Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If You Were Riding the Bicycle #3 - 4 Way Right

4-Way stops are interesting little studies in human interaction. People get really angry when others mess up the first-come-first-go order of the things. For those of you that don't know, a 4-Way stop is an intersection with four stop signs. Those arriving at the intersections take turns proceeding based on the order of arrival, and in the event of a tie the vehicle on the right wins. Bicycles blowing through these types of intersections really mess up an already tenuous sense of order.

Over the last year or two while I have really reduced my queue jumping and I will merge with traffic and line up like everybody else at a 4-Way stop. The introduction of bike lanes has made this process harder for me, particularly when it comes to right hand turns...

Going straight or left, I would merge about 3-4 cars back and behave like a car at the stop, bike lane or no bike lane, since I would prefer to get through it uninjured. Before the bike lane, I had trained myself into doing right hand turns the "First Way". Before the bike lane, most queue jumpers wouldn't do it at speed, and there were fewer of them since it was tighter and more dangerous. I have gone back to the "Second Way" lately because I think the greater danger lies in cyclists overtaking on the right.

What would you do if you were riding the bicycle?


Thursday, August 26, 2010


Remember that "How's My Driving?" sign I've been riding around with? I had gotten no contacts other than Dave until yesterday, and it was something "live" as I rode along.

I got video and audio, but you will have to go the big old "How's My Driving" responses page in order to see it.

Hey, I'll take what I can get.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are You #%^&1n' Kiddin' Me #3

There's an ad that has been running for a while that drives me insane every time I see it. I suppose everybody wants to feel young, or at least younger. But this?

Come on! I guess I could handle some sort of other condiment, say, salsa or something, being characterized as edgy. This, however, is Miracle Whip. Saying that Miracle Whip is cooler or more hip than almost anything else on the planet, including mayo, is the stupidest idea I've seen in a long long time.

Normally I would drift off into a tangential discussion of some kind, but this ad leaves me feeling so crusty I'm just gonna leave it there. Sandwich spreads are not people, nor are they loud, or hard core. I mean, really... Are You #%^&1n' Kiddin' Me?

Spread the Love,


PS - Always late to the party, I now realize that many others, some with actual audiences, have already made fun of these commercials. It would seem I am completely lacking in tangy zip, because I posted this anyway. Oh, one more thing: who the hell uses polaroid cameras any more? Where does she buy film? Don't all cool young people own iphones? And where are the fixies? Don't ad executives know what's hip? Man, I really am clueless.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trek 520 Build - Part Five - Bad News Good News

This is Part Five of an ongoing series of posts documenting my painfully slow progress in building a light loaded touring bike. If you care to read the whole thing so far, use the "Post Series" link near the top of the sidebar.

I've only really "built" two bikes before this one, having only gotten back into bikes in the last ten years or so. As such, I lack the experience of some other crazy life-long bike wrenching fools. Unfortunately, it sometimes shows. In this case, it shows in that one of the wheels I found for this build was bad, in more ways than one. You may recall that the freewheel on my used wheels was a 12-19, which wasn't a good match for the triple crankset I chose or touring in general. In my post about the wheels, I described that freewheel as being in excellent condition. I am stupid. I recently picked up a 14-34 freewheel, and wanted to put it on. Here is what I discovered when I tried to remove the existing one:

Not good, but no biggie, right? Sheldon Brown had some instructions for removing such a freewheel. The method was destructive, but I was OK with that. Sadly, I was incapable of getting the damn thing off anyway. My guess is that the thing was seized badly and somebody else destroyed the tabs trying to get it off. I headed over to South London Cycle, more of a repair shop than anything else. The guy who runs it figured he could get the freewheel off somehow, but in spinning the wheel noticed a flat spot. I had noticed it too and thought it was correctable or at least not too bad. I was wrong. He suggested that it would be a waste of my money to have him remove the freewheel, because this was a flat spot I would feel for sure.

I was pretty angry with myself. Live and learn, I guess. The first thing I did was inspect the one remaining rim from the original bike. It was a front, but re-lacing it to be a rear was an option. It had a big flat spot too. I went online and started the search for a new rear wheel. Unlike the last time, there was NOTHING in the local (or even nearby) classifieds like craigslist or kijiji. Ebay and other online stores offered nothing used, and I was feeling reluctant to buy used stuff again anyway. The only reasonably available and good quality 27" wheel in production seemed to be a Sun CR18. The best deal I could find was $70 plus $30 shipping plus whatever they dinged me for at customs. I was sad.

It was a Sunday, and I couldn't reach any bike shops. Many smaller shops are also closed on Monday. I was pretty distressed and wanted to just run away. So I did. I caught the red-eye to London and hung out with Ham. I had to work, however, so I jetted back to London Ontario after chilling out and having a beer.

Tuesday was a good day, because I struck paydirt on my first try. First Cycleworks came through with an in-stock 27" CR18 wheel, aluminum hub, stainless spokes, etc. $62 after tax. Although I didn't make any more calls, I'm pretty confident nobody else would have had one and would have charged me more than that to get one.

So the bad news is that I am naive and too stupid to spot a bad wheel. The good news is that I was able to recover using my wallet and a LBS. I may well try to get a CR18 for the front as well... I'm into symmetry. The used front wheel I bought, however, really is perfect (I have checked and re-checked) so all is well for now.

Build $ Tally:

Used Frame + some parts I will re-use: $80
Used Wheelset front wheel: $100 (arg!)
Blasting of frame: $50
Powder Coating of frame: $50 (super deal)
Components from Part Four: $246
Taxes and Duties on shipment: $40
14-34 Freewheel: $22
New Rear Wheel: $62

TOTAL to date: $650

Yer Pal,


Friday, August 20, 2010

Lazily Industrious

I am nothing if not a lazy man. I hate the hassles of storing my bike in a secure location, kind of like how some people hate making their beds (I among them). I mean, why bring your bike all the way inside or into a shed only to take it out again the next morning? Sadly, I don't have a garage I could just roll into and close the door on. That would be awesome.

The good news is that I am fortunate enough to live in a house with a nice front porch. Being lazy, I would often leave my bike on the porch unlocked and sometimes lay it down so thieves wouldn't spot it in the wee hours. I must admit that I sometimes enjoyed imagining the drunken joy rider variety of thief unknowingly hopping on a fixed gear with only one brake lever for the front that is mounted on the "wrong" side. Despite that fact, this approach was causing me stress since I really do love my bike and somebody with an eye for better bike components might "case" it sooner or later. It was time for a porch lockup.

My LHS (local hardware store) is called Tuckey's Home Hardware, located in Wortley village. I like going there as do many people in Old South, because it is a good old all-purpose decidedly non-big box kind of operation. The good people there provided me with a good beefy chain and a very sturdy padlock. The best hitching ring they had was somewhat less beefy, but I figured it would do...

See how the bracket isn't exactly level? That's because while I was drilling the pilot holes in the brick my head was cocked sideways like a perplexed dog...

You see, for the lazy man, such industrious activities are a bit of a head scratcher. I find it somewhat ironic that one of the few times I got around to doing something around the house, it was because I wanted to be more lazy. In any case, the job got done, and here's my bike in porch lockup:

See those tools and bits of chain? Those are there because I work on my bike on the porch too. I do that because my perfectly good basement tool room / workbench is a terrible mess, so terrible that I can't work comfortably in it. Rather than clean it up, I work on the porch. I am a lazy man.

I know this kind of lockup wouldn't do the trick in some places, but it is plenty where I live, I think. As it happened I had just finished using Boeshield to treat my Trek 520 frame at the time, so I hosed down the chain and ring with it. The waxy feel of dry Boeshield on the chain makes me happy, because I know it probably won't rust for some time.

I know this is a boring post, but that brings to mind another paradox or irony or whatever. When I look at my web statistics (which I have a bespectacled forensic webologist study quarterly in the hopes of boosting my web traffic) it would seem that my visitors prefer my "boring" posts over my "funny" ones... I'm afraid that might mean that what I consider funny is boring and vice versa. To be honest, I don't really care why people come visit me here... I'm just glad you bother at all. Thanks!

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Transcendent Roadside Splendour

A recent post from Steve A at dfw point-to-point was about stopping and checking out some of the things we cruise past all the time. That post reminded me that I've been sitting on some photos of a roadside wonder here in London Ontario. In his case it was something of historical interest, with a sign and everything. My pictures are of something that is privately owned, but is no doubt cherished by the whole neighbourhood where it is found.

I've never been a big fan of garden gnomes and that kind of thing. I mean, huh?

To each his own I guess. I also don't really dig those leaning cowboy silhouette things, either:And although they don't bother me at all, why am I seeing these stars on so many houses?

Are they the new house butterfly? If so, that's too bad, because I like house butterflies. Mrs. Rantwick thinks my tastes in this regard are somewhat misguided. Ah well. They bring me peace.

original image source

Anyway, where was I? I got all blissed out there for a second. Ah yes... outdoor decorations. Well, there are house butterflies (sigh) and all these other things, but what I'm talking about here is something beyond all of that. I'm talking about a front lawn vision. I'm talking about Mother Nature herself. The proud owners of Mother Nature have, naturally, surrounded her with sweet little creatures...

She is deserving of her many followers. Here she is in context:

And here she is on her own (excluding her escort bunny, a turtle, a panting little dog and a tiny toe-sniffing donkey):

I love her. I love knowing that her owners obviously cherish her. I love that people can express themselves any way they want, on their front lawns or otherwise. I'm glad I don't live straight across from her, because, frankly, I would find myself in a constant state of arousal unbecoming a devout worshiper of Mrs. Rantwick. I think I had better stop there.

Yer Pal,


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trek 520 Build - Part Four - Have Parts, Will Dawdle

This is Part Four of an ongoing series of posts documenting my painfully slow progress in building a light loaded touring bike. If you care to read the whole thing so far, use the "Post Series" link to the right.

Now, on with the bike building blog post that shows no sign of ending, ever!

There is something very wrong with me. I mean, there have always been lots of things wrong with me, but this is a new thing. In the past, the main stumbling block to building a bike was getting everything I needed together. I have always preferred to have all the parts necessary for the bike to function before I begin. I mean, having a bike that has everything but, say, a toilet would be utterly maddening.

Once I start putting it together, I will use every spare minute I've got until it is rolling and tuned as well as possible. Then I'll turn to the non-mechanical points like stickers or racks or fenders or whatever. Thankfully shortly before my Out Of Pocket van rental experience I had ordered and received the new parts I was going to need for this build:

When combined with the old parts that I saved when stripping the bike down in Part Two, I do believe I've got everything needed to put this thing on the road. I have a good saddle that I will use for now. I want a Brooks (since many of you told me that they are worth it) for the long-range bike, but for now the saddle I've got should be fine and is an exact match to the one on my daily commuter.

Anyway, here's what's wrong: I can't seem to get started. My tool room / workbench is such a mess I can't even work in there. Normally that wouldn't stop me; I would just work on the porch. There is something else going on that I don't understand... I want to build and ride this bike, but I'm almost scared to begin. What happened to excited? Perhaps I am just self-aware enough to know how emotionally invested I get once I start, and I'm waiting for the right time when my immersion won't cause undue hardship for my family. Let's go with that for now and you can suggest other reasons I'm unable to pull the trigger. In the meantime, long-winded explanations of my new component choices should be downright riveting, don't you think? These purchases were made at a major online cycling retailer in the UK. God help me, I found my best deals across the Atlantic again.

Crankset: Stronglight Impact Triple - Price Paid: $58

I wanted a Sugino XD500 Triple, but didn't want to pay for it. These come very close at a much lower cost, although I think they are hard to get in North America. I even read somewhere that the arms are forged by Sugino. There's an XD2R and XD2L forged into the inside surfaces of the cranks, so it seems pretty likely. JIS square taper, nothing fancy. Mine has aluminum middle and outer rings with a steel granny, which was the cheapest configuration I could find. 50-38-28.

Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN54, 68mm $15 or $25

I was told that UN54 was a perfectly good bb for touring by bike shop people, and I believe them. Again, fancy isn't my goal, but reliability does matter. Two bottom brackets? Wah? I have two of these because I ordered the first from the aforementioned UK online retailer, using the spindle length of the old bottom bracket (122mm) as a guide. Having already made my order, I learned that your bb spindle length is normally suggested by the crank manufacturer. Looked it up. 115mm. So now I have both. If neither work out, I'm hoping I could swap with a LBS. Before anybody beats me up for not shopping locally, check this out: 122mm Online Price Paid: $15 115mm LBS Price Paid: $25. On one item, no big deal. On a bunch of parts, big difference in cost. I hate it, because I want to support my LBSs, but can't afford to when I'm buying lots of stuff like this.

Pedals: Shimano A520 - Price Paid: $39

I started out looking for MTB pedals like the ones I use now, because I like spd shoes, but came across these. They're only one-sided, but some say the more spread out design reduces hot spots where your foot contacts the pedal. I don't know about that, but they sure look nice.

Bars: Oval R300 - Price Paid: $41

26.0 mm clamp. I like wider bars than the ones I took off the bike. These are 44cm wide and have that little ergo bend, which I like.

Tires: Schwalbe Marathons, 27 X 1-1/4. Price Paid: $51

Good tires, I'll bet. My winter Schwalbes have been excellent.

Bar Tape: SRAM SuperCork - Price Paid: $13

I used Deda tape on my fixed commuter build. I love the way it feels but it hasn't proven super durable. How often do you re-tape? This stuff looked similar so I thought I would try it. The bar end plugs provided are pretty nice looking too.

Chain: SRAM PC870 - Price Paid: $19

SRAM chains with their power link are what I like best now, although I didn't always. I always get the lowest price chain that features nickel plating, because I love the look of them with the alternating black and silver. I figure that buying at that price point also ensures some measure of quality.

Wow. I must actually build this bike, because I never want to write anything this boring again. Or at least this kind of boring. A different, something actually happening kind of boring would be OK with me.

Now that I am the proud owner of all these bits, please feel free to inform me how I have messed up in my selections... I mean it.

Oh! Oh! I almost forgot the running tally. Maybe I subconsciously didn't want to see it...

Build $ Tally:

Used Frame + some parts I will re-use: $80
Used Wheelset: $100
Blasting of frame: $50
Powder Coating of frame: $50 (super deal)
Components listed above: $246
Taxes and Duties on shipment: $40

TOTAL to date: $566

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bike Paint Man Makes a Statement

I have this cool sister-in-law who sends me links she thinks I may find interesting. Not being a rabid cycling web surfer, she often finds stuff I haven't seen in my own online stumblings.

I have no desire to restart the ever-smoldering debate on helmets and helmet laws on this web site. Do what you want. Preach what you want. Quote whatever statistics you want. I don't care. Since even mentioning helmets seems to restart cranky debates, please know that if you must opine about it in the comments, knock yourself out, but I am staying out of this one. My sister simply found this interesting and so do I, so here's a link or you could also click the image below to go to the article.

I haven't been meeting many Monday deadlines over the past couple of months. Life and family trumps blog, which is as it should be, I know. Just the same, I hope to be getting my blogging groove back soon.

Does Bike Paint Man Speak to You? What does he say?


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Retirement Planning

Hey, this is yet another call to my always insightful if sometimes strange (talk about the pot calling the kettle black) cycling readers. I've been summer commuting on the same tires for almost three years, possibly more. I am crummy at keeping track of such things. They are Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase(s). I have been very pleased with them.

The sidewalls are in fine condition, but there are a number of decent cuts or cracks in the centre of them:

I know I am inviting the flat gods to rain bad fortune down upon me, but I haven't flatted once in all that time, which included a few longish (60-80 km) highway trips. So, should I continue to tempt fate or would you think there's a little life left in these still? I lean toward treating tires like I do cars... ride them until they fail completely. Trouble is, I don't want to experience that complete failure on a big ol' downhill stretch.

As always, thanks for letting me use you as sounding boards... I didn't want to leave this earth-shattering discussion in the hands of strangers!

Try to Stay Pumped,