Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pedaling a bike doesn't have to be difficult...

I've been getting quite a few compact and triple conversions - four in the last couple weeks. Seems folks aren't as keen on turning pedals on old 52/42 cranksets or even 53/39. Out here in West Marin, we've got our fare share of hills that, except for the exceptionally fit, are nicely tamed with compact or triple road cranks.

The difficult thing about most of these recent conversions is that the bikes are all older 6 or 7-speed drivetrains and the only new parts that are available are for 10-speed. I'd love to find a nice cold-forged, square taper triple with 110/74 bolt circle with 52/38/30 chainrings. For now, I've got to find a Shimano Sora triple for a customer's bike, but it seems they are out of stock (and not scheduled to be available until January - ouch!).

Here's a really nice fillet-brazed Otis Guy that I converted to Shimano Ultegra SL triple cranks. This bike came in with a nice Campy 53/39 (that went onto his other bike replaceing a 52/42), Sachs 7-speed freewheel, and Dura-Ace 8 speed down tube shifters. On went a new Ultegra SL triple, Ultegra derailleurs for triple. Stayed on the bike were the Dura Ace 8-speed down tube shifters and Sachs 7-speed freewheel. Connecting the cranks to the freewheel is a new SRAM 8-speed chain.

I had some issues getting the 8-speed shifters to move the derailleur. It worked well between the first 5 cogs, but between the final 2, it required too much fiddling for me (but was something the owner worked around for the past many years). It had the original Dura Ace braided cable and spiral wound brake type casing. I swapped this out for a new SIS cable and compressionless casing and, bam!, worked like a champ. I have an old Sachs 8-speed freewheel and measured the cog spacing and found it was the same as the 7-speed spacing, so figured, the indexing of the 8-speed shifter should be compatible no the 7-speed freewheel. Bingo!

The bike turned out really nice. I really like taking older bikes like this and updating them with new parts. It's like giving the bike a new breath of life - and a nice bike like this deserves to keep on rolling.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The Klunkerz DVD is out and in stock at the shop. I've already had to reorder - popular item. It's a great lesson in the birth of the mountain bike. Lots of super cool footage of the early days. Highly recommended for anyone into bikes - period. I was lucky enough to view the movie at its premiere and I also caught it at the San Francisco Film Festival, and it's just as good the 3rd or 4th...time around. I might have to organize a Klunkerz viewing at the shop sometime...

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm somebody now...

Like Navan R. Johnson says in The Jerk, "I'm somebody now!" I finally got around to getting business cards designed and printed. Janette did a great job on the design and Point Reyes Printing did a bang up job on the printing. And the Phil Wood card holder Gary B. gave me is perfect.

"Things are going to start happening to me now!" I gotta go find that movie to rent now. All I need is...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's official...

The Tour of California will again pass through Point Reyes Station right in front of the shop. C'mon over for a front row seat on February 18, 2008 to watch the race blow through town faster 'n one usually drives through.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This was a fun project...

My friend Amanda brought her Kronan Swedish Army bike in to put on consignment. She bought it in Europe and rode it around over there before bring it back home to West Marin. It was in the shop for a few weeks before someone bought it. The buyer also wanted to replace the single speed coaster brake with a 3-speed unit. Boy, it's hard finding 3-speed hubs from distributors these days. Every distributor I called was out of the Shimano 3-speed internal hub and only one had a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. Maybe the lack of 3-speed hubs is a sign that a lot of bikes are being converted to commuter bikes??? Maybe. I hope so. Would be a good thing.

So, Sturmey it was. Because the rims are somewhat unique to the bike being black, steel, and compatible with rod brakes, I waited until I had the hub before taking the wheel apart to rebuild it with the 3-speed. Got the rim measurement, got the spokes, and was all set to rebuild it. Dang. The previous spokes were 12g which meant that the spoke holes in the rims were just a little too large for the 14g DT nipples I was using.

Project on hold again until I get nipple washers. When they arrived, I had to laugh at myself. Instead of nipple washers, I had ordered spoke head washers - DOH! Finally, got nipple washers in and they were just what the doctor ordered. The wheel built up perfectly. Got all the shifter components installed and it's just like it was meant to be on this bike. Turned out really sweet. Should be a great riding bike.

I'll get a picture of the complete bike tomorrow.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thank Merckx for places like Pacific Coast Cycles...

I wouldn’t be who/what I am today if it weren’t for Pacific Coast Cycles and Chuck Hoefer. Chuck hired me and paid me the princely sum of $7.50/hour at a time when I was making a very unhappy $40,000/year (and a company car). I knew that bikes were where my life was. I’d only been riding for a few years, but in that short time, I knew that I had found “it.”

I remember one customer who sent a letter to the owner complaining about (I forget the exact words, but this is the gist of it) “a surly, unkempt man who did not do a good job in helping her.” Chuck was probably just telling her like he saw it. A lot of people describe Chuck as grumpy, but most mistake “grumpy” for being brutally honest. He won’t lie to you. He won’t sugar coat the answer to a question that is designed to make you feel good. He’ll give you the straight scoop. And it will be the correct answer.

You don’t walk into a sushi restaurant and ask for a hamburger. And you don’t walk into Pacific Coast Cycles looking for a $10,000 gee-whizz one-year graphic encrusted carbon rig. Walking into his shop and seeing the 29ers on the floor and the plethora of sweet older road bikes for sale will (or should if you are observant) tell you immediately what kind of shop you are in.

While you won’t find the latest and (questionably) greatest at Pacific Coast Cycles, you will find someone who can build a great wheel that is appropriate for you and your riding style. You’ll find someone who can get you a replacement part for your Campy NR front derailleur. You’ll find someone who can retap your bunged up bottom bracket threads to Italian so you can get your bike back on the road. You’ll find someone who can braze a broken canti post back to your bike. You’ll find a genuine bike shop.

Additionally, he has cultivated some people who have went on to do great things in the bike industry. When I started there, I was filling a spot left vacant by Leo Castellon, a great bike mechanic and a very talented frame builder. Leo left Chuck’s shop to become the frame builder for David Tesch and later Leo hung his name on his own frames. I bought a custom, beautiful, fillet-brazed Tange Ultralight Prestige frame from Leo that I had painted Eddy Orange. Leo also went on to build frames for VooDoo, Merlin, Quintana Roo, and Mako. He also built some of the frames Joe Murray raced on in Joe’s Fisher days (probably a reason he was contacted to build VooDoo frames).

I worked with another great bike mechanic, Brian Lucas. Brian is of Korean heritage and does a horrible John Wayne accent. Brian would call me and in his mild accent try to imitate the Duke and say something witty. I would reply with a simple, “Hi, Brian.” “Aw, how’d you know it was me?” he’d ask. Um, lucky? Brian moved up to Specialized after his time with Chuck and was the guy who bonded all those sweet carbon lugged Specialized Stumpjumper Ultimate frames. The ones with the titanium lugs and carbon tubes. Brian spent quite a number of years at Specialized as a jack-of-all-trades before settling down in Hollister, CA and opening his own bike shop Off-The-Chain.

They guy who took my spot after I left Chuck’s shop is Rob Moorman. Like me, Rob was a customer of Pacific Coast Cycles first. I remember him as a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton coming into the shop to lust after the coolest parts and bikes from Marin’s best. Rob’s stint with the marines ended about the same time I left Pacific Coast Cycles to work at Haro and my position was his to fill. Rob was at the shop for quite a while with a bit of time spent at SE Racing before taking a position at Felt and then moving to Idaho to become a rep and is now the company rep for (as I learned recently when Rob called me) Raleigh.

There are still things I do to this day that originated from my days under Chuck’s tutelage. Things like cutting zip ties near the lock part so they can be reused. Saving rubber bands in a coffee can. Making my own signs and hang tags for bikes and other parts out of pieces of cardboard boxes. Making sure it’s a tough task to remove pedals after I installed them. Dialing in a bike with just the right length of cable casing so the bars can spin in a crash, yet don’t look like a can of silly string got loose. Tightening the brake levers just so, so in that crash, they rotate around the bar instead of breaking. When a bike left our shop, it looked “right.” That’s important to me – how the bike looks.

Thanks, Chuck.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Coffee bike...

Tom Ritchey dropped off one of his Project Rwanda Coffee Bikes recently. It's drawn quite a bit of attention at the shop - good thing I'm familiar with Project Rwanda and the reason why the bike was created. A lot of folks ask me questions about the bike. After explaining how the bike helps coffee growers transport coffee cherries from their farms to the washing quicker (2-4 hours instead of 6-12 hours), folks look again at the bike and think "what a cool idea."

Not only are the farmers able to transport their crop to the washing stations quicker, but, by token of a quicker journey, the cherries are fresher (better quality of coffee bean) and a higher price is paid for the cherries - double bonus!

Check out more about Project Rwanda at the link. Donate or buy some Wooden Bike Coffee.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Redline Mono 9...

Part of the chore of opening a bike shop is deciding on lines to carry. This is doubly important as a small shop when some bike lines require you to carry the whole darn shootin' match. Luckily, I got hooked up with Seattle Bike Supply and their lines of Redline and Batavus. They make it super easy to buy only what I need and don't force the whole line on me. A very important aspect of vendor relationship for a small bike shop.

With the few Batavus bikes I also received some Redline Monocog 9 bikes. For $1050, this is one sweet bike! It was my life for more than a decade to create bikes by designing the frame and choosing the components. I think I was pretty good at it. Whoever did the Mono 9 also was pretty darn good at it as well. As I was building the Mono 9, I kept thinking that it felt like something I would have created. It's a super sweet bike. The steel frame is nicely made. The whole package is spot on, down to the sparkles in the dark charcoal paint. Nice selection of Ritchey Pro level components, Maxxis Ignitor tires, Avid disc brakes, SRAM X9 shifter and rear derailleur, and a nice mid-level WTB seat. Yep, just about spec'd out like I'd ride my own bike.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Limiting factor...

What happens when your low limit screw isn't adjusted properly? If it's not backed out enough, you can't get to your low gear. If it's backed out too much, you risk shifting the chain into the spokes. What if you have a broken spoke protector, an improperly set limit screw, and a will to get to the top of the hill at all costs.

This is what happens. A broken derailleur hanger. I've been in the bike industry long enough to know that it seems as if virtually every frame design has its own unique hanger. When this guy came into the shop and asked if I could fix his bike because his derailleur mount was broken, I told him that there was probably a 99% chance I couldn't after asking what kind of bike he was riding. But I told him to bring it it and I'd see what I could do. At the very least, I could turn it into a single speed.

He was riding to New Jersey from San Francisco via Seattle. Seemed a bit late in the season to be undertaking such a trip. But, heck, it wasn't me. He brought his bike in and I could see that the whole derailleur had spun and also broken the derailleur bolt pivot stops as well. His Specialized Transition also didn't seem to be the ideal touring bike, but again, it wasn't me.

So I set about checking some of the various hangers I've collected over the years and found one that might work with a little bit of (okay, a lot) filing. I got it to fit both the hanger bolt and the wheel axle. So what if it hung off the back side a bit.

Had to grab hold of the B-tension plate and spin it so it was properly tensioned and tighten the pivot bolt at the same time. I got lucky and got the threads started on only the second attempt. Got the derailleur installed, wheel back in place, adjusted the limit screw (requiring almost 3 full turns!), and removed the two halves of the spoke protector.

And as evidence that looks can be deceiving (becuase his bike was just one huge grimey, filthy mess with STI shifters that looked like they had been crashed multiple times, massive gaps in the bar tape, no bar end plugs...), I ran it through the gears and with a little lube on the chain, it worked perfectly. I told him he should get a proper hanger the next time he's in a town that has a Specialized dealer. He's got a way to go since he wants to stay on Highway 1 with no deviations for something so trivial as making sure his bike is up to the task of transporting his butt cross country.