Posterous dies on 4/30/2013 so I've moved all my content and switched to Blogger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

EighthInch Splined Tubular Chromoly Cranks Tested - Off Road Fixed Gear

As seen on the Fixed Gear Gallery -

Reviewed by:  Bill Blandford (Elkridge, MD)

  • Age:  39

  • Height: 6'4"

  • Weight: 175

Products tested:

Riding fixed gear bicycles off road definitely takes it's toll on cranksets.  Relentless bashing and pedal striking on rocks, roots, and logs has led to my replacing broken cranks over and over again:  1996 XTR stripped out the V1 Octalink bottom bracket/crank arm interface, 2000 XT swaged spider separated from the drive side crank arm, 2 pairs of FSA V-Drive Single Speed Cranks met their end with broken spindles where the splines meet the pinch bolts on the left crank arm (moreover, the FSA's external bearings needed replaced every 6 months).

Until recently, the most trustworthy cranks I'd experienced for off road fixed riding were 1990s square taper bottom bracket cranks by Shimano and RaceFace.  I'd often wondered  whether BMX tubular chromoly cranks would be suitable for fixed gear mountain biking.  The advent of the BMX Euro bottom bracket made splined BMX cranks compatible with 68/73mm English bottom bracket shells found on mountain and road frames.  The planets aligned and I procured a set of EigthInch Splined Cranks to put to the test.

EighthInch's target market for these cranks seems to be the fixed gear trick and polo riders, so it makes sense that these cranks would stand up to off road abuse admirably.  The bike I decided to utilize for this experiment is a Vassago Fisticuff monster crosser.  I'd been running with a 1X8 geared setup for a year and wanted to fix her up.  EighthInch splined cranks are available in 160, 165, and 170mm lengths.  I chose the longest crank arm available, 170mm, and mated it with the 35 tooth spiderless chainring, the smallest EigthInch splined chainring available.   A pair of bash guards that bolt directly to the chainring and an EigthInch's own splined crank installation/removal tool finished out the order.

If I'd had my druthers, I would have preferred a 175mm crank, but I rationalized that using shorter crankarms on the Fisticuff was a good idea because it's a cross bike after all.  I'd also have preferred a few fewer teeth on the chainring for log clearance, but settled for the smallest available knowing that with a big rear cog I could still get the desired gear ratio.


The parts shipped fast!  I finalized the order on a Thursday afternoon and received my parts on Saturday morning.  Packaging was smart and everything arrived shiny and without scratches or blemishes.  

The splined chainring came out first and shouted, "BEEFY!"  I'm used to 3/32" rings so the 1/8" aluminum one piece plate looked surprising fat and strong.  The pressed in steel spline insert  is in there tight.  I couldn't budge it with my fingers.

Next, the bolt on bash guards felt solid and begged to be mounted to the ring.
The installation tool (that I'd wondered if I'd really need) seemed overbuilt, as I tested its weight in my palm.
Then from underneath the last of the bubble wrap, the boxed crankset emerged.
The box was well constructed to keep all parts from jostling around.

The raw/silver color with EightInch shield logo stood right out.  The crank arms are well polished and look clear coated to me.  
Bearings spin smooth and free.  Cups are pretty and have deep threads.  Bearing/spindle interface is deep too!  Is that two sealed bearings pressed on top of each other into each cup?

Grease included...nice touch!  

Spindle is a brick, just as expected.


Before fixing, the Fisticuff sported a WTB/Deore Disc wheel, LX rear derailleur, SRAM 850 11-32 cassette, KMC 8 speed chain, Avid BB7 Road brake, UN-52 bottom bracket, NGear JumpStop chain keepr, and a 1990 Deore XT 175mm crankset with Race Face bash ring and 34T Salsa ring.

I expected the new crank to be much heavier but...

the EightInch tipped the scale only 100g over than the old setup.  1150g total with BB, chainring, and both bash guards.

Installation was intuitive, which is a good thing considering that no instructions were included.  I'd never installed a splined BMX crank before, but who ever reads instructions anyway?  Right?  I started making some educated guesses based on the parts I had.  I measured the distance from cup flange to cup flange while pressing the aluminum sleeve between and I came up with exactly 68mm.  I figured that the two included 2.5mm washers were for to be used in 73mm bottom bracket shells and could be left aside when installing on my 68mm Fisticuff shell.

The cups threaded in easily with a 36mm headset wrench.

The EightInch splined crank installation tool proved invaluable.  I couldn't believe how much weight I had to put on the 1/2" drive racket to ease the arms onto the splines.  Even with copious amounts of grease, maximum effort was needed to install.  This step was worrisome, particularly for a newbie to splined cranks without any instruction manual.  The installation tool, however, was worth its weight and got the job done cleanly.  Without the special tool I'd have been hammering the arms on (with wooden scraps turning to splinters) and cussing up a storm as I ruined the finish on my new crank arms.  

Don't those bash guards look f$%ing cool?

Left pedal installation went smoothly and there was no doubt that the threads had engaged properly by hand before needing to grab the wrench.  The right pedal threads, however, were bad.  The threads were rounded over and there was no way to get the threading even started.  Luckily I have a set of 9/16" pedal thread chaser taps on hand.  I inserted the tap from the inside of the crank arm and tapped her clean through to the outside.  There's such a feeling of satisfaction when you can feel a tap cleaning up boogered threads.  Voila!  I sighed relief as the right pedal slid into the repaired crank arm like butter.

Next came the challenge of chainline.  Typically I run the disc hub with bolt on fixed cog setup for off road fixed gear cycling (51mm chainline, the default for most MTB cranks, works perfectly for these disc hub fixed cogs).  I was preprared to bolt a 19T VeloCog on the disc hub and get rolling.  The EighthInch splined chainring, however, measured up to a 45mm chainline on the digital calipers.  45mm chainline is good for 110mm BMX hubs and 120mm fixed gear lock ring hubs, but lousy for 135mm MTB anb 130mm road hubs.  Luckily I had a Salsa Delgado rim laced to a 120mm Nashbar flipflop hub lying around.  Luckier still, I scrounged up two 5mm spacers and respaced the axle to 130mm, which the long Nashbar axle supports outta the box!  Vassago Fisticuff rear dropout spacing is 132.5mm so you can run MTB 135mm or Road 130mm easily.  By the way, EighthInch does offer a 48 spline 130BCD Splined Chainring Apdapter spider for $49.50 too.  It looks like you could mount it backwards and put a 130BCD chainring on the wrong side and get ~55mm chainline.

A 19T Surly 1/8" cog and a KMC Kool Chain finished up the build.  I tensioned the chain nice, screwed the rear brake calipers in on each other to keep pads from falling out, and called it a night.  The Fisticuff is now a Fixicuff:-)


The first test ride was a family fun ride.  I pulled my four year old on the Alley Cat on some soft core MTB trails at the county park.  Things felt tight and smooth!

After packing the kids and the Alley Cat back into the minivan, I donned my daughter's helmet and rode home via some harder core trails, all the while kicking up mud on my street clothes.  A local favorite trail called Renegade/Nacho Mama's was definitely in order.  This trail twists like small intestines and is littered with 5 inch logs, 8 inch logs, and a few 12-20 inch logs. This is the trail that broke all the old cranks, I'm certain.  

I was quickly impressed by the stiffness that the EighthInch splined cranks offer.  What's funny is that I've never really ever been able to feel crank stiffness differences before.  The 1996 hype said that XTR Hollowtech was stiffer and I couldn't feel the difference, then the 2006 hype said that external bearings and 2 piece cranks with 30mm spindles were stiffer and I still couldn't feel the difference.  But with the EighthInch tubular chromoly cranks, I can definitely feel the increased stiffness! This stiffness makes thumping into logs feel a bit easier too.

Pedal strike when riding fixed in inevitable about 1/3 of the time when riding over logs.  With an aluminum crank the arm end sticks out a bit further than the pedal and often hits the log before the pedal.  This can cause the back end to twist a couple of degrees left or right.  The EighthInch tubular chromoly cranks seem to handle strike better.  The smaller rounder end of the chromoly arm lets the pedal make first contact with the log.  The wider stance, Q Factor, that the tubulars offer may also contribute to their nimbleness while log bashing.

The bash guards perform as expected and look cool.  But when I switch back over to gears for cyclocross season, I'm sure these guards won't keep the chain from slipping off the outside as well as a traditional bash ring.

The 170mm arm length means a tighter and more comfortable spinning radius for those spin-like-a-mad-bastard downhills and gives 0.5cm higher log clearance than I'm used to when approaching obstacles straight on.  But on the other hand, the much wider Q factor on the tubular cranks increases pedal strikelihood while leaning in corners.  

Since the virgin test ride, a few more mods were needed to make everything right.  A 20 tooth cog in the rear has replaced the 19.  A cyclocross tire with 35X20 matches up better with my preferred fat tire 26" fixie 32X18 ratio.  With this gearing, 47.5 gear inches, I'm now able to clean all the usual burst climbs and rock gardens that I'm used to cleaning on the MTB fixie. I also swapped the front brake over to the right hand lever (something I do with all my fixies) and pulled the dead-weight-rear-brake completely off the bike.  This conversion from 1X8 to fixie shaved 1.8 pounds overall!

I think she looks better dirty, but here she is hosed off.

With around 110 off road miles on the new cranks to date I'm super happy with them and expect them to be durable under relentless abuse.  I'm hoping that the width of those bearings will translate into longer life too, but wonder how easy it will be to find replacement bearings/cups when the time comes.

Bottom Line:

I love them for off road fixing!  They aren't terribly expensive.  They are strong, stiff, and not much heavier than aluminum cranks.  They look great, and work perfectly with hubs that have close to a 45mm chainline.  If they came in 175mm length and I could find a 4 bolt 104BCD spider that would give 51mm chainline, I'd definitely throw a set on my Surly 1X1 too.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keen Commuter Sandals vs Keen Commuter 2 Sandals

Over the years I've used Lake and Shimano SPD sandals.  When it was time for a new pair I decide to give Keen a try.  My walkabout sandals were Keen Newports and I liked them very much.  So I figured I'd get the bike Keens in the same size and ordered a pair of first generation Keen Commuter Sandals in US size 11.5 (Euro 45.5) last September. 

1st generation Commuters


The 11.5 Commuters didn't fit too badly for walking but riding was a different story.  While riding my foot was able to slide backwards right out of the sole.  Maybe my skinny ankle is the problem.  I tried to fix the problem by wearing socks.  Everyone knows that sock and sandals is a cool look;-)  Recently I wore the sandals with socks on a mountain ride and got them wet.  This made matters even worse and there was literally an inch of empty space in the toe box.  I decided to take advantage of Performance's 100% satisfaction guarantee and return them for a full refund; a generous poilcy considering I'd probably ordered the wrong size and used them for six months.

2nd generation Commuters


A google search quickly brought up that REI was carrying the new generation Commuter 2 sandals.  Notice the new ankle strap;-)  I got a set of US size 11 this time and things are much better.  I can cinch down the new ankle strap and my skinny heel stays in the shoe now for the most part.  I have 2 nits to pick though:

  1. I wish the ankle strap was on the back of the ankle instead of in the front.  That'd hold my skinny heel forward even better.

  2. The cleat plate steel is soft and easy to strip out.  I had to steal a cleat plate from an old shoe and put it in the Keen because I stripped out the Keen cleat plate.  I know you think it's my fault for stripping it out, but I've been using Shimano SPDs since 1992 and have gone though at least a dozen pairs of shoes.  The Keens were the first cleat mount strip-outs in my SPD career.


Monday, March 28, 2011

March Leaving Like a Lion

Mercury was at 30 degrees when I rolled out of the stable.  Met up with W and XX at the usual spot, Landing, at the usual time, 6.
Exchanged pleasantries, shared intentions of keeping the pace mellow, and decided against rolling the usual loop.
W and XX were freewheeling single speeders and I was bringing up the rear on the fixed Fisticuff.  Conditions were tacky and fast.  Renegade and Nacho exit were muddy in the usual spots.


Log>Morning Choice>Grovemont Trailhead>Lewis and Clark>1.5X around Old Track (XX showed me the new double stack on Old Track that I'll definitely hit next time thru)>Morning Choice>Connector>Ridge>Rockburn Branch v^v (on the up I went for extra credit and pedal strike set me head and shoulders first into a tree....ouch!  Thank goodness for helmets.  Nice shiner on left shoulder)>Belmont Woods (looked down at the Garmin and noted that we were averaging 9.4 much for a mellow pace)>Nacho from the non-muddy side>Renegade>Landing (Enter Patt and Exit W and XX)>U turn for a second helping of Renegade and Nachoes...YUM!


Great way to start the work week!
PS Cold toes hurt like hell in the hot shower;-(

Family Fun Ride at Rockburn

Jen ran.  I towed Joe on the Alley Cat.  Elisabeth, Ben, and Abby rode under their own power.


Abby was super psyched because she piloted the Trek Mt Lion for the first time.  The Mt Lion has a smaller front chainring than the Novara 20" she'd been riding so she was cleaning lots of hills that used to be problematic;-)
She was also psyched when she found a dead frog.  Ewww!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This Editorial Hit the Nail on the Head;-)



County officials should, of course, make sure that putting a mountain biking skills course in Rockburn Branch Park won't damage the environment. It shouldn't be that difficult.

Other concerns expressed by opponents of the idea don't hold water.

Some of the park's neighbors turned up at a meeting of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board last week to argue against the course, which a group of cycling enthusiasts wants to install on an acre of parkland. Residents said they already have a problem with the traffic the park generates and that they fear the course would draw even more vehicles.

Taxpayers, though, ought to be happy to see people putting the park to use, getting maximum return out of the county's investment in it. If there are traffic issues, that's a problem for roads officials and perhaps, police. In any event, it's more likely that whatever traffic headaches occur are the result of large-scale team-sports events than of bicycle enthusiasts converging on the park.

Likewise, if -- as one resident told the board -- the park draws illegal drug activity after dark, that's a law-enforcement issue. And to claim that the bike course would make an attractive nuisance more attractive to troublemakers strains credulity.

At no cost to the county, the bike group would create a venue where they and others can get out in the fresh air and get some exercise, something too few of us do on a regular basis. The opponents have not given a valid reason to block this project.

County parks are not simply a backdrop to enhance neighboring property values. They are meant to be used by all of the county's citizens (and visitors, too).

We must not let a few complaints stand in the way of a good idea.

Saturday Session with Salt Lake Stephen

Photos by Abby and Joe;-)

Stephen from Utah was in town and stopped by for a ride.  Just like every other visit, he brought his Sidis and picked one of my bikes from the stable.  He chose Surly 1X1 in 650b9er freewheel confuration.  I rode the Fisticuff on it's first 35X20 fixie spin. 


We didn't make it too far before I tried to skid and my cog spun and lock ring stripped off;-(.  I tightened things up best I could and refrained from skidding for the rest of the ride.  I tried not to complain about it but an off road fixie ride without skidding is a lot less fun.

Belmont-Renegade-Nacho-Belmont coil around>Log>Old Track>Lewis and Clark>Cascade>Cascade Alternate>Rootz>Ridge>Rockburn Branch v^v

Aside from the spin off cog issues the Fixicuff was performing great out there.  New tubular chromo crank felt right at home on every log and extra credit opportunity.  Trail conditions were 98% great.  Mud holes where expected in Belmont, Cascade alternate, and Renegade swamp

A good clip for a 90 minute jaunt and then I drove Stephen to BWI for departing flight.

It's Here



Friday, March 25, 2011

Easier Fixting


Fixicuff will like 35x20 more than current 35x19.
Let the fisting commence.

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Thursday, March 24, 2011



Jen's rear derailleur cable blew apart in the race last saturday:-(

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

March 25 - Swedish Waffle Day

Yes, you heard right. National Waffle Day is a holiday that originated in Sweden. It is called "VĂ„ffeldagen" in Swedish. The holiday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, a religious event. In addition, "Waffle Day" on March 25 has always been considered the start of spring - especially in Sweden. It became a custom for Swedish families to celebrate the two events by making waffles on this day.

Today, many Swedes forego the religious part of the celebration but most still have waffles for dessert, topped with jam or whipped cream.


Sugar Hill 2011 Jen Photos

Here's a few photos of Jen on the initial climb up the waterbars.  Notice pro, Marla Streb, a few bike lengths in front of her. The men's experts in these photos started a full minute before women.

Results here

Sugar Hill Signage Tear Down Ride

Sunday afternoon I took the SWorks hard tail out with a big backpack on expecting to pack it tight with Sugar Hill Course signs.
Most signage had already been torn down though;-)  Hopefully not too much of it by angry hikers;-(

This was the 3rd Day Straight of Riding the Avalon Sugar Hill race course.  I need a break from the old RBB>MC>L&C>Cascade>Ridge;-)
Friday PM - Course setup
Saturday Dawn - Preride

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hey, iPad Haters!


Of Course You Can Trust A Corporation

Lots of people have tried to compare the ViewSonic gTablet with an iPad. We want in on that too.

There are already plenty of side by side comparisons to help you decide between a ViewSonic gTablet and an iPad. But why should you have to go to some other site? We’re selling it today, aren’t we? Of course we’re going to be totally biased the most completely objective and fair. So, in the interest of making you spend money, here’s our highly informative point-by-point break down that we researched without any sort of bias whatsoever.

Checkpoint One: Style

It’s well known that the iPad makes you look cooler, as long as you already look cool when you take it out. But did you know that the ViewSonic gTablet saves you serious money, which lets you invest more in the science of looking cool? But then again, trying to be cool is so uncool… isn’t it? Aw, this question's too hard, let’s call it even.

Winner: Draw unless you actually work at an Apple store. They probably don’t want you hanging around with a ViewSonic gTablet.

Checkpoint Two: Media

Like a six year old who won’t eat meat that’s touched the peas, the iPad very specifically supports Apple files and doesn’t care that the files you find tend to use .avi most of the time. You can buy it from them or get to steppin’. On the other side of the spectrum, this ViewSonic gTablet supports DivX, H.264, WMV natively, as well as WMA, MP4 and MP3, MPEG and AAC. There’s also a front camera and about ten hours of battery life. And is that a faint smell of lemon each time you click the play button?

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you also prefer Betamax and HD-DVD. It takes all kinds…

Checkpoint Three: Connectivity

Thanks to the amazing strength of irritating corporate leadership, the iPad uses a network that can often annoy you by not finding the cellular data network for long stretches of time. The big empty spaces can really make you wonder why you’re actually paying for their service in the first place. So the ViewSonic gTablet bypasses all that and only supports Wi-Fi to begin with. It doesn’t even pretend it’ll find a cellular data network! Even better, there’s no mandated monthly connection fee, except maybe the coffee you’ll have to buy in order to keep the table while you surf.

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you don’t live near a ahem nameless coffee shop. And these days, how is that even possible? They own more land than Queen Elizabeth.

Checkpoint Four: Bluetooth

iPad: has Bluetooth.
ViewSonic gTablet: also has Bluetooth, but doesn’t wear it as well.

Winner: iPad unless you think Bluetooth is a standard or something.

Checkpoint Four: Finding Magnetic North

Want to stand on a street corner trying to hold your tablet steady while people stare at you like you’re some sort of idiot? Only the iPad offers a built-in digital compass! Alternatively, you could also just buy a teeny analog compass and put it on your keychain.

Winner: iPad unless, you know, you don’t take a tablet computer when you go for a hike.

Checkpoint Five: Expandability

Much like their lovely one-piece iPhones, Apple’s iPad is built around one simple premise. If you ever run out of room, you can buy a new iPad any time you want. How simple! How easy! That’s nothing like the crude design of the ViewSonic gTablet, which for some stupid reason includes a Micro SD slot, a Mini USB port, and a standard USB port, all combining to let you add and subtract data at any time like a sucker.

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you use “I have to go home and sync tonight” as an excuse to get out of a terrible date.

Checkpoint Six: Apps

Connect to the iTunes store to download new games over that cellular data network that may not actually work! That’s the iPad’s method, and it’s what’s made the iTunes store so profitable for them. Of course, the ViewSonic gTablet can’t use that exclusive technological boutique. That’s why it comes with Angry Birds preinstalled. Also, there’s Pandora, the Kindle app, Color Note, and you can connect to the G-market if you ever need more.

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you only want a tablet for snicker productivity.

Checkpoint Seven: Flash

iPad users know from experience what that little brick icon means. Thankfully, the feud between Apple and Adobe seems to be cooling, because you can at last download and install some additional app to give you access to the Internet you’ve been missing, as long as you don’t mind viewing it through that app exclusively. Isn’t that good design? On the other hand, we’ve got the ViewSonic gTablet and… Oh, look at that! Nothing to install, it just works! How simple!

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you’re convinced that everyone will be using HTML 5 by summer.

Checkpoint Eight: The Guts

Want an iPad? Be ready to use OS X and iTunes, or Windows XP, Vista or 7 with iTunes, or possibly some future operating system and iTunes. Sort of like when your best friend got married to that horrible person you can’t stand, iTunes is going to be there always. Every. Single. Time. Whereas the ViewSonic gTablet doesn’t judge your choice of MP3 players. You can even use it with Linux if you really wanna. It’s cool. Do what you feel.

Winner: ViewSonic gTablet unless you’re a marketing VP. “Brand lifestyle” is so much easier to sell.

Adding it up, we see that… oh! What a surprise! The ViewSonic gTablet is today’s clear winner! Heads up, all you people who have no interest in iPads, because we’re arbitrarily scientifically confirming your bias. Why not take a victory lap by buying a ViewSonic gTablet today? Think of it as a chance to say “Sorry, iPad fans. Today you just don’t measure up.”

… but check back later, iPad fans, because eventually we’ll have iPads again. And when that day comes, we’ll have 100% factual data proving you correct! Um, completely unbiased data, of course. No agenda here.