Saturday, September 27, 2008

The $12,000 Beater Bike

A wealthy summer resident dropped off his Seven Odonata at the end of Labor Day weekend.

"Give it a complete overhaul and anything it needs," he said.

With all that titanium I worried that I might not be able blast some things loose. The bike is about ten years old, but he's never asked us to go further than a tuneup on it. I don't know what care it might have had at the owner's other homes, or if this is just his New Hampshire ride.

I found good news and bad news in the BB shell. Whoever assembled the bike had used enough anti-seize compound to keep it from welding itself in. That was good. When the first cup came out, about half a pint of water poured out of the frame behind it. That was bad. I would have thought so, anyway, but I have trouble understanding how it is to have immense wealth.

This bike isn't as abused as the Seven that came through our shop a couple of summers ago, with the stem held into the steerer tube entirely by corrosion, without even a bolt in place, but it clearly gets ridden as obliviously as any Schwinn Varsity. The steerer tube was rusted, but nothing had rusted solid. I haven't seen him ride in the rain, but maybe he has the staff hose the bike down when they're washing the extensive fleet of family cars.

The chain has worn halfway through the cage of the XTR front derailleur. The owner rides with headphones, so he wouldn't hear the chain rubbing. The damage has made shifting in the front almost impossible.

Strip away the enormous price tag and the image of the brand name, and it is just a bike. Within the owner's economic bracket it's a fairly minor purchase. In 1998 or'99 he probably paid about six or seven thousand for it. The $12,000 in the title refers to the upper end of the price range for Seven's current corresponding model, the ID8.

This bike is so old, XTR was eight-speed. The XTR drive train is controlled by Ultegra 9-speed brifters with no discernible extra click. It's a strange expensive mutt. I was able to track down a new set of chainrings. The front derailleur is giving me more trouble. I have not turned up a top-swing, bottom pull derailleur that will fit into the tight clearance between the rear tire and the seat tube. The carbon section of the tube feels less substantial than on full carbon bikes designed to accept a derailleur clamp. The original derailleur clamped the titanium section closer to the bottom bracket. On Monday I can call Seven to see what my options are.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Snot Rockets Alfresco

Allergies or a cold slammed me in the sinuses early this week as I hurried to stuff the season's firewood into the shed before heavy rain moves in this weekend. The bottom of the pile in the driveway had gotten moist and moldy over the summer. I could have huffed a lungful of spores. Either way, I felt like crap, so I wasn't doing any more than I had to.

Wednesday I drove because of another municipal law lecture. This one was about the tremendously controversial Shoreland Protection Act, so I didn't want to miss it. People sitting near me when I lost control of my coughing fifteen minutes before the finish line might have wished I'd skipped it, but I'm still glad I went.

Yesterday was the last nice day on the forecast before the tropical deluge. I didn't feel up to the whole standard commute, but I needed something. The zoning board had a hearing at 7 p.m., but I can usually sprint the distance in time to hit my chair in time. Surely I could do a mild DERT commute and make it in time.

My home is in a river valley. Fall mornings it is always shrouded in fog, ten degrees colder than the open country a couple of miles down my route. I left the house somewhat bundled up, with the bike stuffed in the back of the car.

The path commute helps me salvage bike time and reduce car use somewhat as the autumn schedule, weather and shorter daylight makes the full route less practical. I don't like having to involve the car, but we don't have public transportation at all, let alone buses with bike racks. Get your own ass to work or die.

A good load of phlegm can be an asset in traffic or a tight racing field. In the car I just fill up the passenger side foot well with used tissues. On the bike I can use that ejecta tactically to claim space in the lane.

The path removes the tactical aspect of chucking a clam or unloading a snot rocket, but I don't have to worry about letting them fly, either. No need to roll down a window and put some extra oomph behind a clam to get it clear of the car's 40- or 50- mph slipstream. Just let 'em rip! Freedom!

The path runs gently down grade into town. Early in the morning, few riders are out. I did pass a dog walker every 100 yards once I was halfway to town. Fortunately,the dogs were leashed and well behaved and the owners weren't visibly hostile. Different user groups on a multi-use path can get territorial.

In the fun turns at the Allen A Beach, I smelled skunk strongly in two places. Imagine whipping around a blind turn and startling one of those on your way to work. I was lucky and only encountered the smell.

The worst thing about a path commute is that I pop out into traffic without the long warm up I get from the normal route. Especially yesterday, being sick and all, I felt ragged and weak as I stuck my elbow into the flow on Center Street. Traffic was light, probably because I was late.

Even a little ride is better than no ride at all. This morning, the clouds hang low. I might manage to sneak to town on the rain bike before the heavy stuff hits, so I can ride a half-carpool with my wife. She's enjoying the allergies/cold now, but that doesn't prove it was an infectious disease. She finished the wood pile chore and encountered the same moldiness.

After four days I feel lots better than I did on Monday and Tuesday. Whatever this thing is, it doesn't hang around. If you have to be sick, that's the best you can ask.

According to the radar, the rain is on the doorstep. Time to make some strategic decisions and head out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dude, that's what the "do Not Disturb" sign is for

A man in Scotland has been arrested for allegedly having sex with his bicycle.

According to a story on the BBC News Service, a 51-year-old man was surprised in the act by housekeeping personnel at the hotel where he was staying, after he failed to answer repeated knocks at the door.

The witnesses reported that he was naked from the waist down, moving his hips suggestively over the bicycle.

He has been placed on probation and placed on the sex offender registry for three years.

Excuse me? How is it anyone's business how a guy loves his bike in the privacy of his home, however temporary that home may be?

Attempting to figure out where the sex offense comes in, I can only conclude it was because the bike has a men's frame and may be new enough to fall below the age of consent. What is the age of consent for a bicycle? It should be fairly young, a year or less, considering how so many riders frack their bikes up within a few weeks after buying them. If only we knew we had statutes under which to charge them. But no one seems to enforce outmoded sodomy laws anymore, so the fact that the frame had a high top tube instead of a dropped one should never have been a factor.

Perhaps the new two-piece cranks, that come out almost instantly with a couple of simple tools, present too much of a temptation to susceptible members of society. One more simple wrench for the outboard bearings and you've got even more room to rock and roll.

Voice of experience? I admit NOTHING. But I did sketch ideas for a humorous photo montage back in 1979 involving a Cinelli frame and satin sheets.

The bike has been placed in a safe house and now enjoys a temporary restraining order against its owner until this whole thing is sorted out.

(actually, a second look at the date stamp on the news item shows it's from November last year, 2007. The privacy issue immediately came up. See follow-up story.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The DERT, my guilty pleasure

When daylight gets short after summer's end I risk riding the Disappointing Example of a Rail Trail on my way out of town in the evenings. I used to call it the SERT, for Sorry Excuse for a Rail Trail, but its intentions are good. Just the execution falls far short of what can handle the kind of volume the trail can expect.

For the past couple of years, traffic has dropped way off as dusk encroaches. This year I started earlier, though, so I've had to dance past oncoming riders or wait patiently for pedestrians to clear a narrow causeway.

For now, I ride the inner section from River Street to just past the Allen A Motel. That includes the only twisty bit, where the path detours to the Allen A Beach. That was donated to the town in the 1980s. It became a destination for the path as the path supporters pushed construction out from the center of town. Now it's just one more stop on the route that extends about six miles out into Cotton Valley.

Yesterday, Arf put in a guest appearance at the shop. I persuaded him to ride out the DERT with me as part of his route home. He'd ridden his Cross Check to work. I did a double take when I saw my bike's larger twin. Arf had arrived while I was in another part of the building. I noticed he'd pulled the fenders off and put on knobby tires since the last time I saw the bike.

On this last weekend of summer, people were partying on Saturday evening. The DERT runs through back yards along Crescent Lake. People in those cottages often gather on the path itself. They seem oblivious to cyclists trying to pass through. Arf had taken the lead just before we got there. We floated through, nearly in a track stand as we wiggled among the group looking down toward some party activity closer to their cabins.

Arf took a harder line than I have with oncoming cyclists and walkers. I've been hopping right off the path to let them clear the narrow parts. Arf rode the balancing act along the right-hand rail, as I used to do. His handlebars are wider than mine. I followed in the gap.

At the fun part, Arf was still ahead. The twisty bit is a continuous series of blind S-curves. I usually wing it through there, but I hold back a little in case I meet someone. It has happened. Arf went for it like the expert mountain bike racer he used to be. I could not have held the turns at that speed on my 32 mm road tires. On the other hand, I figured I could let it rip to the limit of my traction, because Arf would hit anyone first. I would hear the screams and be able to slow down.

Luck was with us. The bendy bit was all ours. I'm tempted to put knobbies on for the last fall commutes, because I'll do more on the dirt and I won't be flying into any corners on the pavement. Not yet, though. There's about a week or ten days of open road left before I have to decide about night maneuvers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Exploding Rims and Derailleur Hair

Yesterday this wheel came in on a mid-1990s Gary Fisher. The rider reported that it exploded AFTER he had completed a precipitous descent.

"I felt a thump-thump-thump and stopped, but the spokes were all tight, so I started up again. A minute later, BLAM, it blew," said the rider.

I'll guess it did.

He did not crash.

In case you don't know, this sort of failure started becoming common during the mountain bike boom. Powerful rim brakes in an abrasive environment wear away rim sidewalls probably ten times as fast as road rims used to wear.

Today my associate across the bench drew this piece of pubescent componentry on a vintage Columbia road bike. Sorry the pictures are fuzzy. So is the derailleur.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The surreptitious return of the four missing spokes

As I assemble bikes these days I notice that more of them are coming with 36-spoke wheels. No one has said anything. The bikes just come with more realistically beefy wheels.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where's my good citizenship award?

I'm giving up a beautiful day of bike commuting tomorrow because I'm going to a municipal law workshop in the evening in a town 25 miles from where I work and 35 miles from home.

I might make the start of the workshop by bike if I sprint out the door exactly at quitting time and hammer as hard as I can. Then I could sit and stiffen for a couple of hours before trudging home in the dark. I would probably pull in close to midnight. It's hard to match daylight average speeds by headlight. Bike transportation isn't always practical.

Wednesday looks like the best day of the week for the last few days of official summer weather. I can't think about it.

Thirty years ago it was just me and a bicycle. I was just about to sell my car. Shortly after that I took my bachelor's degree and my unrealistic dreams into the Real World, as we called it then. After years of carefree drifting I got to the point where I thought I ought to help with the grunt work of running things. Citizen government needs citizens who will give up some of their own time and learn how to make government by the people work. It's easy to fork out tax money and bitch about how it's spent. But how else are you going to pay the professionals who will do what you can't or won't? It's easy to declare that we need smaller government, but let me tell you from first-hand experience: three people can make government gridlock. Two either agree too readily or constantly stalemate each other. One makes a dictatorship. So you're going to have some frustrations no matter what. Want to do something? Get involved. And bring a constructive attitude with you.

I don't get paid. I'm elected to one board and appointed to one commission. Because so few people have the time or inclination to get into town government, almost everyone works two boards, and some town functions remain unfilled.

Sometimes I wish I was still a cynical and hopeless drifter, free to take off whenever I felt like it. I could still enjoy the beauties of our dying world and the pleasure of a few good friends. Conveniently, even though I labor with the cynical belief that degeneration will prevail despite our best efforts, I'm not much of a drifter. As a cynical and hopeless homebody, I figure I might as well take a stab at staving off the inevitable catastrophe, since I'm hanging around anyway.

I'm still doing my best to avoid being put in charge of anything. I'll do the metaphorical equivalent of shovel work for now. My body may not wander, but my mind still likes to. Some unrealistic dreams live on.

I just have to hold on for Thursday's ride.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bike racing may be hard, but it's easier than growing up.

Why rush to a more relaxed lifestyle while you've still got the fire inside you? Apparently Lance Armstrong really is going to take a shot at Number Eight.

It's a no-lose proposition. Just as no one expected him to do well in 1999 as the gaunt survivor of a horrific disease, who expects him to kick butt now as a fossil of 38? It gives him something to do, pulls in publicity money and gives hope to the "elderly."

Rock on, dude.

Moulton Gems

I came late to the party at Dave Moulton's cycling blog, but I've been digging around in it during the past few days.

I love these Ten Commandments. For instance:

"2. Thou shall not run red lights, except when there is no one else around; it shall be as the tree falling silently in the forest.

3. When a motorist cuts you off, offer up the sign of the cross. One finger pointed towards Heaven will not suffice.

4. Thou shalt wave to thy fellow cyclist. If he should ignore you, offer your blessing, and not “Fuck you, moron.”

5. If three consecutive cyclists ignore your wave, you are exempt from the fourth commandment.

6. If passed while climbing a steep hill by a Fred with a 30 inch granny gear, resist the urge to wish that his chain will jump over his plastic dork disc and rip every spoke from his rear wheel."

And this:

"9. The meek shall inherit the earth. Blingy equipment that is lighter than an anorexic butterfly, will not substitute for miles in your legs."

Go have a look. The blog is a treasure trove of perspective, historical and otherwise, on cycling technology, frame design and much more.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Historical Research Question

What was humans' favorite way to commit negligent homicide BEFORE the automobile was invented?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Go Bask in the Hatred

One reason I took up backpacking instead of going further with bike touring in the 1980s was the constant, corrosive hostility I encountered while pedaling. I could endure it while commuting, because I could defend my actions by pointing out that I removed one car from traffic, relinquished gallons of fossil fuel to those who couldn't or wouldn't get off the sauce, and left one more parking place for those who needed a place to dock their barge.

In recent weeks, an editorial in England and another in California have broadly condemned all cyclists except for the obedient ones who stick to parks and paths, perhaps driving there with a wobbling rack overloaded with the family's fleet of lead-pipe cruisers and kids' bikes.

It's no surprise such ignorant bigotry exists. The sad and scary part is that someone thinks it deserves to be published. As commenters on both sites have pointed out, substitute any racial, ethnic or religious group for bicyclists and there would be howls of outrage against the editorial writers. So congrats, fellow cyclists: we are the last group it's entirely okay to hate.

Now we must marshal our arguments. Cycling may be genetic, rather than a lifestyle choice as our detractors claim. We can't HELP cycling. We hopped on a two-wheeler back in our youth and it grappled into a portion of our brains. We can't rip those hooks out. Lucky you if you never really mastered the balance and grace, and so moved happily into the four-wheeled motor vehicle which is the symbol of all that is good and normal.

I suppose we fan the flames of righteous indignation because so few of us confess, recant, relent, repent and relinquish the sinful cycle. We persist in our offense rather than joining the greater mass of humanity in the majority's clearly superior behavior. We obstruct our betters in the use of their streets and highways, aided by legislators who clearly have their own personal deviations in mind when they facilitate ours. Among the many quirks and perversions pursued by some of our lawmakers, some of them actually RIDE BICYCLES THEMSELVES.

This sickness must be expunged. It will be expunged. By fire and sword, by fender and bumper, one or two or six crushed cyclists at a time, it will be expunged.

I can't be saved. Notice that I took up backpacking instead of ATV-ing, cross-country skiing instead of snowmobiling, kayaking instead of jet-skiing. I am a deviant. It runs too deep.