Monday, November 24, 2014

Bike Safety 101: I Like Bikes, But . . .

As the next installment of the "Bike Safety 101" series, I'd like to give a synopsis of a vintage bicycle safety film that probably left its viewers with the following message: I like bikes, but why can't they just get the hell off the road and stay out of my way? In fact that's practically the title of this 1978 film, I Like Bikes, But . . ., produced for General Motors by Centron Films of Lawrence, Kansas. Centron produced approximately 100 educational films between 1947 and 1981, and was probably best known for their "social hygiene" films such as The Bully, The Snob, and The Trouble Maker -- although my personal favorite is the VD film The Innocent Party, in which Don loses his virginity to a "loose" girl from the city, then later discovers he has some kind of strange sore . . . down there.

I Like Bikes, But. . .
Perhaps the most condescendingly idealized car/bike image ever put on film. The car-bike love bump. When cars hit cyclists, it's because they love them.
If I had to guess, I'd say the intended audience of this film was not bicycle riders, but rather young Drivers' Education students working on getting their drivers license, hopeful that they'd never have to ride a bicycle again. The film combines live action scenes with cheap animation of a riderless bicycle named Ike -- who repeats again and again "I like bikes." Ike is presumably the narrator of the film, but throughout the whole thing we see Ike creating havoc and headaches for motorists everywhere he goes. For roughly the first 5 minutes of this 13 minute film, we see clip after clip of people of various ages riding bikes of practically every type -- including a unicycle and an obligatory "old timey" penny farthing.

The penny-farthing was a minor blip in the evolution of bicycles and basically extinct since the 1880s -- so why are some people unable to think of bicycles without picturing one?
Welcome back, Mr. Kotter. "I like bikes."
In the title sequence, a little kid falls off his bike in the road, almost disappearing under the bumper of a car . . .
. . . then the driver screams at kid for slowing him down.  I like bikes?
From that point, the film focuses on little Lisa as she discovers bicycles. By the way, little Lisa was a toddler in the car above -- riding in the front without a safety seat -- thank you GM!

Lisa gets her first bike at age 5. "I like bikes."
Lisa at 10. "I like bikes."
Lisa at 15. "She likes bikes, but she loves cars."
Next the narrator asks "When Lisa gets her license, will she change her likes? Will she still like bikes?"
She's got her license now. . . .
Cue the music from a low-budget slasher film:
Her first night "solo" in the car, she runs over her bike! It's an incredibly appropriate metaphor in a society that sees cars as "real" transportation, and bicycles as toys for kids -- or maybe for "fringe-dwelling" adults who are too weird to drive.
At this point, it's more than 5 minutes into the 14 minute movie, and there's still been nothing of substance. But no, Lisa really doesn't seem to like bikes anymore. In fact, now that she's a driver, she's quickly discovering all the reasons why bicycles are so infuriating. The film goes on to give us all the reasons why drivers are basically justified in their anti-bike hostility. For one, they're so hard to see! Yeah - but if they were easier to see, then drivers wouldn't have that awesome "get out of jail free" card when they hit one. "I couldn't see him! He came out of nowhere!"

By the way, Ike the bike likes to rhyme:

I like bikes, but they're so hard to see. Oh yeah, they're so hard to see. Look at me! I blend with fog. I hide behind dogs. And when the thunder crashes, I'm out there makin' splashes. I lurk in drives. And when the sun gets in your eyes, Surprise! Oh yes I'm hard to see, so please watch out for me.

Here's one of those "hard to see" cyclists. Lisa narrowly avoids creaming him in the most wide-open, visible intersection in America.

Another "hard to see" cyclist almost gets doored by Lisa. Actually, the way she throws her door open, even with car traffic coming, she's lucky another car doesn't rip the thing off.

And then there's the fact that bicycles can crash so "easily." "A bike is easily upset," we are told -- and they're usually inconsiderate enough to do it in front of cars so they can be a real nuisance.

A bike is easily upset. You bet. It isn't only when I'm wet that I'm easily upset. Just let me try to travel on gravel. Or tangle my chain, or run across a roadway drain. Or fallen leaves. Sheesh! What a pain! Little things upset us!
Another inconsiderate cyclist wipes out on some slick pavement -- probably just to inconvenience drivers like Lisa. 

And then, unlike cars and drivers who ALWAYS pay attention to where they're going and what they're doing -- those pesky cyclists never look where they're going.

Why can't we seem to notice that a sign beside the road was meant for us! The signs all point the way to accident prevention. Oh why oh why oh why can't we pay attention. Until the day we do, I'm afraid it's up to you.
An unruly mob of elementary school students cause chaos for drivers in the school zone. Again I ought to mention that you should pay attention, because sometimes we don't. 
I like bikes. Gliding fancy free. I like bikes. They're number one with me. I like their style. They make me smile. They suit me to a T. But safety-wise please realize you NEVER should trust me.

Untrustworthy Bastards! Unlike a nice, trustworthy corporation like GM that would never put profits ahead of public safety, regardless of anything that commie Ralph Nader claimed.

Any Drivers' Ed students who watched this probably got their drivers licenses and never considered riding a bike again. I wonder how many of them followed Lisa's example and promptly ran over their bikes?

I Like Bikes, But . . . doesn't seem to be out there on YouTube. But I've uploaded a copy of it here -- Enjoy!

video

Friday, November 21, 2014

Exclusive Sneak Peek: New Curtis Odom Hubs

That artisan creator of some of the most beautiful hubs available today, Curtis Odom, has been at the drawing board working on a brand-new hubset that bridges classic and modern elements in a light, strong, beautiful, and serviceable package: at least temporarily known as the E13 Hubs. Though still in the design and computer rendering phase and not yet in production, the hubs look like they would look at home on just about any bike, old or new. Curtis was kind enough to share a sneak peek at what he's working on.

"The point of this hub is to bridge the gap to the rest of the cycling world, or at least more of it, but still retain some nice styling," Curtis told me. He added that the hubs would be a little lighter than some of his more retro-inspired hubs -- a "reasonable weight, but not ultra-weight weenie," he said.

From a technical standpoint, the bearings will really set these hubs apart from a lot of what's available currently. Curtis has designed these hubs around an "E-series" bearing, also known as "Magneto" bearings because of their use in Lucas racing magnetos on vintage racing motorcycles and cars. "It just so happens to be the same type of bearing used by Maxi-Car on their famous hubs," Odom said. Maxi-Car hubs, highly prized by cyclotourists for their smoothness and durability, used E9 and E10 bearings for their front and rear hubs, respectively. Those same E9 and E10 bearings have also been available as on option on Curtis Odom's current hub models. For clarification, the number represents the size in millimeters of the inside diameter of the bearing.

"A proper bearing for bicycle hubs"
But for these hubs, Odom has upped the size to 13 mm (E13) to increase durability. They will also have oversize aluminum axles to help save weight. Curtis describes the magneto bearings as an open angular contact bearing -- "a proper bearing for bicycle hubs!" he added. But another element is that the bearings are completely user-serviceable. Yes, that means occasional cleaning and re-greasing -- but it also bodes well for long life. From my retrogrouch-y perspective, I'll always choose serviceability over so-called "maintenance free."

It was a cool idea then, and still is.
Another well-thought out detail in the hubs is the thread-in dust caps. It's another element inspired by the classic Maxi-Cars -- but improved with a somewhat familiar "twist." The dust caps will have a reverse spiral machined into them that is designed to clear contaminates and water from the hub. Familiar? Yes, it's a trick borrowed from old Campagnolo bottom bracket cups. Curtis says he is also exploring some other types of non-contact seals to improve the life and performance of the new hubs.


Curtis is currently working on a couple versions of the hub, with some other variations possible. A light version for more "sporting" applications would be equipped with aluminum axles, semi low flanges, and an aluminum cassette body. A "rando" version would have steel axles, semi high flanges, and a titanium or steel cassette body. Solid "track nut" type axles might be a possible option for seriously heavy duty use. Curtis is considering other options, such as a disc-brake version if the demand is there. It is also likely that a track hub set would be built around the E13 bearings, which he says are ideal for the track. Would there be a version for thread-on freewheels? No plans for that at this time, as Odom gets so few orders for freewheel-type hubs as it is. Someone looking for hubs for a truly vintage bike might be more interested in some of the more traditional-styled Curtis Odom designs, anyhow.

For the time being, the hubs are un-named. Referring to them as the E13 is something of a "working title." Given that some of the inspiration seems to come from the classic Maxi-Car hubs, I think a name that somehow recalls that bit of design DNA might be appropriate. Any ideas on that?

There isn't info about the new hubs posted to the Curtis Odom website as of this writing, and some elements of the design may still change a bit before they become reality. Curtis says, "I am not to the point of making chips from bars of aluminum yet, but close." For someone looking for some great hubs that bridge the past and the present in a long-wearing, durable, and serviceable package, it may be worth keeping an eye out for these.

Thanks for the preview, Curtis!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cool Bike Gear from House Industries

Looking for fun holiday gifts for the cyclist in your life -- or even yourself?

House Industries, primarily known as a creator of fonts or typefaces, also offers a lot of funky items that share the company's groovy and offbeat design aesthetic, from art prints, to housewares, to bicycling accessories.
Several cap designs and colors are available.

Last year, House Ind. teamed up with framebuilding legend Richard Sachs to sponsor his cyclocross team and to produce jerseys and other cool bike-related items. They also updated the graphics on Sachs' bicycles. Since then, the line of bicycling items has grown to include caps, shirts, musettes, water bottles, and more. Even bicycle frames, complete bikes, and some components are available with the House Industries designs. Some component collaborations include Brooks leather saddles, Paul Components brakes, and T.A. Specialties cranks.

The frames, built by Waterford Precision Cycles in Wisconsin, are a light-touring or maybe randonneur-style frame, with tidy-looking lugged construction and True Temper Platinum OX tubing. The design is mostly retrogrouch-y, except that the top tube has just a bit of slope to it -- Rivendell-style. Built for Paul's brazed-on centerpull brakes, the bike has clearance for 38 mm tires with fenders. Price is $2500 for the frame and fork. Complete bikes are also available.

There are several funky designs and colors of musette bags. I like bags like this because they can be rolled or folded up and kept in a jersey pocket or a small saddlepack -- handy for use if I make an unplanned stop somewhere and find myself needing to carry an unexpected purchase.
Some pretty cool water bottles are available, too.
Check out the full collection of bicycle goodies at House Industries, or pass it along to someone who might be looking for gift ideas. I'm hoping my wife checks it out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carradice Harris Tweed Bags

As a fan of traditional English-style saddlebags, I thought I'd pass along this bit of news from Carradice about their collaboration with Harris Tweed on a limited edition collection of bags.

There are nine Harris Tweed colors/patterns available on three different Carradice bags: the 9 litre Barley, the 3 litre Zip Roll, and the 1 litre Bingley bag. The little Bingley bag is a more recent addition to the Carradice lineup, meant to be mounted under a saddle, on the handlebars, or even carried on a strap. I use the 9 litre Barley and like it a lot -- if you don't need to carry a ton of stuff, or if you also have some panniers or a handlebar bag with which to distribute your load, it's a nice size.

The top flaps or "lids" of the bags, as well as the side pockets on the Barley bag, are covered in the tweed, but they are under-lined with the same cotton duck fabric of the regular bags so they maintain the same waterproofing characteristics the bags are known for.

Though some of the colors and patterns might be a little much for some tastes, they would definitely make a statement. Personally, I've long been partial to the simple utilitarian look of the classic bags, especially in olive green, and especially after it's faded and worn in a little with use -- or "beausage" for you Grant Petersen devotees. But on the right bike. . .

This "Flat Cap" pattern suits my taste pretty well.

See the full collection, and maybe even place an order on the Carradice website (see HERE). They are a limited edition, so when they're gone, they're gone.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Classic Equipment: Huret Duopar

There was a time when if a touring cyclist wanted really wide-range gearing, there weren't a lot of derailleur choices, and there were a lot of compromises with the choices that were available. Simply adding a long pulley cage to a derailleur wasn't enough -- it might increase the chain wrap, but that didn't necessarily mean the derailleur would make the big jumps between gears.

Huret, of France, offered several touring derailleurs in the 1970s -- including a long-cage version of the Allvit, the Luxe Super Touring, and the superlight Jubilee Touring. The Luxe ST and the long-cage Jubilee really didn't work well on wide range freewheels (which kind of begs the question "what's the point"), and the 145-gram Jubilee was just too light for for the demands of touring. The Super Allvit had decent capacity, but it also had that cable-breaking tension the Allvit's were known for. More than that, for less than the price of the Allvit, a person could buy a SunTour VGT which had serious chain-wrapping capacity, worked better, and could handle at least a 34-tooth sprocket on the rear wheel. I've heard people say that with a little finagling in the setup, one could even stretch the capabilities a bit more, though it could result in less-crisp shifting out to the smaller cogs. Simplex offered some long-cage versions of their derailleurs, such as the SLJ 5000 GT, which was listed as being able to handle a 14 - 34 freewheel with an 18t difference in chainrings, though it wouldn't shift that wide of a range as quickly or reliably as the much cheaper SunTour. Shimano's dropped (but not slanted) parallelogram touring derailleurs, like the Titlist GS, were rated with some pretty impressive capacity, and shifted somewhere in-between the better French derailleurs and the cheap-but-effective SunTour.

The DuoPar's stamped construction had that
Erector /Meccano set aesthetic that Huret became
known for. Little plastic cosmetic covers were easily
 broken and lost (usually in that order). The extra
parallelogram moved the pulley cage up and down,
keeping a closer chain gap across wide-range freewheels.
In the interest of creating the best wide-range touring derailleur available, Huret came out with a completely new derailleur design in 1975 that used two independent parallelograms to move the pulley cage. The main parallelogram would move the cage laterally in and out, while a second unit would move the cage up and down to more closely track the steep profile of a wide-range freewheel. It was dubbed the Duopar -- as in "dual parallelogram."

Like many other Huret derailleurs, the Duopar sported stamped construction -- albeit stamped out of very expensive titanium. The main body bore a strong resemblance to their Challenger and Success models. Also, it had little plastic cosmetic covers that didn't really serve any functional purpose and could be easily broken off and lost. The exotic materials meant that the Duopar was priced out of reach for most people, so around 1981, a pressed steel version, called the Duopar Eco was released. The Duopar derailleurs were reported to be the best shifting touring units available -- capable of reliably shifting over 13 - 36 freewheels, and up to 27 tooth difference in chain wheels.


Three of Huret's touring derailleurs, with the official capacities listed.
Notice that the Super Allvit has nearly the same  listed capacity as the Duopar,
but it's a pretty safe bet it would struggle with shifting over such a wide-range
freewheel. The Jubilee with its long cage still wouldn't handle that wide of
a range, and was too delicate for any heavy-duty touring use.

For some people, the Duopar was the ultimate touring derailleur. In a 1978 Bike World article, Sheldon Brown described the "new" Duopar as a real improvement in wide-range applications. Probably nobody had more glowing reviews of the Duopar than Frank Berto, who was a technical editor for Bicycling magazine in the 1980s. Berto had built a derailleur testing rig on which he evaluated hundreds of derailleurs during his tenure at the magazine. In his careful objective analysis, the Duopar outperformed every other touring derailleur -- even unseating the previously top-ranked SunTour VGT. In his history of derailleur-equipped bicycles, The Dancing Chain, he writes, "I used Duopars on most of my bicycles. It was my reference for evaluating other touring derailleurs. SunTour's derailleurs came close, but they would not shift onto the small sprockets as positively as the Duopar."
The very un-SunTour-like Trimec.
Spotted on eBay.

The glowing reviews of the Duopar meant that SunTour and Shimano both set about trying to outperform it. SunTour's first attempt was a so-faithful-it-was-scary copy called the Trimec, around 1981 or 82. I saw one on eBay once, and it bore almost no resemblance to SunTour's signature design. SunTour's next attempt to Out-Duopar-the-Duopar was the MounTech of 1982 (which soon expanded to a whole series of "Tech" derailleurs) which combined their patented slant-parallelogram design with an extra parallelogram to move the pulley cage up and down. Being too complicated for its own good, too fragile, and non-rebuildable, the original MounTech would be seen as a serious blow to SunTour's reputation. Even after correcting a fatal flaw in the MounTech's design (a poorly-engineered jockey pulley that would self-destruct), the complex design of the MounTech made it too prone to being bent or twisted out of alignment.

Shimano also came up with a Duopar-inspired variation in 1984 -- the Deore XT Superplate. It had Shimano's familiar drop parallelogram design along with a second parallelogram for Duopar-like vertical pulley cage movement. While it didn't end up hurting Shimano's reputation, it failed to catch on. When SunTour's patent on the slanted parallelogram expired, Shimano came out with a new version of the Deore that did for mountain bikes what the DuraAce 7400 SIS did for road bikes. The complicated Superplate was dropped quietly.

Not everyone raved about the Duopar. While Frank Berto swore by it, others swore at it. In his fascinating derailleur-collection website Disraeli Gears, Michael Sweatman writes, "I hated the Huret Duopar in much the same way that I hated the earlier Huret Allvit. . . It was a fragile design made up of easily bent flimsy plates. But most of all it worked fantastically when new - but in British conditions at least, it then wore out almost immediately." Surprisingly, a lot of early mountain bikes used the Duopar,  mainly for its outrageous range. But it was a derailleur that, under the hard conditions of mountain biking, could end up hopelessly twisted and bent out of shape.

In the interest of disclosure, I've never used the Duopar. Too expensive and too complicated for my taste, especially when a SunTour would work well and had more than enough range for any riding I ever did. I had riding friends who used the Duopar, though. One saved up and dropped some serious money on one for his mountain bike (at a time when mountain bikes were still a pretty rare sight here in Ohio) despite my raised eyebrows. It suffered a tragic demise and was eventually replaced by a sturdy and reliable Deore XT (non-Superplate).

I've read that no derailleur, past or present, had the range and capacity of the Huret Duopar. Regardless, some loved it while others hated it. Used ones can be found at fairly decent prices nowadays in the vintage market, though I'd be hesitant to buy one used, considering the potential durability issues. Occasionally NOS examples come up on eBay with prices ranging from $150 - $250. Worth it? I guess it depends on whom you ask.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Future of Cycling?

I have seen the future of cycling. And I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

I just saw this video today from Oakley's Future Sport Project where Cadel Evans and an Australian design team (4Design) present the handlebar of the future. It's like some kind of carbon fiber x-wing fighter with a built-in monitor that rivals the screen size on my laptop.


Evans says at the start "I like design and sport together because in the end of the day it's always your performance, it's judged on one thing, and that's the results you get. I like that regard because that always keeps design practical and keeps it real." Frankly, I'm not seeing the "real" or "practical" in this bizarre handlebar.

That huge monitor sticking out front has an OLED screen that displays all the usual computer data like speed, cadence, heart rate, etc., in addition to terrain mapping, GPS, altitude, and even G-forces (?!). Power meter data wasn't mentioned, but maybe that was an oversight. You can't ride a bike today without power meter data! Can't be done!

Those goofy x-braces extending down to the bar ends are there to add extra stiffness while still keeping the bar as light as possible. The extra "wings" sticking up from the middle had me puzzled for a bit, but I've come to figure out that those are forearm supports to help the rider get into a "time trial tuck position and ride off the front for 200ks solo" (but without the benefit of having some control levers out there -- shifting and stopping must be done with mind control). 

Did I mention the G-force gauge? Yes? Well how about built in lights and video cameras?! Sweet.

The handlebar has all kinds of built-in wiring for electronic shifting -- though I don't see any brake levers on there, and don't know how somebody would mount some. I guess in the "future" we won't need to stop.

Clearly, the bars are just some kind of "concept" and we shouldn't expect to see them in our local bike shops any time soon -- so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on them. Then again, what does Cadel say?

"It feels like working in science fiction, but science fiction does eventually become reality, so why not?"
Welcome to the future.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rocket Bike Speed Record

The bike blogosphere has been abuzz over this new bicycle speed record. Apparently some guy in France has taken a "bicycle" up over 200 mph. BikeSnobNYC is calling him the world's fastest fred. Here's his machine:



And here's the video, from YouTube:

On Nov. 7th, François Gissy took a rocket-propelled bicycle up to 333 km/h, or 207 mph, in 250 meters. I watched the video -- and it looks freakin' insane. But what I want to know is, for what does this count? I suppose it's some kind of daredevil record, but it doesn't have much of anything to do with bicycling. The contraption can maybe be called a bicycle only by some generous stretch of the definition -- yes it has two wheels, and it does have some pedals and a chain that could potentially propel the machine forward. But in the record, there is no pedaling being done at all. In fact, watching the video, it really looks like the guy's legs are just dangling behind him like on some kind of Wile E Coyote cartoon contraption from "Acme."

I used my prodigious photoshop skills for this. 
All he needs is a roadrunner to chase down.

An interesting achievement -- heck, just staying on the thing makes it an accomplishment. Just don't call it a bicycle.