Archive for February, 2008

650B 101: The Size

February 28, 2008

Simple Terms: 650b in simple terms is the size between your standard 26″ and the newer 29″.

Detailed Terms: 650b can be viewed in a more scientific standpoint or in a more “Sheldon Brown” way where everything is taking apart.

650b is how the French size tires. (The French have to be different of course!) This is where I will leave it to Sheldon to explain:

In the French sizing system, tires are designated by a three digit number and a letter. The number is the nominal outside diameter of the tire the rim was originally designed for. The letter indicates the width of the tire: “A” was originally a narrow tire about 30 mm, so the 650A rim is pretty large, 590 mm. If you add the top and bottom 30 mm tire thickness to 590, you wind up with the 650 mm tire diameter.

The 650C size was originally intended for a quite wide tire, about 40 mm wide. top and bottom 40 mm tire plus the 571 mm rim size again bring you to a 650 mm outside diameter, even though the rim was smaller.

With time, however evolutionary processes have led to different widths of tires being applied to the rims than the originals, so the nominal 650 mm designation is now more theoretical than practical.

  • 590 mm 650A is the size used on the classic English 3-speed . There’s nothing theoretically wrong with this size, but in practice, the selection of tires and rims available for it is pretty scanty these days.
  • 571 mm 650C was originally a wide, ballon tire size, used on many older Schwinn cruisers. These days, however, it is mainly seen on triathlon bikes and time-trial machines. Available tires and rims are mostly very narrow models, intended for competition use.
  • 584 mm 650B is the focus of this article. This size, also known as “26 x 1 1/2” is most popular in France where it was the traditional size for loaded touring bikes and tandems, as well as general utility bikes.

Breaking it down to millimeters : The 650b is 584mm ISO ( International Organization for Standardization) or ETRO ( European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization.) Compared to a 26 at 559mm and the 29 at 622mm.

Link & Learn: Links that have educated me about the 650b and where I pulled much of this informaion from.

Sheldon Brown – Page on 650b; Page on tire sizing;
650b Freewebs – My original resource

Bontrager Switchblade G2 Rumor

February 28, 2008

We’re hearing out of Michigan that Gary Fisher made a visit to a shop and spilled the beans that indeed a new G2 offset Bontrager Switchblade fork would become available by Fall of this year.

We had speculated as much after hearing Mr. Fisher muse on this very subject last summer at Trek World, the dealer only show held in Madison Wisconsin. It only makes sense since the introduction of Fisher’s G2 offset/geometry for the ’08 model year which pretty much rendered the Switchblade useless to any ’08 Fisher owners that wanted to use the Switchblade as a rigid fork option.

Twenty Nine Inches will post any updates on this as they become available.

New Rock Shox Reba Update

February 27, 2008

We reported in our Frostbike coverage recently about Rock Shox’s update of the Reba fork for 29″ers. Today we learn, via Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website, about the 20mm through axle that will debut with the new Reba fork.

RockShox will be debuting the Reba fork with its new Maxle Lite option. The axle, which is more than 50 grams lighter than the current Maxle, maintains the same proven durability and functionality of the Maxle. Even better, the Maxle Lite uses the industry standard 20 x 110 dimension, meaning it’s compatible with other products on the market today. Refinements include: thinner aluminum axle body, lighter and more ergonomic lever and an aluminum skewer.

This lends credence to reports by folks at Frostbike that the updated Reba felt lighter than the original Reba. Sea Otter will be Rock Shox’s official release on this exciting new 29″er fork and Twenty Nine Inches will be there to cover the event. We will be getting you the specifics on the fork at that time. In the meantime this looks like it will be a major improvement on the “standard bearer” Reba 29″er fork and should launch Rock Shox back to the fore front of choices for 29″er freaks everywhere.

Handmade Passion

February 27, 2008

There is one thing in life that I am more passionate about than cycling and that is art. Handmade bikes blur the line of my two passions, art and bicycles, into an exciting piece that can be ridden and admired. Don’t get too excited, I don’t plan on trying to build bikes anytime soon. However I plan on doing my best to highlight builders that catch my eye between here and The Bike Lab.

Over the years of working in the industry I have sat back and watched the small frame builders around the country and world become stronger and stronger.

  • The NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show) started a few years back. This show allows small builders based out of North America to display their bikes to consumers and bike lovers. It also to compete against their peers for various awards like People’s Choice Award or Best in Show.
  • Money. Cyclist have realized that handmade isn’t that far out of their financial reach compared to the latest Gary Fisher or Specialized.
  • Fitting is now almost a requirement when purchasing a bike. Consumers are educated and know what they need.
  • Customizing. Colored parts, small details and a more niche market

The evolution of frame building is forever changing. This evolution is what pushed the 650b with Kirk Pacenti.

I have teamed up with a builder by the name of Ezra Caldwell of Fast Boy Cycles to build a custom 650b. I will be documenting with Ezra’s help the whole process up until the first ride. The bike is built to suit me and the needs I currently have. Hopefully it will become my trusty side kick for all my travels and adventures.

There also will be articles about small builders and their 650b projects. If you are a builder and want your 650b featured shoot me an email!

A Question Of Wheel Strength

February 26, 2008

Question: Why don’t they make the hubs for 29″er wheels with bigger diameter hub flanges so the wheels can be stronger?

Answer: The matter of wheel strength for 29″ers has been a concern ever since the modern 29″er hit the scene almost ten years ago now. Longer spokes are often times pointed at for being the culprit here. However; is that really the case? Let’s take a look at somethings that may clear up this matter for us.

Wheels have several things that can affect their strength. The way the materials are used, the way they are assembled, and how these two work together are the basics of wheel strength. Particular things such as the spokes, their shape, number and length can affect wheel strength to a degree. Rim diameter, profile, and design are other critical factors. Hub flange strength is important to anchor those spokes well. Let’s assume we are using high quality, well made parts in our wheel assembly and we have the best wheel smith putting it all together.

So, in this scenario, why would a 26″er wheel be stronger than a 29″er wheel? Lots of you are going to say it’s the long spokes. In reality, it’s the geometry of the wheel that is the issue. Let’s take a rear wheel as an example.

Back in the 80’s, when wheels had but 6 speeds, wheels were pretty much symmetrical in nature. That is to say, the angles at which the drive and non-drive side spokes left the hub flange were identical, or nearly so. Now with the addition of each speed up to the 9 we have today in a mountain bike cassette, compromises in wheel geometry had to be made to accomodate the space taken up by the cassettes. Take a look at any rear wheel with a multiple speed cassette. You will notice the drive side spokes leave the hub at a much shallower angle than the non-drive side spokes do. Front wheels are not exempt either. Disc brake rotors cause the same compromises in spoke angles. This is called “dish and causes wheels to be weaker than they would be if they had symmetry of spoke angles from drive side to non-drive side.

This is the biggest influence on wheel strength beyond materials design. In fact, hub flange diameter, and thus spoke length, are much less of a factor. Increasing flange diameter has not been proven to show much, if any, increase in wheel strength.

So, in terms of our original question, the hub flanges have a nominal effect on wheel strength. Increasing the distance between the hub flanges and having a dishless wheel has a much more dramatic effect on wheel strength.

What can be done then? Wheel overlock dimensions have been set since the onset of the 90’s for mountain bikes at 135mm for a rear wheel and 100mm for a front. Is this as good as it gets? Well, some things are pointing to changes in this area.

Niner’s W.F.O 9, an all mountain 29″er that is currently in developement, has a 150mm OD rear hub, a width commonly used for tandem bicycles and some down hill specific machines. (Guess why!) Lenz Sport’s Lunchbox full suspension 29″er also already is using this rear over lock dimension to get a dishless, thus stronger, rear wheel. But what about the front?

Well, that is being looked at by Paul Components who showed a 120mm OD front disc hub aimed at 29″ers at the recently held NAHBS in Portland, Oregon. Word is a suspension fork manufacturer is also looking at this standard as well.

For now it’s best to use a rim, spoke count, spoke guage, and hub design best suited to you and your riding style and to have a competent wheel smith put it all together.

More 650b Tires Confirmed

February 26, 2008

Last week after Frost Bike I mentioned that a couple new tires would be released at the upcoming Taipei show from a tire maker that did not want to be named. I spotted the news confirmed over at Sea Otter so I feel pretty safe to name names.


Why Ride A 29"er?

February 24, 2008

Why ride a 29″er?

This might seem like an odd question for this site and especially in 2008 when it would seem that a 29″er is an “obvious” option for any mountain biker these days. I would submit to you that if you are already on board with the 29″er as a bike for off road, this might seem as if it is the case, but there are a lot of folks still looking at 29″ers for the first time. To those who are new to the idea of a 29″er, I paraphrase a popular adult beverage tag line: This post is for you.

The most commonly heard attribute of 29″ers is their ability to roll over trail obstacles with less drama than smaller wheels do. While this is certainly true, it is far from the only thing going on with 29 inch wheels. Here I will briefly lay out the advantages for those who are curious.

Better Roll Over: Okay, lets get this out of the way right off the bat. 29″ers have a different “angle of attack” in relation to trail obstacles you might encounter. This realizes itself to riders as a smoother feel. Sometimes it negates the need for front suspension for some trail riders, thus the plethora of rigid front forks on big wheelers. It is also interesting to note that what is good for the front wheel is also good for the rear wheel.

Better Traction: 29″ers, by the nature of the diameter of the wheel, have a differently shaped contact patch than 26″ers do. (Some would argue that it is a bigger contact patch) However it really is, it is obvious that a 29″er has an ability to claw it’s way up steeps and technical climbs that smaller diameter wheels can not match. This is aided by the following attribute…………

Better Momentum Conservation: One of the oft overlooked characteristics of 29 inch wheels is their propensity for carrying momentum better than smaller wheel sizes do. This helps in clearing climbs, but it also causes 29″ers to be a bit tougher to get going from a slow speed, or stopped situation. If a 29″er rider can learn to work with the momentum factor of 29″ers, it can become one of your greater allies. Less braking is necessary due to the stability and better traction of 29 inch wheels. So if you can learn to trust that, the momentum saved can be a big benefit. Smaller wheels tend to not have any of these traits in the amount that 29″ers do, so using momentum with smaller wheel sizes doesn’t work nearly as well.

Gyroscopic Effect While this is very closely related to the above mentioned benefit, I broke it out because this is the one thing that makes 29″ers seem so “safe” when downhilling, or while attacking technical terrain. A 29 inch wheel by its very nature will want to stay upright better than a smaller wheel will. This can work for you not only in high speed down hills, but in slower technical terrain as well. It is one of the reasons why many taller riders feel that the 29″er bike is less likely to “endo” than smaller wheeled bikes.

Loose Terrain Traversing/Traction There is a reason why early 29″er pioneers were winning mud bog contests and crossing sandy desert terrain better than their 26″er brethren were. The wheels seem to really excell at crossing loose sand, mud, and even snow. This is a direct result of many of the above mentioned benefits working in concert with each other, but is remarkable, so I mentioned it as a stand alone trait.

Geometry Quirks The positioning of critical frame elements on 29″ers results in a lower center of gravity in relation to the axles for the rider. This also results in a more stable feeling in corners and a less “endo” prone ride for riders choosing 29 inch wheels. It is also worth mentioning that the mere existence of 29″er steering conundrums has opened up a whole new facet for riders of 29 inch wheeled bikes, namely the ability to tune the steering characteristics of your ride.

There are many riders that hop aboard a 29″er and just decide that it works, others take awhile to “warm up” to them, while others find out it just isn’t their cup of tea. Hopefully this brief list will help you to decide whether a 29″er is for you or not. But really, the best thing is to just go out and try one for yourself and see.

Happy Trails!

36 Inch Wheels: Update Part II

February 23, 2008

Lately there has been some excitement regarding 36″ers, the huge wheeled bikes that were first just a novelty. In fact, the first 36″ers widely known were Coker cruiser type bikes. Now there is a “new breed” tramping the trails and back roads with a hint of more to come.

Twenty Nine Inches presents a brief history now of the 36″er for off roading with pictures. (Because really, what’s a story without pictures, right?)

Arguably the first off roadable 36″er came from the mind of Ben Witt of Faribault Minnesota. (There are rumors of a Kansas 36″er, but only hearsay, no real evidence has come forth) The bike made it to The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo where Ben put it to the test on some single track. From that effort, Ben went back to the drawing board and produced a better, more refined 36″er, which resides at his shop to this day.

Inspired by Ben’s 36″er creations, Blonde Fabrications was the next to produce this stunning 36″er. It wasn’t just for show either.

The bike was ridden in the Fat Tire 40 event during the Chequamegon Fat Tire festival in 2007. This raised a few eyebrows in the racing community.

Enough interest was raised that this effort was produced for an attempt at the 24 Hours at the Old Pueblo in 2008. Sporting 180mm OD hubs and dual front disc brakes, this version of a 36″er attempts to address the issues involved in making a truly strong off road 36″er wheel.

Are there more 36″ers coming? The obvious answer is yes. As far as a “trend” or any mainstream acceptance is concerned, it is doubtfull that 36″ers will ever become something you will find at your local bicycle shop, or will it? Time will tell.

No matter where 36 inch wheeled bicycles go from here, one thing is certain. They are the most smile inducing bicycles this author has ever ridden, bar none.

Is Haro Ready for the Gamble?

February 22, 2008

Yesterday I posted the photos and spec charts of the two Haro 650b bikes that will be coming out this summer. There have been many conversations and emails traded between cycling folks and myself.

What are your opinions?

Personally I think it is a valid first offering for a Independent Bicycle Dealer (IBD) to carry. There are many things I would of hoped to be different.

  • On the Haro side I think it will confuse many consumers and dealers due to the price ranges. If a shop was to carry both the Haro Beasley and the Mary they would have two models from the same company competing against themselves. Educating the customer is going to be very hard on the 26 vs 650b vs 29. Most shops are still trying to catch up with the 29er movement that has swept the industry. If you go into a big box store you are lucky to find someone there that is knowledgeable about the product and hopefully they will have that product on the floor! Now we are throwing a 650b wheel into the mix. I hope that most shops go at it from a fit stand point for folks under 5’10 instead of trying to explain all the wheel spin up and handling stand points. These are things people will have to feel while riding while fitting on a bike is something you can show in your store.
  • What has Haro done to educate their IBD shop on the 650b wheel? Are the local representatives going to each store to explain the wheel differences? Are there going to be demo’s available? Did they do some type of write up in their catalog? Haro is going to have to single handedly (since they are the only big box vendor at this moment) educate consumers and customers why 650b is that much better. For full suspension I think this is going to be an easy task but why is their Beasley 650b worth buying next to their Mary 29″.
  • My only other hold up is the fact frame sets aren’t available. This would give folks the chance to get into the 650b movement on a frame that is designed around 650b. For the first year 650b is going to be a spare bike for those that have issues with a 29er or 26 but just want to TEST the waters. Give them a $400 option that gives them frame, fork and wheels.

Kudo’s to Haro being the first out of the gate from bike manufacturers I look forward to seeing where they take it!

First Look: Haro Beasley 650b SS and 1×9

February 21, 2008

Finally the teaser is no longer. Haro sent out pictures to the mass media and MTBR folks this afternoon. Personally I can’t wait to throw my leg over the Beasley SS.
Spec’s and photos: