Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Absurdia Part 3: Todd Responds

Todd wrote in via the comments to respond to my post about his cool Black Cat "Swinger" dropouts, and I thought I'd post his verbiage here for everyone who has no life and is reading this instead of working to enjoy. Note that I didn't edit anything here, these are Todd's words.

I think he makes some great points here, but I still feel that, all things being equal, the Paragon sliders make a bit more sense due to their stainlessness and significantly lower price (my cost is about $150 for the Black Cats, and $90 for the Paragons). But both dropouts are made in the USA by really cool guys who live and breath bikes - so you really can't go wrong, and I'm more than happy to build you a bike with either setup.

But enough from me. Here's Todd.

Hey Walt,
Someone hipped me to your critique of my dropouts. Thanks for the feedback. You have some valid points, I’ll see if I can convey to you and your readers the thinking behind the part.
The dropouts are not stainless, they are machined from 5/8” billet 4130 cromoly steel. There are a few reasons why:
Economy. 17/4 stainless, the only stainless worth dealing with for this application, is about the same price as 4130 and is about double the price of 4130 to machine. 17/4 is harder so it takes a long time on the tools. Other stainless will end up having a divot where the clamp bolt does its job on the slot and then you’ll have a hard time adjusting out of that one spot. No good.
Mild steel would also get a divot. It would cheapen the dropouts by about $50 and no one would know until it was too late, so 4130 is the right choice. Most other dropouts if not stainless are mild steel, Paragon included. Not shit talking—for a vertical dropout, it is a great choice.
With 4130, the dropouts are lighter. Having a stronger material allows less material.
I have a batch of very expensive 17/4 dropouts. Right up there with the flanged
Paragons. Fillet brazers can use 50-n for the same effect. Metal to metal contact is not necessary. After the first ride or two, things don’t move around much using powder or wet paint. Probably what you have experienced. I live about ½ mile from the largest body of salt water in the world, in a place renowned for fog (even locally), and don’t have a rust problem on the dropouts. This is a place where 317 stainless steel turns to powder. You can come look at the barrel adjusters on my townie.
Why flanges? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to make them out of plates to silver braze in slotted stays? In a word, “yep.” But, I like flanges. Makes the dropout stiffer in all the right ways without the additional weight from additional thickness. Since I’m the one making the dropouts, I get to call the shots. Moreover I can use a smaller diameter tube with a thinner wall thickness on stays when I use my dropout, since they stiffen things up so nicely. A down side to that? Can’t think of one. The flanges are blocky because they are made for a 500 pound gorilla. If you’re not one, the builder can carve them up to match your aesthetics or body weight. The dropouts are tumbled to remove any burrs. Sorry if your pair didn’t see enough time in the tumbler. If the bevel wasn’t what you like, it may have been perfect for someone else.

Me again,
Set screws (m5, by the way): I get a lot of questions about that. I’ve put an enormous amount of thought into not integrating them.
Economy. One side of the dropout is machined, then a guy with a wrench comes and flips it and the other side is machined. If the guy had to turn it a second time, more money. If the machine had another axis with which to work, it is a more valuable machine, more money. You want 17/4 dropouts with an integrated set screw? Do you have some capital for a batch of 25 pair?
The bosses are easily replaceable should one get stripped: heat it up a bit, pop it off, pop on a new one. If they are sheering from shear (ha!) burlyness (yeah, right) they’re not brazed on well. Hope those people with this trouble you’ve heard from aren’t doing lugs.
I’ve more or less addressed the price thing, but one more point: I’m paying local bike people for their time and experience. It’s not as cheap as someone from Taiwan, or Michigan for that matter. But I like to have bike people around me doing what they love: Making bike things for other bike people. If my customers can drop $50 into that bucket (I don’t make much money on these things, for sure) out of the $3000 they will spend on a new bike, then God bless ‘em.
Lastly, (I’m sure ya’ll are stoked) can’t help you with the howling. I’ve ridden mine, with and without Avids, for 6 years without a howl. Never heard of anyone else with that problem, maybe they’re just not saying… I do always check the alignment of the face of the dropouts when checking alignment of rest of the bike.
Hope I’ve shed a bit of light from this dim bulb.


stevendot said...

I've had to work with 17-4 here in the shop for some medical devices and found if I heat treat it first, and use a "good" carbide cutter, it machines easier and longer life of the cutter. Not sure if this would apply to your use or not.

Mtnbikerfred said...

Thanks for the insight Todd. Only a stand up bike builder like you will take an opportunity to share his passion without taking it personal, or making it an ego thing. Your dropouts are among the best. Period. A design that I'm sure will be copied *cough...Salsa..cough* by box-bike builders, and used by Botique builders alike. I love 'em.

appleSSeed said...

good stuff by both sides.

it's nice to see some honesty in these days.