Thursday, September 28, 2006


Having a triple espresso iced mocha as I type this :-P

Trivia: Glycogen is the principal fuel for muscles and exhaustion occurs when it is depleted. A secondary fuel, which is much more abundant, is fat. As long as there is still glycogen available, working muscles can utilize fat. Caffeine mobilizes fat stores and encourages working muscles to use fat as a fuel. This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for a prolongation of exercise. The critical time period in glycogen sparing appears to occur during the first 15 minutes of exercise, where caffeine has been shown to decrease glycogen utilization by as much as 50%. Glycogen saved at the beginning is thus available during the later stages of exercise. (Source)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ultimate Pro-Elite

Ultimate Support, a long established brand for music stands, have been bringing their 25 years of expertise in engineering stout, stable and reliable portable stands to the world of bicycle repair--and it shows. Introducing the Ultimate Pro-Elite Bicycle Repair Stand.

Folded up, the Pro-Elite looks like a camera tripod on steroids. The sneakers are there for a sense of scale. The stand weighs 13 lbs (5.9 kg).

Illustration of the heavy duty clamp unit. This beauty is a joy to use. You place the bike between the red jaws, slide the ratchet-action clamp until it contacts the bike, and then use the spindle for final tightening.

When you are done, all you have to do is hit the red button and jaws spring open. Voila! Easy removal of the bike!

Speedub.Nate's GIF animation says it all.

Pro-Elite stand holding Cloe.

A nifty accessory, the Handlebar Holder, is useful in keeping the handlebar from swinging around during wrenching.

James Huang has a great picture of it in use. (I didn't unpack mine).

A handy Tool Tray is also the perfect accessory to the stand. It is made of very heavy duty plastic. the square tub doubles as a parts wash sink, with a tethered drain plug. (Jame's picture again. I didn't unpack mine either.)

But the real fun begins when you add on the Alpine Digital Scale. The steel section of the scale slides between the clamp jaws.

Cloe being weighed.

Close up.

Ivy being weighed.

Close up.

If you regularly wrench on your bike, this portable repair stand is a godsend; short of the bolted-to-the-floor shop variants, nothing else comes close.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Race Face Deus X-Type Dust Cap

While clearing out my electronics spare parts closet, I discovered a plug that is the perfect fit for the non-drive-side of the Race Face Deus X-Type Crankset.

It snaps right in.

Manufacturer: Eagle Hardware and Tools
Part Number: 62MP0875V
Description: Locking vent plug. EPD Nylon / Vent Plugs

It can be ordered from Mouser Electronics.
Mouser Part Number: 561-M2708
Description: Locking Vent Plugs
Heat Stabilized Nylon (UL94V2)
Color: Black
Price: US$0.17

Alternatively, non-vented versions are also available:

Mouser Part Number: 561-M2703
Description: Locking Hole Plugs
Heat Stabilized Nylon (UL94V2)
Color: Black
Price: US$0.21

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Titec 118: A Tale of 2 BERTs

The Titec 118 is a MTB flat handlebar. When I bent my X-Lite 540 Pro Titanium handlebar in a crash, the next narrowest production titanium handlebar I could find to replace the out-of-production 540 mm X-Lite is the 555 mm Titec 118. As the name suggests, the Titec 118 weighs a svelte 118 grams. It is a butted length of Grade 3 Titanium with a 3-degree bend. To keep costs low (I suspect), rather than swaging the center section with an expensive die for the stem clamp, a plastic shim is simply used to increase the diameter to 25.4 mm.

As the walls of the Titec 118 handlebars are extremely thin, some of them come with a shim at each end. They appear to be made of titanium too. If the bar has a noticeable ridge at the both ends, your handlebar already came with them installed. If you are not planning to use bar ends, there is no need to remove them.


Handlebar Shim
Wall thickness: 0.5 mm
Ridge + wall thickness: 1 mm
Length: 6 mm
Internal diameter: 20.9 mm

To remove the shims, use your index finger to firmly tug them out.

If you plan to use bar ends, you should install the Bar End Reinforcement Things (BERTs) to provide additional structural support. If your handlebar comes with the titanium shims installed, you MUST remove them prior to inserting the BERTs. In the picture, you can see that the beveled end of the BERT almost fits into the shim. (Note: handlebar not pictured.) However, if you try and force the 21.4 mm outside diameter BERT through the 20.9 mm inner diameter shim into the handlebar, you will crinkle and collapse its thin walls.

My first Titec 118 handlebar, purchased from an online retailer, didn't come with BERTs. One email to Titec's customer service and a Mr. Gonzalez sent me a pair of BERTs via US Priority Mail, free of charge. I was so impressed with the handlebar that I bought a second one. The second handlebar came with BERTs, but they were different from the ones sent by Titec customer service. Due to their smaller internal diameter, they would not accept bar plugs. So I was off emailing Mr. Gonzalez again, explaining that even though my second handlebar already came with a pair of BERTs, I would like another pair:

Hi Mr Gonzalez,

I was so impressed with the Titec 118 bars that I purchased a 2nd one for my other bike:

However, the BERTs that came with 2nd Titec 118 handlebar are different from the one you sent:

Their inner diameter is much smaller. Hence, I cannot use a rubber end plug.

Can I purchase another set of BERTs like the ones you previously sent. I will gladly pay for them and postage as well.

His reply?
Within 24 hours, I received this:

Hey Ben,
I'll make it happen brother!

What showed up at my door 48 hours later.

What's inside.

A comparison of the BERTs that came with the handlebar (left), and those from Titec customer service (right).


BERTs on the left
Length: 20 mm
Internal diameter: 16.5 mm
Bevel: yes, 3 mm bevel.

BERTs on the right
Length: 38 mm
Internal diameter: 19 mm
Bevel: no.

This time, they included a set of bar plugs as well.. Is that incredible customer service or what?

A view of the Titec 118 Titanium handlebar with the thick-walled BERT installed.

A view of the Titec 118 Titanium handlebar with the thin-walled BERT installed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Moots Seatposts

'Performed some fine tuning and felt that the current seatpost on Cloe has too much setback, so I ordered the straight version of the Moots Titanium Seatpost.

On the left, the current Moots Lay Back Seatpost (US$188), with 19mm of setback. On the right, the new Moots Straight Laced Seatpost (US$174). Both have diameters of 27.2 mm and are 380 mm long. Seat clamp bolts have not been installed in the picture.

On the right, the stock M6 x 18mm Saddle Clamp Dacromet steel bolts. On the left, Moots Saddle Clamp Bolt Upgrade: custom 6AL-4V Titanium bolts in (US$12) in the same exact dimensions (11 mm head height) but at half the weight.

2 sets of seat clamps. They are beautifully machined. It is obvious that all excess material have been painstakingly removed.

Carl Van Spreader Tool. This is used to pry open the clamp on the Moots Seatposts to install or remove a saddle. (It is also very useful in spreading open the stem clamps when slipping them over steerer tubes.) Some riders will opt to wing it with a screwdriver and a stack of pennies, risk stabbing themselves, marring the finish of the seatpost, and waste hours struggling. IMHO, if you already dropped the dough on a Moots Titanium Seatpost, another US$17 on a quality dedicated tool is a no-brainer.

Cal Van Spreader Tool in action. Adding a locking mechanism will greatly improve its functionality, IMHO.

Cloe with Moots Straight Laced Seatpost installed.

With the addition of the Cane Creek 27.2-to-30.9 mm Seatpost Shim (US$8), the Moots Lay Back Seatpost will serve duty on Ivy, my Specialized Stumpjumper FS.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Prepping & Tools

Having the right tool for the job is critical to a good build or a stress-free operation, be it routine maintenance or an upgrade. As Lennard Zinn puts it in his best selling book (now in its 4th edition), Zinn & The Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance:

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, you must have time to do it over again.

Chasing the threads when upgrading from Avid Ultimate Single Digit's stock stainless steel cable clamp bolts to TekBolt's titanium hardware.

Close up of old Loctite™ compound scraped off by the tap.

A comparison of a regular socket and a custom chamferless socket. The top stanchion nuts of Fox Racing Shox's forks are extremely low profile (3 mm) in order to minimize interference with the down tube. This means that a chamferless socket must be used to avoid rounding off the soft aluminum nut. Bike Tools, etc. makes a custom 26mm socket that has been ground flat expressly for this purpose. At $6.75, it would be pennywise and pound foolish to jerry-rig with a regular socket.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Steed

Meet Cloe (that's a variant of "Chloe" without the "h").

Except for installing the headset and trimming the steerer tube, I built her myself. Her build philosophy and component selection follow the concept of "light, but reliable." In building her, I avoided the pitfalls of "stupid light" or "show light." I wanted this bike to be light, not in the sense of merely race light, but epic light as well. I.e. the bike must be tough and reliable enough to withstand multi-day, self-supported epics. Disc brakes were eschewed as the mechanical variants remain comparatively too heavy, and hydraulic versions are difficult or impossible to repair in the field.


Application: Cross-country racing and epics.

Configuration: Hardtail.

Frame: Custom 20.5" (52 cm) Merlin XLM Titanium, with strengthened seatstays and dropouts for rear rack capability.

Headset: Chris King Titanium Threadless.
Headbolt upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Steerer Tube Spacers: Carbon Fiber.

Fork: Fox Racing Shock F100 RLC.
Front Brake Bosses upgraded from steel to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Stem: 125mm, negative 5-degree rise, Litespeed Titanium.

Handlebar: Titec 118 Titanium with BERTs.

Bar Ends: IBS Titanium.

Grips: Specialized Body Geometry Performance.

Bar Plugs: Salsa Fire-Plugs.

Seatpost: 27.2mm diameter, 380mm Moots Titanium Layback Seatpost.
Saddle Rail Bolts upgraded from Dacrometto Moots 6AL-4V Titanium.

Seat Tube Clamp: Extralite Ultra Clamp with Custom Titanium Bolt.

Saddle: Sella Italia SLR, with Carbon Fiber shell and Titanium rails.

Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial Ultimate.

Front Brake: Avid Ultimate Single Digit V-Brakes.
Cable and noodle linkage bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Rear Brakes: Avid Ultimate Single Digit V-Brakes.
Cable and noodle linkage bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.
Rear Brake Pivot Mounting Bolts upgraded from stainless steel to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Brake Pads: upgraded to Kool-Stop Thinline.

Rear Brake Booster: Shimano Carbon Fiber Brace.

Brake Housing: Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ Mesh.
Cable Sleeve Tubing upgraded to Teflon™.
Brake Cables upgraded to Teflon-coated.

Shifters: SRAM Rocket Twist Shifters.

Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR 960 top-swing and top-pull.
Band Clamp, Cable Clamp, High Limit, and Low Limit adjustment bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR 952 SGS.
Mounting Bolt, Cable Clamp, Jockey Pulleys, B-tension, High LImit, and Low Limit adjustment bolts upgraded to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Avid Rollamajig Shift Enhancer.

Derailleur Housing: Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ Mesh.
Cable Sleeve Tubing upgraded to Teflon™.
Derailleurs Cables upgraded to Teflon-coated.

Cranks: 175mm, 44/32/22 Race Face Deus.
Inner Chain Ring bolts upgraded to Action Tec 6AL-4V Titanium.

Bottom Bracket: Race Face X-Type. Bearings upgraded to Enduro bearings after 562 miles.

Pedals: Crank Brothers 4Ti Eggbeater Titanium.
Stock plastic cleat shims upgraded to CNC-cut stainless steel.

Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M960 11-34 Titanium.

Chain: Shimano CN-7701 Durace / XTR.

Chainstay Protector: Lizard Skins Jumbo.

Tires: Specialized Roll-X Pro D2.

Front Wheel: Sun Ringlé R.P.M. Lite 0 degree rim, 14/15 gauge double-butted DT spokes (24), alloy nipples, Sun of Bubba hub. Radial laced.

Rear wheel: Sun Ringlé R.P.M. Lite 0 degree rim, 14/15 gauge double-butted DT spokes (28), alloy nipples, 439 Bubba Lite hub. 2-cross laced.

Veloplugs used instead of rim strips.

Quick Releases:
Front: Salsa Flip-Offs Cromoly.
Rear: Salsa Flip-Offs Titanium.

Tire Tubes:
Summer: Specialized AirLock self-sealing tubes.
Fall, winter & spring: Forte MTB LunarLight PV ultra-light tubes.

King 3AL-2.5V Titanium Bottle Cages (2).
Bottle Cage bolts upgraded from aluminum to 6AL-4V Titanium.

Total Weight:
Summer configuration: 23.45 lbs (10.66 kg)
Fall, winter & spring: 22.66 lbs (10.30 kg)

Maximum Payload (rider + water bottles + Camelbak): 180 lbs (81 kg).

Total Value: US$7177.77 (S$11,292.07)


Possible Future Upgrade

Extralite's UltraTerra Ti Titanium wheelset will reduce total--and rotating--weight by 1.12 lbs (0.51 kg).



Avid Flak Jacket Kevlar™ braided brake and derailleur cable housing.

This Litespeed Titanium handlebar was originally spec'd, but, at 23.5 inches, it was too wide for my narrow shoulders. I went with the narrower 22-inch Titec 118 Titanium handlebar instead. This brand new handlebar can be yours for US$120. Msg me. As this is no longer in production, I'm keeping it for future build projects.

Cockpit with Titec 118 Titanium handlebar.

The extreme wall thinness of the Titec 118 Titanium handlebar near the ends necessitates additional structural support if bar ends are used. These Bar End Reinforcement Things (BERTs) slip into the ends of the handlebar, where bar ends clamp on.

Chris King Titanium Threadless Headset.

Stock cable sleeve tubing upgraded to Teflon™.

Front view.

2007 Fox Racing Shox F100 RLC Fork.

Race Face Deus XC crankset and Crank Brothers 4Ti pedals.

I originally bought the Crank Brothers 3Ti Titanium pedals (186 grams / pair) for Cloe but later decided to upgrade to the 4Ti, which are lighter by 19 grams. Both are stunningly presented in an extruded aluminum case. First US$250 takes these. SOLD.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 4Ti Titanium pedal with premium cleat.

Comparison of CNC-cut steel cleat shim upgrade (left, silver) with OEM Crank Brothers' plastic shims (right, black).

Cleat and upgraded shim installed on Shimano M-225 shoe.

Close up. The shim protects the carbon fiber body of the shoe (hopefully).

Rear derailleur and Avid Rollamajig.

Titanium hardware on derailleur.

Front derailleur.

Titanium hardware on derailleur.

Salsa Titanium rear Quick Release and Shimano XTR Titanium cassette.

Extralite Ultra Clamp with custom Titanium bolt. It only weighs 11 grams with the bolt!

Avid Single Digit Ultimate V-brakes with Shimano Carbon Fiber Brake Booster and Titanium Pivot bolts.

Front and rear Avid OEM V-brake pads upgraded to Kool-Stop All Weather pads.

King Cage Titanium water bottle cages (28 grams each).

Comparison of Sella Italia Flite Titanium (210 grams) on Ivy (left) with Sella Italia SLR Titanium (135 grams) on Cloe (right).

Ivy - 18 inches (46 cm).

Cloe - 20.5 inches (52 cm).

Crank Brothers Eggbeater SL (266 grams / pair) US$120 on Ivy. [Blue spring]
Crank Brothers Eggbeater 4Ti (167 grams / pair) US$425 on Cloe. [Gold spring]

Cloe & Ivy.


Front view.

Rear view.

Comparison of 2007 Fox Racing Shox F100 RLC with 1996 Rock Shox Judy FSX. The difference in the width of the stanchions is appreciable.