Archive for category Making The Bikes

Top Eyes

What do you call them?    I’m referring to the things at the top of the seat stays on your bike frame.   Are they seatstay caps?  Ends?  Does your bike even have them?  Speedhounds do, and we like to call them by the old British term, “top eyes.”

The Speedhound seat cluster, with its scalloped "top eye."

Contrary to popular opinion, seatstays are the least important tubes on a bike frame.  They add virtually no lateral stiffness and take almost all of their load in compression.  That’s why you can use skinny tubes without compromising the frame’s integrity.  It’s also what gives framebuilders the freedom to get creative where the seatstays  join at the seat cluster.

Using decorative top eyes is one way we’ve added some personality to the Speedhound ONLY ONE frame.  Joining the seatstays to the side of the seat tube also gives the Speedhound wider spacing for fenders and fatter tires, so there’s a functional advantage as well.

If you examine our top eyes, you might suspect that they are simple plugs inserted into the seatstays.  Someone even asked whether they might push in if they hit a hard bump!  But take a look at the raw top eye — it has a shoulder that snugs up against the end of the seatstay. Very clever!

The top eye plugs into the seatstay end.

Our seatstay end (left) and top eye (right).

Our top eyes are investment cast steel, with a deep hollow for weight reduction and better brazing.  The joint is cleaned up before the seatstays are attached to the main triangle.  The result is a seamless connection that sets Speedhound apart from the typical production bike.

Top eye and seatstay, together at last.

Next time you pass by a rack of parked bikes, take a look.  Are there any top eyes peeping back at you?

Mid-Year Color Tweaks

We’ve made two mid-year tweaks to the Speedhound color palate.

NOT ChromeFirst, NOT Chrome replaces TiS Grey.  NOT Chrome is a color that the manufacturer calls “Chrome,” but of course it’s really a super tough powder coat, which is not chrome.  So we call it “NOT Chrome” just to drive the point home.  We finish it off with a clear coat and then the decals.  NOT Chrome is a super-fine silver that shades toward grey, with a lot of gloss.  It’s not sparkly or metal flaky.

 

 


OUR BlueWe also changed OUR Blue, but we’re still calling it by the same name.  OUR Blue remains a rich blue with enough red to shade it toward purple.  But now it’s a metallic that turns light or dark, depending on the angle.  It’s got depth, but it’s not gaudy like a bass boat.  OUR Blue is also clear coated, which is more expensive for us to do, but we don’t charge extra for it.

 

 


The RainbowIn a rough approximation of the rainbow, you can get your Speedhound in Ace Red, TRO Orange, Ray Yellow, Nut Green, OUR Blue, New Black, Ice Cream or NOT Chrome.

See our full color palette here.

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Speedhounds Are Chameleons

The ChameleonMs. Speedhound recently announced that she had offered the use of her bike to a friend who is training for a triathalon.  Ms. Speedhound rides a 54 cm frame, which, it turned out, would be too tall for her friend.  We did have a 51 cm Nut Green ONLY ONE that we had shown at NAHBS 2012 and the MIA Bike Night.  It was set up as a fixed-gear with antique track components, including wooden rims, tubular tires, a one-inch pitch chain and no brakes.  A thing of beauty, worthy of much gazing, but a disaster as a trainer.  So what to do?  Switch it over to a road bike, pronto, ready to ride the next day.

I started at 11:00 a.m., stripping the bike of all the retro parts and removing the track-style dropouts.  The split in the drive-side receiver, which allows the use of a belt, is also a great shortcut for removing a chain.  There’s no need to pop the master link or break the chain with a tool.  The next step was to install the vertical derailleur dropouts.  Now the frame was ready to accept all of the racy bits Susan needed to whip herself into shape for the triathlon.  Other than the seatpost, I would be using new components, so there was some prep time to mount the tires and install the cassette, cut cables and housing, set up the brake levers and wrap the bars.  I took a lunch break (chicken and broccoli) and got back to business.  By 5:00 p.m., the transformation from show bike to go bike was complete, and I went out for a test ride.  The wheels felt fast and the bike had that “riding on rails” all-day stability that we designed into the ONLY ONE.  Ms. Speedhound’s friend is going to love it.

Check out the complete image album on Facebook.

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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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Do You Like Messing Around with Bikes?

As a kid, I was always fascinated by how things worked.  A broken toaster was an invitation to explore:  I had to take it apart to figure out what made it pop.  Discarded TV sets, clocks, lawn mowers, electric mixers, and tape recorders were some of the subjects of my screwdriver autopsies.  With my knack for mechanical things, bikes were a breeze.  When I was 12, I assembled my new 3-speed right from the box.

Yes, I got my driver’s license when I was 16, and anything with an internal combustion engine had a certain allure.  But cars were too big, dirty and expensive to mess around with.  Now, a bike – I could store that in the kitchen or carry it into the basement.  I could clean the chain, disassemble and repack the bearings, or adjust the derailleurs just about anywhere.

My first real racing bike was a Gitane Tour de France, orange with chromed fork tips and stays and gaudy Mylar stickers.  That bike taught me what it means for a bike to be alive (especially compared to the Schwinn Varsity that I took on my first century ride).  Turns out those old European racing bikes from the 1970s were great all-around rides, which is partly why you see so many of them resurrected for duty around town today.

I was constantly experimenting with my gear, trading one bike for another, always searching for the “magic ride.”  I worked for awhile brazing frames at Trek, when all of their bikes were lugged steel, made in Wisconsin.  I made my way through school wrenching in bike shops, because I had a passion for bikes and a talent for fixing them.   I also loved to ride bikes, and working around them gave me the opportunity to try hundreds.  Later, when I could afford it, I began collecting lightweight racing bikes, many from the 1950s.

One thing I always wanted was a bike frame that could do just about anything on the road or a light trail.  A kind of universal bike.  About 10 years ago, I noticed that people started buying cyclo-cross bikes, but not for racing.  The extra clearance in the frames for muddy knobbies also made them suitable for fenders and puffy road tires.  Like the old racing bikes from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Although a C-X bike is a lot better than a contemporary road racing bike for the riding that 99% of us do 99% of the time, it still involves some compromises.  There must be a better way, I thought.   How might a bike frame be made to work for every rider in a variety of situations?  I decided to design a frame that could be a flexible platform for any type of drivetrain and a wide variety of riding styles.  A frame that would expand a rider’s choices now or in the future.  I thought, “What if we made it modular?”  I began experimenting and made a prototype of an interchangeable dropout system that would meet the particular demands of belt drive, but could also be used with derailleur gears.

All those years of experimenting inspired me to create Speedhound Bikes.  Our patent-pending Speedhound Dropout System is a unique departure from conventional thinking.  With this system, the ONLY ONE offers a degree of flexibility not found in any other bike frame.  Now, you no longer have to settle for one type of drivetrain or brake system.  You aren’t stuck with a track frame when you decide you want gears.  Want to go low maintenance, ditch the chain and go belt drive?  Be our guest.  You pick the drivetrain you want and build your Speedhound in any configuration you like.  Cantilever brakes or calipers?  We don’t make any decisions for you.  And if you want to repurpose your Speedhound to do something completely different, the choice is yours.  If you like tinkering with bikes, you get it.  “Go Your Own Speed” is our motto and the principle we live by.  The quest for the magic ride never ends.

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What Length of Belt Should My Bike Wear?

A lot of well-dressed bicycles are wearing belts these days.  They make a clean, crisp fashion statement on the runway, the road and the bike path.  Unlike a chain (or the belt on your pants), though, the length of a bike’s drive belt can’t be adjusted.  The length of the belt depends on the size of the front and rear sprockets, and the distance between them.

Gates Carbon Drive Belt Drive Belt Length CalculatorSo how does the well-heeled bicycle owner decide what is the right belt length for his or her bike?  Fortunately, our friends at Gates have created a handy belt length calculator.  It’s an easy to use Excel spreadsheet you can download to your computer.  You can find it here. Once you arrive at the Tech Info Page, select “Belt and Sprocket Size Calculator” under the heading “Technical Manual.”  (Skip the Carbon Drive Systems Calculator also appearing on that page – it’s not nearly as useful.)

If you are setting up a single speed, calculate which combination of front and rear sprockets will give the ratio you want.  In general, a smaller front sprocket will give better clearance with the chainstay.

For internal gear hubs, consult the manufacturer’s data on ratios.  Select a combination of front and rear sprockets so that you will have the low gear you want.

Make sure your combination of sprockets and belt length work for your bike’s chainstay length.  The calculator will give you the required range of adjustment to take up belt slack.

With the right belt length, your bike will be well-appointed and give you years of carefree riding.

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News Flash: Belts Are Now As Efficient As Chains!

The diamond-framed “safety” bicycle replaced the high-wheeled “ordinary” by the end of the 1800s.  Apart from a few shaft-driven bikes, chains have ruled since those early days.  Although belts have been used to transmit power since at least the 1870s, when flat leather belts linked steam engines to farm equipment and industrial machines, it’s taken over 100 years since then for belts to be successfully adapted to bikes.  The reason has to do with efficiency.

The human engine doesn’t develop much power, and when we jump on a bike, we want our pedaling effort to translate into maximum forward motion.  Until the development of modern cogged belts, nothing could compete with the transmission efficiency of roller chains.

Often called timing belts or synchronous belts, cogged belts are popular in applications that require precision, durability and efficiency.  Many cars use a timing belt to drive the camshafts that control the opening and closing of the engine’s valves.  In 1962, the German Glas 1004 became the first mass-produced vehicle to use a cogged timing belt in place of a chain.

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

Our two-wheeled friends in the motorcycle world are also fans of cogged belts.  In 1980, Harley-Davidson introduced a Gates Kevlar reinforced belt as a replacement for its chain drives.  That year, they debuted the FXB Sturgis model featuring the belt drive in honor of the iconic motorcycle rally.  Other motorcycles, including BMW and Victory, use final drive belts.  Snowmobiles are almost all driven by belt transmissions.

In about 1985, Bridgestone introduced a belt-drive folding bike for the Japanese market.  The STRiDA folding bike was designed around the same time and also uses a cogged belt drive.  But despite all this cogged belt history, high performance belt drive for bikes only became available in 1997, with the Gates Carbon Drive system.  http://www.carbondrivesystems.com

According the U.S. Department of Energy, cogged belts are about 98% efficient.  http://www1.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/tech_deployment/pdfs/replace_vbelts_motor_systemts5.pdf This means that 2% of the input power is lost, which is about the same efficiency as a roller chain.   Kidd, Matt D.; N. E. Loch, R. L. Reuben (1998). “Bicycle Chain Efficiency”. The Engineering of Sport conference. Heriot Watt University.

Belt drives have been used for decades to drive vehicles much heavier and more powerful than Speedhounds.  Now that belt technology has finally caught up with bicycles, we think belts are a perfect choice for getting you up those hills and through the rain and snow you might encounter on your rides.

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Mary Queen of Scots Had a Speedhound!

Speedhound fans know that our mascot is an Italian Greyhound (IG) named Cooper.  His ancestors have been a popular breed for millennia.  Evidence has been found of IGs at Pompeii! Mary Queen of Scots was a big fan of the little speedsters too.

Speedhound BadgeIGs are light, quick and nimble.  They’re a perfect mascot for Speedhound bikes.  In fact, Cooper, who weighs in at only 10.4 lbs (4.7 kg), is still over twice as heavy as an ONLY ONE frame!  That’s what we call light and nimble!

Our inspiration from IGs goes beyond our need for speed, though.  IGs are agile sporting dogs – our “running dog” graphic is inspired by an IG competing in a lure coursing event.  And since we insist on making our own forks that match the frame geometry, both parts of a Speedhound frameset have matching serial numbers starting with the letters “IG” for Italian Greyhound.  You can find the serial numbers stamped in the bottom bracket and on the fork steering tube.

Speedhound Serial Number

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The New CenterTrack Belt System from Gates

We designed the Speedhound Only One to be compatible with belt drives from the very beginning, and we’ve been experimenting with the Gates Carbon Drive system for over three years.  So it’s only natural that we’d be taking a hard look at the new CenterTrack design that Gates rolled out a few months ago.  We’ll be blogging about how CenterTrack performs after we do some more road testing into the winter, but for now, here are some comparisons between CenterTrack and the first generation belt system (Gen 1).

The Sprockets

CenterTrack and Gen 1 front sprockets

CenterTrack and Gen 1 front sprockets

The CenterTrack sprocket has a central spine that meshes with a corresponding groove in the belt to keep the belt centered.  The Gen 1 system relies on a single flange (inboard on the rear sprocket and outboard on the front) to help guide the belt.  However, with one side of each sprocket open, Gen 1 is very intolerant of any misalignment between front and rear sprockets.  With CenterTrack, your “chainline” can be off a few millimeters without a risk of the belt falling off.  We think it’s still best to aim for perfection when aligning the front and rear CenterTrack spockets, though, to minimize friction between the spine and belt groove.  For now, CenterTrack appears to be a very inspired solution to the main weakness of the Gen 1 system.  The CenterTrack sprockets also have a wicked cool look.

 

The Belts

CenterTrack (left) and Gen 1 (right) belts

CenterTrack (left) and Gen 1 (right) belts

The CenterTrack belt is 12 mm wide.  Gen 1 comes in 10 mm and 12 mm widths, with the wider belt recommended especially for mountain bike and fixed-gear setups.  The pitch and tooth profile appear to be the same, and we were able to run a CenterTrack belt on Gen 1 sprockets.  Lacking a groove, a Gen 1 belt is incompatible with CenterTrack sprockets.

Materials

The CenterTrack front sprocket is hard anodized aluminum alloy, like the Gen 1, but lacks the ceramic coating of the Gen 1 sprocket.  Will it wear as well?  Time will tell.  The rear CenterTrack sprockets are stainless steel, whereas the Gen 1 are hard anodized aluminum alloy with ceramic coating.  Gates tells us that the Gen 1 rear sprockets wear out before the belts.  (The belts have a projected life of 10,000 miles, depending on riding conditions.)  Will the stainless steel CenterTrack rear sprockets come closer to that?

Weight

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

CenterTrack on the OUR Blue Speedhound

We weighed comparable CenterTrack and Gen 1 components on our Soehnle digital gram scale (accurate to the nearest gram) and here’s what we found:

  • 118 tooth belt, 12 mm wide – CenterTrack 79 grams, Gen 1 97 grams.
  • 50 tooth front sprocket, 5 arm 130 BCD – CenterTrack 98 grams, Gen 1 72 grams.
  • 24 tooth rear sprocket, 9 spline – CenterTrack 72 grams, Gen 1 53 grams.

We think the promised benefits of the CenterTrack system far outweigh the added 27 grams over the Gen 1 components.  Look for our foul-weather ride reports — Speedhound is looking forward to some slushy snow this year!

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Speedhound and Belt Drive

Part 1 – The Basic Elements of the SDS

Speedhound Dropout System Components

Speedhound Dropout System Components

What makes the Speedhound Only One so versatile, and how does it work with belt drive?  The key is the Speedhound Dropout System (SDS).  The main components of the SDS are the receiver and the interchangeable dropouts.  The vertical dropouts include a derailleur hanger and are machined from aluminum alloy and then clear anodized.   The horizontal (track-style) dropouts are machined from stainless steel for corrosion resistance and to stand up to the clamping forces of axle nuts.  Conventional chainring bolts are used to attach the dropouts to the receivers.

 

 

Belt Drive Close Up

Speedhound Belt Drive Close Up

Unlike a bicycle chain, a drive belt is a closed loop – it has no master link or pins to separate.  It is a single moving part.  The rear triangle of a conventional diamond frame bicycle is also a closed loop, and will not accept a belt.

 

 

 

 

 

Unless you can work some magic, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCNV8rRiMRA , you’ll need an opening in the frame for the belt to pass through.  Speedhound accomplishes this trick with a split in the receiver on the right (drive) side of the frame.  The belt passes through the split and then the horizontal dropouts are bolted to the receiver.  You’re ready to install the rear wheel.  As an added benefit, the SDS lets you remove and replace a chain without breaking it open.  Voila!

 

Interested in seeing more Speedhound Belt Drive photos?  Check out our Flickr set.

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