Wednesday, October 30, 2013

ride with new brunswick bike exchange

I'm leading a ride with the New Brunswick Bike Exchange on Sunday, November 3. We're starting at 11:30 am, we'll take the canal towpath from Blackwells Mills to Rocky Hill, then we'll take the road to the Main St Cafe in Kingston, where there can be lunch or excellent bake-y stuff (coffee's not bad, either). Afterwards, we'll reverse the route. (Those who know me, know I can get lost in a bathroom; this is a real Plain Jim route.)

As with my summer rides, manageable length (about 17 miles), and we'll go at the pace of the slowest riders. No attitudes, lots of stops, nobody dropped. Only two lectures: the obligatory safety speech, and my rant about why you gotta use a mirror. Part of the ride IS on the towpath; I wouldn't want to take my road bike, but folks who know better than I say it shouldn't be a problem (some short parts of the path are rough, though).

Here's a Google Maps link to the canal house near the start. The actual start is in the parking lot at that little bit of dead-end below the canal house; it's marked "Six Mile Run (trail parking)".

Weather looks good (if cool) as I write this. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

wheel building (for idiots?)

I wish the "... for Idiots" series of books had a different title. They're not for idiots; they're for reasonably smart people who aren't specialists in that field.

Here's another book for people who aren't specialists. I've been thinking of building my own bike wheels for years. I read Jobst Brandt's book, and Gerd Schraner's, and I just couldn't get my brains around the process.

A friend (who shall remain nameless) sent me a bootleg copy of Roger Musson's Professional Guide to Wheelbuilding ebook (pdf). It was just what I needed: no discussion of theory; just the steps to building wheels, including tools, probable mistakes, recommendations on parts and tools, and so on. It was good enough that I bought a copy (which means I get access to the upgrades, and, theoretically, responses to my emailed questions, but two emails have gone so-far unanswered). Edit: I got a thoughtful & sensible answer to one of my questions.

I've got rims on order (they should be delivered today). Musson suggests measuring the rims for confirmation before ordering the other parts (and gives a procedure for doing so). I'll do that, and then order the other parts (I'm getting 'em from Bike Hub Store in North Carolina). Musson's got a spoke length calculator on his site, too.

I expect there will be updates here as the process unfolds.

(After yesterday's post, I had to put up something else! I still feel like a dummy, but I hate having that as the last thing on this blog...)

Monday, October 28, 2013

feeling dumb

Back in the days when I worked at the insurance company, we said that taking on a big risk for a small premium was like bending over to pick up a dime and putting your butt through a plate-glass window.

By being careless, by thinking I was smarter than I am, I've gotten two people upset whom I didn't want to upset.

I can hear the sound of the crashing glass. I'm feeling exceptionally dumb and graceless today.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

windy, supposed-to-be-a-recovery-ride with winter larry

I knew yesterday that I was planning to do a ride today, and I figured it would be Winter Larry's (he only leads between September and April), but I wasn't sure if I would add extra miles or how hard I would push, especiall after having been out last night with The Excellent Wife (TEW) to see The White Snake at the McCarter Theater at Princeton U (she liked it better than I), and subsequently later to bed than the 9pm that is my habit. But I was up, coffee-ed, and dressed early, so I decided to add my eight miles from Dr. Cliff's office, where I park after my morning bagel.

Cold this morning, though not as cold as yesterday. I had three layers, a heavy hat and gloves (I carried a lighter hat), but the lighter tights and socks. They were good choices; I was cold to start, but not overheated by the time we got back. (I'll ride down to low-30° temps; I don't want ice on the roads under those over-inflated, skinny tires.) You'll see in the pictures below that those who were dressed for the coldest part of the day had to peel and carry. I hate the bulging pockets, or the jacket tied around my waist, so I'd rather be a bit cold at the start and a bit hot at the end.

Ron S, Steve T, Jackie F, and Andrew-of-the-recumbent were already gathering at the Cranbury start when I got there, and shortly a new guy, Ray, with a nifty steel bike with downtube shifters, 1" threaded headset, and lugs (I had to go drool over it at the rest stop). There was discussion about whether Laura OLPH would put in an appearance; I would have bet against it after hearing her yesterday... but at about 8:56, she pulled into the lot. So we were eight.

Winter Larry was cagey about the route, but it turned out to be this one. There were a few places where we had to decide whether to push into the wind or not; I think at the first decision point, we opted for the easy way and went to New Egypt, but on the way home I asked for (and got) the route into the wind, and we took turns pulling (there were a couple of pulling stars in this crew!). Well, the few of us who had been on Laura's ride yesterday, and the others who had ridden yesterday, were thinking it was going to be a recovery ride... but with the wind and our energy, it didn't work out that way.

On the way back, we split into a fast crew and a slower one, and we slowpokes stopped to see a couple of horses in blankets, one with most excellent polka dots; you'll see n the pictures below. Because I like to make sure everybody makes it home (as I'd like someone to make sure I did), I stayed with the slower folks and swept on the way back.

And then back from Cranbury to Plainsboro, where I'd left the car. This time I opted for the straight route into the wind. I thought it would be worse than it was, but I maintained my average speed on the way back. Still, now that the bike clothes (with the rest of the laundry) are going into the dryer (those that go into the dryer; some air-dry), I wouldn't be surprised if there was a nap in the offing.


Above and following: wardrobe adjustment, responding to the weather and the effort.

I don't know if it's clear in the picture above, but Laura is at the fence taking a picture of the excellently-blanketed horses, and Jackie F is putting away her phone after (I'm sure) doing the same.Here are the horses in question:

A slightly better shot of the photographers. I'm back to my thing of taking pictures of people taking pictures.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

over the ridge to califon

Laura OLPH was up in New England last week, and was taken with the autumn colors, so my hints about another Rojo's-to-Rojo's ride fell on deaf ears; she was going north to look at autumnal wonderfulness. Well, that was good enough for me... although by Friday morning, her description of the ride gave the start in Hillsborough, distance, and brief description, but she admitted she didn't have a route in mind.

She did when she rolled into the starting parking lot this morning; we had a choice of either going a reasonably hilly out-and-back the same way... or we could go over the ridge via Deer Hill Road, which she remembered from her earliest days riding as a challenging hill. Of course, that was before she was in the shape she is in now, and before she got Miss Piggy, her hill bike.

Well, how could a Hill Slug make any other choice? We opted for Deer Hill, and even at the last possible turn-off before we'd have to go that way, she offered us the flatter way, but we declined; it would be Deer Hill, or no way at all.

"We", at that point, consisted of Barry, Ron S, Ed C, and me. So the five of us did this route. It was a beautiful ride on a beautiful day: cold in the morning (I scraped frost off the car... it was thick), but the cold meant the air was clear, and the day warmed up as we went. By the end of the ride I had my heavy hat off, and open jackets were flapping as we pedaled.

Laura was right about Deer Hill; it was demanding (but doable). What she did not remember was that at the end of Deer Hill, we were still only about 70% the way up to the top of the ridge. I had expected to be at the top, and at each turn of the road after that, or each false crest, I had a little disappointment at the next bit of uphill, until we finally did top the ridge, and we rolled down into Califon.

The stop in Califon won the Freewheeler award for favorite rest stop a few years ago, and I can see why: good food, clean and pretty... and they seemed genuinely happy to see us (and why does that seem such a rarity?). We spent a bit of time there - just long enough for the stiffness to set in on my legs... and then back to Hillsborough, this time via Rockaway Road. Rockaway was just a delight: not too demanding, well-surfaced, and gorgeous at this time of year (and maybe at other times, but I haven't had the experience to know). We had a bit of a false-start and separation at the beginning of the return trip, but we fixed it quickly, thanks to patience and cell phones (my sad navigational skills had nothing to do with it, I'm sure!).

The last bit of the ride had us over the bridge at Neshanic (I had a brief flurry of an idea of going up Zion, but it passed), and then back on Amwell from Neshanic. Amwell was busy; I might have chosen to go a different way, but no matter; we are home and well now. It was a great day, and a beautiful ride, as I hope you'll see in some of the pictures below.

I think Ron looks like I caught him with his hand in the cookie jar in that picture above.

When Ed was first rolling away from the stop, he was pulling several feet of that web with him. Hilarity ensued.

That house in the right background is popularly known among riders as the Gingerbread House or the Hobbit House, but I'm reminded of the house made of cookies in the Hansel & Gretel story.

I have become enamored with the idea of getting pictures of other people getting pictures.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

one more pic from covered bridges ride

From leader Gary Wotton:

Whadd'ya think? Athos, Porthos, and Aramis?
Tinker, Evers, and Chance?
Moe, Larry, and Curly?

(Sheesh, I'm getting fat.)

covered bridges ride 2013

I can't decide. Is the better story about this ride the three-hour wait for the sag wagon?

Or is it that at least one of the guys who were burnin' it up on Ira's ride yesterday, might have been paying for it today?

 The Central Bucks Bike Club Covered Bridges Ride is the end of the season for many riders, and. when the weather holds, it's probably the most beautiful ride of the year in this area. Today was just a perfect day for it: a bit cold (especially at the start), but clear, with visibility forever, and the leaves turning (you'll see in some of the pictures below). The long route (which is the one we did) went over six covered bridges (through one we had to walk the bikes, because the surface is a trap for those narrow tires). It's a similar route from one year to the next, which makes sense: after all, the bridges don't move, and if you're going to see 'em, you have to go where they are!

It's a hilly ride (well, welcome to Bucks County). I've uploaded the route to RideWithGPS because I think they have a more reliable reporting of the elevation than the Garmin site does. It shows well over a mile of climb on the ride... and that brings me to the Sag Wagon story.

The group I hooked up with was convened by Gary and Donna Wotton, of the fairly fast B ride from Etra on summer Sundays. Donna rides a bike with Di2 electronic shifting. It's great when it works well: the shifts are instantaneous; shifts can be completed under load (no need to "soft-pedal"); the front derailleur automatically trims to match the chain angle to the gear on the cassette. It needs electricity, though, and when the battery runs out, it's unpredictable.

After about twenty miles of riding, Donna found she couldn't shift at all. She was in a fairly low gear, and we went over another hill or two... and then she found that the bike began shifting by itself, unpredictably. The verdict was that her Di2 battery had no charge. She decided to call for a SAG pickup (she would be picked up by the ride organizers - it's a common service on these special rides). She insisted we go on, and I insisted we would not leave until she at least made the call and we knew she had made the connection (that sweep-y stuff dies hard, you now).

On we went. We had started with eleven; two (whom I didn't know well) went on ahead, and we never saw them again. Two others, Tom & Andrew (I think they're Morris Area Freewheelers; Andrew was riding a recumbent) went on ahead, and we saw them at rest stops, but not on the road much. That left John & Jane D, Dave H, Gary S, and Gary W and me.

I do have to gloat about this: while two of the guys who were on Ira's ride yesterday (and who had been cranking all the way home) kept up a good pace today, one of the guys who was really pushing yesterday didn't even appear today at all. (Nyaah, nyaah!)

So by the end, we were five or six (which made it a little like one of Laura OLPH's Hill Slug rides, with all those people leaving us [edit: Laura points out, rightly, that she doesn't drop riders. She doesn't: riders LEAVE her rides, usually for other responsibilities]). We got to the end, and found Donna.It turned out she had a story to tell; she had only gotten to the ride end shortly before we had. Through a series of missed communications, it ahd taken the SAG folks over an hour to pick her up (apparently they thought they had sent someone when they hadn't). Then she was in the SAG truck for an hour while they looked for another rider who had been reported in distress, whom they could not find at all. When they were finally approaching the ride end, she heard over the truck radio that she was to report to headquarters.

Although she went to headquarters with some trepidation, it turned out they only wanted to apologize for the comedy of errors that had led to her long waits. Donna appears to have taken it well; it appears that Gary is also blessed with an excellent wife!

Pictures below (lots of 'em!):

Below is Ed H, who rode with us until the 50-mile route split off.

John & Jane D:

Gary W, below. That must be at the top of one of the hills; it was only then I felt really warm.

First rest stop:

John & Jane D with I-forget-who between 'em:

Last rest stop. I didn't get pictures to show it, but I loved the variety of bikes and outfits. This guy reminds me of that.

Back at the start:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

supposed to be an easy, pre-covered-bridges ride

At least four of the thirteen of us who did this ride today are planning on doing the Covered Bridges ride tomorrow, and we all swore we were going on Ira's ride out of Cranbury today because we wanted an easy pedal before tomorrow's hilly ride. That was my intention. And I suppose it worked out that way for the first half.

Of course, I added extra miles, parking behind Dr Cliff's office and pedaling my roundabout eight-mile route to Cranbury. When I got there, I saw Ira, who was to lead the ride, and he either had, or said he had a grand route in mind, only he'd forgotten it, or maybe it would come back by the time we left. As the others gathered (as well as the speedy guys who do that wicked B-plus-that's-really-more-like-A-minus ride that leaves from Cranbury on Saturday mornings), we chatted about missing members, the coming cool weather, and a host of other things... including, I swear, that we were going to do an easy pedal today. Y'see, that Covered Bridges ride is tomorrow...

Ira began to lead us with the best of intentions onto his ideal new route, but we had barely crossed 130 on Cranbury Station road when we ran into a block (that ongoing Turnpike construction), and had to turn back (we met the B+ folks, who had to do the same thing). Ira sighed, "Well, I guess it's going to be forty-THREE miles...".

We did this route (that map includes my eight-mile roundabout to Cranbury, and my four-mile straight-line home). I swept at Ira's request, and two of the folks who appeared to be straggling early on were leading the way a bit later. I remember being surprised where we did that loop before going into the Assunpink, and then surprised again when we went into the Assunpink anyway (one of the gifts of being perpetually lost is being frequently surprised!). Coming down Rue, I did a sprint with a newbie (what is her name?) on my tail, enjoying my pull.

And so to Phil's, where we met the folks from the Sawmill ride (you'll see in the pictures below). I see both Chris C and Sue M were there; Chris must not have led the B+ ride today.

And then there was the ride back. And all thoughts of easy pedal must have fled; we were COOKIN' on the way back. Laura OLPH complains that one of the problems in Cranbury is the "Macho Mile" on the way back, when the riders know where they're going and speed back to the park; but it wasn't just the last mile today. I sat in the back with Ira much of the way back, and we alternated between trying to catch up and cussin' ourselves for being crazy to try to do so.

By the time I got back, I was tired enough to do the straight-back route to Dr Cliff's, and I was hungry (no breakfast this morning; I had to work off too good of a dinner at The Excellent In-Laws' last night), so I stopped for the post-ride bagel. The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I have just gotten back from our monthly State Of The Union date where we discuss the condition of our marriage, and we've decided to stay together for at least another month, so I expect I'll be sleeping inside for the foreseeable future... which means I plan to do that Covered Bridge ride tomorrow. Are you coming? (Or, if you're reading this after Sunday, didja go?)

Pic's below:

Trust me, that's Sue M in the green helmet on the lower left.

I like pictures of bikes.

I told Dan he was going to be famous. Here he is!

The Sawmill folks departing:

Friday, October 18, 2013

basic road bike shifting

The Excellent Wife (TEW) has asked for an explanation of shifting on her new road bike. The idea that sometimes when the chain is on a smaller gear pedaling is easier, while other times it's harder, has her completely consternated (one of her favorite words). So here's a brief explanation.

The left control works the gears at the pedals, usually called the chainrings. The assembly is referred to as the crank.

The right control works the gears at the rear wheel, usually called the cogs or the cassette.

On either control, on your Shimano setup, pushing in both levers moves the chain to a LARGER gear. Pushing just the rear, shorter lever allows the chain to snap to a SMALLER gear.

Here's where it gets confusing: On the crank, moving the chain to the larger, outside gear makes pedaling harder, although you go farther with each pedal revolution.The smaller, inside gear is easier to pedal, and you don't go as far.

At the cassette, moving the chain to the larger, inside gear (purists will call it a cog, but it's round and toothy, so it will do as a gear) makes pedaling easier, and you don't go as far. The smaller, outside gears make you go farther, but they make pedaling harder - sometimes MUCH harder.

Using the size of the gears to determine whether you will go faster or slower will lead you to confusion, because the action will be different depending on whether the gear is at the crank or the rear wheel.

The one thing the IS a constant is how far the chain is from the frame of the bike. As the chain is moved closer to the bike, either at the crank, the rear wheel, or both, pedaling becomes easier. As the chain is moved away, pedaling becomes harder.

I generally use the front gears for "macro" changes and the rear gears for "micro" changes - for example, if I'm on a hilly part of a ride, I might leave the chain on the smaller chainring, and do most of the shifting on the back as the road requires (until I come to a long downhill). On flats, I generally leave the chain on the larger front gear (or chainring).

Hope this is helpful.

unimpressive training ride

Not even including Coppermine. 18.2 for a flat 19 miles.

I'm blaming eating all kinds of junk yesterday, not enough caffeine, & too much wind.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

fixing the click

In my last post, I referred to a click in the crank that I found consternating (one of The Excellent Wife [TEW]'s favorite words). I had a suspicion what it might be, and it turned out I was right. Super-mechanic Jim Langley has this page on noises, and there's an entry about a quarter-way down about a click in cranks of a titanium frame being caused by a bottom bracket that was just that little bit loose. That's what it turned out to be.  It turned out that the bottom bracket was within the torque spec, although low-in-the-range, and still making noise. It's fixed now!

Jim's got a gazillion good things on his site, and links to a gazillion more. It's a great reference to bookmark (hint, hint... in fact, I'm going to add this post to my "stuff that works" list).

Monday, October 14, 2013

to englishtown, and bob w's, with the old guys

Today is the Columbus Day Holiday*. I was off today, and since I hadn't done club rides Saturday or yesterday, I figured I'd go out with the Old Guys today.

Well, y'see, Saturday was a group ride organized by the New Brunswick Bike Exchange (Facebook link here), which was fun, and a good first effort, but it was rolling chaos and a little frustrating. Sunday, The Excellent Wife (TEW) suggested we go to the Julius Caesar at St Ann's Warehouse Theater (it was very good, although flawed). So I was ready for a club ride today.

I was up early enough to add miles... but it was dark, and TEW was still abed, and I wanted to put the pedals on with which I can wear the winter shoes, and I didn't get it together in time, so I just headed over to Etra Park from which they were to leave. There were about twenty of us at the time we left; mostly regulars, but a few taking advantage of the day off, including a first-timer (hello, Tru! Hope to see you again!).

We did this route. We split into a faster group and a slower group, but some of the slow guys were... well, slow, and I decided to sweep to make sure we didn't get so separated that the folks in back didn't know which way the main group went. I didn't have to worry about the slow guys being lost; most of them have been riding these roads for decades. I got to see people I haven't seen for a while, including Erich W, Dave C, and others.

We took a long route to a Wawa in Englishtown (better coffee than I would have expected), and I got some pictures of the guys, whereupon Dave C finally had enough and insisted on getting a picture of me; you'll see it below.

From there, we went to Bob W's house (he of the accident back in August). We packed into his main room to say hello. He stall can't keep weight on his leg, but he looks much better than when I saw him last. On the way out, the newbie overheard me talking about TEW (I think I was saying that part of the reason I refer to her that way is that she reads this blog, too), and said, "You must be Plain Jim." It turns out he's been reading this blog. I'm flattered to the point of stupidity. People who know me well will tell you that's not a long trip for me.

And now back. There's a click in the pedals that's making me crazy, that I might try to deal with later. Then back to work tomorrow.


Erich insists on hiding from me. He's behind the post above, and turned away below.

And that guy on the right holding the cup is the author of this blog.

* Aeons ago, I think before I was married the FIRST time, I was working at a hospital substance-abuse program, and we had a clerk from (I think) Trinidad, who (I later figured out) had a "thing" for me (I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier when it comes to that kind of thing). At one point, frustrated by my failure to respond to her attentions, she said, "Jim, you're a real Columbus. You discover everything... late."