Matt Kasprzyk

Matt Kasprzyk

Title

Art Director

Yeah, but what do you ACTUALLY do around here?

I contract the visual contributors for Dirt Rag Magazine and manage the pre-press and digital production of each issue.

What do you think about when you're riding your bike?

How much my lungs hurt.

How would you rate your coffee consumption on a scale of 8-10?

8.5

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

a bike.

What are you eating, drinking, reading, or fearing these days?

Reading Toyota Tacoma forums eating chocolate covered espresso beans and drinking a muddled old-fashion while fearing sharks.

Elvis or the Beatles?

Elvis

Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

Picked Elvis because I dislike The Beatles.

I like your answers. How can I get in touch with you?

Email me

REVIEW: Keen Austin Pedal shoes

By Matt Kasprzyk

Don’t let the classic-looking Oxford laces and shiitake mushroom-colored leather fool you. Contrary to the casual off-bike demeanor, this shoe has some on-bike performance. There’s a 3/4-length plastic shank in the sole for stiffness while pedaling, and a mounting plate underfoot for optional SPD use. With cleats installed, they are recessed enough so I’m not clicking down the street or around the office. The outer sole wraps partially around the toe for protection, and the footbed is designed to give good arch support while conforming to the contours of my feet.

The liner is moisture-wicking, and the outer is waterproof leather. My feet stayed dry in light rain, but don’t expect much breathability. These are comfortable in cool weather and long commutes with enough stiffness for efficient pedaling. When off the bike, there is some give for fairly comfortable walking and office wear. If your bike takes you to the pub and market as often as the office, these are worth looking into. They fit true to size. Keen suggests using leather conditioner to add to the longevity. One-year warranty. Made in Asia.

www.keenfootwear.com

 

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Straight and Tight(ish)

As some of you may know, my latest Bicycle Times test ride is the Norco Vesta. So far this steel steed has been pretty good to me. However, I write this blog with some words of caution.

If you’re in the market for a new commuting or cruising bike I’m sure you’ve heard of the Gates Carbon Drive. Although relatively new to bikes, popularity of the system is growing. Carbon drives aren’t anything new to Gates. The company has quite a history with automotive and motorcycle belt systems, and has recently been applying the proven technology to the bike world.

The belts themselves are extremely strong. I could talk about tensile strength, or you could just watch this video. The Gates website has links to plenty of informative videos about the drive system that are mildly entertaining. The site also does a great job of answering questions about the belts.

Yes, they are low-maintenance, and yes, they are ninja-quiet, and yes, they have a longer life than traditional chains. BUT…there are inherent concerns you need to be aware of. It’s true there’s a lot of good things going for the carbon drives. What you need to be aware of as a consumer and maybe weekend wrencher is that set-up is key to a properly functioning system.

There are correct and incorrect ways to handle the belts and two very important points to a properly installed belt drive: Tension and Alignment. When handling the belts, never crimp, fold or twist the belt. This will damage the carbon fiber cords in the center of the belt. Gently pull the belt apart from the outside when unpacking. Chainline has always been important to cyclist, but with the belt drive systems it’s paramount. YouTube how-to install.

It’s good to make sure you know these few points if you’re riding a belt drive, and it’s certainly something to be aware of if shopping for one. Make sure your favorite shop also knows the finer points of the system since they will likely be assembling it. When the necessary care is taken, the system is quiet and worry free. If done improperly, you could end up looking like a fool in the middle of a busy intersection with a snapped carbon belt and bruised ego.

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Product Launch: 2011 Globes

2011 Globe Roll

I came to the Globe 2011 product launch in San Francisco imagining Steve McQueen launching Mustangs through intersections. What I got was underground bike tours, organic artisan foods and a glimpse of a passionate cycling community supported by an emerging brand that is becoming completely immersed in urban cycling.

Globe is a stand alone brand created by Specialized that is focused on urban cycling, culture and advocacy. This small group of specialists are equally immersed in their respective fields and commonly united to create bikes that enable a cycling lifestyle. From our base of operations in the hip Soma neighborhood, the Good Hotel provided the perfect setting to reiterate the appeal of a cycling lifestyle. "Globe Moves People," and by creating products that remove barriers and enhance the biking experience, Globe hopes to move more people on two wheels.

What’s new for 2011 is Globe’s strengthened partnerships with local and national cycling coalitions. Globe is riding the ride.

When I got the invite to head out to the left coast and ride around San Francisco for a couple days there certainly wasn’t much arm twisting needed. Early Tuesday morning I was awaiting my flight anticipating Kimmy Gibbler and her puffy sleeves. Several urban cycling events, partnerships and the utilization of the viral connectivity that is social media helped to promote the May 12th launch. Globe’s attitude of conservation and social responsibility are echoed by several other S.F. area organizations, like the San Francisco Bike Coalition, Good Hotel, Bicycling Coffee and The Disposable Film Festival, which were all part of our experience while in town.

After several long hours on planes and in airports I finally arrived in S.F.O. and was greeted by non-other than Globe’s lead engineer, Amber. We boarded the BART and headed downtown. A couple blocks off of Market St., on the corner of Mission and 7th, is Good Hotel. This self-dubbed humorous and eco-friendly hotel was to be the Globe team’s and their quests’ home for the following couple days. Some well-received Thai food and good conversation with a small representative of Globe didn’t end my long day – I was still working on East Coast time. 

Good Hotel

Good Hotel.

Most of the crew headed back to their rooms while Jessica from Globe and I headed to Dr. Sketchy’s SF. Dr. Sketchy’s was founded in 2005 by Molly Crabapple in Brooklyn, and became somewhat of a movement. They ask a simple question: Why can’t drawing naked people be sexy? "In San Francisco, Dr. Sketchy’s gives you a monthly opportunity to draw rhinestone encrusted burlesque performers, bearded ladies, cute girls on bicycles and anything else we can conjure up to tantalize your pencils." I’m not sure they mean the graphite kind.

Chicks on Bikes at Dr. Sketchy's

Yep. Those are girls on a bike.

The next morning was the official 2011 Globe presentation. Each of the 4 Globe models for 2011 were discussed. Careful thought about the aesthetics, taking inspiration from our visual environment, helped influence the finished products.

ROLL

  • Lowest price point.
  • Well built full Cr-Mo frame with Reynolds 520 / 725 main tubes is simple, yet durable
  • Extremely durable Cr-Mo fork, with clean profile and built to withstand daily urban use
  • Alloy 42-tooth track-style singlespeed crankset
  • Super high-profile deep V 700c rims compliment the Roll’s distinctly urban design
  • Bolt-on front and rear hubs provide excellent ride security and curb thieves looking for "free" wheels
  • Roll 2′s keyed front wheel retentions system finishes off the fork profile and makes the design lines disappear
  • Fixed gear or freewheel rear hub, you decide 

2011 Globe Daily

DAILY

My whip for the couple days in S.F. All new for 2011

  • Step-through frame or more traditional horizontal top tube
  • Traditionally inspired Globe A1 frame in standard and step-thru versions
  • Classic uni-crown, curved blade fork in steel and alloy
  • Custom, durable steel ‘zeppelin’ fenders
  • Custom, bolt-on ‘phone-dial’ hubs
  • Bolt-on front and rear hubs provide excellent ride security and curb thieves looking for "free" wheels
  • Custom, Globe basket with integrated U-lock holder (5 KG), or rear rack (10 KG)

LIVE (under review by Justin Steiner)

  • Designed around the front rack. Specially engineered front fork to accommodate the front rack. "Classic style, unlimited utility. Grab some groceries, carry a laptop, bonfire at the beach, BYOB. Life/Live is what you make it."
  • Globe A1 Premium frame with smooth welded main tubes for one strong and lightweight package
  • Integrated front porteur basket system with aluminum bottom lets you carry all your goods comfortably (capacity = 50lbs)
  • Step through frame available with the classic double top tube “mixte” design for easy on and off access and/or riding with skirts
  • Internally routed cables to clean up the design lines
  • All alloy pedals that evoke Italian styling
  • Color matched Globe steel fenders fit right in and have are a more durable alternative to the omnipresent plastic variety
  • Slim, yet effective, the color matched alloy chainguard keeps your duds clean
  • Proven Body Geometry Fitness saddle with front and rear bumbers for long-haul durability

HAUL

  • Big rear rack is part of the frame. "Pack, move, tow, recycle. The bigger the load, the better the Haul. A true cargo bike with urban style. When you can get the job done on two wheels, who needs a trunk?"
  • A1 Premium Aluminum frame with integrated rack & aluminum deck makes loaded transportation simple and easy (capacity = 100lbs)
  • Step through frame designs are offered in addition to the standard geometry for easy on and off access and/or riding with skirts
  • Internally routed cables to clean up the design lines
  • Globe City grips delivers form and function in one considered design
  • Globe City pedals features a Varus wedge that slightly angles the foot for a more natural and comfortable position
  • Wheels feature double-walled 700c rims with 36 spokes for maximum durability
  • Body Geometry saddle uses a V-groove design and vibration dampers for comfort and support, even on dodgy roads
  • Globe steel fenders are a more durable alternative to the plastic variety
  • Slim, yet effective, the color matched alloy chainguard equipped on the internally geared model keeps your duds clean

After the presentation we were asked to choose our bike for our underground bike tour of San Francisco by SOSF. The tour ibegan along the S.F. waterfront, AT&T Park (home of the Giants) and Mission Bay. Joseph Baerman Strauss’ lesser-known 91-year-old 4th St. bridge and it’s $400k fake counter weight along with Shit Creek was next up. 

4st Bridge

fake counter wieght

4th St. Bridge and Shit Creek.

From there we headed to Mission. We rode to Balmy Alley and listened to our guides explain some of the fantastic murals and history of the neighborhood. Each mural was inspired by Diego Rivera and WPA murals. Balmy Alley has become a canvas for local activist artist to examine US foreeign policy in Central America and the issues pertinent to community.

Balmy Alley MuralBalmy Alley Murals.

A picnic lunch was set up for us in Mission Dolores Park with a picturesque view of the city. The park is a center for cultural, political and sport activities since the 1960s. No surprise that hipsters love it on the weekends.

Eat and park. Wait, no. Park and eat. Mission Dolores Park. Eat and Park. Wait, no. Park and eat.

Following lunch we headed down "The Wiggle" – a local bike route that minimizes the hills for which San Francisco is famous. The Wiggle lead us to the Duboce Bikeway Bike Mural by Mona Caron that depicts the broad spectrum of cycling from the bay to the coast.

Bike MuralDuboce Bikeway Bike Mural.

The official tour ended back at the hotel. However, I was on a bike perfect for some city riding and my legs still felt great. I was able to talk Jessica from Globe into taking me to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never been to San Francisco and by bike was a perfect way for me to get a vibe for the city. What better way to see one of this countries greatest landmarks! So we started our trek into blustery Pacific headwinds towards Strauss’ better known bridge seeing some sights along the way.

I could swim that.

Alcatraz. (I’m not sure Magneto could have done it – the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t look like it could reach that far…)

Golden Gate Bridge is basically red.

The Brooklyn Bridge… Nah, I’m just kidding.

That turned out to be a long day in the saddle and well worth it. After the ride it was time to settle in for some amateur and locally-made artisan foods. Across the street from the Good Hotel was a parking lot that played host to The Disposable Film Festival honoring S.F. Bike week and also the finish-line for the evening’s Alley Cat race. Before the sun went down and the films began, local culinary artists were invited to peddle their creations to hungry cyclists. Following the shorts, a couple drinks with my Globe and Specialized hosts was a great way to end a fantastic day. 

Food Vendors

Food vendors.

Bike Valet

Bike Valet.

The next day was the 16th Annual Bike to Work Day for San Francisco that celebrated some of the city’s newest innovations that are helping to make cyclists safer. Specifically, the segregated bike lanes on Market Street. I was able to prolong my stay to partake in some of the festivities. Energizing stations were set up around town to keep riders upright and help with basic mechanicals. Although one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, the Bay City has been facing a severe deterrent to implementing recent cycling legislation. A legal injunction a few years ago has left an impass to cycling related projects that could benifit the urban bike community. Despite this, San Francisco remains one of the best cities to ride in. The San Francisco Bike Coalition along with Mayor Newsom are hopeful that when the injunction runs out, a city-wide bike network will be in the near future along with several other projects. The Mayor’s hope is that S.F. will rival cycling capitals like Portland and Amsterdam. 

Bike to Work Day Press Conference

Bike to Work Day press conference.

I came back from the left coast impressed. Not only was I impressed with the local support, on several different levels, for a cycling lifestyle – I was impressed with Globe’s apparent commitment to help sustain that lifestyle with purposeful products.

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First Impressions: Norco Vesta

The Norco Vesta is my latest whip. Made of a crowd pleasing 525 Reynolds Chromoly frame with custom belt compatible drop-outs and tensioning system. Yep, that’s right, belt drive. The Vesta converts even the most square pedaling to quiet motion using the Gates Carbon Drive. It’s lighter, quieter, cleaner and longer lasting than a conventional chain. It’s silky smooth and becoming more and more common on several different types of bikes.

The Vesta will set you back $950, but with a Gates belt, disc brakes, drop bars, rack and fender mounts – the only thing this city crushing machine is missing is gears. So far the bike has been a lot of fun to ride and with the equivalent of a  42t x 17t gear ratio – there’s not much you can’t tackle. Full review coming soon in Bicycle Times. www.norco.com

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Daffodils and Dogs

Usually, this time of the year has me thinking about the summer event schedule for cycling. Each year I like to get together with some far-off friends and ride bikes in the spirit of camaraderie and group suffering.This year however is a bit different. I’m not really thinking about cycling events. I’m not looking at event schedules wondering what endurance races will make me question why the hell I want to ride a bike at 3am, in the rain. I’m not even worrying about training plans for the local race series (not that I have before).

All I’m excited for is some local singletrack and rail-trails. You see, I just got a new puppy. I’ve grown up with dogs, and since living on my own, I’ve always wanted another. My girlfriend and I just bought a house this fall and a puppy wasn’t far behind. Originally I was interested in a couple different large breeds. Leonburgers and Akitas were on my short list. I have strong animosity for most small breeds. I’ve always thought it wasn’t a dog unless it was up to your knee.

But the more I read about the breeds I was originally interested in, I began to realize they weren’t going to be great trail dogs. Hip problems had me worried. On top of that I couldn’t see my hundred-and-nothing pound girlfriend leash training a hundred-and-fifty pound dog. And she wasn’t too keen on the idea of cleaning up hand sized pieces of dog crap. Since the Akita was on the short list she suggested a Shiba Inu. It’s basically a scaled down version of an Akita and one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world.

This spring I have begun hiking with our new buddy, Royal Zero the Zombie Killer (Zero, for short), on the trails behind our Bicycle Times / Dirt Rag office. So far I’ve been really impressed. I’m no expert on dog training, so I’ve been doing some on-line research for training tips.

Mountain Biking with your dog links:

I can see using something like the Springer for riding rail-trails or bike paths, but think that it would be unsafe for dog and rider on mountain bike trails. At least the tight and technical singletrack that I like.

I suppose it comes down to how well your dog is trained. Like any obidience training, it comes down to time and patience. Also, the law. Most places that are great for riding bikes might not be too happy to see your dog off-leash. Check your local parks. Having your dog off its leash might be fun for riding, but you are risking injury to your friend, yourself and possibly a ticket.

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Review: Soma Fabrications Double Cross DC

bicycle times review soma fabrications double cross dc

While most bike companies are fighting over a small segment of the race-driven cycling market, Soma Fabrications has used the inspiration of everyday cyclists to create practical and simple products. The Soma Way is of individuality, simplicity and durability. And since Brave New World was a good read, I think it’s a little about pleasure as well. Soma sees their steel frames as a platform for cyclists to create bikes that fit their specific needs.

My Soma Double Cross DC frame was chosen after careful consideration and a long debate with a panel of Bicycle Times experts. It started with a goal of building a new commuting bike that was better-fitting compared to what I had been riding. I had a few criteria: disc brakes, gears, fenders, and drop bars. With those criteria I could have gone in two directions—touring or cyclocross. I chose cyclocross because of the slightly more performance-oriented geometry. Both of Soma’s cyclocross frames (the $400 traditional Double Cross, and the disc brake-ready Double Cross DC) have mounts for racks and fenders. The Double Cross DC frame offers all the features I was looking for.

My 60cm DC frame has all the eyelets and braze-ons of the regular Double Cross, and its cantilever brake bosses are removable. Tange Prestige heat-treated butted steel is used for the front triangle with a 72° headtube angle and 23.7" effective top tube length, while butted steel makes up the rear, creating a frame with 33.4" of standover clearance, all tipping the scales at 4.91lbs.

The rear hub spacing is 132.5mm, giving you the option of fitting wheels with either road- or mountain-spaced hubs by squeezing or spreading the rear dropouts. There is enough clearance for 700x38mm tires with fenders. My 135mm rear wheel with 140mm disc brake rotor fit without any problems. Just make sure you have enough foresight to use disc brake-compatible fenders, or be prepared with some spacers.

After a lengthy build process I couldn’t wait to ride the finished bike. Coming off of a stiff aluminum bike, the Tange steel felt great. The ride quality of the steel was quickly apparent as it dampened just enough of the road chatter to smooth out my commute. Although the steel dampens vibrations the frame is responsive and quick, transferring my energy to the wheels and not side-to-side.

bicycle times review soma fabrications double cross dc

I would have preferred full-length cable housing on this frame. For a ‘cross and commuting bike I thought it would be a nice feature, although hard to come by. The only problem building up the bike was with the seatpost clamp. Instead of the gap in the frame closing evenly, the edges curled inward. The seal wasn’t strong enough on the post and resulted in a slipping and gouged seatpost. I wrote off the problem as either a post on the narrow-tolerance side, or a seat tube on the wide-tolerance side. I used a different post and have had no problems since.

The Midnight Silver powdercoat has stood up well to the elements so far, and the purply-silver has gotten a few compliments on the street.

So far the Soma Double Cross DC has been terrific as a commuting bike and plenty capable on a cyclocross course. From my time on the DC it seems that Soma has rightly kept a finger on the pulse of cyclists and is offering durable, versatile and smooth-riding frames ready for wherever their riders take them. Company website: www.somafab.com

[Ed notes: This bike review by Matt Kasprzyk originally appeared in print in Bicycle Times issue #4. Photos by Justin Steiner. Subscriptions make these web reprints possible. Please consider clicking here and subscribing to Bicycle Times.]

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Hit by a Car?

I’ve recently renewed my membership to our local bike advocacy group. I hope most communities have an active organization who is a proponent of cyclists’ rights. They offer a great service to the cycling community by creating a voice loud enough for local governments to hear. Our bike advocacy group spends a lot of time campaigning for safer bike routes and bike parking ordinance. Of course they provide information for current bike commuters and utilitarian cyclists, but they also provide inspiration and resources for would be members of a cycling lifestyle.

Upon renewing my membership I received a handy little card in the mail along with some stickers, pamphlets and reflective discs, which I’m sure are meant for my bar plugs. As exciting as reflective discs are, the most informative bit of info included in the packet was the handy little card. On this card are recommended steps for what to do if you’re in a crash. Especially one with a motor vehicle. Although cycling accidents are statistically uncommon, it’s reported as the single largest impediment to getting more people on bikes, according to bicyclelaw.com. Here’s a list of what to do.

1. If you are in pain, stay put. Don’t try to move. You could end up injuring yourself even more

2. Call 9-1-1 or tell someone else to do it for you.

3. Make sure to get the driver’s a) Name b) License Plate c) Insurance Info d) Contact Info. If there are any witnesses, get their name and contact info as well. Although you may be injured and incapacitated at the accident scene, that is your only chance to identify the motorist who hit you and the witness(s). After the ambulance takes you away, you will never get another chance to obtain this. It is not uncommon for the police officers to fail to get this information after the victim has left the scene. Ask someone to write down the tag number and their own information and give it to you, or put it in you pocket.

4. Get a police report to officially document the crash. Police are REQUIRED to create a report if a participant in the incident is injured. An injury, no matter how small, may be the only way to guarantee a police report. You will need one if you seek legal compensation for medical bills, etc. Do not take minor injuries lightly. It is recommended that you either go to the hospital immediately or visit a doctor soon after the incident. They can check for a concussion and other less obvious, but serious injuries.

5. Contact a lawyer.

6. Contact your city councilperson and tell them your story and that you want safer cycling conditions in the city.

More info can be found here: bike-pgh.org.
It’s regional but provides great links and common information.

Here are a few other resources from a quick search on the web:
www.bicyclelaw.com
www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-30255.html
www.expertlaw.com/library/car-accidents/car-bicycle.html

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Unseeable

I like design. And last week the crew here at Bicycle Times spent a few days talking about the future of our mag while planning how to get there. This past year our junk has tested the water and it’s time to drop into the proverbial hot tub of our identity. As I type this I can’t help but be fascinated with the characters the tapping of my fingers are creating. I realize I’m likely among the vast minority who will read this blog and share the interest, but I think there are some strong parallels with typography and bike design. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have witnessed type being created. But most of you have seen a bike geometry chart.

Although it’s often subjective, good design is apparent as soon as you see it. “The genius of seeing that which is so evident as to be unseeable.” That elusive aesthetic that seems so natural once we see it is often a timeless quality. Like a Schwinn Phantom or Helvetica or Garamond. Although functional they have become a model of design. Each created for a purpose, but have been developed into timeless standards.

I’m excited for the coming year and all we have challenged ourselves with. Hope you are too.

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Interbike Mini-Review: Raleigh Alley Way

raleigh alley wayRaleigh’s pale green Alley Way turned a lot of heads in Las Vegas this year. More companies seem to be throwing a leg over the idea of practical commuting or town bikes. The Alley Way is a new addition to Raleigh’s lineup for 2010 that makes few compromises between form and function.  

The frame comes in Small, Medium and Large. It’s made of Reynolds 520 butted steel. The Large I was riding had an effective top tube of 620mm, a head tube angle of 71 degrees and seat tube angle of 73 degrees. The seat tube was 495mm long with a generous standover clearance of 826mm, which made mounting and dismounting easier. Nothing surprising with the geometry, and with the swept 700mm handlebars, it created a comfortable, more upright riding position that was perfect for cruising around town.

Raleigh added some great features to the Alley Way. Some of the most notable are the matching pale green fenders and custom handlebar/stem combo. The stem and handlebar is a one-piece integrated chromoly design. The bike’s fork has both rack and disc brake mounts, and attached to those disc brake mounts are Shimano BR-M416 disc brakes with Tektro levers

raleigh alley way

Aside from the near timeless design of the frame there is more to pique your interest. The Alley Way features a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal hub powered by a Gates Belt Drive. The drivetrain system claims to be maintenance free and perfect for the grab and go bike. A Brooks B-17 saddle along with leather grips certainly add to this bike’s aesthetic appeal while Vittoria Randenour Cross tires with reflective sides add to your safety. And probably the most underrated feature has to be the integrated bell on the left brake lever.

The Alley Way is a smooth and quiet ride. The 8-speed internal hub was plenty capable and very convenient. Being able to change gears without pedaling at traffic lights was a welcomed feature. Disc brakes will of course give you fewer excuses to drive your car when the weather isn’t ideal. The Brooks B-17 saddle and leather grips exude style and class. Raleigh’s pale green integrated stem and handlebars along with the coordinating fenders exemplify a subtle elegance that is undoubtedly European inspired. The bike was even featured in this year’s Urban Legends Fashion Show.

The Alley Way is a beautiful example of a bike that melds old world style with modern technology. It rode as smooth as it looks. The internal 8sp hub shifted clean and quietly with a wide enough range of gears that made starts easy and cruising quick. Tectro levers and Shimano mechanical discs worked flawlessly during the short test period.

The Gates Belt Drive was of course quiet. Working with the Alfine hub, the drivetrain was noticeably smooth and seemed efficient enough. I can’t remember any squeaks during the couple days of riding and tension never slackened.

My only qualm about the Alley Way is that it looks too good. If that was my bike I would be nervous everywhere I parked it. At the Mandalay Bay crits the bike was scratched a little when it was grouped to lock. If Raleigh sold matching replacement fenders and the handlebar-stem combos I’d feel a whole lot better about parking it around other bikes. Although I’m not sure I would use this for my commute, I sure wouldn’t mind having this in the stable for rides around town for a morning scone and coffee, or to a farmer’s market with some nice tweed panniers.

More information at www.raleighusa.com.

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Offsetting My Offset

I admit, this might be considered more of a Dirt Rag topic, but after spending some time searching for opinions on my new bike’s trail issue, I found that much of the geometry concerns apply to other forms of cycling as well. Recently I sold a frame and kept the suspension fork that was designed for the frame. (I tried to get rid of the fork too, but it kept coming back to me.) So I did some service to the fork and figured I’d try it out with the new frame.

As many of you probably know, a lot of thinking goes into designing a bike. All those angles and geometries and ratios are designed for specific results. This means that certain measurements and angles will have an affect on the handling and ride characteristics of a bike. This is one of the main reasons to buy a bike suited to your needs. Touring bikes really aren’t great race bikes. Largely because of math.

Here’s my situation and inspiration for this great experiment. As I mentioned, I have a new frame. The suspension fork I’m using with this new frame was designed for a different bike, with different geometry. There are a lot of variables and numbers here. The fork is 100mm of travel with 51mm of offset. "Fork offset influences geometric trail,which affects a bicycle’s handling characteristics. Increasing offset results in decreased trail, while decreasing offset results in increased trail."

Kogswell has a nice front end geometry calculator to help illustrate these principles.

The new frame I’m riding is designed for a suspension fork with 80mm of travel and 44mm of offset. Using the above measurements of my fork it’s easy to see that I’m increasing the travel and the offset. So what is this going to do to the ride? Well, using the handy trail calculator linked above we can plug in the numbers. It’s easy to find the headtube angle of most bikes. I hope that all bike companies have websites by now, and most will have geometry charts for their bikes. My frame has a 72 degree headtube when used with an 80mm suspension fork with 44mm of offset. BUT, my fork is 100mm of travel and 51mm of offset. The front end will be raised 20mm, which will reduce the headtube angle.

That’s the first concern. How does the reduced headtube angle affect the handling of the bike. Generally speaking, a steeper angle (higher number) gives quicker handling, especially at lower speeds. A slacker angle (lower number) is more stable at higher speeds and less “twitchy.” So in my case, the added travel reduced the angle by 2 degrees, slowing down the steering. I also have the increased offset, and this is what I hoped would be my saving grace.

According to Dave Moulton’s Bike Blog, trail assists steering. I hoped that even though I have decreased the headtube angle of my bike by raising the front end 20mm the increased offset would give me a similar trial number. So the million dollar question: Does it matter how you arrive at less trail? Offset vs headtube angle.

This isn’t merely an off-road concern. These are geometric principles which have been concerns of frame builders for over a century, and not just self-propelled frame builders. Motorcycles are also affected by these principles. A loaded front end when bicycling touring will also require a different geometric set up for predictable handling. Most modern forks, either suspension or rigid have offset. All those numbers mean something on any given bike’s geometry chart. When buying a bike it’s important to understand what they mean, and if that math will help give you the ride characteristics you are looking for.

You might be asking how my bike rides. A little too early to tell, but one ride on it, and I hit a tree.

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