Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New Year is A-Dawning

I thought about doing one of "that was the year that was" posts, today. But, I decided to not. If you want to see what all happened in the World Of Jon, this year, just scroll through the blog archives and you'll see it all.

I decided to, instead, look to the future and let you all in on my plans and hopes for the upcoming year. I'm hoping 2010 is going to a bit more upbeat for us all.

I am planning on playing more music, this year, than I did in 2009 (hence the picture at the top of the post). I have some nice instruments which have set around collecting dust, all year, and I plan to rectify that. Along that line, I signed up for an 8-week Intermediate Guitar class at Swallow Hill. I need something to make me practice and learn, rather than just sit around playing songs I already know. Classes start next Thursday evening.

I am also working on a CD of original material. Once it is done, I will make it available in some form or another, to those who are interested.

A big plan, for this year, is to clear the Love Shack of all the clutter I have accumulated. The Shack is just over 600 square feet, and I have about 1000 square feet of stuff in it. So, if I haven't used something within the past 6 months, it's going away; either through donation to a thrift store or sales on CR and eBay. I will retain one bookshelf's worth of books, the clothes I actually wear, etc. My goal is to end up with some wall space that doesn't have a piece of furniture in front of it.

Also, I am going to use the money I made selling the P200 (Piaggio scooter) to rehab my bathroom. My whole house is a little shabby, but liveable, except for the bathroom. The floor joists need replacing, the flooring needs to be replaced and I am going to rip the tub surround out and tile the walls (and add a window over the tub - frosted glass). Plus, the water heater needs to be fully enclosed, and the ante-room needs to be rearranged.

Wish me luck on all that. I need to have it done by the time the Strains come to visit in August.

I also will get my storage building moved into position to use as a motorcycle garage, and put down the pavers needed for that. My back problems prevented me from getting that done, last year. This year, I am not letting the back dictate what I do. I'll just up the painkillers, if it decides to bother me. (I have an appointment for my second epidural steroid shot in February.)

On the bike front: I am shutting down the Grinder Bikes enterprise, for the time being. I will build the occasional bike on request, and I might build a couple up just to sell, every now and then. But, I plan on riding bikes, this year, rather than working on everyone else's.

To that end, I want to get in at least one 100-mile ride per month (with three of those being offroad rides). Plus, I will be racing in the 24 Hours of E-Rock, once again. Last year I met my goal of 100 miles ridden before sleeping. This year, I am upping that number to 120 miles.

Back on the creative side, I have let my art slip, this year. In 2010, I will produce at least two complete comic books, in addition to whatever paintings, drawings, sculpture, etc. I manage to put out.

I might even get in some time to sleep, along with all of this!

Stay tuned, to see how it goes.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Take It Easy, New Year's Eve

You need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the Annual New Year's Day Ride.

I have to admit that I haven't completely designated a route, yet. What with the cold weather and the snow, i am waiting to see what the conditions look like before committing.

Here's the plan:

Meet at Kaladi Brothers Coffee (map) with the intent of getting on the road around 10:30 A.M. I will be there by 9:00, or so, if you want to show early and hang out while drinking coffee.

Plan on riding for at least a couple of hours, including stops. Maybe more, depending on how the group feels.

If it's convenient, please let me know that you are coming either by leaving a comment or emailing me (jjgrinder at msn dot com).

There will be snow, and probably a bit of ice, involved. Knobbies and/or studded tires are recommended.


Bottom Bracket Eccentricity

The Raleigh XXIX that I use as my commuter has an eccentric bottom bracket, so that you can adjust the chain tension while enjoying the benefits of vertical dropouts (unchanged brake alignment after tension adjustment, no axle slippage, etc.). I am not really impressed with the set-up, since I am unable to run the exact gear ratio I want due to limited adjustment range.

I also don't care for the mechanism for fixing it place. The Raleigh designers chose to go with a bb shell which uses two set-screws, rather than a split shell with pinch bolts. These two bolts are recessed into two extensions which project out of the shell, angled slightly toward the front wheel. These act as intakes for road crud in the rain and snow.

Of course, when I went to adjust the chain tension, last night, the screws were frozen in place, thanks to the crud intake design. I inverted the bike, used compressed air to clean out the bolt wells, and then filled them with Liquid Wrench penetrating oil. (As an aside, I detest the smell of Liquid Wrench, and I always seem to get it all over my hands, which then reek for hours.)

A couple of hours later, I took a 4mm Allen wrench and attempted to turn the bolts. Still no go. I refilled the bolt wells with Liquid Wrench, and let it sit for another hour. The bolts would still not budge. That, of course, signaled a need for more torque.

So, I went and grabbed a monkey wrench, and used it to extend the torque arm of the 4mm wrench.
The high-tech tools used in this task.

I hooked the monkey wrench onto the long end of the Allen, and leaned on it. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. Once more and, with a harsh buzzard-like squawk, the bolt let go.

On to the second bolt: More of the same. On the fourth try, I felt something give. I couldn't tell, right away, if the bolt had come loose or if the wrench had broken.

The Allen wrench didn't quite break, but it thought about it.

I cleaned the bolts, greased them and the threads inside the extensions. Then, I threaded them back in.

In this shot, you can see how the bolts are recessed.

After I got the chain tension correct, I locked the bottom bracket in place and filled the bolt heads and the extensions with grease, in an effort to keep the water and road goo out of them.

Just another reminder of how tough winter road conditions can be on a bike.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

The last Sunday Morning Ride of 2009

Rich, Brian and I all met at Kaladi Bros., at 9:00 this morning, for some preride coffee. We figured that, if we waited until 9:30 or 10:00 to take off, the temperature would climb a bit and make for a more comfortable ride. And, it climbed from about 20 F to 25 F. Oh, well, at least it was sunny.

Once we got rolling, it was not too bad. The sun was actually warm on our backs, and there was no wind to speak of. We rolled north, through Washington Park, and on to the Cherry Creek Trail. On the trail, we headed toward Confluence Park.

Once we got to Confluence, the three big cups of coffee I had drunk at Kaladi's were beginning to work on me, so I suggested a pit stop at the public toilet (Porta-Potty). I was surprised to see a beer tap inside.

At least, I figured it was a beer tap. I couldn't think of any other "foaming alcohol". My advice: Skip the beer in that joint. It tastes a bit off.

I came out of the toilet, threw away my beer mug, and noticed that both Rich and Brian were very intently staring at their bikes. I stared at mine for a bit, just to fit in, then took this picture of them.

At that point, a street urchin came by and offered us chiclets. Instead, I had her snap this picture. After chasing her down and retrieving the camera, I returned to my bike and we soldiered on.

At some point, Rich apparently accosted an Imperial Stormtrooper and stole bits of his armor from which to fashion mudguards.

Bringing up the rear, as usual, I snapped this picture of my two intrepid companions.




Eventually, we wended our way back to Kaladi Bros. The ride was about 20 miles long, over mostly packed snow, with little ice. None of us were rolling on studs (although a couple of think we are "rolling studs"), and never had any trouble on the ride.

Our weather has been pretty consistently cold and overcast, since the snow fell, so we never had that "half-thaw/refreeze" cycle which can make riding pretty trecherous. I figure that we are getting that, today, and I'll be glad to have the studded tires at 5:30, tomorrow morning, for the commute to work.

I tried another panda portrait, but that old guy jumped in between me and the camera, again! I'm gonna have to do something about that guy, one of these days. (Looks like the old codger might have had a few extra helpings of Christmas Dinner...)

I got home and parked the XO-2 out in the sun, to thaw a bit before coming inside. I ended up sitting in my lawn chair for a while, after changing clothes, and enjoying the sunshine. Twenty nine degrees F, and I was comfortable in the sun, with no jacket. That part of Winter in Colorado is okay, in my book.

I got a bit more thawing on the bike than I had anticipated, though!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, from The Boys and Me

Hopefully, everyone is having as good a Christmas as Jack and Oswald.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Glad I'm Not Traveling, This Year...

Oh, yay! More snow!

The huge storm which is affecting most of the U.S. blew through here, last night, and brought with it more snow and fairly cool temperatures. I have to admit that I am glad I am not trying to fly or drive somewhere for the holidays. I don't really mind riding in the snow, but trying to drive any appreciable distance would be a big pain.

I rode down to Kaladi Brothers, after swapping out wheels so that I could roll on the studded tires. As you can see here, I wasn't the only one out on two wheels.

If you are traveling, be careful and take your time.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nice Weekend Weather = Time Flies

XO soaking up the sun in the alley outside of Kaladi Bros. Coffee, Saturday morning...

You can tell that we had a healthy dose of that famous Denver sunshine, this weekend. Temperatures were mild, with lows in the low 30s and highs in the mid-to-upper 50s. Just about as good as it gets, in December.

I finally remembered to put an Association of Caffeinated Wheelmen pin on my bag. Now, the XO-2 is officially a caffeinated vehicle. (I have about 10 pins available, if anyone is wanting one. $6.00, shipped.)

This morning I joined Keith and his wife at the Cozy Cottage, for breakfast, on Downing Street. I had never even noticed the place, and I think it has not been open for very long.

The food was terrific, and the dining room is...intimate. The eating area of the restaurant is about the size of my front room (although the ceiling is higher, thankfully). You end up pretty much elbow-to-elbow with the other customers, but it's still pretty pleasant.

Two days can fly right by, when you're having fun. Tomorrow, it's back to the old salt mines. At least I have Thursday and Friday off. As George Jetson says, "Man! These three-day workweeks are murder!"

Speaking of murder, I trapped another mouse, today. That's 4 in the past week. I'm hoping that I don't get many more. I don't really enjoy dealing with them.

Tomorrow is the start of Winter, and the day with the least amount of sunshine for the year. The days start getting longer, after that, and we start the long, slow trip back to Summer's warmth. I can't wait. Riding the bike to work is so much more convenient when I don't have to wear half of my wardrobe, at once.

In the meantime, I'll soak up the occasional ray of sunshine, and dream of greener times.


Monday, December 14, 2009

New Piece of Art

Just posted up a little something over at 52 Card Pickup, if you are interested.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Apparently Dress Like a Comic Book Character

About as dapper as I get...

I had the day off, on Friday and after a week of dressing like an Eskimo to ride to work (temps 5 or 6 degrees either side of zero F, Mon-Thurs) I decided to make myself presentable before riding down to the coffee shop. Of course, everyone asked me why I was "dressed up".

I guess that says more about what I usually wear, than about what I was wearing on Friday...

"Sporty" attire...

Today, I was feeling a bit more sporty, so I dressed in what I consider "bike specific" clothing. Knickers avoid getting pants cuffs dirty either from the chain or road spray. Leg warmers and/or ski socks provide plenty of lower-leg warmth, and stretchy wicking and insulating layers on top allow for freedom of movement and comfort on the bike.

When I walked into the coffee shop, my friend Brewster was sitting with one of his pals, and gave me sort of sideways glance. "What?" I asked, as I was removing my sweatshirt.

"Your clothes," he replied. "You look like Tintin."

"I take that as a compliment," I said, sitting down. And then, Brew and I had to explain the phenomenon of Tintin to the other fellow at the table.

Tintin in his customary plus-fours, sweater over collared shirt and jacket...

This is, actually, pretty much the look to which I aspire. Couldn't be because of all the Tintin adventures I read as kid, could it?


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rack 'Em Up!

Well, I just couldn't bring myself to leave the XO-2 completely "naked". While I don't like the looks of most fenders on these bikes, I also don't relish getting a "skunk stripe" every time I go out on wet roads. And, since I really wanted to ride the bike around a bit, today, on the slushy/icy/partially dry roads, I decided to go with a rear rack.

The deck of the rack provides at least a bit of protection from road spray. Plus, it supports the saddle bag and keeps it from swinging around. And, it's even period-correct, in that we often rode off-road with racks on our mountain bikes back in the early 90s.

I rode over to the bank, and back, after installing the rack, and arrived home relatively dry and clean, with no stripe up my back.

The XO is a blast to ride. It feels very lively, and the fit plus riding position seem to be spot-on for me.

So, I think the bike may built up into it's permanent configuration (save for swapping out to a 7-speed cassette, which is on it's way). Hopefully, that means I am through posting about it for a while. (This is almost as bad as all those posts I did when I painted the ghetto bike orange, last Spring.)


Friday, December 11, 2009

New Tires and Bar Wrap On the XO-2

I ordered the Schwalbe XC Pro 26 cross tires from Amazon (couldn't find them locally), and opted for the free shipping. According to the terms for shipping, that meant that they wouldn't be guaranteed to ship before the 11th (today). I was in no hurry, so I opted to not spend $11.00 on shipping.

They got here, yesterday...from two different warehouses. Glad I took the Free Shipping!

I wrapped the bars above the brake levers with cork tape, much like the bikes were shipped from the factory in 1992. I ordered a 12-32 7-speed cogset (which hasn't yet arrived), so that I don't have to worry about iffy shifting with the 7-speed shifters and current 8-speed cogset. Might as well keep it period-appropriate, I guess, especially since SRAM 7-speed cogsets are about $15.00, shipped.

We are beginning to get a bit of thawing . It's above freezing for the first time in 8 days! About freaking time...

I also got some bolt-on bag loops for my Brooks Professional. They came from Velo Orange, and allow me to use the 6-way bag on this bike.

I think the bike is now complete. I contemplated putting the fenders and rack on it, but I just don't like the way that mountain bike fenders look with the narrow tires. And, I really like how clean the bike looks, as is. Although, if I were to stumble upon a narrow 26" set of hammered Honjos, I would probably go for them.

As for the lack of a rack; I can always carry my messenger bag if I need to carry stuff.

I might put the kickstand on it, later, but I have to think about it. It all really depends on whether or not I rebuild and sell the Red RockHopper. I really should, since I am trying to cut down on the number of bikes I have. And, I probably will. But, I don't think I'll bother doing so until Spring, when someone might actually pay for it. I'm a bit tired of virtually giving bikes away.

Anyway, I am very happy with the XO. I think the Pearl White paint looks awesome, the tires are cool and the whole bike suits me very well.

Now, if I could only get a ride in...


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lugged Steel versus Tig Welded Steel

I think that I've been pretty plain about my preference for lugged steel frames, in the past. I like the way they look, and the connection to the classic frames of the past that they provide. I admit that, for the most part, I like them because of their nostalgic appeal.

Right now, I only have one lugged frame in ridable condition; my 1974 Peugeot UO8 fixed gear. The Raphael Giminiani is awaiting restoration, as is my Hercules 3-speed. You may recall that I had a lugged StumpJumper which I had powder-coated orange and built up XO-1 style, converted to 650b wheels.

I felt a bit of "builder's remorse", due to the high overall cost of that project, and sold the bike down the line, after reverting it to 26" wheels. That left a hole in my bike stable which I filled with the red RockHopper, which happens to be a few years newer than the StumpJumper, but shares the same frame geometry with the lugged bike.

Having ridden both bikes, quite a bit, I can categorically state that I, personally, can tell no difference in the ride or handling between the two frames. If you masked off a lugged steel bike and a tigged bike, installed the same components and tires on them, I doubt that one rider in a hundred could reliably identify which was which by riding them.

Knowing this, I am quite happy with the tig-welded XO-2 that I just built up. It has the cool mountain bike/cross bike look and feel, and (on my short test ride) seemed terrific. I have no doubt that longer rides will only reinforce that.

And yet, I still have that nagging little feeling of disappointment in the back of my brain, due to the lack of lugs on the frame. And, truthfully, I am still on the lookout for a 1993 XO-2 or XO-3 frame (which were lugged). I have totally given up on finding an affordable 1993 XO-1 frame in orange.

But, for now, I'll enjoy the "budget version" XO that I have. I've only wanted one for the past 16 years (couldn't afford one when they were new, and they never lost their value like so many other bikes do - they still bring their original retail value or more, when sold on the used bike market by an informed owner).

And, hopefully, I might even come to not care, at all, about the tigged frame and just enjoy the bike for what it is.

I will say this: I am happier with having a real tig-welded XO than I was with the lugged faux XO built from the Stumpy. Now, if it would just stop snowing so that I could get in some rides on it.


More Cold and Snow...When Does Spring Get Here?

The view from my driveway.

They are calling for another couple of days of snow, low temperatures hovering around zero (F) and highs in the teens. By Thursday, we may actually get above freezing. Maybe...

This is the weather we should get in January, not now. I guess, after the cool, wet summer we had I should have expected this. Oh, well.

I guess it will be a while before I get to take a ride on the XO-2.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

1992 Bridgestone XO-2

This is the 55cm XO-2 frameset that I ended up not selling to the guy, last week. I figured since I had it sitting around, I'd go ahead and build it up. It's not one of the swanky Japanese lugged frames, unfortunately. Instead it is a Taiwanese tig-welded model. More about that, later.

I tried to build it in the spirit of the original 1992 specifications (see this blog post from Freewheeling Spirit for a good look at the original catalogue page), but not as a "restoration".

Deore thumb shifters from the late, lamented RockHopper monster-crosser, and old DiaCompe road levers on an Origin8 Gary bar make up the controls.

I have been saving this Deore crank for quite a while, hoping something cool would come along so that I could use it. It spins on an old-school cro-mo spindled Shimano bottom bracket. The old BBs are a pain to keep adjusted, at times, but I think they spin smoother than any sealed bearing ever can.

Same with the Deore DX rear derailleur. I'm convinced that Shimano quit building DX just because it was too good. The stuff nevers wears out (seemingly) and thus you never need to buy replacements. The new stuff is a lot lighter, but I wonder how much of it we will still be using 15 or 20 years down the road.

The "Deer Head" front derailleur may be the oldest piece on the bike.

I have some Schwalbe CX Pro 26 tires coming. Theay are a cyclocross tire, cut down to 26" size, essentially. The size will be similar to the Conti 1.5" tires on it, now, but they will have a bit of knobbiness to them for dirt use.

The wheels are newer 8-speed XT hubs built into Mavic 217 rims with 14/15 Wheelsmith spokes. The rims and spokes are the remains of the wheels I disassembled to build Brian's cross wheels. I just bought N.O.S. hubs and relaced them into their original configuration.

I am running a 12-32 8-speed cassette with the 7-speed shifters. Seems fine, so far. If it gives me any grief, I might throw a 7-speed cassette on the wheel and call it good.

Here it is, nose to nose with the Red RockHopper. Click the picture for the big version, and you can see the relative differences in geometry between the two bikes. The red bike is a classic old mtb geometry, while the XO is more road-bike like. It's really a cross bike with mtb wheels, and feels a bit more responsive on the road.

I'm really looking forward to getting off-road with it, a bit, to see what it's like. I always liked riding mountain trails on my cross bike, but it had 700c wheels. It should be interesting to ride that geometry offroad with the smaller wheels.

Next time: Lugged vs. Tigged in a no-holds-barred steel cage death match (or, my thoughts on their relative merits).


Friday, December 04, 2009

Warmer Than I Expected, This Morning

The weather-guessers predicted sub-zero (F) temperatures for last night/this morning. So, 7 degrees above seemed relatively balmy by comparison.

We had a small ice/snow storm, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, which left the roads in an interesting condition. Two inches of squeaky snow (low-moisture-content snow squeaks under compression, for some reason) was lying on top of about an inch of very solid ice.

Wednesday, I had no problem riding on it. Yesterday, however, I did take a dive as I approached the intersection of Dahlia and Third. Even though I never used the brakes (an advantage of fixed-gear riding in slick conditions), there was patch of ice there that even my studded tires could not overcome. As soon as I stoped pedaling forward, the tires lost their grip and the front end washed out, dumping me face-first onto the frozen road.

I'm glad the sun was not yet up. I can only find comfort in hoping that it was dark enough that no one could see my rather ungraceful landing.

No harm done, I continued on my way.

This morning, I was uber careful to avoid that spot, and managed to stay upright all the way here, adding to the warm and fuzzy aspect of the ride.

I've rather enjoyed having an excuse to ride even slower than normal. Snow appeals to my inner laziness!

(Posted via Crackberry)


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