Sunday, June 29, 2008

Don't trust my beater anymore

The old Super Course has been making a pinging noise I can't track down. Because everything moves when anything moves on a fixed gear, it's really hard to isolate components.

The frame is 30 years old. The fork came off my used Eisentraut, which I purchased in 1979. It was a replacement fork on a frame with a 1975 serial number, so it could have come from 1976. The frame was an early Limited that had been raced by person or persons unknown. I guess they crashed it and trashed the original fork. I don't know how long the frame set had hung in the basement of Belleview Bicycle in Alexandria before I came along.

In summation, the frame and fork are probably both 30 years old and have been in continuous use since 1979. The fork has been on at least three bikes I've built up. The Super Course frame actually left my hands and went to another rider or two before coming back to me. I built it into its present form in the early 1990s.

For at least the last couple of years I've inspected the frame for cracks at least twice a year. This week I may have found some. They're not the usual shape in the usual places, and they're very fine, so I can't be sure. But any doubt gnaws into your brain when you're spun out at 200 rpm in low gear, ripping down a steep decline too short to be worth flipping the wheel. For that matter, rumbling down a longer grade in the high gear at an easy 27-30 mph, you don't look forward to doing a tuck and roll as the fork disappears from under you.

The Traveler's Check doesn't fit the fixed gear beater niche. So now I have to come up with a ride as functional and fun as the Super Course with as little investment as the original. I paid something like $30 or $50 for the frame in 1979. I had all the other parts. I've bought tires, chains and a Shimano UN 52 bottom bracket for it. Everything else was handed down...oh yeah, except the two-sided hub in the current rear wheel. But that one replaced a freebie two-sider someone gave me minus its axle. Atom hubs are Atom hubs. I pulled an axle and cones out of some old Motobecane wheel to get that one going.

In 1979 I did not know how much frame proportions matter to ride comfort. Back then, if my 'nads cleared the top tube that was good enough. Now I know that the Super Course's long top tube agrees with me, and its ample tire and fender clearance make it easy to set up for foul weather. So the next beater must duplicate those qualities.

For now we'll see if one of two salvaged forks takes care of the noises, and monitor the possible cracks in the down tube. Only one frame in my pile of spares has similar tire and fender clearance, and it doesn't have the top tube length. Time to cruise the dumps and trash piles. The Universe will provide.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Iffy Weather

We're stuck in a tropical pattern with showers and thunderstorms rolling through every afternoon. They might hit at commuting time. They might not. They might include small hail and frequent lightning. They might not.

The helmet wards off small hail. Nothing wards off a massive blast of electricity.

Fortunately, this week someone has had to have a car in town at the right time to cover the homeward leg of my commute. Since all our transportation costs come out of the same pocket and we go in at different times, cycling is not just an indulgence. We're carpooling.

For the weekend, the plan gets murkier. So does the weather. Since Blue does not have a rack or fenders, I may run the old reliable Super Course. And I need to get a move on. After an 11-hour work day yesterday I was a little sluggish hopping out of bed to report for today's 8-8.5.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It just feels right

Building a responsive bike for the urban criterium calls for a careful balance of factors.

Riding traffic, a rider wants to sit up enough to look ahead and keep track of a complex situation without straining. An explosive sprint can come in handy, but the position for a good sprint requires low handlebars and a grip nearly even with the steering axis of the bike. Frame geometry helps make a bike stable under hard acceleration as well, but even a good tight frame will feel waggly if your bars are too high, your hands too widely set and your grip too far forward.

Drop bars have the drop position back by the head tube. That way, sprint force goes straight down the steering axis behind the contact patch. Sprinting from a high forward position sends your force back down the stem to get to the steering axis. While the bars hang just as far forward of the stem no matter where you grab them, your weight stays more centered between the wheels when you're on the drops. You're also able to pull up against the stem with more leverage and more centering counter-force than when you sit up or pull on bar extensions that are high and forward.

I left the fork on Blue long enough to set the bars higher than on any of my other road-oriented bikes. It feels really mellow when I'm sitting down sitting up. If I stand to sprint I have to remember to keep myself back and only stand for a couple of pedal strokes. The bike is light and accelerates readily, so I can spin it up pretty quickly. But it robs me of the fight-or-flight burst I can use on the other bikes.

Trying different options, I dropped the bars a centimeter. Suddenly it felt more capable. When I compared, I found that this exactly matched the bar height on my other bikes. I'm so accustomed to it that I could feel the difference without knowing what it was.

Different doesn't mean wrong. I wanted to be able to sit up more, even if I didn't have the bike set that way all the time. I left the bars in the lower position for now, but left the steerer long enough to move them up again when I want that.

Maybe I'll ride to town with no brakes tomorrow and scrounge some brake levers that fit my bars. Blue is very fun to ride.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blue before brakes

Here is Blue, version 1. I will probably switch to an eighth-inch chain so I can use a half link to tighten up the rear wheel position. The dropouts are long enough to get both gears, but a half link would let me keep both positions further forward.

The brake will have to wait because the clamp on my brake lever of choice is too small. I hope we have the 26-millimeter ones in stock at the shop. The ones I got turned out to be 24 mm.
Check out the blue stuff I'd accumulated.

Violent thunderstorms came in like a napalm run this afternoon. It's still pretty wet out there this evening. Maybe I'll get to take a test ride tomorrow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Room for a Squirrel or even a Groundhog

In other news, here is a hazard of low spoke count wheels and carbon forks you might not have anticipated. A rider reported to be going 20-30 miles per hour caught a squirrel in his front wheel, snapping the fork.

Searching on the topic, I found a number of reports of similar incidents dating back a number of years. One even made reference to snapping a metal fork, in case any steel-frame aficionados want to feel smug. However, the reference did not say whether the "metal" fork might have been aluminum.

Wheels with a higher spoke count would fence out the unfortunate rodents.

Looking up squirrel recipes for a coworker who was complaining about having to go to the grocery store so often, I did discover that large males are notoriously tough. Perhaps young and female squirrels will squish through the forks more easily, causing less damage. Learn to identify the sex of any squirrels you see loitering on the roadside to help you decide whether you should slow down. Also, if you have wheels with heavy bladed spokes, like Mavic's, file them down to a razor edge to slice and dice any squirrels that might enter your wheel. Squirrel confetti might cause a gory splatter, but it's better than using yourself as the human crayon across the pavement. It also kills the squirrel more mercifully quickly.

Thin round or bladed spokes just leave you at the mercy of any animal that will fit through those giant spaces.

Research is underway to determine the minimum spoke count needed to block out your more common roadside fauna. Meanwhile, try sticking cards or aluminum pie plates in your spokes or sticking owl figures on your bike to deter them.

Good luck out there.

Our condolences go out to the families of the squirrels.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quick and Dirty Cleat Covers

Often I will need to stop at the grocery store for a few items on my way home from work. Since I prefer the power and efficiency of cleated shoes on the long commute, that leaves me clacking and skidding around the hard floor like a deer on a frozen pond.The other day I devised this quickie cleat cover. I cut pieces of a discarded foldable road tire. I punched holes in it and laced pieces of shoelace through them. The covers lie flat in the rack pack on the bike so they don't take up too much space.
When I need to cover the cleats I just tie the strips of tire around my shoe.
It seems to work. And the pieces are long enough that I may try rotating them and modifying the lacing to cover the cleat and the heel of the shoe.


The mechanic's bike always needs work.

Last night I finally got time to rebuild the rear wheels on the Cross Check and my road bike. Tonight, in a burst of overconfidence, I thought I might make some progress on Blue, the Traveler's Check fixed gear. I had all the parts, right? I'd built the rear wheel weeks ago, before I discovered the rim failures on my other bikes.

Here's how it stood when I got home.

The blue theme developed gradually. The frame is blue. The Sachs crank Frothingham gave me ten years ago is blue. The rear tire is blue. So is one bar plug.

The biggest job on a bike this simple is facing the head tube. The BB threads look pretty clean and cartridge bottom brackets don't demand perfect facing, but the head tube needs to be right. Before I dug into that, though, I wanted to hang that blue crank to confirm the BB axle length.

110 was wrong. It was also the shortest thing I had. And all I had for crank bolts were some 15 mm Campys that didn't fit comfortably in the crank arms. I figured I would just shove the right one on there to check the chain line.

That Sachs crank is going to take a very short BB. The 110 had it hanging way off the chain stay. So I dug out an old Dura Ace I'd scavenged. It looked great, but it's a 175. #^%$^$! I pulled out a 600 and it was a 175 too. @#%^$%&#! Then I remembered one on a frame in the crawl space. It had a 110 bolt circle, which meant I could use the 49-tooth ring I was going to put on the Sachs, but the arms were 165! &^$%*&^%#&#!

I hope I can dig up a BB short enough to make the Sachs work, because I was really liking the blue, and I have that 49 ring. The only thing I know for sure is that I will have to carry a bunch of parts back and forth until I get it figured out. But building bikes has ALWAYS been like this. 20-30 years ago it would have been some nationalistic thread pitch or oddball seat post size.

At least the Cross Check and the road bike are back up to par.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Right Out Straight

At the moment, the repair shop is the sole source of income for the bike shop. After a few early-season sales, no one's closing the deal on new bikes, although we've moved some used ones. A lot of people are digging out the trusty two-wheeler with vague notions that they will beat high gas prices somehow.

Bad news, guys. You do actually have to pedal these things.

In that vein, we did have a guy bring in his mid-1990s Haro for a tuneup prior to his own installation of an after-market helper motor of some kind "to help out on the hills." All well and good, except that all these electric bikes and assistance motors add so much weight that they virtually assure that the rider will never feel like pedaling that contraption. So thanks for the repair business, but why not skip the investment in the bike motor and go buy the Vespa you really want?

Because I have an automobile trip scheduled for my "weekend," I had to deal quickly with the Ford's most recent stuck brake caliper. It would jam so solidly that the wheel cover would almost be too hot to touch in just a few miles. I also looked at the odometer and got a sudden sinking thrill when I realized it had passed the magic number for the next timing belt failure. My trusty mechanic informed me that I would not have made it to Connecticut. Oh yeah, and have a new water pump while you're at it.

"I saw some stuff I'd like to do to the rear brakes next month when you come back for inspection, but I wanted to give you some time to recover from this one," he said. He's good that way.

Getting the car to the mechanic meant that I had to get up at 5-ish. I actually woke up around 4, with the early light, so I'd had about 5 hours sleep at best. I had to absorb some breakfast and try to get through the usual morning routines when my body still felt like half-melted lead and my brain was actually still dreaming.

I drove through Wolfe City to drop off things I didn't want to bother to carry back with me on the bike, like lunch and my work clothes. I tried to drive just faster than the speed of stink, but slowly enough to avoid heating things up too much. Fortunately, the morning was cool.

Once I dropped the car at the clinic I had to scamper 26 miles back to Wolfe City more or less in time for work.

Back at home, I had to come up with a cartoon that was already a day late. I'd spent Tuesday racking my brain over it to no avail, after devoting Monday to final preparation and submission of my five entries in the Union of Concerned Scientists' annual cartoon contest. The finalists are collected into a calendar, and the winning entry gets the cover. A panel of judges selects the finalists, which are then posted on the UCS website, where public voting selects the overall winner. I made the finals last year, so I was surprised to learn I could play again.

Somehow I was still awake at 11:30 at night, 19 hours after my first reluctant crawl to consciousness. In fact, it was hard to drop off for my next 5-6 hours of sleep before Thursday.

Thursday morning I had to finish inking the cartoon for Tuesday's deadline before sprinting to work. Every bike but my fixed gear needs some kind of work, although the Cross Check is functional. I just haven't had time.

Thursday evening I stopped at the grocery store on the way home for supper protein, which I threw on the grill once I got home.

Yesterday morning, it was up and out again after another inexplicably late night. The early light of pre-dawn does a good job shortening sleep on the other end of the night.

Meanwhile, the cellist is getting ready for her final studio recital. I really don't even have time to be writing this, because we'll have a house full of student musicians in a little over an hour. I'll have left for the shop by then, but have to sprint home to rehearse my own piece with the other token adult in the program.

Most of the kids are better than we are.

Tomorrow, after whatever might fall out of the dump truck of broken bikes at work, I get to drive to Connecticut among the receding flow of weekend visitors, and the first influx of Motorcycle Week. My ingenious wife had determined that it would actually be cheaper to take the bus from Dover to the train in Boston, but the trains aren't running this week because they're fixing the track. Shit! I'd really fallen in love with the idea of less driving, more relaxing, instead of doing battle with the motor maniacs of Massachusetts.

Coming out of the trip to southern New England I get slingshot into the following week. Hell, summer will be down the flush before I know it.

Four Bolts to a Happier You

Maybe six bolts.

We spend hours, days, weeks, years, and sometimes hundreds or thousands of dollars dialing in the position on our bikes, only to have something change. We age, get injured, change bikes or riding style.

There is no perfect solution.

Right now, I love every handlebar position on my Cross Check when I'm riding alone, but feel too low and stretched out when riding at a leisurely pace with slower cyclists. I'm going to try an experiment.

Open-face stems are very easy to change. I've ordered a short (80 mm), slightly steeper-rise stem to substitute for my usual 90-degree, 100 mm when touring with a load in slow company. That will bring the brake hoods closer and raise the bar tops slightly. It won't affect cable length or require other complicated adjustments.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dummy News from Surly

Follow the links in this post on the Surly blog to stories about people using pedal power in their daily lives.

On Commute by Bike, riders report various levels of increased commuter activity in their areas. The site also has a poll asking readers about the level of physical activity in the jobs to which they commute. Results are heavily skewed since the poll is on a website. Respondents need to have Internet access and find the site, which narrows the sample considerably. But the discussion goes on.

Around here, I sense far less hostility than usual, and more respect. This is not a very hostile riding area, but being rural it has what I can only call a redneck element which most commonly dishes out contemptuous gestures. These include passing too close, sudden downshifts, excessive use of the horn, thrown objects, poured beer and indecipherable yelling. I've seen less of that this year.

As tourist traffic increases we get city people who bring their hatred of cyclists with them. Since the tourist season hasn't really gotten going, I have no data on that group.

There will always be highly principled, die-hard bike haters. Recently, one truck driver laid on the horn behind a cyclist in downtown Wolfeboro, then shoved past, cut in and slammed on the brakes before accelerating away. Drivers like that are in or nearly in the same category as the ones who mowed down that pedestrian in Hartford, CT, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. It seems there will always be homicidal sociopaths. But tolerance in general definitely seems to be rising.

In any war there is always a last casualty. Assume nothing when you go out to ride. And accidents still happen. Still, it's nice to feel a little less like prey and more like a good example.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Cluster Headaches

The brawny lad who had his Mavic Cosmic wheel replaced with a snazzy DT on DT we got for him came back to report weird shifting issues on the nine-speed 12-27 cluster with which he had replaced his 12-25.

Most commonly with index-only shifting systems, the derailleur moves sluggishly shifting up the cassette or down, because cable tension is to strong or too weak. If it moves sluggishly both directions, the most common culprit is 4 millimeter housing, further constricted by grit and grime. The next thing to check is whether the linear wires in the housing have pushed through the ferrules or the cable itself has frayed inside some recess, even inside the shifter itself.

Less commonly, shifters of advanced age can get dementia as all those tiny ratchets and springs have simply had enough. Or young shifters can develop amnesia due to manufacturing defects.

There are a few minor repairable issues in the areas you can get into with road brifters, but only a few. They include The Mystery Screw in some generations, and the return spring for the shift levers.

Sorry, I don't have a picture of The Mystery Screw right now. Look on the inside of a brifter for a small, short, Phillips head screw. Early and late models don't have it at all. Somehow it affects the synchronization of the levers.

After exhausting other possibilities, I could only conclude that the shifter was wearing out. I had to scavenge one off a new bike we've been parting out. But when I got it hooked up, it exhibited the same strange pattern of shifting errors.

The rider had no problems with his 12-25. I put on a new one from our stock and the bike shifted perfectly. That meant I had to put his old shifter back on. It still shifted perfectly on the 12-25.

The seven cogs from 12 to 21 are the same on the 12-25 and the 12-27. The errors only occurred below 21. I switched those cog sets and the bike shifted perfectly on the 12-27. Something was a tiny bit off in the spacing of the set that originally came with the 12-27. Tiny discrepancies make a big difference as the spacing gets tighter. It took hours to hunt this crap down, hours we really couldn't bill for. But we cured it.


Chasing down mysterious noises for a burly rider, I discovered long but faint cracks in the rim of his elderly Mavic Cosmic wheel, radiating from each drive side spoke hole. The most spectacular was hidden under the label, so it just looked like peeling graphics. That one was about ready to blow.

This wheel had not gone out of true. The only sign was a noise that initially seemed to emanate from the freehub bearings.

Another rider, who is at least six and a half feet tall, mentioned that his Campy Nucleon front wheel has cracks at most or all of the spoke holes. He says he's been monitoring them. He also reported that another rider is monitoring the same problem with the same kind of wheel set.

If people were folding wheels right and left we would heard about it, so maybe this is just unnecessary alarm. There's usually some warning. But with more people riding wheels with very low spoke counts and high tension, each component carries more load. The failure of a single part will markedly increase the load on the remaining parts.

When I called Wheel Guru on Thursday to consult about spoke gauges and whatnot, she mentioned that she was at that moment building a 36-spoke rear wheel for a brawny rider who has killed one Cane Creek wheel a year.

"He brings them in with the big hand grenade holes in the rim where the spokes blew out," she said. "I've finally convinced him he needs something stronger."

The large rider, 200 pounds and up, ages equipment more rapidly than someone in the mid and lower weight classes. They are the canaries in the coal mine for smaller riders, because eventually those of us of lesser bulk will accumulate enough fatigue in an alloy part to experience the same effect.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Life is cheap on the street

The police chief of Hartford, CT made a bold statement after a hit-and-run driver mowed down an elderly pedestrian crossing the street in his city last week.

"We have no regard for each other," said Daryl K. Roberts. A report this morning on the Disney Morning News said he later softened that stance.

Too bad. Because that's succinct summation of how it feels to try to get around a crowded, supposedly public, thoroughfare when you're not in an armored vehicle.

I'm not saying we should dissolve into chaotic gridlock of doe-eyed drivers waving each other through stop signs. But why does it NEVER occur to drivers to slow down in congested areas? It is exciting to rip through a city street like Luke Skywalker screaming through the metal gullies of the Death Star en route to delivering his deadly payload, but in theory the objective of driving on a normal street is NOT to leave a trail of death and destruction.

Regardless of the fact that people called 911 within a minute of the incident, the fact remains that drivers maneuvered past the body as if it was just any piece of debris.

Few people want to see something distressing and gross. Later arrivals would not know if the body lay there because of an accident or perhaps a shooting. This may explain their reluctance to stop. But how about the ones with a clear view of the incident who just kept going? The two who hit the pedestrian fled with the typical guilty conscience of people who do things like this. They probably already had things to hide, and this incident is just one more.

Meanwhile, in Manchester, NH, an aggrieved boyfriend punched out his girlfriend while she was driving, causing her to run a red light and smash into two other vehicles. That's right, folks! Play out your personal dramas in any old inappropriate place. Don't just punch on someone. Do it while she's piloting a ton of steel, glass and plastic in traffic.

So you see you just never know what might be going on in those tins of canned humanity rolling by on the conveyor belt.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Anyone want to finance a bike company?

Bike companies all seem to offer the same kind of product lineup. The high end models have all the expensive parts. Down in the upper mid range are the really good values, where material and workmanship are good enough to perform well and heavy enough to last a while. From there down, the bikes just have increasingly shoddy knock-offs of the features on the higher-priced models.

Are consumers driven enough by appearances to make that the most profitable approach?

Bikes are not like other consumer goods. The rider has to bring something to the machine. Let the discount stores sell the hideous facsimiles of full suspension. The independent bike dealer has to deal more personally with the customer. We have to answer questions, sometimes very pointed questions.

A better approach to the product continuum would be to make the lowest price bikes have the fewest features and add features on the way up the price scale. Don't have a heavy, crappy suspension fork. Have no suspension fork. The bike will be lighter and more nimble. Give it nice enough geometry to make a fun ride.

Keep models to a minimum and adaptability to a maximum. With open-face stems and threadless headsets, position modifications are quick and easy. Quill stems had their advantages, and could still fit into a quickly customized format with multi-bolt clamps, so either way works.

Make rigid fork MTB-based models suspension ready. This allows the rider to make incremental upgrades and means the factory can produce a standard frame for multiple models.

At the moment, outfits like Surly, Soma and Pake offer parts of this concept, but they are still enthusiast bikes. Affordability is relative.

Maybe I don't shop enough, and some plucky little company is already doing this. I haven't seen it yet. Most small companies target the eccentric but already committed cyclist or offer slimmed-down versions of the big-company business model.

Osobike has one model that begins to do what I'm talking about, but it's one bike. That seems to be their sole product. A good start, certainly. They're thinking in the right direction.

Some components would have to come back from the grave, most notably mid-grade top-mount MTB shifters, indexed with friction option. If someone wants trickier shifting, buy the model that comes with it or upgrade your current bike to it. Business competition Shimano-style would ruin it, because constant change and compatibility issues would make upgrading difficult or impossible.

For the road the task becomes a little more difficult, since the barcon shifter is the current compromise between down tube and brifter. Suntour had the Command shifter in the 1990s, but the company went down soon after that, so the shifters didn't really get a full-on test in the marketplace.

The point of the truly minimalist bike company would be to offer the best quality at each price point by offering fewer features, of higher quality, not the same number of features made to lower standards. I'd rather ride a nimble 8-speed than a clunky 30-speed. And I think the new cycling consumer would appreciate the ride and the longevity, given the chance to compare.

Good thing I don't have any money, eh? I'd probably lose the whole wad, betting on substance over image.

Last Thoughts on Wheel Failure

It could be a form of what happened with Telemark boots and bindings. With old leather boots, they would get all broken down and soft. Then boot makers came out with burly plastic boots. At that point, boots held up well, but people started ripping bindings out of skis. So then we went to beefier screws. So then binding toepieces started cracking. And so on. Each improvement pushed the weakness of another component.

Maybe strong spokes that are more reluctant to break pass on stress to rims already potentially compromised by anodizing and heat treating processes. I NEVER break spokes, but I'm a rim killer. I guess miles of trouble-free riding is some compensation, compared to the annoyance of constantly breaking spokes, but it seems like there was a time when you could get a wheel to last without breaking either one.

On a couple of fixed gear wheels built with Weinmann concaves, I literally rode the races right out of the hubs without breaking a spoke or a rim. That included brakeless kickback stops and plenty of rough roads. It gets hard to keep track of all the substitutions as parts wear out or get damaged, but I know I've laced at least one replacement hub into a Weinmann concave, and may have done it twice. I've only ever replaced a concave due to crash damage. And that was just for aesthetics because I didn't want to keep riding what I'd bashed and tweaked back to acceptable straightness for the brakeless rear of a fixed gear. Sheer indulgence. I did ride it for several years, six or more, before changing it out.

My big weakness is that I can't really stand to ride a crappy bike. Even my beaters have character and become friends.

Critical Minuscule

How do you like it when drivers patronizingly wave you through a maneuver that the rules of the road already give you the right to do?

"Go ahead, little cyclist. Do what I wouldn't think twice about letting someone in a motor vehicle do without gesture or comment."

They really don't get it, do they? And they never will, so enough said. But it reveals the motive behind Critical Mass. I've been critical of the mass in the past because episodic confrontations don't really improve the overall climate for individual cyclists in traffic. They just prove we can be assholes too. But maybe something does penetrate the windshield and the thick, bony forehead behind it from time to time. Properly done, the rides can present a positive image and graphically demonstrate both the numbers of transportation cyclists and the extent of their rights to the road.

It could backfire if enough motorists decided to make political noise about how much of the road has been legally ceded to pedalers. A local driver in this area complained, "the road was narrow, with traffic coming the other way. I actually had to SLOW DOWN AND WAIT to get past this bicycler!"

Well DUH. New Hampshire law gives cyclists the right to close off the lane if it's not safe for a motorist to shove past. You'd slow down for a hay truck. You'd slow down for a tractor. You'd slow down for someone on a horse. Sometimes you just have to sloooooow dowwwwwn, Pardner.

Slowing down is not American. Pushing, shoving, grabbing and racing are American. Single-mindedly pursuing your personal agenda is the prime directive. Sacrifice for the common good begins and ends at military service. Riding your bike because you can, and because, in addition to personal financial and health benefits it saves resources, improves traffic flow and frees up parking for people who really have to drive does not count as social contribution. Money spent improving transportation infrastructure so that more people can use alternative methods is a waste of money on a special interest. Billions of dollars spent devastating foreign nations with fabulously expensive explosives is just good foreign policy.

A friend of mine put it well. "Instead of dropping a two million dollar bomb on some mud hut, why don't we just drop the two million dollars? It might make those people happy enough to quit making trouble."

Meanwhile, here at home, a few billion for nationwide road improvements would mean that cycling in the land of the free would not just be limited to the brave.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Many Wheels to Build

New rim on commuter rear wheel. New rim on road rear wheel. New wheel for Traveler's Check.

I'm going round and round.

One thing about cracked rims: there's nothing ambiguous. With some mere wobbles you go through that awful period of indecision, nursing it along. Just bust it outright!

Not recommended for front wheels. I knew a guy who had folded up a front wheel in a sprint, or at least that was the story. Can you say "post traumatic stress?" He still sort of raced, but he never really went for it. Can you blame him?

Waiting for the orders to come in is the hardest part. Finding time to do major work on my own bikes is the second hardest part.

Seems to work now


Something weird in blogland

My browser keeps giving me an empty window when I try to open Citizen Rider. Every way to link to it except through the dashboard yields the same result.

Let's see if this post brings it back.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dead round, dead straight and dead

Just in case spoke tension was a factor, I threw the road bike's rear wheel into the stand so I could knock about three-eighths of a turn off all the nips. Too late! Every drive side spoke hole has started to crack.

The wheel is still round and true. I had no idea it was starting to fail until I took a close look. Too bad I didn't look before Friday when I fired off another order for a rim. Maybe I should just stock up.

This should get my whole fleet caught up. I have no more rear wheels in regular service.

This string of gear failures is my punishment for buying the Travelers Check, a bike I did not need. Hell, now that the airlines will be charging for every checked bag, what's the point? And how likely am I to really do any traveling? When the S and S coupling instructions say to cover the couplings in wet conditions, there goes the idea of using the bike for the normal fixed gear niche. Guess I should have done more research and bought a normal Cross Check frame. I could transfer the multi-gear setup to the new Cross Check to take advantage of the improvements since 2000 and make the old green machine into the new fixie.

Yeah. No. I still like the idea of the TC. And a glance at the S and S website makes me think a coupled steel frame might actually be better than a traditional one in wet conditions, because you can open it up and blow-dry it.

I think I'm through with Sun rims for a while. This latest cracker is another ME14A. I've had at least one of those fail on a customer's wheel, plus the 0 Degree XC that just died on my Cross Check. It's Velocity's turn now. Got me a Razor on order. And I guess I should quit pounding 32-spoke road wheels down dirt roads under my porcine bulk. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did when I was racing, and it isn't going away. I like to blame cross-country skiing and kayaking for it, but sour cream coffee cake muffins and upper middle class beer contribute a lot.

I felt okay until I read a guy's forum post in a thread about rim failures and he described himself as "stout" at 165 pounds. Shut up, you anorexic #^%, unless you're five feet tall and 165.

The worst part is finding each problem just after I'd ordered similar parts to take care of the previous problem. I should have inspected the fleet back in April so I could make one big order and have everything ready for the season.