Friday, August 31, 2007

The Hipster Bike Part 2.

Continued from Part 1

#4)Brakes, or lack there of. On the Velodrome there is no need for brakes. Track bike racers ride round and round on the track at speeds to match the level of rake (the steeper the rake the more track bike rider can maintain his speed through the turns. Since the riders are so close to each other, any rider with the ability to suddenly stop would be a hazard on the track. Since track races started when bikes were all fixed gear, there has been no need for the bikes to evolve, but road bikes have freewheels, which allow coasting and the necessity for brakes. There is a simplicity, out of necessity to brakeless track bikes, which continues even today. That said however, most track racers would think it looney to ride their track bikes on the road without a brake. The truth being you just can’t stop fast enough. The track racers in Japan (called Keirin) when training on the road, will mount a front brake, the hole in the front fork making the bike ineligible to return to the track, for the safety of having a brake. Why just a front brake you ask? Won’t you flip over the front wheel with just one brake? Well you will if you don’t know what you’re doing. 80-90 percent of your braking ability comes from your front brake. The harder you brake, the more weight is transferred from the rear to the front wheel, making the rear brake almost useless. This does however allow you to use the back pressure on the fixed drive train to help modulate your braking. Without this modulation you probably would fly over the handlebars.

Now if you intend to use this back pressure as your sole means of braking, you are going to have to REALLY pay attention to traffic. You can't slow down as quickly just using back pressure, but believe it or not, avoiding or steering around a problem with a bicycle, is often more effective then trying to stop. The problem is, if the time comes when you really need to stop, you can’t. This problem is made even more problematic the steeper the incline, which leads us to the next hipster braking topic,”Skidding”. Yes, you can skid the rear tire of a fixed gear bike quite easily; it’s a technique sort of like track stands (keeping upright on a bike without moving or touching your feet to the ground). You simply transfer as much weight to the front wheel as possible, this often looking life the rider is having sex with his handle bar, and lock your pedals; if you do this wrong it will buck you off the bike or break your knee. Some riders will lock their knee under the top tube to create the same effect (probably the only reason to have a bike pad). This is considered an essential art needed if you ride a hipster bike. Here's a pretty well done video on skidding

The problem here, is that locking the rear wheel is the most ineffective way to stop a bike. Campagnolo knew something when he said a brake is meant to slow a bike down, not stop it. Granted he was justifying the poor power of his early brake componentry, but truthfully, you don’t want brakes that lock up your bicycle’s wheels. There are two reasons you want your wheels to keep turning when you brake. The first is the true braking surfaces are your wheels tires. When you brake, your speed is turned into heat. And heat is good; it will cause better adhesion to the road. However, at some point your tires will start to melt dissolving your tires and that’s bad; that is also called a skid. When you skid, small pieces of the tire turn into BB’s, and the tire just rides on those BB’s, not contacting the road, until the tire material is ground off (that’s why cars have anti-locking brakes). So what you want is the tire to roll slower then your forward speed without skidding, so the heat is dissipated throughout the circumference of the entire tire, not just the one inch contact patch. The second reason is physics. Since the front brake is doing 80-90 percent of the braking and you have no front brake, physics is going to try and make your back brake turn into your front brake. In other words, your rear tire will slide out from under you and your bike will want to turn 180 degrees , so you are skidding backwards. This of course never really happens; you will either stop skidding on purpose or fall down and start skidding again, only this time it’s not pieces of tire that are balling up, it’s you skin.

As a final caveat, the tread of a tire is made up of different compounds; softer rubber has a better ride and holds the road better, harder rubbers last longer and hold up to more abuse. Regardless, the life span of the rear tire of someone Skidding is about 20 seconds. If your really good you can keep your skid going by letting the wheel rotate ever so often to a new patch; hipster bike riders actually make videos of this talent and compete at it and track stands, when they join together.

#5)Powder coating. The Hipster bike is all about color. When you are saving that frame from the scrape heap, you are going to want to make it pretty. Powder coating is the mainstay of mountain bike frames. While the Italians may want to turn each frame into vomit fade, mountain biker just want paint that will stay on the bike. Powder coating if cheap, durable and comes in almost as many colors as bicycle pads. And then there is "Shaving". If you are going to go to all the trouble of stripping a bike down and powder coating it, you may also want to shave it. Huh? That's right I said shave it. "Shaving" is such a descriptive term that I knew what it meant the first time I heard it. Remember that a fixie Hipster bike is a converted geared bike. A dedicated fixie bike has no bosses on the frame for brake or derailleur cables and obviously no derailleur hanger. A converted geared bike is going to have these bosses. So for aesthetics sake, one may want to grind off the bosses and derailleur hanger or "shave" the frame.

#6) Wheels. As I mentioned before, the classic Hipster bike uses a suicide hub. However there is another acceptable setup, that being Velocity rims laced to Formula hubs. Both are used because they are readily available and reasonably priced. Formula makes a very generic but good looking hub. Unlike higher priced hubs that use loose balls and cups, Formula uses inexpensive cartridge bearings. Since there is no freehub, all that is necessary is an axle suspended in the hub by two cartridge bearings. These bearings are so cheap, you can by them $2 or $3 @. Velocity rims however are a style choice; a Hipster style of course. The Hipster choice is the “Deep V”. The allure of the Velocity Deep V is they come in 24 colors. That’s right, Hipster bikes are all about form over function so why not a “Bubble Gum Pink” rim to go with your lime green powder coated bike. But wait there’s more! If you are looking for that really “fresh” look, check out for zebra strips or argyle rims.

Okay I said I would come back to this bike, so lets take a look.

Fixed gear; check
MTB bar w/pink OURY grips; check
Deep V Velocity with Formula hub; check

But we also have an Aerospoke front wheel and some cards in the spokes of the rear wheel; what about those cards? I once read someone describe the look as a bike that was ridden through trash and picked up some on the way. The history behind these cards is again the couriers. On their off times bike couriers have races called Alleycats. The participants would race from location to location using what ever route they thought the fastest. The cards, originally tarot cards, were simply identifiers for the race. Today they represent pretty much what ever the rider wants them to represent.

Now the Aerospoke wheel has been around for over 25 years. It was once the hot setup for race bicycles when aerodynamics was big factor; that would be triathlon/ time trails and to a lesser degree track bikes. Once Velodromes moved inside, the need for aerodynamic wheels on track bikes also went away and with the advent of carbon fiber wheels with bladed and lower spoke counts, Aerospoke wheels started to find themselves in the Bargin Barn. Then something happened; again it was the couriers. Turns out it’s a pain in the ass to thread a chain through a spoked wheel, but throwing one through an Aerospoke is a breeze. And since for a while you could pick up a front Aerospoke for about $100, they started showing up on the couriers’ bikes and Viola! it became the style. Demand then increased, but unfortunately Aerospoke already sold off all their stock and it seems all the bargains are gone. But you still see them, like this one that has been polished and posed in front of a charming washer and dryer set.

You'll notice too, this bike and the one above have a lot in common; that's not by accident, it's truly by design. After all they are both Hipster bikes!


cass said...

hey this stuff is truly a good read, thanks for writing it kept me entertained

Mason said...

Funny articles, but you forgot one thing-- the true hipster bike has matching rim and chain colors. The entire bike should be done up in two colors, preferably an arresting 1980s scheme such as teal and yellow or orange.

But who am I to talk, I'm riding a Fuji conversion (in my defense, gears are pretty unnecessary in the Midwest).

Steffi said...

Thank you for posting such a useful, impressive and a wicked article./Wow.. looking good!
Wheels And Tires