This week, July 27 to the 31st, we have all hands on deck shipping a big backlog of frames and won't be able to answer the phone as frequently as we usually do. Sending an email is a better way to get in touch. Check the staff directory in the "About" section below for contact info.

We're offering curbside pick ups for online orders but we still aren't open to the public for browsing. Select the pickup option at checkout, and give us a call when you're ten minutes out so we can have it ready for you.

No. 32? Last BLAHG of 2019, but posted NYD. Tools, SunTour-Shimano, lots of stuff. A long one. Super sorry about that, but just give it a try.

Posted on January 01 2020

No. 32? Last BLAHG of 2019, but posted NYD. Tools, SunTour-Shimano, lots of stuff. A long one. Super sorry about that, but just give it a try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normal headset wrenches slip, and this one, the black one on top, can't. EVERY bike mechanic in the world uses this one or a Park-or-some-other copy of it, or wishes he or she had one. The ones before this were 10 percent as good, and it's impossible to design a headset locknut wrench that works even two percent better than that black one there.

You probably haven't heard of Jim Stein, but long-time industry people and some mechanics, and ALL tool makers have heard of him, and regard him as kind of a humble, mellow, god-genius. I think everybody who knows him and his tools, and his approach to tools, his common sense, his ability to solve toolage and mechanical problems in the simplest way that seem so unimpressive because they're so obvious after he's solved them. He doesn't copy or cut corners. 

Jim lives and makes tools in Prescott, Arizona, and is the ONLY bike person I've ever met who will build a thing (a tool, in his case) that he thinks is needed without regard to how it'll sell. He doesn't ask how big the market is, he asks can this tool do something better or different than whatever else is or isn't out there?

And then he gets copied, out-distributed, and under-priced. That's why you haven't heard of him, if you haven't.

His tools sold better in the days when bike riders were their own mechanics, and when there were more bike shops, and when people fixed their bikes more. Then, distributors ordered from him monthly orders, and he had steady work. Some of his smartest tools are irrelevant on the most modern bikes. 

There's not as much home-mechanicking anymore, because many modern bikes, like, cars, are trickier to work on, and lots of modern riders don't have time to do it.

Is it dumb to buy a $40 tool you'll use once a year? It's nine cups of coffee house coffee, and every time you use it it saves you a labor bill of $20. 

Some of the Stein tools we use are ultra-professional shop tools, and normal bike riders won't use them often enough to justify the cost. But still, for the same or a little  more than the cost of ten cups of coffee or replacing your iPad recharger because you left it at  home or in the hotel, you too can can get some Jim Stein tools.

Starting February we're pick the ones that make the most sense for home mechanics and offer them on our site, and you'll hear about them here or in Will's email update.

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I wish I could write like Eben Weiss.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2404434/smart-bike-helmets-wont-save-cyclists

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There's some substance here. I p-p-personally think all bike riders ought to know this history, but few do, and if you weren't riding a bike before 1984 you most probably don't. A Japanese friend, TK, is twenty-six (b. 1994, the year RBW happened). He has been riding bikes for three years, lives in Tokyo, and had never heard of SunTour. TK, this is for you.

’70s-’80s, SunTour vs Shimano

Before WWII, SunTour and Shimano were small Japanese freewheel makers and sold most of them in Japan and China. During WWII they made war-things, just like U.S. bike companies did, but after the war, they went back to freewheels. Ten years later, they'd both diversified into rear derailers, still mostly for Asia.

 Then, in 1964, a SunTour designer-engineer named Nobuo Ozaki developed a rear derailer with a design twist that made it shift better than the most expensive European models by Campagnolo, Simplex, and Huret. It came to be known as a slant parallelogram rear derailer, for the subtle change in the way the derailer’s main body (parallelogram) pivoted. It was different enough to get worldwide patents.

In all other derailers of the day, as the pulleys moved inward they more or less stayed at the same height relative to the freewheel cogs. There was some up-and-down, depending on which cog had the chain, and where the pivot in the cage was, but they didn't "track the cone" (of cogs) the way they did in a slant parallelogram derailer.

And that meant they had to sit low enough to clear the big inward cogs (or else they’d bump into them and not complete the shift), even when the chain was on the small outer cogs.

And that meant a longer section of chain between the pulleys and smaller cogs, which slowed shifting in exactly the same way that a long leash makes it harder to control your dog. That’s actually a near-perfect comparison.

One one of those derailers—like a Campagnolo Nuovo Record—the chain wouldn't engage on the cog until you over-shifted, shifted the portion of the chain that exited the upper pulley past the desired cog, so the part of the chain close to the cogs was pulled enough to engage. Shifting to lower gears on those beautiful old Campagnolo derailers meant pulling back far enough to click the chain on, then pushing the lever forward to put the wheel below the cog to prevent rubbing and noise. Everybody learned how because they had to. 

But the pulleys on SunTour’s new slant parallelogram derailers moved downward as they moved inward, so they could start close to the small cog, and throughout the shift, stay close to all of the cogs in the freewheel. The chain between upper pulley and cog was always short, so shifts were snappy. This radical improvement went largely unnoticed internationally. The old bicycle brands weren’t keyed in to what SunTour had just done, so they kept equipping their bikes with the old European derailers. In the U.S., ninety-nine percent of the bike riders were kids on one-speeds, and most people hadn’t even heard of derailers.

The slant parallelogram finally paid off for SunTour when the U.S. started importing Japanese derailer bikes in the early1970s. But even then, there was less fanfare than there should’ve been given the magnitude of the improvement.

If your first Japanese ten-speed came with a SunTour slant parallelogram derailer, you didn’t have the experience with other derailers to appreciate the improvement. Or, if you got an all-Campagnolo bike early on, you wouldn’t dilute it with an inexpensive SunTour derailer. You’d have been locked up.

 SunTour finally got credit in the early 1980s. Marin county bike rider and mechanical engineer, Frank Berto, built an objective, mechanical derailer-testing rig and tested virtually all derailers of the time. He published the results in a series of articles in Bicycling! magazine, and SunTour derailers won hands down.

 Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Shimano was a much bigger company than SunTour. Shimano made freewheels, chains, shifters, derailers, cranks, brake levers, brake calipers, bottom brackets, pedals, and headsets. And they had a lucrative fishing division, too. SunTour made derailers, shifters, and freewheels, and the rest of a SunTour “group” was sourced from other smaller-than-Shimano bike industry manufacturers (Dia-Compe, Sugino, KKT, others) who combined their products to compete with Shimano. SunTour sold twice as many derailers as Shimano, because there was a huge aftermarket business for derailers. If you had any derailer other than a SunTour and you weren’t happy with it, you replaced it with a SunTour. In those days there was lots of cross-brand compatibility.

 Then in 1984 SunTour’s patent on the slant parallelogram expired, so Shimano copied the design and neutralized SunTour’s advantage. Then, just being business-smart, they took it a step further.

 By the mid-1980s the market had changed from enthusiasts who were just thrilled to be on relatively light, geared bicycles and discovering the various kinds of riding one could do on them…to a more demanding and less patient customer who wanted the thrills but didn’t want to fuss with learning to shift. (The same demographic, also in the mid-1980s, demanded easier in-focus photographs, and the autofocus camera came of it.)

 Shimano addressed this new rider-demographic with index shifting, which took the skill out of the rider’s hands and put it into a systematized combination of index-compatible shifter, cable, cable housing, chain, derailer, and cogs that, when tuned properly, prevented mis-shifts. This is relevant to SunTour’s slant parallelogram rear derailer, because the key to indexing is the short pulley-to-cog distance made possible with the slant parallelogram rear derailer that SunTour developed.

 At the same time Shimano was introducing index shifting, SunTour was doubting it would take off. It did, immediately, and SunTour’s staff hustled to have its own indexing a year later, 1986. When SunTour finally introduced its own indexing, it didn’t work as well as Shimano’s, and it was a liability on bicycles. 

 In May of ’85, Germany, England, Japan, Italy, and the United States convened to re-value their currencies in an attempt to balance trade between them. As a result, the dollar lost half its value to the Yen, which meant either that the next year’s models would have to double in price or the cost of making the parts had to go down. Most manufactures shifted production to Taiwan, but that’s not cheap nor easy to pull off in a year, and SunTour couldn’t do it. Shimano had built its own factories in Singapore in 1973, so just shifted more production over there and hardly missed a beat. SunTour farmed out a few parts to Taiwan makers, but nobody in Taiwan was making shifters and derailers, so they were stuck making them expensively in Japan, and had to compete in price with Shimano’s more desirable and more profitable derailers and shifters.

 By the early 1990s, SunTour had lost 95 percent of its business and later was bought out by Sakae, another Japanese parts maker. By then it had quit making derailers, and focused on inexpensive suspension forks for entry level mountain bikes.

The SunTour thing ends there, but here's one more der, pic:

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I think today's nearest equivalent, measured by value and dosage of tech-aesthetics (minimal being desirable from my point of view) is Shimano's Deore. It's kind of hard to cheer on that which needs no cheering section, but I'm afraid the 9speed Deore deraler is "not long for the world." Shimano is bound to nix  it in favor of 11speeds or more. Shimano makes great parts but feels little responsibility to the past, and has no sentimentality or whatever it takes to keep good stuff around. It's in an arms race with SRAM, and 8/9speed parts, and Shimano treats its best parts, as ballast dragging it down. The peak, for Shimano, was 1989 to 1993, but yadda yadda.

The Deore 9sp rear derailer (still available) is nowhere near the heartwarming jewel of those early SunTours, but considering that it's almost 2020, there's a lot to be grateful for. If you are young and locked in to basic bike stuff and have some scratch lying about that'll probably just be wasted on non-bike stuff, it would not be foolish to snap up a few of these for the coming decades. Assorted pictures below:

 

 

 

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Here is what I think about, when I think about that rise-o'-'mano and fall-o'-'untour. It's wild speculation, it's nutty, I wasn't privvy to anything, but God Bless America: I get to guess. The following is a mixture of facts, observations, opinions, and guesses, and is not one of the worst things on the internet:

Shimano was way behind SunTour in derailer sales before indexing, and SunTour's shifters were better, too. The Power Ratchet SunTour had introduced in '76 at the latest, and was using on cheap thumbies, cool bar-end shifters, and from '82 on on cool best-to-that-time high-end mountain bike thumbies...was far far far superior to anything Shimano had. And, at the time, SunTour had an exclusive on the slant parallelogram.

But SunTour was TINY compared to Shimano. SunTour didn't make the full range of components like Shimano did, so it didn't  have to worry about not getting the other spec--cranks, hubs, brakes, brake levers, whatever. All SunTour had to fret about was shifters, derailers, and freewheels. The other members in the non-Shimano coalition took care of the rest--Dia-Compe (brakes and levers), SR and Sugino (cranks, bottom brackets), KKT and MKS (pedals), Sansin and Suzue (hubs), DID and Izumi (chains). 

Shimano must have felt like a giant being attacked by puppies and ants, but they were puppies and ants that were super focused on their specialities, and had good reputations in their specialites, especially among bike manufacturers; and plus--all those personal loyalties weren't going to go away. Japanese manufacturers knew the importance of a competitive market with lots of suppliers, all doing well.

But Shimano wanted a win here, and the only way they could pull that off was to develop a system of components that required others in the same Shimano system, and indexing, with its strict and micro-fine compatibility requirements. To make the other suppliers irrelevant.

There are two ways to look at it. One, Shimano specifically designed a shifting system that required all the rest of its parts be Shimano, too.

And Two, as Shimano might like us to look at it, they designed something to be super user-friendly, and none of the other parts worked with it (eventually others made index-compatible parts, but by that time the SunTour etc war had been won.)

 The SILVER shifters, both kinds, are essentially modern copies (with a few humble improvements) of SunTour best shifters from SunTour's apogee. SunTour was gone in 1998 or so when we came out with the first ones, but the engineers were still alive and kicking, and lent their expertise and secret tricks to Dia-Compe--so Dia-Compe could make them for us. The original SILVERS are copies of the SunTour Sprint downtube shifters, made with the essential assistance of SunTour people. This means a lot to us, but it has no commercial value.

The SILVER XO shifters (one has an X, the other, an O stamped on 'em) are, likewise, copies of SunTour's XC mountain bike thumbies of 1982. In the brand new and fast growing mtn bike market, this was by far the best, most pleasant shifter out there, and it was on tons of mountain bikes, from mid-priced ones to the most expensive.

Imagine what Shimano must have felt then--SunTouir had the slant parallelogram, and now these killer shifters, and they were taking over the brand new, seemingly huge mountain bike market.

Shimano hung in there until '85 , when it could turn the mountain bike world inside out, starting with it's own first slant parallelogram derailer, and ending with a strategic, closed-loop system that  at the time and for several years—long enough to slay SunTour—was incompatible with any parts except its own. Shimano did what it had to do to win, and the the media and bike makers dropped SunTour with no fanfare.

(Bridgestone insisted on half of its models SunTour, half Shimano, alternating. Like. MB-1, 3, and 5 Shimano; MB-2, 4, and 6 SunTour. Road bikes, the same way. Dealers and consumers strongly favored Shimano.)

Back to the SILVER shifters: Some people will have a hard time with them. THey'll buy them for the story and their best-looks-ever, and they'll expect them to perform. They don't perform, they do what they're told to do, and they allow flubs, and people don't like that.

(SunTour figured riders would dig them forever, would appreciate  the fine ratchet and the fact that they worked with all drive trains, and their overall quality. That was a mistake.)

Today when you're picking out baby and toddler toys, the groovy thing to look for is a toy that requires the human to do 90+ percent of the work. A book versus an audio book or video game, Tinker Toys versus online building things or whatever. Adult toys used to be that way, but bicycles, more than most, have eliminated the need to make mechanisms perform. All riders have to do it push to the click, or share the task with a motor. It's no skin off anybody's nose, who even cares?, except that I think everybody should have at least one bike that is more manual than automatic. It's not a matter of trying to make simple things harder; it's more like not seeking out the easiest, most brainless way to perform a function that formerly required a little skill, and then feeling puffed up for your "smart shopping."

SILVER shifters and any modern slant parallelogram rear derailer (Shimano makes good ones) is a good way to go. A little practice and you'll be fine in a week!

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Here's the SILVER XO shifters (they were marked X and O rather than L and R for left and right, because sometimes the X, which would have been the R, goes on the left, and sometimes the O (usually left) goes on the right. These shifters are, I think, the absolute best mechanical shifters ever, and they came out perfect after 4+ years of messing with them, and we're so so happy to have them, but they might not be right for you--and that's not heinous reverse psychology. This unit, with a bar-end pod (our own, so it plops right on without needing to dremel off a nub like you have to do with Shimano and SunRace pods)--is as perfect as it can be, and even off the bike, moving the lever like you're shifting is so smooth that it's brain therapy. Cory was keeping one around for that. It's the ultimate desktop toy.

Please skip this link unless your main protein source is tofu from Indonesia.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/world/asia/indonesia-tofu-dioxin-plastic.html

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I was shopping for an erector set or tinker toys for a project (not a gift) and eventually I said heck to myself, I just need some metal rods I can bend, so I googled "bendable metal rods" and found some at Home Depot. 

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Do you remember these mugs?

 

But about these bendable metal rods, and I latched on to the second feature of them, below "strong and durable," and there was a live chat opportunity right there, and on and on:

 After the chat I answered a questionnaire about my experience and I gave Mel W. high marks...to make up for being kind of a jerk for even asking the question. I felt bad...but I'm tempted now to use "boasts" in product descriptions.

Boasts a "fully 'lugged' construction." Well, since that IS something to boast about, it's not apples-to-apples with Homer De Portee. How about

"Boasts a navy blue fabric color." ?

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Customer Peter Bell went to the Smithsonian, and--I can only assume, because he read in the BLAHG that this bike was there for the looking, he found the first modern (1977) mountain bike ever made, by then 23-year old Joe Breeze. He snapped what again I can only assume are phone photos of it, and they came out dandily. This is the first intentional mountain bike ever. 

Note that, if mixing front and rear derailer brands was part of the deal, it would have been better off with a Shimano front and a SunTour rear, and by now you know why:

It boasts a nice blue paint job.

-----It boasts Magura brake levers with what I can only assume are the world's most ergonomic barrel adjusters. And, a beautiful frame, beautiful fork crown...

It boasts gold pedals, and more gorgeous details, and a T.A. double crank.

 It boasts track dropouts with a brazed-on derailer tab. Nice looking joints, nice overlap, insertion...good job, Joe!

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 Do you remember these mugs, made by Redwing Stoneware in Redwing, MN?

photobombing Billie...but focus on the mug.

It's an old business, made mugs and pots and other things you poured things into or served them with or baked them in. It's been around since 1861, so--whatever 2019 minus 1861 is, that many years. (158)

They did three or four versions of our mugs, and they always sold out fast. I have the one shown, and one they did for our failed store downtown, Rivendell Bike, Book, and Hatchet. I have that one too, but I want a few more...just because I really like them, and there are four blood relatives, and we don't have enough to go around. I always figured we'd go on and on with them, and you can guess where this is going. Redwing closed down in August. Somebody bought them in 2013 and things went well enough for a while, but they never went huge-time, and the owner said ENOUGH.

Small good companies close all the time. Customers and outsiders always assume there's more cushion than there is, that their meager patronage (a $10 purchase) won't matter, but it always matters, and cumulatively it matters a lot. Businesses close and people who've known about them forever but don't actually patronize them moan when there's no longer a patronizing option. It happened with Redwing, it happened with SunTour, it happened with Bike Book & Hatchet. At times it has almost happened to Rivendell, and we're the big fish in the small pond. 

We've been doing OK this winter, thanks! Everything helps. Sergio, the new shipper, is mailing out 25 packages a day now--up from 12 for most of Sept, Oct, Nov (before we hired him). If you know of a small business in your area, get something there before they shut it all down.

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did I already do this link? It's another carbon fiber story, and they are starting to sound alike. The most popular frame material in the rich western world that should be banned:

https://www.outsideonline.com/2311816/carbon-fiber-bike-accidents-lawsuits

 I don't THINK carbon should be banned; I know it should. If you didn't know how popular it was but you knew it had these unpredictable, explosive, down-ya-go-NOW properties even when new, and it degraded fast over time, and was technically recyclable but it was impractical to do it so it was rarely done...would you vote to allow it? Knowing that it's commonness would give unsuspecting riders confidence in it?

I have heard of, seen in person, seen in photos..the top steel frames in the world fail, and ours are among them. But these are safe failure. They took weeks to years to become detectable, and they were ridden safely, sometimes for months, in a technically failed state. That is the value and beauty of steel. It's not "real" or "retro" or "classic" to me. Saying "steel is real" is like summing up the person in your life you love the most as, "s/he's alive." If you're going to write a poem about steel, kind of a corny way to go, but OK, at least make it an epic poem, not a three-line throwaway, memorable because it's so short and rhymes. 

When hammers and nails, bridges, train tracks, and railroad spikes, and axles and loading cranes and pulaskis are carbon, I'll start trusting it for bikes. This isn't being mean to carbon or defending tradition, it's just realistic. Use carbon where it's failsafe (safe when it fails). Cross-country ski poles? OK--if you must take tech to the snow, if you must glide through the forest of trees with beautiful wooden branches using carbon fiber poles, because bamboo ones aren't available because the techies made sure of that, then OK.

Reviews of carbon bikes that mention the plush ride of the fork that's holding a 700x23mm tire pumped to 105psi .. are dishonest. "Plush" is for fabric, not forks. Don't use the language like that. A fork that doesn't move can't absorb shock, and carbon forks don't move. (Steel forks might move a little, if they're tapered skinny and the bend is low...but even so, the vertical flex is in the tire, the handlebar, and that's it. You flex your elbows, too.)

Carbon forks are fat to stiffen them, and mostly straight, because carbon is most vulnerable when it flexes. Maybe you remember the old carbon forks that looked like tiny unicrown forks. Well, carbon doesn't do well at bends, so the lower head tubes and headset cups got fatter, so the blades could flow straight into them.

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The Linda Ronstadt documentary, I forget what it's called, is pretty good. Rich saw it, then Mark saw it, and I just watched it. Not bad. You will have a new appreciation of her, I think.

Better than 

Me and you and a dog named Boo, travelin' and a-livin' off the land...

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I know what you're thinking: Can I have one?

The nickel doesn't come with it. This is a homemade mix of beeswax, pine tar, and lanolin (wool fat). You get a little and rub it on your leather saddle like this:

And then you get a bandana you're willing to reserve for this task forerver, and shoe-shine it in, like this:

Then you can relax. It won't come off on your pants, and it cannot possible contribute to leather stretching. Beeswax is used by museums to preserve old leather do-dads. Beeswax and pine tar are the main ingredients in Huberd's Shoe Grease. Lanolin doesn't wreck anything, and might add a little moisture. It won't make it as waterproof as plastic, but it's not going to clog up a whale, either, and it comes in an aluminum tin that, even when you run out of this after treating a dozen saddles, you're still going to keep the tin. Why would anybody toss out, even into the recycling bin, a fine American made aluminum screw-top tin?

We have twenty-five of the tins for sale, for $7 each for now. Look under GOOPS in the site menu, you'll find it.

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Fast Bikes! Zippy-zippy, swoosh!

 The only vehicles that are described as fast independent of their engines are bicycles. The goofiness doesn’t end there.

Some bikes look faster than others without being faster. It’s a matter of lengths and clearances. From a bicycle designer or advertising stylist-photographer point of view, to make a bike look fast: Design minimal clearance between the skinny tires and the frame, then, for the photo shoot, jack up the saddle and lower the stem. This makes it look like a single-purpose, competition-demolishing machine that puts you in the sprinter-in-the-blocks position. But it’s no faster for the tight clearances, it’s just a more nervous-handling bike; and the low handlebars tuck you low for aerodynamics, but that’s not a sustainable riding position.

No non-professional rider should care much and maybe not at all, about aerodynamics. Aerodynamics start to be a retarding force at about 23 miles per hour. Below that, it’s something else that’s slowing you down. Who rides 23 mph? On descents, yes, but isn’t that where you want a little wind resistance, so you don’t go out-of-control fast? In my low-bar days, I used to try to sit up more to catch the wind on descents. Who tucks for an extra 4mph? You can get almost as low on a highish bar bike, making up 3mph. How important is fast, anyway? I mean, if you don't race. Just ride the bike, now and then sprint or climb hard for health, and don't worry about beating ghosts or real people UNLESS THAT'S YOUR THING, and that's OK.

Longer bikes wiggle less are easier to control. People like the idea of a short quick scalpel-bike, but after you go thru that phase and settle in with a bike for life and all-around riding, you find out there’s a lot to be said for comfort and safety on a bike that doesn’t punish you as much for picking a bad line or going faster than you should in rough stuff, or riding one handed for a second when a gust of wind blasts you.

 Almost all designers make sporty and racy road bikes in a range of sizes, but they tend to grow taller faster than they grow longer. Why should a rider who’s a foot taller and seventy pounds heavier than another rider be on a bike with a wheelbase only an inch and a quarter longer? That’s the norm, not an exaggeration.

 People don’t lose their proportions as they get shorter or taller. They stay within a normal range. Bicycles do lose their proportions, though.

 In my early years as a bike designer I saw Italian and super American bikes get steeper head tube angles as the frames got bigger. I over-revered the brands and designers, but now I see them as compromised designed to fit the available lugs, or bike boxes. Actually, more likely they're just copying the masters and not giving it a lot of thought. But the masters were probably designing to fit lugs. The bottom head lugs available then had 57 to 59-degree angles between the down tube and fork steering axis. This is a dimension riders don't think about, but anybody who designs or builds with lugs MUST. At some point, you want lugs with 62 to 67 degree angles there, but if all you've got it the ol' 58s, you keep the top tube short and steepen the head tube.

When you ride a quick-handling bike, it feels like it’s egging you on to go faster, because it’s wiggling around faster, and is more sensitive to your input than feels natural. You have to get in sync with it, and it doesn’t take long to. It’ll feel normal soon, but it’ll still be jumpier at speed, in the wind, on rough surfaces, and in reaction to your body English.

There’s a romance or whatever you call it, to a bike that reacts to quickly to your input. Taming a bike like that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and now are maybe at a higher level of skill, like you’re riding up to the bike’s potential, you’ve finally mastered it. BUT a bike like that is more taxing to ride and NOT more fun unless you're preconvinced and unbudgeable. You're not going to fall on soft foam, so a bike that's less hyper is better.

This fast look (short wheelbase, tight clearances) got associated with speed because it’s the look of a track bike. It’s not faster, not even on a track bike, but a track bike (or a road bike ridden in criteriums) has to be able to change lanes with a quick dip of your shoulder, and a shorter wheelbase does that for you (or, on the road, “to you”). It feels like you’re holding a wriggling, feet-a-whirr puppy in your hands as he’s anticipating being let down so he can go chase your cat. When he does, he looks faster than he is, just like a short bike feels faster than it is.

My personal experience have convinced me that there’s no such thing as a fast bike. There are twitchy bikes. There are bikes that are dangerous (the same as a twitchy bike). If you’d rather ride a safe bike than a twitchy one, we’ve got them.

 I read something recently by a mountain bike tester guy who was talking about how yes, he acknowledged that longer bikes descend better, in general, but then he said “sometimes I want a more playful bike” and I'm thinking, for what? For having fun and as a dancing sprite, an elf-imp on twisty single tracks, tossing the rear wheel here and there, wheelie-ing on a whim, and other things like that? 

That might sound fun on paper, but it's not — well, I guess all I should say is "it's not how I ride a bike." I ride trails to see beautiful places and immerse myself in dirt, rocks, trees, hills, and views, not to turn nature into my personal gymnasium as I act out fantasies. (That's mean, sorry.)

Maybe it is a matter of riding style and skill, but riding style comes into play, too. When I ride a narrow and twisty trail, which I do a lot, it’s fun enough without taking risks or showing off. The thrill of being on a skinny and twisty trail is enough. I don't need to make it my arena.

Most people who doubt longer bikes haven’t ridden one. They haven’t ridden ours, that’s for sure, but they pretend to know how they ride. How many bikes besides ours have 53cm chainstays? None that they've ridden.

 A longer bike MUST be less reactive, and that’s a plus. It’s easier to control on steep, rough, surfaces and at high speeds. You can relax on it more, and that’s fun. You won’t be slower on it. That’s impossible.

---------I just got this note ten minutes ago:

Hi, Grant,

I have a Saluki that I bought from Eliot Bay Cycles here in Seattle in 2004, I think.  It’s been my main commuter for all these years. About a month or so ago, I was riding home on my commute from school.

I have a SON hub on my front wheel that sometimes “chirps,” and I’ve found that if I give it a knock with my shoe it will stop doing it.  So, I got a bit careless when I did so and got my shoe caught in my front spoke and immediately endo-ed,  When I picked myself up, I realized that I had bent the front fork enough that I got toe-clip overlap.

I limped home (undid the front canti brakes with a wobbly wheel) and took the bike to my LBS, 2020 Cycle, here in Seattle,  They said the fork was too bent for them to bend back, so I started looking into alternatives.  You guys had an unpainted 650B fork with no canti braze-ons, and so, after looking around, that seemed my best option.  I figured I’d get the fork, have someone local braze on the brake bosses, paint the fork, and what the hell, may as well repaint the bike, too.  A thousand bucks in the end, probably, but hey, a new bike essentially!

But first I decided to take the fork over to Bill Davidson, a local builder you may know of.  I went into his shop and I asked him if he thought the fork was salvageable.  He said, “Well, I’m not sure if it’s salvageable, but it will be fun to bend!”  He took the fork and went into his workshop and went all mad scientist on it for about half an hour and then brought it back to me and asked, “What do you think?”  

I said, “Well, I’m not afraid to ride it.”

He said, “Fifty bucks!”

I re-installed the fork and used the opportunity to true the front wheel and overhaul the bike and now it rides good as new. 

Dave S.
Seattle, WA

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Well, that's all.

G

 

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