31 October, 2006

The Quicker Pro from Sweden

Though most of us use full sized frame pumps, there are some disadvantages to them. It's hard to carry your bike with a pump under the top tube. You must take the pump with you when leaving the bike in a less than safe area. And you can't hang you bike on a horizontal rack. Mini pumps would seem to be the obvious solution, but most of them simply don't work. And those that do require several hundred strokes to reach 80-100psi.

So I was very interested when a reader (thanks Peter) sent me a copy of Velo News' recent pump test showing the Swedish Quicker Pro to be the hands down winner. In that test it reached 100psi in 100 strokes while the next best pump took 200 and the other 18 models required 300-500 strokes. It also pumped enough volume to work well with mountain bike tires. So this is a mini-pump that compares favorably even to full sized pumps. At $31 it's not cheap, but it appears to be very well made, it will fit in a Velo Orange saddle bag or jersey pocket, and it actually works well.

The following is condensed from Quicker's description:

Everyone who has tried to inflate 5 bars of pressure or more with a mini-pump, knows that it is in most cases even impossible! Quicker Pro has a pump design called Multi-Chamber Double Action. Unlike all other hand pumps on the market, Quicker Pro produces a constant airflow! Meaning that Quicker Pro generate the same air-volume per stroke independently what pressure you have in the tyre! So if you, for example pump, from 2-3 bars or from 9-10 bars the number of strokes will be the same!

The pressure can be read at the integrated pressure gauge, which is cleverly placed in the front cylinder of the pump. Quicker Pro is very popular among road bikers since they require very high pressure in the tyres.

Quicker Pro features a valve lock that fixes the pump to the valve and prevents leakage. The valve/nipple seal can easily be unscrewed and in order to change the valve just turn the inner parts.

An important factor when it comes to pumping, is how much arm power you need to use!
The force used when inflating with Quicker Pro is by 7 bars only 5 kilos/11 lb.!
Compare this with a conventional pump which requires 17-20 kilos /37-44 lb.!

A clip is included in case you would like to attach the Quicker Pro to your bike.

Length: 180 mm
Diameter: 34 mm
Weight: 160 grams
Capacity: 105 cm3/stroke
Maximum pressure: Guaranteed to 11 bars / 154 PSI

30 October, 2006

Saddle Covers and Stuff

It may seem like a minor thing, but saddle covers have been on my mind. I really don't care for the Brooks saddle cover. It's too loose, it's not totally waterproof, and it wrinkles and slides around when you try to ride on it. If that wasn't bad enough, it has "BROOKS" written on it in huge letters. It might as well say "Steal My Saddle".

I remember a nice Italian saddle cover I had in my youth. It was a perfect fit due to being stretchy. It was waterproof, and it had no logos. This is a saddle cover that would not only protect my expensive leather saddle from rain, but also from thieves when I had to leave my bike in a dodgy area.

We now have those Italian saddle covers in stock. They only cost $6.50 and they fit most saddles, even the B-17. But they won't fit the big Brooks city bike saddles.

Speaking of saddles, we now stock the gorgeous Brooks D-shaped saddle bags and the Brooks Challenger tool bags. These bags really are works of art.

We also have Brooks Proofide in the 40 gram tins.

The VAR bike stands are all gone and I'm not sure if I can get more. The VAR tool kits have also been flying out the door and there are only a few left from the second shipment.

We should have the Swedish Quicker Pro pumps in stock is a few days. These are said to be the hands-down best mini-pumps ever made. They won the recent Velo News pump test as well as a bunch of tests in Europe.

I'm also looking for a good floor pump to stock. Since my 30 year old Silca track pump is still going strong that may be the one. Anybody have other suggestions.

26 October, 2006

Var Tools

VAR of France was the very first manufacturer of bicycle specific tools. They still produce some 250 bike tools, most of them for professional mechanics. We're slowly adding a selection of VAR tools to our store.

I was very pleased to find some of the old VAR #64 tool kits. These are a great kits for travel or for the home shop. They includes 2 cone wrenches, a pedal wrench, a chain rivet extractor, 3 real steel tire irons, a genuine French shop rag, a screwdriver, and a multi sized "dumbell" wrench. They are old fashioned enough to include the sorts of tools needed for working on a classic bike, tools modern tool kits often lack. And at $24 they are a real deal, but we don't have many.

There is something very elegant and old world about the VAR circular spoke wrench. It's chromed steel and fits 13, 14, and 15 gauge spokes. $9.75.

Finally the VAR bike stand is a step up from the economy two-legged we sell. I've used and liked this stand for a while now and wasn't sure I could get more. $24.

24 October, 2006

The C&O Canal Trail

We had planned a 3 day family inn-to-inn bike trip this past weekend. But a flu going around Alec's elementary school canceled our plans. When we felt better we decided to salvage what we could and spent a day riding along the C&O canal towpath. Every time we return to the canal, we are reminded that it's one of the most pleasant places we've ever ridden.

Perhaps it's not quite as nice as riding along the canals of France, but the scenery, especially in fall colors, is almost as spectacular. And it may lack canal side inns and cafes, but the B&Bs and restaurants in the towns are acceptable.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs for 184 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland Maryland. The canal is a National Historic Park. It starts near downtown Washington in the fashionable Georgetown neighborhood. Then it runs along the Potomac river and beside the spectacular whitewater and waterfalls of Nader gorge. Further along is the historic town of Harper's Ferry. It continues along beside the river, through small mountains, dense forests, and a 3100 foot canal tunnel.

There are camping areas every 10 or so miles. Small towns along it's route allow riders to stop at B&Bs or motels or just for a meal. So the rider can travel light and need not ride long distances to get to the next campsite or bed.

The surface varies from crushed stone to dirt and gravel. A rando style bike with 32mm tires is ideal. There are big rocks, mud holes, and fallen branches here and there. Last year I cracked a rib when I hit one and crashed near Cumberland. So don't ride as fast as you do on a road on this surface. I find 15 or 16 mph is about as fast as I can ride without having to continuously concentrate on the trail surface.

Here is a fantastic site with more details. What's your favorite local ride?

23 October, 2006

Prototypes and Ideas

Here are a couple of prototypes I picked up from the metal shop today.

The rack fits on the VO rando frame and can also be used with p-clamps on other frames. It should work with all types of brakes.

The the tube is a rear LED light that can flash or stay lit for about 50 hours. It mounts to the rear dropout eyelet.

I'll have both the rack and light mounted tomorrow and photos soon after. Any thoughts?

17 October, 2006


We recently ran across a batch of French sized, gold colored Edco competition headsets. Edco of Switzerland made some of the finest classic components and their quality rivaled or exceeded Campy's. If you have a French bike you would be hard pressed to find a nicer headset. the wholesale price on these was $59, so retail was probably near $100. They are $36in the store.

The lugs on our randonneur frame will be Henry Hames, rather than Kalavinka. Johnny, our builder found that the Henry James lugs are a much better match for the geometry and thought they would result in a straighter and better aligned frame. And we both feel that proper alignment is the basis for a good frame. Fortunately the Henry Lames lugs look very much like the Kalavinkas and the cost is about the same.

The hammered Honjo fenders have arrived. Again, these are not the special type that Honjo is making for us, but are nonetheless very nice. We also have some Honjo hardware.

We now include 1/4" p-clamps with our flashlight brackets. This allows the brackets to be mounted on racks without threaded eyelets. They are also available separately. However we are eliminating the leather pads for the brackets because we simply cannot find an adhesive or tape that will secure them to our satisfaction. I suggest that you put a wrap of bar tape around your flashlight instead.

The Nitto shim that allows 25.4mm handlebars to fit a regular 26mm road stem is a very useful item that's sometimes hard to find. So we've decided to stock them.

The Davos frames and bikes we were trying to import are no longer available. I was told the builder retired, he was over 70, and they simply had not taken the web page down. But I'm now on the trail of a similar Japanese bike.

Frame Geometry and Goeland

Two web sites have caught my eye recently and are well worth sharing.

The first is Dave Mann's Bike Geometry Project. Dave says: "The goal of my bike geometry project is to collect as many road bike geometries as is practically possible and to make them available to others who might be interested. This project is being driven by a) my own curiosity on the subject and b) my hunch that most bike frames made today are variations of older designs."

He puts all frames into eight basic classes and aims to show how most bikes are simply variations on these designs. It's worth downloading Dave's spread sheet which is fascinating to study. And you can help the project by providing the geometries of your bikes.

I've always enjoyed EBykr's Bicycle Artistry site, but the current article on Goeland bikes really caught my attention. I was struck that Louis Moire, the man behind Goeland, had a vision for the company that is much like my vision for Velo Orange. Goeland bikes were often alternatives to the super expensive Herse and Singer bikes. By using outside builders and compromising on fancy details and some components, Louis Moire was able to build construteur bikes for, if not the masses, at least for a wider audience.

Be sure to read EByker's previous articles. Also look through the photographs; there are some wonderful details there. For example, notice how the old French bag in the photo on the right opens from the front, just like an Ostrich bag.

11 October, 2006

A Few New Items and Some Updates

We have, or soon will have, a few new items.

We've started carrying the MKS RX-1 track pedal. The RX-1 is a high-end track pedal with a highly polished finish. It uses sealed bearings that are as smooth as any bearing I've felt and they weighs only 281 grams. The RX-1 is a good alternative to the unavailable TA track pedal. Actually it's much nicer than either the TA or the old Campy pedals. At $98 they're not cheap, but the quality is astounding. Note the special loop under the pedal for the strap and the little grips where the strap turns up along the pedal body. They are NJS approved, of course.

We also have MKS half clips. These little stainless steel clips give you most of the advantages of a full toe clip, but without straps. They are fantastic for city bikes, kid's bikes, or any bike when you want the extra efficiency of toe clips without the bother of straps. Highly recommended; I use them on my city bike.

Honjo 43mm hammered fenders will be here next week. These are not the custom
fenders we've ordered from the factory, but they are still lovely. We'll also have spare hardware for Honjo fenders, which several customers have asked for.

We'll also have Carradice saddlebag supports from England and a few Carrdice bags. Are there any particular models you think we should stock?

Brooks saddle covers are in stock.

It looks like we won't be stocking our French stainless steel fenders, at least not for a long time. The company that makes them has gone out of business. The machinery has been sold to another French company, so they may one day reappear. I'm looking for other sources of stainless fenders.

Back to the TA pedals, I've heard that the factory may have the broken mold replaced in a couple of weeks and we may see production re-start.

10 October, 2006

The Taiwan Bike Industry

I've started thinking about having some products made in Taiwan. The massive size of the Taiwanese bike industry is simply amazing. The Taiwan Bicycle Source is an online and print guide to the industry. It lists some 1,800 companies and 15,000 products, though there are many others. I spend hours browsing the site and going to various company websites looking for unique products. Though most of the industry is geared to low end bikes, there are some gems.

Since we like steel bikes a good site to visit is Maxway. They make frames for Jamis, DMR, Ritchey, Surly, QBP, Planet X, Dawes, Greenspeed, Rans, Da Bomb, Kogswell, VooDoo, Rivendell, Sachs and so on. If you look through their e-catalog you may find stock frames that have been re-labled by various companies. I suspect that most of their business is frames designed by the above companies. How about that Reynolds 653 Audax frame? The lugged racing frames looks nice too.

Of course there are also dozens of carbon fiber frames on offer. Amazing as it may seem, carbon frames are becoming commodity products. There are several companies that make nice racks, pumps, rims, fenders etc. Most of these products have to be ordered in very large quantities, but not all. So if you find any great items, let me know.

Another neat site is Bicycle Today which is full of industry news and has it's own industry guide.

The photo is from a good site about riding in Taiwan.

04 October, 2006

Three Island Factories or MKS -- UPDATED

As you probably know, MKS is a major Japanese pedal manufacturer. The actual name of the company is Three Island Factory. It was started in 1943 to manufacture airplane parts. In 1946 they started making bicycle pedals. Today they have 75 employees and two factories and make auto parts as well as at least 41 models of pedals.

Though most of the MKS pedals imported into the US are the mid-range Sylvan pedals, MKS also makes some of the best and most expensive pedals in the world. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the Sylvan touring, track, or road pedals; they are very well made and an excellent value. At Interbike I was very impressed with the quality of their best pedals. With sealed bearings, replaceable cages, and a mirror-like polish they outclass even TA and Campy pedals.

In the bottom row of the photo above you see the Nuevo Record Custom Wide which we may carry. This is the pedal with the wider cage for us big-foots. The cost will be around $130. In the middle of the bottom row is a track pedal that, if I understood correctly, can only be released by reaching down and flipping a lever. We might not stock that model.

The photo on the right shows the MM-Cube, a pedal I use and like. But this pair uses a quick release mechanism between the pedal and crank making the pedal easily removable to prevent theft, for air travel, or for rinko. Several MKS pedals are available with the quick release mechanism.

Have a look at the MKS site and let us know if there are any other products we should carry. The pedal catalog is the first link in the second section on the left; there are 4 pages of pedals and accessories.

UPDATE: MKS touring pedals, which have been in short supply, should arrive today (Thursday) as will MKS half clips. Stronglight A9 headsets are also on the way.

03 October, 2006

Longer And Better Straps

Track racers use laminated leather toe clip straps because they are stronger, stretch less, and last a long time. Being wider, they are also more comfortable.

We now stock MKS Fit-A straps. They are NJS approved for professional Kerin racers. The buckle is stainless steel so it won't rust and it's held in place with two rivets so it won't pull off; I can't think of any other single strap that uses two rivets. There is a pad under the buckle to protect your feet and the finish is a soft suede so as not to mar the gloss on you classic leather shoes.

But best of all, they are about 450 mm long overall. ALE Christophe, and most other straps are only around 400mm long. They are not cheap, but longevity, performance, quality, and comfort make them worth the cost.

02 October, 2006

Interbike Report

I just got back from Interbike and though you might be interested in a bit of news.

I had a long meeting with Akira Yoshikawa, President of Nitto. We discussed racks and their design as well as some of the Nitto products we may import directly. Nitto is interested in making versions of their racks for our bikes and may even make new racks to our designs. This is very exciting as their production capacity and quality is very high.

Two Taiwanese firms are also interested in making products for us.

I also met with Toshiyuki Ogino, President of MKS , the pedal manufacturer. He will allow us to import pedals directly from Japan and, hopefully, bypass all the delay encountered in dealing with distributors. Among the pedals we're interested in is a top-of-the line track pedal called the Custom Neuvo that is being made with an extra-wide cage for big American feet. The quality looks to be as good as any pedal ever made. We may also bring in the MM-Cube, my favorite SPD type pedal which has been difficult to get for a couple of years. MKS alloy toe clips with leather covers pre-installed are another product we hope to stock. We'll also have the MKS mini clips which are fantastic for city bikes and hard to find.

I received the prototype fenders that Honjo is making for us. They are extra long and have the holes for the fork crown and stays pre-drilled to make mounting easier. I'll mount them on a bike later this week and post photos. If everything fits perfectly we'll give Honjo the go-ahead and have them ready to sell in about 10 weeks.

Richard Schwinn, President of Waterford Cycles, was at the show with a stunning polished Reynolds 953 frame. We spoke about the possibility of Waterford making our production frames. There is some doubt about whether they have the capacity to make the number of frames we want. Their cost is also higher than we would like, but the quality of Waterford's frames is impressive.