Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another Month Closer to The Grave

Man, the month of May went by quickly. I thought, when I committed to riding to work every day, that it would be a big deal. Now, that seems like yesterday.

As a recap: 323 commuting miles (plus errands and trips to the coffee shop), two soaking rainstorms, one conversation with a little man in a big Hummer, one dog chase, one flat, one day of really hellacious headwinds, no gasoline purchases, and 19 days of fun on the way to work, rather than aggravation.

I rode the bike on 30 of 31 days, this month. For some reason I rode my scooter to the coffee shop on my birthday, and my motorcycle everywhere else I went, and never got on the bike.

My bike commitment for June (Colorado Bicycle Month): ride to work every day, buy no gas. If I can go two months without purchasing petrol, I feel like I will have scored some points against the petroleum hegemony. The motorbike and the scooter are close to full, and the truck has a quarter-tank left from April.

I would really like to limit myself to 6 tanks of gas per year in the truck. I think that this will be more than enough if I use the truck only for hauling heavy loads long distances.

I will soon be moving the bike shop out of my house and into new digs. Getting my front room back will be a relative luxury, as will working in a room with a ceiling higher than 7 feet!

The walls are 8 feet high, so I have room to hang bikes from the ceiling. Not as convenient as having everything (computer, TV, bike stand) in one room, but a heck of a lot nicer than having everything (computer, TV, bike stand) in one room.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let Me Spin You a Tale with a Tail

This weekend was pretty intense, physically. I bought the wood to build a floor for my metal storage shed, so that it could be moved. This meant loading it on a cart at Home Despot, then into my truck (then back into my truck after I dumped the load in the road on the way home) and then unloading it at home.

The next day, Richard and I built the floor/deck, then unloaded the metal building and moved it. You haven't lived until you've moved a 10'x14' metal shed fifty feet across the yard and set it up on a new floor.

The next day, Randy and I went back to the Despot and got 60 concrete pavers, 12"x12". Then, we excavated along the side of my driveway slab and widened 20 feet of it so that I would have room for my new wooden shop building.

So, this morning, I was a bit tired and sore when I got up to ride the bicycle into work. I decided to leave a little early, and take it easy on the way in.

The sun was beaming up over the horizon, the sky was blue and the temperature was hovering around 60 degrees F when I left the house at 5:50 AM. The forecast called for dropping temps and rain in the afternoon, so I had my rain clothes in the pannier.

I rode along, enjoying myself, waving at the dog walkers and joggers (most of whom now wave back, having seen me at the same time of day during the workweek, all month). Then, a couple of miles from work, I saw a big (BIG) German Shepherd dog running toward me from my right. I sped up, hoping he would stop at the edge of his yard.

No such luck.

He kept coming, aiming for my right leg. His apparent owner was running after him, trying to call him back. "Dog name, come back. Come back, dog name!" the kid was yelling. I never did catch the name he was calling.

Suddenly, dog name lunged toward me. I lifted my right foot off of the pedal and he bit the metal pedal, making a clanking noise with his teeth. That clank was followed by a "thwack" as the spinning pedal looped his head around and the pannier hit him in the face.

I sped up more, hoping that the clank/thwack had discouraged the dog. Nope. He suddenly passed me, on the left, then cut across me and slowed down, aiming for my right leg, again! At this point, I had enough adrenaline coursing through my veins to supply a Tour de France team for a mountain stage, and I scooted onto the nose of my saddle and SPUN.

My top speed recorded on the cyclometer was 24.7 mph. With a 38/18 gear ratio and 26" wheels, that means I was spinning the 175mm cranks on the pink bike at 151 rpm. So much for my easy ride in...

I hoped that, perhaps, I might luck out and avoid the afternoon rain, again. Then, at about 2:00 PM, this happened:

That's one of my co-workers using a snow shovel to clear the hailstones away from the entrance to the loading dock. All of that hit the ground in the space of about 10 minutes.

Luckily, I only had rain, for the most part, on my ride home. Hard, cold, soaking rain with just a few hailstones mixed in and temps in the upper 40's. And, in an ironic twist, it rained hard until I got to my house....

then it stopped.

I no longer feel like the Sun King; that's for sure!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Commuter News (Please Don't Yawn)

So, I got good and rained on, yesterday. Today I had a flat about a mile and a half into my ride home. Not my week, I guess.

I was riding along, hating the 15 mph headwind I was pushing, when I noticed that my hardtail frame was feeling pretty springy in the back. "Maybe it's just because I haven't aired the tires in 10 days," I hoped.

Nope. Springy turned into mushy. Mushy turned into squirmy, and I finally gave in to reality and pulled over to the curb. One of the great things about my commute is the fact that most of the way is along fairly quiet residential streets, so I had a nice shady spot, away from traffic, in which to work.

I never found anything in my tire, which always makes me nervous that I will immediately get another flat. But, i installed the new tube, shot the CO2 into it, and remounted the wheel. No problems from there on.

I was glad about that, too, since I realized I had no patch kit with me, and no more tubes, either. So, if I had had another flat, I would have been up the proverbial creek, for sure.

The weather, today, was the polar opposite of yesterday's; blue skies, sunshine, mid-60's temps and a lot of wind. If you're going to have a flat, today's weather is the kind to have it in.

To tell you the truth, though, yesterday's ride (rain, no wind) was more fun. Of course, I actually like riding in the rain. It's something I got in the habit of when I lived in Columbus, Ohio. In that part of the country, if you don't ride in the rain you don't ride.

But, there's something to be said for rainy rides. The automobile traffic noise is more pleasant. I's somewhat quieter and lower pitched. And, I love the gentle swishing sound that bicycle tires make on wet pavement.

I rode along, yesterday, and noticed my reflection on the road below me. I found myself wondering what his world might look like. Was it the hazy, dark world I saw when I looked down, or was he riding along in clear air, seeing me in a murky world due to the asphalt interface between us.

Does he always ride under me, our tires rolling along together like two magnets on a sheet, or does he only ride in the rain?

That's the kind of stuff which goes through my mind as I ride along in a downpour. And, it's one of the reasons I like riding on wet days. With rainy bike rides, who needs drugs?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nice Day For a Bike Ride

Well, I've had a good run this month. I've dodged the bullet, over and over, when it comes to rain. Yesterday, it rained cats and dogs from 10:00 in the morning, until about the time I rode home from work. Then, I left work, in a sprinkling of rain, and rode out of it within about a half mile.

I had a pretty nice ride home, except for the wind. My shoes got wet from riding through puddles (some as deep as the hubs on my wheels) at corners where the storm drains were plugged. I felt like the Sun King: Rain bows before me!

Today, however, the peasants revolted. The rain held off until about 2:00 PM, and was still going strong when I left the lab. I was dressed for the cool temps and moisture (long underwear top and bottom, jersey, arm warmers, bike shorts, nylon bike pants, fleece vest, wind jacket, shoes and socks, gloves and liners), and my usual array of flashing lights, so I wasn't too worried about getting cold and wet.

Thankfully, the wind was near calm. I had expected to be blown around in thunderstorm gusts, but I had a relatively pleasant, though wet, ride.

I only had one close call with a car, which is all I worry about in the rain. Some jerk in a Hummer decided that he couldn't wait until either I was past a line of parked cars, or until the car coming towards us was past. He just brushed by me, nearly hitting me with his mirror on the way by.

I almost felt sorry for him when I caught him at the next red light and knocked on his window. It was obvious from the look on his face that he really wasn't counting on a face to face chat with someone. I guess I was supposed to be intimidated by the greatness of his ridiculous penis-proxy of a car.

Anyway, I was in the middle of explaining to him how rude it is to almost kill someone just because you have a large sense of self-entitlement, when the light turned green and he ran away. I hate cowardly people. Especially cowards who try to bully you and then panic when you confront them.

Ah, well. At least he didn't shoot me before he drove off. That would have been really aggravating.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Dodging About a Million Bullets

The little white dots in the picture are hailstones, illuminated by the flash, falling onto my front yard. The water in the street is about 6 or 8 inches deep, and running like a river.

Thankfully, I had been home for a couple of hours before this storm got here. I rode home under partly cloudy skies, with a gentle breezy tailwind and temps in the mid-seventies.

Well, I can only hope that it stops raining before 6:00, tomorrow morning, when I leave for work.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Those of You Who Care...

I will be embarking on the third week of everyday bike commuting, tomorrow. The forecast calls for rain and strong thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon, so it might actually get interesting.

My new route has worked out great. Took me a couple of days to figure out a good way to get across Leetsdale Avenue in the afternoon, but I worked it out. And, the panniers on the pink bike are working out great. I have an extra seatpost and seat I can switch to for unloaded cruising or trail rides on the weekends, so the bike is pretty much an all-rounder, now.

And, I built up a beautiful green Peugeot for a local customer (Glen). This is the bike that my sister picked from the eBay seller, in Pittsburgh, last year, and brought to my parents' house at Christmas.

Finally, staying true to my promise to thin the herd, I sold the Triumph fixie (which appears on my business cards) to Glen's buddy, John. I hated to lose the bike, but I think it went to a good home.

Both of these bikes are gone, but neither will soon be forgotten!


Sunday, May 06, 2007

National Bike Month = Jon's Commute Month

Despite the fact that May is our rainiest month, here in D-town, I have decided to commute by bike on every work day, this month. I think everyone is aware that I don't really care for the fact that we don't have National Bike Month every month, but I put that aside when I decided to kickstart my summer by doing this.
I rode on the 1st and 2nd (took the 3rd off), and was reminded how unhappy I am with carrying all my stuff on my back. In addition to clothes, I carry my lunch and, of course, my sketch book and pens every day, and it just doesn't ride well in my courier bag. And, backpacks are just too sweaty on my back to suit me.
So, I bought a seatpost-mounted rack and some medium-sized panniers, yesterday. I was out on the F1 bike, and found the easiest way to bring the stuff home was to just mount it up and go.

My two trucks.

I do not recommend riding a Formula One Fixie with loaded panniers. Just the stuff I was bringing home from the store, hanging to the rear of the rear axle, was enough to adversely affect the handling. Plus, the bike looks weird enough without the added luggage!

I mounted the whole setup on the newly-fixed Pink Bike for now. I kinda want it to take over commuting duties from the Peugeot. I just need to get some fenders, probably, since I plan on riding rain-or-shine this month.


Bike Consolidation

Once again, I have acquired way too many bikes. Every now and then I realize that I have bikes which never get ridden because I have what are essentially two or three versions of the same bike, and I only ride the one which best suits me.

So, I've decided to thin the herd, so to speak. But, before I put bikes up for sale I have to make sure that the ones I keep will suit me. As part of this process, I decided that I should build the Pink bike into a fixed gear after building up the Ghetto Blaster V-Link.

After stripping the Pink bike of usable parts for the Ghetto bike, I stuck the ENO-hubbed wheelset from the Cannondale on it, along with the drivetrain. I used a new cartridge bottom bracket rather than the three-piece version which was in the Cannondale. The Cannondale also donated the Mary bar and old-school Shimano brake levers.
I had a set of Avid cantilevers which Brad gave me a few years ago, and they work nicely with the old brake levers. I have a rigid steel fork on its way, but used the Manitou Mag 5 which came with the Ghetto bike.
The tires came from the Rolf wheelsst which was on the Pink bike as a multi-speed. They are Performance-brand copies of the Ritchey SpeedMax tires I had been using for fixed-gear mountain biking (which are now on the Ghetto Blaster. Are you keeping up?).
After years of using the biggest, knobbiest tires I could fit on my bike I was quite impressed with how well the semi-slick design works on Colorado and Moab trails. And, they are quite a bit easier to accelerate (climb) with.

The tires aren't knobby, but the pedals are. Guaranteed to shred my shins at some point or another...
I had been riding around on some plastic platform pedals on the Cannondale, and decided I like them for city riding, so I got some nice ones for the Pink bike. I'll still use the SpeedPlay Frogs, offroad, though. I like being attached to the pedals for log-hopping, etc.
Having the Pink bike set up this way allows the KHS and the Cannondale to go away. The Cannondale will become a singlespeed with a freewheel (vertical dropouts), and I think the KHS will probably become Cafe Bike #3. Both should be very reasonably priced, as well.


Full-Suspension...Ghetto -Style

Back in 1996, I had a DiamondBack V-Link Pro full-suspension mountain bike. I sold it, a year later, when I got my Klein Mantra. Thing is, no other FS bike I've ever owned (or ridden) has suited me as well as the V-Link, including the Klein which replaced it.

Recently, I started suffering from a bad case of peer pressure, and began thinking about getting another double-boinger. Since I no longer work in the bike shop, I don't feel the need to have the latest and greatest, so I started looking for another V-Link. My theory is that the bike was capable of going faster than I was in 1996, when I was still racing and in decent shape, so I don't think it will slow me down, now.

And, at my advanced age, I would be wasting money to get a new bike which might physically allow me to go faster, since my brain wouldn't cooperate. I'm finding the recovery time from high-speed MTB crashes to be getting longer and longer as years go by.

So, after months of looking, I finally found a V-Link I could afford (anybody know if the Pro on eBay sold for the starting bid of $1400?). It's the lower-end model; an ex-rental and pretty much a beater. The listing mentioned a dent on the top tube, but the picture really didn't do it justice. And, that was a disappointment, because I had planned on powdercoating it.

I filled the dent, and threw some flat black over the filler and the front third of the frame before I built it up. The only parts I actually bought new (other than cables and housing) were the coil-over shock, a seat post and the used Flite saddle. Everything else was cannibalized from other bikes.
The pink bike gave up its drivetrain and fork, stem and bars. The disc wheels came from my KHS fixie mountain bike. The Avid mechanical disc brake was one I had originally bought for the pink bike, but decided to not use.

For a total of about $350.00, I slapped together a full suspension bike which should suit me just fine. Here's hoping it's not such a beater that it snaps in half, or something!