Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A look at the stead

In the history of this web log I don't think I have every really gotten down to talking too much about the bikes I race on. With the current frame I am on being almost a year exactly and having changed so dramatically I thought it would be a good idea to so a review on it and explain all the changes I have made to it.

First the original incarnation...

The frame is the Eighth Inch Scrambler V2. With this bike I began a sponsored relationship with the Eighth Inch brand which is also owned by the bike retailer company I work for part helped with the ground work.

I contacted Noah at Eighth Inch in July of last year seeking some form of component hook up in exchange for branding help while I was in Tokyo at CMWC. I was looking to hook up a pair of the deep dish Julian Wheel's and instead was offered a complete build. I jumped at the offer and was given free range to put the build together with the available components at the time.

Eighth Inch Scrambler Frame w/steel track fork
Eighth Inch crank w/48t Sugino Messenger chainring
Eighth Inch Julian 42mm dish wheels w/CKS tires
Eighth Inch classic track drop bars w/ Origin 8 track grips and 120mm 3T stem
Eighth Inch 15t cog w/ Eighth Inch lockring
Velo saddle w/ generic seatpost
My Shimano SPD double sided moutain bike pedals and Cane Creek brake and cross-top lever

So this is what I rode in Japan with...with the exception of the saddle in this picture. A week prior to the trip I was hit by a car and broke the rails on the saddle but Noah sent me a new one that was red.

I went with the color scheme to attract attention, I figured I was there to rep the brand second only to racing so I had to make it flashy and attractive. I'm not big on the whole colorway thing to that extent but it was fun to piece together. I think it worked, I talked with a number of people in Tokyo who really dug the bike, especially the handlebar.

After I got back from Tokyo I started to slowly swap out parts. I was done doing the major show and tell with the bike so I figured it would be ok. One of the first to get changed out was the saddle. The Velo is nice and it did well to comfort my taint through all the riding I did in Japan, but I really love my F:zi:k Aliante and so I moved that over eventually. I also had to swap out the tires with in a month of Japan due to a series of flats. I eventually went to red colored Continental GP4000's.

The rear tire only lasted me until January when I got a major sidewall puncture and had no choice but to replace it. At that time the new Continental Gatorskin Hardshell came out and I gave it a try. This tire is one of the best I have ridden on. It is a hybrid between the GP4000 and the Gatorskin. It has the profile and compound of the GP but the damage resistance of the Gatorskin...a supple, fast and damage resistant skin...everything I look for. After the first 4 months of riding it there was no visible wear and only now, 10 months later of heavy riding is it starting to show some, but I foresee it lasting me another year or so and soon I will swap out the degrading GP4000 I'm still riding on the front.

As fall set in and heavy winds picked up I had to swap out the Julian wheels. While nice and super resistant to damage the wheels are too heavy for my taste and 30mph crosswinds don't bode well with any deep dish wheel. I went back to my cheap hand built wheels that I had rode through the previous winter. The rims are Alex DA23's laced to cheep Dimension hubs. Not the greatest especially after 1 winter but I also didn't want to trash they Julians or deal with the wind catch rims. The 32h are laced to Formula hubs where the 48h, at least last year, were laced to a different brand I can't remember and had hollow axles. I never weighed them side by side but the 48h Julians seemed lighter than the 32h. I also inadvertently switched back to my Shimano Dura Ace cog and gneric lock ring for not wanting to pull the Eighth Inch one off of the Julians at the time.

I also swapped out the fork eventually, favoring my carbon Bontrager Satellite fork over the heavier Eight Inch one. While the Satellite is a more relaxed rake than the Eighth Inch I found it didn't make that noticable of a difference in how I was used to controlling the bike. Through out my experience with track geometry over the past few years I have found that I highly prize the tight and steep geometry of them over the more relaxed road frames. The steeper the better in my mind!

Next to get swapped out was the crank. A month prior to getting the bike I had bought the FSA Pro Carbon Track crank for my old bike, a top of the line track racing crank with a bomb proof chainring and bottom bracket. After a while I missed not riding on such a sweet crank and threw it in the Eighth Inch. There it stayed through all of this year until a few weeks ago when the non-drive crank arm began to fail. The aluminum insert that connects to the spindle began to de-laminate and pull away form the I warrantied it and they gave me a new one. In stead of risking the same problem again I decided to try out SRAM's Omnium crank. I went with the Omnium due to it's cost and from the recommendation of 2 different sources. The first is a friend of mine who is the top elite track sprinter in the state and has won most of the events he has entered in the past two track nationals. This is a man who puts out extreme stresses on his equipment and he know swears up and down the river on this crank where he used to live and die by all the older, more tested and more expensive set ups, particularly Dura Ace. The other source is one of the top trick riders in the country who has been riding this crank for a while now. So if this thing can put up with both sub 11 second 20m sprints and bmx style trick riding, it must be worth something. At the time of this writing I have only put 4 blocks on the in the future I will do a follow up on it.

In the spring I finally jumped the gun and swapped out the handlebar. While I liked the slopping classic design of the Eighth Inch drop it is too shallow for my tastes. At only 120mm of drop it came short of my requirements for tucking down and fighting resistance as much as possible. Instead I went with Soma's Major Taylor track drop. It has 165mm worth of drop and shares a similar old school curvature to it that I fell in love with in the Eighth Inch bar. Eventually I also switched from the crosstop lever and 1 brake to 2 brakes and drop levers. I am still working out the placement kinks with this set up but like it so far. The Major Taylor fits a few of my requirements, deep drop and long flats at the end of the drop. In design it actually reminds me of the Easton EC90 carbon track drops I rode for a little bit on my Felt TK2. Great bars but not meant for the road.

Along with the handlebar I changed up the stem. I switched to a 70mm slight rise Dimension mtb stem as I found the deep drop of the Soma was causing me some back problems stemming from poor ski waxing techniques. I tried momentarily to use the brand new Eighth Inch BMX stem but he 50mm length was too short to be effective and comfortable. I'm still unahppy with the 70mm stem but will deal with it until I get around to replacing it with a 100mm Thomson stem. The Eighth Inch stem is nice and looks sharp so I threw it on my mountain bike instead.

I also replaced the wheels a second time. This time I built up a front to a 28h Dura Ace 7100 with a Velocity Fusion rim and a 36h Formula track/track threaded hub with another Velocity Fusion rim. Before winter sets in I want to pick up a set of Eighth Inch Tessa wheels to ride in the winter.

The things that have not changed are the seat post, which has given me no reason to change it as it has performed as it has been designed too...perhaps in the future I will swap it out with a carbon or Thomson post, but for now I don't care. The original generic loose ball headset is the same and hasn't cause me too much problem, I'm sure it could be better and I have repacked it twice, which is normal but eventually I will replace it with some Cane Creek headset.

Then there is the frame.

This is a fun frame to is fast and nimble and as stif as a 5 pound frame can be. What can I say, it's done me well and brought me back to loving steel over aluminum. Everyone I have talked with that has the frame too agrees with me that it is a fun bike to ride. It is an inexpensive bike but that doesn't mean it bad...that means its affordable. It has really tight geometry with 75 degree seattube and headtube on my 58" size frame...that's nice and twitchy. In today's bike market almost all frames are made in Taiwan and China so it's a little hard to scoff at it's origin of manufacturing. Even most of Treks frames are made in China, by Giant no less. It's just the nature of the business and unless you want to spend $1500+ on a frame your not really going to get it any other way. I hope this frame lasts me for a long time to come and unless it gets destroyed I plan on holding onto it even after I get my dream frame or the prototype Eighth Inch I'm harassing Noah for.

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