Archive for July, 2012

Speedhound vs. Big Brand

We recently received an e-mail from a rider interested in a single-speed belt-drive bike.  He had seen a Speedhound ONLY ONE frameset at a dealer and was stoked that it was made in Minneapolis.  Still, he was wondering why he should buy a Speedhound over a Big Brand factory bike.  He asked “What more am I getting if I spend double on a Speedhound?”  Here’s my word-for-word reply:

Hi XXXX,

Thanks for your interest in Speedhound Bikes.  You ask a great question, and we’re delighted to compare the Speedhound ONLY ONE to the Big Brand.  Here’s why we think the ONLY ONE is a great value compared to the Big Brand:

1.  We chose True Temper OX Platinum and Verus steel for our frame and fork for its resilient ride and toughness.  The Big Brand has an aluminum frame and fork.  Aluminum frames, and especially forks, are generally rigid and harsh.  The Speedhound has that steel “twang.”

2.  The ONLY ONE has the Speedhound Dropout System, which gives you the choice of track-style or vertical derailleur dropouts.  (You get both sets, so you can switch out anytime.)  Our design also lets you vary the spacing of the dropouts for different rear axle lengths.  The Big Brand has fixed vertical dropouts spaced at 130 mm.  It uses a concentric bottom bracket to adjust belt tension.

3.  The ONLY ONE is a really flexible platform.  You can set it up with derailleur gearing if you want.  The Big Brand doesn’t give you that option.  The ONLY ONE lets you run 700X32 tires with fenders.

4.  Because the ONLY ONE is sold as a frameset, you get to choose exactly the components you want.  (That’s a lot of fun right there.)  You get to pick crank and stem length, and your favorite saddle and style of handlebars. You’re not buying a cheap saddle and pedals you’ll want to replace. The bike will be uniquely yours.

5.  The Big Brand comes with the first generation Gates belt and cogs.  Your ONLY ONE could be built out with the new CenterTrack system, and you’d get exactly the ratio you want, not a stock ratio.

6.  The ONLY ONE gives you the option to use caliper brakes, cantilever brakes or V-brakes.  The Big Brand allows only calipers.

7.  You have eight color choices with the ONLY ONE.  The Big Brand comes in one color.

8.  The ONLY ONE is handmade in Mpls!  Most Big Brands are from China or Taiwan (not sure about the Big Brand you’re looking at, they don’t say on their website).

9.  With a Speedhound, you get the cachet of a boutique bike, not a mass-produced product out of a box.

Let me know if you’d like more info on the Speedhound ONLY ONE.  It’s a great riding bike.

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Bike Night 2012 – Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is hosting Bike Night again this Thursday, July 19, starting at 6:00 p.m, and we’ll be there!  A group ride departs for the MIA from Twin Six World HQ at 5:30 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
  • Pedal-powered bike art activities presented by Speedhound retailer The Hub Bike Co-op
  • Local bike shop clinics and gear
  • Thousands of Twin Cities bike hipstas!

We’re planning to show some of the great Speedhounds we showed at NAHBS.  See you there!

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Just Ride: A Review of Grant Petersen’s New Book

There’s a high likelihood that you’ve heard of Grant Petersen and Rivendell Bicycle Works.  (Speedhound tends to attract riders who dig steel bikes, and nobody has done more than Grant Petersen to praise the many virtues of steel.)  If G.P. and Riv mean nothing to you, though, it’s your lucky day.  G.P.’s new book, Just Ride (subtitled “A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike”), might just change your life.  As the author says in the Introduction, “my main goal with this book is to point out what I see as bike racing’s bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes, and then undo it.”

I’d subscribed to G.P.’s Rivendell Reader for years, and whether I agreed or disagreed with his many opinions, the Reader was always entertaining and useful.  G.P. challenged conventional biking wisdom and rejected the racer as a role model.  He gave us permission to raise our handlebars, lower our tire pressure, and leave the Lycra at home.  In large doses, his writing could come off as judgmental and cranky, or sometimes painfully wordy and confessional.  It pulled you in anyway, with a vaguely cult-like vibe you wanted to be a part of, even if it just meant ordering a Rivendell handlebar bag.

The last print edition of the Reader was published in February 2009, and I hadn’t gotten around to reading the two later, on-line volumes until recently.  (Available to download free at www.rivbike.com/product-p/rr.htm.)  So when I started reading Just Ride, it was like a visit from an old friend.  All of the familiar themes were there, including G.P.’s pet equipment likes: steel frames, lugs, wheels with lots of spokes, puffy tires, flat pedals (not clipless), friction shifters, threaded forks, quill stems, fenders, saddle bags, kickstands, leather saddles, cotton bar tape, shellac, hemp twine, and wool.  Practical, durable stuff, not for racing.

So what’s new?  Part 4 of Just Ride is titled “Health and Fitness,” and G.P. says it’s his second-favorite chapter in the book.  It’s my favorite.  Here are some of the section headings:

  • Riding is lousy all-around exercise.
  • Riding burns calories and makes you eat more.
  • Carbohydrates make you fat.
  • Branch out and buff up.
  • Stretching is overrated.

Wow, G.P. has gone all low carb and paleo!  (He doesn’t use the term.)  It’s offered as his own advice, but it’s really a distillation of, among others, Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat) www.garytaubes.com and Mark Sisson (The Primal Blueprint) www.marksdailyapple.com. These books, two favorites in my library, are offered for sale on the Rivendell site.  G.P. says “My education will be questioned.  Some will accuse me of making irresponsible, even dangerous claims, and will want to see the studies.  The studies are out there; look them up.  I’ve been careful.  I’ve read everything, seen through the BS, seen the results in others and in myself.  Do what I recommend here, and you will get healthier.”

Believe it.  I’ve followed my own primal lifestyle experiment for almost three years and it works.  You’ll disagree with much of G.P.’s advice when it comes to bikes and riding, but you owe it to yourself to read Just Ride, and when you’re done, Why We Get Fat (even if you’re not) and The Primal Blueprint.  This is life changing stuff.  Now go out and just ride!

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The Case of the Missing Bolts

Or, Don’t Try This At Home!

If you’ve checked out the Speedhound Dropout System, you probably know that the interchangeable dropouts are attached to the frame receivers with standard steel chainring bolts.  These fasteners have the benefit of a large surface area to contact the chainrings and crank spider, or in the case of the SDS, the dropouts and the receivers.  The threads on the bolts don’t come into contact with any of the mating surfaces, and the bolts do a good job of handling shear forces.

Think of a crank spider and chainring as the blades of a pair of scissors, trying to cut through the bolts.  As you jump on the pedals, your power is transmitted from the crank spider to the chainring, which pulls the chain forward.  A large, powerful rider could generate 500 pounds of pulling force at the chain, especially on a small chainring and long cranks.

Once in a while I like to do some sprints to rev up my heart and keep my legs sharp.  I’ll do hill sprints, on the bike or on foot.  Other weeks I’ll just make sure to include some focused accelerations during my rides.  During the winter, I get it done indoors on a trainer, rotating through five spinning CDs.  I aim to average 10 minutes of actual sprinting every week (not counting warm-ups and rest periods).

I rarely get on the “nowhere bike” during the summer, but last week a heat wave hit, and I was feeling short on sprints, so I went down to the cool of the basement to catch up.  I’ve got a fixed-gear Speedhound that I use on a variable-resistance fluid trainer.  It’s got a Gates Carbon Drive belt and 50X20 sprockets and it’s very smooth.

We’re finishing up the development of the production version of a slider-style dropout for the SDS (more on that in a future post).  I needed three chainring bolts for a meeting at the machine shop that’s helping us with the project.  I didn’t have time to go to Speedhound HQ, so I pulled the bolts from the Sugino RD-2 cranks on my Speedhound fixie.

The other day, a panicked thought crossed my mind – had I done my last 40 minute spinning session with only two chainring bolts in the crankset?   Yikes.  I ran down to the basement to look.  Here’s what I saw:

Missing Chain Ring Bolts

The two bolts were next to each other, leaving 288 degrees of the sprocket unsupported. But the sprocket ran true and there were no clicks or any other signs that parts were missing, other than three empty holes.  Nothing bad happened, no sprocket tacos, no noises, nothing different at all.  Why did it work?  Spot-on alignment between the front and rear sprockets, the lateral stiffness of the Gates Carbon Drive belt, the meshing of the teeth and sprockets, and the location of the sprocket centerline to the inside of the shoulders on the spider.  Oh, and the ability of those two chainring bolts to resist the shearing forces as I pedaled.  I’m back to five bolts now.  And please, don’t try this at home!

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