Friday, October 31, 2014

Oh, snap!

At the end of the day yesterday a customer brought in this early 1970s Viscount fork. This was the sinister fork of death from the ten-speed era. Tim McNamara and Sheldon Brown already wrote an article about Lambert/Viscount, so I won't go into detail. They offered a lot of value at their price point compared to the rest of the industry, until you found out about the forks that snap off. The steel steerer would separate from the aluminum crown. They were recalled in 1978 after Yamaha bought Viscount, and replaced with steel forks.

Just a few hours earlier I had phoned Shimano to get a Crank of Death recall kit. The new and the old in irresponsible design.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This simple chart should make things clear

Disc brake pad selection made easy. Sort of. 

Obviously you need to match the make and model of the brake. Beyond that, where you have a choice of pad compound you should try to match it to the customer's riding style and venue. If the customer can't give you clear answers you have to figure out which compound will produce the least amount of annoying noise...from the rider.

Bass ackwards weather this week. The forecast for today called for, "Drizzle. May be heavy at times." How heavy does it have to be before it no longer qualifies as drizzle? What's the next rung on the promotion ladder? Probability ranged from 20 to 40 percent depending on when I looked. I took the odds because my schedule requires me to drive tomorrow when the forecast is completely dry. Friday looks okay so far, but Saturday picks up a 40 percent chance of precipitation including snow. 

Sunday continues the wintry theme. I'm volunteering at the Castle in the Clouds Half Marathon that day. Mountain runners are a tough crowd. They'll love it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wet leaves

After shooting a few hours of boring video of commute after commute I quit using the helmet cam again. On the path I come face to face with pedestrians. The camera seems extra intrusive after I already intruded by riding through anyway. And it wasn't capturing the essence of the experience. But I should have had it on Saturday morning.

After four days of rain and wind, wet leaves littered the ground, drifted into piles and shoals in some places, swept away in others. I entered the path with due caution, crossing a rail because the path runs between them there. The rails were wet, but the ground was clear.

The path exits the rails a few hundred yards down. Wet leaves were piled on the slimy wood of the crossing platform. I slowed way down and shifted my weight to stand the bike up for the tight, low-speed crossing. Ordinarily, when the rails are the primary obstacle, you cross by leaning the bike to the outside of the turn, cutting the front wheel as far as you can in the space you have. Shift your body weight to the inside of the turn as you enter it and bring the bike after you. It's a fluid snap. Too fast and you can't articulate the bike properly. Too slow and you wobble, unable to maintain the proper angle.

Add wet leaves and it's a whole new game. Doing a reasonable speed to cross rails, even wet rails, I never even reached the rails. When I cut the front wheel to the left the bike kept going straight down the track out from under me. I had already projected my weight into the turn, preparing to twitch the bike through the crossing and resume speed. Instead I ejected as the bike went its own way.

Helmet cam and at least one external point of view would have captured the maneuver for enjoyment over and over.

Without knowing how I did it I landed on fingertips and toes, unharmed. I picked up the bike, also unharmed, and continued my journey.

I made this video tonight in the garage to try to analyze the rail crossing waggle. It's a pretty standard low-speed turn. You have to imagine a slightly protrusive rail at the apex of it.
I'd already spent a couple of hours trying to draw illustrative cartoons of the procedure. It was harder than I thought, even to doodle a crude rendering of the positions. I'll keep fooling with it, but not tonight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Red, ready to rock

The red Rockhopper presented no obstacles during its renovation.
I replaced the original substandard rear brake with a salvaged set. Now the pads actually line up with the rim.
I already mentioned what a pleasure these shifters are. A progressive shifter is much more intuitive than one where the lever or levers return to the same position after every shift.
The suspension fork messes up the handling a bit. The original fork crown would have been down about where the brake arch sits on this Rockshox Indy. Riders learned to live with it until manufacturers made frames ready to receive longer forks. The longer forks themselves made mountain bikes feel less nimble even with an adjusted head angle. That became the new normal. With properly set up suspension a bike rides down in the travel more than it sits on top of a specific geometric relationship to the ground.

If this was my bike I would find a rigid fork to match the main frame.

Another period feature is that 135mm stem. It was the age of the long stem. Because I liked dinky little frames, my 15.5-inch Stumpjumper had a 150mm stem. When I shifted to a 16.5-inch Gary Fisher in the mid 1990s it had a longer top tube and shorter stem, reflecting the improved geometry that had evolved. Better it may be, but it took some getting used to.

When we sold this bike our shop supported pretty full representation of at least three bike lines. Not only were there a lot of customers during the boom, there were fewer categories of bike. We could create a lot of variations starting with the basic mountain bike platform. It was a lot easier back then to maintain stock levels and put together bikes modified to individual customer specifications. The categories were mountain, road, hybrid and kids.

There are pluses and minuses to anything. You can get a lot of cool stuff now that you couldn't get then, even to customize a rider's personal setup. The vast array of models within category put a huge strain on a small shop. A small shop has to narrow its options, sometimes painfully, to maintain a niche.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New glove design

Your faithful reporter has found this prototype of a cycling glove that puts the high viz where you can really use it.
The manufacturer's name has been obscured because they have not decided whether to release the product. Obviously it has its controversial aspects.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the golden age of the rigid frame

Just before good quality friction-option top mount shifters disappeared in the beginning of the 1990s we were able to remove the under-bar shifters and saw off the shifter mounts to retrofit the old reliable shifters onto mountain bikes with butted chromoly frames, nice all-around frame geometry and cranks with the newly reinvented round chain rings.

The Rockhopper pictured above would have come with a rigid fork. Rockshox were still an after-market modification adopted first by aggressive riders who were beating on themselves and their equipment in the quest for speed on rough terrain. The $4,000 wonder bikes of today were not even science fiction back then. Riders rode bikes of steel over landscapes of natural stone and dirt and mud. Within a couple of years we would start to hear about the aerial mazes and jungle gyms in places like the Pacific Northwest, but for the moment we rode on what we found nearby, adapting our tires, riding style and expectations to local conditions.
These shifters will not be temperamental no matter how long they've been sitting around. I remember Maynard Hershon whining about primitive shifters in an essay just a couple of years after this bike was new. He was praising the new brifters Shimano had inflicted on the world as a step long overdue to bring bikes out of the 19th Century. I admit I do not long for downtube shifters on my road bike, but I've halted my evolution at barcons.

If this bike had every piece of technological puke the industry had available the refurbishment could cost another $50 or $100 to put on seven-speed compatible parts much cheesier than the original equipment. Seven speed is now below the sludge in the bottom of the barrel in the era of ten- and eleven-speed cassettes.

Check out the forged crank with individually replaceable chainrings. This on a bike that cost about $500. By mid-decade, Specialized was leading the way in cheapening once sought-after models like the Rockhopper to extract extra profit from customers who bought the latest version on the reputation of the earlier ones.

Not everything on this old beauty is pure gold. The original brakes represented an unfortunate mutation on the way to better cantilevers and even better linear pull brakes. When we put the suspension fork on, we replaced the front brake with a decent low-profile cantilever, but the rear set are original. And the brake levers themselves are still the old full-hand type, not the two-finger levers that came to prevail.

The one-inch steerer tube limits options for a new fork, but if someone wanted to return to a rigid fork I bet there are nice castoffs kicking around. The frame was built for a shorter fork than the Rockshox Indy it has now. All the good old chromoly forks can't have been melted down for paper clips already.

It's nice to see something come out of mothballs besides dead moths. New rubber, a couple of cables and a set of brake pads and this thing will be ready for fun.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jigsaw puzzles and more

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? If so, the bike business may be just your thing.

Here are the pages showing derailleur hangers in the Quality  catalog.

Every time a bike comes in with a tweaked derailleur hanger we have to check it against the reference pictures, the way you consult the picture on the box when you're doing a jigsaw puzzle. As with jigsaw puzzles, we compare all angles, swoops, curves, cuts and protuberances to pick which one of several similar hangers will actually fit.

Disc brake pads are a less detailed jigsaw puzzle, but still important to get right.

The bike in front of me takes a Wheels Manufacturing  number 43. We have plastic tubs full of Wheels  Manufacturing  number 27, accumulated from Fujis that came with two in the box. The 27 looks somewhat like the 43, but not close enough to tempt improvisation.

Because most hangers are alloy, they often snap when you try to coax them back from what looks like a minor deviation. They're meant to fail to save the frame and possibly the derailleur. A wise off-road  rider should buy one or two spares ahead of time. I can't imagine too many shops bother to keep every style fully stocked.

Yesterday and the day before I spent bringing a 1991 Specialized Hardrock back from the dead.

Here's what I found inside the left shifter:

That's some kind of old bug nest. 

This thing was profoundly cruddy. It went well with everything else that was rusted to a lump.

 The derailleurs wouldn't even move. A day and a half of penetrating oil actually loosened them up. Hard to believe the bike functions, but it does. I was about ready to declare it dead when eyelids fluttered, metaphorically speaking.