion of two dissimilar materials (aluminum and titanium in this case) had made the post and frame one. What to do?

There are a lot of "remedies" to unstick stuck seat posts available on the net. Bike upside down, coke in the seat tube is supposed to eat away at the corrosion and free the seat post. Somehow, I'm not sure if something that is supposedly safe to consume will eat away at the corrosion between two materials.

Pretty much the only reliable source of methods to unstick a stuck seat post comes from Sheldon Brown (WWSD - What Would Sheldon Do). I actually didn't read Sheldon's "15 Ways to Unstick a Seat Post" until just now, but had to chuckle because reading down the list, they were the exact methods I used in pretty much the same order.

Method: Remove seat binder completely.
Result: Seat binder removed.

Method: Slightly pry ears apart and try to twist post.
Result: Hurt my shoulder.

Method: Drip penetrating oil down slot. I had high hopes for this one because I got the bike to sit in the stand with the slot facing 12:00 and the oil was seeping into the seat tube between the post and frame a little at a time.
Result: Sheldon was right, penetrating oil is useless on aluminum corrosion.

Method: Drip ammonia into frame between seat post and seat tube. Sheldon says this method works like "magic".
Result: Didn't have ammonia so didn't try. The seat post is also an IRD and the top of the post is not liquid-tight so any liquid would have just leaked out. Would have liked to see "magic" work, though.

Method: Heat seat tube area.
Result: Using a propane torch, I heated the seat tube area slowly and evenly. At first, the penetration oil started burning off and then there was some creaking which I assume was the titanium expanding from the aluminum post essentially freeing itself from the grasp of the corrosion. I also blasted a 16g CO2 cartridge at the seat post (actually 4 of them). As the CO2 cartridge is expended at the post, the air coming out is really cold. The idea here as the heat expanded the material, the CO2 contracts it. Post procedure, I see on Sheldon's website that this procedure is useless on aluminum posts stuck in titanium frames becasue aluminum expands at as much as 2.5 times the rate of titanium effectively making the aluminum post even tighter in the frame. Maybe, but after shooting off 4 cartridges, and smacking the nose of the seat with a hammer, the post moved! After it moved I wondered if it was actually the top of the seat post (which is bonded/pressed into the shaft on an IRD post) was twisting in the shaft. I used a Sharpie to make a line across both parts to see if I'd broken the post. Nope, the whole seat post was turning! A few more whacks and I was then able to use my hands and twist the post out. Finally!

I'm not sure if it was the heat, the cold, or the combination that eventually freed the post, but at this point, it's out and that's all that matters. Probably should have tried just the cold first, but I really wanted to fire up the torch.

Method: Cut the seat post about an inch above the seat tube (Sheldon says 1/2", but I like to have a bit more post exposed to grab after the next step), and then using just the blade, cut into the inside of the post length-wise making a slot in the post.
Result: With the slot cut in the seat post, you can effectively collaps the seat post to a smaller diameter and pull it out. I know this one works because I've had to do it on on a few bikes. It's a pain and takes a while, but it's the last resort. I really wanted to avoid this method on this bike, not because I wanted to save the vintage IRD seat post, but because there was well over half of a 350mm seat post down in the frame - that's a lot of seat post to cut with a hack saw blade held in your hand.

The tools of the job and the end reslut.


Nope, the top didn't turn.


The corrosion was so bad on the post, that there are some pretty good "holes" in the post.


(What's playing: Colin Linden Spirit of the Golden Tone on KPIG)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Supersize me...

Big is in. First VeloNews had a review of big, cushy sew-ups just after Paris-Roubaix. Now, in the issue I just got today (I wrote this a while back…), Greg Bagni, marketing guru, was asked “What’s the coolest product you’ve seen recently?” His initial reply was the CrankBros. wheels. When asked if there was anything else, he replied “any tire wider than a 25." All right! Now there’s someone who’s been hipped to the joys of real rubber meeting the road.

And in the June 16 issue of VeloNews, there is a letter to the editor from Grant Peterson of Rivendell, who responded to the review of fat tires I mentioned up in the first paragraph. He mentioned that most race bikes use an axle to brake hole distance of 354mm and that 359mm would still enable the use of short reach brake calipers but would greatly enhance a race bike’s ability to accept fatter tires. Interesting that most readers of VeloNews are probably riding bikes that can’t accept the tires they are reviewing. Also sad that the 27mm Conti Competition tubular isn’t available (although a 25 is and a 27 Challenge Parigi-Roubaix is now available in the States).

My main ride is my cross bike. I’ve got 38c tries on it. On the road, it’s a wonderful feel. It feels like the bike’s floating (edit: I usually run these tires at about 55-60psi for combo rides). That 38c cushion is an incredible ride. I think the proliferous use of 700x23 tires on road bikes sold today is probably the biggest disservice that can be done to new road riders. That and the mindset that 23c tires should be inflated to 120psi and up. Why do riders want to make the ride of their bike so harsh?

I attended a seminar for Look back in the early 90’s. Bernard Hinault was a guest and answered questions at the end of the meeting. One of the questions asked was “how much air pressure do you run in your tires?” His answer, and I can remember this like it was yesterday, was “seven bar – no more, no less.” That’s 100psi. Since then, I haven’t run more than 100psi in my road tires and sometimes drop it to 95 when I feel like having a little extra comfort. And when I run 25 or 28’s, I run them between 90-95 all the time.

Not only was the Greg Bagni quote in the May 19 issue of VeloNews, but today (like I said, I wrote this a while back…) on bikeradar.com , Andy Hampsten’s favorite bike is shown shod with 33c Rivendell tires. Now if there’s someone who knows about riding on paved and dirt roads, it’s Hampsten.

I think all this recent talk about 25+ tires is too much to ignore. So, anyone out there still riding on 23’s, well, it’s time to start laying down rubber with some sweet skids and wear those skinnies out to justify the purchase of some nice fat 28’s. If you just can’t quite bring yourself to go all the way from 23 to 28 tires, take baby steps and set yourself up with 25’s.

The fatter tires aren’t only about riding comfort, but they will also increase rider confidence on the road. With the fatter tire comes more air volume in the tire and, therefore, better pinch flat protection, better ability to mow through road debris (they’ll still suffer the same fate if you roll through glass and other sharp objects), and they’ll make you a better rider.

Why will they make you a better rider? On descents the increased tire contact with the road will give you better road gripping through the corners. They’ll be less skittish rolling through that inevitable gravel patch on the side of the road. And you’ll also be able to maintain a better line as you won’t have to be swerving all over the road to avoid stones, potholes, and road inconsistencies. Motor vehicle drivers will also appreciate your newfound ability to hold your line.

When you first hop on your bike with your upgraded from 23c to 28c tires, they’ll feel pretty fat down there wrapped around your rims. A couple rides later and when you see 23’s on a bike, you’ll think, “wow, those are some dang skinny tires!” And once you get out on the road and experience the silky, smooth ride of those new 28’s, you won’t be going back.

All that being said, I actually have seen more roadie bikes recently with 25c tires and I have been selling more 25c tires recently.

(What's playing: Jethro Tull Aqualung)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trust me, I'm a bike mechanic...

This was a saying we were fond of using in many situations back in the '80s. It has roots in Jeff Spicoli's famous line, "My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it," after he totals a car. We used it in many cases that had nothing to do with being a bike mechanic. "Are you sure you know how to put the washing machine back together so it runs?" "Trust me, I'm a bike mechanic."

There are times when that line just can't be used. And some times, it actually involves being a bike mechanic and diagnosing and fixing a problem with a bike. The annual Marin Century (double century and Mt. Tam Century) was this past weekend. I had a guy come in saying "I hope you can fix my bike because my century is just about ruined." His symptoms were that his chain was dragging and dropping on top as he was coasting with the chain in one of the smaller cogs. Wheelset: Mavic Kysyrium. I would imagine that any mechanic worth his/her salt would see this and immediately know that the freehub body was running dry or the grease was severely gummed up.

However, what you would expect and what you would get are, sometimes, two different things. In this guys case, three different mechanics who were supporting the ride told him three different things. One told him he needed another spacer behind his cogset (10 speed Dura Ace) and installed one. Another told him he had too many spacers and removed one. The third told him he needed to drip some lube at the spot where the cassette body meets the hubshell. This guy was closest, but dripping lube around the tiny gap isn't going to get the lube where it's needed - inside the cassette body and around the Igus bushing.

As the rider is explaining all this to me, he keeps telling me that one of the mechanics is licensed. Now, I'm not quite sure what that means because I'm licensed too. Licensed to operate a 4-wheeled vehicle on the roads of our country and some other countries as well. But he explained that this guy was a licensed mechanic with "S-Ram." Went to school and everything. Wow, that's impressive. What the "mechanic" doesn't know or can't figure out is that there should be just enough spacers behind the freehub body so that the 1st position cog sits just to the outside of the edge of the cassette body so when the lockring is tightened, it tightens against the cog and not the cassette body. If it takes one spacer, it takes one spacer. If it needs two spacers, then it needs two spacers. Nor did he know that Mavic wheelsets need to have the freehub body removed, cleaned and lubed periodically.

So, I tell him I can fix his bike and, in 15 minutes, I'll have him back on the road so he can continue his century ride. Pull the cassette body, clean it, drip some Phil oil on the pawls, around the bushing - just a nice coating of oil. Put it back together (loosening the preload on his left bearing because it is way too tight and it's difficult to turn the axle by hand), use two 1mm spacers behind his cassette, tighten lock-ring, install wheel, make sure limit screws are correctly adjusted (they weren't), run it through the gears, freewheels just fine, check over rest of bike (front brake pads were worn way past the wear lines so a new set of D/A pad inserts goes on), and like I told him 15 minutes later, he's back on the road to finish his century.

He was pretty amazed that I could fix his bike - some middle-aged guy in a back country bike shop did what the licensed mechanic couldn't. He still wasn't quite sure it would work so I told him to ride around the block, coast down the hill and if it worked, keep going. If it didn't come on back. I never saw him again.

I'm not sure what they teach in bike schools or what it takes to get a license, but it doesn't seem to be working (at least in this case). Don't get me wrong, I think folks can take away a lot of good information from mechanic's schools, especially in the arena of suspension fork rebuilding and hydraulic brake maintenance and repair. However, I think some of the pupils come away with a pretty rigid mind-set with regards to bike repair. Sometimes you have to think for your self and think outside the box. That's not a class you can take. Trust me, I'm a bike mechanic and I learned from the best, Chuck Hoefer at Pacific Coast Cycles.

(What's playing: John Prine and Iris Demet (We're Not) The Jet Set)