Blogging Beijing by Bike
by Byron on Apr 09, 2007 at 9:11 AM
Later this week, I’ll blog Beijing by bike. I’m visiting China for the Intel Developer Forum and Elliot Bay Bicycles is providing me a folding bike to ride around, check the city out, and experience the totally different world of China. And in that world, at least for now, bicycles still outnumber cars. For more on China, check
Fun with Nutcase Helmets
by Byron on Apr 07, 2007 at 9:13 AM
Those nuts at Nutcase Helmets sent us a freakin’ case of helmets to review! So, it was like a helmet holiday at our house and the kids dug right into the package and put on a helmet fashion show.
What’s really nice about multi-purpose sport helmets, is you can pop them right on, go for a ride, and they don’t require perfect-fit adjustments. What’s less nice, is that they don’t look “euro” for the road snob. Riding Bettie for coffee with a multi-purpose helmet is great, but showing up to ride a century with the team would result in some serious fashion shame. Just ask Bicycling’s Style Man who recommends the most pro-looking helmet possible, including diamond crusted.
Nutcase Helmets are fun. You can see that in their brand and marketing, and Michael Morrow found a niche with the cool designs. What better way to get a kid or adult to wear a helmet then to make them fun?
Nutcase Helmets are also from Portland, the Northwest land of the bike, and are one of the most enthusiastic bike companies out there.
The Track Bike with 3 Down Tubes
by Mark V on Apr 06, 2007 at 11:39 AM
I really have a thing for steel track frames. Steel is a fantastic medium of expression for the artistry of framebuilding. And I have very specific tastes. You can search the net and find whole sites dedicated to œold skool track bikes preferably lugged steel. Even more, there is definitely a cult surrounding keirin frames from Japan. However, I grew up in the Eighties when framebuilders were making crazy machines out of fillet-brazed steel for the track sprinters of that era. I especially liked those match-sprint 3Renshos and the bikes of East Germans.
Back then steel tubing was generally round and as double-butted tubing came in a limited number of diameters. These days one can get all kinds of steel tubing with shaped cross-sections and various butting profiles. I handpicked every tube for my bike, going for maximum stiffness with little regard for weight.
You could call the tubing super-oversize, but the wall thickness is still quite beefy compared to ultra-light tubesets like Dedacciai EOM or Columbus Spirit. In fact, each of the three main triangle tubes is usually used as a down tubes on mountain bike or stout road bike. This is more complicated than it sounds, because you have to pick tubes that will have some of the butted end left over when trimmed to size, especially difficult on my ultra-compact style frame.
It took me a long time to settle on the exact tubes to use, and I actually started collecting tubes almost 2 years ago. Some of the tubes haven’t been made in a number of years; I’ve hoarded them away like rare bottles of wine. The tubes are as follows:
Dedacciai COM LTP-shaped 38mm down tube, 0.8/.5/.8mm wall
Dedacciai SAT 35mm down tube, 0.8/.5mm wall (cut down for use as seat tube)
Columbus MAX 34.9mm down tube, bi-ovalized .8/.5/.8mm wall (use as top tube)
Columbus MAX chainstays, 36/18mm, .9/.6 wall
Columbus ZONA 19mm single-taper, s-bend seat stays, .6mm wall
Columbus CYBER 36.1mm head tube, 1.1mm wall
The stiffness of round steel tubes is simple to understand. The only things that matter are diameter and wall thickness, and both of these are on my side.
A track frame won’t have many extraneous pieces, but what bits there are I have carefully chosen. I’ve always like the look of the Surly track tip (originally marketed as Sub 11.0, a reference to a bench mark time for a match sprint qualification). I think they look especially clean on a fillet-brazed bike, and they offer a mechanically sound connection for the stays. The bottom bracket shell is machined and internally-relieved by Silva of Italy. Also from Silva is a braze-on head tube reinforcement ring and chainstay bridge. Finally, I machined a seat tube cap out of regular aircraft steel to bring the seat tube ID down to fit a 31.6mm seat post.
All that steel still needs to be mitered and joined together. That’s where Sycip Design comes in. As I said before, this frame is the latest in a series of track frames Jeremy has built for me over the years. I have progressively become more involved in each design. I think that there is definitely a point beyond which the customer may be impinging on the builder’s territory, but Jeremy has been pretty easy going about. I was pretty clear about what I wanted but stayed open to Jeremy’s suggestions for better solutions.
One thing I’ve liked about Jeremy’s work is the precision with which he builds. A lot of people think that all the skill in bike is invested in fancy lugs, clever details, and complicated paintjobs. It’s much harder to see how straight a frame is, how the angles exactly match the design spec, how all the points line up. The simplicity of a track frame sets these in sharper relief than a road frame, and you are more likely to feel it from the saddle on a track bike too. I said that I designed the bike down to the millimeter, and Jeremy has always hit my design spec. About the only aesthetic construction detail I asked about was the fillet-brazing. I think the best fillet-braze is the one you almost can’t see, one so smooth in the transition that the eye cannot discern where the brass ends. Sycip is pretty good at that too.
BBC Wants a Cyclist
by Byron on Apr 05, 2007 at 2:13 PM
The BBC is offering an amateur cyclist an opportunity to ride the first stage of this year’s Tour de France on the eve, with a historic UK Grand Depart, and blog it all. That’s definetly a pick me, pick me for our readers across the pond.
Seattle Bicycle Master Plan
by andrew_f_martin on Apr 05, 2007 at 12:22 PM
I am back working downtown, and after a couple weeks of navigating the pot-holes, steel plates, and traffic I’m happy to hear the Bicycle Master Plan seems to finally be coming to fruition. The Seattle Times ran an article today releasing the “Final” plan that will take steps to make Seattle the friendliest bike city in the country. I’m not sure if that plan includes knocking a few percentage points out of the climbs in the area, but I’ll take what I can get.
Safety programs are great, and for those of us who live this lifestyle, they are the sort of validation that make riding in the city that much more enjoyable. The problem is - Mayor Nickels wants to get 8% of Seattleites commuting on bike (3x jump). It’s going to take a good deal more than just signage to make that a reality. I’m all for it, but businesses need to provide shower facilities, secure parking, and incentives so that people like my father will feel compelled to roll into work a sweaty mess and have the amenities available to him so that he can be ready for the day.
Mark V’s vacation pt.3: the girl needs a bicycle
by Mark V on Apr 05, 2007 at 8:52 AM
Sweet jesus, my bike shop has been crazy busy lately. After work I just want to eat half a herd animal and go to sleep. So this last story about my vacation in Florida and South Carolina is wretchedly delayed, but such is life. Last I left off, I had just confirmed my true ability at time trials, and I left my comrades-on-wheels to seek out Goal #4: the girl.
I once explained to a female friend that if my mind was an FM radio, it only picks up two stations: girls and bikes. What can I say? I am a man of simple motivations. This is not to say that I equate one with the other. Heaven forbid! One is the most common form of personal transportation on the planet and the other will break up with you over the phone. No, I appreciate the beauty of girls and bicycles separately though this may be by circumstance rather than by choice. In this case, the girl I’m after is a concert pianist who has never ridden a bicycle in her life. And I hardly ever get to see her because she lives in Germany.
I met up with her in South Carolina the day after her performance. I was talking with her, describing my time trial, and she said that she would have really liked to see me race. Right about then my ego went supernova and I felt like beating my chest: Me, biker you, hot. But then reality kicked in I can’t imagine a race more boring to watch than a time trial. No matter how trick your bike is or how good you think you look in lycra, do not bring the uninitiated object-of-your-affection to a time trial. They will be forced to feign enthusiasm out of politeness or pity. You will not impress the pants off of ˜em.
Granted, there might be some exceptions. My female friend with whom I shared my radio analogy she and I got into a discussion about a bicycle being sexy she insisted it was inherent and I opposed. She is kinda hardcore into bikes though. I once had a girlfriend who was kinky in an odd sort of way among other things she had me keep my Sidi cycling shoes on (Dominators not Genius shoes road shoes have no traction). And it’s true that every single girl I’ve dated has ended up with more and/or better cycling toys than when she started the relationship.
My concert pianist has lived her 26 years completely outside the world of cycling. She had never ridden a bike because music prodigies tend to be treated like heirloom crystal by their parents. Growing up outside of Seoul, she started piano at age four and was never allowed to ride a bike for fear that she would injure her hands. I’m flattered that she would be interested in my passion for cycling, since it is so removed from what her life is centered on. It kindles conversation as I wait for her to open up to me in a more personal level of intimacy. But then she throws me a curveball:
Hey, Mark, do you think you could teach me to ride a bicycle?
Crap! I wasn’t expecting things to get serious so fast. What am I gonna do? I mean, I’m all down with riding a bike with a hot chick .but this hot chick has absolutely no experience with bikes a total cycling virgin! And she’s asking me to teach her. I don’t know if I’m up to the task. Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW how to ride I’ve ridden in over 20 countries I’ve even ridden for a living I’ve had lots girls tell me that I am skilled on a bike .but with this girl who has never done it, I think that there’s a certain responsibility to show her a positive experience that will lead to a lifelong enjoyment. That thought makes me nervous. Frankly, my strategy is to find them after they’ve already had some experience and then show them how much better it can be. But when she asks me in her cute accent, how can I refuse?
We rent a ladies beach cruiser with a coaster brake, and I lower the saddle so she can flatfoot while seated. For the next 40 minutes I ran alongside her as she wobbled all over the place, catching her up in my arms whenever she lost balance. The neighborhood heard quite a few screams and squeals, and in the end she was satisfied and I was sweating. Then we put the bike away, and she smoked a cigarette.
(The funny part of my blogs is just how little I make this crap up)
So that was my vacation. Currently I am back in Seattle. The weather may be sunny today, but it far from the glorious 80 degrees of Florida. I am so busy at the shop I don’t get to sit (even to eat) for 8hrs straight and I haven’t been able to go for a long ride in a week. But my vacation was excellent and just about everything I could have asked for.
To my homeboys in G-ville: thanks for everything. And to the concert pianist: happy birthday today! Hope to see again soon!
My Manhattan Project
by Mark V on Apr 05, 2007 at 2:11 AM
The secret is out: I’ve got a new custom track frame in the works. It’s a project I started two years ago and is now just weeks away from completion. I designed the bike down to the millimeter and chose each and every bit of metal individually. This will be the third in a series of track frames that Sycip Designs has built for me, and I salute Jeremy Sycip for putting up with my whacked out requests over the years. Be sure to check in over the next couple weeks for updates.
Next time: the track bike with 3 down tubes
Ibex Cycling Apparel
by Byron on Apr 03, 2007 at 8:53 AM
Ibex sent us arm and knee warmers and a jersey to try out. I took the New Zealand Merino wool clothes with me to Santa Barbara. It was thankfully warm in SBA and I didn’t wear the warmers for very long, but did note during the ride that they were well-constructed and offer a unique blend of wool, nylon, and Lyrca. They’re also made in the USA.
Temperature regulation is always tough in wet, cold climates (and Seattle has been the wettest and coldest this year!) and I think Ibex would meet the demand for training rides, commutes, and recreational rides. The material is probably too thick for hard riding, but I’ll need to long-term test that factor on a colder, pouring, suffering ride to make sure.
What’s interesting about Ibex and their competitors, is that wool is back. Well, it could be argued that it never left, but back in the day all you had to wear was wool, including shorts! One of my all-time favorite jerseys is an ancient Santini St. Raphael. I bring it out on frosty, yet sunny mornings and it’s liberating to just wear that, unzip when it warms up, and not get all technically layered up. I also exclusively wear SmartWool socks to keep my feet cool and comfortable.
The Fausto Lightweight Jersey Ibex also sent us feels like old St Raphael, but lighter and more comfortable – the pockets could be more generous in the back, but overall it’s a nice addition to the cycling wardrobe and well designed and blended. It’s not scratchy, very comfortable, and it actually doesn’t really feel like wool. Here’s an idea for Ibex: make a light wool track suit, for just lounging around, after riding.
Are you wearing wool now? Have an old favorite in the closet?
Photo of the Day: Flower Bike
by Byron on Apr 03, 2007 at 7:26 AM
Submitted by San Fran Cup
A new pair of gloves . . .
by Byron on Apr 02, 2007 at 5:15 PM
Check Pink Bike and Flowers post on racing hard to win a new pair of gloves, which is only slightly better than winning a tube, tire, or the all-time favorite, a seat post. Ah well, we don’t do it for the money.
Related photos, including some road rash.
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