Saturday, March 18, 2017

And then it snowed

After dwindling away to nearly nothing, winter jumped back into the game with 15-20 inches of snow. Depth varied with your location. I measured about 16 at home. The ski center claimed 18.

Before the snow, I could have launched the commuting season as soon as Daylight Relocating Time moved light to the evening. Yes, I have lights, but I've said numerous times that you could set yourself on fire and some drivers still would not notice you.

In the shop, we had to drag out rental equipment we had started to put into storage. This isn't a real money maker, this late in a mediocre season, but it's our core winter business, so we have to meet whatever demand presents itself. I hate when bike and ski stuff jam together in the workshop, because the substances they use are so incompatible. In that equation, bike lubes are worse for ski bases than ski waxes might be for most surfaces of a bike, but we're still trying to fit awkwardly shaped objects into a shared space without damaging any of them.

Timing of the snow and other items on the schedule meant that I did not shift seamlessly back to an athletic routine of workouts on the snow. Back to? I never established one at all, this winter. Muscling the snow thrower around provided a couple of days of exercise. Later there was some shoveling.

The strengthening sun hasn't made the snow miraculously disappear, but it does modify it much more quickly than the weaker rays of deep winter would. The surface becomes slow and sticky, while the full depth remains fine-grained. Skis pick up moisture on the way through the top layer before dropping down into the powder to clump up and slow down. Or you could go to the groomed trails, if you have time.

If we move relatively steadily into spring conditions, the roads will melt clear, the snowbanks shrivel again, and I'll be able to get out of the car. No doubt there will be a few bad jokes from the weather during the next month and a half. But the darkness and its attendant cold have to follow their fixed schedule. What we get may not be balmy and inviting, but it will probably be doable.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

In memory of Sachs Sedis

Ordering chains the other day, I sifted through the offerings from SRAM, KMC, Shimano, and others. Our default chain has been SRAM, because their chains are descended from the legendary Sedisport, the sleeper deal chain of the 1980s.

Very little can be seen of the original Sedisport in the SRAM chains of today.  The formerly flared inner plates are now straight.

The outer plates are shaped very similarly to Shimano's Hyperglide and Uniglide chains, which the Sedisport once outperformed. The change was gradual, and the chains are still functional and durable. But the reflex to choose them is probably more emotional than anything else.

Vintage Sedisport. Burly side plates, cleverly flared inner plates to facilitate shifting. Born when drive trains were moving to six speeds. My, my. What will be next? Gears that click into place?
Look at the opportunities for advertising, recklessly squandered. The side plates of the chain are completely blank. It's as if they expect their distinctive design to speak for them.

The 1990s saw the introduction of the Sedisport ATB. The links shown here date from after the merger with Sachs, as the stamping on the side plates shows.
The outer plates were straight, with beveled edges. The pins were starting to be riveted in ways that led to the development of closure links. Shimano, of course, had their persnickety special pins. Sachs developed a closure link shortly before they were bought by SRAM.

Ten- and eleven-speed drive trains need straight-sided chains because the spacing of the gears is so tight. Differences, if any, are subtle. Because I don't indulge, I depend on the feedback of those who do to decide what to supply them with. I know what I favor, but that can change every year as the industry removes options.

Chain shopping was tangential to larger games of componentry chess I started last fall, when a couple brought in their Seven touring bikes to be reconfigured with more practical drive trains, and another customer wanted to dress a new frame with an 11-speed racing group. His Specialized Roubaix had cracked, and Specialized had sent a warranty replacement. Same brand, same model name, but of course it had some different specs. That game was more a matter of cost-benefit analysis, working within his budget and a couple of specific requests.

Interesting indoor activities help pass the time as winter reclaims March. This happens every year. We complain that the mild weather won't stick around, but 20 years ago these conditions would have looked like the beginning of April, not the beginning of March.

The hard freezes after springlike warmth have pretty well wrecked the cross-country skiing, even in the nearby woods. This limits alternative training activities to things that are more boring, and therefore less likely. Despite the fact that I can literally feel that sitting on the couch is killing me, I still slouch in front of the computer, teasing my mind with little jabs of electronic stimulation. Old friends, new friends, hopeful signs, terrifying trends, ads for diseases you, too probably have...

Back to the hunt for bike parts. Look at that: Specialized has multiple road models that list for $10,000. Way to grow the sport! When civilization collapses, where will we charge our electronic shifters? I know, I know: personal solar systems will continue to work, as long as you can find a place to soak up some sun in between attacks by various desperadoes unleashed by the apocalypse. And you'll be able to scrounge hydraulic fluid for the brakes for quite a few years before things have reverted to more medieval conditions. Brake pads, on the other hand...

I've gotten out for a few fixed gear rides. The return to cold weather puts me back to scrounging kindling and pine cones to start the evening fires in the wood stoves. Scavenging wood is best done on skis, as long as there is any snow cover. It's not a high-intensity workout, but it combines some basic exercise with a practical need. That's been my guiding principle for my entire adult life.