No. 6 of 2020. March 9 with a March 14 update. Techno, Clabber Girl, JP Partland, Marie Kondo, and the misunderstood Gunga Din

No. 6 of 2020. March 9 with a March 14 update. Techno, Clabber Girl, JP Partland, Marie Kondo, and the misunderstood Gunga Din

 The catchy image there is explained later on.  This is a long post, but with lots of images and variety, and I hope you give it a whack.


The Greta Thunberg contest results will be here next post. This one is too long already.


With fronti tech (nobody calls it that, so I will) so popular and versatile and applicable to everything, of course bicycles got all swooped up, and now the more frontier tech a bike has, the better joe blow public and neighbors and friends who don't even own a bike thinks it is. They know full suspension carbon fiber eBikes are at the top of the bike food chain. 

With FT being the new standard, a lot of riders, mostly new ones, consider traditional mechanical parts like shifter levers, cables, and mechanical derailers unevolved, because you can look at them and see how they work. Because they can figure them out.

Electricity and electronics are taking over bicycles, and bikes are becoming just another electronic device. The thing you've got to watch out for with FT is that the more it does for you, the less it requires of you, and the faster you lose skills. You don't start fires with two rocks and duff anymore. If you go caveman, it's a magnesium fire starter, and you can buy your duff, and it still takes skill, but not as much. Matches replaced skill, and lighters replaced matches, and we'd all be freezing and chewing raw meat like endless bubblegum if we relied on old skills. I am not saying we should, just saying that the more a tool does for you, the more likely you are to forget how to do the thing that the tool now does for you. Sometimes it doesn't matter and sometimes it does, and in optional recreational activities like riding a bicycle, whether it does or doesn't is up to you. All I'm doing is pointing out this phenomenon, and I'll here's an example:

When my oldest daughter was a junior in a top high school and on her way to becoming one of only two children out of a graduating class of 400+ to be a National Merit Scholar (this is not a braggy bumper sticker, I'm just making the point that she was academically able), had forgotten how to do long division, because she never had to. She was good at pushing buttons on a calculator. We practiced long division. I'm not sure where she stands now on it.

There probably isn't a math major in any college who knows how to calculate square roots on paper. When a calculator can do it in literally one second, and an excel spreadsheet can calculate thousands in the length of time it takes to format the cells and strike ENTER, there's no need. 

The long division loss is a shame; the square root loss is not. Ironically, I am pretty sure that most math teachers can't teach you how to do that now, and I'm super sure that Google can. What does this have to do with anything, anyway? Everything!

Pro race bikes are mostly electronic. The point of sponsoring pros is to make normal riders want the same gear. It’s always gear that requires less of you because it does more for you, and that justifies a higher price. In ten years most bikes will have electronic shifting, and in fifteen they'll be in Target. 

Meet the mortar and pestel of bicycle shifters:

And here's its replacement.

"No idiosyncrasies to learn." Those pesky idiosyncrasies that get in the way of your cardio. 

The electronic one will be changed eight times in the next ten years; the Silver2 may not be around in ten years, but it will never need to change.

Fronti techno bicycles don’t succeed entirely on their own merits. They need to marginalize the technology they aim to replace, and one way to do that is labeling. In marketing terms, it's "repositioning the competition." Don't let the competition speak for itself. Call it what the name you want others to call it so they won't want it.

When dual-suspension bikes took over, mountain bikes with front shocks only were marginalized with the label “hard tails,” and the original style without suspension was marginalized even more with “rigid.” The original style is now marginalized as “retro” and requiring them in theme rides—like l’erotica rides, the once-a-year old-timey road rides where you have to ride pre-1985 technology, and you take out your friction-shifting steel bike for the event, and go back to your sixteen-pound electronic-shifting carbon bike when the party’s over.

Those easily accessed top-o'the-drop bar brake levers that came on early '70s bikes WERE NOT AS GOOD as the interrupter brake levers of the late '90s that did the same thing, but to call them (with a snicker) "suicide levers" was harsh. You couldn't power-skid with them, but they were OK at slow speed stops and high speed slow-downs, and more convenient than the main levers. 

Repositing others' technologies is permanent when the makers of those technologies call it that themselves. For the record:

Rivendell DOES NOT MAKE RETRO BIKES. we make bikes that will still be good and safe bikes in the future. 

FT, wherever it is and for sure when it shows up on bicycles, redefines progress as most recent, which gives an unquestioned, automatic edge to anything new.

I like bicycley bikes, with exposed or at least easily accessed mechanical movements. I don’t like wondering about how my bike works. I like the ever so slight challenge of nailing the gear on the first try, and I'm no better at it than I was forty years ago. Well—maybe a little better, now that I've learned to shift only at 4:30. I've shown this before, but you have to see new things three times before they sink in, I've heard, so here's #2:

 When you look at a normal rear derailer out of the box and not on a bike, you see it all expanded, cage and pulleys exposed, stretching whichever way the springs let it, and it looks gangly and awkward, like you've walked in on in while it was naked and popping an armpit pimple. Here's a fronti-techno one:

I know it gets unwound when you threat a chain thru it, but there's still something fishy about a derailer that can ever look like this. Here's what it looks unwound:

This looks ultra fronti techno, like it was shaped by FEA (finite element analysis). There is no way this shape would happen if it were designed by pencils on paper. without computer intervention.

It costs $670. Here's the front derailer in the same fronti-techno group:

This front derailer costs $405. There is no stopping this kind of bike gear. Here's the necessary accessory for these derailers. "ETAP" must mean "electronic tap." It's for when pushing levers is just too complicated.

It costs $45, which I guess is right in there with other battery chargers, so no squawks there.

Here's a fronti techno bike with electronic shifting in use:


That sounds like the worst orchestra of all time. The French Alps shouldn't be their personal arena, anyway, and they've got their electronic bikes and flashy-chap cycling clothes, and it's ... why we're doing Hillibikes, is all. I know, there are more important things to be bothered by, like corona virus and the pangolin problem in China (google Coronavirus and Pangolins), but this is a bike Blahg, read by at most, on a good week, four hundred people, so I don't have to be too careful. 

The best way to learn about regular rear derailers is to put your bike in a stand and stare at it as you shift through the gears. But you can do that only if you have a stand and take the time to do it, and even then it may be a long reach to have your hand on the shift lever and your face in front of the derailer.

A more convenient way that you can do at work or in an elevator, is to hold a brand new one in your hand, and flex it through its range of motion. There’s no chain or cogs, but you get a good feel for how it pushes the chain around, and you can fiddle with the high and low gear limit screws to see how they work, too. Then you move the pulley cage back and forth to simulate taking up chain as it does when you shift to a smaller rear cog or chainring, or releasing it as you shift to bigger cogs and rings. This is the device that lets you pedal up hills or go faster on a flat road, and you control it with (in an ideal world) a simple lever and a cable. What benefit is there to relinquishing all that to electronics?

In the '70s there was a Taiwanese derailer maker called FALCON. I think SUNRACE bought them several years ago, maybe a few decades ago; I vaguely remember when it happened. Anyway, the "classic" Falcon rear derailer was the SunRace we showed in the last BLAHG, this one:


We are now selling these. They work great on a bike with cogs up to 28t. But I suspect you won't be nervy enough to do that, since you already have a good rear der that shifts to 36t. So buy this as an exectutive desktop doodle-toy, and fiddle with it and learn a ton about rear derailers that you can't learn just shifting them. Ten dollars. Here.


 Not all who like bicycle saddles have this guy's problem: 

My dream car:

If you're going to France, watch out for the Pangolin virus and bring me back one of these, and I'll pay you $2,000 extra, OK? The only problem is, around town, I just ride my bike. But I like the IDEA of this, for other people. As a bike rider, I want all cars to be like this one.


I have honestly often wondered how people would react if bicycle riders parked their bikes in car spaces that are free, or even metered. Forget for a moment that there's  no pole to lock the to. Imagine the outrage. We're told to behave like cars in traffic, but why not in parking, too? One car spot could hold at least eight bikes. Ivan Illilch said eighteen, but I'd put it at eight, comfortably. 


"Nobody knows anything about front derailers" is an exaggeration, but "front derailers have never been more unsettled than now" is not. In the last five years, things have changed radically. The good news is, even models which Shimano says shouldn't work in Application X, works great in Application X.  But the change has been huge and secret, and is being driven by, as only makes sense, changes in bikes. 

For instance, a modern mountain bike has a too-short chainstay and too-steep seat tube angle, and when you combine those with all the suspension movements, it rules out what used to be a normal mountain bike front derailer. But derailers that shouldn't work often do.



I mentioned a few BLAHGs ago that I wish I had another one of these mugs, made by the now closed Redwing Stoneware. My oldest daughter's art and handwriting (one-try on everything), and I gave ours to her. One of you sent this to me and crossed out your  name on the label, so I don't  know who. Anyway, it means a lot to me, and the note, too. Many thanks, it's working great and I really, really love it, and it was so nice of you.


This is one of maybe five great American brand logos left. I predict they will change it witihin a few years. Time to buy up cans. Keep coins in them. They come with a fitted plastic top, and if I were you, I'd punch two 4-6mm holes in it, about an inch apart, then deftly connect the holes with a knife slot, and you've got yourself a bank. The new labels won't be as good, and they'll probably round down to eight ounces even. This is how things go.

 I wanna live with a Clababer Girl / I could be happy the rest of my live with a Clababer Girl

A dreamer of pictures, I run in the night/ You see us together chasing the moonlight/ my Clababer Girl....etc:



Friend Manny took this top-notch silhouette on Feb 21. As silhouettes go, it's among the best of all time. That's Will on the right. His friends on the hill were waiting for him a long time, and are so surprised and happy to see him. The flexing serif with the cable car on its hip, the lanky belly-laugher, the excited guy who never learned it's not polite to point, and then the turtle still sleeping.


This is thought-provoking to me. Tired of struggling, afraid of losing business. 


Lately I've been obsessed with normal-for-now rear derailers. I like Rapid Risers, I like cheap ones that work great. I like all levels, but mostly the Deores and belows, and especially the lowly Tourneys. I used to be a derailer snob, but I'm the opposite of that now. Here are some that are on my bikes, on demo bikes, and in boxes under my desk:

 A SunTour model from around 1983-4, called the LePree. It was never normal. Here's the front side:

I never knew why that name, but rumors at the time were that it was made at Univega's request. Two eleven-tooth pulleys and a tenner, for a total of 32 teeth. Lots of chain wrap, shorter cage, good thinking, but bike riders were too conservative, and it lasted a year. I was one of the conservatives, dang. Look also at how clearly the High and Low adjustment screws are marked, and how you can see the bumpers for them. This is good design, rider-friendly, the way all derailers should be. There is no reason for them not to be, other than a designer thinking, "nah--they don't need to see how it works. All they care about is that it does."

Here's another even better way to jack up the tooth count:

On the left, the Altus, Shimano's best design ever, aimed at low-end bikes because snobs couldn't handle the 13t and 15t pulleys. Shimano KNOWS this is better, but they're chicken to do it at the high end. It was never super normal either, because the pulleys are so big (as all pulleys should be), but it qualifies as a normal-for-now style because it's mechanical and not electronic.

On its right, a Chinese copy from the venerable concern, LXIANG. We know Shimano won't do a rapid-rise version of the Altus, so we might contact LXIANG for that. It would be our first collaboration with Red China. Do they call it that anymore, or just China? Anyway, it's on the radar. 

The XIANG shifts fine.  Corey put it  on a demo Atlantis. Wonderful.

 Tourney is Shimano's cheapest line. This is a TX, kind of like XT but cheaper. It shifts 100 percent as well, weighs abouit 2 ounces more, and costs 85 percent less. I love this stuff. It's not bad looking, and it has 13 x 13 tooth pulleys--better than the 11x11 of the XT.   Teeth on pulleys isn't the best measure of a rear derailer, but the point is that Shimano makes sure its cheap ones shift as well as its expensive ones. The cost difference is in the materials and polish, but there's nothing wrong with this one. Some  plastic. OK--get an Acera and you lose the plastic. But it's not like it's fragile plastic that gets baked by the sun and goes brittle and weak. It's chunky, solid plastic where it makes sense. I'm  not even suggesting you save $30 and get a cheap Shimano, if that would ruin the experience for you. But--if it wouldn't, or if you have another bike or a frame you're trying to build up cheap, put one of these guys on it.


 This story says so much. Political content alert and required reading for all voters:


 JP PARTLAND has a blog you might want to read. I always want to read it. It's one of the best bike-related things on the internet. Lock in. Send him a dollar or ten. He's good and worth it:


I take my dog Billie up to a park, not a dog park, but a park where the fine for having a dog off-leash is $265. It's thankfully unenforced, and it there are always about twelve dogs of all breeds and sizes doing their frolicking, chasing things, and there's never even any barking, not that that would ruin it, but I'm just saying, it's heaven for dogs AND their owners.

One guy there is from India. He works in the technology industry and has for almost 35 years. He knows about more stuff, too, and says that player pianos led to the first big computers, with the holes in the cards; and that led to electronics stuff, and he filled in the steps for me, but I don't remember them all.

But--he being Indian, and me liking poetry and having memorized Gunga Din years ago and I still have it, I asked him if he'd heard of it. He said, "Gunga Din was a traitor!!!" -- and after I'd recited it about the hundredth time, that occurred to me, too. It made me uncomfortable. This poem I grew up with, talking abouit the bravery, valor, and selflessness of an Indian it turns out he was kind of a scoundrel. Bummer!

But maybe not. I've thought about this since, and maybe he was retaliating against his mistreatment by Indians. Not that he was treated better by the English, but it's probably harder to get if from your own countrypersons. It was his way of fighting back. I'm back on the side of Gunga Din.

 The line, "He would dot and carry one" refers to his peg-leg, which made the dot in the dirt, and the carried leg, the last good one. 

All for now. Remember Tucson on the 27th, if you're around there.



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