Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review - MUSA Knickers

I finally bought myself a pair of MUSA Knickers. They had gone off the market for a while but when a coworker's search for authentic fabric handlebar tape brought me back to the Rivendell web site, I saw that they were being sold again. I snapped up a pair, not knowing how long the current run would stay on the shelves. I thought about taking a picture of myself wearing them, but not having a convenient tripod, and also not willing to become a groin and thigh model, I chose to steal one from Rivendell:
Please keep in mind, I'd never wear them with those sneakers. The fabric is a light nylon that will be wind proof in winter, quick drying in the rain and not too heavy for spring/fall. The only complaint so far is that the fabric is a little slippery on my faux leather WTB saddle. I'm sure Rivendell would tell me to switch to a Brooks cow hide saddle, but I imagine that be even more slippery. They're less technical and also much less expensive than Chrome Shins and also more outdoor worthy than the Sheila Moon Cotton Britches. However, unlike the Britches or Shins, I will definitely not be stylish enough to ride to the Goldsprints in SF with them on. Up until now, I've been wearing a pair of Endura knickers and have an issue with the sizing. Apparently the British are a little thick in the midlands because my size large fits like a size XL. One other benefit, MUSA stands for Made in the USA. While you can feel good about buying products from Chrome or Sheila Moon, I can't say the same for Endura products. Just read these excerpts from the slip of paper that came with my new drawers:

Very cool.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wireless Fetish

Why put a wireless cycle computer on a road bike? The front wheel doesn't move much in relation to the handlebars as on a suspended mountain bike, and the thin wire can't possibly weigh more than the battery required to run the transmitter. Trek is now integrating wireless transmitters into the forks of their road bikes. It seems wrong to have to use a screw driver to change the batteries on your bike. Bikes don't need batteries. However, Shimano seems to think so.

I do dig that Gary Fisher road bikes have fender mounts now...

And, what is this? A stealthy pie plate?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Give George Yellow

Hey, I love fair play as much as the next guy, and that's why I can't endorse this project to make a big deal out of George Hincapie not obtaining the yellow jersey on Stage 14 of this year's Tour De France.

Racing's racing and the clock doesn't lie.

I'm reminded of a mountain bike race I entered not long ago where a pro level woman chose to race in my (male, non-pro level) category. She took 3rd, bumping me off the podium. It was a non sanctioned race though so there wasn't much I could do about it except choose not to participate in the next race in the series. Well, spurred on by that disapointment, I trained hard and came back to win the next event. Hincapie has had a long career full of opportunity, being on great teams, surrounded by great talent. Plenty of chances to prove himself.

nippleworks usually covers bike technology, but we've been posting more road race related info on the twitter feed:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smart Company for Smart Buyers

I love it when a business treats its customers as intelligent clients, rather than 'consumers'. Cattle are consumers.

Case in point - Look. The page on the KEO pedals gives real details about the reliability testing they perform. It feels good to buy a critical component from a company that brags about reliability.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lawyer Lips in the TDF

What's this? Do I see Lawyer Lips on the fork of Alberto Contador's Trek Madone? What's going to happen when the Mavic Neutral Support mechanic jumps out of his Saab estate car or off the back of his BMW GS bike, front wheel in hand, and kneels down to quickly change Contador's puncture just to find the wheel caught behind some stupid metal tabs? Lost seconds, that's what.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Proof the 650 area code is a road cycling haven

As seen in the office window of a construction company.

sent from Gmail for Android

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big idea - mini fender

I saw this on the web site of former frame builder, Dave Moulton:
What is that little black tab on the underside of the touring fork crown? I think it's a mini fender meant to keep road gunk out of your headset. These days, you could make it out of a tab of carbon fiber and still be cool. Maybe. Anyway, something to think about.

Photo from

Monday, July 13, 2009

Heavy Metal

I love the Competitive Cyclist web site for its enthusiasm, weatlh of knowledge and slick design. Today, however, I found something I question. Shopping for a new chain for my Campy 10 speed bike, I checked out the Wipperman ConneX 10 Speed Stainless model. It's got a quick link which Campy branded chains don't have, and the stainless should last longer and be easier to clean. They claim, however, that:

"One final bonus is that stainless is light"

Not true. Most stainless grades have a density of 8 g/cc while mild steel comes in at 7.85 g/ cc. This stainless chain might be lighter however if they're using a heat treatable grade that could be stamped then hardened, allowing for thinner wall thicknesses, lightening the assembly.

I went to the Wipperman site to see if they publish what grade of steel the chains are made of. Not that I can tell. Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tire Iron Failure

This, I think, was 1/3rd of the first bike tool I ever owned. Purchased for me at around age 13, I've kept the same set of three tire irons quite a while. A couple years ago I lost one in some tall grass at a roadside tire change and the second one snapped on me recently, leaving one lone tire iron. This was a set of Dremefa tire levers from The Netherlands that came in the little red bracket with a rough patch on the side for tire patch installation. At the time, these were the only tire irons sold in bike shops. I found their maker on the web and they remain unchanged:

Photo from

If you look in the image at the top of the page, it seems like the crack initiated at one of the many grooves worn into the lever face by running the lever around the rim of a wheel I probably no longer own. Godspeed little tire iron.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nice Panniers

I was riding to work this morning and a woman in an SUV rolled down her window and said "excuse me...". I thought, oh no, driver/cyclist confrontation. But the next words out of her mouth were "nice panniers". I assumed she was talking about my bike luggage and not my saddlebags. I was flattered. She knew just what to ask next - "how much?". Well ma'am, have I got a tip for you. These Nashbar Daytrekker Panniers have seen me to and from work day in and day out, in rain sun and wind for a measly $40. Sometimes you can even find them for less on sale.

They have a plastic lining and an overlapping top to keep the contents dry and two straps to put your rolled up work clothes under in the middle. I have put a split keychain ring between the straps so as to create an X-pattern to better hold down cargo. I also know two other people who use these and are quite happy with the value. Great commuter cargo, but a little small for touring or grocery shopping. Also, not a quick and handy way to dismount them and take them with you, so they are good if you want to leave them on the bike day in and day out.

Happy commuting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wheel Overhauling

About a month ago, I posted about overhauling the front hub on my touring/commuter bike. The bearing cone was deeply pitted and in really bad shape. Last weekend, after ordering the right bearings (but the wrong cones since there's almost no good way to buy stuff like that if you're not a shop), I took the axle out of my rear hub for bearing replacement and repacking with grease. Bad news- the cones were wrong so I couldn't complete the job. Good news- I didn't have to. Cones were in pristine condition (as you can see in the picture above). Why? Both wheels had seen the same mileage, through the same weather and road conditions. And, the rear wheel sees much more load due to my center of gravity location and panniers always on the bike.

Differences that might explain why the rear wheel bearing races are lasting so much longer:
-Larger bearings (1/4" vs 3/16" for a larger contact patch, less stress on the cone)
-More braking load on the front wheel
-Occasional front fork chatter which may stress the hubs

Anyway, I packed everything with grease, buttoned it back up and lubed the drivetrain. Now she purrs like a kitten.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cross bike fork chatter

Every year as cross season dawns, this subject becomes a major mailing list chatter. Why does my very expensive, carbon fiber, heavily engineered, modern cross fork chatter under braking load? Answer - it's an inherent flaw in the design of traditional cross bikes with cantilever brakes. Although cross season is a few months away, I've seen some traffic on the question, so I'll discuss it.
The diagram above shows what's going on when your braking with the front brake.

1) The brake cable comes under tension
2) The brake pads apply braking force to the rim
3) The ground applies backwards force to the tire
4) The fork deflects backwards
5) Fork deflection causes brake cable tension to increase
6) Brake pads apply more force to the rim

At this point, something has to give way:

a) The brake pads stop the wheel cold and you go over the handlebars
b) The ground gives way and you have a front wheel skid
c) The brake pads slip on the rim and the vicious cycle of (1 to 6 + c) repeats

The rapid repetition of that cycle is 'chatter'.

How do you solve it?

Happy Remounting

Dura Ace Electronic Debugging

The only diagnostic tool I need to debug my drivetrain is a small screwdriver:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Yakima Quick, but not Smartback

Many mountain bikers love beer. Every mountain-town around the west has a micro brewery now and about half the new bike components have a bottle opener integrated into them. But, how smart is it to integrate bottle openers into cars? The guys at Yakima seemed to think it was a good idea.
Photo from

Nothing seems dicier than a long dehydrating bike ride followed by a couple of beers followed by a drive home.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Some first time frame building tips

More ideas from my conversation with Joanna, someone I know who is contemplating recycling the components from her old road frame onto a cross/commuter frame:

The Competitive Cyclist fit calculator is a good place to start when trying to find the right size frame.

Measuring your existing bikes also helps. As a woman, you're going to want a shorter than average top tube. This is always a challenge for women looking for a cross bike since there aren't women specific cross bikes yet and a female specific frame tends to be built for shorter torsos.

Another tip - a pair of touring tires is probably good for a cross/commuter. Cyclocross tires are expensive and wear out quickly on pavement. Touring tires have a bit of tread and wear like iron.

Budget some money for frame building tools and expenses:

-cable cutter
-bottom bracket tool
-headset installation (that's usually a job for a pro mechanic)
-a new set of cables and housing
-a new chain as your chainstay length may increase
-a new cassette to go with your new chain, budget cassettes are heavy but durable
-odds and ends like handlebar tape and cable donuts
-a set of good ball-end hex wrenches, don't rely on a multi-tool. Bondhus offers a lifetime warranty, I've used it, it's worth it.
-a cheap, maybe 2nd hand work stand. It will save your back! (this is something you can usually borrow)

Also, most assembly steps require grease. A tube of plain old grease from the auto parts store will be good enough. Get some latex or nitrile gloves, maybe some industrial q-tips.

Also, put the cell phone number of your favorite bike mechanic buddy on speed dial, to call when the going gets confusing.

Frame replacement advice

A friend is looking to replace her dented aluminum road frame with one of the many high value, low cost frames available today. I thought I'd reprint the advice I gave her:


to Ross, Joanna

I recall the dented Specialized, and even how it got dented.

The brakes are short reach caliper brakes. If she wants to save those (and save $50 or so in the process) she will want a road frame. Note that the Surly Pacer takes long reach calipers. I think the SOMA road bikes do too. Of course, a pair of cantilever brakes will only set her back a little more money and will work with her existing Ultegra 9 speed levers. Something to note- fenders will not fit under her short reach calipers. Full fenders make commuting during a rain storm almost pleasant, and the bike and all its parts cleaner so there's less maintenance.

For the best price on a frame/fork combo, she can always go with some of the discount models from Performance and Nashbar. I have been racing for 2 seasons now on a Performance XRL cross frame and have found it to be pretty decent. It also came with a carbon fork and a headset. A Colorado commuter is going to get wet, I strongly recommend Frame Saver for inside steel frames.

She should watch eBay and craigslist (particularly in Boulder and Fort Collins) as cross season comes around and people start upgrading their frames. With the new carbon frames out there, lots of racers are trying to sell aluminum frames. Steel frames are hard to come by second hand, although a complete steel touring bike may be a good buy since she's going to replace the components anyway. When buying a second hand cross frame, check for frame damage from crashes.

PS, The stickers should be there soon. I expect pictures to post on the blog.


On Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 3:09 PM, Rossitron wrote:


I’m not sure why but I have been asked to ask you about new frames for Joanna’s old road bike. It’s some sort of aluminum Specialized with 9-speed Ultegra bits, and the frame has a big dent in it. After looking at my Surly and reading through some of your eloquent musings on nippleworks she now proclaims to be interested in assembling something new out of something old. Her current thought is a cross/commuter/get around bike -- any thoughts on frame choices? Price is important and she is intrigued by the $420 price tag on the Cross Check frame, if that helps with frame of reference, so to speak (I know, lowest form of humor).