Friday, October 29, 2010

Redwoods and Red Wine

I haven't had much lately to report about. I ended up getting whatever California cold is sweeping through lately, and have mostly been puttering around the apartment, watching documentaries on Hulu, and getting some shop class machining instruction from Tubalcain on YouTube.

This guy is great. I'd adopt him as my grandpa if I could. And since my high school didn't have any sort of shop class, I'm now finally starting to learn some basics. Then, it's a couple machinist books to read up on the theory behind it all. Hopefully, by the time we get settled into a house somewhere, I'll be ready to get a lathe and a mill, and at least have a good start on how to use the things. I just can't contain myself when I think of the ability to make my own dropouts, hubs, braze-ons, task-specific tools... oh man!

My sister came to visit, so I got to play tourist and explore a bit more around here. I took her to see a couple trails through the redwoods within a few miles of where we live. I don't think I could ever get tired of walking through redwoods.

This is a gnarly redwood in the local state park that they say suffers from some sort of gigantism. It barely resembles the other redwoods, but I think it's still pretty awesome.

This is inside of a redwood, that had been turned into a honeymoon suite back in the mid-late 1800's, and it's still alive. You can see where there was once a window carved out in the tree, but it has since healed back shut. These are some pretty incredible trees.

After that, we went for a little wine tasting. My sister has run various bars over the years, and has become quite the expert in cocktails, beers, and wines. She had carried one particular wine from David Bruce, and wanted to try out some of his other offerings. We of course went along, and man am I sorry I did. I don't think I can ever look at wine the same again, after having at least two of the best tasting wines that I've had in my life. I try not to be a snob, and still believe that there are great wines to be had in the $8-$12 range. But tasting a particular $55 bottle of a dry Syrah/Petit Syrah mix ... all I can say is that it blew my mind, and I didn't know wine could do what this one did. It's flavors were so pronounced, yet balanced and not overpowering... yea, all I can say is now I understand why anyone would ever want to pay that much. Not that I can/will anytime soon.

Some of David Bruce's vineyards.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Twisty Road Ahead

Now that we've been here about a month now, we're kinda settling into a routine. Most of the boxes are unpacked. (well, the ones that didn't have to go into storage) Melissae is well into her science writing program, and I'm... well I have a lot of time on my hands.

It's crazy going from trying to have two jobs and a life, to being un-employed in one week. I try to keep busy. But I don't want to get too deep in a project or hobby, as (hopefully) I'll have a job soon, and it will just be put on hold again. So what have I been up to for a month? Well after un-loading, un-packing, organizing, re-organizing, I've put in some time working on updating the old shops' website. It's needed it for a while, and now that I have the time to do it, it's a way to help out some good friends. But I tell ya, I am not cut out for the office. I can only handle a couple hours here, a few hours there, before my brain feels like it's fallen asleep in a caffeine high I can't come down from. And it's not the caffeine, as I only have a cup a day. I don't know how office people handle sitting in front of a computer screen all day, clicking on tabs, week after week... I guess I'm glad some can, as that's how people come up with, and maintain cool
sites like blogpost :) But once again, I've remembered one of the reasons that drove me into the bicycle business. Not that I'm never in front of a computer, nor am I allergic. I just can't do it all day long.

But once I've gotten my fill of that, and done at least most of the chores around the place, I've been riding or hiking in the amazing redwood mountains. The scenery is spectacular, and the huge trees aren't the only thing that'll make you feel humble out here. The climbs are (at least by my St. Louis standards) epic. There's a road just a few miles from our place that climbs nonstop for 3.7 miles and something like 1,600 vertical feet. It's the sort of climb that reminds me why people get compacts or triples for their race bikes. On my first attack, I only made it 2 miles before my heart felt like it was about to break my ribs, forcing me to turn back. But I've learned to not climb like I was used to in Missouri, but settle in for the 1/2 hour that it took me to finally make it to the top. Here's a view from one of the more photogenic turns in what we've come to call "Twisty Road":

(and the funny thing is: This isn't even one of the steeper sections.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

We Made It

It was a hell of a week leading up to the 2,200 mi drive to Santa Cruz, CA. Aside from wrapping up the usual work and friend things before taking off to the other side of the country, I had yet to finish Matt's frame. After a few real long days, and the usual cuts and burns, I managed to both finish the frame, and make one stupid blunder that ended up scrapping the fork. Hopefully, it will be soon after this year that I can set up shop again, and start over on that fork. But until then, Matt will have to settle for a carbon substitute.

The frame came together at the last minute, giving me just a few days to pack up my entire workshop and some of the house. Luckily, Melissae was more than awesome in packing up most of the house while I finished the frame. Overall, I think the frame turned out quite well. It's one of those frames that I'm kind of reluctant to give up to someone else. But that's the name of the game. Matt was quite pleased, and I'm still waiting to see what it looks like painted and built up. (You have to send pictures!!!)

The move itself went pretty well considering moving a 2 bedroom house and workshop in a total DIY fashion. A day of loading up the truck tetris style, 4 days of driving a 25 foot truck, averaging between 54 and 58 mph, with mountain passes getting around 35 mph. If anything, it gave us plenty of time to appreciate our great country's landscape. From nothing to see in Kansas but a whole county whose painted road lines have worse alignment than a Huffy: the beautiful mountain passes and amazing geology of Colorado and Utah.:

We're now just outside of Santa Cruz, in the redwoods for the next 9 months to a year. I'll keep posting about goings on, rides, bike news, cool things around here, and life in general. But it will be a while before I've got another frame to show off. But as soon as that happens, I'll be back at it for sure. Thanks again to all the friends back in St. Louis for all the help and love we got while we were there. We definitely feel like we were/are welcome there. Maybe I'll meet up at a race with you guys. Until then, take care.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Looking Up From Home

Well folks, some big things have happened. My wife has gotten into a science writing program in UC Santa Cruz. The plan was for me to stay here and build that year, but after her 3 month stay in Germany, and running some numbers when she got back home, we've both decided it makes more sense to go out there together. This is pretty exciting for me, as I am originally from San Diego. So this move is going back to many things I love about that state.

The only downsides are leaving some really good folks that I've come to call my friends, and leaving our little house with a basement workshop. With cost of living out there, there's no way we can afford a place with enough room to set up shop. So for the next year, (unless something crazy happens) I won't be building any frames. I'll contact everyone on my list to let you know personally, and I will be keeping that list to start up again after we get settled again. But for now, I've got until September 10th to tie up loose ends, pack up, and finish Matt's frame.

Even though a large part of me feels like I'm finally going home, there will always be a part of me left behind. I have met a ton of really great folks in the greater St. Louis area. From bosses and co-workers, to customers, to friends, and every combination of the above. Thanks to all who've helped us make this our home for the past handful of years. Your midwestern friendliness won't be forgotten.

And for the next year, I'll still keep the blog updated with what's going on in my life. There won't be a whole lot of frame building for a while, but once I can get it going again, this is were to look for it.

Looking up at the Redwoods, through a burnt out 'stump' (which was taller than me).

This is the stuff that makes me think of home.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Work and Fun

Since Melissae has come home from Germany, I haven't really posted much. But I have started picking up the work pace. It's kind of odd that I seem to get more done with her around than when she's gone. Between picking up the extra slack at home, and not having my moral boosting buddy, I haven't really got much to say for the three months that she's been gone.

But Matt's frame is coming right along. And lately, some good progress has been made. But that also didn't stop me from being dragged by the good guys of Team Seagal out to the Thursday night dirt crit series at Castlewood State Park. Man was that a blast. That was despite half of the B's crashing each other (or themselves) out in an adrenaline powered orgy, clawing at dirt and grass, on their ultimate quest for a slightly lower place number in their second tier class standings of local notoriety. I managed to keep the rubber side down in my personal quest for checking out and having as much fun as possible in the local scene. And it really was a great scene. A ton of people out to have a good time, mixed with free food, beer, riders of young and old, bikes ranging from mtn tandems, kids bikes, and bmx's, to full carbon race machines, finely tuned for local dominance. It really was great to get out, ride, and see people of all sorts sharing what it is to ride a bike through the woods.

But enough fun, back to work:

Main frame is all mitered and ready to rock.

Seat stays shaped, and with caps brazed on top.

Second section of seat stays brazed and cleaned.

Showing how the segmented seat stays will come together with the wishbone. This is the idea that Matt helped me come up with. I really like this look, and may have to re-visit it in the future.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Days of Hard Work, To Save Time

Well, that's the idea anyhow. The last three days that I've spent frame building (which translates into the last two weeks), I haven't built much in the ways of frames. Instead, I've built what I hope will save me a great amount of time in the future: A front derailleur braze-on mount jig. That is, I built a thing that will allow me to (in a matter of minutes) braze on a front derailleur braze-on tab to a road bike seat tube.

Before I braze the front triangle of the frame together, I like to do the braze-ons. That way, any distortion made to the tubing happens before the frame is together. Because any distortion after the frame is together could cause misalignment, and add further stress preload to the tubes. But this makes it really hard to get the braze-ons exactly where I want them, as there is no other part of the frame to reference. Many braze-ons can be off by a millimeter or two, and not really affect anything. Just think of the travesty that would occur if your water bottle mounts were another millimeter further for you to reach whilst riding. Not to say that I don't spend entirely too much time making sure they're exactly where I want them. But if they were a tick higher or lower on the tube, I wouldn't exactly scrap the whole project. But if your fancy front derailleur needs to be one or two millimeters higher so you won't shift it straight into your chainrings, but can't because the mount is just a hair off... well that pretty much sucks. So normally, I spend about a half of a day measuring, re-measuring, checking, re-measuring, tacking, checking, and brazing to make sure that darn thing is exactly where I need it.

But now, once I make the BB miter on the seat tube, I hook up my modified bottom bracket shell into my frame jig, bolt on the derailleur braze-on tab, load up the seat tube (held in place on the top by my frame jig, and on the bottom by the braze-on tab itself and another bit of steel welded to the faux BB), and braze away. It should be dead on to both handle compact road cranks, and the typical 39-53 combo. If a customer does want to make it custom to handle something outside that range, I can use only one of the two tab mounting bolts, and go higher or lower. But no matter where I put it, the tab mounts square and flush to the seat tube, and only a few minutes to set up! Oh man, I can't even tell you how excited this makes me. And no, I won't build you one! (maybe one day when I have a full machine shop, and I can make something like this a little quicker)

Three days of hard work, and this odd little thing is what I ended up with.

A mitered out bit of extra down tube helps hold the seat tube in parallel.

Here it is in action, mounted up in the frame jig, just after I used it for the first time.

And after all that, there it is. Right exactly where I wanted it, and square to the BB shell. (when it is in there)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Then, and now...

Ok, so I've been gone for some time now. Well, not literally. Over the winter, I was working on getting my motorcycle kit up and running. Most of it went pretty smoothly. But I quickly learned that I am not an electrician. All the mechanical bits seemed to be a logical combination of my background of working on my own cars, along with working on bicycles of all trades. But when it came to the wiring, I had never really learned much past the couple weeks my high school physics class talked about circuits and V=IR. But I can now say after re-wiring it a few times, and one electrical fire, I know a ton more than I did before. The bike is now running, and I just have to jump through some legal hoops to get it legal.

My wife, Melissae (finally) graduated her PHD in chemistry at Washington University of St. Louis in the spring. So the lead up to that got life a little crazy. After that, we got her ready and packed for a three month internship in Germany. During which time, we moved a buddy and co-worker in to help me pay the rent while Melissae is gone. This is going a long way, as not too long after the internship is over, she has gotten into a science writing program in Santa Cruz for a year. You can read about her adventures at her blog:

After a bunch of life hitting all at once, I'm back and ready to tear into some frames. Thanks to those of you hanging in there with me and my delayed posts/builds. First up, is Matt's commuter bike, with clearance for some cyclocross tires. Kind of a go anywhere, from home to work, to going for a dirt ride on the katy trail. It will be a mix of lugs and a fillet brazed BB junction to allow me to direct the chain stays however I need to, to best gain chainring/tire clearance. The first two miters are made, and I spent half the day re-shaping the top tube / head tube lug. Nothing overly fancy or ornate, but I like how it turned out.

As always, more pictures on my Flickr site

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