Wednesday, March 30, 2011

All Kinds Of Projects.

It's been a crazy few weeks here at the shop.  There have been fun bikes, nice wheels, and great rides happening. Spring is in full swing here in Minnesota with sunny days in the mid 30's.  People are starting to ride, and many are bringing their bikes in to be serviced. Projects of all kinds are in various stages of completion as well.

Paul's Salsa Titanium Selma SS with Mango Chris King single speed hubs is progressing along nicely.  I love this color combination.

Mark's Chris King wheels are in the process of being built for his Ti Salsa, a Vaya in this case.

It's a DT Swiss week for wheel builds as well.  The 240's will be laced up into Ben's Tour Divide wheelset.  The 370's will be a smartly speced race wheelset for Matt from the Twin Cities.  Both wheelsets will be laced to Stan's 355 rims with Sapim spokes.

We have added a stock White Industries road wheelset to the shelves as well.  This wheelset is built with White's H2 and H3 road hubs, (their standard road hubs,) and they are laced to Hed's premium Belgium rims.  The spokes are Sapim's lightest, the Lazer, on the front and non drive side rear. Standard butted Sapim Race spokes are used on the drive side rear.  These are 32 hole wheels, and use brass nipples for durability and serviceability down the road.  They weigh a respectable 1630 gms for the set, and should last quite a long time.

These are some of the nicer projects we have going.  We have been really busy with normal repairs as well.  Tune ups, flat tire repairs, hub and bearing overhauls, and all manner of standard repair business has picked up hugely with the return of nice weather.

Last night we had a great Fat Tuesday.  Jason did a great write up along with his gorgeous photos on his blog, and on the Salsa Cycles Blog.  Check it out, thanks for the great ride and pics sir!

That's all for now.  Back to work.  Happy Wednesday, hope it's a good one for all of you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We'll be hosting our Fat Tuesday ride tonight. Plan is for about 16-20 miles of gravel, the Farmer Trail loop. We'll start at 7 pm at Goodbye Blue Monday in Northfield. All are welcome, we ride a pace accordingly. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Mukluk Completes Inbound

We will be receiving our Spring order of Salsa Mukluk bikes on Friday.  We'll have a 17" and a 19" bike in stock and ready for sale.  Other sizes are available on request.

Fat bikes are great fun to ride all year long.  From the beaches of Duluth, to the Minnesota river valley, there are all sorts of fun places these can go.  Stop and get your bike now and enjoy all the riding this summer.  You'll be set for snow once it does arrive, and you'll have seven months on the bike prior to that to get used to it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A new week.

Last week was one of the hardest weeks in my life.  Dave's death was a tragedy that touched many lives of good friends and people I call family.  The very hard parts of last week were also balanced out by a tremendous outpouring of support and love from all parts of my community.  Thank you to all who have helped and are helping all of us to get through this time as best we can.

Today is the start of a new week for me.  Meg and I should have been just getting home from our trip to California today.  I did work at the shop on Saturday, but tomorrow will be my first real day back.  Thankfully there is a lot of work to be done to keep Curtis and I occupied.  I relish the thought of being able to lose myself in work for a little bit. 

There are a lot of wheels that need to be built this week.  I find this particularly to be very calming, relaxing work.  It's time that I can tune out and just concentrate on what's happening right in front of me.  I've heard wheel building referred to by a good friend as knitting for men.  For me that analogy, (slightly sexist as it may be,) is very fitting.  Building wheels is a process, one that is as repeatable as stitching a line on a hat or sweater.  Though each individual wheel is slightly different, it's a pattern that gets repeated on each part until the finished product is done.

We are all moving on as best we can following last week.  In an effort to do what we can, Meg and I are working on putting together a memorial at the place where Dave died.  It's a gorgeous spot out in the country that I bike by on a regular basis.  It will of course have new meaning for me, and remains near hallowed ground in my mind.  I will keep friends updated as we make progress towards that goal.  We will likely put together a ceremony of some kind when it's complete and installed.  I'll keep folks apprised of that as well.

As for now, we all are doing what we can to remember Dave and celebrate his life.  As I said last week, we ask that you take some time to spend with family and friends in memory of our friend and brother.  Keep those close to you in your thoughts, and remind them of what they mean to you.

Take care all, I hope to see many of you soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We will be closed Thursday March 17th to attend our friend's funeral. We apologize for any delay that causes. Thank you for understanding.
Meg and I are in San Jose on vacation this week, or at least we are currently. We were informed today of the death of a very good friend of mine. He was someone I have known all of my life as far back as I can remember. He was one of the best friends a guy could ask for, and I will sorely miss him.

We will return early for his funeral on Thursday. I hope to find some solace on the back roads of Rice County and in the support of my wife and family.

Let this be a reminder to all of us not to take for granted the time we have with loved ones. I suggest you take a moment sometime soon to tell friends and family again how much they mean to you.

All the best.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Perfect Bikes For Real People.

Some of you may have noticed a new slogan under our blog title.  "Perfect bikes for real people" very accurately describes what we strive to provide for our customers at Milltown Cycles.  It means exactly what it says.  We aim to help all of our customers get out riding on the bike that is perfect for them.  That means very different things for all types of people.  Be it a nicely a equipped hybrid, a race ready mountain bike, or a stunning custom piece or rolling art, it's our job to help you find that perfect bike.

This is the start of a much larger set of changes for us.  We are currently working on an entirely new website that will integrate the good things from our now badly outdated website and all the good things from this blog.  I am very excited about all of these changes.  Combined with all of the renovations and changes we've made to our physical store this year will be hugely different than it has been in the past.

Thank you to all of our wonderful friends and customers for supporting us throughout the years and all of the changes.  We will continue to change and update things as needed to provide you excellent products and professional service.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  Take care.

Milltown Cycles: Perfect Bikes for Real People.  I love it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Call of the fat bike.

Tuesday night we had a great Fat Tuesday ride.  The trails were much better than we had all expected them to be despite low 30's temps all day.  Surprisingly navigable, we rode our normal snowmobile trail loop south of town in just over an hour.  Afterward we retired to comfortable chairs at the Tavern lounge for a round of adult beverages and half priced appetizers.  Despite less than ideal conditions we had a great time.  Both the company and riding were thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday morning brought with it a few inches of fresh snow and the same warm temperatures.  I woke up at a half lit 6:15 with my first thought being of cruising fresh powder before work.  Knowing the snow was coming, I laid out clothes the night before.  I just had to get dressed and down a bit of breakfast before setting out.

The street outside my house hadn't been plowed yet when I started out.  The big Larry tires moved effortlessly though the snow on with the hard surface below it.  You hardly knew you were on snow save for how quiet it was.  I slowly made my way down towards the river.  It was quite obvious even from the start that it would be a granny gear ride.  From under the Highway 3 bridge the pedestrian bridge over the Cannon River looks pretty cool in the fresh snow.

Fat tracks over the Cannon.  I was certainly sinking less through this section than the walkers' footprints beside me.  Even the dogs' prints were lower in the snow.

Shortly after the bridge you hit the start of the snowmobile trail to Dundas.  This stretch was slow and draggy last night.  It was doubly so this morning.  In some spots it was all I could do to keep the bike going forward and upright.  It's a hell of a thing to be working hard in the lowest gear you have on flat ground just to keep moving forward.

To add insult to injury, this section is dead straight and goes on for a while.  The end can't, and almost doesn't, come soon enough.  It's not so much that it's physically hard, it's just a little spirit crushing.  Add to that an almost total lack of visible contrast and you have a heck of a three mile stretch.  It was very hard to find good lines as there was little to tell even where the ditch had been groomed.  All traces of our tracks from last night were totally erased.  

You cross the two branches of the Cannon River at Dundas.  It makes a beautiful spot to rest up for a bit.  The color of the Pofahl really popped in the lighting with the river in the background.  You can see the snow starting to pick up against the black of the tires especially.

At Dundas you make a turn east and head across Highway 3 again.  The snowmobile trails heads into the woods here, climbing gradually as it snakes up an old ravine.  This is the biggest grinder of a hill on this loop.  Those who have ridden it know it's a slow, spinning slog to the top.  It's also easily the prettiest portion of this ride.  I love it.  Up until we started riding fat bikes I had no idea this was here.  It's a mile from my house.  Looking back down the hill at perfect tracks on a new layer of snow.  Just gorgeous.  This section makes the whole ride for me.

I was able to ride the hill in one gear shy of my lowest.  That's pretty good for me considering the condition of the snow.  Last night conditions were easier, and I was only in one gear higher.  Progress as far as fitness goes for me.  This was also the last time I was out of the wind and blowing snow/ice.

After the winding hill this trial heads across wide open fields on top of the bluff.  The weather took a decided turn for the worse in the wide open expanse.  Out of the shelter of any close trees, the wind whipped the falling snow and stung my eyes something fierce.  I rode a lot of of this section with my windward eye closed. You don't need a lot of depth perception in a complete field of white.  In the falling snow there was not distinguishing the earth from sky.  It was just a blank of white dotted intermittently with trail markers.   I stopped taking photos at this point.  I wanted to get home, and there's not much but white and a few dots to see anyway.

I have to admit that I wussed out a bit here. I didn't take the last section of available trail back to County 1.  Last night I fell on this section trying to navigate some deep 4x4 ruts across the open field.  The thought of trying to do the same today through clenched eyelids fighting a strong headwind and snow was not my idea of fun.  I rode the short section of gravel back to Highway 21, and then I rode the shoulder on Highway 246 back into town.  The gravel road and shoulders hadn't been plowed yet, so I'm counting them as legitimate mileage.

All told the ride took me almost exactly two hours.  That's twice the time it took us last night.  I didn't ride as hard as I did last night.  This ride was about time in the saddle and enjoying the new snow.  It was a near perfect start to the day.

Happy Friday all.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What's in the stand: Woodchipper redo.

We took in a really classy older Lemond on Saturday.  It needed a lot of help.  The Shimano 600 STI shift/brake levers no longer function, and it was in bad need of a tune up.  It came with a stereotypical 90's bar and stem set up as well.  Deep, rounded drop bars paired with a low, long stem were too low and a bit to far away to be comfortable for our customer.

It's a lot better now.

Kenda 30c cyclocross tires this bike has been tasked from tarmac only to fast gravel rides.  The brakes clear the tires just fine, and there's ample room in the rear.  There is not much more room for anything bigger, but if the conditions are good these should suffice for local gravel.

To fit in with the new purpose of the bike, we fitted a shorter, slightly more up right stem paired with a 42c pair of Woodchippers.  New 8 speed Shimano bar end shifters will keep this bike working for years, and some color mismatched NOS Shimano 105 brake levers fit the classic look of the bike much better than the old brifter levers.  Fully new cables and new gel bar tape will make the bike function better and be more comfortable.

This is a great bike.  These repairs have breathed new life into it.  In it's current set up if shouldn't require much if any repair work for the foreseeable future. I love the classy lines on this bike.  It should perform very well for it's excited owner.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Let the fun begin.

I am officially going to say that the 2011 season has begun.  With a few days of consistent warmer weather and bright sun, winter is showing signs of cracking.  We are supposed to get some larger amount of snow tomorrow, but I doubt it will stay around for any real length of time.  I can feel the change coming in the weather.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.   

There will always be the few of us for whom the season never truly ends with the coming of snow.  Pick your winter activity, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, biking or running.  There are those people who are not ready to be driven indoors just because of little things such as black ice, huge wind chills, or snowy streets and sidewalks.  If we are honest with ourselves though, we are an overwhelmingly small minority.  The vast majority of people out there are content to ride out winter as we as a society always have, grudgingly.

This winter has been particularly harsh.  Save for a few weeks, it's been pretty warm actually.  This year it's the snow that has people beat.  People are sick and tired of shoveling, waiting a week, and shoveling again.  It's been nearly constant that every 7-10 days this winter we've gotten enough snow to have to suit up and deal with.  To say that local people are sick of snow is probably a bit too understated.  It's time to think happy thoughts about warm rain, cut grass, spring flowers and the first ride on clean roads and dirt paths. The coming of Spring this time of yearis evident more so in the mindset of people than in the actual weather.

I've noticed that change in a lot of people.  More people are coming in the shop.  Repairs have started coming in in force.  People have started thinking about bikes.  Once covered in scarves, on the street you're likely to see faces you may have not seen since October.  The change is needed, it's palpable, and it's not far off now. 

Despite the wonderful winter we've had on snowmobile trails and in the woods I'm ready.  It's time for Spring to be here.  I've made my mind up that it's here.  I'm changing my attidude and plan looking forward.  It's time to tune up the bikes that have long since laid dormant in the basement.  It's time to take inventory of the spring riding gear and fill in where needed.  It's time to start calling friends and planning rides.  I'm ready.

Welcome to Spring my firends.  Let's welcome its coming and get out there and ride!

Friday, March 04, 2011

What's in the stand: Trek Carbon District.

I had the opportunity to build a rather unique bike for a guy this week, a Trek District Carbon.  This is basically a US built single speed Madone road bike.  It uses a set of eccentric rear dropouts with a split on the drive side for belt drive compatibility.


This bike comes stock from Trek as a drop bar, single speed, belt driven road bike.  Our customer wanted something a little different.  What's we've put together for them is just about the most kick butt single speed coffee shop bike I've ever built.  As pictured it sits right under 14 lbs, which feels much lighter than it really is.

FSA Energy cranks look really good with the "belt ring" and guard.  The aesthetic really works on the flowing, flat black frameset.

The most obvious change from the stock build is the bars.  FSA SL-K carbon flat bars were used to duplicate his Mtb position on this bike. They are a little straight for my tastes personally, but they look great on here.  Gorgeous Paul brake levers and Bontrager Speed Limit brakes handle stopping.

These brakes are light, work well, and match the bike aesthetically very well.

Wheels were the other major thing we changed for this build.  The stock wheels were replaced with a set of White Industry hubs on Hed rims.  These laced with ultra light DT Revolution spokes even in a traditional 32 hole pattern weigh over half a lb less than the stock wheels.  The hubs are of a hugely better quality.  This thing should roll forever on these wheels shod with Continental GP 4000 tires.

All in all this is a really sweet bike.  There are a few minor things I've change if it was my personal bike, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want one of these.  This is a wonderfully put together bike that will be exactly what this customer wanted.  It's been a blast to put together, and should be a hell of a ripper for years to come.

Happy Friday all!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

New 2011 Trek Road Bikes Are Arriving!

With spring is just around the corner we are taking delivery of our 2011 Trek road line tomorrow.  We'll be stocking a bunch of bikes from entry level 1.1's up to some of the carbon Madones and Cronus'.

New Salsas are also arriving.  Here are a few shots of some of the new stuff.  More on both of these to come shortly.

2011 Salsa Casseroll Complete.  Stunning bike for a very reasonable price.  I love the build and color on this one as well.  Skin wall tires and a matching front rack are icing on the cake.

2011 Salsa Vaya Complete.  An awesome contender for a gravel and sport touring bike.  Gorgeous color.

We had a blast unloading and assembling the new products today.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.  Things are starting to really pick up for the upcoming spring.  There's a lot more coming that will also step up the game around here.  To say I'm excited is an understatement.  Stop in an see what's new, and check out what's yet to come!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What's in the stand: Rambouillet Redo.

Last week a Rivendell Rambouillet came in for some rather large changes to be made.  Despite being a gorgeous bike that fit him as well as he liked, he was very unhappy with it.

I've always liked these bikes.  I like the lugs, I like the color, I like the threaded headset, I like the crowned fork.  I wish I could find one of these for a retro themed modern build.  With 28's and fenders this thing just speaks to me.

The Problems

This bike had originally been built wheels that used Dura Ace hubs.  Dura Ace hubs of this generation had an aluminum freehub body with much taller than normal spines on it.  This meant that you could only use Dura Ace or select Ultegra cassettes on it.  Needless to say that hugely limited what gearing and drive train choices the bike could be set up with.

When we received it, the bike had a large for road 12-27 cassette, with a 28-38-48 triple up front.  For most people this would have been totally acceptable for casual road riding.  For our customer and his nearly cycling worn out knees, it was just too high of a gear range.  Shortly after being built this bike was hung in the garage and fell in to resentful disuse.

The bike was also set up with Paul Thumbies on the bar.  I am not a fan of this use of Thumbies.  They mount very close to the stem on the very inner portion of the handlebar.  I can really see no improvement over a bar end shifter set up with these shifter.  Our customer was equally displeased with this set up.

The Solutions

The largest problem with the current set up stemmed from the rear hub.  This was the limiting factor in what we could do with gearing.  Not being happy with the performance of the Dura Ace hub, and wanting to make resale easy, we built a new wheel to match the existing front wheel.  This time we used our standard White Industries H3 road hub laced to the matching DT Swiss 465 rim.  The wheel turned out great and matches the build really well.

This allowed us to make the necessary drive train changes to keep our customer's knees happy.  A 11-34t XT cassette and long cage derailleur will keep him spinning happy for a long time.  I love the fact that this is the only section of derailleur housing on the whole bike!

The shifters were the other thing to be changed.  We installed Rivendell's Silver down tube shifters.  These are use similar mechanisms to the old Suntour bar end shifters. These have a really nice feel to them if you like friction shifters.  They compliment the uber classical build of this bike really well.

Overall this should solve everything he was unhappy with.  The bike should be able to run in it's existing form for many years of trouble free service.  Another great bike out the door to a much happier customer!

Happy Wednesday all, hope it's a good one for you.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fat Tuesday Ride

Tonight will probably be one of the last Fat Tuesday ride that will be able to ride on real snow.  We will be meeting at Goodbye Blue Monday at 7 pm tonight.  Getting on into spring we will be transitioning Fat Tuesday rides to gravel until the Mtb trails open up.

We hope you can make it.  Take care all.