Thursday, December 31, 2009

Open New Years Day

We decided to keep normal hours through the New Year's Day Holiday Weekend.
Friday, Jan 1, 2010, Open 1-6 PM
Saturday, Jan 2, 2010, Open 12-4 PM

Friday morning ride at 9 AM
Saturday morning ride at 8 AM

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter tune-up and repair specials

Now until Feb 15 get a good deal on your repairs and tune-ups. All standard or hourly service labor charges will be discounted 25%, and all basic tune-ups* will be discounted 33.3333% at $50 (was $75, and will probably go up to $85 or $90 in the spring). Discounts apply to labor rates, but our prices on parts are almost always competitive anyway. Bring your bike in for a FREE estimate, and we'll have you well prepared for that nice early Spring weather, which is only about 100 days away! (please don't ask for estimates over the phone, email, or in person if you don't have the bike.)



*The basic tune-up includes adjustments of derailleurs, shifters, brakes, hub/bb/headset bearings, plus wheel-truing and a general safety and maintenance check-over. We also clean the chain and possibly other driveline parts as needed for satisfactory function. The tune-up charge does not cover part replacement labor (except installation of new chain and up to 2 cables), cleaning of excessively grimy bikes, bearing overhauls, or other more serious service. We'll do that, but it will usually cost extra. As always, the best way is to bring the bike in for a repair estimate. The tune-up adjustments are guaranteed for 60 days.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

holiday update and reminders

Well, the holiday season is upon us, whether you're ready or not, and HC staff has scattered to various locations for holiday celebrations and so on and so forth. We're not sure where Mark went, but as he trudged out the door into the snow yesterday, he grumbled something about wise men and a virgin. Kevin and the Missus are doing Kwanzaa Festivus in an undisclosed wilderness location. And at the Thill home, grievances were aired and the man of the house has been pinned to the floor. So, with that out of the way, I guess I'll go back to work.

Here are the holiday hours and plans:

Dec 24: We'll be open 1-6 PM (as usual).
Dec 25: Ride at 10 AM. Open for business by appointment only.
Dec 26: Ride at 8 AM. Open for business by appointment only.
Dec 27 and 28: Open for business by appointment only.

Back to normal Dec 29, 30, 31. Closed Jan 1, but we will have a New Year's Ride at 9 AM.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Adaptation

By now, you might think we've gone nuts and are only selling bikes that use 4" tires, and bear the name of cartoon characters. It's not entirely true but given the amount of snow on the ground and the months left until it's gone, we have to be realistic.

Riding snow bikes is always a blast but sometimes we have to transport them by vehicle. The major rack manufacturers, Thule and Yakima, make all kinds of cool carrying contraptions but none will hold a tire much wider than 2.5". Sure, you could try and fit the beast inside your vehicle but after you're done riding, you're probably not going to want gallons of slop draining into the interior of the Family Truckster. You could also try and jam that big tire into that skinny tray but that's like me wearing a lycra skin suit -- it's possible but begs the question why.

Time to adapt. I recently picked up a Thule hitch mount carrier for my Element on Craigslist and was faced with this dilemma:

That thing will hold a 2.5"tire snugly but not a 4" Endomorph. So, a few pieces of scrap plywood, some velcro, polyurethane and stainless bolts and, voila:



Using the existing Thule wheel bar and this mount, Pug rides nice and secure. And since I use a frame bag, I can leave it on during transport.

If anyone else needs a similar hack, let me know.

Cheers

Friday, December 18, 2009

derailleurs and gearhubs

It has become fashionable for various internet gurus to decry the unreliability and/or onerous maintenance requirements of this gizmo:

What you see here is a Shimano LX rear derailleur, "Rapid-Rise" (i.e. low-normal or reverse-action) version, from about 3 years ago. It started as HC inventory way back when, but came to me this time in used-condition (from a coworker's bike?) and is now installed on the Pugstigator. At HC, we occasionally use road derailleurs (Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace, Campagnolo, etc), but for the types of bikes we usually build and fix, mountain bike parts generally make more sense, and for various reasons, Shimano is the brand we use the most. From the economical Alivio/Acera all the way to bling-bling XTR, I have used them all on personal bikes and customer bikes, and I think it's safe to say that Shimano makes rear derailleurs that work well, are easy to adjust, and that take the use, abuse, and neglect that folks tend to heap on them. Anytime you read an opinion that derailleurs are inherently unreliable or require tons of maintenance, you should immediately question the credibility of the author of that opinion.

Of course, derailleurs get a bad rap from people who haven't used one made in the last 20 years, or from those who attribute minor mis-adjustments to an inherent design flaw. Of course, a legitimate case can be made that the derailleur, being exposed/dangling as it is, is subject to getting bent, say, if you back your car into it or slam it in the trunk (this happens A LOT). The case could also be made that derailleurs can't shift while coasting or while the bike is stopped, which is a real drawback in certain applications (especially cargo bikes). And, last but not least, it's a strange-looking mechanism, and not every cyclist understands how it works, how to adjust it, or how to keep it reasonably well-maintained. (if you are a local customer of ours, and don't know these things, we will be HAPPY to give a free hands-on lesson - just ask).

Regardless of whether the problem is with the equipment or with improper use/abuse, it seems clear that much of the trend of the past 10+ years toward single-speeds, fixed-gears, and more recently, internal gear hubs (IGH) is the result of folks being frustrated or intimidated by derailleurs. Personally, I think single-speeds make a lot of sense for a city bike in mostly-flat Minneapolis, and I really enjoy riding fixed-gear. I could also list a number of applications where the IGH has some real advantages over derailleurs, primarily: you can shift at a dead stop (imagine riding a loaded Big Dummy up to a stoplight only to realize you're in a too-high gear) and often there are benefits to having a chainline that doesn't change. If you come to HC looking for a bike for which an IGH is the best choice, I will certainly suggest that option, but I will also make sure you understand not only the advantages, but also the drawbacks (yes, there are drawbacks, and they are significant).

Yesterday I received a call that started with some words that are now familiar to me: "I really like the idea of an internal gear hub..." Of course, the "idea of an internal gear hub" that the caller was talking about is the mythical drivetrain that requires almost no maintenance, is guaranteed to be reliable under even the most extreme circumstances imaginable, and almost never needs to be repaired or even adjusted. This is simply not a realistic expectation of any IGH system, though the fantastic (and fantastically expensive) Rohloff comes close. Anyway, he went on to tell me about a lengthy bicycle tour he was planning, much of it through some pretty remote places. Would, he asked, the popular Shimano Alfine 8sp hub be an appropriate choice under those circumstances? My answer is no, probably not. He suggested to me that, while he planned to stay mostly on paved roads, there was the chance that he would go offroad, and that he didn't want to risk mud jamming up his derailleur. Well, I ride offroad quite a bit, and I have had problems with mud jamming up my wheels, but I never had mud jamming up my derailleur. In fact, if mud somehow gathered around the derailleur, it most likely would also jam up the tiny, somewhat delicate parts that comprise the Alfine cassette joint, which is the external moving part that shifts the Alfine hub. Even if this wasn't a wildly contrived scenario, unlikely to really happen, I'd much rather wipe mud off a derailleur than try to extract mud from the recesses of the Alfine cassette joint...

Of course, when I hear "long bike tour", I also hear (in my head) "50 flat tires in the dark or the rain". With derailleurs and quick-releases and a little practice, fixing a flat is EASY and FAST and generally requires NO TOOLS (aside from the pump and maybe a tire lever). With the Alfine, fixing a flat is relatively difficult, time-consuming, likely frustrating, and is best accomplished with a 15 mm wrench, a 2 mm allen wrench, and a small flat-bladed screwdriver (plus pump and maybe a tire lever, of course). If I thought it likely that I'd have to repair more than one flat on a tour, I would trade all the alleged advantages of an IGH for the ease of fixing a flat on a derailleur bike. But maybe that's just me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

adventure bikes are the new fixed-gears

Whatever bikes are to you (or me) - transportation, recreation, sport, exercise, travel - they almost always have some capacity for inspiring adventure. I have been enjoying bicycle adventures since my earliest memories of riding a bike, and to this day my favorite type of riding is semi-aimlessly exploring the roads, trails, and alleys of wherever I happen to be. It isn't usually death-defying, or even vaguely risky, but it is fun, and I think of it as adventure. I suppose that's why I have always been drawn to bicycles that have a rugged, go-anywhere personality.
bike rocks
About five years ago, a friend was describing a custom bike he ordered as an "adventure bike", which was the first time I heard the term. I understood it as a cross between a mountain bike and a touring bike - a dirt bike with racks. I was instantly and permanently captivated by the concept, and my bike collection has been evolving in that direction, with a dwindling number of boring "road bikes" and a magically increasing number of inspiring, exciting fat-tire bikes, from this:
mighty steed pre-tour
to this:
pugstigator camper

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is into the adventure bike concept. Salsa has the new-ish Fargo, which, by classic, conventional standards, is ugly as hell, but if you already bought one for me as a Christmas gift, don't run out and return it - I'll take it and be grateful!


The king of the uber-adventure bikes is arguably the Surly Pugsley. As of Saturday, QBP had a seemingly safe inventory of last year's Pug frames in stock (I had my eye on one...), but by Tuesday, they were all gone. This afternoon, the Pugsley-specific Large Marge rims came into stock, and sold out in two hours! The Pug has been around for several years, and it was always sort of a novelty product, but now it seems to be semi-mainstream, and demand is suddenly way up. We had two Pugs in for service just today, and another in last weekend. (it's also worth a mention that there are several fat-tire competitors for the Pugsley now)

Besides all the bikes, a number of adventure-bike events have cropped up, including numerous winter endurance events and self-supported races along the Great Divide. And you can hardly swing a dead 29er tube without hitting somebody who is riding in one of the Gravel Grinders. We have loosely organized several gravel-road/back-road rides at HC, and had great turn-out and much enthusiasm.
gravel riding

Of course, one doesn't need a special "adventure bike" to have a bike adventure. Any bicycle that rolls is a potential adventure vehicle (if you own and ride a bicycle, you already know this). To advance this concept a bit: I am planning a modest bike tour in the not-too-distant future, and my tentative plan (cash-permitting) is to use a bicycle that would not ordinarily be considered appropriate for such an endeavor. Of course, I own about six bikes that would make good-to-fantastic touring bikes, but what fun would that be?

Get yer Schwalbe, Nokian, Kenda studded tires

Over the past week, I've fielded a bunch of phone calls from folks seeking Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires to deal with the recent onset of Winter weather. We have some in-stock now, in 700x35 and 26x1.75, but quantities are limited, and first-come-first-serve. I will order more as long as there is demand and Schwalbe has stock. But if you want them today, we have them.

These are, in my opinion, the absolute best studded tire for winter commuting on paved-but-slippery streets. Why do I say that? Schwalbes have more studs, yet are somehow lighter and smoother rolling than other popular studded tires. Apparently customers agree with me, because we've sold all our Schwalbe inventory this year, but other high-quality studded tires (Nokian, Kenda) have been collecting dust. Note some low-ball close-out pricing on non-Schwalbes.

Schwalbe Marathon Winter: $140/pair.

Nokian A10 700x32 or W106 700x35: $35/each.

Kenda Klondike 26x1.95: $45/ea

Plan your holidays around THIS!

We all cherish spending time with the family around the holidays, and it's hard to imagine that we might want to take a break from intense, round-the-clock family relations. But, if the urge strikes and you want just a little fresh air and witty banter, we at Hiawatha Cyclery are here to provide some cycling-based respite.

Christmas Day: Ride at 10AM. Meet at HC, and probably go to Hard Times Cafe, which is one of the only places we've found that's not only open on Christmas, but is also devoid of any of the usual holiday cheerfulness, which, let's face it, is exhausting. Also, HTC is vegetarian/vegan-friendly and has good food and strong coffee. Make sure to bring cash.

Day after Christmas is the usual 8AM HC Saturday ride. Destination unknown. Not sure if we'll be open for business that day, but maybe for a short time, at least.

New Year's Day: When all the amateurs are sleeping it off, most of the bicyclers we know are itching to get an early start on their resolution to RIDE MORE! Might as well get those first miles of 2010 behind you in the company of good friends. Meet at HC at 9 AM, and we'll either hit Hard Times again, or maybe find another place open on the holiday.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thill weight loss plan

Yesterday, shortly after a noontime lunch, I loaded up the Pugstigator with my minimalist camping equipment (Thermarest pad and a vintage Slumberjack cold-weather sleeping bag) and hit the road.
camping bike

I crossed the Mendota Bridge, the bike lane of which appears to have been plowed, following two racer-type ladies tootling along cautiously on cyclocross bikes. When they saw me, one asked if I was training for the Arrowhead 135. Nope, just camping! (I don't train for anything)

I hit the woods and was disappointed, but not surprised, to find the trail pocked up with human, dog, and wildlife footprints and cross-country ski tracks, which made the going rather difficult. I reduced my tire pressure, which seemed to help me roll over the slippery, squishy, uneven surface. Still I found myself pushing as much as I was pedaling. Farther along, I saw the tire tracks of 2 or 3 bikes, at least one of which was a fellow fat-tire bike. The bike tracks seemed to follow the edge of the trail, where the snow was still smooth and untrammeled. Following this lead, I tried to stick to sections of undisturbed snow, which was much easier, in general.

At some point, there was a truck track in the snow, and I made good time following one of the wheel ruts. But that eventually came to an end, but by the time it did, I was on a part of the trail that wasn't as heavily traveled, and riding the soft snow was easy, if slow.

I had a location in mind for camping, but given the snow conditions, my destination seemed too ambitious, so I kept an eye open for alternate campsites. Eventually I settled on a marshy edge of a lake/pond, and set up camp.
campsite

I got on my wireless internet device to email my wife to let her know that I was safely in my sleeping bag, and even plotted out a GPS-map so she would know where I was in case of emergency. Then, for grins, I checked the weather. It was about 12F at 4:30 PM, and the expected overnight low was 7F. Then I noticed for the first time that we were under a winter weather warning, with 2-5" of snow in the overnight forecast. Huh? Where did that come from? Hmmm, this should be fun.

I put my boots, water bottles, and extra clothes inside the foot of my sleeping bag, and crawled inside. Since it was so early, I didn't go right to sleep, and within a few hours, I heard the tell-tale rustling of snowflakes hitting the nylon outer-shell of my sleeping bag. I was fairly warm and comfortable, and I went to sleep at some point. I woke up around 3 AM when I moved and some fallen snow that had piled near the opening of my sleeping bag fell into my face. I reconfigured and dozed off again. I woke up for good around 6 AM (still pretty dark) and peeked outside to see the bike buried in snow. I decided to stay in the bag for another hour.

I made quick work out of getting dressed and loading up my gear, but when I got back on the trail, I found the extra snow made it mostly unrideable.
deep snow

At some point, I decided to avoid the snowy trail ahead and to get up on an overpassing freeway bridge, where I knew there was a bike path that would be cleared of snow, hopefully. It turned out that the bike path had not been cleared, and that, in fact, it was now the final resting place of all the snow and debris that had been plowed off the freeway. It was basically a foot-deep morass of half-frozen pie-dough. It was completely unrideable, and barely even pushable. I made about 100 feet of difficult progress before I reconsidered my plan. It occurred to me that if I turned around and pushed in the other direction, I would sooner come to a road that would be plowed, and then a light-rail station. I turned around, and pushed through this nasty snow waste for ~1.5 miles before I got to a plowed road I could ride. The snow plow debris was exhausting and frustrating in itself, but it was made worse by the auto exhaust, which I smelled/tasted strongly with every breath. By the end of this segment, I was coughing frequently. At some point, I saw a large deer down by the river. I stabilized myself against the bridge railing, extended the camera's zoom lens all the way out, and tried my best to steady my arms/hands, which were trembling from the exertion of pushing the heavy bike. It turned out better than expected.
big buck

Shortly thereafter, I made it to a paved road, and rode directly to the train station. I paid my $1.75 and headed toward home. Some guys on the train took a break from discussing interior decorating to comment on my large front tire. I, of course, went into technical details about the Pugstification, and their eyes glazed over...

By the time I got home, peeled off the sweaty clothes, and made breakfast, I realized that I hadn't eaten a bite in 22 hours. I've been gorging myself all day, and I'm still 5 lbs lighter than I was yesterday morning.

Friday, December 11, 2009

LHT with 26" wheels

Surly is now doing the Long Haul Trucker in larger sizes with a 26" wheel option. The smaller wheels actually make a lot of sense on a touring/commuting/city bike because they are stronger and allow more tire and fender clearance. Also, 700C tires are as rare as hen's teeth in Mozambique, while 26" tires are a dime-a-dozen in that fine nation.

Anyway, we set one up for this outstanding gentleman today.
Eric's LHT 26er
We believe this may be the first rolling example of the 26" wheel LHTs in the larger frame sizes (this frame is 58 cm). The black decals are not standard, and most of the parts moved over from the customer's commuterized MTB.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last weekend's camp-out

Last weekend a few of us decided to load up our bikes and sleep out in the woods (at a totally legal, sanctioned camping place). We left after dark, so there aren't many photos of the actual camping, but I did snap some less-than-great photos of our steeds as we were getting ready to leave the campsite. Our bikes were a curious evolutionary progression of Surly fat-tire rigs: J's Instigator, my Pugstigator, and Kevin's Pugsley.







It got pretty darn cold, probably 10F or colder, but we somehow survived. Now that we have some snow, I'm ready to do it again one of these days.

One of the first things we did after HC opened in 2006 was get a Pugsley (it was bright orange). I didn't ride it much, and whenever somebody asked "why?", I didn't have an answer better than: "well, if you already have 7 or 8 bikes, you might get a Pugsley for variety." That was a cutesy answer that saved me from longer explanations, but now I know it was totally wrong. The Pugsley (or Pugstigator, or other fat-tire bike) is not just a freak-bike that you ride to avoid tedium (of course, if tedium is a problem, you should most definitely get one!). It's actually a wonderful bicycle for all-around use. To my surprise, I have been absolutely delighted with the Pugstigator for riding on pavement, and have been even more pleased with its more obvious ability to ride on a variety of off-road and off-trail surfaces. Now that I have some serious cargo capacity, it would make a fine touring bike for all but the most ambitious high-mileage, high-speed pavement-only tours. I'm not kidding when I say that every time I ride the Pugstigator, which is daily, I start to wonder why I should keep my other bikes... Aw jeez, listen to me, talking about paring down to one bike (foolish!).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wheelbuilding class, January 16

We have had quite a bit of interest in the wheelbuilding class, so we will have another one Saturday, January 16, 2010, 8AM-noon, at HC. I will teach you how to lace, tension, and true a wheel (or two), and will talk a bit about some of the physics of spoke lacing, wheel history, special tools, etc. Course fee is $60, and I have space remaining for 4 participants.

Participants in the wheelbuilding class must provide wheel components: rim, spokes, hub, etc, or buy them from us. If you know what parts you want, let me know. If you don't know what parts you want, I can help you decide on parts that meet your performance and price targets. Pre-paid orders for wheel components for the class will receive a discount of 15% off the regular price.

Please call Jim at 612-727-2565 or stop by to reserve your spot in the class and order parts for your wheels.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bar Mitt early review

I put some Bar Mitts on the Pugstigator, for photographic purposes.
pugstigator camping bike

With temps right at the freezing mark, I rode around the neighborhood a bit with no gloves. My hands were cool, but certainly not cold. If I was going out longer, a thin glove would have been great.

bar mitts for mtb

bar mitts for mtb

The Bar Mitts are $60/pair and available in MTB or drop-bar styles.

Cold Hands?

Ok, 50 degree days this time of year are probably a thing of the past. If you ride all winter, keeping the digits warm can be a challenge. Pogies have long been used by paddlers and winter bikers but until recently, the ones available were a compromise of price and fit.

We just got a supply of Bar Mitts in stock. We saw these at a show last year and Kevin bought a set to try. He found them quite toasty, requiring only a light glove underneath.

We have versions for drop bars and aero levers and the Mountain version for straight bars. $60 is a reasonable price for keeping the digits warm.

Ride on.

Sam Hillborne ride

We've been selling the Rivendell Sam Hillborne frames and bikes all Summer, and, truth be told, it has been one of the bright spots during a year when it was difficult to sell ANY bike. Anyway, we just have one left, a 56 cm in green, which has been sitting on our sales floor for test rides and such for awhile.

I realized that I'd only really ridden the Sam H around the block, to test the shifting, braking, etc. I never actually took one for a ride. Today, I took a quick 7-mile spin to do some errands and ride around Lake Nokomis.
hillborne
I rode gently around the bicycle path, I stormed up a couple hills like a maniac, I rode off the pavement into the grass and sand, I rode no-handed, and tried to do quick evasive maneuvers around imaginary obstacles. I am well-acquainted with Rivendell handling characteristics, having logged many thousands of miles on my Atlantis and a Romulus, but, despite any "retro-grouch" appearances, innovation is alive and well at Rivendell HQ, and I think this bike is an improvement over those earlier designs (hard to believe, but true). Though I made no fitting adjustments - the saddle was an inch low and the bars an inch high for my tastes - this is a wonderful, comfortable, stable, smooth, and attractive bicycle, and I'm now entertaining thoughts of getting one for myself.

I also dig the gold-flecked green color, which, in the name of progress, has been phased out.
hillborne

As this has been a showroom demo, and test ridden a few times, I am willing to sell this complete bike (minus saddle and pedals) with decent-to-great parts, handbuilt Thill wheels, etc, for $1750 (SOLD!). If you want the Berthoud "cork" saddle and MKS pedals, add $200. Call, email, or stop by, for details.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fat tire ride

I departed the shop yesterday on the Pugstigator, along with two Pugsley-equipped accomplices, Kevin (of HC fame) and Mark W (of some other type of fame, no doubt). We dropped down the hill to the Minnesota River at Mendota, and made our way in a southwesterly direction along the fabled Minnesota River Bottoms trail toward Bloomington and points west.
2 pugsleys

At Hwy 77 (Cedar Ave), Kevin peeled off for home, perhaps wisely. Mark and I continued along the singletrack that parallels the river.
Pugstigator

This is my view:
Pugstigator "cockpit"

At Bloomington Ferry, we crossed the river again, and made our way to Shakopee along the shoulder of Hwy 101 and some on-the-fly offroad trail discoveries. Then, across the river (again) to one of the crushed-limestone LRT trails.
Mark W on his Pug

In the end, the total loop came to 53 miles based on this map. Of course, the trail isn't as straight as lines drawn on a map, so I think it's fair to say that 53 miles is a on the low side. Maybe it was really 62 miles? We didn't have a computer or GPS, so we can only guesstimate. In any case, I'm calling it a "Gentleman's Metric".

Wheelbuilding class last call

We still have a couple openings in our wheelbuilding class this Saturday. If you want to participate in this class, I need to know as soon as possible, especially if you want to use hubs or rims that I don't have in stock. Call Jim 612-727-2565.