Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mag Light

Yes, I took Columbus Day off. Got a problem with that?

Quick, if you were to just glance at the photo below, what year would you think it was from?


1986?

1988?

No sir, as you can see by the Primo logo, this is a stack of brand-new Primo Balance rims. From this year. The goofy colors don't appear to be in stock anywhere yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

But I had no intention of getting into colors. If shops want to start stocking products in a dozen different colors again, so be it. Not my problem. What I wanted to touch on today was the upcoming magnesium Balance rim.

Magnesium wheels are nothing new—it's where the term "mag wheel" originally came from. A company called Halibrand started making magnesium wheels for race cars all the way back in the '40s. They're not even new to BMX—Mongoose founder Skip Hess turned out some one-off magnesium Motomags in the '70s. But while magnesium is indeed lighter than aluminum, true mag wheels never became the standard for either industry.

Why?

Well, there's the little matter of magnesium being highly flammable. Obviously it's not a matter of spontaneous combustion, or even friction causing it—people do pedal grinds on magnesium pedals and they still have feet. Magnesium needs to be heated to over 800 degrees before it ignites, so leaving your bike in the sun should be fine. (If it does catch for some reason, though, forget it—magnesium burns at 4,000 degrees.) But it does make welding it a bit of a challenge.

Also, magnesium oxidizes like crazy. The atmosphere likes magnesium, and it wants it back. And it has a tendency to weaken over time in certain load-bearing applications. Um, like wheels. And apparently they go out of true faster than aluminum—you might want to read this thread on magnesium road bike wheels. Obviously the magnesium Balance rims will be coated, but how long does it take to put the first couple of scratches and scrapes in a rim? (Or wear the stuff off if you use brakes.) You gonna want to touch them up every day? Mongoose figured out 30 years ago that a magnesium production wheel didn't make sense. Halibrand moved on to aluminum as well—you'll only find true "mag" wheels on vintage race cars. Is it lighter? Yes. Is it worth the trouble? Doesn't seem like it.

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37 comments:

Anonymous said...

That;s why I still run my "Mike Buff" Z-Rims. When that sh*t gets out of alignment, I simply stuff them into my freezer. Why did they call Mike, Buff anyways? The only thing buff was his kinky buff fro.... sincerely, Anonymous

Anonymous said...

is hating

Jerry From Poland said...

Not sure about this ones.. they've been tested by Kirtis Elwell, and he isn't exatcly easy on his wheels... (see his ender the new primo teaser)
If you ride brakeless they migh't not be such a bad idea, better than most of the shit that comes out now-a-days.

ben said...

I want to ride not have to worry about my wheels crumbling or combusting.

Smokey The Bear said...

If you were stranded out in the middle of the forest, and all you had was a piece of flint and your bike, could you start a campfire?

Russ said...

jerry: Yes, but Kurtis gets his for free. Judging from pedal prices, these will probably be considerably more expensive than aluminum rims. And while it's rotating weight, HOW LIGHT DOES YOUR BIKE HAVE TO BE?

No sir, I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

It's really hard to decent find rims that are just plain aluminum-colored. But you can get nine shades of green and pink and fucking mocha ones anywhere.

Even back in the Miami Vice days, everyone sold "silver." And about half of us bought it.

Dumbness.

Anonymous said...

"find decent," I mean.

Dumbness got me.

wade said...

"HOW LIGHT DOES YOUR BIKE HAVE TO BE?"
I had three bikes set up this year. 21.5, 25, and 29 lbs. 25 feels just right.
However, as I like the parts on the lightest one (rotating weight, etc), what I need is for a company to make me a frame that is 3.5 lbs heavier. So, an 8.5 lb frame, please?

Russ said...

I've got an STA I could sell you.

pdxbmx said...

"I've got an STA I could sell you."

Dibbs!

lluis said...

"But while magnesium is indeed lighter than aluminum, true mag wheels never became the standard for either industry"

I disagree, motorbikes have been using magnesium wheels for quite some time, also in mass production. Not sure whether I would use them for a BMX though

wade said...

I answered the letters for McGoo once in Ride in 1995, and I said that the best frame you could get was a blue STA like Sandy Carson's.
Then I met Sandy, and he said he was actually riding a Lengthy.
Maybe I'll just get 30 or so Dia-Compe hinged seat clamps and clamp them all over my frame. Some Seat Clamp Solidarity.
Idea: remember when Dennis McCoy said he was going to eat double meat all the time to make Taj's vegetarianism futile? Maybe what we should do is all run two seat clamps to keep hope alive?
My current level of seat clamp ownership: seven.

Anonymous said...

lluis - they're still a fucking oddity on motorcycles

Josh said...

My current level of seat clamp ownership: four (I had to claw through the basement to find the fourth, a GT 2-bolt!).

Russ said...

One of these days I'm totally going to take a group shot of all the seatpost clamps I can find around here.

Anonymous said...

I don't get what the whole wait thing is about. Come on things are seriously getting too light now. Now I know, I don't want a really heavy bike, but I don't want a 22 pound bike. I've ridden one it's too light. I don't even know how much my bike weighs, it doesn't matter that much to me. I ride parts by how strong I think they are. I ride grand slams . Why when fit sky highs have the exact dimensions but are 10 ounces lighter? Because I trust them more. It just seems stupid to sacrifice strength because you want your bike to look like a rainbow, or you can't ride a bike that heavy. If you really can't ride because it's too heavy, you might want to get a smaller bike, or you might want to find a new sport. But let's be honest how can a bike these days be too heavy? Come on people it's starting to get ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I always wanted a set of mags..

ryan said...

So what part of a mag wheel is welded?

nate said...

The funny thing is that if the hot pink rim wasn't there, It would almost be impossible to place the era based on color alone. But then the blue rim doesn't exactly scream 90s mid-school, so you could safely say 1986 or 2006. . . it's funny what hot pink will do to one's perception.

Having said that, though, when I see crap like these colorways come through I just grit my teeth, smile, and wait for teal spandex to follow in the wake. I keep smiling until the fad dies off and cooler heads prevail. But seriously, it's kind of a generational thing, and It doesn't make my blood boil so much as it makes me roll my eyes and think, "haven't we been through this already?"

But when the new crop of 15 year olds are slapping down mommy and daddy's credit card at the bike shop and loading their 20 lb baby blue and pink trendy brakeless rig into the back of the Ford Expedition for its trip home to the suburbs it just reminds me that the circle of life cannot be stopped.

-nate

Lettusdude said...

Wheels suck nowadays. Everyone rags on me for running dual 48 spoke hazard lites cause they're too "heavy". I like being able to ride the hell out of my bike and not worry about my wheels folding on me. Hell, mine hardly go that bad out of true and my rear is missing 2 spokes. I'll never run a 36h wheel let alone one with a Magnesium rim.

On a side note, I'm addicted to this blog, which may be a good thing or a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

there will be many rim fires caused by drunken trails bonfires...What about fireworks in the spokes on the 4th?I bet alot of bmxers dont know how flammable magnesium is

Anonymous said...

Magnesium in great for making Grignard reagents, but that's about it.

Michael said...

Russ $440 Colony frames?
WTF? Is saving those 5 ounces from the non HT frame really worth 120 extra dollars? BMX is a joke now

Anonymous said...

Albert St or All Time Low, I forget which, and I forget whose section it was (if not mixed).

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's Jeff Harrington from ATL. What happened to him anyway? He rocked.

Anonymous said...

All Time Low. No idea who's part but i was pumped.

The Wretched Ones do a cover of this also.. who the fuck did the OG ?

danesgod said...

damnit, someone beat me to the Grignard remark.

Drooze said...

Companies want to sell stuff. And nowadays kids buy stuff in the color that matches their bike. It doesn't matter if it's primo or odyssey or alienation, as long as it matches.
So companies have to go along.

And frankly, I don't really mind... There's always hazard lites and 7ka's anyway...

Btw, people...
they're = They are
Their = belonging to them
wait = from the verb waiting
weight = how much something weighs

I figure if only it gets mentioned enough, people will learn...

Mexican John said...

from the thread about road mag wheels:
(1) Yes, you do have to use special brakes pads. The wheels are shipped with the green Kool-stop pads which are used for ceramic rims.

(2) I spoke with a lady who does a lot of their wheelbuilding. She said the main reason for the "event use" labelling has to do with trueing issues. It's not the kind of wheel that you can ride day in and day out and be a heavier person and expect it to stay true. It won't. If you are small person, <150 lbs this is much less of an issue. I also spoke with a sales rep who rode the wheel 100-150 miles per week for about 3 months. He had to true it once every few weeks, but that was using it far beyond "event only". Other than that he said he did not have a problem with it.

(3) The wheel builder lady said that these are wheels that you should clean meticulously. That's the second reason why they are labelled "event only". If the roads are wet, have a ton of gunk on them, it can affect the ceramic coating or cause the surface to discolor.

On #3 if you think about it, there are some frames you can leave out in the rain, treat like crap and they will still run well and be strong as a tank. The AC mags are not like this. You have to take care of them. Clean them after every ride so you don't leave junk on them that will gum them up and wear out the coating prematurely.

-sounds like they will be ideal for BMX then :-/

brien said...

The Wretched Ones originally recorded "Goin' Down the Bar".

nate said...

"event only", huh? Sounds like a road bike race. Not even mountain bikers are that meticulous about cleaning and taking care of their gear.

But that gets me onto my whole rant about professional sports and the arbitrary nature of stylistic competition. I can see how racing is a legitimate sport. There's no subjectivity there. Either you crossed the line first, or you didn't. Outside of racing, weightlifting or wrestling you can't convince me that anything should be a judged sport.
Figure skating? HELLS NO! Gymnastics? HELLS NO!
Street riding? HELLS NO!
Ramp riding? HELLS NOOOOO!

There's not enough objectivity in any of the above, and then when you get crap like "event only" magnesium rims and similar crap coming into play you can't really distinguish between talent or mechanical advantage. It all gets stupid and loses any shred of objectivity.

Buuuuuuut . . . having said that, I'm sure that Mountain Dew and Red Bull will keep shelling out money to host all their X-Games and extreme sports tour crap. Whatever. It's stupid to even argue this here because I feel like I'm pretty much preaching to the choir.

-nate

jesus christ superstar said...

dear nate. i think you are x-tremely wrong. talk shit about mt. dew all you want for the dew tour-never been to one, but it seems pretty big time/corporate to me. but im pretty sure every red bull affiliated bmx event i went to was pretty much hands down fucking awesome. and they always bring hot ass chicks with them everywhere, something most bmxers need to pick up on.

DBZ said...

Fuck Red Bull. Bitches in tube tops getting kids to drink caffeinated smurf piss isn't BMX.

I tried to get a magnesium pedal to burn once, unsuccessfully. I didn't know you had to get it to 800 degrees though, so maybe I'll give it another go.

If you dissolve expanded polystyrene in kerosene, then mix it with sugar and gasoline, you have a basic version of napalm.

POKEMON! said...

FUCK DRAGON BALL Z!!!!!!!

and also fuck dbz. he is lame. red bull is aweosme. they do good things for bmx. now go try to get caleb rucker sponsored.

G.S.GUCCILIFE said...

Msg for the rims makers that read this blog.please make rims in blue(more or less like the blue you find on sunday frames) and ill assure you that ill buy 10 pairs right away.

thanx

nate said...

Alright, I'll eat some of my words. Admitedly there's no love lost between me and annything that revolves around Mountain Dew, but I do have to give Red Bull props for actually bringing quality talent and the right attitude to the stuff that they sponsor (be it BMX, airplane racing, or whatever). I should have thought twice before frothing at the mouth in my last post. . . and that's why I would never get elected to public office: my case of chronic foot-in-mouth disease.

Anyway, I still stand by my skepticism of "event only" parts being thrown on the open market. . .

-nate