cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

April 2007
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New Gear and the Trouble It Causes
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:49 pm

The same old chain has been on the singlespeed for a long time now - so long in fact that I couldn’t recall when it was actually installed.  That’s not a good sign, but one you can get away with in a simple, robust system such as a single geared mountain bike.

After the Quickbeam got a new chain a few weeks back, the Bridgestone got to pouting a bit. So, when it looked like we were going to head for new trails this past Sunday, I tried to make it happy by cleaning it off and checking things over.  Since the parts bins included several extra chains, I figured “heck, why not?” and popped the old one off and replaced it with a shiny new, not stretched SRAM 8 speed chain.

The new chain put a little push back against the tensioner again and set up right proper. 
One slight problem…

In the above photo, I have moved the pedal about  a sixteenth of a turn and created a dynamic new fashion in chainline behavior.  In case it is not yet clear what’s going on, let’s look a touch closer…

The chainring, which has been happily eroding while the old chain was happily stretching, now finds that it can get quite a good bite on the new chain.  As the reverse shark fin shaped teeth bring the chain around, they now have little ability or impetus to let go of said chain.  This was occurring, mind you, with not a whole lot of pressure on the pedals.  Pedaling a full revolution by hand was downright ugly. 

Five quick spins of the hex wrench and bingo - here’s the culprit…

Those teeth should be nice and symmetrical.  Which means it’s now time to play “What Local Bike Shop Will Have a Rampless 110BCD 36T Chainring In Stock?” (And, we are playing the Saturday afternoon with an early ride scheduled Sunday version of our game…).  Much to my happy suprise, the answer was the first big store nearby.  Though, I will admit, the wrench looked at the ring a little quizzically I handed him. But, I left with a brand spankin’ new RaceFace chainring and headed back to the workstand.

The above shot is now the two chainrings stacked on top of one another (new one behind). If you look at the larger version of this shot (you knew you could click on all those, right?), you’ll see the material that isn’t there on the old one  showing through from the lighter colored new one. The camera was lined up over the one with the mark on it, just to the left of the “36″.  The angle probably emphasizes the difference a bit more than it actually was on the ones which are offset. But, it’s taken a decent enough bite out of it to make ‘em all grabby.

So - greased it up and slapped it in place, and once again, the drivetrain was smooth and happy. (But, of course, while on the ride Sunday, some little skip was still in the system, when things were under extreme torque. Guess that means I’ll be getting ahold of another 16T Shimano BMX sprocket this week and might have more pictures to share…)

Insanely Great
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:43 am

I don’t care if it works or not, Moyer Cycles checks in with something I’ve never seen before:

Follow the bouncing mouse to find more photos over on Flickr…

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Bees, Please
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:14 am

Any day that starts off at 8 am in the dentist’s chair has got to end up better than it started. As mentioned a few days ago, I had to make a date with my mouth doc yesterday to fix a molar, and the first available time slot was two hours in front of a scheduled cleaning. So, I wobbled out of there at around 11:30 or so, drooling moderately from the anesthetic.

“If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d've taken better care of my teeth…”

My dentist, it should be known, is good, gives painless injections, keeps up to date on current techniques and surfs.  Not necessarily in that order, of course, and no one of them would be a specific deal breaker, but the combination of those four traits eases the pain of the copay, not to mention giving me some measure of confidence for avoiding the teeth-in-a-glass endgame that my grandfather had to deal with.

I’d napped briefly upon a return home, until the dog-nose-nudging woke me up.  By that point, the numbness had dissipated, and I whimpered around the kitchen wondering just who had socked me in the jaw. My surfin’ dentist had been working on the far back molar, and there were times when I could sense (but not feel) that he had to kinda crank on things a bit. During the work, I did have the distinct feeling that my nose had relocated onto my cheekbone. So, I moaned and avoided phone calls, and  read the online NYTimes article about disappearing bees while I tried to shake off the effects of a midday nap.

There’s been some sort of bee rapture, according to one theory.  (And my stating of the most inane theory first is an homage to network news of our time).  More than 25% of the bees in the US have gone thorax up. There’s something oddly X-File-ish about this whole thing, and I think I worry more about the effects of this than I do about most of the stories in the news. A couple of points that got my attention - There has been a decline in the bee population since the 1940’s, despite the increase in crops, and a National Academy of Sciences study has pointed out there is too much emphasis upon bees as pollinators in the US.  So we depend heavily upon the little sting-tailed buzzers, and there are fewer of them to do more work.  Sounds like retail staffing.

I can’t help but wonder if, much like the results of human directed animal breeding, we’ve made the genetic diversity too narrow, so when something microscopic and tenacious bites into the system, all the dollys (as in the xeroxed sheep) fold up their hands in unison and sit back from the table.

On the other hand, we haven’t all joined hands and walked steadily across the continent, so maybe these bees have simply wised up and flown off to greener pastures, far from the reach of beekeepers who want to lock ‘em into 18 wheelers and keep ‘em jacked up on bee-specific gonzo juice. If they’ve flown the coop, more power to ‘em.

The buds have started coming out in earnest on the little lemon tree we have out back, and as the dogs padded around, sniffed and did their business this morning, I counted 16 bees hovering around the sweet white blossoms.  My jaw hurt a lot less (though there’s a rough bit on the temporary cap which is sanding down a spot on the side of my tongue) and the sun felt warm for the first time in the past week. A couple bees rose up and wobbled away, while a few more came in from nowhere and took over the work. It was  a hopeful sight.

I’m Too Flexy…
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:57 am

Been thinking about flex a fair amount this past week, for a variety of reasons. And the only way to expunge the “I’m Too Flexy” reworking of the Right Said Fred song from my brain is to write about it…

Bicycle frame flex is a monsterously misunderstood phenomenon, made much worse by the claims of marketing departments and the placebo effect. Most riders have been told that the frame they’ve selected, or hopefully will select, is “vertically compliant” and “torsionally stiff” - that it, the frame will resist the torque generated by the pedal stroke so that all the power will be directed into the drivetrain (that’s the “torsionally stiff” part) and presumably, rocket-like forward movement.  Additionally, as your bicycle begins to color-shift as it’s moving so quickly, it will absorb bumps in the road surface (that’s the “vertically compliant” part) as if it had knees and elbows, allowing the cyclist plush and fluffy comfort while scorching over the nastiest of conditions.

While this may not be complete and utter hooey, very few of the bicycle companies have been able to demonstrate this vertical deflection in any substantial way, or explain how their bicycle would be adaptive enough to, say, know the difference between the road-shock-absorption needs of a 126 pound bird-boned climbing fool and a 275 pound crank-snapping endomorph.

Frame stiffness starts to become street-corner mysticism.  I remember a bike shop manager who talked endlessly about his S-Works M2 Stumpjumper.  The M2 (metal-matrix - introducing ceramic to the basic aluminum structure) frame had just a little more of a “supple feel” than the regular aluminum (at that time) Stump did.  As near as I can tell, he was dead wrong from a materials point of view, but it didn’t stop him from believing that, or firmly implanting that image into the mind of several customers. Cannondale staked a big part of its marketing on the oversized swaged downtube being this immovable object through which massive irresistable forces could be directed. It didn’t hurt that the Lion King himself went very, very fast while riding their bicycles.  If you didn’t have a stiff frame, your efforts were akin to walking through thigh-deep mud - you worked extremely hard for very little forward motion.

One of the glossy bike mags had a frame testing rig, I think called “The Tarantula” or something like that, and (suprise) they tended to downgrade bikes that exhibited more flex.  Everything that deflected was seen as “inefficient”. 

A couple of issues ago, Bicycle Quarterly (formerly Vintage Bicycle Quarterly) ran an article looking at the stresses into the frame. In this article, it pointed out (suprisingly enough) that when you torqued something, it tended to torque back.  To simplifly a bit, when you honked on the pedals, the pedals honked back when you finished pushing. This idea, along with editor Jan Heine’s experiences on a variety of frames, led him to articulate the idea of  “planing”.  Planing is the idea that a bicycle has an inherent speed and cadence at which the flexibility of the frame (or perhaps more accurately - the bicycle as a whole) serves to maximize the effort - in Jan’s analogy, similar to when a boat gets up on plane - rising up out of the water so it moves over it rather than through it.  Having spent a little time around boats and on the water it makes sense to me - you can quite literally throttle back at this point and feel the boat moving forward with less effort. For a bicycle, it literally means higher speeds with less effort. This gets discussed with varying levels of intensity on the iBob list, and there’s a lot in the archives if you want to puruse it.

Now, I’ve actually not been able to feel planing on a bicycle in an articulate way. I seem to have good days and bad days on any of my bikes.  But, I am hopeful, and try to remain open to the experience. 

Although, it does seem like the stiffest bikes I have are the ones I ride the least.  That’s an interesting statistical anomolie.

It does potentially mean that by tuning the flex, planing can be optimized for a given rider. I think this is why custom built frames can ride better. Whether by design or intuitively, a builder doesn’t need to design for the lawyers - who want to make sure the bicycle will withstand forces from anyone likely to ride it - and instead can build for the rider.

Let’s divirt to an example of fly rods, which flex by design. They are rated for certain line weights, so you use a #4 line on a 4 weight rod, and the weight of the line (well, specifically, the weight of the forward 30′ of the line) in the air flexes the rod.  When the angler uses appropriate movements and timing, that flex is returned in the opposite direction, which carries the line forward to the casting target. Now, there’s also a bit of fudging in the fly fishing industry, and as such, line manufacturers increase the actual weight of some lines, so that your 4 weight line would be the equivilent of a 4.6 weight line (line weights are given in full numbers, but the allowable weight is actually a range).  Most rods will accept this “overloading” and return the energy as more casting distance.  You think you are a better caster and like Line “4.6″ because it casts better. This causes the other line company to pump theirs to 4.7 until you get to the point where the lines are really overloading the rod, which behaves sluggishly.  (Of course, the rod manufacturers keep using more advanced graphite fibers and sophisticated layups, which cause their designs to need these heavier lines to load properly. This has lead to - suprise - stiffer rods. Nope, no parallels there…)

My printer ran out of paper this past week, and so I lugged home a couple reams of 24 pound stock on the Zeus.  Now, the Zeus, to put it mildly, is a reasonably “supple” frame to begin with - I can deflect the bottom bracket easily with pedal pressure when just sitting there, and I suspect that a high speed following camera could record movement during hard riding (hmmm…maybe I can pitch a Mythbusters episode…).  I’d secured the paper to the rear rack, so there was maybe 10 pounds of dead tree mounted up and back behind me. Didn’t give it a second thought until I came out of the saddle on the incline out of town. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just a change in the frame weight, nor the perception of a good deal more mass at the tail of the bike - that tail  began wagging me and I could feel the bike moving very differently. When I negotiated a barely-wider-than-the-bars space, a resonant frequency set up as I steered, corrected, steered and corrected, the bike feeling like a small scale example of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  It’s a short alleyway that I generally glide through without a thought, but the load had considerably altered the performance. This is when I started chanting, “I’m too flexy for this load, too flexy for this load…” to the rhythm of a really annoying one-hit wonder.

So, in this case, I’ve got a system that really isn’t quite stiff enough to handle load, which is sort of laughable for a bike which is frequently used for errands.  Now I’m tempted to see what would happen with similar loads on my Dawes, as a comparison.  But the point is that like the over-lined fly rod, it was sluggish and responded poorly - in certain circumstances at the edge of controllability.

I’m not sure there are any great truths or considerable conclusions from all this.  All I know is that I spat out a corner of a molar the other morning.  I’d been having some serious “zingy” pains from my tooth for a day or two, and went to see the dentist - really hoping that it wasn’t happening underneath the cap I’d had to get a few years back. Turns out it was not the capped tooth, but the one behind it, which was cracking as a result of an old filing and the way I bite, which tends to flex my teeth.  We scheduled a follow up appointment for what he figured would be another cap, and told me not to be suprised if it let go before I got back in.  He was right.

Teeth are relatively hard, don’t you know, and when they have a hardened glob of metal in the middle of them that force gets directed along the stress risers. These days, they use a bonding filling, which tends to help hold things together.  But, my old-skool work meant that the back corner of the tooth got more stress than it wanted, and because it was stiff, the stresses found the weak point and kept working it until it failed.  Oh well, it gives my tongue something to do while I type…

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Your History Minute
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:22 am

So, yesterday, a bunch of the folks at work are all a-flutter about the Imus thing*. Someone ropes me into the discussion and I say something like, “…he’s just the current Howard Beale.” and return to my task, confident that my stunning insight will be met with some knowing chuckles and even moderate hilarity.

Instead,  the silence is instant and pervasive. Never a good result for a quick & sideways attempt at group humor.

I turn around again and say, “Howard Beale - the newscaster in Network…” 

More blank stares. I scan the faces present.  The one guy whom I know knows this is not present.

“Faye Dunaway, William Holden…Peter Finch plays Howard Beale.  C’mon!  Network! Haven’t any of you seen Network?”  I punch it up on imdb.com for them, and when I repeat the “…I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” line, there is a flicker of recognition, though it is clear most of them really didn’t know where it came from. I look at the year it came out and realize that at least two of the people in the room had not even been born in 1976. There are some muffled “hmmm’s” and a couple of, “oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that’s”, but no one in the room had actually seen the movie.

If you haven’t, you should. Get it to the top of your Netflix queue, or find a DVD copy, or get your local non-cineplex movie house to show it. Really. It’s spot-on satire for much of what goes on today.

And as long as I’m on a rant, get your hands on a copy of “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” by Gerry Mander and read that as well. I’m certainly not television-free myself (I mean Paris-Roubaix is on this Sunday…).  But, it’s important to try to understand the media which engulfs our society.

*and I’m in no way trying to diminish his actions. He should lose his job. But, he won’t, at least not yet - see Network.

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Monday Work-Break Post
Filed under: general, rides
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:27 am

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender” - Commander Peter Quincy Taggert, GalaxyQuest
If ever, oh ever, you needed an example of this cheesy faux-tv-show catchphrase, it came at the finish of this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen - I won’t spoil it for you, but the reason I find bike racing fun to watch is that it never really ends up the way it’s supposed to.  A stunning effort followed by a stunning effort countered by a stunning effort.  Great finish. Find the footage, and make sure you see the climb of the Grammont. Ok, it was sunny and there was a profusion of bare arms and legs, in addition to a ridulous number of silly crashes on wide roads, but it was a heckuva finish…

Trail Report -
Of local interest only, more than likely, but I prowled around the trails at China Camp State Park on Sunday and enjoyed huge numbers of wildflowers, iris and grasses growing, but was really suprised to find the trails already parched and dusty in places.  We saw considerably less rain than statistically average* (which I’ve now jinxed, and as such would expect a significant dousing in the next couple weeks) this past winter and things are already noticeably dry.  Gonna be a year of dry-lube and dusty rides, I reckon.

*There is no such thing as “average” or “normal” rainfall in Northern California - it is either way above or way below the mean.

Riding In Marin (#316) -
One of the great perks of riding around the roads and trails of Marin is who you run across. I was finishing up my Puntas Doble ride on Saturday, negotiating the idiotic transition from neighborhood frontage road across two one way arterials that brings a rider into the west end of downtown San Rafael.  Coming towards me on the median island was a young kid riding a 24″ wheeled mountain bike, leading a group of riders. The median is very narrow and runs parrallel to a couple of two-lane roads, where people drive way  too quickly.  As there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room, we both took it slowly to allow the other to pass, and set up for sharp turn to the crosswalk for which we had a green light.  As I went past him, I realized that the headtube of his bike had an interlocked “OG” on it.

Now, the median income of Marin does allow for such things, but it was reasonably uncommon for people to have Otis Guy-built kid’s bikes. I looked up, and sure enough, the lanky adult bringing up the rear of the bunch was none other than one of the pioneer builders of mountain bikes, Mr. Guy himself, sheparding  two youths along while toting another in an AlleyCat. He smiled, said “hey” and nodded happily, pleased as me to be out on a now-sunny Saturday, pedaling around.

Just kinda restores your faith…

Help Me Ronde
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:19 pm

That’s “Ronde” as in “Ronde van Vlaanderen”, as in “Tour of Flanders”, which means spring, as in Spring Classics, is here!

I love the Spring Classics races.  Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Fleche Wallone, Liege-Bastogne-Leige, even Amstel Gold (despite the fact it seems to be named after a beer…) and Het Volk.  They are gritty tests of riders over historic courses and often miserable conditions.  They are run over cobbled roads which pitch upwards at 20%, often with the entire population of several countries leaning in and screaming at the riders as they curse, slip and stagger past.  200 riders want to be the first into narrow farm roads where maybe 2 can fit.  Riders get run over by team cars.  Bikes and equipment shatters and fails, while the riders themselves find energy and inspiration, damnation and redemption, repeatedly. It is, in short, the energy of a superb punk rock song stretched out over 6 or 7 hours.

Yeah, I love the Grand Tours too, the Tour de France is opera, tragic and heroic, while the Giro d’ Italia combines odd moments of extreme passion and utter, inexplicable hilarity. Meanwhile, the Vuelta d’ Espana is kinda like the weird kid who shows up unexpectedly at the dance and then blows everyone away with his moves.  Epic fables get forged from the fires of those contests.

But, there’s something visceral and ultimately compelling about the early spring races.  When the races are at their toughest - when they look like cyclocross races and riders are coated in a slime of grease and mud but still keep firing off attacks through crosswinds that would make you or I simply get off and walk - the  older guys tend to win. Not always, but enough that you get the sense that experience can pay off. The fickle mistress of luck can visit you or bring her bad uncle to bear on someone at the oddest time - a tick of glass softens a tire but a new wheel gets immediately handed up from a bystander in the middle of nowhere. Or the body can just suddenly seize up and quit - maybe towards the end of the 18 climbs of the Tour of Flanders, or somewhere in the zig-zag route through the pastures on the Hell of the North. Somehow the more experienced riders understand this and account for it, they can feel their seams bursting and somehow tend to the engine to set it right again.

So today the 91st running of the Tour of Flanders took place, and it’s taken a firm conviction to keep from rolling over to Velonews.com to see how the race is unfolding.  I’ve got the video set up to tape and want to watch it before I read about it.  The weather is unfortuately nice, so it might not be the most epic of years. Still, the roads beckon with glee, and the climbs - steep Belgian climbs, mind you - are all stacked up near the end. As always - or at least since 1913 - should be good.

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Preemptive Actions
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:47 am

Sarah over at Acme Bicycle emailed this to me this AM, which I’m posting here in the hope that it might help:

good morning to ibobs everywhere

it has come to the attention of acme bicycle company
in kansas city missouri
that someone from ontario callifornia
has used our return address
on ups envelopes
mailing out fraudulent checks
in the attempt to steal from good folks such as yrselves
the local police(in kc and many other cities involved)
and the fbi are well aware of this activity
and are trying to nab the a**hole
what i wanted to do was first
warn you guys n gals
in case yr making an internet sale
particularly craigs list at present
this person from ontario callifornia
is sending out big fat checks
the typical internet scam
twice the amount of sale
hoping youll cash the check
and give them back their “change”
we want to let you know
we are not involved in this crap
and are doing everything we can to bring it to a stop
the friends and family of acme bicycle company
are pissed off about the whole deal
and wanted to let this thief
know how they feel

Warning - the flickr link contains a graphic representation of pissed-off-how-they-feel-edness. 

Non-Original Thought - I know that it has been observed that there’s one born every minute, but it astounds me that folks fall for this method. While online, people seem reasonably predisposed to believing the most egregious types of scams.  Now, I’m not talking about high quality cons, but these stupid, petty, what-the-hell-were-you-thinking? kinda things… For example, if this souless predator is hanging out on Craigslist, the patsy would’ve had to ignore this and the ever-present “Avoiding Scams & Fraud…” warning with the link, which appears in RED ALL CAPS on every main page (and another on every individual listing page…).  Look, if I appeared next to you at a bar, and tried to write you a check for twice the amount of a round of drinks and have you give me the change, you’d have me in a hammerlock and hustle me out the door in an instant. Why is it so easy to believe on the internets? (And of course, I reckon that you - that is the person reading this - has things a little better figured out than the gremmie who gets suckered by this stuff.)

Note to the Thief - What squirmy little idjit wants to piss off the collected bicycle muscle of Kansas City, MO? I mean, these are not delicate, bird-boned, Southern-California-centric, 14.5 pound bike-riding, non-confrontational, let’s-discuss-our-feelings-about-this kinda folks. They have heavy frame alignment tools and own welding apparatus. They ride their bike through endless winters and handle hardships with an ease that should make you a bit worried.  They have friends with farms, farms with large expanses of little-visited topography, where the winds would make your cries no more than a tiny mosquito-like buzzing.  If anyone could even hear them. If anyone cared if they did hear them. Amtrak can get a car full of KC’s toughest to Ontario in under 63 hours.  They may be on their way now.  In short, you’d  best hope the FBI does catch you first… You should just box up all those faked checks and march down to your local police station and turn yourself in, pleading for protective custody.

Working hard to make common sense common once more…

UPDATE from Sarah:

one more bit of info
to help any of u
who may come
into contact with the thief
the checks i know of so far
come from two sources
harvard business school publishing
and heritage bank in charleston sc
thief has used other return addresses also
all small buinesses
and some other bike shops
if you get a check from an internet sale from
either of these places
please contact yr local authorities
thanks again

Another UPDATE from Sarah (They’ve CAUGHT someone…):

Fri, 13 Apr 2007 15:55:03 +0000Subject: [BOB] naming a thief
and i dont mind if i doups had found the culprither name is michele garciashe lives in reseda californiaand the feds r on her a**peace
**     __(AT)**   = \<._*** (_)/ (_)
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