Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


Christmas 2009, so far:

The Tree.

The cat.

The house.

The house up close.

Of course, there has been family, there have been gifts, and there are miles that have been driven. We are back home safe and sound, though, our first Christmas living in our house (we closed last year on December 19th and spent agood part of Christmas Eve repainting the insides of the closets before we moved in), and that's a wonderful gift right there.
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Can a lifestyle dependent on cars be "green?"

I just left this comment on the Orton Foundation's Facebook page after they linked to an article on "20-minute living."  It got me thinking about all of the people in Vermont who build a "green" house on a 5 acre lot and then drive many miles to and from it to conduct all of the business of their daily lives.  Am I being too harsh here?  

"A lot of people in places like Vermont are going to have to change ther idea of what affluence means in terms of housing choice. The paradigm right now remains "get enough money, move as far away and as deep into the countryside as you can, and use subsidized cheap gasoline and single-occupancy vehicle trips to do it" Until we start calling that what it is (rural sprawl) we will continue to be oil-dependent and we will continue to consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate. I don't care how well insulated your house is or if you have solar panels. If you live in the country and live a distance from work that can only be driven, you are contributing to rural sprawl."



Getting the Tree

Just a few shots of Purinton's, in Huntington, where we went with my parents to pick out trees on Friday, and the tree in our house, lit and decorated this evening.  I taught at Sugarbush all weekend and had no time to take pictures there. 


Cross Fork Brake Chatter Redux

I had written here and about my own experiences with brake chatter on the front wheel of my Scattante commuter and how using a solution recommended by Nippleworks had worked out for me. Lennard Zinn (of Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance fame) has a post up today over at Velonews that lays the whole problem and its various solutions out very neatly. Nippleworks noted that Zinn's diagram looked much like their own- I'm sure Mr. Zinn saw their diagram because I emailed him about it a month ago when his Tech column mentioned that he was planning on writing about fork chatter.

It is interesting that both manufacturers he spoke with (Van Dessel and Ridley) cited increased stiffness in their cross forks (via a 1.5 inch steerer diameter instead of a 1.125) as the primary way they were working to solve the problem. 

The best solution, in my mind, would be for the UCI to go ahead and (gasp) allow disk brakes in cross competition. My interest as a person who uses a cross bike for commuting and not for racing, is that I'd love to see a higher-end cross bike spec'ed with modern brakes (or at least the studs that allow their use) that are not dependent on what's going on at the rim to do their job. 

Finally, the material I wrote before includes two significant mistaken assumptions.  First, I talked about using Kool-Stop Salmon pads, but I have since heard that while they are a great product, they are a very grippy pad, which would make the problem worse. Second, I supposed that using a lower-profile cantilever brake might help. However, shorter brake arms would mean increased mechanical advantage as the fork flexes backward, pushing the pads ever harder against the rim.  I'll keep my wide-profile Tektro, I guess. 


Catch a Google Wave

I'm in on the Google Wave beta.  It's an interesting application and it has a lot of potential, but it isn't much fun without people to collaborate with.  I also have a bunch of invitations available. Anybody who would like one is free to drop an email address in the comments below or send me a message via this blog or Facebook or what have you.


Winter Arrives- And an RSS Feed to Get Familiar with in Winter

It's been a while.

Long enough that the seasons themselves have changed. Although we had a long dry fall, with really excellent weather through all of November, snow has finally come to the Champlain Valley and winter feels as if it is finally upon us. The blue and yellow fixie is on a hook for the time being and commuting duties have fallen to my studded and fender-ed single-speed mountain bike. It is such an utter tank compared to the Trek, and spinning away from a stop feels as if I am engaging a giant flywheel. It gets the job done, though. Plus, with a beater bike, I'm not afraid to things like riding the last half mile home on a totally flat tire instead of stopping to fix it. It didn't thrash the tire or tube, and the rim that I built a couple of years ago was as true as ever when I got home. The addition of Christmas shoppers divining on unfamiliar streets and a small amount of ice has made things a little more interesting in the last week or so, but i really hope to ride a little bit every month of the winter, and every day I can until at least the new year.

I have been able to extend my riding season further in time than last year. I attribute a fair amount of that to the fact that Kate and I are not in the middle of buying a house as we were at this time last year. Our daily commutes are more regular and established and the need for us both to be immediately available to one another right after work is nil. Also, I'm much better set up in my basement shop now to handle the occasional repair or even to easily swap out bikes as conditions change.

So no house buying to occupy our time, but something always comes in to fill the vacuum. Kate has been teaching a writing course through the local adult ed. program and I have signed on to be a ski instructor for the winter weekends.

It feels like a big leap to be making. I taught a season at Snowbowl out in Missoula back in the 05-06 season, but my last really intense season of instructing was in 1998-1999, at Sugarbush in one of their seasonal programs, generally referred to as Snow Blazers. And I'll be doing it again. I applied to work at Sugarbush back in early October and through a series of training sessions and meetings with people on the staff, I've been asked to join up with that program again. It's more than I could have hoped for. While I have no problem teaching individual lessons half a day at a time, 'Blazers is special because you work with mostly the same kids throughout the season, every single weekend from halfway through December until the end of March. That's a lot of days on snow and a long stretch of working two jobs seven days a week for me, but it will be worth it. I'm looking forward to finally pursuing my PSIA certification and upping my own skiing and teaching skills while getting outside and out on the mountain as much as possible.

For the winter, I've gone ahead and put Sugarbush's snow report RSS into my Google Reader. The report seems to come out at about 8:30 each morning and covers what's open, what's opening, how much snow has fallen, and any special events that might be coming up on the mountain or in the Mad River Valley in general. You can get the report as a podcast through iTunes as well, if that's your sort of thing.

December 7th, 2009: Ski & Ride Snow Report Audio Podcast

What else? I have a couple of home improvement projects to document, including landscaping around our newly-rotated shed, fixing our bathroom fan, and installing an enhanced compost and leaf-mold setup in our backyard, but those each deserve their own posts. I'll get some photos of those projects and the mountain as time allows, but it's going to be a busy winter.


My Trek 460 Fixed-Gear

The story of this bike starts like lots of my bike stories. Somebody (in this case, my dad) saw a bike with a "free" sign on it at the bottom of a driveway, thought of me, and brought the bike to my doorstep. 

It was pretty beat, as the first picture shows it, but I took everything off of the frame and went to work with sandpaper and krylon "true blue" paint, masking around the old Trek decals.  In repainting the frame, I was going for something functional and not too ugly, and that's about what I ended up getting.  I documented the initial teardown here.  
I was on the fence originally about rebuilding this bike with its gears as a 650b or doing a fixie, but I haven't had a fixed-gear since my old Montgomery Ward conversion (Fixed Gear Gallery # 3635) bit the dust last fall.  Inspired by the yellow Benotto tape that was on the bars, I ordered up some Weinmann DP18's in yellow, which got me thinking about making other parts of the bike yellow to match. I considered going as far as ordering up yellow brake cable housing. Instead, the madness stopped with a sheet of "happy face yellow" marine vinyl which allowed me to re-cover the saddle (if badly). 
This bike is set up with the 52-tooth big ring that came with it and the 22-tooth cog that I had in my parts bin- it turns out to be a really serviceable gear for my daily commute, with a hill that I can just barely mash up in the morning and just barely spin down at night- without standing up or touching the brakes.   
It has been really great getting back out on a fixie and using it regularly.  I have been using it as my main commuter bike for the last month and plan to do so until it's time for the winter bike again.


Sometimes 90 degrees is all you want, and a dozen friends is all you need...

...to get your shed in the right place on your yard!

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Thanks to everybody who made shed moving 2009 such a great success!  The invite to come move heavy stuff went out thursday:

And these brave souls (plus at least a half dozen not pictured) came out to make it happen:

Kate's mom made an emergency english muffin and charcoal run to the store.   Kate's mom and my mom both made apple crisp, I made breakfast and hot cider, Kate's brother Ben documented the event, and my dad plus a bunch of other guys and myself picked this behemoth of a structure up and rotated it into place.   Ryan brought beers to wash down our celebratory smoked ribs with (I got up at 4am to start the grill for those!) and Jack even brought one of his own personal army (hi oldest boy of four!) up to witness the fun.

There's something really great about putting your hands on to something that was so heavy you couldn't budge it alone, only to feel it lift and move, light as a feather, under the hands of all of your friends.  There's a metaphor in there somewhere. 

Guys, I'll come help each and every one of you move the heavy things in your lives, anytime.  


The Last Dahlia

The Last Dahlia

The last dahlia of the season,
unbroken, not frosted and not
dragged away with the trees cut down
is out of place.

As it opened the world went gray
and blew away, the soft air hardened.

I brought it inside, to grace the backporch
with the peppers and rosemary, the muddy gloves
and rubber boots. But even here at my desk
such a flower is out of place, browning
in our frugal office air.

And then back out to dig, to pull the rustic corm
to set aside summer in a brown paper
basement bag,
a seasonal migration
across the geography of home
settled in a concrete corner.

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An Ebay Mystery- the Bicycle Rollers of Ball State University

I've been thinking about my bike training options for this winter. Although I intend to ride outside as much as possible through the cold months, I know that I'll want to supplement that with some indoor training as well.  I have a fluid trainer that I used some last year, but a couple of nights in the basement led me to a couple of conclusions:

1. My saddle is poorly adjusted.
2. Riding a stationary trainer is really, really boring.
3. A combination of boredom and numbness is no way to go through the winter.

I think I solved the saddle problem with some careful adjustment last year, but the boredom problem is less easily fixed. I have been wanting to try out rollers, though. With rollers, both wheels of the bike are moving and you have to work to stay balanced on them. 

One problem: rollers are not cheap (in this, cycling is like boating: nothing is cheap).  With that in mind, I went looking on Ebay, followed a couple of auctions to get a feel for what prices were, and abandoned the whole idea for a lack of funds. Then this auction came along

A seller named gobybike has a lot of 18 or so sets of rollers up for sale, 99 bucks each and 20 bucks to ship.  A fair price, it seems, but "used" is a condition to be pondered when the item bearing that status has parts that can break down over time, moving parts like the rollers themselves,  and a rubber drive belt that can stretch out or become brittle.  There was precious little in the seller's description that indicated how much these rollers had been used.

A closer look at the photos in the listing revealed a scrawled inscription "PEFWL 1995 #10."  Hmm. I Googled the acronym and found the page for the Physical Education Fitness: Wellness program at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana.  The seller is shipping from Marion, Indiana, not far away.  I've got a little more information now. I post a question on the Ebay page: "Hi, it looks like these rollers were originally purchased by Ball State University for the Physical Education program, in 1995.  Do you know how much use they got and if they were stored with the belts off of the rollers when not in use?"

I figured it was worth a shot. A week later, there was no answer.  I looked up the Ball State University cycling club to see if they had any idea. I dropped a question on their web form and got back a prompt response from John Callahan at the club:


The only rollers that the cycling club owns are Cyclops. These Giant brand rollers were owned by the university, and apparently they didn't think we as a club needed any. I have no idea what shape they're in, but thanks for letting me in on the sale.

I would assume that they weren't used much, if that helps.


Bummer for the club.  You'd think if the school was unloading a fleet of cycling equipment they might have offered it up to the cycling club first!  If I was John I'd probably get over the head office at PEFWL and make a stink! 

There's over a week left in this auction, but I'm still on the fence about these. The seller wants 120 bucks shipped for rollers that are 14 years old and have seen something between no use and daily use.  The seller has a "best offer" button set up, but neither of my offers were accepted.  The seller must want something pretty close to full price.

Meanwhile, new rollers from Nashbar or Performance can be had for about $150 shipped, if you hit the right sale day.  I'm not sure if they are as good as these were when they were new in 1995, but with the seller not taking lower offers and not answering questions, I'm inclined to pass on this auction for now.  If anybody sees this and bites on the auction, I'd love to hear how it goes.   


A Winter Bike in Fall

Kate and I had a great ride this afternoon along Lake Champlain in Charlotte and Shelburne. Since dirt roads were on the menu and the Scattante is on a hook in the basement with a bum wheel, I've been riding the winter bike. After last winter, I put taller, wider bars and bar ends on it, which has made it a perfect commuter and well-mannered dirt-road explorer.

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New White Whale and thoughts on writing and the choices we make.

I got my first actual poem up on White Whale last night, which felt good.  I had given the source pages a really good read, made a bunch of notes, thought a fair amount about what Melville was saying in those pages.  For over a week there was no poem in my head at all.  Writing poetry again is a challenge- I haven't done it seriously enough since college nor have I done it often enough that the fear of writing a bad poem or two has gone away.  When I sat down last night to write it ended up just kind of coming out, imperfect, actually not very good at all.  It didn't matter.  What mattered was writing again and getting the rush I felt from doing so back.

In college, I convinced myself fairly early on that I needed to do something that challenged me and that I might have a career future in.  I knew I wanted to do Environmental Studies, though I'm not sure why I was so certain in that either, but I wasn't as sure on a minor course of study.  I ended up doing a bunch of geology, which became my concentration.  English and writing, where every course I took held me rapt and where good grades came relatively easy, was pushed off to the side. In fact, although I minored in English writing, I didn't know I was doing so until the end of my senior year, when I added up the credits and went over to Richardson Hall for a sit-down with a professor I had never met before and a handshake.  "You're on the list."  An English minor without ever really meaning to get one.  I didn't see the path that was there- major in English, write constantly, read constantly, graduate degree, PhD, professor somewhere, writer for life and for a living.  I had no idea I could have maybe done that. 

Looking back, I could have chucked all the other coursework and spent my life in Richardson and the library.  I loved my English classes but had relegated them to the "fun" part of my college experience.  One night in 1999, I went to the library to write a poem.  Six hours later I came out, with a poem in hand and feeling like not only had hose six hours slipped past like nothing, I felt like I had been on vacation, or if you do yoga from time to time, I felt like I had just done and hour of yoga- relaxed, centered, fulfilled.  Schoolwork had never made me feel that way. 

10 years later, here I am. I'm not a writer by trade, but in this little house in Vermont, Kate and I have carved out a room for writing with a view of the garden.  I may not have written a great work last night, but the hour it took flew by like those hours so long ago and the feeling at the end as  popped the paper into the scanner was the same.  And if it's bad poetry, hey, there are worse indulgences.


If the poems come as slowly as this, I think I'll continue post them here and use this main blog space to write about the writing a bit.  White Whale itself will be just the poems.


A Followup to The Indignity of Doing Your Own Bicycle Repairs: Obtaining Parts for a Scattante XRL Cross Frame

My last post was about as rant-y as it ever gets around here. But it worked. I received a response from Amy at Performance customer service within mere hours.  The answers:
1. Yes, they have the part. 
2. Yes they will send me one. 
3. No, they will not charge me for it.  Amy says they don't charge for "small parts" as long as they are being ordered by the person who originally bought the bike or frame (I have a feeling this is what "small parts order" means in Performance-land). 
4. They were able to look up my original order for the frame, that is how they found me in their system.
In conclusion, if you order a frame or bike from Performance and find yourself in my position, your best bet would be to contact them and reference the order number they have on file from when you bought the bike.  Better yet, ask them to throw in a spare when you buy the bike- I bet they'd do it on request.  If you don't do that and all else fails, get yourself a blog with tens of readers and complain on there, and tell customer service that you're doing it.      
I should close by saying that while this was a pain, I'll still use Performance.  I enjoy my Scattante very much- I find it to be a light nimble commuter and someday I might even pop the fenders off and race it a bit.  Online retailers often offer great deals and that can mean valuable savings for people who like to work on their own bikes.    

The Indignity of Doing Your Own Bicycle Repairs: Obtaining Parts for a Scattante XRL Cross Frame

(There I am, all logged in to the account that Performance Customer Service says they cannot find!)
I really enjoy working on my own bikes.  I like the sense of satisfaction it it gives me, I like getting repairs done on my own schedule, and I like knowing that I did things correctly and competently. I also like to work on bikes that come with practical, useful features like replaceable derailer hangers.   As I recently found out, it doesn't take much of a spill to bend a derailer hanger, so having one that isn't welded on to your otherwise perfectly fine frame is a real advantage.  What I don't like is when the job of replacing this proprietary part is derailed (groan) by a combination of mass-retailer bureaucracy and the impersonal nature of e-commerce.   
My Scattante (A house brand of Performance) XRL Cross bike has a removable, replaceable derailer hanger, so when I fell on it on the drive side a week ago and heard the telltale ting-ting-ting of the derailer cage bouncing off the spokes in low gear, I decided I should get a new one, if only to compare it to the one on the bike to see how bent it is, to do the replacement if necessary, and otherwise to have a spare around before they stop making them.
Off to the Performance website I went.  The site had a plethora of derailer hangers on offer, but none of them were identified as fitting my frame. The website had a "live chat with customer service" option, so I went for it.  Soon, I was connected with "Gary."   I asked Gary if any of the hangers on the site would work, and if not, was there a way I could get a hanger for this frame. He replied that they did not have a hanger that would work available through the web site but that I could do a "small parts order" via Performance Customer Service.
That's when the email conversation started:

I started by emailing them on September 18th, shortly after my chat with Gary:
Hi there-
Following a live chat with Gary via your website, I would like to have you place a small parts order for a derailer hanger that is compatible with my 2008 Scattante XRL Cross frame. Could you please advise me how to proceed in regards to getting you my billing/shipping information and completing this order?

It took them a weekend to think about my request, but here's the response I got from them on September 21:
Dear Mr. Boulanger,
Your account could not be accessed with the information provided in your e-mail. Please forward your full name and billing address, your order number, or your customer number at your earliest convenience.
Customer Service

I got right back to them on the same day:
Hi Amy-
My full name is Matthew D. Boulanger, my billing/shipping address is REDACTED, and my customer number is REDACTED.

Perhaps stunned by the oncoming equinox, or slowed by the passing of the buck from "Amy" to "Kim," it took the representatives another two days to try to look up my account with all of the relevant information I provided.  This response hit my inbox on September 23:
Dear Mr Boulanger,
I do apologize but we are still not showing you have an account, have you lived at a different address in the last year or so?  Please advise.  thank you
Customer Service
No problem. I advised, on the very same day:
Hi Kim-
Yes, I lived at a different address until the end of December 2008, and the most recent orders I made were prior to my moving and would have shipped/billed to my old address. 
My old address was REDACTED, Burlington, Vermont, 05401. 
I was able to log into my account prior to responding to you on September 21st to update that address to REDACTED.  I assume my ability to log into the account means that I have one.
The email address associated with the account is REDACTED@gmail.com.
My customer number is REDACTED.
As I write this I am logged into the account, so I'm sure it exists.  I have attached a screenshot.
Thanks and good luck,
 See the above screenshot.  As I prepared my response to Amy, I actually opened up another tab and logged into my account with Performance.  I had no problem doing so using the information I had provided to her before.   Here's the response I got back:
September 24, 2009
Dear Mr Boulanger,
             I do apologize but I am still unable to locate your account with the information you have provided, you may want to call customer service at 1-800-727-2433.  Thank you
Customer Service
Well, I'm sorry you're sorry, Kim. I'm also sorry that nowhere in this exchange did I get any information about whether the part I want to buy is available or not. I'm sorry that an account that exists on your website, in your system, that I can log into, is not findable by the good people at Performance HQ.  I'm sorry that sending you a screenshot of my logged-in account did nothing to convince you that being unable to find my account is due to an inability to do so on your part and is not because it doesn't exist.  I thought sending you that proof might inspire you to look a little deeper, or call someone who can.  No dice.  I should just start all over with somebody on the phone, i guess.
I don't want to call customer service.  I don't want to waste any more time explaining what I need.  I want you to find your supervisor or somebody who can work the computer. I want them to get my information up and I want them to use it to bill me for a part for my bicycle and ship it to me. Barring that, I want somebody to check some inventory somewhere and if the part is no longer in existence, I want somebody to tell me that.  
And what if I didn't have an account?  What if I just emailed Performance and asked them if they could send me this part?  What if I emailed customer service and just asked them if they have the part in stock?
A little googling reveals some facts, and that others have been in the same shoes:
1. These frames used to come with a spare hanger in the box, now they don't. 
2. Nobody I could find online has ever gotten a straight answer out of tech support about whether any of the hangers are compatible. 
3. Somebody's Scattante XRL frame came with a Pacific Cycle sticker on the box.  Pacific makes frames for a lot of manufacturers, so there's probably a frame out there somewhere, under another marque, that shares this hanger.  It would be nice if somebody at Performance would be willing to share this information.   
Maybe it's time to pull the old one, photograph it, and get in touch with the folks at derailleurhanger.com to see what they advise.  I bet I'll at least get a straight answer. 
At any rate, I'm posting this to my blog via email and I'm going to do Performance's Customer Service people the courtesy of copying them on it. I like Performance.  I've ordered from them before.  I've endured the snobbery that one endures when shopping online instead of at the vaunted LBS, and I have stood up for online retailers before in debates about the moral obligations we might or might not have to "shop local."  This experience might start to change how I participate in that debate. I might pay more at the LBS, but at least I have the option of not leaving the counter when my question isn't answered satisfactorily.  To be fair, I'm going to copy this post over to Performance Customer Service and give them another shot.      
Hmmm.  Will Performance get back to me with some information?  Will someody there find out if they still make the part I need?
Stay Tuned.  

South Burlington Whole Foods, Traffic Concerns at the DRB

Credit to the Free Press for putting an image of the concept plan up. Click for big.

The South Burlington Whole Foods proposal was in front of the Development Review Board last night:

Some of the comments after the article are precious.

Not surprisingly, traffic generation was the biggest concern. City ordinances that govern such things apparently require a straight alignment where Dorset Street meets Williston Road, right through the Holiday Inn's front lawn and parking area.  The applicant hasn't had much luck negotiating the necessary easements to make that happen, and came in with an alternative that does not allow for stright-across access from Dorset Street.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out (It's at the "sketch plan" stage right now), but my guess is that it will take longer than the original projected opening date.


The First Time You meet an Internet Meme in Person...

...It can be a little unsettling. Here's a link for those who have no idea what I am talking about. I couldn't help but think of this when my dad pulled his Sprite (left) next to this other one with a slightly different grill. The Sprite is a pretty "smiley" looking car anyway, but my dad's looked downright serious compared to this one that was missing a good portion of its hood chrome. The whole British Invasion show was great as usual, with the bonus of excellent top-down weather for the drive from Monkton to Stowe and back. More pictures here.
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Shimano Sora Hub Dimensions- Rear

It is amazing how deep you sometimes have to go to get really basic information about relatively common bicycle parts, especially wheel components. When you are going to assemble a wheel yourself, you need to know a bunch of dimensions in order to determine what length of spokes you will be using. How far are the holes in the rim from its center? How high are the flanges on the hub, and how far are they from the center of the hub?  How many times will the spokes be crossing other spokes from the same side of the hub? OK, so that last one is up to the wheelbuilder and easily answered.  
Backing up for a moment.  I had a clipped in fall to the right side on my Scattante a couple of mornings ago.  It was very similar to the fall I experienced earlier this year, where my foot rubbed on my front fender, stalling the front wheel and sending me forward (and in this case on to my back in some sort of bizarre roll) and off the right side of the bike.   I hopped back on, and other than a bruised ego and a smashed apple in my bag, all seemed to be well. Before I left work for the day, though, I noticed a significant wobble in my rear wheel and by the time I got home six miles later, I was riding cautiously and at about half speed as the wobble worsened.
I pulled the wheel off the bike and cleaned it, expecting to spend some after-dinner time at the truing stand.  Once I got it off the bike though, I discovered that the damage was more extensive.  I had snapped two spokes, one from each edge of the rim (and from opposing sides of the hub).  The spokes broke right where the spoke head meets the hub.  The rim had been torqued pretty badly in my fall, but appears to be something I can true.  I thought for a while about simply replacing the two broken spokes, but I really don't trust this wheel anymore in its current configuration.  I built it up in a three-leading, three-trailing pattern and have since read in a couple of places that while it might work (and isn't considered "plum stupid," like a radial-spoked rear wheel), it is generally not advised due to the stresses that a driven wheel experiences. What if some of the adjacent spokes are also ready to go? Better to strip the whole thing down and rebuild it in a plain-vanilla three-cross pattern and reap the benefits of added wheel strength.  With the the cassette on, you could never really see the nice pattern of the woven spokes anyway.  
Which brings me to ordering spokes and finding dimensions.  I must have had the dimensions for the hub and rim at some point, but they are lost to me now. A short Internet search ought to bring me the right information, though.  That was true for the Velocity Fusion rim, who unlike Weinmann, have spread their rim ERD information far and wide. 591 mm ERD in this case, and away we go to find the Sora hub dimensions.....   
It took some digging. None of the catalog pages I found for the hubs gave the numbers you need to build a wheel on them.  Shimano's own web site provides a lovely exploded diagram of the hub with exactly zero dimensions identified on it. Why do this?  I'm not sure, but it certainly isn't done to encourage home wheelbuilders to use Shimano's products.  Why not just look up what length spokes I ordered last time?  Because Ebay doesn't see fit to make more than 60 days worth of purchase history available.  What about measuring what I have?  Well, I don't have the wheel apart yet and would just as soon wait until I get new spokes to take it apart.  I don't have a good set of metric calipers to get on the hub, and I don't trust myself measuring the spokes, bent as they are through the now-failed pattern.      
A Google search specifically on Sora (The componet group the hub is from) will not get you there, but after about an hour I finally found what I needed on Velospec. Without further ado, I'll get that information out in a way that the next person who Googles finds it more easily:
Shimano Sora 8/9 speed rear Hub Dimensions:
Spoke Hole Diameter: 45mm
Center to Right Flange: 21.3mm
Center to Left Flange: 38.7mm
That's it.  That's all there is to it.  Plug those numbers, along with the ERD of the rim (in my case, 591mm for a Velocity Fusion) in to any of a number of online spoke length calculators, and there you go. For a three-cross wheel I need 284.14mm spokes on the drive side and 285.95mm spokes on the left side. Done.  
..And now I have it all archived in this blog post, in case I ever need the information again!


Happiness is fifteen pounds of pork shoulder in the smoker!
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Dan's CVT Bike VIII: Knobby Tires, New Rear Spokes, and More Foot Clearance

Just a couple of photos there. Things I've learned:

1. The shift pod for the CVT hub can be run along the seatstay, gaining precious shoe sizes of clearance.
2. Kenda Kwick 32c tires do fit the Windsor Clockwork frame, with about 2mm to spare.
3. The one-cross rear wheel is the only way to go with a Nuvinci Hub. The wheel built up nice and strong and true with a minimum of fuss.
4. The bike rides nicely and is a little more comfortable with larger volume tires at 70lbs as opposed to less volume and 90lbs presure.


The Effective Rim Diameter (ERD) of a Weinmann DP18 is 581mm

There you go, Internet: my little contribution to your vast sea of information.  

I hope people who build up a set of these rims in the future will be able to find the title of this post, instead of having to ask the vendor, which is what I did.  Thanks, Niagara Cycle Works!  For a rim that I see all over the place on economy fixed-gear wheelsets, it amazes me that not one catalog I searched and not even the Weinmann home page seemed to contain this critical bit of information.  Sure, you can wait until the rims arrive and measure this dimension itself, but what if you get impatient like me and want to order your spokes at the same time you order your rims?  Crazy, I know.

(My rims for the Trek 460 project arrived today, and boy are they yellow.  Just like the ones in the picture, but with a machined brake track.)  


White Whale: Restarted

I have restarted one of my other Blog projects, called White Whale.   You can find it here:


The picture above (scan actually) describes what it is about.  I may cross post items from it to re-turn from time to time, but probably not all of the time, so grab the feed if you're interested.


Home Improvement: Little Details

(This is an old post I've been meaning to finish up.  Although this blog has taken a decidedly bike-centric turn of late, I do mean for it to be a place for lots of other things as well.  Among those is documentation of any home improvement projects we undertake.)

A quick and easy project that we did right away was to replace most of the switch-plate covers in the house. The covers that came with the house had been accumulated over the years and most of them had either a cat theme or a lighthouse theme.  Except for the one in the bathroom that was all seashells and plaster and the one in the hall that looked like a piano keyboard. These were probably fine in the context of the owner's things, but in an empty house, they really stuck out.  Kate likes brushed nickel, so we went with brushed nickel covers for replacements..


The Cure for Cantilever Cross Fork Chatter?

My primary commuter ride is a Scattante XRL cross frameset that I built up with a mix of parts bin, Ebay and other stuff.  I've been riding it to work every day since April and have been generally very happy with it. One major issue I discovered as soon as I got it out on the road was that using the front brake with any amount of force resulted in an immediate and violent oscillation of the front wheel and fork.  Enough to shake me right off of the handlebars.   Since most of your braking force on a bicycle comes from the front brake, this was disconcerting to say the least. It's hard to consider a bike to be "all dialed in" with such a major issue left outstanding.  As a commuter, I go through a lot of hard braking and accelerations on every trip, and my weekly maintenance regime was starting to include having to remove copious amounts of brake dust fromt he rear rim and drivetrain.  No fun at all.     
Like many people who encounter this, I thought it was a problem with the design of the fork. But how could a fork designed for the rigors of 'cross use be such a noodle under braking? I was pretty much resigned to live with the problem until I could afford to replace the fork and pay the weight penalty of installing a steel fork.
Fortunately, before I did all of that, I found this article on Nippleworks, which explains the phenomenon of cross fork brake chatter in terms of the sequence of events that takes place when you engage the front brake: 
"1) The brake cable comes under tension
2) The brake pads apply braking force to the rim
3) The ground applies backwards force to the tire
4) The fork deflects backwards
5) Fork deflection causes brake cable tension to increase
6) Brake pads apply more force to the rim

At this point, something has to give way:

a) The brake pads stop the wheel cold and you go over the handlebars
b) The ground gives way and you have a front wheel skid
c) The brake pads slip on the rim and the vicious cycle of (1 to 6 + c) repeats"
and suggests a few solutions:

  • "Decrease free brake cable length by mounting the hanger on the fork (like older front suspension mountain bikes: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/images/tektro1257.jpg

  • Install linear pull brakes which don't promote this behavior: http://nippleworks.blogspot.com/2008/12/linear-pull-brakes-with-drop-bar-levers.html

  • Monkey with toe-in and otherwise change the mechanical advantage of the brakes to minimize the effect

  • Install a really compliant cable hanger to deflect under cable tension?

  • Disc brakes?"

  • The fork isn't set up for disc brakes, so that was right out. I didn't want to buy linear pull brakes and the levers I would need to go with them, and while the really compliant cable hanger idea was tempting, I'm not really set up to make something like that.
    The photos above show that I went with the first bulleted suggestion by installing a Tektro Housing Stop on the fork, which reduced the amount of free cable from 4.2 inches down to about an inch. Since the original housing stop is an integral part of the headset, I drilled it out so the now-longer housing could run through it. In the last picture in the series, you can see that I applied some of the suggestions of the third bullet, by adding a really generous amount of toe-in to the brake pads.  That adjustment on its own hadn't worked before. 
    So, how does it work now?  Great.  I have been riding the bike every day for about a month since I set it up and have not made any adjustments.  The front brake is very powerful, and I can only introduce a minor shudder in the fork by braking very, very hard, as if I was making a panic stop using only the front brake. 
    I want to thank Nippleworks for taking this question on.  A search for "fork chatter" and "cross bike" brings up numerous message board discussions about this problem being prevalent in different cross bike models, but not a lot of solutions.  As Nippleworks discussed, although some bikes and forks might be more susceptible, this is going to be something of an issue whenever a flexible cross fork is combined with a lot of free cable. The more free cable, the more there is to stretch, release and contract in the endless cycle described above.  
    I'm sure my choice of components aggravated the situation.  The fork is pretty soft to begin with.  I can flex it a little bit just by leaning hard on the handlebars.  I picked retro Tektro CR720 cantilevers with a really wide profile, which means that in addition to the free cable coming from the cable stop to the straddle cable saddle, the straddle cable itself is quite long.  Something like an Avid Shorty would allow for a shorter straddle and would eliminate even more free cable from the system.  My rims, Velocity Fusions (which I love) have a machined brake track, which is a little more grippy than a non-machined track- that might contribute as well.  A harder rubber brake pad (people like Kool-Stop Salmons) would be a little slipperier.  
    But even with stock brake pads, wide profile cantilevers, and a grippy rim, the cable stop solved the problem for under ten dollars and the cost a piece of longer housing. With this problem resolved, I'm really happy with this bike.  It's a pleasure to ride, nimble, solid, comfortable on back roads as well as pavement at speed (45mph down Smugglers Notch does make those Panaracer Cinder X knobbies scream, though!) and upright enough to be comfortable without sacrificing too much speed to the wind.        


    Garden Photos

    These are my pictures, but none of this was really my doing.  Kate is the gardener in the family, I am merely the shovel operator!  As you can see, we have had some tomatoes escape the great blight of 2009, and the flowers Kate planted for cutting, display and general enjoyment have been doing really well.  We have begun to slowly remove the Japanese Honeysuckle that was planted along the entire perimeter of the property and Kate has been replacing it, with Purple Coneflower, Bayberry, Ninebark, various grasses and Joe Pye weed.  The bumblebees are really enjoying the Joe Pye,    

    All in all, I'd call it a successful first year out there, though we can tell we are going to need to amend our soil significantly and probably come up with some better moisture management/watering strategies, depending on what type of summer we have next year.