Friday, October 22, 2010

Mystery Science Theater

Inspired by a topic on good ol' BMXboard, I'd like to address the mystery that is Cinema Wheel Co. Here is the sum total of what I know about them:

• They have a website.
• They have a killer team.
• Their rims are 36-hole only, welded at the seams, extruded from 6061, feature a concave profile (hey, sort of like these!), and available in all the cool colors.
• Their hubs are sealed, have 3/8" front and hollow 14mm rear axles, and come with a 9t driver.
• They sell t-shirts (or "apparel").

And that's more or less it. A company from nowhere, selling nothing that isn't available already elsewhere, who markets their product by pretty much saying "they're good enough for our awesome team, so they're obviously good enough for you." Nothing on who started the company, who's responsible for product development -- er, picking designs from a Taiwanese catalog -- or even on the origins of the decidedly odd name. Nevermind the fact that guys like DeHart and Martinez would still be killing it if they had to ride these. But, ooh, isn't the packaging neat? And look at all the pretty colors! (Incidentally, this is the same sort of thing that led me to buy white "Mike Buff" Z-Rims in 1985 or so.)

Shouldn't we expect more by now? Don't we deserve more? Hell, I can find out more about the tilapia for sale at my local supermarket than I can about these wheels. If your only reason I should buy your wheels is because of who runs them -- people you PAY to run them -- maybe it's time to re-think your marketing strategy.

Or just stick to "apparel."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Much Is Enough?

Anonymous 10:55 made a good point on the 10/15 post: Frame companies aren't offering many differences these days other than image. Basic geometry is set, materials are (for the most part) the same, and (other than Sunday) so is the shape/diameter of tubing. After decades of experimentation, frame design is more or less set. You don't pick an FBM over an S&M because of your style of riding, you pick that way because you're from the East Coast and not the West. Or because you support fire, beer and mayhem. In a way, BMX has finally moved closer to skateboarding, where the main difference between one company and another is the graphics.

Which, if you think about it, doesn't seem like a terribly sustainable model. In skateboarding it is. Decks are disposable -- one might last you a week or a day or at MOST a month or two before you break it. Ideally, even the lightest BMX frame should last six months to a year to a decade, provided you're not hucking yourself down triple sets. And then there's the matter of the lifetime warranty, where every kid -- or at least his mother -- thinks they should only have to buy one frame ever, and that any damage at all is clearly due to manufacturer's defects. ("I was just grinding along and...") Regardless, even the most dedicated BMXer will buy fewer frames in a lifetime than a skater will buy decks in a year.

The answer? I don't know. It's the nature of companies to want to grow, and the nature of riders to start companies. The easiest way to growth is to offer everything, so you can be a one-stop shop and don't lose customers to another company when they want something you don't make. Or expand the product lineup to make up for revenue lost when your big sellers aren't so big anymore, or when other companies infringe on "your" turf. So you get ridiculous overlap, where everyone offers pretty much the same things these days -- plastic pedals, big two-piece bars, one-piece seat/post combos, sprockets, completes. And rather than innovate, (nearly) everyone just follows along, slapping their logo on whatever the next hot craze is, in hopes of shifting units.

I guess it works, or else everyone wouldn't be doing it. But for how much longer?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Descent of Man

Another thing I missed during my time away was the introduction of the S&M "Perfect 10" bar -- 30" width and 10" of rise, guaranteed to make your boring old Slams look like a pair of Kink Red Wings. They already sold out at Empire, which means either Tom only ordered three pairs or that they were wildly popular amongst the bigger-is-better set.

Considering the trend towards bars getting taller and wider, and frames getting lower, I can only conclude that the average street rider of the future will look something like this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Splinter Cell

One of the things I missed during my long, self-imposed hiatus was the formation of Cult (or Fit II: The New Beginning). Best I can tell, after a decade or so of quiet growth, Fit abruptly divided in two, leaving both the original Fit, mostly unchanged, and Cult. For those of you with a science background (as in, you didn't sleep through ALL of middle school biology), you would recognize this as simple binary fission, as illustrated below:

(Feel free to ignore the complicated words, and please don't try and figure out which of those weird tangled spaghetti-like strands is Robbie Morales.)

Now, just because it took a decade or so for Fit to divide doesn't mean it will be another decade before it divides again. And remember that the newly produced cell divides as well, so the expansion is geometric -- 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on. Before you know it, there will be more frame companies than there are people on Earth, and eventually BMX frame companies will be the most plentiful element in the universe.

Only you can prevent forest fires.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Back In Gear

Well, good to see I'm still an idiot.

As if the name ("Iron Man") and the lack of a steel insert for the splines and the weight and THE FACT THAT IT SAYS 4130 RIGHT IN THE DESCRIPTION weren't enough, somehow I still assumed the S&M Iron Man sprocket was made of aluminum. And we all know what happens when you assume. So, apologies for that. Still not sure how I feel about the individually drilled teeth (and the fact that they're 3/32"), but I'd be totally down to run a chromoly sprocket. I can't at the moment since I run Twombolts, but I suppose we'll see how this all works out. (For the record, I'm totally in favor of eliminating the sprocket bolt -- not for weight savings, but in the interests of spreading stress evenly and cleaner design.)


I just looked up "BMX" on Google Image Search and this was the first result. Maybe next time I should turn "Safe Search" on?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Driller Killer

Sorry y'all, took yesterday off to recognize Columbus Day. Not sure why they get a day while True Temper doesn't, but I'm not gonna make waves. Also, not sure why I'm apologizing about missing a day when I took over a year off with no explanation at all. Nevermind.

To get back in the swing of things, I decided to just go to the Dans Comp website and scroll through the "new arrivals." Made it almost all the way through the parts with only mild amuzement (which is a combination of amazement and amusement, of course) -- what the heck is an Alius and a Mission? -- before landing on this:

Now, I know S&M ain't afraid of no hoax. But it's not April, and it's hard to believe that Dan's would help perpetrate. And with the direction the average CNCed aluminum snowflake has been going, drilled teeth (they should have called this sprocket the Shane MacGowan) were probably inevitable.

As usual, of course, BMX is roughly 50 years late to the party. Roadies drilled out their chainrings back in the '70s, a practice that was (mostly) abandoned in the modern era. But even they never drilled out the actual teeth, as far as I know. Mostly because they weren't (completely) insane. Meanwhile, BMXers fell in love with things like the "CD sprocket" which, thankfully, will NEVER come back.


EDIT: As DBZ pointed out, somehow I overlooked that the Iron Man was made of 4130. I'm frightened.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Clamp Down

I'm sure lots of things happened while I was away -- lots of "innovation" and "progression" and all sorts of other neat stuff. Happily, I ignored much of it. And whilst my own new steed may be equipped with folding tires and giant handlebars, it's still (mostly) all black and those giant handlebars are four-piece.

To be honest, I prefer to focus on the things that didn't change. Heck, it's 2010 -- I figured street would have been taken over by a bunch of waiflike Garrett Reynolds clones throwing 720 whips down double sets on pegless, aluminum-framed "street" bikes with 28-spoke wheels and those aluminum Answer bars with the bolt-on crossbars. Basically, 13 Experts Gone Wild. But no, steel is still real, and most wheels are still 36-spoke. And I have yet to see a 22"-wheeled bike in the wild. Phew.

There is something that concerns me, though, and that is the continued effort to eradicate the seatpost clamp. Said campaign appears to be spearheaded by Animal pro riders, which is funny since Animal appears to still make/sell these. Now, though, appears to be the Era of the Wedge Post. It started over a year ago with the WTP Mike Brennan/Max Gaertig signature frame. That was only the beginning.

First -- well, maybe not first, but whatever -- we have the Wormz frame from FBM:

(Admittedly, the circumcised seattube is more than made up for by the coolest headbadge in BMX history.)

Then there's Skavenger. Long a rumor, now true, NYC's streetiest have come out with a full line of hardgoods including signature frames for both Edwin DeLaRosa and Vinnie Sammon. Neither is SPC-friendly. Needless to say, don't expect a Skavenger seatpost clamp anytime soon.

Hey, I get it. They're signature frames. And if Ed and Vinnie and Wormz and Mike and Max (UNDRCRWN x Animal collab?) are committed to the wedge post, they can design their frames any way they see fit. And I hope they sell. As for me? I'll be sticking to these.


Oh man, awesome, S&M is manufacturing some of United's Grande Bars. Sweet! And they're...only available in the UK? Uh, right.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tailwhip Appeal

Holy hell, I'm still here. Not only am I still here, I seem to still be signed into Blogspot, which is something of a miracle (and, a good thing, since there's no way I'd remember my password).

Got a new bike since I was here last, a 2010 T1 Barcode. Somehow it's the first Terrible One I've ever ridden -- not the first one I've owned, but the first one I've ridden. There's still a Maas Barcode stashed in the attic (in the unopened box, no less), along with a Garrettcode that I always meant to build but never did.

As it turned out, I was in Austin over New Years before my frame got shipped, so I was able to stop by T1 HQ and receive my frame from the Ultimate Male himself. (I left it there and had it shipped back to NY, but that's not important here.) Eventually I got it built up, and it looks like this:

Well, it looked like that until I got rid of the skinwall tire. But you get the gist. The Barcode is still a classic BMX frame -- no tapered stays, no lightening holes, requires the use of an actual seatpost clamp -- but there's still something off. Compare the current Barcode above to the classic Barcode below:

Yes, that bike could beat up my bike. No, I don't want to go back to the days of dinnerplate sprockets and couch enema seats. However, I do hate the fact that front triangles have become so acute. What was wrong with standover height? The new-ish Barcode isn't exactly a Killorado, but come on, people. Are we that desperate to drop weight? It's bad enough that I need to hear I'm riding a little kid's bike, do I have to have people think I'm riding a little GIRL'S bike?