Monday, January 31, 2011

Wheelset Tension

You would expect a serious bike blog with the title "Wheelset Tension" to be some kind of Sheldon Brown dissertation on how to properly tighten the spokes on your wheel to give you the ideal dish.  But you would be wrong.

In this case, the tension is over what type and cost of wheelset the two Single Speed Kids should be encouraged or allowed to buy.  SSK1 likes the high zoot stuff.  His ideal wheelset would be Industry Nine hubs and spokes married to a carbon rim.  Unfortunately for him and fortunately for me, there is no such thing.  It does, however, point out the joy, frustration and tension between "what I want" and "what I can afford" and results in "what is right for me," which, ironically for SSK1, is the whole point of going through this process together.  It's almost like I planned it . . .

There are lots of ideas floating around for what we should buy, what we should spend, and even, what colors of "stuff" should we included to make our bikes super sexy.  It's fun, but it's even better when our collective vision of the path is the same.  Not sure how this will turn out, but I suspect Single Speed Dad will prevail in the choices.  After all, I control the checkbook.

More soon.
Single Speed Dad

Friday, January 28, 2011

Now What?

This project started with three frames, three forks and an idea.  But where do we go from there?

It has been the better part of two decades since I built up a bike from the frameset.  In that case, the process was relatively easy after the hardest part - coming up with the cash.  After that, I knew that I wanted a road bike with Campagnolo parts.  This was in the late 80's and I was in love with the romance of European bike racing, which meant a love affair with Italian components, Belgian riders and a French race.  That sounds like the start of a bad joke if we throw in a priest and a rabbi, but it was true.

For that project, I went in to see Steve at his old location on the South Hill (although this process may have begun when he was in his location across from Lulu's Ski Shop) and quickly settled on a frame that he had in the shop and the Campy gruppo that I could afford.  I don't recall which gruppo, but it probably translated from Italian as "gruppo cheapo".  I might be able to figure it out, since the bike is currently attached to my trainer, but I know many of the parts have changed.  I know it started out with index shifters (wow! these index shifter are a big change from just "shifters" (we later called them "friction shifters")), but it had combination brakes/shifters at some point.  Ironically, these cable have been cut and it has friction shifters again, but it was the cheaper way to get the full-time trainer bike to shift again rather than re-build or replace the worn out shifters.  Anyway, the point is, I don't build a lot of bikes from the ground up.  My cyclocross/commuter bike was a bit of a Frankenstein bike; built from left-overs from my basement and Steve's basement.  Since practicality and frugality where the watchwords for that build, however, I didn't spend much time worrying about the pieces.  Just wanted something functional at the end and I left it to Steve to make it work.

This time, however, the boys and I are digging through catalogs, pouring over websites and boring my wife to tears with endless discussions of seat post set-backs and wheelsets.  It is a lot of fun to take our time and ponder all of the possibilities.  If we had three unlimited budgets, it would make it faster, but part of the process for this project is spending the time to learn about the parts, the compromises that make sense and some that don't.  In the next week or so, we are sitting down for an extended consultation with Steve to go over a the full spec for these bikes.  That will give us a projected budget and will undoubtedly leave us with some question marks.  It will also give my wife more reasons to wear headphones during dinner.  I'm looking forward to it.

Well, no.  Not my wife wearing headphones.  I mean I am looking forward to putting together the spec. list.  Look for it here soon.
Single Speed Dad

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Big job ahead

After the initial shock of a brand new bike wore off, the realization of the massive project ahead of me set in. I would have to choose every part, from the handlebars to the bottom bracket and everything in between. Not only did I have to choose what style and type and angle and material and everything else, I then had to find that particular part with the qualities I decided on for a reasonable price and quality. 

Some of the parts I knew about (like the handlebars or the saddle), some of the parts I knew about but didn't think about needing to get (skewers, seat collar), and some of the things I had never heard of (bottom bracket, headset).  How would a kid who had only gotten "bikes" before know about those things?  It would be one heck of a job. Luckily, Steve let us look at some of his catalogs so that we could pick parts he would be able to get for us. 

Because my frame is such a bright green, I decided that getting more muted components would be a good choice. (I am planning on grey, black, and silver.) This decision narrowed the field of components, but not by much (Not nearly as much as choosing to use only hot pink components would). 

On interesting experience we had was to go to a website where we we could  select the parts to  virtually "build" our same frames with various components. The least expensive build, including the frame and fork, weighed 24.39 pounds and cost $2,404.45. The lightest build weighed 17.3 pounds and cost $4,388.51. 

Hopefully, our bikes will fall somewhere between the two, a perfect marriage of price and quality.
-SingleSpeed Kid 2

Monday, January 24, 2011

Single Speed Kid 2 - Say What?

It was early on non-denominational winter solstice celebration morning.  The ground was littered with the carnage of two teenagers opening non-denominational winter solstice celebration gifts.  There were but four boxes left: two for each of the Single-Speed Kids.  Two were quite large, standing almost four feet tall two wide, and less than one foot deep.  The other two were smaller, but a similarly long and flat shape.  We were told to open the smaller ones first.  The wrapping paper was torn off to reveal a red box with the name "Niner" on the side.  Single Speed Dad gave me Niner socks earlier this year, and so I assumed the box would contain some such similar paraphernalia.  When I lifted the lid, I saw a beautiful steel bike fork in Kermit Green.  I knew somewhere, deep in my mind, that the large box must then contain a steel single-speed bicycle frame, also Kermit Green.  I knew that in part because Single Speed Dad had been talking about bike frames for a few months.  I also knew that a large quantity of the parts needed to make a bike work were missing.  But I could not quite comprehend that I was getting a bike for non-denominational winter solstice celebration.  As you can guess, the larger box did, in fact, contain a Kermit Green single-speed steel bike frame.  Single-Speed Dad explained the intention of the gift: we would be choosing every missing piece for our bicycles, along with Single-Speed Dad, put them together, and blog about the process.  And here is the blog: the first of many installments from Single-Speed Kid 2.  This is gonna be fun.
Single Speed Kid 2

Friday, January 21, 2011

Single Speed Kid 1 - Bike under the Tree!

Today will be a Christmas re-count blog because I know that all of you are dying to know what happened on Christmas morning.  But first I must recount a small tale from Christmas-eve which relates to the following day.  We were having a family Christmas Eve party, as we do every year, and Single Speed Dad had just brought down two huge boxes and two smaller boxes before the party had started.  As we were sitting in our living room with the tree, my uncle asked if we knew what was in the boxes.  I didn't know it, of course, but the boxes were standing on end.  As it turns out, changing the perspective had sure tricked us.  We really had no idea what was in the box much to the disappointment of our uncle.  He was incredulous that we had absolutely no idea what was in the boxes.  I however was quite content because I much prefer to be surprised than to be “anticipating” as SSDad calls it.  When we were going to bed (much later) I was still wondering what was in the box.  Had I been a mischievous child, I would have journeyed down into the living room and shaken the boxes, if not done something more revealing, however being not that kind of child, I thought about it a little more and then fell asleep.  The next morning, I eventually got to open my huge present and its companion.  I first opened the smaller box which was a Niner moondust gray steel rigid fork.  After I saw what it was I was really surprised and couldn’t fathom why I would be getting a bike fork.  My old mountain bike’s fork was a little worn but still in good condition.  I was still pondering this conundrum when I open the large box which was a Niner S.I.R. 9 moondust gray frame!  Suddenly it all made sense; I had been given a frame and a fork.  But then I wondered, “Where is the rest of the bike?”   

SS Dad then started to explain what was going on.  He told us that we had been given single speed bikes because we could use them for the areas around our house, and they were bikes we could take to college and use even later in life.  He then told us that we would be building up our new bikes with components from Steve's On Cannon which we would help pay for and which Mom and SS Dad would help pay for; he also told us that we would be blogging about our new bikes and the whole experience of building them and riding them.  I was thrilled and started contemplating what to get immediately.  Right now I do not know what I will be getting but I do know for sure some of the things which I really wish I was getting for my bike.  Who knows maybe some of those dreams will come true!
Single Speed Kid 1

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So What's in it for You? (Or more specifically, Me)

So why did I, Single Speed Dad, want to embark upon this project?  Well, I wanted to build a single speed mountain bike for myself so I can fulfill my childhood dream of becoming Jake McBurns.  Okay, that wasn't a childhood dream, but it is a good aspiration if you want to be able to ride a single speed up, down or across anything that is on the face of the planet.  They say that single speeds actually have three speeds - sitting, standing and walking.  I don't recall seeing JM use his third speed, which makes him the kind of guy a single speeder would want to emulate.  I don't really have that particular aspiration, being a bit too long in the tooth and a bit too wide in the belt line, but still, riding with Jake and Jonathon and a few others made single speeding look like fun.

Last year I did a few rides on my "experimental" single speed.  This means that I picked a single gear and rode it for the whole ride, even when it seemed like a good idea to change gears, like when I was pushing that 27 speed wonder.  But it did give me an idea of why it would be a new riding challenge.  This reminds me of my youthful skiing days, in which I was an obsessed downhill fanatic living not far from Bogus Basin.  At some point, my friends and I started looking for ways to freshen up the experience. We started by "borrowing" cross-country gear from our dads and learning to telemark on the downhill slopes.  Anyway, the point is that it is fun to find ways to experience the things you love in a different way.  It's one of the reasons I like road riding and racing, mountain bike riding and racing, a bit of cyclocross, commuting and generally finding any excuse to be on two wheels (including a bit of the motored variety).

Besides, keeping in mind the mathematical equations for bike ownership (Perfect number of bikes = X + 1, with X being the number you currently own.  Sometimes also expressed as Perfect number of bikes = Y - 1, with Y being the number of bikes that would cause your significant other to throw you out of the house), I liked the idea of having a single speed to add to the bike selection.  I also liked the idea of doing a fixed fork and super-light mountain bike.  That way, when I was pushing it up the hills, at least there would be less weight to it.

It was fortuitous that about the time I was deciding to embark on this project, Steve's On Cannon decided to pick up the Niner line-up, so it appeared a bit of serendipity arose to help prompt this project ahead.

So, while it might be irrational, and I will undoubtedly be grunting up some hills wondering why I decided to give up my gears, I am still looking forward to it.  And, ultimately, I am hoping to ride it across the State of Washington from west to east on dirt roads and trails almost the entire way.  Stay tuned.

Next up, Christmas recollections from my partners in this project.

Monday, January 17, 2011

So What's the Big Idea?

In the next couple of posts, you will get to hear some initial impressions from my kids about finding an out-of-the-blue surprise of a Niner bike frame under the tree.  But what would possess any right-minded parent to do such a thing?  Here is the idea, but settle in, because it is multi-parts.

First, my kids got "mountain bikes" a number of years ago that were fine for "little kids" who mostly rode around on level trails, asphalt and similar surfaces.  These were nice bikes and probably better than average for their ages (owing to having a father who was a bike nut), but these were also steel-framed bikes with relatively inexpensive parts and a fork that looked like a fork, but which was really a slightly springy mill-stone on the front of the bike.  Net result, they were heavy.  I don't know the actual weight of the bikes, but I would guess that they are around 35 lbs.  At the time these bikes were purchased for the kids, this was about 50% of their body weight.  Think about that for a moment (please).  Can you imagine riding a bike that is 50% of your body weight?  For me, that would be like a Fred Flintstone sedan with rock wheels to get that much weight.

Next, they were outgrowing these bikes and it was time to consider replacements.  The seat posts were getting extended to maximum and their size, weight and willingness to torture the bikes was all increasing.  This did mean that the bike weight was decreasing as a percentage of their body weight, but it was never going to be fun to ride a bike with that much heft up hills.

Replacements then brought into mind a number of factors - size, weight, style of riding, utility and cost all spring to mind.  Coming from the home of a bike-obsessed parent, these kids were fortunate to have relatively new road bikes that had been purchased in place of mountain bike replacements.  As such, they had a two wheel option, but we happen to live near the bluffs which provide next door access to mountain bike riding.  I also had in mind that in my own life, mountain bikes have proved to be very utilitarian vehicles, serving at times as mountain bikes, but also basic transportation, commuter bikes, and family outing vehicles.  So, somewhere in this process, I got the idea it might be fun, a bit more cost effective and utilitarian in the long-term if I get them bikes that would serve a number of purposes over a number of years.

So, the idea was born to get single-speed frames with fixed forks that could be built up as a lightweight mountain bike, but that would also be convertible to a geared bike, would accept a suspension fork and that could also take racks and lights to carry these college-bound lads to and from classes and jobs if that need arose in the future.

Next, I got the idea that it might be fun to go through the process of "building" the bikes with the kids, so that they understood these bikes from the beginning and would look upon them as having many interchangeable parts and functions.  If we got them completed bikes and said they could add a suspension fork or gears later, I think it would seem less possible than if they got them in pieces and helped create them.  I also thought that they would have the opportunity to learn something as consumers.  There are times that the incremental improvement is dramatically more money and I wanted them to have the opportunity to see, experience and pay for the differences.  (Just for a fun example, I just compared two brakesets; for a price jump of over $250 I found a weight savings of 53 grams.  Wow!  53 grams seems like a lot.  Until you do the conversion and realize it is 1.9 ounces.)

And lastly, having done a bit of enjoyable blogging elsewhere, I thought the boys would enjoy blogging about this process.  If, as a result, we had some fun and had an excuse to have new bikes and rides, all the better.  So, with introductions out of the way, or at least partly, let's get on with the story.