Posts Tagged frame dimensions

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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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 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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What We’re Made Of

Steel is Real

The ONLY ONE frame and fork are made of chromium- molybdenum alloy steel, often referred to as “chrome-moly” or “cro-mo.”  We use True Temper brand for the fork blades and steerer, the main tubes, head tube and seat stays.  Our HouseBendTM chainstays start as straight, oversized 30X16 mm oval-to-round tapered tubes, which we manipulate to achieve our special shape.   This careful forming gives the ONLY ONE generous tire and fender clearance along with the ability to run a 55 tooth Gates belt drive sprocket on a narrow chainline.  We also bend our fork blades in-house, which gives us control over the rake and location of the bend.

The steel in True Temper tubes comes from mills in Pennsylvania, where it’s drawn into seamless, plain gauge stock and then shipped by rail to True Temper’s plant in Amory, Mississippi.  This is where the transformation to lightweight, high-performance bike tubing takes place.  By drawing the steel through dies, rollers and mandrels, the tubing is butted or tapered to suit each location in a bike frame.  After being formed to shape, and depending on the application, the tubes are then stress relieved, heat treated, or air hardened.  We use a mix of True Temper tubes, including air-hardened OX Platinum, heat-treated Verus 4130, and stress-relieved Verus 4130.

The main tubes in the ONLY ONE are double-butted, meaning that the wall thickness is greater at each end than in the middle.  This gives extra strength where the tubes are joined and reduces weight in the middle, thinner section.  The top of the seat tube is externally butted, so the transition in wall thickness can be felt by hand and seen as a subtle increase in outer diameter.  All of the other butts are internal.  The fork blades and stays are taper-gauge, with the wall thickness tapering from one end to the other.

Our selection of tubing diameter, wall thickness and butt length, together with the ONLY ONE’s geometry, gives the Speedhound a ride that’s taught, plush, responsive, predictable, lively, and tough, all at the same time. We’re convinced that modern steel alloys give the best combination of performance, weight, durability and value.  It’s what we’re made of.

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The ONLY ONE is Short for Its Size

Many factors go into proper bike fit, but one thing is certain – you want to be able to comfortably clear the top tube with both feet flat on the ground!  The distance from the top of the top tube to the ground is the standover height of a bike.  Bike frame sizes are generally expressed as the length of the seat tube, but you can’t assume that two 56 cm bikes will have the same standover height.  A 56 cm frame measured “center-to-center” will be taller than a 56 cm frame measured “center-to-top.”  In addition to seat tube length, other variables that affect a bike’s standover height include bottom bracket drop, slope of the top tube, seat tube angle and the size of the tires.

At Speedhound, we measure frame size from the center of the bottom bracket shell to the top of the seat collar.  The ONLY ONE seat tube extends 30 mm above the top tube, which has a 3.9 degree upslope.  We also use a relatively low bottom bracket (75 mm drop), because we like what it does for stability and handling.  This all adds up to a standover height that is low for the stated frame size.  For example, our 51 cm frame has a standover height of 74.8 cm (29.4 inches), which is lower than the standover of some frames that are sold as 46 cm!  So you could say the ONLY ONE is short for its size.

Speedhound ONLY ONE Standover Height Chart

Frame Size (cm) Standover Height (cm/inches)

51                                                            74.8/29.4

54                                                            77.4/30.5

56                                                            79.2/31.2

58                                                            81.1/31.9

61                                                            83.9/33.0

These standover heights are based on a 700 X 23 tire.  For a 700 X 35 tire, add 0.7 cm (0.28 inches).

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