Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Hero of Mine: Evel Knievel

Hoist a stiff drink to the memory of Robert Craig Knievel, who has made the ultimate leap. Evel passed away today at age 69.

Evel Knievel was a huge influence on me in my younger days. His appearances on ABC's Wide World of Sports in the late 60s and early 70s lit the fuse which led to my finally getting a motorcycle at age 13. The images of him on his XR750, flying through the air and (usually) landing successfully on a bike with less than 6 inches of suspension travel were just the absolutely coolest things I ever saw.

I met Evel in one of the aisles at the Interbike show, in Las Vegas, in 2001. He was still recovering from the hepatitis A and susequent liver transplant he had gotten in 1999, and walked that slow, careful, old-man walk. But his handshake was firm, and he was very gracious to me as I pretty much just grovelled at his feet. It was the most exciting thing to ever happen to me at a bike show, that's for sure. Yet, I was sad to see him appear so frail.

Later, I walked out of the convention hall, and saw a crowd in the parking lot. Expecting to see a trials rider, or some flatland BMX, I walked over to check it out.

There was Evel, on a 1200cc Harley, popping wheelies, with one hand on the bar and the other waving to the crowd. Yeah, real frail, that guy.

Farewell, Evel. You will always be a hero to me.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Snow... and a Fixed Stumpy!

I was very happy to walk outside with Jack, this morning, and find 3 inches of snow on the yard, and about 2-1/2 inches on the road, with temps hovering around 25 F. I was happy because the weather man, last night, said no snow would fall, but the temps would plummet down into the teens.

I'll take a little snow over frigid temperatures, any day.

It was snowing pretty hard when I left the house, and continued to do so for about the first half of my ride. Then, it began to taper off and, by the time I was a mile from work, finally stopped altogether. There was snow on the ground, at the lab, but none falling.

I parked my bike on the grate over the sump in the garage section of the building (we have some truck-mounted equipment which lives there), and let it thaw. I'm going to remove the fenders. The wet snow packed under the fenders was actually slowing me down by the time I got most of the way to work.

Later in the day, the sun came out and melted the snow, and the roads dried (common, here in Denver). The only problem spots on the way home were in shady areas where the melted snow never evaporated, but refroze into sheet ice. I'll have to be careful of these spots on the way in, tomorrow.

DM is coming over to take delivery on his 1984 StumpJumper which I did a conversion on. It has brown Surly hubs, Sun RhynoLite rims, cross levers actuating the brakes and a 40/17 fixed drivetrain. Lots o' labor involved in getting the drive-side pedal out of the crank and the bottom bracket out of the shell, due to some time spent in the great outdoors. But, it came out great, and rides really nice.

Oh, and it also has the sprung Brooks saddle which was on the Miami Vice bike when I first got it...and a kickstand!

Beautiful, pro-quality photography courtesy of Yours Truly.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Fifty Bucks per Gallon

New 40 gallon hot water heater.

I came home from the Webbs', last night, and walked into what felt like a sauna. The humidity in my little house was just unbelievable. Water was beading up on the outsides of the faucets and on all the window panes. And, I could hear what sounded like water running.

Being as it was late on Thanksgiving night, I just decided to go to bed and deal with it, this morning.

This morning, I removed the little wall which had built to hide the hot water heater. There was water running out of the seams of the water heater, and draining through a crack at the base of the wall.

"Great", I thought, "I probably have a freaking underground lake below my house now." (Full of snakes, too, probably.)

So, I call a full-service plumbing place up, and had them send out a plumber.

"Y'need a new one," he said.

"How much?" I asked, bracing for the blow.

POW! Right between the eyes! Figuratively, of course. In reality, my new hot water heater cost me about as much as my Triumph Trident!

"Go ahead," I croaked through numb lips. Nothing like piling up a little credit card debt for the holidays.

Five hours later, including a visit from the Water Department to turn off a balky main valve from the street, and I have a new hot water heater.

The new one is bigger around than the old one ("That's what we use in mobile homes, nowadays."), so my little hideaway wall won't work, any more. I'll have to figure out something else to keep it out of sight. When I see it sitting there in plain view, I feel like I've wandered into someone's basement.

I haven't had the nerve to open up my access hatch and look under the house to see how much water is under there. If you read about a local Denver man being carried off by a riot of mold, it will probably be me.

Not really how I wanted to spend my "Governor's Day".


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The View (but no Barbara Walters)

No, instead, this is the view from my front door at 5:45 AM, today. The temperature was 24.5F, according to the digital thermometer on the front porch, and snow was coming down in a light, but steady, fashion.

I threw on my usual "cool morning" garb, and added an additional sleeveless jersey and my Dakine snowboard gloves, and took off. The roads were slushy and wet, for the most part, with occasional snowy/icy patches. Nothing my normal tires at their regular air pressure couldn't handle.

And, that's a good thing, since I still have the fenders on, and I know there's no way to put the snow chains on without removing them. Before I got to work, I had enough snow packed in between the tires and fenders that I could feel a slight drag, so I know the chains would rub (if you could even mount the tire with them on).

The temp had climbed all the way up to 26F for the ride home, so I wore everything this afternoon that I had worn this morning (a first for the year). It wasn't too uncomfortable; I always overdress and end up sweaty, anyway. If I don't, my hands and feet get cold. And, I'd much rather sweat a bit than have numb digits.

It was cold enough to make the bike noisy. Everything that moves on the bike made some sort of squeak or creak, including my old joints.

That reminds me of a story.

Once, when I was still working at the shop down in Parker, I had a lady come in with a creaking sound on her bike. It only happened when she pedalled. Since it was an aluminium-framed road bike with a cartridge bottom bracket, I pulled the BB out, greased the bottom bracket shell threads, and torqued the BB back in place.

The lady came back about a week later, and said the bike was still creaking. As we discussed what I had already done to eliminate the problem, I offered up a possible explanation for why my fix hadn't worked.

"Maybe it's orthopedic," I said, pointing at her knee.

Now, I was in my late 30's at the time, no spring chicken in the bike shop world I assure you. and this lady was maybe 4 or 5 years older than I. She was certainly not as comfortable with her age as I was with mine, though.

"It's not my knees," she said in a voice about two octaves higher and quite a bit louder than it had been just moments before, while giving me the "how dare you?!" look, hands on hips.

Of course, I just busted out laughing, I was so startled by her vehement reaction.

I did get rid of her creaking (by doing the same procedure, but using Anti-seize rather than grease on the threads), but she always talked to someone else whenever she came in, from then on.

I'm such a "people person", sometimes.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Forgot My Camera, This Morning...

but, in between dodging Bigfoot and all of the UFO Aliens (they always show up when I have no camera, dang it!), I got a really good mountain bike ride in.

I took the 69er up to Apex, to get a little technical climbing and descending in before the snow hits, next week. I had flipped the stem, before leaving the house, because I felt like the front end was a little light on the climbs, last week. Of course, now I risk the wrath of Bike Snob NYC, since he has a pet peeve about flipped stems in combination with riser bars.

In a related note, Bike Snob NYC can kiss my butt.

As you can see, even upside down the rise on this stem isn't enough to cancel out the head tube angle. The stem ends up at almost a zero degree rise. Whatever the degree of rise, it was a big improvement for climbing, and didn't seem to have any negative affect on descending.

I climbed to the upper entrance to the Enchanted Forest Loop, where I stopped and put on my wind vest for the descent. The trail was in perfect shape; moist and loamy without being muddy. The traction was phenomenal, allowing me to climb even the root-infested uphills that usually have me spinning out and then walking.

I took the rough line through a lot of the rocky/rooty drop-offs (the so-called "suspension line"), just to see how the rigid fork would handle it. No problem (more on that, later).

Once back on the main trail, I descended to the upper end of the Sluicebox trail, and then started the climb up that trail. The climb has a lot of very tight switchbacks and ledgy little bumps. The bigger wheel and slacker head tube angle didn't seem to be any drawback on the way up.

On the way down from the top of the hill, the trail is very rocky, rough and technical for a good portion of the way. I know that the rigid fork didn't slow me down on this section, either, because my total ride time for the whole shebang was just over one hour and ten minutes (with an additional ten minutes spent waiting for hikers to pass, and stopping to talk to other mountain bikers along the way). This is about the same time I logged on the pink bike with a 4-inch travel fork on it, generally, last year. I'm certainly not climbing any faster, so I don't figure I lost any time on the downhills.

The big wheel, with the tire inflated to around 35 psi, feels very similar to the first suspension fork I ever owned, the Manitou 2. Those familiar with the 1993 variety of suspension will remember that the Mani2 had a whopping 2.75 inches of suspension travel, out of the box. That was reduced to about 1.75inches once you dialed in some preload (or about 3/4" on cold days when the Mike n Ikes that Answer installed in place of steel springs would stiffen up from the temperature).

Combine that with the soft tail frame, and there is plenty of give for a rider as slow as I am (imagine molasses at the South Pole, a snail on Qualudes, etc.).

I think I have found the ultimate expression of a Front Range trail bike for my style of riding and (lack of ) speed. I'm really eying the STP frame, now, thinking about whether it needs a suspension fork or a big wheel (or both). I'm kinda thinking a titanium rigid 29er fork might be in my future.


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Thursday, November 15, 2007


Actually, 2000 of them. I went over the double-K in commuting mileage, today.

The weather is phenomenally nice, for November, but it's supposed to get cold and snow heavily, next week. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I guess I'll check and see if the snow chains will clear the fenders on the Miami Vice bike.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wow! An Actual Mountain Bike Ride!

I decided to take a ride on the Dakota Ridge/Matthews Winters State Park loop to test out the 69er, this morning. I left early to avoid the hordes of hikers, bikers and dog-walkers I expected to show up due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, today (50 degrees F when I left the house at 6:45 AM!). I was on the trail right at 7:15.

That is parking lot I had left ten minutes earlier. The first part of this ride is pretty much straight up. My truck is the whitish blob farthest away on the right-hand side of the parking lot.

Really, how hard could it be?

Hard enough. I chose this trail for the first ride on the 69er because Dakota Ridge is one of, if not the most technical trail on the Front Range. Apex is technical on parts of the climb, but Dakota Ridge hands out heaping helpings of the rough stuff. If any trail is going to prove or disprove the theoretical advantages of the big front wheel/small rear wheel setup, this is it.

I've never actually made it up these steps. Back in the day, 10 or 12 years ago, before the steps were there, I had about an even chance of making it up this spot or not. Now, I just get off and walk. I'm sure this feature prevents erosion, but it sure isn't an improvement for actual riding.

One thing I really like about Dakota Ridge is the scenery. That's Red Rocks Amphitheater
in the distance, just over the top-tube of the bike.

Another view from the same spot illustrates part of what makes the ride a thrill, at times. There's some pretty extreme exposure at places.

The top of that ridge is the spot where I took the first photo showing the parking lot.
I have to say that this ride really sold me on the bike. I was quite pleased with how the big wheel, in combination with the rigid fork and softtail rear on the frame, allowed me to ride down some of the more technical stuff I have had to walk on the pink bike. I wouldn't race this bike, but it is probably going to be my "go-to" bike for shorter trail rides even after I get the STP built up.
I plan on using the STP for epic-length rides and any racing I might do (24 Hours of Moab, for instance), because it will be a little less harsh on my old bones over long distances.
Mayhem Inventory:
1. Chainring gouge to left leg
2. Bruise on right knee from striking handlebar end while climbing.
3. Bruise on left knee and left hip from augering in on a downhill switchback.
I love mountain biking!
So far today, I have driven the truck to the trail, and ridden the motorcycle to lunch. Maybe I should take the scooter somewhere, just so I can run the entire fleet in one day!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Hole In My Head

As in, "I need another bike like I need..."

And yet, here is my latest build for the personal stable.

It is steel KHS soft tail frame built up as a 69er (26" wheel on the rear, 29" on the front). The theory is that the 29" wheel on the front gives you smoother-rolling and increased traction of a big-wheel bike, but the 26" wheel is easier to accelerate for climbing, and retains standard mountain bike gearing. This is important to wimpy climbers such as myself.

It's an unusual setup, but it has a certain following. TREK is even selling two different versions (single speed and multi speed).

I sold the GT 29er, a couple of weeks ago. I find a single speed MTB to be of limited use here on the Front Range. I love riding fixed offroad in Fruita, and Moab, but I rarely get to either place any more. So, this looked to be more useful.

And, I accidentally ended up with two new soft tail frames. I have a TREK OCLV soft tail waiting to be built. I figure I'll build it as my lightweight, high-performance long-distance bike, and use this one for shorter, rougher rides.

I rode the 69er to the coffee shop, this morning, then ran some errands on it. I mainly just wanted to take a little shakedown cruise on it, as I finished the build at about 11:00, last night. I think I will probably lower the stem, but other than that it works very nicely for me.

Twenty five pounds, as built. I think it will be a nice ride, off road. I plan on finding out, soon.

I am going to start mountain biking, again. I think the riding to work and for my short-distance trips gives me enough "carbon credit" to drive to Golden and back a couple of times a week.

In order to have a mountain-biking goal, I am trying to get together a 24 Hours of Moab team for next year. It's kinda pricey, but I really enjoyed the race when I did it 5 years ago. And, that was as a fill-in guy on a team with 3 people I didn't even know. I think it will be that much more fun with friends of mine on my team.

Oh, well. Got to go build some wheels.