Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Back and Forward: The Bike Situation

Keep reading bike related New Year's retrospectives and plans, so in an attempt to stay awake, I figured I'd give it a shot. Here were some of my major learning points this past year:

1. Sizing is everything.

Seriously, durachi headsets and thomson seat post are cool and everything but if a bike doesn't fit, it will only be a matter of time before you end up selling it. This year alone, I got rid of a 62cm B-stone touring deal, 63cm Centurion sports tourer, 62cm Schwinn touring deal, and a 24" Schwinn oldie-but-goodie MTB. All had top tubes under 60cm. I have one 65cm racingish thing and a fixer-upper 68cm sports touring deals, both with top tubes over 60cm. And both frames ride way more comfortable than the previous four.

2. Figure out how you plan on carrying your stuff while biking.

I've done messenger bags and backpacks, and have done a-okay with them, but the longer and harder you ride, the less sense they make. Back packs often droop the weight of your belongings to your lower back, pulling you away from the bars. Messenger bags bring the weight towards your center of gravity, but place it square on your back. As a result, you get a nice big sweaty patch when you arrive at your destination. This isn't too bad in winter, but in the middle of summer it can be frustrating. Panniers are cool, but they're too much carrying capacity for virtually all my rides, and its a pain in the butt to try and balance the load between two half full and half utilized bags. Saddle bags are great, handlebar bags with matching geometry is even better.

3. Sometimes you don't need to prepare for the end of the world. (Sorry to pick on you, Dave...)

When I first got really into working on bikes, my ideal ride would have an 11-36 cassette paired with a wide range triple, front and rear super-heavy-duty racks, flat-proof schwalbe marathon tires and brake levers everywhere my hands rested. Not that I would hate to have a bike like that now, but I've definitely grown to appreciate bikes that try to minimize all the unnecessary tidbits. Cranks with 46/48t biggest ring and 32t smallest ring with 11-28 cassette get me up any hill that gravity permits, and I never really used that 52t big ring anyway... Plus on the rides I have the most fun on, I only packed some extra food and additional layers to prep for the weather. This kept my bike light and responsive.

Oh, and can I just say how effin' cool fancy-smanshy tires are? Not the mondo glass-crushing Schwalbe's, but rather the light and supple Grand Bois and Challenge tires. I feel more and more encouraged to push my self making going fast a fun pursuit instead of a drudging chore. Going down descents on nasty roads and not having to worry about denting my rims due to my thin, high pressure tires is a really good feeling. All of this kind of bleeds into my next point...

4. Weight does matter. (Shock.)

So blah blah blah the industry puts way too much investment into racing as a focus for cycling culture and puts forward all of these horrible assumptions such as 'the lighter the better', 'skinnier the faster', 'campy delta brakes are good' etc. (Okay that last one might just be curmudgeonly retro grouches.) Having said that, it is undeniable that bikes become more of a headache to live with as their weight increases. Especially for you tallies out there, ignoring weight out of some bitter grudge against racing hegemony can be counter productive. Not that it should be a priority, but trying to cut back where you can isn't a bad idea even if its only by the grams.

5. Geometry: What's important and what isn't.

When I didn't really know what geometry for bikes was, I was often told how certain bikes had either a more 'touring' geometry or a 'racing' geometry. This was usually followed by highlighting seat tube and head tube angles and how long the wheel base was. More slacked angles lend themselves to more easy-going riding while steep angles lend themselves to an aggressive stance. Same deal with wheel base, longer chain stays equal stability, but at the cost of 'zippiness' and control. However it seems to me that front end geometry is far more important of a consideration when setting up what a bike will be used for than angles or wheel base. The above bike I had the problem of having too steep of a seat tube angle for a traditional up-right bicycle. But the thing that this affected the most was the front end; with the additional weight pushed towards the front of the bike, the higher trail became much more finicky and less 'self-correcting'. The excessive wheel flop paired with the more frontal center of gravity aggravated the twitchy steering. I'm kinda just thinking out loud right now. I really don't understand geometry, but definitely have made strides this year to changing that.

Things I want to try in 2012:

1. Alter an old frame I have to make it more purposeful for what I use it for: brazed on brake pivots, low-trail front end, better rear triangle on big frame, additonal clearance for wide tires.

2. Get legit saddle and/or handlebar bag that is vegan. Fixtures to make bags appropriate.

3. Go on super crazy randoish rides this summer.

4. Rough stuff ride???

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Housemate Bike

Here is a post about the bike I towed from the last post. This was a gift bike from other housemates to singular housemate. Their original bike was too small, had a broken rear axle, and in general was reaking havoc on their commute.

Mid-eighties Team Fuji! 58cm square, seems to be a good fit.
Chrooome. Pain in the butt to fender.
Stuff lying around.

Nerd out!:
105 Rear Derailer
105 175mm Cranks, Chainrings came from old bike.
Campy something or other front derailer
Shitty Shimano Freewheel
Suntour asymmetric shifters
Suntour Sprint Rear hub! Was pretty trashed when I found it in the shop laced to some Araya rim.
Thomson Elite Seatpost
Titanium railed racey saddle
Cinelli stem with crap drop bars
105 Dual pivot rear brake
Suntour Superbe Pro front brake
Suntour Superbe pedals

Don't really care about the rest...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

RB-2 and New Blog Approach

Up to this point, this blog has been a bit more broad in its scope in terms of bike stuff. I'm not very good at coming up with lotsa non-techy material, so instead this space will be more about documenting my nerding out in private, nerding out with friends, and the results of our endeavors. So basically expect bike porn of old, repurposed and revived bikes. We'll see where it goes from there.

Back to bikes, this one Tanner built for a friend. Old RB-2 made for commuting/fun stuff.

Derailer cage too long, but he didn't have a short cage at hand so...

VO bars are pretty sweeeet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Riding Then Eating

I'm pretty sure there isn't anything in the whole world better than riding a shit ton of miles hella hard then coming home and cooking a shit ton and eating twice the normal amount.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Parting Ways

I can only ride a frame for so long before I have to realize it's too small. So I'm saying toodles to my off-roadish bike.

$100 | Schwinn Voyageur
62cm c-t-c st, 59cm c-t-c tt. Dents in the top tube, paint ain't in the best condition with some rust. Beyond that, this is a pretty sweet frame. Clearance for 35mm with fenders, Champion No. 2 Extra Tange chromoly double butted tubing. Price is a little high because it comes with a Thompson Elite seatpost. Probably not the best matched, but what am I going to do with a 26.6 diameter seatpost??? The bottom bracket feels pretty bad, ISIS is the worst. Get an SKF if you want to keep the cranks for some strange reason. Headset needs to be overhauled... Tange-Seiki something or other.

Pick-up only, no delivery (unless in Oly area.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lotus Future

The Lotus has been a pretty awesome bike all around for me, being a frame that fits well and having fatter tires than once allowed. There are a few things that I would like to do to this bike though that would make it significantly more useful and safer. I have some ideas, but not sure if all of them will work. If you see any blaaaring deficiencies in my plans, you should let me know.

These are the Imperial Oval fork blades from Compass bicycles with a wide fork crown. I held on to these when my frame building project was brought to an unfortunate halt... I think I would like to use these for the Lotus, specifically to give it a low-trail design, 42mm tires with fenders in the front, brazed on center pulls if possible or cantis if not, and internal routing for generator lights. Given how damn big the bike is, I would be able to use a giant h-bar bag, probably a Berthoud. However this is worth consideration on top of headset choice:

In order to get the changes in the front to match the rear, I'd like for the rear tire to be about 42mm as well. The current 32s have a fair amount of room left, but definitely not enough for tires that big. My big hope is that by indenting the stays and messing with brake and chain bridges, I can accommodate enough...

While I'm at it, some brake post for the rear would be nice, significantly improving the brake quality, as well as a brake hanger that is simply brazed on (the Surly one is off center a tad...)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mom Bike

Finally got around to building Mom Bike. Mom Bike is a bike for mom. I wish I owned a Mom Bike:

This bike was suppose to be 3 things: step through, up-right, affordable. Success!

This saddle is the dopest ever. Early 70's Brooks sprung little shit.

Tire didn't fit at first, now it does... barely.

For some reason, the frame came with this filled-in horizontal drops on the drive side. I had to file it back a bit to get the wheel farther back in there. Doing so made the tire clear the brake bridge.

It's kind of disgusting how closely the color matches my bike.

If you look at the top photo, you'll notice the seat tube angle is hella steep. I keep running into this on smaller step-thru frames... Maybe because it has too big 27"/700c wheels. 650b 26" need to be used more often in frame design. I also made the cables hella long because I though we'd have to mess around with bar height/reach, but the first set up was the best it turned out.

Bike Nerd Spec!:

Wheels: CR 18's laced to Tiagra hubs with Wheelsmith swaged spokes. 36h 3 cross drive, 2 cross non-drive rear, 32 3-cross front. I still have trouble wrapping my head around 2 cross, 3 cross lacing patterns. I think I just need to figure out how to start correctly, then I'll get it. Sorry Ross, the spokes are the same gauge on both sides. 35mm Pasela Tourguard tires. I know tourguard no good, but she doesn't exactly like patching flats so...

Brooks B-72 Saddle
Wald steel north road bars
PDW bamboo grips
Tektro whatever brake levers
Shimano EM whatever thumbies
STX comp rear derailer
Sante front derailer
SRAM 11 to 32 8 speed cassette
Sugino 110 bcd cranks with 38, 46t combination.
MKS Slip King pedals
Kool Stop MTB brake pads
Headset, brake calipers, bottom bracket, seatpost are all stock and not so hot. 

If only I could get paid to do this kind of stuff all the time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Center Pulls and Why They Rule/Suck

Depending on who you talk to in the bikey industry, you'll hear a lot of different things about center pull brakes and why they are awesome as fuck or the worst shit ever. I remember the first roadie bike I had was equipped with 2 Weimann center pulls and I hated them more than anything. Fast forward to today, and I love the shit out of them.

Here's ol' Jobsty Brandt's take on centerpulls. He doesn't have too many things to say that are good about them, as you'll read. The old curmudgeon has some interesting things to say about wheels and all sorts of jazz, but I think he is off here dismissing them on the whole. The first bit he starts to dig in to them is their 'large position error'; which is a fancy way of saying the brake design almost never meshes well with the rim and frame design since they were used largely on mass produced bikes. If the rim is too narrow for the center pull, then yes--the brake pads would indeedy make their way into the sidewall of the tire over time. However, if the arms are pointing straight down towards the ground at the point the brake pad hit the rim, then the risk of the pad wearing into the tire sidewall is slim to none. If this is confusing to think about, consider how you would set up cantilever brakes and how the pad should be hitting the rim straight on instead of at an angle.

Jobst then starts dissin' on the 'visual' importance of symmetry that center pulls have... But the symmetry of center pulls goes way beyond asthetics--they modulate far better than most modern dual pivot side pulls and retain there positioning unlike most traditional center-pivot side pulls.

The next thing he rattles on about is the amount of flex most center pulls have due to their long brake arms that are attached to a connection bridge. This is a legit critique for most center pulls out there, including my own. If the mechanic is truly dopey (like me) and puts some big ass brake pads on such as the Kool Stop MTBs (SHELDON SAYZ THEY ARE DAH BEST SO I MUST GET THEM,) then the brake may even run the risk of having the edge of the brake pads rubbing against the tire side wall when the brake is pull at full force due to flexiness. Luckily, those crazy French constricteurs completely minimized this problem. Alex Wetmore demostrates:

Get rid of your ugly bridge! BRAZE THAT SHIT ON.

One legitimate frustration I often hear about center pulls is that they are a headache to set up well. The main culprit of this problem isn't the brake, but this little bastard:

Tiny cable yolk -- aka 'The Finger Bleeder'.

When approaching this thing for the first time, most people will find themselves wanting extra hands to deal with all the shit going on. One to hold the fixed 9mm, a second to hold the adjusting 9mm, a third to hold yolk body, and a forth (maybe fifth as well) to keep the center pull shut. After doing this process a bajillion times, you eventually figure out a few tricks (3rd and 4th Hand tools (that's what they're appropriately named) plus some hand positioning kerfunkage.) But that first time will probably make you cry, or write a pissy internet log about how center pulls are thoroughly moronic. There are also many other yolk designs of different mechanical advantages which are worth looking into, so don't give up on them just yet.

All n' all, the major advantage of center pulls is the maximum amount of brake power well balanced with the amount of control you desire over the brake. Hydraulic lines and disc brakes are great if you want ULTIMATE REAL POWER, but you really don't need that on a road bike... Otherwise all's it takes is a little 'tap' and then 'CURURUGUUNNK!' and something freezes up. [Disc brakes on road bikes on a whole are problematic as someone far more neurosensical pointed out to me once. Maybe I'll write about that later, probably not though. :p] Since center pulls have a nice spongy feel, you can use the full length of brake lever's pull to adapt to the amount of brakage you need. So fuck you dad and yer side pulls, I'm going with g'pas old Mafac shit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Different Builds

I get a lot of questions from people about how they should set up their new bike, and if they should actually get a new one entirely. Most frames have a lot of possibilities, so I pulled a bunch of photos of different builds I've seen attempted, all from the same frame model. I used the Surly Cross Check not because I think it's the ideal frame, but there are a lot of easy to find photos of it and it's pretty easy to recognize. Similar things can be done with a basic old chromoly sports touring frame of a decent quality. Tire/fender clearance is key, drop out type is important, and fender/rack eyelets help a bunch. There are other considerations regarding geometry worth looking into before you throw all your eggs in one basket, but hopefully this will help you percolate a bit.

Commuterish drop bar dealie.

More upright position with porteur rack. (oops, not actually X check...)

Touring bike.


 Cyclocross racer [what the frame is originally design for but not limited to.]

Cargo Kid Hauler.

Token Xtracycle...

Single Speed w/ basket.

Dave' carry-every-damn-thing-possible bike. Lotsa not stock-bike shit going on here.

Randonneur-looking build.

Too cute not to post.

Despite all these interesting variations, this is what 8O% of the Cross Checks look like when they come out of a bike shop. There are a lot of questions to be asked about accessibility, price, purpose, preference, but don't feel too defeated by a frame just because it isn't perfect the way you got it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

SKS Long Board Fenders

I got these Rivendelly fenders being both tight on money and suddenly finding myself without a fendered bike during the Spring time in Olympia. Got a deal on them so gave it a shot. I've used them for 4 months or so, and I'd thought I'd give my reportback on them.

They're basically like any plastic fender, except longer with built in mud flaps. They have a lot of ups and downs. First, the coverage is probably better than any fender I've had--better even than VO's fluted 45mm fenders [I think the longest one they sell.] Perhaps if I had added flaps to those, I could out-do these SKS's. Like most plastic fenders I've installed, they're pretty easy to put on. They're also pretty light weight, for what its worth. Oh, and they make my 65Ob'ed 65cm roadie look not crazy weird.
Front fender ground clearance.

But that's about all the good I could say about them. First off, there is the basic flaw of plastic fenders in that the edges of the fender aren't curled around allowing water to spray out laterally from the bike, which invariably goes back a little and gets you slightly damper. Metal fenders of a decent quality always go this going for them. The extra long design also doesn't translate well for plastic, as the amount of flex these experience is notable. Luckily I have a fair amount of clearance for my 32mm tires, but if I hadn't much room to spare, I could see these rattling against the wheel. Actually now that I think about it, the dirt road to my house causes the fender to slap against the tire side wall...

Looking at the photo above, the fender comes extremely close to the ground. What ends up happening is that the flap acts like a funnel for debris to get caught into. This happens a lot. Like crazy amounts. Maybe if I road strictly on clean roads I could avoid this, but fuuuuck that. Rivendell now sells this remedy for their ill-fated design, if you can ignore the other short comings.

The fenders also are a pain when trying to make the bike smaller for travel, but that's pretty much any fender of this coverage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If You Ride A Bike, Then You're Probably A...

I didn't even realize this when I posted it, but if you look closely at this photo, you'll notice that both Dave and Josh's attention strangely aren't directed at the camera. Instead they're gandering at the foul mouth philstine in the junker behind them as he screams 'FAGGOT!' from the passenger window. I swear that the number one insult that gets hurled at me while riding is 'faggot'. If they find the terminology problematic but not the priniciple, then 'You are gay' sometimes is sufficent, and if they're positively old world, then you'll get the rare 'you goddamn queer!' It use to get to me, but at some point I just had to let go. So just take these professors of gender studies' advice from now on and come to terms with the fact that if you ride a bike, you're probably gay. Studies show, y'know.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Estacada to Bagby Hot Springs S24O

Finally got around to doing that ride that I've been talking about for ever, good heavens. Vancouver but Oly OG Dave invite me and Josh on a little taste of the Oregon inland, and how could I refuse? We started in Estacada, OR parking our truck at some ranger station on the edge of town and taking the roads into the wilderness. Their was a slight rising grade all the way to the finish line at Bagby, make the way there much harder than the way back.

As soon as we left Estacada, we hit our first hill. Unfortunately, it was a 2 mile long fucker with a 7% grade. I didn't have any problems on my lightly packed Schwinny dunno-what-the-hell-I-am-for bike, but Dave's full-loaded Cross Check with an 8 speed nexus hub and Avid BB-7 [mechanical disc brake] struggled trying to deal with both front and rear Surly racks with plenty o' luggage. Though probably way more than necessary for a S24O [Sub 24 hour Overnighter], one purpose of the trip was to test out this bike's capabilities full-loaded, all day riding, on pavement and trails.

Having finally reached the summit, we had a nice decent of a similar grade as the hill we just ascended. As some point, Dave's rear Vittoria 4Omm Randonneur tire blew off the rear Salsa Delgado rim... Excessive weight + way too high tire pressure + heat from long descent are some theories. The nexus is pain in the fuck bucket to remove having both the gear cable and the drum brake needing to be detached. Dave was a trooper though and replaced the tube--super lucky it didn't happen during our hill bombing.

We eventually keep rollin' till we hit the Big Eddy. It served as a good break spot being next to the water while the sun is on full blast.

The Big Eddy.
Team Ramrod.
Woohoo waterproof camera!
Dave was a fool and jumped off a perfectly good rock. As you can see, the fate was deserving.
Josh made a similar mistake. How tragic.
Heading back to the road.

Big Eddy was a big moral booster after one offensively long hill and an ill-opportune blow out. I felt pretty prepared for the rest of the 4O or so miles for that day, and got back into the pedal stroke.

Lotsa waterfalls.
I wuuuv bridges. There are a lot out here.
I would often rush ahead of Josh and Dave, and while I waited for them to catch up I'd jump on a side trail to get more dirt action or take a loser bike-nerd shot like this one. I have way more on my camera that I don't ever remember taking or where they particular are...
Josh, with the haggard appearance of an ill-washed wookie. Someone soap this baffoon, quick.
The further in we got, the more trails appeared. Mega nar.
Action shot. Me and Dave decided that our respective obsessive narcissism would be beneficial to one another, hence this mutual photo taking op shows.
 Much of the evening was well-spent as such.
 We ran parallel to a river for the duration of the ride. It was inglorious.
 This bridge was barely wide enough for bikeage.

Upon arriving at Bagby Hot Springs, us ye olde tenacious fucks set camp and ate some god damn food like a pack of starved mongrels. Josh, recognizing his dire need for a good scrubbin', led us towards the bath house... which really was more of a house of utter debauchery--as the heat from the water apparently seeped into many of tenants brains--resulting in a few tubs festooned with a squabble of horny inebriated monkey-like people. Yes, Bagby was a place covered in a haze unprotected sex, questionable narcotics, and bad consent practice [as the former two combined often amount to.] It was as if some horrid disease had over-come these poor souls, resulting in their foul behavior and even fouler smell. I was offended, greatly. Their howls and grunts still haunt this brave adventures mind, like a bad rash that refuses to go away. I went to sleep clinching my sleeping bag, as if these crazed barbarians would drag me away to their caves and eat my flesh. Or something to the effect--I was there for like 5 minutes, tops. I just remember it was kinda wet and dark, Josh and Dave gave me a reportback the next morning with all the raunchy details.

Packing up in the morning, trying to forget the night's mishaps.
 The sign for the bath house, something better left forgotten...
 A bullet hole laden sign; surely some person mistook their shot gun for binoculars, of course.
And 8O miles later, the summit again.
 Victory! I smelled of petunias and cinnamon rolls, though I can't say as much for my Sasquatch-esque companions. I've never seen a pair so badly in need of a good shaving, heavens. Me of course, was quite the opposite, oh yes. [trust me.]