Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Welcome to the work week

The first thing that greeted me was a Cannondale full suspension 29er with a loose front derailleur. It's a direct mount, so I had to remove the crank and front derailleur get to the bracket.  Then I removed the bracket mounting screw applied thread locker and reinstalled it before remounting the derailleur with new thread lock on all its screws. Once the derailleur was tight, the fact that it was weirdly bent became much more obvious. I got it shifting adequately, but it should be replaced. The guy was hot to go ride it, so he took it as it was.

From there I moved on to a seriously underestimated repair. Never mind the details. It reminded me to post a note about adjuster tuning cheap caliper brakes.

Adjuster tuning is a lazy shortcut used by sloppy or inexperienced mechanics. They turn out the barrel adjusters on derailleurs and brakes rather than taking up slack at the anchor bolt. But on cheap bikes with wide tires (and expensive bikes with embarrassingly inadequate quick releases) adjuster tuning allows you to get the wheel out or in without deflating the tire.
Today's Raleigh cruiser was a good candidate for adjuster tuning on the brakes. It was a good candidate for a lot of other things, too, but the owner told us exactly what he wanted and was willing to pay. Whatever you say. I write a standard disclaimer on the repair form in those cases: No other work requested or performed. If something looks really deadly I'll note that, too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Phantom Menace

In the past several years I have had more of a problem discerning whether a vehicle was coming up behind me than I did when my ears had fewer miles on them. I have not yet failed to hear an actual vehicle when one has been overtaking, but I frequently glance back because I think I hear the first telltale shift in the wind noise that indicates the approach.

I hoped the Cat Ears would address this problem. Eventually they might. In the meantime, they may have made it slightly worse. Because I no longer hear a strong rush of wind noise, I hear lots of other noises that blend into a different steady rush in a slightly lower register. This lower register seems to match more closely the altered pitch of the old wind noise as a vehicle moves into the turbulence a few lengths behind me. I look back more than I did before, because I'm not accustomed to the new soundscape yet.

A mirror might help, but I don't like how any of them mount to the bike or rider. A rear-view camera with a monitor on the bars would be perfect. It would also be expensive and cumbersome. Well, maybe not too cumbersome, as a quick search of wearable video cameras will demonstrate. There's even the Owl 360, specifically marketed as a rear-view camera for bicyclists. It's sort of affordable, as such things go, at $179 - $199. I don't have a hankering right now, but if I developed one I would have to remove one other piece of nerd rigging for any new piece I add. So what can I stand to live without? Other than most of it, that is.

The Cat Ears have improved communication when I'm riding with someone else. The incidence of, "Huh?! WHAT?!" has dropped markedly. It's not like being in a quiet room together, but it is definitely better.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Support your local disease

Busy with a deadline on a difficult drawing, I have not had time to post anything about an upcoming benefit ride. The cellist and I are riding in the Seacoast Ride for PKD on June 8. If you have a few bucks to toss at a widespread and poorly publicized incurable, terminal disease, visit her page or mine to chip in.

Hopefully the weather will be as nice as last year.
The ride is not an epic. It makes a nice morning. Or, if the weather is crummy, it only abuses the participants for a couple or three hours. Donate or sign up. They've got the route, the permits and the police presence. And the New Hampshire seacoast is already a popular riding venue.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

What's a little extortion among friends?

Specialized recently sent our shop a bunch of bottles as part of their 40th anniversary promotion.  Fortieth, right? So the bottles have reproductions of 20 year old ad slicks. The designs include photos of a rider in US Team garb with Bill Clinton's head pasted in (years before Photoshop), and another rider with Mikhail Gorbachev's head -- complete with birthmark altered to look like a Specialized logo. They were worth no more than a chuckle even then. Now few people even get the reference,  especially from a fuzzy print reduced to fit on a water bottle.

Today I thought of a serious drawback to the Clinton bottle:
Isn't it tempting fate to have a bottle featuring a picture of someone known to have had a notorious bit of trouble containing his fluids?

Maybe if you carry the Gorbachev bottle your bike comes apart. 

The bottles arrived unsolicited and unannounced. Then we got billed for them. We're not allowed to return them. We have to try to unload them at a high enough price to cover the cost we would never have incurred if it had been up to us. 

Extortion. Part of any good long term business relationship. We've been a Specialized dealer since the 1980s. Don't think for a minute that this earns us any respect from the Big S. You're only worth as much as your last order. 

Celebrating your business anniversary by forcing dealers to pay for questionable promotional materials is like telling the people you've invited to your birthday party how much they already spent on the present you bought yourself. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Nerd rigging

 The other day I rode my bike to an appointment. As I was talking to the person afterward, right before I pedaled off again, I suddenly thought about how I must look with all the nerd rigging that has gradually accumulated on my helmet and my face.
Every piece has a reason beyond mere geekdom. That's what I tell myself,  anyway.  The outlandish sunglasses provide excellent protection and hold a prescription insert. Yes, they're weird looking,  but they do their important job well. I only wear them when riding.

The fuzzy fake sideburns are the Cat Ears I've been testing. In theory,  the less wind noise you hear,  the more you should be able to detect and interpret traffic noises. They should help with conversation between riders, too, but only if both riders are equipped. Still cheaper than helmet radios. Talk about nerd rigging! "Breaker, breaker, good buddy!"

The helmet cam functions as my dash cam: the silent witness to events on the road. I wouldn't mind if it was smaller, even small enough to mount inside the helmet vents, but I wonder if its visible presence suppresses some motorist misbehavior. People are increasingly aware of the power of video and the Internet. I've been getting a fair amount of room from drivers this season. Is the camera sticking up there like a propeller on my beanie functioning as a protective threat?

The shiny mess on the front of the helmet is black duct tape to reduce the flow of cold air into the front helmet vents until the weather warms up. Comfy nerd.

Nerd rigging extends to my bike, too. See my dynamo hub and light system? Cooooool. And my full fenders keep me from getting all splattered when the roads are wet. Got a rack. Got a pack. I carry stuff: tools, spare tube, shift cables, things that might save a ride. I've even saved other people's rides from time to time with my nerdy tool kit.

I try to go by fast enough to leave only a fleeting impression on the observer. That may not be very fast at all, as long as I move steadily into and out of the scene. Don't let anyone get a good look. If you get caught, act natural. Escape as soon as possible. Pedal away with as much dignity as you can summon.