Archive for the ‘Tech Cyclist’ Category

Origin 8 2X9 Crank Set: First Impressions

June 18, 2009

Twenty Nine Inches has been fortunate to have J&B Importers “Origin 8” brand let us try some of their new 2X9 mountain cranks recently. This is my report after several rides on the cranks.

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The Origin 8 2X9 cranks are mounted to my Dos Niner, as shown and are mated with a 12-34 SRAM cassette. The bike was ridden on a combination of fast cross country type trail, single track, gravel/broken rock strewn climbs, and fire road climbs.

Shifting performance was excellent after my slightly worn chain got happy with the new teeth on the chain wheels. As long as your front derailluer is adjusted properly, I can not see any reason why your shifting wouldn’t be at least as good with these cranks. If you were to use a brand new cassette and chain, it should be trouble free from the get go. By the way, I adjusted out the low gear setting on my X-9 trigger shifter and I had excellent results with this.

On rolling single track, I found that the 44T ring was the way to go. I could use the entire cassette out back, and shifting performance was normal. The interesting thing I happened to find was that I could attack the hill in the big ring, then shift down to the 29 tooth ring and find myself either in, or a click or two at most from the perfect gear to finish off the climb with. Get over the top, shift once with the left thumb, and I was in a hammering gear for the down hill. It is easy to see why a racer might like the 2 X 9, or new 2 X 10 drive train option.

The 29 tooth chainwheel was sufficiently low enough to mimic granny ring climbs for short steeps, and medium length fire roads were done quite nicely here too. However; if your climbs start out steep, and last for anything longer than a football field, you may be wishing for some lower gears. (Unless you are in really great shape!)

 origin8crank09-073As this crank set is sold, it may not work quite as nicely as it did for myself. The gearing is specific to a more rolling, shorter climb sort of terrain, to my mind. If Origin 8 would offer options, or aftermarket rings that matched the look of the originals, one could tailor the gearing to their locality. For instance, it might make more sense for a Rocky Mountain rider to go with a 37 X 22, as an example. Or perhaps a 34T X 22T set up.

The cranks do work well as they are, and shifting has been normal. I will continue to flog these and report back later with how they do in the long run.

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SRAM XX To Start Shipping In August

June 9, 2009

In an article posted on Bike Europe it is reported that the new SRAM XX 2X10 speed mountain bike gruppo will start shipping to dealers in August. The group, with the first 10 speed rear cassette dedicated to off roading, will be the centerpiece of SRAM’s 2010 offerings. Spanning all of SRAM’s component manufacturers, XX will include brakes from Avid, crank sets  from TruVativ, and even fork offerings from its Rock Shox brand.

According to the report on Bike Europe, the XX group has been in development for two years and was tested by several pro athletes along the way. The Cyclist expects that Shimano and perhaps FSA, (which has been rumored to be working on an 11 speed cassette/shifters for mtb and road), will be showing components to compete with XX this fall. SRAM will “officially” debut the XX group at this falls Eurobike trade show, although this seems to be more a formality at this point.

Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex: Mid Term Report

June 2, 2009

So the tubeless revolution is starting to really take a hold of the 29″er movement and questions come up all the time about sealant. Which sealant is best? What sealant do you use? Well, I have used several sealants and I am quite smitten with this Caffelatex stuff so far. Here’s what I have been up to with it and how it has performed in various applications.

Caffelatex has gone into all of my latest tubeless tire testings.

Caffelatex has gone into all of my latest tubeless tire testings.

Tubeless Tires: The obvious application here. I have injected the Caffelatex sealant with their handy little injector unit into several tubeless tires of late. The sealant seems to keep the casings air tight, and I have had no issues with it drying up so far at all.  One of the benefits that Effetto Mariposa makes about this product is that it foams up inside the tire, allowing the sealant to protect sidewalls more effectively than other sealants might. Does it work? Well, while I have not gotten my X-ray vision glasses to work since I was a kid, (Can I get my money back?), I can not say with authority that Caffelatex is foaming up inside my tires.  I can tell you that in every tire that has Caffelatex in it, when I adjust air pressure, and the valve stem is at its highest position (12 o’clock), that a little Caffelatex foam spits out of the valve stem when I open it. In my opinion, the claim is true.  What about sealing punctures? I can say that I have been running over stuff with impunity, and nothing has caused a flat so far. I did get a low tire on a couple of occasions. I will not say that I discovered a puncture that had sealed, but after re-inflating both tires, they held air pressure as all of the other Caffelatex injected tires have. I am left to believe that it has saved me a couple flats at least.

Tubed Tires: With the injector kit, I can inject Caffelatex into tubes for a tubed set up. I have done this and sealed a slow leaker tube which is still holding air just fine. (It was mounted in a tire when I did this.) I have done up a few tubed tires with this sealant and again, no detrimental issues, no negatives so far. I find that the Caffelatex is easily injected right past the presta valve stems and I do not have to have removable core stems on the tubes to use this sealant.

I tried the Caffelatex on a tubular tire, but the tire was so old, it wasn’t possible for the sealant to get all the holes in the inner bladder to seal up, so I have not had any success with this yet, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t perform as well as it has in tubes and tubeless tires.

So far, two big thumbs up on this sealant. Stay tuned for a final review in about a month.

Gettin’ Groovy, Luv: Experiments in Alternate Handlebars

May 24, 2009

Often I wonder how we have come to certain standards on bicycles. I will read about why this or that happened over time such as wheel size standards or fork offset or what have you. Often the reasons for things being the way they are are kinda’ funny. A lot of the time it just worked out that way or was convenient or expedient or a roll of the dice, but here it is, 100 years later and voila, the veritable ‘way it is’.

Take handlebars for instance. When did someone decide that the modern standard for mountain bike handlebars was a certain rise or bend or width, something that has only recently begun to change? Sure there have been cruiser bars and other things like commuter bikes, hybrids, etc, but the majority of real mountain bikes have come with a 3 to 6 degree sweep, maybe more, and 0 rise for years. Basically the typical XC bar that we have all owned. Riser bars are kinda new on the scene, but even so, they don’t differ too much other than the 3/4″ to 1.5″ rise in the shape of the bar. Sure, 31.8mm oversize bars are cool and new, but they still mimic the shape and sweep of the predecessors.

So what? Well I will tell ya what. There is a lot of stress and strain placed on the arms, wrists, and hands of an off road cyclist. We can strengthen them and we can adapt to the current norm of a mild sweep handlebar, but have you ever heard of ergonomics?

From Websters online dictionary.

Main Entry:
er·go·nom·ics
Pronunciation:
\ˌər-gə-ˈnä-miks\
Function:
noun plural but singular or plural in construction
Etymology:
erg- + -nomics (as in economics)
Date:
1949

1 : an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.

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Ergonomics produces things like the ergonomic keyboard, designed to alleviate strain on the wrists, etc. It also gave us the fabulous option of using saddles with the center relief/ groove, like the BG saddles for Specialized, the Koobi, etc, all designed to keep blood flowing to parts of our bodies that we want to remain happy. Are they for everyone? No, but options are a good thing.

Back to the handlebars for a minute, we see that, looking back in time, handlebars were often much different on the early bicycles of our grandfathers and great grandfathers. Don’t these pics make you want one of these babies? C’mon, admit it.

1910piercechainlesscl11

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I remember having some old knock off Ritchey Bull Moose bars on my first bike and they had a very aggressive sweep back to the hands. I liked those bars, but they were not very adjustable, being basically welded to the stem in one position. What did they know that we have forgotten? Or, did we finally take it to the final refining of the breed, the pure essence of form and function with the typical XC mountain bike handlebar of today? Is this the way it should always have been? Perhaps we got mistaken for motorcycles instead of bicycles? Maybe it came from this influence in the next pic?

800px-john_tomac_1995

The Tomes, muddy and pinnin’ it!

Now Tomac can go fast on pretty much anything. Heck he was winning races on Farmer John tires, maybe the worst handling tire of all time.

But who says my hands/wrists are happy at 6 degrees of bend? Why is that the gold standard that all riders need to comform to?

No good reason, at least, not anymore. Enter the alternate bend handlebar.

Mary Bars. FU and FU 2 bars. Salsa Pro Motos. Jones bars. H bars, J bars, Z bars, Q bars, what have you bars. What they all have in common is a different take on what a handlebar for a mountain bike can look like. Even drop bars are making a comeback for off road use although they never really left altogether. Much of this is being driven by folks on singlespeeds, 29ers, etc. If you are open minded about gears, big wheels, and other departures from the norm, you are more likely to be ready for other things as well.

mary Look familiar? Compare them to the handlebars on the classic bikes from the turn of the century. The Mary bars in this pic on the left are pretty ‘old school’ looking, are they not?

Lately I found myself riding along wanting to do an odd thing: I wanted to turn my wrists inward, rotating my hands on the grips in a position that I could not accomplish on the Easton Monkeylite XC bars I had on both bikes. I never had felt this way before. I never had issues with numbness in the fingers, wrist pain, etc that drives many riders to look at handlebar options. But there I was, wanting to bend those bars to a shape they were not interested in being bent to.

So, I began looking at options. I rode some FU Bars, and although they were very comfy, they felt too narrow for me. The Mary Bars sweep back towards you more than they sweep away, so the end result is the need for a longer stem, something I did not want to do. Then, I found these: The Groovy Luv Handles.

groovy-1 From the website at Groovy Cycles,words by Rody : “I’ve been searching for just the right bar to decrease the pain in my wrist and elbows after an intense ride. The current crop of bars like the Mary and Jones just did not seem to do it for me…too much sweep, not enough rise, etc..

So, working with my mentor, Bill Grove (a wealth of metal fatigue engineering knowledge) and an exercise physiologist, I fabbed up some for myself and the test team to try out. Now we’ve got them dialed and they are available for you, too.

Built of 4130 aircraft steel, with a gentle 4 degree rise and a 21.5 degree back sweep, these bars meet the natural anatomic position of your hands to allow for all day comfort and control. The design allows you to use your current stem and the grip section is long enough to mate with any combination of shifters and brake levers…just slide them on, mark the excess and cut off the material you don’t need.”

Here are some specs for you:

Width – 26.0″ from the tip of the grip to the opposite point
Rise – 4 degrees or 1.0″
Sweep – 21.5 degree
Clamp diameter – 25.4 (custom shims for 31.8 available)
Weight – 315 grams uncut

So, I thought I would give them a try on the SS DiSSent project and see if they are really the answer to what I was looking for. I ordered a set of the steel (he also makes them in Ti), wide at 28 inches and powdercoated black. When I got them it was obvious they are going to be a bit of a weight hit over the carbon bars on there now. But, I am willing to accept that if it feels great.

I measured the reach and height of the existing bars for comparison and removed the carbon bars from the DiSSent. Wow, those are light! Weighing them, I had 412 grams for the Luv Handles and 191 grams for the carbon XC bars. Oh well. I also anticipated losing some shock absorbtion by running the steel Luv Handles. Rody at Groovy Cycles suggests that riders who are running with a rigid fork pop for the Ti bar. The cost is much higher, but they flex quite a bit more.

You can see from the pic that I should end up approx where the 8 degree sweep carbon bar placed the grips as far a reach and rise, but the angle/sweep is drastically different. Also, I used the shims that Groovy Cycles sells since the Luv Handle  is only made in 25.4 diameter and I had all 31.8mm stems.

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Post-installation I put the measuring tape to work and found them to be juuust about 1/4″ further away from the saddle and at nearly the same height from the ground. Good enough. I set them to where the bar was relatively flat as far as rotation up or down.

Riding around the street it was a dramatic change. The increased sweep was immediately comfortable. They felt wide but when I turned sharply, I was able to make the turn with much less strain on my arms, like I was not reaching as far. I think the bend at the wrists allowed my hands to more easily follow the arc of the end of the handlebar as it turned. Nice.

I did change seatposts to get 1/2″ closer to the bars, but I was going to do that with the XC bars as well. Off to the trail.

I have about 3 good rides on the DiSSent now with the bars in place. So far, my thoughts are:

–    They are stiff little beggars. They feel absolutely stout and safe when you are honkin’ on ’em, but they do transfer a lot of shock up into your bod. They ain’t carbon. Solution for you rigid fork riders out there? Pony up for the Ti version.

–    The angle feels absolutely spot-on to me so far. I let another very experienced rider try them and he said the same thing. It just feels right, right away.

–    I love the width, although they feel somewhat narrower to me, a lot of that is the angle of the hand position more than actual end to end width. I like wide bars and I am happy, but Rody makes them narrower and to order as well.

–    They feel great when climbing out of the saddle on the SS. Like the days of bar-ends, it just works here, no doubt. They are excellent in a singlespeed application and they do allow you to move your weight off of the bars, kinda settle back and let the bike float over things a bit.

dscn4521csdscn4519-cs

So now, I thought I would move them to the Lenz and see how I felt about them on a geared bike where standing and leverage are not as much a part of the game, but the speeds go up and the demands for handling, jumping, increase.  However, I found that I had to re-run both shifter cables as the angle of the bars did not agree with the housing length.  With a big ride set for the next day, I swapped back, but not before carefully putting around in the street to get a feel for it, and as before, it felt immediately comfortable.  I will update my feelings later on as I fit them to the Lenz at some point, but for now, I will wrap this up with a very positive impression and some final thoughts:

–    The bars had a rather thick powder coating on them, quite nice after looking at all those bland carbon bars.  However, it made for a tough go, sliding on the brake levers and other controls.  I was able to open the brake levers very slightly with a screwdriver and that worked, but the Gripshifts were a real struggle.  Ouch.  The nice, shiny powder coat is not as nice looking now.

–    They spoil ya.  Swapping back to a bike without the bars felt very odd for quite a while, then I got back in the straighter bar groove.  That may mean a bit of spending to get all bikes equipped with the Luv Handles.

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Groovy Cycleworks:  http://groovycycleworks.com/default.aspx

Product Spotlight: Grease Monkey Wipes

May 13, 2009

Grease Monkey: The term conjures up a sweaty, dirty mechanic toiling away on some mechanical problem. Hey! I resemble that remark! Anyway, it also is the name of a new product designed with cyclists and triathletes in mind. Grease Monkey Wipes are individually packaged degreasing wipes each in their own separate 2.5 X 4 inch pouches. Each wipe is 8 X 7 inches and is excellent for cleaning grease, road grime, oil, road tar, permanent marker, adhesives, or that unsightly “Cat 4 tattoo” from your right calf!

Grease Monkey Wipes packets on a Grease Monkey Wipe

Grease Monkey Wipes packets on a Grease Monkey Wipe

Grease Monkey wipes can be stashed in jersey pockets, seat bags, hydration packs, glove boxes, or tool boxes. Anywhere you might need a quick clean up from having done a ride, mechanical repair, or just to wipe off your bike. You don’t need any water. Grease Monky Wipes are pre-moistened with a natural citrus based formula and leave no residue.

Grease Monkey Wipes are available from www.greasemonkeywipes.com or at your local bike or triathlon shop for $1.00 each.  I’ll be doing a mechanical support for a ride coming soon and will be taking these along for sure!

Bike Packing: Going Long And taking It With You- The Series

April 29, 2009

Join Southern California’s own Grannygear as he explores what it takes to set yourself up for the latest in bicycle touring – “Bikepacking”, or otherwise known as lightweight, minimalistic backcountry bicycle touring. Granny will go over how to get bags and gear set up, and later on will share one of his bikepacking adventures with us.

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Check into this series by clicking on any of the links here:

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part I

Bike Packing: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part II

Bikepacking: Going Long And Taking It With You- Part I

April 26, 2009

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new series on Bikepacking. Grannygear is setting up one of his personal rigs as a bikepacking rig. Here he takes us on his two wheeled adventure. Let’s join in………

If you have traveled the country side enough, especially in the summer months on the family vacation, etc, you likely have seen someone on a loaded touring bicycle pedaling along the highway. That vision typically looks more like the first pic than the second one. The average touring bike experience involves racks, panniers (saddle bags), and lots of stuff. Obviously the first pic shows an individual that is trying to be very self sufficient in a very uncertain environment, hence the spare tires, etc. But still, even the average touring bike can be pretty well buried in gear, and venturing off road with a bike like that is not an easy task. Singletrack? Maybe, but all that hangy-down and sticky-out stuff will be impaled, caught, bashed and pummeled into submission on a technical trail. Forget portaging. And, even if you could do it, and folks have of course, it would not be anywhere close to the free wheeling and fun experience that piloting a mountain bike down a great trail can be.

This is not bikepacking

This is not bikepacking

This is bikepacking

This is bikepacking

Bikepacking is all about less ‘stuff’, no racks, no panniers. Specially built softbags are used to carry a minimum amount of supplies and gear, and when combined with a large hydration pack or a small backpack, enable a radical transformation for the adventuring cyclist. Singletrack is still fun. The bike remains a nimble conveyance, not a beast of burden. The rewards of being lighter and sleeker are obvious. What are the downsides to this approach? Well, carrying less means having less: Less clothes, less kitchen-ware, perhaps less comfort. How much less is acceptable? Are we all supposed to camp on Tyvek sheets and pads of bubble wrap cut to fit our body shape like some crime scene chalk outline? Does bikepacking mean we travel like the Spartans on a road trip?

We are going to be taking a look at this relatively new approach to getting off road overnight on a bike. We will speak with a founder of the genre, see where he got his inspiration from, and get a bike fit for a set of custom bags. The adventure will continue as we get our gear set up, see what works and what does not, and take some overnighters under the stars.

Stay tuned. We are going bikepacking.

Links:

http://carouseldesignworks.com/

http://www.epicdesignsalaska.com/

http://safebag.blogspot.com/

http://www.backpacking.net/

http://www.bikepacking.net/

http://www.the-ultralight-site.com/

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/index.html

 

WTB “GTO” Grips: Quick Review

April 24, 2009

Editor’s Note: Captain Bob, a local riding buddy of mine, has been using the WTB GTO grips on his bikes for awhile now. Here’s his report.

The WTB GTO grips on Captain Bob's rig.

The WTB GTO grips on Captain Bob's rig.

Quite some time ago we got our hands on a pair of the new WTB GTO clamp on grips.  Well, I have been using them ever since.  It totals about five months of actual riding.  They didn’t see much winter use, but did get a good work over during the summer, fall, and this spring.  I have had them mounted to my single speed bike most of the time.  The compound is a really soft grippy rubber.  My first impression was that they might be too soft as they started to wear quickly, but the wearing out seemed to slow quite a bit.  I am a glove wearing fella but did head out a few times without them and was impressed with the tackyness of the GTO’s.  This should satisfy the bare handed folks.  Mounting them does take a bit longer than some grips, but that’s okay with me.  There are two bolts that hold them tight.  Each 4mm allen bolt has a 3mm allen nut.  When tightening them it usually requires putting the allen wrenches on both ends.  Good new is that the plastic clamps are very strong.  I have overtightened them a few times, so much that the clamp completely closed together but it never broke.  The plastic is flexible enough to not crack yet strong enough to not cause them to slip.   
 
With the amount of grip you get with the GTO’s it does allow you to not hold such a tight grip on the bar which for me helps keep my entire upper body looser so I can ride longer.  I did have them mounted up to my geared bike for a bit.  I ran into some clearance issues with my first generation Shimano 9sp Rapid Fire shifters.  The downshift paddle would hit the grip clamp which would not allow the downshift.  I could have moved the shifters in or out on the bar but that would have required an almost 10mm distance and that put the shifters in a not so comfy spot for me.  There was the option of twisting the grips around so the bolt part of the clamps were out of the way but then I could feel the bolts through my gloves.  I think that the newer crop of shifters would clear the clamps with no problems but that assumption has not been tested.
 

So, in the end I came to the conclusion that I really like the WTB GTO grips.  I normally have numbness after long rides on round grips, but there was much less of that with the GTO’s.  If I wasn’t riding other bikes as often as I do I believe they would wear out faster but for the low MSRP of about $20 you can always just buy another pair.  WTB’s website states that they are 33mm ( I measured 35mm)  in diameter which makes them their largest diameter grip available.  To me they feel like a medium thickness grip when compared to other brands. 
 
Captain Bob

Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex: Update

April 22, 2009

I have an update to share concerning the Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex products. I was contacted by Stephen from Cantitoe Road to see if I wanted to test the injector and the tubeless valve stems from Effetto Mariposa. I said “Sure!” and not long after the products came in. (You can find my First Impressions post here on Caffelatex.)

The Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex Injector and valve stems.

The Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex Injector and valve stems.

The injector comes with the syringe, hose, and brass adapters to screw onto a Presta valve or a Presta valve with the core removed. The hose slips onto the nozzle of the syringe with an interference fit, so when you apply the plunger the hose won’t come off the nozzle, but allows for easy removal so you can suck up more Caffelatex with the syringe if need be. The syringe itself is graduated so you know just how much you are injecting and has a handy guide label to help you determine just how much Caffelatex different sized tires should have injected.

The valve stems have a removeable core, come with caps, and two to a package. I installed one in a Bontrager Rhythm rim with the TLR rimstrip. It all went together with no issues. The removeable core makes adding sealant a snap. Use a large spoke wrench to tighten the core when installing it, and you’ll be ready to go.

I installed Caffelatex sealant in three tires using the injector kit. I decided to “blow” it right past the valve without removing the core, which turned out to be really easy. I noted that the Caffelatex sealant bubbled, as advertised, right out the valve stem while I was installing the sealant. I also noted that the sealant would coagulate on my fingers in stringy, rubbery masses, which again, leads me to believe it will seal up punctures just fine.

In fact, I added some Caffelatex into a tubed tire with a slow leak which cured the problem and allowed me to ride the tire and tube several off road miles without incident recently. I will keep an eye on this tire and tube, but for now it is doing quite nicely.

But back to the injector for a moment. The process, once I figured out the way it worked, can be truly mess free and easy. I was impressed! I lean more to the messy side as a mechanic. I can get dirty if I look at a wrench sideways, it seems, so if I can do this drip free, I think most folks will find it that way for themselves too. Also of note: One could inject tubes with Caffelatex as well, if that is how you roll. I’m thinking tubular cyclo-cross tires would be a prime candidate for this process and product.

So, an impressive product and tools to go along with it. I will continue to “inject” various tires around the shop here, as I find the tool easy to use and the sealant promises great performance. I suspect I will be putting it to the test in the coming weeks and will report back with a “Midterm” report then.

Steel Is Real

April 22, 2009

In 2007, Wired magazine (among others) noted the resurgence in steel bikes in an article titled Cycling Purists Rejoice: Steel is Back.  Now, two years and trade shows later, the question remains: has steel finally “arrived”?

Truth be told, steel never actually went away.  But it’s market share sure did.

What has changed in the last 20 years is the inclusion of other worthwhile framebuilding materials.  As widely discussed, and beyond the scope of this article, each frame material (or combination thereof) has a it’s own positive and negative attributes.  Make a brave stand for your preferred frame material(s) on one of the more popular online cycling forums and you’ll see what I mean.

However, there is one important thing that separates steel from the competition … it remains to be the choice of artisan framebuilders.  Here are a few visuals to emphasize the point:

  • Ellis Cycles — Dave Wages might be the “new kid”, but he’s been on the block for a while.
  • Cicli Polito — Award winning handcrafted steel by Dan Polito.
  • Vanilla Bicycles — Sacha Whites’ instant legacy.

As you may already know, none of the three builders above fit into the stereotypical “retro-grouch” archetype.  Rather, they (and others like Sam Whittingham of Naked Bicycle and Design) are young, hip, savvy, and likely to write a blog or two.  More to the point, these steel bikes are a youthful stand against the bike mass-ufacturers — a symbol of individuality and appreciation of hands-on craftsmanship.  This movement against the mainstream is what has really spurred the revival in steel … especially lugged steel bikes.

The other somewhat obvious contributor to steel’s “comeback” is the fixie (fixed gear) factor.  Prior to the development of the specialty niche fixies, like Milwaukee Bike’s Bruiser, the common fixie was a used lugged steel bike with horizontal dropouts.  In other words, the vintage steel bike made the perfect platform for an affordable urban bike that could take some abuse, provide simple transportation, and allow the Mission Hipster a platform for self expression.

Of course, the growing popularity of these handmade steel and simple transport bikes is not lost on the major manufacturers.  So in an effort to expand this “new” market niche, the manufacturers have gone back to what originally brought their success … steel bikes.  The reason for the latency into the market is the slow churning cogs of mass production.  Tim Jackson, the brand manager of Masi Bicycles recently wrote / blogged / Facebooked / Tweeted that Masi already wrapped up their 2010 model line-up specifications before the 2009’s even hit the stores.  Obviously, having to anticipate trends, production, and materials almost two years in advance is a tough task.

That said, Urban Velo recently published a brief list of commonly available steel road bikes.  When combining this list with the hundreds of a custom frame builders, and the hundreds of thousands of vintage steel bikes still on the road, it is reasonable to speculate that steel still dominates the bike industry.

Three other highlights that may, depending on who you ask, contribute to the allure of steel:

  • Early versions of carbon fiber bikes are literally “coming unglued”.  Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about frames like this, but thankfully the industry has improved and refined the carbon frame construction process.
  • Steel is both repairable and less likely to have a catastrophic failure.  Using my personal steel commuter bike as an example, I have crashed it hard AND (I can’t believe that I am admitting this) I have driven my car into garage while the bike was still attached to the roof rack.  Sure the frame has a small ding in the top tube … but I have ridden it 1000’s of miles since.
  • Steel manufacturing techniques and materials continue to improve and evolve.  While other materials currently receive more coverage from the cycling media, the makers of steel haven’t been dormant.

Steel is a great medium for creating bicycles … it is plentiful, affordable, easily welded, stunning in the right hands, and has a handcrafted appeal like Grandma’s apple pie.  Contrary to the opening statement of this article, steel has never really been in a “comeback” position, rather it has simply lost some of the mainstream spotlight.  But like anything worthwhile, consumers will eventually eschew the latest-and-greatest in favor of the time-tested favorite.

Bryan @ Renaissance Bikes bio coming..