Thursday, October 23, 2014

New glove design

Your faithful reporter has found this prototype of a cycling glove that puts the high viz where you can really use it.
The manufacturer's name has been obscured because they have not decided whether to release the product. Obviously it has its controversial aspects.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the golden age of the rigid frame

Just before good quality friction-option top mount shifters disappeared in the beginning of the 1990s we were able to remove the under-bar shifters and saw off the shifter mounts to retrofit the old reliable shifters onto mountain bikes with butted chromoly frames, nice all-around frame geometry and cranks with the newly reinvented round chain rings.

The Rockhopper pictured above would have come with a rigid fork. Rockshox were still an after-market modification adopted first by aggressive riders who were beating on themselves and their equipment in the quest for speed on rough terrain. The $4,000 wonder bikes of today were not even science fiction back then. Riders rode bikes of steel over landscapes of natural stone and dirt and mud. Within a couple of years we would start to hear about the aerial mazes and jungle gyms in places like the Pacific Northwest, but for the moment we rode on what we found nearby, adapting our tires, riding style and expectations to local conditions.
These shifters will not be temperamental no matter how long they've been sitting around. I remember Maynard Hershon whining about primitive shifters in an essay just a couple of years after this bike was new. He was praising the new brifters Shimano had inflicted on the world as a step long overdue to bring bikes out of the 19th Century. I admit I do not long for downtube shifters on my road bike, but I've halted my evolution at barcons.

If this bike had every piece of technological puke the industry had available the refurbishment could cost another $50 or $100 to put on seven-speed compatible parts much cheesier than the original equipment. Seven speed is now below the sludge in the bottom of the barrel in the era of ten- and eleven-speed cassettes.

Check out the forged crank with individually replaceable chainrings. This on a bike that cost about $500. By mid-decade, Specialized was leading the way in cheapening once sought-after models like the Rockhopper to extract extra profit from customers who bought the latest version on the reputation of the earlier ones.

Not everything on this old beauty is pure gold. The original brakes represented an unfortunate mutation on the way to better cantilevers and even better linear pull brakes. When we put the suspension fork on, we replaced the front brake with a decent low-profile cantilever, but the rear set are original. And the brake levers themselves are still the old full-hand type, not the two-finger levers that came to prevail.

The one-inch steerer tube limits options for a new fork, but if someone wanted to return to a rigid fork I bet there are nice castoffs kicking around. The frame was built for a shorter fork than the Rockshox Indy it has now. All the good old chromoly forks can't have been melted down for paper clips already.

It's nice to see something come out of mothballs besides dead moths. New rubber, a couple of cables and a set of brake pads and this thing will be ready for fun.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Jigsaw puzzles and more

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? If so, the bike business may be just your thing.

Here are the pages showing derailleur hangers in the Quality  catalog.


Every time a bike comes in with a tweaked derailleur hanger we have to check it against the reference pictures, the way you consult the picture on the box when you're doing a jigsaw puzzle. As with jigsaw puzzles, we compare all angles, swoops, curves, cuts and protuberances to pick which one of several similar hangers will actually fit.

Disc brake pads are a less detailed jigsaw puzzle, but still important to get right.

The bike in front of me takes a Wheels Manufacturing  number 43. We have plastic tubs full of Wheels  Manufacturing  number 27, accumulated from Fujis that came with two in the box. The 27 looks somewhat like the 43, but not close enough to tempt improvisation.

Because most hangers are alloy, they often snap when you try to coax them back from what looks like a minor deviation. They're meant to fail to save the frame and possibly the derailleur. A wise off-road  rider should buy one or two spares ahead of time. I can't imagine too many shops bother to keep every style fully stocked.

Yesterday and the day before I spent bringing a 1991 Specialized Hardrock back from the dead.

Here's what I found inside the left shifter:

That's some kind of old bug nest. 

This thing was profoundly cruddy. It went well with everything else that was rusted to a lump.

 The derailleurs wouldn't even move. A day and a half of penetrating oil actually loosened them up. Hard to believe the bike functions, but it does. I was about ready to declare it dead when eyelids fluttered, metaphorically speaking.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

As darkness falls

Last night I headed out under cloudy skies in summer-like heat to ride the path and back roads back out to my car.

The path is not totally deserted yet, even in the outer reaches, but away from town other users are getting pretty scarce. So I might see the occasional dog walker or I might not.

I saw something. It was way out ahead of me. Dusk was not too deep yet, but against the backdrop of forest this black animal was hard to make out. Ordinarily I see a black animal without a white stripe and I figure it's a bear. They're pretty common. But when I got a profile shot this looked doglike. I thought I could see the downward sweep of a canine tail. But it was a hundred yards away in failing light. It was not near a house. It was not accompanied by a human. When I got to where it had entered the woods there was no trail. It had simply melted into the vegetation.

Here I am, unmauled and not even inconvenienced. But I wondered, not for the first time, what I don't see when I'm riding in full darkness the whole way.

October is spooky because the nights are getting longer while leaves remain on the trees to make the darkness darker under forest cover. Once November gets well established spooky just turns to dismal.

If something does come after you on a rail trail you can only flee in one direction or the other. The Cotton Valley Trail is so narrow in many places you wouldn't be able to reverse course anyway. I'll load up on garlic, silver bullets and whatnot to get through the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Uncivil Twilight

Around here, drivers seem to get more aggressive in September. This year it was a month late, possibly as a result of climate change. The increase in pushiness reinforced the second level of driver misbehavior that comes out after sunset.

When I got really good lights I tried pushing the commuting season into the months of darkness. Immediately I noticed that on certain parts of my route I could not control traffic as well as I do in the summer, even with summer's traditionally recognized heavier traffic and influx of "idiots from away." October brings the ghouls and goblins, the creatures of darkness, I guess. And a lot of them drive pickup trucks.

Fortunately, I can switch to the park and ride option, which uses mostly dirt roads and the rail trail. I've run into one or two off-season trail abusers over the years, but it's nothing like the rudeness on the road.

At different hours the mix of drivers might turn more compliant. I doubt it on the near end of my route, because night time brings out the hot rodders and tire shredders. They seem really attracted to the intersection near my house. It may be the only place for three miles in any direction where there's room to do a doughnut. Then there's a great straightaway in front of my house for the approach and the getaway.

To avoid the attention of violent redneck humorists I have gone night riding a few times around my neighborhood with only a headlight, no tail lights or reflectivity of any kind. At the first hint of an approaching vehicle I would dive for the ditch, snap off the light and freeze. If you can't be seen, acknowledged and respected, don't be seen at all. But when you do that you find out how many vehicles go by you on what seemed like a nearly deserted road. Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere.

An awful lot of human survival in general seems to depend on not meeting a psychopath at the wrong time. No strategy of defense or avoidance is perfect. And there are always the idiots.

Conditions are only slightly better driving a car in all this. You don't get more respect from other road users who are aggressive or inattentive. You just have a bit more armor plating. But the park and ride is better than no ride at all. I know its limitations.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I like big bus and I cannot lie

Caught my bus Friday morning and it almost caught me. Still figuring out how to insert subtitles and other Rantwick staples into a video. I had the helmet cam on to monitor traffic behavior on the way across town and I caught this bus. Oh boy! A draft! I got a bad drafting habit. When a truck or a bus goes by in a rush I gotta sprint! Get to that pocket and get in it!

I conveniently forgot that school bus drivers can be a little crazy after many missions shut in a metal box with a bunch of kids and some of them are apparently NASCAR wannabes. Check out how this one gets on it after pulling onto Main Street.

This was a short run -- almost abruptly short:



I'm getting old for this stuff. I can't help it, though. That wave of air invites me forward and I start grabbing gears. The bus driver stomps the brakes and I grab mine. I missed the corner of the bumper by a generous five inches and sauntered into the corner like I'd meant to do it that way. Just another day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bamboo cycle wipes

This sample of White Lightning bamboo cycle wipes showed up in the workshop this week. I finally read the info today.

The wipes are made of a tough, durable  but biodegradable bamboo fiber fabric. Supposedly it will degrade in 28 days when composted. Use a disposable product without guilt!

Yeah? What about the packaging?

My "cycle wipes" are little squares of old cotton tee shirt tucked into the bags on each bike in the fleet. I carry another scrap or two in the bum bag I use for commuting. Those and saliva make up my cleaning kit. Every so often I launder the little rags. When they get too bad I throw them away.

Your alcohol based cleaning towelettes can potentially dry out in the package if you haven't had occasion to use them in a long time. On the other hand, if I can't produce saliva I have worse problems than a bit of grease on my hands.

Your socks come in handy for minor finger wiping, too.

Maybe if I had a rash of roadside breakdowns and had to grovel around the grimier parts of my bike several times in a row I would feel differently. How many non biodegradable packages of biodegradable wipes would dry out before that happened?