B Pluses and Minuses

With this weekend's amazing weather, Alum P2 was actually dry enough to ride. It was in great shape, actually, when I took my B+ shod Karate Monkey out this afternoon:

Mostly good times with the B+ Monkey, but a big issue with my 650b Raleigh.


Starting with B+ KM, this is my first decent ride (ie, not on snow) with the smaller wheels. From my earlier ride, I thought I would like the combination of grip and quick turning. Turns out, I do like that combination. The smaller wheels have a flickability that 29+ has lost, while still keeping the traction and confidence of the fat tires. A perfect combination, in other words, except... 

The darn bottom bracket is just too low. I had several pedal strikes where I usually have none. When I got home, I carefully measured the bottom bracket at just 290mm (11.4") high. By comparison, my Jones has a 303mm bottom bracket height, and my Niner with these B+ wheels sits at 305mm. Er, so why was I riding the KM when I bought the Niner to use its EBB to compensate for these smaller wheels? Well, my earlier measurements showed just a few mm of bottom bracket height difference, not 15mm. Turns out, I wasn't looking straight at the bottom bracket axis when making that measurement. Also, I just like my KM, and I was hoping it would work well with these wheels. But it's not going to work, and if I continue to like these mid sized wheels as much as I think I will, it might be the end of the line for the Surly. And the Jones. That's a mild bummer, because it's much more fun to write about "Surly Karate Monkey" instead of "Niner SIR9." It's the difference between "Lincoln Continental" and "Lincoln MKwhatever."

I did quite like the new bars I had on the Monkey:

Jones H bars with grips, 710mm wide. Having the proper long grips really lets my hand roam around the bar. On the other hand, I can't use the rearmost part of the grip. It's simply too far from the brake levers for anything but casual cruising.

My other 650b conversion experience this weekend was on my Raleigh Technium. I stripped the Raleigh of its 650b bits to build my new VO Polyvalent, but quickly missed the springy feel of the Raleigh and stripped the VO to build the Raleigh again. My concern last time with the Raleigh 650b conversion was the crappy Odyssey BMX brakes I had used. This time, I picked up a centerpull front brake from the bike co-op, and ground down my Tektro long reach front brake to work on the rear:


With this setup, I was feeling pretty pleased with my brakes: on my initial rides, they were strong, with decent modulation. Combine that with "cheap" and "lot of room for fenders", I was feeling pretty smug about people who pay too much for bike parts. I took my part bin special for a longer ride on Sunday morning:

Comfortable riding position, lively frame, decent brakes... all was well until I had to cross a grassy field that was covered in morning dew. When I had to slow for a turn to cross a road, there was nothing. Grab the brake levers, keep pulling, almost bottomed out... and virtually no stopping power. Even with the Kool Stop Salmon pads, these long reach pads just don't grip strongly enough to clean the rim of water. I tried the hose when I got home, same result.

How did riders from the 1970s ever survive a rainy ride?

This experience has helped clarify my bike direction, which is, "there shall be no brakes except V brakes or discs." I've put my old Trek beater up for sale, and I'm guessing the Raleigh will follow soon after, maybe to make way for a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross. I'll give up some lovely flex, but I'll gain tire clearance, modern fittings... and good brakes.

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