Sunday, January 26, 2020

a bunch of annoying hills


Rowdy lookin' assemblage, ain't they?

Good heavens, NINE riders came out for my 38-miler out of Blackwells MIls today. Laura OLPH described the route as "a bunch of annoying hills",and I don't dispute her facts (look at the elevation profile on the ride page), although I think the collective noun for "annoying hills" needs to be something other than "bunch". We came up with a few alternatives:
  • An affliction of annoying hills;
  • An infection of annoying hills; 
  • A hassle of annoying hills (thanks to Bob N for that one).
I'm opening the comments to suggestions for the best collective noun for the purpose. The favorite will win a mention in a future post and my admiration, and nothing else.

But nine riders, on a day that didn't top 45°F. Ricky G, Peter G, Tom H, Jack H, Dave H, Laura OLPH, Ira N (a fast boy, new to me), Bob N, and Pete R. I'm honored that they figured my ride was the best option for their day.

(I need to assign a few more nicknames to The Usual Suspects; the simple recitation of names needs some more flavor.)





The new-to-me fellow, Ira N, gets special mention for two reasons: first, he had excellent socks (I collect bike socks, even if only in pictures):


And second, for the arresting aero brakes on his Trek bike. They're reminiscent of the fabled Campagnolo Deltas:


In that picture above, you can see an aero baffle that extends when the fork is turned. But I just think the brakes are gorgeous. On no other bike, perhaps, with the aero feature work the was it does on that Trek, but the brakes are beautiful, even with the road grit on 'em.




I don't think they're TRP T860's; do you?

Now, these folks can complain (I'm sure they will), but I avoided what I consider the most annoying hill by rerouting to avoid that climb up to Mount Rose. The elevation is the same, but the climb is spread over a much longer distance by going up Bayberry rather than Carter. And on Bayberry, you get to see... SHEEP!


Oh, my stars.

Near the golf course:




We stopped at the Boro Bean:



Bike pics:




Peter G had turned off to go home before the stop, and we dawdled too long at the Boro Bean for Ira and Dave, who left before the rest of us. Laura turned off to go home, and whe the rest of us turned up on Hollow Road, Ricky G went straight back on 518 (which is straighter and flatter than my route, but longer). So this was another ride of attrition... but I've already used that title at least once, and the collective for "annoying hills" was too good to miss.

Send in your entries promptly! This offer won't wait!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

ride for jan 26 2020

I tried to set a precedent of doing C+ rides on the last Sunday of the month, but I did a C+ route last week, and I don't think my C+ folks are gonna come out in the weather. If you want me to lead a C+ ride, contact me and I'll schedule one (weather permitting).

I'm planning to do this route, more or less. It's one of my common routes, but this version avoids Rosedale; I've had enough of the traffic there. Instead, we do Pretty Brook, which is hillier (a lot!) but more pleasant otherwise.

We'll stop at the Boro Bean. Leave Blackwells Mills/Six Mile at 10. If you pre-register, I'll have you on the sign-in sheet and you'll get a notice if I cancel.

Nobody dropped. Pace probably like last time. Princeton Freewheeler club ride; rules apply.

Hope to see some of youse. Sign-up link.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

to love the monster

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that a brake boss on the fork of the Krakow Monster, my Surly Cross-Check bike, had broken:


You can see it on the left there, where the brake arm oughta be. Below, the piece stuck in the brake arm; the bolt defied my best efforts to remove it (and, since it spins freely, I couldn't drill it out):


Well, it required a new fork, and a new brake, and a new star nut, and I might as well get a new crown race... and I've been thinking a shorter stem might be in order. The parts came yesterday, and I spent a completely delightful couple of hours removing the old fork and installing the new. The steering tube had to be cut, of course, and since I can only use a hacksaw for butchery, I cut the steerer with a pipe cutter. It takes a lot longer, and I had to file the end because the pipe cutter raises the metal a bit at the end, but it was better than a sloppy cut. I left the old noodle-side of the brake on, and only used the new cage-side (if you look at cantilever brakes, you'll see the difference). The springs weren't identical, and I had to adjust for the different tensions, but that took little doing... and if it becomes an issue, I'll just replace the other side of the brake.

I had a bit of a problem with the stem cap, which is used to set the tension on the steerer. The plastic stem cap had a dispute with the new star nut, and tension wouldn't set right, but I borrowed a metal stem cap from one of the other bikes and it's adjusted now. I've got a cheapo stem cap coming, because once the tension is set, the only thing the stem cap does is keep the wildlife and weather out of the steerer tube. So that's all fixed...

... but that's not what I really wanted to write about.

I built the Krakow Monster from parts a few years ago as a project. Part of the plan was to build it with low-end components, to prove that I could do it and make a bike I could take on club rides that was not all the latest-and-greatest. I built it up with downtube friction shifters, a saddle that I had bought because it was the last of one that I had liked years ago, and a derailleur that the folks at Rivendell Bike called (and still do) "The best-designed cheap rear derailer in existence". They said, "Indexes 7 or 8 speed, frictions up to 9." Since I was using friction shifters with my 9-speed cassette, it worked fine.

I was planning to put Shimano M324 pedals on, which have SPD cleats on one side and are flat on the other, but my local shop had these Wellgo pedals (which I can no longer find online) that were knock-offs and in-stock, so I mounted those.

Well, the bike went well enough. But I never loved it. One year, I only rode it once during the whole year.

At the same time, I started lusting after the pretty bikes some of my friends had: Ricky G's purple Cinelli, which you've seen on this blog, or any of three or four of Laura OLPH's bikes. The turning point came when I went to the last Philly Bike Expo, and started gettin' giddy over this thing:



Now, it's lovely... but I have no more business with that bike than I do with a classic car. I'd always be afraid to ride it and ding it up.

So when I came to my sense, I decided that the thing to do was to try to make the Krakow Monster into a bike that I'd love. So the first thing I did was to replace those downtube shifters with the Gevenalle shifters (like I have on the Yellow Maserati, my titanium bike; I was always groping for those downtube shifters anyway...):



They're just indexed downtube-style shifters mounted outside of the brake levers, and I love 'em. You can see everything that's going on mechanically*, and when they're adjusted right, the shifting is as crisp as a saltine (I've used Sram and Shimano sets, so I have a basis for comparison).

*(I have no interest in electronic shifting or bike parts that hide the mechanical workings. I want to see everything that's going on; I love looking at how the parts work together.)

Using these shifters meant I needed to mount the cable-end adapters on the downtube shifter bosses. Initially, I put 'em on with the barrel adjusters at top... but the line of the cable then crossed the line of the downtube in an unpleasant way, so I switched 'em. The cable line isn't exactly parallel now, but it's far better.

Well, now I had indexed nine-speed shifting, instead of friction shifting, and that poor Altus derailleur just wasn't up to it; it complained when it was on the smallest cog, and rolled rough. And it just wasn't a pretty beast.



The cage on the Altus is steel, and while it didn't rust, it did oxidize, as you can see from the top picture (that's the cleanest I could get it with degreaser and a scrubber). I replaced it with a Deore, which is no showroom model either, but is somewhat better-looking, and which handles the nine speeds without complaint, even with the 11x34 spread on the cogset.


I rode it, and it was better... somewhat. That saddle that had been the apple of my eye years ago, now had become a pain... no, I'll spare you the easy pun. But it wasn't delightful.

I'd put a Selle Anatomica on the Yellow Maserati a few years ago, and that was great. It's leather, and needs maintenance and protection. I bought their rubber saddle on speculation last year, but it turned out to be too hard, so I got a leather seat (these things are modular and parts can be swapped that way) and put that on the Monster.

Much more betterer.


Remember those pedals? The M324 knock-offs, flat on one side and SPD on the other? Well, the SPD side was hard to get into and sometimes treacherous to get out of. The excellent Ricky G heard of my plight, and offered me a pair of Origin8 Ultim8 pedals that had come on his purple Cinelli; he had removed 'em to put on his favorite road pedals.


Well, they are just the thing. Easy to clip in and out, and flat on the other side, and there's a lovely conic section in the pedal axle where it screws into the crank. I'll give 'em back to Ricky when he asks, but I'll get another pair just like 'em, if I can.

The pump I carry on the Monster is the Road Morph; it's one of the closest things you can get to a floor pump that you carry on the bike. It's a great pump... but the mount that comes with replaces one of your bottle cages. Most pumps have a mount that sits behind the cage and mounts off to the side. Well it tuns out that the Road Morph does, too; you just have to be ridiculously persistent in your searches to find it. I'd been using a bracket for another pump, but that mount was broken and didn't fit right. Now I've got the right part.

So with all these changes, I've taken the Monster out on a couple of rides, and you know what? I really like it. It's heavy, for a road bike... but I've got it geared low, so it's good for all except the hilliest rides (the chainrings are compact 50x34, and with the 11x34 cogset, I can get 1:1 pedal-to-wheel if I need it. Peter G called it "tricycle mode"). And the weight hasn't been a problem on my most recent rides with it.

Further, that shorter stem I mentioned above should make the position a bit more comfortable. I'm no longer a hotshot in my fifties; I'm an old guy now.

I've also started to use paraffin to lube the chain... but that will be another long post.

I think the next thing to do to like it more is just to ride it more. I've made a resolution to ride it when the weather is iffy or on any ride rated below a B (that doesn't include Al P's Team Social Security rides; his C+ rides are faster than my B rides). And now it's a bit better suited to my riding style and comfort, I expect you'll see more of it.

I'll continue to drool over the pretty bikes that other people ride. But I don't think I'll be saddled with jealousy the way I have been. I've got two bikes that carry me well.

It's never enough - the proper number of bikes to have is "just one more" - but it will do for now.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

not as advertised


Isn't that  great picture of Ricky?

I didn't know until late Friday whether I was going to be able to post a ride for Sunday or not, given the weather predictions... but finally the predictions appeared to clear enough to go for it. I put in for this 35-mile route, thinking folks might not want to come out for anything shorter.

And then there was all that snow yesterday. It was to rain and warm up overnight, but I was still a bit concerned about the condition of the roads, especially that long stretch of East Mountain. Much of it is shaded, and it's either in the Sourlands, or close enough that I'd have to worry about whether the combination o hills and altitude might mean that the snow didn't clear, or there might be black ice on the road.

Laura let me know that she was going to bring Gonzo, a bike that spends most of its life mounted on a trainer, in order to keep wintry gook off the pretty bikes. I decided that was a good enough reason to bring the cross bike, the heavy Krakow Monster. I had thought its weight was part of the reason for my poor performance just before Christmas, and maybe this would be a good way to find out if that really was the problem.

So with the bike and gear in the car, I took a long way to the start, going over Old Vliet Road, a shaded and little-trafficked road on the way to the canal. I saw that there was still snow on that, and it would be poorly passable on a bike.

With that, I made the executive decision to change the route to the one we did. This one was only about 31 miles, but the roads are more open and better -traveled, and less likely to be snow- and ice-covered.

I told my ride partners, Ricky, Ralph (who knew he'd come all this way for a ride?), and Laura OLPH,that I was changing the route. There was not the hint of a grumble from anyone.




And off we went.

Laura's bike has a fussy rear wheel; if it isn't mounted perfectly it complains until you give it attention. We stopped a couple of times while she got it set up.


The rear wheel on the Krakow Monster, the bike I was riding, is like that; I've had the same problem sometimes. After two tries, it was right, and we continued.

We rode mostly into the wind on the way out. I decided to try my favorite bikeway on the way to Veteran's Park, thinking that I'd turn back if it was snowy... but Laura got there first and was already across before I had to make a decision. After we got across, it looked like this:


Even though we got through I'm not sure I'd try it again, and I planned to avoid any more possibly-dumb stuff on this ride.

We passed the creek at Hollow Road and Camp Meeting Ave where there were folks in the creek a couple of weeks ago, but there were none today. What there was, though, was the emu that Laura has seen at the farm at Hollow Road near 518, that I'd never seen... but I finally did today.


How can you not love New Jersey?

On to Thomas Sweet, with the wind at our back for a long stretch of 518. Ralph has his winter bike set up: he's got these handlebar mittens up front:



... and this splash-fender mounted to the downtube:


I think they're both good ideas.

We got back with about 31 miles. Nobody complained about the short distance: Laura likes this route because it avoids the most annoying hills, and Ricky was saying that, in this weather, thirty miles or so is just about a good distance. So maybe I need to rethink that long-enough-to-come-out-for thing.

A disappointment: when I got the bike out of the car at home, I found that one of the brake bosses had broken on the front fork:


I'm not sure whether I'm relieved that it wasn't worse, or not. It means replacing the fork (I could probably have it welded back, but it's a fussy weld, and I don't know who I would get to do it). Replacing the fork is a lot cheaper than replacing the whole frame... but if I'd had to replace the whole frame, I'd have an excuse to get one of those pretty frames I've been so ambivalent about.

In any case, the replacement parts add up to about $200, and I've already ordered them. I'll post progress when the parts come in. (I've also done a whole rehabilitation of the Krakow Monster; there will probably be two, or maybe even three posts upcoming about it.)

Oh, and as for the weight of the Krakow Monster being part of my problem with it? Well, it doesn't seem to have been a problem today. I was probably just hungry and weak on that day before Christmas when I had all the trouble.

So watch for future posts. Or don't; I'm not your boss.

Edit: Before we departed, Laura, who's roundly sick of hearing me count off that I have two years, four months, and eight days until I plan to retire, gave me this card:


It's one of a series of greeting cards made from the dust jackets of old books. I'm going to make it the background on my work computer.

Friday, January 17, 2020

ride for jan 19

Sorry for the late posting; I wasn't sure what the weather would do... but now it looks like we might be able to go. So 10am from Blackwells Mills/Six Mile Run lot; we'll do a 35-mile loop over my usual roads; it will look mostly like this.

Link to listing on the Freewheelers Ride Calendar.  This is a Club ride; you get one free, then yoyu're expected to join, and you're expected to follow Club rules.

Pre-register and I'll have you pre-printed on the list if I have your info, so you won't have to freeze your fingers signing the damn ride sheet. Besides, I like the reassurance that somebody actually might show up.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

forced to look younger

Women have been dealing with this forever. Now they're coming for us.

Article from the Washington Post: In Silicon Valley, some men say cosmetic procedures are essential to a career.

(It's behind a paywall; you might have to clear your cookies to see it.)

I will be happily retired in two years, four months, and ...

...and I won't have to worry about cosmetic surgery.

(Or maybe I will. I've already resolved to wear a tie when I go grocery shopping...)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

practicing for retirement

I worked New Year's Day, and took Friday, January 3 off as compensatory time. Between the usual holiday folderol, my Excellent Mother-In-Law's stroke and her first steps towards attempted recovery, The Excellent Wife (TEW)'s other responsibilities, and whatnot, I had a number of things to which to attend that I had put off until that Friday off.

I spent the day getting a much-needed haircut, doing shopping, doing chores around the house, rehabilitating the heavy steel Krakow Monster bike (there will be a future post about that; I'm drafting notes), installing a SSD drive in the desktop computer (and reinstalling everything, and learning how I can save settings to make future reinstalls easier, and finding some backups I thought I'd lost...), and a few other things.

I had a great time. TEW was delighted to see my mood, and said it was a sign that I needed to take more days off... and then she said it was a sign that I'm likely to be successful in retirement, which, frankly, is the way I see it. I've heard a number of retirees say they have no idea how they found time to work, because they were so busy now.

TEW and I hire a cleaning service once a month, which will be dismissed after I'm retired; even with my (now considerable) back pain and stiffness, there's no reason I can't replace her. I have some ideas for part-time work to keep me busy (I bet I'd be a pretty good Weight Watcher's coach, for example), but I don't think we'll be desperate for the cash (we have a CFP appointment this week to see if our instincts are correct).

That day was practice for retirement, and I think I'm gonna be at least passable at it. Two years, four months, fifteen days is the planned date, as I write this. Good heavens; I'll be 65 in a few months.

I'm looking forward to retirement, partly because I've been working in my chosen field for 35-or-so years, and I don't hardly know anything. I certainly know much less than I did when I had two years of experience. It's time to get out of the way and let some smart people take over. I don't want to have to worry about it any more.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

a fine spring day in january


So do you know what happens when you get a day in January that turns out sunny and almost 60°F?

What happens is, Tom H lists a ride, and eleven people come out to do it.



A group that big is unwieldy, so I took Tom's offer and swept today.

I got to the start at the Reed Recreation Area a bit early, and met Jack H and Chris C, and ducked out to Stonebridge for a quick supplementary bagel (and to see if the clothing I had was going to be too much. It was; I ditched a layer before we started).

We headed out towards the Assunpink, and went down the dreaded Rochdale Avenue. On the way down, I got a case of the shimmy that was so destructive to Jack H on Federal Twist two or three years ago... luckily, the road leveled out and I slowed down out of it before I had any dire consequences. I'm sure I was just panicked, and couldn't think what to do when it was happening!

After that, the ride went without incident for me. Ron A, of the beautiful bikes...


... and I got to talking about weight management and a number of other topics. I was able not to drool on that lovely Hanford. (He's got a carbon bike... but why would you ride that when you have such other hardware as he does?)

The day was windy, and Tom tried to keep us into the wind on the first part of the ride, on the theory that we'd have a tailwind on the way back. Several of us were tired, and welcomed the break when we got to Charleston Coffee.







The double-chocolate crumb cake is not the only reason I like Charleston Coffee...


...but it doesn't hurt.

I had to get this picture of The Other Dave's excellent shoes:





If his phone ever loses charge, he can use that high-voltage footwear to charge it right up again.


Bike pics:





Unfortunately, in a best-laid schemes o' mice and men ganging aft agley situation, the wind WASN'T at our backs all the way home when we left, and some of us aren't in the shape we're in by, say, July. 'Nuff said.

On the way back, Ricky found a pothole...


...and changed his tire before an audience that was appreciative, if bovine:




I'm not sure they appreciated his finesse, virtuosity, or speed in the endeavor.

I had a great day. I hope you did, too.

Ride page.