Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Thursday, May 25, 2006
As I was looking for a way to post a Podcast to my blog, I stumbled upon this free service called Audioblogger.
It uses a standard phone for the recording, limits the sound bite to 5min or less and saves it as an mp3. It's something I hope to play with more in the future.
Posted by James at 11:28 AM
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
While I was at Sea Otter I saw this rack by Sierra Coast Cargo Racks.
Owning a pickup myself, I was intrigued. After getting more information they good folks at Sierra Coast agreed to send me one for review. I received it a couple of weeks ago and got it installed. They also sent me a prototype mount that eliminates the need to drill into the bed floor.
First off, the rack comes "some assembly required" like most racks do. It took me about 2 hours to get it in -- and that's without drilling the bed.
So far, though, I like the rack. It's nice being able to leave my front wheel on. Though not shown in the picture, I have found that it works better clamping the rear wheel. The bike seems to wobble less.
More later, when I have more time with it.
Posted by James at 3:21 PM
Monday, May 22, 2006
I am putting the finishing touches on a review of the Formula Oro K24 brakes and it got me thinking. These are really good brakes, but then so were the Hayes El Camino's that I recently reviewed. In fact, so were the Hope Mono 4 that Jon reviewed... and the Juicy 7 from Avid... and... well, you get the idea. I really like the K24, but the fact of the matter is, you can't really go wrong with modern hydraulics. They all work well, though there are features that differentiate them one from another and quite a spread in prices.
They all have the same drawback too -- Hydraulic fluid. Even if you run Shimano or Magura brakes that use mineral oil, at some point you'll have to bleed your brakes. My experience with that has been hit and miss. Sometimes I can get it right the first time. Sometimes it takes me all day. Sometimes, I want to give up and get a set of mechanical brakes like I have on my 'cross bike. Even with this nuisance, and it is a nuisance, I'll take disc brakes over rim any day of the week.
Slap a larger rotor on there -- my personal favorite is 7", but I'll take 8" -- and you'll have all the power, modulation and fade free performance you can ask for in any weather and on any terrain. Making brakes better gives you, the rider, more confidence. With more confidence, you'll ride faster and in more control than before. It takes good brakes to go fast.
Magura has now made some changes to their lineup. I personally, can't wait to see how good they have become. Technology is a wonderful thing, especially when it makes riding safer and more enjoyable.
Posted by James at 8:09 PM
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I recently received a wheelset for review from FSA. It's their RD-600 wheelset, shown below.
The unique feature is the third wheel flange. It sits dead center of the rim tucking 1/3 of the spokes out of the wind. In the case of the rear wheel, this is also the location of the drive spokes, leaving either outer flange radially laced. I've only got a few miles on them so far, but they seem plenty stiff laterally and exhibit no spoke wind up under load. I'll report more after I have more miles on them.
Posted by James at 9:21 PM
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
A little while ago, I received some downhill tires to test. They are the Geax Lobo Mas Loco -- the most crazy wolf, for you non-spanish speakers -- and they are big. At 2.5 inches wide, they don't fit my Jekyll. But they do fit the hardtail of a rider (we'll call him T) that helps me out from time to time in my review process. The bike in question is a Dean Ti hardtail with an 80mm fork. You wouldn't normally think to put tires like these on a bike like this, but we did and the results were... interesting.
First off, the tires looked awesome on there. They are huge and menacing. T ran them with less than 30psi of air pressure so we needed to see how they worked off road. For comparison I ran Continental's Gravity UST with about 28psi -- tires that I like for their ability to grip regardless of the terrain.
While riding some steeper trails we got to thinking about one particular trail. For those familiar with the Corvallis, OR area, it's "Shave and a Haircut". Now Shave and a Haircut is a fun trial for many reasons. It doesn't just go straight down the side of the mountain, rather it meanders... up, down, through the trees, over roots, through minor streams, etc. It throws almost everything at you and was intended as a one-way trail heading down. The downhill portions can get quite steep, requiring good brakes and good traction. Now, our intention was to make a figure 8 by decending trail A, climbing trail B, decending Shave and a Haircut, climbing trail B again, and returning to my pickup via a gravel road. As we began to head up trail B, T wonders -- aloud -- if it would be possible to climb Shave and a Haircut, making that portion of our ride an out and back. Remember he is running heavy downhill tires.
We decide... what the heck, why not try it.
So, try it we did. And Conquer we did. This got us thinking, however of the tires. I mean, this trail was steep in places. And yet, the very big, very low pressure tires did very, very well. Some sections reminded us of the venerable Slickrock trail in Moab, but without the tacky sandstone. We definitely needed to finesse our way up, but traction was never a problem. Especially for T with the downhill tires. The tires conformed to roots and trail irregularities due to the low pressure/high volume casing. The very beefy knobs grabbed the dirt with a choke hold and wouldn't let go without a fight.
Based on our experience -- and the tires were equally adept at decsending -- we'd like to call them UPhill tires.
Posted by James at 8:44 PM
Thursday, May 11, 2006
As promised, here follows a report of the Sampe show/conference.
First up, this show is all about carbon. Carbon fiber, cutting carbon cloth, making forms and bladders to ease construction of complex shapes, different additives to the resins, what you can make with carbon fiber and more were all on site with booths, displays, hands on workshops and lectures and panal discussions. As you can imagine, there were a number of bicycle-related displays. I saw frames from Trek and Easton carbon wheels (Hexcell booth), Giant and FSA (Taiwanese booth), Cannondale (boron fiber company booth), Parlee (tube supplier booth) WoundUp forks (Advanced Composites booth), BMC TT frame (Core material booth) and Calfee (panel discussion).
Why were bicycles so prevalent? First, they are complicated parts. They have conflicting requirements. They need to be light, stiff, compliant, rigid, forgiving, aerodynamic, comfortable, efficient, quick, stable... and the list goes on and on. The requirements at the bottom bracket are completely different than those at the top tube/ seat tube/ seat stay junction. The loads are different, the size limitations are different and the results can be all over the board. Bicycles also use more high modulus carbon fiber than space craft do. They are "state of the art" on many levels.
In addition to the booths, I saw engineers from SRAM, Trek and Easton wondering the floor. The engineer from SRAM (Taiwan) was looking for a source of carbon fiber. It seems that Japan has haulted, or severely reduced, the exportation of carbon fiber to China and Taiwan. In addition to that, there is a real crunch on the produciton world wide to it's use for VERY large turbine -- wind mill -- blades. I'm talking 50 meter and larger (164ft) blades. BIG windmills. And Don Quijote thought that his were dragons. In addition, the Airbus A380 uses quite a bit of the stuff and one of the items for discussion at the panel that I attended was the new Boeing 787 which uses so much carbon fiber it makes up half of it's weight. The entire fuselage and wings are made of carbon fiber. So much of it is carbon fibre that they've locked their supplier, Toray, into a deal through 2021. Ouch. And there are more large users, though those are the biggest. We're talking millions of pounds of the stuff. Don't forget, also, that carbon fiber comes from O-I-L. As the price per barrel goes up, so does the cost of the wonder material.
Where does that leave us, the end comsumer? First, don't hold your breath for super cheap carbon fiber frames. It's still time consuming to manufacture -- it's labor intensive to do it right and, really, you don't want it done wrong. Second, we might begin seeing more limited production runs of parts made out of carbon fiber. This will do nothing to drive the cost down, as supply dwindles and demand crescendoes.
As I mention earlier, Craig Calfee was part of this same panel discussion. He talked about how bicycle consumers were some of the most educated regarding the uses of carbon fiber and even showed a bit of educational material that Easton has given to shop owners explaining why carbon nanotubes (CNT) are a good thing to have in the resin matrix. He also talked about alternatives to carbon fiber and showed one of his bamboo bikes. After the discussion, as people were milling about it was interesting to note that all these carbon fiber experts and industy folk weren't interested at all in the 14lb Luna Pro he had, but rather, were more interested in the bamboo bike. I spoke with him about the white bamboo bike he had at the Handmade Bicycle show -- seen below in the background (thanks Cyclingnews!)
I wondered at the lugs -- what were they made of? It turns out that they are made of bamboo fiber. How cool is that? It's a complete bamboo (and resin) bike.
The future? I don't know, really. I think that we are just beginning to see the uses of carbon fiber -- another member of the panel discussion was a guy whos company wraps concrete bridge supports with carbon fiber to increase their dynamic loading capabilities -- and bicycles are helping to lead the charge. More production facilities are opening up, 3 in China alone. In the end, though, like most things, it will come down to dollars, euros or whatever money you use. It'll be interesting to see how this all unfolds.
Posted by James at 9:52 AM
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
It's that time again...
Head on over to GearReview.com and sign up to win a EMS Women's Ascent 4200 Backpack. No, it's not biking related, but hey, there are other persuits that are almost as fun! Besides, it's a really nice backpack.
So, go on... fill out the form and maybe... maybe you'll win!
Posted by James at 4:28 PM
Monday, May 08, 2006
Man, o' MAN, work is killin' me. That notwithstanding, I have got some new info for you, my readers.
First up, ten speed 105.
Shimano sent me a complete 105 group for review last week. I was at SAMPE in Long Beach, CA all week -- aside: Calfee was there and was part of a panel discussion on the use of composites in high performance applications, more to follow this week -- so I didn't get a chance to built up the road bike until Friday.
Here's what I received:
ST-5600 Dual Control levers, shaped similar to the 10-speed Ultegra and Dura Ace models.
RD-5600 SS Rear Derailleur
FD-5600 B Front Derailleur
CS-5600 Cassette, in the 12-25 flavor. This is an interesting part, it's the least expensive 10 speed cassette on the market. The gears are 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23,25 -- meaning that the biggest jump is only two teeth. Very nice on the flats for an even cadence.
FC-5600 Crankset, again styled after Dura Ace and Ultegra, in the 50/39 variety.
BR-5600 Brakeset for the front and rear
CN-5600 Chain to roll on through the derailleurs, cogs and chainrings.
SM-FC5600 Bottom Bracket to match the crankset
and finally, PD-R540 pedals.
Shimano also furnished their SH-R151 shoes to mount the pedals' cleats to.
My shakedown ride was a 70 mile pain-fest that aquainted me a little with the components. First, the new 105 stuff shifts out of the box as well as any Ultegra or Dura Ace bike I've ridden. We'll see how long that crisp action lasts, but right now, I'm impressed. The 12-25 cassette is nice. I like the single tooth jumps. Going in, I wondered at the point behind a non-compact crankset running a 50 tooth. On the ride, however, I appreciated the fact that in the big ring, I was still in the single tooth jumps out back. If the crankset had a 53 tooth big ring, I'd have been in the larger four cogs where the jumps are two teeth. Sure I gave up a little top end speed, but it is a good trade off. I missed my previous cranksets 34 tooth small ring.
All in all, the new stuff is decidedly a step above the previous generation 105. The shifting clicks are more pronounced, the finish is as good or better, and the levers feel better.
I'll keep you all posted as the review progresses.
While I was out, I also received a rack from Sierra Coast racks. I'll be posting more info about that this week as well.
Whew, LOT's going on!
Posted by James at 2:20 PM
Monday, May 01, 2006
Even though I pulled a tendon in my wrist while laying Sod/Turf on Saturday--which not only hampers my ability to ride, but makes typing painful, James has asked that I, Jon, post this to his blog in his absence. My loyalty to James knows no bound.
Here's the latest press release from Shimano. Pictures follow.
2007 Shimano XTR – Phase II
Brakes, Brake Levers & Rotors
May 1st, 2006
Irvine, CA: Shimano releases product information for its 2007 Shimano XTR brake components.
As Shimano’s first XTR branded disc brake lever, the new BL-M975 is Shimano’s lightest disc brake lever set at 194grams.
With its compact design, you are free to choose from the wide variety of handlebars on the market. Whether you are using riser bars or narrow flat bars, handlebar interference with the brake hose is not an issue.
- New design:
- The master cylinder is perpendicular to the handlebar which allows the hose to exit at an inward angle for zero interference regardless of handlebar type. Improved cylinder mechanism contributes in smoother modulation.
- Upgraded Pivot:
- An enlarged pivot using higher grade materials helps create a smooth and consistent lever feel.
- Textured Brake Lever:
- The brake lever is sand blasted then anodized to create a subtle texture which increases grip.
- Aluminum master cylinder cover plate:
- Features the signature “X” design and a double anodized XTR logo.
BR-M975 (International) / BR-M975-P (Post mount):
Shimano’s new disc brake calipers retain Shimano’s signature control through superior modulation. The BR-M975 retains an opposed two-piston design while reducing weight:
- Single forged Mono-body construction:
- The one-piece design is more compact and very stiff which results in a precise and efficient disc brake design.
- Titanium back plate:
- The titanium back plate on the new XTR brake pads are 12 grams lighter than current steel pads. Durability in the pad is also improved by 50%.
- Caliper options:
- Post mount calipers can be adapted to any rotor size with the use of post mount adapters.
- Use international standard calipers for the ultimate in weight savings to achieve the following rotor choices: 160mm/180mm for the front or 160mm/140mm for the rear.
The new XTR rotors use Shimano’s patented Centerlock technology and receive a new star pattern. The new rotor also aids in improved pad life. Multiple rotor sizes are available for a variety of riding styles.
- Centerlock rotor choices:
- 140mm (for the rear only)
BL-M970 / BR-M970
Receiving upgraded cosmetics, the BL-M970 & BR-M970 answers the calls for single speeders and traditionalists alike.
- Parallel-Push Linkage: The parallel mechanism employed produces uniform pressure on the rim for even pad wear, maximum tire clearance and optimum braking control.
- Servo Wave: Servo Wave creates fast initial lever action which quickly brings pads into contact with the rim. After contact with the rim slower action increases leverage during braking.
Posted by James at 12:53 PM