Nano Nanu

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Sep 282012

Would you buy carbon fiber from this man?

I’ve been thinking about nanotubes again–those mysterious tiny strong things Easton starting mixing into the resin between carbon fibers.

Partially, I’m thinking about them because I had a meeting with a development company a while back and the sales guy kept referring to Stan’s NoTubes as “Stan’s Nanotubes.” We didn’t go with that developer.

But I’ve also been thinking about them because I had a chance to hang out with Larry Carlson at Interbike this year. Larry was they guy largely responsible for bringing Easton into the bicycle industry, and he’s the guy behind nanotubes.

These days, he’s still working with them (and doing some really amazing-sounding things).

What’s odd, though, is that Larry knew exactly where I’d lived in Pennsylvania. Nobody knows that place. Larry’s older than I am–by how much I can’t say, but there’s a generation gap there. Turns out, though, he and his friends (also at the table with us) grew up not just around Pittsburgh, but really close to the Ligonier area I used to call home. As a child, Larry lost his first ski down Lower Wildcat (it shattered after hitting a tree), and Lower Wildcat was about two miles from my front door.

It gets weirder.

They’d also ridden at Mingo Creek Park–an hour and some change from my old PA house, and very near my parents’ house. I’d also ridden at Mingo a lot. I didn’t know anyone outside 20-30 guys in Pittsburgh had ever ridden there.

We talked patents and bizarre bike industry stuff–things he’d planned to do for Easton but that never saw the light of day.

It was one of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had at Interbike–and there have been some good ones.

It struck me that one hardly ever hears an engineer’s voice in the marketing dreck that makes it to print and into all of our ears at Interbike.

What we get instead is gibberish.

I really prefer listening to materials engineers any chance I get. They just make me happy.

Oh, and though it’s decidedly not nanotube technology, have you seen the Levi’s bike?

You know the barrier of entry into bicycle manufacturing is low when Levi’s decides they might as well make a bike. Have to admit, though, they did a nice job of making it goof-proof. Generally a sharp-looking little scooter with all that newly necessary pedigree stuff courtesy of Cherubim whose street cred includes points for being hip and the gets that total doubled for being based in Japan.

I won’t type anything bad about it. Except to mention the cable routing. There.

Touching Interbikey Moments, Inversion and Spy Mimes

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Sep 272012

Oh, we touched it.

Bringing some weird, new bike part to Interbike and telling people not to touch it is a little like buying a new house so that you can camp in the back yard.

My man Connor walked up and touched the shit out of this new Ergon split flappy leaf spring style seatpost. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he outright fondled it–so much so that I thought he was doing it on purpose, just to see what would happen.

But no, he just didn’t read the sign. And good for him. Touching new bike stuff is our God-given right as Americans for crissake.

Realistically, if they didn’t want anyone to touch it, they should’ve put it in this thing.

Nobody got anywhere near that shit. It cleared whole aisles, probably because every time anyone saw it they assumed someone was about to start telling them about it, and most of us would’ve rather spent Interbike cowering in a bathroom stall than face hearing even a few seconds of a sales pitch for this thing.

But you know what’s back? Inverted forks!

No. Of course I’m just kidding. In fact all of X-Fusion is just one big piece of highly conceptual performance art, like Cirque du Soleil or Paul Ryan.

Which makes me think of mimes. Mavic had said they were sending “some French guys” by our office a few days ago. Nobody showed up, but I did see a guy in a white and blue horizontal striped shirt wandered around outside my window, and it’s pretty much common knowledge that Mavic is filled with mimes. I’ve heard they were originally brought in to make meetings more interesting, but have since pretty much taken over the company.

At least they redesigned the freewheels.

Last big benefit for my friend and co-worker, Mat Barton, happens this Friday at the Lumberyard in Portland. I’ve been in charge of coordinating things, and we have some incredible stuff going up for auction–including a $650 saddle, and 200 other great prizes. Plus, it’s at the Lumberyard. Get there.

Costco Cannondales

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Sep 262012

I was hellbent on not posting anything today before remembering a question a friend had asked me at Interbike. That’s his photo above, depicting a–let’s go ahead and assume “frightened and confused”–Cannondale mountain bike on sale at a Costco. Here was his question:

“How does something like this happen?”

While I can’t claim to know all the details, I do know it involves nefariousness, though not really the illegal kind. The best answer I’ve found comes from our friends across the pond–no, not the UK: fly fishermen.

Here’s an article that explains the tactic of “diversion purchasing,” and how it’s used.

Before blaming Cannondale, this is a worthwhile read. The article explains how difficult it can be for some companies to keep their goods out of places like Costco–even when it’s doing real damage to their brand.

Real victims? Retailers of course. And the consumer. Here’s a bike with hydraulic disc brakes being sold by a big box retailer who didn’t even bother to remove the shipping padding after hanging it up for display. Those things tend not to end well.

Like the time a “sporting goods store” near me suddenly came into a glut of closeout Cannondales bought out from a defunct dealer’s inventory and ended up pumping them out into my market. A new Cannondale dealer at the time, I was not impressed–particularly when the “new bike shop” started giving out sage advice like, “Just fill a cracked Cannondale frame with epoxy.”

I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind Independent Bike Dealers to be “independent,” which is the opposite of where a lot of them seem to be headed vis-a-vis “close partnerships” with big bike brands. If you think your big brand’s distribution channel will always look the way it does now, you’re wrong. Pity the poor bastard who purchases his or her first hydraulic disc brake mountain bike from Costco, and pity Cannondale, but don’t think it’s the last time you’ll see this happening.

Don’t sell brands. Be the brand.

I used “vis-a-vis” didn’t I? Damn. Knew I should’ve skipped today.

Sep 252012

Seems like I received an unexpected promotion today–or at least a hell of a lot more work. Not something I’d planned on, or even seen coming, and we’ll still have to iron out that whole awkward “compensation thing,” but I’ve been asked to handle pretty much all marketing operations for my company. Er, one of my companies. I’m going into a particularly busy patch at the other one, too. And just getting a possible third, that might turn into two separate companies, off the ground. Life’s complicated.

Sadly, that probably means fewer words here on Canootervalve.

I started this blog after a particularly rough experience left me suddenly–breathtakingly–free of work. As all too many of us know, that kind of freedom is a little like being “free of gravity”: liberating for a short period of time, less so as you get closer to the ground. I ended up writing this thing to tell strangers about stuff. Turned out to be stuff some of you cared about, and I’ll forever be extremely grateful for your poor taste in entertainment. It also, directly and indirectly, led to four of the projects I’m working on right now.

So things might get a little sparse, but I’ll keep trying to scribble a few words here and there, and this will still be where I work out the details of Project Danzig and some other new stuff that’s coming up. Daily posts were probably getting a little old for all of us, though, really.

So I threw myself a softball entry for today. After–let’s see–fourteen hours of work, I’m just offering you some photos of the best damn looking bikes at Interbike.

One up top there is a Santa Cruz Tallboy that appeared in the Capo booth (along with a very fine pink Parlee). Not entirely un-Cannondale-like, but special somehow, just the same. It spoke to me. What it said was, “Take my picture,” and then it said, “You’ve somehow disabled auto-focus on your fancy camera app, dumbass,” and then it said all sorts of unsavory things I’d rather not repeat. Still: sharp bike.

Here’s the other best finish in the show.

That’s a BMC Impec. BMC has survived dopers and crappy designs and just keeps powering through any adversity with insanely stunning bikes like this. The finish is a mix of “we took the time to come up with our own distinct carbon fiber weave, bitches” and Lamborghini orange. Works.

I’ve sold a Lamborghini orange Indy Fab bike before and have always liked the color, but I don’t remember thinking if the price tag were 32 teeth I’d be riding that bike with the biggest toothless grin ever.

Actually, I do remember thinking that about the Indy Fab, too. So nevermind.

But the color combination on this Impec is pretty freakin’ amazing. I need a sixth job, or more teeth.

Interbike 2012: Cyclocross Edition, Part 1

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Sep 242012

So I’m home from the show and trying to recover from an interesting, if exhausting, Interbike. That photo’s from Cross Vegas 2012 and was shot by photographer Dan Holz for I hadn’t met Dan before Cross Vegas, but he turned out to be not just a gifted photographer, but also a really nice guy. Unfortunately for most of you, I took my own far less impressive photos, of products from the show.


By necessity, my eye was on ‘cross bikes this year, but that was far from a burden. Cyclocross bikes are almost almost among the nicest things on display in the show, and this year was no exception.

Hope was displaying this custom disc-specific ‘cross bike. It was one of the cleaner-looking complete bikes at the show, and it was showing off their new one-piece chainring and guard and a really minimal chain keeper. Very nice.

Moots was at Dirt Demo, but wasn’t displaying inside the show this year. Still, this stripped down Psychlo X Disc on display at Shimano had quite a presence.

The only thing better than Thomson expanding into carbon and titanium handlebars is a carbon drop bar designed in conjunction with cyclocross legend Katie Compton. Drop, reach and bend all look pretty interesting here–nothing to redefine how we hang onto drop bars, and that’s a good thing.

Weight is reported to be about 200g and price tag is looking to be about $250.

Most importantly, the release of several entirely new categories of products and materials follows years of Thomson’s deliberate and calculated minor product changes (not exactly radical business practice to introduce a few different types of stems and a slightly lighter version of the same basic alloy seatpost). Everyone’s a little anxious to see if Thomson can bring the same consistently high level of fit, finish and reliability to these more complex materials (not to mention translated that reputation into mechanical things like dropper posts). I’m certainly rooting for them.

From dive bars to show booths, Ritte Racing was all over Interbike 2012. One part imported carbon fiber with really creative paint jobs, and one part really cool stainless steel with custom options, Ritte seems to be the good side of bike production circa 2012. People who live bikes figuring out how to get their ideas into the hands of people who’ll appreciate them.

The belt-drive bike above was on display in the NoTubes booth, which kept a revolving line up of Ritte bikes on hand throughout each day of the show. That, or they were somehow changing colors.

Alchemy is another small frame builder being driven by a combination of solid design and a healthy dose of brand. If some of these small framebuilders seem to be marketing and promoting themselves more like indy bands than manufacturers, it’s because they’re starting from a crazy desire to do what they love doing, and hoping they find a market.

Though we didn’t get a chance to ride it, Look’s disc-only ‘cross bike looked pretty solid, with one odd notable exception. Though the frame seemed to have all kinds of special considerations for mud–including no bridge on the chainstays and flattened seatstays that seemed ideal for slicing away crud–the very top of the seatstays flowed into a monostay section before connecting to the seat tube, and the underside of that whole area was concave. This meant there was a little “spoon” under there that seeded almost designed to gather mud and ice. It was a little weird and disappointing on a frame that looked so ready to shed mud everywhere else.

The Cannondale team showed up on Avid’s new BB7 SL Road Mechanical discs, by the way. They’re basically the same as the old BB7s, except for sporting some titanium hardware, a dark chrome finish and black plastic adjustment knobs (that are still as tough to turn as any other Avid Mechanical).

Also seen at Cross Vegas was part-time friendly wizard and full-time legal counsel for mega-distributor QBP, Matt’s All-City Nature Boy. Matt singled-speeded the industry race, then locked up his bike and went back for more beer. Shakespeare’s famous quote about lawyers doesn’t apply to Matt, or any other lawyer with a navel-length beard and high-polished rims on a single-speed.

Lots more was afoot out there in the desert, too. I’ll wander through it in the next few days.

Occupy Treasure Island

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Sep 212012

Interbike is winding down, meaning I’m left with a bunch of photos and vague memories and stuff. Got to catch up with some great people, meet some genuinely fascinating new people and see some cool new products and some horrendously bad new products.

Oh, and there as a pretty fantastic bike race in there, too.

Huge thanks to everyone at NoTubes for the ride out to Cross Vegas and to pro photographer and super nice guy Dan Holz for capturing some incredible photos for

That photo way up top is of course from the Surly booth, or I mean the place where Surly keeps their bikes inside the convention center. The actual Surly booth this year was just outside Treasure Island.

For the record, I have loitered with the MPLS Mafia while drinking coffee, an activity roughly akin to jogging merrily down subway tracks, through a speeding train, and out the other side. Despite the best attempts of Treasure Island to make me miserable this year (I’ll see your “$19.95 per device, per day for WiFi” and raise you one “fuck you, I’m tethering my laptop to my phone”), they deserve a lot of credit for not using high-pressure hoses to disburse this crowd, though I doubt they’d’ve had any effect anyway.

This was actually the most interesting Interbike I’ve ever attended. Between meetings with manufacturers, NoTubes and all kinds of work, I knew it’d be action-packed. Definitely didn’t disappoint. I’ll try to make sense of it all here over the next week or so.

New Normals

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Sep 192012

So there’s your Krampus photo. Definitely one of the most fun bikes I’ve ever ridden. Ever.

Today, I got to catch up with friends and ride everything from a Pinarello Dogma with Campy EPS to a Santa Cruz Tallboy LT. Hit a whole new trail with Tallboy that made a hell of a lot of sandy climbing worthwhile.

I started the day off on the Pivot Mach 429 Carbon, which was a serious mistake for an owner of a perfectly good aluminum Mach 429 to make. Of all the 29ers I’ve ridden at the show this year, the head tube angle of the 429 just always feels perfect.

I also noticed that all of these bikes pedal great now. The 429, the Yeti and the Tallboy LT all climbed without any discernible bob. Such a great group of bikes out there right now. Efficiency really has finally arrived.

Disc brakes on everything has just about arrived, too. I finally rode a Volagi Liscio, a bike I’ve wanted to try out for a long time now. I was happy to find one at TRP, who’ve contractually obligated me to mention the new Parabox is redesigned and features (among other things) a mounting clamp/headset spacer that’s now only 5mm high (down from 14mm). The Volagi had room to spare with 25mm tires, and accelerated well for a bike built around all-day comfort and sporting hydraulic discs. Really enjoyed this bike.

Big day tomorrow. Meetings and such.

Krampus, Switch Suspension and Partaking of Surly Meat

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Sep 182012

And you thought dual-wheel-drive bikes needed to be complicated.

Highlights of my day (other than seeing that thing and getting a big hug from Maurice from Dirt Rag) included riding a Surly Krampus. Apparently I was so busy grinning and partaking of a sandwich being passed around the Surly tent like a peace bike that I forgot to take a photo. And yes, sharing a sandwich with the guys from Surly is a little like Russian roulette, but in a good way. If I survive the night, I’ll get some photos tomorrow.

Suffice to say, the Krampus is a hell of a lot of fun to ride and has not only “vertical compliance,” but “horizontal squirmy tire compliance,” which means you pretty much just ride and rock crawl over everything stupid enough to ride up before you. Glorious.

I also spent some time on Yeti’s Switch system. I’ve been hoping to ride this design for quite some time–ever since I noticed how similar it was to my own system–so I was a pretty anxious to get some miles on a Switch system bike. It didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was amazingly good. So good that I came away more fired up than ever to see Danzig come to life.

Most of the rest of my day was spent trying to avoid pinch flats while riding ‘cross bikes on the trails. Good times. More tomorrow.


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Sep 172012

By the time this posts, I’ll be back in the desert. I used to think being in Vegas for Interbike every year was like a bad roller coaster ride. Now I realize it’s like being the guy who mops up the cars. Both are gut-wrenching, but the guy who cleans up the ride has to deal with some genuinely disgusting sights, sounds and smells.

I can’t complain, really. It’s just that normally my various jobs have nothing at all to do with vomit, and this one week a year tries to make up for 360 vomit-less days. The stuff they use on the casino carpet, the cars that pass you on the street, the lights: pretty much every individual component of Las Vegas seems carefully engineered to make me sick. I like the people in the bike industry (if I didn’t, there’s no way in hell I’d go to these things), but every other part of Vegas makes me spiritually queasy.

I don’t mean to suggest being in Vegas is like vomiting. There’s a kind of relief that comes from vomiting that Vegas never offers–at least not until the plane’s in the air again and you’re watching that blinking, barren landscape fall away below you. Have to be there to talk to people, though, and that part of my week is going to be pretty great. Lots to accomplish this year.

So Canootervalve will basically be off this week, though I’ll be posting things occasionally to whatever place seems the best fit. I’ll probably post some photos to Facebook/CyclocrossCom, some to Facebook/NoTubesFan, and a few right here. Whether or not they include any pithy remarks will depend in big part on how much sleep I can get tonight.

I have to be at the airport for 5:00am, so not looking good. At least I can score a barf bag on the plane.

Open Sores

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Sep 142012

I’ll be at Interbike all next week, reducing Canootervalve to maybe the occasionally photo and half-formed musing–which I guess is pretty much what it is anyway.

But I’ll be neck-deep in bikes–literally and figuratively–so before all that starts I wanted to ponder the news today that Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, wasn’t happy with the crushing pro-Apple verdict recently delivered in a patent lawsuit between Apple and Samsung. In case you hadn’t noticed, Apple literally own the ability to hinder sales of some Samsung phones because the Google Android OS on those phones encroached on Apple intellectual property. Heavy stuff, but bullshit, as far as Wozniak seems to be concerned.

Quoth Woz:

I hate it. I don’t think the decision of California will hold. And I don’t agree with it — very small things I don’t really call that innovative. I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents and everybody can build the best forms they want to use everybody’s technologies.

In light of the recent Trek versus Weagle squabble the shareware, free love that Woz seems to be advocating here might sound pretty bizarre. Would we really just reduce things to their form factor, where the company with the best-looking bike always gets the sale.

Seems bold.

Apply it to the bike world and that means anyone could design a Santa Cruz VPP system or a DW-link. The invisible hand of the market would, presumably, mop up whatever confusion this nonsense would create and build, instead, better bikes–ones with more elegant solutions to the same set of problems.

Or people would just knock shit off poorly.

While I wish I could share in Woz’s Grand Open Source vision of a world in which intellectual property doesn’t have to matter so much, the reality is that we live in a world where companies rip off squiggly look of a Pinarello just to make a buck. And it works.

No, I think there’s still some value in intellectual property, but I’ll agree with Woz that a lot of it’s completely stupid, too. I’ve seen patents get slapped on “Brand A’s” single-pivot bikes because Brand B noticed a chance to patent something as stupid as a piece of tubing connecting the pivot and the shock mount. That’s so amazingly wrong on all levels.

So I’m off to the godforsaken desert. Any questions about new products, feel free to ask. Between all the meetings I definitely won’t get to everything, but that won’t stop me from trying.

Should come home just a little closer to creating some bicycles, too.