Thursday, July 31, 2008

a day in the life...


Here's a really funny craigslist posting. I concur...

Where are all those freewheels and derailleurs going anyway? I'd love to have them. If I see another ad for a "sick ride" or a "hipster urban commuter bike" or what have you, I think I will throw up in my mouth a little bit. At least I'll yawn. I guess they must be selling. Don't get me wrong, I have a single speed bike, but I don't think you need to defile every bike you can get your hands on. Some people still like having gears. They can decide.

In other news, I got an instant pinch flat today on a wonderful official City Of Chicago (Richard M. Daley, Mayor) pothole today. I was going westbound on Grand Ave under Michigan Ave where it gets all dark (especially with sunglasses!) at around 25 mph when I just went completely over a big-assed pothole that made a "bang" sound on my back wheel which had me expecting it to have a busted spoke or something (score one for Deep V rims!). I had to walk my bike about 4 blocks to the CTA and train it home. So sad.

I rebuilt (by which I mean removing the rust covered spokes a couple at a time, sanding them down, lubing the spoke nipple, replacing a half dozen missing spokes and trueing) an old, but not too old, kind of nice double wall Weinmann rim. I'm trying to resurrect these old wheels to put on a 50cm Diamondback/Centurion road bike I bought for $75 a while back. I used the wheels off of it for another project, so I'm trying to return it to working order now. It's really a Zen paradise just tinkering away with some music spilling out of the poopy jambox (today: The Smiths "Strangeways Here We Come and the newer Clinic album "Do It" or something along those lines). Pics coming soon!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sexy bikes (of the lack thereof)


Chicago has them in droves. I just completed a trip recently to Toronto, Montreal and NYC and I have to say that Chicago seems to have about 100x the truly sexy gorgeous bikes of any of these places. I just take it for granted that I'll see maybe 5 to 20 really nice bikes on any given ride in the city, but I could barely find bikes worth photographing in these cities. Here's a 3 or 4 pics that about sum up the nice bikes I saw. Pretty sad for 4 days. I could just go down to one corner in Chicago and find more than this.

A decently setup city bike (I think this was a Miyata?). Though it looks like someone is on too small of a frame (judging by the seatpost height and my own experiences).

I like the astroturf pad on this guy

Here's one of the only really nice bikes I saw (parked) in NY (I did see a really sweet ride, but the guy was screaming down 2nd Ave on it. Couldn't catch him).

I did see quite a lot of trashed bikes around NY. So sad

the critics


I'm finally a good way through aforementioned blog (I had no time to read between my last out of town trip last week and the one I just started now). It's getting me interested in the Tour de France more generally. I really didn't know much of anything about it. There's a pretty good wikipedia entry on the Tour that gives (what seems like) a decent overview of it. Rob's blog is pretty fun to read too. Makes me want to go on some much longer than normal city commute rides. It also makes one aware (if you venture into the "comments" portion of it) how much pretty extreme bike snobbery there is out there. There are lots of people chiding him for "buying his way into cycling" or some such sentiments though he makes it abundantly clear that he is simply running up an illogical amount of debt on this quixotic adventure. I think people just read what they want to read, particularly on the internet. Everyone's an expert and a smaller plurality are just plain assholes! I myself am an unrepentant cheapskate (at least where my own expenses are concerned) and yet somehow I am able to enjoy this tale without having to get into the self-righteous postures that every 10th commenter (and there are a lot of them) seems unable to resist. Maybe I'm just missing something?! It's one guy's blog, maybe all these quick-witted people could use their verbal kung-fu for good instead of shooting this voluntary fish in a barrel. Can we perhaps concentrate on obscene consumption of some bona fide multi-millionaires and leave the dude who put a $3500 bike on his credit card alone? Geezus!

some blog


Here is a neat blog at that I'm just getting into. It's written by Rob Mackey, my friend's sister's 41-year old journalist husband and is about his self-proclaimed early mid-life crisis endeavor to ride this mountainous leg of the Tour de France. I guess before the tour proper, there is an "amateur hour" (so to speak) for non-professionals to try their hands (feet?) at this soul-crushing leg of extreme mountain riding.

I'm not so up on modern road-biking and it's accoutrements, but it's interesting (though well out of my price range) and as an almost 40-year old, I'm inspired by his stamina. I have a somewhat bum right knee which probably isn't going to get any better, but I hope I still have quite a few good years of riding in me.

The Climb

To fix or not to fix? (and then some)


What gives with the fixed gear obsession?It seems (to me) to be part of a multi-front attempts to make something that is already dangerous enough (city riding) even more so. I sort of think of it as the stiletto heels of biking. I tried to ride my friend's "fixie" for a block last year and nearly killed myself immediately. I KNOW, I KNOW, you just have to learn how to do it and get used to it, etc. etc. But WHY?! Why would I want to make sure I could never stop pedaling, even in an emergency, or going around a sharp corner or over multiple potholes or any other normal city riding situation. Then, to top it off, NO BRAKES! Yowza, great idea, sign me up. What if car drivers decided brakes were unnecessary and just counted on downshifting to come to a stop. I bet that would go over well, you just have to get used to it and become experienced, you can always ditch into a building if you can't stop in time! It also seems as if a lot of people who have not biked in a very long time are getting back into it with a fixed gear bike. I bet they didn't remember it was so difficult riding a bike! My friend got a freewheel cog put on after riding around with me and watching me enjoy a good coast every so often.

Then there are also the small bars, like barely wide enough for grips. Surprise, I don't get this either! Maybe pretty soon there could just be a knob in the middle of the fork. This type of dangerous stuff plus a good dose of anti-car self-righteousness is, I think, just the perfect recipe for some very unnecessary injuries/deaths.

Here are some pics of what I'm talking 'bout, including what I think are the shortest bars ever.

In the second pic above, I think only about half that grip even has handlebars under it, hence the really unorthodox brake lever placement.

HOWEVER, for unorthodox, nothing I've seen beats this specimen. Spied recently on the streets of NYC, I do have to give props for sheer hilariousness. I think the bars are off of a tricycle! Seriously! Can you see where the single lever is mounted? It's on the stem! What the?!!? Press in case of emergency.

I'm not a person who bikes around in fear of cars, but there are plenty of good reasons to be. I do realize that it's (not likely but) possible that any number of mishaps could cripple or kill me, and I very much value whatever measures of control I can get from an option to coast, 2 good solid brakes and some decent sized handlebars. You should too (in my most humble opinion, of course). Hardcore fixed gear/short handlebars peeps, FLAME AWAY!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Raleigh refurbs


Long time, no posts. I have a lot of respect for people who can manage to post in a blog virtually daily or anything like it. I'm just too busy. I reckon that perhaps in the winter I can wax verbose a few times a week during the 17 hours of darkness we enjoy here in Chicago.

I've been fixing up a couple of bikes over the last few weeks. I got them as a pair from a guy over in Humboldt Park who had a 5 or 6 bike cache he was getting rid of. Both are circa late 70s/early 80s Raleighs. A green 56cm Grand Prix and a white mixte around 50cm. They were both in semi-functional shape.

The Green Raleigh was being fixed up for a friend of a friend who had his bike stolen. My friend JBI is in a graduate program with this gentleman and all the people in his program are chipping in to get him another bike to ride. Pretty nice gesture! So, I got this thing home, took off all cables, levers and brakes and cleaned the frame up. It had a bunch of tar splatters on the underside and the chainstays. I removed this and a bunch of other crud with some lighter fluid. Steel wooled the wheels back to a nice shine, disassembled the hubs, cleaned and repacked the bearings, trued them and put in new tires/tubes. I left the headset as it was, as it seemed fine. Put all new cable housings and mostly new cables. Actually replaced the shifter levers as the ones on it were these super cheapy plastic ones with a sort of half-sheath of metal and felt like they were going to break if you went to full derailleur excursion. I chopped off the "suicide" (nee safety) lever part of the brake levers and rewrapped the bars. I was going to leave the cottered cranks alone, but on a test ride, there was some sort of play in them, so I dug in. After removing one of the pins, I found that it was sort of crimped in the middle and this is what was giving the drive side crank some play. I went ahead at that point and cleaned and repacked the bottom bracket and took the almost-finished bike down to Boulevard Bikes to have the pins pressed back in with their pin press. It turned out to be a pretty nice ride. Total investment, around $180 ($120 for the bike, $30 for tires/tubes, $10 for cables and $20 for new pins/installation). Here are some pics of the finished bike (I never remember to take before pics!):

Here is also a great set of pics of the bike's new owner showing off his new ride. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling from these.

The next bike, which I finished the evening before leaving for a road trip yesterday, was a white Raleigh mixte for my friend Anny. She has an old tank of a cruiser which must weigh 50lbs and is getting pretty long in the tooth. So I got this bike for $80 and went to work. I stripped this one all the way down, save for the notorious cottered cranks which seemed fine. I did a sort of partial repaint of it, taping off the old decals which were still looking decent and did some spot sanding of places with scrapes, etc. White makes it pretty easy to match paint. I steel wooled the heck out of the wheels, tightened spokes and trued them, cleaned and repacked the hubs and put on new tires. They turned out pretty terrific. I then repacked the headset, put on some new cruiser type bars from Velo-Orange which were only $20 (good deal!), black cork grips, a new black cushy seat I got off craigslist, cleaned up the brakes, used some vintage dia-compe brake levers I bought off another CL guy, put on a few new cables and all new cable housings. I rode this thing around in the alley for a few minutes and aside from being HILARIOUSLY too small for me, it was really fun to ride! Overall cost was $175 ($80 for bike, $35 for bars/grips, $20 for seat, $25 for tires, $15 for levers and cables). Here are a few pics:

I also have thinned the herd a bit over the last few weeks. I sold off both mountain bikes that myself and my wife were riding. Respectively, those were an older Trek mountain bike I got and rode last year as a hand-me-down from my father-in-law (Thanks Terry!) and a Specialized Rockhopper which I cannot believe someone once sold me to ride, it is about 12+ cm smaller than anything I should be on. After I got the Trek I changed out the bars and seat and my 5'9" wife rode it. If you ever read stuff on the Rivendell bikes website about frame sizing, he writes about how bike stores always tend to sell you frames that are too small. SO true! At least the big superstores full of under-qualified salespeople.

I also sold off the pretty gorgeous Trek 360 that I tried having S ride. I did some pretty nicely matched touch up painting, put on some new cables and rewrapped the bars and it turned into a real pretty bike. Sold it to a woman who seemed real excited about it. I hope it's out there plying the streets of Chicago for a long time to come. (BTW, sorry for the crazy contrast pics, it was a sunny day and I didn't scrutinize my results well enough.)

My next project to finish is some mods to another Raleigh Gran Prix for my friend Matt. I'm putting on some on/offroad tires, a rack and switching him over to bar end shifters.

Viva bikes!