Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanks for Thanksgiving.

Well we made it, another Thanksgiving in the bag. For Meg and I the holiday is really about family. We both have really large extended families, and have many family friends that are like family. This year held a new record for us, 5 separate full Thanksgiving dinners!

Thursday was, of course, the biggest day. We first had dinner with one of Meg's side of the family at 11:00. This was followed shortly after by dinner with my parents and my immediate family at 1:30. From there we enjoyed a bit of a respite and some couch time. Our next dinner was at 5:00, and after food and old photos alike were digested, we got home about 9:00. It truly was a marathon of good food. You really have to pace yourself when you have three large meals like this is a short amount of time. I have to say I'm getting rather good at it. I didn't once feel stuffed, which is saying something.

Friday we had dinner with a close family friend in the evening. Her house is always lovely, and she had been cooking most of the day. Out of all the dinners, this one had the best food all around. Everything was prepared from scratch, largely with local or organic ingredients. It was amazing. After preparing for the meal all day at work, I did eat my fill! This dinner was also the smallest, just Meg's mom, Meg, Chris and I. We played a relaxing game of dice with a great cup of tea to round out the evening. It was great.

Saturday was the last, and by far the biggest meal of the season. My mom comes from a large stereotypical Catholic farm family of 12. It makes for a huge group of some of the best people you can imagine. I have a ton of cousins ranging from ones older than I am with children, to some young enough to just be walking. It makes for the most raucous, busy, and enjoyable dinners! There's always tons of food, 10 or 12 pies, stuffing, potatoes, and salads and desserts. We had it at my aunt's house just down the road from the family farm this year. Meg and I had to work on Saturday, so we arrived quite a bit later than everyone. We had a later dinner then, and saw most everyone before they left. We ended up hanging around rather late with just a few of my aunts and uncles, my mom, and the youngest of my cousins to entertain us. It was really nice to be able to sit down and just bullshit for a while. As you can imagine, quiet conversation is a bit much to ask for when you put that many people in the house. It was a great holiday!

There are so many things to be thankful for this time of year. For me, it comes down to family, friends, and health. I think that if a person has these things, everything else is secondary. I am hugely thankful for my family, who have supported me to the utmost in everything I've wanted to do. Without the large group of friends I never would have seen so much. I am supremely blessed with a support network of more people than I can mention, to whom I owe all that I am and all that I have.

I am thankful for my good health. Everyone knows someone who is suffering. We all have stories of tragedies both avoidable and unavoidable in our lives. To me, that is the most important thing to be thankful for, as it is largely out of our control. Several people I know have told stories recently of friends or family in times of true hardship and loss. People with terminal cancer, a friend dying unexpectedly in a car accident, an addiction to drugs of alcohol. These things rock us and our beliefs to the very core questions in life. They represent the hardest things I can think of to overcome, irregardless of our place and standing in the world. I am thankful for the good health in my life. At the same time take this time of year to remember those who have passed, and those still fighting.

Lastly, I am thankful for good news. We learned this fall that my sister is pregnant. I am so excited, and my family is as well. As with many of these things, the timing is less than ideal, but the end result is the same. What a joy, and what a perfect example of what we can all be thankful for this year. The starting of a new life, the challenges and rewards to come, and remembering how it all started. Take care, be merry, and a happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Products.

Another piece of the big bike puzzle is on it's way us, the WHUB hub from Paul. I have been super excited since I heard that Paul was going to make a front specific 135mm spaced hub. I have used 135mm rear hubs on all my custom steel bikes for the last two years, and it make a noticeable difference in the stiffness of the front end. With this set up you get the widest possible flange spacing, even spoke tension, and wider fork blade spacing. All of these together add us for the perfect combination of very low weight penalties for big ride quality improvements. This is not a new idea, (few of them are.) The idea first was pushed by the industry leaders at WTB back in the day. They used a 118mm standard, which obviously was never excepted as an industry standard. Other than non interchangeability with suspension forks, I see no reason not to do this on a custom rigid bike. I have two hubs coming, a 36h for my project, and a 32h for shop stock. Mike Pofahl is building a fork as we speak, and we plan on offering custom fork and wheel builds specifically for this standard.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rawland Elgoske

Sean dropped of a package to me yesterday for the prototype Drakkar. I've been fighting with the bar set up really since I first built the bike. Drops didn't quite do it, the mustache bars were just so so, etc. We got in a few sets of Prototype Elgoske bull moose bars a while ago, and Sean happened to have an extra set I could snag. What a difference in handling! With drops the bike felt kind of washy and not together. Swapping to these bars add a whole new level to the words stiff and stable. They have totally changed the ride quality of the bike. It's much easier to throw it around and control the rear end, especially fixed. Overall, I really like the aesthetics as well. The bike has a really short wheelbase for a 29er, and combined with the steep angles, (73 deg respectively,) it just carves through the woods. It has a very similar feeling to many early race oriented Mtb's I've ridden, and I love the short TT. It just feels so put together and predictable. Definitely a finesse bike, it is something one has to be on to ride. I don't find that to be a drawback in the slightest. Enjoy the pics, it's a beautiful day in Faribault today.






Shop tour


Here's a few shots of the shop in it's current state. There are big plans in the works for a shop redo this winter, so this is kind of a snapshot of the way things are now. For those of you who haven't been here before, here it is. For those of you who have, this will be a check of sorts against what you'll see this spring. Here's to winter and time to get stuff done!

Shop.
One of these things is not like the others....


There you have it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Building Party

It's that time of year again around here, time to get '09 stock in. Today will be the last big shipment of '09 Treks for while. We're expecting 15 bikes in about an hour. It's a pretty small order compared to some we've done, but it should round out the floor nicely. Mostly entry level hybrids this time around. Believe it or not, I'm pretty excited about the Trek 7000 this year.
I know it seems weird with all of the fun stuff we've been playing with, but these are just about what your average guy needs in a bike. They'll sell for about $330, are black, come with 21 easy maintenance gears, and have all the mounts for easy rack and fender installs. It's going to be a big seller for us this year. With prices going up on just about everything this year, these offer a ton of value for the money. The fairly low cost price also allows the customer some room for accessories that make it a lot more versatile.

We've got a full size run of these coming in, along with some 7100's and 7200's. These are by far our most popular bikes for the walk in crowd, and this year brings some nice colors to that table again. Between David and I, we should have all of these put together and on the floor before close. After a fall without a lot on the floor waiting for these to come in stock, it'll be nice to see the shop full again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rain

It's one of those fall days in MN today. The weather could not really be any worse in my opinion. Air temp is hovering around 36 deg or so, and it's pouring rain. Days like this just chill me, and it's hard to really stay warm once you're wet in this stuff. I was planning on taking a lunch ride to restock the larder at the shop, but I'm really debating it. I have the commuter Surly all done up in preparation for winter. This means the fenders are out in force, and the Brooks saddle has been removed. I have a great waterproof messenger bag, a big floppy rain hat, a good rain coat and gloves. Looking outside though, it may just be a day for soup from the coffee shop next door.

Friday, November 07, 2008

J-Bar

We just received out first of a presumed many of the new straight Titec 31.8mm allow Jones bar. In short, they are awesome. The bar is the same as the ti ones, albeit at an 1/8th of the cost. Let us know if you want one, we'll have them in stock for the foreseeable future.

Project updates

Well we're doing pretty well here at shop this week. Irregardless of whom you voted for, everyone has to be happy that all that mess is over with. Personally, I think the better man won, but we'll leave it at that. Here's hoping that the new administration can bring people together and actually get something of value done for the country.

It's been a while since I've updated everyone on the latest projects to come out of the shop. The addition of a Rohloff bike has been probably the biggest one lately. I have lusted after a Rohloff hub for years now. This has, not helpfully, coincided with my near full transition to SS mtb's. I haven't had a geared mtb for a long time now. I do not count the 36er geared or my Rawland geared as true mtb's, as I do not ride them as such. The fact that I have no real need for one has been the biggest obstical to overcome. It's hard to justify a $1400 hub when you don't like riding gears all that much. Things have changed a little bit from then.

This is a picture of the current set up. I can tell you that this is not the intended purpose for the wheel, nor will it be in the bike for longer than another month or so. I can't yet tell you what the final project will be, only that it is probably going to be my proudest piece of bike design yet. I am very excited about it.

To work with the non traditional bar set up, and to eliminate the main bitch I have about the Rohloff, I made my own shifter mount. It's a bit cobby right now, and a fillet brazed little number would be a hell of a lot clearner. However, for the use of a stem laying around, a junk handlebar, and two old energy drink cans, I am very happy with the result. I really hate the fact that grip shift tpe shifters take up part of your grip area, this solves that. I've also figured out how to route the gear cables for the new projects so that there will be no forward bend in the cabling at all. This should look aesthetically very clean, and will achieve maximum possible efficience for the cable runs.


Here's the business end. Gearing is 42X16, just higher than Rohloff's minimum. So far the low has been plenty low, and high end is very fine. A Rohloff chain keeper is going to be installed later today. The wheel is 2x laced with 14g spokes to a Gordo rim with brass nips. It should be plenty strong for the new application, and the tire volume and ride quality is stellar! The front wheel is unmatched, as it comes from another set. It shares the same rim and spokes, and has proved to be a killer SS set up. Light, hell no. They ride great though, and with fast rolling tires, I'm not put out by the addtional rotating mass.

Speaking of rotating mass. The SS 36er got a bit of a drive train change as well. Geaing was switched to a 33t X 23t White, and the crank is now a Stronglight square taper job. The chain was also beefed up a bit. With more chain wrap and a stouter chain, the prohibitive chain stretch the previous set up had should be gone altogether.

Here are some fall shots from last week.





Yup, it's as big a Smart Car. Quite a bit more practical IMO though. Those cars only get 30 mpg or so. How? My Civic gets well over that and is bigger, cheaper, and old. I still haven't figured that out.
Finally, here's a parting shot of a concept for the new bike. That's all you're getting. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote!

It's been an earlier morning than usual at the Witt house. My neighbor's lovely Rottweiler started barking this morning at a quarter to six. It's not that I mind getting up that early, but it was a bit of a rude awakening. Ah, the joys of townhouse living! I am so looking forward to the day that Meg and I can build a house.

It's voting day across the county, as you all should know. I am pretty much set on all of the races I've been following, and I feel as educated as I ever have been at an election. I hope all goes well across the country, and wish everyone a good day. We're received a great day here in MN for the vote, which should be good for standing in the lines I am sure are forming.

The trip back from Bemidji was rather uneventful yesterday. I did not even see a deer, unlike the drive up, where I almost hit 4 or 5. It was good just to do anything for a few days. I am glad to be back home, and hope to get a good ride in tonight. We're also looking forward to a visit from Guitar Ted this morning. It's always great to see him, and it's been while now.

That's all for now. Good luck at the poles.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Up in the north country.

I've been up in Bemidji this weekend visiting our resident shop Physicist Brandon. It's been a pretty chill bike free weekend, something I'm alright with. It has been kind of nice to do nothing and recharge the batteries a bit. Today is definitely the big day of the trip. All of the school's shops and labs will be open today, which means access to the biggest thing Brandon's pulled from his hat in a while: a hovercraft.

That's right folks. Our glorified shop rat has led the design, planning, and fabrication of a working hover craft!



This is a preview video, with a bigger one coming of the eventual test runs. I'll have some more in depth pictures of the beast tomorrow, but I'm super excited. This is the culmination of a 1.5 year project, and Brandon has really worked his ass off for it. He'll graduate this year as a Physics major with a Math minor, and wants to pursue mechanical engineering.

So this is what the kid has done in his free time, anyone got a job for him?

That's all for today. Happy trails.