Celeb Framebuilder Swears off Award Shows

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by Byron on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Brando Warhol

A builder like Brando

He’s got the longest waitlist of them all (waitlists are how framebuilders measure their worth in this game) and stayed home from the annual framebuilder pageant. The backchannel chatter about NAHBS (North American Handbuilt Bike Show) was more negative this Spring than most shows. I’ll leave the why that is for the people that were there, but this is like Brando swearing off award shows ‘cause it’s not about the art.

Most Y2K framebuilders couldn’t work without a cad program. Or design a frame without a misfitter. Many couldn’t produce a frame without a dedicated fixture, or measure “straight” without a two ton granite table. There’s a whole subculture that goes online and asks OTHER framebuilders how to add braze-ons, what tubes to use, and what brazing rod to buy. These guys aren’t building something as much as they’re assembling material based on a set of instructions. And who among them still makes his own forks?! Things have changed, alright.

Well of course it isn’t. I also don’t expect Sachs to get fat and wear a muumuu, but he does fashion himself as a celeb. One trained in the craft and not playing to some scripted reality show.

Ignore the best lug or ironic facial hair awards and find a builder near you. The best ones I know don’t seek the limelight. They just make bikes, like this one by Bill Davidson and Mark V…

D-Plus in the Gulley

D-Plus outfitted for gravel with those Sammy Slicks

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Light & Motion Solite 100

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by Mark V on Mar 20, 2014 at 3:48 AM

I’ve got this thing going on where Start out the work week sick, stumble through a couple days dead on my feet, become a whirling dervish of productivity for the next two days and then fall sick again for my days off. An old roommate flew in to town to get away from the Deep South for a bit and do some hiking. I had to opt out, but I gave him one of my Light & Motion lights, the Solite 100. It’s a little multi-purpose, USB-rechargeable light that can be hand held, stood on end with an articulating light head, or worn on a strap about a helmet or bare head. You can get a bike-mount for it, but there are other L&M lights that do that better. It’s not super bright compared to my L&M bike lights, but it does provide more than enough light to set up camp on a dark, cold, rainy night out on the Olympic peninsula. And with a 20hr burn time on low, you have enough time to get things done without worrying that it’ll cut out on you. But I still couldn’t be motivated to leave the warmth of my apartment.

I think my friend was just enjoying the novelty of cold rain; he went back to Alabama on a Monday night red eye. Meanwhile, I’ve had all winter to enjoy rubbish wet weather. I’d gladly take some sunshine, and if not that, then at least good health. Literally sick and tired of this.

Light & Motion Solite

Light & Motion Solite

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Halo Belt in a Bag

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by Byron on Mar 19, 2014 at 9:06 AM


A Kickstarter we apparently missed is now in rev 2.0 and it’s an LED belt for cyclists and anyone else out at night. Well how ‘bout an iteration of this concept that lights up a messenger bag? Like this Halo Zero Messenger Bag from Rickshaw we spotted a few years ago during our Mobile Social Interbike.

Glowy Bag

A bag that glows

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PDW 3Wrencho

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by Mark V on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:50 AM

A month ago I wrote about being selective with your portable tools, and I explicitly recommended the Soma Steel Core tyre lever. Funny enough, seems that some people read the prose I spew on this blog; the guys at Portland Design Works took issue with my choice of tyre levers. So I said I’d take the Pepsi Challenge. A few days later a PDW 3Wrencho arrived in the mail.

A little explanation about the name of the tool. 3Wrencho is a play on San Rensho, which was the brand name of legendary keirin (Japanese professional track racing) framebuilder, Yoshi Konno. The name San Rensho roughly translates into “three victories”, where “san” means “3” in Japanese. By coincidence, San Rensho at one time marketed some keirin-specific tools for adjusting regulation track bikes at the velodrome. Though San Rensho doesn’t exist anymore as a builder, the tool is still available (at least a few years ago), and I have one. However, that tool is too big to use as on-the-road repair kit, and neither does it have a tyre lever. And why would it? Keirin bikes only use tubulars anyways.

Back to the actual 3Wrencho tool: is it the best tyre lever ever? Well, it just might be. It matches my criteria in terms of shape, and it is nylon-coated to protect your rim. But it is definitely beefier than a Soma Steel Core, and I’m not quite sure what it would take to break it. Despite this, the 3Wrencho isn’t so thick that you can’t get it under the bead of tight fitting tyres. The 3Wrencho also incorporates a 15mm box wrench to fit track hub fixing nuts, the tyre lever portion is even angled out so that you can spin the wrench on the nut without catching on the bike’s stays. Compared to Surly’s Jethro Tool, the 3 Wrencho is miles better ergonomically for hossing on track nuts while only marginally longer, while the shape of the 15mm box fits better than the Jethro’s on the fixing nuts of certain internally-geared hubs. And the Jethro doesn’t have a superb tyre lever integrated into the other end like the PDW product. The Jethro just has a bottle-opener….and it’s not like there is any great shortage of bottle opening technologies in the world.

PDW 3Wrencho tool

PDW 3Wrencho has a 15mm box wrench end for the fixing nuts of track hubs and internally geared hubs.

So final verdict? Is the 3Wrencho the best tyre lever ever? Hmmmm, I’m not gonna say that that for a couple reasons. First, it costs $25 which is a lot for a tyre lever if you rarely need one in your travels. Sure, it has that 15mm box wrench, but if you have quick-releases on your wheels then that’s not doing anything for you. It would no doubt last longer than a Soma Steel Core in a shop environment. But even if it doesn’t break, in a shop environment you will eventually wear through the nylon coating, depending on your technique. And in a busy bike shop, tyre levers are like Bic pens in a office: they disappear constantly. I can buy 10 Soma Steel Core levers for the price of one 3Wrencho, lose 3, have another 3 stolen, break one, give one away, accidentally take one home in my pocket, and still come out ahead (yep, that about describes what actually happens).

However, if you look in my own personal tool kit, I keep a 3Wrencho. It is handier than the Jethro Tool as a track nut wrench and better than the Soma as a tyre lever, so I could reduce the number of tools I’m carrying while simultaneously improving ergonomics. If you want an utterly dependable tyre lever for your portable tool kit, there is no finer. And if you ride a bike with some sort of fixing nut for the hub, then without a doubt this is your tool.

PDW 3Wrencho tool

Soma Steel Core lever on left, PDW 3Wrencho on left

PDW 3Wrencho tool

PDW 3Wrencho tool

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When Shimano Creates a Vacuum, Others Will Fill The Void

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by Mark V on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:04 AM

If you’re a consumer, you may not have noticed one of the bigger shakeups in North American component distribution. Mid-last year, Shimano America announced that they would end relations with all but a handful of continental distributors for aftermarket components while “encouraging” retail shops to buy direct (with a B2B system that is loved by exactly no one). Ostensibly this move would help dealers maintain profit margins by eliminating venders from dumping inventory on the market, but many shops are upset about the change since they would prefer to just order parts from their preferred distributor along with their non-Shimano inventory needs. Other shops point out that the online retailers from the UK sell parts to consumers in the US for about the same price that the shops pay wholesale; the distribution change does nothing to solve this. And besides derailleurs and whatnot, Shimano plans to exclusively sell pedals directly to shops. Aside from my own angst, having to deal with Shimano directly, I am curious to see how this pedal plan will play out in the long run.

In my mind, Shimano has been the industry’s 600-lb gorilla since the mid-1980s, wielding huge influence on bike design and distribution. But when Shimano stumbles, other players pounce. I theorize that SRAM’s move into the road market was triggered by a lag in Shimano’s deliveries for road product in the mid-00s. Up till that point, SRAM was strictly an mtb parts maker, but then you started to see SRAM 8 and 9sp cassettes/chains on many entry and mid-level road bikes. They also purchased Truvativ in 2005, given them presence in cranks and chainrings. At the same time, bike manufacturers had some delays delivering bikes because they couldn’t get the Shimano kits. Within a few years, SRAM debuted Force and Rival road gruppos.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much of those events have a causal relationship versus merely correlation, but what is certainly true is that North American distributors are stepping up house brand pedal systems to sell to shops who don’t want to kowtow to Shimano’s distribution schemes. Most of these designs, like QBP’s iSSi and MDW lines, seem to be manufactured by ever incorrigible Shimano knock-off, Wellgo. As such, I’m afraid that my gut-instinct is that these initial offerings will be inferior quality, but who knows what the future will hold? Or perhaps another manufacturer will step in with the resources necessary to build and market a pedal system to go toe-to-toe with the venerable SPD. Maybe old school players like Time and LOOK will end up grabbing back market share.

issie

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Huggacast Shorts: Dan Rubin on Assignment with Lumias

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by Byron on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM


On assignment in Austin, Dan Rubin shot our Mobile Social with Lumias in RAW and post processed with Lightroom and VSCO Cam. A few months before SXSW, he taught us about Instagram in London. As we learned, “In the film era you’d select your film type to match your creative style. Digital sensors make flat images and filters bring out the vibrancy the eye saw.”

See what Dan saw in this video and a gallery on G+.

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Yes, THAT wide: the FSA SL-K Brakeset

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by Mark V on Mar 17, 2014 at 5:35 PM

FSA SL-K brakeset 03

Today’s aero wheels offer bolt-on speed with relatively tame handling traits, making them suitable for a wide variety of race conditions. While they’re not cheap, aero wheels are the single best performance upgrade for your bike and are a more cost-effective choice than an “aero road bike” frame. But for many racers, acquiring high-end race wheels will leave precious little equipment budget. So imagine if you dropped big money on the wheels only to find out that your brake calipers don’t open wide enough to fit them. Sure, the latest versions of SRAM Red and Dura Ace will fit thicky aero rims, but your credit card is still smoking form the wheel purchase. Full Speed Ahead has your back with the upgraded SL-K brakeset.

Certainly more beneficial than internally routed shifter cables, lightweight QR skewers, or an 11sp cluster, recent aero wheel designs have carbon rims with a section that is thickest towards the middle of the depth and a smooth transition from the tyre to the rim. Wheel designs pioneered by Hed and Zipp. These rims penetrate the air well straight on, but also perform well when the wind vectors in from some angle off zero degrees ahead. Such wheels are also known for having more docile behaviour in side gusts. These characteristics come from the shape of the rim/tyre having a smooth shape to the leeward surface, so that the air keeps a smooth, laminar flow over most of the surface before it breaks loose in turbulent swirls. Ironically, thick sections were the total opposite of aerodynamically-minded bicycle design from the 1980s to less than ten years ago. Back then, narrow was the goal, and “aero” rims were 19-20mm wide right next to the tyre (ie the brake track) and drew back to sharply tapered trailing edges. Today’s best designs are often close to 28mm wide at their thickest point in the middle of the rim depth; they are often 25mm or more at the brake track. This has created an odd situation for brake manufacturers. From entry-level to high-end, road calipers for the last couple decades were optimized for rims like the Mavic Open Pro (20mm wide). They just can’t open big enough for these new aero wheels. High-end brake designs introduced in the last couple years such as the SRAM Red Aero-Link caliper have been revised, but the ability to open wide hasn’t trickled down to the Force or 105 level yet.

Meanwhile, FSA has aggressively adapted to market needs and eagerly steps up to provide for consumers and OEM. The updated SL-K calipers spread to 33mm with unworn pads, enough to accommodate a 28mm rim. This spread is especially for the rear wheel position, where the narrow spoke bracing and torque from the rider cause the rim to flex side to side. The SL-K calipers weigh a respectable 314gr with mounting hardware (verified). The cable-pull ratio should be compatible with both newer Shimano levers as well as SRAM/Campagnolo, though depending on your preferences the SL-K might feel a little low on leverage with the Shimano. I rode the calipers with SRAM Red levers, and I found the braking performance to be better than 1st-gen Red calipers and close to the new Aero-Link. However, the new Aero-Link calipers are a cam-actuated single-pivot brake as opposed to the SL-K and original Red. This makes the SL-K much easier to center the pads, since you can just pull the caliper with one hand and retighten the fixing nut; whereas the Aero-Link is almost impossible to center without two wrenches. And at less than $200, the SL-K brakeset is much less expensive.

The SL-K’s all black finish should compliment most bikes, it comes stock with SwissStop BXP (all-weather blue compound for alloy rims), and has a ratcheting QR. My only gripe is that the barrel-adjuster feels a little weird and is awkward to spin though it turns smoothly.

One thing to keep in mind when setting up these brakes is whether you’ll be using aero wheels AND conventional alloy rims on the bike; this is an issue with other designs too. I would suggest that you initially set up the calipers with QR full open on the widest rim you plan to use, so that way you can use the throw of the QR to partially adjust for when you slip in the narrower rims. Oh, and don’t forget to run carbon-specific pads for your carbon-aero wheels.

FSA SL-K brakeset 04

FSA SL-K brakeset 02

FSA SL-K brakeset 01

FSA SL-K brakeset 05

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Orp: Integrated Cycling Light/Horn

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by Mark V on Mar 17, 2014 at 3:53 PM

ORP Smart Horn/Light

Dean Kazura stopped by the bike shop to show me new product that he’s representing for this area. Orp is a USB-rechargeable, handlebar-mounted light with an integrated electronic horn. My first assumption was that this was going to be a super-cheesy product, but I was actually really impressed. The light is bright for its size and price point, the silicon band mount seems a lot more substantial, durable, and secure than Knog, and the horn actually does its job. Nice product for the commuter, but I can certainly think of a few times I’ve been out training in the sticks when a horn might be nice to alert drivers who aren’t used to sharing the roads with cyclists.

Unless I’m mistaken, msrp should be $65, which is quite reasonable. Check out the light at orpland.com.

I just wish it did the horn riff from Lowrider

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Scott Foil Off the Trainer and Out the Door

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by Byron on Mar 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Trainer New

Broke the bike free from the trainer and don’t want to put it back

When I remove the good bike from the apparatus that binds it in the basement, I don’t want to put it back. After an oddly mild winter our Spring has been full of rain and discontent. I’ll pace, watch the clouds, radar patterns, and even go out for a bit on the good bike and then back to switch to the rain one, if needed. I covered how it falls on me and my mind in this post. Yesterday it was face-stinging rain, miserably cold, and poured down from high clouds.

The Roubaix took the edge off again, like it’s designed to do, but my mind drifted to riding the Scott Foil fast and in the sun. Twice before the rains came back, I was late for dinner riding that bike, taking the long way home.

Golden Foil

Golden Foil

See more photos of the Foil as they’re taken and uploaded. I’m writing a feature about it now for our Magazine.

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Read The Clearing for Free

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by Byron on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Owl

Those big eyes watching cyclists ride by

In case you missed it last week, we dropped another issue of our Magazine and made it and past issues available to all devices. Bike Hugger Mag is now on iOS via iTunes and every device with a browser. Starting today, we flipped the free switch on Patrick Brady’s article The Clearing to entice subscriptions.

His story is about an animal encounter and fear. Fear that an owl was going to dismantle him as he rode his bike.

As I learned later, Patrick from Red Kite Prayer doesn’t suffer from oclophobia and didn’t write the article as a public confession of a rare, bird-related phobia. It was just this one big owl that he wrote, “was staring at me.”

To read The Clearing, just sign in. Then to read the rest of the issue with more animal encounters and SXSW recaps, please subscribe: annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4.

Your money directly supports the authors, photographers, and editors who contribute to Bike Hugger Magazine and make it ad free.

Owl photo by Randy Stewart via Flickr.

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