Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Miche road components

In our recent post about road bike drop bar shifters, reader Kraytwin makes a great point - Miche is out there selling what looks like complete component groups. However, if you scrutinize the pictures on their web site, it appears that they use Campagnolo 11 speed and 10 speed shifters to anchor those gruppos. I don't know too much about them, and there's not too much about them written in English on the web. I do know that the last time I was shopping for a replacement cassette for my 9 speed Campy bike, their steel 'pignone' were the best deal. Anyone out there using their other stuff?

(BTW, pignone means gears and should not be confused with Pignoni, the Baroque painter who liked his women like he liked his wine - full bodied)

Photos from

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The original linear pull brakes

I saw these on a mountain bike at the Velo Bella Surf City cyclocross race last weekend. I recognized them from a story a former coworker told me about the brakes on his mountain bike, maybe 7 years ago. The owner confirmed that they were indeed early versions of the linear pull brakes made under the name "Marinovations." The very first models were apparently nothing more than a piece of aluminum window frame, drilled to fit the studs, cable and pad. These were second generation models that had purpose-made aluminum arms and were more reliable than the first generation. The guy runs them on all his bikes because they just don't fail him.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Bike Hut

The Northern California bike community is the recent recipient of some amazing generosity. Christine Pielenz and Bill Laven, owners of the enormous Potrero Nuevo Farm, have set up a rest stop specifically for bikers.  They own an organic farm and have dedicated a picnic area and garage to be a spot along the PCH where bikers can stop, get free water and eventually buy organic drinks and energy snacks.  Sometimes when you're riding out in the country, not everyone's very friendly to cyclists so that's pretty nice of them.  

Check it out, it's 1 mile inland of the coast on Tunitas Creek Road, just north of San Gregorio.


Just got an update from Bill.  They have made an email address just for the bike hut, thebikehut (at)  They're also soliciting feedback from you, the potential user.  What would you buy from them if you stopped?  Organic energy gel perhaps?  He also let me know that they would have a pump and such stuff for riders in need.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

G'day Guv'nor - Resurgence of the Path Racer

Pashley Cycles of England has been in the game since the 1920's. They have an impressive offering of bikes that transcend generations. Like the Brooks company, whose saddle is used on many of their bikes, they have been making quality products for years without fail - why mess with a good thing?

Now, more than any other time in the history of cycling, many riders desire the look, feel, and simplicity of a vintage design. Fixed gear bikes are more popular than ever and now the path racer is making its way back into the mix. In 2007, Fixed Gear Gallery even held a design contest embracing these regal machines.

Well, the Guv'nor takes all the design characteristics of a classic path racer and can be much more of a bike than just a 3-speed cruiser. This was proven by Bryce and David, two gentlemen who rode Guv'nors in L'Eroica, a 127 mile race through the Italian countryside. If it weren't for modern day photography and cinematography (...and clipless pedals), you'd think that these guys were right out of the days of yore:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cyclocross Cable Hanger

Cyclocross season is hot and underway and it's a good time to point out the elegance of this drop cable stop cooked up in part by the mechanic for team HRS Rock Lobster. It's nothing more complicated than a bent piece of sheet metal (pick a fancy alloy for light weight if you want) with a couple of holes. There are tons of cable hanger designs out there, from complex to simple. It is claimed that this one adds a bit of compliance to the brake - fork system minimizing fork chatter.

Raise a Belgian beer for the man who makes his own bike parts.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If I had $800 and a Legitimate Child...

Lynskey Performance Designs, known for their smooth Titanium offerings, has unveiled the '09 lineup with some unique additions. They've added a touring bike with S&S Couplers for easy travel, a belt drive single-speed / cross bike, and this amazing children's tricycle. You might wonder why such a gem of industrial design is geared toward a child - with an $800 price tag. Well, my friends, if your plans of living the cycling dream vicariously through your 5-yr old are actually going to materialize, then you (and your child) better get started NOW! What better way, than to introduce the little lad or lass to the allure of titanium. Furthermore, what better vehicle to use than the spectacular craftsmanship of Lynskey. Just look at those welds!

Admittedly, you will likey need to explain the physics and painstaking artistry of welding and framebuilding, a conversation that probably isn't fit for a 5-yr old, but no better time than the present. After all, you wouldn't want your child left out of all the "vertical compliance vs. lateral stiffness" debates at the playground.

Finally, before buying this trike of all trikes, be sure to check with Lynskey about the rider weight limit. You know that you'll try to sneak a ride in when your child isn't watching - just make sure to YouTube yourself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seen in Fargo: More evidence of a bike community!

During a recent trip to Fargo, ND, I had to check out the recently renovated downtown area (Broadway). It has really grown with new shops, restaurants, bars, etc. One of the stores, Zandbroz, has been there for many years and specializes in unique gifts, artwork, and general goodness in the form of a coffee shop and old fashioned soda fountain.

To my delight, I saw the barista's commuter in the entry of the coffee shop. It was a sweet Surly Cross Check with cyclocross tires, Brooks saddle, bar-end shifters, and a Nalgene bottle in the cage. Since I have family in Fargo, ND, it would only make sense that my commuter bike also has family there...

After some wandering around in the store, I found another item of bike-appeal. It was a clock made of recycled bike parts courtesy of Resource Revival in Oregon. I definitely didn't expect a city with a limited bike season to have such unique bike flavor. If you would like to see Fargo by bike, check out this blog from our friend LostGears over at Fixed Gear Gallery. Fargo has always had always had its own unique personality, so I guess this just adds fuel to the fire... or wood to the chipper.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Skewering the wheelgoods business

I tried to fix a quick release skewer problem the other day by joining the lever of one with the axle of another. Let me tell you, there's a bunch of designs out there, and most of them are pretty mediocre attempts at improving on Campagnolo's 1927 design.

These ones are rarely user serviceable, have poor leverage (the cam surface has a large diameter compared to the lever length) and bind up once you get some dirt in them (since the mechanism is hanging out in the open like a bad muffin top). Also, they rarely fit into an axle clamp on a stationary trainer.

These ones, I thought, were pretty good. Decent leverage, protected mechanism. However, they are put together by a workshop full of Malaysian elves with hammers and anvils by riveting the skewer onto the rotating pin. If it ever goes bad, throw it out, you can't access any of the mechanism to clean or repair it. The riveted bit is hidden under that shiny metallic tear drop shaped cap seen below. I found this out the hard way. Oh, and that thing that looks like a flat blade screw head on the other side? That's put there to fool you.

These are, always were, and will be the best. By removing the little spring clip on the other side of the lever, you can pop the whole thing apart, clean it, replace stuff with spare parts you have lying around, grease it, and put it back together.

And this stuff, well, that's for sponsored riders and people with more money than speed:

That last one, the DT Swiss Uber Helveti-Skewer claims 50% greater clamping force, which, if you're rocking traditional cup-and cone wheel bearings, could clamp things down too tight and result in premature bearing wear.

Photos from,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Seen on Kauai: Retro Skate Bike!

While on my honeymoon on Kauai, I noticed this crazy contraption at a local bike shop. I'm not sure what the story is behind the bike, but here's my best stab at breaking down what makes this bike so interesting:

  1. It has the same paint job as the Cannoli Project did before restoration (rust, with a touch of aged yellow). Therefore, by random, weak, and questionable association, I'm guessing that this is a mid- to late-70's model.

  2. It has a skateboard-type truck and wheels bolted to the front end. That means that to steer or turn the bike, you must lean like you would on a skateboard. Sketchy.

  3. It has a brake lever mounted under the seatpost! I won't go into why this is ridiculous because Bike Snob already has, but the mental image of someone actually using this brake lever while riding says it all.

  4. The notcher average seat angle (if you get my drift) must also facilitate for hand-to-brake-lever clearance.

  5. If you look closely at the first photo, you'll see a massive zip tie locking the rear wheel. This must be to befuddle the thief should they choose to quickly ride it away instead of hiding it under thier trenchcoat. Not that the super awkward riding position (a la circus monkey with cymbals) and theoretically questionable steering wouldn't stop you dead in your tracks anyway...

It is quite unique and portable, however, which make it a perfect fit for the passenger seat of your Gremlin.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ride Test - '08 Specialized SWorks Epic

During the Passion Trails Fall Demo, I also got a chance to ride the 2008 Specialized SWorks Epic. It's no longer advertised on their web site, and the 2009 is suspended differently, but I thought I might still share my findings. Prior to this bike, I had only ridden one other carbon framed dual suspension bike and that was the Yeti ASR Carbon. That thing had such a steep effective head tube angle it was shocking. It taught me something though - carbon framed mountain bikes are aimed at the racer crowd. Expect them to act accordingly. With the Specialized, it was little different.
-The bike had precise steering, but not as twitchy as the Yeti. I could really carve up the trail with this thing in a race, but it would probably become fatiguing on a recreational ride.
-The suspension was not very intuitive, and would require some learning and dialing in. The rear shock bottomed out during my test ride, negatively coloring my impression of the bike.

-The thing was fast and didn't mind being thrown off the occasional jump in the trail
-The bottom bracket - seat tube connection was nice, keeping me in a power position at all times
-The Magura brakes faded at one point, bottoming out on the handlebar. I tested them with a few quick pumps and they came back. Wonder what that's all about?

I'll be honest, I'm not in the market for a bike like this, but the Specialized demo fleet was offered up so I had to try it. The Specialized folks were very friendly and knowledgeable and fun to ride with.

Passion Trails is the same. Very cool little shop in Belmont, CA. They specialize in mountain bikes and have even obscure parts. If I ever need my suspension fork serviced, this is probably where I'll take it. They had enough general bike equipment to help you with your road machine, but were really focused on being experts with off road riding. They also had a cool Tom Ritchey original frame hanging from the ceiling:
Ritchey headquarters is only a stone's throw away from the shop.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ride Test - Maverick ML8

Last weekend, I got the chance to test ride some bikes as part of the Passion Trail Bikes fall bike demo. Very good shop, more on that to come. I'm not the most experienced dual suspension rider, owning a hard tail Niner myself. However, I did own a Gary Fisher Cake 3 for some time. I ended up selling it because the flexible frame deflected under breaking loads and felt imprecise during hard cornering. I just checked the web site, apparently Gary doesn't make it any more. It had the features I wanted, just not the performance. Anyway, on to the review.

We took the bikes to Water Dog Lake park which is steep, loose, rocky and semi urban. Good for teenagers with a desire to smash themselves against dirt, or people looking for a quick, fun experience. There's a half buried jalopy car in one of the ravines that you can rider over.

The first bike I tested was a size large Maverick ML8 and was set up for me by the owner of the shop himself who explained the suspension system and Speedball R seatpost. The bike was fitted with an DUC32 fork. Once under way on the trail, I noticed a few things:
-The suspension put power to the ground very well, somewhat making up for the weight penalty during climbs
-The linkage changed the distance from my saddle to my pedal, an unnerving feeling coming from a hard tail
-Speedball seatpost goes forward, rather than straight down, due to the slack seat tube angle. It was still a fabulous trick, and allowed me to motor down downhills like a dirt biker
-The suspension tended to 'squat' the bike under load. This might have been the "Parallel Path Technology" suspension I was feeling.
-The combination of squatting suspension, lowered seat height (due to Speedball) and ability to bomb downhills resulted in me dropping my heels while pedalling, causing the inside heel to strike the ground on some turns. No harm, but it did scare me for a quick second.
-The Shimano XTR Dual Control shifters worked like a dream. The rear derailler direction was chosen such that both levers went "up for uphills" and "down for downhills". Very intuitive, very fast, worked very well.
-Although I didn't need to adjust the suspension, the controls seemed straightforward enough that I didn't have to read a manual to figure them out.

It would have been interesting to try the Durance model as it looks more my speed. I think that if I were the kind of guy who spent a lot of time mountain biking at ski areas, or went on really long, rocky rides, I would appreciate the incredible suspension and rideability of the ML8. I am, however, a water bottle user so the lack of easy water bottle placement was a bit of a nag, but probably not enough to prevent someone from buying the frame. Speaking of which, if you are interested in owning one, I couldn't talk you out of it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just what exactly is for sale here?

A buddy of mine was browsing the Specialized web page, looking for a good city bike. In their menu of product lines, right under 'Fitness/Commute', he found what you see above. The Specialized Fat Boy. $2800 of pure kick stand, banana seat fury. Apparently, the target market is female body builders who hang out in front of tattoo parlours and unzip their leather jackets to contemplate their rhine-stoned belt buckels. I think that perhaps Specialized in Morgan Hill, CA has picked up a Marketing person from the now defunct Indian Motorcycles in nearby Gilroy, CA. Or, maybe they're just trying to fit in with the current political climate:

Photos from and

Friday, October 3, 2008

Everyone Needs a Utilitarian Commuter

Sometimes the hardest part about going to work is waking up and getting out of bed. Contrarily, one of the most motivating reasons to get out of bed is a bike ride. What makes it even easier is being excited about your commuter bike. Once you get to work, you're so happy about your morning commute that it's a breeze to ease into the workday.
This morning, I was especially excited about my ride to work because I recently made some configuration changes to my Bianchi Castro Valley commuter bike. Here it is in its newest configuration:
  • Brooks saddle
  • Armadillos (700x28c)
  • Stainless bottle cages (for heavily sought after added weight and black marks on your water bottle)
  • Cork wrap - au natural
  • Dynamo front hub w/ headlight
  • Fenders
  • Cage boss mounted pump (you can see it below the water bottle)
  • Sweet narrow-mouth bottle from Island Park Cycles, Fargo (

Some may think this commuter looks goofy, heavy, and archaic, but it is a dream to ride. I think it has a retro style, almost a randonneuring style minus racks and panniers. What makes it even better is the many confused looks I get from motorists in the greater Phoenix area. When they see a bicycle of any kind, it's like they saw a UFO. Throw this at them, and it's a spontaneous combustion of cognitive thought. I did, however, get a wave and a nod from another commuter this morning who let me know that I am not alone. He was riding a neon Klein that, ironically, did actually look like a UFO.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Riding the hoods can be hazardous to your health

The pictures above show the results of last weekend's cyclocross race.  The first picture shows how my bars looked after the race.  The second picture shows what they looked like after I straightented them out.  The course was loose and sandy with good barriers and pavement riding, but had several bumpy downhill segments.  I was riding with my hands on the hoods and heard a loud crack noise.  At first I thought something had fractured, then after the terrain flattened out, I took stock of the situation.  My bars had rotated downward.  Now that I think about it, there's a lot of torque on the handlebar clamp when your riding in the drops, and that spikes when you're leaning on it during a bumpy downhill.  You rarely see handlebar rotation on mountain bikes because they are more or less straight and you generally don't hang on to bar ends during a descent since there are no brakes there.  

So what to do?  Whell, I finished out the race using my bar top brakes, and I could have been using those all along.  I also probably should have been descending in the drops for the best control and leverage on the brakes.  I don't think that any more clamping force would have prevented this unless the mating parts were splined (as in a bottom bracket axle).  I guess I should be happy to have learned a technique lesson with all my facial features intact.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A frame has been commisioned

Due to my monkey like proportions, I find I have a hard time fitting off the peg bike frames.  My cross bike, for example, is a 57cm with a tall headset stack.  I had a road frame built for me with a tall seat tube and short top tube, and it fits great.  I've been thinking for some time now that I should have the same done with a cyclocross/touring frame.  Well, the opportunity has recently presented itself.  Sanner and Ratliff Bicycles is a startup frame building outfit with several frames under their belts.  They need to make some showroom models though, and needed the capital.  I fronted that capital (they gave me a price break) and should have a frame in a couple of weeks.  Lugged, steel Deda tubing, custom geometry, cyclocross style.  They're going to deliver it unpainted but otherwise finished.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

For now, I'm thinking that I'll just keep it clearcoated.  Ugly bare metal cyclocross thumpin' stick.

Nipple Works - Cyclelicious

Thanks to the owner of Cyclelicious, we've been featured on their blog with an enticing caption.  That should bring a lot more readers our way.

Nipple Works - Cyclelicious