Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wheel-building Al Fresco

The weather was a bit nicer, today, than it has been for the past little bit.  So, I moved the wheel-stand out to the front yard,  I disassembled my 650b wheels, and relaced the rims onto disc-brake hubs.

After the wheels were trued and tensioned, I mounted the tires and then installed the disc rotors.  If you are ever planning on owning disc wheels, invest in a set of Torx fittings for your ratchet.  The ratchet method allows you to mount the disc in about a third of the time required with the tool supplied with the brakeset.

So now, I can check out the 650b performance out.  At this point, I can run the bike as a 700 x whatever road or cross set-up, 650b road or mountain, 650bx29er, or 29er mtb.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What I love About Spring in Denver

9:30 A.M.

6:00 P.M.


March IS Our Snowiest Month, After All...

This was the scene outside my front door, at 5:00, this morning.  Nice, wet, Spring snow is always pretty.  It's always a bit tough on the trees, as well.

I fed the dogs, including Ruby (whom I am dog-sitting), and put them out on the back porch.  Then, on my way out, I shoveled the walk before taking off.  I was a little nervous about the ride.  The last time we had this much snow, I was unable to ride on my normal route, and ended up on the busier plowed streets.

Conditions were pretty nice, this morning, though.  The snow was so wet that the few cars which had gone through in front of me had left either tracks of wet pavement, or tracks of nicely packed snow in which I could ride.  It was slow, especially at the intersections where the snow was churned up by turning cars.  The farther north I went, the worse the streets got, though.  Seems like fewer people get up early, in the Park Hill area.

As I approached the building, I met Dan Falls driving along in his big Ford diesel pick-em-up truck.

"Hey, Jonny!"  he yelled.  "We're closed.  The electricity is out at the building."

When the electricity is out, not only is it impossible to do any work, but we can't even get in the building.  The parking-lot gate was still closed and, even if we climbed it, the key-card system is inoperable without power.

So, I threw my bike in the back of his truck, and we went to the Breakfast Inn for...breakfast (oddly enough).

"Ghost tree", at the Breakfast Inn parking lot...

After breakfast, Dan dropped me at the house, and I let the dogs in.  The tv news informed me that State offices were opening at 10:00.  I emailed Beverly, at work, and asked her to call me if she was able to get in the building.  I don't really want to ride up there, again, just to turn around and come back.

It's amazing how sticky this wet snow is.  It's like wet concrete, so it sticks really well.  Once on the cold metal of the bike, the snows freezes, then more builds up.  My bike probably weighed about 30 pounds more, when I got home, than it did when I left.

It's a good thing that the Blue Spruce is flexible!

 Before knocking the snow off...





As you can see, each of the dogs enjoys the snow in his or her own way...

As do I.

I just got word that we are officially closed. Woo-hoo!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Normal, For March in Denver

Here's the snow-bike in the front yard, yesterday, as I headed out to the coffee shop:

Here is the RockCombo in the front yard, this afternoon:

Look at the difference in the street surface.  That's pretty normal for Spring snowstorms, around here.  The sun comes out, and the melt is on!  I like that much better than the wintertime storms which leave the roads icy for days and weeks at a time.

The weather is normal, but this sure isn't:

Click for big

Seeing this as I stepped out the coffee shop, yesterday, I felt a bit like Donnie Darko.   Kinda creepy...


Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Just Washed My Dogs...

...and I can't do a thing with them.

 Check out how fluffy Oswald is!

 I just hope they smell better, after they dry, than they did before the bath.  They were steeenkay!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Ah, Weather...and a video!

After four days in the 60s and 70s, the weather decided to return to business as normal. I rode the snow bike down to the coffee shop, even though the roads are only wet, and then came back to do some bike work and such.

So, I thought I'd share a little video, shot during better weather, with you. It's from Brad, highlighting the new set-up on his Rivendell.

The music can be purchased here, if you so desire.

Well, back to work for now.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Tale of Two Garys

As I mentioned in my last post, Brad and I traded bars, yesterday.  I gave him my Nitto Rando bar, and he gave me his Gary bar.  I was very happy that I would be able to put the Gary bar on, raise my hand position, and maybe actually be able to use the original Specialized stem on the RockCombo.

Imagine my surprise when I put the bar on the bike, and my hand position turned out to be the same as it was with the Nitto bar.

I got the XO-2 down from the hooks, and made some comparisons:

The flat portion on top of the new bar is about 32cm versus the 26cm flat spot on the older bar.  The grip area is 125mm, versus 100mm on the older bar, and the drop is 110mm, rather than the 90mm of the old bar.  (All of these measurements are quick, tape-measure observations.  Official numbers may vary, somewhat.)

So, I mounted the bar, and rode the bike over to Cycle Analyst to buy another tall stem like I have on the XO-2.
Here are the two bars, side by side.  You can see that the grip area of each of the bars is at the same height, but the tops are at considerably different levels.

The new bars are slightly wider, also.  To me, the old Gary always seemed like a Mustache bar, with the ends slightly bent down.  The new bar is much more of a "Dirt Drop" style road bar.

You can see the relative extension of the two identical stems, here.  I don't particularly like having that much quill showing, but I'd rather be comfortable on the bike than have the exact stem extension I find attractive.  (I actually had to cut the bottom off of the quill of the XO-2 stem to get it low enough.  The stem in the RockCombo is at full-insertion.  I may trim it so that I can get a more aggressive position if I ride off-road.)

So, today, I got on the Origin-8 website and checked out the listing for handlebars.  Seems that the bar on the RockCombo is the Gary2.  Apparently, the changes were made in response to customer and reviewer feedback, since the new bar addresses all of the negative comments I ever read about the original Gary.  I, myself, had no complaints with the old bar...

Still,   I like the new bar, especially on the RockCombo.   It looks like the old Dirt Drops and matches up to the bike really well.  I can live with the stem extension (the battery for my headlight somewhat disguises it), and the width and angle of the drops are really comfortable.

But, a word of warning to those looking for an ultra-shallow drop, On-One Midge-style bar:  This is no longer that bar.  The Salsa Woodchipper appears to be the best choice for that type of bar, at this point. (Follow that link to a comparison between the old Gary and the Woodchipper on


Friday, March 12, 2010

Trading Parts (WARNING - Contains Copious Bike Geekery)

As I mentioned in the post about building up the Rock Combo, I used a Deore crankset and front and rear Deore derailleurs which I had gotten from Brad.  Today, I cleaned up the parts I am giving to him in trade.

The crank is an M730 XT, with a UN-72 bottom bracket and XT pedals (if he wants them).  Front and rear derailleurs are M735 XT.  The front derailleur has a 1-1/4" clamp, and I'm not sure it will fit Brad's bike, so I have a Deer Head XT and a Deore front derailleur in the bag, just in case.

If you enlarge the picture, you can see that the XT front derailleur has an interesting clamp.  Rather than the normal hinged style, it has an internal clamp much like those on road bike brake levers.  I would shim it up and use it, if it didn't fit, just because I think that the clamp is cool.  But, that is Brad's call  on his bike.

I disassembled the chainrings from the crankarms and cleaned everything up before lubing the bolt threads and re-assembling the crank.  I almost left the rings loose, because Brad may want to polish the arms.  They are pantagraphed with a simple "SHIMANO", so they could be polished without erasing any logos. 

I also pulled the back plate and pulleys off of the rear derailleur and cleaned everything up.  The front derailleurs don't come apart, so I just used a lot of Clean Streak and threaded the rag though them to get to the dirt.

While I was at it, I pulled the Randonneur bar off of the RockCombo.  I am going to swap it for Brad's silver Gary Bar and see how it works out.  I have ridden the bike back and forth to work all week with the Rando bar, and the position is not bad.  But, I don't know that I'd want to do one of my 100-mile rides on it.

So, when Brad told me he wasn't having any luck getting the Gary to work for him, I suggested that we trade.  I like the Gary on the XO, and Brad had a Rando on one of his past bikes and liked it.  Should work out, for both of us.  (Maybe I can even use the Specialized stem I wanted to use, rather than the less-extended generic one I ended up with.)

As an aside, I really like the RockCombo as a fair-weather commuter.  Even with the low bars, it has a nice lively ride like that of the XO-2, and the big tires make me more confident riding in the dark on Denver's war-zone streets (not a lot of resurfacing money in the budget, lately).   I think that, with the Gary Bar on it, it will be in a tie with the XO-2 for "go-to" status on a daily basis.

The XO will likely remain the choice for paved 100-milers, though, just because the skinnier tires make more sense for that.  And, it will likely see more weekend riding than the RC, simply because I don't always want to be lugging panniers around (and my bags are a PITA to remove and re-install).


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Variations On a Theme


I finally built up my Specialized RockCombo frame, which I bought from a fellow over in The Netherlands.  It takes the place of the Red RockHopper, and is essentially a fat-tired version of the XO-2.  Like the XO, the RockCombo is built around 26" mtb wheels, but with road bike geometry for better behavior on the pavement.  Both of these bikes hail from a time when the bike industry was still trying to define exactly what a "hybrid" bike is and what it should do.

While the "hybrid" bike came to be commonly represented by mtb geometry and road wheels (exactly opposite these bikes), the XO/RockCombo set-up was actually ahead of its time, rather than being an evolutionary dead-end.  Bikes such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker (in the smaller sizes) as well as the Rivendell Atlantis are still being built to this pattern and enjoy a pretty enthusiastic following.
And, in the past, I have built quite a few bikes along these general lines, ranging from fixed-gear "cafe bikes" and the 650b StumpJumper (which ended up with 26" wheels), to the Red Rockhopper (a MockCombo, if you will).  But, they all were built on standard mtb frames.

So, I decided that I enjoyed the quicker handling of the XO-2 enough that I wanted the same type of frame for my "everyday" bike.  That was when I started looking for a RockCombo.  I decided to try to find one of these because, even though it is actually more rare than the XO's it is generally more affordable.  The RockCombo doesn't have the same cult following that the XO's do.

Yesterday, I did most of the build on the bike.  Today, I cabled it up, and tried to get it set up to suit me.

The drops on the bars are a bit lower than I really would like,  I used a Nitto Rando bar, because it looks more like the Specialized Dirt Drop bars that came on the bike than any of the modern off-road drop bars do.  I am either going to have to find a slightly taller stem, or just bite the bullet and use a Gary Bar.

This is what the bike looks like without all of the commuting paraphernalia on it.  I decided to run with no fenders, even with the rack and bags.  The fenders just don't seem to fit the personality of the bike, to me.  The rack has a solid deck, so it will prevent the "skunk stripe" on rainy days.  And, really, rainy days aren't that common around here, in a typical year.

Brad had these 7-speed Deore drivetrain parts, which he was planning on using on his Bombadil.  I traded him some 8-speed XT parts, from the early 90s, for it since I had some 7-speed bar-end shifters.  Plus, I figure the swap puts those parts on the most appropriate bikes.

The parts spec is rounded out with a Specialized headset, bottom bracket and seat post clamp, Shimano cantilever brakes (from the Red RH) plus some Specialized-hubbed/Saturae-rimmed wheels (Saturae was Specialized's high-end rim in the late 80s/early 90s).  Mark has the wheels, so I am using the wheels from the Red Rockhopper until I get them.

Tomorrow will be the first commute on the Combo.  I will be able to more fully compare it to the XO-2, after that, and make a final decision on the stem/handlebar set-up.  It seems fine around the neighborhood, but it remains to be seen how the positioning on the bike will treat me on an actual ride.

I do like the looks of it, as it sits, though.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I Have Always Depended On The Kindness of Strangers...

...though, not quite in the same way as Blanche DuBois.

I woke up, this morning, not in the best of moods.  The whole day at work, yesterday, left me feeling a little grumpy, and I still haven't completely recovered, physically, from the ride on on Saturday.  So, as I rode to work, I was not in that great of a mood.

As I approached Cherry Drive, on the bike, I saw a familiar figure crossing the street.  It was a fellow whom I see walking along the sidewalk, occasionally, in bike shorts and carrying bike shoes.  I have always figured that he was heading to the Colorado Athletic Club, on his way to spinning class.  I give him a wave or a nod, if he happens to look around, but I have never had an opportunity to speak to him.

Today, though, we ended up at the corner together, each waiting for the other to go.

"After you,"  I said.

To which he replied, "Thanks.  I really admire what you're doing, by the way."


"I see you riding all the time.  I really admire that."

"Well, thanks,"  I said, pedaling along at walking speed.  "I am actually hitting 10,000 consecutive commute miles, today."

"That's so great!"  he said.  "I really do admire that.  I think it's great!"

The kindness of a stranger...made my day.

Each day is two trips, on this report.  So, that shows 578 consecutive days of bicycle commuting to make 10,002.5 pedaling miles.  The 10,000 mile goal has been reached.

My new goal is to close out my 40s without driving to work.  My 49th birthday is May 3rd.  Therefore, I will try to ride to work until May 3, 2011, for my next goal.  Wish me luck.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Life Is Like an Elevator; Some Ups, Some Downs...and Sometimes The Cable Snaps and The Floor Falls Out From Under You

I had a really aggravating day at work, today.  I worked an extra hour and a half, through no fault of my own, and ended up being there until almost dark.

Oddly, though, I had the nicest ride home that I've had in quite a while.  It reminded me of the Friday night rides that I made a habit of, back in the summer and fall of last year.  (It may be time to start those up, again, soon.)

The temperature was a balmy 41 degrees, when I left the lab, and the wind was dead calm.  The sun had slipped behind the mountains, but the sky was still lit until almost 6:30.

I loafed along on the rebuilt Soma 4one5, just enjoying the beautiful evening.  I was going no faster than I've been going on the snow tires, but at a more comfortable cadence due to the new gear ratio. 

Tomorrow, I will be on the Red Rockhopper.  It will be nice to have some gearing choices.  My legs are still a bit tired from Saturday's 100 miler.

I hope to get the RockCombo rolling, by next week, to take the RockHopper's place.  Hopefully, the roads will stay clear for a bit, so that I can ride it.

Sorry about the weird, rambling post.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be a bit less negative, and I'll have a bit more cohesion to my thoughts.