Category Archives: LBS

Core dump

This is one of those multi-topic, Spring cleaning posts.  It’s a bunch of random clutter I need to sweep out.  You’re the dust pan.

April was #30daysofbiking.  I finished the month with at least one ride daily and 206 miles.  The bulk of that was getting the kiddos to school.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

Speaking of weight, I tend to get hungry when I exercise.  That means I eat.  So instead of burning fat, I’m burning the stuff I just ate.  When I don’t exercise, I eat then, too.  I like starchy things.  They go right to my tummy and stay there.  For the last two days I’ve been not eating within an hour of riding, before or after.  And I haven’t been eating bread or sugar.  Guess what?  I’m losing weight already.

Grant Petersen wrote a book.  It’s called “Just Ride“.  You can get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or better bike shops.  The evil LBS doesn’t have it.

  • He and I disagree about underwear.  In my experience, seams in the wrong place hurt.  They bunch up into my nooks and crannies and rub me the wrong way.  Seamless undies and shorts without rear pockets work well for me.
  • Part 7 was a snoozer, which surprised me.  I can talk bike parts and geometry and tire suppleness all day long until you’re bored to death.  Apparently, I like talking parts more than I like listening to someone else talk parts.  I’ll talk less parts next time.
  • Other than that, GP is spot on.  You should get a copy and read it.  It’s worth more than the 14 worthless Americanos.  I’ve already started using the wobbly bike method when cars approach.  I think it might just work.  Will report back later.

The rSogn continues to be a work in progress.  It’s currently sporting Gary II bars, which I just put on two days ago.  Haven’t ridden it yet.  Will report back later.  I also measured the 38mm Col de la Vie tires with a digital caliper.  36.2-ish at 3 bar on Velo-Orange Diagonale rims.  That’s less than a 10% margin of error.  I can live with that.  It also got some Eggbeater pedals and I put cleats on my shoes.  This experiment is probably coming to an end soonly.

The Pacer is back in rotation, but not as the Bio-Pacer.  105 double rings, drop bars, plastic sneaker pedals.  I really like the pedals and am considering trying out some of those RMX sneaker pedals or Grip Kings/Lambdas.  They allow me to ride in canvas Chuckie T sneakers, which I can’t do on rat traps like the MKS touring.  The Pacer is a fun bike.  It climbs better than anything else I own and the side pull brakes stop better than anything else I own.

There are two new Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch Me Baby Just Like That Turbo Rocket Ship Super Duper Special Edition phones on the way.  We’re also ditching T-Stationary in the process.  Android’s been good to us for the last two years.  I’m looking forward to it being even better starting tomorrow.

I finally got around to ordering that part for the refrigerator.

Ride bike!

Dirt Drop Dead Pricey

I drive finish nails with a sledge hammer.  How so?  I’ll explain.

Not too terribly long ago I stumbled across a 58cm Bridgestone MB-2 from way back in 1987.  1987 was when the Internet consisted mainly of real content, unlike this blog.  Ahem.  Anyway, I’ll detail the build-up of my MB-2 in a future post.  To keep the 60 cycle hum to a minimum, let’s just say Charlie Cunningham has been a bit of an influence.  From the time I laid eyes on that bike I knew it was getting dirt drop handlebars.

For the unwashed masses, dirt drops are slightly modified drop bars where the hooks are flared out at the bottom, and the rear most part of the drop is flared out away from the frame.  This creates a wide grip area which, in turn, provides for some nice leverage amongst the baby heads.  (Not my term.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  I don’t want to ride my bike over your baby’s head.)  Here’s a picture, blatantly stolen (it really has a Creative Commons license), showing two different dirt drops.  The black one is an On-One Midge (still available) and the silver one is a 3ttt WB1 (no clue where you might get one of these).

ON-ONE Midge vs. 3ttt WB1

So I did my research and decided that I really, really, really needed a silver bar with a 25.4mm clamp area, mostly because I have plenty of stems with a 25.4mm clamp and I hate black components.  No sweat.  The following bars met my needs and are currently available, at least somewhere.

  • Origin-8 Gary (also available in black and with a 31.8mm clamp area)
  • On-One Midge (I’d have to order the silver one from old blighty)
  • That’s about it, unless I want to take one for the team on eBay and get some NOS Nitto bars.

The Gary bar got the final nod, because nearly every online retailer in North America stocks it for about $25.  The Midge isn’t significantly more expensive, but the silvery kind would have to be shipped across the pond.  I held off ordering my Gary bar, thinking that since I needed to go to the LBS, I’d see if they had one in stock.  This was entirely wishful thinking.  If I was lucky they’d have a Bell Lap, black, 31.8.

While I waited for Jim to set my crown race I wandered over to the handlebars and nearly passed out.  There, in all it’s non-silvery glory was an Origin-8 Gary.  In black.  For only a couple bucks more than the bargainbikepartsdotcom price.  I could have walked away.  I could have ordered exactly what I wanted.  But I like my LBS.  The Pedal Pusher is, by a long shot, the best bike shop in the Harrisburg area and one of the best I’ve ever been to.  Anywhere.  So I pulled them off the wall, in all their ugly black non-silveryness, and settled up at the register.  $30.

Halfway home, at a red light, I lifted the bar from the passenger seat and noticed the 31.8 stamped on the cardboard packaging.  The very same packaging that had obscured the clamp area of the bar in the shop.  The very same packaging that I failed to read.  Damn you, Origin-8! And your honest product descriptions!  Gah.  The evil LBS was just around the corner, so I made a quick detour and bought a short, steep stem to fit the new bar.  I had a threaded to threadless adapter at home on the road bike.  I could just get a new stem for that one later.   Another $30.

I like my bars higher than most folks.  I wanted these at least at saddle height.  My threaded-to-threadless thingy was too short.  VO sells a longer one.  $16 plus shipping.

If there’s a moral to the story, other than “I’m an idiot”, I have no idea what it might be, but I spent $80 to accomplish what I could have with $25 had I just ordered what I wanted in the first place.  Finish nails with a sledge hammer.

Enablement and tripification

The Long Haul Trucker is on Layaway.  The Pedal Pusher had a green ’08 in my size, so I got that one.  For those of you shopping for a complete LHT, the 2008 models have Sugino cranks and decent handlebars.  Surly cheaped out on the 2009 bikes with Andel cranks and off-brand bars.  They did, however, seriously upgrade the saddle for 2009 to a WTB SST.  Woohoo!  As it were, the 2008 comes with a test-ride-only saddle.  Only 3.2 gajillion dollars to go before I can bring it home.  I’ll start shopping for pedals tomorrow.

His Holy Blasphemousness hooked me up with some snazzy studded Nokians.  They’re too wide to fit with the dynamo installed, so I guess I gotta dig out the Cygolite.  Mebbe I’ll put the dynamo on the Trucker.  Now I just need some damn snow.

For those of you in the Harrisburg, York, or other nearby areas (read: Alabama) I’d like to take a bike trip to DC and play some one-on-one with the new prez.  I think you can just go up to the front door and knock.  Spring time sounds good.  We can meet in York, take the York County Heritage and North Central rail trails to Ashland, MD, and then hop the light rail to BWI.  From there we should be able to take mostly trails and bike routes into DC.  Spend the night at the Blair House.  Ride back the next day.  Who’s in?

Quitter

The Pedal Pusher has been my LBS of choice for almost 2 years.  I haven’t kept track of the exact figures, but its probably safe to say that I could have bought a new bike or two by now if I hadn’t spent the money on parts and lube and tubes and tires and that Surly t-shirt that embarrasses Christie so much.  This past Saturday I went in to buy brake pads for the all-rounder, but just ’round the end of the road bike aisle I found a couple Long Haul Truckers and a Fuji Touring.  So I stood there for a while, shifting my gaze from one to the other.

“You’ve been drooling over a new tourer for 2 years.  Just put one on layaway.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Layaway.  Who does that anymore?  Two years and I had no idea.

A little while later……

“So they have a layaway program at the bike shop.”

“So?”  She’s never impressed with bike shop stories.

“So I can put a new touring bike on layaway.”

“With what money?”  God, she’s really good at pooping all over the party.

“What if I quit smoking?”  WTF did I just say?  Crap.  “I could use my cancer stick money to pay for the bike.”

Christie was elated.  After careful consideration I downloaded some Surly wallpaper to keep me motivated.

Smoked the last one last night.  After everyone else was asleep, I grabbed a beer and sat down on the front porch.  It was almost like saying goodbye to an old friend.  You know?  That old friend with the knife in your back or the mistress who demands more and more money lest she tells your wife.  Gah!  I’m an idiot.  Please, if you value your sanity, don’t ever, EVER calculate how much money you’ve burned up.  And then, don’t try to figure out what else you could have done with it.

I’ve quit before.  Once for a couple years.  For the record, any time I’ve ever quit for more than a couple days I’ve done it “cold turkey”.  Patches and gum never worked for me, but that’s probably because I didn’t really want to quit.  I like smoking.  I like the way the smoke from the first one of the day makes my lungs tighten up.  I like the smell when I open a new pack.  I like the way it makes me look cool and the way my clothes smell in the morning and how my teeth are a nice shade of beige instead of boring old white.  Grrr.  But I always come back.  Because I like it.

Tangible.   Now there’s a new weapon in the arsenal.  It’s something real and fun and I want it.  I have motivation.  A goal.  New toys, man!  There has never been something tangible as my reward for stopping something I never shoulda started.  (“If you stop hitting your sister, you can have some chocolate.”  That works so well with kids.)  I hope it helps, because I really want that bike.  And trading something that will probably kill me after I give it all my money for something that might last a couple decades and make me healthier in the process doesn’t sound too bad.

So, yeah.   I’m a quitter and so far today sucks.

Helmets, thieves and blinkies

This is another of my core dump posts. It’s also a rant. I haven’t posted anything substantial in a while (ever) and have had a few thoughts rattling around in that cavity up top. So here goes.

I hate helmets. They’re ugly, hot and uncomfortable. But I wear one sometimes. Wanna know when?

When I first started biking again last year I had never, ever owned a helmet and had no real intention of buying one. Then I found the Harrisburg Bicycle Club. They have some slow rides close to home, which is what I needed at the time. They also require a helmet on any club-sponsored ride. That could be because they feel the need to dictate morality or maybe they’re genuinely interested in my well being. They really try pretty hard to push safety – blinkies on the back (I’ll get to this later), silly clothes with loud, garish colors, and helmets, helmets, helmets. I personally believe they require helmets because their insurance carrier says they need to. But I haven’t asked. It’s not a subject that comes up often, and from the very little I’ve overheard most club members seem to think one can’t even throw a leg over without a lid. And that’s fine with me. If it keeps them on a bike it’s a good thing. So I wear mine on club rides. No need to cause friction.

And I sometimes wear one at night, or when it’s raining, or foggy or any other time visibility is reduced. It’s a matter of calculated risk. I believe, right or wrong, that my chances of being involved in a losing altercation with a car are significantly higher if it’s harder for the phone talking, bagel eating, latte sipping, kid scolding soccer mom to see me.

When don’t I wear it?

When it’s really cold. I tend to put on more head warming gear than will fit under the helmet. When it’s really hot. The vents are supposed to actually improve cooling at a certain speed. My problem with this is that I rarely go that fast, so I get hot.

I also don’t wear one when I don’t want to. (“What?!?!”) I enjoy cycling. I don’t enjoy the way the helmet feels and looks, so I don’t wear it because I enjoy the bike more without it. This translates to “I’d probably ride less if I was made to wear it,” and that’s a bad thing.

Interestingly enough, the late Ken Kifer wrote a very nice article about this very same subject. In it he states the following: “In spite of all this, there are those who argue that any protection is better than none, that there is no reason for not wearing a helmet, and no advantage comes from not wearing one. While seemingly a weak argument, this is perhaps the strongest, and it is often employed after all other arguments have failed.”

Conversely, “Because I don’t want to” is probably the strongest reason for not wearing one. However, if the helmet makers would produce something that didn’t try to make me look like a super-hero, Cat 1, le Tour riding clown, I might be more inclined to put one on, because I don’t ride like that and probably never will. Take a hint from the horse racing helmet guys, please.

Fortunately, PA doesn’t have a mandatory helmet law for adults. They do have one for children under 12. If they’re on a bike, riding in a seat on the back of a bike or in a trailer they have to wear one. The trailer part is especially retarded. The trailer isn’t going to fall over and the kids aren’t going to fall out of it. Their heads and necks are right at bumper level, so if some nincompoop hits us from behind I seriously doubt an inch of foam is going to do much to protect them. I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last year and can’t, at all, imagine a scenario where a helmet might actually help protect a child in a trailer.

When they’re riding a bike, or riding on a seat on the back of a bike, I can see a helmet helping to reduce head injuries due to a fall. So once again, it doesn’t really hurt to have them wear one. But apparently the State seems to think that we can’t decide what’s best for our kids. Basically, the People’s Republic felt some pressure some time back from helmet law Nazis and enacted some crap legislation to make it look like they’re actually doing something. Appearances, plain and simple. So what are we teaching our kids with all this? That cycling is inherently dangerous and that riding without a helmet will probably get you into more trouble than falling down without one on. My own kids, 5 and 2, have refused at times to wear their helmets, even with the threat of not being able to ride. That’s right, folks. When faced with the choice of riding with a helmet or not riding at all there have been times when they’ve said “Screw it, let’s go for a walk instead.” So we compromise. I don’t make them wear one in the trailer.

The best part about this is that PA’s helmet laws are part of the traffic code. They apply to roadways, sidewalks and bike lanes. If you have a chance to hit up the State park web sites and the sites for National parks in PA, you might notice that some of them maintain bike paths and single track within the park. And they all say that PA law requires kids under 12 to wear helmets, so they have to wear them on the park paths. ‘Scuse me. That ain’t a roadway. And it’s not covered by PA traffic law. I’ve emailed a few of them to ask about this and have received zero replies.

From the 1973 Schwinn Lightweight catalog. “Bicyle safety…it starts with a light and a horn or a bell.” The only helmets in that catalog are in pictures of people racing on bicycles. But safety is fairly prominent. Cars back then were bigger, heavier, just as fast as today’s cars, had crappy brakes and handled like pigs. Yet, the bike makers didn’t push helmets. They pushed accessories that might prevent an accident. Go figure. Today the helmet Nazis are teaching our kids that cycling is too damn dangerous. We’re not building a bike culture. We’re legislating a new generation of paranoid schizophrenics who probably won’t ride their bikes much once they’re old enough to drive. Great.

Bicycling is not inherently dangerous! Do what’s best for you and keep the morons across the river out of my life. I’m perfectly capable of deciding what’s right for my children and so are you.

Please note, before you consider replying to this rant, that I have read quite a few studies about the effectiveness of helmets, I probably understand them just as well as you do, and no account of someone being saved by wearing a helmet is going to make me change my mind or recant my opinions. I’m stubborn that way. (FWIW, I have never, ever read a study about the effectiveness of helmets on kids in trailers, so if you have a link to one I’d appreciate it. Stupid lawmakers and their jerking knees.)

Thieves. Some nasty, inbred, bucktoothed, sub-human POS stole one of my bikes Friday night. So I talked to the police, made some “Stolen Bike!” flyers, and drove around until 3am looking for it. Every single person I talked to about it, except Ross, asked the same question. “Was it locked?” Grrr. No it wasn’t locked. That’s part of the reason why it’s not on my front porch anymore. And rubbing my nose in the fact that I should have locked it doesn’t make it any less stolen. While I’d be happy if the bike came back, I’d be really happy if the bike thief got caught with it. Because I’d like to make a new leather saddle out of his ass.

Afore mentioned Ross called me this morning and said he was at the Pedal Pusher earlier, and that they showed him the flyer I dropped off there on Saturday. Of course Ross already knew, but it’s super cool that Ted and boys are actively telling folks about it. Ross also added this to the Recycle Bicycle site. I think he’s been considering such a page for a while and my bike was the final shove. Thanks, Ross!

Blinkies. They’re just annoying. Riding behind someone with that blinking, seizure inducing mental cheese grater is painful. No wonder the randoneurring guys don’t use them. The bike club guys seem to think they’re as necessary as helmets.

All the ranting about the bike club aside, I really like riding with them. It’s lots of fun and they’re a great bunch of folks to hang out with. I’d even ride with them if they made me use a blinkie. 😉  But I’m still gonna take my helmet off as soon as the club ride is over.

Yet another Continental update

SUV’d my way over to the LBS yesterday with both of my girls. Kept a tight grip on the Molly and told the Megan not to touch anything. They were surprisingly good, only picking up a few pink and purple helmets. They even put them back (in the right spots!) without being asked. The guys working had a few stories about kids and bikes and dominoes. Ouch. I’m sure glad mine were in “good behavior” mode.

On to that bikey thing. Got a pair of Vittoria Randonneur tires, tubes, brake cables and housing, ferrules, some bar tape and a pair of old Compe brake levers. And a wrench. Came out to $91 and change after sales tax. Subtracting $6 for the wrench puts me at $85. Add that to the $100 I’ve already spent and we’re at $185, which is less than the self-imposed $187 limit. Sweet.

Yet another plug for the Pedal Pusher in Harrisburg, PA. Ted and Jim are stand up guys who deserve your business. There are several bike shops in the area. I’ve been to four, and three of them aren’t worth the hassle. The Pedal Pusher, however, is simply a nice experience. Someone remind me to bring beer the next time I go.

The Pedal Pusher (or, bike shops that don’t suck)

Tuesday night I drove over to the Pedal Pusher to pick up a rear rack for the bike. After talking to a super nice guy named Jim about my needs, bike, etc., we decided on a beefy 40lb rack. After the requisite exchange of currency I brought it home and proceeded to curse the rack, my bike and anything else within earshot. It just didn’t fit – the screws didn’t fit the eyelets, the mounting rails wouldn’t clear the brakes, and I had to remove the reflector bracket just to get the thing level.

Today I took it back. And brought the bike with me. Jim and Jeff concurred that the rack just wasn’t going to work without significant modification. I pulled another rack off the, err, rack and we all eyeballed it on the bike. Apparently, old Schwinn bicycles used a different size mounting eyelet than the rest of the world. We discussed reaming out the mounting holes, how to avoid hitting the brakes, and who was going to get the beer. Then they did everything for me. Those two attacked that rack and had it on the bike within a 30 minutes, including reaming out the holes on the back. No charge for the installation. Even swap on the racks. But this isn’t the first time they’ve treated me this way.

My very first visit to the Pedal Pusher was a quest for a replacement front fork. They had a used one at a very reasonable price, but the crown race seat was a different size. So they ordered me a new head set. I seriously can’t understand how they made any money on the transaction. Subsequent visits have brought me the same sort of bliss. Friendly, knowledgeable, personal attention from some top notch bike guys. They’ll never get rid of me at this rate, no matter how annoying I am.

Customer for life. Or at least as long as I live here. New frame? Ordering it from them. Parts? Them. Tools? You guessed it.

So if you’re in the Harrisburg area and find yourself in need of a bike shop:

The Pedal Pusher

3798 Walnut St
Harrisburg, PA
17109

Phone: (717) 652-7760

They don’t appear to have a web presence or even an email address, so pick up the damn phone or stop by. I’m bringing beer the next time.

Zefal hpr update

Yesterday I spent a few words griping about a frame pump (Zefal hpr Graph) that failed prematurely. After the bike shop greased the pump it seemed to be working. They made it clear that without a receipt they wouldn’t refund or exchange it. Fair enough. It even says that on their receipts. But still, how hard would it have been for them to swap it out for an identical pump and send the bad one back to their distributor? After two more uses it failed again.

I spent about an hour digging through the French/English jumble that is Zefal’s web site looking for technical documentation, warranty information, an email address for someone who might be able to address the situation, and found nothing. Nada. So I shot my mouth off at mtbr.com. A couple minutes later I saw the plain-as-day contact link at the top of Zefal’s site. Doh! So I clicked the linky, typed them a message, and clicked send. Pop up window. It says, “votre message a bien ete envoye. nous vous repondrons des que possible.” WTF? I don’t speak French. Babelfish tells me that means they received my message and someone will get in touch with me. Phew.

If I had been smarter about this I would have waltzed into ex-LBS, bought an identical pump, and then returned, receipt in hand, a few days later with the bad pump. Worst case scenario – same boat I’m in now. On the other hand I might have a working pump right now.

Strapping the floor pump to the bike is getting old fast.

Overheard

A week or so ago I made the trip over to the LBS (local bike shop) to have them look at a frame pump that failed prematurely. The pump was only about two months old and had only been used about a half-dozen times, but would no longer compress more than 60 psi. As I run my tires at about 85 psi this was problematic. Turned out that the seals were dry. The bike shop guy proceeded to lecture me about pump maintenance while he re-greased it. Being new to biking, and having spent $40 on a failed pump at their shop (which had probably sat on their shelf for months and months), I was not too interested in what he had to say. So I tuned him out and started listening to the suburbanites at the counter next to me. He was dressed in Lycra shorts and a team jersey. She had that “I just got a new sporty outfit at Macy’s” look.

He: I think I might get a new bike soon. Mine is a couple years old.
She: Not until I get a new one. That 12 year old Canondale piece of shit you make me ride is falling apart.
He: If you’d put more than 5 miles a week on it maybe you could get a new one, too.
She: I might put more miles on one that’s not so damn old.

Blah, blah, blah. It’s become obvious, after hearing many such conversations at the LBS that this is the type of customer they like. I, on the other hand, am interested in maintaining my 20 year old Schwinn instead of buying something new every couple of years. I don’t think they like me all that much.

Turns out, the yuppies fighting over who gets a new ride were there to buy their smart mouthed kid a new mountain bike. Like the fat little bastard’s gonna ride it. I saw the XBox thumbs on him. He’s interested in Coke and potato chips. The conversation turned to the new bike.

He: Can we get a water bottle cage on it?
LBS dude: The way the top tube slants you can’t put one on the down tube. But we have these handlebar mount cages. Those are nice because it’s right there by his hands. Easy to get to.

Fair enough, I thought. Sounds like a good solution to me. Soccer Mom wouldn’t hear of it.

She: That’s gonna make him look all dorky. Can you mount one on the top tube?
LBS dude: That’s not a good idea. He’s going to fall eventually. Having one up there could, uh, hurt him, uh, down there.

They ended up buying him a Camelbak. Because that’s not going to make him look dorky at all. My pump was working at this point. “You really need to grease it more often.” I wanted to say “You really need to sell pumps that aren’t dried out”, but I didn’t. I thanked him and left. Soccer Mom was in the parking lot bitching about the new bike tearing up the trunk of their Beamer and why couldn’t they have brought the Land Rover since the bike racks are on it and blah blah blah.

I have since found a new LBS. At least two people there have called me by name after my first visit. They stock parts that will work on my old Schwinn. And most of the wrenches build their own bikes.