Been a long time between muses. the Quail Manor is pretty much done. So not too much to talk about. And. It's summer so who the hell wants to be in Tucson. And then towards the end of May my phone rang.
If your interest is not in bikes. Read another muse. Will do a few about projects and plants after the holidays.
While you will find the subsequent musings are certainly of the quality and insight my five's of readers have come to expect; there ARE a LOT of words and bike jargon. It's my party, I'll cry if I want too. This may not be a muse for you if you're looking for pictures of flora, fauna and design
The phone call outlined a gig right in my wheel house. Client sounds interesting. Working with people with whom I have favorable history. Insinuations that budget is not an issue, so within reason, write my own ticket. Downside is it's out-of-town. But out-of-town in Santa Monica, CA. Kind of stars aligning. So what the hell, out I go. We agree to scope, terms, and an agreeable travel schedule and lifestyle.
Did real well economically. Ended up hiring Deloitte Consulting. Which I NEVER thought I would do. But some of the old team were still around, and in charge. So a no brainer.
Right up until it all came to an abrupt stop in early August.
New executives got hired. New executives that were not excited about inheriting a mission critical project, so wanted to revisit everything. Not all that unreasonable except while we could quibble on nuance, what we were doing was directionally kind of the only rational approach. And had to start right freaking now or miss the only rational go-live for the next 9 months or so. They wanted to stop anyway. Not sure if intended or unintended on their part, but I said thank you very much, beat feet, and sent a final bill. Which got paid!
When we started, SWITBO and I agreed we were going to treat this as found money. Turned out to be a sweet sweet pile of found money. I'd been wanting another bike. Partly because the perfect number of bikes is n+1 where n is the number of bikes you have. And so a good one could always be left where we weren't (just in case I found myself where we weren't and needed a decent bike) and the rest of the fleet travel back and forth as we change bases of operation with the season. So a new bike it is!
Now. What to get. There are a whole lot of types of bike. Of relevance to this muse are; road bikes, mountain bikes, tandem bikes, hybrid bikes, cruiser bikes, time trial bikes, cyclocross bikes, touring bikes and most recently gravel (or adventure) bikes. Now, all of these bikes are variations on a theme and all based more or less on what we commonly think of as road bikes. Each type of bike is optimized for a particular style of riding and riding surface.
Riding on the road is becoming an increasingly dangerous undertaking. Drivers "never saw" and "did not realize" they just ran over that person laying in the ditch back there. Until they get caught fixing the dent. Cyclists are not infrequently an entitled pain in the ass who think they are in the Tour de France, so it's a two way street...
Back roads are the best place to ride since traffic is light. Back roads are getting farther and farther away from civilization. Frequently they turn crappy, out where the tax base does not lend itself to many Mercedes drivers who complain if they have to use their suspension, and eventually to dirt. As importantly, many routes that for a road bike would be what is called an out and back (not generally desirable) can be turned into a loop (usually more desirable, but requires a bigger commitment) if you are able to do some of it on dirt. Your musist is not the only person to notice this. Hence the rise of gravel (or adventure) bikes as a type.
Further, there are three types of cyclists of relevance to this muse. Technically, two types of cyclists and then another group that owns and may or may not actually ride a bike and then really just to go get ice cream. Anyone who has seen me knows I have absolutely nothing against ice cream and enjoy it as often as possible. But these people ride a bike but are not necessarily cyclists.
Your musist's immediate interest is in the two types of cyclists. Type One is broke but usually rides real good. From this type come racers. Type Two is (usually) advanced in age and has money. They may ride well, but usually not so much. Frequently, they once rode well, but got busy making bank and got fat. They do have a critical ingredient; disposable income. And places to store a fleet of bikes.
Type One makes do with what they have. Frequently they are that good. They beg, borrow and repurpose. They would just ride their bike as is on the dirt and over the pot holes. No worries.
Type Two is the type that stirs the loins of the cycling industry. And gives rise to the plethora of narrowly defined bike types listed above. Type Two's buy a "Horse for every Course". And all the gear that goes with each. Two's are beloved by the evil enabling cycling industry.
Your muist acknowledges that he is a Type Two. Over the years, we've accumulated one or more of all the principle bike types. Except cruisers, which at least to-date, we've not really found a need for. Which of course could change. And a touring bike, which the tandem is technically configured to do. And a touring bike is axiomatically slow. I have shopped for a touring bike. The first thing you learn is to get over thinking about going fast. Your musist accepts that he is becoming slow, but is not yet willing to accept a bike that is by definition designed to go that way.
Purists can quibble, but what your musist thinks of as a gravel bike is kind of a souped-up cyclocross/touring bike. The idea is they have pretty much a cyclocross geometry but generally lighter and faster on the road like a road bike. They are not as beefy as a touring bike, but can be used for "light credit card touring". They can run bigger and typically lower pressure tires so they can smooth out crappy paved and dirt roads. Others use their gravel bikes all they way up to mountain biking, but I don't even use my mountain bike for that anymore.
So a gravel bike it is! A no compromise gravel bike. Damn the cost. We just fell into this sweet sweet pot of found money and it is of course an American responsibility to stimulate the economy...
But which one. Research ensues.
Most high-end bikes being made anymore are carbon fiber. Which is great. Unless anything happens. If anything happens, a carbon bike breaks. They're fixable, but at what cost. The paint probably won't match and you're out of a bike for the duration. If you've got a sponsor and break a "plastic" bike, they give you another one. Your musist is sponsored by her Sweetness. There are a lot of bikes in the fleet, but I've got to get a gig to get a new one. Don't really want gigs so don't really want a plastic bike.
My favorite bike (made by Serotta) is also my oldest. 20 years old this summer. It's made from titanium. You can't break titanium. The Serotta , the one that rode across most of the continent is titanium. It's 20 years old. It's been wrecked. Lord knows how many miles, but I'll bet getting close to six figures. Research suggests there are some titanium gravel bikes out there.
Titanium it is.
But which one. Research ensues.
The company that built my beloved Serotta is out of business. I found some good looking off the rack bikes, I check with my mechanic. He suggests Kent Eriksen Cycles. My neighbor has an Eriksen. It's beautiful and he loves it. I knew that, but never crossed my mind.
Research ensues. Turns out Kent is a cycling deity. His bikes are kind of the modern Serotta. Been in the cycling industry, in Steamboat Spring (Colorado) for most of his adult life. Started and then sold Moots which continues to be legendary. Stuck around for a while, didn't like having a boss. Started Eriksen. Makes as many bikes a year (something like 150 or so) as suits his fancy. Wins awards for design and/or build quality every year. His welder is well known in the industry and has his own groupies. A frame welder. With groupies. In Steamboat. Sweet.
I start the process. Kent calls. I swooned, but was able to persevere. Turns out designing a bike is a little like building a house. Or a car. What kind of bottom bracket do you want. How big do you want the head tube. Do you want it tapered. You're big (fat) and strong (he asked my threshold power, and perhaps even more scary, I know it), probably should do 1 inch diameter chain stays. How many bottle cages? Fenders? Rack mounts? What kind of fork? What drive train are you going to use (it effects various bosses). Mechanical or electronic shifting. Rim or disk brakes. How big a rear rotor? Hydraulic or mechanical? And on and on it goes.
Many phone calls ensue as we sort out how I'm really going to use the bike. Crazy. A deposit is sent.
Completely unrelated, we end-up with friends in Steamboat over Memorial Day. So we stay until Tuesday so I can stop by the shop to genuflect. I failed to take a picture, but this is the Google Maps street view. The shop is around the left side. I'm pretty sure the door under the sign does not even work.
So the outside looks sketchy. They're not here for retail, and we do reside in The Barrio, so we get sketchy!
We look around and the shop doors (around the left-hand side) are open, I mean physically propped open, but no one to be seen. Even after a little poking around. Notwithstanding the outside looks pretty barrio, the shop is magnificent. Everything in its place. Beautiful machine shop tools. Beautiful hand tools. No scrap anywhere. No grease spots anywhere. Everything you would hope if you were paying a small fortune to have a bike fabricated to your exact specifications.
Much waiting for construction. Here is a link to a bunch of videos on the Eriksen site of making a bike. In some of them it looks like he is building the bike up free-hand. In others like he is using a jig to get the geometry right and then finishing the welding. In some the shop dog appears to be supervising. In all of them note carefully the cleanliness.
Finally there is an e-mail clarifying whether I want the fender mounts on the seat or chain stays. Uhhh, what do you recommend? They e-mail back to ask what kind of fenders I like. Uhhh, don't know. What kind do you guys like? They e-mail back we'll do both! So I e-mail, when do you think and what are the logistic for you to get paid so you can ship.
Next e-mail is a not insignificant invoice and a UPS tracking number. They shipped the damn thing without a check - that got deposited and cleared! The power of being a cycling deity I guess. They know people that will come break my legs if necessary!
The tracking number says the shipping weight for two boxes; a complete bike and two wheels but not tires, seat, handle bar, or drive train. Is 15 pounds. 15 pounds. The battery and all the wiring for the drive train is already installed. 15 pounds includes the freaking battery.
It arrives. The handmade wheels are very nice. But the bike. Is a work of art. Every weld is as beautiful as all the reviews say. I take it over to Randy, my "wrench" so we can begin the process of ordering the drive train and all the small parts. All he can do is remark about how light it is and gawk at the welds.
Took the better part of a week just to spec and order the drive train. And we already knew generally what we wanted. Bikes have gotten way too complex. Too many Type Twos with too much disposable income. A bit like ordering a new car. That transmission won't work with that engine. Those brakes won't work with that transmission. Anyway several days on the phone gets (we think everything) ordered.
Here is the 20.5 pound finished product. Your musist thinks it looks bitch'n. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but your musist likes. Less important, but also cool. It rides GREAT.
Kind of amazing all the work that goes into something like this. Frequent readers know all the attention to detail that contributes to making the Quail Manor the Quail Manor. Same here.
- The shifting is electronic. Shimano Di2. Ultegra. Dura Ace is technically better but not $1,000 better. Pretty much the only compromise we made. Careful observers will note all the wiring is run internal to the frame. Tidy. At first I was going to do a spanking new wireless set-up from SRAM. Which would have be spectacular, but not really available yet, you have to figure there are going to be some issues. And would not support a wide range (11X32) cassette in back. So went with proven wires. Front chain ring is a compact 50X34. Got a lot of range for going up.
I got the optional part that communicates wirelessly to my Garmin head unit. It will tell me which gear I am in, how much battery is left (kind of a big deal) and how many times I shifted the front and the back derailleurs on each ride. You also update Firmware and configure the shifting options wirelessly with your iPad. Yep, the bike has firmware.
- The braking is Shimano hydraulic disk. I was a little skeptical about this, but works a dream. What's cool about the Shimano setup is their cooling. Careful observation will indicate fins and cutouts to facilitate air flow across each disk. Apparently if they get too hot you can warp rotters and the hydraulic fluid will boil. Not good.
I find out after installation that it has to be broken in. So Randy prescribes 15 front and 15 rear slow and easy brake to a stop stops. Then 30 front and 30 rear panic stops as hard as you can from 20ish mph stops. Your musist performed as perscribed. Other than a few lock-ups, the challenge is not the stopping. It's getting back to 20ish mph 60 times. After, I tried to go for a ride. But your musist was spent. He rode to the ice cream store. Not proud of it, but it must be reported.
- The wheels are designed for the cobbles (pave) of Belgium. The model is actually called Belgium. You buy the hoops, then separably the hubs and then separately again the spokes and nipples. Then separately pay someone, in this case Ken Eriksen to turn all the parts into a wheel. It's a art. Most wheels are machine made, not quite sure how that works. Issue is things usually get over torqued. The gold standard is hand made by an artisan. Which is what you see in the picture.
The tires too are designed for the pave. They are French. Called Sector in honor of the sectors of cobbles in the Paris-Roubaix bike race. Good enough for that surface, good enough for your musist. Another first for me is they are tubeless. Mountain bikes have been doing tubeless tires (and disk brakes) for years, but relatively new to road cycling. To make the rims tubeless they have to be carefully taped on the inside to seal where the spokes fasten to the hoop. Randy is a perfectionist so we (he) double taped them.
Idea is you can run tubeless tires pretty soft, for comfort and traction. And they are resistant to flats. That said. The second time I rode tubeless tires (not these tires, but a set I got to test on my cyclocross bike). I had a freaking flat from a sidewall cut. Piss.
- This is a cyclist with too much money thing, but parts of the bike you interact with are the handle bars, the pedals and the seat.
- Carbon is this musist's preference for handle bars and forks. The carbon damps road chatter and makes for a happier cyclist. And, be nice if the contact points on all the bikes are the same.
So, they are.
The new bike handle bar is the same handle bar (type) that I rode on the Serotta across country (no, not EFM, but a whole lot of it). I had a cheap one (aluminum, good for stiffness but bad for comfort) on the cyclocross and tandem bikes that Randy upgraded to match the Serotta last year. So an easy choice to pick for the new Erikson. And the tape is extra thick for extra comfort. Just like all the other bikes. Randy thinks I'm crazy, but he takes my money...
- The pedals are PowerTap P1 power meter pedals. I'm in discussions with the company about bearing end-play. After one rebuild already, they now tell me a lot of end-play is normal. I insisted I get a writing to that effect. The engineers have been summoned. In any event these things communicate wirelessly to the Garmin head unit. Of course they tell me how much power I am putting out. Better, they tell me how much is left and how much is right side and the balance. I just learned they also tell me how much time I spent standing and sitting.
They too have firmware. Update them from the iPhone.
There is also a wireless optical heart rate monitor, a bluetooth bone conduction headset for comms, a Garmin rear facing radar to warn me of approaching traffic as well as a camera that takes pictures of bogies approaching from my 6 o'clock. The radar is so I have a chance to avoid. The camera is so SWITBO can sue them into the dark ages upon my demise.
I ride in a bubble of radio waves. All this stuff gets recharged after a ride.
- The seat is one favored by ultra-endurance, RAAM type cyclists. Not that I'm up for RAAM, but no one is going to argue with good groinal comfort. I got one early to test on the cyclocross bike. Liked it well enough I put one of all the bikes I am likely to ride long distances. Consistent touch points.
- Carbon is this musist's preference for handle bars and forks. The carbon damps road chatter and makes for a happier cyclist. And, be nice if the contact points on all the bikes are the same.
- Careful observers may note there are three bottle cages. Extra water in remote areas is always a good thing. What you can't tell is the cages are titanium, cost a fortune and are light as air. I have them on all of our good bikes, cost more than my first car. Nice thing is if they get loose and don't hold the bottle tightly, they can be bent so bottles stay right where they are supposed to stay. Carbon cages are light too and look cooler, but they are one size fits all.
- Look at all the red highlights. The bike comes unpainted. That is raw titanium. You do get to pick the color of the decals, headset bearings, the derailleur hanger, and the cap on the top of the seat post. At the beginning I was going to go with the wireless SRAM shifting. It is branded as "Red" and has some red highlights. Hence, SWITBO picked red for the decals and the bits and bobs. SRAM eventually went by the wayside, but the red stayed.
Randy found the red stem spacers. I found the red bar ends for the handle bar and the red mount for the Garmin computer. You may notice there are red highlights on the wheels and tires. That is a fortunate accident. And, the labeling you can hardly see between the handle bar tape and stem - its red.
Unfortunately, Randy informs me that, at least in bygone days, the red metal treatment tended to fade to pink. Now your musist is manly enough to pull-off pink accents on the bike, but will have to watch how that situation plays out with time... He also suggested all this matching detail is going to catch the attention of evil doers. I hate evil doers.
- Another option is you can have your name etched on the top tube. So I did. Research indicated some pros go with last name only and some with first and last. After deliberation your musist went with first and last. Precludes ever selling the bike...
Careful observers will note the nub atop the stem (to which the handle bars attach). Modern forks are made of carbon. During manufacture, the part that sticks up through the bike (the head tube) that the stem attaches to is left quite long so it will fit a wide variety of bikes. A gut check in any bike build is the cutting of the fork to the right height. A little like buying a tux. You're kind of buying into a waist size. When you cut the fork, you are buying into a bike geometry. Randy (my mechanic) waited for me to leave before he cut it...was pretty sure I could not have withstood the strain of watching.
Anyway, a prudent mechanic and bike fitter cuts it long so you can raise the handle bars if necessary after riding for awhile. We got the bar height right, so now we (Randy) will cut it again to eliminate (most of) the nub.
Following are a lot of pictures of the build process. Took the best part of three days... You will notice the build quality of the welds, the incredibly tight clearance of the front chain rings and the rear brake disk (because of the enormous chain stays), and the carefulness of the prewiring the Erikson folks did. Every one of those wires sticking out was EXACTLY the right length.
In pedal news. The engineers requested videos. Good idea. I should have thought of that. Because the Quail Manor has it's own YouTube channel and I've not used it in almost a year, here for your viewing pleasure are the videos. You're welcome for the high production quality.
PDQ, got an email back for the PowerTap midwestern (by definition honest) engineers (axiomatically honest). To quote their observations, "Woah! Not normal. I’ll get you out a pair of pedals today..." They want the original ones back to study. Understandable.
Since I was editing, I thought I'd add a note about mounting the radar and camera watching my 6 o'clock. Careful readers may recall an earlier mention. I've been working all summer and fall on a mounting approach that brings me joy. I'm on about version 57 at this point. Kind of surprising since I'm not the first person to run out of room on the seat post.
Much unsuccessful fabrication has ensued. Finding the right combination of angles, diameters, stability and mounting points has proven surprisingly problematic. Connected to all this is the need to carry tools and spare tubes. Usually these mount in a bag under the seat. With the advent of bigger tires, guess what happens to the tubes. I like to carry two. A belt and suspender kind of thing. Bigger tubes take more room and now don't fit in the bags I've been using for decades. The pump got bigger too, but that's a whole other story.
I found a mount that is actually designed to attach to the handle bars so you can mount more stuff up there. It has enough pivots that I figured I could rotate that and this other thing and maybe it'll work.
In version 47 I started working with it and just no joy. So it went in the box of all the other handle bar parts I've been accumulating from failed or out lived mounting experiments. Save everything just in case it finds a use somewhere down the line.
While looking for mounts I came across a new bag system I liked. Mounted it and thought it looked like I had more seat tube. Brought out the mount from version 47. Repurposed a few bits and bobs from the box of unused handle bar parts.
This may be a winner.
In other news
We were just down in Tucson for their Day of the Dead events. Stuff is growing so fast it is hard to document. Even the pictures on the home page which date to late March 2016 are unrecognizable.
While down there did a ton of projects.
Will do some musing after the holidays...