Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

23 May 2018

He Couldn't Run Away. But He's In The Running.

Was he practicing for a Darwin Award?

According to police reports, Brady Michael Phipps pilfered some merchandise from a Verizon store in Redding, California.  From there, he ran across Hilltop Drive and entered a Dick's Sporting Goods store, where he climbed a ladder and stashed the stolen items in the rafters.

Police officers came in.  Now, I know that outside my hometown of New York, Big Box stores are even bigger than they are here.  Still, I think that Phipps' chances of eluding capture weren't the greatest, especially since multiple officers were in the store.

That, apparently, is not what he was thinking. He grabbed one of the bicycles the store was selling and rode it through the aisles and racks in an attempt to escape.

One officer knocked him down.  He continued to resist arrest, but the officers managed to take him into custody and book him.  The charges:  suspicion of obstructing an officer, petty theft...and violating parole.Turns out, he's been booked into the Shasta County jail twelve times since 2017.  

Brady Michael Phipps, from the Shasta County Sheriff's Office

Maybe I've lived a sheltered life, but small-time shoplifting doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do when you're on parole.  Nor does stealing a bike in an attempt to elude cops.  

Also, I can't help but to think that in the confines of a store, being on a bike might've made it easier for the police to capture him, if for no reason than it was easier to knock him off the bike than it would've been to tackle him while he was running.

Brady Michael Phipps made it easier for some police officer to take him out of circulation.  At the rate he's going, he'll take himself out of the gene pool and therefore be a candidate for the Darwin Awards.

22 May 2018

Buying What They Were

Five of my six bikes are equipped with SRAM chains, even though I don't currently use any other SRAM components.

It's an old habit: The first replacement chain I ever bought was a Sedis. It worked well for me, and I would use continue to use Sedis chains...until they became Sachs chains.  Then I used Sachs chains...until they became SRAM.

Back in the '80's, Sachs, which was known primarily for multigear and coaster brake hubs, bought out Sedis, as well as several other French component makers, most notably Maillard and Huret.  A few years later, the SRAM consortium, which consisted of Grip Shift, Rock Shox and a few other parts makers, acquired Sachs.

To keep simple-minded folk like me from getting confused, for the first few years of Sachs ownership, the company marketed those parts--which were still made in France--under hyphenated names:  Sachs-Sedis, Sachs-Maillard and Sachs-Huret.  But SRAM tossed all of those names into the dustbin of history.  I didn't mind:  I still like the chains.

I mention this because of another interesting name-change.  Rivendell is, of course, the bike brand Grant Peterson created from the ashes of Bridgestone.  Now "Rivendell" and "Bridgestone" are often used as terms to describe a kind of retro-ish or modern-retro bike, much as "Scotch tape" has become a generic term for rolls of clear adhesive bands, even though the phrase is a registered trademark of 3M.

Today Bridgestone bikes have something of a cult following.  So does Rivendell, if it's not a status symbol in some circles.  But what's commonly forgotten is that Bridgestone had two other identities, at least in the US, before it became Bridgestone.

Back in the early '70's, when the American Eagle Kokusai (later known as the Nishiki International) and Fuji S-10S were showing that Japanese bikes could compete with, and sometimes beat (especially in shifting), their European counterparts, there was another Japanese bike brand that seemed determined to make people remember why they shunned anything with a "Made In Japan" label.  

To be fair, some bikes sold under the C.Itoh brand were pretty good riders.  The company even had a "professional" model with a chrome-moly frame, Sugino Competition cranks, Sun Tour bar end shifters, "V" rear derailleur and Compe V front; Dia Compe brakes and Sanshin-Sunshine hubs with tubular rims and tires.  It was like a lower-priced version of the Fuji Finest, Nishiki Professional or Miyata Pro, with the best pre-Cyclone, pre-Dura Ace equipment available.

C.Itoh bike, circa 1972

But there were other C.Itoh bikes that, shall we say, reenforced all of the old negative stereotypes about Japanese bikes:  They had clunky lugs and bottom bracket shells,  dropouts and other frame fittings that were, to put it politely, quirky. The paint on those frames and chroming on the rims and bars flaked and came flying off when the bike was operated at more-than-average speeds.

Bridgestone-Kabuki "Superlight", circa 1975

(Maybe the folks making those bikes were trying to emulate the French, as Japanese bike makers often did in those days, and so believed they had to make their bikes like croissants.*)

Some of those bikes also came with a seatpost that almost no novice cyclist of the time had seen:  It looked more like the quill of a stem, with an expander bolt and plug that worked like those of a stem.  So, you didn't tighten your seat post with a seat binder bolt:  The expander kept it in the frame.  In one way, that's a good idea:  At least you don't have to worry about stripping out or deforming the seat lug.  On the other hand, it meant that saddle height adjustments could be made only by removing the saddle.

Kabuki Submariner, circa 1975

When C.Itoh bikes were rebranded , they kept that strange seat post. They also kept the clunky-looking lugs and bottom bracket shell.  At least they made sense on one model.  If you haven't seen it, you've heard of it:  the Submariner.  At least, that's what it was called when C. Itoh became Kabuki.

The Submariner was ostensibly a bike designed for marine environments.  So those lugs and bottom bracket shell were thick because they were aluminum.  Why were they aluminum?  Supposedly because they were needed in order to braze together the tubes, which were stainless steel:  Using steel lugs would have all but required silver brazing rod, which is much more expensive than the brass brazing rods used on most bikes, to keep from overheating the stainless steel.

The thing is, most other Kabukis looked like Submariners with paint on them.  What's funny about that, and the Submariners, is they date themselves as '70's bikes precisely because they don't look like other bikes from that period.  And they were sold under the Kabuki name because, by the mid-70s, people were actually willing to buy Japanese bikes because they were Japanese, so it wasn't necessary to mask their identities with names that didn't sound Japanese. (American Eagle?)

A rather nice Kabuki track bike, circa 1974

A decade later, when Kabuki became Bridgestone, and Grant Petersen became their lead designer, people were buying them because they rode--and looked--like the bikes they remembered from the '70's.  And they're paying even more for that privilege when they buy Rivendell, the line of bikes Grant started after Bridgestone closed its US operations in the mid-90s.

So, while I buy SRAM chains because they were (and, really, still are) Sedis chains, you probably aren't buying a Rivendell--or didn't buy a Bridgestone--because it was Kabuki or C.Itoh.  At least, I hope not.

(*By the way, I didn't mean to disparage French bikes, or anything else French.  I love croissants, and some French bikes, but that doesn't mean bikes should be made like croissants!)

21 May 2018

Building in 3D

I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

On Friday, I wrote about a 3D printed airless tire.  When I learned about it, I knew that other 3D printed parts were being made somewhere. 

Turns out, I underestimated the speed of technological progress.  Now there's a 3D printed bicycle that looks like a sci-fi version of an urban commuter bike--and is said to be stronger than titanium.

The new machine was made by Arevo, a Silcon Valley (where else?) startup that specializes in "additive manufacturing" (tech-speak for engineering-level 3D printing).  The company is backed by the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, which isn't surprising when you realize that the armed forces are the main drivers behind 3D's evolution from a novel way to make chintzy plastic figurines to a sophisticated technological process used to make weaponry.

(Few people realize that the Silicon Valley became, well, the Silicon Valley largely because of military contracts during the Cold War.  So, if you're going to thank a soldier or sailor for anything, make sure it's for making the iPhone possible, not for invading Iraq!)

The bicycle's frame was made first, as a single piece, and the other parts were made.  According to Arevo CEO Jim Miller (formerly of Google), it took about two weeks to make the bike.  

Knowing that answers the question folks like me ask about carbon fiber bicycles: "Why does something made of plastic cost so much?"  Well, carbon bike frames--whether of custom chassis from the likes of Land Shark or the Specialized items your local bike shop offers--are made by workers who lay, by hand, individual layers of carbon fiber impregnated with resin around a mold of a frame.  The frame is then baked in an oven to melt the resin and bind the carbon strips together.

Arevo takes workers out of the process.  It uses a "deposition head" on a robotic arm to print out the three-dimensional shape of the frame.  The head then lays down strands of carbon fiber and melts a thermoplastic material to bind the strands, all in one step.   The result is that Arevo can build a frame for $300, even in The Valley.  That is about what it currently costs to build a similar frame in Asia.

Of course, even though Miller is reportedly a cyclist, he doesn't see Arevo as the next Schwinn or Trek or Specialized:  The company is working on a head that can run along rails and print larger parts, avoiding the need of ovens in which to bake them.  "We can print as big as you want--the fuselage of an aircraft, the wing of an aircraft," he says.

Surely he knows the Wright Brothers started as bicycle builders...