Small Builder Innovations
by Happy Cog on Oct 02, 2006 at 10:00 AM
So as Byron and I are talking today bemoaning the fact that all the major companies’ offerings all pretty much look the same and offer the same value, I mention that it is actually good for the industry as it allows more specialized and boutique companies to bring new things to the forefront as people are not having their needs met from the cookie cutter offering of hte major bike companies.
Small builders can much more easily do one-offs and custom things since that is really their business anyway. I was out riding Critical Mass this past friday night and ran into David Wilson, an old friend that I knew was doing some framebuilding. He told me that he had opened up his own frame shop and was doing some really interesting stuff. I definitely had to check it out since he was riding along on a Borracho! He has fashioned a cargo bike using some very interesting engineering (check out the steering on this thing!). He was always an innovative guy and has a true passion for cycling. Seeing him do his deliveries on this very inspirational.
I love that the industry still has a place for small builders with great ideas. Let’s hopw that we get to see more and more of this type of thing. Plastic bikes from plastic companies are great for some people, but its guys like David that keep the soul of cycling alive.
Fixed and Loathing in Vegas
by Byron on Oct 02, 2006 at 9:06 AM
In his second post, Mark V reports on Easton, Truvativ, and more.
Las Vegas, Interbike 06, Day Two
Vegas is best taken at night when the neon lights are wondrous and sidewalks are chock-a-block full of revelers. During the day, the sun is too hot and a billion f*ing times too bright; the natural light vindictively pointing out the strained artificiality…kinda like seeing Celine Dion in person.
One of the big industry moves this year was Bell Sports’ acquisition of Easton. In the short run, there’s been a shake up on company reps and the product availability headaches during the transition, but we’ll have to wait a few months until the new designs hit the shops. For my part, I welcome the death of the “twin-thread” spoke design leftover from Easton wheel division’s previous identity of Velomax, in which the spoke threaded into the hub flange as well as having a standard nipple at the rim.
I talked at length with someone in marketing about the new anatomic version of the EC90 track bar, a 31.8mm wicked carbon hanger. Initially, he said they didn’t have an example, but he told me that an engineer was coming later with a special treat. It was like the candyman coming to a rave, because the guy brought a prototype rear track hub with the new hub flange design, where the straight-pull spokes insert from the inside of the large radius, fat disc flange. But the sexy part was the splined cog that mounted like a Shimano “centerlock” disc rotor. Expect it to be available in early spring strung to a high profile Easton carbon rim with 28 spokes.
Oh, and just as I was grinding my teeth in pleasure, they whipped out the Ergo Bend EC90 that I’d been craving. Is it “stronger” than a steel Nitto B127 keirin bar? Maybe, maybe not … but in the 20 seconds when I was left alone in back of the booth I couldn’t break it.
The tragic consequence of every major company sourcing product out of Taiwan and China is the decline of the Japanese bicycle industry. Every year the Japanese section of booths gets smaller with less product. With Suzue giving up making their pretty NJS-level Pro Max hubs, quality, high-flange track hubs from Japan have all but disappeared. Sugino did have some of their superlative “Giga” series cogs and chainrings for keirin; though at $110 retail for a cog, you ain’t gonna see these on beatdown fixies locked to street signs.
Shimano had plumped for a great big spread of the convention floor, but the only track-specific item in all their displays was a wicked light rear disc wheel that the “Big S” plans to bring into the states next year under the rather generic-sounding “Pro” label. Depending on whom I talked to, the “Pro” products (including stems, bars, saddles, and accessories) are made in Japan or the Netherlands. The 730gr hollow disc has an aluminum hub and rim with opaque, white mylar skins connecting them. The wheel gets it rigidity from the skins being under tension, in a manner not unlike Melanie Griffith’s face, only with less botox.
One of my favorite wet dreams involves, among other things, a Dura Ace track crank with an integrated bottom bracket ala the 10 speed 7800 crank. Much like that dream involving Lucy Liu and a tuning fork, sadly this will not likely come to be. The biggest market for Shimano track products is Japan’s keirin scene, whose stringent rules prohibit anything other than a 3-piece crank. Since the newer integrated crank/BB systems are really 2-piece cranks, Shimano has no incentive to develop a replacement for their 7710 track crank, a 3-piece design albeit with a splined 22mm spindle. Booo!
Still stinging with rejection, I trudged over to the Bianchi booth to look at their fixed gear offerings. I took note of the Pista Concept’s new pearl white paint just before I realized that I was staring at the crankset of my dreams. Honkin’ stout arms and spider radiating from a big mother hollow spindle, nestled inside of huge outboard bearing cups. The whole, slab-sided aluminum crank was polished silver and tastefully laser-etched. Running my naughty fingers over and around the spider, I could tell this was a forged piece; though lacking the delicate webbing of the Dura Ace 7800 road crank, this Truvativ crank nonetheless was cleanly shaped and well finished. Interrogating the people at the SRAM booth (parent company of Truvativ) revealed that this “Omnium” crankset was designed from the beginning as a crank with track-standard 144mm bcd (bolt-circle diameter), rather than being a relabeled 130mm bcd road crank. SRAM must be serious, because no one goes thru the trouble and expense of forged construction unless they plan to make a lot of an item.
You won’t find any reference to the Omnium crank in any SRAM or Truvativ catalogs, and most SRAM people haven’t even heard of it. But obviously there must at least one track fan on staff who knows what makes a real track crank. Look for a early 2007 availability.
Well-Traveled Cyclist Learns to Love Seattle
by Byron on Sep 29, 2006 at 5:59 AM
The Seattle PI reports on the travels of Rune Monstad, all 16,000 miles of them, and how Seattle has helped him out after a thief stole his wallet, passport, and pride.
Dear Mayor: Take Note of Cyclist Death
by Byron on Sep 28, 2006 at 3:02 PM
In a stark contrast, cyclists are featured on the front page of the Seattle times today as part of Mayor Nickel’s plan to fight global warming and a cyclist dies from the injuries she sustained in a collision with a van.
My friends are close to the cyclist and they’re all devastated – I’m devastated. I gave her husband a ride on Bettie last week at a Schooner Exact Brewery party.
There’s a memorial ride planned tomorrow from Westlake at 5:30. I’ll be out a town visiting and old friend who suffered a heart attack, but pay my respects here, wish the family well, and hope our Mayor also notices that we also need safer streets in Seattle.
KOMO’s Tracy Vedder reports on Susanne and her family
A freaking bamboo fixie!
by Byron on Sep 28, 2006 at 2:10 PM
I’m back home in Seattle, getting caught up on postings, and photos. Mark V is on special assignment for Bike Hugger@Interbike and sobered up from all the crazy partying to email his day one report.
Fixed and Loathing in Las Vegas, Day One
by Mark V from Elliott Bay Bicycles
I strode out the plane, past the airport terminal’s slot machines, into the baggage claim. Next to me, the tanned blonde’s floral print top looked like a tarp pulled tight over a pair of F-16 jet fighter nose cones; nothing’s for real here in Vegas. But I’m not in this city of blackjack and 24-hr liquor stores to talk about reality … or aerodynamics. Byron said to find the fixed gear junk at Interbike, and that’s what I’m going to do … no matter how many $9 rum-and-cokes it takes.
I brought a hangover with me as my companion on the first day, and it told me to steer away from the brighter, louder vendor booths. Then I thought I was seeing things when I found my first fixed gear bike: a bamboo frame with Avid mech discs and cowhorns. Clearly, I had wandered into the Calfee Design booth. Calfee was manipulating carbon fiber into perfectly useable (even sexy) road and track frames back when hot girls were still publicly dressing Greg Lemond in yellow attire, well before the current flood of carbon frames from Taiwan. Now carbon bikes are to masters’ racers what cocaine was to 80s businessmen … self-indulgent, expensive, and additively glamorous. Whether it was boredom or perversion that led them to building bamboo frames, I salute Calfee for a stylin’ answer to the question the consumer market wasn’t asking. Calfee says the bike rides exceptionally smooth because of the natural qualities of that species of black bamboo … WHO CARES! It’s a freaking bamboo fixie! I’d like a double scoop of that craziness myself. Hell, the cowhorn handlebars are really cow horns! You can’t f* with that!
Walking the floor at Interbike is like wading into a Northshore riptide … once you lose sight of where you came dove in, you’re lost. Product is swirling all about you, you don’t know where you’re going, and you could drown any second … only it’s not seawater but product literature that’s swallowing you up.
Co-motion was displaying a steel road fixie with those clever S&S couplings. For the uninformed out there, S&S Machine makes a high precision fitting that once brazed into the top and down tubes of a bike allow you to separate the frame into 2 pieces. The whole point of this exercise is to make it so that you can pack the bike into a case that airlines will take without raping your wallet. From personal experience, I can tell you that nothing makes packing a bike in small S&S case easier than throwing out half the components.
At the Alpha-Q booth, they hung a Crumpton carbon fixie with one of their lightest forks. After several years of seeing loony Germans duking it out to build ever-lighter sub-11lb bikes, I had wondered what would happen when someone figured out that the lightest derailleur was no derailleur at all. Seven pounds 6 ounces is it. That carbon fiber brake caliper puts the flagrant disregard for pragmatism and expense right up front. The most interesting single part was the cog held on by six bolts much like a disc brake rotor, reducing the weight of the hub and eliminating a lockring.
The end of the first day found me desperately searching for the exit, apparently marooned in the bmx section. One vendor booth deployed a small army of bouncing miniskirts to demo a helmet with speakers for your iPod pre-installed above the ears. This one buxom bird with black streaks in her blonde hair stood in my way and inquired if I would like to try it out. I looked at those big, beautiful … uh, eyes. I said “okay.” She was pulling it down on my head when I got to thinking about how many other people’s heads she’d put this helmet on today. But maybe this is an out-dated way of thinking … I mean, who gets insecure about that kinda thing nowadays? It’s only head.
Tomorrow I’ll concentrate on components and maybe messenger bags as a little fan service.
Magnetic Yellow Card
by Byron on Sep 27, 2006 at 8:33 AM
The Magnetic Yellow Card, is a magnet cyclists can toss onto cars when a driver has endangered their life.
Surly Xtracycle confirmed!
by Frank Steele on Sep 27, 2006 at 4:25 AM
Byron sends along this photo from the floor of Interbike, which officially starts today. I’m sure we’ll have more details when the show is open and the bike isn’t locked down, but the long and short of it is: Surly is launching the first production all-in-one Xtracycle.
That means folks who love the idea of an Xtracycle will have one less obstacle to hurdle: No more kit-building. Also, I can’t see any reason the Stokemonkey wouldn’t work.
Questions for our eyes and ears in Vegas: Is Surly selling this as a frame or a bike? What are they calling it? What’s the availability?
Photo of the Day: Girl with Cruiser
by Byron on Sep 24, 2006 at 11:43 AM
She was enjoying the sun, the view, and riding her old cruiser bike along Alki.
by Byron on Sep 24, 2006 at 8:13 AM
As Todd said in email, “I got your zeitgeist right here pal!,’ and linked me to BikePortland’s post on Electra’s new Amsterdam bike. The concept of a stylish, simple transport bike, be it “working,” “urban,” “townie,” or sport-utility bike, can flow right into that mood of change that’s going on in cities.
Given a good alternative, I think people want to get out of their cars.
A ferocious turf war in the city
by Byron on Sep 24, 2006 at 7:24 AM
The NYTimes reports today on a bike-friendlier New York. With “an estimated 120,000 regular cyclists in New York” and “40,000 of them” commuting, there’s a ferocious turf war. And an absolute moment of opportunity. Just like Seattle.
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