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Dropbar MTB

December 10th, 2012 [print] No comments

I promised pics, so here you go:

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One thing I’ve never understood is why road and mountain bikes have different cable pull ratios for brakes.  I suppose it’s so you have to keep buying more shit.  Well, since I just bought these Avid BB7s not too long ago, I decided to keep them, and go the cheap route by using Problem Solvers Inline Travel Agents, which allow road brake levers to work with mountain bike brakes.  Yes, they’re ugly, and yes, they add a little weight.  But I wasn’t going to give Avid the satisfaction of selling me a set of Road BB7s.  Also, by keeping the current calipers, I can easily go back to using a flat bar at any time.  Honestly, though, I can’t imagine I ever will.

Brake feel is still on par with what I had before, so the Travel Agents don’t make braking feel weird, either from the main brake levers or the ‘cross levers.  In the past, I rode rim brakes with 2mm or less gap between the rim, and my brakes had very little modulation.  I loved it.  Move the index finger 2mm, and you brake gently; 3mm and you brake hard; 4mm, and you’re dead.  It was wonderful, and I’m not being sarcastic.  However, now that I’m used to brakes that have actual modulation, I quite like it and, as I said, I’m happy with the feel.

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Here’s another ugly but tolerable add-on that I have to live with.  My fork has a mechanical lock-out remote that mounted to my old MTB handlebar.  However, there’s no way to fit it to a larger diameter road bar (even on the narrow section), so I had to get creative.  I ended up using a generic mount I found on eBay, which was intended to be used as a spot to mount lights.  I cut a 1.5" piece of an old Easton carbon bar that can’t be used anymore, and mounted the remote to that.  It’s still in close reach when I need it, but I though it’d look better if I could mount it directly to the handlebar.  Oh, well… compromises must be made when you’re building weird bikes.

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Here’s another look at the remote mount, as well as my super tidy cables.

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So, what was the point in this ridiculous set-up?  Primarily comfort.

Coming from mountain bikes, it took me awhile to adapt to road drop bars.  But, once I did, I began to love the race position they put me in, especially in the drops (I spend about 99% of my time in the drops, rarely using the hoods on my road bike).  I know, most people don’t think a race position is anything near comfortable, but for me it is.  I love that forward position, staring not at nature, buildings, birds in the trees, but at the road directly ahead of me, crouched like a cheetah ready to pounce.  To me, it’s Lay-Z-Boy comfortable for hours on end.

I’d been riding my road bike almost exclusively for about a year, when I signed up for that sadistic Cedar Cross race last Spring.  Since I didn’t have a real ‘cross bike (my Scrambler probably would have worked, but the widest tires I could fit were 32c, and I didn’t know if that’d be enough on the singletrack), I took my hardtail.  As natural as it was to ride, using a flat bar was no longer comfortable on the gravel roads or Katy Trail, and using the bar-ends didn’t help much.  All I could think for the final 30 miserable miles was, "Man, too bad this bike doesn’t have drop bars; then it’d be perfect!"

So, now the day has come–my MTB has drops.  Reach and drop are identical to my main road bike, and I feel totally at home riding it for the first time in a long time.  I haven’t had much time to ride singletrack, yet, but the little bit that I have done has gone well.  For steeper descents, I can use the ‘cross levers and get my butt behind the saddle, and for climbing, I have my choice of drops when I have traction, or hoods when I don’t.  Oh, and when I hit a fire road or pavement, I can just lock the fork, stand up, and sprint, just like I do on my road bike.

I also discovered a side benefit of using a road bar:  it’s very narrow.  My old flat bar was 22", which is considered too narrow by today’s standards (and too wide by mine).  My road bar is only 16.5", which gives me anywhere from 5 to 10 inches extra space between trees or fence posts than other bars.

I can’t say this set-up is for everyone (or anyone), but it works for me.  Thankfully, SRAM’s Exact Actuation throughout their higher-end component lines helps make this sort of thing not only possible, but extremely easy to do.  If you like the feel of a cyclocross bike, but want some fork travel and fatter tires, maybe give it a second thought.

Categories: MTB, Photos Tags: ,

EighthInch Scrambler Update pt2

November 13th, 2011 [print] No comments

In my previous post, I stripped the paint off my frame, sprayed on some primer, and was beginning to sand it.  Well, I eventually got around to painting it, but I wasn’t happy.  Even a perfect spray paint job still looks like spray paint, so I took it to a professional and had it powder coated 80-90 Jet black.  One upside to powder coating is, the powder melts very nicely into the welds.  This frame always had crappy looking welds, so now they’re a little easier to look at, although I doubt Gary Klein has anything to be jealous of.

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The sad part is, I spent more time fucking around trying to paint it on my own, than I did driving back and forth to the powder coater in a city about 40 minutes away.  The guy who did the work was Jeff at Xtreme Body & Paint in Jefferson City.  He was really easy to work with, and does awesome work.  Turn around time was a mere 2 days.

Once I got the frame back, I had to visit my local bike shop to get the BB threads chased, and the head tube re-faced, but that’s to be expected after any paint job.

Since I’m running a front derailer now (and because I don’t want to run full-length cable housing) I decided to install an STI cable stop on the downtube, and an under-BB cable guide.  I got both parts at Nova Cycles for just a few bucks.  For the STI stop, I used a 1/8" drill bit and some 3mm x 3mm aluminum pop rivets.  The cable guide needed to be screwed on, so I drilled with a 5/32" bit, and used a Park TAP-8 5mm x .8 tap.  Installing the guide was as easy as it gets, but the STI stop took some work.  I’ll mention how I got that on in another post.

You’ll notice I also have rear brake cable guides, so I never have to zip-tie full housing to the top tube ever again.  I installed those prior to painting, and once the powder coat melted all around them, they look like part of the frame.  I intentionally left the STI stop off until after the paint job, because I didn’t want paint–or powder–to get inside the threads.

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Unfortunately, along with some pretty easy mods, I’ve also had some very annoying issues.  Because I’m turning a track bike into a 2-speed cyclocross bike, I’m having clearance issues, most specifically with the tires.  I verified long ago that some 32c Kenda Kwicker tires fit the frame and fork, but what I wasn’t expecting was for them not to clear the Cane Creek SCR-3L brakes I just bought.  Due to the design of the calipers, the mounting bolt is higher on the body than it was on my Alhonga brakes, meaning the brakes hung too low below the fork crown and rear brake arch.  Because of this, 32c tires rubbed big time, so I had to order some 30c Kenda Kwick tires instead.  BUT, I wanted 32c, dammit, and I wasn’t about to give up.  Currently, I’m waiting on a set of Tektro R538 brakes, which should give me the clearance of the Alhongas, with the reach of the Cane Creeks.  Once I get that worked out, I’ll be able to use either tire, depending on where I’m riding.

As for other clearance concerns, they all seem to be working themselves out quite nicely.  My biggest concern with running a non-track crankset with dual chainrings is, the inner ring may come in contact with the frame.  As it turns out, I have about 4mm clearance between the chainstay and a 39T ring on my SRAM Force cranks.  It’s tight, but that’s more than enough room to get by.

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My other issue was whether a water bottle bolt would get in the way of the front derailer clamp, but I have just enough room to make it work.  I can’t use that bottle mount anymore, but I don’t think I ever have before anyway.

I did luck out with my rear tensioner set-up, so I’m happy about that.  I’m using a Paul Comp. Melvin tensioner, with a DMR chain tug, which includes a rear derailer hanger.  The Melvin has 3 spacers to help align the pulleys, and once I was finished configuring them, alignment was perfect.

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This is basically where I sit for the time being.  I’m waiting on an STI barrel adjuster and the Tektro brakes.  Once those pieces arrive, I should finally be able to go for a ride.

Engraved Campagnolo Crank

July 2nd, 2011 [print] No comments

I have no idea what the source of this photo is, but I do know it’s an old Campy aluminum crank that someone has engraved a beautiful design into.

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Categories: Photos Tags: , ,

A chair…

May 19th, 2011 [print] No comments

…made of bicycle parts.

Categories: Photos Tags: ,

FM015-ISP Carbon Frame

April 30th, 2011 [print] 9 comments

As I mentioned before, I decided to build a geared road bike to help take the stress off my knees.  After a lot of research, I decided to go with an unbranded Chinese carbon frame, model number FM015.  Many companies offer this frame, but I went with Hongfu due to extremely good feedback they’ve gotten on RoadBikeAction.com.  As is the case with previous customers, I’m happy with my decision, and Jenny, the CS rep who all Hongfu customers will deal with directly, made the whole process go very smoothly.

Originally, I’d thought about the FM028, but discovered the top tube was longer than I like.  The FM015 is very similar, albeit 100g or so heavier.  I’d rather have fit over light weight, so that made my decision for me.  Specifically, I went with the FM015-ISP, as in, integrated seatpost.  It requires a little more work, since the seat mast has to be cut to fit, but I like the looks better.

Here are some initial photos before I begin the build:

The frameset came straight from China in about 5 days.  Hongfu did an great job wrapping the frame to protect it along its journey, and it reached me in perfect condition.  Mojo is impressed with the packaging.

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The frame and fork both come with plastic stabilizers in the dropouts, and the frame also has sturdy, plastic plugs inserted in the BB shell and head tube (sorry, I didn’t get photos of those).

Here it is fresh out of the box:

(check out that massive headtube)
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(uncut seat mast & w/o seat mast topper)
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(uncut steerer)
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I ordered a 3K glossy finish, although 3K matte is also available (glossy matches my Sram Force cranks).  They also offer it in 12K and unidirectional, glossy or matte.  The frame can also be ordered without the ISP option, and with a BB30 shell.

For more info on this frame and all other unbranded Chinese carbon frames, you should really check out the discussions on RoadBikeAction.  The discussions began about 3 years ago when Chinese sellers started offering bare carbon frames on eBay.  A few guys decided to be the guinea pigs and took the plunge, only to report back that they liked what they bought.  Since then, the number of models has gone frame a handful to maybe 20-30 models, and they’re offered from multiple manufacturers and resellers.  More info can also be found on Weight Weenies.

Do your research, as I did, and decide if it’s right for you.  Price are a fraction of what you’ll pay for a brand-name frame, and they’re built by the same manufacturers who build them for the name brand companies.  On the down side, customer support after the sale is still lacking, although it’s improving over time.

I’ll post more photos in the days ahead as I finish the build.

In the mean time, here are a couple additional resources:

http://chinarello.wordpress.com/
http://cheapcarbonframes.com/

Categories: Photos Tags: , , , ,

Bike Troll

March 12th, 2011 [print] No comments

…and you thought motorcycles were irritating…

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Via Reddit

Categories: Links, Photos Tags: ,

2009 SRAM Force Crankset

February 26th, 2011 [print] No comments

The other day, a buddy of mine emailed me a link about an 2008 FSA road crank on sale at Competitive Cyclist.  I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to find a good deal on a (used) road crankset to replace the super-low-end EighthInch model on my singlespeed, so this looked like a good possibility, especially since it was new.  So, I spent some time looking at reviews, and ultimately decided against it due to many people complaining about the bottom brackets.

Oh, well, I thought, it could have been nice.  But before I left CC’s website, I browsed through the rest of their sale items.  That’s when I spotted the deal of a lifetime:  a 2009 SRAM Force 53/39 crankset–normally $340–listed for only $89.  Considering it’s difficult to even find lower-end Shimano 105 cranksets under $250, I decided to hop on it before I missed my chance.  Three days later, I had a new crankset.

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Now, here comes the weird part.  I bought the Force for my singlespeed bike, so obviously, I had one extra gear that I wasn’t going to need.  I also had a crank designed for a typical road bike, not a singlespeed.  Before I ordered, I measured my chainline, from the center of my seat tube to the end of a gear tooth:  47mm.  According to the late Sheldon Brown, that’s a bit wide for a singlespeed set-up–about 5mm too wide, in fact.  But, who am I to argue with a chainline that has worked perfectly for me for a year and a half on this bike?

To get the new crank to work, I first had to ditch the 39T chainring, then use a set of singlespeed-specific chainring bolts to hold the 53T ring in place (yes, that’s 3 teeth more than what I’ve been using for some time).  After installation, I found my chain wasn’t going to reach around the larger ring, which meant I ended up having to add one link to it.  Once it was all finished, I measured the chainline again, hoping for the best.  As luck would have it, it came to exactly 47mm.

After having ridden a non-singlespeed chainring for the past 8 months, I’m confident in the chain not falling off, assuming I keep chain tension just right:  loose enough not too bind, tight enough to keep slack very low.

Now, to address those 53 teeth

Since last June, I’ve ridden a 50T ring with 16T freewheel, resulting in 82.4 gear-inches.  However, as winter set in this year, I swapped to a 17T freewheel to help counter the additional weight from extra clothes, denser air, and additional wind this time of year always brings.  With spring making its way back, I was about to swap back to the 16T again, but instead, I’ll leave the 17T in place.  Matched to the 53T Force ring, I’ll be running 82.2 gear-inches, keeping me right about where I was before.  And once summer makes a return, on those particularly energetic days when all I want to do is sprint around town like a madman, I can put the 16T back on for a total of 87.4 gear-inches (I doubt I’ll do this very often).

As for the unnecessary 39T ring, that will be going on eBay, where I should be able to make back about 1/3 of the price I paid for the entire crankset, bringing my price down to about $60.  That’s right, $60 for SRAM Force.  That’s only $10 more than what you’d have to pay for a new EighthInch (or Origin8) singlespeed crank, which weighs a ton and uses an out-dated square-taper bottom bracket.  Speaking of that old EighthInch crank, I’ll try selling that on Craigslist for $25, bring my total cash out of pocket down to around $35.

So, after getting my fancy new crank put on and laughing all the way to the bank, I was suddenly hit with the realization that I’d probably never get a deal on such a high-end crank ever again.  Too bad, since I plan to build my own frame later this year, and it’ll need a crank of its own.  I thought about it for a while, tried to clear my mind of future bike parts I’ll need, and finally decided it’d be a terrible thing to miss out on.  In the end, I ordered a second one.  And it’s a good thing, too, since I apparently got my order in just before they ran out.

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Now it’s time to post some ads to eBay and CL, and clear out my parts box of unneeded components.  If anyone needs a 39T ring, I have two available. :)

Categories: Photos Tags: , ,

Snowed in, again

February 26th, 2011 [print] No comments

Mid-Missouri got hit with some ice and snow this week, so it looks like I’ll be sitting around waiting for it to melt once again.  Fortunately, we only got an inch or so, as opposed to the 17-18" from last time.  Since I have nothing better to do at the moment, I thought I’d post some random crap…

Not sure what’s going on here, but I think the guy could use a little more tubing to complete his bike:

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Colnago releases their Master 55th Anniversary frame, painted gloss black, with gold accents.  As beautiful as it is, I couldn’t imagine anyone ever riding it.  Check out Colnago Con Brio for more info and a ton of photos from every angle.

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I don’t have a reference for this one, but it’s great inspiration for learning how to braze my own frames.  Most kids have to make due with heavy, crappy discount store bikes, but I’d like to give my (future) children their own custom bikes–much like this one, sans the awkward top tube.  I like how they’re both pushing the same gear ratio, but I think maybe dad could’ve gone with something a little more knee-friendly for junior.

Valparaiso Cerro Abajo 2011 – my favorite style of downhill racing:

Via Vimeo

I ride a singlespeed road bike most of the time, and I’ve come to rely on 16T and 17T freewheels.  Typically, that means taking one off in order to install the other.  But, what if I could just have one freewheel, with the option to run either ratio?  Well, now I can.  Coming in at 194g, it’s about 60g heavier than a standard freewheel with only one set of teeth.  I doubt I’ll use it often, but on longer rides, it’d be nice to have a couple different ratios to choose from.

They’re fairly cheap (under $20) but can be a little difficult to find online.  I’d suggest checking eBay–which is where I found mine–and picking one up if you think you might want it in the future.  I’m not sure if they’ll continue being available, or if ACS will eventually pull them from the market.

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I have some more interesting updates on my own bike that I’ll get to in a day or so.  In the never-ending quest to get it just right–while spending as little money as possible–I’ve upgraded a few components, both reducing weight, and getting a better seating position.  I’ll just say that anyone that spends retail on bike parts is doing it wrong.  Thanks to eBay, Competitive Cyclist, and Amazon, I was able to get some pretty great deals on parts that I otherwise would have spent literally hundreds of dollars more on.

Categories: Links, Miscellaneous, Photos Tags:

Snowed In: Eye Candy for Bored People

February 5th, 2011 [print] No comments

Last Tuesday, the mid-West got hit with a blizzard, and we’re still digging out.  Mid-Missouri got around 18" dumped on us, so I’ve had to trade biking for shoveling to get my exercise.  I’ve probably spent 8 hours or more since Wednesday morning pushing a shovel, mostly to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine.  With another 2" or so dumped last night, and more coming in the next day or so, it looks like I won’t be riding anytime soon.  On the upside, it gives me plenty of time to post crap like this:

Cyanide and Happiness, 2-5-2011:

http://www.explosm.net/comics/2317/

I have no idea where this next one comes from, but it’s pretty incredible:

BMX Backflip

I have no reference for this one, either, but I think it’s called a stepper crank.  Very interesting set-up, but I think I prefer to spin my pedals in circles:

Stepper crank mechanism

Let’s just forget we saw this one:

Typographic Bicycle art, by Aaron Kuehn, at http://aarline.info/hotaar/

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Fabian Cancellara’s Specilized S-Works Red Hammer, about as aero as it gets:

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And finally, one of the most beautifully simple lug joints I’ve seen.  Matte gray, on a JK Cross frame, made by Kirk Frameworks:

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I may be stuck inside for awhile, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still goofing around with my own bikes.  For the second–and final–time, I decided to try out a drop bar and road levers on my singlespeed…

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Looks good, I know.  Unfortunately, due to my hand size, lever angle, and the fact that I prefer to stay on the hoods, the brakes just don’t perform with as much ease as I’m used to with bullhorns and tri levers.  So, once again I’ve gone back to bullhorns, but this time, I’m trying out a Profile Design Airwing OS, with about 35mm of additional drop.  It won’t get me as low as being in the drops on a proper road bar, but it’s a good compromise for better aero dynamics, while still using a brake set-up that I prefer.

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I’m in no rush to get it installed, but I’ll post pics once it’s all put back together and I have a chance to get outdoors again.  Until then, if you’re under a foot of snow right now, good luck keeping busy!  And if you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, piss off. 😉

Categories: Cartoons, Links, Photos, Videos Tags:

Bicycle Boulevard, Columbia, MO

September 5th, 2010 [print] No comments

My hometown of Columbia, MO, has been increasingly bicycle-oriented over the last few years, thanks in part to our previous mayor, Darwin Hindman.  And though I could complain all day about their lack of attention to bike lanes filled with glass, road debris, sandy gravel, and unfriendly storm drains, at least they’ve given us the lanes to begin with.  Hell, it’s better than nothing.

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The city’s latest endeavor is what’s known as Bicycle Boulevard, which consists of Windsor St. and East Ash St., with a short connector on University Ave.  The goal of it is to piss off motorists allow easier access to the downtown area from East of College Ave., a notoriously bad road to ride a bike on, due to narrow lanes, high traffic, and high speeds.  To help bring attention to Bike Blvd., two 25’x25′ murals are being painted by artists Sandra Eccles, 63, of Canton, MO, and Tom Edwards, plus whoever wanders over to volunteer to help.

The East Ash St. mural was finished on September 5, 2010, with the Windsor mural scheduled for Sept. 11, as week later.  I stopped by and snapped some shots of the first one today, and I’ll add more to the gallery below once the entire project is finished.

You can read more about the making of the murals here:  ColumbiaMissourian.com

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