Friday, November 19, 2010

Cross is too trendy to live

In the US at least. I just thought I'd throw that out there. We've started to see it in men's magazines that tout awesome scuba diving trips to Bali and the best designer lugged sole shoes for 2011 like Outside magazine. Participation is outstripping promotors ability to provide infrastructure. The guys who put on the races say to themselves - "Do I keep doing what I'm doing, and pissing off the people who get lapped two laps into a 100 racer category, or do I invest money to take this to the next level?" I know what will happen if they make that investment. The next hip outdoor sport will come along and they'll be left with thousands of dollars worth of course equipment and a paid staff. Remember whitewater kayaking, windsurfing and competitive rock climbing in the 90's? Remember the urgent need for whitewater parks and your investment in zebra print spanex climbing knickers?

It's getting too big for its britches folks. Its only cool if it's cult and it's only cult if it's low key. Every major bike manufacturer now makes one, two or three cross frames, putting them in the shops and under the noses of consumers all over the US. You can now go into any Performance bike store and buy a competent cyclocross bike for under 1000 bucks. Luckily, these bikes will serve their owners long past their flirtation with the racing scene. They can commute, tour and tow a Burly with a cross bike. Kind of hard to do that with a whitewater play boat. Race series are appearing or expanding in every metropolitan area, and with those come beginners sessions and clinics. But, what this means is that the barrier to entry has dropped. Whereas before you had to apprentice for a season, watching, learning, building your bike from parts you had to mail order or hack from old MTB's and road bikes, today you can jump right into a race and bring your lack of respect for the sport, the participants, and the laid back American cross ethos with you. Fist fights, aggro mid pack racers and mailing list flame wars are the result.

If my friends are reading this, they may feel despair. Why's he saying these things, doesn't he love the sport? More than you'll ever know. Every September I bid my road and MTB goodbye, my club rides get put on hold, weekend projects go undone and I become a monk who eats, breathes and lives cross. Waking up early every weekend morning to spend tons of time, effort and $$ to drive around the state chasing the races with my spare wheels and a recovery sandwich packed. I just had to say it because I think it's true. I think I can predict the future. I give the sport two or three more seasons at present participation levels. Maybe this season or next is the peak. I think we'll know the answer for real in Madison next year. But, this year, enjoy it, race your series, race nationals, cheer for your friends, buy Belgian beer. Savor it. If I'm wrong, you'll have lost nothing. If I'm right, and you had fun, you'll have lost nothing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Disco Stu

I saw this bike parked on the train on a Friday night commute. I snapped the picture, then got ready to hop off at my station, as did most of the other passengers. This dude, however, came up to his bike and saw that, gasp, a battery cover had fallen off one of his lights and the batteries had dropped out. Someone had seen a battery roll across the floor of the train. What did he do? Bust another flashlight out of his pocket (bringing the luminaire total to something in the triple digits) and start searching for the missing battery. You know, in case he needed a light to get home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A e-tailer gripe

I recently bought a new front derailer from This is the kind of thing that an experienced cyclist who does his or her own mechanical work does all the time. You know what you need, you find it for the lowest price you can get it, and you order it. I checked the specs, and really, there aren't many parameters on a thing like this. Make and model? Clamp diameter? So it arrived, lo and behold, it's a braze-on model. Not the 31.8mm clamp-on model I expected. I emailed customer service, with a PDF printout of the page from their website showing that what they were advertising was different from what they were shipping and got this response:

Performance is not responsible for printing errors or other errors appearing in our catalogs or Web site. All orders are subject to acceptance by Performance, Inc.

Rad. So, if you advertise that you're selling a pair of cycling shoes and I order them and get only one in the mail, you can blame it on a printing error and I'm just screwed?

Friday, October 8, 2010

What to bring to a cyclocross race. A rebuttal.

Many have seen, read, applauded, derided and linked to the recent VeloNews article on what to bring to a cyclocross race. Even BSNYC got in on the fun. Here is the nippleworks rebuttal:

Item #

Velonews Necessity

nippleworks Reality


Coleman™ portable stove to cook bratwurst

Nut butter and jelly sandwhiches, wrapped in tin foil so they don't get mashed by your gear


GSI™ Glacier French Press to make coffee

A paper cupful from the local café, whatever came out of the urn at the race or your beat-up thermos


53x11™ Coffee

The industrial supply coffee that the race promoter could afford


Crazy Creek™ Leisure Chair

The bumper of my pickup.


Mountainsmith™ Deluxe bike cube duffel bag

Canvas shopping bags. One for the clothes, one for the food and bottles.

6™ race noise creation device

My voice or the sheetmetal cowbell I got at as a freebie at a road race a couple of years ago.

7 ™ Belgian flag

Club tent?


Craft ZERO™ extreme base layer

A polypro undershirt that smells like campfires.


Specialized™ Equinox Glove

Any mountain bike gloves will work. Many pros race without gloves.

10™ warmup massage instrument

My thumbs?


Schlamm™ Portland Rain Suit

My yellow commuting rain jacket


Kurt™ Kinetic Road Machine wattage computing trainer

A few warmup laps and a sprint or two on the roads around the course.


Sixtus™ Start Oil embrocation from Germany

Non Belgian knee warmers. You know, the fabric kind that don’t burn you if they touch your junk.


3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive for putting on your race number

Uhh, the safety pins they give you for free when you registered?


Nomad™ Portable Pressure Washer

A squirt from a water bottle, a sharp stick or the hose at my house.


Park Tool™ Four Brush cleaning set

See line item 15 – a sharp stick.


NathanSport™ Power Shower Body Wipes

A wet rag, the inside of my jersey, or if I’m feeling fancy, a baby wipe.

So, I hope this article is informative and helps you decide what to bring to your next cyclocross race. Really all that's required is a bike, a helmet and a good attitude.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mountain Hardware Puzzle

I love the idea of a bike touring tent like the Mountain Hardware Ghisallo but... wouldn't it be impossible to get into the tent then put your bike under the vestibule? Conversely, wouldn't it be impossible to get into the tent once the bike is there? It appears that there might be two doors, one on the bike side and one on the other side. However, how does the bike stand up once it's under the canopy other than leaning it's greasy, pokey self all over the white fragile nylon? Better to bring a regular tent and a $0.05 trash bag slit open to cover the bike.

Photo from

Friday, August 6, 2010


No, not the fantastically suspenseful Michael Chrichton novel, but this thing:

Certainly an audacious design. One asks - how can thin axle possibly resist the torque created by the upwards forces of the wheel and the downward forces of the seat post? Well, it doesn't. Look carefully at other pictures in the article and the frame is suddenly not so elegant. There's a rear fender (not shown at first) which is welded into the frame, acting as a stressed member and and a de-facto seat tube.
As the title of the article suggests... almost genius.

Photos pillaged from

Friday, July 23, 2010

Salsa Front Rack

Still no sign on the Salsa web page of the sweet front cargo rack that I saw way back at Sea Otter. I'm waiting and watching because I'd like to buy one. Not only should it be a little less expensive than similar racks from Nitto through Velo Orange and Rivendell, but it looks like it also might be aluminum or "alloy1" in bike industry parlance, making it lighter. Still burly enough for me. I've never had an aluminum rear rack fail on my after miles of commuting and touring (although no MTB or 'round the world type stuff).

1 I think that bike companies call aluminum parts "alloy" or "scandium" even though they're mostly aluminum because aluminum reminds people of soda cans and alloy reminds people of science.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Schwinn Montague = Ritchey Breakaway - 20 years - lots of class

Saw this locked to a lamp post near the train station today. Apparently the Schwinn Montague had a two joint seat tube based break-apart mechanism which was functionally the same as the modern Ritchey BreakAway but, from the looks of it, less secure. I say less secure because the seat post joint uses more or less a bathroom stall hasp which can probably rotate and creak and contributes little to frame strength or stiffness. Anyway, someone still makes the Montague, albeit with a different, novel break-apart mechanism.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Floppy chopper got no stopper

Ok, so it can wrap around a pole (not terribly useful) and can fold (pretty useful) and goes from flaccid to rigid with a ratchet system hanging from the tube (has he taken out a patent on that?) but what interests me is that he has absolutely no brakes. No rim brakes front or back and a single speed conversion kit out back that eliminates the possibility of a coaster brake or fixed gear. Easily resolved with a front caliper or a fixed rear hub, but I suppose he was so intent on making his bike floppy that he's forgotten the one component that will keep him from wrapping it around a pole on accident.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Specialized Anti Chatter CX Bike

Further vindication of my cyclocross engineering treatise. The only reason I don't design bikes is because it's too easy :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life in the fast and wobbly lane

This is the sort of thing you see when you commute on the bike path that goes past Google headquarters. Way to go man. It's probably easier and faster to walk, but then, where's the adventure in that?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hard workin' panniers

So I had these panniers. For several years. Commuted with them all the time, took them on at least one overnight trip. Rain, sun, wind (no snow), all sorts of wacky loads. Worked pretty fine. Cheap too. I wrote them up almost a year ago now.

Well, last week, they started to give up the ghost. The stitching is coming apart at the point of the greatest loads (where they hang over the rack). I stitched the snot out of them by hand but they're still unraveling. Besides my best suturing skills, I'm afraid the patient can't be saved. Hopefully they hold out until my new JANDD panniers arrive in the mail. I'll let you know how the new ones work after a little riding.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crazy mountain people

And their crazy welded bicycle fences with headsets for hinges...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Via Ferrata for Bicycles

It will never happen in the US, but some crazy ass Dutchman may build it.

(BTW, Via Ferrata is a cable system that allowed soldiers to climb rocky terrain in N. Italy without ropes in WWI)