Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rando Gnar

I've always been a fan of Nitto Japan. Back when track bikes were still cool I always had a couple pairs of Nitto bars in rotation. There's just somthing about the feel of a steel bar that just doesn't compare to anything else. They feel solid, yet compliant. They don't transmit vibrations like aluminum, and won't snap and skewer you in a million places like carbon.

Earlier this year when we were meeting with Akira-san (the boss at Nitto) in Taipei, I asked if they could make a mountain bike version of their famous Grand Randonneur touring drops. You may recall we like these bars so much we named our 650b touring frame after them.

They have a classic French-style bend, with flared drops and slightly raised ramps. They work great for brevets and loaded touring, due to their multiple hand positions and conservative drop. I've ridden the alloy bars for years, but sometimes I get a little bit too rowdy and I wanted somthing that would hold up to "Manny Ride" scenarios.

So the wizards at Nitto did their thing, and came back with a couple samples made from the same tubing as their unflappable track bars. I'm in love. They feel amazing. The hood position is perfect, the drops are comfy, and they look a treat.

We're going to get a batch of these made up, but they're going to take a while to arrive. So if you're interested in a pair shoot us a line and we put your name on the list. That way if we know we're going to sell out we can get more in the queue so people don't have to wait 6 months if they miss the first run.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SF to Bodega Bay and Back Again Part 2

Here it is, la parte segunda!

The best part of waking up is cowboy coffee in yer cup, and a crackling fire to take the chill away.

And waking up to this view made it easier to get out of bed, or z-rest as the case may be.

We decided these were neo-americana conical tents. The company that makes them is based in Colorado and also makes yurts and tent cabins. Check them out if you want to get up in some nature.

Our breakfast was Paleo compliant, although there was oatmeal to be had too.

Manny's safety knife came in handy. This thing is for kids, but don't be fooled, that blade is sharp.

We got to pet horsies and smell them too!

These ones looked pretty bored, but I guess when you live on the beach it loses some of it's novelty.

Ely was up and ready to go, putting his serious randonneur ethic into practice. The rest of us were about an hour late getting on the road, but what can I say, we run on MoM time.

There must have been some kind of camper trailer meetup or somthing going on in Bodega Bay, because we kept getting passed by them riding out of town.

Seems like the way to live don't it?

Once we got on the 1 the traffic thinned out and we were able to get a little loose.

Ely kept up a good pace, but always the gentleman, he didn't leave us in the dust.

Sarah was all smiles as we made our way towards Tomales.

We ran into more Randonneurs at Tomales Bakery, coming back to SF on the 600k.

This bakery is definitely worth checking out.

They were making croissant dough for the week. Roll, butter, fold, repeat. So yummy.

We hit a good headwind as we rolled down Key's Creek at the mouth of Tomales Bay. That's when we remembered there are drops on under them there hoods.

A sedge of cranes (or maybe a pod of pelicans?) was taking flight as we rode past.

Once we rounded the bend and began riding towards Pt. Reyes Station the wind was at our backs and we were flying.

There were more cars on the road as we got closer to town, but for the most part they were respectful.

A big thanks to Norma and Calbike for making the 3 Foot Law a reality in California!

Give me 3 buddy!

Somebody should buy this old building and open a bike hostel. Just sayin.

I broke my chain at one point, but thanks to my handy Soma Woodie I was back on the road before long.

Sarah getting creative with the fruit presentation.

Ely had a full schedule so he took off after lunch instead of riding out to Stinson beach with us. If you ever get a chance to ride with this guy you should jump at it. He's a riot and a damn fine bag seamster!

By the time we got to the beach we were all pretty sweaty. 

We knew the climb up Mt. Tam would take all our energy so we didn't hang around long, but we couldn't resist taking one more group picture together while we still looked somewhat photogenic.

We arrived back at the Presidio with sunlight to spare.

We said goodbye to our friends from Best Coast Biking and Norma and I rode over to the famous Wave Organ to do a post ride safety check and sit by the bay to cool our heels for a while.

The Organ wasn't playing much. Need to go back during a full moon for the full spectacle.

On our way to the Oakland/Alameda Ferry from Fisherman's Wharf we found a great little Mexican spot for dinner. They let us park our bikes on the balcony so we could keep an eye on them while we enjoyed their excellent tequila concoctions.

We're going to do more of these trips in the future, so keep an eye on the SomaFab Facebook page if you want to go with us. Space will be limited so we'll offer spots on a first come first served basis. See you next time campers!

Dirt Drops (What, Why & How)

What!? People want to put drops on offroad bikes? It's true! People have been putting "road bars" on not-road bikes. It's kind of a thing.

So what makes a dirt drop different from other kinds of bars, dropish or otherwise? We'll there's no one answer. Traditionally drop bars were used to get the rider into a more tucked position. It's assumed that this was done for aerodynamic reason, but I tend to disagree. Anybody who's done much offroad fixed gear riding knows that you have to get your weight super far forward to get enough weight on the pedals to climb up steep hills. If you have a swept back city bar, nope, not going to work. So by moving the center of gravity forward over the front wheel riders were able to get more power and still have a comfortable grip position.

Fast forward to the advent of geared cyclocross bikes. Roads got better, purpose built racing bikes got more purposeful, and traditions that made sense on fixed gears stuck around and became more orthodox. So you have a bunch of racer bros riding around on hacked together cyclocross bikes using mostly road racing parts and feeling pretty good about themselves.

Meanwhile, some dirty hippies out on the west coast are riding around on beach cruisers running into the same problems that the OG fixiefoos were having, and Papa Charlie gets the idea that the dirtbike levers kinda suck (I assume, because they did). So he starts building bikes using state of the art drop bar levers which allowed lots of modulation and developing space age roller cam brakes to replace the Mafac cantis people were messing around with.

So long story short, Jacquie beats the pants off pretty much everybody, the bike industry at large embraces awful non ergonomic flatbar cockpits, stems get longer, geometry gets steeper and John Tomac gets the credit for inventing dirt drops. End of story.

Then along comes some young wipper snapper from Berkeley selling sorta Major Taylor looking mountain bike bars and everybody goes nuts. Suddenly there are no rules anymore. Nobody cares what their bikes look like. Utter chaos.

One day Benedict Cumberbatch decides to quit acting, grow a wizard beard and become a Zensunni Wanderer. Some journo tracks him down and takes a picture of him ripping a fat skid and everybody needs vintage Modolo levers again.

So now that you know the history of dirt drops, here's where we're coming from with this whole Gator bar idea. Our distributor in Japan makes these funky bars that fit mountain bike brake levers and I find them in their catalog and get to thinking, what if these fit Rohloff shifters? Well they don't, mostly because of the ergo bends in the drops. There are a few ways to get the shifters to fit, but ATMO they look like a chode.

So I did a drawing, and Tange made me some samples. I didn't like how they felt, so I made another drawing and they made those too. Those sucked a little less, so I made a third drawing and voila, the Gator bar. The long handle allows you to mount the shifter anywhere on the drop handle. We're super magnanimous, so they fit bar ends and other stuff, but we really want you to use Rohloff hubs. Seriously, they're cool.

So why are they so reachy? Because handlebar bags are dope as f***, but the problem with bikepacking handlebar bags is that they are so wide that they won't fit most drop bars, including almost all the traditional dirt drops. You want the weight to be as far back as possible, so that means running a shorter stem. But you won't want the hoods to be so far back, so the ramps need to be longer. Velo Orange obviously saw this idea somewhere, or maybe they though of it on their own, but either way they get why you might want to have usable hoods and drops and still be able to use the brake levers from either position.

So what angle should your handles be? I'm not your mother, figure it out yourself! I like my hoods level. The higher the drops the steeper the drops should probably be. A good way to figure it out is to hold the bars in two hands and slowly raise them up to the height you want. What level are the handles? Ok cool, you're done.

But really none of that matters because the same Japanese folks who gave me the idea for the Gator bars invented the negative-drop dirt drop, and then made them out of carbon fiber. So really, everything else is already obsolete. You're welcome. Now go ride bikes.

Also, Go Fund Charlie's recovery fund. We wouldn't even be having this argument without him. Such a badass!