Thursday, May 17, 2012


The bike I'm working on right now smells like cat urine. That odor has become way too familiar lately as two of my cats have been pursuing a territorial dispute for weeks.

I make sure to spend as much time as possible around the lilacs while they're blooming. Some years, lilac season seems to zip by before I know it.

The front brake on Stinky has a squeal that won't quit. Because the bike has a through-axle fork, every time I remove the wheel to try something else on the brake it's a process.

A friend who came in during the afternoon reported that he'd read in Bicycle Retailer that within a few years all road bikes will have disk brakes too. Nothing stupidly over-technological has surprised me about the bike industry since the mid 1990s.

When bicycling fractured into distinct sub-groups as a result of the technofascist tsunami of the 1990s it paved the way for a new wave of small companies to replace the ones eradicated by the corporate juggernauts of the mountain bike boom. The 1990s were all about the big guys crushing the little guys, destroying some and assimilating others. But the surge of products thrown out as bait for a disinterested public did actually separate the riding public into categories that are now awkwardly small for a humongous bike company to serve effectively. I don't think the big players have noticed yet, but they don't have to. Just as the little mammals established themselves under the noses of the big reptiles, so do the small, agile companies start to find that the economics of the bike business may suit their scale better than the size and appetite of a big company that needs to move thousands of units to stay afloat. With biking broken into niches, how many of a particular category should Megabikecorp produce this year?

Time will tell. For now I just have to get Stinky's brakes to behave and mediate a lasting peace among warring cats.


RANTWICK said...

Speaking of bit players, I've always been a fan of Tektro products. As far as I know, they don't make bikes or are owned by a big bike maker... you're in the business... am I right? I always thought the pricing on their stuff was pretty damn good.

On discs for road bikes... ugh. I don't ride MTB, but I barely see the need even there!

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cafiend said...

@Rantwick: Tektro does make some good products. They have filled a niche for affordable brakes in several categories. Their designs have improved over the years. Some are better than others. Because drive trains require such precision, small component companies (relatively speaking) have better luck producing things like brakes, headsets, seatposts, stems and handlebars.

Disc brakes have some value in mountain biking by taking the rim out of the braking system. Abrasive dirt wears rims rapidly and wheels out of true cause all sorts of brake and tire problems. Even so, disc brakes bring their own set of problems wit hydraulics and the dizzying variety of pads. As models of brake become obsolete, technical support becomes another problem. Compare this to how easy it is to find conventional brake pads and cables for bikes 30 or 40 years old.

Ralph said...

Disc brakes still squeak.

I would think the "drift" effect disc brakes can sometimes cause would be more noticeable on a road bike.

I think you should return the "stinky" bike with some lilacs hanging from the handlebars as a little hint.

cafiend said...

New pads cured the squeak. The odor has dissipated quite a bit on the many test ride I took to keep checking the progress of my repair attempts.

I wouldn't want the owner of the bike to misinterpret my intentions hanging flowers on his bike.

Steve A said...

I like Tektro. FAR better than the OEM brakes on my Tricross.

Kenny said...

The disc brakes on my car sometimes warp and cause my steering wheel to shimmy.

Is it safe to believe this same thing may happen with disc brakes on a bicycle?

cafiend said...

Kenny -- rust or contamination on the rotors can cause irregular braking. Brakes could grab abruptly or fail to slow you down much at all. Rotors can rust from disuse, sometimes very quickly. They can warp or bend from heating and cooling or impacts. On a two-wheeled vehicle like a bicycle this could come through as a shudder as the fork vibrates when the brakes engage unevenly.