3-Speed Adventure April

This post is way late.  I’m probably ineligible for fame and glory at this point.

Back in March, the infamous Shawn of Urban Adventure League fame announced a new challenge for April: Three Speed Adventure April!  There were five challenges.  Yours Truly had grand plans to complete them all in one fell swoop of an S24O.

The overall challenge consists of five different sub-challenges:

  1. Ride your three speed at least fifteen miles (25 km) in one ride.
  2. A climb of 5% or more grade, with a cumulative elevation gain of at least 100 feet (30 m).
  3. A bit of unpaved/dirt action, of at least a cumulative one half mile (1 km).
  4. Coffee outside via three speed.
  5. A bike overnight or bike camping trip by three speed.

Well, that didn’t happen.  But I did manage to squeeze out 3 of them.

On April 21st, 2017, I set out to conquer the climb from Market and 3rd, past Negley Park, to 8th, which generally has an upward pitch, and is at some points ridiculously steep.  Especially for a 40 pound 3-speed with an old fat guy astride.

The hardest bit, though, is right at the bottom.  See the little circled dip in the screenshot below.  Over the first .37 miles, it gains 100 feet in altitude.  That’s about 6% if my math isn’t too far off.

Challenge #2 complete!

Challenges 3 and 4 were completed on Sunday, April 30th.

A cozy bridge.

A little dirt.

A little grass.  I’d guess about a mile of the rough stuff, out and back.

Coffee along a little stream.  The water was boiled with a Kelly Kettle…

…and then forced through the grounds with an Aeropress…

…into a Coleman porcelain coated steel mug.

This is my favorite mug.  It’s part of a set consisting of 3 other mugs and a matching percolator.  I found them in a thrift store a few years back, still in the original box.  Those little gold Taiwan ROC stickers were on the bottom of all 5 pieces, which tells me they had never been used  Twelve worthless Americanos for the lot!

And, finally, a nice ramble home on the Collegiate.

How to make a pot of coffee

Here at the Emporium, we drink a lot of coffee.  The appropriate way to express the rate at which coffee is consumed here is pots per day.  As in, “Have you had any coffee yet today?”  “Only one.”

The purists may poo-poo what I’m about to say, claiming that water should only pass through the coffee once, and that it should be exactly at 195 degrees, and that you should only grind the beans just before brewing, that coffee should be made one cup at a time, yada yada yada.  The Bicycle Emporium’s modest break room currently houses a French press, an Aeropress (this is great for bike camping and we’ll cover it in a later entry), a Bialetti, a Bodum carafe that’s similar to a Chemex, a small espresso machine, at least 3 cones and, sigh, a Keurig.

All of those methods have their place.  Sometimes, though, we need to make a large quantity of coffee.  I can’t ignore a patron long enough (though, I’d like that very much) to brew coffee in a French press.  Sometimes the wife wants a cup, too.  Sometimes the group ride ends at the shop.  It needs to be ready to go throughout the day, and it needs to be fast enough to serve more than one person at the same time.  There are primarily two ways to accomplish this; an automatic drip maker or an electric percolator.  Both plug into a standard wall outlet.  Both heat water and pass it through the coffee grounds.  Both stop brewing automatically and then keep the coffee at a decent enough temperature.  But only one of them doesn’t suck.  And it’s not the drip maker.

Drip makers are awful.  Especially the plastic ones that invariably make the coffee taste like plastic.  The good drip makers that aren’t plastic aren’t very good, either.  They’re just less bad.  They are the McDonald’s of coffee makers; not really intended to make good coffee, but rather to make coffee that is the least offensive to the greatest number of people.  So why did the electric drip become the de facto coffee maker in the American kitchen?  Because they were convenient.

Prior to the electric drip maker taking over, bulk coffee was brewed at home in a stove top percolator.  Prepared properly, it was heaven in a pot.  Quoting from How to Travel with a Salmon by the inimitable Umberto Eco:

“American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade in plastic thermos cups, usually obligatory in railroad
stations for purposes of genocide, whereas coffee made with an American percolator, such as you find in private houses or in humble luncheonettes,
served with eggs and bacon, is delicious, fragrant, goes down like pure spring water, and afterwards causes severe palpitations, because one cup
contains more caffeine than four espressos.”

However, brewing coffee in a stove top percolator was a half-hour process, at least.  It also required the brewer to grind beans, and have both a modicum of skill and access to a reliable heat source.  Even after ruining several dozen pots of coffee during the skill-honing phase while learning how to do this, it was still easy to botch it up.  Crying baby?  Need to use the toilet?  Damn neighbor at the door again asking to borrow yet more sugar?  Ruined.  It had to be watched and the temperature had to be controlled, requiring someone to stand there at the stove.

At some point in the 1960s or 70s the electric drip maker hit the market.  Dump the grounds in a filter, add water, turn it on, walk away.  The results were predictable, if not exemplary.  It became so popular that most of the coffee currently available in supermarkets, corner groceries, and over-priced convenience stores is pre-ground for the drip maker.

Enter the modern electric percolator.  At this point I should clarify a few things.  What follows is specific to the electric percolator and only the electric percolator.  My methods may not work with a stove top or camp fire percolator.  They may not work with those gigantic percolators found in church fellowship halls and bridge club kitchens.  This is also not an attempt to suggest that the percolator should replace your hipster coffee hobby.  It is, however, the very best way to make bulk coffee with stuff you can get just about anywhere.  Even in MiddleOfNowhere, Flyover, USA.

You need a few items.


First, you’ll need a percolator.  I use a 12-cup Presto, currently available from the A-Z super online retailer for about $30.  I’ve had a Hamilton Beach that produced similar results.  There are models from Cuisinart that cost a few bucks more, but I’m not sure they’re worth it.  From what I can tell, they’re probably all made in the same place with the same working parts, but different cosmetics.  Whichever one you purchase, it should be stainless steel inside.

Second, you’ll need paper filters.  I use the type that press into the pot’s basket and then fold over once the coffee grounds are added.  Around here, the Melitta brand is easy to find.  These keep the grounds out of the water and make cleanup super easy.  There are also disc filters that simply sit in the basket.  These work, too, but cleanup can be a bit messier.

Third, you need coffee.  Forget everything you’ve ever read about making coffee in a percolator.  If you haven’t read anything about it, go do so now.  Then come back here and forget it.  In short, percolator instructions always say to use a coarse grind.  I have yet to encounter anyone anywhere who suggests otherwise.  And they’re all wrong.  At least when it comes to the electric percolator.  Go to your local supermarket and purchase coffee that has a “Euro” grind, which is finer than crappy drip grounds from Folgers, but coarser than espresso.  There are several that seem to be widely available, including Melitta and Gevalia, among others.  I like the medium roasts from Gevalia.  Try a few until you find one to suit your palette.

Preparation is simple.  The Presto perc has graduations inside the pot.  Fill it to the 12 cup line with water.  Put a filter in the basket.  Add 8 tablespoons of coffee grounds.  Place the pump stem and basket into the pot, put the lid on and plug it in.  In 10 or 15 minutes you’ll have wonderful coffee with a bright flavor and a clean finish.  And 48 espresso’s worth of caffeine.

And, we’re back!

The new, improved fivetoedsloth is reborn, again, this time, as Uncle Grouchy and his Bicycle Emporium!  Update your rss reader!

Coming soon!  Bicycle reviews!  Opinionated bloviation!  How 3 speeds are all you need!  How 7 speeds are all you need!  How to cure the common cold!  And, everyone’s favorite, Uncle Grouchy’s Gripes!

Standby to stand by….

Coffeeneuring, Controle 1

Hello again, party people!  It’s been a while and there’s a lot I need to follow up on, like my month of Google-free-ness and the One Bike experiment.  But right now, it’s coffeeneuring time!  Head on over to Chasing Mailboxes to get the scoop.

The family and I rode down to the Conodoguinet and made coffee on a picnic table, taking advantage of the Coffee Shop Without Walls option.   Whenever I go on an S24O, I either bring along my trusty Esbit stove or my homemade Pepsi can alcohol burner.  Since I couldn’t find the Esbit, the alcohol stove got the nod.  I had just enough fuel to heat the water.  I poured it over Caribou Mahogany and drank it black.  Christie brought a vacuum flask full of ice and cream for hers.

Everything packs neatly into the pot.  The fuel flask has Mr. Yuck stickers on both sides, just so the lushes don’t get confused.

Pour-over coffee makes for easy clean-up.  No wasting water rinsing out a press.

Four bikes, coffee, and a water bottle wind screen.

The girls took a moment to get their feet wet in the Conodoguinet.

And then we headed home, back up the path toward civilization.

And that completes our first Coffeeneuring ride of the season.


Google-free for 30 days

Our dear benevolent overlords have seen fit to throw the switch on Google Reader by July 1st, 2013.  That leaves me with 257 potentially homeless rss feeds.  Right now, if you were here, you’d see my Grr Face in all its wrinkled glory.  The tech news sites are lit up with all manner of suggestions for replacement services, only one of which, Feedly, currently has the bandwidth and BogoMips to handle the mass exodus.  Digg has announced that they are starting to work on their own aggregator.  Google Plus and Twitter are both aflame, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  #reader, #savereader, #upyoursinthebuttgoogle are common hash tags.  Ok, so maybe the last one isn’t all that common.

A few weeks back Christie and I were discussing just how much the big G knows about us.  It’s probably a lot.  But we came to an interesting conclusion.  We’re OK with it because we get to use some really cool services.  There are very few companies that do this.  Many seem to be all about taking, taking, taking and selling, selling, selling, with no regard for us.  Google, unlike the rest of them, is actually useful.  Right now we’re using the following Google services:

  • Gmail
  • Google Apps (the mail server for twosixteen)
  • Calendar
  • Picasa
  • Google Plus
  • Reader
  • Drive
  • Play (Android apps and music streaming)

We have invested in all of those services.  Not necessarily money, but time, effort, creativity, more time.  If Google decides to pull the plug, like they just did with Reader, we’re kinda in the lurch.  That’s a lot of data, photos, archived e-mail, a calendar we share, social connections, books and music, all lost.  At Google’s whim.  Now, I don’t expect them to do that, especially if they’ve managed to monetize a service, but they could.  We would have no control over it.  None.

When they announced the death date for Reader, I think my initial reaction was a lot like everyone else’s.  ”WTF?” and then “I have to find a new feed aggregator service.”  I tried out Feedly.  The early indicators are that they are winning the war of Reader’s attrition.  They do seem to have their shit together.  Log in with your Google account.  That’s it.  It currently uses Google Reader as the back end, so all your rss feeds are there.  Some time between now and then they’ll migrate everything over to Normandy.  Seamless, they say.  If you’re cool with moving to another service, Feedly looks like one you should really consider.

The title of this entry is “Google-free for 30 days”.  I had decided on that title before I started working on the details.  I was going to spend a month using other services as much as possible.  But there’s that whole software-as-a-service thing, rearing its ugly head again.  What if Feedly goes out of business?  Or decides to do something else?  We’re back to where we are right now, with no control over our own stuff.  All that time and effort would be wasted.   So I’m not going to use Feedly or any other service I don’t control.

Now I need to find a replacement for each Google service I use and figure out how to implement it such that no one else can shut it off.  Christie and I pay for a shared hosting plan.  Twosixteen runs on this.  And soon, hopefully, so will everything else.  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll try to document the process of finding a replacement for each Google web service I use, installing it, and putting it to use.  Once I get everything set up, I’ll attempt to use no Google applications for at least a month.

A few rules/guidelines:

  1.  I’m not willing to implement a Microsoft solution.  A web-based Google service is, by far, the lesser of the two evils.
  2. Everything I do implement must be accessible from anywhere I have an Internet connection.  e.g. A locally installed feed reader doesn’t count.
  3. Android apps are icing on the cake.
  4. Strong preference for Free and open source software.
  5. Web pages that don’t require a log-in are OK.  I can still use Maps, Search, Youtube and Translate.  I’ll try to find alternatives, but these are still on the table.
  6. Play is almost a requirement for the Android phone.  I’ll still use it for phone apps, but that’s it.  All the books and music will go elsewhere.  (Yes, I know I could use Amazon’s app store, or side load everything, but those options both suck.  I’d rather go back to a dumb phone.)

First up is e-mail.  Updating the MX record to point to our web hosting provider is easy.  They offer web mail, along with IMAP and SMTP.  I’ll use K9 on the Android devices and I might install a local mail reader, too.  I’ve always wanted to try Mutt.

A Reader replacement is second.  I have no idea what to use, yet.

The Drive replacement will likely be third.  I’m leaning toward OwnCloud at the moment for web-based storage.  It’s open source and there are Linux and Android applications.  Local office-like applications on each device will take the place of Google’s Document and Spreadsheet applications.  Those are the only two I use.

Stay tuned!

Reality bites…

…and it doesn’t hurt that bad.

This time I’m going to revamp the One Bike idea a bit and make an attempt to bring it back to reality.  My last post was a mental exercise prompted by another post over at Singularity.  In summary, if you could only have one bike, what would it be?  No holds barred.  Spare no expenses.  Win the lottery.  Mine turned out to be an A. Homer Hilsen.  (Or a Sam Hilborne, but I don’t much care for slopey top tubes.)  I think there’s some merit to this exercise, but there’s a little problem, too.  A new A. Homer Hilsen costs $2,300 for the frame and fork.  While that may be realistic for lots of folks, I can’t swing $2,300 for an entire bike.  Half that is more realistic.  Half again, and use the existing bits and pieces I have lying around is completely realistic.  That said, let’s rewrite the rules.

  1. One frame-set only.  We’ll save this one for last.
  2. Multiple wheel-sets are permitted.  This is what makes one bike possible.
  3. Multiples of a given component are permitted.  Not as necessary as #2, but awfully convenient.
  4. Cost is not a factor.  Name your price.  Obviously, no one expects anyone to talk about their money in public.  But be realistic.  Figure out what you’d need in a bike and then try to track down something that works.
  5. As few variations as possible.  Not a problem.
  6. As little hassle as possible.  I really don’t ever try to build in hassle.  It just happens.
  7. Call your shot.
  8. Justify.  7 and 8 kinda go together.  e.g. I need a trailer hitch because I tow the kids around in the trailer.

That’s just one variation.  Price.  This little change requires much more flexibility in the finished product.

  1. The 7-speed stuff is still on board.  This was a surprise.  I’ve had difficulty finding decent quality 7-speed cassette hubs, spaced 126 OLD.  The pickier I get, the scarcer and pricier they are.  That’s the way when you have to troll eBay and Craigslist for old parts.  If the One Bike were based on a new frame, rear dropout spacing is likely to be somewhere between 130 and 135mm, which changes the game entirely.  The RM40 is a low-end, current production 7-speed hub from Shimano.  Alternately, I can simply use modern 8/9/10-speed  road or MTB hubs with a little 4.5mm spacer behind the cassette.  A third option is going back to eBay.  Unlike road hubs, MTB hubs, spaced for modern frames, from the early 90s are plentiful and much less expensive.  Plus, I have my own stash of 7-speed shifters.
  2. Instead of two sets of identical wheels, we’re now at two sets of wheels.  One front wheel has a dynamo and the other doesn’t.  Looking at the wheels currently in my possession, I can do this if I settle on 26″ rims instead of 700c.  I have more than one set of 700c wheels, but they’re all different enough from each other that I’d have difficulty swapping them.  The rims are different widths, which would require brake adjustments.  The hubs are different widths, which will probably require derailer adjustments.  If I were to use my existing 700c wheels, I’d be violating rules 5 and 6.  Parallax hubs are cheap and plentiful and for some unintentional reason I have a box full of them.  I currently have two MTB rear wheels built on Parallax hubs.  I’ve given away more of these hubs than I currently posses.  Odds are, if someone puts a mountain bike that didn’t come from a department store on the curb, it has a Parallax hub.  They’re everywhere. So I have two 26″ rear wheels, and both have rims of similar width.  Within a millimeter of each other.  I have two front wheels, also with similar rims.  One of them has a dynamo hub, which solves the night riding requirements.  This leads me to the conclusion that my One Bike needs to take 26″ wheels instead of 700c.
  3. Tires.  I decided I’d need three sets.  Utility, winter and fun.  For 26″/559ISO rims I currently have some Bontrager Satellites, Nokian W106 studded, Panaracer Fire XC Pros and a few other mismatched tires.  The Bontrager and Nokian tires satisfy the utility and winter requirements.  None of the other tires really contribute to sporty road riding, but they’re there, and they’ll work in a pinch if I need a spare.  That’s 3+ pairs of tires for 26″ rims, adding more influence to the 26″ decision.
  4. I don’t have a Sugino XD crank, but I have several crank sets that I could put to use.  There’s an MT60 triple and a matching bottom bracket in the parts bin.  There are a couple long cage rear and a couple triple front derailers, too.
  5. Some place to attach racks.  I have two bikes that, so far, could be made to serve as the One Bike, but neither has any accommodation for racks, aside from drop out eyelets.  I’d have to use P-clamps to secure racks to the seat stays.  This works in the sense that the rack is attached to the bike and can hold panniers, but the rack will wiggle a lot more than if it was screwed directly to the frame.
  6. Drop handlebars.  Both of those existing bikes are mountain bikes.  Mountain bikes tend to have longer top tubes than road bikes.  I don’t think drop bars are a good solution on most mountain bikes because of that.  Combine this with the rack problem, and it’s pretty obvious that I need a new frame.
  7. Now I have to concede another sticking point.  The brakes.  I specified caliper brakes instead of cantilever.  With all my other nits, like wide tires, this was the sticking point that led me to the conclusion that those two bikes from Rivendell were the only current production models meeting all of my requirements.  If I make an exception for cantilever brakes, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Let’s break it down.

  1. 26″/559ISO wheels
  2. Road bike geometry
  3. Rack eyelets
  4. Well under $1000.  Closer to $500 is better.

I can think of a few off the top of my head, the most obvious being the Surly Long Haul Trucker, but there are others.  As it stands I already have nearly every part necessary to build up a new frame set.  I might need a chain and cables and maybe a few odd small parts, but it’s pretty obvious that if I accept reality I could have the One Bike.

One bike to rule them all…

…and in the something something.  I can’t think of anything catchy.

Over at Singularity there’s a little challenge to do some thinking and come up with one bike that would fit every possible need.  A mental exercise in minimalism without sacrificing functionality.  I can do this.  A while back I came to the conclusion that 3 bikes is plenty – just put different handlebars on each one.  Paring it down to one should be easy.  In theory.  Let’s take a look at the rules.  (My thoughts about each rule look like this.)

  1. One frame-set only.  We’ll save this one for last.
  2. Multiple wheel-sets are permitted.  This is what makes one bike possible.
  3. Multiples of a given component are permitted.  Not as necessary as #2, but awfully convenient.
  4. Cost is not a factor.  ORLY?
  5. As few variations as possible.  Not a problem.
  6. As little hassle as possible.  I really don’t ever try to build in hassle.  It just happens.
  7. Call your shot.
  8. Justify.  7 and 8 kinda go together.  e.g. I need a trailer hitch because I tow the kids around in the trailer.

Let’s get started with 8, shall we?


I do some utility riding.  A lot of this is stuff most people would do in their car.  We’re fortunate to live in a suburb with lots of services nearby.

Getting both kids to school is a 2.5 mile round trip.  3 miles if the little one isn’t ready to go and I have to come back after dropping off the big one.  The big one rides her own bike.  The little one can ride her own bike in the mornings, but traffic is too heavy after school.  When the weather is nice enough she rides an Adams Trail-a-bike.  When it’s not she lounges in a Wike trailer.  I need hitches for both of these.  I still haven’t found a really good way to get her bike home if she rides it in the morning.  A utility trailer with a bike rack would work.  Let’s add that to the list.


Stop that.

A grocery run is about 3 miles round trip.  I’ve used the Wike trailer for this, but typically a set of panniers gets the nod.  I only have touring bags.  They work in the sense that they can be stuffed full of groceries, but I usually end up re-bagging everything to make it all fit just right for the ride home.  I’ve had a Wald Giant Delivery Basket on a couple bikes at one time or another.  Simply dropping the grocery bags into it is super easy, but it’s big, heavy, and makes the bike steer for crap.  Grocery panniers might be nice.  Racks, of course, are a given.  Most of the grocery runs are at night.  I like dynamo lighting.  Battery lights are for suckers.  We’ll put a dynamo wheel on the list.

Currently, those are the two big utility requirements.  I’ll do local errands on the bike, too.  If I ever rejoin the ranks of the gainfully employed this bike will probably be put to use as a commuting machine at least some of the time.

Did you notice how I never said “unless it’s raining”?  Fenders are required.

Recreational rides include the local bike club, JRA, S24O and the occasional weekend “long” ride.  I did a mini-tour last year with Doc.  Three days.

Bike club rides are not of the pace-line variety.  Our club classifies the ride pace as A, B, C or D.  A-rides are generally treated as training rides for the racers and wannabe racers.  B-rides have pace-lines, too.  I go on the C and D rides, where the pace-line is less line and more amoeba.  And there’s no pace, either.  Any bike will work for these rides.

JRA means “just riding around”.  Any bike will work for JRA.  In bike shop jargon it also means “just riding along”.  This is a reference to numb skull customers who think the mechanic can’t tell how a fork got bent.  “I was just riding along and it bent back like that when I hit the brakes.”  

S240 means sub-24-hour-overnight.  This, by itself, is reason enough to ride a bike.  There are few activities as fun or as cheap as going bike camping.  “Cheap” is relative.  You gotta buy a bike and some camping gear.  But once those are accounted for it’s pretty close to free.  Food and maybe camping fees.  The bike needs some way to carry camping gear.  Racks, panniers, saddle bag, small front basket, etc.  Same stuff I’d use for grocery getting. These bits are also useful for the 3-day mini tour.  I’d just need to bring more food and a few extra changes of clothing.

I think that covers rule #8 and sorta touches on #7.  Let’s get more specific.

I really like 7-speed cassettes.  There’s nothing wrong with 8 or 9 or 15 cogs, but I like 7.  All the parts are less expensive and more durable.  Derailers and shifters are easier to keep in proper adjustment.  If an indexed shifter stops indexing, friction is perfectly usable.  I can get the range I want, from about 20 gear inches up to about 100, with readily available parts without having to fuss with silly things like half-step gearing or close range triples.  2 of my 6 bicycles are currently set up with a 7-speed cassette.  One of my bikes has a 7-speed freewheel.  One of those 3 even has indexed shifting.  7 is the sweet spot.  Everything since then has been good for racers and those strange people who want the latest and greatest.  The problem with 7 is that the currently available parts are on the low end of the quality spectrum.  This means that I’d have to track down high quality old stuff, or put up with the new cheap bits.  At this point, I believe that for my purposes either of those options is better than going with 9 or 10 or 11 speed cassettes.  So that’s how I’d build both of my rear wheels.  A 135mm hub with a 7-speed body could be nearly dishless.  One should have a K-cassette (13-34) and the other could be geared a little higher.  Maybe 11-28.  Add touring rims and 36 stainless spokes.

There should be two identical front wheels.  Both should have the same rims as the rear wheels, 36 stainless spokes and mid-range dynamo hubs.  I currently have an Alfine dynamo on one bike and a SRAM D7 on another.  Either of those would be fine.

I’ve had good luck with Alex Adventurer rims.  So those are cool.

Having two sets of identical wheels goes a long way toward rules 5 and 6.  Easy wheel swaps, simple redundancy.  Multiple wheel-sets make the one bike thing possible.  Wheel and tire damage is probably the number one reason a bike gets sidelined in favor of another.  “Got a flat, ride a different bike” becomes “put on the other wheel”.

I’d need 3 pairs of tires.  The first pair should be a bullet proof (ok, flat resistant), durable commuter/touring tire.  Schwalbe Marathon Supreme, 700c x 40.  These tires would be the daily use tires.  I don’t have time to fix flats when I’m taking the girls to school.  I don’t want to fix flats at 1am when it’s 20F outside and I’m on my way home with groceries.

The second pair of tires is the fun pair.  Panaracer Pasela.  At least 32mm wides, preferably 37mm.  These would live on the higher geared wheels and be used for club rides and JRA.  I’d move them to the low-geared wheels for S24O and touring.

The third pair would be studded.  Nokian A10 or something like that.  These would replace the Marathons from the first snowfall until the end of February.

Two saddles and two seat posts.  One saddle should be made of thick leather.  I like my Velo-Orange Model 1.  A Brooks Pro or a Berthoud would work, too.  The leather saddle should be attached to a really nice seat post, like a Nitto Crystal Fellow.  This is the fun ride/S24O/touring saddle.

The second saddle should be plastic and attached to a cheaper post, like a Kalloy.  The Trail-a-bike hitch goes with the second one.  This is the utility, all weather, day to day saddle.

7-speed bar-end shifters.  I have a pair of Shimano 600 shifters that index.  They’re ancient and they still work perfectly.  Rivendell Silver Shifters on bar-end pods are my second choice

Sugino XD-2 crank.  26/36/48.  SKF bottom bracket.  MKS RMX Sneaker pedals.

I’m indifferent about derailers.  Long cage for the rear and a road triple for the front.  Something mid-range or better.

A slightly flared drop bar.  I’m not entirely sure which one.  After trying quite a few I’ve found that I really like both the Nitto B115 and the Salsa Cowbell.  I do like some variety in handlebars.  Having a second, different bar with its own levers and cables would make the occasional swap fairly painless.  I’m undecided on the specific second handlebar.

Shimano Dura-Ace brake levers for the drop bars.  Update:  I’ve changed my mind.  Tektro or Cane Creek levers.  They have a quick release button that really helps open up the brakes.

Fenders.  Berthoud stainless or Planet Bike Cascadia.  No SKS, no VO, no Honjo.

Lights for the dynamo.  B&M has a new super bright headlight with a USB charging port.  It should be available soon.  I want one.  This would be great for keeping the GPS and phone charged while on an S24O or tour.  The Toplight Line Plus is the most perfect dynamo taillight ever designed.  Fact.  I’d like a switch to turn it off independent of the headlight, so as to not blind the little one while she’s being towed.

Nitto Big Back Rack and some sort of top rack for the front that can hold a basket or handlebar bag.

That pretty much covers all of the rules except #1 – the frame-set.  It has to take racks and handle a camping load.  It has to pull a trailer.  It need clearance for 40mm tires and fenders.  It must be steel.  I prefer vertical drop-outs.  There’s a big, big list of bikes that will do this.  I can already hear a bunch of you saying “don’t be an idiot, get a Long Haul Trucker!”

I want side-pull caliper brakes.

WTF, Sloth?

That narrowed the list down a bit, didn’t it?

As far as I know, there is only one non-janky long reach brake that will handle 40mm tires and a fender.  It’s made by Tektro.  R559.

The only production frame I’m aware of that will do all of this is the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen.  So there it is.  My one bike to tow them all.

Coming back down to reality, I can’t afford an A. Homer Hilsen.  With the current price of $2, 000 (that’s just the frame and fork, folks) set to increase in a few days to $2,300, it’s way out of the budget.  I could have a TIG-welded custom made for less if I kept it simple. If any of you are aware of another current production bike, complete or frame-set, that meets the requirements listed above, lemme know, because this little exercise really has me thinking.  The wife-type probably wouldn’t be thrilled with the initial expenditure, but I bet she’d be ecstatic about the reduction in clutter.

Another update:  The current batch of Sam Hillborne bikes also meet my needs.  It turns out the old ones had cantilever brakes.  The new ones have calipers.  Whee!  Civia had a bike in 2011 called the Prospect.  Looking at the pictures it should be able to handle a 38mm tire with fenders.  If I could track down one of those it would be even more affordable than the Sam, leaving more cash for the wheels and other do-dads.

Yet another update:  The Civia Prospect has horizontal dropouts.  I’m not sure how I missed that, but it’s a deal killer.  So we’re back to the two bikes I can’t afford.

Peace out, yo, and go ride your bike.


Here we are at the end of a year, staring down the long, black barrel of another.  I hope 2012 didn’t take your feet out from under you too often.

The wife-type and I purchased (mortgaged to the hilt) a house last February.  That was stressful, but it happened more or less uneventfully.  We live on a dead-end street with, ahem, interesting neighbors.  Two of them are fairly sane.  One is bat poop crazy.  One has barking dogs.  They bark.  And bark and bark bark bark bark bark bark.  They really bark at the bike.  If I’m on a bike with a bell I try to start ringing it before I turn the corner.  That really gets them wound up.

Bike miles.  I put more miles on the bikes in 2012 than the previous two years combined.  My counting method varied from the GPS on the phone, to the DeLorme, to one of those computers that counts wheel revolutions, to don’t-give-a-fuck-let’s-just-ride.  In other words, I’m not entirely sure how far I went, but I’d guess it’s north of 1,500 miles.  July saw 540-something miles, including my first ever metric century.

Today is Christmas.  Christie gave me a Garmin Edge 200.  I’m going to track every last 2013 mile on it so that I can give the curious masses an accurate number a year from now.

Speaking of 2013, resolutions.

More S24O.  I think I did 3 during 2012.  This year the overnights will be themed.  Feel free to ride along.  Bring a tent; mine is too small to share.

  1. S24O on every bike I own at least once.  Right now I have the MB-2, High Plains, Collegiate, Pacer, 550 and I think something else maybe.  That’s at least 6 overnights.
  2. One should be a bikepacking adventure.  Gravel, single track, no racks, strap the crap right to the frame.
  3. Return to Pine Grove Furnace.  30-ish miles from home.  Doc discovered a super secret spot in the State Forest on the ridge east of the park.  It’s a bit of a climb, but coasting down the hill in the morning is a good way to wake up.  There are hiker showers near the lake.
  4. A fully loaded S24O.  Front and rear panniers.  Bring way too much stuff.  Go slow.
  5. Credit card S24O.  Ride one of the road bikes to a B&B.
  6. Not strictly S24O, but do another micro-tour.  2012’s was a big, fat winner.

Ride with the girls more.  I think the Megan is big enough to do an overnight on the bike.  The important part is just having time together.  They jabber.  Don’t believe me?  Find a kid you like and go for a ride.  They will talk your ear off.  It’s a blast and we don’t do it enough.

I’m sure there’s more, but I have bikes on the brain and can’t bring myself to bore you anymore.  Here’s hoping your 2013 brings you less bad and more good than 2012.  Peace, love and go ride your bike.

A few updates to the blog

This is more of a meta post, but I thought I’d fill both of you in on the changes.  I’ve installed a plugin called “Social Connect” that allows users to log in and post comments using Open ID.  In other words, Google, Yahoo and WordPress.  It can theoretically support Facebook and Twitter log-ins, too, but those require extra work on my part.  Plus, I don’t have a Twitter account, and Zuckerberg can pound sand.  You can also still do things the old fashioned way by typing everything in every time, but I don’t think many of you really like doing that.  This is based on the observation that there have been days fivetoedsloth has received hundreds of unique visitors and nary a single comment.  So spam away.  I’ve made it easy peasy.

The flash

A few years ago I purchased a Planet Bike Superflash taillight.  I still have it and it’s still going strong.  This was, quite possibly, one of my smartest bike accessory purchases.  Since then several other manufacturers have either copied the light or tried to improve upon it, and Planet Bike has responded with the Superflash Turbo.

The Avenir Panorama is one these copies.  As far as I can tell, it’s just about as bright as the Superflash.  The plastic feels a bit cheaper, but it’s $10, so I can’t really complain.

Kent Peterson says good things about the Radbot.

Brighter lights are available.  More durable lights are available.  But the Superflash set a standard for battery powered bike lights.  And this is really good for those of us who need them.  But the best part is that the Superflash, Turbo, Radbot, Avenir and a score of others all use the same mounting hardware.  That means we can all buy different lights at different times, get a handful of extra mounting brackets, and switch and swap between bikes as much as we’d like with absolutely no hassle.  I currently have a Superflash and a Panorama, and several brackets from both manufacturers.  I forget which brackets are which, because it just doesn’t matter.

This is the Avenir Panorama attached to my daughter’s Trek Lara with a Planet Bike rack mount bracket.

Here’s a Superflash attached to the grocery getter’s rack with the same kind of bracket.

After I took that last one, I grabbed the Panorama and carried it down to the wine cellar basement where I keep the other bikes. Here it is on the fixie’s seat post.

The Pacer’s seat stay.

And the MB-2’s seat post.

That right there is reason enough to get one, or several, of these lights. The fact that they’re bright means you get to eat the cake, too. If your local shop doesn’t carry PB mounting hardware (mine does), PB doesn’t charge for shipping on the small parts. Light it up, folks.