Thursday, October 29, 2015

Road Frame Changes - And A Surprise

Along with the changes in the monster cross frames, the road frame also got refreshed for this third run of frames.  Like the monster cross frame, the sizing has been revised to 2cm jumps between sizes from 52cm up to 62cm.  Again, no 50cm frame because sales haven't warranted keeping this size and I do have 50cm road frames still in stock.  Geometry at the bottom of this post.

So, what's changed?  The big one is the graphics.  Over this last summer, I had one of those spontaneous what if ideas.  What if I could create a graphic package in tribute to my all time favorite road frame - the orange Eddy Merckx with the blue panel graphic.  As chance would have it, while I was working on this, an orange Merckx showed up in the shop for work.  While that bike was here, I used it to get the correct orange nailed down.  There's a lot of information on the interwebs saying this or that orange is the match.  Turns out that RAL 2011 is really freakin' close - way closer than those who say RAL 2000 is the match.  

The other change is to a flat fork crown from the previous sloping style.  I also changed the fork offsets by increasing them a bit.  I experimented with longer offsets over the summer.  While I didn't really notice any difference in handling (it still handled great), I have had folks say they didn't care for toe overlap when running fenders.  This will help get a bit more clearance.  

This is the bike that is the inspiration for the new look.  Owned by Giro's Eric Richter - aka @blacksocks on Instagram.  Pretty much my favorite looking road bike of all time.

This is the graphic treatment Ken Prosser of Kenji Designs came up with based on my chicken scratch sketches.  It's not exact and it's not meant to be.  
And what's a Merckx themed tribute bike without a Molteni themed kit?  Ken came up with this and Frank Strack from Velominati okayed the use of "Obey The Rules" and sent down the art for the graphic on the pocket.  Kits will be available in early December (s/s and l/s jerseys, bib and std. shorts).  Info on pricing and sizes/styles for the kits will be available soon.  

(What's playing:  They Might Be Giants Particle Man)

Cat, You're Free To Exit The Bag

This is going to take two posts to get the information properly out there, so read on then look for the next post.  It's been over eight years since I opened Black Mountain Cycles and almost six years since I took delivery of the first road and cross frames.  There's been a couple of minor tweaks to the cross geometry since then, but for the most part, they've been the same frames since day one.  Model years be damned!  

With this next run of cross and road frames that are due February-ish, I've made some big changes.  The first post is dedicated to the cross (or monster cross) frame.  There's got to be a better name since a lot of folks use theirs for riding on the road, commuting, dirt road riding...  But, there's no time to argue names.

Monster cross frame changes!  I've built up a lot of these as complete bikes in the past half-decade and one thing became clear - y'all like your bars up closer to your seat height.  That resulted in the need to run a fair amount of spacers.  Now, I'm okay with that - really.  If that's what you need to be comfortable, I'm all for it.  The steel fork allows for more spacer stack than a carbon fork.  Comfort - first rule of bike fit.  

Change #1 - Taller head tubes.  Not a lot.  Just a bit.  Just enough to not need to run a spacer or two depending on thickness.  And the head tube lengths are a bit more evenly spaced out between sizes.  Sizes?  Did someone say something about sizes?

Change #2 - More sizes!  Yep, I've changed the geometry around for closer steps in the sizing.  The old sizes were every 3cm from 50cm up to 65cm.  The new sizing range is every 2cm from 52cm up to 64cm.  I decided to drop the 50cm size because I haven't sold one from the V4 range of frames.  So that means I've got some 50cm frames for folks who need one.  And while there is no 65cm size, the 64cm is darn close and will fit as the 65 would have fit.  There's a geometry chart below to compare old and new sizes.  I suggest using the stack and reach numbers to figure out the new size fit.

Change #3 - But wait, there's more!  The fork crown on the new monster cross frames will be none other than the elegant Pacenti Paris-Brest-Paris crown.  Besides the great looks, the Pacenti crown is a bit wider than the previous crown so there's more tire clearance.  Good for mud clearance and good if your brake/tire combination meant that the tire didn't clear the pads when removing the wheel.  This costs quite a bit more than the previous fork crown and I don't have pricing yet.  I'm going to do everything to keep the price the same, but I anticipate the price going up a bit.  As soon as I know, I'll post that info.  

Change #4 - Well, not really a change because I change colors every production run.  The colors of this run of frames will be British Racing Green and Pink.  Why?  Because I saw a beautiful Jaguar E-Type a while back in British Racing Green that knocked my socks off.  And pink because I have this old pink Specialized Stumpjumper Team from 1985 that is one of my favorites - and the color is awesome!

Change #5 - A third set of water bottle bosses!  With more folks going long and far on their rides, the addition of a third bottle will keep you riding hydrated when the distance between water stops is far.

(Edit!) Change #6 - Fork offsets!  Based on feedback from some riders with big feet on 56cm and 59cm frames, who had some issues with toe overlap with big tires, and the fact that I experimented with different fork offsets this summer (up to 60mm with no appreciable difference in ride handling), I bumped up the fork offsets a bit across the board.  

There you go.  Info on the new frames.  Availability in February-ish and pricing will be forthcoming.  And these are still rim brake frames.  I am working on a disc frame.  Specifically, I'm working with a local frame builder on a dropout design that's taking time.  I want to do it the way I want to do it (right) the first time, so I'm okay with waiting for a disc frame.  I know I'm losing sales, but I'd rather do it this way than have one just for the sake of having one.

The pink color tube sample alongside my old Team Stumpjumper.

Pink (RAL 4003) and British Racing Green (RAL 6005)

Pacenti fork crown on the US made frame

Geometry chart comparison with current and new

(What's playing:  The Isley Brothers Summer Breeze)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grinduro! - The Maker's Bikes

Dang, I almost forgot about these guys.  I'd only been to one Meet Your Maker Tour event, the Mt. Tam ride a few years ago.  The events are a great opportunity to meet a really great bunch of folks who make cool shit.  The MYM event at the Grinduro was especially incredible because the event organizers set up the Makers in the central building space where their bikes and wares were on display for the whole weekend.  

After Saturday's ride/race, the MYM crew organized a poker ride on about 10 miles of the course.  We climbed about 4 miles of the first climb again (it felt way steeper the second day) and then cut across to the final single-track descent (it felt way faster the second day).  At the beginning and end and 3 stops during the ride, we picked cards - best hand wins (what, I have no idea).  I drew two pair - queens over threes.  At John Caletti's card pick stop, he had two beer cans set up for folks to try to hit with a rock shot from a titanium slingshot he made.  Hit one of the cans, you get an extra card.  A few folks scored extra draws.  

After the ride, there was a bunch of food and drinks left over that were quickly dispatched and then it was time to pack up and mosey on out of town letting the great vibes of the weekend soak in while looking forward to next year's event.  It's going to happen again, right guys?

I should have taken photos inside where the light was a bit better, but when you're having fun, you forget things like photo taking.  But, John Watson over on the Radivist took some great photos of the bikes in excellent detail.  They'll all be up eventually, I think.  Right now, the Retrotec and Soulcraft are up (click on the links to see the photo gallery on The Radavist).

First up is Sean Walling's Dirt Bomb.  You'll see more of this one if you go to the 2016 edition of NAHBS.

Curtis Inglis' Retrotec was raced on Saturday by a friend of his.

John Caletti's titanium rig.

Todd Ingermanson's Black Cat with amazing paint and check out the really clean turned down lower headset cup.

A collaboration between Bruce Gordon and Rock Lobster's Paul Sadoff - Schnozola.

Schnozola head badge.

Steve Rex's super clean fillet-brazed entry.

Notice the subtle curve to the top tube.

The Blue Collar bike by Robert Ives.  This one was built for Giro's Eric Richter, who is one of the main drivers behind Grinduro.

I lifted this photo from Ibis Cycles Instagram feed.  Really amazing artwork by Chris McNally of the Vecchio's work bench with a Cameron Falconer's Falconer in the stand - what's in the stand.

Last morning during coffee time:  Todd Ingermanson - Black Cat Bikes, Steve Rex, Alec White - White Industries, Cameron Falconer, Mark Norstadt - Paragon Machine Works, Mike Cherney - Ibis Handjob fame, yours truly, Chris McNally.

If you haven't seen this yet, watch it now.

(What's Playing:  The Spencer Davis Group Gimme Some Lovin')

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Grinduro! - The Bikes

As a bike nerd, I spent a lot of time checking out the bikes being ridden at the Grinduro.  One observation that was clear was there were a lot of new bikes.  I say that because there were a lot of disc brake cross bikes.  And that style of bike is relatively new.  That says to me that serious riders are serious about keeping up with having the newest bikes.  I use the term "serious riders" because this was an event that required riders to be equipped with the necessary skills to survive 62 miles of riding in the forest with over 8000' of climbing.  I never came across someone who was out of their element.  Everyone at was on form and on their game.  

There was also plenty of rim brake bikes and I even saw an old early 90s steel Specialized Rockhopper set up with drop bars.  Quite a few mountain bikes too - mainly 29" wheel hardtails.  Basically, lots of cool bikes.  And a lot of 1X systems.  Some with pretty large looking chainrings and modest sized cassettes and some with small-ish chainrings and big cassettes.  My gearing was a White Industries VBC crank with 40/28 rings and an 11-36 cassette.  That was perfect gearing for me.  There were even a few single-speeds and one guy on a fixed gear bike (Sklar Bikes) with a (to me) crazy hard gear - I think he said it was 42/18.  When I rode a lot of single-speeds, I spent my time on a 34/19 with 29" wheels.  

So, this is what I rode - my Cameron Falconer built Black Mountain Cycles cross bike (naturally).  This past June, I did a big ride that was somewhat comparable to the Grinduro.  At the end of that ride, my hands, feet, and ass were all complaining very loudly.  The last 17 miles were painful.  I took those lessons to heart and made some minor changes that resulted in no pain - except in my legs from the constant climbing.  

Hands - I retaped my bars with a layer of the Fizik gel pads on the tops and drops.  That was combined with a pair of old Spenco gel gloves.  The result was a very comfortable setup.  

Feet - Instead of riding with my 15 year old Shimano shoes, I rode in my 10 year old Shimano shoes with with a Superfeet insole.  No complaints there, but 10 years of mountain bike riding and cross riding has left them less than stellar.  Probably time for new shoes, but my feet are so narrow, it's difficult to figure out a certain shoe is going to work well.

Ass - Immediately after that big ride, I removed the carbon shell/rail WTB Silverado and replaced it with a WTB Rocket V with ti rails that's probably around 10 years old or so.  Immediate relief.  Another seat related change that wasn't completely planned was the seat post.  Several months ago, my old XTR seat post started making a creaking sound and the day after I was going to replace the post, but forgot, the post broke out on a ride.  Back in the shop, I went through my bin of old posts and found a RockShox suspension seat post.  Hmmm.  I've been running that since then.  It seems to work great.  I didn't notice a big difference going from rigid to suspension, but I'm sure I'd notice the difference if I go back to a rigid post now.  I'm sure the suspension post added to some of the comfort on the ride.  

Other notable observations - Paul Component Minimoto brakes are awesome!  They have more than enough stopping power for any kind of riding that's thrown at them.  Saw lots of Minimotos on the ride mixed in with the disc brakes and cantilevers.  Even saw one guy on a Falconer road bike fit with long-reach road calipers and a 33/35 tire - bummed I can't recall his name now because he new who I was. (edit: Mark H. - used to make Spliff Cycles in the 80s)

One more post ride observation - for the past several months, I've been using the NFS (NixFrixShun) chain lube.  I can confirm their claims about needing only a dozen drops on the chain every 300 miles.  The dust at the Grinduro sent many a chain to complaining by the end of the race.  I didn't apply any lube before the race.  I probably had about 50 or 60 miles on the bike since the last lube application before the race and I haven't applied any yet.  Just wiped off the dust and still riding in silence.  Keeping things relatively clean and quiet are the main things I ask for a chain lube and the NFS lube ticks those boxes perfectly.

I'm also a big fan of the clutch type rear derailleurs in their ability to keep the chain slap on the chainstay to a minimum - or eliminate it altogether.  So far, SRAM has the only clutch rear derailleur that is compatible with road shifters.  Shimano's pretty much off the back on this one.  In fact, Shimano is falling further off the back with regards to the ability to mix road and mountain shifters and derailleurs.  I'm glad SRAM has maintained this compatibility crossover. 

(What's playing:  The Smiths A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Well, the Grinduro is now two days in the rear view mirror and I still keep having those mini-flash backs of pain and joy depending on where my memory puts me on the course.  First, I have to give a bit shout of thanks to the organizers - Giro's Dain Zaffke and Eric Richter for the insight in to the concept, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship for the amazing trails and organization of the event.  The army of volunteers who made it all happen and helped all the riders out on the course.  And the Makers of the Meet Your Maker Tour who put on a world class exhibit of their bikes and parts - Soulcraft Bikes, Black Cat Bikes, Caletti Cycles, Rex Cycles, Falconer Cycles, Blue Collar Bikes, Bruce Gordon Cycles, Schnozola Cycles, Inglis/Retrotec, Paragon Machine Works, Paul Components,  White Industries and Strawfoot Handmade.  

It wasn't a cheap event, but where else are you going to get 2 nights lodging, 3 excellent, filling meals, beer from Sierra Nevada, and music by Ray Barbee and Mike Watt?  Yeah, didn't think so.  Plus there was excellent food available on-site during times the event wasn't catered.  As a first year even, it was knocked out of the park.  Next year?  Sign me up now.

As far as the ride goes, it was hard.  I mean really hard.  62 miles and roughly 8200 feet of climbing.  And there was really no time to warm up.  Maybe a couple of miles on the road and then the first climb started - 13 miles and 4000' worth of climbing.  But where you climb, you get to descend.  And these descents were crazy good.  I love fire roads and these forest service roads were right up my alley.  

The Griduro is a race, but it isn't.  It's 62 miles, but not all of those miles are timed in a race format.  It's set up in an enduro format with four timed sections - fire road climb section, fire road descent, rolling paved road, and finally a single-track descent.  Times were added up to determine a winner.  I didn't win.  Don't even know my time or where I finished.  Doesn't matter because everyone won in the fun department.  

I have some thoughts on bikes that I'll post later.  For now, here's the few photos I took during the event.

First rest/fuel stop after the timed downhill fire road section.  You can see by the high contrast dappled light that picking out lines in the trail was tough.

Approaching the start of the timed road section.  (Note to self: the best times are best achieved in a team time trial format, not in a solo time trial).

Lunch is served in Taylorsville!

The climb out of Taylorsville was a leg and lung busting hurt fest - 3300' of climbing in 5 miles.

The final timed section - just under 4 miles of single-track descending on cross bikes. 

End of the single-track timed section.  Yes, that's a goat.  There was a baby goat there too.  The goat was in the trail right at the end as I came through and I startled it into running towards folks who had finished.  I had a hard time believing my eyes that I was almost running into a goat.

And a Black Mountain Cycles bottle in the wild at the end on a Salsa!

Rolling back to town with friends Mike Cherney and Eric Brunt.

Sunday's Meet Your Maker ride was a poker ride on about 10 miles of the race course.  At the 4th stop for a card, one had the chance to pick two if one could hit a beer can with a slingshot.  Alex taking aim and scoring a hit.

(What's playing:  Bob Dylan Rainy Day Women #12 & 35)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Grinduro! - Shop Closed Oct. 9,10, 11

That's right.  I'm closing the shop for three straight days this weekend.  So, all you roadies who ride to Pt. Reyes Station, I suggest you carry extra tubes and CO2 cartridges because they ain't gonna be available mid-ride.  I'll be up in Quincy, CA getting a bit of Grinduro on with a bunch of like-minded individuals, including, but not limited to, the Meet Your Maker crew.  But if you can't make it up there, make your own ride as fun as possible.  I'll be back in the shop on Tuesday the 13th.

(What's playing:  The Texas Tornados If I Could Only)

Charlie Cunningham Needs Help

There's a lot of new technology that's been introduced on mountain bikes the past couple of years.  Most visible are the 1x systems and the new Boost hub spacing.  If you ride a mountain bike with those features, you have Charlie Cunningham to thank.  You might not know that because his story with regards to those advancements isn't being told.  Charlie was running 1x systems with wide range freewheels and chain guides as early as 1979 on his mountain bike.  He pioneered wide spaced hubs to increase wheel strength and stiffness.  Here's a rabbit hole you can venture down that you need to do if you ride bikes:

As a charter member of the 1988 class of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Charlie's influence on the mountain bike is indisputable.  However, it was a crash on his road bike that put him in the hospital with a serious brain injury.  The crash itself wasn't horrific - a few broken bones, scrapes...  He was recovering from the crash when complications set it weeks later and he suffered a subdural hematoma that sent him back to the hospital for emergency surgery.  He came out of it, but now is in the process of learning to speak and be mobile.  His wife Jacquie called me last week from his hospital room and put him on the phone with me.  His speech was slurred, but I could tell that he was all there and it was clear he is going to approach his recovery just like he does everything else - methodically and slow to make sure it's done right.

But that recovery is going to take time and he is likely going to be wheelchair bound for a while.  If you've ever been to their house, you know that it is not even remotely accessible by wheelchair.  His recovery is going to involve many more needed things beyond what simple health insurance covers so friends of theirs have set up a crowd sourced funding page at this link:  It's a lofty goal, but after only one day, it's reached 25% of its goal.  Charlie's friends and admirers are wide spread.  Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for helping if you can.

The trip to Baja California in 1988 when I first met Charlie and Jacquie. Charlie's in pants and jacket in the center. Kimberly Caledonia is on the right side fixing a flat.  She, like Jacquie, was a pioneer in women's mountain bike racing and tragically died several years ago of brain cancer.