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Friday, September 18, 2020

Settling... For a beautiful custom titanium and carbon di2 bike. And also cutting the steerer.

 I've written about my selling spree, and even about my mixed feelings about listing my custom TiCycles bike. The issue was that I was riding my other bikes, and not the TiCycles. So selling it seemed the right thing to do.

I priced it at a premium, varying the price between $3500 and $5000, and got two very serious buyers. The funny thing was, though, both times as it came close to selling, I felt significant regret followed by relief when the sale fell through.

Several weeks ago I was out for a ride on this wonderful bike, and started thinking about what I'd do when it sold. I'd probably buy a new frame from Habanero, exactly equivalent to my the old Habanero road frame on which my TiCycles frame was based. I'd put on Red eTap, carbon fork and bars.. All in all I was envisioning a sweet build. And then I looked down at my TiCycles and realized it was already a sweet build.

When I got home from my ride I deleted my Craigslist posting, and I've ridden the TiCycles quite a few times since (some of that is because I bent the derailleur hanger on my Litespeed).

So as silly as it sounds, I'm settling. As long as I'm settling, I decided to finish up a project I started 4 years ago. This is the bike as I originally received it:


I quickly swapped out the included generic carbon fork with an Enve. Just for vanity purposes.


Look at the length of that steerer! I actually built up with that initially.


I honestly don't remember trimming that, but apparently I did. But I still left an inch of steerer for later adjustability. This is how I've been riding the bike for the last several years.


After my decision to keep the bike, I decided to finally deal with that ugly chimney. It's always bothered me, but I just didn't see any good reason to cut it off.

Of course you can't cut a steerer without Park Tools. The hacksaw comes with a blade intended for cutting softer material like carbon fiber.

And of course the hacksaw guide. To be honest, I kinda winged it on this cut. Didn't measure especially carefully, which in hindsight was pretty stupid. I also didn't do the obvious step of taping the stem to get a cleaner cut.

But the cut turned out pretty clean anyway. I'm happy with that.


Enough steerer left for the recommended small spacer on top of the stem This is to ensure that the stem's bolts clamp a little further away from the end of the steerer. I'll probably buy a carbon fiber spacer to replace the titanium spacer currently on there.


Not a great picture; no bike looks good with aerobars on. Especially if those aerobars are on 50mm risers. But this looks better than it used to with that massive chimney above the stem.

I rode this bike back-to-back with my old Habanero Rando bike recently.

It was an interesting comparison. The TiCycles rides much "taller". When I don't ride it for a while, I sorta feel like I'm going to fall over the front of the bars on the TiCycles. After a few miles of course it feels great again. Meanwhile my old Habanero feels like the touring bike it is. Like an easy-chair. But then look at that stack on the Habanero! Perhaps I have another steerer to cut in my future!


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Selling

Lots of posts here about selling.  Starting in August we need to agree to post more about riding.

Front was the "Flamme Rouge" setup.

 Just sold my Hed Jet 4/6 wheelset

I had these Hed wheels from many years ago, and like so much in my bike closet they were a functional Ship of Theseus - with all parts replaced, are they the same set I originally bought?  It was a nice riding wheelset that looked good when mounted.  But:
  • I'm not riding any rim brake bikes these days;
  • I had broken a spoke on the rear;
  • They were a 10-speed hub, which doesn't work on anything I'm riding.
Also, I have too much stuff, which is kind of the general point of July 2020 at Huffman Bicycle Club.

I listed them for $250 and sold them for $200 plus a six-pack of Fat Tire.  Joe, who bought them, is a really nice guy.
C2 - Hed went to wider rims before much of the industry.  By "wide" we are talking 19mm internal width.

I disclosed all the flaws

To the extent they weren't obvious, I disclosed the flaws.  The real problem was the broken spoke.  I put a new one in, but it needs tightening and truing.  I personally never continue with wheels when the spokes start to go.  No reason except that the cost of wheel upkeep is greater than the cost of new wheels.  If you look around you can find a set of Heds with basically no use for under $1000.  Starting down the road of taking these into the shop on a regular basis, Joe may find himself at $1000 in a few years time.

So should I have sold to Joe in the first place?  Am I just passing junk on to the next guy?  I'm inclined to think that a full and fair disclosure, which I make in all cases, is all that is required. 

But what gets me is if Sam wanted to buy these, I'd probably tell him "keep looking."  Didn't Joe deserve the same?

e-Thirteen 12-speed cassette

UPDATE with short ride review

Day 1 didn't work because the battery was dead in my Eagle RD.  (Had a nice ride on the road bike, however.)  Yesterday I rode the 3T with new e-Thirteen 12-speed, 9-46 cassette installed.

An aside about tuning (not about the cassette):  A few miles of working out the tuning with Sram's microshift tuning was surprisingly easy.  One question:  isn't this something an electronic derailler can accomplish on its own?  Wouldn't technology permit a new cassette install with auto-tuning?  I am imagining a "tuning mode."  I put bike on stand.  Start tuning mode.  I stand there and rotate pedals.  Derailler auto-shifts through 12 cogs a few times and makes the necessary adjustments. 

Once tuned, the cassette worked quite smoothly.  The shifts feel a touch harsher than a Shimano Ultegra, my ordinary comparator.  But crisp.  The cassette pulls smoothly in 11 of the 12 cogs.  (I never did work out the tuning in the second-to-inside - 39 tooth - cog.  Inside and third both work well, so I think this is a question of fiddling.)

Compared to the PG-1230:
  • PG-1230: 11,13,15,17,19,22,25,28,32,36,42,50
  • e-Thirteen 9-46:  9,10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,33,39,46
This cassette eats up the small jumps at the very top end (1-tooth difference 9-10.)  That means both this and the PG-1230 are 2-2-2-2-3-3 in the range that is primarily being used for road riding. 

Comparing the Sram 10-50, which is really the like-to-like comparison:
  • XG-1275: 10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,32,36,42,50
  • e-Thirteen 9-46:  9,10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,33,39,46
Jumps at 1-2-2-2-2-3-3-4-5-6-7 and 2-2-2-2-3-3-4-4-4-6-8.

The real difference seems to be at the low end, where Sram goes 4-4-6-8 and e-Thirteen goes 4-5-6-7.  I would think that would make moving into lower gears a more natural feel on this cassette, with the range not changing dramatically all at once.

Maybe so.  I did have use for 11 of the 12 cogs, only shifting into 9 teeth once to see how it felt.  How it felt was heavy, because I was on flat ground.  More rides needed!

In short, for the purpose - higher top end, higher bottom end, slightly closer shifts, lighter weight - the e-Thirteen has promise.  I see it is now $195 at Jenson USA (as of 29 July), so that's something.

ORIGINAL POST RESUMES:  Swapping cassettes

The Sram PG-1230 11-50 cassette that came from the factory on the Exploro has not pleased me at all.  It is heavy, gearing is a low 4-1 top end (when matched with the 44-tooth 1x on the bike), and the  bottom end at 50 teeth is lower than I need.  So the PG-1230 will stay for real trail use, until I upgrade this wheelset to a lighter-weight 650b from Hunt and the cassette to a lighter-weight 10-50 or so, but I've been looking for a better option to mount on my Hunt wheelset for general road and dirt.

Sram PG-1230 cassette came stock on the $5900 Force/Eagle e-Tap build.  Hmmm.

(What's wrong with too low at the bottom end?  It is easy to take advantage of this and find yourself climbing at 4 mph a hill you might otherwise stand and climb at 8 mph.  It also creates big jumps, which is annoying if your primary experience is riding 11-25 11 spd cassettes.)

Frustrating thing about Sram's offerings: the Eagle derailler here, which integrates fine with the Force gravel group, is not effective at shifting the Force 10-33 cassette.  Although a 10-36 is apparently out (though not available for purchase as best as I can tell), that also is supposed to be a bad fit with the Eagle RD.  All this means there is *nothing* in the Sram line that bridges the road/mountain gap.  (Shimano has done this better with the GRX group, which shifts 32 tooth and 46-tooth cassettes with equal aplomb.)

Failed experiment

I nonetheless ordered the Sram Force 10-33 cassette, it was wonky with this derailler, I sent it back to Backcountry. To Backcountry's credit they issued the refund.  Backcountry's return policy is ambiguous to say the least.  Used and undamaged gear can come back for store credit.  What about an item, like a cassette, which when used is necessarily damaged?  Backcountry's policy continues, "we will not accept the return of products damaged due to negligence or abuse."  I was not negligent and did not abuse the Force-1270 cassette, so I sent it back, and BC refunded me.


What else?

Back to the drawing board.  There seemed to be two options: 
  • Rotor makes a 12-speed cassette at 10-39 for a mean $385.  I have not yet spent >200 on a cassette - actually, not sure I've gone over $100 before - so this was a really tough pill to swallow.
  • e-Thirteen makes a 12-speed cassette at *9-46 for $299.  Marked down to $199.  With a 11-12 speed conversion kit for Sram.  
I went with e-Thirteen.  The reviews were great, the price was right, and the gearing was pretty good.  After all, 44-9 is a higher top end than 53-11, my prior highest high gear.  My drive-train was already 12-speed, so I didn't need the conversion kit, but the cassette without the kit was $10 more at $209.  (That's a computerized pricing algorithm for you if there ever was one.)

Now to mount on my Hunt 700c wheelset, which I envision serving the "road" function for this all-rounder of a bicycle.  The e-Thirteen technology is a little unsettling at first.  This cassette takes an XD driver.  The cassette is in two pieces.  Piece 1 fits by pressing into place and tightening a 3mm allen bolt to hold it.



You then add the outer section, the remaining 9 sprockets, which tighten to attach using a chain whip.
10-speed chain whip on 12-speed cassette.
That attachment is secured with another allen bolt.

1 nm is a little odd when there is loctite on the bolt.  I am past 1nm just getting the thing to turn!

Bolts came pre-loctite'd, of course.  Given the generally linear forces on a cassette, one shouldn't worry.  But what if one of those allen bolts comes loose in the chain?

Cassette looks good installed and bike looks good with road wheels in place.

With the 9-speed cog I either needed to drop a link or to drive the derailler adjustment screw in a little.  I did the latter.  Shifting is pretty smooth on the stand.  Hope to ride today to get a fuller picture.

Friday, July 24, 2020

To All The Bikes I've Loved Before

It's been a great Spring to sell old bikes on Craigslist. A local bike shop that normally has 2000 bikes in stock currently reports having about 200. Online retailers are similarly short of stock. Shortages are a great opportunity for market forces to kick in. Max' and my bike fleets represent slack in the system, and we've been only too willing to help our fellow cyclists by filling demand.

Tonight I went through Strava retiring bikes I've recently sold, so I figured it's as good a time as any to reminisce, both over bikes now gone and bikes that deserve to be ridden more.

Not every bike in the garage is shown below. Max' old Cannondale, about which both he and I have rhapsodized in the past, is now a wall ornament. Likewise a Mavic KAS a friend raced on in the 80s.

Out

Focus Paralane


The Focus Paralane was the bike that should have been my main steed for the next 10 years. This really is an outstanding bike, and I'm very pleased to say that its new owner is riding it more than I did. Over the year that I owned it, according to Strava, I put 480 miles on it.

The problem was, for whatever reason, I found myself riding other bikes more. And at the end of the day you have to follow your heart.

Pivot Les


Ah, the Pivot Les. I agonized over buying this bike, torn between it or the Yeti ARC. Again, a great bike. This one suffered from the mail-order bike issue; it just never fit quite perfectly. The reach was a bit short. Moreover when I'm riding with friends I'm usually on a full-suspension bike. Strava puts this bike at about 500 miles, which sounds right.

Yeti SB66c

This one was hard to sell. This wasn't my first "nice" mountain bike (that honor belongs to a lime-green Specialized Enduro), but this was certainly the first nice mountain bike that I rode a lot. My primary bike for 3 years, I eventually replaced it with a very similar Yeti SB5.

Realistically I'm just not going to ride this bike anymore. I love remembering the great rides I've had, but the garage space can be used for better purposes.

Specialized Fatboy


What can I say. This is a fatbike. Max found two of these for sale in Durango, and if his recollection about the price is correct, it was a whale of a deal. This got some use on winter rides, and my experience was that it handled packed snow much better than friends' mountain bikes.

The problem is that in Oregon there just isn't that much opportunity to use a fatbike. At least not where I live. If I end up in a true winter climate, I'm sure I'll get another. But this bike was just depreciating.

Surly Cross-check 1x10


This bike was built around a frame I got on Craigslist, and built up mostly around parts I had in the garage, with an old downtube shifter and some old Neuvation wheels. It was my first attempt at road 1x, and the initial try was a disaster. I didn't truly internalize the necessity of narrow/wide chainrings so the bike constantly derailed.

Once I put on a narrow/wide, the bike was actually pretty darn nice. The issue? It was too small. My other cross-check is a 61cm, and this one was a 59. It made a good rain bike, but if I rode further than 30 miles I'd get a sore back from being too squished. I sold it to a 6-foot tall woman who used to be a bike gymnast.

On The Block

There are a couple bikes that are either already listed or will be soon.

TiCycles


Some time ago I took my Habanero Road bike into TiCycles (a local fabricator) to have them drill it for internal Di2 wiring. They found a small crack in the downtube, so of course I decided the best thing to do was to order a custom Ti frame that matched my Habby's geometry. This was the result.

This is the most "premium" build I've ever had on a bike. Custom Ti frame, Enve fork and bars, Specialized suspension post, carbon seat. Dura-Ace wheels, and Di2 drivetrain. Really a great build. The bike seriously rides like a dream.

I really like it. The problem? I just don't love it. My real problem is that the top tube is too low, leaving too much head-tube sticking up. The head tube is also larger diameter than the other tubing which bugs me. These are in no way flaws, it's just not as clean as I want.

I nearly sold this bike a few weeks ago. The buyer was very interested but ultimately flaked. What I found interesting is that I was relieved he backed out. I've still got it on Craigslist, but it's priced at a premium (which is to say, priced at what I think it's worth, which is a lot). If it doesn't sell, I won't be disappointed. If it does, I'll be bummed but I'll survive.

Pinnacle Arkose 4



This was my first attempt at a gravel bike. I bought it in 2016 and it quickly supplanted the Cross-Check 1x10 as the winter/rain bike. It's still a good bike, which is why I still have it. I'm on the fence about whether or not to sell it.

In The Rotation

This isn't a purge so much as a culling. Thus the garage still has a good sampling of bikes that I ride regularly.

Yeti SB5


Bummer that I don't have a better picture of this bike, but this'll have to do. This bike replaced my Yeti SB66c. Which is funny because it's almost identical, but with slightly larger wheels. It's a great bike, and I expect this will be my go-to mountain bike for the foreseeable future. Which means, until I find another one.

Litespeed Ci2


This is a ridiculous bike and I love it. I bought two similar framesets from an online store that specialized in unused team frames. They cost something like $450 apiece. I wish I'd bought out their entire stock.

I don't know if this is my fastest bike, but I ride fastest on it. It looks gawdy, but even moreso when wearing deep wheels

Maybe someday I'll cut the fork, but at this point it's aggressive enough for me.

Surly Cross-Check Fixie


This is the only Surly I've bought already built up. It was a $1000 steal from Universal Cycles. In a year when I'm actually riding a lot, I'll ride this bike all Spring and it gets me into shape by summer. I'm not a huge "fixie person", like not a messenger or anything. But I do really get into the rhythm of cranking up a steep hill on a 42x14 gear ratio.

Habanero Road


This is the original. Well, my original. Once I graduated from Max' Cannondale I bought this bike, originally Sheldon Brown's "Century Special". Over the years it had several different incarnations, finally finding a permanent home on my Tacx Neo. This bike has tens of thousands of miles on it. It's worth just about $0 to anyone else, but as a trainer bike that fits me better than any other, it's invaluable.

Habanero Rando


Once I started riding brevets I decided to replace my Habanero Road with a more touring oriented bike. Naturally I turned to Habanero and this was the result. It's a different geometry than the road Habanero but somehow this bike owns my best brevet times for all distances from 100K to 1200K.

Like the other Habanero, this one doesn't have much value to anyone else. Many years of reflective tape refuse to come off, and the reality is it's a cheap chinese Ti frame. I haven't ridden it in a few years, but I'm hatching a plan to upgrade it and ride it again. Not sure yet if it'll supplant the Arkose as winter bike. We'll see.

3T Exploro


Max and I have written quite a bit about the 3T Exploro of late. It's a good bike that's intended to replace pretty much everything else. I think Max is a bit more enamored than I, but I can't deny its charms. It's a fast, comfortable road bike and a fast, capable gravel bike.

I don't know if this is a permanent fixture in my garage. It has some definite shortcomings that are perhaps inevitable in a low-volume "boutique" bike. At the same time, I can't fault it's capabilities.






Monday, July 20, 2020

Paralane for sale - New Photos

Sam taught me about the "pop" functionality in Google photos.  So as I relisted my Paralane with a price bump rather than cut, I maxed out the pop on each photo.  Some of these look pretty sweet.

UPDATE:  This bike sold for $2000.  Probably about right for a bike that I got for $2500 brand new 18 months ago.  Do note that when I listed for $2000 the best offer I got was $1700.  When I listed for $3300 a guy came in at $2000.  Plug this into the algorithm for next time!

This bike is listed on DC Craigslist for $3000.  It is worth it.  Find me through that post or respond in the comments.











Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Post-Padding

Looking over the history of this blog, I see we posted:
  • 58 times in 2013,
  • 51 times in 2014,
  • 38 times in 2015,
  • 19 times in 2016,
  • 5, 6, and 1 respectively in the next three years.
We are at 11 so far in 2020 and this makes 12.



I am amused by the consistency of the decay in blogging, presumably a pattern repeated across most sole- or few-author publications.

But I am also intrigued by the seven-year cycle, repeated in amorous relationships (or so some say) and, in my case, in athletic commitment.  Perhaps in 2020 I am cycling back around to caring a large bit about this sport, rather than paying attention in passin.

Or maybe it's COVID-boredom.  Time will tell.

New Craigslist Strategy

I hate selling on Craigslist.  Who nickel-and-dimes over a $30 bike part anyway?

So I started listing the parts bin, priced as barters for beer.  I'll take $$ too of course, but the idea was some guy would bring a 12-pack, leave with a seatpost, and we could discuss bikes over a beer in the meantime.

So far a modestly successful strategy.  Have had a few nice conversations with guys rebuilding old steel frames - one of whom got a great deal on some Grand Bois tires, another took away a pair of 27" wheels, and a third took the truing stand. 

The list says "barter for Fat Tire," but I'm having success with guys bringing random local microbrews as well.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Harrisonburg VA Gravel and Not-so-Gravel

Harrisonburg VA is a college town that is home to James Madison Univ. and Eastern Mennonite Univ. and is launching point for all sorts of Appalachian adventures.  I knew it best for Luigi's Pizza, an unparalleled post-rock climbing dinner in the mid-'00s.  It may still be? I hope so.


Town feels a little like Durango, CO - you know, if the Rockies were <5K feet tall.

My last trip to Harrisonburg was for the 2018 Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, 100-plus-a-few miles of all sorts of fun in early fall.  I was way out of shape (still am) and the climbing knocked me around a bit.


Others getting knocked around on climbs in the Harrisonburg environs.  Kudos to the Gran Fondo for making these virtual backgrounds available in full size on the website.

The Alpine Loop event includes some good dirt, with one long steep gravel climb followed by an exciting rutted and muddy descent.  D__ waited a long time for me atop that one.  Not too shy to say I waited a long time for him at the bottom of the descent - after passing the photographer's pickup truck.

Dirt road climb.  It got steeper.  Kudos to the Gran Fondo for making these virtual backgrounds available in full size on the website.


So when D__ proposed we get back in the saddle by meeting in Harrisonburg I was all in.  Turns out there are some epic gravel-ish rides out of there.  And I have this new 3T, you realize.

Rocktown Bicycles keeps a page listing gravel routes starting and finishing at its shop.   These range from the casually named "Morning Gravel," a 17-mile offering that looks like a lovely way to start the day - to "The Big Spruce," 145+ miles with >15K elevation gain.  Oy vey.  And, plenty to keep coming back for.

D__ and I started with "Harris-Roubaix," a marvelous name for a ride if I ever heard one.  Here:  https://www.strava.com/routes/12620059.  After a few annoying miles getting out of H-burg proper, we were on small country roads through farms maintained by members of the region's Mennonite population.  Roads were small, cars were few, and maybe 40% of the route outside of the H-burg metropolis was pleasant gravel, only occasionally washboarded.

Basic details (Garmin Edge 500):
  • 32.3 miles,
  • 3035' ascent.
  • 2:19 at
  • 14 mph.
This picture was not on the gravel portion.  I couldn't be bothered to pull the phone out at other times.

D__'s new Open W.I.D.E.  Nicely built rig, even if it lacks Square-o tubes.
 After a bottle change at the cars downtown, we headed back out for "Typical Morning Ride."  Here:  https://www.strava.com/routes/11140484.  Another nice spin, some of the same roads (which of course is what happens with a "best hits" list from the same start-end points).  Too much tarmac for our liking, but with roads lightly trafficked not an unpleasant ride at all.

Basic details (Garmin Edge 500):
  • 22.9 miles, 
  • 1827' ascent.  Only descended 1824 though.  
  • Took us 1:40 for 
  • 13.8 mph.
How did the 3T Exploro perform? Largely, perfect.  The bike continues to roll and to handle like a road bike.  It does not feel snappy climbing, but I think that's probably operator error - seriously.  It feels downright quick in the drops on the flats or on rollers, so my strongest guess is that my fitness is just not there for the 17% grade at the end of Harris-Roubaix, or a number of similar sharp rises between the two rides.

Not sure if it is the aero frameset or my superior tuck or my superior girth, but I descended meaningfully faster than D__.  That's not an entirely new thing and I also note his 46cm flared Enve bars - not an aggressive tuck position in the best of circumstances.

I'm getting a creak in the bottom bracket.  Surely that's just a tightening job, but it's a little irritating <1000 miles in.

D__ was on the Open W.I.D.E. in the Yeti-blue paint job, with Shimano GRX Di2 and 57mm Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires.  A really nice looking setup and he raves about the ride.