Here we go again!

It is amazing how life can become a distraction from, well, the things you rather be doing.  I feel like there is something profound waiting to be explained in that statement but I’m going to have to come back to it another time…

I’ve had a few non-bike things going on that caused me to lose focus for the last 2 weeks.  And I’m in the early weeks of a training effort that will run through the next 5 months.  Whatever the excuses, I’ve had to focus elsewhere.  But luckily, since you only have one life that encompasses everything you do (and want to do), I’ve managed to make some lemonade.

I’ve been running and riding a lot in the last 2 weeks.  I don’t really like to run, but it is good bang for the buck and certainly helps my riding.  I’ve also been riding a lot – road and dirt.  Now, I have been a hardgoods guy for a long time – skis, bikes, shoes, electronics, whatever.  I like the specs and the designs and the colorways – and I pay a lot of attention to what people use.  When I am running I notice what jacket and shoes you are wearing, where you = every single person I pass or get passed by.  When I ride I look at your frame.  Every frame.  I look at the tubes and the shapes and the geometry and how you sit on it.  Did I mention I love everything about bikes?

Last week I rode up Emigration Canyon here in SLC – might as well be a superhighway for bikes.  I’m sure this is the most ridden stretch of road in the valley (and I think Garmin Connect will agree).  I notice a lot of Specialized bikes and a surprisingly high ratio of S-Works from the very top of their product line.  Interestingly, I usually notice those guys as I ride past them (more on this another time).  I see a lot of carbon, I see aluminum from every brand in every tube shape.  And when I’m lucky I see someone cruising up on some skinny steel tubes – usually older bikes and guys with beards!  These are always my favorite – aesthetically.  A fat, shaped carbon tube is gorgeous. But there is something about the skinny steel tubes that calls back to a different time.  Or maybe it just reminds me the bike I’m pedaling.  Last night I rode along the Bonneville Shoreline trail from City Creek to Red Butte and back.  It seems that mountain bikers have a little more individuality.  Every brand I could think of was represented.  No two bikes alike, lots of customization and a huge range of styles.  From the local racers (passing me with ease) on their hardtail, carbon 29ers to the downhillers pushing their 35lb coil sprung rigs up the steeper hills.  I *think* I may have seen 2 custom frames out there but they were going the other way and pretty fast.  I definitely spotted the Pereira name on one of them…

As I’ve alluded to, life has thrown a few curveballs in the last few weeks.  But it has been one of those things that makes me think a lot more about how I spend my time.  When you strip out all the things you have to do and focus on the things you want to do you realize how little time you really have.  It makes me think about the things I want to do more, and how to make that happen.  It isn’t about quitting my job and living in a van driving from ride spot to ride spot.  It isn’t about starting a whole new life in a new city with new people.  It is about focus and priority.  I really want to be around bikes, and the people who ride them, as much as possible.

I need to get back to hustling.  I need to get my hands dirty.  I need to prioritize this higher than it has been.

But I need to go for a ride first!

Everyday I’m Hustlin’

2 days ago I posted about things I have accomplished so far, and things I still need to do.  One of those things was “maybe make some more noise about this site (and project).”  But I wasn’t so convinced I was ready for that.  Then, later that night I was reading another section of The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau and can across a great graphic by Joey Roth – if you like it you can buy a poster of it on his site:

It is pretty straight forward.  If you do a lot of talking but not a whole lot of demonstrable work, you are a charlatan.  Do amazing work, but don’t tell anyone about it and you are a martyr.  But if you can do amazing work AND let people know about it – you are a hustler.  Now that word might not have the best connotation, but in context it makes a lot of sense!  You need to work hard at your craft – and if you want to be recognized for it you need to talk about it and show it and make people aware of it.

Right now my “work” is research and learning, it isn’t anything tangible.  But like any academic pursuit – when people know you are committed and you are making progress they tend to support it.  And often times new resources will come out of the woodwork.  It’s time to get to work – and to tell people I’m working!  Look out world, here comes Moonshine Bikes!

Inspiration: Strong Frames

As I mentioned earlier I have been checking out a lot of frame builder sites and watching any video I can find.  One of the more informative sites I’ve found lately is Strong Frames.  Carl Strong has been building bikes for a long time and clearly has an amazing depth and breadth of knowledge – which he has kindly documented in both words and video.  Everything from metallurgy to fitting and the design process is covered on his site, as well as a great tour of his shop and a 3 part video of a build from start to finish.  He also tells his whole story from his early bike shop days, through owning a shop of his own, and into focusing on building.  This stuff is amazing when you are sitting in my seat trying to figure out how to get there.  HUGE thanks to Carl for pulling this all together over the years!  You should check out his site at

Oh, and one more thing… he built this, I love this:

Here is a 3 part video series of how he builds his frames:


Full Moon(shine)

Last night. 4:11am.  Bright light through the window, just like last month.

It was February’s full moon when I decided to really start this project.  I had been thinking a lot about it, something I really wanted to do, but not sure what to do next.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping with lots of things going through my head.  I woke up, laying flat on my back, staring out the window at the full moon.  The full moon lights up my whole bed when it comes through the window like that… I had been thinking a lot about how to add something that could maybe some day turn into another stream of income (you already know the story…) when I realized what I was looking to do was moonlight.  Now here I am staring at the moon at 3am.  Moon beam, moon light, full moon, man in the moon, moon pies, MOONSHINE!

And that was it – a plan was hatched… now if I had nothing else my plan had a name, and sometimes a name is a good place to start – it gives you something to rally around.

With last night’s visit from the full moon I thought now would be as good a time as any to look back on the last month and figure out if I’ve made any progress.  And to look ahead to see what I still need to do to meet my goal of building 3 bikes in the next 11 months.

What I’ve accomplished – at the end of this first month I feel like I can have a relatively educated conversation with someone who knows the process inside and out.  I have learned the vocabulary and enough to engage someone without being totally in the dark.  This feels like solid progress considering I’m just moonshining!

  • I have found some great resources – books, blogs, forums
  • I have learned about some basic skills – I haven’t tried them but at least I know what they are
  • I have learned about the process – tools and steps that make up the core of the product
  • I have learned about materials and components – metallurgy, joining techniques, lugs, braze-ons
  • I have connected with a local, full-time frame builder (who I’ll name later, with his permission) who is more than willing to talk to me about anything I want to talk about

What I’ll do in April

  • Spend some time with the local frame builder – I’m excited to see his shop, maybe watching him work, and learn how to go to the next step.  I’m hoping he can be a great resource for lots of things!
  • Connect with some other frame builders (not local) to try learn from them – the builder community seems incredibly open and I’ve found a few builders who I seem to have some commonalities with.  I’m hoping some well crafted emails/phone calls will help me learn about the business while I’m focused locally on the hands-on.
  • Go to the Collective and get some parts I need for my old MTB – and to find out what kind of tools they have in their shop that I might be able to use.
  • Learn about liquid paint vs. powder coating
  • Maybe, just maybe, I’ll make more noise about this site too – so people know what’s going on…
  • I’m also going to ride more – because that is the whole reason for all of this

A note about posts: one thing I realized in the past few days is that I was spending too much time posting and not enough time learning!  I spend at least an hour a day researching, watching YouTube videos, reading other builders blogs – and finding a ton of amazing stuff, all of which is getting absorbed and cataloged in my little brain.  For the next month or so I’m going to post a little less original content and focus on milestone posts (see list above).  In the meantime, what you’ll likely see here is more regular posts that are the most recent information I’ve found extremely helpful for a budding builder: great videos, blog posts, favorite builders, etc… but not as much of my own writing.  I need to go get my hands dirty.

A note about window coverings: I kinda need to get some! But I will certainly not be closing them on the night of the full moon.  It feels like a source of inspiration and I don’t want to lose that.  I wouldn’t mind sleeping through the night, but if I have to be up I don’t mind the company!

The bikes I ride (rode) – cyclocross

It was about this time last year when I acquired my first cyclocross bike.  I had been shopping around for a while and finally settled on a shiny new Focus Mares AX 2.0 Disc.  The plan was to train like crazy and use it for Crusher.  The plan worked! Aluminum frame, carbon fork, 105 drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes, Focus’s house brand everything else.  Not the lightest bike in the world but the price was really right.

I had waited several weeks for the bike to be available and as soon as it was I placed my order – for the wrong size.  In my excitement to see them in stock I ordered a 52cm frame when I really wanted a 50cm.  But I figured it would be close enough.  When I got it and unboxed it I was pretty excited, but it looked big.  The geometry is very different than my road bike and I was nervous.  First ride was good, but a little buyers remorse about the size – it was really long compared to what I was used to.  Not too long, but longer.  It took a while to get the seat and bar positions dialed.  I moved the seat a bunch, flipped the stem, moved spacers, everything I could think of.  Then I think I got it right – or I had adjusted.

I rode her everywhere – her name was Thumper – the regular commute, all over the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, up Big Cottonwood Canyon, over the Great Western Trail, Guardsman pass, you name it.  I rode at 80 psi some days and 40 psi others.  I rode Crusher – in the rain and mud, up the longest steepest hill I’ve ridden.  I changed the rear cassette for that!  I put about 1000 miles on that bike in 4 months.  About half of those were on dirt roads and singletrack.  I rode the bejezzus out of that thing.

For the most part it was a great bike.  But… the brakes sucked – do yourself a favor and don’t buy Tekto Lyras.  Horrible discs, impossible to keep in tune.  And the fork shuddered like crazy under heavy braking at lowish speeds, not very confidence inspiring.  Bike Radar did great review which was spot on. I got the fit figured out and I was actually happy to have the bigger size for most of the riding I was doing.  It was a lot of long climbs, just grinding along in a low gear.  Sitting up on the flats of the bars was really comfortable, and it turned out, the length made riding in the drops more comfortable than I have ever been on my road bike.  And descending was a dream come true.  Super stable, very fast.  But out of the pedals climbing was no good, I felt like I was reaching back with my feet all the time.  A shorter stem and more compact bars might have fixed that…

There are a few things that stood in my mind when I was switching back and forth between bikes.  The aluminum frame was much stiffer and less compliant over bumps.  This made for a very fast accellerating bike, but it did wear on me a bike on really long rides.  A lot more “buzz” in the frame.  This was easily offset by the bigger, lower pressure tires so it was never an issue.  It also reinforced a few fit things: you can ride different bikes with different geometries and be equally comfortable.  What matters is the whole package and the intended use – there is no perfect bike for every condition.  A longer wheelbase and more stretched body was great for some things, but not for others.  Wider bars make a big difference for off road stability too!  Like everything else in my life, I am a perfect SMedium – right between sizes…

After the summer season I hoped to turn it into a full time all weather commuter, but it didn’t have some of the things I wanted (rack/fender mounts) and it had those terrible brakes and a fork I didn’t love.  I sold it for the same price I paid for it and spent that money (and then some) on a new mountain bike.  She was a good bike, but it was someone esle’s turn to love her.  She is not forgotten, we saw some amazing places together. And she hooked me on cross bikes for single track – as ridiculous as that sounds!

Here she is on one of the best days I’ve ever had on a bike.

Lots of questions – not a lot of answers. Yet.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m getting together with a local builder.  Today’s task was writing down the 1000 questions I have for him, then boiling it down to the first 5.  I have no idea how the conversation will go so I’m going to be pretty flexible.  The number 1 question I want to walk away with an answer to: what should I do next?  Could be reading material, other people to talk to, or skills to learn.  In any case I’ll have at least a very next step.  I’ll be sure to post about that interview after it happens…

Another direction I’m going to capture some input is with a survey to local riders.  The Salt Cycle crew is very responsive (and about 800 ppl strong).  I’ve pulled together a few questions to get a feel for what people think about features, specs, value, and the importance of locally-built.  But… I left that list on my desk at work so I’ll post the questions and results later.

Finally, I haven’t spent any of my $100 yet so I did some poking around on Amazon and found a few interesting titles.

BikeCAD or The day I stopped paying attention to anything else

I don’t have any experience with CAD type software, not since about 10th grade which was a LONG time ago and many software revisions ago… All along I’ve assumed there was some CAD version that most builders used – maybe even something bike specific.  Last week I stumbled upon BikeCAD and my mind was sufficiently blown.  A suite of tools designed specifically for designing bikes.  I haven’t done much more than poke around to understand the tools a little bit.  So far I can customize colors.


But customizing colors is not at all what this tool is about.  With very few clicks you can completely customize every part of the bike.  Geometry, tube shape, even components.  There is a built in fit calculator that takes a person’s measurements and applies them to a bike model to find ideal dimensions.  All kinds of designs can be accommodated – from a hardtail MTB to a traditional track bike, mixte frames, tandems, etc…  There are options for accessories like fenders, racks, cages, even the saddle can be customized.


I haven’t played with it enough to really comment on the ease of use or completeness, but to the untrained eye it looks pretty great.  I do know a little about software development and so far I’m pretty impressed with this package.  It comes in 2 forms – a free version that runs in your browser and a paid version with an expanded set of tools running as a local application.  The cost of the Pro version is a one-time $350 – and seems like it would be well worth it.  I’ll be messing around this week and will start to post some ideas that until now have just been scribbles in a notepad.

If you want to go see for yourself check out

In other news, my neighbor’s dad has some experience welding, and some equipment back at his house.  He offered to give me a quick primer and let me practice a bit.  I need to get more details about what he has/knows but it is a promising start!

A bike to build: MonsterCross

If you aren’t around bikes much, or following odd cycling events, you may have never heard of MonsterCross.  It is kind of like cyclocross but with more dirt, slightly more technical terrain, and much longer events.  It is kind of like cross country mountain bike racing, but a little smoother.  It is a hybrid kind of riding that combines several diciplines and requires a bit of a mutant bike.  ‘Cross bikes with fatter tires and discs, 29ers with skinnier tires and mountain drop bars.  This Singular Peregrine is a good example:

Note fat tires, cyclocross-ish geometry, flared drop bars, disc brakes.  This particular build is a little nutso with the singlespeed setup, but there are people crazier than me for sure!

So who in their right mind needs a bike like this?  I do. I really, really, really do.  Remember the Crusher in the Tushar?  Perfect bike for that race.  Remember what I said about my commute?  It sometimes includes some singletrack – and a bike like this is perfect.  Gravel racers like bikes like this, some long distance tourers use something like this.  So see, lots of people.  Right mind or not.

With the increased popularity of gravel racing and other, um, different events there has been a lot of manufacturers bringing bikes a little like this to market.  Salsa has a few notable models this year (in Alu and Ti, with carbon bits).  Surly makes a few bikes that could be built up just right, and they are steel to boot!  Need something a little more custom and exotic – check out the new R.A.D from Kelson Bikes.  Half Ti half carbon – all awesome!  They even describe it as perfect for Crusher.

Once again – quite a few amazing bikes out there, but I didn’t build any of them.  This is a bike that would get a TON of miles out of my garage.  That Peregrine is more my speed in terms of overall features and steel would be the material of choice.  It’d be nice to have some carbon bits thrown in, but I’m not picky! Gotta run 700c wheels with room for 1.9in tires. A 36/46 crank with a wide range cassette – 11/30 or 12/32.

I really need to think about selling a bike or two just to fund the ones I want to build for myself.  I’ll also need a bigger bike room…

I’m not a dummy anymore!

Dad hooked me up big time!  I spent a few hours this afternoon cruising through Welding for Dummies – and really learned a lot.  Of course, I’m not ready to sit down and strike an arc – but now I can at least speak the same language and a lot more of the process makes sense (theoretically).  Here are two of the primary methods for building frames.

Tig welding is how most steel frames are joined.  This process requires quite a bit of skill and practice.  Tig equipment is more expensive and complex than stick welding tools, but the results you get with thin walled tubes (and skill) is excellent.  The process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode which has a melting point WAY higher than that of steel and the melting process is protected by a shielding gas.  Filler is provided via a separate rod.

Brazing is an alternative to tig welding that uses a material with a low melting point to join to tubes together, and in some cases no filler is needed.  Either way it requires that the tubes have a very tight fit leaving little space to fill.  This method can also be used to build lugged frames.  I love the look of the finished product – I’d love to learn this to build both a lugged and non-lugged frame.

I’ve been poking around the Frame Building forum – holy cow is there some good stuff in there.  This thread was both entertaining and informative!

Now how am I going to find someone to teach me!?  I know there are calsses, but it seems like there would be a HUGE benefit to learning and practicing before taking a class – I’d have the basics out of the way and can focus on the frame part, not crawling my way through the first parts of joining.

So what’s up for the coming week?

  • A visit to the Salt Lake Bike Collective – I have a mountain bike that needs new shifters and brakes – I’m hoping to find a few parts there and get that bike back in shape.  And maybe a rigid fork too!
  • I’ve been in touch with a local builder and I’m hoping to check out his shop
  • Ordering a few more books from Amazon
  • Trying to find someone with welding equipment…