Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things To Look Forward To

I have a bunch of different exciting ride ideas and projects brewing here and there. I might have to pick and choose since money is tight, but it's at least worth a post.

1. 'Rough-stuff' ride out at Gifford Pinchot. Alex Wetmore uses this terminology to refer to rides that are not quite tours and not quite mountain biking... I have this old Schwinn MTB frame with 2.5" slicks on that I plan on using. I would take it out to Capitol Forest on the occasional ride a few months ago, figure it's time to dust it off again.

It's an interesting bike, to say the least. Undersized and funky as shit, it rides like a dream. More on this monster later.

I'll be tackling the forest with a friend who lives in Vancouver now and maybe more? Dirt roads always are exciting, and I think my love for cyclocross should translate well for this type of riding. This is probably the most up coming thing happening, so I'll have more info on specifics later.

2. Frame building possibilities. This one I'm keeping a little secret, but there are definitely some possibilities despite being very broke. I will say that I've been planning on a new fork for the Lotus for a more appropriate rando machine, and maybe doing some basic frame detailing for brakes. Maybe new paint?

3.Cyclcross season!!!
 This is some crap hybrid frame that someone donate to TEBS. It just so happened to fit one of my riding friends, so I convinced him to build it up as a SS cyclcross bike for cheap. I think I tend to do this too often... It's got a weird Halloweenish vibe to it. I'm giving up my cheapo tires to this one and getting some 34mm Hutchinson's for my own ride [title photo.]

4. Cyclos Montagnards have been on my mind. I mentioned it in an earlier post, and there are some routes that are pretty close to Olympia that are totally do-able. I probably won't clock in at the right time for a while, but it sounds fun in that kill-urself kind of way. I think doing interval training with friends would be a good idea. This will help me get over not being at the PBP when it happens later this summer.

5. Pass Hunting! If I have a lot of time on my hands, and it would be fun to go for 1OO passes to join this thing. I've got the bike for it, lord knows. This is definitely a long term project.

Anyways, some fun ideas. Getting a job could throw a lot of this off in terms of prioritization, but we'll see. It helps keep me optimistic as my bank account gets smaller and smaller... berrrhhh...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Doing It On The Cheap

Project bike build for a friend. They originally would ride to Seattle on a one speed, coaster-brake-only, electro-forge Schwinn, so if there ever was someone deserving of an upgrade... I did it all through shit lying around at the Evergreen Bike Shop, so it's not super fancy, but still completely functional. I dig the 38mm freebie tires. Enough clamp on shit to give Jan Heine a heart attack, and obviously the rack leveling is shit, but whatever. It's the ride not the bike.

p.s. Just realized that blogger blocked non-blogger users from commenting... What crap. I've change the settings so all you non-blogger users [which seems to be the overwhelming majority of you] can now comment for what its worth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bridgestone Madness

I'll admit it--I love Bridgestones just as much as the next giant bike dork. My first 'serious' bike was a Bridgestone and I loved it.

The irony is that the model that I owned was called the 'T-7OO', which was the touring model before Grant Petersen even laid a finger on Bridgestone's creative design. Stripped of the name, my bike was nothing more than a pretty sweet early 8O's Japanese touring frame. That isn't a bad thing, but all the hallmarks that made Bridgestone famous are completely absent from the bike. I ended up selling it to a friend of a friend after I got too big for it, but I still have a lot of memories attached to the bike [touring, winter snow and ice, trail rides, etc...]

That being said, I think the whole Bridgestone thing has gone pretty out of hand. Too often I'll go on BOBish listings or Craig's List and find a Bridgestone in the $1OOO+ price range such as this XO-1. What made these bikes so cool was that serious cyclist on a budget could buy these models and compete against sponsored riders with the latest and greatest gizmos and still do fine [and often times win.] The better frames were made of pretty great thin-gauge tubing, the components were mediocre but totally functional, and the procedure was all through production construction in either Taiwan or Japan. This all added up to a bike that was truly performance ready at an accessible price.

When I see these bikes with astronomical price tags and 'upgraded' with full XTR, Dura Ace or Superbe Pro, it completely detaches what made these bikes so great from why we would want them now. I understand the whole collector mentality of not just buying a bike but buying the 'innovation' [why else buy those early Schwinn MTBs with caliper brakes and cruiser bars?] But effectively what happens is that primarily younger riders who don't have a lot of cash to drop are barred from riding these bikes that are perfectly suited to their riding style because of collector value--and in the case of Bridgestones, that directly contradicts why they were so great in the first place.

It's also silly since these bicycles aren't under-valued at $5OO or less. Beyond the innovation and hype, Bridgestones are still production frames that fatigue as much as any other old school, good quality Japanese bike. That makes it doubly absurd when I see a pre-Grant Petersen Bridgestone such as mine caught in a fierce bidding war on e-bay with the seller talking-up the 'notorious reputation' of the Bridgestone label. These bikes aren't custom Davidson's or even production Rivendell's as much as we want them to be, and we should treat them as such.

Anywho not hating on Bridgestones, but just a reality check for when you start getting 'beer-goggled' while searching Ebay for that mint condition RB-1 and start thinking $8OO sounds reasonable. Cause it isn't!

[Though I may just bitter because there are no B-stones in the 66cm + size range...]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thompson Custom Bicycles

Though e-mail correspondence, I was invited to take a sneak-peek at the Thompson Custom Bicycles workshop in Olympia. The whole thing is a smaller scale operation all run by Corey Thompson, a professional frame builder. I was originally just asking about a few different frame building techniques, but got a whole lot more.

This is Corey's personal bike and an example of his attention to detail. 65Ob rando machine with fully integrated racks, fenders, brakes, and lighting. He brazed the stem and fabricated the rack as well. Grand Bois Maes bars, Stronglight cranks, Schmidt Son hub, Mafac Raid centerpulls, Honjo fenders, Berthoud saddle among other goodies.

 Smart gearing with good priorities. Corey said he plans to tackle the PBP this year on this, best of luck to him on that endeavor.

Up close of the fork crown. He made it out of sheet metal, bending the lower plate to the exact curve of the fender. Mono lug head tube similar to early Alex Singers, but Corey paints them instead of chroming. Brazed on centerpulls.
Good positioning of the front light; not too low and on the right where traffic is.

Close up of brazed on rear light. Sorry about bad focus...

A mid 6O's Rene Herse that Corey owns. This is one of their production models, which is remarkable considering the attention to detail.

They mitered down the bottom of the fork crown from the original size and brazed plating on the bottom of it to cover the gaps. The result is a nice smooth contour to accommodate the fender/tire curve.

Corey said this was an Austril[?] or something, can't remember. Pre-war Australian track frame complete with cut-outs in the lugs in the shape of Australia. That's pride I guess...

Close up of Australia on the fork...

An incomplete frame in a box.

When I stopped in, the majority of what Corey was busy with was frame and fork repair. This thing was in the process of getting a new fork. Steel for the win.

This whole experience has pretty much steady my already firmly grounded resolve in pursuing frame building. It took many years for Corey to get to this point and I don't doubt at all that it was a lot of hard work, but as you can see the final result was well worth the effort. Just need to find a job, ugghh...

In less exciting news, I moved my H-bar bag from front to rear with far less grace than anything else in this post:

With the bag in front, I lost a lot of control due to the high-trail geometry of the front end, plus the precariously high positioning of the bag... Wheel flop was also more noticeable of a problem. Though less accessible now, it makes general riding much more pleasant.
Some shit threadless stem I shimmed onto the seat post with the proper amount of Pepsi can. Found some bent-up bars that were unusable and chopped the drops off, leaving a bar the exact size needed for the bag rack attachment. The result is ungodly ugly, but this bike clearly isn't built for it's classy good looks.

Still going on plenty of road [and the occasional off-road] rides. Got super pumped on this group called the Cyclos Montagnards, its like the PBP but I don't half to pay an arm and a leg to get there. I wanna ride the SHIT out of these routes!!! OMG bike me so damn EXCITED!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Road Bicycle

Though I've eluded to my primary whip is a few times, I haven't gone into depth about its build/development. So here is a post devoted to it.

The frame is an 88' Lotus 'Classique'. The name seems fairly inappropriate give the flamboyant paint job, and doubly given that it was advertised as their 'triathlon' model. It's a fairly traditional late 8O's road frame, with 7OOc wheels, down tube shifters, 6 spd freewheel, high gearing, and 26mm tires. There were only three very compelling reasons why I bought it: 1. it was cheap, 2. it had fender eyelets still, and 3. it was a 65cm frame c-t-c. The last reason was the selling point.

Based on the stickers that were scattered on the frame, the original owner, though not much of a wrencher, frequented long distance group rides in Texas similar to what the STP is here. The saddle was this chunky gel contraption and the bar position too aggressive for my taste. At some point, the rear wheel was trashed, and some generic hybrid wheel with too wide of a rim was installed, probably due to budgeting. The whole thing was outfitted with some impressive early 1O5 components, most notable were Sheldon's favorite short reach 1O5 side pulls. I rode it around like this for a short period; hunching over to grab the bars and shit skinny tires are not my calling.

After debating whether to make a 'true' racing machine or match my riding style, I eventually went former route first and then the latter. Back then, I was a pretty die-hard Grant Petersen follower and thought highly of fat kevlar belted tires and high and wide bars. Since then, I've change a few of my philosophies but retain a lot of those roots. After some exposure to Bicycle Quarterly, I decided to turn this bike into a bit of an experiment.

After doing some measurements with brake reach and bottom bracket drop, I determined that the bike would be a good candidate for a 65Ob conversion. I used Wheelsmith double-butted [swagged] spokes, Velocity Dyad rims, Ultegra rear hub, and a Chris King Classic front I had lying around. I didn't want to push the tire/fender clearance envelop, so I stuck with 32mm Grand Bois instead of 38 or 42mm tires. I threw on a 1O spd drive terrain and called it good.

The current set up features centerpull brakes [Dura Ace front and Dia Compe rear] 8 spd el cheapo SRAM wide-range cassette, 44-22 Deore LX cranks, Silver bar end shifters, SKS Long Board fenders and Shimano aero levers. Embarrassingly, I have a Sora long cage rear derailer that works fine with a Dura Ace front derailer... Dura Ace cartridge headset and nitto bars and stem. Handlebar bag from Rivendell.

 Though this set up has been optimized so far, there are still a number of small problems. The q-factor on the LX cranks is crazy wide, and I think I would be happier with some of those retro TA or Stronglight small BCD cranks. The handlebar bag is too high and far away from the head tube, detracting from the handling. I'm pretty displeased with the high trail fork, which feels weird both with and without the bar bag. I have wide 45cm bars to compensate for wheel flop. If I were to keep the fork, I would like to invest in a largish saddle bag. A new fork would use Imperial Oval fork blades, Grand Bois fork crown, brake post mounts for center pulls, mounts for a rack, and maybe a True Temper Platinum steerer. The Surly rear brake cable hanger is bent due to the weird shape of the binder bolt... a brazed on hanger would be cool, as well as brazed-on brake post. All of these steps would significantly improve handling, braking power, and shit hauling capacity. Metal fenders would keep water from splashing around the cleanly cut curves of the plastic fenders.

The frame is made of Ishiwata EXO 'quadruple' butted tubing. It isn't the lightest thing in the world, yet the shear size of the frame still causes a fair amount of frame flex. After this trip to Seattle and doing some reading, I've concluded that the large size of the frame enables good planing for me, as it flexes to my pedal strokes. If this was more of a touringish/load carrying build, I think the result would be less than optimal. I would install a 'diagnatube' through the main triangle if that were the case, and maybe additional stays for rear loads.

 This photo was taken at 9PM, still so much light though...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Seattle Report Back

I've been back from Seattle for a while now, but had lost my battery charger for photos... Got it back, so here are some of the thoughts I had while riding.

The first day was spent riding from Olympia to Southworth. This ride was completed as if it were part of an extended tour; nice and steady pace. The route was fairly flat until the end, where the rolling hills were unlike any I've encountered consecutively. The remainder of our stay in Seattle was spent at a faster pace, with mostly flat terrain with the occasional steep hill. The Lotus did well with this style of riding, but some improvements I noted could be made.

Older 1O speed Shimano Ultegra Brifters: The first noticeable deficiency with these for me was that the cable routing for shifting conflicted with the handlebar bag. I shoots out right into the side pockets, making removal and access to side pockets a head ache. The latest versions of Shimano's brifters do not have this problem and route like Campy brifters.

The lever provided good actuation from the drops and from the hoods. However, after spending 3 days riding hard making good use of the brakes going downhill, I found my right hand [which controls my front brake] cramping up considerably. It was so bad that by the end of the third or forth day of riding, I had trouble coming to a complete stop afte a descent that ended at a busy intersection. I noticed that the cramp came from my ring and pinky fingers, which visually makes sense:

My pinky and ring finger get over used... UTTER CRAP!!!

 Beyond the actual levers, the drive terrain held up well. Well minus the chain that broke RIGHT BEFORE I left for Seattle. Took a link out and made sure not to cross chain... sketch. Ultimately, never used the 11x52 teeth setting except for when I wanted to go REALLY fast down hills and spent the most time in the 16x52 or 16x42... Whateves, I am now switching out to 8 speed wide range: 11-25 to 11-32. I have a wide range double too, but with a 44 big ring... Hopefully its not too slow.

 The wheels held up fine. What was noticeable was tire performance. The 32mm width made Seattle pot holes and rail road tracks a bit more tolerable while not sacrificing any speed. In fact, I felt the bike handled general riding and coasting acceleration must more easily than my 7OOc'ed fellow riders. It actually became kind of annoying; when ever we came to a slight downhill or flat surface, the tires wanted to carry the bike into the rear of the rider in front of me, requiring me to feather the brakes semi-frequently [explains above problem.] It would be interesting to see what this trip would have been like if everyone in the pack had the same tires. Oh yeah, no flats despite the shitty road conditions at times.

The weather was nice, but Seattle air quality is horrible compared to Olympia. Good trip overall.


My former bike, now ridden by a more appropriately-sized rider.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Drivetrain* and Riding Prep

In the ultimate act of nerdom, I've prepped myself up for the completion of this frame by assembly a large chunk of the components I'll need to get it rollin'.

batta bing batta boom.

Unfortunately, the frame has been delayed because of shipping problems with Henry James... I guess the tubing is too long? Who knows. I'm half tempted to put all this stuff on the Lotus [pink bike from past post] and have a decent longer distance bike. It currently is equipped with a 1O spd 11-25 shimano/SRAM drive terrain, complete with Ultegra brifters and a skinner chain than should ever be allowed. I don't know why I went this route at all, I guess just  for the experience. I can't say that all those extra gear combination's really put me at advantage, and although I like riding fast, 11 x 52 just doesn't get used enough to be justified. I'll be going to Vashon/Seattle tomorrow, so we'll see how much I like 1O spd after that escapade. The cables coming from the side of the brifters are annoying as crap for a handlebar bag:

Cluster fuck struggle to get my camera out of the side bag...

Should have read the Bicycle Quarterly article sooner; like a year ago. Plus with the bag that high, the front end stability is crap on this fork with too high of trail for my retrogrouchy needs. You can't be picky though being 6'5" with a frame size of 66-68. The weather will be beautiful tomorrow, so hopefully that will overshadow the bike situation a bit. More photos forthcoming...