Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Now back to the shop . . .
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Also, I received some extra rubber tips for the Bagman QR racks. An earlier shipment of these racks came without the tips. If you bought one of these racks and would like a pair of tips, let me know.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
The second form of betrayal is obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is when my brain decides that, rather than write, I should be looking up every punk band of the 1980s who might have recorded a cover of Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” and/or “Rio.” Sometimes, my brain also decides to watch The Big Lebowski until 1 AM. If you’ve never suffered from OCD, it can be difficult to explain. Just imagine that your brain is engaged in one gear and refuses to shift to another.
The third form of betrayal is not technically the brain’s fault. It occurs whenever I get sick and my many prescription medications are supplemented by over-the-counter cold medicines. This inevitably creates a brain haze that prevents any sort of clear thinking. In the past month, I’ve taken Axert, Imitrex, Zoloft, Tylenol, Tylenol Cold, Vicodin, Prilosec, riboflavin, magnesium, Cold-Eeze, Alpha CF, Promethazine, Nyquil, Vicks VapoRub, Pepto Bismol, and Rolaids. I still have the cold, but I can now cut through steel with powerful rays that I emit from my eyeballs.
By the way, I have tried the injectable version of Imitrex for headaches. This comes in an injection “pen” with a spring-loaded needle. The injection is typically given in the thigh. I’m not sure how it well it works long-term, but in the short-term, you forget about your headache to focus on the new, searing pain in your thigh.
During my obsession with The Big Lebowski, I came to revisit an earlier blog entry in which I listed O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Fargo as the two best Coen brothers films. Someone questioned me on it at the time, and I have to question myself now. Lebowski is pretty darned good and gets better with each viewing. How about if I just call them the top three and leave it at that?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tullio's and Heron have been getting a fair number of orders lately, and that's great. However, it means lots of time packing and shipping. Earlier this month, I spent hours rebuilding the Tullio's website after the host server had problems. Of course, there are also the world's two smartest and best looking children. Who wouldn't want to hang around with them as much as possible?
Add it all up, and it means there is precious little time to write a 50,000-word novel before the November 30 deadline rolls around. How does Stephen King do it? As of right now, I have 5968 words. I should have 25,000. Yikes!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
When you've been riding regularly, it's easy to keep in the habit. Just add clothes as the weather changes. The problem is that I haven't been riding regularly. It's not just because I run my own business. I ran my own business before and still snuck in some time for riding. Now, however, I have two kids, Mary (age 3) and Jack (age 1). Of course, they are the two smartest and best-looking kids on the planet, but they are a lot of work, too. When they go to bed, I'm ready to go to bed. When I wake up, they wake up.
So, as winter heads our way, my bike is looking lonelier and lonelier. The computer is looking cozier and cozier. Kids, work, weather, fatigue. They are all just excuses, but sometimes they make a convincing argument. Here's hoping you can get out and ride some yourself.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
So, what can I offer in a new Heron frame that will be unique, useful, and a good value? One of the things I am pondering right now is how to build the frame. Herons have always been lugged, and I like lugs. However, they do add to the cost. With well-designed steel frames coming out of Asia at very low prices, cost is something I need to consider. Is a TIG-welded Heron still a Heron?
A complicating factor is the desire to raise the head tube without an ugly extension or lots of headset spacers. If I raise the top tube along with the head tube, standover clearance is compromised. The apparent solution would be to use a top tube with a bit more slope to it (current Herons use a 2 degree slope). However, we would need new lugs to do this. Lug design and tooling are expensive. Using off-the-shelf lugs from Pacenti, Sachs, Long Shen, or Henry James is an option, but buying lugs from someone else costs more than using your own (other than design and tooling costs). Maybe a mix of lugs and welds?
A crowned fork is still a must. No unicrowns or plastic forks will do. The crowns we are using now look good and provide nice tire and fender clearance. That's an easy choice.
How about paint? Right now, we are using a simpler version of Waterford's paint system. Most of their colors are two-stage colors (a base color with a translucent color top coat). Herons colors are all single-stage colors. This keeps cost down while still offering a nice, durable finish. Powdercoating is another option. This can lower cost while providing a very durable finish. However, most of the cost savings come from doing volume (coat 50 frames at a time instead of one), and it can be hard to find a powdercoater with experience working with small diameter tubing.
Lots to think about, eh?
Thursday, September 28, 2006
My daughter now goes to pre-school. I drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon. I sometimes do this by bicycle with a Burley trailer, but it's usually by car. In the school parking lot, I've noticed that many other parents do not secure their children in a child seat while in the car. Additionally, many have their kids sit in the front seat of an airbag-equipped car. In Illinois, both of these things are a no-no for children this age.
I don't get it. These parents apparently care enough about their children to pay for pre-school but not enough to take some very simple steps to protect their lives. On some mornings, it appears that at least half of the parents haven't secured their children properly. Why do so many parents fail to take these precautions? Can someone explain it to me?
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
City of the Century by Donald L. Miller. This is the story of the birth and growth of the city of Chicago in the 19th century. In 1800, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was arguably the only non-Indian resident of what would become Chicago. By 1900, the city had nearly 1.7 million people. The story of how Chicago came to be is simply captivating, and Miller does an excellent job of putting it to paper.
I have my own interest in this history since my hometown, LaSalle, IL, plays an important role. LaSalle is the terminus of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. This canal provided a means to transport goods by ship from Lake Michigan to the navigable portion of the Illinois River. Before the canal was built, goods that were headed downstream to St. Louis or New Orleans had to be hauled by wagon to LaSalle or neighboring Peru where they would be loaded onto boats. The canal transformed the muddy swamps of Chicago into the midwest's most important shipping port. Today, you can ride your bike on the tow path of the old canal.
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. OK, OK, Al Gore is not everyone's cup of tea, and this is not a detailed scientific examination of global warming. It is clearly directed at a general audience, not academia or the scientific community. The book uses many photos, charts, and graphs to summarize and illustrate Gore's arguments. If you want the details behind the those arguments, you'll have to do your own research into Gore's source material.
However, there are two things that do make this book stand out. First, he addresses the fact that despite what the media have reported, there is an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that global warming is happening and that it is caused by human activity. His evidence here is good, and he does not even mention the recent reports from the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the Defense Department which corroborate his position.
Second, he clearly illustrates the risk of allowing global warming to continue at its current rate. The images of projected flooding are particularly shocking. Hurricane Katrina displaced hundreds of thousands. Yet, hundreds of millions could be affected by flooding created by global warming. It's this kind of argument that makes it hard to ignore the issue. Some may consider Gore to be some sort of environmental nut, but after reading this book, even the most skeptical will have to wonder, "What if he's right?" The stakes are simply too high.
Monday, September 11, 2006
A small town short-order cook faces ancient mythology, quantum physics, and government conspiracies as he reluctantly seeks the truth about mysterious events surrounding him.
OK, it's a little wordy, but it's a start. Go ahead. Try to describe Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in one sentence.
Like I promised earlier, it's not about bikes or politics (despite the reference to government conspiracies). Think The DaVinci Code meets The Andy Griffith Show.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
PETERSEN: He jests at scars, that never felt a wound. –
[e-Richie® appears above, at a window]
But, soft, what light through lug window breaks?
It is the east, and e-Richie® is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou, her maid, build frames more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green like Kelly Bikes,
And none but Tarik do wear it; cast it off.-
It is my hero; O, it is my love!
O, that he knew he were! –
He brazes, yet he brazes nothing: what of that?
His fork crown discourses, I will answer it. –
I am too bold, ‘tis not to me he speaks:
Two of the fairest lugs in all the Newvex catalog,
Having some business, do entreat his eyes
To twinkle in their box till they return.
What if Richie-issimo lugs were there, they in their box?
The brightness of his handiwork would shame any fillets,
As daylight doth a lamp; his lugs on a frame
Would through the French countryside stream so bright,
That randonneurs would sing, and think it were not night. –
See, how he leans his torch upon his file!
O, that I were a filing upon that file,
That I might touch that torch!
E-RICHIE®: Ah, me!
PETERSEN: He speaks: --
O, speak again bright angel! For thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a bicycle messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wond’ring eyes
Of Cat Fives, that fall back to gaze on him,
When he bestrides a Rene Herse Porteur,
And rides upon the bosom of air.
E-RICHIE®: O Petersen, Petersen! Wherefore art thou Petersen?
Deny thy quill stems, and refuse thy long wheelbase;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer build crit frames.
PETERSEN: [Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
E-RICHIE®: ‘Tis but thy fredliness, that is my enemy; --
Thou art thyself though, not a Fred.
What’s Fred? It is not crank nor pedal,
Nor saddle, nor brake, nor any other part
Belonging to a bike. O’ be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a Fred,
By any other name would be as dorky;
So Petersen would were he not Fred call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes,
Without that title: --Fred, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
PETERSEN: I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d;
Henceforth, I never will be Fred.
E-RICHIE®: What man art thou, that thus bescreened by wool beanie,
So stumblest on my counsel?
PETERSEN: By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would put it in the Reader.
E-RICHIE®: My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue’s catalogs, yet I know the routine:
Art thou not Petersen, and a Fred?
PETERSEN: Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
E-RICHIE®: How cam’st thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The local rail-trail is rough and hard to ride;
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my sponsored racers find thee here.
PETERSEN: With love’s fixed gear did I o’er ride the trail;
For stony limits cannot hold love out:
And what love can do, that dares love attempt;
Therefore, thy sponsored racers are no let to me.
E-RICHIE®: If they do see thee, they will hook thee into the gutter.
PETERSEN: Alack, there lies more peril in thine dropouts,
Than twenty of their carbon forks: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
E-RICHIE®: I would not for the world ‘cross championship they saw thee here.
PETERSEN: I have a WoolyWarm jersey to hide me from their sight;
And but thou love me, let them find me here;
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy flux.
E-RICHIE®: By whose direction found’st thou out this place?
PETERSEN: By Google, who first did prompt me to enquire;
He lent me URL, and I lent him eyes.
I am no computer geek; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast internet, wash’d with the greatest spam,
I would adventure for such merchandise.
E-RICHIE®: Thou know’st the growth of stubble is on my face;
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek,
For that which thou hast heard me speak on online forums.
Fain would I dwell on the marketing, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say –Ay;
And I will take thy word: yet, if thou swear’st,
Thou may’st prove false; at lovers’ perjuries.,
They say, Joe Starck laughs. O gentle Petersen,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown, and ride slowly, and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo; but else, not for an early, mint Masi.
In truth, fair Fred, I am too fond;
And therefore thou may’st think my frames light:
But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou over-heard’st, ere I was online,
My true love’s passion: therefore, pardon me;
And not impute this posting to light love,
Which the Google search ‘bots hath so discovered.
PETERSEN: Richard, by yonder blessed Brooks saddle, I swear,
That tips with silver all these vintage components, --
E-RICHIE®: O, swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy gearing prove likewise variable.
PETERSEN: What shall I swear by?
E-RICHIE®: Do not swear at all;
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy Cambio Corsa gear changer,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I’ll believe thee.
PETERSEN: If my heart’s dear love –
E-RICHIE®: Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden;
Too like aluminum frames, which doth cease to be,
Ere one can say, It lightens. Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by Sheldon’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! As sweet repose and SAG,
Come to thy heart, as that within my saddlebag!
PETERSEN: O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
E-RICHIE®: What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
PETERSEN: Th’ exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.
E-RICHIE®: I gave thee mine before thou didst request it;
And yet I would it were to give again.
PETERSEN: Would’st thou withdraw it? For what purpose, dude?
E-RICHIE®: But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My brazing is as boundless as the sea,
My filing as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
[Dog barks within]
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu! –
Anon, good dog! –Sweet Fred, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
PETERSEN: O blessed blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too wicked-sweet to be substantial.
[re-enter e-Richie® above]
E-RICHIE®: Three words, dear Petersen, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose merger, send me e-mail tomorrow,
By address that I’ll procure to send to thee,
Where, and what time, thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my framebuilding tools at thy foot I’ll lay.
And follow thee my lord to Walnut Creek.
E-RICHIE®: I come, anon: --but if thou mean’st not well,
I do beseech thee, --
E-RICHIE®: By and by; I come: --To cease thy ride and leave me to my grief:
To-morrow I will send.
PETERSEN: So thrive my business, --
E-RICHIE®: A thousand times good night!
PETERSEN: A thousand times the worse, to want thy frames. –
Love goes toward lugs, as school-boys from their books;
But love from lugs, toward school with heavy looks.
[re-enter e-Richie® above]
E-RICHIE®: Hist! Petersen, hist! –O, for Phil Ligget’s voice,
To lure this dude back again!
Bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud;
Else would I tear the cave where Paul Sherwen lies,
And make his airy tongue more hoarse than mine,
With repetition of my Petersen’s name.
PETERSEN: It is my soul, that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like Da Yoopers music to GRABAAWR riders’ ears!
PETERSEN: My dear?
E-RICHIE®: At what o’clock to-morrow shall I e-mail to thee?
PETERSEN: At the hour of nine, I should be back from my morning ride.
E-RICHIE®: I will not fail: ‘tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
PETERSEN: Let me stand here till thou remember it.
E-RICHIE®: I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Remembering how I love thy catalog company.
PETERSEN: And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other homey but this.
E-RICHIE®: ‘Tis almost morning: I would have thee gone:
And yet no farther than a shop ride;
Where folks pedal a little from the parking lot,
Like a poor prisoner with a twisted chain,
And after a few short miles return to the lot again,
So loving-jealous of their liberty.
PETERSEN: I would I were on that ride.
E-RICHIE®: Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Coasting is such sweet sorrow.
That I say keep on spinning, till it be morrow.
PETERSEN: Sleep dwell upon thine pedals, peace on thy rack! –
Would I were to wrap my bars, so sweet to shellac!
Hence will I to my ghostly framebuilding cell,
E-Richie’s love to crave for my dear Rivendell.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I don’t like flats. I don’t like getting them, and I don’t like fixing them. Fortunately, there are several options available to help prevent them.
The Nut That Holds The Handlebar. The most useful piece of preventative equipment is the rider. Scanning the road ahead for items that could cut or puncture a tire can make other preventative measures moot. On most roads, you will find a clean area that is swept free of debris by passing cars and trucks. Outside of this area, you will often see pebbles, bits of rubber, and other junk. While this area often appears to be free of things that could cause a flat, there are often bits of wire, glass, and other nasties hiding there. It’s often tempting (and sometimes necessary) to ride here because it is further from passing traffic, but a higher incidence of flats is likely.
Thorn-Resistant Tubes. Thorn-resistant tubes are just like regular inner tubes except that the rubber on the outer portion is thicker than normal. This makes it a bit harder for an object to penetrate and cause a loss of air. In wet weather, however, water will act as a lubricant making it much easier for a sharp object to penetrate the rubber.
Tube Sealant. The best thing for thorns is a self-sealing tube. I use Specialized Airlocks, but others have used Slime with similar success. The sealant inside the tube will seal most punctures but will do nothing for cuts. When the tube is cut, the hole is too large to be filled with sealant. Sealant can be added to Schrader valve tubes relatively easily. Presta valve tubes generally must be purchased with the sealant already installed.
Tires With Aramid Belts and Casing. Aramid (Kevlar is the trademarked name) belts and casings are good at stopping cuts, but not punctures. Aramid is a fabric, and a pointy object like a thorn can slip between the threads. Aramid plus sealant is a good combination. Don’t confuse a tire with an aramid belt or casing and a tire with an aramid bead. An aramid bead is used to decrease tire weight and to make the tire foldable. It offers no flat protection.
Specialized Armadillo Tires. Specialized’s Armadillo casing is unique. It is an aramid casing, but Specialized worked with Dupont to develop a method to seal the holes in the fabric weave. This means that Armadillo tires are very good protection against both flats and cuts. The only other product I am aware of that claimed to seal the holes in aramid fabric was the Spin Skins tire liner. Unfortunately, the friction between tube and tire caused these liners to break down very quickly. Riders would get a flat, remove the tire, and discover many tiny pieces of tire liner inside.
Tire Liners. Most tire liners, like Mr. Tuffy, are not made with aramid. They are made of a variety of different materials, and they act much like a thorn-resistant tube. The more material needed to be penetrated by a sharp object, the greater the flat protection will be. One word of caution, however. I have seen a number of flats caused by the liner itself. The edge of the liner, if not properly tapered will eventually cut into a tube. I have also seen other liners that have broken down through use like the Spin Skins.
For the best flat protection, I typically recommend either Armadillo tires or an aramid-belted tire combined with a tube filled with sealant.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
As fun as it is, this business is pretty darned hard. It's not enough just to build good, versatile frames. You need to keep differentiating yourself from the other guy. What was good enough yesterday isn't good enough today.
Jan Heine, publisher of the excellent Vintage Bicycle Quarterly, is giving us all a fresh view of the classic French cyclotouring bicycles of the past. He revisits concepts like trail and gives us insight into why those bikes rode so well. This presents an opportunity for more new models and more ways to differentiate the brand. Personally, I'm reading Jan's stuff with great interest and will likely refer to his work when designing any new Heron models.
How many folks read VBQ? How many are on the iBob e-mail list? Just how large is the market for these frames? Is it large enough to accommodate all of these companies? If not, trying to sell frames beyond this niche poses additional problems.
I've tried to downplay the "lugged steel" aspect of Heron frames. The first message I try to convey is that these frames are well-designed for the type of riding that most people do. Secondly, I emphasize quality and craftsmanship. Only after those two do I discuss aesthetics. Sure, I love steel and I love lugs, but the market for lugged steel frames is much smaller than it is for well-designed frames. Promoting the aesthetic qualities gives more mainstream consumers the chance to dismiss a frame as a "retro fashion statement."
Selling beyond our comfortable niche also requires facing the marketing machines of the big manufacturers. You need to compete against flashy paint jobs, questionable technical claims, and big advertising budgets. Eddy Merckx actually sold a frame with faux-carbon stickers on the chainstays and marketed it as "carbon-wrapped stays." I'm sure that there were some carbon atoms in those stickers somewhere.
I just read a thread on a road bike forum about frame stiffness. The original poster wanted a recommendation for a "stiff" frame. Lots of suggestions came forth, but none were based upon any empirical data. Instead, comments were based upon "perceptions" of stiffness. Perceptions can be created from a wide variety of things, the least of which is objective observation. People will mostly perceive whatever will confirm their prior expectations. In a taste test, most people will report that unlfavored gelatin that is colored red actually tastes like cherry or strawberry. Riders commonly complained of the harsh ride of carbon aerowheels when objective testing showed them to lack stiffness both radially and laterally.
How does a small company compete against this? You just want to sell good, versatile frames, but how do you do that without some "hook" like "carbon-wrapped stays" or 650B tires and centerpull brakes? Isn't offering a decent frame enough?
So, as you can see, designing a new Heron frame can be a complex thing. Do I concern myself with what others are doing? Do I follow the trends, whether inside or outside our little market niche? If not, how do I differentiate my product from the rest? Sure, it's fun designing frames. There's lots of freedom to build something that excites and interests you, but you still need to sell the darned things. It's too easy for someone to look at something you've created and say something like, "Oh, that's like an Atlantis with caliper brakes" or some other compartmentalization.
I'm not really looking for ideas or suggestions. I'm not into designing frames by committee. I'll have something new to announce soon, but whether it flops or flies, I have no idea.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The world will go on. People will turn to the next item that catches their attention. Bicycle racing is entertainment. It's not that important in the big scheme of things. Whether or not Floyd Landis doped will have no effect on whether the local municipalities in my area are going to keep throwing my tax money at developers who are going to build here anyway. I got bigger fish to fry. It would have been nice to have a new sports hero, but, hey, it's just a sports hero. Let's all go ride our own bikes (drug use is up to you - I won't test) and be our own heroes.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Still, if democracy were to break out in Cuba, that would be great. The Cuban people would finally taste liberty. Plus, we would get the chance to see if any significant percentage of the Cuban-American community decides to move back home. It's been an awful long time since most of them have lived in Cuba. After becoming accustomed to living in the US, moving back would probably be difficult. However, if some do decide to go, I hope that they take Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia along. Maybe they could go visit Elian Gonzalez.
Monday, July 31, 2006
So, Floyd, if you are innocent, my thoughts are with you, bud. In any case, will you please call your mom? This has really upset her. Your parents are Mennonite, for crying out loud. They want to live a simple life yet they've been drawn into the spotlight. I know that you live the swinging lifestyle of the professional bicycle racer what with your beer and Jack Daniels, but they didn't want this. Call your mom.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I wrote the first draft nearly two years ago as part of NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month. This is an online challenge of sorts to write 50,000 words within one month. I've done some of the rewrite, but that has stalled a bit. I'm hoping that making a public commitment to finish it will put enough pressure on me to make it happen. So, it would help if a few folks would bug me about it every now and then. I'll post updates, and maybe some excerpts, here for those who are interested in following along.
It's been an exciting Tour, and I hope that Landis wins it all. He showed True Champion form today. That was an epic attack if I've ever seen one. Bravo.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Sastre attacked as well. It might not have been as bold as what Rasmussen or Leipheimer did, but it bought him some time against the other contenders. Well done, Carlos. What will happen next? Who the hell knows?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
It’s true that Lance Armstrong’s Postal and Discovery squads perfected the tactic of gradually increasing the pace in the mountains until a small, elite group remained on the final climb. Several teams appear to be employing this strategy, but they have forgotten that once Armstrong had the lead group small enough, he attacked.
Jan Ullrich, seemingly a perpetual second to Armstrong, still tried to attack his foe. He was not going to lose the race without a fight. Others, like Pantani, Virenque, and Vinokourov, appeared fearless and attacked against all odds. Often, after an attack failed, they would attack again. Then again. Then again.
The current Yellow Jersey, Floyd Landis, does not attack. When he somehow finds himself ahead of the other contenders, he nervously looks over his shoulder as if inviting them along. Boring. To be a true champion, just once Landis will have to look over his shoulder, sneer, and put the hammer down. If his attack fails, attack again. If in the end someone else was faster, then at least he gave his all.
A true champion of the Tour earns it. He throws down the gauntlet, gives his best, and lets the chips fall where they may. Playing a statistical chess match might earn the victory, but it does not make a champion.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
It is now apparent that the United States has fallen to the False Patriots. These are people who cloak them selves in the flag while peppering their oratory with the words of the True Patriots. However, their actions reveal their true selves.
The False Patriots place security above the right to legal counsel and due process. They believe that it is appropriate to detain individuals, even American citizens, indefinitely, secretly, and without access to our legal system. The False Patriots claim that is because those detained are terrorists, but they cannot make such a claim without first rejecting the belief that all are presumed innocent until proven guilty. In addition, the secrecy of their actions makes abuse possible, even likely. Political foes can be swept up just as easily as those suspected of criminal activity.
The False Patriots believe in torture. In doing so, they reject individual dignity as well as various federal and international prohibitions against inhumane treatment.
The False Patriots reject democracy and equality. They will claim the contrary, but this only holds true as long as those exercising democracy choose in accordance with their wishes. The False Patriots reject an equal voice of non-Americans in the United Nations. They reject the voice of any country that disagrees with US foreign policy and even participated in the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Haiti.
The False Patriots do not believe in the constitutional system of checks and balances. They have used the “signature statement” to effectively veto legislation over 700 times in the past six years. Unlike a veto, Congress cannot override the blocking of legislation in this manner. The False Patriots have also argued, unsuccessfully, that the United States Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over military handling of detainees.
The False Patriots believe in spying on American citizens. They have listened to telephone conversations, examined financial and communications records, and monitored purchases. Perhaps more importantly, they have circumvented the checks that have been put in place to prevent abuse of our surveillance resources.
Some have argued that there is no “foul” in this type of spying. They say that those who are doing no wrong have nothing to fear. Yet, the American concept of liberty holds that one should be free from such government scrutiny. The False Patriots have installed thousands of security and police cameras in public places across the country, but the True Patriot believes in the value of being able to walk down the street without Big Brother looking over one’s shoulder.
And that is what we have, Big Brother. Taken individually, each of the above actions is a strong statement against the values that America holds dear. Taken together, they create an Orwellian nightmare where our Constitution has been shredded and the ideals of our forefathers dashed.
It is easy to tell how one’s values are prioritized when they come into conflict. Choosing security over liberty is not inherently wrong, but it does illustrate an attempt to redefine what it means to be an American. What makes America unique is that we place values such as liberty, justice, equality, and democracy above all others.
So, let the True Patriots rise and begin the task of taking back the country. Happy Fourth of July!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Best Americana-Roots-Country-Folk-Blues-Rock Band - The Band
Best Storytelling-Revival Preaching-Sideshow Hawking-Folk Singing-Earth Shaking-Rock and Roll Band - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Somebody say "Amen!")
Best Concert Film - (tie) The Last Waltz (The Band, Martin Scorsese) and Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads, Jonathan Demme)
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Brain – I’ve suffered migraines for a long time, and I’ve had some doozies lately. The last one laid me up for two days and was starting on day three before it subsided. It’s very hard to describe this type of headache to someone who has never experienced one. The discomfort can become so great that no drug or treatment can help. It even becomes impossible to remain still as your body struggles to find some position that offers relief.
I’ve been reading a book called Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz, MD. Buchholz suggests that many of the migraine treatments prescribed by doctors are counter-productive (surprise, surprise). He recommends avoiding problem medications and following a trigger-free diet. The diet is fairly restrictive, but I’m willing to try just about anything to find some relief.
Barf – All prospective parents should be taught about the “Three P’s:” pee, poop, and puke. If you have kids, all three will get on you sooner or later. My littlest, Jack, is 11-months-old and just had the flu. This makes life fairly exciting for a parent. Sick children can propel various bodily fluids at great velocity over significant distances. Don’t ever think that you are out of the range of fire. This particular episode only resulted in getting barfed on, but there was lots of laundry to do.
Bikes – The business. Between Heron and Tullio’s I’m keeping busy, but I’m also going through one of those periodic reviews where I look at what works and what doesn’t. Do more of the same or change course a bit? The business is good enough to sustain itself but not good enough to really earn some dough. That’s a dangerous place to be. If you were losing money, you’d be inclined to change what you were doing right away. Surviving can make you complacent.
Books – In 2004, I discovered NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month. Foolishly encouraged by the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I signed up and now have a manuscript. This dubious achievement raised my self-esteem to dangerous levels and, eventually, thoughts of actually publishing this thing began to enter my head. Fortunately, the process of revising the manuscript has brought me back to reality. It’s a lot harder than writing the first draft.
Still, I want to continue working on it, but what with babies barfing on me, selling frames, and placing icepacks on my head while wondering if my brain actually can explode I rarely have any time to do so. Of course, this brings on fantasies of shutting down Heron and Tullio’s to focus on writing. This is when my wife reminds me that nobody has paid me to write anything yet, and until they do, I might want to keep my day job.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. If Mark Twain defined the modern novel, then Hunter S. Thompson defined, uh, something. A groundbreaking book in its own right, it spawned quite a few imitators. However, nobody has come close to matching this it. Thompson leaves readers wondering if he actually lived these adventures or just imagined them. The answer doesn’t really matter because it’s pretty impressive either way. Just don’t blame me if you get chased by giant bats.
Second Treatise of Government by John Locke. If you want to really understand what the Founding Fathers meant by “liberty,” you need to read this book. With this text, Locke jumped into the centuries old debate begun by Plato in The Republic and continued by Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, and others about the proper role of government in society. Taking this debate to new territory, he developed a philosophy of government that inspired the American Revolution and United States Constitution. It will also shed some light on how Locke’s vision has largely disappeared in modern America.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell was the twentieth century’s premier scholar of mythology. He studied how man, over the course of history, has built his social institutions and beliefs upon shared stories. This book came from hours of interviews done by Bill Moyers for the PBS television series of the same name. This book provides the clearest description of how we developed socially, morally, and spiritually that I’ve ever read. In order to understand the human race, you need to understand its mythology. In order to understand its mythology, you need Joseph Campbell.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I recently posted a list of Suggested Touring Bicycle Components in response to a number of requests for recommendations about how to build up my Heron Wayfarer frames. I am now in the process of putting together a Heron Rally in the shop, and I thought that a list of components used on that bike would make a nice companion post.
This bike is being built for a customer who lives in an area with steep, but not exceptionally long, hills. The goal is to build something that is durable, comfortable, and versatile. Loads will generally be light, and any touring will be done as part of supported rides.
Frame and Fork – Heron Rally
Headset – Stronglight A9
Stem – Nitto Dynamic
Handlebars – Nitto Model 177
Bar Tape – Specialized Bar Phat
Seatpost – Nitto Crystal Fellow
Saddle – Terry Fly
Front Hub – Shimano 105, 32H
Rear Hub – Shimano Ultegra, 36H
Rims – Velocity Fusion
Spokes – DT Competition with brass nipples
Rim Tape – Velox
Tires – Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 700x28, aramid bead
Tubes – Specialized
Brake Levers – Tektro R200A
Brake Calipers – Tektro R730 (47-57 mm reach)
Shifters – Shimano 9-speed Bar-End
Front Derailleur – Shimano Ultegra triple
Rear Derailleur – Shimano XT SGS
Cassette – Shimano Deore LX, 11-34T
Chain – SRAM PC-951
Crank – Campagnolo Centaur, 50-40-30T
Bottom Bracket – Campagnolo Centaur
Pedals – MKS GR9 Touring Platform
Weight as built: 22.5 pounds
Friday, June 02, 2006
Profiles of Courage by John F. Kennedy. Written while a US Senator, this book is Kennedy’s tribute to eight extraordinary Senators who came before him. Fans of the television show The West Wing will recognize their idealism. These men risked their political careers to stand up for what they believed was right. It is easy to become cynical about our elected leaders yet here is some cause for optimism. The book offers just a glimpse of how things could be and is an inspiration as a result.
The Republic by Plato. For over 2000 years, there has been a discussion about justice and the proper role of government. That discussion starts here. While men certainly discussed and wrote about these subjects before Plato, he was the one who laid the foundation of work later continued by scholars such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke. Those seeking to become a philosopher-king need to read this book very carefully.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. If you haven’t read this, you need to. It’s a hard book to describe. What starts as a cross-country motorcycle journey becomes an introduction to philosophy. The book is compelling yet very informative. It should be required reading for every graduate student.
More to come.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
[courtesy of Friends of the Parks]
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Rear Hub – Phil Wood or Shimano XT. Phil Wood is the best and is available in a wide variety of configurations. However, it’s expensive. Shimano XT is nearly as good for a lot less money. The 135 mm OLD spacing allows the wheel to be built with less dish for more durability.
Front Hub – Schmidt SON dynamo, Phil Wood, or Shimano XT. I like the dynamo hub a lot. It always helps to have a light available. You never know when you might need it. With a dynamo, you don’t have to worry about whether your batteries are charged. The Schmidt hub is very high quality and low drag. It matches the look of the Phil hubs.
Headlight – Schmidt E6 or Lumotec. These are top lights, and the Lumotecs are available in several configurations.
Rims – Velocity Dyad or Sun CR18 (polished). The Velocity rims are generally powder-coated, and the CR18 is polished. This means no anodizing to cause cracking around the eyelets. Both rims are very strong. The CR18 has a bit more traditional look.
Spokes – 14/15 swaged with brass nipples. Swaged (double-butted) spokes create a more durable wheel than straight gauge as the stress is moved to the center of the spoke away from the elbow and threads where the spoke is more likely to break. No need to mess with aluminum nipples on a tourer.
Tire – Panaracer Pasela Tourguard. There are lots of good touring tires, but I like these a lot. The new Pasela tread pattern rides great, and the Tourguard version offers a kevlar belt under the tread for protection against glass cuts.
Tube – Specialized Airlock. These are sealant-filled tubes, similar to Slime. While kevlar belts protect against cuts, they don’t do much for punctures since a thorn or tack can slide through the weave of the kevlar fabric. The sealant will fill most puncture holes. Since the sealant won’t work on large holes like those caused by glass cuts, these tubes work well in conjunction with the kevlar-belted tires.
Bottom Bracket – Phil Wood. The best.
Crank – Sugino XD600, 46/36/24T. This crank is often overlooked because it is relatively inexpensive. However, it is a quality, cold-forged crank. It comes stock with gearing that is suitable for touring. However, the standard inner chainring is a 26T. So, I generally swap this out for a 24T.
Cassette – Shimano LX 9-speed 11-34T. Essentially the same as the XT cassette but without the expensive aluminum carrier. Since weight isn’t that critical on a touring bike, this is a good place to save a little money.
Chain – SRAM PC-951 9-speed chain. A good basic chain that shifts well and is durable. You can spend a lot more but won’t gain much.
Skewers – Shimano. What you want is a steel shaft and an internal cam mechanism. These will hold your wheels tight with little chance of slippage.
Seatpost – Nitto Crystal Fellow or Jaguar, Salsa Shaft. The Nitto posts are strong and beautiful. The Crystal Fellow has a single bolt clamp. The Jaguar has a double bolt clamp. Both work great, but some larger riders prefer the Jaguar to eliminate the chance of slippage. The Salsa Shaft post doesn’t look as good as the Nittos but is excellent functionally.
Saddle – Brooks B17. Saddle selection is fairly personal, but the B17 is consistently our most popular touring saddle. For most folks, it is all-day comfortable. It’s available in several configurations.
Headset – Chris King 2-Nut or Stronglight A9. Chris King is the best but pretty darn expensive. The Stronglight A9 is one of the all-time classic headsets. It’s very durable, easily serviceable, and costs less than one-third what the King costs.
Stem – Nitto Pearl. Cold-forged and beautiful. The best production quill stem available.
Handlebars – Nitto (any model). Nitto bars are very strong and beautiful. They make a number of different models to suit individual tastes. Sometimes, they are hard to find. If you can’t find one, look at the Salsa Moto Ace bars. They are strong and inexpensive but don’t offer much for looks.
Brake Levers – Shimano R400 or Tektro R200A. These Shimano levers are among the best ever. Don’t bother with the much more expensive R600 models because they are the same except for cosmetics. Some riders like the feel of the new Tektro levers better than the Shimanos. They are copies of the Campagnolo lever but cost much less and still work great. If you like this lever, you can spend a bit more to get the Cane Creek version with lizard logos.
Shifters – Shimano 9-speed Bar-End. Bar-end shifters work with just about any front derailleur. Shimano’s STI shifters will not index properly with the MTB front derailleurs necessary to shift across touring-sized chainrings. Plus, bar-end shifters are far simpler and, thus, more reliable. In the unlikely event of a failure, the shifters can often still be operated in friction mode.
Brakes – Shimano R550 Cantilever. Forget the hard-to-adjust cantilevers of the past. Most of the new models are a cinch to adjust. The R550s have very little slop in the pivots and come with good, if not great, pads. The Tektro Oryx brakes are pretty good, too, but have a lot more slop. The Avids tend to squeal no matter how they are adjusted. The Pauls work well and look great but are a lot more expensive than the Shimanos without offering any real performance advantages. All of the brakes can be upgraded with KoolStop salmon-compound pads.
Front Derailleur – Shimano LX (sized for 46T chainring). The LX derailleur is nice because it is available in a configuration that is suitable for 46T chainrings. Most front derailleurs are similar in performance, weight, and durability.
Rear Derailleur – Shimano XT SGS. This derailleur essentially works the same as the much more expensive XTR derailleur without all the lightweight bits. It’s strong, durable, and shifts across the 11-34T cassette very well.
Rear Rack – Tubus Cargo. Tubus offers outstanding production racks. They are light and very stiff. Many racks on the market today lack the lateral triangulation of the Tubus racks. So, they are often heavier while being a lot more flexible. You can step up to the stainless steel Tubus racks, but since they aren’t polished, you don’t gain a lot cosmetically.
Front Rack – Tubus Tara Lowrider. See above.
Panniers – Arkel GT18/GT54 or Carradice Super C. Arkel and Carradice both make excellent panniers. The Arkels feature many compartments and use the latest high-tech fabrics. Carradice uses one main compartment that allows you to separate items with stuff sacks. They also use cotton duck fabric that is remarkably water-resistant. Two different philosophies but both companies make great bags.
Saddlebag – Carradice Camper Longflap or Super C. Saddlebags are often overlooked, but they are a great way to carry extra gear. I use the large side pockets to carry extra water bottles, and I can reach them while riding. Both of these bags are similar. Both are made from cotton duck. The Camper uses tradition leather straps and metals buckles while the Super C uses nylon straps and plastic buckles.
Fenders – SKS Plastic or Berthoud Stainless. The SKS fenders are easy to install and work great. The Berthoud fenders are difficult to install, look fantastic, and offer a bit more coverage than the SKS fenders. I use both and am happy with both. If you tour, you need fenders.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Nothing motivates people like fear, and today politicians are exploiting the fear of Mexicans. Never mind the fact that most undocumented immigrants get here by flying into a US airport, not by running across the border.
What exactly is the crisis that is so big that it justifies bringing out the National Guard? Folks in California and Arizona claim that these immigrants are a burden on their health care and social service systems. This is a problem with all immigration, legal or not, but the real issue here is with the wages, not immigration. If US citizens performed those same jobs earning those same wages, they would be an equal burden on the system. To solve this problem, we need to raise wages.
OK, so immigrants are costing the government money. Offering amnesty and collecting taxes on wages earned by these folks would be a start towards solving the financial side of the problem. The other options presented thus far don’t seem to offer much hope. Some in Congress want to deport all 12 million undocumented immigrants. We’ll need more than just the National Guard to accomplish that. That’s a pretty expensive plan and not very realistic. Similarly, the President’s plan to offer a tiered system of moving immigrants towards citizenship is not going to work if it relies on people volunteering to return to their home countries. They aren’t going anywhere.
Let’s keep in mind that the US is the richest country on earth. Are we really going to militarize our borders and take the national attention away from more pressing issues just to avoid a slight increase in the cost of our health and social services?
Yes, we are. Why? Because it makes a nice, emotional distraction from a war that isn’t going anywhere, detaining people without due process, torture, chemical weapons (ours), the lack of chemical weapons (Iraq’s), illegally spying on Americans, outing CIA agents, ignoring diplomacy, angering our allies, encouraging the growth of terrorism, and destroying the Constitution by overriding the will of Congress.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Rims with “single eyelets” have a separate, smooth ring placed into each spoke hole. This helps to prevent damage to spoke nipples and allows the nipples to turn easily.
Rims with “double eyelets” have a unique socket in which the nipple rests. This socket connects the exterior and interior walls of a double-wall rim to allow both to share the load from each spoke.
Rim Profiles – Rims come in a fairly wide variety of profiles, but most fit into single wall, box section, or aero categories. Most inexpensive rims are single wall rims. These can be steel or aluminum, and the cross-section of such a rim looks like the letter “U.” Single wall rims are generally not available with eyelets. Box section and aero rims with double walls cost a little more but increase the strength of the wheel greatly. For this reason, it is rare to see single wall rims on a handbuilt wheel.
Box section rims have both an interior and an exterior wall. A cross-section of such a rim looks much like a single wall rim with the addition of the second wall connecting the upright portions of the “U.” Box section rims are available with no eyelets, single eyelets, and double eyelets. A variation of the box section rim is the “triple box” section rim which adds to additional walls connecting the interior and exterior walls. The cross-section of these rims looks like a regular box section rim with the “box” divided into three smaller boxes. This design permits the interior and exterior walls to share the load in the same manner as the double eyelet.
Aero rims are generally tall and have a triangular cross section. They are not only more aerodynamic than box section or single wall rims, but they are generally quite strong as well. You will often see aero rims built with fewer spokes than box section rims. Aero rims are available with no eyelets or single eyelets, but double eyelets are uncommon.
Rim Anodizing – Most rims on the market today are anodized. Anodizing prevents aluminum rims from corroding. Alternate corrosion prevention treatments are polishing and powder coating. One side effect of anodizing is that it can make the surface of the aluminum more brittle. This effect is greater on rims that are “hard” anodized. These rims can usually be identified by their dark gray color. Some anodized rims will exhibit cracking of the rim around the spoke holes. The solution for some builders has been to use less spoke tension on rims with known issues. However, this technique results in a less durable wheel. For that reason, I do not recommend hard anodized rims and prefer polished or powder coated rims.
More to come . . .
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Best Coen Brothers Movie - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Second Best Coen Brothers Movie - Fargo
Best Banjo Picker - Earl Scruggs
Best Hammond B3 Player, Rock - Gregg Rolie (Santana years)
Best Cable Cutters - Felco C7
Best Chicago-Style Hot Dog Condiment - Celery Salt (but never, ever ketchup)
Friday, May 05, 2006
Riding to Ralph's Farm
by Todd Kuzma
I finally got around to replacing the bulb in my Lumotec headlight. I hadn’t ridden at night in a while, so I thought that it was time for an evening spin on the bike. I left the house on the Heron Touring before sundown and headed out into a strong headwind. No sense fighting the wind on the way home in the dark. The downside was that I would cross the river and begin climbing the bluff through Starved Rock State Park within the first three miles. My asthmatic lungs preferred a bit longer warm-up than that. It usually took me about ten miles or so to be ready for a hard effort.
Fortunately, I managed to make it up and over the climb without an attack. The rolling country roads offered a small opportunity for recovery, but not a lot. Once out of the protective woods of the park, the headwinds were back and seemed worse than before. Still riding in my anaerobic haze, I saw a peculiar sight up the road. It was a large wooden structure that I had not seen before. Was I hallucinating? It’s possible. As I got closer, I realized that I was coming up on a piece of property I refer to as “the compound.”
“The compound” is Ralph’s farm. I’m not sure if Ralph is a militia member, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Ralph used to be fairly interested in cycling, and I got to know him through the local club. I went to several meetings at his house. It looked just like the set of the original black-and-white Lassie television series. There were always ducks and chickens and dogs running around plus a couple of his kids working on an old outboard motor clamped inside a barrel of water. His home had a wood-burning furnace controlled by a series of ropes and pulleys.
I was once on a ride with Ralph when he started talking politics. He had never brought up the subject with me before. I’ve heard it said that you don’t discuss politics or religion in polite company, and perhaps Ralph needed to know me for a while before he felt comfortable enough to break that rule. He started by explaining how “the Jew-bankers” ran the world and continued on to various international conspiracies involving international finance, royalty, and the Vatican. I just listened and tried not to make any sudden movements. After the speech wound down a little, I made an excuse to ride off home. I hadn’t talked to him since.
So, old Ralph was out in his field messing with this big wooden structure. As I rode by, I saw him back away from it and pull a rope. Slowly, a giant beam began to rotate. As it accelerated, I saw another rope attached to one end. At the end of this rope was some object, but I couldn’t tell what it was. At the top of the beam’s rotation, a ball emerged from the object and began to sail above the farm fields. The ball flew in a long, high arc for what appeared to be a half-mile.
Fortunately, it was early in the year, and no crops were in the field. This made it easier to see where the ball went (and apparently ensure that the landing area was free of geese, dogs, and kids). Finally, I recognized this contraption as a catapult. Specifically, it was a type of catapult called a trebuchet.
Ralph was a member of a local “taxpayers’ association.” This group was able to shut down a plan to introduce county-wide zoning and was taking aim at the building code ordinances. They believed that government had no right to say what anyone could or could not do on their own property.
I actually wound up at one of their meetings after I had read in the paper that they were opposing our county’s Greenway and Trails Plan. I happened to chair the county greenway and trail committee. If they were going to oppose my committee’s plan, I wanted to know why.
I entered the room where the meeting was held and introduced myself to a small group standing near the door. I was immediately recognized as an outsider, and the room went silent. Thirty or so pairs of eyes turned to me. Suddenly, I felt very alone. As the meeting began, I went to the top of the agenda. They laid out the scenario for me. See, I was just the local sucker that the “powers that be” would use to achieve their goals. Once the county approved our Greenway and Trails Plan, the state Department of Natural Resources would use it and my committee to begin seizing private property. This was because the state DNR was really an arm of the National Park Service, Sierra Club, and Nature Conservancy. They were all controlled, of course, by the United Nations. So, our little county trail plan was, in reality, part of an elaborate conspiracy to cede control of our country to the UN. A couple of members explained to me that the UN already controlled our public schools and national parks (thanks to Bill Clinton).
A conversation with these guys always had the potential for great entertainment, and that was not something to be underestimated!
Anyway, when I saw Ralph, I didn’t want to get into another discussion about Jew-bankers, but he DID have a catapult. How could I pass that up? Entertainment tonight! I rolled up to him and asked, “Hey, Ralph, what’s up with the catapult?”
“You like that, do you?” he asked gazing off into the distance.
“Pretty cool. What’s it for?”
“Well, you know how the gov’mint is trying to take away our right to bear arms?” Ralph was staring me right in the face and standing close enough for me to feel a little awkward.
“Um, yeah.” I answered cautiously.
“Well, the Second Goddamn Amendment says that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.’ Yet, I am not free to bear arms, am I? Sure, I can own some guns, but the Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about some arms being OK and others not OK. How am I supposed to protect myself against the gov’mint with a handgun? How about a rocket-propelled grenade? No, we can’t have that. Not allowed. But nobody said nothin’ about a catapult!”
“So, what’s it for?”
“Black helicopters,” he answered plainly.
“The black helicopters that the gov’mint sends out here to check on us malcontents.” A fire began to grow in Ralph’s eyes.
“You’re going to shoot down a helicopter with a catapult?”
“I’m sure gonna try.”
He asked if I wanted to hang around and watch the skies with him. At the moment, he didn’t seem to regard me as an enemy, so it felt safe enough to hang around and see what else he might say. Besides, if the helicopters came, wouldn’t that be cool?
The sun was already below the horizon, and the sky was darkening. Ralph reloaded the catapult and fired another test shot. The contraption didn’t seem to be very maneuverable. I guess he was hoping that the helicopter would just happen to fly right in front of it.
We waited and scanned the skies, although I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for. It had been dark about an hour, and I told Ralph that I had to go. I had used up a lot of riding time by hanging out in that field, and my wife would be looking for me soon. Plus, Ralph hadn’t said anything remotely funny in quite a while. As I swung my leg over the top tube, Ralph said, “Ssshh! They’re coming! You hear that?”
“No.” I shook my head.
“Exactly. You can’t hear them black helicopters. Totally silent.”
Apparently, they are hard to see as well. I looked all over the sky and couldn’t see a thing. Ralph was busy running around the catapult trying to ensure that it was ready to fire.
“They’re here! They’re here!”
He pulled the rope, and the beam began its slow rotation. The ball flew out into the darkness, and again I heard nothing. Suddenly, a light as bright as daylight shone down from directly above. With my eyes adjusted to the dark, I was blinded. I heard a “whoosh,” and the light was gone.
“Ralph! Ralph! Did you see that? What the hell was that?”
I picked up the front of my bike and spun the front wheel. The hub dynamo sent enough current to get the headlight to glow dimly. I turned slowly around, illuminating the field while continuing to spin the wheel. Ralph was gone. OK, things were getting a little creepy. I hopped on my bike and began to sprint away. I almost went right off of the road as I stared into the blackness of the sky looking for whatever the heck that was. My heart was racing.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . ." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
So, you can build a nice, durable, relatively light wheel with 1.8/1.6 mm spokes. There is another consideration, however. Most hub shells are designed for spokes with 2.0 mm ends. A spoke with a smaller diameter end will not be supported as well by the hub flange. Spoke washers can be used to provide better spoke support, but I have also had very good results with using smaller diameter spokes without washers. This may be a problem that is not significant in a well-built wheel. My observed lack of failures gives me confidence to recommend these spokes for many of my customers.
More to come . . .
Monday, May 01, 2006
Ride Quality – Many folks describe wheels are riding harshly or softly yet bicycle wheels offer very little vertical deflection. What deflection exists is masked by the much greater deflection of tires (even when pumped to very high pressures), fork, stem, seatpost, handlebars, and saddle. Still, these folks perceive something. Where does it come from?
Perception is a tricky thing. Our mind can often be tricked into perceiving something that isn’t there. A good example is a taste test conducted with unflavored gelatin that is colored red. Despite the fact that the gelatin has no flavor, most test subjects report that it has a cherry or strawberry taste. The red color has created such a strong expectation of flavor, the mind perceives that flavor despite what the tongue actually tastes.
A wheel that has a deep section aero rim might create the expectation of a harsh ride. Similarly, a carbon wheel that has a unique sound when ridden may color someone’s perception of ride.
We can see this in actual test data. Francois Grignon tested the vertical deflection of various wheels and found that a wheel that is consistently regarded as harsh riding, like the Specialized tri-spoke, actually has a relatively low radial stiffness. Deep section rim wheels like the Mavic Cosmic and Campagnolo Shamal are slightly stiffer but still far from the stiffness of a conventional wheel built with 36 spokes and a Mavic GL330 rim. See details of the test here.
In Damon Rinard’s test of lateral stiffness of various wheels, you can see a similar phenomenon. In general, wheels with more spokes are stiffer than those that have fewer spokes. While stiffness does not necessarily indicate durability, lateral stiffness is generally considered to be desirable. A wheel that is stiffer laterally will provide more stable handling with a heavy load. While this is not critical for racers, since they are often lightweight and carry no gear, it might be an important consideration for touring cyclists.
Spoke Selection – Rinard’s test data show that lateral wheel stiffness is affected by the number of spokes, spoke thickness, rim weight and height, and hub flange spacing. So, having more spokes will produce a stiffer wheel, but using a heavier rim might allow you to maintain that stiffness with fewer spokes. Wheel durability generally increases with the number of spokes, and a broken spoke will have less effect on a wheel with more spokes than a wheel with less.
Still, the answer is not always to build 48-spoke wheels. The number of spokes must be balanced with the application and type of wheel being built. The same is true for spoke thickness. I always build with swaged (butted) spokes since the cost is only slightly more than straight gauge spokes while wheel durability is increased. Spokes that are swaged have a thinner middle section, and the ability for the middle of the spoke to flex in the middle will move the stress from the elbow and threads, the most common failure points.
I generally use 2.0/1.8 mm or 1.8/1.6 mm spokes. If the difference between the thickness of the spoke ends and spoke middle is too great, as on 2.0/1.5 mm spokes, it will be too difficult to bring the spoke up to proper tension. Achieving high tension on spokes is dependent on keeping the nipple turning on the spoke threads instead of twisting the spoke. With a large differential in spoke thickness, the middle of the spoke will begin to twist at an unsuitably low tension. The nipple will not turn any further on the spoke unless the tension is relieved by pressing inward on the rim. There are commercial fixtures available to do this, but these do not help the home mechanic when the wheel needs retruing.
Can a reliable wheel be built with 2.0/1.5 mm spokes? Yes, if more spokes are used to compensate for the lower tension. For example, using 36 2.0/1.5 mm spokes might result in a wheel that is as durable as a 32-spoke wheel built with 1.8/1.6 mm spokes. The 32-spoke wheel will be just as light so there is no apparent advantage to using the 2.0/1.5 mm spokes.
In fact, there is likely a disadvantage. When spokes are not tensioned high enough or if not enough spokes are used, a spoke can become completely untensioned under load. When a spoke is untensioned, the nipple can turn resulting in an out-of-true wheel. So, while the wheel might be durable, it may require more frequent retruing.
To be continued . . .
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Sunday, April 23, 2006
I can hear the protests already, “Oh, I bought a cheapie once and it wore out right away,” or “Cheap headsets require too much maintenance.” These statements might be true, but they do not mean that cheap headsets won’t do the job well enough. A headset that feels pitted or dimpled when you turn it by hand will, most often, feel just fine while riding. Unless a headset is seriously out of adjustment, it’s hard to notice a bad one just by riding it.
In practice, headsets turn very little. Initiating a turn on the bike requires a very small movement at the headset. A worn headset will still do the job just fine. In fact, a loose headset will still do the job just fine. You might be able to feel some play when braking or riding out of the saddle, but that generally won’t affect how you steer. As the headset wears further and the play becomes more noticeable, the annoyance factor might increase, but you should still be able to turn the bike without much drama.
Of course, that’s not to say that the headset can’t degrade to the point where it does affect performance. However, that point is far beyond where most cyclists believe it is.
I don’t mean to imply by all this that cheap headsets will wear out faster than fancy ones. Yes, a $130 Chris King headset might last longer than a $10 Tange but not 13 times as long. That $10 Tange is probably the best available in the bang-for-the-buck category, and the King might be the worst. That doesn’t mean that buying the King is inherently a bad idea. They are US-made by an environmentally-sensitive company. Plus, to many folks, they are plain neat. There are plenty of reasons to buy a King (or a Campy or a Stronglight or an FSA . . .). Buy whatever makes you happy, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Most headsets do the job that they need to do reasonably well. In fact, I happen to sell a few of them myself right here.