Saturday, June 28, 2008

Things you like to hear...

A week ago, a group of over 100 cyclists rolled through Point Reyes. The Almaden Cycle Touring Club's annual Sierra-to-the-Sea ride came through Point Reyes on their way from the foothills of the Sierra's down to Golde Gate Park. A bunch of them stopped in through out the day. The last couple of guys through at 5:00 stopped because of a broken spoke. A beer and 15 minutes later, he was back on the road and able to finish his tour. Most notable, though, was a couple who wandered in and mentioned one of those things you like to hear as a bike shop owner - "now this is what a bike shop is supposed to look like."

I'm not really sure how to clarify what exactly she meant, but I've heard same thing on more than several occasions. I've only got a handful of new bikes for sale. Nothing in carbon fiber. No full-suspension mountain bikes. Some kooky looking Dutch bikes. A whole row of archaic mountain bikes with odd brakes. And a nicely stocked accessory section with just about anything to keep a wandering cyclist clothed, fed, helmeted, and their bike on the road.

There's nothing fancy going on. I don't have any high-tech lights in the ceiling creating a "mood." Maybe that's what it is that prompted her comment; the lack of pretentious over-thought display cases, dramatic lighting, and sales people running around in monogrammed shop polo shirts. Maybe some people get tired of the sterile retail environments and corporate coffee shops. Maybe some folks just like a simple shop that smells like tires and chain lube. And that's the person this shop is for.

(What's playing: Bob Dylan Song for Woody)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good read...

My friend Gary B's interview with Swobo's Sky Yeager on is a good read...especially the last question/answer.

While you're at it, read his bit with Grant Petersen too.

(What's playing: R.E.M. I Believe)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The year of the...

According to an on-line post from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, Giant has proclaimed it The Year of the Road Bike. Didn't that already happen? I'm sorry, but I would prefer that they, and others, proclaim it the Year of Getting People Off Their Asses Out of Their SUV's Off Their Cell Phones and On BIKES! Instead of spending what is likely millions of dollars developing more carbon road frames that only copy what others have previously done (oversized tapered steerer tubes and integrated bearing bottom bracket shells...yawn), why not save that money and develop bikes that ordinary folks might want to ride.

They also introduced (isn't that a fancy word to show off a new bike - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the (insert new bike model here) an enthusiastic round of applause) two other lines of bikes - the Avail for women and the Defy for anyone who doesn't race and is male - I suppose. According to Giant, these lines of bikes are "for road riders who want one bike that can do it all." They further stated that "the goal was to create a line of bikes that were light, stiff and more comfortable for the everyday rider." Wow, that's pretty revolutionary. Imagine how hard it is to create a bike that has ample clearance for 28c tires, a taller head tube than their pure racing machines and maybe longer chainstays. Then they probably slap a slightly wider seat and a taller stem and call it a revolutionary all-day-comfortable bike. Gotta be challenging for a product department. Okay, there is some sarcasm there. I'm sure the new bikes have ample sized "tubing" on the frames to show off the company's logos.

We don't need more cutting edge roadie bikes. We don't need more long-travel trail bikes. We don't need...well, actually, we don't need any of this. We want it, but don't need it. We do need more bikes that long-time auto drivers will understand. We don't need gimmicks. We don't need fads. I'm going to lay this out for everyone in the bike industry to read so it can potentially reduce your development costs because it's all here. No need to spend tons of money of focus groups. Just copy this and it's a sure winner. Ready....

What we need is this: well, besides availability, two models with the same basic spec.

Frame: Aluminum or steel - probably aluminum because it's aluminum and will be lighter than a steel frame that I propose at this price and it's easy for companies to sneak a hi-ten steel tube into a "crmo" frame. Make sure the frame has a nice tall head tube to get the bars up near the seat. New riders don't want to be reaching far and low for the bars. Double diamond and a Euro styled U-shaped frame for easy gettin' on. U-shaped frames are more likely to be ridden by guys who need an easy on frame than the traditional "girls" frame. Make sure the frame also has braze-ons that make rack and mud guard attachment easy.

Fork: Rigid chrome-moly with enough steerer to fine-tune the bar height. I might go so far as to say use a quill type stem so you can very easily adjust the bar height, but that might be too much. I'd be fine with an aheadset but with sufficient (2") of up and down adjustability.

Components: Alivio level is unpretentious and works just fine. Its 8-speeds are reliable and use a chain that is just a little stouter than a 9-speed's. Crankset with replaceable chainrings. Good seat - not some big ole fat cushy thing, just a simple supportive seat. Ergo shaped grips - they really are comfy if you don't wear gloves. Wheelset with good quality hubs. In Taiwan, you can get cheap hubs all day long - go the extra mile and spec hubs with either cartridge bearings or upgrade the cup/cone design to one with ground and polished races - very smooth and cup/cone hubs are easy to adjust and repack. Tires should be something is the burly all-road style in something like a 44c/1.75 size. I like the WTB All-Terrainisaurus. Pedals - make sure the pedals are a flat style (but not BMX/DH style) with good bearings. It would also be awesome if some form of a chainguard could be fitted that wouldn't rattle, rub, break. Handlebars - this is the key. Ditch the traditional mountain bike-like riser bar. Use an aluminum bar with about 50mm of rise and 24 degrees of backsweep like these from Dimension. Hmmm, come to think of it, DiamondBack has almost already created this bike in the form of the Transporter. Now if supply could be boosted...

What it shouldn't have: Suspension fork. Not necessary for a bike that is going to be ridden instead of driving. You'll be on the road or path. A suspension fork at this price is just a fancy pogo stick and adds unnecessary weight. Suspension seat post. Again, adds weight without any benefit.

Two models: One with 26" wheels for increased wheel durability. One with 700c wheels for better rolling. Depending on the road/path you travel to get to your job and the store, you have your choice of wheel size to get you there.

How much: $500. For the owner of an SUV, that's a paltry five fill-ups at the pump. Doesn't sound so bad when you put it in those terms, does it?

Okay, that's it. The formula for a successful bike that the bike industry needs. I've had several folks in recently way out here in West Marin who are considering riding a bike to work instead of their car. Most recently it was yesterday in the form of a teacher from the central valley who currently drives the 2-3 miles to his job as a teacher.

(What's playing: Fujiya and Miyagi: Ankle Injuries)

Friday, June 20, 2008

The request line is open...

Monday, June 23rd from 6:40-8:30 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time), I will be helping Amanda Eichstaedt spin tunes on KWMR as she, in turn, is covering The Hippie from Olema Show. In trying to come up with a theme, we finally decided to make it an all request show. Takes the pressure off of us.

So, e-mail or post your Country/Western/Bluegrass/Alt Country/Honky Tonk/Folk request as a comment. . Listen live locally on 90.5 FM in the Point Reyes area (89.7 FM in the Bolinas area) or on the web at Call in your request to the show at 415-663-8492. It will be fun.

Speaking of Bolinas, I spotted this on Urban Velo's site today. Looks like Bolinas is the first with $5/gallon petrol. And yet another reason to ride a bike.

And speaking of a good reason to ride a bike, today is the Community Commute and Summer Solstice Social. The Community Commute is way to get cyclists who regularly travel West Marin's roads to lead a ride for folks who want to ride their bike to and from Inverness and Pointe Reyes but feel a bit timid on Sir Francis Drake. By making the trip with other cyclists, we hope that we can show really how easy it is. The rides will head to the beach at noon and then back to the shop at 4:30 for an hour-ish Solstice Social with snacks and refreshments. Fun for all!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New, old bikes...

I’ve always liked the simple, classic design of the traditional English 3-speed. Not long ago, I decided to investigate what the list of Craig has to offer and found a his and hers Raleigh Superbe 3-speed for sale. A quick negotiation and they were ours. They turned out to be super clean, still retaining their original chainwheels with the Heron logo, rear rack, dynamo front hub and light…Yeah, they are clean. Air in the tires and they are ready to ride. The ladies bike did need a new indicator spindle, but thankfully, one can actually purchase this part brand new. The Sturmey-Archer hub indicates they are from 1969, or at least the hub is.

These bikes are what the bike industry needs to remake. It’s what people want – simple. The frame could be aluminum (but only if the tubes are not those horribly oversized abominations) or steel. Folks seem to be worried that steel rusts. Well, yeah, if you don’t take care of the bike. Your car is steel. It’s probably not rusting because you take care of it.

The new and old indicator spindle.

His and hers

Locking fork (sadly the keys are long lost)

Generator front hub for the (dim) light and mileage indicator. I seem to have mis-adjusted the mileage indicator because I now have 1679 miles. Nothing like rolling back the odometer to increase the value...

The name says it all

Wonder if the sheriff rides one...

Chainring detail...down to the heron's eye

Vintage leather

1969 AW hub

I always like it when the bike shop sticker survives - a better glimpse into the past.

(What's playing: MPR's The Current and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Let Them Knock)

You say kethup, I say catch up...

With regards to bikes the industry needs more of... I sold this DiamondBack Transporter over the weekend. This bike is one of those “just right” bikes. Just the right price for a first bike in many, many years buyer. Just the right spec – I gotta love the no suspension fork, complete with fenders, steel frame/fork… When you eliminate a suspension fork, you can afford to upgrade the spec in some key areas. This bike, at $450, has sealed cartridge bearing hubs – very cool! The one part the product manager did skimp on, though, was the handlebar. A steel bar on a $450, no suspension fork bike is a poor choice. The shape was also too straight. I swapped out the bar for a very comfortable 24 degree sweep aluminum bar – just right.

24 degree bars

The yield symbol is the "West Marin resident using their bike instead of their car" sign.

During the day (make that a sunny day which we have been having a lot of – no June Gloom up here!), the skylight in the shop highlights a spot on the floor where I was, coincidentally, parking a bike. Last week a woman in her park ranger uniform stopped by and asked if she could take some pictures of the shop. She was walking by and saw the hallowed light casting its glow on the bike and she wanted to capture it from outside looking in. She had a really sweet vintage camera – can’t remember the name, but it was made just after WWII, folded into a flat package and took photos in a 6” x 9” format. Here’s a link to the photos she took. There are also some other very nice B/W night shots on her flickr page as well. After she left, I went outside to see what she saw and took this photo myself. I doctored up the background in photoshop leaving the bike in color and the background in B/W.

In for repair. Ironically (or is it coincidentally?), this Raleigh Superbe came in for a little love over the weekend. It’s also in darn fine shape and has the same 1969 date stamp on the hub as ours. The basket she had me put on it is a nice touch. The only thing it is missing that would make it a perfect match to my wife's new old bike is the generator front hub and light. It too has the original bike shop decal - Wheels Unlimited in San Rafael, CA.

This German made Birdy came in for a Rohloff hub oil change. It’s a pretty neat folding bike. I’d seen them at Eurobike when I used to go to that show on the shore of Lake Konstance. Ahhh, sipping a 500ml glass of hefeweizen...mmmmm, beer...

Went for a ride too. My sample cross frame had always had a fork that was about 20mm too short. It rode fine, but there was always just … well, something wasn’t there. I finally got around to putting a fork on it that was the right length. Made all the difference in the world. Took it out Sunday after work for a loop up and around Mt. Vision and the Inverness Ridge trail and it took to the dirt just like a pig in a poke.

That ride got me all excited to take it out for a longer ride down Hwy. 1, up Bo-Fax Road and back on Bolinas Ridge Trail the next day. Boy, if there’s a wrong way to prepare for a long ride, I did it. Didn’t eat enough of the right stuff for dinner the previous night. Went too long before eating (not enough) breakfast. Found my bike with a front flat. Couldn’t find my seat bag with my fat cross tubes so I pulled the one off my road bike. Started feeling the early effects of a bonk at the bottom of Bolinas-Fairfax Road (a 5 mile, 1500’ climb). Ate a Clif Bar and figured I’d rather carry on and collapse on the trail in peace than on a return up Hwy 1. Finally got to the top – slowly, at another Clif Bar, peanut butter bagel, Clif Shot. Energy level still very low, rear tire pinch flatted on a fast transition from a downhill to uphill through a rocky section (paying the price for having the wrong size tubes with me). Put the first tube in and started inflating. That tire doesn’t look right. The tube was a Hutchinson 700x18/23 and if you know Hutchinson tubes, well, they don’t seem very flexible and not 50 feet down the trail, it gave. Stopped again and used my last spare – this one a Kenda tube that is much more flexible and felt sure it would work if I carried on carefully. This tube was also a 700x18/23 that I was trying to fit into a 45c tire. Seemed to be working better than the Hutchinson. Steady as she goes. It’s working! Finally, two hours after I first felt the bonk coming on, the 3 Clif Bars (at them up changing flats), 2 Clif Shots, and one peanut butter bagel were finally kicking in and I started feeling much better. It could have also been the fact that the last half of Bolinas Ridge is more predominantly downhill. Finally got home 3:59 and 30 miles later – ouch! No pictures, sorry.

Hey, are you Jeff? Saturday rolls around and two couples roll up to the shop on their bikes. One of the guys is asking about mixed-terrain rides. As he’s talking, I’m thinking “this guy’s familiar.” Then his wife uses his name and I say, “you’re Jeff Porter!” Well, it’s actually Jeff Potter, but after almost 20 year, that’s pretty close. It turns out Jeff and I used to ride together with a mutual friend of ours up in the Malibu mountains, racing at Big Bear and Mammoth, Victor Vincente events… He was and is unmistakable with his long pony-tail and kind of staccato delivery when he talks. So we caught up on old times and he checked out all the old bikes in the shop. He saw my Mary 29” wheeled bike and commented that two friends of his just bought Mary bikes and were digging them. I always love hearing that people, not only bought something I created, but like them as well. I gave him a couple of ride loop options. Turns out he did pretty much the same ride I did yesterday, but in reverse of how I rode it (see above ride description). What a small world – and further proof of how Black Mountain Cycles ties everything together.

Welp, I got three bikes to assemble today that are sold so I gotta roll...

(What's playing: MPR's The Current Yaz Move Out - oh, yeah Alison Moyet...)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Funny how some things work...

I've been out of a certain lock for a few weeks. Finally got around to ordering more last week. They came in yesterday. Sold out within a few hours. Guess four locks wasn't enough.

I had never ordered any half-links for dialing in single-speed bikes until earlier this week. Ordered two thinking, "what the heck, probably a good thing to have." Sold out in two days on single-speed conversions. Both old Bridgestones - really sweet conversions. What are the chances?

Boy, if this order followed immediately by sell works so well, I think I may just go ahead and order a Campy Record group. Well, maybe not.

And on a similar vein, boy howdy was it busy today! Here's a list off the top of my single-beer-tainted memory noggin: Bridgestone MB-0 (say Zip) single-speed conversion with White Ind Eno hub wheel build; Trek mountain bike tune-up (needed a new front mech to replace the mangled one that came in on the bike); emergency broken shift cable dig-out and replace on a D/A 9-s shifter; replace broken spoke nipple on a Ritchey WCS rear wheel; flat tire repair; pump repair; kickstand install; install taller stem on old SR mountain bike with tune-up and new cables; write up five new bikes for repair...whew! Now where'd the rest of that beer go...

(What's playing: Booker T. and the MG's Green Onions - really loud!....and followed by The B-52's Dance This Mess Around - even louder!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bike industry rant...

And now it hits home. Model years, huh. What are they good for. Absolutely nothing. Listen to me. Okay, so I took a little liberty from Edwin Starr. But really, model years are a bane to the bike industry. Maybe not "model years" per se, because some form of identifying production by specification needs to be made, but the method with which bike companies introduce new product and phase out old is absolutely ludicrous, especially to a small retailer like myself.

Here's how it works. The bike industry trade show, Interbike, is held once a year in October. This would be a great time for the industry to introduce new bikes that are available for sale at the same time - perfect for having new bikes in stock for Christmas. Then these bikes can be produced and available from the manufacturers through the summer of the following year. Christmas and summer - these are the main new bike selling seasons. Folks want bikes for Christmas presents and they want new bikes when the weather gets good. I don't know, I guess good weather incites people to get out on bikes and ride.

Makes sense, right? But no, that's not how it works, especially with popularly priced bikes. Bike manufacturers feel like they have to introduce bikes sooner, earlier, to get a jump on the competition. After all, if you are the first out with a new bike, why would you want to order "old" bikes. Early bird gets the worm.

So, bike manufacturers start introducing their new model year bikes in the spring and summer and running them through to the following Spring. And not wanting to get stuck with last year's inventory, they cease production in early Spring. The problem with this is bike manufacturers seem to be perpetually out of stock of important models during the summer when people want to buy bikes because of inevitable production delays. Maybe this isn't a problem for big shops who pre-season gobs of bikes and warehouse them. For a small shop like me, I can't afford that. I've got space for a limited number of bikes and have no warehouse space. I've got a few bikes in the shop that I can sell and then rely on special order to get bikes customers want. It costs more because of freight costs, but overall saves me money becuase I can maintain my cash flow.

New bike sales have been sparse at the shop, but literally, within the past two days, I "sold" three bikes, all of which I needed to order. Wrong! Only one of the bikes is in stock. I even tried to find an appropriate alternative and swap the trigger shifters for twist shifters, but no, that one's out of stock too. The other bike that is out of stock is unique in the bike industry by virtue of its style, component spec, and price so finding an alternative is unlikely. But these folks have their ecomonic incentive check and want to buy bikes and dangit, I want to help them spend it. Sure I want a bike sale, but I really want to see them riding their bikes because they want to use their bikes instead of their car.

The main problem facing bike manufacturers in their few attempts at eliminating model years rests with their vendors. Parts makers in Taiwan and China still rely on model years for their wares and their production is on a model year basis. They offer quotations based on these model years and even if a product remains unchanged, will want to requote based on their model year.

Typically, the schedule goes: bike companies go to Taiwan in October/November/December to begin negotiation for new model year bikes. Vendors present new products at this time. Bike companies either choose to use new parts or continue using existing parts if they will continue to be produced. Once parts are decided, price negotiation begins and may go on for months as bike companies try to whittle down the price to save NT$ 1 here and NT$ 1 there (an NT$ is a New Taiwan Dollar is NT$ 1 is worth about three and a half cents US). If you order hundreds of thousands of these parts, that NT$ 1 can add up to a lot of money. However, in many cases, you spend so much time chipping away at the price that you end up not seeing the bike for the parts.

Finally, you've arrived at a bike spec and a price so you coordinate production. Most of the new parts have product cycles that run from January or February through about March of the following year. That means you can begin complete bike assembly in March/April and new bikes begin arriving in May. That is in a normal year. This year, however, because of the dramatic increase in the price of raw materials and parts vendors unwillingness to quote on parts because of the volitile raw material price, this schedule got pushed back by months creating a hole in inventory through which I've fallen.

Ideally inventory and model years would coincide perfectly. But that doesn't happen very often and it's very common for bikes to be out of stock late spring/early summer - just when bike sales start to increase. In some respects, the bike industry has succeeded in spite of itself.

Guess I'll be busy today trying to find bikes for my customers or find a dealer who has the bike they want in their stock. Better they get the bike they want from someone else than not at all.

Even after rereading this post, it still doesn't seem to make sense with regards to the production schedule and availability, but after working for many years at the bike supplier level, I know of the perpetual problem and frustration of being out of stock of popular bikes at the time when people want to buy new bikes. And really, are rants supposed to make sense anyway?

And "introduction" does not necessarily equate to "availability." Introduction = hey, check out our new stuff, too bad it's not available, yet.

(What's playing: Sweet Ballroom Blitz)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Six degrees of separation, Black Mountain style...

Actually, it's probably only two or three degrees. Here's a few funny coincidental instances that have happened at the shop.

A few months ago, Grant Petersen of Rivendell stopped by. I saw the bike he parked out front and pretty much knew it was Grant. I'd never met him and always admired what he's done in the bike industry going back to the Bridgestone days. The final three catalogs Bridgestone (1992, 1993, 1994) put out were among the three best bike catalogs ever. He wandered in the shop and I let him just be a guy who found a bike shop to check out. I eventually introduced myself and we got to talking about the focus of the shop (more on that in a future post). Nice guy.

The next day he came back and as we were talking bikes, a woman and man came in the shop. She saw the Rivendell out front and started talking to its owner about the bike saying she was in San Francisco for a work conference and left enough time after the conference to visit Rivendell in Walnut Creek to test ride a bike and come up to Point Reyes. As she's talking about her visit and test ride, she kind of falters mid-sentence and asks/proclaims, "You're Grant Petersen!?" Well, yeah, he was Grant Petersen. They guy she was with told me later that that brief meeting made her year.

Several months ago, a vintage mountain bike friend of mine came up to the shop to visit and have me do some work on his Steve Potts and Otis Guy bikes. At the same time he's at the shop, Tom Ritchey stopped by. Not sure if that made his year, but I think it was pretty close.

And just this weekend, my friends Ken and Amanda from the Bear Valley Inn told me that a good friend of theirs from Scotland, Gary, was staying with them on holiday and was going to come to the shop to check out the old bikes and stuff. Seems he's found out about the shop all the way in Scotland and wanted to see it in person. He was also going to be picking up a Type II fork from Steve Potts for a WTB Phoenix he picked up a while back. As he's at Steve's getting his fork and a tour of Steve's shop, Steve's telling him about some other forks he's making. One of the forks is for another friend of mine from The Netherlands, Jeroen. As coincidence would have it, Gary had actually bought his Phoenix frame that his new Type II is going on from Jeroen! How's that for a Type II/Phoenix triangle!

And finally just because and for a little visual stimulation, here's what's in the stand, been in the stand, and will be in the stand this week. From nearest to furthest: Classic early Ibis road frame in for assembly of classic Dura Ace 7402 components; early 90's Bridgestone MB-something that has a single-speed conversion with track ends and a fresh Sycip matte black powder coat; MB-Zip in for a White Ind Eno eccentric wheel build and single-speed conversion; Bontrager cross frame in for general tuning; and finally a very nice De Rosa lugged steel frame with Campy Chorus Ergo 8-speed in for tune/assembly.

(What's playing: Coldplay Viva la Vida)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What's in the stand...

AKA "You learn something new every day." Had a nice fillet-brazed Mikelsen dropped off for some work a few days ago. It's that tiny bike sitting behind my bike in the post below. It was built up with a mix of Campy Nuovo Record and 6-speed Dura Ace. The owner wanted to set it up with lower gearing for his daughter. It needed to have some fairly major work done to get lower gears. The original wheels are Dura Ace 6-speed with Uniglide cogs. It would have been much easier if a 6-speed UG cassette in 12-28 were easy to find, but it ain't. UG cogs differ from HG cogs in that the splines are all the same width where as HG cogs have one spline that is wider than the others - no inter-compatibility between HG and UG.

So, what to do. He had a wheel with a newer Dura Ace hub that is compatible with 8/9/10 speed cassettes, but it was spaced at 130mm and the frame is 126mm. Not wanting to alter the frame, I set about to respacing the hub to 126mm, redishing the wheel, and cutting the axle down by 4mm. Installed an 8-speed 12-28 cassette, replaced the NR derailleur (with a "patent 72" mark) with a new 105 derailleur to handle the range better (and have better shifting), and threw on a SRAM 8-speed chain.

I knew that the 8-speed chain might make pose a slight problem with the 10-speed 105 derailleur, but didn't want to go narrower because of the spacing and tooth width of the NR chainrings. And yeah, as I suspected, the chain was noisy running through the 105 pulleys. After some inspection to see how the chain was running through the pulleys, I determined the noise was coming from the upper guide pulley.

The guide pulley floats on the bushing which is an aid in adjusting index shifting, but in this case, the float was allowing the wider 8-speed chain to slightly rub on the cage. Hmmmm, what to do. What if the pulley doesn't float? Yeah, that's it. Installed a replacement lower tension pulley (with no float) in the guide position and it immediately solved the problem. So, there you go. Where there's a will to combine a combination of brand new 10-speed ccomponents with 36 year old components that were used with 5-speed drivetrains, there's a way.

(What's playing: I think KWMR is playing something by Schubert)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I must be a friggin' giant...

Was sitting here typing up some e-mails and glanced over at my bike sitting next to a customer's bike and the massive variance in sizes just hit me. Holy cow! I must be a friggin' giant! The seat on that Mikelsen (it's a beautiful fillet-brazed frame) doesn't even clear the top tube on my bike. As it sits, I have 6" of stand-over height - above the seat - on the Mikelsen. Honey, I shrunk the bike...
Okay, three posts in one day. I'm tired. And it was even a busy day. But a hoppy, fermented adult beverage is calling my name...

(What's The Beatles Paperback Writer)

Bong, bong, bong...

No, that's not what this is about, although one might ask what those engineers and designers were smoking... What that is, is the tolling of the bells signaling the death of the cleanly designed, polished silver road component group - and crankarms specifically. Shimano's Dura Ace was the last hold-out. Some would claim that the 7800 crank with its iconic shape was too chunky, but it grew on me. And it was silver.

Of course you can put together a silver group with various old and new parts from several manufacturers, but the silver "groupset" is a thing of the past. And no, Tiagra doesn't count. This is about high(er)-end groups. Campagnolo went to carbon years ago and even their Record hubs are black (oh how I would love a new Record hub in silver matched up with a nice box-section tubular rim). SRAM jumped onto the road band wagon right away with carbon cranks.

With the introduction of the new 7900 Dura Ace, the bastion of silver cranks has passed. Even Ultegra is now Ultegra SL and colored an Ice Gray. Ice Gray? Sounds cold. I'm sure the new Dura Ace group is fantastic in its function and its intended customer has no idea what 8-speed was, let alone 5 speed, so in that respect, I'm sure they'll hit another home-run.

I do like the fact that they dropped the triple and added a compact crank to the Dura Ace line. I would like to see them add an 11-32 or a 12-32 10-speed cassette, though. I see a lot of road bikes through here still running 9-speed because 9-speed 11-32 and 11-34 are available. And these bikes do already have triples and compacts on them already.

What they did hit a home-run with, in my opinion, is the new brifter with the under-the-bartape cable-run. Finally! A few years ago, I sent an e-mail to the Fulcrum folks in the US. Fulcrum is Campy's Shimano compatible wheel division. Oh sure, they make Campy compatible wheels, but Fulcrum was started to compete with Mavic for the Shimano compatible wheelset market and they chose Fulcrum because if you are a Shimano person, you don't necessarily want Campagnolo on your bike. I mean, sheesh, duh. I thought that since Fulcrum's target customer was folks running Shimano drivetrains that they could kill the brifter market with a Campy shaped/styled/function lever that was perfectly compatible with Shimano drivetrains. So I sent an e-mail to them. Never heard back. I would have bought a set or two.

I'm thinking that the value of this crank has now increased by a huge factor.

(What's playing: Split Enz I Got You)

My new web site...

Welp, it's not like I was looking for a new web site, but this guy just took over and assumed the role of web master as well. And you thought this would be about a new web site...

I have to thank Amanda for the comedic inspiration when she was in earlier and spied the little critter.

(What's playing: The Righteous Brothers Unchained Melody)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mixed terrain...

When I moved here, I did some internet searching for rides in the Marin area. What I found were a few personal websites/blogs that seemed to favor my favorite type of rides. They called them mixed terrain rides - combining paved roads and trails and dirt roads and trails. I like riding my bike wherever I want to regardless of what's under my tires. As chance would have it the three sites I found that touted mixed terrain rides were three friends and riding partners. Jim E is cyclofiend, JimG is sfcyclotouring, and It Followed Me Home is Carlos. Carlos also has a nice mixed terrain ride descriptions and downloadable cue sheets. And as by another chance would have it, they've all visited the shop independant of my finding out about them.

Recently on cyclofiend, he posted a link to some photos from the infamous Jobst rides that Jobst Brandt led. These rides rambled all over the Santa Cruz mountains usually from Palo Alto. Fortitude, perseverance, and determination. All of these rides were done on their road bikes and involved a healthy dose of dirt. I don't think many of today's road riders would be too happy on a Jobst ride that was even half as tough. Heck, it seems that there's already a lot of those folks who won't even ride their road bike through my dirt parking lot.

Anyway, mixed terrain, that's what I did today. Climbed up Mt. Vision road and then took the Inverness Ridge trail back to Limantour Rd. and back home. A nice 2 hour get-out-and-shake-the-cobwebs-off ride. Took some pictures too.

Up at the top of Mt. Vision.

Looking back towards the bay. I like this orange Ibex wool jersey.

Looking out over Drake's Bay and Drake's Estero.

Time to put the camera away and pay attention to the trail.

(What's playing: Neko Case Deep Red Bells)