Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday hours...

Black Mountain Cycles will be open today, Monday 12/23 from 11-5.  The shop will be closed on the 24th and 25th and back open in the afternoon of the 26th - maybe (call to confirm).  Normal hours through the weekend.  Happy holidays, ride lots, be safe.
Mike



(What's playing:  The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl Fairytale of New York)


Friday, December 20, 2013

Floyd immortalized...

Floyd, the shop frog, hung out all summer and true to 2012's coming and goings, was last seen in the shop in November.  November is the time the frogs start their journey to the wetter areas for mating season.  Although, with no real rain here, it ain't too wet.  Now the wait to see if Floyd returns in May to his perch on the ladder.  

While I wait for Floyd's return, you don't have to wait to honor Floyd's presence in the shop as he has been immortalized on a Black Mountain Cycles t-shirt - with a nod to the story about the shop not being a real bike shop

T-shirts are olive color only.  Men's sizes Small thru XXL.  Women's sizes Small thru XL.  American Apparel.  $20 each + applicable tax and shipping.  Payment can be either via a phone call with a credit card or paypal to blackmtncycles(at)gmail(dot)com.  Total cost with USPS priority shipping is:
California residents:  $26.95 (includes sales tax and shipping).
Any other US orders:  $25.25 (shipping included).
International orders are also accepted.  E-mail me and I'll get you a total. 


(What's playing:  Hank III Wreck Of The Old '97)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twenty years in the making...

The last Cunningham frames that rolled out of Charlie Cunningham's shop were the 'D' Series in about 1993.  It's 2013 and after getting some time in on a bigwheel bike of his design and Mike DeSalvo's making, Charlie fired up the welder and went to work.  The result is fantastic.  Three new Cunningham 29"ers ready for the trails.  

Charlie's bikes are very polarizing.  Some folks who are used to the look of "stack of dimes" welding are put off by the welding that looks like puddles.  To some bike people, components should be smooth and flawless in their appearance.  If that's you, stop right here.  Don't subject yourself to welding that looks smudged.  Parts that have visible file marks.  Parts that you won't find on any other bikes.

If you do proceed, you will find a bike(s) that excels at one thing.  Trail riding.  Plant your butt on the seat. Clip in to the pedals.  Grab on to the bars and start pedaling.  The entire geometry is designed for each rider.  There are modifications to just about every part except maybe the shifters.  The bikes are built to ride.  The size of the riders are at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet the quality of the ride will be the same for each rider.  Nimble, stable, very pedal-able, if that word makes sense.  

Well, Charlie, you have certainly outdone yourself.  I'd just like to say, if the big one every comes up for sale, I want to be first in line.  

Cunningham 'E' Series
The littler one.  Stem is adjustable to determine sizing for a custom stem.  The owner preferred the lighter, skinnier Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires.  

Cunningham 'E' Series
The big one.

Cunningham 'E' Series
Personalized serial number

Cunningham 'E' Series
Lever-link brake

Cunningham 'E' Series
This seals the rear derailleur housing.

Cunningham 'E' Series
Sculpted dropouts.  These are from the last production in the early '90s.

Cunningham 'E' Series
Front derailleur cable routing.

Cunningham 'E' Series
Steering limiter so the bars don't swing around during a crash and cause damage to the brake as it makes contact with the down tube.

Cunningham 'E' Series
Rear brake

Cunningham 'E' Series
PF17

Cunningham 'E' Series
Keeps the muck off the rear brake

Cunningham 'E' Series
Another angle

Cunningham 'E' Series
Seatpost QR

Cunningham 'E' Series
Rear derailleur cable routing

Cunningham 'E' Series
Extra-wide front hub

Cunningham 'E' Series
Front brake

(What's playing:  KWMR "Silver Dollar Jukebox" and Johnny Cash Wreck Of The Old 97)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Closed Sunday Nov. 17...

Like the heading says, I'll be closed on Sunday the 17th.  Back on Tuesday.  Ride lots.

Mt. Tam Ride

(What's playing:  Boz Scaggs Loan Me A Dime)

Friday, November 15, 2013

New bike ride notes...

I know how to build a bike so that it's ready to ride right out of the shop door.  I worked for a mountain bike race team in the mid-90s and know what it takes to build a bike or work on a bike and promptly send it out for a race with the confidence that it's going to work like it's supposed to.  So, when I built myself a new cross bike, and didn't get a chance to put any local miles on it (beyond a couple one mile commutes), I didn't have any worries about how it would function during its first ride on the Meet Your Maker Tour.  

True to the confidence, the bike performed perfectly.  No mid-ride cable adjustment.  No handlebar tweaking.  No seat position fiddling.  Just clip in and ride.  The real question is how did the US made frame ride compared to the Taiwan made frame?  Honestly, I don't know.  And by "I don't know," I mean I didn't notice any difference.  I would say the two are pretty equivalent.  

But, you certainly noticed something different, right?  Yes.  Yes, I did.  First, the bike is noticeably lighter because I used much lighter parts.  Not sure what the weight difference is, but I know the wheels are lighter and that probably is the most noticeable aspect.  I'm super pleased with the Pacenti SL23 rim/White Industries combo.  I built the wheels with DT Revolution spokes in front and on the left rear.  The right rear spokes are DT Competition.  DT alloy nipples were used front and rear as well.  I used the Pacenti rims because after building up several sets, I know they are nice to work with and the channel profile is tubeless friendly.  I wrapped two layers of tubeless tape and set up the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires tubeless with Orange Seal sealant with 40psi.  I'm going to have to play with air pressure a bit, but 40 psi felt pretty good.  I don't particularly care for the lower pressures that makes the tire feel squirmy.  

One thing I do know is that on the descent down Coastal View Trail where many folks pinch flatted, I had not problems.  

The other concern I had after riding my previous cross bike with a triple was the double I have on the new bike.  I worried that I wouldn't have that perfect gear for climbing moderately steep grades.  With my triple, that gear is my middle (34t) with the 30t large cog in back.  I didn't even think about not having the "right" gear on the new bike as they all seemed to be right what ever the situation.  I spent 99% of my time in the 40t ring in front and up to the 32t in back.  There was a point climbing Diaz Ridge where I dropped to the 28 and used either the 25 or 28 in back.  Overall, I was really pleased with the gearing choices.  Some might say 40/28 with an 11-36 cassette!  But I use my cross bike as my mountain bike and ride where most folks mountain bike so the range is needed.  No, it's not cross racing gearing, but could be if needed.  

The other aspect that worked well is the White Industries VBC crankset.  I had no luck running 10 speed chains on White cranks a year ago or so.  They just didn't like the narrower 10 speed chains.  Didn't matter if the chain was Shimano, SRAM, or KMC, or if the derailleur was Shimano or SRAM.  Now, I'm happy to say it works great.  I spoke with Doug White earlier this week and asked him about this.  He said they change the outer ring to work with 10 speed.  He said it works great with 10 speed, provided the front derailleur is Shimano.  For some reason, the SRAM front derailleur just doesn't work properly.  I was running a Shimano CX70 front derailleur and it worked flawlessly.

The final note about the bike that I noticed was the SRAM  Type 2 rear derailleur and that the chain was pretty quiet riding through the choppy stuff.  The Type 2 derailleur has a clutch type mechanism in the B pivot that keeps chain tension high.  As evident by the chainstay photo, there was little chain slapping on the chainstay.  I like a quiet bike.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with how the bike performed.  I pretty much dig this bike and look forward to riding it a lot more.

Post ride
Looks good with some dust.

IMG_0001
Not much chain slap going on.

Post ride

Post ride

Post ride

Post ride

(What's playing:  KWMR Shorty's Bunkhouse)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Meet Your Maker post ride report...

Last Sunday, about 50+ folks showed up in Mill Valley for the Meet Your Maker Tour cross ride up Mt. Tam and beyond.  It's not really fair to call it a cross ride, although a cross bike does work best for this type of ride.  In addition to the plentiful cross bikes in attendance, there were some mountain bikes, two mountain tandems, and one guy who ripped on his Hunter with road tires.  

As per usual, with a posted ride time of 10:00, the cat herding began around 10:30.  It's no easy task to get that many people going and as per the ride flyer stating it was a "no drop" ride, there were several lengthy-ish stops to let folks catch up.  There was a bit of chomping at the bit to get going, but everyone was aware that the last riders to reach the waiting point need some rest time.  Usually on no drop rides, once the stragglers catch up, it's time to go so the folks who would benefit from a bit of a respite, don't get one.

So, the route.  I don't know if anyone created the route via some electronic device, but with that many people, I'm sure someone did.  I don't even know how far we actually rode.  All I know is that it was damn fun.  From Mill Valley we rode up Railroad Grade to the West Point Inn.  From there the track headed down to Muir Beach via Old Stage fire road to the Pantoll Ranger Station at the top of Panoramic Highway and then down Coastal View Trail.  A short section on Hwy 1 brought us to the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach where liquid refueling was on tap.  The fast descent on Coastal View Trail with some choppy trail sections resulted in a bunch of flats.  I think everyone got air back in their tires.  

From Muir Beach, we headed up Diaz Ridge Trail.  By the time we got to the top of Diaz Ridge at the intersection with Miwok Trail, the day's shadows were getting a bit long and it was decided that some riders were going to head back down Panoramic Hwy to Mill Valley while 6 or 7 of opted for a longer route back via Miwok Trail to Tennessee Valley Rd. and back to Mill Valley via the road where more cold beer waited.  

All in all, it was a damn fine day on the bike.  Thanks to all the Makers for putting this and the other events together.  

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
Climbing Railroad Grade

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
Climbing Railroad Grade

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
Climbing Railroad Grade

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
West Point Inn regroup

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
The descent down Coastal View Trail with Mt. Tam in the background

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
Scofflaw

Meet Your Maker Mt. Tam
The climb up Diaz Ridge Trail

(What's playing:  Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers Hey Stranger)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Meet Your Maker...

This coming Sunday the Meet Your Maker Tour comes to Marin for a ride up the flanks of Mt. Tam and across to the Marin Headlands.  Thirty-seven miles of the best dirt road riding around.  Perfect for a Black Mountain Cycles monster cross bike, just saying.  

The Meet Your Maker Tour is made up of NorCal's finest frame and parts makers including Curtis Inglis of Retrotec/Inglis, who crafted this fine machine that I was lucky enough to build.  Come on out to Mill Valley and Meet Your Maker this Sunday at 10 a.m.  Info here:  Mount Tam & Headlands Cross Ride.  I'll be there on my new bike, made by one of the Makers, Cameron Falconer, which is why Black Mountain Cycles will be closed on Sunday, November 10.

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

Retrotec Triple

(What's playing:  Ha Ha Tonka Walking On The Devil's Backbone)




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's like my birthday...

...except I bought my present myself.  I mean why leave it to someone else to get you something you don't want.  Only you know what you really want.  And I really wanted a new bike.  With new parts.  Well, almost all new parts.  (ed:  like my birthday, but not actually.)

Several months ago, when Cameron Falconer and I worked together to make a small run of cross bikes, I slated one of the 62cm frames for myself.  However, I tossed and turned over my inability to make a decision on how to build it.  Or to build it in the first place because my current bike built works great.  I had just done a 3+ hour ride to Fairfax and back via San Geronimo Ridge, a perfect on/off-road ride, and was really digging the bike.  However, I had already sourced new parts for the new bike and built the wheels and told myself to just build it.  

So I did.  The first thing I did in choosing the parts for the new bike was to determine gearing.  On my current bike, I run a 46/34/24 with a 13-30 cassette.  I calculated my low gear and my high gear as they work well for my riding.  I knew I was going to run a double crank and needed to know ring size I would need with an 11-36 cassette.  It turned out that a 40/28 combo matched up almost spot on.  

With that piece of the puzzle in place, my decision on wheels came down to wanting to run the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires tubeless.  I looked at H Plus Son Archetype, HED Belgium +, and Pacenti SL23 rims.  Having built all three for customers, I knew they all built up very nice.  I chose the Pacenti rim because the BG tire seated with only a floor pump and two layers of tubeless tape.  And Kirk Pacenti is a friend of mine and I like using friend's parts.

Then the big question:  SRAM or Shimano?  I've been a long-time Shimano guy and would have continued with Shimano if Shimano's road shifters worked with their Shadow + rear derailleur.  Having built several bikes with the new clutch type rear derailleurs, I knew I wanted to run one on the cross bike to keep chain tension up and noise down.  Shimano's clutch type Shadow + derailleurs are only compatible with 10-speed mountain shifters, not road (STI or bar-con) shifters.  Shimano's 9-speed mountain derailleur is compatible with 10-speed road shifters, but it's not available in a Shadow + design.  SRAM, on the other hand, does make their 10-speed clutch type Type 2 mountain derailleur compatible with their 10-speed road shifters.  So, SRAM it is.  

The rest of the parts:
Salsa Cowbell 2 bars with Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers and SRAM TT500 bar-con shifters
Ritchey WCS 120mm stem
White Industries VBC 40/28 cranks with Phil bottom bracket
White Industries H2/H3 hubs (I stashed a set aside for myself as they were transitioning to the T11 hubs.  The H3 rear hub is 10-speed max and builds with less dish which I like), Pacenti SL23 rims with DT Revolution and Competition spokes
Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires sealed tubeless with Orange Seal sealant
SRAM X9 Type 2 rear derailleur and a Shimano CX70 top pull front derailleur
Paul Mini-Moto brakes
Not all the parts I used are new.  It's fun to repurpose old parts and in this case, I pulled out of my parts bins an XTR seatpost, WTB Rocket V seat, and some Shimano 959 clipless pedals.

What do I think?  I think it rides pretty darn nice.  Maybe a touch snappier feeling than the Taiwan sourced cross bike, but that's probably because the drivetrain is all new and fresh.  I like it.  

One more thing, I've been really liking the PRO Digital Carbon Smart Silicon handlebar tape.  It's got a gel-like backing that gives a nice feel on the bars either with gloves or without.  It's not slippery.  It wraps smoothly.  It is slightly oversized, but not huge.  And best of all, it's not $40 like some of these designer tapes.  Well, maybe that's not the best of all.  The real best of all, is it's available in black only.  

62cm Black Mountain Cycles/Falconer Cross

62cm Black Mountain Cycles/Falconer Cross

(What's playing:  Reverend Horton Heat Baby I'm Drunk)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Salsa Pro Road bars...

File this under "things I like."  Been quite a while since I applied that tag.  Not that there haven't been things I like, but I've been neglect in blog duties.  

I needed new bars.  Not because the old ones were damaged or in need of replacement due to structural issues.  I needed new bars because I couldn't come to terms with the shape.  It's not like I didn't give them a proper chance.  My current bike is probably the third or forth bike they've been on over the past 8 years or so.  I simply never felt comfortable in the drops and I spend a lot of time riding in the drops trying to stay as aero as possible riding into headwinds or descending (why do so many riders descend on the hoods?).  

Finding new bars, however, turned out to be a bit of a challenge.  I only had a few key parameters that needed to be met:

1.  The bars needed to be 46cm, center-to-center.  
2.  The bars needed to be aluminum.
3.  The bars needed to have a compatible shape with integrated brake/shift levers.
4.  And, not that I'm a weight weenie, but they need to be light-ish.

There are several bars that tick some, but not all the boxes.  There was one that did get a check mark in all of them.  So, I ordered a Salsa Pro Road bar in the optional Large drop.  It's also available in a small and medium drop.  It's only available in a 31.8 clamp size, so I did also need to order a new stem.  I'm partial to Ritchey components so a new WCS 120mm stem was ordered at the same time.

New bar, stem, cables, and bar tape (a new favorite and more on that later) were installed and I was ready to take it out.  After a bunch of rides, both on and off road, I dig these bars:  the right shape, the right amount of drop, and a surprise twist, the drop section angles out 4 degrees while the sides are vertical instead of flared like the Cowbell bar.  The 4 degree angle puts your hands in a comfortable, neutral position when in the drops.  So much more comfortable for motoring across the San Geronimo Valley or descending Bo-Fax Road.  I like the larger drop since it makes more room for my hands.  With widths between 34cm and 46cm (in 2cm increments) and three drops, there is surely a bar for everyone.   

Salsa Pro Road Large

Salsa Pro Road Large

Salsa Pro Road Large

Winterize
The old bar shape.

(What's playing:  KWMR Musical Variete)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

One more with all the parts...

The light blue looks even better built up.  Something to think about.  Do I need to build a new bike?  Hmmm...

Rival build

(What's playing:  The Black Keys I'll Be Your Man)