Thursday, April 30, 2009

More raw steel cyclocross bikes

Found this bike on +1 lap:

Unpainted steel frame, carbon fork, Campy components, top tube cable routing.  Very familiar.  Although, I'd never leave a frame unprotected like that, I like to keep my bikes a long time and failure due to rust is totally avoidable.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I got a chance to chat with the guys at NuVinci at Sea Otter 2009.  This hub has been out there for some time and is also being aimed at the powered vehicle market.  The Nuvinci uses a series of large ball bearings to translate torque from an input ring of one radius to an output ring of another radius.  As one radii increases, the other decreases, creating variable drive ratios.  The contact surfaces are bathed in a rheopectic fluid which transmits torque under shear strain.  The product does present a weight penalty to leg powered cyclers and seems like it may be better suited to hybrids, electric bicycles and other similar people moving machines.

The shifter features a very intuitive inchworm hill representation.  Twist one way to make a hill for low gears, twist the other way for a flat line for high gears.  Since the transmission is continuously variable, this is a very slick little shifter.  I hope this makes it into all manner of entry level bikes as it really makes shifting intuitive for the non-cyclist.

The NuVinci hub was installed on a bike with a Carbon Drive Systems drivetrain.  A unique look at the human powered drivetrain of the future?

The belt drive bike had a fantastic looking inlaid wood fender.  Classy.

I also understand that someone was racing a NuVinci hubbed MTB at the Otter.  Heavy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Conehed hub

This carbon fiber front hub from Grammo makes me want to play Diabolo.

Torker Cargo Bike

Curious, I reached down and unlocked the headset on this Torker cargo bike.  The heavily laden basket instantly became unwieldy.  Something I didn't take into account because I'm not used to riding with a ton of weight on my front fork.  
But, clearly something that's needed on a cargo bike.
Look at that price.  This might be a great car-replacer for urban citizens.  Do all your shopping and errands by bike.  It's also a much more svelte way of making the bike ridgid for loading, as compared with the traditional center stands, like what you'll find on many cargo bikes like the Bilenky.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ibis Tranny

I snapped this pic wondering what was going on with the new Ibis rigid carbon MTB, the Tranny. Does that rear triangle come off for repair, maintenance, swap out with a full suspension rear traingle?  No, no and no.  Apparently, his bike attempts to be all things to all people.  According to Ibis it is:
-A geared bike
-A single speed
-A travel bike
-A bottle opener

Now, when you see how it works as a bottle opener, you will say "what the hell, I have to take the rear wheel off to open my beer?"  Yes.  Once you have done something catastrophic like ripped off your rear derailler on a stump, or taco'd your front wheel, go ahead and lay the bike on its side just off the trail, sit down, remove the wheel and open the glass bottle you've been carrying around in your camel-back.  I have to say, Swobo's seat rail bottle opener seems more practical.

The geared/single features of the bike are modular cable stops and an adjustble rear triangle to take up extra chain length.  How does it adjust?  Watch the tranny hump itself* in this short animation:

What interests me the most is that the rear triangle is removable for travel.  Up until now, I felt that the slickest travel system was the Ritchey Break Away.  Of course, that works best on my kind of bikes - metal ones with tubular members.  If you go to crazy box-section carbon tubes.  Go tranny.  I wonder if they will bring this travel modality to a road frame?  I'm sure there are some folks out there who would like to take their sporty carbon road frame to Europe and avoid paying through the nose to get a big bike box on the plane.  How about it Ibis, travel carbon road frame?

*I'll do anything to boost blog traffic.

Swobo, Sky, Baxter and Crosby

I got some time with the busy bee of Swobo, Sky Yaeger.  I have owned two Bianchi Volpe's that had the 'Chick Designed' decal on the seat tube, her signature.  One I built up as the ultimate touring bike, the other I turned into a sweet cross racing rig.  I sold the cross bike and still regret it. 
Sky is still working her magic, most recently with the Swobo Crosby.  At just over a grand, this bike is all things to all people. Fixed or free, rim or disc, road or off.  The rear dropouts are modular, easily allowing you to switch between horizontal single speed dropouts and a dropout with a vertical derailler hanger (which Sky wore around her neck at Sea Otter):
It also has rim brake mounts and disc brake mounts, depending on your fancy.  Kind of reminds me of Sheldon' Brown's everything bike.  Here's a closeup of the modular dropout and SRAM Torpedo Hub on the Crosby.  As you may know, I question the use of fixed gear hubs in urban riding scenarios, but for those of you that dig it, you can switch this hub between fixed and free by sticking a screwdriver in that little hole and turning an unseen screw.
Another Swobo bike that debuted at Sea Otter was the Baxter.  Internally geared, super smooth shifting Alfine hub, tail light blinky on the seatpost, a pretty much perfect urban bicycle.

Molly Cameron

Cross racer, Belgian pilgrim and Portland bike shop owner Molly Cameron was at Sea Otter.  Molly handed me one of these cards.  Apparently the Belgian fans love to get their hands on these:
 Here's Molly, sporting a sponsor's logo shirt, helping out as a wrench at one of the racing team's tents.

I promise, if you go to the Veloshop, your headset will be installed correctly.

More sociopaths

Another page I found in that bike commuting how-to brochure:

If you have night blindness, don't ride in the dark, you may confuse a friendly pedestrian for Daniel Plainview.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bev Int'l, maker of fine stick-on fake carbon

Enough web surfing and you just start to find this stuff:This wallet is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fine products offered by Bev. Int'l Corp. In addition to carbon fiber wallets, they also produce a line of frames, such as the


-Carbon frame super cool wings.

-Strong muscles 04 special edition

Niner W.F.O. 9

Besides forks, I also got to see what's hot in dual suspension 29ers at the Niner booth.  TheW.F.O. 9 is a 140 mm travel bike and according to a Niner representative, one of the only two 29ers to accept the HammerSchmidt internally geared crankset.  What makes compatibility difficult?  Besides some mounting tabs, the suspension linkages have to be arranged to make room for the unit and the suspension must also be optimized to work with the chain constantly in a granny gear position.  The suspension on the WFO. is unique in that the Constantly Varying Arc that the rear wheel travels on results in no chain growth after sag.  This improves power transmission through the chain during full use of the suspension travel range.  According to Niner, the dw-link suspension just can't handle it.  You'll also notice that the bike features a tapered head tube and this model has the longest travel fork available for 29'ers, a Marzocchi that was a collaboration between Niner and the Marzocchi company.

Delta 7 Isotruss Bike

The Delta 7 Sports people were out at Sea Otter in force.  Demo'ing thier Isotruss frame bike, racing it, and generally getting attention.   They even put it in one of the press packet brochures, advertising a complete bike price of over $9000.  You can read more about the technology here:
That's a trophy for a MTB race.  I'm sure it's a competetive bike.  How much more competetive than any other carbon hardtail?  Probably not much after the bike collects a few pounds of earth:

Convenient for cable routing though.  You may be able to see a cable housing through the mud lattice in the above picture.

SRAM Red Cassette

Although I've read about it, I hadn't had a chance to touch the all-in-one machined SRAM cassette until last weekend.  This thing is machined from a solid block of material.  Although, they could possibly have the raw material cast to near-net shape (a truncated cone) so they have less to remove.
I'm guessing that the part is first turned on a CNC lathe that hollows the inside and cuts the grooves between the cogs on the outside.  A CNC mill then machines the tooth profiles, shifting ramps and freehub splines.  Finally, an anodized cap is put on the bottom so that the cassette can be centered and mounted on a hub.  Maybe this is all done in a multi-axis turning/milling center.   The question is - will this manufacturing technique be refined to the point it can be cheap enough to make lower end gear sets this way?  For the forseable future, individual stamped cogs and hand assembly in lower cost countries will continue to be the way cassettes are made.  

It was great, however, of SRAM to cross section one for our inspection.

Niner Forks

Niner had a huge display of 29" mountain bike forks in their tent at Sea Otter both rigid and suspended.  What's big in big wheels?  Tapered steerer tubes.  Note the conical steer tubes in the three suspension forks in the picture below.
As dual suspension 29ers are being developed, people are taking them places the big wheel has never been before, like downhill courses.  The larger wheel is ideal for rolling over obstacles at high speed but larger frames and longer spokes suffer from a stiffness problem that makes steering under load less precise.  A larger lower headset bearing is one way to stiffen the front end assembly of a bike and not something that is necessarily needed for the XC designs that have so far dominated the 29er market.  What might go good on an XC 29er though, is a compliant carbon fork.  Check these babies out:

That first one on the left is colored 'Tang' and matches the paint job on my Niner MCR.  Not that I would replace the fork, I'm very happy with my Rock Shox REBA.  Speaking of rigid, check out this carbon shell saddle.

The rails are an integral part of the shell making this one light weight piece of gear.  It was, however, stiff as hell.  Most saddles form a sort of hammock because you have a flexible plastic and leather shell supported at the tip and tail by the rails.  This allows for flexure in the middle.  The carbon saddle was supported right in the middle and the shell was stiffer than usual.   On a hardtail MTB no less.  Most cyclists don't have a ton of extra cushion in that region but maybe some people like the pain?  It would be perfect for this Rabobank rider.

Update on the new Rigid Ritchey

Some new details have come to light regarding the rigid Rithcey fork blogged on 4/19.  Someone @ Ritchey marketing is checking in on nippleworks and let us know the following:

 "Hey this pictured fork is actually the new PRO Mountian Fork. It will be available in 26" and 29" wit ha 445 axle-crown for the 26" and 485 axle-crown for the 29". IT has a 50mm crown diameter, forged hollow crown for light weight and full carbon dropout and disc brake tab - Ritchey Marketing Coordinator "

The distinction there is that the new fork is of the PRO class and not the higher end, WCS class (for which they already have a product).  With full carbon dropouts and disc brake tabs though, the PRO model is going to be very competitive from a weight standpoint.  The rigid 29er fork market is really heating up with this new offering from Ritchey and the much publicized Niner carbon fork (to be blogged about soon).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earthday Warning - You will get hit by a bat

I got this handy pamphlet today.  It was a how-to guide meant to get people to take more trips by bicycle.

I'm afraid that this picture probably isn't helping the cause:

Of all the hazards I've faced while commuting by bike, baseball bat wielding sociopaths has not yet been one of them.  How about some detail on the hazards of cell phone texting while riding?  Now that I see all the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Up above you're looking at Jeff Kerkove (left, background) and Jeffrey Neal of Ergom USA and Sonya Looney of the Topeak Ergon racing team. They were at Sea Otter selling a stack of their lock on grips and grip/bar end combos at bargain prices. I'm going to have to seriously think about eventually picking up a pair of the GX2 grips with carbon bar ends seen here on one of their team bikes. Wicked light. I've been riding with a less fancy pair of GC2's for over a year now and will wear them out first. The ergonomics of the grips makes long rides and races where you are locked into one riding position as comfortable as possible. When it's time to climb, the stubby bar ends are just enough to give you a change of positions and some side to side leverage.

Sonya had just raced in the pro women's short track event when I snapped this photo. I also got a chance to see two of the guys on the team give the pro short trackers a run for their money on Saturday.

Let Levi Ride

As I was standing along the Laguna Seca race course, waiting for the men's pro circuit race to begin, the announcer said "we'll get underway here just as soon as Levi makes it down to the starting line."  Things were being held up a bit because that guy up there, pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer was MIA.  He eventually made it down to the start but not before a lot of grumbling from the pack.  "Start without him!", "why are we waiting for queen Levi?"  It was a bit of an uncool situation but admit it guys, the race isn't going to start without him.  Races make money through entry fees and sponsorship and big names bring both.  Leave the comments in the bar and do the talking with your legs on the course.  This guy is bringing positive attention to your sport.  

In the end, a local boy, Andy Jacques-Maynes won the race after a long, hard breakaway and lots of people gathered around the track to watch the also-rans go by and give valuable eyeball time to the sponsors on their jerseys.

Calfee - Hemptastic 29er

I stopped by the Calfee booth drawn by the alluring sight of what looked from a distance like burled wood lugs on a bamboo 29" mountain bike. How did they do this I asked? No secret but hard work. Hemp fibers were run through resin, wrapped around the joint then polished, polished, polished until the tube connection looked like a piece of fine furniture. Few people can afford this sort of thing, but it's fantastic to look at and may induce larger companies to inject a bit of craftsmanship into their mass produced products like the Bianchi Dolomiti (bringing chromed lugs back in a factory built bike).

Antarex Bike Lights

Despite being called 'hipster cysts' by BSNYC, the Knog lights are a really innovative addition to the urban rider's arsenal. Key word, innovative. The Antarex display at the KMC Chain booth was showing off a selection of poorly made Knog knockoffs at this year's Sea Otter. No innovation here, just cutting corners on product quality to come to the American market with a me-too product. Not many bike industry publications will call this kind of thing out, but we can since we're not getting any advertising money. These things were blatant copies imported from Asia. I will give it to them, they did display a model with a solar panel (one of these products covered in a soft rubber skin), and if that's all they were selling, I would have a lot more positive things to say about them.

Vote with your dollars and support companies that innovate and not those that duplicate.

More from Grammo

As you can see in the above picture, there are two angle adjusments to this Grammo stem. The website gives the indication that the product is meant for bike fitting, probably not for long term use. I am assuming that the two angle adjustments, when fiddled with properly, allow the fitter to adjust both angle and height of the handlebars. Although it looks like a Ritchey adjustable stem, it's not quite the same. The Ritchey has splines that engage and prevent angular slippage, making adjustment rather time consuming and that stem more of a long term use item. The new Grammo stem seems to compete more with the long manufactured Look adjustable stem and is likely a temporary component.

Rock Lobster - Captain America Bike

I ran into Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster who was toting around a sweet cyclocross ride he built up for the recent San Diego custom bike show. The bike had a USA type of theme with as many of the components being sourced domestically as possible. Not just from American companies, but actually made in the USA. This includes the White Brothers crank, Thompson seatpost stub, Paul brakes and Phil Wood hubs. With the brakes, frame and hubs being built in Norcal, the Rock Lobster is a true locavore! The bike also features a 1.5" headset. The seat mast and through-the seatmast rear brake cable routing is clearly in the pattern of Sacha White's Speedvagen but the internal top tube cable routing gives the frame it's own clean style and super cyclocross functionality. If this machine tickles your fancy, Paul says it's for sale.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Soma Fixie / Fauxie wheels

What you're looking at here are a set of attention grabbing anodized wheels with a fixed gear style nut (no quick release) and a machined brake surface. Are these

a) urban wheels with a nut to foil bike component thieves?
b) a product aimed primarily at people who ride fixed gear bikes with brakes?
c) a confusing combination of compromises (not convenient for road riding due to the nut but not meant for track riding either)?

Grammo Seat Post

Came across a new company at Sea Otter - Grammo. Started by a group of college buddies in New Zealand, they're making Genius brand frames and Grammo brand components. Their website is mainly in Italian which makes me wonder if the story I was told at the show was false or if they're doing that to make you think you're buying Italian designed stuff. The wheels looked like a rather sketchy assortment of tubular-carbon spoked hoops. The seatpost caught my eye though. It's a one bolt design that has a quick release function . This would allow for quick saddle adjustment or changes. However, I don't know of any cyclist who needs to quickly change out saddles. There does seem to be an increasingly wide selection of seat post designs, all trying to improve upon the traditional and robust laprade style or knock off the adjustability of the Thompson.

Pegoretti Cicli

Above Category Racing (sponsored by Above Category Cycling of Mill Valley, CA) came out to race the Sea Otter circuit race on their steel Pegoretti Marcelo's. How many other steel frames where in the bunch that day? None. They're even using metal bottle cages. Unheard of!

Specialized Shock Fork Cutaway

This nifty shock fork cutaway was up on display in the Specialized booth @ Sea Otter. It's confidence inspiring to see a company that is proud of their product's internal design. It indicates they put some brains behind the function as well as the obviously visible form.

The reason I'm posting this picture is to highlight the yellow foam inner seal. While it may not be standard practice, or suggested by suspension manufacturers, I always store my MTB upside down (easily done if you hang it from hooks in the garage). This soaks the seal with oil and keeps it swollen, retaining oil and keeping out debris. I once met a mechanic who would oil the outer seal after every wash, for more or less the same effect. How much oil got down there, I don't know. However, it seems intuitive that you would want oil leaking out from the inside and not seeping in from the outside to keep the internals debris free (as long as you replace the oil at the suggested maintenance interval).