Monday, June 30, 2008

Assassination Day

To be honest, nothing much in BMX surprises me anymore. The riding? When you have guys doing flairs entirely backwards and 360ing off rooftops, it's apparent that anything goes. And productwise, well, I think I've made myself quite clear. Let's just say I generally hope for the best and expect the worst.

Sometimes, it seems, my expectations are still too high.

Take Hitman Bikes. Their new street frame is a low-slung, drilled-out, Sanko-tubed creation that looks like an Eastern on a crash diet or a Tierra that was used for target practice (the three holes in the headtube beg to be converted into a working traffic light). According to the accompanying release, which is up on Ride but, oddly enough, not on Hitman's own site, it weighs four pounds, six ounces, which honestly seems kind of heavy given all the drilling. The prototype was sub-four, and is apparently still being ridden, which doesn't really explain why the production frame is 12 ounces heavier.

(I'm not entirely sure, based on the photo and the diagram below, where all 21 holes are. It looks like 10 in the seattube, three in the headtube, and four in the capped stays. Where else? Maybe the gyro tab ones count?)

As you can see on info sheet, they named the frame the "Sir Han," and used images of pistols and a silencer-wielding gunman. Which is all well and good, I suppose—the company is named "Hitman," and their last frame, the Ruby, was a nod to Jack, who sent Lee Harvey Oswald on his way.

But "Sir Han" is a whole other matter. Sirhan Sirhan was the nutjob who assassinated Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy back in '68, paving the way for Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew and all the ensuing unpleasantness. Not that Jack Ruby was a saint, but naming your 21-holed frame for a guy who put four holes in a future President—and is still very much alive, awaiting his 14th shot at parole—is at best a sick joke. I can't wait for the James Earl Ray and the MDC.

(Hitman is also releasing a drilled-out, sub-four-pound flatland frame that was designed in part by Day Smith and Sean McKinney. It only has 18 holes in it. Hopefully Sean wanted all the holes so the frame could double as a bong.)

Given the 18 holes, they should have called the flat frame the "Tiger," or the "Spackler." Instead they went with the "Judas," who may have betrayed Jesus, but never shot anyone. What a pussy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quiz For All Mankind

Lots of Mankind product updates on the System Cycles blog today, which means it's finally time for another quiz.

1. In addition to the 18 styles already on their site, the blog shows five new seat designs. Two of them, including the Globe (shown) were already in their lineup.

Which means Mankind now has how many different seats?

a) 23

b) 21

c) 18

d) way too fucking many

2. Brew crew.

Laser-cut decorative seatstay/chainstay bridges are all the rage these days. Stricker has the anchor, Homan had the NJ, Mutiny does brass knuckles. Even 2Hip did an "A" for Jarrod Allen. This frame was made for:

a) Cecil Cooper

b) Robin Yount

c) Jeff Klugiewicz

d) Paul Molitor

e) Prince Fielder

3. Bottom bracket.

Anodizing and engraving a part that will never see the light of day except when it's in the packaging (or installed in a Grim Reaper) is:

a) insane

b) stupid

c) overkill

d) a complete waste of time and money

e) all of the above

4. Barends.

Selling an aluminum barend in 200h8—even if only the endcap is aluminum—is the equivalent of selling:

a) a chromoly seatpost

b) a seven-pound frame

c) forks with peg bosses

d) a cross-bolt stem

e) a 16-tooth cassette driver

5. Bridges redux.

The globe on the Neworld frame is indicitave of:

a) Mankind's wish to join the United Nations

b) Mankind's love for this planet

c) Mankind's wish to produce an entirely useless and purely decorative "brace"

d) Mankind's quest for worldwide domination

e) Mankind's desire to remind everyone where they are

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Before you buy that fantastic new part that you're sure will make you a better rider, maybe watch this:

• 44/16
• American BB, regular headset
• 48s
• 7+ pound frame

All add up to what may be the best video section ever?

Yeah, you're probably not Van Homan. But it's more about how you ride than what you ride. Just ride your bike.

EDIT: Since it was posted in the comments, I may as well add the old Ride bike check here. Thanks, anonymous. Mean Street!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Four-Piece and a Biscuit

Don't look now, but four-piece bars are making a comeback. Again. Maybe. Only this time they're bigger and badder than ever. Well, except for when they were popular in the early '90s and again in the late '90s. (It's more or less impossible to find someone that rode in the late '80s/early '90s who didn't have a set of Haro Kneesavers or GT four-piece, or someone that rode in the late '90s and didn't have a set of Castillos or Mad Dogs or Moe's Bars.) I can hardly wait for the return of the six- and seven-piece bar. Are we headed back to this?

Anyway, when I saw a shot of the new Federal 20/20 Bars (whatever that name means):

on their blog the first thing I thought of was a post I made on my old blog back in January of '07. I happened to have two sets of uncut GT four-piece bars (the 3D blueprint for the original "Bob" bar), and since they were 28" wide and chrome, I decided to shoot them and present them as if they were a new Animal product. I then assured everyone that it was just a joke. Were I cleverer, I would have let it hang for a little longer before ruining all the fun.

Now, of course, it's come full circle—the 'new' Federal bars look an awful lot like old DK bars. I half expect Haro (or maybe Premium) to offer an updated version of the OG Kneesavers—or maybe some lightened-up Mirra and or Nyquist Bars. Redline could bring back the Forklifters, complete with number-plate mounting tabs.

Federal isn't the only one on this particular bandwagon. Sputnic is pushing their own 13-butted version, in three different rises and three different colors, complete with their exclusive pad-centering (and utterly disgusting) externally butted crossbar:

I also like that they mention the "street-inspired 4-piece design." Because you never see anyone riding a street bike with two-piece bars or a race bike with four-piece. How can handlebars be "street inspired" anyway?

Of course for those who don't need 28"x8" and could care less about weight, there's always old faithful, the Animal Bob Bars:

I love that people are complaining (anonymously, of course) that Federal is just copying the Bob Bar (even though they're obviously wider and have way more backsweep) when the Bob Bar itself is a BLATANT—and acknowledged—ripoff of the GT's design from the early '90s. They're probably the most popular four-piece bar on the market right now, because they don't have that much competition. They're SIX WHOLE OUNCES heavier than the Sputnics, but think of the street cred! Even Corey Martinez has a pair, although he runs them a bit differently than most:

Word is that United is also coming out with a four-piece bar, which is good news for Corey so he won't have to be unceremoniously dumped from yet another team.

It'll be interesting to see whether this bigger crop of four-piece bars catches on. I kind of hope they do, just so companies start making something other than 28"x8" two-piece bars. (Not that it will be any better if everyone starts making 28"x8" four-piece bars. And I don't think my stomach could even handle a 29"x8.5" four-piece bar.)

But before everyone starts rushing to be first, let's consider that this isn't the first time a company has tried to make a big four-piece bar. Remember the FBM Dinner Box Bars:

They didn't make much of an impact when they came out, and disappeared without a trace. If there's any left at the warehouse, Steve and JPR should consider having them chromed and re-named. Because perhaps their time has finally come.

Personally? I'm holding out for the return of three-piece bars. I'm so far ahead of my time I'm about to pass you twice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Port of Austin

I was really psyched a couple of years ago when Sunday came out with the Vinnie Sammon frame. Not just because I'd known Vinnie for a long time, and he deserved a frame as much as anyone, but because Sunday chose to go a different route than most companies—while Vinnie's frame had a signature paint job and sticker set, underneath it was just another Sunday Wave.

When word came out that Sunday was doing another signature frame, this time for the everfluorescent Aaron Ross, I figured it would be more of the same, only brighter. But the spy photo posted on Sunday (check out the stamped caps!) and the fact that the frame is in for "testing" makes me wonder:

What could be changed for the better? It always seemed ridiculous to me that, in the interest of having multiple 'signature' frames, companies would offer a line of four or five "different" frames that differed so slightly that you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Hell, the welders could probably barely tell the difference. And if one frame wound up being more popular than another, well, there went the profits. Sunday, I thought, they had it right. It was like skateboarding. Just change the graphics, keep the basic product the same.

Then they released the Ian frame, with the built-in post, and OK, I sort of understood that. If you were just going to run your seat slammed anyway, there was no need for a separate post and clamp. I guess. And the rest of the geometry was the same, so it was more or less still just a Sunday—kind of like the signature T1 Barcodes from a ways back (there's still a new 21" Garrett under my bed).

But this, I'm not sure. What could they change? I'm pretty sure Ross's FBMs were 74.5 degrees with conventional rear end lengths and whatnot. Maybe a lower toptube? GPS? Built-in ice-cream scoop?

Let the rampant speculation begin!

EDIT: Added the second photo. Apparently the frame will be called the "Funday", which is totally awesome.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Amazing news! Now the only CNCed BMX-specific brake lever in existence comes in more colors (some limited!) than you can shake a stick at. Because if your brake lever doesn't match your hubs and stem, you're just not trying hard enough. Apparently they're half the weight of any other brake lever on the market, which they'd damn well better be since they're also quadruple the price. Pass the Tech 77, please.

Also, Colony decided to make a contribution to the Jay Miron Beer Fund by coming out with their own incredibly innovative lineup of Pivotal seats. (At least they're not nearly as horrific looking as the UGP ones, which make Alienation's designs look downright sophisticated. If you just looked at current Pivotal designs, you'd think the average BMX consumer was either a blind six-year old or a trend-obsessed hypebeast. Not that there's much difference.) Of course Colony's seats won't be out until '09, so until then you'll just have to make do with your choice of the 50 or so similar Pivotal seats that are already available. How utterly inconvenient.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Odyssey Homer

As my good friend 'anonymous' has noted countless times in the comments section of various posts, I like Odyssey. Not in the explicit way that has often been suggested, but in a "wow, they're a company that does things the right way" sort of way. I've never met any of the guys in person, but I've e-mailed with Chris Cotsonas and Nuno Oliveira and Ben Ward (and, to a lesser extent, Jim Bauer) for years. A bunch of us have New York roots. And while I've never met any of them, I consider them friends.

It's strange, because when the company first appeared, Odyssey was...different. Yes, there was the revolutionary Gyro. But there were also Flying Wedge bars, drilled-out brake calipers and levers (ahead of their time!) and the notorious Barefeet tires. Later, there was the Xtro hub, and the tinfoil fork that went with it. If there were riders designing the products, they must not have ridden much.

But early this decade, things started to change. It started at the tail end of the "overbuilt is better" era. Hazard rims. Milk Bars. The Richard Gear. Then the floodgates opened. An affordable cassette hub, Hazard Lites, Civilian Bars, Race Forks, Jim C and Twisted PC pedals. Items that quickly became BMX staples. And when G-Sport's George French joined forces with the in-house guys, things got even more fun. The Elementary stem. The Director fork. Wombolt cranks. Plegs. The Elementary was absurdly light, yes, but it also addressed an old problem (how to hold your handlebars to your forks) in an entirely new way. Rather than just drilling and machining an old design and calling it new, Odyssey innovated. Leading is much harder than following, especially in a trend-driven market like BMX.

There were problems, of course. First-generation Wombolts broke, cassettes ghost-pedaled, Elementaries slipped. But the same problems were immediately addressed. Odyssey has a huge online presence, as well as one of the best warranty 'divisions' in the business. If you have a question or a concern, an e-mail or post on any BMX messageboard will usually be met with a quick (and helpful) response.

All that said, I have to call them as I see them. And their new CFL frontload stem, while pretty with all its laser engraving and color options, seems to be a little, dare I say, superfluous? Late to the party. For a company that's built its reputation on innovation to introduce a 53mm reach, 11.something ounce frontloader now just doesn't set right.

It's not that I have a problem with the product itself—it doesn't appear to be machined to death or anything—it's more that, with so many similar products already on the market (including the welcome return of the original Solid stem), I thought Odyssey would go in a different direction. Bring something new to the table. Say, a longer Elementary, or one with rise (if that's even possible). The CFL is fine, it just seems unnecessary. Kind of like its namesake.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Little Things

• Animal is releasing a butted version of their Light pegs (Lighters?), which shaves 0.7 ounces per peg. It'll also mean they'll wear out faster, but hey, that's your problem. When companies like Animal are starting to put weight first, the Apocalypse must be right around the corner. I've actually been thinking about throwing on four OG pegs in defiance. (Oh noes, then my bike might weigh all of 27 pounds!)

Also, didn't MacNeil make butted steel pegs years ago and call them "Park Pegs"? With Animal making butted pegs and Kink making aluminum ones, I'm not entirely sure what's going on. Vic Ayala and Troy McMurray need to come back and start a parts company with Sean Burns and call it FUCK YOU.

• Apparently the new S&M Dirt Bike, which I've written about twice already, will retail for $370. While that's $30 cheaper than the flagship LTF (and the Fit S3.5), it's still more expensive than the Sunday Second Wave or the FBM Maneater. Which is a bit of a disappointment. I thought the new Dirt Bike would fill the low-budget void left by frames like the Standard Cashius, the FBM Outsider, and yes, the original Dirt Bike. Although I suppose I should have known different when I saw "SuperTherm" and "five pounds". It's a bit like Honda producing a new $40,000 two-seater and calling it the CRX (which wouldn't surprise me either, actually). Unconfirmed word is that the Dirt Bike will replace the Black Bike in the S&M lineup, which means it's more of a name change than anything. Oh well, some things are just too good to be true.

(Then again, given the horrorshow that is the US economy, it's amazing that BMX frame prices have stayed the same for so damn long. I just picked up a 2001 Dan's catalog that was next to my couch—don't ask—and an S&M Call Girl frame was $370 way back then. How much was gas in 2001? Then again, the Dirt Bike Classic was $200.)

• I only became recently aware of the ever-sinking toptube of the Terrible One Barcode (which, by the way, is also cheaper than the Dirt Bike). Tragic. Jack! Rose! If only weight could have been trimmed in a different manner—say, by decreasing the diameter of said toptube. Or not worrying about weight at all. Which manufacturer will be so bold as to no longer list frame weight? (I'd also entirely forgotten that Taj was riding for Giant until I saw this bike check. I know it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but it's still sort of like Fugazi signing with Universal.)

• This has been bothering me for a while: Spanish or Mid, people. Pick one. Is it really necessary to maintain two near-identical, yet incompatible, bottom bracket standards? If one is truly superior, pick that one. And if it doesn't matter, flip a coin.

Stop the madness! WWJSD?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Punk is Definitely Dead

Gah, way too much to do today. Please pardon the brevity. (Although, if you believe what they say, it's the soul of wit, and I could use some of that. Also, I'll be less likely to make dumb mistakes.)

I like the concept of Nike 6.0. As I may have stated at some point, I think the Zoom Oncore is a fantastic shoe to ride in. And since they often get stocked at places that normally don't cater to, um, action-sports types, you can usually find them for dirt cheap (I got one of my pairs for $35).

I like Alkaline Trio. Yeah, they're not on my iPod, and I don't listen to them every day (or even every month), but when Maybe I'll Catch Fire or Good Mourning comes up on iTunes, I don't skip past it.

That said, thank you Nike 6.0 and Alkaline Trio for releasing the latest Godawful sneaker collabomination:

I'm not sure whether it's worse than the saw shoe (which I actually saw Nate Wessel wearing at Woodward), but it's close. Explanation and justification available here. (Tim Reede from Nike 6.0, punk rock would like to have a word with you behind the woodshed.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Come Clarity

First, there were clear grips.

Were the Edwins first? I believe so. The compound wasn't as hand-friendly as the basic black ones, but they were new and cool and you could put stickers on your bars that you could see through the grips. Awesome. I've actually got a pair on my fixed gear right now. They get the job done.

Then there were clear pedals.

Odyssey originally introduced the molded composite Twisted PC as a cheaper alternative to the regular aluminum Twisted pedal as well as a product for flatlanders, who have always preferred plastic. But something funny happened on the way to obsolesence. When "lightness" passed both "cleanliness" and "Godliness" in the "ness" pantheon, suddenly the lowly $12 plastic pedal became a favorite amongst slammed-seat street riders (as visions of pedal and Luc-E grinds danced in their heads) and miniramp shredders. Spindles were beefed up, basic black was joined by white, all rejoiced.

Then came clear. (Atomlab actually tried a clear Lexan pedal years ago, but they were a) expensive, and b) brittle.) At $15 a pair, the clear Odysseys became an instant staple—and helped offset the cost of things like Kevlar-beaded folding tires.

(Odyssey has continued to expand the PC line with a bunch of pastel colors and some tinted clear ones—based on the original iMac colors, which most of their would-be consumers probably don't even remember. PC? Mac? Oh, I get it. Can we just lose the red endcap next?)

Now we have clear seats.

Éclat, We The People's new parts line, is introducing the Webster seat, which doubles as a colander. A railed plastic seat full of holes—what a new concept! (Oh, that's right, they have a lot of colors now.)

Combine the clear version with a slammed post, clear pedals, clear grips, drilled-out bars and stem, a Grim Reaper frame and a tiny drivetrain, and you more or less have a bike fit for Wonder Woman.

I kind of thought the whole point of a seat was to HIDE the rails and the clamp and all that nonsense. Guess not. And I wonder what UV will do to it?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Word to the Wise

Still playing around with a full-length post on the Kevin Robinson high-airstravaganza in Central Park. In the meantime, here's another photo, though. Practice session flair at height:

So for today, here's a couple shots of Rob Wise's new setup featuring his signature Volume frame, the Assault, as seen on 5050 BMX. Hm. Apparently the Eastern influence is spreading.

I love that the frame weighs a "respectable" 4.5 pounds. As opposed to a "disrespectable" five pounds? Personally I don't respect 4.5 pound frames at all—in the morning or otherwise—but maybe that's just me. At least the cutouts are in "non-high-stress areas." Thats a, um, relief.

Never thought I'd see a frame that made the Eastern seattube cutouts look good, but this one does. Can you say "homemade"? What I'd really like to see is a complementary seatpost with spring-loaded studs that pop out through the holes (old-school tent pole style), thus making a seatpost clamp—integrated or not—unnecessary.

Drilling out the caps on the stays is possibly THE dumbest thing I've ever seen in my life. So, of course, this frame's got that, too. (I get it, it's stronger than uncapped stays and lighter than regular capped stays. Still looks stupid.)

Then there's the usual stuff—laser-cut seatstay/chainstay braces—and the unusual—removable chainstay AND seatstay brakemounts. Not sure whether that's just on the prototype or not.

Also, calling a 4.5 pound frame the "Assault" is like naming a poodle "Chopper". I'm sorry, I know Rob Wise is a badass and all (Left/Right is incredible), but a drilled-out, laser-cut, butted frame isn't an "Assault." Given the state affiliation, why not name it the "Jazz"?

UPDATE: Rob talks about the frame, which has apparently been re-named "The Machine" (after this guy?), on Volume.

Friday, June 13, 2008


(I fully plan on writing something about the Kevin Robinson high air event—which I attended—but I want to spend some more time on it. For now, here's a photo.)

Once again, no quiz. Although I suppose this could qualify as a one-question quiz, albeit one with no good answer: Why would Ruben Alcantara design a bashguard "to complement his unique riding style" and have it fit only one frame—one that, in fact, he doesn't even ride? (Ruben's still on T1, is he not?) A real headscratcher, that.

Ah, bashguards. Somehow I can't see them making much of a comeback. Who's going to intentionally bolt eight whole ounces to the bottom of their four-pound frame? Besides this guy, of course.

In other news, Sean Burns is my homeboy.

And one more thing: Jimmy LeVan.

(OK, maybe I am a retro grouch. Just a little.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chrome Team

As recently as 10 or 12 years ago, you could get pretty much anything you wanted in chrome. Bars, cranks, forks, seatposts, frames—as long as you were willing to pay an extra $10—and even pegs. For a long time, chrome was actually cool.

Then came the backlash. Chrome weakened parts and the process was horrible for the environment. For the most part, it disappeared (except when it came to rims and limited runs of bars and frames—I still regret not getting a brakeless chrome Black Bike when I had the chance).

Certain individuals kept chrome alive, though, having their rides plated at their own expense. Greg "Noodles" Tait has had a string of chrome T1s. Ben Ward of Odyssey went with chrome Wombolts and Directors. And now Hanson Little of Mutiny and Empire has apparently gone all in. Can't wait to see the whole bike.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tiding The Stem

Couple new stems popped up in the last few weeks. I can barely contain my excitement.

First there's the new Fly, which, best I can tell, is the old stem simply shrunk by 10-15 percent (it's lower, shorter, and the bolts are smaller) and machined to within an inch of your life. Who designed it, Rick Moranis? But it's also two ounces lighter than the Potencia stem, so you should totally buy one.

Then there's this one from Macneil. I guess toploads are back. It looks like an old Standard stem that got pushed nose-first into a router. Honestly, I've never really been a fan of the split top cap (reminds me too much of this), and splitting the bottom as well just seems a lot excessive. But hey, every ounce counts when you're trying to get to sub-20.

At least topload stems make some degree of sense. Nothing better than seeing someone with tall bars and a drop frontload with spacers underneath. (And if you're going to run a drop stem with no spacers and tall bars, why not just get lower bars and a topload? I guess that would make too much sense.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It Was Bound To Happen Eventually

Missed a day. Was out of town, and got back late. Not to mention it's 2,000 degrees out. Did you miss me?

It's hotter'n all hell again today, and whether it's because I'm masochistic or stupid—I'm leaning towards stupid—I have yet to plug in my AC (or even put it in the window, for that matter). Which means I slept quite badly last night. I think I may have to surrender soon and cool this place down before I lose my mind. Maybe even before the Laker game.

Anyway, I was wandering around the internet today when I found this on the Standard blog:

If I read the entry correctly (and take into consideration things that were posted in the past), this bike seems to be the new ride of Mr. Smilin' Rick Moliterno. No front brake, tragic. Perhaps it's to keep things as lightweight as possible—given the prototype four-pound frame (yikes), ti pegs and spindle and rear axle, and the "very light but not unsafe" prototype fork (double yikes). And the 27.0 seatpost lives!

What's funny to me is, with all that gets listed, and all of the obvious weight-saving tricks, no mention is made of the complete bike weight. If you're gonna go through all that trouble, why keep it a secret?

(Two things I AM psyched on: the fact that Standard will be making new Strip Bars—even if they're generic 28x8 two-piecers, at least they've made them before—and the front Dirt Monster. Almost makes me want to get another one myself.)

Friday, June 6, 2008

This Is Just A Test

You know what? I was struggling to find stuff to put together a quiz, and I realized that I don't HAVE to do a quiz on Fridays. As I'm unbeholden by editors or advertisers or a schedule or anything else, I can do whatever I want. And today I'd like to talk a little about bike tests.

The whole reason I thought of it was the Premium test on the Ride site, posted as text and as video. Someone named "DGAF Dan" (punk rawk!) put the $500 complete through its paces in a one-day torture session, and, apparently, the bike emerged unscathed except for the brakes (which got taken off right away) and the cranks (which made a lot of noise and probably weren't long for this world).

I, like many people my age, were introduced to the concept of the bike test through the Mighty BMX Action (no, the first one), in which a slew of testers from R.L. Osborn (a pro freestyler and the publisher's kid) to a young Chris "Mad Dog" Moeller demoli—er, rode everything from high-end race bikes to entry-level freestylers. The aim was twofold—shoot rad photos, and sell bikes (I don't remember many bikes, if any, getting completely negative reviews). They did everything from jumping big doubles to jumping over trucks:

There were two problems with bike tests, two things that bothered me when I knew enough to read between the lines, and both of those things seem to hold true today:

1) How much can you figure out when you ride a bike for one day? No matter how hard you ride it, you're probably not going to break anything. And if something does break in one day of riding, how do you know it's not just a case of getting a defective, well, whatever it is? You could test ride a bike, have everything hold up great, then a week later it falls apart like the Bluesmobile. By then it's too late. To test a bike for real, seems to me you'd have to get a couple of them, and do some sort of long-term testing like the car magazines do. Give it to a guy for a month, not a day. (And if you're going to give it to someone for a day, make sure they're someones like Dave Young and Ken Hale. I think the owner of Jad is still on meds after that test.)

2) When you rely on a company for advertising, how honest can you be? Maybe it's not as bad now, but back in the '80s, saying something bad about a bike from GT/Dyno or Haro or Mongoose would have been a deathwish. Which even now makes me wonder about how those Pro Class rims REALLY held up when jumping over a jacked-up truck to flat. If one of them had buckled, would anyone have told us? (Whenever they talked about something getting bent or broken, the answer always seemed to be "well, we did much more to it than YOU ever would anyway.")

(A third, and I suppose lesser, problem, is that a good enough rider can get used to anything. Just because Chris Moeller could do a no-footer one-hander on a Mongoose Californian didn't necessarily mean it was a good bike for the average 13-year-old kid.)

Tests seem extra-useless nowadays, actually, as geometry (74.5/71/13.75-14") is somewhat standardized, as is the Taiwan catalog spec (cranks, hubs, that sort of thing). Some companies use name-brand stuff, sure, but most of that is already proven. And if the geometry is "normal," and the parts are either name brand or everycompany generic, what is there to test?

And of course no one really says anything anyway. Look at that Premium test. The guy loved the bars (generic 28x8 two-piece), thought the stem and rims held up great (for one day!), and so on. This is news? It only would have been news if something HAD broken, and if something breaks in one day, there's something very wrong with it. Or you're Dave Young.

The last great bike test I remember was when they ran a bunch of frames over with Nate Hanson's truck, set them on fire, and did all sort of other brutal things. But I've gotta admit, this one is pretty great too:

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Video break.

Dave Parrick is apparently hard at work on a long-awaited DVD transfer of all his classic Homeless videos, as well as Nowhere Fast. If you haven't seen 1993's Trash yet, here's a couple of sections. Kevin Gutierrez was so far ahead of his time it's silly. And while the vignetting can be a bit much, and the quality isn't the best, it's well worth your time.

Lee Sultimier


Ed Koenning

The Gute

And now for something completely different:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Grouch? Yes. Retro? Hardly.

There has been some amount of misconception of late—or, perhaps every day—that I'm some sort of retro grouch. That I won't be happy until every BMXer on the planet goes back to riding STAs and Holmeseses with 45-tooth sprockets, Kink chains, Super Pros and um, well, Slam Bars (or Castillos, or Standard Six-Piece Strips). Basically, this:

Not true!

(Although that bike is awesome.)

Perhaps some of you missed when I actually posted my bike. Anyway, I'd just like to talk a little today about my two favorite advancements in BMX:

THE THREADLESS HEADSET: Most riders today are unfamiliar with the joys of the 1” threaded headset—like having to remove your stem and tighten said headset (usually with a vice grip or pipe wrench) after EVERY SINGLE RIDE. Or having to hold a cracked headset cup together with a hose clamp (go ask your dad). Or just trying to get the goddamn thing to work properly, especially as most headsets seemed to be made up of mismatched parts from about eight different incompatible headsets. Ask anyone who came of age riding BMX in the ‘80s, and they’ll tell you that the threadless headset is the finest invention of our time. It is. The internal headset even more so, no matter what Chris King thinks.

(This doesn’t even get into the shafted stem issue, where your bars and stem were attached to your bike via a cast metal wedge and a single—usually hollow—bolt. All too often one of the other broke during the simple act of tightening. Yet we rode them anyway. It’s a wonder any of us are still alive.)

THE DRIVETRAIN: If the threadless headset was the best BMX innovation of the past 20 years (well, Cook Bros. did it in the '70s, but it didn't catch on), microdrives were the second. 44/16 is oft romanticized, but not by many of those who rode it on a regular basis. Chains broke. Sprockets bent. Freewheels blew up. Slight wheel movement resulted in sagging chains that either fell off or incessantly pinged off your seatstay until you had to crank the volume on your Walkman (again, ask dad) just to tune it out.

Despite road bikes and mountain bikes using smaller rear cogs for years, the first BMX response to the drivetrain problem was just to make everything beefier. So we got half-inch thick sprockets and motorcycle chains and “Fat Claws” freewheels. That way pedaling became a chore even when verything was straight, instead of your chain harmlessly rattling on your stays it actually ate through them—and the fat chains STILL broke on a somewhat regular basis. Good times.

Then came the cassette hub (I’m purposefully ignoring the 14t freewheel and flip-flop hub, since hardly anyone ran them outside of racing). Or, at least, then came a cassette hub with a driver smaller than 16t. Shimano made a BMX cassette hub way back when, but everyone still ran the same gear ratio. The sun broke through the clouds. Birds burst into song. The lion lay down with the lamb. This, my friends, was progress.

(Of course there was an awkward middle phase, when companies still made insanely thick—but tiny—sprockets, and people ran giant chains with small drivetrains, which chewed up lockrings and felt terrible. Not that I did that or anything. It’s just what I heard.)

First, there was 36/13. Then 30/11 and 28/10. And it was good. Freewheels were banished, giant chains went back to opening garage doors, running motorcycles, and mooring ocean liners, and sprockets got much lighter as manufacturers realized that they weren’t going to ever be hitting anything. If you pick one up now, it’s amazing now how much a 45-tooth sprocket weighs. They’re basically manhole covers with teeth. This one change solved so many problems, and made bikes stronger, lighter and much more maintenance-free. Win-win-win!

(I'll go back to being grumpy tomorrow, promise.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New S&M Dirtbike (SPRFLS Approved)

Finally, a few days ago—real information on the S&M website about the new Dirtbike:

"We've been getting requests for basically the same frame for awhile now and this is it. The Dirt Bike has a 74.5 head tube, taller stand over and a 14" rear end. Built with SuperTherm tubing, this frame is light and strong. It's not available brakeless, it uses a regular seat-clamp, there aren't any holes drilled in it for lightness. This thing looks like a regular BMX frame that wasn't designed specifically for tail-whips, nose wheelies and hang fives! In other words it's a fucking Dirt Bike. Get off the World Wide Interweb and go haul ass on a Dirt Bike.

Available in classic powder-coated S&M colors Black, Yellow and Red with retro Dirt bike graphics.

Like all S&M frames the Dirt Bike is proudly Made in the USA.

Top Tube Lengths: 20.5", 20.75", 21.0", 21.25"
74.5 head angle (for stability at speed)
71 head angle
14" rear end (this isn't a unicycle)
Weight: 5 lbs give or take for TT size (don't be a weight weenie)
Available only with 990 mounts (so you can stop)
Made from SuperTherm Butted and Air-hardening tube set
Taller Standover Height (doesn't look like a scooter)
BB Height: 11.8"
BB Type: Mid Press Fit
Dropout Slot: 14mm
990 Mounts: On seat-stays
Gyro Tabs: Removable
Head Tube Type: Integrated Hiddenset
Integrated Seat Clamp: Not a chance"

Sounds good to me, although it would be nice if the 21" and the 21.25" were called the Holmes instead. And of course they conveniently ignore the fact that they still make other bikes which ARE for scooterific, weight-weenie fans of integrated seat clamps who don't have any interest in stopping. Other than that, couldn't have said it (much) better myself. Moeller, are you reading this? (If you are, offer the Dirtbike in chrome and army green as well. Oh yeah, and ship the long ones with Holmes downtube stickers. Dave Clymer would want you to.)

Bummer that Dirtbike 2.0 (I'm pretending the Next Generation and Classic models never existed) is not available sans brake mounts, but I understand where they're coming from. And while chainstay mounts would be more historically accurate, I hate when companies lower the chainstays excessively to allow for microdrive. Seatstay it is.

(Just one other thing: Will people really think five pounds is too heavy? For serious?)

Good work, S&M. Now, if you would only do something about your stupid, flashtastic website.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wild, With My Monochrome Style

It was inevitable, I suppose, the return of the monochrome BMX bike. Haven't seen any in NYC yet (besides the ubiquitous all-black versions, which have never gone out of style and represent more of a complete lack of obsession with color than an unhealthy one), but a quick spin around the web reveals a couple of freshly built examples:

The first one I saw was this all-white Kink. Quite the photo, huh? It reminded me of two things—ghost bikes, which are locked to signposts and light poles to memorialize cyclists who were killed (or injured) near the spot, and the all-white GT Pro Freestyle Tour that came out in the '80s during a Euro craze (if I'm not mistaken, BMX Plus! did an all-white "Project Euro" as well):

The only mystery about the Kink are the tires, which I expect are Primo Walls. Not the best choice for a current bike, but white tires are hard to come by these days. (If you're going to ride this bike, stock up.) I'm pretty sure the last time I had a set I also had white Z-Rims. Also, don't lock it up in a major city unless you want people to assume it's a tribute to the dead and get REALLY mad at you when you unlock it.

Then there was this all-red Fit Hawk, which was posted on the Fit site around the same time as they announced the availability of the red frame and parts. Like the white Kink, it was built by a shop (and I'd be curious to know whether either of them actually sell).

The Fit, like the Kink, appears to be all current with the exception of the tires, in this case Primo V-Monsters. They made V-Monsters in blue as well, so one would hope someone would make a Crip Hawk to go with the Blood version. (I'm surprised by how well the tones match, despite the use of both flat and gloss red, and paint and anodization and rubber.)

My favorite mostly monochrome bike was a Pro Performer that Eddie Fiola rode back in the mid-'80s, a recent semi-accurate reproduction which is shown here:

Given the black tires and the gold and chrome parts, it's more like one of Aaron Ross's neon monstrosities than the unicolors above. But it wouldn't surprise me one bit if colored tires made a comeback sometime soon. What goes around, comes around.