Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Raleigh Out, Soma In

I disassembled the hard-luck Raleigh and used the parts from it to rebuild the Soma 415.  I swapped the fork from the Raleigh over to the 415 because it simplified the process, plus I didn't have another disc-ready fork which would take a fender without modification.

I didn't want to have to deal with fork mods, because I knew that I was going to have to some finagling with the rack in order to get it to clear the disc brake caliper.  They make "disc-ready" racks, but I really didn't want to go to the store and spend the money.  So, I spent about an hour figuring out how to make this one work.  Assuming that it doesn't all fall apart, I think I managed it pretty well.

I replaced the 18 tooth cog with a 16, hoping to get a gear with which I am more comfortable.  In addition, I was able to mount a kickstand.  I really like having the kickstand on a bike with panniers, and I could never get one on the Raleigh.

Hopefully, the bike should be a bit more useable than the Raleigh proved to be.  The 415 is actually built for 26" wheels, but I modded it so that it will take 29ers.  I might throw the 700 x 45c tires on it, once the snow is over for the season, and see how it goes.  For now, the snow tires stay on.

Tomorrow is the maiden voyage.  One to three inches of snow are on the way, according to the weather-guessers.  Then, 60 degrees, by Wednesday!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

The One That Almost Got Away

Dang, this turned out long.  If you don't have time for "War and Peace", here's the "Green Eggs and Ham" version:

I am Jon, Jon I am.  I rode 100.6 miles today, and ate some ham.

Want the details?  Read on, McDuff...

This has been a terribly frustrating month for me.  I got my second epidural shot, which didn't seem to do much good, work has been tense, and it has snowed on every weekend (nothing like they've gotten, back east, thank goodness) preventing me from getting my 100-mile ride in.  I have an extra, since I did two of them in January, but February is a bit early to be dipping into reserves.
Today, the weather forecast called for temps in the high-40s, low-50s, and partly sunny skies.  It also called for 15 to 20 mph winds from the south.  So, I planned a ride, with most of the first half heading south, returning with a tailwind.

I started by riding over to the Cherry Creek Trail, and headed north to the upper end of the trail.  The flagship REI store, there at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte, has a Starbucks in it (and I'm not too good to go to Starbucks, when it is the most convenient place).  So, I stopped in for an Americano.


I sat at a table on the patio, comfortable enough in the morning sun, dressed for the cold, and drinking a nice hot cuppa.
As I was sitting there, a nice little English chap dropped by.  I invited him to join me at my table.


So, he pulled up a chair and we passed the time of day as I sipped my coffee..  Eventually, he told me he had to fly, and off he went.
I posed my bike at the South wall of the REI, which is housed in an historic building which was once the power house for the Denver Tramway Streetcars.
For years, it was the home to the Forney Museum of Transportation, and not in very good shape.  REI bought it, refurbished it, and made a really nice store of it, complete with exposed steel beams and 30-foot ceilings.

Apparently, there has been a bike-theft problem since the last time I was there.  These signs were posted all over.  I've never locked my bike there, and didn't today.  So far, so good...

But, I couldn't spend all day there, so I turned my back on REI and headed south, into a stiff headwind.

I had sent Carol a text, earlier, asking her if she wanted to join me for part of the ride.  I was going to be riding right past her neighborhood, to the southern terminus of the trail, then turning around and heading back.  It would be a 30-mile ride for her.  She said to check with her when I crossed Arapahoe Road, on Jordan.  I told her I would.

As I rode south, the wind was pretty harsh.  At one point a guy on a pretty nice Scott road bike passed me.  I refrained from trying to chase him down (yeah, I do that, too), and watched him fade into the distance.

Eventually, as I was riding the trail along the base of the Cherry Creek Reservoir Dam, I saw a woman pull onto the trail from a spur which leads into a neighborhood on the other side of Highway 225.  As she rode, I slowly caught up to her, so that we reached the intersection of the Dam Road and Peoria Street at the same time.  
She crossed to the other side of the intersection, and headed down Peoria, as I crossed on the near side, and hit the bike trail to go into the park.  At the end of that short trail, I pulled out onto the park road, only to see the gal coming down the hill toward me.  She had entered the park through the main automobile entrance, for some reason.

Moments later, she caught and passed me, much like the guy on the Scott.  So, I continued along at my pace, and waited for her to fade into the distance, as well.  But...she didn't.  she got about 15 yards in front of me and slowed to a pace that pretty well matched mine.  Then, she did that thing that tells you what's going on:  she checked over her shoulder two or three times to make sure I wasn't gaining on her.  After she was satisfied that I would stay in my appropriate position, behind her, she settled in and rode along.

That's when I made my move and accelerated, pulling up behind her and sucking her wheel.  I drafted her for about a half-mile before she looked over her shoulder again and jumped like she had touched a bare lamp cord, when she saw me sitting on her wheel.  She accelerated for about a second-and-a-half, then settled down.  Apparently, she didn't have the energy.

So, I drafted her around the park road, until we met up with the trail, once again.  "Thanks for the pull!" I shouted as I turned south.  "Have a great ride!"

A few minutes later, I was at Arapahoe, and I texted Carol the plan.  She called me back and told me to swing by her house. She said she'd be ready to go, and would make me a sandwich, if I wanted.  I told her I did, indeed, want a sandwich and that I'd see her soon.

After a ham sandwich and a couple of glasses of water, I was anxious to get back on the bike.  So, we took off.  I told Carol that I had read that the trail had finally been completed to Franktown, paved and continuous the whole way.  She told me that she didn't think so.

She was right.  This was the scene at Scott Road.  This connected us to an actual dirt road, and then another muddy bit of trail back to the concrete path.  All this to go around a field the farmer refuses to give access to.  I guess he has his reasons, and probably, when this is dry, it's no problem.  Today, it was a pain in the butt.

 When they say "End of Trail", they aren't kidding.

Eventually, Carol told me to ride ahead at my pace, and she would go at her pace.  The wind was getting to her.  The plan was, I'd ride to the end of the trail, turn around and meet her as she was still riding toward it.  Then, she would turn around and head home with me.

As I made one last turn on the trail, I looked back and saw Carol on the gravel road which connected the last two segments.  I waved at her and went on.  When I turned around and headed back, I kept waiting to meet her, but never did.

When I got back to the spot I had last seen her, I checked my phone.  Sure enough, I had a missed call from Carol.  I called her back and found out that she had missed the last section of trail, and continued on the gravel road.

Here, she is riding back to the spot where I had last seen her.  The wind now at our backs, we made much better time on the way back to Carol's house.  Once there, I ate an apple and another ham sandwich.  Then I rode back south, since I needed another 15 or 16 miles to get my 100 in, by the time I got home.  Having tasted the sweet nectar of the tailwind, I did not enjoy taking the bitter medicine of the headwind, again.  
 The Devil was truly in that headwind. 
(Picture from the additional Southern miles.)
Seven miles south of the house, I reached Scott Road, the 70 mile mark,  and turned back north.  There was no way I was going to ride that mud, again.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I was back at the house.  I made up a couple of miles by touring around the neighborhood a bit.

100.6 miles at a rolling average of 13.5 mph (actual average around 11 mph, with all of the stops), 9 hours away from the house.  I don't hurry on these rides because they are just that; rides.  I am not training for anything, nor am I trying for a personal record.  I just like to ride.

Not as muddy as the last time I rode 100 miles, the XO-2 is still pretty grimy.  Once again, the knobby tires earned their keep.  And, I know that the trunk bag is the bike-component equivalent to a fanny pack, but it works for these rides.  Function over form...

Three down, nine to go.


Friday, February 26, 2010

MacGyver's Got Nothin' On Me!

The first 3/4 mile, or so, of my ride home is my least favorite part of my commute.  I have to ride on Holly Street, with drivers who are, apparently, dyslexic (the speed limit is 35, not 53, dammit).  Plus, I occasionally have to deal with an 18-wheeler whose driver apparently doesn't like me. (It couldn't be the bike.  Every truck driver loves cyclists.)

So, I tend to go as fast as I can until I get to 38th Avenue, where I turn left and get onto the less-traveled neighborhood streets.  That's what I was doing, this afternoon, when I crossed under I-70 and got stopped at the red light.  As I took off, on the green, I heard something rubbing on the rear tire of the bike.

"What now?" I thought, as I pulled over to the side of the road.  After a few seconds of inspecting the bike, I saw what the problem was.  The P-Clamp holding the lower leg of the rack, on the drive side, had broken, and the clamp on the other side was about halfway to being broken.

I looked around on the road for a piece of wire, or twine, or anything I could use to lash the remains of the clamp to the seat stay.  I was really not wanting to have to turn around and ride the 3/10ths of a mile back to the lab in order to rig something up.

Just as I was about to give up and do just that, my eye fell upon the velcro pants-cuff strap I keep on the bike frame...just in case I need it.  Today, I did, indeed, need it.

After a couple of tries, I figured out how to secure the rack leg:

Ahhh, now that top picture makes more sense!

I rode a pretty slow, pretty careful commute home, hoping to not only get home without knocking my "repair" loose, but also hoping that the other P-Clamp wouldn't snap as I was riding along.  I kept my eyes open for something I could use to fix the other leg, if it did break, and eventually picked up a discarded shoe lace (just in case).

I got home without any further excitement, mulling things over as I rode.  This is the straw that drove the final nail into the coffin of the camel with a broken back, as far as the Raleigh is concerned. 

The Raleigh is a great bike, but it's not a great commuter.  I have never liked using clamps to attach anything to a bike, especially a rack which carries a goodly amount of weight.  I'll strip it down and use the parts to rebuild the SOMA frame, which does have rack eyelets.

Anybody interested in a Raleigh XXIX frame and fork?  I figure $150.00, shipped within the Lower 48.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Y'Know What I Need?

That's right...another bike.

This is a 1989 Specialized RockCombo, a precursor to the Bridgestone XO series.  Like the XOs, the Combo was way ahead of its time, and a total sales flop.  It came with the Specialized version of the WTB Dirt Drop handlebar, with Suntour Bar-Cons and an all-Suntour parts group.

You can see a complete one here.

I actually got the frame and fork from a fellow in the Netherlands.  I looked for one, around here, for quite a while, starting not long after I for the XO.  I figured I might as well have another tig-welded, vintage all-rounder in the stable.  I seem to have a thing for them...

Triple-butted tubes, but still no lightweight.  

The paint needs a bit of touching-up, but the decals are in good shspe.

 This so 1980s:  
Designed In the USA
Made in Taiwan


Between the parts I already have, plus a couple of trades with Brad and Mark,  I have pretty much everything I need to build it up.  All I am missing is a Dirt Drop handlebar.  I'm thinking I might just use a Gary bar, like I have on the XO-2.

I don't intend to restore it to anything near stock.  While I appreciate Suntour parts as much as the next guy, I'll go with period-appropriate Shimano and Specialized parts since Shimano-compatible 7-speed cogsets, etc, are much easier to come up with.

More, later, as the build progresses.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

500th Post!

I was going to post a short description of my ride home from work, on Thursday, and noticed that my next post (this one) would be the 500th.  So, I put off posting, thinking I should come up with something to commemorate the milestone.  I started this blog, my first, in January of 2006 as a way to avoid sending 5-page emails out to family and friends to keep them up to date with my little projects.

Since then, blogging has become one of my favorite hobbies, and I have started a couple of others to showcase some of my art.  I've also "met" a lot of people, and I have come to think of some my fellow bloggers as friends.  I can't really get into Facebook and such, because I find this blogging community serves most of the purposes of networking sites, without the aggravating background noise.

 This is what I looked like when I got home on Thursday.  (When did I develop that case of "Leno Chin"?)...
And, this is what the bike and the yard looked like.

It has been snowing, not quite constantly but close to it, since Thursday.  Personally, I am a bit sick of it.  I have a new bike which I have yet to ride (except for the around-the-block test ride, last Sunday), and I don't have a century ride on the books, yet, for February.

 This is what the back yard looks like after 3 days of snow.  Taken at 9:00 P.M., with no flash, hand-held.  Plenty of ambient light with the low clouds and snow cover.

 While I haven't ridden the new bike, it is on its third set of tires in a week.  I had put cream-colored 700x35c Schwalbe Delta Cruisers on it, but didn't like the looks of them.  So, I put my 700x42c WormDrives on it, tonight.  I think I'll run them, most of the time, and replace them with the mtb tires when needed (and I'll run 650b, when I know I'll be on really technical trails).

I ordered some disc-ready hubs to lace my 650b rims onto.  Once I do that, this will be the most versatile bike I have ever owned.


This morning, at the coffee shop, I mentioned to Brad that this post would be number 500.  While on that subject, Brad asked me if I would just, please, alphabetize the links, dammit!  I told him that I really didn't feel much like sitting in front of the computer moving links around in the list.

"Dude, there's a button to do it in the preferences," he told me.  I told him that I had never seen that, but I'd look for it.

Well, long story short, I never did find that button on this template.  But, I did manage to erase my entire list of links while screwing around with it experimenting with the layout.  Luckily, I had the blog open in two tabs, and the links were still present in the one I had never refreshed.  So, since I had to re-enter all of the links, anyway, I alphabetized them, deleted a few and added a couple. 

You're welcome, B.

I haven't had a chance to run through the whole list and make sure the links are all good.  So, if you hit a link and it doesn't work, just let me know.

Well, that's the big 500th post.  I hope you'll stay tuned for the next 500.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cross Post from 52 Card Pickup

I posted a better photo of this sketch, over at 52 Card. Look here for details.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

The New Bike< and Good News

First off, let me send out a big "thank you" to everyone who called, emailed or left a message with good wishes for my mom. Daddy called, today, and told me that all the tests for heart damage came up negative, and that Momma will probably go home, tomorrow.

The diagnosis is that she was suffering symptoms of congestive heart disease, and it sounds like they will treat that with medication.

While I was waiting for news from home, I built up the new all-rounder.

I really like the look of the bike. The proportions are very similar to that of the 650b StumpJumper that I built up, last year.

I ended up using the old BOA stem (I think this makes 7 bikes that this stem has been on). I thought I was going to use the shorter stem which had been on the Raleigh XXIX, but it made the cockpit too short, so I went with this one, instead. Now, the fit is spot-on.

Nothing like snowy roads for the first test-ride on a new bike.

Here, you can see the rack mounts, and the telescoping chainstays.

The adjustable stays are graduated in 2mm increments, so that you can make sure to adjust both sides to the same length. I may never use them, but having them there gives the option to run multi-speed with a derailleur, single or fixed, or an internally geared hub without a chain tensioner.

I love the truss frame look. (Nice welds, too.)

Breezer-style dropouts from Paragon Machine Works.

I have a front rack which mounts to the cantilever posts, in case I decide to use the bike for a bit of Adventure Touring. Can't use the brake mounts for brakes: This is a suspension-corrected fork for a 26" wheel, which has the correct axle to crown length for a rigid 29er.

I got the Paul's Thumbies for road bike diameter bars, and the clamps are too large for the Soma mustache bars (and two other mustache-style bars I tested them on, as well). I just wrapped some tape around the bar to shim them, and they work, just fine.

Where the magic happens. (My kerosene heater is one of the best investments I've ever made.)

My poor Motobecane 29er, after being cannibalized to build the new bike. I have parts to put it back together. I just need to dig out some shifters for it.

Here's the bike with 650b wheels on it. I couldn't test-ride it with them, because the non-disc front wheel's spokes hit the brake caliper, and can't roll. However, once I relace the rims onto some disc hubs, the bike should be rideable with either size wheel.

I rode the bike around the neighborhood, a bit, with the 29er wheels and it's as nice a ride as I could have ever hoped for. There is some mild toe-clip overlap, but not as much as my last cyclocross bike had. Other than that, I can't come up with anything negative to say about it. I'm pretty happy to have a ground-up design come out this nice on ther firts try! I suspect that, if this gets in the FUNK catalog, it will sell pretty well.

I can't wait to get it offroad and into some technical terrain. I suspect it is going to feel as good on the trail as it does on the road, and I am anxious to prove that theory!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Long-Awaited All-Rounder Project Finally Commences, Plus: Bike Building as Therapy

Some of you may recall that I have an antique Iver Johnson truss-framed bike, which I fixed up a couple of years ago. I have always loved the look of the truss frames, and I have this bike hanging on the wall of the shop, ready to ride but unridden. I have yet to find an appropriate brake to mount on it, and I just can't bring myself to ride a 100 year-old brakeless bike on the street.

So, when Daryl Funk asked me to design an all-rounder bike for Funk Bicycles (after I had talked his ear off about my "ideal bike" for 6 months), I drew it up around the truss frame form. Daryl sold me the prototype at a price reflecting my contribution, or I would never be able to afford it. If it turns out to be a nice-riding bike, it will go in the Funk catalog as The Daily Grind, and will retail for around $2500.00.

I gave it modern geometry (73.5 degree seat tube angle, 72.5 degree head tube angle when fitted with a 420mm axle to crown fork), and a bottom bracket height which should allow for use of either 29er mountain wheels and tires, or 650b mountain tires. Of course, road tires could be mounted, if needed.

The angles can be slackened by using either a suspension-correct 470mm fork, or a suspension fork, if you want less steering sensitivity.

The chain stays are telescopic, so that the chain can be tensioned if you run a single, fixed or internally-geared hub. (That is a trademark Funk design.)'s titanium.

In order to achieve the near-horizontal top tube/classic shape of the frame, on a 29er, you can not build this frame any smaller than mine (21.5" seat tube, 22.5" top tube). So, it's sort of a one size fits 5'10" and up frame. With dirt drops or mustache bars, and the right stem, the cockpit is perfect for me. With flat bars and/or a longer stem, you could fit quite a bit taller of a rider than I, and that rider would simply have more seat post showing. (I will have about 4" of seat post, the proverbial fistful of post, showing).

To fit a smaller rider would require a sloped top tube, which precludes using the truss design (at least, to my sense of aesthetics).

Therapeutic Bike Building

I'll be building this bike up, tomorrow (or possibly in the middle of the night, tonight) in order to avoid pacing the floor. As I was driving home from picking up the frame, my dad called and told me that my mom had been taken to the hospital, this morning, because she was having trouble breathing.

Momma has a history of heart problems, and is on medication for it. After spending all day in the ER, she had just been moved to a room before Daddy called me (yeah, we are Southern - I still call them Momma and Daddy). So, he was heading back to the hospital to stay with her, and won't call until tomorrow morning, unless something changes.

I need something to keep my hands and mind busy. Sometimes, it's nice to have a project to keep you sane.

So, I should have a Valentine's Day treat for you all, tomorrow...


Friday, February 12, 2010

Stacks O' Wax, Hot Tracks and Nothin' But the Facts, Ma'am...

A little while back, I picked up this Newcombe portable record player, from the thrift store. It cost me the princely sum of $21.99 (Who sets these prices, anyway?) and would have been cheap at twice the price, as far as I'm concerned.

It has a built-in tube amplifier, and a single 6x9 speaker, for the latest and greatest in monophonic sound. The feet of the unit are spring loaded, to insulate it from vibration, and the Tolex covering is mostly in good shape (a bit of staining on the lid).

Plus, dig that perforated metal speaker grille!

Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers spin away, comforted by the glowing tubes, within.
(Sorry that the picture is a bit blurry. I had to turn off the flash to catch the glow of the tubes.)

I have quite a few old Blues LPs that I bought when I was in high school and college, in my stack, many of them from obscure reissue companies such as Springboard International. It's good to know that I can pick this up on 8-Track, if I want to listen to it as I cruise up and down Main Street, with my girl by my side.

It's amazing how good some albums sound on this rig (though I suspect my Pink Floyd albums will be merely listenable, through one speaker). There's something about the tonal characteristics of a monphonic, tube amp which lends itself well to Juke Joint music.

Plus, there's just something right about the sound of a needle being dropped onto the record, as an intro to the first song on a side. If someone ever writes an app for the iPod to make that needle drop sound before each tune, I'll buy it and download it.