Saturday, December 29, 2007

OS Bikes...

Recently, I visited with Mark Slate of WTB fame. His passion for bikes extends beyond tires and seats. As a side project, he created OS Bikes and a very clean, sweet single-speed 29" wheel mountain bike. As many 29er fans know, Mark is one of the few reasons why the 29" wheel bicycle exists today. Back in '98, he created The Tire that started the big wheel revolution. And today, the 2.1 WTB Nanoraptor is still one of my favorite all-around tires - 26 or 29 inch.

In addition to big wheel tire design, Mark was also instrumental in frame design of the early 29ers. WTB brought a 29" wheel bike to Interbike in October of 1999. Mark showed me that bike and Wes Williams also showed me his bike. I was instantly intrigued. After the show, Mark shared the frame drawings with me to help me create my first 29" wheel frame design - a 4" travel full suspension bike that never saw production. There were only two frames made - one I gave back to Haro (wish I still had it) and one I gave to Mark. A few years after that, I was able to get the green light on a couple of production bikes, the Mary SS and Mary XC, which I heavily borrowed design cues from WTB's Phoenix frame.

So, fast forward several years and with almost a decade of 29" wheel design under his belt, Mark has created a bike that draws on all of his experience - the OS Bikes Blackbuck. The frame is a clean, simple design. The curved seat stays harken back to the days of the klunker, take the edge off bumps and open the seat stay/chain stay junction so the disc caliper can be mounted within the triangle cleaning up the look of the bike.

Other frame design bits include:
Three downtube bottle bosses so you can run your cage low or high, or run one of the old WTB designed/Blackburn produced bottle cages for 1.5 liter bottles.

Large contact area where the seat stays joint the seat tube/top tube.

Head tube with extra thick wall at the bottom to resist ovalization and to add strength to counter the long lever of the 29er suspension fork.

Down tube gusset formed to add strength and provide clearance for the suspension fork's knobs.

Eccentric bottom bracket secured with a unique split shell design.

The boss on the down tube is for a bolt-on cable stop if you want to run a front derailleur. This coupled with the bolt on derailleur hanger that is included with the frame means that, with judicious use of zip-ties, you can run this one speed bike as a fully geared bike or as a 2 or 3 speed bike (a get to the trail gear, a trail gear, and an O-M-G, I need a bail-out gear).

The frame is available as a frame only that can be built up to your heart's desire or a complete bike. The complete bike specifications are:

Fork: RockShox Reba SL 80mm
Crankset: Truvativ Stylo 175mm
Wheelset: WTB LaserDisc rims, LaserDisc Single Duty hubs, WTB spokes, all shod with 2.1 Nanoraptors
Brakeset: Avid Juicy 7 hydraulic disc with 160 rotor in back and 185 rotor up front
Headset is an FSA Intellaset
Seat: WTB Deva.
Bar/Stem/Seat Post: Non-branded Kalloy. Good stuff, no frills. Seat post is 27.2 x 400mm.

Frame sizes: One frame size. If you are between about 5'10" and 6'3" tall, with a maximum 36" inseam, having only one size is no problem at all!
Geometry is (with 80mm Reba):
Head and seat angle: 71.3 degrees
Seat tube length: 19" with EBB at it's lowest position
Maximum seat height (center of BB at it's lowest position): about 32"
Effective top tube: 24 5/8"
Chainstay length: 17 3/8" (with ebb at about 11:30)
Head tube length: 4 1/4"
BB height: 12 5/8" (with EBB at about 11:30)

How does it ride/handle? Technically, my seat height is about 1 1/2" taller than the tallest with the stock seat post, so I can't really get out there and put it through its paces. However, the little time I did spend on it showed that the bike is a very capable handling bike. It is very neutral. The best thing you can say about a bike's handling when asked is "nothing." When the handling of a bike is such that you don't even think about it, that's when a bike is dialed. I also liked the chainstay length. For us tall guys, it keeps the wheel under our butts and the front end on the ground when climbing.

But the best thing about the bike is it's really cool looking. The silver paint in the rear with the red pinstriping is classy. The lack of a big billboard name on the down tube is refreshing and the simple Blackbuck on the seat tube and OS on the headtube accentuate the cleanliness of the bike's design.

All this does come at a price, though. Although, there is, for what you get, a lot of value in it at $1750 for the complete bike and $500 for the frame.

Some more photos

(What's playing: KWMR, West Marin Community Radio)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Retail rule #7...

In the book of retail, it is said that thou shalt have a sign announcing your shop or else... I've been open for four months without a sign. I've thought about getting it done, but something would always come up and delay the process. Initially, I had someone who was going to paint it for me, but something would always come up and it didn't happen. So I thought, heck, I'm a pretty good artist - I took commercial art in high school, painted signs for a Little League field, got pretty good at oil painting - so I thought I'd take a stab at painting my sign.

I knew what I wanted the sign to look like, so it was a matter of getting material to paint it on, sketch it out and fill in the lines with paint. Pretty easy. Actually, it was pretty easy. I got a piece of 8' x 30" plywood, primered it, painted it black (each with several coats), and then drew out a grid to transfer the design to the wood. The hardest part was deciding how to do the "mountain." I knew that designing it exactly as the original artwork would be near to impossible, so I created it as more of an "icon" type.

Now, I sit hear waiting for the sealer to dry amid the pleasant fumes with the goal to have it planted above my door by Sunday.

The inspiration.

The preliminary plotting.

The final product glistening under a couple of coats of sealer.

Actually, I was embarrassed into getting the sign done by Marty over to The Prairie Peddler. He got his sign done and he ain't even open yet. Thanks for the push (shove?), Marty.

(What's playing: Bob Dylan Podcast hosted by Patti Smith. This is realllllllly good. Helps explain how Dylan was just his own man.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's in the stand today...

This old Ritchey came in for some work. It didn't really need anything at first glance, but the owner wanted to ditch the newish brake pads and I suggested replacing the straddle cables with something more vintage looking if he was going for maintaining the vintage look. I installed a set of original Shimano canti brake pads in the rear and, as I only had one pair of them, a set of NOS Aztec pads from the mid-80's up front.

As I was working on it, I also noticed that the shift cable casings were the new "compressionless" type and were making that scratchy/grindy sound inside the ferrules so I replaced them with shift casing found on bikes from the early '80s - what is called brake casing today.

When I tried to adjust the front derailleur, it pretty much fell apart. One of the link arms had been broken for quite some time judging by the break area. As chance would have it, I had an exact match for the old Shimano Stag's Head derailleur so the bike was able to maintain it's air of vintage authenticity.

What a cool old bike. And, it's 25" frame fits me perfectly...and it wheelies really good. Hey, I have to test ride repairs!

Very cool double plate fork crown.

New derailleur in place.

Unique grooved seat tube top indicative of very early Ritchey's.

New old brake pads in place. Looks much better.

Not what a front derailleur is supposed to look like.

(What's playing: Desmond Dekker and the Aces Israelites)

Colder'n a witches...

Let's just not project that image. I'm from Southern California. For the past many years, I wore shorts year-round. Rarely wore a jacket. The toughest decision about riding my bike during the winter months was if I wanted to wear a long sleeve jersey or short sleeve with arm warmers.

Now, I'm 500 miles north, still about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, but have realized that a different winter exists in this neck of the woods. The sun is low on the horizon and once it falls behind the Inverness Ridge, the temperature plummets along with the sun. I got home yesterday at about 5:45 and it was already down to 38 degrees. The coldest it got was 29.5. I had a beer outside in the backyard after work last night while I kicked the ball for the dog to chase and I swear the beer got colder as I was drinking. But what really gets downright cold is the shop!

With no real insulation, it's colder inside than outside during the day. It was probably stupid to do, but I brought a thermometer to the shop today to see just how cold it is inside. In the middle of the shop, it's a meager 51.1 degrees. At my desk, it warms up to a tropical 52.3. I've got a space heater near the work bench which helps boost the temp to a toasty 55 degrees! But, hey, at least there's no wind chill to contend with!

Needless to say, I've abandoned my shorts this winter and now employ the use of long-johns and long pants...and wool socks, insulated boots, wool base layer, wool sweater, beanie. I'm now excited when the Land's End catalog arrives and I get to check out all their lined insulated pants!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sometimes bigger is not better...

Especially when it comes to trying to truing up a 29" wheel with tire in a Park TS-2. It just don't work. With the tire, the wheel is too big for the truing caliper arms to get even remotely close to the rim. Oh sure, I could buy the handy extension arms Park conveniently now makes (and I probably will, eventually). But for a quick "I just want to touch up this wheel without having to remove the tire," I set up this little jig that involved a magnet and a 3mm hex wrench. Worked pretty darn good.

(What's playing: Elvis Costello and the Attractions Waiting for the End of the World)

Time flies...

It's amazing how fast time goes by as you get older. I remember being a kid and thinking Christmas will never get here. I'm reminded that this feeling is still in existence today as my son is expressing the same sentiment. As you get older, you wonder, how the heck did it get to be Christmas already?

Well, it's almost here and I've been lax in posting updates to the shop. On Labor Day last month, my laptop sustained some physical damage and in my feeble attempts to get it started again, initiated it's reformatting - or something like that. What I should have done was immediately recognize I had no idea what I was doing and let an expert fix it. It would have been easy - a new keyboard and a new memory chip. Instead, there was a painful data recovery step. Luckily, the place I brought it to (Marin Computers in San Rafael) was top notch and went through hoops to salvage my data.

As luck would have it, I backed up my QuickBooks accounting file for the shop the evening prior to the collapse of my laptop otherwise, I would have been in a world of hurt. As it stands, though, I had almost 6 weeks of catching up to do. I still have about an hour or two worth of accounting to catch up, though.

This experience also reminded me that we now really live "away from it all." During my laptop's stay at Marin Computer, I was asked to bring in my power cord because it seems my laptop has a rare connection, any back up/recovery discs I may have made (I did make a recovery disc when the computer was new which was also fortuitous), and other software files.

If this had happened where we previously live, I would have simply hopped in the car and driven the requested items to the shop. However, now, this means at least a 45 minute drive each way. Instead of driving the requested items, I mailed them. It made the whole process take longer, but with time flying at my age, it seems like it was just yesterday.

During this time, I spent very little time facing a computer and I really liked that. But now it's back I'll catch up on posting some fun stuff that's come through the shop. And I think I'll get one of them external hard drives to have a better back up system.

(What's playing: The Blasters Testament)

Monday, December 3, 2007

650B Conversion...

I've got a 650B mountain bike (geared or single-speed) on the drawing board. After building a set of wheels with Kirk Pacenti's Neo-Moto tires and Velocity Blunt rims (laced with DT 14/15 spokes to an old rebuilt King hub), I had a thought "Hmmm, wonder if these will fit in that old ti frame with the Fox F100X fork?" Sure enough, they fit like they were made for it. The crimp in the chainstay is exactly in the right spot for a 650B tire and the fork has plenty of clearance. The bottom bracket was increased by a small amount - 3/4" to about 12 5/8", if you calculate the difference in radius between the 27.5" of the 650B tire and the previous 26" tire.

For now, it was an exercise to see if it would fit, but will be a regular rider as soon as I get a chance to hit the dirt. I was planning to ride tomorrow morning, but it's supposed to rain. Maybe Thursday... For now, here's some photos. I don't know if it's correct to look at a bike as a complete package, but I look at this and think, it looks very nicely balanced and has that "just right" look.

A little comparison of a 26" wheel bike, the 650B conversion, and a 29" wheel bike.

1/1/08: Edit, recently Fox came out with a disclaimer against using any tires larger than 26" in Fox Forx as they were not designed for larger tires. There are the usual nit-pickers saying that a large volume 26" tire is almost the same size as the 27.5" 650B tires. Yes, that is true, but the key word is "almost." Almost doesn't cut it here because even the biggest 26" tire is still smaller than the 2.35 650B Neo-Moto. And yes, the 650B Neo-Moto tire does just buzz the fork crown at full compression. Converter beware.