Archive for July, 2011

Riding Bikes and Racing Bikes

Allow me a short story about cycling in Hawaii, and the difference between a bike for racing and a bike for riding.  It takes place some years ago, before Speedhound was born, on a trip with friends to the island of Kauai.  In addition to having the rainiest place on Earth (460 inches and 335 days per year), the southwest area of the island also features the breathtaking Waimea Canyon, with a ridgeline road that rises from near sea-level to over 3,000 feet in about 12 miles.  Naturally, this presented a riding challenge for me (my friends, not so much).  After a day of settling into our vacation cottage and knocking around the beach, I was itching to spin the pedals, and managed to find a road bike to rent.  It was one of the big brands, with an aluminum frame and a 27-speed drivetrain (52-42-32 X 12-23).  Riding back to the cottage before setting out on my hillclimb challenge, I immediately noticed something quite peculiar about this bike:  the handling was exceptionally darty.  Keeping the bike on a line took much more concentration than I cared for, and any inattention required immediate correction.  I’m not a bad bike handler, and would ordinarily think nothing of riding “no hands,”  but not on this crazed machine.  It wanted to go left and right, but not straight ahead.

My point is not to criticize a bike brand or frame material, but to highlight the importance of frame geometry (and the resultant handling) to a bike’s intended purpose.  On closer examination, my rental bike appeared to have a very steep head angle (around 74 degrees or higher).  Because I don’t make a habit of packing the precision tools needed to measure frame and fork geometry, I can’t say for sure what the spec was.  But I do know that this bike was far less stable than anything I was used to riding back home.  Despite the triple chainrings, it was a bike best suited for racing in a downtown criterium, not for riding Kauai’s narrow and steep roads.

As it turned out, I was able to manage this twitchy beast and climb the ridgeline.  I got to the top in about 1:20 of grinding work in the smallest ring.  A view of the canyon from a turnout provided all the reward I needed, and there was even a vending truck with cold drinks.  After a refreshing pause, I descended back down to the shore in about 25 minutes, touching the brakes only once or twice before entering some hairpins.  I had to concentrate for every one of those 1,500 seconds to keep the bike on the right side of the road and out of the ditch.  It was exhilarating, but I would have enjoyed it far more on a bike designed for riding.

Bike Night at the MIA

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is hosting Bike Night this Thursday, July 21, starting at 6:00 p.m, and we’ll be there!  A group ride departs for the MIA from Gold Medal Park (next to the Guthrie Theater) at 5:00 p.m.  Or just ride over to the MIA at 24th Street and Third Avenue South in Minneapolis for the cycling scene’s social event of the summer.  Bike Night includes:

  • The opening of the Bicycle Film Festival, with shows at 7:00 and 8:15 p.m.
  • Live music
  • Outdoor cocktail lounge
  • Exhibits by Speedhound, Peacock Groove and other notable home-grown bike frame builders
  • Drawings for bike and swag giveaways
  • Bike art activities
  • Local bike shop clinics
  • Thousands of Twin Cities bike hipstas!

We’re planning to show two of the Speedhound family’s personal rides, plus a naked frame and some of the unique components that make the Only One one-of-a-kind.  See you there!

My New Speedhound


By Ben McCoy

 

When Chris Cleveland, founder and owner of Speedhound Bikes, offered me a great deal on a 61 cm Only One™ frameset, I knew I had to take him up on it. As it turns out, there aren’t many people looking for a 61 cm frame. So my tall, lanky physique made me a prime candidate.

Ben McCoy: Self-portrait with Speedhound

The ‘small print’ was that the color was already chosen – TiS Gray – as the frameset had been assembled once as a show bike. But all of my beloved bikes (with one exception) have either been gray or green, purely by chance. And Chris would even help me build it up once I found all the parts. So it was a very fortunate proposition.

Some of the parts I gathered for my new Speedhound

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve traditionally been a fixed gear commuter, but I saw this new bike as an opportunity to ride longer distances and possibly do some towing and/or traveling, with it. So I wanted versatile geared bike that would be fun to ride. Beyond that I was open.

 

 

Armed with a vast knowledge and infinite patience, Chris provided expert consultation and advice as I mulled over all my options.  And at the end of the day, he helped me put together a beautiful road-inspired bike with a classic sensibility.

 

Once I had collected all the parts, Chris invited me down to the Speedhound space – inside the venerable confines of Peacock Groove – to put it all together. Chris had me tape and set up the wheels while he prepped the frame for the seat post. From the wheels, we methodically worked our way up the frame – bottom bracket, crank, stem, handlebars, and brakes.

 

It was at the brakes where Chris learned not to tell me to just “crank down on it” if he didn’t also want to “save my bacon.”  So it was at about this point that we stopped for lunch.

 

After lunch, we started connecting the dots, including the drive train – front and rear derailleurs, plus cabling – and brakes.  Fortunately, this took almost no time at all. In fact, Chris was beside himself that the SRAM Force derailleur set-up was basically plug-and-play. Once we got everything tied together, it just worked with virtually no adjustments required.

Chris shows Ben how to get the bar tape tight and right.

With the bigger components in place, we worked our way through the final components – saddle, seat post, pedals, and bar tape – before making all the final adjustments.

 

In approximately 5 hours my new Speedhound bike was complete and being walked out to my car by Erik Noren – the Peacock himself.

Ben and bike ready for a test ride!

Now I look forward to putting some miles under me, working out the kinks, and bringing it in to Chuck at Behind Bars for its first tune-up. Chuck isn’t a Speedhound bikes dealer, but he’s my local go-to guy and mechanic. Plus, I know he owns as least one Peacock Groove bike, so I can’t wait to get his reaction.

 

Big thanks to Chris Cleveland for both his offer and his assistance all the way through the process. You are a good friend with a great product. And special thanks to Erik Noren – the best frame builder in Minneapolis with a heart as big as his mouth! Keep doing it right, fellas. BIKE LOVE!

Chris holds Ben's new bike

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Ben McCoy is co-founder of Bicycle Theory, Inc., a brand-focused graphic design and Web development shop in Northeast Minneapolis. He is also co-owner of MPLS Bike Love, a leading bicycle forum and resource for the Twin Cities cycling community.