Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Day Ride Invitation

I am reviving one of my favorite traditions, this year: The New Year's Ride.

Following is the text of an email I sent, this morning. If you are not on my email list, and can make it to the ride, feel free to meet us at Kaladi Bros.

Hi, all,
Brian and I were talking at Kaladi's today, and we decided to do a NYD ride Tuesday morn.
Meet at Kaladi Bros. around 8:00 (they are open from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM), and have a cuppa, then head out to REI/Starbucks, etc. Basically, we will follow our noses, deciding where to go as we ride.
Bring a bike appropriate to riding through slushy/icy conditions, because I am sure we will encounter some. Plan on riding slowly, talking and stopping a lot, and probably seeing someone crash at some point.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Break in the New Year from the saddle of your bike!


Friday, December 28, 2007

Y'Know, I am NOT FOND of Snow...

and yet, it just keeps falling.

I took the Pink Snow bike to the coffee shop, this morning. I just didn't feel like swapping out to the chained-up wheels on the Miami Vice bike, so I took today as a good opportunity to test out the SnowCat-rimmed wheels.

Other than having a City of Denver snowplow spray me down on the way by (i.d. #o630060 CO, and I didn't appreciate your attitude when I pointed out that you could have lifted the plow as you went by me, jerk), I had a good ride.

On the way back, the temperatures had risen enough, and it was sunny enough, that the roads were kinda sloppy. The intersections were very slushy,

and I had to stop a couple of times and push. Other than that, the bike performed really well. (Even better when I remembered that I could shift gears. I'm so used to a fixed gear...)

Even the entry to my own driveway is treacherous.

In a totally unrelated note, my dog got a new chew toy for Christmas:

I'm pretty sure he likes it. (Thanks, Sean!)


Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright...

One day, last week, I was telling my sister about two separate news stories I had seen about people keeping Bengal Tigers as pets here in Denver. It seemed odd to me that you would hear about two separate incidents like that within the space of a couple of day's time.

Then, we saw an internet news flash about the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. The tiger which attacked three, and killed one, of the zoo patrons was originally acquired from the Denver Zoo!

We do have a major street called Kipling over on the west side of town, but still...


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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

I'm in Memphis, borrowing the computer of my brother-in-law's father (sorry, I just couldn't come up with a less-awkward way of saying that), while he and my sister and the rest of the in-law out-laws open presents. I'll be heading to the airport, soon, to catch a flying Greyhound to Denver.

Hopefully, I will be home around bedtime. We apparently got some snow, over the past couple of days, with more on the way. That may or may not affect the flight timing.

Either way, it looks like I may not get to take the mountain bike ride I was hoping to get in on Friday. I'll go somewhere on a bike, though. Five days off the bike makes me feel like a heroin addict in Branson, Mo.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas and All That...

I'm going into Silent Running mode for a few days. Tomorrow, I will be flying back to the Confederacy to visit with family, and I will be unable to post until I get back.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Wonderful Winter Solstice, etc.

See ya soon.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cthulu Is Out To Get Me

Apparently, the Elder Gods are once again stirring in their sleep, disturbing the primordial ooze of stygian blackness which surrounds them, emanating foul vibrations through the ether; vibrations which resound with an evil so pure to be blinding, like the black equivalent of a pure white laser aimed directly into the eye of the cosmos. He Who Cannot Be Named is dreaming on a level incomprehensible to the human psyche (to glimpse even a tiny shard would drive whole worlds mad, turning the peoples thereupon into slavering, raving maniacs).

Shoggoth! Cthulu! Why do you taunt me so? Have I not had enough flat tires on my commute to satiate your weird and incomprehensible hunger?

Yes, Dear Reader, I once again played the "stop every half mile and re-air the rear tire" game on the way home from work. When I got home (finally) I put the bike in the shop, and went to the store to get a Slime tube, having neither the energy nor the will to put Stan's in another tube.

The clerk at Arkham Bikes, a young New Englander named Lovecraft, remarked on my appetite for self-sealing tubes, noting that I have bought more than any two other customers of his establishment over these past few months.

But, even as he professed sympathy for my wretched luck with flat tires, I thought I could see something, something unspeakably evil and reptillian, old beyond measure... something like amusement in his eyes, amusement like that of a small boy watching a toad try to escape from a fiendish trap laid with no purpose other than to torture the lesser being for amusement. But, then he he smiled, and the feeling passed, dispersing like the fog above a graveyard when disturbed by an unearthly zephyr on an otherwise totally still night.

When I got home from that errand, and a couple of others, an hour and a half later, the accursed tire was still holding air! What manner of horrors will be revealed to me next? Shall the headlight bulb burn out, only to restore itself with the coming of a new dawn, after having left me exposed to the creeping horrors on the dark roads homeward? Will my saddle spring from its rails, only to reattach as I reach my destination and no longer need a perch upon which to sit and rest my weary bones? I know not, monsieurs and mesdames!

So, I am going to hope that it is well-sealed, and leave it on the bike. If it is flaccid by the time I rise in pre-dawn darkness, I'll put the new Slime tube in and go to work. If it continues to retain higher than atmospheric air pressure, I will just carry the Slime tube with me, as an amulet, a holy relic to protect me from the vagaries of the Elder Gods.

Shub-Niggurath, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth... leave my inner tubes out of your eldritch machinations!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Riding In The Dark

I had to go to Pueblo for work, today, and we got back to the lab late enough that I ended up leaving about half an hour later than usual. So, it got dark considerably before I got home, and I rode about half of the trip in the dark. I must admit I enjoyed it.

Of course, I ride in to work in the dark, every day. But, predawn darkness is different than early-evening darkness, for some reason. Maybe it's just that most people aren't up, yet, when I go in to work, and people are all over the place when I'm on the way. I don't know.

Maybe it's this:

Riding in the dark when normal people are still up reminded me of the times, 10 or 12 years ago, when all of us then-employees at the bike shop would go riding through the Denver Tech Center at night. One difference, though, is that we intentionally avoided using lights or reflective clothing, instead going in stealth-mode.

This was because we were trying to avoid being seen by the security gaurds, police and random late office workers as we poached the parking garages, steps, walls and other urban terrain on the (private property) business parks. Of course, this meant we had to be very careful about traffic, staying out of the roads and on the sidewalks/parking lots/bike paths as much as possible.

Anyway, I think that any time I ride in the evening, after dark, I feel like I'm "getting away with something". That's probably why I like it so much.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Have Thrown Off My Chains!

Today was my first commute without tire-chains in a week. It was okay, but , as I mentioned yesterday, there is still a lot of snow and ice in the shadier sections of my ride.

I dislike snow and ice, but I hate slush. I particularly hate slush which is floating in meltwater on top of ice. I hate it a lot.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

More Cold Weather Stuff

Well, I threw some v-brakes on the Pink Snowball and rode it around for a while. Even with 25 psi in the tires, it grips the snow rather well. I need to get some tubular glue and cement one bead of each tire to the rim so that I can drop the psi to 10 or 12 and go try riding offroad with it. (Won't be able to go until after Christmas, anyway, since I'm going to Tennessee, next Saturday. So, no particular hurry, I suppose).

The roads are thawing, here in Denver. Temps are in the 30's, officially, but the thermometer on my front porch is reading 53 F, in the sun. This presents a quandary for me, commute-wise.

The roads are going to be mostly free of snow on the main drags, tomorrow morning, but a lot of the side streets are going to have large patches of re-frozen meltwater stretching across them. That means that the chains are going to be largely unecessary and annoying, but there will be places I wish I had them.

I switched out to the spare wheels and tire, without chains, when I got home from the coffee shop. I hope that I can just be careful and avoid any unpleasantness, tomorrow morning. I just can't face pushing those noisy, bumpy chains across the clear pavement any more than I have done the past couple of days.

I would take the pink bike, with the big tires, but I don't have a rack on it. And, I don't feel like putting one on, today.

So, fingers crossed.


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snow Bike In The Making

After a rather aggravating commute on Thursday (I ended up airing my rear tire up 3 times on the way to work, 2 times at work and 3 times on the way home due to a leak which wouldn't seal), I took the opportunity, today, to start experimenting with my new SnowCat-rimmed wheels.
I pulled the pink bike down and took the wheels off of it. After installing some 2.4" Mutano Raptor tires on the wheels, I tried the rear for clearance. It fit in the frame fine, but the cantilever brakes aren't going to work with the wide rims.
There was no way to get the front wheel and tire into the suspension fork. I knew this would be the case, because the Manitou Mach V fork has clearance issues with regular rims and 2.2 inch tires. So, I removed that fork, and replaced it with a rigid cromoly fork I had picked up, back in the summer. Again, the wheel and tire slotted right in, but the cantilever brakes aren't going to work. I will end up with v-brakes on the front and rear.

The difference between a 2.1" tire on a normal rim (left) and the 2.4" tire on the SnowCat. The actual measurement from outer knob to outer knob on the normal set-up is 2.3", with maybe 1.5" or 1.75" of tread on the ground. The SnowCat wheel had 2.4" of tread on the ground at 25 psi. Dropping the pressure to 10 or 15 psi will put even more rubber on the ground.

I took a quick little test-ride through my snowy yard and up the street to see how everything worked. I didn't get too involved with the test ride, as I had no brakes hooked up.

You can see the footprint of the tire in the snow. The bigger footprint does seem to allow the tire to stay on top of the deeper snow, a bit, and seemed good on the packed snow in the street.

While not as impressively large as the Surly Endomorph 3.7 tire on a Large Marge Rim, these tires and rims are better than stock, anyway. And, they don't require a special-built frame, bottom bracket, and fork like Surly Pugsley. As much as I would like a Pugsley, I can't build one up for less than two grand, and I just can't justify that kind of expenditure for a snow bike.
Tomorrow, I will try to hook up some V-brakes and take a ride in the snow before the coming warmer temps melt it all off.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow Chains vs. Snow Wheels

Well, I rode to work with the snow chains, today. I was quite glad to have them on the way in. The roads were mostly snowpacked. with some icy stretches, and my speed was quite a bit slower than normal. But, I don't really get in a hurry when riding in the snow, anyway.

Good thing, too. About two and a half miles from work, I noticed that the rear tire was going soft.

"Great", I thought, "just what I wanted."

Any flat on a commute is annoying (and I speak from experience, of course). But, the snow chains make a flat a nightmarish experience. Each chain requires about 10 minutes of wrestling/tugging/cursing to install when you are in a well-lit shop area with all of your tools. The thought of trying to remove and replace a tube on the side of the road, in the dark, at 18 degrees F was not appealing.

So, I broke out the frame pump and aired the tire up, hoping that it would get me to work. It not only did that, but the tire stayed aired up and I rode home on the same tube, tonight.

I figure the liquid sealer in the tube got too cold and thick to work, and I either reopened a previously plugged hole (likely) or picked up a thorn in the snow (not bloody likely), and the thickened sealant just couldn't plug the leak. Once the bike was in the building, at work, and warmed up, it probably allowed the sealant to work.

Either way, I didn't have to actually replace the tube. For that, I am thankful.

Of course, on the way home after a sunny day, a good bit of my route was snow-free. Riding with the snow chains on dry pavement is sort of like riding on the rumblestrips along the side of the highway. After a while, I began to look forward to the snowy stretches. This made me think of snow tires, both the studded variety and the extra-wide/low-pressure variety. Either would make flat repairs more reasonable.

Coincidentally, when I got home these were in a box on my back porch:

They are SnowCat 41mm wide rims laced to LX hubs. I got them off of eBay for about the same amount as the last listed price for a pair of the rims, alone. Add in the fact that the rims are no longer available, and it becomes an even better deal. The wide rims give a mountain bike tire a wide footprint, and allow you to run air pressure as low as 8 to 10 psi on the snow.

I plan on using these on the Pink Bike to build up a snow bike (these rims were used on a lot of Iditabike race bikes). Depending on how well it works, I might just use that as my snowy-day bike, and forego the teeth-rattling chains on the tires.

Stay tuned.


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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chains, Chains, Chains. Chains Gonna Do You Good...

Got back from the annual Western Slope/Southern Colorado CDOT Region Labs Inspection Tour, Thursday. Rode to work in the rain (!) on Friday, and home in cold temperatures Friday afternoon.

The wet and the cold combined, Friday night, Saturday and into this morning, to make snow. We got about 3 or 4 inches in my neighborhood, so I took the Miami Vice bike out into the shop and got it snow-ready, today.

I removed the fenders, for clearance, and installed the snow-chains. These consist of two small steel cables which run around the circumference of the tire, one on either side, with 3 links of chain connecting them every 6 inches or so. They are installed by deflating the tire, situating the chains, then reinflating the tire inside them. It is a very secure method of installation, and they never seem to slip on the tire, at all.
I was a little concerned as to whether the chains would clear the U-brake, under the chainstays, but it worked out just fine.
While I had it on the stand, I installed the rear Reelight. Reelights are flashing lights which mount at the axle, and are battery-free. There are two powerful magnets on each wheel which produce electricity at the light, through the Faraday principle. This is the same method that the "shake for light" flashlights use.

The model I bought has a circuit which stores a small amount of power, as you ride, so that the lights continue to flash when you stop at a light or stop-sign. They are a bit more expensive, but it seemed like a good idea to me.

I didn't install the front, because I heard that the magnets are so powerful that they will interfere with the cyclometer pickup on the front. There may be a way around that (by moving the cylometer magnet as far from the other magnets as possible), but I didn't feel like experimenting, today.

The low temp is supposed to be around 12 degrees F, tonight, so I suspect there will be some icy patches, as well as snow, tomorrow morning. Between that and the increased effort required to roll the chains, I suspect I will have a relatively slow ride in. Oh well, no sense hurrying in the snow, anyway.

I took a short test ride, just to make sure everything was good to go. I had forgotten how bumpy the ride is with the chains. My bell constantly jingles as I roll, with these, rather than just when I hit rough spots in the pavement. I'll sound like Santa Claus going down the road.

But, I don't really care if you've been naughty or nice.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Falconer

I rode the orange Peugeot to Kaladi Bros., today, and ended up sharing a table with Eric. It was a bit warmer, this morning, than yesterday and I commented on that fact.

"You're crazy," said Eric (or words to that effect, anyway). "It's too cold to ride a bike, today,"
"Well," I replied, "I was thinking of hitting Mt. Falcon, climbing up from the east parking lot and riding Parmalee Trail."

"No way I'm doing that!"

So, after I was through with my coffee and socializing, I rode home and got the 69er out. I had a couple of pieces of toast and jam, for energy, threw the bike in the back of the truck, and headed over to Mt. Falcon.

I was a little worried about how much snow would be on the trail. This time of year, the shady areas tend to retain the snow, while the sunny areas dry pretty quickly. I have ridden the trails there when they were completely covered with snow, but I was running snow chains on the tires. I didn't feel like mounting the chains on the rear wheel, and I don't have one for the 29er front wheel, so I just let a little air out of the tires and headed up.

I shouldn't have worried. The parts of the trail which had snow on them were as rideable, if not a little easier to ride, than the dry parts. The snow was of a consistency that allowed the tires to hook up, nicely, and I was able to clean all of the waterbars on the lower part of the trail, where it runs through the gulch. I don't remember the last time I did that.
The snow was fine, and the weather was beautiful.

The sky was bright blue, and the sun was very warm. I shed one layer of my clothes not too long after taking the picture, above.

I got to the picnic shelter in about 44 minutes, which is my normal summer ride-time to that point. I don't know if I'm just getting the same effect from the 69er set-up that Dumbo got from his "magic" feather, but I really think I ride better on this bike than any other bike I have had in the past few years. The rigid fork is lighter than a suspension unit, and I can lift the front wheel more easily to clear obstacles, the big hoop rolls over ridgy rocks and roots better than a 26" wheel, and I just feel good on the bike.

Hazy down in town (Brown Cloud), but beautiful on the mountain.

I rode on over to the Parmalee Trail, and ripped around it in pretty good fashion, for me. I was pretty muddy by the time I got back to the Meadow Trail. I stopped for a minute and put on all of the clothes I had with me, including my glove liners, ear warmer and wind jacket, for the descent. I was glad I did, because I never felt chilled or overheated at all on the way down.

That was a good thing, since clouds were moving in, and the wind was picking up as I came back down the mountain.

Gray clouds chased me back to the truck.

By the time I got home, hail was falling, as was the temperature. The hail changed to rain as I was bringing Jack in. I was happy to have caught the window of good weather for my ride, that's for sure!

Man, I'm digging the mountain biking again!