Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Man, What's With the Weather?

Last year, on this date, the high temp in Denver ws in the upper 90s, and we were all worried about fire danger and dead grass on the lawns. Today, we are supposed to barely crack the 70 degree mark, and the ditches are full of run-off from the last few days' rains.

I left the house a bit early, this morning, to meet Scott H at Starbuck's, over at Krameria and Colfax. Scott is transferring to another office, so I wanted to treat him to a beverage on our last day of riding in together.

I left the house wearing legwarmers under my Knickers (manpris), a long-sleeved Craft base layer shirt, a wool sweater and a cap under my helmet. I thought that I was ridiculously overdressed for the middle of summer, yet I stopped within a quarter mile and added my rain jacket to the mix. The cold North wind was cutting right through me, and the sun was not yet rising to provide any warmth.

The coffee and scone warmed me up, but I still put the jacket back on when we left Starbuck's.

Strange weather, even for Denver, the capital of meteorological weirdness.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Late Night Motorbike

All the guests had gone, and all that remained was to put the dogs to bed and hit the hay, myself. The Trident sat patiently. Soon, maybe tonight, I'll get out for a PM ride. Last night just wasn't the time.

I like this picture. The bike sorta looks like an extra in Close Encounters, or something.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Squirrel Suicide

I have a bad effect on squirrels. The nasty little rodents have a way of meeting with bad ends around me.

The two or three of you who regularly read these cyber-scribblings may recall that I had a sucidal Rocket J run under my wheels last winter, and I rolled over him with my full weight on the studded snow tires. It seemed imprudent to try and bunnyhop him while riding on a street-wide sheet of ice.

These last couple of weeks, I have been getting out of the house a bit earlier than normal. It's not on purpose; I just seem to be getting ready earlier. Because of this, I have been getting to the intersection of Hudson and Montview about 10 minutes earlier than normal.

That intersection is where I join up with Scott, a coworker, and then continue on to the lab with company.

Since I've been getting there so far ahead of schedule, I have been turning east onto Montview, riding over to Krameria, then south to Colfax, where I wait for Scott to cross (I just don't want to cross there two times, so I don't go past Colfax).

Today, as I rode down Montview, I met another cyclist just as we both crossed Kearney. As I waved at him, I saw something from the corner of my eye. Then... SPLAT!

A squirrel had apparently had enough of acorn gathering and had leapt from one of the large trees at the intersection, meeting his rat-like maker upon impact with the pavement.

Or, maybe there are squirrel pirates, and he had been forced to "walk the limb". I don't know.

All I know is that I apparently have some bad squirrell juju going!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Rough Version of The V-Strom Bike Rack

I have a little more drilling and bolting to do, but the bike rack is operational. I built it using two of the arms from an indoor bike storage rack, some 1/8"x3/4" flat steel and some 1" box-section steel. No welding required.

I chose to do a simple frame hanger, and carry the wheels off the bike, just to keep things from getting too complicated. It also keeps the overall length of the motorbike from growing too much.

I took it out for a test ride, and everything seemed fine, except that I got a little more bouncing/swaying motion than I wanted as I hit dips and bumps on the city streets. At 80 mph on the highway, everything felt pretty normal. I could feel a bit of a pull to the right, but I figure having a loaded side case on the left will balance that out, some.

I stopped by the house, and added this strap across the seat to keep the bounce/sway from happening. I also added some preload to the shock, and went for another ride. Much better on the surface streets, and virtually unnoticeable on the highway.
I think I might run over to Mt. Falcon with it, tomorrow, for its inaugural ride.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Association of Caffeinated Wheelmen: Now in BLOG Form!

Brad put up a blog for the Association (you'll find the link in the sidebar).

Check it out. I'll be contributing some caffeine-fueled nonsense, and Brad's posts are always a good read.

If you have something to contribute, drop Brad or myself a line. We are all members of this particular club, and everyone's input is welcome.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photos From Saturday's Ride

Ed Dunne emailed me some pictures of the ride we did, last Saturday, and graciously gave me permission to post them, here.

At the beginning of the offroad portion...
Retaining pond on the way up A-Basin...

Too bad the views were so dull.

The road up the hill was smooth, but steep.

I think I am in this picture, off in the distance.

Sorry guys, I'm terrible with names.

Walt, I think...

Chair lift.

More chair lift. Oh, yeah, there's a mountain there, too. (Sorry about the dull captions.)

At the top of the climb, near the offload point of the lift.

More snacking and water-drinking before we start down the other side.

Looking east from the top.

The trail we are about to ride.

About to drop in...

Checking Ed's broken cable. The 650b Stumpy was definitely retro, among this crowd.
Traversing the side of the Montezuma Bowl was a vertiginous experience.

Back down to the treeline...

Rich, in the woods...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Saturday's Ride

Click for BIG

On Thursday, Rich called and asked if I wanted to go along on a mountain bike ride, in the high country. After about a second's worth of internal debate (I had a lot to do, this past weekend), I said , "Hell yes!"

It was a beautiful day, and I conveniently forgot my camera, so I have no pictures. However, Rich sent me the elevation profile from his GPS. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think that graph is worth at least a couple of pictures.

We were riding in a group of 8 (of whom I knew Rich, and Rich knew me and one other guy). Luckily, it was a pretty mellow group and we all rode well together.

The ride started at the Keystone ski area parking lot, and we rode up the highway toward the top of Loveland Pass. Eventually, we turned off the pavement just past A-Basin, and hit the access road which led to the top lift at the ski area. That was the high point, elevation-wise, of the ride, at about 12,500 feet above sea level.

We started at a little below 9,500 feet, so we gained 3,200 feet (or so) in 8 miles. That's a pretty good climb, anywhere, but it's a little more intense when you pass the tree line.

We continued past the lift on a singletrack trail that, for the first mile or so, was a rocky, technical trail traversing the side of the Montezuma Bowl. If you fell to the right, you could conceivably roll and tumble about 300 feet before you hit a rock big enough to stop you. It was a hoot!

We stopped and regrouped, at one point, just before getting back down to treeline and entering the woods. Ed, the ride leader (and the guy Rich knew), got on his bike, pulled the front brake lever and snapped the cable on his Avid mechanical disc. Nobody had an extra cable, and Ed didn't want to take the time to switch his front derailleur cable out to the brake (rain was moving toward us), so he continued on with only a rear brake.

The trail through the woods, descending toward Montezuma, was no less rocky and technical than it was going across the bowl above treeline. At one point, I was following one of the younger riders, about 20 yards behind him, looking at the back of his helmet. Suddenly, I was looking at the soles of his shoes as his bike went cartwheeling off to one side. Total Superman action!

As he later said, it was lucky that he landed on a flat rock! Otherwise, that could have had nasty consequences.

As it was, he had managed to snap his rear brake lever off at the pivot. So now, we had one rider with a front-brake-only bike, and one with a rear-brake-only bike. We continued on, with me following him (I can't leave the wounded behind), to meet up with the others at the dirt road which marked the end of the singletrack portion of the ride.

I took a bit of a lie-down, at one point, myself as I slid my front tire off the side of the trail. Luckily, I didn't destroy either of my brakes, and was able to continue on.

We all regrouped at the road, and started down the pot-holed dirt surface, with a couple of stream crossings thrown in, at a screaming pace. I don't have a speedometer on the 650b Stumpy, so I don't know how fast we were going. I just fell in behind the two guys in front and let it rip, sticking to their wheels. I do think that they were surprised when we reached the intersection with the paved road, and I was there with them, since I was on a fully-rigid bike and they were riding suspension.

After the rest of our group caught up, we hauled down the paved road. For some reason, that last couple of miles back to the car turned into a time trial, with all of us in our respective high gears, maxed out on the effort.

Back at the cars, we changed clothes, wandered around the wine festival which was going on at Keystone (btw, don't walk into the wine fest with an open beer, they frown on it), then headed over the pass back to I-70 then toward Denver. It was raining, by then, and after 3:00 pm, yet there were still Triple Bypass riders straggling up Loveland Pass. Those people had a long way to go to get over Vail Pass and finish up the ride!

Dinner at the Yard House, joined by Rich's wife and little boy, along with Rich's mom and dad, was excellent. I had a half-pound pepper-jack burger and fries. I managed to not actually lick the plate, but it was tempting.

Today, I'm still feeling the effort of that climb. I need to do that more often. I don't think I've ridden above 10,000 feet three times in the past year. My moratorium on unnecessary driving has severely limited me in that area.


How Do You Eat a Reese's?

The Program Assistant at work keeps a candy dish on the counter by her desk. She claims that I can smell Reeese"s Peanut butter Cups from the other end of the building. Whenever she puts some out, I mysteriously appear...

That happened, again, today. I ate a couple of the cups, while we talked, and the concept of putting a jalapeno slice in one came up, as a joke. (Beverly also knows how much I like the spicy foods.)

Well, when I got home, I just couldn't resist. I pulled a mini Reese's cup out of the freezer, cut it open, and inserted a jalapeno slice. It was so good, I made another (the picture is of the second one).


Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Quest For the Perfect Commuter Bike

I am currently on my 8th commuter bike, since starting my daily commute back in May of 2007. That doesn't count the 3 dedicated "snow bikes" that I've used over the past two winters.

"Why so many bikes in such a short time?", you might ask. Basically, I have been trying to find that one bike which works for my commute, with the least amount of repair and maintenence. To that end, I have experimented with different styles of bikes (all set up with a fixed gear drivetrain, with the exception of the snow bikes).

The first bike was the pink Gary Fisher(May, 07 to August, 07), set up with a White Industries ENO hub and On-One Mary Bars. I started out with a fat-tired bike because the relatively large air volume protects the rims, gives a smoother ride, and requires airing up fewer times per month. I really don't want to have to mess around with the bike constantly, since I ride it constantly.

All of these bikes were outfitted with a rack, panniers and (for most) fenders.

Unfortunately, the ENO hub did not want to stay adjusted in the dropouts on the Fisher. Eventually, this resulted in the chain dropping into the spokes, on the way to work, taking out 8 spokes. I had to go home, switch to my orange Peugeot, and ride to work.

I replaced the Fisher with a GT Peace 9er singlespeed(August, 07 to September, 07). I replaced the stock wheels with a set of flip-flop wheels, with the rear hub spaced out to fit the 135mm rear dropouts. I couldn't come up with fenders, and just never really got comfortable on that frame. Plus, I suffered numerous flats on it, which sort of gave me a bitter taste in my mouth. Eventually, I just decided to sell it, since I couldn't get it to suit me.

I had built up the Miami Vice bike(September, 07 to December, 07), in the meantime, and moved the rack and bags over to it. A set of fenders went on, and I really liked it. I did notice, though, that I seemed to be working harder to maintain the same speed as what I had come to think of as "normal" on the 9er.

In December of 07 the snow began to fly in earnest. I built up the Fisher, again, this time with SnowCat rims (double width), six speed drivetrain and studded snow tires. There was no way to get fenders on the bike, with the studded tires, so I had to put up with a lot of road spray on thaw days. Nonetheless, I used that bike as the snow rig all of that winter, and through November of the next year.

In February of o8, I acquired a 1989 Rockhopper frame, and built it up as the red "magic bike" (February, 08 to April, 08). A "magic bike" is how I refer to these old mountain bikes built up with 700c flip/flop wheels and flipped 3-speed handlebars. For some reason, these bikes seem to go faster with less effort than any other bike I ever build up. Plus, they are extremely stable, especially with the bags loaded down.

I retired it and built up the 1988 yellow RockHopper (April, 08 to May, 09) because I wanted to use the red frame to build up a bike for Brad. The red one had cantilever mounts front and rear, while the yellow frame had a below-the-chainstay U-Brake mount, and Brad wanted cantis on his bike.

This yellow bike is the bike I eventually spray-painted and named the "Ghetto" bike.

In the meantime, as I was using the RockHopper on the dry days, I built up a DiamondBack Voyager as the snow bike (November, 08 to February, 09). I built it with a 24 speed drivetrain, On-One Midge bars and bar-end shifters (along with the SnowCat wheels). I could never get comfortable on this bike, in the snow. For some reason, no matter if it was snowy or dry, using the snow wheels or the standard wheels, I was s-l-o-w on it, taking 5 to 10 extra minutes to get to work.

So, in February, I built up the chrome Schwinn, using the 26" flip/flop wheels from the Miami Vice bike, the studded tires and the Mary bars which had originally been on the Fisher. This bike worked fine, and I used it on snow days for the rest of the season (including during the blizzard we had in April).

During the year that I used the RockHopper, I broke a spoke here and there on the rear wheel. I suspect that the 35c tire just couldn't absorb enough of the shock as I dropped off of or jumped up onto the curb at the point where I cross the Interstate on-ramp every day. Finally, one day in May, I broke 4 spokes at once on the way home!

I limped it home, drug out the "Motobecane" (Kinesis-built) 29er frame I had been playing around with and built it up as a fixed-gear 29er with a rack and fenders, and mustache bars. I rode it a couple of days and, happy with the the performance of the bigger wheels and the protection that the big tires were giving me, decided to buy a steel 29er frame to use on a "permanent" basis.

Why did this bike suit me when the GT did not? I don't know, really. It might just fit better. It might just be the tires. It really didn't matter to me, I just liked it.

I went looking for a Raleigh XXIX frame, but couldn't find one. I ended up with a SOMA 415, and modified it to take the 29 inch wheels and tires. Then, almost immediately, found the Raleigh frame I wanted. All told, I used the SOMA for 2 weeks.

Now, I have this Raleigh XXIX:

Why do I feel that this bike is closer to the ideal commuter than the first (or second, or third...) bike that I built up? Well, the big wheels and tires roll almost as well as the 700x35c tires on the "magic bikes", but the 29er tires have the air volume to allow me to run a bit lower pressure and protect the rims/spokes. Plus, the disc brakes allow me to run the 26" snow wheels, now equipped with matching 130mm rotors, rather than having a separate dedicated snow bike.

When it snows, I simply have to swap wheels, rather than go out to the shop and drag out a whole other bike, transfer my stuff to its bags and then ride.

Above is the Raleigh with the 26" snow wheels on it. (The chain is not on the cog, because I didn't have another 18-tooth cog to match up the gearing, and I didn't want to adjust the eccentric bottom bracket just to take a picture).

I don't think I'll have any clearance problems with the fenders, when it snows!

So, as of now, this is the best version of a commuter that I can come up with.

What's not perfect? Well, the frame doesn't have any eyelets to mount racks and fenders, so I had to use P-clamps to mount everything. So far, that's all I can point out that doesn't suit me.

I've been riding it for a couple of months, now, with no problems to speak of. So, I'm hoping I may have finally gotten it right.

Why all of these words about my stupid bikes? Mainly, I wanted to go through my thought processes on this in order to help answer the question, "What kind of bike makes a good commuter?" For me, this is it.

For you, some variable might make this bike less than perfect. If you have a hilly commute, you might want multiple gears. If you really want to go fast, and pack lightly/ride smooth roads, skinnier tires might be more appropriate.

It has taken me two years of trial and error to arrive at this bike. It might take you a while to figure out your needs, as well. And, if I didn't have the luxury of being able to build up my own bikes, I'd have made the pink Fisher work out, one way or the other. But, building bikes up is my main hobby, so I was able to experiment.

Now, I just need to sell off some of my experiments to people who see them as close to right for their own commutes.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Cooking In The Dark

I haven't done any night rides on the the mountain bike, lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't had use for the equipment.

Grilling after sundown, on the 4th of July.

I'm obviously no vegetarian. Elk, buffalo, beef and turkey (sausage) on the grill...
Those coals are just right!

Hope you all had a happy and safe 4th!