Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tales From The Shop: They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

  Note: This entry first appeared on Guitar Ted's personal blog dated 11/30/11

Have you ever wondered why it was that your old bike when you were a kid hardly ever needed air in the tires? Have you noticed lately that tubes for bicycles, (that is- if you still use tubes), are seemingly smaller than you remember? There's a reason for all of that.

First of all, tires were a lot heavier than they are today. No......a lot heavier as in waaaay more than you think. We get to repair a lot of bicycles at the shop where I work, and there are a lot of oldies being drug out of the woodwork. Not 70's bikes either, I'm talking about 1960's and previous stuff, like this Carlisle tire I have pictured here.

There is an order of magnitude to how much lighter things have gotten in the past 40-50 years in regard to many of the bicycles average folk use. The first level was achieved when we got the "lightweight" bike boom in the 70's. Remember Schwinn Continentals and Varsitys? Yes, they were "lightweights" for the day. The 80's and 90's came and things got even lighter, but that's another story, and I think you get the picture here.

The point I am trying to make is that the heavier tires didn't leak air as fast as the lighter, thinner tires of today. Then there are the tubes that go inside of these tires. Once American Made, they are also much lighter and thinner than before.

Old tube on the left...
The Carlisle tire had its original 26" X 2.125" tube inside of it. For fun, I compared it to what goes for a 26" X 2.125" tube today. See anything different here?

There is more rubber in that old tube than there is in the replacement tire I put on the old rim! The wall thickness of this old tube is just about akin to what the thicker part of a thorn-proof tube has for rubber. Obviously, what passed for 2.125" in the 50's and 60's is not what we have for that measurement today. (Gee....I wonder if my old elementary school rulers were actually longer too?)

The combination of really heavy, thick tire and really heavy thick tube resulted in a product that obviously weighed far more than similar combinations today, took more effort to ride, and had far worse rolling resistance than modern tires and tubes. The upside here was that stuff lasted forever, (to wit: This tire and tube could still feasibly be ridden), and you hardly ever had flats or needed to maintain air pressure. Bad ride quality, more effort to pedal, but dad-gummit, that stuff lasted fer-ever, and I never had ta put air in them thar tires neither!

Oh how the times have changed!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Keepin' Busy

Every year around this time we find ourselves looking for things to do to keep busy.  There are the usual suspects like cleaning and organizing that get put off for far too long during the season, but it is always nice when some sort of a project comes along that requires some special attention and experimenting that can keep us busy working on bikes.

Enter Mike's randonneuring rig.  This is a 1985 Trek 510 that Mike purchased from our shop owner's personal collection last year and got it set up to tackle really long rides! After a season of brevets, Mike wanted to make some changes.  He wanted to fit bigger tires if possible, replace his headset and seat post, and install a front rack to support his beautiful Gilles Berthoud handlebar bag. The combination of wider tires and adding a front rack meant that a lot of experimenting was in order.  The goal was 32mm tires with all of his other accessories.

Lots going on near the fork crown!

After lots of experimenting and seemingly great ideas gone wrong we were able to get the bike set up to Mike's specifications. The clearances were pretty cozy, especially on the front end.  The Velo Orange front rack was pretty well thought out and included a braze-on on the underside to attach a fender to.  This allowed the front of the fender to be pulled up away from the tire.

The 2Nut.  Chris King's first model from 1976
still made today!

I really enjoyed the component selection for this bike.  Chris King headsets are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are perfect for bikes like these that are going to see lots and lots of miles. A 10 year warranty on a bike component is pretty rare, but these headsets carry one.  The drivetrain is an Ultegra/Dura Ace 9 speed downtube shifter set up and the Dia Compe center pull brakes really helped with tire clearance. While the bike does have a great overall look, all of the parts were selected first and foremost for function. Mike needs parts that he can rely on for rides as long as 1200K, and having a straight forward 9 speed drivetrain and durable parts ensures many miles of worry free riding. Oh yeah, the total bike weight came in right around 25 pounds.  Pretty impressive for an older steel frame with metal fenders, front rack, and a full generator light setup. 

Speaking of generator lights, I have become a believer in this set up. The lights integrate beautifully into your set up and there is never a need to worry if your lights are charged or if your batteries are fresh. They are always there when you need them and they are as bright as most rechargeable lights out there. On Mikes bike we worked hard to get the wires hidden.  We used some rubber plugs for a secure hold where the wire entered and left the fender and secured the wire under the fender giving a nice clean look.  Come ask us about lighting and hub options that are out there.  It's really a great system.

If you have anything sitting around you have been thinking about working on, maybe an old bike you want to restore or some experimenting with changes to your set up now is the time to do it.  We have the time and it gives time until next season to test everything out.  Shoot even if you just want to come get some advice or just have us help with part of a project we would love to help.  It sure beats doing inventory on spoke nipples and brake ferrules :-) 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Product Profile: Salsa Cycles Mukluk

At Europa Cycle and Ski, we have several kinds of bicycles, but maybe none quite as unique and attention getting as the Salsa Cycles Mukluk. Let's take a look......

My personal Mukluk: Stock Muks differ slightly.
The Mukluk was born out of a need for cyclists to be able to traverse terrain that ordinarily would be impossible on any other bicycle. Places that feature things like snow, mud, and sand are all types of terrain that the Mukluk would excel at covering.

Many people try to pigeon hole these bikes into the "winter/snow bike' category, but they are not just for winter. Not by a long shot.

So, just what is going on here with these tires? Well, think "flotation", and you've pretty much nailed it. There is also the side benefit of traction and comfort that come along with these nearly 4 inch wide tires. The key to unlocking all the potential here is to use really low air pressures. I'm talking single digit low! I typically run somewhere around 7-9psi, but I have ridden down to 5psi and slightly below that. The softer and looser the conditions, the lower the pressure goes!

Going places, (like the beach/lake side above), where I couldn't normally pedal is a whole lot of fun. I have ridden sand and muck that would have stopped a normal mountain bike dead in its tracks. Of course, snow is another thing the Mukluk can tackle, and this leads to a cycling season that doesn't have to stop when the weather turns cold and snowy. I like that!

If you are interested, the shop has a Mukluk 3 model on display now. Come by and check it out, and if I am around, I will gladly tell you about some of my rides. The Mukluk has become one of my favorite bikes for anytime I want to go exploring and have fun!

Want to learn more right now? Go to Salsa Cycles' Mukluk 3 page here.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Head Mechanic: Guitar Ted
Hello! (And why this now?) 

 For many years, I thought that the shop where I have been wrenching at, Europa Cycle and Ski, ought to have a blog where we could communicate with our customers in the way that many have been accustomed to these past years- namely, by digital means where you the rider are, when you the rider want to check us out.

For whatever reasons, despite much prodding and cajoling, that never happened on an official level. So this is a disclaimer: This blog is not sanctioned by Europa Cycle and Ski and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of its owner. 

So, there is that. Now, for what the purposes here are: We strive to communicate with anyone that cares to check in on what we are stoked about, what is "new" at the shop, and to share ride tips, and tech tips. We are not going all "pirate radio" to slag our employer, or cause mayhem. That isn't our desire at all.

So, check out the blog, see what we have going on at Europa Cycle and Ski, and maybe stop in at the shop when you can. We'll have the coffee and tea ready for you.