Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Figured Something Out

As I was riding along, on my way home from work the other day, it finally dawned on me! Three out of every four cars on the road is being driven by an anti-terrorist agent, like Jack Bauer on 24, on his/her way to disarm a nuke.

The five or ten seconds that a bike slows them down could cost millions of lives! No wonder they're so impatient to get by me!


Monday, August 20, 2007

All Good Things Come To An End...

...especially vacations.

On Saturday, I slept in and didn't roll out of bed until 7:30. I decided to skip the free breakfast and the Century ride, find a diner and eat breakfast.
I rode to town and had some bacon, eggs and hash browns, then decided to just tour around town and see the sights. I stopped at an art supply store and got some leads for my pencil, along with a new sketchbook (I probably own 25's a problem I have). Then, I went to the bookstore, right where the track-stand concert had been held, and got a latte.

As I sat at a sidewalk table, drinking my latte and loading lead into my pencil, Steve Lambert walked by. At least I wasn't the only one skipping out on the ride.

I rode over to the marina and took a couple of vacation snapshots.

I think this looks like a 1970's catalogue shot.

I rode along the lakeshore, on the bike path, and eventually came to a bathroom. I needed a pit stop, so I went inside. When I came out, I ran into Jon (from Jonny Bikes), Rose, Jason the painter, Becka and another fellow whose name I've forgotten (sorry, dude!). We ended riding over to "the pie place" for lunch (with pie).

The pie place ended up being next door to the joint where I had eaten lunch with Tyler, the day before. The strawberry/rhubarb was great, as was the cold plate (chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad and feta cheese on a bed of greens).

As we were heading back to the venue, Jon and Rose were leading the way, and Jason and I were close behind them. Jason and I were discussing the brakes/no-brakes question which often comes up with fixed-gear riders.

I said to him, "Well, mine are more like distant early-warning devices than actual brakes, anyway." With that, I squeezed the brake lever firmly and the brakes, as they do, let out a screeching howl that made Jon nearly jump off his bike. Jason got a good laugh out of it.

Next on the agenda was the Street Skid competition. I didn't participate in this, because, frankly, the technique for successful long skids scares me.

I just can't bring myself to completely unweight the rear like that.
After the skid comp, we lined our bikes up for the Bicycle Concours. Jon and Jason were the judges, and they inspected the bikes and made notes as we waited on the food for the big banquet.

The food was excellent, and a good time was had by all during dinner. Then, it was time for the door-prizes and Concours winners announcements. Imagine how honored I felt when Jon and Jason awarde a prize to "the Grinder Bikes Peugeot" for "jankiest brakes". I received a cool Jonny Bikes cycling cap for my maladjusted Mafac Racer.
After all of the prizes had been given out, I headed over to the workroom and packed up my bike. Steve gave me a ride back to the motel. Using his GPS, we managed to find it in under an hour (but not by much).
Next year, I'm staying somewhere easier to find.
The next morning, after a beautiful dry sunny week, I awoke to a gully-washer of a thunderstorm which actually knocked the electricity out at the airport for a while. The weather had calmed by the time I boarded my airplane, and I made it back to Denver with no difficulty.
Looking back through my pictures, I can't believe I forgot to post this picture from the top of the hillclimb:

The Flash...

That's a fleece hat with eyeholes cut out. It's amazing that he survied the heat and humidity on the way up!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

FGG Symposium, Continued

I got up at 6:00, on Friday, and rode over to the Venue to meet everyone for the free- breakfast ride to the local food co-op. After some initial confusion, probably due to the fact that no one had yet had coffee, we finally got rolling, in 3 or 4 large groups, and a few smaller groups to straggle in later.

A few of our bikes at the food co-op.

As we ate our sticks and twigs (by this time, I was growing weary of organic breakfast food..gimme some bacon, man!) we all discussed strategy for the upcoming hillclimb. Hearing all of the talk of special gearing, lightweight wheels brought just for the hillclimb, etc., I felt a little like Lane Meyer (in the movie, Better Off Dead). My plan was to go uphill, as fast as I could. If the hill got steeper, I would pedal harder.

I was really hoping I would make it to the top without barfing up a bran muffin.

A couple of guys showed up on a Huffy tandem. I have one just like it in the shed, waiting to be revived.
Theirs is actually set up as a fixed-gear. I'm not sure I would want to ride one as a fixed, since it's 45 years old and made from the finest, most flexible water pipe available in its day. I did like the paint job, which appeared to be original.

So, after breakfast, I hooked up with a couple of guys and rode over to the hillclimb site and waited for it to start. As I waited, and looked up the part of the hill you can see from the start line, I started to get a little nervous. So, when the sign-up guy showed up, I got in line quick (before I could change my mind) and got start number 4.

I was happy I had done this, when it was all over, and I found out 72 riders had signed up, leaving at one-minute intervals. I wouldn't have enjoyed standing around for over an hour, waiting to go.

The first three riders took off, then it was my turn. The starter held me upright as the timekeeper counted down. Then, I was off, out of the saddle and sprinting. I figured I'd get a good spin going, then sit down and grind up the hill.


I stood for the whole climb, breathing my lungs in and out like a fireplace bellows, and trailing flames out of my quads. I passed the girl who had left a minute in front of me, and then I could see the top of the hill. I was swinging the bike back and forth beneath me, in a slow-motion version of a sprint, and cranking as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line in 4 minutes, 11.51 seconds.

The Hill, from the top

I had heard that 4 minutes was respectable, so I was happy with my time. The overall winner's time was 2:49 (on the second trip up the hill-the top five finishers had a head to head sprint for the win).

Tracy won the women's division, and got a cool set of brown Surly hubs. I'm looking forward to building some cool wheels up for her.

Later, at the bottom of the hill, I just couldn't stand it any more and announced to the crowd that I was going in search of meat for lunch. Tyler Lalley said he knew just the place, so we rode to the Chef's In and had some sandwiches. Pastrami and Swiss Cheese...mmmm!

After lunch, we went to City Bikes and got Tyler's cleat fixed (the "nut" on the inside of the shoe had broken), and got to pet the biggest damn dog I've ever seen. It was a Newfoundland whose head sat at the level of my belt when he stood up. I was petting him and got his leg kicking.

It was pretty hilarious. He looked like a drunk horse, with his eyes rolled back in his head. Made me think of Lee Marvin's horse in Cat Ballou.

I sat out the "Sprint Race" (criterium), since it was run on the loop road around the venue. I thought the course looked a little sketchy.

I was right. (We had just poured Hydrogen Peroxide on his scrapes).

Later that evening, at Friday Night Live (one Friday, each summer month, TC closes the main drag to traffic and they have bands playing, vendors set up ,etc.), we held the Track Stand competition. One minute track-standing with two hands, then one minute with one hand, then no hands until only one competitor is left.

We had 9 heats of 5 riders, each, and the local high school football announcer as the MC. I won the first heat, but got knocked out in the first semi-final round.

Steve Lambert and I were the last two left in the first heat.

The eventual winner, in the green shirt.

After the track-standing and dinner, we all went to the Bicycle Film Festival, at the Inside Out Gallery. Watched some films, did some schmoozing, then headed home. Thanks to some helpful locals pointing me to a shortcut, my 20 minute ride back to the motel ended up taking an hour and a half. I got to bed at about 2:00 AM, not really looking forward to getting up and doing the century ride.

Wow, this is getting long. I'll finish up, next time.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Fixed Gear Symposium - Longest...Post...Ever

My trip to Traverse City got off to an amusing start when, after standing in the Security line for an hour at DIA, I was turned away because I only had gotten half of my boarding pass. After retrieving the other half from the ticket desk, I was able to bypass the line (thank goodness!) and went through the Employee Entrance to actually pass through Security.
Of course, I forgot I had my measuring tape in my pocket, and set off the alarm. Twice. "Please step over here, sir." Ah, the personal touch of being wanded and patted down while everyone watching looks at you like you pulled an Uzi and sprayed the crowd with bullets.

From there on, the flying was smooth as silk. My flights were on time, the weather was good, and the trip progressed smoothly.

I arrived in Traverse City at about 4:45 pm, local time, and paid for a shuttle to the motel. After checking in, I took a taxi over the venue, where my Peugeot was awaiting me in the travel case. (The travel case is great. It allows quick and easy packing. It's secure. But, it cost me $92.00 to ship it, compared to $38.00 to ship Tracy's Steamroller in a box!)

Once the bike was assembled, I rode over to the camping/activity area and started meeting people. Of course, I remember about 5 names out of 135. The crowd seemed friendly and I began to lose a little of the concern I had of being an outsider in the midst of a bunch of cliques (high school).
Sometime around 7:00, we took off and toured around Traverse City, Critical Mass style. A couple of the guys would cork the intersections so that we could stay together, and we cruised along chatting with each other about our bikes and whatnot.

Eventually, we ended up at East Bay Park for a watermelon/grapes/bananas snack and more gabbing about bikes.

The gang in East Bay Park

Not my Green Hornet Schwinn

Built in 1937, all original except tires

When it began to get dark, we decided to head back to wherever we were staying. In the first instance of what was to become a theme of this trip, I was completely lost and had no idea how to get back to the Travellodge. Katy Larson graciously agreed to lead me back, after trying about ten times to explain it to me. I was more than a little embarrassed when we rode about a half-mile and we were across the street from the motel!

So, I had some dinner and went to bed. The two hour time difference between TC and Denver meant that I would be getting up at 4:00 AM (Denver time) in order to ride over to the venue for breakfast before heading out on the 50 mile round trip to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

The next morning, I was actually able to follow the directions I had been given, jumped on the TART trail about a quarter-mile from the motel, and made my way toward the Venue. Once I was on the city streets portion of the route, I was a little less than than confident. But, I saw Pat (the cook for the event) coming down the street and hooked up with him for the last half-mile, or so, and rolled up to the Higher Grounds coffee shop for coffee, etc.

After breakfast, Dennis assigned me the grinding duties ("We have a Grinder here!"), to clean off the grill. I was glad to be of some help. I told him the only thing it would cost him would to be to get a couple of snaps of me doing the grinding.

Eventually, we started out on the Old Mission ride (the 50 mile option went to the lighthouse, shorter options were available). I accidentally got in the lead group, and kinda fell back after a while to try and find someone to talk to. The fast guys off the front were not talking a whole lot.

Anyway, I moved around in the pack, talking to anyone who would talk back, and we made good time. We had a slight tail wind, and the morning temps were pleasant, so the 25 miles to the lighthouse flew by quickly.

The Lighthouse was rather small compared to the ones I've seen in Oregon.

As I was wandering around, eating Fig Newtons and sightseeing, I looked up and saw the group departing from the parking lot. Oh well, I had a map.

I took off from the lighthouse, and immediately realized that we had, indeed, enjoyed a tailwind on the way out. I realized this as I was pedalling into the headwind I would fight all the way back.

One good thing, though, my saddle on the Peugeot had finally quit squeaking. I had adjusted it before leaving Denver, but it had still squeaked on the previous night's ride and the trip to the lighthouse. My pleasure in the silence went away when, suddenly, my seating position dropped about an inch and a half, due to the fact that the leather on the seat had suddenly settled down onto the rails.

The plate through which the tensioning bolt runs had let go of the rail, and rotated up. So, there I was, 25 miles from town, in unfamiliar country, alone, with a broken seat. Nothing to do, but soldier on.
I thought that if I could find a nail or a bolt alongside the road, I could probably lay it on top of the rails and prop the back end of the bolt up on it, retensioning the saddle. It would have worked, too (I tried it after getting back to town), but I never in 25 miles saw so much as a pop can on the side of the road. Most places I've lived, you could build a battleship out of the scrap metal you find along the road, but the Michiganers must come out every day and sweep the roadside, or something.

I finally got back to town, and figured I'd just bite the bullet and buy a new Brooks at one of the local shops. Unfortunately, no one in TC stocks Brooks. I really didn't want to put a plastic saddle on the Peugeot, so I decided to take up the offer of one of the shop employees to buy a used one from him. Only problem, he was at the "other store", five or so miles away.

I rode over there with one of the other fixed riders I ran into at the first shop I had run into, figuring that I was going to be looking at some dried out piece of crap "Brooks-style" saddle which would be virtually unusable. I was quite happy when the kid pulled out a nicely broken-in vintage Brooks B15, and said hew would take $30.00 for it.

Five minutes later, and I was ready to roll.

As we were leaving, the shop manager told us we should take a shortcut to get off of Garfield Avenue and avoid the traffic. Somehow, with two of us listening, we still managed to take a wrong turn and add about 10 extra miles to the trip back to the venue. So, I ended up with about 75 miles on the day, by the time I got back to the motel that night, including about 30 on a broken saddle.

The alleycat race was going on while I was in the middle of my saddle search. Not that I would have participated, anyway. I couldn't find my way around the block, much less follow a cryptic route sheet while competing with others to get to all the points first.

Unfortunately, Matt from Velocity Wheels did take part in it. He got hit by a kid in a mini-van, and broke his leg severely enough to require surgery. Apparently, he won't be walking for 4 to 6 months.

Matt's bike

I watched the bike polo event, too tired to participate, then ate everything I could get my hands on at the barbecue. Pat proved to be quite the cook.

I actually managed to get back to the motel with no further adventure, afterward, and hit the hay.

Next Post: Days 3 and 4


Sunday, August 05, 2007

So, What's The 100th Post About, Jon?

Why, it's about changes made to the new bike and the pink bike, of course!
I took the Mary bar from the pink bike, and put it on the GT, along with the bolt-on grips and bell. Likewise, I installed the big-ole platform pedals on the GT, and bolted on the seatpost-mounted cargo rack. I also installed lights and a computer, and switched out the stock seat for the Storika I used on the Green Hornet.

Soon to come, a flip-flop hub.

I'll be riding with the freewheel until I can get a 32-hole Surly fixed hub to lace into the rear wheel. Coasting... it feels so weird.

Speaking of coasting, I took the stupid ENO wheel off of the pink bike, and put the Rolfs back on. I had a 9-speed cassette lying about, so I put it on and used a crappy old six-speed thumb shifter, set to friction, on the flipped cruiser bars. I used it to pull the trailer today, and it was strange to change gears and coast down hills.

Chariot of the Gods (and groceries)

I'm afraid that all of this Freewheeling Jon Grinder business is going to make me lazy. Fat, lazy and stupid...That's no way to go through life, son!

Oh, well.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

It May Not Have Frozen Over...

but it's at least a little cooler in Hell, today. I actually went to a store and bought a new bike, for the first time since 1998. It's a GT Peace9er, a "29 inch" wheeled (700c) single-speed mountain bike.
I was planning on building up a 29 for the commute, because the Pink bike is going to revert to a 1x8 configuration for pulling the trailer. and I started figuring out costs and realized that I could go down to Performance and buy this for less money. Factor in the 20% credit to my Team Perf card, and the bike came in at under $400.00. Even after I lace a flip-flop hub into the rear wheel so that I can have a fixed gear instead of freewheel, it will cost about $200.0 less than building one from scratch. (That's the advantage of OEM pricing over what I pay.)
The ENO hub on the pink bike is driving me crazy. I posted earlier about how it rotates and lets the chain loosen. What I haven't mentioned is how much I hate trying to re-tension the chain after that happens. I don't know if it just doesn't like the dropouts in the pink bike, or if this is a common problem, but every time I try to tighten the bolts, the hub rotates. This either tightens or loosens the chain after you think you have it adjusted.
I spent 30 minutes trying to get the tension right, Thursday afternoon, and finally settled for "good enough". And, "good enough" is unacceptable to me.
So, the pink bike gets its Rolf wheels back, 8 speeds on the rear, single ring in the front, and will keep the trailer hitch. The GT will become the commute bike, once again using the seatpost mounted rack, since it has no rack eyelets.
I've been curious about the whole "29er" movement, and I figure this will be a good (cheap) way to try it out.
Next post: modifications. I may have bought a stock bike, but I sure won't ride a stock bike!