Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Problem With Being a Part-Time Bike Commuter

I rode the motorbike to work, today, because of the freaking wind.  When we have a steady 30 mph south wind (head wind on the way home) forecast for the afternoon, I just don't have the will to ride in it, right now.

During the 4 years that I commuted every day, I didn't think twice about it.  I cursed about it, but I rode in the wind, nonetheless.  I didn't have an option, so I stayed on the bike.

Going part-time has allowed me to revert to my natural lazy ways.

Although, the way that the wind was blowing me around on the Scrambler, on my way home, I have to admit that I feel more smart than lazy at this point.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

New/Old Bike For Randy

Randy came over, today, and we finished building his new/old city bike.  We started building this bike, a few weeks ago, converting the Schwinn LeTour fixed gear I had built for him, a few years back, into a city bike.  We used what parts we could from the mountain bike I had also built for him, and bought a few new pieces, such as the handlebars.

The wheels are 700c Bontrager RaceLites I took in trade for a Campy bottom bracket, a few months ago.  The tires came off of the wheels I had hoped to use on the Fuji Touring  IV.  The crank came off of Randy's mountain bike, as did the cog-set.  The reverse brake levers were some I had hanging around for another project (but this project got done first).

The wine crate isn't actually connected to the chromed steel Wald rear rack, yet.  Randy needs to reinforce the bottom of the crate, and varnish the wood before bolting it together.

The bike should serve Randy well as an around-town bike and occasional commuter.

I always enjoy this kind of project.  It took us a couple of days worth of messing about to get everything to work.  I had to adapt a bolt-on cable hanger to accept the rear derailleur from his mountain bike.  Then, we had to modify the rear brake to hit the 700c wheel on the 27"-wheeled frame.  Of course, we had to dig through my spare parts to find cable guides and clamps.  All of the normal little problematic things that you get into when installing equipment from four different decades on a 30 year old bike came into play.

It was a fun build, particularly as it was followed by Magellan and tonic...


Monday, February 20, 2012

Bacon-Egg Cups For Dinner

I was recently reminded of something I cooked, a few times, years ago:  Bacon-egg cups!  It had been a while, and I had forgotten a few details (like how long to cook them), but I figured I would cook some up, since I was thinking of them.

One problem, though;  I didn't own a cupcake pan to cook them in.  So, this morning, I made a quick little trip over to the thrift store.  Three dollars out of my pocket bought me a nice, heavy-duty pan.

About an hour ago, I decided it was time to cook dinner.

First, I cooked some bacon, but left it floppy, not crispy.  Then, I lined the cups on the cupcake pan (after spraying them with non-stick cooking spray) with bacon.

Then, I grated some pepper-jack cheese, and put it in the bacon...

Cracked an egg into each, salted and peppered...

Popped them into a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes, then turned off the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes. (I might not do this, next time, to try and leave the eggs a little softer)...

And this is what they looked like, after they came out of the pan:


Bon appetit...


Decorating the Shop

I had the day off, today, for President's Day.  So, I ran a few errands and did a couple of chores.  One of the chores I did was to finally hang my Classified Moto print up in the shop.

 I love the look of this print.  The bike is a Yamaha XS-650 with a modern upside-down fork and various other modifications.  The print is one of 50 hand-laid by the photographer.

 What a mess!

  Here, you can see that it actually leans out over the shop, on the slanted part of the ceiling.  I put double-edged mounting tape on the back, then put some nails around the top and sides, with the nail heads holding the edges of the frame.  I am hopeful that it will stay put...

I actually got out on the motorbike a couple of times, this weekend, just to go to the coffee shop and back.  I have missed the Scrambler, since we have had the snow on the ground.  I may ride it to work, for a couple of days, due to the windy conditions that we are expecting.  I got enough of the wind, yesterday, to do me for a while.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sixty Miles Before Coffee

I left the house at 6:15, this morning, with the intention of riding 100 miles on my bike.  The weather guessers had us at 42 degrees, with a SSW wind at 5 to 10 mph, so I figured that I would be taking layers off as the day warmed up.

The sun was coming up as I rode down the Cherry Creek Trail.   I planned to ride the trail to its southern end, then ride on through Castlewood Canyon on the gravel road to get 50 miles away from the house before turning around.

Now, I know that I haven't been doing a lot of long rides, but I have been commuting on the fat bikes since New Year's.  So, I figured I was somewhat prepared for the ride.  That's why I was so confused by how difficult the ride was.  I was pushing pretty hard top maintain 12 or 13 mph, and I started feeling a bit fatigued before I was even as far from the house as my normal commute distance.

It took a while to dawn on me that I was pushing against a pretty significant headwind, and that the wind was getting stronger as I went south.  By the time I was a few miles south of Parker, the wind was blowing me backward.  I would guess it was blowing anywhere from 15 to 20 mph, at that point.

Not wanting a repeat of the Deckers ride from a couple of years ago, I called it at Scott Road, roughly 30 miles in, and turned back toward Denver.  I estimated the wind speed at 15 to 20 mph due to the fact that I could easily carry that speed on the way north, where I was riding in the 11 or 12 mph range as I headed into the wind.

On the way back up Jordan Road, I saw this fellow eating his breakfast.

  I tried to get a closer picture, but he decided I was crowding him.  (I was happy to see him come back to the table, after I went back to my bicycle.)  The prairie dogs across the road seemed relieved that he returned to his rabbit, rather than going for the second course...

 I ended up riding to Kaladi Brothers to grab some coffee.  I had 60.2 miles on the trip meter when I got there.  The ride was a nice little pre-coffee jaunt for a Sunday morning.

One of the baristas told me that they had just been talking about how crazy cyclists are, and that my 60 mile morning ride just proved it.  I assured her that I was crazy long before I became a cyclist. 

I got home with just a bit over 62 miles on the trip meter.  So, I did at least get a Metric Century in, even if I missed the English version by a bit.  I guess that's not too bad for the first big ride I have taken since the gravel extravaganza in Indiana, last July.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Are You Shy?

If you are shy, there are two types of bikes that you need to avoid:  high-wheelers and fat bikes.   I have both and, out of all my bikes, they get the most attention, on the road.  The Mukluk is surpassed, in the "Gee-whiz" factor only by the high-wheeler.

I have continued to commute on the Mukluk, this week, even though the roads are mostly clear of snow.  I could easily ride the Handsome XOXO, but I am really enjoying the ride on the fat tires.

I have been amused by the reactions of people on the street, as I ride the bike.  Kids stare and point, people in cars pull up beside me and roll their windows down to say. "Awesome!"  or "I love those tires!" or something similar.

I need some mid-winter training, and the extra effort required to ride the fat tires down the road seems to be giving me that.  I want to do my first long ride of the year, soon, and I suspect that the skinnier tires on the handsome are going to be a lot easier to get rolling.  I am hoping that will allow me to make a long ride with less perceived effort.

If we can manage to avoid any more snow for the next few days...


Thursday, February 09, 2012

More Miles, More Impressions

A lot of people ask me to compare my two fat bikes.  I wrote a bit of a comparison, a few days ago, based a couple of initial rides on the Salsa compared to my experience commuting on the Fat Sand Bike.  But, that comparison was tentative, due to my limited time on the Salsa Mukluk.

I have ridden the Mukluk back and forth on my commute, the last four days.  Having done so, I feel like I can add a little to the comparison between it and the Fat Sand Bikes Terrain Destroyer.

First off, the FSB has a cooler name.  I mean, c'mon, Terrain Destroyer?  It sounds like something that Doctor Doom would ride!

But, seriously, the FSB is also better suited to use as an all-weather commuter bike than the Mukluk (at least, with the way my two bikes are set up).  The longer wheelbase gives it  smoother ride, particularly over the potholed and rutted packed snow/ice that I encounter on my commute.  Plus, as I mentioned before, the internally geared hub allows for shifting under all conditions, even sitting still after an unexpected stop.

And, the tires are more suited to the stretches of open pavement that I have encountered, the past couple of days.

The Mukluk strikes me as the more off-road oriented bike, between the two.  As such, riding it on the street is much like riding a normal mountain bike on the street.  It is a bit slower, and takes a bit more effort than a more street-oriented bike would.

In short, to compare the "fat bikes" with their "normal" counterparts:  The Fat Sand Terrain Destroyer rides like a "hybrid" bike, and the Mukluk rides like a mountain bike.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Weight Training - One Shovelful At a Time

I am a little sore and tired from shoveling wet, heavy snow.

After all of the driveway and sidewalk shoveling, the past couple of days, I have some sore muscles.  Today, I dug out the Dodge, just in case I decide to go somewhere in it, any time soon.  I figured it was best to have it dug out before I want to drive...

While I was at it, I cleared off the wooden lawn furniture.  It doesn't need to have all of that snow melting into it.

My new glasses get quite dark in the wintry glare.  Even so, I am still squinting into the sun!


Saturday, February 04, 2012

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions - My First Ride on The Mukluk, and a Comparison to the Fat Sand Bike

Yesterday, I built up the Salsa Mukluk (finally), and finished it about the time the sun went down.  I would have been done in time to get some decent photos and take a ride, but the build turned into an illustration of Murphy's Law.  Still, I persevered and got the darn thing together.  Today, I set it and the FSB out for some family photos.

I couldn't get a real good angle to take a "comparison" photo of the Fat Sand Bike and the Salsa, today.  There is so much snow piled up on the yard and at the edge of the drive that I was a little constrained on positioning.  The two bikes are very similar in layout, with the cockpits being almost identical.  The FSB has a slightly higher bottom bracket height, and, of course, the extended rear triangle.

 I ordered the same handlebar, for this bike, that I have on the FSB - The Surly Open Bar, in the flat configuration.  However, I was shipped the 40mm rise/drop model.  I set it up at the height I like, and didn't worry about it.  I actually like the look of it, with the drop, a little better than the flat bar.  It just required a couple of extra headset spacers.

 It took me a while to find someone selling Shimano-compatible SRAM GripShift shifters.  Everyone seems to assume that if you are running GripShift that you are also running SRAM derailleurs, and they only stock the X-series shifters.  I don't care for the SRAM derailleurs, that much, and they have a reputation for being problematic if you space the cogset out to cure chain/tire clearance issues.  Since I may have to do that, I wanted to stick with Shimano derailleurs.

 So, I chose to go with a Shimano Deore 9-speed rear derailleur.  The new design looked odd to me, at first, but I kinda like it, now.

 I went XT on the front derailleur, simply because that was the only Direct Mount front derailleur I could find.  And, I would have probably done so, anyway.  I have always been pickier about front derailleurs than rear, anyhow.

The Truvativ Hussefelt Crank (and the correct Howitzer bottom bracket) are also SRAM products.  I like the 22/32/bash-guard combination on the crank.  I don't foresee needing a big ring, a whole lot, on this bike.

 Promax disc brakes are a knockoff of Avid BB5s, and actually use the same brake pads.  I suspect that they are made in the same Taiwanese factory as the Avid brakes, with just enough detail differences to avoid a lawsuit.  (The front ProMax actually seems to work better than the front BB5 I have on the FSB, actually.)

 A 90mm FSA stem gives me a nice reach to the bar, and seems plenty stiff for good control.

 WTB headsets aren't sexy like a Chris King, but at $16.99, shipped to my door, it cost about 15% of what I would have paid for a King.

 The front wheel has a 135mm Surly New Hub, originally spec'd as a singlespeed rear hub, and the rear hub has the Salsa Mukluk 170mm hub.  Considering that the Salsa hub sells for $199.00,  the Graceful Fat Sheba 80mm rim sells for $38.00, and spokes are about $15.00 per wheel, the $225.00 I spent on the rear wheel seems pretty cheap, compared to the cost of the components.

The 100mm rims on the FSB give the 4" Innova tires a sidewall width of 4-1/2 inches.  The 80mm Fat Sheba rims give the 4" Origin8 Devist8er tires a sidewall width of 4 inches, on the nose, according to my calipers.  This gives the bike a slightly less "monster truck" feel, when rolling, I think. 

And, even though the Origin8 tires are known to be pretty heavy, the bike seems to accelerate a bit more easily than the FSB.  Of course, other things could factor into that, as well, such as the internallly geared hub on the FSB versus the derailleur and cog system on the Salsa, the weight of the bikes, etc.

Speaking of the IGH on the orange bike, I think it is a good idea for sloppy conditions.  I did have a bit of chain skip, today, after riding through slushy areas and getting ice in the cog stack.  But, the Salsa is incompatible with any commonly available IGH, as far as I know. 

The hub on the FSB has been excellent for the terrain, here in town, so far.  I have never used either the lowest of the highest gears during normal riding, which means I have some reserve gearing for unusual conditions in the city.  And, I have enjoyed being able to shift under all circumstances - pedaling, coasting, or stopped at an intersection.

But, I think the wider range of gears and higher efficiency of the derailleur and cogset system on the Salsa will make up for the differences. 

One interesting thing about alternating between the two bikes is dealing with the shifters.  Both have a twist-grip shifter for the rear.  But, they work in opposite directions.  The Nexave shifter on the FSB requires a twist to the front in order to go to an easier gear.  With the standard GripShift and derailleur, that direction takes you to a harder gear.  I predict that backward shifts will be fairly commonplace for me...

 I put the bar mitts on the bike, and swapped the seatpost/saddle/bag from the FSB to the Salsa, and took off to the coffee shop, this morning.  After coffee and a scone, I hopped on the bike and headed north.  I rode through Wash Park, again, and I was pleased that I was able to ride through a bit of deeper snow that had stopped me, yesterday, on the other bike.  Better weight distribution and knobbier tires probably account for that.

 I continued on to the Cherry Creek Trail, which I was disappointed to see had been plowed completely clean.  I didn't get much input about snow riding from the trail.  I had ridden on plenty of hard-pack and slush on the way through the D.U. neighborhood, though, and I was pleased with the snowy-road performance of the bike.

I rode to the REI Flagship Store, at Confluence Park, and turned back toward home.  

 These are the slushy conditions that the IGH would handle better than the cog stack.  This kind of stuff also underscores my need to get some fenders figured out.

I rode with the air pressure in the tires at 10 psi, front and rear.  I checked the FSB, this morning, and I had ridden it, yesterday, with 6 psi in the front, and 10 psi in the rear tire.  I could probably have dropped the pressure on the Mukluk to 7 or 8 psi and gotten a little more traction in the snow, but it was bouncy enough on the clear pavement at 10 psi, so I left well enough alone.

The Fat Sand is obviously a more "cruiser" style bike, and the ride and handling reflect that.  The Mukluk seems much more like a mountain bike, albeit a mountain bike with some big shoes.  I look forward to getting it on some singletrack trail, this summer, and rolling over whatever gets in my way!

I am still debating whether to keep the Fat Sand, or sell it.  I could use the money, but it works so well as a commuter that I hate to give it up.  If I keep it, it will get fenders and a rear rack for workhorse duty.  I think I will keep the Mukluk in more "offroad" trim, sans fenders.  Though, I might put front and rear racks on it and do a little bike camping with it.

Fat, my friends, is where it's at!


Friday, February 03, 2012


Since I ended up not flying to Pittsburgh, today, I decided to work on this:

More about it, tomorrow, along with better pictures...


The Good, The Bad and the Snowy

I am going to get out of order, here, and address the "bad" first.  My flight was cancelled, and my sister and I agreed that it didn't make much sense for me to try and get there, tomorrow night, only to come home on Monday morning.  So, no trip to PA for me.

The good?  I got a snowy bike ride in, on the orange fat bike.  I rode down to Kaladi Brothers and had some coffee, then took off for a frosty cruise around the Washington Park area.

The city now contracts with private snow-removal companies to do a cursory plow down the center of neighborhood streets, when we have a "snow emergency".  So, the roads were perfect for the fat bike.  I dropped the tire pressure down, and it tracked fine.   (I don't know exactly what air pressure I was running.  I just lowered it until it felt good).

This was the snow in front of my drive.  I did a little experimenting, while I was out, and I confirmed what I had read about these bikes:  If you are post-holing through knee-deep snow, you won't be able to ride through it.  You need packed snow, such as tire tracks, snow mobile tracks or even cross-country ski tracks to give you a surface the big tires can "float" on.

The snowy?  Well, everything.  I did a little shoveling, before I left, but the new snow covered over it, pretty well, before I got back.

You can see how deep the snow was, on the drive, by looking at the scooped-out spot where the bike is parked.

I shoveled the walks, the drive, and the street in front of the drive, where the bike was standing in the snow drift in the earlier picture (the shovel is on my front walk).  That should make it easier to get in and out, in a couple of days.

That was a nice little workout, by the way.

My new bottom bracket for the Mukluk showed up in the mail, today.  So, as soon as the heater takes some of the chill out of the workshop, I will go out there and (hopefully) complete the build on that bike, barring any other complications.  Then, I will be able to test it and the knobbier  Origin8 Devist8tor tires on the snow, tomorrow.


Weather Luck and New Glasses

I am scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania, today, to go to my nephews' high school musical, this weekend.  Both of the boys are in the play (probably the only time that will happen), so I figured I would just take a long weekend and fly out.

After a week of above-average temps in the high-50s/low-60s, a Winter Storm moved into Colorado, last night.  This is the view from my front door, this morning:

I was originally scheduled to fly out at 8:20, this morning, with a connection in Chicago.  Southwest Airlines sent me a text, yesterday, and advised me to change to a direct flight.  So, now, I leave at 2:25, this afternoon.

In the meantime, the tv weather gal says it is snowing 3 inches per hour, right now.  I am hoping that my new flight doesn't get cancelled...

In the meantime, I picked up my new specs, yesterday:

I was a bit bored with metal frames, so I went with these.

If I have time, I will ride around in the snow on the big fat bike and see how that goes.  But, I haven't packed, or done anything else to get ready for flying, yet, so I may not get to.  I will have to leave fairly early to get to the airport.

Here's hoping my flight goes out on time!