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!


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.