Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

They don't make 'em like this any more...

I think my all-time favorite derailleur for a mountain bike is the M950 series XTR derailleur. It's just, well, it's just a great looking mountain bike derailleur. Rugged and tough looking. One of the neatest features about it, though, is it's spring tension adjustment. Theres a little Phillips head screw that increases spring tension in the main spring. I say increase because new out of the tension is set at the lowest setting. This ability to adjust the spring tension is nice when dealing with cables that are a big mucky and are slowing the shift to smaller cogs. A quick turn of the screw, increased spring tension and bingo!, snappy shifts once again.

The other benefit of that screw is on big tall bikes like mine. When you are running a big tall bike, there is more cable housing than smaller ones. More cable housing, more friction. Adjusting the derailleur spring to higher tension overcomes the friction and you've got nice snappy, happy shifting!

There's that spring tension adjustment.
Yeah, I got a few spares. When you like something, well sometimes you go a little overboard.
And as a quick "What's In The Stand," there's that Potts CCR getting it's parts back on and a Salsa Fargo. Sweet bikes - both of them.
(What's playing: Dave Alvin I Am Bewildered)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Potts hattrick....

This was never intentional in my move to Point Reyes to open a bike shop. However, I ain't complaining. I don't know why, but I seem to be a magnet for old bikes. Now, there's old bikes and then there's old bikes and then there's old Steve Potts bikes. And it's old Potts bikes that seem to have bogarted the repair stand.

The first was an early 90's Steve Potts Cross Country Racer that is getting built up with a bunch or new and somewhat new old stock parts. The second is a red late '80's fillet-brazed bike that was recently purchased and will get a detail to bring it back to life. The third one is a mid-80's fillet-brazed bike with a Type I fork, original WTB hubs. It also has the "picnic table" chainstay and seatstay bridges. Very stealthy in black. The new owner will be using it as a commuter bike of sorts. It's really great to see these bikes getting the attention they deserve and getting some serious saddle time.
From Potts

From Potts

From Potts

From Potts

From Potts

From Potts

From Potts

(What's playing: Dave Alvin (I Won't Be) Leaving)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Self-indulgent new old bike...

Sometimes the combination of bike, price, and size is just too tempting to pass up. I met the original owner of a nice 1988 fillet-brazed Otis Guy over the hill in Petaluma yesterday and came home with his bike that he's owned for 21 years. It will be a nice addition to the collection of bikes here and is a nice representation of a Marin County builder.

Pretty much everything is original except, seat, tires, rims, and pedals.

Buffalo head nickel brazed into the top of the stem cap. 1928 is the date.
(What's playing: John Doe Twin Brother)

Monday, February 16, 2009

A little Sunday surprise...

Well, not quite surprising after hearing about the rains of several years ago here in the area where sections of roadway were washed away, but not the thing I was expecting when I got to the shop on Sunday morning. The shop sits at the low point of a dirt parking lot and water, behaving in a predictable fashion will follow the path of least resistance.

In the case of the building where the shop is housed, it was straight through the front door several years ago when the previous tenant was here. After that bout, the parking lot was graded and a drainage path for water was added. It's been several years since the grading and a whole lot of Dukes of Hazzard wannabes spinning donuts in the parking lot - who can blame them, it's fun - so the drainage channel isn't quite a clean as it once was. Combine that with the super heavy rain we had early Sunday morning and the high winds and, well, the interior of the shop got a little wet with water running under the front door.

Compared to what happened to some shops in Houston during that hurricane last year, the water in the shop was nothing. I am lucky. I spent an hour or so cleaning up. Nothing was damaged and all I was left with was some dried dirt on the cement floor. The tenant before me was the butcher and in the back of the shop, there are two drains in the floor where their big cleaning basins were. The drains are handy because that is exactly where the water flowed and drained. If the drains weren't there, I would have had a much bigger problem.

Soon after I moved in, I found out about the flood that the butcher had and purposely set up the shop so that if water did flood through, it would drain and anything that is on the floor in it's path wouldn't be affected by water. Actually a few cardboard boxes with freewheels and chains waiting to be sent to the recycler and one bike box got wet. Minor stuff.

Puddles on the floor greeted me.

Dark forbidding skies.
Not a good sign with dried mud at the door.

But it appears that my trench job to direct the water better paid off today as the shop was high and dry after about 12-15 hours of constant rain.

(What's playing: Sammy Masters Pink Cadillac)

Friday, February 13, 2009

New in the shop...

In my effort to "remake" Black Mountain Cycles, I am carrying less mountain bikes (even though I love mountain bikes) and will carry more cyclocross, touring, and, well, bikes that have fat tires, steel frames (with an occasional aluminum cross framed rig), and drop bars. Bikes that are perfect candidates for mixed-terrain rides.

What I have in the shop right now, besides the Raleigh Sojourn that I previously posted, are bikes from Surly and Salsa. The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a really nice bike. It just looks right. A nice balance of frame shape, tubing diameter, bar position relative to seat height...and the Surly Nice Rack fits, well, nicely on it as well. The price is very nice as well at $1215 with the rack.

From Salsa, I got in the La Cruz and the Casseroll. The La Cruz is made from a True Temper Platinum OX tubeset and the orange color is sweet. It is very nicely spec'd with the right parts where you expect to see budget parts. The hubs are Shimano Deore XT 6-bolt disc and the headset is a Cane Creek S3 model. Shimano 105 10-speed STI shifters and rear derailleur round out the basic spec. Another nice touch are the plated and masked fork dropouts - no worries about paint chipping! All that for a cool $1875.
From Bikes for sale

From Bikes for sale

Nice clearance with the 35c tires.
From Bikes for sale

From Bikes for sale

Like the La Cruz, the Casseroll is a steel frame made with Salsa custom spec Classico tubeset. The Casseroll is a bike that caught my eye several years ago at Interbike. With the horizontal dropouts, it's easy to run this bike with gears or as a single-speed/fixed gear. This bike begs customization with the rider's choice of bars - drop, moustache, albatross... This bike can easily be set up as a road bike, light touring, randonneur, commuter, or urban run-about. Again, the spec of the Casseroll is dialed - Shimano 105 10-speed shifters, triple crankset, and rear derailleur, nice Tiagra hubs, Cane Creek S3 headset, and top-notch SKS mud guards. I left the steerer tube a little long because it's easy to trim it to the rider's needs, but more difficult to increase the length after it's been cut. For $1760, you too could hit the roads or paths on a complete Casseroll triple.
From Bikes for sale

From Bikes for sale

Another nice touch - Sheldon Nuts.
From Bikes for sale

Rockin' it old school with horizontal dropouts with adjusters.
From Bikes for sale
The only item that has been changed on the spec of the La Cruz and Casseroll from the specs noted on the website is the stem. No longer is a painted to match Salsa CroMoto included, not sure why, but it's okay, the aluminum Salsa stem included is still nice.

(What's playing: KWMR's Happy Hour with Liberacha and Blossom Dearie)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's in the stand...

One of the people in the bike industry I respect is Lennard Zinn. I like to approach the bicycle from a technical stand-point. Lennard's tech column in VeloNews and on are among my must reads whenever they come out. There is always something I learn from his tech columns.

It was pretty cool when his bike came in the shop. Not only was it a Zinn brand frame, but it was also Lennard's bike at one time. It's current owner bought it from Lennard a while back. It was in to be checked over after being involved in a crash involving a brother and black ice out on Hicks Valley Rd. Luckily the Zinn had no major or really even minor damage from the crash. But it got a thorough going over and left with an excellent bill of health.

One of the things that Lennard is known for is custom extra long cranks. He advocates crank lengths that are appropriate for leg length. The lengths he offers begin where other manufacturers leave at 180mm all the way up to 220mm. According to his sizing formula, I should be on 210mm long cranks. I'm on 175's right now.

Now some interesting (at least to me) information on the bike that came in. Its rider was at least 6'5" tall - maybe 6'6". I know this because at 6'3", I had to look up at him. The bike's seat height was 4mm lower than where I have my seat height set, but the top tube length of the bike was pretty stretched out at about 63.5cm (my top tubes are in the 60cm range). When I finished the bike I took it out for a test ride. Interesting to note was that on the brief ride, I really couldn't notice that the cranks were a full 20mm longer than what I usually ride. Made me want to put more thought into considering longer cranks. Might be time to start saving pennies to try out a set of extra-long cranks.

(What's playing: Pine Valley Cosmonauts Bad News)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One for the bike mechanics...

You know you've been there. You're supposed to install fenders on that bike with the internally geared hub, coaster brake, and, in this case, those big chrome domes of the Shimano Coasting bike. The fenders retail for $25. The actual time it would take to install the fenders because you have to take the rear wheel off and then reinstall it approaches 1/2 hour and at a shop rate of, oh say, $60/hour, the labor to install the fenders exceeds the cost of the fenders themselves but your dumb boss (I gotta talk to that guy) tells the customer "no problem, we'll install them for free."

So you sit there and think "I got better things to do than take the rear wheel off this Coasting bike just to secure one bolt on the chainstay bridge." What a PITA. Wait a minute. What if I let the air out of the tire, can I get the bolt in there without taking the wheel off? Almost, not quite. Wait another minute. What if I wrap a toe strap around the tire and make some more space? Yep, that does it.

Well, that's exactly what I did and wrapping the toe strap around the deflated tire gave me just enough room to get the bolt started and then plenty of room for an 8mm open end wrench to secure the bugger and the rest of the fender install was a snap.

(What's playing: Tom Waits Rain Dogs)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mr. Wizard stops by for a visit...

Years ago when I first got a real bike after graduating from college, I picked up an issue of Cyclist magazine in 1985. It's one of two issues of Cyclist I saved from that year. In it, was a story about Charlie Cunningham written by famed cycling writer, Owen Mulholland. The sub-title of the story was "Meet Mr. Wizard." I scanned that article and posted it here. Charlie's workshop pretty much looks exactly the same today.

Three years after that issue came out, I actually did find myself on a bike trip with Charlie and Jacquie Phelan. We were down in Baja to be part of an exploratory bike trip with an expedition company to chart out the potential of mountain bike guided tours in the mountains of Baja California Norte. I remember clear as a bell riding with Charlie and "trying" to follow him on some of the bovine created single-track trails. His style was effortless. He made it look so easy.

Anyway, Charlie popped over the hill from Fairfax today for a visit. While he was there, Steve stopped by with a load of redwood he had milled the previous day and was out delivering it. It was really cool to see the two old friends together and their obvious closeness and camaraderie. It was also especially cool to get a compliment from Charlie on how the shop has a "great feel."

(What's playing: Jaime Crespo's Faultline Radio on KWMR)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another incredible ride to cap off a great month...

We are supposed to get rain on Thursday. It's about time because the area really needs it. Water rationing is a very real possibility and a current reality down in Bolinas. However, the summer-like weather brought out the cyclists in droves to West Marin. I definitely attribute my January sales to the weather. Compared to the the cycle (pun intended) of sales by month, January is usually a slow month for bike shops. My January was up 350% over January of 2008 and then February 1, superbowl Sunday, saw one of my busiest single days in a long time with sales on the order of 1/8th of January's sales.

Anyway, I was pretty happy after I closed Sunday and knowing that Monday, the day I'm closed, was going to continue with the spectacular weather, I decided to ride out the the lighthouse on Pt. Reyes. The weather on the point is totally unpredictable. Actually, that's not really true at all. The weather is totally predictable. Foggy and windy are the norms. Pt. Reyes where the lighthouse is is considered to be the 2nd foggiest spot in the lower 48 and a wind speed of 133mph has been recorded. But not today. The wind did play a part in the ride today with a nice tailwind for a lot of the ride and only a moderately painful headwind for 10-15 miles back up the seashore.

Here's some pictures, map, and elevation profile - it was a total of about 3800 feet of climbing. The observation deck above the lighthouse (the furthest point out one can ride your bike) is exactly 20 miles from Pt. Reyes Station. I extended the ride a couple of miles by riding to the Chimney Rock trail head and then taking the trail to the Elephant Seal overlook. Even from about 1/4 mile away, those were some noisy beasts. The males had a very low bellow that was very clear and the pups made sounds like monkeys in the forest - screechin' and hollerin'.

All in all, it was a great day on the bike and probably the last clear day before we get hit with some rain in a couple of days.

View Larger Map

Elevation profile.
From Ride Photos

Self-portrait - yep, short sleeves and zipped down out on the point in February.
From Ride Photos

On the way to the lighthouse, the tailwind (and slight descent), made for some fast riding. That speed was while pedaling along no-handed (no speed wobbles here!).
From Ride Photos

Looking out over the Pacific.
From Ride Photos

Historic "B" Ranch, established around 1869, looking out over Drake's Bay.
From Ride Photos

What the lighthouse looks like on a clear day.
From Ride Photos

While eating my lunch at the overlook above the lighthouse, there was absolutely no wind, and the sun actually felt hot on my back.

Elephant seals on the beach.
From Ride Photos

(What's playing: Wilco Either Way)