Monday, February 27, 2012

Project Sette Reken - It is Alive

As mentioned recently, Racer Boy Ian has outgrown his current mountain bike and required a replacement.  As per my plan to keep him rolling on race ready gear for low dough, replacement means frame only, moving everything possible from one frame to another.  And I do declare, the plan has been a success.  Project Sette was bolted together and brought to life this very weekend, by yours truly.  That be me, ex bike shop guy and all around goof ball.

For any and all interested, some Pics 'N' Words describing the build.  Grab a Snapple and pull up a chair.  The tour begins...

The completed machine.  Purty, huh?  Yes, we have flowers all year in Washington, despite the fact it was spitting snow today.  Enough about the weather, let's talk bikes.  Frame is the Sette Reken model, the in-house brand from Price Point.  $100 will score you one.  Similar to the Performance Access frame it replaced, these bargain frames are a killer deal.  Light weight, decent welds, disk and v-brake mounts, low key graphics, 6061 aluminum with a 5 year warranty.  If you're looking to build up a budget bike, you can't go wrong.  Simple, low key, aluminum frames that work well.  This is the 16" size to match growing Ian; seatpost was bumped up another inch or so, once he actually rode the thing.

As to not repeat myself later - though probably will - except where noted, I moved all the old school XTR goodies, LX crankset, wheels, Fox fork - almost everything from the Performance frame to the Sette frame.  A very low cost build up, especially considering the majority of components have now lived on four bikes.  My Ellsworth Truth and Cannondale hardtail, then Ian's Performance Access and now Sette Reken.  Shimano and Fox make some quality stuff, no doubt.

Shimano XT front derailleur that lived on my Cannondale for two years and still looks new.  The XTR Ian was running didn't fit the thinner seat tube on the Sette.  No problem, XT works just fine.  Water bottle cage from used Redline 'cross bike we picked up last year.  Reusing parts is the way to go whenever possible.

Beefy welds and gusset on the Reken frame.  Race Face headset from eBay for $35.  I didn't pay attention to the stack height and lucked out, everything just fits with two thin spacers on the precut 2004 Fox Talus fork.  Sette stem and 'bars pulled from previous build, but originally came on my Sette Razzo 29er.  XTR v-brake grabs Mavic ceramic rim, that spins on XTR hub.  Older stuff that still gets the job done.

Old school XTR derailleur that still, uh, derails on command.  The SRAM cassette and Shimano chain still usable.  I did need to buy a Shimano pin to reassemble the chain, none to be found in my Pile-O-Parts.  The Sette frame features a replaceable dropout, a must on the aluminum frame.

Looking pro like on the bike stand.  New Panaracer XC Pro tires mounted, looking quite red. On sale from Price Point for $20 each.  I also replaced all the cables for the new bike feel.  Picked those up local from REI, retaining the budget build theme.

Nice looking welds in the BB area with plenty of mud clearance to boot.

To match the front, XTR v-brake and Mavic ceramic rim.  Rear brake cable required full housing, since it shares mounts for the disk brake cable.  Zip ties through provided slots keep cable in place - handy.

Shimano LX crank transferred from previous build.  The BB bearings were in great shape, so installed and used again.  Battered Shimano 747 pedals keep on working and have graced a few bikes.  I splurged on the new Lizard Skins chainstay protector.  $8 from REI.

Nice Fizik saddle moved over from previous frame.  Originally arrived on my Ibis Silk Carbon road bike.  My butt prefers the old school Flite saddle, so I removed the Fizik - glad I saved it.  

Sette branded seatpost pulled from garage stash, originally arrived on my Razzo 29er though never used.  27.2 size required for this frame. Really cool to pull stuff outta your Pile-O-Parts to keep the build rolling.

Front view and ready to roll.  2004 era Fox fork has been amazing.  No maintenance for 13 years, no air leaks, and still feels new.  Cat Eye computer was a present for Ian's 7th birthday, has lived on several bikes now.  Scratched plastic a reminder of his first ever mountain bike race in 2008, courtesy of a pre-race warm up endo.  Seems like yesterday.

After the build, a Sunday cruise on local trails to sort things out.  Besides a quick trail side derailleur adjustment, no problems.  Ian said it feels like his old bike, just a little bigger.  Mission accomplished.  Pretty cool bike for a 12 year old, no?

A little Pacific Northwest mud and goo to officially christen Project Sette.  Felt great to hit the trails today.  Predicting the little Sette will look like this often. That's a good thing.

With Ian's Reken added to my Razzo 29er, we now appear to be Team Sette. Blurry photo as proof.

Overall, the build was a snap and went together with ease.  I dig building bikes up from a bare frame and really enjoy projects like this.  I also get a kick out of seeing my son ride something that I assembled.  Doing it for low dough that doesn't require guilt factor from the family budget is also a plus.  I hope it inspires other folks out there, riding and racing decent bikes doesn't have to be expensive.

Stay tuned from future Project Sette rides, races and updates...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wileyx Romer II - Glasses Review

For cycling, sunglasses are more then just a fashion statement, they're a piece of gear.  I rode for decades without eyewear, now can't imagine riding without 'em.  Protection from the sun, bugs, branches, and wind.  And yeah, they look cool and depending on the model say "Look at me, I'm a cyclist".  Nothing wrong with that.

I only own one pair of shades at a time, so used on the bike and general street wear.  They must have changeable lenses, since I use the clear lens for mountain biking and rainy day commuting.  For many commutes here in the Seattle area, I'll use clear for the morning commute and dark lenses for the ride home.  I'm also picky on the look, I don't care for the newer square styles.  I dig the bigger rounded styles, which are getting harder to find.

For a few years I used the Rudy Project Ekynox model, now discontinued.  They also proved a bit fragile and after snapping my second pair of 'em, didn't go for a third.  While searching for a replacement, a fellow bike blogger recommended the Wileyx Romer.  I never heard of Wileyx and checked 'em out online.  I picked up a pair locally here in Seattle and put 'em into service.  

Me testing the Romer shades and living my motto:  Look Pro. Go Slow.

After two years of use, some thoughts and feedback.  I dug the looks of 'em on and off the bike. The Romer kit came with multiple lenses - dark, clear and amber.  I've never used the amber, but have swapped between the dark and clear a few zillion times.  Once you get the knack, swapping lenses is literally a snap.  The lenses have also proven to be durable; been cleaned countless times with not so perfect cleaning methods - bike jerseys, cloth towels, shirt and jacket sleeves, etc.  Still clear with no scratching and extra bonus of no distortion.  The frames themselves have also proven durable - been sat on, dropped, bounced around in a messenger bag, etc.  I've never used the protective case that came the kit.  So, plenty of real world use.

Just few minor distractions, though nothing serious.  The nose pads aren't really adjustable, since they're molded into the frame.  On me, the glasses are just a hair loose, though not enough to be a problem.  They also fit better with helmet straps over the glasses, a styling faux pas for some roadie types.  I've worn 'em both ways, straps over and under - usually under - especially for mountain biking.

Only other nitpick is when stowing 'em upside down in your helmet vents - doesn't really work.  The arm design doesn't really grab anything and they slide around, unless I wear a cycling cap under my Giro helmet, which seems to hold 'em tighter against the inside of the helmet.  At times, on a long road climb, or if the glasses are sprayed over with muck, I'll do the helmet trick.  Maybe you never stick the glasses in your helmet, but I do occasionally.

Unfortunately, this review is also a bit of a obituary - since I lost my pair last week.  They're nowhere to be found, could gave fallen out of my car door storage pocket.  My theory anyway.  I honestly don't lose things, so a rare occurrence, still a serious bummer.  I paid around $90 for 'em, not looking forward to dropping that again to replace 'em.  I will though, soon enough.  Either with the Romer or something similar.  Until then, will be riding bare eyed - like the good ol' days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Made Your Bike?

The whole bicycle industry marketing schtick interests me.  Especially since carbon fiber is now king and most - if not close to all - production frames are constructed off-shore.  A few hours of Google searching will score you factory names and who-has-what-made-where.  I've joked before that you're really paying for Paint 'N' Stickers.  Some stickers appear to be worth more then others.  In some cases, a lot more.

I was reminded of this fact after reading an interesting post by Dave Moulton today off his excellent blog.  His post with links to interesting articles in Cycling IQ and The Inner Ring.  Basically describing how just a few factories in China and Taiwan produces the majority of production frames you'll spot on the bike shop floor.

For the hard core, cycling is a lifestyle or way of life.  We like to think some old school racer is hunched over the alignment table, constructing your frame, years of knowledge passing into the very tubes that support your efforts.  In reality, for production frames anyway, probably not the case.  And it probably wasn't the case back when steel frames ruled the world.  Still, the dream lives.

Is there anything wrong with that?  Not really.  Production frames ride just fine and modern carbon frames quite well.  Some are pretty damn fantastic.  As long as the price is reasonable, not a bad deal.  When you suspect your $4000 carbon frame is not all that different from the $1000 frame, things get a little fuzzy.  Like I mentioned, really expensive stickers.

A side benefit-backlash against the attack of cookie cutter carbon frames, has been the surge of small builders, usually working with steel.  The illusion of bike obsessed dude hunched over the alignment table is then in fact real.  You can even visit his shop and fret over pump peg mounts, seat tube angle, and fork rake to your heart's content.  The dream does still live.

Options abound.  Go with the incredibly well riding production bike.  Or with ridable art constructed by the local craftsman.  Many choices and no wrong answer.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Project Access - The Final Chapter

It's about time to bid farewell to the little bike that could, officially ending Project Access.  My son, Racer Boy Ian, has outgrown the 14" frame and needs something a tad larger.  I built this bike up two years ago using the bargain Performance Access XCL Comp frame, various parts around the garage, and few new tidbits.  A very light, totally race ready bike for very low dough.  Being the single paycheck family of four with bike nut dad (that be me) also requiring stuff to ride, need to be creative to keep everyone rolling on decent wheels.

This bike has exceeded all expectations and worked fantastic for two years.  For a fast growing son having this rig work from age 10 - 12 was more then expected.  From the original build, only changes were the addition of clipless pedals (out of my garage stash), Ritchey seatpost ($15 online), longer stem and wider 'bars (garage stash), and one set of XTR brake pads (garage stash again).  That's it for many hours of two wheeled fun and frolicking.  Bargain of the century, if I may say so.

Ian has piloted this bike on countless rides shared with me.  Many awesome father/son memories and some adventure added to our lives. Plus, scored 2nd overall in the Budu mountain bike race series and 6th overall in the MFG cyclocross series - in addition to a few other assorted races.  All this from my garage built special, which makes it even more - uh - special.

Fire up some sappy music and enjoy the farewell slideshow...

My plan was to order another Performance Access XCL frame in a 16" size, then swap everything over.  Plan was foiled since Performance no longer carried this frame.  Bummer.  I should have grabbed one and stored in the garage until needed.  I even called Performance and attempted to track one down.  No luck.  Incredible deal for a $100 frame (on sale).

That was a few months ago, however, just discovered Performance once again stocks this frame.  Interesting.  In any case, if you're looking for a bargain build, don't hesitate to pick one  up to construct your own low dough XC race bike.

Since I couldn't score another frame from Performance at the time, picked up a different $100 frame that's been sitting in a box awaiting build up.  Now is the time.  Stay tuned.

Once retired, the Access frame will hang in the garage patiently waiting for my 8 year old daughter to grow into it.  Project Access will live once again.  Until then, I hope it enjoys the rest it deserves.  It's been a great ride.