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ACS Claws Double Preview

March 12th, 2011 [print] No comments

Riding a singlespeed has its advantages–simplicity, silence and lack of weight, for starters–but it also has one glaring disadvantage:  you can’t shift gears.

Ever since I put my new crankset on, I’ve gone back and forth between a 16T and 17T freewheel.  The 17T gets around my hilly town pretty well, but the 16T gives me much better speed down hills.  Because of the latter, I’ve been riding it more often than the 17T.

(my bike with 53/16 gearing)
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Yesterday’s ride was a little rough, with the wind being more of a pain in the ass than usual.  Still, I dealt with it for a 30mi ride.  Today, however, it was worse:  20mph sustained speeds, with gusts well above that.  To make matters worse, it seemed to change direction every time I did, so I never got a break from it.  It got to the point, about midway through the ride, where I was no longer enjoying the fight, and wished for easier gearing.

When I got home, I decided it was time to try out my new ACS Claws Double freewheel.  It’s basically just like any other freewheel, except it has two sets of teeth on it:  16T and 17T.  You pick which one you want to go with, re-adjust the rear wheel, and you’re off.

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Weighing in at 194 grams, it’s only 56g heavier than my 16T, and about 30g more than my 17T.  In other words, it’s not enough to notice.  However, one thing I will notice is the louder ratcheting mechanism, since it’s about twice as loud as either of my two Dicta freewheels.  Fortunately for me, it uses the same removal tool as the Dictas, so I didn’t have to buy an extra one specifically for it.

Installation is a breeze; just add some Polylube to the threads, start it by hand, and finish of tightening with the adapter.  After a couple blocks of pedaling, it’ll tighten itself completely.

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Since I swapped to a 3/32" chain months ago, there are no clearance issues between the teeth, but I’m not sure if you’d be as lucky using an 1/8" chain (if anyone knows, please leave a comment).  I’ll spend the next few months adding miles to the freewheel, probably going 50-50 between the two cogs, depending on wind, muscle soreness, and how many hills I have to climb.  At the end of the season, I’ll report back with a follow-up review.

More pics:

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By the way, these freewheels can be a bit hard to find.  You best option is to check eBay or do a Google search.

Also, White Industries offers two different types of doubles, in 16/18 and 17/19.  They’re definitely higher quality, and have a wider difference between ratios.  However, they will run you anywhere from $80 to $120, whereas the ACS can be found for under $20.

Panaracer FlatAway Review

September 24th, 2010 [print] 7 comments

Even though I have yet to put any miles on these new rolls of FlatAway liner, I feel I can still give a fair review since I’ve used the product in the past.

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I began riding very light semi-slick MTB tires with Forte LunarLite innertubes years ago–probably as early as 2000, if not before; in fact, back in those days, the tubes were branded as Performance, not Forte.  As light as the set-up was, I eventually began getting flats due to punctures.  I bought some Panaracer FlatAway, figured I’d deal with a tiny weight penalty, and see if things improved.

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Continental Vertical Pro Review

September 15th, 2010 [print] No comments

There’s no reason to make this review any longer than it needs to be, so I’ll keep it short and to the point:

These are, by far, the worst mountain bike tires I’ve ever ridden and I hate them more than I’ve ever hated any bicycle component.  Honestly, I wish my vocabulary was better so I could go on a long diatribe about just how horrible these tires are but, like I said, let’s keep this short.

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Continental Vertical Pro 2.3"

I got these as a replacement for my favorite Kenda Kinetics Stick-E 2.35" tires a couple years back, since the Contis were supposedly intended for those days when the ground is harder and dryer (saving the Kendas for sloppy conditions).  One benefit was a weight savings of over 100 grams over the Kendas.  And when I say one benefit, I mean, literally, there was only one benefit, and that was it.  There Vertical Pros weigh in at right about 675g, each.

So, what makes them so horrible?

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Maxxis Re-Fuse Tire Review

August 30th, 2010 [print] No comments

I bought the Maxxis Re-Fuse after my p.o.s. Kenda Kalientes kept getting punctured on almost every ride by road debris.  Few things suck worse than having to repair (or replace) a tube mid-ride, so I was really hoping the Re-Fuses lived up to their name (as in, Re-Fuse to puncture).  That, they did.

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Cateye Loop Review

June 27th, 2010 [print] No comments

I got this little light a few days ago for those rides where I want to be sure I’m seen by drivers, but I don’t feel I need a headlight to help me see the road.  There are a few different types of these small, easily mounted lights on the market, but since I’ve had good luck with Cateye products in the past, I decided to skip the others and try the Loop.

Cateye makes this light in both with and red, but since I already have a Cateye TL-LD610 taillight, I just went with the white version.  Mounting couldn’t be easier, since all you have to do is wrap the elastic band around your handlebar, frame, seatpost, backpack, or wherever you want to mount it, and you’re done.

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The body of the light is made of semi-translucent gel, so it mostly conforms to whatever you mount it to.  You can tell by the curvature of the back that it’s designed to fit a 31.8mm handlebar, although it bends around my 25.4mm bar just as easily.  I doubt I’d want to mount it on a thin seatstay, like I have on my steel road frame, but I think it’d work pretty much anywhere else.  Since it weighs only 22 grams, you could even leave it on your bike all the time, and not notice the extra weight.

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EighthInch Scrambler V2 Review (preview)

October 6th, 2009 [print] 2 comments

I’ve spent the last 11 years riding a hardtail and/or rigid mountain bike on singletrack, rail-trails, roads, you name it.  It’s pretty much suited me fine, but the constant tire swap has always been annoying.  It seems no matter where I want to ride on any given day, I always have the wrong tires on my bike, so I have to spend 10-20 minutes swapping them and then re-calibrating my cyclo-computer before I can go ride.  Nowadays, I replace my large chainring with a BBG bashguard for trail riding, but put it back on for the road.  Along with it, I have to re-mount my front shifter and derailer.  Typically, spring and fall mean road or semi-slick tires, two chainrings and a front derailer, while the summer is spent on the trails running a 1×9 gear set-up.  As I said, this has been fine for quite a while, but I finally decided to try something new.

After putting way too much thought into the matter, I decided on a singlespeed road bike to get me through the colder months.  For one thing, having only one gear means I don’t have to screw around with shifters and derailers when they decide to act up.  It also means I’m forced to use muscle when I ride, as opposed to selecting a gear that’s easy to spin up a hill while I stay planted on my seat.  I have plenty of endurance, so I’ve chosen to focus on building muscle.

EighthInch

While browsing around eBay for parts (I planned to just piece a bike together with whatever worked) I stumbled across a posting by Cycling Closeouts, suppliers of the EighthInch Scrambler.  After a Google search, I discovered it’s actually a house brand of Wheel & Sprocket, a bike shop in Wisconsin.  Most of the parts are re-branded (or non-branded) OEM parts, but the frames are made specifically for them by an unknown (to me) Taiwanese frame supplier.  I spent about a week reading reviews online and scouring bike forums to see what other owners had to say about them, and the impression I got was mostly positive.  In fact, just about the only negative comments I found were from people who had never owned or ridden one.  That, plus the relatively low $600 starting point helped me make my decision…  well, at least my decision about which bike to buy; picking out colors and options turned out to be much more difficult.

So, let’s get this straight:  Wheel & Sprocket is the bike shop, Cycling Closeouts (.com) is the website, they go by Wheelandsprocket on eBay as a secondary way of selling online, and EighthInch is their brand name for their bike parts.  They also have a blog on WordPress, a Facebook fan page, a YouTube channel, and post regularly on Twitter.  It’s almost as though they want people to be able to find them anywhere.  I can’t find them on MySpace, though, which, in my opinion, is a good sign.

Okay, now on to the bike…

Unlike a lot of companies that let you choose a red bike with black stripes, or a black one with silver stripes, and nothing else, EighthInch gives buyers a huge say in what their bike looks like.  Most parts are anodized (or painted) aluminum, so letting you pick a gold stem, blue rims and a polished crankset doesn’t cost them any more than if you picked other colors.  The upside to this is, you get to order the bike with any color combo you can dream up; the downside is, you eventually have to make up your mind.  You can also select between three different types of handlebars–track, bullhorn or riser–crank arm length, freewheel and fixed cog sizes, and whether or not you want brakes (a no-cost option).  I think one way they keep prices so low is by not paying marketers to research what options buyers may want, and letting us pick them out for ourselves.  Novel concept.

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As you can see, I’m not very creative.  I went with all black, with white rims and tires, after seeing a Specialized Langster L.A.  I also ordered black cranks, but they called to inform me they were out of stock; I selected polished silver instead, and they look so good, I’m glad I didn’t get black afterall.  I also picked a white chain, knowing I would swap it with a black one (they don’t offer black for some reason), and bullhorn handlebars, because they give me similar hand positions to a flat MTB bar with bar-ends, like I’m used to.  Oh, and I picked a carbon fiber fork in place of the normal steel one (more on that later).

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Carbon Cycles eXotic Carbon Fork (wrap-up)

September 7th, 2009 [print] 3 comments

I gave a first impression of this fork back in May 2008, when I got it.  Since then, I’ve put ~2,500 miles of road, rail-trail and singletrack riding on it, so it’s about time for an update.

I mentioned in my initial post that it gave the impression of riding on plush carpet, all the while giving you direct feedback of the surface you’re on.  With the proper front tire (I typically used a 2.35" Kenda Kinetics Stick-E) set at less than 30psi, I often forgot that I was even riding a rigid fork.  The carbon legs do a great job of damping vibration, and have just enough flex to absorb some of the initial shock of hitting roots and immovable rocks.

I only weigh about 150lbs with all my riding gear on, so I can’t give feedback on how well the fork will handle over time if you’re a larger rider–say, 210lbs, which they state as the weight limit for the fork–but I can say that I gave it a decent beating and it never once showed signs of fatigue.  At less than 2lbs, and with carbon legs, it doesn’t sound like it could stand up to hard riding over time, but it definitely impressed me.

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eXotic Carbon Rigid Fork Review

May 17th, 2008 [print] 13 comments

I went ahead and ordered my Carbon Cycles eXotic carbon fork this week due to my lack of self-control and patience.  But before I work on my personality issues, I thought I’d pass along my first impressions of the fork.

I ordered from CarbonCycles’s eBay store on Tuesday, and received the package on Friday; total price with shipping was $190.  The first thing I do after unwrapping any new bike part is put it on the scale.  eXotic’s claimed weight is 850 grams (1.9lbs), though it actually came in slightly higher than that with an uncut steerer tube.  It’s not a huge difference, but it’d be nice if manufacturers would more accurately post the weight of their parts.

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Mosso Aluminum Rigid Fork Review

May 10th, 2008 [print] 42 comments

I don’t normally write reviews on anything, but since the internets seem to be lacking in them for Mosso’s increasingly more popular rigid aluminum fork, I thought I’d do one.

I bought this fork last fall from eBay for $55 (incl shipping).  I didn’t know what to expect of it in terms of performance or durability, but for the price, it wasn’t a bad investment.  At the same time, I re-sold my ’06 Rock Shox SID, so the Mosso became my primary fork, and forced me to get used to riding a rigid bike.

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