The All-City Dropout Novella

If you’re not following what’s going on over on the All-City blog, you should be.

In short, Anna is going through the thought/design process that lead to the new sliding, singlespeed, disc-brake dropout on the Nature Boy Disc.  Here’s day one of the novella (the Prologue), and here is day two of the novella (Formative Days).  More posts are forthcoming, and here is the finished product:

(Pic from CX Magazine)

Why do I find this so interesting?

1)  Because it is good design, and I love good design.

2)  Because I love seeing the through process that others go through in their line of work, particularly when the thought process is logical, easy to understand, well-written and compelling.

3)  Because allen wrench.

I was super-excited to see this picture (Picture linked from All-City Blog/All-City Flickr account):

See that red thing?  That’s an allen wrench.  Why is that exciting?

Have you ever worked on a bike and found that you just cannot reach certain bolts with common tools?  I have bikes where, to get to the bolts that hold the rear brake rotors on, you have to use a 1/4″ drive allen socket, a papal blessing, a universal joint, and a 12″ extension.  You can try using one of those multi-angle allen wrenches, but you’ll just end up rounding off the allen screw…and then you’re screw‘d.  It is incredibly frustrating to work on a piece of equipment where it is clear that the designer had not contemplated future maintenance.  I’ve changed oil in cars where the canister oil filter is located in such a location that you cannot change the filter without dumping oil all over the engine / subframe.  It sucks.

What I love about the All-City novella is this:

You’ll notice that at every point in my computer model, I have allen wrenches drawn in.  You have to be able to get your tools in there.  Have to.  So it is something we consider right off the bat.

That’s quoting Anna.

If you read the rest of the posts, you’ll see that she wants it to function awesome and look awesome, and being as rad as awesome.  And the solution that she develops is both aesthetically pleasing, highly-functional, and likely to be durable and useful.  But at the heart of it, if you buy this bike, you won’t need a toolbox full of tools to adjust the sliding dropout.  No universal joints or wobble-head allen sockets.  Nothing exotic…just an allen wrench.

I love these posts because allen wrench.  And I think it’s super-awesome that in modeling the parts, the designer actually modeled them in CAD with a tool in place, to make sure that it would fit, and work, properly.

Also, while I’m customarily not a steel guy, day-umm.  These bikes are looking good.

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2014 Moots Psychlo X Specifications

At the outset, let me say that this bike was conceived to be the ultimate bike of its type.  I carefully considered the experience that I had with my Salsa Vaya Ti, with my first Moots, and with every bike I’ve ever ridden or seen.  So where did this come from?

The first Moots I had was intended to be the last word in gravel cycling.  I loved so many things about it…the amazing ride quality, the short chainstays, the zippiness, and many of the components.  What prompted a change was the recall of the SRAM Red 22 Hydro brakes that I was running on it.  I was excited about SRAM Red Hydro for a year before it came out, and blogged about it a lot, anticipating its release.  I enjoyed it while I had it.  But the massive failure and recall caused me to question the product.  I don’t want to use something if I cannot rely on it.  My gravel bike gets abused–I take great care of it, but it sees abusive conditions.  I wanted flawless reliability.  Unfortunately, that got me thinking about moving away from SRAM and over to Shimano.

But in the realm of Shimano, I really don’t like the way that the brifter moves to shift.  (With mechanical Shimano, there is a small release button under the brifter to shift one way, and you move the whole brake lever to shift the other way).  There have been times when I’ve tried to brake with gloves on, with a mechanical Shimano shifter, and had the brake lever move inboards, away from my hand.  That’s a disconcerting feeling.  I knew I wanted to stay with hydro brakes, I knew I wanted a bulletproof drivetrain, and I knew I wasn’t wild about Shimano mechanical brifters.  I had Shimano Ultegra on the Ridley Noah, and the brifters were my only complaint.

That lead to the decision to go to Di2.  I rode Di2 in Solvang last year and enjoyed it greatly.  Di2 with hydro brakes made this an easy decision for the drivetrain.  But then, what Di2 to use?

I compared Ultegra and Dura Ace, and in the brifters and derailleurs, I couldn’t find a difference that justified going to Dura Ace.  I saw the Ultegra up close and in person, and really liked it.  The weight difference was insignificant, and I couldn’t see a change in shifting that merited going to D/A.  That said, when I looked at cassettes and cranksets, I could see a difference.  While I’m partial to the dark gray finish on the Ultegra cranks, there is a substantial weight difference between Ultegra and Dura Ace cranks and cassettes.  So this bike was destined to have Ultegra shifters/brakes/derailleurs, and Dura Ace cranks and cassette.  The cassette is the new 11 speed, titanium/carbon/aluminum version.  It is pretty amazing to look at.

Why Di2 over mechanical Shimano?  If you talk to the Shimano peeps, they’ll tell you that other than keeping the battery charged, Di2 is more reliable, more durable, and more weather/crud resistant than mechanical shifting is.  That interested me.  Also, I hate chain rub…and the self-trimming feature on the Di2 really appeals to me.  Also, it’s amazing.  I like amazing.

Once the decision to go to Di2 was made, that posed some questions.  I could run external wiring on the Moots, but that would be ugly.  It would not create an aesthetic worthy of the rest of the bike.  And having ridden the Moots for a while and put some good, hard miles on it, I had learned a few things that I’d like to change.  I wanted to keep the short chain stays, for sure.  But while I loved the high BB / fast head tube angle and how dynamic they made the handling as compared to the Vaya, they did mean that the bike could be a handful on loose gravel.  I didn’t want to lose all of that feeling, but dropping the BB just a pinch, coupled with slightly slacker head tube angles…those were changes I would be interested in.  Additionally, I had sorted out my preferred bar height, and had to run 20mm of spacers to get there.  From a purely aesthetic perspective, I wanted a slammed stem.

In talking with Jason C, the wizard of Moots, he told me about changes in the 2014 geometry.  The head tube went up 1cm and got a little slacker, and the BB went down about .8cm.  Those were all done while maintaining the exact same chain stay length.  In addition, Moots went to a new seat tube design that increased strength and prevented some issues they were having on some bikes (although I still think the old pinch bolt design is prettier).

I talked about going +1cm over the stock head tube geometry (in order to get a stem with no spacers underneath), and was advised that from a ‘happiness of your headset’ perspective, the ideal setup would be to have 1cm of spacers above the headset.  That meant that the new geometry, with a 1cm spacer, would fit perfectly and would be ideal for the headset.  So instead of doing a +1 on the head tube, I’m running the stock head tube 2014 geometry and will be running 1cm of spacer.  (I still need to trim the steerer tube, but wanted to get some miles in to confirm geometry first).

Going Di2 meant that if I went to a new frame, I could do all internal routing.  Internal battery, internal cables.  The Di2 goes wiring goes into the down tube and pops out: a) at the bottom of the seat tube (for the front derailleur); and, b) at the rear of the drive-side chain stay (for the rear derailleur).  It is a beautiful design.  Charging the battery is done by connecting to the little junction box under the stem; no seat post removal required.  The only external line on the bike is the hydro brake line running to the rear brake, and the routing of that line is bea-u-tiful.

So if I was doing a new frameset, go Minotaur, right?  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to run 42s in the back?

Well, no.  I decided to skip the Minotaur option.  I’m a light rider, and I’m happy with my 34-35mm tire in the rear.  Going Minotaur means extending the chain stays an inch or more…and that’s in Vaya territory.  I wanted to keep the bike light, quick and zippy.

So:

  • Ultegra / Dura-Ace combo on the drivetrain for reliability, functionality, amazingness, and mix for lightweight.  Ultegra hydro brakes because hydro is superior in terms of longevity, stopping power, modulation, reliability, and resistance to unnecessary maintenance as compared to mechanical disc.  Disc because disc is, in my opinion, far and away superior to any other setup for gravel riding.
  • Moots: PX frame with 2014 geometry for worldsbestgravelbike status.  I added dropouts for a rear rack (future-proofing) and a 3rd bottle cage, plus internal Di2 routing and custom brake line routing.
  • ENVE fork (carryover from previous Moots) because there is nothing better in the world.  Tapered steerer and QR.  Tapered steerer because it is the new standard (you try finding a good disc-brake, straight-steerer carbon fork).  QR because I really don’t see the need for a thru-axle on a gravel bike.
  • Chris King headset, because it’s the best.
  • I wanted to do a CK bottom bracket, but we found that the threads on the BB were too long and interfered with the internal Di2 wiring.  Accordingly, we looked at a Shimano BB.  The Dura Ace was a smidge lighter, but had smaller seals.  I went Ultegra for longer-term durability in gravel grinding.
  • Eriksen seatpost (carryover) because it is fantastic and I cannot envision anything better.
  • ENVE 44cm compact road drop bars (carryover), again because they are the best in the world.
  • ENVE 29XC wheelset with DT Swiss DT240s hubs, laced with Sapim CX-Ray wheels built for me by Chad at North Central Cyclery because they are the best mix of durability, lightness, reliability, aerodynamics, and pure hotness available in a tubeless setup.
  • Bontrager CX0 tires, tubeless with Stan’s sealant, as I believe that the CX0s are the best “fast light” gravel tire out there for tubeless use.  I wouldn’t use them for extensive mud, and they’re not a 10,000 mile tire.  But for fast and light, they cannot be beaten by anything currently available for tubeless setup.
  • Moots Ti Stem (carryover) because Moots.
  • Ergon SM3 Pro mountain saddle because it is the most comfortable, compliant, supportive saddle I’ve ever found.
  • King ti cages because they’re the best.  Blasted to match the bike’s finish, of course.
  • DTSwiss ratcheting skewers, again because they’re the best, and because they’re the easiest to use.  Ti because titanium.
  • Crank Brothers Candy pedals.  I favor Crank Brothers on my gravel bikes, as I like to wear mountain shoes (for walking, creek crossing, etc.), as they’re super self-cleaning, very light, and dead reliable.  I maintain them twice a year, and ride the dickens out of them.  I run Candys as the small platform helps with efficiency on a gravel bike.  (On mountain bikes, I run eggbeaters).  The Candys are ultralight, and I prefer their feel to SPD.  In my opinion, they’re the best that there is for gravel use.  Also, I can wear boots with Crank Brothers cleats, when it’s cold out.

I haven’t had a chance to put miles on this bike so as to enable an informed review.  That will come in the near future.  The few bits of color are red throughout.

Drivetrain

Rear Derailleur.  (Clean, eh?)

Shimano Hydro brakes.

Front Derailleur.

Front Derailleur Wiring.

New style seat post clamp.

Brainz!

Ohhhh.  That finish.

Downtube wiring port.

Clean brake-line routing.

Nice hood profile.  Chad built up the gel under the grips at the rear of the hoods, to add rider comfort.

Front tire clearance for days.  (These are 38c tires).

Hawt.

Seatstay clearance for days.  (34c tires).

Chainstay clearance.  38c tires will just fit without rubbing.  35c or 36c tires would fit comfortably.

XT 6 bolt rotors (XTR are only available in center lock).

Cockpit ENVE.

The whole shebang.

You knew this was coming.

This is, in my humble opinion, the most amazing gravel bike ever assembled–at least for my purposes, and again courtesy of North Central Cyclery.  There is not one part that I can see to upgrade, change or improve upon.  Big words for a bike that is largely unridden thus far, I know.  But this is truly a dream bike.

Tobie and Chad were exceptionally patient in dealing with my thoughts, questions and revisions.  Every component, down to every nut and bolt, was discussed, optimized, and selected with care.  The brake lines are the perfect length.  Every thread was dressed and anti-seized (or locktite’d).  Their level of attention to detail was only matched by my retentiveness.  Seriously, those guys know how to spec, design and build a bike.

There is nowhere to go from here, but out onto a gravel road.

AHAHTBM

Stevil Kinevil, being a generally awesome person, posted up this today.  In his post, he reprints an email that I had sent him, asking him to share some of his internet fame with the new Axletree kit that I’ve blogged about extensively on here, and over on the Axletree site.

Not realizing that he was just going to republish my email, I started with a link to this blog.  My email to him was about Axletree, and while I certainly appreciate a link to my blog being published, my primary goal with contacting AHTBM was getting the word out about the Axletree kits.  So if you’re jumping the link to this site from AHTBM and only have a few minutes, instead of lingering here, jump over to Axletree and see what we’re doing.

Take a look at our 2013 accomplishments.

Take a look at the 2014 Blbbrbk.

And then take a look at the Kits.

And then order a kit.

If you have more time to browse around here, great.  Do so, and let me know what you think.  But if your time is limited, go directly to Axletree…because it’s awesome.

Stevil is pretty awesome too, and I’m very thankful that he picked up my request and ran with it.  Malt liquor and local bike advocacy.  They go together like…………

Anyhow, thanks Stevil.  You rock!

All Hail All Hail The Black Market.

Thomas Barraga is an Idiot, and So Are You.

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about the anti-bike comments coming out of an idiotic low-level politician from West Islip, NY.  If you haven’t seen it:

Here’s the summary: “Your mom was hit by a car because she had the audacity to ride upon our car-roads.  Reality: bikes don’t belong on roads.  Hope she doesn’t die, but if she does, it’s because she rode a bike.”

The cycling world’s reaction to this is predictably dire.  People for Bikes is encouraging people to send lettersen masse, to Barraga.  The blogosphere is frothing at the mouth.  A friend of mine encouraged me to write an Open Letter to Barraga (in the style of past Open Letters), sharing with him my perspective on his commentary.  I’m not going to do that.  Here’s why:

Thomas Barraga is an idiot, and so are you.

Sure.  Focus media attention on what he’s saying.  Force him to make some form of capitulation and apology.  That’ll show him, right?

Wrong.

What you see here is a secret glimpse into the mind of a politician.  You know what?  There’s probably a surprising amount of people in his district, maybe even a majority of people, who agree with him.  There are undoubtedly people who think that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and that those who are hit or killed by cars had it coming to them.  I’ve personally heard other humans react to car vs. bike accidents in that fashion: “he shouldn’t have been riding on the road.”  The only reason we got this secret glimpse is because this politician is low-level enough to not have a handler or staffer there to censor his letter.  His viewpoint is shocking because he put it into a letter (to a kid whose mom was injured by a car, nonetheless), but it isn’t shocking overall–it represents the consensus of a significant number of people in this country.  Clearly, between us folks that read this blog, he’s an idiot–and demonstrably wrong.  So what do we do about it?

There are a lot of people and organizations out there telling us that what we should do about it is start writing letters to Thomas Barraga.  Maybe we should have some public gatherings.  Maybe we should do a critical mass ride and piss off every motorist in the community.  Maybe we should “take the lane!”  Maybe we should get a pro-bike politician to come out and chastise Barraga.

And that, my friends, is why you’re an idiot.  (No, not you.  I mean, if you read this blog, you’re clearly not an idiot.  I’m talking to the Royal You.)

The approach that the cycling community has taken for the past…forever…is not working.  What Barraga wrote is what a lot of people think (but are too smart to put down on paper).  And even if you force him to apologize, you probably won’t change his mind.  Sure, I could write a letter to Barraga and criticize his insensitivity to a child’s concern for his mother.  I could talk about the positive economic benefits of cycling.  I could remind him that when he talks about motorists ignoring street signs, he’s defending people who are violating the law.  But that’s not going to accomplish anything.

So what do we do?  If the tried and true methods have failed, how do we move forward?

My answer is pretty simple.  My answer is Axletree.  My answer is starting locally to undertake actions that make cycling safer.  My answer is to work towards actions that improve the public perception of cyclists.  My answer is to create group rides are fun and enjoyable, and that have responsible routing–and to have expectations of the cyclists participating that we will ride responsibly and predictably, and minimize adverse interactions with motorists.  My answer is to go back to that old saying of “Share the Road”, and to actually adhere to that.  Share the road, not take the road.

My answer is a lot lower profile.  It isn’t nearly as sexy to publicize.  It doesn’t grab headlines as well.  It involves things like signing (and then living up to) a Rider Pledge.  If the old way of doing things was working, I’d be completely in support of it.  But it isn’t working.  We have to try something new.

And do we let Mr. Barraga off the hook?  Of course not.  He needs to be talked to.  But who should talk to him?  A special interest bike lobby that tells fifty thousand people to send him angry emails?  Or should it be the Axletree of West Islip, that comes in and shows him that local business owners depend on cyclists, and shows him the myriad of reasons why he needs to change his perspective?

Axletree is working to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in our community–we’re putting into place anti-harassment ordinances to protect cyclists, and we’re meeting with our local community leaders proactively.

So am I going to write a letter to Thomas Barraga?  No.  He’s an idiot, and I’m sure he’s getting, and summarily ignoring, a lot of mail these days.  What am I going to do?  I’m going to talk to my local politicians and ensure that they don’t share his views.  And then I’m going to go for a bike ride, and try my hardest to ensure that I’m building a positive perception of cyclists.  Firing off an Open Letter to Barraga would be a lot easier.  But it’s not working…if you think it is, then you’re a part of the problem just like Barraga.

Absenteeism and Anonymity.

I’ve been absent from the blog for about a week. Professional and personal obligations have been taking my time. I’m still riding, but I’ve been dealing with some work stuff, some health stuff, some life stuff…and have been busy.

I am equal parts frustrated by the level of disclosure I have on the blog.  On one hand, it is known enough and tied to me enough that I am somewhat limited in what I write about at times.  My voice isn’t as free and open as I’d like, because while there are things I’d like to talk and write about–things that impact me as a person and as a cyclist–some of these things I keep to myself to avoid the cast of them back upon me in the public realm.  In a lot of ways, I sometimes wish that the blog was either anonymous, or that I had a life that permitted me to write whatever I wanted, without fear of consequence or repercussion.  I’m not saying I’d ever be Stevil, but having that degree of freedom–that’s something I aspire to in the future.

In the interim, I’ve also been up to my elbows in Axletree.  If you haven’t ordered your kit, do so now.  Seriously.  The order is about to go in.

What else is on the burner?  Nothing much.  A little of this…

A little of that.

Axletree Kits

Here they are!

We’ve been working on these for quite a while, so we hope you like them.

AXLETREE FINAL KIT

We’re going to elaborate on the story of the kit, but if you’re not into reading, or if you just want to give us your money right now, Click here to order.

The Design

Although the design for the kit is pretty simple, the elements of the jersey are more interesting with some explanation. At least we think so. The first thing you notice is the leaf. That leaf is from a White Oak (Quercas Alba), the state tree of Illinois. White Oak trees are common in Hopkins Park here in DeKalb, where we host our annual cyclocross race. The Hopkins Park CX is a cornerstone event in the history of Axletree and North Central Cyclery and the oaks are part of the communal memory of that event.

We decided to use a hi-resolution photo of the leaf on the jersey to stand apart from 2D designs.

It is hard to see in the image, but the side panels are printed in dark green. On the right panel, you’ll find a section of the DeKalb Bike Ordinance. Axletree was an integral part of rewriting the local code to include some unique and forward thinking anti-harassment language that clearly defines the riders’ rights and the legal penalty of physically or verbally harassing cyclists. We’re proud of this accomplishment, so we’ll wear it on our sides.

The left panel is the Axletree Rider Pledge. We created the pledge to ask cyclists to commit to better riding habits, exhibiting good character on the bike, and building community. We are asking everyone who purchases a jersey to first sign the pledge. We hope you make us look good while we help you look good. If you find yourself on the aggressive/elitist end of the rider spectrum, or if you love yelling at cars, or if you were born with ten middle fingers, this might not be the jersey for you. There are plenty of other options out there for you.

Many people ask us why we chose to do a black jersey and the answer is simple. We like them. We have white panels in the upper portions to keep the jerseys cool in the sun, but black panels in the areas that you might commonly find mud stains, soiled pockets, and beer bellies.

The Make

Capo Cycling makes a very nice product. Working with a number of custom companies over the years, we’ve come to place a value on well-made apparel. There are always cheaper options, but we like the idea of selling something that is a pleasure to own. We believe the finished quality of these kits will merit the price. The jersey is Capo’s Corsa Diavolo cut. It is a not a race cut, but it is not a baggy sport cut. It’s in-between. The sizing will run small, so when ordering, consider sizing up one size. (They’re made in Italy).

We are ordering a run of Women’s jerseys, but no bibs, because those are confusing.

The bib shorts will be Capo’s SuperCorsa bib short with their D-4 EIT chamois. These too might run one size small, so order one size up.

The Deal

We want you to buy a kit. There isn’t much money in these, but what little profit we do make will go straight towards our advocacy efforts and making our events great in 2014. Axletree is not an exclusive club, so the jerseys are available for purchase to anyone who is willing to sign the pledge and be a good advocate for cycling. You can download the pledge here, sign it, and send it our way (details on Kit Order Page).

The Jerseys are $89 and the Bibs are $129. The price for the full kit is $200 if you pre-order and pre-pay.  When you buy the kit, you also get a free pair of Axletree socks. This deal is only valid for pre-ordered kits.

Anyone who purchases an Axletree jersey is also awarded free entry in the following events: The Gravel Metric, The Night Bison, BLBBRBK, Almanzo, Ragnarok, Grumpy Grind, and any group ride.

Now that you’re totally convinced this is a good idea, head to the KITS Order Page.