Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

There are so many choices these days. Virtually anything that requires you to make a decision means that you have to sort through way too many options. From the clothes you pick out to wear for the day to the bike you choose to ride, sometimes it's just too hard to figure out. If you are a guy, you can just sniff the pits of the shirt you wore the previous day and if it's not too bad, throw in on for another day. No one will notice.

I came across this article yesterday in the Marin IJ. However, I don't think the writer fully understood Albert Einstein's meaning when the writer quoted, "Make everything as simple as possible." Making everything as simple as possible means making everything simple. The writer is equating Einstein's simplification with a means to eat healthy and exercise. However, in the article, he advocates getting rid (okay, donating) of your old clothes and buying new ones to exercise in. Somehow, I don't think Einstein would advocate that. I'm pretty sure, he would say just do it with what you have. In fact, that famous photo of him tooling around on his bike pretty much sums it up. Just do with what you have. And if you have too much, get rid of what you don't need. The author paraphrased Einstein's quote which, in its entirety is, "make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

I recently went through all of my cycling gear and made a huge pile that will get donated to Trips for Kids' Recyclry Thrift Shop. I also went through all my street clothes and pulled out everything I hadn't worn in the past year and donated it all at our recent Recycle Circus. I'm now down to a handful of good stuff that I wear, use, and appreciate. I challenge more people to do the same. Who needs 100 pair of socks? No one.

Simplification is also something I'm in the process of instituting at the shop as well. Simplification? You've only been open 8 months. What do you have to simplify? Plenty. There are some things I've purchased for the shop that were to test the waters. What sold, I bought more of. What didn't sell because something else sold better, I don't reorder. This way, I can have a more focused product supply. I've got a bit more to do to simplify the product mix.

I knew I had to simplify and be more focused. At my previous company, focus was something that I had always felt was lacking. We were constantly trying out the waters on whatever different bike the sales department thought we could sell. So, I'd spend a lot of development time to bring a new bike to market to see it do well in the short-term, but gradually fall to the way side.

Focus. Too many companies lack focus as they try to be everything to everyone. Most bike shops are the same. Trying to cater to every category can only dilute your ability to sell strongly to whoever is in your shop at any given time. If you are passionate about something - do it and you will do it well. My favorite fast food is In-N-Out Burger. They do burgers and they do them fantastic. No chicken. No chalupa-ditos. No salads. They're focused.

Grant Petersen came into the shop not too long ago. We got to talking about focus and he was pointing out the exact areas of the products I have that aren't focused - or where I have too many options. And he is right. I've got too many choices in arm and leg warmers. Too many choices in tires, LED lights, grips... Like my closet, I need to whittle down the stuff I have in the shop for sale. Pick the right stuff, stuff I like and use myself, and stick with them. Why did I order 4 Michelin Axial Pro road tires? I don't even particularly like Michelin tires. Guess what my first sale will be on.

Grant picked up a couple of things - notably a couple of Aardvark reflective yield symbols. These have been pretty good items to have in the shop. I've reordered several times. Seems lots of folks, me included, want to be a bit more visible on West Marin's sun dappled country roads. But before he left, he wrote down the name of a book he was passionate about recommending. Said, to get it now, don't wait. Focus by Al Ries. I'm in the middle of reading it and, yes, everyone who works in a buisin....no, everyone needs to read it. It applies not only to business, but to life.
(What's playing: Nothing, but I'm going to shut this down and continue reading Focus)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lighthouse ride...

As I was heading out the gate for a morning ride up Mt. Vision and back down via the fire road into Inverness, I had a change of plan. Ride out to the lighthouse and back - an easy 40 miles. Well, easy if there's no wind. Or easier if you have a tail wind. It was sunny in Pt. Reyes with a hint of breeze when I left. By the time I hit the climb over Inverness Ridge, the wind had picked up and by the time I was over the ridge and out on the National Seashore, the wind had kicked up and wisps of fog were blowing over the road. The prevailing wind is from the north so I had a nice push out to the lighthouse.

Tail winds are a wonderful ego boost. Combined with the fog, which seems to suppress sound, riding with the wind this morning was especially sweet. Rolling along in the big ring, spinning the pedals quite easily, quietness in your ears...pretty dang fun. By the time I got to the lighthouse, the wind was whipping up pretty good. Couple of sections had me leaning into it to maintain a straight line. But, made it to the lighthouse which was just visible through the fog. Had a bagel at the overlook and headed back home.

That tail wind, I had on the way out was now a head wind and not the most fun. But, I plodded on knowing that when I made the turn east at the north end of the estero, I'd be enjoying that tail wind again. And what a tail wind it was! I'm usually in my 34/21 climbing back over the ridge. Today, I was flying up the hill in my 34/18, hit the twisty descent back into Inverness and flew home aided by the tail wind.

Took a few pictures too. Cow with waist band. (Actually, the more I look at this photo, the more I think this cow is setting quite the fashion statement among her crew. Half-top exposing the belly, hip-hugging bottoms...)

The lighthouse was briefly visible as an opening in the fog scooted past my field of view.

Long way down.

And now about 6 hours later, my legs are telling me about the effort they put in for me. They're not too happy. I tell them to quit their whining or I'll take up running.

(What's playing: John Prine People Puttin' People Down)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

There's a new sheriff in town...

This was pretty cool news. Campagnolo recently hired my old friend, Tom Kattus, as their new North American general manager. Pretty sweet! Tom, John and I used to ride road early in the mornings when we all lived in the Carlsbad area. Meet at 7:00 and ride for a couple of hours down the coast. Tom was the guy who still rode on Vittoria CX tires when all of us were riding clinchers. I don't remember him having to stop to replace a tire due to a flat, though. We (John and I) did get a kick out of faking a flat when riding with him. A subtle "pssst, pssst, pssst" mimicking the sound of air escaping from those spendy tubulars would send Tom's head spinning as he looked around to try to hear confirmation of his "flat."

Tom was a big-time bike geek. While he was working in real estate, he developed a nifty bike add-on called the Break-Away bar. During an era in the bike biz, this was a pretty cool device. It was simply a tube about the same diameter of a road bar that had two hinged clamps on either end that clamped on the the dropped section of a bar allowing the rider to get in a more aero tuck with your hands on the Break-Away bar close together and low. One of the hinged clamps, if I recall correctly, was adjustable in and out allowing use on different width bars.

Tom made prototypes for his friends and we all rode them. Tom went into production and started peddling them around to bike shops. I think I even remember seeing pictures of some Coors Light riders using them. As Tom started selling the bars, he soon got more lines of bikes and parts to carry making the transformation from real estate to bike rep. Then pretty soon, I got a job at Haro, he got a job at Cannondale and we were separated by a continent. A few years ago, he came back to San Diego and moved into a house that was almost a stone's throw away. Our kids went to the same school. And now, it's big-time - General Manager of Campagnolo North America.

However, there is one quote of his in that Bicycle Retailer report that I might take issue with him on: "I have been an avid cyclist for 25 years and have always used Campagnolo components." I seem to recall him running Dura Ace bits. But that's excusable because it was during the Syncro era of Campy.

Congratulations, Tom!

(I knew I had a photo of the Break-Away bar in use. Bicycle Guide October 1991 - cover shot of Alexi Grewal with a Profile clip-on attached to the BAB and a review of it inside).

(What's playing: Juno. And yes, the pun was intended - if you catch it, let me know.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The real reason for steel shortages and price hikes...

In order to make the SRAM OG-1090 Power Dome cassette, a 10 pound ingot of steel is used. That's ten pounds to make a part that ends up weighing (according to SRAM's website) 160 grams. That's about 9.6 pounds of waste when the finished product pops out. Wow! Now, I'm sure that SRAM recycles that scrap (maybe into cheap 8 speed cassettes?), but that's a lot of left overs.

Obviously, that cassette isn't solely responsible for the shortages in steel or the rising prices that the bike industry is preparing to pass on down the chain, but, to me, it's an example of a situation that doesn't really need to be. There are plenty of other bike parts made that produce waste/scrap and I'm not riding a hemp framed bike yet, so I'll not be casting stones lest I hit myself.

This image, along with some recent articles in Bicycle Retailer and some various on-line info got me thinking about this coming of price increases in the bike industry. I've got some thoughts that I'll be putting to words soon.

(What's playing: The Raconteurs Salute Your Solution from MPR's The Current)

Monday, April 21, 2008

First place...

Mechanics take as much joy out of bikes they work on winning races as do the racers. I know I'm not going to be winning races anytime soon (would probably need to "train" instead of "ride" and actually resume racing), so I might as well make sure bikes I work on perform perfectly for their riders.

Remember that Soulcraft I assembled last Friday? Welp, two days later its rider piloted it to a first place in the XC Expert 18 & Under category at the Sea Otter Classic. Daniel won by almost 2 minutes. Hot dang, that's awesome! Congratulations, Daniel.

(What's playing: The Raconteurs Store Bought Bones)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Race footage from 1953 - Coppi & Koblet...

Hopefully, you already saw this on Dave Moulton's blog, but if you didn't, it's worth reading Dave's commentary on the race before watching. Very cool!

(What's playing: Still Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins)

Taking matters into your own hands...

It was reported in the news several months ago that the price of beer was expected to increase due to a shortage of hops. Bad news. Especially if your tastes in beer gravitate towards the hoppy beer - like an IPA.

Not one to sit idly by and just take it in the shorts, area brewery Lagunitas took matters into their own hands and decided to plant their own hops. Point Reyes Station resident and Lagunitas Brewing Co. owner, Tony Magee (don't know how I do it, but when I lived down in San Marcos, the president of Stone Brewery - another favorite beer of mine lived a few houses away and now I'm in the same small community as Lagunitas' owner), planted hops just up the road in Marshall overlooking Tomales Bay. Read more about it here.

Hopefully, this means an uninterrupted supply of Lagunitas IPA and this fermented gem.

(What's playing: Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New XC race bike build...

A couple of weeks ago, I built up a race bike for a local NorCal high school mountain bike league racer. He grabbed a 2nd a few days later and it looks like he won his race last weekend. He also must have caught the eye of Sean at Soulcraft because Daniel dropped off a sweet new Soulcraft frame that he needed built up that day to take down to race Sea Otter tomorrow.

I had a several frantic hours to get it built before he and his family headed down to Monterey. And, of course, in my quest for perfection, I couldn't let it go out with the mile of hydraulic brake hose that manufacturers seem to think riders need. Luckily Formula includes the necessary barbs, olives, and banjos necessary to cut down the hose so the bike would look PRO. They didn't include bleed fittings, though, but since Formula also makes (or made) the Avid Juicy 7 disc, I had the tools to bleed the brakes.

The front brake bleed was a one-time, worked like a champ, procedure. The rear brake, however... Well, it took several attempts before I could get all the air out of the line. The location of the bleed hole in the lever must allow some air to pool above the port. But, in the end, got it right, snugged it all up and as they arrived to pick up the bike, I was just finishing with aligning the front caliper and it was good to go.

The new Soulcraft is a touch heavier than the aluminum Orbea it replaced, but I'm sure it will be a way better riding bike - oh, sweet steel!

Got parts?

Finished - and check out the really cool head badge. Just looks fast sitting there.

(What's playing: Neko Case Live from an All Songs Considered podcast)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nacho Libre in a shop rag...

You know how folks see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in various objects like a potato, grilled cheese, maybe a mirror (could happen)? Well, I saw Nacho Libre in a used shop rag. Just finished wiping down the lower leg of a Lefty, opened up the rag and saw this.

Obviously a perfect match. I'll be charging admission as soon as I can find it again in the trash.

And, by the way, Shimano disc brakes rule! I can bleed these all day long. I had to bleed Hayes 9 and Shimano XTR disc brakes today. In the time it took to bleed the Shimano brakes, I had only pulled out the multitude of adapters Hayes requires for their various models to find the one I needed.

If carbon is good enough, why...

It strikes me as odd that a lot of the teams in the Paris-Roubaix race opt to change out many of their standard equipment for parts more suited to the cobbles. Basically, carbon road bits are fine for everyday use so long as one of those "everydays" is not a race over cobble stones? Some of the changes (made to ensure the bike survives the race under the rider) include: changing carbon steerer tubed forks for ones with an aluminum steerer, replacing carbon bars with aluminum versions, tossing carbon rims in favor or traditional box section tubular rims (also adds a possible comfort benefit), and a few teams with sufficient resources (and with frame sponsors who have big budgets) even go so far as to develop a special frame for this one race adding material to areas where the standard frame they sell to consumers might fail due to the stresses of the cobbles.

Sure, I understand that racing full-tilt over cobble stones will likely impose some hor categorie stress on bike equipment. In some cases, this may equate to a lifetime of use by Average Joe rider. 260k + 28 cobble sections + professional rider = Average Joe's lifetime of use.

I guess my point is if professional race teams aren't confident in their standard race equipment for this one race, how does that inspire confidence in consumers? How light is too light? What is the life expectancy of a carbon bike and carbon components? If there is a finite life, why do manufacturers give their frames a "lifetime" warranty yet component manufacturers, typically, only provide a 1-5 year warranty?

Consumers can walk into a bike shop (not mine) and plunk down upwards of $10,000 for a new carbon fiber bike. They can also pick up a carbon fiber bike for under $2000 - that's under $2k for a complete bike with carbon fiber frame! So what's different about the frame that is found on a $2k complete bike and the super-gucci $5k frame only? They're both carbon fiber. With aluminum or steel, you knew immediately what the difference was between entry-level and high-end frames. High-end steel frames had a little sticker that said "Reynolds 853" and entry-level frames proclaimed "4130 Cr-Mo." How does one quantify the difference between various quality levels of carbon fiber?

But carbon fiber is used in auto racing, you say. Sure, there's plenty of carbon fiber used on race cars. So you could use the argument that "it's strong enough for auto racing." However, in any kind of racing, parts and pieces are regularly changed with new parts being fitted at regular intervals. Average-Joe doesn't have that option. He buys a bike with a lifetime warranty and then expects it to last forever.

I don't think this carbon fiber phase is going away anytime soon. I'd just like to see some more testing that let's us know the exact life of carbon fiber frames and parts. I think there should also be some additional testing evidence of the more generic/private label carbon frames and parts. Anyone can virtually go to the TBG (Taiwan Bicycle Guide) and pick out a carbon bar/fork/seat post/crank/frame, slap their logo on it and call it done. How does the consumer know what went into the development of the carbon bike/part they just purchased? Was it designed, prototyped, tested by the company whose logo is on the part, or was the part simply picked out of a catalog because it looked nice?

Boy, I sound like a rambling retro-grouch. Maybe I just need to get out on my bike (with carbon bars, seat post, crank, seatstay, and chainstay) for a ride.

(What's playing: Leonard Cohen Ain't No Cure For Love)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just a rambling photo laden post...

The weather over last weekend was absolutely incredible, hitting the mid-80's. For the first time in months, I didn't need to fire up the heater in the shop and my arms actually saw daylight on a ride! I've lived in SoCal since 1969 and have had a "farmer's tan" since then. Wore shorts to work year-round and occasionally broke out the arm and knee warmers when the temps dipped into the low 60's.

NorCal is another story. My arms hadn't seen daylight for months and the white on my shoulders now extended to my hand. But this weekend was different. The ride started off chilly in the 40's, but by the time we got to the initial climb that would take us up towards Mt. Tam, the arm warmers were off (knee warmers came off at the top). We didn't make it to the top of Mt. Tam, but turned around at Rock Spring after climbing the scenic Ridgecrest Blvd. As it was, we had a nice 4 hour 40 mile ride (leisurely) with about 4500' of climbing. The view down to Bolinas was spectacular.

While the weather was nice, I also got out a few more times. A new favorite 20 mile out-and-back has become the ride to Heart's Desire beach.

Fauna seen on the ride.

Besides all the riding I'm forced to do, it's been pretty busy at the shop. All of the bikes in the photo below are in for repair. There's 13 bikes in the shot and another 3 not in view. Yep, been busy.

I like the detail on this cable guide of this first year WTB Phoenix.

Cleaning deceased bees off bikes included in the price of a tune-up.

What a cool derailleur. Suntour had some interesting designs back in the 80's - out of the box thinking.

And last, but not least, more spiders appearing out of nooks and crannies of bikes. This guy scampered out of the inside of a Mafac brake lever.

(What's playing: KWMR's West Marin Report)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend racing...

Incredible racing was on tap during the weekend. I mean, you've got Paris-Roubaix and the Little 500. I read somewhere that the Little 500 is the only live network broadcast of a bike race in the US. A little embarrassing considering the level of other races held in the states. Maybe it's because of videos like this that the Little 500 is televised live. I mean, who wouldn't want to see the potential carnage first hand - live in your living room!

I had a dream last week that Tom Boonen was going to win Paris-Roubaix. Too bad I don't have dreams about the winners of other sporting events or I could be making my fortune on sports bets. In this dream, I was watching some of the teams train on the cobbles. When I saw Boonen and team ride by, he had that supreme look of confidence that I said "he's going to win." I called it. Big Tom Boonen came around two previous Hell of the North winners like a Ferrari overtaking a Smart Car. Win with authority!
Go here to check out the actual photo and full story.

(What's playing: Tom Waits Picture in a Frame)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Celeste trifecta...

Okay, so the Ciocc isn't technically Celeste, but it's close. And by virtue if it's C-Record group, including Delta brakes, qualifies it as the hippest roadie bike in the shop. It's interesting each of these bikes is totally different from the other. One roadie, one 'cross, one...uh, one, well, it used to be a mountain bike, not it just gets ridden.
(What's playing: Muddy Waters You Gonna Miss Me)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Aye yai yai...

Aye yai yai is right. Imagine tooling along at 45-50kph and...ooof, wondering how you ended up on the deck. It's interesting watching the crash unfold. The rider in front of the Saunier Duvall rider who crashed, had a bit of a gap so the S-D rider should/could have seen the curb, but if you are head down 110%... The rider in front made a quick jog to the left to avoid the curb. The course marshall was right there on the edge of the curb and had to get out of the way to avoid getting creamed. But, boy-howdy, that bike just exploded! Wouldn't have mattered if that bike was made out of plastic or steel.

Well, dang. Not sure what happened to the video, but the crash was nasty. C'est la vie!

Well, thanks to paterfamilias, a new link is found. Crash on.

(What's playing: NPR Fresh Air podcast)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Along came a spider...

I don't know what it is about West Marin, but it seems like we have an awful lot of spiders out here. I'm constantly cleaning spider webs out of the eves, any corner, and even the wheel wells of the car if it sits for more than a few days. Anywhere there is a harboring corner, you can find a spider web.

And bikes are no exceptions. I can't tell you how many times I've had a bike in for a tune-up and while wiping the bike down, a spider scoots out of some nook or cranny on the bike. It seems that spiders especially love shifters to hole up in. Not just any shifter. Old Shimano push-push shifters seem to be their favorites. Those shifters are also the ones most likely in need of a lube bath as the grease on the pawl pivots turns to glue with time rendering the shifter non-functioning.

This old bike came in recently for a tune-up. It seemed to also need a fumigation. As I was wiping it down, I started cleaning out some junk from one of the brake pads, out comes a little spider. That must have been nerve-wracking for that spider when the brake was activated (the owner rode the bike to the shop). That's when you want to pay attention to the announcement "keep your arms (all eight of them) in the bus at all times."

And as if that little bugger wasn't enough, he had a friend ensconced within the bowls of the right shifter (the left shifter was spider-free). The spider in the right shifter had built itself a very cool tunnel into it's lair. There was one remnant of a meal in another part of the shifter.

With a little prodding, the spider showed itself and was evicted from the shifter and it was back to normal.
And as a bonus, I got to get out on the road bike yesterday to enjoy the incredible spring day - out and back to Heart's Desire beach, what a cool name for a beach!

The Boat House.
Turn off to Heart's Desire just ahead.
The beach - good spot to put in a kayak too.

(What's playing: Willie Nelson Blue Skies)

Time to get back to bikes...

Had a guy come in over the weekend who needed to replace the brake pads in his Campy Record brake holders. The pads had worn a bit - not to the worn line, mind you - but enough so that the tire guide was scraping on the rim. Not a good idea when your rim is a super spendy Zipp deep section rim. The carbon section of the rim he was using bulged out below the brake track. Just enough that if your brake pads wore, the tire guide scraped on the carbon. Probably not a great sound and definitely not good for the carbon.

He had no idea what that little fin was for on his brake pad holder. I told him it was a tire guide and it was used to help guide the wheel through the brake pads when installing it. Come to think of it, why is it even there these days? I can't think of the last time I fit a road wheel in a frame where the guides actually aided in the install.

I had forgotten about this customer until I saw photos on cyclingnews.com of racers bikes at Gent-Wevelgem. It looks like the mechanics cut off the tire guide. Well, actually, after (ahem) downloading that photo and enlarging it, it looks like the tire guide is still there, just dirty and looking like a bare aluminum spot as if it was cut off.

Regardless, it is probably something to think about if you are running rims that have a bulge profile below the brake track. I'm running a set of FSA RD-420 wheels that I've had for several years that have a round cross section. I have to carefully position the brake pad against the brake track to avoid having the guide scrape on the rim. Maybe I'll cut off the guide on my brake now that I think about it.

What's playing: (KWMR music in the morning)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Be careful what you say...

Especially when it's directed at Lance Armstrong. It was reported today that Trek is severing ties with Greg LeMond. There is one thing that stands out in the release, though. The release states: "In 1999, the LeMond line was one of the fastest growing road bike brands and one of the top five largest road bike brands in the United States." It goes on to say: "Despite a series of innovative designs and continued support from Trek, due to LeMond’s actions and the public response, the LeMond brand has consistently failed to live up to its potential in the marketplace." Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't 1999 the year that that guy named Lance Armstrong on his Trek brand sponsored bike started winning Tours de France? Trek must have put serious horsepower behind the marketing of the Trek brand at the expense of it's other brands (how's Klein doing?). Is Trek looking for a scapegoat in ending their relationship with Greg LeMond and the LeMond brand? Heck, I've always liked the look of the LeMond bikes, especially their steel frames, and if I was looking to buy a road bike, I'd sure look at LeMond first over a me-too Trek.

Anyway, it's windy today. I didn't go for a ride and I'm feeling a bit surly.

(What's playing: Son Volt KEXP Live Performance Podcast)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Seemed like a good idea at the time...

A 9-speed Dura Ace shifter came to me recently with a problem. The release lever wasn't working. It worked if the main brake lever was held in place at the same time the release lever was activated, but that is a very awkward contortion while riding. Usually, this is a symptom of a sticky pawl inside the shifter's guts. An overnight soak in a degreaser can sometimes bring the shifter back to life - especially on older Shimano mountain bike shifter pods.

However, this lever had other things on its mind. I was confident I'd come into the shop the next day and it would be working like a champ. Wrong! Still wasn't working. Hmmm, wonder if Shimano is wrong about the internals not being serviceable. A fifteen minute google search yielded this site on 9-speed STI shifter overhaul. Pretty exhaustive work by the author and very handy.

With this newly found info in hand, I tore into the shifter. Now, it's always pretty easy to take something apart. Putting it back together, on the other hand, well, not always so easy. In the case of the STI shifter, it's a major pain to get the springs to cooperate. I made a tool out of a small screwdriver - basically, cut a slot on the tip of a flat blade screwdriver that I could use to coerce a spring back into it's hole.

The tool's a keeper. The shifter is not. When the shifter was disassembled, I noticed the same problem that was noted on the overhaul site - namely, that the ratchet pawl cage was damaged as shown in this photo (lower right corner).

So, I knocked off the burrs on the damaged section and set about to reassemble the shifter. Hey, maybe by cleaning up the burrs, it'll work. Nope. Got the shifter reassembled and still no go. Next time a non-functioning road STI shifter comes in, "sorry, those aren't serviceable." Lesson learned.

(What's playing: KWMR)

Pictures from the pits...

I always like seeing photos of the bikes that will be used for the annual Paris-Roubaix race. It interests me to see the special preparations that team mechanics make to the bikes and parts to survive the race. This one race has the potential to have mud, dust, heat, rain, wind, calm... But one thing always remains constant, the cobbles.

As a preview into what will possibly be pulled out of the team's trucks for the start of the Hell of the North this Sunday was pictured on cyclingnews.com. Yeah, the new electric Campanolo bits are interesting, but the two images that caught my attention were the obvious Dura Ace cranks with a SRAM sticker on one of the Astana team bikes. Instead the photo's caption focused on the fact the "Bontrager" box section tubular is not available to the public. It's sometimes easy for a team to hide a non-sponsor component, but in the case of the iconic Dura Ace crank, a sticker is a pretty lame attempt. I mean what do they think? A simple sticker covering the words "Dura Ace" is going to fool folks? Maybe they were also fooled by Superman's disguise as well. A pair of glasses is really a spectacular disguise.

The other photo that caught my eye was the photo of the Saunier Duval-Scott team bike showing the chain watcher. Never mind the Shimano 10s chain on the SRAM sponsored bike, James Huang has a sharp eye, but didn't mention why there was a coating of grease on the chain. I mean, grease on a chain?!? What are they thinking? Who in their right mind would use grease as a chain lubricant? Well, in harsh weather conditions with a lot of rain/mud/water, grease is an incredible chain lubricant. It stays on the chain, repels water and mud and can be the difference between finishing a race with a drivetrain that performs perfectly for the whole race. Can't really stop and add lube to your chain during a race such as Paris-Roubaix.

In 1995 at the NORBA National race in Georgia, I lubed up my racers' chains with a thick gooey lube and then followed that up with a coating of grease on the chain. This combination was impervious to the wet, red Georgia mud. The bikes came back from the race with their drivetrains still quiet. A dried out chain is not only loud and annoying, but can be more prone to breakage. You don't have a chance at a good finish with a broken chain.

(What's playing: Peel Moxy Blues)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How do they do that...

A friend of mine is building up a new bike and asked me how much it would cost for an XTR group. He told me that he had been looking at the prices on a mail order site in the UK. I checked out their site and found to my disbelief that the price they were selling an XTR group for (shipped to the US), was within dollars (okay, that is a very slight exaggeration, the actual difference was about $100) of the price I, as a bike shop, could buy the parts. Amazing. How can a company in the UK sell an XTR to the end user for the same price I can buy it for?

I know how, but it's still boggling. One thing that boosts the cost of the parts that I buy is the enormous amount of packaging material that is used to make the parts look pretty on a display shelf. I recently received a front derailleur in after-market packaging. As amazing as it sounds, the packaging weighed within grams of the actual derailleur. Now that is excessive.

There needs to be an option when buying parts. Most of the parts I buy will be used to fix a bike or to assemble a bike. I don't need the fancy after-market packaging. A simple bag is fine. Actually, a plastic bag is pretty wasteful too since it just gets put in the trash. Better would be wrapping the part in heavy paper. Easily recyclable and protective in shipping.

But eliminating the wasteful after-market packaging wouldn't be enough to make the pricing such that I could buy and re-sell the parts for anywhere near that UK mail order company. What's the answer? I don't know. Maybe Shimano does. I can't blame my friend for looking to that company for the parts. It's not like the difference in 50 bucks or even a hundred. It's hundreds of dollars. It's the price of a really nice suspension fork. The "well, we offer after the sale service" doesn't work in this case.

Guess it's my "welcome to bicycle retail."

(What's playing: Michelle Shocked 33 RPM Soul)

Friday, April 4, 2008

One second...

I recently built up a new race bike for Daniel, a local high school kid who races in the NorCal high school mountain bike league. A nice, light, no-frills Orbea aluminum frame, Fox Float RLC fork, SRAM X9 drivetrain w/ XT crank, light wheels with Stan's rims and White Industries hubs, and Juicy Carbon brakes. Came it right at 22 pounds.

I love building up bikes like this. Getting a bike race-ready and dialed-in is something that I really like. I got to do this for an entire season of NORBA races when I was the team mechanic for the Haro squad in 1995. Mechanics take as much pride in a great result as the rider and this was no exception.

Finished Daniel's bike on a Thursday. He did a couple shake-down rides, brought it back for some minor adjustments on Saturday. Race day on Sunday and he's second - by one second. That must have been some battle looking at his and the first place rider's lap times.

(What's playing: Patsy Cline Lovesick Blues)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's...

Yes, today is April 1. Yesterday was March 31. I didn't even think about today being April Fool's Day until a few jokes started popping up on the internet yesterday. The bike industry, it seems, is rife with jokers. Some are okay. Some fail. Some are brilliant.

In the failed category, I submit Commute By Bike's "Exclusive First Look: The Swobo Andale." First of all, derailleurs on a Swobo bike? I think not. Second, all of Swobo's bikes are named after streets in San Francisco. I could be wrong, but I can't find Andale St, Rd, Ln, Blvd... And it showed up well after other April Fool's Day. You have to be quick and first to pull the wool over most folks eyes. Fool me once...

In the okay category is Dave Moulton's "A new cycling hazard." Okay, because I really like to read Dave's blog. He's got that gift of writing that makes him easy to read and understand. And his topic choices are also very good. Something that is all to often lacking.

In the brilliant category (brilliant because I believed the product was true - not the actual claim). Some things are just so out there that there has to be some truth to it. Yesterday (cyclingnews.com is posted from Australia, so yesterday was today, thanks to the international date line), cyclingnews.com posted the Jacobsen Carbon Wrap-It System. Now, there really are aluminum parts that are wrapped with carbon - bars, stems, cranks, hubshells, so why not a frame. In the cases of the components, the carbon wrap is for looks only, but in Ritchey's WCS stem it is structural and the carbon is applied under pressure to really make the stem lighter and stiffer. When reading about the wrap-it system, I kept thinking that there was going to be some sort of vacuum bag that the frame fits into that pressure forms the carbon to the frame, but it didn't appear. Well, that's just one big sticker, then. How'd they give them 4 1/2 jersies?

It wasn't until I read the purported buy-out of Specialized by GM that I realized that the Wrap-It system was an April Fool's joke - good one! If you have been to any Interbike and patrolled the aisles on the fringes and saw all the kooky concepts, you could fall for the Wrap-It system too.

The Specialized/GM prank was also in the brilliant category. The folks behind that one must have been thinking about that one for quite a while. There was a lot of resources committed to pulling it off. That one pulled folks in hook, line, and sinker. The brilliant aspect of it was having a UK site publish it first at 12:02 a.m. April 1, UK time. That meant those of us in the US got it on a very unsuspecting March 31.

I'm with Guitar Ted, though, when it comes to April Fool's jokes. With this here internet thing, information is disseminated at light speed. Stories spread like wild fire. Falsities are truths. If you read it on the internet, it must be true. I'm also gullible and don't immediately think someone is trying to fool me.

(What's playing: KWMR's West Marin Report)