Thursday, July 31, 2008

Death Fear and High Gear

A hilarious torrent of thoughts rushes through your chattering mind when you think your mortal existence might come to a full stop in a white-hot instant.

There's been a lot of lightning around this summer. I rolled the dice on the ride home because I hadn't had a good enough ride in about four days. But when the bolts drop closer to you, you question whether the bet was worth it.

Nothing struck terribly close today. I've been in worse. But it only takes one hit to ruin your day. All you have to do is let yourself think about it. You get the same kind of energy your cat has when she bounces around the house, leaping away from everything that moves and most things that don't.

For the first five miles I seemed to be ahead. It wasn't even raining, despite the multicolored blob I'd seen on the weather radar before I left work. But a few drops became a mist. The mist became a sprinkle, the sprinkle a shower. Then, with a flash and a rumble, the sky abruptly darkened to an early dusk. The shower became a downpour. I had just reached the series of climbs in the mid section of Route 28.

I'd already pushed myself to the ragged edge of breathing and leg strength. I pushed the heavy bike up each grade and spun it down the other side, trying to maintain momentum. Tall trees beside the road reached up into the clouds, stretching toward the tendrils of voltage looking for a path to ground.

I shift gears at the highest point on the route. Lightning struck twice while I fumbled with the wheel. I hunched my shoulders uselessly as I closed the quick release lever for the final time and sprinted across the road. I flung my leg over the bike and stabbed my feet into the toeclips.

From there it's downhill all the way home, more or less. All I had to do was push that gear as hard as I could until I got there.

A blue Subaru drove by, horn honking maniacally. I guess it was meant to be supportive. Then a friend went by in her car and waved. I waved back. The rain still poured down, almost blinding me as it pelted my eyeballs and soaked my glasses. Through the speckled lenses I looked down at my computer. Speed was good. On the long downgrade I held 22-30 miles per hour. I hoped it was good enough to keep the storm from sighting in on me.

After four days of rest, I was ready for this sprint. Heading in Elm Street from Route 16, I shot past my wife, coming outbound in my station wagon to see how I was faring. How was I doing? Nearly airborne. I felt like a spectator, observing how I pounded furiously on the gear and drove the bike forward.

"You're never home free," I kept repeating. Push the gear. My wife passed again, slowly, but I didn't want to stop. The mutters of thunder had receded to the east. The rain had lightened.

When I got to the driveway, my wife got out of the car.

"You're an idiot," she said. She threw a towel over my head and unlocked the basement door. What a wonderful, dry towel.

I went into the basement and started wringing things out. Home again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's not a pad

That thing in the shorts, formerly called a chamois because it was, is not a pad. It never was.

Padded seats kill my ass. Padded shorts REALLY kill my ass.

Synthetic chamois was a great leap forward. It was more washable, dried faster and did not dry to sandpaper the way a natural chamois did after a few washings. But then inexperienced riders started asking for more cush under the tush, thinking that was the key to saddle comfort. With the triathlon boom of the 1980s and the mountain bike boom of the 1990s, the bike industry picked up a huge influx of inexperienced cyclists. There was a lot more money in selling them what they thought they wanted than in teaching them what actually works.

Occasional and short-distance riders can get away with anything between buns and bike seat. If they haven't found the width and shape of saddle that really suits their anatomy fo rthe long haul, padding on seat and pants will guard against the feeling that they had been kicked solidly with a large boot in a tender place. But now the market is flooded with shorts that look like they have half a pound cake sewn into the crotch.

The chamois protects against chafe. The shorts are supposed to have no seam or flat seams in the problem area, unlike most normal street pants, which have a four-way seam junction under there. In the 1970s, cutoff shorts, with their lump of denim digging into that precious anatomy, did more to sell real cycling shorts than any marketing campaign. And in the 1970s people were more than ready to forego their skivvies, as proper bike short use requires. It was the '70s, man.

I'm nursing my last two pairs of shorts that don't make me feel like I've got a mattress shoved in my crotch. I need to do some product research, fast.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rain Bike and Sunglasses

The forecast looked iffy for today. We might get showers and some of them might border on severe. But the morning was bright. I chose the rain bike, but wore sunglasses because I needed them. They have interchangeable lenses. I could switch to clear if the rain had moved in.

The Rudy glasses with the prescription insert don't work very well in the rain. Water gets between the layers as well as inside and out, despite the large, full-wrap outer lenses. But my rain glasses wouldn't protect against the bright sun of mid-morning. We open an hour later on Sundays.

The showers didn't move in. They're coming. The gray haze gradually darkens, but still spreads the sun's glare. At least it did when I finally extricated myself from the shop after about 45 minutes of closing time pests.

An ambulance and a police car screamed past me on Route 28. A few minutes later, the fire and rescue trucks rumbled by. Past the height of land, traffic could only pass the accident scene one lane at a time. Someone had managed to tear the left front wheel off a jeep. It was facing north in the southbound lane, nose slightly in to the guard rail. I did not see another vehicle involved, but it might have been down over the bank. I didn't want to rubberneck.

I'd waited to shift gears because I could see the accident scene from the crest of 28 where I usually flip the wheel. Further down the slope I pulled into the driveway of a school and office complex to flip to high gear for the rest of the descent. Silver's dropouts are just a little thin, and stamped with a pointless indentation. No 30-second gear changes anymore. Plus I have to pull the wheel down out of the rear fender and work it back up in. Hey, it's a rain bike, not a race bike.

High gear lets me cruise at 28-30 and manage 35 on steeper bits without too much anxiety.

The bike feels really strange with the rear wheel so far back, but it's very stable on fast descents. Nothing twitchy about this bike, even if you'd like it to twitch. Just make sure you have it aimed where you want it to go. You have to make an appointment to change direction. I like it because you can look away from the road for a few seconds or half an hour and it will still be on track...provided it was on track when your attention wandered, or that the track itself didn't take a quick jog.

Anyway, I hear thunder now, and I have to make quick preparations for a motor trip. Easy does it. Mellow tunes, fresh coffee, maybe a snack. Everybody be cool, nobody gets hurt.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Grinding It Down

After 42 miles in the service of bike transpo yesterday, I rolled into the driveway at almost 9 p.m. last night.

Impatient cats milled around the basement. The one with 27% more toes than ordinary cats launched at me and stapled herself to the middle of my back in case I was going back out the door. I think she thinks I won't notice she's there. You'd think all the screaming and writhing around would tip her off that her cover was blown.

The ride was split around a full-length work day. I rode the usual morning commute and put in the usual eight hours standing up. I used to hate my office job because I had to sit all day. That and I had to work some 15-18-hour shifts putting the newspaper out.. I don't miss the 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. thing, but I do miss sitting down.

The run from Wolfeboro to Gilford isn't the prettiest in the area. It has some beautiful parts, but it also has some harsh and terrifying ones.

Getting out of Wolfeboro on 28 south a rider has to deal with three or four miles of narrow lanes, no shoulder, a steep dropoff at the pavement edge, and heavy summer and commuter traffic.

From the center of town the road climbs relentlessly. It is not steep enough to make the motorists perceive it as much of a hill, but it saps a cyclist. About a mile out the road bends right and drops steeply enough to allow a road rider to hit the upper 20s and low 30s with ease. Unfortunately, the cars all want to do 40-50. Fifty usually stays out of their grasp, but they'll take 45 for as long as they can. So you're hammering along on rough pavement, avoiding the chunks taken out of the edge, trying to coordinate with the impatient hordes. They can sense clear running room after steaming bumper to bumper in the crawl through the heart of the village. Most of them would just as soon kill anyone who gets in their way at that point. Or so it seems, anyway.

About half a mile down, the road makes a blind, dropping right around a building that probably didn't seem like that much of an impediment to navigation a hundred years ago when people didn't hurtle around in little rocket ships. If you can get the right line, the turn will take everything you can give it. If you miss that line you could smash in half a dozen ways to the inside or outside. Consequently, I seldom go into it at full power. I think I've managed to get the line once at speed and only a few times at all. You need to take control of the lane far enough ahead of the turn to set up well to the left. Chunks out of the apex, and that encroaching building, put the fastest line near mid-lane. Because the outrun continues and steepens the descent, you need to come out of the turn on full alert for crappy pavement that will toss you as you scramble to the right. The road straightens enough for the impatient drivers you dusted in the turn to hammer up on you again. They want their road back.

No point in antagonizing the motoring public on the continuing descent. It terminates abruptly in the brutal upslope of L'Alpe de Suez. Old timers call the hill Old Perc (Perk? I've never seen it written, only heard it pronounced). Younger cyclists nicknamed it L'Alpe de Suez, because the seasonal restaurant East of Suez stands almost at the summit. Anyone you pissed off will have ample time to savor your agony and add their personal touch to it as you grind your way up the punishing wall.

Getting out of Wolfeboro is absolutely the worst part of the ride. I'd like to say it gets steadily better from there, but it doesn't. It gets instantly better once you crest L'Alpe. Route 28 sprouts a full-width shoulder. You can push the pace or not. Then you can peel off at Chestnut Cove Road or continue on to 28A. Chestnut Cove is a quiet, woodsy lane. It cuts off the first drop on 28A, which is good for a coasting 45 miles per hour, at the cost of more miles on the wide highway. I prefer the woodsy lane, since there's still plenty of 28A's twisty, predominantly downhill run to the southern tip of Alton Bay.

Alton Bay was both delightful and hard to take. It was a festive summer evening. Crowds of holiday visitors from near and far clustered around the many restaurants offering all kinds of seasonal fare. Smells of fried this and grilled that permeated the atmosphere. That was the hard part. I needed to beat sunset to Gilford, which shouldn't be hard if I kept moving, but left me no time to stop and savor the tastes that went with the odors. I'd tried to eat well through the day, but my final supplement had been an out-of-date Luna bar from a box of expired food that had been thrown to the beasts in the workshop several days before. Calories are calories, but taste is something else entirely. I tried not to think about it.

Beyond Alton Bay the road opens up to highway again for a stretch, with expansive views over the lake. But then it necks down to shoulderless hell for a few more miles, while the drivers all try to stay at highway speeds. Failing that, they at least don't want to be stuck behind some sweaty moron on a bicycle for more than a few seconds at most.

It was a beautiful evening, but by the time I reached Ellacoya I was pretty well fried. I sprinted for the safety of the widening shoulder as the last trapped motorists jetted past on my left.

When I reached the garage where my car had been repaired, Rich (the mechanic who is worth going through all this to reach) had another customer. Looking at where he was reaching and the color of the stuff dripping onto the tarmac, I knew this poor guy had a rusted-out transmission oil cooler. Welcome to New England. Within a few minutes, though, I was able to pay my bill and get underway as a motorist.

I was pretty hungry. I didn't want to stop for food,because I had plenty of food at home, 40-odd miles away. When I'm doing something that interests me, I'm pretty good at meditating through hunger. If I'm doing some boring crap I haven't a prayer of staving off the snack impulse. Driving is boring crap, but I was driving as part of my own concocted expedition. With the help of a package of Luna Chick Chews we'd received as a free sample I was able to hold the major munchies at bay for the hour it took to drive home. Note: they don't taste like watermelon, no matter what the label says.

Between the Luna Bar and the Chick Chews I was well in touch with my feminine side as I drove home.

Once I got home I had to feed the cats, shower, feed myself and get to bed. So that got me to 11:30 easily. It was closer to midnight once I stretched almost as much as I needed to after the long, strenuous day.

0600, the alarm goes off this morning. Yesterday had been stunningly gorgeous after the previous day's thunderstorms and tornadoes. The forecast for today was almost as good.

"Aren't you tired? Don't you want to drive?"

"I already hurt. Why should I be miserable in a car on top of it?"

Never skip a ride because you're tired. Skip a race, maybe, because you're a menace to yourself and others if you try to compete when you're baked, but never skip a ride just because you're tired.

Yes, I had no reserves. My muscles felt delightfully spent. But I know they'll feel better after the steady load they got today, without brutal climbs or frantic sprints like a small fish desperately dashing for the cover of water weeds in front of the snapping jaws of a big, shiny predator. It was just my familiar commuting route on a really beautiful morning. I would hate myself for wasting that, looking dumbly out at it through auto glass.

Tomorrow I could need the rain bike again. The heavy fixed gear demands that I gear down my mind even on a good day. But it still beats driving. Just about everything beats driving.

Remember long stems?

Back in the early days of mountain biking, or perhaps the Middle Ages, as frame geometry tightened, but designers were still working out optimum proportions, many riders chose the smallest frame they could justify, and put on stems 130, 135, even 150 millimeters long.

The owner of this stem is at least 6'8". He had it on a Specialized. When that frame broke he transferred the parts to an old Sterling frame, including this 220 millimeter monster.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grappling with technology as usual

After one 32-millimeter wrench snapped while I was trying to extricate the Octalink Dura Ace bottom bracket corroded into this US Postal Team Replica Trek, I felt the need for some protection. Note color coordination between helmet and bike frame. Always try to look your best.

The big Chinese adjustable spanner and US-American Park leverage bar eventually had their way with the drive side of the BB. I had to spend some quality time with hammer and chisel, jab saw and gallons of penetrating oil to get all the chunks out of the non-drive side. Then I had to chase the threads to prepare for the new parts arriving tomorrow.

Shortly after this a spectacular set of thunderstorms rolled through. The worst went south and north of us, but we did see a flash flood rush across the street a few yards down from our parking lot. We'd never seen water flow through there before. It did it twice, during two separate downpours in the course of the afternoon.

We had a live feed from the TV station running on the computer. While I was trying to understand a mumbler on the phone, reserving a long-term road bike rental for his daughter, I heard the TV announcer say that a tornado had been reported barreling through the town where I live. By the time I managed to pass the phone off to someone else, the announcer had moved on to another area. All I could find was a written news brief saying, "In Effingham, officials reported wires and trees down, and extensive damage to homes, cars and other structures. Several roads were closed because of downed trees." A building had already collapsed causing one fatality in another town.

Communication to town was out briefly. Eventually I got in touch with the town offices and found out where the storm had concentrated. Then a neighbor called to say she'd gone by my house on the way to hers, and found both our homes intact.

The power was out when I got home. With no running water, and not wanting to let the cold air out of the fridge, I ate cheap pretzel nuggets dipped in peanut butter and drank beer until the lights came back. I really need to eat something more wholesome, but I'm not very hungry anymore. *Urp* Bleah.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There's more to life than comfort

"What's the weather doing there?" My wife was calling from Baltimore or less. She's in the neighborhood of MD for a week.

I looked at the dark green and yellow mass on the weather radar on the computer screen, and at the silver lances of rain splintering on the parking lot.

"It's misting," I said. No point painting a grim picture when I was going to ride anyway.

The temperature hovered in the mid 60s. The rain thickened.

I wore my tee shirt under my jersey for extra insulation. It would also increase my cargo payload at the grocery store if the shirt was on my back instead of stuffed in the dry bag on my rack. I had a please-don't-kill-me-yellow wind vest in a plastic bag on the rack as my last trick if I got too chilled.

With tee shirt and jersey, the rain and wind just felt pleasantly cool. Silver, the snorkel bike, cruised easily. It feels very calming. No point getting all jacked and jumpy. You'll never sprint that swing set.

A little discomfort tests you. Over the years I have sailed, paddled, climbed, hiked, biked and skied in a wide variety of conditions. Sometimes it was part of a race. Other times I had a fixed schedule and had to take whatever weather I got. Sometimes the weather ambushed me. It's handy to know how much you can take, and how you perform under stress, before a real stressful situation comes along. But that means you have to train. You have to choose discomfort the way you choose to lift weights or ride intervals. Push the margin of conditions a little.

Today I felt pretty fine for about 12 miles, as far as the grocery store. I parked the bike under the shelter where the shopping carts are stored, tied on my cleat covers and went in for a couple of essential items for the evening's celebration of a dry house after a wet commute.

The air felt chillier when I came out. I loaded the bike and set off across the parking lot.

For a cyclist, there are several ways to exit, depending on traffic. One sandy path leads out onto Route 28, where I can use the traffic light to help me turn left onto Route 16. That only works if I have a red light buddy to trip the treadle for me. Otherwise I just wait for a gap and run the light.

In light traffic I can ride right out the main entrance/exit to the parking lot onto 16, unassisted by a traffic light. If there are a lot of cars on 16 and going in and out, one or more motorists will always get impatient, convinced they could make a hole shot better than anyone pedaling a bike. So I avoid that option unless things are very quiet.

Plan C takes a route diagonally out the corner of the lot almost at the 16-28 junction. That way I can assess the traffic and either cross 16 directly or queue up at the 28 light. I hadn't done it in quite a while, though, so I chose the wrong hole through the trees and shrubs. I had to ride up and over a three-foot berm. I dabbed at the top.

The last three and a half miles was a bit of a slog. It's mostly down hill, but I felt the dampness and chill. I didn't want to stop to dig out my wind vest.

Home was all the sweeter for the effort. The comfort is so much more comfortable.

Speaking of Periscopes...

What's that bright light?!

Dive! Dive!

Yesterday's steamy sunshine is gone. The thick, gray mass hanging close above the treetops has taken over as our typical morning. Yesterday it did lift and part before closing back in. Today we can expect less relief, if any.

Showers and heavier downpours are on the schedule for the sixth day. Yesterday we didn't get much right around here, but the basic air mass remains unimproved.

Tomorrow is supposed to be more of a full-on deluge.

Friday looks good for a split 42 to go retrieve the repaired auto. We dry out for some reason, though the threat of some showers remains though the weekend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Adam the Tourist's Periscope Pops Up

Adam the Tourist updated his blog, indicating that he weathered the thunderstorms and made it to the Maine coast. Having traveled over there with bike and kayak, I could visualize his experiences.

No credit to me for replacing his shift cable or winkling out the recessed stub of his broken-off rack bolt (and chasing the remaining threads with a tap), but at least he mentioned the shop, more or less.

Glad to hear he's doing well.

More Law on Our Side

New Hampshire has just passed its version of a "three-foot law" requiring motorists to give at least that much clearance when passing cyclists. Drivers of any motor vehicle are also supposed to add a foot to that clearance for each increment of 10 miles per hour above 30.

What do you, the cyclist do about the driver who blatantly disregards the law? Not much. But at least the driver, if apprehended, might face more charges than under the previous laws. If you happen to have sympathetic police nearby when an incident occurs, they have specific statutes with which to charge an aggressive driver.

An article in the Concord Monitor
gives details of the new law. These include making it legal for a cyclist to pass a stationary vehicle on the right. I never knew it was illegal for a cyclist to do that. I just knew it was stupid. Now it is legal, but it remains stupid.

Last Sunday was the Day of the Death Hole in Wolfe City. On the ride home I had two drivers stop after passing me so I could pass them on their right before they turned right. Ordinarily I make a showy point of avoiding the Death Hole, but both times these drivers had pulled out to the middle of the road, blocking safe passage to the left, and ambushed me so that I had no time to bring my heavy rain bike to a halt to force them to clear the intersection. I had to trust them.

Trusting motorists is the second biggest cause of nasty crashes. Riding against traffic is the first. Since riding against traffic is the most egregious form of trusting motorists, you could say that trusting motorists is the single biggest cause of nasty crashes.

When traffic is stopped, as in Wolfe City all summer long, and North Conway during summer and winter tourist seasons, cyclists are forced to ride to the right of the whole string of sense-deprived prisoners of internal combustion. That was how I got a car door driven muscle-deep into my LEFT leg one summer day. Whenever you pass a vehicle on its right be extra cautious. I've seen young heroes blast through that gap at criterium speeds to prove their superiority to the gridlocked masses. You don't look superior when you're lying on the ground bleeding. You look like the fool they think you are. Don't give them the satisfaction.

"Let's run down there and each get us one of them cows," said the young bull to the old bull.

"Let's walk down and get 'em all," answered the elder.

Many times, slower is better. You'll still be faster than someone essentially parked in the travel lane. You'll look even cooler if you aren't all breathless and sweaty.

Aside from legalizing the Death Hole, New Hampshire's new legislation should help cycling in the state by creating a false sense of security in new riders so that they ride long enough to get acclimated. A larger legal footprint gives bicycling a bigger chunk of the drivers' handbook and greater claim to public consciousness. We're more of a protected species. Just remember that a car windshield at 65 miles per hour does not know the difference between a common wasp and an endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fixed Gear Fad Apparently Over Before it Starts

After a brief flurry of inquiries, all interest in fixed-gear bicycles has completely ceased. Now we have people resurrecting various forms of one-speed cruiser, from a 1937 Something-or-Other to a 1960s Western Flyer to a Huffy mutant. We're even doing it ourselves on a Western Flyer abandoned by a low-budget collector.

The rich folk are in town with their various carbon fiber and hand built steel or titanium bikes. Those are the rich folk we see, anyway. The vast majority of the vastly wealthy have better things to do with most of their time. We do rent to parties of their guests. Usually we can only guess who might be the host.

Friday, just before ferocious weather swept down on us, we did some repair work for Adam the Tourist from Seattle. He has a website, which he hasn't updated since Thursday the 17th. Hope he was in shelter when the big one hit.

I'm still tugging the fixed gear banner with my snorkel bike on these wet days.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fixed Gear Fashion Arrives in Town

For almost 20 years I rode a fixed gear to work on rainy days and tried to get people to try riding them. Only one person ever did, good old Ralphie, who just Saturday rode his in the Newton's Revenge hill climb up Mount Washington.

Last week I answered an average of one inquiry a day from people looking to purchase a fixed-gear bike or convert a road bike to fixed.

I have been seeing a nice De Rosa in front of the coffee shop for years. Interestingly, I haven't seen it this year, when it has become the perfect fashion accessory for the urbanite or pseudo-urbanite. I hope it hasn't been stolen.

Popularity will turn the lowly fixie from theft-resistant to theft bait. Back in the mountain bike boom, even in sleepy Wolfeboro, thieves were breaking into garages in broad daylight to steal entire family fleets of fat-tired bikes. A walk-away thief stole a vacationer's mountain bike from the rack in front of our shop within five minutes after she parked it to come in for a quick errand. Our shop was broken into several times and multiple bikes were taken, along with suspension forks and other accessories. One was even stolen on a test ride. Through it all, I could ride to the grocery store on a road bike or fixed gear, lean it against the building, and find it waiting when I came back out. I would not be so confident now.

The fixed gear craze has not reached the mass epidemic proportions the mountain bike craze did, but the single-speed concept has wide appeal. In hilly New Hampshire, people are buying beach cruisers as a backlash against the complexity forced on them by the technofascists during the mountain bike boom. A sturdy, affordable 18-speed with indexed, top-mounted thumb shifters made a lot of friends. The temperamental mutants that poured out of bike factories after that shrank the market to riders who would put up with the higher price tag and increased maintenance cost.

Our biggest seller is a hybrid, usually with Gripshift. Gripshift looks simpler than a trigger-type shifter. The rider doesn't have to know about the joy of changing cables. They just grab and twist. When something goes sproing they bring it to the shop and let us curse and fiddle. It's still a lot easier and cheaper than fixing cars for a living.

The young and hip, or the recently young and still trying to be hip know about fixed gears and even ask by brand names, the way customers did in the mountain bike boom. On the plus side, they all seem a bit more knowledgeable in general, and there are no complex componentry packages in play, so it's easy to dispense with brand image. Dollar for dollar, single-speed bikes are closely equivalent.

Those of us who have been doing this for decades have a few tricks up our rolled-up pant leg to help the neophyte. Since they mostly involve potentially unsafe and unsanctioned uses of donor parts from different sources, we dole them out exceedingly sparingly, with many disclaimers. And soon the student surpasses the master. Young and durable trackistas are no doubt merging cycling and parkour even now.

Still, it's nice to get even a little respect for a brief time for a ridiculous life-long predilection.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Beware! Headset Maggots!

As if you didn't have enough to worry about, now you have to check under your headset top cap for infestations of maggots.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just in Time

Torrential rains moved through in the late afternoon. They tapered off by 6 p.m., but I got my use out of the fenders. Light showers and drizzle fell from above while puddles tried to splash up from below.

Surprisingly, this wrought iron beauty only weighs 23 pounds. It rolls like a stretch limo.

After I got home I opened the clearance on the rear fender to make room to pull the wheel back in the higher gear.

It's not a bike for hurrying. It has no velodrome delusions.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Summer of Color Coordination

Retiring the Super Course feels good. It went from beater to classic the way 1970s automobiles went from junkers to junkers with antique status. The Super Course had better structural integrity from the get-go.

None of my stashed frames seemed quite right. Then I remembered The Twenty-Dollar Touring Bike. I built a commuter on a silver 1970s (maybe EARLY '80s) Univega touring frame before I bought the Cross Check. It's incredibly heavy. The basic bike weighed at least 30 pounds with an empty rack. But it handled dirt with aplomb. I couldn't hold it back anyway, so I let it rip. Its mass and laid-back geometry rumbled over dirt and gravel without a wobble. It was too laid back for traffic, which made the Cross Check the perfect upgrade. But now its time has come again.

The Silver Bird will be a dedicated foul weather bike. I can run the Traveler's Check for days with a mere forecast of showers. For winter's glop or any season's full-on downpour, the Silver Bird will have full fenders, which also happen to be silver. These are left over from my old city commuter. I never installed them on a bike up here because I wanted to be able to strip fenders off to reduce wind resistance on early-season rides on those cold, dry, windy days. But now I have the TC.

After riding with open wheels in crappy weather, full fenders feel like coming indoors. They come around the wheels far enough to deflect all but the worst sock-soaking sluice off the front tire. With the little extra flap, they'll probably stop even that. Anyone who has not tried full fenders can't believe how they help keep the rider dry. It makes perfect sense. Water no longer comes at you from below as well as above. Your protective clothing works better when the water comes from only one direction.

It's a quirky frame. The bottom bracket shell is about 70 millimeters wide, but not Italian thread or diameter. To fit a Shimano sealed BB to it I have to use a 73 adapter on a 68 cartridge, and make sure the adapter has no lip, so it can go as deep as it needs to. On the plus side, to adjust the chain line in I could probably face a couple of millimeters off the shell on the right. Maybe later.

The best part is that it was basically plug and play. The frame still had a headset and seat post. Fixed gears having the fewest possible moving parts, those parts transfer quickly. The longest part will be mounting the fenders and rack.

Rain is forecast for tomorrow. Hmmm. Less writin'. More wrenchin'.