Podcast - Adam Savage Project

On Bicycles – 11/11/2014

This week, Adam, Norm, and Will discuss the perils of soliciting advice from friends, the joy and danger of urban biking, and the best way to buy a bike. Enjoy!

Comments (40)

40 thoughts on “On Bicycles – 11/11/2014

  1. Asking opinions is hard in the Culinary world as well. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for more then half my life and when someone asks for an opinion of a “new” dish or a meal that was made it’s a super tricky situation, because of taste and texture. We all know there are 1000’s of different types of food styles and we all grow up eating different items. I could make a 3 star michelin dish that has won 8 awards, and been written up in the New Yorker but if you try it and don’t like it, then that is YOUR opinion and I cannot get angry at you for having an opinion about my food, that I know is good. So when you ask for opinions you have to be ready for any response.

  2. +1 for Breaking Away! It is a great movie and still entertaining today. Fact check on Adam’s Motobécane bicycle — it’s actually French not Italian 🙂

    For Adam, you can definitely find an old Cannondale on Ebay or Craigslist. Also check out the used/for sale section of the website velospace.org

  3. Wondering if you guys will do a spoilercast on Big Hero 6. Since the topic is about bicycles, the character Gogo Tamago in it has the day job of being a bike courier.

  4. I don’t know what call sign on here is for Adam but this is note is really for his understanding.

    Adam, I used to live in Bolton Landing, NY and only had a bike for transport. I would ride everywhere including into town aka Lake George 15 miles away from Bolton Landing through the NY mountains. I had legs of STEAL. But also I lived in Hyde Park, NY and used to ride down the 9 everyday usually about 35 miles a day on the 9 between Hyde Park and New Paltz

  5. I watched Breaking Away many times on cable. I have a 20
    year old Nishiki Olympic that needs a new paint job. I think riding with
    headphones on is illegal. My longest ride was 80 miles at just under 15 miles
    per hour. I also rode 24 miles to college. (12 miles each way) If you’re up to
    it watch the anime series Over Drive and/or Yowamushi Pedal translates to
    (sissy ,weak or wimpy Pedal).

  6. Speaking of screenplays, I was a little shocked watching a film recently. Spoiler alert, by the way.

    I was on a plane flying home from China and Red Planet was on the entertainment system. Having just read “The Martian,” back when tested.com was gearing up for the spoilercast, the parallels were uncanny.

    The whole ‘gotta get across the planet to another lift vehicle.’

    The ‘I found an old rover (from the audience’s present but the character’s past) and let’s hack it to make a radio to communicate.’

    The ‘hack the lift vehicle to get off the planet but then it sort of disintegrates during the sequence and I am exposed to space.’

    The ‘put on a tether and dangle out the docking bay to grab the guy in the messed up lift vehicle.’

    Red Planet came out in 2000. Not a great movie, I know.

    The Martian came out in 2012 (or 2014 depending on how you count). Weir began writing the book in 2009, apparently.

    So, have the deep plot similarities between Red Planet and The Martian already been discussed? Did I miss that?

  7. Having been a bike mechanic, and building my own bikes in the past, it’s fun, but not cost effective. It’s much more wallet friendly to buy a pre-built or box-bike (bike that you buy that essentially is about an hour to 3 hours away from being road or trail usable) and just upgrade components and group-sets (brakes and derailleurs) as you need to. It’s much more user friendly than just trying to dive straight into building a bike from scratch the first time. The other thing I’m just assuming is that when you say “from scratch” you mean buying all of the parts and assembling them yourself, not going out and getting some aircraft tubing and welding your own frame and doing all of the math to get the geometry right so it’s actually usable.

    Adam, by now if you’ve been determined you’ve done it, but I would stay away from older Cannondale aluminum frames. They got the nickname crack-and-fail for a reason. Their new bikes aren’t bad, usually just pricey by comparison to some of the other counterparts. Some of the best bang-for-the-buck bikes I can recommend are going to be from the company Giant, and the company Scott. They make nice entry level bikes that come with components and group-sets you won’t feel the need to instantly swap out for something different. SS and Fixies are fun, the first bike I built on my own was a fixie, and that was about 7 years ago, and was mainly for the cost of the parts. Single speed and fixie wheels are much less expensive than their 7-13 speed counterparts, and I was using it to go back and forth to drop off packages from the shop.

    Right now I’m in the process of fixing up a Windsor Cliff 29er Pro, Avid disc brakes, essentially just taking it and rebuilding it to “factory” quality. Used to ride on the roads a lot, then I moved a little bit further away from all my old haunts, and the area I’m in (20 minutes from where I was) is a lot more suitable for trail riding.

    Hope you guys keep riding, it’s one of the more usable forms of transportation that goes overlooked.

  8. As I am watching this video, my Cannondale is sitting over in the corner of the room, just waiting for me to take it out and ride it. Right now it’s really just fancy decor, sort of like the various bikes that hung on the back wall of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.. 😚

  9. Homonym that should inspire a screenplay: Antiques Dealer -> Antique Stealer

    Adam’s story means something entirely different if you make this substitution.

  10. I have to say this is one of my favorite podcast topics yet. I just got started in cycling a few months ago after doing a duathlon. I currently am riding an old silver blue 1982 Miyata 310 which my mother used to ride during triathlons. It has a chromoly steel frame with 1024 steel fork, so it’s pretty heavy, but it is in great shape for how long it was stored in the attic of my parents house. I plan on cleaning it up and possible getting it repainted after I get a new bike next year. My goal is to due an Olympic distance triathlon and a 100 mile bike race next year, and possibly a half ironman and ironman the year after. Cycling has been my favorite part of training. I unfortunately live in one of the least bike friendly states in the country (Alabama) and riding alone on the road can be pretty terrifying sometimes. If Adam does get an old Cannondale I think it would be cool if you all did a video on the restoration.

  11. I bike commute in a very bike friendly community, Boulder, CO. This evening I’ll be swapping my road tires for snow tires. I second Adam’s “Be Predictable” commandment – I see other bikers violate this all the time. My biggest pet peeve is bikes going the wrong way in a bike lane. Some people take the initial counter-intuitiveness of “walk against traffic” on streets without sidewalks and project that into biking.

  12. Very nice podcast! As someone from the Netherlands I was raised on bikes and a lot of the things that were said were very familiar, except of course all the talk about hills, in Holland we don’t even know what those things are!

    Adam’s comment about cities in Europe redeveloping their infrastructure to accommodate bikes made me think of a short documentary about cycle lanes in the Netherlands. It shows how they came to be and why, very informative, even for me, as I really did not know about this before seeing this:


  13. I love to cycle; road or trail, doesn’t matter. The same rush you get driving through downtown traffic and successfully predicting traffic movements Adam talked about is the same rush I get whistling through the trees on a rocky, tree-root filled downhill course.

    Biggest pet peeve about fellow cyclists, is the right-side passing of right-turning vehicles at an intersection. It’s dumb and a good way to get yourself killed. Cycling around downtown Toronto where I’m from, I see this all the time. Our lack of reliable bike lane infrastructure means typically at least half your ride is spent duelling with traffic. I consistently see the following: cyclist trailing a car approaching intersection, car signals to turn right and slows, bike proceeds to try and overtake the car on the right hand side, curse words ensue. If you’re on the road, act like a car! Change lanes and pass on the left.

  14. Yea, I have an older Hard Rock FS, and Trek makes some decent stuff. Only issue I’ve really ever had with Trek is that Lance Armstrong when he first started winning races on a “Trek” wasn’t actually a Trek. It was a Lightspeed with Trek stickers on it.

  15. Haha wow. Typical big company shenanigans. I’ve owned 4 Specialized bikes and I have no complaints. Others I like are Santa Cruz, Transition, and Salsa just to name a few. I’m speaking only about mountain bikes, however.

  16. As a native New Yorker I can say with
    100% certainty that bicycles on the streets on Manhattan (or any of the other 4
    boroughs) is one to the 3 stupidest ideas in the history of man kind.

  17. I’ve been going through the Still Untitled archives, and have come to the conclusion that you guys can make anything fascinating and interesting to listen to. It’s great!

  18. I ride upwards of 80 miles a week on my beloved single-speed (a 1996 specialized carbon frame with almost all after-market parts, weighs in at just over 16lb). I live in Minneapolis, which was ranked as the #1 city in America for biking, though the snow and sub-zero temperatures make biking year round a bit of a challenge. When there isn’t snow on the ground, Minneapolis has a wonderfully expansive bike path network which enables me to bike many places in the city nearly as quickly as driving (if there’s traffic for my daily commute it’s actually faster to bike).

    I think the majority of the non-biking people of the world have never ridden a bike which is in working order and fits them. If everyone had such a bike at their disposal the world would be a better place.

  19. OK I admit I’m an anal retentive rule follower, stop for a 3 count at all stop signs AND right on reds. Park an appropriate distance from the curb (not more than 18 inches)keep the wheels of the car in front of you in view on the pavement at stop lights/signs….you get the point. On a bike I am the same way!!! At stop signs the foot comes off the pedal at all stops. The arm goes through the signals. passing a fellow bicyclist I announce passing on the left…it make me safer it makes others safer. If I get hit by a car even if I’m 1000% in the right I LOOSE badly. Bicyclist in my blind spot in a car make me rage. My “A” post can block a pickup unless I do a 3 count a person on a bike could get killed. So please stop. And Adam, if you are legally and properly parked you don’t get a parking ticket, if you are a tiny bit out they can, just make sure you aren’t says anal retentive traffic law guy. I should mention I rolled a car at 16, learned the hard way to be freaked at what driving can do to you or others, only 1 parking ticket since then (and I missed the red no parking zone curb in the snow) and I’m old now.

  20. So, I know the podcast was about the health benefits of using a bicycle and I couldn’t agree with that more. However for a purely fun thing to do, has anyone built a motorized bicycle? The kits a fairly cheap and are a lot of fun to put together. The bicycle below is one I did last spring and it has been a lot of fun to ride around on. I wouldn’t suggest it for busy urban biking as there is a lot to concentrate on with the throttle, clutch, shifter, and breaks all on the handlebars.

  21. I would say the easiest way to get a good idea to what groupset and other components you’re looking for is to visit a local shop. Find a bike that’s similar to what you have in mind, check it out, see whats on it, see if they’ll let you take it out for a ride. Now I know that it’s hard to ignore how it feels during the ride, but you’ll have to block out the frame comfort and focus singularly on how the components feel. Does it brake the way you want, shifting easy and comfortably, does it feel like the components are solid and going to take whatever you throw at them, are the wheel hubs smooth feeling, take in all of that info and try to disregard how the framset itself feels. Also don’t be afraid to test out multiple bikes, even if you’re not going to buy any of them from that shop, a lot of times they have the parts or have the ability to get the parts in you need to build whatever you want. They might want to build it for you, or even just offer to give it a once over when you’re done, but a true-blooded bike shop shouldn’t have any qualms with ordering or selling you parts, or even just pointing you in the right place to get them. I’ve always tried to find something on the market close to my idea and then run with it in the full direction I’m planning on going. Sometimes it’s easiest to build your own, sometimes it’s easier to buy a bike and modify it to where you want it to be. But overall I would say the easiest, and probably fastest way, to find out what exactly you’re looking for is to hit up a local shop and talk to them, because if you’re going to go full on serious into the sport, you may as well try and make some friends at the places that supply the gear.

    Hope any of that was helpful, 😀

  22. What a treat to learn that my favorite celeb shares my favorite hobby (including an affinity for singlespeed).

    Regarding that sixth sense, in Culley’s book The Immortal Class (highly recommended) he talks about how urban cyclists develop what is essentially the ability to see 30 or so seconds into the future.

    On my bucket list is to build a bike truly from scratch, like beginning with a frame-building class. Seems like something Adam might enjoy.

  23. I was given a beautiful vintage Canondale for free , less than 20 pounds. People would stop to admire it, no one had seen anything like it. I used to ride that thing everywhere. Sadly it was taken from me at gunpoint. I live in Dayton Ohio a great bike city. Home of the wright bros. With beautiful bike trails, I need to get back into biking. I miss that bike.

  24. All this talk of bikes made me think of my dream bike. (It’s on the list of things to buy if I ever happen to have “extra” cash…)

    When I was younger I was into mountain biking and have had a few of pretty rugged mountain bikes…but now that I’ve become older most of my biking is on road and I’ve started to look for a more comfortable ride.

    A while back I came across an article about this new design that combines the ease of use of regular city bikes with the more relaxed driving position of a recumbent. And as an added benefit it has replaced the traditional chain with a new nearly frictionless axle design that’s sealed from the elements and makes pedaling effortless.

    The Miragebikes Nomad

  25. Hey guys, really enjoyed this podcast. Unfortunately the bicycling infrastructure here in Tokyo is lagging far behind most other large cities, but some recent steps have been in the right direction.

    Anyway, I wanted to share the single most important piece of advice I’ve heard regarding riding on city streets: The rules of the road do not trump the rules of physics. It doesn’t matter how in the right you are, that truck is still going to squish you.

  26. If you’re interested in building your own frame check out the frame forum on Velocipede Salon. It’s a great forum where a lot of custom bike builders hang out and talk about bikes and all sorts of interesting topics- a really great group of people. Some of the best frame builders in the world hang out there and they are happy to give people advice and tips on building frames.

    If you want to learn one on one with a framebuilder then check out the framebuilding class at Bohemian Bicycles. Dave Bohm builds utterly amazing bikes and I’ve heard really good things about his class. Building and riding your own hand made frame will teach you more about bikes and give you more satisfaction than you can possibly imagine. The big trick to building a custom frame (or having one built for you) is that you have to know what you want. Most people I know that have a custom built bike will part with all of their latest and greatest whiz bang carbon bikes long before they will give up their custom bike.

    Of course I have had a long love affair with bicycles. I think the bicycle is one of the greatest inventions the world has ever known. There are very few material items in this world that will bring you as much satisfaction and joy as a bicycle. I worked as a designer in the bicycle industry, mostly designing components (everything from cranks and hubs to brakes and tires) and working in R&D but I’ve also built several frames including road, track, time trail and mountain bikes (both rigid and suspension.) During the twelve years (mid 80’s to late 90’s) I worked in the bike industry I didn’t drive a car once (didn’t even have a license) and I averaged around 15,000 miles/year on the bike. It’s a great industry with a lot of truly wonderful people and I’m very thankful (and lucky) to have had that experience. That era with the explosion of mountain bikes and the innovation that came with it was a very, very exciting time.

    As for hybrid bikes, well I’ve never been a big fan either. If you want a bike that rides really well on and off road just get a cyclocross bike. They’re insanely fun, much faster and lighter than a mountain bike and they make really good commuter bikes. They ride just like a road bike on pavement but if you want to explore dirt or gravel paths and trails you’re good to go. You can usually pick one up for a good deal on craigslist after the end of cross season.

    Here’s the last road bike I built for myself back in the early 90’s. This frame was made using the classic
    method of silver brazing tubes into lugs. The rear dropouts are brass brazed to the chainstays and seatstays. Pretty simple to build but the tube miters have to be
    right on the money for silver brazing as silver flows like water. The frame is made from a mix
    of Reynolds tubes with Henry James lugs. The chainstays and seatstays are 531, the top and
    down tubes are 653 and the seat tube is 731 OS. I used a
    lightweight 653 down tube for the top tube because the bigger tube
    diameter gives the bike a bit more rigidity when sprinting and flying
    down hills. It also works better because of the bike geometry that I
    like- I like a really laid back bike with slack angles. I use a 72.5
    degree seat tube angle (because I have a long femur length for my
    height it’s hard for me to get the seat back far enough) and a 73
    degree head tube angle. With these angles I can have a long top tube
    length and still get a reasonably short wheelbase. The slacker angles
    also make the bit a bit more comfortable on long rides. The fork is
    a carbon fiber Kestrel EMS Pro.

    I love this bike, I’ll never part with it and after twenty years and a whole lot of miles it still rides great. 🙂

  27. I should also mention that anyone interested in vintage mountain bikes should check out The Vintage Mountain Bike Workshop. The site belongs to a friend of mine who restores some of the most rare and beautiful mountain bikes. I’ve seen most of the bikes on the site in person and the pictures don’t do them justice.

    My friend provided a bike or two and helped out a lot with the SFO mountain bike exhibit last year. It was a really impressive display of mountain bike history.

  28. The trouble with framebuilding for a noob is, by the time you factor in the class, travel, lodging, etc., you’re talking about $5,000+ and 10 solid days of leisure time for a frame made by a guy who has never made one before (i.e. me). While I’ve no doubt I would find the process immensely enjoyable and satisfying, I just don’t think the enjoyment/(money+time) ratio is where it needs to be. Maybe someday.

  29. While it’s certainly not inexpensive to learn how to build a frame from a top notch builder I can guarantee you will get your money’s worth in knowledge and understanding of what it takes to properly build a quality frame. Of course these courses tend to be more beneficial (expense wise) to an individual that is interested in pursuing framebuilding as a career rather than someone who just wants to build a single frame or a person that wants to learn how to do things the right way in the shortest amount of time possible. A good teacher can save you a ton of time and money by showing you how to avoid costly mistakes- the cost is bit higher up front but your chance of success is also greater.

    The other option is to teach yourself- this is much less expensive (initially) but it takes a lot longer. The least expensive method is to read a book like the Talbot Manual and build a simple wood jig, get a tube set, hacksaw, files and an Oxy/Acetelyne torch and get to work. For someone more serious a better source is the Paterek Manual as it’s far more informative- I think the old version can even be downloaded for free.You really don’t need much in the way of tools to build a steel frame. I’d definitely recommend beginning with a steel frame as it’s by far the most forgiving material to work with. A wood jig can work but wood moves around a lot and it’s hard to build a straight bike from a wood jig. A better choice is to get some surplus large size 8020 Aluminum extrusion on eBay- it’s pretty cheap to buy and lots of people have built jigs using it.

    Ultimately a bike is only as good as its builder. How well it rides is directly proportional to amount of care you put into its construction. I always tell people the best thing you can do is buy a bunch of tubing and cut it into short sections and do a bunch of practice joints. Braze all of your joints to the best of your ability and then cut them apart and look at quality of the joints. This is definitely one of those things where practice makes perfect and even the best builder in the world can’t make you better with a torch- it’s something you just have to do yourself and get a feel for how it works.

  30. I rode a fair amount when I was a kid, but then when I was 13 I was mugged (while on the bike). That turned me off for a long time.

    Earlier this year, the Sweethome published a “best hybrid bike” guide. It was right around when I got my tax return, and it got me to thinking about how I wanted to get more exercise outside of a gym. Eventually, I went for it. The bike sat for a few weeks while it warmed up, but starting around the end of May I started riding it anywhere between 50 and 80 miles a week. It replaced my commute. And I enjoy doing it. Right now I feel like I’m in as good of a shape as I’ve been in my life.

    Good enough that I want to continue this during winter. It’s going to snow tomorrow morning. I put on a studded tire (too early for two, yet). I’m determined to make this work.

  31. I lived in Bloomington for 15 years, so Breaking Away has some real weight for me.

    The dynamic is really Townies vs. Frat Guys, as at the time the only people who raced in the Little 500 were fraternity teams and a handful of men’s dorms. The Cutters still field a Team in the Little 5, and do well.

    My bike (an old American Bicycle Company [i think] road frame from about 1980 that I built out) is currently out of a commission with a sidewall failure on the rear tire.

  32. Yep, Adam must have worked in the hospitality industry. It sticks… “never empty handed”. It’s how I clean my house 90% of the time.

  33. Adam, you sound like me talking about my current road bike. It’s a custom titanium road bike built by Moots in Steamboat Springs, CO. It’s a 58 cm frame that weighs less than 18 pounds. This bike is WAY too fast for a lardass like me, which is why I’m riding to work on an Electra Townie these days–build the foundation so I can feel fast again someday.

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