cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

September 2008
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Wheels North Fundraiser
Filed under: general, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:26 pm
Eric over at Campyonly has come up with another intriguing fundraising/awareness raising event - “Wheels North” - as with The Big Fix - in which a group of intrepid  cyclists went across the US in 28 days, without coasting - this event is to raise money to support the 
Histiocytosis Association of America.

Like a number of other diseases, this is one that doesn’t get noticed too often, as it affects a smaller number of people.  It’s hard to get research done, difficult to develop ways of preventing or fighting this disease. Eric (and the others who have helped to pull together this effort, certainly have a knack for getting some attention, which is in and of itself a commendable effort.

This one caught my attention for a couple of reasons. 

First, there’s the book - Two Wheels North - which is based on the true story of Vic McDaniel and Ray Francisco, a couple of teenagers who decided to ride from Santa Rosa, California to the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition in Seattle, Washington.  Now, those with a sharp eye and memory will realize they didn’t do this recently.  In fact, they made this journey in 1909, which makes for some fascinating reading.  I first read this a number of years ago, and was fascinated by the description of a California, Oregon and Washington which had yet to be impacted in quite the manner we have managed.  It’s a good read. (More info here.)

Secondly, Eric announced a perk if you can wrangle the funds.  For those folks who can donate $100 to his fundraising effort, there’s the possibility of getting a Richard Sachs frameset.   For more information about this, visit his fundraising page here.

To be fair, there are others raising money for this as well, and some other deals may be in the works.  The best place to start for all the information is the Wheels North page at Campyonly.com  There are t-shirts to buy, some really cool scans of the actual postcards which the young men sent back to their family, as well as photos and more info. 


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One Of The Cooler Bike Things
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:54 pm

Oh sure, the whole cycling world is either plugged into Lance’s press conference in New York - yep, it’s Astana (and we’re gonna just ignore the whole anagram game with that name) - or they are out in the cyclist-jerkey-inducing heat of Las Vegas, as the annual Interbike trade show starts slowly rolling over the big ring out at the pre-show Dirt Demo (and it takes a big man to admit to riding a recumbent tricycle, giving the drool-inducing choices provided).

Meanwhile, I’m opening up a few days’ worth of mail (yeah, I got a PO box and get lazy).  There’s very little which gets me quite as excited as nondescript padded envelopes addressed to Cyclofiend Amalgamated Industries Limited Company, Inc., which contain items wrapped in Japanese newspapers:

I figure, it’s going to be something really cool, or it’s going to be three week old sushi samples.

As it turns out, it is not a dessicated tamaki tombo/tobiko offering.  But, it is none other than the Gino/Paul Light Mount Project.  Unfortunately, I was quickly distracted by a newspaper in which baseball and what appears to be a kimono fashion show appear on the same page. After coming up with several scenarios which could incorporate both subjects (new uniform styles, as an example), I lifted the hermetically sealed package to ponder it on its own merits.

And, best of all, it’s slightly smaller than Hula.

It actually might seem kind of weird to get excited about something as “simple” as this.  But, let me offer the a couple thoughts on that subject:
- Designing something simple that does its task extremely well is an exceedingly difficult task.  The tendancy is to sneak in features and options which distract from and dilute the idea.  A simple execution is akin to a simple interface, like google or flickr. Anyone who has worked on any project is aware of the terms “scope creep” and “feature bloat”.  Or, as someone once said about an ad I once finished, “…hmm, y’sure got 10 pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag.”
- The Gino Light Mount by Paul Engineering is an proper and permanent rendering of the various plastic “Knob” ideas, or of the aborted light mount I tried.  It gets around the issue of the recessed mount threads on the Nitto style racks, and should work seamlessly on the fork braze-on which is on my Quickbeam and Hilsen.

Mount, Bolt, split washer

This is a good thing.  According to Gino, they should be available through your LBS via QBP and Paul Components following Interbike.  Mmmmmmmm…tasty!

Appropos of Nothing
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:01 am

…or everything.

“Be involved in the process, not the result”

“Unconcious creation through concious technique”

Bikers Terrorize Portland Brewery
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:46 am

Buncha X's on Flickr
It might be that my current object of bike lust is the Surly Big Dummy - between Tarik’s and (Not So)LFOAB’s write-ups, and countless other images, it’s clear what a useful and smile-inducing rig these are. Everytime I see one, they just seem to strike me as amazingly appropriate.

As usual, the folks up in Portland are jumping out to an early lead.  As beth reports here, they now have a “Portland Longbike Consortium” which was holding its first get together (at the Lucky Lab Brew Pub) last night. This is a serious “Glimpse O’ The Good” and an act that gives hope for us as a species.

Besides, it looks like something out of Sturgis…

(and nice work on the deck pad on the near bike!)

Viva El Longbike!

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C. Xavier Hilsen Trail Ride - Pt. Deux
Filed under: rides, bike tech, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:11 am

Now Improved With Actual Trails and Riding!

Yep.  Not much of either in that last post.  In my weak defense, I had finished up that section of the post kinda late, and in my haste to shut things down and turn things off, had quickly clicked on the “Save” button only to realize my mouse had fallen across the “Publish” button.  Zapperooni! The webbernet had thrown it out there for all to see.

Oh well.  It was getting long enough that I probably would have ended up chopping it in half anyway.  But, still, thanks for coming back to read this. Well get to the trails this time, honest…

With freshly charged batteries, a correctly sized innertube and a saddle adjusted for proper height, I rolled out to the trails of China Camp. It’s a bit of pavement away, and while swerving periodically to avoid what seemed to be more frequent piles of broken glass than normal, I began to enjoy the light buzzing of the Michelin knibblies and fell into a decent pedaling rhythm.  I also realized that my saddle tilt adjustment was not right.

Now, this one I’d kinda seen coming. As mentioned yesterday, the saddle and seatpost came directly from the now-departed Poprad parts box. To start, the shape of the Selle San Something saddle would be at best a bit unfamiliar - we’d last known one another in that special way about two years ago. Had I  gained a little weight? Could I get away with the old bib shorts or would I need something new to spice things up? Were my ischial protruberances ready, or had they become entranced forever by the lure of the Brooksian breatheability and completely formed cradling? I’d gone to leather saddles.  Could I ever go back?

Leaving these ponderables unresolved, I considered questions of angle. Since the Poprad had different frame angles, it was not suprising that it felt as if I was sliding off the back of the saddle. In short, there was a strong possibility for constant tweaking throughout the ride. It was very tempting to pull over, whip out the hex wrench and move things around. But, honestly, by this time I was more in a mood for riding than more wrenching.

Besides, I had a plan. Odd questions about my relationship with the saddle aside, I wanted to distill the saddle questions into discrete variables. So, I kept riding.

The other thing was that I hadn’t ridden the Hilsen since the aborted mixed-terrain ride back in July, when I ganked the wheel good and proper (and, for those of you who missed it, there’s a video).  In my experience, nothing feels quite as odd as a bicycle you haven’t ridden in a while.  As I buzzed down the road, it seemed like the front wheel was further out than I remembered it (since it couldn’t be that I’d mostly ridden it with fenders…).  The handlebars felt wide (my Quickbeam and Dawes both have narrower bars), and things felt “weird” when I rose out of the saddle on a short climb.

Again, this was to be expected. Most of my bikes ride differently from one another - certainly most are set up with significantly different purposes in mind.  The trails were a bit closer, so I kept riding.

On the way there, I kept myself entertained by watching the parade of bikes heading to and from the trailhead. Most - well, all - of them were affixed to roof or tail racks on the various motor vehicles which rolled past. Judging by the impressive linkages and shock absorbing systems, hydroformed tube sections and big honkin’ knobby tires, the trails ahead were highly technical.  Or, these folks were seriously over-insulated.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that suspension gives more people better control, and probably makes it easier for a new rider to deal with getting bumped around on the trails. When I got my first suspension mountain bike - that would be front-suspension - I used to aim at every rock and imperfection in the trail, laughing out loud at how it ate the bump right up. Of course, that was a Judy fork - all righteous 63 mm of travel worth - and well before I got very good at stripping it for cleaning, repeated cartridge replacement and frequent bushing work.

To take this editorial diversion a little further - I’m glad that I began riding mountain bikes when I did; when suspension was fat tires and padded grips. After a while of beating the crap out of my more-youthful-than-today body, some electro-spark of self-preservation coaxed me into learning to ride light, to trust the momentum of the bike and the body as two different yet complimentary forces, understanding that you don’t ride on the bike, but rather over it.

It also means I can’t get decent air to save my life. But, I digress.

Anyway, about this time I’d arrived to the trails. Playing a bit with position, I had come to the conclusion that the angle of the saddle probably wasn’t quite as important as the fore-aft adjustment.  So, I’d work on that one first.

Rolling past the Park entrance where everyone seems to park, I eased up and over the paved crest and reached the gated entrance to the group picnic area. The Hilsen reacted to actual dust under its tires with nary a snort, and we continued up to the tables.  I doffed my pack and pulled out the allen wrench, loosened the clamp and slid the saddle about a half inch back. That seemed to take care of my position over the pedals, and my hips felt a bit more open as I cruised around the area.  Yay.

The tilt took a couple of ride/adjust cycles.  I remembered that this particular saddle had to look like it was slightly nose down, as the shell and padding flexed a bit when weighted. But, by the time the trails were ready to climb, it felt like things were pretty dialed in. It looks kind of wrong in the photo, but when I put my meaty butt on that skimpy saddle, it works.

The last few times I’d been up on these trails, it had been on the MB-Singlespeed. Riding the Hilsen was both easier and harder, the former having to do with the multitude of gearing options, the latter more to do with the lack of cush when compared to a 2.25″ round profile knobbie tire. On the singlespeed, you can more or less point it in the general direction and stomp.  By this time of the year, the trial surface is a fine powder, and sharp rocks are pretty much everywhere. Even uphill, your line has to be very specific.  Especially if one has only one spare tube on board.

My plan was to climb seated up the first pitch. Riding singlespeed and fixed had reawakened my habit of standing while climbing.  I’m maybe 4 stone too heavy to make that an optimum use of the mechanism, so I kept myself seated and found a gear that might work. 

And it seemed to. Zipped past one fellah (oh, alright, he was stopped on the side of the trail catching his breath) and caught up with a couple more (and they were pedaling). Wasn’t setting PR’s, but it felt like things were going well.   By the time the trail leveled out for a bit, Hilsen had cleared its throat and stated that it liked the rough stuff.

Honestly, the only limit on C. Xavier Hilsen seemed to be the biological engine and navigational unit which was clicked into its pedals. I had a little trouble believing the tires were going to hook up here and there (remnants of running those big, meaty 559’s that had been on the MB), and my indecision negotiating a rooty, rocky chute was not the prettiest technique I ever managed. But, I stayed upright and gave myself a good talking to.

There’s a pretty steep pitch which jumps you up to the old Nike siting station on the ridge. On the singlespeed, it was a shoulder-and-carry, but today I clicked in and tried it on for size. Again, the limiting factor was not the bike. Took a couple of breather breaks on the way up, but the Hilsen climbed spectacularly well when I could keep the fuel flowing. By now, I was definitely working out of the saddle, getting used to the demands and benefits of lower gearing. Things felt solid and balanced. Well, in between periods of gasping for breath.

A quick breather on the climb

I even got all excited and tried running a bit.  Took a photo before I did that.  And, as with all photos of every incline, it looks absolutely flat.  You just have to take it on faith. And if you can’t beleive that, at least enjoy the Manzanita which forms a canopy over this stretch - it’s a gorgeous place.

The next pitch. Uphill. Really.

The only thing I noticed about the more technical bits of trail was the tendancy to scrape a pedal now and again.  Now, as the Poprad was pretty low slung, I’m used to a low bottom bracket on trails.  This did not seem to be as low as that one, and in some of the conditions - trying to run up out of some ruts, there more than likely would have been contact with just about any bike setup. It also improved during the ride - just a bit of reminding myself that it wasn’t mtb-type ground clearance.

We eventually topped out, and cranked up the last asphalt ramp to the crest.
C. Xavier Hilsen on China Camp Ridge

For some reason I tried to commemorate the moment by taking a photo next to the Hilsen, using the self-timer function of the camera. I set it up on my backpack, hit the button, ran over to the bike and watched my (what - fifth?) pencam begin to slide down the pack and roll towards the edge of a 30 foot drop.  Luckily, it stopped in time, and I figured that I was going to quit with the image obtained.  I think I was starting to jump up as the camera began sliding, but trying not to knock the bike over as I moved.

Almost a serious

Anyway.  I figured that time was better spent riding.

I dropped down the old paved road, which is really only a singletrack strip of usable asphalt on a very uneven roadway surface. Heated up the brakes a bit, as it’s also pretty steep, but they had more than enough grab to keep things in control.  It did get me pondering about brakes a bit, and cx-style canti’s in particular.

No matter what else, I’d probably be the only person toeing the line this CX season who was running a set of dual pivots as opposed to regular cantilever style, v-brake style or disc brakes. Up until the Hilsen, I’d only run cantilever brakes. They stop well, give massive clearance and are relatively simple to maintain. On the other hand, I’m guessing (as I’ve never designed or built a frame) that frames and forks have to be bulked up a bit to keep the posts from flexing.  I’ve also found that you do have to watch how you set them up, so that you don’t find yourself with the brake levers bottomed out on the bars, hoping that someday, sometime, the bicycle you are riding will begin to slow down.

With the Silver dual pivots on the Hilsen, all of a sudden that was not an issue.  It was almost the other end of the spectrum, wherein my hands were so used to giving a good grab on the brake levers that I managed to come to a near stop a couple times. Whatever else, dual pivot brakes work just-fine-thank-you with standard road levers. As tire clearance simply isn’t an issue with these brakes and this bicycle frame design, it does sorta reshape your thinking about what is possible.  I would reckon they have a bit more mass than a set of canti’s, but maybe some of that is offset by using lighter tubing and no canti posts. And they sure manage to stop me when asked.

By this point, the trail manners of the bike were letting themselves be known.  As with most things, it’s finer points of balance and subtle issues of leverage and position. The bike was feeling good.  Really, really good.

Then it was feeling sluggish and clattery.  I’d managed to tag some sharp rock directly amidships, and the resulting snake bite took the wind from my sails and the air from my back tire. Just a little reminder to those folks jumping from 2.25″ to 35 mm’s…  Can’t run one like the other.

‘Twas but a minor distraction.  A quick tube swap and a little extra air for good measure and the Hilsen was back on the trail.  Another rider caught up to me and we duked a few times when the visibility was good. As we hit the open bits of the trail, I thought again to “nap of the earth“.  My roommate in college had been an aerospace engineer, and once explained this term to me after seeing a demonstration of low level helicoptor performance. When things are going well, when the bike just seems to float over the ripples and ruts in the trail, this is the phrase I think of.

As admitted earlier, I can’t bust big air worth a damn. But, I do have a pretty good handle on this. And I’ll make that trade any day. As the visibility lessened, I throttled back and totally muffed the first two switchback turns.  But it felt great when it was going good. Nothing seemed to hold back that bike except the engine.

There’s not too much left to tell other than that. The more I rode it, the better it felt.  It had speed when I could muster it, felt solid and steady on a good mix of terrain, and just quietly kept asking for a little more. Nice.

Before knocking the dust off of it, I thought it would be good to get one last photo.

Happy Dusty Hilsen

But, I’d bet it will get dusty again before too long.

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C. Xavier Hilsen Trail Ride
Filed under: rides, bike tech, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:59 pm

Tripped up by tech, I didn’t get to the trails until noon. It was one of those times when everything seems to align to prevent the ride from starting. While putting the newly rendered C. Xavier Hilsen away on Friday afternoon, something felt loose.  As I moved the bike, there was a “clunk” which could be felt through the frame.  Even to the maintanence-averse, this is a very bad sign. It must always be honored.

Slowing down a bit, but without the time to get all greasy again, I picked up the bicycle and gave it a little shake.  Nothing noticeable.  Setting the wheels back down, I felt it again. Probably a hub issue. Sure enough, there was a goodly amount of side play in the rear wheel.  Flipped open the quick-release and made sure everything was set correctly in the dropouts.  Even after carefully securing the QR again, it was loose.

Didn’t have enough time Saturday to address the issue, so it became a pre-ride task for Sunday morning. So, before heading out, I wrangled the Hilsen and set of cone wrenches tools to the backyard and prodded a little more specifically.  The wheel moved side to side in a great clunky manner. It was a little disturbing, as I don’t usually mis-set the cones quite so flagrantly.  Before removing the wheel, I gave the cogset a little tweak by hand. Sure enough, there was a noticeable amount of play. Freehub.

Aw, crud.

Not a particularly difficult fix, but annoying because it was bitter fruit from the Shortcut Tree.

Y’see, the rear wheel I was now about to dig into had been lying around unused for a while.  The last time that it had rolled in all its glory, the wheel had been attached to the Poprad during it’s final ride.  There had been the intention of migrating it to a new frame, and cleaning everything up before doing that, but it just didn’t play out that way. So the wheel sat until the head-slap moment last week when I thought about respacing it for the Hilsen.

Those of you keeping score at home will realize that was a downtime of approximately two years. 

Now, things weren’t too nasty.  When I pulled the axle out of the hub, there was enough grease left to hold the bearings.  And it was more grey than black, so it wasn’t as if I’d done something really stupid.  Just ignored the basic principle that if you are in an ugly/greasy section of the bike, you take the opportunity to clean and regrease. In my haste to get the wheel working, I’d simply spooned in a little fresh lithium grease and dropped the axle back through without nudging the bearings. My feeling of mild smugness should have stood as a warning to me.

Since there was little chance of jamming The Largest Allen Wrench I Own into the freehub and torquing it down without jostling at least one ball bearing loose, the task list distilled itself.  I went back to the tool box for the rest of what I’d need and pulled the greasy-bits-and-easily-lost items tray out of the garage. 

Removed the wheel, tucked the frame safely out of the way on the wood pile, cracked the non-drive cone set, spun off the spacers and the dust-shield/cone assembly, then slid the axle out the other side.  By this time I was carefully holding the hub over the tray, but none of the bearings wanted to drop of their own accord.  So, I plucked out the trusty, nasty old, rounded-off straight blade screwdriver that I keep in the tool box for such occasions.  Got a little antsy as I flicked them through the shaft in the hub and managed - for the first time in my life - to create a nice little jam.  Laughed and remembered to breathe, thought maybe I shouldn’t have slugged down that last half-cup of strong coffee just before starting the task.

Flipped everything over and lightly poked until it became unstuck.  Promptly created another jam. Flipped it again and got everything moving correctly. Finally, with all the bearings in the tray, hit ‘em with a little Simple Green (for which I pay retail) and got the goop off of them, the axle and the cone surfaces. Got the grease out of the races with a rag and my pinkie, which seems to work well at that task.

It was at this moment, with my left hand fairly greased up, and my right hand greased and Simple Greened up, that the phone rang. It was for me. Wrapped a clean rag around my phone hand and tried to troubleshoot computer problems for a relative who was travelling and having issues accessing webmail. And he was using a dial-up connection.

At this point, you may have noticed that this tale so far has neither trails or rides in it.  That was kinda how my day was going so far.

The thing was, I actually found it pretty humorous. That squeaky wheel of karma eased oh-so-slowly along,  just making sure that I fully realized that if I’d taken the time to do things correctly the first time, I would have been out riding for at least a half hour so far.

When I got off the phone, rather than simply torquing the freehub down, I removed it completely. Cleaned the hub shell and carefully checked the mating surfaces, cleaned the threads on the freehub. 

If you’ve never dug into that part of your bike, it is worth the trip. Of all the things which Shimano came up with, this is actually one of my favorites.  Back in the olden days, I regularly bought replacement solid axles for my mountain bike rear wheel.  It was a weak spot in the design - here you had a bicycle begging to be ridden on all manner of surfaces, but you had this long shaft held in place by assymetrical bearings placed closer to the center of the hub.  With Shimano’s freehub, the driveside bearings got moved to the outside, very near the rear dropout. They achieved this by making the bearing race surface from the head of a hollow center bolt which tightened down the freehub. It is tightened by the afore-mentioned Largest Allen Wrench I Own (what is that thing, a 12?).

I did not take pictures of this.  My hands were still pretty greasy.  You will have wander in there yourself.

Greased everything up, carefully mated the splines and tightened everything down. Layed fresh grease into the races and positioned the bearings.  Carefully set the axle through the center so as not to dislodge any bearings.  Threaded on the cone, spacers and locknut.  And then spied one more dirty bearing off to the side of the tray, which I’d mistaken for a glob of grease. Just grand. That’s what I get for not wearing my glasses.

Backed everything off just enough to sneak the now-clean bearing into place on the drive-side. Tightened it down again and set the cone tension with the lock-nut.  Everything spun like buttah. Nothing loose, nothing binding. All good.

Got kitted up - bib shorts and jersey, shoes and helmet.  Then realized the coffee had enough and wanted out.  Sure, why not?

Take two - dressed again, I cleverly realized that I’d not yet confirmed the saddle height, waiting until I had time to check it in cleats  Yep, too high. Lowered a smidge and there it was. Ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!

Threw on the pack and paused for a second. The last trail ride I’d done was on the MB-Singlespeed. 26″ wheels. Which spare tubes did I have stowed along? Yessiree!  26″ mtb tubes!  Clomp into the house one last time and realize that my sloth had struck again - the only appropriate spare tube I had was in the Banana Bag on my Quickbeam.  The other three had found glass, snaketeeth and similar hardships, and were hung over the closet doorknob to be patched.  Grabbed that one, thought one more time and dug out an extra patch kit and shoved that into the bag, if nothing else as a clear and vibrant offering to the tire karma gods.

But there was still a slow, loud, annoying drip coming from a faucet in the recesses of my brain.  Something I’d missed? I stood there in the kitchen for a few seconds, already sweating a bit, when it finally hit me - the chain!  I’d changed from a 9 speed setup with the stock Hilsen wheels to this 8 speed cogset on the CX wheel. However, the chain was still the original one and I hadn’t either checked it for stretch, nor had I done a full-power pedal push test.  There was a decent chance that it was skitter right over the top of the cogs. Luckily, right before  the Poprad had retired, I’d mounted a new 8 speed chain.  It was in the parts box for the Poprad, still showing signs of factory grease.  Grabbing a plastic bag, I wrapped the chain (and the link), and dropped it into the pack.  Ahh! That had to be it.

So - dressed and ready, I pulled out the pencam to get a closeup of the brake clearance.

Got one photo and the batteries died. Yep.  That was pretty much the last variable. I had another pair from the charger, so one more clog-clomping loop into the house to swap power sources.

Man, I was worn out and I hadn’t even pushed on the pedals yet!

For more on the story, read Ride Report - Pt. Duex!

Friday’s Little Project
Filed under: bike tech, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:41 pm

Got a little gap in the schedule today, so I commenced to morph the A. Homer Hilsen a bit.

As I mentioned a short while ago, I’d been thinking about fall a bit. Fall - despite what the ball sport folks would try to tell you - is cyclocross season. As my riding has been less steady this past summer, it struck me as a bit optimistic to roar into the first races with the Quickbeam. As much as I generally prefer a simple system, my marshmallowy musclature may not be so enthralled about it right now. There are still some miles to ride (and run??!?!) plus a bit of sweat to drop before that’s going to be anything less than supremely painful under race conditions.

While my fragile ego appreciates the instant excuse of  “dude, I was riding a singlespeed”,  the working theory is that I’ll just quietly toe the line with some gearing options at my fingertips.  It certainly isn’t that I’m going to suddenly become - oh, heck, what’s that phrase?  oh yeah - competitive or anything. I’m really just hoping not to be suddenly and violently blown out the back of any race that I decide to spend some folding money on.

Which more or less brings me back around to today’s project - the CX-inization of the A. Homer Hilsen. 

I’d been sorta dinking around with the wheels from my old Poprad frameset. They are light and pretty beefy, with a semi-aero profile which seems positively quaint these days.  I’d respaced the rear and dug out a couple of old Salsa skewers that more or less matched the paint job. Today was the day to detach all of the non-racy bits.

It went pretty quickly.  Fenders off, rack removed, bolts stashed in little plastic bags zip-tied to the bits so I could reattach things with a minimum of fuss. The worst part of the day was tracking down all of my small Park wrenches, which seem to have migrated into various onboard tool kits and saddlebag “need-its”.  As I scrounged around in the parts box from the departed Poprad, I realized that the race-worn Selle San Something saddle was still mounted on the seatpost. So, rather than having to detach the Nigel Smythe Country Bag from the Brooks and then the Brooks from the post, I could just do a quick swap. And, all of a sudden the Hilsen had a very stripped down and serious look to it:

Which, I must say, I kinda like…

Once again, I find myself really impressed with the design of Rivendell bicycles. With the clearances of this framese, I can run my Michelin Mud2 tires and still have gobs of room for mud and such.  Versatility of design is not an easy thing to find in the bicycle world these days, but it does live here.

I won’t have time to do a proper trail ride until Sunday, and there are few things that may continue to change. Saddle position isn’t tuned yet, of course.  The gearing is a little wacky right now - I’m a little afraid that I’ll throw it down into smallest front chainring by accident, which isn’t necessarily the happiest combination of gearing. It might be worth swapping the cranks over from the Poprad as well  - though that would mean a bb switch (it’s an octalink) and moving the front derailleur up just a hair to cover the 48T ring. I’m still going to swap to a shorter stem, which means that eventually, I’ll have to undo Mark A’s fine twining work on the finish of the bar wrap.  

All pretty easy things to mess with.  After getting it a bit dirty, of course.  That’ll be the fun part.

In the meantime, meet “C. Xavier Hilsen”…

For more on the story, here’s the trail ride…

It’s Never Too Late For Number Eight
Filed under: general, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 2:49 pm

Rumors popped up on VeloNews yesterday, and I must admit that it stopped me in mid-sandwich-bite.  Lance Armstrong  seems to be setting his sights on an 8th Tour de France victory. As a die-hard bike geek, you’ve probably already run across this news, but just in case you hadn’t, here’s confirmation via the AP:

By JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer 37 minutes ago

Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike, determined to win an eighth

Tour de France.

Armstrong’s return from cancer to win the Tour a record seven consecutive

times made him a hero to cancer patients worldwide and elevated cycling to

an unprecedented level in America.

The Tour “is the intention,” Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Higgins told The

Associated Press, “but we’ve got some homework to do over there.”

Added Bill Stapleton, Armstrong’s lawyer and longtime confidant: “We’re not

going to try to win second place.”

What team he’ll ride with and in what other races he’ll compete are

undecided, Higgins said.

“I am happy to announce that after talking with my children, my family and

my closest friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in

order to raise awareness of the global cancer burden,” the 36-year-old

Armstrong said in a statement released to The Associated Press. “This year

alone, nearly eight million people will die of cancer worldwide. … It’s

now time to address cancer on a global level.”

In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, Armstrong told the magazine he’s

100 percent sure he’s going to compete in the Tour de France next summer.

“I’m going back to professional cycling,” he said in the story posted

Tuesday on the magazine’s Web site. “I’m going to try and win an eighth Tour

de France.”

On Monday, the cycling journal VeloNews reported on its Web site that

Armstrong would compete with the Astana team, led by close friend John

Bruyneel, in the Tour and four other road races — the Amgen Tour of

California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia and the Dauphine-Libere.

But there are no guarantees Astana would be allowed to race in the 2009

Tour. Race officials kept the team out of the 2008 Tour because previous
doping violations.

Also notable in the VN article is the plan “to do some cyclocross races”.  This after damn near winning the Leadville 100 last month. You can say what you want, but the man has a serious engine. And he’s done a significant amount to raise awareness of both cycling and cancer, just to understate the point.  Good excuse to head to France next year. I reckon it’ll be pretty epic.

Sunday’s Loop
Filed under: rides, mixed-terrain
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:36 am

It’s relatively early Monday morning as I write this, but it’s clear there has been a material change in the weather pattern. For the past week, the dawn skies have begun the day blue and cloudless, with a creeping dry heat that meant it was best to get the shades drawn and the fans fired up. But today the skies are spread with featureless grey.  High fog and an actual hint of moisture today gives the impression that the cook-off of last week has been suspended.

As JimG and I descended from the top of Mt. Tamalpais yesterday afternoon, we could feel the start of it - an abrupt chill in the winds which came off the leading edge of the coastal fog. Still, up until that point, we had been getting cooked up pretty good. But, as we wound our way down the switchbacks of the mountain, I was glad I’d done this ride.

It didn’t really start out that way. Honestly, I’ve been a bit tentative in wanting to ride with others.  Feeling heavy on the climbs, pokey on the flats and having a more than significant amount of people buzz past me while out on the roads. When I read JimG’s “Let’s Ride” email on Saturday evening, it was with a slight amount  of dread.

Not that I didn’t want to ride. When that happens, I’m either honestly sick or you should check under my bed for the remains of a human-sized pod from which my android analog has emerged. But, I did know that this was going to hurt. It wasn’t helped by the knowledge that I’d be climbing the mountain on the Quickbeam.

This was, of course, quite by choice and action.  The Hilsen has not yet been fully morphed into proto-Cyclocross mode and I really had been trying to ride the Quickbeam more recently. In trying to regain some semblance of fitness after months of bad sleep and minimal riding distances, I’ve tried to ride fixed or single-geared most of the time. As I’ve mentioned, this tends to strip away any artiface and confusion regarding how you are riding.  It tends to make you stronger, remind you of the need to honor momentum and let’s you focus on pushing the damn pedals.

It also tends to hurt.

And so, I was contemplating the longest loop I’ve done in a while, and knowing that there would be suffering involved. My evil subconcious did its level best to protect me. When little dog woke up an hour or so in front of the alarm clock, it caused me to unconciously trip the lever, so that I slept solidly until the moment that I needed to be out the door to be on time.  I made a pre-coffee call to JimG, who luckily had not left.  We pushed back the meeting time to 10:30. 

I finally oozed out the door and commenced pedaling.  Suprisingly, the hills didn’t really hurt, and I actually seemed to have some snap in my legs when traffic demanded it. We rolled up to the meeting spot within view of the other and after greetings, headed toward Mill Valley.  While on the slight rise up the valley, things felt good, and JimG related his tale of tracking down a Large Bontrager mtb frame recently.

Upon reaching the Railroad Grade trail head, we continued climbing.  When in better shape, I’ve rolled up this trail on the fixed side of things.  But, it was pretty clear that was generating more noise than music today. We eased to the trailside at a good spot and I flipped over to the lower gearing of the freewheel side. With the clear weather and siren song of fall warning of winter, a number of riders and hikers were enjoying the trail. We latched onto the pace of a full-suspended rider who had dropped his buddies, and crossed paths with various gaggles of singlespeeders.  At some point, a guy on a cross bike steamed past us at a much brisker clip.

I took a few photos to distract myself from the creeping awareness that I was still pushing too large of a gear.

Looking East from Railroad Grade

JimG rolling up the Grade

We kept talking a bit.  Easy chatting with ourselves and other riders, catching each other up and commenting upon other bikes we came across on the trail.  One thing we briefly discussed as we climbed was carbon fiber failure mode. There have been a steady number of reports this summer of nasty breakage of CF forks, frames and (over the weekend) wheels. (Some graphic post-ER photos in the set).

My personal belief is that the problem (simplifying greatly to make the point) has to do with two things -

1: When carbon fiber was new, the companies messing around with it understood that if it broke, CF would get a bad rep. My guess is that the initial frames and forks were overbuilt - heck, the first CF bike I had used a steel steerer tube! This was exotic material. They had to have zero failures, if for nothing other than marketing purposes.  After a few years of success, some quiet failures (it seems no one really remembers the early OCLV road bikes that had BB shells that came unstuck, and roatated within the frame…), the race was on to use lighter material in the layup (It went from “proprietary information” to 120 to 110 g/sq. m in the course of a few years).  I’m not sure if they also reduced the amount of resins used in the manufacturing, but it wouldn’t suprise me. You go lighter - in any material that I know of - and your margin for error lessens considerably.

2: When these projects began, I have to believe that a select group of  “A” Teamers did the work.  Now, just given the sheer quantitly of CF production, this cannot be the case in every manufacturing company. At the beginning, I’d bet the design and fabrication teams doing the CF layup and building were closer to the hand-done, custom end of things.  Now, it’s the assembly line method, which means workers with good days or bad days, and with the vast quantity of items made, more variance in materials and construction.  I think it’s one thing to underbraze a bottom bracket shell, but quite another to not have optimum dispersion of resins through your layers.  Again, you get back to failure modes, and CF ain’t forgiving.

JimG brought up a third point, which was the answer to “well, Carbon Fiber is used in aerospace and aircraft applications.”  “Yes,” he said.  “But there are teams of highly trained personel whose job it is to evaluate the equipment according to very strict guidelines.  That’s a lot different than showing the part to the folks down at the local bike shop and asking them what they think…”

Update - Beth H. had a great post on this today as well - raising the point that all this racey-race gear has no place on a practical bicycle anyway.

Update again - And, yes, I realize steel can fail.

And we continued climbing.  I finally said, “Aw piffle” (or something close to that) and dropped down to the small front chainring.  This final change of gearing helped, and after a water and chat break at West Point Inn, we motored up the last bits of trail to the summit at East Peak. We broke for lunch, watched folks come and go and observed a work crew (on a Sunday?) shoveling rocks and dusty dirt into a Bobcat front loader.  Then we left the mountain top and climbed our way to the descent. 

As I think I’ve mentioned before, the East Peak of Mt Tamalpais is one of three bumps on the mountain top. Thus, you  quickly end up climbing, when you really feel like you deserve an immediate downhill.  Delayed gratification at its finest.

Here, we have made the crest and JimG rolled back to capture the vista in pixels -

From here we could see Mt. Diablo poking up through the heat of the East Bay, while to the south and west, an impenetrable layer of fog covered parts south and the Pacific Ocean.

As foreshadowed earlier, we descended for what felt like hours - I remembered again just how well the Quickbeam handles paved, twisting descents.  I’d swapped the tires for Jack Browns a while ago, and the confidence factor was silly-high. I don’t think I exited a turn without thinking that I needn’t have used quite that much brake.

When we finally regained sea level again and I flipped back to fixed and turned for home, JimG tagged along to get a few more miles in the bank. (The most recent ride he’d done was the RUSA 10th Anniversary Brevet back in August.  The man has some base miles…) When we stopped for a brief tech-check, a lanky rider on a Salsa Casseroll came over and saw through our secret identity power-cloaking field of deflection.  He correctly ID’d me and JimG, and we chatted for a while.  It was the first time I’d had a chance to see a used-and-enjoyed Casseroll in the wild.  He had it smartly set up in singlespeed mode, and had just returned from his own loop up Railroad Grade.  Nice looking rig. And, good to meet you, Jeremy!

The heat increased as I headed home, and both my shorts and jersey had been noticeably enhanced by white contrasting stripes.  But, it had been a good loop.  If nothing else, it helped get my brain around the obstacle of increased miles and riding with a good friend is a great way to keep your mind off your own troubles.  Even through the heat and continued efforts, things continued to feel better as the ride progressed.  Not sure if I would’ve been up for another loop up Railroad Grade, but the Camino Alto climb went by without serious engine knock, and after JimG peeled off for the City, I was able to set a good steady pace home. 

All in all, a darned fine way to spend a chunk of Sunday.

Last update - JimG has posted his photos over at Flickr.

Funny Little Project
Filed under: bike tech, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:11 am

Been trying to ride regularly for the past couple weeks - commuting, evening trail loops, the shortish-seeming road route. It hasn’t felt particularly smooth, but there have been glimmers of goodness - a strong pedal stroke that kicked me and the MB-Singlespeed up and around a switchback on the trails, a few seconds of smooth comfort into a headwind when on the QB.  It’s a nice reminder that while the body doesn’t really appreciate neglect, it will at least make an effort if I do.

Last weekend, while enjoying the vistas at the top of the ridge, a sure sign of fall appeared - a gaggle of cross-bike riding folks.  They’d come up the steep paved-in-name-only climb to the ridge and were debating just how steep it was.  (18% was the semi-agreed-upon answer, while I privately recall someone telling me 21% once. Whatever.  It’s a soul-crushing uphill that gets steeper as you proceed, while the remnants of the asphalt get looser and more divoted.)  We nodded and complimented one anothers’ rigs, then went on our separate ways.

It did remind me that the racing is nearly at hand. I’m not getting overly ambitious this season.  After the continued wonkyness of my calf last year, my goal is slow and steady, injury-free.  This past year , health issues seem to have been knocking me back every time things started feeling good, and it seems like I’ve spent most of my time ‘getting back onto the bike’. Decent distances, but not really able to push it. With the lack of high-output riding over the past months, I need to ease into this fall.

There is, however, the little matter of what bike to ride.

First choice would be the Quickbeam.  If the rains start early this year, that will be my choice, as nothing is so trouble free in the muck as a singlespeed.  But, the other side of that coin is that a singlespeed can be a painful taskmaster, and  it makes itself felt even when you are in good shape. I’m also running that rig in my age group class - figuring that playing with kids my own age while giving away gearyness is better trying to stay up with the young bucks who are twiddling at 180 rpms on the flats.  (Plus, those races are fifteen minutes longer. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you are out on the course, it is.)  That means that when the race gets out of the technical bits and hits the flats, the other fellahs grab a handful of gear and leave me in the dust while I’m spun out. (And it isn’t that I think they wouldn’t leave me anyway…).  So, while I enjoy running the QB, it isn’t always the easiest method. And that is when I’m in a bit better shape.

Which brings us to Homer.  Uh, Hilsen, not Simpson, though my fitness could be compared to the latter.

After ganking the Hilsen’s rear wheel a while back, I trundled out to the garage and pulled down the cross wheelset which Howard had built for me.  Still light and true. Lotsa spokes and a super smooth hub. Semi-aero profile to resist the thwacking and punishment. And…clink-clank-clunk, cr*p…spaced at 130. I realized that every 700C/622 wheel I owned was spaced for 130. I ordered up a repacement rim and rigged the Quickbeam for the road and rode that.

My sloth fed well on the rim, and it’s still in the wraps today.  But, last night, I wandered back out to the garage with a plan. 2.5 times two is 5.  And with a little poking around in the parts box, I came up with the appropriate spacers. Popped off the cones and dropped in the shims, reset everything and Bob’s-yer-uncle, the respaced rear hub fit nicely into the Hilsen dropouts.  The axle was a hair short (well, 5 mm’s), but seemed to rest at least halfway through the dropouts.  And if short QR axles was good enough for Sheldon, well, I reckon it’ll work for me.

Homer's gotta new pair o' shoes

It’s only the first step, and there are a few other things to set up and take off. (Although it would be fun to show up at the start with fenders and flaps…) But, once again, the versatility of Rivendell designs seem to be providing exactly the option I need.  Innnersting, innersting…

(Oh, and sorry about the fuzzy photos - I was trying to get my dad’s digital camera to behave itself, and it has pretty lousy low-light performance…)

Dave’s Bike Blog
Filed under: bike tech, unfortunate events, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:14 am

I’ve got a little more time with my morning coffee, but I’m not at all happy about it. It’s because one of the writers I enjoy is turning off the tap.  A little over a week ago, while catching up with online postings, I ran across this post on Dave Moulton’s Bike Blog -

The Party’s Over
DateMon, August 25, 2008

It is time to call it a day. This weekend I made an extremely tough decision, to quit writing here on this blog.

For the simple reason I have run out of things to write about, or rather worthwhile stuff that people want to read.

People like the tech stuff, and history. The tech
stuff, I have just about covered it all. The beauty of the bicycle is
its simplicity, you push one pedal down and the other one comes up.

(continued here)

This got me all grumpy pretty quickly. I felt some anger towards those folks who had found it so easily to diss him in the discussion groups, or others who had popped off with flippant comments on his blog.  That passed before too long (helped with a couple of decent rides), but what remained was the same sense of sorrow that you feel as you finish a book which you don’t want to end.

My feeling has been that there is too little quality writing that accompanies bicycling. Yes, there are examples well-written tech manuals and wonderfully captivating stories of adventure while on bicycle tours. There are journalistic high-water marks in race reporting - Sam Abt’s stories of bike racing chronicled details and imagery during a period when you couldn’t find anything other than the odd result in the stats page of the sports section.

But all of that is essentially non-fiction.

The examples of quality cycling fiction pretty much begin and end with “The Yellow Jersey”. 

Compare that with the body of work in fly fishing, as an example. For every slightly different book on “how-to”, there books which are stories - “A River Runs Through It” for example - where the story is about people, wonderfully fallable, beautifully limited and wholly human.  Fishing runs through it in a natural way, but doesn’t overwhelm the story.

I think it takes a special type of writer to achieve that - well, hell, of course it does, Mr. Obviousman.  For all the wonderfully timeless stories which have been written, there are roomfuls of pages consisting of derivative dreck.  Roderick Haig-Brown, one of the finer angling writers, described himself as a writer who happened to fish.  The implication was that most of the others were simply anglers who were trying to write.

And to wrangle this little thought arc back to the topic I’d started, one of the things which I’d enjoyed about Dave’s Bike Blog was that he was a writer, in the best sense of the word. He words always flowed clearly in the support of the ideas, much like that quiet guy on the group ride who just eases along next to you, smoothly spinning just one gear lower than you. The history and stories he’s shared often captured a slice of cycling most of us never encountered first hand.

I understand too that as a writer, it’s tough to give away free samples all day. My sincere hope is that he’s pulled back a notch on the public front to put together another book, that he sees a storyline that runs through the events he’s seen and experienced.  Hey, a guy’s gotta hope, right?  Maybe this short story is the harbinger of a larger work to come.

AJ, The Cyclist and a Large Brown Dog - by Dave Moulton

In the meantime, he’s created a tremendous resource for cyclists.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to do his, visit his blog - he’s archived it both by chronological order and by topic.  Oh, yeah.  You can also buy his book

In the meantime, I’m going to keep a sharper eye out for Dave Moulton, FUSO and Recherche frames on the road. And, I’ll probably reread some stuff too.  In the meantime, Dave, thanks for the art you have made.

comments (0)
Filed under: bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:58 am

The fine folks over at SunRace have allowed their SX-3 Three-speed fixed-gear hub to surface again.  Kinda like
Brigadoon or the Flying Dutchman (although without the dancing or portent of doom).  This time, they’ve included some more detailed photos and have alluded to rebuilding it with a beefier hub shell. More on thier blog.

Interesting to see that the comments went from 2 to 67 or so in a day and a half - guess there are a lot of folks who have sought the mythical ASC fixed hub as described on Sheldon’s site

Speaking of Mr. Brown, I thought it was interesting to see how many people thought naming it after him would be an appropriate tribute. I agree with that sentiment, though Sheldon deserves to have it darned near perfect if it is to be named after him.  If so, may I suggest the following reworking of the logo:

One of the topics which came up on the SunRace site when they first announced the hub was the matter of take-up.  My understanding was that a slight hesitation was inherent in the design, and the folks over at SunRace had actually created a survey about how much would be acceptable. 

Since it wasn’t noted in the new writeup, I posted that question in the blog comments, but had not seen a response (Hey there SunRace, I’d be willing to -  hint-hint  - try it myself to evaluate that).  I know that I don’t like any kind of chain slack in a fixed rig.  So, it’s possible that I’ll be initially saddened at the engagement.  But, I also understand that by definition, a three-speed hub cannot have the immediate connection that you gain by simply screwing a cog onto the wheel. 

And I can think of several climbs which will no longer be epic standfests. Hope it’s reasonably well sealed for mixed-terrain use. Can’t wait to see it! 

New rallying cry - “Three Gears, No Coasting!”

Glimpse o’ Good
Filed under: general, photos
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:56 am

Park Avenue in New York City, awash with walkers and cyclists.  Not a car to be seen.
From the NY Times - a photo essay with “voiceover” by Bill Cunningham. Here.

1 comment