Friday, May 30, 2008

I need to go to bed

But I just discovered the Surly Bicycle Builds Pool of photos on Flickr.

No, I NEED to go to bed.

Wheel Guru Says:

"First of all, try decaf :) It isn't you. Since they started heat-treating rims, they have become very brittle and prone to cracking. Most of the ones I see cracked are Mavics, but that may be because they are more common. Heat treating is a VERY precise process- the machinist's handbook devotes chapters to it- if anything in the process is not perfect the alloy will assume characteristics that may be undesirable. Sometimes it is intergranular corrosion and sometimes it may be over brittle. Heat treating is about making the molecules do what you want them to do and some days they just want to p---s you off. The rear wheels crack more often because they take more strain. Simple. I bet if the companies could track cracked rims, they would find out they were in the same batches of heat treatment. Corroded wing spars recently found on 1946 aircraft were traced to a bad batch of heat treat in 1945. I am glad your Quartz hub is still working, I had really bad luck with a couple a few years back and swore off them. Relax, it is not your wheelbuilding. Blame the lack of spokes and glass-like rims."

She also said she's been invited to an estate clearance of sorts.

"The last time I did that I came home with two Paramount track tandems, a Lejeune track bike and a van load of TA cranks and Simplex derailleurs."

I love her garage.

My Wheels Never Taco

I rode another rim into the ground yesterday. It's become a familiar scenario. I notice that the bike feels wobbly, I glance down and see that the rear rim has developed a waggle. Close inspection reveals cracks in the rim.

On the way to that final shimmy into the junkyard (or recycling bin), the wheels run round and true with little or no intervention after I build them. But the cracking bothers me.

I'm not one of those who believes in ultra-high tension. It needs to be high enough to hold the structural integrity of the wheel, not ratcheted several notches above that to ultimate rigidity.

Any time equipment fails I want to know why. Do I have to accept a steady rate of rim loss, given the roads I ride and the way I ride them? That wheel definitely saw hard miles on rough terrain. It held about 60 pounds of groceries in the panniers one day, and 30 or so on numerous other occasions before I got the BOB. But it might have had as little as 10,000 miles on it. I start to dredge my memory, reviewing the career of every wheel I ever built for myself. How did they do, under what circumstances?

It's harder with multiple bikes. Stuff gets put in service at different times. Use hours don't get logged. Looking back I have to estimate how much of each season's mileage goes to each bike.

Racing I expected to burn through equipment. And since I wasn't much of a racer, I didn't really burn through gear that much even then. Crashes took the most toll, if you don't count trashed sewup tires. I rebuilt the race wheels I bought used when those rims cracked, but I inherited all the fatigue they brought with them from the previous owner. He had been a very aggressive rider.

My longest-running rims are Weinmann concaves. I still have a set built in the early 1980s, which have been on and off bikes and now reside in the spare wheel pile because I don't run 27-inch tires anymore. Another set sees regular hard use on the fixed gear. Maybe it's time to revive that rugged design. It's definitely stronger than any box-section rim. I should have stocked up on all the available sizes. Early in the mountain bike boom, there was even a 26-inch model. They're heavy, but they go and go.

Speaking of go, it's time to head off for work. I need to order a rim.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

LSD meets jet propulsion

Feeling a little worn down by a six-day week and short nights, I resolved to ride Monday's commute at an easy pace.

I'd gotten up before 5:30 to get the instruments ready for the bi-weekly river testing I do. After testing I shoved down some eggs and toast before beating into a headwind all the way to town. This was after a short night's sleep due to a writing deadline and having one of the cats throw up on me at about 3 a.m.

At the shop I found out the management had decided to shut early. That just meant I would have more than an hour to myself while I caught up on the most urgent repairs.

There was nothing to bring for lunch. I was going to figure something out when lunch time came. That turned out to be three out-of-date energy bars and a handful of saltine crackers. I've been wanting to lose a little of the flab that crept on when I got knocked off the bike for about 10 days in April. That lunch and an LSD pace on the ride home should help.

Looking at the weather radar at 4 p.m. I would have guaranteed that I would get hammered by a deluge before I was half way home. I planned to take the long way, through the woods, because I didn't feel like putting on a good show for traffic. If it rained, it rained.

This dry airmass over us is amazing. The heavy echoes on the radar display were on our doorstep. I could see the dark clouds and curtains of rain to the west. They hung there, unable to advance.

After riding out my usual escape route to Route 28, I dove down the first gravel road to reach the SERT. This far from town, late in the day, I felt confident I would not have to deal with too many other riders.

Someone had fed their horse a laxative and then encouraged it to a pointy-hoofed canter down the left center of the path. The hardened hoof dents jolted me whenever I wandered into their course. Despite that, it was still more peaceful than the highway.

The SERT intersects Bryant Road, which brings me to Cotton Valley. From there I take Stoddard Road over to North Wolfeboro.

Stoddard was in rough shape. The first rise had been nicely packed and dampened to hold down the dust, but beyond there it was rougher and looser than the worst of the SERT had been. Unpaved surfaces need a good soaking rain to firm them up. On the paved wall to the height of land on Stoddard, the winter's sand still stood in drifts, narrowing the lane. Shoals of it lay on the pavement as well. I zigzagged among them to take the edge off the gradient.

On the plateau I could see the storm hanging over the Ossipee Range and feel the gusts of a tailwind. I reentered the shelter of the trees for the rest of the unpaved stretch.

From North Wolfeboro I coasted down on more sand-drifted, hummocky pavement to rejoin 28.

At that point I caught Southwest Flight 10-20. The tailwind lifted me to the crest of 28 and launched me into the descent.

I love the feeling when your air speed suddenly drops to near zero and your ground speed surges. Click, click, click through the gears and glance over at the people in cars wondering why it's taking so long to pass you. "That dude on the bike is still there!"

Moving almost effortlessly inside the rush of a gust I felt trippy and detached. Hunger and fatigue combined with the rhythm of relentless pedaling to make me feel like I was just watching it all happen by itself. No wonder mystics fast and wander.

On a perfect ride home a motor vehicle would trip the green light for me at Route 16 as I roared down the runway toward it. When that happens I can lay into the left turn fast enough to scare myself and easily keep up with the most impatient motorist.

This was not a perfect ride home. My car servant arrived too late, so I had to slow to a brief track stand and accelerate from the stop. The tailwind helped my tired legs on 16, but it wasn't as good as a searing corner at 30+ followed by the tailwind boot.

I did achieve enough speed to make the turn into Elm Street snappy. There's a pothole in the apex, so I can't drop in smoothly. With traffic on the highway and a busy parking lot to the right, I have to carry a straight line to the pothole and then snap the bike down hard while keeping my torso up to snap it back up again. If I clip the pothole I'm probably going down. If I carry too far before snapping the turn I will go into the left lane of Elm Street, which is often occupied by vehicles waiting to pull out. It's like taking a hard right turn into a keyhole.

Elm Street can be a chore. A mere three miles separates me from home at that point, but it can be a busy little road full of pushy drivers. One did push past in the last 200 meters before the end of the road, and then had to run the stop sign to stay ahead of me. And I was just rolling with the terrain.

A regular commuting route becomes a dance routine you can practice over and over, polishing and embellishing, refining and improving. It's a long-running show. Some performances will be better than others, but the run goes on.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Last Item of Business

To pick up some extra hours and tidy up the work load, I stayed late to knock out a quick spoke replacement.

The customer had come in for air and had trouble with his presta valves. I noticed the broken spoke. He left the bike.

When I removed the cassette I saw he'd tossed the chain into the spokes and chewed out all the ones on the outside of that hub flange. I methodically replaced all those and put his tire back on. The presta valve chose that moment to finish rotting out of the tube the way they do.

Got any other jobs that will only take a second?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Downside of an Upturn

For a while in the early 1990s, fixed gear stuff was pretty hard to find. I began to fear it would disappear entirely. But then the first bits of the single speed and fixie trend started showing up.

The initial relief at greater supply has worn off. You used to be able to get a perfectly serviceable fixed cog for five or ten bucks. The bids open notably higher now, and it's not just due to material and transportation costs or markedly better design and manufacturing standards.

We'll know fixed gears have really arrived when crappy ones show up for sale at Wal Mart.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Visiting Lecturer

I got roped into doing a presentation on bike fit and comfort last night at the local hospital. The shop management dumped it on me, but I didn't mind. The occasional show-and-tell can be fun.

As we understood it, the audience would consist of the typical older local rider, so I geared the visual aids to a comfort bike and hybrid clientèle.

Management told me they had arranged for me to do my 15-minute segment first, at 6:30, so I could get on home. Even so, I planned to hitch a lift with my wife, so we could get home and get some food into us and maybe get to bed at a reasonable hour for a change.

When I got to the venue, I found a very small crowd of young, fit adults. Someone had their racy-looking Tomac hardtail leaned against the wall. I looked at the wooden crate full of mattress saddles and basic clothing under my arm and wondered what I could tell these riders that they didn't already know.

First off, the organizer asked if I could take the last slot as previously scheduled, especially when I told him that I was planning to do the whole thing as question and answer, rather than burying people under a comprehensive lecture that none of them would remember anyway. Still expecting the soft-body crowd, I felt that they would get more value by asking me specific questions, perhaps prompted by a small amount of blather. We were all supposed to keep it short, right? I could hold out for 45 minutes.

Ha. Forty-five minutes was just the warm up. By then I'd committed to that last slot, so I tried to pay attention while the doctor, the nutritionist and the physical therapist, athletes all, held forth on their favorite subjects.

The nutritionist mentioned that most people don't get enough sleep. I chuckled at that, since she was shortening my forty winks with every paragraph she uttered, accompanied by projected slides. Tick tick tick went the evening.

As a cyclist for more than 30 years in a room with people who were infants and toddlers when I first tightened a toestrap, I noted many points to amend, contest or clarify in each presentation that preceded me. But I also wanted to get over the target, drop my payload and head for the home field, as the hour advanced.

The group was just as surprised and disappointed as I was that the congregation only included the faithful, but cyclists like to get together and chat/compete anyway.

In the end, I ran through the high points of fat saddles versus narrow, proper clothing, and the unconsidered nuances of bike fit, with the idea that these therapists might want to tell their clients about these concepts. In the process, if any of them learned something they hadn't realized yet, they could pick it up without showing weakness to the rest of the peloton.

I crawled out of there after 8:45 and still had to go back to the shop to drop off the props. Nice eleven and a half hour day. I can use the hours to build up the fund to complete the Traveler's Check project.

Now I'm late for work. So it goes. Memorial Day weekend lumbers down on us, and that means an extra work day as well. Not only that, we have to box about 11 bikes for a family moving to Colorado. My dislike for packing bikes battles fiercely with my friendship for these people. It doesn't help that they're all due by Monday, with a full repair docket to boot.

It's always something.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ant-i Friction Chain Lube

A reviewer/endorser on Fixed Gear gallery wrote that a chemist had determined that Pro Link chain lube is just mineral spirits and synthetic motor oil. I don't know that I believe that, but it got me thinking.

I'm going to try using sugar water on my chain. The ants eating the sugar will remove dirt from the chain. The movement of the drive train will crush the ants, allowing the juices of their bodies to lubricate it. Regular applications of sugar water will keep a steady supply of ants coming. They will also no doubt appreciate the nutrients provided by the crushed bodies of their predecessors.

It's 100 per cent biodegradable and renewable, but I guess it isn't cruelty free.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pneumothorax follow up

We're back. She does not need a chest tube, so we just had the pleasure of a pleasant chat with the imaging tech, who showed us the way cool hi-res monitor for X-ray viewing, the ER attending, who is a cyclist and who has patched me up a couple of times, and the on-call surgeon, who rendered the judgment that the condition should reduce on its own. Of course there will be separate bills from radiology and the surgeon at the very least, but it was interesting to see the gizmos, and the personnel were nice.

Y'know, it's not so much the illness as it is the money. You really have to decide whether the bit of life you snatch back from death will be worth living it out under the burden of crushing, impossible debt. But in some countries, and the entire animal kingdom, you just get sick and die. And life probably sucked pretty good prior to that anyway. So fut the wuck.

As more people get spat out of the "health insurance" system, we will get to appreciate more and more what life is like in developing and undeveloped countries, where a few very wealthy people have decent lives and a large number of struggling workers, educated or not, live as long as their luck holds out. It's not that the facilities and skilled providers aren't there. It's that the rank and file should not be encouraged to live beyond their means.

I guess we all need to come to terms with a more natural model of life and death, in which sickness and injury are once again as serious as they used to be in the primordial past. Forget what's technically possible. If no one can afford to pay for those medical miracles, they might as well not exist. As costs spiral upward, procedures that we've come to view as routine become unreachable, unimaginable miracles to the people cut off from them by the high financial fences of the invisible gated communities in our society.

You have no value as an individual. You only have value if you get yourself employed by someone willing to pay for your upkeep, or you generate enough revenue through your own enterprises, or you sign on to do your country's dirty and dangerous work in theaters of war around the world. What might you have to trade for that? Think carefully, because either way it will cost you your life.

SERT Follow up

If I could sue someone's ass for this I would. My wife has a minor pneumothorax, which the radiologist discovered when reading her X-ray after her doctor had examined the digital facsimile sent to her the day it was taken.

At least he was courteous enough to call us just now on a Sunday evening so we could get right down there and get in the queue for a massive hospital bill. It still shouldn't be as bad as the ICU bill another rider got after a more spectacular crash two years ago, but it's hardly a good advertisement for the SERT.

Ironically, I'm scheduled to go to my doctor tomorrow to get something checked out that could be rather bad as well. Remember, kids, if you don't get health insurance through your employer and can't afford it yourself, you are a drain on society and deserve whatever you get. If your luck runs out, you're f***ed and rightly so.

Hell, you could fall in the bathtub and get racked up this badly. But it's still true about health care in this country. Get rich or die trying. It is more desperately important than you might have thought.

Ethically I would rather have to deplete my savings to pay for actual care I'm receiving than to support some parasitic insurance company. The system has to change, and we have to force the change.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Brake lever trivia.

Mounting inline brake levers as primaries today, I realized they could be mounted to work in either direction. I mounted them like miniature flat-bar levers, but I could easily put them on the forward-pointing portions of the time trial bar on this touring bike, just by feeding the cable through the opposite way. They would act like reverse levers, only they'd leave the end of the bar clear for barcon shifters.

I have to start taking pictures again. I could illustrate these principles. Maybe when I build up my Travelers Check I can set up the different scenarios.

Stupid SERT

The Sorry Excuse for a Rail Trail claimed another victim yesterday.

The SERT is notorious for nasty crashes as riders on the popular trail have difficulty making the many transitions from beside the rails to between them and back again. On the sections where riders have to try to fit two-way traffic between the rails, they have to deal with the dropoff on the outside. The sections between the rails are mostly above open water or wetlands, so the trail is up on the levee originally built for the railroad. Without the rails in place, the riding surface would be wider, without the tripping hazard of the rails at the edge of it.

At the transitions, riders have to cross one rail without enough room to set up perpendicular to it. You can dismount and walk, but there's not a lot of room for that, either, especially if several riders reach the crossing and some of them want to ride it.

My wife misjudged a crossing yesterday and went down hard. She has bruised ribs (if not cracked) and some road rash. The rib injuries and attendant breathing difficulties are the most disturbing. So much for getting into a regular riding groove.

And people wonder why I say I feel safer in traffic. Traffic riding is definitely safer than bicycle racing and often safer than path riding.

The stupid SERT is a camouflaged killer.

[Bike to] Work Day

On my regular daily commute yesterday I saw no more cyclists than usual, but throughout the day we spotted them on the busy street behind our shop.

Commuting once is much more of a project than commuting all the time. I have systems in place to help me streamline my daily load. Riding a long route, I want to use cycling shoes and I don't want to lug walking shoes, so I keep a pair of shop shoes at work. I can also leave some clothing there so I don't have to carry the complete change every day.

When I rode shorter routes in an urban setting I could ride in normal clothes, but I still liked the acceleration of cleated shoes in traffic. Keeping work shoes at work left more room in my commuting bag for lunch.

It's nice to have our own holiday now, even if it's mostly a token gesture. Also, with bicycling getting so much publicity, drivers seem to react more cooperatively, at least for now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008



Would you purposely NARROW your arteries? Would you purposely CONSTRICT your tendons?

Give your shift cables some ROOM.

Go 5 mil.

Christmas Evish

Tomorrow the latest Long Haul Trucker is supposed to arrive with the tweak parts to customize it for its new owner. Also in that order I should receive my two-sided track hub to convert for the Traveler's Check. It's hard to wait to build that bike, but I have to spread the next purchases out. Meanwhile I can build a ridable format from stuff I have on hand.

Believe it or not, about ten years ago it was hard to find a two-sided hub. In case it became impossible, I actually bought a 48-hole tandem hub and devised a spoking pattern to lace it to a 36-hole rim. Before I needed to use it, the beginning of the current rush of two-sided options began to appear, so that hub sits unused. It's threaded for freewheels on both sides, actually drum brake and freewheel, so it's less than ideal for fixed cogs. Maybe I'll lace it 48 with double freewheels just because I can. Pimp it out with multi-colored spokes.

It takes up a lot less space just as a spare hub. Wanna buy a hub? How about a pimped out, crazy wheel? Let me know, I'll build it up.

Cash Flow Enhancer?

I wonder if I could earn a little pocket money as an online consultant for people trying to build up their own bikes. They could email me their questions and I could guide them, for some kind of reasonable fee. I'd be paid to work for them, from the standpoint of my own experience and prejudices. I take no money to endorse any product I currently recommend. I promote stuff I think works well. I would function as the seeking cyclist's friendly mentor and bullshit detector.

Be advised, I detect a lot of bullshit in the bike industry. And I never presume to speak beyond my area of experience. Want to build something to throw down cliffs with yourself aboard? Can't help you. Problems with hydraulics? Your first problem was wanting them. Bad ass BMXer? I would have recommended a guy to you, but I think he's back in jail. Too bad, too. He had great promise as a mechanic.

I promise to help any rider select practical, durable equipment that's as easy to work on as possible. Be realistic. Stuff needs to be fixed. Really tweaky stuff and really crappy stuff are both hard to fix. You want to be as independent as you can? Ride normal wheels, use friction shifting and stick to time-tested materials. You can bend one of these rules at a time, but if you turn your back on two or more you become the industry's bitch.

If anything, you might be able to slide on frame materials, as long as whatever frame you buy uses standard dimensions. Way back in the mid 1970s, a friend of mine got one of about a half-dozen Teledyne Titans in the state of Florida. While the owners of the others built them up with fancy, expensive componentry, my friend put 27-inch clinchers, fenders and a clunky, cable-driven speedometer on his. He loved the reactions when he visited shops with it. I think he even had a Pletscher rack on it.

Leave the really esoteric weirdness and rolling art to someone else. I just enjoy the ride. It's fun to visit the Bicycle Forest or groove on handbuilt gems on a number of other sites, but a lot of people seem like they could use a little help with more straightforward, practical matters.

Actually there are plenty of other resources already on the web. I've just been answering a lot of questions lately, and it got me thinking on a larger scale.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Year of the Trucker

"Get the phone! Someone's asking about a Surly bike!"

I picked up the phone and punched in.

"I'm really interested in getting a 46 centimeter Surly Long Haul Trucker," said the caller, a woman.

This would be the second 46 cm LHT in about four days. It's also one of several calls about Surly touring bikes that have not yet led to sales.

This morning, our first LHT customer, from a couple of years ago, rode in with his, in search of some new tires.

Something more than the price of gas and the crappy economy has to be propelling this sudden surge of interest in touring bikes. Each person inquiring about a Long Haul Trucker has also researched other brands.

Lord protect us from another bike boom, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few more people get into it in a good way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bikier than Moi

Dilettante cyclists like me appreciate the real devotees who create and maintain the culture from which we borrow only what we need.

Velo Orange started up long after I left Naptown.

Ha. Naptown. The sobriquet was more appropriate in the 1970s when the capital of Maryland slumbered beside Chesapeake Bay, not even dreaming of the binge of metastatic development now obliterating it.

I haven't been to Velo Orange, but a couple of people I know have mentioned it to me. It looks like a nice place to buy a certain subcultural selection of cycle accoutrements.

As a practical cyclist I put together what I need from what's around. I've learned the hard way not to fall too hard in love with anything manufactured, which could be mutated or discontinued at the whim or fate of its maker. Sometimes you can plan ahead and stockpile, but often the thing you need turns out to be the one you couldn't get two of. So you improvise.

There's a lot of cool bike stuff out there. One lifetime is too short.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In Your Face!

Riding home one evening last week, I was starting up a hill on Route 28 just north of where Route 109 turns off to the east to go past Lake Wentworth, when I saw one of the other regular commuters coming down the hill. He rides the opposite of my route, working up near where I live and living near where I work.

We always wave when passing. I grit my teeth and don't say anything about his too-small old ten-speed with the drop handlebars turned upside down, inverted brake levers and all, because it's really his business. If I ever get the chance I'll offer him a bigger frame I have hanging around, and see if I can get him the ride position he wants without setting a bad example for onlookers. Inverted drop bars are so '70s. Early '80s at best.

So here he came down the hill, when suddenly he swerved across the highway onto my side and came straight at me against the proper direction of traffic, right down my throat.

Whenever I meet a wrong-way cyclist I have to decide which way to go to avoid collision. Do I shoulder him into the ditch, the curb or parked cars, or hip check him out into the oncoming traffic beside me? Why should I have to accommodate someone's unsafe behavior at all?

In this instance, he headed into the ditch on his own, well before we met. I was making the big WTF shrug at him as soon as he shot over onto a head-on course with me. As we passed, I enunciated clearly, "illegal and dangerous." Sure, on that section of ditch he could get by me, but above or below would not go as well. After he got by me, he would come into a highway intersection where no one would be looking for him. So he would have to round the corner at the bottom of the hill right down the throat of motorists waiting to pull out, requiring THEM to decide how much consideration he deserved. Since many motorists don't think we deserve much at all, it seems a risky gambit. It makes us look like more of a dangerous nuisance than necessary.

If you need to make a left at a dicey intersection, try going past it and hooking a U-turn rather than crossing into oncoming traffic. In this case he could also make a right at the road opposite 109 and then cross when it was clear.

I know what he does next. He gets on the Sorry Excuse for a Rail Trail and rides the rest of the way into town. Early and late in the season, the SERT is pretty mellow. It only gets gripping when cyclists meet head-on in the many sections where it is too narrow for safe passage. That's more likely in the height of summer, when the population more than quadruples around here. If he hangs on a bit past 109 I think he can access the SERT from Kenney Shore Road without pulling strange maneuvers on other road users. But all this takes too long to explain when you're jostling past each other, playing chicken beside a 55 mile-per-hour highway. Most people haven't hit that speed coming up from the 40 zone at 109, but most of them are working hard to get there.

I can't tell people not to take risks. But I can damn sure tell them to leave me out of it. I won't clothesline someone like that, but I also can't stop thinking I'd like to.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Launching more Surlies

This week, a customer who had been researching the purchase of a Long Haul Trucker finally came in to select the size, specify the tweaks and order the bike. Another friend, in another state, has consulted me about a project to build up a Pacer.

Last year I built up a Long Haul Trucker for someone actually named Long.

Tweaks on the latest Trucker include a handlebar change that required different brake levers. We may change the stem, too.

For my own Travelers Check project I ordered the rear hub so I can build up a two-sided fixed-gear wheel, but I'm waiting on anything else until my bank account recharges a little. I can piece together a ridable version of the bike with parts on hand and substitute the final selections a bit at a time. This is the great freedom you get when you push away proprietary shifting systems. You can actually buy one component at a time and still have a working bike made out of mix-and-match. And of course with single speeds, fixed-gear or not, you have no shifting problems at all and few compatibility issues except to make sure you have a fairly straight chain line.

Repair seasons always start with a big jumble of work coming in almost all at once. We work through that and usually have a brief lull, which could last days or only minutes. We cleared the incoming board this morning and all but a few repaired bikes had actually been picked up. But just when you might think we'd have time to assemble a batch of new bikes, in came the inevitable requests for instantaneous service too late in the day to oblige them. One family with two chunks of Wally World crap really seemed to think they'd done the hard part of the tuneup just by bringing the bikes to us. People don't realize that cheap, badly-designed, poorly-built sculptures of scrap metal actually take longer to adjust because we have to figure out what the standard of deviation is first. Once we establish a baseline we know what we can really expect to accomplish. Sometimes a real off-brand bike is so bad we have to refuse to touch it at all, or at least write huge disclaimers on the repair tag advising that no one actually ride the bike.

The better bike I was trying to finish before I left had a really crunchy bottom bracket which was also nearly welded into the frame because the cartridge had not been greased when installed. I managed to break it loose with a bunch of Pro Link and a Park leverage bar. This was on a Marin road bike, not somebody's swamp cruiser. Grease threads! If you dare to call yourself a mechanic, GREASE THREADS.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Slipping back into the bike life

Two days in a row I have gone out with my wife on her rides before she leaves for work. That work begins in the afternoon, so the rides are at a comfortable mid-morning hour. Then yesterday I rode to a friend's house to help him plan a community biking event for May 18 and today I made a pannier run to the grocery store for a few items.

We're passing the landmarks of spring. You know it's really spring when you start leaning bikes against the wood stove and setting things on top of it. You know it's really spring when you consider how to stay cool at night instead of how to stay warm. You complain about the bugs instead of the cold. You finally put your boots away. Lighter jackets float to the top of the coat rack and eventually even they are left behind.

I'm about to take the tape off my front helmet vents. I usually go through that a couple of times, as we get a warm spell followed by a cold one. I've already had it off and put it back once. Maybe this time I can leave it off. I don't know, though. Twice in recent years we've had wet snow in late May.

One ride at a time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


This excellent post on the Surly Blog tells how it should be done (except for how you get to track down the motorist through their license number. That takes a level of cooperation from law enforcement usually beyond ordinary mortals.)

One time long ago I pulled off a similar coup in Annapolis. I had an ugly encounter with a bright red Camaro/Firebird driven by a midshipman. I could tell by his vanity plate that he attended the Naval Academy and expected to graduate in 1985. Everything else about his personality I got from the way he drove.

We exchanged "passing honors" and went our separate ways. I went home and typed out a letter criticizing his conduct as unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. The next day I cruised the Academy looking for his car. Many mids had covers on their cars, but the silhouette of the General Motors cockroach is unmistakable, whether the Chevy or Pontiac version. I lifted skirts on every covered Camarobird until I found the right one, and left my letter tucked safely out of the weather.

Sadly I never got the follow-up that Swervy got, but I know I let the arrogant motorist know that I could find him and his conspicuous vehicle pretty easily.

People think twice when they fear repercussions. It's the right answer for the wrong reason, behaving nicely only because you fear punishment, but I'll settle for that if it gets me some peace and elbow room on the road.