Monday, March 30, 2015

reply to comment

This blog host frequently refuses comments and replies, so this post is a reply to the comment on the last post.


This group is a club. I ride partly for social needs, and, if that appeals, I highly recommend starting or joining one. This club is well-established, with dozens of rides scheduled even in winter (of course, weather often interferes), and special events throughout the season.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

krakow monster maiden voyage

Regular readers of this blog (and now you, especially if you go and click on the link in the next few words) know that I built a bike that I've named the Krakow Monster. Today was the first day I took it out on a group ride.

Snakehead Ed ad a ride planned in the hills, but Laura OLPH contacted me about a bike parts question, and it was easier to show than to tell (and I wanted to take the Krakow Monster out anyway), so I went out to Winter Larry's ride today. Eight of us started, but Chris C had a tire problem that just would not let up, so he went back, and the rest of us did this route. We stopped at the Battlefield Orchard and did a quick roll around the battlefield park (nothing officially opens until May). That put the stop in the first third of the ride, which is not ideal... but Mark H had a flat on the way back, which gave us a breather.

I have flat pedals (not clips or clipless) on the Krakow Monster, and the saddle height had slipped to about 15mm lower than I like it, but I was still riding on it very well, keeping up with the group and pulling sometimes (there was enough wind that we traded pulls). The Monster has friction shifting, to which I'm still getting accustomed, and, despite the long wheelbase, it feels "twitchy", as responsive to steering inputs as the much-shorter-wheelbase Yellow Maserati, my titanium bike. I had two pedal strikes on turns, until I learned I needed to lean off the bike to keep it more upright if I want to pedal through turns. I've adjusted the saddle (and headset; there was a bit of cockpit weirdness that needed some attention), and I'll be grateful when I can steal the M424 pedals off The Excellent Wife (TEW)'s bike and put 'em on the Monster.

But I really like this bike. (Now, I'm not claiming that this bike is so hot based on my riding today - before you make any assumptions, go back to the route link and check out the average speed for this ride; NOT exactly stellar. But I like this bike anyway.)

Don't you love Chris's tights in the pictures below?

Below, Chris has tire trouble:

Below, Mark changes a tube:

Friday, March 27, 2015

'spensive bike wheels

What would you do if you found you'd crushed an axle on a hard ride?

Laura OLPH (and possibly Snakehead Ed, as well) sent me an article about two Japanese brothers, and their solution. From the article:

Nobuo, the president of the family business, had just trounced younger brother Yutaka in an endurance race. Yutaka blamed the bike and took apart the rear axle. Sure enough, it had been partly crushed during the four-hour ride.
So what did they do? They developed the new Gokiso wheel. From the article:
 The Gokiso wheels the Kondos have made out of titanium and carbon fiber provide what they say is an incomparably smooth ride. Spin ’em on a test rack at 18 mph, and the bike wheels take six minutes to come to rest, compared with about 90 seconds for a high-end, resistance-impaired competitor. But it’s a level of quality few can afford: Each pair costs $7,900. In four years, Kondo has sold 30 and about 1,000 of simpler models that go for less than $3,300 a pair.
The sole voice of reason in the entire article:
Alberto Moel, an analyst at portfolio manager Sanford C. Bernstein, says a big part of Japan Inc.’s problem is that engineering, not marketing, often drives product development. His take: “You made this stuff on the expectation that your customers would pay more for it, without stepping back and asking whether they really would.”
Japan is weird.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

following the pipeline

Before I get into this post, I want to talk about two people who came on this ride, each of whom did something I respect. One was a few miles in, and realized it was more than he could handle; he went back. We've ridden with this person before, and I expect he'll come out again, but he wasn't ready today, he knew it, and he decided not to risk anything by trying to keep up.

The other was a person, normally a strong rider, who was having a bad day; he did stay with us, and did fine on the flats, but lagged on the hills. He kept his attitude up, and finished with us.

I have no use and no patience for riders who put down others who are slower, not as strong on hills, or whatever. I have every respect for those who know their limits, or who admit that they are beyond their limits when they discover that they are. I have even more respect for the people who then do something about building strength or getting back in shape.

We shouldn't put these people down. We should welcome and encourage them.

Now for the post: Those who have been following Laura OLPH's blog know that she's been active in the opposition to the Penn East Pipeline. For today's ride, she took us past a number of places where the pipeline will impact open space, rights-of-way, and suchlike that will affect those of us who ride in the Sourlands. This ride was originally scheduled for yesterday, but the snow made it impossible to ride in the hills until today. I haven't done a hill ride in forever (certainly not this year) and I was glad for an opportunity to get out, as were a number of other Hill Slugs.

We did this route (that includes some miles to and from the formal start at the Administration Building in Pennington). It turns out that the pipeline will affect many of my favorite roads, including Alexsauken Creek Road, which I think of as "ten minutes of vacation" (one of my associates, Paul, says he does it in about six minutes, but first, he lives in the neighborhood and can get there more conveniently than I, and second, as far as I'm concerned, if you're doing Alexsauken Creek Road quickly, you're missing the point).

I'm not a fan of the pipeline, and Laura explained a lot... but the point of the ride, for me, was 58 miles on a sunny day, with some hills, some headwinds and tailwinds, and some people I wish I saw more frequently.

We stopped for a moment at Lambertville, but decided to go on to Sergeantsville for the break. You'll see a picture below of the Sergeantsville Inn, which recently suffered a fire (is there a rule that there has to be an annual fire at Central NJ bike landmarks?). The ride back was more-or-less straight, but we did stop at an anti-pipeline sculpture that you'll also see in the pics below.

Apologies to Winter Larry for not doing his ride... but Larry, I really needed some hills!

At the start:

Visiting the girls in Mt Airy, below:

The remains of the Sergeantsville Inn:

Anti-pipeline propaganda:

Friday, March 20, 2015

birthday gunfight

I've got one of those birthdays with a "0" in the second digit coming up.

Original at Bug Martini.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

maybe both are true

Check Laura OLPH's posts from Sunday and today. Between them she poses an either-or dichotomy.

However, I humbly submit that both may be true.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

raw day ride

We inadvertently blew off Winter Larry last Sunday; we thought he wouldn't go, but he did. Laura OLPH and I decided to go on his ride today, partly out of a sense of redress, and partly because we'd both been out with our families and were a bit the worse for wear, so a not-too-demanding ride seemed just the ticket.

Well, that was the plan, but the weather was raw (it felt much colder than the mid-40º's weather), and the winds were strong and unpredictable; we had unexpected stiff headwinds early in the ride, and an unexpected tailwind along the last stretch into Cranbury where we never get a tailwind. We did this route. Nine of us went: in addition to Winter Larry, Laura, and me, we had Dave H, Barry Y, Peter F, Sean, Jack H, and Fabio, who's not a club member, but who (I understand) drags along on rides a few times a year. Fabio got called away before the 17 mile mark, so we finished with eight.

Larry said he picked the route because he wanted to do Diamond Road, and he had the goal of getting down and back in 40 miles, which he very nearly hit. We stopped at the Wawa near the Jackson outlet mall; just before we stopped, there was a terrifying crossing-and-left-turn onto 537 (if I'd had my brains on, I would have been chanting the paternoster or something, but I'm off my game recently). The Wawa has the excellent apple fritters (an appalling example of pornographic food, appealing solely to the prurient interest and without redeeming social value). I had one, of course, and I'll need to work it off over the coming weeks.

Then back, on the straightest route possible. I thanked Larry for not stopping at the Clarksburg store when we passed it. We split into a fast and a slow group at the end (how often does that happen on Cranbury rides?), but everybody got back, and I resisted the urge to sing something about "Macho Mile" to the tune of the Village People's "Macho Man".

Pics: At the start:

At the stop:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

pi day, tew is home, and the monstrum cracoviae

Today, in the shorthand date format used in the US (mo/day/2-digit year), is 3/14/15. At 9:26:53 this morning, it will be 3/14/15 9:26:53, making a perfect representation of pi (π) out to nine digits to the right of the decimal, the only time this will happen this century. I'm a liberal-arts guy; I know just enough about math to get in over my head, but I'm also just enough of a nerd to find this delightful.

In other news, The Excellent Wife (TEW) arrived back from Poland last night. She found the house in good enough condition that I'm not in trouble. For both of these facts, I give thanks to the god in whom I don't believe.

In other other news, I've got a name for the new bike: the Krakow Monster.

In 1559, the estimable Pierre Boaistuau published Histoires Prodigieuses, one of the first picture books of monsters. In it, he related the story of the Krakow Monster, a beast born in 1547 with heads on all its joints, a sure sign of the work of the devil. It lived only four hours, but before it died, it said, "Watch; the Lord cometh" (whether in Latin, in the Polish vulgate of the time, in Boaistuau's French, or in the archaic English quoted is not made clear). The editor of this page from Strange Science said, "By the time this monster was 'born,' Luther and Philipp Melanchthon had published pamphlets about other monsters engendered by divine displeasure with the papacy. Convictions that heretical beliefs were on the rise likely played a role in the appearance of this beast."

I like this pic better:

In any case, since the new bike was made as a result of TEW's trip to Krakow, and since it's undoubtedly a monster (while it doesn't have heads on all its joints, it does have the ungainly combination of that cheap-ass Altus derailleur and those lovely Nitto bars and IRD cranks), I will henceforth refer to the Crosscheck as the Krakow Monster. Unless, of course, I revert to Latin, when it will be either the Monstrum Cracoviae or the Monstrum Cracoviensis, depending on whether I want to use the real genitive or that johnny-come-lately genitive-of-place ending. (After all, the college I attended was Collegium Cathedrale Immaculatae Conceptionae Brooklyniensis. Brooklyniensis? Really? Come on!)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

last of winter (we hope) ride

Laura OLPH's ride for Saturday was called off. Snakehead Ed didn't want to do his hilly ride today, due to the fact that the roads in the hills were likely to be treacherous because of the snow melt and re-freezing. But a few of us still wanted to try to get out, so, after a flurry (Snow! Flurry! Hah! I crack myself up!) of emails, a few of us agreed to meet near Tom H's for a later-start ride. Tom was only promising 30 miles, so Laura asked if anyone was interested in a few more from Mercer Park East, so that's where I was at 9:30 this morning (well, actually, about 9:10; I'm pathologically early).

And what should I see, but Laura riding in from home. Roads were clean enough for her to do that! We got set to head for the ride start, when Laura got a call from Snakehead Ed; he'd lost the address for the start, so could we wait for him and he'd ride there with us? OK - so we were a few minutes late getting started.

We did this route. Although many of our concerns (about black ice, ice on the roads, narrow lanes, huge puddles) were well-founded, the roads were good enough that Tom added a few miles; the main ride came in at about 36 miles. We were going to stop at Woody's in Allentown, but Jim Bruno's shop was open, and if he was gonna be open on a day like this, I was gonna spend some cash there; I got some hot chocolate (courtesy of Laura) and a patch kit. Snakehead Ed had Jim look up some of the frames he's been eying for a bike that's not exactly a gravel bike, not exactly a cross bike, and not exactly a fat bike.

On the way back, we had a steady headwind (shades of Winter Larry!). By the time I got back to the park, I was glad of not having to go further; I didn't envy Laura her eight more miles (even though it meant she'd have 60 for the day).

It was pretty at the park, though. Before we left, below:

Below, outside Woody's:

The bike below hangs above the chocolates at Bruno's. Chocolate & bikes. I think they're onto something.

This gal was running the chocolate counter. Thanks!

Friday, March 6, 2015

bike maintenance class

The talented Alex B set me up this flyer for the bike maintenance class I'm doing with the New Brunswick Bike Exchange*:

I've already posted it to the Princeton Freewheelers Facebook Page and the Bicycle New Jersey Facebook Page. Tomorrow, I'll probably ask for an email blast to the Freewheelers. Space will be strictly & severely limited; if there's a great response, I'll offer it again.

my timing is off

According to this list, the town I grew up in on Long Island is the 7th coolest town in America.

I graduated high school there in 1973.  I guess my timing was off.

smartphone-controlled paper airplane

This is the most useless thing I've ever seen. It is also immense.

That was for the Kickstarter, which got funded... they're actually for sale.

I, for one, am delighted that in this world of exploitation, abuse, crime, inequality, and other stupid miseries, that something this excellent and frivolous is a success. There will be hope for us.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


This one is for The Excellent Wife (TEW), who is in Krakow, where it's about 40° (or about 5° in real money). Honey, here's the view of the street out the front door:

...and out the back. Remember, the walkway was clear, and the grill was almost clear this morning (it's about 5pm here).

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

finishing up

Work was cancelled because of the snow, so I decided to finish up this morning. I'll eventually wrap the bars, but that dull aluminum finish on the bars is so pretty I decided I couldn't cover it up yet.

The twine wrap, just to hold the short lengths of brake cable in place, is an idea I stole from Rivendell Bikes. (That link goes to a Google Doc; the video below is too long, but oh, well... The stuff about the twine comes at about 2:42.)

I've put the saddle on, but there's not much to that: getting it leveled and measured is a pain, but it doesn't make for much of a blog post. I've put on some cheap flat pedals I had hangin' around; eventually I'll probably put on multi-use SPD's like these (truth is, The Excellent Wife [TEW] has a pair on her road bike that I'll probably replace with SPD-only when she gets a bit more confident with 'em).

Saturday, the Hill Slugs have a ride scheduled; if the roads are clear, I'll probably do that. Sunday, I'll take this bike out for a maiden voyage. I expect I'll be stopping and adjusting every few minutes; you do NOT want to come on this ride!

This bike doesn't have a name yet. I take the naming of bikes seriously; it will come. Don't force it. (And don't give me none of your Andrew Lloyd Webber sass; the poem that link goes to was a great poem long before Webber saccharined it up with that dentist's-office music.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

drivetrain is on

The chain is on and the derailleurs are wired up. That cheap Altus rear derailleur is more than a match for that big-ass nine-speed cassette (11x34; with the compact in the front, this is a better hill bike than the Yellow Maserati, at least in theory).


I mounted the cassette, rear derailleur, and cranks:

As I've been doing this, I'm learning some of the tricks bike builders and photographers use to get those sexy bike show pictures. If you use some shiny, blingy parts, and keep everything cleaned and shined, you can make even the most clunky toy-store frame look like it belongs in a handmade bike show. But as soon as you lube everything up to go ride, you lose most of the glamor.

That's not to say you should not get a bike just because it's beautiful in the shop. Emerson reminds us that beauty is its own excuse for being, and Hopkins says it in his own way (Hopkins always does; he must have been a pain to live with; can you imagine asking him a simple question about the weather?). But don't expect a bike you use to stay beautiful in that way... the shop-perfection, if you will, will be replaced by what Grant at Rivendell Bikes calls "beausage". (Hrmph. Others evidently use this term, too!)

Monday, March 2, 2015

starting to look like a bike

I've put on the handlebars and downtube shifters. Except for the modern vee-brakes, this bike is fairly old school. (And don't you love that Nitto 115 handlebar? It seems like a shame to wrap it.)

In other news, I was having a devil of a time with the wheels and tires; I could not get the tires on... and I have tire levers the size of butterknives. One of my riding friends, Snakehead Ed, swears by the Stan's No Tubes system, so I started to do a little research on that. There was a discussion of the relative sizes of rim strips, which gave me an idea. I always use the Velox rim strips. They're old-school reliable (and the were WAY better than the rim strips on the Vuelta wheels I used to use), but they're bulky and inflexible. I stopped in at Kim's Bikes today with my plaint, and Mrs. Kim suggested the Specialized strips. They're very tight -- it took me a while to figure a way to get 'em on -- but they're much slimmer and more pliable, and they did the trick. I can now get the tires on & off by hand.

(I think what happens is the bulky rim strips force the tire bead into the channel, instead of allowing the bead to flex inside the wheel. With the newer strips, if the tire starts to bind, I can pinch the beads together so they come out of the channel, and the tire goes on.)

It's too soon to tell, but the Specialized strips may become a Thing that Works. (OTOH, a cursory web search suggests that they're not readily available outside the UK... so maybe not.)