November 23, 2014

Front Bag Testimony: fork rake & trail, headlight brackets, and sepia tone

  For the first time in almost a decade, the Kogs gets something of a make-over - at least as far as the front end is concerned.  I've been sitting on a GB25 handlebar (front) bag for a while now, and I finally decided to give mounting it a shot.  Why the hesitation?  Well, that's me thinking too much - as is often the case.  I'm not the milli-metric nut-job I once was - but, I still appreciate precision and bespoke touches.  Centering and accuracy are simply part of the landscape here, so the activity remains therapeutically perfect for me... but, for a while I struggled with changing anything at all.  All I knew was, after almost a year riding with them, that bags mounted directly to the handlebars wasn't quite cutting the mustard.

SO, let's begin;  I don't have much footage of fabbing-up the front rack and decaleur setup, unfortunately.  During the build, it completely slipped my mind!  I will, later, post some photos to social media with some of the finer touches.  It's sloppy, not exactly straight, and uses P-clamps to hold it onto the front fork legs.

(holy SPIT-TAKE... what??!  Dude, NO!

Yes, clamps.  I despise clamps.  They have their purpose, but, it was always a difficult pill to swallow, me using them as a major contributor to the bike.  I have proffered against clamps for ages - which is odd since I love zip-ties so much.  In my opinion, the use of clamps suggests immediately that I'm undertaking something for which my bicycle wasn't intended.  Curmudgeon to the core, me.  Therein lain the opposition.  (brushing up on my conjugations - though, I realize the use of lain here may be incorrect)  I had been waiting on myself to get the bike completely torn-down, sandblasted and refinished; and, parallel to that activity, having a new front fork constructed, OR at the very least having mid-fork rack braze-ons added to the existing fork to eliminate the need for clamps and their accompanying challenges.  To date, my Kogs Model P is likely one of the few remaining in use that has not been refinished.  Even the designer/founder hinted to the softness of the stock paint - but, I've never had occasion, the cash, or the reason to have a refinish done.

  The fork, however, remains the most troubling part of the equation.  I know I think too much - but, for the same reasons I won't use Rivnuts (a cold, blind-rivetted drill-your-own-rack-mount add-on) for this purpose, the thought of taking a torch to a "mystery" blend variety of 4130 CrMo to tack some threaded eyelets in place seems equally ill-advised.  In the hands of a skilled brazer, I don't imagine the fork blades would know the difference...but, I worry about burning right through it or leaving it too brittle.  The clamps on the other hand, arguably, may add MORE undesired stress to the fork than "reheating" it would.  SO, since the fork has other interesting variations (dropouts set slightly one higher than the other, fixed by me ages ago), and it also (also arguably) having the "wrong" rake.. well, it makes more sense to pony-up the additional cash for a well-made and specific fork to replace it, if I'm to eventually do anything.  Heck, on the subject of good-money-after-bad - the cash in sum-total would better be directed to an entire custom bicycle.  Someday... but, as far as I am concerned, my individual riding style and equipment preferences are yielding the reasons typical of someone finally ready to commission a builder for their next frame, rather than an off-the-peg bike.  Its been a long time coming.

SO, yes - clamps.  With the rack fitted, however, the real issue began to surround the headlight bracket.  Ever since day-one, way back in April of 2002, I'd been using the fork-crown mounted headlight brackets supplied by Peter White Cycles to mount my headlights.  They've never set a foot in error; so, another bitter pill.  If it isn't broken... rolled through my head over and over as I disassembled the beautifully simple (and centered) headlight bracket.  The up-side here involved removing an undesirable interface from the front brake, so I suppose that's good.  Still, how to get it onto the front rack?  While SOME brackets are available for purchase, I was equally frustrated by their high cost and their faulty designs.  Over the course of a month I had examined and mocked-up no less than ten different solutions to this issue, before finally settling on something found at Ocean Air Cycle's webpage.  Once I had the image of a partial chainring radius peeking out from under the front bag in my head, I was in the garage looking through my pile-o-'rings to find the right one.  The photos can do most of the talking here:

Sparks fly as the chainwheel gets upcycled... maybe "laterally-cycled" is the right term here?  Dremel heavy-duty cut-off wheel on the Dremel's cable-driven "wand."  This method is handy and "low sweat", but really no faster than a hacksaw and a good file.  Use what you have, but never be limited by what you don't.

Steel, 74mm bolt circle... (or 94?, whatever.)  26t chainring yields two brackets of different lengths, or matched twins.  It's a shame, the amount of leftover scrap - but, I saved them for either genuine recycling, or something artsy.  The three-hole version you see was eventually shortened to two-holes, as shown in the final mount below

The finished product:  the final mounting required a trip to my favorite hardware store for a couple hours of rummage through my favorite part of hardware stores in general:  the loose hardware bins.  The set-up you see consists of the two brackets, a nylon spacer to match the width of the headlight's mounting tab, a knurled spacer upcycled from an old front brake to space the assembly out and away from the rack a bit, a 25mm M5 Allen-head bolt, two M5 oversized washers, and a Nylock nut for mounting to the rack.  Additionally, for the light, a 20mm M6 Allen-head bolt, two M6 washers and a 6mm Nylock nut.  The wires, unlike on the Ocean Air example, are protected between the two chainring mounts and then transition to the rack, and onward to the hub and taillight, respectively.  So far, the set-up is proving to be rock-solid.  It's sure to start a conversation or two at the next control!

The headlight brackets become paired-up to completely eliminate headlight beam vibrations.  The light, as a result, gets the same even clamping pressure on both sides of the mounting tab, as its design requests.  It's below the bag, but, high enough next to the tire to nearly eliminate distracting beam shadows.  Most importantly, it can be seen from either side of the bike at all times when viewed by on-coming or cross-street traffic.

The mid-life crisis style randonneuring front-bag, ala Gilles Berthoud.  The level of construction is - as Jan Heine put it - "unimprovable."  That's pretty darn close to reality, but, I have yet to meet a cycling product that I didn't want to modify or "improve" in at least three ways prior to installing it.  This was no exception - but, I just can't do it.  It's too pretty.

Everything seems to fade into sepia tone whenever I look at the bicycle now.  Decidedly old-school, but, timelessly functional and appropriate.  I do, however, have a strange desire to buy a lot more comfortable and loose-fitting cycling attire, preferably in tweed or plaid.

The front bag itself?  Again, unimprovable.  It's great, everything I'd expected - if not still a bit floppy, which I'll eventually remedy once the right solution pops into my head - and I've already mocked-up about seven possibilities there, to date.  

Riding with the bag?  Well, that's where things get interesting, and where - as the title suggests - we get into rake and trail.  What the heck does that mean?  I'll tell you this much, do not Google it unless you are the sort of person that can remain unaffected by such discussions.  If you take a wrench to everything the moment someone in a forum declares your solution/bike/bag/tire/chain-lube "ridiculous and/or downright dangerous," like I used to, don't read about rake and trail.  You'll go nuts.  It's taken a LOT of willpower to forget my first reaction to a few of the things I'd read, which rhetorically presented itself to me as:  "re-raking a front fork... how hard can THAT be?"

   "This is sorta the same as a Var fork-rake jig, right?" he said, holding the decades-old hunk of steel pipe known collectively as the shop's "cheater bar."     

Dude.... no!

The solution?  When it comes to rake and trail regarding front forks on bicycles, I say "yes!"  Both are highly recommended, and you really shouldn't ride a bike that doesn't have some amount of rake/trail to it.  There.  Filed carefully alongside "chain-lube", "politics", "nutrition / Cytomax", "tires", "religion" and "what constitutes "assistance?" between controls", under the heading "things never to discuss in an online cycling forum." 

Simply put, "trail" as it's related to forks is the distance between the exact point where the front tire contacts the road when a line is drawn perpendicular to the ground and passes directly through the center of the front axle, and the center of the bicycle's steering axis, which is the center-line of the frame's steer tube.  As you extend each line to the ground, the two lines will cross, and as a result the point where the tire hits the road will trail behind the steering axis.  It is precisely this which can affect bicycle handling and stability perhaps more than any other dimension across a bicycle's geometry. 

Fork "rake" is simpler to understand.. and it's the linear distance between the steering axis of the front fork and where the center-line of the front axle is held.  It's sometimes referred to as fork offset, as-in offset from a fork with no rake at all.  

Now, you can look online for exhaustive details and discussion on rake, trail, wheel flop, load-handling, understeer, oversteer, stability vs. trail vs. forward speed, etc.  It is, truly, fascinating material if you are interested in WHY bicycles are made certain ways, and what makes one bike better at "Z" than another, and conversely.  It's a big subject regarding the addition of front loads on road bikes;, but it applies to all bicycles:  imagine a mountain bike race with long, fast downhills, steep climbs, and tight, technical turns!  It becomes really vital to understand rake and trail if you're to build a bike that can handle all of these things well - all while compensating for the undulations of a suspension fork.  Anyone interested in framebuilding should read up on this.  

...but this is about road bikes.

Now, the notion is this:  most mass-produced bicycles available today have a "high trail", but, this would assume comparison to something neutral... which isn't largely agreed-upon.  That's when discussions heat up.  Neutral handling is something a general-purpose bike should likely aim for:  stable at nearly every speed, can handle a front or a rear load... but, you'll feel the differences and will have to adjust your riding, cornering, and climbing style to compensate.  

Specific to the discussion on front-mounted rando-style bags on small front racks, some will try to convince others that running such a load up front on a bicycle with the "wrong" trail will result in an instant trip to the ER.  Most of the information I've gleaned, however, comes from a myriad of sources on the web where I'd found sensationalism removed from the discussion.  Names like Heine, Moulton, Meade, Wetmore, are among those I'd like to thank for their assistance in understanding this most intriguing facet of bicycle-related science.

Ok.. so, YMMV, but, this is my impression:
I've only the bike I have... and there remains little I could easily do to modify its geometry to benefit one thing over another.  Since I have no concept, on my bike, of what should feel like what... well, there you have it.  I only have my impressions of how it handles loads, front, rear, or un-loaded.  I admit, when I'd originally read the outline of why the Kogswell Model P was for me, the point about it having "been designed around/to use the Panaracer Pasela 700x28mm tire" didn't even resonate.  I thought to myself... "yeah... whatever."  I happened to run those tires ANYways, so it didn't matter to me WHY the designer felt compelled to mention it.  

So, a little deeper we go:  the TIRE you choose does have an effect on frame geometry.  Since we are concerned with the point where the TIRE contacts the road directly under the front axle in relation to the fork's static steering axis (which is dictated by the angle of the headtube), it stands that mounting a taller tire will directly increase trail.  The rake will remain unchanged, as will the steering axis - but, the difference between a 700x20mm event tire versus a 700x40mm all-surface tire will be noticeable.  So, if a builder is after a certain set-up (like a bicycle made for heavy front loads or cargo vs. a all-out time-trial bike vs. an all-rounder) they will likely be aiming for a specific trail number.  To do that, they need to decide what tire they'll use.  There you go.  If you can plug in the tire variable before the frame takes shape while knowing what you want to do with that bicycle when it's finished, then you can adjust the head angle, fork rake and other dimensions to complement it.

Where *I* used to get hung up -- and something which may hold true for many cyclists -- is that it was ONLY the tire which I felt made things feel different.  I would then, falsely, make proclamations about one tire being noticeably better than another, etc.  I wasn't ever wrong though, especially when discussing, say, one 23mm tire compared to another 23mm tire.  the fact I didn't know precisely WHY I preferred a larger tire over a smaller one also isn't really important.  What is important is that I found something I felt was comfortable, and made my decision based upon it.  It really shouldn't go much deeper than that for many riders.  But, it should be noted:  the reason forums often take the tone they do in the arena of tire discussion is related to SO MANY variables, including how that tire affects the bicycle's geometry, and there is almost no way to predict one cyclist's reaction over another's.  Is the reason someone's average speed went up 2mph really to the tire's credit, or, was it the reduction/increase in trail which yielded an improvement in handling and/or stability which helped the cyclist throw down a better lap time?  It really all depends, and there is a lot going on up there.

Plus, we're talking about millimeters here.  Quite literally.  There will be, for any given bicycle, a noticeable difference in bicycle behavior if you were able to sweep the fork back and forth over only a 2cm range, front-to-back.  Some folks in the forums can be read discussing differences on the level of 50mm of trail versus 47mm of trail.  I'm not certain I am enough in tune with my bicycle to feel that.  A BIG point of contention, however, remains in that human beings are remarkably adaptable animals.  Any sort of positive OR negative handling consequence from a slight change in trail would likely be compensated for and nullified within 10 miles of normal, does it matter?  YMMV.  Unless you are working with a custom bicycle framebuilder on a project RIGHT NOW, don't worry about it.  When you get to that point, however, you and your builder can work out any problems you'd like to solve, and see if adjusting rake and trail +/- neutral presents a solution.

Like anything else cycling-related, however, take all of this with a grain of salt, please!
If you like it, do it.  Don't let them, or me, talk you into or out of anything you are having success with.  Don't be afraid to play around with things, but don't do it because anyone told you that what you found that worked is somehow wrong.  To the credit of the authors I mentioned before, they all found a way to explain how rake and trail can affect certain things, but never did they posit that any one measurement or approach was wrong.  Simply, as an example, running a heavy front handlebar bag on a bike with high trail numbers may not be ideal, and it may feel twitchy or unstable... but, it may not feel that way to everyone.  Some will prefer that sort of feel, some will feel that it's "faster", others will be alarmed by it.  You can begin to imagine all the conversation this inspires.

For me?  I prepared to measure the Kogs for trail, and then quickly tossed out the idea.  I never took the tape measure to it, because I didn't need the mental thorns.  I can't do much about whatever number I was going to see, so my solution became simply mounting the front bag and going out for a ride.  I was immediately satiated.  The ride, if anything, feels more stable - not less - with the front bag mounted.  I did feel a smidgen of hesitation throwing the bike into a hard corner... but I betcha it was ME thinking, and not the handling.  

It's too late to be "short" here, but, my point involves the Kogswell still being the bike for me:  it can handle a front load on pavement and gravel and actually feels more stable as a result.  It has clearly handled rear-loading in the past with bike camping trips and commutes, and with the Carradice bag loaded up.  It will, no doubt, handle the 600km+ task of having both the front bag and the Carradice mounted up.  Sure, it won't handle like a crit machine, but it never did.  If the handling is affected adversely, in any of these cases, I've simply adjusted to it through the course of riding.  In summary, this - for me - is a non-issue.

The bag itself, and its placement, however, are important.  The bag is not very close to the handlebars, so I can use ALL the handlebar real-estate... which means I'm now more comfortable, or more able to affect my own comfort.  I can get to anything I need to.... not that I needed to before... without dismounting.  I can be better prepared for arrival at and departure from controls on brevets and permanents.  I can see the cue sheet, all the time.  I can see a photo of the wife and kids for inspiration, or my favorite quote, or a postcard.  I can listen to music without an earbud if I choose, because the phone is handy, and I can take fast photos for the same reason.  I can carry food, clothes, whatever.  I can still ride gravel -- because my initial test ride included about ten miles of it, and I often purposefully rode over the washboarding ruts to try and get the clamps or the rack itself to fail or at least move.  Neither happened.  I don't feel this need to fill the whole thing, as has nagged me in the past.  I can just ride.

That's all any of us should be doing, eh?

Did everyone receive theirs yet?  Worth reading, even if you "already know this stuff."

Now, I plan to curl up with the above and re-energize the little grey cells about long and longer-distance riding.  Ahhh...

Next up, something simple... and a chance to make it, err... simpler, and more-better?
The lowly bicycle bell... something, IMHO, every bicycle could benefit from.  This one is decidedly techy, is made in the USA, and looks good doing its job of being a bell.  I mean, you can't SAY much about a bell... but, I enjoyed finding this kickstarter-backed company, and if I've got a spare $40 laying about, I'll likely pick one up.  It's just better, that's all.  A well-made video, also.  One thing I *LOVE* about the video:  the founders highlight "race bikes" on equal footing with townies.  I like the idea of a cycling culture void of boundaries and taboos, racers with bells.  It's a good vibe.  The Spurcycle Bicycle Bell.

That's enough on this subject... off to ride!

November 18, 2014

Wrapping up the photo series on fabricating headlight brackets out of old chainrings, the final product mounted and wired up. I ended up with two mirror image brackets after discovering that supporting the light from only one side invited an annoying lateral wobble. Doubling up provided the necessary bracing, and the wobble is gone, resulting in a solid headlight beam. The biggest trick was getting the light high enough to avoid too much tire shadowing and for it to be visible from the rider's left in traffic, but to still keep it low enough that the bag wouldn't block the beam or put pressure on the mount or light itself. So far, so good. I don't prefer adding a lot of complication to the bike, and this project became tough to stomach at times, adding complication and weight... But, like fenders, once mounted and forgotten, the usefulness of the front bag should quickly outweigh any previous concerns. Now, to get out out on the road to expose and fix any rattles, and we're ready for the 2015 brevet season, and the next R-12/P-12 streak! #blog

via Instagram

We are deep into Fall here, and the sun isn't out as much, obviously, leaving the sky far darker each morning and evening, thus making it harder to spot both motorcyclists and diehard bicyclists. This is an example of how reflective tape can help. The tape on the wheels is most effective, as it creates the image of a full disc once the bike is in motion, and also helps indicate a riders relative speed. Even if you don't want to wear the admittedly dorky reflective vest, applying reflective tape to the bike ensures you are visible to some degree, no matter what the of day you ride. #blog #dsr

via Instagram

November 16, 2014

Digging out, but not like you think.

The first snowfall of the new season came a little early yesterday, capping off - for me - a long, arduous year.  A roller-coaster of a year.  A year of further self-discovery.  I won't get into too much of that here, but, after a month or two of sitting down and thinking - calmly - I have emerged renewed, rested, and ...  no, no... not ready.  That, for me, is probably okay.  For now.

I believe, for me personally, coming off a good streak of a few years' worth of R-12 rides perhaps warranted some rest, even with the difficulty of letting that streak go in July.  With my shoulder repaired and healed, I started with good intentions to get right back on the proverbial horse; yet, I have not returned to the bike in earnest, nor have I kept my own promises about maintaining fitness and rising above the challenge of restricted activity.  This is my personal struggle, not-so-personally outlined ad naseum throughout this blog's past.  Even having run a half-marathon (er, jogged/walked) back in late July, I'd have thought myself motivated.  It didn't last.  So, knowing how I deal with personal stress, upheavals in the office, and the financial balancing-act that comes with teenagers in the house - here I am, another blank - blank, yes, but not white and clean; more tattered and beige - canvas on which to paint my next portrait.  These are tales best left untold, at least unrecounted.

As I work toward a solution here, and to run the old template for a quick fix, I turn once again to the bicycle.  I have made some sales, I have fabricated some solutions, and have come up with - finally - a "real" front rando bag.  A recent email teases, but, I personally know this about myself:  on my quest toward being a "real" randonneur, I often turn to equipment first, instead of myself.  I know I have pounds to lose again, and fitness to restore - but, getting the bicycle in order stages me to get to work.  I've dusted off the treadmill and the free-weights, too, with a clean bill of health and my surgeon's restrictions lifted.  The bike, however, needed some changes.  After nearly 12 years untouched, all of my complaints have finally been addressed.  A front bag with a map case I can actually see and use, but, completely free of the handlebars so I don't have to compromise hand positions and comfort during the ride.  Storage for everything, and everything with its own pocket.  Not too large, not too small; and, most importantly it follows the formulas of many randonneurs up to whom I often look.  I understand that I still must pedal whatever bicycle I ride toward my goal, and there are hundreds if not thousands of riders that have finished P-B-P and other 1,200+ rides without "real" bags, without racks, without generator lights, some with backpacks.  Thinking that GEAR will get me to my goals is silly - it helps, but it's not everything, and it's not what's been holding me back.  My ONLY restrictions toward these longer goals remain with time and money, and to a lesser degree fitness - which is always available:  not to be confused with "good," to be clear.  The truth in the teasing emails I've read ribbing me into ride I feel unprepared for is that, yes, I *could* simply dust myself off, pack a few things, and ride 600 kilometers within 40 hours.  Yes.  No doubt.  I might be miserable, tired, achy, cramped-up, and on the couch for a solid week afterwards... but, I'd probably be smiling and writing about it.  Am I gonna do it?  Nope... time, money.  

Excuses?  Yeah... but, each time I examine them, in reality, they're still pretty darn real.  

My real issue here?  Yeah, another excuse I need to rise above, mentally, involves the cold.  I think I'm just darn tired of the cold.  No, it's not been around very long - and I don't MIND it from a day-to-day perspective.  It's cold on the bike.  I know I have the gear, and I know I've done worst before... but, without a full, fun, sunshine-filled summer of 200km rides and daily commutes, I don't feel like I've had that full "reset" to prepare me for a scant 12-weeks of cold weather on the bike.  Memories of last December... memories of slogging home a 200k in heavy snowfall... those were BIG landmarks, big accomplishments.  Yet, I know I've only got a handful of those sort of efforts in me each year.  I can't seem to find the ones I though I had laying around.  More cold air coming next week behind this latest front, and the bike not completely road-ready from recent work... the excuses are piled high.  The snow, meanwhile isn't.  I'll get past this.  Sucks... but, I'll get past it.  

One dream I am letting slip - for the moment - are any DK aspirations (wait for it:) with this bicycle.  I don't want compromise this time.  While the Kogs, even as I'm nervous about field-testing these latest modifications, will still do well on gravel and light packed trails - it's not the droid I'm looking for.  I need to get something that will actually take larger tires without feeling squeezed or limited, and I need something that I don't have to take halfway apart to prepare it for one ride per year.  Now, I like gravel riding enough that I really DO want to explore, and I won't let the bike underneath me dictate whether or not I turn off the main road and off toward high adventure... but, a race?  In the Flint Hills?  Knowing what I know and have read?  Yeah... that takes something special, and that is precisely what layaway at the local bike shop is for.  So, it's not happening right away, no, but, the dream is still alive... I just grow tired of messing about with continuing to stretch the "one bike theory."  Yeah, it's do-able... but, my motivation has always been more financial than a real desire to have only one bike.  So, there you have it... I still want to do DK; but, I'm tired of making the excuse bike-based.  

Now... back to ME.  There's a treadmill downstairs with my name written in the dust.  Time to work.  One of these chilly days, I'll grow the stones to ride to work.  THEN, those little embers back there in the corner of my mind will get a quick gust of breath... all I need is to get my butt out of the driveway.

And to play my Judas Priest vinyl backwards while I sleep.

"do it it it it it it"

Do what, Beavis?... uuhh-huhuuhhhuhuuhhmmmmhuh

October 26, 2014

Feeling good

Feels good to have a plan in place, finally, after a few months of sitting around waiting for my shoulder to be back in the game.  Although I have surely lost some fitness and some dieting discipline, printing out a waiver and marking a date on the calendar feel mighty good.  A big step in the correct direction.  Yes, back to my old habits once again... so, I'll wait and see about a few things:

Am I just going to ride?
Will I take a buncha pictures?
Will I have anything positive OR negative about the experience?

I don't know, honestly ---- but, the decision still seems appropriate.  Even if it's freezing cold outside, sitting at the keyboard for hours hammering out gigantic posts seems a little ... I dunno, like a waste of saddle-time if nothing else.  I know I'm sitting on the fence here.  It's not my intent to build up any false drama or whatever.  I just can't wait to get back out there again, maybe take some shots to remember thing by, and if nothing else perhaps take things toward equipment, rebuilding fitness, methods, madness, product reviews maybe... even if brief.  There's no plan at this point, other than to ride, smile and ENJOY IT.

Oh, speaking of reviews, I posted a teaser about getting a "natural flat" on the GB Cerf 700x28mm tires maybe a week ago or so... and, while I *did* take some photos, I'm not quite ready to post about the end-of-life longterm review , or whatever that was going to turn into.  Not for lack of time, no; but, I ended up putting the existing tire right back in place.  The tread STILL appears to have a little bit of life in it, maybe on the order of 1mm - 1.5mm left perhaps before I will begin to see the casing show through.  Now the marker may be one of two things:  the arrival of winter weather, and the accompanying road grit which will surely invite a plethora of flats to a thin tire.... or, the fact that I'm a little leery of starting a brevet/permanent (set for Nov. 3rd) on an old tire.  Not something I'd do normally, so I'm not sure I want to invite a roadside repair on my return to distance riding on the new shoulder.  I'll have to see.  The third possible scenario involves me finally having pulled the trigger on a long-overdue rear wheel rebuild.  The Open Pro is a GREAT rim, and the Shimano Ultegra 6600 (9 speed era) rear hub is pretty much bullet-proof... but, everything wears and has a service life.  In the case of the hub, this would be rebuild #4... and, well, I think that's a good enough reason to relegate it to "backup wheel" status.  I'll likely rebuild it onto a solid Open Sport or Sun CR18 rim, and leave it on the just-in-case hook in the garage.  The rim... well, this time around, with a different choice in brake pads since last time (where I'd worn through the sidewalls), it's the spoke bed that's thinning out and beginning to show signs of cracking around the eyelets - not uncommon for what is essentially  light-weight racing/training rim.  With the gravel, commuting, camping, gear-mashing climbs and general goofing off... well, I'm surprised I can keep them under me for as long as I do.  They really are a tough game to beat - and while I've shopped for other models lately, I'm sorta back on lacing up another Open Pro to a new Ultegra hub.  Shimano keeps improving them, now on the (yeesh, time flies) 11-speed series 6800 models.  Two generations later, I have little doubt that I'll likely get another 8-10 years from one, for far less money that some of the hubs I'd (honestly) really like to have if I could afford them... White Industries, Chris King, etc... I just can't fault the Shimano products enough to spend three-times the cost for a rear hub.  Not yet.  Still saving up, after all, for that All-City Space Horse frameset.  Priorities.

That's all for now, as updates go... stay tuned!  That tire review will come... as soon as it's truly dead and used.  And ride reprts?  OH, yeah... there'll probably be some version of one.  Hard to avoid, if for no other motivation than "old habits."   Check ya out on the roads, people!

Thanks for reading!

October 17, 2014

Grand Bois Cerf long-term update

Mileage?  Uhhh... Since July's shoulder surgery (non bike related) I have not only not ridden much, I have become catastrophically lazy on the matter of mileage logging.  I have the numbers... Somewhere.... Just not logged against equipment.  However, today marks the first "natural" flat I've experienced with the GB Cerf 700x28mm road tires.  By "natural", I mean a flat caused by something run over in the natural course of riding.  I did endure a front blow-out pinch flat back in... I'll look... Yet, that was caused by the rider being a little foolish.  I suppose it still presented a good test, but it certainly wasn't a normal puncture.  Today's, by contrast, occurred "naturally", wherein I noticed the loss of air pressure after a few wallowy-feeling corners, as the rear tire's pressure dropped below safe riding levels.  I stopped, examined the tire, found nothing on first glance... So, I aired it up and rode it the last ten miles to home.  So far this evening I haven't made the time to change it out and examine things - I may wait until the morning - but, I'll report back with mileage, tread status, and thoughts.  Maybe a photo if warranted.  I'm impressed, since I've crossed the mileage when I'd normally have swapped out the Panaracer Pasela TG (now PT) tires... Yet, I still wonder about buying a pair of Pasela non - flat - protected tires, for a direct comparison.  Their price is hard to ignore compared to the "boutique-ish" GBs.  We shall see. 

Stay tuned as I wrap up this long term test with this latest flat report.  Yea!

October 12, 2014

Get to work

The realization that October is practically half over, it occurs to me that I should be back in the saddle, that PT should be over (it is), and that I am way, way behind in my plans and "training."   Last week, I hammered hard on the commute home, chasing down a couple of faster gents, finding my limits.  At my favorite hill, near 106th and Foster on the bike trail, I nearly passed out from the anaerobic effort of catching up to (within a few yards.. But out of overtaking reach) the rider I'd been chasing.  Only a few months before, I'd sat comfortably at the top of the Map my Ride standings at 46 seconds from the climb to the sound wall separating the trail from I-435.  I'm outta shape. 

Solution?  Get to work.  Literally.
Tomorrow, we ride.

October 4, 2014

It's not goodbye.

Breaking the radio silence after a couple months away from the creative side of my keyboard, I find myself with very little to say on the subject of riding.  In large part, it comes from not really having ridden much.  What I have found interesting is the amount of free time I've seemed to already occupy in the wake of normally spending a few hours per weekend typing, proofing and cleaning up photos.  I've gotten a lot more done by not being strapped to the keyboard constantly, and that's a good thing.  Sure, much of it stemmed from a self-imposed need to post detailed ride reports to share the magic with the interwebs.  For myself, writing served to outline the mental journey involved with riding such distances, plus the therapeutic breakouts I'd often find along my way.  I don't mean to imply that I suddenly don't need the riding anymore - I don't need the writing 5,000+ words part, as I'd become accustomed to doing.

I'm already looking for unique ways to transition cleanly into a single-interface social media existence.  So far, using Instagram has forced me to use photographs to tell most of the story - and while its interface does allow more than 140 characters, I try to stick to the Twitter limit for cleaner cross-posting, which is all handled via API leveraging.  Post in one place, broadcast to many.  Not blogging the full story; yeah, it pains me a bit, but, maybe I have truly reached a tipping point wherein I either don't have much else to say, I feel as if its already been said, or find I myself lacking the muse.  Perhaps that will change once I get back out on the road... Yet, I'm mildly hopeful it doesn't.  I've really come to enjoy the time I've found, and the accompanying mental relaxation, resulting from not staring at a computer screen after work.  Or a TV screen.  Or fixing someone else's "screen-based" device.  I've dropped out of the business of fixing computers on the side, and phones - and the resulting work/life balance adjustment has served to restore my sanity.  I don't feel stressed out, nor constantly rushed for time.  Perhaps not trying to keep myself so busy should have happened years ago - but, I'm happy it finally happened. 

The shoulder surgery, as much as I'd dreaded it beforehand, has proved to be the best thing that's happened to me since the kids were born.  It slowed me down, forced me to stop EVERYthing.  I've learned from it.  I've relearned patience.  It's okay to just sit down and hang out with the kids.  It's okay that I don't constantly have a project in motion.  It's okay to sit and play guitar, listen to music.  It's okay to just go ride, or work on the bike when it needs it, instead of feeling like I'm obligated to.  The same goes for discussion and commentary on the same:  I'm the one who decided to put my riding under the microscope.  Now that I'm gaining this altered perspective, it's okay for me to decide on pulling it back.

I'm fully aware of the "responsibility" I've upheld out here in bloggerland, how I've attracted new riders, inspired others to commute to work, etc.  I'm truly flattered by the support and readership I've received over these last twelve years.  I don't plan to pull the page down or anything like that, and once I figure out a good way to post directly from social media without making the blog page an unorganized archive interleaved with non-cycling content, I'll likely keep posting little quips here and there.  But, in thinking over the mechanics of that, I'm already talking and thinking too much.  I'm really happy where I am right now, where I can pull the plug on over-thinking prior to it becoming problematic.  The void needn't be constantly fed with empty words.  Sometimes, that just gets in the way of the moment.

Keeping the reigns tied back like this, adding a little balance, it keeps me moving, it keeps me fresher, it keeps me engaged in my family instead of typing away, and by not overloading myself on the computer it keeps me fresher and more effective at work, too.  Work has been crazy again - but I've been creative, I've solved incredibly complex problems, and resolved process headaches previously thought impossible only nine months ago.  The flip side of that balance, however; had there been a long ride to post about, I doubt I'd have had the energy to do so anyhow.  The ramp-up elsewhere would have taken a toll here eventually anyway.  What I DO have, though, is the ability to take one or two minutes to compose about 140 characters on whatever may be happening with my cycling, and let the accompanying photo tell the rest.  I should have discovered Twitter ages ago.  Rediscovering my love of sketching makes me wonder about 1-3 panel rando comics, without the droll and cumbersome backstory.  Who knows.

While this all flies on the face of my ultimate retirement plan of writing the Great American novel - it seems as if the best writers collect their notes, then spend years arranging and rearranging them, quietly, before even working on the first draft.  Someone else I've chatted with this year gave me yet another perspective, which I must admit has weighed in with this decision, also.  He has, over at least the last few years in succession, tried one new thing each year.  Doesn't matter what, so long as he found himself interested.  One year it was this, the next year something else.  Some stuff stuck, others faded... But the experience of having done it or having learned something new has and will remain in place forever.  It occurred to me, instantly, that I'd been at this blog for a very long time, as blogs go... and not much has changed.  It became a much easier decision, suddenly.  What had I been keeping myself from?  Stop riding?  Heck no.  That's one of the things that has stuck.  Yet, maybe there's something else I'm avoiding, or missing, by wrapping myself up in the stories.  Maybe this was inevitable.  In any case, regardless, like those real authors, I've now amassed 12 years of notes.  It's time to come out of the trees and rest.

With that, I'm going to wrap this up, finish some chores, and then go out for an afternoon spin - without feeling rushed or guilty about having already spent 1/3 of my weekend at the keyboard describing my last ride.  I don't know what my next "thing" will be, but, taking a break here is a good thing.  I promise.  If it had been the writing all along, well, perhaps just a short break is in order no matter what happens.

Until next time, see you out on the road.  Thanks for reading.

Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .