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Claudio's Achievements

Ultimate Hubber

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  1. I’ve always loved the feeling of hitting a trail with a good machine underneath me. The roads just don’t have that same kind of adrenaline. But in a large way it also lets me take a break from my everyday. Because of this, I always want to have a mountain bike in my life, even if it means I can only ride it in the mountains once a month. Click here to view the article
  2. I set myself a challenge. We hadn’t yet built a mountain bike at Bamboo Bicycles Beijing, because who in their right mind would want a mountain bike in possibly the flattest city in the world? Well, I did. I’m not going claim that it was the first time anyone thought of it. But to build one myself would be fantastic. Even with experience building road and urban bamboo bikes, I knew it would be a big challenge. To begin with, I needed to find some frame materials that we didn’t normally keep in the shop. We normally have straight headtubes, but I was planning on having a tapered steerer tube for my fork, so a larger headtube was necessary to accommodate that. And, for any serious riding, you need disc brakes – simple. Once I tracked down what I needed I set to work on my design. I knew more of less what I wanted, but I still adopted some angles and ideas from other bikes I admired. With the design set on RattleCAD, I got started with the jig. Setting up the jig (the fixture on which you build the frame to ensure the precision of the angles and dimensions) took some mathematics, which – without the help of some engineering friends – I would’ve spend a week figuring out. We normally keep it very simple, keeping both the headtube and seat tube angles the same. I wasn’t happy with that, so needed a bit of mathematics skills to figure out the correct setting. On top of the general design I decided to add braces to strengthen where I thought should be strengthened, like the headtube junction, the seat tube-seat stay junction and between the chainstays and seatstays where the rear disc brake forces would affect the frame. It was also a bit of peace of mind and style that directed those braces, though the verdict of those is down to opinion.By far the biggest challenge I faced was trying to make the rear wide enough to fit a mountain bike tyre, while also keeping it as short as possible. It was near the bottom bracket that was most difficult. I had to make it wide enough but still have room for the chainring in front. It’s a common challenge, but one that is a bit exaggerated because of the diameter of the bamboo. And unlike metal frames, bamboo can’t really be flattened to allow for more room. I considered using more than one piece of bamboo to form the angle that I wanted and using fast-setting epoxy to stick them together. But found that it wouldn’t be easy to mirror the exact angle and length for both sides of the frame, so settled with something a bit unusual. By cutting a ‘V’ shape into the bamboo, it was possible to bend the pieces to the angle needed and keep it consistent on both sides. In bending the bamboo it essentially closed the gap of that ‘V’ too. It might not sound like the strongest plan, but with the carbon fibre reinforcing, it was plenty strong enough. Once all figured out, I shaped and prepared the tubes and I set out to glue the frame onto the jig. From here I had the final shape of the frame, minus the reinforcement of the carbon fibre at the joints. We use carbon fibre tow mixed with epoxy to wrap around the joints in a certain pattern to make them as strong as possible. Most people find the wrapping process boring or frustrating, but for me, it’s the chance to make your bike pretty, and taking the time to wrap well makes all the difference at the end.I finished wrapping and had to clean up the frame, removing all the excess carbon fibre and coating it with a varnish. Now all that was left was to install the parts. Assembly wasn’t too smooth, though I saw some of the issues coming. I knew I needed to file the carbon fibre in some areas, like near the dropouts where the chain was rubbing and the seat stay where the disc was also rubbing. But because I added so much extra carbon fibre it was ok to take a little off. It really came down to the fact of having much thicker stays than a metal or carbon bike would have. After assembly, the first ride was nothing short of bliss. A fat smile slapped across my face, testing the jumping ability of the bike and popping wheelies. I had been wanting to build this bike for almost a year, and it was finally a reality! But because of the 5 month long Beijing winter, I haven’t yet been able to test it out on a trail. That will be coming shortly, though. Overall, having experienced many different frame materials, it seems like bamboo is a mix between them all. It’s about as light as aluminium, compliant as steel and exotic as carbon, and the strength has been tested to be on par with steel for its weight. It wasn’t without its growing pains and I certainly learned a lot and can make improvements the next time but it was quite a good feeling having designed and built my own mountain bike frame from the ground up.
  3. Where have you seen this deal? Sounds good to me! What Novatecs though?
  4. Thanks guys Looking hard at the Light Bicycle carbon wheels. I could even go down and check out the factory and write a little article one it, seeing as I'm living in China right now. Spank is easy to come by too, and so are some DT Swiss variants. Nothing mentioned about those.... Not very popular in SA it seems. Hope and WTB i23 is pretty much ideal with weight and strength, though I have to admit that my girlfriend won't ride with me if I get another Hope. She hates the sound.... :/ So I have to find something softer. Any idea about Novatec hubs? I know there's a huge range of them, but in terms of reliability for the middle to upper range? Those Light Bicycle wheels are in the upper range of my budget, but still in it, but only with Novatec hubs. And carbon rims.... don't know if I can turn that down. Spank Spikes don't come in the 135x10 QR I'm looking at, but they would be a great option.
  5. Thanks, they look awesome. A little out of my price range... But then again, they're carbon. And if I can fly down for the weekend, who knows what can be arranged. Everything is negotiable in China! Yes yes. Trust me, socks fully pulled up. And many projects under way and in development. Including something along the custom frame and bamboo lines. But I say no more until later! Price range is about R6000 plus minus. There's a lot, but especially hard to choose from. I'm also looking at the Spank Oozy. Spent some time on them before and really enjoyed them.
  6. Hahaha! yes, well..... Maybe if I could go to the factory. You know, give it the critical eye and all that.
  7. I have a new bike in the works, but am stuck on wheels. I thought that the all knowing forum might be of help, or at least give me some insights. I'm looking to get a solid, but not rock hard wheelset and have narrowed it to three options, but not opposed to suggestions. I'm down to DT Swiss Spline E1900, DT Swiss Spline Two E1700 or a custom pair with Hope hubs and Nukeproof Generator AM rims. They're all around the 22-23mm inner width for hubs. The only thing stopping me from the Hope wheels are the sound, and the 1700's are on the expensive side. I've also looked at Superstar wheels, but seeing as I'm based in Beijing at the moment, shipping is killer. Any suggestions?
  8. It’s hard doing a review on a second hand bike. You don’t know it’s history, and particularly with this one, I don’t even know its age. But this is a special review, something different, something sentimental. This is my first Beijing bike. And my girlfriend bought it for me. Click here to view the article
  9. I landed in Beijing on my birthday with barely 2 hour’s sleep on the 16-hour trip. I was dropped off at my hotel and had my hopes of a nap dashed with too many distractions. Dinner with my new colleagues followed and only after that was I able to see my girlfriend, whom I hadn’t seen in 7 months. Once we got over the shock of seeing each other in 3D we stopped off at a restaurant. She brought out a bag of presents for me, the one of which was a small tin box. Inside was a key. A key to what you might ask? A key to my first Beijing bike. Now if you haven’t had a bike bought for you before, then you don’t quite know the feeling. It’s better than any Christmas I can remember. I mean, for any cyclists to have the object of his passion given to him is pretty damn special. It’s by no means a PYGA or even a Schwinn for that matter. It hasn’t got any bells or whistles (that work, at least), and it isn’t flashy at all. It’s just a rusted up and squeaky commuter. But I love it all the same.The famed Lotus Bike, that’s what this baby is. It’s a sort of hybrid of a classic city bike with a touch of mountain bike thrown in. A straight toptube and a slightly curved downtube mix together to give this frame its classic and sleek design. A touch of mountain bike is all it is though, and only is seen through the straight toptube. Other than that it’s through-and-through city bike, made to get you to work and back in the most mundane fashion. But that’s actually not true. I’ve fallen for this bike – and not just because it was a gift from my beloved, but because it is more than meets the eye. Its basket is full of wobbles, the crank arms are well bent, I’m not entirely sure how the brakes are still functioning, and the kick-stand is so useless that I have to turn the front wheel in the opposite direction so it doesn’t fall down. So, in actual fact, mundane it is not. Yet, even with all these drawbacks, it still gets me to where I need to go. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of hiccups. On my one ride I decided that a stand-up pedal was necessary to get across an intersection fast enough. The Lotus didn’t agree and the rear wheel was pulled forward from its position. The result was that the wheel was set askew and rubbing against the frame. I needed to walk home, a good 3km or so with this heavy ass bike dragging. Not ideal, but it wasn’t winter so I wasn’t complaining. Most recently I’ve been sharing my Lotus with my girlfriend. Her bike was stolen outside a subway station – sometimes it’s just the way the game goes. If it happens that we’re both at the subway at the same time or leaving for it together, we usually ride it together: her on the rack above the rear wheel, riding side-saddle. Suffice it to say, it’s a workout. Being a flat city, hills are never a problem – that is, unless you have an extra person on your rear wheel. Then any incline whatsoever becomes a mountain. Even then, the bike just chugs along, with only me huffing and puffing and my girlfriend cheering me on. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better present than this old thing. I’ve considered giving her a once-over to sort out some proper issues, like the wobbly basket, or the brake levers that sit level with the handlebars. But I won’t – I like her the way she is, the way she was given to me. In fact, it’s possibly the best present I’ve ever gotten. And why change something like that? Specifications FrameLotus Bike MaterialSteel? ForkSteel(?), Lotus Bike Wheels700C TyresHanging in there HandlebarsBy my estimate about 580-600mm with a 15° back sweep and a 10° upsweep Stem25mm (?) GripsQuite plasticy BrakesDrums, rusted, squeaky CranksetBent, rusted, flaking Chainring[/spec_list_row] ChainguideFull chain length, plastic Sprocket[spec_list_row=Pedals]Metal axle with plastic surrounds SaddleGrey, big, with rusted springs SeatpostThe only black item on it
  10. Nice one. Reads really well Would've loved to see how it faired against the Anthem 1 27.5
  11. Working, doing the teaching thing! And obviously a bit of writing too! But traveling is also part and parcel of being over here.
  12. I haven't yet, no, but it's on my list of things to do! I've heard they've got quite a cool community of bikers connected with that shop.
  13. Having been in Beijing for about 2 months I have learned a lot about what biking can be like in a city. Here it’s a chaos that you couldn’t imagine until you experience it. And for everyone who is involved in the fight between bikes and cars, it is a perfect place to get some perspective. Click here to view the article
  14. These are attached to bicycles and motorbikes alike. They’re warm and fuzzy on the inside and absolutely necessary if you are going to entertain the idea of riding in the 10-20 below freezing winters. There’s a place for laws and there’s a place where order just won’t work. Laws are pretty much necessary for some sort of order to be had between cyclists and motorists in Cape Town. The fight is relentless between these two factions and something is needed for people to lean back on and point fingers with. The laws no doubt keep some semblance of order – or at least give people an awareness that wasn’t there before. In Beijing things are different. Here, lawlessness allows freedom – and surprisingly, respect. Bicycles aren’t seen as a nuisance or a hobby. They’re a way of transport – a cheaper and sometimes more convenient way of getting from point A to B. Because of this you don’t really see the high-end level of bikes like in SA. It’s not worth it to buy a crazy expensive bike merely for transport, especially if you’re going to lock it up somewhere exposed to the elements and thievy fingers. Though once in a while you will spot the likes of a Devinci Wilson being wheeled into a bike shop. But that’s only when you happen across a decent shop that will have a spare Saint derailleur hanging about. You usually ride your bike to the subway and jump on to get to the further reaches of the city, using your wheels to get you the shorter distances. Last I checked, Beijing is almost 4 times the size of Joburg in landmass. Add in that there are about 22-odd million people and you can get a small idea of what it’s like using the roads. As I was leaving a great bike shop, a Devinci Wilson Carbon was wheeled in and I found these guys chilling outside. Not your typical Beijing sight. Can you imagine having eight Specialized Epics stolen, or even just two Santa Cruz’s? I’ve had one Santa taken from me and that was heart breaking enough! Some people say that if you can’t consider yourself a local in Beijing until you have had at least eight bikes stolen. That’s mad, until you see the level of bikes that are here. I am doing a review of my first Beijing bike soon enough, so stay tuned for that. A little spoiler perhaps: she’s a beaut! I don’t know the point of or effectiveness of that shock, but it looks good. And that’s the point. Looks are far superior to purpose here. Though some don’t care too much as seen from the bike next to it. It’s almost an amazing feat of endurance. Most of what you see is rusted, decrepit and squeakier than a mouse being beaten. But they work. Day in and day out they provide surprisingly reliable transport. Mind you, there are road-side repair shops everywhere. Like the hard-arse lady down the road from me, these mechanics can fix anything bike and do it crazy cheap. She’s the boss. Her hands are hard as nails. And her back has seen better days. But she can fix a flat in 2 minutes flat and only charges the equivalent of R5 for it. Perhaps not surprisingly, at least half of the bikes you see are (gasp) electric. They come in all shapes and sizes. A lot are folding, and most have racks. They are used as a main means of transport after all. Here, wheel size isn’t so much as a performance issue as much as a “Can I haul it up the 6 flights of stairs?” issue. So smaller is often better (second gasp). The wheel sizes range from about 10 inches on some folding bikes to 700C. And I have to say, seeing a grown man cycling seriously on a 10 inch wheeled bike is pretty ridiculous. I find it really strange that in a place where the law basically runs your life, where the government is so intrusive into the lives of its people, that there can be such a level of seeming chaos on the roads. This seems like something that has been left behind from the old days, before the reform and Cultural Revolution that changed the landscape of what can be considered Chinese culture. Running a red robot is common practice. If there’s no one coming, then go. Simple stuff. If there is someone coming, then sometimes it’s a matter of go quickly. They’re not going to run you over, and if they get close (which they often do) then just hope for the best. I’ve missed cars by centimetres and other bikes going the wrong way down the road by just as much. It’s crazy to think that no one wears helmets either. The most I’ve seen in a day is maybe 3, and those are usually people wearing full lycra for some reason. There’s dedicated bike lanes or even whole sides of road separated by an island. These are used by cyclists, bikers, tuk-tuks, and taxis when it suits their route. They’re supposed to be one-ways, but no one obeys this. It’s just a matter of ringing your bell a few times and using eye contact to get an idea of which side you’re going to pass on. There are no real hard feelings either. If you hear someone hooting, that’s just part of the game. It’s not an anger issue so much as something to let you know that they are there. Just like the bell on my bike, the hooter is used as a sort of safety measure so the random pedestrian or cyclist won’t stray into the road and be a semi-permanent part of your car. Waiting for the chance to go. It's less about following the rules as waiting for an opportunity to move. In movement. Buses, cars, tuk-tuks, trikes, taxis, scooters, bicycles, motorbikes and people all compete for the same streets. The chaos is orderly. Does that make sense? Whether it does or doesn’t matter. I have yet to see an accident in the city and have never heard of one with bikes. It does make a big difference that bikes were used extensively before cars came this side. So people have much more respect for them and know what they’re all about. I think maybe Cape Town – and perhaps the rest of SA – could take a leaf out of Beijing’s biking book. Except for the no helmets habit. That’s just silly.
  15. Completely different suspension design, amongst other things. I think it's the triangle at the seat tube/top tube junction that is the main point of similarity.
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