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.

Bike Troll

March 12th, 2011 [print] No comments

…and you thought motorcycles were irritating…

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Via Reddit

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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.

SRAM Force - Click for larger image

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.

SRAM Force - Click for larger image

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. :)

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NYC bike share program to launch in 2012

February 26th, 2011 [print] No comments

Due to it’s layout, teensy apartments and ridiculous population, New York City seems to be one of the better places to set up a bike share program.  Alas, it has been green-lit, and should become available sometime in 2012.

Head over to Dowser.org for the full story:  http://dowser.org/new-york-citys-bike-share-program-to-launch-in-2012/

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, even with the obvious drawbacks (lost, stolen, and damaged bikes, plus occasional inaccessibility due to all the bikes near you already being used).  For one, apartments are sometimes so incredibly small, it’s difficult to find space to keep a bike, much less two, should you have a roommate or spouse.  Parking is close to impossible, resulting in most people opting not to own a car, meaning they have to walk, get a cab, or take the subway or bus.  The latter three mean you have to rely on–and be near–others, as well as continue to waste fuel.  Walking allows you to be alone, burning only calories.  The downside is, it’s slow.

Due to space constraints, many don’t have bicycles at home.  And because there are few safe places to keep a bike on the streets of the city, I can imagine many people opt for alternative transportation so their bikes aren’t stolen while they’re at work or shopping.  But, if you had instantly available bikes that you didn’t have to lug up stairs, maintain, or worry about throughout the day, it may get more people to ride to work, the store, or just for exercise.

I’m hoping the program is successful for NYC, and other large cities begin to open similar systems of their own.

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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.

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Double Grind Fail

February 26th, 2011 [print] No comments

"Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future."

Via FailBlog.org

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1880’s quotes about bicyclists

February 18th, 2011 [print] No comments

"In that time, of course, the bicycle was literally the fasted vehicle on the road. People in the countryside were rather alarmed to see these large groups of cyclists riding furiously through their villages. It caused quite a bit of a stir and of course the people who were really inconvenienced were the people in their carriages and riding on horseback. These were the sorts of people who had influence in those days and before long the local police and the magistrates were taking action against these cyclists riding so furiously on the roads."

and:

"The coaching season on roads out of London commences for the summer this month. We trust that bicyclists will remember that they can easily beat a four-in-hand coach if they try, and that they rest content at that, and not bring an odeum upon our sport by trying to race them as the buzzing about of bicycles causes much trouble to coachmen."

bonus (slightly more recent):

"The world has thrown up a new type of gentleman altogether: a gentleman of all un-gentlemanly energy, a gentleman in dusty oil gloves and motor goggles and a wonderful cap. A stink-making gentlemen, a swift high-class badger who fled perpetually along high roads from the dust and stink he perpetually made."

From the BBC radio show On Your Bike, ep5. Available on iPlayer for those in the UK.

Via Reddit.com/r/bicycling

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Screw you, Shimano

February 16th, 2011 [print] No comments

Shimano Dura Ace BL-TT78 brake levers come with set screws, which you can use to adjust your reach to the lever.  There are very few levers–road or MTB–on the market that don’t offer reach adjustability.  However, the BL-TT78s are the first I’ve encountered that have plastic screws.

To save maybe a gram of weight, Shimano chose to go with plastic screws, and they also cut them extremely short.  An extra 3mm would have worked wonders, so what’s the point in making them so short?  Not aware of either the material or the length, I began tightening them to shorten the reach of my levers to the point that I could get the first bend of my index finger around them, only to reach bottom, and then snap the head right off one of them.  Had the screw been metal, I could have felt that it bottomed out, but because the plastic is so soft, it’s almost impossible to distinguish a difference in torque between the screw turning freely, and the head twisting against the shaft of the screw as it’s breaking off.

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Fortunately, I only made the mistake once, so I only had one headless screw shaft to get back out of the lever–not an easy task.  The other one, which you can see in the photo above, is still intact, so it was to be my reference for going to the hardware store and finding a new one with the same diameter and thread count.  I don’t know how many hours of my life I’ve wasted in hardware stores, trying to find screws, bolts or nuts that don’t exist, and I guess my subconscious decided to save me all the trouble before I did it again.

As I was getting ready to walk out the door, I suddenly got the idea that I should go check some old MTB-style Shimano brake levers, on the off chance that the set screw might have the same thread size.  As luck would have it, it did.  It was also much longer than I needed, which gave me the ability to cut it down to the right size (middle screw).  Hacksaw > file > done.  It turned out so well, I went ahead and did a pair, so now as I bottom the screws out inside the levers, they’re at exactly the right reach for my hands.

It was an hour or more wasted because Shimano made a bad design choice, but at least I worked it out.  In the end, I gained 1 measly gram.

I’ll leave this posted as a how-to for anyone else who may come across the same problem.

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Bicycle drifting – sure, why not?

February 10th, 2011 [print] 1 comment

The video may be pretty corny, but this looks like a pretty good skill to have, and the dude is definitely having fun with it.  Must be hell on rear tires, though.

Via YouTube

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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. ;)

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