Monday, December 24, 2007



Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My favorite bike

The more you ride a bicycle, the more your realize that you need more than one bicycle. Forget what those silly randonnistas say, if you ride all year in every condition on every terrain weather notwithstanding, you need more than one bike. Riding with your friends in the Summer requires a fancy and fast bike, to more easily humiliate them (of course they are operating under the same pretense, you must remember-this can quickly escalate into a sort of arms race), riding at night requires a sturdy bike so you can bump over things that you don't see, riding with a load requires racks, which aren't probably on your fast bike but may be on your sturdy bike, riding Apex generally requires a mountain bike, riding in the rain requires fenders, and for contemplative rides nothing beats a fixed gear. If you want to have a contemplative ride in the rain, well, that takes a fixxie with fenders, and if you want to go on a fast summer ride at night in the rain with your friends at Apex..... And now that you have a good excuse for your spouse when she/he asks, "Honey, how come you have to have seven bicycles," what's so hard about having just one more? She/he may not even notice! (this has not been my experience, however-while my wife never really noticed how MANY bikes I have, she did notice that my bike space got bigger every year-"honey, why can't I get my car into the garage any more?" up until the point that I opened a bike shop...now she doesn't notice so much any more!)

Winter riding also requires a special bicycle. I have been waiting since March to pull out my winter bike. It has been hanging in my garage resting patiently since then, ready at a moment's notice to spring into service. Smashing through crusty snow, blasting through snowplow drifts, swimming through champagne slush, chewing up ice: these are the things a good winter bike lives for. Here's my winter bike:



I got this frameset from my therapist, who has a knack of finding interesting bicycles in thrift shops. $20. I think it is a Mercier-what was left of the original components were mostly French, and the lugs and fork are extremely similar to at least one other Mercier that I have recently worked on. It had been repainted black, with new dropouts installed. As I often do with such wrecks, I stripped it of all the parts, checked and (where possible) corrected frame and fork alignment, and then rebuilt it.



Generally my favorite bike is the one that I'm riding, especially if it is well-suited to the task at hand. I didn't have a particular vision for this bike at first, so I just turned it into a fixxie and started riding it back and forth to work. But it filled a need that I didn't have-how many resurrected fixxies can I need to ride back and forth to work, anyway? And I didn't think it really handled that well with skinny tires-too floppy, too much oversteer. I have better junk fixxies that I'd rather ride. At some point it dawned on me that there was enough clearance for big tires AND fenders, so that's the direction I went. Now it has studded tires which really, really work on ice, a huge mudflap on the front fender to protect my chain and my feet, and a light set because it gets dark at 5:00. And a rack trunk for extra clothing and lunch (sorry randonnistas, no handlebar pack for me-I like to see AND control where my front wheel is going). Snow and ice make short work of derailleurs, so the fixed rear wheel is just right. And since it snowed last night, this is my favorite bike today.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Buddhist joke

A preacher goes to see a monk living on a mountaintop.
Monk says, "Come in, my friend."
Preacher follows him into an empty room, and they sit down on the floor.
"Where's your furniture?" asks the preacher.
"Where's yours?" rejoins the monk.
"I'm just passing through," says the preacher.
"So am I," says the monk.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More carnage



That's a titanium hanger right there, bent. And a Dura-Ace derailleur, ripped apart. The jockey wheels and inner cage are lost on the roadside. The rear wheel lost a good number of drive-side spokes, the chain was destroyed, and the ride ruined. As was the rest of the week. Damn.

Busted frame



Carbon fiber meets park bench. We sent this frame in to Craig Calfee and he actually fixed it, and it came out pretty nice. Sorry, I didn't take an "after" picture. Not cheap, but definitely a better alternative than buying a new frame.

Bent frame



Oops. Shouldn'a jumped off that loading dock.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Right of way

Passing on your left.
On Your Left!
Two gals rollerblading on the trail, one on the right, ahead of me, the other on the left, on the wrong side of the yellow centerline. Listening to their tunes. Oblivious.
HELLOOOO???!
"We have a right of way here too, you know," she says.
I'm not so sure about that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Years ago, when I was trying to make a living as a musician, I spent a lot of time on the road. In my car, often late at night. Early in the morning might be a better way to say it.

One night I was falling asleep behind the wheel so I pulled over into a hotel parking lot to get some shuteye. I had a car full of stuff-my tux bag, trombone, mute bag, a small suitcase, a bicycle, various other items and probably some McDonalds waste as well.
At 4:10 in the morning (I had a little digital clock on my dash) I was wakened by the sound of rapping on my driver’s side window. Squinting through my bleary eyes I made out the shape of a cop, shining his flashlight through the window into my eyes. He had his right hand on his holster.
As I rolled down the window, I noticed another officer behind him, also shining a flashlight at me. I said, “what’s up?”
“Who are you? What are you doing here? Is this your car? I need to see your license and registration and proof of insurance. Why are you here? Where are you going? What’s all that stuff in your car?” etc. etc. etc.
I’m beginning to grasp my position by now-I’ve noticed another officer outside the passenger’s side door, also with a flashlight, and a fourth man behind the car with his flashlight as well. I’m surrounded.
“Let me see your hands. What are you doing here? Who are you?’” The questioning continues.
I start to explain, “Well, see, I play the trombone. And I had a gig with KENNY PAULSEN (the previous county sheriff, who runs a dance band), and I’m driving home after the show, and I got sleepy, and I thought I would just pull over here for a while and rest, so that I wouldn’t fall asleep behind the wheel and CRASH MY CAR AND KILL EVERYONE.”
“Oh,” says cop number one.
“Here’s all the documentation you asked for.” As I hand him the things he had asked for (all current and proper).
“Well, we’ve had some thefts reported tonight here in the parking lot. Somebody has been going around breaking into cars.”
They thought they had their man, I guess. He stepped aside to his cruiser to call in the report and check my creds, after which he gave some sort of “all safe” signal to his buddies, who were visibly relieved-the flashlights went down, holsters were snapped back closed, and they all turned away to other concerns.
“You’d better get out of here,” he said, “and drive safely.”
And I left.

Another time, I’m driving down the main East-West road in north Burlington at 3:00 in the morning, almost home, and in the middle of the road I see a Possum. A big, hairy, no, make that HUGE, almost BALD, honking bull possum.
I’m not going to hit that animal if I can help it-it’s going to do some serious damage to my little 240Z, and memories of a deer hit some years previous come to mind. So I hit the brakes pretty hard, and start to veer right. As I’m passing the animal, I see that it has already been hit, and is bleeding and staggering and it looks to me like suffering.
What am I going to do about this? Ignore it, go home and get to bed? Find a big rock and smash it’s brains out? What about a big stick? I cant’ just let it die there in the middle of the road...even if I can forget about the suffering, that guy is big enough to cause some serious damage to someone's car. What if someone hits it and crashes?
Hmmm.
So I went home. Got my BB gun. A BB pistol, actually. Went back to the scene, parked in the middle of the 4-lane road, installed a fresh CO2 cartridge, chambered a ball, and shot the possum right between the eyes. He collapsed in a heap immediately. Then I repeated the procedure.
Then I heard the engine. rrrrmmmmMMMMM, from behind. I stood up, turned around, and two blocks away, coming right at me, a mass of lights-white, flashing, red, and blue...flashing.
Oh, shit. Three in the morning. Middle of the road. Pistol. Large dead thing. Hmmm.
I put the gun down on the hood of my car, turned toward the police car, and put my hands in the air.
The cruiser pulled up to about twenty feet away, lights all shining right on me, the driver’s door opened and the officer assumed his defensive posture. One hand on his radio, the other hand on his revolver, no doubt.
After a minute or so of wondering how this was all going to turn out, I heard another car coming at me from the opposite direction. I turned my head around to look, and there were the lights-white, red, blue, all flashing.
When the second car arrived and its driver had assumed his “defensive posture,” the first officer came out and approached me.
“What’s going on here,” he wanted to know.
“Well, see, I play the trombone. And I was on a gig with KENNY PAULSON, and I’m driving home, and I see this animal here, and I, uh, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, but, uh, it didn’t look like a good place for a big animal to die, so I went on home and got my BB gun and came back to finish it and move it off the roadway.”
“Oh,” says the cop.
And I just stood there, and enjoyed watching my story sink in.
“You’re a trombone player?” he asked.
“Yep.”
“And that’s a BB gun?”
“Yep.”
“Hmmm.”
Long pause.
“Well, we’ll take care of this. You can go home now.”
Which I did.
A cop’s job is full of danger, violence, and tragedy. It takes a special person-when there’s trouble, who do you call? When there’s danger, who is the first to step in? The night shift is the worst-all the rats come out of their holes and darkness hides what isn’t presentable in the daytime.
The police didn’t ID me, didn’t check my registration or insurance (actually, I don’t doubt that he radioed-in my license plate number), didn’t look at the pistol. In retrospect, he may have regretted not inspecting things a little more closely, but I suppose he was just shocked at the novelty of the situation, relieved that it wasn’t at all what it first appeared to be, and surely he was looking forward to telling the story back at the station.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

“There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.” - Bertrand Russell


Beyond the question of a "liberal media," which Chomsky has quite thoroughly debunked, one wonders why have we not heard more good news from Iraq, heard more of the "good works" of our soldiers.

Could it be simply that the stories are being suppressed? I doubt it-those charged with censoring news would kill the BAD news, not the GOOD news. Certainly that is the case with government and military censors, but probably also with network censors, who often simply repeat what they are told by sources.

Could it be that the audience is just not interested in good news? Perhaps. What are the demographics of mass media audiences? At the risk of stereotyping, are there more conservatives or liberals watching ABC Nightly News? NBC? CNN? More christians or secularists? Moslems? Atheists? Educated or not? We know who listens to Rush Limbaugh and Mike Rosen-do their "reports" include the good news? What does the audience want to hear? What causes ratings to spike? What sells product?

Nobody is blaming the soldiers. Nobody is shouting "baby killers", or spitting on them. It is widely recognized that our military is the best and most professional ever in the history of the world. I believe that the military tries very hard to avoid "collateral damage," but they have been given an impossible mission. Anyone who pays any attention knows that even though the bad news is the big story, it's not the whole story.

Could it possibly be that there just is so little good news that it's lost in the flood?

The war in Iraq, cost so far in USD: over $450,000,000,000. The amount of that each U.S. citizen owes (not including interest): $1,500. That's about the size of the check I wrote to Uncle Sam on April 14. I could use that money, personally. That's enough to feed all of Africa for a year. Enough to pay for three million eight hundred thousand 4-year college degrees, money for which would actually stay here in our U.S. economy. Enough to totally refurbish Walter Reed with about 300 billion left over. (talk about supporting the troops!). I could go on...

Has the coalition built a new school for every one it has bombed?
Has the coalition fed and educated a child for every one it has killed?
Housed a family for every one it has slaughtered?
Built a house for every one it has leveled?
Are Halliburton, Bechtel, Arlington, and others operationg efficiently?
Are they using local labor at $4/hour, or crony labor at $250/hour?
Are they using local materials, or flying-in 2x4's and readi-mix on C-130's?
How much money is missing?
Has anyone learned anything from this?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who to watch out for.

The worst drivers in town are on the street that passes in front of Wal-mart. Rude, unyielding, ignorant. Downright dangerous. One of them pulled up behind me at the stoplight exiting the parking lot and leaned on his horn. After he passed me (horn blaring) I chased him down and leaned on his car at the next red light. He opened his window and said, “get your hand off my car.”
I said, “what’s your problem?”
He said, “don’t you know, bicyclists are supposed to ride on the right hand side of the road.” And he pulls out his cell phone. Points it right at me, like he’s gonna shoot me with it or something.
I said, “no, you’ve got that wrong. I can ride anywhere in the right lane I want. The whole lane is mine. The WHOLE LANE. If you doubt that, you can go to the public library and look it up in the code.”
He said, “get your hand off my car or I’m calling the polics.”
I said, “why don’t you go ahead now and call the police?”
He said something else.
I said, “call the police. RIGHT NOW.”
He said something else.
I said, “CALL THE POLICE OR I WILL.”
Then the light turned green and he honked his horn again and got out of there.
I got his license number, but by the time I got home, it’s like, “whatever.”

Another one was entering the roundabout a block east of Wal-mart. A lady driving a new Honda SUV, inching forward through the yield sign into my right of way. I saw what was going to happen so I grabbed my pump, held it up over my head and charged right straight at her, like I was going to smash her nice car to bits. She finally found the brake pedal, and I continued on past victorious. And I gave her a nice wave.

A third bozo cut me off right there at the roundabout and I gave chase. Just about the time I was about to catch him, I grabbed my water bottle with the intent of giving him a good squirt right through his driver-side window. But he made a quick u-ey in front of the Church of Scientology and headed back toward the roundabout, fast as he could. Maybe he just hangs out there and messes up traffic for a hobby?

A FOURTH moron, actually a dim little old lady, driving one of those four-door pseudo-luxury USA-mobiles looked right into my eyes before turning right in front of me. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I had to slam on my brakes or crash. Well, she wasn’t very hard to chase down-I got her in the Wal-mart parking lot as she was opening her door, and said, “you cut me off back there, why did you do that?”
And she said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t believe it. She was SORRY!

A gal came up behind me on a residential street nearby, passed me then made a right turn right in front of me.
I’m getting a little tired of this, now.
I chased her down, knocked on her window and when she opened it I asked “why did you cut me off back there?”
She said, “I didn’t know if you were turning or not.”
Hmmm. Guess I didn’t use my GO STRAIGHT SIGNAL!

Just this morning a car passed me doing about forty, and the dirtbag passenger leaned out the window and shouted, “HYBDUG LACHNIAZ PSHNORMBID WLKCUIUNYH UP!” What a rude thing to say, I think.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Night Ride Stories

You run into the strangest things while riding.
A few years ago my mechanic and I were out on a night ride at Red Rocks. We were on the road and came around a corner, and there was a pretty bad car accident right there in front of us. A Honda (as I remember) had spun out on the corner at a fairly high rate of speed, sideswiped a telephone pole pretty hard, and then ran into a dumpster. Totalled the car-just about folded it in half and bashed in on at least two sides, all the windows smashed, busted up the dumpster and maybe broke the pole as well. We thought there must be someone dead, but looking into the car we saw only broken glass and cassette tapes, miscellaneous trash. And blood. The driver had egressed through the moon roof, leaving a trail across the top of the car and the hood, to the side of the road, where he (she?) sat down to “pool” his thoughts. Or put his arm back together. Or something.
(This sequence of events I am reconstructing from the blood trail)
After sitting for a bit, he got up, walked (or crawled) to the car, and ripped off both license plates, evidently with his bare hands (again, surmising from the blood, and the fact that the licence plate screws still held the corners of the plates). Then took off down the road.
While examining the scene, we watched down at the bottom of the hill, maybe a half-mile away, a car pull over to the side of the road, sit a minute, then take off again towards Morrison. Had he called a friend?
We followed the trail down the road a few hundred yards, where it disappeared into the ditch-we guessed that the person had cut across the field to the lower road, right about where the car had stopped. Or maybe he saw us coming and jumped into the bushes? We had pretty bright headlights on our bikes, but saw nobody.
We rode down to the Conoco in Morrison, found a cop parked there, and gave him the story. He already knew, and was on his way there. Gave him our names and numbers, and never heard a thing about it again. I watched the paper for a week or two, but never found out what had happened.
Whoever owned that car, hopefully, got some cash from their insurance, and surely felt the loss anyway. But I can tell you, that thief got the short end of the stick. Big time.



Another night-ride story:

We were coming back from Apex one night, maybe 8 or 10 o’clock, and it’s just starting to get dark. Driving in the left lane on highway 6, maybe 65 mph, and RIGHT IN FRONT OF US (!) this SUV flips over, rolls twice, ends up on its side sliding backwards down the road.
Couldn’t believe my eyes. My buddy says something like, “Holy ShXX!, Did you see that?!”
Sparks flying. Broken Glass. A big gouge taken out of the asphalt where her tire had failed and the rim caught. It was a Ford. Bridgestone tires? I don’t know.
Well, I hit my brakes, turned on the emergency blinkers, and parked right there in the left lane. Got out, left my door open, ran up to the scene, I’m the first person there, and here’s what I found:
Two kids, a girl (maybe 10) and a boy (6?), standing in the window, on the pavement (were they wearing seatbelts?) absolutely terrified, panicked, crying, screaming, but OK. I lifted them out one at a time-some people had arrived by then, and they took the kids off to the side of the road to try to calm them down.
And a woman in the driver’s seat, still seatbelted in, still talking on her cel phone.

buying Chinese

Selected words screened out of Microsoft’s Chinese web portal, as reported by Rocky Mountain News:

Capitalism
Freedom
Liberty
Demonstration
Separatism
Democracy
Human Rights

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shooting the Gappers

A few Sundays ago I was coming up the Platte River Trail. Near Mineral there were a couple with a baby stroller in front of me and coming at us from the opposite direction, not twenty feet away, two more people with a pair of leashed dogs. Everyone out to enjoy a warm weekend. I slowed down to wait for the two parties to pass each other, so that I could proceed safely around the stoller and then ride on to work.

And what do you suppose happened? Two posers in their flashy team apparel passed me going about 25 (speed limit 15) and SHOT THE GAP with maybe twelve inches to spare on either side! I couldn’t believe it. What the hell? Why do you think there has to be a speed limit posted there? Why do you think people bad-mouth cyclists on the path? Because of idiots like them. If one of those guys had tagged someone and crashed, I’d have been the one to tape their sorry butt back together and you can be sure that I would be there to testify against them in court.

Ride smarter, people!

The Art of the Seatcuster

Here’s a neat bike:



This is a ca.1973 Mondia Super, I picked up cheap (really, I don’t make a habit of picking things up just because they’re cheap, but look at that paint!). Off came the tubulars, Off came the chintzy old breakamatic handlebars, Off came the ten-speed Nuovo Record. On went the fixed-gear rear wheel, On went the clinchers and handlebar, etc. And now I have a(nother) “saved” old bike to ride.

It seems heretical to put new components on frames like this, and anyway since it’s Swiss, or French, or some combination thereof, it probably wouldn’t be very rewarding anyway. The old Mafac brakes work fine (not good) as long as you keep adjusting them, and leave plenty of room for fenders, so now I don’t have to get my Pista all smutty when it’s wet out. You might say, “Well, how can you justify getting your nice old Mondia dirty when it rains?” If you saw the mudflaps I have on those fenders you might think that it really Doesn’t get too dirty... And besides, I don’t have any other bike that will take that little T.A. rack (it bolts right onto the brake). Come to think of it, that little rack is one of the biggest reasons I ride the bike at all; every time I look down I think, “Cool!”



Look at that wraparound cluster. Other Mondias I have seen are similar, yet this technique is more common on British frames. Defaced by the serial number; an odd utilitarianism within the framework of beauty.
Those lugs are known as Nervex (company) Professional (model) and are often found on the fanciest of older frames. They are French, I believe. Although this one is pretty fancy with that paint job and such, the finish is second-rate, with minimal filing at the lugs and a typically fragile paintjob. Pinstriping on the main tubes was done (evidently) by a master, being nice and straight and clean, but then the frame was handed off to a hamfisted apprentice, who blotched on the lining around lugs.

The bike rides great. We haven’t learned much about frame geometry for decades; I’ve measured this thing up for dimensions and angles (see the little “73” marked on the top tube?) and it’s not far away from the supposedly “modern” geometry of Le., or Tr., or Sp., or Gi., or any other Johnny-come-lately “sport bike”; they’re just copying what came before. (I didn’t include Bi. in that group because they are now 120 years old, and really are, arguably, largely responsible for influencing the Italian school of design).




1978 Bill Davidson
Burly. Italianate (esp. with the painted window). Graceful yet strong. Big fat stiff stay-ends with brazed caps, not plugs. Brazing those stays onto the sides of the cluster make for a wider space at the tire. Extremely clean, crisp edges.



197? Bruce Gordon
This lug shouts, “American!” Highly-reworked Cinelli lugs. Somewhat avant-garde, with the binder bolt hidden on the opposite side (see below). Insuperable form. There is a photo of (presumably) Mr. Gordon’s hands filing a lug in The Custom Bicycle, by Kolin and de la Rosa (Rodale, 1979), which shows what hands look like after a million hours of detail work on steel frames. The radii of these lug mouths are impeccable, near-perfect, thinned down and profiled to tiny points, dispersing the stress risers of the lug neatly into the tube. This photo doesn’t do justice to the frame.



You can get an idea of the number of miles on this frame by the wear marks in the cluster; it’s a testament to craftsmanship that it survives today. And a dramatic upward Swoop! on the backside of the lug adds a little support to the post and, again, helps disperse a stress riser where seatposts occasionally break off.

This old guy is currently serving as a fixed-gear cyclocrosser!



2000 Serotta
Optimized. Lug mouths and points not much larger than necessary. Stays that go not beyond the bolt. A lug profile which almost disappears into the line of the joint, just millimeters away.



1979 Austro-Daimler
Some makers use a plug at the end of the stay with their company name, or some other motif.



2003 Bianchi
Typical modern cluster, tig-welded of course. Strong, light, inexpensive.



1969(?) Bottecchia
Italian. Not top-of-the-line, but still the manufacturer cared enough about the product to chrome-plate the ENTIRE frame and detail the lugs in red. Note the little hiccup in the line of the descending radius-no filing done here, just brazed together and sent on to paint. The stay-ends are sliced open and the outer flap folded over and brazed down to form a closed end.



197? Peugeot
Nervex Pro lugs. Somebody hammered in the wrong size of seatpost and now no amount of twisting, torching, and penetrating oil can free it. A mechanic friend suggested soaking in Coca-cola; I’ll try that one day.



191? Iver Johnson
Early American bicycle. Compare the basic form of this to the Bruce Gordon and Serotta frames above. Usually called a “fastback” cluster.



198? Schwinn Sidewinder
Just for comparison; strong, cheap. I understand that’s actually a brazed joint, whereas the rest of the frame is welded. Ugh!



198? Univega
Modern spartanism with an attention to crispness, and artistic flair. Medium-long points with a filled cutout.



And this is kinda interesting. Nice, even dirt buildup around the break-that fissure has been working its way around for some time. The clean break around the belly of the downtube is pretty fresh, and the exciting new sensation from the pedals alerted the rider. If I got back on the bike and cranked around the building it would probably finish it off. Hmmm.



199? Cannondale 2.8
Here’s another seat cluster, this time in aluminum. The paint has been stripped and the frame sanded, wooled, and polished. Which is a lot of work and I don’t recommend it. But what a striking result! This bike reminds me of a character in a Terminator movie.

What Evil Lurks in Your Bike Shop?

A guy was in the shop a few days ago, I don’t remember what brought him in, but he made his way fairly quickly to a discussion about religion, and asked me something in the nature of, “what evils lurk in your closet?” Now, there are certain normal and socially accepted topics of discussion between strangers and that is not one, but anyway I asked him what he meant by “evil.” Wrong answer. I got a strange lecture about Heaven and Hell and Jesus and this-and-that, but I eventually got him to leave in good terms.

Anyway, I wondered later, can I be correct in describing Cartesian Existentialism?, thus: “That which one senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, reason, memory, emotion) is real, and that what is real actually exists.”
Does this sort of thing happen in other small businesses?

Monday, September 24, 2007

June

June 8
Why do I sell Bianchi? Because they make great bikes. Because they make every road bike a person is likely to need. Take a look at their catalog; racing bikes, sport bikes, touring bikes, three cyclocross bikes, two track bikes, steel, titanium, carbon fibre, aluminum, scandium, composites. Campagnolo or Shimano, Italian or Taiwanese, many models in nine sizes. We won’t be adding another brand in the near future.

To convert an old tubular wheel to clincher, first tape your new rim onto the old wheel and move the spokes over one at a time. Don’t tighten the nipples very much; just a few revolutions to hold them in place. When you’ve finished the hoop replacement, un-tape the old rim and set it aside. Look at the new wheel from the side; see where pairs of spokes cross each other one last time before continuing on to their respective nipples? That’s the third “cross,” and the only “lace” (on most wheels, when the spoke leaves the hub, it goes over two other spokes and under the third). Remove the nipples from those two spokes and put one full twist at that cross, then send the two spokes back to their original rim-holes. Do that all the way around. Now, instead of each spoke going over-over-under, it will go over-over-under-around-around. That full twist will take up the extra length of the spokes and will give you a super-cool, fairly stiff wheel. I have found this to work with fairly normal-profile clincher rims, such as a Mavic MA3, and have two such wheels in regular use with no problems. Some rims may perhaps require 1-1/2 turns. Good Luck.

June 12
An old 16-speed Merckx I’m working on needs a new chain, jockey wheels overhauls, the tape has come unraveled, broken spoke, dirty, etc., etc. Lots of miles since the last tune. The front derailleur cable has a tail which hangs out about an inch beyond the derailleur clamp, and ticks on the right crankarm when in the small chainring. The crimp on the end has actually worn a groove on the end of that crankarm!

June 16
There are so many ways a derailleur can be out of adjustment. Of course, the “adjustment” ways, like barrel adjusters and stop screws. But also adjustments like hanger straightness and chain wear, both of which are actually “repairs.”
Even on a new bike, even after it’s been adjusted, maybe even broken-in, cables will fall out of adjustment. You have a hundred little things that can go beyond adjustment and repair. What about dirt? Corrosion?

Paint inside a welded-on housing stop will crack and compress, maybe even chip and fall out. That’s going to effect cable tension, perhaps suddenly or in 1000 miles of use. But it will happen.

The cables running under the bottom bracket get dirty; bathe them in wax. It will clean, lubricate, and seal in one application/wipe. Dry Prep like a fly fisherman uses (wax dissolved in solvent) works pretty well, and there are commercial preparations available. Always use a little extra, and wipe off that extra carrying away the smut dissolved in it.

Make sure cable housings are cut and filed exactly flush, otherwise the pointed end will break up the housing end (expecially on plastic ones), maybe point a hole through it and effect the frame stop somehow. Also it could send the cable off-center, which results in too much friction.

When you clean a chain while it’s still on the bike, finish by polishing the outside of the chain. First, shift into your highest chainring. Using a dry, clean, rag, work directly on the outside plates of the chain as they lie on that largest chainring. You can get right up close, even push on the rag a l ittle, and get it really shiny. Oooh.

June 21
If you want to clean up quick after a bike ride and don’t have the time or facilities for a shower, use baby wipes. Stash a box in your desk at work, or carry a little ziplock bag in your pack or pannier. You can get practically an entire bath out of one disposable packet.

Today’s words to combine:
Pick a word from group 2 to modify a word in group 1:

1
Conservative
Liberal
Progressive

2
Ultra
Extreme
Moderate
Neo

Such as, “Neo Progressive.”
Or, “Moderate Conservative.”
Or, “Extreme Liberal.”

Remember, name calling is one of your basic fallacies. Ad Hominem, “To the man.”

I sure hope goodwill is brought to a neighborhood by a bike shop. It seems like a place for people to talk about their ambitions, their hopes and dreams, to use an old colloquy... We are all on our way somewhere; through parenthood, or vacation, or career, travel. And bicycles help us get through that in numerous ways; the cycling of seasons, day and night, miles and hours. These are the rhythms of life, which are embodied in the circular motion. Cycling.
I have an old rebuilt Kawamura/Nishiki with old tubulars on, friction 6-speed, etc. I’m a little afraid to ride it possibly because of the tubulars but also because the bottom bracket is hanging out on the right side about 5mm. And it’s got sorta trashed threads on the driveside, Alumininmin, cup. So I can probably count on it coming apart on the first or second ride. Sheesh.

June 25
It occurs to me: that if you do someone a favor, and exact payment by requiring that person to do a favor for someone else sometime, you could start a chain reaction that might go on for quite some time. You could change the world with just one small gesture. An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an opposing force.

June 27
Some poser in an SUV told me this morning, "the sidewalk's right over there."
Duh. I pulled up to his open window and said, "the sidewalk's for pedestrians, get it straight."

I wanted to say more.

Meditations on Quality

I was meditating this morning on the nature of quality. You might wonder, which “quality,” like of course there are different kinds of quality. The idea of quality sought by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind, however I want to talk about quality as it relates to bicycles. Directly, in fact, to the bicycle itself. What is quality? What makes a bicycle “quality?” Goodness, or lasting, or attractiveness?

Think in terms of efficiency: What is the most efficient way to construct a bike? That is what gives it Qualityy. How can a bike be made best? You have to define “best,” I guess.

Best can only be understood in terms of Worst. They don’t exist without each other, in fact, it is so obvious that we can all have immediate understanding of “Worst” just by thinking of something, anything, that we think is “worst.” Death, pain, etc.

So, getting back to bicycles, how do you build a bicycle which is best? Consider the options:

1. Simple quality. First, lets look at the cheapest stuff. That should be easy to find: you just look around, get a feel for prices and what they are and where, then gravitate toward the lowest numbers, regardless of any other considerations. That will give you a good benchmark. “Cheapest.” I don’t need to direct you there.

Then, find all the stuff that breaks of has broken, or wore out right away...that will give you an idea of “worst.” You may have to do some research on this. Talk to a bicycle shop, read reviews, ask friends, actually get your hands on some. Lets say, if you’re looking for new tires, talk to someone who has some tires. Take your brain along, because that person might have some hidden agenda, or really doesn’t know anything ABOUT tires, and you need to be able to sense that.

And cheapest is easy to find, you know, we all know where to get it. It’s the fixed. lowest common denominator. You pick it up in the alley. Or you buy it from a huge warehouse-like outlet, over the internet, etc.

But you can also make it yourself. You can repair things, for example. Now, there’s a connection between cheapest and worst, remember. So when you buy something cheapest that goes right on toward breaking, don’t waste your time using the wrong kind of glue to put it together because it’s made out of plastic!

It gets even more complex from there, of course, but you can see, we need to be looking for something else. How about staying with the cheap stuff, and just trying to find the “best” of it? Well, that sounds good. I think it is attributed to Keith Bontrager: “Cheap, Light, Strong; pick two.”

So, Cheap + Light ∫ Strong. That’s the plastic handlebar that broke when you jumped off the loading dock. Don’t Do It. Worst.

Cheap + Strong ∫ Light. That could be OK. At least you won’t have mechanical failures all the time, and the increased weight will keep your speed down. Here, though, you might start making tactical decisions, like, “I don’t want my spokes breaking all the time during my transcontinental bicycle tour.” So you get 48-spoke wheels. Or, “my kid needs a bike, and then he’s going to need another one in eighteen months, and then a bigger one eighteen months after that.” (So you just don’t ever get him a bike, loser) Really, what you do is you get used bikes, or trade-ins, or you can even get the cheapest one and have it improved. Best Cheap.

Light + Strong ∫ Cheap. Here you have to start talking politics: Why isn’t it possible for all of us to have the best? Because it’s not cheap. And that’s a sin in an industrial , capitalist society where wage-slavery forces a person to cheapness and society accepts it because it also allows a person to put on an air of owning a “lot”. Never mind, either, that what you get is just more, deeper shit. Where cheapness is glorified (Clearance Sales, Walmart), camoflaged (Marketing), mass-produced (China). You are brainwashed into being cheap because it’s an easy way to fit in, never mind that you just build a world of garbage for yourself. But I diverge; let me refer you to Noam Chomsky, or Adam Smith, or Karl Marx for more on that...

2. Complex Quality. How you combine simple qualities to construct “best” is what defines complex quality. And the complexity increases disproportionately to the complexity of the system, due to combinatoriality. Let’s look at individual qualities, and just call them 1, 2, 3, and 4. Cominatoriality states that the more elements you add to a group, the more ways there are to combine that number. This includes permutations, thus:
1 2 3 4
1 3 2 4
1 4 2 3
2 3 4 1
etc.

you can see, there are more combinations than numbers. And let’s not forget the way the individual qualities AFFECT each other, thus:
1x2=2
2x3x4=24
4x4=16
etc.

But how does this effect bicyles?
You have a huge number of ways to build a bicycle, due to sizes, measurements, component availability, technology and materials. and you combine all these things to make a bicycle efficient for its intended use.


INTENDED USE
It’s easy to build a bicycle; they have existed for a couple of centuries (at least). You find two round things, and attach them together and roll around on the resultant contraption. Simple. And good for what? Nothing. 1x1=1, 1+1=2. Big deal.
So, you have to add steering. Now you can control it, actually lift your feet up off the ground and coast. Wow, amazing. How does that do that? 1x3=3, 1+3=4, 2+3=5, 2x3=6, 2x3+1=7, 2x2x2=8, etc.

It’s one of those things that seems obvious, once you’ve done it. I suppose someone in Moses’ time, or some monk in medieval Italy might have thought it up, but technology was pretty limited then, and really what is two wagon wheels and some logs, leather thongs, etc. goo for? Still nothing, honey, we need to keep the wagon; we just can’t afford to keep up with Baron von Drais up the hill. Maybe that would be a sports car to them back then, but you know most peasants couldn’t afford a sports car, industry wasn’t geared up for cheap production, and even if it were, you were too busy busting your hump for the king, or the church, or the nut in the manor house. (eventually these nuts learned how to produce cheap stuff, and then sell it to the people at a profit, effectively keeping them in wage slavery, but there again, see the Op Eds, or Mark Twain, or Black Panthers, or something, for more on that...).

Now, (at least for a hundred years or so) we have technology, and that makes the bicycle possible. Steel builds light, durable wheels (even more so thanks to Dunlop) which going back to that time marks the end of bicycle’s stone age and the beginning of the actual sport, and alternate materials development (aluminum, plastics, composites) has moved forward constantly since then.

Those are the elements we have to work with: Rolling, steering, technology. And Zoom!
In respect to the amazing efficiency of the machine, it is actually easy to build a Strong, Cheap, Light bicycle even today. We call it a fixed gear. It’s the one huge step beyond simple quality to complex quality which can be grasped by everyone. Purists even today, in 2004, say that it’s the best sort of bicycle, possibly the one sort of bicycle if you only had one bike and it were the end of the world and you could have any bike you wanted but you weren’t ever going to have another.

That sound kind of extreme, but think about it. How many parts does it have? Wheels (2), frame, fork, drivetrain, and technology. That’s 6 elements, AT LEAST.
So, you have an old bike you got at Goodwill, and you strip all the junk off of it, air up the tires, tighten everything down and you can ride that thing forever. It won’t ever be permananently disabled unless you crash hard. You have to do repairs, and maintenance and stuff, but it’s cheap, right? And (pretty) Strong and (reasonably) Light.

So your cheapness scores on all accounts, and-voila-you’re a cyclist!
It’s quite easy to get beyond that, though. If you want the thing to handle well, you look for one the right size; it will go faster, too, and is less likely to trash you body and give you the hoopdies. You know what a hoopdy bike is, right? An old ten speed kid’s bike with handlebars turned up and the seat as low as it gets. These are simple efficiency issues, not rocket science (yet).

The rocket science starts when technology takes us beyond that cheapness level, and yes that means it’s going to be more expensive (you might normally just buy cheap, but if you also buy LESS, you might eventually be able to afford BETTER. Strange how that works).

Important Reminders

Important reminders:

“History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.”
- Ronald Reagan

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
- Dwight Eisenhower

“Naturally, the common people don’t want war...but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictator√°ship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”
- Herman Goering

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

“War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”
- Big Brother (from George Orwell’s 1984)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
- Constitution of the United States, First Amendment

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
- Benjamin Franklin

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial? What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
- James Madison (“Father of the Constitution”)

“Blessed are the peacemakers...”
- Jesus

“Do not let the fact that things are not made for you, that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway.”
- Robert Henri

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Test

This is an attempt to start the Paul's Cyclery Shopnotes...