Friday, October 27, 2006

Sheldon Brown

I'm sure that many of you know internet cycling icon Sheldon Brown. In case you have missed it, Sheldon has been having some physical difficulties lately and has just been diagnosed with MS. Details are on his website. Please send some positive thoughts Sheldon's way.

Help Tim at Branford Bike

Many of you probably already know about what happened to Branford Bike. On July 30, a wildfire destroyed the shop and owner Tim Brockett's home. The shop will remain closed, but Tim is trying to rebuild his life. Since he is an avid reader, Tim has asked those wanting to help to donate a used book. Information is available on his website. The complete story of the fire with Tim's commentary and lots of photos are also on his site. Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


It's almost November. That means it's almost time for National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO). This is your opportunity to lose your sanity for 30 days while trying to write a 50,000-word novel. It's a lot more fun than it sounds, and the novel doesn't need to be any good (but you just might surprise yourself). This is all about creating art, and I can't think of many things that are more important than that. Jump in. Make the world a better place. At least read about it at the official NANOWRIMO website. It's all pretty interesting and funny even if you decide not to participate. I'll be trying it again this year, and I'll post updates here. You can also follow my progress at the NANOWRIMO site by checking my user name, "Tullio."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Turn, Turn, Turn . . .

The leaves are turning colors, the temperatures are turning colder, and the cranks are turning less frequently. Our part of Illinois had its earliest measurable snowfall just recently. It's cold. It's windy. It's darned hard to get on the bike. Sure, I know lots of year-round cyclists. If you dress for the weather, it's no problem to get around by bike. However, for me, motivation is the problem.

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

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

I didn't go to Interbike this year, but I've seen some of the photos. Damn, there are some beautiful road frames out there! I don't know if the art of the handbuilt bicycle frame has ever been finer. Even production road bikes are becoming more practical and better designed. Of course, that makes things interesting for me. The bar has been set pretty high.

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?