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!


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.


    The Trek 460 Project: Reassembly and Configuration Decisions

    There's a couple of pictures of my progress on the Trek. I've put everything back on it that came with it that I'm going to use, except for the saddle.  I'm planning on building up a new wheelset, adding new brake cables, bar tape and tires.  I'm looking at a set of yellow Weinmann DP18's* with a machined brake track, yellow tape, yellow tires.  If I can find a piece of yellow vinyl I'm going to re-cover the saddle with that.  It should be pretty striking when I'm done.

    From the looks of the chainline photos, I may be able to move the chainring back to the outer position on the spider, which would be nice.  I'm going with a similar macro-drive to what I had on the Montgomery-Ward bike, pairing the 22T Surly cog I have with the 53-tooth ring that came on the bike.

    Aside from budget limitations, the whole thing is coming back together pretty well.  I'm thinking about picking up a set of rollers for this winter and using this bike on them, thengetting outside on it in the spring as my early-season trainer and commuter.  

    *The poor man's Velocity Deep V, at more than half the price.


    One of These Days It Won't Be Another Bike Post

    ... But not today. (Facebookers will have to go to the Blog to see this one) I just saw this video, and it trips the horrible/nerdy/awesome meters all at the same time. It reinforces every cycling stereotype there is on pavement, from the Spandex* to the hipster fixie to the "Lance Armstrong Wannabe" trope. I can't look away: **Remember, it's actually Lycra, but nobody gets that right.


    This is How I Picture it Happening

    (Not my picture, credit to harryquinnfixie.wordpress.com/ )

    Mid 1983. A dusty room somewhere in Waterloo, Wisconsin. A case of Trek 460 frames fresh off the container ship from Japan rest in the background, a box of Sakae cranks in the foreground, maybe a workbench.  A lone figure with a chainring bolt wrench and an allen key is putting rings on crank spiders, and he's out of grease.  He installs the chainring bolts dry.

    Tonight, I reinstall the bottom bracket and headset/fork/stem/handlebars on the 460. I have settled on a fixie conversion, convinced as I am that I have two 32-hole hubs that will work on the bike and can go ahead with a set of blue weinmann DP18's for the rebuild. I'm ready to put the crank back on, but I'm 99% sure I want to use the big ring only (to match the 22-tooth Surly cog in my parts bin) and I'm just as sure that I'll have to run it on the inside of the spider to get the proper chainline.  The rings need to come off of the crank.

    Lacking a chainring bolt wrench, I'm stuck with an allen key and the hope that the friction between the bolt and the rings will be greater than the friction between the threads of the bolt/nut combo.  I apply pressure, more pressure. The bolt gives, sending my index finger's big knuckle into the teeth. I tie a rag around my hand and keep working.  Three of the bolts give, the first one and one other do not.  I search the shop for something that will stand in for a proper wrench, but nothing fits.  How many times have I put what is possibly the cheapest bike tool in the universe in my Nashbar cart, and how many times have I taken it out at the last minute?

    The crank will have to wait. I head upstairs for soap, a scrub brush, a bandage, and a bowl of homemade chocolate ice cram with Kate. Life couldn't be better.

    Grease everything with threads, people. If not grease, Loctite.  Someone, someday, will thank you.


    The Trek 460 Project: Initial Teardown and Future Daydreams.

    (Apologies for the "all photos up front" format of this post. Blogger plays horribly with photo layout, and until somebody shows me a solution, I'm just going to post via email with my photos as attachments.  It's not pretty, but it gets the job done.)

    Sometimes bikes fall into our lives. The series of pictures in this blog post documents my initial disassembly of one of those bikes.  A couple of weeks ago, my father mentioned to me that he had picked up a bike with a "free" sign on it at the bottom of somebody's driveway. Some kind of old Trek road bike. Did I want it?  Because if I didn't want it he could just put it down at the bottom of his driveway with a "free" sign on it.  Of course I wanted it, sight unseen.

    The bike is a Trek 460, made in 1984 and 1985.  This one is from '84, the 85's were red. The catalog photo shows the bike with white bar tape and cables, but those were yellow on this one, which was the stock color on the red '85 model.  I wonder if this particular bike was made at the end of the production run.  The 460 was sold as an entry-level race bike, for about 400 bucks in 1984.  This particular one came from the Bike Peddler, in Greeley, Colorado, according to the sticker on the down tube.

    As it came to me, this bike was in pretty rough shape, and had had a hard life.  My guess is that it started out as somebody's entry-level race bike, (I know, shocking) but from the scraped-up pedals and the mismatched front wheel (a Mavic sew-up rim) my guess is that at some point somebody re-purposed this bike as a criterium bike, while a newer, zipper model took its place in the stable as the primary racer, too nice to be banged around on a crowded short course.  The significant amount of brake wear on both rims tends to support heavy criterium use (or heavy descending) as well.

    The saddle is branded Schwinn, made by Viscount. I'm pretty sure it isn't original. The front brake is anodized black and the rear is silver, so one of those is probably not original as well.  The bike is missing one brake hood and the remaining brake hood was lashed togther with elsectric tape.  The mismatched parts, along with lots of wear on the down tube near the head tube suggests that this bike most recently was used by somebody who rode it as a commuter, and who locked it to racks witht he front wheel up over the spine of the rack. (This makes me cringe when I see it- there was a really sweet Bianchi Axis locked that way at City Market the other night).

    Getting a bike like this back on the road will be a pleasure, a fun project to do this summer and fall, but I have to make some decisions.  People have gone to pretty great lengths to restore old Treks, and as the saying goes "it's only original once."  Others might go so far as to strip the frame, have it powdercoated, order up a complete set of decals (yes, to you non cyclists out there, this will sound completely nuts, but there are actually people who will make you reproduction decals for your old road bike) and spend years collecting the right parts to get a bike like this back on the road.

    In this case, the one time this bike was "original" happened a long time ago. The rust spots need to be addressed, but those old Trek logos look pretty nice.  I could use a fixie in the stable, since the demise of my Mongomery Ward conversion. I could also set up a pretty cool downtube-shifted 650b ride. More on that later. I headed around the corner for a can of Krylon "true blue."

    As you can see in the photos, I removed everything except for the headset cups.  I lightly sanded all of the rusty spots and scuffed up the rest of the paint with steel wool, avoiding the decals.  I masked over the decals and then panted the frame. I removed the tape over the decals and feathered them in as best I could.  It's one of those "perfect 10" paint jobs, in that it looks perfect from 10 feet away.  The last photo int he series shows my masking and feathering job around the decals on the fork.

    As I write this, I have put the seastpost back in and have degreased and cleaned all of the headset bits. I'm out of grease, so I'll have to pick up a tube before proceeding any further.  I have a track hub, left over from Dan's CVT project, that I could put to use in a new rear wheel, and I can cut the front hub that came with the bike out of its tubular rim.  The crank has a 52-tooth big ring, and I still have the Surly 22-tooth cog from that Monkey Ward bike.  I have a set of hoods that came extra with the brake levers on my Scattante. I have plenty of brake housing left from the 25-foot roll I bought when I was redoing the brakes on my Trek 930 mountain bike (more on that later, too!).  That leaves brake cables, bar tape, rims and spokes to purchase should I go the fixie route. If I decide to keep the gears, I'm going to need shift cable as well as the aforementioned items.

    I'll keep the updates coming as the project progresses.     


    Fight Like Susan

    Last night, clearing out my Google Reader feed, I saw a post on the Fatcyclist.com feed titled "Don't Say She Lost."  Before I could open the post to read the text, I knew what it meant.  Elden Nelson's (the creator and author of fatcyclist.com) wife Susan had passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I was still thinking about it on my morning ride today as I headed up the big hill on that ride, a hill that almost always sends me sweeping my rear derailer up the cassette in search of the 34-tooth bailout gear that lives next to the spokes.  
    Let me back up for a minute.  Flash to a little over four years ago. I was nearing the end of my second semester in Law School, wrestling mightily with the idea that I had gotten myself into something that simply was not for me.  I was living alone in an apartment in a rural Vermont town, isolated from my fiancee, and poking around the Web looking for something, anything to connect to.  In my apartment sat my antiquated Trek 930, little used in the last decade or so, but with about 12 years worth of grime and junk on it.  In a few hours of stolen free time and with help from all over the Web, I tore it down, cleaned it up and got it running like clockwork again.  The first ride on a bike I had successfully brought back to "like new" condition was sweeter than anything.
    In the course of my Web browsing for tips and such, I came across Fat Cyclist.  As a bit of a Clydesdale myself, Elden's posts about riding, food, friends, and the universal experiences all cyclists share resonated with me.  His sharp wit, undying enthusiasm and eloquent writing all kept me coming back. 
    For all of the fun, though, things started to get pretty serious around the time I started reading the blog.  Elden's wife Susan was fighting cancer, and the news Elden reported as they navigated the health care maze depicted a situation that would have left many people incapacitated.  Through it all, Elden's positive attitude and the way he has turned this challenge into as good a thing as it could be has been inspiring. It has inspired me to look at my own life and write most of its tests off to introspective whining.  I find myself faced with an obstacle and then thinking, what would Elden and Susan do?  How would they deal with this?    
    What Elden has done though his blog is fight cancer by raising money for the LiveStrong Foundation.  He's raised awareness about cancer among his friends and cycling brethren on the web, and he's been more successful at it than anyone I can think of. 
    Cancer touches all of us at some point. Susan fought one hell of a fight against this disease, and Elden fought hard along with her.  Anybody who knows him already knows the answer to the question "what can I do?"  The answer is to get out there and raise money for cancer research. Elden's got a Livestrong page with a $90,000 fundraising goal. You can donate to it here
    If you go to that site, you'll probably notice a picture of an amazingly sweet road bike, an Orbea Orca with fly-by-wire Shimano Di2 components.  Give in any increment of $5, and you get a chance to win that bike. 
    A common slogan on Fatcyclist.com for some time has been "Win Susan," and today's post title is "Don't Say She Lost." Elden explains:
    "Susan's part in the battle is over, but she didn't lose. She led the charge. She showed the rest of us how to fight: with determination, focus, creativity, and outrageous endurance.
    Now it's up to the rest of us to Fight Like Susan.
    Thinking on everything I've read on Fatcyclist.com over the years, and the positive influence it has had on my life, I chugged up the big hill on my ride this morning thinking "Fight Like Susan" over and over again, a mantra of sorts.  As I crested the hill I looked over my right heel and realized:  I wasn't in the bailout gear, or even the one down from it, and I felt strong.   


    USA Today Cycling Article

    Trevor Hughes, an old friend and classmate from my hometown has a USA Today byline today- on cyclist/motorist conflicts.  Check it out.
    The story is familiar, especially for the West: Sheriff doesn't like the traffic conflict caused by cyclists.  Lots of recreational cyclists in conflict with people "just trying to get to work" Local cyclist recounts various abuses visited upon him by drivers.  Local driver complains about cyclists not following the rules. Sheriff is doing his best to balance the legal rights and interests of both groups.  Local driver thinks the problem is the influx of new people into "his" state. 
    This sort of story plays out all over the place, year after year. Comment threads generated by these articles turn into cyclist/motorist hate-fests, and little understanding ever seems to come of it.  Out on the street, some cyclists don't follow the rules, some drivers are jerks to cyclists, and each group defines the other by its outliers.  It's not the hundered cars that pass you without incident that you remember, or the cyclist patiently waiting at the red light at the empty intersection.     
    What is the solution?  
    It's easy to blame the problem on a lack of indfrastructure.  Bike lanes, bike paths, and signage do help, but are slow to produce and expensive. More enforcement? You won't hear me argue that at all.  I'd love to see bike and car scofflaws alike pulled over and fined for their transgressions. Anything that encourages all of us to follow all of the rules would be a great help. Perhaps I'm biased here, but I think the start of all of this ought to be better education. A lot of drivers misunderstand their interactions with cyclists because they don't understand the world from their perspective, and a number of cyclists don't seem to get it* when it comes to riding assertively and legally in traffic.
    What form would education take? The first thing is to impress upon the minds of the American public that a bicycle ridden on the road is not a toy.  It is a vehicle, and using it on public roads involves following the rules for those roads.   In my mind, this education could happen as a part of the coursework that is necessary to get a license to drive a car.  Start that coursework with a couple of days of teaching effective cycling on the road. 
    In fact, how about having to take an effective cycling course and logging 100+ bike miles on the street before being able to get a learners' permit?  Maybe when people turn 13 or 14, they take a class and pass a test, all on their bikes, all about the proper way to ride with traffic, to yield, to take the lane when necessary, to give the lane when safe, etc. Maybe a road test at the end.  What if everybody who had a drivers' license in this country started off with a real-world understanding of "share the road." 
    On the enforcement side, how about cyclists who get busted for running stops signs and red lights getting points on their licenses, and losing the right to drive a car if they get too many points, even on their bike? Most cyclists are also drivers and depend on their cars at least some of the time. There are even cyclist who start every ride they go on by driving to its beginning point.
    It sounds like the sheriff in Trevor's article is trying pretty hard to maintain peace between the bikes and the cars in his little part of the world. He has some disomfot with teh "three foot law" which can effectively trap a motorist behind a cyclist on a narrow canyon road. In my mind, the onus in that case falls on the cyclist to find a safe place to get over on the side and let the driver by, especially when the cyclist is going well under the speed limit.  There's nothing wrong with the cyclist waiting untiol it is safe to do so, but uneccesarily impeding traffic is jerk behavior no matter who's doing it.
    What do people think?  Will we ever move past this tired old conflict, will we ever recognize that we cannot define each other by the small number of rule-breakers? Can't we all just get along?
    *Like the guy we had to deal with on Williston Road between Dorset Street and Hinesburg Road the other day.  Nice road bike, full kit** in some sort of team colors (don't know who's riding in red shorts this year), looked like he was a pretty serious rider.  But he wasn't serious enough to flow with traffic.  Instead, at every red light in heavy traffic, he would ride up on the right of the stopped cars, using the sidewalk if he had to. The light would go green, and everybody who had just passed him after the last red light would have to pass him again.  He was causing a huge congestion problem, he wasn't riding with traffic, and he was making cyclists who use the road legitimately look bad.  He also wasn't getting where he was going any faster than anybody else on the road.   
    **Another peeve- I'm mentioning that he had the spandex uni on in this case to make the point that he looked like he was pretty serious about cycling, not because I'm falling into the "spandex-clad Lance Armstrong wannabe" stereotype, which is a staple of Internet cyclist hate comment threads.  To anybody who has ever made that comment- spend a hot day on a bike, riding into the wind, wearing regular shorts and a T-shirt.  you may never wear the spandex*** stuff yourself, but you'll probably understand why many cyclists do.
    ***It's actually lycra,  but nobody gets that right.


    Fixing the Canoe Seats

    Last weekend, I repaired the stern seat of our canoe (the cane gave
    way). Since I had enough stuff, I did the bow seat as well. Here are
    my observations:
    1. Soak the cane for a minmum of two hours. It will take that long to
    get the old cane out of the seats and get the groove in the seat
    frames really clean anyway.
    2. If you use a really sharp chisel to clean the seat grooves, you'll
    probably stab yourself in the leg with it at leats once.
    3. The cane has a right and a wrong side. Putting it in wrong side up
    will bend it the wrong way and cause the individual strands to break.
    You'll have to rip it out and do it again.
    4. There is no such thing as too much glue.
    5. This takes about four hours from start to finish.
    6. when you think you have the seat grooves clean enough, set them
    aside with a little vinegar and water in the groove, then go back and
    do them again.
    7. The cane will shrink to make the seats a little more taut than when
    you set them at first, but not by much. I would have stretched these
    a little tighter if I had known that.

    These pictures were sent with Picasa, from Google.
    Try it out here: http://picasa.google.com/