Monday, January 23, 2012

Fat, we gotcher fat right here...

NAHBS is right around the corner. Frame builders are busy getting preparing their show pieces. Last year, some of the most popular bikes were road bikes designed to accommodate large tires. In fact, three of the big winners were 700c road type bikes that were fitted with fat road tires and fenders. Best in Show was a DiNucci roadster. Best Road Frame was by Ellis Cycles and featured fat road tires with fenders. President's Choice Award was won by Anderson Custom Bicycles for his, yep, you guessed it, road bike with fat tires and fenders.

What's the point of all this? All these bikes feature 700c wheels, fenders, and fat road tires. It's been said that this show is being attended and noted by all the major bike companies and the bikes that are being presented at the show are indicative of what the major bike companies will be developing in the next few years. If last year's show is any indication, the majors will be coming out soon with road bikes that will easily swallow 28s and up to mid-30mm tires along with fenders. Haven't really seen them yet, but you will.

Recently, there was an article in Bicycle Retailer & Industry News about gravel riders going "the distances on triple cranks, fat road tires." In it representatives of a couple of tire companies, Clement and Continental, comment that they are getting requests for tires in larger sizes and are wondering what frames are out there that fit these large tires.

Tire companies are really driven by the OEM specification. Tire companies are hesitant to open expensive tire molds at the behest of a handful of small folks asking for larger versions of smaller currently available tires or small versions of larger currently available tires. On the dirt side, there is a big void, in my world, in the 35-45 size. I would personally love to see a WTB Nanoraptor tread on a 700 x 40-45 size tire. Conversely, I would love to see a Continental 4-Season in a 700 x 32.

And I have the perfect bikes in mind for these tires available right now. The Black Mountain Cycles cross frame with a 700 x 40/45 Nanoraptor would just be the absolute perfect off-road machine. The Black Mountain Cycles road frame shod with a Continental 4-Season 700x32 would be ideal for mixed terrain riding here in Marin or any area with buff dirt roads.

You don't have to wait for these machines. You can get them now. You might have to wait for more tires. However, there are still a pretty good selection of tires available now. Here's a list of some.

Fat Road Tires
Any 28 - I like Continental 4-Season and Clement Strada LLG. The Panaracer Pasela is also a good option. It is available in 28 and 32 that would fit my road frame. The Challenge Parigi-Roubaix 27 is also a great riding tire. The actual measurements of this tire on some wider road clincher rims is getting close to 30mm.

Fat Cross Tires
Kenda Happy Medium 40 is a great tire for hardpack dirt. The Panaracer FireCross 45 is an ideal dirt tire (a little slow on the pavement, but completely at home in the dirt). There are a bunch of tires labeled as 29" x 1.9 that fit my cross frame too. The Kenda Karma is one. There's also a few Bontrager and Specialized tires available.

Folks will point out that there are a lot of tires in the 700 x 32 to 42 range that are currently available. However, most of those are touring tires that feature heavy, stiff casings with road deadening belts. These tires are great for areas with sharp rock, heavy road debris, or for an application where you want the ultimate in flat protection. Those tires for most places, including here in Marin, are overkill and lend to a harsh ride.

So, I am looking forward to 2012 and seeing more availability of fat road and fat cross tires with high thread count, supple casings and proper tread designs. I'm tired of finding what promises to be a proper tire only to find it's just another heavy hybrid tire. What say you, tire manufacturers? But first, the big bike companies need to ask for these tires so tire makers can justify production.

You can be ahead of the curve by picking up a Black Mountain Cycles road or cross frame. Get one now and be the envy of your riding buddies when they realize how much fun these bikes are.

bmc 001

bmc-cross 008

Here's some dirt road riding inspiration from Caletti Cycles, Steel Wul, and Peter Johnson (in the blue Bianchi jersey).

Seems the embed feature isn't working well, but click on the "Big Basin Jan 2012" link for the super cool video.

Big Basin Jan 2012 from John Caletti / Caletti Cycles on Vimeo.

(What's playing: KWRM The Kitchen Sink)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Merlin titanium mountain bike frame for sale...

Next. Merlin mountain bike frame of unknown vintage. The on-line Merlin serial number lists are unclear on this, but this is likely an 89/90 frame. Here's some basic information on the frame:
Serial number: 1812
Head tube length: 6.5"
Seat tube: 19" center to center, 20.5" center to top and a 27.2 seat post will fit
Top tube: 23" center to center
The frame is designed for a 1" steerer tube fork and probably rigid. At the time, this frame likely would have come with a Ritchey Logic fork.
The bottom bracket is a non-grease guard style and appears to have new bearings. The axle is roughly 120mm.
Overall condition is pretty good. The decals have pretty much worn off the frame. There is some evidence of chain suck, but no bad gouges. Normal wear and tear. The pictures posted show the condition pretty clearly. This frame is sold as-is with no returns. Please ask questions if you have them or click on the photos for larger resolution pictures with more detail.

Price is $650 + shipping and any applicable sales tax.

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(What's playing: Mumford & Sons Little Lion Man)

WTB Phoenix frame for sale...

(Note:  frame has been sold)

I've got a couple of sweet vintage frames for sale. The first one up is a 1993 WTB Phoenix. The Basic specs are:
Serial number: 93167
Frame size: 15"
Top tube: 22.75" effective
Head tube length is 5.25" and is for 1" rigid fork (no suspension forks on this one)
Rear brake is set for canti or v-brakes. However, there is no guide or stop for a centerpull canti brake. In its as-is current form, cable routing is for a v-brake. It may be possible to hang a cable stop off the seat binder to use a canti brake.
Seat post: 31.8
Front derailleur clamp size: 34.9
Ideal rider inseam is 30" - 34"
Condition: it's a rider, not a show bike. It has its share of paint chips and a small dent in the right chainstay. The pictures posted show the condition pretty clearly. If you have any questions, ask. Otherwise, this is sold as-is with no returns. Click on any of the photos to go to a full size shot if you want to see any of the details up close.

Price is $750 + shipping and any applicable sales tax.

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(What's playing: The Wood Brothers Blue and Green)

Monday, January 16, 2012

What is the best...

Being a bike shop in a tourist (reference is to "tourists," not cyclo-tourists, although both are prevalent) town, I get a lot of folks strolling through the shop who may or may not be cyclists. Sometimes, a guy will walk in proclaiming "I never miss a bike shop," take a cursory glance around, then walk right back out. I always wonder if and how my shop didn't meet their level of bike shopedness (I just made that word up, you can use it if you want).

Sometimes someone strolls in and says they are looking for a new bike and want my advice. Now at that statement's face value, that sounds like a good thing for me. What they are really want to know is should they buy the T brand, S brand, or C brand carbon road bike or something else I just don't carry or have access to. However, when I answer that I can't answer that question, they are confused.

My answer to these types of questions is always the same whether the person is looking for a high-end carbon road bike or an economical hybrid bike: find a bike shop you enjoy going into and one where you are comfortable with the staff. There really is very little difference in the various brand's bikes given a certain price and parts spec. Oh, and I tell them to pick a bike based on the color they like the best. No one wants to ride a bike they don't like because the color is going to look ugly in a couple months.

The other question I get frequently is "what's the best bike?" I'm actually baffled by these types of questions because I don't work well with absolutes. I don't have one favorite band or actor or food or ... You get the idea. Heck, I don't even think my frames are necessarily the best. Pretty darn good, yes. But not the best. There's lots of great frames out there, steel or other material.

There is no "best." What there is, are several darn good choices for a given situation . And it's really the sum of the parts that make the best choice for a given application. The best rim? No such thing. What there is is the best wheel (rim, spokes, nipples, hub, rim strip, tire, tube) for a given rider based on their need and intended use. There is never one best. Heck, there are simply too many great options out there in every aspect of life for there to be one best.

However, I did have the best ride yesterday. Paved road, dirt road, cow trail, steep climb, rippin' descents, and one lone coyote. However, I think my next ride has all the potential to be the best ride too.

Pierce Point
Pierce Point Ranch

Pierce Point
Pierce Point Ranch

Sr. Coyote
Coyote on the ridge

L Ranch Rd
L Ranch Road

20 MPH
20 mph - maybe a bit faster

(What's playing: The Pretenders Up The Neck)

Friday, January 13, 2012

A whole lot of Marin for Friday Pt. 2...

Part 2 is something a little older. This Cunningham Racer is slated to make an appearance at an upcoming exhibit at San Francisco International Airport's International Terminal in March. It's a great example of some of Charlie's best work. The Racer model with the optional oversized seat post and sloping top tube was so far ahead of its time. It's still a wildly popular bike and still will carve trails like no one's business today.

Full photo set available here.

Cunningham 9

Cunningham 8
"New" hubs made with NOS Hi-E flanges, built into Saturae X22 rims.

Cunningham 10
Specialized cranks were known for cracks that would develop between the arm and the spider. This crankarm has been worked by Charlie to eliminate the development of the crack.

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Cunningham "gooseneck" stem. The term LD would apply to stems of the same shape coming out of Ibis Cycles.

Cunningham 5
Press-fit bearing from the '80s. Today's new fangled press fit bottom bracket systems can trace their routes back to innovators like Charlie Cunningham and others. Notice also the mud-guard for the rear brake linkage.

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Vintage Shimano 600 brake lever with custom reach adjust tab.

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Front brake with steering limiter.

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Rear derailleur with helper spring to keep the upper jockey wheel away from the cogs when in the larger cogs.

(What's playing: Gram Parsons Ooh Las Vegas)


A whole lot of Marin for Friday Pt. 1...

Might as well get this one over will so y'all have something to do over the weekend. Here are two bikes that came through the shop in the past week. Both were here for small miscellaneous things so I wouldn't necessarily classify them as "repairs" and I'll explain my reason for noting this later. Regardless, they are both remarkable bikes in their own way and remarkable just for the sheer nature of what they represent. Neither bike is one that anyone can just go out and buy. There are things about them and the builders that make them more exclusive that any hi-tech machine raced in the Tour de France. Custom through and through.

First up is a Steve Potts 29"er. The frame was purpose built so it could be handed over to Charlie Cunningham for the coup de grace: the installation of the most recent evolutionary iteration of the roller-cam brake, the lever-link brake. It's a fantastic piece of design and machining, literally made one at a time. The modulation and braking power is unrivaled. Disc brakes have nothing on this in terms of its modulation. The bike really is a total package that was built with as a whole and not simply a frame with various parts bolted on. It's truly an exercise in building a whole bike.

Here's a few select photos. The rest can be seen here on my flickr page.

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Potts 29er 9

(What's playing: The Clash Train In Vain)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What's in the stand...

This Bruce Gordon BLT was recently finished for a rider in Santa Rosa. There really is nothing remarkable about this bike and that is what makes it a very nice bike that will give its owner many, many miles of great riding experiences. All the parts on the bike were chosen for their usefulness and to give the rider the trouble-free riding experience that he wants. He came back from his first short test ride and smiled and said it's wonderful. Smooth, comfortable, stable, but it also has some spirit in its handling.

BLT

BLT Rear Rack/Brake
Rear rack attachment points and Paul Touring canti brake.

BLT Front Rack
Front rack attachment points and Paul Touring canti brake.

BLT Rear Rack
The offset rear rack attachment is a nice attention to detail to set the rack side off a bit that also allows for the fender strut to have clearance.

BLT Fender Attachment
I made this (and one for the seatstay bridge) custom spacer for the rear fender so that it fits the profile of the tire with sufficient clearance.

BLT Pedals
The owner will continue to get many more miles with his set of Nuovo Record pedals and Binda Extra straps.

BLT controls
Paul Thumbie adapters still allow a NiteRider MiNewt 350 to be easily mounted to the handlebar.

Ride on!

(What's playing: KWMR Swimming Upstream)