Friday, June 28, 2013

Kinda figured this would happen...

I made a somewhat negative post about carbon water bottle cages and also posted pictures/specs of my cross bike with a carbon seat post last week.  And in doing so, I got called out for bagging on carbon, yet using it myself on my personal bike.  The first thing I want to do is say I have nothing against carbon fiber.  I actually think it is a great material.  It's light.*  It's durable.*  It doesn't really have a fatigue life.* And it makes a fine race bike.

The problem with it is most folks who buy carbon bikes or parts don't race and don't know how to keep their bike in proper working order.  However, that's not their problem because today if you go into the typical bike shop seeking to buy a nice higher-end ($2,000+) road bike, you will walk out with a carbon fiber bike.  Most shops can only sell what the companies' they buy from have to offer and well, that's carbon fiber.

Since I'm not most shops, the only frames I sell are steel.  There was no conscious effort on my part to shun carbon.  Besides the fact that my personal preference for frame material is steel, there's another reason why I don't sell other company's carbon frames - it's expensive!  I can't justify the cost to stock full size-runs of carbon bikes from company G, S, or T.  I'm actually blown away by how much inventory a shop needs to carry just to have a decent representation on the floor.  We're talking some shops with a half-million dollars in inventory just to be able to show off the whole range just so they can sell a $2,000 bike.  Crazy!

I think I've shown that a shop with a different focus can succeed outside the bike shop norm.  There are those days when someone comes in on a ride with a broken shift cable that needs fishing out and replacing and I heft their Parlee with Zipp wheels into the stand and my god that thing is light and I bet that is a rocket ship to ride.  It's got to be fun right?  I mean, it's like a Ferrari of a bike.  I'm not being sarcastic here.  But then after several hours of riding on bad roads with 23mm tires, I would be longing for my steel frame with 28mm or 30mm tires and the comfort that combination brings.  Or I would be trying to descend as fast as possible and realizing that that super-light machine's lack of mass is adversely affecting the ability to carve the descent down a pot hole strewn road.

But damn, that thing was light when I lifted it into the stand.  My back thanks you.  I've got nothing against carbon fiber.  I just don't like that it seems to be becoming the only option for the masses who want a nice bike.

Oh, and that Easton carbon seat post that's on my cross bike.  It was free to me about 7 or 8 years ago.  There's no crimps or cuts on it where it meets the seat clamp.  It makes no creaks.  While I have seen plenty of carbon seat posts break, this one is working great.  Until it breaks, but hopefully, I will have replaced it by then.  One can hope.  Everything breaks some time.  Even steel.

And I have only ever broken one carbon seat post.  I was working in a shop in Solana Beach.  I had some bike in the work stand.  Clamped by the seat post.  I needed the front wheel higher in the air, so I pulled up on the front wheel.  There was a crack and I was left holding the bike by the front wheel after the rest of the bike disengaged itself from the seat post.  The seat post had been damaged by over-tightening and it just took one little lift and *snap* that was that.  As I recall, the customer wasn't happy that I likely just saved his next ride from limping home with a broken seat post.  Oh well.  Maybe I need a Moots ti post...

My cross bike

*When designed/engineered, installed, maintained, used as intended, and operated in a tightly controlled testing environment.

(What's playing:  The Deep Dark Woods The Ballad of Frank Dupree)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

But it was working just fine...

But it was working just fine ... until it broke.  And why did it break?  Did you think it would last forever?  And, most important, why do you want to replace it with the same think knowing the first one broke at an inopportune moment?  

This review of a carbon water bottle cage sparked a memory of a guy who came by the shop on his ride to buy a replacement bottle cage because his broke mid-ride.  The review is really nothing more than a review and not a product test because it represents only one week of use.  Come back in one year with how it worked, then that's something.  

So, this guy comes in and asks for a bottle cage to replace his broken carbon fiber cage.  I show him the King Cage stainless ($18) and their titanium ($60).  He asks if I have carbon cages.  "No," I say.  He asks "why?"  I tell him "because they break."  Oh yeah.  He really wants the King titanium cage because at 29 grams it's in the weight range of carbon cages and is just rad.  But he's on a ride and only has a certain amount of cash with him so on goes the stainless cage and off he goes.  
 
A few weeks go by and he comes by again.  His other carbon cage broke in the exact same spot - small wonder!  He says that he now has his credit card with him and can he exchange the stainless cage for a titanium cage (+ the difference) and buy a second ti cage?   Of course!  Now he has two outstanding, made in the U.S.A. titanium King cages and does not have to think about them breaking on a ride.  And they are hand made by a great guy in Durango, CO.  Bonus.  

 Two broken carbon cages.  When the best just won't do.

King Cage ti and stainless cages.  When you want the best.
 
(What's playing:  E.L.O. Telephone Line)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Parts on my bike (a.k.a. In praise of the triple)...

I get asked occasionally about the parts I have on my cross bike.  I also have been meaning to write something praising the triple chainring crankset since it has seemed to fall out of favor in recent years.  You see, I like my triple crankset.  The triple also serves as something of a gauge for your fitness.  Everyone has certain climbs on your regular routes that you call middle-ring climbs.  These are climbs where you can stay in the middle ring and make the climb without resorting to the granny gear.  Then there are also hills that are a little bit steeper and when you can make it in the middle ring, you know you are on top of your fitness.  Doesn't matter what gear range you have in back - the middle ring is your wireless fitness meter.  

I do understand the appeal of simplifying the front gearing on your bike.  As the number of cogs in back has gone to 10 and 11 and their range has expanded up to 10-42, yes, the triple crankset's days are numbered.  However, I'm still running an 8-speed with a spread of 13-30.  An 8-speed cassette with a range from 10-42 would have way too big of jumps between gears.  For some people, the triple combined with the lowest range possible in back is still the only way to get the range (mainly low range) they need and it's getting harder to realistically get low gears for some riders at a reasonable price.  

All of this is mainly from my point of view of bikes that I ride and build.  The majority of those are not mountain bikes, but cross or road bikes.  So, yes, there are low gearing options up front for mountain bikes, but those cranks are not necessarily compatible with a cross bike when used with road shifters.  For one, the width of the pedals is overly wide.  The chainline is also too wide for a 130 spaced rear. 

So, for know, I'll keep my triple because it works and I like it.  Now, on to the parts on my cross bike.

My cross bike
My cross bike as it sits today.  Size 62cm.  First prototype of the my cross frames.  I think I've been riding this for 4 years now.

My cross bike
I run Paul Components Mini-Moto brakes.  Love these things.  The fender is a PDW Soda Pop mountain model with the nose cut off for clearance due to the brake.  I used to run a Planet Bike clip on fender, but after breaking two of their steel mounting brackets due to riding on dirt roads, I gave the PDW a try and have to say it works way better than the Planet Bike model.  I also run the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires.

My cross bike
I recently changed up the cockpit with new bar tape and new Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers.  This is by far the most comfortable control area I've had on the bike.  I really like the shape of the Salsa Bell Lap bars (46cm) on the bike.  The drop position is super comfortable and I can ride for very long stretches in the drops.  An old Salsa Cro-Moto stem holds the 26.0 bars.  The bar tape is PRO Digital Carbon Smart Silicon.  That's too long of a name for bar tape, but it has just the right cush and tacky feel when wet.  I used cloth tape for years, but this tape is one thing that helped keep me comfortable on last weeks 5 hour ride.  Shifters are Shimano 8-speed bar-cons (although, I think the left shifter is from a 9-speed set).  I installed the brake levers a few weeks ago and have to say the combination of bar shape, brake hood shape, and where they are positioned relative to the bend is supremely comfortable.  My only complaint is when I ride downhill and I have the levers pulled, but not so far that the brakes are "on," there is some rattle inside the levers.  I think it's the QR pins.  Easy to ignore.

My cross bike
Paul Mini-Moto brake in back with a Planet Bike clip-on fender modified to fit the brake.  Keeps the crud off my backside. 

My cross bike
My front wheel is an old Mavic SUP rim with a Shimano M900 XTR hub, 32h, from about 1995.  The rim is starting to wear to the point it will need replacing, which I'll do with a Velocity Dyad to match the back.

My cross bike
XTR M900 rear hub respaced to 130mm in back laced to a Velocity Dyad rim.  Some of the parts on this bike go back to my days at Haro when I would get parts comped to me either directly from the manufacturer or through our race team.  I think the hubs, front rim, headset, seat, seat post, and derailleurs are all from that era.

My cross bike
XTR M900 rear derailleur with an Avid Roll-A-Majig and that 8-speed Shimano 13-30 cassette.  This is one of the prototype frames which didn't have dropout adjusters.  Shimano quick release keeps the wheel from in place.  

My cross bike
There's that triple crankset.  In this case, it's a 1980s era Specialized Touring triple with 24/34/46 rings.  Yes, that is a Shimano 600 road double front derailleur moving that chain across 3 rings.  Works perfect.  It all rolls smoothly on a long-lasting Shimano UN51 bottom bracket.

My cross bike
WTB Shadow V seat with ti rails; Easton EC-70 carbon post with generous offset; trusty Jandd Mini Mtn Wedge bag holds two tubes, tire lever, Crank Bros. CB-17 tool, and now a patch kit.  The seat bag has an added toe strap to secure it.  There is also a Planet Bike Super Flash blinky light.

(What's playing:  Release Me on KWMR)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Closed June 14...

As the headline says, I'll be closed today Friday June 14.  Back in the shop tomorrow.  Have a fun Friday.  Ride lots.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ride post...

It's been a long time since I did a ride post.  In fact, it was almost a year ago when I last did a ride blog and that ride was a big one too.  Over the past three weeks, I've been getting out on Sundays for some long rides.  The previous two Sundays were 5 hour bouts on the road bike with some Mt. Tam dirt thrown in.  This last Sunday was a 5 1/2 hour endurance ride on the cross bike.  

The previous two days, the temps were in the 70s in Pt. Reyes Station, which meant at least 10 degrees warmer further inland and maybe hotter where I wanted to ride.  Instead of my usual starting out with arm warmers, knee warmers, and a vest on chilly West Marin mornings, I left the house with only arm warmers, thinking that I would soon be stashing the warmers and vest in my jersey pockets and I reserved more room in my pockets for a 3rd water bottle and extra food.  However, the heavy drizzle meant that my arm warmers stayed on all day and there were times I was wishing for the knee warmers and vest, but the clothing choice worked out, just worked out.

The loop I undertook was one that I had wanted to do for a long time, but every time I set about tackling it, there was either not enough time, or the higher summer temps thwarted my desire.  I left Pt. Reyes Station heading south on Hwy. 1.  As I hit the first riser south of Olema, I saw a blinky light on a bike disappear over the crest and thought "could I catch that rider by the time I got to the Randall Trail turn off without burning up too many matches?" - it was going to be a long ride.  I didn't put too much effort, okay, I put a bit of an effort into catching the rider, which I did within 100 yards of where I was turning off on to the Randall Trail.  Turns out it was the shop landlord and owner of the old Pt. Reyes Bikes.  As I pulled along side, the first thing I noticed was the Potts titanium bike and I wonder who this rider is.  It is about the bike, you see.

After a quick chat, I turned off on to the dirt and up Randall Trail.  Randall is a good way to get up to Bolinas Ridge that avoids the rutted north section of Bolinas Ridge.  It also immediately goes into the trees where everything quiets down.  Up on Bolinas Ridge, the redwoods were pulling moisture out of the fog which then turns to rain inside the canopy.  The trail was super soaked as if it was a winter rain storm.  There are a couple sections of Bolinas Ridge that pop out from the canopy that are dry, but the majority of it is in the rain forest and it was wet and soggy.  

The roller coaster that is Bolinas Ridge ends at the top of the Bolinas-Fairfax Rd.  My route took me down Bo-Fax to Alpine Dam and the start of more dirt on the Kent Pump fire road.  From there, I took Old Vee Rd. up to Oat Hill fire road, and then to Pine Mountain fire road.  Up and over Pine Mountain and down to Kent Lake and...whoa, hold on there mister, not so fast.  Down off of Pine Mountain, at about the point furthest away from civilization (which really isn't that far), I hit something in the trail hard.  Hard enough to eject a full 26 oz. water bottle out of a King Cage.  As I stopped to retrieve the bottle, I saw that the top of the bottle had broken and I lost about 3/4 of it.  

What do you do if you have a bottle that will no longer hold water without spilling?  Drink up.  As I was finishing that bottle, I hear the air in my front tire go "WHOOSH!"  Damn, pinch flat.  Oh well, I did feel the tire bottom out.  There was a point early in the ride when I though that I should let some air out because I left the house with about 15% more air that I would run on a typical off-road ride.  Looking at the deflated front tire and contemplating replacing the tube, the back tire decided to let go with a slower "whoosh."  More like a "ssssssssssssss."  Damn.  Double pinch flat.  I hope I have two tubes in my seat pack (which I hadn't checked in a long time.  Yes, two tubes, but no patch kit, so these tubes better hold air.  They did.  

Tubes replaces, wheels back on the bike, brakes re-hooked up, it was back down Pine Mtn. fire road and then back up to San Geronimo Ridge fire road and then to the base of Kent Lake damn and back to Pt. Reyes via the Cross Marin Trail, Platform Bridge Rd., and the Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd.  About 45 miles with a lot of dirt.  I made it to the shop about 1/2 hour late, but had a great ride on a loop I've been trying to knock out for quite a while.  

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Up Randall Trail

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Randall Trail

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Approaching Bolinas Ridge at the top of Randall

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Bolinas Ridge

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Non-wet section of Bolinas Ridge

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
The northern end of Bolinas Ridge at the intersection of Bo-Fax Rd. and Ridgecrest.

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Left and down to Alpine Dam

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Alpine Lake

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Looking up at Bolinas Ridge from Kent Pump Rd.

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Green and gray all day

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Up Old Vee to Oat Hill

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Pine Mountain Road

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Staying on Pine Mountain Rd instead of the shortcut to the right

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Wet, muddy socks

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Top of Pine Mountain

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Yep, that would be a double flat

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Very green down at the bottom near Kent Lake

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Strange 18" tall fern/grass-like plants I only saw in this one little spot.

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Left or right?  They end up at the same spot about 1/2 mile away.  I'm taking the right next time because the left has a hellacious, steep climb.

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge
Fron San Geronimo Ridge.  You can see the descent on Pine Mtn. Rd. to Kent Lake in the center.

Bolinas Ridge / Pine Mtn / San Geronimo Ridge

(What's playing:  Son Volt Circadian Rhythm)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Getting closer...

The Falconer built frames are getting closer.  Cameron came over a few days ago with a front triangle to verify tire clearance and crank/chainring clearance.  Big thumbs up on both aspects.  The final step is to finish this frame (which happens to be Cameron's size), powder coat it, build it and give it a spin to verify it works like it should and then finish the welding on all the other frames.  This will happen rather rapidly as all the other materials are ready to be fit up into frames.  We could probably just go ahead and finish all the other frames, but we like being 110% sure.  

The time it takes to get a first project like this finished also undergoes continual reassessment.  Initially, we thought we could finish all the frames in May, but there are always hurdles - and more importantly, other jobs that put food on the table.  In addition to building frames, Cameron also works in metal for construction and architectural projects.  I cannot begrudge Cameron for good paying work when it comes up.  And the reality is that even if the frames were done and painted today, it's taken an extra long time to get the decals and head badge finished.  I have final art for the decals to approve today and the artwork for the badge is still undergoing some tweaking.  Hopefully, decals, head badges, and frames are all working together amongst themselves so they're all ready at the same time.

In the mean time, there it's not too late to get your order in for one of these frames.  That is, it's not too late if you are a 62cm or 56cm size as all of the 59cm frames have been spoken for.  There are a couple of 56cm frames available and one 62cm frame.  Don't fear, though, we'll make more.  And if you want a 50cm, 53cm, or a 65cm, we'll make those too.  All I need is one order for one size and I'll go ahead with a three piece run of that size, since we need to do runs of three to make it feasible.  

Someone asked about geometry recently.  Geometry is the same as the Taiwanese sourced frame with one exception:  the bottom bracket drop was increased to 70mm, which means the bottom bracket height is 5mm lower.  Geometry is found on this page.

1st Sample Frame
50/34 ring clearance and plenty of room for a 29" x 1.75" tire.

1st Sample Frame
More than enough clearance for the Ultegra arms.  

1st Sample Frame
Triple top tube cable stop.

1st Sample Frame
Sample frame.

(What's playing:  Justin Townes Earle Far Away In Another Town)