Friday, February 25, 2005

Odds and Ends

It was foggy and right at freezing on my commute this morning. All the leading edges of the bike were rimed with frost, including my gloves. It was very strange to look down and almost watch the ice forming. At least the yard dogs from hell were too cold to come out and chase.

My son came down with some sort of virus that's been going around the schools. First, Lyndsay had it and passed it to her brother. He's been sick since Wednesday. But when the April "Wheel Issues" arrived, he brightened considerably while reading the story I'd written about him. It wasn't even close to true, but he thought it was funny, especially the parts that were funny at MY expense!

Just as I arrived at work, I saw another bicycle commuter! I was about to put my bike in the rack outside my building when this guy rode past and waved! Wow! There really are more crazed people out there than I imagined. In the summer, I stumble across one or two a week, but it's been months since I've seen anyone else.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Real World

I receive one of the popular cycling magazines as part of my LAB membership. This month, it consists of little more than ads masquerading as a buyer's guide. I especially liked this little gem about a new bicycle:

"...(It offers) the low-tech route to a plush ride, using tire volume (Vittoria 25mm Zaffiros) and geometry (a shorter top tube
and longer chainstays) to smooth the road."

Now, I'll admit that geometry has a profound effect on ride quality because I rode a track bike for quite a while, and the ride was punishing due to the frame's extreme angles. But the concepts of "plush ride" and "25mm tires" simply do not go together for a big guy like me! I weigh about 215 right now, and every time I get on a bike, I apply Ed's vertical crush test. Skinny tires are acceptable on my time trial bike, but for day-to-day use I like them a bit stouter. Potholes and railroad crossings puncture 25mm tires too easily. Most of my bikes are on 28mm tires.

So I'm not favorably disposed to the magazine copy. Someday, perhaps they'll do an article aimed at those of us who lust after a bike constructed of Columbus Max tubing. You know, the guys who look at a steel stem and think, "Gosh, I probably couldn't BREAK that!". They not concerned about a couple of extra grams. They avoid aluminum frames because they crack eventually, and given their weight, the frames will fail sooner rather than later.

I have a friend, a guy bigger and stronger than me, who worried that he'd break his new titanium frame. It flexes plenty on hard climbs, but he hasn't broken it yet. But I think about guys like him when an advertisment touts some light-as-a-feather component made of unobtainium. They really should give us big guys a chance to beat on them for a while, before pronouncing them good.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

22 MPH

The local police have a radar speed monitor that they like to park on residential streets. It's a small trailer with a sign that lights up to let you know how fast you're traveling. This morning it was at the bottom of the hill outside my house.

I saw it immediately when it lit up to show a big "10". My ego kicked in and I started pedaling faster and faster. I topped out at 22 MPH! But the interesting part is that in order to do that speed, I had to pull 132 rpm. The commuter bike is a fixed gear (42x20) and frankly, I'm surprised that I could spin that high without bouncing. (I have a spread sheet that does all the calculations.) I spin furiously without going very fast, a definite plus on a cold winter day.

Truthfully, the bike is geared very low for a fixie, but I like it like that. It's easier to grind into a headwind or up a hill, and I'm always carrying baggage. I weighed the Bianchi once after riding home from work, and it weighed 45 pounds with all the stuff attached. This Centurion is less but not much less.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Lost and Found

Coming to work this morning, I caught a glimpse of something in the weeds off the side of the road. I didn't get a good look at it, but I thought it could be some sort of tool, so I circled back. It was a Bushnell spotting scope, still attached to a tripod! The lenses were filthy with mud, and the front bezel was chipped away, but other than that it was intact.

I cleaned it later. Everything still works, though there's a small chip out of one of the internal lenses. It's still

I've found a lot of stuff lying along the road. Screwdrivers are fairly common, as are pliers and Channelocks. I've found good wrenches and bad. It's a thrill to come across some Snap-On, Mac, or Proto stuff, but I've found no-name wrenches too.

But I don't understand some of the things I've found. Why are there so many single shoes lying along the road? Or what was the story behind the trail of women's clothing, starting with outer wear and progressing to more intimate apparel? Maybe I don't really want to know.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Grumble, grumble...

Tom called a couple of days back to tell me that he'd received the bottom bracket tool for my Bianchi. This is a Park BBT-4 and it's been re-designed from the original. For one thing, it's a piece of straight steel without the offset that caused the original to cam off. Another change was the addition of small tabs that allow you to put in place and hold it there with your free hand. Again, it's much less likely to cam off. I generally like Park Tools, but that first BBT-4 was a POS.

I started reassembling the Bianchi yesterday afternoon. It went fairly well, but somewhere along the way I'd lost a few small parts. Nothing critical, but annoying none the less. The '96 San Remo has Tektro cantilever brakes. Somehow I've lost one cable anchor bolt and a tiny set screw that sets the tension spring. The set screw may have been missing for years. Who knows? And the anchor bolt is probably somewhere in the garage, but I suspect that Jimmy Hoffa could be out there in the garage too. Let's just say it won't be easy to find either of them.

The washer that goes under the crankarm bolt is gone too. I won't ride the bike without having the crank assembled properly, nor will I ride it without both brakes.

I'm slightly disappointed. I'd hoped to ride that bike to work this week, but apparently that is not meant to be. Oh well, it's been out of service for months. What's another week?

After payday, I'll go back down to Tom's and get new brake pads and all new cables. I used to replace all these things every spring when I lived in Pennsylvania, but back there I had to because the weather and the salt on the roads would corrode them. I haven't been doing that here in Oklahoma.

The bike looks a little rough. The paint is chipped and scratched. It's been touched up some, but the touch up paint doesn't quite match the original. It never does. Some parts show a lot of wear. The saddle is scuffed and the foam padding shows on either side where it's been leaned up against things. The bike has seen nearly daily use for eight years, so I can't complain about how it looks!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

And on a personal note...

I rode to work every day this week. Yeah, I know, for some people that's just another normal week, and to be honest, I've done that fairly often too. But I've had a minor problem, a sore point common to just about every cyclist. Saddle sores.

If you're sensitive about such things, you may want to stop reading right here.

I didn't have problems like this when I was younger. Maybe I had that legendary iron butt. My main problem was (and still is) lack of training time. In the last couple of years, I've had a great deal of difficulty with both infected hair follicles and simple abrasions. Heaping gobs of Bag Balm seem to help, but I feel like a greased up pig.

Toss in the leg cramps that I treat with Icy Hot, and I feel like a greased up pig who smells like a geriatric ward.

How do the pros handle this? They're in the saddle for long hours in all sorts of weather. I recall that Lance Armstrong tested positive for cortisone one year due to a topical application for saddle sores. Regardless, this is one subject the bicycling magazines won't touch.

But like I said, I never had problems like this when I was younger. When the weather gets warm and humid in the spring, I'll likely have problems with fungal infections too. It happens every spring. I've treated that with Micatin and it really seems to help. But that works by drying the skin, and if my skin is dry, I get abrasions. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed suggested that I simply stop riding, but that will never do. Besides, Number One Daughter believes that the family Ford is now her own. I gotta ride the bike!

Maybe the Brooks Professional saddle will help. I really like it. The saddle is like sitting in a comfortable old arm chair. It's well broken-in, and looks it. I'm hoping it relieves the pressure points and allows me to keep on riding.

Friday, February 18, 2005

An impoverished, middle-class taxpayer...


I'm a poor, impoverished middle-class taxpayer here in the United States of America. I don't make enough money to qualify for the Bush administration's tax cuts that go to the upper 2%. Though I have a job, and it was once a very good one, cutbacks and the economic downturn since September 11th have caused my income to shrink alarmingly. Meanwhile, prices and taxes have gone up. My family is in a bind. I may have to sell some belongings in order to remain solvent.

This is where you can help.

I have a number of bicycles in the garage: some old three-speeds, a couple of fixed gears, BMX bikes, a tandem, and some racing bikes. Oh no, I'm not going to sell THEM! Instead, I'm thinking about selling my children, specifically my 14-year-old son. He comes complete with a video game system that he's quite skilled at using. I may throw in some other items, ones he has not developed consummate skill with, like math books, English books, and spelling. He's particularly creative with spelling, but let's just say that mastery is absent. Oh, I may throw in our old couch too, since he and it seem to be inseparable, and just for fun, those smelly piles of clothing from his bedroom floor. But if you want them, act quickly, because the EPA has expressed some interest.

I thought about listing him on E-Bay, but they have rules against this sort of thing. And to be fair, there are some drawbacks to having a teenage son. The lawn mower goes unused for long periods of time, for instance, though the refrigerator door gets a good workout every day! The kid does like to eat....and eat and eat. Before long, he'll be able to drop me at will when we ride together, and I can't allow THAT!

(Seriously, my son is a good kid - a teenager with too much interest in video games. I give him a hard time but I wouldn't trade him for anything! He's a budding bicycle mechanic and racer, and he can drop me going uphill already. Soon he'll be able to out-sprint me too. Like any parent, I worry about my kids sometimes, but also like any other parent, I'm enormously proud of them. We have our moments of conflict, of course, but my kids are the best part of my life. All too soon, they'll be grown and gone.........Ed)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Stupid Motorist Tricks

Stupid Motorist Trick: I was riding along E 56th St North this morning. A pickup came up alongside, intending to right-hook onto the US169 on-ramp. But apparently the driver not only misjudged my speed, he (or she, I couldn't tell) focused on my bbike so intently that he missed the ramp entirely! He stayed beside me until he realized he was well past the ramp, stopped,then reversed to enter it! Amazing!

Other news: I'm changing shifts as of tomorrow. I'll be working 0800-1630, and I'll be commuting in daylight! What a deal! Well, that, and I can be there to see the kids off to school in the morning. I'm looking forward to it.

Later the same day...

It was a lovely spring-like day with temperatures in the 70s! Imagine riding in just shorts and jersey in February! But as is usual on those first nice days, motorists are driving around with their windows down. As I rode west on a 4 lane arterial, someone in a passing pickup yelled, "Get on the sidewalk!" He went on down the street, then turned into the drive-thru lane at Arby's.

That's where I caught up to him.

Way back when, I was a sprinter, complete with the requisite short tempered disposition. Learning to control my temper has been a life-long struggle. And at Arby's, I successfully avoided going into Conan-the-Barbarian mode. (Crush your enemies, see them run before you, hear the lamentation of their women!) I'm a big guy at just over 6 feet tall and 220 pounds. It's gratifying to see how small a horn blaring motorist can get when I catch him. But I wasn't going to take any heads today.

I was polite. I was actually nice! I told him that it's safer to be on the street than the sidewalk and that the chances of crashing are about three times greater on the sidewalk. "Oh", he said, "that's because every ramp is another intersection!" He actually got it! Wow! And I told him that riding the sidewalks in a business district is illegal in our town.

"Just give me a little space on the road!" I grinned, and we parted amicably.

Damn! I'm getting old! Or maybe I'm just getting smarter.

Monday, February 07, 2005

"Where a gentleman sits..."

"Where a gentleman sits is very important."

I don't remember the source of that quote, but I do know that it was in reference to Brooks saddles. I put an ancient Brooks Professional on my Centurion fixed gear back on Saturday. Sure,it's a little incongruous on a Japanese bike, but it is a rather nice straight gauge, chrome-moly frame, perfect for a fixie. The saddle has some small cracks in the leather around the rivets, so its days are probably numbered.

When I left the house this morning, I was surprised at the difference the saddle made! Fit and feel are so important to cycling. The Brooks Pro felt like a comfortable old chair. It was a remarkable difference from the overstuffed Schwinn saddle. Sometimes a saddle just feels right. This one does.

It looks different too, and despite my preference for function over aesthetics, the Brooks just LOOKS right on this old bike. It's a lugged steel frame with horizontal drop outs, definitely retro.

Bicycles are uniquely personal vehicles. Perhaps that's why we get so emotional when one gets broken or stolen. They're far less expensive than a car, and in fact, the Centurion is worth less than the deductible on my car, but unlike the Ford, the Centurion has been built up to suit my tastes and my uses. With cars and motorcycles, it seems that we have to fit ourselves to them, rather than the other way 'round.

But I'd forgotten how comfy that Brooks Professional can be. When it goes, I just may have to look for another leather saddle.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A short note on a Saturday afternoon...

I just finished a quick thrash in the garage. I sprayed the inside of the Bianchi with Amzoil MPHD (metal protectant heavy duty), stuff that doubles as chain lube and rust preventative. Hey! I'm cheap! This is much less costly that the boutique lubes. Of course, I got it all over my hands, my shoes, and the garage floor.

I set it aside to drain off the excess, put the Centurion fixed gear into the stand, and swapped out the funky old over stuffed Schwinn saddle for a funky-but-cool Brooks Professional. Looks very nice, in a retro way.

Then I came back inside to see where the Tulsa Wheelmen time trial series would be this year. Guess what - no time trials! So there's no need to set up a fixed gear TT bike, unless I want to do it just for fun. Looks like I'll be doing just the crits this summer. Gotta stay ahead of my teenage son!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A snow no-show!

Ha! There wasn't any real snow after all!

I stopped at the grocery this morning. Janet, the night shift check out clerk, said the store had been very busy last night. So busy, in fact, that the restocking she usually completes at 3AM was still unfinished at nearly 6! People went nuts, as the normally do here when it snows. They bought all the milk, bread,
eggs, and toilet paper. I told her that when I lived in Pennsylvania, we always hit the beer distributor and the liquor store. Different priorities, I guess.

But I still didn't ride today. The roads were wet. A mixture of rain and snow was falling. I don't like riding in fog, and I don't like riding in the dark in the rain. Visibility is a big issue. Well, that, and arriving at work soaked through makes for a long, cold day. Sure, I have dry clothing, but when it's just above freezing and it's wet, I get chilled to the bone.

Other news:
Susan Walker ran a provocative piece in Wheel Issues about drinking and bicycling. I wrote a long response that (in my not-too-humble opinion) is fair and balanced. It should be in the next issue. Here's the URL for Wheel Issues:

Here's the URL for the drunken cyclist piece:

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Old Folks MTV

I should know better than to believe the weathermen on local television. They're in the pay of the grocery stores, for one. For another, they're seldom right more than 24 hours in advance.

I watched the weather last night. They were predicting temperatures around freezing and heavy fog in the morning, and I hate riding in the dark and fog. My commute starts before 6AM. There aren't a lot of cars along the way until I get close to work, but there are a lot of dogs and skunks. I've had too-close encounters with both in the fog. So I decided to forego the ride.

When I left for work, it was about 40F and clear. Not a shred of fog to be found.

The local weathermen predict 3 inches of snow tonight. This is why I think they're in the pay of the grocery stores. The one near our house will sell out of milk, bread, eggs, cereal, and toilet paper sometime early this evening.

Let's see what the morning brings. I'll set my gear out, just in case. And I'll have the TV set to the Weather Channel - or as my kids call it - Old Folks MTV.