Keen Eye
Friday September 11th 2009, 8:05 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

Being a mechanic takes a sharp eye for details. It’s impressive and appreciated to see those observational powers in others as well.

I recently built up a cyclocross bike for the season and while at the course the other day, I thanked a fellow mechanic for his recommendation of the Paul Chain Keeper. As he was seeing it on my bike, I notice him look at the crankset. I interuppted the question he was started to ask, “Did you…?” as I knew exactly what he was getting at, I replied, “Yes I did.”

See, Aaron from the Mountain Bike Depot obviously recognized the incongruous pairing of my cranks with my chainring. An FSA 110bcd chainring doesn’t fit perfectly on a Campagnolo CT crankarm. Did I file the millimeter or so of material from the FSA ring for it to fit? Yes I did. Both may say 110bcd, but Brand C has to be different don’t they?

Like they told me back in my baseball years: good eye!

Wednesday August 12th 2009, 8:56 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

Is this another marketing ploy? Or am I missing something?

26″ mountain wheels have an ISO of 559 right? From what I’ve found, 650B wheels have an ISO of 584. Right? And don’t our—fading in popularity?—”29’ers” have an ISO of 622? (Like a road wheel).

Looking at bead seat circumference on this chart seems closer, but still isn’t an equidistant compromise.

26″ mountain: 1755
650B: 1835
29’er: 1955

Looking at this chart, which coincides pretty well with Sutherland’s makes me question what’s wrong with 650A for that “best of both worlds” feel of this new wheel standard? A 650A wheel has a circumference of 1854 or an ISO of 590, pretty much smack between the two.

From this info I can determine that regular mountain tires won’t work, and tubes probably won’t be compatible either. Some forks will evidently; but generally speaking, this all spells out a big re-tooling for manufacturers. New frames, new forks, etc. Right?

Wouldn’t an ISO of 590 or so be a more equal compromise? Why settle for one obscure size over another if everything needs re-tooling anyway? Measure twice cut once, right?

My question is this: how much different does the 650B really feel? Is it really an equitable compromise between a 26″ and a 29’er? I have my hesitations now, but I won’t criticize it—or give it the axe—entirely before I try one out.

I’m sure this subject has been argued about ad nauseum somewhere else before, I just haven’t read it yet or bothered to search for that sure to be overly opinionated argument online. Does anyone have any insight they can lend on this subject? (Anyone that doesn’t have 650B wheels they’re trying to sell that is.)

Basically, is this newest kool-aid worth drinking?

Colors. Colors… Colors.
Sunday July 05th 2009, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

How often is the spectrum of rainbow colors given credit for it’s vast effect on the bike industry?

I’ve not been in this industry my whole life of course, but from what I can tell the past several years mere color has accelerated and increased in variety from manufacturers and desire from customers.  Supply has increased because the demand is evidently there. Sometimes I think this whole color phenomena is a pretty amazing aspect of the bike world. Sometimes I think the fickleness of some customer’s color preference is a tad silly. Aren’t there enough options already?

The manufacturers are listening I guess:

Image courtesy of QBPImage courtesy of QBP

SRAM X.0 Derailleur & PG-990 Cassette—photos courtesy of QBP

Granted I like functionality over aesthetics. Successfully combining both is the definition of art in my mind. Personally I like a simple complementary accent color in my monochromatic world. My Coppi is primarily black and white, silver fades in between with an accent in red—bar tape & pedals matching the miniscule red paint stroke in the bike’s logo.

Were I to have a bike that required some of these newer [mountain] components I’d attempt to remain as simplistic as this. I probably wouldn’t opt for the whole group in pink (although the orange—or Tango above—would be tempting), that being said, I can see the appeal and am glad to see the mega-manufacturers tastefully adopting more of the color palette in their components. Shimano’s Yumeya line of accent parts for the XTR group is pretty sick looking. These examples of colorful aesthetic are vastly more tasteful than some of the ridiculous and garish colors and patterns seen coming from Velocity and other fixie driven companies in my opinion. This, of course, is a different market and a subject due a post wholly unto itself.

Just Riding Along, Pt. 1
Tuesday June 16th 2009, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

Yep, that’s all….


This chainring explosion was probably a result of a little bit of neglect judging from the thick coat of grime on the drivetrain. Regardless, the owner wasn’t really sure why it happened.

* I say, Part 1, because, I’m sure, there’ll be more similar diagnoses in the future.

Wednesday June 10th 2009, 8:32 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

You know. Out where there are no sidewalks, no bike racks, nothing but parking lots, 40+ mph streets, car dealerships and “unique” restaurants with names like “Salsasitas.” Where the site of a bicycle furrows brows with confusion. Yeah where millions of Americans live.

This morning I needed to ride out into just such an area, to close my cable Internet account and return their modem. The closest location to do so was located in a grocery store, where, unsurprisingly there are no bike racks. I wheel it right on in the store and to the cable company’s kiosk. After asking what it was–my bike–I’m told i can’t bring my bike into a kiosk to return a modem. “Why not?” was met with a blank stare. Moving on then: tainted with scorn, the clerk closed my Internet account and took back my modem like I needed. Have a nice day, I’ll take some more “city” with my coffee thanks!

Wednesday May 20th 2009, 8:29 am
Filed under: Anecdotes

I just gave a 1971 Raleigh Sports to my sister for her birthday. It’s an old 3-speed town bike. I think it’s gorgeous and it has changed my appreciation for relaxed riding bikes. 

When I first started working at the shop it was hanging in the basement, totally neglected: rusty and gummy. I saw potential in it. It reminded me of the old Raleigh my boss in Seattle had, I forget what model it was, just that it was red. I rode that bike once and enjoyed it’s simplicity and old-world feeling. Seeing the Sports in the basement showed me the potential to ride that way again; with little hesitation I bought it for thirty bucks.

Whatever opportunity I could get this winter past I tinkered with it and refurbished it. I re-laced the rear wheel, polished the hub and steel wheels, overhauled the bearings, set new cotters, and ran new cables. I got rid of and covered all of the rust spots on the frame with touch-up paint. (Like the guy I work with said one day, rust on a bike is like herpes, it never really goes away—charming, huh?) The bike looks sharp. The only thing I never got around to doing was re-upholstering the saddle. It was an old cheap Brooks, fake leather on plastic with nice springs on double rails; I might break down and get a softened up B66 if I can source one.


My sister came to town this weekend and I sent her off with a “new” bike. She loves it, I’m happy to provide. She plans on riding it around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, it’s a perfect town bike for that.

I got to ride it once and loved it myself, it was smooth and comfortable, shifted a tad rough, but braked spot on (new pads). It was faster and lighter than I expected and handled surprisingly well on sharp turns. What I loved most about the ride though was looking down and seeing that bright shiny rim reflecting it’s spokes and the trees and sky above. I’ve never really ridden a bike with steel rims like this before, their wide and flat profile of them is really awesome I think.


I took a few photos of the “process” that can be viewed here.

Those Riders-By
Monday May 11th 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

It’s funny, I’m not sure how many I don’t see riding by the shop, but sometimes I feel that no one can ride by on their bike without my being aware of it. You can’t escape the watchful eye of the bike mechanic; especially not on beautiful days like today. 

It’s that corner of the eye motion that causes me to whip my head up and look out the window. There’s something about the action of a cyclist that draws the eye and attention, something that’s different from the motion of a car or motorcycle. It’s the locomotion of the legs perhaps, or maybe the contrast of speed.

Whenever it happens though, I’m naturally curious to see who’s riding by the shop, what they’re riding, and maybe even how much repair their bike looks like it needs. Sometimes you’ll be so far away I am amazed I even noticed. Not too far away though for me to see you’re riding a little under-inflated, is that a dry chain I hear? (and, no, those new bars don’t look like they stretch you out too far.) 

How can you resist the urge, magnetism that pulls you into the doors of a bike shop? Do you at least glance at the shop, throw a wave in it’s direction, give a head nod? I can’t say I really blame you all for riding by. Most of this banter is just the envy of a bike mechanic that, ironically, doesn’t get to ride as much as he’d like.

Gray Areas
Thursday April 16th 2009, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

I’ve been exploring the gray areas of this town. I typically ride generally the same route everyday to the shop. I was getting to certain intersections, stopping, and looking up the cross street as far as I could. Now I take the turn and see where it goes. Connecting the commonly trafficked streets with themselves has been interesting. Discovering where one familiar road leads to another familiar road. “Hey! I’ve been here before.” What’s in between them are the gray areas. Seeing what’s in between them is, for some mundane reason, really neat. This town is still new to me I guess.

Working six days a week tends to limit your leisure biking (as well as leisure anything) so this exploratory “commuting” has been my best method of getting interesting miles in. Generally the same route everyday, but widened per se.

While probably not every mechanic works six days weekly, I have heard of a common theme amongst bike mechanics. The irony that we don’t ride our bikes as much as our customers do. Sort of contradicting in a sense, right? I think it sort of sucks actually. I really enjoy riding my bike, when I’ve had an hectic morning, my ride in clears my head, loosens up the muscles, and generally sets me straight. After the day is done, same deal, hop on and watch the aggravations shake off. It’d be nice to get out and enjoy it in a non-commuter way more often.

Six days makes my weekends pretty short. I’ve managed to get into a routine of cramming in errands, chores, and a relaxing breakfast with my wife on Sunday mornings so that I can enjoy bikes more personally on my “day off”. Typically polo. However, this weekend I’m hoping to enjoy a group ride that’ll really hit up the gray areas of this town, should be a good one.

Wednesday April 15th 2009, 6:16 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

The other day, riding home from work, standing waiting for the light to change (or the intersection to clear), I saw a woman doing a number of things at the same time. Not only did she have a cell phone plastered to her ear/face, she was taking a hearty pull from her cigarette (mmmm, cancer). This lady was also watching the road, she may have been watching her kids too and I can imagine her also listening to the radio. What mostly stood out was that cell phone and the cigarette, they were the obvious clues as to how multi-tasked this woman was, as she was also simultaneously operating a large SUV—cell phone in one hand, cigarette in the other. Dude. At thirty-five miles an hour, in a neighborhood, can’t we at least get one hand on the steering wheel?

It seems lately I’m reminded of the multi-tasking responsibilities that exist in a bike shop. Business has picked up (albeit minimally) and other “administrative” duties are occurring. Lately it’s about checking in inventory, data entry, managing repairs, helping customers, and dealing with “upper management”. It can be a challenge at times, but like I’ve iterated here and elsewhere, I’m thankful people’s lives are not exactly at stake with my decisions and actions at the shop. Being a mechanic or a shop manager or whatever in a bike shop isn’t the same as being a doctor. Nobody’s bleeding femoral artery is dropped off needing life-saving cauterization. But hey, it’s only mid-April and there’s a whole summer ahead of us, right?

Carbolite Ubiquity
Monday March 23rd 2009, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Anecdotes

It is amazing to see how many Peugeot’s come through a shop. I thought there were a lot of Schwinn’s out here. (There might be more Swinn’s than expected though).

Coincidentally, the other day there were two bikes that passed the threshold, both with Mallaird 27″ wheels sporting the awesomely obsolete Helicomatic hub.

Yes, simply amazing. It seems a day hasn’t gone by without my seeing one of these Carbolite 103 Peugeots either in the shop or out in the world. Obsolescence is a fact of life in a bike shop I guess: just today, a Schwinn, in pretty decent condition, came in equipped with Positron shifting. When’s Shimano going to re-release that gem?