Friday, May 29, 2015

Overly Complicated Dipping Mechanism

Over the last couple years Shimano has been responsible for some serious technological innovations and honestly, they are not all bad.  Sure, I have bitched and complained about hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes but paired with their Di2 shifting system, and it makes for a pretty rad ride. I mean, they are still completely unnecessary and will eventually get someone killed, but if you have a fuck ton of money that you don't know what to do with and are not completely brain dead then they might just work for you.

Meaning, these things stop on a dime; far faster than the average cyclist (the opposite of who it was intended for, yet the sole consumer demographic) is used to which is likely to become problematic.
After installing the tried and true off-road version on my mountain bike, I noticed some clear similarities between the two that led me to the conclusion that someone is going to get hurt with these brakes. Not because the brakes themselves are inherently dangerous or anything like that but given the fact that most of the ass hats who will be using them still cannot close a quick release properly,

I hold little hope that they will know how to use all of this stopping power. The problem lies in the fact that they don't really modulate like cable brakes. Not to say that they don't modulate at all, just they are two totally different feeling brakes.

Now, I don't know about you, but on the trail, I have had some "oh shit!" moments where I cram on my brakes. Usually slower speeds around corners, etc... but not much of a big deal. The brakes I had modulated fine, they just didn't stop fast. So upgrading from Shimano "non series" brakes to their XT line with ICE Tech rotors, those "oh shit!" moments became so exacerbated that I had to rethink how much brake I was using. If I lay lightly into the lever and control it, they work flawlessly but it if I give it a quick stab, it immediately breaks loose of traction under the front wheel. That's not an issue of function rather user error so I need to get my shit together and stop braking so much.

But, if I know that, and am still working on it then that is fine. Yet, I can see this unfolding in a pace line with a bunch of spindly legged Freds fresh off of their second ride of the year who cannot keep a consistent speed or line. You are doomed when some clown in front of you has a mechanical failure at 25 mph like, oh let's say a crank arm shearing off whilst still attached to their shoe via an SPD pedal.  In this Purely hypothetical* scenario Fred #2 (riding like a clown as well) reaches Pucker Factor 5 - when it happens so fast it whistles - in about a millisecond and goes over the handle bars because he grabbed his brake too quickly. 

*the opposite of that

 Honestly, I cannot hold that against Shimano I mean, people asked for stopping power and Shimano gave it to them. It's not Shimano's fault that people are too stupid to use good judgement. What I can hold against them is their new cable system used on the Dura Ace and Ultegra 11 speed models. Harkening back to the days when cable manufactures were finding new ways to sell you an old thing, coated cables are making a comeback,

...and they totally blow.

Designed to reduce sliding friction inside the housings, these cables cost over six times as much as a regular derailleur cable.

Much like a coated guitar string, the coating wears and in some cases, frays leaving all that crap falling off. Having it fall off inside a housing will certainly create drag where there was little to none. Gore cables did a similar thing and I feel the same way about them as well but it should be noted that it is completely reasonable to suggest that a regular ($3) cable can be used in its place with little difference. What I am insinuating here is that in a reasonable setting; average Joe and his carbon Wunderbike would never know the difference. Proving the market to which they are sold is largely uninformed and I maintain that things like this exist because they are a "solution" to their own problems, that is to say, as shifters "evolved" so too did the way we made them operate; both good and bad which led to things like a more jacked up parallelogram in the rear derailleur. 

Now, the cable has to conform to such ridiculous angular bearing, that nosed ferrules are required to keep the cable from going to crap...

Which it will anyway. Plus, the new 4mm cable anchors wreck the cables the first or second time you pinch them down.

And you wouldn't really need to reduce drag in a cable if the routing wasn't stupid.  

Sure we used to break a lot of cables back when they exited the front inside of the shifter, but they left the lever in a straight line and were basically frictionless. Those were some of the best ever shifting bikes. If you maintained your bike in like, ever, you would have replaced those cables once a year and been just fine. I understand all of this was in an effort to get both "the 11th gear," and "frictionless shifting" but I don't have to like it. The new stuff is nice... honest! It shifts great and the feel at the lever is the best it has ever been. 

But I just built this for a customer for less than half the price of a show room [Name Brand], [Name Brand], or [Name Brand]. Not only was the price right, but I would rate the ride quality as awesome,

and I defy you to find a better shifting group for a bike like this. I built a dude an affordable "first road bike" that shifts better than half the crap out there right now. 
 And it only goes to 9.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Caps NOT Hats

Since 2014, Walz Caps have been a big part of my cycling experience, offering a variety of caps for every purpose and style. I use them every day, even when I am not cycling (I am wearing one right now) and I look for more all the time. I am up to about a dozen Walz Caps in wool, cotton, and wicking varieties all with their own distinct "flavor"

(naughty caps taking a bath ; )

I also own at least a dozen non-Walz caps which now sit idle for two reasons, they seriously suck in comparison and, well I can't shamelessly promote Walz if I am not wearing their caps all of the time now can I? That said, in the before times I didn't know any better. I wore cotton-polly blends that I would buy when ever I would visit a shop during my travels. Some have even been given to me from other brands as well. THIS cap for instance, was given to me by a local bicycle-themed eatery. 

It does not say who makes it (and I didn't ask), outwardly, it would appear that this cap is very similar to the wicking cap offered by Walz, it is where this cap falls short that I begin to draw the distinction between a good cap and a great one. 

Built into this cap is an elastic band that serves as a sponge. It is much thicker and taller (meaning it takes up more surface area on the skin) and quite honestly, gets itchy when it is 80 degrees outside. 

The Walz cap on the other hand...

...has a headband constructed with moisture wicking material. Not only is it soft to the touch but also has less of a "foot print." It is very pleasant to wear for long periods and while it unavoidably gets sweaty, the moisture is pulled from the skin leaving a cooling effect while riding. 

Another reason the other cap does not hold up to the litmus test is the bill. 

Much thicker than the Walz bill, it is not only harder to flip up but if you fold it up and put it in your pocket (which is sometimes the case when it is just too damn hot for a cap) the bill gets creased and stays that way until you manipulate it back in to shape. That in combination with its shape makes for an ill-fitting cap. Its kind of like buying a carbon Pinarello knock-off from China. It looks like one, but it is not.

To be fair, it should be noted that the proprietor of a local establishment gave me this cap for completing some service work on his classic Motobecane road bike. Knowing that I love caps he gave me this one for which I am grateful. I do wear it occasionally though now that my wife has begun mountain biking it has been claimed as her own. It is a fine cap which represents to me someone being kind enough to thank me for work that he deemed "above category." 
It's as simple as that and that is what it will remain.

So clearly I heart caps. And Walz are the best. If you want to try one and you don't know what a BikeSnobNYC is then maybe try this wicking cap...

Proceeds to Amy D. Foundation. Click HERE to learn more, click HERE to buy one.

Now, I bought TWO of these last time so I expect you to do better than that ;)

After that, get off the internet and go ride a bike.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Setting Things Right

Well, they are at it again, which means I get to fix it. Lucky for the customer in question, I don't just act like I know what I am doing.

I feel bad for the guy who was duped into paying for a bike that was fucked since jump street but all is right with the world now as I have systematically restored the thing to almost period correct...

The poor bastard came in because his bike was "shifting on its own" which is pretty uncommon for a friction shifting bicycle so I was immediately skeptical.

If you remember, I said " all started with a simple flat tire..." Because I didn't write the ticket, I wanted to ride it first to check out what was going on for myself. Well, that is in fact, where the trouble started so I called the customer and clued him in. He was super cool about it and asked me to make it right. There was two ways of going about this: Originally the bicycle was spec'd with 27" wheels and the knuckle heads at [Name Redacted Bike Shop] used 700c. So I was either going to replace both wheels or get a matching rear with the correct axle length. I went for the matching wheel as the dude had already been hosed pretty good before and I was certainly not going to add to that. 
With a new rear wheel I began the process.

First, the derailleur was hung on the bike in a very peculiar way.

This was because they either did not know or did not care that there is a part specifically made for this. Rather than tracking down that part, they drilled a hole in the frame...

So they could do this...

When in reality, it should have looked like this...

The difference?

In case you don't see it, let me make this a little more clear...

See the difference? Good. Now, this alone did not create the problem which is why I didn't address it in the last post rather it was the combo of incompatible wheel parts. 

I rectified that with the correct length axle... addition to a freewheel compatible with the drive train.

Now, I would rather have replaced it with a more period correct freewheel but time was short and I did not want to inconvenience the man any more so I went with a "Mega Range" 6 speed. This decision had a purpose other than time constraints as the crank set was what they refer to as a half-step. So having a "taller gear" in the front, it was wise to spec the rear with an easier gear for climbing and such. Since the rear derailleur was intended for the wider gearing, this is a non-issue. 

I digress... finally able to test ride it I was not at all surprised that it rode beautifully. Just as it had from the day it was built; a day long before we overcomplicated the "dipping mechanism,*" and before [Name Redacted Bike Shop] began fucking up shit. 

*Austin Powers reference 

Anyway, it is important to note that as much as situations like this make my skin crawl, at least I have the ability to set things right and I am grateful that people allow me the opportunity to do so. So thank you for that but really, I enjoy every moment of this. I love what I do. So in the end, it's no trouble at all. It's all in a day's work for Bicycle Repair Man 

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's In A [Name] ?

If you are removing a wheel and you see this, your day is going to crap. Trust me, I have been there.

(Never mind the fact that the derailleur isn't fastened correctly)

In order to understand this, or hell... even try to understand this, you have to remember where it came from. [Name Redacted Bike Shop] must have been running a Spring Special on used crapcycles because this rolling fudge factory landed in my lap today and as always, did not disappoint.

Changing a simple flat rear tire was the beginning of things, and the first sign of what was to come was how hard it was to remove the wheel from the frame. After a good whacking, the wheel dislodged and it became clear; I was holding in my hand, a wheel that essentially acted as a 130mm "peg" that had been jammed into a 126mm hole.

What this means of course, is that the technician who is unlucky enough to have to re-install this wheel faces this 

That's a long way to have to stretch a steel frame by hand while simultaneously installing the wheel. It's a feat that is not impossible, I mean even I have done it before on purpose, but this in itself wouldn't be bad if it weren't for the fact that it was going to get a lot worse.

 You see, this is where the axle ended which caused the cassette's lock ring to rub the hell out of the frame so what did they do?

...they added these two little spacers

Effectively adding to the width of the axle for a grand total of 133mm. Curious, I began to tear apart the axle to get a closer look.

By "...tear the axle apart..." I meant lightly tap the axle on the bench to see how many washers fall out; Four.

Four washers and no lock nut. Just a cone and some spacers holding the bearings in adjustment.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but [Name Redacted Bike Shop] is notorious for this type of stuff. Just last year I showed you how they used a checker as a hub cone lock washer.

That was a hoot!

In addition to the headset and seat post debacles, this new development was enough to get me thinking about how this all went down.

Picture if you will, someone's blue Azuki; a solid frame, decent components... in the 70's this bike made someone very happy.

For whatever reason this bike (and millions of others like it) becomes a garage decoration after 20 or so years and winds up in the hands of someone's kids, grand kids, etc... before falling into disrepair and being left abandoned on a college campus or worse, in a dumpster.*

*At this point I find myself wondering which is worse. I mean, I know that I would rather end up in a dumpster than chained to a bike rack for all eternity.  

Anyway, along comes [Name Redacted Bike Shop] who, sincerely trying to do a good thing scoops up said Azuki and feebly attempts to make a buck and at the same time get a bike back on the road. 

A noble cause but for one factor... their ineptitude.

The reason the wheel won't fit is that the bicycle was originally spec'd with 27" wheels that were probably garbage by the time they got the bike. Replacing them with 700c wheels wasn't the problem either. I mean, you can do that on this bike as the brakes allow for the reach of a shorter wheel, but it makes setting them up a pain in the ass sometimes. The problem lies in the fact that this frame is spaced 126mm in the rear and the wheel, 133mm (now with SPACERS).

So. IF you somehow manage to spread the frame and get the wheel in that space (it is assumed that it spread the frame evenly - that is to say the frame is still aligned), you are still limited on space by the size of the gear cluster. In this case, a 7 speed cassette in a frame that came spec'd with a 6 speed freewheel simply does not jive, turkey.

This is where some clueless asshole created a problem and the cascade of events that followed.

Back in the day, bicycles were still spec'd with Suntour. (The REAL Suntour, not that SR crap) Friction shifting would have been the standard on this bike as it was on all bike boom bikes of it's kind. It featured a twelve speed double with (my favorite front derailleur of all time) a Suntour SPIRT.

As Derailleur technology evolved, their shapes (parallelograms) and pull ratios changed according to the number of gears we could fit in a frame. In this era however, It had not evolved beyond 6 speeds and so the frame remained of a particular width (125/6) and the derailleur, a particular shape. Near the same time 7 speed drive trains were on the horizon which brought with it another problem; how to fit 7 speeds where 6 existed. This problem was addressed with the introduction of what has become the modern day free hub body.

(the one on the left)

It was shorter than its modern equivalents but it had to be because that was the only way you were going to get 7 speeds in a frame designed for 6.

If [Name Redacted Bike Shop] had used that type of body and subsequent cogs, then this point would be moot. It might have shifted like junk because the shifters don't have the correct amount of pull, but it would still have worked. Undeterred, they continued on...

Using a free hub body that is intended for 8/9/10 speed cassettes was a problem for two reasons; It doesn't fit in the damn frame but also, if you have 7 of something in a place where there were supposed to be 8 (or more) you are going to have to take up the extra space with something, right?

If you don't see it, look closer...

On it's own... I could overlook this. I mean hell, it fits the spline and takes up space which are the only two jobs a spacer has in life but that one cog right there and EVERYTHING it represents, makes me want to lose my damn mind.

Please God. Make it Stop.