Tuesday, September 25, 2012

what is your bike made out of?

This one is made of steel.  On my home home from work I made a bonehead move- a left hand turn into an oncoming car.  No idea why I didn't see it.  I've been riding to and from work most days for 10 years.  I hit the front of the car at an angle, went over the bars, bounced off the windshield and landed on my feet.  I completely caved  in the windshield and don't even have a bruise myself. Really stupid and really lucky.  The visibly shaken but nice woman in the car that I hit and I had a short but pleasant conversation and exchanged information.  I put the wheel back in the skewed fork and rode home, slowly.
 Try that with a carbon fork.  I'm afraid the fork is beyond help this time but I had the people at Elliott Bay straighten it from a crash several years ago. Right now there is a trend for even steel frames to use a carbon fork.  I would rather ride a carbon frame with a steel fork.  A frame is a nice strong triangle and less likely to fail, and even if it does you can probably land safely.  If, on the other hand, a steerer tube or fork leg snaps while you are riding- and we all know that it happens- you are going to hit the ground hard.
Other benefits of a properly designed steel fork, aside from reliability, in my opinion, are better ride quality and better clearance for mud/fenders/bigger tires.  Its probably true that carbon transmits less road vibration and has a nice damp feel to it.  The straight legs on carbon forks are really stiff vertically.  A steel fork with the offset in a nice round bend near the dropouts, like this Colorado II fork, is much more comfortable.  If anyone has an orphaned Serotta Colorado fork with 9 inches of steerer let me know!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


After riding towards the front of the Cat 3 field for the last 5 years, I finally got a win today.  Usually I'm content to just race but I really wanted a win at Steilacoom.  My first cross race was at Steilacoom in 2005, with no spandex and on my trusty Bontrager hardtail.  I had just read an article in the Seattle Times about cyclocross.  I didn't know anyone who raced cyclocross but I had to try it.  Steilacoom, even without the legendary Knapp time run up, is one of my favorite courses- along with Woodland Park and the old Fort Flagler.  Now its on to Cat 2 pack fodder.  Its been fun.

I'm normally not one to geek out on gear.  I have no idea what is taking Don Walker so long to build my new  cross bike.  I'm still racing on a generic aluminum frame with barcon shifters I built up in 2006.   But today I had on a new set of Challenge Fango clinchers.  I have used a Challenge tubular on the front before but I never got around to building up a tubular rear wheel because I rolled the front tire off once or twice.  You can't have a decent result if you roll your tire.  So I usually just use a clincher with WTB cross wolf tires.  They do corner really well.  But I've got to think that a handmade tire with a really supple casing has noticeably improved rolling resistance.  I think its true that a tubular is faster if you can get it to stay on, because you can run them at lower pressures and therefore have better traction in corners.  They are also lighter but I think the weight is a non issue.  But I suspect a handmade clincher with a cotton or cotton/poly casing has the benefit of extremely low rolling resistance, similar to a handmade tubular tire.  The Biccyle Quarterly people have done some really interesting tests on rolling resistance that seem to bear this out.  Its really kind of funny that with all the carbon wheels, electronic shifting, and other high zoot items that seem to be must-have items for a lot of people- the single best thing you can do to make yourself faster, with respect to equipment, is buy some old fashioned handmade tires.  One nice thing about that- we are talking about 80 dollars instead of 40 dollars for a tire.  Not thousands for carbon wheels or electronic drivetrains.

It must have been close to 80 degrees at Steilacoom today.  I'm hoping the odd color of my urine is from beet salad and not dehydration.  It was dry and dusty, but a lot of the corners were still tricky due to loose dirt/sand/gravel.  My plan was to not eat it too hard in any of the turns and pick people off going up the long hills and it worked.  One of the dudes in the creepy pink kit with kittens and knives on it was killing it on a singlespeed- I would have been in trouble if he had been riding a geared bike.  A Keller Rohrbach rider was close too but I think I heard him slide out at one point and he couldn't make it back.