Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Failure Mode

That long silver line on that bar is a crack. Found on MG's personal rig recently.
Failure is a topic that many of us that ride bicycles don't like to speak of. It is "negative", so you just do not speak of failure in terms of your performance. However; there is another kind of failure that we do not speak of much either. Failure of components and frames and forks. It is a very real possibility every time you ride your bicycle.

I was tipped off to a very good article covering a wide array of the topics related to parts failures on bicycles by a Twitter/blog reader contact I have. The article is by "Cyclingtips" and can be found by clicking this link. It is well written and broad based in scope. So, I feel it is a good primer on the subject for any cyclist.

I am going to take a look at this from a mechanic's/rider point of view. The above link does a good job of pointing out a little bit of the following, but like any broad ranging topic, there just wasn't room there to flesh out the subject. Not from a point of view such as mine, which includes being a mechanic for over 20 years.

In terms of parts and frame failures, we see a lot more crash related failures than we do the type of failure that happens from "life span" issues. Generally speaking, you can chalk that up to what the linked article points out where bicycles are sold then never really used. Crashes can constitute a lot of examples. The obvious is where there is something catastrophic, where bodily injury was inflicted, or there was obvious violent contact with something. (Roof mounted bike into a garage door, as an example.) However; I feel the most commonly found failure is due to a crash that did not seem to be a big deal at the time, but resulted in a failed component later.

Things will last only so long, then they die.....
This can be hard to pinpoint because most of the time people file away little biffs and dings in their mental recycle bin never to be retrieved again. However; it can take only one fall to precipitate a crack in a handle bar, as a for instance, that could lead to a "catastrophic failure" later. See MG's handle bar above. He dumped his bike in a corner, then later found this crack. Had he not seen that, the bar could have "given away all at once", or so it would have seemed. The reality was that the damage was already there waiting to fail the rest of the way.

I like to think of these things in terms of something that happened back in my youth when I was a jeweler. We worked on fine jewelry and manufactured custom designs which required lots of polishing to bring the fine metals up to their highest glow and sheen. To clean everything up, we used an ultrasonic cleaner, then a hot, high pressure steam bath. We would use these heavy stainless steel "tweezers" to hold the items as we blasted them with shots of steam. After we were finished, we would nonchalantly toss the tweezers into this heavy glass container we kept on the back drip edge of the sink. One late night, after one more of probably hundreds of thousands of tosses of tweezers into that glass, I sat down after cleaning something up to file it away in its envelope and move on to the next task. It was maybe 3-5 minutes later when the glass exploded into thousands of tiny crumbs.

I like to think of that last tweezers toss as the final crash that "broke the camel's back", as it were. The glass continued doing its job for a few more minutes, then it "just failed". In reality, every toss of those metal tweezers was building up stress in the glass which finally resulted in the glass exploding in spectacular fashion without seeming to have any "input" to make it do so.  Our bicycle parts, frames, and forks are also subject to these stresses that can eventually lead to a part failure, like the wheel I have shown here. That pulled through spoke probably had a crack next to it to begin with before it actually failed completely. Had the owner of that bike seen that crack beforehand, he could have replaced the wheel before it completely failed.

Considering that most riders almost never inspect their bicycles for cracks or loose fasteners, it is a near miracle that we don't have more catastrophic injuries related to "JRA" (Just Riding Along) incidents. Consider also that hundreds of thousands of bicycles get infused into the marketplace every year. The sheer numbers of bicycles waiting to fail must be astronomic in total. That isn't to say that efforts should not be made to improve things, but we are talking about a small number compared to what it could be, in my opinion.

Fat bikes, in particular, have had a rash of fork issues since becoming widely available.
Another thing that has been a noted issue with failure, but not a high frequency thing, is the advent of rigid fork fat bikes. The forces at work which exert stress on different parts of a fat bike are far greater, or different, (or likely both), and have caused forks to be recalled. We've seen some subtle and some not so subtle redesigns of fat bike forks which we have replaced under warranty. Obviously, this will sort itself out, but missing the mark on design is another way we've seen failures on parts.

Even less likely is the rider who refuses to repair, or replace an obviously compromised part. While this is admittedly a smaller fraction of possible failures, I see this far more often than I do the flawed part that just falls apart. At any rate, these types of situations concern me the most. In fact, I will refuse a job, rather than take the risk that something will continue to perform without causing injury or death. A famous example would be the various jobs I have refused because the steel fork was bent backward and the owner refused to replace it. Sure......it is steel, and as one guy said, "I've been riding it this way for 30 years!". I replied, "All the more reason I would not work on that. Your luck is due to run out at any time now.", and I wasn't about to take a bet on that one! He probably is still riding that bike, but you know, the minute I work on it, guess what would happen....

Finally, there is the misuse of parts and bicycles. We see this a lot! Stems and seat posts extended beyond their intended insertion points, quick release levers used incorrectly, trailers loaded with cargoes way in excess of what brake and wheel systems on the bicycles that pull them were rated to. Racks affixed to carbon fiber seat posts, bags installed incorrectly, and the list goes on. It is amazing to me how much of this people get away with without catastrophic failures. So, there are another group of potential failures just waiting to happen.

The point is, "life cycle" product limitations may be something worth pursuing, but don't for a second think that this will solve the potential issues with failures. There are far more modes of failure than that.

Monday, January 16, 2017

If You Have Time To Lean.....

Part 1 of the swap session completed
The cold and flu season has caught up with us here at Guitar Ted Laboratories. So, I haven't been out on the bicycle of late, trying to recover and all, ya know. So, I kind of feel like I haven't been doing what I should be doing. My bikes have been leaning, not moving. And you know what they say about when you have time to lean.

So, I was just sent some brakes and shifters from Gevenalle. The package came with a front derailleur as well. Now the plan was set all along that this stuff was going on the Tamland. That meant that I would be removing a full brake set, front derailleur, and shifters. Avid and Ultegra stuff. Nice stuff that works pretty well.

So, that stuff couldn't just sit around and lean either. What to do? Well, I came up with a plan. See, there is another bicycle I have that has SRAM on it and, well, I just do not think that SRAM road stuff is very good. I held off judgment on it until I had a lot of rides on the stuff, but I can say that, for me, the SRAM road stuff is slower shifting, feels clunky compared to Shimano, and worse, the levers are much harder to actuate from the drops than Shimano's are.

Now I had almost everything I needed to switch the Twin Six Standard Rando to Shimano from SRAM. Everything but a rear derailleur and a crank set. Okay, well it just so happens that I had a slightly defective long cage Ultegra rear derailleur in the bin. I looked at it and sure enough, I was able to get it to be perfectly functional. The crank? Well, that isn't going to be critical to overcoming my complaints, so that stays.......for the time being. 
Old school, reliable, and actually lighter than the Ultegra one.

 Well, enough about that, what about the Raleigh? Well, as long time blog readers here probably know, I really have enjoyed the Gevenalle, (formerly Retroshift), shifters, which ironically enough, cannot be shifted from the drops! That fact doesn't escape me, but I have learned to be able to execute shifts and return to the drops just fine, not unlike going to a downtube shifter and back. A step backwards? Perhaps. It used to be called Retroshift after all.

But they are dead simple not only in execution, but also in ease of use, and quite forgiving of inclement conditions. Stick your Gevenalle shifter into a mud hole when you crash, and you can get up and go with the confidence that the sifters not only survived, but work flawlessly. Now from where I sit, that isn't a common occurrence, but copious amounts of gritty dust? That's a commonly seen issue, and Gevenalle shifters are pretty much impervious to dust and grit.

Now they have mated the shifter to a TRP hydraulic drop bar lever. Hydraulic brakes? Yes. They are not 100% necessary, this is true, but they are easier to use. Less effort at the lever for better braking power? As a mechanic who has pulled wrenches for 20 + years, I'll take that advantage. I bet those who are dead tired on a ride and have to negotiate a 35mph downhill on loose gravel will also appreciate the easy modulation of a disc brake using hydraulic fluids. How these hold up, actually work in the field, and how they stack up ergonomically are things I am interested in discovering.

Stay tuned on that.

But the weekend wasn't a complete wash because I was sick, and now, well........I cannot wait to get out riding again!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Registration Madness

Looks like I will be going down to visit this country again this Spring.
First off, no- I did not get in the DK200. I didn't even try to. Actually, I was in bed sick when the whole registration thing happened and I understand that it was quite the scene.

There was a new record time set for fill up, which is what I predicted. Depending upon who you believe, the DK200 was filled up, (with exception of the 200 women's spots, which took a little longer), in somewhere around 15 minutes. That's all available spots, and the "200 Women-200 Miles" category filled in about a half an hour, so I gather.

So that's pretty great, yes? Well, that is a good thing that also has a "bad taste" for many who experienced internet hiccups with the registration service used by the DK200. Stories of "spinning icons", dropped registration, crashes of the site, and more were seen on social media. Some folks thought they missed out only to find a receipt showing that a credit card had been charged and then finding their name on the roster later. Some folks missed getting in but were charged for support and rooms anyway.

There were some that had part of their group get in, but others did not. It gets to be kind of a tough deal when that happens to you and your friends.

I'm not going to speculate as to why things seemed so difficult for the registration server, but I will say that it has become painfully obvious that there is a "frenzy" component to this event's registration that is a known, social reaction which is relevant to many retail sales situations. Think "Black Friday" madness and you can understand what I mean. I saw the same/similar thing with Trans Iowa registration. I ended up changing the way Trans Iowa does registration which has completely diffused the "frenzy" nature we had with registration and now it is completely a sane and fair process.

It's not like they aren't trying to make the process smoother.....
Look, I have to be honest and say that I really liked the "frenzy" to a degree. Back when folks were sending flowers, pizzas, and cases of oil in with their registration cards, or when we were starting to get visitors dropping cards off. That was a lot of fun for me and for those associated with the shop and the event. I am sure that the excitement over the registration process is kind of invigorating for the DK Promotions folks as well. However; I think that when you see as much disappointment and such an amped up atmosphere around the process of registration, it might be a wiser thing to make the process a bit more measured, calmer, and more reasonable to those seeking spots. How would that work for the DK Promotions folks? I do not have an answer for that. I just feel the time has come for a change in the way they do the registration for this highly popular event.

So, anyway, I have one good friend that did not get in and two others who did. I will once again be down there, but not as a registered rider. I'm not entirely sure about the plans for RidingGravel.com's involvement in some capacity at this juncture. There may be something I am wrapped up in having to do with this. If not, I'll probably just do my own ride again.

If you didn't get into the DK200, and you want to "just ride around" down there that weekend, let me know. I may be able to make that work We will see.......

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: More Of What It Is All About

I've written many times about what it is about the gravel road riding and racing scene that I find so attractive. I've written loads about what Trans Iowa is, and what it is not. That's all well and fine, but when you see someone else put things in a little different way that helps you understand what it is you are trying to say even more clearly?


Such a written document was found via Facebook the other day. It was a link to another blog. (Yes, some people other than myself blog about cycling.) In fact, it was a piece done by Craig Groseth, a talented, strong rider out of South Dakota whom I have had the pleasure of riding with. He "gets it", of course, when it comes to all this country riding, but he also knows how to wordsmith pretty darn well. I suggest that you check out his take HERE.

It is well worth the time to read through.

Minus Ten Review- 2

THAT trail, not "trail", get it?
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about a wide array of things, but one topic that I covered is still sorely misunderstood ten years down the road.

You hear folks talk about how "None of this nit picking, micro-dissection of bicycles and geometry matters. Just ride!". Then you can find the same folks talking about how they really liked this demo bike they tried, or they really liked some different rig their friend has because it "felt so good to me!". "Say one thing, do another" much? Yes. Yes, many times they do .

One of these areas of misunderstanding is bicycle geometry, but there are others as well. Tires are another big one, but let's stick to the geometry for now, since that is what I was writing about ten years ago.

Front end geometry is probably one of the biggest contributors to how you perceive a bicycle handles. Rightly so, since your hands, two of five body contact points, are directly connected to the business end of front end geometry. They feel the results of what is going on with all those angles and whatnot. Yet many people fail to recognize this, or begin to understand how that can be such a big deal. Mere millimeters of difference in "trail", the measurement which describes the stability or lack thereof in a bike, can make a huge difference in your perceptions as a rider. Head tube angles are most often referenced in discussions about front end geometry, but that is really only a part of what really matters, which is the "trail" figure.

This post a decade ago ended up becoming the catalyst for an extensive experiment I ran a year later. I took my OS Bikes Blackbuck and ran eight different forks on it all with various offsets, axle to crown dimensions, and formats. (rigid and suspended) I made every effort to keep all other fit parameters the same. It was a very enlightening experience, but I'll leave that discussion for some time down the road.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday News And Views

Welcome to the first "Friday News And Views" of 2017. The traditions for this series of posts runs back all the way to the beginnings of this blog. You can expect a near weekly edition throughout the year.......

Design for the new Pirate Cycling League kits.
 New Pirate Cycling League Kit Design:

Okay, first off, I don't know anything about how to get this, or even if you will be able to for sure, so there is that. I was tagged on Facebook by the graphic design company that did the work on this. That's all I know for sure.

That said, usually around this time of the year we see a new design from those piratey-Pirates of the League. I've gotten their kits before and wear them proudly. I imagine that we will get "official word" about "how" and "when" and "how much" sometime soon.

By the way, the Pirate Cycling League are the guys and gals that bring you Gravel Worlds, so you should click that link and go see the news about that event. (And the super-rad new graphics they have up) If you have ever attended the Gravel Worlds event, you know it is a "family reunion" of gravel freaks, a party, a super cool ride, and a big challenge. If you can't tell, I am a big fan of what they do and I heartily recommend that you experience the fun.

I just may have to add this little number to my collection of gravel cycling wear. It would be a good way to celebrate my finish of the event last year.
Or maybe I should get the "PCL Army" look.

More fashionable gravel cycling wear for 2017
Riding Gravel Jersey:

The jersey parade keeps on going here today with a bit of news about the RidingGravel.com jersey offering for 2017. Now this one I can say really will be available. The final designs were signed off on just a wee bit ago and once everything is ready to go on the manufacturing end, RidingGravel.com will put the word out on how to pre-order this jersey, bibs, vest, arm warmers, and knee warmers.

This will be my main kit going into 2017 for events and organized rides, since, well.......I am part owner at Riding Gravel after all. I figured I'd better fly the colors if we had them to fly. Now we will, and others will be able to get thier RG freak on as well soon.

I do know that this jersey will be a very limited time offer, so when the pre-order goes live you should pull the trigger and not waffle on this. Once the order goes in, I doubt we will do another run unless we get overwhelmed with requests. Hey.......it could happen. Realistically? Probably not, so don't bank on being able to grab one of these later. Just letting you all who might be interested know ahead of time.

And also- I have no idea yet what any of the above jerseys will be going for. 

Yep......you guessed it! Registration is TOMORROW for the DK200, by the way.
 DK200 Registration TOMORROW!

Ah what the heck! I figured I'd keep the jersey theme going. Why not?!

The real info here you need to have is that the Dirty Kanza 200 registration is TOMORROW at 8:00am CST.

Don't snooze yer way past 8:00am CST or you will most certainly NOT get into this event. Spots go in mere minutes once the floodgates open and I suspect tomorrow there will be a new record for sell out on the 2200 spots that span the event distances on offer. Last year the Half Pint 100 sold out in less than half an hour.

The highly coveted registration spots will go in a big hurry, but like anything, many times folks end up getting in to situations or experiencing life changes that prevent them from coming to Emporia Kansas for the event. At RidingGravel.com you can check out this thread on the forums especially set up to facilitate the exchange of information to help you find entries that are up for grabs. The entire process is carefully explained there, so check that out if for some reason you don't get a spot for the event. Also, we did a podcast where I interviewed LeLan Dains and Jim Cummings of the DK Promotions company. You can listen to what is up for the 2017 DK200 HERE.

Thanks for reading all the gravelly news that was fit to digitize today. Have a safe, warm, and enjoyable weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fixing What Ya Broke: Part 2

Iowa license plate recycling project- Or in other words, fixing my bicycle part with what's at hand.
The repair of my BarYak "wings" is complete now and I thought I'd show you all what I did here. You may remember my post from a couple days ago where I give you the story on the back ground and inspiration for this repair using some old Iowa license plate I had lying around here.

So, if you reference the image here, you might be able to follow along with this. First off, the carbon fiber material you see here is simply ornamental. It serves little, if any, structural purpose for the design. The "wings", arm rests really, attach to the BarYak extensions via two bolts which pass through at the corners of the "wing" piece of the arm rest. This is what tore through when I crashed last October. The backing material here is a dense foam material which doesn't hold up well to the shearing type forces I applied to it when I endoed.

My theory for the repair was to place some sort of an "end cap" over the edges of the "wing" part and drill two holes into the cap to accommodate the bolts. The end cap would be metal, harder to tear through, and be tougher and especially be able to provide a better clamping surface. However; as I contemplated the design, I realized that the foam material the "wing" was mostly made of would want to compress much easier than the metal end cap. So, I formed a 2/3rds cap. essentially what you see here, and the separate "back plate" would allow for compression of the foam bit.

I have not field tested this yet, but I expect it to perform as I expect and the reinforced bolt holes should give my Bar Yak System new life. Stay tuned for an update later into Spring after this has been tested.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Some Tidbits To Take Care Of

The gravel roads are clear in many parts of the world and I see that many riders are out there bagging big miles getting in shape for Trans Iowa v13. I'm still trying to tie up some loose ends before I can release some more news, but in the meantime, there are a few things that have cropped up which I would like to take care of now.

Drop Outs: Trans Iowa operates on the principle that if a rider drops out, for any reason, that rider is not replaced on the roster. This is the reason why every Trans Iowa has a different numbers of riders take the start every year. We've already had the first rider drop out, which traditionally happens about this time every year I've done Trans Iowa. Well, except for the past few years, where drops didn't start happening until well into Spring. That said.....

If for any reason you know that you will not be coming to Trans Iowa, please let me know as soon as you can. This saves me and some of my volunteers a lot of work, time, and money.

Volunteer Exemptions: I had a phone call the other day which has dialed up the need to clarify the parameters in which volunteers may exercise their right to a free spot on the roster. So, after some reflection, I have come up with a decision. In the past, I assumed that it was understood that if you wanted to exercise your right to get in Trans Iowa, you would do that during registration. Not two and a half months after registration has ended. It also has become quite obvious that several volunteers only volunteer to get into the event at some point, and that they really don't care about anything else. So, effective immediately, I am ending the volunteer exemption going forward. This means that anyone who volunteers this year won't get that "automatic entry" into a future T.I., if there ever are any. It also means that for any past volunteers they still have the option- once- to exercise their exemption. And then only before registration ends for the next T.I., if there ever is another. After that, I am all done with this facet of T.I.

To be honest, I have people volunteering for Trans Iowa that really care about the event, and don't give a rip if they ever do the riding part. I have enough of these people every year that I don't really need more folks that only want the golden ticket in", as it were. So, while it may seem harsh, I need to make sure the intentions of my volunteers are true to the spirit of Trans Iowa, and not merely a hurdle to get over to get at what they really want.

Sponsors: Now for something a little more pleasant. We've gotten some really great sponsors for this upcoming Trans Iowa. WTB is planning something, of which I am not even aware of at this point, but I am assured it will be something special. Probably tire related, obviously. Anyway......

Velocity USA is back again and will be providing a wheel set to the finisher who gets through Checkpoint #2 on time and is the last one to do so. We've done this format before with another company and it works out well and is a lot of fun for the riders.

I'll highlight other sponsors as Trans Iowa v13 approaches. Stay tuned......

Special Favors: Every other year or so I get asked for special allowances to get into Trans Iowa. I have been offered bribes of bottles of whiskey as recently as last night. I have had other offers and just downright cheeky requests to get in based upon "who the rider was". Look, you can probably guess how that went for all of those folks.

So, while it is flattering to get these offers, I want you to know that I have zero intentions of ever accepting any future offers to bribe me for an entry into a Trans Iowa. As for those asking based upon "who they are", well...... No. Just no.

Stay tuned for more.........