Wednesday, February 29, 2012

exploded bike diagram: humor or dada?

Dada or humor? (Read the captions.)

This took some detective work: I got the image alone from Stumbleupon, perhaps the greatest tinme sink ever to suck up too many of my minutes... but all I got was the image URL. I couldn't get in to the we subdirectories to find the image, but when I got to the site main page, it turned out to be a blog. The image URL suggested it was from October 2011... but this blog's creator posts several times per day; this post was on page 5 (from the end of the month) and was dated October 20(!). He had a link to his source, but I couldn't steal the image from there... nonetheless, that one's actually big enough to see all the text.

Anyway, I thought it was good enough to re-post.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

npr gets a pair

I saw a link on OurSignal named, "NPR has now formally adopted the idea of being fair to the truth, rather than simply to competing sides".

Well, that deserves a look.

From the article:

"At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly."...

Maintaining the “appearance of balance” isn’t good enough, NPR says. “If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side…” we have to say so. When we are spun, we don’t just report it. “We tell our audience…” This is spin!

Well, it's about f&$%-in' time.

bicycle cheapskate

I was going to call this, "Bike stuff: what I spend money on, and why", but that seemed to take it more seriously than I really want to.
I hang around with bicyclists, many of whom ride more expensive bikes than I do, wear more expensive clothing, and use more expensive gear (and some who do not). I’ve been thinking about where I spend my money on bicycle gear, and I came up with this breakout:
Wheels: I spent money on these. As I understand it, the physics of a bicycle mean that the effects of the mass of a wheel are multiplied. I know that my current wheels are not much lighter than the wheels they replaced, but I can definitely feel the difference. Last season, when I was having a (hard-to-find) spoke replaced, and put on my old rear wheel, the difference, even with a single heavier wheel, was noticeable.
Saddle: Oy. Saddles cause a certain amount of discussion, both online and in-person, in bicycle circles. Some people seem to have almost religious feelings for saddles, ascribing to them miraculous properties and offering single-minded devotion. However, what works for one, won’t work for everyone else. I was lucky: the first replacement saddle I bought, the Specialized BG2, suited me perfectly. But I’ve mostly worn it out… and Specialized isn’t making them anymore. After more modification than I care to recount, I’ve made a Selle An-Atomica work, but it’s not ideal: it’s heavy, the nose twists to the right (more a cosmetic problem than a comfort or efficiency problem), and the company refuses to allow discounted sales.
Some riders belong to the Cult of Brooks, saying that the right Brooks saddle (usually, but not always, the B17) will solve all your saddle woes. Well, Brooks saddles don't fit everyone, and not everyone wants a saddle as expensive, or as heavy. And what I like about both the Selle An-Atomica and they late, lamented BG2 was that they flex: Brooks (and most other saddles) don’t. Flex is not the same as gel, either. I want a hammock, not a pillow.
GPS: Before I got the GPS, I got cheap wired computers; they work fine. From a computer, I want distance, speed, and time data, and it’s hard to find a bike computer that does NOT provide this stuff. But last year on the Anchor House ride, a rider died, and there was some evidence that he was checking a cue sheet when he ran into the car in front. I’m perennially lost, and that scared me enough that I spent the money on a GPS, onto which I can download ride directions, and find my way back home. It was an inexpensive model (it was out-of-date, and I got it on sale), but it was still way more than the cheap bike computers I use. (I’ve got two or three of the cheap wired computers in the garage… do you want one?)
Controls and Drive Train: I made my bike up with a SRAM Rival drive train, which is neither the top nor the bottom of the SRAM line. I got a good price on it, and the specs wre better than the corresponding Shimano line. I like it a lot. It may be sour grapes, but I have this idea that, for the top-of-the-line stuff, gear manufacturers may give up some durability to save weight. And for this rider, the best way to lose riding weight is not to take it off the bike, but to take it off the engine. Ahem.
Frame: After riding with, and talking to, a number of riders in the Princeton Freewheelers, I decided to go with a titanium frame for my bike build (at first, I just used the parts from my previous bike, a Giant on which the headset got too loose to ride safely; since then I have upgraded all the parts). Titanium had the right combination of low weight, durability, comfortable ride quality, and boutique-bikey weirdness. I found a source for a comparatively inexpensive titanium frame, and I love it.
The latest-and-greatest in frames is carbon fiber, but there is some evidence that carbon has a limited life. I wanted a frame I could ride until I was unable to ride anymore, and titanium suited that criterion.
Tires: I tried cheap tires, and they just didn’t work for me; too many punctures. Very expensive tires are either light race tires (also puncture-prone), or heavy puncture-resistant tires. One of my local bike shops has a mid-range tire that has proven puncture-resistant: I’m on my third tire with the same tube. Riders will tell you how unusual that is.
Pedals: I use spring-loaded, clip-in pedals. I’ve seen the cheap ones break: the spring pops out past the limit, so the clip will no longer hold the shoe. But I’ve found I don’t need adjustable tension on my pedals, nor ultra-light weight (see the note under “Controls and Drive Train”).
Jerseys : When I ride the fast bike, I wear one of those “looks like a superhero in training” outfits, similar to the ones the pro bikers ride. My jersey (shirt) is usually a solid color, with no advertising, art, cartoons, or whatever. My sole funny jersey isn’t, frankly, that funny. Printed jerseys are quite expensive (the process is different than that for t-shirts), and I can’t see paying a premium for art that’s not my taste, or for advertising somebody else’s product. I don’t follow bike racing, so I don’t have a team with whom I want to identify. I’ve got a new Team Poland jersey for this summer, which my wife got for me (her family is of Polish descent, and it’s a good graphic), and I got a previous-season Anchor House jersey for a good price when I did that ride. But my jerseys are cheap. They wick the sweat, have the right pockets, and keep me covered; that’s enough.
I frequently ride sweep (towards the end of the group, keeping track of people who fall behind the main group), and for a while I had the idea that the solid-color jersey made it easier for the leader to find me. But that’s an arrant rationalization: I wear solid colors because they’re inexpensive.
Helmet: Cheap ones protect as well as expensive ones. Expensive helmets provide ventilation, light weight, and style – primarily the last. If you read the previous section, you know how much of a bicycle-style follower I am.
Stem, Seatpost, Risers… Oh, please. Expense for most of these items is either about weight or bling. Hrmph. Are you even reading this?
Chain: I waited too long to change a chain on my old bike, and wound up having to change the cog (the gears on the rear wheel) as well. Cogs are expensive. It’s way cheaper to buy cheap chains and change them about every 1,000 miles (I’ll be up for a new chain in about a month, if the weather cooperates, and the replacement is already in the garage).
Eyewear: I am amazed by how much money people can spend on glasses for riding. Glasses for riding are essentially safety glasses, and/or sunglasses. I wear glasses all the time, but I can see well enough to ride without them (although I need reading lenses to see the computer). As I wrote in a previous post, I use safety glasses, either clear or shaded, with a bifocal section. They go about $12, plus shipping.
Bar wrap: I like “cork” wrap, because it’s easier on my hands. I’ve seen leather wrap, and wrap that gets shellacked to the bars. But I change my wrap at least once a year, when I change my cables and housing. Since it’s only gonna last a year, there’s no point in getting good stuff.
So there it is: why I spend what I do on my bike stuff. You may disagree… but you’d be wrong, of course.
EDIT 2/29/12: TOOLS: What I spend on tools varies by the amount I expect to use it (less use leads to lower expected cost); whether it's replacing one I already have (I tend to move up in quality); whether my previous experience with a less expensive tool caused a problem (I have a collection of tire-removal tools, including big aluminum tire "irons" [and the ones I ride with are smaller, but aluminum, also], after having some knuckle-bleeding experiences trying to remove tires from toy bikes at the Bike Exchange); and other factors. I have good Allen wrenches, good box wrenches, and a good set of regular ratchet wrenches. I have good screwdrivers, but I never use 'em; I have too many of those cheap four-way reversible-bit screwdrivers ready to hand. My torque wrenches (you need two: for higher and lower torques) are "good enough": after a problem with a cheap needle-indicator torque wrench, I went with the breakaway-type... but since I only need the high-torque one for the bottom bracket, and I only set that once a year, I didn't get an expensive one of those. The other thing for which I have apparently developed an addiction is metric-and-SAE tape measures: I have one on the workbench, one in the bike tools box, and one in the car. (I'm trying to get to think in metric. I've got a good idea of a millimeter and an centimeter, but for larger measures, I still think in feet and yards... and a foot, for me, is still the diameter of an LP record.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

another daily timewaster updates twice per day with random silliness, usually including pictures, a couple of text jokes, some cheesecake, and a video or animated .gif in the last spot. After I post this, I'm going to add the site to my links list. It's mostly stupid stuff, but it has the advantage that I can go through it in about two minutes and then go on to other stuff.

I'm posting it because of two nifty pics in today's evening post, called Too Cool Tattoo (the tattoo in question is almost too obvious). The first is something that drives me up a wall about American culture:

Don't tell me you haven't thought this.

The second is what I'm afraid I might look like when I'm riding:

That's one of the reasons I always shave before I go out on a group ride nowadays.

not where i wanna be, but not where i useta be

A month ago, I was feelin' old & sluggish when my average on the Coppermine loop was only 17.5; it had been up to 19 mph three times last year.

Because of a social commitment*, I couldn't do a group ride today, so I did the Coppermine loop this afternoon. My average was a respectable 18.7. I'm feelin' better.

(The first part of Coppermine Road is steep; locals call it "the wall". I was having trouble getting up that part; I looked down, and I hadn't shifted off the big chainring. The going got a bit easier after I downshifted.)

*Imagine that: my wife insists on sharing some of my time, and insists, as well, that I see some of my non-riding friends now and then. I think it's an unfair imposition, but I suppose it's part of the cost of staying married. Hrmph.

In other news, my cheap bifocal riding glasses (they're actually safety glasses, but they're great for riding shades) turned up broken today. I bought a couple pair, and an extra pair of the clears, as well. At that price, I can afford the backups (I've seen costs for riding glasses of over $100). (Someday I ought to do a post on my cheap alternatives to regular bike gear: what I do on the cheap vs. what I spend money on, and why.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a windy day, an idiot

Today's was a stupid ride.

Didja check that link? Did you play it in the player? We just went back and forth about five times.

I'll tell you what the deal is: today's sustained winds were in the 25-30 mph range, with gusts up to 50. The ride leader fella sent out an email blast that he'd decided not to come out today, but, since I won't get the opportunity for a group ride tomorrow, I was bound and determined that I was going out on a group ride. I loaded a couple of Winter Larry's routes into the GPS, and went to the start location.

Cricket, cricket.

The only other person there was Al L., who lives at the other end of Middlesex County and who has to leave before the email would have gone out. The guy who leads the faster ride showed up for a minute or two, in jeans and a sweater, to tell any of his riders to go on without him, but, of course, none were there.

Al and I decided to try to try to ride into the wind about ten miles to a stop point (that's that half-mile on Plainsboro Road sticking out at about 10:00 on the ride route). When we got to that point, the wind just beat us. We could barely breathe. We turned back, and decided to do a few reps of Main St. in Cranbury, just to get some miles. We were riding across the wind, and sheltered for most of the way... but up at the top of the route, there was a section of about 1/4 mile where there was no windbreak. It was great on the way up; the wind was at our backs. But on the way back down, it was a fight, and it got tougher every time. We gave it up after, I think, five repetitions.

That said, it was a good day. Al isn't a guy I would have ever gotten to know outside the club. He's part of the reason I have a titanium frame on my bike today. We talked about bikes (of course), history, religion... we avoided politics since he's almost as far right as I am left. We spoke about our experiences with doctors and taking care of our health (he's got even more mileage on his body than I, so I was able to learn from his experience).

It was a good ride, but I'm undoubtedly an idiot. Everybody with any sense, stayed home.

Friday, February 24, 2012

irrational birthday integers

Y'wanna know why we hate math? it's because this doesn't sound all that far-fetched:

It might be too small. Go check out the original. (God would love you more if you checked out that comic every weekday, anyway.)

For all I know, there may actually BE a Fournier-Goldman Happiness Transform function. It doesn't sound all that different from the math that Randall Munroe talks about in xkcd.

("Irrational birthday integers", indeed. Hrmph.)

full of doubts

I wish this meant that I were one of those wise people, but I can't claim membership in that crowd.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

person in recovery; 30-year anniversary

This week, it has been thirty years since I last had a drink of alcohol or other drug.

People have applauded me for my abstinence, but, truth to tell, I stopped, all those years ago, because continuing was harder than stopping. There is very little I have stopped doing, from which I was still deriving substantial benefit. I still eat too much junk, for example, but I eat way less than I did because it's painful when I do, or it slows me down on the bike because I gain weight, or somesuch.

I didn't stop using and drinking because of legal trouble, or family trouble (my parents told me they did not know how much I was going through at the time), or any other such thing. I don't have the dramatic stories of blackouts, crime, late nights, and entertaining shames that many people in recovery do. I stopped because I was depressed and anxious all the time, because I didn't want to live anymore, and because it was pointed out to me, in a way I could not ignore or deny, that alcohol and drugs were at the bottom of it (and it had to be pointed out; I assure you all that I didn't come to that realization by myself).

At the end of the time I was drinking and using illicit drugs, a large part of my identity went with that; some people had other interests, but I drank. When I was in the earliest days of my recovery, it seemed to me that the only thing I needed to do was stay sober, and everything else would work out. My self-definition as a recovering person was a primary part of my self-understanding for over a decade after I stopped using, and most of the people I hung around with at that time were other people in recovery. Finally, after fourteen years of that, I found that my self-understanding was changing, and I didn't think of myself primarily as a person in recovery anymore. At about that time, several of the people in recovery pointed out to me that they no longer could relate to the stuff I was talking about, and I went to find other society.

While there is evidence that people who have stopped for as long as I have may be able to return to social use, I've decided that it's just not a smart bet for me. When I recovered, I was able to believe things that I no longer believe: for example, that there was a loving god to whom I could turn my life over, or that all I had to do was stay sober and everything would be all right. My social and psychological situation at that time was such a shambles that belief in those things made sense and allowed me to function. But if I developed a problem again today - and there's no guarantee I would not - I would not be able to maintain those beliefs. So I don't know if I could recover again. Given that risk, abstinence is just a safer bet than returning to using.

And at this point, I have developed a life without drugs or alcohol. Most of my associates have no idea that I don't use, and those that know, don't seem to care very much... which is the way I like it. At this time of my life, it's just not a very big thing.

But in 1982, and for years thereafter, it was not only a big thing... it was the biggest thing. Recovery saved my life, and made me a part of society that I had never been prior to recovery. Almost anything good in my life today, I can trace to recovery from drugs and alcohol, and if I have friends, a wife, a calling, a place in the world - it is because on a February evening, thirty years ago, I just couldn't go on anymore.

Monday, February 20, 2012

100-year-old sets cycling record

The title of the article is, "100-year-old sets cycling world record".

From the article:

Frenchman Robert Marchand entered the cycling record books in the one-hour event on Friday, three months after celebrating his 100th birthday.

Marchand rode 24.251 kilometres around an indoor track to establish the first-ever hour performance in the 100-years-plus category.
That distance-in-an-hour got my attention, until I realized it was km, not miles; it's about 14.9 mph. It's still a great speed for a 100-year-old to maintain. And doesn't he look good? It's the kind of centenarian I'd like to be... if I'm gonna live that long.

Another pic:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

well-paved road ride

The weather was threatenin' no ride today, but when I got up, the prediction was for clear & temps to 47F, so I quick gathered the bike stuff and got up to go out with Winter Larry. At 8:40, I was the only one there for a 9:00 ride start, but Larry & two others appeared, and off we went on this route. Mostly flat, so we added a quick trip up Aggress Road (if you look at the elevation on the linked page, that's that spiky stuff about 2/3 the way through), but this ride was mostly memorable for three things: first (and most important), the excellent quality of the road surfaces (mostly new to me), especially in the first 15 miles or so (although we made up for it on the way back); second, for the fact that we needed to adjust the route for the cross-the-Turnpike-Bridge-closings (Sharon Road is now out, while others are closing soon or newly-reopened); and the terrifying crossing of route 130 at the Cranbury circle, largely due to the factor just listed. I hate crossing main highways where there are no traffic lights, and this circle is not friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. It's not even that friendly to cars. I said the "Ave Maria" to help us get across, and it must have worked; nobody got hurt.

I was all grumpy that this long weekend would only contain one bike ride, so today's was a pleasant surprise, and has lightened my mood considerably.

Now back home, where the scent of roasted chicken is wafting up the stairs, and I see evidence of two lasagnas being assembled in the kitchen by the excellent wife, in preparation for the kitchen's limited availability during its upcoming renovation. We're getting all new cabinets, and new counter and sink. The excellent wife thinks the current floor is odious (and it's hard to gainsay that; it's impossible to clean where it's heavily-worn, for example), but we're putting that off for another year or so. She spends yonks of time in the kitchen, and the products that emerge as the result of her labors are almost always delightful, so I'm going along with the renovation (I was about to write I was going along happily with the renovation, but that's a fiction that not even I can sustain, and I have a taste for fantasy).

In other news, I have a new Tracfone, a pay-as-you-go phone, because while I need a cell phone, I no longer need it as frequently as I did; so I don't need the guaranteed monthly cost of the Boost Mobile that this one replaces. I now have a new cell number; if we agree you need it, I'll get it to you in a way other than by posting it here. (I'm spending a bunch o' minutes playing with it, but I expect that will pass in a day or two, and I'll get back to my five-calls-a-month standard usage.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bad Chainring Karma Day

Today's ride with Laura OLPH had a number of memorable qualities to recommend it, not least of which was the route, a three-loop route up to Brookville & Mt Airy, then to Lambertville, then back to the start in Pennington. A few newbies along: Lauren & Peter, visiting from South Jersey (and Lauren said the laid-back Hill Slug style suited her), and Brenda, who frequents the flatlands, and who rode with us until she felt she wasn't havin' any fun any more, and she became the first of four to leave us. A dozen started and eight finished, a DNF rate ("Did not finish") which is unusually high for a Slugs ride, but it wouldn't be a Slugs ride without at least one dropout. (We say we don't drop people on purpose, and we don't... but sometimes folks leave us. Well, more than sometimes; usually.)

Along the way, both Laura and Chris had front-derailleur problems. Chris thinks his is just a bad adjustment, but Laura's defied our road-mechanic skills (although I admit I'm reluctant to manhandle a carbon frame with internal cabling). We managed to get her chain onto the middle ring of her triple, which is forgiving enough that she was able to get home on it... well, almost home; she split off by Hart's Cyclery so that her mechanic-wallah could have a look at the recalcitrant front control (which is where the problem seemed to lie). Laura was another of the four to split off the ride, leaving yours truly to lead the customers back to the parking lot. Leaving navigation to the perennially geographically-challenged author of this blog requires more desperation than sense, but it worked in this case (it helps that we were less than a mile from a starting point with which I am most familiar).
A fellow slug, Jeff, had been on two rides last year on which derailleurs died, but he was nowhere in evidence, so we couldn't place blame on him, even if he were invoking witchcraft.

Addendum 2/21/12: Subsequent correspondence with Laura indicates that the problem was a left shifter that was (deo gratias) still under warranty. I'm glad the problem was inside a shifter; those things are replace-don't-repair items, so I don't feel like I'm expected to be able to fix them. (You can't get parts for 'em, usually; you've gotta rip off & replace the whole assembly.)

We had hoped to stop at the Pure Energy Cycling and Java House... but it was closed. At mid-day. On a Saturday. With a poignant mixture of disappointment and incredulity, we repaired to another local coffee shop (I think Lambertville Trading) where I was able to feed my caffeine addiction and offload some toxic fluids. While stopped, I bought a cupcake from a collection of young urchinettes collecting for a local hospital; they said they were not affiliated with any Scouts or suchlike organization, but had just decided to do this. It either gives me hope for the generation that will support me in my decline, or it was an arrant fraud perpetrated by some soulless corporation or other... in either case, the abundance of cute worked on me like a drug.
The only bad thing about this ride is that I have a four-day weekend, and this will be the only opportunity I get to ride it it!

Friday, February 17, 2012

sunlite truing stand - assembly & usage

The Sunlite Truing Stand arrived today. There's a reason it's as inexpensive as it is; it will do for a wheel true, but I'm not sure it's stiff enough for a "build from parts". Still, I was able to use it to get the worst wobbles out of the wheels of the city bike, and I expect I'll get more adept with it the more I use it.

One of the complaints I saw in my researches about it was that it comes in parts, with no instructions, although it's not heard to figure how it assembles. Nonetheless, herewith find an unboxing and assembling tutorial on the Sunlite Truing Stand:

When you open the box, you find the stand, and a bag of parts.

You'll assemble the parts to form the gauge against which you'll measure the lateral (side-to-side) and radial (distance from hub to rim) true of the wheel. There's a thumbscrew to go through the slot in that hook-shaped part so you can set the radial true. The picture shows it, although in this picture (and the next several) I've got it in the wrong side of the hanger frame, so it will be upside down when I want to use it.

Those other two thumbscrews thread into holes in the side of the hanger fame, so you can set the lateral true. The screws at the top will come off in a bit so you can mount this assembly onto the stand:

Here you can see it with the screws at the top removed. The now-exposed carriage bolts...

... go into holes in the side of the stand. Here you can see one on and one off:

Here's the stand with a wheel in, and the gauge hanger frame in place, with the side screw in so I can set the lateral true. The other piece is to far out now to set radial true, but I wasn't interested in that for now:

Front wheels, and those narrow enough to fit, go in the narrower set of slots at the top. Wider wheels (like the rear wheels on most bikes) go into an additional set of slots a little further down the arms:

That'll do!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

ezra jennings on glitterbombing

Jennings, said, "So the kids who are tossing 'glitter bombs' - handfuls of glitter - at far-right politicos who are against equal rights for sexual orientation are now facing jail time."

"It proves that, in addition to being bigots, these righties are bullies - and, like all bullies, they are essentially cowards."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

if 'tweren't for bad luck...

By the end of the visit to the ER, we knew that the doctor didn't see anything in the MRI, and we went home with a prescription for Flexeril, an instruction for my wife to take acetaminophen PRN, and an expectation that she would take the day off with a bigger headache than the one she has now.

At about 2:40 this afternoon, she was returning to her job from a lunch break on which she was food shopping, when she was rear-ended by a young driver who tried to pull around and leave the scene of the accident; he was prevented by a number of bystanders, many of whom happen to be my wife's coworkers, until the police arrived. The car can be driven, but will need work; there may be frame damage. The driver hit her with enough force that, less than an hour after the accident, she decided to go to the Emergency Room due to a feeling of increasing pressure in her head. She called me; we came home first, and then went to the ER at RWJ University Hospital, which is where her primary doctor has privileges, in case she needed to be admitted.

We expect that she will take the day off tomorrow. She will contact a body shop where she is known a bit too well (she has had poor luck with being in not-at-fault accidents) to see what will need to be done to the car.

I will be happy not to meet the other driver.

advice from a 70-year-old cyclist

I got this NY Times article forwarded to me today. Sensible stuff about riding safe, picking a bike, and so on.

It's great. Check it out

(This is way better than the article I wrote.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

how the h-ll did that happen?

This year, the excellent wife and I are celebrating fifteen years of marriage.

I have no idea how it happened. She says it's because I picked the right person, but there's nothing in my history to suggest I could ever do that, and everything to indicate I have an unbroken record of picking the wrong person, so I'm not taking any credit. It must be something she's doing.

Nonetheless, fifteen years. We've been doing the traditional anniversary presents, but mostly as a point of departure; we have fun with it. For example, first year is paper; we got one another tickets to some show - I remember that a woman with whom I was working at the time was horrified that we were being so flippant about our relationship, but I note that we are still married, and she is not. Year thirteen is lace, and I remember we went to a show of Dutch Renaissance painters in which a woman with a flamboyant lace collar was prominently featured.

Year fifteen is crystal. The excellent wife determined that the Waldorf-Astoria hotel...

... has a huge crystal chandelier in the Park Avenue lobby...

... as well as several smaller crystal chandeliers in the first floor halls...

... so nothing would do except a fifteenth-anniversary brunch at the Peacock Alley in the main lobby.

It was a delight. Not that there were many esoteric menu items, but everything there was, was well-done and high-quality, and small details were paid attention to; even the checking of our coats was elegantly and smoothly done. I can't, of course, bring you the food, but the place was a visual feast as well.

And here's the obligatory "we were really there" picture.

The actual anniversary isn't until April, but we like to have a Monday off after we go into the city of a Sunday, and this weekend was convenient for it. We've decided to save the Valentine's celebration for April, instead.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

what i pedal, i wrench

"Marley was dead, to begin with."

I've been thinking too much about this post, and I don't really know how to begin it, and now it's probably going to be too long, too.

I can star it here: when I decided to go on the Anchor House Ride, I found out they have a requirement that riders must turn in a completed Mechanic's Checklist on their bikes. I had built my bike from parts, and it's a point of pride with me that I do my own maintenance... but I didn't want to be disqualified from the ride, so I had the work done (and reduced my personal contribution to the ride by the amount of the charge for the bike inspection). I still had some leftover crankiness about being forced to have someone else inspect my work (the only thing the mechanic fellow did was shorten my derailleur cables), so I went and had this hat made:

(The offending piece of headgear. In this style, 10/6)

I wear it mostly to cover my helmet hair on the way home from group rides, but I also wear it when I'm going to Philadelphia with the excellent wife so I can show off to the hipsters. I was wearing it recently in front of a couple of riders who know way more than I do about such things as differences in frame geometry and which manufacturer is offering which frame options this season. One asked what it meant, and I said that I do all my own maintenance.

WELL! This caused measurable consternation; one opined that he simply didn't have time for all that; he also said that he would be afraid of something letting go when he was rippin' along at 50mph. I shrugged, and thought I had let the whole incident go.

EXCEPT that I hadn't. I found myself thinking over and over about it. When I had my motorcycles, I did my own maintenance on them, except for an electrical problem I simply couldn't figure out (and believe me, I tried), and tire replacement, for which I didn't have the tools. I've fooled around with all my computers; I built from parts the one on which I'm typing this, and I've even been inside both my last laptop to attempt a repair, and my current netbook to upgrade the wireless connection. The only reason I don't work on my cars is that they've grown too complicated (so they're no fun). It would not occur to me to have a machine on which I was having as much fun as I do on the bike, and not tinker with it.

And still I couldn't let it go. And that's the reason I decided to go ahead and order the Sunlite Truing Stand.

Dag-nabbit, not only will I coninue to do my own maintenance, I'm going to boldly go where no few men have gone before: into the esoteric world of wheels. I've even obtained copies of both Jobst Brandt's The Bicycle Wheel (extra credit if someone can tell me how you pronounce that first name) and Gerd Schraner's Art of Wheelbuilding. I may have to buy some spokes and build a wheel, just to soothe my demons.
Now I feel like I need to defend my credibility a bit. In a post from last October, I wrote about some of the changes I was making on my hybrid to turn it into a city bike. Here's a studio shot for a "before" picture:

I've just finished adding the rear rack (after the new handlebars, which required new shifters and brake handles, and subsequent recabling, and...). Anyway, here's a picture of mine, taken this morning:

Drop handlebars, because I like that position better than the upright one (and it gets me out of the wind), although this bike is more relaxed than the road bike (getting the position right took a bit of tweaking). The new bars meant I needed new places to put the shifters. The frame doesn't have downtube bosses for shifters, so I went with bar-end shifters (got 'em from Velo Orange, good for odd or hard-to-find stuff). I know one rider with bar-end shifters on his RB-1 (hey, Joe!), and asked him for tips about cabling... and then, when I got the cheap cables, the housings were too short to take his advice (next time...). Because the brakes are "V-brakes", they require special controls (V-brakes need more cable travel than conventional road bike brakes), and I was able to find those at Rivendell Bikes (which specializes in hard-to-find stuff for retrogrouches and similar nutballs).
Here's a close-up of the front-end setup:

The careful eye will note the bell behind the bike computer.
A few rides in the wet provided a reminder that the risk of getting drenched on a bike is less the water from above than that from below, so I've installed fenders, and, after trying to ride and juggle a few purchases on the way home, I added a rear rack:

You can't see very well in any of the pictures, but because the wheels are 622/700mm diameter, the rack requires clamps on the seatstays; get them from Rivendell, as well.
That picture also shows the remains of the old Specialized BG2 saddle, that is nearly dead, and that I can't get anymore, probably because it's flexible so it doesn't fit some kind of standard that says it's gotta support riders up to 100kg (about 220 lbs.). Sigh. I've had to go with the Selle An-Atomica, to which I refuse to link again, because I'm not satisfied with the saddle (it required a LOT of modification), and because they refuse to allow resellers to discount. Their slogan is "Official Sponsor - the Happy Bottom Riding Club", but a web search for reviews shows a mix of people who love 'em and people who don't (although you don't find the people who don't in their blog), and Rivendell Bike doesn't sell them anymore (their comment about "success has been mixed" on that page refers, I'm sure, to the An-Atomicas).

C'mon, Specialized, bring back that BG2. I'll buy two of 'em.

And sorry for the embarrassing length of this post. But those two with the horror in their eyes when I said I did my own wrenching was just too much for me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

cleaning up the ti frame

I've received two compliments on the look of my titanium frame after a cleanup process, so I'm posting it here, mostly so I can go back and remember what I did.
  1. First, clean the frame with any cleaner that doesn't leave much residue. I use glass cleaner (in a previous life, I was a janitor, so I know about this stuff). General-purpose cleaners like Formula 409 will do, but they leave residue, although you'll fix that in the next step (it's just a bit harder).
  2. Next, clean the frame with a rag moistened with mineral spirits or turpentine. Don't go over the decals with this; while a single application of these solvents should not break up or remove the decals, these solvents will eventually affect them (the lacquer thinner that's actually recommended for removing decals is related to these guys). These solvents are not great for your hands: limit your exposure or wear rubber gloves.
  3. Wipe the frame with a dry cloth to make sure any oils are removed.
  4. Go over the roughest spots with 0 steel wool. You won't want to do the whole bike, and this process will leave scratches behind; that's OK for now.
  5. Then go over the whole bike (except for the decals) with 0000 steel wool. Steel wool is readily available in grades from 4 (the most coarse I've seen) to 0000. If you used all the grades, you could get a mirror finish, but most of us don't want that. By judicious use of the 0-then-0000 process, I was able to keep the brushed finish that came on the frame. Careful with this; you want to remove the worst scratches, but not shine so much that the brushed finish is lost.
  6. Use just a little metal polish on the frame, except don't polish the decals. This stuff has abrasive in it, so be careful where you put it. Just-a-little gives the frame a nice finish; too much will lead you toward the mirror finish (that is, frankly, a pain to maintain).
  7. It was probably overkill, but I then went over the whole business with Nu Finish liquid.
The standard practice for achieving the mirror finish is to go over the surface thoroughly with succeeding grades of steel wool, ending with the 0000, then use the waxy polish. It works: I brought the forks of a Honda Magna motorcycle to a mirror finish that way (here's a picture of the way it looks with the dull forks), but I didn't want to do that to the bicycle. I'd post a picture of the bicycle frame, but I don't have a "before", and I'm not sure the difference would come out in the photo anyway.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

ezra jennings on the citizens united decision

Jennings said, "If corporations are people, then a hostile takeover is a kidnapping. Or perhaps murder."

sunday ride, and doin' the taxes

Today was cold and raw, and only three people went out on Winter Larry's ride. We went to Bordentown again, as we had in November, but this time by a different route (crossing the NJ Turnpike three times on the way down, as you can see). On the way back, we tried a different route to reduce the mileage (and the time in the cold & wind, which had picked up). I'd like to do this route again (but we can wait until the weather warms a bit). The ride was pretty, and there was almost no traffic on the way down - people must have been sleeping late preparing for the Super Bowl festivities to come later.

Bordentown is beautiful: right on the river, with a real downtown, Victorian-looking houses, and other homes that appear to have been worker housing. There was money there once upon a time (there may still be, but it was clear that at the time the town was being built, people were showing off their prosperity).

Do I need to start bringing a camera to illustrate these mental ramblings?

Now I'm back home, and I've done the taxes (I use Taxact online; I've tried Taxcut, which always tells us we owe more money to the state than Taxact does, and both Taxcut and Turbotax get all squirrelly when they figure out my computer runs Linux - but all of the products do the work through a web interface that doesn't care what your local OS is, and they all have you download your forms in .pdf format, so why do you have to do this on a Windows or Mac computer?). Once I've got all the paperwork, it's just a matter of filling in the blanks, and Taxact has a go-quick entry method and a let-me-hold-your-hand-and-we'll-get-through-this-together entry method, which is the one I use. And it's cheap (regular readers will know I'm a sucker for the cheap), and includes e-file. All I gotta do now is wait for the excellent wife to wake up from her nap to let me know which account is to receive the refunds.

Tomorrow, back to work. Life could be worse.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sergeantville, the easy way

Laura OLPH decided that, while she wanted to go back to Sergeantsville (with the last covered bridge in NJ, and the very cool stop owned by an Asian family), she didn't want to go the same way, so she came up with this excellent route (forgive the little appendix pointing towards Croton; we took a wrong turn). Not too hilly, and some of the wicked hills were in the OTHER direction, so we got to go down them instead of having to climb (like that section between mile 27-28, Pine Hill Road, would be a penitential climb - although maybe I'm just thinkin' that way because Lent is coming). Eight started, and four finished, which is particularly bad for Slugs ride: two decided towards the end of the ride that they didn't want to keep the pace; and Laura decided to drop in at Harts, her LBS (local bike shop), for a cable adjustment, so Chris, who rode in with her, did the chivalrous thing and provided company for her.

A little colder than I would have liked, but a great ride, nonetheless. This week, I actually ate enough to get through the ride, and I can tell: my weight is still up. There is no justice.

Perhaps tomorrow, out from Cranbury with Winter Larry.

Friday, February 3, 2012

do i wanna do this?

The wheels on my city bike are visibly out of true, and the front wheel of the road bike is ever-so-slightly out of true (not enough so it can be felt through the brake lever, but enough so I can see it when I spin the wheel and compare the clearance below the brake pads). The Feedback Truing Station is on sale a few places, and got good reviews:

(That's not the best price I've seen, but it's a good picture.)

A wheel true goes for $20-25 at the local shops, so I could probably justify the price. But if I'm going to get that, I should probably get another chain, and another cassette (I'm on my fourth chain for this cassette - maybe my fifth - and the cassettes are only supposed to last about that many chains; that said, I change my chains more frequently than most, about every 1200 miles... but the cassette is cheap; I can use any 10-speed Shimano/SRAM-compatible 10-speed, as long as the big gear isn't bigger than 28), and another set of cables ('cause they don't eat and they don't rot, and I'm gonna re-cable next winter anyway), and another bottom-bracket cable guide (it's a $2 part, so I change it every time I re-cable), and the original about-$60 order has grown to about $190.

(Sigh.) I don't know if I really want the parts, or if I just feel like spendin' some money.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

maybe form team for franklin ride

Once the Tour de Franklin website is updated, I'll plan to have this email sent out to the membership of the Princeton Freewheelers:

Text Begins

This year’s Tour de Franklin, a ride in support of the Franklin Township Food Bank, is scheduled for April 29. In past years, they have had a number of rides, including a short ride for mountain bikes & hybrids on the D&R Canal Towpath, and road rides of various lengths up to a 62-mile metric century.

I’d like to form a team of Freewheelers to support this ride. The cost of the ride last year was about $50, with no additional fundraising required (although additional donations are gratefully accepted). Riders got a t-shirt and goody bag and were entered in various raffles; lunch was provided at the end of the ride.

If we can form a team of at least four riders, the Freewheelers will make an additional donation of $100 in the club’s name. The requirements are listed on the Archives page of the Freewheelers website. If we get the team of at least four, I’ll send the initial email; each team member will then need to send an individual email to PFWGiving.

Weather permitting, I plan to ride the metric century. Since I can be relied on to get lost, I’d be glad for the company (and the navigation assistance). However, there is no requirement that the team all ride the same route in order to get the support money from the Freewheelers.

You can reply by posting a comment on the Tour de Franklin post of my new site project, Charity Rides – Central NJ (scroll down until you get to that post). I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope that the Freewheelers can form a team for this ride.

Text Ends

Let's see if that gets any bites. The fee is low enough that it shouldn't lock too many people out, and if it works for this, we might be able to pry some cash out of the Board for the Cory's Ride and McBride Ride, as well. Note If you're gonna reply, please post at the Tour de Franklin post of my new site project, Charity Rides – Central NJ rather than here. I can use the traffic!