Archive for category Inspiration

Bikes4Kidz

Bikes4Kidz is a non-profit organization that has fixed up thousands of donated bikes to give away to children in the Twin Cities area.  We volunteered our mechanical talents to repair bikes and to help with distributing them.  Bikes4Kidz has a repair and storage site conveniently located near Speedhound HQ, so we went over on a recent morning to pitch in.

Chris repairs a "Bratz" themed bike.

There were eight volunteers on hand in a space the size of several football fields.  Plenty of tools, bike parts and cleaning supplies were available for us to transform unloved and unwanted bikes into safe and sparkling rides that will delight some deserving kids.

Hundreds of bikes for kids.

Turns out this is also where the Nice Ride bikes go to spend the Winter.

Nice Rides hibernating at an undisclosed location.

Someone’s going to be pumping up a lot of bike tires next Spring!

A Pint-Sized Speedster: the Italian Greyhound

Speedhound’s mascot is a 10-pound Italian Greyhound named Cooper.  Italian Greyhounds (IGs) are natural athletes, and are the third fastest dog on the planet, after Greyhounds and Whippets.  They have a strong prey drive and love to chase small animals.  As a member of the sighthound group, they have very keen eyesight, which makes them great at pursuing “prey” in sports like lure coursing.  IGs love to participate in other competitions, too.  They are great racers and are very adept at agility courses.  Here’s a glimpse into the sporting world of Italian Greyhounds.

Obedience

Obedience trials test an Italian Greyhound’s ability to perform a set of tasks.  Dogs are required to heel both on and off leash at different speeds, come when called, and stay still for a simple physical examination and with a group of other dogs.  They are also given jumping and retrieving exercises and scent discrimination tasks.

Lure Coursing

One of the most exciting sports that an Italian Greyhound can compete in is lure coursing, because it brings out the natural predator within.  A lure course simulates a hare’s flight to evade a pursing hound.  The “hare” (a white plastic bag or cloth) is attached to a continuous cord that is looped through a series of pulleys just above ground level, to create a course with straightaways and varying turns.  The cord is drawn around the course by an electric winch.  At a competition, IGs run in pairs or trios with traditional greyhound style racing blankets. Judging is not according to time, but the dogs’ ability to follow the lure with enthusiasm, agility, speed and endurance.

Here’s a great lure coursing video from this year’s European Championships.

 

 

Racing

The Large Gazehound Racing Association, (LGRA) governs IG racing. IGs are eligible to compete for the GRC (Gazehound Racing Champion) title and Supreme GRC title. LGRA racing is 200 yard straight track sprint racing.

In addition, the National Oval Track Racing Assoc (NOTRA) also recognizes IGs. NOTRA holds 300-400 yard races on an oval track.

In LGRA and NOTRA race meets the dogs chase an artificial lure pulled by a small battery operated motor.

Tracking

Even though Italian Greyhounds are sighthounds, they can use their noses to find game. Tracking trials allow IGs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent.

Various titles are awarded for courses of different lengths and difficulty.  At the highest level, an IG has to follow a track that is 3 to 5 hours old that may take him or her through a wilderness setting or down a paved sidewalk, through buildings and other urban environments.

Agility

Agility is a relatively new sport that’s right up the IGs alley, because it combines playful fun, speed and physical prowess!   Agility events include a number of obstacles such as A-frame, pause table, dog walk, see-saw, high jump, broad jump, open and closed tunnels, tire jump and weave poles. There is an allocated time to run each course.

To learn more about Italian Greyhound sporting events, take a look at the Italian Greyhound Club of America’s website.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

Make It Your Own in the New Golden Age

I’ve just finished reading “It’s All About the Bike” by Robert Penn.  Part personal account and part history of the bicycle, the book recounts the author’s quest to build his dream bike in a way most of us can only dream of doing – by traveling to the sources of all of the major components for his new ride.  For his new frame, he visits Brian Rourke Cycles in Stoke-on-Trent, England.  It’s off to Portland, Oregon, for a Chris King headset; Milan, Italy for Cinelli bars and stem; Vicenza, Italy for a Campagnolo drivetrain; Korbach, Germany for Continental tires; Fairfax, California, for handbuilt wheels; and Smethwick, England, for a Brooks saddle.  The narrative device is contrived, of course, but the book is filled with the amazing history of the bicycle and bicycling, and insights into the personal connection between rider and machine.  Rob Penn notes rightly that “The bicycle is one of mankind’s greatest inventions – it’s up there with the printing press, the electric motor, the telephone, penicillin and the World Wide Web.  Our ancestors thought it one of their greatest achievements.  This idea is now coming back into fashion.  The cultural status of the bicycle is rising again.”

You don’t need to travel the world to build a bicycle that’s uniquely your own, one that’s suited to your sense of function and style.  Nearly everyone who rides regularly has personalized his or her bike in some way, even if it’s an off-the-rack machine.  Maybe you replaced the plastic saddle that broke down with a leather one that keeps getting better with age.  Or you’ve added a rack and fenders to make your trip to the corner store pleasant when the pavement is still wet with rain.  Pink handlebar tape, purple rims and stickers everywhere?  It’s your bike.

Penn writes:  “Not long ago, much of what we owned was alive with the skill, and even the idealism, of the people who made it – the blacksmith who forged our tools, the cobbler, the wood-turner, the carpenter, the wheelwright, and the seamstress and tailor who made the clothes we wore.  We retain possessions that are well made; over time, they grow in value to us, and enrich our lives when we use them.  The frame is the soul of the bicycle.  The frame of my bike will only be made once, from steel.”  Perhaps the ultimate expression of creating a bike that’s yours alone is to build it out, starting with the frame and selecting components to suit.  You won’t see another like it, and somehow the pleasure of riding is doubled.

In the concluding chapter, Penn writes “My journey to put this bike together was at an end.  It had been fascinating and great fun.  I’d come to realize that the talk about the bicycle being at the dawn of a new golden age was not hyperbole.  All the manufacturers I’d spoken to reported growth in the last few years.  The balance between craftsmanship and technology is shifting once more, in pursuit of quality.  If people want well-made bicycles that are going to last, this shows that the machine is being valued again in a way that it hasn’t been for half a century.”  Are we entering a new golden age of bicycling?  The forecast is looking good.

Vintage Bicycle Websites

HeadbadgeWe’ve mentioned before how we’ve drawn inspiration for the Speedhound Only One from vintage lightweight bicycles.  Our choice of high performance steel and the classic diamond frame configuration are obvious connections to cycling’s enduring heritage.

We also love the understated aesthetics of bikes from 40 or more years ago, before the fluorescent color schemes of the 1980s, the billboard graphics of the 1990s and the sterile swooshes of the 21st century.  Our stamped brass headbadge, double plate fork crown and understated graphics are homages to the hand-crafted frames of an earlier time, when bicycles possessed a very soul.

 

 

 

Wall of ConfusionWe love to hunt for vintage bikes and rare old components on e-Bay and at swap meets.   But the addiction can get a bit out of control, so mostly we just look now – it’s free!  To do some of your own gazing, start with the treasure of photos and information on the following sites.

Caution:  you might get the habit!

 

 

Our Favorite Links

Where Speedhound’s rediscovery of vintage bicycles in the Internet era began: www.classicrendezvous.com

A very impressive UK resource with a true sense of history: www.classiclightweights.co.uk

Mind-blowing Swiss photo collection:  www.speedbicycles.ch

Repository for all things Hetchins:  www.hetchins.org

User submitted photo galleries of vintage lightweights:  www.wooljersey.com/gallery/main.php

Huge database of old bikes and components, including headbadges:  www.velobase.com

UK site dedicated to derailleurs (discover a connection to the 1960s supergroup, Cream):  www.disraeligears.co.uk

Excellent photography (and how to do it) featuring mostly Italian iron and mostly Colnagos:  www.raydobbins.com

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