Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Understanding fat bikes

I doubt there's a niche in all of cycling that attracts more widespread casual interest than fat bikes. I can't ride my Moonlander (see below for the Thill family fat bike fleet) anywhere without people staring, commenting, or asking questions about it. I assume that most of the looks and commentary, which usually seem pretty innocent, are not generally from avid cycling enthusiasts, but non-cyclists and casual cyclists. This doesn't happen to me when I'm riding my other bikes.

The questions and comments start to get a little redundant after awhile. What's that bike for? How much do those tires cost? Isn't that hard to pedal? Isn't that made for snow? Wouldn't skinnier tires be faster?

Well, I sell these things, and I ride my Moonlander year-round, so I feel pretty qualified to address the speed and "hard to pedal" questions. Every person who takes a first ride on a modern fat bike almost universally expresses surprise that "it rolls a lot easier than I expected". Most of my riding is commuting, and I haven't noticed much difference in how much time I spend riding the 7-ish miles to and from work on the Moonie compared to riding the same route on my other bikes. In fact, some of my quickest commutes have been on the Moonlander, usually when I was in a hurry, running late, etc. I will admit that the fat tires feel pretty slow going up big hills, but that's just basic physics - weight really only matters on hills, and fat tires and wide rims are relatively heavy compared to skinnier tires and rims. I suspect that I would be faster on a lighter bike with skinnier tires if, and this is a big if, I was trying to be fast. If I exerted my full effort, a lighter, skinny-bike would probably shave a few minutes off my commute time. But let's be honest, I haven't exerted my full effort in years, and shaving a few minutes off my commute has never been a priority for me.  Predictably, there are people who are interested in maximizing speed and minimizing the weight of their fat-tire bikes. With a pile of money, a person can now buy carbon fiber frames, forks, rims, and other featherweight parts, resulting in a fat bike that weighs 25 lbs or less. To each his own, but that's never been my cup of tea.

In my opinion, the great thing about fat bikes is that they aren't supposed to be fast, and for the most part, they haven't yet been tainted with that brand of competitive machismo. Many (but certainly not all) of the usual competitive types still regard fat bikes with a certain amount of uninformed scorn and take them as a joke unworthy of their attention, which is ok with me. These bikes are supposed to be, and are, great for traction, stability, control in unconsolidated snow/sand/gravel, etc. In other words, fat bikes inspire confidence. An experienced trail rider can confidently roll 4" 10psi tires over logs and other off-trail obstacles, while an inexperienced rider can confidently ride trails. What might have seemed impossible becomes not only possible, but easy and fun.

I read a silly article this morning that purported to explain fat bikes to the masses. The author trotted out the usual nonsense stereotypes about fat bikes being used to ride to the North Pole or across the Sahara. While those feats have been attempted and/or completed, in my scientific statistical survey, approximately 98.7% of fat bike riders will never be within 1000 miles of the North Pole or the Sahara. Most of us just ride them on trails, or on roads, or on beaches, or across fields, in the winter, and also during the rest of the year. Fat bikes are super fun and appropriate for a wide variety of cycling skill levels.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday season gift certificate special, plus bike stuff for sale

First, the gift certificate special:

The holiday season is a crummy time for us. Not too many people are thinking about new bike stuff or repairs this time of year, and it's pretty hard to buy a holiday gift for the cycling enthusiast in your life. So here's some incentive: You can buy a gift certificate from us between now and December 31, and we'll give you a 15% bonus. In other words, if you pay us $100, you will receive a gift certificate (or store credit) for $115. You can use this as a gift or for future purchases for yourself. You don't even have to come in to purchase. You can call 612-727-2565 and I'll mail the gift certificate.

Second, closeout and used bikes:
This Brompton S2L is practically new, and includes a few neat upgrades, like extra-long seatpost, reduced gearing, and the Brompton S-bag. $1299

This Civia Twin City 1-speed city bike is something that came about from one of our schemes earlier this summer. It's new, but not really our usual style: Price reduced to $300.

Santa Cruz Tall Boy carbon fiber, size L, lightly used. Frame, Fox fork, King headset, Price reduced to $1400. That's cheap!

Surly troll complete, new, size M (18"). This is the original 2011/12 orange color, so you can buy into some street cred. The Troll is an amazing and versatile bike for all types of adventures. A current-year troll is $1450. You can have this one for $1250.

Surly LHT 60 cm, new. This one has been here awhile. For some reason, this has a silver Velo Orange headset instead of the black Ritchey headset originally spec'ed by Surly. Otherwise, this is a new, stock 2012 bike. A current-year LHT is $1350. This one is $1150.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some recent bike projects

First up is a 650B conversion on a Surly Pacer. The now famous 650x42B Hetre "Extra Leger" fits fine with fenders and Tektro 559 sidepull brakes.

Blue-accented Moonlander? You'd be foolish not to.

And here's a 2014 "Real Blew" Pugsley with Surly OD cranks, Rolling Darryl rims, matching blue rim strips and 45North Husker Du 26x4.0 tires. This bike will get 45North Dillinger studded tires when winter sets in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

HC is moving! (Someday, maybe)

UPDATE: Our move is indefinitely delayed. We are waiting for some repairs to be made to the new space before we move, but those repairs are progressing slower than we expected. So for the moment, we're staying at 4301 E 54th St, right where we've been for the past 6 years!

We recently made arrangements to move HCHQ to a larger, better space, so our current/old space is now up for grabs. The "For Rent" sign has started all kinds of rumors, but rest assured that we plan to be here for your bicycle needs and dreams for the foreseeable future.

 A lot of details about our move are up in the air at this moment, but we do know that we aren't going far, we are going to try to do this with minimal interruption to our business hours, and we should be up and running in the new place by early October.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some pre-owned bikes for sale

Rivendell Sam Hillborne 56 cm, one of the rare single-top-tube Hillborne frames. LX hubs, Dyad rims, Albatross bars, Marathon Supreme tires, Paul thumbies, Alfine generator hub, IQ Cyo headlight, Brooks saddle, and other nice stuff. The person for whom we're selling this has nearly $3000 into this bike, and didn't put many miles on it before he decided to try something else. Condition is excellent, nearly new. $2474.73

Surly Cross-Check 58 cm, custom build, SRAM 2x10 kit, handbuilt wheels with Dyad rims, Thomson seatpost and stem, Woodchipper bar, Paul thumbies, Marathon Plus tires, excellent condition, low miles, nearly new: $1443.61

Surly Troll frameset, 18" (medium), black, excellent condition, nearly new, steerer cut to 245 mm (15 mm less than stock). No picture. MSRP is $525, but this one can be yours for $396.14.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Business Hours for the Week of August 5

I/Jim will be sauntering in the mountains somewhere, but Mark will be here to attend to your bicycle needs and what not. Hours are gonna be slightly limited:

Open: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 1-6 pm
Closed: Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday

We'll be back to "normal" starting Tuesday, August 13.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Daves Brewfarm Overnight June 22-23

All you need to know about the premier bicycle event of the summer! Click here!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Some details about the upcoming Midwest Country Bike Rally (updated)

PLEASE NOTE: I've updated on 5/17/2013 with more info about the camping situation at Forestville.

The "official" rally will begin at 9 am on June 1 in the vicinity of the parking lot of the Spring Valley Inn and Suites, Spring Valley, MN. At some time shortly after 9, when I am convinced that everybody has arrived and is ready to roll, we'll roll.

I am planning to camp on the nights of May 31, June 1, and June 2, at Forestville State Park in site A14. Official campground rules permit up to 6 people per site, but only TWO tents. I suggest coordinating with me or other participants on camping, and then reserving a site. Or maybe you want to stay somewhere else, like a hotel or another campground. Lodging is your own responsibility, but hopefully we can share sites, hotel rooms, to save money and increase camaraderie. Again, I'm going to check into flexibility on the one-tent limit.

The rally will resume at 9 am on June 2 in front of the grocery store in Preston, MN. From there, we'll loop back to Spring Valley, planning to finish up in the late afternoon, or early evening.

Some people are driving, some are biking, and some are doing a combination of Amtrak (to Winona) plus biking. If you want to ride bike all the way with me, let me know. Roll out will be very early in the morning on May 31. Distance is roughly 130 miles. If you want to drive and have room for one or more bikes and persons in your vehicle, let me know. If you want to hitch a ride with somebody, let me know. I'll try to match everybody up. I'm planning to ride home on June 3 - it's 130 miles, so it'll probably take all day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer is coming, maybe - Country Bike Rally

This photo was taken on my commute home a few nights ago. While that snow didn't survive the sun, we're supposed to get up to 10 more inches tonight. It's April 22.

But next weekend it's gonna be 70F, so maybe Spring/Summer will actually be here soon. Maybe.

Assuming the meteorology catches up with the calendar, I'm expecting a good summer of riding. The first "event" of the year for me will be the Midwest Country Bike Rally. It's been easy for me to forget that this event is less than 6 weeks away, but it will be held June 1-2 in Spring Valley, MN. I expect warm weather and lush greenery, but who knows.

The riding will commence around 8 AM on June 1 and finish in the afternoon/evening on June 2 for a total of approximately 100 miles. The roads will be a mix of paved and "rustic", and there will be some big hills. Like last year, we will try to keep the group together, waiting for slower riders if necessary, and in general riding at a relaxed sightseeing pace. There will be a camping overnight somewhere near Preston, MN. There will be no sag wagon or support provided, so we'll have to carry our own stuff and hope for the best. You'll have to bring your own food and camping gear and have your bike in good working order. I'll navigate the route, and organize camping accommodations for the evening of June 1.

If two days of riding don't quite satisfy you, consider riding to/from Spring Valley on May 31 and June 3, respectively. It's about 130 miles each way. That's how I'm planning to do it. I'll be leaving HC early in the AM on May 31 and making a day of it. Please contact me if you'd like to join this part of the adventure. Alternately, you could cut the bike distance in half by taking Amtrak to Winona and riding to Spring Valley. Amtrak is somewhat risky though, because the train is routinely several hours late. If that happens, you could be in for a long day.


UPDATE: Posters are in stock. Please stop in the shop to purchase, or order through our web catalog here.

Here's a testimonial that I enjoyed:
"I got mine the other day - it's at the frame shop now. Beautiful! And better yet, it made my daughter (9 years old) want to go bike camping this summer."

Last Fall I took this picture at our unofficial campsite in Upper Michigan.
The photo has been a favorite of mine, conjuring up the pleasantest memories. I asked Adam Turman to use this photo for inspiration for the 2013 edition of the annual HC poster. Here's the result.
I couldn't be happier with this one.

I expect to start shipping these by mid-April, but you can pre-order now. Go to hiawathacyclery.com. Under the "categories" heading, click "search" and type in "poster" for the keyword (you'll also see the few remaining 2011 and 2012 posters that are available for a reduced price while supplies last). Sorry for the odd ordering instructions, but there are technical issues that arise when I try to post a link to this.

Also, please note that shipping in the US is $5 (poster tube plus actual USPS charge). Our shopping cart will tell you it's $10. Please don't email me about this. I process orders manually and will charge $5 for shipping.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Events of potential interest to adventurous types

Mark your calendars now.

June 1-2: Midwest Country Bike Rally, a 2-day event starting and ending in Spring Valley, MN. We will ride on some of the same roads featured in the legendary Almanzo 100 gravel road race, except touring, not racing. There will be a camping overnight in the vicinity of Preston, MN. Expect about 50 miles per day on rustic roads. Some will be extending this 2-day event to a 4-day event, riding and/or Amtrakking down from the Twin Cities. Here are some photos from the same event last year.

Sept 21-29: Fall Northwoods Tour. The details for this one are still pretty tentative, but re-creating this is what I have in mind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bunyan Velo

Over the years, I've been asked to contribute writing and/or photos to various online publications and blogs and such, but mostly I have chosen to not participate. Bunyan Velo seemed different, better, and it turns out that it is, in fact, an exceedingly well-done thing. I'm thrilled and honored to be part of it. Lucas W, who created BV and marshaled the herd of cats who contributed, should be proud of this accomplishment.

Read it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Opinions on fat tire bikes

This article about "Pondering the Point of Snow Bikes..." has been getting some buzz in my usual corners of the interwebs today. I doubt I'm alone in thinking that the author is basing his rather strongly stated opinions on minimal experience coupled with unrealistic expectations and myopic prejudices. Frankly speaking, I've read that blogger's writings on various bike subjects over the years, and have generally seen a similar pattern of sharp criticism and suggestions for technological improvement springing from only the most rudimentary knowledge and experience. It takes all kinds, and the internet is full of kooks, present company excluded, of course. Don't believe everything you read, especially about bikes. My opinion: my Pugsley is quite likely my most versatile bike, and I can do many fun things on it that I can't do on my other bikes. Lots of avid cyclists "don't get it", which is fine with me - I don't "get" the popularity racing road bikes. It's ok.

I loathe the term "snow bikes", because fat tire bikes can be ridden ANYWHERE any other bike can be ridden, in any season. Yes, the fat bikes positively shine in a variety of winter scenarios (but NOT all winter scenarios), but they also work great in sand, loose leaves, tree debris, rocks and loose gravel, and on other surfaces where most cyclists wouldn't consider riding a more conventional bicycle. I've been riding my Pug recently about 30-50 commuting miles per week on paved roads and trails, and it's fine and fun and not nearly as slow and ponderous as an armchair expert might expect.

Some friends and I went for a nice ride on Sunday. First we hit this trail along the river near my house:
In the summer, this trail is sandy, which makes it somewhat hard to ride on a normal bike, but a fat bike rides over sand like it's a paved road.

And we continued down onto the edge of the river, where the "trail" was more like a smattering of human and canine footprints.
This snow wasn't well-packed, and the tires sinking through the crust made it more challenging than the buff single-track we'd just finished riding. But at low pressure of less-than-5psi it was ridable. The know-it-all "fat bikes are a fad" types don't understand how GREAT it is to just ride off in interesting directions, even if nobody has gone through the trouble of building a trail and a parking lot there. I do believe that this surface would have been impossible to ride on a typical, non-fat offroad bike. Under the snow, I happen to know that the river's edge is strewn with large rocks, driftwood, sand, and other debris, making it nearly impossible to ride on a normal bike ANY time of year. Fat tire bikes open up riding opportunities that simply don't exist with other flavors of bikes.

After we completed our loop, we'd worked up a powerful appetite, and settled on lunch at a dive-ish bar in my neighborhood. I chuckled as I imagined what passers-by might think of the collection of bikes we locked up to the light pole outside.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fat tire tubeless conversions

Mountain bikers have been using various tubeless systems for years now to save weight, improve puncture resistance, and/or to reduce rolling resistance. There are various tubeless systems for various rims and tires, but nobody has a commercial tubeless kit for fat bikes. We found some fat-tubeless how-to advice on the internet, and decided to pair this advice with our own dead reckoning to roll our own fat tire tubeless kit.

Here's a fairly standard modern-day Surly fat rim, a Rolling Darryl in this case. This is a 82 mm wide single-wall rim with cutouts and a Surly PVC rim strip sized for this rim. The rim has a somewhat deep channel that we decided to fill with a strip of foam insulation. The ideal width is just barely wider than the cutouts, just enough to fill the rim channel. A little packing tape holds the foam in place.

Next, slightly inflate a really fat 24" tube and stretch it over the rim, putting the valve through the valve hole in the rim in the usual way. This one is labeled 24x2.4-2.75", which is wide enough for rims up to 100 mm. Once the tube is in place, start laying it open with scissors, as shown here.

After cutting the tube open, it should look like this.
Then put the tire on over the split tube such the the tube is between the tire bead and the hook of the rim. The tube should stick out the sides, like this.
Now pump up the tire to make sure the tire can seat on the rim with the tube pinched between the tire bead and the hook on the rim. It might be tricky to get the bead to seat since the air you pump in isn't contained by anything. An air compressor helps.

Once you've verified that the tire will bead and hold air without a tube, let the air out, and pour in some Stan's NoTubes sealant. We used three 2-oz scoops per tire. You can also use the injector to squirt sealant into the valve, but the high volume required makes this a tedious process. The funnel is faster.
As before, seat the bead and inflate the tire again, exercising care not to spill the sealant fluid. When you're confident that the tire is seated, shake and spin to ensure that the sealant works it's way into the nooks and crannies between the rim and tire to seal any potential leaks.
Finally, trim the protruding tube with a sharp razor or knife. Careful not to slash the sidewall on your $150 tire. When you're done, it will be difficult to know that this any different than a standard tube set-up.
Inflate the tires to near-max pressure (25ish psi) and wait a day or two to make sure they're holding air. Then go out and ride it:
I've been riding tubeless on my pugsley for a couple weeks now. Weight savings over the usual Surly 26x4 tubes is about 50g per wheel, which by itself is probably not worth the effort, especially since there are substantially lighter 26x2.7" tubes that seem to work for some people. Initially, my motivation was not weight savings, but puncture resistance, which will be nice for summer off-trail woods riding, the urban jungle, or vacations in the thorny desert. Now after some experience I'd add another motivation: I think the tires roll better, especially at squishy low pressure, since there is no tube flexing inside the tire to increase rolling resistance.

We could perform this service for you. Parts and labor for two fat wheels would run about $120.

For more on tubeless, see some of Stan's videos. I especially like the Puncture Demo video.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Surly Bastard!

You may recall that I spent some time on a Surly Troll awhile back. That was a really great bike, but I'm compelled by the standards of my chosen profession to keep up with new products. Therefore, the Troll was sent to a new home, and replaced with the Disc Trucker that I rode in my recent adventure in California.

Anyway, the Troll's 29er big brother, the Surly Ogre has intrigued me since I first heard about it. But a person of normal means can only buy so many bikes, so I procrastinated. Then Surly presented us with the fat-tire 29er Krampus and the corresponding 50mm wide Rabbit Hole rim. Unfortunately for me, the Krampus is fun to ride, like a fast fat bike, but lacks braze-ons for racks and other accoutrements. In my twisted mind, outfitting an Ogre with Rabbit Hole rims and "normal" 29x2.4" tires was the best of both worlds. As the project was coming together, I discovered that Surly had created, but not publicized, a Krampus fork with the same braze-ons that are included on an Ogre fork. It's 15 mm taller but has a few mm more offset, so it seems like a reasonable substitute, in terms of that mysterious concept known as steering geometry. Without cantilever braze-ons, the Krampus fork is actually 50g lighter than the Ogre fork, even with the canti posts removed. We started with a 29x2.2 Schwalbe Racing Ralph in back and a 29x3 Surly Knard in front. I present the Krogre:

Those are Natril Gear panniers on a Tubus Duo rack. We sell all these items, by the way. Side note: the world needs more camouflage bike accessories.

I just received some Maxxis Ardent 2.4" tires to tie it all together. Here's the result:
Once I settle on a tire I like, this will probably get a home-brewed tubeless conversion, like my Pugsley.

Tire clearance is considerable in front, as you'd expect:
It should be noted that a standard Ogre fork has enough room for a 29x3 Knard, ya know, if you're into pushing the limits of your equipment. Or you can just get one of these Krampus forks.

The 2.4" Maxxis Ardent on the wide Rabbit Hole rim is no problem in back. Clearance in the frame is fine, and there is enough chain clearance to run a triple and a standard unmodified cassette. Measured tire width on this rim is approximately 64 mm, about 1 cm skinnier than a Knard 29x3 on a Krampus. That 1 cm may or may not sound significant, but it does constrain the number of chainrings a person can use on a Krampus - most Krampi have a 1x9 or 1x10 set-up to deal with the chain clearance issue.

The red rim strips lend a touch of class, which is really what this is all about.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Closed Saturday Feb 9

We'll be closed Saturday, Feb 9!

When I get back next week, I'll show you some cool stuff.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Bicycle Pub Crawl, January 27

It's time for the premier bicycle event of the season, which we insiders know by its colloquial name: "Winter Bicycle Pub Crawl". You can join the group on Facebook for updates, or you can show up at Bulldog NE at noon, January 27, or 11 AM at HC if you'd like to group ride from this part of town.

A quick note about this event: Yes, we will be visiting several fine pubs, and beer will be a popular beverage, but it is not exactly a drinking-centric event. In fact, sloppy or obnoxious drunkenness is strongly discouraged. There will be miles to pedal, and food to consume, so you'll still have a good time even if you aren't interested in drinking beer on your Sunday afternoon. I, for one, have not had a beer in 10 years, and I still enjoy this pub crawl. You should come to the first stop, at least.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SF Adventure part 3: into the East Bay

After leaving the Marin Headlands, I headed across the Golden Gate into the sensory overload of crowded, frenetic San Francisco.

I was somewhat hurried to take pictures, because I was excited to meet a friend for lunch, so no pics. It was invigorating to aggressively ride in crowded urban streets, something I've always enjoyed, from Minneapolis rush hour to the Vegas Strip, and now to downtown San Francisco. After a nice lunch, I headed down into the subterranean to learn the ins and outs of taking my bicycle aboard the BART, which is easy as long as you don't try to lift a heavy loaded bike over the narrow gates (they have wider gates for wheelchairs and other wide loads).

I got off the BART in Walnut Creek to visit Rivendell Bicycle Works.

This is the Riv employee bike rack.

I'd hoped to chat with Rivendell-founder/owner Grant Petersen, but he was in a meeting. So I visited with some of the other RBW employees, with whom I have a fair bit in common, as far as my day-to-day work life. I spotted this item during my visit:

I am compelled to speculate about a future Rivendell sport-road bike that has clearance for light, supple 700x60C tires. You'll regret all the days you spent riding harsh 700x40C rubber.

One disadvantage of mid-winter bike travel is that darkness comes early. Every night I felt somewhat rushed to find a place to camp by around 4:30 PM to avoid setting up in the dark. After chatting a bit with some of the Riv people about where to go, I started riding toward the nearby Shell Ridge Open Space. The concept of an "open space" is foreign to us in the middle of the country, but basically it's a large tract of open land that is available for various forms of non-motorized recreation, livestock grazing, etc. There were many, many trail riding options, but I tried (and probably failed) to be faithful to some instructions given to me by Riv employee Brian. This led me to ride and (mostly) push my bike up and up and up onto the highest ridge in the immediate area. The ridge was very narrow at the top, where there was a well-trodden footpath, with steep sides falling away from the ridge-crest. As the sun was setting, it seemed that all the runners and hikers I saw were heading down, leaving the area. I hung out before setting up camp, and admired the view of Mt Diablo from this vantage point.


Once it finally got good and dark, I figured I'd have the place to myself (it was New Year's Eve), and I pitched my tent. Looking down at the lights of the city below me, I envisioned all the holiday revelers starting their new year whilst I hung out in my tent.

As I finished up my dinner and nestled into my bag, I heard footsteps jogging past on the trail inches from my tent. So much for my theory that the place would be deserted after dark.

I stayed up until an anti-climactic midnight while listening to This American Life podcasts and being witty on Facebook. I woke up to a foggy, amazing sunrise over Diablo. Right out my front door:

I had plans to meet an old friend (of 30 years!) for breakfast, and getting there was half the fun.

There was talk on the internet of a bunch of local riders going up Mt Diablo, and I tried to meet up with them by following one suggested route that was posted online, which turned out to be the exact wrong direction. Some text message miscommunication got me even further off the beaten track...into an area of extremely sticky mud. My wheels got so jammed with mud, they wouldn't turn. I jabbed at the mud under the fenders with an allen wrench until the wheels turned more freely. As I was departing the area onto paved streets, my rear fender finally succumbed to the force of the wheel transmitting through the mud, and folded into an accordion shape near where it mounts on the chainstay bridge. I managed to straighten it out, but there was still a lot of noise from the rear wheel. I stopped on a local paved bike path and began surgery. I removed the rear wheel and scraped a thick mud deposit out of my fender. I reinstalled the rear wheel and heard a harsh metal-on-metal sound from the rear disc brake. I performed a couple hard stops trying to free the debris from the brake, to no avail. Upon inspection I observed a thin piece of metal stuck between the brake pad and brake rotor. I again removed the rear wheel, and finally disassembled the brake. The small leaf spring that retracts the pads had gotten bent. I snapped off the offending part of the spring and did my best to reinstall the broken part. Being a holiday, I couldn't find a local source for a new set of pads, so I figured I'd limp through the rest of my trip with an imperfect rear brake. Turns out my field-repair was more than satisfactory, and before long I was back to fearlessly bombing down steep hills with full use of my brakes.

I decided to be a worthless lay-about in Walnut Creek for a bit. I found some coffee and just generally killed time looking for warmth and sun out of the wind. I met Daniel for lunch. Turns out Daniel and I have very similar bike interests and preferences, and our bikes were spec'ed similarly. Daniel is an interesting dude, and travels to a lot of remote, exciting corners of the globe with his bike. He's a good photographer and writer, too. You'll enjoy his blog, and appreciate the obvious effort he puts into his writing and photography. I was exceedingly grateful to have met him.

Daniel and I rode back to Shell Ridge. After over-eating all day, I noted that my blood was flowing to my full stomach and my legs were sluggish. Luckily, we took a less hilly route through the open space and took plenty of breaks for photos and bullshitting. Eventually Daniel had to attend a family thing, and left me to myself on the trails. It was getting close to camp time, so I started looking for a good spot. I was attracted to the gnarly old oak tress.
This one was nice, but too publicly visible. I kept exploring:

This place is amazing. I will spend more time here next time.

Finally I found the perfect spot.

Stay tuned for my return to SF and home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rohloff, and Rohloff group buy

I've been asked a couple times whether I did my recent California trip on a single-speed. My Surly Disc Trucker does have a single chainring and single cog, but the cog is attached to a 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub.

We've been selling the occasional Rohloff for years, but I never fully understood why anybody would pay the hefty $1300+ price tag for a gear-hub that seemed kinda heavy and potentially difficult to repair. But now that I've had one for most of a year, and have a couple longer trips with it under my belt, I understand. Rather than re-invent the wheel, so to speak, by writing a list of Rohloff benefits, I'll refer you to click here for a list of Rohloff's primary selling points. I'd also add that the Rohloff wheels are very strong because of the symmetric, non-dished spoke lacing.

We have lots of experience with internal gear hubs from Shimano, SRAM, Sturmey Archer, Nuvinci, and Rohloff. The Rohloff is, by far, the most expensive. It's also the only one that consistently lives up to expectations of the low-maintenance and long durability of internal gear hubs (IGHs). This is accomplished by being a sealed oil-based hub, not unlike a car's transmission. Many lesser IGHs let water and crud sneak in around bearing dust covers, and nobody notices until it's too late and the thing seizes internally with rust (we see this a few times per year). Because the Rohloff is sealed to contain oil, it's not possible for foreign substances to get in and cause damage. A second point to consider is that the shift indexing happens INSIDE the hub. It doesn't matter how dirty or kinked your shift cables get, or how much mud gets packed into the wheel, the hub will still shift perfectly.

The repair-ability issue is worth a mention. There are a few places that service Rohloff hubs, but most likely you'd have to send your wheel to the service location and wait while it gets repaired and shipped back to you. This may or may not present an inconvenience. The good news is that this is rarely needed. There are numerous stories on the web of cycle-adventurers and commuters putting 100,000 miles on a Rohloff without a glitch. You should change the oil though, every year or every 5000 km, whichever comes first. It's easy and inexpensive ($32 or so).

Anyway, a few years ago I might have told you that Rohloff was mostly a status symbol, since many cyclists know they cost a lot of money. I don't feel that way anymore. Compared to high-end derailleur drivetrains, the Rohloff is actually not terribly expensive. You could easily spend as much or more on a fancy cassette hub, cassette, derailleurs, and shifters, to have a less reliable, less durable, higher maintenance system.

I mentioned my Surly Disc Trucker earlier. Surly has been quietly putting Rohloff OEM2 mounts on several frame models, including the Big Dummy, Troll, Ogre, and Disc Trucker. The OEM2 mount makes Rohloff mounting easy and elegant by anchoring the torque of the Rohloff shift mechanism against the head of a barely visible M6 bolt threaded into a special fitting in the rear dropout area. My Disc Trucker is an amazing bike - tough, stable, comfortable, good at hauling weight on rough roads, etc. The Rohloff makes it even better. If I had your money, I'd get a Rohloff Ogre or Troll. Someday.

Speaking of someday, I'm trying to find a few people who are interested in a Rohloff group buy. If I order five Rohloff hubs, there's an attractive 10% discount off the wholesale price (which I'm happy to pass on to retail customer who participate in the group buy). Please contact me if you need a price quote, as there are MANY Rohloff variants, all at different prices. I can, of course, also build your Rohloff wheel and install it on your bike, if needed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

SF bike adventure, part 2

After leaving Bolinas, I didn't have a solid plan of where to go next. I'd heard that at least one internet friend was going camping at a place called Steep Ravine. Google maps told me that Steep Ravine was just a few miles down the road from Bolinas. I took a leisurely ride in that direction, and arrived pretty early. I'd been advised by a person who had local knowledge that Steep Ravine was a tourist trap. It's probably true that in the summer the rustic cabins at Steep Ravine are a popular destination, but the campsites are somewhat secluded, and on this winter day, only 3 out of 7 sites were occupied.

I picked a site with an unobstructed view of the ocean.

Since it was only midday and I had the place more or less to myself, I explored the area a bit, and enjoyed some of the local flora and views.






I made some food:

Eggs and cheddar and bacon and avocado. Not too shabby.

I was starting to think that the people I'd hoped to meet at the campground weren't going to show. But just before sunset, four new friends arrived.

Soon, sunset was the major event.


(photo by Manny Acosta)

After dark, I played around with some long-exposure photography.
This was a fun screw-up.

San Francisco lights in the distance:

And our campfire:

And a delightful moonrise over the ridge:

The next morning, my camping companions departed early, while I took full advantage of the nice weather for screwing around some more at the campsite. I just wasn't ready to leave such scenery.

I rode down the coast, which was breath-taking, but decided to turn inland to check out Muir Woods. Unfortunately that area was an absolute zoo, cars and people everywhere, so I just kept pedaling up and up and up, then down and down and down, into Mill Valley. No good pics, unfortunately.

After stopping for groceries in Mill Valley, I again saw my previous night's camping friends. They'd had some delays, and amazingly we saw each other at an intersection. Amazing coincidence.

We took the secret route to the Golden Gate. This is me.


They crossed the bridge, but I opted to remain in the Marin Headlands. By the time I got near the familiarly comfortable Marin Headlands hostel, I decided to spend another night in the hostel - fully stocked with groceries, I was especially excited to use the full kitchen to make myself a nice meal. And the promises of a hot shower and wireless internet access were alluring. I must be getting soft. Here's the hostel.
It's a lot bigger than it looks in this picture. For hikers and bikers, it's $24/night, which is an amazingly good deal.

Stay tuned for my excursion in the East Bay area, and in the city of San Francisco itself...