Monday, February 27, 2012

Two more days...

That's right, you have two more days (well three if you count the rest of today as one and then Tuesday and Wednesday) to take advantage of the free rubber deal with the purchase of a Black Mountain Cycles cross or road frameset. So far, there have been several takers for this February promotion and I'm happy they took advantage of the deal.

To reiterate, if you purchase a road frame, I'll throw in a set of Clement Strada LGG tires in 23, 25, or 28 sizes. These are not the budget 60 tpi version of this tire, but the high end model with 120 tpi. This is a $100 value folks. So far, everyone who has received this special have all opted for the 28s.

And not to leave out the cross bike, I'm including a set of Vee Rubber X-C-X or 12 tires with the purchase of the cross frame. The 12 is a 1.95 tire and the X-C-X is a 1.75 tire. Initial reports are that the X-C-X is a little "buzzy" on the road, but it's a fun tire on some hardpack. This is a $90 package value.

Even though, I say free tires with a frameset purchase, I'm also including these tires free with a bike purchase as well. As a little inspiration, here are two bike builds I finished this past weekend for a couple of guys who took advantage of the free rubber. Someone's going to be having fun riding their new bikes! It could be you next.

Cross bike that is heading to Texas that was built with a modified build #1: White Industries hubs, Salsa Delgado Cross rims, Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes. The silver wheels are very classy.

Cross bike 2012-02-26

Cross bike 2012-02-26

Cross bike 2012-02-26

Cross bike 2012-02-26

Next is a road bike with a slightly modified road build #2 that turned out really nice that is going to make its home in the Sonoma/Marin area.

Road bike 2012-02-24

Road bike 2012-02-24

Road bike 2012-02-24
Drivetrain is Rival shifters, X.9 rear derailleur, IRD Defiant 50/34 crankset, Shimano 11-34 cassette.

Road bike 2012-02-24

(What's playing: Percy Sledge Tell It Like It Is)

I just wanna lube my chain...

Recently, I've been seeing ads for a bicycle lube company posted - pasted is a better word - on Facebook. Facebook also now has made it so you see all the activity of your friends and what they comment on or like. I've since figured out that that ticker thing can be hidden, which makes the whole experience less intrusive feeling. There was one product or page, in particular, that kept popping up. It was for a lube company called Gnar Lube.

Being a bike mechanic and being interested in new products and being curious if there is anything better than the lube I use, I went to the Gnar Lube Facebook page and from their to their website to see if there was anything I could learn about the lube. You know, things like technical information about why it would be a better lube. Okay, okay, there was another reason I clicked on the link.

On other websites for bicycle lubes, there are silly things like MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) that list what's in the lube, how to handle, what to do if. There is also more technical information about why and how their lubes work. Not on the Gnar Lube site. The only technical information I could find was that one of their lubes is "Teflon Enhanced" and the other is "Moly and PTFE infused." There probably should be one of these ® following "Teflon" since big companies like DuPont™ probably keep an eye on how their products are used. Oh, and that it's made with "the best unicorn dust in the multiverse and other stuff made here on earth." Sweet! Unicorn dust!

Nope, not really any technical info on their site. However, technical information is always trumped by something else. What is on the Gnar Lube website and Facebook page, and likely why it has any popularity at all, besides being, you know, gnar, is a whole bunch of images and videos of barely clad women. Sure, they are pleasing to the eye and they used my buddy's shop to shoot the video and for that I am forever envious of him. I do admit that their logo is pretty sharp and they overall look of their site and product packaging is good. But, and here's the big but, what happens in a couple of years? Five years? Ten years? Can they sustain the gnar-ness for that long or will it wear off? It's chain lube. Tri-Flow®, you know, boring old Tri-Flow®, has been around since I can remember in the mid-80s and has sustained itself without one moment of gnar. Just a bunch of dudes, average looking at best, hunched over bike stands dripping it on chains, inside shifters, on pedals, brake pivots... That's how you sustain your product. Just make the product good. It doesn't have to be gnar. The gnar is in the riding.

So, will I change to Gnar Lube because it's, you know, rad, dude? No thanks. I'll stick to my same old boring lube because I like how it lubes my chain and doesn't yank it.

(What's playing: KWMR Daybreak)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's in a millimeter...

One of the things I've enjoyed about my not-so-new life in the bicycle industry is wearing out parts. You see, prior to this gig at the retail level, I was on the industry side which simply means I worked for a bike company in product development. This meant that every year, parts manufacturers released a slew of new product and would send early production samples to me for evaluation. Instead of wearing out parts on my bikes, I replaced them well before their useful life was reached. Component groups, suspension bits, tires, wheels... All were mine with simply a phone call or e-mail.

Living in SoCal where it never rains, I never wore out brake pads, until now, that is. It's hard to wear out brake pads on a road bike here. Virtually all of my rides are in the country where there is no constant stopping for stop lights. Most descents are open and require little braking. Where heavier braking is required, the duration is short. Finally after two years, I wore out the brake pads on my road bike.

I planned a road ride last Sunday, so set about to replacing the pads on Saturday. The pad of choice - Kool Stop Dura Pad in salmon. Before installing these and most of the Kool Stop pads, I perform one task to the pad - file down that "plow tip" that is at the back edge of the pad. What it is supposed to accomplish does make sense - act as a squeegee of sorts and scrape away any grime, water, mud that may be on the rim before the pads activate as speed modulators. I can imagine the squeegee aspect working if one was to gently apply the brakes so the plow edge does clean the rim. However, brakes are usually applied quickly and I just don't see that action overriding what I perceive as the negative of the plow edge.

Negative to the plow edge? How can that be? The negative is that the plow edge makes the brake pad feel soft and squishy. When the pad contacts the rim, the plow edge is supposed to hit first and with more pressure, the rest of the pad makes contact with the rim - after overcoming the material in the plow edge. In that moment, the feel of the pad is too squishy, at least for my tastes. Additionally, the plow edge reduces the pad-to-rim clearance a bit. I always file that extra millimeter off the pad to get a more positive pad to rim feel.

I filed the plow edges down, installed the pads, re-adjusted the cable tension to accommodate for the new, thicker pads and was ready to ride the next day. Or so I thought. I had decided to ride what I call the Bo-Fax loop. Simple loop ride down Highway 1, up Bo-Fax Road down to Alpine Lake and one to Fairfax, back on Sir Francis Drake through the San Geronimo Valley, hit the dirt section of the Cross Marin Trail, and back to Point Reyes via Platform Bridge Road and the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road.

There is very little braking until you hit the descent down to Alpine Lake. That's where I realized I was about a millimeter off in my cable tension adjustment. When you get used to the feel of the brake lever where the pad to rim contact point is, altering that is like riding with an incorrect seat height. It just feels wrong. At the first corner coming down to the lake, I touched the brakes (while in the drops - more on this later) and "whoa!" Too much too soon.

I like the brake lever to travel almost half its travel before the pads make contact with the rim. This lets me hold on to the lever a bit without having the brakes on and then I can make micro adjustments with my index finger (one finger braking) to control my speed. With the pad contacting the rim with very little brake lever travel, it was throwing my ability to descend fast for a loop. I was braking too heavily with too much force. Not easy to re-learn years of braking technique on a technical descent. However, when the road straightened a bit, I was able to reach down and open the brake's QR a bit to a brake position I was comfortable with. About a millimeter more cable release.

The pad on the right with the plow edge removed.

Brake caliper
New pads installed and field tested.

(What's playing: KWMR Hump Day)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two for Tuesday...

Two pictures that is. First up is a photo of the new 12. The 12 is Vee Rubber's new micro-block tire as you may recall from this post. I've had a few requests for confirmation that the new 29 x 1.95" 12 tire fits up front on the Black Mountain Cycles cross frame. The answer is a resounding "yes." Photographic evidence:

Number two: New carpet in the shop! This might help keep the place a little warmer. The main thing it does is hide the peeling and worn paint on the floor. Turned out pretty nice. Best of all, it was a freebie. Still going to ask you to wipe your feet.

(What's playing: Marty Robbins Big Iron)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brakes, part II...

I thought this deserved a bit more attention than simply a comment to a comment. In reply to the post yesterday about disc brakes on road bikes, Wally had this to say:

"There are bigger two wheeled devices with motors that use disc brakes extensively. So there is knowledge and expertise on proper braking technique and use for fast or slow rides. The bike rumor article only reinforces the role ignorance and common sense plays in making choices. I use disc brakes on my road bikes and I use calipers too. Mine discs are all BB7's and I see no need to change. I personally prefer a well dialed in disc brake bike on the road but have no issue with good caliper brakes either. I've done some hefty descents on my fully loaded Vaya while touring where my speeds were well into the upper 30's and lower 40's and I liked having my disc brakes then."

Good points all. And yes, the set of circumstances with regards to the hydraulic disc failure in the Bike Rumor article are unique. The writer does admit that his choice of parts may not have been the best and I've got to give him props for trying to make current hydraulic technology work on the road. It's my understanding that the TRP set-up he used was initially unveiled in the cross racing arena. The function of a brake during a cross race is much different than during a long, fast descent on the road. The brakes during a cross race are typically applied in a time period measured in seconds. On a long road descent, the brakes might be engaged for a time period measured in minutes.

While I don't necessarily want to be an armchair quarterback, I had some more thoughts on the subject I thought I'd share. Anyone who has ridden both mountain bikes and road bikes - and cross bikes - knows that brakes are used very differently during each discipline. What may work well for one type of bike, may not work for another type because the riding and braking style is different.

Wally mentions that motorcycles use disc brakes with no problem. I don't think it's fair to compare disc brakes on motorcycles and cars to disc brakes on bicycles of any kind. Disc brakes on bicycles are so much more finicky than the brakes on motor vehicles. First, the individual components on vehicles are much beefier. Weight, to a point, is not as much of a concern. Bicycle disc brakes need to be much lighter. The weight of a typical automobile rotor is greater than an entire bicycle. The disc pads and rotors on a bicycle need to be free of contaminants or performance suffers immensely. Spill a few drops of chain lube on your bicycle's disc brake rotor and you might have to kiss the pads and rotor goodbye. That's not a worry on a motor vehicle's brakes.

I've said it before, I'm a huge fan of Avid's BB7 brakes in either their mountain or road configuration. They work great in a wide variety of applications. I'm sure the writer of that Bike Rumor piece would have had no issue had he been using BB7 brakes. He tried something and learned something. Everyone seems to be on a hydraulic binge. Yes, hydraulic disc brakes are used very efficiently and reliably on mountain bikes. Trying to kludge together what is currently available for use on the road may not be the best use of one's time. Both SRAM and Shimano are hard at work developing disc brakes for road bike and I'm sure what they come up with will work very nicely. Heat dissipation is probably the main focus - and light weight. I wonder if the new hydraulic disc brakes for road will find more use on cross or gravel bikes than on pure road bikes.

Okay, I'll give it a break now.

Potts 29er 19

(What's playing: Absolutely nothing. Wow, it's quiet)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Give me a brake...

In case you've been under a rock or all of your communication to the outside world is via carrier pigeon, you might not be aware that besides a certain Spaniard being stripped of his Tour De France title, the interwebs are rife with speculation about disc brakes coming to a road bike near you. There's been enough confidential information leaked (which grates my nerves and there may be something from these pages on that later) to know that disc brakes for road levers are coming to SRAM and Shimano's road groups for the 2013 model year.

I've got a couple of thoughts on this. First, just because they are coming out within a company's group that has traditionally been a "road" group, that doesn't mean they will show up on road bikes. Road components have been traditionally used on cross bike. It's my thought that they will show up sparingly on cross bikes first.

Second, disc brakes for road bikes have been available for years. However, they've, with very few exceptions, not been used on road bikes and have limited use on cross bikes. Avid's BB7 mechanical disc brake for road levers have been available for quite some time. For some reason, mechanical disc brakes get a bad rap. I personally like them. I've used BB7 brakes for both flat bar levers and drop bar levers for many years. They work great. Excellent power and modulation. What most people overlook in setting up mechanical disc brakes is the cable and housing. You can't just slap on a brake cable and brake housing. They have to be dialed in. Not going to get into that part here.

Off track. Get back on track. Back to disc brakes on road bikes. Disc brakes became necessary on mountain bikes as mountain bikes became faster. In the 1980's, mountain bikes were fully rigid with 26" wheels. Folks could ride them pretty fast and cantilever brakes worked fine to keep speed in check. Then in the early '90s, front suspension came about and folks could ride their bikes faster. The brake technology was slower to catch up and it took a bit for direct-pull brakes to make the scene.

A few years later, full-suspension started getting better and riders were able to ride even faster. There are a couple of factors that enable a rider to go faster. One is to keep the tires on the ground maintaining traction. Efficient suspension design accomplishes this. The other is to have the ability to control your speed more effectively. Disc brakes perform this task very well. This is why you had a subset of riders on rigid bikes saying they didn't need disc brakes.

So how does this apply to road bikes and disc brakes? Besides frame materials and shifting, road bikes haven't really changed since, well, since forever. A road bike today is not going to really descend any faster than a road bike of the '70s. As proof of that I followed someone down a wet, technical descent on a 1970 Masi and he absolutely killed the descent. There's been no real change in road bikes that enable them to descend faster like there has with mountain bikes.

I read this bit on and my doubts about the need for disc brakes were reinforced, even though the set-up in the article are a bit of a kludge, if you ask me. Because, after all, isn't it about need vs. want? Do you need disc brakes on your road bike or do you want them? Do you want them because they are powerful stoppers that are found on burly mountain bikes? Just because they are good on mountain bikes doesn't mean they'll be good on road bikes. Tire contact patches differ. Traction differs. Speeds differ. And more important, sustained speeds differ. Sure, there could be certain applications where they make sense, but for average Joe and Jane Road Rider, I don't think they'll do anything except add weight and complexity and, unfortunately, untimely failures. For me, I think I'll still with good old caliper brakes on my road bike. It's a pretty great, simple design that works darn good.

NR 005

(What's playing: KWMR Faultline Radio: Random Music Played Randomly)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why you take a Saturday off...

Sometimes you need to take a day off. Sometimes, you take a day off and go for a ride. Sometimes that ride, while being on familiar terrain, becomes an all new experience. This past Saturday, I met up with some of the Dino riders in Sausalito for a little spin through Marin.

The big feature of the ride was the climb up Mt. Tam on Railroad Grade. It was a busy Saturday on the mountain with a lot of mountain bike riders climbing the grade. When you're climbing a dirt road like Railroad Grade on a road bike, you have no choice but to pedal at a certain pace. Usually that pace is somewhat fast because of the gearing. To most folks a road bike in the dirt is a bike out of its element. I'm not sure what the multitudes of mountain bike riders thought of a bunch of road bikes passing them on the climb up to Tam. But it sure didn't suck passing them in their element.

Once to the top, we hit the road. Across Ridgecrest, down Bo-Fax Road into Fairfax where we stopped for pork products and beers for lunch at Gestalt Haus. Fueled we cruised back towards Sausalito where I had to split off and get back to Point Reyes.

Yeah, that was worth closing the shop on a Saturday.

Railroad Grade
Climbing Railroad Grade

1970 Masi
To some people a 1970 Masi is some thing that is hung on a wall. To Peter Johnson, you ride the damn thing anywhere and every where.

Railroad Grade

Railroad Grade
The last bit of dirt before hitting the pavement.

Alpine Dam
Pausing at Alpine Dam. In this group, if you are wearing a G.S. Mengoni jersey, it's not because you bought it on ebay.

The descent down to Alpine Lake was exhilarating to say the least. It had rained overnight and the road down to the lake was still very wet. Even in the summer time, that road is wet a lot of the time. It sits in a grove of redwood trees which pull moisture out of the air and can make it rain. We hit the descent with Peter, who is a bad ass descender, in the lead. I got around a couple riders to get up to Peter's wheel and from there we bombed the descent passing a rider out on the road who passed us up at the top while we waited for the group to regroup. He had at least a minute on us when we started. About 2/3 of the way down, we saw a flash of his bright pink jersey. It's obvious Peter is still super competitive. When we saw that pink flash in the trees, Peter's rate of descent picked up just enough to overcome the rider after a few fast corners. We went past him at a rate of speed most folks don't get to when the road is dry. Such a pleasure descending on Peter's wheel. Another reason I like the Continental GP 4-Season tires. The rubber compound has excellent wet road adhesion.

(What's playing: The Modern Sounds Blues Roundup)

Monday, February 13, 2012

On to part 2...

If you recall, a few days ago I posted a special deal for buyers of Black Mountain Cycles frames for the month of February. Basically, I'm including a set of Vee Rubber tires with the sale of a road or cross frame. And the first buyer of a road or cross frame also got a Cane Creek 40 headset thrown in to the deal. Notice the past tense in that previous sentence. That means the headset aspect of the February special is over. Thanks Bubba and Collin for picking up your own road and cross frameset.

However, the rubber deal is still a go through the month of February. This is still a $90 - $100 bonus when you buy a Black Mountain Cycles road or cross frame. Don't delay. There's only 15 more days left for this month of February. Heck, if you want to delay until February 29, that's fine too. Just as long as you don't order your frame on March 1, because then I can't deck you out with some free rubber.

(What's playing: R.E.M. Little America)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Puttin' the rubber in Valentine's day...

Literally. So, here's the deal. I've still got both road and cross frames in every size. Some sizes in colors are sold out. All orange cross frames are gone, but there are plenty of brown, er, root beer cross frames. The champagne road frames in 53cm, 56cm, and 62cm are sold out. All sizes of orange road frames are available. Sales have been pretty good.

That is until January. January was a barren month. Now I've got to give frameset sales a kick in the pants. I thought what better way than a month of February rubber special in honor of Valentine's Day.

Through the month of February, if you purchase in full a Black Mountain Cycles cross or road frame, I'll throw in a pair of tires free. Yes, free means free. The frameset price for either frame is $595. "Is that any tire," you ask? No. The tires I'm offering with the cross frame is either the new Vee Rubber 12 or X-C-X tire. Currently, the only size available is the 1.95" in the 12 model and 1.75 in the X-C-X. Your choice. If your preference is the road frameset, I'll include a set of Clement Strada LGG in the 120tpi version and your choice of sizes: 23, 25, or 28. This is a killer deal worth between $90 - $100. Mr. T says "I pity the fool who don't jump on this offer."

But wait there's more! More? Yes, more! The first cross frame sale and the first road frame sale will get a Cane Creek 40 headset thrown in too. Be the first and get a free set of tires and a free headset all for the low, low price of $595. I should clarify. That's $595 not including shipping or any applicable sales tax. This offer is good through February 29 so you have an extra day to jump on it.

Operators are standing by. I take PayPal, Visa, M/C, Amex, cash.

Cross bike with the 12 tire.

The X-C-X tire on the cross bike.

62cm Road Ultegra
Road frame with the Clement Strada LGG 28.

(What's playing: The Strange Boys Mama Shelter)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Favorite rides...

One of my favorite morning rides is the out and back to Kehoe Beach on the road. There's also a dirt option to the same vicinity with about the same mileage which is ... actually have no idea how many miles it is. It is about 90 minutes, though. And now looking at google maps directions, it's roughly 26 miles round trip.

It rained pretty good on Tuesday. The storm came in and left pretty quick. When it left, it left behind very clear, clean air. The day after, it was one of those rare mornings that beg you to be out on the bike. The riding out here is pretty damn spectacular and this ride did not disappoint.

The road out of Inverness and up Ottinger's Hill.

I never get tired of this view looking out over to H Ranch and the Pacific Ocean.

Different look to the view down to H Ranch.


The road towards K Ranch and Pierce Point

Long morning shadows

View Larger Map

(What's playing: Elvis Presley Just Because)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vee Rubber...

With all the big tire companies, it finally took a small tire company to produce that tire in what I consider the "magic size" for my cross frames. I really like the Panaracer Fire Cross 45, but on the road, it's a dog. Great off road. Slower than molasses on the road. For several years, I had been hoping for a mid-size tire that would perform well on and off road. I contacted folks at WTB asking about a 700x45 Nanoraptor. I got in touch with Kenda to express my desire for a 700x45 Small Block 8. In both cases, it was all about volume (not the tire's). Not enough OEM demand for such a tire.

Well, either there is now OEM demand or a small upstart decided to take the bull by the horns and make a bunch of tires in the mid-size range. Mid-size in that they are smaller than what might be considered 29" and larger than the typical cross tire. Somehow it doesn't surprise me too much where the tires came from. A while back, Vee Rubber hired Jim Wannamaker away from Kenda. Jim did a lot to put Kenda in the ranks of a premium brand and looks to be doing the same with Vee Rubber.

Vee Rubber will be releasing several new tread pattern in multiple sizes. The sizes I'm interested in are their 700x40, 700x47, and 700x50 (a.k.a. 700x40, 29x1.75, and 29x1.95). I recently picked up the X-C-X 29x1.75 and the "12" 29x1.95 as they were the only models/sizes available at the time. I'm looking forward to giving each one a go sometime next week. For now, here's some photos of the tires mounted on a Salsa Delgado Cross. It's like they were made for the Black Mountain Cycles cross frame.

On the technical side, the actual width was 2-3mm less than the labeled size. Weights are listed as 580g +/-30g for the model 12 29x1.95 and 610g +/- 30g for the 1.75 X-C-X model. That's a 60g swing in weights. A lot, I think. Actual weights were all at the +30g point. Still acceptable to me. Oh, and the price, $45.95 each. Pretty good considering the price of big tires is pretty much north of $50 for most tires these days.


The 1.95 "12" model looks pretty good in back.

The 1.95 "12" has good chainstay clearance with the wheel in the front half of the dropout.

Graphics are a little loud, but when you are branding a product, you want folks to know what it is.

Tread pattern of the 12.

The Vee Rubber X-C-X 29x1.75 (700x47)

Chainstay clearance with the 1.75" X-C-X.

Tread pattern of the X-C-X 1.75

(What's playing: Tin Star Mind Over Mattress)