Sunday, February 28, 2010

Riddle me this...

One of the blogs I follow is my friend, Marty's and his bike shop blog The Prarie Peddler. He posted some pictures taken at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show today. As I'm looking at the photos, I'm thinking, first that the bikes he chose as his favorites could also very well be mine. It too have a soft spot for an orange bike having several. But second, all his favorite bikes shown and the fact that the majority of builders at the show are working in steel, not carbon fiber is somewhat telling with regards to what bike folks really want to see. Sure there are a few exceptions of builders using carbon, aluminum, or titanium as their material of choice, but it's the steel bikes from the show that hold the attention of the fans of the handbuilt show. Something to think about.

Another buddy who owns Monkey Wrench Cycles in Lincoln, NE will take deliver of this bike after the show.


(What's playing: Fresh Air from January with a story on Satchel Paige)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spin up or spin down...

The marketing of carbon framed bikes for some companies is interesting. In a recent bike magazine, I was reading an editor's 250 words on getting the best bang for your buck. In it, it mentioned a certain company selling a complete bike for $2,600 that features the same frame that their $5,500 bike has. That's one way to spin it. Another spin would be that the person buying the $5,500 bike is getting the short end of the stick because they are getting the same frame that's on the lowly $2,600 bike. But that's not going to help sell many high-end bikes Something to think about.

Carbon is a mystery material. There's no easily understood levels of quality like there is with aluminum or steel tubes. What exactly is "High Modulus" anyway? With an aluminum or steel frame, the customer can easily identify the quality of the frame material with the tube selection. Are the tubes generic or brand name? Does the marketing person call out "double-butted" in the frame description? If there is nothing called out and the frame is just 6061, it's a safe bet the frame is plain gauge tubing. How does one quantify/qualify the quality of carbon used in the frame of a $1,500 complete bike? a $2,500 complete bike? a $5,000 complete bike? Is the fact that just because it's expensive, it has to be good?

A lot of bike companies pick a generic carbon frame made by a company in Taiwan or China and simply slap their logos and branding on the frame. Yeah, they may request a few tweaks to the tube shape of some minor geometry revisions to make it "their own," but it really is like going shopping for a dress shirt and asking for a monogram on the pocket to make it "your own."

There's nothing really wrong with that method since the factories in Asia are good and their engineers are well versed in the material. However, when the companies start talking about how they developed the frame to do this or that, what they really mean is we made the frame to look really bitchen and then we put our own spin on the douche-swoosh. I wish I had coined that term. Cracks me up every time I hear it.

(Late addition: walking to work today, I had the thought that today's carbon fiber bikes are like paint-by-number paintings. Fill in the spaces and make it your own!)

(What's playing: The Knitters Someone Like You)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Where did that cable guide go...

...and why is my coffee "crunchy?" Set a cable guide that came off a bike that is getting the full monty on the shelf above my work bench. Must have been perched on the edge because when I went for it to install it back on the bike in the stand, it wasn't there. Hard to blame someone for "borrowing" it since I'm the only one here and unless it is meat flavored, Sport won't be interested in it.

Hmmmm. Ponder while I take a sip of coffee. That's odd. Why is my coffee crunchy? Oh, that's why. Two points. It did clean up nicely, though.

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Good down to the last drop. Why waste that last bit of coffee because I don't want to stick my dirty fingers in the cup to fish the guide out.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's in the stand...

Another really cool build up. The frame and parts were dropped off at the shop for a complete assembly. The frame also got a complete JP Weigle Frame Saver treatment. Not a bad idea for an older steel bike that one plans to keep around for years to come.

The build and bike turned out really nice. The nice touch about this bike is that it is one of the 140mm spaced frames which matches perfectly to the WTB New Paradigm 140mm hub. There was only one glitch in the build. During the rear brake install/adjustment, applying the brakes caused the rim to shift quite a bit to the side like the hub cones weren't adjusted. Nope, cones feel right, but the cassette body felt like it was going to come off. Pulled the axle and found that the cassette body fixing bolt was broken right at the shoulder of the bolt. First ride probably would have caused the cassette body to completely disengage and damage the spline on the hub or drive the cogs into the frame stays. Replace the bolt and it's perfect.

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It might look, in this shot, that the brake cable angle is "off." However, as soon as the brake lever is pulled, the cable straightens out perfectly resulting in a direct, straight cable pull and no stress at the anchor.

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Not the greatest picture, but it really shows how perfect the proportions are on this bike.

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(What's playing: The Breeders Cannonball on KWMR's All Day Music Show)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Simplicity at its finest...

I came across this You Tube clip of The Ventures on Facebook. Someone I know posted it with the comment about how stripped down the look is compared to some of the gaudy stage productions present today. I really like the visual of the stage and how the musicians are arranged - not the typical drums in back, guitar to the left, bass on the right... This is the musical version of the post I wrote in response to the Einstein quote, "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction." Enjoy.

(What's playing: The Ventures Wipe Out - of course)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chuck started a blog...

If there's one person who has infinite (well, maybe a large finite) amount of wisdom to expound, it's Chuck at Pacific Coast Cycles. Make sure you cruise over to read what Chuck's put down to LCD screen as he's started a blog. I'm a little late to the party, since he started it last October. There's not a day that goes by that I don't use something at the shop that Chuck taught me or influenced me.

(What's playing: Red Meat High Maintenance Babe. I think the coincidence of this song playing while I'm posting about Chuck and the Pacific Coast Cycles blog is very appropriate. The song is cleverly written, has a nice jazzy/country feel, and has a nice little trumpet section.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another day, another ride...

The late winter weather is incredible this week. Mid-60's temps and minimal breezes. So this morning at 8, I had to take advantage of it and head out on one of my favorite loops - on the road to Inverness, up to Inverness Ridge and Mt. Vision via a dirt road, Mt. Vision Rd. to the Inverness Ridge Trail and back to town.

I'll never get tired of the views from Inverness Ridge - both to the east and west. To the east, Tomles Bay.

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Took the "monster cross" bike out today. Dang, this is a fun bike. It just gobbles up rolling dirt roads.

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Looking west with Abbott's Lagoon on the right and the big ole Pacific stretching way out there.
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Drake's Bay and Drake's Estero.

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Black Mountain aka Elephant Mountain.

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Inverness Ridge Trail - oh so sweet!

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The banana slugs were out in force. There was one spot where it looked like a stampede with about 8 of them within a 5' diameter. Must have been some good poo in the area.

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More Inverness Ridge Trail. This section is super cool with the tunnel-like trees.

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Up here, I was thinking how my amigos in Minnesota were faring in the snow and dedicate this shot to Jason.

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(What's playing: KWMR Musical Varité)

Monday, February 15, 2010


One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is written by Dave Moulton. Dave is a retired frame builder who made frames for Masi and under his own Fuso brand. I really enjoyed his latest post "The Art of Doing Nothing." For me that's something I can do pretty easily. However, when I purposefully try to do nothing, empty my mind, and relax, I tend to just fall asleep and wake up with a stiff neck.

I headed out this morning for a ride out to Tomales Point. To say it was foggy out there is a huge understatement. With visibility below 100' and no traffic at all on this holiday day, there was plenty of time to pretty much do nothing but pedal surrounded by the thick fog. It was overcast all the way out and back until about Inverness Park when the fog just disappeared into a bright, sunny, beautiful winter day. Winter still, yes, but today there was no evidence of the season. I enjoyed my favorite cappuccino at Toby's post-ride and baked in the warm sun.

I gotta say the more time I spend on the proto-type Black Mountain Cycles road frame, the more I totally dig it. I'm running Continental Grand Prix 4-Season 28 tires at 80 psi in front and 82 psi in back. The smoothness is immediately felt and their ability to soften the farm roads that are pretty beaten up is excellent.

Another spot they really shine is on the descent. Anyone familiar with the ride out of Inverness to the seashore knows about the hill that ascends Inverness Ridge - Ottinger's Hill. It's a bit of a grind ascending, but it's the descent that is the challenge to the hill. Pocked with potholes and broken road surface, the wider tire is more secure in getting to the bottom of the hill without damage to the tire/wheel. The wider tires also put a little more rubber on the road with a larger contact patch (compared to 23mm wide tires) and the 28's really handle well bombing downhill through corners. Descending Ottinger's Hill back to Inverness, there is one turn that is off-camber and a decreasing radius - a very challenging corner to take at the posted speed limit of 35mph. But with the bigger tires (and knowing the line), it's a breeze and super fun.



I use a Planet Bike Superflash blinky light just for days like this. It's super bright and makes me much more visible to drivers. Not much of a problem today since maybe 3 cars passed me once I got on Pierce Point Road.


What a difference a few miles make out here: from 100' visibility to full sunshine in a few miles.

Black Mountain

(What's playing: A Jonathan Winters clip on Cruisin' the 50's on KWMR. There are few people as funny as Jonathan Winters in improv mode.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Moving in the oposite direction...

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction." Albert Einstein.

As I was watching a news segment on the recalls that Toyota is facing, the above quote by a pretty smart guy came to mind. While the computer generation has made the ability to create and communicate instantly, I have to ask, at what cost? What was so awful about mailing a letter? What was wrong with looking at a map to navigate unknown roads (well, the refolding was always a pain and took 2 or 3 times to get it folded correctly)? What was wrong with going to the library to look up information on a subject? What was wrong with a car that you could see the ground through the engine bay when you opened the hood?

Nothing. Nothing was wrong with any of that. What was wrong was that someone wanted something faster, quicker... Impatience changed our lives. The need to have something now. The need to always have something new and "better."

Cars are infinitely more complicated today. Bikes are becoming the same. Electronic shifting for bikes is here and is sure to proliferate. Electronic shifting, while proven to be faster shifting than manual shifting, has no backup in case of batter failure or a software glitch. Luckily a software glitch in an electronic bike shifter is unlikely to cause the problems that some Prius owners have experienced.

Are all of the "new and improved" gadgets really improving our lives? I don't think so. How much time did you used to have to ride your bike? The concept of "free time" is becoming more and more foreign. Now everybody is instantly connected with mobile phones that allow you to take your work with you. I used to be an outside sales rep in the days before cell phones. It was, in retrospect, actually pretty fun. I got to drive all over the county. I made appointments ahead of time to meet a buyer. I showed up, got a written order, drove to the next destination. If I needed to touch base, I stopped at a pay phone and called the office. Sometimes, I brought my bike in the van because you never knew if the opportunity to ride in a different part of the county would present itself at the end of the day.

But the most important thing was that between appointments, I had time to myself. I wasn't distracted with a cell phone call. I mean really how important are any of the cell phone calls that people make? Are they made because the call is urgent and information is required NOW? Unless someone is bleeding to death or their car is perched on the edge of a cliff, virtually everything can wait. In the words of Simon and Garfunkle, "slow down you move too fast, you've got to make the morning last." Is there an app for that?

I try to run Black Mountain Cycles simply. I chose a simple selection of parts and accessories to offer. I chose a simple, focused area of the bicycle market on which to focus. It is infinitely easier to try to be everything for everyone, have a huge variety of goods...basically, just stock everything for every possible situation. It is much more difficult to streamline your inventory, narrow the focus of your business, and stick to your guns. Sometimes you have to send a customer to a another shop when they ask for a product you don't sell and can offer no alternative. Operating simply is giving me more time to ride my bike and it sure makes it easy to say no to a sales rep trying to sell me something that doesn't fit my business focus.

(What's playing: Led Zeppelin Candy Store Rock)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Testing photo insertions

Success! Physically edited the photo size in html to fill up the column. I like!

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(What's playing: Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan Girl From the North Country)

What's in the stand...

Ever have one of those days when things seem to happen in twos? Ever have one of those days when a pair of WTB Phoenixes make their way into the stand? Unlike the bird, this is not a rare occasion at all out here in the sticks.

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I like this messy workbench top. Some gems there.
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(What's playing: Flying Burrito Brothers Christine's Tune)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What a great day to be closed part II...

Looking back, I see that it's been almost two years to the day since I wrote this blog post about riding the 45 mile loop down to Bolinas, over to Fairfax, and back to Point Reyes Station. Uncanny how it's almost exactly two years.

While not the spectacular weather of that day, yesterday was pretty nice. It's also very accommodating of the weather to remain dry on the day I'm closed. It's also nice that my pal Amanda usually has Monday's free to ride. Doubly nice to make a ride plan with someone so you don't talk yourself out of riding.

Didn't spend too much time taking pictures. It was the first time in quite a while I had been out for more than 35 miles. Felt pretty good putting in the 45 miles and 4700' of climbing.
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(What's playing: Merle Haggard Mama Tried)

What's in the stand...

Finished building up this Retrotec 650b. The frame was originally made for 26" wheels, but the 650b fits okay in back and with the White Bros. 650b fork, geometry is preserved - albeit with a little taller bottom bracket. While this bike was here, Curtis Inglis and his wife stopped by. Upon spying the frame, they asked each other "do you remember that one?" Neither did since it's also been repainted since it left Curtis' shop.

It's a pretty nice bike and I do like the Jones H-Bar.

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I think this may be my favorite all-around front derailleur. Wide range capacity and works with almost any chainring combination.
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(What's playing: Johnny Cash Personal Jesus)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Four days in a row...

I was able to get out on the bike four days in a row this week. Rain was in the forecast today but according to the weather radar, it was holding off for a bit, so into the car went Sport and the cross bike for a spin up Inverness Ridge. On my once per week schedule, I was in the granny right out of the starting gate on this ride. Today, middle ring - well, at least until the trail got steeper at the 2/3 mark. Middle/big on the cross bike is a big deal to me since it's a 34/28 gear (granny being 24/28).

Earlier in the week, I got out on the road bike for the Nicasio loop and for a ride out to North Beach and back - combined for about 55 miles. I'll take it along with two rides up to Inverness Ridge with Sport.

Tomales Bay
Sport will easily keep up with me on the descent.
Racing downhill
Black Mountain from the ridge.
Black Mountain
Black Mountain is the shop's namesake and the iconic image for my logo.
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Black Mountain x2
On the way out to North Beach, I snapped a few pics. This is the beached boat on Tomales Bay behind the Inverness Store.
Beached boat
The sun peaked out on the climb up Ottinger's Hill out of Inverness. Ottinger's Hill is a painful reminder that the flat(ish) road through Inverness ends abruptly in this short, somewhat steepish (7-8% grade?) climb.
Looking back towards Inverness Ridge. I was really liking the fenders during this ride. No rain, but the roads were plenty wet.
Morning ride
On the road
Three guys were fishing the surf at North Beach, the turn around spot.
Fishing at North Beach
Sweet looking road bike! I'm loving this thing more every time I get on the saddle.
Black Mountain Cycles road bike

(What's playing: The Knitters Long Chain On)