An update

from the department of great ideas that other people have already had!

Tyler Benedict from bike rumor was kind enough to feature a little piece on the nose bike yesterday.  I made the mistake just now of reading a few of the comments (something I don’t normally do), and found out that Civia is making one too!!!  It’s like I showed up late to a party wearing the same dress as 5 other guys who were already there!  In this case a dress that Schwinn designed in the 40s, probably itself a ripoff of something that old Ignaz had seen as a kid back in Hardheim.

The whole thing is making me realize that it may serve me well to pay attention to what other builders are doing.  I have always avoided it.  I’m not entirely sure why.  Foolish pride, I guess.  It turns out that there are TONS of builders out there making really beautiful work.  (duh).

new dropouts

For a while now I’ve felt that there just HAS to be a better solution for single speed disk dropouts.  In the past I’ve typically used sliding disk tabs.

These are pretty finicky to install, though.  It involves not just getting the tab in the right place as you would with any disk tab, but also making sure that the slots end up parallel to the slot in the frame end/dropout (I’ll let you decide what you want to call it).  Simple as it might look, this is a process that usually ends up taking me about an hour!  It occurred to me at some point that if the tab was just PART of the dropout it would make things much easier.  It’s location would just be right from GO! This solution is common place, after all, for vertical disk dropouts.

Then there’s the issue of fender/rack attachment working around a disk caliper.  Not really an issue for your typical mountain bike, but increasingly it seems fenders and racks matter to the crowd that is buying custom steel. The folks at Paragon Machine Works made a “lowmount” disk dropout some years ago that seemed like a pretty brilliant solution to me..  I bought some.  I never ended up using them, though, because so often I’m building single speed (or internally geared hub) bikes. A single speed version seems like a logical enough thing to make, but I’m not aware of anyone offering such a thing.  For single speed, the “lowmount” option has the added benefit of not being in the way when you need to slide your wheel out the back to fix a flat.

Over the last couple of years I had played around with various designs but never really came up with something that I liked enough to have made.  A few weeks ago, I found myself awake at 5 in the morning and decided to give it another crack.  I felt that the nose bike deserved its owny own dropout, and decided that the time it would save me in production would be well worth the effort.  I think I like these ones.  I had a small run of them low taper waterjet cut.

If there are any builders out there that read this blog, I’m happy to send you a pair at cost (around $40 I think), if you feel like testing them out.  They’re made of 3/16″ 4130, and I can supply them with SS faces if you want them (keeping in mind that if you use faces on the inside of the dropout you’ll have to pad out the caliper with a similar thickness washer to keep it in plane..  Of course a lot of disk calipers at this point have that much adjustment built in to the mount!  so maybe not!)  They’re made for 12.5mm SS tips, and CS tips of around 15mm (which is roughly where you end up if you shorten bent stays enough to keep the bend the right distance from the axle, if you follow me..  The dropout is pretty long on the CS end).  The fender/rack tabs are 4.2mm blank holes..  the right size to run a 5mm tap through.  They are beyond the plane of the back of the dropout, so if you don’t plan to use them, they’ll come off in about 30 seconds on the belt sander.

I haven’t tried them out yet.  They just arrived yesterday.  I’ll get back to you on whether or not they work..  whether or not I made some sort of bone headed mistake somewhere.

In other news, the bloody sciatica has been pretty bad lately.  Bad enough that I tracked down a physical therapist and made an appointment.  He determined that it was radiculitis and not, in fact, sciatica (“ridiculous” seems pretty apt to me!) a distinction that is determined by just how far down the leg the symptoms exist.  He gave me some exercises to do.  It has gotten significantly worse.  In fact, by definition I’d have to say that now it IS sciatica!  (beyond ridiculous, in other words).

I’ve been in discomfort now, in one way or another, for about three years.  There’s a part of me that has just accepted it.  Lately though, it’s occurring to me to be a little pissed off about it!  I got pissed off about it enough to get proactive last week, and now I feel worse.  GAH!!  I went back to the PT yesterday to report.  He seemed pretty stumped.  I suggested amputation.  He said that there were a couple of things he’d like to try first.  We’ll see what happens.


Some of you come here to read my ramblings about illness, and life, and food..  This will be about bikes, I’m afraid.  No medical updates beyond a third blood test that confirms a return to normal levels for the CEA number.

I built the second version of the nose bike almost a month ago already, but got caught up in some other things before saying much about it.  In the mean time, I’ve been rolling around on it, and I think that the design is more or less where I want it to be.  There will be a few small changes to the next version, including the addition of some new drop outs that I designed.  These will allow the disc caliper to be mounted inside the rear triangle so that fitting a rear rack/fenders isn’t an issue.  Paragon machine works makes a nice “low mount” dropout, but it’s made for derailleur set ups.  Mine are rear facing horizontal with slotted disc mounts allowing for forward/aft adjustment of the disc caliper (and, of course, the wheel).   Pictures as soon as they arrive!

This is not to say that all nose bikes will be single speed, however!  They’re designed to work with a variety of internally geared hubs as well.

I’ve come up with a way of banging together crates that I think I like.

“Banging together” the crates may sound a little slap dash..  but that’s precisely what I want!  It’s a CRATE after all, not a finely crafted wooden box.  It should be easy and relatively inexpensive to make and should hold up well to abuse.  The pseudo machine joints, and staggered slats make a surprisingly tough joint, particularly for the weight of the crate.  They’re held together with stainless steel narrow crown staples.  I grew up next to an apple orchard.  The crates that they used were made by folks who had figured out how to make LOTS of them quickly and well.  That’s the sort of look that I find I like the most.  The beauty of production! I will also probably offer hand made stainless baskets.  Big versions of the ones that I’ve put on a few townies..

These, unfortunately, end up being pretty pricey.

I am more or less ready to start thinking about how to sell these nose bikes!  It’s my view that it’s a pretty useful sort of bike, particularly for the urban crowd.  There are so many really capable SERIOUS cargo bikes out there at this point.  I myself have had an xtracycle for years, and, in fact, blame it largely for my slide down the slippery slope into bike geekery.  I hardly ever use it at this point, though, for the simple fact that it’s a pain to get in and out of the house!!  Great when you NEED to carry that much, but pretty cumbersome when you don’t (and I find that usually I don’t.  Shopping for thanksgiving, and getting my gas bottles refilled..  that’s it, really).  It may be different in other cities, but in NYC most of us are pretty shy to leave our bikes locked on the street over night, and very few of us have garages into which we can roll them!  Our bikes live in our living rooms.  In some cases, like mine, our living rooms loose that name entirely and become “bike rooms.”  At any rate, a light and lithe cargo/commuter seems as though it could serve many well.

Since the fit of such a utility bike is less critical than that of something like a road bike, I will be able to make them in small batches.  Eventually probably just two sizes.  Big and little.  Or maybe medium and extra medium.  Batch production, and some other efficiencies (perhaps leaving the fillets unfiled..  which I like the look of anyway!) will allow me to sell them for a bit less than my usual one of a kind fare.

I crunched some numbers and I think that I’ll probably be able to offer them with a decent build for under $3k.  Still nothing to sneeze at, I suppose, but making stuff here in the US is pretty pricey.

ho hum.

A few days ago, when my friend Christopher was in town for a while, I got on my touring bike to head out with him for the beginning of his day’s adventuring in NYC.  After just 5 miles or so, I had to acknowledge to myself what I’ve been trying to deny for quite a while now.  I am simply not comfortable on a bike these days.  Sometimes when I get in the saddle I’m surprised at how NOT awful it feels.  But the truth is that I don’t seek out opportunities to ride.  I sort of dread riding, in fact.  I’ve been telling myself that it’s just because I’m really out of shape.  That I just need to spend a little time riding regularly, and that it will come back.  The truth is, though, that my anatomy has changed!  Where most people have an ass crack and a rather useful hole, I’ve just got a big long scar.  Scar tissue is not as flexible as the original stuff, and can be pretty sensitive.

I did a 40 mile ride with my friend Sam some weekends ago.  It was fun to take the touring bike out for its first real ride.  It was fun to ride a bike with gears for the first time in 15 years!  It was fun to spend time with Sam.  BUT, being in the saddle for several hours wasn’t such fun.

Yesterday morning I went in to see my doc for a heparin refill and some blood work.  He made it pretty clear that he thinks my original recurrence was caused by my return to riding bikes.  And that he also thinks riding a bike may have caused the recent spike in CEA levels.  AND that IF, just if, the area of inflammation that we’re tracking is, in fact, a tumor and not just leftover healing from surgery (a year later?), that riding a bike could exacerbate the spread of cancer.

This is an opinion that he has made known off and on at different times for quite a while now.  Starting with his demand the very first day I met with him that I stop riding bikes until after surgery was finished and healed from (and maybe longer!).  For the most part I think this is bogus, first because I don’t ride a bike nearly as much as he supposes; I don’t ride bikes for exercise typically.. I work at home and have no commute.. etc.  And second, because his understanding of anatomy as it relates to sitting on a bike saddle is clearly, well..  imaginative.  BUT, just the nagging thought that riding a bike could speed me back into illness and the treatment that goes with it, piled on top of an already present, if repressed, dread of bicycles leaves me feeling pretty rotten.

While it’s not a GREAT living, building bikes IS how I put food on the table at the moment.  It’s a cruel irony.

In other news.  Handsome Dan at the bike shop showed me that just 3 weeks after I made my nose bike post, Soma fabrications announced on their blog that they will be producing their own version commercially soon.  A commenter on their blog pointed out that Ahearne cycles has been making a cycle truck for quite a while! There are a few other builders who have produced such a bike (mike flannigan, for instance, was the first I was aware of), and probably a great many others who have at least made them as one offs.  I wasn’t aware until yesterday, though, that any bigger companies were thinking of producing them overseas and making it truly accessible to a wider audience.  I thought I’d had a pretty good idea.  Turns out, that a bunch of other folks had the SAME idea, and some of them long before me (hell.. schwinn was doing it in the 40s!! and I imagine that the Dutch beat THEM to it!).  Not a surprise, when we’re all reacting to the same movement.  It’s a good sign.  People ARE looking for viable alternatives to cars, and a rising tide gets the dock wet, or something.  So I think I’ll continue working on it through a process of denial and error, and see if I can’t produce something that uniquely answers the particular needs of urban life!

Came out of my doc appointment yesterday morning, and someone had left their own nose bike unlocked right next to mine.  They were hangin’ out.

as promised

Fall Fender Sale!

As promised.  A batch of fenders.  Go over to the fender page to get yours.  (hit refresh if you get the old page!)

I did a pretty small batch so that I could test out my new set up.  If last time was any indication, they’ll go pretty fast!

Now.  Back to bike orders.

Happy fall everyone!

been making a few fenders

I shot a quick little process video this morning about fender production. The fenders have been piling up in the shop over the last few weeks, so I decided to do the final push to get a batch finished up.  It was a lengthier process than it will be in the future because I took the time to make special jigs and tools for just about every step.  I’m particularly happy with my little radius sanding fixture!

Part of the point of spreading out into two separate spaces earlier this summer was to be able to have fender production be something that’s always happening in the background.  A few hours here and there until I’ve got enough of them to sell.  The only way not to go absolutely crazy with this sort of production work is to have each step pretty well dialed in and to be able to do those steps in pretty big batches.  This particular batch is just about finished.  20 sets of full coverage fenders.  I’ll be oiling them up over the next couple of days, and putting them up for sale on the website early in the week.  You heard it here first, and you’re getting a little advanced warning!  Last time I did batch of fenders and sent an email out to my mailing list about it, they were gone in an hour and a half!!

In other news, that creepy CEA number has been back down to normal for two blood tests in a row!  Weeee!

ok.  Back to work.