Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Stimulate the US economy.

A meme going around now tells people to "stimulate the US economy, not China's. Buy American-made goods! Shop at American businesses." This ignores the fact that American corporate leadership made the decision decades ago to move manufacturing to countries with lower labor and environmental standards, because American workers were insisting on a better deal from management, and American citizens didn't want to live in a toxic hellhole. So the owners of  manufacturing exported the misery and filth. Along with it went the paychecks.

The drop in living standards in this country was not immediate. Overseas production made products cheaper. Credit cards made buying too easy. A person could still aspire to move up the pay scale and get a cushier job, so the loss of manufacturing jobs was less apparent unless you happened to live in a factory town that collapsed within weeks after the major employer shut down. Most people only think about the relationship of job to paycheck. Take money, purchase necessities. Use money left over to purchase non-essentials. Yeah, you should save some, but in the 1980s, interest on savings plummeted, and lots of people went too far with their credit cards. A series of recessions were largely caused by excess consumer debt. I don't know what the official explanation was, but looking from the sidelines it appeared that people got overextended, pulled back, recovered a bit, and began to spend again. We end up living on the expanding shell of a hollowed-out economy because nothing has a basis in reality.

The current disease crisis brings us face to face with essential reality. What do you need? Water, food, shelter, and varying degrees of social interaction and cooperation. The social aspects can be described as love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization, but those are outgrowths of your ability to contribute to and receive physiological needs. I won't say that you don't need them. Even an introvert likes to have a friend or two.

Water depends on a clean environment and control of corporate interests that would privatize the resource and profit from its distribution. Can you say Nestlé? Food depends on clean agriculture and a dispersed food production system that puts sources near end users as much as possible. Agricultural land has been devoured by suburban sprawl. Zoning and community association rules restrict or forbid gardening in some places. There are economic advantages to operations of a certain size. Any size garden requires time and attention that you have to take from other things. Some are more commercially viable than others.

Shelter depends on affordability. It also depends on finding a suitable site. Settlements used to depend on the availability of water and food. If something else drew a population, like a mineral mine in a desert, the money generated by the mine could pay for the import of necessities not provided by the local environment. The same is true of a manufacturing facility that might need a higher population than a region was able to support with its naturally occurring resources. The ability and willingness to transport food formed the basis for factory farming in the first place. So did the ability to redirect whole rivers to irrigate places with sunshine, but little water.

Once we got in the habit of moving things around to suit ourselves, it was easy to believe that we could get away with more and more of it, playing musical chairs until suddenly the music stopped, as it did last month. And here we are.

The bike business has always been international. In the 1970s road bike boom, European component companies dominated the spec, even on the flagship of American bike building, the Schwinn Paramount. The Paramount was everything that the rest of the Schwinn line was not: lightweight, butted tubing, lugged frames with French Nervex lugs, made-in-Italy Campagnolo dropouts,  and Campy componentry. The rest of the boom depended on either European or Japanese companies using European or Asian parts. There hadn't been a complete American bike industry since the end of the 19th Century, more or less. There still isn't. Nor does there have to be.

We're human beings living on a finite globe. The economy is not a battleground. The war analogy works nicely for capitalist emperors stirring up their troops, but you can't push problems around a globe without shoving them up your own ass sooner or later. The time is now. Lube up. The reckoning has arrived. You want the economy to improve in this country? Support improvements in the country where your jobs went. Make labor more expensive over there, so that over here doesn't look so bad anymore. Either that or go, hat in hand, to the corporate powers in this country and say that you're willing to work for shit wages for them, as the better alternative to having no wages at all. Admit that upward mobility was always a long shot, more of a myth than a reality. Keep voting that their taxes should be nonexistent. Keep agreeing that they have no obligation to the nation in return for the money that they hoard in tax shelters and dribble out in charitable gestures to causes that appeal to them. Let the air be brown again, and the rivers catch fire. Good times, man.

Improvements in manufacturing technology are making more and more people obsolete. Even the people in high tech careers find themselves dangling over the abyss, at risk of obsolescence and unemployment. There are too many of us already for the majority to count on achieving relaxing lifestyles. Priorities are going to change. The basics are going to start looking pretty good.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A sunny day in pandemic life

As we battened down the hatches for the coming crisis more than a month ago, the management recommended that I register with the employment security office. Things were looking grim. Research disclosed that I probably already qualified for partial compensation that would add up to an income exceeding my seasonal norm in a regular year. Given a government relief package -- already being discussed at that time -- I could be sitting pretty. Then the repair load surged. For now, my work load and income remain where they usually are at this time of year.

Never a big fan of unearned income, despite my unshakeable support for social safety nets and happy acceptance of the occasional windfall, I have never looked into gaming the system for my own gain. I figure that some people really need it, and it should be left for them. Are some of the recipients working a scam? Of course they are. Why should they be any different than the super wealthy who have been working a tremendously successful long con since 1980? Human nature is human nature, after all. This nature is destroying nature and will end our reign at the top of the evolutionary heap. All that can stop it is a sudden general enlightenment unprecedented in human history or prehistory. Sorry guys. It was nice knowing some of you.

All this would be true even if a plague wasn't stalking the land. We were talking about it up until the new disease took over the headlines. Under the cover of the pandemic news, the greedy destroyers redouble their efforts to throw off the last slim threads remaining of the chains of restraint lightly laid upon them by environmental initiatives dating back to the 1970s. Meanwhile, the multitude of amateur destroyers continue to play with their motorized toys and firearms, fully confident that they are doing no harm to anything worth their sympathy.

Yesterday, as I came out of Snow Road, after a trip to the transfer station, I had to stop and wait for a self-appointed parade of muddy Jeeps to run the stop sign en masse from the road opposite, to turn left onto Route 153 north. Not only did they defy the right of way of anyone else approaching the intersection from opposite them, they also pulled out into a somewhat blind curve on a state highway on which their frisky brethren like to speed. At least one of the Jeeps sported an enormous American flag. They're all about freedom, these guys. Freedom from traffic laws and good sense.

After morning chores and the cellist spending a few hours working from her computer to set up the coming week's online learning for her students, we headed out for her first short ride since she broke leg back in early March. It's actually been much longer than that since she rode, because she doesn't try to ride in the Baltimore area. She swims, mostly, and walks. Six weeks of greater idleness augmented the usual anxieties of an aging rider beginning a new season on the bike. We kept it flat, short, and free of hills.

The day was unusually pleasant. The cellist urged me to ride further after we delivered her back to the house. I had little enthusiasm, but agreed that I would benefit from more distance. I sketched a route that would not expose me to too much headwind or too many flags supporting the reelection of the current occupant of the Oval Office. I can only take so many reminders of human ugliness and impending destruction. Too many people equate freedom with destructive behavior and the tools of hostility. The flags are not numerous, but they're not rare, either.

As I got into the loop I had selected, I realized that it was not as long as I remembered. To the right, a dirt road beckoned. Wilkinson Swamp Road goes straight back through mostly wetlands and forest, eventually to cross the almost circular course of Wilkinson Brook and join Clough Road. From there I could go right and make my way to the road through the Pine River State Forest. The Cross Check is the ancestor of the gravel category. I'd ridden it on those roads quite a bit, although the last time through there I got a bad flat that destroyed a nearly new tire. I proceeded with trepidation. I'd never found an obvious cause for that flat tire, so I had to assume that it was an exceptionally sharp stone in the aggregate surfacing the road. I held my speed back on gravelly descents, and scanned the surface closely as I looked for the smoothest line.

Much of the Class VI section of the road, not maintained for year-round travel, had a better biking surface than the fluffed and graded parts. The surface was more like packed dirt. It was rutted and potholed, but without the sharp stones and loose surface.

I finally reached the scene of the tire disaster of 2015. Hard to believe that so much time had passed, but most of my riding is commuting, and I have many other options for training and fitness rides. I made it down to the brook without incident.

Back when mountain biking was more exploratory and less gymnastic, I would ride this road and the snow machine trails that crisscross the area, on long rambles. Sometimes the weekly ride group would come out here, when the evening light lasted long enough. Trails have been relocated or closed in places, but the general network has been maintained by the snowmobile clubs, so the intersections are in about the same places. The trails are gated to bar ATVs. ATVers being as they are, each gate has a well-worn trail bypassing it so that they can go in and do what they like. I could hear a couple of them ripping it up in there as I passed a junction on my way to Clough Road.

At Clough Road I laughed a little at how the locals have removed the street sign. It's just a dusty T junction in the woods with no hint for outlanders as to where you are or which way is out. I heard the ATVs coming up behind me. They went left as I went right. Good.



Clough Road traverses a generally sandier area. The surface is looser, with lots of stones. Most of the route was basically flat or climbing slightly, so it was easy to control speed and watch for hazards. This whole area was crushed flat by the ice sheet that only departed a little over 12,000 years ago. It's all humps and hummocks and wetlands, ground down to sand and gravel with random boulders. Topsoil varies from forest loam to basically nothing. The route to Effingham Road goes through one dip to a stream before climbing to the intersection. I turned right to close the loop back to Effingham.

Once in Effingham, the road name changes to Hutchins Pond Road. When I moved here, Effingham's part was called Granite Road, and the Ossipee end was called Effingham Road, because, from the point of view of each community, that was where the road went. Now a different road in Effingham is called Granite Road, and it doesn't go anywhere near the section of Ossipee called Granite. Granite Road in Ossipee continues the line of Route 171 eastward into Granite. Granite itself is an undistinguished crossroads. There should be a massive obelisk of the eponymous rock, or a tower, or a fortress.

I wasn't going to Granite. I was heading home. Whatever the road was called, the going was pretty good, with only brief slowdowns where the surface looked like it might hide daggers.

Deep in the Pine River State Forest, I saw a few of the Jeep crowd stopped in and beside the road. I approached slowly. From scraps of conversation I gathered that they would be stopped for a little while. Someone was either stuck or had a mechanical problem. I threaded the traffic jam and rode on. The surface was good. I worked the ridges and ruts. Occasionally, other vehicles came toward me from the Effingham end, mostly trucks.

The road drops down to the pond, and then climbs back up to pass between a couple of farm houses and out to the pavement at the junction of Drake Road and Jones Road. Shortly after I reached the pavement and accelerated with the slight descent and a tailwind, I heard the Jeeps behind me. They passed courteously.

At home I found a posting on an Effingham Facebook page, warning that Fish and Game was patrolling for off-road violators who had been reported in multiple places during the day. Commenters blamed "people from Massachusetts." I had to laugh at that, considering how well defined the bypass trails were at every single gate in the Pine River State Forest. Defiance is endemic. Destruction is a way of life. It lives here as well as visits. Some of it lives depressingly close to my home. It has ruined the peace of pleasant evenings, because I can hear the sound of motors, as the polluting, ground-gouging chariots of the unconcerned churn around on pointless lap after lap. They don't have to be raspingly loud to cut through with a dull grind of needless fuel use and air pollution. It makes a nice companion to the gunfire and occasional explosions. We're not getting better. We're just getting ready to be worse. And they're fine with that. Some are looking forward to it.

Against considerable odds, I can still look forward to a new and better normal when we finally work through the course of the current disease outbreak. Unlikely as it may be, perhaps we really are working up enough of a majority to start giving more of a crap about how we treat things and each other, instead of just how we get to use them and profit from them in the short term. You can't judge by only what you see along your normal ruts. I hesitate to call it hope, but I guess it is. Hope is sucker bait, but it does sustain people through tough times.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The latest thing for Americans to fight about

The alarm went off like a chainsaw next to my ear, shredding through the reverie of my last dreams. It's day whatever the heck this is of the coronavirus conflict.

The bike shop continues to receive repair work faster than we can get through it. This is typical for spring, and much of the summer. Because it's felt like April for a month and a half already, it still seems early in the year. Indeed, in many previous years we would still be ramping up, even this late in the month, as winter might have hung on, or public interest might focus elsewhere. The number of people stuck at home looking at their possessions has reminded many of them that they own bikes. Forced leisure gives them the time to bring them down to us.

Protective procedures make the work cumbersome. Every trip to check in a repair or go to the basement where most of the bikes await service requires going through two locked doors, with some degree of decontamination outgoing and incoming. The same is true of any outdoor test riding. Meanwhile, we share a parking lot with businesses that attract people who are conspicuously less concerned about such precautions. Local case numbers appear to support their point of view. How much of this is the result of the virus's long incubation period? How much is the result of a lack of comprehensive testing? Or are there really very few infected people, and the disease is hardly spreading around here?

Dealing with an invisible foe, we each have to decide for ourselves how strongly to react. After work yesterday, I went up the street to a nearby grocery store. I wore a mask. A handful of other people did as well, but the majority did not. There were few people in the store. None of the staff wore masks. The checkout girl and the stock boy radiated contempt, whether they realized it or not. I concluded my business as quickly as possible and walked back to my car on the nearly deserted sidewalks.

All over the country, people are rebelling against the restrictions of social distancing. In Michigan it led to armed idiots demonstrating outside the capitol building. Protests have also taken place in North Carolina, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Protests like these are largely the result of Americans living pampered lives. Poverty is relative. Relative poverty is still a disadvantage in a prosperous country. Americans are accustomed to levels of comfort and freedom of expression that are far above the norm in countries truly ravaged by shortage or constrained by authoritarianism. The American Dream is based on self indulgence and unfettered imagination. Not everyone has much of an imagination, but whatever they do have is free to roam. We get to see every day how many of them only roam as far as the gun shop and a gathering with irritable friends for some live action role playing. But that's only part of the story of generations of cultivated attention deficit disorder. Since the end of World War II, white Americans have been asked less and less to put up with anything for too long.

Some things have dragged on. The war in Afghanistan has been going on longer than any conflict in our history. But it's far away and involves relatively few Americans in body bags. The War on Terror has faded to a system of inconveniences now permanently attached to air travel, and a radicalized Immigration, Customs and Border Protection force, as well as domestic surveillance measures that go on in the background subtly and continuously. The majority of people never have to notice them directly. We were encouraged at the time to consume at our normal rate to prove that the terrorists had not defeated us.

After 9-11, the period of national unity lasted about 30 hours before the responses diverged into an argument about what to do next. Even the 30 hours was an illusion. The fractures were as immediate as the structural failure in the twin towers, though less spectacular. We were just too stunned in the immediate moment to form our thoughts into plans.

The current crisis is far more difficult for people to comprehend. When you've decided that your enemies are brown people of a certain religion, rightly or wrongly you can at least see them without a microscope. Even though some have highlighted the Chinese aspect of COVID-19, beating up Asians  does even less to fight the problem than persecuting every Muslim does to reduce the incidence of that particular type of fundamentalist terrorism.

A right-wing friend of mine used to splutter with indignation when Black Lives Matter protesters would block a highway.

"What if an ambulance needs to get through? What if there's a fire somewhere?" he grumbled.

Yesterday, protesters you could say "identify as conservative" took part in demonstrations designed to stop traffic in Lansing, Michigan.

When this is over, it will be another event over which we can divide ourselves, just like civil rights, women's rights, the Vietnam War, and the environment. We're still arguing about the American War of Independence and the Civil War. Nazi sympathizers didn't want us to join the Allies in World War II. When the majority prevails it ushers in a period of some uniformity of behavior, but minority opinion doesn't miraculously evaporate. "What did you do during COVID-19?" will become another qualifying question. Did you overreact? Did you blow it off? Was your point of view vindicated or discredited? Will we be sure?

The pro-death faction divides roughly into the strain that believes most people will get mildly ill or not feel sick at all, and the one that believes that serious illness and death are just part of life that we should all embrace for the greater good of our healthy herd and our glorious economy. To the survivors go the spoils! It's the perfect mass casualty scenario, because we don't really have to blame anyone. It was the disease, man. What could anyone have done? We're all better off now. Ya gotta die of something! Whatever happens, be assured that they will feel no shame in the outcome. And a great many of them will survive.

The people who want to force us back together are akin to suicide bombers. They may not have the certainty of their own death that the wearer of a bomb vest or the pilot of a vehicle filled with explosives would have, but they are nonetheless forcing their belief system onto unwilling participants. Some people will die as a result. There are many ways in which responsibility can drift like a bad fart on a calm day, never settling on anyone in particular, so we will never get the closure of saying for certain who dealt what. We fall back onto belief systems, each of us in our own imagined world, to make what peace we can with any of it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

A bike for the ages

A friend brought me her 1980s road bike to refurbish so that she can try using it again. It wasn't kept in the absolute best of conditions, but it's in very usable shape to recover with minimal work.

The tires are gone. There are probably ancient mummy wrappings in better shape than the dry-rotted remnants of the Continental 700X25s that were on the Ambrosio rims. The rim tape crumbled and fell away as I removed the tires and tubes. She wants plumper tires anyway. The frame and fork look like they will accommodate 700X28. It's not much, but every little bit helps. I'm running 28s on my similarly configured road bike.

Everything else looks just about ready to ride as-is. This is a testament to the builder, who adjusted the hubs securely and greased things properly. Nothing on this bike is rusted in place. At some point someone raised the stem above the max. That will have to come down. If the rider wants the front end higher I'll have to figure out what to do about the stitched and shrunk full-leather bar wrap. It's classy, but it's the only part I really don't like, because it inhibits repositioning of the brake levers or changing out the stem. I may be able to get it off intact by taking the brake levers off of the clamps and soaking the leather to soften it. This is time sensitive because the leather will shrink again when it dries, and may deform with repeated soaking and drying.

The bike also came from the period just before the widespread use of aero brake levers. While this is good because there are no brake cables under that sexy leather bar wrap, it means that she can't incorporate interrupter levers into the braking system if she has a hankering to make the riding position more functional from the bar tops. I'll need to lay out all of her options before we make an investment, because she might be hoping to make this thing more dirtworthy than it can be.

The gearing is pretty steep for around here. Maybe when we were all young and spry a 52-42 crank with a 13-22 six-speed freewheel would have seemed ample, but the hot punks of today are all running lower lows, even if they're running ridiculously higher highs. If the Gipiemme rear derailleur handles a similar range to the Campagnolo that it evokes, the biggest thing that officially fits in there is a 26.

It will probably shift a 28 with the wheel pulled back in those accommodating medium-long horizontal dropouts.
We'll have to remove the threaded adjusters, but that was usually a good idea anyway. They were always vulnerable to bending.

If the BCD on the crank is Campy 144, she's stuck with the rings she has. We were never going to get old! The thing is, the Japanese standard settled on 130, allowing for the 39s that became standard for quite a while before the advent of compact doubles with a 34 inner ring on a 110mm BCD. Those of us who chose Japanese components for budgetary reasons often lucked into the 130 BCD cranks that let us make an orderly retreat from massively macho 43 and 42 inner rings to 39 and even 38. Spin fast! Don't let anyone get a good look!

There are two ways to make your bike equipment hard for others to scrutinize in a ride group: go past everyone as a blur of speed or be a speck in the distance, far off the back. OTB is a lot easier to maintain.

The simplicity and workmanship are beautiful to contemplate. Try not to think about how thoroughly those concepts have been discarded by the industry and the novelty-obsessed consumers that they have nurtured. Tech-dependent riders are the goose that lays golden egg after golden egg for a voracious industry. Bikes stopped being about freedom when index shifting became a "necessity." It's been downhill with long-travel suspension from there.

Frame details like this were standard on higher end production hand-built frames at the time. A little filing, some cutouts, a bit of contrasting paint trim added to the tasteful flash of bikes that were proud to evoke the craftsmanship of an elder day rather than dress themselves up for the space age while still propelled by the same old primate, pushing pedals.

I don't miss downtube shifters, but I recommended them when I was racing. The cable run was the shortest, giving the quickest response. Everyone had to take their hands off the bars to shift, so there was no disadvantage to it, or at least the disadvantage was universal. Some riders were better at shifting than others, just as some people are better musicians. It's a similar challenge: get to the right place at the right time, whether it's a shift from the 13 to the 17 or a quick move on a fretless fingerboard.

Early indexing introduced "fretted" shifting, providing noticeable stops, each representing a gear, even if it wasn't the gear you had intended. When it was a progressive lever, lever position provided additional help to your muscle memory, whether shifting with or without a click. Brifters and other return-to-center shifting systems make the rider completely dependent on the precision of the machinery.

Idiosyncrasies like these weird pedals can be easily replaced when these wear out, unless the industry has finally changed pedal threads by then. They'll come up with some reason that the old stuff was never any good and why did you like it anyway?
Distinctive as these are, they were designed to take the standard slotted cleat of the time, or a flat shoe. They demonstrate the sort of harmless, cosmetic complexity the industry engaged in, to make their stuff distinctive without making life difficult for riders. People who got into riding after the very early 1990s will have no memory of that. You can't miss what you never knew. But you could imagine it and demand it now. What a concept!

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Tubeless tires vs. the mechanically inept

Calling someone mechanically inept is not an insult. It’s a diagnosis. The description covers a range of conditions that all lead to dependence on someone else to take care of your machinery.

I am semi-inept at auto mechanics. In the 1970s I could do a fair amount of routine maintenance on my Triumph Spitfire, because it was about the easiest car you could ever hope to work on. Everything was accessible, and four strong people could pick it up by hand and put it on jack stands. Well, maybe not quite. I never had friends that burly. I did what I had to, as a low-budget sports car owner, but I never looked forward to working on it.

As cars evolved, everything became less simple. I hung on doing oil changes for a while, but then I got a car where it was hard even to get a wrench on the friggin’ drain plug unless you were working from a pit or under a lift. Screw it. As for any diagnostics, I take my best shot and then find out from my mechanic how wrong I was. There are always factors that I didn’t consider, things I didn’t know. And it's all easier when you have a shop set up for the purpose.

My car mechanic engages in continuing education, but it’s independent study, the same way we research bike stuff here at the shop. He disparages modern disposable cars the way I disparage modern disposable bikes. But we both have to operate in the current universe of gratuitous technical complexity.

A customer dropped off her bike today to have tubes put in her tires. She’d been told by her hard core mechanic at the shop she patronizes in the city where she works, that tubeless tires were far superior to having tubes, because now she could run fashionably low pressure on her gravel bike without fear of flatting. Low pressure is faster, he told her. I didn’t gather that there were a whole lot of qualifiers with that. Everything is relative.

The front tire had been frustrating her because it goes dead flat overnight. She was tired of dinking with it. When I popped one bead off, I discovered that there was barely any sealant in the tire. It could have lost it a bit at a time with each complete deflation. It could have had too little from the beginning. I didn’t see obvious residue on the tire casing or the rim, but she’s been riding the bike regularly, pumping up the offending tire before every ride. Residue could get rubbed or washed away in the course of events. Because I don’t have much control over what happens to the bike when it leaves here, and I don’t share the current enthusiasm for tubeless, I hesitate to tell her that we can clean it up, juice it up, and she’ll be fine. She might not be. She specifically said she didn't want to mess with it anymore, so I'm not about to suggest that she give it another shot. If she wants to go for it later we can do it. The rims are already taped. She already owns the stems. I would suggest starting with fresh tire casings. And I make no promises for the technology. I have no vested interest in it working or not.

The only time I’ve seen sealant work has been installing brand new tires on relatively new rims. Other than that, the stuff baffles me. It’s supposed to stop leaks from punctures up to the diameter of a pencil, but how many days are you supposed to sit there by the side of the road or trail? As far as I can tell, the shit takes forever to dry, and is seriously challenged by more than a couple of pinholes.

Highly respected brand Orange Seal recommends replacing their basic formula sealant every 30 to 45 days. How many of you are doing that? Are any of the mechanically disinterested going to do that? The longer the shelf life of the sealant, the slower it actually seals anything. The shorter the drying time, the more frequently it needs to be replaced.

You might think, “I’ll support my LBS and just hire them to replace my sealant at the requisite intervals.” Congratulations. You’ve just tied your bike up in the repair queue for however long their backlog is at the moment. Someone can just add sealant, whether it’s the rider or an overloaded technician, but eventually you have to clear out the blob and start over. Just buy new tires.

You're also not supposed to mix brands of sealant. If you can't get your regular stuff, you're supposed to flush out all of the previous fluid, let the inside of the casing dry, remount the tire and fill it with whatever you have enough of. A repair shop needs to have bottles of every brand ready to match whatever is in a customer's bike already.

Today's tubeless tire challenge overlapped with a multi-day tubeless installation on another customer's 29-er wheels. His tires were "tubeless ready" when they were new, but a few months of riding at low pressure had worked the sidewalls quite a bit. It wasn't obvious until we put in sealant and pumped them up. Sealant began weeping through the sidewalls. The front tire held up okay overnight, but the rear went pretty flat. I spent the next day topping up the pressure and flipping the wheels every few minutes to keep the sealant distributed over the sidewalls. The front tire kept getting steadily better. The rear improved much more gradually. I marveled at how ineffective the sealant was at closing the myriad tiny pores along the thread lines of the sidewalls. They're fully coated with black rubber. The thread  structure wasn't prominent until the lines of bubbles brought it out.

We're ordering him new tires. Meanwhile, he'll go for short rides on what he's got. If you're going to ride tubeless, plan to replace casings frequently, even if you don't think you are riding a lot. It doesn't take much to break down the airtightness of a tire casing. It may be structurally sound with decent tread left and still not seal well without a tube. Mo' money. Fork it out.

Another thing to remember is that sealant will clog valve cores. The mechanically inattentive rider will run into difficulties inflating the tire as a result.

In the off season -- if you know that it's the off season -- you're advised to take the tires off, clean out the sealant, rinse and dry the casings and leave them off until you're ready to take up riding again. No grab-and-go rides on a mild winter day for you! Tell me again how it's great to get away from inner tubes? If you don't do this you could end up with a lump of congealed sealant in one part of the tire. You're also wasting the life span of it with the bike just hanging on a hook.

There are lengthy forum threads devoted to proper use and care of tubeless tire setups. More entertaining reading for those who care. But if you remember when bikes were something that you didn't have to obsess about I suggest that you forego as much of the tweaky technical crap as possible.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Helmets and face masks

In the 1970s, a helmeted rider was a rare sight. Only racers wore helmets. This persisted into the 1980s, fading gradually in the decade after that. Now they have become a normal sight in our culture.

After telling us for months that masks do little or nothing to prevent the spread of disease in the general population, the official position seems to be shifting in favor of masks. At the same time, masks are in short supply for the people who need them most, caring for the sick or for first responders attending to people who might be sick. We're told to improvise. This does open the field to fashion statements and home hobby projects.

One guy in Italy posted a video using a feminine sanitary pad. I don't know if there are any of those hiding in a cabinet around the house, but there may be some leftover tampons I can shove in my nostrils.

I did notice in the grocery store that the empty toilet paper shelves were right next to fully stocked displays of adult diapers. They could be used for really heavy breathing.

A breath helmet would seem to be a minor concern for a cyclist flying free in the open air, six feet or more from anyone else. When traffic thickens up, however, we end up close to the occupants of motor vehicles, who might have the window down, and fellow riders on crowded paths. Air movement should make any contagion highly unlikely in the moving environment of a road, street, or bike path. The slower the speed and the more calm the air, the greater the chance that a cloud may hang. Stopped adjacent to each other, people could exchange sneezes.

Judge the odds for yourself. With incidents of door handle licking and targeted coughing, cyclists might want to take extra precautions because we already suffer the bad jokes and outright malice of motorists who don't think we belong out there. In this area, business traffic has diminished, but with many people released from their workday schedules some of them have nothing better to do than drive around. I haven't launched my commute yet, but I'm hoping to do it soon. Training rides are part of that preparation, so even though I'm not in the workday riding groove I'm still putting myself out there. My favorite training loops go in a fairly serene direction compared to Elm Street and the Route 28 corridor. Drivers are always more aggressive on that trade route to the outside world. I don't look forward to that. But driving sucks.

Back to the subject of PPE, I did not see many mask users in the grocery store yesterday. I had wadded up a couple of bandannas in my pocket, but I wussed out and didn't tie them on. I did bring in my own bottle of alcohol to douse the cart handle and periodically rub on my hands. Reusable gear is only as good as your cleaning procedures. Disposable equipment needs to be replaced regularly. And people being people, they're chucking used gloves wherever they feel like it: leaving them in a cart for the next person to deal with, or overworked and under-protected grocery store personnel to throw away, or just ditching them in the parking lot. Roadside litter and the contents of any trash can are now biohazards.

Stay classy!