phineas
Beggars Would Ride

Things We Think We Know

Words Mike Ferrentino
Date Sep 22, 2022
Reading time

Punditry, according to my massive and completely outdated (1993 revision) copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) is defined as “the learning methods, or pronouncements of pundits.” A pundit, according to the same hefty tome, is “an authority, or one who announces judgments, opinions or conclusions in an authoritative manner.”

The digital revolution has greatly devalued the giant block of dead trees that I used to research this definition; a search that many of us nowadays render entirely online, taking advantage of a vast and constantly updating database of information. By that same token, the internet has either revealed most pundits to be half-informed blowhards, or has given every single person with access to Wikipedia the agency to style themselves as pundits, bona fides be damned. Depending on the topic, I could be either or both; a half-informed blowhard or a computer aided neo-pundit. I know for sure that when it comes to mountain bikes, any confident knowledgeable swagger I might exhibit is purely a front. I have been proven wrong about so many things that nowadays I try to keep my mouth shut about anything pointed toward the future. I will probably be wrong.

Magura 2018 NSMB AndrewM

Things I Have Been Wrong About, Exhibit A: Hydraulic disc brakes. Total flash in the pan. Photo courtesy of Andrew Major

The corrective lens of the internet, while not, completely, 100 percent reliable at all times, is changing the way we access, recall and reference knowledge. This is fascinating and a little bit disturbing, as there is some solid evidence being put forth by other pundits that the way we access and retain information in our brains is changing, thanks to the aforementioned massive and incredibly easy to access database. Our own personal ability to recall specific data is no longer as crucial as it once was, and it could be speculated that we are, collectively, losing our ability to clearly remember things.

But then again, thanks to that same massive database, we can figure more shit out for ourselves nowadays without having to undertake the long journey of bike shop apprenticeship or college educations. And, if we pay attention, we can even fact check our own biases and past misconceptions. For example, Phineas Gage, the cover model for this column.

The way I thought I learned it way back in high school, Phineas Gage was laying some railroad track back in the mid-1800s, when a spike he was driving ricocheted from the rail bed and shot up into his skull. He walked to the doctor, who pronounced him a living miracle, and then lived a long and happy life despite having half a foot of iron lodged in his brain. This made him something of a heroic tough guy to teenage me.

phineasportrait

You gotta admit, even after that bar went right through his head and one of his eyes got closed forever, he was a pretty damn good looking man...

Aside from getting his name and occupation and general area of injury correct, the rest of what I thought I learned was dead wrong. A much more complete, and graphically disturbing, precis of the tale of Phineas Gage can be found here on Wikipedia. For the more topically appropriate TL:DR summation, the basics are as follows: It was a tamping iron, not a nail. Phineas was working as a blasting foreman preparing a roadbed south of Cavendish, Vermont, on September 13th, 1848. His job as foreman included tamping the sand and clay into the hole above a blasting charge in order to contain and direct the blast energy into the surrounding rock.

According to the Wikipedia entry, “As Gage was doing this around 4:30 p.m., his attention was attracted by his men working behind him. Looking over his right shoulder, and inad­vert­ent­ly bringing his head into line with the blast hole and tamping iron, Gage opened his mouth to speak; in that same instant the tamping iron sparked against the rock and (possibly because the sand had been omitted) the powder exploded. Rocketed from the hole, the tamping iron‍ —‌ 1+1⁄4 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter, three feet seven inches (1.1 m) long, and weighing 13+1⁄4 pounds (6.0 kg)‍ —‌ entered the left side of Gage's face in an upward direction, just forward of the angle of the lower jaw. Continuing upward outside the upper jaw and possibly fracturing the cheekbone, it passed behind the left eye, through the left side of the brain, then completely out the top of the skull through the frontal bone.

Jesus. That three and a half foot long iron bar ended up about 80 feet away, “smeared with blood and brain.” Aside from some initial convulsions, Gage somehow remained conscious, rode upright in a carriage to his lodging, and was able to speak coherently to the doctor about his condition, albeit with some unsettling symptoms resulting from having a crowbar go clean through his head, and the doctor for his part had trouble believing what he was being told; “Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the bar went through his head. Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain [through the exit hole at the top of the skull], which fell upon the floor.”

f31740cd73d290603b09c27c3845837800f738c3

Swear to dog this is the last image...

Somehow, Phineas survived. His recovery, unsurprisingly, was not an easy one. He was young and strong at the time of the incident, but still, iron bar through the brain. Not a walk in the park. He lived 12 more years, and was plagued with memory loss, headaches, and toward the end increasingly frequent and violent epileptic seizures.

What in the Sam Hell does any of this have to do with mountain biking, or punditry for that matter?

Nothing, really. I am just fascinated by the story of Phineas Gage, and have been since I was a teen. But consider this: what I thought I knew about Phineas Gage was, until very recently, mostly wrong. Speaking of being wrong and talking about bikes, I said, about a decade ago, that trail bike head angles would never really get shallower than 67 degrees. This, too, was evidently incorrect.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of neural plasticity, pattern behaviors and synaptic response, this is where the collective intellect of the internet comes into play. We think we know things, but most of the time we base our convictions upon our own limited dataset, and that can lead us to erroneous knowledge. The fingertip accessible database of the web can help us game our own datasets, but at this point we are relying upon algorithms and third hand knowledge. We may still get it wrong. I have no idea if the Wikipedia about Phineas Gage is absolutely true, but I’ve read enough of the footnotes to believe it. But I am still not a neuroscientist, nor was I there when the blast occurred.

klunktastic

I'm no neurologist, but I know some stuff about bikes. Like, I know FOR CERTAIN that nobody will ever make a trail bike with a slacker than 67-degree head angle, because Schwinn Excelsior. Right? Riiiight...

Sometimes we have a narrowly focused but very deep dataset – say for example you are a suspension tuner who has been revalving shim stacks for twenty years. You do not need the internet to tell you what thickness shim or how many of them to add into a crossover compression stack for a 180 pound rider who goes hard. You have done this so many times that the correct knowledge is right there in your frontal lobe. I, meanwhile, can dive into The Googles and burn a ton of time researching what might be the correct setup, but I am as likely to get it wrong as I am to get it right. Just because some dude on Youtube said that his shim stack was the hot setup doesn’t necessarily make it so. Until I do it myself, and either feel a tangible benefit or face the fact that I messed up, I do not know for certain.

Which brings us back to punditry. It’s easy. Anyone can do it these days. As a fellow bike mechanic told me in 1996; “It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. Say what you are going to say with conviction and most people will believe whatever comes out of your mouth.”

He then went on to tell a customer that carbon fiber was a flash in the pan frame material and that time would prove to us all that steel is the only way to go. Customer bought a nice new steel Rock Lobster, so obviously the dude was right, right?

contra

Steel: The frame material of the future, mark my words!

Every one of us testing bikes or parts or clothes here on this site is operating from within our own individual frame of reference. We all have our biases and preferences, and we all have our own past database of experience. We can pull knowledge from those around us, solicit second opinions or divergent feedback from our peers, but ultimately we are more subjective than objective. That’s just the way it is with ride reviews. There is no perfect analytical template. Does that make the impressions we convey wrong? No. But it doesn’t make our finding empirically right either.

We are pretty solid pundits here at NSMB. We’ve each got our own backstory, our own depth of experience that informs us. But bear in mind, just as any doctor worth his or her salt would tell you that getting a 3-foot iron bar shot through your skull is an absolutely surefire way to shuffle off this mortal coil, we may not always be absolutely right. Your own personal experience may vary. Your own dataset may inform you otherwise.

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Comments

lacykemp
Lacy Kemp
1 week, 6 days ago
+9 Vik Banerjee Mike Ferrentino bishopsmike kcy4130 Pete Roggeman Tremeer023 imnotdanny Velocipedestrian Karl Fitzpatrick

I know for a fact that I know nothing at all. But for real... I think some of my favorite bikes I've ever owned have been steel. I do know that.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
1 week, 6 days ago
+5 Andy Eunson Mike Ferrentino Craig Ellis imnotdanny Mammal

I'm never wrong. I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken. tehe.

Reply

TristanC
TristanC
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Mammal imnotdanny

I read a very good (imo) book about how people tend to dig into their beliefs instead of being open to new information. Julia Galef's "The Scout Mindset." She talks a lot about why people get an idea set in their head and how you can be more open to admitting you're wrong and changing your opinions as you learn new things. For example, that you can maybe live with a tamping iron gone through your skull (I knew the tamping iron part, but I thought it was in the Grand Canyon!).

The takeaway is pretty much "you're constantly exploring a new landscape and you should believe things that you see, not things that you want to be there." Since I read it, I've actively been trying to point out when I was wrong and why I updated my views.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino TristanC

There's some amusingly strong cognitive bias effects here in the comments section, too!

Reply

syncro
Mark
1 week, 2 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Another book you might like is Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz.

Reply

Jimothy.benson
Jimothy.benson
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Mike Ferrentino kcy4130 imnotdanny shenzhe

In fairness to your mechanic friend, though he was wrong about carbon being a fad, the steel Rock Lobster the customer bought - if taken care of - is probably still going strong. Compared to a carbon anything from 1996...

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 6 days ago
+5 Andy Eunson skua Blofeld Kent Tse slimchances57

I'll tilt at that windmill any day. I love steel bikes, but it's a total myth that they are somehow stronger or superior to bikes made from other materials, especially with regard to longevity. Steel has some properties that lend themselves very well to bicycles - relatively light, relatively capable of flex and stress absorption, easy to work with, easy to repair. But it's also prone to corrosion, and in order to be strong enough to withstand really big forces you need to use a lot of it, and that ends up making it a really heavy choice for what we would call modern mountain biking.

But to your point - absolutely on board with the notion that the Rock Lobster was a sweet bike, and definitely a better choice at the time than the Kestrel that the customer was leaning toward. But there was a Fisher Supercaliber OCLV in the shop too. I raced one of those for a few years, then handed it to someone else. That guy drilled a hole in the seat tube for one of those fancy plate-mount XTR derailleurs, and at some point I think he even ran a dual crown fork on it. To the best of my knowledge the damn thing is still alive and kicking. Carbon fiber is a dominant frame material these days because it can be made to outperform just about any other frame material in whatever area you choose to measure that performance. And short of the kind of catastrophic failures that would also have wadded that Rock Lobster up in nothing flat, there's no real reason to believe a carbon frame wouldn't last just as long as a steel one. You are right to be suspicious of the year, because there was a LOT of shitty stuff being built back then, but that was also the beginning of when some people were starting to get it right.

Reply

4Runner1
4Runner1
1 week, 6 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino Mammal rolly

Mr Gage’s story has stuck with me since my days of elementary school. It always blew my mind (sorry) that he literally walked away from that.

Another great read. Thanks Mike.

Reply

Joe_Dick
Adrian Bostock
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino Andy Eunson kcy4130

Someone once told me  “whenever I am sure I am correct I always get proven wrong” or something thing along those lines.

this has been reinforced in practice countless times.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Lynx . yardrec

Another wise person [possibly a hippie?] once said "Steal is Real!" ;-)

Reply

jt
JT
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Jimothy.benson Mike Ferrentino

Every time a piece like this comes out I remind myself that at a much younger, muchmuch more opinionated jackass age I sat in a meeting and poopoo'ed the idea of tapered steerers and 142 spacing. Nowadays I wait and see how new things will pan out before I comment on em due to how very very wrong I know I can be and instead work on being the farmer from the Chinese proverb We'll See.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino slimchances57

I wonder how much marketing targets the confirmation bias that we all have. We’ve been told all kinds of things like stiffer is better that we are now told was wrong. The engineer at Peak Torque will tell you that frame compliance is almost entirely up to the seat post. Frame material is a very small part of it. I’ve ridden all the main materials over the years. I remember when I bought a Klein I was told it was a very harsh riding machine. Never noticed. I did notice that it broke. There might be a vibration transference difference between materials that I think I’ve felt between a carbon road bike and aluminum one. Someone tested bar compliance a while back with a machine that added a set amount of weight to the bars while clamped rigidly. Some bars flexed more. No surprise but perhaps if they’d added weight to a bar, mounted to a fork with enough air for a person that weighed as much as the test amount on a wheel with 25psi in a 2.5 tire the results would have been different. How much of our confirmation bias tells us that the $250 carbon bar is way better. Or that our $75 aluminum bar is just as good. I think it’s pretty healthy to look at new and improved marketing with a jaundiced eye. Boost is stronger and stiffer than that non boost wheel that stays in true on the flexible rear suspension system. I think most of us have been sucked in by Greg marketing and bought something that was "less than ideal". Like those carbon fibre rotors I bought a while back. Stupid. Lighter with more modulation and the brake has the same power. Sure the "brake" has the same power but the pads and rotors have disturbingly shitty grip. The circular logic is something else at times. This is better. Why? Because it’s more efficient. Why is this more efficient? Because it’s better. These days I want to see some reasoned science and numbers to support ideas that would change my built in biases.

Reply

slimchances57
slimchances57
3 days, 6 hours ago
0

Say things often and loud enough and it becomes the truth.... confirmation bias.

Reply

flattire2
Brian Tuulos
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Andy Eunson

I'll always remember when 1.5" headtubes came out (amongst the chorus of nsmb.com forum members decrying it).  In an era where 1-1/8" steertubes were snapping, headtubes ovalizing, and bottom headset bearings failing prematurely.  Nope - didn't need it!

Reply

Shinook
Shinook
1 week, 1 day ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

"...the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain [through the exit hole at the top of the skull], which fell upon the floor."

I had my own, albeit significantly milder, encounter with this effect. A few years ago I smashed my face into a tree on a popular trail here. The result were numerous facial fractures, broken nose, orbital blowout, and apparently a fracture between the bones in my sinus and brain cavity? I'm not sure of the specifics.

Anyway, I blew my nose in the ER to get the blood out, not knowing any better, and half my face inflated like a balloon. The nurse rapidly took the tissues away, said "don't do that", and wheeled me back for a catscan revealing I had blown air into my brain. Off to the trauma unit in an ambulance for me, in the small hospitals words: "We can't deal with this".

Here is where we get to the vomit part. I was in the back of an ambulance, which is very nauseating, and was informed no less than a dozen times to tell the nice lady with a needle if I felt nauseous. She was sitting beside me staring at me the entire time with a fully prepared needle of something that she appeared ready to stick me with at any moment. Where it was going, I do not know and didn't need to find out thankfully, but it appeared to be something that would be rapidly deployed in an unpleasant location. Apparently vomiting with any kind of facial or skull trauma is very dangerous. While I was recovering, my neurosurgeon told me that he had a classmate who smashed his face on a rock kayaking in Africa and didn't seek attention, the ending to the story was he got on an airplane and that was the end of the story, leaving me with an impression that the after effects were not positive for him.

I'm mostly recovered now but later found that vomiting, sneezing, coughing, and blowing your nose are very dangerous if you have facial or skull trauma. Some of these are obvious, but vomiting wouldn't have been on the list for me as obvious. Anyway, the lesson here is if you have facial trauma, go to the ER and be careful what you do after. In retrospect, I'm glad it happened there rather than at home, where the possibility of opening my skull to relieve pressure would've existed if I had blown enough air in through otherwise benign seeming actions.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Mike - The message i'm getting is that we should live in the "now" rather than looking forward or back.  Just be present and go with what works in the moment you are in.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Well, the hippie in me absolutely believes that. So many of us exist either in an anticipation of possible future or in rehashing the past that we can easily overlook the present. A much smarter hippie than me wrote a whole book about that: Be Here Now. Interesting that this was your take - I did not intentionally try to convey that, and was mostly thinking about how memory works (or doesn't work) for us, and how the specific neural mechanism of memory is itself changing, and how what we think we know can always bear to be scrutinized.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino kcy4130 imnotdanny

I will try and explain how I got to where I got to...

With bikes I tend to remember various thing from the past that are almost absolutes in my mind.  A few examples are : Monster T's were the best fork ever, steel frames are the best because they are repairable, parts need to be strong because I break shit - hence needing DH spec parts on a trail bike.

When I think about those same things now maybe they aren't as absolute as they were - Monster T's were plush but boy did they use their travel liberally and they weighed the same as a small car, steel frames are repairable but (he says touching wood) when was the last time I broke a frame, ditto parts.  Also reflecting back on it I knew shit all about bike set up, front / rear weight balance etc compared to now.

Maybe we are at the point now where bikes (trail bikes / enduro bikes) are that good that if I was to ride any of my previous bikes then they wouldn't compare to my current trail bike (Murmur with Ohlins coils each end).  And I think this would absolutely be the case.  As such why not just live in the now and largely ignore past and enjoy what you have and enjoy now.  If that changes tomorrow then enjoy that tomorrow but don't over think or dwell on things, just accept.

I still think steel is the best material for a frame as it's robust and repairable and I don't think that i'm going to change that opinion anytime soon. 

Back to your point - I've come to the conclusion that the mind isn't overly accurate at remembering things - it filters and distorts things and puts your spin on it - at least mine does.  Hence if you want an absolute it's best to refer back to something that is absolute.  But sometimes you don't want absolute...

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Mammal

Too true about the liberties we allow our memories to take. My mom is 93, and still of surprisingly sound mind. But during the isolation of the pandemic, where her contact with most of her friends was limited to skype or facetime, she really began to question whether her mind was still operating in a trustworthy fashion.

She and I since then have had many long conversations about neural plasticity, about memory, about our tendency to overwrite tangible memory with 'editorial" recall, that basically our own minds become like some drawn out game of Telephone, where even recollections that we emphatically believe to be The Absolute Truth As It Happened can and maybe should be called into question. Very few, if any, of us are immune to this, regardless of our age. But it sure does get more tricky to navigate as we get older!

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

The internet never lies - or at least comments in the comments sections don't.  I do find it interesting re-visiting old comments to see where I was at on certain topics and see if my views have changed.

I'm sure this is a curse as a Journo as some smart ass is going to call you out on something you've once said.  But then that same smart ass has the benefit of hindsight whereas when you are in that moment you don't that same benefit and have to go with where you are at.

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cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Composites are also often repairable. It is perhaps more of a "specialty" than steel, but its a pretty well adopted process. F1 cars can go through ENORMOUS accidents, and chassis and other large parts usually get repaired, not replaced. 

Here in Vancouver, we have Robert's Composites, who has been doing composites repair for eons. 

Sure, there might be more old steel frames than old composite frames out there riding today, but that's also sample bias at work.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Velocipedestrian

it's unfortunate the industry doesn't more readily embrace the reparability of carbon, as it's a great way to keep pricey frames out of the landfill. not an easy way to negotiate an alternative to the standard hacksaw & dumpster warranty stream though.

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I would say that a quality repair should be achievable in this day age seeing how it was more than 10 years ago that your original Lahar ended up winning the under 21 worlds after you unceremoniously crashed it on Salvation.

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
0

I've also read in the PB comments section where someone did a home repair on their carbon frame the day before a race (XC IIRC) and it worked it fine.

I think this is one of my confirmation bias' I need to get over.

Perry - but then they couldn't sell you a new bike ;)

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 4 days ago
0

@dave - my repaired frame was actually ridden by a different junior at worlds in ft bill that year (not to a win tho). cam cole won worlds on his in rotorua previously. 

but yeah, better than new repairs are certainly viable; sucks most carbon is getting dumpstered. 

i actually used roberts to repair a swingarm crack on my lahar (after it came off an unsecured bike rack & tumbled down the highway @ 80kph) ten or so years ago; still intact to this day.

Znarf
Znarf
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Especially enjoyable writing! 

Well, my wife bought an incredibly nice, made in Germany carbon fiber enduro wonder frame a couple of weeks ago and I built it with gucci parts. 

It is so nice and light, that I questioned my resolution to never buy a carbon MTB again (after several failures due to manufacturing defects, rock strikes on carbon frames). 

She then crashed said shiny frame on some sturdy and rough sand rocks and scratched and mauled the front and rear triangle so bad, that we wonder if it is still safe to ride. It’s not cosmetic :D

Bummer. Rock strikes and minor crashes shouldn’t make you wonder. It’s a bike meant to be ridden. 

Alloy would be much better?

Except - the carbon frame can be repaired. I’m still on the fence :)

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Andy Eunson Znarf

I hate to sound like a carbon evangelist. I'm not. It's expensive, toxic to work with, requires a fuckton of tooling and upfront investment and isn't generally the kind of material you turn to for bespoke custom one-off frames (although there are people doing that, too).

But yes, it is repairable. And, beyond that, a well made carbon frame is probably a lot stronger - even when damaged - than a similarly dented or gouged metal frame. Anecdotally, I had a journalist wreck a brand new media sample carbon fiber XC bike that I had loaned him on the first day of a five day XC race. He crashed in a rock garden and stepped on the rear triangle while floundering around. This caused a rock to crack the left side chainstay, top to bottom. I had no spare bike or rear triangle to swap out, so I marked the crack with a felt pen and told him to avoid big jumps and sent him on his way. The crack did not grow or propagate in any way, and both journalist and bike finished the race.

Around this time, the company I was working for was using something like 8 layers of carbon fiber along the bottom of their downtubes. Damage failure/survivability was something that they were chasing hard in the test lab. And it was pretty amazing how intact some very heavily abused frames would remain.  One engineer told me that he was way more comfortable randomly drilling holes in carbon fiber frames than metal ones and continuing to ride them because with carbon fiber there are several plies of material, all laid in different directions, being drilled through, so there aren't really any of the directional-grain related stress points that occur with steel or aluminum. This is also why so many manufacturers are pushing out carbon bikes with gaping holes in the downtubes - because they can. Specialized invested insane amounts of time and effort into hydroforming the right piece of aluminum to be able to put a SWAT box on an alloy Stumpy, and it weighs a ton by comparison.

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morgan-heater
Morgan Heater
1 week, 6 days ago
+2 Tremeer023 Mike Ferrentino Lynx . andrewc

In counterpoint, I've seen multiple carbon frames develop cracks and eventually completely fail. I've also seen a couple of carbon frames snap when crashed in rocks.

I've never seen a steel frame fail.

Reply

andrewc
andrewc
1 week, 6 days ago
+4 Mike Ferrentino Niels van Kampenhout @canopyclosure Mammal

Never? There are plenty of failed steel frames out there... bent, cracked, corroded, etc. 

I like steel frames. Don't own any carbon myself... but the idea that metal frames can't/don't/won't fail isn't realistic.

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fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Lynx .

I've failed a steel frame and have the 7" scar in my left quad as a reminder...  IMO it was bad detailling  with a big helping of user error.

Generally though I think steel is a great frame material.

I've cracked a few aluminium frames as well but have never owned a carbon frame.

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Mammal

This is where we get into datasets, right? If you worked at a Bridgestone dealer in the early 90s, ovalized headtubes on mb-1 and mb-zip frames were commonplace. The shop I was working was also a Yeti dealer, and this was right as they went to 1.25" "evolution" steerers. Poor tubing selection combined with a perfect heat affected zone meant those forks were notorious for folding up, and despite the MBA approved "these bikes are the toughest bikes made" legend, we had failures galore on those frames.

I've personally broken more steel frames than carbon. That's my personal dataset. Out in the real world, I dunno. But I've seen frames made from every material break. Personally, I've never broken an aluminum frame - because I don't ride them very much...

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helpimabug
helpimabug
1 week, 6 days ago
0

But why was the tamping rod pointy? Ergonomics?  And did it really go all the way through his head?  Does that mean the blast detached the tamping plate at the bottom?  So many questions...

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Andy Eunson

And yes, all the way through his head. It went into his skull just below his upper jaw on his left cheek, somehow missed his sinus, and up then out through the top of his skull. AND LANDED 80' FEET AWAY (allegedly). As much as it is incredibly bad fortune to have a tamping rod get blasted through one's skull, it cannot be emphasized enough just how precisely lucky Gage was to survive this at all. Significant amounts of brain were lost. A few mm in one direction or another and he would have either bled to death or suffered irreparable nerve damage. Then there's the fact that he did not die of subsequent infections, and that the doctor (Harlow) who was treating him had been paying very close attention in med school.

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cyclotoine
cyclotoine
1 week, 5 days ago
0

I don’t presume he was lucky to survive, but I think maybe you mean just how miraculous it was. Fantastic writing as usual. Thank you.

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
0

It was a custom tamping rod that Phineas had asked a blacksmith to make for him: "The end which entered [Gage's cheek] first is pointed; the taper being [eleven inches (28 cm) long, ending in a 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) point]  ... cir­cum­stances to which the patient perhaps owes his life. The iron is unlike any other, and was made by a neigh­bour­ing blacksmith to please the fancy of the owner."

Basically, that's about half of 6' breaker bar.

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helpimabug
helpimabug
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Ah, so no plate.  I was thinking of something like a Mcleod tool. That makes sense if it was in a bore hole, effectively a harpoon fired out of a ground cannon.

I don’t remember ever learning about Phineas Gage, so thanks for the story.  Reminds me, ever hear of the SL-1?

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
0

No plate. The explosive charge would get placed in a hole bored in the rock, then sand and clay would be packed on it so the focus of the blast would be directed into the rock. So the tamper was a rod that had to fit into the dynamite bore.

I had not heard about the SL-1. Holy shit! 26,000 pound object got bumped 9 feet during that little mistake. Brutal.

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