The iBob List is dead! Long Live the iBob List!
“This is the last email to the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list. The list has moved to email@example.com.
To continue recieving list emails you will need to join the new group. You can do that by going to one of these two links:
It’s been a good decade of hosting this list, and I’ve been very happy to be the list admin and host during that time.
the next couple of weeks sending email to the old list will get you an
automatic reply with instructions on joining the new list. After that it
will cease to operate.
Big thanks to Alex for wrangling this roadshow for so long, doing it so well and handling a myriad of interesting and often highly opinionated characters so adroitly. And thanks to ride-buddy JimG for stepping up to manage the list now.
Guess I’ll have to update this page-
Finally had a good excuse to wander over to the RBWHQ&L* on Saturday. In this case, I was picking up the new rear wheel for the Quickbeam, efficiently crafted by Rich L. The original rim had failed reasonably impressively, and since the hub was acting more than tired, I went through the couch and found enough spare change to upgrade to a Phil Wood setup. With all the bicycles I’ve had over the years, it seems hard to believe that none have ever had a Phil hub (or bottom bracket), but there ya go. In the time between ordering and readiness, the real Phil Wood passed away, and it seemed appropriate that it worked out that way.
Besides, my cycling wrenching sensei handed me a wheel once. It was, he said, the first wheel he’d ever built. He rode it across the country, had seen countless miles, and still rolled out on a styling “lunch run” bike that he let me use. The hub rolled flawlessly after all those years. That made an impression on me.
Arriving at Riv, I got a chance to chat with Grant a bit, and he showed off the just-back-from-the-painter Hunqapillar frame - this time rendered in grey with orange contrasts. Like the grey with kidney bean version (seen here on the Bombadil back in December), it’s a head-cocker - one of those combinations is hard to believe works if someone just told you the colors, but does work when you see them. I’ve chatted about the Orange on the RBW group already, and there’s a more comprehensive pdf from Grant which can be found here. Suffice to say, both look great. Especially on the grey/burgundy, the lug edge lining really helps the dark/dark combination to pop. I’m not sure it would work as well without the lining.
But frames and color schemes have little to do with bike riding.
Maybe I need to get a bit of preamble out of the way. In recording some
impressions about these bicycles, my underlying belief is that Grant
designs a bike that fits me well and is comfortable, stable,
controllable and well-behaved. When I descend on my Hilsen or Quickbeam,
anytime I exit a corner, its always with the feeling that I was well
within the margin of safety. They are ridiculously confidence
building. That, to me, is the essence of the Rivendell design -
stability at speed under all manner of wacky conditions and simple
comfort while on the roads and trails. The following bikes gave no surprises on those counts. They all have that in their core.
When Grant is anywhere around, one thing that tends to happen very quickly when you arrive at RBWHQ&L is that a bicycle is eased your general direction and the saddle and bars get adjusted to fit. And before you know it, you’re rolling along on one of the Rivendell models. Which brings us to…
Sam Hillborne - rbw page
I did ride one of the early prototypes of the Hillborne, back at the end of 2008, but hadn’t really ventured too far away from the loop around the building. This time, I got a chance to spend a little more time with the bicycle, and must say that it has been done right.
Over the past year, there’s been a bit of chatter on the various lists about the idea of Rivendell’s “expanded” frame designs. Certainly, there’s a benefit in having to order and stock a smaller number of sizes. But, the real question is whether it rides right.
First off, the six degree upslope doesn’t quite hit you as hard in person as when you stare
at side view images online or in the catalogs. If you are standing near the bike, looking down, it’s even less noticeable. Yeah, there’s an upslope
to the top tube, but a Giant TCR (or any number of new bikes) it ain’t.
Then, when you climb aboard, you don’t really notice it. Obviously, you are looking forward anyway. But, unlike those compact frame designs I’ve ridden, it just seems and feels “normal”, but with a tad more standover height. (One of the reasons that I don’t like riding my geared soft-nosed mountain bike is that when a “S”ertain company repla”S”ed the original frame under warranty, they had dropped the top tube (already angled significantly) another couple inches or so. When you look down, the first thing you think is “there’s one helluvalotta seat post sticking out…” I have also bruised my shins against the top tube in technical conditions.)
The Hillborne rode very nicely - might even feel a
touch more nimble than my Hilsen, but there were a lot of other
variables as far as bar height, saddle setup, lack of bags and racks,
etc., and for some reason, a bicycle you don’t own always feels a little snappier…
The bottom line is just that it rides like a Riv. And that is great
thing in my book. Solid at speed, corners like a demon and perfectly
balanced at slow speeds. It would be interesting to take one onto the
trails or up the mountain (i.e. treat it the way I do my Hilsen), but it definitely gets my thumbs up.
SOMA San Marcos / Amos - rbw page?
This collaboration between Grant and the folks at SOMA popped out of the bag back in January (a blog post here, though it appears the “Amos” page is no longer on the RBW site.) This was the first prototype frame which had been photog’d back then, all built up with an orange fork. As of the end of March, they are anticipating delivery of a second prototype with pump peg and some other minor tweaks. But, this one is quite rideable.
Because this bicycle is SOMA-branded, it will be distributed more widely to shops. I envision this retail scenario playing out:
“Hey, how was that test ride?”
“Great! I thought you said this bike was made of steel.”
“uh, yeah. It’s a steel fr..”
“Noooo….not this bike!”
“What do you mean?”
“Steel’s heavy. Carbon is light. Even aluminum is light. But, steel is heavy. All the magazines and websites agree on that!”
“Well…it is actually steel.”
“Look, I’m going to buy the danged thing. Just tell me what it really is made of…”
In other words, this bike is going to cause some recalibration among those who were unaware of the properties of a well-designed sporty steel frame. For folks who understand what steel can be, it’s bound to cause sweaty palms of anticipation.
This may be one size small for me, but I had a goodly little jaunt on it. Slow speed agility tests. Big-ringed my way down and around the block a few times. Hammered it through a rough, downhill corner with some seriously sketchy pavement. During the little pauses here and there to catch my breath, I kept thinking, “Dang… this one’s done right.” Snappy and very responsive. I think they are going to sell a few of these.
Betty Foy - rbw page
The black with cream accents Betty Foy is a joy to look at. I think GP may have once stated he wouldn’t make a black frame, and I am really, really glad he reconsidered. I thought they said this bicycle was also the 61 (which I actually don’t see listed on the site, so I may be incorrect), but the saddle dropped low enough for me (riding a 58/59 in the Riv sizing “old money” - not “expanded” frames) to be plenty comfortable. It was set up with Albatross Bars, angled slightly downward for a perfect wrist angle.
Since I had just come off a few high-paced loops with the San Marcos, I was a bit revved up, and flew through the first couple of corners with a good bit of speed. Nary a squawk from Betty. It had the high volume cush from the 650B tires, but the did exactly what would be expected of a Riv. It would be fun to commute on this bike, and steam past folks on their repurposed open-wheeled racers. I would expect an extreme diversity in setups on this bicycle as well, as it lends itself to all manner of racks and bags, bars and saddles. My personal choice would be to run the setup just as seen here - there’s plenty of leverage with the Albatross bars for the hills on my commute route. I’ve run Col de la Vie tires on my Zeus 650B conversion, which sees commute duty, and they have never wanted for speed and comfort. With the even wider array of 650B/584 tires which have come out since, I don’t doubt you could tune for a variety of riding conditions.
Of particular note was the gearing - with an XD2 with guard affixed on the outermost side,
like a Quickbeam. But, then the small ring was a 24T (large was 40T),
which when paired with the wide range gearing in back (34?) let you
easily go from walking speed to fast-as-ya-need-to-go. Really a slick
I didn’t really know that I needed one of these, but after riding it…
well, you know. While it wouldn’t be the only bike I owned (at least for a couple decades), it would fit well into the lineup. The black finish was gorgeous, and I really liked the
gearing setup. Grant kind of chuckled when I brought it back. “Everyone needs a mixte,” he said.
Rivendell Roadeo - rbw page
Riding this bike was a monumentally bad idea.
I had been safe back in December, as they only had a couple of 55cm prototypes hanging around the showroom. Y’know - too small, nothing to get all worked up about. But, this visit, the 59 was there, on the rack, calling out to me with its siren song.
To get at how this bicycle rides, I’ll use an obscure musical reference. Brian Eno was being interviewed once upon a time, and he was asked what his ideal band would be like - he answered that it would be a combination of Kraftwerk and Parliment. Now, arguably, he achieved that in the “Remain in Light” period of work with David Byrne and Talking Heads. But, it gets at the crux of the issue with this bicycle - a fast, quick, snappy bicycle that really loves to roll along on 33 1/3 mm Jack Brown tires. A Lamborghini with a Range Rover undercarriage.
The Hilsen is about clearance. I find myself daydreaming about finding the most massive tire that would fit, and rolling that bike over the nastiest, rockiest bits of trails in my region. With the Roadeo, the idea seemed to be to tighten things up the other way, to suck up the clearances until they did precisely what was necessary and no more. If the Hilsen is about “possibilities”, the Roadeo is more about “specificity.”
And, holy moley, pass the salt, it does that very well.
It hurtled through the sketchy corners, loved to climb into the big gear and in general was snappy and responsive as could be. The Roadeo rides as advertised.
This is definitely a bicycle I’m lusting for. Really a beautiful ride.
If you take a step back from the offerings, there is really a stunning array of designs being offered - huge kudos to Grant and the gang for bringing this range of models to fruition.
*Rivendell Bicycle Works Headquarters & La-ir, as always, said in your best Dr. Evil voice…
Today (Wednesday) is supposed to be the big thump of this week’s storm session. That’s easily confirmed by the size of the puddle in the back yard, which is actually beginning to develop a wave pattern under the steadily increasing winds. However, the sump pump hadn’t gone off since I rose this morning, so I sloshed my way around to see what was up. Sure enough, the pump had slipped just a hair on it’s soaked mounting and the trigger rod had gotten jammed. It’s now happily thrumming away.
Last night, I decided to get the official forecast, and found my old NOAA link no longer worked. They had actually upgraded things significantly, with a cool little click-to-find-the-forecast mapping applet which I played with relentlessly for a while. It’s particularly fun to click out at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse to see what will probably be the worst of things, as it’s the most exposed section of the SF Randonneurs 200K route scheduled for this Saturday.
It was forecasting 20-30 mph winds with gusts up to 48 mph. Today, they’ve updated those estimates to gusts to 65 mph. That’s a little staggering.
But, the important thing is really wind direction. It’s been a steady SW wind for the last 24 hours or so, which would mean a bit of a push out to the point, but probably more of a quartering headwind as we came back from Marshall on the return leg. Although, working the mouse around to Pt. Reyes Station and Marshall shows those winds are holding SSW, which puts them in one’s face.
Again, that’s today’s numbers, and whatever else I’m going to get done today, it’s pretty clear that riding won’t be one of those things. There’s no point other than making things rough on the equipment, both biological and mechanical. The plan had been to do little riding this week anyway so that the tank would be full for the weekend’s effort. I did manage to get myself up early, wrenching by bio-clock forward another hour so that the shock of the 4:45 AM alarm won’t be quite so shocking on Saturday.
And Saturday, it still seems, may be day of the slight break in this weather front. The forecast has been holding steady at 20% chance of showers and relatively mild conditions.
Took lunch yesterday down at the laundromat, re-TX-Direct-ing my rain jacket, wind vest, non-cycling rain jacket (the instructions did say up to three garments per bottle), new rain booties and toe covers. Today is wool washing day. Tonight I’ll swap to the new tires and get the hub fixed and new chain installed. Probably need to tweak the fenders slightly. Then I’ll just have to fret about packing and such. Find some zip-lock bags. Charge batteries. That sort of thing.
Yes, I have been compulsively making lists on little pieces of scratch paper for the last week or so - “Tech To Do”, “Clothing to Wear”, “Things to Check/Find”, “Food”. Last night I baked a batch of pumpkin sugar cookies.
Here’s the thing - the lightning is freaking me out.
The lighting came rumbling in Monday night, sounding like a passing freight train. Yesterday AM, we had a sub-second blast that light up the windows and gave the house a mighty thumping. Haven’t heard too much today, but every time it echoes, I think of that long open road out to the Lighthouse and back.
Hmmmm….that’s not too helpful, now, is it?
Kind of a slow paced day today. No riding this weekend, though Saturday would’ve been about perfect - no wind to speak of, glimmers of sunlight here and there plenty of folks seemed to be out enjoying the day. I was in an advanced voice acting workshop with Tom Pinto on Friday night and all of Saturday, focusing on fine-tuning auditions and enjoying the company of a great teacher and several stellar VO contemporaries. It’s the first class of the this year, and always good to see folks in person.
It also worked me like a long ride, as it’s a day and a half of pretty high concentration, focused efforts and extreme attention to very intangible things. And although I had vague intentions to get a little leg stretching ride in, I must admit that the alarm got quickly thwacked and I rolled over until the rains hit, worked a Sunday crossword with my wife and generally bumped around for the morning.
Hey, sometimes you gotta just recover.
I also began fretting a bit about next Saturday’s San Francisco Randonneurs 200K, as I realized that, curiously enough, it was going to take place next Saturday. Add to that the fact that no one has shown up for an intervention, despite the fact I seem to be favoring the Quickbeam for this year’s ride.
Things do feel a bit better this year, though that may have more to do with not doing last year’s ride. Memory can be soooo subjective.
On the other hand, there are some issues to deal with before setting off at the Golden Gate Bridge, mostly minor tech issues. But they all begin with the bikes being clean enough to deal with, so when the morning rains subsided, I threw on the Grundens bib and rubber boots and pretended to be a pit wrench on the cyclocross circuit. The hot, soapy water felt good on my cold hands, and I scrubbed both the Quickbeam and the Hilsen down a bit.
The Quickbeam is pretty much ready to go. It’s feeling as comfortable as ever these days, and between the Zugster Rando Bag afore and the Keven’s Bag aft, it can carry enough in the way of jackets and bits to be perfect. I’m going to double check the sprocket teeth for wear and see if I can’t remove the slight play that’s in the rear hub, check the chain (which I think may be worn) and replace the tires, which are just a bit thinner than I like them to be on what is shaping up to be a damp ride.
I decided that the Hilsen needs to be ready as well, if only as a spare so that if I freak out late in the week and decide I need a coastable many-geared setup, it will be ready at a moment’s notice. There are a couple of issues there - first, the bottom bracket started making some very crunchy sounds the last couple times it was out, especially when I was out of the saddle. This makes me just super-happy, as you can guess, because it’s an excuse to pull the Ritchey Cross Cranks off the bike. As much as I like the gearing and the lightness and Q-factor of these cranks, it’s just hard to trust them entirely any longer. I’ll be interested to see if they have started to slip a bit. (More on that story here.)
However, the slightly taller gearing has been nice, so I’ll probably pull the chainrings off and change the Sugino XD2 triple to a 48/38. That way I won’t have to move the front derailleur (though it will be interesting to see what that does to the shifting, since I’ll be leaving the 26T inner ring in place.)
Other than that, it needs fenders remounted. Since riding with Gino a couple weeks back and enjoying the shiny smoothness of his Honjo fenders, I’m feeling a need to upgrade. However, that’s probably not in the immediate budget, so the SKS’s in the garage will have to do in the meantime. I did get a set of Sheldon Nuts to simplify the mounting, but that’s going to skew the position a touch, so I’m not sure I’m going to mess with those yet.
The other things to resolve will be giving the saddles a treatment with the Nikwax Aqueous Wax, and hoping that the new style of Brooks saddle cover which came with my Swift will do the job in terms of protection in case of torrential rains. The downside of using the Quickbeam in fixed mode is that you do tend to be out of the saddle more, especially on any type of climbing, so that the saddle gets exposed to rains. This one does look pretty sturdy and “Grunden’s-like”…
One area which concerns me is my feet. I finally retired my old solid lorica SIDI shoes for new ones, which have a couple of mesh panels on them. Didn’t really need those under summer conditions, and now that rain and cooler temps prevail, mitigating the damp is key. I’ve got a set of Pearl Izumi “CalienToes” which are OK for cool, but pretty useless in the rain. Though I’ve silicone-sprayed them, they just don’t really cover all that much acreage. I do have an old pair of neoprene booties, but find that those get pretty danged hot over the course of a day, and they tend to collect rain at the top. I’ve got a little credit at REI right now, and was looking at the Pearl Izumi Soft-Shell Shoe Covers (as opposed to the Barrier model, which seems to be heavier neoprene.)
For the rest of the outfit, I’ve got Rainlegs and my trusty old eVent Jacket, which I’ll probably retreat once more before the ride. If I really think the rain will be torrential, I could always swap in a pair of GoreTex rain pants I have, though I’ve only ridden in those for shorter commutes.
I also spent some time forwarding route options to RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob, who had asked for those of us with local knowledge to comment on what to do if the creeks rise.
Mill Valley Option #1 (Hwy 101) -
Mill Valley Option #2 (via ) -
Kentfield Flooded Option -
San Anselmo Flooded Option -
Then, in the last hour or so before it got dark, I cleaned out the gutters before the rains returned, slicing my palm on the sharp edge of a connector. Good thing I got a tetanus update when the I was in the ER back in June. Took a while to clean out properly, and it made me realize that I should also pack a pair of danged glasses on the brevet, just in case I need to do detail work at any point in the day. But now, as the winds rattle the windows and the rain begins in earnest, I’m glad I did the prep work.
Finally, I’ve been looking at times on the course in the two times riding the brevets. (Though I’ve filed my danged brevet card from the 2007 ride and can’t lay my hands on it…going by timestamped photos on Flickr.) Finding it interesting that the difference of about an hour between 2007 and 2008 completion, all took place in the latter part of the ride, and just averaging another mph faster over the last 40 miles or so would’ve been helpful. But, when you are out there and doing it, you give what you’ve got. This is the first time I’ll actually be using a computer on the bike, so we’ll see if that helps to keep me on track a bit better.
Decided to put a heavier layer of protection on my new Nigel Smythe & Sons Keven’s bag from Rivendell. The vid cam was lying around, so here ya go…
A couple o’ months back, I was stomping my way down to engineer a class in Sausalito and ended up pedaling the last few miles single-leggedly. (The initial post appeared here, and then I nattered more about it yonder.) Now, the fine folks down the peninsula at Ritchey Logic did address the problem quickly and effectively. It turned out that my initial left crank arm had been subject to a voluntary recall, as it had been built sub-spec (got one? ID yours with this handy Ritchey Design Voluntary Recall pdf ) They received the crank and had another one out to me within a scant few days. All good.
Well, yes and no.
Let me say a few things about the crankset. Because I really like the crankset, and it’s important to know that. They are light and have a comfortably narrow tread (“Q-Factor” AASHTA citation), use a 110mm BCD chainring and have generally done their work reasonably quietly and efficiently. But, dealing with these breaking has reminded me of a whole host of other memories and experiences concerning crankarms, their failures and the fact that manufacturers have really managed to go out of their way to complicate this part. For the most part, my frustration is with the general area of cranksets, a needlessly stormy sea in which these cranks just now happen to be swimming.
This whole discussion is multiplying and expanding in my brain right now - because the Ritchey cranks remind me of why I went with them in the beginning - replacing a reasonably high-zoot set which failed egregiously. I broke two of those. Or, more accurately, I had two sets catastrophically fail on me. That recollectioin got me thinking about the sheer number of chainrings that wore out on the mountain bike - especially during the El Nino years - ground what seemed to be too soon into nasty shark fin profiles, which reminded me of the grease-and-voodoo-incantations engaged in attempt to quiet the continually squawking but beyond elegantly beautiful Cook E2 cranks I had, and how those were horsetraded to switch over to the then-new Shimano XTR 4-bolt design, which had wonderfully meaty and long lasting chainrings. I loved that setup - until I priced replacement rings, which - I kid you not - were only a couple of movie and burrito nights difference in price from a new crankset with rings…!
I think what I really want is a set of steel cranks. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
It’s possible I have crankset issues. Didn’t really realize it until writing all these things out. I do hate to rant, but, dang it, there should be a simple solution for all of this stuff. It should work and be solid, hard to mung up, and not look like it was created by an art director. There should be an elegant solution. This should be available.
Man, it does seem that I’m all worked up over this. But, I don’t think I should have to buy a 10 year old set of cranks to solve this problem. Again, I digress. Back to the story.
The replacement arm arrived from Ritchey and was a “B” fit. In other words, it was tighter than what I sent back to them, and I had to really press it to set it onto the splined interface of the bottom bracket. These cranks - the Ritchey Cross Cranks (which curiously do not appear any longer on the RitcheyLogic.com website) use an “Octalink” design which Shimano brought forth to sunset the square taper design which was simple and proven, but non-proprietary. On the Octalink, the 8 splines should mesh like gears and prevent the crank from rotating on the bottom bracket spindle. Unlike a square taper, it should not really be a force fit.
I lined them up carefully, pushed them on as tightly as I could, then tightened the new arm down, then removed the bolt again to make sure it had seated correctly. Took a couple of short, post-flu rides on the bike and from about the middle half of the first ride, something felt funny on my left hip and low back. Then it would get better, then it would appear again. As I was negotiating some slow speed maneuvers, coasting with the cranks level, there was a definite shift in the left crank arm. Flipping to the other foot forward, I felt it again.
The image is slightly misleading, as I used the non-drive crank arm as the reference. The drive-side arm is really the one that didn’t move. I could bring the arms in and out of alignment by leveling the cranks and weighting the left - forward equaled out, and back equaled in alignment. After sending this image to Ritchey, they wanted the arm back to see what was wrong. I did so and the day they received it, sent back a detailed email saying that the splines had been misaligned upon installation and that was what allowed the shifting. They also said they’d replace the arm so I could try again.
That was darned nice of them to do that. Honestly, I didn’t agree with their assessment. But, there’s certainly a possibility that my ham-fists and incrementally increasing farsightedness combined to do that. I’ve bent bits, snapped bolts and generally mucked up mechanical adjustments. Just didn’t think I did then.
Now, I did have an unplayed card had they chosen not to replace the replacement. Y’see, this is actually the second time this has happened. The first set I got of these had a similar issue, and as seen here the angle was more dramatic, but I rode more miles before becoming convinced there was an issue -
In this instance, Ritchey had dealt very kindly with the situation. The first arm had actually stripped out, and this was the replacement set. They replaced this as well, with the crankarm which ended up snapping. In the case of this arm, it had set easily upon the splines, so there really wasn’t an installation issue. My eyes were better back then, too.
Back to the Future - well, the future of a couple weeks or so ago. The 2nd replacement arm that Ritchey sent fit more easily onto the spindle. Just to make sure, I used the camera to make sure that things lined up before tightening everything down.
click for bigger than is really necessary, but it does give good detail.
I tried to be extremely mindful about the installation. Got it set into place, checked and double checked and even looked at the photo image onscreen before I put the bolt in and turned it tight.
And that’s pretty much the moment when I thought, “y’know, I really shouldn’t have to go through this to hang a phuh-reakin’ crankarm on my bicycle…”
It got me thinking that small splines are always fiddly little bits, and square tapers are stout simple means to install something. It’s actually easy enough to mount an Octalink crank one spline tooth off, so that the arms end up misaligned. You certainly (well, you certainly should) notice it before you get on and pedal, but it’s darned near impossible to not notice the 90 degree aberration if you did that on a square taper bottom bracket.
In other words, why did Shimano - or any of the manufacturer’s who signed on for the non-compatible ISIS version that came out around the same time - feel it necessary to take a simple working standard and change it?
I expect the answer might have had something to do with CNC-machining, and the boom of the mountain bike market. In the early 90’s, it seemed that anyone with an expired military contract and a machine shop was cranking out bike parts. Cranks were particularly sexy - highly visible, easy to make, easy to make unique looking. Just going to the BikePro crank overview gives 20 or so different manufacturers. My paper catalog shows about 18 pages of cranks, from companies like Kooka, Grove Innovations, Adventure Components, Flite Control, Grafton, Sampson, T-Gear, Sims and TNT. A goodly number of names that surfaced then and have since submerged.
Thing is, groovy-cool CNC’ing from raw billet can lead to some pretty dramatic failures, especially when the raw billet gets swaged onto a tapered connection and then really cranked down. Well made cranks are generally cold-forged, which means that you have to spend the money to make dies and such, but you align the grain of the metal in specific ways, to offset stresses from things like, oh, attaching them to the a tapered spindle and then torquing the heck out of them by pressing the pedals.
My recollection was that the ISIS standard and the Octalink standard came out at the same time, but I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. Maybe what happened was that Shimano wanted to regain the crank business - because at that time, they were really losing ground to non-Shimano cranks (and generally, across the board, on brakes, levers, etc.) - and so unveiled this new design of bottom bracket to make sure people used their cranks. The ISIS may have been a reaction to gain the claimed benefits to the newer BB design - since the larger, hollow spindle was supposed to be - wait for it - stiffer and lighter (lordy, how many times do we need to hear that?). But, I have to believe that setting a CNC’d crank arm into a fitted interface reduced the stresses from installation.
Which is why, some 10 years later, I’m looking at my computer monitor with a magnified image of a greasy splined interface, knowing that I have it lined up properly, but still making sure that I’m removing any variable that could be claimed as my incompetence.
At this point, a couple of rides later, things continue to work as they should. But, I really have not stressed things. In fact, my working plan is to have another moderate ride or two, then remove the arm and check the splines for galling.
That working plan got me thinking about cranks which are actually made these days, because at some point, I’m going to get tired of messing around with this thing, or Ritchey is going to run out of replacement arms for me.
Sugino is the the logical first visit. They have the XD2 which was the original crank on the Hilsen (shown below), and was used on the Quickbeam as well. It’s a very good value for the money, cold forged, silver uses a square taper. There are probably only two things that fall into the negative column for me - they are a hair wider than they need to be (Q-Factor/Tread):
As a non-scale comparison, here’s the same view of an totally different crank on an entirely different bicycle:
This image was taken of the Dawes, which has narrower rear triangle spacing (hence a slightly straighter angle of the chainstay) and uses an older Shimano 600 series (last year before they renamed it “Ultegra”) road crank.
To inaccurately illustrate the difference, I hand-positioned my XD2 non-drive arm in roughly the appropriate position while balancing the bike and snapping this photo with my other hand:
You can at least get a sense that the new/current design will sit further away from the chainstay - necessary if you are designing a crank for more current, shorter wheelbase bicycles which tend to have wider stays. And, I have shown a complete inability to be hampered by slight changes in this area. Some riders may be more directly impacted by it. I get on a wider set of cranks, go “whoa! those are wide!” and then promptly forget about it within the next half hour of riding.
The Sugino XD2’s also use the evil hidden bolt arrangement. The EHB arrangement is peculiar to triple chainring cranks, I think. The first time I came across it was with the Specialized crank (Strongarm? Son of Strongarm? I’m pretty sure it’s out there someone in the parts pile…) that came on my old M2 Stumpjumper. The outer two rings are held on with a standard “sandwich” of outer ring / machined spacer on the crankarms / inner ring. The fifth bolt position is in line with the crankarm itself. At this position, they machined a small gap so that you can fit the threaded nut into position. (I don’t have an image of this detail right now. You’d think, with all the pictures I’ve taken….)
What you end up with is a gap that is a bit too narrow for the chainring bolt tool to get in there. Which means you’ve got to figure out some combination of tools and angles to keep the threaded bit from turning as you torque down the bolt. With the Specialized design, I used to have to shove a rag and screwdriver tip in there. It’s a minor inconvenience, and I seem to overcome the issue. It just always gets me frowning when dealing with it. It seems really slick to integrate the 5th bolt to the arm itself, but just doesn’t work for me.
(As a comparison, the Ritchey Cross Cranks I have use the same hidden 5th bolt design, but just threaded the hole so you use a standard length bolt and go for it. I’ve never had the threading fail, but have had one of those bolts back out on me.)
One design I like is the Sugino Alpina 2
Simple, silver, 5 exposed bolt design, but with the clever addition of material as “webbing” near the arm itself, presumably to distribute stresses effectively. What Sugino doesn’t indicate is whether or not they have a similar tread width to the XD2’s. Unfortunately, the website doesn’t have anything other than a side view. It’s only possible to guess from the images. There are a few vendors which list the Alpina (or Cospea) which appears to be more expensive. The only domestic “for sale” listing of the Alpina2 had it at ~$125 (significantly less than the Alpina/Cospea), but also says this isn’t available.
Poking around their website again, it appears that Sugino has also added a “Mighty Tour” to their lineup. Hard to say what the differences may be - it does seem to have sharper finishing and may be an actual replacement for the coveted Alpina/Cospea. But, it also seems that sometimes models surface on the Sugino site which don’t migrate into production models.
Returning again to the larger picture, a few years ago, Shimano came up withe the Hollowtech II series, which featured an outboard bearing design and “two-piece” crankset. Basically, this let them run an even larger spindle, which they permanently attached to the right crank arm. The left arm was then attached to the other end (using smaller teeth on the spindle, but wisely using a wider alignment notch which prevented misalignment. The outboard bearing design meant that all of a sudden, facing the bottom bracket of the bicycle frame became important again. It also meant that the chainline gets adjusted by using spacers between the bearings and the frame. You aren’t going to be able to tweak the position of the front chainrings by a few millimeters by getting a shorter bottom bracket spindle.
And, I’m not against this design precisely. Initially, there were a few simple designs, but everyone now seems to be phasing those out in favor of carbon. SRAM, for example, initially brought out a Rival series crank which was silver and looked pretty darned nice and allowed the use of a smaller inner chainring due to the 110BCD. Which of course meant that that they had to change the design, going to a black anodized finish and electing to use a 130BCD (minimim small chainring size of 38T). If silver was the only concern, you can still find their “Cross” crank model around (or the indistinguishable S300 GXP), but again, you are back to using the “road” rings of 130BCD. Everything else in the upper end is a carbon crank.
Which is really off the table for me, as the cranks which I alluded to way back at the beginning of this saga - the ones which failed twice on me - were carbon. More precisely, they were carbon wrapped over an aluminum skeleton. Light and stiff and all carbony, they both failed the same way, going from perfectly fine to “that feels funny” to rubbery, bendy, twist-em-with-your-hand delaminatedness within 15 minutes. Had it not been for the aluminum bones, they would have been useless. As it was, I was lucky enough both times to be relatively close to home.
I know why they failed - it’s simple enough. The resins had not permeated all the layers of carbon - clearly a manufacturing issue. The company (which curiously enough then got out of the crankset business entirely) replaced both pair after each failure, but I never used the third replacement - sold ‘em off (with full disclosure) to someone for whom carbon held a compelling allure and bought the Ritchey Cross cranks.
The companies who are still making carbon cranks have certainly had more than a few manufacturing cycles to shake down their processes. My guess is that they have more weight in resin than they do in carbon, and cranks are probably a reasonable application for the material, as impacts tend to be few, and you can, theoretically make the highest use of the directional nature of carbon. If you are going to hang carbon on your bicycle, it probably makes sense to put it there.
I just don’t really want them on my bike. Or maybe it’s just that I’d like to have a little more choice. Carbon just strikes me more and more like a disposable material. Maybe it’s aesthetics. For me, carbon starts shiny and sleek, but gets ratty when it ages, while to my eye the metals gain a burnished and rubbed finish as the years go by.
When looking back to aluminum, I have to admit that two aluminum crankarms failed on me as well. One was pretty danged old, failed exactly as aluminum tends to - minor warning cracks (which I did not notice), followed by immediate separation. That was the most dangerous example, as I went down reasonably quickly with vehicular traffic behind me. The other was sub-spec material, as I’ve rehashed to death at this point.
All of that strangely points me back to steel. On a set of cranks. Which is about as common in the current market as…well… a set of steel cranks.
What it could let you do, is work with some of the newer, lighter steels, have something which takes impacts well, fails in a slow manner and could look really nice. The only downside would be that they require plating for that snazzy shiny silver look that aluminum does so well. As I poked around the inerwebs, muttering about this and the kids on my lawn, I came across something that fit the bill -
I found this image on Greg Terzian’s blog, with some really interesting historical information. First, these “Redline” Flight cranks were made by…Sugino. Second, as Greg states, “the Sugino 400 drive arm had a 110BCD five-bolt aluminum spider permanently installed.” And, the sharp-eyed among you have already noticed, it’s designed for a traditional square-taper bottom bracket. As his writings mention, these are of course highly coveted by collectors, who probably wouldn’t think of slapping ‘em on a bike and actually using them.
But, if I had some, I’d run ‘em…
The LA Times has been publishing a number of interesting articles on bicycle-specific topics of late. It’s nice to see the tone of the articles dealing with bicycles and cyclists as real, adult issues rather than the all-too-common ranty article describing a caricature/stereotype “lycra-clad Lance/Lemond wanna-be…”.
which generated some online comments here.
Read ‘em and if you have the interest, comment favorably to the editors. Let them know that you are a cyclist and appreciate higher quality writing on these issues. One of the bylines to keep an eye on is Jerry Hirsch, who, in addition to having bicycle #100 in the Current Classics Gallery, is also a fine writer. When I read his stuff (and most of what gets published in the LA Times), I am reminded again about the dearth of quality newspaper writing in the SF Bay Area.
However, the papers here do manage to occasionally surround a story. The Marin IJ recently ran an article on an issue which has been a little out of public awareness - broader trail access in Marin County. For those of you who haven’t studied mountain bike catechism, the mountain bike was invented in Marin County* and then uniformally banned from all trails but the widest vehicle access roads (called “fire roads”). There were significant public battles played out, and folks with the strongest opinions dug in across from one another reminiscent of World War One trench warefare in the Somme. As the profoundly anti-bicycle-access-in-any-form folks created noise and cited disproven studies, two curious anomolies popped up - China Camp State Park allowed bicycles on singletrack trails (indeed, created a network of singletrack trails) and Tamarancho Boy Scout Camp created a pay-for-access system of even more singletrack goodness.
In the ensuing time period, most people realized that bikes weren’t the issue as much as continued development and proper trail design (combined with regular trail maintenence efforts, which the cyclists seem much more predisposed to engage in). Bicycle riders learned how not to spook horses or hikers, and everyone seemed to get a helluva lot more reasonable.
In short, it’s come down to behavior. If you blow past trail users of any type (or run into them like a doofus), your behavior is inappropriate for the conditions. (And if ride trails and have never seen the IMBA Rules of the Trail, take a moment and read/refresh your memory.)
The interesting thing is that in the comments section of this article -
Supervisors tackle Marin trail conflicts
there are a whole host of very familiar names to anyone who has followed Marin County trail politics. Same old folks peering over the edge of the trench.
The encouraging thing is that the poll on the page was running roughly 70% - 30% in favor of more trail access for bicycles. It certainly is time to have a reasonable conversation about these things, address real issues like behavior of the trail users - everyone from littering hikers to folks who let their dogs chase wildlife to brain-dead cyclists and insensitive equestrians needs to realize the effect of their actions.
My personal belief is that a competent rider on a ~30 pound bicycle with working brakes has a lot more control over their momentum than a rider on a 900 - 1100 animal which has a separate and differently responding brain. (And yes, I do ride horses now and again also.)
One of the scariest moments I ever had on a trail was nearly being trampled by two riders galloping their horses where they shouldn’t have been doing so. But, the conclusion I drew from that was the riders were exhibiting antisocial and dangerous behavior. Maybe they didn’t have a nickel’s worth of brains between them. Maybe they were playing out some equestrian fantasy. Maybe they just didn’t think I had as much right to hike the trail as they did to ride it. Whatever.
I don’t draw any further conclusion from that interaction than most - some people are self-centered jerks oblivous to what effects their actions are having. That type of behavior wasn’t appropriate, but it doesn’t mean that most of the trail users aren’t respectful and safe. It’s the simple and easy interactions which get forgotten.
Through a quirk of the calendar, 4 months to the day after someone popped their truck door open at
precisely the wrong time, the Quickbeam headed onto the
roadway again. After a frame check to make sure that nothing structural got bent or damaged, followed by attaching new handlebars, brake levers and stem (all replaced out of pocket because I’m still waiting for the other driver’s insurance to
settle up…), and another saddle swapped over, the bicycle seemed ready for duty.
Yes, I did set the brake cables using an underwrap of hemp twine, shellacked with, uh, shellac. (An intervention may be necessary, as I’ve observed before.) Left the barends open, so they can take a core sample of anything that impales itself upon them. (I thought I had a set of Velox bar plugs - hell I know I do - but couldn’t find them before the ticking clock of “gottagetgoing” chimed…) Don’t think I’ll need to tweak the setup too much, but didn’t want to jinx it by wrapping everything into place. Commuted and did a short
errand after work, reminding myself again why I like this bicycle so
It was great not to coast again.
It was great not to have to shift.
I really, really like the Jack Brown (Green) tires. Had them set at 65/75 psi and they felt like velvet.
Having a front bag (the L’il Loafer) that fits exactly on the rack (Nitto Mini Front) makes my heart sing.
It was funny, the bike I rode most recently before this was the Zeus, which is nothing if not an acquired taste. The frame is smallish - in the way we all downsized frames back in the last century - and between the lightish, standard gauge tubing and the significant leverage provided by the moustache bars, the bicycle flexes without hesitation under load. With the 650B (584 bcd) tire conversion, it has the low stance of a badger, and the head angle and fork rake combine to give it a unique trail. The first mile or so on the Zeus are a lesson of correction, finding the combination of position and input to let the bike move the way it wants to. Since I was using that more frequently, the idiosyncrasies became normal.
So, getting back on the Quickbeam took a little adjustment again - mostly to get used to a bike that acted entirely differently, but much, much more trustworthy. Four months without riding this bicycle has been a travesty, and it felt wonderful to enjoy the cool sunshine of late October, pedaling, pedaling, pedaling the whole time.
I’ve finally figured out that I get depressed when I break bike parts. Maybe that’s overstating things a little. I mean, it’s not like I’m weeping-in-the-streets depressed, but nonetheless, it bugs me. I don’t like seeing the parts break.
Certainly things break. And the recent crank failure appears to be a sub-spec part, so it wasn’t operator error. However, there’s a distinct lack of alternatives, and that’s pretty much my own damn fault. My combination of sloth and deferred maintainence kind of caught up to me. And that gets me clearly depressed.
Let me explain - I’ve mentioned this axiom before:
“As the number of bicycles increases, the chance that none of them will work correctly increases exponentially.”
Which means that when a wheel on one bike isn’t quite true, you tend to start using the next one, which then develops a bit of toe-in error and squawks whenever you squeeze the rear brake. So, you leave that one hanging in the garage - certainly meaning to get back and spend a few minutes with the wrenches to heal that up - and use the next for a while.
In my case, I’d been riding the Quickbeam until my forward motion was rudely interrupted by my index finger coming between me and a suddenly-opening truck door. That bent up the brake lever and bars well beyond repair, tweaked the stem and saddle rails and introduced me to the glacial-molasses world of insurance reimbursement.
Since the Hilsen was looking for use, once my shoulder and neck would allow it, that became my main ride.
Now, I did figure that I’d get the Quickbeam up and running again once the broken and damaged bits were replaced. (And, just to divert briefly, the other driver’s insurance company has been decidedly mute on paying off my damage. Hey, it’s only been 90-freakin-days!!!) So, maybe my sloth is a little off the hook on that one…
But, before I decided to try out the Brooks Swift on the Hilsen, I had been moving saddles around a bit, and had pulled the B-17 off of the Dawes fixed gear. Which meant it was dutifully awaiting its next assignment while brandishing a naked seatpost.
My geared hardtail mtb has a variety of issues - rear wheel, drivetrain, ratty cables - most of which have been multiplied by disuse and the removal of pedals sometime during last year’s cyclocross season. In fact, the geared mtb has been used so little, my most-frequent ride buddies have actually never seen me riding it. This is both comedic and tragic.
(And is starting to veer a little off-topic as well. It’s just meant to put a couple of asterisks next to the players on the scorecard - to see the ones who are nursing injuries. )
With the snapping crank of a week and a half ago, that pretty much left me with a set of mostly unrideable bikes. Oh, the Zeus is still plugging along, and it’s been my local errand bike reliably for a while. But, there is something in the back of my mind that troubles me when I’m relying upon a twenty…no… thirty year old bike and components of somewhat unknown provenance. I tend to treat it with the respect and fear that demands.
The last horse in the barn is the Bridgestone MB1SS. Which, by virtue of its singlespeedyness remains reliable, generally capable of being run hard and put away wet. But, there too, the gremlins of entropy chew greedily upon the tendons of hope. The last few times I’ve been out on the trails, there has been the relatively infrequent slip of the freehub, the tinny and thin alarm sounding the beginning of pawl death.
Now, it isn’t that I can’t fix these issues (well, except for the Zeus, which will only - hopefully - continue to grow older). But, free time has been at a premium this past month, and riding rather than wrenching has been the course I chose. And, if the folks at Ritchey Logic had suggested that the whole crankarm thing would be something other than a replacement, I would’ve pulled the other arm, swapped out the bottom bracket, slapped on the Sugino XD2’s that have been sitting in a box since the C. Xavier Hilsen project, and either swapped the 48T ring from the Ritchey or dropped the front derailleur down for the 46T on the Sugino, and I would’ve been good to go.
And I’m hoping to get free for a couple hours this week to head across the bay, drop in on the folks in Walnut Creek and pick up the bits I need to get the Quickbeam out again. That bike deserves to be on the roads and trails, and I’m missing the steady silent rhythm of riding fixed.
Even writing about getting those bikes going has perked me up a bit. (And I do think I’ve been fighting something this last week, which generally doesn’t help one’s outlook.) No telling what a little bit of time and energy can do.
Riding down to Sausalito Wednesday evening. I’m engineering for a class and managed to get my messed up lighting issues solved so that the nighttime return trip won’t be too treacherous. In fact, I’m pretty pleased to be getting in some cheap miles and spend time with good friends and a talented instructor. I just miss the light to jump across from the bike path to Bridgeway, so I head forward on the less used section of wide path/sidewalk, planning to use the next opportunity to cross.
About two or three pedal strokes to regain some speed - BAM! - the whole bike shudders and my left foot is unclipped. I’m still upright and moving forward, but finding only air. It seems that I had some catastrophic pedal failure, and I look down to see, well… pretty much nuthin’…. which is kind of a further surprise.
There’s about three inches or so of crank arm left, and a slightly jagged looking silver face. I slow down, realize that I’m pretty W&TF and look back to see if there are any parts in my wake. At first it seems like everything had just vanished. Backtracking further, I see the Time pedal and it’s rather forlorn and useless appendage.
You’ll have to excuse the cruddy little phone cam shot. There are some clearer photos to follow.
The immediate issue was arriving early enough to change into street clothes for the class. I still had about 3 miles to go, and I wasn’t really going to be moving at precisely the same speed I’d enjoyed. A quick call to let them know and I saddled up and started kicking it one-footedly down Bridgeway.
It wasn’t any particular hardship, really. I mean, if you know the parallel option, it’s not particularly hilly - in fact, it could be described as just about dead-flat. A little playing around with gear choice, and the only downside was the rather, um, different means by which you contact the saddle when pedaling one-legged. Not trying to get graphic, just trying to make the case that you want to be a little careful when engaging in that method of transportation.
Made it on time, managed to catch my wife and cash in one of my “please come and fetch me” chips after class ended (she was seeing a play with a friend, and it actually worked out quite well…)
This morning, I got to play around with the better camera and record some more of the specifics -
The bit on the bike. Looks like things propagated from the leading edge, which seems to be the darkest area.
The bit that broke off. I’m holding it in the nice morning light. If you click through to see all sizes, or just jump to the largest version, you can see the tale of woe rendered in 6000 series aluminum. The end result being that I now own a left crank arm which can be used for the lowest of bb heights…
107 is the new length. All the kids’ll be riding ‘em soon. You heard it here first.
As I was snapping these photos (all of which are over in a Flickr set, as you’d expect), it struck me that I needed to deal with this whole thing. (Hey, it was early, I was on my first cup of coffee and had to get to work.) Since I’d had some issues with the ISIS connective spline, this pair had come directly from Ritchey on a warranty. I wasn’t sure what the warranty period was, but thought it would be at least worth asking. Emailed them through their website, and got an autoresponder that said they were out at Interbike this week. Ok. Fine. I headed into work with the vague idea of swapping the stock Sugino XD’s back on, and switching chainrings to maintain the same gearing.
By the time I got back this afternoon, another email had come through from Ritchey USA. This time, they attached a helpful little pdf which documented a voluntary recall they had instituted, as some of the early cranks were busting on the non-drive side. I looked up the date codes on my nubbins, and curiously enough, it did seem to fit within the date of the recall. So, as soon as they send me the actual RA#, I’ll be sending this down to them.
It did keep me thinking. In my only other crank fracture, I was out of balance and on the ground pretty danged fast. Since the bike and I were climbing at the time, and it was a fixed-gear system, torque was pretty high, though thankfully the speed remained low.
This time around, things were on the flat, and I had a decent amount of momentum going. When the arm failed, I do remember coming down very hard on the right pedal. Luckily, I had my weight pretty well distributed. But, I think it also strongly attests to the stability of the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. Things went from pretty normal to very out of balance in a big hurry, but the last thing I even worried about was how to stay upright on the bike.
Resource - Ritchey Design Voluntary Recall pdf
You may have heard the rumors that Rivendell Bicycle Works is prototyping a lighter, club-oriented bike. As with a lot of things Rivvish, the info first popped up over on the RBW Owners Bunch List. (In fact, there’s even a thread about it…)
Well, things have continued to move along on that front, and while I’m cursing a schedule that prevents me from dropping everything and rushing over to the RBWHQ&L in Walnut Creek today (or tomorrow…) to see this bicycle model in person, Grant Peterson was kind enough to share some info. His words follow:
1. Why does it look so unRivendellish?
a. It IS steel, it IS lugged, it HAS a fork crown and a nice fork rake. You CAN fit a 35mm tire. It has longish (by race bike standards) chainstays, and a lowISH bottom bracket. It has a clamp-on front derailer. All quite in keeping with all of our bikes.
a. Done it before, with the Legolas. The Roadeo will be available threaded or threadless, same price, your choice.
3. That price?
a. $2,000 frame and fork. And we’ll have some package options—likely a club-rider-racerish package with a road double and SRAM brifters for around $4,200; and a country-ish version, probably with a triple….for $3,600. Specs to be determined, but one racey, one normal….with mixitup flexibility, whatever one likes.
3. Who makes it?
a. ‘ford. (ed - that’d be “Waterford”)
a. white with red; white with blue; any color you like except white or cream, with cream.
a. Mix of Reynolds 725 and TrueTemp OX Plat. As thin as I/Grant could stand to go. (0.65 butts in the tt and dt, with 0.45 bellies)
6. Frame weight?
a. Well, man, the prototype frame here weighs 4lb 3oz, in a 55cm. Now, there are ways to trim another half pound off it, but not without getting super ridiculous. We’re shooting for 3.9999999999999xinfinity pounds, and think we can get there by trimming a lug, using a narrower crown, monkeying around with the chainstay brake bridge, possibly using a different bb shell and seat tube. But that’s it! Then it’ll weigh what it weighs, and it’s over.
7. Whole bike?
a. as shown, 20.7. with four ounces off the frame, three off the fork (we can do this easily on a threadless), and something else, we can get it to 19.9999999999999 pounds with Jack Brown greens.
Some spec notes:
The best brakes for it are the Tektro Bigmouth 57s. They’re super light, and allow 35mm+ tires, releasable without deflating. The photo shows a SRAM crank–Mark picked all the parts for it–but we may go with a D/A compact. It’s all up to Mark (I just designed the frame).
Eventually the particulars will go onto our site, but I hate taking about decimal metric numbers as though the decimals matter and the numbers reveal the essence of the frame. I don’t like stubby chainstay even a little, but I don’t want my preference for 44.5+cm chainstays to smite this bike before it leaves the gates, and in the big pic 43/43/5 is plenty fine, and if it works for Mark, it’ll work for anybody. The rest of the numbers are right down the middle of our lane, with a slight Mark-’fluence, because Mark has that ‘fluence, and he knows. I may get a 59, so I jogged a little with the numbers for the 59, designing it just for me, but it’ll be fine for anybody who fits it. I think the bb is a few mm lower than the 57 and the 61—77 or 78 instead of 75. Not significant, but it’ll allow me the clearance I want with the fatties I’ll ride on it.
Who the bike is for:
Club riders who weigh under 210l bs and who aren’t looking to load it up or ride it on trails. We have other bikes for that, and the Roadeo is for road riding with minimal gear. There are no rack eyelets (reinforces the message) but there are fender eyelets on the dropouts.
ANYBODY is welcome to come by and ride it, and we should have another prototype in a month or so. Maybe another Mark’s size, or maybe mine, not sure.
It is every bit as zippy as any road bike, and a lot more useful, comfy, safe…and lower priced than a lot of them..
Felt like I could finally wrap my hand around a wrench yesterday, so spent a little time fiddling with the Hilsen setup. I’d cut the housing too short when I swapped out the stem a while back, which sent the get-homer-on-the-road impulse into a tailspin. Now, however, the idea of gears seems good, as my left shoulder isn’t too ready for the stress of handlebar honking. Got a little twine-fixated, but really like the touch of wrapping near the barend shifter. Not my best bar wrap job, but it got things ready to ride. Which, after a quick swap to smooth tires, seems like a fine way to spend the morning.
Enjoy these while I’m gone -
The last couple weeks were a bit hectic and scattered. Through it all, I sensed that fabric was being folded and needles were coursing along seams. Sure enough, the Zugster Rando Bag 002 appeared via the electronic imaging machine. I kept looking at the photos and wondering how I could shake loose for a Quickbeam loop into the city to pick it up. After pretty much giving up hope of seeing my new bag in anything other than Flickr sets, Adam and I managed to connect late on Sunday at an undisclosed location where the delivery occurred. After shaking his hand about 23 times, we went our separate ways and I poked and prodded at the bag, which seemed a wee bit nervous about its future.
Just to assure it that it had nothing to worry about, I bumped around a little later than usual, rigging and setting the bag onto the Nitto Camper “Mini Front Rack” on the Quickbeam. I gotta say, as nice as I’d hoped it would look, Adam’s workmanship just made it sing -
The rack setup is not really ideal for it. It would easily work, mind you, but the rack has an angled loop at the rear which pulls it a bit toward the handlebar and makes it slightly tricky to work the cord release on the top flap (More precisely, it makes it a bit tricky to secure the loop - it’s doable, but there’s just things to work around.) The bag is maybe an inch shorter than the rack platform as well. I don’t want to make major modifications to this rack, because the Nigel Smythe Lil Loafer is sized perfectly for it.
And, as I ponder these two images, it seems that it would be a reasonable thing to consider cutting the loop on a Mini-front or Mark’s rack, then reattaching it. And, since I’m cutting it anyway, it would probably make some sense to create a purpose-designed release system, such as the one Alistair Spence used on his Paramount -
Which seems to be a lot about racks and not much about bags. Which wasn’t really my point when I started. One does tend to lead into the other, and I must admit, I hadn’t really thought much about the rack yet. I was just so psyched when Adam said he had a space in the queue that I just dove in.
Still, there are worse problems to have than pondering those possibilities.
In the meantime, with the regular bits that I bring on my commute - U-Lock, keys, snackies, mini-pump, a vest and some arm and knee warmers, my “be-seen” kit of reflective bits and a spare light and some other odds and ends - it seemed to very happily sit proud and square on the rack on the route to and from work. There’s a light coroplast stiffener which helps in the rigidization.
The bag itself is a custom Medium size - Adam sized the width down slightly from the standard dimensions. It fits just as hoped for, and once I move it slightly forward, things will be even more accessible. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the heck out of this bag -
“Steel frame bicycles have been making a resurgence in recent years with
the increase of the “fixies” around the country. Many of these were
once proud racing machines. Most are used for basic transportation in
college campuses and in cities by bike delivery riders. There could
not be a better testament to the durability of steel.”
Well, there ya go. Too bad it was only because folks have decided to have a “Steel Only” race that it’s getting some press. Fixed-gear lifestyle causing the resurgence? I don’t really think you can pin the tail on one donkey - there was the NAHBS for example, and perhaps a bit of reasonableness creeping into the mindset of cyclists who might not have liked the neighborhood where Ultralight Ave. and New Material Frenzy Drive intersected.
And of course (just to get all self-congratulatory and everything), there are some of us who didn’t think it ever left.
Article: Men of Steel Return to Racing
Did the Nikwax treatment last night on the jacket.
Which insured that the skies grew clear last night and today sunlight came over the hills with the morning light. And I just want to be very clear that I’m OK with that.
Had planned to vote the straight Nikwax Ticket, but REI was out of the wash (computer showed three…) so I opted for a generic “SportWash” which the cashier helpfully agreed was pretty much the same thing. Washed the jacket* (and my non-breathable shell and windvest, plus the cute-but-dumb Voler “Rain” Gloves). Then, continuing to follow the directions to the letter, ran the washer on Warm/Heavy, filled it the absolute minimum, dumped in the TX.DIRECT and locked it down.
Upon completion, my initial reaction was “What the HELL did I just do to my jacket?” as it came out looking like a horribly grimy, misused, stained and see-through version of itself. Every seam tape, underpiece, zipper reinforcement and dit-dot of color (at some point my red wool jersey must’ve bled into it) that wasn’t the basic yellow seemed to be contrasted in high relief.
Luckily, I’ve had the jacket for long enough that it was not going to really bother me in its new condition. Ok, it was. But, it isn’t like a new jacket is in the budget right now.
After hanging it in the shower to drip-dry a bit, the fabric s-l-o-w-l-y began to return to its more uniform tone. By bedtime, it was about halfway there. This morning, it actually looks better than it has in a while - though my impression may be skewed by how grungy it looked fresh-from-the-washer.
Of course, in the short time it has taken me to type this, the showers have begun again, so I could probably test it if I wanted to…
Tires showed up on the doorstep last night. While I was rummaging around REI, I found a few road snackies - a couple packs of the Clif Cider electrolyte drink mix, a couple packs of the Clif Shot Blocks and something called “Java Juice” which is coffee extract in what appears to be the world’s largest soy sauce takeout packet. According to the packet, you add the contents to 10-12 oz of hot or cold water and you have a cup of coffee. It’s even shade grown and fair trade.
You never know when you might need that little kick of caffeine, and it’s best to be reasonably self-sufficient in the Big Valley.
*The jacket is a Pearl Izumi model, the name of which escapes me. It uses eVent waterproof/breathable fabric and was purchased maybe six years ago on a trip to Portland.
Sort of in “List Mode” today for some reason. Well, the reason is simple enough - there’s a couple hundred K to ride on Saturday and there are things to do. Sent off the check yesterday morning. Sadly, no one has offered up a pro contract for my brevet riding, so there’s still a week o’ work between here and there.
Deeply bummed to get word from Gino that he’s not going to ride.
Last Saturday’s ride produced the first flat I’ve had on the Jack Brown-Greens. One moment everything is rolling along nicely, the next I’m wobbling on a poorly padded rear rim. I’d been expecting it - the JB’s were original equipment on the Hilsen, which was new-to-me on September of 2007. When swapping them out and back for the CXSR adventure, they felt like the paper-thin Vittoria’s which lasted all of one ride (many moons ago, on a different bike).
As I waited for the vulcanizing fluid to dry, I worked my way around the tire more carefully. There were definitely a few nicks and gouges, and I could see the beginnings of casing at a few more. Luckily, replacements were already on order.
Everything else felt pretty good on the bike. It needs a deep cleaning. There’s also a slight rear hub looseness that I haven’t eliminated. Need a bench vise for the hub issue. My longest wrench won’t budge the freewheel. Probably Thursday AM for the scrubbing, which should give me enough reaction time if I find some other bit that needs replacing.
The greasy residue on my fingers also reminded me that I wanted to pack a little vial of Gojo. One of the downsides of derailleur-less systems is that you end up handling the chain more. And it’s amazing how few bathrooms now seem to have soap dispensers.
On Saturday’s ride, my cleats popped out a couple times while climbing. I’ve been breaking in a new set of SIDI’s, using a fresh set of new-version Time ATAC cleats. The Quickbeam has had the oldest set of ATAC pedals I own - gen 1’s, I reckon - the kind with the composite body (I’m pretty sure they were OEM take-off’s from something…). The old SIDI’s were worn down almost slipper-like, nearly smooth as dress shoes on the soles. I expect from the ten or so years of pushing pedals, they had molded a bit to the shape of the pedals. These new ones were working two variables, and I suspect the freshly-molded shape combined with the B-class fit of the new cleat design with the old pedal bodies caused it.
However, momentum is always such a fickle mistress. On longer rides, so is attitude. While it didn’t bug me on Saturday, I suspect that over the longer distance from Davis to Pope Valley, a few of those forced-single-legged-riding incidents and I’d be pretty grumpy. So, on Sunday night I swapped in the newest ATAC’s from the Hilsen.
This worked well for Monday’s commute. Curious thing, using the pedals with the cleats that were designed for them.
Monday exposed some other issues as well. Namely leaky bits. A couple weeks back I’d ridden off into a rainy headwind for a while to go see the Tour of Calfornia cross over the Golden Gate Bridge -
My feet - in the new SIDI’s - were soaked within a mile of leaving the house. My “rain” gloves were uselessly sodden within a half hour. Water seeped into my front bag (mostly from the bottom - spray off the front of the fender). I’m pretty sure my jacket leaked (and I had bought it in Oregon!). Though I brought a bag to cover my saddle while it was parked, I figured my ample hams and the Rainlegs would cover it appropriately while riding. It mostly did, but the results were evident -
Since we’re enjoying yet another late-but-torrential rainy season, these things are important. It seems I’m now in wet conditions test-mode on the Brooks. Will advise as more data comes in. I let it air dry completely. Gave it a little daub of Proofride where it was bone dry. Let that sit for a day. Then tightened things up about a half - three-quarter turn (first time on this saddle - another with-the-Hilsen OEM bit).
But, that all was a couple weeks back. Yesterday, I headed off into what looked to be clearing conditions, looped out the long way to work and was promptly caught in a heavy, wind-driven shower which lasted all the way there. Damp feet (new socks which seemed much, much better), sodden gloves, the silicone spray seemed to work on the front bag (though now it pooled on the top rather than seeping directly in), and the vague feeling that my jacket wasn’t quite doing its thing. And I pondered about 9 more hours in such conditions. Not the best set of thoughts.
Rainlegs would’ve been much better than the non-waterproof pants I was wearing. Even though my upper parts were damp, I was comfy. Might’ve even been happier with one less layer and a warmer hat. I’ve decided that my Voler Rain Gloves aren’t - though they make dandy wind/damp gloves. The simple wool gloves work better the wetter it is.
The shoes/feet thing is probably the worst. Anything that gets that uncomfortable that quickly will not correct itself easily. I have toe warmer things for cold and old, old neoprene booties from more open-wheeled racer days - neither one quite right. Road spray is a bit of an issue, and I’m going to try running some flexible wire down the fender flap. Someone at the SFR 200K was running shower caps on their feet, which struck me as reasonably brilliant. Riding along in both the recent sloshy outings, it was also clear that a significant amount of water drips down off of my arms right onto my feet.
I’m going to try to leave work a bit early and loop down to REI - first to pick up some Nikwax stuff to revitalize the jacket, and then to take a look at lighter weight shoe covers or waterproof socks. Leaning towards the covers, with maybe a spritz of silicone.
The Niterider is heading down for warranty work - my disco light
condition frequent enough to be noted in the FAQ. In a wonderful
world, I’ll be finished and off course well before needing
illumination, but decided on a little bit of “see” lighting in addition
to my “be seen” bar light. First, I removed the front of the rack mount, then P-clamped a Coast V2 Tac-light LED flashlight to the side of the rack. It’s supposed to have about 100 hours on 3 AAA’s, and throws a decent amount of light. Could only get black through my distributor at work, but it’s good for now.
Though all this the bike is working great. One of the grand things about a derailleur-less system. Riding home last night, the winds swirled and howled Since my revelation about cross-wind reactions, things have seemed even more solid on the Quickbeam.
Sat at the desk last night trying to get my mind around “equivilences”. Y’see, the other issue here is that I’ve actually not ridden any of the roads upon which the Davis 200K is routed. The two brevets I’ve done have been over a true home court advantage. I’m looking at elevations to the dam at Berryessa and thinking it’s roughtly the same as White’s Hill. I’m thinking that 54 miles to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse will be similar to less climbing and the 67 miles to the Pope Valley control. I’m estimating speed on the flats, on the climbing section, then the undulations to the turn around point. Estimating where I’d like to try to take a break as suggested by topography, mileage and the presence of stores. In other words, I’m fretting a bit.
But, it’s a good kind of fretting. Planning in redundant systems of failure. Analyzing variables.
I’m also thinking that winds will be an issue, and as such am happy that the last few rides had a goodly amount.
Ok. Gotta get going. Warned you this was “Nattering”…
And we’re ready as we’re gonna be for tomorrow’s little cross shindig up in Santa Rosa. I let Gino talk me into doing the B-Singlespeed. Short race, but fast youngsters. If I don’t decide to play lame afterwards, the second race is free, so maybe I’ll get the Hilsen muddy, too. Depends how nasty things are out there after showers all week.
And, of course, how nasty I feel…
My bar tape finishing habits have been bothering me for some time. They began back in my Cinelli cork splash days (oh, come one… we all did it at least once…) when the “Cinelli-Cinelli-Cinelli…” finish wrap tape snapped (again!) just as I applied what should have been an appropriate amount of pressure. The electrician’s tape roll hung on a nail by the shared workbench, and I’d watched my sensei use it quickly and efficiently numerous times, while he would silently shake his head as I snapped my way through the stuff that came in the box. Since the final breakage of the C-tape meant it no longer even made one complete orbit of the bars, I reached for large black roll.
It worked quite quickly, and you could put a boatload of pressure on it. The resulting snap-back of the tape tightened things up even further. From that day forward, it was three and a half wraps of black electrician’s tape. No more tape popping and unravelling from the stem area.
More recently, it just started to seem cheap and tawdry. I’d notice the way it would catch the light and look wrinkled and scrunched. I’d see the adhesive residue creeping out from underneath, and spend more time cleaning up the bars to remove the gunk.
Recently, as the white bar wrap on the Quickbeam became increasingly dishwater grey, I felt it was time to move on. Back when the Hilsen arrived, Mark at Rivendell had finished off the cork wrap with an exceptional twining job:
In the year or so since I’ve had that bike, I’ve realized that you spend a fair amount of time with that general area in your field of vision. The care put into the twined and shellacked wrap tended to bring about a smile.
Honestly, I’ve been shying away from the whole shellac thing. Twining the bar tape seemed a bit like a simple gateway drug. Adding shellac just seemed to change people. It seemed that fine and normal folks would start there, then start wrapping and shellacking all manner of things. Which, in and of itself is fine. But, where do you draw the line? Clearly, I needed some boundries. Or, at least a safe word. Maybe a lacquer-buddy… My wife was starting to work with oil paints again, so we volunteered to watch out for each other.
The twine turned out to be the easy part (although RBW just mentioned that their source may discontinue the product). I just put it on the same order that brought a new chainring recently. Me and 385 feet of hemp twine, hanging out. Cool.
But shellac? Not so simple. Seemed like it should be easy enough to pick up at the chain hardware store near work. Well, only if I wanted a gallon. Or an aerosol spray can.
Nope. I figured that there could be little more dangerous than me armed with propellant-powered shallac. I recently recaulked the tub, using one of those clicky-gun-things. It was ugly. I mean, did you know that you had to pierce another seal after you clipped the tip off of the caulk module?
Local hardware store? No. Another local hardware store? They kept steering me over to the varnish display, and asking rather pointedly why varnish wouldn’t work better, especially since it came in a wide variety of colors and finishes. I think they knew about the hemp. Struck out at the big craft store, a model & hobby shop and Sears. I’d actually peeled the bars over the weekend, and was riding around with gloves and near-naked bars for these errands. It began to recall the recent theme of “Quest for Salmon Canti Kool-Stop Pads“…
Finally, I thought to hit up Marin Color Service - a contractor-oriented paint retailer who always seemed to have lots of cans of stuff on the shelves. A phone call confirmed they had it - both clear and amber - in sizes as small as a half pint.
Turns out they lied, of course. But not badly. I honestly hadn’t expected the clerk to wander out onto the floor the check that they had the smaller sizes, especially since they claimed to stock it, which at least meant they could probably order it. His answer had been so decisive that I hadn’t confirmed that they actually had clear in the little can. So, I had no one to blame but myself upon finding myself staring at a gallon of clear, and many varieties of the amber.
My plan had not been to start with the hard stuff. A clear sheen on some twine might mean wax or some sealant, but not necessarily shellac. The rich roasted color of the amber was a definite sign that I was using, similar to the Mentats. There was no turning back. They also gave me a free paint can opener.
Despite knocking the twine ball off its perch, chasing it across the floor and then figuring I had plenty of twine already pulled out only to find myself two wraps short (not enough tag end to do the nifty whip finish), things came together pretty well. I could put the kind of pressure on the turns that I’d only dreamed of with tape. The whip finish worked perfectly. The twine wraps were not specifically symmetrical, but close enough not to be offensive, while being different enough to be interesting.
Because it was Saturday, the weather silly-gorgeous and definitely time to ride, I neglected the shellac step before heading out onto the roads. But, last night, I broke out the cheap brush, spread a little paper and put a couple coats on the wrap. Here it is in this morning’s light:
In fact, it got me excited enough that I decided to re-coat Mark’s original twining job on the Hilsen. Since the working theory is that the C. Xavier Hilsen will be out on the course this coming weekend, I wanted it to look its best.
As I considered the bar tape, the fraying at the corners of the ramps worried me a bit. Once that works through, the unravelling begins. Granted, next on the work manifest was the stem replacement on the Hilsen, but in the meantime, I didn’t want to be trailing bar tape. And the shellac was open. And the brush was already dirty. And I knew it would help seal things a bit to resist the wear. And once I started, it looked pretty cool…
Um.. ok.. It may be time for an intervention. Maybe it’s something in the laquer. Once you get that brush in your hand, it’s really, really hard to stop. Let this be a lesson to you all.
Had heavy-duty classes on Friday and Saturday, plus a last-minute houseguest starting Thursday, in addition to regular work stuff. So, when the friend headed off to the airport on midday Sunday, my working plan had been a leisurly ride, enjoying the silly-warm weather and comparative lack of traffic. Something about a sports event causing the latter. I was suprised that so many people were going to stay in and watch the Cyclocross Worlds, but maybe there’s hope for us afterall.
But, I could tell Saturday night that the week had taken its toll a bit. Wasn’t exactly fighting something, but my voice was off and head a little loopy. When I reevaluated things on Sunday - or more precisely, when I asked myself whether I wanted to ride and didn’t bounce around the house like a dog who sees the leash get taken down - it just made sense to underdo things a bit. Another Anti-Costanza workout.
And there was some real pressure to knuckle down and clean up the bikes. Or, at least one bike. As I’ve mentioned before, my “workspace” is basically in the art room, so if it involves cleaning, degreasing and other nasty byproducts, it’s banished out back. With the weather we’ve been having (or more appropriately, “not having”) this winter, it’s been tough to trade away a ride for some scrubbing. In fact, I ‘d rather don the raingear and boots and do the cleaning in the rain.
But, the “to-do” list on the Quickbeam had grown to a lengthy list - nasty-noisy drivetrain, road gunk, the dirty-dishwater-won’t-clean-up anymore bar tap, a
little hop in both the front and back wheels, dry pedal bearings, dry
spots on the saddle, a little “tick” sound out of the headset every once in a while, that embarrassing rear-brake squeal. Oh sure, it still looked good in the sun, but wasn’t ready for its close-up.
I actually had been trying to do this for a while, as the brake pad issue was reasonably egregious. For some reason, it had been very important to replace the OEM Shimano pads with some Kool Stop Salmon compound. Even the half and half would’ve been OK. The first set was easy enough to find - a little pop into A Bicycle Odyssey after class. But, they’d only had one set, and since new canti pad installation is a dish best served in four courses, I needed another set. Should’ve put more weight on the suprise of the staff that they’d had it.
Five other shops had only the standard compound. Another had no smooth post canti pads at all. Another stop in the Sausalito shop brought news that the next shipment had not arrived. Luckily, they took the extra retail step, checked an upcoming order and confirmed that they were coming.
In the meantime, I exfoliated enough of the trail grit and lube goop from the chainring to see that things were ugly. One of the curses of a simple drivetrain is that you don’t really assume things are wearing like they do on many-geared setups. So, you don’t flip the chainring. And, I’ve been running the same chainring since February of 2006, when the Quickbeam arrived. As mentioned above, it had developed a grindy sound that was not really part of my singlespeed asthetic.
The drivetrain kept catching my eye as well. On the “Fixed Up” ride a few weeks earlier, the position of the rear wheel seemed rather far aft. It seemed that a stretched chain and ground down ring might have that effect.
Parts accumulated with a small package of bits from Rivendell, another trip to the shop, and a bit of rooting around the parts pile (actually down to my last 8 speed chain). The warm Sunday afternoon tipped the cow… wait. Is that a phrase?
First step was a quick eval - with the gearing set in the 40/14 fixed mode, the effective chainstay length was 45.7 cm’s. The chain measured - I kid you not - 12 1/4″ for 24 links. The 40T chainring looked like breakers at the beach.
Got drivetrain noise?
Things mostly chugged right along - everything got scrubbed and no anomolies appeared, new chainring setup easily, pads went on quickly, a little adhesive residue from the bar tape. The only thing that didn’t get addressed was that I couldn’t budge the freewheel so I’ll have to use a big bench vise at some point. When things went back together, the chainstay measurement came in at 44.9 cm’s. (Insert Roger Rabbit-y rubbery headshake sproing noise here.) Yeah, almost a centimeter is a change.
It got me wondering about dropping another link out of the chain. It might be interesting to experiment with a slightly shorter wheelbase. Of course I need to make sure that the 18T freewheel setup wouldn’t bottom out (or, technically “front” out) on the fork end. Food for thought. Project for another day.
Got things mostly wrapped up and stowed in time to shower and zip out to see “Slumdog Millionaire”. Which is brilliant.
The Quickbeam is much happier now. And ready for its close-up…
Just wondering if that comedienne I remember from many years ago was correct.
“Is blond hair a mild form of congenital retardation?”
Just to clarify for those (many) of you whom I’ve never met face to face, I’m wondering about my own hair and mental acuity.
Lights had been tormenting me this week. My lightweight, just pre-LED era Niterider with the small NiMH battery grew cantankerous lately, doing the disco ball light show instead of decrementing properly. Then on the ride home last week, I hit a little ripple in the road and it just clicked off. Not a dangerous problem as I had a secondary light on the bars and a helmet-mounted LED. Plus, I was only a couple miles from home, and nipped around a different way which kept me mostly under street lights. Got home and put everything through a recharge cycle, because it could have simply been a drained battery (since I can’t tell, because the “fuel gauge” doesn’t do anything useful).
That worked not at all. Then I got distracted, put off digging out the bigger, backup light and setting that up for Monday. (”The sloth is strong in this one…”) Ended up working from home in the morning, another hour or so after lunch, then jumped up in a flurry to get to work when I needed to. The other light was (get ready lighting history buffs) my old NiteRider Digital Pro, a the first microprocessor switched light they made. It’s actually been upgraded to a new connector system, with a NiMH battery. At the time that made some sense, and it’s still an excellent trail/mtb light. It’s a bit bulky for commuting, as it uses a waterbottle-shaped battery.
I put the waterbottle battery into the forward cage on the Quickbeam, dug out a phillips head screwdriver to attach the mount, set up the control on the stem (kinda like a stem shifter…) strung the connector toward the bottle, then went to attach the lead.
And damn if that sucker wasn’t about 3 inches too short.
Hmmm…now feeling that I should’ve been out the door 10 minutes ago, I dug through boxes in search of perhaps a connector. None. Finally, I pulled the battery out of the cage, wedged it into the Nigel Smythe front bag, looped stray and now excess cable through itself so it couldn’t snag and shoved off to work.
Spent the ride in and the ride home thinking how stupid it was for the battery to have such a short cord, gnashing my teeth and wondering just what the heck was so different about the placement of bottle cages between road and mountain bikes.
Left everything set up for Tuesday’s run. Noticed that other than when I lifted the front wheel skyward to walk it in and out of the back room at work that having a small Kryptonite lock and a full-sized bottle battery, the added weight didn’t seem to matter much. But, still, I didn’t much like having to give up space in the front bag, just because NiteRider was too cheap to put a full-sized cable on the battery. Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy.
Today, as I gathered my gear to get going, it occurred to me in a head-tilting moment that there really was no difference between the placement of my waterbottle cages on my mtb or on the QB. Checking email a last time, that thought gained a little more momentum. Then, I went back to the bike and looked at it for second. Took the battery out of the bag. Pondered the chord. Grasped the chord firmly and pulled steadily. The chord magically lengthened. My snorts of laughter brought my wife into the room, and garnered a complete roll of the eyes when I explained.
I am, at times, a complete idiot.
Nothing like using your gear enough to keep familiar with it.
So, into the water bottle cage went the battery. Pulled enough chord to connect, then trimmed it back into the bottle so that it had just the right amount of slack. Rode to work in a much better mood. Then, with the light on, looped around the long way south to pick up some cheap night miles on a gorgeous Wednesday evening.
Now, in my defense, I can only offer this:
Q: Why are most blond jokes one-liners?
A: So brunettes can remember them.
Oh, sure. It’s funny. It just rings a little hollow for me tonight.