Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do It Yourself: You are doing it wrong

There is a great feeling of accomplishment that comes over a person when they devise and execute a solution to a problem. A sense of pride for a job well done is natural. Pride however, is its own stumbling block for most, as the path to Hell is paved with the best intentions.

As you can't be proud of shit like this...

(Photo credit: Shaun Sweeney)

Indeed, for the bike mechanic, the path is paved with every homemade solution to all of life's bike problems.

For the unfamiliar, let's break this image down:

First, you have a stem that is too large to fit in a smaller diameter steer tube.

Then you have this guy:

Who figures, "fuck it, I have a lathe and some free time."
  I can only imagine that this was his logic behind the next step which was: machine that sucker down to the proper diameter. To the lay person that may seem okay. In all honesty, it might have worked had Mr. Doityourself payed attention to one very important thing...

A line called "Max Height" or "Minimum Insertion," if you want it to sound dirty.

 (bike porn of the Insertion variety ;)

 How ever you slice it, the stem has got to be in the bike to at least that line. Period.
That means it is in the bike far enough that wedge can expand and hold the bars securely. 
If not observed, the rocking back-and-forth motion on the bars will fatigue the stem enough that it simply shears off...

 ...then you look like this in front of your friends...

(you suck)

What's more is that machining away material that is integral to your safety and well-being is in itself, risky at best. Machining it away below that line and sitting back exclaiming "good enough for who it's for!" Is just asking for disaster. 
 Meaning, if the dude had turned the stem down to the smaller diameter to a point above minimum insertion, it may have had a chance. But it didn't have a chance because the idea itself was fucked to begin with.

Kinda like building your own axle. Don't have an axle nut? Jam a fucking checker in there...

"King Me"

Yes, even checkers have been ruined for me because you were too lazy to get the right parts or a new wheel. I wish I had taken a picture of the internal parts as there was literally a BOTTLE CAP jammed into the hub to serve as the bearing race. Seriously. I wish I were kidding. Remember when I said I had seen the "most cobbled together assembly of a major bearing system..."?
I was wrong. 

...and I am losing faith in you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Opposite Day: Wider is BETTER

It was some time ago now, but as happens to every bicycle part, the technology "improved" and our wheels got wider. Yes, in the name of aerodynamics, with the use of "Computational Fluid Dynamics" (dork speak for computery imagery thingy), we got a wheel that is "better" because it's wider.


That's all I need to rationalize shelling out almost $3,000 for two wheels (still more than I have in the cars that I own). But wait! There's More!

"More strength.
... a wider rim increases lateral stiffness for sprinting and cornering yet offers greater vertical compliance for more control, comfort, and durability on rough surfaces. The same holds true for Firecrest rims. The 303 Firecrest is a proven performer on the open road, cobblestones or rough cyclocross courses. In both tubular and Carbon Clincher versions, the wider design places more rubber on the road while cornering without adding rolling resistance."

There you have it, one more thing that is somehow super "stiff" yet really "compliant."
(there is a euphemism in there somewhere)
 I will give them this however... A wider rim will in fact open the tire up more allowing the tire to roll better through corners, but so will a standard 25c tire with 100psi in it (or 27c if your bike will fit it, which of course it will most likely NOT because most manufactures have reverse engineered wider tires out of their frame geometry considerations). If you remember, it was not that long ago that, before wider rims came along, we were just discovering that wider tires were the ticket. Basically, wider tires offered us the chance to have the same pressure in our tires, but more volume, which made the ride more comfortable and less jarring.

Proof that we had in fact, already solved the "wider" issue as far as contact patch and comfort goes. But making a wheel more aero was a much larger task. I am going to avoid the tech speak as to what exactly makes a wheel more aero, as this blog is already dripping with copious amounts of boring but simply said: to achieve better results (at the time), the rim profile had to become a much deeper V-shape. This made the wheel feel like a sail as it was hit by moving air and would push the rider all over the road. So it was indeed the aero effect that sent us on the quest for the Holy Grail so to speak; a wheel that was wide and aero, that did not push like a dump truck in a cross wind.

Then Zipp developed the new (at the time) Firecrest Rim.

While it is more aero (and they have the numbers to prove it), there was a large problem with them at the onset. See, of all of the standards that had come and gone in our industry, one had yet to change: the width of the rim. For years, the standard was somewhere around 18 to 23 millimeters wide. This number varied of course between manufacturers based on their own rationale as to what worked better, was stronger, or even "more aero." For the sake of argument, it is fair to say that there was a standard for many years and it had not been challenged to this new extreme. While the wheels had not changed, brake calipers remained the same as well. I mean, why would they change? Wheels hadn't, so brakes didn't have to. So with the new wheel on the market, brands had to quickly adapt to the wider rim in order to keep their brakes on people's bikes. It did hurt a few brands in the beginning. I mean, you had guys who just bought a Dura Ace grouppo that had to change their new brakes to those bullshit ones from Ciamillo. They weren't much wider but they did offer pad holders that had a more narrow profile which allowed the pads to clear the rim. They stopped like shit because they had no spring tension but at least it was a solution to the problem.
Then of course, as I had alluded to a couple of times before, the industry once again started to over-engineer things like brake technologies. So now you have brands like Cervelo, that offer the most aerodynamically advanced time trial bikes available (in a niche referred to as "super bikes") that are using hydraulic rim brakes as stock equipment. But there is a problem with that: the people who buy those bikes want the wheels to go with them and they don't fit.

(with the brake in the fully "open" position, the wheel will not even turn)

So how do you make them work? Well for that answer, I called the guys at Magura and was told what usually works is to "remove the concave washer on the brake pad holder." Yeah, it worked, but now I can't angle or "toe" the pads to keep them from squealing. I must say that at least the clearance problem was solved by doing that, but I cannot live with the fact that I had to remove parts from a $1,000 set of brakes to make them work. To me, that is unacceptable. 

It's sad too because the brakes work really well with a regular wheel.*

 *it's worth noting that while they may work, I still think that hydraulic rim brakes are unnecessary.

What's more is that they actually worked in cooperation with Cervelo in order to bring these things to market in a BIG way.

"MAGURA streamlined the RT8 TT in collaboration with the aerodynamics expert CervĂ©lo using a wind tunnel. The brake bodies are shaped aerodynamically and the hydraulic lines are hidden inside the tubes. The ultra-stiff brake levers form part of the wing profile."

What could be bigger than partnering with an aerodynamic powerhouse like Cervelo? Well, perhaps partnering with (or even considering for that matter) the only other brand that can boast the same aero tech - Zipp Speed Weaponry. It's foolish if you ask me, to spend all the time, money, and wind tunnel testing to have not even considered that Cervelo and Zipp are like peas and carrots.
But I digress...

For the most part, brake manufacturers have since caught up to Fire Crest technology but just as it looked as though a company had truly developed "A better wheel in every way," 
Zipp dropped a new "F bomb" in our laps.

(the "F" stands for Fire Strike)

Almost 2 millimeters of new width, and no where to put it.
(...that's what she said ;)

It is no secret that I am a fan of what Zipp has done for wheel technology. Made in my home state, I have nothing but love for the quality of products they produce. That said, will I ever own one? Probably not. I have neither the money, nor the need. But, after seeing this new development, I am left to ask... 
Is it planned obsolescence? I mean, they already created "a better wheel..." right?
All of the sudden I am supposed to buy into an even better one?! If the other was the best, and now we have a better one, 
What is to stop them from making another? Will the brake manufacturers have to continue building brakes to fit? To what end? 
With the realization of disc brakes on road bikes being a real thing (again, one more thing I hate) I wonder if it will end by making brake calipers a thing of the past anyway. When that happens, will it be the clearance of the frame that finally dictates an end to this madness? I will say this, if they have to make forks and stays wider in order to accommodate an ever growing wheel width, we might as well go back to riding Rivendell's least then we could back to making bikes useful again by adding racks and fenders. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nothing New Under the Sun

Keeping it brief today, but I got to thinking, "man I have seen it all"
...I was wrong.

Just when I thought it was safe to sit back and think, "maybe people are finally going to take care of their shit....

BAM!! That. Just. happened!

Damn! Your BB cup hates your bike so much that it backed out of the frame only to beat the shit out of your crank arm, just to prove a point!


Your bike can prove its hatred for you in other ways too...
Consider the oft neglected derailleur cables that, when rusted to shit, unwind inside your shifter...

("I think something is like, wrong, with the shifty-thingy?")

Yeah, something is wrong and believe it or not, it is the "shifty-thingy."
Wow, maybe they are learning from me. Or, maybe not...

Proof that it doesn't matter if it is a $10 bike, or a $10,000 bike, there is indeed NOTHING I can do to correct peoples attitude of neglect toward their bicycles. I can only sit back and complain about it on the internet for my own personal gain. So thanks to you for never learning from your mistakes and  for giving my life meaning.

...And now I present you with a laugh for the day, just to lighten the mood.

...and to keep me from killing you in your sleep.

Good night everybody!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rage Against The Machine

Not the band... 

 (those guys suck!)

If you value quality craftsmanship then please,
join me in directing your rage in an against-ward motion toward this machine...

This slight against humanity is an automated wheel building system. This is the sole reason your Walmart wheels fall apart if the wind blows in the wrong direction. Well, that and the fact that you touch yourself at night ;)
 Though the machine is most likely to blame.
That is why the crap that rolls out of it, bears this sticker...

I have been wanting to share this with you since I first saw it, but I had no idea how to jam it in to a conversation. 

I have had several months to process this and I'm still not quite sure I understand what this means.
Though I have a theory. Perhaps something along the lines of:

"WARNING, this piece of shit was built in China by some asshole machine that doesn't care about your safety or well-being."

So while it may appear to be a useful product, the crossing pattern doesn't matter anyway, as it will need to be replaced the first time you look at it sideways.

The idea that a wheel built in another pattern (radial for instance)
is somehow better, is befuddling to me. I am going to avoid the technincal speak as it is boring as hell, but the pictures say what I am too lazy to type...

 It's not just basic wheels either. If you think for a moment that your BonCrapper wheel, with its paired spokes is better, you are wrong. Still built in the same way, and bullshit on the face of it.

...let me guess, "I was just riding along..."?

Yeah, so was this person...

That wheel folded like a newbie at poker night.

That's why I build my own wheels folks. They are stronger, and last longer.
Granted, I use better materials as I am not building a $10 set of wheels, but Jeezus man, watch that video again and you can see that chick look right into the camera as she chucks a finished wheel to the floor.

"Good enough for who it's for." 

You see that? she's laughing at you. Don't let her win. 

Consulting with your local bicycle technician about building a custom wheel set can mean the difference between a life long love affair between you and your wheels, and, well, this...

It gives you the opportunity to choose the hubs, rims, and spokes you want plus allows you to choose the spoke count you prefer. This gives you the upper hand in determining if you would rather they be light, or more rugged, stiff or more compliant (and yes, in most cases your wheels have more to do with ride comfort than your expensive frame), tubed or tubeless, and so on. If it is a good bike shop, they will even guarantee the build for life. Meaning, they will replace spokes, and true them for the life of the products. That is to say, unless you wreck the shit out of them, (as damage to the rims and hubs is irreversible) they will take care of them free of charge.

Are custom wheels more expensive? Sure. But any good thing is. 
Simply having your bike shop in your corner builds a whole lot more confidence then watching in slow motion as the ground rises to meet you and you find yourself hosting your first "Yard Sale." Just saying, I only ride my own wheels. With the exception of one (the one that of course is out of true even as I type this), which was hanging around the shop when I needed a wheel for my commuter. All I can think of when I see it wobble is the image of that chick, you know the one...

I make jokes about it because I see it all the time. When I tell a person they need a new wheel they opt for a basic replacement wheel for $50 which was made by that same machine. Destined to fail again the only thing I have left to say is "Fuck it. It's your life..."

and it is in her hands.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On the Podium: With Walz Caps

The great BikeSnobNYC has once again teamed up with the great Walz Caps to bring you another great cap!

 (Did I mention they are Great?!)

The guys at Walz have been, well, great in providing me with caps that are well worth talking about. If you remember, I have been fortunate enough to have collected two other BSNYC caps. 

The latest one pictured above is of the wicking variety, and is in a class all it's own.

You see, I am a heavy sweater (a person who sweats a lot, not a dense garment used to stay warm)
and as I had explained in the previous blog, I find it hard to wear caps while riding in the warmer months without wanting to rip it from my head mid-ride. The first time I tried a Walz cap I was mostly impressed by the wicking fabric that they use in the head band area. Keeping the sweat off of my face soon became easier with their caps than with others I have tried.

This particular cap, is all wicking material. It is the lightest, most airy cap I have ever worn.
Possibly more important than that, It commemorates one of the greatest moments in cycling history*

 ...the moment the first Fred captured on tape, breaking the speed barrier at which it makes a Fred go, "Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo!" 
This moment will forever be know as 
"Fred Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo! Speed"

*the most dork-tastic documentation of anything cycling related.

Though I have no room to speak considering I am the founder of the Strava Club:

But I digress...

It is no secret that I had recently won my first EVER* mountain bike bicycle cycling off road MTB event, and did so in the aforementioned cap.

*Not my first rodeo ;)

In an effort to bring cycling caps back to the podium,
(check out "Caps Not Hats") 
I was sure to keep this one on for the pictures. Sure it was emblazoned with the the "46 flamed logo" to commemorate that historical day, and yeah, it made me look super cool, but most important was indeed its function. It really did come in handy, as I usually continually douse my head with water during a race. The wicking material alone was good enough at moving moisture away from the skin through capillary action, but by soaking it in water it was like attaching an air conditioner to my helmet. Granted, I never reached the terminal velocity that is Fred Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo speed, but I kept my cool (pun intended) even after crashing hard, and grabbed myself a spot atop the podium.

I could not recommend a better cycling cap.

Thanks to the folks at Walz Caps for coming along for the ride,
 and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Factory Direct: You Get What You Pay For

In the before times, you may have heard me say it was cool to buy shit from China. Well, that's still true. Kind of...
When I spoke on the subject of buying factory direct, I meant buying a good looking, NO NAME product for a good price direct from the place that made it. NO NAME of course meaning it does not say it is something that it is not. Like the hubs I buy from Circus Monkey. Sure they are direct from a factory in China but it is their product, not a knock-off or look alike of someone else.

See, I have no problem with folks who want to buy one of these on the FleaBay:

I mean, we all know that this is supposed to look like a Pinarello. This is one of the most counterfeit frames available on the market. But it's not a Pinarello, and the place in China that sells them online is not representing them as such. Meaning, it does not say "Pinarello" on the side of it, so a consumer is not being duped in to paying top dollar for a knock off. They know what they are getting. Any reasonable consumer should know that you can't order a $2,000 name brand frame on eBay, new in the box from China for $500.

That said, there is always an exception... After sharing with you where I sometimes get my stuff, we ran into a true counterfeit that made me feel like I had a responsibility clear up exactly what I meant.

The fork in this picture is all I am willing to share as far as the frame in question, because I make my living selling this brand and do not want to just "hang it all out there" for the world to see. I will say this though... it is a current frame that costs about $3,000 in a retail setting. The point is that just from this one picture of a fork, I can immediately tell you why I know this is not a Cervelo product...
They don't use aluminum fork tips. Period. The fork had other issues including the construction of the steer tube and the fake serial number. The frame itself had many tell-tale signs of being a fake including aluminum headset cups which they do not use, a ridiculous rear brake mount, and my personal favorite, an overly huge front derailleur hanger that, while on it's own was super obvious, was also mounted backwards. These are all things that can be missed by a consumer but not by me. If you would just look closely at the pictures before you hit "Buy It Now" you might be able to see it yourself...

It should be pretty damn obvious that you are not getting (in this case) a Scott SCALE 70 mountain bike frame if the bastards can't even spell SCALE correctly...

(Just one more example of how stupid China thinks you are)

The "Cervelo" in question, also came "stock" with Zipp 404's., yeah, right... Zipp's.

 I take issue with these even more so than the frame as Zipp wheels are made right here in Indiana by skilled hands with some of the world's leading wheel technology. These are not a high end product that is outsourced to Asia like other brands, so the fact that you could get them direct from China is absurd on the face of it. Some clear indicators are the stickers. Not the ones that say "Zipp Speed Weaponry," but the little "Fire Crest" sticker (not pictured) that adorned the carbon rim. (Fire Crest is a Trade Mark technology indicating Zipp's round-ish rim profile that makes them more aero than other modern V-shaped rim profiles) I can assure you that these are NOT round-ish, and are certainly not Zipp. If the rim doesn't give it away...

...the bullshit Novatec hub it is laced to, does. Novatec is a factory direct brand that is an OEM spec on many wheels that come on entry level bikes. They are also available after-market. On their own they are fine. On a "Zipp" rim, they are blasphemy. 
On the whole, I don't give two shits if you want to buy a carbon frame for $500 and then build it up the way you want. In reality the frame is junk compared to a name brand frame, and usually much heavier (which defeats the purpose of a carbon frame anyway). But if you want one, great! Get one!
At no time however, will you EVER hear me endorse a product that is clearly a fake. If it says its a (insert big brand name here) then it had better be. If it's not, I will be sure to belittle you for wasting your money and my time. 

So I guess the whole point here is that I may give consumers too much credit. Hell, I say all the time how "consumers are not stupid, they know when they are being taken advantage of..." 
But maybe they are stupid. I mean, Fred's spend countless amounts of time doing their "research" on the internet about what bike is best for them, etc... After the homework is done however, they go all "budget-minded consumer" and start shopping the internet for the lowest price (not the best deal, mind you) rather than going to a local dealer and asking their advice. It is ludicrous if you ask me. Why in the hell would you choose and expensive ass bike, and then "haggle" over price. If you want to pay less, just get something that fits that budget. Chances are, you will get what you pay for. The same goes for bargain hunting on the web. If you get something for nothing, there is most likely a reason you paid nothing...because it is worth nothing. Plus, if all of your research has concluded that the bike costs $5,000 and you find one on eBay for $900, then it is most likely a fake. I have no pitty for you when you realize it is a fugazi, you sir, just payed what we like to call:
"the Asshole tax"

Which you deserve to pay, as I consider it a big "fuck you" when you do all that internet research (or worse, ask me all of your questions and use our knowledge) to go to the internet to buy it at a price that I cannot give you, and then asking me to build it for you and balking at the price. If you want a quality product backed by a bike shop you "trust," then perhaps you should dust off your wallet and actually buy it from said bike shop. If you don't, we just might not be around long enough to be a bike shop at all.

Please support your local bike shop, they will thank you for it.

(especially when you tip them with beer ;)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Used Bicycles: You Are Doing it Wrong

Here's a tip: If you call yourself a "bike shop" you should at least hold some basic knowledge in building bicycles. You should also have pride in what you do, and your prices should reflect the quality of the products and services you offer. If you fall short in any of these areas, you may need to re-evaluate your primary objective. i.e, Are you in this for the money, or because you love it? Are you in business to offer the community a valuable service, or because your " ran a bike shop in the 70's..."? Just because it's "in your blood" does not mean you are any good at it. If you were, I wouldn't have to fix your mistakes.  ...and you make a lot of them.
Used bikes are a whole different realm of bicycle sales that, done correctly, can be somewhat lucrative.
The trouble of selling used bikes is that you take on a certain responsibility to put more time in to the bikes to ensure they are fully serviced and in good working order. (Otherwise, you can't justify the price) In many cases, the time spent getting the bike ready for sale is often considered time that you have to "eat" due to a low profit margin. That said, to me the time is well worth it because it is at this point that you can sell value to a potential customer in the fact that the bike has been fully disassembled, cleaned, re-greased, and re-assembled by skilled hands. This tells your customer, "I stand behind this product, and my work." There is something to be said about using parts that you have laying around to complete a build. Salvaging parts from another bike is natural when building up used bikes for re sale but they should at least be compatible. If they are not, they should not be modified to be made to work. The mentality of "it's good enough for who it's for" should be immediately removed from a bike shop's vocabulary. It is this attitude towards bikes that shows the customer, they are not good enough to have it done right. Consumers are not stupid. They know when they are being taken advantage of. A simple Google search will show them what they are getting for what they are paying. That said, they also do not know, what they do not know. Meaning, if it appears to work correctly, they may not notice a botched fork installation...

Sure it steers okay, with no play in the headset, but if they don't know what they are looking at, they might not notice something like this.

...they might not have noticed, but I did. This might be the most cobbled together assembly of a major bearing system I have ever seen. On some level, it may even be unsafe, but I will not speculate that it is, based on a couple of factors... 
A) the bearings are adjusted "correctly," meaning they are secure and roll smoothly, 
B) the stem, is buried in the steer tube where it should be (that is, if the steer tube was cut to the correct size) and does not exceed its minimum insertion point. 
However, for the uninitiated, there are several mistakes that were made here that are unacceptable and irresponsible at best. Let me elaborate: 


Is right where it should be. It is the upper bearing race. Hand tightened at first, it is the part that adjusts the whole thing. 

This (red):

Is the same part as the first one, Flipped upside down to perform the function of the nut at the top. (Note the inner race {yellow} that would normally snug into the bearing) The nut at the top is supposed to be tightened to the upper race, securing the adjustment. Instead, two identical pieces were used with one having no business being there.  

The steer tube (x-ed out in yellow) 

Should not even be there. When fitting a new fork to a bike, you ALWAYS cut off the excess, leaving (on this type of steer tube) just enough threads to tighten the nut to the upper race (the red arrow shows where it is supposed to go). 

The reason the nut is in the position you see here because the "mechanic" that installed it, used a nut with a differing thread pattern. This cross-threaded the nut which means it cannot be tightened further. Rather than fixing this mistake, black electrical tape was used to "clean up" the look of the exposed steer tube or as I prefer to describe it, to hide the mistake. Much like a cat covering its turds in the cat box, it might look like it's hidden, but the piece of shit is still there. You cannot hide this type of shit from me. 
I can smell it from a mile away.

While I appear to be taking this issue with a grain of salt (meaning I have not yet exploded in a tyraid of explicatives), I can assure you, I am outraged. There are several reasons for my concern here. Among them are the following: 
This type of shoddy workmanship is a hazard. 
Plus, this is some kid's bike. His mother brought it in for minor repairs and was not aware of it's true condition.  Also,  If you have the audacity to take someone's money for this, you are no different than the low life street hustler who takes advantage of people with the slide of a hand....a Con Man, if you will.
I take issue with this for these reasons and more. The biggest reason however, is due to the fact that the place that did this, does this all the time. I see this type of shit from them everyday. Their "bike shop" is just down the street from the shop I run out of my garage. Which, while a small operation, does not cut corners when it comes to used bikes. Any of my customers can attest to this. I stand behind my work.

 In addition, while I am not willing to call them out publicly (as we all have to get along in this town), I will be sending them a copy of this blog post in hopes that they can get their heads out of their asses once and for all. If you know who they are, please do not name them in the comment section. I wish to keep it civil. If you know me and appreciate my quality of work, please leave your thoughts below. If you think I am an ass hole, remember...

If I agreed with you, we'd BOTH be wrong.