Tar maintenance

July 21, 2017 § 30 Comments

One of the most important parts on your bike is its tars. You can’t go far without them. They are the third most important bike part. The first is the handlebars. When you jump on your bike without the handlebars nothing good is going to happen. The second is the wheels. When you jump on your bike without the wheels you are going to hurt badly that place where your legs join up.

Tars are the contact point between you and the bike shop. Once you get a flat tar you need a tube or a patch which costs a couple of bucks. And once you go into the bike shop for a new tube you need a new 100% all carbon Pinarello pure carbon frame that is made of all carbon and Campagnolo which costs several thousand. You know how marijuana is the gateway to heroin? Tars are the gateway to Pinarellos. Chinarellos if you shop online.

Lots of bicyclists spend a lot of time doing tar research. Which tar is right for me? Well hell I don’t know and I would give you a list of things to look for in a tar except Waldo is counting my lists and he is a subscriber. So instead of a list I will give you a run-on sentence. Tars should be rubber and hold air, which is measured in pounds per square inch or something called “bars.” Back in the day an old Belgian would get a flat, patch it with a piece of asphalt, get another flat, throw the bike in the fuggin’ ditch, and go into a bar. “Y’all got any tars?” he would ask and they would say “Whyncha belly up to the bar while we go look?” Anyway it took about 6.8 beers at the bar, or 6.8 “bars” to find a tire which they would inflate to 100 pounds per square inch so nowadays Euros just say “gimme 7 bars” or eight bars and etcetera.

But back to tars which are confusing. Do you need an off road, on road, hybrid, or commuter tar? Like I said, hell I don’t know. But I do know this. The other day I got a pair of Vittoria Super Fake Racer Profamateur tars that cost a lot of money. Everyone said I shouldn’t train on them because even though they were more supple than your mistress they were eggshell thin like your wife’s radar about you suddenly dressing differently and running errands at odd times of the day. In short, everyone said I would soon be getting double flats and it would be a waste of time and money and etcetera.

However I remember once hearing someone say that the way to get more life out of a tar (and maybe a mistress too) is to rotate them regularly. That sounded easy until I learned that these Vittoria race tars in addition to being supple were tighter than my bank account at the end of the month. Or the beginning for that matter even though I got a $324.15 cash back credit on my Visa card. Do you know how much money you have to spend to get $324.15 cash back credit? Answer: More than $324.15, which just goes to prove the old adage that you can’t make money by spending it. Although I try.

Anyway, I slapped those tars on the rims on May 23 and it is now July 21, which is almost two months, and every two weeks I have rotated my tars. They still have another month left on them, easily, maybe two. And I haven’t gotten a single flat.

If tar swapping works with prima donna tars like these and you don’t mind losing a few fingernails every time you rotate them, you will get way more mileage and better yet, your tars will wear evenly. Plus even if you are a horrible mechanic and can barely fill a water bottle without breaking your seat post, once you get handy at tar swapping and fingernail re-growing you will feel a big sense of accomplishment.

And if all else fails and you are standing out on my balcony with your feet in the vinegar-baking soda anti-fungal concoction bowl and your fingernails are littering the floor and you don’t have any palms left, only big raw meat holes where you ground off all the skin, you can always call my buddy Usta Befit. He will get you fixed up in a jiffy. That boy never met a tar he couldn’t change.

END

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Cheese melt

July 4, 2017 § 24 Comments

I got back from Texas and immediately began googling “lugged steel frames.”

Of course we all know that lugged steel frames have no place in modern, civilized society.

There is no good explanation for dumbly scrolling through pictures of [your favorite lugged frame builder here] other than my brain melted while I was in Texas. It’s not to say that steel frames are bad, or not worth buying, or that you shouldn’t have three, or anything … it’s simply to say that me looking for a steel frame makes about as much sense as me looking for DIY nipple piercing equipment. Wrong dude, wrong tools.

To add to the confusion, I love steel frames. I love them so much that I sold all of mine years ago at an eBay fire sale. You love something? Set it the fuck free. You hate something? Install it in your bedroom.

Anyway, the problem with steel frames is that if you build them up with modern components they look like men’s formal wear with Ugg boots.

Steel bikes look prettiest with down tube shifters, Mavic Reflex 36-hole tubular rims, a quill pantographed stem, and a Concor saddle. That’s how they look prettiest to me, anyway. No carbon fork, either, and for dog’s sake, please polish your lugs. Sheesh.

All this came about because I went for one, that’s right, one, bike ride in Austin. It was unspeakably hot and damper than a wet t-shirt contest. And it wasn’t even that hot, only a hundred degrees or so. I usually ride 3-4 hours and drink half a bottle, maybe a full one if it’s hot here in SoCal.

On my 67.5-mile pedal in CenTex, I went through three water bottles and three 16-oz. bottles of Dr. Pepper, and I was so dehydrated that three days later my tongue is still so swollen that it sticks to the roof of my mouth and my fingertips are wrinkly and shriveled.

Texas riders are tough as nails. That heat is horrible, and the humidity is like pouring boiling water on a sunburn. The pulsing waves of scalding hot that washed over me for almost five hours scrambled my brains. I got back to my mom’s place and she asked “How was the ride?”

“It was fine.”

“Wasn’t it hot?”

“Not really.”

“You were out there for a long time.”

“I guess I am still somewhat acclimated to the Texas heat,” I bragged.

An hour later the sunstroke kicked in. I fell onto the bed and quivered for fifteen hours straight. Somewhere during my hallucinations a voice that sounded like Mom’s said, “We’re going to Barton Springs. Do you want to go with us?”

“Does it mean moving?” I asked.

“Only from here to the car. Which is air conditioned.”

“No,” I said. “I think I will stay here under this a.c. vent and moan for a bit.”

Back in California after a mere 22 hours on the road, I was still babbling and incoherent. And after my trip down memory lane the only thing I could think of was lugged steel frames, quill stems, and etc. I love steel frames. I’m going to email Richard Sachs right now.

END

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Bro deal? No thanks!

June 27, 2017 § 47 Comments

I recently had a couple of people provide me with some amazing services, both bicycle related. In each instance they went out of their way to accommodate me and did what I can only describe as top-notch professional work.

Then it came time to pay the bill.

One of the people, who had given up a Friday morning to help me out, said “No charge. It’s okay. You do a lot for the community and send a lot of business my way. I can’t take your money.” It took two days of negotiations to get her to accept full payment for her services, and the only way it happened was by flatly saying, “Hey, if you won’t take payment then I won’t be asking for your help again. If you want to give someone a break, give it to someone who needs it badly and really is broke, as opposed to me, who is just cheap.”

The other person gave me a “bill,” to which I said, “Come on, dude. Are you making any money on that?”

“No,” he laughed. “But you’re my friend and plus you gave me some cool bar tape and socks. No worries.”

“No worries? Worries! How much do I have to add so that you make money on this deal? Real money, not fifty cents.” He hemmed and hawed and then coughed up a number that actually made sense and I paid it.

There are countless other examples, like the person who refused to take payment for promoting my law firm at his event, as if by working for free he was doing me a favor. And in reality this is the tip of the iceberg–people accepting in-kind payment, businesses offering unsustainable discounts, and sole proprietors carving up their retail offerings so that after all the carving’s done there’s nothing left but gristle and bone.

These people perplex me. They perplex me because I want them to succeed, and they can’t succeed in the “bro deal” world of the fake bicycle “industry” where everyone wants a discount or wants to trade in-kind like we’re at some bazaar in 13th Century Baghdad where I give you a pregnant camel in exchange for three bushels of dates, a slave, and your youngest daughter.

Giving friends a deep discount is a terrible idea. To the contrary, they are the ones who should be paying full freight or close to it. Doctors and lawyers don’t generally give people bro deals. Car mechanics don’t. Wal-Mart doesn’t. Established, successful businesses charge what they charge in order to turn this thing called a “profit,” and only in extenuating circumstances do they do things at a loss–and doing it “for cost” is doing it at a loss, especially in retail.

To put it in perspective, as a bike injury lawyer I have never — NEVER — had anyone ask me to represent them for free, or even for a significant fee reduction. That’s not to say I haven’t done both of those things; I have. But it’s hardly a feature of my business that people expect me to work my butt off and not pay me for it. I think the word is “professionalization,” and the fake bike industry needs a good dose of it.

There’s a bike shop in the South Bay that is very successful. It’s fuggin’ expensive and it refuses to sponsor bike clubs and especially abhors bike racers. The owner, a former racer, knows that these “friends” will drive you out of business. He focuses on and fights hard to retain customers who pay the asking price and don’t look for a “deal.” You know why?

Because the “deal” is having a top-notch bike shop in your own backyard with real mechanics and knowledgeable salespeople and quality products that a real person stands behind. The “deal” is that some dude is making a profit and paying employees a living wage and acting as an anchor in the community fabric. The “deal” is that he pays taxes, buys a home, and works hard to make sure his kids get educated.

The “deal” isn’t you saving a sorry $30 because he’s your “pal” and “is doing it for cost” in order to “cut you a deal.”

Of course in 35 years people have cut me lots of deals and on a few occasions I’ve even asked for them. Over the decades I’ve had friends hook me up with wheels, helmets, bikes, chain lube, food, clothing, repairs, bike rentals, travel, lodging, and every kind of bike-related thing. I’ve benefited from team discounts, seasonal sales, or a shop manager who really wants to move a particular product — it was Jay Aust’s desire to get that ancient Masi off the rack in 1998 that caused it to wind up in my clutches for a paltry $800.

My bad; color me “hypocrite.”

But for the most part, and that’s 99% of the time, I pay the asking price. If the item is being sold at a discount, or my club affiliation entitles me to a price break, great. I’ll take it. But when it’s a sole proprietor, or a business just starting out, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I wink-wink-nudge-nudge condition my purchase on the bro deal. I want my friends to succeed, to make money, and to be around the next time I need the product or service that they provide.

END

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e-Tap and Wanky Tech Review

June 24, 2017 § 24 Comments

In the overall scheme of things, “scheme” being “since time began,” I haven’t seen all that much. In cycling I have seen exactly three technical changes since 1982 that were really significant, things that changed cycling a lot for the better. I’m sure you will disagree with my Big Three, but here they are:

CLIPLESS PEDALS

What they replaced: Toe cages, toe straps, and heavy alloy pedals.

How they made cycling better: They got rid of purple toes and dead toenails and hotspots a mile wide unless you happen to wear Bonts, in which case you pay extra for those things. Instead of falling over at lights because you couldn’t reach down and undo the strap in time, now you fall over because you can’t twist out in time. They eliminated the constant repurchase of worn out Alfredo Binda straps ($25/each), and now require the replacement of worn out cleats ($35/each), and highly specialized and technical shoes ($435/pair). But seriously, clipless pedals made pedaling easier, less painful, and more efficient. Game changer.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing, except not having old straps lying around to strap stuff under my seat with, and being able to buy a pair of Dettos for $39.

INDEX SHIFTING

What it replaced: Friction shifting.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated wing-and-a-prayer shifting. It eliminated the 12-year apprenticeship required to learn how to find the right cog. It led to handlebar shift levers, which made shifting faster, safer, and more efficient, especially since the number of cogs climbed in a few short years from six to eleven. Now it goes to eleven.

What I miss about the old stuff: Simplex friction shifters were silent and perfect once you learned how to use them. Index shifting killed downtube shifting, which was good, but at the expense of heavier, clunkier hoods and bars. That’s pretty much it.

ELECTRONIC/WIRELESS SHIFTING

What it replaced: Mechanical shifting done with wires.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated the “shifting penalty” that kept you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. Before wireless shifting you had to always consider the effort it was going to take to shift plus the fact that you might put it in the wrong gear, mistakenly thinking, for example, that you needed to be in the 11 rather than the 28. With the mechanical stuff, when you shifted into an inappropriate gear, you then had to shift again to get into the right one, which meant at least one wasted shift effort, more if you were a complete goober. Since all cyclists are lazy, even when it comes to something as effortless as modern mechanical index shifting, which basically requires the effort of pushing around a warm stick of butter, most cyclists would rather pedal along in a gear that’s slightly too hard or slightly too easy than shift twice, or, dog forbid, go up and down several cogs to find the right gear. This inherent laziness caused by the effort required to mechanically shift is the “shifting penalty” that keeps you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. However, with e-Tap and its ilk you just clickety-clickety-click and it doesn’t fuggin’ matter how wrong your gear selection is. You can mis-shift entering a turn and be in the right gear before you’re even through it. You can mis-shift on a climb when someone is attacking and be in the right gear even after being in a couple of wrong ones.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing. I hated those fat hoods with a passion, to say nothing of the droopy tentacle-design favored by Shimano’s earlier versions, where the wires came out of bar tape like bug guts.

Of course, along with the three best improvements ever, there are also the three worst things ever to happen to cycling. In order of repulsiveness:

TT BIKES AND EQUIPMENT

What they replaced: Regular bikes, good looks, common sense.

How they made cycling worse: You look like an idiot on one; they make really slow people think they are fast; they discourage thousands and thousands of people from ever getting into TTs; they are twitchy and crash easier than drunk unicyclists; they add exponentially to the cost of what is already a fake sport even on a good day; they make terrible clothes hangers, which is what they end up as. Or the world’s ugliest wall art and/or garage filler. Also, an old TT bike ages about as well as an old ass tattoo.

What I miss about the old stuff: Everything. One bike no matter what kind of race; affordability of one bike versus two; knowing that apples were being compared to apples; sharing the lineage of Eddy.

ONBOARD COMPUTERS AND POWER METERS

What they replaced: Brains. Fun.

How they made cycling worse: No one knows anything anymore. People just read and memorize data. Cyclists, who are already the world’s most boring people, when armed with ride data become duller than a year-old razor blade.

What I miss about the old stuff: I liked my brain a lot. It was soft in spots but worked pretty well in others.

STRAVA, PHONES, AND ANYTHING CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET

What they replaced: Freedom.

How they made cycling worse: You have no more excuses for escaping from the drudgery of work, family, or life. Cycling, especially when combined with “data” items above, becomes just more drudgery.

What I miss about the old stuff: Freedom. Duh.

END

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Quick product updates

June 6, 2017 § 41 Comments

One of the great things about not being paid to sell stuff is that I can say whatever I want. This doesn’t mean I’m independent or objective, it means that I have no financial interest in any particular statement. I’m still biased as hell, of course.

Below are some product updates on things I have been using.

Wend Chain Wax: I don’t know how long I’ve been using this. Two and half years, maybe? My buddy Ryan Dahl, who works for Wend, gives me all the free chain wax I can use. All I know is that I will never go back to lube. My chain stays clean all the time, no matter how nasty the riding weather. And the drivetrain shifts flawlessly. I’ve found that in order to get the best results I have to apply the wax every 3-4 rides. No mess. Simple. Superglide.

wend_combo

Timex Helen Keller Model: Since I don’t use a Garmin and I quit carrying phone a while back so I don’t use Strava, this very cheap watch makes it pretty easy to know how long I’ve been riding. The big needle points to the minute and the small needle points to the hour and the skinny long needle points to the second. So, if the little needle is on the six and the big hand is on the five and the long skinny needle is on the ten it would be “6:25:50.” You still have to do some observational analytics to determine whether it is day or night, but with practice this isn’t as hard as it sounds. This device is great because when you lose it, drop it, forget it, or run over it like Matt did to Tony’s Garmin in the TTT, you only have to pay $39.95 to get another one, instead of $599.95.

helen_keller

Apace Vision Seat Stay Blinkers: Greg Seyranian turned me onto these. I think they cost six or seven bucks each. They are incredibly bright and run forever and add that all-important “Christmas tree” effect to your bike. The more I ride the more I’ve become an adept of “lights ward off cagers.” It’s a pain to charge them(the lights, not the cagers), but it’s a pain to wipe your fanny every time too, yet somehow you manage. I hope.

apace_vision

NiteRider Solas Rear Light: I clip this to my helmet, to the side actually, because it makes me look like an insane person who might veer into traffic at any moment and scratch your Tesla bumper, which will cost $5,000 to buff out the blood stains and bone shards. This blinky is effing bright AF. Again, lane position is important, bike skills are important, having the law on your side is important, but nothing is more important than being seen in broad daylight while some PV water buffalo is slurping his 650-kcal skinny drink and texting his fantasy football pals about The Big Game.

solas_150

Vittoria Open Corsa SR Race Tars: So far no flats, although after two weeks of training I switched the front and back so that the tars will wear evenly. These tars are scary supple and grippy and cornery. I don’t know how many weeks of use I’ll get out of them (about 175 miles per week), but my guess is about ten. Maybe more. This is one of those purchases you chalk up to “it’s cheaper than being an alcoholic” or whatever meme you use to convince your wife/husband/SO that this particular bike purchase really is worthwhile.

open_corsa

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Buying speed

May 22, 2017 § 33 Comments

Since I am cheap and especially cheap when it comes to bicycling crap, I was in a conundrum a couple of weeks ago. It had to do with the upcoming time trail for which I had sworn not to spend any money but for which I nevertheless desperately wanted to spend some money.

The first crack in my resolve was buying a new swimsuit. If I could spend money on a new swimsuit, I could spend money on anything.

Still, everything related to time trailing was too expensive, i.e., it cost more than a pair of nice socks. Naturally I looked at wheels and ruled out a $5,000.00 set of pure carbon wheels even though in their 100% carbon state they appeared to be more carbony than my existing 100% carbon, pure carbon wheels.

Rejecting the carbony option I decided to do the TTT on my tubulars, which was fine except that they are shallow climby wheels and not time traily wheels. To test them out I time trailed on the Parkway and they rolled great; I turned my fastest time over the course, completing the entire hour in exactly 60 minutes.

Next I took them to Telo and they flew through the corners. With these two conclusive checks it made sense to price out a pair of tubular TT wheels, but alas the Internet showed the same pricetag as the last time I’d checked an hour or so ago.

Finally I decided to look at racing clincher tires. These would fit on my FFWD F-4 100% carbon wheels made of full carbon, and at $64.95 each would cost less than a new wheelset. In fact, at $64.95 each, I would have to go through 38.4 sets of tires before equaling the cost of a new wheelset. And even if the tires only lasted for 300 miles, that would tote up to 11,520 miles worth of time-trailing, and since I only time trail about 25 miles a week, that would last about 460.8 weeks, or 8.86 years. If my time trailing dropped to 25 miles a month, or, more likely, 25 miles per year, then it would take about 460.8 years to equal the cost of the new wheel set.

So the 8.86-or-460.8 year payment plan was much more budgety, and I read up on racing clinchers to make sure I was getting the best ones, which were in fact the Vittoria Open Corsa SR clinchers. First, reasons this may not be the tire for you:

  • You ride a lot.
  • You ride far from home.
  • You are not good at changing flats.
  • You wear your tires until the tube is poking out through the threads.
  • You are crazy cheap.

Here are the reasons this may be the tire for you:

  • You don’t ride a lot.
  • You ride close to home.
  • You have tire-changing-hands-of-iron.
  • You don’t ride badly worn tires.
  • You want to go faster.

This last point is key. I tried the tires out at Telo last Tuesday and they are the softest, most supple thing I have been on since my earliest teenage encounters. I’d say they handle better than — gasp!! — my tubulars. They are super grippy at 100psi but at the same time very fast. I’m pretty famous for not being able to go through a turn without finding the worst line possible, and these tires made even my horrible line-finding a minor liability.

It is very difficult to tell the difference from one bike item to the next but compared to the Vredestein Training Clunkers I ride with year-round, these are a revolution and a heck of a lot cheaper than new wheels, or a fancy helmet, but not as cheap as a pair of fun underwear.

undies

Give them a try (the tires), but don’t complain to me if you get a flat. They seem to have the durability of reinforced Kleenex, but I will do a follow-up on that later. Maybe. Meanwhile, they have a cool red logo patch that says “PRO” on it.

tar

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Shifting the center

May 1, 2017 § 13 Comments

For years now the Manhattan Beach Starbucks has been officially recognized in the Interplanetary Coffee Starship Guide as the center of the known universe. Its starship locator code is CotKU.

Due to the high quality of the male and female passersby talent, its ample brickside layabout for lazy cyclists, and its awesome view of the MB Pier and Pacific Ocean, intergalactic travelers have long agreed that CotKU really is CotKU.

However, a few weeks ago I was coming back from a ride and I noticed a new coffee shop a couple of yards up Highland. Actually, it wasn’t a coffee shop, it was a surf shop that sells coffee. The place is called Nikau Kai. In Hawaiian this means “Center of the Known Universe.”

“Wow!” I thought. “Has the center of the universe shifted?” So I went in. The owner, Jason Shanks, has a dog dish out in front to entice dogs, and a bike pump next to it to entice bikers. The enclosed-but-open-air railing on the inside, with high stools, is amazing. A few feet back is a big table with plenty of room to spread out and make funny noises as your cleats clack on the floor.

But most importantly, the coffee is superb. Jason gets it from somewhere fancy in Santa Cruz. He told me the name and I pretended to know, but it’s gone now. All I can tell you for sure is that if the taste of your coffee matters, Starbucks has a fight on its hand. And instead of factory-made food delivered in a reefer truck, Nikau Kai’s stuff is fresh and homemade. A reefer is probably still involved, but in a different way.

So you can get coffee that actually rocks, and you can also get de-dorkified. As a cyclist you are of course a dork, and that’s why surfers, who are cool, have historically never mixed with cyclists, who are dorks.

Of course there are the few rarities like Dan Cobley, MMX, Jay LaPlante, and a handful of other legitimate shredders who ride and surf, but they all go to great pains to never introduce their cycling dork friends to their cool surfer friends.

What’s great about Nikau Kai is that you can get great coffee and then when you’re finished you can wander into the back of the shop and get a swimsuit that doesn’t look like it was made in 1987. Mrs. WM has been hassling me for years to replace my perfectly serviceable swimsuit but since it isn’t broken I’ve never replaced it.

I mean, no swimsuit in the world is going to fix my cycledork suntan or help me grow shoulders, arm muscles, etc.

Anyway, I sauntered into the back and found a pair that probably fit.

“You want to try these on?” Jason asked.

“No,” I said. “I hate trying things on.”

Instead of giving me grief he smiled and said, “No worries. Bring ’em back if they don’t.”

I got to the counter and the very polite and uber-cool young surfer fellow said, “Anything besides the boardies?”

“I don’t want any boardies, thanks. Just this swimsuit.”

He hesitated, but in the nick of time one of my cyclist friends whispered “‘Boardies’ means ‘swimsuit’ in surfer talk.”

I nodded as undorkily as I could. “Yeah, dude. Just the boardies.”

Anyway, I got home quickly from the excellent double espresso and tried on my swimsuit. It fit perfectly. Now all I need is a suntan. While I’m working on that — and it’s going to take decades — give Nikau Kai a try. But don’t necessarily tell them I sent you.

END

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