Archive for the ‘making things’ Category.

Exploring Modular Audio Synthesis

For pretty much as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in experimenting with sound. While I love great music, sounds themselves are most interesting to me. I remember using the shaft of spinning electric motor pressed against the mic of a cheap cassette recorder to simulate chainsaw sounds, putting my ear against different parts of my sister’s Casio SK-1 (where I also learned about ADSR) as the case vibrated and tone changed, and intently listening to The Downward Spiral picking out samples (puffing a drinking straw, fingers brushing over metal grating).

Over the years I’ve ended up owning, and in many case building, a number of piece of music equipment. This ranged from the Electrix suite of effects, some drum and synth modules (Yamaha TX81Z, Alesis D4), self-built x0xb0xes, some MIDIbox SID-NUXXs (where I learned the basics of PCB layout), but they all seemed too oriented around song composition and didn’t work well when I simply wanted to play with sound.

With some self-built gear sitting around on the shelf and a newfound empty space in my closet, I decided to put much of it back together, but this time acquiring something that’s much more hospitable to experimentation: a eurorack-format modular synthesizer. As of now I’ve mostly settled on a suite of modules, with just enough stuff that I’ve still got loads of learning to do and lots to explore. This setup also allowed me to connect some of my older DIY gear; stuff that I’d been longing to hear for a while. Conveniently I had an old analog oscilloscope and quality multimeter, things which are surprisingly useful when troubleshooting why a patch isn’t doing what was hoped.

All set up, it’s as seen above.

When expanding I started out with the basic (but fantastic) Moog Mother-32 and the cost effective Arturia BeatStep Pro, but soon after realized that for the kind of experimenting I wanted to do a few discrete modules would be really nice. While fairly low end (especially the speakers) it’s a good setup for experimenting and deciding how much further I want to take things. I believe I’m pretty well set up and have a lot to learn before I make any additional significant purchases. This setup gives me option for everything from triggering drums and playing with sequencing music from synths to setting up drones and seeing how sound can be tweaked:

Non-Eurorack:

Eurorack:

2015 Salsa El Mariachi Single Speed w/ Upgrades

A couple years ago I had an older Bomb Pop Blue colored El Mariachi that I used in a bunch of different setups, including rigid SS and rigid 1×9, but mostly it saw use as a hard tail SS with wide wheels. A fun all-around XC bike; I loved it. After building up the Jones Plus (as a single speed) I sold the El Mariachi, but missed it, especially after selling off the Jones. (While nice, I couldn’t justify such a high end single speed like the Jones, and my buddy Bob was really keen on it…)

For everything from might-get-wet rides to trips to Ray’s (where a derailleur can be a liability) I liked having a cheaper, familiar, single speed bike and kept an eye out for something that’d meet the want…

Suddenly, one dreary spring day in 2016, I found what I was looking for: a second hand (but practically new condition) 2015 Salsa El Mariachi Single Speed, in it’s wonderfully weird grey-green color which occasionally looks to my deuteranomalous eyes as brown. Even better, with a 44mm straight head tube and kinked seatpost it features Salsa’s newer El Mariachi geometry; the same as is found on my beloved El Mariachi Ti, a perfect single speed for me. Unfortunately, while I love the frame and its color, I was was never really happy with the anodized orange accents.

After riding it for a year, tweaking some things, reusing spare parts, and finding some mid-winter deals it’s had quite an upgrade. While the stock wheels were nice I wanted higher engagement hubs and wider rims with higher volume tires. A suspension fork, bought used from a buddy in late spring 2016, took the edge off of rough trails. New wheels, a black handlebar (from the Blackborow), and a new seatpost collar did away with the remaining orange. Swapping on 180mm/160mm rotors (also from the Blackborow) brings stopping in line with my other XC bikes. The end result is monochrome parts on a colorful frame, my preferred style of bike.

Topping it all off are Schwalbe’s giant, aggressively knobbed 29″ x 2.6″ Nobby Nic tires which — even on the wide-for-XC WTB KOM i29 rims — fit nicely in the El Mariachi’s frame, getting it close to 29+ territory. While I’m not normally fond of such an aggressive tread for XC use it’s the only tire of its size available that appealed to me. The stock bike build featured 2.25″ Nobby Nic tires and while they felt squirmy on hard pack, they were quite enjoyable when conditions are soft or loose; precisely one of the times when I opt to ride single speed. So, I opted to give them a go. I may eventually switch to something lower knob, but for now they are staying.

More photos, including wheel build numbers, can be seen here, and the complete bike is built as follows:

Frame / Rigid Fork: 2015 El Mariachi Single Speed (Medium)
Suspension Fork: Fox Racing Shox OE, CTD w/ Open Bath Damper (Grey Decals)
Rigid Fork: Salsa CroMoto Grande, tapered, 15mm thru-axle (Matched to Frame)
Hubs: Hope Pro 4 (front), Pro 4 Trials / Single Speed (Rear)
Rims: WTB KOM i29
Spokes: Sapim D-Light (Black, 292mm and 290mm)
Nipples: Sapim (Black)
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic HS 463 (29 x 2.60, SnakeSkin, TL-Easy, PaceStar)
Tubeless Setup: Stan’s NoTubes Sealant and Valves (35mm), WTB TCS Rim Tape (34mm)
Brakes: Shimano Deore M615
Brake Rotors: TRP-14 Standard Rotor (180mm, 160mm)
Front Brake Adapter: Shimano SM-MA-F180P/P2 (Suspension Fork), SM-MA-F180P/S (Rigid Fork)
Handlebar: Salsa Salt Flat 2 (700mm, cut from 750mm)
Grips: Ergon GP1 BioKork (Large)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS44/EC44
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (SM-E133 0° X 100mm X 31.8 1-1/8 X4 Black)
Spacers: Generic Aluminum
Stem Cap: Niner YAWYD w/ Evil Twin Cap
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E113 27.2 X 410 Black)
Seatpost Clamp: Thomson Seatpost Collar (SC-E102 29.8 Black)
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Expert (143mm)
Crankset: Generic (Salsa OE)
Bottom Bracket: Generic (Salsa OE)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater Sl
Chainring: Generic 32t (Salsa OE)
Cog: Surly Cassette Cog (17t)
Cog Spacers/Lockring: Surly Spacer Kit
Chain: SRAM PC-850
Bottle Cages: Specialized Zee Cage II (Left and Right)
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Bell: Mirrycle Original Incredibell
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor

Post upgrade, tubeless, with suspension fork, without Garmin Edge 520 or rear light, it weighs 26.12 pounds. This is pretty nice for what’s effectively a steel 29+ single speed, with super-grippy tires, in a geometry that I’m very comfortable riding. I have less than $1500 into the bike, which I’m pretty happy with considering how well equipped it is.

Fat Bike Upgrade: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon

I’ve had my Salsa Blackborow for a year and loved riding it in all seasons, but thanks to Tree Fort Bikes I got a line on the brand-new 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon frame and decided it was time to upgrade. I love how the Blackborow rides, but a carbon frame with a 100mm threaded bottom bracket is what I’ve really wanted and until now it wasn’t practically available. In designing the 2017 Mukluk Salsa made some slight tweaks to the outstanding Blackborow geometry, named it the Mukluk, added some nice options (dropper post routing, new style Alternators), and built it out of carbon. All parts (except crank and headset) will swap over from my Blackborow, so there was no way I could say no.

Complete, with pedals, bottle cages, Garmin Edge 520, rear blinky light mount, bell, all sensors, and 4.8″ Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires set up tubeless the complete bike weighs in at 26.48 pounds.

Almost all the parts are the same as the Blackborow build, save for the wheels (upgraded at the end of my time with the Blackborow), stem, crankset, bar, and headset. The crankset on the Mukluk ended up being a unicorn SRAM XO1 fat bike crank which I fortuitously found as a brand new take-off from a Bucksaw Carbon XO1. Fitted with the non-standard 0mm offset chainring (intended for Boost 148 spec bikes), two non-drive side spacers (none on the drive side), the chainline moves to 71.5mm, which is just about right for a 190/197mm rear end fat bike. It was necessary to put both spacers on the non-drive side to get even spacing between the crank arms and chainstays.

On the first couple rides there was occasional heel rub, so I fitted a set of extended spindles for Eggbeater pedals. This is minor and only seems to happen with larger shoes on technical corners, so the extra 5mm Q-factor should help.

Due to a slightly different geometry on the bike and a wider bar (carbon, to hopefully keep my hands warmer in winter) I went with a 90mm stem, which results in the same saddle-grip reach and feels good.

Full photo gallery can be found here: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon

Here’s how the build ended up:

Frame / Fork: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon Frame (Medium) / Bearpaw Carbon Fork
Wheelset: Hubs: DT Swiss 350 Big Ride (Front, Rear, Center Lock, XD Driver) / Rims: Hed B.A.D / Spokes: DT super comp / Nipples: DT Pro Lock (built by Mike Curiak)
Freehub Ratchets: Bontrager HUB51312614R (54-point for DT Swiss)
Summer Tires: Schwalbe Jumbo Jim HS466 26 x 4.8 (Snakeskin, TL-Easy)
Winter Tires: 45NRTH Flowbeist / Dunderbeist
Brake Calipers: TRP Spyke
Brake Rotors: Shimano SM-RT70 (180mm front, 160mm rear)
Front Brake Spacer: Shimano SM-MA90-F180P/P2
Brake Levers: Avid FR-5 (Black)
Brake Lever Insulation: 18mm 3:1 Heat Shrink (Generic)
Handlebar: Salsa Salt Flat Carbon (750mm)
Grips: Ergon GP1 (Large)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 Tapered IS41/IS52/40 Short Top Cover
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (SM-E132 0° X 90mm X 31.8 1-1/8 X4)
Spacers: Generic Aluminum
Stem Cap: Niner YAWYD w/ Ore Dock Brewing Company Bottle Cap
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E116SB 31.6 X 410 Setback Black)
Seatpost Clamp: Salsa Lip Lock
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Expert (143mm)
Crankset: SRAM XO1 Fat Bike, SRAM Carbon Crank Boots
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP (100mm)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 (Blue) w/ Long Spindle Kit
Chainring: SRAM X-SYNC Direct Mount (30t and 28t, 0mm offset)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1150 FULL PIN Cassette
Derailleur: SRAM GX 1×11 X-HORIZON Rear Derailleur
Shifter: SRAM GX 11-speed X-ACTUATION Trigger Shifter
Chain: SRAM PC-X1
Cables/Housing: Jagwire LEX (4mm shift, 5mm shift for brakes)
Chainslap Protection: Scotch 2228 Rubber Mastic Tape
Bottle Cages: Specialized Zee Cage II (Left and Right)
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Bell: Mirrycle Original Incredibell
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor and Cadence Sensor

Cut Vinyl Outline Retrofit for Rockart Directional Arrows

Earlier this year CRAMBA took on a project to install durable trail marking at River Bends Park using fiberglass marking posts and decals from Rockart. After installation a significant lingering issues was the visibility of the decals for the Single Track: Yellow (Main Trail) sections. The stock Rockart decals (eg: 10-124) are a single color printed over a reflective white base, and even with ordering gold color decals (eg: 10-124-10, a darker yellow) the contrast was so low that the arrow was hard to see.

We considered a few different options including custom decals, hand-tracing the arrows with markers, or re-coloring this loop, but settled on retrofitting the existing decals with cut vinyl outlines. One of our volunteers — Ken Markiewicz  — made short work of getting us enough cut vinyl to fix up all the signs in the park, and as seen above it’s radically improves the visibility of the decals.

So that others running into similar decal contrast problems can do the same, I am providing the templates here under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, for all to use: vinylcut_toppers_for_yellowgold.zip

This template contains outlines for both the 10-124 (straight) and 10-125 (diagonal) decals. Outlines are 2.5mm wide with the outer curved square placed evenly over outer colored/white edge and the arrow inset on the white area. We found this provided the best result for keeping the arrow visually separate from the outline.

FattyStripper Tubeless Thoughts

A reliable fat bike tubeless setup is pretty important to me, and over the years I’ve tried a number of different methods. Typically some sort of tape works (eg: TPP350 or Scotch 8898) well at first, but over time tends to fail as the adhesive is weakened by sealant, in part because of difficulties smoothing the tape into a concave rim. My current wheel setup, DT Swiss BR 2250, has worked somewhat-well for the last year, but has regularly had intermittent problems problems holding air. Going into another winter (it’s only ~4 months away!) I want to have a solid tubeless setup, as I’m planning to do some lengthier solo snow rides; not the time to end up with a flat.

The biggest problem stems from the BR 2250 being rims with cutouts; a necessary compromise for keeping weight reasonable while building a stronger rim. I considered going to a solid rim such as Nextie carbon or HED B.A.D. to sidestep the problem, but as I’m otherwise really happy with the wheels (great hubs, solid rims) I decided it’d be best to exhaust all tubeless conversion options first. Having gone through most tape options, next up was the FattyStripper, a latex rim strip that’s not unlike the split tube method. I find it preferential to the split tube method, though, as it appears to be lighter, easier to trim, and being thinner should interfere less with the bead lock that’s so important for keeping a tire seated at low pressures.

To get started I decided to convert the front wheel first. This one had been mostly holding air for a year, but would drop pressure noticeably over a couple days; something a good tubeless setup shouldn’t do. Upon disassembling the wheel and removing the tape I found that it had the expected failure mode of some sealant blowby where the tape layers overlapped, making it only a matter of time before a more persistent leak developed.

After reviewing the FattyStripper Installation Instructions I decided that my plan would be to leave the DT Swiss rim strip in place, then install the FattyStripper over that, securing it in place along the edges with 3M Super 80, a spray adhesive designed to bond rubber (such as latex) and metal. My hope is that this will keep the FattyStripper in place through multiple tire changes, allowing this to be a solid, long-term, reliable tubeless adaption for the BR 2250 wheels.

Removing the tape left a bit of both adhesive and tubeless sealant residue, so I first cleaned that off before fitting the rim strip. After the strip was in place I glued each side in place, one at a time. The strip was rolled back, adhesive sprayed, adhesive left to set up (working time is 4-30 minutes), then carefully rolled/placed the back along the rim, paying particular attention to get it nicely settled in the bead seat. The gluing process was a bit of a pain, as getting the rim strip nicely in place required carefully pressing it into place with a combination of fingers, a small rubber tool, and a washer that I rolled along the bead seat / rim wall intersection. Dispensing the adhesive resulted in some web-like overspray which settled on the spokes (and a little on the rotor), but this cleaned off easily with an alcohol-soaked paper towel. When doing the front wheel I’ll either wipe off or applying some masking tape to the top edge of the side wall to keep overspray off of here, as set up adhesive in this location made it difficult to cleanly trim the strip after tire installation.

Overall, gluing took about 40 minutes.

Once the FattyStripper was installed and stuck in place it was time to fit the tire. I’d left the sealant in the tire and not cleaned the bead to help wet/lube the bead during inflation, which seemed to do the trick. Tire installation was fairly uneventful, and I was able to get the tire to seat without resorting to a strap clamp, taking about 30 PSI to get the tire fully seated. After valve installation and a quick shake I trimmed the overhanging strip by pulling it away from the bead and using a new hobby knife blade to cut it. Most of this worked well, but on locations where adhesive oversprayed on the top of the sidewall it didn’t trim cleanly and adhesive residue and a bit of latex is visible. This is not a practical concern, but doesn’t look too great up close. I will likely attempt to clean up this residue either by rubbing it off or with a citrus solvent.

After sitting overnight the assembly seems to have held pressure quite well. Based on this I’m going to convert the rear wheel within the next few days.

While the current setup seems solid, I have a few long-term concerns. Most of these should be answered when I switch to snow tires (likely in late December / early January):

  • Will the latex-based sealant (Stan’s) bond the tire to the latex rim strip? How will this complicate removal of the tire?
  • Will tire removal overpower the adhesive or tear the rim strip?
  • Will the thickness of the rim strip interfere with the bead lock mechanism at low pressures? (Unlikely, can deflate tire to manually check.)

At this point if this installation of FattyStrippers aren’t working out I will have a couple options:

  • Use a second/spare set of FattyStripper strips to redo the process. This’ll work for winter, but long-term isn’t good as I don’t want to spend $12 plus time (old strip removal, new application, etc) whenever I swap tires.
  • Attempt some other tape-based method. Perhaps another method of applying TPP350 or Scotch 8898.
  • Go back to using tubes.
  • Acquire new wheels, without holes.

November Update: After tearing my tire on a piece of angle iron I got to test the FattyStripper during a tire swap. During removal the FattyStripper tore, and removing the part glued to the rim took quite a bit of time. I ended up selling the DT Swiss BR 2250 wheels (ordering some HED B.A.D. rims with DT Swiss hubs), but if I were to do it again I’d use the FattyStrippers, skipping the adhesive.

The FattyStripper held wonderfully for months of riding. There was no leaking, no need for additional sealant, and it held pressure as well as any other proper tubeless setup. There was quite a bit of sealant left in the rim when the tire were removed.

It seems that the biggest downside to the FattyStrippers is their one-shot use, but while in use they work very well. (There are a few people who’ve been able to reuse their FattyStrippers between tire changes, but they seem to be the exception. Therefore, I see these as needing to be replaced with each tire change.)

Salsa El Mariachi Ti Rebuild (2013 to 2014)

Just before Christmas I was cleaning up my beloved 2013 Salsa El Mariachi Ti to put it away for the winter when I noticed a crack in the frame (photos: 1 · 2 · 3). Back in mid-October, around the time of the Fun Promotions 8 Hours of Addison Oaks race, I began hearing a ticking sound when pedaling hard. I chalked this up to cassette noise that’d plagued the bike in the past and kept on riding. It turns out this noise was a mostly-broken seat stay; something which I didn’t notice until I finally washed the bike. Something which I likely rode on at Iceman 2015 and in Marquette…

Since this was purchased new I was eligible for a warranty replacement, but as Salsa no longer makes this frame I was only able to get a 2015 Spearfish, with Fox CTD rear shock, as a replacement. A great frame (photos), of comparable value, but not what I wanted.

After a bit of searching I found Belgen Cycles in Richmond, VT who had brand new, old stock, 2014 Salsa El Mariachi Ti frames available. I purchased one (new, and thus another warranty), picked up a few parts, and rebuilt my bike. Using a mixture of parts from the 2013 El Mariachi Ti and some new bits (drivetrain, tires, saddle, bottle cages) I’ve now got a bike that I’m excited to ride once trails are ready.

The complete build is as follows:

Frame: 2014 Salsa El Mariachi Ti, Medium, w/ 142×12 Alternator dropouts
Fork: Fox Racing Shox OE, CTD w/ Open Bath Damper (Rebuilt by Fox)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS44/EC44
Crankset: Truvativ 2011 2×10 X0 GXP (00.6115.422.070, Blue)
Bottom Bracket: Truvativ GXP (XR / Black)
Chainring: SRAM X-SYNC Direct Mount, 32t
Derailleur: SRAM GX 1×11
Shifter: SRAM GX 1×11
Shift Cables: Jagwire (Bulk)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1150 (10-42)
Brakes: Shimano XT, Levers: BL-M785, Calipers: BR-M785, Front Rotor: SM-RT67-M (180mm), Rear Rotor: SM-RT67 (160mm)
Stem: Salsa Pro Moto 1 (100mm)
Bar: Salsa Bend 2 (23°)
Wheels: Light Bicycle 35mm rims, DT Swiss 240 hubs w/ Bontrager 54 point ratchets, XD driver
Tires: Front: Schwalbe Racing Ralph HS 425 29 x 2.35″, SnakeSkin, TL Easy / Rear: Specialized Fast Trak GRID 2BLISS Ready, 29 x 2.2″
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (Straight, 27.2mm x 410mm)
Seatpost Collar: Salsa Lip-Lock (32.0mm)
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Comp, 2016 style, 145mm
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 (Blue)
Grips: Ergon GP1 BioKork (Large)
Other Bits: Niner YAWYD top cap w/ Southern Tier cap, Garmin Edge 510, Garmin GSC-10, Mirracycle Original Incredibell, Specialized Zee Cage II (1x Left, 1x Right), Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

The bike is currently built with tubes, and as pictured weighs just under 26 pounds. For now the tubes serve to stretch the tires and press the rim tape into place. Once it’s time to ride I’ll switch to tubeless which should drop a bit more weight. While the rear-center of the bike is slightly shorter due to pivoting the Alternator dropouts all the way forward, I suspect that this build will ride nearly identically to the 2013 El Mariachi Ti. I hope it does, as that bike helped me complete quite a number of personal accomplishments. I hope that just as many great memories can be made on this one.

Big, big thanks to Zac and Josh and the other folks over at Rochester Bike Shop for helping me through the warranty process, getting a replacement, and dealing with my very particular order for the other parts that I wanted.

Photos of the complete bike, including some of the parts and steps of the build process, can be seen by clicking either the image above or here.

Full CD Collection Ripping Workflow

Back in 2003-2004 I ripped ever CD I owned to 192kbps AAC, a very good sounding format which was cost effective to store on disks of the time. This was a great achievement, and for the last 12 years I’ve enjoyed having all of my music in a central digital format. Now that storage is cheaper and I have some time, and before data rot sets in, I wanted to re-rip the collection to archival-quality Apple Lossless format. (This format was chosen for compatibility with my currently preferred software and hardware players, and being lossless can easily be transcoded to other formats as needed.)

My previous ripping operation was performed with a dual CPU PowerMac G5 and iTunes. While iTunes’ eject-after-import feature facilitates disc swapping, the workflow was selecting a stack of CDs, inserting them one at a time, then manually validating tags and artwork. At the time CD metadata providers didn’t have many of the discs, so a great deal of manual cleanup was needed. This was tedious, and something I didn’t want to repeat…

Not to mention there was no good way to assess the accuracy of the resulting rips…

Twelve years later, with better tools available, and finding some time in the form of a holiday break (Christmas Eve to after New Year’s) I began thinking about re-ripping my CD collection. Having recently moved my web hosting (this site, nuxx.net) to Linode, my old server was sitting unused at home and I only needed some modern software and an autoloader to set up a high performance CD ripping workstation. The requisite tools were purchased and I got to work. 411.3 GB later and most all of my physical CDs (1241 albums) have been imported as cleanly as possible, ready for listening on a myriad of devices, hopefully for years to come. (Duplicates were not ripped.)

Since ripping an entire CD collection is a desire of many friends of mine I wanted to share  the general setup and workflow that I used. It went well and was mostly hands-off, with only occasional manual intervention needed when the auto-loader jammed and then tool-assisted cleanup of tags and artwork. By using high quality ripping software which supports AccurateRip I was able to ensure that the vast majority of ripped tracks are affirmed error-free and effectively digital archival quality.

Most Inaccurate tracks were caused by damaged discs; typically reflective layer scratches, cracks, or scuffed polycarbonate.

Success Results:

  • 14069 tracks (92.3%) are Accurate
  • 144 tracks (0.95%) are Inaccurate
  • 1024 tracks (6.7%) were not in the AccurateRip database.
  • 1 track was a hidden track 0 in the pregap, which had to be ripped specially, and thus couldn’t be checked with AccurateRip.

Hardware / Software Used:

  • HP ML110 G7 w/ 24GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 3x 1TB HDD, USB 3.0 Card, AMD Radeon HD 5450 (Needs to be a sufficient computer to handle ripping, encoding, and displaying Aero graphics with ease. Built-in video card was not sufficient.)
  • Dell 2005FPW Monitor (1680×1050)
  • Acronova Nimbie USB Plus NB21-DVD
  • HP SATA DVD Drive (Internal, identifies as hp DVD-RAM GH80N.)
  • Samsung USB DVD Drive (External, identifies as TSSTcorp CDDVDW SE-218CB.)
  • Epson Perfection 3170 Scanner
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • dBpoweramp and PerfectTUNES (w/dBpoweramp Batch Ripper and Nimbie Batch Ripper Driver)
  • Mp3tag (Incredibly useful tagging tool with powerful scripting.)
  • CD cases organized into numbered boxes of 30-50 discs.

Workflow:

  1. Use dBpoweramp Batch Ripper to rip all CDs. Label output folders by the box numbers containing each CD; this will make manual metadata validation/cleanup easier.
  2. For each disc that is rejected, use dBpoweramp CD Ripper to rip the entire disc. This is likely a metadata issue as CD Ripper has access to more metadata providers than Batch Ripper. Or it may be the drive failing to recognize the disc.
  3. Use AccurateRip from PerfectTUNES to scan the entire directory structure, then use the built-in information tool to get a text file listing all “InAccurate” tracks.
  4. For each disc with “InAccurate” listings:
    1. Delete entire disc. (I opted to do this instead of re-ripping just the InAccurate tracks, as metadata differences between CD Ripper and Batch Ripper could lead to file names that are clumsy to fix.)
    2. Look disc over and clean if necessary. This, coupled with using a different drive, seems to resolve about 50% of ripping issues. Be sure to use proper technique: soft/clean/low dust cloth, wiping from inside to out (not circularly).
    3. Re-rip discs using dBpoweramp CD Ripper in fast mode.
    4. Re-rip individual tracks with secure mode as needed. Note that re-reading of bad frames can take hours per track, and that some tracks just won’t match AccurateRip or even rip securely. (Some of my discs are sufficiently damaged that I was not able to rip certain tracks.)
    5. Some discs may need to be ripped with Defective by Design settings, particularly in case of copy protection.
    6. Make a separate list of discs which have been accepted issues.
  5. Run AccurateRip (part of PerfectTUNES suite) to confirm all tracks and check against list of accepted issues. Repeat #4 as needed.
  6. Run the Fix Albums tool within Album Art (part of PerfectTUNES suite) to attempt automatic acquisition of artwork for all albums.
  7. Start with the PerfectTUNES suite components to fix artwork and metadata:
    1. In ID Tags go through a series of directories at a time sanity-checking metadata. Compare each CD case to the tags as needed, confirming that artwork looks sane. Keep a document listing artwork to later review.
    2. Use the Album Art tool to attempt bulk fix of art on all albums.
    3. One box at a time add artwork using a scanner and online resources. Then fix Low Resolution artwork.
      1. An Epson Perfection 3170 scanner connected and configured in automatic mode, clicking … next to an album then Acquire (from Scanner) will automatically scan, rotate, and crop artwork from a scanner. This seems to fail on thick-case (Digipak, clamshell) albums and is inconsistent on mostly-white artwork.
      2. Decent artwork can be obtained from Discogs.
      3. Add observed metadata errors to a document for later review.
  8. Use Mp3tag to clean up tags. Useful filters and suggestions include:
    1. (albumartist MISSING) AND (compilation MISSING) – Find tracks that are not part of compilations but did not get Album Artist set.
    2. %_covers% IS "" – Find tracks without artwork.
    3. compilation IS 0 – Find tracks with Compilation set to No. This can be removed using the Extended Tags editor.
    4. "$len(%year%)" GREATER 4 – Find tracks with Year fields longer than four digits (some metadata includes month and day).
    5. (totaldiscs IS 1) AND (discnumber GREATER 1) – Find disc numbers higher than 1 when the total number of discs in the album is 1.
    6. Selecting all tracks, exporting to CSV, then reviewing in a spreadsheet program can help find misspellings, duplicates, etc. For example, look at unique values in the Artist column to find misspellings like “Dabyre” vs. “Dabrye” or “X Marks The Pedwalk” vs. “X-Marks The Pedwalk”.
    7. NOT %ACCURATERIPRESULT% HAS ": Accurate" – Show all tracks that do not contain the AccurateRip header indicating an accurate rip.
  9. Fix any noted errors using a combination of ID Tags, Album Art, and Mp3tag.
  10. Prepare for archiving by renaming all files using Mp3tag:
    1. The following Format string for the ConvertTag – Filename renamer will move files to e:\final_move with the following formats, without most invalid characters for Windows filesystems, truncating the artist, album, and track lengths to 64 characters: e:\final_move\$if(%albumartist%,$validate($replace(%albumartist%,\,_),_),Various Artists)\$validate($replace(%album%,\,_),_)\$if(%albumartist%,$replace($validate($left(%artist%,64)-$left(%album%,64)-%discnumber%_$num(%track%,2)-$left(%title%,64),-),\,_),$replace($validate($left(%album%,64)-%discnumber%_$num(%track%,2)-$left(%artist%,64)-$left(%title%,64),-),\,_))
      1. Tracks with Album Artist set: ...\Artist\Album\Artist-Album-Disc#_Track#-Title.ext
      2. Tracks without Album Artist set (compilations): ...\Various Artists\Album\Album-Disc#_Track#-Artist-Title.ext
  11. Make a backup. Make many backups…
  12. Import into your preferred music player. In my case, iTunes on OS X:
    1. Album or artist at a time, delete the old, MPEG-4 versions and import the Apple Lossless tracks.

Issues:

  • Autoloader would occasionally jam. Seemed to be caused by:
    • Discs sticking together; ensuring they are gently placed in the loader seems to help.
    • Some discs are particularly thin or thick; these would often fail to load properly. Manually rip these.
  • Autoloader only supports standard size CDs, so mini or artistically cut CDs must be ripped in a normal drive. The USB drive is a laptop-type with a snap-lock spindle, which is better for artistically cut CDs.
  • Off-balance artistically cut CDs must be ripped at 1x to mitigate vibration. This can be problematic during initial spinup.
  • Some discs didn’t read well in one drive or another. If a rip would not be error-free in one drive, it’d frequently be fine in another.
  • Some discs are not present in AccurateRip.
  • Dirty discs caused more problems than I’d anticipated. Discs seemed to be scratched or dirty for a number of reasons:
    • Previous poor storage techniques (DJ or CaseLogic-style slip cases).
    • Outgassing of liner notes caused cloudy white buildup on some discs; could be removed with alcohol.
    • Discs lacking paint over the reflective layer are more susceptible to damage; particularly if stored in slip cases.
  • I suspect that less-common discs may have invalid information in AccurateRip. (Tip: The number after the Accurate Rip CRC indicates how many other users the rip matched with.)
  • In order to use either dBpoweramp CD Ripper or Batch Ripper via Remote Desktop, the following group policy must be enabled: Local Computer Policy → Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → System → Removable Storage Access → All Removable Storage: Allow direct access in remote sessions. This setting is detailed in this article from Microsoft.
  • PerfectTunes Album Art will lump together albums with differing versions specified with parenthesis. For example, “Pearl’s Girl (Tin There)” and “Pearl’s Girl (Carp Dreams…Koi)” will both show up simply as “Pearl’s Girl”. This can make artwork assignment challenging. To work around this I’d name albums something like “Pearl’s GirlTin There)” until artwork is assigned, then change the name afterward.
  • PerfectTunes ID Tags will occasionally fail to set the Compilation tag when it is the only attribute being edited. Work around this by using Mp3tag and editing the extended tag COMPILATION to 0 or 1.
  • PerfectTunes Album Art will not always show missing art. Work around this by using Mp3tag with filter %_covers% IS "" to find specific tracks without art assigned.
  • Mp3tag had issues renaming the artist “Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia…” due to the ellipses at the end. By replacing the three dots format (…) with precomposed ellipses (…) the issue was resolved.

Cost:

  • Time: Hard to fully quantify, but overall process took about four weeks of spare time. Most time was spent waiting for the autoloader on initial rips and then manually cleaning up artwork and metadata issues. I was typically able to run 3-4 boxes of discs through the autoloader per day, then spent some lengthy evenings working on tagging and artwork. The use of the autoloader then PerfectTUNES and Mp3tag made the process feel very efficient.
  • Hardware:
    • Acronova Nimbie USB Plus NB21-DVD: $569.00
    • USB 3.0 Card: $19.99
    • Internal Power Cable: $1.99
    • AMD Radeon HD 5450: $31.76
  • Software:
    • dbPoweramp and PerfectTUNES bundle: $58

Bar End Plugs for Trail’s Edge Moose Mitts

Trail’s Edge Moose Mitts are a winter cycling accessory that I’d have a hard time living without and something I recommend to all new winter riders†. They are a mountain bike specific version of the pogie, designed to allow one to wear summer time gloves while riding in cold weather.

As I’ve had mine since January 2009, using them every winter, the elastic straps designed to hold the ends of the Moose Mitts to the bars have become a bit stretched. This, coupled with the Ergon GP1 that I use, has required me to position the elastic band between my middle and ring fingers to keep them comfortably in place. This isn’t bad, per se, but isn’t the most comfortable and sometimes requires fiddling around to get it properly secured. I’d prefer an empty bar, so after soliciting advice from friends I threw something together.

Based on a suggestion from Bob Keller and his Relevate Designs pogies I decided to put a small retention device on the end of the bar for holding the elastic. Coupled with a plastic push button spring lock I have something which I think will work out pretty well. Total cost, beyond parts laying around home, was the (overpriced) $3.70 to pick up a pair of locks from Jo-Ann at 8:45pm. (Purchased via Amazon these same locks would have been cheaper for 10x as many… That’s a good demonstration of the cost of convenience…)

These were assembled by taking some cheap road bar plugs and fitting three small washers, one large washer, and a small piece of neoprene under the head of the bolt on the outside of the plug (photo without neoprene). After tightening up the assembly the neoprene was trimmed flush with the edge of the head of the screw (installed photo). Without the neoprene the outer water spun, and I was concerned it’d rattle while riding.

There are effectively two ways to secure the elastic strap to the bar end: tightening the lock against the body of the Moose Mitt, or tightening it against the end of the elastic strap. As shown above I’ll start with the former because this results in a Moose Mitt position most like when I’d have the strap looped around the grip and between my fingers. One downside is that loosening the strap could result in pulling the lock off of the elastic, which’d be hard to fix when out in the cold. If this becomes an issue I’ll address it by fitting a wishbone-shaped piece in the end of the elastic then sewing it shut.

UPDATE: After my first ride with this setup I think it’s great. The bars were more comfortable to hold, and the cord only popped off once; when I was fooling with the Moose Mitt itself while stopped. I’ll likely keep using this setup for a while.

† I believe that Moose Mitts are considerably better than their primary competitor, Bar Mitts. Specifically, Bar Mitts are made of too heavy of a material (neoprene) and are smaller and harder to get in and out of. For most riding here in Southeast Michigan one warms up quickly and thus only moderate insulation and wind blocking is needed to keep hands warm. This is exactly what Moose Mitts provide. I Back in 2009 I paid full price for mine, but they do happen to be made by my buddy Mike Flack and his wife Abby at their shop Trail’s Edge right here in Southeast Michigan… Moose Mitts also now come with cord locks.

Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) TPP350 as Fat Bike Tubeless Tape on DT Swiss BR 2250 Wheels

Thanks to a fortuitous meeting with a fellow cyclist and tape engineer a few weeks back I ended up with a quantity of Intertape Polymer Group‘s TPP350 (PDF Techncial Data Sheetphoto) tape in 96mm width (photo) for testing. This polypropylene strapping tape, with rubber adhesive, is exactly the product I’ve been trying to find for use in fat bike tubeless setups. I have very high hopes for this tape, as a narrower and similar tape — IPG competitor Scotch’s Strapping Tape 8898 —  has worked fairly well on my Mukluk for the past year. While similar, the narrower 8898 has been a problem for some setups because the width necessitates multiple passes which is hard to seal. For reliable tubeless setups I prefer that the air-holding part of the wheel have as few seams and gaps as possible, and using tape that’s too narrow requires overlapping passes which results in wrinkles and small gaps. These ends of the wrinkles and gaps will get filled with tubeless tire sealant (eg: Stan’s or Orange Seal), but with the side effect of exposing the adhesive to sealant. This in turn weakens the adhesive, resulting in larger gaps which eventually the sealant can’t plug. Thus a leak and a flat tire.

Fat bike rims effectively come in two styles: those with weight-reducing holes cut in them (eg: DT Swiss BR 710, Surly Holy Rolling Darryl, SUNringlé Mulefüt 80SL) and those without (eg: HED Big Deal, Nextie). Hole-less rims are relatively easy to set up tubeless, as only a thin strip of sealing tape is needed to cover the spoke holes inside the rim., but for a hole-y rim an air-tight seal needs to be built up between the tire beads. There are a few ways to accomplish this (eg: split tube, Fatty Stripper, oversized vinyl rim strip), but I prefer a simple, reliable solution that’ll both hold up to repeated tire swaps and allow the locking bead prefer something that’s as simple as possible: a rim strip and full-width tape.

In this case I’m using the stock DT Swiss TRSXXXXS68559S rim strip and 96mm wide TPP350; a very promising configuration. (The DT rim strips are 61g/ea and One wrap of TPP350 on 26″ rims is approximately 20g. Actual tape mass ended up lower, as the tape was trimmed back to the bead seat.)

One of the biggest benefits, but also the biggest downside to this setup, is the width of the tape. Ideally there would be tape that fits exactly within the rim, bead to bead while conforming to the inner shape of the rim, but except for a few cases there isn’t. While a few manufacturers make this available (eg: SUNringlé with a 78mm tape for their 80mm rims) most rims are currently without a solution. Thus, an oversized tape like 96mm TPP350 that can be trimmed to fit is a very good choice. A combination of the lack of stretchyness of the tape and width resulted in wrinkles along the inner rim surface, but as the ends of these wrinkles are outside of the formed air chamber sealant will not be able to leak in and thus are not a concern.

Here are the high-level steps that I used to set up the DT Swiss BR 2250 wheels (based on the BR 710 rim) and Bontrager Barbegazi tires on my Salsa Blackborow. Even without sealant this configuration held air, a testament to the combination of rim, tire, tape, and valve stem. I intend to use this same process and configuration for other test setups, including Specialized Ground Control Fat tires on Stout XC 90 wheels:

  1. Fit rim strip.
  2. Apply tape around entire rim, smoothly along top edge of rim wall, overlapping by a few inches at the valve stem hole.
  3. Press tape down into center of rim. Do not attempt to smooth the tape by wiping along the rim as this will promote large wrinkles.
  4. Fit tire and tube, inflating until bead is seated. This will press the tape into the bead seat with excess tape overhanging the rim.
  5. Deflate tube, but before full deflation is reached, dislodge one bead to allow air in. (If this is not done, the collapsing tube and air-tight nature of the wheel assembly will pull the rim strip and tape away from the rim).
  6. Remove tire and tube.
  7. Using a sharp blade, trim the tape at the junction of the bead seat and sidewall. Be sure that tape remains in the bead seat.
  8. Press tape into place along bead seat to ensure it’s smoothly in place.
  9. Reinstall tire and tube, inflating until bead is seated.
  10. Deflate tube, again dislodging one side before deflation is complete.
  11. Remove tube.
  12. Install tubeless valve assembly.
  13. Re-seat loose tire bead and inflate until bead is seated.
  14. Add sealant (3oz) via valve stem and reinflate tire. Shake wheel to distribute sealant.

Due to the thin rim wall the cone-shaped gasket on the NoTubes Valves cannot be sufficiently tightened with just the provided locknut. This can lead to leaking, an issue which I experienced on my Mukluk with SUNringlé Mulefüt 80SL rims. This is easily fixed by adding a rubber washer inside the rim beneath the cone-shaped valve (photo) and a nylon spacer to the outside beneath the lock nut (photo). Specifically, I used a 1/4″ interior diameter rubber and nylon washers purchased from Lowe’s small parts bin, although any similar parts will work. Another style of tubeless valve, such as those from American Classic will not need the rubber washer inside the rim.

After a few hours of semi-hard riding at Potawatomi (fast, flowing, and occasionally rough Southeast Michigan trails) I’m confident in this setup and cannot think of a better existing product for making different kinds of fat bike wheels tubeless. It allowed for the usual tubeless benefits (reduced weight, increased tire compliance) on a solid, air-tight setup. I expect it to continue reliably as a solid tubeless setup throughout the winter; a time when I definitely don’t want to be stuck with a flat. I really hope it becomes widely available, as there are many fat bike riders who’d love access to tape like this.

Here are my pro/con thoughts on using IPG TPP350 tape for fat bike tubeless setups:

Pros:

  • Tape made by a commercial manufacturer. (Although not yet available for order at this width in small quantities…)
  • Wide width should accommodate most rim sizes with a single pass, meaning minimal inner seams and lower weight. Wrinkles are a non-issue.
  • Tape film and adhesive types (polypropylene film and rubber-based adhesive) are well-tested within tubeless bicycle applications.
  • Adhesive firmly holds tape to both rim and rim strip, yet is removable.

Cons:

  • Wide tape width is challenging to handle.
  • Tape width and elasticity prevents wrinkle-free application around rim. (Additional material adds weight, may be unattractive if wrinkles are visible through rim strip.)
  • Trimming excess tape is inconvenient and potentially error-prone.
  • Rim strip required to prevent tape from stretching through cutouts. (Adds weight.)

The result is that I’m quite happy with TPP350 and would recommend it to others for fat bike tubeless use. I’ll soon be trying this out on some other rims.

New Fat Bike: 2016 Salsa Blackborow

Four years ago my fried Erick dropped off a very large box at my house. My first fat bike, a brand new Salsa Mukluk 2, had arrived. This was one of the first large-scale production fatbikes, and one of the first to be light weight out of the box, and I’ve had some very good times with it in all seasons. This year, with huge thanks to QBP, Tree Fort Bikes, Jeff Buerman, and Mike Wirth, I’ve acquired and built a custom 2016 Salsa Blackborow; my next fat bike. This is an aluminum framed, carbon fiber forked fatbike, using Salsa’s great geometry, ready to accept 5″ class tires.

I had originally planned to set this bike up tubeless, but after some issues with the original tubeless setup I build it up with Superlight tubes. I hope to replace this with a tubeless setup sometime in the near future, but I’m still evaluating potential rim sealing options. These may be the FattyStripper latex rim strips or possibly some wide tensilized polypropylene strapping tape (similar to Stan’s Rim Tape).

With tubes the complete bike, including bottle cages, bell, rear light, and Garmin Edge 510, is 29.46 pounds. With the tubes coming in at ~240g/ea I expect to save just under a pound by switching to tubeless. I’m quite happy with this weight, which is quite decent for a burly bike with 4.7″ tires.

My first shakedown ride on the Blackborow at River Bends (my usual bike shakedown location) went really well. There were the usual stops to adjust the grips and brakes, but otherwise I was very happy with the ride. The GX 1×11 drivetrain worked wonderfully, the high engagement rear hub felt spot-on, and I’m convinced that Salsa has gotten the geometry perfect. The only downside was the heavier-feeling wheels, but the forthcoming tubeless conversion should alleviate much of this.

I can’t wait to ride it more.

More photos of the bike can be found here: 2016 Salsa Blackborow

Here’s the details initial build for this bike:

Frame / Fork: 2016 Salsa Blackborow Frame (Medium) / Bearpaw Carbon/Aluminum Fork
Wheelset: DT Swiss BR 2250 Classic
Freehub Ratchets: Bontrager HUB51312614R (54-point for DT Swiss)
Summer Tires: Bontrager Barbegazi (26″ x 4.7″)
Winter Tires: 45NRTH Flowbeist / Dunderbeist
Rim Strip: DT Swiss TRSXXXXS68559S (68×559)
Tubes: Q-Tubes Superlight 26″ x 2.4-2.75″
Brakes: TRP Spyke (180mm front, 160mm rear)
Front Brake Spacer: Shimano SM-MA90-F180P/P2
Brake Levers: Avid FR-5 (Black)
Brake Lever Insulation: 18mm 3:1 Heat Shrink (Generic)
Handlebar: Salsa Bend 2 (23 Degree)
Grips: Ergon GP1 (Large)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 Tapered ZS44|ZS56/40
Stem: Thomson X4 (SM-E133 BLACK, 0x100)
Spacers: Aluminum (Generic)
Stem Cap: Niner YAWYD
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E116 BLACK, 31.6 x 410)
Seatpost Clamp: Salsa Lip Lock
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Expert (143mm)
Crankset: Race Face Turbine Cinch (175mm x 190mm), ICT Spacer Kit, Alloy Crank Boots
Bottom Bracket: Race Face BB92 (124mm x 41mm)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 (Black/Green)
Chainring: Race Face Direct Mount Narrow-Wide (30t)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1150 FULL PIN Cassette
Derailleur: SRAM GX 1×11 X-HORIZON Rear Derailleur
Shifter: SRAM GX 11-speed X-ACTUATION Trigger Shifter
Chain: SRAM PC-X1
Cables/Housing: Jagwire
Chainslap Protection: Scotch 2228 Rubber Mastic Tape
Bottle Cages: King Cage Stainless Steel Cage
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Bell: Mirrycle Original Incredibell
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor (Hub Mount)