Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


Dans's CVT Bike Project- more thoughts

Dan emailed me the other day, asking about a couple of bike options for his CVT project.  He hadn't had much luck finding a deal on a Cross Check (no surprise there), but had looked at a Motobecane Fantom Cross from BikesDirect.  BikesDirect is one of those online places that a lot of cycling elites love to hate, probably because 1. they bought the rights to use the Motobecane and Windsor names on their bikes, but those bikes (like most bikes in the world) are made in Asia now and not in France or England, and 2. they sell complete bikes online, while conventional wisdom is that one should buy a bike from an LBS (Local Bike Shop).

Let's look at those two things. First off, most bikes are made primarily in Asia now, and most of the frames coming out of Asia are just fine.  Plenty of brand names have been bought up, like Schwinn and Masi, and there's nothing wrong with that as long as you know what you are buying. (In fact in my opinion, Masi is doing great things with the marque.)  

What about the shop argument?  The rest of a bike is the sum of its parts, and to some degree how those parts are assembled. Is there a bearded guy with a greasy shop apron and round spectacles lovingly assembling these bikes?  Are the wheels hand-built? Is there plenty of grease where there should be?  Probably not.  But, if you have a workstand, a couple of tools, and a little knowhow, you can get a long way toward overcoming those deficiencies, and you get to know your bike in the process. With Dan's bike project, we'll be tearing the bike down to the frame and building it back up again, so there's not much risk in buying by mail as opposed to an LBS.  Now, if you mostly want to ride your bike rather than work on it, if you want to be able to take it somewhere when it needs work, if you want to buy a bike that has been carefully put together and checked and adjusted just so, you'll want to buy from your LBS. 

So, we can safely order the Fantom Cross from BikesDirect and get on with the conversion process.  I had a look at the site.  What's this?  A Fantom Cross Uno (single speed) for $399?  Hmm. It's a steel frame instead of alumium, which means we can cold-set it wide enough to fit the CVT hub (as opposed to flexing the 130mm aluminum frame to 135 to cram the hub in), and it has horizontal dropouts so we can dispense with the tensioner. 

I've left the choice up to Dan. I can work with either bike, and if he goes for the regular Fantom Cross, there will be more parts I can strip off and keep. Of course, Dan also had a look at the Salsa Casseroll- what a gorgeous frame! Steel and 130mm dropouts?  No problem.

My workstand eagerly awaits this new project.


Skiing with family today.
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Another Bike Option for Dan

Busy lately and not much to write about.

I'm a big fan of Swobo, and they have a new bike coming out that made me think of Dan right away.  It's called the Crosby, and here's what they have to say about it:

Model: Fixed/Free/Single/Derailleur/Disc/Cantilever Cross or Road bike with clearance for fat tires and fenders. (Thats right. It's a hub that can be either fixed, or free, with the turn of an internal nut.)
Frame details: Horizontal sliding dropouts w/integrated adjusters, disc brake and derailleur hanger optional.
Fork: Swobo carbon, 1 1/8", disc and canti mounts.
Brakes: Avid Shorty 6 cantilevers, Tektro forged levers.
Hubs: SRAM Torpedo fixed/free rear; Swobo front, nutted.
Ball park retail: $1,049.00

Knowing what I know about Swobo, I'd guess that if they are advertising this as a potential cross machine, they might have gone with a 132.5 dropout spacing that would hole the NuVinci hub. I'm intrigued by the fixed/free switchable hub, becausae that would be coming off of the bike for Dan's project and maybe i could use it on the Xootr Swift foldable fixie project I've had turning over in my head for the last year or so.  More on that later.


Making holes in walls today.
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Home Improvement: Wallpaper

Our house was built in 1947.  In 1960 the owners found out they were having twins and would need one more bedroom than the house had.  They converted the garage into a kitchen and dining room space and turned the old kitchen into a back bedroom. Therefore, one of the walls of the kitchen/dining room is wallboard over the old exterior wall of the house, with wallpaper over that.  The rest of the walls in the house are mercifully painted wallboard or plaster. All well and good, but the wallpaper that covered the wallboard had to go if we ever wanted to paint the kitchen and dining area in consistent colors (which we do, more on that later.)

Over the last couple of weeks, Kate and I (mostly Kate) have worked to remove the two layers (1980's layer as well as the original 1960 layer).  Neither of these appear to have been applied with any sort of sizing, and the wall was pretty torn up once it was all off.  Since the above picture was taken, I have gone to work and used more than two gallons of spackle getting the  wall back to some state of smoothness.  It's almost done, minus a little rewiring, patching, and painting.  The good news is that the only wallpaper in the whole house that needs to be removed has been removed now (there's a bit over the counters and sink, but the short term plan for that is Kilz and paint, with a longer-term plan of tile).


Tied and Soldered Wheels

My latest wheel project, in addition to being a non-standard pattern, are also tied and soldered.  The idea is that you wrap copper wire around the spokes where they cross one another, and fix that wire by melting solder into the joint.  There's all kinds of mythology out there about "effectively increasing you hub flange diameter" or increasing the stability of the wheel.  Most of this has been disproved, or at least brought into serious question.  It's also not why I tied and soldered my wheels. I tied and soldered my wheels because it looks cool, and because it is another opportunity to delve into the lore and history of cycling.  Did I mention it looks cool?

Anyway, I built the front wheel for my commuter bike back in October, mostly in my living room.  Kate can attest to that, because she dislikes the smell of Phil Wood Green Grease, and she could smell it through the whole apartment as I prepped the spoke threads. The rear wheel, I was able to lace, true, tie and solder in our basement, and it took a short afternoon instead of several days.  I owe this largely to the open nature of the new shop space and the fact that there is lots of room to spread out the various parts of the wheel build.

There is something deeply satisfying about building wheels.  That satisfaction is enhanced by building wheels that somehow go beyond what can be purchased in a store. In the case of these wheels, the Livestrong bracelets/hub cleaners, the spoke pattern, the solder and the rim and spoke number choices are all non-standard. These are 36 spoke wheels built on strong Velocity rims, for extra strength on back roads and bad pavement. The three-leading-three trailing pattern is not something you'll find in a store, and from what I've heard it only presents a minor strength disadvantage over a three-cross pattern.  I'm hoping my strong rims and high spoke count will offset that. (and maybe tying and soldering them will add strength too, but I'm not counting on that, as I mentioned above.)

I finished the wheels off with velox tape, because, hey, it's french and it's what I have always used.  Velox is so much nicer than the rubber or plastic strips that come inside of machine built wheels.


"Plenty of room for fenders and big tires..."

How many times have I seen a cross bike or frame advertised with that phrase?  Pretty much every time one is advertised, I suppose.  In my new bike build, I'm really pushing the limits.  I have full fenders and 35's (Panaracer Smokes with a healthy tread, so they might measure out even bigger) on right now, along with a front derailer that simply will not play nice.  Once I got both the fender and the tire on, it was turn the tire, hear the rub, nudge the fender, no rub, turn the tire, hear the rub, pull out hair, retool the fender mount on the seatstay bridge, turn the tire, hear the rub, go upstairs and pace for awhile, back to the basement... ...you get the idea.

It took me forever to figure out that the rear tire was rubbing on the fender every time I shifted the derailer- which compressed the fender into the tread.  What's a guy to do? After much deliberation  (well, about 45 seconds spent thinking about just chucking the fenders and using my raceblades on rainy days) I decided to cut a hole.  A few minutes later (and about an hour looking for the last fender mountin nut, which had flown off in my zeal to remove the fender and lodged itself in the remotest, darkest corner of the basement, as small, critical parts are so often wont to do) I was in business.

Kate took one look at it and said "Won't that just channel all the mud and water right onto the derailer?"  I have to give her credit. It's probably the first question I'd have asked too.  But the choice here was between a fender with a hole in it or no fender at all.  I'm comfortable with my decision, and the tire rotates smoothly without rubbing.