dan rides faster than the shutter speed

No. 21 of the year: Snakes, race, racing, roman, bottom bracket, other. Estimated reading time: Oh, give it an hour.

Dan on Mt. Tamalpais on Boots


Here's what kids in other countries do to get snakes: Yes, right here.

No-sorry. That was "Slammin' Sam Snead. I don't know how that happened, but it's hard to delete a Sam Snead video.  Here's the snake one

I wonder what the purpose is. Food? I'd rather eat the fish, but that shows how unworldly I am. Anyway, watch it. Where does it take place? India? Borneo? Indonesia? Papua New Guinea? 

The creepiest videos are snake videos. They're scary and there are tons of them and they're a bad way to spend time, but snakes are on my mind because we've been seeing a lot of rattlesnakes on the trails lately, now that the weather's so hot. They lie stretched out across them, soaking up the heat or cooling off or something, and sometimes you have to scooch them away. But when you tinkle them with rocks, they get all mad and coil up, rattle, stick their tongues out, and it's creepy, man. Eventually you find a way around.

HERE's a snake from last week. Gopher snake? King snake? Vote!

We were trying to scare it off the trail. We had no route past beyond its striking distance.


 THIS was published in the bicycle trade magazine. It is the kind of thing that is often described as Pie In Sky, but I liked the part about carbon.

I'm less optimistic. I think the immediate personal payoff of taking a car (one example) will always trump the long-term benefit to future generations, or even you yourself tomorrow. In that way, its like bad eating or bad drinking or taking bad drugs or doing bad fun stuff. Can you imagine bike makers stopping-making carbon bikes because they're not recyclable? 

-------BB story----

A bottom bracket is the spindle and bearings that the crank turns around on. What a hub does for the wheel, the bottom bracket does for the crank.

 Until the Phil Wood bottom bracket came out in the earliest 1970s, all bottom brackets had unsealed bearings held in place between the spindle’s bearing surface and the cup’s bearing surface. They ranged in quality, but and had nine to eleven ball bearings (usually grouped in a retainer ring), and a one-piece spindle.


The best ones from Zeus, Campy, Stronglight, Shimano, and SunTour had the hardest and smoothest cups, spindles, and bearings, and lasted the longest. The cruddier ones were less smooth when new, got smoother over time.

 This style was and is still the simplest, strongest, most crap-and-bad adjustment tolerant style of bottom brackets. They’ll go on and on even bone dry, because the big ball bearings and the interface are a match made in heaven. If you’re pedaling the length of the Silk Road and your bearings are pitted and the grease is gone and the last time you overhauled your bottom bracket you goofed up and put in only eight on one side and, horrendously, only seven on the other, you’ll still be able to pedal from China to the Mediterranean, even crossing creeks and mucky bogs.


This style of bottom bracket keeps working even when it’s been ravaged by cheapness, time, poor adjustment, and neglect.

 In the ‘70s and ‘80s racers and year-round, high-mileage riders repacked them a few times a year, something unheard of now, since the late ‘90s, this cup-and-cone style bottom bracket has been 100 percent replaced by sealed bearing cartridge bottom bracket.

 They’ve taken over because they’re easier to install, there’s no adjustment on them, so there’s no mechanical skill needed. That means bike mechanics can be faster with less skill, and in the market, that trumps any benefit of a cup-and-cone bottom bracket, and fewer badly adjusted bottom brackets.

 Sealed cartridge bearing bottom brackets aren’t nearly as tolerant. The balls in the “sealed cartridge” are smaller than the balls in a cup-and-cone bottom bracket, and the weak part is the cartridge that holds them. If that breaks, the balls escape and go who knows where, but they don’t stay where they need to be between the cup and the cone race. I’ve seen this happen many times, even on super expensive bottom brackets. I’ve seen those bottom brackets fail in less than a year, even though they’re sold as lifetime bottom brackets. They’re like a heavyweight boxer with all the moves and power of a champion, starting Round One with cracked ribs and hemophilia.

 The thing that killed the cup-and-cone bottom bracket was the time and skill it takes to adjust them— the same thing that’ll probably keep you from getting one. Maybe the tools, too. You need three: (1) a fixed cup tool, for grabbing the thin wrench flats on the fixed (drive-side) cup; (2) an adjustable cup tool (“pin tool”) for the adjustable, left-side cup. Once the fixed cup is tight to the frame, all the adjustment is on the adjustable cup; and (3) A lockring tool, for maintaining the adjustment cup’s adjustment, once you’ve got it.

Bike shops don’t want to do it, either, and by now it’s doubtful that any random bike shop employs a mechanic who still has the skills (and tools). Bike shops don’t want to deal with them. Any high volume bicycle manufacturer who reverted to cup/cone bottom brackets would see its sales (to bicycle shops) fall off by about 85 percent.

 If I had to pick one bottom bracket for one bike for the rest of my life, it would be a high-quality cup and cone bottom bracket, for sure. That would specifically mean the one we have here. There are a few track cup and coners around, mostly in Japan, but until this one, there were no more pro-quality ones for bikes with two or three chainrings.


These belong on a bike, but they're also the best bicycle part for leaning about bearings and keeping (ungreased) in your work area, if you want to understand bearings. But it's best on a bike. You can spend $100 on worse stuff that nobody cared about in the making, and will be brittle busted plastic and unrecyclable electronics in five years.


It took a couple of years for bicycle parts distributor Jim Porter (of Merry Sales) to persuade Tange to remake them. It took a couple more to get all the details right. We may be the only bicycle people in the country who is happy to see these back. They are beautiful bicycle parts, made without compromise or concesstion to trends, and it is unbelievable that we even have them, and doubtful that they’ll continue to be available (unless these become NOS in 10 years).


110, 118



These belong on a bike, but they're also the best bicycle part for leaning about bearings and keeping (ungreased) in your work area, if you want to understand bearings. But it's best on a bike. You can spend $100 on worse stuff that nobody cared about in the making, and will be brittle busted plastic and unrecyclable electronics in five years.


It took a couple of years for bicycle parts distributor Jim Porter (of Merry Sales) to persuade Tange to remake them. It took a couple more to get all the details right. We may be the only bicycle people in the country who is happy to see these back. They are beautiful bicycle parts, made without compromise or concession to trends, and it is unbelievable that we even have them, and doubtful that they’ll continue to be available (unless these become NOS in 10 years).


I think Spencer is putting them on the site now, maybe with a lot of what I just wrote here. We'll also have tools for them...although Spencer is convinced that anybody who wants one probably has the tools for them still, from the '70s. Is that right? 

This style bottom bracket is so fundamental and teaches you so much about the guts of a bike and how it rolls, that it's an education by itself. My favorite part of any bike, and yet invisible and so easily substitutable with something that works 80 percent as well and requires 4 percent of the skill to install, with none of the possible frustration. If I could have either ONE of these bottom brackets on a bike or find a golf-ball sized gold nugget, I'd do the BB. If it was ten BBs or ten gold nuggets, I'd switch that around, but the BB wins in a one-on-one contest.



Racing News

Only a little related to that: Well, more than a little, what was I thinking there?


The industry trade magazine has a long story on the fastest-growing segment of bicycling in the world. Naturally, it is competitive international racing on stationary bikes, where you submit your weight, equipment, "power profiles" (?) to ensure a level playing field. Rider weights have to be verified because the software that calculates the wattage you produce relies on them. This is the future we're agains, friends. 


The new Hillibikes, the Gus Boots-Willsen and the Susie W. Longbolts on one side of the downtube and Wolbis Slugstone (both anagrams of Gus Boots-Willsen) will happen, but they won't come "on time." They'll come when they're ready, and we can't rush them. We've done our part. The designs are good, the prototypes ride great, the graphics are all set (except for the Susie-Wolbis head badge), the colors are picked, and we're going to have a brochure about them and kind of a "Hillibiking Handbook," which will talk and show some riding-type tips and discuss a little bit, nothing heavy handed, about a way of riding that is way less yahoo and way more travel.

I feel like these bikes and this brochure are kind of swan songs. I really want them out there, I want us to have designed and produced them, in whatever quantities make sense. I don't want collectors to buy them, I want riders to ride them, and I want them in 40 years to be regarded as good bikes of their time. All 100 or 200 of them, or whatever we do. 

Come on, man...the fellow who's brazing the frames can make 1.5 frames per day...so we have to be patient, and so do you, if you want one. 

The Handbook will show at least two and probably three women riders, although I'm not supposed to be so binary. Their first drivers licenses identified them as female, at least. None are of northern European ancestry. 

The photos will be film, and the plan is for Will and Roman to shoot most, although I wanna get my camera in there, too. It is not easy or comfortable for me to find and approach non-male African Americans to see whether they'd want to be one of the riders. Few if any have had a positive interaction with white guys of my age, and there's no way to break the ice without making them feel like tokens, and plus, they are nonexistent on the trails I ride. No matter what I'd say, it would come off like hey baby, wanna be in a catalog?, and if I were on the receiving end of that I'd be furious. I'd come off like an exploiter. Even as I've described it, even if you think you kind of know me from reading this stuff and a lot more over the years, there's a whiff of something NOT GOOD about it, and yet my intentions are just to show that trail riding doesn't have to be so male and white.  I don't need tips; I've given up. There other riders are trying. This is related to the Racing link up there, which here it is again if you didn't click the first time.


It's 96 degrees in the work area at Rivendell. And muggy. The ceiling fan that's suppose to go on and suck out the risen hot air crapped out, so the invisible cloud of it gets thicker and lower as the day goes on. I worry about my camera gear growing fungus.


A friend who was drinking out of a canteen commented on the lovely sound of the gluggy gurgle it makes as the water bangs against the spout lip and recoils back but eventually comes out. I hadn't thought of that. I'd taken it for granted. A guy named Grant can't write that without a funny feeling, but let me assure you that I can type "granted" faster than you can. I wonder if Will feels the same about "will" or Roman, about "those old Romans," or Mark about "that'll leave a mark," or Rich about "eat the rich" or some other thing he's probably said in his life. When I type "Spencer" I often type "Spender"--like about ten percent of the time, and I wonder if that's because he's our purchaser. Harry is not super harry. How does Vince feel about "invincible"? Different than you or I, I'm sure.



This is one of our coming-up HILLIBIKES. Why did we change the Y to an I? Because of this:


That's not us. Damn, though. They (Germans with some Taiwan and India connections, it seems) have electric HILLYBIKES, too. Oh lord, heavens to mergatroid, wake me up from this nightmare!

This is us:

 Corey says it reminds him of the Amazon logo. We won't do it in white on blue or black on cardboard brown. They don't own the swoopy thing. 


The GUS BOOTS-WILLSEN is a Hillibike:

Many of you know this, but we're going to kick off the pre-sale soon, and if you want one of them you'll be given a chance to reserve it and save $100, and you'll want to pick the one that makes the most sense, since they're the same price and quality.

GUS is the "standard issue" models, and passes ISO Mtn bike tests. Now, we are all for safety, but it's doubtful any of the mid-'80s mtn bikes would pass that test, because that test assumes the heaviest, stupidest, most suicidal rider, and considers the inherent weaknesses of carbon fiber. The GUS passes the test. I wouldn't say it's overbuilt. It has reasonable tubing for a cushion of safety when heavily loaded and ridden by a stout rider. The headset is threadless, so it accepts any widely available mtn bike stem. We'll sell NITTO and RITCHEY.


SUSIE-WOLBIS is a rogue variant, non-binarily named (or, you could argue, super binarily named), with each of the names anagrams of Gus Boots-Willsen. That's not the point, though. It's a "lite" version of GUS, for riders who weigh 165lb or less, who aren't going to load it up and ride recklessly on distant terrain where a buckled frame might mean you get eaten by anacondas or rattlesnakes or gila monsters, or imprisoned by Talibanese. 

This one has a normal-for-us/rare in the rest of the bike industry 1-inch threaded headset. The tubes are lighter. We don't know the weight difference, and it's the wrong question to ask, because it makes sense if you weigh 165 or less and won't load it with more than a day-loads worth of survival gear and food. 

The geometries are nearly identical. Clearances are identical. Sizes are 1cm smaller across the board (S-M-L-XL), and in tune with it's "slightly lighter" vibe, it has "slightly lighter" dropouts that are unlikely to strand you on the unterraced side of Machu Picchu.

I am bummed about the HILLYBIKES.COM thing. Shoot! 


Are you as bothered as I am about...how when you buy something online, you get a message an hour or a few days later that asks you to tell the world how satisfied you were with your shopping experience and the product? If we ever do that, please give us one-star and be mean in the comments column.


When we ordered the CLEM L's, I added one more for me, above and beyond what we predicted we'd need for customers. That way I could get it without guilt. It's a 59 like I already have, but I want another because

(1) I can change something on it to try out. In "my position" it's good to have an experimental bike;

(2) as a loaner

(3) that way, I can turn my current one into a major ultra shopping bike

Any one of those will justify it, and I have so many unused vacation and sick days and all that, and I cut my salary by $8K four months ago, so I'm just going to pay our cost and get it cheap. I thought you'd love to know that.


Shoot, that HILLYBIKE thing. Argh, man. Why'd the have to go and do that?


Here's a sort of new crank variant for us, for you:

Clipper Crank

There’s a story behind how these GUESS THE BRAND XD forgings came to market as something other than THAT BRAND cranks, but what matters is that they're as good a crank value as there is, and cost so little that you’ll have money left over to optimize your chainring combo if they don’t come with it from the get-go.

Cold-forged 6061 aluminum, made in Japan, excellent design, and considering that for more than a decade this was the only crank we even offered, you should know it’s good. In fact, we liked it so much we were certain that it wouldn’t last forever, and as is so constantly the case, to the never-ending consternation of our harshest critics, we were proved prescient. That’s what trigged our new ultimate favorite, our own design SILVER crank which, believe it or not, is even better.

But this crank, which you may also find under the moniker “New Albion,” is a killer deal and the perfect crank for a fine new bike or a craigslist special you need to spiff up.

Here’s a link. 


Roman HAS enough bikes and has access to everything we have, and rides his 700c Sam Hillborne a lot and is creative and dives in and modifies things, and here he is trying to make his Sam into a 650b


This is what's happening there:

He's using tools not made for it to squish bigger deeper dents into his chainstays so he can ride a 2.1 knobby. My showing him doing this doesn't constitute a recommendation. The warranty is thoroughly voided for sure.

It kind of worked. Don't you do this. 


recommended late night serial television:

Line of Duty

True Detective (seasons one and three. Two's supposed to be lousy)

Tennison...followed by (it's related to) Prime Suspect

A Place to Call Home

Last Tango in Halifax


Will is taking lots of pictures, developing, printing, and has a hankering for night-time shots of buildings. Here's a recent one. He gave me a print, because I like it so much:

I think he should give one to the proprietors, but what are the chances that Drs Donald and Jenny would like the photo? They might look at it and think, "Yeah, we know what it looks like."


In a month I'm eligible for medicare. I still feel nineteen in side. It's a weird feeling that comes to everybody. 


This is long enough. Wait--one more race thing:

The hair. What was the discussion that led to that being the winner? I have no right to an opinion on it, but I still just wonder.


Shimano is discontinuing its XT V-brake, and I'm guessing some others will go, too. I don't think they'll quit all of them, and the best V-brakes anywhere, anyway, are the Pauls...anyway. But Shimano's are really so good. They're less a bicycle parts maker now than they used to be. They follow whatever trend is hot, which is what they have to do, as a publicly traded company. THey still make really good stuff, they must have the best engineers in the world, but what I don't like, I guess I'm trying to say, is that they don't give me a Vulcan mind meld and do izzactly what I want.


OK, enough!


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