Interbike #1

Yesterday, I began my first Interbike journey (pilgrimage?) I spent most of the day crammed in planes, but soon enough, arrived in Vegas…(prepare yourself for a day’s worth of blurry camera phone photos)

 

The plane ride here was long enough that I made it through about 2/3rds of Tyler Hamilton’s Secret Race. It’s pretty fascinating, and (aside from the drug use part) makes me feel a twinge sentimental for road racing. While my time on a “real” team was brief, I could still relate to the dedication and willingness he describes to work and suffer for each other to win races.
From the air, the desert area outside of Las Vegas looks fascinating. While there appears to be very little in the way of population, there’s a spiderweb of what looks like dirt roads/4×4 trails that criss-cross the landscape. I could see myself getting intentionally lost out there for days.

Once I found my bags and favorite roomate, Amanda Carey, we shuttled to the hotel and sat around waiting for stuff to happen. Nothing happens here at a reasonable hour. It’s always winding up about the time I’d be winding down and drinking chamomile tea while Ryan and Matt are doing the dinner dishes. Last night was no different. After having a kickass dinner at Spago with Joe (President of Outdoors) and Joel (head bike buyer of Outdoors), I met back up with Amanda, and we found Hollywood Jeff and his lady-friend Julie.

 

The next few hours included a trip to the SRAM after party (stupid crowded & noisy, so I had a martini and bailed) and a much more low-key, successful from a networking-standpoint, gathering at Treasure Island. I didn’t leave until 1:30 or so. The sidewalks were packed outside…

 

This trip might be slightly more exhausting than going to an actual bike race.

 

Stuff about Things

Once again, the lack of any one new and exciting event has led me to compile a post with random vignettes from everyday life…

1. Chris King hubs are overrated. Sure, it looks really nice, and the quality is great, but you can get comparable products that are less expensive and more easily serviceable (NO part is going to last forever without some TLC). A Hope rear hub costs a couple hundred less than a King. It’s also an incredibly simple design and can be completely overhauled in 15 minutes with inexpensive cartridge bearings and tools found in any bike shop. Hell, you can even clean and re-lube the freehub pawls without removing your cassette.

2. On Saturday, I rode hot laps at Herb Parson’s Lake. My lap times were excellent, and I feel like I’ve magically taken a step forward in my bike handling abilities. At first, I just thought it was knowing the trail. Then, I rode a new, long-ish extension loop for the first time, and hauled just as much ass as I had been on the parts of the trail I was familiar with. It made me feel like this song sounds:

 

3. On Sunday, I did some endurance-pace riding. Five hours’ worth. I started by riding a 3 hour loop with Ryan, came home to cool off, then went back out for 2 more hours in the 100+ degree heat. The first hour was fine, the second, not so much. I ended up stopping at the Dunkin Donuts drive through for some ice. The heat wouldn’t have been as rough if it hadn’t been a low air quality day. We were under a code orange ozone alert, so I ended up with burning eyes and throat and a little chest congestion later than night.

4. Tuesday, in order to avoid the heat/pollution, I only rode outside for two hours, then came home and did my intervals on the trainer. As motivation, I sent this photo to Amanda Carey and told her I was coming for her:

 

5. Having 4th of July off was pretty boss. I woke up early and rode first thing. After Tuesday’s kickass training, I decided a laid back exploration of the newest links to the Germantown Greenway were in order. It did not disappoint:

 

Afterward, I went to yoga (which turned out to be a great idea since I ended up sleeping in this morning instead of going to the 6am class I usually go to), then had some lunch before going to Fullface Kenny’s Pool Party, a wine tasting at Corgi Nathan’s house, then back to Kenny’s to watch the Germantown fireworks display from the pool.

This morning, I’m extra glad that I was the designated driver.

Bike Stuff

I’ve never been one to follow all the rules, so I decided that when The A9RDO’s chain just surpassed .4mm of stretch, I’d try something other than the “mandatory” Shimano chain on the XTR drivetrain. I was shopping around and came across KMC X10SL chains. They have a super baller one in black. Seeing as I’m vain and want to make my bike as stealthy as possible, I chose that one… because, you know, the XTR one isn’t fancy enough (in addition to that, I’ve got a gold 9-spd KMC on my singlespeed that’s seen hundreds of miles and is still in excellent shape).

This thing retails for around $140. (Good thing I work in a shop, right?)

Sure, it’s a part that will eventually wear out, and, given its lightness and sexiness, possibly faster than a chain that I could purchase for $20. However, I’d like to see how the DLC (short for “diamond-like coating”) fares under the rigors of endurance training & racing. Also, it matches my bike and comes in a velvet-lined box…

 

I installed it this morning and went for a ride. Shifting is no different than with the XTR chain. I took a photo, but you can’t really get a feel for the sexy stealth-ness now that it’s coated in a layer of dust:

 

On a totally unrelated note… ANIMAL PHOTOS!!!! Everyone loves animal photos!

Go fast… sometimes sideways.

Good lord, I haven’t posted in almost a week. That’s like, blog kryptonite, or something.

This week’s slightly bike-related post is about the often-times painfully bored existence of the stereotypical adrenaline junkie. The event that brought about this post was a short car ride. Last week at work, one of Fullface Kenny’s friends stopped by. This friend, a Porsche driving school instructor, was driving a Nissan 240. The Nissan 240 contained both a roll cage and a Chevy LS1 motor (the same one that you’ll find in a Corvette).

You see where I’m going with this…

We spent all of 5 minutes driving around the deserted back road from the shop. A large portion of that 5 minutes was spent drifting sideways and/or accelerating as fast a possible. It’s amazing what a very skilled driver can do with a very powerful machine. I spent most of the time plastered against the seat and giggling as much as I could.

According to Kenny, that’s Dude’s normal mode of driving. He gets tickets. Apparently, he once got a warning for wheelie-ing a street bike in front of a cop with a 24-pack of budweiser strapped to the tail. Why no ticket? Because the cop said that it was the dumbest thing he’d seen that day and was going to have a good time telling his buddies back at the station.  What’s the point of telling you all of this? Well, I can see a few of you shaking your heads and thinking about what a total idiot this guy is. However, also according to Kenny, the guy has worked his way up a corporate ladder and has a very respectable, clean-cut, wear-a-suit-and-carry-a-card job. I can only imagine how much stupidly fast and sideways driving it would take me to unwind from that sort of thing.

“Adrenaline Junkie” is a totally cliched and played out stereotype, but if you think about the meaning of the words, it makes unfortunate sense. For whatever reason, we belong to a subset of homo-sapiens that requires heavy doses of epinephrine on a regular basis in order to feel satisfied with life in general… very much like an individual addicted to any externally available drug, substance or action.  If you don’t get it, you experience withdrawal.

Boredom.

For those of us living with co-morbidities of both adrenaline junkie-ism and Attention Deficit Disorder (maybe the two go together like diabetes and high blood pressure?), normal life can sometimes start to get depressingly boring, so we do things that other people think are crazy… like driving a car really fast and sideways, riding a mountain bike at high rates of speed, or completing incredibly random expeditions via various modes of human-power.

Side note- if you look into the bikecar videos at that last link, you’ll see the one I posted a couple of months ago where the expedition was interrupted by a motorized car. Dave looks almost excited that some sort of dangerous wrench was thrown into his plans. “F*CKYEAH, EXCITEMENT!!”

Boredom is a horrible thing. It’s almost physically painful. Some people reading this will agree, others will think I need to take my Ritalin and chill out. I’m on a constant search for small bites of excitement in everyday life. Not necessarily for adrenaline-raising purposes… just mostly for “something different and awesome” purposes.

Sometimes, it’s just cool stuff that shows up at the shop:


(that bike is all Campy!)

…or outside of the shop:

(Indy caught his 2nd mole ever… he has to eventually with the number of holes he digs in the process!)

Whatever it is, when I don’t get it, I start doing crazy things like cutting my hair into a mohawk or getting a new piercing. Anything to add the edge of danger or excitement to mundane periods of life.

Another “Pearl Izumi WTF?” Moment: P.R.O. Bib Short Review

Another entry to the annals of Pearl Izumi’s bad decisions when it comes to their relationship with female cyclists: The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Droptail Bib Short. It’s their top of the line model for women.

The “droptail” idea with bib shorts is a great idea. P.I. does a good job with their “Elite” model short, which has an actual waistband around the backside (the quality of the construction of the “elite” line is not that great, though). Hincapie also makes a droptail bib. It uses a simple plastic buckle in the back suspenders. It’s under your jersey, but low enough that it’s not hard to reach, and the top half has a “tail” strap that makes it easy to fish the top half back in order to get it buckled.

Enter the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. short. Through work, we get a screaming deal on certain brands… Pearl being one of them. I bought a pair, even though on the website, you can’t tell how the droptail actually works. Turns out, it uses a similar design as the Hincapie model… except that it uses bra hooks, and there’s no tail on the top strap. The closure also sits up higher under your jersey:

Let me get this straight… I’m supposed to reach under my jersey, up between my shoulder blades, and unhook those? Worse yet, once I’m done, I’m supposed to fish around under my jersey for the top half, then RE-hook that thing? I’m flabbergasted at the idiocy at work here, because it’s painfully obvious that no women were involved with the design or testing of these WOMEN’S shorts.

I returned them with a note to that effect. I received a refund, but they’ve not contacted me for feedback purposes, and I don’t really expect them to, because from my past experience with them, that’s how they roll.

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.-