Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

Continental Gatorskin 6000+ miles

October 7, 2022

Continental Gatorskin lasts a long time.

Once again, the Continental Gatorskin 700 x 28 tire lives a long life — 6,000 miles, from March 15, 2019 to today.

This time they didn’t see much dirt, so they lasted a bit longer than my last one at 5,400 miles.

This one was rotated once to the front.

The Continental Ultra Sport II, which I put on at the same time, gave out in September 2021.

The Ultra Sport II is not to be confused with the Grand Sport, which lasted an amazing 7,500 miles.

The tire shows signs of unraveling, literally. Gatorskin tires exhibit this behavior with age. Loose cords are a good indication you should change your tire.

I thought I heard the sound of cords snapping before my ride. I wasn’t taking any chances, even though there’s still rubber.

I’ve seen tires ridden down to the cord.

My long history with bike computers, and repairs

August 25, 2022

I posted this blog on my Geocities site years ago, but somehow it didn’t make the transition to WordPress:

I’ve been fascinated by cyclometers since childhood. I wished I had one of those neat mechanical clickers that hooked to the front wheel and measured mileage. That was the early 1960s.

Over the years I saw more mechanical cyclometers — big and clunky — and I wanted nothing to do with them. I had discovered lightweight racing bikes, and the thought of having one of those had no appeal.

By the late 1970s I started seeing electronic bike computers. There were still big and clunky.

Avocet cyclometer
In 1984 all that changed. I was working at Palo Alto Bicycles in downtown Palo Alto, California. Nearby, a small bicycle company called Avocet had big plans for a small “cyclometer,” a word trademarked by the company. This was the first U.S. company to compete against the small CatEye bike computer, which was made in Japan and introduced in 1981.

A lot of great ideas and innovations came from Avocet — gel saddles, polypropylene bike clothing, touring shoes, smooth tires, and the ultimate bike gizmo — a small cyclometer. I mean small, about 2 1/8 by 1 7/8 inches. It showed speed, distance, time. That was enough then. And it was accurate.

I had the privilege of carrying a “boat” of wafers to a local fab manufacturing the chip, a custom gate array that was the brains of the cyclometer. Little did I know then I would one day work for National Semiconductor and that one of the later engineers of the Avocet cyclometer would one day work there too.

In those days, I worked in mail order and I would ship out the first Avocet cyclometers in the summer of 1984. The ads started early, a little too early as it turned out (1983 when only a few prototypes were working). The first cyclometers had problems. This was cutting-edge technology in 1983 and Avocet was hardly a big, rich company. Eventually, they worked out the bugs and the Made in USA cyclometer became a “huge” success. Greg LeMond used one in his racing days and so did most of the pro teams.

Pretty soon a bevy of companies sold cyclometers. Avocet introduced new models in a rainbow of colors. They were sleek, had more functions, and no bike was complete without one.

Avocet set another milestone in the mid 1990s with the Avocet 50, the first cyclometer to introduce an altimeter and cumulative climb. Its patented accumulator did not add small bumps in the road or short-term atmospheric changes, the bane of atmospheric altimeter accumulators.

Avocet stopped making cyclometers, but there is no shortage of other companies making them.

Specialized Speedzone Pro
In 2003, I learned about the Specialized Speedzone Pro, which had all the functions a cyclist could ask for, at least a cyclist living in the San Francisco Bay Area who liked riding in the hills − gradient, altimeter, cumulative climb, distance, speed, max speed, average speed, temperature. Kilometers, Miles, Centigrade, Fahrenheit. A night light. You name it, the Speedzone Pro had it.

I had to have one. I bought mine at Cupertino Bike Shop for $100. Specialized did everything right, down to the packaging. It came in a small black metal box, a miniature version of the lunch box I carried to school as a child. Brilliant.

That cyclometer answered questions and confirmed long-held beliefs, especially gradient. I had a general idea of the gradients of some of the steeper hills, having measured them with a 100-inch aluminum beam. Pretty crazy. I drove around with that aluminum beam sticking out the back of my 1976 Datsun B210 hatchback, stopping at steep places to measure. My measurements wound up on the WWW in 1995 and generated quite a bit of interest.

The Speedzone Pro gave the cumulative climb for the 102-mile Mt. Hamilton ride, about 8,000 feet. It showed a 20 percent grade on parts of Sonora Pass. I knew how cold it could get — 28 degrees one morning riding to work in late 2006. I found out 60 mph can be reached on Tioga Pass, if you’re brave.

The Speedzone Pro never failed, until November 11, 2007. I hadn’t pressed the night light in a long, long time. When I pressed it the cyclometer blanked out. Had it shorted out? I removed the battery and reinserted it. It was back to normal. What a relief.

The Speedzone Pro is no longer sold by Specialized. Other brands with similar features are sold, but they aren’t cheap. (Mine still works.)

Making a repair
Just two days later another disaster overtook the Pro. The right button for “cycling” through the functions stopped working. It was stuck on time of day. I heard that this was a failing of the Speedzone Pro. I hoped the day would never come, but it did.

With no other option but open-case surgery, I carefully pried it open. It wasn’t easy. Some glue held it together. I used a small pocket knife, working it a little at a time until the case finally popped and separated.

I took apart the case and found the culprit. The button − a small, round plastic plunger − fit through a square sliver of sprung steel. The metal cracked from use, so no more spring action.

Finding a matching piece of metal would be a miracle. I wandered around the house looking for something, anything that might work. I spied a ballpoint pen spring and wondered if the plastic plunger would fit inside the spring. A perfect fit! I just had to size the spring, insert the plunger and reassemble. It worked!

I can’t fault the manufacturer. Nothing lasts forever. Anyway, this Speedzone Pro lives on to enjoy another adventure ride somewhere in the wilds of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Every cyclometer should be so lucky.

Old bike computers (link to images):

Smartphone vs. dedicated bike computers

August 23, 2022

Ride with GPS offers a customizable dashboard. Easy on the eyes.

After using a smartphone, I can compare it against bike computers. I don’t think one is better than the other.

Both devices have advantages and disadvantages. Smartphones open up possibilities, not found in bike computers.

They also raise the stakes in the event of a fall. In all likelihood, your phone will be destroyed or damaged.

On rocky trails, or extremely bumpy roads, your phone might go flying.

Don’t rule out water intrusion. I spilled a small amount of water from my water bottle onto my iPhone Touch. It was toast.

If all you care about is speed, distance, time, buy a bike computer. Some computers use GPS, giving you altitude and gradient. There are also a handful of computers that offer those functions in hardware, without GPS.

Lots of today’s bike computers also track your heart rate, cadence, power output, and more. You can upload the data to a computer or an app. They offer maps and directional uploads, too.

A smartphone can do just about anything a bike computer can do, even the ones that have all the bells and whistles.

They’re like Swiss army knives though. They work but they’re not the best solution. They’re also bulky.

A smartphone can answer your questions as you’re riding along. That’s neat. Or you can listen to a podcast.

Now we’re getting into the realm of distracted driving.

As for visibility, my screen sits at an angle. The view isn’t great, mainly because I don’t have a bright screen. OLEDs might give better results.

You’ll find a handful of bicycle dashboard apps. I tried one that looked promising, but the MPH was way off.

The most reliable apps are Strava and Ride with GPS. They work great and can be customized.

Ride with GPS, in my experience, is within a few tenths of a mile compared to a traditional bike computer and Garmin Edge 500.

Now that I know all my routes, I don’t have much need for a bike computer.

A smartphone is a different matter. I carry one for emergencies. So I figured I might as well take it out of my back pocket and mount it where I can get some more use out of it.

It’s the way to go, until you burn through your battery. Sigh.

Bicycle tires have “r-evolved”

June 25, 2022

Two new tires for my mountain bike. Tired of riding nobbies on pavement. Schwalbe (394 gm) is smooth! Protek heavy at 686 gm, for rear wheel to reduce chance of flat.

There’s nothing sexy about a bicycle tire, as much as the manufacturers would like you to think so.

They make the tread with flashy bumps and dimples, for what? Better traction? No, looks matter even when it comes to tires. At least that was the opinion of one cyclist in 1985. Jobst Brandt had the ear of Avocet and they listened to his argument for a smooth tire, or a “slick.”

What got Jobst going on this rant was the early 80s Specialized touring tire with a raised center ridge. He hated the ridge.

The U.S. bicycle company enlisted the Japanese to build FasGrip tires in 1985. Jobst posed for an advertising photo — riding down Pescadero Creek Road (Haskins Hill) doing 35 mph, his six-foot-five body and massive yellow frame banked over at a perilous angle.

The howls of protest and arguments in the cycling community against treadless tires could not be quelled by Jobst, no matter how logical or scientific his answers. People like to believe myths: “slick tires reduce traction, especially in the wet.”

Here are two exchanges Jobst had on Bike.rec:

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: “Slicks” tyres advice needed
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996

Roger Marquis writes:

There is really only one drawback to slick tires on pavement and that’s
wet traction. Even fat slicks can be very slippery compared to treaded
tires on wet roads. Knobby tires on the other hand have little
traction on wet or dry pavement.

“Unless the words “can be very slippery” are a dodge, this statement is
without foundation and reeks of bicycling myth and lore. It took
decades for smooth tires to migrate from dragsters to racing cars, and
more decades after that to make the transition to motorcycles. Today,
bicycles are the last holdout even though theirs are the least water
affected tire of the vehicles mentioned.

“For the bicycle, the width of the contact patch, its shape, and the
inflation pressure, combined with the bicycle’s relatively low speed,
make water on the road no more a hazard than a light film of moisture.
All the water that can be made to escape from between tire and road,
does this better without tread features than with. Water on slick
surfaces, such as paint stripes, manhole covers, or railway tracks
cannot be removed by tread patterns, just as a sharp-edged squeegee
glides over a wet window.

“The contact patch of a bicycle tire is a sharply pointed canoe-shape
that first makes contact in the center and spreads as the contact area
increases toward the center of pressure. Similar to aircraft tires
that are also smooth except for tread-depth gauging grooves, the round
cross section prevents water entrapment as that makes hydroplaning
possible with automobile tires with their rectangular contact patch
having a broad front. Road bicycles need tread about as much as a
garden wheelbarrow. Of course the wheelbarrow has tread for the same
spurious reasons.

“It is evident that the tread on current motorcycles is essentially
smooth except for some widely spaced artistic lines. The flat and
smooth areas between them are many times as large as bicycle tire
contact patches. These tires are neither directional nor do they have
micro sipes or any “drainage” grooves. When I read bicycle tire
advertisements today, they remind me of motorcycle tire ads from
magazines of 40 years ago. I think that is the fare to which Roger is
treating us.”

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: bicycle tire science (was “Re: drifting”)
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996

Matt O’Toole writes:

This has been conclusively established on tire testing equipment
both at the joint tire testing facility in Japan (IRC) and on
equipment that I designed for Avocet to measure rolling resistance (RR) and breakout
lean angle of various tire designs.

“If such testing facilities actually exist, why do they keep selling
tires that go against all common sense design principles? Why does
IRC keep selling road racing tires with tread, and mountain bike
tires with squishy, useless knobs?

“It is easier to pander to the fears of the customer than to try to
reverse commonly held beliefs. Since cornering is not a primary demand
in racing, and most racers are not ones to press that facet of racing,
tires with fine profiles will continue to be the choice of riders.
Motorcycles, until recently, had deep tread patterns on road machines.
Today, from imitating racing tires, they generally ride slicks that
have enough tread lines in them to pass the law that states that motor
vehicles shall not operate with slick tires, a law based on automobile
tires that have a cylindrical surface instead of a toroid.”

Bicycle tire technology has improved over the decades, no doubt about it. Better materials and rubber types and combinations speak to the enhancements, not tread type.

So, can you still buy smooth tires today? I was asked by a reader. I knew there were a handful of models, so I searched the Web and came up with this list. To be considered, the tire must have no bumps, ridges, or lines of any size anywhere on the rubber. Clincher tire unless noted otherwise:

ContinentalSprinter (tubular), Podium (tubular), Grand Prix TT, Tempo II19, 25, 22 mm
GoodyearEagle F1 Supersport23, 25, 28
IRCNone (have chevrons)
MaxxisHigh Road SL23, 25, 28
MichelinTime Trial, Power Cup (tubular and clincher), Lithion2, Dynamic Sport Access25 mm; 23, 25, 28; 23, 25; 23, 25, 28
PanaracerAgilest, Duro, Closer Plus23, 25, 28 (2); 20, 23, 25
RitcheyRace Slick21, 23, 25
SchwalbeKojak 26 x 1.35, 2.0
Veloflex*Corsa Evo (minor pebble pattern)23, 25, 28
WTBThickslick Comp, Flat Guard23, 25, 28

There are quite a few more brands, but they’re niche or would not have what I’m looking for. Road Bike Rider has a list.

I found one affordable, smooth tire for everyday road riding. I’m giving the WTB Thickslick a try. Most everything here is for time trials, track, racing, and expensive.

Schwalbe has a nice smooth tire for 26 inch wheels, oddly enough, given that this size is for the mountain bike crowd.

Without a durable, long-lasting smooth tire in the lineup, I favor the Continental Gatorskin. It lasts longer than other brands, it’s affordable, and it’s reliable. I can live with their silly dimples.

WTB Thickslick 28 mm. Nice looking tire.
I’ll give it a try.

Accuracy test: Specialized Speed Zone Pro vs. Garmin Edge 500

January 5, 2021

They’re 99.2 percent accurate. Is that close enough?

What’s more accurate? A wireless cyclometer from 2000 or a Garmin Edge 500 with GPS, released in October 2009.

I can’t say for sure, but given the recent test, I’d say wireless cyclometers, with the proper calibration, are just as accurate.

On my morning ride — clear skies, smooth, flat roads — the difference after 26 miles came to 25.99 (Garmin) vs. 26.19 (Specialized).

That distance means a lot to runners. It’s the length of a marathon.

So, doing the math, one of the cyclometers is 99.2 percent accurate. Close enough, right?

Not so fast. Let’s say 25.99 is the correct number. If the marathon were to be run based on the Specialized measurement, it would mean a runner has to cover an extra 1056 feet, or 352 yards.

Were this to be a world record attempt, where seconds matter, the runners would be way better off saving 352 yards, or about 60-70 seconds.

Even when doing a century ride, having to pedal another 0.8 miles isn’t a deal breaker.

Meanwhile, note that the Bay Trail at the Sunnyvale water treatment plant has been rerouted again. More pipe work is going on behind the facility.

Bay Trail rerouting will be another couple of weeks at Sunnyvale water treatment plant.

Bored games for when you’re not riding

July 10, 2020

My favorite two-player board games.

My life revolves around the bike, but I also play games. Since these are strange times during a pandemic, I’m going to share one way to keep busy and entertained when not cycling.

These are my 10 favorite 2-player (or more) games. They’re easy to learn and play and they’re especially good for replaying time and again:

Blokus – A Tetris-type tile laying game. Gemblo is similar but with hexagonal pieces.

Manhattan – (2 to 4) Play cards to build highrises. The only downside is that there’s a lot of trashing of your opponent, necessary to win.

Tiny Towns – (2 to 4) A puzzle game using cards representing different types of buildings. Extremely engaging, and frustrating at the same time.

Reef – (2 to 4) Build reef structures using cards with different patterns. Like Tiny Towns, engaging and frustrating. Highly replayable.

Azul – (2 to 4) Lay down colored tiles on a square grid. Simple to learn and play, but always a challenge.

Take It Easy – (2 to 8) Lay down hexagonal tiles on a board with 19 spaces. Each tile has a three-color-stripe design. Simple puzzle with high replay value.

Lost Cities – Card game where you build suits 1 to 10 of a color. Easy to play, and addictive.

Qwixx – (2 to 5) Dice rolling game with a unique way of scoring. Lots of dice rolling…

Can’t Stop – (2 to 4) Dice rolling game (I built my own board) where you try to roll combinations 2 to 12. Not much to it, but fun.

Backgammon – One of the world’s oldest games. It’s an acquired taste. Some may not appreciate its repetitive nature when knocking opponents.

Bonus game…

Splendor (2 to 4) Incredibly simple to play “engine building” card game. Acquire various gems to gain points. Addictive.

Battery-free lights use eddy currents for power

May 27, 2020

I’m a sucker for high-tech lighting solutions so I spent some time studying the new Magnic Lights out of Germany. Ironically, these lights are illegal in that country. Doh!

I don’t see that they’re readily available after a Kickstarter campaign. You never know how those are going to pan out.

These lights promise battery-free, non-resisting energy generated by the moving rim. Strong batteries are required to generate an eddy current.

They don’t say how much resistance is created but I can’t imagine it’s much, and it doesn’t take lots of power to drive an LED light.

I don’t ride at night anymore, so I’m not highly motivated to own one, but it looks like promising technology.

Here’s another similar product, Reelight, with traditional dynamo-magnet technology. It’s clunkier, but available now.

New handlebars give my neck a “break”

March 9, 2020

Old-style handlebars give my neck the relief I have been searching for.

After a couple months seeking a cure for my sore neck, I’m making progress. It will never be that same as it was before my 1981 accident, but I’m finding ways to cope.

The x-rays showed nothing all that bad for a senior citizen. In a word, it’s osteoarthritis. That’s a catch phrase, which includes misaligned vertebrae and bone spurs.

I already had eight weeks of massage therapy, which helped loosen tight muscles, but it could not undo the pain of arthritis, most notably when I turn my neck to the right.

More consultation with a physical therapist has given me some excellent stretching exercises that will loosen tight muscles, and that will improve neck mobility.

But I needed something more before I could ride comfortably.

It came in the form of an upright position in the saddle, and I mean upright.

I purchased Sunlite Northroad alloy handlebars. They have the shape found on 3-speeds of days gone by.

I couldn’t think of a handlebar that would help me sit more straight. These have a sweep back of 7.5 inches from the stem.

Now my neck doesn’t bother me. I switched to a saddle with more padding for my upright position.

The handlebars have a fair amount of give in them, which helps absorb road shock.

Now I’m the only rider on the planet with these handlebars and Campagnolo Super Record cranks.

I added some Shimano EF41 3/7-speed brake/shift levers.

In addition to all these helpful changes, I installed my waxed chain. What a difference.

I pedaled over to Dale Saso’s to show him my Frankenbike. More on that later.

I’ll still ride my Ritchey with the drop bars in the hills.



Bay Area Bike Rides Deck now in digital format

February 27, 2020

Kindle map sample shown on my smart phone.

And now a word from our sponsor. Bay Area Bike Rides Deck, for the first time, is available in digital format, on Kindle.

The print deck and Kindle went on sale this week.

I had a look and I’m delighted with how the Kindle version turned out. Each map and text page is faithfully reproduced.

As a bonus, you can magnify the maps to see the terrain in stunning detail. I spent hours noodling over the roads in magnified mode when I made them. I didn’t just guess where the roads went.

By double-tapping on a page, you can quickly scroll through thumbnails. It’s an elegantly simple design. It appeals to the minimalist in me.

As a reminder, all of the routes are available for download into a bike computer on Ride with GPS.

Close-up view of a map on Kindle.




Shimano’s Ultegra levers somewhat fragile

January 12, 2020

Shimano Ultegra 6700 front shifter fail at cable head.



UPDATE: After mulling over the failure, it might be that two hard crashes on the left shifter caused the spring failure. The shifter has many fragile parts, including the post where the spring clipped in. I haven’t seen any complaints similar to mine, so that makes me think the crashes caused the failure, not normal wear and tear.

Once you’ve been riding as long as I have, you too can trace the arc of bike component design evolution. I hope your results turn out better than what I’m seeing.

Inspired by my recent YouTube immersion watching people fix things, I dived into a complete overhaul of my Ritchey Break Away with Shimano Ultegra 6700 components. I figured this will be the last time I embark on such an odious task.

And now for the results. The brake calipers, bottom bracket, front and rear derailleur work flawlessly after 50,000 miles. The chainwheels have seen better days and need replacement. However, I stripped the allen bolts holding the chainwheels together. I could probably fix them, but it’s not worth the trouble.

The open-bearing hubs are working fine, but I find them difficult to adjust. The Mavic Open Pro rims I built are true.

That leaves the shift levers. Here’s where I think the bike industry is doing consumers a disservice. They’re way too complicated, with lots of little bits that break over time.

The front shifter “failed” when I took out the old cable. The tiny part that holds the cable head in place [more likely the spring clip] has disintegrated. Realistically, they’re not serviceable, and they cost $400 a set.

I didn’t realize that the Ultegra levers have electronic components (ribbon cable, circuit board) inside them, despite not having electronic shifting in mine.

New Shimano 105 front lever where cable head seats.

A bike manufacturer needs to reintroduce downtube shifters. Not that those are any better when it comes to maintenance. They also have a lot of tiny parts that break or wear out, but cost a lot less.

The new brake levers would keep the ergonomic shape of modern brakes. The Campagnolo Nuovo Record levers were small and not so comfortable, at least in old age.

I decided to buy Shimano 105, levers and crankset. I bought a new BB just because I’ve got everything apart and it doesn’t make sense to keep it when a new one is $24.

Shimano 105 costs half as much as Ultegra and will be fine for my needs.

The frame has no dents or cracks. It will outlive me, for sure.


Follow up: The front shifter has broken bits inside that caused the springs to stop working. That makes sense because I noticed more difficult shifting, but just figured it was old age. I need another lever to see which parts are broken.