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!


Why I miss Denmark

In 1998 I spent a semester in Copenhagen. Spring in Denmark is probably one of the best times of year in one of the best places on earth. In my Danish Language class, I recall our teacher telling us that being away from Denmark in spring brings a tear to a Dane's eye, and even more than 10 years later, I still miss that one magical spring that I was able to have there.

There's another reason that I miss Denmark, though. It has to do with the culture of congeniality and friendliness that practically radiates from everything around you there. There is a sort of "we are all in this together" attitude that permeates the place. An so here's this video, of danish police giving out free hugs and helmets. In the US, we get Officer Patrick Pogan clotheslining a Critical Mass rider, in Denmark, free hugs.

Sent to you by Matt via Google Reader:

via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder on 4/28/09

Video of police in Denmark stopping bicyclists, hugging them, and giving them helmets. Happiness all around.

Things you can do from here:


The Spacers of Adjustment and the Stem of Indecision

I mentioned yesterday that I hadn't finanlized my handlebar height yet- here's what I mean. I may flip one more 3mm spacer below the stem before making the final cut, but this is pretty close. I'm not looking forward to driving the star nut deeper into the steerer, though. I don't own a start nut setterand instead rely on screwing a sacrificial bolt into the start nut and hammering it home carefully so as to keep it straight.
Posted by Picasa


The Bike Project: Completion!

With a couple of sale events at the super-secret online bike parts mass-retailer Nashbar, I have accumulated the final parts I need for my new commuter/back roads/dirt roads/everything I don't want to do on my good road bike that isn't an outright trail bike- bike. Exhale.  Here's a rundown of the whole build, including some comments from the first couple of rides:

Scattante aluminum. Style man would not approve, but he's gone anywayBike Snob runs a Scattante, though so they can't be all bad (his was free!)

Scattante is essentially Performance Cycle's house brand.  I would have preferred a frame from them that had the decals applied over the clearcoat so that I could remove them, but such is life.  I kept an eye on the Performance website, which listed this frame/fork/headest/seatpost collar as a "combo deal," and waited to order until there was a blanket 20% off discount on the site that included frames. It looks like that happens once or twice a year for about a day each time.  It really was a steal.
Scattante XRL Cross fork to match frame.  Carbon.  Cheap Carbon. Very pretty and clean design Cantilever bosses, no disc mounts.  I had to modify the fender mountsignificantly to get it in hiogh enough on this fork.   The fork flutters like crazy under hard braking and is actually pretty scary.  I'm thinking about switching it out at some point, maybe for a beefier carbon fork or maybe for a nice piece of steel.  For now, I'm just careful to watch my hard braking on the front brake.
No-name integrated, sealed bearing. The "crown race" was a pain in the butt to get seated, and the whole thing did not install very tightly, leaving bigger gaps between the fork crown and head tube and head tube and top of the headset than I would have liked. This is more the fault of the machining of the frame than the headset itself.   It wasn't long after I clicked the "submit order" button at Performance that I started to run across various screeds against integrated headsets on the Internet.  The thing has stayed nice and solid so far, though.
 Looking back now, I would like to have used a frame with a traditional pressed-in headset.  Among other things, it would have given me a chance to add a headset press to my tool arsenal.
Bottom Bracket/Crank/Pedals:
Nashbar stuff- all of these bits were originally on my Montgomery-Ward fixie (RIP).  The crank is a 53/39, 170mm.  Pretty heavy.  The pedals are really generic flat pedals.  I'm thinking of going to a set of flat pedals with SPD clips on one side when I get the money for those and a set of shoes.
I learned my lesson about BB installation on this project.  Park Tool says that you should install the BB drive-side first, applying 60lbs of pressure to the end of a six-inch wrench.  You should then install the non-drive side "cup," so that the pressure from tightening it squeezes the drive side threads a bit.   I didn't install the BB in that order or nearly as tightly, and it unscrewed itself about half a turn on one of my first rides to work.  Fearful that I would do further damage, I had to call Kate for a ride home that day. Luckily, I didn't strip the threads and will not need to use the threadless BB I ordered in a fit of "OMG I just wrecked a frame with fewer than 100 miles on it" panic.  I have since installed the conventional BB according to Park's instructions and things seem to be fine so far.
Chain and Cassette:
SRAM 9 speed. I went with a 12-34 cassette, which would be more typical on a mountain bike.  I figured I could use the extra range and low gearing.  So far I have been right about that.  In fact, I'd like to have a couple of even lower gears. I plan to achieve that by eventually buying a set of new rings for up front, probably a 50 and a 34.  I could go for a triple with a granny ring, but for my purposes if I could get a 1:1 easiest gear that would suffice.  It would also eliminate the stupidity of having to have a chain long enough to handle a 53/34 combo but not so long that it goes slack and falls off in the 39/12.  I have tested both of those cross-chain combinations, by the way, and the chain does make it (noisily) without falling off or ripping the derailer out of its mount.
Derailers and Brakes:
Shimano LX mountain bike derailers taken off of my 1998ish Trek 930 (now a single speed).  These have plenty of miles left on them, though I should probably put new pulleys on the rear.  My 9-speed chain has no problem with pulleys designed for a seven-speed chain, though.
Tektro CR 720 wide-profile cyclocross cantilevers.  I like their performance, and more importantly, I think they look cool.     I got all new Jagwire cables for the brakes and shifters.  The casings are Teflon lined, which is nice.
A note on shift cables: I did have to order a tandem cable for the rear derailer and nearly had to for the front. Bar-end shifters on drop bars with the cables completely under the tape eat up a lot of cable length.  Since bar-end shifters are getting less common on drop bars, cable manufacturers may not be including enough cable length to make it to the rear derailer (top tube routing of all cables didn't help this, either). 
EBay drop bars and stem. Nashbar aero brake levers.  Dura Ace 9 speed bar-end shifters, Nashbar cork tape. Nashbar saddle stolen from my fixie and seatpost from my Trek.  Lots of spacers, sourced from all over.    
The bargain-basement and basement parts bin parts are all perfectly functional.  I splurged on the shifters, and I love them.  Regardless of Shimano's dire warnings about group compatibility, they have no problem driving my old LX derailers.  Even the nine-speed indexing on the rear works impeccably.  (Remember folks, a derailer is a "dumb" component and only does what it is told by the shifter. As long as the cable pull ratios line up, it couldn't care less about how many notches the shifter has.)  
I used a whole lot of spacers to get the bars level with the saddle, and left about 40mm extra on the steer tube. Sometime this summer when I'm sure I'm satisfied with the saddle and bar height, I'll cut the fork to length, thus removing the sternum fracture hazard feature from this bike.
I just need to find a seatpost for the Trek now and pick a saddle out of the parts bin to make that bike whole again.
Sora Hubs, 36 Sapim spokes per wheel, laced three-leading-three trailing to Velocity Fusion rims.  Lance keeps the hubs clean. I wrote about these before.  So far, they have held up well- no pinging and popping when I first rode them and no need so far to even touch the truing.  The only thing I notice is that 36 spokes is a whole lot of spokes in a crosswind.   I shod these in fat 35mm tires, which barely fit the Freddy fender Hardcore fenders I installed.
I'm very happy with this bike.  It rides very smoothly, the full-coverage fenders are really convenient, and the shifting is smooth.  I'll probably swap out the fork at some point and go for a 34 ring as my small ring to get some lower gears for big hills.  It's nice to have a light, fast commuter that is at home on dirt roads.   I feel better taking this bike on car trips than my nice roadie, and it's more versatile when I get to where I'm going.  I may grudgingly install a rack at some point (the extra mounting points are there, even with fenders mounted already) to get my messenger bag off of my back.   If anybody is thinking about doing a build like this, my advice would be to watch for sales, take your time with parts selection, and learn to build wheels.   If you are looking for a faster path and have the mechanical knowledge, I'd still suggest a Fantom Cross from BikesDirect, an afternoon with a truing stand, and a tube of Phil Wood green grease.  (More on BikesDirect later, my Brother in Law just got a bike from them and I think I can offer some constructive comments now)


Riding Like You Drive Like You Ride

Image Credit: Dave Moulton's Bike Blog. He says it better than me but hey, I like writing.

The next time you hop in your car, say, to go to work in the morning, try the following exercise:

-Every time you drive past a side street or driveway on your right, check to see if anybody is pulling out.  If they are, stop for them and let them out.  After all, they might not be able to see you and could end up driving right into your side. 

-When you get to an intersection that has a green light and a sidewalk or bike path on your right, don't just drive through.  Get out of your car, find the button to activate the crossing signal, and when the signal shows "WALK," walk alongside your car though the intersection.  Then you can get back in and drive away.   

-If you have a car coming up behind you, watch out! There's a good chance they might pull up alongside you and attempt to take a right turn up ahead of you, hitting you on the left side or cutting you off completely so you run into their side. 

-If there's a path alongside the road you are driving on, and there are people on it jogging, pushing strollers, or walking, be sure to slow down to their speed and pass by them carefully. If you drive by them at your normal speed, they'll be pretty upset and you might hit them!

-Frustrated yet?  When you get to a red light that is triggered by a sensor, don't go when it turns green unless there is another car there.  Just pretend the intersection sensor couldn't see you and that the light hasn't turned green at all.  If you are alone at the intersection, just stay there through the light cycle and wait for somebody to pull up behind you to trigger the switch. 

It's April second, not April first, and this isn't really a joke. That said, I'm really not suggesting that anybody goes out and drives the way I just described. If you did, it would get pretty miserable pretty quickly.  You wouldn't get where you were going very efficiently, and you probably would look for some other way to get to work.  If you're a cyclist, though, you are often expected by the motoring public and by transportation planners and policy makers to ride your bike exactly like that.  Less importantly (but more annoyingly) the jerk with the snowmobile parked askance in the bed of his truck decorated with stickers of Calvin peeing on (insert opposing brand/team/country here) thinks that's how you and I ought to ride, and he's not alone*.  People who don't ride bikes regularly almost categorically do not understand why some cyclists would choose to ride on the road when there is a perfectly good path right next to it.  Many of them think cyclists are being arrogant when they ride on the road. Some of them (like my friend in the pickup) even go so far as to make their opinion known by aiming their two-ton hunk of metal right at the cyclist they want to communicate with and blasting the horn in their ear at the last minute. Bonus points for Doppler-ed expletives out the passenger window. 

Well Mr. Guy in the Truck, here's an exercise:  why don't you hop on this bike right here.  No, there's no throttle to twist and nothing to "rev."  (There is an as-yet undiagnosed disorder called "Male Revving Disease." See also leaf blowers, chainsaws, motorboats, cars, drills, Dustbusters and anything else powered that can be construed as having a throttle.) OK, here's a little plastic hat to keep you safe.  Now, you go ahead and hop on that bike path and get yourself to work.  Oh, did that car coming out of its driveway not see you?  Too bad. If we are on the Burlington Bike Path, it's going to be your fault, since you must have blown through one of the no-less-than-four-hundred stop signs on the path where every street, driveway, squirrel trail and place that somebody might walk someday has been given its own special red octagonal lollipop.  OK, you made it past that disaster, so keep heading down the path.  Can you hear that car coming up behind you at twice your speed on the street? Is he going to turn into that side street up ahead of you on the right?  Who knows? You won't know until he does it, and he wont know you're even there until... Thunk.  You'll need to remember to repeat that thought process on the bike path each and every time you hear a car coming up behind you.  

So nobody hit you on the path today.  The morning jogging club is up ahead now, shoulder to shoulder and pushing strollers better equipped to carry a small family's belongings to a homestead somewhere in the west than a baby.  Ring your bell to get them to move over (you do have a bell, right).  What? They didn't move?  Better slow down to their speed.  Maybe if you ask nicely.  Oh, now they're sneering at you, giving you the "you're going to run over my child- I just know it" stinkeye.  You've lost some time, but at least you're safe on the path.  Here comes an intersection.  The cars parallel to you have a green light, but you have a little orange man sign. Better hit the button and wait until the light cycle goes around  to wherever they programmed in the walk signal.  Now walk that bike across the crosswalk. Don't ride in the crosswalk- you wouldn't want to set the bad example of the lawless cyclist on your first day out, would you?  You're on your way again. Oops- the bike path just ended.  Hope you're good at traversing loose dirt and hopping that six inch curb back on to the street.  Oh, and all the while merging with traffic- otherwise it's a dead stop and you're off the bike again. 

So you're on the road and come to a red light at an intersection.  Nobody's around, and darned if that light won't change.  Well, you're just going to have to sit there and wait for a car to come trip the switch.. Or you know, break the law by running the light.  Even better, let's make it a busy four-way intersection on a five lane road and you need to turn left, from the left-turn-only lane. All lanes excepting the left turn lanes at the intersection are on a timed cycle, but you're on a sensor.  Better hope somebody with more steel than you shows up to trip the switch, because even if you wanted to run the red arrow there's no safe way to make this left, what with all that through traffic. 

I have what I consider a relatively pleasant six-mile commute to work.  Everything I just described is present along that commute, and riding my bike on the road and following the rules of the road eliminates all of the problems above except for the traffic light one.  I would like to assert that most rational people who bicycled the route to work that I take - more than a few times- would make the same decisions about whether to ride on the road or the parallel path.  Although it didn't stop me from trying here, this doesn't seem to be a concept that can be communicated through description and visualization. I'd like to suggest something to anybody who has seen a cyclist on the road where there is a path and thought "why doesn't he just ride on the path that we (because only drivers are taxpayers, a rant for another day) paid for."  Take a ride.  See what it's like.  Have somewhere to be and use a bike to get there.  And if you're one of those guys with a truck who like to "buzz" cyclists to show them what you think about them being on your road, just remember that guys driving 18 wheelers pay for "your" highways, and I don't see them trying to run you off the interstate. 

*Bill Watterson deserves something better than having his beloved creation turned into vinyl decals of a boy urinating.  Show some respect.