Paul Flemming

Writing on Two Wheels

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Ride along for cranked posts on cycling and cycles
A from-the-wheels-up view of rides, builds and fixes.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Are we there yet?

 

Hugo Black is complete.

Its Asian-manufactured carbon frame and fork are fitted with the pride and style of Italian components to transfer power to it, the advantage of American boutique engineering in the stem and stern of the cockpit, and the enduring stolidity of English tannery beneath my ass.

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The black Team Professional Brooks saddle and its copper-plated rails are beginning to break in now, with more than a thousand miles of my sit bones imprinted upon its tensioned leather seat. The tires have rolled along the pavement upon the Kevlar-woven Vulcanized rubber of German tires for those same thousand miles, seated in rims suspended by spokes built around precision hubs of the greatest technical advancement and surefire strength.

It rides so beautifully, silently, honestly. There is so much sensational anecdote I could ascribe to its technical performance, but it is without evidentiary merit. This does not, however, discount the feelings. It feels fast. It feels responsive. It feels light and strong at once, a magical amalgam of apparent irreconcilable attributes.

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The bicycle is, by acclimation, the most perfect of machines for human self-propulsion, wondrous in its efficiency along even the most primitively improved tracks. And this, this iteration, Hugo Black, is the best of those I’ve wheeled.

More than what’s there, though, are absences, what seems to have vanished. This machine intercedes least between my effort and going fast. Whatever power I am able to muster is transferred, it feels, seamlessly and without loss to the rolling advance of this contrivance. It is – it feels as if it is – an extension of me. It is the most perfect expression of bicycle I have ridden. The idea of a bicycle it epitomizes to me, the kind of bicycle I want, is as a vehicle to explore, to push, to seek and find.

There’s more.

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I am proud of myself. The patience, care and acumen I brought to bear on assembling this bicycle is out of the ordinary. Or out of character. I read the instructions before I acted. I thought through what I was going to do next and a step after that. If things were not going as expected, I stopped and reconsidered rather than muscling ahead.

There was, of course, one rule-proving exception on New Year’s Eve.

That error was remedied and its lesson expensively and expansively learned. Longer and consistent proof of concept is still required, but there is some hope this represents a new trick for an increasingly old dog. There is some evidence this is so.

I’ve pedaled this bicycle for three months and more than 1,000 miles. It fits. Rare are the hills here abouts that can’t be conquered from the saddle with the gearing Hugo features. It’s comfortable. The reach, the hand holds, the lean, the balance, the hunkering pull and the standing hammer all feel right and optimized.

The payoff is in the performance of this ride: unerring shifts, low friction spinning stuff and brake feathers to modulate descent.

This project is done, save for the riding. Time to move to what’s next. First up is a tandem adventure, a Panhandle tour. We’ll document that here. Then, most enticing, is the prospect of tearing down the Cloud Bike and building it back up anew, shiny and tuned to perfection. If those lessons of patience and purpose have been learned, it’s going to be a bicycle to behold once again. Or it may even be a revelation, a realization the Cloud Bike was never all it could be but finally will become.

Until then, let’s go for a ride.

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  193

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:  585

Chain:  256

Cassette:  292

Rear hub:  293

Front derailleur:  76

Front hub:  116

Rims:  450

Spokes/nipples:  413

Tires:  560

Tubes:  140

Water bottle cages:  200

Handlebar wrap:  104

Woodford Reserve stoppers/bar ends:  45

Running total:  7791 grams, 17.1762148 pounds 

Sun, June 18, 2017 | link          Comments

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thatís a wrap

 

Is it better to be cool or to look cool?

Why choose?

Blogs/BarEndLeverWrap.jpgOn the first touring bicycle I put together in high school, an ever- changing collection of parts and gewgaws hung upon the frame of my red Schwinn Traveler – itself the successor to a yellow Schwinn Varsity my father bought and rode intermittently during what I now know was the great American bicycling boom engendered by the energy crisis of the early ‘70s and all these Schwinn’s purchased because my father patronized the businesses who bought insurance from him, and A&B Cycle was one of those – there was a time when I bought and installed black padded foam tubing on the handlebars. It came in four pieces, two on each side with one section above and inside the brake levers and another section below and running to the end of the bars. They were slipped upon the aluminum bends of the bars by means of dish soap squirted inside and twisting them onto and around the bar ends. They weren’t wrapped at all, nor were they tape.

In retrospect, they sure looked dorky. Inevitably, the foam compressed and lost its elasticity and thus failed to spring back.

Blogs/BarEndTape.jpgIn the initial go-round of the Cloud Bike, I wound handlebar wrap starting from the top with an invisible beginning and an un-tapered end that necessitated no tape to secure it. This provided a cleaner look, to start, but it soon became less so as the direction of the wrap left edges exposed to the twisting, turning, pushing forces of hands upon bars while riding. It got ratty quickly.

Now, with Hugo Black, I read the instructions. I watched a video. I studied up and practiced. The key, it turns out, is maintaining consistent tension on the ribbon of wrap as round and round it goes, clockwise on the right side and anti-clockwise on the left with a figure-8 infinity loop to change direction at the junction with the levers and then along the bar tops.

There is no need to extend the start of the wrap beyond the bar ends to tuck in and fold under. A flush finish is perfect here, especially with the bar ends. I had special golden aluminum allen-bolt expander plugs for the job but went instead with two cork stoppers from empty Woodford Reserve bourbon bottles. Dark brown wood stain on the round cap atop a cork plug and strapped by a black tax sticker. (And it’s a nice complement to the Veuve Cliquot corks gracing the bar ends of the Cloud Bike.)

Blogs/BarEnd.jpgIt’s that instruction-reading, patient prep that marks the difference – perhaps even the biggest difference, a claim I’ve staked three times previously in this narrative – in the construction of the Cloud Bike then and Hugo Black now. I take my time. I make sure I know what I’m doing. I think through this move and the next two. If something seems awry or not as expected or requires force, I take a deep breath, step back and think again and again until it is absolutely right. I’ve not done that before, in bicycle wrenching or life. It makes a positive difference.

The difference can be felt with every ride, including the next one.

Frame:  1070 grams

Fork:  410

Seatpost:  193

Saddle:  540

Headset:  85

Stem:  155

Handlebars:  269

Levers:  350

Cables and housing:  354

Brakes:  623

Bottom Bracket Cups:  29

Cranks:  585

Chain:  256

Cassette:  292

Rear hub:  293

Front derailleur:  76

Front hub:  116

Rims:  450

Spokes/nipples:  413

Tires:  560

Tubes:  140

Water bottle cages:  200

Handlebar wrap:  104

Woodford Reserve stoppers/bar ends:  45

Running total:  7791 grams, 17.1762148 pounds

Sun, June 4, 2017 | link          Comments


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