Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The NJS Part 3; Threadless Steerers suck..

I have decided to go with a Soma Rush frame. The price is right ($375) and I can pick one up in San Francisco (road trip) and they come in Pearl. At first I thought of going with a Soma fork but two things turned me off. #1, they don't come in Pearl; Red, Black or Chrome. Okay maybe the Chrome would work, but I wanted Pearl. #2 they only come threadless. No matter what you choose, aesthetically a threadless fork on a road bike, especially a track bike looks like a compromise. A quill stem simply belongs on a track bike. The only reason for unthreaded forks on metal road bikes is money. Threaded steerers have to come in different sizes to match the head tube, threadless is one size fits all. But that does leave me in need of a threaded fork. Once again Paul @ Rocklobster is going to bail me out. Apparently, back some years, Kestral went from steel to carbon fiber forks. Paul bought up all there stock of Tange steel threaded forks. He going to give a great deal on one and after a trip to the powder coater, I figure it will cost me about 1/2 the cost Soma fork. As a matter of fact, for a few dollars more, Paul would have made me a fork, which I figured was overkill for the frame.

I also ordered a Soma seatpost and white seat. The result was an email saying they were out of the Ensho seat I ordered in white. They have a stripped down version called a Kamisori. I'm actually quite fond of stripped down saddles so I just changed my order. The stem is nothing to rave about but it looks nice, it has the Soma logo and if there is one NJS part that seems like overkill it's $160 for a stem.
Also I have received the first Vittoria CX tire. I also bought 2 on an ebay auction for $140 and bought a 3rd with a free tube of glue for 83$ from By the time you add in free shipping they aren't a bad deal. As I said before the CX's are very nice, compared to the CR's @ half the price, the CX's are 3 times better. You do get what you pay for.

More to come

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NJS bike; What's going right; crankset (kinda)

When I was looking for a NJS crankset, I decided I did not want a Sugino; way too common. I was perusing ebay and found a Suntour Superbe Track Crank; but only the right side. It was NOS and absolutely beautiful, so I bought it. Why do I do these things. Had I waited I would have come up with a set, now I need to search (probably in vain) looking for the left arm. But in the mean time, I found a Dura Ace left arm, in 165mm (the same as the Suntour) That should work in the mean time. There was a problem with this plan however. The Dura Ace was JIS and the Suntour ISO. Now I knew this when I bought the Dura Ace, but it was only $25 and NOS.

When dealing with cranks and bottom brackets, usually there are problems. Since I was dealing with square taper, there are two standards, JIS and ISO. They are not incompatible, but they are different. JIS is the Shimano standard, except for track cranks. ISO is Italian and Track. These are generalities, but for the sake for this discussion it will work. The difference between the two tapers are the ISO is slightly smaller and shorter. Generally an JIS crank will mount about 4 mm farther on an ISO spindle (see for more info).
I wanted to mount the crank on my fixed gear bike to see how it looked. I scrounged around and found a used bottom bracket with Shimnao NJS cups and bearings, and a Campagnolo ISO spindle. Track Spindles tend to be narrower than standard spindles, usually in the 107-108.5 range. This is meant to achieve a chainline of 42mm; this is compared to 46 mm of the standard road double. The Campagnolo spindle was stamped "68-SS-120". I am told this means the spindle is for a bike with a 68mm bottom bracket housing, a double chainring, with 120mm rear hub spacing.

The Spindle itself measured about 112mm. This would seem too long but it is asymmetrical. When installed in the proper fashion it would give you a 46 mm chainline, turn it around and the chain line was 42mm; nice! I put the whole thing together and it looked like this.

Since the Dura Ace arm was new, the difference on how far it mounted was only about 2mm. I also Dremel ('d) out the corners of the inside of the square taper so the crank could mount farther down the spline. Add that to the fact that the spindle was a little longer on the non-drive side and you have a perfect fit. If I someday do find a mate the Suntour right side I may go with an NJS spindle, but for now I'm quite happy with the result.
I've gotten the rear wheel back and it looks just as nice as before, but now it's 4 cross. I am also expecting the new Vittoria CX tires in the next 2 days' and Lickbike still hasn't credited my VISA (I think I'm done doing business with them). Next is the frame. I had toyed with the idea of getting a Keirin frame but all I would be doing is hanging my pretty new parts on a used banged up frame. Okay they are very nice, all lugged and custom made, but it wasn't made for me. It would just be one more Keirin track bike where I would have to compromise somewhere in the size and/or color. So I looked around and settled on a Soma; a 55cm in pearl white. I called American Cyclery (the Soma distributor in San Francisco) and they'll have one for me in 2 days. I told the wife and she wants a road trip to China Town (she's so good). The only custom part will be having the fork steerer cut and threaded; they come 1 inch threadless. I have a very nice Tange chromed steel headset I bought for just the occasion.


NJS bike; What's gone wrong; wheels and tires

Well it's been a couple of months since the NJS bike project started and not all has gone well. First let's talk wheels. As mentioned before I bought Araya Tubular rim 16B NJS 36H rims. To be NJS approved you must use tubular or sew-up or glue-on tires. The advantages are they are lighter, you can run at higher pressures and they have a very smooth ride. The down side is you have to glue them on. Also they are very difficult to repair and very expensive. Your typical NJS tubular runs about $100 as do most other brands of similar quality. The hubs I chose were Suzue Deluxe Pro Max. 36 hole. To be NJS approved a hub must use loose balls (no cartridge bearings) and be 36 spoke. That was pretty much all I knew at the time. I was also under the impression that the spokes should be straight 15 gauge and need to cross 3 times (and of course everything had to be NJS certified).

Well since then, I learned more. First the spokes can be only Hoshi or Ashahi (they are not stamped) and only 304mm or 305mm lengths for the rear can be NJS spokes certified. I have seen some supposed NJS wheels with butted or the infamous Hoshi bladed spokes. The Hoshi's are the only bladed spokes that can be used with standard hubs. The end has an S bend that allows you to insert them into the spoke hole in the hub. Unfortunately they are prone to break and I doubt they are NJS certified. OTOH it looks like butted spokes, I'm thinking 14-15-14 are allowed. Second the front wheel is three cross and the rear wheel is 4 cross. The spoke brand and lengths didn't bother me since Japanese spokes are impossible to get and are no better and probably inferior to the DT spokes used on my wheels. The rear 4 cross however was problematic. My bike builder would have had no problem lacing the rear wheel 4 cross and it is a detail like this that would have set the bike off for me; this would have to be changed (it was about a $50 mistake).

Next there were the tires. The tires I chose were Vittoria Corsa CR. The CR model go for about $50 @. They are a cheaper version of the CX which run about $80 @ (the CX are considered the industry standard). So the CR's are not top of the line but a good tire none the less. I also bought the tires from for $40@. My experience with Lickbike has always been good. There store is based on the concept of quality over quantity. They pick the component or accessory they consider to be the best value over most the others and sell it for about 20% less than you'll kind it @ most other places. So I bought 3 CR tires, one for each wheel and a spare.

About a month later I see that the base tape is pulling away from the sidewall. I call Lickbike and they offer to send me replacements for the two that failed. I was not very happy with Lickbike wanting me to keep the third tire from an order of three, after the first 2 proved to be defective.

One issue with the tires is I used Tufo tape to mount them. Tufo tape is a 2 sided tape that is used instead of glue. The tape is cleaner and goes on faster than tape. The down side is, what was very difficult to repair, becomes impossible with the tape. The extreme tape has been know to tear the base tape off the tire (I used the standard). None the less, Lickbike requested I use the standard tubular glue with the replacement tires. Here I decided to kill two birds with one stone. After I pulled the defective tubulars off, I sent the rear wheel back to my tire guy to get it re-laced (4 X).

I then mounted the third of the original tire from the original order on the front wheel with the glue. I was not surprised when the base tape started to separate almost immediately. As I mentioned before, I returned the first two (after spending 2 hours pulling the Tofu tape off) and they replaced them. But after the third failed, I just didn't feel like wasting my time with what appears to be a hit and miss process, until I come up with 3 good CR model tires. They charged me for the replacement tires anyway, saying I would receive a credit when they received the return. It's been over a week and I have yet to see it (I even sent them back Priority). Lickbike sells the Vittoria CX's also for a good price ($70), so I boxed up the replacements with the third tire. I sent these Priority also and have requested a credit toward three of the CX's; since I've already paid for 5 CR tires, I'm almost there anyway.
At this point it a waiting game, Lickbike hasn't sent me the new tires and my bike builder is stilling working on the rear wheel. Knowing him he just waiting until he was the time, he can probably make them in less then 2 hours.
Well flash forward a week and Lickbike is out of the CX's of course. They have received all the returned tires and still haven't credited me; what's with that? They have lost my business for now and I have bought two CX's on ebay for the same price. I also see that is selling CX's, $95 @ pair plus $10 shipping. A great price, but I don't trust them anymore. Turns out they gave me a "Neutral" rating after they failed to deliver on my order and gave them a Neutral. I guess thet fact that I paid immedatley for the product and waited 3 weeks without the product shipping only rated what I rated them. Plus I've noticed that riderparadise, has gone from a major Shimano/Nitto NJS store to almost no product and if you check their ebay rating them seem to loose every 10th order. Too bad, they had good prices and returned most my emails.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Solvang Prelude, Nov 3 2007

For the last 15 years or so I have made the trek to Solvang, California for their annual Century ride in March. For the last 3 years I have ridden a single speed, the last 2 on a fixie. Last year was the first year I missed it in about 13 years due to five broken ribs from a crash about a month earlier that pretty much kept me off bikes for about 6 weeks. This drove me to ride the Metric Century Prelude this weekend. As you may have heard LA is experiencing some dry windy weather. Although the Santa Ana’s don’t blow as far north as Solvang, if cool mornings and warm breezy mid-mornings is your idea of perfect riding weather, then the weather was perfect. The highlights of the ride were three fold.

1)My best friend Mike’s new Fetish fixie; red with ENO cranks and Mavic track wheelset. I hate the term but that is a sweet bike.

2)My ill-conceived attempt at using toe-clips. I bought some Soma double straps and double toe clips. The shoes where some Adidas Classic Pro with MKS toe Clip cleats. First the cleats were almost impossible to insert while riding. Second the straps are the new Vegan style (I’m not kidding). They are 1/3 thicker than standard laminated straps and nowhere near as nice as the MKS (NJS) version. It was all I could do to thread them through the pedals and then they started delaminating. They will go back to Soma and from now on it’s back to Look pedals for me.

3)The third was the ultimate flat tire story. After only 10 miles I got a rear flat tire (I rarely get flats and never at Solvang). I pulled over and after removing the tube, pulled out my Zepal frame pump (the best blankity-blank frame pump on the market; I'll explain later) Anyway, this was the first time I had used the pump and it was set in the Schrader mode. As I open up the nozzle to switch the innards, the pin on the lever popped out into the brush on the side of the road. The best blankity-blank pump on the market was now the best blankity-blank expandable dog club on the market. One thing about roadies, is they always want to be sure you have everything you need to fix a flat. Even on a sponsored ride, everyone of the 2000 riders ask, “you all right?”, “got everything you need?”, “need any help?”; “yeah, yeah, no… “ Anyway, the first person I actually said, “need pump” to was a portly Hispanic guy named “Ramon”; a very helpful fellow who seemed to be an expert on my Zepal pump; “best blankity-blank frame pump on the market”. So, while I was trying to use the 10 inch frame pump he was carrying, he miraculously found the pin for my pump! I would have kissed him if I knew him better. Anyway, after too many “Dude you rock” and “Viva la Raza’s”, Ramon was on his way and so was I; for about 50 feet, when my tire went flat again. Humph. About this time Mike showed up, coming back from the top of Ballard grade (Had I known how far back you were I would have just waited for you). Also, the sag wagon arrived with Mr Blankity-blank (the kind that uses blankity-blank as a verb).

So you got a blankity-blank flat tire, too blankity-blank bad. Do you need a blankity-blank tube? Oh you got a Zepal pump? Best blankity-blank pump on the market. I tell Mr Blankity-blank that I just fixed a flat and I suspected there was something in the tire I missed. He looked at the tire and pointed out a small hole left behind by some long since removed road hazard. Well there’s blankity-blank problem, you see that blankity-blank hole? Your blankity-blank tube will get sucked into that blankity-blank hole and cause a blankity-blank flat; that’s what you call your blankity-blank pinch flat. You’re gonna need to put a blankity-blank patch on that hole. Mr blankity-blank then pulls out a bag full of tubes and as he goes through them he starts yelling out, “What the blankity-blank is this? They send me out to help these blankity-blank riders, and all I got is blankity-blank mountain bike tubes!” About this time some rider stops behind the SAG wagon and asks to use a pump. “Hold you blankity-blank horses and I’ll get you a pump” and Mr Blankity-blank then walked to the rear of the SAG wagon and out of sight. It was at this time I discovered there was a passenger in the SAG wagon. I never saw him, but I heard this phantom voice say, “Yep you got yourself a pinch flat”.

Mr Blankity-blank then returned complaining; blankity-blank, they gave two blankity-blank pumps that don’t work, hey buddy, can I use your blankity-blank pump? A Zepal, best blankity-blank pump on the market. I then handed the pump to Mr Blankity-blank, and he disappeared behind the SAG wagon again. While we were waiting for Mr Blankity-blank to return, Mike dug a small piece of glass from my tire and managed to find the holes in both tubes. I patched the tubes, re-mounted the tire and put in one of the patched tubes. Mr Blankity-blank returned and asked if I wanted to buy a patch; I said no. Well, it blankity-blank looks like you know what you’re doing, with that blankity-blank pump and all, I’ll be blankity-blank on my way. As the SAG wagon pulled away, Mike finished pumping up my tire. As he pulled the pump off the valve stem, I hear this psssssssssssssssssss; what the blankity-blank was that? Ahh, the valve stem just broke off; blankity-blank? Turns out Mike had a brand new tube that we installed and there were no more tire problems for the rest of the ride.

We had a great time and will be back in March for the Century. Hope you had a blankity-blank good time reading this and remember it’s all about the blankity-blank ride!Brad