Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just Because

Sometimes I can't help but wonder what Bill Hicks would make of the past 15 years. In hindsight, maybe he's better off dead.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Sat It On Them Twenty-Twos

So for argument's sake, let's say you're a big dude who rides BMX. Like, a really big dude. Really, really big. You make Gary Ellis look like Catfish (on the left, the one who's shorter than Ryan Sheckler). You run two Macneil 330s glued together. You order 200mm cranks. You ride uncut 30" bars. Your feet hit your front and rear pegs at the same time. What kind of frame do you run?

Well, cruisers are out. Because it's 20" or die. And custom frames are expensive. Which pretty much leaves you with the Macneil Deuce Deuce or...the Macneil Deuce Deuce. There's the Fit Lurch too, I suppose, but that maxes out at a relatively pedestrian 21.5". Nope, if you're a big dude who wants a long frame, it's the Deuce Deuce for you. Ain't nothing else out there like it.


So can someone out there explain to me why a 22" frame with a 14.25" rear weighs just 4.9 pounds? I mean, this frame is for big guys, right? And a longer toptube is going to produce more stress and strain on the front triangle, no? Instead of going to a smaller diameter top and downtube, shouldn't a "huge frame for huge motherfuckers" be, you know, burly? Or at the very least weigh more than a Deathtrap? I'm no physicist, but this just seems wrong on so many levels.

Guess not.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smells Like Team Spirit

This post is inspired by these, but has nothing to do with them. (One Team Grip story, though: I'm one of those people who always stretches new grips before putting them on. Not sure when this started—probably back in the Jive Handles days—but it's something of a ritual now. So I get these Team Grips, start stretching one, pull a little too hard, and it just pops in half like a cracker. No prize, though. I've since eased back on the grip stretching.)

But anyway, I had no intention of discussing exploding grips. What I wanted to talk about was "team" product. Why isn't there more of it? I understand (I think) that by creating "signature" product, a company can hook a specific rider up with some extra loot. And in some cases a rider really does need or want something unique. But most of the time it seems like it's just a matter of a quarter inch here, or half a degree there, or a rider-specific gusset or brace. I understand that each team rider wants something special. Really, I do. If I were sponsored, I'd want a signature frame, too. Just for the ego boost. But if I were a retailer, why would I want to stock this and this and this? And that's just from one company! When it comes right down to it, what's the big difference between this and this? Wouldn't one of the above suffice? Factor in multiple sizes and multiple colors and I have no idea how shops choose what to stock.

I remain firm in my beliefs that, the more choices you have to choose from, the more you think you need different choices. But this is BMX, not the Tour de France. A quarter inch, half an ounce or degree here or there isn't going to change anything. Is it?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Never Will He Boost Loose Phillies With The Barcode

I agree with Mark Westlake over at the Pijin blog that, as a rule, flipbooks suck. Part of the allure of the web is that it doesn't have to adhere to the same rules that books and magazines do. A web page that you have to flip through page by page is like a motorcycle you have to pedal. But as with all rules, there is the occasional exception.

The history of the T1 Barcode is one of these exceptions.

Much like the web flipbook, the T1 Barcode itself was a bit of a throwback, a beefy (at least in appearance—although I suppose a five-and-a-half pound frame qualifies as heavy these days) fuck you to all the cookie-cutter frames that followed. And while it's temporarily out of production, all signs point to a return sooner rather than later. Please, no matter what happens, don't change that toptube/seatstay junction. Let the spirit of the original live on. And keep it over five pounds, please. Over five and a half, even. We're not ALL trying to get down to the 15-pound UCI weight limit.

(In semi-, not-really-related news, this is awesome.)

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Laid Back (With My Mind On My Money and My Money On My Mind)

There was a time, back in the distant past when rims were plastic and pedals were metal, that a layback seatpost was more or less a necessity. Even the longest "pro XL" frames weren't very long, and so-called freestyle frames all had 18" or so toptubes. If you were taller than Eddie Fiola—heck even if you WERE Eddie Fiola—you needed a layback post to make your bike rideable. Some more than others.

By the time Macneil developed the Pivotal seat and post setup, things had changed a lot. Now you could get a frame in virtually any toptube size, from 18" all the way up to 22". And long gone were the days when seats were for sitting. Seatposts themselves were becoming mere vestigal remains of their former selves*, just a way to anchor your seat to your frame without resorting to the indignities of hose clamps or duct tape.

Still, there are those of us out there who run our seats high(er) and proud. Who follow the one- (or even two-) fist rule. Who have more in common with Brian Foster than Randy Taylor. And if your seat is more than just a padded seat tube plug, you might want to adjust the positioning fore and aft. A Pivotal setup does not allow for this. So the good people at Subrosa developed this—a laid-back Pivotal post. Hm. That's one option. The other answer is clear as brake pads: A railed seat and a conventional post. Yuck, but who would ever run that?

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* Looking up "Primo Rod" in Google image search with 'safe search' off while in a public place was one of the most daring things I've done in a while. Somehow all of the results were quite tame. Disappointed isn't even the word.

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Was fortunate enough to catch the NYC premiere of "I Love My Bicycle" (the story of FBM) at the Bicycle Film Fest this weekend. Great flick. Joe Stakun did a terrific job putting together vintage footage and current interviews (with everyone from Cranpa and Gilly to Dave Mirra and Jamie Bestwick), and the premiere was a traditionally rowdy FBM affair (although nothing got blown up or set on fire, at least that I know of). Also, I finally got to meet Kelly Baker, which was everything I expected. Check the trailer out here, and go see it as soon as you can. Thanks, Steve.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Times Is Changed And Life Is Strange

There are times when all this BMX on the internet can be a bit much. When things like KC Badger hating on seatpost clamps and Ben Hucke posting carbon fiber Pivotal posts on Twitter and a fluorescent pink comeback make me fear for the future. The easiest thing to do at times like this would be to get on the bike. But sometimes monsoon season (which we appear to be getting a break from today, thank God) and other responsibilities keep me chained to the computer.

That's when I have to go to my happy place. Everybody has their distractions, whether they be in their head or on their screens. Power animals, fantasy sports, fantasy...other things. Me? I go here.

Amidst the raging storm of BMX changes, this is the calm eye where nothing ever changes. Where a stem is a Redneck, seats have rails, headsets need presses, and seatpost clamps have their very own section. (Take that, Badger!) Click on any of the categories, of course, and the illusion is shattered. Dan's has the same selection of candy-colored, drilled-out nonsense as anyone else, if not even more of it. But for that one moment, on that one page...peace and tranquility. Ommmmmmmm.

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Enjoy the weekend. (And, if you're in the NYC area, don't miss the FBM premiere.)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The College Dropout

It's becoming increasingly hard to innovate in the world of bicycling. The double-diamond frame has been around for well over a century, and the spoked wheel has been around even longer. With the basics long since established, you can either fiddle with minutia or make tremendous mistakes.

Or, if you try really hard, you can do both.

Which brings us to the new Stolen dropout design:


Now, BMX dropouts have come a long way in the past 30 or so years, from this to this to this. Then, of course, some companies had to go and get all carried away. I'm pretty sure this Taper Lock dropout falls into the latter category.

You read the interview, right? Looked at the photos? If you didn't, go back and check it out.

OK?

So, best as I can tell, here's how the Taper Lock dropout is supposed to work. First of all, the taper on the dropout looks to be even from front to back:


The similarly tapered washer sits in that groove:



And as you tighten it, the axle slides back in the dropout. As Dave from Stolen said in the interview, "we only hand-tightened the axle in the dropout and the wheel still wouldn’t move forward when hit with force." Very good. That's one problem solved. Not that it couldn't be solved using a current dropout and a big socket wrench, but still.

However, a few questions:

1) Seeing that the taper is consistent from front to back, won't the wheel keep getting pulled backwards with every turn of the wrench? Well, until the washer bottoms out on your hub, at least. It makes sense that it seats perfectly when hand tightened. But if you really torque down on your axle nuts—like to, say, hold your pegs on—won't your chain end up way too tight? I suppose you could grind down the back of the tapered washer so it stops at the perfect point every time, but that would seemingly lock you into one gear ratio. Which brings us to the second question.

2) What happens when your wheel is hit with force the OTHER way? If you catch a peg on an upright, won't your wheel slip backwards and loosen up? Unless, that is, you torque it down super-hard or run your chain super-tight, in which case why not just do the same thing with normal dropouts?


So yeah. Neat idea. Would probably work fine for a singlespeed city or mountain bike, or maybe a fixed gear. BMX? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Please.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't Stop Believing

Lots of new frames popping up this week. Had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn't Interbike time. It's not. Still, it seems like nearly every company introduced a new frame, including Eastern:


At a glance, it looks relatively normal, by which I mean it doesn't have all sorts of slots and holes drilled in it. Perhaps Eastern has moved beyond NASCAR technology. But look closer and you'll find a few, um, eccentricities. Like a proprietary (and seemingly arbitrary) bottom bracket width, and an offset-butted headtube.

Start with the wider bottom bracket. Eastern went from the 'standard' 68mm width to 82mm. Which makes some degree of sense, for the reasons they give:
"The BB is 82mm wide verses [sic] the standard BB that is 68mm wide. This spreads the bearings out to increase the strength on the spindle and bearings by putting the load closer to the bearing. The wider BB also allows the stays to be welded further apart to increase the strength and to allow for straighter chain stays and clearance for a 2.3 tire."
The traditional 68mm width always made more sense for road bikes with their skinnier tires, and even they went wider with outboard bearings (although the BB30 system represents an attempt to bring it back to 68mm—and you thought BMX was confusing). Meanwhile quite a few downhill bikes already use 83mm bottom bracket shells.

That said, there's a couple other things to take into consideration. Number one, you're gonna need a whole new (presumably Eastern) bottom bracket setup. Not the bearings themselves—those'll be of the standard mid variety—but a new, wider tube spacer and some thinner washers to go in between the arms and the bearings. And even with all that (consideration number two) I wonder what this'll do to your chainline? I'm sure it's been tested—after all, Josh Perry pulled a 720 tailwhip on one!—and it's only 7.5mm per side, but my drive side washer is pretty thin as it is.

The offset headtube shouldn't provide any problems. It could if you still had to hammer cups into it, but those days are long gone, and companies are doing far worse things to headtubes these days. If Eastern wants to save a few grams by making a simple headtube more complicated, that's their problem. Besides, it sort of goes with the similarly offset-butted Lightning Rod downtube.

Everything else is pretty normal for a late-'00s frame: Japanese (presumably Sanko) tubing, removable mounts and guides, machined dropouts, built-in chain tensioners. But I'm most excited about a holdover from the late '90s: an ovalized (at the bottom bracket juncture) seat tube. Again, this should make the frame somewhat stiffer, but it's also a homage of sorts to this. Which is never a bad thing.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontload

So I noticed a tweet from @SubrosaBrand today mentioning a Hoang Tran bike check on RIDE that featured some prototype Subrosa products. Word? Curiosity killed the cat, but there's too many of the damn things around anyway. I clicked, and somewhere a tabby exploded.

Well, the only prototype Subrosa stuff I saw were the stem and the grips, and seeing that new grips are a dime a dozen these days, I figured we should check out the stem:



Or not. Hm. A milled-out, split-cap frontload stem. Where have I seen that before? It's more or less the skeleton of a Shadow stem. And here I thought toploads were making a comeback. This is what happens when 4-foot-11 12-year-old kids (or 25-year-old adults) insist on running eight-plus inch rise bars, I suppose. Not that I expected Subrosa to re-invent the, um, stem.

That said, let's see some thinking outside the box! How about a pair of 17-inch rise two-piece bars and a stem that goes in between the fork crown and the lower bearing race? Sure, you'll need some sort of extra piece to hold your forks on, and you won't be able to do barspins or tailwhips anymore, but won't that be a relief more than anything else?

That, or everyone could chill on buying super-high rise bars unless they really need them so there'd be no need for stems like this—but what am I talking about? That would just be crazy.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Mutually Assured Destruction

How do you destroy a modern BMX bike in five seconds or less? Try the Austin Church gap, of course:

SOLIDSTEEL Johno & the Church Gap from Clint on Vimeo.


I know Jimmy Levan, sir, and you're no Jimmy Levan. That said, ridiculous props for even attempting it. Solid Steel for sure.

If nothing else, this should serve as a public service message in support of straight-gauge spokes, 48-spoke wheels and (gulp—check 1:46) bars with fewer butts than a Sir Mix-A-Lot video. Not that a stronger rear wheel wouldn't have self-destructed too, but man. Dude's lucky his bike was the only thing that got destroyed. And cracks or no, I'd retire every part on it with full honors.

Obviously I have no intentions of jumping TACG™, but my new/old bike is ready for it on the off chance I lose my freaking mind:


In semi-unrelated news, there has been a Troy McMurray sighting on the East Coast. Hide the women and children.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still Tippin' On Four:Fours

• Odyssey's got some tall-ass four-piece bars dropping that look sort of like Redline Forklifters without the number-plate tabs (or just the more recent versions) or Fred'z Bars without Fred. I'd embed the code so you didn't have to click the link, but the last time I did that it messed up the whole column aspect of the blog. I'm not blaming Odyssey—there must be a way I could adjust the width or the scale—I just don't know what I'm doing. I'd think these are what would have been the Lumb4rjacks (or was it Lumberj4cks?), and whilst I'm inclined to sigh at yet another pair of bars thrown into the mix, it's hard to not love 'em after seeing this photo:


That said, I'll stick with my Bobs.

• Whilst yesterday's post drew plenty of comments, nothing was really cleared up one way or the other. Meanwhile, Fit themselves took the Flavor Flav route. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I want to believe. But correct me if I'm wrong, isn't that a 'new' Lengthy? And wasn't the Domination bike a regular STA? (As for actually buying it, who do you think you are, Rick Moliterno???) UPDATE: 'Tis apparently 100 percent legit. Must... fight... impulses...

• It could be worse, I suppose. We could all be riding road bikes, where equipment failure costs a lot more.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eff It

There's nothing I hate more than looking at BMXfeed and a) not seeing one of my posts in the top four, and b) seeing that I haven't updated in three days. Embarassing! I'm not the last site on the front page to update, but that's only because the Metal blog operates differently from the rest of the universe. Even Stephen Hawking doesn't get it.

Strangely, there's seemingly a lot going on, but not much to report. Rumors are flying around the internets about various companies—well, one company in particular—but details are few and far between. OK, there are no details.

I know what you're saying: "Russ! Aren't you supposed to be some kind of journalist? Man the phones! Dig some dirt! Rake some muck!" And you know what? You're right. It's about damn time this site actually broke some news. But it's not happening. You know why? First of all, I'm so far removed from the BMX epicenter that I can't even feel the vibrations. Here's a handy diagram to show you what I mean:



As for making phone calls, it seems like that would be an exercise in futility. Even if something big were happening, I'm not gonna get it out of them by placing a phone call or sending an e-mail. It's never quite that easy. And while rampant speculation is fun—"CHRIS MOELLER IS SELLING FIT TO PACIFIC SO YOU'LL BE ABLE TO BUY THEM AT TARGET!!!!"—it doesn't really do anyone any good. All we can do is wait. And, um, hope some disgruntled employee/rider/relative goes off anonymously in the comments section.

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In the meantime, you can check out some of the 2010 Fit completes on Alan's BMX, the site for a British retailer. It appears that Fit is actually expanding their line of completes for 2010, which seems utterly insane to me. But maybe putting the line in departme—oops.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Well, I said I wasn't gonna talk about Spanish bottom brackets anymore—and I probably won't. Much. But I couldn't resist using that post title:



Anyway, Darcy talked some more about Macneil's choice of the Spanish BB standard here, and the discussion got interesting in the comments section of the original post, with Taj talking about blowing up bearings and JPR coming up with his own modest proposal. If that discussion were to continue—either in this comment section or that one—it wouldn't be a bad thing. Personally, I still feel like it would be nice if we could decide on one bottom bracket bearing standard. After all, we're pretty settled on 1 1/8" integrated headsets and 25.4mm seatposts, and no one complains about either of those infringing on their rights to free design. (Obviously any company could feel free to make frames that took, say, 27.0mm seatposts and—what's that? Standard already tried that? Yes, and we all saw how that turned out.)

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Rob Wise has a new frame from Volume that doesn't have any holes drilled in the seattube. Whew. I actually saw it a month or so back when Rob was in NYC, but thought shooting photos of his bike would be a little presumptious. Plus, I didn't have my camera with me.

The funny thing is, it's actually three ounces lighter that the First Blood, his first signature frame, even without the "silencer" holes. Eat it, Rambo.

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So yeah, new Eastern forks. Terrific. Just a few questions/comments:
• What exactly are "heaven drops"?
• Please put the CNC controls down.
• I understand that a capped tube with a hole cut in the cap is stronger than an uncapped one, but I still don't get it.
• That 'original' "Hangfree" dropout design? Yeah, Sunday sort of did that first.
• I'm still not entirely sure why you'd buy a fork not made by S&M or Odyssey, especially one that weighs less than two pounds.
• When does the titanium version come out?
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One for the weekend. I feel like I posted this before, but what the hell.



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Almost forgot! Either Gary Ellis or Jody Donnelly is selling his bike on eBay. Tragic.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Checks Bounce

If you look at BMXfeed with any regularity, you start to notice bike checks all the time. They're like the chips in a Chips Ahoy! or the green clovers in a box of Lucky Charms or the terrible analogies on this site. Anyway, today I thought I'd just pull all the bike check photos I could find, and run them all with no rhyme nor reason. A bike check shuffle, if you will. Then I can go back to compulsively listening to "Maybach Music 2", which has plenty more rhyme but about as much reason.








(That last one is a bit of a cheat in both date and content, and I probably should have hyperlinked each photo back to the respective sites, but eff it.)

(And oh yes, the Eastern Hawkeye forks. Tomorrow. One of these days I should really look into using RSS.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

iPod Shuffle?

You know what, it's a rainy Wednesday, and I don't really feel like talking about Spanish bottom brackets anymore, so inspired by Steve Crandall's iPod shuffle over on Defgrip, I'm gonna give you 10 tracks off my own freshly re-filled Nano:

• Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"
• Judas Priest, "Winter-Deep-Retreat-Cheater"
• Rick Ross f. Foxy Brown, "Murda Mami"
• Mot├Ârhead, "Dirty Love"
• Radiohead, "Treefingers"
• Judas Priest, "Between the Hammer & the Anvil"
• Alice in Chains, "Confusion"
• Queensr├┐che, "Operation: Mindcrime"
• Slayer, "Disciple"
• Radiohead, "Videotape"

Keep in mind that this list is entirely irrelevant since all I've been listening to the past couple of days is "Maybach Music 2." If anyone can figure out what the heck Lil Wayne is talking about, let me know.





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Oh yeah, and I guess I should run a picture of me as a little kid, just to stay with the format.


Christmas day, 198-. A new Schwinn Predator and a new Oakland Raiders hoodie. Been downhill ever since.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Forking Crazy

Before I even get into this, I'll admit to still being somewhat perplexed by Odyssey Director forks. While I know they feel the same as normal forks, and I know they have the same rake, and I know they're supposed to be both lighter and stronger than conventional, leading-dropout forks, I can't help but think—because the legs are raked out the way they are—that they'd be more prone to bending. I mean, I know better, but something about it just bothers me.

That said, I really don't understand the new Fly forks. I didn't understand the "integrated dropouts" when they showed them on their frames, and I still don't understand them now. Dig just ran this:
As you know, we´ve been testing the new frames dropouts over the last year and since they are so strong, we thought that it will work on the forks as well. We have been testing these forks for some months now and everything is going great. The procedure is the same as on the frames. One piece casting dropout witch creates a really solid dropout-blades conjuction. Blades are triple butted and feature integrated cone race as our current forks. We´ll start production in a couple of weeks so they will be available around September.

And the Fly site didn't have much more. OK, the Fly site didn't have anything more. And while I understand that English isn't their first language, and they don't want to give away whatever manufacturing secrets they have, the text and the photos really don't tell you much of anything. Are the legs and the dropouts cast as one? Is it possible to create dropouts and triple-butted tubing at the same time? Can someone explain this better?

(Also, it seems weird that you'd come up with this revolutionary new process and just make the same leading-dropout forks as everybody else. It's as if Ford developed unibody construction but just used it to keep pumping out Model Ts.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jon Byers Wants To Punch Me In The Face

Well, not me specifically, I guess. But ESPN posted the second part of their interview with Eastern's Jon Byers, and it included a question about people who aren't too receptive to Eastern's "innovations." This was his answer:

Well there is no shortage of hate or s**t-talking. Some kids just don't want change and progression and anything new to them is 'dumb.' If BMX didn't change and progress, all the bikes might still be 40lbs. You have to be open-minded to new technologies, processes, materials and ideas. It doesn't bother me, and if I have the pleasure of meeting one of these 'Internet' kids face to face, I'm going to teach him the proper way to eat a knuckle sandwich.

This, I totally agree with. Obviously anyone who dislikes your product is "hating," and the proper way to deal with said "hating," as a mature business owner, is to threaten people with violence. Henry Ford used to do the same thing. Heck, maybe if Rick Wagoner had punched some people in tha face, GM wouldn't have gone bankrupt: "Just shut up and buy the fucking Escalade, asshole!"

Anyway, there's a lot more to it, and it's worth reading in its entirety. One of the other things he says is this: "Ill-informed kids are buying stuff because it weighs five ounces lighter when they should put more weight into what they plan to do with it when making their purchasing decision." Now that's worth remembering, no matter what brand you buy. Thinking: It's better than a punch in the face.