Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap-Up

All my outlaws came to town this weekend. A river of beer got drank. It was hard, but I fought through the chaos and got some minor bikey stuff done. You have to just do what you can and be glad with that, which I am.

So here's my lame story and prepare to get your ass bored to death . . .

Deal is, I'm not at all happy with the first go at the black reflective tape. OCD gets such a bad rap, but it's responsible for making our world a little better, I think.

The first shot was so pin-stripey and didn't throw much light. Not havin' that.

Not even sure if you can tell the difference but after a thousand hours of re-do, I am so much happier. I've always wanted to be the best at something and now I am: Pinstripe removal.

So the other thing is, I put studs on the Xtracycle and that actually took a long time, 'cause I also had to dink around with putting fenders on, and all that.

But so anyway, two bikes are now shod, which pretty much guarantees a mild winter. Now you know who to thank.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Requisite 09 Studded Tire Post

(... gotta write about studs once a year, per the northern bike blogger code of ethics . . .)

I've been denying it as long as possible. But the view out the window this morning made it pretty clear that winter has arrived. Krap. I'm still burnt out from all the shovelling last year. But let's not dwell.

On the bright side and just in time, my new studded tires arrived this past week.

They're Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700 x 40's and I know exactly what you're thinking: "Pat, how many damn pairs of studded tires do you need?"

Well, just one more, apparently.

Here's the rundown on the studded tires I've collected since I moved back to Spokane 9 years ago and the twisted thinking that led me to buy another set.

The set at the bottom is my first pair, purchased in the winter of 2000/2001. They're Nokian Mount & Ground, 26 x 1.9 (160 studs per tire), that I bought from Peter White Cycles and they're a pretty decent all-around, do-a-little-of-everthing tire. Peter White's kind of grumpy, but his studded tire page was really helpful in sorting out what to buy and I figured I owed him my business. Plus, back then, studded tires were quite a bit harder to find.

Second from the bottom is a set of Kenda Klondike Wide 26 x 2.1 (252 studs).

I picked these up a coula years back at North Division Bicycle, 'cause I wanted something that was a little gnarlier to put on my mountain bike. They are quite a bit wider than the Mount & Grounds, so you can run a little lower pressure and float over the loose stuff more better. But that also makes them more slower.

Second from the top is a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 (as in 106 studs) 700 x 35. Peter White again (I think). I got these as an all-around tire for my cyclocross bike. They're probably my go-farthest set and I've done some pretty long rides on 'em. They do well, but the drag is higher than you'd think. Not really a problem running around town, but it can really wear you down on a long ride.

On top is a set of Nokian Extreme 294's (yep, 294 studs per tire), 29 x 2.1. These mothers are the baddest studded tire out there. I rode up a damn wall of ice last year on these things. I would swear I was lying to myself except that there were witnesses. When you drop the pressure down to 20 psi or so, you can float over really junky stuff and you have so many studs in your contact patch that the grip is just obscene. Downside is that you will work your ass off pushing these things around. They are heavy and there's lotsa drag. But if you don't mind going a little slower, they're the ultimate grippers.

Now. About the new ones. Last winter I made it my goal to ride consistently all through the winter. Mission accomplished. But little of it was commuting. My round trip is 34 miles and the roads on the work end are pretty winter bike un-friendly. This year, my goal is to see if I can commute through the winter, even if it's just one day a week.

To do that, I gotta be able to roll good. And the pundits say it's gonna be a warmer drier winter, which to me means less of the deep stuff and more black ice. So I think the tire for the job is the Schwalbe. Purchased from Peter White, for the same reasons. There are no studs in the center, so you can pump it up and roll there with minimal stud contact, or if you need to, you can let some air out and get some studs down on the ground. I'm hoping the inverted tread pattern lets it roll with a little less drag. Plus it has reflective sidewall, which I have come to really dig. I changed tires a bazillion times last winter, which got super old, so I wanna park this tire on my bike for the season and see what I can do with it. Here it is next to the Hakkapeliitta.

Here it is, mounted up.

Geez, this post has gotten way longer than I intended, so I need to cut to the chase.

No one needs 5 sets of studded bike tires.

The Kendas are going on the Xtracycle.

The Nokian Extremes are for sale - $125 for the pair. They go new for between $90 and $105 each, so this is a good deal, considering they're like new. If you have a 29er and wanna do some winter mountain biking or get around town with complete confidence, this is your tire.

So that leaves me with two set of tires - the 26 x 1.9's and the 700 x 35's. I could sell them, but I have a different idea.

Winter cycling continues to grow in popularity and every year there's a new batch of folks that wanna give it a try. It's great fun and I'd like to help. Winter gear is pretty intensive and dropping big bucks on studded tires can be tough. So I'd like to offer these two set up as loaners, so people can try before they buy. I have no idea if there's even any interest, but we're gonna give it a shot. The plan is pretty loose, but something along these lines:

You give me a shout and reserve the tires. Come on by and pick 'em up or I can help you mount 'em, if you need. You try 'em out for a coupla a weeks, maybe longer if no one else is in line. The idea is to get them into the hands of as many people that wanna try them out as possible. Maybe you find out that you can't live without studs and go buy a pair of your own. Or maybe you decide it's not your thing. Either way it's a win.

You can learn more about all the these tires on Peter White's page except for the Kendas and they are here.

If you wanna buy the Extremes or try either pair of Nokians, email me at pat[dot]sprute[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Magic II

This has zero to do with Black Magic I, but I think bloggers aren't supposed to name two posts the same. I mean, that seems like common sense. Maybe that only applies to good bloggers and I coulda gotten away with it. But it seems stupid to take chances when all you have to do is add a "II". So I did.

Last night I executed a project that was over a year in the hopper. That kind of tells you how important it was.

Deal is, I wanted the decals gone from my karate monkey. I don't hate 'em or anything. Don't exactly love 'em either. They're just kinda loud on a bike that's supposed to be sorta stealthy and mainly, they needed to go away to make room for something else.

So yeah. Just take the decals off. Piece-a cake. And then I wore a coupla fingernails down to nothing and the decals still looked like the day they were put on. So how do you actually do that?

In moments of crisis like this, I always go straight to the internet, which for a topic like this, is a great place to find boatloads of people that don't know anything but aren't afraid to speak with great authority. After sifting through all the great advice and testing various theories, what worked for me was a heat gun and a credit card. Well, a club card, actually. And let me just say that nothing about this whole project was more satisfying than destroying this dumbass "membership" card that I am required to sign up for and use, and in the process surrender certain personal information, in order to avoid getting reamed every time this giant corporation benefits from my patronage. Which is why this giant corporation hardly ever benefits from my patronage. Wow, thanks for letting me get away with that mini rant. Anyway . . .

If you get things up to the right temperature, you can scrape the decals off fairly easily. Leaves quite a mess, but if you hit it with some tape while things are still warm, you can pull a lot of junk off.

Then you're left with this "shadowey" look from where the decal was, but that was cured with some lacquer thinner, which is a lovely and highly useful chemical. I did find out that it will soften and mess up powder coating, so I learned to be careful.

With the decals finally gone, I could move forward with the application of the 'something else'. Which would be black reflective tape. Yeah, I know!!! Crazy talk! That's like, an oxymoron. But the science is here, sure as shootin'. That's a roll of 1/10th inch wide pinstripe and a sheet of some shorter, wider stips.

Laying pinstripe onto the seat stay (camera flash turned on):

Wider strip on the rear fender, camera flash on . . .

Same view, camera flash off . . .

whole bike with shop lights on, flash off . . .

Shop lights off, flash on . . .

Okay. I think I'm ready to go ride my black bike in the dark.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Style Points

Nothing wrong with the regular method . . .

Normalway from Pat S on Vimeo.

. . . but it's hard not to love this . . .

Withflair from Pat S on Vimeo.

Great to see all you bikey friends at the races today. Hope you've managed to get your toes thawed out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rackufacture: Karate Monkey Rear Rack, Part 2

Hi. Here's the marathon follow up to Part 1. Exact same warning as last time. (Eric: popcorn time.)

So when you're designing a rack, you have to consider interchangeability and versatility. Or in other words, do you want your rack to be able to fit on more than one bike and do you want it to be able to do a bunch of different things. This rack is on the way far end of both spectrums. It only fits this bike and it only does one thing: carry panniers, and (hopefully) carry them well.

Part of the reason for this is my over-reaction to my frustration with off-the-shelf racks that try to be all things to all bikes and end up doing nothing well, and part of it is driven off of aesthetics and my desire to get away from the boxey, squarish look of every other rear rack. I might still add a removeable, boxey, squarish deck at some point, but for now, I just want something different and clean.

So these are not all, but most of the parts that're gonna go into this thing.

Here's a rough brazed joint. Coupla things: it looks like krap because when you're a newb, you pile brass on like there's no tomorrow and usually end up with way too much and then you have to bust your ass filing it off. Buy it, melt it, turn it to dust. Yay. This looks like something from hell has been gnawing on it because I found that the easiest way to remove a bunch of excess brass is with a wood rasp when the brass is still super hot. / Other thing is that little sleeve. That's gonna get brazed onto the main hoop to keep the panniers from sliding around, but not until the very end. There's four of them and it's a major PITA to keep them in the right section of the hoop while your brazing all the parts on. This one ended up on the wrong side of the brace and I had to cut it and move it, so that's why it has that diagonal joint.

When you're totally freaked on racks and you're in sleep deprivation mode, smooth filleted joints become your addiction. I got a fix here, but it won't last long, it never does. I'm in living hell.

Early attempts at fixturing. I have a lot to learn.

This next part I'm pretty damned proud of. One of the things that this rack has to do is allow me to get to the mounting bolts of the rear disc caliper. Reason for this is that with horizontal droupouts, you have to be able loosen the caliper to remove the wheel. So when I have a flat at twenty below in the dark, I don't want to have to mess around with removing the rack to get to the bolts. It took some goofing but the joints were screamin' tight before brazing (wish I had a pic). I think it came out great.

Here's a fender mount. Started out as the thing sitting on the fender - it's a braze-on you buy from a framebuilders supply house. Rad, if I do say so myself.

First one worked out so well that I decided to do the second one exactly the same way. Which was to take a welding blanket, and wrap it around the joint to protect the fender, tack it in place, then remove the rack and finish brazing.

Except for that this one was a little shorter which means it got a little hotter. Ooops.

Ah well, nothing a little sandpaper and spray paint won't fix. Besides, I think some stainless 29er Berthouds may be in this bike's future. That would be crazy cool.

Here's the fab sequence for the rear light mount . . .

When you're done brazing up your rack, it's covered with flux that has turned harder than glass. It's damn near impossible to sand or file off without destroying all your handiwork. Luckily, it's water-soluble, so you just soak your rack overnight.

You've left vent holes in the rack and water gets into these and dissolves the flux inside, too. So there's some water left inside and you need to get it out. You do that by heating it with a torch and boiling it out. Turns out the satisfaction of watching the steam come out is damned-near beyond words. Closest thing I can think of is ripping off a truly righteous fart when no one else is around. (Probably shared too much there.)

After all this you have a dry and flux-free, but rusty rack. More cleanup work. What's new.

So then I cleaned it up and dropped it off to be powder coated. That was last Friday. Yesterday I got my black rack back:

I've seen lots of powder-coated stuff, but I've never had anything powder coated. I couldn't stop staring. Only thing that came to mind was the childhood experession, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it."

I had the work done at Powdertech. They were great to work with and the price was super-reasonable. Because it's black. Get your checkbook out if you want your own color.

One other design feature I wanted was rack/fender integration and the ability to quickly remove both as a unit. There are the two mounting points at the canti bosses and two more at the dropout eyelets.

The short post last night was about the fifth mounting point. Here's the fab sequence . . .

The whole deal about this is that I wanna be able to remove the fender/rack without removing the wheel. Doesn't it drive you crazy to have to pull our wheel to get at that last bolt that holds the very end of your fender to your frame???? Okay, maybe it's just me. Anyway, this still needs a little tweaking. That's why it's zip-tied and not brazed. But getting close.

At long last. Doesn't look level, though.

Must be an optical illusion.

Previously floppy fender is super-solid now. Wish I could do away with that last set of stays, but they must stay. At least they fasten to the rack now and have a shorter reach, which stiffens them up. I put 'em inside, so they wouldn't mess with the bags.

Here's the stops for the pannier clips:

Done deal, finally time to ride.

Inevitably, the question will come up as to whether I would ever try to financially run myself into the ground by attempting to sell racks. Please! This is my passion and I have no desire to profit. I am an ARTIST! But I do need to eat. So I would merely like to cover my hours at minimum wage. Please send me a check for $2300 and I'll get started on your rack right away.