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 . . .