27 December 2011

I guess this is why mechanics are helpful?

So I have this early 80s (I believe, at least) Basso in the shop that a customer has given me semi-free reign in doing a conversion to a 2sp Sturmey kickback hub along with some other changes. He's a really good guy and it's nice to be given a bike, a general idea of where he'd like it to go, and just be told to kind of do my thing. I'm sure I'll post about the bike once it's done.

Anyway, so since I've been poking at it I've noticed that this bike's headset has been doing weird things. At first it felt a bit tight, but also had a bit of play at the bottom cup. When tightened to get rid of the play it seemed fine, but then would intermittently feel like it was overtightened - but not always. This bugged me, so today I went in to pull the fork out and see what all was going on. I popped the fork out, and was presented with this scene:

When you drop a fork out and the supposedly pressed-on crown race stays in the lower cup, you probably have a problem.
So it turns out that for the past howevermany years, this bike has been ridden around with the lower headset bearings not moving, and instead the race has just been spinning around on the steerer. In the meantime, the grease in the bearings has turned to paste. Amazingly, there doesn't seem to have been any permanent damage. The culprit is a 27mm ID crown race on a 26.5mm OD fork. The customer bought this bike used a while back from a guy that raced on it, and this was the headset it came with, so who knows how long it has been clonking around like that. I really hope that the original owner built this up himself, and that this wasn't done by a "professional."

It always makes me laugh when I encounter things like this, which is alarmingly often. Here I am stressing over chain line and seat height and tire pressure and whatever else and then there are people out there riding around with wrong-sized headsets, or hubs with no bearings in them, or 6 speed freewheels on 9 speed shifters, or some other absurd thing, and nothing is lighting on fire. Of course I'm glad I stress about things like that, but every once in a while - usually when I'm freaking out because my bike makes some nearly inaudible rattle every 10.65th crank revolution - I can't help but wish that I could have the ability to tune that stuff out, if only just for my own bike.

25 December 2011

Is the old bike mortal?

I guess being old indicates that something only has a limited existence. Anyway... I got the bike put back together. It's been ridden for over a year without maintenance. I've re-greased the hubs and headset. Had the freewheel taken off, cleaned in Petroleum and soaked in oil. Put on a new chain.

1988 Kildemoes, immortal?
I tried getting the bottom bracket taken apart, but the cups are stuck. The bearings have some play and I fear this will eventually be the death of the frame, if I can't adjust them.

Anyway, the bike's rolling again. It gets Anne from A to B and back again.

I think I had some more thoughts, but oh well. There's some bad Christmas movie on TV and Laphroaig in my glass.

24 December 2011

A couple things you've probably seen already, but that I have little bits to say about

- I know I've already mentioned Cosmic Country on here before, but they have a Clear Sky Chart on their sidebar, so they get bonus attention. Anyhow, they just posted a couple sets of photos from an overnight trip that make me believe that they live on a completely different planet where everything is perfect. Just the best.

- This is an article from Bicycle Retailer about companies becoming increasingly pushy towards dealers regarding what requirements they have to meet, or other brands they're not allowed to sell, to receive incentives or even to be a dealer at all.
“This is the first time they said you have to drop Giro shoes if you want us to take your preseason order,” Mirabal said. 

Though Mirabal said his store only sold a handful of Giro shoes, he decided to part ways with Specialized, which he had carried since the late ’90s and was the exclusive dealer for in the Tampa region for a long time. 

“When it’s all said and done, we have to be the independent retailer we are,” he said. “We’re not a concept store. We did over $200,000 with them. How they could literally screw it up over a few pair of shoes makes no sense.”
Now I understand that this is business, and that's just how things go when brands are established enough that they need to/are able to start throwing their weight around in an attempt to maximize market share and whatnot, but this is also what really troubles me about the seemingly growing move towards concept stores. Selection is good, and even better than selection is knowing that a shop stocks certain products because they believe in those products, not because they have to dedicate a certain percentage of their resources to Brand X. Bikes are such a personal thing, and there are so many variations out on the market, that I can't imagine working at a shop where a third party has to sign off on any other brand the shop might want to carry, as is described in the article.

This type of thing is one of the many reasons that IBDs are increasingly losing out to the internet. One of the biggest assets of a good IBD compared to the internet is the ability to walk through the door and have a real conversation with someone who knows what they're talking about in a real, practical, hands-on sense, with a knowledge base covering a wide range of brands and products, and can genuinely advise you on what you need to suit your requirements. When a customer walks through the door and sees Brand X monopolizing the whole space, they're not going to be as likely to fully trust those recommendations, or at least I know I wouldn't be.

Anyway, I have a ton of respect for Carlos Mirabal for walking away from Specialized instead of compromising and letting them force him to drop an inferior-selling brand. Who knows, maybe it wasn't the right decision from an immediate business standpoint, but integrity is important.

23 December 2011

The privateer workshop and an old bike

I've spent a couple of hours wrenching today. I don't do this professionally. My profession is being a computer nerd. I like working on bikes in my spare time, sometimes at least. There just has to be a certain standard to the work area/shop. I hate having to fix something major on a bike, without a work-stand for instance. Also, the lack of proper tools can be annoying.

But when I'm at it, it's a pretty creative process. I sorta forget the time, like if I was drawing, painting or something. Also a glass of red wine and the soundtrack of your choice ads to the ambiance.

I live in an apartment, so I can't have a nice workshop in a shed outside, but luckily I have enough space inside to keep my bikes in shape. It's just annoying when the new-age airshock on your mountainbike decides to blow up, and give your wooden floor an oil-treatment. Thus yesterday I acquired a big sheet of vinyl for my floor, where I work. Also notice in the photo below that my Surly isn't parked on the vinyl. Luckily it doesn't have shocks.

I've been working on my (ex-)girlfriend's bike today. It's a bike we bought a year ago at a flee-market for 100 kroner. That's the equivalent of like two pizzas. It's a 1988 Kildemoes whatever model. I think it's decent steel; ie. not hi-ten. Feels springy and good. It'e very rusty though. Paint is gone around the BB-shell and other places. I've replaced the bars, brakes, seat, tires and a bit of color coordination. It had an external 10-12 speed setup that I've removed. The chainring teeth were a tribute to the Egyptian pyramids. The rearhub takes a screw-on cassette, so I re-spaced the wheel and put on a Shimano BMX freewheel.

Santa's workshop?

All bearings in this bike are open ball bearings. They're a fantastic thing, in that they can be disassembled, cleaned, re-greased and pretty much keep going eternally. And if something breaks you don't have to replace some big complicated unit.

I'll post a picture of the bike later, when it's built again.

22 December 2011

Fashion anxiety

So I got my new bike together, at long last (although the freehub is acting very unhappy, so we'll see how long it stays together). Don't mind the poor photo or the temporary $0.75 bar tape. I'll likely do one of those "I talk about my bike and bore everyone about every little detail" things once it's all completely finished. For now I've only had a couple short rides on it, but on road, gravel, some singletrack, and through a mud pit, I absolutely love it.

Sorry for crowding your bed, Martin. It was the only spot with anything resembling decent light. 
One of the things I need to finish the bike off is a crankset. The crankset currently on the bike is an old Sugino RT that I stole from my coworker Tom's bike while he is in New Zealand. Eventually, I am assuming that he will return from New Zealand, and the bike will return to its crankless state. I actually owned these cranks for a short period of time - just long enough to spend a few hours cleaning them up - before selling them back to Tom, but the communal nature of bike shop employee property is a topic for another day, and doesn't change the fact that I will soon need a crankset.

This is Tom at the shop we used to work at.
The front runners in the great crankset debate are currently the Sugino Alpina and the SRAM Apex. The criteria for inclusion in the debate are as follows:
-No weirdo proprietary chainring funny business. Ideally 110BCD. 
-9-speed compatible.
-Not a space crank. 
-Must be available from a distributor the shop deals with because cranksets are expensive.

My problem is that the Alpinas are out of stock, or else I'd have probably ordered them a month ago. I should just get the Apex cranks: I like the way they look, they fit all of my criteria, and they have that nifty speed hole through the BB spindle for extra fastness. The one thing holding me back is that somehow I have this weird feeling that people will throw rocks at me for installing a modern GXP crankset on a classically-styled bike. Is this weird? Why would it even matter? This isn't a discussion-piece wall ornament, but rather a functional bike. It is a tool first and foremost, and while tools can be aesthetically pleasing, that should not be the sole consideration in their design. 

So I will put these cranks, speed holes and all, on my bike - not in spite of the fear of upsetting its aesthetic consistency, but rather in an intentional effort to do so. Please don't throw rocks at me. 


"The robot pedals with its feet at variable speed. The steering is done by the robot hands as with a normal bike, and remote controlled by a human. Stability is achieved by relying on the inertial centrifugal effect of the front wheel and on a gyro aided by a PID controller that takes over steering when driving in a straight line. Seems like when the robot steers his arms he also bends the waist leaning a bit into the turn. Braking is achieved by taking the feet off the pedals and pointing them down to the ground using the metal feet as friction breaks."

20 December 2011

This is probably why I'm a bike mechanic

Sometimes people ask me why I'm a bike mechanic, or how I got involved in working on bikes, or some other permutation of "why do you spend all day poking at dirty, greasy things for significantly less money than you could have made had you gone and pursued a 'real job' with your degree?"

First of all, something I've gradually come to realize over the past year or two: this is a real job. I take it seriously, I put in a whole lot of above and beyond effort, and I take a whole hell of a lot of pride in what I do. Just because it's not in an office, and I don't file reports and get stock options and whatever other things that I was led to believe qualified a job as "real" it doesn't make it any less real. Looking at it as some kind of extension of youth just because you're working with something you enjoy skirts the dangerous territory of viewing bicycles as toys for adults. If your bike is your real vehicle, then I'm a real mechanic. The quicker we can all get that figured out, the happier we can all be. This topic is probably a whole other post worth of blabber, so let's get on with this one.

The question about how I got started working on bikes is very simply answered, though. I started riding bikes, and in my family we just plain don't get other people to fix our stuff. Why? Because my dad is in our family.

In my 28 years of life, I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we've sent something away to be fixed that wasn't obviously defective, and refundable, from the moment it came home. This isn't limited to our own family, either, as my dad is basically the repair man for everyone my family knows. Bass head doesn't work? No problem. Old stereo that you don't even need has a blown transformer and parts aren't available? Hey, I'll just dig around and find one that works and/or make one. Faucet blew up and is spewing water all over your house - again? Easy.

From a very young age, my dad was very eager to teach me all the benefits of knowing "how to work with your hands." My first memory of this was repeatedly taking apart and reassembling a clock radio, possibly before I even knew how to read. The main lesson, to paraphrase, was that this was a skill set that was extremely important, because once you get the feel for how to work on things you can basically put that ability to work on almost anything and figure it out.

I realize now that this whole post is in grave danger of going astray, so I'll leave the origin stories for another day. The whole point of this is that I went on a short ride on my new bike (finally) the other day, and stopped in at my parents' house. At my parents' house, in the yard, my dad has a shed in which he stores and works on his motorcycle. It gets cold in the shed, and to combat this cold, he has an electric heater. Apparently it has been getting particularly cold in the shed, this being December and all, and because the electric heater now takes forever to heat the room, my dad decided to come up with a better solution.

Now, normally the solution would just be something along the lines of a bigger electric heater, or going out and buying something other such warmth-producing device. Not for my dad, though. Instead, he grabbed an old gas furnace he had been sitting on since his days selling boat heaters, an old fuel pump he had been sitting on since I don't know when, some other bits that he had laying around the basement, and made this:

The bike is currently undergoing its annual "my dad is bored" winter disassembly.
Apparently this thing heats the room up right quick, at which point he shuts it down and uses the electric heater to maintain the temperature. You can see the red fuel pump on the floor to the right, the battery for the ignition on the floor directly below the air intake, the fuel in the red jug, and the charger for the battery up on the desk with the wire leading up to it. My mom claims that you can hear the thing start up from inside the house.

The central grey furnace unit was left over from years ago, when it was apparently installed in his car because the stock heater sucked, the thought of which is hilarious in its own right. He rigged everything up using various items that were laying around the basement, such as the brown thing, which is part of a muffler from a Porche 914 (no, my father has never owned a Porche, but had a Dasher that apparently needed a replacement at some point). 

I think this is about 2 seconds before he explained what the brown thing was, and I nearly fell over laughing.
The red fuel pump up there has previously been used as an air compressor for an airbrush, or something like that, though I'm sure that's not even remotely what it was made for. I vaguely remember once being told that the motor was originally from a refrigerator, but I can't confirm that. Could be anything.

I've seen that heat sink around the house for ages. I swear it is part of some of my earliest memories.
That, up there, is apparently a charger for the battery. Electronics is basically magic to me, despite my dad's best efforts to explain it, so who knows. I've been told it's a battery charger, though, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. 

I'm sure this all seems pretty bizarre, linking a weird home-made furnace to my being a bike mechanic, but to me this makes absolute perfect sense. Part of what is so brilliant about bicycles is that there is very little magic going on there, and yet there is so much magic going on there. If you have a decent head for that stuff, a good skill set, and something approximating the right tools, you can basically do anything with a bike; from simple repairs and maintenance to all kinds of incredible customization and creation. At the heart of it, I see Italian steel racers, vintage French Constructeur bikes, my horrible brown bike, tall bikes, and a million other things as all coming from the same place as this weird furnace thing. 

Bikes seem to be one of the greatest strongholds of DIY today, and I think that's why I've ended up here, doing this for my "real job." If everything is pointing you towards something, at some point maybe it makes sense to stop fighting against a thing that you actually want to do, and just buckle down and get serious about it. 

13 December 2011

Riding in the dark

So mountainbiking at night seems to be becomming more and more popular. More and more so, with LED's getting brighter and more affordable. I've ridden it for some years, during the winter months. It's pretty much the only option to be able to ride on weekdays, if you work during the day at least.

Sometimes it's fun to ride in the dark. You get surprised and have to react fast. Constantly being aware, because you can only see effectivly 10 meters ahead. This also forces you into some situations you wouldn't normally get into. So it's good for the technical skills.

Sometimes it's also a bit tedious. Especially if it's just a stretch of boring trail (So you think it's boring eh? Then why bother to ride at all. Side thought...). You just sit there in the dark, only being able to see what's within the glow of your bike lights. No scenery. You might as well sit on your stationary bike at home with the lights out. But then, sometimes the stars are out, or the moon. And then you get out and away from the city and it's all still. Maybe being able to see the city lights far away with it's light polution glowing up into the sky. And then it gets pretty cool after all.

In a dark room?
Same place, 6-7 hours later.

Another aspect, that I've gotten more aware of recently, is in regards to wildlife. On a mountainbike you really get out there... The woods are normally a pretty quiet place at night. But then suddenly 10 riders blast through there with only their own fitness in mind. Rabbits and birds flying left and right. Last night I was out, and came across a deer on the trail. It quickly jumped into the shrubs and was gone. I saw there was a low barbed wire fence there, and can only imagine the deer getting some scrapes from that, just because I came riding there. Maybe it would be better to go ride on a motocross bike... at least the animals would be alerted in time.

Anyway, just some thought and observations. I'll keep riding in the dark. My point is just to try to be a bit aware out there and think about the world around you. This could be applied in many places beyond riding though...

12 December 2011

The diving board

Since I was poking a bit of good-natured fun at others with my bit about The Rollercoaster, I should probably willing to poke that same fun at myself. With that in mind, I present the diving board:

Not the best situation.
Eventually I'll grab a zero-offset post and not look like a lunatic, but for now all I have is the VO super-layback post that came with my frame. Not exactly the most stylish look.

Unrelatedly, for the past hour or so I've been digging through the Rapha films on vimeo. I knew they were epic and great and all, but I'd never really dug in before. They can get a bit over the top in places, but the filming and scenery are incredible. I'm pretty jealous of a lot of the riding they do, especially the stuff that's in my own backyard. I want to go travel and ride and explore more. New Years resolution. Hold me to it, folks.

CHINLE, AZ from RAPHA on Vimeo.

11 December 2011

A couple tidbits and an explanation

Here are some things that I've seen. Now you can also see them:

-I was just going through the photos that have piled up in my phone and came across this poor thing: This is a bike that was brought in for some work several months back. The guy refused to believe that there was anything more than some shifting issues going on with it. I don't even want to know how long he'd been riding it like this.

Cannondale's new Lefty frame. 
 I can't believe that it took probably 5-10 minutes to explain that his bike had a serious problem.

-Over at the generally excellent Off The Beaten Path, Jan Heine says that Compass will now be selling some neato LED conversion bulbs for older style tail lights. They come with a standlight built into the unit, too, so the light stays on for a while when you come to a stop.

I love this on a couple levels. First, it's great because at a lower cost than upgrading the whole unit, people can move to a better, and safer, light system than their bulb light. Second, it means that maybe we'll see less people with rocketship-looking things on the back of their bikes. Third, it's always good to see thoughtful solutions. Good show to all involved.

-Maybe this is the most popular thing in the world and I'm just late to the show, but I'm going to push it anyway. I stumbled my way into the blog "Cosmic Country" tonight, and it's by far the best thing I've seen so far tonight. Practically every single photo looks like way too much fun. Biking is great.

Now, on to the explanation part:

You might be wondering what "upvision" is, as it is mentioned up in the top-of-the-screen-thingy up there. The term "upvision" comes from an incident in the shop about five months ago. A lady was looking at the handlebar mirrors and seemed somewhat dissatisfied with what she was seeing. Eventually, she explained that she was looking for something with "upvision." It turned out, after some explaining (and a lot of very enthusiastic hand motions), that what she wanted was a mirror mounted on the handlebar in such a way that she could ride with her head staring straight down at the bars, and the mirror would show her what was ahead on the road.

"You know, upvision!" She said, making hand motions as though some kind of vision fumes were wafting up from the handlebar towards her eyes, and acting as though we were from Mars because we didn't stock such a product. Now maybe I'm crazy, and there is a segment of the population out there riding around with weird periscope things attached to their handlebars, but probably not.

Eventually "upvision" came to be a multipurpose term at the shop. It represented the ridiculous, and downright embarrassing up-selling that the then-owner would always attempt; any piece of gadgetry, gimmickry, or marketing hype that has gone well beyond the point of common sense usefulness; and the absurd mental gymnastics required to get to a place where riding with a mirror on your handlebar as your guide seems like a good idea.

Oftentimes it seems to me like the bike industry, or maybe not just the bike industry, has a bit too much "upvision" going on. Maybe just getting your bike set up so that you can comfortably look forward with your own eyes, as simple and unsexy a solution as that may be, might just actually be good enough? Although laser beams and rocket ships and periscope mirrors are neat, too, I guess.

My first cross country race

So I went to my first cross country mountainbike race yesterday. I've ridden mountainbikes for about 12 years, but have never been too much into racing. I have only ridden a few handfulls of downhill races and some BMX.

I got geared up and right away almost got disqualified because of my dropbars. They thought I rode a cross bike. They told me I could ride, but couldn't win. So I had to explain to them what a mountainbike is (not that I'm sure) and it was okay.

Is it a mountainbike?

This race is part of a winter race series of six events. The course was pretty uninteresting. Tamed down to suit entry level riders too. There were some pretty steep hills though. My legs aren't in top shape... I don't really train, I just ride often and sometimes I can't be bothered with climbs. I'm more into the technical aspects or just getting out and about.

I'm jumping back and forth in this banter, but oh well. The first round was pretty unenjoyable. Kept visualising myself stopping after that round, not bothering with it. It started with me in the middle of the mass start. That was okay as the first 1.5 km section is all flat, so I couldn't keep up with one gear. After this came the first climb. Pretty steep gravel section on loose gravel. The hill was packed with riders dropping into their smallest gears. I had to keep going at my own pace and must have blewn past 10-20 riders. Zig-zagging, amost elbow wrestling and bar banging. It was pretty fun.

After this there was a looooong stretch of fireroads that were all about legs. To my luck there was also a short muddy singletrack section ending in a technical descent. People stood still on the singletrack with no room to overtake, but I was able to blow past a few riders on the descent.

Towards the end of round one, I could almost taste blood. After crossing the finishline I had to take it a bit easy... almost tourist speed on the flat section. Forcing myself to go slow enough to be able to breathe through my nose. Before the first climb again, I pulled over and took a break next to a bench for a minute or so. Some riders passed me, looking at me as to see what was wrong. After this I felt pretty fresh again and continued up the hill. I decided to walk twice, because it was just as fast as riding and at less effort. I caught back up with the guys who had just passed me and had a chat with one of them.

Before the first climb.

After this it's all just repitition from round one until reaching the singletrack on round three, where I was able to get past a few people. Then I knew the finishline was only about 2.5 km away, so I was going in for the sprint. I was able to pass a couple of guys despite it was all fireroads. Going inside on turns always works.

The last 500 meters were all flat, but I was able to spin away ahead of the guys behind me. I ended up placing 34 out of 119. I'm pretty satisfied with that, not that it really matters.

9 December 2011

The Rollercoaster

While I'm sure I can't be the first person to call it this, I haven't ever seen the term come up online so here we go:

The rollercoaster represents the pinnacle of ergonomics and style. Basically, it's when you run a really steep drop stem, like a Nitto Jaguar, for example, and then after that big drop you bring it back up with a pair of riser bars, bringing the hands to roughly the same place that would be achieved with a normal -17deg stem and flat bars. It looks something like this:
Photo from myfixedgear.net
Here are a couple other examples of the rollercoaster, and a bikeforums thread that sums things up nicely.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to pick on the dreaded fixed-gear hipsters (the current scapegoats of the bicycling world). That happens way too much, and it kind of bothers me. I'm just adding a term to the lexicon. It seems like folks get too intense about bikes and riding and nitpicking sometimes, both on the offensive and defensive side. It's a quirky thing that looks kind of funny, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm still entertained, though, just a little bit every time I see one, and I also don't think that there's anything wrong with that.

To show my impartiality and purity of motive, I present the alternate rollercoaster. This one makes more sense in terms of being required to achieve a desired handlebar position, but fair is fair. In this one, the rollercoaster starts off at ground level on top of the headset, builds anticipation during the climb up the stem, and then plummets back down to earth with a set of drop bars. A winning configuration for sure.

From the Pedal Revolution blog. Gorgeous bike, by the way. Seems like a really cool shop, too.
Rivendell is into the rollercoaster, and so it is certainly cool. My Velo Orange has a modified sorta-rollercoaster-thing going on, with a technomic instead of an uppy-hilly type stem to get the height. I'm not sure if I'd count that, though. Judges?

Edit: I've been suggested another rollercoaster candidate. The Great Technomic Debate has begun, it seems.

Fortune telling, take one

So some event is coming up... you don't really feel like going. People in your group push you to come along. But nah... Finally you decide to go anyway, just for the company. Come the day of the event, and sooner than you know you find yourself enjoying yourself. If not even having fun.

My theory is that it can only be better than you expected, thus enjoyable. I'm speaking from experience I guess. I've had a couple of these experiences recently.

Conclusion? Do stuff. If it's not enjoyable during, then it will be afterwards as a memory. And by stuff I mean ride.

8 December 2011

Crazy Mont Ventoux story and an awful bike

First off, read this. This guy is a monster. Read it.
...There are parts of the climb where you ascend 600 feet in a mile. One part of the road is, in the winter, marked as a black-diamond ski trail...
Think about that for a minute.

Anyway, onward now, to one of those things where a person posts all about their bike. A warning: This bike is terrible. I have other bikes that are far better, but I don't think that any of them are anywhere near as interesting or downright great as this thing.

Every bike enthusiast should have a bike like this. A bike that you don't have to baby or ever worry about the expense of replacing it if you wreck it, or if it gets stolen, or if you lend it to someone and it turns out you didn't even know that person, or if you just plain ride it into the ground. As much as nice bikes are great, it's also nice to have a bike that just sucks so much that you never really have to worry about it. It gets you from A-to-B, barely, and that's all you need.

Here it is, faithfully resting at home on the deck.
One night in 2007, I was out with my roomates at a show downtown. As we left, a man told us that someone had thrown a bike into my roomate's truck, and then wandered off without explaining himself further. We dismissed it, and headed home. About half a block away, I turned around to look at something particularly shiny that we were passing and noticed that there was indeed a bike sitting in the bed of the truck (the truck was one of those enormous ones that landscapers such as my old roomate use, so the bike was out of sight from ground level). The bike's wheels were severely contorted, and it generally looked like hell. I immediately called dibs. 

Great fender lines. Great fender attachment. Custom brake extenders.

In the interest of not spending any money at all unless I absolutely had to, I ended up replacing the Venture's mangled 590 wheels with a set of used 559s we had laying around the shop. The hubs are too wide for the frame and the brakes didn't reach, which necessitated some minor futzing to get things to work. But it worked, and has continued to work despite never seeing any maintenance while being stored outside for much of its life.

That duct tape is holding on some corriboard, which is holding together the fender, because the fender is broken in two.  Brake caliper filed out for maximum reach. 
At one point a couple years ago, I walked up to find that someone had stolen my rear wheel. My reaction was to burst out laughing because that rear wheel was absolute trash, and also because I could visualize the thief pinching their fingers as the dropouts sproinged shut once the too-wide hub popped out. I walked up the hill to the shop and grabbed a replacement, using a defective Vee Rubber tire with a bead that is so tight that the tire has a low spot and thumps heavily on every rotation. Even better.

The bike has five speeds, which is a perfectly great number of speeds to have. The chain will come off on a bump, or just because it hates routine, every couple kilometers or so and slip between the chainring and chainguard up front. This is fixed on the fly by skillfully pushing it back on with your foot without messing up your pedalling rhythm. Up front there is a Wald delivery basket, which is pretty much the best way to carry stuff. I'm sure I'll talk about how I think Wald baskets are the greatest thing ever at a later date. Because I do think that, and I'm pretty sure I'm right.

I actually didn't notice the cotter pin problem until I went to take this photo.

The best thing about this bike, though, is that it is actually shockingly fun to ride. Yes, the whole time the rear wheel is going fwump-fwump-fwump, which makes the fenders rattle and can be felt through the seat and bars, and sure the springs on the seat are too soft and sometimes make a weird jarring clunk, and maybe the chain comes off, or the grips twist, or the pedals are slippery, but who cares? The positioning feels great, and riding it feels kind of like being an overgrown kid riding some hand-me-down coaster brake thing with a bald spot on the tire from skidding and everything always on the verge of falling apart, but you don't care because you don't know any better and this is your bike and it's the best bike ever. I think that's the real value of a cobbled-together beater bike. It forces us to get over ourselves and remember how awesome bikes are in general rather than specific bikes or styles of riding or any other thing that we let ourselves get carried away with because we're adults and we have refined adult interests and other such nonsense. Bikes are great. Period. Ride them however you want, wearing whatever you want, but don't forget how much fun it is to not know any better.

Best bike.

7 December 2011

Probably my favourite bike product ever made

I understand that a lot of us are drawn to cycling because we love gadgets. That's why I have more bikes than I have room for, and it's why I get excited about all this stuff. Whatever, we're nerds; it's fine. Still, though, at some point people often seem to totally lose track of common sense.

I have been thinking about the AirFender almost uninterruptedly since I first saw it in 2007 or so. I still cannot come up with a single realistic benefit of this product over a normal fender. I wish I knew how much was spent on development and tooling for this thing. How awesome would it be to work for a company that was able to throw away money like that?


The Greatest Show On Earth

Might as well start this out correctly.

Space cranks.