Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Phoenix Project - Dura Ace 7800 Quick Release Skewers

Background on The Phoenix Project is available here and here.

Going out in search of great current production quick release skewers, the names that cropped up frequently were Mavic, KCMC, Campagnolo, and Dura Ace. Much to my surprise, I didn't find some small, unknown company making the best QR's known to man out of a titanium-diamond composite.

I ended up with these, Dura Ace 7800 models:

I selected the Dura Ace 7800 model on several scientific criteria. The first was the shiny, sleek, neo-classic form - I'm not a fan of the exposed cam look:

The second was that several people I know nothing about had Internet postings claiming that they were some of the best holding QR's ever.

And that was good enough for me.

Street Cred

Dura Ace has rarely made anything but the finest parts.  They always seem to manage to find the right mix of top performance, durability, weight, and good looks.

That is why, unlike a lot of other race gear, Dura Ace can and is often a suitable, albeit expensive, choice for all-rounder bikes.   Sure, Shimano has a full bag of snarky Microsoft-like oligopoly user lock-in tricks, but how wrong can you go with quick releases?

Gizmo Lust

In addtion to the closed cam design, I love QR lock nuts with this shape, especially when so nicely finished:

The levers feel great under hand and the action is silky smooth.  The feel of the cam locking is very positive and distinct.  This inspires a lot of confidence that these are very secure fittings that will not be inadvertently knocked or shaken open.



I can't think of anything controversial about these units.

Tweed Factor


Highly unlikely to find these on a Tweedies bike, although a few of their increasingly distant cousins, the iBOBs, may occasionally sport a set of these.

Phony Accent


Wow, three whiffs in a row for the Dura Ace 7800 QR's.  But these are pretty much honest and true Dura Ace.  Way back in the day, Dura Ace used to sometimes "borrow" from the established European manufacturers until they put them all out of business.  So they have to come up with their own look now.

Lily Gilding

These QR's are fabulously expensive.  However, they are clearly heads and shoulders above nearly all other QR's.  So there is clearly an element of getting what one pays for mitigating what is seemingly an obscene amount of money to spend on QR skewers.

Running Tally

$2025 USD

We bring forward $1910 from the Velocity Rims episode.  The Dura Ace 7800 Quick Release skewers were $115 USD from Universal Cycles

Organ Sales

$103 USD

$21 USD is also brought forward.  Since then, this seemingly non-descript Avocet Touring Saddle sold for $47:

That surprised me, until a little Googling revealed that these have a bit of a following among touring riders with whom Brooks and other leather saddles disagree.

Other sales include $19 USD for a Stronglight A9 Hinault headset.  Finally, a fairly nice Sachs Eco Duopar rear derailleur went for $16, which seemed a little low compared to other recent Ebay sales.

The Sausage Factory

I've finished building the wheels. One thing I do when finishing a wheel is to write down the spoke length(s) on the rim tape. That way, this number is always handy, right by the valve hole, in the event a spoke needs replacement:

Testing these fancy quick release skewers.  The wire hanging down is the remains of the derailleur cable routed through the chain stay.  I've left the section in the stay intact so as to aid with threading a new cable later on - this is a notoriously finicky task on these frames:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Phoenix Project - Torturous Rack Question

Background on The Phoenix Project is available here and here.

My Nitto M12 rack and cantilever mount bolts arrived a day or so ago and I got to tinkering around with them today.

Like all things Nitto, the M12 rack is a splendid wonder.  Beyond the obvious use as a support for a handlebar bag and light, I really appreciate the threaded hole on the underside of the crossbar as a third fender mounting point.  On rough, gravelly roads, an unsupported forward extension of long front fenders shakes around a bit much for my tastes.

The cantilever brake mounting points also make this a real clean installation.  I had a similar Nitto on my previous Trek 620, but back in those dark days, the only option available was p-clamps on the forks.  This worked fine, but was a little ugly:

So quivering with anticipation at this new super sanitary configuration, I try to slip this onto the fork just to see how this is going to look and....

The rack's fork crown strut won't go through the hole in the fork crown.  Some investigation reveals that the fork crown hole is threaded:

Ditto for the hole on the back of the fork crown:

I don't have my old Trek 620 around, but I'm pretty sure that the fork crown holes on it were unthreaded.  I'm positive my wife's 720 is unthreaded.  It is a different fork crown to be sure, but why would a Trek 620 and Trek 720 from the same years differ in fork crown hole threading or not-threading?  One of those old bike mysteries, sort of like the Sphinx, we'll just never know....

Fortune smiles upon us though, as this is the same thread size as on the rack strut:

So I think, great, I'll just screw it on, there is a certain elegance to this, I'd put a rubber washer on the strut to take up whatever small gap would result when in final position.

Unfortunately, the threads on the rear hole are not coordinated with the front, so it can't screw all the way through:

So maybe I could cut the strut?  Seems simple, although I hate to defile this lovely Nitto item.  Furthermore,  another consideration in this is that the rack's fork crown strut is intended to be used with the fork crown daruma for the really zowie fenders that are going to knock everyone out when I unveil them.  Although it would probably be ok, I'm not crazy about hanging the fork crown daruma off a bolt that is not supported at both ends.

And even if it did screw all the way through, it is very unclear that the rack's cantilever struts could fit over the neato cantilever mount posts without severe bending of the rack.

The rack is steel, so it may be ok bending it.  But if it is not, I could, after screwing the rack into the fork crown, thread a stud through the rack cantilever strut, then through a nut and finally into the cantilever frame post.  Tighten the nut to secure the brake arm, then put a cap nut on the stud to secure the rack.

Seems like it would work, huh?

Well, well, this is one of those shop moments where we are either at the beginning of either a really elegant solution or the first steps on a "To Build A Fire" experience. 

Right now, I'm mulling over my options, here are the choices as I see them:

1)  Return the rack and figure something else out.  I still am going to have to figure out the fork crown daruma issue, though.

2)  Drill, baby, drill both holes.   That makes everything else easy - no daruma worries, use the neato cantilever bolts.  But I sure hate to drill an old frame...

3) Drill either the front or rear hole, that way the thread coordination issue disappears.  This fully supports the daruma, but potentially requires homebrew canti mounts.

4)  File off the threads on a portion of the rack strut.  That way, I could screw the leading threads through the front hole, then when those threads encounter the rear hole, the portion of the stud in the front hole would have no threads and just pull through.  This also potentially requires homebrew canti mounts.

5) Cut the rack strut so that it is too short to reach the rear hole.  This mean that the fender daruma is on a bolt supported at only one end.  This also potentially requires the custom canti mounts.

I love little puzzlers like this...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Phoenix Project - Velocity Synergy Rims And Fixings

Background on The Phoenix Project is available here and here.

The rims selected for The Phoenix Project are 700c Velocity Synergy with 36 holes.

Velocity has gone a little uptown on their label, the last ones I bought had a rather humdrum blue decal:

I chose 36 holes for tradition and strength. I also chose the off center rear rim for strength as well:

These are single eyelet box rims, 23mm wide, machined side walls, reputedly 486 grams:

All in all, these are good all-rounder rims, tough, appropriate for moderate loads on rough roads.

The two other rims in contention were the Velocity Dyad and the Mavic A719.  These models are true heavy duty rims for heavily loaded touring in Patagonia.  While I liked the idea of that, the Mavic A719 is pretty heavy at about 590 grams.

The Dyad is lighter than the Mavic A719 and was a much closer call, but has a fixie-redolent aero profile, no spoke eyelets.  This was bad enough, but the third strike was 24mm width.  I like wider rims, but in this case I know that I am going to need every millimeter that I can get when it comes time to set up the cantilever brakes.

I also purchased Wheelsmith DB14 spokes and Velox rim tape at the same time from Peter White Cycles.  Yes, Mr. White was as grumpy and taciturn as he normally is every time I order there.

Street Cred

Synergy makes great rims way down under.  But they haven't been around for decades.  And it is going to take them decades to live down their pimping of vile candy colored Deep V's to fixie riders.

Gizmo Lust

One point for the Off Center rear. Some folks think this looks funny, but not only do I not agree with this, I'm very pleased with the more even rear spoke tension I get.

Another point for the mirror like machined sidewall. Yes, it will be gone the first time I hit the brakes but it is a nice touch, gives an aura of quality.


Off center rims for some reason don't get the respect they deserve. A lot of people seem to think they are something loony and quackish like Earth shoes.

But I'm not going to let that slow me down.

Tweed Factor

Pretty much any product Riv sells on their site gets the full 5 cycling rain ponchos. Even worse, this is the only rim they sell.

But fret not, Riv is regressing so quickly, what with double top tubes and old style straight seat posts with detachable clamps, pretty soon they'll be back to chromed steel rims and castigating anyone who purchases alloy rims as brainwashed by BS marketing ploys.

Phony Accent

Most of Velocity's products have aero-ish profiles and no eyelets.  Methinks the Synergy's inclusion of a low, boxy profile and eyelets was a self conscious attempt to produce a retro-esque rim.

So even though I like eyelets and low profile, one beret for each count.

Lily Gilding

While the Velocity Synergy is not extravagantly priced, I could easily have gone with the eternal Sun CR18 rims for half or less of the cost. They aren't quite as nice, most notably at the rim joint, but I've gotten years of tough duty out of them without ever a hitch.

Honorable Mention

I really like the specs and looks of the H Plus Son TB14. However, this is a brand new product from a brand new company. So beyond the general bias of The Phoenix Project to go with established products, there is not much operating history on these rims as to reliability and so forth.

Maybe my next set of wheels:

Running Tally

$1910 USD

We carry forward $1664 from the Royce Titan Venus episode.  To that we add the $246 USD given to Peter White Cycles for Velocity Rims, 72 Wheelsmith DB14 spokes, and 2 roles of Velox rim tape.

I'm hoping he spends a little bit of it on some of those happy pills that are forever being advertised on the tube.

Organ Sales

$21 USD

The original matching Blackburn rear rack brought in a walloping $21 USD.  I suspected this would go either rather high or rather low and the latter option is what played out.

The Sausage Factory

Along with the wheelbuilding supplies is my brand spanking new Park Tool TS2.2 truing stand.  After years and years of using bike frames as truing stands, I finally coughed up.

The Phoenix Project wheelset are the first wheels built on this new stand: