Thursday, June 28, 2018

Man, Derailleurs Just Keep Getting Uglier

Yes, they do.  Mountain-bike derailleurs have been going that way for a while. But the latest generation of road components are doing everything to catch up. They've expanded, or swollen. Sprouted extra pivots. Transformed into complicated misshapen mechanical blobs.

Take a look at some of the newest road derailleurs:

The latest Dura Ace 9100. One website exclaims "Indulge in your love for impossibly crisp rear shifts." Oh, please. 
Newest generation Campagnolo Record 12-speed.

The SRAM Force. Looks like something out of Japanese Animé.
I suppose that part of the transformation is due to adding more cogs to the rear wheel (remember - we're up to 12 now), and the need to add more wrap capacity for the gear range that results. I assume the extra pivot that some have sprouted has something to do with keeping the upper pulley close to the cogs over such a wide range of gears. Maybe it does something to fight chain slap. Who knows?

Comparatively, derailleurs from the classic era look compact - maybe svelte. Somehow, maybe because of materials like carbon fiber and titanium, the bloated units of today don't seem to weigh much, if anything, more than the best of the past - but they sure look heavier.

Take a look at some of my favorite classics:

From my own collection - late '70s Campy Nuovo Record. No doubt that the modern version probably shifts better - but it can't hold a candle to the style of the vintage classic.
Early generation SunTour Cyclone - looked cool, and shifted about as well as anything made today.
Huret Jubilee - functional jewelry, and only weighed about 140 g. There was a long-cage version, too. (photo from ClassicRendezvous)
Shimano 600 "Arabesque" (with long cage) - worked nicely, and had some cool decorative details that existed for no reason other than to make it look special. (photo from VeloBase)

I suppose that some of the new derailleurs shift remarkably well over a tremendous range. These new designs give us racing derailleurs rivaling the range of the best touring derailleurs of the past. And yeah, maybe that's the thing that really matters. But damn, they're ugly.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fathers Day 2018

As far as I'm concerned, there is no better way to spend Fathers Day than going for a bike ride with the RetroKids. It was a hot one today - with temps up near 90º - but that didn't stop us from getting out on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath for a ride and a picnic.

It wasn't that many years ago that I was towing them behind me on a tandem trail-a-bike, and a Burley trailer before that. Now they're on the edge of having outgrown these 24" wheeled bikes. Full-size adult bikes will be coming soon.
Having our lunch near a visitor center in the national park. This might be the only picture of me that has appeared in this blog. 

Retrogrouchy bike shot. Vintage Stumpjumper, circa 1983 - repainted several years ago in shocking green.
A well-loved Carradice Barley saddlebag, covered in Towpath badges. They used to offer a new badge for each year. I don't think they do that anymore.
A stop on the wooden boardwalk over a beaver marsh. The RetroKids always like to stop and look for turtles and blue herons.
The marsh was formed by beaver activity, but somehow we've never seen the beavers.

Ice cream sundaes with big piles of fresh fruit at Szalay's market in the heart of the national park.  An indispensable stop on any bike ride in the valley.

That's all for today - I hope all the fathers out there enjoyed their day as much as I did.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Look Ma' - No Seat Tube!

There's nothing on a bike that's more pointless than the seat-tube. Am I right? I mean, if bicycles have an equivalent to a vestigial organ, it's the seat-tube on a diamond frame. And that's why any time "innovators" and designers want to create a "futuristic" looking bicycle, the seat-tube is often one of the first things they ditch. Besides - it's called a "diamond" frame - not a "two-triangles" frame.

One of the most iconic bikes on point would have to be the Trek Y-Foil of 1998-1999. Remember these things?

The negative of "famous" is "infamous." Notice that they're not exactly opposites. In other words, famous but for all the wrong reasons. Like Churchill was Famous, but Hitler was Infamous. If the word "Iconic" worked the same way, would the Y-Foil be Iniconic? There must be some way to say "iconic for notorious reasons" in one word. But I'm digressing.
Oddly enough, Y-Foils still have some kind of cult following. And as if this weren't goofy enough, they made a mountain bike version, too. Fans of the bike claim that the Y-Foil went away after such a brief run because the design was not approved by the UCI. If that were true, why did the MTB version go away too? Can't people just admit it was a fugly bad idea?

One of the latest on this no-seat-tube trend comes from the German company Urwahn, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter for its "unique" commuter bike.

Not only does this look-ma'-no-seat-tube bike represent the latest in futuristic design, but it's another bike billed as the "ultimate commuter" which might actually be OK if you work at home. Like most other "ultimate commuters" I've seen, it doesn't look like it would be comfortable or practical for any ride longer than a short hop down to the coffee shop. The website claims it can take full coverage fenders and a rack, but I'm just not seein' that.

Another relatively recent entry into the no-seat-tube club comes from AOI.Cycle:

With its laid back geometry, the AOI is like some kind of oxymoronic "future cruiser."

Cervelo has their P5X Triathlon bike, which I mentioned in this blog back in 2016:

The seat-tube-free design means there's more space for little cubbies and compartments for storing "hydration" formulas, goo packets, and maybe tools. But the real benefit is that it lets them brag that they're thumbing their noses at those ogres at the UCI and all their pesky regulations - which have never had an impact on triathlon bikes, or on most of the bikes made for non-professional-racing consumers for that matter. Remember what I said about the Y-Foil.

Here's a seat-tube-free design rendered in laminated wood from the German company Aceteam. It's also an e-bike.
Back in 2015 I called attention to the Viks Urban Cycle - an engineering-defying styling exercise from Estonia. Unlike many other styling exercises, however, you can actually buy the Viks. They have another version that looks almost the same except that it also foregoes seat stays. It's worth pointing out that the one-piece bars/fork make it impossible to make any adjustments for better fit or comfort - and apparently such frivolities as brakes are not really compatible with the design. Oh - you can get brakes, but according to the website: "All these are extras. Bike with extras is more complex to make, which in turn means extra fee. Don’t hesitate to ask us the prices."

Yep - the seat-tube's days are numbered. And good riddance, right? Just think how much those things are holding us back. Here's to the future!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Farmers Market Saturday

We had some unseasonably hot weather in the last week of May (up in the 90s and humid), but we just got a reprieve from that for our first Saturday of June. I got up this morning and found it cloudy and cooler - low 60s - and perfect for a ride to the farmers market.

Every Saturday from late spring, through the summer, and into the fall there is a really nice farmers market in the Cuyahoga Valley - in the heart of the national park. Getting there on a bike just feels right. One can take the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath for much of the way if they wish, though there isn't a direct connector from the path to the meadow where the market is held, so at least a short hop on the valley road is required - not that that's a problem. Bicycles are a common sight on the valley road, so drivers more or less know to expect us.

My Specialized Expedition touring bike seemed like the right bike for the errand. If I'd had more cash on hand and plans to really load up with goods today, I would have put a pair of panniers on the front rack, too. But I was really only after one thing today. I took this picture at one of the train depots by the Cuyahoga Valley Railway which runs through the park and right past the farmers market.
The market not only features many tents with some of the best locally grown produce, meat, cheeses, and baked goods, but there's always live music and often some crafts as well. There's usually vendors cooking up things to eat, too (breakfast burritos are a favorite).
I went to the farmers market mainly for one thing today. And it turned out that lots of other people had the same plan. This tent easily had the longest line in the whole meadow.
There's what I came for - and what all those others were waiting in line for: the first strawberries of the season. Small in size, deep in color, and the most flavorful strawberries you'll ever find. My handlebar bag (Acorn boxy bag) holds two quart boxes perfectly. It's like they designed it for this exact purpose.
While I was at the market, I also got some fantastic bread - though lots of other items were looking very tempting. Then I made my way home. The roads and trail through much of the valley are currently in bloom with little tiny white flowers that give off a powerfully sweet smell. I've only recently come to learn that they are Mock Orange shrubs - and they are all over the valley. That really capped off a nice morning ride.

That's all for now - happy summer, folks.