Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chain cleaners and touring

After a long hiatus, I've decided to try to keep the blog alive for now. Here's a couple of miscellaneous thoughts...

I always assumed the clamp-on chain cleaners did a pretty good job, but try this. Run your chain through the cleaner like you normally would. Then, take the chain off and swish it around in a jar with some solvent or degreaser. See how much gunk was left on the chain after it was 'clean'?! Amazing.

I've recently made the decision to ride the TransAmerica route from Norfolk, VA to Astoria, OR next year. First step is to get an appropriate touring bike. For upright tourers I considered the Surly Long Haul Trucker frame which I would build with my own choise of components, and the Independent Fabrications Independence but am now thinking about a recumbent. The Bachetta Giro 26 so far is on the top of my list and PCB will be carrying the line pretty soon I hear.

I plan on leaving in April or May and spend 8-10 weeks on the road.

For more info on long-distance touring, check out Crazy Guy on a Bike. Also, nothing beats for finding friendly people along the route to provide showers and camping space.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

[Biketopia] Happy World Car Free Day!

Today two events drive home the advantages of going car free. As millions flee Hurricane Rita traffic jams many miles long are choking the highways and are often resulting in average driving speeds of less than one mile per hour. People are waiting three and four hours for gasoline, and the scene is one of general chaos. Those evacuating on bicycle, by comparison, are unimpeded by any slowpokes, and probably passing gas stations with big grins on their faces. Yeah, it's 162 miles to Austin, so bring along a tent.

The other problem which bikes easily solve is the nationwide rise in gas prices. Peak oil is here, OPEC has lifted all production quotas, yet still cannot meet global demand. The sad fact is that we, as a society, haven't even admitted our oil addiction is a problem, much less taken steps to mitigate the damage to our civilization that peak oil will bring. Food production and distribution is totally dependent on cheap oil, but we whine and cry that jack-rabbit starts and SUVs are our birthright.

I've been car free since 2000 and it's the smartest thing I've done. I'm healthier, happier, and richer because I've kicked the car addiction. I spend about $30 in gas per year, reimbursing friends for the occasional time when a car is needed. The Automobile Association of America estimates that the monthly cost of owning and operating a modest, relatively new sedan is $480 a month. I spend about $100 on bike-related expenses, and that's because I'm a bike freak; yet I'm still way ahead of the game. A normal person could easily make do with probably $15/mo. in bike expenses, so it seems like a no-brainer.

So why do so many people drive cars everywhere? Why do they blow so much of their hard-earned cash on such a wasteful luxury? Because they think it's a necessity. Since birth we are indoctrinated by our car-centric culture to identify cars as an extension of ourselves. We are what we drive, and we become filled with rage if we feel "we" (our car) has been disrespected. Well, Peak Oil will change that, along with many other assumptions about the "American lifestyle". Stay tuned.

"I biked Hubbert's Peak" bike stickers will be available from MBS soon. If you are car-free, or even if you own a car but mostly bike, let me know and you'll get a free sticker. (Offer only good in the Moscow area unless you are willing to cover postage and handling costs) I should have the stickers ready within a month.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

[News] NW Mtn. Sports shutting down

After 35 years in Moscow, Northwest Mountain Sports is quitting business. Their liquidation sale began today, and I stopped by and bought some of their shop tools for starters. As the sale progresses they will progressively discount everything in the store, up to 90% off according to their signs.

Their bike mechanic, Bruce, will be working at B&L Bikes in Pullman. Terry, the store manager, said he's planning on taking some time off. Reasons for the store closing are probably numerous, but Terry cited the recent string of mild winters in the area as taking a heavy toll on their business.

NMS carried Schwinn and Trek bikes, and I personally bought my first (1985 Schwinn Sierra) and also my most recent (2005 Trek 6500) mountain bikes from them. It's hard to imagine either of Moscow's remaining two bike shops picking up either product line without dropping something else - showroom floor space is hard to come by. On the other hand, both brands are big sellers with high name recognition, and Moscow is a desirable market - bike friendly and full of cash-flush college kids, so it will be interesting to see how things turn out.

Rumor has it the building may become a car stereo installation place - the kind where kids with more cash than common sense install bass torture devices to compensate for personal inadequacies. Have a small penis or brain? Get a BIG woofer!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

[Commute] Winter is coming...

are you ready for four months of snow, slush and ice?

Biking in winter is a fun and challenging way to stay fit and beat the winter blahs while saving $$$. Here are some useful tips to remember while you prepare for the winter season...

  • There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
  • Take care of your bike, and it will take care of you.
  • Keep your tires slightly underinflated for better traction on snow and ice.
  • Studded tires are great for Finland and other Arctic conditions, but standard knobbies work fine here.
  • Don't worry about falling, you'll tense up and probably will fufill your fears. Once you get the technique down, your confidence and enjoyment will increase. IceBike has a good article on winter riding techniques, as well as other excellent articles on winterizing your ride, cool accesories, etc.
  • Ride a 'beater bike' and consider going single-speed or getting an internally-geared hub. Also, clean and lube your drivetrain weekly. The grit, sand, salt, and slush are murder on a nice bike (and a beater too, for that matter).

  • Fenders are a must.

  • Brake and turn gently!

I'm starting to build up my winter rig, a 1991 GT Tequesta that I purchased this summer for three very important reasons --
  1. the triple triangle frame with seat stays parallel to the down tube is very cool looking
  2. the splash paint job that was so popular during the time has a certain 'retro-bling' factor. And most importantly...
  3. I won't feel guilty about it getting grimy, banged up, and exposed to the deicer solution.
The bike was in good shape when I bought it, and my nostalgic urges were satiated for a mere $30.

The first thing I did was totally disassemble the bike and pop a cartridge bottom bracket in. Cup and cone BB's are more hassle than they are worth - unless you want to shell out $50 for pin spanners, fixed-cup wrenched, and lockring spanners - all of which are rapidly becoming obsolete.

I then rebuilt the headset and front hub, stuck the Suntour XCE crank back on, got some platform DH pedals and put a Nexus 7-speed wheel on the back. In addition to the internal transmission, the Nexus also has an internal 'roller brake' - much better than trying to stop with icy, wet rims and pads. I'm going with a 22-tooth chainring and 18-tooth sprocket, which should give it a range of 20-49 gear inches (or a speed of 5.4-13.1 mph at a cadence of 90 rpm).

I'll be using a chain with a master link to make frequent removal and cleaning less problematic, and getting a zinc & chrome plated chain will resist corrosion. I like the green viscous Finish Line Cross-Country wet lube for wet winter riding, but any heavy water-resistant lube is great.

Want to read more?

The Edmonton Bicycle Commuter website has a great page about DIY studded tires, winterizing your bike and misc. tips.

TotalBike has a winter riding page

I already mentioned IceBike, but it's worth repeating. They have a section on winterizing your freehub, although that's overkill for Moscow's relatively mild winters.

Now, repeat after me, Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!

Friday, September 09, 2005

[Review] Park PFP-3 floor pump and Finish Line chain cleaner

I dipped into my bike parts piggy bank this week and treated myself to a new floor pump and chain cleaner. Here's my impression of both...

The Park PFP-3 is a floor pump aimed at the home mechanic. It's an attractive and quality pump, with a steel barrel and flashy curved chrome-plated steel handle. I also like the Park blue color, which helps it stand out amidst the clutter. The head, gasket and hose can all be serviced for extended life and positive ecological karma. It's an excellent buy at under $30, although if money were no object I'd get the PFP-2, which has a metal, rather than plastic ('composite') head.

The Finish Line Chain Cleaner replaces my trusty Park CM-5 and cost about $25. It was bundled with samples of their 'EcoTech' chain cleaner and some of their Teflon dry lube. The packaging states it is "Shop Quality" and it does seem to be durable. It works well enough, and I like the 30 degree curved exit port, designed to minimize dripping. Like the Park unit, it is rebuildable, with new brushes and foam pads available for about $10.

Now the downside; the cleaner forces the chain through a tortuous serpentine path that makes cleaning a single-speed chain pretty much impossible - you must have a LOT of slack in your chain to use this product. Also, the 'ergonomic handle' is anything but - it is much more awkward to hold while using than the Park unit. Lastly, the EcoTech degreaser has a really nasty cancer-causing petroleum distillate smell. Finish Line claims it's biodgradeable, and it works well enough at cleaning the chain, but if you plan on any sort of use inside, I'd go for a citrus-based cleaner.

[News] What if the UI did this?

Instead of paving over yet another lawn for parking, the University of Rochester starts a program for students to 'check out' a bicycle to use. Makes sense. As the costs of auto ownership and operation continue to rise, expect to see more students realizing it's just not worth it to drive to campus.

Also, President White take note; the principal of Decatur High School is making a statement by biking to and from work. Weird quote in the news story from a student though...

"A principal is supposed to be this tough guy, and here he is riding his bike to class. I could only imagine him parking it in the bicycle rack."

Uh, doesn't getting around using your muscle power demonstrate a level of 'toughness' that beats sitting on your ass while pressing a gas pedal? Strange...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

[Tour] "Talk to Me" tour and Surly's Long Haul Trucker

This couple has been riding a "Talk to Me" tour; it's a great idea that I'd love to try sometime.

"We've been blown away by all the lovely strangers we've met and stories we've heard," said Wetzel, 25. "It's like a real-life chat room. It's really an absurd art we're learning, from when to say hello, and when to ask a question."
Speaking of touring, I need to start thinking of a project to while away the long winter months. Building up a touring rig seems like a no-brainer, as I really want to do an EPIC (at least a month) ride before I get old. A good touring bike needs to have a good touring frame, and IMO the Surly Long Haul Trucker is totally sweet. Why? Touring geometry, all the braze ons, a long wheelbase, and it's steel.

Donations towards purchasing this frame will be gratefully accepted!

[News] Goathead thorns spotted in Moscow!

Dave Peckham of the Village Bicycle Project has spotted a patch of the justly villifed goathead, also known as puncturevine. Anyone from Lewiston or Boise can tell you that this stuff is a bicyclist's nightmare.

The patch was spotted at where the railroad tracks cross 8th street. Dave had an eradication party a few weeks ago, but it will take a great deal of vigilance to make sure Moscow remains safe from this scourge.

So far I've been safe, but a mechanic at a LBS said he's noticed more people coming in with thorns in their tubes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

[Meta] Tags for posts

Here are some ideas for tags for new posts. By putting the tag in the subject line, it will be easy to search for old posts related to your interest. The [Meta] tag is for posts about the blog itself.Here are some more

[Tour] - touring or adventure cycling
[MTB] - cross-country, downhill, freeride
[Road] - anything light and fast for the road
[Utility] or [Commute] - self-explnatory
[News] - industry news, stolen bikes, accidents
[Bent] - recumbent related
[Review] - product reviews
[SingleSpeed] - is all you need
[Biketopia] - biking Hubbert's peak, advocacy, car-free lifestyle
[Fringe] - choppers, lowriders, unicycles, Penny Farthings