Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An exciting new tool

One thing I have a problem with is wanting to try out too many different things.  It's the natural tinkerer in me to always push the bleeding edge, and nowhere does it come out more than in my own TT bike fit. Some would certainly say I mess with it too much (I'm sure I do) but there are just so many combinations of setups possible that I absolutely want to try them all before I decide what is right for me.

There are some issues with that of course. One of the big one's is actually doing the aerodynamic testing required to figure out what is best. That's of course a logistic nightmare when you are using the Chung method because many of the changes require full cockpit swaps... making cabling a problem. Of course that's quite a bit later in the process... there are a lot of setups I've tried that never made it to that point, as they were just "not for me" from the get go. Unfortunately, those still often require the same amount of wrenching as the "possible" setups. Lots of time invested vs minimum return.

With matching Arione ;)

Until I stumbled onto this little fellow. A friend was cleaning out some of his stuff to put towards a Jeep, and this Serotta fit bike absolutely struck me as the perfect tool for me.

Already I've tried out a myriad of different positions. I talked a while back about some excellent articles/work that Dan Empfield (Slowman) had done lately for fitting x/y coordinates, and while there was some very useful information to be gleaned from it, I decided the first thing I'd do (well... maybe the second) with the Serotta was to take those (averaged) x/y coordinates (he used Game of Thrones folk to characterize the positions) and see how each of them looked on me.

Alien, Ygritte, Ramsey and Davos

Interesting stuff, I was actually pretty surprised at how I ended up looking in some of them, a few that I thought would look pretty poor for me actually looked pretty good.

The next step is to drill and tap some shorter holes in the crankarm, add another stem piece (the current one only accepts 26.0 bars and doesn't let you use your own stems) and just some general upkeep on it.

An odd post for sure... I was just super excited about it and thought I'd share.

And why was I super excited... because of stuff like this.

It's a bird, it's a plane... it's an aero nerd!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crossing Over

My road season has come to a close with nothing special to write home about. No podiums, some big disappointments, but a good foundation layer to build on. It wasn't totally out of left field, moving up into CAT4 for the season, while I don't think it was unwarranted from an experience / skill standpoint, was probably a bit over my fitness level. Nonetheless, it was good to get roughed up some.

For now though, it's closing in on my first cross season. Cross is going to be very refreshing for me... I have absolutely nothing to compare to, and no expectations. I also have no power meter, cadence sensor or any other way to obsess over every metric involved in it.  That is primarily by design... I don't want to know how many watts I need to put out to catch somebody... I just want to do it and see what happens. Cross, at least currently in my mind... is a vacation from the structure of racing.

That said, I'm probably woefully unprepared.  My experience riding off road is pretty much limited to my ill-fated foray into Mountain Biking (which my wife will attest was one of the most pitiful things ever witnessed by another human.)  The big difference? I have drop bars (thankfully) and a handy knack for riding out some rough patches on a road bike.

It's like riding a bike, only in nature... not my element.

Jimmy managed to drag me out a couple of weekends ago to do some gravel climbing, which I enjoyed despite not taking any nutrition and bonking... and then recently we went out in the woods near my house to a couple of mountain biking trails and really gave me a crash course in staying upright over some scary (at least to me) terrain. The first downhill root section we hit I was sure was going to end my life, as I follow Jimmy's line with my crotch literally on the stem, riding my poor Raleigh more like a bronco than a bicycle. I survive and even keep it upright... something I think I will give credit to my Fango tubular front tire.

As a bonus, my home built and glued Major Toms held up excellently in the adventures. Wheelbuilding level up.

After that butt clenching moment I actually managed to find my "equilibrium" and even enough confidence to lead out a hot lap... in which we nearly collided with two stoners meandering around in the woods getting high.  Despite all of this, I had a great time... it felt more like how I rode my bike as a kid as opposed to how I ride as an "adult."

There's still a lot to work on, my dismounting is on par with most, but it's been a long time since I did a flying mount, and I've never done it with shoes on. (Even when I was doing a lot of tri's I often wouldn't do a flying mount due to the number of other triathletes near me... something I'll have to get over in cross. Hopefully other cross riders are slightly better handlers than triathletes though...hopefully)  and of course riding through some obstacles should be fun to watch, if not as much fun to do. There's also that whole "getting off the bike and running" thing... I'm pretty sure I haven't ran at all since 2014... we "ran" up the stairs leading to the trails (well, Jimmy ran, I jogged) and I very nearly had to stop halfway up and catch my breath! I was never a good runner, but now it's getting silly!

coming up the stairs nearly dead.

Thanks so much for checking out the blog! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How To: Install Osymetric Chainrings

No doubt, the most popular thing I have ever posted has been my review on Osymetric Rings. In this post I won't be speaking to any of the three camps that exist  on them (Camp A. has no opinion, Camp B. Classifies them as Snake Oil, or even worse... Biopace... and Camp C is the hype beast.) but we'll just be looking at the technical aspect of installing them and getting them to shift properly. Worth noting is that I have the original Osymetric's, not the new/improved model that should have better shifting due to their ramps. Mine are just two flat sheets of metal!

First lets talk about what you get. Besides the rings themselves, you'll get a FD wedge spacer or two (for use if your derailleur is too low and needs to be moved up and back.) and some small washers for use to spread the cage of your front derailleur if you end up with bad chain rub.  You should leave all of this stuff alone for now. Don't start using these parts until it becomes obvious that you need to. The less extra stuff you need to add on the better your setup will end up.

included shims

There's nothing particularly special about installing the rings onto the crank, there is a small screw and pin that are installed on the large ring before going any further, but otherwise no challenges. There is talk as to what position you should set your rings up in... There are many opinions as to whether the "recommended" setting is optimal (most of this comes from the study on non-round rings) and I'll let you research / decide for yourself, it shouldn't effect the actual installation. For what it's worth, in my opinion for a TT or Tri bike you should leave it as it's supposed to be installed, (numbers hidden by crank arm) and possibly adjust the position for a road bike. YMMV of course.

rings installed... with a little optional bling...

Once the rings are installed it's time to figure out if you are going to need the FD spacer. Of course if you are installing yours on a bike with a clamp on front derailleur you will probably not need the spacer as you have all the room in the world to work with. That isn't most Tri/TT bikes though, so lightly tighten your holding bolt on the FD at what eyeballs as the right height and give the crank a spin. You should have the requisite "penny width" between the outer cage and the outer ring (at it's tallest/closest point... look close, it isn't exactly at 12 o clock.) and you should also have plenty of clearance at the back of the derailleur.  (It's possible the chainring will hit the bottom of the cage if you don't have it right.) You should also probably give the front derailleur a hand shift, as what looks like plenty of clearance in the small ring may be not quite enough in the big ring. Shifting up and down from here is a good idea, as you'll pretty quickly figure out whether or not you've got it close.

It's possible that with your bikes setup you will need additional spacers (again, primarily this is an issue for the bigger chainrings) and the best of these is made by Rotor for their Q-rings. These angled spacers will help solve some of the headaches you might run into (again, chain rubbing bottom of FD in small/small is common. Without this angled spacers it's tough to get the back of the FD down enough while still keeping the outer cage high enough to clear the big ring.) Of course you shouldn't be in small/small combo ever anyway, but sometimes things happen.
Rotor's combo pack... although  a longer bolt is going to be necessary for the bigger one.

I also highly recommend installing a inner chain keeper. (I use K-edge, but perfectly fine cheaper options are out there) Yes, I know many people say it's not necessary, but in my opinion there are often times the chain has a longer than normal amount of distance to drop (like if you start shifting down at the largest part of the pedal stroke and the chain lands at the smallest of the small ring...) and there have been times even with a keeper and "clutching" I've felt like I got lucky not to throw the whole thing. It has certainly sounded like all hell breaking loose.  Of course, a keeper has it's own risks, as it is certainly "possible" to drop the chain between the frame and the keeper if it's not perfectly set (it may be "possible" even then under the right conditions) This is one of the reasons I moved away from my Osy's in 2013, after having a dropped chain in a big race at the end of the season. That was on my Planet X, and that particular day/race I had other mechanical problems which almost certainly directly contributed to that dropped chain, but nonetheless it was enough for me to pull the plug on it at the time. (Call that full'ish disclosure) Back on topic however...

chain keeper installed to keep the chain in the right spot

Once that's squared away, it's time to get the chain on and check that that hasn't messed anything up in the FD area. Again, the primary thing you are looking for at this point is whether the chain will move down from the big ring without getting stuck between the outer cage and the ring.

Also make sure if you have a braze on hanger, the front of the FD cage is not hitting it. This is something that can happen if you raise the FD to near the max height without using any spacers. This is easy to miss at this step but will cause a lot of headaches later if you don't check.

Small ring

Big Ring

Now you are ready to cable your derailleurs as normal. I took the above pictures after already cabling my bike, and like an idiot didn't get a picture of me checking the limit screws on the front derailleur beforehand. To do this I stick a long T-handle allen wrench behind the front of the derailleur (between the inner cage and the frame) and leverage it out to the large ring. (You could also do it by hand but I personally find it awkward to try to turn the crank and move the FD at the same time) You'll know very quickly whether you need to bring in (or out) the limit screws, just make 1/8 or 1/4 turns of the limit screw and try again until you get it close. You can fine tune after you get it cabled.

After you get everything cabled and adjusted you'll likely have to decide whether you want to spread the front derailleur cage or not. (If your FD allows for it)  On the one hand, adding the spacers to spread it can often eliminate some rub in certain gear combinations (mostly crosschaining, but some gears I wouldn't exactly consider meet that criteria) but on the other hand, you are spreading your derailleur cage, which *probably* won't effect shifting up/down, but could in theory.  Personally, I don't add the spacers any more. The first time I set them up I did. In both cases they rubbed some, so I don't see any reason to add it unless you are rubbing in very straight chainline gear combinations.

Now do a little test shifting and make sure you've got everything smooth. With a little time I can get mine to shift very smoothly, and again, that's without any ramps... I'm sure the new ones are much nicer.

A lot of these steps are likely unnecessary if you've picked a more common size of rings. You certainly won't run into any more difficulty than you will on this size combo, so hopefully this is fairly comprehensive. My advice is to not use any "extra" small parts you don't absolutely need when setting them up.

Hopefully this post will help you out if you searched it up having trouble with installation.  I am still a pessimist when it comes to the % power increase that gets claimed, but I also think there is some merit to non-round rings other than more watts. Maybe in the future we'll revisit my old review of them with some updated thoughts.

Thanks for reading! I've been messing with this post for a while now and just seem to keep getting side tracked! Until Next time!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Musings: The Relationship between the LBS and the Online Shopper... can we coexist?

(read the whole post first and then call me a hypocrite)

That's the message. It's an important message. The local bike shop (or LBS) is an important place for the cyclist. More than just a shop, it's often more akin to Cheers bar than just a retailer. However, in the last 10 or so years the LBS has come under serious duress. The cause... Al Gore's internet.

There are many articles, much better written than this one, which detail this battle much better than I can do. However, not many of these articles are from the demographic that I can draw firsthand experience from... so I thought I would add my own two cent.  Let me preface by saying I don't and never have owned nor worked at a bike shop, and as things stand currently, I can't imagine how difficult and stressful it must be to run one. For what it's worth, any of you guys that do own/run a shop, my hat is off to you, I truly wish you all the best. My wife has, and many of my friends as well... but personally, I can only speak from the other side of the river.  This post was brought on mainly because of a conversation I had with some friends over the weekend, where I really had to go through the different emotions I had towards one particular LBS (what I did for many years, and part of me will always, consider my "home" shop) I have unfortunately had to cut all ties with. So here are some of my random thoughts (and maybe some advice from and for people like me) to think on or dismiss as you will. For what it's worth I don't harbor any ill will with this post, nor is this a message to one shop, but to shop's in general. I think East Tennessee is lucky to have as diverse a range of shops as we do, all of which I think are a cut above shops I've visited in other parts of the USA.

First, who am I? It's important to identify *me* so that some perspective can be achieved to what I'm saying.  I'm a fairly rare individual in the grand scheme of consumers you'll come across. I'm a pretty good mechanic, with a full workshop full of tools. To go with the equipment, I also have the knowledge to completely assemble a bike... build a set of wheels, glue a tubular... I'd say there are probably only a handful of people in the surrounding area that can build a fully integrated TT bike as fast or as competently as I can. I am also a good enough fitter to get by, and am a pretty big nerd that knows enough about abbreviations like CdA and Crr to make heads spin. I keep up with fast tires, drivetrain friction, aerodynamic helmets, white papers and hour records.
I also buy almost all the auto parts I need (I run a used car dealership) from ebay. Why? Do I not have a business account (which includes a fairly deep discount and no tax.) with my local parts stores? Sure I do... but they still can't compete. I bought a head kit last week (including the bolts) for $90. The parts store quoted me nearly $300. For the same thing. Shipped straight to my door, tax free, free shipping.

The same thing is true of basically everything, if you are willing to put the time in to look... I'm not blowing any minds here... this is pretty common knowledge.  And so a person like me is torn.

On the one hand, I want my LBS to exist. I want them to thrive. I want them to make money. However, I don't want to pay $60 for a Grand Prix 2000sII at my LBS when I can buy a twin pack from Probikekit for $66.99.  I don't want to pay $10 for an inner tube or $50 for a chain.

A lot of this is not the LBS' fault. They have bills to pay... employees, lights, water, rent, etc. Things a lot of these online retailers don't have. However, it's not my fault that I was forced to take a high school economics class and of all the things I forgot in school, somehow "pay less same thing gud" stuck with me.

There are many, many other classifications of people out there as well, and I'm purposefully mitigating their part in this because I don't have much experience from their shoes. Those like me are certainly the minority. Most consumers don't want to work on their own bike, let alone build it. Nearly once a month when I am out on the greenway I end up helping someone unstick a chain or change a flat tire... they don't want to know, they just want it to work. This isn't just cruisers or "casuals" this also applies to folks buying $10k superbikes... maybe more so as they generally have the disposable income to allow them to "not care." To them, the LBS is truly essential. The first step from a Target bike to a real bike. It's fortunate that they make up a large portion of the consumer still.

The other type is something of a hybrid. They know they can get a better deal online, but they aren't "self sufficient" enough to go through with everything on their own. These are the people I see articles written by LBS owners/employees really dislike. They are the ones who come in, try out every shoe in the shop, then leave and order them online after finding the right fit... or show up with a new bike half assembled that they bought over the internet and expect to have it assembled at the LBS.

There is, in my mind at least, a big difference between me ordering my parts online and working on them in my garage, and me ordering parts online, then bringing it in to let the guys selling the same thing work on it.

My suggestion, to them, to you, to the owners, to everybody in general is the same...

Don't be a Dick.

Think about it before you do something dumb. Weigh the options. If you can't work on your bike, you don't need to annoy/hurt the people you are depending on to keep you on the road. You've got two choices in my opinion... support the people supporting you, or learn to do it yourself and be self sufficient.

Anyways... end the aside on the other folks.  Back to me.
So, you might think, Chris (and guys/gals like me) is pretty much pointless to deal with in any way when he's going to buy online anyways.
You might be wrong.

How you say? Word of mouth. Loyalty. Loyalty you say? How can you buy online and talk about loyalty. Well, easily.  People know I like bikes... people know I like talking about bikes, working on bikes, playing with bikes, riding bikes. So I get asked, pretty often, where somebody should go to buy a bike, or to have their bike that's been sitting in the garage for years serviced. These are people in the upper middle class, with disposable income. They can buy from Dick's Sporting Goods, or they can buy from the local Trek/Specialized/Giant dealer... they don't really know the difference, so they ask for advice. So if you have a bad relationship with somebody like me, I'm not going to send people your way. It's just the way it goes. If we're on friendly terms, we scratch each other's backs and you indirectly make a sale because of word of mouth. And really, I'm pretty low maintenance, right?

But there is more.

Despite what I've said above, you can actually sell to me. How? Two words... Instant gratification.
Sure, I want to be frugal, but like everybody, I don't always have the foresight to know I'm going to need a new derailleur, chain, cogset, c02 cartridge, etc at a moments notice. So often you can make the sale to me at a price much higher than I'd normally pay, because I want it now. There are two killer's to this however... 1.) You've got the full on price gouge on. I might be willing to pay retail to have it now, but hit me with over retail and either I'm gone, or I'm going to remember it and plan to not be in that situation again. 2.) You don't have what I need. The killer of any deal is "we can order it." Sure... so can I, cheaper and probably have it delivered faster.
How do you prepare for that as a shop.
- Keep mid grade disposables in stock. I'm talking 105, Chorus, Rival type stuff. The price is cheaper and the quality is race worthy, so I'm not going to get hit with sticker shock and walk out when all you keep in stock is a $100 Super Record chain.
- Keep all the random necessities stocked up. Tubes, tires, cables, housing, random small parts. These are things everyone will eventually need, including me.
- Apparel/stickers/kit/etc - Look, I need bibs, jerseys, socks and other apparel to ride in. Have some nice kit in a variety of sizes, don't be a dick, and you'll probably see me in your apparel. Hey, free advertising (actually better than free, as I bought it) same thing with T-shirts, hats, bottle openers, coffee mugs, stickers, magnets, etc. $3 - $10 trinkets are things I look at as I'm walking out and think... that's cool. Impulse.

Another thought for the future of the LBS. Adapt. Most of all... be involved! How can you be a local bike shop if you aren't involved in the local scene. Be at races, hell, try to host races. Talk to the local teams and racers, Offer a service other than just selling bikes and parts. There are guys out there that are worth your time... and worth being paid well. We know nobody is going to get rich at the bike shop, but it's a job a lot of people love and would take less pay so long as they don't feel like they were better off going to McDonald's.

- The Mechanic
The mechanic is essential, and a trustworthy mechanic that has a range of knowledge that spans most things on two wheels is almost legendary, and nearly as scarce. With good wrench work you will keep your customers coming in and almost certainly start drawing in more business when the skills of your shop man are spread. Ideally you'd have a mechanic that can kind of "do it all," build/true wheels, work on integrated bikes, mountain bikes and cruiser bikes... diagnose on the spot and, dare I say, have enough sales sense to open the door to the "up-sale" and the wisdom to see those times. A solid wrench WILL make or break a shop and draw or repel new business.

- The Fitter
 Even rarer than the mechanic, a proper fitter can draw people from other states to the shop. In this day and age, we all (should) know some things... fit is very important, bike sizes vary wildly from brand to brand (look at say a 52 Ridley and a 52 Cervelo) and, most importantly, a good fit is VERY, VERY difficult to find. (Just look at your local race pictures) Again, if he (or she) is a good salesman to go with it (hey this stem would work great on your bike! Let's just try it out!) then you've got a real investment. The day's of the "Standover" bike fit are over.  There are many expensive and excellent fit tools available today, but a true master doesn't need a whole lot more than a his eyes and ears, and a little confidence, to work his craft.

- The Salesman
In my experience, the salesman gets the short end of the stick. Often just a second thought, hired high school/college kid, family, etc... a real salesman in a bike shop is a rider, preferably a couple of riders who enjoy different kinds of riding, and are knowledgeable (and interested) in what they are selling. If a customer asks about road tires, you need somebody who knows (and can sell) the differences between a Gatorskin and a SuperSonic.  There's nothing more disheartening to a consumer than to ask important (whether important in general or just important to them) questions only to get the "university" response, or worse, a blank look followed by BS. If you don't know something, it's fine, but if you don't know anything about what you're selling...well it's going to be tough to instill confidence in the customer.

For all I've rambled on about, I honestly don't think the sky is falling for the Local Bike Shop. They have had to (and continue to) adapt to compete in some ways with online retailers, but the LBS has something very, very important that you can't get online... that sense of wonder and companionship. Putting hands on the new kit, bike or whatever is still reminiscent of when we were kids in the toy store with our parents. Talking shop with fellow riders, just hanging out being "shop rats" has a huge appeal of community and fellowship that can't be emulated with a drop to cart web page.

So, will I continue to support my local bike shop... yes, unless they alienate me, I'll be singing their praises, buying their kit, and using them when I can. Will I still buy online. Yes, it's one of the benefits to being self sufficient. Can we all get along? I think so... although some others do not.

I'd love to hear your opinions and thoughts, especially if you are in the business. Let's make an attempt to keep it civil, but certainly let's hear your opinion.

Until next time, thanks so much for reading!

- Christopher Morelock