Decisions, Decisions

I am facing a major problem; one not easily solved.  One of our principal Keepers – Brett – had made mention of the most important element of cycling: the Rules.  While the Rules are ambiguous, they are also very clear.  Not so much “clear” in the sense that any of us really know what they are or what they really mean; more “clear” in the sense that it’s pretty fucking obvious when a rule has been broken.

I have it on the excellent authority of a man down the shop that Nokon cable housing makes a noticeable difference in shifting performance.  (I haven’t explicitly asked the question, but I assume this “difference in shifting performance” is a positive one.)  In fact, it appears this opinion is held almost universally.  Even Brett rides a set of them.  I had them on my XLEV2 back when it was my primary racing machine, but I was unhappy with the crooked path the cables took from the shifters to the downtube.  Being a man of obsessive/compulsive qualities, this proved to be too much for my already feeble mind to deal with while riding – especially given Shimano’s STI cable setup at the time.  The Nokon cables went.

But, in the six or so years since, Nokon has come to the forefront and people seem to like them.  Not only do they not compress – leading to improved shifting – but they are apparently lighter due to a lack of rubber or plastic or whatever cables are coated in.  This is an easy sell.  Every rational cyclist craves performance enhancement – even the legal kind – not to mention the added bonus that, given the weight savings, I should be able to add an extra noodle to my weekly pasta ration.  (Cyclists only “eat” about once a week, on account of our strength-to-weight ratio.  The rest of the time we fantasize about “food porn” while preparing our daily EPO/HGH cocktail.)

On to my problem.  It appears Nokon now comes in a variety of colors, several of which would look absolutely dashing on my R3.  The obvious relevant color choices are Red, Black, or White – with the possibility of running a silver set.  Black is understated and simple.  It would not call attention to itself and simply serve the purpose of shifting improvement and extra noodle rations.  However, red and white would provide an additional stylish twist, accenting the detail colors of the frame.  There is more red on the frame than white, but the handlebars and the frame’s text are white.  Red would provide a certain “grounding” effect, while the white would continue the “accent” theme already present in the frame.

If I choose the white cables, do I then need to switch to black bar tape, allowing the white cable housing the freedom to rock it?   Or would I stick with the white tape?  Are red cables too…well, red?  Silver is an option, but I would need justification.  Something like, “I really wanted to match my cables to the titanium bolts.”  But I feel funny just writing that explanation – even after the several glasses of wine I’ve already consumed tonight.  I struggle to believe I’ll feel good defending my choice while I’m sober and on the bike.

This is going to take at least another couple weeks to decide.  Any input is welcomed.  See below for current configuration.

I envy you your simple lives.


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60 Replies to “Decisions, Decisions”

  1. hmmm…. I’ve looked at your bike and given this careful consideration. Well, about 5 minutes.

    I’d go with; black saddle and tape, white cables. Or silver, they will match any bikes’ colour scheme, just as silver chains, rings, cassettes, bolts etc always do. Hardware = silver, no?

    I don’t know if you’ve seen my new frame, but I had to reconfigure my set-up. Now running black saddle/tape combo with the same silver Nokons.

    On the Nokons’ shifting performance, I’ve had no issues at all on the Roubaix. My colleague Josh though, has been running them on his mtb, and hasn’t been impressed with their performance. Maybe this is due to dirtier conditions, though they are well sealed and that shouldn’t be a concern. He was also running them with GripShift, not that it should matter.

    I’m pleased with the shifting on my bike, even with the “Zabel-esque” routing.

  2. I’ve thought about this too for your bike. All of 3 minutes. So while not quite as steeped in the issue as Brett, I do have a suggestion. Upon review of the picture of your R3, I’d go with white cable housing (nothing that hasn’t already been mentiones), but sit down, red bar tape. You see, to my eye, the red bar tape would not only balance the red on the frame but also the seat clamp, forks, and rear skewer. The white cable housing would compliment all the other white shit. As for the saddle, stick with what’s comfy. Your fat noodle eating ass covers it up most of the time anyway. Besides, black is slimming.

  3. And who the hell ruined that madone in the “broken” pic? All it’s missing is the spring loaded hemeriod SEAT.

  4. @brett
    Interesting, very interesting. I’ll have to ruminate on this more. Looking more carefully at the color offerings, doth mine eyes see carbon? Of course, that could be too much?

    As for your bike, yes, I did see it on your very fine new blog. I like the new look and feel. As for the new frame, well done! And I love the Zabelrouting; wish I would have thought of that in my STI Nokon days.

  5. @Marko
    I like where you’re going with this. (By the way, that’s red tape to mark saddle height – not a clamp.) I like your point regarding balancing the other red detail items. *Eyebrows raised*

    Oh, and that horrendous Madone is from the illustrious BikeSnob. (You’ll have to scroll down a ways.)

  6. I have a creak in my bike from somewhere around the bb/cranks/pedals and it’s driving me nuts. Pedals are tight, bottom bracket was just taken out, cleaned, re-greased, and put back in. That helped but it still creaks. It’s mostly under low cadence/high torque while climbing but happens some under high candence/higher torque while sprinting. Doesn’t matter which chain ring or gear. It’s pissin me off. Any ideas?

  7. @Marko
    Shit, Dogg. You just opened Pandora’s Box: the elusive creak. I assume it’s the carbon beauty you’re riding. These creaks can be really hard to find as they sometimes travel through the tubes and come out in a different place than they originate from. Especially with carbon, which seems to amplify this effect.

    The “frame creak” is maddening. It usually happens when you’re working hard, and the noise your bike makes is energy being converted into sound rather than forward movement. This effect is more maddening when you’re tired.

    I have managed to get every squeak out of every bike I’ve owned, so know this: it is possible. Things that have made the “bottom bracket” creak (which usually turns out not to be the bottom bracket at all):

    – Make sure all bolts are torqued correctly.
    – Front/Rear skewers. Pull them both out, clean them and the dropouts, and grease them.
    – Rear derailleur hanger. Pull it off, clean it and the frame, grease it, and reinstall it. Tighten the bolts (sometimes just tightening the bolts helps alot, without removing it.)
    – Downtube shifter bosses (if you have them). These have been a recurring issue for me on my XLEV2. Most modern bikes don’t have them, but they’ll still have a mechanism that receives the shifter cable and possibly has a barrel adjuster. Remove them, grease them.
    – Seat collar. Remove it, clean it, clean the frame, grease it, remount it.
    – Tighten chainring bolts.
    – Tighten bottle cage bolts (yes, that was it once)

    I would start with the skewers or the derailleur hanger. One thing that helps future trouble-shooting is to try it one item at a time.

  8. Thanks dude. I’ll try those things and report back. and yes, it is my beautious Alan. Oh the humanity.

  9. Dudes…..30 seconds, red cable housing. Red and black are a real power combo. They say “I’m gwan to fuck you up.” That R3 bike gives me serious car-bone. More on this carbon thing soon, post-wise.

    I just put boring silver jag-wire housings on trusty Merlin. It’s tough with the Ti color and nothing else to match to, as I have moaned about before. Poor me.

    Regarding creak sleuthing, I just went through a mad swapping out party between bikes, pedals, wheels, shoes. Tightened chainring bolts, all things pointed toward fancy pants campy external bearing assembly…then it somehow drifted away without me doing anything….clean living I’m thinking. It will return. I understand this.

  10. @john
    Now that you mention it, Jack White does insist that black and red is the most powerful color combo around. But, do I go with the red bar tape as Marko insists I should, or do I stick with the white tape? Leaders ride white bar tape, you know.

    A note on the external campy bearings: TIGHTEN THEM. I had the same problem. Tightened them more and problem solved. Also, did you remember to have your BB shell faced? Could also lead to creaking. How awesome is that BB design, by the way? Loves it.

  11. I wouldn’t recommend the Nokons to anyone. They shift ok, but not great – they have nothing on a well set up Shimano SP41 system, or Jagwire’s ripcords, and if it’s ultimate performance you’re after it all seems to point to Gore cables (now offered by SRAM) – I’m waiting on a set to go on the mtb.

    While Brett reckons he hasn’t had “issues”, I wouldn’t classify the shifting on his bike as outstanding, just OK. My mtb ones were only just satisfactory; they worked, and the performance wasn’t any worse in muddy conditions; it’s more a case of them always feeling like they had more drag than they should, even when freshly fitted up. Pretty much all the mechanics I know agree with me on that one.

    The Nokons may look cool – if you like that kind of thing – but they’re overpriced and won’t do anything for your bike’s shifting performance.

  12. Oh, and if creaks bother you, the Nokons are prone to that too (especially when used in foul weather a lot) unless you keep the contact points of the pearls lubed up.

  13. @Josh
    I’ve wondered about Gore cables, and – I’m ashamed to say – I’m not very familiar with the Ripcords. Must check them out.

    My Nokon setup on the ol’ Bianchi also seemed to creak, although I ultimately blamed other elements after removal of the cables didn’t resolve the creaking. Maybe I’m not as crazy as I thought. I guess it does seem sensible that you’d have dozens of cable linkages that could all get creaky. *shiver*

  14. Me thinks I fixed it. tightened bottle cage, removed, cleaned, remounted fdh. didn’t have a chance to ride for very long so we’ll see but i’m doing the bike leg of a team duatholon this weekend so that will be telling. Thanks again for the idears.

  15. @Josh
    Shouldn’t we be drinking pints discussing this? My two cents on Jagwire housings, not so different than the original campy housings but the first six inches on the gear cable housings are thinner and more flexible so it hunkers around the bars better. They should have done that with the brake cable too. Color choice is decent and not expensive.

    Red tape and housings!! White gets dirty too fast.

  16. @john & @Josh

    I use the K-Wing bar, and routing the standard Campy cables through there is a biyatch. That is one very appealing point about Nokons. But the Jagwires seem interesting. Must investigate.

    I find people are generally really down on white tape. Very strange. I’m using the Fi’z:k: white bar tape – the coated stuff, not the tacky stuff. It is impervious to dirt. So far.

  17. Gotta love the k-wing. I see you wrap yours all the way up. I only wrapped mine up to where my hands sit while riding on the hoods and of course down the drops. I couldn’t bring myself to wrap that sweet looking carbon. besides, the flat profile is comfy enough for as little as I ride on the flats of my bars.

  18. @Marko
    I really deliberated over what to do back when I first bought them. Ultimately, bar tape is more comfy for me than carbon, so that’s what I went with. Interestingly enough, the white tape also accentuates the scalloping on the bars which I think looks beautiful.

    Lots of climbing in Seattle and in the surrounding area, so I spend a considerable amount of time on the tops. It’s a close call for sure, though.

  19. @john
    Incidentally, Michelle rides red bars on her R3 SL, it looks great:

    I would probably have to register a request with the Couples Who Have Bikes That Look Too Much Alike Regulations Committee for a variance to also ride red bars. (Michelle is the Chair and holds a controlling portion of the votes).

  20. That is a darn fine looking bicicleta. I don’t think you’d look too dorky together though. Not with the red on your frame with white cable housings. Now when you’re old and get matching jumpsuits and recumbents we’ll have to talk.

  21. Wow, your wifes’ bike looks way cooler than yours! In proportion and everything.

    Frank, is your bike the right size for you? You seem to have an inordinate amount of seatpost showing, with a huge drop to the bars. Can you share a pic of you riding it please?

    We’ve been disecting it and think you must be a freak of nature, or poorly advised.

  22. @brett
    I wondered about that too but since Frank has always served as a sort of cycling sensai to me I figure he knows what’s going on. That and I’m a tall rider walking his own path as well. But my new frame is huge (60) compared to my old 58 and is much more comfortable as well as better performing.

  23. @brett
    Brett, I am a bit of a freak. I will happily provide a photo of me riding it and will submit it to public scrutiny. I have very long legs and arms, with a relatively short torso.

    Long and low is how I like to ride, but that’s just my preference; I’m not really advised by anyone other than my own self, although the R3 is a 61cm which is their largest frame, so either way I’m kind of stuck with that size. In fairness, the photo makes the bars look lower than they are – have a look at the Bianchis for a more accurate picture of the bar drop; they are 1cm shorter in reach, but have the same amount of drop.

    More on my philosophy: Theory of Bike Fitting: Tall Riders Walk Their Own Path

  24. Frank, you must be pretty damn tall. 61cm frame with lots of seat post showing. Whatever works.

    White tape – only looks good clean. Unless you dig redoing the bars often.

    I’ve seen some bikes with color coordinated cables and they look great. I’m sticking with boring black for now.

  25. @frank
    I liked reading your piece on bike fit. I also favour a “slammed down” frontal set up on both my mountain and road bikes. I believe that good hip flexor and hamstring flexibility is needed to support it, though. I’m a lot more flexible than average and find it comfortable as well as more stable/powerful, but I’ve come across riders trying to ride with a super low drop (because the Pros do, of course) and losing power due to their lack of mobility being at odds with the aggressive position.

  26. @frank
    Bike noise is good. As in nil. But now I’ve decided I need new brakes. The avid shorty 6’s blow. I’m pulling the trigger on some carbon trp canti’s for the alan.

  27. @Marko
    What didn’t you like about the Avid Shorty 6 brakes?

    Just curious, I know someone who is considering picking ’em up for commuting/tour bike use.

  28. @Dan O
    A few things. The adjustment is very fickle, especially on the front brakes. The spring arm is not very long and a micro adjust a bit too much causes the spring to pop off. This results in not being able to get the pads close enough to the rim for the responsiveness I like. Also, the pads in wet weather are exremely messy and noisy. They also seem to need to be heeled/canted/toed in a bit to keep from shuddering the front wheel. That’s not a huge deal but seems to effect braking power some.

    Of course, this could all just be me justifying some new carbon TRP’s. But I really haven’t been happy with them. If you’re friend wants mine let me know. I’ll let them go for a fair price. They were new in May and have about 500 miles on them.

  29. @Dan O
    I’m about 6’4 and have a pretty big wingspan. So, I’m not that tall, but have a long inseam. Imagine an ostrich with wing extensions riding a bike in a Dutch Champion’s jersey and you’ll be pretty close to envisioning what I look like.

  30. @josh
    I agree that flexibility is very important in this. I’m not a very flexible person in general (neither mentally nor physically), but my hips and hamstrings seem to be pretty flexible. I used to be on a 6 degree stem and felt the bars were too high. Every time I got on the bike, I had to get myself used to the position. After much deliberation, I went for the 17 degree stem, “just to try it”, but assuming it would be too low.

    Imprecise testing seems to indicate I’m riding a few km’s per hour faster both on flats and climbing.

    I wish more manufacturers made stems at different angles. It seems everyone is on the 6 degree or 17 degree program; I’d love to see two or three choices in between those two. You know, “just to try it.”

  31. Yup, that frame is definately too small for you. You should just get a new bike and give that one to me.

  32. Yeah, I think (as does Josh) that your bike is too small. Your arms are pointing straight down when you’re in the drops, there should be a bit of horizontal in your forearms at least. Have you had your position looked at by anyone? A longer stem probably won’t help, it seems long as it is. Maybe time to go custom.

  33. @brett
    Thanks to both of you for taking the time to look at this and offer your advice. Positioning is something I obsess over and spend lots of time thinking about and analyzing when I see people out on their bikes. It’s one of my favorite topics in cycling.

    It’s interesting to me that you’re concerned about the reach; riding the bike, I feel comfortably stretched, and I think the position on the hoods shows a healthy amount of extension. My feeling was that there might be concern over the drop to the bars. This is a position I’ve slowly worked towards over about a 15 year period and I feel it works for me.

    Help me understand what mechanical problem are we trying to fix. What is the disadvantage of my position, and what would the advantage be of being on a bigger frame?

    That said, the fatness of my stomach is a mechanical disadvantage that I understand and which we don’t need to discuss here. On a related note, I just identified my new favorite beer, Stone IPA.

  34. You know, this thread gives me an idea. That being anyone one of us having the opportunity to post pics of ourselves and have other assess our riding positions. Being that I live in a cycling vacuum, it’d be helpful for me.

  35. @Marko
    Great idea! I’ll have to think about how to get readers to safely upload images into the comments section, but in the meantime, shoot me some shots of you riding and I’ll post them for you.

  36. Don’t worry about the cables, tape etc.. get yourself a new frame. It looks like a clown bike set up. Maybe you should take up basketball.

  37. @MrT
    Sadly, the Dutch really aren’t known for their coordination (except for football). I’d likely get berated as much for the whole “air ball” thing in Basketball as you gents are knockin’ my gangly self on my prized R3.

    It might look funny, but that setup is made for pure speed!

  38. @frank
    Yikes! Pics 1 & 3: Rule #26 violation. Is that your velomihottie’s fault, or yours for posting them?

    I’d forgotten that Thor was so tall. Big and strong, of course, but didn’t realize he was over 180cm.

  39. @Steampunk
    Tough call! I think we’re both at fault!
    Honestly, I turn the crank with such speed and ferocity that we tried, like, a hundred shots and these were the best we could manage. Camera technology isn’t what you’d like it to be for this kind of thing.

  40. @frank
    I would have accepted: “Honestly, I turn the crank with such speed and ferocity that we tried, like, a hundred shots and these were the best we could manage. Camera technology isn’t what you’d like it to be for this kind of thing.”

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