Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gears: You are doing it wrong

You want to know why your chain is only lasting 400 miles? Of course you don't, because you refuse to listen. I know you want to be all independent and shit, but you do in fact need my help. Otherwise you would not have to replace both your chain and your cassette every time you walk into the shop. Before you accuse the last bike shop of installing a used chain because " only lasted 400 miles," perhaps you should pull your head out of your ass, wipe the shit from your ears, and hear me speak thusly: As much as I enjoy myself, I do not talk just to hear my own voice. If you simply do not want to hear what I have to say, don't bother walking in to my shop because :
A) You're gonna hear it and,
B) You're not going to like it.

If you are concerned with chain wear, you will first, keep it lubed, and second, stop cross chaining! Cross chaining is using the big chain ring and the biggest cog or the small chain ring and small cog. Two extremes that put your whole drive train in jeopardy. It's all about chain line. On a single speed bike, chain line is important for several reasons. The basics are described by Sheldon Brown: 

"The word "chain line" refers to how straight the chain runs between the front and rear sprockets. Ideally, both sprockets should be in the same plane, so that there is no side ward motion or stress to the chain. This constitutes "perfect chain line"."

"In the case of derailleur geared bicycles, the chain line is not perfect in most gears. Chain line mismatch can cause the chain to rub against the side of an outer, larger chain ring when engaged with a smaller one, and can cause problems with shifting, especially with the front derailleur. The worse the chain line, the worse the mechanical efficiency of the drive train..."
"Correct" chain line for a derailleur system is a matter of opinion, and depends on the intended use of the bicycle."  (It's a good thing for you that my opinion matters.) 

On the surface of it, cross chaining is about the most inefficient use of gears I can think of. Here's an example: The same customer that complained about chain wear told me that she rides in the "big ring" all the time. That means she is riding in the hardest gear up front. In order to facilitate easier pedaling, she has to use the largest cogs (or easiest gears) in the back. This makes the chain look like this:

(the bottom one ;)
It also forces every single link to have to conform to severe angular contact points 
(about 20 degrees I would guess) every single revolution of the crank. 40 miles at a time, this chain, designed to go in a straight line, begins to break down immediately. This angular contact can be felt in the pedals too. Because of the severe angle, vibration can be felt when the chain is both picked up and let go by the cassette, and chain rings. Plus it can fuck up your derailleur since most road derailleurs have a short cage and are not designed to handle such big gears continually. 

So I tried to reason with her explaining she is not only damaging her components, but "over training" by pushing a harder "lever." This means she is working too hard to achieve her perceived goal. 
Let me elaborate:
She is riding a compact crank set. (Chain rings measuring 50 tooth and 34 tooth)
By riding in the big ring (50) and her largest cog (23) she is pedaling at 57 "gear inches."
That is to say, for every revolution of the crank, she travels 57 inches. 

Should she decide to listen to me, she could shift to her small ring (34) and her 16 tooth cog and find herself pedaling at 56 gear inches, using less effort, and achieving  basically the same result.
And her chain line would look more like this:

This is not rocket surgery here Lady. Really, it is the exact opposite. If my six year old daughter can understand it, you should be able to as well. If you can't, you should just give up. 
Life gets a lot harder than bikes.     

Friday, March 21, 2014

Job Description

People think that this is what I do all day. 

In a perfect world, they would be right. In the real world however, it is another story.

Sometimes I get to make awesome stuff awesom-er 

Sometimes, it gets less awesome. 

Sometimes, the directions are fucking bullshit.

 Sometimes, you just need to stick a fork in it.

Loving what you do is the best feeling in the world. Loving every minute of it, that's 
 an impossible dream. - Jason 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oh Amazon, you have me all figured out.

I woke up this morning to find this in my "inbox."

"Jason, Are you looking for something in our Bikes & Accessories department? If so, you might be interested in theses items."

Clearly, Amazon does not read my blog. On second thought, perhaps they do and this email is nothing more than a sick joke. 

I should have flagged it as "spam" but, hungover, I couldn't focus on the little flag shaped button. 
Instead, to prove that I can take a joke, I read on. Turns out that they have some pro level shit going on over there. Like this sexy, polka-dotted motherfucker. 

"The Stage One is a combination of classic road bike mixed with modern technology. The Shimano Stem Mounted SIS lever shifters provide a classic look but are backed by Shimano’s A050 derailleurs and 16 speeds. You will be looking like the leader when you cruise by on this collaboration of old and new."
You will like a dumb ass is what you will look like.  Nothing screams "Le Tour de France" like stem mounted shifters. 

Seriously though, what the fuck is going on with those bars?!

But don't worry, they make a PRO version as well...

"The Tour de France Stage One PRO road bike is a great performing bike at a great value. You'll be TEARING UP THE ROAD with this feature-packed bike that sports Shimano A050 front and rear derailleurs, Shimano A050 handle bar-mounted thumb-shifters, an alloy frame and stem, double-walled alloy rims, Vader Cro-mo seat, and Innova 700c road tires."

 "handle bar mounted thumb-shifters" are so PRO"

Say it however you want Amazon. 

You can polish a turd, but at the end of the day, it's still a piece of shit.

Now please, leave me the fuck alone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hey! Spring! Wipe your feet off at the door. Don't track that shit in here!

Oh! You're back? Hello!" I said to Spring. I notice he starts to lightly chuckle a bit and as his grin widens I ask, "what's so damn funny?" He says, laughing, "just it comes..."
"Here what com... oh." ...  "Damn it." I say shaking my head, having realized what I am about to behold.

(Enters one of the few hundred ass hats that do shit like this all the time...)

"I have a bike in my car that needs a "tune up," should I bring it in?"

"Well, I can't work on it in your fucking car now can I?

But if I said that then I would be the asshole. Which is stupid when you give it some more thought. Really, here we have a grown ass man, asking about the dumbest fucking thing you can ask of a bicycle repairman, expecting me to look him dead in the eye and not tell him to "eat a dick."
This problem would go away over night if they let me strap a mask on to the faces of these clown shoes, that would make fart noises when they say something dumb. Perhaps they would eventually get it if every time they said something stupid, people looked at them with that scrunched up "who farted?" face. This might seem a bit inhumane, but I imagine it can't be worse than strapping a shock collar on to a dog to teach him his/her boundaries. It's really the same thing.

"Oh, sure, very funny Spring!" I said. But before I slapped the shit out of him for being a dick, I thought of how lucky I was to have Spring back in my life. I mean, it was really cold this year. It's nice to have some warmer weather for a change. Just as I finished that thought, he starts laughing again! I'm like "what the fuck is so fu...."

"You think you're funny huh ass hole?"

"Yeah, kind of." He said with a smile...

"Hey, Spring...

No really, glad you're back. 

Don't ever leave again,

Love, Queso

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I Meant Was...

I feel as though I left a few things unsaid in yesterday’s post. To elaborate on the premise of planned obsolescence, it is no secret that the bicycles described in said post do not meet the physical demand under which they find themselves burdened. Secondly, they are often mislabeled in a way that makes them appear (to the consumer) to be something they are not. To wit, bikes labeled “BMX,” bearing components such as pegs for grinding on shit, or generic labeled “Gyros” meant for bar spins, or “tricks.” A “Mountain Bike” that would most certainly get a rider killed who was hapless enough to use it as such. 
The list goes on but here are the facts: These bicycles are sold in the toy aisle. They are assembled by under qualified personnel, and sold to the unsuspecting consumer with no one being able to demonstrate knowledge of the product, proper fitting, or physical limitations of the equipment. They are clearly labeled in a way that makes them appealing to the eye, yet not so clearly (hidden under the bike) as to display a sticker in a prominent fashion, containing a disclaimer stating that they are not to be used in such a way. Judgment being clouded by confusing labels, they are immediately consumed by the public, unaware that they will quickly fail in an epic fashion when used as advertised, and that the cost of repairs will immediately exceed the original investment.

-This is where I reserve my overall diatribe regarding the horrifically sad state of the bikes after “assembly” i.e., Handle bars upside down, fork installed backwards,

brake levers and pads left unsecured so as to rotate rather than work when needed. Plus the always prevalent pedal that did not get tightened enough as to not come half way out before destroying the threads.-

Don't be fooled. This happens every damn day.

It is not as if the retailer has no knowledge of this type of shit, I mean, at the end of the day they keep selling bikes. They have even gone so far as to force another pedal into, and RE SELL the returned bikes that failed when used by their customers at a DISCOUNT! They know that it is a low price, high turn around item that will keep the customer in their stores. The consumer however holds said retailer to such a low standard it becomes impossible to reason with them in a bicycle service environment. Meaning, if I (a legitimate bike shop) sold them a bike that fell apart like that, they would NEVER return. On top of that they would indeed, demand some kind of recompense. That is mind-blowing to me. How can you spend money on something and not be furious with the seller when it turns out to be junk?! If I then tell them they should take it back to Walmart and let them fix it, suddenly, I'm the ass hole. Well let me tell you here and now...

Rather than directing your anger at me for your own foolish purchasing decisions, how about placing the blame on those who deserve it. Direct it towards those who continually take advantage of you by dangling the proverbial carrot in front of you.

"Look over here! It's a yummy carrot! It's orange and delicious, plus it will cost you nothing"

Of course by nothing they mean at first. Then the staggering cost of repairs kick in.
I mean, have you ever repaired a carrot before?! Let me tell you, it's not cheap ;)

Consider again the GMC branded “Denali” road bike. GMC (General Motors), among the other brands that suffered the slings and afflictions of the economic down turn, revised their line of cars in preparation for a comeback. They eliminated models that did not meet the quality standards they were known for and sold their stock in companies that had products that did not sell. All in an effort to reduce operating costs and keep their doors open. Yet, a bull shit bike, which I maintain they had no business putting their name on, is still being marketed after the fact as a "Genuine GM Product." This idea, to me, is ludicrous. Eliminate waste, yet continue to provide a sub-par product for mass consumption. 

Where’s my “bail out?” you might ask? I’ll tell you where it is, in the fucking toy aisle at Walmart.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

False Advertisements, Disclaimers, and Planned Obsolescence

Is everything made to be broken? Is there some greater plot afoot that we just don't see when we make budget-minded purchases? 
Yes...and yes.
In this (and really, every other) industry, you truly do "get what you pay for."
In all reality, you have probably heard your local bike mechanic say this to you at some point. I can tell you this is not a sales gimmick. Even when I worked for a soul-crushing big box guitar store (yeah, you know the one ;) I truly believed my own sales pitch to be true. 
"Pay for it once, play with it for a lifetime."
...we will get back to what "a lifetime" means in a later blog.  
But I digress...

If you remember, I discussed the awesomeness of metal fenders. Granted the discussion was purely about aesthetics, however I choose them not only because they look amazing but also because they are the best fender for the money. Why? Because unlike plastic fenders, they are made of all metal construction. They are built to withstand the rigors of everyday use. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen broken plastic fender mounts because the rider accidentally kicked them. Once installed, which can take a little more time and attention to detail, metal fenders function better and for a longer period of time. The argument that they are harder to install carries zero weight with me. Seriously, quality fenders are only as hard to install as the user is unable to follow directions. 
It does not stop at fenders. In fact, if it were just fenders, I would be doing fucking jumping jacks in the street screaming "Halle-fucking-lujah!" It doesn't stop there, no. It comes from somewhere and creeps up on us like, well...something that creeps up on you. The origin, I maintain, comes from outermost fringes of market, described by the title of a cheap Sci Fi thriller novel I am working on:  "It came from Planet Walmart." 
If it were to stop at the Walmart bike level, I could live with that. I mean, I understand that to sell a bike for $100 it is most likely a huge piece of shit. Consider this pile of crap* 

* Conversion table 1a: 1 "Pile of Crap" = "2 Pieces of Shit"

Not only is it useless for its intended application, it is false advertisement at its finest. 
Let me clarify. This is clearly a sign labeling this product "a sturdy" bicycle that can be used on "trails approved for bicycles." 

Hmmm.... Then what does this sticker mean?

(Google translate: This bicycle-shaped object should not be ridden by anyone, for any reason, at anytime. If you ride at night, it may burst into flames. Wear a helmet, you will need it.)

Having found this sticker on the same bike, I am left to ask, "Is this for real?!"
Seriously, is this a disclaimer stating the exact opposite of what your product literature says?
In Canada, they hang you for this type of shit. OK, maybe not hang you, but this type of rhetoric is illegal there. It is called "Sales Puffery
Oh, Canada, where the health care is free, and liars, are criminals.
Not to be confused with "'Merica," where you can bail out an auto maker only to find they are still producing the WORST FUCKING BIKE EVER CONCEIVED!!!

It even bears the "Official GM Product" sticker. I shit you not.

(A "side boob" view)

This bicycle is a bane to my existence.

Bearing the name "Denali" it is as big a tank as the SUV from which its name is stolen. It is a horrible failure of human innovation. Yet, the rhetoric would have you believe that 

"The GMC Denali 700C 21-Speed Road Bike is built around a lightweight aluminum road bike frame for racing or commuting."

First of all, the damn bike weighs 30 Lbs, not exactly light. Plus, racing on this beast would not only go against what the sticker says, but certainly get you killed. Commuting on it would get you made fun of.
Don't worry though, if Racing is more your speed they make a "pro" version as well.
Same sticker, but better wheels...

"...the high-profile alloy Vitesse racing rims look as good as they perform"

Well shit!! Let me get out my wallet.

Also, while you are robbing me blind, how about charging me extra to fuck up the handle bar installation. 


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Favorite Things Part One

Why do we force high price parts down people's throats?
It just seems odd to me that we immediately jump to the conclusion that all consumers have bottomless pockets. Is it our own vanity? I mean, do we force our own vision of value on to the person who will ultimately be the judge of whether or not a product is worth it?
I maintain that there are several awesome products on the market that you may never know about because your local bike shop is unwilling to try new things, or lead you to try them for yourself.
So I want to share some of my favorite products on, and off, the retail market.
This is part one in what I hope will be an eye-opening experience for you.

Exhibit A:
This headset is one of many great items in the Velo Orange line called Grand Cru. It's shiny, light-weight, and easy to maintain. The kicker is: In a retail market, it can be had for just $50. It may not be sealed as well as a Chris King, meaning you may have to replace the sealed-cartridge bearings more often (perhaps once every two years), but the cost of replacing those bearings is nearly half the cost of servicing Chris King bearings once a year (or as they refer to it, "regularly," which is required by King in order for them to honor their warranty). This cost analysis assumes of course that as a consumer, you have your parts serviced by a professional rather than doing them yourself. It's a safe bet that if you work at a bike shop, your default choice is King because, as a dealer, they become more affordable. But shit, even then, "affordable" is a relative term to a guy who makes less money than a High School Dropout.  All I am saying here is if you just spent all your cash on a new frame and just can't wait to build that shit up and "drop" all your buddies at the Thursday Night Pissing Contest, you just might want to consider a quality product that won't "drop" your checking account balance. So, if your local shop carries VO,
 I encourage you to get one there. If not, you can buy direct from their website.*

 *I want it to be SUPER fucking clear here too... as this is the second post in a row where I mercilessly whore myself out for VO, I do not get paid by Velo Orange to endorse their products. In fact, if you asked them, I would assume they would deny all knowledge of my puny existence.

 ...moving on...

My favorite Hubs - factory direct brand called Circus Monkey.

Available in 8 colors and almost all drilling patterns you could dream of, with a claimed weight of 355g for the set, I was shocked to see a price tag of only $145!
There had to be a mistake. I mean, is there really a hub that has a similar weight, color, and all around good looks as King, at a price that is 75% lower? Even if my eyes deceived me, would they even be worth a damn, or would I hate myself in the morning for spending money on something that turns out to be junk?

The only way to find out, was to get some, and this was the result...

...They weighed in at just over 359g.
They looked as nice as the pictures, and I got them for ten bucks less because I asked for a deal.
Also, the free hub mechanism has great engagement and the hub can be disassembled without tools.
With these hubs, I was able to build an entire wheel set that weighed in at just over 1,100g with rim tape and rotors, for the same price as two King hubs.*
Plus, I raced over 300 miles on them last season and they did not skip a beat! 

*I do not mean to beat up on Chris King Components. They are after all, the highest quality, American made parts available in the cycling industry. But unlike BikeSnobNYC whose bloggular prowess has led to great wealth and power, my blog just doesn't afford me the opportunity to spend with reckless disregard.
So I want it to be clear that I have nothing but love for King Components

So that's just two examples. I will follow up with more in the next few days.
 I want to get this published tonight because I have been falling behind in my planned updates.

Hang in there with me, you will have a bad ass new bike build in mind by the time we are through.

Until then, enjoy some bike-themed beer porn brought to you by the good folks at Hawley.

Seriously, thanks for reading.