Friday, October 29, 2010

Campagnolo Delta Brake

The cover has been removed for illustration.  How many moving parts?  Thirty?  Forty???  What could possible go wrong?

Seriously, this is a great brake, somewhat limited in application, but super-strong with great modulation.  Hard to setup, won't work with tires over 23c, hard to adjust, and expensive to manufacture.  The cable binder takes a 3.5mm hex wrench, and to get the cover back on you have to cut the cable off flush, so good luck trying to make any subsequent cable adjustments.  There is a very narrow adjustment band and the pad thickness has to be matched to the rim width.  You can see how the arms don't quite line up with the body in this particular application.  I need thicker pads or spacers.  Maybe there's another adjustment in the pivots to account for rim width?  Arggh I don't have time for this!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fatal Flaw

Weinmann concave rims, made in Belgium. Great rims in my view. Extremely strong with a tall, flat braking surface. A little heavy perhaps, but having a rock-solid, impervious ride quality, as rims go. And this is a smart shape for spoke nipple support and probably torsional rigidity as well. Tourists' choice. Sometimes found with a shiny silver finish.

Centrifugal force holds ice, snow, and mud, making your wheels heavier. And dirty MagChloride-y water soaks in, seizing your spoke nipples. And destroying the adhesive on your rim tape. While the rest melts off onto your floor.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Little Things

Some years ago near here on the trail I rode around a rock, and I thought, "I should get that off the trail, it could cause an accident."

And then my little devil says, "nah, I don't have time for that."

And then goodie two-shoes says, "I should go back, and move that rock off the trail."

Then the little devil, "I'm late already."

"Someone could get hurt."

"It's not my problem."

"You know you should."

"Let someone else do it."

"Your ARE someone else."

"Heck with it."

"Selfish clown."

"Bleeding heart."


And pretty soon, I'm hundreds of yards down the trail, and I've forgotten what I was arguing with myself about, and it just doesn't seem important any more.

The next day, maybe two days later, I heard that someone had hit a rock on the trail nearby and broken their whatever, ended up in the hospital, etc.

And it was, I felt, my fault. Even though it may have been a different trail, a different rock, not that day. My fault. How many accidents have I escaped because someone picked up a rock? Or because someone changed a light bulb, or put their shopping cart in the corral, or stopped at a yellow light? Put in a new roll of toilet paper? Does the ten seconds it costs to anonymously correct a problem, saving someone potentially years of trouble, really cost that much in the end?

I stop and move rocks now. Big ones, anyway.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh, So Close

The man was sitting right in the middle of the sidewalk, his gear strewn all about him. I thought at first it was a "yardsale" but for the bicycle with its wheels in the air. With the Brooks saddle and Campagnolo Ergo shifters scraping around on the pavement. And the guy is not wearing shoes to match the pedals, and there is no helmet, and he's wearing jeans and a leather jacket on his 80-degree morning bike ride. I couldn't get by without leaving the pavement, and the whole scene looked a little suspicious, so I stopped.

Are you OK? Having some bike trouble? (nice bike)

ARRRrnnnghh. Mnaaaah. Piece o' shix.

Where did you get this bike? (or steal it)

Hrrmmn. Eh, brother, brother in, uh, Urbana Champaign. You know where that is?

Yes, it's a college town in Illinois. (liar)

Urbana Champaign, my brother...uh, he got it for me. There, over in Urbana Champaign. My brother.

What's the matter with the bike? (maybe I can get this bike from him and find its owner)

Aaah, Mnnnrrg. Crap.

I'll give you fifty dollars for that bike right now. (come on, you loser, I know your game)

He looks up at me like I just told him he won the lottery. And I can see the gears turning in his mind: Fifty bucks! Fifty bucks! All at once! I can't believe it.

Aaaah, OH, aaah, uuuh, no, I need this bike.

OK, I'll give you all the cash in my wallet for this bike. He looks like he might pass out with surprise. I pull out my wallet (Uh-oh, how much money DO I have?) and remove all the cash. I make a big show of this, with a dramatic sweep of my arm and a long ZZZZIP as I open my bike bag, and opening my wallet ALL the way and grabbing what I hope looks like a huge wad. And then airing it out in his face. Green Paper. He can smell it, I'm thinking. And I count out sixty-seven dollars. I hold it out to him, sixty-seven dollars in cash, it's the most he's seen all at once in who knows how long. This is his lucky day!

You will sell me this bike Right Now for sixty-seven dollars. (hurry up)


I hand him the money, grab the bike and get out of there. Ghost-ride it two blocks to my shop, then I call the police. Give them all the info they ask for, and they send an officer over for the report. He calls-in the serial number, and it's not reported stolen. (maybe I can keep it?)

Officer, how will I find the owner of this bicycle? (maybe I can keep it?)

I don't know, you bought yourself a bicycle, it's yours now. Good luck.

I can keep the bike?

The cop has bigger fish to fry, and he doesn't seem to have any idea what this bike is anyway, so I thank him and he leaves. Then I searched the internet for two days looking for some sort of post or list or registry or description or SOMETHING of this (presumably) stolen bicycle. No luck. (maybe I can keep it!)

Someone suggested that I call the manufacturer, to see if they can trace the serial number. I thought that was a good idea, so I started by calling the most local dealer, who keeps a list of customers and serial numbers. I gave them only the briefest descripton, preferring to wait for the rightful owner to fill in the details. Ten minutes later they called back with a close match, but not close enough. I turned them down and said to keep looking. (maybe I can keep the bike!)

A couple hours later they called back with another match, "The serial number is XXXXX." (aw, shoot)

We have a winner!

Riding home that night I paused at the spot where the bum was camped out, and I noticed some garbage on the grass. It was the cardboard hang-tag for a pack of sandpaper. The thief had purchased sandpaper at Walgreens and was busy defacing the bike when I got to him.

Sixty-seven dollars.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I found this first two pieces furthest from the front door, right next to each other about as close as this. I think it's the point of impact. It flew all the way through the showroom, over two display islands and six or eight parked bicycles.

There are two other kinds of glass shards, comprising most of the shrapnel field, as such. Ten thousand pieces like these were scattered all over the floor, and piled up at the base of the doorframe:

All caused by someone's rock:

Which luckily was sent through the door glass, not a large window pane.
Which luckily didn't smash the Gunnar.
Or a carbon bike.
Or knock over my Norfolk Pine.
The thief didn't have any problem finding some money.
Which is what he wanted.
Didn't break anything other than the glass.
Didn't tear the place up looking for valuables.
Didn't take a bike.
Or my computer.
Or tools.
Or anything of value, really.
Just the money.
(ha, ha)
Thank you thief, I hope you enjoyed your $196.
You're worth it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another Busted One

Beware old handlebars.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And Worth It, Too

A young man leaned his bicycle against the glass, came in and asked if he could borrow some wrenches to put on a new seat he had got somewhere else.

I'm in the shop with two customers, plus him.

I don't loan tools.

Well, could you put it on for me?

$5 installation.

Well, do you have any tools?

The other customers are smirking at each other now.

Sure, I have this allen wrench set for $8.99. You can use it to install your saddle and do a lot of other services to your bicycle.

He takes the (new, packaged, priced) tool and starts working on his seatpost, right there in front of us.

I've felt some sort of tension in this transaction, but I've turned dutifully to the register and rung up a sale, Nine dollars and sixty-four cents, please.

I just wanted to use this tool. I don't have any money.

Our eyes meet. The idiot is lying. And I have his number.

I told you, I don't loan tools, and I sure as HECK won't loan a brand-new tool to you just so you can avoid buying either it or my efforts to do what you can't! What do you think is going on here? Do I look like a CHARITY? Does the sign say PAUL'S FREE CO-OP? How about a complimentary LARABAR and ESPRESSO with your service today?!


And now he's not only caught, but tried, sentenced and hung.

He can't get his head quite low enough as he reaches into his pocket to retrieve a twenty, then takes his change and receipt and shambles out.

(note: this twenty-dollar-bill was wadded up in his pocket, like he'd grabbed it on the way out of the house this morning like every morning, perhaps. He didn't have to rifle all his pockets and backpack, he knew that he had it and he knew where it was. Maybe mom won't miss it! Of course if he really was broke, like he said, he wouldn't have that twenty at all, or he would have it carefully folded and squirrelled away out of reach.)

Bastard left the old seat on my sidewalk.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Carnage Continues

Strong rider + light handlebars = fatigue

Roof rack v. garage door act I.

Roof rack v. garage door act II.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Words To The Wise


Whether on the street, in a parking lot, standing still or moving. They don't see you. Some don't care. At least half of all drivers are BELOW AVERAGE. Anticipate their moves. Even if you don't see a turn signal, assume that they will cut you off. Even if they have a red light, assume they will continue through. Use a rear-view mirror. Scan constantly. Ride predictably and use your hand signals, including the "STOP" gesture when appropriate.

This cyclist is on a new bicycle now, and she'll be all right. She was hit by a truck running a red light, which was t-boned by a car timing the green light. She went over the top and had serious, but non-life-threatening, injuries. The bicycle, as you can see, went under the truck, was run over and dragged. The only part we were able to salvage was the rear reflector. The frame, both wheels, crankset, pedals, seatpost, saddle, stem, handlebar, derailleurs are all destroyed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Worn Crankarm

The Fastlane

Here is a bicycle I have been riding a lot lately, a Gunnar Fastlane. The frameset was handmade at the Waterford factory, in Wisconsin. "Handmade in the U.S.A.," how many things can you say that about? It's tig-welded steel, with kinda slackish angles (72.5/72.5), a low bottom bracket, and room for big tires and fenders. The kind of bike most people should be riding. I might not call it a randonneur bike, but it is definitely in that class-stable, versatile, comfortable and responsive. Dependable. All-weather, all-season, day or night, with some cargo-carrying ability for commuting or light touring.

When I first built it I mounted 23c tires, which were light and fast and fun, but it lowered the bike enough that the steering trail was too short-the handling was not neutral-it wouldn't hold a good line in corners and was just too much work, I thought, to ride. I tried 32c's, which helped, but now I have 37's mounted, which seems about right for the 10-20mph that I normally travel around town. The manufacturer's spec says that the trail is 45mm-I don't know what size tire that is with, but whatever amount the larger tires added to that means that now I can ride no-handed figure-8's in the parking lot. And the frame is quite straight as well-on the road when I let go and sit up it just goes right ahead without having to lean to one side.

You will notice that I have mounted Campagnolo ergo levers with disc brakes. The Avids are well-made and very strong, and modulation is nice with the Campy levers. The feel reminds me of the old Campy Delta calipers, with the better pads. These Avids are good brakes alright, but I have one complaint: a squawk from the rear brake right at the most useful point in the power curve. I can squeeze a little more gently, and it won't make a sound, or squeeze a little harder and go past the squawk into the grind, but in any case I don't feel like I have complete control over brake balance front-to-rear. It's annoying. Not intolerable, and not what I would call a Fatal Flaw, but annoying. I've cleaned the rotors and resurfaced the pads but it still is there-I'll break down and replace the pads sometime soon.

The sharp-eyed gear wonk will say that there are no Campy-compatible hubs for disc brakes. Which is true. And which is why I am using a Sram cassette on a Shimano-compatible hub with Campy shifters. I would not recommend this to a customer. It's way too adjustment-sensitive, but I've been able to dial-in things well enough for personal use. Shifting is good where I expect it to be, but at my commuting speeds I was always in a crossover gear, which is noisy and increases wear on the drivetrain and with the present shifter/cassette combination I had too much cable tension in my lowest gears. So I changed the little chainring from 34t to 38t-now my most useful gear range is out of crossover territory. That's what I never liked about the compact double, 34-50, chainrings...for me, anyway, averaging 16mph I'm in either a small/smallish or large/largish chainring/cog combination. And when I want just a little higher or just a little lower gear, the single shift on the rear puts me into even worse, noisier, combinations with the chainrings. So I would end up making three shifts with the rear derailleur and one with the front, just to get a slightly different gear, which ends up to be four times more shifting than I care to do. What a pain in the neck. The 38t chainring solved that-it makes the crossovers less useful, and being just 12t lower than the big ring, whether I want a slightly different gear or a completely different gear, either is accomplished by a single shift. I think that I might eventually go with a 48t outer ring, but it's OK for now.

Fenders are great in the Winter and useful year-round, and I think that everyone should have a bike with fenders. Not saying that every bike should have fenders, of course, but if a cyclist can own at least one bike with fenders they'll be riding a lot more. These are made by SKS.

The pack is actually for handlebars, but I have shimmed and mounted a threadless adjustable stem to the seatpost, with a short stub of a handlebar for the pack to clamp onto. Don't worry about the Record Carbon seatpost-it's already pretty scratched and gouged, repaired and strengthened internally with two-part epoxy and part of an old aluminum handlebar. I don't mind lowrider panniers when carrying a large load, but I absolutely dislike carrying stuff over my front wheel-it badly disrupts the handling and parking of the bicycle, is scary terrible in a crosswind, and on rough terrain I want to look down and see exactly where my front tire is rolling. I don't get how the randonneurs can stand riding with their stuff under the handlebars-to make it work out right you have to have just the right steering geometry, and just the right pack, mounted low and back with just the right decaleur and stem and front wheel and rack support and fenders that don't rattle against it, with the right hardware that won't all come apart and jam in your front wheel and kill you and even if you do get it all right if it's not cotton and leather and brass and French you still can't be a member of the club. Ridiculous. Put your stuff behind the saddle, either like this or in a saddle bag or on a standard aluminum rack. Handlebars are for holding onto, not carrying luggage.

I'm pretty proud of my rear light mounting. I fabricated a small flat steel bracket that holds the light and also fastens onto one of the fender struts, all simple and light. The headlight is a different story, though. While I think this is a good light, it's ugly; too many wires and black plastic. It comes off easily, which is a benefit, but I'll continue to look for something more elegant, perhaps mounted to the fork crown or front of the fender.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Bicyclists are rightful users of public roadways, and are subject to the rules of the road just as they would be while operating any other vehicle.

If, in the responsible operation of your bicycle, you are harrassed or threatened or endangered by a driver, you can easily report the incident by dialing Star C.S.P.

Get the license plate number. Absolutely required.

Star CSP will give you the Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver Hotline. Give them the license plate number and details of the incident.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Iver Johnson BB

Iver Johnson bottom bracket, made in U.S.A. probably in the late 1920's. Solid steel with nickel (I think) plating. Iver Johnson's Arms and Cycles Fitchburg Mass U.S.A. also manufactured, as the name implies, guns. Which were also solid steel with (I think) nickel plating. Evidently they were adept at making steel tubes.
Iver Johnson famously sponsored the great American bicycle champion Major Taylor, whose is a remarkable story.

The fixing nut is left-hand threaded as is the cone locknut, which also serves as the extractor. Of the hundreds of tools, mostly metric, which litter my desk and walls and drawers and floor, not one would fit that loxtracter nut. I had to fabricate a one-inch flat spanner, which I might have to wait another thirty years to use.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In case you haven't figured it out by now, half of what you read here is true, half is made-up and half is unsubstantiable hearsay. Naturally, there is some overlap.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Strange Life

There's an old saying, "The Lord protects the weak and the poor." And perhaps the stupid, too. But Lord or no, there is certainly some inexplicable force in the universe that comes into play at the most opportune times (or inopportune, depending on your perspective) to create the most astounding results. Coincidence is perhaps the strongest force in Nature.

Something motivated me to put a rubber band around my wallet for the ride home. I had NEVER before put a rubber band around my wallet, for any reason. When I arrived home, I discovered my wallet missing. I turned around, rode the whole way back to the shop along the same path but at twice the speed, eyes peeled and hyper-attentive, pulse 190, then turned around again and rode back home, again on the same path as before. No luck. Dejected, I put my bike away while plotting a strategy: call Visa and MC, call DMV, call police, call bank, etc. And when I walked into the house, my wife said, "Is this your wallet? Some guy just stopped by and said he had found it in the street." Not a dollar was missing. And there was the rubber band, which had prevented the wallet from exploding on impact.

When I was in college, the only snow day in four years was the Monday after I had pulled a 48-hour term paper session and still didn't have the damn thing finished. With my semester grade hanging in the balance, I went to bed at 3:00am for four hours of sleep, prepared to hand in a final draft with the endnotes still an incomprehensible mess. Woke up ten minutes after the class would have started to an ice storm and school cancelled. Can you possibly imagine my relief? Do you think I didn't cry?

More than a few times in my business I have incurred an expense which left me wondering, "How am I going to pay for this?" And then mere hours later I make the grand sale which covers it.

Many times at the end of the business day I have stopped myself from rushing out the door, thinking, "Stop, Wait, You have forgotten something." And just then the air conditioner kicks on.

Each summer for six years I have rebuilt two Campagnolo shifters. The second shifter comes in within a day or two of the first one. Why does it happen this way? Is there some sort of Moon phase, coincidental with a weekend event, preceded by a rain, on an odd date, with the wind from the south, on the day that I ride my Cuevas? With a rubber band around my wallet? What is going on here? The first time, it was like, "oh, great, another busted shifter." Year two I thought, "hmm, just like last summer." Year three was, "that's strange." Year four was, "well, I'll be damned! Just like before!" Now it doesn't surprise me at all. In fact, last summer I predicted it: said to Ed, "look here, our first Campy shifter overhaul. That means another is soon to arrive." Which in fact it did. I actually have a repaired shifter on my bench at this very moment, and I don't doubt that on the day the customer picks it up another one will arrive to take its place.

When I ride Cherry Creek I generally put my keys in one pocket, my wallet in another. But for some reason on this one ride out of hundreds I left my wallet in the car and put my keys in the seat bag WITH A SNAP-RING ON THE ZIPPER to hold it shut. I swear on the C.O.N.I. manual that I had never before in my life put a snap-ring on the zipper of my bike bag. But something made me do it...
There had been a lot of rain in the previous week, and the river was running four, five feet higher than usual, which of course also means that it was fifty feet wider as well. A lot of water running down the creekbed at a pretty high rate, in any case.
My counselor and his padawan were there, and we were on a section that has disappeared gradually over the years, caving-in due to erosion. Normally it doesn't present a problem, we just ride a little higher up the bank, but at this particular spot on this particular night in this particular weather, the trail was held in place by grass and shrubbery and was eroded underneath, all hidden by said shrubbery. It didn't, uh, look all that dangerous...
While passing through, I ducked under a branch, made a little hoopdy on a rock or something, went off balance, felt my rear wheel give a little, botched the recovery, clipped-out with my downhill-side foot to catch myself, and stepped right into...nothing.
Headfirst, upside-down, off my bike, underwater.
Flailing, kicking, paddling, searching for a handle. A root, some mud, grass, anything. A hundred thoughts simultaneously blazing through my mind in the seconds before I found my footing. I had executed a 180 with a half-gainer on the way in, and at least another 180 with a roll before I found the bottom and stood up with a snort, opened my eyes, and where am I? Facing...downriver! In water almost up to my armpits, and there goes my bike!
Cross bikes, by the way, float upside down with their tires just breaking the surface.
I waded the ten yards downriver, grabbed my bike, dragged it back and then handed it six feet up to my buddies, who then pulled me up. They were speechless. Awed. Dumbstruck. They had missed the show.
And I, laughing my you-know-what off, adrenaline-shot, out of my mind with excitement and glory and victory, gave my bike a shake, straightened my glasses, remounted, and shot off like nothing had happened.
"WAIT!" they shouted.
"HURRY UP!" I replied.
And thanks to that little snap-ring there was no further trouble.