Friday, February 27, 2009

The Drop

Hi. My name is Russ Bengtson and I'm a hypocrite. I admit this of my own free will—proudly, no less. I'm sure I couldn't even begin to count the number of times I've said one thing, then gone and done the exact opposite. That said:

THIS IS NOT A BIKE CHECK.

Hanson Little promised long ago that he'd send a flick of his chrome Mutiny Mystic, and this week he came through. Devon Hutchins took the photo, and—to reinforce that this is no bike check—I have no information regarding any of the parts on the bike. It sure looks purty, though, don't it?


Also, Hanson scored the cover of the new Dig. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

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To be fair, the new Snafu Splitter stem is certainly distinctive-looking:

And it sure is minimalist. We seem to be reaching the limit of how much material you can remove from a six-bolt stem (counting the ones on the back) and have it still function as a stem. It kind of looks like a Redneck's skeleton, if Rednecks were Terminators (and I'm not entirely sure they aren't).

I don't think I could run this stem, and it has nothing to do with the fact that it's made by Snafu (well, not entirely, at least). Looking at those slim plates in the front and the narrow tubes that house the bolts makes me feel nervous, and the stem is a part I don't like to feel nervous about. (running a close second to forks). I'd rather run an 11-ounce stem and feel safe. Well, safer, anyway.

I'm totally psyched on the fact that there's a "drop date," although I'm bummed there's no mention of colorways. Maybe I'll camp out overnight so I can be the first to post my new Splitter on the internets. Hm, I've always meant to get back to Austin. Hey Hanson, save me a good spot out front—and have a list of your parts ready when I get there. You'd better know what kind of chain that is.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

You Will Miss All That Heavenly Glory

Sometimes, when I'm not busy hating, I like to contemplate how certain ideas in BMX came about. And one day recently, sitting at my desk, I realized I was looking right at the source of many recent "innovations."

The Flick Trix finger bike:


How could I have been so blind? You know every designer and editor has at least one of these things, whether they use it to do Luc-E's across the top of their laptop screen or nosewheelies across the space bar or just stare at it when the day goes too long. And despite the Fatboy seattube interrupted and the Jay Miron handlebar angle, there were a lot of design cues to pilfer. Check out these detail shots:


One piece bar/stem combo? Check. Fork with built-in race? Check. Bonded seat/post combo? Check. Plastic pedals? Check. Two-piece cranks? Check. Plastic bottom bracket? Check. Massive tires front and rear? Check. Even ideas that have already come and gone—like the beer can headtube and plastic sprocket—were first seen on these little bike-shaped crystal balls.

So when belt drive and plastic frames finally become a reality, don't blame the "designers." Blame their inspiration.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

Apparently "the big topic in BMX" is fixed-gear freestyle. Had no idea. That being the case, I suppose I should weigh in:

It's fucking stupid.

Call me closed-minded, call me old-fashioned, call me a Fascist. I don't care. But first check out the ad that accompanies that Volume post:

Notice anything? That's right, the bike broke. And sure, anyone can break a chain. But if you're doing stuff like that on a regular basis on a 700c wheeled bike, parts are going to break all the time. Wheels will bend, chainstays will die, forks will—I don't want to even think what will happen to forks.

I guess what I don't understand is taking a bike obviously intended for one thing and using it for something it's in no way intended for. I know, I know, I can hear the responses already: "But that's how BMX and mountain biking started!!!!" Sure, fine. Absolutely correct.

However.

At this point, in 2009, there are plenty of bikes out there designed expressly for trick riding. You have your regular BMX bikes, obviously, as well as cruisers and mountain bikes. All shapes and sizes. Fixed-gears are built to go fast in a circle. Fixed-gear freestyle—to me, obviously—is just a stubborn case of "I'll show YOU what I can or can't do!" Which is all well and good, but there's such a thing as going too far. Doing "freestyle" on a fixed is like drag racing in a Prius or trimming your toenails with a paring knife or climbing Everest in flip-flops and a Speedo. Or, for that matter, entering the Tour de France on a GT Fueler. Can you do it? Sure, maybe. But why make things complicated when there are already tools designed specifically for that purpose?

Honestly, I'm just amazed that no one's snapped the stock fork off his or her [SPECIFIC PRODUCT NAME REDACTED] trying something stupid, gotten badly hurt, and tried to sue the shit out of the company. I'm sure that'll work out well.

By the way, I typed this whole post on a cell phone with no keyboard just because I could.*

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ATTENTION ALL WOULD-BE BIKE CHECKERS: No one cares about your setup. You know why? Either you're riding the same shit as everyone else ("A big front tire? NO WAY!") or you're just running what your sponsor sends you. ("This new Primo fork is the best fork I've ever run in my LIFE. Well, until the next one comes out.") We don't care that you cut your bars and your seatpost, or that you've been running the same seatpost clamp since 1937. Saying "I don't know, the usual one" for what kind of chain you run does not make you look cool (do you have a mechanic who handles that stuff, or did you just never learn to read?). The fact that you can match colors without the use of a Pantone chart does not make you a designer. Listing the weight of your bike to the nearest hundreth of an ounce means you're insane and probably weigh your bowel movements.

All that said, this is awesome, and I can't imagine how it got on ESPN. Good job, Tunney.

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*Total lie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feeling Special

Today, we play a little bit of catchup, going through the ol' e-mail inbox and whatnot:

Flatland parts have always been weird. Well, maybe not always, but ever since everything went all micro. That said, this sprocket is possibly the weirdest flatland part ever. Skip-tooth sprockets are nothing new, but making a skip-tooth sprocket this small just seems to be asking for it. Considering the durability issues, they should probably sell these in six-packs.

Wonder Woman, your seat is ready. No word whether it stimulates the Wonder Clitoris, but all signs point to yes.

If you ever wondered whether you could run 22/8 with chainstay brakes, you can. And if you're not getting T1's Freaky Friday e-mails, you're really missing out:

If you want to get in on it, just send your email address to terrible.dude@yahoo.com with 'Freaky Friday' as the subject header.

Profile done gone lost their minds. Checkerboard cranks? Who are those targeting, these guys?

Oh, and expect several companies who pick their parts from the ol' Taiwanese catalog to be unveiling their No Class™ rims soon. I can hardly wait!
Just think of the options! A Full House rim to match your Blackjack sprocket! Or perhaps a Lucky Charms rim. Consider yourselves warned.


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I find it hard to write this, but I need to pick up a digital scale soon. It should go up to, say, 10 pounds or so and be fairly accurate to a tenth of an ounce or so. I have a bunch of grips laying around and I want to figure out which set is the lightest before I build a new bike. Recommendations? Anyone ever buy one off eBay?

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Dead Presidents

Whoops.

To be honest, I only intended to take Monday off. You know, President's Day and all. I usually leave guys like Washington and Lincoln to the amateurs and celebrate the lesser-known ones, like William Howard Taft, Chester A. Arthur and Rutherford B. Hayes (Rutherford also B. awesome!). You know, the guys who instead of getting their faces on money got their names on elementary schools in exciting places like Marion, OH and Riverside, CA. Said celebration generally involves eating and drinking a lot and growing a luxurious mat of facial hair. Sometimes I get a little carried away and the celebration lasts even longer than the term of William Henry Harrison. (Him I remember by going outside without a coat or hat no matter how cold and blustery it is. I draw the line at dying, though.)

Anyway, I hope you were able to find other things to do in my absence, like reading Enns's blog or trying to figure out why a guy with a signature railed seat would get a signature frame with a built-in Pivotal post or trying to decipher the wildly entertaining (and entertainingly wild) interview with prodigal BMXer Chris Duncan over on EXPN. And I've been recharged by my week off, so I'm ready to get right back into it with my invaluable opinions on fixed-gear freestyling, and a big-time shootout between two products that only differ in weight (or do they?????). I also think I discovered the true source of many recent "innovations," and I'm willing to divulge it at risk to my own safety. There are videos to watch, new products to ponder, and movies to mine for labels (speaking of which, fuck the Oscars—Mickey Rourke should have punched Sean Penn in the face).

But that will all start tomorrow. In the meantime I gotta get those Woodrows.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Guilty of Being Wide

Eastern, the company that brought you the ventilated frame, has joined the list of companies (Solid and, uh...Solid) who offer nine-inch rise, 30-inch wide bars. What we have here is the Wonder Years Nineties Bar, which makes absolutely no sense seeing that The Wonder Years actually took place in the '70s. Or was it the 60s? (It was actually the '60s AND the '70s. Oh.)

Anyway, this guy is stoked to finally have a choice when it comes to bars.

Hey, look, if you want to run huge bars, that's your business. If you're sitting there looking at your Grand Slams and saying, "man, these would be PERFECT if they were only wider and taller," you're stoked. Or if you're one of those guys running a flipped-over Fit DLD stem with 12 spacers under it and grips that stretch past your barends because you fucking hate Solid and you'd rather give your money to al Qaeda, you finally have another choice. If you like your barspins to sound (and look) like the blades of a Huey, cool. (You could run white barends to really get that helicopter vibe going.) Now it's easier than ever to have your grips a full foot higher than your seat. And what I really want to see is a set of these on a flatland bike—the idea of bars wider than wheelbase just gets me all sorts of excited.

No, what bugs me is the name. Wonder Years Nineties Bars? What does that even mean? A long time ago I did a post where I listed all the bar names I could remember. Many of them were terribly clever-sounding, others were, well, not so clever. And you'd think the second-ever set of super-giant bars would get a clever one.

Apparently not.

I understand that the name "Sasquatch" has already been taken. I understand that type-of-bar name—strip, gay, crow, dive—has been beaten to death, resurrected, then beaten to death again. But within two minutes of seeing these Eastern bars, I came up with what I think would have been the perfect name:

The 9:30 Bar.

It's short. It's simple. It makes sense. And it references an actual club* in DC where Minor Threat and Fugazi more or less lived.

Oh well, whoever comes out with the next set of super-giant bars can use it and thank me later.

* that has a bar in it

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Company Flow

So I was just minding my own business clicking around the internet the other day when I came across this new Madera stem:

(Is the animated GIF working?)

And it got me to thinking—why did Madera decide to manufacture a combination stem/seatpost clamp? Are they getting into the tandem business? OK, no, seriously though. It actually did get me thinking, and what it made me think about was this: Why are so many companies starting secondary companies? Profile has Madera. WTP has ├ęclat (and Salt). FBM has Nice. There are probably others I can't think of right now, too. (S&M and Fit is a whole different animal.)

I thought I knew why—either it was to manufacture non-generic generic parts for completes (Nice, Salt) or to offer more economical version of things they already manufactured (Madera, Nice) or to separate the frame/complete business from the parts business (├ęclat). But I'll admit the Madera stem threw me. From what I can tell, it's a rather intricately designed—and rather light—USA-made, CNCed product. It's hard to believe that it'll be any cheaper (if at all) than the frontload stem that, um, Profile already sells. How much more sprfls can you get?

(I was also pretty surprised when I found out the Nice stem was $63, which means it's more expensive than—among others—the Animal Jumpoff and the Redneck XLT. For just $2 more you could get a Race XLT. It's just confusing.)

So, what's the point of having different companies under one roof if they're not producing anything significantly different? Is it just to have bigger teams? To come up with different names? No sir, I don't get it.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flipper

Thank you for all the input on the t-shirts. It's good to know that—whichever one gets made first—I probably won't be left sitting on 50 of them. Hopefully I'll be sending something off to Supes in the next week or two. Obviously I'll keep everyone posted on the progress. Or lack thereof. (I know me all too well.)

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What's out there today? Well, there's this bike, which has now been e-mailed me twice, once by a reader, and today by its owner. Said owner mentioned that "Moeller said you'd abuse me for this," which is patently untrue. Just because you ride a bike that looks like it was birthed by a Holmes on Thalidomide doesn't mean you should be abused. Isn't the self-abuse of riding such a traveshamockery enough? Apparently not.

I can sort of see how something like this could happen. If you ride mostly transition, and maybe a little trails, your drivetrain is more or less unnecessary. In fact, it becomes a hassle. Taking the whole mess off makes your bike both lighter and simpler. In a way, this should be the kind of thing I approve of.

However.

The beauty of a bicycle, for me, lies within the drivetrain. The coolest thing about riding a bike—again, for me—is being able to crank really hard and go really fast. See: Stricker, Josh. It's not even about gapping over rivers or clearing a 40-foot double or anything, it's about going fast for the sake of going fast. I can't comprehend the thought process that would eliminate that entire aspect of riding. I mean, if you cut your legs off you wouldn't have to worry about athlete's foot or sprained ankles or deciding what shoes to wear, and you'd be a lot lighter, but it seems to me the negatives would outweigh the positives. Would you ride something that looked like this?



Me neither.

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Another reader sent me what has to be the eBay auction of the year, if not the decade.

Not sure whether you realize it or not, but over the past couple of years, the price of vintage BMX stuff has gone through the roof. Hutch parts are more or less worth their weight in gold, and I recently sold a clean set of early Skyway Graphite Tuff Wheels for over $1,200. Since there's no BMX Blue Book or anything, you have to rely on other eBay auctions to inform you of what current values are.

Lately, even mid-school parts (or, to some, new school) have been getting more and more expensive. And maybe it was because of their recent 20th anniversary, but it seems like S&M frames and parts have been going up most of all.

All that said, the person who listed this is obviously insane. And, judging from the seat position, possibly a velociraptor. (In case you were wondering, they do, in fact, ride bicycles.)

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Living After Midnight

Don't even get me started.

This might wind up being the post for today (today meaning Monday) AND tomorrow, as I'm going to a Nets game at the Izod Center. You used to be able to just hop a bus at Port Authority—now you have to catch a train at Penn Station, then connect to a bus in Secaucus. Matter of fact, I should probably just leave now just in case something goes wrong. Regardless, I suppose I should leave you with several things (including the long-awaited t-shirt poll so I can give Supes some work).

My Monday got off to a somewhat pleasant start when I saw Brian Foster's bike check on RIDE. It's good to see that some people still ride BMX bikes that look like BMX bikes. (And BF still kills it, so it's not like his long chainstays and...well, whatever that white pole is between his seat and toptube seem to be hurting him any.) I also appreciate the venerable 2.1 Dirt Monster/1.95 V-Monster combo, which it seems like everyone in NYC ran before Walls came out. And I agree with the one commenter's sentiment that he should keep the Tech 77. Like my man Charles Oakley says, if it ain't broke, break it.

Then things took a turn for the worse when I read the depressingly embarassing Gatorade advertorial over on EXPN. It made me think, though, just how DID athletes rehydrate before Gatorade? Was it even possible? Or did guys just compete until they died of thirst? Oh yeah, that's right, there was that stuff called water. Worked pretty good, too, even without electrolytes and sugar and stuff. Is water still around? It is? Man, they need to hire a better marketing team—maybe change the name to "W" or something. I hear the kids like those short, punchy names. In the meantime, if a guy wins the X-Games and then gets a Gatorade cooler emptied over his head, I'm throwing a brick through my TV.

Finally, leave it to the roadies to make all the BMX lightweight "innovations" seem sensible. Thanks to Neil Browne's ROAD magazine Twitter feed I found out about this 10.1 pound Cannondale (without pedals—which is a fairly normal way to weigh road bikes but seems like cheating to me, since it would presumably ride better with them) that costs a mere $15,000. It's also five pounds under the UCI legal minimum weight, which means you can't even race the thing without hanging a cinderblock on it somewhere. Basically the only reason you buy a bike like this is to brag that you have a 10-pound bike with no pedals. (I'm starting to like the idea of eliminating parts from the bike before weighing it, though—check out the crazy four-pound FBM I just built up.)

Anyway, let's get to this t-shirt thing. I want to get a small run (say, 50) printed up of one of the original designs I came up with a long time ago. Nothing fancy, just one color on white (or black). So here's three possibilities. Pick one:


Just name one. (Or feel free to say "don't bother, they all fuckin' suck.") Thanks.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Inflation

Well, yet another Knick game tonight has me scrambling to post just about anything so I can get out the door. I don't manage my time well. So, one thought:

As bikes get lower and lighter and tires get fatter and fatter, is the ultimate goal to simply create a bike that can stand on its own?

Enjoy the weekend.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck

Had no idea I passed 200 posts this week. That's the longest I've ever kept a blog alive. Not sure whether it's awesome or pathetic. Thanks to all of you who's stuck with it/me. I promise I'm gonna actually do shirts soon. Poll tomorrow on which ones..

Anyway, someone shot me this link the other day. It's a 6.9 ounce, six-bolt frontload stem:



The company is from Portugal, which explains some of the unnerving typos and misspellings. But it's hard to believe that some no-name company could produce a stem a full third lighter than the lightest frontload stems available and expect people to think "oh yeah, they obviously know better than [S&M, Solid, Premium, Animal, etc.], who needs a nine-ounce stem?" It's machined to within an inch of your life. (The way I see it, there are places where you can shave ounces with little or no consequence, and there are places where you can't. The stem is one of the latter.)

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If you want to piss off George French, compare one of his products to a Bullseye product from the '80s. I triple-dog dare you. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

That said, this "new" WTP hub innovation is more or less exactly like something Bullseye (and maybe Phil Wood, too) came up with in the '80s. Instead of an axle, you have a through-bolt with a nut on one end. How this makes more sense than a standard axle (or a massive central axle with bolts on either end) is beyond me.

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Yeah, it should be Prong. It isn't.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Neverender

If it's any consolation, I hate when I miss days. Not sure what happened yesterday—other than when I finished writing roughly 3,500 words on Kobe Bryant scoring 61 points against the Knicks I was sort of burned out. And it was snowing. Tonight I head back to the Garden to witness LeBron. And I'm sure I'll be writing something on that. The fun never stops.

It seems like winter never stops either. And while I'm not sure what Punxsutawney Phil said regarding the next couple of weeks, I'm guessing it wasn't good (and surprise, it wasn't). So here we are. Stuck in winter. Sometimes I feel like I should just climb into a Tauntaun until spring. It's reached the point where I have to make a point to look at my bike every so often just to make sure it hasn't crumbled to rust.

It's not exactly prime time for new product releases, either. Other than seats. Seats, seats and more seats. (Can someone explain to me what a "Lo-Bolt" is? Is it seriously just a shorter bolt?) See enough of this stuff, and you start to feel like you're just re-living the same day over and over again.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Futurama

Just gonna link to something today and ask an open-ended question. Nothing too exciting. Hopefully I'll get something more substantial posted tomorrow. As it is. I've got about 20 minutes before I have to get out of here.

Anyway, Taj posted a great blog update today, tongue firmly in cheek, about the BMX bike of the future. (Which made me think of Disney's "Tomorrowland" for some reason.) Things won't ever get that bad. Will they? (Not that I haven't seen—and even photographed—roving packs of Razor Scooterers at the Brooklyn Banks. I remember even seeing one equipped with a King headset, which cost more than the actual scooter, I believe. But hey, if you're gonna be doing triplewhips, you need to cut down that friction.)

I guess the question is, where is this all going? And what's the priority of the average rider? For me, personally, I want a bike I can ride around on. Transportation is key—and I don't mean commuting, just being able to get from spot to spot. I'd like a bike I can sit down and pedal when I'm carrying a camera bag, but still ride once I get to wherever I'm going. Weight is a secondary concern. I think my bike now weighs around 27 pounds with four steel pegs. That's plenty light for my purposes.

Thing is though, weight appears to have become a primary concern now, even at the expense of practicality and rideability. Lowered toptubes and shortened rear triangles are simple ways to achieve substantial weight savings without further butting and fluting and whatever else gets done these days. So you wind up with a bike that loops out at the slightest provocation (especially when you factor in eight-inch bars and a topload with spacers), but hey, the frame weighs less than five pounds! Where we're headed is flatland bikes with longer toptubes and (much) lower seats. Bikes you need to drive to wherever you're going to ride. Tailwhip machines that you wouldn't want to ride more than a block.

So where ARE we headed? Will toptubes continue to drop, rear ends continue to shrink, until we reach the Segwaypocalypse? Or will things swing back the other way towards ridability and sanity? I'm just asking.