Friday, December 31, 2010

The first rant of 2011!

Many of you have probably seen this picture. It's of a custom bike built (I believe in 2004) for the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (get better, bro).

It's a fairly famous image used to illustrate very large custom bicycles, and every time I see it, it pisses me off. For what it's worth, I have nothing against Gunnar - from everything I hear, they make great bikes. But I think they blew a great opportunity here:

-Undersized tubing (everywhere, on the entire frame and the fork as well) - that thing will be a total noodle with a 280# rider. I mean, this is *custom*. You can order any size of 4130 tubing you want from many different places - get the man a 2.5" diameter downtube and big fat stuff everywhere else too. Biggest seatpost you can find (or make one), etc, etc. If I ended up with a frame under 10 pounds, I'd be worried it was underbuilt.

-Hilariously, Gunnar actually BRAGS about how underbuilt the bike is - it is apparently "only 27 pounds!". Um, great. That's like me throwing a leg over a 13.5 pound mountain bike with a 7/8" downtube. Nice that it's light, I guess, but I'm thinking the ride will leave something to be desired.

-Chainstays insanely too short - the poor guy is going to be sitting well behind the rear axle. Good luck climbing anything steep. On the other hand, I guess it will manual well (and inadvertently, probably) should Yao choose to attempt such a maneuver. It is not hard to bend some custom stays, guys. Off the top of my head, I'd say they're at least 200mm too short.

-1 1/8" steerer? Please. 1.5 stuff is readily available (and was in 2004, too), or heck, do a custom headset and go for 2" or bigger. Yao and the Rockets were undoubtedly not going to blink at spending $500 on a headset.

-Wimpy QR hubs and dropouts. This is like a bad joke. I'm 5'11" tall, 150 pounds, and get angry about having to ride a QR suspension fork rather than a through axle. At the time rear through axles were confined to DH bikes, but that's ok - Yao would have been just fine on a 12mmx150mm (or 165mm) rear hub and 20mm front.

-A setback (appears to maybe even be 27.2) seatpost? Why, in god's name, do you want to use a post with a bunch of setback? We're talking about a HUGE dude here, and adding all that leverage to the head of the post is not going to prolong it's life. It's not hard to slack back the seat tube angle a few degrees and use a straight post.

-You could easily make an argument for 36" wheels here. Yao is perhaps one of the only people on earth for whom a 50 pound 36er would not be overkill. Of course, those are *really* a niche item, and the tire selection (at least then) was a big fat one, so I can see how you'd stick with 29".

Obviously Yao probably rides the bike on the street (if at all) and this was likely a publicity stunt more than anything (I could certainly be wrong). But if you're doing something with this kind of exposure, why not go all out and do it right? Go nuts on every part of the bike to make it work the best it can for the customer, don't just throw something together with a really long seat tube, toptube, and head tube that is otherwise exactly what you'd build for someone half his size.


Anonymous said...

can't argue with any of those rants...nice work

appleSSeed said...

those seat stays are definitely ridiculous..

I don't think Yao has the power to push a 50lb bike though...I watched a special about Giants on some TV show (so I'm now an expert) and they talked about how the muscle is the same density just stretched really far...or something to that effect...

I agree with you and think that Yao was just not meant to ride a bike.

StanleyJ said...

Hey Walt, maybe you can treat us to a blueprint of a Waltworks 36er for Yao Ming? ;)

Kristine said...

Hi! I just tried biking and well, cycling. For the most part, Im still getting the hang of it. For now, I still have no idea what are steerers and chainstays, etc but I'll be following this blog :) Thanks so much I didn't know I have so many to learn! Happy new year as well! Well, you know what they say - it is never to late to learn! :)

jeff said...

Walt, you uber-geek. Love the rant. BTW, I ate at Yao's restaurant in H-town. The food was marginally better than that Gunnar that was built for him.

Anonymous said...



I'm wondering how you feel about a standard 68mm BB width. Should it be something wider? Q-factor and all.

Walt said...

Good question, anon, and something I haven't really thought about. You can do a lot with pedal spacers and such, of course, but you'd probably want to do something to measure/test where the big fella is most comfortable in terms of stance width before making a call.

I could see 83 or 100mm working, potentially. Or a standard 68/73. Just depends on Yao.

Slonie said...

After I linked to your post, my friend photoshopped our teammate's bike next to Yao's... Mostly because it's one of the smallest 700C bikes next to the biggest!