More around the shop…

Yesterday, most people who came through the store were Mother’s Day shopping. As a result, the most common question was not, “what bike should I get?” but more “do you think my wife will like this shirt?” No, I think your wife would like it if you expressed your love and gratitude for her on a random day of the year OTHER than one created by greeting card companies.

I did have a customer come in for a new wheel. She’d tacoed her old one, so I set her up with something a little more stout. Inside her tire, I discovered what had to have been the world’s largest Stan’s Ball.

 

Later, I worked on Ryan’s Speed Concept time trial bike. It was engineered by someone who hates mechanics. Maybe “hate” is not a strong enough word… more like “vendetta”… as if a mechanic had killed his/her family and dog, so he/she went to engineering school, learned about bikes, and created this particular frame as a method of revenge.
I switched his brake levers out from a set of SRAM levers to a special set of Bontrager ones. They essentially were forced to create a barrel-adjuster style brake lever in order to overcome the shortcomings of the brakes themselves. The only way to adjust the pad width without the special levers is to remove a fairing and swap out the spacer washers from behind the brake shoes. After I removed the base bar to route the front cable and spent an hour or so arguing with the rear brake, the final step of the process is to replace the cable cover on the top of the base bar. The only problem is, the cables themselves are in the way of attaching the cover, so I had to devise a way to hold them down while I installed the cover bolts:

 

Speaking of shop… there’s a new shop kit. It’s… colorful.

At least I’ve got something a little more subdued for when I don’t want to look like a quilt:

 

Women’s Bikes

Watch this:

No, really. Watch it. Especially about halfway through when they start talking about the need for a “women’s specific” geometry on bikes.

Since I’ve started looking into various bike fits and helping people find proper bike fits, I’ve had an inkling that the women’s specific bike is a marketing gimmick… especially in the case of Scott, who just makes the women’s bike a different color with no other appreciable changes to the frame.

Other manufacturers make their women’s frames somewhat differently- usually shortening the reach and increasing the stack. This is similar to the type of geometry that they’ll use for their more “comfort” oriented frames (examples- Scott CR1, Cannondale Synapse). Last I checked, about 90% of my road bike customers were men… and last I checked, the more “comfort” oriented geometry was what was appropriate for 90% of the men who walk through the shop door.

So, what about a guy who wants a full-on race bike, but can barely touch his hands to his knees. Do we do this?

I’d love to suggest, “hey, Cannondale’s ladies geometry will give you a shorter reach and taller headtube,” or “you know, you’d be more comfortable on a Synapse,” but, if I did that, it would be a direct attack on his manhood and his desire to ride a full-on race bike, and he’d go to another shop.

My point? Like the ladies in the video told you… find a frame that fits you.Make final fit adjustments with bar, stem, and seat. Whether you’re male or female, be realistic. Be open-minded enough to realize that the traditional race geometry may not be what you’re most comfortable riding. Be open-minded enough to realize that if you’re female, the women’s bike may NOT be what’s most comfortable for you.

My next road frame will likely be a Cannondale Women’s Supersix…

But wait… I thought you said that women’s frames were bunk?

Well, The geometry almost exactly matches my NON-WOMEN’S BH Connect… which I’m very cozy on.

Around the Shop

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted a few of the random things we get to see in the shop.

First off- warranty stuff. It happens. Parts (including frames), for whatever reason, don’t work, for no apparent reason. We call the manufacturer, they’ll send us a new part, and either want the old one back or, in the case of some large items, ask for only part of it back… like a bottom bracket from a frame:

 

Sometimes, people like Dave Cornthwaite come into the shop with weird projects like a broke-down bike car. Repairs done to this included (but were not limited to) re-cabling and adjusting the driver-side derailleur and converting the passenger side to singlespeed (its derailleur was exploded into a pretzel, and the mounting setup was very custom, so we couldn’t replace it. Instead, we hooked up a SS tensioner).

Subsequently, on day 1 of the Bike Car’s journey towards Miami, a vehicle hit both the follow van and the bike car, knocking it off the road. Everyone was OK, but judging by the video, the bike car needed some repairs outside the scope of the bike shop. We haven’t heard back from Dave.

Finally, here are some cute armadillo babies I saw while going on a “ladies only” ride on my day off…

 

Rant #547

I need to complain about something else really quick…

(it’s a rest-ish week since I’m heading out this afternoon for tomorrow’s Ouachita Challenge race, so I have nothing better to talk about)

Cable housing. Namely, cable housing on mountain and cyclocross bikes.

For those of you that are not mechanically informed on how your bike’s shifting works here’s a quick rundown: when you push on the shift lever (road or mountain), the shifter either pulls or releases an exact amount of the shift cable (that’s the “click” you hear when you shift- it’s the ratcheting mechanism inside the shifter). It’s that exact amount that causes the derailleur to move an exact distance up or down and, in turn, move the chain an exact distance between cogs on the cassette (or rings on the chainring).

In order for all of this to occur smoothly, the housing- that stuff that holds the cable to the frame- needs to be smooth and free of debris. Therein lies the problem. Most bikes arrive at the shop with cable stops that necessitate exposed sections of cable. Like this:

On a road bike, those exposed sections are pretty safe, save the occasional inundation from sweat, rain, and/or sports drink. However, if you ride where there’s mud and dirt, it’s very easy for those openings to become fouled with mud, which kills shifting performance. Some manufacturers (not singling anyone out, but this is a common one I see in the shop), even do really dumb stuff like this:

That’s a short piece of housing that runs right through the potentially muddiest part of the bike.

 

In order to combat these ridiculous forays into cable routing, you (or your mechanic) have a couple of options.
#1: sealed cable housing kits. Gore makes a nice kit. It’s relatively light, but somewhat expensive when compared to standard cables & housings. Also, the coating on the cables that come with the kit does not play well with SRAM rear derailleurs or any front derailleurs where the cable rubs on a pivoting point on its way to the pinch bolt. The friction from the rubbing on those spots makes the coating peel up and, in some cases, unravel back into the cable housing itself, which causes the same friction issues you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
#2: Continuous run housing. My personal favorite. Niner did us all a great favor with the new Air9RDO cable routing by providing the option to run a solid piece of housing from the shifter, though the frame, to both the front and rear derailleurs. Other manufacturers have not been so thoughtful. Even though they’re making a bike that will likely get really dirty, they put standard cable stop on the frame rather than the needed “zip tie points” that can be used to attach a continuous run (I’m talking the little flat spots like you use for attaching a hydraulic brake hose). As a result, I’ve taken artistic license with many mountain frames and used various combinations of zip ties and electrical tape to route solid cable housing from one end to the other. It doesn’t always look as pretty as using the cable stops (yes, I realize that there are converters for cable stops to make them “hold” a solid piece of housing. I’m not satisfied with the holding power/security provided by any of the designs). It’s also heavier than running non-continuous housing, and will cost you a little more in parts. Totally worth it, though, IMHO.

I’m amazed at the number of riders and mechanics (and framebuilders, apparently) that are ignorant to the greatness that is continuous cable housing. I recently had a customer tell me, “I took it to ******* bike shop (not gonna name names) and asked for continuous housing, and they had no idea what I was talking about.” Really?! It improves shifting performance enough that Fullface Kenny and I have decided to make it the standard in our shop for anyone that takes their bike out in conditions other than “solid, drought-ridden hardpack.” It’s one of the many reasons why I’m convinced that the Cordova Outdoors bike shop is currently the best in town. No bias at all.

 

 

“not a hardcore racer”

“not trying to be Lance Armstrong”

“not trying to be fast”

etc.

If you work in a bike shop, you know exactly who and what I’m talking about.

 

In case you’re just joining us- I work in a bike shop. I repair bikes (yes, mister “can I speak to one of the mechanics?” I am a mechanic. I don’t just come back here and rub grease on my hands to moisturize my cuticles). I also sell a lot of bikes. I like finding the right bike for the right person (no matter what the discipline, age, or ability level), because it’s very rewarding to see them have a great time with their bike.

Let me preface my next small rant with this statement: I understand that budgets exist. I don’t mind helping you work with one. I understand that what you may know you need/want and what you can afford doesn’t always jive.

Those initial quotes usually aren’t from the guy/gal that is very budget constrained. They come from the person who comes in with the misconception that the only reason I’m suggesting the $1600 mountain bike rather than the $900 bike is because I want to sell a more expensive bike… never because of the fact that the cost of the fork alone on the $1600 mountain bike would cover the difference in price between the two.
For some reason, this person is convinced that his/her wish to ride recreationally means that he/she isn’t worth spending a little more to get a better equipped bike. I try to gently educate people on why, if they can afford it, they should buy “as much bike as possible.” Trust me… no recreational, non-racing rider who is on a $4000 bike ever bombs down the trail (or road) frowning and wishing they’d spent less money. I just want to put a hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye, and say, “you’re worth it”

…but I’d probably scare people off doing that.

Just because you don’t want to race or go fast doesn’t mean that you should rule out spending some extra money (as long as it’s affordable, of course). My point is, all bikes are fun, and an expensive bike (whatever “expensive” may mean to you) definitely isn’t mandatory for a good time. However, the frame/parts that cost more, cost more for a reason. They’re lighter. They’ll last longer. They work just as well with age as when they were new. You will be happier with your bike in general for a longer period of time. Remember what I said first… I love seeing people happy with their bikes.

 

-This PSA is brought to you from every single person who sells bikes in all bike shops, ever.-

For Sale: Scott Voltage YZ 0.1 Edit: SOLD!

The dirt-jump experiment is over. I went to the park on it a few times, had fun half the time, and spent the other half of the time saying, “I’ve got ‘x’ race approaching, so I don’t want to do anything to hurt myself.” I can see this becoming a pattern, so I’m going to offload it before it’s not cool anymore.

Here’s a link to the bike on Scott’s website: Voltage YZ 0.1

I went with this particular bike because I was able to employee purchase it. However, based on my little bit of experience and reviews on several sites, it’s a really sweet ride if you’re looking for something on which you can haul ass & go big.

I’ve upgraded a couple of things- I swapped the ugly, cheapie open ball stock headset for a pretty Hope one, and I changed the white 28t chainwheel to a red 25t one from Flybikes (replaced the chain to a SRAM PC1 Nickel at that time, too). I also upgraded the top tube paint with a scratch. It’s the only blemish on the bike.

I’ve ridden it very little, so it’s in very new condition.

Yours for $600 (plus shipping if you aren’t local-ish)

[pictures will be up once the sun is up]

X.0 Crank Project

I’ve been through a couple of different cranks on the singlespeed-

First was an E.13 crank. It was cool since it wasn’t incredibly expensive, was lighter than other aluminum cranks, and had a super-stiff 30mm spindle. I had some issues with adjustment, though- you have to install it, test for play, then use any number of tiny plastic spacer rings to get rid of the play. Use too many, and the crank will load the bearings up when you install it. Don’t use enough, and the crank will have play in it. My issue came when the plastic spacers started to wear. The crank started to wiggle… during the Fool’s Gold 100 last year. I repeatedly stopped to re-tighten, but every time, I was having to tighten it to the point of squeezing the bearings and causing a lot of drag, eventually killing the BB bearings. This sucks ass when you’re trying to race 100 miles.

Next, I broke out my old Truvativ Noir crank. It was once a triple on the old Jet9 (my first mountain bike):

I’d converted it to a single ring and used it for a while on the One9, and it basically did fine as a singlespeed crank until Kenny and I discovered the removable spiders on most of SRAM’s new cranks.

this is where you need to start paying attention…

He bought an AKA Singlespeed crank (nice, aluminum replacement for their previous Stylo offering). It has a 104mm BCD removable spider. He took the spider off and ordered a spiderless ring from Homebrewed Components. This left Kenny with a spare SRAM 104mm BCD Spider.
Very cool, I thought. Then, I noticed the screaming deal on an X.0 2×10 crank through the SRAM employee purchase program. It has a proprietary 120mm BCD spider/chainring. I bought one with two intentions- 1)remove the chainrings/spider and have a spare for my geared bikes and 2)contact Homebrewed Components and get a spiderless chainring for the pimpass carbon X.0 crank. Homebrewed Components is a one-man operation that gets a lot of business, so orders tend to take a while. I don’t mind, but I am impatient.

Then, Kenny gave me his 104mm spider. This meant that I could use whatever singlespeed chainring I wanted while waiting for the spiderless ring to manifest itself. Turns out, the carbon X.0 crankarm is a lot fatter than an AKA crankarm. The “key” pattern of the spider was correct, but the shape of the rest of the spider prevented it from seating properly on the arm.

Enter the bench grinder.

I ground off a good deal of the spider, but was having trouble getting it totally flush on the crank arm. I went to Lowe’s for some Dremel grinders, and when I arrived back, Kenny had gone medieval on the spider with the bench grinder. Eleven¬† grams of removed aluminum later, it fit. BAM!

 

While I was in the weight weenie mood, I went ahead & ground off the granny gear nubs on the backside of the spider:

 

 

Mounted to the crank:

 

Bling!

 

What did I achieve other than good looks? The total weight savings is about 50 grams over the Noir crank (plus a bit more when I get the spiderless ring). Not a ton, but the custom “badass” factor is reason enough to rock this one for a while.

Closing In

The turn of the new year marks two weeks out from what could be the biggest small race I’ve ever been to. Worlds, small?¬† Well, yeah… apparently only 5 women in the world aged 30-34 really want to try and win a world championship. This means two things to me- 1) I’ll be in familiar territory as far as “small group” racing style, and 2) It’s time to up my game. Since if you’re my age and reasonably fast, you’re racing in the elite ranks.

Small field aside, the taper begins this week, and I’m ready to race as if my life depends on it. Thursday morning, my power numbers were stout. The cycle of insane efforts on the bike followed by laying around doing not much of anything are paying off, and I’m excited to see what happens once I’m all the way rested.
I also started taking a B12 supplement. I’m skeptical about supplements, but B12 isn’t very expensive, and, as a water soluble vitamin, if I were to overdose (very unlikely given the small amount actually absorbed by the body when consumed orally), the excess is excreted in the urine. So far, the only difference I’ve noticed is that I’ve felt “good” at times of the day when I’d normally feel tired. The nice power numbers? I still mainly attribute those to hard work and rest. The B12 doesn’t hurt, though.

Neither do the beets.

Along with the hard work and rest, I’ve also avoided alcohol since Christmas. The avoidance of empty alcohol calories leaves the door open for consumption of holiday snacks with less guilt. It also means that I’ll have some catching up to do after Worlds. Lucky for me, we have some customers who know how to leave a beer tip:

 

 

Product Review: ProGold Stuff

If you’ve been reading much at all since October, you may have noticed an occasional mention of Bruce Dickman. He’s a rep for ProGold, and, way back at Crush and Run, he gave me an armload of their products to try out. Somewhat to his chagrin, I haven’t made mention of the stuff on my blog since then, and I haven’t brought in much extra stock to my shop, either.

Why not? Was it not awesome?

Well, rather than writing a glowing review the 2nd time I applied Xtreme Lube to my chain, I wanted to give it time to piss me off by not working. Good news is, since October, I’ve been using the lube (though I’ve always been a fan of their Prolink), Bike Wash, EPX Grease, and Pro Towels both in the shop and at home, and it all works great.

The Bike Wash (also known as “Dick Wash” since Dickman loves it so much)¬†deserves special mention since, if sprayed on to a dingy frame and left for 5 or 6 minutes, will make your bike clean just with a rinse from the hose (no scrubbing required). If you’re washing a few bikes in series as I often do when we get home from cyclocross races, it means that you can line them up, spray the chunks of mud off, spray each one with Bike Wash, then go back through with the hose and have 3 sparkling bikes with no sponges or brushes. The Pro Towels are equally as convenient for indoor cleaning- even on the white parts of my matte finish CX bike. They’re also very good for getting your hands clean, and don’t dry them out nearly as much as the gritty orange stuff. My only complaint? They can screw up your nail polish.

Not sure why the product testers never noticed that…

The EPX Grease (also known as “Dick Grease”, for obvious reasons) took a little warming up to. Not because I found the consistency or performance to be off, but because the smell reminded me of the odor put off by a 5 gallon bucket of tractor axle grease. After complaining to Bruce about it a few times, I decided that it at least deserved a try, and I put it into a couple of pairs of brand new Crank Brothers pedals (which, apparently, are now manufactured with fairy dust instead of grease. That’s a whole ‘nother review though). The consistency of it is nice- thicker than Park grease but not as sticky as Triflow grease. I’ve since switched both the house and the shop over to it. Now, if they could just get it to smell like Phil Wood, it’d be perfect.

So, ProGold products get my blessing. Try for yourself.

 

December 25th

This post is a little backwards, so if you want a look into the December 24th debauchery, skip this sentimental stuff and go straight down to where you see the alien holding a glass of wine.

Since I don’t personally know anyone who was born on December 25th, I typically take the day to either ride my bike on reduced-traffic roads and/or visit with family. Today I drove down to Drew, Mississippi, where my grandmother (on my Mom’s side) lives. We eat large quantities of various casseroles, then everyone rolls around on the furniture like colicky horses and “visits” for a while before dispersing.

Granny, Aunt Scarlett, and Mom (front to back)…

Several cousins (l-r) Brad, Brittany, Aunt Georgia, Brad’s Wife, Brent, and his wife (the hair in the foreground):

We agreed that Brent (who works as a crop duster pilot) and I used to be “the bad ones,” but now, his kid has taken over that role. Probably so, considering I thought she was cute, and I normally have a strong dislike of anyone under the age of 20.
Uncle Johnny and the “new” bad one along with Uncle Pete and my dad…

And yes, hate on it all you want… Those ARE house shoes, and exactly zero f***s were given.

My family is great, though often times when I visit, I feel like Roger from American Dad.

Yesterday, the foldies (nickname for any non-bike shop employee) celebrated making it though nearly 1 month of being really busy (good thing they don’t work in the bike shop, where we’re generally slammed from the first day of spring until the first time the temperature drops under 50). Everyone in the store gets to let their proverbial hair down a little, have a catered lunch sandwich, and drink a beer or two. This year, Matt Robbins put his PT training to the test in checking out all of Boyd’s vertebrae injuries:

After that, the atmosphere was electric. Like a tazer.

When I left work, Matt and I took off for a little night ride. He rode Death Bike 3000 for the first time… it basically did OK, unless he had to pedal harder than 300 watts:

I guess he still has a little work to do on that one.

Basically, a good two days of laying off a little and pretending like I’m a “normal” person instead of someone who is systematically repeating a cycle of destroying herself with intervals and recovering just enough to rinse and repeat. Tonight, whiskey. Tuesday, back to work.