Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quill Stems

One thing that I will not compromise on when it come to bicycles are threaded stems.  I find threadless headsets and stems about as ugly as bike parts come.  Both threaded and threadless systems have they're benefits and detractors, but the main thing being that threadless stems are slightly lighter.  As far as quill stem selection goes, I feel that probably the best quality and looking stems ever are being produced today, all of them by Nitto.

Nitto Technomic, 100mm, 427g

Nitto have been producing stems and a good number of other parts since the 1920's under they're namesake and for pretty much ever other quality bicycle manufacturer.  When it comes to quality, their stems are all very reliable, but you pay more depending on the lower weight and quality of finish.

Nitto Technomic Deluxe

I currently have the technomic deluxe on my bicycle.  My finance has a standard technomic on her bicycle.  I like the look of both of them, but I especially like the technomic font.  The main difference between these two are the finish and stem height.  The pearl stem shown below is also a nice option, but with even less height adjustment when compared to either of the technomic stems.  I could easily go with any of these stems, but I think I'll leave the decision up to what my stem height requirements will be.
Nitto Pearl, 100mm, 325g

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beautiful Single-Pivot Brake

Another option that I've been looking at in lieu of using center-pull are single-pivot brakes.  I was under the impression that they were no longer made, but I recently discovered this offering by Bontrager.  Too bad they don't come in standard reach.

Bontrager Speed Limit, single-pivot
They're great because the can track out of true/irregular rims and don't have the extra mechanical advantage like double pivot brakes.  I'll write some more about them once I find further examples.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Headsets are one of those components that no matter how much or how little you spend on them they will perform well, that is under normal-ish, road riding conditions.  I'm not talking about hardcore, jumping down a cliff, mountain biking.  Chris King headsets clearly has that market locked down, but for most riders, when it comes down to selecting a headset its more how the part looks than worrying about performance or even weight.  Sure if you are obsessed with weight you could definitely save precious 10s of grams.  Cane Creek AER headsets can weigh as little as 46 grams, but even a run of the mill alloy Tange headset only weighs in at 160 grams.  

Stronglight, A9

For this bicycle I want to try out a roller bearing headset, also known as 'needle' bearings.  The most famous of the roller bearing headset is the  Stronglight A9, which is no longer made with roller bearings, but with sealed cartridge bearings instead.  There are a couple of benefits to a roller bearing over standard ball bearings or sealed bearings, in that they do not develop indexing and can reduce handlebar 'shimmy'.  Indexing is when you can feel bumpy steering or that the handlebar kinks when turned to a certain point.  Basically over time, flat spots on bearings or pits on the races where the bearing sit can develop, which can be felt when turning the handlebar.  This is a sign that either bearings need replacing or the headset all together depending on the source of the indexing.  'Shimmy' is a sort of vibration or shaking that can also be felt in the handlebar.  I would say that this can be more strongly felt when going hands-free on you bike.  The front wheel/forks can slightly wobble.  

There are only a couple of manufacturers who make roller bearing headsets today, the models that I am  aware of being Miche Primato and Velo Orange Roller Bearing.  Both use what appear to be the same style of bearings Stronglight used to, but they both (Velo Orange mostly), are really lacking in the looks department.

Miche, Primato

Velo Orange, Roller Bearing 

Another headset that Stronglight was also famous for was their Delta model.  The Delta was very similar to the A9 headset, aluminum body with the same roller bearings, but also incorporated rubber seals, which helped to keep dirt and gunk out of the bearings.  As well, the Delta had cool looking bulbous shape, which I find quite nice looking.  I was lucky enough to purchase one of these headsets from ebay and I was pretty set on using it until...

Stronglight, Delta

...I found the Saavedra Super Competition.  I have yet to track one down, but this to me this is probably the nicest looking headset ever.  I especially like the engraving and spanner bolt pattern.  According to Arc-En-Ciel Bicycle Studio blog, these headsets are especially easy to setup, which is apparently a bit more challenging with the Miche and Stronglight models.

Saavedra, Super Competition

Monday, February 7, 2011


I have always known that I would be using drop bars for this bicycle.  I have been riding with 44cm Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle) handlebars for a while now and they were the original contender to be used on this bicycle.  I like the width of them, the almost totally flat ramps and swept back bars are very comfortable.  I usually ride with my hands behind the hoods or on top of the bars, so they are pretty ideal for that style of riding.

Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle)

I was pretty set on using the Noodle bars until I came across the Grand Bois Maes Parallel handlebars, which are actually made by Nitto too, but to Grand Bois specs.  A somewhat trivial/preferential feature is that the Maes Parallel bars do not have a sleeve, which if you bother to pay attention can make a slight creaking noise while riding.  I do notice this noise while using the Noodle bars from time to time, but it's really not a big deal.

Grand Bois, Maes Parallel.

Another option could also be the Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course handlebars.  They are very similar to the Grand Bois handlebars, except they come in the slightly wider 44cm and cost nearly half the price.  The finish on theses bars are quite nice too, highly polished and engraved logos.  Both the Grand Bois and Velo Orange handlebars are based on 1950's Philippe Professional.

Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course

Here are spec's that compare how there bars differ:
Nitto, Model 177 (Noodle)
C-t-C Width: 440mm
Reach: 96mm
Rise/Drop: 140mm
Clamp: 26.0, Sleeved
Made in Japan

Grand Bois, Maes Parallel
C-t-C Width: 430 mm
Reach: 115mm
Rise/Drop: 125mm
Clamp: 25.4, Non-sleeved
Made in Japan

Velo Orange, Grand Cru Course
Drops: 440mm
Reach: 115mm
Rise/Drop: 125mm
Clamp: 26.0, Non-Sleeved
Made in Taiwan

These specs show the main difference between the handlebars being reach and drop.  This means that the Noodle bars have more room for when the rider is in the drops and there is a shorter reach to the brake levers.  As far as cosmetics go, the Grand Bois handle bars have no logo, where both Nitto and Velo Orange having nicely engraved ones.  To finish the bars up I'm thinking about upgrading from my usual cork to either the new silver Nitto or the classic, black rubber Velox bar-end plugs, which are a teeny bit lighter.  For me it'll be purely an aesthetic choice.

Nitto bar-end plugs

The final decision on which bars to use may come down to price with the Grand Bois costing nearly double my other two choices.  Aside from the bar-end plug choice I will also be sticking with shellacked, cloth bar tape.  Colour to be determined after the bike

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brake Levers

When It comes to brake levers I'm a fan of Shimano.  The shape and size just fits my hand well.  When it comes time to select a lever however there is three criteria that I wanted these levers to fill, and that is they have a quick-release mechanism, an aero type lever and use SLR (Shimano Linear Response).  SLR is a fancy way of saying that there is a spring the lever that to me makes braking feel easier lighter to the touch (best way I can describe it).  As far as I can tell, Shimano only released a few brake levers that incorporated a quick-release.  The highest end lever was a part of the Sante groupset of the late 80's which fit in between Dura Ace and 600 Ultegra, and was considered a semi-pro groupset.

Shimano Sante BL-5001, with SLR, quick-release and 268g.

The other levers that also had a quick release/aero combo were the Exage group.  I for one think that the Sante group is pretty cheap and tacky looking, with it's white anodizing and (usually white) hoods.  The Exage levers aren't really much to get really excited about either, aside from the quick release function they are pretty standard levers.  The way its hoods are shaped, its similar in style to the Shimano AX groupsets, but with dimples.  As well, the Exage Motion levers have a nicely etched logo and polished silver levers.  There were two quick release models that were released under the Exage label, the Motion (BL-A251) and the Sport (BL-A451).  The main difference between these two levers were weight (BL-A251, 306g & BL-A451, 270g) and the small, rubber filler cutouts and painted logo on the sport lever.

Shimano Exage Motion, BL-A251, with SLR, quick-release and 306g.

Shimano Exage Sport, BL-A451, with SLR, Quick-release & 270g.

All of that said, the whole reason for wanting to have a quick-release is for use with the center-pull brakes, as they don't have any quick-release type mechanism.  If I decide to go with a caliper style brake, the quick-release won't be at all necessary and I will probably use the same levers I have on my other bicycle, the Soma/Tiagra BR-400 or the fancier Dura Ace/Ultegra BR-600 levers.  Out of the three above, since the levers mechanically are all identical, weight is barely different, all you're left with is looks.  In my books the Exage Motion, BL-A251, levers look the nicest and therefore would be my levers of choice.