summer bike stuff

I’ve recently grabbed a part time job at a local bike shop. So far it’s been pretty cool. I think retail experience is really beneficial for someone studying Industrial Design, and I also like the discount on bike parts. In light of those discounts, I’ve been plotting some upgrades to my mountain bike.

The first upgrade in the works is a new wheelset. I’m currently running a set of  Vuelta Zerolites, ie: the cheapest 29er wheelset I could find at the time. [now there seem to be other29er wheelsets as low as $100] The wheels have done ok and the bike is a lot of fun to ride but the 2200g weight and stray aluminum shards I keep finding in my tubes have made me ready to look for something new.

Admittedly under-informed on MTB wheels, I was looking in all the wrong places for a new set. My first go-tos were the Specialized Roval wheelsets, but they were a little spendy for my super thin budget. I googled reviews of Crank Brothers wheels since I can get a team discount on them, but most bigger folks didn’t have much nice to say about them. Then I checked SRAM RISE wheelsets. They looked good, but aren’t touted as “tubeless ready”, something that I kind of wanted despite the fact that it doesn’t mean much. (with rim strips and sealant, I’m told that you can make just about any wheel tubeless) With the tubeless issue in mind, a coworker turned me on to the Stan’s NOTUBES wheels. They are designed specifically to be tubeless and the Arch EX model which best fits my weight seems to be as light as anything else, and has a nice wide rim, another feature I was looking for. The price is pretty nice too. I should be ordering a set in the next week. Stan’s also has a new cyclocross wheelset that sounds to be super tough, and are 400g lighter than the Neuvations on my road bike.

The other upgrade in the works for my mountain bike is the drive train. Since I assembled it, I’ve been running a rigged up 32-18 single speed setup. I really enjoy the single speed, but with collegiate Mountain bike season coming up, I felt like having some gearing options would be beneficial. The announcement of SRAM’s XX1 line got me really excited. It’s a purpose designed 1X groupset with 11 cogs on the cassette. Unfortunately, XX1 wont be available until October, and I also realized that it’s position in the upper levels of SRAM’s components mean it will be crazy expensive and will likely wear out quickly. My solution was to piece together a budget minded but still high performing 1x groupset of my own that is currently looking like the following:

SRAM x7 2×10 crankset

SRAM 1X conversion kit (32T)

X7 10sp short cage rear derailleur

X9 10sp grip-shifter

X9 1070 cassette 11-36t

1071 chain

MRP 1X chain guide

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Some new(ish) music – Feersum Ennjin

I am admittedly behind the times in regards to music. I tend to gravitate towards bands who are still trying to advance the sounds they were working on in late nineties and early 00s. As such, I don’t get excited about music nearly as much as I used to. One such band that has recently popped back up on my radar is Feersum Ennjin.

You likely wont recognize this band’s name, but it starts with a band whose name you likely know. The album Undertow by Tool was something of a landmark; prog-rock for the grunge era. Paul D’Amour was the bass player for that record and left the band shortly thereafter. D’Amour moved on to start a band called Lusk with Brad Laner, Chris Pitman, now of Guns n Roses and Greg Edwards who was in Failure and is now in Autolux. Surprising to most who knew D’Amour from Tool, the result was an excellent, but very poppy record released in 1997 called Free Mars. (iTunes link) The album was nominated for a “best packaging” Grammy, and had a video for the song Backworlds that did well on MTVs shortlived show 12 Angry Viewers.

 

Lusk disappeared shortly thereafter. I remember reading on some long-gone band-related blog that one of the members had been in trouble with the law or something. Apparently their label was having some issues that also led to the project not going anywhere. It’s a shame, because Free Mars was really good. When recently played for one of my bandmates who hadn’t heard Lusk before, it was assumed to be more modern, and compared with Owl City.

Jumping from 1998 to 2005.. D’Amour released an eponymous EP for a new project called Feersum Ennjin. I think I found out about this around 2008. While only 5 songs, it was a great album. It had a striking similarity to Lusk, but was perhaps a little more focused, and heavy. Seeing as I was so late to the party on this one, and that there hadn’t been any new releases, I assumed that Feersum Ennjin had already come and gone.

 

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about Lusk, and I decided to go good Paul D’Amour and see if he had anything new going. To my surprise there was a Feersum Ennjin full length. I grabbed it off of iTunes. Somewhat disappointingly to me, the LP is comprised of the songs from the EP with some new songs. Still, it’s a good record. As Paul himself states in the interview below, it’s pretty easy to see where Feersum Ennjin goes from being Lusk part 2 to something slightly different.

Mike Doughty is bringing me down. (or, “The future reality of playing music for a living”)

I used to have an interest in the music industry. I think I actually believed that I could potentially, eventually get a job in that mucky muck. With the passing of such ideas, I still have a vague interest in the music industry. Mostly I’m appalled at the way businesses have failed to adapt to the advent of the Internet (suing your customer base for fun and profit) and simultaneously I’m curious to see how things will shake out once the sinking ships finally go down.

There has recently been an exchange in the media whose honesty is one of the more accurate reflections of the current situation of making money off of music. It all started with a blog post by Emily White, an NPR intern, titled “I never owned any CDs to begin with” in which the author brags about the amount of music she has acquired illegally, rationalizing her acquisitions by way of the venerable “artists don’t get any of the money from record sales” argument.

Emily’s blog moved a lot of people to write about it, including almost 1000 comments, a commentary from an NPR staff member, a post from a talent agency co-founder and most importantly for my little narrative, a reaction from David Lowery, the singer from Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker who now teaches music business courses at the University of Georgia.

Lowery depicts the current music industry situation by tracking the flow of end user money; when users download illegally, their money goes to internet providers and manufacturers of computers and phones _instead of_ musicians. While I can see his point, it’s not waterproof, as downloading legally still requires that you buy a laptop and internet service. Regardless, his ultimate point stands – musicians don’t get any money. This is backed up by the fact that most musicians do not, as many lay people suspect, make all their money from touring. He goes further to insinuate that music stealing makes depressed musicians commit suicide; kind of a low blow.

The next step in this conversation of comments comes from Mike Doughty, who in a blog post agrees with Lowery’s description of the situation and takes it a step further in the form of the equation:

less money to record labels = less tour support for bands = fewer bands

Doughty drives this home by positing that a band like Radiohead wouldn’t have survived if they had to deal with this new industry economy. It’s a depressing picture. Not just because of Radiohead, but because there will be fewer creative bands.

I agree with many of his points, but I can’t help but think that his equation is only good at predicting the short term. We’ve already been seeing the fallout of diminished recording industry revenues. What it amounts to is the big labels not gambling as much on quirky acts, and instead banking on the sure bets. This manifests in an abundance of over-produced, good looking pop singers and little else. I feel like this is what Doughty is describing. We’re already there.. My feeling is though that this strategy wont sustain the music industry, or if it does, it’s neglect of all the other non-cookie cutter music will spawn new avenues for bands that don’t fit the mold. Sure, these bands wont be able to tour the way that they have in the past, but does that mean they can’t be successful? I feel like new avenues for music discovery will develop as people who like music other than whats on the radio grow discontent with the Katy Perry’s and Maroon 5’s of the world.

What will these new distribution avenues and taste makers be? I have no idea. That’s for someone else to think up. I think there is plenty of room for it though. Technology has not only given people the power to steal music, but it’s also given people the power to create web streaming and pirate broadcast stations with little financial cost. The web has given us a huge network of self guided discovery, and interactive discovery. You can’t shortchange that. At an even more basic level, will the death of the “getting signed” dream keep people from making music? Yeah, right. Less people will be able to make a living playing music, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Music is a big part of the human experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing it de-commercialized a bit. It doesn’t cost as much now to “be a musician” as it used to. You can buy instruments at Walmart. You can record your music on your laptop at home and distribute it on the internet. Yeah, you wont get Radiohead level famous doing this, but why do you need to be. If the “get rich” factor is removed from the equation, I can’t help but think that cooler, more interesting music would surface. 

 

Note: I’m not deriding any of the authors mentioned above, or trying to say that they are wrong. We’re all just trying to see the road map of the future of music.

 

CX500 handlebar surgery

I’ve put off modifying my CX500 for a while. Mostly due to lack of time and funds. My ignition switch started randomly cutting out on me, and since I had to take the bars off to get to it, I thought it might be a good time to “chop and flop” the bars  for a more sporty riding position.  This is an idea I had after seeing the grab bar made out of bmx bars a couple of posts ago.

Stock bars

Stock bars

I cut a couple of inches out of each side. I’m not really sure how you’re _supposed_ to measure where to cut, so I eyeballed it, marked with tape, then checked that the tape marks were parallel with the bottom (clamping area) of the bars. Seemed to have worked ok. I cut some small sections of pipe off an old mic stand I had in the scrap bin and welded them inside the handlebars. This probably wasn’t necessary, but since my welding is pretty bad, I figured it would give me a little bit of safety cushion – if the welds give, the inner pipe should keep the bars from completely falling apart.

Chopped

Chopped

I tacked them up and test fit them on the bike. Master cylinder was totally in the way of where I wanted them to be. It was hitting the turn signal pod. I pulled the pods off while formulating a plan for the turn signals.. Up to this point I still didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted the front end to look like. I had been thinking about putting the cx500 Custom headlight bracket on, but lately I’ve been thinking about trying to stay with the standard’s mini fairing; especially after discovering that there are little windscreens that fit them. I came up with a way to integrate the form of the turn signals into the fairing. To do this and make more room for the master cylinder, I chopped off the signal pod arms.

Chopped signal pod stalk

Chopped signal pod stalk

Back to the bars.. The shape wasn’t the greatest, but I was working with a lot of limitations. (restricted by the tank / back of the fairing and also the existing curves of the bars) I settled on a shape and made a half-assed jig on my work bench with C-clamps and files to keep the curves where I wanted them. My welds were ugly, but I think I got decent penetration. once cleaned up with the grinder and flap wheel, they looked ok.

Welded in pseudo jig

Welded in pseudo jig

Here they are on the bike in the position I ended up with. Trying to reroute cables to account for the excess length was a PITA. I’m not totally happy with it. There is still some tweaking to be done. I rode it around the block and it was kind of painful to disengage the clutch in this position. I don’t know if it’s just a bad hand position or  if the snaking of the clutch cable under the tank is making it harder to pull.. It was pretty stiff in the first place. You can also see a bit of my turn signal plan here, but I’ll save the rest of that for later.

Back on the bike

Back on the bike