Friday, October 23, 2009

Dropping Out

Well Burning at the Bluff was pretty awesome. My team ended up 9th in our class, and 36th overall. This, despite about 7 cold ass creek crossings per lap, and two guys dropping out before their third lap. (if you want a more thorough race report, I refer you to Team Seagal) But the point was to do my three laps, have a good time, and to get excited about getting back into racing. If you know me, or read this blog, you may know this past year has had some setbacks. Breaking my collar bone, surgery, bronchitis/nasal infection, getting married, and going to Germany, are some of the things that broke my momentum and my motivation to train hard for something. But after finally getting back into it (even if I wasn't super fast), I'm totally excited again. And Greg, I owe you one hell of a PBR for spanking my lap times!

Aside from that, I've got the chainstays mated to their respective sliding dropouts at just the right angle for 650b tire clearance. Now a couple miters, some braze-ons, and the main frame will be ready for assembly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Steel Kickin'

This fork has taken me a bit longer than I was hoping, but I do think it turned out pretty well. There were a couple times that I ended up doing second steps first, and then it would take longer to go back and do the first steps. For example, brazing the whole fork together, before putting the caps on the fork legs. It was harder to match up the exact angles, not to mention hard to get the file in there to make the miters as well as clean it up post braze. None of it has to do with the end result, just the fact that it may have taken me twice as long to get there. But all in all, I think my first go at a segmented fork turned out pretty well.

Aside from that, I'm officially on a three-man team to do "Burnin' at the Bluff" - a twelve hour mountain bike race. This will be my first race in three years, and I'm in no peak performance, but I'm hoping to catch the bug again, and make a serious (for me) solo attempt in '10. I've realized that - for me - having races to train for keep me motivated to ride more, harder, and generally keep me inspired to make these machines with as much attention to their use as to their aesthetic. As much as I love the renaissance of making and refurbishing "old steel frames," I really do believe that there is still room for steel in the cutting edge technology of the bicycle world. With modern steel, as well as modern components, even steel framed bikes can get down into the 15-16lb range.

Not to say that there is no use for other materials. However, with the market pushing those materials to the limits of weight and strength, I think the pendulum must swing a bit back the other way. This past year, it seems that I have seen a good number of bicycle companies making something just able to handle a 130lb rider coasting along on a smooth flat road, and no more. In the ever increasing push for lighter weight, frames must be made stiffer to not deflect enough to break. Aside from sometimes having a "dead" ride quality, that extra stiffness can lead to extra fragility, or brittleness. Many companies are now pushing the "high-mod" carbon as a way to edge out the competitors. Basically, that means making the carbon stiffer, so you can use less of it, thus saving weight. However stiffening up carbon makes it more brittle. And using less of it doesn't help either. Breaking seat masts, seat stays, head tube joints, and even top tubes being crushed when hit with a knee or a chamois covered posterior - after slipping when trying to clip in - all come in as things I've seen in '09.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome someone with enough cash can walk in and buy a bike that doesn't meet the weight limit of the UCI regulations. I have heard a few stories of pro's having to go as far as gluing on weights, or even dropping an extra chain down the seat tube to meet those regulations. But keep in mind why the regulations were invented in the first place. To keep things from being pushed so far that they were no longer reliable, putting the rider at risk. Plus, when putting extra strength and stiffness in certain areas is being marketed as making you go faster, why spend that weight in lead weights, instead of making the frame or other components strong enough to handle the rigors of racing. Again, I'm not totally against, making crazy light bikes. It's pretty cool riding something less than 14 lbs. But if I'm not getting paid a salary, and getting a couple free frames every season, it doesn't make much sense for someone like me to ride one.

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