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Stan’s carbon-and-titanium XS from Independent Fabrication is the latest Bike of the Week (BOTW). Stan chose the XS because its use of carbon tubes joined together by Indy Fab’s signature titanium lugs. Billed (well, by us) as the “Best of Both Worlds”, the XS uses carbon tubes made specifically for the rider by ENVE Composites in Utah and ti lugs manufactured in-house (by Indy Fab) to the precise angle needed by the rider: the ride of carbon fiber and the customization of titanium.
Stan outfitted his XS with Campagnolo’s latest Super Record EPS electronic groupset. Indy Fab designed the frame with fittings specifically for Campy EPS, resulting in a comprehensive, well-performing package. We don’t speak Italian very well, but Super Record sounds like the top of the heap to us, molto grande! Zipp’s “new for ’12″ 303 Firecrest carbon tubular wheels, stem, handlebar, and seatpost finish off the component specification of the bike.
While we can’t confirm that Stan’s new XS has made him a better rider, or that it’s won him some previously un-winnable town-line-sprints, we can say that it’s earned him the respect of his Morgan Hill cycling pals.
Bike of the Week, custom, independent fabrication, indy fab, pedal-strike, Racing, Road Biking, xs
Hot off the heels of our interview with Jesse Fox, we now turn our attention to Kaiko. Her quest for her first IF is almost at a conclusion. With a custom frame in her hands, she’s off to build her rig.
There are times when the days blend together. Whether it occurs because of a great winning streak in a game of Beirut or because of late night ramblings over a midnight snack with a friend at a 24 hour diner that eventually turns into breakfast, anyone with even a hint of a social life will understand this. Even with a couple hours of sleep thrown in, one day can turn into another, the reminder that you mentally crammed 48 hours into 24 only hitting you full force when the headache of sleep deprivation sears through your temples. Too bad when the overpowering desire to curl up on the floor and doze saturates your brain, you’re usually already a drink or two into your next blurred-together day.
Of course, the last time my days blended together, it was due to back to back to back episodes of “To Catch a Predator.” Me, pedophiles, and Chris Hansen. Until 3 a.m. Oh yeah.
And though Chris Hansen’s magnetic creepiness was woefully absent, the past few weeks have blended together, too. Sleeping in until almost noon, trudging through the slushy streets of New York, going to too many bookstores…and before I knew it, 2010 had flowed seamlessly and somewhat unmemorably into 2011.
It wasn’t until last Sunday night that it occurred to me that it really was 2011. That night, in a slightly chilly bike shop, with some Victory beer, the help of another Chris [Harris, not Hansen], and some oddly shaped tools, I slowly assembled my very first road bike.
It started with a bottom bracket tapping and facing set; a gigantic metal contrapction that does the frame-prepping equivalent of douching and brazilian bikini waxing. Each tap got inserted so as not to cut through the BB threads, “chasing” them, before the facing cutter was fitted onto the outside edge of the BB, shaving off most of the paint. It hurt a little to do [doesn't waxing anything?], but I managed not to screw it [or my frame] up.
With a hammer, I pressed my first fork crown race, clanging away at the crown race installer. Then, feeling very pro mechanic, pressed my first ever headset into place, perfect and pretty. Okay, that’s not accurate. I only really installed the bottom half of the headset while Chris did the hardest part of aligning the top half. After spacers, bars, and brakes were attached, Chris made me figure out how to install the derailleurs myself [which was totally cool because those are only the exact parts that don't come on a single-speed bike]. I got it, eventually, only to be laughed at when I tried to put on my wheels, tightening them down like they had track nuts on them. Chris had to fix the wheels before helping me wipe down and measure out the chain, installing the brakes, and insisting I wrap one side of my bars. And he took pictures, documenting my embarrasment.
A la “To Catch a Predator,” the bike build was a team effort. I was the equivalent of the Internet pedophile that stupidly walks into a TV set [“well...I thought it would make sense to put that...there...is that...wrong?”], while Chris [Harris] pretty much played the part of my other favorite Chris [Hansen] by attempting to reason with me [“do you really think that’s a good idea? You're building your own bike...What did you think was going to happen here tonight?”]. All very much like one of the greatest shows on television, with the exception that when I left the store, I wasn’t tackled by some burly cop screaming at me to get down on the ground.
And at the end of it all, I had a road bike. All I really got to do that night on the bike, was to pedal the length of the store. The saddle was a little lower than it should have been but once I cruised past the display of Chrome bags, that cliched realization, the prefix for those “I told you so”s [or more accurately "I TOLD you--Jesus CHRIST! WHY don't you ever LISTEN?!"s], that this bike was made to measure, hit me. It felt perfect. Not in the pre-fabricated, psychological way born of expectations, but in the physical sensations of a just-right reach, a standover that didn’t feel dangerously questionable, and the tangible fact of how the hoods fit into my hands.
And that’s when I knew. When I ceased to have any question in my mind about this simple fact:
Y’all are going to have a hard time catching this predator.independent fabrication, pedal-strike
I got the flu about ten days ago, which meant that I got to both amass an arsenal of over-the-counter cough suppressants and other flu medication, and have the honor of being possibly the only person in America losing, rather than gaining, weight on Thanksgiving. And while both some weight and the fever have since been kept at bay, I’ve had a dry, hacking cough that’s lingered. The kind that will wake you up at night like an insatiable significant other, persistent and somewhat predictable, resulting in groggy workdays. The kind that results in somewhat sore abs and a tight back from those nighttime acrobatics. Except, you know, without satisfying happy endings that are implicit in anything involving insatiable significant others.
All of which led me to run to a walk-in clinic where a doctor listened to my heart every which way and then informed me that I just may have a heart murmur.
“Have you experienced any shortness of breath or difficulty breathing during exercise?” The doctor asked.
Images of attempting to climb River Road without “shortness of breath or difficulty breathing” came to mind. The inability to suck enough air into my lungs as I got pulled, dragged, then dropped up and down 9W presented itself.
“Uh, no, not really,” I answered.
Because images of a frame also emerged as I envisioned how I must look, riding up River Road. It was small and cute and welded together by a friend. I had visited the workshop to watch it being put together and even met the guy who was going to do my braze-ons [that sounds so dirty, I know]. And there was no fricking way some goddamn heart murmur was going to keep me off this almost-complete beauty.
Because, like I mentioned before, it’s an IF. The day before I got so pathetically sick that I was living off Tom Yum soup, I had ridden up to Somerville, MA to the IF workshop, with a quick stop by Clear Flour Bread to pick up some treats [their morning buns are pretty phenom]. Bundled up in every bike gear layer I own, it was a quick trip north to a warm workshop where my already-tacked frame sat, being TIG-welded into existence. I got to watch as Tyler worked his magic, explaining the process of using a giant electrical circuit to weld, and the use of air without oxygen in it.
Then I got the grand tour. I got to see the collection of tubes, the jig where tubes become frames, and the chain stay cutting machine [it was really cool]. There was the paint section where the newest green Ti Featherweight sat, waiting for its stripes of black matte paint, as well as an assorted collection of frames waiting for their respective powdercoats. I even got to see the big machine that provides extra pure air to the paint department, as well as IF’s sand and glass blasters.
Along the way, I saw and learned about how braze-ons are brazed on, leaving a glass-like residue, and how Corvids are assembled and the super power glue that holds them together. The IF carbon lugs for the Corvids are made specifically to measure, and not bent or stretched to fit like steel lugs. Even in its raw form, the carbon fiber frame was awesomely impressive. I think my heart murmured when I got to touch it; it didn’t hurt that it felt like air when I lifted it up, either.
There’s actually so much cool stuff and people at the IF workshop that it’s hard to actually delve in and describe everything in one visit [especially when your own custom frame is sitting in the welding department, nearing completion]. I left feeling more excited than when I arrived, and even in the midst of a feverish flu a few days later, I did a mental little dance when Tyler sent me even more pictures.
Yeah, that’s right. Pictures of my brazed and welded IF Crown Jewel. [Potential] Heart murmurs be damned. Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep me off that bike.custom, independent fabrication, pedal-strike, Trips
Kaiko continues her journey towards owning her very own IndyFab Crown Jewel. As the day of ownership draws closer, the folks at IF keep teasing her with shots of her baby being assembled (Thanks to Tyler Evans for the photos):
NYC is a big city with lots of shops and cool peeps, but when you’re ordering an IF, it pays to be a Boston local.
Having met Tyler of the IF crew over a year ago, I emailed Tyler about whether I could drop by to see my frame in production. If he was okay with it, I imagined this would consist of a phone call, then dropping by the IF workshop, and taking pictures with my admittedly not-so-great digital camera of an unpainted-yet-otherwise-complete frame. Tyler, because he is awesome, was down for letting me know when the frame might be ready. But then he did something even cooler: he took pictures of my bike tubes as soon as they were cut.
A few days later, I got another set of pictures of those tubes being tacked, and an email that it was now officially in the welding department. Did I want to come by?
Oh yes, yes I did.
Our good friend and fixie blogging maven Kaiko (AKA Pedal-strike) is finally switching over the darkside of multi-geared bikes. To say she’s doing it in style would be an understatement; she has been lusting after her very own Independent Fabrication road bike for quite some time. As she’s a total pro at documenting such things, we wanted her to share her experience of getting one of her own.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it bears repeating: when you come from a “tribe of midgets” as my mother once described our immediate family to a much-taller cousin, it’s hard to find a bike that fits.
Being a smidge over 5’2″, I’m too tall for the 43cm bikes that come with 650cc wheels but too small for anything on 700cc wheels with a horizontal top tube. In that gray, in-between area, I’m placed in the unfortunate position of choosing between the two. Add to that the fact that I’m a woman, new to road cycling, and Japanese, and the decisions to be made when purchasing that just-right road bike can get more frustrating than fun.
Sure, a lot of bike manufacturers now have entire lines of women’s specific bikes, in sizes starting from 44 to 49cm, usually designed with a slightly shorter top and seat tubes than their unisex counterparts. The woman that these bikes are generally designed for is one with longer legs and a shorter torso than her male counterparts;
valid considerations for your typical non-Asian cyclist. But if you have shorter legs and a longer torso like I do [think E.T. but with normal length arms], going for a unisex, smaller frame could provide the better fit.
The problem then becomes finding a bike that’s small enough, made from the material you want it to be made from, and, if you’re as unreasonable as I am, in colors that you can tolerate [personally, this tolerance is inversely and exponentially related to the cost of the frame or bicycle]. The first two considerations are obviously the more important ones, and ones that required the most leg work because while I’d ridden steel and aluminum, neither bike had gears, nor involved rides longer than 40 miles. I didn’t know what carbon felt like, what aluminum with a carbon back triangle felt like, or how smooth high-end steel can be. I called a dozen bike shops about road bikes they might have in my size, I rode a bunch around the block, rode a few a little longer than that, asked an endless train of questions, tried Sram, re-tried Campy, and ended up trusting my countrymen in deciding that I liked the ubiquitous yet reliable Shimano, best.
Now that I got the shifting down, I just needed a bike.
You’d think finding a smaller road bike with Shimano wouldn’t be so hard. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Especially with all the women’s options out there?
Except for…well, a lot of things. Back in May, Andrew had measured my height [this is when I discovered I was more 5'2 than 5'3], had me wedge this wooden L-shaped ruler between my legs to measure standover height, and hold the end of the tape measure where my collarbones meet. I stood around the small stage at the back of NYC Velo in my socks [we had to measure my height without shoes on, which is more accurate and close to reality but which I also think is fundamentally unfair], and was asked questions about my weight, the kind of riding I do, and the kind of riding I would want to do with a road bike. Andrew sent the deets to IF a few days later, and a few days after that I got to see a custom frame spec’d to my measurements, and about two weeks after that, I balked.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t just the impending bar exam that got in the way. There was sticker shock, too. The realization that I was going to put down kind of a lot of money for a custom frame and fork scared me. I had never ridden an IF at that point, and the chances of me finding one close enough to my size were slim to none. In the face of the unknown, [at least I could ride, say, a Felt ZW5] I couldn’t commit.
But a few months post-bar, there was a sparkly green demo 47cm Independent Fabrication Steel Crown Jewel built up with Dura Ace hanging from the ceiling of the shop. Offered for a test ride, I took it up River Road and back and, unfortunately, fell in love. I tried to tell myself it was the Dura Ace that made the ride so smooth, that it was entirely in my head that the steel bike felt light, and that I should seriously consider carbon. But there was something about the way everything worked together, how the frame complemented its parts and the entire thing seemed to want to roll out and keep on going. As a complete derailleur novice, the versatility of the Crown Jewel appealed to me as well: it could be raced, ridden for hours on end, or taken out for quick spins. There was a lot of potential in that frame, but most importantly, despite the fact that it was too big for me, it felt really good.
The toe I dipped in the welcoming warmth of the IF pool was the end of my deliberating. I didn’t admit it to myself for another few weeks, but once I had ridden that IF, the bikes I test-rode seemed…not that great in comparison. Still, I wanted to be 100% sure. I emailed Kevin at IF too many times, asking too many really long-winded questions, and every single time, he seemed more than happy to explain things and even offered to take a look at my current bike fit via photos. He said something like, “I understand this is big decision,” and I wanted to hug him. I gave the okay a few weeks later.
And now here we are. It’s been about 4 weeks, and with an approximate turn around time of 6-8 weeks, my bike is on the horizon. Actually, it’s already been “born,” so to speak, and the sheer thought of having an IF all to myself has me giggling like a 13 year old with a crush. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.
More updates coming [very, very] soon!custom, independent fabrication, pedal-strike
Our BFF pedal-strike blew into town recently, as she is wont to do, but this time she had her super sexy, custom-finished Dolan in tow (we’re still not sure how it survived the Chinatown bus ride!). While she was geeking out with Jared over optimal gear inches, we absconded with the bike and took it outside for a quick photo session, and then officially crowned it Bike Of The Week!
More pics on the flickr.Bike of the Week, pedal-strike
NYC Velo helps cyclists of all types find their perfect ride.