Monday, February 25, 2008

Big Shark Just Got a Little Bigger

Well, it's official. I've accepted an offer from Big Shark to start working there mid march. The commute will be more like 5mi instead of the 15mi that I have now. I do have to admit, when the snow, ice, and slush have made things less than fun, I've wimped out and borrowed the ladies car. I'm not proud of this, and driving to work definitely doesn't do much for keeping me relaxed and happy. And, I think I'm just ready for something new. The shark handles some high end bikes/sales, so it will be interesting to learn more about dealing with that kind of customer/sale. I will also no longer be a store manager, or deal with the joys and hardships that go along with it.

I've put in my notice to The Touring Cyclist that I'll be leaving, and I've got myself a little down time between jobs so I can charge my batteries before charging into a new position. This will definitely go along way to get Marc's frame done in time for his first race of the season. I'll also be able to take care of the things that have been piling up around the house for months now. Hopefully, I can even sneak out for a camping trip before I get back to being so busy that something like that is next to impossible.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stickers are in!

And I've got tons of them. About a hundred black, and a hundred white. They came out great, and are sized for 1-1/8" head tubes, but still look good on 1" (or bigger if you go that way.) The people I went to are great to work with. Seems that they gave me a few more than I ordered. I'm not sure if that's just because it was easier for the machine to do whole pages, so they didn't bother making less, or if it was taking a tick longer than they said. It took a little over two weeks to have them done, and a few more days to get them shipped. (which was all in all a few days longer than they quoted, but I still think that's quick for some wicked awesome custom stickers) The price was good, the guy was nice and easy to work with, and I ended up with more than I asked for. So yea, I would definitely work with these guys again.

Oh yea, and did I mention I have hundreds of these things? So uhhhh... if you want a couple, I could probably spare one or two.

Post edit: So I didn't put up pics last night because I went to the Prints Gone Wild exhibition fair at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis. It was kick ass, and it's going on tonight also. So if you don't have plans, check it out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fire and Ice

Well, Wednesday was another cold day off here in St. Louis. The high was somewhere around 21F. That's ok, because I needed to get some quality work time in on Marc's frame. I was happy to have a heated basement to do all my file and prep work in. But doing the other chainstay, I had to constantly go back and forth between the work bench and the jig. (which is in the garage) Then with that done, it was a bunch of prep work (sanding then alcohol scrubbing inside and out) for each joint to be done. And finally it was go time.

I propped the garage door open, so it could ventilate, and lit the torch. I was amazed how much more heat I had to apply because the tubes were 20 degrees. Whenever I got a good pre-heat going, it would be sucked into the rest of the freezing tube. I didn't think there would be much of a difference considering the difference between the melting point of the brass rod (900F), and room temperature. It's amazing how much another 40-50 degrees will affect things. Anyhow, a lot of gas and three brass rods later, the main triangle was all brazed up.

I was feeling a bit hungry, so I stopped for lunch. That's when I noticed it was about 4pm. Man do I get sucked into this frame work. I figured since I was already bundled up, now would be a good time to test out the new camping stove I got. It worked quite well. So well in fact, I think I should rig up some sort of heat reflector system for my frame jig. That way, on cold days it could keep the frame warm. Just kidding... hmmm...

Afterwards, I checked alignment, and started doing some finish work on the welds. After doing that for a few more hours, it was time to call it quits and have a brew. And now that I've got some sleep and food in me, it's time to go to work. Ahhh... livin' the life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good Old Fashoned Elbow Grease

So I've been at a crossroads in my mind about how to do the miters on the chainstays. I don't have a fixture to hold them at the right angles I need them at, and I don't have any sort of mills or hole saws. Their odd shapes make it hard to check the angle and position of the miter with the same methods that I use to do the main triangle miters. I probably would have buckled already and paid out big for Anvil's chainstay fixture, but the Don is backed up and I don't know how long it would be before that ever came in. So long story short, I've been waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweat, trying to figure out how I'm going to do this next step. (just kidding... well not entirely)

But with a new sense of vigor, (Marc e-mailed, telling me how soon his first race was) I decided to just plow in and figure it out. The first step of attaching the dropouts worked out with a 2x4, cut in half, and carved out for the approximate angle and shape the chainstays would have. Then that whole thing was rubber-banded together, measured for proper position and geometry, and brazed on up. Actually worked out pretty well. But then the hard part came of the miter for the bottom bracket shell...

I was coming up with all sorts of wooden contraptions for ways of doing this, but none really worked. Finally, with that much needed kick in the pants from my good friend Marc, I decided the hell with it, I was going old school. People used to make these two-wheeled things without fixtures, mills, or even jigs. I was already ahead of game in that regards. So with my trusty file, and everything on the jig setup, I started a long task of seeing where it was hitting on the bottom bracket shell, taking some off of that point with a file, check again, file again, and repeat. I figured this would take forever. But it only took a few hours on each one. So long story with a short moral. Don't be afraid to dig in on a big task. It's probably not as bad as it looks from the outside.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wheel Building and Lasagna Eating

Last night Lt. Col. Austin Travis of Team Seagal hosted a lasagna cook-off. And I have to say, lasagna is about my favorite food. So the lady and I showed up with my family's recipe, only to go head to head with five different and amazing versions of this mana. A vegetarian version, a pork version, a spinach version, a cheesy version, and a sausage version. The winners: everyone who got to stuff themselves silly with these amazing dishes. Although Gino Fellino did eat the most - two servings of every variety. And Nico Toscani should get an honorable mention just because he held his down like a champ. (even after some strait moonshine, chased with 12oz of beer) I meant to get some pictures of the cook-off, but I never remember to get my camera out at social situations.

Today, Nico Toscani should be (may be?) breaking in his new wheelset I built him up. And just in case you can't tell by the pictures, yes, those are Chris King single speed disk hubs double butted up to Salsa Delgado Race rims. I have got to stop building nice wheelsets for people. Every time I get done, my own wheels look a little older, and a little less nice. But hey, they're still holding strong and true, so I need to quit my whining.

Now it's time to get some work on Marc's frame before I have to head into work.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smiling in the Cold

I got some work done on Marc's frame yesterday. The Dropouts are on the chainstays, and everything is filed smooth and pretty. I started on the miters for the BB shell, but without a fixture, it was going to be damn near impossible. So I started making one out of wood, but before I finished, I was getting wiped. So that's the next big step. And it will probably take a bit of time to get it right, but I'm hoping to work on it more than one day a week soon.

Aside from that, I had a great ride in today. Low to mid 20's when I left, but this time I wore the gear for it. I even had a bit of a tail wind, now and then. It was so nice, I figured out part of why I've had issues with my balaclava lately. If I smile, my cheeks push the fabric away from my face enough to get a bit of a draft near my eyes. I'm really going to have to work on that.

Oh yea, and happy Valentines day!

I've been thinking a lot about a career as a clothing mannequin lately.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day off at last!

As I sit here sipping my coffee, trying to wake up, I am once again reminded how people need more than one day off a week. It's been a long week at Bridgeton. There's so much to go through, sort, and organize to get to the point of being a well running shop. Mix that with a long commute and horrible weather, and it really takes it's toll. Although I do admit I've wimped out and borrowed the girlfriends' car a few times. Especially the day after my stupid cold ride. It was like someone blew out my pilot light. I'd get cold easier than normal, and it would take twice as long to get warm.

Anyhow, the week is up, and it's time to get some real work done. Marc's frame has been waiting patiently in the basement, wondering when it will be worked on again. And although there's a few things I have to do around the house, I am definitely getting some frame time in. Maybe this evening, when I'm too tired to get any good work done, I'll post some more pics of the progress.

I also wanted to thank my good buddies from "Team Seagal" for posting a link from their blog. I believe Mason Storm is next on the frame list, after I finish Marc's. Before I officially get my business license and sell these things, hard core riders like Mason will be punishing them to the brink of extinction. This is a guy who stripped out two track hubs just by pedaling so hard. He chews bottom brackets for breakfast. (don't ask how they taste) I figure if the frame can go head to head with guys like this, they're ready for action. Ok, time to file.

Post write edit:

Monday, February 11, 2008

The internet tried to kill me. (warning: long post)

So I've said many a time, that computers are great, as long as they work. But once they don't, I really hate them. Well, I should have known to never trust their advice without double checking. Of all people, I ended up being caught by relying on electronics more than common sense. Let me explain:

Saturday night, an arctic blast blew through the St. Louis area, dropping temps down into the mid 'teens. When I woke up Sunday morning, I checked to get my daily what to wear when I ride in report. Now I can't blame them for sure, I may have typed in the wrong zip code, clicked the wrong report, or possibly, they just had a typo. So instead of double checking when they said it was 43F (seemed quite warm for lately), I just figured "there's the mid-west for ya." Freezing one minute, warm the next. So I dressed a little warm for 43 degrees. (Arm and leg warmers, standard cycling shorts, jersey, and a wind proof vest, wind proof gloves, cycling cap underneath my helmet, and my Lake winter boots) I figured that way I could take off layers as I warmed up and hit more sun, and so I took off for my hours' ride to work. At first blast, it sure seemed colder than 43. But I was in the shade, I hadn't got moving yet, and maybe it was a heavy, damp, soak into your skin kind of 43. (I was already making excuses for the infallible After a few blocks, I decided our low neighborhood must have had the cold air settle in it, and once I got out, and got the heart rate going, I'd be fine.

Now here's where I'll interject with a quick story about wind proof clothes. It's amazing how low the temperature can be, and still stay comfortable when you're riding a bicycle at a good clip. Without any real sort of insulation, it just keeps your warmth from flying away with the wind long enough so you can keep it built up next to your skin. When you're really working, it's surprising how little insulation is too much, when it's underneath a wind shell. On the other hand, if you don't have enough insulation, it also takes a good amount of time before the real cold soaks through. Especially if your brain doesn't think it's actually cold.

So the further I went, for some reason I was getting colder, not warming up. My face and ears were just hurting (being the only real exposed skin), and I was starting to decide that they must have been wrong. That usually happens below freezing (for me), but maybe it was a damp windy above freezing that just felt cold. I mean, they said it was 43. It couldn't be that far off. Once I was getting to the outside of town, my fingers were starting to hurt, but luckily I had left a slightly warmer pair of gloves in my backpack because I had been too lazy to take them out. Plus a second set of gloves is never a horrible thing if say, the temperature gets lower than I was expecting by the end of the day for the ride home. So I stopped, put those on, and kept on going. After a couple more miles, my whole body was getting stiff. And at that point, I realized that my pain in the butt water bottle valve wasn't a pain. It was freezing shut. This was not at all 43 degrees.

Luckily I left my rain/wind jacket in my backpack, along with my helmet cover in case I hit any sprinkles. I put those on, and kept moving. That helped a bit, but every time I would stop, I was loosing heat that just didn't seem to come back. But every mile was another mile closer to heat. Finally though, I got to the point that even the five miles left were just going to be too much. I threw in the towel and called Brian my co-worker to tell him where I was. It went to voice mail... shit. I left a message telling him to take the road that I was taking, not the freeway, and hopefully I'd see him. Another mile and I couldn't keep going. I saw a gas station, and stopped in for a coffee. The lady was nice enough to let me stay inside and drink it. About the time I started thawing out, Brian called me wondering about the odd message I left. I told him about where I was, and what road to drive along. I didn't know exactly where, but I knew how long it would take him to get there. So a few minutes before that, I thanked the lady at the gas station, and hit the road again. I didn't want him to drive right by and miss me. This time, it only took a few blocks before I was cold again. Every few yards and I was looking over my shoulder hoping to see his happy yellow pickup. Finally he passed me, pulled over, and for the first time, I ditched out on the rest of my ride.

Later, after checking the weather, I found out that the high for the day was about 21F. So I was probably somewhere around 18-20 degrees when I was riding. It took all day to really warm up, and after getting home, I took a shot of whiskey, and took the hottest shower I've had in years. And when it was time to curl up in bed, this was probably the first night I didn't have to push Melissae as far away from me as I could to stay cool. So yea, the hard learned lesson for the day:

Desktop Computer ~$600
High speed internet ~$40/mo.
Time to start up said computer and check the wether: 5 min.
An old fashioned thermometer ~$5-$8, and it only takes one second to read it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

First Impressions: Uninformative Bliss

So as I finished up wrapping the handlebars on the new steed, I noticed the snow drizzle had stopped. Things were shaping up to work out just fine for a first ride to test out the geared road bike. But by the time I had the saddle adjusted, riding clothes on, and bottles filled, the drizzle had returned in the form of tiny pellet snow. It didn't matter, I was going for a test ride. After throwing on my fenders, I took off. The first few miles was pretty dry as all the precipitation was in those tiny face blasting pellets. Then it looked like it might even stop, only to return as a cold wet drizzle. Then small flakes took their place, only to warm and melt again. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the stuff was frozen or not, as it melted as soon as it touched anything solid. But it didn't matter, I was riding my bike: the frame I hand built, on wheels I hand built, assembled and tuned by hand... aside from drawing the tubes or machining the shifters, I can say this is about as satisfying and 'custom' of a bicycle that I can ride. This was going to be my first good hard test of the geometry, steering, handling, etc. Of course between the slick road to keep me from railing any turns, and the random direction gusts in the wind to keep me constantly fighting to hold a strait line, I ended up home with not much more of an idea about this bike than when I left. But I did have one hell of a smile on my face.

After a hot shower, I did get a little work done on Marc's frame before I started bonking. Both chainstays are slotted, shaped, and ready to weld on the dropouts. I do have to come up with a way to hold everything together at the right angle. I can't use the BB shell and frame jig like I did on my lugged frame, as there is nowhere for the chainstays to fit into. I will probably use the frame jig, and rig up something to hold the stays at the right angle and distance. I was hoping to get that step done yesterday, but by the time I had the slots done, I was shutting down. I don't know if the cold ride or the season in general is catching up with me, but I didn't even feel up to riding in today. So I'll take it easy, and hopefully nip it before I actually get sick.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My New Frame!

I got my new frame (geared road bike, click here for the build pics) back from paint yesterday. Because I had to work all day, I didn't get a chance to build it up. But I did Frame Save it, and install the headset. (note: the link takes you to Amazon, but that is just to get you a picture. Go to your local bike shop and have them get you some!) Let me tell you I am totally stoked on this one. There are a couple spots that the braze wasn't totally perfect, or I couldn't file two pieces absolutely flush with each other, and the paint made it slightly noticeable. (I swear it was smooth!) But you have to get pretty close to see it, so I'm OK with it being my own frame. A couple lessons learned. (1) I will probably make the lugs out of two fillet brazed tubes of proper diameters and angles. This would avoid any extra work trying to make the pieces lay flush, and getting the silver to fill any seams.. well seamlessly. (2) Never underestimate paints ability to show off a tiny imperfection that seems just fine when the frame is bare metal. Man that Mr. Paint is just one of those friends that will make you look good if you're on your game, or be the first to kick your kidneys and laugh if you fall down.

And on the topic of the paint. I'm pretty happy for the most part. I took it to Powder Coat Specialists, here in St. Louis. I wanted to keep it local, and I had heard that he does bicycle frames somewhat regularly. The color is exactly what I wanted: a not shiny black (he called it 'Satin Black') Also, there were some tough spots on the frame that he made look better than I would have even hoped for. (a couple tiny pin holes in some non structural welds like the lug add-ons that I couldn't file, and since it was non structural I didn't want to re-heat it just to get rid of them) There are however a few spots that are less than totally awesome. A (tiny) spot or two the paint is pretty thin, and you can start to see the metal underneath, and another (inconspicuous) spot, the paint seems to have small splatters. (which doesn't make sense to me when it's a powder coat, maybe they're tiny bubbles?) But you really do have to go searching for the imperfections, and for ~$100 bucks for the frame and fork, and a few day turnaround, I am fine with it. All in all, it really is pretty good for the money, and if you don't have a few hundred to drop on a paint job, I would call him up. Les is a great guy to deal with, and it really does look pretty good. But if you're really looking for that perfect paint for your classic or new masterpiece, there's just nothing like paying extra, and waiting (a few weeks?) for something like Joe Bell or Spectrum Powder Works.

I'm almost tempted to put a Batman logo on the headtube instead of my own. That, and I'm thinking I should have brazed on some fins onto the top back of the toptube, and detail the edges of the lugs with a red pinstripe. Oh, and I'd have to wear all black, put pointy things on my helmet, and maybe a cape!

....or not
For the most part, I'm pretty damn happy with how this whole thing turned out. And it only took me... yea, I don't want to think about it. Time to ride this thing.

I think the hexagons in the bottom bracket shell are one of those nice details that bring everything together... of course nobody will ever see this. But hey, I know it's there. (and yes, I know this picture is upside down, so is the frame)

Yea, this is where I need some bat fins! And maybe a jet engine sticking out the back.

And of course, a chain hanger. I do believe in these things, and if you ever get a frame from me, it will have one. Sorry, that's one choice you don't get to make. (except maybe for a mountain bike, I guess I could let those slip)

Ok, enough of this. Time to build this baby up and hopefully the rain will let up enough to go for a ride today.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Snow more

We got a good snow fall the other day. (Thursday) Somewhere around 9 inches in the city. Which for St. Louis, is a lot. I had to run some errands, and on one stretch of road, I saw three pileups. First a three car crash, then a two car crash that turned into a four car crash when someone slid into the cop car that was blocking traffic for the two cars. They knocked his bumper off, and pushed him into the other two cars. Then another car that slid off the road. I'm not trying to be mean here, but man, some people really have no clue when the pavement isn't warm and dry. But, just like the mid-west, it started melting pretty soon, and today was mid 60's, and the white stuff is snow more. (ja ja ja)

My frame is painted and ready, but I won't be able to pick it up until tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have it built up by Wednesday, and take it for a ride on my day off. They were only able to do a solid color, so I have to decide if it's worth masking off and painting the lugs like I was going to have them do. Either way, I'm stoked to have it done and be able to get some good road testing/abusing/commuting miles on it.

Marc's frame is coming along about as good as to be expected for how things have been lately. The front triangle's miters are all done, and now I'm getting ready to braze the dropouts to the chainstays. After they're done, then I can do the chainstay miters for the bottom bracket. I got just about done with the miters for the dropouts, when I decided that there needed to be something different. The front fork is going to come from his crashed Fuji. (as it was about the only thing salvaged from the wreck) Plus, it was a carbon fork that he didn't have to buy, the geometry was going to be pretty much the same, so why not. But aside from the fact that it is going to be a fat carbon fork on a steel frame, the look was just different. So... I did a little something with the chainstays to make the dropouts kind of have the same motif going on:

Ok, so it's not exactly the same, but hey. I think it's pretty cool, and it should be at least closer to matching now.

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