Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The King of Autumn, 2020

Yes, it is that time again. Strangely, the King has almost always been an orange colour when I post him, but the first time he was a glowing yellow. As I've mentioned in other years, he is orange on the outside but glowy green and yellow on the inside this time too... anyway here are 2020's photos, much like the other photos I've been posting for 12 years!

May Your Tallest Friends Flourish,

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Encounters with Rantwick, episode Twenty Seven: Morning Mayhem!

You just never know what you may encounter on your bike. Witness:

For a second there, I thought I might encounter a bumper at high speed!

Yer Pal,

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Uh-oh. I've joined the Freaky Cockpit Crowd

First off I want to post a picture of my Fat bike with a clean drivetrain:

In the middle of winter when my drivetrain is a thing of nightmares, I may well come to this post, sigh deeply, cry a little and in the process feel a little better.

Now to the censored circle in the room, my new handlebars. I've always had a bit of disdain for overly complex cockpits. When I would see bars with all kinds of stuff on them I would think to myself "ruh roh, koo koo", and "c'mon man, who needs all this shit"? Well, the post title has already tipped you off to the fact that I can no longer sit in judgement of anyone's setup.

After fooling around with my new butterfly bars, of course what I liked best was kind of upside down and backwards from the product photos. That would have been OK I guess, had I not ended up going a little crazy with extra stuff. The censored circle:

And now, the explanation nobody really cares about, complete with handy diagram:

1 - Overly snazzy mirror, because that's what would mount properly on this bar. This thing sticks out about a foot, which is nice for its vehicular space-making features. It is awful sporty though. Or is it sporty awful?

2 - Headlight. Need one of those.

3 - Good old lock-on grips. I have always liked the solid feel of them. I removed one of the clamps so they would meet up more seamlessly with the, urg, foam. I am overcoming my aversion to foam I think. If I fail, I will have to wrap tape around all this crap.

4 - Brake hood stand-ins. When I flipped the bars they became much like normal drop bars on the top corners, and back when I used drop bars I spent most of my time on the brake hoods. I cut some old bar ends short and now they serve the same purpose brake hoods did, stoppers that keep my hands from sliding down and forward.

Advocates of trekking/butterfly bars are all about the numerous hand positions. Although there are technically 4 or 5 hand positions available to me, the reality is that there are 3 that feel good to use; on the high horizontal grips, on the "brake hoods" which allows me to rotate my wrist 90 degrees and is awesome, and the low horizontal bits for the odd time I want to hunker down.

Well, that about sums it up, riveting stuff, I know!

Yer Pal,

PS - If you are a card carrying member of the freaky cockpit crowd, reach out. I'm sure we can find some sort of cult-ish deprogramming camp where we can together be brainwashed into being normal, or at least stopping here, vowing never to complexify further.

PPS - If you have ever been deprogrammed, please accept my apologies for being an insensitive jerk. Also, where was it? Can you refer me/us? Ooh! Even better, can you get me/us a discount?

PPPS - Oh man, I've dug quite a hole, haven't I? How about a nice blanket sorry for everything I've written, today and every other day. Sorry.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Spinny Bits

After mentioning that my Fat bike had become my number one commuter, of course I ended up riding my "skinny" (32c) tired bike for a few weeks and man, has it ever been good. It's almost like I enjoy riding bikes no matter what type; go and figure! The reason for the switch was that I was getting the fat front wheel rebuilt on a Hope Fatsno hub. The rear had been Fatsno'd a year ago. Over last winter I found that the front hub, which was fine above freezing, was still gumming up and dragging when things got cold, but the rear spun really well in all temps.

The build was delayed by the fact that Outspokin' Cycles was having trouble getting black spokes in the size required - I guess all things bike are in high demand these days. Anyway, they called me up with the problem and seemed rather shocked when I said silver spokes were fine - this bike was pretty well colour coordinated you see. However, I told them it was a work horse not a showpiece (they should have known that from how dirty it was). It is kind of liberating to just give over to utility and forget beauty, just go with function over form. Anyway, I now have a bike with one silver-spoked wheel:

This bike was an entry-level one with decent components but cheapish wheels. The wheels are still not high-end; the rims are heavy and couldn't do tubeless if I desired it - but given the way I'm using it, as a winter commuter beast, that's fine. I'm not going to get stranded in the wild should I suffer a flat and I'm no racer. It seems to me that if I'm gonna spend money improving such a bike, it makes sense to improve the spinny bits (hubs and bottom bracket) above all other things. After all, a bike that rolls and pedals beautifully can be forgiven most other shortcomings.

Keeping this thinking in mind, you won't be shocked that I have replaced the bottom bracket with a nice "nuke proof" brand one:

Ironically I suppose, it is colour coordinated! At time of purchase black was out of stock and the bike was still all matchy-matchy so blue seemed cool. The previous bb had been functioning fine except for a little creak that was driving me nuts. I tightened and greased and re-set a couple times, but still creak creak creak. I had to stop it. Fat-specific bbs are hard to find and stupid expensive when you do, so I just got a bb designed for a normal mtb and fitted the old plastic tube that runs between the cups to the new stuff. I wasn't a perfect fit (one side wasn't fully snug around the little gaskety thing), so I tried to make up for that by jamming tons of grease into everything. It should be fine and all spins in that lovely satisfying, silent and smooth way that good bike bits do.

Left to do is fire a new chain on there and finish decking out the butterfly bars I mentioned last time. The handlebar thing is gonna require a whole 'nuther post because you know, EVERYBODY wants to hear every excruciatingly unremarkable detail. 

About the chain though, I do want to say this: If you're riding in winter, fork out the dough for chains with some rust resistance from nickel plates or similar. I like sram chains and asked a bike shop to use one last time but didn't think to specify the more expensive type, since I usually replace my own chains. The cheaper chain they used got this awful rust/lube combo all over my bike as I just slopped lube on the chain all winter as I usually do. Please don't judge - maintaining a drivetrain in winter is not easy.

Be good, Be safe, and don't lose yer shit. Everything's gonna be ok eventually.

PS - I have a photobomber who is sneakily working against me. Mr Big Toe, who I edited out of the previous pics:

Sneaky little bugger! I'm gonna have to keep an eye on that thing!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Butterflies, 2 High Guys & a Near Dognapping

The fat bike I've been enjoying for some time now has become my #1 commuter, even in summer. While not as fast as some of my bikes, it is comfortable and fun. Given my remaining balance issues, it also erases most worry arising from cracks, potholes and uneven surfaces. However, as I get older I'm finding my neck and shoulders are giving me increasing grief no matter what bike I'm riding. I'm not even in the saddle for long these days, mostly just doing about 14km each weekday on my commute. Maybe I just need to ride more. Hmm. Perhaps. But buying "solutions" is so much more fun!

I have long been intrigued by trekking / butterfly handlebars. I'm thinking these might offer enough hand positions, including a much closer and less wide position that will give my neck a break.

How I cover these bars remains up in the air. Do I want to get my old bolt-on grips on there somehow? I have some good bar tape that's just been sitting around for a few years... or what about FOAM? These bars came with FOAM to cover them. I can't think of FOAM for handlebars without thinking of the gawdawful super puffy porous foam on some doofus' drop bars during my youth that looked like this:

Thanks to Cafiend for naming the actual product, Grab-On Handlebar Foam. The stuff I remember was an even cheaper and more easily destroyed version I think.

They were worse than what came with these bars, which was more dense and less ridiculously puffy:

The bars did not come with the sram tape, just those foam tubes. I just don't know if I can get my head around FOAM use. Thoughts?

Now, on to the 2 High Guys. I watch a depressing amount of CNN, which means I've seen a commercial about a certain car insurance product for older people from a certain insurance company many many times. You can tell what generation of people are joining the AARP crowd by how they behave. Most attendees of Woodstock, for example, are 65-75 years old now. You can tell:

You tell me these 2 guys aren't high as fuck. Go ahead. Tell me that. Tell me.

Lastly, have you ever seen a dog tied up outside a place and felt a strong urge to simply take it?

As you can see I saw this little dog months ago, when it was cold and snowy, which only made my yearning to dognap him stronger. Instead I took a picture and waited for a loving owner to come back, which happened in due course.

That's it for now. Stay well, enjoy everything you can in these whacked out times and I'll attempt to touch base again soon.

Yer Pal,

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Holy Cow, Has It Really Been 6 Months? That's Crazy!

Although if things are gonna be Crazy, now's the time I guess. I hope any and all weirdos still reading this blog are doing all right and have not been dealt anything too painful in this strange time.

Strange indeed, but in some ways not so bad. Putting a kink in our constant rush to consume is not an entirely bad thing. I've also read some good stuff about reduced pollution and rebounding species. While I strongly suspect a rest is not as good as a change in these areas, good news is still good news, you know.

I have perceived one other positive change, but I need to check with you to see if I'm imagining it. I think people, learning to change their ways and maintain distance in public, on the sidewalk, in stores etc., are doing it with their cars while passing me on my bike. Is it all in my head, or is social distancing translating into more considerate drivers? Perhaps less traffic just means more room to give me room, but I like to think it is an actual change in driving behaviours brought about, by all things, a virus. If true, how wonderful would it be if it became a good habit that stuck? A man can dream, right?

In other good news, geese still like hissing at me:

I don't have good video to show it, but I have also learned that a "honk" from my disc brakes (they are rather honky) will make a whole gaggle of geese look up at the same moment like a bunch of meerkats.

With a bunch of fuzzy goslings around in the last couple months it has been fun and adorable.

I've been working this whole time and commuting on bike path and street as usual. When I come across another person on the path, I give them a wide berth by hugging the extreme edge of the asphalt or go out on the grass when necessary or if it might help them feel more at ease with my presence, especially if they're old. As these two approached, I kept waiting for them to go single file:

As you can see, they did not and I did not like it, particularly because like it or not, I'm pretty old looking with my extra weight and mostly grey beard. I even sigh like an old man at the end, sounding just like my dear departed dad.This is just one example of close passing by cyclists that has happened several times at time of writing. So, short version, I think cars are giving me enough space while some cyclists are not. It is most definitely an upside-down kind of time.

Be Safe and Stay Well,