Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Quiz

1. This hollow-pin, hollow plate Mechanik chain (now available to match the Statue of Liberty!) saves how much weight over the conventional Shadow half-link chain?

a) 6 ounces

b) 4.5 ounces

c) 3.5 ounces

d) 2.5 ounces

e) 1.5 ounces

2. The new Primo Nate Williams seat differs from all the other slim Pivotal seats already on the market how?

a) it's lighter

b) it's stronger

c) it utilizes an entirely new shape

d) it's made by Primo

3. Tony Neyer's signature Skyline bars from Sputnic have an externally-butted crossbar for what reason?

a) weight savings, duh

b) external butting is cheaper than internal butting

c) aerodynamics

d) it looks cool

e) makes it easier to keep your Play crossbar pad centered

4. These new ultra-machined Premium pedals are so thin that the spindle actually bulges out of the center. If you ride street, they should last:

a) a year

b) a month

c) a week

d) a day

e) 11 minutes

5) Including all models and colors, Mankind offers how many different seats?

a) 3

b) 6

c) 9

d) 14

e) 18

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Does A Real Bike Look Like?

Spotted this one a couple weeks ago down on Varick Street:

Features worth noting:

• Rectangular seat and chainstays for stiffness
• Aerodynamic top- and downtubes
• Aggressive geometry
• 48-spoke wheels with six sets of eight spokes
• Tattoo-inspired lettering
• Plastic pedals
• Four pegs
• Tall, wide two-piece bars in a limited-edition color

I can't help but wonder how little seatpost is left in that frame.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Go Pig or Go Home

Was on the 2Hip website yesterday (update the news, fellas, March 27th was a long time ago) and decided to click on the "products" link. Let's see what frames they're offering these days.

Lino, Death, Jarrod, Playboi, Pork, Soul...

Wait a minute. Pork?


Yep. Still there, all 9.3 sexy pounds of it. And, if you believe what it says on the site, still available in yellow, black or candy red for the low, low price of $259.95 (just $27.95 a pound—which is probably how they should advertise it).

According to the copy, it's "the last frame you'll ever need!" Which, I suppose, is right—because it'll either outlast you, or cause you to quit BMX forever. Possibly both. They're apparently all out of the aluminum version, which is a shame, because at least that bike made a little sense. An updated, slimmed-down internal/mid version could actually be cool. Why they haven't given up and sold the chromoly ones for scrap yet, I have no idea.

Think Kink still has any Revision Bs?

EDIT: Apparently Alex still has the correct rims for you, too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vicious Acts of Tierraism

Liam Fahy-Hampton, Ride cover subject and scooterer extraordinaire (news flash: bikes have chains) just got a signature frame from Colony. The "Hell Stallion" has generic tattoo flash graphics that make Norman Collins cry and the following specs:

Full Post Heat Treated Colonized CrMo
TT sizes - 20.85 or 21.25″
HT - 75.5 degrees
ST - 71 degrees
CS - 13.75″
ST height - 7″
Weight - 4.8lbs

It's a long flatland frame, more or less. Another generic tailwhip machine with a steep headtube (75 degrees isn't steep enough?), low toptube, short rear, and sub-5 pound weight. Terrific. Figure out what tricks you do most, and then design a frame to make them easier. Fahy-Hampton is talented enough to do what he does on a "normal" frame (as is someone like Kevin Porter, who after all, rode for Standard before getting on Fly), but instead he rides this specialized contraption.

The Tierraists have already won.

(I love frames with no mounts and holes for Gyro tabs.)

The worst offender in this regard, of course, is Blackeye's Cory Jarman, whose signature frame, the Killorado (why do all these frame names sound like W.A.S.P. songs?) is an abomination against everything ever. It looks like a stripped-down girls bike from Toys R Us. I know he does 180 whips down stairs, but it's ridiculous for the same reason it would be if someone hit 2,000 home runs while using a special aluminum/carbon bat. I hesitate to call it cheating, but it's pretty freaking lame. Would you ride this? On purpose? More than once?

You'll get your chance, as Blackeye is allegedly producing a limited run of Killorados for the general public. And by general public I mean Cory's immediate family.

(Dude, that's not impressive. Stephen Hawking could jump over your bike.)

The best part about all these squashed frames is that they're inherently weaker than a "conventional" double-diamond frame. And by "conventional" I mean "having a seat tube". The bigger the triangle, the stronger the structure. To a point, I suppose. Not to mention it would be really embarassing when you hit your cranks on your seat.

They're more or less practice bikes, something to learn a specific trick on before switching to a conventional bike. Hell, Cory's bike should be called "The Foam Pit." Watching someone ride that thing for a whole video section would be like watching them ride a tramp bike.

Regardless, I can't wait until somebody "designs" this, just with a 77 degree headtube:

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of BMXing

New forks from Primo. Called the "Strand Fork," possibly because you should only run them on the bike you ride to the book store. Integrated race, "swaged and flattened" tubing, all that good stuff. No silly holes machined in the dropouts, although they make up for it with the vagina between the, uh, legs (going directly against the Odyssey Director's Barbie doll look).

Know how much they weigh? 29 ounces. That's under two pounds. As far as I know, they're the first non-race fork to drop below 30 ounces. S2 Directors are 30.2, Drive Lites (which I wouldn't run if you paid me) are 31.4, Eastern Ultra Slims are 31.7. Bombshell pro race forks are 28.9. A whole tenth of an ounce lighter than the Primos. With carbon legs.

Know how much a pair of Slam Bars weigh? 34 ounces. A regular "4Q Baked" Pitchfork weighs 47.7 ounces. More than a pound heavier.

Scary, right?

When you make weight the most important determining factor in what sells—which makes sense on some level, since it's easy to measure and explain—every new product you come out with had better be lighter than the last, or else why would anyone upgrade? The Kamikaze 2, Primo's "light" fork which preceded these, weighed 32 ounces. How did they safely drop three ounces from that? Who's designing these things? How are they being tested? Honestly, I'm not sure whether I want to know. But if I were considering running a pair, I sure as hell would.


Another thing you should do—which I didn't initially—is read the fine print. These aren't even up on the Primo website yet, just on Dan's Comp. And when searching for the dropout thickness, I stumbled upon the offset: 13mm. Huh? Maybe mention that in the initial description? It's important, no? A conventional fork has 32mm of offset, which could very well explain much of the weight difference (although the 'steep' Subrosa fork still weighs 33 ounces). It also means if you run these things along with a 75-degree headtube frame and 29" wide bars, you'll instantly be able to do longer nosewheelies than Dakota Roche. I promise. Because hey, it's all about what you ride, not how you ride it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Quiz

1. When shooting a photo of your prototype super-high, super-tall, two-piece bars for your new company's official blog, you should focus on:

a) the welds

b) the logo

c) the ginormous crossbar

d) the rise

e) nothing, focusing is gay

2. Apparently a chopper company decided to convert a bunch of old Primo Tenderizers into limited edition (ha) innovative (HA!) motorcycle footpegs. The first question that comes to mind when looking at them is:

a) "Who in their right mind would buy those?"

b) "Wouldn't PCs have been a lot lighter?"

c) "Do they come in any limited edition colors?"

d) "Will Orange County Choppers build a BMX-themed bike now?"

e) "Wonder what sucker Primo will find to buy all their leftover Hula Hoops?"

3. This product was manufactured when, and for what purpose?

a) in 1985, to keep your front brake bolt from tearing your Vans on tailwhips

b) in 1989 to keep your front brake bolt from tearing your Dynos on pinky squeaks

c) in 2008, to keep your fork crown from ruining your Coastals's dye job on footjams

4. This highly functional seatstay brace decorates whose signature frame?

a) Eric B.

b) Rakim

c) Donald Trump

d) Jason Enns

e) This guy.

5. This shirt tells casual observers that:

a) You disassembled and painted your bike at an American Apparel, then stole the evidence.

b) Riding brakeless may cause your bike to explode.

c) It's Halloween, and you're dressed as a Dan's catalog.

d) "The four-cross pattern is ideal for evenly spreading any loads evenly over the sprocket itself in the event of an impact."*

e) Magazine publishers should stick to publishing magazines.

* Shockingly enough, when I re-checked the Federal website, they had fixed the copy, removing the first "evenly." Dare I take credit?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Header

As Elvira Hancock once said, nothing exceeds like excess.

Also, I'd like to add that the Lee Reynolds and Jason Davies shots in the post below were swiped from the excellent, which is probably the best one-stop BMX historical reference on the web. It lists riders (past and present) by birthday, for God's sake. Spend a day there sometime.

An Immodest Proposal

I realize the premise of this entire entry is probably off-base—and possibly completely offensive—but fuck it. Hasn't stopped me before. (Please go back and re-read my first paragraph from two days ago.)

To the best of my and virtually everyone else's knowledge, BMX got its start in the United States when a bunch of kids on Stingrays decided to emulate their motocross heroes in the California dirt. And much like many other brilliant American innovations, like jazz, fast food and Friends, it spread rapidly across the globe. Time passed, freestyle happened. Then, in the late '80s and early '90s, a variety of European (mostly British) riders came over to taste the American culture—guys like Lee Reynolds, Craig Campbell, and Nick Philip. They endured our weak beer, wore Life's a Beach and Jimmy'Z, and rode our bikes. Skyways and Dynos, Haros and GTs.

Jump ahead. Until as recently as a few years back, the dollar was quite strong. Gas cost way less than $2 a gallon, and Americans could afford to vacation in Europe without selling any major organs first. At that time, from what I understand, American BMX parts were quite expensive overseas. So a whole mess of new European companies popped up to supply the locals. Proper, Simple, WTP, Mankind, Federal, Fly, United, KHE. In no particular order. Oh yeah, Pashley, too, although they'd been manufacturing bikes since 1926.

At first, very few of these companies distributed their products in the United States. KHE is the first that I remember, with the Jason Davies (below) designed Beater. What was the point? American companies were perfectly capable of supplying home-built frames for the same price as a Taiwanese-made frame from a German company. Who in Cali would have bought a We The People over an S&M?

Then came the flood. European companies started sponsoring American riders as the dollar started to go belly-up. Companies like Fly and Federal could not only afford to market their bikes in the US, in most cases they could actually undercut the traditional American companies and still make a profit. Ten years ago, 90 percent of New York City riders were on Standards. A few years later, there were swarms of Flys.

Don't worry, I do have a point, and I'm getting to it right now.

My point, or perhaps question, is this: Shouldn't we, as American consumers, make it a priority to purchase frames from American companies? I understand that Federal sponsors Steven Hamilton, and Simple sponsors Oba Stanley, and Fly—well, they used to sponsor Biz. Some of that money comes back. But shouldn't we be spending our increasingly harder-earned dollars on supporting companies like Metal, Hoffman, Kink, Volume, Sunday, Fit, S&M and Subrosa (and even more so, Standard, FBM and Terrible One)? Not to be a xenophobe or anything, but if the prices are equal, and the specs are ident—I mean similar, shouldn't it be America first? As far as I know, no one is getting rich from owning a BMX company. Shouldn't we be supporting the people who live where we do, pay the same taxes we do, the ones who are part of our own floundering economy?

(Let it be known that I don't feel this way about everything. I fully support buying Toyotas and Hondas over anything made by Ford or GM, because American automakers are idiots. And I'd buy a PS3 over an XBox if I actually cared about video games.)

But why stop there? Perhaps we should focus even tighter, and primarily support those American companies that were there FIRST. Companies like Hoffman, Standard (provided they stop machining holes in everything), and S&M, who all helped jumpstart the evolution of the modern BMX frame. And ones like FBM and Terrible One, who started when BMX was—if not smaller, at least poorer—and have stayed true to having their frames built in the good ol' US of A. Don't they (once again, provided the product and pricepoint are comparable) deserve more of our support than the latecomers and imitators? I think so.

What say you? I'd be curious to hear what people outside the US think as well, if you're out there.

P.S. In closing, and perhaps in contrast to my entire opinion, I'd just like to add the following:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bike Check (By Request)

Seeing that there has been some wonder in the comments section about my own ride, here it is:

FRAME: 21" Fit Edwin 2007 prototype
FORKS: Odyssey Race
BARS: Animal Bob Lite
STEM: Animal Jumpoff
CRANKS: Odyssey Wombolt, LHD, 175mm
PEDALS: Odyssey Jim C Mag (unsealed)*
SPROCKET: Terrible One American Flyer, 28t
FRONT WHEEL: Odyssey Hazard Lite/Vandero 2
REAR WHEEL: Odyssey Hazard Lite/LHD cassette, 10t
TIRES: Odyssey Plyte 2.1
PEGS: Odyssey Pleg (4)**
SEAT: Animal Cush
POST: Macneil
GRIPS: Animal Edwin
BAR ENDS: Odyssey Par Ends
CHAIN: KMC 510hx

* Actually, the pedals are currently black Twisted PCs (I know)...
** ...mostly because I'm running Plegs. Seemed silly to have plastic pegs and metal pedals. Still not used to grinding quietly.

MODS: Not much—I'm no Chase Gouin. Cut the seatpost, cut the steerer, that's it.

(I realize that the one photo is something of a cop-out—I meant to do a shot-for-shot match of the Fit S3.5 preview, but it just never happened.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The End Complete

There's something you need to know before we go any further. I am not a BMX industry insider, nor have I ever claimed to be. I have never even worked for a bike shop. I don't know about sales numbers or production costs or profit margins or anything like that. I don't even balance my checkbook. The views reflected on this blog are mine and mine alone, and if anything is blatantly wrong, please feel free to correct it. We're all in this together.

(The headline today is the name of an Obituary record. It only marginally touches on the subject matter, but that's OK because it's the name of an Obituary record.)

Not sure whether you've noticed, but there seem to be a lot of bike companies offering completes these days. And it's not just the usual suspects like DK, GT, Haro, WTP, 2-Hip, Mirraco, and Fit. Nope. There's Stolen and Verde, and Subrosa and Kink, and now FBM has thrown their hat into the ring. I'm sure there's others I'm not thinking of, but providing a comprehensive list wasn't what I was going for. Let's just say that there are a lot of companies offering complete bikes and leave it at that.

This is a good thing, right? After all, it was hard to find a decent complete BMX bike as little as 10 years ago (unless you were looking for a hefty Mirra Pro, a Dyno VFR, or the infamous Poverty Buck Ninety Nine or whatever the hell it was called). Now you can choose from a wide variety of completes with all the trimmings—full chro-mo frames and forks, internal/mid, 25/9 cassette (or freecoaster) gearing, Pivotal seats, big bars, name-brand tires and grips—that are rideable out the box for right around $500. If you're willing to ride a bike with some hi-ten steel tubing, you can get a decent complete for less than the cost of a new frame. Not bad. And with rider-owned companies entering the fray, it finally means even the low-end steel frames have proper geometry. These aren't box-store Mongeese.

But what does it all mean?

Chances are, if you've been riding for more than a couple of years, you won't be purchasing a complete bike anytime soon. There are a few reasons why you might—your bike gets stolen, you want a backup bike, or to have a spare for friends—but most people who've been riding for a while have gotten used to the idea of building up their own bikes piece by piece. Or maybe you insist on a 21" frame, which is somewhat rare in the complete world.
So the main target, best that I can figure, is beginners. Get the kids riding an entry-level steel bike, then, as they get older, get them on the next-level complete, and so on and so on. (Mirraco offers sub-20 pound aluminum 16" and 18" bikes for even the littlest rippers.) Then eventually, when they're on the top-of-the-line complete, they upgrade or replace broken parts with aftermarket stuff. The hope being that by then maybe they'll have developed some brand loyalty. It could work.

In the meantime, who benefits? Riders, especially those just starting out. Virtually any bike that shows up under the 2008 Christmas tree will be a good one. And with so many companies jumping into the market, pricing should stay competitive. Parts companies, for another. Someone has to spec all these bikes, and from the looks of them, it's not all generic stuff. Legit companies like Sun, Odyssey, Animal and Tioga have been tapped for componentry. (FBM even started their own house brand, Nice, to equip their completes.) How far the humble Twisted PC pedal has come.

What I'll be most curious to see is how the individual companies fare, especially the newer ones like Subrosa and Verde. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of eggs being placed in this particular basket, and seeing that riders have long been assured that the best way to get a bike you liked is to DIY, now things need to swing back the other way. At the same time, will affordable completes make consumers less likely to buy a $360 frame from the same companies? It appears—to me—that this is a gamble that BMX is just going to continue to get bigger. And maybe it will. Maybe if a kid starts out on an affordable, properly built complete, like an FBM or Kink, he or she will be more likely to stay with BMX and not move quickly on to skateboarding or soccer or Grand Theft Auto.

And of course if it doesn't work, completes will just end up costing even less. Win-win!

EDIT: Good interview with JPR about the FBM completes here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mailing It In

Sick as a dog today. (Do dogs really get that sick? Where the heck did that expression come from? It's explained somewhat on the 'net, but not the origins.) So the couple things I really wanted to do just didn't come together.

Instead, I'll just link to this and admit that I don't get it. Not that I won't be there, given the opportunity, but I'm not sure what people are trying to accomplish these days. Doesn't designing a ramp specifically to break a record make the record itself kind of inconsequential? Shouldn't you get more air on a bigger ramp? (And regardless of records, Mat(t) Hoffman is a legend—he rode a monster ramp first—and Jamie Bestwick is the best. No amount of Red Bull money will change that.)

Funny that they're doing it in Central Park rather than Woodward or somewhere in Cali—I suppose the hope is that it'll get more media coverage in New York. And I assume it'll get some play on New York 1, as well as on ESPN. Unfortunately I'd guess the newspaper coverage will be minimal. Unless, of course, something goes terribly wrong.

So good luck, Kevin. Hope it means a lot to you.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Quiz

1. This bike was custom-built for:

a) Manute Bol

b) Clyde

c) a Hell's Angel wannabe

d) Eddie Cleveland

2. Dyno released these vulcanized Vans Era copies back in the late '80s. What phrase best describes the re-return of vulcanized shoes to BMX?

a) Tidy Bowl, gung-ho pro, Starsky with the gumsole.

b) The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself.

c) Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

d) I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I went... back in time. It was terrible.

3. These pedals:

a) make crankflips impossible

b) should have a goldfish in them

c) are Wonder Woman's signature, um, colorway

d) are available in various prescriptions from your local Pearle Vision

4. This seat is most offensive to:
a) aficionados of '60s horror movies

b) fans of '50s horror comics

c) the religious right

d) people who can see

5. This massive seatpost clamp weighs:

a) 23 grams

b) o.6 ounces

c) 647 grains

d) Who gives a fuck?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Yes, I know, it's a Dig shirt (although they choose to use the cruder colloquial "isn't"). Strangely enough, it's also the name of a skateboard slalom video. But what does it really mean?

1) Literal. This isn't skateboarding. It's amazing, seeing that we're in 2008, but there are still some people out there who can't seem to recognize the difference between a bicycle and a skateboard. For whatever reason, we're all lumped into the same EXTREEEEEEEME category. It's not fair, but to the casual observer we ARE all doing the same stuff. Mainly wrecking property, both public and private, and causing a ruckus. (Keep in mind I'm talking about the perception of the general public here.) Can you blame them? Parents just don't understand. Although I'm not sure how wearing a shirt that says "THIS ISN'T SKATEBOARDING" will help.

2) Divisive. Skateboard jihad! We're not skateboarders! We're not one of YOU. This probably isn't the intent, but at a time when we should be bonding together to fight other, dorkier interlopers (like in-line skaters and fixed-gear freestylers), even the implication of segregation is a bad look. Can't we all just get along? Well, at least BMXers and skateboarders. Heck, given a choice, I'd usually rather hang out with skaters.

3) Money. You know how you can tell this isn't skateboarding? Because, unlike Rob Dyrdek, Aaron Ross doesn't have a Bentley in his garage. Unlike Bam Margera, Taj doesn't own a ridiculous house. (And neither of them have TV shows.) This is alternately a source of odd pride and misplaced anger. Pride in that we haven't been co-opted yet, and while skateboarding sails blissfully into the mainstream, BMX remains something of an underground, whatever it is. Anger in that big-name pros can get hurt and still have to rely on donations from friends and sponsors just to pay the medical bills. Get a pro-model skate deck and you're buying your mom a house. Get a pro-model BMX frame and you're still living at your mom's house. Big difference.

Is it selling out? Smart marketing? Opening things up to where big companies feel comfortable throwing their money into the sport? (Hobby, activity, lifestyle, whatever.) Even if we were willing to take the money, would someone out there be willing to give it? And would it better things for riders as a whole? Chances are good that even in a best-case scenario, we'll never even come close to being confused with skateboarding (at least not enough where it will require a shirt). But given a few recent developments, who knows? Maybe we will.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dirt Don't Hurt

According to the May 6th news entry on S&M's website (which I can't link to directly because it's the most annoying website in all of BMX, except for maybe Vital), they're going to be releasing an update of the original Dirt Bike frame soon. I'd poach the photo and post it here, but I can't do that either. I think it's the website's fault, but I'm also somewhat internet illiterate.

Anyway, this is what they had to say about the frame:

"We're bringing back a classic, the Dirt Bike frame has been re-designed with some geometry changes, featuring an Integrated Head Tube and a Mid B.B. to keep the frame up to current standards. I'll put more info about it up soon."

There are several other things that can be inferred from the photo that I can't copy: 1) It has classic DIRT BIKE downtube stickers from the mid-'90s. 2) The brakes are on the seatstays. 3) It appears to have the traditional S&M/Fit downtube gusset. 4) No wishbones. 5) It looks like the stays are a) straight tubing and b) uncapped. 6) Simple, but not completely tiny, dropouts.

The original Dirt Bike is an American classic, like Levi's 501s or Nike Air Force 1s. It was a product that, when it was first developed, filled a need and was beautiful in its simplicity. At a time when all the bigger BMX companies (I'm looking at you GT and Haro) were putting out the same inferior cookie-cutter shit year after year after year and fucking kids over with fine-print laden warranties, Chris Moeller and Greg Swingrover stepped up with something suited for real riders:

Along with big-brother Holmes, the Dirt Bike dragged BMX kicking and screaming into the '90s. It put the focus back on what was important—being able to ride your bike without worrying about it breaking. (An army green Dirt Bike was my first "modern" frame back in 1995 or so. Although I was six feet tall, I couldn't envision needing a 21". Not after a string of 18" and 19" toptube GTs and Haros and Bullys.)

Here's hoping this new version can do the same thing—help save BMX from itself. Lose all the laser-cut this and double-butted Supertherm that and low-profile the other thing. Just put out an affordable straight-gauge chromoly US-made frame ($250 or less, if possible) with classic geometry (74.5/71 and a 14.25" rear triangle, please). Offer the Dirt Bike at 20.5" and the Holmes at 21", and don't even list the weights. I'd love to see (optional) chainstay 990 lugs and the classic triangular S&M/Redline downtube gussets, but I suppose you can't have everything. Still, I hope it's a Dirt Bike in spirit, and not just in name.

By no means am I advocating a return to the earliest days of the BMX Renaissance. Despite what you all may think, I'm not a retro grouch. (Bike check coming soon?) I appreciate many of the advances that have been made by companies like Sunday and even S&M themselves. But at the same time I think there'd be a market for simple frames that get the job done and don't cost $360, even if they weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of six (!!!) pounds. Ideally, the Dirt Bike would have never gone away in the first place, but I'm glad it's coming back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hollow Pointless

Have you ever had a chain snap on you? It's not fun. Usually it happens when you're really stepping into it, which makes the results that much worse. Knee to the stem, thigh to the crossbar, usually you go over the bars. If you're lucky, you land on your hands instead of your head. If you're not lucky, it happens when you're trying to sprint through a busy intersection and you get run over by a bus. Either way, it's not much fun. But hey, chains break. It happens.

That said, isn't the chain the last thing you'd want to lighten up on purpose? There was a time not so long ago when BMX chains were judged the same way hip-hop chains were: Heavier was better. There was the KMC 415h (or Kink chain) and the massive Sharp 420—which was better suited for a motorcycle or a garage door opener. Had things continued in that direction, we'd all be riding chains that look something like this (minus the feet):

They didn't continue like that, of course. Gearing dropped, so you didn't need to worry about your 45 bashing into everything anymore. And with chainrings out of harm's way, chains were free to get lighter. People went with traditional KMCs, like 410s, 510s and 710s. But that wasn't good enough. Oh no. Road chains had long used drilled-out pins and hollow plates. Izumi made a hollow-plate BMX/track chain back in the day. Why not do the same with new BMX chains? So KMC introduced the 710sl:

It came in at 365 grams as compared to 420 (!!!) grams for the regular 710 (according to Fat). Not much of a difference—less than two ounces. Of course it comes with enough links to run 48/16, so the weight difference is presumably less if you're running 28/10 or lower. And it, um, looks cool.

There are differences between road and BMX, however. Small as BMX drivetrains are, the chains still take hits every once in a while. And running it on a eight-, nine- or 10-tooth driver places a lot of stress on the chain, even if it doesn't have drilled-out plates and hollow pins. KMC can give you numbers for "pin power" and "breakload" all they want, but those don't take into account bashing a drilled-out link on a rail or ledge and then cranking full-out towards something else.

Look, I appreciate that plenty of people run drilled-out chains, and a majority of them are still very much alive. But of all the things to drill out, the part on your bike that arguably takes the most stress? What's next? Steerer tubes? Pedal spindles? Heck, even the Grim Reaper makes more sense to me than this. There are certain things I'd rather not see drilled out. Chains. Stem bolts. Forks. Anything that, if it snaps, will probably send me to the hospital or the dentist. And even barring injury, I'm not a big fan of liamfahyhamptoning around. So I like my chains like I like my teeth and my Alaskan wildlife preserves—undrilled.

(Of course, seeing that half-link chains have seemed to have more problems with snapping than regular chains, there's no way anyone would come out with a drilled-out halflink chain. Well, no one except KHE. Lovely.)

P.S. Sean Burns only rides Wipperman chains. Their 1G8 is apparently the strongest chain on the market, according to—um, them. This video has nothing to do with chains, but a minute of Sean Burns never hurt anybody. Well, except him.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gotta Know When To Fold 'Em

When KHE introduced their folding freestyle tires, I thought they were stupid.

Yes, folding tires with Kevlar beads have been made for road and mountain bikes for years. (As usual, BMX is only a decade or so behind the times.) All sorts of pros run them with minimal problems.

Yes, it's an easy and relatively cheap way to save a fairly substantial amount of weight—rotating weight, even!

But, as stated here on several occasions, I'm not particularly enamored with KHE and their BMX "innovations." (Remember the proprietary Coke-can headtube internal detanglers?) The idea of buying a lighter—and more expensive—tire that would no doubt wear down faster just to save a couple of ounces wasn't really appealing. Not to mention the whole folding thing was entirely inconsequential unless one was embarking on a long road trip or planning on mailing them to people. Who carries extra tires on a regular riding day? There was no way this whole expensive folding tire thing was going to catch on in BMX.

As usual, I was wrong. Laughably so.

They sold like crazy to the gram-conscious (and bike-check obsessed) crowd, and now there are no shortage of companies making (read: putting their logo and tread pattern on) folding tires—Fit, Fly, Animal, We The People, even Revenge Industries. (I envision Sean McKinney unravelling stolen bulletproof vests to harvest the Kevlar for them.) The Kevlar beads alone, according to the late, great Sheldon Brown, save roughly 50 grams—two ounces—per tire. Of course he was talking about road and mountain tires, which are larger in diameter. So lets say it's more like three ounces per pair. That's not too shabby. For example, it's more than you'll save by going from a steel to ti rear axle (according to the Profile website, their solid chromoly 14mm rear axle weighs 8.1 ounces, while a ti one weighs 5.3 ounces).

But according to the ever-reliable Dan's Comp website, the weight savings are actually more substantial than that. A regular old 2.1 Animal GLH tire weighs in at 26.9 ounces, while the identical size GLH Type R is 21.2 ounces. That's 5.7 ounces per tire, almost 3/4 pound for the pair. A 20x2.15 KHE "Park" tire saves you even more weight—it's only 13.4 ounces, four ounces lighter than their "Street" tire. A pair of the big "Park" tires weighs less than a single 20x2.1 GLH. Absurd.

So there's obviously more to this than just Kevlar beads. Thinner sidewalls, lighter casing, different rubber compounds, less rubber overall, crystal meth. BMX tires went straight Star Jones. What's not to like?

Well, how about flats? I hate 'em. Used to hate 'em so much that I would run an old tire with the bead cut off inside another tire. The upside was that you could run over Kerry King and not get a flat. The downside was that my wheels weighed about as much as the ones on a Harley-Davidson. Not that anyone was overly concerned with that sort of thing. Obviously priorities have changed. And while many of the folding tires also offer sturdier lightweight casing to reduce flats, that's not going to help much if you run over an industrial staple. Or, for that matter, if you let your PSI get too low. Folding tires aren't like Primo Walls, which you could safely run down to approximately eight psi. If you're going to go the folding route, invest in a decent floor pump. You'll need to keep that pressure up.

(By the way, if you couldn't tell, I absolutely love the pillbug product shots that accompany all the folding tire announcements and advertisements. "Our tires roll up 4.6 percent tighter than the competitors!" "Our tires can be shot out of a cannon!")

Price is still a bit of a deterrent as well. Sure, folding tires are only $15 or so more per tire than their conventional brethren. But if you go through tires in a hurry, that adds up quick. The cost per ounce saved will only go up over time. It's up to you to decide whether it's really worth it. If you primarily ride smooth indoor parks, folding tires make perfect sense. If you primarily ride glass-strewn city streets, maybe they're not such a great idea.

As of now, at least you still have a choice. Folding tires haven't totally supplanted "normal" tires. If you want a $35 lightweight tire that can be sent to you in an envelope, you can get those. If you want a $17 unfoldable tire with steel beads and enough tread to endure a summer's worth of skids, you can get those, too. (And you can also get a $22 tire that falls somewhere in the middle—non-folding, but lighter than a "conventional" tire.) If you want to pick your tire by weight, you can do that (if so, I recommend you also pick up one of these). If you want to go by price, that's fine, too. Which means the tire market is healthier than the frame market—imagine if you could still choose between, say, a Tierra and an Angel of Death. Choice, in this case, appears to be a good thing.

But I can also still think that folding tires in BMX—at least in their current incarnation—are more trouble than they're worth for the average rider. Like too many things these days, folding tires are great if you're a sponsored pro who gets them by the case. Not so much if you have to dip into the rent money every time you need a new one.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Flat of the Land

Ah, flatland.

Remember when flatland bikes used to be kind of normal? Probably not, unless you're over 25. All the way through the early '90s, "freestyle" bikes were multipurpose. All-around guys like Dennis McCoy, Kevin Jones and Rick Moliterno rode flatland, vert and street on the same bike. Watch any of the Dorkin' In York videos, and you'll see. Some guys even rode flat with (gasp) a freewheel.

I'm not entirely sure when it all changed. Haro made the Master (an update of their original Freestyler) and the Sport starting way back in 1984 (the Master being the flat frame, and the Sport being the vert/all-around model), but plenty of guys (including McCoy and Moliterno) rode everything on their Masters. Heck, I had a Master and I still can't even do a whiplash. Guys who rode for GT just rode the Pro Performer, and later the Pro Freestyle Tour, for everything.

Maybe it started to really change with the introduction of the Standard Shorty back in the mid '90s. That was a seriously small frame compared to, say, an S&M Holmes, but no smaller than an old Master. Then there was the Morales flatland frame, which was even more specialized. Combine it with Kore (Bob Morales's other company) zero-offset forks and a pair of zero-sweep bars, and you had a bike that was terrific for flatland, but not so great for much of anything else, including just riding around.

This ushered in even more specialization. Straight up-and-down front ends that felt exactly the same forwards or backwards. Steeper headtube angles. Shorter and shorter rear ends. There were flat/street hybrid frames available (like Bobby Fisher's Standard Shaman and Andrew Faris's Volume Mid), but most flatland frames were built strictly for spinning and scuffing. You'd have had an easier time trying to ride trails on a beach cruiser or street on a recumbent.

Things just got weirder from there. Flatland virtually disappeared from mainstream BMX magazines and videos. It became its own subculture, with its own videos and mailorders and companies. Frames got even weirder as toptubes got lower and downtubes and chainstays got higher. Sometimes the bottom bracket just hung off the bottom of the frame like an afterthought. Short and low frames were built up with super-high seatposts and bars so they were virtual squares. Gearing got lower, cranks got shorter. The only way to get your bike to a spot was to put it in the back of your car. Riding with the crew was more or less out of the question.

Now, we find ourselves in interesting times. Street bikes have gotten lighter and lighter, freecoasters have found their way onto more and more bikes. Guys like Joel Moody have re-introduced flatland moves to the streets. (Nate Hanson was just a few years ahead of his time—and it's funny how people forget that guys like Jay Miron and Dave Osato could pull off entire flatland routines on their 45-pound ramp bikes, but I digress.) Yet flatland continues on as its own entity, and frames and parts keep getting weirder and weirder. Like this one, from KGB, which looks almost exactly like a mini race frame:

Or this latest incarnation of the Fly Suelo (which used to be such a normal-looking bike):

Both of those frames remind me an awful lot of this:

Then there are the parts, the zero-sweep bars with super-low crossbars, the plastic pedals (they beat the street companies to it by roughly 20 years), the massive aluminum pegs, and tiny little sprockets which enable one to ride out of anything (and, combined with super-short chainstays means you can get two chains for the price of one). These KGB sprockets are by far my favorites:

Have a nice day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Get Better, Alex Platt

Nothing snarky today, I fear.

News came through yesterday that street shredder Alex Platt went down hard in Barcelona and was put into a medically induced coma. This was the latest update from Julien Inorreta:

"To reassure everyone about Alex Platt you will find a nonexhaustive medical bulletin every day on Julien Myspace.

After visiting Alex (at this moment only familly are accepted)
Medical source said issue is favorable beter than yesterday but Alex will stay 24 at 48 hours more in artificial coma.

History: After a simple and normal training in Saria aera in border of the Barcelona City on May06 aroud 16:30 (local time) with Julien Alex fell on its back the head has very seriously knocked the ground. After receiving the first help from doctors the (TAC or in US the ACT or scanners) detected a very serious oxypital fracture of +- 8 cm (or 32 in (US)). Medical source said the patient is in a very serious state. For this reason they have decide to put Alex Platt on artificial coma during a minimum of 24 hours till they receive a positive brain reaction with minder pression."

You can check the aforementioned Myspace page for updates. Hopefully he comes out of this OK with nothing worse than some exorbitant medical bills and a gnarly story. Thoughts are with him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sprocket Science

Let me preface this entry by saying that I understand that, given that modern sprockets are so small, there are only so many ways to design them. Especially since they have to be a) light and b) have more than one bolt hole. That said, this is pretty funny. Parallel evolution or industrial espionage?




I was hoping to find explanations on each company's website as to how they came up with their respective designs. However, only Federal made the effort:

"The 4 cross pattern is ideal for evenly spreading any loads evenly over the sprocket itself in the event of an impact."

Oh. I'm not quite sure what that means, other than that they need to hire a copy editor. Is four-cross really more ideal than five? Or six? (And if it is so ideal for "evenly spreading any loads evenly", why aren't we all running 20" versions of these?)

Of course all of these designs are just updates of the nearly 30-year-old Redline Flight gear (seen here in a rather blurry spy photo):

If Redline were smart, they would do a 22-30t version of this same exact sprocket with all the engraving and stuff. Step up, Gork!

(Incidentally, my favorite current sprocket design is the FBM Wurlitzer. Good stuff.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Putting the "X" in BMX

You know you're in trouble when there's news of a 'new' bike on both RideBMX and Hypebeast. If a bike appears on Hypebeast, you can automatically assume the following: a) it's a collaboration of some sort, b) it's going to be 'limited edition' in this case, less than 500) and c) the whole is going to cost more than the sum of its parts. Probably a lot more. (Hypebeast really did their homework on the project, too: "DC Shoe and SE Bikes will once again join hands to release a new Bike called the Quadangle." Just shoot me.)

Meet the DC x SE Quadangle 24. (The "x" is really important amongst streetwear/hypebeast types. Without that, they'd need to knock off a couple hundred bucks off the retail price. But DC? Do hypebeasts wear DC? In fact, who DOES wear DC?)

This is a bike that never was. There was a looptail Quadangle, but never a 24. Not an official one, anyway. (There was a "skunkworks" Quad cruiser knockoff a couple years ago, but it wasn't an SE product.) SE Racing was the brainchild of Scot Breithaupt (the SE stands for "Scot Enterprises"), an early BMX brand that brought us the Landing Gear fork and the "PK Ripper" as well as the Quadangle, the Floval Flyer 24" and the OM Flyer 26". Seminal BMX products all. It's now a division of Fuji that sells cheap cookie-cutter single-speed flatbar roadbikes by the metric ton.

What they're selling here is nostalgia. Well, pseudo nostalgia. And shockingly, I have a couple of problems with it.

1) Why not go all-out and make the 24" Quad with a 1" threaded headset and a quill stem? Was it that important to make it race-worthy? It's a collaboration, for God's sake. People are just going to buy them in order to re-sell them on eBay, or stash them in their attic for 25 years to pay for their kid's college education. I'm sure a few of them will be ridden, but not by people who will care whether it has an Aheadset or not.

2) This could be 1)a, I suppose, but the v-brake ruins the whole bike, IMO. Doesn't anyone make calipers anymore?

3) Flat black? Great for a modern street bike, not so much for a retro project. The frameset—baby blue with a brown fork—is much better. Those are classic SE colors. Do the complete in those colors with chrome rims, bars, cranks and seatpost—and a camo padset—and you'd have something. Oh well, at least they got the skinwalls right. (Also, a retro-style number plate would have added a HUGE space for more branding. Fail.)

4) Actually, the whole parts kit just looks booty. Sweet generic Taiwanese stuff, fellas. Way to make things special.

5) It would have been nice if the collaboration was with Vans, who actually sponsored SE riders back in the day, rather than DC, who remains primarily a skate shoe company. Vans would have brought a better historical perspective to the project, I'd think (and they probably wouldn't have spelled Stu Thomsen's name wrong on the official history page). But I shouldn't be so critical. At least DC stepped to the plate (this is their second collaboration with SE following last year's looptail PK retro). I guess Vans is too busy courting other, more appropriate partners like geriatric British metal bands and obscure Japanese streetwear brands.

Oh well. Anything that gets hipsters off fixed gears is a good thing, I suppose.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cute Little Buggers

I finally figured it out.

The real problem I have with a lot of current BMX parts.

It's not that they're too light.

It's that they're too CUTE.

A BMX bike is supposed to look mean, like a rabid charging rhino that's been equipped with machine guns and then set afire. There's supposed to be all sorts of huge chunks of metal and pointy bits and rust and scars and tears all haphazardly covered in black spray paint. Like a beast straight out of Revelation.

This, of course, is difficult when a lot of current parts look like this:

You can try and fool people with those super-wide bars and fat tires, but all that does is make it worse, emphasizing the parts that are small even more. So a lot of modern bikes wind up looking like this:

Instead of this:

Here's just a few examples of parts that are simply too cute, some of which have been seen here before in a different context.

This roly-poly little fellow shouldn't be on a bike, he should be in Hollywood looking for a Pixar movie to star in. Can't you just see it? He could get lost, befriend a mean Redneck and a tipsy Bottleneck, and embark on a series of goofy adventures before successfully joining a pair of Lumberjack Bars with a Race Fork.

2. Snafu Shorty Hex Pegs

I can't decide what these look like more—hi-tech salt and pepper shakers, or exhaust tips for a pimped-out go-kart. BRAAAAAP!

3. Odyssey Junior Lumberjack

The Odyssey Junior saddle is strange, as it resembles the adult version exactly, just on a smaller scale. Kind of like an Olsen twin. That said, I think they blew it by doing the Lumberjack plaid. What they should have done is use a green plaid and called it the Catholic School Girl. Would have sold out in seconds.

4. Federal Slammed Pivotal Post

The only way they could make a cuter seatpost would be to make it out of pink plastic with helicoiled steel threads. Which is probably in the works. Or maybe they could put little faces on them and sell them with birth certificates. Come to think of it, it wouldn't take much to make a li'l Pivotal look like Beaker:

5. Profile Nano-Drive Imperial Sprocket

Poker chips? Some sort of new-fangled Asian coinage? Old rotary phone dials? Something out of Kanye West's jewelry box? Regardless, they look like something you'd find in a gumball machine or an Easter basket, as opposed to classic sprockets which looked like something you'd find in a medieval armory. Parts that appeal to 16-year olds are fine. I get that. But when they start appealing to five-year olds is when I start to get worried.

(I'm not even going to get into Cory Jarman's bike, which is a set of tassels and a white basket away from being marketed directly to the Strawberry Shortcake set.)