Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finally feeling fall-like

Fall's been well under way for the past month.  Two more months until winter.  However, it was only in the past couple of days - today especially so - that it really felt like fall.   We don't get the big color change in the tree leaves here.  Some trees change, but most just lose their leaves.  For me, the signal that summer's over is the change in the shadows due to the sun being lower in the sky.  And even though the sun is out, the skies clear of clouds, there still a chill that hangs in the air well into the noon hour.  

It's those mornings where you set out with arm and knee warmers and by 10 or 11, you still have them on because it's just not warm enough to shed them that make you realize the Indian Summer days are over.  And West Marin has some spectacular Indian Summer days.  High pressure builds over the deserts of Nevada/Utah and pushes dry air out over California.  This results in warm days - warmer on the coast here than during the traditional hot summer months.  The riding during these days is spectacular.  They are the days I look forward to all year.  

But fall has set in.  The sky might have been clear and the sun shining bright, but it wasn't hot.  Not bad, but not summer any longer.  The arm warmers and knee warmers stayed on all day where last week they came off mid-way through the ride.  

That doesn't mean spectacular riding is not still to be had.  On the contrary, Sunday and Monday were great days on the bike.  I was able to get out on two three hour rides back-to-back.  And West Marin did not disappoint.  Sunday's ride brought me through Sam Taylor State Park, up and over into Nicasio,  over to the Marshall-Petaluma Rd. and the Marshall Wall, and back down Hwy. 1 into Pt. Reyes Station.  I've been riding the Marshall Wall quite a bit recently and after dropping a 20 lbs. it's really become not a big deal at all.  I find myself seeking out climbs or riding known climbs at least a cog or two smaller.  Feels pretty damn good.  

Monday's ride was one of my favorites.  And with my new found lighter weigh self, I tacked on what I would usually consider a separate ride - two rides in one.  How can it get any better.  The ride out to Pierce Point is one of the best out here.  Good climbing, good descending, and, most of the time, you have the road to yourself.  From Pierce Point, I come back via a dirt road, well a ranch road/cow track, to the L Ranch Rd./Marshall Beach Rd., which is some sweet Strada Biancha-like gravel road.  From there back to Pt. Reyes Station is usually a pretty good ride by itself, but Monday, I took the climb up Mt. Vision Rd. and came back to Pt. Reyes Station via the Inverness Ridge Trail.  This trail is pretty much a hiking/mountain bike trail, but I like to ride my road bike or cross bike on it.  It's perfect for either one.  Challenging, but not crazy.  

And how to end such a great ride?  Lunch at Perry's Deli in Inverness Park, of course.  Their West Marin Reuben sandwich is spectacular.  Not something you want to eat daily - or even weekly, but every so often, I need one.  

Sunday's ride in the shadow of Black Mountain as the fog lifts.

Restoration project on the side of the Marshall-Petaluma Rd.

Turkeys - it is getting close to Thanksgiving.

Climbing the Marshall Wall.

Hog Island on Tomales Bay.

Monday's ride heading out Pierce Point Rd.

Vague dirt track and some cow herding out on Tomales Point.

We don't have a lot of gravel roads, but this one is really damn sweet - L Ranch Rd.

Inverness Ridge Trail

The West Marin Reuben

(What's playing:  Chuck Prophet Ford Econoline)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sachs - What's In The Stand

(Post edited 11/24/14.  Every month or so, I check the stats of the blog for curiosity's sake.  Today, I noticed a spike in views from the Velocipede Salon website.   Seems a lot of the comments decried the amount of time the owner waited.  Richard Sachs weighed in claiming the time the owner waited is incorrect.  It would have been easy for him to e-mail me and correct the wait time.  I'm simply going by what the owner told me on several occasions.  Whether or not the wait time was 4 years or 14 years, it's still a great looking bike.  And so, I am editing the post to remove text regarding the wait time for the frame - MV)

Earlier this week, I posted about a set of wheels that turned out so nice, I wanted to keep them for myself and hinted that the frame they were destined for was special.  One of the most sought after frame makers in the states these days is Richard Sachs Cycles.  The bike industry is typically made up of companies who over supply bikes to the market and then have to discount them deeply to make room for the next model year and the next big thing.  That's pretty much the complete opposite to Richard Sachs' model of business.  His demand is to high and output so low that he has a wait time or several years for one of his frames. 

What one does get after waiting is a beautiful frame.  The lugs are nicely shaped and crisp.  The overall aesthetics are very, very pleasing.  The paint job by Joe Bell is flawless with its deep red coat.  It's a right proper looking bike that I'm sure will be great fun to ride.  If this was mine, I think the first ride would definitely be one with a bunch of dirt thrown in.  It just looks like it wants to go anywhere. 

I was pretty excited when the owner came to me to have me build his bike that he waited years to get.  There were a few parameters for parts that we knew we wanted to stick to.  Campagnolo.  We both agreed that new 2015 Campagnolo Super Record cranks with their Shimano-esque 4-arm design wouldn't look proper on this bike.  And we thought the RS version of the 2014 Super Record would be appropriate.  Super Record RS on a Richard Sachs, get it?  You already was the wheelset - HED Belgium, Chris King, Challenge Strada.  There were a couple other items that needed to be individually chosen that were out of production - Campagnolo Record seat post and Campagnolo quick releases.  Both of these were sourced from the great folks at Euro-Asia Imports and really make the spec of the bike dialed. 

(What's playing:  David Bowie Kooks)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monster Cross V4 frames arrived

One phone call last Friday to the tucking company who will be delivering frames, "Yes, the frames will be delivered on Monday.  Please call back on Monday before 10:00 a.m. to get a delivery window."  Monday morning arrives.  I think I can get out on the bike at 8:00 a.m. and get a 90 minute ride.  What's that?  Rain?  Really?  On the day frames are going to be here.  Dang.  Not feeling like I want to start a ride now in the rain, I get a couple of things done, go to the shop, call the trucking company, "Yes, we said delivery on Monday when we spoke on Friday, but now the delivery is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday."  

Okay, I can deal with that.  Finish up a few things at the shop not wanting to stay too long since I am closed on Monday.  Head home.  Get an email from the company who handles the shipments through customs, "Mike, we have pushed the delivery company to deliver the frames today.  Is that okay?"  Yes, of course!  Call again to the trucking company to find out the delivery will be made before 4:00.  It's only noon.  So back to the shop to wait.  I do have the good fortune to get an order for a new complete bike build while I'm at the shop - it's going to be a sweet 62cm gray cross bike with White Industries cranks.  

Truck arrives about 3:00, rain is long gone and it's a pretty nice day and I'm unloading the truck and then loading them into my storage.  I do like days when I have a better handle on the schedule, but this one was okay.  Maroon (or as was commented on the Facebook page - Black Cherry) and Dazzling Blue.  I was a bit nervous about an entire shipment of colors I had no history with, but they look great.  Really.  Much better in person than in the photos.  All sizes in stock in both colors.  $595 each (65cm is $545 because of the lack of heat-treatment due to the thicker walled main tubes).

(What's playing:  KWMR's The Barbarian Beach Party)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sometimes you want to keep them

I love building wheels.  Feeling the tension slowly increase.  Seeing the wheel become round and true.  Checking the tension to confirm it's ready.  Installing tires and cassette.  Fitting into the frame.  The wheel goes from a collection of loose parts, (roughly 66 individual parts, sometimes more, sometimes less) that are useless by themselves, into a structure that can support you and your bike across terrain that ranges from dead smooth to chunky pavement or rocks without flinching.  The right wheel for the application it's destined is a thing of beauty.

Sometimes, I'll build a wheelset that gives me such a good feeling about it that I want to keep it for myself.  It just feels so improbably right that I want it.  However, that means that the customer the wheelset is destined for will simply get this great wheelset.  They are going to get to feel what I can only imagine as they pedal their bike and know that wonderful smooth, singing feeling/sound of a superb wheel on the tarmac.

This is one of those wheels.  After I finished building it and installed the Challenge Strada 25 tires, I spun it in my hands a bit and realized that this wheelset was about as nice and sexy as I can imagine.  I wanted to fit these to my bike and spin out to the Point on one of my favorite rides, maybe ride some dirt too.  

The frame these are intended for is not going to be disappointed in having these babies clamped in its dropouts.  That will be for a future post.  Stay tuned...

(What's playing:  The Scorpions The Zoo)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Get on board with a US made cross frame

There's still a bit of time to get in the queue for a US made cross frame.  Cameron Falconer will, once again, be making these frames for Black Mountain Cycles.  Cameron's been getting some well deserved recognition recently, including this post on The Radivist.  Well done, Cameron.

Here's the skinny on the frame particulars.  We're doing both a disc and a rim brake frame.  Each one will be unique to its purpose and brake requirements.  In order to make this project work for both Cameron and me, we need to make at least 3 frames per size per brake type.  Right now, I have deposits for 56cm frames for rim brake and 59cm frames with disc brake.  If you want a 56cm disc frame, then I'll have three of those made.  If you want a 62cm canti brake frame, then I'll have three of those made. 

The particular particulars of the frames are:

Canti frame - This will be the same as the previous frame.  True Temper Verus tubing, Paragon Machine Works hooded type dropouts, s-bend chainstays, top tube cable routing, Pacenti Paris-Brest-Paris fork crown w/curved fork blades.  Geometry is the same as the Taiwan production frames.  

Disc frame - My first thought was to use a low-mount dropout to fix the disc caliper to the chainstay.  However, this is easier said than done if we want to make the frame have clearance for 45mm tires, 50/34 chainrings, and narrow q-factor road cranks without dimpling the heck out of the stay.  A low-mount makes it easy to mount racks and fenders, but does little to help with the actual fitting of the components that are likely to be used.  If we wanted to reduce tire clearance to a 35mm tire, that would be easy, but that's not what this frame is about.   

So, the disc frame will get the same s-bend chainstay as the canti frame and the same Paragon dropouts.  The brake will be mounted to the seat stay with some super clean disc mounts Cameron sources from another area builder.  There will be an hour glass shape braze on to facilitate rack mounting a rack and we'll have something for fender mounting as well.  

The fork on the disc frame will also be made with a disc brake in mind.  The slender, curved fork legs aren't, in my mind, a sufficient anchor for a disc brake.  Cameron and I talked about forks and we think a segmented type fork with straight legs and the Willits/Paragon disc tab will be the best design to work with a disc brake.  We will also make the wall thickness of the left fork blade thicker.  There will be eyelets added for fender mounting or the dropouts will have eyelets.  No provisions for mid-blade low-rider bosses.

Colors - two options there; either the same International Orange or a bright green RAL6018.  

Options - there are only two options available for either the canti or disc frame.  The first is a third water bottle boss on the bottom side of the down tube.  The second is eyelets on the front of the fork legs for mounting a small rack like the Nitto M18.

There you have it. Production will be happening at the end of October.

(What's playing:  Brasil '66 & Sergio Mendes Mais Que Nada)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More cross frames on the way

The boat carrying the newest run of monster cross frames was docked in Oakland on Monday.  The customs bond, import duty, and dock fee have been paid.  I'm assuming they are clearing customs now and should be on their way here soon.  Based on what I learned with the last shipment, the trucking company who will deliver the frames here only makes deliveries to Pt. Reyes Station once per week.  I can't recall if it's Tuesday or Thursday, but I'm anticipating the frames will be here next week - unless customs drags their feet and the once-per-week delivery is missed, then it's another week wait.  Ugh.  Hopefully, that's not the case.  

What's different with these V4 frames?  Somehow, each production has been referred to as V2, V3...  Version 2, Version 3...  I'm not sure if I started referring to them with that term or if someone else did.  Anyway, each version has had minor changes that improved on the previous version:

Version 2 got a machined type headtube reinforcement, 130mm rear spacing, some fine-tuning of the rear brake cable stop location on the smaller frames, longer steerer tubes on the 56cm and up frame sizes, and a 65cm size.

Version 3 received a chainstay make-over with a slight s-bend shape for better crankarm clearance.  With this version, any 2-piece design crankset's arms clear the stays that are widened for big tire clearance.   It's not so simple to have clearance for a 50mm tire and road cranks.  This version also saw the bottom bracket dropped a few millimeters for improved stability.  I've become a bigger fan of lower bottom bracket heights.  Makes sense for a lot of riding.  

This new Version 4 is the same as Version 3, but is getting mid-fork braze-ons for folks who want to run a low-rider rack or, with longer struts, a small rack fit above the wheel.  While these frames are not touring frames, there have been plenty of owners who have taken them on tours and they report back that they've worked very well.  But, I will reiterate, these are not touring bikes.  I was hesitant to put eyelets on the forks because these frames are really extensions of myself and that's not how I would build out a bike for myself, but I'll get over it.  

Colors.  Version 4 will be available in a metallic maroon or Dazzling Blue (which is a Pantone® fashion color pick for 2014).  As soon as the frames are here, I'll take some pics and post them.  In the mean time, here are some photos of recent rides in the area.

(What's playing:  Boston More Than A Feeling)