Friday, May 25, 2007

Blossoms, Balsam and Birdsong

Thursday's commute was the opposite of Wednesday's. High clouds had blocked the sun on Wednesday morning, keeping the air uncomfortably chilly for the whole ride. Thursday's morning fog burned away before I hit the road, so the sun warmed me as soon as I escaped from the cold air in the river valley.

Everything is blooming now. As I rode the highway shoulder, passed by few cars, all polite, the scent of flowers surrounded me. Birds sang in the woods on either side. Up on the higher land beyond the Col du Porc, the air smelled like one of those souvenir pillows stuffed with balsam.

Down in town, a school bus pulled out on me as I set up for the good corner, but it was the short bus, so I found a line behind it. I guess they take turns driving themselves.

Late in the day I was getting ready to leave when a commuter who rides the opposite direction on my route every day called in to say he had developed a shifting problem on his new Cannondale. This rider has his own style. Rather than quit riding altogether when he developed a back problem and some other issues, he adopted a ladies' frame hybrid so he could sit upright and would not have to swing his leg over the seat to mount. I have to respect that kind of confidence and drive. He put a baby seat on the rear rack, and carries his pack in it. Motorists don't know he doesn't have Junior back there, so they give him extra room. Pretty shrewd, if you don't mind the way the loaded seat kills the handling. Of course on a comfort-configured hybrid there was noting to kill in the first place.

Somehow no one had conveyed to me that this bike also had one of those rear wheels on which all the spokes spontaneously loosen. It was a floppy mess. To get him on the road for today's commute, I wound everything back down, but until I loosen them all back up, lube the spoke threads and tighten them again, it will probably get floppy once more. I told him to bring it back when he could leave it for the weekend.

Grease and proper tension are better than threadlockers to keep spokes tight and wheels straight. Not everyone agrees, but I know what has worked for me. Any wheel, even a threadlocked wheel, can develop deviations. A threadlocked wheel will be harder to true.

The shifting problem stemmed from your friend and mine, four millimeter shift housing with plastic ferrules. Even though the bike had recently come off the showroom floor, the linear wires inside the housing from the right shifter where burrowing through the cracked ferrule in a jagged pattern. The housing changed length erratically as the rider tried to shift.

After junking the 4 mil (which is junk by definition) and putting on 5 mil with metal, the bike shifted smoothly. SRAM derailleurs seem quite sensitive to minuscule misadjustments.

Even with a late start I chose the long, scenic route home, to stay off the highway. It was a nice evening just to breathe.

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