Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Enjoying a bike tour while it's still legal.

My 13-year-old nephew-in-law left today after a week up here at Camp Scavengewood. He's a great guest. He actually enjoys the quiet, at least for the week he's here. A second week might drive him over the brink.

This morning we took a 14-mile tour along the Ossipee River.

This was our first river stop, at the boat ramp on Route 153 by the Route 25 bridge. With all the rain, the river is as high as it is in the spring.

Next we rode to the Ossipee Lake Dam and hiked down the trail to the lower end of the island between the river channels coming from the two sections of the dam. I rode some of it, but it's really easy to bounce off a root and take a dive into the river from parts of the trail.
It's not totally clear from this picture, but a tall maple has either washed out from high water or blown down from thunderstorm winds. The leaves out in the river come from its submerged crown.
Surly in the wild
Cool heads prevail. This is near where I test the river every other week. Nephew-in-law tests it for coolness and wetness. Today was hot and sunny for a change.

Depressing news from Iowa

"Shared roadways are no longer safe or practical in today's society." So says a group in Iowa seeking to have bicycles banned from most of their state's highways. A group that calls itself the "Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa" is circulating a petition to get an initiative on the ballot for 2010 that would make cycling on "farm to market" routes illegal. Given the distribution of farms and markets in Iowa, that effectively ends much road cycling. Get on the bike path!

This news comes on the heels of the move by Jefferson County, Colorado, commissioners, to push through state legislation giving Colorado counties power to ban cycling from any roads they choose.

This is how transportation cycling ends, if we let it. One battlefield at a time, motorists push us back, push us back, waaay back.

If you're not a resident of the state in question, you can't do much to affect legislators there. If you can't vote them out of office, they don't give a shit what you have to say. It's obvious they have a thing against cyclists. Cyclists who can't possibly grab them by the political balls will rate no attention at all. You have to be ready to fight the war when it comes to you, or prevent it by continuous lobbying before the fact.

It always comes down to money. Many of the opponents of road cycling will not believe that they are persecuting low-income citizens. Many low-income citizens dutifully enslave themselves to motor vehicles and try to live like "normal" people. But if road cycling is outlawed, only outlaws will cycle on the road. Some of those desperadoes are bound to be decent, striving workers facing one more hurdle in their battle to make ends meet. I count myself among their number. I do all right, but a lot of that depends on being able to keep my transportation expenses in check.

Then there are the health advantages cycling bans will take from us. Those of us willing to be as active as our natural physiology requires deserve to be able to integrate physical activity into the practical workings of our lives.

Perhaps the opponents of cycling would like to see a big clot of motor vehicles blocking their favorite highway. Forget Critical Mass with bikes. Get out there in cars, the way they want us to, and drive like little old ladies. Get around us NOW, bitches!

I think I need to take a break and get some decent food into me. I can't think about moto-centric bigots for a while.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Reap the Tailwind

Got lucky with the weather Wednesday and Thursday. I needed to get home in a hurry for a zoning board meeting Wednesday. The southerly kicked in, so I rode the express.

Thursday morning I needed to get to town early to cover for absent coworkers. Presto, the wind had shifted, so I got the boost again.

It all went in the crapper this morning. A tropical downpour sent streams rushing down my driveway. The torrent overcame my roof drain system and put a pond under my workbench.

Complex jobs pile up in the workshop. My one co-mechanic seems to have quit without notice. It's under the guise of a vacation right now, but I know he's had enough of the craziness. Since he has other employment options, I'm not surprised his patience has run out with this one. Stinks for me, because he was good with a wrench and learned new procedures quickly. I can't fault him for wanting to escape, though.

One project at a time I ease them through. Finished assembling a Co-Motion tandem today. It took up a lot of space in the shop. It's weird working on something with its ends that far apart.

Next up, a tuneup and extras for Captain Corrosion, a phenomenal crud generator. On the other stand, another mechanic fought his way through a Crank of Death and brake replacement on an undistinguished Schwein someone wants to take on a plane to Australia. What, they don't have crappy beater bikes in Australia? Ours is not to reason why.

Against this backdrop (and plenty of other stuff in the pipeline) came all the emergency flat repairs and broken spoke replacements.

We had spotty coverage in the front of the house, so one or the other of us kept having to leave a workstand to babysit browsers in the clothing department or ring up purchases. At full summer volume the place really needs one person on the front end and two in service. In the brief periods when repairs slow down, one mechanic can be a floater to back up the sales force. When things are really rocking we can keep a person busy at the register, one on the bike sales floor and two at work stands.

Then in about a month it's all over. But don't wish your life away. The summer is like a racing season. You don't want to break yourself down with constant efforts at 75 percent. You have a duty to rest so you can go hard when the pace picks up. Try to enjoy every phase.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It takes so long to get anywhere...

We had to stop along Route 25
For these
Before riding on to Route 153 by Ossipee River to get a pint of raspberries.

Back on 25, the cellist started laughing at a lighted warning sign that said "Crack Fill, Next Six Miles. Expect Minor Delays." Unfortunately, it was surprisingly hard to photograph in the bright summer afternoon.

Keep your shorts snugged up and your jersey pulled down.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The shocker would be if it turned out to be a decent bike. The brakes alone should constitute child endangerment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

No lock for your bike travel case? No Problem!

Creative labeling will keep curious hands out of your stuff!

Direction makes a difference: A Tale of Two Commutes

This rainy summer has highlighted the way terrain and weather affect cyclists more than motorists.

Rainy weather discourages many people from riding. Some people shy away from the mere threat. Others push into the storm further. I don't know anyone who prefers wet, slippery roads and diminished visibility, but some riders definitely defy those conditions more than others.

The commuting cyclist needs to arrive at work ready to work. If you have facilities there to clean up thoroughly and change into dry clothes, you are fortunate and in the minority. Even so, you have to allow extra time to make the transition from cycling to work.

Two cyclists commute regularly to the shop where I work. We come from very divergent directions. My route tends southwest-northeast, while Jim Ayyy's runs northwest-southeast. His route also involves more climbing going both ways.

The way weather moves through here, I have a better chance of scooting out from under an advancing front than he does. Especially when the squall line moves in during the late afternoon, he can expect to ride right into its teeth. Therefore, he is far more likely to resort to the auto when the forecast calls for possible strong storms.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Repair STI

Shimano's mysterious STI shifters often frustrate mechanics attempting to repair them. Put away your conventional tools. The answer is acupuncture.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Instant Gratification Season

People on vacation need their bike done now. Even the feeble version of summer that has crawled in out of the shambles of economy and weather has brought riders with limited time and neglected bikes.

Some people tell us they save their work until they come here. I hope it's because we're good, not because we're cheap.

Several of the jobs glowing urgently in the queue are the kind of crazy shit that takes a wily mind and years of experience only gained by a life wasted in the bike business. It's easier to do them than to explain them.

The mechanics are seldom the rock stars of the bike biz. Never mind that the whole pile of cogs crunches to a halt without the grouchy grease balls with the wrenches and ready sarcasm.

Sorry guys. I'm not a smiley front man. If your gear is crap or you've treated good gear like crap, I've seen too much of it to grin and shuffle.

I've lined up the morning's hottest tickets. Now it's time to trudge out the servant's corridor of Wolfeboro, unseen by any of the titans of commerce and other illustrious folk who water here.

Pain gets dropped

For some reason, the normal aches and fatigue of a regular riding schedule lose their grip on me in July. I still hurt, but I turn a higher average for the same pain.

Racing is a pain game. For the most part, every racer feels like hell when the pace picks up. What separates them is not who can hurt the most but who gets the most from their hurt.

I am an aggressive commuter. I believe that a crisp, assertive riding style subliminally influences motorists. This means I have to be ready to ride like I mean it in sections where the traffic is only a little faster than I am.

The open highway is actually more restful. The motorists have room to whiz by at four times my speed. They swing wide by reflex at that speed. Some are better than others, but the vast majority don't want to risk too close a pass.

Wolfe City presents the most demanding part of any commute. In the morning I hit town warmed up with at least 40 minutes on me. The town criterium gives me a last surge of aggressive energy before I walk into the shop. In the evening it's much harder. I may have to sprint and throw elbows from the start. This is after spending the day on my feet. It's hardly an optimum warm up. As much as possible I drop back to an easy spin between jams until I gain the relative peace of the highway. The route home is slightly different from the route in, and longer. The potential jam sections are spread over a longer distance than in the morning as well.

July arrives with its peculiar energy. The month of my birth seems to bring rebirth. I was born in the long days and short nights of the New England summer. It feels right to me. As much as I have come to appreciate things that happen in other seasons, the height of summer is the center of my year.

Some time in August the chase group will reel me in. My leaden legs will slow. As the tourists and second home crowd recede I can take more time on my daily rounds. For now I enjoy the stage race of July.

Time to get ready for today's start.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

All righty then!

A guy picked up a wheel he'd left to have a tire replaced on while Jim Ayyy and I were away. The attending technician had made a note that this rear wheel had a broken spoke. The rim had a noticeable wobble.

Based on tire and rim size we guessed the bike would have cantilever brakes. Jim Ayyy pointed out the spoke problem to the customer.

"You got a broken spoke here. The wheel is going to have a big wobble in it. Your brakes might not work and the pads could cut the new tire," said Jim.

"Hey, I'm not in that race over in France!" the guy said, laughing patronizingly at our obvious attempt to sell him unnecessary work. "I'm just riding that bike path!"

Jim made a couple more well-meaning attempts to explain. The man kept insisting that he wasn't riding that race in France, so a straight wheel and functioning brakes were completely optional.

Wait until he comes back saying, "You just put this tire on my bike and it blew out."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

My wife's got a nice-looking pair

Except for one or two details, the cellist's bikes on the Cross Check platform are complete. The red one is set up as a rainy-day fixed gear. The Traveler's Check has her multi-gear configuration. The Planet Bike Cascadia fenders will fit either bike in case we set up for a longer tour some time.

The fixed gear sports a 36-spoke rear wheel with flip-flop hub, awaiting a half link to set the chain so both sides are usable. I could have sworn I had a 3/32" half link in my stash. Can't find it now, though.

On the front is the 32-spoke wheel that came with her Cross Check Complete. I put the new 36-spoke front wheel I just built on the bike more likely to carry a load. I have to order some parts to make her a 36-spoke 9-speed rear. I couldn't believe QBP listed no 36-hole DT hubs. The only 36-hole rear hubs in any of three supplier catalogs I checked were Shimano. I'll have to choke down my objection to non-serviceable freehubs for the sake of a spokier wheel for loaded touring. What the hell is DT thinking? They had a 36 last year. I've put a Shi'no 105 on the list to order. I have a couple of days to search a little more.

Friday, July 03, 2009

What do you expect?

On a recent ride home I spotted a length of synthetic webbing on the side of the road. The Roadside Tool and Supply Company has had many useful items over the years. I stopped to pick up this latest offering.

I didn't want to put the webbing inside any of my packs, so I tucked it under a strap on my rack pack. For several miles I kept glancing back to be sure it was secure. After several such checks I returned my attention to the scenery.

Especially in the summer, drivers can express intolerance of cyclists, as irritable local types chafe at summer traffic and visitors from away bring their own prejudices. I cannot count on peace and quiet even in the last couple of miles or even yards to my driveway. Most days no one does anything too overt, but the chance remains.

As I negotiated a series of curves and intersections in the final half-mile I had to use lane position and body language to communicate with drivers entering from side roads. There were a couple of pickup trucks and some cars in the mix. In this section people may join the route I'm on or cross it, so I might get a lot of company or none at all. Flowing down to the Pine River bridge and up to the stop sign I've been brushed back and honked at by drivers who felt they deserved to get to that stop sign first.

This time I found myself alone at the stop. I glanced both ways and floated through. It appeared I could relax.

Suddenly, a large, white pickup truck appeared next to me. It matched my pace. This usually is not a good thing. Drivers who get an urge to communicate with cyclists don't usually have supportive things to say.

A young man leaned out of the truck. Here it comes.

"This fell off your bike," he said, holding out the webbing.

"Dang, man, thanks," I said, with an instant friendly grin replacing the cold snarl I had been preparing. I took the webbing. They eased ahead to resume their journey.

What about THAT, now? They had to have stopped while someone got out of their truck to retrieve the webbing. That's why I was so unexpectedly alone at the intersection. That's way above the most basic courtesy I hope for from drivers. Once in a while it happens.

Most road-hardened cyclists learn to deal with honks, yells, swerves, thrown objects and Dopplered shouts of profanity or disdain from the lords of the road. I've also received badly-timed honks of support from inexperienced friends who don't realize what an instant rage car horns inspire in cyclists. We have to sort through all these messages and avoid automatically replying with a metaphorical machine gun burst. We can't afford any friendly fire casualties. We need all our friends out there.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Endless Drenched Idyll

The lazy, mildewed days of summer stretch future and past as far as one can see. The changeless gray-green light fades up in the morning and down in the evening. Time loses all meaning.

Finishing the cellist's rain bike did not bring us into bright sunshine.

In spite of the weather, a few dedicated riders and optimistic customers trickle through the shop. Our resident chipmunk darts across the sales floor like a hallucination. It prefers to spend time indoors, since it has the option.

Day after day of fixed-gear riding in the hills makes my legs as hard as a tree stump, and about as flexible. Once I warm up they can spin at ridiculous speeds on downhills for a short time. When I climb off the bike I discover they will only describe the circle of the pedal stroke. My back straightens reluctantly. Stretching is a survival need. No sun-warmed swooping down rolling hills.

It is what it is. It still beats driving. Meanwhile, remember the old saying: if you don't like the weather in New England, wait a month and a half.