Friday, April 30, 2010

Bike Building Friday.

It's been a busy spring here at the shop. More so than ever, we have sold bikes this spring. This follows a trend that seems to ring true with other shop owners and employees I've talked to. Yesterday we received our second 40 some bike order from Trek of the spring. We have a few repairs to do first thing this morning, then it'll be on to assemblies.

I really like building bikes from boxes. There is a certain predictable monotony about it. Even with different models, the parts remain fairly standard. The process changes little from bike to bike. On these rainy, windy days it's really relaxing to sit with a hot cup of coffee and steadily work through the stack of bikes.

Though the whole order consisted of bikes that will retail for less than $500, there is one cool bike in there. Granted, we are doing some pretty wild changes to it, but it'll be a good one. The intended use of the bike is to be a much more capable shop errand bike. I'll elaborate on that more when we get it built.

That's all for now, have a great day. Enjoy the shifting clouds and think of the nice green things in the woods just loving this weather.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Members of the Family.

I live in hiking boots. I like the comfort and support they provide. I like lacing them up in the morning. I like the fact that I can stand for 15 hours straight and not have my back or feet hurt. For these reasons and more I've pretty much lived in a pair of Garmont Leather boots for the last 7 or so years. After many miles under them with all kinds of stories and shared experiences, they are starting to show their age. I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed, they have far exceeded my expectations of comfort and longevity. They have been great boots, I could ask nothing more of them.

Last night we stopped at REI on the way home from Fargo. It was the culmination of a few months of researching and reading about various boots and their strong and weak points. It probably won't surprise many of you that I am very picky about what I was looking for. I wanted a boot with a full leather upper. I didn't want anything with a steel shank. I wanted something that would last as long as my last pair of boots. Oh, and the kicker, I didn't want anything with Gore Tex lining. I've owned Gore Tex lined boots in the past, and I have yet to be sold on it's merits for my intended use. I have not found it to be advantageous, it seems to just make my feet hot!

With these things in mind, I found four boots in stock that had about what I am was looking for. I'd like to thank Meg for being so patient while I tried on boots with different combination of socks for close to two hours. I'm sure she now knows most of REI's layout like the the back of her hand.

My uses for my main boots have changed over the years. With warmer winters these days, I find that I often opt for my uninsulated boots with thicker socks for short trips to the woods. Room to fit larger socks with breathing and toe room was a big deal this time around. With that in mind, the boots had to be able to be tightened down with thin socks on without feeling floppy or too loose. Knowing exactly what I was looking for them to do made it a pretty easy choice in the end.

Here you go, the new pair of kicks. They are a pair of green, size 47 La Sportiva Karakorums. They are slightly beefier than my old pair of boots. The walking action is more of a roll rather than a flex. The boot is a little taller on the ankle than my Garmonts, but not restrictively so. For such a sturdy boot the were quite comfortable from the first. These are billed as a light mountaineering boot, which I have no realistic expectations of using them for. They are crampon compatible, which means I now have the option of trying out some light ice climbing with friends this winter. While they are not as sturdy as a true plastic ice boot, they will give me a chance to see if I like it or not.

It may seem a little silly to get so serious over a pair of shoes, but it makes perfect sense to me. Here's hoping in 7 years I'm as happy with this purchase as I have been with my old ones.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fargo Weekend

Meg and I will be returning home after a restful family weekend in Fargo. I'm sad to say no biking related activities were had over the weekend, but it was a very good one nonetheless. My niece's first birthday was yesterday, so most of the weekend was centered around activities related to that. Curtis was gone canoeing last week, so it was really nice to have some quiet downtime with family and good friends to recoup from the long hours.

This week will be another busy one. We have another 40 some bikes coming in to be built, and there is the seemingly never ending stream of repair bikes to be fixed. Life is good.

We will be riding mountain bikes in River Bend tomorrow evening as usual. Meet at the shop after close for a 6:30 leave time and 1.5-2 hours of nice riding. Cheers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Some people's kids...

Here you go, my best candidate for a genius award lately. Ignore the fact that they are mitigating any possible gas mileage gain by driving 80 mph down the highway. I am guessing there, but they flew past me and I was driving a little over 70. Then consider the fact that the hitch that you can buy for a Prius is specifically designed to be a mount for a bike rack. Period. They are not rated for ANY tongue weight or towing capacity. Awesome. Stay safe folks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wendesday Night Social.

Ham on the grill tonight. Come on by. Dinner should be ready at about 7pm. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ride tonight.

Provided the rain holds off, we will be leaving the shop at 6:30 for mountain riding in River Bend. Stop by if you can.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big Dummy Sunday

Yesterday Meg and I had a lot of time to get errands done around the house. We have a lot of stuff to do in the garden, so a run to Menard's was in order. We live about 2 miles away and it was a beautiful day out. I haven't been doing many things around town yet this year, so the Big Dummy has sat in the garage neglected. A little air in the tires and she was ready to rock.

We made our way out to Dundas along the back roads with the snu on our shoulders and a slight tailwind at our backs. The thermometer at the bank along the way read 64 degrees. It was a near perfect afternoon for a little jaunt. Menard's was understandably busy on a nice Sunday. We quickly gathered the things we needed and started and made our way though the checkout.

This is where the fun started for me. The ride out was great, but the real show was seeing people's faces as we loaded up. I was wearing dark sunglasses just so I could be privy to the inquiring looks of the mostly truck driving onlookers. Our list of purchases was small but consisted of some pretty bulky objects. A 25lb bag of mulch, a 20lb bag of potting soil, and a 5' tall trellis made up the bulk of it. Meg carried the smaller items in her bags, and we got the Dummy set pretty easily. I tied a red flag onto the sharp tip of the trellis to avoid pedestrian injury.For the bulk of the load, the low, even distribution made riding it nearly the same as unloaded. The sheer stability of a loaded Big Dummy is one of the best attributes of the bike. There was a bit under 80lbs of cargo on it at this point. It is only fractionally harder to ride physically, and controlling steering is really no more difficult. We took the bike path from Dundas to Northfield through Sechler Park on the way back. From there we crossed the Peggy's Bridge over the Cannon and into Riverside Park heading towards Just Food Co-op. Laying next to the river in some bushes I found a rather nice abandoned bicycle. The bike is an 18", red Specialized Hardrock. If someone is missing one you can call me with the serial number to claim it.

The bike is rather beat up, someone threw the rear derailleur into the wheel. It'll need at least a hanger, derailleur, wheel and a tune up. If no one claims it in a reasonable amount of time, (or the local PD doesn't call us, I reported it found,) we'll fix it up with used parts and send it to Big Brothers Big Sisters. My uncle runs the local area for that organization and we donate quite a few bikes to them for kids.

This is where the Big Dummy really shines. Already fully loaded, I just loosened one of the tie down straps and threw 'er on. A minute later we were moving again, the load fully secured and not going anywhere. Gotta love that. We loaded up groceries for dinner and headed for home. All in all it was about a 8 mile casual ride on a beautiful day. Once again the Big Dummy has proved it's worth in my garage. I am continually impressed by what this bike allows anyone to do. It's a game changer in terms of mobility on a bike. What else would have allowed all of this to happen easily under human power? I have some stickers that will emphasize this point, but if you really want to save the world buy a Big Dummy. For a little food for thought, a Big Dummy complete currently costs about $29,000 less than a normally equipped Toyota Prius. Seems simple enough to me. Hope your week goes great. Ours has started off wonderfully.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Door

Natural light is rare in the typical long, narrow storefronts in turn of the last century down towns. Downtown Faribault is situated mostly north/south, so we get a fair bit of sun morning and afternoons. At one point in time, the shop had huge floor to ceiling windows in the back. These let light in to the store back in 1878 when the building was built. Some time since then the windows had been boarded up and a solid door was put in. Yesterday we had a new door installed in the back. It's a step in the right direction to correcting those actions.I have to say it's pretty amazing what a window back here does. The light from the back is easily seen all the way to the front of the shop. It's also nice to be able to see the parking lot and what's going on out back. The new door is also hugely more efficient in terms of efficiency. The low E glass combined with much better seals and installation make it much less drafty. Curtis and I originally thought that we would just install the door ourselves. Curt has hung doors in the past, and is much more proficient in carpentry than I am. That was three weeks ago. After looking at the new door for that long it was apparent that it just wasn't going to happen. We called Darren Viland, a carpenter in Faribault and he and his brother came to do the install. The door has a set of blinds built in between the panes of glass. This will let us block some of the hot summer sun while still letting a lot of light in.

I have to say that I am glad we called them. Watching skilled workers in most trades is something to see. Their professionalism and attention to detail was very noticeable. Many times during the morning Curt and I found ourselves watching them saying, "Yup, wouldn't have known to do that..." This happened a lot. I'm not a carpenter. Here's the end result from this morning. It is the first outward looking step to getting out back entrance up and in shape. We now have something out back to distinguish the shop from the other drab buildings facing the alley. This is the first step of what I hope will be many to rehab our back entrance. There are others planned, but I am not sure on the time line for many of them. This is an important start though, and one that has already made a huge change for the better.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Enabler

What will it let you do? 468mm tall of fat front goodness from Salsa. Suspension corrected for 80mm forks, it'll bolt on to almost any bike.
135mm spaced stainless dropouts with full fender and rack mounts.
Lowrider mounts, combined with additional bottle bosses make for an ultra versatile design. $100 and in stock now. This one could be yours. Happy Friday all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Road wheels

Teaser wheel shots for a new project.

White Industries hubs. Just a beautiful example of functional, durable, elegantly designed, American made bike components.

Big tires on nicely supportive rims.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finally riding.

With repairs and construction finally getting under control at the shop, we've finally been able to ride. Last night was a great ride through River Bend. The temperature was almost perfect. The trails were just tacky from the previous night's rain. We only had a small group for the ride, but the company was stellar.

We rode a ten mile loop or so. Leaving the shop a bit later at 7 pm, we had a little over an hour before it started getting dark. The river washed up a ton of dead fall branches and rather large trees. It's a virtual playground for bike stunts waiting to happen. This is along the river on an unused side of a city park, so as long as stuff is well done I don't think anyone will mind. It's holds a real possibility for fun stuff to happen. More on that later.

Shop wise we roughed in our food cabinets/counter area. It's no secret that Curtis and I spend a lot of time down here. Over the years a guy gets really sick of eating Subway sandwiches, not to mention paying for that stuff adds up really quick. We have been steadily moving towards making our own food down here. Whether it's simply microwaved soup in bread bowls, or full on grilling extravaganzas it had become abundantly clear that we needed a space in the shop specifically for food and utensil storage and preparation. This is all taken up a notch when you consider the start of the Wednesday Night Socials and other goings on. Here's a sneak peak of what's happening in this area. It's a work in progress, and it still has a long ways to go. The functional pieces are in place save for the wash/prep sink, which may take some doing. The big thing is that now all of our food related stuff is located in one previously unused corner of the shop. It's a huge step in the right direction.

As the Potts in the foreground suggests, I have actually gotten a chance to start riding it. I have to say that I am impressed. I expected nothing less than near perfection, and it is certainly getting close. The bike feels exceedingly well weighted. Turning inputs in particular are very intuitive and light. It feels as though the bike just floats through the corners of it's own accord. I need to do some final fit and component tweaking, but this bike's a winner for sure. Unlike some other Ti bikes I've ridden this one feels very solid under power as well. I'm no phenom, but I can usually tell if a bb is flexing or not. This one doesn't. It does feel very smooth as Ti should. I love it.

As reported by many others before me, the Potts Type 2 fork is truly something to be experienced. Especially with the 135mm front, it tracks very precisely. I can't say that I even notice it flexing like some carbon or ti forks I've owned, but it is amazingly smooth. Many steel forks I've ridden exhibit some type of a wind up action. That is to say that they have noticeable flex backwards and then a sharpish spring back forwards. This fork does not appear to have any of those tendencies. It's at once solid and stable, yet just plainly comfortable. It is a shame that Steve is no longer producing this specific fork anymore. He is, however, working on a fork of a similar design that he says will ride very close to this one, yet it will cost less and require less time to manufacture. I'm very excited to see what the new version looks like.

Finally, tonight is the first Wednesday Night Social of the season. We will likely be having some really good cheese, crackers, a few veggies and some refreshing beverages. Stop on by after 6 tonight and say hi. We'll be waiting for you. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MTB Tuesday

Tonight will be the first shop MTB ride in River Bend for the year. The trails are nice and dry, though they may be a bit tacky from last night's small amount of rain. The trees are just starting to bud out, and the temp should be nice and cool. We meet at the shop at 6 pm, and leave the shop at 6:30. All rider levels are welcome. See you tonight!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Last Chance

Salsa is discontinuing the Fargo Complete bikes with the XT builds. If you've been waiting for one, now's the time. Give us a call if you are still interested in one, and we can get one coming.

They will still have frames of course, and a lower priced complete option. It will lose the nicer, near full XT build though.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

We're alive!

So it's been a while. Spring is officially here. We have been inundated with repair work and sales at the shop in the last few week. It's the kind of problem a guy in my line of work wants. It does, however, mean that certain things like riding one's bike and keeping the blog updated have been falling by the wayside. Last week Friday I started to work on the bike riding, this week I'm starting in on the blog again.

As a spring update, we plan to start our Tuesday night MTB group rides and Wednesday night socials next week. The trails are in really good shape in Faribault for riding. All abilities of riders are welcome, we will ride at whatever pace people who show up want to ride at. Feel free to come if you are new to the sport as well. Riding with experianced people is the best way to learn techniques to make you a better rider. We usually meet in the back of the shop at 6 pm or so, and we leave the shop at 6:30pm. Rides are usually 1-2 hours depending on rider ability level and time frame. Refreshments of some sort to follow the rides.

The first Wednesday night social of the year is also next week. I'm not sure of the menu yet, but it'll be something good for sure. Stop on down and catch up with people you may not have seen in a while. Bring something to pass if you wish, whether it be food of beverage. The pinball machine has sat idle too long, it's looking forward to a workout.

Take care all, see you soon.