Friday, October 31, 2008

And so you don't think it's all roses and Ritcheys...

Okay, so some folks think that all I work on are classic mountain bikes like that '82 Ritchey from a couple days ago. Well, I'm here to tell ya it's not all roses and Ritcheys. This bike came in today to get "rideable."
Yeah, that's are a tangled mass of weeds. I think they must have been growing directly out of the freewheel because that was caked full of dirt/grime. When it came in, I couldn't take my eyes off the weeds and the baby seat. The name on the down tube was Jamis and at first glance, I presumed it to be a lower end blue-collar bike with a Suntour suspension fork. As I weeded the bike, I noticed that it was an older Dakar model that was fillet-brazed (tig welded bb area) and that the fork wasn't a cheap Suntour model, but a first generation RockShox RS-1. Hmm, pretty nice. Not necessarily a rose, but not a weed.

(What's playing: Jefferson Airplane 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's in the stand...

This sweet relic from 1982 rolled into the shop a few days ago. It had been sitting in a woodshed for the past 10 years, still owned by the original owner. Cables were frozen and the paint's not looking the greatest. But, it's still a classic 1982 Ritchey Mountain Bike. The pressed in cartridge bearings were still smooth. The rubber covers of the Tomaselli Racer brake levers were still in outstanding condition. The TA cranks were in great shape. Basically, the bike was still a great bike that could continue to be a nice rider for many more years.

I stripped off all the cables and casings, cleaned up the frame, scoured as much of the grime off the derailleurs, brakes, and cranks to make it presentable and then re-cabled it. Rides great!

And the Pièce de résistance. All this so that it can go to the dogs. Meet Bailey's new ride.
From Repair Bikes

And for all you nit-pickers, yes, the cable ferrules are a little undersized for the stops, there's rust on the seat pin QR, there's a front tire on back and a back tire up front...

(What's playing: Muddy Waters Long Distance Call)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What's in the stand...

This sweet early '90s rasta/jelly bean Salsa came in originally to get the headset and bottom bracket installed and then have the WTB shift adapters positioned. It ended up as a complete build up. Turned out pretty nice too. I thought I took a few more photos, but alas, they don't appear in my camera or computer. While the owner was there, another gem of a bike rolled out of the barn from 1982 to get brought up to date - more later.

From Repair Bikes

(What's playing: Caroline Herring Whipporwill)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wetlands restoration...

We picked a pretty cool time to move to Pt. Reyes. Just after we moved here, work began on the restoration of the upper end (south end) of Tomales Bay. For the past 60 years, the land had been protected from the water by a series of levees creating pasture land for grazing cattle at the Giacomini dairy. Yesterday, an excavator broke through one of the last levees allowing water to rush into the newly created Giacomini Wetlands. It would have been neat to see the water rushing in, but running the shop preempted the viewing. From what I understand, no one really knew what would happen with the water, but water did rush into the lower elevations. Must have been quite a site.

Today, I thought I'd take a ride up both sides of Tomales bay - up to Marshall and back and up to Inverness and back to see what the bay/wetlands looked like. Pretty cool. It was also reported that leopard sharks and rays made their way into the former pasture too.

I took some pics on the east side, but the battery in the camera died before I could get over to the west side.

This area already had water in it, but I thought it looked neat.
From Ride Photos

From Ride Photos

I rode out the Tomales Bay trail to view the new wetlands. A mile of this cow hoof pock-marked trail made things interesting.
From Ride Photos

That big expanse of water is where it is newly flooded wetland. Imagine cows grazing just over a year ago. The channel third from the bottom is where the water is flowing from Tomales Bay. While I was watching, a seal (at least I thought it was some kind of seal) cruised up into the wetlands.
From Ride Photos

The channel just above the light colored bank is the new flow. There's a white egret on the shore waiting for a new meal to cruise by. The water was flowing fairly vigorously.
From Ride Photos

(What's playing: Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And DH racers shall wear cool race kit...

The UCI just passed a new regulation banning "tight fitting clothing" for downhill racers. Seems not all gravity racers are into wearing tight clothes for racing. One racer complaining about another: "Fair enough if she wants to do that to win, but for the sport and the longevity of the sport, to wear cool race kit and to make an image for yourself is more important than the odd win here and there."

Wow! That's really an amazing statement. Basically, it is better to look cool than to take advantage of available gear and be the fastest. After all, isn't a downhill race really an individual time trial with some rocks, drop-offs, and trees thrown in? I'm sure this will be a major contentious point in DH circles with some siting the image factor of the sport and some claiming that it's proper to use resources available to everyone. Maybe I don't get it because I'm not a DH racer.

(What's playing: Bessie Smith St. Louis Blues)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Black Mountain Cycles frames...

Greg asked in the Biketober post if I could post information on the frames I'm planning to bring in from Taiwan. Here's the info. I've also got it in a pdf format. If any one would like to receive a pdf file of this info, e-mail me and say pretty-please. blackmtncycles (at) gmail (dot) com
From BMC Frames

From BMC Frames

From BMC Frames

From BMC Frames

Let me know if this all makes sense, if you like it, or if you think I'm looney.

(I'm having a heckuva time getting the second page to link up. The source page is correct, but pasting the link just isn't working. Well that was a pita.)

(What's playing: Mike Ness No Man's Friend)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hey, I know that bike,..

I was checking out Selle An-Atomica's website to learn more about their seats. I've got some in stock and should know as much about them as possible besides the fact that they are super comfy all-day-in-the-saddle seats. Flipping through some of their web pages, I came across a picture of the owner of the company riding in the 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris.
As a bike geek, I checking out his bike and the bike of the other rider when I realize, hey, I know that green bike, and it was just at the shop yesterday piloted by its owner Willie. It's a very sweet Vanilla, color matched fenders, dynamo front hub, and Avid disc brakes. A beautiful bike that could be of show quality, but a bike that gets the heck ridden out of it, as evidence by the photo of a rain soaked road in the middle of a 760 mile jaunt from Paris to Brest and back. Willie also has a Speedvagen that he's ridden out to the shop on occasion. Small world. Cool bikes.

...and Willie's bikes are also equipped with the Selle An-Atomica saddle.

(What's playing: My Morning Jacket Evil Urges)

Friday, October 17, 2008


This notice may be a little late, but I'll be closed Saturday October 18 for Biketoberfest. I'll have a small booth there with some big wheeled bikes for sale and some assorted sundries. So, if you're in the area, c'mon out, got for a ride with Joe Breeze and Charlie Kelly and drink some beer in the beer garden.

I just wrote up a nifty 4-page 4 x 8 bi-fold about the frames I'm going to have made, printed up almost 100 of them, and just noticed the top "Black Mountain Cycles" heading is not centered while everything else on the page is centered. Dammit! Guess that's what I get for rushing - and trying to mix formats within column and page breaks. Other than that it turned out sweet.

(What's playing: The Beatles While My Guitar Gently Weeps)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good news, but I'm not holding my breath...

There is a proposed new regulation that Pres. Bush is supposedly set to sign that will give individual park superintendents the authority to manage their own individual National Parks with regards to managing bikes on the trails. I'm not sure what the ramifications are out here in Point Reyes, but there are miles and miles of primo single-track (or so I'm told from guys who rode the trails back when they were legal) within the boundaries of the Point Reyes National Seashore. How incredibly cool would it be if I could ride from the shop or the house and be on these trails within minutes. But, this is Marin County and I'm not holding my breath.

There's been a lot on this topic on the web, but here's a good link to read.

(What's playing: Uncle Tupelo Flatness)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grease that steerer tube!...

With steerer tubes on most higher end bikes these days being aluminum or carbon fiber, it's easy to forget to apply a light coat of grease to the steerer tube if you find yourself installing a fork with a steel steerer tube. Why grease a steerer tube? Well, glad you asked. The steerer tube is invisible when on the bike. It's also trapped between the upper and lower headset cup so if water or any moisture gets in, it's not getting out easily. And there is sits clinging to the steerer tube, eating away at the steel.

Greasing an aluminum steerer isn't normally necessary, but can be helpful because it's possible for the aluminum to corrode in some situations. A thin coat of grease prevents this. And carbon just doesn't corrode or rust, but a bit of grease on a carbon steerer in the area where it is near the headset cups/bearings can't hurt.

So, why all this blabbering about greasing your steerer tube? I was working on a really nice Serotta ti bike with a Serotta made carbon fork with steel steerer tube last week. The first indication that something was wrong came when the aluminum headset spacers were corroded in place. Then the King bearing cap would not budge. It too was frozen to the steerer. When I finally got the bearing cap off, I was treated to a lot of dirt spewing out from the bottom of the head tube. It wasn't actually dirt, but was rust dust. Bad sign. This is what the steerer tube looked like when it was finally freed. Pretty awful.
As bad as this steerer tube looks, it cleaned up rather nicely. A 12" strip or abrasive cloth about 1" wide scoured the rust off and polished the steerer tube to a shiny finish. Hold the abrasive cloth in both hands and run it over the steerer much like the shoe shine guy polishes shoes.

I learned this bit from Chuck at Pacific Coast Cycles long ago. Before you grease the steerer tube, write your name, phone number, and driver's license number if you want on the steerer with a sharpie. Let it dry and then apply grease. This is a great form of identification if you ever find yourself having to identify your bike in a police station.

(What's playing: Aesop Rock Coffee on MPR's The Current)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What a waste of tape...

In the category of "Things I Dislike" falls another bit with tape. In this instance, the culprit is not something that is visible on the bike. In fact, if you don't let these guys tape your bars, it is totally invisible.

What I'm talking about is the tape that is used to hold down brake and shift cables (brake only if it's Shimano) to a road handlebar prior to applying handlebar tape. In the case of Shimano brake housing, only one piece of electrical tape (wrapped around the bar only 1 1/2 times) is required. This should be located on the flat part of the bar, just to the inside of the bend. Really, that's all that you need. Campy is a bit different with the stiffer shift housing exiting the lever on the outside and routed either to the inside or outside depending on your preference. With Campy, a wrap of 1 1/2 times around the bar at the bend and a wrap on the flat section is necessary.

So, when I was replacing cables on this Campy equipped Bianchi, the amount of electrical tape used to hold down the cable housings drew my ire. Save your electrical tape! Let the handlebar tape do the final job of securing the cable housings in place!

(What's in the cup: A customer brought me a pound of dark roast coffee from the shop where he is a roaster. The label on the bag said Graffeo Simply the world's finest coffee. Later a friend came in to the shop, saw the bag, and said something like "Oh, wow, that's the best." As the bag sat on my desk next to me while I answered some e-mails, I could smell the coffee beans and knew there was something special inside. Well, this morning I brewed a pot and can say, yes, this is simply the world's finest coffee. I had to add a "Things I Like" label because of the coffee. Yum!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pack o' Rolls...

Not a sight one sees every day (unless you work for a Rolls Royce dealership). Musta been at least 8 brand new shiny Rolls Royces of various body styles rolled through my parking lot. To be quite honest, it was quite a site. This must be what executives who screw up use their bonus money for.

Is it just me or do these mega-expensive cars look a bit like a Chrysler 300?

(What's playing: Nick Cave The Singer - a great cover of a Johnny Cash song)

What's in the, uh, stand?...

More like what's on the floor. A customer had a Worksman tricycle shipped to the shop for assembly. I was expecting a pretty big carton that would have been delivered by a freight company. When UPS pulled up with a smaller than expected box, I thought "how the heck is there a trike in there?"

Well, the trike folds and it fit pretty nice in the box. I was impressed.

The box was double layer in critical areas. However, there's only so much two layers of 5-ply cardboard can do to protect a critical part if it's shipped/handled on the one end that you don't want 50 pounds or so to be crushing into the ground. Once I got the parts out and tried to fold the hinge in place, part of the main plate where the locking pin connected the halves was bent. The spot that was bent was an awkward place that wasn't all that easy to bend back - and it's pretty thick steel to boot.

Note the tools necessary to assemble a tricycle.

Then I tackled getting the parts installed.
From Bikes & Things in the Shop

It turned out pretty cool and the test ride to make sure it worked was pretty fun. The turning radius of the trike is as small as you want. Cornering on two wheels - well, that'll take some practice.

(What's playing: Randy Newman It's Money That I Love)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bike industry prices on the rise...

I've been meaning to write something on this for quite a while. Way back in spring there was a lot of "the sky is falling" kind of web banter. Get a bike now, or else... Prices are going to go up. Well, it's happened. They're up. Quite frankly, I don't know why it's taken so long.

For more than a decade I spent a lot of time sitting in meetings with parts vendors in Taiwan negotiating prices. A lot of the time, I didn't even have to negotiate. They just offered me lower prices each year. Of course, one has to push for even lower prices. But, just the fact that every year parts prices fell always made me wonder.

I always felt like there had to be a happy medium where everyone came out on top. The parts vendor made money. The factory who assembled the bike made money. The bike company who's logo is on the frame made money. The bike shop who sold the bike made money. And the person who finally bought the bike felt good about their purchase and got a good deal. Sounds reasonable, right?

My goal as a product manager was to make this scenario possible. I like to think I was fair with parts vendors and, much to the chagrin of former bosses, probably left a few dollars on the table. But I felt good about it. I know some bike companies that beat up on vendors for lower and lower pricing until the vendor was a bloody pulp (figuratively) or the vendor agreed to such a low price just to get the business of Famous Brand X that every part they made was a losing proposition and after a year were forced to close their doors. Not a very healthy scenario for anyone.

So what ended up happening in the bike industry is the bike companies had a fight to the bottom of the price barrel. Every year, the goal was better spec and lower prices. Every year bikes got better. Every year prices fell. When I first started buying aluminum hardtail frames for mountain bikes, the prices were in the $50-$60 range. You can now buy an aluminum hardtail frame, made in China, for under $20. Everything went down: brakes, hubs, seats, stems, handlebars, rims, cranks... And everything worked better too.

Now, because raw material prices are on a big rise, the prices of bikes is going up. I've got a bike in stock that I sold for $450 as a 2008 model year bike. The exact bike now sells for $545 - and it's still a great bike for the price. When I sold this bike for $450, several people who bought it commented "$450, is that all?" The way I see it, the price of a bike (and parts) is going up to where it should be.

There are some things that seem to continually fall in price due to technological improvements and the fact that they are likely assembled by robot (digital cameras and other electronics). But I was always left meetings shaking my head at my wonderment of how much the prices kept getting lower. Now it's possible that the vendors were making money hand over fist and had a lot of room to grant lower prices and there's likely some truth in that. Even with the price increases, buyers will still get a heck of a lot of bike for their money.

(What's playing: Uncle Tupelo Before I Break)

Monday, October 6, 2008

1 year report card...

I realized not too long ago that it has been over one year since I opened shop. I realized it when some folks in the shop asked how long I'd been here. Instead of my usual flip reply of "since 10:00," I contemplated, realized it was September and said, "well, a little over year." Wow, that year went by fast.

Here's a little report card on my first year.

Having a comfortable environment for myself and customers: A.
I feel like cyclists who come in feel welcome and relaxed. Even non-cyclists who come in with their cyclist partner feel at ease and comment on the couches in the "living room."

Having the ability to fix any rider's emergency they experience out on the road: A.
No rider has had to call for a ride. This is important when I'm at the outskirts of the county and the nearest city is at least 1/2 hour away. I've had to fabricate a derailleur hanger. One girl from Australia who was touring the west coast had her trailer welded back together by Steve Potts who happened to be in the shop when she limped in with her bike and trailer. I even loaned one of my road pedals and shoes to a guy who broke a Look Keo pedal axle.

Have an assortment of parts and accessories to meet anyone's needs: B+.
Only a 'B' because there are a few things I don't carry (yet or at all). Things like baggy mountain bike shorts and road pedals have been some items that people have asked for that I don't carry. There are also a lot of items I overstocked or simply initially ordered too many options when I first opened. Those items are rapidly being sold off on my "clearance" rack. Lesson learned.

Keeping up with the accounting aspect of the business: A-.
I know there are some things that I've got to refine or correct. Quick Books is easy, but the way I use it and make bank deposits don't really jive. I've got a lot of "undeposited funds" on the books and need to figure out how to properly manage that aspect. But, I've made sure to pay sales tax to the state on time and correctly and all of my inventory is properly accounted for.

Complete bikes: C.
A friend of mine gave me advice before I opened the door. Far down on his list of necessary things needed to open a shop my size was complete bikes. But I ignored his advice and bought in to some bikes because several people came in and asked for them. Sold those quickly and then sat on the rest of them. Learned my lesson. I am happy, though, with the selection of Raleigh. Every one I brought in left pretty darn quick and I'm working on getting in more - although not too many because the slow season is coming.

Advertising/Exposure: C-.
A website and a blog do so much. What they don't necessarily do is help bring people in the shop from the immediate area. It took me months to get a website up. It took me months to get a sign up above the front door. I don't have a yellow pages ad because, quite frankly, I've got no competition out here and I'm pretty much it as far as bike shops go in West Marin. I do think I need to revise my website but am not sure how to do it and what to change. But, it needs something.

Because I'm on CA 1, there are a lot of cyclists that ride through town. On a weekend with good weather, there may be a hundred or more. And on a weekend when there is an organized ride, hundreds will pass the shop. The problem is I'm not very visible from the street. Sure, if a rider were to glance over, they'd catch a glimpse of some bikes and a sign that says "Black Mountain Cylcles." But it would be a fleeting glance. A sign of some sort on the road should do wonders to attract the cyclists that roll through town. I've got permission to put a sign on the building fronting the street - a grand old brick building. The sign that will be up there will be made from a bike. Now I've just got to figure out how to, safely, hang a bike from the building. This is kind of what it would look like. See that red bit? Yeah, that would be a bike.

Focus: B-.
As much as I've harped on focusing your efforts at others, I've not done such a good job myself. I've had a few people come in the shop within the past month or so and ask what my specialty is. I've not had a good answer for them other than service and a selection of basic parts to get riders out of a jam on the road. I've got to change that and I've some ideas on how I would like to have a much more refined focus for the bike shop. More on this at a later date.

I guess that's about it. Overall, I'd give myself a B for the first year.

(What's playing: Uncle Dave Macon and his Fruit Jar Drinkers Take Me Back To My Old Carolina Home).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

650B Friday...

I rode my titanium 650B converted bike to work Friday. A couple of guys from over the hill were touring out in West Marin. I went out to check out their bikes and, surprise!, they were on 650B bikes as well. So, in the bike rack out front, I had three 650B bikes. What started the conversation was them checking out all the wares in the shop and finding a set of North Road bars, On-One Mary bars, Brooks seats...basically, a bunch of stuff that you won't find on any Pro Tour team bike, but will find on a bike of someone who likes to ride in comfort and a certain style.

One of the guys made the comment that this tiny shop out in the sticks has all this cool stuff in stock where as most shops in population centers probably never even heard of some of the items. He then challenged my stock of parts by saying, "yeah, you have all this cool stuff, but do you have any 650B tires?" Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I do. Showed him the tires and then showed him my 650B mountain bike out in the rack and checked out their 650B bikes. They were on a couple of cool Rivendell bikes. One was a Saluki, with Suntour XC Pro and a monster long 170mm Ritchey Logic fillet-brazed stem. He needed the long stem because of the back sweep on the bars.

The other was a Protovelo with 650B wheels. The Protovelo is essentially a resume from frame builder Mark Nobilette to Rivendell. If you are a frame builder, why put down on paper what your skills are? A sample frame is much more appropriate. The Protovelo is cleared over the raw frame with a simple "Protovelo" on the down tube. It is a very stealth bike and attracts no attention from the ill-informed. The owner of the Protovelo also has a Phoenix in his stable as well. Couple of nice bikes he has.

The Saluki next to my 650B mountain bike.

The Protovelo

(What's playing: Ani Difranco Smiling Underneath)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Interbike 2008 observations...

Since I'm not too interested in the most recent ultra-light carbon wheelset, carbon frame, carbon handlebar, mega-mondo travel suspension bike (there has to be as many categories of suspension bike alone as there are every other bike category combined)...Interbike was a little less interesting for me than in years past when it was my job to stay abreast of the latest trends.

Since we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, how does having a bike almost wholly made from carbon apply?

Overheard: "Did you hear Joe Breeze sold out?" A couple of other dealers were talking down at the "hotspot" area prior to the show opening on Thursday. "Sold out" has such a negative connotation. I say good for Joe in being able to develop a brand that is highly desirable and being able to capitalize on it, make some money, and continue to develop the brand for the new owners. How can it even be construed as "selling out?" When Joe's bikes (the current ones) first came out, they were well ahead of the industry and most folks questioned them. Now, they're looking pretty good.

I'm definitely not cool. I don't have any piercings, tattoos, funny hat...

It's all about the free beer. The lines for free beer wrapped completely around most booths. Waiting in a line for over 15 minutes for free beer, sorry, got better things to do. It helped that there was a 7-11 on my walk back to my hotel and they sold 24 oz. cans of Tecate for $1.19.

Security people in booths not letting dealers inside. Sorry, they're just bikes fer cryin' out loud. A big, menacing security guard is overkill, and a joy kill - especially for fancy beach cruisers.

Road rash. Walking the show on the first day, I saw a guy with this massive fresh road rash on his face. Ouch! A few minutes later, there's another guy. What the heck? A little later, yet another guy with oozing road rash on his arm and side of his face. Oh yeah, yesterday was dirt demo and the testosterone must have been rampant. The EMT's must have had their hands full with guys going for glory.

"What'd you see that was new/cool?" Seriously, there was a lot of last year at the show. Sure there's tapered steerer tubes and oversized bb shells with direct insert bb bearings, but those have been hammered so much over the internet that they seem like old hat by the time the show doors open. Yawn. The things I thought were neat won't be making the rounds of internet forums and bike product web sites. Here's a few things that I enjoyed at the show.

Rawland Cycles bikes. Very clean, classy looking bikes. The kind of bikes that just look right. Helps that they have fat tires and drop bars. Sean's philosophy of 700mm wheel diameter works for me too. I'm having a lot of fun on my 700mm diameter bikes currently - 700x45 and 650B x 2.35 are both roughly 700mm in diameter.

Same goes for the Salsa Fargo. It's probably one of those love it or hate it bikes, but I love it. Inspires going long. I'm sure it's fine for short jaunts, but it's got legs and wants to be let out of the paddock and run. I also like the fact that it has the capacity to carry as many as six water bottles. A good thing if you're like me and disdain from wearing a "hydration pack" if at all possible.

White Industries had some sweet looking pedals based on a Lyotard Marcel Berthet pedal from way back. This is in addition to their VBC cranks.

Ortleib's bags and Tubus racks were nice. They fall into the category of "they just do the job." And I got a chance to see Jeff Scully, an old industry friend as well. He just does his job too.

Showers Pass, a wind and water proof cycling clothing company out of Portland, OR was showing, besides their standard foul weather riding gear, some really nifty jackets and gear that look perfectly at home off the bike.

Bruce Gordon was showing a new Taiwan made BLT (Basic Loaded Touring) frameset. For under a grand, one could get a frame/fork and complete set of US made Gordon racks specifically fit to the frames. Details include custom CNC dropouts so eyelets don't break off. I dig his use of Chinese characters for his logo.

There were a few more things, but maybe later.

(What's playing: Everyone except me is asleep (including the dog) so it's quiet)