Friday, July 31, 2009

Defenders of the Faith

Generally, I'm not one to do blog posts as responses to a post on a different website that was a response to one of my own earlier posts. It seems silly—like having what should be a private argument while yelling over a speakerphone on a crowded street: "LOOK, I KNOW YOU'RE THE ONE WHO GAVE ME THE GODDAMN HERPES! DO I LOOK LIKE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO GETS LAID ALL THE TIME?" OK, maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I was surfing the interwebs Wednesday night when I came across this In the Gnar post bemoaning my apparent hatchet job on the new T1 Garrett frame. I actually had to go back and read my initial post again to see whether I killed it that badly. Nope, didn't think so. However, I thought I'd expand on my feelings. For what it's worth.

First, a few seemingly disjointed facts:
1) Complete bikes are starting to get awesome. (More on that next week.)

2) Most American-made "street" frames are now made from SuperTherm (or some other heat-treated and butted) tubing, weigh less than five pounds, and cost around $400.

3) The economy is fucked.

4) The average rider doesn't need a 22-pound bike.

Where am I going with all this? Good question! Let's start at the beginning.

Roughly 10 years ago, when the average BMX bike weighed 35 pounds, Waterford started making frames for Standard from heat-treated True Temper tubing. Standard called these frames "R-Models," and sold them for considerably more than their "normal" chromoly counterparts. Same frames, different weights. Waterford, having done high-end road and mountain bikes for a long time, had access to tubing that other companies may not have even been aware of. Standard took advantage.

If you remember (or even if you don't), S&M responded by releasing the "PBR Model," a conventional 4130 frame with extra mockery. Now When news dropped that S&M were gonna do a new Dirt Bike, I was excited. A new, affordable S&M frame? Nope. They went back to uncapped stays, but kept the high-zoot tubing and the $360 pricetag.

Look, I understand that SuperTherm allows you to build a lighter frame that's still strong. From the S&M website:

SuperTherm is highly temper-resistant, resulting in an 11% increase in fatigue life and a 20% increase in impact strength over heat-treated 4130.

Fantastic. It's also however-many-percent more expensive. One would think (or at least I would) that there'd still be a market for a heavier 4130 frame (that still made use of innovations like smaller dropouts and larger vent holes) that was available at a lower price point than all of the SuperTherm and 4Q Baked frames out there. It's hard to believe that EVERY rider out there is so weight-obsessed that a five-and-a-half-pound frame (or even six—mercy!) wouldn't be viable.

Which comes back to T1 thusly: Seems to me that damn near every American frame manufacturer—S&M, Standard, FBM, T1, Fit, Metal—is targeting the same demographic, namely, the one that needs to know whether a frame weight is with or without paint. You've got a bunch of companies who at least used to have somewhat unique identities offering very similar products at very similar prices to the same batch of consumers. An who will the average kid go with? The one who sponsors Eddie Cleveland and Dakota Roche, the one who sponsors Cameron Wood and Randy Brown, or the one who sponsors Garrett Byrnes? I can't help but feel that T1 is setting themselves up to fail.

I suppose the greater question is this: Where's the modern equivalent of the Standard Cashius or the Dirtbike Classic? Given the current state of the economy (and the basic advances in framebuilding), wouldn't it be a no-brainer?


If you'd rather just read a killer interview with Joe Rich, go here. Good stuff, Brian.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ghetto Fabulous

For as long as I've known about them, I've been a fan of BSD. You couldn't really get their products over here—what products there were—and I always fondly thought of them as sort of a Scottish FBM: a bunch of genial BMX drunks who spent their spare time riding trails and setting things on fire.

Well, like FBM, they've had to innovate or die. First there was the Forever frame, and now there are the "Ghetto Forks":

Here's part of the description:

"The Ghetto fork is full heat-treated, with tapered legs, integrated race, 7075 top cap, 35mm offset and a weight of 1.88lb."


Huh. When I think of "ghetto forks," I think of a pair of messily spraypainted S&M Ditchforks with the 990 mounts hacksawed off. But maybe that's just me. Admittedly, though, we've reached the magical point in human history where sincerity and irony have met in a messy head-on collision. Face it, you have no idea whether that guy over there in the Slipknot t-shirt is wearing it because he likes Slipknot or because he doesn't like Slipknot. And you're not about to go over and ask him because, you know, he's wearing a Slipknot t-shirt.

Then again, ain't no one buying true "ghetto forks" these days anyway. If it's over two pounds, forget it.


Hey Macneil, if you're going to do a "bike check," can you please list ALL the parts, not just the Macneil ones? Thanks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Scottish Football Association

I've left the page open in my browser for over a week now, and I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about the new T1 SFA.

The way I see it, there are two options.

1) It's awful.

2) It's great.

I suppose one could argue that there's a middle ground between those two, but I've never been much for compromise. Grey doesn't interest me. And compelling arguments can be made for either side:

1) It's awful. T1 has gone from making recognizable, niche-filling frames to joining the masses in the sub-five-pound, Supertherm, skinny-tubed dune buggy category. The new GB has a lot in common with the new FBM Howler, which is all well and good, except why not just get a Howler? Also, someone at Solid forgot to remove the mockup chainstays and put in the capped ones. Those things are so—wait, those are real? Um, not to nitpick, but it seems odd when a pegless pedal grinder's signature frame has a sketchier chainstay/dropout junction than an old Skyway T/A. And the uncapped/capped style, blech. It just looks unfinished.

2) It's great. About time T1 joined the party. Making unique frames that are worshipped by old kooks is a cool concept and all, but it's not a sound business plan, especially when the BMX pie is getting smaller and smaller and being sliced into more and more pieces every day. Romanticize T1 all you want—long live the Barcode!—but the reality is that if you don't offer a sub-five frame these days, fond memories are all you'll have left. And hey, at least it has chainstay brakes and takes a seatpost clamp. Small victories. Plus, if Garrett likes it, who the fuck are you to hate on it?

I suppose if I'm gonna be realistic, I have to lean towards the latter. I want T1 to survive, and if doing a four-pound, five-ounce frame helps them do it, more power to 'em. (Putting out the goddamn stem someday would help, too.) But I still hate those chainstays.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Proper, Fucked

Because I said I was going to write about Proper today, I guess I'll be saving this for tomorrow.

Not that I really have a ton to write about Proper anyway. It's just that I saw their post on the Microlite parts, specifically the part about the front hub:
"It is tiny for a BMX hub with female axle (the current standard for front BMX hubs) and weighs less than many road bike hubs (at less than 200g). With colours to each every taste, it's no wonder that Proper has become synonymous with hub technology around the globe."
Aw, how cute! An eensy-weensy Marmoset. Look, contrary to popular belief, I have no problems with bicycle weight savings in general. I understand that 2001 has passed, and that new materials and new manufacturing processes have allowed companies to produce lighter products without sacrificing strength. I have no wish to go back to the days of Alex triplewalls and Eastern Herculi and Profile SS cranks, when bikes were bricks and men were broken.

But aren't we going far too far? This to this, yes, I get it. But we're going all the way to this, and everyone but Harrison Ford knows that's a terrible idea. Skipping seconds is fine. Not eating on days that end in "y" isn't. Which is basically where we're at now. The fat's long gone, now we're losing bone and muscle. Skeletons don't weigh much, but they're not very healthy, either.

And for a two-sentence blurb, that release is pretty fantastic. First, we have the assertion that the Proper front hub weighs less than many road bike hubs. OK. All well and good. But is that really desirable? I ride a road bike, and I wouldn't dream of running pegs on my front hub, even if you got rid of the quick release and the carbon fork. Then there's the implication that offering hubs in a wide variety of colors is the way to become a worldwide hub power. I'm sure that's not what they meant to say, but sadly, it's probably close to the truth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


(photo blatantly swiped from

For some reason I never seem to realize I'm taking a hiatus until I'm already hiatusing. Then I glance at bmxfeed and see "14d" under "last update" and think, "holy hell, it's been that long?" Once again, I'm not entirely sure how it happened. There was a short hop to the Left Coast in there somewhere, but that doesn't begin to explain how I missed nearly a week beforehand (and a couple of days afterfoot). Fortunately, I didn't even have to use my AK. So, regular reader, I apologize. Again.

As it is, I'd rather come back with something of a proper (foreshadow conspiracy?) update tomorrow. So consider this notice that I'll be taking two weeks off, effective two weeks ago.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Down The Tubes

• So that's what the cross-section of a Wave downtube looks like! Always wondered about that, but not enough to cut a friend's frame in half. In other Sunday news, someone is still running one of the original shaved headtube prototypes. It's still running strong after a year and a half, and it still looks stupid, in my humble opinion. Until someone starts making stainless headset bearings, I'll take the extra couple of grams, Pat.

Um, OK.

• Remember these bars? They were an August Fools joke perpetrated by Mr. Chris Moeller back in 2008. Today I open an e-mail from Cambria Bicycle Outfitters featuring this frame—a 2.75 pound, latticework carbon, hardtail MTB that costs $5,000. And they actually have the gall to say "IF YOUR [sic] LOOKING TO GET ONE YOU HAD BETTER HURRY, ONLY 200 ARE GOING TO BE PRODUCED IN 2009 AND CAMBRIA BIKE IS ONE OF THE FEW LUCKY RETAILERS THAT WILL BE CARRYING THEM" Oh my God, I'd better order one right away, then! Because I wouldn't want them to sell out and have to buy something inferior like this (um, for $1,000 less). I'm sure people are just going to be lining up to buy $5,000 MTB frames in 2009.

I also like that "the Delta 7 Arantix is truly revolutionary and could possibly change the way people ride bikes." Uhhhh, are we going to start pedalling with our hands and steering with our feet? Because otherwise, it's just a frame. An incredibly light, incredibly expensive frame that no one in their right mind would ever buy. Just because you can make something doesn't mean you should. And it certainly doesn't mean you can sell it. Shockingly, Delta 7 does seem to be a real company. Hopefully they start making BMX frames before they inevitably go under.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Epic Failures

Wow. Did you'd ever think you'd see the day where a company released two pairs of bars and the 8.1 x 28s were the small pair? You can then fit them with some bright-ass Aaron Ross grips which will one day hopefully be wired up to a tiny horizontal screen in your crossbar so you can actually blog (or at least Twitter) and ride at the same time:

"Oh shit I hope I make this gap!"

"Didn't make it. Somebody please call ambulance."

Twitterjacks with Defgrips?

(Unrelated thought, why were Sushi Bars available in colors other than raw?)

Sorry. Seeing that it's about to be a holiday—and not just a holiday, but a holiday you typically celebrate by drinking to excess, blowing stuff up and cooking meat over open flames—focusing is not my strong point.

Until Monday. Happy Fourth.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


If you want to stay relevant in today's fast-moving world, you have to keep changing. Gone are the days where a company could keep pumping out the same exact frame year after year after year and keep selling. (Wait, did those days ever exist?) Today it's all about lighter and lower, brighter and...dammit, nothing rhymes with 'lower.' Well, this paragraph is going great.

Anyway, it's prototype week in the good ol' US of A. First we have the revised FBM Howler, shown here in all its nekkid Supertherm glory:

Posed here on a peg that weighs roughly a quarter what the frame does, the new Howler has smaller dropouts, removable mounts and guides (well, the production version will anyway), and an added toptube/headtube gusset. If you compare the vital stats to those of the original version, the new Howler is lighter and slightly longer. They've also eliminated the Gyro tab threading for whatever reason. The fact that they have to say "before paint" regarding the weight sort of makes me embarassed for BMX as a whole.

Then there's Standard, who've been pumping out prototypes like it's their job. Which I suppose it is. First up is a new Bullitt, which may or may not still be for the refined rider. Whoever that is. These are full-on custom frames, which means giving the dimensions is pointless:

Both frames seen here have integrated headsets and Euro bottom brackets, which is sort of like having a Prius with an eight-track player. But to each his own. Weight is right around four pounds (gulp), and the classic Standard gusset is optional. The pierced toptube appears to have been left intact, however.

But Standard hasn't stopped there. Continuing on their mission to re-introduce every one of their old frames, a photo appeared on their Twitter feed of a new Trail Boss prototype propped next to the original Trail Boss prototype:

No specifics are available as of yet, but it looks promising (i.e. not squashed). As with the Bullitt, you should be able to order one of these any way you want, so I'm not sure if there's much point in posting specs even if I had them. Put me down for a sea camo 21".

Side note: With all the custom work these days, what's the point of getting someone else's signature frame when you can get your own? Finally, I can get that 20.90210" toptube and 74.20 degree headtube angle I've always dreamed of.

EDIT: For more on Standard, check the interview with Rick Moliterno here.