Monday, February 18, 2008

Compare and Contrast

Late-80s DeRosa, Italian. Beautiful bike. Short-point lugs in a traditional manner, with chromed head lugs and fork crown. Campagnolo-equipped, of course.  A sturdy bike; look at that clamp-it's solid steel and probably won't ever break or deform.

Late-80s Masi 3V, Italian.  Though this and the DeRosa both have the traditional features of a little point on the top front and side-mounted seatstays, this cluster is a bit more modern than the DeRosa-its main triangle is internally lugged, enabling thinwall tubes which are in this case quite oversized, and the clamp bolt has been shrunken and recessed.  Perhaps all of these refinements owing to pressure from, or lessons learned in, the American market? Faliero Masi was in California for some years trying to set up a shop, so it's entirely conceivable that he might adopt an iconoclastic attitude compared to the more traditional and conservative Italian national builders. Someone's motto "innovate or die" comes to mind, which since at least 1776 has been sort of an American Way of Thinking. It is said of some European manufacturers, on the other hand, that they do things a certain way because their fathers did it, and their fathers' fathers before that, etc., perpetuating in a way the system of guilds and apprenticeships found in some cases for many centuries past ("If it was good enough for _____, it's good enough for me").
This frameset is reputed by its owner to be very rigid.  The bike is Campy-equipped (of course), with the awesome and maddening Delta brakes.

Late-80s Centurion, Japanese. Attractive bike. A well-built, functional, inexpensive copy. Nice shapes, well-done lining and pinstriping, excellent paint. Dia-Compe, SR, Suntour-equipped.  The size of the lugs and the white lining look British to me, the scooped outside-mounted stay is Italianate, the lack of a top point lazy French, and that fragile little excuse for a clamp is all Japanese and bent, the fatal flaw.

More bad luck

Wasn't this The Lightest Crankset at one time?

"Light, Strong, Cheap...pick two." -Keith Bontrager

Neat front wheel

This turns out to be a good way to build a front wheel. For many of the wheels used to resuscitate old bikes that I ride, I'll make it a point of pride to use old stuff from my many and varied junk boxes. This is a good example-an old NR hub, spokes from some old French castoff, and a rim from something else. The spokes turned out to be too long, so this occurred to me as a solution. It took some figuring with the lengths and crosses, and about four times longer than normal to build, round, true, dish, stress, and tension, but it's a happy result. Nice and stiff, snappy, and cool too. Pretty damn durable, as well-this one is on its second bike, and sixth or seventh season of commuter fixxie hell. For myself and for a few customers, I've built a dozen or so wheels like this, putting one or two winds on the third cross, or one wind on the second cross, or one each on the second and third crosses (all plenty time-consuming and a good November project), and they're all still in service as far as I know. One of my rear wheel experiments, however, turned into a Pringle on the test ride: that one, if I remember correctly, I twisted at the second cross-I think that it caused torsional force from the hub to increase spoke tension ninety degrees opposed to a decreased spoke tension, which defeated the evenness of my truing stand work. Another rear wheel with a single twist at the fourth cross is more stable, but it clicks and creaks and snaps as the crossed spokes rub against each other. Net result: front wheels only!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I rode the wrong bike today. Snowy wet cold, and no fenders. Yelck. It wasn't this way when I left home. Not only that, I rode my new bike that I wanted to take better care of.

That's a slush-sicle on the brake bridge. The seat tube and my butt were also covered with the stuff. The bamboo bike-I've been a little worried about how weather will affect it, I guess if I'm going to ride it I might as well resign myself to finding out. The maker (Calfee) has assured me that there's really nothing to worry about, but still...
The green bike hanging in the background is what I'll ride home, a '72 Bottecchia converted into a fixxie, with fenders and 28c commuter tires, another resurrected old bike that I got for $20. Good winter bike, if there's not much ice, but handles a little funky-boatloads of fork rake on a 75-degree headtube. Can you say "understeer?"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Virtual People

There was a woman talking on her cel phone in Costco yesterday. I first saw her as I was walking in the front door, talking on her cel phone, and, having arrived at approximately the same time, as we did our shopping we were never more than an aisle apart, so I saw her often, talking on her cel phone. I picked up some grated cheese, and there she was, talking on her cel phone. I moved into the freezer aisle for some blueberries, and there she was, talking on her cel phone. Got a toaster oven sample, and there she was, talking on her cel phone. Dairy aisle, talking on her cel phone. Cereal, talking on her cel phone. A half-hour later, talking on her cel phone. Checking out, I saw her lining up a few rows away, talking on her cel phone. Did she pause to say "thank you" to the checker?
I have no doubt that the conversation started before she got into her vehicle, occupied at least half of her mind while driving, and will continue probably until her battery goes dead. Maybe she carries a spare battery.

What a sad life some of us lead. Get up in the morning. Make a call. One hand is all you need to pop your freezer breakfast into the heater. Turn on the TV. Make a call. Slip-on shoes so one hand can hold the phone up. Might as well use an ear bud so you can keep talking while you take a dump, fix your hair, put on your makeup, file your corns, shape your nails. God forbid someone should see you unprepared! Make a call. Go the the garage, climb into your mobile living room. Don't even take a coat. Snowing today? Wear you high-heeled BOOTS. Let the garage door open itself. Talk. Drive. Automatic transmission just requires one foot, leaving your mind free for the call, how convenient! Go shopping. Make a call. Go to work. Make a call. Your boss prohibits talking on cel phones? Text message. Or go to a chat room. But keep an extra window open so you can look like you're working at a moment's notice. Get off work. Make a call. Back to your Dummer in the parking garage. Blah blah blah. Have you been outside yet today? Faced the weather? Got any dirt on your hands? What about your shoes, walked on anything other than carpet and tile? Seen a bird? Smelled the pollen? Heard the wind in the trees? Is your reality entirely virtual, do you experience the world through the TV screen, the windshield, the monitor, your microwave, the climate control in your car, your pop radio, your contacts, hiding behind your makeup, your hair, your fashions, talking to people electronically, everything carefully filtered and cleansed and purified and fake?

Get on a bike, for gods sake. Grrrr!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


"Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs Italian, the mechanics German, the lovers French, and it is all organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the chefs British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, and it is all organized by the Italians." -anonymous