Sturmey-Archer S3X 3 speed fixed-gear hub

A few years ago when the folks at Sturmey-Archer announced that they were developing a 3 speed fixed gear hub, I was super-excited. This was tempered, however, with the worry that it would never see production due to it being something of a niche product.

Then, back in March of this year, suddenly they were actually available for purchase. Naturally, I wanted one. Bad. But, given that it’s a >$200 piece of kit, I wanted to get some first-hand opinions of it before I took the plunge and had a wheel built around one. I turned to the internet (specifically to the rec.bicycles.tech newsgroup) for info. Right away I got some feedback which further convinced me that I really “need” one. The only real issue anyone seemed to have with it was the amount of lash (15° at the hub seems like a lot, but when you factor in gearing, it’s not that bad at the pedals).

Then, just a few days ago, I got an email from “Rogerzilla” which was a far more detailed and technical review than I would have ever hoped to elicit. With his permission, I’m reprinting it below.
Continue reading

Wherein I Opine About Headlights, Headlamps, and Such

I’m a firm believer in adequate illumination for night-time cycling. My personal set up for the last several years has been: A 7 LED red “blinky” light mounted to the seatpost and a 12W Cygolite halogen (I know, I need to get with times) mounted to the handlebars (henceforth: “headlight“). I’ve heard various people rave about head-mounted lights (henceforth: “headlamps“) over the years, but have resisted their pull, at least partly because of the perceived (on my part) dork-factor.

Anyway, some time ago I bought a Garrity 1W Luxeon LED Headlamp because of Woot having a great deal on them and my inability to resist a bargain.

Tonight I finally strapped the headlamp on and went for a ride. Oh, my God! Why did I not do that sooner. My old trusty headlight does a fine job of illuminating the road, especially the road right in front of me, but what an incredible addition the headlamp was. Its tightly focused beam allowed me to see well beyond where I could have otherwise (a real blessing when descending at speed) and the fact that it went where I was looking was most helpful, particularly when cornering and turning. It would also be quite helpful for the game of “skunk or kitty-cat” I sometimes play.

I wouldn’t want to ride with just the headlamp as its beam is too tightly focused for general illumination, but I can’t imagine riding at night without it now.
Now I just need to make the jump to an LED headlight, too. Boy, am I glad I didn’t drop several hundred dollars on an HID system a few years ago! LED’s are so vastly superior (for bicycle applications) in every significant way (more efficient, less heat, no mega-expensive short-lived bulbs to replace).

Spring Fever

Does the Spring Fever make one shop compulsively? If so, then that’s probably what I’ve got. In just the last two weeks I’ve bought:

5 new cycling caps (what the Hell, they’re cheap, right?)
1 “new” CPU (another 3.0G/512K/800Mhz Pentium 4)
&
Yet another video card (for a thus-far unsuccessful attempt to run CUDA on Kubuntu).

At least they’re all fairly small (<$50) purchases, so I guess it's not so bad. It’s not like I’m buying new bikes or fancy new wheelsets (yet).

Woot!

Man, I really like Woot. If you aren’t familiar with Woot, it’s a website that sells one item every day, usually at tremendous savings. A while back I snagged 3 2G SD memory cards for $26, shipped. Today’s Woot is a Reebok Precision Trainer XT Heart Rate Monitor for $25 once you add shipping.

Just what a compulsive list maker and spread-sheet user like me needs, more data to track!

If you want to get in on the heart rate monitoring fun, hurry. This deal is only good today (Friday).

As always, everything worked out.

Thursday night they got the furnace running. The water heater was doing its thing in time for me to enjoy a hot shower before work Friday night. And… Sunday my neighbor downstairs called to let me know that she had found my missing house key.

As an added bonus, I just realized that all the rain and flooding should have washed all of the evil salt from the roads, so hopefully I’ll be out rocking the ‘good’ bike wheels this week, with nary a worry that my pristine, practically frictionless bearings will be infiltrated by salt water or my bike otherwise besmirched by unsightly salty grime.

Uh-Oh, Here Come the Videos

The other day I was perusing the latest Bike Nashbar sale catalog when I came across:

ATC2K, the ultimate waterproof self-contained action cam!

And it’s on sale for only $109.95! I intended to go online and do a little research on this seemingly wonderful device, but kept forgetting. Finally I managed to think of it while a computer was at hand and did a little digging.

It does indeed seem perfect for capturing web-quality video on the bike, lashed under the car bumper, who knows, perhaps even strapped to the back of the cat!

Anyway, a bit more digging and I find a place that has it for $89.95 and they have a coupon code for free UPS shipping! Click-click-clickety-click, it’s ordered!

Presently I’m having some (minor) difficulties with the retailer I ordered it from, so to them I say: No link for you! Due to said difficulties, I go looking for a Plan-B, just in case. Imagine my dismay when I discover that Amazon has it for $83.99, also with free shipping. D’oh!

Naturally by the time I found this out, the problem with my order had been straightened out and it’s too late to cancel the order. Oh well, that’s how they get you, you know.

So stay tuned; videos will be forthcoming!

Madonna del Ghisallo Medallion

I’ve had the new bike for over 3 months now, but for some reason I just got around to putting its Madonna del Ghisallo medallion (which I purchased in anticipation of buying the bike) on. As I’ve written before, this isn’t necessarily about religion, but it has become a sort of talisman to me. Both of my other bikes have one and now, so does the Felt.

Madonna del Ghisallo medallion on the stem of my Felt TK2.
Click for close-up of medallion.


I really like the way they look once they take on the patina of an old penny, but right now I’m digging the contrast. The bike, stem, and bars are all matte black, so the shiny copper medallion is a nice counter-point.

Yeah I know… “Thirty-six minutes to ride less than 7½ miles*? Wimp!”
You have to take into consideration all of the stop-signs and red-lights getting out of town (16, by my count), plus I had a 10-15 mph headwind, and I was taking it easy (honestly).

*The distance from my house to here and here (they’re the same place).

More on Jersey Rehab

The other day I wrote about discovering a place where I could get my favorite jersey repaired. As is my habit, I procrastinated and didn’t get it mailed like I had intended.

Thursday was a perfect day for a ride, and since Thursday’s also one of the days that I-Pro (AKA ‘the bike shop’) is open, I again forgot all about the post office, grabbed the new bike, and headed out for a ride and ultimately, to the bike shop. Chatting with Roger at the shop and I told him of my jersey repair plans. He agreed that this sounded like a good idea and with my assertion that “it’s not like I could replace it for that price” (about $37 + shipping).

A little while later, I was browsing through his selection of gear and came across several of the ~2001 version of the shop/team jersey (the same as the subject jersey), tagged seventy-some-odd bucks, just as they were when I bought mine. Holding one up I asked:
“How long until you mark these down?” to which he replied that they already were, to (he thought) $30.
“Geez! Why didn’t you say something earlier? I actually can ‘replace it for that price’“, I laughed.
“I forgot I still had some of those in your size”, Roger admitted, rather sheepishly.

I had forgotten to bring my debit card along (usually not a bad idea to leave it behind when I’m going to the bike shop to browse), so tomorrow I’ll stop in and grab one (or both) of the smalls he has left. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a bargain, and those really are nice jerseys.

Bike Fit / Positioning

On previous rides on the new bike, I’d decided that my saddle needed to come down just a bit, and that its nose needed to come up a degree or two (I prefer it to be either level, front to back, or to have an almost imperceptible nose-down tilt). Anyway, before heading out today I finally adjusted the angle and dropped the seat about 1/16″. After riding along for a bit, I decided it was now too low, so I raised it about 1/8″. Continuing on my ride this felt a tiny bit too high. Apparently, it had been exactly where it needed to be before I starting fussing with it (other than the angle, which now feels just right).

Another thing struck me as odd. I was climbing easier (remember, this is a fixed-gear I’m talking about), but felt like I was spinning out at a lower speed. “It’s almost like I swapped the gear.” I thought to myself.

Upon arriving home, I checked and sure enough, I had, in fact, been riding with the wheel swapped to the side with the 17T cog, rather than the 16T. “Oh, yeah… I did that yesterday, when it was raining”, I suddenly remembered.

Duh!

I was relieved to verify that my spin hadn’t actually slowed down, I’m still maxing out at my pitiful 140 RPM, at least until I can polish off the rough edges I developed over the winter.

The Maiden Voyage

I couldn’t have asked for nicer weather to take the new bike out for a spin. It made it into the mid-sixties today! I was actually a bit too warm with my lightest tights and a long-sleeved jersey.

My new Felt TK2, out for the first ride.
Click photo to enlarge

The new bike rides like a dream. I don’t know if it’s the carbon fork or what, but it actually gives a much smoother ride than the Pista (using the same wheels and tires). I really could not be any happier with it. I love my new bike!

New Bike Day! New Bike Day!

The new bike (frame) came yesterday, so today it was off to the bike shop to buy a stem, have the cranks installed, and have rivnuts put in to mount a bottle cage.

Roger got it all buttoned up today, so I picked it up, brought it home, and put on the wheels, chain, saddle and seat post (why is it that it’s a saddle, but it’s mounted to a seat post, anyway?) fiddled with the bar/brake lever position, etc. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get out for the inaugural ride, but holy frijoles, I can’t get over how light this bike is! It’s the lightest bike I own, by several pounds. I’m guessing it’s right at (or just under) 16 pounds, but it feels even lighter than that.

I’m planning to ride tomorrow, and I’ll probably take a picture or two (of the new steed), too; so stay tuned, Bat-fans.