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Boulder Bicycle Lugged

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Obamacare Repeal Threatens Boulder Bicycle

Its been a very long while since I've posted here.  And this post is low on bike content.  But its important.  I hope to start posting fun bike related info very soon.

Business has been very good for Boulder Bicycle the past few years.  The Rando biz is down, but vintage is way up for us.  We're having fun and despite not having regular shop hours lately, we've been working more than full time filling orders and doing the best we can to keep up with inquiries.

As some may know, I'm doing some work as Research Team Leader for the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.    Of all the challenges that face Boulder Bicycle as a small business, the lack of affordable health coverage is most concerning.  

The following letter I wrote was recently distributed by the foundation.  Please don't fear - Boulder Bicycle is on very good footing for now.  But I am concerned.  For everyone who enjoys the benefits of a small business owner, I urge you to contact your legislators and let them know your concerns.  If you tend to lean right, than at least advocate for a change to a system that lessens the market imperfections in the health care industry and which will bring down costs.  The current proposed legislation does nothing of the sort.  

ACA Repeal Threatens My Business

By Michael Kone

I am a small business owner and I’m scared. If the ACA is replaced, our family’s health insurance is likely to become even less affordable. My wife and I each own a small business. Provisions in the replacement bills may force either my wife or me to shut our business and find employment with less costly large-group health insurance.

Our family earns just enough that we are ineligible for subsidies. About one-third of our income goes to pay for health insurance and related costs. The proposed ACA replacements will allow insurers to raise premiums for older workers like me, which could make the cost unbearable.

But I fear that it could get much worse. Despite arguments from the opposition, the ACA was very well thought out. It imposed an individual mandate so that everyone, especially the young and healthy, would pay into the system so they could have affordable coverage when they become older or less healthy. The proposed legislation eliminates the mandate. Folks may then put off purchasing insurance until they are more likely to need it, which will increase premium costs for those with coverage.

Because “more affordable” health insurance is tied to larger-group employment, the ability to grow my small business is severely limited. A few years back, I was in discussions with someone who I considered a potential dream business partner. He was familiar with my business, had perfectly matched management experience, and a vision to grow my company. His salary requirements were flexible, but there was no way that my small business could afford to find coverage to match what he received from his current (larger) employer. And so I lost this opportunity.

As a business owner, I understand the power of the free market. My business is engaged in a constant struggle against larger mail-order companies that aggressively compete on price. But the current repeal measures do nothing to harness market power. There is nothing in the repeal effort to increase price transparency and no new mechanisms to empower health consumers to seek out less costly providers. What the repeal effort does accomplish is to provide huge tax cuts to the very wealthy. Once the tax cuts are fully implemented, 40 percent of the tax savings are expected to go to the top 1 percent!

I constantly ask myself: Do my customers get a good value for their hard-earned money? Based on what they tell me, I believe that they do. Can I say that about my family’s health care expenditures? Not even close. I’m paying into a system that consumes roughly 17 percent of our nation’s GDP. But in Japan, which has a relatively older population, the share is about 10 percent.

Not only do I pay into a system that I feel is overpriced, but I’m paying into a system that leaves many without adequate health care. And the proposed repeal measures make this bad situation much worse by removing the ACA safety nets that so many have thankfully started to rely on.

I hope for the day when a health care system emerges in our country that takes care of everyone. Currently we pay too much and we get too little. And many folks have no access to care at all. I dream of a single-payer system focused on providing health care rather than creating profits. In the meantime, I hope that our legislators preserve the ACA and the gains we’ve made so far. My family, my community, and my business depend on it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ugly Vintage Cinelli Fun

Sometimes a bicycle just begs to be ridden.  It doesn't want to be mounted to a wall and adored. There is something fun about a bike that is scruffy enough that it can't be a showpiece, yet isn't so horrible that you can't get the essence of its grandeur. You can get it dirty, you can add some scratches, but at the same time you respect its heritage and significance.  And most importantly, you relish its performance.

There is a reason for the Cinelli reputation.  Cinelli bicycles are delightfully stable yet feel wonderfully quick.  The example here is a bit smaller than other's I've most typically ridden, and I'm betting that it might have slightly lighter tubing, perhaps a Reynolds 8/5/8 top tube instead of the more common 9/6/9 Columbus which Cinelli typically used later on.  After all, Cinelli and Columbo eventually shared owners.  But early on, Cinelli made ample use of Reynolds tubing.

To make a vintage bicycle fun to ride, a few tweaks are sometimes in order.  First, rider interfaces need to be optimized.  That usually means saddle, handlebars, and pedals should be changed if needed to reflect current rider preferences.  In this case, the vintage and very broken-in Brooks saddle seems swell.  In contrast, I simply can't ride, even after break-in, modern Brooks saddles for some reason.  I'm not sure why, I always feel like I'm sliding forward (not an uncommon complaint it seems).  The handlebar and stem are original vintage and I can't bring myself to change them.  I find a Nitto Noodle to be much more comfortable.  But how can I remove the Cinelli stem (it would have to go as the Noodle is 26.0 and the Cinelli is 26.4) and bars from a Cinelli bicycle?  So instead I'm trying to deal with the terrible angle formed at the intersection of the brake lever/handlebar junction.

One change I did make is installing clipless pedals.   I always found clips and straps a terrible bother and strongly prefer clipless.  Some vintage folks don't like clipless, and some traditionally oriented cycling writers claim that they are responsible for a host problems.  But that is the case when cleats and other foot alignment issues are not properly dealt with.  

A nice additional to this bike a Berthoud 786 saddlebag.  This bag allows me to carry wallet, keys, a couple of tubes and a few tools very securely.  If the strap around the seatpost is undone, the bag has a quick release which enables it to be removed easily.  If one has a few bikes with the bracket left in place on the saddle, then a bag can be easily shared among bikes.

A big question is what tires to run on a vintage race bike such as this Cinelli.  In the day, the prime choice would have been a silk tire from Clement.  Perhaps a Paris Roubaix or Del Mundo.  But these days I'm not thrilled by the chore of dealing with tubulars.  I'm a big fan of Challenge tires, and the more I ride the Strada model, the more I love it.  This bike actually has the early version Strada clincher; it uses a lower thread count casing that the latest version.  The newer version does ride better as I've tried it on other bikes.  

The Strada is rated at 25mm but really measures very close to 27mm when inflated.  This is close in size to wider tubular tires of the day and the bike rides beautifully with these tires.  The Challenge tires have a casing that is essentially fabric as opposed to a rubberized thin-strand material.  I've always found that tires like this are wonderfully lively to ride while offering great resistance to sidewall cuts.  The classic good looks of these tires is an added bonus for sure.

Vintage bikes often have race gearing that is not so nice for our older bodies and knees.  I really wanted to keep the vintage drivetrain intact on this bike, so I went for a gear cluster that is at the limit of what a classic Campagnolo Nuovo Record drivetrain can handle; 14-28 in the rear and 42/52 up front.  To use this full range of 24 tooth gap, the Nuovo Record rear derailleur must be assembled properly.  In another blog post we'll show how, but the idea is that a Nuovo or Super Record rear derailleur can be assembled in one of 4 ways.  The way that makes for the most chain wrap how the derailleur must be set up.  It does not come this way out of the box.

Getting top quality freewheels has been tricky (IRD now sees fine by the way).  We have some more options on the way soon such as the 14-28 Regina America five speed shown above.  We usually like to mate these freewheels with wide space chains.  But in this case we used the Sachs/Sedis black chain designed for narrow clusters and it shifts just beautifully.  So that is another option for sure.

So how does this vintage bike ride?  It rides wonderfully.  It is slightly stouter than the skinny tube Boulder Bicycle road sport with 7/4/7 skinny tubing.  It is perhaps a bit less smooth and maybe a hair less quick for me.  But it feels extremely well planted (though a bit more nervous than the road sport) and the more I ride this bike since it came into rotation, the more I want to ride it.  And isn't that what this is all about?    

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Leica Camera Fun for Cyclists (and anyone else) - mechanical perfection!

Leica Fun for Cyclists - act Now!

If you are like us, you enjoy mechanical products that are beautifully made.  We often like to shoot film.  It is a visceral experience.  You stop, take the camera out of the handlebar bag, compose the image, and snap!  The feeling of mechanical precision we find using old Leica cameras is something many folks may never experience. 

But is shooting film impractical?  Not at all.  There are better film emulsions available now than were commonplace 20 years ago.  Current Kodak Ektar film is perfect for landscapes with its rich color and extreme exposure latitude.  On sunny days the F8 to F11 at film speed (Ektar is 100) gives near perfect results just about every time.  

And developing - go to many Costco locations and they process, print, and give you a scan disc of the images!  So within a day you have internet ready JPEG's, and a negative that won't get lost when your hard drive explodes.

But what Leica to buy? We love the old screwmount Leica's for their compact size.  Right now, Tamarkin Camera in Chicago has a small quantity of Leica iiig's - the ultimate screwmount Leica, for sale.  They were certainly well used, but they have all been CLA'd (clean, lube, adjusted) so are ready to shoot.  It is rare to find affordable Leica iiig's - they made a special purchase to get these. They will probably last many lifetimes!  If you pair the Leica iiig with one of the smaller collapsible Leica lenses (the 3.5 elmar 50mm is our favorite) the result is a camera and lens that can fit in many large pockets.  An mechanical and optical tour de Force!

So if interested, contact Tamarkin photo at (800) 289-5342 and have Dan set you up with an ultimate camera pacage!  Or, visit their website: click here for Tamarkin Camera

Monday, May 12, 2014

Box Section Rims - Walking the Tightrope with High Dish Wheels

Hardly a day goes by when we don't get asked about rim selection.  As our customers tend to be "traditionalists" they want to get our opinion on using a box section rim on a high-dish wheel because they love the looks of classically styled rims.

Unfortunately, we just can't give the go-ahead for classic box section rims on modern high-dish setups. There is a reason that major manufacturers stopped using classic section box rims when high-dish wheels became the norm. It is just too delicate of a balancing act to get a wheel with enough tension that the non-drive spokes aren't "too loose" while at the same time the tension on the drive side spokes won't crack the rim at the eyelets.

Of course, if the rim is heavy enough, this isn't a problem.  But that isn't much fun...

We won't say that box rims and high dish can't be done, but we really like having wheels that aren't "on the edge".  Plus, many of the wheels that seem fine even after a year or so may develop cracks a bit later on.  And on some lightweight box rims, the failure can be rather sudden and dramatic.

Rims that are aero or semi aero are much less prone to eyelet cracking (or cracking around the spoke hole if there are no eyelets).  The rim may distort a smidge under tension, but it doesn't actually fail.

And some classic box rims often are made with drillings that make the dish issue even worse!  If the eyelets are significantly staggered from center, there may be even less bracing angle on the drive side then there would be if the spoke holes are staggered just a little bit.

For these reasons, the use of an OC (off-center) rim really makes sense.  It is possible to get non-drive tensions that are much more reasonable.

Of course, if you use a 135mm space rear (which isn't easy with Campy hubs) or if you are using a more retro set-up with lower dish wheels, then the classic box section rims make sense.  It just comes down to using the right parts for the right application.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fender Safety Thoughts

Yep - the worlds worst fender line!  Here debris became imbedded in the rear tire, hit the fender strut, and rotated it upward.  The tire/strut junction area then was drawn in and locked against the tire, and the bike came to a skidding halt.  Had the lock-up been on a front wheel, it could have caused severe injury or worse...

So here are some thoughts on the topic...
We are continuing or efforts to gain a better understanding of the failure mode with fenders, and see if there are ways to reduce the risks associated with them.  Metal fenders unlike plastic fenders don't use break-away quick release mounts.  But as we've written elsewhere, we've learned of a number of failures where plastic fenders "quick released" away, but then folded up dramaticaly into the forkcrown and locked the tire or otherwise caused a crash.  One guess is maybe the fender disengages from the strut, but then bounces off the downtube perhaps and then gets sucked into the crown.  Another issue is that if the strut quick releases away, the strut might bounce into the wheel and suck the fender into a world where it shouldn't be.
One idea for metal fenders might be to change the mounting point of the strut.  As the fender strut's mounting point is placed higher relative to the axle, as the fender/strut rotates with the tire when locked by debris, the fender/strut is drawn away from the tire rather than into it.  There is some discussion and thought, however, that lock-ups with metal fenders may not always occur where the tire/debris/interface gets drawn into the tire, but rather that the fender may arch up and lock up at the crown (and then the fender/strut rotates back down a bit).  If that is the case, changing the strut mounting point might not be clearly preferable (we are skeptical though of this argument).  So perhaps it may be that a slight change in strut mouting location (by having a mounting point farther up the forkblade) may not make a significant difference, or might even make the risk greater.  We just aren't sure.  But our general thoughts which we will explore is that changing the strut mounting location might be a good idea.
So we are looking into this more - and hope that if folks have thoughts (or actual experience or good analytics on this) on this they will contribute to the discussion.  We know of many threads on this already on the web - what we'd love to get is more description of actual failure mode and exact details which will shed more light on this important safety issue.
So if it becomes clear that a different fender strut mounting point is better, we will make changes to our forks accordingly.  And we will hope that other builders will follow along. 

Another possible remedy might be to refine what "proper" front fender stay attachment entails.  One idea we're going to test out is to consider using Berthout plastic fender stay attachment blocks and "run them loose".  By loose we mean still held firmly in place, but not so firmly that a good tug wouldn't pull the stay out.  To do this, it is vital that an extra long bolt be used to attach the mounting block to the eyelet and that a nut be used to secure the "loose" block to the eyelet.  Also, the fender stay probably should be on the long side so that it won't jump free of the mounting block by accident.  Note, though, that having struts come loose via a quick release mechanism is not clearly better either - if the strut gets caught in the spokes then all sorts of bad things can happen too.  But it may be that the rigidity of the struts used on metal fenders enables them to effectively repel most debris challenges, and if the strut can free up only when really necessary, it may provide the greatest but not complete reduction of fender risk.

Interestingly, for the situation in the photo above, we think that a modified strut placement would not have helped, but if the stays were not so rigidly attached to the eyelet, then maybe the lock up would not have occured.
In the meantime, as we sort things out - ride carefully and be vigilant - do your very best to avoid debris if you make the choice to use fenders!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Should I Choose 650b or 700c?

650b or 700c?
By Michael Kone

Customers and friends ask us this question constantly.  For many riders, the answer is not a simple decision.  Like with most things, there are tradeoffs.  When trying to answer this question, we like to make two statements.

Statement One:
High quality 700c tires, including the wider models, seem quicker on acceleration, and many riders find that they feel a smidge faster, than a high quality wide 650b tire such as the Grand Bois Hetre.  The 700c tire also provides handling that feels a bit more sporting than 650b.

Statement Two:
It is amazing how little one gives up when they go from a nice wide 700c tire (30mm or so) to the even wider high quality 650b tires such as the Grand Bois Hetre.  And the cushy ride of a high quality 650b tire is so nice!  On a 650b tire, you feel like a kid as you feel able to go anywhere yet it’s exceptionally stable and fast.  Fatigue is lessened on a cushy 650b, and hitting a bump late at night when you’re tired is less likely to cause mayhem if you’re on a wide 650b tire.

So these statements outline the dilemma;  650b tires do seem to give up something, but they don’t give up much, and they have important advantages.

Some of the fastest long distance brevet riders believe that 650b tires are their best choice.  If you do the math, this makes a good bit of sense.  Very fast riders spend a relatively small portion of their energy overcoming rolling resistance but a great portion of their energy fighting wind resistance.  So if the rolling resistance is greater on a 650b tire, the percentage decrease in their speed is slight.  But a slower rider is using more of their watts for overcoming rolling resistance and its increase will decrease that rider’s speed by a greater percentage.  It almost seems unfair – a rocket of a rider can use comfy tires and pay a relatively small speed penalty for that comfort gain.  Slower riders like myself will pay a higher penalty.

Of course, for the slower rider, more time is spent on the bicycle for a given distance.  The comfort benefit (and resultant rider energy savings to the rider of not getting bumped around so much) of the sweet 650b wide tire may be far more important than any speed loss.

There is some question as to why a wide 650b tire with its smaller diameter and therefore reduced inertia would be slower than a 700c.  The math, according to my conversations with Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly, indicates that 700c wheels should not be faster.  One argument I make is that the debate on hysteresis losses (losses from tire casing deflection under load such as when climbing out of the saddle) have not been accurately measured.  Bicycle Quarterly tests have attempted to measure hysteresis losses by analyzing rolling resistance at low tire pressures when a rider is pedaling smoothly.  With relatively unsmooth pedaling (hard climbing or sprinting) the losses associated with a larger tire casing may be greater.  Testing this assertion, though, is very difficult. 

It also is possible that at least a significant reason 700c seems faster is psychological.  Even wide 700c tires (such as a Grand Bois Cypress or Challenge Strada Bianco/Eroica) seem to handle in a more sporting fashion and seem to accelerate quicker than wide 650b tires such as the Grand Bois Hetre (once you ride a Hetre equipped bike for a long time, this difference may be forgotten).   But this difference may not be real.  But for many riders, does that matter?  With enough horsepower and proper tires, one can possibly accelerate a large SUV through a curve at a faster speed then some lightweight old British sports cars.  But which vehicle puts a smile on your face and makes you want to drive the twisty roads more?  If you like the feel of a bike, even if it is not measurably faster, you may ride more and ride happier.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Even slight differences in tire speed, though, can make a huge difference on some rides.  Sometimes just a little difference in acceleration can determine whether a rider catches another rider’s wheel when the tempo ramps up.  By not hanging onto a group, the overall difference in time on a ride may become much greater than the slight difference in speed one would calculate from slight differences in rolling resistance.

Without a doubt, a rider’s typical choice of terrain tempers the 650b versus 700c debate.  If a rider spends many miles on gravel or dirt, or very rough roads, then the optimal choice swings towards 650b.  If a rider does rough stuff only on rare occasions, and likes to do go-fast lunchtime hammer fests, then the more perky nature of 700c might make it the preferred choice. 

Aside from these big picture considerations, equipment availability, lack of availability, and recently introduced products also influence the 650b versus 700c decision.  What follows is a list of products and product issues that should help influence a rider’s choice.

Limited availability of 650b tires and rims
If you destroy a wheel or tire, you may not find a replacement easily.  Also, almost all 650b tires are made by Panaracer (Grand Bois, Rivendell, Soma, Pacenti).  If the Panaracer factory was destroyed, 650b tire availability would evaporate.  That said, if that did occur, there are other makers that would jump into the market.  The wide array of Panaracer tires in this size is actually a detriment to other potential entrants wanting to enter the market.  It’s the right size for one major player, but not for many manufacturers.

Lack of an optimal 650b rim – no longer an issue!
We now are offering for late July or early August delivery the Velocity A23 OC (offset) rim in 650b. But previous to this introduction, there has been no perfect 650b rim that we totally love.  We use Velocity Synergy rims, but the deep bead wells make for a tire that needs to be carefully seated.  We use two layers of rim tape and have virtually no issues.  But others for some reason appear to have issues.  Also, for high-dish wheels an asymmetric (offset rim) makes tremendous sense.  But Velocity Synergy rims must not be tensioned too high or there is risk of rim cracking by the eyelets.  This rarely is a big deal, but it doesn’t give anyone a warm feeling.  The Velocity A23 rim does not suffer from eyelet issues.

A number of folks seem to like the Pacenti rim.  But we refuse to use it for a high dish wheel on a wheel we would send to a customer.  Box section rims are notorious for eyelet failure, and until there are riders with many thousands of miles on these, we aren’t sure there will not be eyelet issues.  We could be wrong.  But the high dish wheels we’ve seen built with these rims had very low tension on the non-drive side.  And even those wheels had enough tension on them to distort the rim around the eyelets.  Now, for a rider who is experienced with wheels, the Pacenti rim could certainly be built to its appropriate tension, and then re-tensioned as needed should the wheel’s tension fall below threshold.  But this is not a plan for wheels that go out to customers who want to simply ride and not futz with their wheels.  But for some, it is fine.  And for a low dish application, the Pacenti rim is great. 

As we said, the rim issue is now solved.  But remember, there are still many more 700c rim options out there compared with 650b!

The Challenge Eroica/Strada Bianca 700c x 30mm and the Grand Bois 700c Exta Leger
These tires really messed with our thinking.  They are each so fast and so comfortable that riding a 700c bike (specifically my old 1970’s Cinelli) with these really diminished our enthusiasm for 650b a bit.  The velvety ride and speed and perky 700c handling has been intoxicating. 

The Eroica arrived in late September 2012 and I couldn’t get off the Cinelli once they were installed.  But Challenge for legal reasons needed to drop the Eroica name and the new tire is supposed to be the same but is called Strada Bianca.  Note that later Eroica tires and the new Strada Bianca tire have an additional anti-puncture strip.  This does diminish the tire’s performance.  I actually removed this strip (it was on the inside of the tire) by carefully prying and peeling it off but we’re not sure it is ok to do this (perhaps one could damage the tire’s casing).  For some rider’s, the puncture strip might be very welcome in helping against the battle against flats.  But for me, it was an unwelcome solution to a problem I didn’t want to solve. 

The Grand Bois Cypress Extra Leger is in very tight supply.  But it is super comfortable and seemingly very fast.  I find that the Grand Bois tires do not feel as “alive” as the Challenge tires.  Even the Grand Bois Cypres Extra Leger does not have overly high TIP counts compared with Challenge.  But for smoothness and comfort, the Grand Bois tires are amazing.  It appears, though, that the Cypress in general and the Extra Leger in particular, may have a casing that is a tad delicate for much off road use. Our shop “testers” are seeing some casing cut issues.  The Challenge Eroica/Strada Bianca as we see it, is probably going to be the go-to tire for hardcore 700c off-road performance riding.         

Grand Bois Hetre Extra Leger 650b x 42
So we’re thinking that maybe with the fabulous 700c Challenge Eroica that 650b isn’t as compelling.  But then Grand Bois upped the game with their Hetre Extra Leger.  This is an important tire.  While it may be pushing the weight/durability limit a bit for more aggressive off road riding, for on-road riding the measurable performance gap between 650b and 700c has to be getting mighty small.  So in terms of speed, one can get mighty close to mainstream 700c performance (if not better) with the Extra Leger, and then use the heavier casing Hetre (or perhaps a Soma B-line) for more aggressive dirty stuff.  A downside is that currently this tire is in very short supply.

In summary, there is no perfect answer to the 700c versus 650b choice.  That is because each person has their own preferences as to which attributes are most important to optimize.  Many of our customers have opted for both a 700c and also a 650b machine.  For others, that is not a feasible luxury.  The good news is that with current tire and rim availability it is a tough decision because great performing bicycles can be made in each of these sizes.  This is a nice problem to have!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Soma Steel Lauterwasser Handlebars Back in Stock!

The Steel Lauterwassers are back!

These handlebars have been a real favorite for a long time.  Folks seem to use them on nifty vintage restorations and modern project bikes.  My son has a pair of the alloy ones on his fixie bike and loves them. 
For about 5 months the steel version has been out of stock, but now they are back!

click here to see on our online store