Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kennedy Trail Turkey Ride

My legs are still tired from this year's Kennedy Trail Turkey Ride. I didn't know about it until this week, but apparently every year, people ride their bikes up the very steep Kennedy Trail in Los Gatos, CA and bring Thanksgiving treats to eat and drink at the top. I have ridden and hiked this fire road several times in the past, but never with the kind of crowds that turned out today. The climb is probably a solid 2000 vertical feet. It starts bright and early, so if you do it, you might also make it over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for an evening supper. Things to bring, besides food and drink, include an extra layer for the ride down and a bell for your handlebars to signal hikers and bikers on your descent.

All sorts of fun, wacky bikes show up at the starting point in downtown Los Gatos. This Retrotec model was recently acquired by its owner (although it looks rather vintage) and the stiffness of the rear 'triangle' is adjustable by tensioning the cables/rods that go from the seat tube to the rear dropouts.

More weird wild bikes include this leopard print tandem with moto style upside down forks. A tandem would be fun for this ride since you enjoy the added power of two riders on 1.5 bikes and the downhill is not very technical.

The leopard tandem also had a festive gecko idler gear just sort of floating in the timing chain between the pilot and stoker.

This "Yokota Project USA" tandem was built at the dawn of mountain bike suspension. The "Shock Blades" fork offered about 18mm of travel (unless it was locked down in some way) and the bike made use of elastomer shock stems for both riders. Put a rack on this thing and you have a mean turkey toting machine.

It wasn't all contraptions and tandems. A few riders showed up on cross bikes, lots of people pushed excessively suspended downhill bikes up the trail, and one guy rode his very fancy LOOK carbon fiber race machine.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from nippleworks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The squeeky derailler pulley gets the grease

My cross bike recently developed a mean case of squeak. I figured out it was the derailler pulleys. They get pretty wet and dusty, so I can't blame them. To pull them out, I first removed the chain (since I've got a SRAM Power Link this is easy, can't recommend that enough) and undid the hex shoulder bolt (shown in the picture below). It's a Shimano Deore derailler, by the way. I figured that I'd have to lube the bushing, but after messing with the parts, I figured that the cause of the squeak was debris and a lack of lube between the side plates (silver discs shown below) and the pulley. I greased those, slid it back into the derailler, tightened the shoulder bolt, and removed it's brother. Only do one at a time unless you want to also disassemble the derailler cage. 

I just had another thought on this subject.  Be careful with how much you tighten the shoulder bolt.  Too tight and you'll pinch the pulley, making it hard to spin.  Test it as you tighten.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Custom carbon franken-hanger

What you're looking at there is:
-A hoop of carbon, probably the cut-off end of a 1 1/8" steerer tube
-Drilled through and threaded with a brake straddle cable
-Drilled from above and threaded with the front brake cable
-A straddle cable pivot end (probably from a TRP Euro-X brake) tightened on to the end of the brake cable
-A zip tie to somehow give it that finishing touch

Make it yourself chain tensioner

Check this out. A Deore XT rear derailler with a derailler cable end (ferrule still intact) holding it in the appropriate position to act as a single speed cable tensioner. It was on a cross bike which may explain the extreme spring tension being used (since those bikes get a lot of bumping action at speed).

This would be a great way to cheapen up your old bike -> single speed conversion. I'm sure any derailler would work.


1) Find a derailler nobody wants (probably easy if said derailler is a 7 speed or 8 speed model)
2) Mount derailler to frame
3) Cut the last 4 inches off a derailler cable you were going to throw out anyway because it's roached
4) Pull the derailler to the right position (upper jockey wheel under your single sprocket) and have an indefatigable person or zip tie hold it there.
5) Install the cable with the ferrule in the derailler adjuster barrel (turned out half way) and the cut end under the clamp screw
6) Have the indefatigable person let go, or cut the cable tie
7) Turn the adjuster barrel in or out to get that jockey wheel lined up just right with the sprocket
8) Thread your chain and pull the ends together such that you get the desired tension (remember, you can always start loose and cut some off)
9) Remove the unnecessary links with a chain pin tool
10) Use a SRAM Power Link* to put the chain back together
11) Ride

*awesome piece of kit

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Night riding lenses

One of the Bay Area cyclocross race promoters (Pilarcitos) decided to run a night race under lights right on the shore of the Bay last weekend. Check out a great video of my race here. I have a pair of decent no-name photochromatic riding glasses but since the race would go from dusk to night, I really didn't need glasses that changed on me. You can buy clear lenses for your Oakleys or Brikos, but the best option, is to use a pair of plain old safety glasses. These wraparound models can be had at pretty much any hardware store for a few bucks:

You can chuck them off if they get covered in mud and also work great for night commuting. You can also get them tinted yellow or gray if you need some shade, and like all ANSI rated safety glasses, they offer UV protection. Finally, as you can see in the picture above, they look dashing.

Photo by J. Hadley

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

La Ruta de los Conquistadores

The ultimate adventure race, La Ruta, has just ended. If you're not familiar, La Ruta is a coast-to-coast endurance race across Costa Rica. The riders battle their way through the jungle and often encounter raging waters, rickety bridges, and just plain exhaustion. The multi-day stage race attracts many riders from all over the globe, but most notably Heart Akerson. Heart's story is quite unique. He basically left the United States for a simple, natural, holistic lifestyle on the Costa Rican coast. He has competed in La Ruta since 1998 and has finished every year. What's more amazing is that he does it shirtless, in jean shorts, and SPD sandals. Why? Well, this article may shed some light. Congratulations to Heart on his 10th anniversary of La Ruta.

Also, special congrats to our friend Jim Gibson (above, center) of Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff, Arizona. He completed his second La Ruta after his 1st place 2006 finish in the veteran's circuit. Heart also made the podium that year (guess which one he is...)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trigon Cross Frames

I saw this Trigon all carbon cyclocross frame hanging on a tent at the recent Pilarcitos night race in Brisbane, CA. See pictures here. I had never heard of the company before so I checked it out on the web. They're straight out of Taiwan, R.O.C. and someone in the SF Bay Area must be importing them. Check out their 'Copmany Profile' here. It looks like they've got a variety of frames including some carbon/aluminum bonded models as well as carbon cyclocross forks with disc brake mounts. They also appear to make a hardtail carbon/aluminum 26" MTB with a rigid carbon fork. I'm thinking that can't be too popular, at least in this country.

Anyway, if someone knows more, post a comment.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spokester - Spoke noise maker

When I was a grommet, the kids on the block would get a crappy baseball card and one of mom's clothes pins and clip that card on their bike frame so that the spokes would slap it around and you'd get a sweet BRRRRRRRRR motorcycle noise.  Apparently, today's kids are too lazy, baseball players have Myspace pages instead of cards, and moms don't use clothespins any more because someone's selling the Spokester - bicycle spoke noise maker.

The makers of the thing claim it is a safety device because drivers will hear your kid better. Spokester doesn't necessarily promote bicycle helmet use though.  If your kid has a Huffy and has already installed all the aftermarket accessories available (streamers, license plates, baskets, bell/horn), teach her how to make a proper spoke noise maker and she'll be the envy of the neighborhood.  Or, buy one for your $3000 road bike to make it sound like a $5000 road bike with fancy new Zipp hubs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Super Clicky Hubs

Ever noticed how loud and clicky some high end bike hubs are? Why? The picture above gives a clue. The pawls on this Zipp brand hub are large, thin and sprung by a long leaf spring. They are bound to make more clicking noise as you coast. Compare that to an older style hub:
Why do the Zipp pawls make more noise?
Each of those little pawls is like a diving board (or extended simply supported beam). Each one vibrates as it clicks through the teeth of the mating part (the black hub body in the picture), much as a diving board vibrates after the diver jumps off. The frequency of that vibration is dictated by the following equation:
\omega_0 = \sqrt{k/m}
where wo is the natural frequency, k is the spring constant of the beam and m is the mass bouncing on the beam. In this case, the mass is the beam itself, and the Zipp pawl has much less mass than the old style pawl. This means that the Zipp pawl vibrates at a much higher frequency than the old pawl, giving it more of a 'tick' noise and less of a 'thud' noise.

Although I don't know this for sure, I imagine that the Zipp hub comes packed with less heavy grease than an older style hub since lower rotating resistance is much more important than longevity to the owner of the Zipp hub. That grease would act to deaden the sound of each pawl strike.

I hope you enjoyed today's nerd-out. Tune in next time for a discussion of flux capacitors.

Pictures from and

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cross Shouldering

How to throw a bike on to your shoulder smoothly and start running is not totally intuitive.  For the best explanation I've ever seen, watch this video of Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport shop owner and veteran racer).  My bike has a non round top tube which cuts into the shoulder rather fiercely and feels like this when you pick the bike up and plop it on your shoulder at a stand-still:

Fortunately, while running, it isn't nearly so bad and your fore-arm takes a lot of the load.  Even so, one racer I saw needed a little extra help and turned to some foam pipe insullation for a little extra cushion.  Perhaps she'd recently suffered a broken collar bone?

Photo from

Monday, November 10, 2008

Surly Utility Bike with Mega Tires

This is a Surly Big Dummy with Large Marge rims seen at a cyclocross race apparently owned by this dude.

Those Maxxis Hookworm tires are huge! I looked them up on the web and was surprised to find out that they can hold 110 PSI! That would be great for low resistance rolling on road and graded trails. A bike like that could be a car-replacer.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A. Homer Hilson as CX Racer

At last week's cyclocross race there was a guy riding a really sweet looking Rivendell A. Homer Hilson.  The shiny paint and brakes would soon be coated with SF bay mud and the finely wrapped handlebars would become slick with goo.  Looks like there's plenty of clearance in those big brake calipers, but I wonder about trying to shift in a race with what are essentially friction shifters.  Well, you run what you brung.  I didn't see him after the race to ask how it went.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recovering a leather (or pleather) saddle

I snapped two cell phone pictures of this pretty root beer colored Hunter cross bike at the McLaren Park CX race recently in San Francisco.  The owner stopped to talk to me about how he created that great matching seat.  He started with a worn out plastic and vinyl seat and advised me to do the following:
-Peel the vinyl covering off
-Repair any ruined foam padding with house hold caulk, let that solidify
-Soak the leather to make it stretchy
-Stretch the leather over the sadle and clamp it in place
-After the leather is in place tight on the saddle, trim so that you have just enough to tuck under and glue to the shell using contact cement

Sounds like a slightly messy but rewarding way to get yourself a leather saddle that looks much more classy than any of the stuff you can buy for cheap these days.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

As seen at the velodrome

Clear anodized frame. The owner said that it was faster than paint.  True?  Cant say.  It may be lighter than paint because it only adds some oxygen atoms to the frame but it doesn't make the frame invisible to the wind (read about transparent aluminum for more on that).  This guy must be concerned with wind resistance and not weight though, as he's chosen a heavy disc wheel for the back.  An anodized frame has the same cross section as a painted frame, but a different surface finish.  NASA points out that skin friction (the component of aerodynamic drag contributed by surface finish) gets better as the surface gets smoother.  Therefore, a polished painted surface will be faster on a track bike than a rough anodized surface so don't let anyone tell you that anodizing makes something faster, there are other factors involved.

It does look mighty sweet though, and should be cheaper since all it takes is a big tank and an egg timer (and much less precision work than painting).  Bonus points - it is probably more durable than paint (and might be a good choice for a mountain bike like the hard-anodized Maverick).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tips for using Frame Saver

All this fall weather may have you thinking about riding your bike in the cold and wet. If you have a carbon fiber or titanium bike frame, you should probably at least consider your components and bearings. Why not concern yourself with the frame? Well, your titanium frame will outlast you and probably the cockroaches that take over the planet after we're gone. Your carbon fiber frame is mostly plastic, and as we all know, that just doesn't break down in water. A decent set of fenders, or better yet, a classy pair of fenders, will do a lot to keep your bearings free of muck.

If you have a steel frame, you should consider rust. Any nicks in the paint can be touched up with color matched paint, or if you don't have that, some nail polish from the drug store is an inexpensive and durable option. The inside of a store-bought frame is probably not protected in any way. Water wicks down your seatpost, gets in the weld weep holes and generally finds a way inside. One thing you can do to protect your frame is spray JP Weigle frame saver inside. When doing this to your off the shelf bike, you'll need to remove your bottom bracket, seatpost and fork to keep those parts from getting gummed up and giving you access to the frame. You can spray the stuff into the frame through weep holes, welding holes and braze on holes (such as bottle bosses). In fact, spray from both ends of every tube. You don't necessarily need to de-cable the bike.

Spray frame saver into weep holes

You can stuff your bottom bracket with a rag to keep the frame saver out of the threads. You should lightly grease those anyway. The stuff will run out of the frame so you should do this over dirt or some newspaper. To protect the paint of your frame, you can tie a rag around any tubes, just below openings to catch drips. I left the rear derailler on my road bike and wrapped it in an old sock to keep it from getting covered in frame saver goo:

Notice the black rag used to keep drips off the frame and cable

Aluminum frames don't rust, per se, but do corrode. I don't live in a very salty environment, but I've got to believe that road salt will eventually mess with an aluminum frame, Perhaps Frame Saver should be used on aluminum frames in maritime / road salty environments. Any comments on that?

Good luck and enjoy your fall biking.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I once met a guy at a Loaf n' Jug rest stop in Colorado who claimed to have driven there in a VW bus on 3 cylinders from Zoney. Zoney, apparently meant Arizona. I recently traveled there and it turns out it has some bikes too:

Tall bike from leaving the scene of the Tour de Fat.

Airport police.