Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Front Brake Cable Routing

Or how eveyone else is mucking it up!

In cyclocross, there are a bunch of compromises you make to get a bike working. It is, after all, a sport forged from road racing with just enough mountain biking thrown in, and a few proprietary goodies for good measure. One of the issues people struggle with is front brake cable routing. A lot of bikes are pretty smooshed for space where the front cable exits the bar tape and gets routed down to the front wheel. While there are plenty of ways that will effectively route a front brake cable, they all are wrong. Either they offend my delicate visual sensibilities, are a shoddy and quick way of dealing with a problem, or they have the potential for imminent death. I'll go through all of these "options", but first I'm going to show you the correct way and give you a little trick to make it even better. Do it this way or you are wrong. (Aren't you glad we got that point established? And by we I mean me.)

First, get yourself one of these from IRD.

You won't need the pinch bolt if your headset is tight, so toss it to save a few grams. Sure there are lighter ones out there, but none are better. Because it's machined from a pretty sizable hunk of aluminum and they leave a fair bit of it intact, it's pretty stiff. Meaning your brakes aren't mushy from your hanger flexing. It's a small step when it comes to eliminating brake shudder.(Another post entirely.) Your brakes may still be mushy because you don't know how to set them up, but not from your hanger flexing.

Route your cable under the stem. I don't care how the TreeFarm does it. By using the LongDrop from IRD you'll have plenty of room for the cable to make a nice smooth bend.

If you want to be extra cool like me, use an old V-brake noodle to guide the cable to the hanger. You can bend it into all sorts of configurations and the cable will slide through it better than plain housing. Plus it will help firm up the feel at the lever. If you don't have any old noodles laying around, go to your local shop. Any shop should have a bin full of the never used but always included 135degree bend ones. You can bend it yourself to any angle you want and if you need to shorten it, just pull the end the housing goes into off and cut the tube with a hacksaw.

Here's where I list all the wrong ways and make fun of them. If you route your cables this way and are offended, then good. You deserve to be. Any idjit that gets offended by teasing and brake cable routing posts on the web needs to pull up their big girl panties and have anther cup of shut the fuck up.

Resist the urge to be "Euro" and route the cable over the stem like this.

It's bad enough that the cable is on the right side, thereby giving the rider "motorcycle" or "Euro" style brake set up, but he's using Nokon housing to make a long loop of housing. Nokon, while a pain in the ass and expensive, does have the sole redeeming virtue of being able to be bent into small arc and still have the cables pass smoothly. This bike looks like he did it this way so he could show off the color matching that Nokons allow just a bit more than if it was tucked away under the handlebar.

The real reason you'll see this routing done on some Pro's bikes is because it's fast and easy to do if you are a mechanic that is replacing housing and cable fairly often. It allows for more latitude in cutting just the right amount of housing. If it's a little long, who cares?

Make certain your hanger is on straight. For the love of God, don't do this.

It makes you look like a fat man with a too short and crooked tie. Think Blimpy from Popeye. Again, if you run the LongDrop and noodle, then you won't have any issues with the stem getting in the way. Show some class and get it on there straight. If it's rotating itself, then your headset isn't adjusted properly.

This next one I just hate because of pure aesthetics.

It's ugly, I don't care how many fast guys do this. When you view the bike from the side, the cable is going dow n to the front brake at a goofy looking angle. Also, there are quite a few stems that don't have the clearance between the face plate and the stem body. If your fork suffers from shudder issues, then this will only make it worse.

If you aren't a fat, chain smoking Belgian professional mechanic, then don't even think about this next little "fix".

Drilling through your stem is stupid. Sure, there are posts on the forums with people claiming "no problems so far", but so what? I'm certain there were Yugo drivers that said the same thing at first. The Pro's bikes will have this sometimes done for special events like Paris-Roubaix. It's designed for a one time use. Not three seasons of Cat 3 mid-pack dominance and summer time adventure rides. Besides, it makes the bike look like it has a "Prince Albert". Turn your filters off on your Google Image search and you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I think I might have a problem

Tubular tires are a tricky thing. See, at first I just wanted one set to race cross on. One thing leads to another and before I know it, my garage looks like I abducted Sven Nys and held him for ransom. I don't know what or where the exact tipping point was, but I know I'm way past it now. Working in the bike industry doesn't help me any. You'd think that having access to loads of cool stuff at a discount would be a good thing, but it's not. Do you have any idea then number of times I've bought stuff because it's marginally within my budget? If I had to pay retail for everything, I couldn't afford for it to have gotten so out of hand. Never listen to me if the words, "You can't afford not to!" come out of my mouth.

Most of the wheels I've gotten have been procured over time and I actually do save up for things I want. I came to the belief a long time ago that I'd save until I got what I wanted instead of buying the almost as good but cheaper version. Every time I'd go the cheaper route, I wound either breaking it or wearing out sooner, or I'd find reasons why I needed to upgrade. So when I find a component I like, I tend to put it on all of my bikes. Chris King is a prime example. I rock their headsets on almost all of my rigs (it will be all very soon) and I have, count them, 6 pairs of the hubs. If it seems like a lot of King hubs, you're right, but in my defense I started buying them in 1996 and they all are still running. Some of them were originally different spacings and almost all of have been laced to many different rims. What can I say. I like the product and I like the company.

Here's the breakdown on the cross wheels and tires I have.

These are one of two King hubbed, Reflex rimmed, cross wheels I own. Both sets have double butted spokes and alloy nipples laced up three cross. These have the ceramic coating on the sidewalls and are 28 hole. Both sets are shod with Challenge 34's. They are awesome, stiff, strong wheels that can take a beating.

These babies are the other set. They are 32 hole and are the hard anodized version of the rim. Once again, super tough and shod with the excellent Challenge 34. These are the hoops that go on the rigs in Southern Oregon and at courses like Barton Park. I'll have these longer than any other wheels in the cross stable. As soon as I can justify the effort, I'm going to glue a set of Vittoria Pave 27's onto them and spend all summer riding shitty roads in bliss.

The next two sets of wheels are monuments to my own vanity and lust. I always have a mixture of pride and embarassment every time I ride these. Carbon hoops with stupid expensive, but oh so sweet riding Dugasts.

This wheelset is one of the two carbon hoops I have and a prime example that getting deals in the industry can make you poor. They originally were to be just for sunny day fast courses and road racing, but they've proven to be tough, stiff, and pretty light. I've ran them in muck and mire and they haven't ever complained. I was using them in crits last year and went OTB at 30, sending the bike cartwheeling. They were still true even if I wasn't. I even loaned them to a friend who used them in KC at Nationals and he came back wanting to buy them off me. Part of the allure to them is the Dugast Rynos that are on them. Those tires flat rock. They hook up better than any other I've ridden and the casing allows for stupid low pressures to be used. I'm 195lb and will run them down to 32psi without worries. The only downside is that they have a bit more rolling resistance than some others.

This set is a new one. I sell the Pro-Lites and so I am using them as a demo set. Pro-Lite is a company that makes wheels for Ritchey, Reynolds, and a bunch others. They had some good ideas floating around and decided they needed a house brand. The goofy looking hubs make for shorter spokes and wider flange spacing. All in all, while not the lightest, they are plenty stiff and ride nice. I've been doing the crit thing on them this year to test them out before I get stupid and glue these bad boys to them.

Remember what I said about the Rynos not rolling all that fast? Well these sholdn't have that "problem"! They remind me of the old Michelin Sprint, which was a tire I loved. If they turnout to be good tires, I figure the problem I'm going to have is not riding them at places like Barton or some of the Southern Oregon stuff. Especially if it's dry like it was last year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cable Routing

Cable routing. People lose their minds over were their cables should be attached to the frames and how to actually attach them. It's yet another minutiae of the sport that makes it what cross so intriguing. From obsessing over tire pressures and casing count or the best way to run a single ring to sourcing obscure brake pads, it's a typical type of obsession that is so prevalent in the sport. I'm as bad as anyone else. I'll spend who knows how many hours and dollars "fixing" something so very tiny and then waste myself and my equipment in an hour long slog fest through the worst gunk and grime possible. If that doesn't kill the bike, I throw it on the roof rack for a four and a half hour drive home in the driving NW rain. So you can see how it makes perfect sense to invest in unobtanium bits and maintenance heavy components(this is a sarcastic comment, in case your internal meter is off). Over the last few years I've come to add weight back to the bike to get reliability up, and perhaps more importantly, time spent wrenching down.

This leads me to cable routing. I've ran all the configurations there are and can honestly say they all work pretty well and all have things that suck enough to drive one crazy. I'll also come out and admit that I don't think there is any "magic bullet" when it comes to cable routing. You'll wind up running whatever works best for you and has the least annoying downsides. I'm just going to lay out what I think are the pros and cons of each. I'm only going to go over how they run in regards to the frame routing. I'll leave the front brake routing's for another day as that is a topic unto itself. So here we go.

Down Tube Routing
1. It's the lightest as there is the bare amount of housing and only one cable stop per cable.
2. You don't need a pulley to run a road front derailleur. Road front derailleurs work better than mountain front derailleurs. It has to do with the leverage of the arm in relation to the cable pull of the shifters, plus the shape and profile of the cage. Bottom line, you can make a mountain front derailleur work OK, but not as well as a road front derailleur. Since no one makes a top pull road front derailleur, the only way to get one to work is either pave a pulley under the front derailleur on the seat tube which loops the cable back up to the derailleur, or run down tube routed cables. Never ind if you run a single ring. (Yet again, another posting and topic.)
3. No loop of housing at the rear derailleur pointing up at the sky for grit and grime to accumulate in a make shifting suck. Because the housing actually points down, it never fills up with slop and gets sticky. Or at least it takes a lot longer for it to happen.
4. It looks all classic and traditional. Not very MTBish.

1. The cables are a pain when it comes time to grab your down tube. They kind of shift around and feel like they are going to pinch your fingers as you're shouldering your rig.
2. More grass and crap seems to hang from them when it gets really messy. No big deal really, but it can make cleaning the bike take longer.
3. It looks all classic and traditional. Not very MTBish.

Top Tube Routing
1. It keeps the cables out of the way. Of your hands, of the slop coming off your front tire, everything.
2. It makes cleaning the bike a bit faster. This matters if you've a limited time to spend cleaning and wrenching before your next race. It really matters when you are in the pits and wrenching for someone else. I wonder if that's why you see so many PRO rigs running top tube routing.
3. It makes for a cleaner and smoother shoulder. I don't mean cleaner in that your gloves won't get dirty, but that the motion won't have any hanging up on cables.

1. The afore mentioned front derailleur woes. No big deal if you run a single front ring, but a bit of a pain if you run a double. If you run a triple, stop reading this and go out and remove your helmet mirror, seat bag, and water bottle cages. What you do isn't racing. This is about race bikes. An aside on the pulley. I don't mind them so much, but they are another moving part that has to be dealt with and on certain frames, can limit tire clearance at the seat tube.
2. Unless you like changing your cables every week (Yeah, that's right. Every week.) or run a sealed system like Gore, your shifting will suck balls in a very short amount of time. It happens because of that last loop of housing at the rear derailleur points up at the sky allowing all kinds of crap to run down the cable and deposit itself in the housing. Even though the cables are up and out of the way, any grime and slime that gets on the bike will be funneled right down into that last bit of housing. That's why pros get new cables and housing every week.

I've come to run the rear brake and rear derailleur on the top tube and use sealed cables. I like running a road front derailleur so my front derailleur cable goes on the down tube. I had the guy who built my bike use a single split stop at the 6:00 position on the down tube which keeps it as tucked up to the frame as possible. I think this offers me the right balance of performance and limited maintenance. If I had more limited wrenching skills (they're way mad) and never wanted to change cable and housing, then I'd have the cable routed on the down tube. If I had huge ducketts, I'd run regular cables on the top tube with a pulley and have my personal mechanic deal with changing them out on a constant basis. As is, I think running a sealed system is the way to go. It costs more up front, but the shifting lasts the whole season. Just don't use that Nokon crap. I'd have to hit you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Back From the Long Grey Void

We'll I'm back blogging again. Like a cold sore that won't go away, this blog is just about as reliable and annoying. This winter after cross, Blavco Suave was pretty fed up with the bike industry. After getting the shaft put to me by the "officials" at the Portland USGP, and then getting fired from my job in January, it was a little tough coming up with anything decent to say for a little while.

But then the snow was good and the time on government "unenjoyment" tit was nice and spending a bit more time with the little ones was fun and I was in a pretty good place. I still wasn't riding, so the no post habit continued to form and infest itself even deeper. It was creating a perfect cycle.

After the weather turned nice (Some of you are thinking this never happened. It has. Harden the Fuck Up!) I started riding and even training again. Only this time, solo was the theme of about 95% of Blanco's rides. Somewhat because I was still a little crusty with the bike industry, and just didn't want to field questions regarding my job status and "So what are yo going to do now?" type stuff.

But Blanco found out that he liked riding sans group better. Mostly because all the people who he usually rides with were all about the early season races and were already flying. It sucked going out for every ride and have it turn into the "Wednesday Worlds". I was still skiing part time and riding an even smaller part time and getting the wood put to Blanco in March wasn't my cup of tea.
Pros will tell you that they spend most of their training time alone because it allows them the best opportunity to maximize the type of ride they need to do that day. No responding to the groups seemingly random efforts and no drifting along safely ensconced in the pack when they should be busting their asses doing motor pacing. That's what the pros will tell you.

Blanco Suave can't tell you that. A training plan for me is that I'm planning to train, but plans change. What really makes training alone work best for me is that I don't allow myself to be slotted into my assigned pecking order of the pack during those "group rides". If I get thumped weekly by the same people, when it comes time to race, I already know where I'm gonna wind up, whether or not I actually deserve that placing. Trying to get your season to peak later than most people's is hard enough without spending the better part of your build up time getting discouraged.
The potential downside is that you can be deluding yourself in regards to your actual fitness. You can show up to the first race thinking your flying and get the old doors blown right off. But even if this happens, it's easier to justify your fitness and get back to getting better.

Every now and again this "ostrich head in the sand" style of training actually works for Blanco Suave. This last week Blanco turned the pedals in anger for the first time this year at the Thursday Night TT kickoff to the weekly crit series. I didn't exactly set any one's house 'a fire, but I turned out a pretty respectable result. Most importantly, all the other racers when I've ran into them this week, have commented on how strong the Blanco Suavester is riding. It seems like I caught them by surprise. Not that I'm actually all that strong right now, but they have nothing to gauge me against and automatically assume that if I haven't been getting thrashed on them since February, then I must not be riding too much. Bam! Instant insertion a few rungs further up the pecking order. Beware Blanco Suave, for he rides with the force of Solo!