Assuming there’s no blizzard (none on the horizon), enough teams get capes done (they are scheduling now), and the weather stays mild (current forecast: partly cloudy and low 30’s), we could be 5 days from starting another season of spring freerolls!

To set the mood, I’ve included a slightly obfuscated picture from exactly 8 years ago today, during my last build, Blackjack.

Here’s what’s going on the last days of the off-season …

Apex absorbs Pioneers

The newest of the new upstart teams has been working the buggy social network as much as any group of freshmen with no buggy experience could hope to do and it’s recently paid off to some degree.  Apex [a group which started as some enthusiastic residents of The Residence on 5th (hence the original team name, “Rez Buggy”)] is taking over Pioneers’ assets and becoming a legit independent.  I can’t imagine that taking over where Pioneers left off was a huge head start, but it’s certainly better than working out of your dorm room.  They’ve got the ancient and decrepit Camo to start off with which is a tough start compared to DeltaForce’s experience with PiRho Perun, but what doesn’t kill them (and it won’t) will make them stronger.  Follow along @apexbuggy and offer some support and tips.

PiKA is officially allowed to participate

I don’t think I knew this was up in the air, but apparently it was just recently officially determined that PiKA would be allowed to roll this spring.  That’s great to hear.  I am very curious to see what size operation they attempt to operate from their dispersed, off-campus setup.  I see a Carson Palmer parallel.  Performing well the last couple of years, but not quite to their glory-day standards, forced to sit out the first half of the season and kind of pissed about it, but not without the fire to get back into it.  Then getting the chance to be back in and forcing some critics to admit they’ve still got it, but in the end, it takes time to adapt to the new scene and you finish .500.  Except, I bet they’ll even do better than finish .500.

Build Forecasts

I attempted this medium-difficulty prediction task back in 2009 and it was a fun exercise to get my head back in the game, so let’s try it again.

  • AEPi – After a successful build in ’09 and a cool, but apparently flawed ’10 effort, AEPi focused on Robobuggy last year which sadly never got to see the course because of the weather.  They were only out intermittently this fall so I’m thinking they’re short on energy to build, but I’d love to be wrong.
  • Apex – They’ve got their hands full renovating Camo and learning how to do buggy.  They’ve been talking about builds since day 1 though, so they might get something of their own finished up over the summer.
  • CIA – Currently on a 3 year build streak and having made huge strides in the process, CIA is a good bet for a new buggy again in ’12.  After Ascension’s stunning good looks and design comp win, the question is how creative they’ll get.  I see a design based on the same reverse tryke with the large rear wheel paradigm, but with something interesting to set it apart.  Hey, I’ve got an idea: a pushbar that folds down flat into the shell!
  • DeltaForce – Interesting case because the loaned-from-KDR Moby Dick (PiRho Perun) will serve them well enough to take the pressure off of the mechanics for now.  Things went so smoothly in the fall, they’ll likely choose to just cruise through and enjoy making it to their first raceday. Hopefully they have a build on their minds though since their only steed is just a loaner.
  • Fringe – A 15 year streak is basically infinite in the collective minds of college students, so a new Fringe buggy is probably a safe assumption.  Last year’s Bonsai broke what might have been a bit of a plateau for Fringe and won them the race.  There has been some turnover though with head mechanic Mackin taking the Safety Chair role, so we’ll have to see whether they look to replicate their winner or innovate further while they’ve got a bit of a lead on the competition.
  • KapSig – When they showed up on the course for the first time with their own new buggy – Apache – I was very impressed.  It’s been a bit of a rocky road at times since then, but that’s to be expected.  Apache and KapSig weren’t out for the last 4 weekends of rolls in the fall so I’m a little worried about them.  I hope very much that they decided to spend their time building a worthy successor to Apache, but I’m only giving even odds on that.
  • PiKA – I would guess that the focus is on getting back on the course, bolstering morale and membership, and testing the waters on how effective they can be without a house.  It might actually be useful to take another semester with their new standard tryke – Raptor – and get more comfortable putting it head to head with Chimera and deciding which direction they want to go next.
  • SDC – I don’t think I can reasonably bet against a new standard tryke in a solid color with a mirrored windshield and few other distinguishing external features.  The question is whether they can figure out how to do something new to top their 3-year A-teamer, Malice.
  • SigEp – Yeah, they’ll build.  They’ve built 4 years in a row now, and they’ve been steadily getting more competitive, getting mentioned in the top tier at times.  Mamba (2011) rolled A team and got them the 5th fastest time (before failing its drop test), but even with that success I always feel like they’re just almost on the verge of a real jump in build quality.   You know how 10 years ago Hyundai and Kia were pretty questionable brands and then suddenly they made the leap and got totally legit and you could recommend their reliable cars to your budget-conscious family members?  I feel like SigEp is going to have that year … maybe this year, but definitely someday.  Correction: Mamba rolled Men’s B and Women’s A last year.
  • SigNu – Building, for SigNu, is not something you rush into willy-nilly.  Krait will only be 3 years old and is a plenty good buggy to keep them going.  They barely made it out this fall, so I hope they can rally the troops and be a regular presence.
  • Spirit – I was pretty surprised when they came out with a new buggy last year, ‘Zuke.  I can’t decide if that makes it more or less likely that they’ll build again this year.  Their tireless wheel testing (haha, pun was completely accidental) shows they’ve probably got the energy and funds to build, but two in a row would be quite the turnaround after a 7 year gap.  They’ve been committed to small changes on the only design Spirit has ever really known, but it’s been giving them a lot of trouble in the last few years.  Can you imagine a world in which Spirit came out with a reverse tryke?  Not going to happen, but it’s a fun thought.
So, that’s the field.  I’ll set the over-under at 5.5 new buggies.  Let’s hear your better predictions, or maybe even actually informed thoughts on these topics.  I hope the weather cooperates and we get going with rolls before the superbowl for the first time in years.  If so, check back in a week for our first rolls report!


49 thoughts on “Pre-season updates and build status guesses”

  • Well, I can fill in a few that I’ve heard going around Some with certainty, some less so…

    AEPi – I’ve heard extravagant plans, but also that those plans might be delusions of grandeur. I could be wrong, but I don’t expect a new buggy rolling on raceday.

    Apex – They’ve got Camo and claim to have all their re-welding done at this point. The rest should be a nice long trudge of re-attachment and fixing. There has been talk of a new shell as opposed to an entire new buggy, but only time will tell if this is true.

    CIA – There’s a build. It’s moving along at reasonable enough pace to roll for Raceday.

    SDC – Walking around under Stever, there’s been a whole bunch of noise of what I can only guess is a dremel coming out of the paint room, so a new buggy is highly likely. I would put my money on an attempt to surpass Malice or Bane.

    SigEp – I hear there are some new techniques getting employed for their new build. I expect it to look similar to their last, but it should be even more shiny and smooth. I’m real excited to see what comes out in the spring.

    Spirit – Unlike SDC, there has been a conspicuous lack of noise coming from their room. My bet would be on attempts to improve their current fleet and focusing energy into wheel development. Either that, or I’ve been down there at the wrong times…

    • Thanks for the details Ben. For the betters out there, I don’t see anything that’s going to change my over-under though, so it remains 5.5

    • As much as I like to see a shiny new fleet at design comp, I’m taking the under on this one. I’ll add that during casual discussions last Fall, getting a new buggy out for the purpose of knowledge retention was considered a big priority for KapSig. I don’t know if a build ended up happening, especially with Apache’s late problems, but it was a plan. At least word was Apache was doing better.

      For AEPi’s plans, I hope to see a new build, personally. It may add a much needed touch of lightness and humor to an otherwise competitive fleet of buggies made dull by progress and improvement.

      Regarding Apex, the only thing that might hold back Camo on first rolls is getting some hands on some derby wheels and bearings while some legit purchase ones are shipped into Pittsburgh. Hell of an impressive amount of energy from them… no sane team would start a build now for use this semester, but I can’t wait to see next year.

      Hey SigNu students and alum, I hear there are some sets of derby wheels floating about the house – think you guys could lend them a set for the first few weeks? Pretty please?

      • Sadly, latest word is that KS will be hit or miss on fielding a team come next year, much less a build this year.

        • I found a stash of old red derby wheels on the west coast. Not free but probably not too $$$$. Not mine either. If someone wants them, contact me for details.

      • derby wheels? as in 12 inch red steel wheels? I do not believe the zoo would have any of those lying around as the last buggy that could fit them (original Jama) was built about 20 years ago. I may have one or2 in my garage that would be free if someone paid the postage for ship it from CA to the burgh. I will check with my west coast soap box connections to see if there are any available.
        You can find them on e-bay on a regular basis.

        these beauties would work:

        8 for $200 is a typical price for such.

        • Oh yeah, a set has been purchased, but the bearings were totally rusted out (naturally). It was more an effort to try and get a set of bearings/rolling wheels locally while the mail order bearings were coming in, but with rolls preemptively cancelled this weekend (sigh), that worry is removed.

    • I believe that the current situation is that there are alumni who have promised to personally fund the build should the design be put forward. There are more alumni who have promised to cut all ties with the organization should such a thing be built. Make of that what you will.

        • Well, maybe if more energy was focused on meaningful projects like restoring Stealth, there would be less focus on bringing back ideas like dropping pushbars…

        • It’s worth noting, Paul, that (as far as I am aware) we haven’t had any raceday pushbar problems since before I joined (2010), and no mechanic since you has gotten their fingers or forehead smashed when operating a pushbar.

          What I’m saying is that we miss you so much.

      • Is this a thing? Because I would totally ‘drop’ $300 on a team if they build a dropping-pushbar buggy. Man, this should totally be a thing!

  • I just realized that there was no mention of SAE. When I last heard, there were discussions of retrofitting Rubicon with Xootrs. Can anyone confirm or deny that work is progressing? Is there any spark of life from SAE at all?

    • Allow me to be your spark of life. SAE is (as hard as it is to imagine) currently working on Rubicon. Give it a week or two, and we’ll be back out on the course. *crosses fingers*

  • Just want to stop rumors before they happen… the Zoo won’t be out for the first weekend of rolls (Feb 11-12), but we are planning on making it out consistently starting on Feb 18th.

  • Not that Mackin wasn’t super useful (*ahem* perhaps even a toolbag? jk) in designing/building Bonsai, but he wasn’t head mechanic. Mackin was chairman, Dan Ben was head mechanic. Also, Dan Ben graduated.

  • The inside info on Apex is that we will be rolling camo, the weld work is now solid. AEPi has been kind enough to lend us wheels for a few weeks until some come in. Other than that we will be working on a build in the near future, we have a solid amount of people hopefully as many as 5 more too add onto that (we got 20 people to sign up at activities fair but dont expect them all to show up.) We are excited and ready to go

  • re:Apex

    I believe Camo is basically a “fake” Colugo, zoo buggy circa 1985. While I don’t know the exact construction details of the buggy, we commonly ripped off the rear axles on the haybales daily, and replaced them overnight and rolled again the next day. With that in mind, how much work would it really take to lower the rear axle(s) and fit up some Xootr-size wheels? IIRC we rolled on 4″ wheels one weekend and 12″ wheels the next. With rear wheels down to standard size, you’d only need one hot derby-size wheel on the front and a pair of xootr size for the back, and you’d give your pushers a huge break in the bargain.

      • This one might be the fake Colugo. AEPi has only ever had 1 Camo (but I can’t say whether another org had a buggy named Camo at some point), which was previously named Red Lightning (and before that, Barak). It definitely came from SigNu, though someone once told me that it was portions of 2 different SigNu buggies. Also, the shell is AEPi-made.

  • We discussed Xootrs, but did not want to mess with the balance of the buggy and cause it to be unstable. This is just a one or two year roll to get us on our feet while we build our first two buggies. We know it will roll and its a metal frame buggy with very solid welds (we fixed the legendary Camo Weld) so it will be rolling next weekend with debry wheels (i beleive the only one on the course currently)

  • removing 4 lb. of oversteering mass on the rear axle by replacing 3 lb. derby wheels with 1 lb. xootrs will help your chute stability immensely

    • On the other hand, Rage seems just as good on xootr-like wheels as it was on pneumatics. Though it was fairly spinny on pneumatics to begin with.

      There have been a few CIA buggies that changed wheel sizes over their lifetime, and it mostly worked out fine. I agree with cook that the weight loss from the back end will likely help stability more than the smaller wheel size will hurt it. Now, you might end up going faster on xootrs, and have more trouble because of that, but that’s a good problem to have. Clearly, you have other things to worry about now, but keep in mind that new drivers and bent axles are a fact of life, so you there’s reasonable odds you’ll find yourself making another axle at some point in the future.

      • I do not believe that spirit’s issues in the chute started the day they mounted up xootrs on the rear. It is a trike and trikes are ill handling beasts, especially if you get the weight distribution wrong.

        Having spent an eon with ill handling trikes, I would not worry at all about the diameter of my rear wheels. However, If I changed the front wheel diameter, I would look at what that did to the distance between my front and rear weight distribution and what that did to my front steering geometry (rake, trail …).

    • Awesome, we’ve actually got some action on this bet. Zatch has the under, trophymursky with the over. What other bets could we offer?

  • Who makes rulings on stuff similar to the PiKA thing? Student life? Buggy advisor? I’ve always wondered about that stuff, i thought buggy was kind of autonomous?

    I’ll take over/under bets on where camo stops.
    ex: 8th window, chute, monument, …. transition flag….

    • Now, when you say “stop,” do you mean “stop or picked up by the Hill 3 pusher”? Also, are we talking about a bagged roll or an unbagged roll?

      Assuming you mean an unbagged roll, I’d set the over/under at “end of the haybales” (and if there’s an actual Hill 2 push, I’d take the over). People have been underestimating Camo for years. Assuming it’s properly mechaniced and not just left lying around, it has the potential to make it to Window 0, and I think once reached Window 1 or 2. And based on the photos I’ve seen, which looks like the buggy is properly in 1 piece again, I think it’ll easily make it into the Chute.

  • Connor, earmuffs it, this post isn’t for you..

    I’ll set the line on beginning of the chute.
    On it’s first roll, over is anything past the 1st hay bale, under is anything before.
    We really should do something similar for Pandora, too (the annoyingly reliable red-headed step child of SigEp buggy)

    Winner gets to brag for the rest of the year.

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