Sorry, this is a bit of a ramble, but I wanted to write something, rather than nothing.
I made veiled reference, in a previous post a while back, to a new bike I'd be receiving in the mail. I've waited way to long to post the follow-up to that reference. Now that the dramatic tension has been drained out of the scenario, I thought I'd go ahead and post about the new bike. I bought a Rivendell Quickbeam (I'd link to it, but their stupid new site's design doesn't allow direct links), and it is a thing of beauty. It is a purpose-built single speed bicycle. Pretty, lugged steel frame, track dropouts, etc., but also with a lot of practical goodies like a rideable geometry and rack/fender eyelets, etc.
Yes, I sprung the big bux for the Nigel Smythe plaid wool tweed bags that really make the bike look as though it rolled up out of the British 50's. Since I took these photos, I converted the bike to SPD platform pedals that have one flat side so it can be ridden with "regular" shoes. The bike is also outfitted with a Brooks saddle. Classic, and actually really comfortable even though it's not really broken in. I've heard and read many horror stories about the lengthy break-in period with Brooks saddles, but I must be one of the lucky ones for whom "it just works". I like it so much that I put a black one on my Serotta commuter.
What I'm lightly hinting around at, is that I'm Switching Gears in the sense that I'm trying to change my relationship to riding. For most of my riding career it's been an "informally competitive" activity. I rode hard and called it training. I wasn't training for races, but just in order to be able to ride fast. I'm not so much into that any more. I had a over a year away from riding and didn't really miss it much. Now, looking back on it, maybe what I didn't miss was the struggle of it -- the idea that I had to ride hard and fast all the time. I'm hoping to ride more now for the fun of it, and to some degree for transportation (I'm commuting again, and hope to use my bikes as a way to get to sketching sites, for example).
What I've done to my Serotta, and what I've done in ordering the Quickbeam is to try to further stimulate this change in my relationship to cycling. On a singlespeed (and similarly on a fixie), you have more constraints. You have to kind of give up a bit of control to the environment, rather than just switching gars. When the hill is steep, you stand. When you have a headwind, you tough it out. When going down a big hill you coast (on a single speed, anyway). I'm trying to keep the experience pure, so no bike computer on the Quickbeam (matter of fact I took the computer off my Serotta as well). Also, I no longer subscribe to Bicycling magazine (which has basically become a fashion catalog), but Bicycle Quarterly, instead. I'll be selling my Trek 5200, which is still in the shipping box from last year's ill-fated ride, and which I haven't missed.
I'm trying to reduce the overhead around riding. I put the half-flat pedals on my bikes to allow me to just hop on and ride when I want, without putting on special cycling shoes. I still think that cycling shoes give the best pedal interface, and I will always use them, but it's great to just be able to hop on the bike in sandals, regular shorts, and a t-shirt. I am still not attracted to riding significant distances in non-cycling clothes, however. Bicycle shorts are black and seamless for really good reasons. Jerseys wick sweat, have handy back pockets, and open wide for venting, all practical features. Still, I'm willing to try riding in non-specialized clothing.
A few weeks ago, MB and I rode around Buena Vista and enjoyed ourselves a lot. We just tooled around the back streets (OK, they're all back streets there), and then rode the trails down by the Arkansas river. I did all this in regular shorts (with UnderArmour boxers underneath -- seamless), a t-shirt, hiking shoes, and with no helmet or gloves. It was like being a kid again. It was fun riding singletrack on a single speed -- having to keep my momentum just right, really grunting up hills, etc. I was basically comfortable the whole time, except for the climb back to the cabin. I actually felt that I'd have been more comfy in a helmet. It would have acted like a hat to keep the sun off my head, and would have caught the inevitable waterfall of sweat coming down my forehead, not to mention the safety aspect.
Wrapping up, I'm not sure where I stand on large organized rides. Not sure if I'm interested any more, or at least whether I'm interested in riding them so fast as I used to. For example, I may do TOSRV again, but I may approach it differently. I might do it on a single speed. I'll surely do it on a lugged-steel bicycle with an old-school comfy fit in a touring-oriented riding position on big fat tires, on a Brooks saddle.
Maybe I'm just getting old :-).
Posted: Wed Sep 19 20:47:02 -0700 2007
I wrote recently about starting to bicycle commute again. I made vague reference to a new bike coming, and even though it's not here yet, I thought I'd write about some work I've done on my Serotta, which is somewhat related.
I've converted it to a single speed:
Yes, I've caught the single speed bug, and have removed everything that is not essential from the Serotta's drivetrain. No more derailleurs, cables, cassette, or even STI levers with their clicking and clacking. It's sweet and silent and elegant (except for the tensioner, which is unfortunately required due to the vertical dropouts on the Serotta).
My knees have been fine so far, just the tiny bit of "tweakiness", but I attribute that more to the increased riding (hell, riding at all) than to riding one and only one gear. Besides, it's only a 39x18, which is hardly a big gear. So, I have to stand on the bigger climbs, and coast on the faster descents. But that's just dandy.
Anyway, that's a clue as to what is eventually coming in the mail -- a bike for me to use down in Buena Vista. A really nice bike. Nicer than it should be, but it seemed to be the only thing I could find that fit all my desires. Again, more on that later.
Posted: Mon Aug 13 19:27:25 -0700 2007
Over a year ago my company moved to a building without a shower. That, combined with a minor injury last spring, contributed to my discontinuation of my previously religious bicycle commuting. Recently, I got fed up with not bike commuting (perhaps a new bike purchase had something to do with that, even though the new bike is not the bike I will be commuting on, not to mention I don't even have it yet -- more on that in an upcoming post). So, I decided to find a way.
My way is as follows:
- Leave some standard toiletries and a washcloth and towel at work (the most important being a box of baby wipes).
- Set up a drying rack in an unused office.
- Ride my commuter bike in as relaxed as possible. No speeding. No attacking hills. No bombing downhill.
- Upon arrival at work, cool down in nearby parking lot, just riding in circles.
- Head up to the office, grab the toiletries, and clean up in the handicap stall.
- Bask in having bicycle commuted to work.
Let's hope I can keep it up.
Posted: Tue Jul 31 06:18:28 -0700 2007
Simply stated, this was the best E-Rock I've experienced. The weather was absolutely perfect. We started around 7:00 with the temperature around 40o. By mid-ride it was partly cloudy and in the mid-70s. The wind was probably around 10 mph from the South, which made for a slightly harder ride "out" and an easy ride "back". We really couldn't have asked for better.
Only two stretches of the 65 mile course are any good for serious pacelines. One stretch, of around 10 miles, starts at around the 15 mile mark. It's a nice southbound flat with Pike's Peak impressively visible ahead and just to the right. Brian, Jason, and I developed a paceline of around 10-12 folks for most of this section. I didn't have the computer mounted on my bike this year, so I have no idea of our pace, although Jason mentioned that we were doing around 19 mph at one point. The second good stretch is the last 8-10 miles, most of which is along frontage road. This section varies from flat to a slight downhill. This is the section where I usually light the afterburners (relatively speaking), and go all-out, taking no prisoners. Again, I didn't have my bike computer, but Brian says we were doing around 26-27 mph in this section. We had a small group of around five riders in tow.
I was also more comfortable on this ride than in previous years. Over the last few years, the balls of my feet seem to have gotten much more sensitive to riding, to the point where it feels as though they're on fire under certain conditions. I've narrowed this down to the pressure of hard efforts, such as climbing out of the saddle, which puts undue pressure on my feet (I'm pretty heavy, unfortunately). So, on this E-Rock I made a conscious effort to stay in the saddle more on climbs. In previous years, I'd have had to sit down at Palmer Lake and take my shoes off to massage my feet. This year, I had no such requirement.
Posted: Fri Jun 10 07:13:47 -0700 2005
Yes, in spite of all the sunny-weather predictions that had my hopes way up for a rain-free TOSRV, we had rain the first 60 or so miles of day one. It was a trick -- Saturday dawned dry and cool, but by the time we hoofed it over to McDonalds for a pre-ride fat pill, it was drizzling. The now-accurate weather reports indicated rain in, and southeast of, Columbus. This was just great, because that's exactly the direction in which we'd be riding. Oh well, it wouldn't be TOSRV without the rain (except for last year's, which I missed -- it had perfect weather).
Steve and I dropped our gear at the "McKinley" truck, and we pedaled off into a light drizzle, which really wasn't so bad. However, as we got further from town, the rain got worse, and to add more to the merriment I broke a spoke on my front wheel. No, not the one I just replaced before packing my bike to mail it out to KY, but a different one, on the other side (I got it replaced in Circleville, and it's still holding).
It rained steadily, with temperatures varying between 45 and 50 degrees, until we got to Chillicothe and got off our bikes. Then, of course, it stopped ... until we got back on our bikes. I guess it was about 10 miles outside of Chilli that the rain finally stopped and the sun peeked out just a bit. I never took off my arm warmers though.
The rest of the ride was basically uneventful. We rode in this and that paceline, and fought a headwind most of the time. I wore myself out a bit in the rollers, which is not unusual for me (I can't help attacking them).
Sunday was a different story: foggy and cool, leading to a beautiful day offering a light tailwind. On most TOSRVs we seem to end up in a great paceline to Waverly on Sunday. This year, I was just beginning to wonder whether we'd find one when I looked behind me to see that a good-sized one had formed on my wheel. Then, the guy behind me started singing an ode to my Colnago, which was oddly entertaining (but mostly just odd). We passed another paceline, which apparently hooked onto the end of ours. When we pulled into Waverly I looked back and saw that the paceline had possibly 25-30 riders in it. I rule :-).
The rest of Sunday was pretty much a grind. We didn't get in many good pacelines after Waverly, although we had a good stint with a couple other riders between Chilli and Circleville. The day was heating up, and I wasn't feeling very good at this point (just slightly nauseous) but Steve was riding strong, and took a very good pull getting us into Circleville.
The last 25 miles or so were the usual for me -- a blur of discomfort puncuated by small pleasures like fresh cold water at an informal stop 10 miles out. My feet were fried, my ass was grass, and my shoulders were very stiff, but Steve and I sprinted the last block of the ride like we'd just started.
Looking forward to next year...
Posted: Fri May 13 09:49:40 -0700 2005
Due to the squonking coming from my bottom bracket the morning of my abortive "worst commute ever" I took my beloved Serotta commuting bike to the shop to get the bottom bracket replaced, ASAP. Well, they couldn't really do it ASAP since they didn't have the appropriate BB on hand. So I left with my bike with the understanding that I'd try to find one elsewhere, then bring the bike back for the install.
As I loaded my bike back onto the rear rack on my car, a thought entered my stupid head, "wow, what if someone rear-ended me while my bike was on here -- that would suck." As I was soon to find out, yes, it does suck.
That's right, someone rear-ended me on the road right in front of the bike shop. I was sitting in the "straight" lane. Everyone was stopped at the light, including my attacker. However, she apparently misread the green left turn light as a general green light and stepped on her gas. Her forward progress was hindered only by my Serotta's right crankarm and my car's rear bumper.
After the thump, I sat there for a second shaking my head. I really couldn't believe I'd just been rear-ended at a stop light with my bike on the back of the car, not to mention that I'd just thought how much it would suck to have it happen. What were the chances? I hopped out of the car to look at the damage, which wasn't obvious at first. Then, with closer inspection I realized the right crankarm was bent in so far that it couldn't clear the chainstay. The left crankarm had left a crankarm-shaped impression in my bumper. Her license plate had a pedal-shaped impression in it. We did the usual exchange of info, and parted ways. All I could do was wonder what I'd done lately to piss off the cycling gods.
Won't be riding this for a while
I took the bike back to the shop today to get the repair estimate. It's a total of about $250 or so. I wonder what the estimate will be to fix my car's bumper. Oddly, I don't really care all that much about that: my commuting bike is out of commission until at least Wednesday, and so I have to ride one of my other bikes (which I'm fortunate to have), but with a stinking backpack full of my stuff, rather than in a nice rack-mounted commuting pannier.
Oh yeah, we're supposed to get lots of rain next week, too.
Posted: Sun Apr 24 21:03:34 -0700 2005
Wednesday's bike commuting effort was a mess. The morning was very cold and clammy, and I even got rained on a bit. Also, every time I would stand to pedal, I'd hear a "whonk!" from somewhere below and behind that sounded like an angry goose. No, it wasn't the previous night's Mexican -- I finally determined that my bottom bracket must be turning into mush.
To add to my excitement about bike commuting on this particular day, there was a chance of rain in the afternoon, for my commute home. Of course, when I bike commute "a chance of rain" means a storm is 100% guaranteed. The guarantee held quite well, and I left work on my bike in a hard 45-degree drizzle.
The other guarantee that I can rely on, when commuting in the rain, is that I'll get a flat. Again, (dis)satisfaction was provided in the form of a flat within 300 yards of leaving my building! I almost threw in the towel at that point, but decided to perservere.
Fixing a flat on my fully-loaded commuting bike is a pain. I have fenders, so I have to flip the bike. To flip the bike, I have to remove my commuting pannier, my water bottle(s), my lighting system, etc. Fixing a flat on a wet commuting bike is even more of a pain, because my hands always end up covered in black rubber-dust that makes it look as though I just worked a seam of coal bare-handed.
Anyway, the bike is flipped, I've removed the blessed shard of glass from the tire, and am preparing to put a new tube in. My habit is to pump just a bit of air into a fresh tube to make it a bit easier to handle. So, I grab my frame pump, attach it lightly to the valve, and give it a couple of short bursts. Nothing happens. Thinking there wasn't a good seal, I go to lock the pump head to the valve, and the freaking lever pops off and falls to the ground, along with some random pump head contents. My pump is completely shot. Broken. Kaput. How the hell did this happen?
So here I am with coal-miner's hands, a half-installed tube and no way to pump up the works. There was nothing to do but put the tube in, reassemble my bike, and push the crippled bike back to my building. There, I washed my hands to a dull gray, and headed back out into the rain to push the bike to the bus station. Of course, all this walking around in bike cleats has my plantar fasciitis, which had mostly subsided, coming back with a vengeance.
Posted: Fri Apr 22 11:44:57 -0700 2005
The bearings of the pulleys on my Colnago's rear derailleur were torched. I noticed this last year when I was cleaning them before installing the derailleur on the bike (the derailleur was part of a drivetrain donation from my boss). I put them back on anyway and rode the bike a good 500 miles with them installed, but it's always bugged me to know that the bearings were shot.
So today, I finally got around to replacing the original pulleys with some trick aluminum ones from Performance. They went on pretty easy (you have to use one washer per side to match the original Dura-Ace pulley width, BTW), and they look pimpin'. Well, to me anyway.
Dat shit is tight!
And, yeah, my drivetrain stays about that clean all the time.
Posted: Fri Apr 15 15:48:10 -0700 2005
My riding buddy Brian and I did our "usual" 40-mile ride today - our "South Denver Loop". This ride encompasses the Platte River Trail, the Cherry Creek Trail and the Highline Canal Trail, with the occasional neighborhood street riding. Other than a few 20-milers, which hardly count, this is my first big ride of the season.
We always stop at REI at about the halfway point and treat ourselves to breakfast sandwiches at the Starbucks. The breakfast sandwiches have a decent balance of carbs, fat, and protein (a little more than decent on the fat). Well today, they couldn't make breakfast sandwiches, so I got a "toffee bar". Big mistake. This thing must have been 90% sugar. On top of that, I had hot chocolate, which only added to the sugar content.
Brian and I sat there for quite a while (we're always lazier at the beginning of the season), which I suppose was long enough for my blood sugar to peak, and then start a downhill trend. So, within a few miles of pedaling away from REI, I was a mound of weak, quivering flesh, and was having some pretty enthralling food fantasies. We really, really, had to stop at a gas station so I could get some peanuts and a PowerBar. Once refueled, I was basically fine. However, a southerly headwind beat me down further as I rode home. I was pretty dead on arrival. Yippee, the TOSRV is only four weeks away, and I'm raring to go (not)!
On an almost related note, I've had a relapse of the plantar fasciitis that plagued me for over a year when we first moved to Denver. Back then, it was pretty obvious what brought it on (running around barefoot in the grass, playing soccer with my 4-year-old nephew). This time, it just up and started hurting one day: I got up from playing XBox on the couch and my heel hurt. I can't for the life of me figure out what brought it on. Anyway, this was about three weeks ago, and it's still going strong. Luckily cycling doesn't hurt it (though it probably doesn't help it either).
Posted: Sun Apr 03 15:11:07 -0700 2005
I just installed another SRAM PowerLink chain, this time on my Serotta. Again, the experience was superb, so I decided to write up a short review.
SRAM PowerLink SR-69
Posted: Sun Sep 26 20:06:34 -0700 2004
So, I was riding my commuting bike to work this morning in almost complete darkness (of course, I do use a lighting system). In a high-speed corner that I've taken a million times without incident, today I hit a giant pothole that I didn't see until the last second. I got the front wheel over it, but the back took it hard. I didn't hear the telltale "ping!" of a spoke breaking, so I soldiered on for a bit. However, the next time I put on my brakes, I heard a loud shick-shick-shick sound from the rear. So I stopped under a street light to check it out. A spin of the wheel showed that it had gone out of true, and was catching on the brakes, and that a couple of spokes were very loose. I decided not to do further damage to the wheel, and rode back home (I was only a couple of miles away).
When I got home I put the bike on the stand to have a look at the wheel and see exactly how out of true it was. Well, it wasn't so much out of true as one of the walls of the rim was bent. Badly. I don't know how I did this without flatting immediately due to a pinch flat, but there it was. I'll probably go at the rim with a pliers to see if I can straighten it a bit, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to have the rear wheel rebuilt with a new rim. A real bummer, because these rims are almost new :-(.
I left my PowerBook at work today, and will ride my Colnago in tomorrow. I always look forward to riding that bike!
Posted: Wed Sep 15 20:10:27 -0700 2004
I think I mentioned in one of my Colnago build-up entries that I'd put a new chain on an old cassette. What I didn't mention was why. I'd kind of trashed the chain that came with the drivetrain by putting it into the wrong "saddle" when I used the chain tool to break the chain in order to install the front derailleur. So, I had to install a new chain that I happened to have on hand (originally intended for the Serotta). Of course, in mounting the new chain I used the wrong saddle again (how stupid can one person be?). However, I didn't completely trash the chain and it seemed to be OK once mounted.
After a couple of rides it became obvious that the old cassette (titanium Dura-Ace cassette, that is) had to go. The chain was skipping more and more. So, last weekend I went to Performance Bike Shop and bought a new Ultegra cassette and mounted it. That took care of the chain skipping problem, but there was another problem lurking.
After another fifty miles or so, the drivetrain started producing a series of clicking sounds when I turned the pedals, no matter how lightly. However, I couldn't recreate the sound with the bike on the stand. So, I tightened the cranks and the chainring bolts and re-lubed the chain. Still, with the clicking, oy vey! It finally hit me that it might be the tortured chain from the original install, so I replaced it today with a new SRAM "PowerLink" chain. Oh, how sweet the sound of silence!
Let me say right here and now that I intend to use SRAM PowerLink chains on the rest of my bikes when the time comes for replacement. Not only is it a tool-less install/deinstall (except for breaking the chain to the right length during the initial install, of course), the chains are packaged "dry". That is, they don't come covered in a primordial goop that is impervious to degreasers and which attracts every piece of dirt within a 50-foot radius like the Shimano chains do. Double-plus good!
Of course, the new cassette and chain added yet another $70 or so to the total outlay for the build of this bike. "The gift of Dura-Ace" was an expensive gift, after all.
Posted: Sat Aug 28 20:58:41 -0700 2004
I've ridden in rain. I've ridden in hard rain (the 2003 TOSRV comes to mind). But yesterday took the cake because it was a ride in hard rain, deep water, and backed-up traffic. Denver was hit with a huge storm right about the time I left for my commute home. "Damn the torpedoes", I thought, and proceeded to ride home anyway. When I hit the Cherry Creek bike path, I came to the sudden realization that the storm drains on Speer lead to outlets on the trail. Thus, I passed many giant pipes spewing forth dirty street water, and rode through puddles 6-8" deep a number of times. Naturally, after the first deep puddle crossing, my shoes were filled with water. I kind of let this big deep puddle thing freak me out a little, and so went to street level as soon as possible. I headed home on Downing, which seems so much narrower when it's packed with traffic. I'm not a rider that is nervous in traffic, but I was nervous yesterday evening.
When I got home, I did my usual apres-rain-ride routine of rinsing the bike off, drying it, and applying WD-40 to the chain to clear out the water. This time, however, I also removed the seatpost and turned the bike upside down to see if any water had gotten into the frame (didn't seem to). I left the seatpost out overnight, just in case. I'm wondering how my hubs and bottom bracket fared. I may pull the BB this weekend just out of curiosity.
Posted: Thu Aug 19 19:45:02 -0700 2004
Let's just make a long story short and say I finished up the build this weekend. I actually rode the bike today, on a 40-miler, with no catastrophes. The bike handles great and is stiffer than I expected (like the Serotta was a few months ago. I was however, riding with a hack. To understand that, you have to read the long story.
Colnago, side view
- Having gotten the bushing for the front derailleur from the bike shop, I prepared to hook up the derailleur. I had tried hooking up the rear derailleur earlier in the week, and impatiently had gone ahead and mounted the chain to see it in action. Of course, this meant that I had to break the chain to put on the front derailleur. This, I screwed up mightily. I don't know what came over me, but I put the chain into the wrong "saddle" in the chain tool, and proceeded to bend the thing all out of whack. What a mess.
- Mounted front derailleur and installed new chain. Of course, this is a new chain on an old cassette, but my boss must not have put many miles on this casette, because it doesn't skip nearly as much as I expected. Just a tick here and there every few minutes/miles. I can live with it.
- Now, I set about adjusting the front derailleur. This went relatively smoothly, except that the derailleur body wouldn't sit at the right angle to the chainrings. So, I used a very special repair technique to fix it: I bent it into submission. Adjustments here went pretty smoothly.
- Hooked up the rear derailleur and tried to adjust it, again. Had lots of trouble. All the trouble, it turns out was related to this cable-hanger thingy on my chainstay. It's too big for small SIS cable, which slips right through once enough pressure is applied (which explained my problems with adjusting the indexing), and too small for the larger 4mil cable. I ended up using the larger 4mil cable and cutting the housing away, leaving about 5mm of exposed housing wire. This housing wire acted as a ferrule of sorts that fit into the cable hanger. Once this hack was snugged up, it was fairly stable and gave reasonable shifting, but I knew I needed a real fix.
- Mounted the seat on the lovely Thomson seatpost.
- Wrapped the bars. Most beautiful job I've ever done. This was my first time with Deda bar tape - I like it. Of course, I wrapped the bars before double-checking the brifter lever position. Luckily the levers aren't too much lower than I normally like them, and I could scoot them up a bit, even with the tape on. I rotated the bar a bit higher than I normally keep it, to get the levers even more to what I'm used to.
At this point, the bike actually is a bike, rideable and all. I test rode it around my neigborhood, and my first impressions were that it wasn't as nimble as I'd assumed it would be, and didn't turn as tightly as I'd expected. However, it rode fine no-handed, and with the history that this bike seems to have (the top tube is a mess), that was good news.
- While riding this morning, I took note of a few adjustments that I needed to make: scoot seat back .5", lower bars 1.5cm, tighten cranks again, tighten pedals again. I made these adjustments as soon as I returned from the ride.
- Went out in search of the proper part for the rear derailleur cable hanger, and other niceties. After a couple of trips, I had exactl what I needed.
- Re-installed another set of front/rear shift cables (the ends of the ones I'd just put on days ago were frayed). This time, I used a plastic inner-housing-like material (one of the other niceties I picked up) routed through the BB shell cable channels to save wear and tear on the frame, and to get smoother shifting. On the rear I used the nifty ferrule to properly install the final loop of housing at the derailleur.
- Adjustments went quickly and smoothly this time. The bike is, dare I say it, done.
Colnago, front 3/4 view
Posted: Sun Aug 08 16:31:24 -0700 2004