Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Q&A: Sizing old Treks, hoops for clydesdales, carbon frame paint chips and more

Hello fellow pedal pushers, In case you're tinkering with your 2-wheelers over the holidays maybe this selection of my recent technical questions and answers will be of interest. Most have a retro theme this time around, but that's in keeping with my Herse and Masi projects; and I always enjoy helping riders keep their classics going.
Vintage-Trek has a wealth of info and classic pics like this

Q: I'm currently riding a 2012 Trek Madone road bike, size 52cm, Jim. I've been thinking about buying a vintage Trek on ebay. My ? is, would a size 52cm from the 80's or 90's be the same as a size 52 now? 

I ask this because the top tube slopes down on my 2012 Trek and I have noticed that they seem to be straight on the older bikes. I would hate to order a 52 and have it too big for me. 


A: I’m glad you asked before you bought something Mitchell, because, yes, the sizing is different. You need to compare the overall geometry chart of the vintage bikes to the geometry chart of your modern “compact frame” (which is what modern bikes with sloping top tubes are called).

The key dimension to look at is the center-to-center length of the top tube. This should be measured on a line parallel to the ground and from the center of the seat tube to the center of the head tube. 

Geometry charts on compact frame bicycles usually have an asterisk and words to the effect “relative" top-tube length, meaning they measured along an imaginary horizontal top tube, not along the sloping top tube that would give the wrong length (longer than actual)
Click to zoom

In most cases, if you find a frame that has the same top-tube length as yours, the frame size should be pretty close to a good fit. Ideally, you would also find someone with that frame size on their vintage Trek and see if you fit it okay.

To find those classic Trek bike models and geometry charts, check the Vintage Trek Bikes website.

Have fun finding and fixing up that Trek from the past! 

DT spokes can take it
Q: Hello Jim... enjoy your website and your column at RoadBikeRider. I weigh 260 pounds and ride a Bridgestone RBT purchased in the early 90's for fitness and day rides. This year I have had to replace spokes and have the rear wheel trued on a regular basis. 

I am planning on replacing the rear wheel and I'm looking for advice on affordable and durable replacement wheels. Any advice you can provide is much appreciated. Hope to get on a trouble-free wheel soon!

A: Thanks for the email and kind words, Frank. Yours is a common question, and the answer is pretty straight forward. What I recommend is finding a good old fashioned wheelbuilder, someone who's been doing it for awhile and stands behind their work with a guarantee - and who takes pride in their wheels, too. 

This wheelsmith will talk to you and find out where and how you ride and look at the wheel that's been failing. Then they'll design a replacement wheel that will hold up. 

If I was building the wheel for you, I'd choose a quality hub made by Shimano (no need for anything more expensive or complicated), DT Swiss stainless-steel spokes 14-gauge straight (not double-butted), and a nice rim, probably from Mavic or DT Swiss, though builders usually have their favorite brand since they are the ones standing behind their wheels. 

I would go with 36 spokes, crossed 3 times or even 4 times. A wheel like this is very strong, reliable and long-lasting. DT Swiss spokes (photo) are very tough and rarely break and a quality rim will provide the strength at the road. You may have to call a few shops to find the wheelbuilder. [Update-After this email exchange Frank let me know that he was having his wheel built at Earl's Cyclery and Fitness, a Vermont bike shop I'm familiar with, so he's in good hands.]

Wheelbuilding seems a bit of a dying art with so many companies selling ready-made wheels. But, a hand-built one will serve you much better and should roll for years with little to even no maintenance on the wheel other than keeping the bearings greased. The spokes should remain in tension and the wheel should remain true side-to-side and round, too. I have actually seen hand-built wheels by Spence Wolfe and dated 1958, that were still round, true and ready for many more miles.

Since I often receive feedback on this issue, I should explain, that for heavier riders and harder use, like touring with heavily loaded bags carried over the wheels, I recommend straight-gauge spokes instead of double-butted. The argument for DB spokes is that they stretch more than straight-gauge versions and this helps the wheel remain tightly tensioned.

The argument for straight-gauge spokes is that they contain more material so they are less stressed and less likely to fail/break. In my experience, that's been true, so to build the strongest wheels for demanding riders and bikes, I go with straight-gauge (it's easy to tension them sufficiently, too).

I hope this helps you get on a quality set of wheels, Frank. Let me know if you have any questions, 
Jon's gorgeous 1989 Klein Quantum!

Q: Hello, Jim,
I found your website searching on changing bicycle tires but I have a question about freewheels - specifically about a Sachs Aris freewheel. 

I went to switch out my SunTour Winner Pro 7-speed freewheel today for a lightly used Sachs Aris LY93 freewheel that I purchased from a seller on eBay. When I reinstalled the wheel with the Sachs Aris mounted I noticed it was too wide and was binding - the chain was being pinched between the outermost cog and frame.

I took the freewheel off and compared the two: both are 7-speed with the Sachs Aris being very slightly wider (in depth) than the Winner Pro. The main difference I see is that the outermost cog on the Winner has a lip that allows for chain clearance while the Aris does not. 

For reference, my bike has 126mm rear dropout spacing. I wrote to the seller and he said that all 7-speed freewheels are designed for a 126mm dropout spacing and that often mechanics would add a 1mm or 2mm spacer to allow for the chain clearance on Sachs freewheels. 

While this may be true, it seems odd to me in part because I have an aluminum frame (1989 Klein Quantum-see pic) and I don't want to tweak it. By adding a spacer the Sachs freewheel will definitely be wider than the SunTour. 

Have you encountered this before, Jim? The Aris is nice looking and nicely made but I didn't think to ask whether some freewheels are designed for 126mm spacing and some for 130mm. Or - if there is a Japanese versus French manufacturing tolerance where the SunTour Winner Pros are slightly less in width. If of help I believe the Sachs I have was manufactured in 1994 - which may be around the time that the bike industry switched to 130mm dropout spacing. Any thoughts on this would be most appreciated!

A:  Yes, Jon, what the eBayer told you is essentially true, in that, if you switch freewheel brands, you can end up with different spacing, and then you have to fix it by adding a spacer beneath the locknut on the axle to get the clearance you need. It's usually a 1mm washer/spacer and 1mm isn't enough to harm your frame. 

It can make the rear wheel slightly harder to get in/out of the frame, but that really depends on the spacing of the rear dropouts. Often there's a little extra clearance. Frames aren't always exactly 126 or 127. Sometimes they're wider and they close when you tighten the wheel. If yours is exactly 126, it's likely that if you add the washer you'll still be able to get the wheel in and out easily. (It it's less than 126, that'll make it harder to get the wheel in/out.)

SunTour actually used compact spacing to fit 7 cogs in 6-speed spacing. Sachs just went with 7-speed spacing. That’s why the Sachs is a tad wider. At the time, the SunTour spacing was considered “advanced” technology. It let you go to a 7-speed cassette on a 6-speed wheel.

On your frame, having the extra 1mm in there won't cause any serious stress. If it bothers you or you don't want to change the spacing of the wheel, you should probably sell that Sachs freewheel on eBay and look for one like you had before so you can use the same spacing. 

A bigger issue than the spacing is the rear wheel dishing. When you install the axle spacer, it pushes the rim to the left (the rear rim is centered over the axle, not over the hub due to the space on the hub that the freewheel takes up). So the wheel won't be centered perfectly until you redish it. This requires loosening the left side spokes and tightening the right side spokes. 

So, this is a truing/tensioning exercise that requires a little skill and also the wheel, spoke and nipples have to be in good shape or else you won't be able to redish the wheel. Overall, the easiest thing would probably be finding that Winner freewheel.


It takes skill to touch-up chips nicely
Q: Check out this photo of my carbon frame, Jim. I'm wondering how to repair the chips on the paint? Would using nail polish help? Do I need to sand it down? I read that some people use epoxy. How should I go about doing this repair?


A:  Carbon is super tough stuff, Daniel, so you don’t even need to do anything if you don’t want to. It’s just paint chipping off. It has nothing to do with the frame’s strength or ride. If all the paint chipped off, it wouldn’t matter. That’s another way to think of it. 

If you had a steel frame you would have to worry about rust and you would want to paint it and get any rust off first. But, with carbon, paint is just a decoration. It adds no strength/structure, just fashion, really. Well it does add another layer on top of the carbon but not a very tough one as you can tell from the chipping. 

But, if the chips bother you in terms of how they look (and they would me, too), then you will want to find some paint in the same color and touch them up. Touching up paint is an art and it’s not easy to do it and have it come out invisible and looking perfect. Most of the time it looks like you touched up the paint, but if you get a good color match it will at least be the same color and that usually makes the bike look a little nicer. 

Typically, to touch up paint chips on any frame – even carbon – you would sand and clean the chipped area. The sanding knocks down the edges to help prevent further chipping along those edges and to help transition the new paint into the old. Use a very fine sandpaper or cloth, like 600 grit you can work with wet.

With carbon you don’t want to harm the carbon so you would sand lightly and carefully, trying to smooth the paint, not the carbon. Once the edges around the chip are smooth, clean the area with isopropyl ("rubbing") alcohol, which will remove any dirt, oil, grease, dust and dry quickly.

Nail polish is actually a good thing to use for touch-up paint since it comes in so many colors. You can usually find a good match and the containers often have the brush in the top and seal nicely so there’s no cleaning to worry about. You’ll want to test the paint in a hidden area on the frame to see how it looks and to ensure it’s compatible with the paint you have now.

Clear nail polish works to fix chips on carbon frames that are painted with a clear coat, but that's not your frame. But, if your frame has a clear coat over the frame, you may want to add clear over your yellow touch-ups. That will help seal it and add the high gloss finish the clear coat put on the rest of your frame.

If you were okay with the expense, another approach would be to have the frame repainted so that it was 100% perfect-looking. But even that paint would have a chance of chipping so it might not look perfect for a long enough time to make the cost worth it to you. I would give touching it up a try first and see how you like it,


PS: My friend Robert Studdiford at TwoFish painted an entire frame with nail polish, one little dot at a time, hour after hour, day after day - it became an obsession, until he ended up with his Revlon Dream:

Robert's remarkable Revlon Dream paint job

Until next time, 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A fun Happy Holidays bike music video for you all

Happy Holidays everyone!

To get you in the spirit, here's the group NORA and One Left's Big Red Bicycle Christmas (from their album Bicycle) - already named 'the best new Christmas song of the year' by the BBC.

All together, now...

If you received this in an email, here's the link to the video.
Best wishes,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

HOLY GRAILS: 1974 Masi Gran Criterium

Circa 1974 Masi Gran Criterium
When it rains it pours, I guess. I've been covering my René Herse bicycle refurbishment in recent posts. Now I'd like to shared a short story I wrote about the vintage Masi that I recovered before I received the amazing René Herse.

Note: This story first appeared in my weekly Jim's Tech Talk column on RoadBikeRider, so it will read a little dated. However, it should provide a good record of where I started with this Masi project. 

That will be good for comparison with the finished bicycle. And, for this rerun I've added more detail photos than what I could provide in my weekly column.

This old Masi is a special bicycle, just like the Herse, but when I found it, it was a...

Basket Case

As our thoughts go out to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and we brace for the usual rainy season here in California, it’s time to plan an escape from winter. I recommend heading indoors for a fun bicycle project. I thought I’d share one of mine, which I’ve dubbed a basket case since that’s pretty much how I found it, as the photos show.

Well, I didn’t actually find it. My friend Ellen did. I tuned her bikes at The Bicycle Center in Santa Cruz. So, when her friend told her he had an old 10-speed to sell, Ellen emailed me. She said it was a Masi.

Awful paint, crash damage, no serial # but all there

From the Vigorelli Velodrome to California

When it comes to collectible road bikes, Masis are among the Holy Grails. I have a fondness for them and I know a bit about the marque, but I am no expert. 

I can tell you that Faliero Masi was already building frames by his 16th birthday in 1924, and that in 1952 he opened the famous workshop located beneath the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan. 

He became such a legendary builder that all the greats, from Coppi to Merckx insisted on racing his meticulously crafted and super-fast frames.

He was also progressive enough to travel to Carlsbad, California, and open Masi USA in 1973 when he was about 65 years old. Perhaps the best-known Masi trivia is that the main character (Dave Stoller, for trivia buffs) rode a Masi Gran Criterium in the classic cycling movie Breaking Away. 

For more on Masi and a wealth of information on everything vintage road bike, be sure to visit Classic Rendezvous.

No sign of a proper serial number

Roger’s bike

My connection with Masi comes from the fact that the owner of The Bicycle Center, Roger Sands, rode one. Roger was a visionary bike guy. He foresaw the pedal-power explosion to come in the early ’70s and was among the first U.S. retailers to travel to Europe and import classic road brands from around the world. I was lucky to work for Roger, and as his top mechanic, I had the privilege of maintaining his Masi.

I needed to explain that so you’ll understand my irrational reaction to Ellen’s Masi, which I realized was a basket case in the most negative sense as soon as I turned it over in my hands. 

Collectors always hope to find an original bicycle, meaning that it has the paint, decals and components it left the bike shop with. It might be well-used, even beat-up a bit, but if it’s all there, you’ve got a winner. As we collectors say, “You can’t restore originality.”

Buckled and rusted

No such luck with Ellen’s Masi. You can see the awful paint in the photo. What you can’t make out is the buckled down tube and bent top tube, most likely the result of running into a parked car. And, while most of the original Campagnolo Nuovo Record components were still with the bike, they were as abused as the frame. Ellen asked me to take the pile of parts and try to figure out if the bike was worth anything so she could tell her friend.

I’ve restored enough bicycles to know a lost cause when I see one. Just the frame work alone would cost more than the restored Masi would be worth, never mind the cost of the vintage parts it would take to get it rolling down the road. I told Ellen as much, but agreed to take the Masi home and try to learn more about it.

The strange orientation lets the photo go really big

‘Fix me’

With the frame safely hanging in my garage rafters and the case of parts stashed below it, I did my due diligence, researched Masis Italian and American, and I eventually heard from another vintage veloman who had one just like it. 

His was from Masi USA and was built in 1973. That meant Ellen’s might have been partially built by the master himself when he was here in California.

I knew that some of the builders that apprenticed under Masi back then were still in Southern California and are now industry legends themselves, guys like Brian Baylis, Rob Roberson and Jim Cunningham. This got me thinking about the possibility of having the frame restored by someone with Masi blood in their veins, a direct connection to the maestro.

Lovely twin-plate crown rust and all

It was about then -- and you’re going to think I’m nuts, but I swear -- that that Masi started talking to me. Every time I went into the garage to get out my bike, and ducked beneath the Masi, I had the feeling it was calling out to me to fix it. 

I took the frame down over and over, looking at the careful lugwork, the lovely M cutout in the bottom bracket, the awesome twin-plate fork crown. I decided I had to have the basket case and gave Ellen the price her friend wanted.

All in

About a month passed. I tried to ignore the Masi but couldn’t. It’s a 57cm frame, perfect for me. I started dreaming of riding it around in some retro woolies and shoes and showing it to the guys. 

I thought about rigging up an alignment jig and trying to fix the frame, maybe then spray painting it just to save it for someone else to spend their life savings on. But that just didn’t feel right. It felt like the Masi ended up in my hands because I was meant to save it.

Thinking about how to do that, I remembered Joe Bell of Joe Bell Bicycle Refinishing in Spring Valley, California. Joe is maybe most famous in the handmade bicycle world as Richard Sachs’ painter. It says something when one of the world’s great builders sends his frames 3,000 miles to be painted. And I knew Joe had restored plenty of Masis.

I called Joe and told him about the Masi and in a few minutes I was ready to send it to him. He said he would ask Brian Baylis to look at it, and that Rob Roberson worked right next door and he would check it out, too. Wow. I got it in the mail straight away.

Nicely crafted lugs and stays

Later that week Joe called with the exciting news that it was indeed an early Carlsbad Masi and might even have been worked on by Masi himself. Plus, Joe said that even in its bent and battered condition, Brian was so happy to see my Masi, that he took it home over the weekend with him.

Brian is repairing the frame by replacing the bent top and down tubes. I don't know if there’s any way for him to tell if he built the frame originally, or if Faliero worked on it. But, it’s perfect to have it restored by one of the first Masi USA framebuilders. 
[Update: only a new down tube was needed and Brian believes Faliero raked the blades!]

Once Brian finishes, there will be some chrome work on the fork and then Joe will add the bling with his paint perfection. I think that instead of going with Dave Stoller’s Masi Team Orange I'll go with the more subtle Champagne.

Instant Karma

As excited as I was to have the Masi in Joe and Brian’s capable hands, I was still feeling a little stupid for undertaking such an expensive project. I felt this responsibility to save Ellen’s Masi, and it’s going to give me hours of joy tracking down the right small parts and reassembling Brian and Joe’s masterfully restored frame. But, if I took the same money I’m already spending on the restoration (not to mention the additional cost of the parts I need), and got a little lucky, I could probably find a complete original Masi.
Hard to see, but it's been run into a car, or

With this buyer’s remorse ruining my sleep patterns, I received another email, kind of like Ellen’s. But this old friend wanted to gift me three vintage road bikes, including a 1975 René Herse in very good original condition. 

In car terms that’s a bit like someone giving you a classic Ferrari. It’s always been a bike of my dreams, and I never thought I’d own one. It, too, is a 57cm.

You don’t suppose that restoring the Masi had anything to do with the Herse coming my way, do you?

Stay tuned. As I finish the Masi, I’ll share it with you.

Have fun with your bicycle projects and let me know if I can help! Jim

Sunday, November 11, 2012

René Herse Restoration - 2 more photos

Crankset by René Herse
In my previous post about the René Herse, I forgot to provide photos of what is perhaps the most beautiful component on the bicycle. So here are two pictures of the René Herse crankset that I hope you enjoy.

If you have a René Herse missing its signature crankset, you'll be happy to know that you can now purchase a reproduction and replacement chainrings, too (I'm excited about that because it means I can save my original chainrings and log miles on the reproductions if I want)!

The second photo (below) shows the Herse sealed- and pressed-bearing bottom bracket. Modern bike companies seem to believe that this is a new design, but Herse was doing it decades ago.

You can also see the integrated tube in the bottom bracket shell for the internally routed front derailleur cable and more detail of the extraordinary craftsmanship that went into constructing this frame.

Wanted: Huret Jubilee front derailleur
This bicycle was originally equipped with a Huret Jubilee front derailleur (illustration), not the one shown in the photo.

If you have a Huret Jubilee front derailleur or know where one is, please let me know so that I can get the proper one back on this bike.

René Herse sealed-, pressed-bearing bottom bracket

Friday, November 9, 2012

HOLY GRAILS: René Herse Restoration

Happy winter, everyone,
As we spend more time indoors, here are some photos of an exciting winter project I'm starting: refurbishing a 1975 René Herse randonneur bicycle. It's in nice original shape with most of the parts it left Herse's Paris shop with. It was built for my friend, lifelong cyclist and bicycle lover, Richard Payne (as was required by French law at the time, Dick's name and address are engraved in the stem cap; photo 4).

René Herse randonneur as photographed about 2004
Dick was still regularly riding his beloved Herse into his 85th year. It was passed on to me by his family who knew how close we were and that Dick would have wanted me to have it so that I could resuscitate it.

My goal is to bring it back as close as I can to how it was in 1975 when Dick purchased it. He kept the original order forms so I have a record of how it was equipped.

These randonneur or randonneuse bicycles were made for what we Americans sometimes call credit-card touring, where you carry lunch, a change of clothing and ride relatively long distances for the joy of it, continuing at night, in the rain, and only stopping at hotels to rest up for more pedaling adventures the next day.

Gracefully raked blades, elegant dropouts and marvelous Maxi-Car hubs
While I have never visited France or ridden there, of course I've seen the awesome terrain watching the Tour de France on television, and it makes it easy to appreciate how the French came up with this type of bicycle to enjoy it.

Route sheets and registration forms that Dick saved and are in the same file as the bike specifications, show that he toured in Tunisia on it, too, where he lived and worked as a teacher for decades before returning to his other home in Santa Cruz, California for his retirement.

I'm familiar with René Herse bicycles because I worked on a couple of his masterpieces over the years as a mechanic. But my appreciation for him and his work has piqued, and my knowledge grown immensely thanks to the writings of Jan Heine in his fine publication that covers randonneuring bicycles and builders old and new, Bicycle Quarterly. He covers new bicycles and technology, too, so there's something most cyclists will enjoy in every issue.

What's unique about these treasures is that the builder made the frameset and also crafted or designed many of the parts, such as the front rack, crankset, stem and small pieces. Before he became a master "constructeur," as these renowned bicycle builders were called, René Herse worked making airplane parts, so he brought expert machining skills and knowledge of engineering precision parts from ultralight materials to his bicycle building.

Also unique is that these bikes were made to be ridden long distances, carrying a small load in all conditions. And unlike the heavily laden long-distance tourists with front and rear panniers or even trailers crossing America or riding round the globe, these randonneuring bikes were made for performance riders who not only wanted to cover long distances, they enjoyed doing it in record time and there were even timed events and records to be had.

Dick's Herse has a magic ride. It's wonderfully smooth and stable and easily gets up to speed, and stays there. It looks heavy but it feels light and lively and you don't want to turn back once you're in the saddle; you want to keep riding.

Herse rack with built-in light, wire runs through rack
To carry the gear and handle all conditions, the bikes featured a front rack that supported an easily accessed large handlebar bag, a lighting system and full fenders. For reliability and durability, the fenders were metal and firmly attached so as not to loosen or rattle, and the shift and brake cables were internally routed for protection.

As an example of the painstaking effort put into designing and building this René Herse, it had a generator (dynamo) that attached to a precisely positioned threaded post brazed onto the left seatstay.

A dedicated Huret Jubilee down-tube style shift lever allowed you to turn on/off the generator moving it to rub against the rim or move away from it. (Without a photo to go by, it took me hours of experimentation with many different generators before I figured out how this worked - which will be the subject of a future post.)

There was probably a small seatstay light powered by this generator (it may have been on the fender instead). To power the front light, that you can see is integral to the front rack - the wire leaves the generator and goes into the hollow channel in the edge of the fender. It then exits the fender, goes into the left chainstay, through the bottom bracket, up the down tube where it makes contact with the head tube, I believe (I haven't taken the front end apart to investigate).

Meanwhile, the front light wire traveled through the hollow rack tube, exited the rack underneath the fender, traveled to the fork steerer and into it, where it attached to the contact brazed inside the steerer. To get the electricity to bridge from the steerer, which has to turn - to the stationary head tube, there is a carbon brush that always touches the steerer and causes no drag you can feel. Ingenious!

There are many other details to admire, such as the lovely lugs and bottom bracket, the arrow pump peg, the cable hanger built into the seat lug and the unique and stout dropouts. The right rear dropout actually includes a chain holder that acts as an extra freewheel cog so that you can shift onto it for wheel removal and your chain will remain in position as if a wheel was still in place. Herse thought of everything.

Enjoy the photos, and as I bring this incredible bicycle back, I'll post updates. Best of luck with your winter bicycle project, too!


Pointed lug tips, Herse sealed bottom bracket
Herse custom stem, engraved stem cap, integrated bell (I made this copy)
Hand lettering
Herse dropout, internal shift cable, peg holds rubber stay guard
Exceptional lugwork and crown
Stylish braze-on for internal cable routing
Another view of the cable port
Elegant pump peg, seat cluster and dedicated lever for generator
Look closely: that's a chain carrier on the inside of the dropout

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Q&A: Are folding bikes twitchy; individual cassette cogs

Dahon's Mu Undo
Q: Hi Jim, I'm thinking of getting a foldable bike, a one-speed model with a coaster brake to keep it simple. I'm considering Dahon's Mu Uno (photo). Have you test ridden it? I'm wondering if there will be a big difference in handling from my full size-wheeled bikes. I've heard people say that folders feel twitchy. I'm also concerned about the durability and serviceability of coaster-brake hubs.


 A: I’ve got a few folding bikes, Arnold and like them a lot. I have a Dahon from about 1980 and even back then they had a solid reputation for making nice-riding, convenient to use portable bicycles.

I've ridden some recent Dahons at bike shows but not the Mu Uno. On their website it looks like a quality one-speed model featuring a butted 7005-aluminum frame, nice aluminum wheels and solid components stem to stern including a Kinetix forged-aluminum crankset, Suntour folding pedals, Schwalbe Marathon tires and a Shimano coaster-brake hub.

I think you’ll love the Mu Uno if you get it. You’ll want to ride it on mostly flat rides probably, since it has only one 62-inch gear and a foot brake, but it should be wonderful for that. The little wheels feel quick to most people and that’s great, but they can feel a little too easy to accelerate and steer - because they're smaller and lighter - at first and that’s why some feel that folding bikes are twitchy.

Good folding bikes aren’t really twitchy or hard to handle. They just feel that way because you’re used to steering a big, heavier larger wheel. When you get on your little-wheel folding bike you need to relax and let the bike steer itself. It doesn’t need much input from you. Once you relax and stop trying to steer the bike like you do your other bikes it gets natural and feels quicker and nimbler.

Folding a Dahon takes seconds
I take my Bike Friday whenever I fly somewhere, and I find it takes about five miles or so to remember which bike I'm on and get into the groove of riding it, whether it’s going from the full size-wheel bike to the mini-wheel one - or the other way around when I return from the trip and get back on my regular rides.

Regarding coaster-brake hubs, they are usually very durable. I would estimate that in most cases you wouldn’t need to service a hub like that for as much as five years or even longer if you stay out of the rain. In many cases they just keep going and going with no maintenance. Typically you don’t use a folding bike as much as a regular bike or ride it as far, either, and that helps keep the wear and tear down too - as will riding it on flatter terrain where you won't have to brake all that hard or often. Hope this helps and let us know how you like your Mu Uno if you get it.

When talking about folding bikes, I have to point out one more cutting-edge bicycle, the Brompton, which is my preferred city bike because it folds in a blink, sports lights, fenders, rack, prop stand and a ingenious front bag. Here's Brompton's current line-up.

Q:  Hi Jim, I recently purchased a Lapierre Audacio with a Shimano Tiagra C4600 12/28 10-speed compact cassette (with 50/34 chainrings) and I’m finding the top gear is too low.  I’ve inquired with the shop that sold me the bike as to whether I could change the small cog from a 12 tooth to an 11 tooth but they advise that I’d have to change the entire cassette.  I had expected that it would be possible to source a single 11 cog for this cassette given that there’s an 11/25 cassette in the Tiagra C4600 range. 

Would you be able to advise if a single cog could be sourced for this?

Kind Regards,

A: I haven’t tried their cogs, David, but I’ve heard that Miche makes individual cogs for Shimano cassettes. Here’s a link to an online company called Universal Cycles that carries these so that you can learn more.

You’ll probably want at least two cogs, since if you remove the 12 and install the 11, you’ll have an 11 to 13 jump as your first shift, which will probably drive you crazy and feel like you’re missing a gear. Having a new 11 and a 12 should let you end up with 11/12/13/14 etc. which will feel right (you’ll want to disassemble your cassette and compare it to the Miche cogs to make sure they will fit correctly and let you build the cassette you want).

Another issue will be the Shimano cassette lockring (the last piece you install and tighten with the splined lockring tool - video shows lockring and removal with the lockring tool and chainwhip tool). The one you have is correct for a 12-tooth bottom cog. If you go to an 11-tooth cog, you will need a lockring made for an 11-tooth cog too, since the 12-tooth compatible lockring will be slightly too-large diameter and can prevent the chain seating on the smaller 11-tooth cog. (Tip: you have to look closely, but, so that you can tell the difference, the Shimano 11-tooth lockrings have a little "11" stamped on them.)

I'd compare the cost of the 2 new cogs and lockring plus shipping versus the cost of a new cassette, keeping in mind that your original cassette has resale value and that might make up the difference.

If I were you, I’d be strongly tempted to return to the bike shop and tell them you want to trade the original cassette for the right cassette for you. Even if they only give you wholesale pricing for it in trade, you might end up spending less than ordering the two cogs. Just clean your cassette up nicely so it looks like new.

I hope something here helps and enjoy that beautiful new bike!

In case you can't see it, here's a link to the video:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

BIKE VIDEO: People For Bikes: If I Ride

Happy Tour de France month,
Hope you're enjoying the action as much as I am. With the coverage now on high-definition television, it's like the peloton is passing through your living room. The scenery is spectacular, the crashes so real they almost hurt and the descents are dizzying. For a retro take on the Tour, here's a photo essay on the 1953 Tour from Life magazine archives.

To ride the wave of interest in cycling created by the Tour, Bikes Belong just released a fun video promoting the impressive benefits of biking, so I wanted to share it with you. Be sure to pass it along so we can get even more people pedaling and supporting cycling. Maybe a few of them will one day race in the Tour.

Good rides!

Monday, June 18, 2012

NEW PRODUCT: Anycase iPhone Tripod Adapter

Steve Boehmke, a longtime marketing and product-development guru for many major bicycle companies (including Shimano), told me about a clever gadget he's trying to bring to market called the Anycase iPhone Tripod Adapter. While this elegant little aluminum holder isn't specifically a cycling product, I contributed to Steve's Kickstarter campaign because I need something like this. 

I shoot simple cycling videos with my iPhone and I need a safe way to hold it steady and position it more accurately than I can by hand and by balancing it precariously on its edge. The Anycase does this nicely as you can see here. If you use your smartphone for video like this, you might like one too. A $29 contribution gets you an Anycase in black. The Kickstarter campaign ends July 6, 2012, so contribute soon if you'd like to help. Thanks! UPDATE: The campaign did not raise the funds to launch production, so Steve is now selling the Anycase online for $29 plus shipping.


Friday, May 18, 2012

ALERT: $1,000 For Finding Hit & Run Driver

Aaron Freitas (left) is offering a $1,000 reward
My Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec teammate and Capitola, California resident, Aaron Freitas (photo) was sailing down Old San Jose Road on Saturday, May 5 around 1:30 p.m. with his friend Buck Lyons, when Aaron was sideswiped by a car and knocked to the ground. Luckily he only suffered a concussion, six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken collarbone, broken scapula and cuts and scrapes.

I talked with Aaron on Monday at the Santa Cruz stage of the Tour of California and he was in surprisingly good spirits - obviously beat-up bad, in a sling and bandages. But he was already talking about riding and racing again and determined to do something to bring the hit-and-runner to justice. He has put up $1,000 reward money for anyone providing information leading to a conviction. I wanted to pass this along and ask you to keep on the lookout when you're riding around here and especially in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and on and near Soquel-San Jose Road.

Other hit-and-runs
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Other recent collisions include one on Highway 1 that claimed the life of 35-year-old Joshua Laven, whose body was found on May 4, hours after he was struck while riding near Wilder Ranch. The CHP is looking for a 1999 to 2004 Dodge Ram pickup in that case. And in the past year, two bicyclists were killed in hit-and-run collisions on Empire Grade Road and Soquel-San Jose Road.

It would be great if we could catch these nutcases. Lyons, who also crashed trying to avoid riding over Freitas, saw the car that hit Aaron and described it as "an older model Audi wagon that was a "muted dull shade," perhaps grey or tan or off-white."

The Sentinel reports that "CHP officer Grant Boles said they are still working to find the driver, but have little to go on. He asked those with information on the case to call 662-0511."

Here's the complete Sentinel article.

If it happens to you
For what it's worth, I have twice "found" drivers who tried to knock me off my bike by swerving at me on the backroads of Santa Cruz. It was only by riding off the road and almost crashing that I avoided injury or worse. But I paid close attention so that I could recognize the car if I saw it again.

Then, to find these losers, I drove to the road where it happened on the same day of the week at about the same time as the incident. I parked, waited and watched. Both times, the vehicle that had tried to run me off the road came past and it was a simple matter to take their license number and file a full report to the police. In one case the driver was arrested and lost his license in court. Not enough of a penalty but at least it got him off the road for awhile.

Ride safe and always stay on the alert for insane drivers - I've run into them in every state I've lived in, and even when I was a long-distance runner - so it's not just cyclists who need to be careful. Sorry if this sounds bad, but it's true and it's better to be prepared and careful than to become a victim.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tour of California 2012 - An Amazing Race

The finish at Cabrillo College
Wow, what a day for cycling fans in Santa Cruz County. From dawn to dusk on Monday, May 14, it seemed like every road was packed with race fans setting up camp to view the action, and pedaling to spots from Bonny Doon to Felton to Soquel and Cabrillo College to cheer on the Amgen Tour of California tourmen as they pounded up and down our roads.

So that you can enjoy some of the local action, here's a video of the crash about halfway up the Bonny Doon climb and some photos I shot. Also check out Caletti Cycles' photos as they were at another scenic spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

With some of my Bicycle Trip/Symantec teammates, I rode up to the Bonny Doon - Ice Cream Grade intersection - getting heckeled the entire way by earlybirds already chalking the road and partying while waiting for the peloton. Once the pack passed our spot, we raced the race, shortcutting down Soquel Ave to take a straight shot to the finish line at Cabrillo.

All the way, we picked up other riders and had a fast and easy access to the finish thanks to the California Highway Patrol that had closed interesections, was stopping cars and waving cyclists through. So cool.

Enjoy the pics and let's all help bring the Tour of California back for 2013!

The crash took place right where we were standing so we had a great view of the resulting chaos. Video by Mark Boolootian (below in black).

Tom Boonen!

George Hincapie heads to the team bus

Peter Sagan took the win with his incredible last corner and sprint

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BIKE VIDEO: Racer's Eye Vid of the 2011 Tour of California

Good morning race fans,
In anticipation of the Amgen Tour of California's visit to Santa Cruz on Tuesday, May 14, I've been looking for good videos to share from last year's race and I found this one. It's among the best TOC movies I've seen because it was shot from within the peloton using a GoPro camera. These mini cams weigh little and mount almost anywhere.

I'm not usually a fan of the typical footage cyclists capture with these ingenious cameras, which is usually geared toward recording your own ride for enjoying it afterwards. But whoever was behind the GoPro in this TOC film knew how to keep it interesting.

Apart from the having to put out 300+ watts all week long just not to get dropped part, it almost makes this professional stage race look like something fun to try!

If you're viewing this in your email and not seeing the video, here it is.

Good rides!

Friday, March 16, 2012

NEW BIKE BOOK: Must-Read for Classic Hollywood Fans

Love the classics? You need Hollywood Rides a Bike
With all the rain we're having in the Bay Area, I thought I'd tell you about a wonderful new book that's helping me ignore that fact that the riding's miserable right now.

Based on his acclaimed Rides a Bike website, Steven Rea's new coffee-table treasure Hollywood Rides a Bike, Cycling with the Stars is +/- 160 pages of gorgeous, mostly black-and-white photos of the greats of Tinseltown pedaling, beside or around often beautiful vintage bicycles, which were regularly used as free, quiet and fun transportation around the expansive and almost always sunny Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO and Columbia studios.

I can't put this book down, mesmerized by the sensational professionally produced glossies of 190 Hollywood legends on bikes as cool as they are, and in such fascinating settings and poses. Plus, every picture is captioned with film critic and bicycle lover Rea's insightful remarks and trivia (I had no idea that "platinum bombshell" Jean Harlow died at only 26 or that horror star Vincent Price could ride a highwheeler - and no-handed!). Many also include the actual studio notes provided with the photos when they were released to the press way back when.

There's a tanned James Stewart taking a break during the filming of Hitchcock's Rear Window, riding double on a Phillips 3-speed with Grace Kelly sitting sideways on the top tube. There's Lauren Bacall made up to the nines, reclining against a parked bicycle and enjoying a cup of coffee. The studio notes (from January, 1945) read, "She's dynamic, is easily the most photogenic subject who has come to films in many a day. Lauren prefers slacks, sweaters and bicycles to dresses, silk stockings and open cars. She likes to be free and unencumbered, she says." And there on page 60 is a teenage Elizabeth Taylor riding along a sidewalk, as Rea writes, "her whole extraordinary career and all those marriages and tabloid headlines ahead of her."

Hollywood Rides a Bike is a celebration of classic Hollywood and bicycles and one of the most unique and satisfying books to come along in a while. If you like movies as much as I do, you'll love it.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

NEWS: Amgen Tour of California Upcoming Events

There are some local fundraising events coming up for the Tour of California's visit to Santa Cruz on May 14, so I'm spreading the word far and wide. Here's the line-up so far. I've also included one of the race posters. Be sure to click to zoom it. And if you missed it, be sure to watch the video about our stage.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS (lots of good food and cool prizes)

March 13 6 - 9pm - Evening of Inspiration! Hosted by Café Sparrow (great food)

Get to know local superstars and Tour of CA riders Andy and Ben Jacques-Maynes.
Hors d’oeuvres, wine, 3-course gourmet dinner and raffle of signed Tour of California jersey from Chris Horner! $100 per person

April 17 5pm - Auction and Dining at Shadowbrook (more good eats)
A percentage of the evening’s sales are donated to the Local Organizing Committee (SCCCC) when you mention “Amgen.” Don’t miss out on the Silent Auction in the Rock Room Bar!
A week in Hawaii, three days on Lake Tahoe, tandem paragliding flights, zip lining passes and much more!

April 29 8 am - 1pm - Slow Coast Green Fondo Ride by Velo Cruz.
A beautiful 56-mile ride, prizes awarded: Calfee Bike Frame, ride in Team Type 1 car from SF to Aptos, VIP passes at Aptos finish line. 3:30 - 6 pm dinner at Main Street Garden and Café is included.

Get involved and keep checking the website for updates as more activities will be added:

Thanks for supporting the race everyone!

Friday, February 24, 2012

BIKE VIDEO: Amgen Tour of CA Returns to Santa Cruz!

Calling all race fans!

It may take place a couple of months from now, but it's never too early to start planning your ride or trip to experience one of America's greatest cycling events, the Amgen Tour of California, an 8-stage, 750-mile professional road race from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles that will thunder over Santa Cruz County's challenging and famous climbs and descents during Stage 2, Tuesday, May 14.

Already the many local group rides are buzzing about sending the boys down crazy-steep and twisty Jamison Creek Road and then making them scale 2,250 feet in about 5 miles over more-vertical-than-Bonny-Doon (which has decided the race in previous visits to Santa Cruz) - Bear Creek Road, before the fastmen careen down Old San Jose Road at highway speeds and sprint for the win at the Cabrillo College finish.

Watch the video and click the course profile beneath it to learn more about what could be one of the key stages in this year's TOC. And if you get a chance, say thanks to Santa Cruz County Cycling Club's Maura Noel, who almost single-handedly, and with her own money (!), brought the race back to Surf City. Yay, Maura!!

Click to zoom!
I'll see you on the course May 14th! For those of you viewing this in your email here's a link to the video.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bike Art: Do You Know This Cycling Sculpture?

Happy February spokesfolks,
My friend Bob Gelman just found this sculpture and he and I know little about it. So I told him I'd post photos here and ask you all to take a look and comment if you can offer any clues. Beneath the three photos of Bob's statue, I put pics and a video of a few more well known works you might enjoy.

About this mystery piece, Bob says,

"I asked the eBay seller and all he knew was that he got it at an estate sale and that it was supposedly orginally purchased at an upscale gift shop in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and was supposedly, titled The Peloton in Full Flight.  He also said he could not find a signature or other ID marking on it (I'll certainly look it over carefully when it arrives... maybe I'll find something.... I've watched Antiques Roadshow on TV!). From the pictures it seems like the faces and entire bodies could be identical molds in different shapes. It seems of much higher quality than most of the usual shoddy cycling "statues" one sees offered. It measures 12 x 12-inches and is comprised of resin and metal. Any and all help is appreciated, and if I find out more I'll let you know."

Please take a look and comment if you know anything more about Bob's find. Thanks!



And, here are a few other notable cycling statutes. The first is of Major Taylor and one I hope to view in person the next time I'm back in New England. Having read two excellent biographies of Taylor, and knowing that he was almost forgotten, it would be wonderful to see it. 
Photo by Chris Kostman. Statue dedicated in Worcester, Massachusetts in 2008 
I have seen the next statue, which stands on the top of a pass above Lake Como near the Italian shrine to cycling, the Madonna del Ghisallo. But the day we were there it was so foggy and cold I could barely make out the details unfortunately.
Statue near the Madonna del Ghisallo cyclists' shrine
This may be among the largest of cycling statues and I bet it's impressive in person. I know some people pile up, or stack or weld together recycled bicycles in the name of art and that makes a large "statue," but I wish they would instead repair the old bicycles used in these creations and give them to needy people.

"Le Tour de France dans les Pyrenees sculpture - 1995

There are lots of whimsical bicycle statues out there and oddities like bicycle trees, but genuine sculptures of bicycles and cycling are pretty rare in my experience and it's always rewarding to see them.

Good rides!