Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Few More Cycling Gift Ideas

I've been riding a Bike Friday since 1992 and love it
For you gift-challenged cyclists, here are three more unique gift suggestions to go with my Cycling Gift Guide of the other day,

I just received a holiday announcement from the great folks up in Oregon who make the fabulous Bike Friday travel and folding bicycles with a special sale that saves you a good bit on the price of new custom-built or Select model Bike Friday bicycle - the ultimate gift for any cyclist who travels for business or fun or just wants a folding bicycle to add versatility to their lifestyle.

If you order and pay for one of these bikes by December 15 and delay the production until February, you will receive 10% off your entire order. Delay until March and you will receive 15% off your entire order. That's a significant discount for being a little patient and these amazing bicycles are worth the wait. Your giftee will love it.

And here are two unique gifts from the green company Resource Revival that makes clever and functional items from recycled bike parts: the Bike Chain Bowl and the Desk Pendulum Clock. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but I have to say that that's the coolest keys/cell phone tray I've ever seen (click the captions to learn more or purchase the products).
The Bike Chain Bowl

The Desk Pendulum Clock

Here's a fun video about the people behind these products:
Resource Revival Interview from Graham Bergh on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jim's Holiday Cycling Gift Guide!

Shimano's XT wheelset will delight mountain bikers
Hello pedalers - Well, it's time to get shopping for your favorite cyclists again and I'm here to help with my third annual holiday cycling gift guide.

Before I get into a few fun gift ideas, keep in mind that you can visit any bicycle shop and pick up plenty of excellent goodies any cyclist will appreciate receiving.

A few basic examples include cycling socks (everybody likes this inexpensive gift), warm-weather and winter gloves, base layers (these add comfort in all seasons), leg and arm warmers (excellent to carry on rides when the weather may change). Or purchase a gift certificate/card so they can buy whatever they need.

If you know enough about your favorite cyclist, you can also buy bigger-ticket items that'll wow them on Christmas morning, such as a new wheelset (above; one of the quickest ways to improve a bike's performance), a fine new set of tires (not inexpensive but much less than a wheelset), a modern helmet (if they've been using the same one for three or more years, they'll notice a big difference) or new high-end cycling shoes (superior comfort and pedaling efficiency).

Specialized's Globe Live is as gorgeous as it is functional
If price is no object, you could buy them another bicycle - maybe a versatile city bike like Specialized's stylish and smartly appointed Globe Live (women's shown; men's available also) so they don't have to run errands on a bike not made for it.

Or if your loved one is a roadie, blow them away with the current dream upgrade Shimano's Ultegra Di2 electric-shifting components group, which I wrote about here a while back.

Don't worry about buying the wrong gift from a bicycle shop, either. Most stores will happily exchange items (just ask when you buy it to make sure, and save receipts and all packing/tags etc.).

Now, on with my gift ideas. To make shopping easier, I'm trying something different this year and when possible, providing photos and links to the items on Amazon, but many should be available in your local shop, too.

Bellwether Screaming Meemie Cycling Rain Jacket
Plastic jackets like this make a nice gift because they provide excellent weatherproofing and they're much cheaper than high-tech raingear. They offer basic protection - just a polyurethane wrap that keeps out the wet. And you can find them from many makers and for lower prices. But, what I like about Bellwether's Screaming Meemie translucent top is that unlike most others I've ridden in and seen, it has a zipper instead of a Velcro closure.

While Velcro seems easy to use at first blush, when it's rainy and cold, zippers are easier to operate since you can't misalign them. Also Velcro closures have proved fragile for me and I've had them separate from the jacket, whereas zippers are sewn in and usually more durable. Unlike the more expensive rain jackets you might see, these simple see-through ones have a neat trick: they let brightly colored jerseys show through which increases a rider's visibility on the road and lets them show off their club colors too. The Screaming Meemie also sports reflective details for safety, mesh panels for breathability and a tall collar.

Vélo-Rétro's musettes: a unique gift for women and men
Velo Retro Musette Bags and Tees
My friend Chuck of Vélo-Rétro loves classic lightweight road bicycles and celebrates them with his Vintage-Style Musette Bags and T-shirts. Both tell the world that the wearer is passionate about cycling and are sure to get them compliments.

The musette is a handy shoulder bag they'll use all the time. It's made of lightweight cotton, measures 10 x 14.5 inches, has a 40-inch long cotton shoulder strap and a chrome button snap closure.

Chuck lets you choose from his many beautiful advertising logos/scenes from the past (many by great artists), or you can create your own from artwork you provide. And on his tees, you can even send him their favorite shirt and he'll add one of his stunning logos to it.

Casio GW800-1V Men's Watch
I've worn Casio watches for years, both as a professional bicycle mechanic and a racing cyclist, activities where watches are needed but tend to take a beating - and Casio's have always been super helpful and durable.

The watch I'm recommending as a nice gift for cyclists is the model I wear everyday now, Casio's GW800, a solar powered, self-setting workhorse (never needs batteries, resetting or winding) that includes the all-important alarm function for waking them up in time on the day of the big ride, a countdown timer for reminding them when to eat their energy food on century rides, world time in 48 cities, and many other functions (yes, their cell phone does these things but it runs off battery power).

Plus this watch is from Casio's G-Shock series, features tough nylon/stainless-steel construction and is waterproof to 200 meters, so it'll last and last. I love never having to replace batteries or set mine. Incidentally if you want to shop for Casio watches and others like it, one of the best resources is BlueDial.

King Titanium Bottle Cage
Yes, it's just a bottle cage, but it's one of my favorite gift ideas because King Cage's handmade superlight beauty is crafted of hollow titanium tubing meaning it's ultra durable and weighs next to nothing at an amazing 28 grams.

This little piece of art won't mark their bottles and most impressive for such a featherweight cage, it holds fast. It'll keep large bottles and heavy bottle-style batteries from coming loose or shaking out over even the bumpiest singletrack or roughest pavement. Also, titanium will never rust or corrode and it resists bending better than steel or aluminum so this cage will be going strong for many years.

Team 7-Eleven Book
How An Unsung Band Of Americans Took On The World - And Won
Written by cycling journalist and former Bicycling Magazine managing editor Geoff Drake and co-authored by the guy who put together and managed the team, Jim Ochowicz, Team 7-Eleven is an engaging book that tells the fascinating and surprising tale of how Team 7-Eleven was created, and how it was able to go from nothing to winning some of the most famous and challenging road races in the world. And how it lit a fire in American cycling leading directly to the accomplishments of superstars like Lance Armstrong.

Even if your favorite cyclist was doing his thing during the years the Slurpees made their mark (as I was), I'm sure they'll love the behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes that make up this book. It has a nice collection of photos they'll love, too.

  CycleOps Fluid 2 Indoor Cycling Trainer
 Many people are surprised to learn that today's cyclists are riding more than ever inside  on indoor trainers. So if your cyclist doesn't have one, a fine trainer like CycleOps' Fluid 2 will make her extremely happy.

 Indoor trainers let them ride no matter how bad the weather gets and when it's too dark to ride. Plus they can even travel with them for warming-up conveniently before the start of important rides. On a trainer there are no headwinds or up and downs to deal with, either, which means that it's possible to workout exactly as hard or as easy as they need to to realize their fitness/cycling goals. Plus, since it stays put, they can enjoy movies or music while riding and even keep an eye on the kids if needed.

The Fluid 2 is a great trainer that provides excellent stability, a super-smooth ride, progressive resistance that feels just like riding outdoors and fast folding so they can easily store it or pack it and take it along. They'll wonder how they ever got by without one.

Revolution Cycle Jewelry by Jennifer Green
I really like Jen's Chainring Earrings and think they make an awesome gift, perfect for your cyclist to wear around and show off their love for cycling when they're in their working or casual attire.

The Chainring Earrings are 3/4 inch-diameter sterling-silver 52-tooth rings that look identical to the ones on their bicycle - a minor marvel of miniaturization.

Jen also makes matching necklaces, chain bracelets, keychains and the cool Single Speed Ring for men. And if you're looking for a super unique gift idea, check out her custom head badges - the ultimate way to personalize their most prized possession (and you know how much I love head badges).

Your grease monkey will love Park's DC-1
Park Tool DC-1 Digital Caliper
I can't think of a handier tool for your budding bike mechanic's home shop than Park's DC-1 Digital Caliper. In order to purchase the correct repair or upgrade parts and to ensure they're fitting the correct components together, a tool that provides accurate measurements is a must.

Park's caliper does just that on its large display and instantly converts between decimal and fractional inch, and metric measurements too. It has a stainless-steel sliding rule with a composite body and it comes with it own protective case and even a spare battery.

They'll love their great shop
Your Home Bicycle Workshop Book
Speaking of home workshops, allow me to finish this year's cycling gift guide with a plug for my book Your Home Bicycle Workshop as another great gift idea. From workbenches and repair stands, to laying out a shop and organizing everything, to extensive tool lists and essential small parts to keep on hand, I tell them everything they need to know to build their dream home workshop.

This is an e-book so it's instantly downloadable and features interactivity, so readers can quickly jump around the book using the links in the table of contents and index, follow links in the book to my recommended products and zoom many photos for a closer view.

There are also a few surprises in the book, like some nice art from my vintage bicycle ad collection. I'm sure they'll enjoy it and improve their home shop with it. To gift it, download it to your computer and then copy the 13-megabyte file to a CD or DVD. Or, you can print it out if you want to wrap a more substantial gift, but there's more information and fun in the e-book than a printout so be sure to gift them both.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BIKE COLLECTIBLES: Arnold Schwinn and Co. Head Badges

Happy holidays riders,

Thanks to fellow head badge collector Antonio Valdes, here's a wonderful selection of what many consider to be the most desirable nameplates to collect : Arnold Schwinn and Co. badges. Because some of these are hard to find and highly prized, I'm delighted to be able to show off a portion of Antonio's badges here.

These are all made of brass. Some are new-old-stock (never used), others are almost-like-new, and a few are missing the paint. My favorites are the ones with pictures on them, especially historic ones, like the La Salle, Lincoln, Mission and Pioneer. I also have a sweet spot for airplanes and like the Ace and Flyer badges a lot. Enjoy this virtual museum display of Antonio's collection. For more head badge viewing visit my collection. And be sure to let me know if you spot any badges for sale in your travels.



Schwinn Ace (notice the skull and crossbones)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Q&A: Are non-round chainrings beneficial?

Readers - Maybe because pedaling takes effort, inventors have been attempting to improve the bicycle drivetrain almost since Pierre Lallement first created it by attaching pedals to the front wheel of a dandy horse around 1862. So I thought this question about non-round chainrings was a good one to share.

If you have an opinion, your feedback is appreciated.
Click to read Road Bike Action's review of Rotor Rings

Q: Would you please consider addressing the possible benefits of Rotor Rings or point me to an article that does?

Appreciate all your helpful articles,

A: Thanks for the interesting question Valerie.
Rotor Rings are challenging for me to comment on. To some they are revolutionary products that improve your power and efficiency. To others they are snake-oil, i.e. nothing but hype.

What's really needed is a truly scientific analysis and even that would be highly challenging since the argument can be made that if you learned to pedal on a standard chainring you need to "learn" how to pedal the Rotor Rings before you can analyze their benefit - or put a number on it.

Having tried various non-round chainrings, oval chainrings, Shimano Biopace rings, and cranksets with cams designed to avoid the loss of power in the dead spots in the pedal stroke, like the Houdaille Powercam, (which I actually rode thousands of hard miles on and wrote a positive review on back around 1986), I have never found any true, long-term benefit from these "advanced" chainrings/cranksets. So I don't believe they do anything except change how you pedal slightly.

Sharp's book is readable on Google books (pg. 428 shown)
Alternatively shaped chainrings have always been controversial like this. Archibald Sharp wrote about them in his analysis of bicycle and tricycles in 1886 (clipping right). 

Now I know full well that some top riders have ridden and done well on the Rotor Rings - like former pro roadie Bobby Julich for example. However, I do not believe Bobby would have done any worse on standard chainrings and I didn't see him suddenly winning more on the Rotor Rings.

I know that for some special events, such as time-trial racing, the Rotor Rings can allow some riders to pedal more comfortably in the aero position because of the extreme position. Shorter crankarms will do the same thing (a lot more on crankarm length in a future blog post). But that is one application where a non-round ring might help some riders.

Ultimately, the only way to know if you'd like them or not would be to try them. But, you would want to carefully compare them to what you have now because at first blush they are going to feel different and different sometimes feels better just because it's different. What you want to determine before spending the money, and it's a lot of money - is if they actually improve your efficiency in some way.

One way to do this would be to have a fitting specialist in a bike shop (or you could do this at home), look at you pedaling on a trainer with regular rings and then the Rotor Rings. Videotaping would provide a direct comparison. You could watch to see if you pedal more smoothly with the Rotor Rings. If so, that's an indication that you might save energy on them and feel more comfortable on rides.

The first thing to think about is if you have any issues with your pedaling right now. If you do (maybe you rock around a lot on your seat when you're pedaling - an indication that something's not right), maybe the Rotor Rings would help you smooth out. However, issues like this can be caused by other things too, like a seat in the wrong position, so you'll want to rule out those things too - before trying the Rotor Rings.

If you end up getting the Rotors, I'd be interested in hearing what you think. Maybe you can find a bike shop that sells a lot of them that has a loaner bike they let people take real rides on. That way you would be able to ride a loop you know on the rings, which is a good way to get an idea how they work for you. If you bring your regular bike, you can do a back-to-back comparison, too. If you check Rotor's dealer locator maybe you can find such a shop.

Good rides!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

VIDEO: A fun train/bicycle day-tour with the CTC in 1955

Bikeman and fellow journalist Carlton Reid posted this on his channel and I thought you'd find it a nice escape: hopping aboard a Cyclists' Special train in London, and hitting the road in Rugby to pedal to Warwickshire with the CTC club in 1955 - not a car in sight and interesting things to see all along the way. The best part is that, even today, in many places you can still take the train (or bus, subway, etc.) to escape with your favorite bicycle and explore new areas in style.

If you're viewing this in email and don't see the video, here's a link:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Q&A: Higher handlebars & seatpost setback

Q: I hope you can help me, Jim,
I'm trying to make a 1998 Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike fit me better. I have slick tires on it and I want to ride it on the road. The problem is that it has one of those stem and handlebar arrangements that can only be raised by putting more shims beneath the stem. Right now there are as many shims as there's room for so I can't make the stem or bars any higher.

I went to a nearby bike shop and they told me that I would need to buy a new fork for my bike in order to get a longer top fork tube [editor's note: called the "fork steerer"], and that would make it possible to add more shims to raise the stem and bars. But they said since a fork is so expensive, and my bike is already on the old side, that I should instead consider buying a new bicycle.

Now, I don't know what to do. I like the ride of this bike and it's in good shape from what I can tell - even if it's a little old. I'm thinking the new fork is the way to go, but it doesn't make sense to me that there isn't some way to just raise the handlebars. So I thought I'd get a second opinion from you.

Please help,

The Delta Stem Raiser
A: I'm glad you asked, William, because you definitely do NOT need a new fork or a new bike to raise your handlebars. What you have is a threadless fork and you're right that the way you raise and lower the handlebars is to add and remove shims. You're also right that you can only add as many shims as there's room for on the steerer.

Understand that when the company that made the bike originally assembled it, the fork had a long steerer on it. But, the steerer is cut to the right size for the frame size it's being installed on. And the amount of shim space left is what the company manufacturing the bicycle believes will provide the person who fits the bike enough adjustment.

Since it's not enough for you, and the fork has already been cut, you need a workaround. And a good one is made by Delta Cycle and called a stem raiser (photo; also available from other makers). You can see how it works in the photo. It bolts to the top of your fork providing an additional 3.25 inches of height. Your stem/bar combo will fit right on and you can fine-tune your position, tighten and finally be riding in comfort. And all for a lot less cost and hassle than replacing a fork or buying a new bike.

Important note: If you're lucky, you'll be able to install the stem raiser and put your stem/bar as high as you want it. But, check your cables and make sure they're not too short now and causing binding when you turn the handlebars to steer. If you run into that problem, you'll have to lower the stem/bar until they have the slack they need, or replace the cables.

Important note 2: Some mountain bikes have flat handlebars, in other words, ones with no rise. To sit higher, you can replace the bars with a set that offers more rise. Another approach is to replace the stem with a model that's angled upward more instead of forward so much. One of these approaches will almost always do the trick. Sheldon Brown covers the subject extensively.

Q: Hello Jim!
It's getting cold here in Canada, but I'm still riding. Today I have a question about how you measure seatpost setback? And what's your point of view on zero-setback seatposts?


Zero-offset left / plus-offset right
A: Seat setback has to do with your pedaling efficiency, Clod.

Usually if you look at the specs on the seatpost you're interested in, it will list the setback. But you can get a good idea looking at it from the side, too (photo). A zero-setback puts the seatpost clamp (the part that holds the seat in place) directly above the seatpost. On a seatpost with setback, the clamp is behind the seatpost. (Interestingly, in the early days of cycling we used to mount the seat clamp in front of the seatpost.)

Note that you may find some seatposts that have the clamp directly over the post, but also provide setback. But this type of post is easy to spot because it's bent to provide the setback.

To get the right seatpost for you, you first want to make sure your seat height is correct and then use a plumbline to find the correct fore/aft position for your body. Once you know where the seat needs to be, you can then figure out how much setback you need.

And, in most cases, unless you have a frame that has a shallow seat-tube angle or you have very short thighs, you probably won’t want to use a zero-offset seatpost.

But, if you check your riding position on the seat (instructions), you will be able to figure out what’s best and choose the correct seatpost.

Happy bike fitting!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Q&A: Sew-up tire reader tips and visiting Vittoria

Clement's 1977 line-up
Thanks for the emails about my sew-up tire repair and gluing piece. I received some reader tips that I'm sharing here at the end, and I found a good how-to-glue sew-up tires on rims article by While it focuses on gluing cyclocross tires, it's the same steps for road rubber. I like their roll-the-just-glued-on-tire-over-a-broomstick trick.

Just for fun, on the right is an illustration of Clement's tires offered circa 1977. Be sure to zoom it to see the detail. If you know who drew this, I'd love to give them credit here. In case sew-ups are new to you, it's the full, round shape so clearly shown in the illustrations that provides the supple road feel and superb cornering grip.

Visiting Vittoria
Thinking about tubular tires, always reminds me of a visit to the Vittoria factory in Terno d'Isola, Italy in July of 1990. I was in Italy with a group of bicycle and motorcycle journalists to visit their many factories and write about the famous products so popular in the USA at the time.

The companies we visited included Campagnolo, Castelli, Casati, Regina, 3T, Bottecchia, Columbus, Cinelli, Bianchi and Vittoria (I know I'm forgetting a few others we made it to). Keep in mind that this was over 20 years ago and things have changed.

I remember how Campagnolo was spotless, right down to the restaurant in the factory that served us on Campagnolo china. Also, I noticed that many of their machine tools had been made in the USA. Visiting Bottecchia (Carnielli) only days after Greg LeMond had cinched his 3rd Tour victory on one of their bikes gave us a chance to celebrate the victory with them, which was cool.

A trip highlight was Antonio Colombo at Cinelli giving me a spectacular cloisonné Cinelli stem badge. And, at Regina, I watched mesmerized as their Rube Golbergesque freewheel builder - a giant circular table with every body and cog on spools in the middle, and articulated, moving arms that reached for, grabbed and installed the cogs - actually worked.

Making sew-up tires
But I think the biggest surprise was seeing the amount of hand labor that went into making Vittoria tires at the time, because I assumed it was a fully automated process. While we were there we received a promotional book about the company, which has some photos in it that I've scanned and pasted below to give you an idea how they're made. The photos are by Ruggero Giuliani.

They actually make the casing by feeding a single thread from a spool like the ones shown below, onto a long, horizontal, spinning metal cylinder. As the thread is wound onto the cylinder it gets woven and the casing material is formed. A worker walks the length of the cylinder, brushing the fabric with liquid latex (I believe) to bond it. Then the finished material is cut off with a knife and put aside to be formed into a tire shape (you can see the finished casing fabric at the bottom of this photo).

It all starts with a single thread
 In another room the rubber that will comprise the tubes and tread is made from natural rubber that's mixed and formed with a machine that to me looked like the taffy-pulling machines you see at candy stores. I thought the rubber would come ready-formed and they would simply cut and apply it. But they started with the raw material and made it themselves.

Right off the rubber tree

You can just see the woman's hand feeding the casing through the sewing machine as it's sewn around the tube. More hand labor.

Sewing the sew-up
Perhaps so that workers don't have to breathe and handle glues, which can be dangerous, this machine applies the glue that holds the tread.

Applying glue to the casing before the tread goes on

I believe the last photo (below) shows the inverted tread strips ready to be attached. I remember they were heated for vulcanizing the tread to the tire too, and formed on rim-like holders. Watching the process made me realize why the tires were so precious both in price and value. And, today I still race on Vittoria tires and feel they are superior.

Tread strips ready to be attached
Reader tubular repair and gluing tips and tricks
Hope you enjoy the photos. Now here's some helpful sew-up input from reader David Heilbrun. He writes: "I used to repair sew-ups and have some tips people might like."
  • I learned to take J&J adhesive tape and cut a strip and round the corners, then apply it to the hole in the casing. That ended any problems with the tube popping out of the hole and exploding.
  • I found that you have to cut open the tire enough to get the tube out because if you don't and pull hard to try to get it through too-small of a hole, you can rip the tube and you don't want to do that!
  • Your suggestion to mark the original holes and then sew through the same holes is an important rule to make it easy and avoid a twisted tire.
  • I just loop the new stitches in a spiral pattern and overlap the end stitches.
  • I use a seamstress seam cutter to open the casing.
  • Regular rubber cement, like Carter's, works for gluing the cloth protector strip inside the tire.
  • On gluing the tires to the rims, I clean the rim with alcohol to remove any oils from your fingers.
  • If there's old glue on the rim, I soften it with mineral spirits or, if it's heavy, remove it altogether.
  • If the rim has ferrules on the gluing surface, I use a file to smooth and roughen them so they'll hold the glue and the tire will lay flat on the rim (the ferrules can lift the tire).
  • I only use one good coat of glue on the rim and none on the tire and that always works for me.
  • I apply the glue with my index finger making sure to coat all surfaces.
  • You can get glue off tire sidewalls with mineral spirits but watch out for silk sidewalls, which are fragile. 
Thanks, David!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

COOL TOOLS: Campagnolo Complete Tool Case

My prized circa 1969 Campagnolo Complete Tool Case (click to zoom) 
Upgrading my bicycle repair stand with Park's new 100-3D clamp reminded me to blog about the webpage I just put together for my vintage Campagnolo Complete Tool Case. Above is a teaser photo. My Tool Case is an example of perhaps the ultimate toolkit of all time (Campy also offered a "Reduced" case with fewer tools, and later a toolkit just for their freewheels). There are more images, instructions on how the tools worked, and the story behind this Campy toolkit on my webpage.

Many Campagnolo tool cases exist out there in shops and collections. What I like about mine is its connection to the bicycle shop I worked at and the noteworthy mechanics that became legends there while using these Campy tools. As you can see if you zoom the photo, my toolkit is a little beat-up, but what's nice is that it's one of the ones with a full wood interior instead of the plastic interior Campagnolo went to by the early seventies. And all the tools - even though rough-looking - still work beautifully. Read more on my website.

If you can put an accurate date on my toolkit, offer more information on Campy's kits or have links to one of yours, please post a comment or email me so we can check it out. Thanks!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

COOL TOOLS: Park's 100-3D Repair Stand Clamp

As everyone with a nice home bicycle workshop knows (and with winter approaching for many of us, now's the time to setup an awesome home shop, maybe by reading my book - hint, hint), the cornerstone of any shop is the bicycle repair stand. I've had the same one since the 1970's, a sweet Park PRS-3 modified with a base made by Billy Menchine, who was one of Santa Cruz's legendary mechanics back in the day.

Billy's modification (essentially a larger-diameter pipe that accepts the one on the stand), allows the stand to be raised and lowered, which is a nice feature that lets you put bikes in the best position to work on them regardless of type, or where you clamp. This week I made another modification: I switched out the old clamp for Park's relatively new one, the 100-3D (+/- $130). Watch for a full review in Jim's Tech Talk, my weekly column in RoadBikeRider's free e-newsletter.

Park repair stand clamps: what a difference 40 years makes
For now, I wanted to show you the difference between the old clamp and new because it's so interesting. It's actually significantly smaller overall, especially the clamping jaws (2.7 inches/7cm). This offers the advantage of being able to clamp bikes by the seatpost (the best option on most carbon-frame bikes), even if the seatpost is only a few inches out of the frame (rather than having to go to the trouble to raise the seat and then have to remember to reset it to the correct height).

But even more impressive is that the clamp jaws open to a gaping 3 inches wide (76mm) and can clamp right down to 7/8 inch (23mm). That's the main reason I got the new clamp: so that I can finally put my Cervelos' with their aero seatposts in my repair stand (the old model opened to 1 3/8 inches).

The clamp also has a combination screw/quick-release action that lets you carefully fine-tune clamp pressure so you won't damage whatever you're clamping. And see that blue part? That's rubber so you can rest your delicate carbon seat rails on there if you're doing some quick job and don't need to clamp the bike. A nice detail to protect your equipment.

Now the only problem is not getting emotional about retiring the still-going-strong original clamp, which has been so reliable all these years. I think I'll give it a place of honor on my workshop wall and switch out the clamps when I'm working on something deserving.

 If you've got an older Park repair stand or are purchasing a new one, you may want to consider getting this clamp.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Q&A: Gluing and Repairing Sew-Up Tires

Today I'm answering a couple of questions about sew-up bicycle tires, also known as tubular tires, and not to be confused with tubeless tires (it's easy to get mixed up!). Sew-ups are special tires used mostly used by road racers and roadies looking for the lightest, fastest, smoothest ride. They're a little fussy to deal with so they're definitely not for everyone. But if you're interested in sew-ups or riding them, this column has some good background and tips.

A little background on sew-ups
"Sew-up" tires are sewn together around the tube
Before I get into the QandA, here's a little basic information on sew-ups (sometimes called "tubs," too) for those new to them. Sew-ups have been around since some of the earliest bicycles. Today, these special tires are most closely tied to racing and performance riding.

This is because the construction of sew-ups and the special sew-up rims required, provide a truly round tire profile, that many riders feel offers superior cornering and a significantly more compliant ride (less shock to the rider = more energy throughout the race and quicker recovery, too). You can see the round profile on this photo showing a cutaway end view of an old tire.

Even more important to some riders is the weight savings provided by less material in the rim due to its simpler profile, and the lighter tires available (since the closed design of sew-ups allows the use of lighter tubes and casing materials with less risk of flats).

Also a significant advantage, you can inflate them to extremely high pressures for racing on super-smooth surfaces like some velodromes (cycling tracks), or on the other extreme, for racing like cyclocross where traction is all important, you can run them at low pressures and not risk pinch flatting). For some of these reasons there have even been mountain bike sew-up rims and tires.

Sew-up tires require sew-up rims and glue
Understand though, that sew-up tires are only for use with sew-up rims. Unlike clincher rims that have upright walls on either side so that they can hold onto the sidewalls on clincher tires so the tires stay on when inflated, a sew-up rim is a closed section, like a box, and the top surface is flat and curved to perfectly match the curve of the sew-up tire profile.

Sew-up repair is a little tricky
Since the sew-up rim does not have sides to hold onto the tire, and because the tire has no sidewall to hold onto the rim, the way sew-up tires are attached is with adhesive (glue or tape). Having to glue the tires on, and having to perform minor surgey to fix them if you puncture (photo) are the reasons most roadies today ride clincher tires and more riders don't use sew-ups.

Interestingly, the newest tire, the tubeless is gaining popularity because its ride feels similar to sew-ups. Yet, because it's just like a standard clincher tire, except made not to require a tube inside, there are none of the gluing or surgery-to-repair hassles of sew-ups.

The sew-up questions that follow allow me to go over some common issues with repairing and installing and removing sew-ups, the two biggest hurdles with these tires.

FYI: All of my regular and training rides are done on clincher tires. On race days I usually use my carbon wheels with sew-up tires because I believe they're advantageous.

Q: Hi Jim,
I recently started riding again after a 20-plus year layoff. Here's a little equipment background: I have a Bianchi Reparto Corse-built SLX frame with Campagnolo C-Record and Campy Record Strada tubular wheels.

Two days ago I flatted a Vittoria CR sew-up and it took 3 of us and what seemed like 20 minutes to roll it off the rim. I'm used to being able to do this by myself without too much effort. The tire, which was new, had only been on there two weeks, w/Vittoria clear glue. If I had been by myself, I don't think I could have gotten it off. What did I do wrong, did I use too much glue?

I used about 3/4 tube between the wheel and the new tubular. On the wheel I applied one coat, waited 45 minutes, then a second coat. On the tire I only applied one coat - went away for about 4 hours came back and mounted the tire, inflated it and rode around the block to set everything.

What do you think? I'd like to learn how to do this properly and avoid that kind of herculean effort in the future. I read your article on installing tires and don't see where I deviated too much.

Appreciate your help,

A: Welcome back to riding, Jon! There’s no way to really satisfactorily answer your question because it’s an age-old issue with sew-ups. Basically you have a choice: 1. Glue them on good and tight so they’re as safe as possible and there’s little chance of them coming off when you’re riding. Or 2. Use a little less glue so that they are easier to get off and take the risk that they might come off when you’re riding.

From what you wrote it doesn’t sound to me like you used too much glue. It just sounds like a good glue job. To me the most important thing is to make sure the tires won’t budge when you’re riding. And these days with carbon rims, tires stick even tighter than they did with aluminum rims. So it’s actually getting harder to pull them off if they’re glued on nicely.

But with any rim, I would expect to have to wrestle to remove a tire. If it came off easily I’d be concerned that it would come off in a corner. Of course, the older the glue job is, the looser it may become making it easier to remove the tire. But a new, good glue job should be really tight.

Vittoria Pit Stop sealant
So what some riders are doing is using sealant in the tires and carrying sealant inflators to fix flats on the road so that they can then remove the tire at home if it ends up flatting again. The one I’ve used is made by Vittoria and called Pit Stop. It’s about the size of a mini pump so you can carry it in your jersey pocket. There's even a bracket for it so you can carry it on your frame like a mini pump, too.

Another approach is to carry tire levers to help get tires off, but riders with carbon rims want to use them carefully. It wouldn’t be too hard to damage a carbon rim if you were too rough with the tools. And it can be a struggle to remove a tough tire even with tire levers.

You could also experiment with other gluing “tricks” such as using tape glues instead of liquid glues. I’ve never tried them but I’ve heard some mechanics say they work fine. And in theory, they might act as a release strip when you’re trying to peel off a tire.

Tufo Gluing Tape Tufo is one such product. I put their video showing how it's used below. It looks like a nice alternative to glue that I need to try. This article also provides some excellent tips on using gluing tape - some not shown in the video.

Ultimately, though, I would say you know how to glue tires just fine, so I wouldn’t worry about that part of it.

To no more tire trouble,

Q: Hi Jim,
We exchanged some information on sew-up tires a while back. I thank you again for your valuable insight which I've put it to good use. Since our correspondence I've laced a pair of 36-hole vintage Aspin rims with 2mm spokes, using Campy Record hubs and 3x pattern. It all went well. I installed a pair of Continental Sprinter tubulars.

The gluing job so that the mounted tire wouldn't move off the rim took several attempts but overall I was happy with the results. After about 100 miles, I had my first flat on the front: a 3mm horizontal cut on the tread. I used Stan's sealant which didn't work at all. I slowly rode back 2 miles on a completely flat front tire - this alone may have compromised the inner tube.

My first attempt to repair the sew-up was a complete failure. I'm not sure what went wrong. I opened the stitching of the base tape, opened the inner stitching (noticed this was lightly sewn with finer thread). Used a Park sticky patch that doesn't require glue. I also used a Park boot patch on the inner tire casing wall. The inner tube held the pressure well.

I used a sewing awl with curved needle to stitch the inner casing. Continental uses stitching for the liner tape. I used a fine waxed thread for this [editor's note: some tires have a strip of cloth between the bottom of the tube and tire]. I glued the base tape back in place.

I next mounted the tire on a spokeless rim to stretch it. I inflated it to 20 psi and everything seemed fine. But, as I pumped, going over 120 psi, I noticed the repair section of the tire was bulging and ballooning. Before I could relieve pressure with the valve, it exploded like a gunshot.

The inner tube must have worked its way out of the inner casing, which is puzzling because I stitched the inner casing tighter than the original pattern which was spaced out more. The inner tube exploded next to the repair area, a longitudinal section 2-3 inches along the stitching. I'm suspecting the waxed thread may have been too rough chafing the inner-tube at higher pressures. But I'm not sure.

I'd be very happy if you can comment on what I might have gotten wrong. In the meantime I'm going to ride my clincher tires. I'd be interested in what tires you ride, Jim.

PS: Next time I may use a sew-up repair business called Tire Alert in Florida. They have very good customer feedback. I read accounts that they install a higher quality base tape than most manufacturers. They charge $22 per sew-up repair which includes new inner tube, base tape and free shipping on the return. A removable valve core and new Presta valve is $25. They offer discounts if you have more tires to be repaired. They take credit cards and PayPal. If you are interested their address is:
Tire Alert
2320 Hawthorne Dr
Clearwater, FL 33763
Please let me know if you're aware of any other sew-up repair services.

A: Sorry to hear of your sew-up trouble, Mike. I save my Vittoria sew-ups for racing and log most of my miles on clinchers due to the frustration of flatting an expensive and time-consuming to fix tubular. I ride on Continental Grand Prix 4000 clinchers in 700 x 23c and they fit in any road frame just fine and ride great and are highly flat resistant.

I also ride a fair amount on Dura-Ace tubeless clincher wheels with Hutchinson Fusion 3 700 x 23c tubeless tires that almost ride as nice as sew-ups. Both these sets of tires are easy to fix flats on by simply popping in a spare tube. But, I’ve had very few flats with these tires. You can buy the 4000s at any bike shop. To use the Hutchinsons you would want to be on tubeless rims or convert your rims to tubeless.

On fixing sew-up tires, it’s not always easy to figure out what went wrong when something does. Reading your email I wondered if you marked the original casing stitching (see photo below) before you cut it so that you could run your new stitches in exactly the same place and in exactly the same angle as the original stitches?

That’s very important since the tire is stitched a certain way at the factory so that the stitching doesn’t change the shape of the tire or interfere with the tube. If you stitch it wrong during a repair you can put an S in the tire casing and the stitches may work loose.

It's actually not easy to line the holes up right once the original thread has been cut and pulled out of the holes. If you mark it first, before cutting, you'll have guidelines to follow and always get the restitching right.

Also, I wondered whether the base tape was glued down well enough after your repair. Usually they glue it down with a liquid latex glue at the factory and that helps seals the stitches in the casing. Maybe if you didn't get it to stick fast, it was able to lift.

You mentioned using a Park glueless patch, which I wouldn't have done because they are best used for emergency flat repair on a mountain bike with low pressure tires. When going to all the trouble to operate on a sew-up I would always use a proper self-vulcanizing patch that uses glue to becomes part of the tube and create a patch even stronger than the original tube.

Overlap the factory stitching on both ends
But, from your description of how the tire exploded, my best guess is that the stitching next to your stitches may have let go, letting the tube poke out and explode.

You always want to run your repair stitches so that they run over the factory stitching for an inch or so on both sides to prevent this. That's because those stitches become loose when you cut the adjacent stitches. Maybe that was the issue.

As you can tell, there's a lot to learn about fixing sew-ups. A good quick resource is cycling technical expert Jobst Brandt's article. There's also a nice step-by-step repair article on the great bicycle shop Yellow Jersey's website.

I don't know of any other sew-up repair services for you. Perhaps we'll receive some suggestions from readers. But I have heard of Tire Alert. They say they've been in business for 15 years, which is impressive. Sometimes bicycle shops repair sew-ups so if you need it done quickly, you might call around and ask.

If you decide to fix any more sew-ups yourself and you follow all these tips, I think your repairs will hold up fine,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

VIDEO: Sports Streaks

To kick-off November, I'm posting "my" U-verse Sports TV show Sports Streaks. It's not everyday they make a TV show about you, but even more impressive are the other guys covered, runner Mark Covert (he hasn't missed a day since 1968!) and surfer Dale Webster (who has caught 3 waves a day since 1975!) - so be sure to watch their segments too. It's good motivation to keep you pedaling through the winter.

The show first aired on TV August 15 of this year and was then watchable on their website. When they removed it, I asked permission to use it on my channels and they gave me the all-clear. It's also on my Streak Cyclists, Mileage Junkie and More article, where you can read about other addicted athletes like me. Each part is approximately 10-minutes long.

If you're viewing this message in your email and not seeing the video, here's a link:

Hope you enjoy the show!