the dream
rockin' and rollin' on two wheels by pedal power

Tubeless Misadventures – Incremental Update

Posted: December 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

Took the wheels with tires mounted to the local bike shop. With some blasts from the compressor the rear seated. Unfortunately the seat wasn’t perfect but after a few rounds of deflating and adjusting, the tire seated and inflated. It is still holding air. The front, however, was another story. It seems like there was a crack or something in the rim tape so air was leaking out of the spoke holes. Although I don’t have American Classic table, I do have some Stan’s, so I stripped the faulty American Classic tape and scrubbed the wheel bed with rubbing alcohol. After it had evaporated, I double wrapped with the Stan’s tape.  I remounted the tire, this time with a tube and inflated. The goal is to press the tape down to create a strong bond. Tomorrow I will have another go mounting the tire. Fingers crossed.

Tubeless Misadventures – American Classic and Hutchinson Intensive Variety

Posted: December 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

I have had a few goes at running tubeless on my mountain bike, trying both the 26 inch and 29 inch variants of Stan’s rims. It never really worked for me – just never held air well. At best the tires would hold air for two days.  Worse, they were a bear to install and the Stan’s sealant is messy messy. So, after a few fee weeks of shaking the tires to try to get appropriate sealant coverage, I went back to using tubes. It was all kind of a bummer because the rooty and rocky riding around me is best with the added traction and low tire pressures (~18-20 psi) that tubeless allows. However, given the nightmare of getting the tire on the tubeless rim, all I could think about was the mess and hassle of dealing with a flat on the trail, whether from a sidewall tear or “burping”. So, I have stayed with tubes off road.

Recently while at IFixByx – a local shop – I saw the new American Classic road tubeless wheels and was curious. Despite a reputation for being a little fragile, I have had good luck with American Classic wheels on my mountain bike, and so I figured I’d try their road offering out. The wheelset is light – around 1200 or so grams and has all the appropriately garish styling that you expect – nay demand – from road kit. My thinking is that even if tubeless doesn’t work out, the wheels should be fine with tubes.

I went with the Intensive 25c tires from Hutchinson. These tires garner mixed reviews. The low tpi is said to result in a relatively harsh ride and the tire is said to be a 23c tire labelled as a 25c. Still for a racing/training tire, the Intensive seemed to be the best current offering.

Before tackling installing the tires, I had to swap the cassette body, replacing the Shimano standard for one that will work with Campagnolo. That process was relatively straightforward, the only twist being that the 17mm axle requires the use of 19mm wrenches on the nuts that secure the cassette body. No local shops had 19mm cone wrenches for sale, so the project was delayed a week while I waited for the wrenches I ordered to arrive.

Finally I was ready for the tires. I decided to install them without sealant with the intent of adding sealant after the beads were seated. Even without sealant, it is a messy process as the entire product needs to be lubricated with soapy water. So, standing in the bathtub I wrestled with the tires for nearly an hour, finally getting both the front and rear on. The trick for me is to “roll” the tires on, pulling the last stubborn section of tire around the rim with the palms and coaxing the bead in with my thumbs. Even with these tricks, I new my hands and thumbs would be hurting the next day and they are.

After installing I wiggled the tire back and forth in an effort to get the bead either seated or ready to be seated. Then I commenced 30 fruitless minutes of trying to inflate the tires with my Joe Blow pump. The front wouldn’t hold air at all – the air whistle out all around the bead. The rear would pump up to around 80 psi but the air would seep out in 15-20 secs. The next step will be taking the wheels to a local bike shop and blasting the tires with 110-140 psi to get a better bead seal.  After that the plan is to deflate, pour around an oz of Stan’s sealant into the valve cores and keep my fingers crossed.

So, can’t say that I am in love with road tubeless yet, but in fairness I haven’t had a chance to ride them yet. I have probably spent more time dicking around with trying to get them inflated and installed than I have cumulatively on flats this year, so there’s that. I will withhold final judgement till I get them road ready.

Drafting Etiquette – Don’t be that Guy

Posted: December 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

There is a recurrent debate about the etiquette of drafting when  training or commuting on your bike. In a race it is always fine, though your competitors might get pissed if you wheel suck all the time and always pip them at the line – that is its own game theoretical discussion. The debate I want to talk about is whether as a cyclist you should tag on to other riders to enjoy the slipstream, whether a solo rider or a group.

Some suggest that it is fine while others recommend asking if it is ok to hitch a ride. Heck, some even suggest that if you want to be polite you should take some pulls. My position is that you should never just attach yourself to someone else without at least asking. As for pulling, I only think it is necessary if you are asked. That said, don’t interfere with a group’s pacelining.

So, with that introduction, let me tell you about my ride today. My riding buddy and I were grinding our way home on the road after and hour or so of mountain biking. So, we were on mountain bikes. On the road we passed a couple roadies on a climb, let’s call them the wheelsuckers. Its the winter so no shame there, guys were probably doing a base ride. What happened next boggled my mind.

It wasn’t that the wheelsucker’s went to wheelsucking, it was how rude and aggressively they did so. While my buddy and I rode side by side, the wheelsuckers poked their front wheel in between us, got in the way of our pacelining without pulling so pulling through required essentially “pushing them out of the way by moving alongside and then moving over, and finally, overlapping half a bike length, sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right. They were a pile of mess.

Worse, when I told wheelsucker #1 not to overlap on my side, he replied with “why”?! Rude, dangerous dicks. Its one thing not to ask before hitching a ride, but how these two knuckleheads acted was an order of magnitude worse than that. Don’t be these guys.

Bicycle Sizing, &c.

Posted: December 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

First off, eBay has finally made it nearly impossible to grab pics from auctions, so I will be discontinuing posting about eBay pick ups. Its probably for the best. In any case, my “pick ups” have gotten boring – tires, helmets, chains, &c. Happily this is due to the fact that I have been spending more time riding.














This Moots Vamoots CR is my main ride, though I do try to mix it up. It is a 50cm, so it has a 52.5cm top tube, measured center to center along an imaginary horizontal plane. When I first got the bike, I had just come from a 50cm Cannondale CAAD10 and before that a 52cm Moots Vamoots.

Moving from bike to bike I tried to maintain some consistency in my position but came to two conclusions – first, my position was ripe for improvement and second, migrating position is ripe with hidden challenges.

Improvements to my position came from rectifying mismeasurements and reflecting improvements in my fitness and flexibility. Consequently, my saddle height went up and back and my stem when down. Where I had been running the saddle at 700mm, measured from the center of the bb spindle to the top of the saddle at the center of the rails, I have now moved up to around 715mm – a huge increase. The saddle also went back from 45mm to 55mm measured from the horizontal distance that the nose of the saddle sits behind the center of the bottom bracket spindle. I dropped the stem 10mm too.

Moving the saddle back on the Moots seatpost looked awkward because the Fizik Arione was “slammed” – at the end of the rails. I did a little research and found that seatpost makers were coalescing around a standard setback of 20mm – at least that what was offered by Moots, Easton and Campy. Happily Kent Eriksen – the founder of Moots – would make a seatpost with up to 30mm of setback (although without warranty). That is what I got, and am happy for it.

I am still tweaking the saddle height, moving it up and down at 2mm increments, trying to find the spot that is just so. The challenge is trying to be precise in measuring the height. My Campagnolo crankset doesn’t have a centerpoint that is easy to pinpoint – just a big hole. The saddle curves, making it a little tricky to identify the “top”. Finally, picking the “center” of the rails is a bit inexact. I have been looking for a tool to simplify the process. There is a bike fit tool, but I don’t love it. In my mind, the perfect tool would be a steel or aluminum meter stick with  point that extended at the O mark and a sliding T with a level. Maybe I’ll make it.

I read that the optimum saddle height is determined by finding the spot just below where you lose control at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This is best determined by riding at some force but with reasonably high cadence on a trainer and having someone watch your knee action. When the saddle is too high, there will be an acceleration at that point and maybe some knee wobbling – the feel of a saddle that is too high.




Misc. Purchases – MBK/Vetta, Zipp 303, Look, etc.

Posted: May 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

There has been a lull in my selling, though I would like to get back to it sooner than later. Beside a few wonderful bike finds to be discussed later, purchases have largely been limited to functional updates and misc.  tchotchkes.

After being a time user since the early Equipe years (which I got from none other than Jacquie Phelan’s sponsorship pile), I have finally tired of the constant design (and related cleat) changes. I was not happy that the bearings on the RXS Ti pedals are not really user serviceable and frustrated that mine had gunked up. I didn’t like the hassle of chasing down cleats. Most importantly, I don’t know why Time moved away from free float (using a more auto-center model). I bought into Time for free float. So, when it came time to replace my pedals, I wasn’t real keen on the iClics. I took the plunge into Look-world with the Keo Ti – but swapped out the cleats for the floatier red model. So far, I am very happy with the pedals – the do squeak a bit though.

and the cleats

In spite of my better judgement, I have wanted to fool around on some Zipp 303 tubs. So…

I have also wanted to try out an old school-y Calfee. This Tetra Pro seemed like an interesting one, with the older “Carbonframes” branding and the far out Ti bands for the bottle bosses and shifters. I am not sure what exactly I will do with it but have been thinking about a Dura Ace 7800 build

I believe that the Dura Ace 7400 freewheels are the best that were ever made so when I see a particularly nice one, I pick it up for the rainy day parts bin. This one caught my eye with its unusual 13-30 range. I believe Dura Ace cogs topped out smaller and so this one uses a 600EX 30. I could be wrong though.

I am glad to see that fluorescent colors are starting to come back, but so far, they were still done better in the 80s.

I have a bunch of bike projects in process. One is a Klein Stage from the early 80s. I picked up this Campy wheelset even though it is probably 5 or so years too new. At some point I will properly focus on getting the bike built up.

I through a lowish bid at this Syncros fork and was surprised to win it. Sadly, the bike I was thinking about buying and putting these on ended up getting stolen. So it goes.

When mocking up older bikes, a period correct water bottle is a nice touch. I don’t have any bikes bike Victor Vincente of America, but now I have one of his bottles…



Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

I really enjoy wrenching on bikes. The machines are so intricate and refined, it is a pleasure to get your hands dirty getting into them. A related interest is using nice tools to do the job. I don’t have much space and keep my tools in an antique-ish wooden toolbox that is at more than capacity. I laid out some of the tools to have a look at them this morning.

1996 WTB Phoenix

Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

This bike is from near the end of the Phoenix production run. It is an incredibly balanced and elegant rigid frame. Over time I have slowly been enhancing the bike with WTB and Cunningham Applied Tech upgrades (including prototype pieces never publicly available). When the Steelman stem came up, I figured it would be perfect for the build.

Enhancements include a lever linkage on the front brake as well as a handmade brake booster. The Steve Potts Type II fork is spaced for a 118mm front hub. A WTB Classic hub has been widened – the silver insert showing the new material. Front and rear hubs are held on with Cunningham Slo Releases. The rear Toggle Cam brake has been updated with late generation hardware for lower friction and better feel. The Cunningham seatpost has been internally butted for my riding position. A handmade Cunningham seat quick release has been installed, including countersinking of the binder. The Cunningham chainstay guard has been treated and hand beveled for longer life. Finally, a custom, titanium tang and parachute chord will prevent the front brakes from swinging into the downtube in the event of a crash.

I am finishing up the build which will be 8 or 9 speed, probably with thumbshifters.


Projects – Lots of Japan and a smidge of US and Italy

Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

I was called away unexpectedly and spent nearly 10 months in the San Francisco Bay area. It was a pleasure, riding lots, eating tasty food and communing with friends. When I returned home to NYC, I was disappointed to note that the backlog of projects hadn’t sorted itself in my absence. So, once unseasonably warm temps had evaporated, I turned to the list to figure out what needed to get done.

My first order of business has been to source appropriate parts for a Cunningham racing bike that I am restoring. The bike was built around 1987 and has seen heavy use. The parts on it are a eclectic (in the euphemistic sense) bag and nearly all worn heavily. After mulling it over for a while I settled on using a mix of Dura Ace 7400 (the 6/7 speed group). To preserve the Cunningham aesthetic, I have opted for non-aero levers. The seatpost needs to be longer than was available at the time so I got a nice fluted post and had the top mated to a longer shaft. I will need to fool around with the brake calipers when I put the bike together since the bike was build to use nutted bolts (i.e., not recessed). These are the parts I got.

And, while talking Dura Ace Non-Aero Levers, for another project

I also thought this was interesting – 7410 27.0 post.

I couldn’t resist this neat old mountain bike wheelset. The Hi-E hubs mated to gold Ukai 26 inch rims … perfect for something!

I had been fretting about selling my only IRD seat quick release a while back so was happy to replace the void in the parts hoard.

Campagnolo Euclid quick releases are often handy to have around.

Finally, something more modern – a Campagnolo Super Record compact crankset. I am interested in working on my spin!


Spare parts, ugly Fizik tape, Dutch bikes and derny criterium racing in Antwerp

Posted: August 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

The WTB Phoenix is a real classic hard tail. The bike’s design fused concepts from Charlie Cunningham and Steve Potts. Most were steel, but in the final couple of years Steve built up titanium versions too. From what I can tell, the bikes weren’t really that appreciated when they came out. The price tag was high and the bikes are the definition of low key. They flew in the face of the nascent rear suspension boom. I recently finished some clean up on my 1996 Phoenix. Pics to follow in a later post. One item I had been looking for was a nice 120mm 1 1/8 threadless stem. I was happy to find this Steelman stem on eBay. Nice Bay Area provenance and a fit with my blue and silver scheme.

I also recently picked up a replacement chain for my road bike. I am using 2008/9 Super Record parts and find the drivetrain feel a little … funny. I can’t exactly say way but it isn’t smoove like Dura Ace. I am probably replacing the chain on the early side, but here I am after about 4000k.

Just got back from the Netherlands, the famed land of bikes. To be frank, the Dutch bikes really aren’t my scene. I can dig them as a means of getting around, but I think that they end up squeezing out nicer bikes. Everyone uses bikes but in an all business, passionless way. Still, I could enjoy going full hipster.

Riding in Holland wasn’t all upright cast iron clunker. I met up with a buddy from the south and we banged out around 40k through fast and twisty rolling trails. It was a very good time. I can’t help but think that the Netherlanders appreciated how my team kit reflected Dutch livery.

In Amsterdam I was psyched to see what was billed as one of Joop Zoetemelk’s pro bikes. Sure the build was horrendous (at least in parts – see the levers) and the provenance was suspect, but still – Joop. For those who don’t know him, think of a Dutch Hincapie. I do worry that with the bike sitting in that window, the outward facing half is destined to get steadily lighter.

Better yet, on a day trip to Antwerp, I stumbled onto a pro derny criterium. As much a spectacle as a race, each (or at least most) riders get to ride behind a pace moto. The pace was high and I believe that Robbie McKewen won again (he took this race last year too). Very cool to see him, the Schleck brothers and other pros so close. Those are some lean chaps.

Ok, with all this positivity out of the way, let me vent a bit about Fizik’s Dual Tape. This stuff is one of those products that just makes you go, WTF. The idea is to provide a bar tape with the durability of … a very durable thing, and the shock absorption of … a very shock absorbing thing. So, the mad geniuses at Fizik found a durable thing and a shock absorbing thing. And then, they noticed that these two things were different. They then concluded that the best way to capture these characteristics was the stitch the two things together. The result is a stiff and slippery tape. The stiffness confounds attempts to install the stuff, but the styling ensures that even if you have installed it, your bike will look like ass. I spent a lot of time looking at finished tape jobs and have yet to find one that looks half way decent. It should have been a tip off that Fizik does not provide pictures of taped bars, or even instructions on how to apply this fiendish tape, on their site. One more time, two get a two-characteristic tape, they … stitched together two different kinds of tape. So dumb. I feel bad for my poor Vamoots.

Ritchey Annapurna – Help needed + Power!

Posted: July 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

One day, many years ago, I asked the Internet for an Annapurna through some Google searches. Lo and behold, I found one. A little sleuthing later, I was able to contact the owner of this:

It was a very nice find for me. Just my size, cool color and Rocky Mountain heritage too – it was an export model. Some horse trading later and the bike was on its way to me. It arrived well packed and I rushed to set it up. A little while after the initial rush, I noticed that the bike was “crying.” Not a good sign. Closer inspection showed some paint bubbling around the bottom bracket. I poked the bubble with a pin, gently, and disturbingly, it easily penetrated the metal and some water came out. Ugh.

The seller and I corresponded and agreed that we would adjust the price by the amount of the repair. The problem is that this bike has a distinct and complex construction. While most mountain bikes from the period (c. 1986) were TIG welded, fillet brazed or lugged, the Annapurna utilized a classic bilaminate construction technique were lugs were formed from elegantly cut lug-like sleeves were brazed over the tubes. The maximal artistry on an Annapurna is around the seat cluster. And there was the problem – the damage was manifesting itself at the bottom of that tube, like so:

I reached out to a number of framebuilders but Rody at Groovy Cycles was the man most interested in the job. Rody is an accomplished framebuilding in his own right, and has refocused his efforts at custom frames and components, but he has been tempted by interested challenges. This project tickled his interest.

Rody’s plan was to cut the tube in half and to only replace the bottom, recreating the fillet brazed at the bottom bracket juncture. The center of the tube would be connected by TIG welding. When the paint came off Rody identified 11 other compromised areas that he set about fixing. He is truly a classic bikes saint.

Now the tube has been replaced, holes have been patched and paint is ready to be laid down. The recreation of the bike will be pearl white. I am really looking forward to it.

While I am waiting for the Annapurna to come back from paint, I will amuse myself with Power! (especially after I remove the dorky wheel cover)

One problem though…

But fortunately, there is a solution.