Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let The Patterson Transmission Enhance Your Commute

Patterson Transmission cranks installed on a Raleigh ten speed re-purposed for all season commuting.

   Here at The Hub we love commuting and since commuting and internal gears go hand in hand, why not talk about FSA's new 2-speed internal crankset the Patterson Transmission? FSA is a relative newcomer to the world of internally geared cranksets, with both the Schlumpf drive and the Hammerschmidt having been on the market for some time. The difference, for myself anyway, lies in accessibility.
   I haven't been able to justify spending the money for internal cranksets in the past as both the Schlumpf and Hammerschmidt retail in the $700 range, so i was pretty excited when the patterson came on the scene at far more reasonable $300. I bought it, set it up and have been happily riding ever since.
   First off, i guess it makes sense to talk about what type of bike this belongs on. the important physical restrictions are simple, the bike must have a 68mm bottom shell and fixed chain stays. you need to have down tube cable routing, but if you don't you could always add a clamp on cable stop, so no need to worry about that. This crankset was designed by Sam Patterson (one of the founding members of Sram) for commuting, but could easily find a home on a touring bike, mountain bike, weekender recreation bike or cargo bike.
Bottom bracket shell faced to exactly 68mm with perfectly parallel faces for optimal bearing performance.

  A few things to remember when picking one up. Installation has many facets as you need to have your bottom bracket shell faced (to ensure 68mm which and to give the outboard cartridge bearings a good reference), you need to pick out what shifter you want to use and have that and a cable installed (not included) and you need a few specialty tools (we would be more than happy to install it for you, inquire about service rates at the shop).
   Now for the fun part; what's inside and how does it work?
    Anyone who is familiar with the Hammerschmidt will recognize the similarities right away, a simple planet gear system with a direct drive and an overdrive. The crank's direct drive functions just like any other crank (the Patterson comes with a 28t ring) and the overdrive increases the gear to the 1.6:1 ratio. This effectively gives you a 45t ring!! 
Initial diss-assembly of the crankset.

The function is simple: operate the shift lever to release cable tension and the pawl on the control plate sub-assembly engages a ratchet in the crank which in turn...

...rotates the sun gear, which then rotates the planet gears, and they, in turn, rotate the chainring section of the crankset faster than the crank is spinning. And...

...voila, simply 2 speed planetary gearing!

   Impressions of the crankset so far are very positive. The shifting is super quick and clean (i have mine set up to an old Sturmey Archer trigger shifter). The gear range is wide enough but the jump is reasonable so i don't end up with a lot of annoying recovery shifts (I have mine set up with an 8 speed Shimano nexus rear hub, f.y.i.). the bearing set up is FSA MegaExo, reliable and serviceable.

The cartridge bearings are easily replaced when worn or easily serviced on a regular schedule to maximize their lifespan.

I am one of those mechanics that really appreciates the value of a good overhaul so i clean out my cartridge bearings a bit more often than most, and i have to say, it does increase the lifespan. The non-drive side cup is your typical MegaExo setup. The drive side is another story

The bearing is connected to the crank via a small snap ring and the cup remains empty in the frame.
FSA uses completely serviceable cartridge bearings which can be easily broken down to the loose balls for thorough cleaning and bearing ball replacement.
The picture isn't great, but here we have clean races and fresh grease with brand new bearings.
Align the new bearing balls, re-install the retainer and seals and you are ready to ride!

The chainring is a bit different than the usual fare, as well.

The chainring is held in place by a splined interface
It is held in place by a spiral retaining ring
    Replacement chainrings are available at a reasonable cost, which is good news for winter riders who tear through drivetrains, and for those who prefer to ignore maintenance on their ride until it's pretty much destroyed (though, i would always still recommend regular maintenance to prevent parts from wearing prematurely). FSA also makes replacement parts available for most of the internals, which is good news as nothing lasts forever. And speaking of maintenance, the above photo gives a good illustration of the ports that allow easy access for flushing and lubing the internals with minimal diss-assembly! this keeps maintenance easy and hassle free.

   Final thoughts... The Patterson transmission is going to make the internal gear set pretty excited. With the most affordable 2- speed crank currently on the market there is no reason not to double the range of your internally geared commuting bike, so you can find better gears and ride more efficiently, which means having more fun. Reasonable cost, 165-170-175mm crank length options, 9 speed compatible chain, mountain bike approved... whats not to like?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Overhauls. A day at the spa for your bike!

New or old. Everyday riding or weekend recreation. Fair weather or right through the snow and mud. Someday soon your bike will be crying out for a complete overhaul. Here is the truth about maintenance; no matter how diligently you air up your tires and lube your chain, there is nothing you can do to prevent the break down and failure of lubrication. All the grease inside your bearing systems will eventually collect enough moisture from the air and grit from the road that it will just stop working how its supposed to. In fact you don't even have to take your bike out of the garage for lubrication to break down, it is simply the natural progression of things. All of your cable housing will eventually fail in much the same way, and lets not forget that your brake pads, tires, chain, cassette, rims, saddles and bar tape will all wear out and need to be replaced. But, it's really not so gloomy, because the solution is as close as the service department at your local Hub Bike Co-op. So, lets take care of all of this at once so you can get back out and ride! Here is how we do it.

We take a good look at your bike and make a list of all the parts that are worn out and in need of replacement, then we get to work stripping parts off your bike, recycling what is past its usable life and cleaning the rest with degreasers and solvents to uncover their original beauty.
                                       Here is the rear derailleur and freewheel before and after.

                                               And, here is the crank set before and after.
 Now, on to the bearings. this is where overhaul service really steps up and gives you more bang for your buck than a tune-up. For tune-ups we perform adjustments on bearing systems, but we don't get a chance to get inside and really clean them out to remove any contaminants that will hinder smoothness and cause premature wear and tear.
 Here is the hub when it came in. there is obviously a lot going on in here that we don't want. for starters, the grease is old and has started to harden and gel, feels more like peanut butter then lubricant. Secondly, this grease is filled with contaminants and all of that grit is wreaking havoc on the bearing race, which needs to stay smooth in order to function well.
                                              Here is the hub after a thorough cleaning.
And, here, the final step. New ball bearings and a healthy coating of grease. This is a Teflon-fortified grease which holds up well to moisture and pressure. This grease is fairly thin and "sticky" which leaves a good meniscus layer between contact points for optimal performance and protection.

          Along with your bearings, we give star treatment to the threads that hold your bike together.

                                    Before and after cleaning up the threads on the fork's steerer.

So, when do you know to get an overhaul? There's no easy answer, but some agreed upon "standards" may help. Most bearing systems (i.e. headset or hubs) should be overhauled every 3000 miles or so when riding in primarily good conditions and as frequently as every 1500 miles if riding in wet, muddy, very sandy or dusty and extreme conditions.  The trick is to do it often enough that you aren't caught always replacing parts due to wear when more frequent overhauls could keep those bearing systems alive for the long haul.

And for those of you with internally geared hubs, hydraulics or suspension systems, check with the manufacturer of the product, but generally get these items serviced once a year to keep them in good running order.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: Chica Warrior tests Frost River Highway 1 panniers

Editors Note: When these panniers arrived from the good folks at Frost River I instantly knew who we needed to give them to to put them through their paces; our good friend, Chica Warrior.

Chica Warrior:  Two Thumbs Up for Frost River’s Highway 1 Panniers 

I stopped in my tracks back in 2005 when I first saw a bike outfitted with these bags; in fact I got down on my hands and knees to inspect them.  Rugged, worn, and looking like they stepped out of a bygone era when durable goods were in fact durable and made from canvas and leather and wood.  The design of Frost River’s  Highway 1 Panniers began when the current designers at Frost River were still at Duluth Pack and collaborated with Grant Peterson and Rivendell Bicycle Works to produce them.  Originally they were sold under the Rivendell Baggins label, and while there is currently a disagreement over who has the design rights to manufacture and sell the bags, I know both companies to be excellent and will leave it to them to continue the argument.  And since Rivendell no longer has the Baggins line, I’m just glad one can still get them.

Admittedly, they are not for everyone.  But if you are a tinkering traditionalist and not obsessed with reducing weight at every opportunity, you will fall in love.  They are good-sized–in the vicinity of a 30 litre combined capacity–and they define stout.  The bags are made of waxed cotton canvas, referred to as “tin cloth” for good reason.  Tin cloth gets a spectacular rubbed patina over time, looking remarkably like leather as it wears.  Everything on the bags is secured with either leather straps with solid brass buckles or parachute cords and grommets.  As you might guess, with these materials the bags are heavyweights, tipping the scales at a hefty 1675 grams.  But these materials give you a lot of flexibility allowing you to customize the bags and the fit to your heart’s content.  If you mind the initial futzing around to move the bags from one bike to another and to dial in the rigging, get an Ortleib.  However, if that’s not a deal breaker, it really can be kind of fun.  In my situation, I mounted them on a quite narrow Tubus Airy attached to my single speed and then on a Nitto Big Back Rack with my touring bike.  While they worked on the Airy (and in fact my largest load to date was carried on the Airy), as would be expected the fit was much, much better on the Big Back Rack.

I’ve been riding with them for about 2 weeks doing grocery runs, my regular 20-mile round-trip commute, and one 35-mile urban tour.  As a reference point, I’m a 53 year old woman and alas no longer a spring chicken but the weight has not bothered me.  The carrying capacity makes grocery hauling easy–I loaded up about 35 pounds of bulky, awkward, heavy groceries (think glass half gallons of milk, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, a melon, dish soap, and the like – not to mention rain gear and a lock) and the bags simply swallowed them.  The 4-inch draw-string cuff and the foot-square flap means I could’ve even stuffed a few more items in there if needed.

 The load on side one

Side 2

With respect to rain, tin cloth is water-resistant but not waterproof.  For light rain/short distances, they do just fine.  For longer, heavier rain situations, this is easily remedied thru the use of a trash bag liner.  As a retired cross country motorcyclist, my biker buddies and I always lined our leather bags with trash bags and it stood up to 400 miles at 60 miles per hour in the pouring rain across Kansas.  With a few Filson tin cloth coats in my wardrobe, I can say that for winter riding, the panniers will perform well in snow but that the cold will make the waxed canvas stiff.  My biggest criticism of the bags are the fasteners at the bottom of the bag, which are leather buckle straps that are hard to reach and too close to the spokes.  An additional strap keeper would be helpful and could easily be installed by the handy owner.  The reach, however, is still awkward.  There are vertical tabs intended for compression straps around the bags, but a horizontal blinky tab would’ve been nice.  Again, because they are canvas, one can easily be added.  The internal sleeve with the stiffener is great to have with soft bags like these.

If these sound interesting to you, go for it.  At a suggested price of $190, they are worth it and comparable in cost to other well-made bags.  And not only will you have a certain je ne sais quoi kind of hip style, with their outstanding workmanship and heritage materials, they will last your whole life.  I have several other Frost River bags; all are well made and the company stands behind them.  When my large Frost River Old No. 7 canoe pack was seriously damaged by a mysterious creature in the night, they repaired it free of charge, shipped it back to me at no cost, and identified the culprit:  a porcupine!  Yep, that’s Minnesota manufacturing at its best.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ahhh, Utah

When trails are closed and the weather is cold here in Minneapolis, there are two more reasons to go to Utah. This adds to all the other reasons to go: the martian landscapes of red slickrock, mountain bike trails for every skill level including death-defying, cliff-top views that go on forever, and free camping with views so amazing you kinda just want to stay at camp.

I had mountain biked in Utah once before and had a blast. After three years I was overdue for a visit. Matt and Joe were game, and we started planning a MTB and climbing trip last summer.

The trip this year started with a 24 hour drive. Lots of coffee, uncomfortable naps in the passenger seat, and searching the ipod for music to keep us awake. The goal: get to Hurricane, UT with enough light left to hit some trails and set up camp.
No problem. We arrived the next morning and found a free camp spot on top of Gooseberry Mesa. It was a random side road that rewarded us with cliff top views of miles of valleys, mesas, cliffs. We dropped our gear, pulled the bikes off the car and rode some trails. After a near sleepless night it was all kind of dreamlike.

Gooseberry Mesa had terrain for our every need. Rolling slickrock, technical rock features, jumps, trails along cliff edges.... Ahhh, Utah. Riding these trails took some getting used to. Short, super-steep ascents would be followed by equally steep descents or drop-offs. Unlikely angles were made possible with the extreme traction provided by the sandpaper like rock. The granny gear finally got some use.

I rode a Giant Anthem 2 for the trip. Due to the short travel XC bike (3.5" for the 2006) I picked the Kenda Nevegal 2.35s, thinking the wider tires would have extra cushion and grip. They lived up to their reputation and were predictable in all the terrains we encountered. I also test rode some Ergon grips, but decided they weren't the best for such technical riding. I think they would be better for long XC type rides.

We spent several days wandering Gooseberry. We camped out each night on the edge of the mesa, and watched the sunset cast changing colours on the valley below us.

After 3 nights at Gooseberry, it was time for our next stop, St George. There was rumour of top-notch climbing and biking in that area. How much could we do in a day? We ended up covering all of Bearclaw Poppythe first day. It was a longhaul, with the star of the show being the downhill ride from 3 Fingers of Death thru the acid drops. This was a section we definitely benefited from by scouting first. Following that the snaking trails before the turn-around point had to be the fastest terrain of the trip. The following day we had a double feature with the rocky and lung-busting Zen trail followed by climbing at Green Valley Gap.

After more days of climbing and biking our trip was running out of time. We had to start heading back to Minnesota. Moab was on the way and would be our last stop. One last hurrah on the one of the most well known MTB tracks in the country.

Slickrock didn't disappoint and reminded me why it is such a legendary spot. The terrain is unlike any other and there are breath-taking views in every direction. The scale of the rocks and gradient of the trails pushed us to the limit. Some ascents were so steep it felt like I might roll over backwards, and they kept going up until legs and lungs were burning. It was a capstone to be remembered.

Overall, we got in a mix of biking and climbing everyday for 8 days straight. Definitely the type of trip I want to do more often.

See ya on the trails.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Steel, aluminum, carbon, titanium... what do I choose?

At the front, throwing down on titanium

Commuting, Racing, touring, mountain biking, road riding or just riding along... Non of these things have been able to avoid the great frame material debate. But what do they really mean? What are the real differences? Has this changed over time? Whelp, lets see if we can make more sense out of all this stuff...


Lets do this in the order that makes the most sense to me... I am the one writing this. Steel, also known as chromoly (a mix of steels and alloys to make it even lighter and stiffer, this is where name brands come into play).

The Past:
Its one of the oldest frame materials out there, besides wood but that's a whole other blog post in itself. Due to its age it has had the most "tinkering" done as a material, starting out as your basic pulled from the ground steel it has undergone huge changes by the names of Reynolds, True Temper, Columbus, Ritchey and many others. They took this basic steel and added things to harden it, lighten it and stiffen it. In the beginning of the 1900s a frame could weigh upwards of ten pounds, now they can get down to just shy of 3.

The Ride:
Lets start stereotyping! Cause that's what happens when you talk in generals about a frame material. To start off we are going to talk about compliance... this can mean 2 different things, the feel from road vibrations (roads are made up of little rocks that will cause a vibration when riding) and impact (how it rides over larger cracks). This is really important actually, a bike can be incredibly smooth over vibrations but not flex enough to relive the rider of larger impacts. We will also talk about "stiffness" of the bikes. This simply refers to how well it deals with the rider's weight.

With that said, steel tends to be one of the most impact smooth rides AND takes care of vibrations better than most other materials. It also gives a little bit with the rider's weight, the stiffness does tend to be a little behind that of the other materials. This can be a good thing! It is also where "the feel of steel" comes from. It will give a little as you push on the cranks but pop back into alignment very quickly. This give can actually work to your advantage. Think of dancing of a cement floor (no give, super stiff) compared to a wood floor (more give and flex)... which one would you wanna polka on?

The Durability:
Steel has a great reputation in this department... It should! You can expect a frame to last as long as you want it too, its reparable, can be realigned (most of the time) and takes a lot to mess it up. This can vary though... If you have a super light steel frame don't expect it to be around for life, its how this works, it will have less material and be slightly more prone to dents, cracks and bending (sometimes depending on the mix it can be overly rigid and simply crack). It its a super heavy basic steel bike, usually older, it can be bent very easily. I can spread a frame on many 80s road bikes by hand to fit a wider rear hub into it. This means if you hop off a curb or take it off road you may end up with some issues. These are by no means an issue that you need to worry about with most manufacturers. Expect to ride your steel bike for decades. It can, however, rust. Its rare and most of the time its just a bit of surface rust (like on a steel bridge).



The Past:
This has become the most common frame material that exists but please remember... this used to be exotic and amazing. Starting its life in Italy and Japan (B-Stone Radac and Alan) way back in the 80s the first bikes were some of the smoothest and most flexible bikes made. They were also not welded together but threaded into a lug. Its some crazy stuff! Then along came a man, a smart man, a man who went to MIT and loved bikes... He studied tube diameter and the differences it could make. Basically he made em fat with thin wall thicknesses. This changed how they rode and how light they could be. All through the 90s aluminum was used as the high-end race material. This gave it a pretty bad rap though... with manufacturers trying to make it as light as possible they had a lot of them brake. With the introduction of carbon and the ease of manufacturing aluminum it changed to the main stream in the late 90s. It is now one of the most reliable materials (manufactures have added at least a pound of material since the days of the 90s race bikes) and used by almost every company out there on bikes ranging from basic department store to several thousand dollar full suspension mountain bikes.

The Ride:
Aluminum tends to be one of the stiffest materials out there. This also means that its compliance is a little less than most. You will feel the road a tad more and feel the larger impacts to a higher degree. Out of the saddle climbing on an aluminum frame feels sturdy and fast. Many manufacturers are manipulating this material with shapes and wall thicknesses to achieve a ride quality that can actually be quite smooth and responsive. Giant is regarded as one of the leading aluminum frame manufactures because of this. It is why they have had so many awards for their aluminum road bikes.

Unfortunately aluminum is one of the only materials that can not be fixed if broken. It is also very difficult to straighten a frame that has been bent. The nice thing is it has become durable enough that this is no longer an issue. Aluminum does not rust at all but it does rot. It takes a long time but we have seen this on a few frames. By rot I mean it slowly deteriorates when exposed to extreme weather and toxins.


The Past:
Carbon started its life with bikes in the 80s. Its most notable frame is the one used by Greg Lemond in the 1990 tour de France. Carbon did not go totally main stream till the late 90s. The biggest factor for this was price but also trust. Many of the earlier frames didn't have the longest life span. It was harder to produce with consistent results and so consumers took a while to trust the durability of carbon, especially when you are going to put so much money on the line. Since the 90s carbons reputation has slowly changed to being more durable. As production has gone up costs have gone down. Now, almost any bike over 2K is carbon.

The Ride:
Carbon has some of the most interesting ride qualities out there. You can usually "feel" the lighter weight of it and the stiffness of it can be even better than Aluminum. Its vibration damping characteristics can often make it even smoother than steel. One of the few downsides is that a carbon frame tends to be a little more impact feel than steel, many times it is very similar to aluminum. This just means that it takes up most of the road vibrations but you will feel it when you go over a larger crack in the road. Not really a big deal unless you ride on an older road.

The Durability:
It has been argued that carbon never wears out. This means that out of all the materials out there carbon is the least likely to change ride quality over time. The downside is because of its construction its a tad more likely to form a crack somewhere in its structure. This is why it took so long for carbon to catch on. These days its not as much of an issue but can still pop up from time to time. The plus side is it can be repaired! A talented frame manufacture like Appleman can take your cracked unusable frame into something almost better than new. Unlike steel, it can be repaired without injury to as much of the paint. He has repaired a BMC carbon frame for me and it looks amazing! With no repaint needed! On another positive note, carbon does not rust or rot. I keep saying it would make a spectacular winter bike!


Titanium Started showing its head around the bike industry in the mid 80s (this is getting a little repetitive). First with road then mtn. It spread like wildfire in the 90s due to its light weight, great ride and major durability. It had a slump in sales in the late 90s and early 00s due to the improvement in carbon and titanium's high price. We have seen an improvement in sales in the last 4-5 years. There are many reasons for this and most are simply speculation. I feel its because you can buy a titanium bike and actually grow old with it. You really don't need to worry about durability, weight, corrosion or ride change... it just goes.

The Ride:
Its amazing! It should be... its expensive and super durable. It will be as compliant if not more than steel in both vibration damping and impacts. It can also be almost as stiff as an aluminum or carbon frame (manufacturers usually don't bother making it as stiff as it can be). It really is a dream material... It will just cost you.

Just ride the thing! The only issue I have seen for durability is from the major manufacturer of it in the mid 90s. They made frames for many other companies as well. I have seen a few cracked welds but that is all... and that is totally repairable. For the most part you will see less problems with titanium than any other material out there AND you can leave it unpainted so you don't even have paint to get scratched.

So what do I choose?
All of them! Yep, these photos were taken from my personal fleet of bikes. The short of it is that you can't really go wrong as long as its the right type of bike for you and your riding. If I could only have one it would be titanium as you could probably have guessed. Its pricey but its all you will need to buy for a really long time. My favorite bike that I own is steel though but the bike I ride the most is aluminum. When I wanna go fast as hell I take the carbon bike out. I know... you read this whole blog post just to find out that its really not that big of a deal. But the thing is that its not! As I say to customers "ride a bunch of bikes... and buy the one you like to ride the most". For some people that will be steel, some aluminum and others carbon or Titanium.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Things We Do for Cyclocross: A Break to DISCuss Brakes

Ahhhhh, cyclocross.  What a sport you are!  I know it's not your season, and I've never raced you, but I hope to now that my shop's name will be on a kit and well, that sort of obligates me, right?  So, I'm sorta new at this, but I know a few things:

I may eat it on the barriers,
though probably not so spectacularly.

I will wish my bike was lighter,
but, y'know, steel is real.

I will probably get muddy.
And when I get muddy, I will probably wish I had more braking power.  What I don't know yet is how far I will go to achieve this.  People have been doing the cyclocross with good ol' cantilevers for years and years, but the times are a-changin'.

A few friends have converted to these mini-V things with success.
They're pretty cheap (and ADORABLE!), so maybe I'll give those a try.
But really, discs brakes seem to be the obvious answer, and since the UCI lifted the ban on discs in sanctioned events, options are growing.

Cable actuated discs make good sense as commonly found models like Avid's Road BB7 work with the short pull of road brake levers and integrated shift/brake levers alike.  One of the first disc cross bikes that really stood out to me was Erik Noren of Peacock Groove's personal "Ace of Spades" bike, which pairs custom painted Campy 11 speed levers with (of course) painted-to-match road BB7's:

I'd used BB7's on both my singlespeed mountain bike and fat bike, so this made sense to me.  The rotor stays out of the wet n' nasty and allows for a higher mechanical advantage.  Cool.  Were I to get a custom bike made or come across a 'cross frame that'd take them, I'd probably do this.

But then I got some Avid Elixirs for my singlespeed MTB and, after I bled them correctly, fell in love with hydros.  And whattayaknow!  After some home-spun rigs, the bike industry's now catering to this niche within a niche market of hydraulic disc brake/road lever solutions:

TRP's Parabox: What would RoboCop Do?

Hope's offering.  Is that a reflector mount?

all of which basically just convert the mechanical pull of your road lever into hydraulic disc POWA!  While these solutions allow for the use of pretty much any lever, they're, well, less than elegant in my opinion.  Looks like I'll just have to wait 'til summer for SRAM's superfancy hydro Red levers.

For some reason that lever makes me think of this:

and I wonder how comfortable it will be, but then I remember that I'm a cheapskate and would never, ever, ever, ever, ever spend Red money on anything so it doesn't matter.

Soooooo, after all this talk, I'll probably be stickin' with good ol' canti brakes this year.  How bad can they be?  Guess I'll find out.