NTKOMM Membership Meeting*

Ari at Bespoke Cycles talks tires
Ari at Bespoke Cycles SF talks tires.

(*Not the Kick-Off Membership Meeting)

Last Wednesday we had our first general membership meeting that wasn’t the annual Spring Kick-Off Membership Meeting in more than ten years, probably even longer. Probably none of you realizes that our bylaws require us to have a minimum of four membership meetings annually; this has been true since we achieved official non-profit status, which was roughly a couple of years after we were founded. In the beginning this was hardly an issue since—believe it!—we had monthly membership meetings. Initially we met at the Haight Street branch library meeting room and when it closed for renovation years later we moved to the old MCC in the Castro.

It may seem excessive to most of you to have had 11 or 12 club meetings a year especially since they weren’t required by law. But this was all pre-Internet (technically it was when a few were using Compuserve, Prodigy, maybe AOL, or were lucky to have Internet through academia or DoD work ) so the business of the club had to happen mostly face-to-face. How were rides created? We lugged a big box of maps and guide books out of the storage room of the library and members perused them to think of rides they might lead or talk to other members about possible routes. There was no website so information (and juicy gossip) was shared verbally. Board meetings took place at the beginning of the club meeting so everyone could see what was being discussed (either to their complete boredom or their horror, depending).

We didn’t always have an official program (a speaker or a topic of interest to the membership) and sometimes the meetings were tedious and mundane. But people showed up probably because it was the main way to meet other members and see what the club was about. Yes, you could just show up on a ride but the monthly meetings were a lower key way to introduce oneself to the club and vice versa. That was certainly my introduction to Different Spokes.

Somewhere along the line the regular monthly meetings went away although I can’t remember exactly how that happened. Some clubs like Grizzly Peak Cyclists (Berkeley) and Almaden Cycle Touring Club (SJ) continue to have monthly meetings. Others such as Valley Spokesmen hold quarterly meetings and some clubs such a Diablo Cyclists appear to have no meetings at all.

Club meetings especially if they involve food are a low-key, convivial way to hang out and meet other clubmates, see each other out of cycling drag, and find out “officially” what’s going on with the club.

In the future we may have more NTKOMM meetings but it will depend on whether a board member (or regular members who want to help!) has the energy and an idea for it.

But I digress—back to the recent NTKOMM: David Goldsmith happened to be chatting with Ari, the owner of Bespoke Cycles and idea of a club meeting that didn’t have the onus of the Kick-Off Meeting (introduce the new board, cover a year’s worth of upcoming events, a program, etc.) came up. It was really an excuse to hang out in a cool bike shop and chat with clubbies. As a plus Ari volunteered to talk about whatever topic struck our fancy. We told Ari that perhaps opining on new bike technologies might spark some interest and so the meeting was born.

For the food David went to the trouble of getting lots of fabulous Detroit-style pizza from, I think, Square Pizza Guys south of Market St. Ari threw in a bunch of different kinds of beer and soft drinks. I grew up in Detroit and I had never heard of “Detroit” pizza, which apparently is a thing in SF now. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a Chinese family where Italian food was limited to a very infrequent can of Chef Boyardee. Or it could be because I—horrors!—predate such hometown trends. In any case it was pretty damn good. Pizza Square Guys also make a vegan pizza but such concepts baffle me and there was no way I was going to venture into the unknown when the pepperoni was so good. I’m going to have to check this place out in person…

IRL (not in cycling life!)
IRL (not “in cycling life”)

There were eleven of us who attended including a brand new member Michael whom I chatted with only briefly and didn’t get the chance to find out why he joined Different Spokes SF sight unseen. And he came all the way up from San Jose! Almost the entire board was there—David Go., David Ga., Nick, Roger, Ginny, and I. Roger Hoyer, Carl Stein, Stephen Shirreffs, Jeff Mishler, and new member Michael filled out the dance card.

Ari talked about three topics: tire trends, drivetrain maintenance, and ceramic bearings. Punchline: tires are getting wider with little or no detriment to speed and big gains in comfort. The narrow-is-faster orthodoxy turns out to be empirically false in most everyday situations so manufacturers are making wider tires and wider rims to take advantage of the comfort angle. Ari said there has been a movement away from 23 mm road tires to 25 mm and now even 28 or larger tires are being recommended. He said the wider rims support the wider tires so that cornering is excellent even at lower tire pressure, and lower tire pressure is what wider road tires is all about: more comfort, just as much flat protection, and better grip. Surprisingly Ari is not a proponent of tubeless tires although I don’t recall exactly why except he mentioned the mess they make when you do get a puncture that doesn’t seal right away. (I can vouch for that!)

Ari then recommended that the next thing recreational cyclists should do is be more diligent about drivetrain cleaning and lubrication. Using wax based chain lubricants reduces drivetrain grime and makes a quick rubdown with a rag at the end of a ride a lot easier than breaking out the chain cleaner. In particular he recommended Squirt lube (yes, that’s its real name and no, don’t go to squirt.org to read about it; try squirtcyclingproducts.com instead).

Finally Ari went gaga over ceramic bearings and brought out some sample bottom bracket bearings and chain pulley bearings—standard steel bearings or bushings versus ceramic bearings—for us to compare how they feel. The ceramic bearings did indeed have less friction and he claimed they did not need more maintenance than regular bearings. Less friction means less effort to go fast on the order of 5-10 watts. Although Ari may have a point, I am not convinced from the maintenance perspective. But he did mention that Ceramic Speed, the maker he’s selling, stands behind its products.

By the way Ari also does bike fittings and has been doing it for ages. He didn’t say anything about it that night but it might be interesting to hear him talk about how he does bike fittings and changes to bike fit thinking with the advent of gravel bikes (a.k.a.” regular road bikes” back in the day).

3 thoughts on “NTKOMM Membership Meeting*

    1. “Ride up grades, not buy upgrades!” In all seriousness, anything that increases one’s pleasure in riding one’s bike is, I think, fair game. I’m not sure I’d feel much difference with the $$$ceramic bearings$$$ and I already use wax on my chain (because it’s super easy and doesn’t leave black everywhere). But the wheel upgrade is something I’ve done and it made a huge difference in enjoyment. They’re a magic carpet ride especially on crappy asphalt. You can read my comments at: https://dssf.home.blog/2014/09/16/riding-with-lower-tire-pressure-hed-ardennes-sl-wheels/
      Or you just just get a new bike!


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