Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bike Check 1, 2

By their very nature I don't like bike checks much. (I know, I know, you're shocked.) All you need to do is look at the latest Rob Wise one on the Ride site to see why. His bike is more or less a rolling Volume/Demolition catalog (there are all of six parts that come from other companies—and that includes the chain and the headset). No real surprises. And given that Rob was on MirraCo less than two months ago, it's not like he's had much time to develop an affinity for any particular parts . You could put him on a $250 complete and he'd still kill it.

That's not to say that I've always felt this way, or that all bike checks are useless. I still remember a Joe Rich one from 2000 where he admitted to still running 45/16 because he said "a $250 hub? I'm happy with what I've got." To which I said: "Joe Rich would have to pay retail for a cassette hub?" But that's neither here nor there. I also have distinct memories of an RL Osborn one in BMX Action back in the '80s where he talked about removing the dustcap from the non-drive side of his coasterbrake hub and having the arm welded to the cone for better performance. Something like that. Of course he also had a "No Bozos" sticker on the back of his number plate. (Later, RL went on to have the worst bike check in recorded history where he claimed to be riding a box-stock Bully. The fact that Bully was his newest venture probably had nothing to do with it. Then again, even that might not have been as embarassing as this.)

Judging from several BMX messageboards out there (and bike websites in general—we're not the only ones), however, the humble bike check is appreciated by many. One in particular contains page after page of pristine bikes, by which future internet BMX historians will be able to determine that riders in the year 2008 loved $35 Kevlar-beaded tires, hated seatposts, and spent more time photographing their bikes than riding them.

I can't help but think the bikecheck is a first cousin to the ever-popular "what did you wear today?" streetwear messageboard thread, as they both predominantly involve young males showing off to one another. (They also both involve a lot of amazement over people being able to match primary colors. Yeah, wow, I could do that in first grade.) I've dubbed this the "gay peacock" theory. Because in nature it always seems like it's the guy who's showing off. But hell, they don't do it to each other. And at least the peacocks do it to get laid.

All that said, every once in a while there is a bike check that forces me to reconsider all of my crotchety preconceptions. One that makes me say "damn, maybe bike checks aren't so bad after all." This is one of those bike checks. I am in utter awe.

(Although there are still unanswered questions. Like, who rides this beast? Why were those massive headtube gussets necessary? If you're going to ride a 45-pound Solid, why not run pegs—given the Dirt Monsters, is it some sort of an end of the world TRAILS bike? And is that Shadow Slim seat someone's idea of a sick joke?)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wide Or Die

The other night, bored by whatever NBA playoff game was on, I decided to go on the Dan's Comp website and see how many two-piece bars were available that were at least eight inches tall and 28 inches wide. I believe there were 22. And that's just different models—if you break it down further with colorways and such, there are probably something like 80 different variations available. And that doesn't even include bars like the FBM Ape Hangers and the Animal Sway Bars and the Sunday “Forumph” bars which weren't on Dan's for whatever reason. So it’s probably more like 100.

All of these bars are direct descendants of the venerable S&M Slam Bar (above, itself still available in eight different variations from the same parent company, if you count S&M race bars as well as offerings from Metal and Fit), which itself was just a beefed-up version of the even-more-venerable GT Pro Bars. In the '90s, if you wanted a large two-piece bar, you had a choice: Slam Bars or Strip Bars. You could just flip a coin. Now you need some Dungeons and Dragons die.

But more choices must be better! Right?

Well, there sure are more options these days. Bars differ (albeit slightly) in upsweep and backsweep, even in width and height. (The 8.25"x29" Grand Slam and Fit Sky High bars exist just in case Gary Ellis starts racing again—although I think he'll be disappointed by modern seatpost choices.) Backsweep ranges all the way from 10.5 degrees to 12.75, and upsweep from zero degrees all the way to 2 (the Tree Branch Bars actually have a four-degree option, and the Sunday Forumphs are four degrees as well). So yeah, they're different. But only so much.

(Also, a bit off-topic, but are we about done with the cutesy handlebar names? We've had Slam Bars, Strip Bars, Gay Bars, Dive Bars, Nudie Bars, Sleazy Bars, Wack Bars, Prison Bars, Cell Bars, Juice Bars, Milk Bars, Karaoke Bars, Holy Cross Bars, Iron Cross Bars, Hot Bars, Turn Bars, Candy Bars, Chocolate Bars, Mitzvah Bars, Variety Bars, Mustache Bars, Love Handles, Bar:E:Os, Fubars, Space Bars, Glam Bars, Electro AND Elektro Bars, Scenester Bars, the Vinnie Bar(barino)s, Regal Beagle Bars, Sissy Bars, Chicago Bars, and—God help us—the Roseanne Bar. What did I forget?)

So anyway, when is a choice not a choice? When pretty much every "big bar" available may as well just be a Slam Bar with different stickers (and heck, some, like the Fit and Metal bars, most likely are exactly that). And when every company decided "hey, our team riders and all those kids are riding big bars—we'd better make some!" And sell them to…who exactly? At least Sunday bars will save you some money at the powdercoaters if you want to match them to your Wave frame. I can’t help but think there are going to be a heck of a lot of leftover big bars being sold on clearance when the pendulum swings the other way and small/low bars come back in vogue. Oh, that’s right, they won’t because big bars give you more control. My bad.

(I also find it funny that every company under the sun makes a big two-piece bar, but hardly anyone offers four-piece bars. Sure, they’re heavier than two-piece, but a lot of people run Bob Bars anyway. You’d think a bigger Castillo/AD Bar would be a no-brainer for S&M. Guess not.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Turning Titanium Into Garbage

I would love to hear a rational explanation for these pegs.

Let me see if I have this right: KHE (who, in case you forgot, are also in the process of bringing us the one-piece bar/stem combo and the baseball seat) developed a plastic/fiberglass peg called the Alchemy. Relatively cheap, apparently slid on everything. Yet somehow they decided that the plastic compound wasn't durable enough for street riding, so they made a titanium-sleeved "street" version.

This is odd because no one even makes titanium pegs anymore. Odyssey, Macneil and DK all discontinued theirs. Heck, you can't even find ti sprockets or bolt kits anymore. Remember RNC? Titanium is prohibitively expensive, grinds slowly, and wears down quickly on rough surfaces. What's next? Gold- and platinum-sleeved versions? Ones with $20 bills glued to them? Apparently there will be a steel version, which actually DOES make a fair amount of sense if you want light, inexpensive pegs that still feel 'normal'. But the ti version just seems like an awful waste of money and material. Is there a titanium glut in Germany that I'm not aware of? Is this what we're doing with the remaining F117s?

It would make more sense to me if they made a titanium-cored peg with a replaceable composite outer sleeve (kind of like this but different). That way you ruin the cheap part.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Quiz: Standard Edition

Apparently the guys from Zeal Distribution in the UK made a trip to Iowa to tour Standard's new in-house production facilities. They posted photos and a little recap of the trip here. Standard's frames used to be manufactured by Waterford Precision Cycles in Wisconsin, which is recognized as one of the finest framebuilders in the world. Of course Waterford's road and mountain frames retail for a lot more than $400, so it's probably more cost-effective for Standard to make their own frames and forks. They're undoubtedly excited about this new chapter in their history. Maybe a little TOO excited.

Standard's prototype race fork features stylistically sculpted dropouts that incorporate the Standard logo. When you look at them, what do you see?

a) Company pride

b) Fine worksmanship

c) Substantial weight savings

d) A pair of stained glass windows

e) An enormous lawsuit waiting to happen

Standard's new frame dropout also has their logo all over it. Fourteen of them. Obviously someone in Iowa loves their new CNC machine. (It will be highly disappointing if their new frames aren't covered in exactly 63 logos.) The question is, how many of these new dropouts would be required to make one old STA dropout?

a) 2

b) 4

c) 10

d) 27

e) 63

The in thing to do these days is to hang your newest frame like a prize bass in order to show how unbelievably light it is. (The fact that Standard is making a lighter frame in-house than any that Waterford made for them is awesome, and by awesome I mean completely terrifying.) From what I gather, this is a prototype of Rick Moliterno's signature frame, which he's seen holding in another photo. One has to wonder what it will be called:

a) LTA

b) Lighty

c) Boss 4.19

d) Eleanor

e) Suck It, Moeller

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Simple Weight-Saving Tip

Let's say, for argument's sake, that you're a 15-year-old kid just getting into BMX. A little late, but these things happen. And let's also say that you have seemingly endless resources (let's call them "mom and dad"). So you build up the perfect bike—picking it out piece-by-piece, with "ultralight" this and "XLT" that. No pegs, no brakes, no problem! "Mom, can you strip my Pivotal?"

Yet when you finally get it together and get out into the sun, something still doesn't seem right. It's not that you've hardly ever ridden a BMX bike before and need to build up more strength by riding every day. No, that can't be it. There must be something wrong with the bike. It's still too heavy!

But what else is there? You've already got plastic pedals and plastic barends, a two-inch long slammed seatpost and a stripped and trimmed seat, Kevlar-beaded tires, and enough race parts to get sponsored by the NAACP. Your frame was designed by NASCAR engineers, and your fork was designed by—well, someone who knew what they were doing, hopefully. You've got hollow bolts and ti bolts, ti axle nuts and a hollow-pin, hollow-plate chain. Your gearing is so small that said chain hits your chainstay on the top AND bottom. What else is there?

Here's where the hint comes into play, oh seeker of the unbearable lightness of BMXing. Look at yourself in a mirror (or convenient store window) while sitting on your bike. Do your arms look like this?

If so, maybe start with that four inches of extra metal on the end of your bars.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Does A Real Bike Look Like?

Thanks to Tom at Empire for sending this flick. Note the high seatpost (you can actually sit down when you ride from spot to spot), absence of plastic parts, the classic dirt/street tire combo, and that weird blue wire coming off the handlebars. And oh my God, is that an UNCUT STEERER? Think of the children!

If Jules from Pulp Fiction rode a bike, it would probably look something like this.

What elusive pro owns this steed? I expect to see the answer within the first three comments. If no one gets it right, I'll share tomorrow.

And for bonus points, please point out the 2,359,006 ways the first bike differs from this one:

(I hate it when you can't slide your seat back on the rails because it hits the rear tire. Wait, what?)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

I present to you the Nike 6.0 Mogan Mid:

It's supposed to be a homage to ramp builders, hence the circular saw blades (which remind me more of W.A.S.P.), "plywood" (which looks more like cheap blinds), and bent nails. Bent nails? Isn't that a bad thing? What's next? A trails shoe decorated with tree roots and barbed wire? A street shoe with skate stoppers and broken glass? This is quite possibly the most disgusting shoe ever made—the kind of thing a well-meaning parent would buy for a soon-to-be-disappointed kid. Hint: If you're gonna buy your kid these shoes, buy them a can of flat-black Krylon as well.

I'm not one of those people who's entirely opposed to Nike being involved in BMX and skateboarding. This is not just because (full disclosure) I know people there and occasionally get product for free. Nike does more research when it comes to shoes and the foot than any other company. And I have more faith in a giant shoe company figuring out the needs of BMX than I do of a BMX company figuring out how to produce shoes .

Then again, maybe I'm wrong.


There seems to be a relentless obsession lately with making bikes simpler (which is good—to an extent) and making riding more complicated (which is good—to an extent). If a single tailwhip is good, a double tailwhip must be even better. Why do one trick when you can do two? Why do two when you can do three? How can this possibly be bad?

Well, if you feel that way, then you probably think this:

is better than this:

Which is fine. To be honest, neither is worse than the other. There's room for both. Some people like shredders like Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen, others like traditional blues guys like Buddy Guy or John Lee Hooker. But to think that more difficult is always better, that's a slippery slope that leads to, well, guys like Steve Vai.

It's also how you get kids trying "sponsor me" tricks without bothering to learn the basics first, which is how you wind up with 14-year-olds who can tailwhip but can't air out of a quarter or manual three parking spaces. It also leads to kids giving up on riding without ever realizing that it's supposed to be fun first. Ride because you like it. If you want to make money, start a hedge fund.

Believe it or not, it's possible to enjoy riding without learning a new trick every week, just as it's possible to enjoy riding a bike that weighs more than 30 pounds. Never lose sight of that and you'll be OK. It's pretty common-sense stuff, but a reminder never hurts.

(Yngwie Malmsteen once recorded an album called Odyssey. Conspiracy?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Buy This Video Immediately

WARNING: Positivity below. If you're here for unbridled sarcasm and cynicism, check back tomorrow. Or any other day, actually.

If you don't believe anything else I say ever, believe this: You're not going to see a better BMX video than Dead Bang this year. I promise. No, it's not filmed in hi-def, they didn't fly the entire team to Mars to ride street, they didn't train squirrels to spell out each rider's name before the start of their respective sections, there are no sped-up shots of cloud formations, and you won't have to watch any bangers in sl0-mo to figure out that not only was it a tailwhip, it was a switch-footed switch tailwhip—OPPOSITE!

What they DID do is put together a classic no-holds-barred video which could have just as easily have been named To Flat. Albie Bennett, Jimmy LeVan, Alex Liiv (below, stolen from the Metal site) and Sean Burns (especially Sean Burns) try to constantly out-daveyoung each other, sending it down bigger and bigger stairsets and gaps with either no run-up, no run-out, or both, ending in long skids that often put them into a curb, a wall, or large body of water.

(The only part I didn't understand was Chris Wilson's. It's not that he's a bad rider or anything, he just didn't fit. The only tailwhips in the video occur during his section, and in a video like this it's just jarring, like a drum'n'bass song on a Stooges record. If possible, Metal should trade Wilson to S&M for Stricker. Also missed are Ryan Metro, Dan Price and Mike Lausman.)

Anyway, yes. Leather jackets, 45-tooth sprockets and 48-spoke wheels. Dead Bang is a video made by people who grew up watching Evel Knievel, not Travis Pastrana. (Hardly anyone ever takes a hand off their bars or a foot off their pedals.) It's everything you thought BMX was when you were 10, only turned up to 11. Crashes appear fatal, bikes and riders blow up with regularity, death is defied again and again and again.

Buy it now. Watch it often.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Quiz

With sincerest apologies to bikesnobnyc, who's better at this than anybody, I'd like to end this week with a quick one-question quiz.

Clicking on the photo will reveal the answer, but don't cheat.

Which bike company is proudly showing the exact weight of their latest super-litewait prototype frame by balancing it on a scale?

a) Eastern

b) Fit

c) FBM

d) Fly

e) Thick

And one open-ended question to sleep on. If every company is going to try and make frames that are more or less the same (low toptube, sub-5), why do we need so damn many companies in the first place?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

It's hard work being this late to the streetwear party. What's next? An all-over print hoodie? Collaboration tees with The Shadow Conspiracy and Hell On Earth? Poverty selvage denim?

And I absolutely detest the term 'limited edition.' The only two things that aren't limited, to the best of my knowledge, are space and time. Although in this case, Dan's and New Era should have made these hats really, really limited. A half-dozen or so would have done the trick.

Stem Sell 'Research'

Back in the olden days—by which I mean 1998 or so—it was easy to choose a stem. Frontload or topload? That was pretty much it. As it was, it seemed like everyone on the face of the earth ran either a Standard or an S&M Redneck, depending on geographic/brand allegiance and how high one wanted to run one's bars. Some people ran their topload Standard stems upside-down, but I'm not sure whether it actually made any difference in bar height, or it was just that they thought it looked cool. A few holdouts ran DKs, but they were weirdos and not to be trusted.

Then, one day, someone must have thrown their stem on a scale and realized, 'hey, this lump of metal is sort of heavy.' (Either that or they got a hernia picking up a Primo Casket.) Thus we got a new generation of lighter weight frontload stems, including the Animal Jumpoff, the original Solid, and, of course, the Redneck Lite:
Once again, choice was determined primarily by geography or brand allegiance. (The topload stem briefly went the way of the dodo and the Herrington Crusader.)

Then, not long afterwards, G-Sport's George French developed the Elementary with Odyssey. It looked...different. Lots of cutouts, more than two pieces, only one large 8mm bolt. But it was also substantially lighter than any of the traditional six-bolt stems. And once you sorted out how much to tighten it using the single bolt, it worked great. It just took some getting used to, especially for those of us who were accustomed to riding with what looked like a brick connecting our bars to our forks.
Now, this set the bar even higher—or lower—in terms of weight. The original Elementary (V3 out now) came in well under 10 ounces when most "traditional" lightweight front-load stems were more like 11 or 12. This would not stand, man. S&M just reached for the router, shaving a few extra ounces off the LT and adding an X. Animal left well enough alone with the Jumpoff (although not for much longer, perhaps). And some companies, well, they went straight off the deep end in their own attempts to re-invent the stem:

The Hook is more or less an Elementary that's been cut diagonally in half and pieced back together short a few significant parts and with one extra bolt—or maybe one that was co-designed by Picasso and M.C. Escher. While the Elementary uses one solid 8mm bolt at the very center, The Hook utilizes two much smaller, hollow bolts at the corners, where they seem as if they'd be subject to more stress and difficult to tighten evenly. If this were a flatland stem it might be less of a big deal (Sequence is primarily a flatland company), but it's available in three sizes (26, 35 and 50mm), so, I guess not.


The yin and the yang? The New Beetle? Hard to say what Drive was going for here, except for the chance to use as many bolts as possible (eight). Like the Elementary, the shape is curvy and somewhat pleasant. Unlike the Elementary, everything else. From the Drive site:

"We had an idea. A singular pressure point stem, that dissipates load throughout the stem, rather than driving forces directly into your handlebar, fork, and/or the stem itself. It will keep your parts from slipping, bending, or breaking because of tension or clamping reasons. This is exactly what the Twin stem does."

I'm not sure HOW it keeps those forces from going into your bars, fork or stem (where else would they go), but it just does, OK?

The Kink Relief is what would happen if an Elementary and a Coalition Povah were put through that machine that Jeff Goldblum used in The Fly. Hollow bolts again? Of course! I suspect this lightweight wonder is called the Relief because of the sigh you'll give every time you make it home alive.

Premium, to their credit, chose to stick with the traditional four bolts in the front, two bolts in back, frontload design that's been around since the advent of the Aheadset. They just machined gigantic holes through everything and used hollow bolts. I just wonder how they knew when to stop removing material. "OK, WE'RE UNDER 10 OUNCES, STOP CUTTING!"


Lastly, I at least wanted to mention the Fit D.L.D. (Down Low Drop). It doesn't appear to have been machined to within a millimeter of its (or your) life like the Sub-Ten. But it is interesting as the extra drop allows one to run high-rise bars like S&M Slams without them feeling quite so tall. One wonders why one couldn't achieve the same thing by running a traditional frontload (or even, God forbid, a topload) stem with lower bars. But that just wouldn't look cool, would it?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


It's easy to make unnecessary parts. Everyone does it, and not just in BMX. Making your entire COMPANY superfluous, well, that takes a little more work. Like what, you ask? Hm, let's see. Things like:

Re-labeled generic products.

Terrible names.

"Limited Edition" parts.

A laughable mission statement.

Anarchy symbols and other appallingly stupid and/or insensitive imagery (Insurgent? Now? Really?) aimed at the Hot Topic crowd.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Alienation, the most superfluous parts company of 2008. (I know it's only April, but I can't imagine anyone surpassing them.) In fact, they have a shot at being the most superfluous BMX parts company of all-time.

Founded by a former exec at Sun Rims (or perhaps his 13-year-old kid), Alienation specializes in selling slightly different (read: uglier) versions of parts that are already readily available from other, more reputable manufacturers. Luckily, they've managed to catch on as a parts supplier for completes from companies like Fit and Diamondback, or else they'd probably have gone under already. Still, Alienation is the Rockstar* of parts companies—if they continue in their current direction, I'll be absolutely amazed if they still exist six months from now.

According to the mission statement linked to above, "Alienation was started with one thing in mind; deliver technically superior products with obvious enhancements and inherent differences from the competition." Well, I looked through all the products, and I don't think I found a single one that qualified (their freecoaster, for example, is just an uglier KHE). Unless neonified and mutilated baseball team logos count as "obvious enhancements"—and I suppose they may in the New Era of twothousandhate.

(My favorite aspect of the whole site, however, is the way they list parts by "Street Value" instead of MSRP. So edgy! Either that, or someone watched too much Miami Vice growing up. That said, may I suggest a few product names? The "Sonny Sprockett" and the "Pablo Esco Bar." Kids love the drugs.)

On top of all that, BMX already did the anarchy thing (quite well, I may add) 20 years ago. And Nick Phillip wasn't outsourcing their t-shirts from China and Taiwan.

EDIT: I didn't realize this at first, but Alienation is actually the BMX division of WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes), although they don't really push the connection on either site. So it's actually just another example of BMX being marginalized as kid stuff by a "real" bike company. Thanks but no thanks. Get out. We don't want or need you.

* "Hey, the Rockstar site doesn't work!" My point exactly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pivotal Moment

There are currently 14 'different' Pivotal seatposts available on the Dan's Comp website (which I refuse to link to purely out of spite, so you'll have to take my word for it).

A full 10 of them are capable of being run slammed (including the one shown, a cute little 75mm vestigal feller from Federal that they absolutely should have named "The Angry Inch"), which means the other four are more or less obsolete. Anyone who runs their seat more than two inches from their toptube should probably be shot anyway.

They range in price from $16.99 (Poverty, of course) to a rather alarming $29.99 (United—which, seeing that it's exactly the same as the rest except for the logo, had better come packaged with a $5 bill). The difference between most of them appears to be just color and logos. The weights are the same. The lengths are the same. The designs are the same. It's likely that most of them come out of the same forge (except for the Poverty ones, which are made from the remains of broken Odyssey Intacs by chimpanzees).

I guess it's just amazing to me that companies are charging different prices for what amounts to the exact same thing. One 114mm, 3.5 ounce post is EXACTLY like the other. Unless, of course, you just HAVE to have it in "laser green," which means you're spending $25.99 on a Colony.

(And what's the point of getting a matching-color seatpost that you're only going to run slammed anyway? What, is the inside of your seat tube going to make fun of you? Is the new trend on Bikeguide going to be bike x-rays? "Man, look at that internal butting!" "Yo, my seatpost ends RIGHT AT the lower toptube weld, isn't that awesome?!")

I'd almost feel better if someone offered a Pivotal post in carbon or titanium. It would be stupid, but at least it would be original.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Someone helpfully pointed out the aforementioned fact to me in the comments last week (and added a decidedly incorrect—both politically and personally—slur which I shall not repeat), and I've gotta say, they're right. Thank you, Mr. Anonymous. Then again, it's interesting that you'd choose to quote a song written in 1964 to complain that I'M too caught up in the past. Interesting.

The problem, of course, isn't with progress. I love progress. I'm not sitting here typing this on an IBM Selectric, am I? Were I a true retrogrouch, I'd be Xeroxing copies of a zine and mailing them around the world.


What I'm against, as it should be readily apparent, is the re-appearance of bad ideas that I thought were long since dead. The one-piece seat/post combo? I thought we killed that off in the '80s. But those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it, and so on and so forth. I can't wait until mag wheels get popular again. "Oh man, you don't even have to TRUE them!"

Anyway, I thought a verse from the Dylan song would be appropriate here:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

I don't know what it all means, but it sounds good, I guess. Although since it uses the words "wheel" and "spin" in the same sentence, I can't help but feel a little nervous.

Also, since the effects of "times a-changin'" led to Dylan himself going from this:

to this:

you'll pardon me if I don't take the expression too seriously.

And if you're happy about the trend of bikes going from this:

to this:

maybe you're on the wrong blog.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Little Things

Just a couple quick hits before the weekend. First, from the people who brought you the Punisher and the Soldier and Ojay Juarez, I give you this:

I suppose people are gonna run carbon headset spacers anyway, so Mutiny may as well offer their own (read: generic ones screenprinted with their logo), and maybe it's just some sort of a joke on the weight weenies, but you KNOW at least some people out there are stoked on this. So now you can run 8.25" rise bars with a topload stem and eight carbon spacers along with your slammed seat (so your bike looks something like this). I keep waiting for some company to produce a frame with an eight-inch tall headtube.

(On the topic of weight, what are the chances of bulimia catching on amongst BMXers? It's amazing that everyone wants to make their bike as light as possible but doesn't think about their own bodies. You can save WAY more weight by puking up your Burger King than you can by changing out your aluminum headset spacers for carbon ones. Heck, for that matter you could save more weight by taking a quarter out of your pocket. If you insist on taking the weight off the bike, take two pins out of your pedals. Oh, that's right, no one runs metal pedals anymore.)

The next product I actually like. It's a halflink made by Wipperman and sold by Superstar. I've never run a halflink myself, but if I did, I think I'd rather run a single halflink than an entire chain made of them. My problem isn't with the product itself, or even with the oh-so-Euro apres-ski product shot:

My problem is this: Superstar actually listed the WEIGHT of the halflink. Which would be .3 ounces, or eight grams. First of all, the only thing that BMXers need to be measuring in grams is cocaine. Secondly, what does it matter, really? Will anyone who uses this halflink be weighing the regular links they remove and calculating the total weight savings?

I'm surprised Dan's Comp hasn't started selling postal scales and calculators.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

UNIfied Theory

In the beginning, there was the Uni Seat. And it was awful. Part of it was that it looked like a mutant duck, part of it was that most bikes were way too short and required layback seatposts, and part of it was that you needed a shim to run one in pretty much any frame.

But most of all they just sucked. A plastic seat bonded to a fiberglass post, the Uni setup was considerably lighter than the usual '80s seat/post combo (which normally included heavy steel guts), but hardly anyone ran Uni Seats. Not even many big-name pros used them. It wasn't worth running something disgusting looking just to save a few measly ounces.

Perhaps the following photos will better explain:

So of course now that LITEWAIT is the be all and end all, style be damned, companies are falling over themselves to bring this atrocity back from the dead. Never mind the fact that the Macneil Pivotal design is both light AND adjustable (and you can choose from 4,892 different seats), the good ol' BMX industry is once again providing a solution to a non-existent problem. Different seat angles? Who needs them?

First off we have an offering from Eclat, the new, pretentiously named parts division of We The People. (The name has an accent mark on it, but I couldn't be bothered.) If you look online, you can find an equally pretentious 70-page 'book' that shows their whole line of entirely unnecessary and derivative (but oh-so-refined) products.

Among them is the seat below, a one-piece molded horror that Charles and Ray Eames wouldn't piss on if it were on fire. I'd actually prefer to see kids running the newest FBM innovation than this lame excuse for a seat. This seat is like a cosmetic artificial limb—it makes everything look right, sort of, but it's no replacement for the real thing.

This next fine piece of bike-related sculpture comes from Fly, who have given us such fantastic items as delicate $100 Ruben pedals and 2.5 piece cranks that—surprise!—became three on a regular basis. Note the cover, which makes it LOOK like a 'regular' seat/post combo, but—surprise!—it isn't. This is like a cosmetic limb with nail polish and a wedding ring.

This last new creation comes courtesy of KHE, who apparently are trying to develop a one-piece bicycle. That way, when you snap an axle or a pedal spindle, you can throw the whole thing out and buy a new one.

These are probably the worst of the bunch. For starters, they look like beanbag chairs you'd buy for a five-year-old. (Baseball stitching? Seriously?) And they're actually a two-piece design just stuck together. Allegedly the seat and post combined will cost the same as a seat alone, but we'll wait and see on that. And I'm curious to know how much less it weighs than a stump Pivotal post with a lightweight seat. I'm also curious as to how strong the bond is—will it hold together when you dump the bike? (When you inevitably break/bend it, you get to throw out the seat AND the post.) Not to mention it's obvious that NONE of these combos are made for those of us who like to run their seats high enough to, you know, sit down. But hey, there I go being practical again.

P.S. Of course, if you really want, you can always track down the (updated) original. Twice as light and four times as disgusting. At least you can run it high.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Playskool Bikes?

Presenting the latest greatest from the company that brought you the $1,200 ti frame with holes in it: the plastic bottom bracket.

This was inevitable, of course. Similar plastic "bearing" systems have been used in industrial applications for a long time. And the plastic bottom bracket should be cheaper AND lighter (and easier to install) than a conventional sealed bearing setup. Also, it's not the first time something like this has been used in BMX. If I remember correctly, Hutch made a mini headset in the '80s that used magnesium cups and some sort of nylon 'bearings'. Of course that was a setup meant to be used by riders under 90 pounds.

As for a bottom bracket on a full-sized bike, I'm not too sure. In an industrial setting, 'bearings' like this just have to spin. There may be pressure, but one would presume it to be fairly steady. Bottom bracket bearings get abused on a daily basis. Tailwhips to the pedals, drops, whatever. I'm no mechanical engineer, but there's a lot of stress that'll have to be dispersed one way or another, isn't there? Flex, deforming, cracking—all of these things seem likely. Is it worth it to save a few ounces? Will crankflips still be possible? Are they fireproof? Isn't this a case of fixing something that isn't broken? Can plastic headsets be far behind? Hub 'bearings'? How much plastic is enough on one bike?

(Also, if this idea DOES work, why use so much plastic? Will this mark a return to the Euro bottom bracket standard? Should I keep my old Edwin just in case?)

Oh yeah, one more question for Eastern. How many plastic 'bearings' are there in this?:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Let me see if I have this right. We spent 30 years—just in BMX history, mind you—going from this inferior design:

To this superior one:

So please explain why it makes sense to go from this:

To this?

Not to mention with the proliferation of LITEWAIT butted seat tubes in frames like this:

There's going to be a lot of this:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Supersize Me.

Combos. The simultaneous sale of multiple items which enables the seller to make them available as a group at a cheaper price than they would be individually. This is a good thing, yes?

Not necessarily.

Today, let us address the KHE Centaur bar/stem combo:

The concept is simple enough, I suppose—it's basically a set of Macneil Silencer XLTs welded to an Odyssey Elementary. (Of course you couldn't actually weld those two together since the Elementary is all aluminum except for the bolt, but I digress). First, let's review the positives:

• Cheaper
• Lighter
• You can chrome the WHOLE THING!

That's about it. And that's not bad, really. (I'm assuming the combo will cost less than your average lightweight bar/stem, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $130.) Because usually you only get cheap AND light at the cost of strength, and in this case—well, you probably get those two at the cost of strength. Which brings us to the negatives:

• No adjustability

This causes two problems, actually. Let us, for the moment, disregard the fact that people normally run their bars at many, many different angles, even if they appear the same. One could get used to a few degrees difference quite easily. That said, there is a big difference between, say, straight up-and-down and even with the fork rake. So one would think they'd have to make at least two variations to account for that. Then if you want to have versions with different sweep or height or width (cutting down butted bars that have holes drilled in the grip area doesn't seem like such a great idea), you're getting into an awful lot of variables.

Then there's the second problem, which is this: When you have steel bars bolted into an aluminum stem, and you crash/land hard enough, they shift. It's happened to everyone, I'm sure. This won't happen when your bars are welded to your stem. One of two things WILL happen, though. They'll either bend, or break. Add in the huge amount of leverage you get with tall/wide bars, and the fact that these are butted AND have holes drilled in them, and—well, I wouldn't run them unless I had health insurance.

Which brings us to the second point.

• More expensive

I realize this directly counters one of the positives, but bear with me. The bar/stem combo may very well be cheaper initially, but it'll cost you in the end. Look at those bars again. Wide, drilled out. Quite light, I'm sure. Now think about bailing and watching your bike bounce away. Where does it hit? The tires, the seat...and the end of the bars. Which in this case are built like crumple zones in a car, and will probably work in much the same way. One hard hit and they're done for. Which is fine—bent bars have been an issue since the first days of BMX—until you realize that when that happens with the Centaur, you have to replace your bars AND your stem. All of a sudden the whole package deal doesn't seem like such a great idea, does it? Like many of today's products, fine for a team rider who gets them free, not so much so for someone who has to pay for everything.

And then there's my final point:

Yes, a company called Vector did a bar/stem combo back in the '80s. The one shown is a Bob Haro signature version that was quite popular with, um, Bob Haro. Can't say I really remember anyone running them back in the '80s. And I can't help but think the KHEs will have the same fate—seen more on "vintage" builds in 2040 than on bikes that are actually ridden.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Holey. Shit.

I don't even know where to start.

The Fly rims are an 'update' (I suppose) of the old Mongoose Pro Class rims. Which were never that great to begin with.

The Macneil bars are fantastic as the holes are hidden under the grips so you have NO IDEA if they start to crack. Everything's great—and then death. Awesome. Even better, they're 'XLT', which means they're likely to snap even where they're NOT full of holes.

And the Grim Reaper frame just defies explanation. Ooh, it was designed by NASCAR engineers! What the fuck does that have to do with anything? What do NASCAR engineers know about BMX? Wouldn't they be better at determining aerodynamics and sticker placement? I wouldn't buy one if you, um, paid me.

Back in the day (BITD for short), random kids rode drilled-out everything because they weighed 67 pounds and no one was making stuff for that awkward stage between mini and expert. I specifically remember a BMX Action feature on this kid named "Chicken" George Seevers who had a Redline so drilled out that even the holes had holes drilled in them. I assume he's dead now.