Quick Review: 2017 SE Racing STR-29 Quadangle

2017 SE Racing Stu Thompson Edition 29" Quadangle

2017 SE Racing STR-29 Quadangle – Wait! Where’s my Landing Gears???

Picture Gallery at the end of the article!

BMX racing back in the 1970s and 80s was something special. It was a new sport. For children and adolescents, it gave them the ability to race bicycles in serious, organized competition. Not only that, they had their own heroes to look up to that weren’t European. Racers such as Perry Kramer and Stu Thomsen, to name only two, were right up there as the bicycle versions of motocross champions. It is no wonder that SE Racing, which has been making BMX racing bikes since the 1970s (they are celebrating their 40th year this year), has seized upon the champions of that time to reintroduce us to the storied bicycles of our past.

That’s why I was so excited when I heard that SE Racing was planning to release the Stu Thomsen Edition Quadangle, the STR-29. Their previous version of the 26-inch Quadangle was so well received by the BMX nostalgia set, that I was waiting to see what they would come up with next. A new colorway? Maybe some shiny pads? I was hoping that there would be something else other than the Public Enemy Big Ripper to make their bikes more exciting.

Before I get to the review, let’s talk about beach cruisers for a second. The SE Racing Retro series are not meant to be raced anymore. They are pure nostalgia pieces that make excellent cruisers. Beach cruisers, at least the modern interpretation, are not even bicycles. They are a decision made by some corporate monkeys who want to keep their companies relevant somehow. So I can see the reason for the SE Racing Retro series existence. They hearken back to the days when one wasn’t racing, they were cruising. They also look way cooler and are of a higher quality (relatively speaking) than their flowery, wicker-basketed counterparts. Bikes like the Quadangle are not here to replace what beach cruisers have become. They are here to give people an opportunity to look good on a bike whilst cruising. SE Racing has done a great job of tapping into nostalgia and creating that necessary out for those who just want to pedal down to the beach and not look like an asshole.

See these girls? No way I'm getting any by riding this bike.

See these girls? Ten-speed dude in the back has a better chance with them.

Enough said about my opinion about beach cruisers. So now lets get to the review.

From across the room. Just like the 26-inch Quadangle…’cept different. How different? Well let me just say that this bike would look normal sized next to The Mountain, or the Statue of Liberty. It’s 29-inch wheels are big, to be sure. But in my opinion, they look a little too big compared to the compact-looking Quadangle geometry. But hey, we’re all compensating for something, amirite? Hey, check out the quote on the bike’s product page and get schooled in some old-school retroness:

Before the Quadangle, there was the STR-1. This dates back to the late 1970’s when Stu Thomsen was SE Racing’s National #1 pro and the sport’s first superstar. His signature frame at the time was the Stu Thomsen Replica-1. This STR-1 frame had a unique design with both of the double down tubes wrapping underneath the bottom bracket shell and continuing around the Looptail rear end all the way back to the seat tube. Less than ten STR-1’s were ever produced, and over the years these frames became almost mythical and the most sought after frames of all time in the vintage BMX world. Fast forward nearly 40 years to today and SE is proud to bring you, the limited edition STR-29. All of the unique features and radness of the original STR-1, but built for the bigger rider with 29″ wheels. This bike comes with an authentic SE Racing x Stu Thomsen trading card personally signed by Stu. Making history, once again.

The bigger rider? Well, I guess that some of us who remember Stu’s glory days are a little on the heavy side now. Just remember that this is a tribute bike, not an exact replica. It does not look anything like the original. So they had to make some adjustments so this bike would look normal when ridden by grown-ass men. In any case, I asked Stu what he thought at Interbike back in September and he seemed cool with it. So there you go. Validation.

Stu and his normal-sized Quadangle back in 1980.

Stu and his normal-sized Quadangle back in 1980.

The build. After all this historical context, I just can’t…I can’t be nice about this. There really is no other way to put it: The build quality is lacking in…well, quality. Particularly, the welding. I want to focus on this as there are so many of us in the bike world that look at welding as the one facet that speaks to a bike’s build quality. For the STR Quadangle, it looks like whoever (or whatever machine) initially tacked the frame together forgot to finish the job. One would think, after reading the above quote, that the bottom bracket shell would have had some semblance of quality control attention paid to it. But it looks like it is ready to just snap off. The other Quadangles that SE has put out didn’t have this problem. The BB shells were welded to the frame in a more acceptable fashion. Having never seen an original STR-1 up close, I can’t say for certain that the welding is period correct or not. I’m only looking at this bike from a modern quality and safety viewpoint.

The usual SE Racing components are there: the fluted seat post, the blocky stem and the saddle that they seem to phone in on every model. The tires, freewheel and pedals are what you’d expect from a bike of this price point. You even get a limited edition sticker pack and BMX trading card signed by Stu himself.

A welcome sight is to see the lack of a Landing Gear sticker on the forks. “BMX Innovations” is period correct and sounds way better. However, I can just see Landing Gear fans buying Landing Gear stickers to put on their BMX Innovation forks that are really just Landing Gear forks anyways. The Redline Flight Tubular 175 mm crankset is pretty awesome. Although I think the 9mm x 6-tooth heat-treated chromoly spindle and crank arms may be a lot stronger than the frame itself. Just keep in mind that after the frame and bottom bracket shell welds fail, you will be left with a very usable $119.00 crankset which you can put on another bike.

The ride. Not bad at all. When I say not bad, I mean for a single speed cruiser, it rides really not bad. The larger wheels make the ride smooth. The compact geometry of the Quadangle frame make it comfy. The stock Tange headset should be replaced by a Chris King No Threadset  or even a Neco to make the steering a little more confident. That’s about it.

Final note. The SE Racing Stu Thomsen Limited Edition 29-inch Quadangle is a cool bike. It’s a great bike for cruising and it’s looks are unique. Even if you are not a fan of the golden age of BMX racing, you would have a better chance of not looking like a tourist when riding along the beach on this thing. Buy it for the looks and ride. Don’t buy it if you are looking for a quality bike build.

Hey look! Pictures!

Grass Racer Reincarnate

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

Mercier Kilo OS Double Top Tube Grass Racer

I have always wanted a nice townie to ride around the city. Santa Barbara is not super hilly and we have a lot of beach here. But I wouldn’t be caught dead on a beach cruiser nowadays as they can be a bit of a a bummer to ride anywhere.So a while ago I bought this double top tube bicycle frame online. It is a Mercier Kilo track frame but with a double top tube reminiscent of an old grass track racer. I think having a double top tube made the bike more rigid. In any case, the original paint job and component spec for the Kilo OS is not great, so I stripped the paint and clear powdercoated it. Instead of the crap wheels and components that come on most track bikes, I speced a build kit that would rival…nay, put all the other townie bike companies out there to shame. I envisioned something completely different while building it up from the frame. This isn’t quite Rivendell quality. But it turned out quite nicely.

First things to add were the Velocity A23 rims and Shimano Alfine 8 hub. I had the folks over at J&B build them for me through the bike shop. They are fantastic wheels. Combine those with Challenge Limus 33 Cyclocross tires and an IRD Defiant Track crankset and I was in business. The final touches came when I was working out the geometry of the frame. The 56cm frame fit me okay with the standover height, but the top tubes are almost horizontal so they are pretty long. Drops, although cool and traditional for a grass racer just wouldn’t do. I decided to make this a more upright and sophisticated ride. So on went some Ahearne MAP bars and a Paul Components Flatbed basket. I tightened everything up with a Chris King GripNut headset.

So to rival a Linus or a Public or a Civilian or the like, this is my attempt at making the perfect townie bike. Before you say anything, I know the tires are too knobby for the street. So I will take the demerit on that. But people are throwing kale and carrots directly into my basket at the Farmer’s Market. How badass is that? See the gallery below.

Motobu

IMG_4324.JPG

We spent most of our time today on Ie Island, a large island off the west coast of central Okinawa. It’s very isolated as far as bikes are concerned. So after we got back to the main island, I went in search of any bicycle I could find. This far from the main city all you get is rust and disuse.

As far as bikes are concerned. Regular upkeep in Okinawa is a must. On this island, every piece of steel that is not coated or painted will immediately start to decay. In any case, it still makes for good photos.

Quick Review: The 2015 Kona Humuhumu

Yours truly on the Red 20-inch Kona Humuhumu

Sexy chicken leg. Yours truly on the Red 20-inch Kona Humuhumu.

Its not often that a bike company will bring an older model back to its original glory simply because you wished it so. I don’t normally subscribe to faith or the belief that positive thoughts always have a physical manifestation…but in this case, maybe I should actually read that copy of The Secret my mom gave five years ago. I wonder what else I can come up with? Anyway, read below and check out the gallery.

Up for review today is the 2015 Kona Humuhumu. A bike that was once thought lost and given up on. A bike that started out awesome and had a good run with a longer moniker, the Humuhumunukunukuapu’a. It was awesome…chromoly all over the place! That is, until the brain trust over at Kona R and D decided to replace it with the Humu…a bastard aluminum homunculus of the original that looked like it belonged in the back alley of a favella grog n’ puke. But I digress. As mentioned above, I was wishing in the back of my mind that Kona would get their shit together. They did. Well…almost. Lemme ‘splain:

The 2015 Kona Humuhumu, a partial revision of the original klunker-inspired piece of awesomeness that was the original (don’t make me type out the name again), has almost already sold out of its first production run. Chromoly butted frame and converted to a 29’er (with a 700c x 19 WTB disc wheelset), the new incarnation is not quite the phoenix I wished it to be, but it is a damn nice piece of metal and rubber. Seeing that the trend for cruisers seems to be foregoing the traditional in favor of the accommodating-giant-dude variety, it’s no surprise that Kona converted this machine to a 29er. The tire variety alone is enough to please any of the hardcore customizers. I’m sure I will be seeing this thing with 700 x 23 tires on it rolling down the street soon. The disc brakes and modern rear dropout configuration add a nice feeling of adaptability and stability. And who can resist the new klunker crossbar handlebars? Well played, Kona. Well played. But I have some questions for you:

<rant>Why would you stop so short, K-dog? I thought we had something, you and I. I thought we had a telepathic connection. I thought that if the bike ever did unfuck itself, it would be perfect. I wanted you and I to go all the way! But alas, that is not reality. Gone is the original Cook Brothers Racing-inspired curved top tube of the past. And don’t even get me started on the saddle: it looks like you all just threw in a bunch of reject Dew saddles that you had laying around, it almost as laughable as the Wellgo Christmas-stocking gift pedals you graced this bike with. And the buffalo logo on the seat tube? Did someone let a hipster slip into the graphics department in the middle of the night? Am I supposed to imagine riding this thing around the campsite whilst drinking craft-brewed IPA from a mason jar in the latest Wes Anderson film?</rant>

That’s all I got against this thing, really. Even with the few things that I dislike about it, I want it. Badly. Not because of the nostalgia factor, but because it looks awesome, it rides very well and I look awesome riding it. WOB recommendation: Buy it. Customize the shit out of it and kill some street. Full specs here. Gallery below. Check it out.

2014 Annual Fiesta Cruiser Run

2014 Santa Barbara Fiesta Cruiser Run

Bicycles are family here in SB. A common thread.

The first Sunday of August is usually sort of a relief to locals. It marks the last day of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. A 90-year-old celebration of Spanish and Mexican tradition and culture here in Santa Barbara. It’s a great draw for tourists to spend their money and college kids to get drunk. Most of the locals tend to steer clear, only taking advantage of the food stalls and the barbecue opportunities. May of us Santa Barbarians like to call it Old Spanish Days Fiasco. Despite pretty notable things like featuring the largest equestrian parade in the United States, most locals are left wondering what the hell it is all for. Sure, we get to learn who Saint Barbara actually was and watch white people dress up like Mexicans for a day. It’s a big five-day city-wide party. But we are still left with millions of pieces of confetti lining the gutters and the subtle effluvia of horse shit.

It’s no wonder that many of the locals have created their own event to look forward to. The annual Fiesta Cruiser Run, now in its 32nd year, is an unsanctioned (illegal) ride that started out with a few cruiser/klunker riders riding north from Santa Barbara to Goleta on the beach. It soon evolved into a massive cluster of thousdands of riders taking over the streets, hitting liquor stores and beach parks along the way. Indeed, it has become so popular, that the police have shut down many of the rest-stop festivities. But that doesn’t stop the majority of Santa Barbara true bloods planning all year long and building bikes especially for the ride. The preferred conveyance is the straight-bar cruiser decked out in BMX/klunker livery. Chris King headsets and SE Racing Landing Gear forks are ever present. But the best ones are the restored original Mongooses, Gary Littlejohns and Cook Brothers bikes. It is a veritable history lesson in single-speed legacies.

Colorful Frames of Mind

Awesome track frames at Cranky's bikes in Santa Barbara, CA.

Awesome track frames at Cranky’s bikes in Santa Barbara, CA

Even though I work in a bike shop, I still love other bike shops. Cranky’s Bikes is no exception. Jim always has some beautiful frames hanging over the counter. His shop is a very colorful place. All the folks that work there are awesome.

I have pretty much given up on fixies. My knees are getting a little too old to handle them. I still love  riding track bikes, tho. In fact, I wish Santa Barbara had a velodrome as I would be all over it ‘ERRYDAY. Cranky’s mainstays are track bikes, cyclocross, road, touring, cruisers and BMX. I hope if you ever get a chance to stop by, click through here and check out the directions to the shop.

CycleMAYnia 2014

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

So nobody told me Durago was going to show up to the Velo Vogue fashion show on the first of may. Even though I first caught sight of the bike, the big dude holding it was even more fascinating. I am wondering what a tweed ride would be like with this guy. He would probably upstage everybody. In any case, it was a fun fashion show and a lot of people were there to showcase their bicycle-style clothing and some really awesome bikes. Even though I think fashion shows are silly to begin with, I still cannot say anything bad about this. Anything that promotes the use of bicycles or makes bikes seem cool is alright by me. See below for more pictures.

 

Luis and the Mexican Connection

Luis and his Mexican Benotto.

Rides a Mexican Benotto.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I have been highlighting Luis on here a lot lately because I just can’t help it. He always comes up with the coolest bikes. You can see his other posts here, here and another of his bikes here. Today he stopped by with an amazingly well-preserved Benotto double-top tube bicycle. I had never seen one of these in person before and I was so stoked I had the opportunity to take some pictures of this. Benotto bicycles started in Turin, Italy in the 1930s. In the 1950s, they expanded into Mexico, producing most of their bikes there. They kept the same old European styling well into the 1970s. Luis’s bike is a classic example of a late-model Benotto probably produced in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has all the hallmarks of a pre-war european bicycle complete with triple-sprung leather saddle and rod-actuated brakes.

This particular bicycle has been in Luis’s family for a while now and he recently moved it here from Mexico. It is remarkably well preserved and has only a few scratches and a light patina of rust on the chrome parts. But looking at a bike like this, you’d expect some character to show its age and to me, that makes it all the more desirable. Amazingly, the rims have not a spot of rust on them and the spokes themselves are even clean. What strikes me is the unique lug setup on the frame. It’s almost as if it were built using steel sleeves attached to the horizontal tubes, slipped over the steer tube and down tube and welded into place. Though not traditional fillet-brazing, it gives the bike a unique look that a lot of the nicer European bikes just cannot meet.

For me, and definitely for my friend Luis here, this bike is perfect for getting around town and getting rad. Bring on the next tweed ride and we’re in business. Thanks, bro.

Luis

Luis and his 1950 Schwinn Cruiser.

Rides a 1950 Schwinn Cruiser (well-seasoned).
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of the time, I like to see an old bike left as it is. A patina of rust and faded paint. A saddle that looks like it has seen many miles. These are the things that make bicycles unique among all other antique vehicles. But an old bicycle is far more precious than an old car. If you find an old car in this condition, it’s a safe bet you will have to get a tow truck to take it to your garage only to get it in running condition. There’s too many dollars attached to that…But a bicycle? The simplicity of a vehicle for which you are the engine is unmatched in this world. The average person with little or no mechanical knowledge can easily get a bike in rideable condition. Then, it becomes free transportation. Well, burritos and beer cost money, but they are cheaper than gas to the mile.

Luis showed up with this awesome piece of 1950 Chicago steel the other day. His gal, Serena has also made an appearance. Bicycles create a circle of people with the same interests. Just like old cars, stamps and blenders. Our antiques are precious. They are products of the past and have been through it all. You may know who rode your old bike before you, but chances are, you don’t. That’s the beauty of the mystery of old bikes. Provenance is for valuables. Cycling is forever. See more of Luis’s 1950 Schwinn below.