Monday, October 29, 2012

Quickbeam Update 2/ Bikes: Salsa Casseroll

A few things today.

First off, yet another Quickbeam update in the ongoing process of dialing it.

Quickbeam Update 2
 I had ongoing problems with the Civia Aldrich bars rotating in the stem, even with a four-bolt removable face plate stem, especially when i was standing up and leaning forward.  I measured their clamp area and found that they were undersized--around 25.1mm when they were spec'ed as 25.4mm.  Plus, as I hinted in my last post, I wasn't totally satisfied with the fit on them.  I'll probably contact Civia about them, but for now, I wanted to try something different.

Quickbeam Update 2
So, I swapped back in a NOS 120mm Nitto Dynamic 37 steel MTB stem which I had originally bought to try with the Civia Bars, and used some Masi-branded swept back flat bars I had kicking around.  So far, this setup has been working the best.  Using a proper quill stem allows me to get the bars as low as possible, and their flat-ness provides a little bit of extra reach.  Being a long time roadie and generally liking bars that put your palms more parallel to the bike than perpendicular to it, I was skeptical that I would like the flat bars, especially after not really liking the Bullmoose bars that much.  But, it turns out that hand position aside, this setup provides the best-feeling fit of anything so far, and I think I'll be sticking with it, for a while at least.

Some might feel that the matte black cheapo bars have no place on a Rivendell, but I actually kind of like the look, and I love the overall proportions of the bike with this setup.

For those that are wondering, I acquired the bars from a co-worker at the shop where I used to work.  They had come stock on his Masi Soulville commuter and he had swapped them out for some less-flared low-rise bars. They're definitely the narrowest bars I've tried on this bike, and with the high-trail Riv geometry, it feels really stable.  Almost too stable. 

Also swapped the tires for some 700x37c WTB "Slickasaurus."  Smooth street tires to better fit it's role as city bike, also in anticipation of fenders for the rainy season. 

Secondly, I wanted to post up another one of the bikes in my stable, the one which, along with the Quickbeam, gets the most miles these days: my Salsa Casseroll road bike, built up on a 2008 Frame/Fork.

Casseroll front 1/4
The story on this bike is that it was my first new bike purchase after college, as a gift to myself for finding gainful employment.  At the time, I was seriously into fixed gear and singlespeed riding, even doing long and hilly rides on my Trek 520, setup fixed/SS with a White ENO eccentric hub.  Despite its generous clearances and beefy frame, I rarely rode that bike with anything fatter than a 32mm tires, and its v-brakes were kind of a pain to adjust.  Plus, while it was well designed and beautifully made, the eccentric hub was still a kludge to adjust chain tension, especially if you were flip-flopping a lot like me between fixed gear and freewheel.  So, I wanted a bike that was more optimized for the setups I was using, with long-reach caliper brakes for simplicity and horizontal dropouts.

Enter the Casseroll, which was just then entering its second year of production, and fit these specifications to a T.  It even had long, slanted, Campy 1010-style dropouts that allowed gear changes without brake readjustment.  Plus, even though it was a relatively affordable, Taiwanese TIG welded frame, it had really nice detailing and aesthetically, it just worked for me.  So, it's original build was as a fixed gear road bike for long road-ish rides, but within that general category it went through many different iterations, as I was never fully satisfied with it.  Originally it had On-One Midge bars, then a couple of different versions of classic road bars.  It had a brief trial with the ever-problematic Mustache bars (during which time I was photographed here), before settling on the more straightforward road drop bar setup it's sported for the past couple of years.

Around the same time that I started thinking about the Quickbeam, I also was pining after a geared bike for fast-ish, lightly loaded rides, so I decided to finally take advantage of the Casseroll's derailleur hanger to set it up a traditional geared roadie.  I gathered the parts together and did the swap around my birthday, back in February.  Added motivation was the fact that I signed up with a few friends to do the Solvang Century in March, and wanted to do it with gears.

I have to say, the bike has really come into its own with this setup.  I use it mostly for fun rides with a lot of climbing in the Berkeley/Oakland hills, and it's great for that.  I have a few ideas of how to refine the setup a bit, but I think this is the general configuration that works best for this bike.

Salsa Casseroll
Casseroll rear dropouts
The details:

Frame/Fork: 2008 Salsa Casseroll. 59cm with "semi-compact" geometry, fits like a traditional 62cm.  Color is "Ginger Beer Metallic."
Headset: Ritchey
Handlebar/Stem: Generic Felt-branded 31.18mm short reach drop bars with matching stem, out of a takeoff bin.  Stem has an asymmetric shim in the steerer clamp to allow for some angle adjustability, which prevents running the stem down the steerer with spacers on top, since the upper spacers would be catiwompous (sp?)--hence the flipped-down stem with lots of spacers under it.
Brake Levers: Tektro R200.  The original Campy Ergopower copies.  Love these things, shame you can't find them anymore.
Brakes: Mismatched 47-57mm reach pair--Shimano A550 dual-pivot front, old Dia-Compe single pivot rear.  Just like the old Campy "skeleton" brakes!
Shifters: Shimano 600 8spd downtubers--from the "tricolor" era.
Crankset/BB: Sugino XD2 double, 48/36, on Shimano UN54 107mm BB. SRAM 8spd chain.
Derailleurs: Both Shimano 600, i think the front is from the 6spd era and the rear is late 7 or early 8spd.  I love old Shimano 600 stuff, you can but it all day for cheap and it looks and works great.
Rear Wheel: 32h Campy 8spd (think it's early 1990's Athena) hub, Mavic CXP14 rims, 15g spokes, 13-28 cassette.  This wheelset was a bike swap find, super cheap.  The 8spd Campy indexes just fine with the Shimano 8spd shifters--their cog spacings were only .2mm off at this point.  However, new cassettes might be an issue--they're available, but they cost more than I paid for the wheelset!
Front Wheel: 28h Specialized-branded sealed bearing hub with oversized 9mm QR (kind of weird-the axle doesn't protrude beyond the locknuts, so the hub sits on the QR in the dropouts), Mavic Open Pro rim, 14g spokes.  This was a spare I swapped in when the matching front wheel to the rear had some axle issues.  It was the second wheel I ever built, so excuse the amateur mistake of crossing the spokes over the valve hole!
Tires: Rivendell Ruffy-Tuffy 700x28c.  Love these things, especially their round profile which makes cornering super predictable.  Haven't had the sidewall issues I've encountered with other Panaracer-made tires.  They easily fit under SKS P35 fenders for the rainy season, which I'll be fitting soon.  May try something fatter (Jack Browns?) when/if the fenders come off next spring.
Seat/Seatpost: Specialized BG saddle on Nitto S84 "Wayback" seatpost.

As I said, the bike's really come into it's own with this setup, and I think from here I'll just be refining, not majorily changing the configuration.  The S84 seatpost really me helped to feel more balanced on the bike, but the additional setback, combined with the long top tube (61cm--geometry chart here), definitely makes this my most "stretched out" bike.  I'm contemplating a super short (70mm) stem with some long reach bars I've got lying around, to give myself broader ramps behind the brake levers and bring the bars in a bit closer.

Also, having moved back to Berkeley with its orgy of great climbs, I find myself wanting lower gears while still preserving tightly spaced gears in the cruising range, and i don't want to go to 9 or 10spd, so I'm thinking about a half step + granny triple setup, but that would require some crank and derailleur swapping. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quickbeam Update/Bike Fit Musings: Is smaller better?

First, a quick Quickbeam update: 

Quickbeam updates

Got a Selle Anatomica Titanico X saddle, and mounted that.  The X is their new saddle designed with extra laminates to prevent sagging under big riders.  Also switched out the Nitto Bullmoose Bars for Civia Aldrich 70 degree bars.  At first, I tried the bars with Nitto Technomic (aluminum) and Dynamic 37 (tigged steel) quill stems, but neither had enough clamping force for the amount of leverage I could put on these swept-back bars.  After scratching up the bars in failed attempts to get enough clamping force through beer can shims, I went for a Civia Midtown 4-bolt faceplate stem, mounted via a Zoom-branded quill-to-threadless adapter. 

Civia Aldrich 70 degree bars and Midtown 120mm stem

Riding around on this setup, I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple of days about bike fit. Part of it is feeling like I'm still not dialed with this setup.  This rumination is also fueled by riding a Yuba Mundo longtail cargo bike at work for some test rides, and loving the feel of its cockpit.  It has a one-size-fits-all frame, with a 580mm top tube, a pretty short (for me) head tube, and angles listed at 71 degrees parallel.  Bars are North-Road style on a short (80 or 90mm) stem.  Part of the reason for the slack seat tube is that it helps the sizing be more flexible for a wide range of rider sizes, since the cockpit gets longer as you raise the seat to accommodate taller riders. 

Curious as to why I liked the feel of the Yuba so much, at lunch on Saturday I measured the setback, which is a fit variable I’ve been focusing on a lot in my recent bike fit experiments, on both bikes.  I measured horizontally from BB center to a plumb line below the seating area (widest point of saddle, basically) on both the Yuba (with the saddle set at my height) and the Quickbeam.  The Quickbeam has more setback, if anything (I measured ~34cm on it vs ~33cm on the Yuba), but it is possible that the SAA saddle doesn't let me ride as far back as the generic plasticky foamy one on the Yuba—this is my main complaint about most of the leather saddles I’ve tried so far. But, the negligible difference in setback got me thinking that there might be more to this all than overall setback. 

If anything, the Yuba could be said to be "too small" for me, especially by Rivendell standards, but it reminds me of many other frames that were "too small" for me, that nonetheless felt pretty good in the times that I rode them—my old beater that I described in the Quickbeam post is one.  It was something like 62cm with a 56cm top tube! My Takara with the original 100mm Technomic and Nitto 115 bars, set really low, was another one. The Specialized Secteur--pretty sure it was a 58--that I rode for my birthday ride this year, when the Casseroll was undergoing its gearie makeover, was another.  I also loved the feel of a smallish K2 MTB I did a townie bar retrofit on a few weeks back.  

In any case, I think that the next step, moving beyond thinking mainly about setback—only reading the "seat tube angle" column of geometry charts—is to think about TT length and saddle-bar drop(!). Combining my now-established preference for way-back seating, with the acknowledgement that even with a way-back CG position, during times of low pedaling force, the arms and torso must take the load of holding up the upper body, which is otherwise suspended by countering pedaling forces (see Keith Bontrager’s seminal piece “The Myth of KOPS,” hosted on the late Sheldon Brown’s site).  It could be that by lowering my upper body some, by lowering the bars (while keeping a short TT in order to reduce angle between upper torso and arms) brings some of my torso muscles into play to help support that weight during these times.  I think I feel better when I’m supporting myself through my torso rather than on the arms.  Maybe I would actually be more comfortable on shorter bikes. 

I’m trying to save up money for possible future framebuilding pursuits, so in order to explore this possibility, I’m going to try these things with my existing bikes:

One: rebuild the Trek in the manner of original 2005 Fixed/SS (re)build, but with gears. So: On-One Midge bars on Delta hi-rise stem, set low on the short steerer tube with no stem extender. Saddle way back. Will free up my Nitto 115's. 

Two: Nitto 115's go back onto Takara (which will be donating it's rear rack, and perhaps its fenders, to the QB) with 100mm technomic, and it may get its gears back (half step plus granny!) to reproduce the original configuration that felt so good. May try a few longer road rides on this thing to be able to compare better to my Casseroll. 

Looking at the QB, i may want to try the bars a bit lower. But that is hard--the quill adapter I've got pushes the stem about 3/4" above the top nut with its taper. I also have an inch or so of spacers between the top nut and threaded cup in the headset. So maybe if i cut down the fork (heresy on a Rivendell, i know!) and find a lower-profile quill adapter, I can get them somewhere around 2 inches lower. Or, the nuclear solution is do a complete threadless conversion--probably a new fork-- and slam that stem!

All of this will give me a lot more data to crunch on, maybe something to try to go for in my first custom frames. 

What do you think?  The Rivendell sizing philosophy is generally "bigger is better," but I think I may be an exception to that.  What have you found?  Have smaller bikes (in any particular dimension) sometimes felt better to you?