Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ho-hum, just some more everyday bikes in for repair...

With apologies to Guitar Ted, I really can't help it when bikes like these "just show up" for work. The first is an early 90's Salsa ala Carte with the trademark rasta jelly bean paint. It only needed new tires.

The second is a Steve Potts CCR (Cross Country Racer) from about 1990. It's brakes were squealing something fierce. It's also going to get a nice washing for its owner's birthday. The funny thing about the Potts is Gabe from Box Dog Bikes was in the shop just minutes before the Potts came in and mentioned that he'd sure like to find a nice vintage Potts mountain bike for himself. This one's not for sale because its owner still loves this bike.

(What's playing: John Doe She's Not)

(edit: Sorry, Gabe, I messed up your name again and was reminded by JT at Breezer that it's Gabe, not Adam...I think I've got it memorized now!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Titanium, titanium, titanium, titanium...

Boy, it's been non-stop titanium at the shop. It seems like every bike that comes in for repair is a titanium frame. Within the past few days, it's been: Airborne, Morati, Seven, Dean, and Moots. The Airborne was a down tube replacement that Steve Potts performed. The Morati was a disc brake mount that Steve handled as well. The Seven was a randonneur out for the SFRandonneur's 200k brevet. The Dean needed new pistons in the Hayes El Camino (ick) brakes. The Moots had a shifting problem that turned out to be a kinked cable housing among other things.

Believe it or not this Airborne had its down tube replace by Steve Potts. He cut the tube out and then performed a miracle with titanium by fitting a tube that was mitered at the head tube and double mitered at the bottom bracket. The tube was perfectly fit and then welded with Steve's impeccable double-pass welding. After bead blasting, the frame looked like it was brand new. My job was menial compared to Steve's by simply removing all parts, cleaning, replacing worn parts, and the building the bike back up. Turned out nice and will be a great bike for many more years.
From Repair Bikes

Believe it or not, but that's the replacement down tube.
From Repair Bikes

...and that's the bottom bracket junction with the new down tube. Impossible to know that it's been replaced. Look at Steve's weld compared to the weld of the chainstay to the bottom bracket.
From Repair Bikes

The Dean.
From Repair Bikes

The Morati, mid-build.
From Repair Bikes

The Morati's new disc tab.
From Repair Bikes

And the cool Moots YBB. Upon noticing the kinked shift cable housing, I noticed the hydraulic hose was also badly kinked. It got a new hose and brake bleed. I so much would rather bleed Shimano brakes than anything by Hayes.
From Repair Bikes

(What's playing: Helen Hall Honky Tonk Husband on KWMR's Roadhouse Twang)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chileno Valley Loop...

Yesterday was spectacular. About 55 degrees, clear skies and no wind until the last 14 miles or so and then it was a really nice tail wind. I had initially planned to ride out to the lighthouse and back after reading aboug JimG's 200k brevet, but upon checking the weather at the lighthouse and finding 25mph wind out of the NW and knowing that I would have to fight that wind for 10 miles, I decided on another loop. The Chileno Valley Road loop won. As it turned out this couldn't have been a better choice. Mild weather. No headwind and a spectacular tailwind coming back down along Tomales Bay on Shoreline Highway.

I still don't get the guys who ride in weather like this in shorts and short sleeves without arm or knee warmers. There were a couple out there riding. I had both along with a s/s wool base layer and Swobo wool s/s jersey. With the high-vis vest, it was perfect. The high-vis vest has become a must have article of clothing out here. There are simply too many sections of road that have poor sight-lines or are buried in the shadows. Cyclists are difficult to pick out in the shadows when wearing dark clothes by drivers wearing sunglasses.

Here's the counter-clockwise loop leaving Point Reyes.
Right on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road - continue left at the junction of Platform Bridge Rd and Point Reyes Petaluma Road.
Left on Hicks Valley Road.
Right on Wilson Hill Road.
Left on Chileno Valley Road.
Left on Tomales-Petaluma Road.
Left on Shorline Highway / Highway 1 and back to Point Reyes.

View Larger Map

From Ride Photos

Elevation profile - it's about 3200 feet of climbing.
From Ride Photos

The view of Nicasio Reservoir from Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. It's way low for this time of the year.
From Ride Photos

The climb up Wilson Hill Road - a pretty consitent 8-10% grade.
From Ride Photos

The view of a Hicks Valley Road farm from Wilson Hill Rd.
From Ride Photos

Looking back down Wilson Hill Rd. It's amazing how fast a steep climb like this passes when you're goofing around taking pictures.
From Ride Photos

The view east towards Petaluma.
From Ride Photos

There were a bunch of these funky looking cows that I learned were Highland cows. Cool hippie hair.
From Ride Photos

Where Walker Creek dumps out into Tomales Bay.
From Ride Photos

This isn't supposed to be in bloom like this in January.
From Ride Photos

The scenery was spectacular. The hills are all green. There's no glass on the roads. And on a weekday morning, there's not much traffic. And the tailwind pushing me back down Shoreline Hwy to town was very welcome as I was able to keep it pegged at about 22mph down to town.

(What's playing: The Knitters Poor Little Critter on the Road)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Interview on

Wow! I don't think I've ever had anything like this published about me at any time. I've written some pieces that have been published in magazines, but nothing about me. It's kind of an odd feeling reading something that is about you. But I think I can live with it. Read the interview on Thanks, Gary!

And knowing that an image of Ross Shafer sans helmet might bring out the helmet police, in all fairness, he simply forgot his helmet. We were riding out Chileno Valley Road when Ross looked down at his shadow and said something to the effect of, but probably more profane, "oh crap, I forgot my helmet." We also got to play cowboy that day when we came across a calf on the road and proceeded to herd it back into its pasture, our cleats click-clacking along the roadway. Fun day. Thanks again for the ride, guys!

Oh, and that limited edition titanium Salsa pictures is actually owned by my friend Noah.

(What's playing: Matt Curreri & The Exfriends I'll Be Here from a CD that, coincidentally, Chuck Hoeffer from PCC sent to me this week. From Chuck's note, Matt is a customer of Chuck's and says he's a "super nice guy." Which reminds me, I've got to call Chuck today.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The return of a classic...

The WTB SST seat has long been a favorite of mine. There were several variations of this seat. Starting with my favorite, the original SST, there was the SST-X without the droopy nose. The SST 98 was a very nice Italian made version with a cut-out in the shell to relieve pressure in the "sensitive area" (more on this topic later). The SST 2k was a Taiwanese version of the SST 98. And then they were gone. So I started hoarding and buying when I found them. And now WTB is remaking the SST.

I just got some in the shop and they do look every bit the same as the original model. The ti railed seat is $134.50 and the cro-mo railed seat is $39.50. I didn't weigh them, but neither one feels heavy. The cro-mo railed seat looks like it has a nice leather-like vinyl cover while the ti railed seat has what looks like real leather.

If I didn't already have a stash of original SST seats, I'd use one on my bike. I would say they would be interchangeable.

Now after riding my Ibis last weekend with the WTB designed Specialized Pro Long saddle, that may be my new favorite. While talking with Steve Potts today about the Pro Long he commented that that was one of his favorites too and that the design process with Charlie Cunningham and Mark Slate sure did turn out a great seat.

Okay, what is it that saddle makers think that a cut-out in the nose of the saddle (still covered by foam and cover) the size of a Vienna Sausage creates pressure relief and instant comfort whilst perched on a saddle? I mean, if you are an average sized dude, you've got a good 120-150 pounds (I didn't count legs because they are somewhat supported by the pedals) sitting on about 8 of saddle. If you've got your weight perched on top of that little cut-out and not evenly distributed between the back and middle of the seat, I'm willing to bet your bars are too low. Sit up. Let the saddle cradle and support your sittin' area. It'll probably be more comfortable. And if you ride with your bars way up in the air above the saddle, you probably just need a wider seat. The higher up your hands are, the wider you want the seat as you put more weight on your sit bones.

(What's playing: Hank Williams III Wild & Free)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration day...

Pretty historic day today. There's a lot of hype, for obvious reasons, surrounding this election. From my perspective, though, I see the election of 44 as the best man for the job and not the election of someone simply because you don't want the other guy to win. The only thing this election was about was electing the person people believed to be the best person to lead this country.

In town parties were held. The streets were packed with folks coming into town to watch the innauguration on, presumably, a big screen TV at Toby's Feed Barn. I guess I could have watched the event there or at home on TV. But the reality is that I'm not really one to need to watch an event like this. Probably a reason why I'm not a real big concert goer either. Just knowing it happened is good enough for me. Or maybe it's just the contrary side of me.

Here in West Marin, there are an awful lot of folks all ga-ga and fawning over the upcoming four years and I think that's good that people can be that starry-eyed. In fact, I heard someone say just this morning that they were "staggering around full of joy." However, I kinda feel bad for President Obama. He is coming into the next four years with a lot of people expecting great things from him. That's a lot of pressure and pressure that I don't wish on anyone, although I did vote for the man, so maybe I did wish some of that pressure on him. He will be under a microscope so powerful that even an electron microscope will look like a pair of kid's binoculars. All I can hope for is that he doesn't screw up. One mistake and the critics will come crashing down on him. However, I think he's pretty smart. He can listen to what folks in the US want and has assembled a pretty good team of advisors, so I'll trust that he will do a pretty good job as 44. After all, how bad can he do considering 43?

So, what did I do while the inauguration festivities were being held? Went for a bike ride, of course. And it was beautiful. And I knew history was being made. And I felt good about it all. And I did watch the inauguration address later and it was moving. And I'm still glad I went for a bike ride. And I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

(What's playing: Emmylou Harris w/ Mark Knopfler Alone and Forsaken)

Vintage bike ride...

A group of seven vintage bike kooks met up in Fairfax to take advantage of a holiday and the incredible weather we've been having. I spent the prior day getting my Ibis SS ready to ride. The one thing I wanted to do was get the Suntour XC Pro rear derailleur and right side Suntour 7-speed bar-con shifter back on the bike to get into the same configuration I had it when I first assembled the bike in 1991. It's now got all the original parts (except for tires) that it had 18 years ago.

Getting the rear derailleur cable installed, I almost had to pull out a tandem length gear cable. With the drop bars and bar-con shifters, a standard 2000mm length cable was the exact length needed with no trimming.

That's the end of a 2000mm cable.
From Vintage Bikes

I also retaped the bars with some new cloth bar tape and a wrap of cushy gel tape in the drop area. The combination of the cloth over gel was perfect with a pair of crochet back minimally padded gloves from Planet Bike.

After I got done getting the bike ready, for some reason, I measured the seat and head angles. The head angle is 72 degrees and the seat angle is 71 degrees. To the folks who ride bikes by reading geometry information, this bike probably shouldn't ride all that well. Well, that's hogwash. This bike rails. When I ordered the frame from Ibis, the SS model was available with custom options such as geometry. At the time, I asked for a 24" top tube. I got it. How Ibis did it, all the while keeping a tight wheelbase, was to increase the head angle to 72 and decrease the seat angle to 71 - and add a bit to the actual top tube length. What that did to the bike was keep the wheelbase to a nice 42 1/4" making the bike super fun to rail single-track. Another benefit of a tight wheelbase is that it climbs and descends switchbacks like nothing else. The steering is precise and the balance of the bike is just about perfect.

As I was riding the bike home the evening before the vintage ride, I realized that in the past 18 years, I probably lost some flexibility. In 1991, I set up the bar position where I liked it and had a custom LD stem made. To most off-road drop bar riders, my position is really low and on the pedal home, I was thinking the same thing. Most bikes I see these days have the dropped portion up near the seat height. My position is top of the bar 1 1/2" below the seat level and where my hands rest in the dropped portion is 6 1/2" below the seat. Again, on paper, probably not good, but is works well for me and as is evident from yesterday's ride, it works just fine through the more technical sections of the trail where I had nary a dab through the rocks and roots. All I can say is the bike is an absolute hoot to ride. While it felt low on the ride home, I adapted to the position and became very comfortable on the bike.
From Vintage Bikes

Another thing that came up yesterday was gearing. I think that, in some cases, today's ultra low gearing of 22 front/34 rear is maybe too low. Or rather, too low for rigid bikes. Gearing that low doesn't let the rider pedal through rough sections while keeping your butt just off of the seat letting the bike work its way through rocky sections. When the gear is such that you can pedal with force and keep your weight off the seat, you can roll through rough sections pretty darn easy. When the gear is too low, you have to sit with all your weight on the seat and pedal. On a rigid bike, spinning through rough sections is not the most efficient way through. Most of us yesterday were on 110/74 cranks with a 24t ring the smallest possible. I was also running a 30t large rear cog and another bike had a 26t for it's largest rear cog. Even with the climbing, I was never for want of an easier gear. In fact, I probably only dropped into the granny on one short section.

The other thing that was evident is wheel size. I don't think I could have had any more fun riding a bike with 29" or 650b wheels over this one with 26" wheels. I think as long as the bike is designed well, any one of those wheel sizes is going to ride well and not make me wish for a different wheel size during the ride. If you like what you got, then stick with it. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.

Like I said, the day was incredible. Forever views, single-track in great condition, temps in the low 70's, very slight breeze, and a bunch of good folks. Thanks for the ride, guys.

View south to Mt. Tam.
From Ride Photos

Fun trails.
From Ride Photos

Cool bikes.
From Ride Photos

(What's playing: Leaving, TX Father's Son)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now where in the heck did that go...

You know when you're working on something and a small part falls? You train your eyes on the approximate location where it's going to fall, listen for it hitting the ground, and then, hopefully, your eye notices movement making it easy to find? Well, sometimes it doesn't happen quite like that.

I'm adjusting a first generation XTR canti brake today and notice the nut for the Shimano straddle cable system is hitting the canti stop on the fork arch. The nut is too thick and incorrect for this type of straddle. No problem. I'll replace it with something more appropriate.

Because I didn't release the cable anchor on the brake arm, I removed the whole straddle - that type that was unique to Shimano and later copied by the other brake manufacturers. As I'm reassembling it and start to thread the nut on, it falls. I hear it. Don't see it though and after a few minutes of searching decide I'll just get another nut. Get everything in place, start threading the nut, and, yep, it falls too. Only this time I don't hear it land and certainly can't find it after searching for a few minutes.

Okay, this is stupid. It has to be somewhere. Back up. What do I know? I know it's not on the bolt. I know it fell. I know I didn't hear it land. Where is it? Ahh, there it is. Nestled perfectly on a ledge of the fork brace mocking me. Sometimes, it should be easier to find things like this.

And that first one that fell, it was about 2 feet away disguised as the floor.

(What's playing: Elvis Costello Senior Service)

Mixed terrain ride, cows, 70 degrees, January...

We've been having unseasonably warm weather. The thermometer topped out at over 70 degrees yesterday. I set out on a ride to take advantage of the weather and my day off. I had set up the Rawland with the 700x45 wheels for the mixed-terrain ride I was planning. The burly knobs of the Panaracer Fire Cross tires were definitely evident while riding on the road, especially with air pressure at about 45psi. While riding I had an idea to do a little profiling to the tires' knobs to get them to roll a little smoother on the road but still have good traction in the dirt. I'll give that a try sometime soon and report back.

I left Point Reyes Station and headed up Sir Francis Drake through Inverness and up to Pierce Point Road. My plan was to take the a dirt road down to Marshall Beach, have lunch and head back home. However, as I was riding back, I decided to climb up Mt. Vision Road to the Inverness Ridge Trail to add some more climbing and dirt riding. The climb up Mt. Vision Road is steep. I've done it plenty of times on my road bike with road gearing, albeit with a compact chainring set-up, but with my seeming lack of fitness, I was thankful for the granny gear on the Rawland on some pitches.
Satellite image of the route compliments my GPS device.
From Ride Photos

Elevation profile.
From Ride Photos

With the incredible weather, the views out on Pierce Point were incredible. Green and blue dominated.
From Ride Photos

This is the result of hitting the "take-the-picture-button" when I wasn't planning to. It actually turned out fairly interesting with the splash of red on the green background.
From Ride Photos

This is what a dirt road ride is all about. Thin ribbon of gray/brown bisecting green pastures.
From Ride Photos

How'd you like to live and work with views of the Pacific Ocean like this. The only problem is their work day begins at O-Dark:30 and ends well after the sun sets. This is one of the historic dairy farms that dot the landscape in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
From Ride Photos

Stopped for lunch at Marshall Beach. The water was as clear as the sky.
From Ride Photos

This is where the happy cows live. Milk from these bovines is probably on the shelf of the market today. And yeah, there was that special scent in the air.
From Ride Photos

Self-portrait overlooking the seashore.
From Ride Photos

Drake's Bay
From Ride Photos

The steed of the day.
From Ride Photos

So, after over 3 hours of riding, a couple of stops for photos and food, I roll out Inverness Ridge Trail and onto Limantour Road at the exact same moment that my friend Amanda is coming up Limantour Road on her bike on her way back from Limantour Beach. That is a freaky coincidence. We rode back down to the valley together before she headed back to the inn and I to get a cappuccino at Toby's.

Even with the temps in the 70's, the ride back down Limantour Road was speckled with spots where the temperature plummeted down into the 40's in these weird cold spots. The feeling was akin to soaking in a hot tub and then plunging into a cold pool with this instand hot/cold sensation.

I just hope we get some rain soon.

(What's playing: Ozzy Osbourne Crazy Train)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Picture on the Cover of the Rolling Stone...

Like Dr. Hook proclaimed, "gonna buy five copies for my mother." However, there ain't no buying things that are posted on the internet. Regardless, there's a photo of three good lookin' guys at the end of a nice interview with Sean Walling of Soulcraft on I happened to be out in Petaluma for a ride with the interviewer, my friend Gary B., and Ross Shafer then hung out with Sean and shot the BS while Gary B interviewd Ross.

(What's playing: Humble Pie Stone Cold Fever)

WTB Titanium Phoenix...

If there is any bike that is going to ride as nice as any bike can today, tomorrow, or 10, 20 years from now, it's the WTB Phoenix frame. There's nothing "special" about the ride of a Phoenix. The incredible ride of the Phoenix comes from it's ability to disappear underneath the rider. In the age of "just do it," the Phoenix just does it. While the standard steel Phoenix is a sweet bike, the titanium Phoenix goes a stem further. Titanium is a material that has a great ride quality and it will not rust/corrode in its lifetime.

A titanium Phoenix recently spent time clamped in my work stand. The frame was delivered to me by Steve Potts who brought it back to its original glory by removing the canti brake bosses and welding on the original roller cam bosses and then bead blasting it and applying the last Wilderness Trail Bikes / Phoenix decals he has. To make the bike a perfect example of the pinnacle of a Phoenix, Steve also made a Type II fork for it.

The back story on why the bike is here is the owner of the frame is the brother-in-law with this guy named Greg who is the brother of one of my best long-time friends, John. John and I worked together at Pacific Coast Cycles in the '80's, rode on the rode several times each week for years, and rode together from Carlsbad, CA to Boston, MA in the summer of '89. The owner, Chris, sent me an e-mail asking if I would like to assemble the bike. As if!

So one day, I get the parts for the frame from Chris and start assembling. Ibis ti stem, WTB ti bars, Cook Bros. E-Cranks, White Ind. ti bottom bracket (with the original "Novato" name laser engraved in the cups), WTB roller-cam brakes, Precision Billet brake levers and NOS rear derailleur, XTR e-bracket front derailleur, WTB New Paradigm rear hub/Paul front hub with WTB Laser Beam (maybe the best 26" wheel rims - ever), WTB Velociraptor tires, WTB SST 98 seat, and Syncros seat post.

And as if the story of how the owner of the bike can be traced to me isn't coincidental enough, it gets stranger. The brakes that were to go on the front came to me from a fellow vintage bike kook who I "know." However, the stainless bushing shim that fits over the roller-cam braze-on was missing. An e-mail to Michael asking about the shim came back with the reply that the frame that those parts are stuck on went to Noah - another friend who also owns a couple of Potts and Cunningham bike that are in residence in the shop. Weird. Noah's out of the country, but will send the shims to me when he's back, so I use a couple of shims I have and am able to finish the build.

Hold on! For some reason, due to a combination of factors, the cable pull of the rear cam does not align with the angle of the brake. Extra-ordinary measures are needed. After a bit of contemplation, I come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to relocate the rollers to the bottom side of the brake. Problem, I don't have, nor can I get (conveniently) 10/32" bolts with a button head since those threaded holes in the roller-cam arms are 10/32" and not 5mm. As I'm deciding to tap out the hole to 5mm, Steve comes in and I tell him what I'm about to do. He says, let's call Charlie (Cunningham, the designer of the brake) and ask him. Steve picks up the phone and in his best Elvis impersonation, begins to ask Charlie if he can come over for a peanut-butter, jelly and lettuce sandwich. I have the feeling Steve has used this routine before because it's evident that Charlie knows it's Steve. Steve explains what' going on and Charlie says no problem. Thumbs up!

With the roller hole tapped out to 5mm and the other hole still 10/32" but with a longer shim for the spring to sit against, I install the rear brake and check the angle of the cam and it's perfect.

In the end the bike turned out really nice. It basically looks like a brand new 10 year old bike. A very satisfying build.

Check out the angle that the cam pulls in relation to the rollers.
From Repair Bikes

And after the rollers were relocated to the bottom of the arms - perfect!
From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

Edit: As I was talking to Greg about a mutual friend and his penchant for telling it like it is, I mentioned the line in the song Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac "Don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give you the answer that you want me to." So, listening to the local radio station right now and what song comes on? Oh Well! Coincidence?

(What's playing: David Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame, Wish You Were Here - Live!)

What's in the stand / a little catch up post...

It's been busy. Not busy with foot traffic, but busy with various repairs, restos, and projects, so here's a little catch up post.

I had both a very nice old Bontrager Road Lite bike and Petaluma Salsa La Raza in for some work. Both bikes are owned by women which is not really a big deal, but with one exception, all the nuts for vintage bikes I know are guys. Each of these women ride these bikes like just like they were meant. They don't go all ga-ga over the vintage aspect of their bikes. After all, they are simply their bikes.
From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

Check out the gussets.
From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

I worked on a friend's Santana tandem recently. They ride the heck out of this bike. On and off-road. Loaded touring. It's an S&S coupled tandem so it's been to a lot of places. It came in one day with this:
From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

They were climbing off-road and said they felt something "give" in the drivetrain. Yeah, no kidding!

A few days later it came back with some odd noise coming from the drivetrain. I can't believe that the hub actually worked with as much corrosion as it had inside the cassette pawl system. A little grunge removal, a nice coating of Phil Wood Tenacious Oil and it was like new again. As ugly as the inside of the hub looked, the bearings were surprisingly very smooth. Guess that's why the Hadley hub has such a great reputation with regards to its durability.
From Repair Bikes

From Repair Bikes

(What's playing: Marshall Tucker Can't You See)