Sworks Tarmac SL3 Rebuild

A project that has been in the shop for a few weeks has finally been completed and I wanted to share some photos and background that I believe really details what the cycling industry is about.  This Specialized Tarmac SL3 had been in a crash during the prior year and it was questionable as whether to replace the frame and wheels or repair them.  Weighing in originally at just over 13 pounds, it was equipped with SRAM Red, Zipp 202s, and Specialized components.

Upon inspection, it was evident that the rear chain stay had a major break in the FACT 11r carbon fiber and the other stay would likely have been compromised from the impact.  In addition, the rear wheel was destroyed as well as the fork.  We consulted both the costs of a new frame and wheels and with a company out of North Carolina called Jack Kane Cycles that could repair the carbon.  They assured us after sending multiple photos of the damage that it could be repaired, but that a new finish needed to be applied to the whole frame for aesthetics and durability.  After debating about this issue in the shop, it really made good sense.  At Kane Cycles, they believe that a repair in carbon fiber means making the whole system complete as a skeletal structural unit.  It should essentially look like nothing ever happened.  After sending them the frame and a replacement fork, they matched the paint and finish and repaired the damage with impeccable quality work.  I highly recommend their services and very much appreciated their updates and professional attitude.

While the frame was being repaired, we decided to use the hubs from the Zipp 202s and rebuild them with Sapim CX Ray spokes and Alchemy TB-25 tubular rims.  Alchemy machines a variety of hole drilling for their rims, which made it an excellent choice along with the great reputation they have for quality products.  The spoke calculations made it the hardest set of wheels I have ever laced.  From spoke nipple washers to measuring spoke length for recessed straight pull crossed and radial lacing to mounting the tubulars, it came together absolutely even and precise and dropped almost a hundred grams off the original set.

The rest of the bike suffered no damage in regards to the components, bars, and crank.  After cleaning and lubricating all of the parts, I installed Teflon shift cables and housing with long tongue protectors and put the sweet machine back to racing performance.  With Look Keo pedals installed, it weighed in at 14 pounds 11 ounces.  After a quick test ride, I realized that the industry was at a point where the technology is at the same level as our ability to repair it.  The bike is different today than the original, but now reflects a much more customized look and feel with a “one-off” style.  I plan to write a followup post later concerning the building of the wheels and how to measure for such a situation.  Here are the photos!    – SNC

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Bianchi Winter Project

So, I have been working some time on gathering up older Campagnolo parts for an Italian frame I’ve used on and off over several years to re-finish and rebuild.  It is nothing really unique, but the Columbus tubing has stayed in good shape and the feel of a steel frame on the road is hard to beat for comfort and classic.  I plan to use it for some touring, but primarily designated as my “flyfishing” bike.

Between friends, infrequent finds, and front and rear Campagnolo Victory derailleurs, the bike has all of the parts necessary to work and I have begun to start the frame re-finish on the fork.  I may switch a few parts and will definitely add more as time progresses this winter, but wanted to show some “before” photos for later article comparison. Below is a slide show of the bike presently and following will be about what I am going to do in the next few steps.

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Being a flyfishing road bike, I am set on a vintage look and build.  When building a flyrod with my dad in Blue Ridge, GA last summer, I saw that the hardware on the flyrod could be “blued” like rifle barrels from old Winchesters I have seen.  Immediately I thought of a bicycle frame with the same classic style along with a nice leather case for a 4-piece rod, leather pouch under the saddle for reel and flies, and a front rack large enough for a creel basket to sit in or water pack.  Sanding the frame clean of the old paint will really give it a nice “brushed look” that will give accent to the bluing process, which will then be clear powder-coated to protect the look.  I plan to write a special article with plans for the PVC shell leather rod case.  I like the idea of PVC because of its strength and light weight.  The bike will be outfitted with much of the same Campagnolo parts already equipped and I am considering making / designing the rack myself.  The only major change I may make is to glue some cross style tubulars on the wheels so trail riding will be more robust and stable.

– SNC

Winter Gear Review (Part 2)

Amidst the Super Bowl, I think about past games I’ve seen and wonder if Gore Bike Wear should start branching into the NFL.  It’s the same reason I will depend on it heavily in freezing rain, snow, ice, and super cold temperatures. High aerobic activity like that requires the right clothes to really hit the trails comfortably in these “I snow one day and bring out spring flowers the next” type of weather here in the Greater Metropolitan Area of D.C.  So, here we go.

People definitely know the sure-fire ways of keeping warm and comfortable in normal circumstances — put on as many layers as possible while still being able to walk upright with partial mobility.  However, cycling is all about aerobics and you are going to sweat and work hard fighting the cold air entering your lungs and the increased friction from your tires dealing with the elements on the trail.  The good news is that you probably already have half of the stuff you need at home and the other half is budget in proportion to how much you want to ride.  This makes a big difference as to whether you hit the trail on the best day of the week or all of your week.  I hope to define the categories by the varied conditions I ride in so you can pick for yourself.

A commute in today’s conditions was highly contrasted in separate ways from the last few days. These suggestions will work for a decent percent of riders, but you may have to adapt for your own preferences.  This article is meant to reason with the ability to know what will work in harsh riding conditions.  My experience with it is that it depends more on the materials of the layers rather than the shape or features.  Last week, I barely felt like stepping outside at all when I saw that the 8:30 a.m. temperature was 17 degrees, but felt like 9 degrees.  This type of riding is possible.  What would I pull out of the closet?  A Gore-Tex layer for the outside.  If it is raining, sleeting, snowing, or just plain cold, Gore-Tex will give you the necessary insulating heat that some far less breathable like plastic can provide.  Repulsion of water and wind can equate simply to keeping the body heat you generate close to your skin rather than trying to equalize with the outside temperature.  A certain amount of true focus is required when hitting elements that can dissuade the most regular of riders.

The layer beneath the Gore-Tex would have to be wool.  The majority of people today understand the benefits of wool and how it can act like a kind of organic insulation to cold temperatures without that “suffocating” feeling.  My choice is thin spun wools like natural merino or blends like Smartwool.  Two jerseys and a couple pairs of wool socks can and will become favorites that continue to perform over time and pair in really cold temperatures with winter wool sweaters you have in the closet.

Sometimes if it is raining, but not really cold, a good option is something sleeker.  Sweaters are a little heavy here and the less rain that hits you, the more efficiently you can pedal and get to the end of your ride.  A “base layer” might be the most popular thing in all sports.  Whatever one you have will work great.  Long-sleeve for colder — short-sleeve for warmer.  On top of this, I wear a slightly loose button-up “seer-sucker” shirt.  I pick up different ones over time from department stores to hand-me-downs.  While it sounds like a possible compromise, I assure you that the materials do their job and you save money to devote towards better pedals or whatever your next upgrade is.  Linen shirts like this really don’t take up extra room if they are compressed from an outer water-proof shell.  They can be unbuttoned during mid-ride if the sun comes out and the collar acts like an extra barrier for cold wind hitting your neck.  The remainder of the wardrobe would consist of Gore-Tex pants (a very worthwhile investment), heavy or water-proof gloves (including lobster style gloves from Pearl Izumi and a more adjustable style with Craft), and the last item — Gore-Tex socks.  Wool socks under this shell will definitely keep your feet dry where sooner or later, shoe covers and even waterproof shoes will overflow and hit your feet, which can kill your energy in pedaling.

Some of the most challenging setups for cycling is in windy conditions.  Here is where I want to present two scenarios.  The first is for people cycling to commute or to do an errands, etc.  The second is for when you want to just go out and hit some miles for fun.

Wind is, will be, and has been the enemy of the cycling. From strong crosswinds to head winds, it can seemingly sap your strength and make your efforts paltry. This is where Windstopper comes in. More breathable than Gore-Tex, Windstopper literally and effectively blocks the wind and prevents it from hitting your skin. It is a go-to jacket that you can pair with either the wool or linen mentioned before. People are usually quite surprised when we use an air compressor on a normal jacket and then with a jacket equipped with Windstopper material. Rather than a separate pair of pants, use the Gore-Tex ones in windy weather commuting because it will perform about the same for this purpose, and you’ll save a little not having one pair for each condition. I have definitely even thrown on jeans beneath these pants as well as leg warmers. While the wind may beat you to pieces, at least you won’t feel it doing so and can save your attention for operating the bike instead of trying to get warm.

When you go out for that winter group ride, most don’t need to take extra clothes or lunch, etc. With less bulk to carry, you can “streamline” your gear. Tighter fitting Windstopper gear (or other similar technology) like cycling bib tights and arm/leg warmers will pair great with the waterproof socks mentioned earlier and lobster gloves that allow more movement of fingers and adjustable liners for varied temperatures.

While a little different than some reviews, holding on to these key situation described and adjusting them to your own personal liking will give you a far greater advantage over the elements than the classic thinking talked about in the beginning. I also tried to limit the amount of marketing with this article to focus on the principles behind cold weather riding. Feel free to email or post any questions!

-SNC

Park Tool Summit 2013 In Review

I was able to attend six of the eight classes offered at the 2013 Park Tool Summit.  They were the following: Campagnolo, Cane Creek, FSA, Fox, Mavic, and Shimano.  I am going to cover each one and what I thought were the best points to take and apply in the shop. Right below is a slide show of photos I took (sorry for fair quality with cell phone) before the summaries of each class.

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Campagnolo:

The same instructor, who deals with just about every Campy warranty and issue in the US department, was informative and innovative considering that a pallet of half the working material was still somewhere between the headquarters and the summit.  Inside views of the Romanian factories and the home factory in Vicenza, Italy.  Before recently, Campy was high on security and secrecy to protect larger companies from gaining insight on their special technologies and process.  Now, however, they have adopted a much more transparent view of both the parts diagrams and breakdowns and the environment itself in which the parts are produced.  Because of the demand for such quantities of these quality components, special precise training was exacted for the employees of their two Romanian parts manufacturing facilities dubbed Mechrom 1 and Mechrom 2.  Most of the final assembly of parts is done in these facilities.  They have a great traceability program to ensure that the products and parts are accounted for and distributed correctly.  For instance, every wheel built has a dot matrix code attached that contains information as to the individual that built the wheel and the exact final tension specs, ensuring the rider that the product is as perfect as possible.

Also, various innovations have been discovered and engineered by Campy that have spread to other industries because of the care and accuracy they hold their standards to.  NASA aerospace chassis designs, the formula for casting magnesium (a very very light material), and the first magnesium wheelset are but a few of them.

Great focus on chain design was taught.  Every chain created undergoes over 1200 lbs of force to “pre-stretch” them so they last longer and run smoother than any other chain.  No rider can exert this type of force which entails literally zero broken chain other than if the installer does not install it correctly.  Also, as a side note, installing a “quick link” voids the warranty as they believe only their chain pins meticulously pressed in will be strong enough to support it.  In addition, they recommend installing the chain in the smallest chainring and smallest cog to get the right amount of tension.

Cane Creek:

It was obvious for this seminar that Cane Creek is highly focused on connecting riders together and sharing their experiences for the best ride possible.  They seem to have an attitude of figuring out how to make each rider’s bike settings and technologies work best for that individual by developments in things like changing the angle of the fork and detail tuning their new Double Barrel rear shock.

One surprising note to mention in regards to their very successful headset sizing system (S.H.I.S) is that almost all headsets on the market have been narrowed down to 6 top bearings and 4 bottom bearings, making the system even easier.  As far as changing the angle of the fork mentioned earlier, bowl-shaped cups hold the bearings that are placed in eccentric matching cups in the headset for several different angles that they include as one set, so you can try different combinations for better climbing or better descents, etc.  Also, even with this new system, Cane Creek has a headset fit finder with a database of over 10,000 bikes already and adding new ones each day when submitted by mechanics and other in the industry.  This is awesome as it compiles so much data from so many companies and locates it in one place, leaving the guessing game far behind.

The biggest highlight for me was a detailed summary of their 110 headset.  From cutout diagrams, you could see the multiple seals keeping the bearings sealed up nicely and backing up the 110 year warranty.  Essentially, it is waterproof and to me, rivals the Chris King headset that is also popular by name and by its own sealed system.  I mainly think it is just good to have a choice of two almost indestructible headsets.  Plus, regardless of which one it goes with, they will quickly replace it if you somehow are able to destroy it.

The Double Barrel rear shock is a great product to explore as well and has so many options for fine tuning without problematic issues that usually arise with other rear shocks with leaking, etc.  Seal replacement was very easy and clear to understand and the hands-on experience of doing so really “sealed” in the information.

FSA:

FSA (Full Speed Ahead) was all about ensuring that their products get better and better and flaws and defects get smaller and smaller with genuine rider honesty of feedback and a willingness and commitment of the company to fix any problem.  They were the first company to develop a carbon crank with longevity.  Their SLK series has been continually refined with each season of testing as well as their Gravity line for downhill bikes.  Being that they are located near Whistler and other major downhill areas, the testing grounds put the equipment and research through extreme trials to bring us what we have today.  One cool addition for customer service was a placement of an office on the East Coast to help eliminate the waiting period of time zones to contact representatives.  This creates a faster turn around and closer connection of rider to mechanic to rep.

They also have a headset that was developed much like the one I mentioned earlier with Cane Creek, but their point of interest was to develop one that had fewer parts and a more robust interface that could be depended on in harsh conditions.  Great length was also taken to “creaks” and “clicks” in integrated bottom brackets, so naturally I wanted to turn a keen ear since I wrote an earlier article on bottom brackets and issues that arise.  Several things like the correct materials for installing bearings and retaining them with loctites and compounds that wasn’t as clear before as to how essential it is to choose the correct one.  Moving from so many different types of crank spindles and bottom brackets has led them to the development of their BB386 spindle and bearings that is the same size for all of their cranks.  They make different qualities of these, but all of the are the same so compatibility is a non-issue.

Fox:

Fox seemed to hold a different approach than any other class.  They split theirs into three separate mini-classes with hands-on working at each.  The groups rotated and gained insight on several areas from bushing and seal replacement on forks to lockout tuning and rebound damper adjustment.  The most useful in a business sense that they now offered is the bushing and seal replacement.  Developing a new tool with Barnett’s Institute, it allows bushing replacement on any fork including Fox and passes the ability to do some services at the shop level rather than always sending it to Fox to have work done.  This means that I can get a rider back out on the trail faster and that makes a happier rider.

After the first day of learning, I got to speak with the Fox rep at the social hour following the day.  He showed me a suspension unit that is installed on the new Raptor off-road truck.  I lifted it and it was quite heavy as trucks are far less concerned with being light rather than strong.  It led to something that I wouldn’t have expected.  He said that most people think that the bike fork technology and suspensions are derived from their larger parts on off-road trucks and ATVs, etc.  He said that this was quite the opposite.  The bike technology was hardest to innovate because it not only had to be really strong, but also light enough to ride and that this technology was what actually trickled up to ATV suspensions and then to off-road vehicle suspensions.  Pretty cool.  They also seemed to be having the most fun out of the other companies.

Mavic:

Mavic was, personally, a beautiful sight to see.  Slick blacked-out wheels and carbon spokes all over the place with matching yellow hinting everywhere was the realm of high-end wheels and superior technology.  Not only were several points of misconceptions I had cleared up, but it was also confirmation of several things I had been doing right.

Mavic has a philosophy that their wheels are made as a system from the center of the hub all the way to the ground — including the tire.  This is why all of their wheels are sold with tires installed.  From flashy animations of hub overhaul procedures to French dialogue speaking of dedication to ultimate advancement in technology, they covered essential procedures for replacing carbon spokes in two different wheels (R-SYS and Cosmic Carbone).  Plus, the guys teaching the class were the guys that fix the wheels or rebuild them when we send one back for service.  It was like finally meeting the guys who had done all the great work I see coming back in shipments and on display in the shop and getting a flavor of their standards and tips.

One thing that really stuck out that I didn’t know before was that they use mineral oil inside the freehub body with a bottom seal.  Mineral oil, they said, wasn’t some magical liquid, but just that it was exactly the right “weight” to stay inside and give the freehub years longer of usage and, in its absence, is why some riders have described a high-pitched squeal at times on fast descents.

Shimano:

While much of the material that was covered in the presentation part of the class was what I had recently just finished training on, it was still reinforcing and provided confidence in the hands-on tuning of the new Dura-Ace 9000 drive-train.  With its sleek machined appearance and unbelievably improved smooth performance, I have to contend that all three major companies (Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM) have narrowed the gap between each other and the game is at its highest level ever.

The new and improved cables and casing also surprised me to its superior feel and had me thinking they snagged the designer for the Gore Ride-On cables that were just discontinued.  Coming now in seven colors, the PTFE coating is uniquely applied so wear doesn’t affect performance nearly as much as before, allowing riders to use them for longer with better results.  The motto, “friction is the enemy,” really rang true here and great effort was placed into decreasing it and its effect on rider fatigue.

Summary:

All in all, as stated above, the technologies are getting more and more efficient and precise with faster rides and sexier designs.  It’s going to be really exciting to see how far they can go in the next couple years.

– SNC

Seven Cycles Axiom SL with Campagnolo Super Record 11

As I finish compiling all of the knowledge I gained at the Park Tool Summit, I thought I would distract you for a moment to show some photos of a recent pro build on Wednesday that was scheduled after having the frame refinished.  The frame is a Seven Cycles Axiom SL titanium frameset with Campagnolo Super Record 11 and Rolf Prima Vigor RS wheels.  What a sweet ride!

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