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

Going HVLP

Posted: February 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

I have been following the discussion regarding the performance benefits, which include ride quality, of using fatter tires with lower pressure, which I call Higher Volume Lower Pressure or HVLP (and which I am preparing large decals for my bike). This post by Mike at the Black Mountain Cycle blog provides a good summary and a list of techie articles on the subject.

To test out HVLP I installed some Continental Four Seasons 700x28c tires on my Masi Prestige and started with 80 psi front and rear. (At the same time I put some Zefal fenders on the bike to take away some of the fretting associated with riding a bike of this ferousity in this wet and grubby winter/spring season). The setup isn’t optimal because the Ambrosia rims are probably a little on the narrow side. Consequently, it is possible for them to roll/flop a little under high cornering. That said, my fat ass didn’t notice this happening.

It was hard to say if the tires were as fast as the Continental Grand Prix tires on my race bike which are 700x22C and inflated to Hinault-approved 100 psi. They were, however, much surer and plusher. After the big freeze and thaw cycles we have been having the roads are a mess, pocked with pot holes of varying sizes and strewn with debris. These monster tires glided over everything (and the fenders removed the irritating ass chill that typically follows riding through water on the road.

So far, I am digging the experiment and plan to experiment with +/- 5 psi to see if I can dial in the ride.


Posted: February 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: general | No Comments »

There is a loop that I have enjoyed for many years that goes through the mountains in the north of Osaka prefecture. The ride offers challenging and scenic climbs. The climb is also often a great spot to see families of nihonzaru – Japanese monkeys. The primates are also known as snow monkeys and are often photographed enjoying hotspring baths during the winter. Midway through the climb you get to Mino waterfall, which has been celebrated in poems for centuries. After a brief plateau, the climb continues on to the Katsuoji temple. From there I usually descend and then make my way back through the city. If a longer ride is desired, it is possible to take roads deeper into the mountains for more climbing and more beauty.

The loop can been ridden from the Katuoji side as well, that is, you can climb to Katsuoji, descend to the waterfall and then continue to descend into the city. I don’t like this route as much, finding the descent much less fun.

From downtown Osaka, the ride is around 40 miles and has around 2000 feet for elevation gain. The biggest bummer is that the city part of the ride can be slow as you navigate river crossings, which typically require you find a route that is available for bikes.

The climb is nice, lots of trees, narrow winding roads.

There is a path that goes from Mino Hankyu train station to the waterfall as well. I haven’t spent as much time on it as I might. Snow was falling on my ride but the weather wasn’t too cold.

I finally have a road bike to ride in Japan, in the past I’ve ridden mamacheri (commuter bikes), mountain bikes and bikes built from found parts. The road bike is the way to go.

My ride of choice is this 1986ish Look Hinault. The bike is built from exotic Reynolds 753 and is equipped with a mix of C Record and Mavic SSC parts, with a Dura Ace freewheel. I could use a slightly lower gear. The wheels are Mavic MA50s – kind of like the SSC of clinchers.

I like to get a can or bottle of soda or tea before hitting the climb.

During New Years, the line of cars to Katsuoji temple extended nearly to bottom of the climb.

Once I got get back to the city, I like to enjoy ramen in Umeda.

Doping amateur masters

Posted: December 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: general | No Comments »

Great post at NY Velocity about cycling’s latest wtf boondoggle

Fall Cunningham ride

Posted: November 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | 1 Comment »

It was a beautiful day today in NYC and I took the opportunity to take my Cunningham Expedition out for a ride.  I continue to tweak the bike to get it dialed and the bike is one of my favorites.

Charlie conceived of the Expedition as a bike to do everything.  The bike gives you enough mountainbike to enjoy some singletrack, but the bike is at home on the road too.  A neat, subtle detail is that the front wheel is larger than the rear wheel – 27″ and 700C respectively.  The idea is to provide a better balance for the rotating mass.

I enjoyed a little over three hours in the saddle today, mixing up the ride with segments on 9W, River Road and the dirt paths and rocky trails that are accessible from both.

What the Pros ride

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

Over the past racing season I’ve noticed two equipment choices that must drive the sponsors made.  First, the Pros seem to prefer the Sidi Genius (with three velcro straps) to the top end Sidi Ergo 2 (which uses the fishing line winch and two velcro straps).  Second, and more interestingly, a  lot of the pro tour teams are using at least the Record and not top-end Super Record rear derailleur.  Why? I wonder.

As an example, check the Quickstep and Lampre riders in the picture.


Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

This picture, originally from the late and great Bicycle Guide magazine and now archived and provided by the good folks at Mombat, captures some of the best upgrades available in the late 1980s.

Cook Bros and WTB were two names that it was hard to go wrong with, and the picture shows a number of the neat offerings.

Cook Bros had BMX roots but its cranks were also iconic for mountain bikes.  Its bars were far less so, but in ’88 or so when I was speccing out my “ulti” ride, I went with the aluminum Cook Bros bars.  They were black anodized and had the groovy Cook Bros Racing logo etched in.  In those days we would cut our bars down as narrow as we could and in fact, I have that uselessly short set of bars up in the parts bin.

I also jumped on a set of Cook Bros cranks but was disappointed to get them in silver.  Since my riding stance is funny, it turns out that the color choice was fine.  That generation of Cook Bros cranks had its own, longer taper, so you needed to get the Cook Bros bottom bracket. When I came across this incompatibility, it was a big surprise which required more weeks of waiting for the right bb to come.

Where it all began…

Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles, general | 1 Comment »

Bikes have had a meaningful part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I will grant that I don’t recall what my first bike was, but I do recall that it was red.  I learned to ride a bike on that unpaved street and rode it up and down and up and down our drive that extended toward to river that was well behind the property.

My next bike as a Raleigh BMX.  This was the Canadian Raleigh so who really knows what the model was.  The bike was very entry level, but there were some neat details.  The frame was a loop-tail and it had an oval top tube.  Yes, very much like a Yeti FRO.  The frame was silver. I rode that bike hard until I got my first 10-speed.

I don’t recall how I came to get it, but around sixth grade I got a Nishiki International, which was in many ways a nice bike.  It was dark metallic blue and had alloy rims, Suntour parts (ARX probably) and lots of other nice details.  I entered my first race on that bike in the seventh grade, racing the bike leg of a triathlon.  Around that time I also got my my first mountain bike.  Also, by about 1985, I was reading bike magazines with a hunger.

Nishiki International just like mine

My first mountain bike came from the Terrace Co-op, and was pretty much a piece of junk.  Very heavy frame, built from some sort of craptastic pig iron.  Parts were all garbage.  Still, I wrenched and rode that thing all over the place.  I carefully drilled and filed parts to reduce weight (somewhat pointlessly) and toiled for ours packing and repacking bearings, lubing cables, and tweaking it to be “just so.” I even painted the bike to make it lumpy and white.

By the ninth grade I had moved to Edmonton.  To realize my dreams of having a mountain bike that was a pile of garbage, I started working as a wrench and salesguy at the now defunct Edmonton Cycle.  At school I also successfully pitched writing a paper on local framebuilder Jim Moulden as my Academic Challenge project.

Edmonton Cycle carried Norco, Nishiki, Fiore, Raleigh and BRC bicycles.  All mid to low range Canadian brands.  Still, the Fiore San Remo was good enough for me, with Araya rims, a Tange frame and Deore running gear.  I rode and tweaked that bike hard. Hanging out at Jim’s frame shop, however, I knew I really wanted something with a sloping top tube that was hand built from Tange Prestige and which was fillet brazed.  My hunger was starting to take shape.

By the end of ninth grade, I picked up my first used Moulden. The bike was radical with a rasta fade, and a 140mm stem.  It was fast and low and tore it up on the fast Edmonton hardpack trails.  I continued to upgrade the bike with Bullseye, IRD and WTB parts and eventually had it repainted blue, purple and teal. I also picked up a Colnago Sport (which is not like the bike below)

When I was in 10th grade, Jim decided to open up a retail shop – The Hardcore Mountainbike Store.  I jumped to the shop and enjoyed working there.  In addition to Mouldens, we sold Konas, Breezers and Bridgestones.

I went through a sequence of Jim’s bikes, as I tried different frame geometries and designs.  The first Moulden that I had built for me was steep with short chainstays and a long top tube. (72/74, 22.5, 16 3/8).

In 1989, after a ferocious letter-writing campaign, Jacquie Phelan and Charlie Cunningham relented and let me come to their place in Marin to soak in the mountain bike history.  I had an idyllic time riding with them and other local luminaries and hanging in Charlie’s shop.  I drove them both nuts too, natch.

After returning, I got some Charlie religion and designed a more relaxed with a shorter top tube and longer stays. (70/71, 22.25, 17).  At that time I was racing a Proctor Townsend 753 frame with a mix of Campagnolo and Dura Ace parts.

After graduating high school I had plans to try to get involved in the bike industry and maybe even to race mountain bikes professionally.  My big plan involved intense training to build on my final successful year as a junior racer.  Things didn’t work out and I hurt my knees riding through Northern California.  After returning from the trip I did months and months of rehab but wasn’t successful.  I also hurt my shoulder and had to have surgery that wiped me out for nearly a year.  After recovering from surgery, I sold my bikes and went to college.

In high school, one of my dreams was to get to Osaka – the heartland of the Japanese cycling industry and home to Tange, Shimano, Araya and others.  It wasn’t until my second to last year of college that I was able to actually get to Osaka – and rekindled my love of bikes.  I started riding again.  I built my Japanese bike up from spare parts that had been discarded at the dorm I was staying.

In Osaka I rode all over the place, but my favorite ride was to Mino.

I came back from Japan, graduated, started working and also re-immersed myself in the bike world. In particular, I started hunting down the bikes that I had developed a love of during the 80s and early 90s.

In the early naughties I started racing again, racing the NYC area H2H series as well as joining park races (circuits in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn). I also discovered that a nostalgia community in the form of the Vintage Retro Classic sub-forum on I resurrected my 1980s persona as the bushpig (in the 80s there had in fact been two bushpigs).

The *List*

Posted: September 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

Following is the list of bikes that make up the current TopShelf stable. Over time I plan to provide details about each, including why I chose to include the bike as part of my too-many large collection.

Intense Spider XVP 2008
Moots Vamoots 2004
Steve Potts Silver Salmon 2000
Nagasawa Keirin Special 1999
WTB Phoenix Ti 1997
WTB Phoenix 1996
Merlin Newsboy 1995
Weigle mountain 1994
Rocky Mountain Weasel 1993
Specialized Titanium Ultimate 1992
Rodriguez Max 1991
Weigle Cross 1990
Steve Potts Cross Country Racer 1990
Steve Potts Cross Country Racer 1990
Moots mountain 1990
Bradbury Manitou 1989
Gecko Y-File 1989
IRD Semi-Stroker 1989
Merlin Mountain 1989
Moulden Custom 1989
Mountain Goat Whiskytown Racer 1989
Ritchey P-23 Team 1989
Salsa Moto fb 1989
Salsa Titanium 1989
Cunningham Expedition 1988
Cunningham Racer 1988
Ritchey Super Comp 1988
Bradbury Manitou 1988
Ibis SS Custom 1987
Look Equipe 753 1987
JP Weigle Road 1987
Cunningham 1987
Mantis X 1987
Mantis XCR 1987
Mantis XCR 1987
Rossin Max Concept 1987
WTB Trek Road 1986
Cunningham Wombat 1986
JP Weigle MTN lugged 1986
Ritchey Commando 1986
Mountain Goat Deluxe 1985
Ritchey Annapurna 1985
Ritchey Everest 1985
Steve Potts 1985
Cunningham Indian/Racer custom 1984
Cunningham Racer (Big Red) 1984
Cunningham Road 1984
Fat Chance Trials 1984
Mantis Sherpa 1984
Masi Prestige 1984
Swift 1984
Cunningham Indian 1983
Cunningham Road 1983
Cunningham Indian 1983
Fat Chance Trials 1983
Steve Potts 1983
Steve Potts 1983
Ritchey Mountain Bike Everest 1982
Breezer Series II 1980
Ritchey Palo Alto touring 1980

Keeping it Top Shelf

Posted: September 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: general | No Comments »

Welcome to the Top Shelf bicycles site.  My goal for this site is to discuss the bicycles that I have the passion for. These are largely from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s, with the real focus nearly squarely in the middle. Maybe I will talk a little politics and aesthetics too if the mood strikes me.