Thursday, October 29, 2009

that's pretty freaky...


Freakbike of the month:

What the?! That is some freaky geometry. Sadly, I did not see this being ridden. It's so tiny I could just stand over it, but perhaps it's a tall freak bike to a 4'8" person?

Not much else to report. My arm is mending pretty reasonably it seems. I'm still having a hard time getting used to the shockingly big collarbone end popping up out of my right shoulder, but I guess that's the new me.

I have not tried to get on a bike yet. The guy said 4 to 6 weeks, but I have improved a lot and it's tempting to just go try and putt around the neighborhood. I probably shouldn't push it though, I've been pushing it enough just doing regular household stuff I think. It's coming along though.

I've been finding a few too-good-too-pass-up deals on some bike bits lately. I have a back burner build to do for a friend, so perhaps these things will come in handy:

Gorgeous 57cm Bridgestone 400 frame/fork with BB and chain: $105 shipped to me
Shimano Tiagra derailleurs and DA bar end shifters: $65

My next thing to do is to start trying to get my Paramount refurbished though, so I'm hoping to build something I can make a little extra scratch from for the fund to do this.

I'm missing some pretty good riding weather these days. It's real hard to drive almost everywhere, I am just getting used to not feeling like a bike when I pull up behind a long line of cars in stopped traffic. Oh yeah, I don't get to go by on the side, I'm part of the problem now! Boo Hoo!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

injured reserve


Dateline: Yankee Springs, MI

I do believe I mentioned a few posts back that I was building up my very first mountain bike meant for mountain biking (I spent many a sad year riding a mountain bike in the city, but we won't dwell on that here). Anyway, it all came off pretty well, I found 3 great to good deals on nice used 29er parts/frame and added a new rear derailleur and seatpost and this was birthed:

I have had it put together for a few weeks now. I had to learn about hydraulic disc brake bleeding and do that, I had a near miss with a pretty cut down steerer on a very attractively priced used White Brothers fork (it worked with a little selective stem selection!), but all was well in the end (of part 1 at least). I rode it about 5 or 6 miles in town Saturday to a friend's house to see how it was and did some critical seat adjustment from that and I was ready to go hit the trails on Sunday.

My friend Shea and myself headed over to Yankee Springs, MI. It's a pretty good haul from Chicago, but I would say (even in light of subsequent events) well worth the drive. It's a 13 mile loop of intermediate difficulty, and October is a pretty great time to go see this place. I actually appreciated fall for once! Hooray.

Checking the route:

We're underway:

Nice colors:

We were stopping at semi-regular intervals to appreciate the gorgeous scenery (and also to rest!). The new bike was performing pretty terrifically, though I have to see if I can find some more purpose-made dropout spacers for the rear wheel (the On One frame is a combo single-speed/geared design and one suggestion for holding the rear wheel in the right spot I read and used was to put a pair of chainring bolts as spacers in the dropouts, but it seems like a rather crude method and I found the wheel was scooching slightly under heavy torque). Otherwise, the bike was a dream and was much easier and more enjoyable to ride than the Gary Fisher rental I had used a couple months before at Kettle Moraine, WI.

Here is a pretty funny digression for anyone who has spent any time working on audio equipment wiring. Shea had a fraying rear derailleur cable on his hands, so he did what any self-respecting audio geek would do, he crimped an EDAC pin
on it!


The right way to ride:

Everything was going along swimmingly until I had to get my high-school BMX style foolishness on and try to bypass the easy root/stair steps down this one particular downhill berm thingy and go for the high side bowl ride type line. What didn't seem like it would play such a major role was the cut-off tree root sticking out along my intended path. This very quickly grabbed a hold of my front wheel and I went ass over tea kettle to the (thankfully) soft ground below (and I mean a few good feet below). Fortunately everything came down on my right shoulder (does that come off as facetious?). I laid on the ground just trying to get my half-breath knocked out of me self back into speaking shape as Shea sensibly made his way down to right behind me and asked "are you alright?" I said "I don't think so." At first I thought I may have broken or dislocated my shoulder/arm, but I realized I could flop it around fairly convincingly, so I decided to get up and see what was going on. It had a sort of electric/in shock feeling going on and I could move it pretty good, but then I hit a few spots where it was apparent that something was no longer attached correctly. Just as I was noticing that my (always very pointy and bony) end of my clavicle was sticking up quite a bit further than I was used to, a trio of guys we had been taking turns passing and being passed by rolled up. They kindly stopped to see what was going on with us and one of them announced himself as a Physical Therapist and asked if he could take a look, I gratefully obliged him and he felt me up in a very doctorly way. It only took about 15 seconds for him to tell me that I had experienced an AC joint separation and basically gave what turned out to be a pretty exacting diagnosis of my deal and what it's aftermath would likely be. Didn't catch your name, but thanks friendly Michigan mountain biking PT! You rule! These guys also knew the trail well so they were able to tell us that we were only about 100 yards from a medical emergency bypass spot to a service road. We proceeded to walk along (me in a pretty grimacing fashion) and make a plan for Shea to take off and go down the road to get my car and meet me back at the exit of the service road. I walked along the 1.25 miles, did a little gentle riding on the hard packed parts (this was a pretty comical sight seeing me try to get rolling without being able to put my right arm on the bars at all) and made it out in about 15 minutes or so.

Aftermath of the wrong way to ride (and that thing that looks like a little mountain on my right shoulder IS the end of my collarbone):

We (and by we I mean Shea) picked up some ice and ziplocs and I began icing for the 3 hour ride back to Chicago. Fortunately it was filled with good chatting and I was able to keep my mind off of the situation pretty easily. I ended up heading over the the emergency room by about 8pm with the wife and they basically just did x-rays (diagnosis confirmed), put me in a sling and gave me a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. I went over there this morning and here's what the deal is with a shoulder separation:

-I was a 3 on a scale of 6, so about middling severity
-He did not see any reason to operate unless I couldn't live with my poky collarbone
-4 to 6 weeks should see me back in action, provided I do the right stretches, etc
-I should be good as new more or less

Lesson learned:

-When you're 40, it's okay to take the easy line down the trail

Sadly, it'll probably be next year before I can try again, but c'est la vie. I feel like that was a pretty cheaply bought lesson and I am going to just try and watch it a little bit.

Back to normal bike geekery, here is what the build ended up being for my pretty awesome new (to me) 29er:
-On One Inbred frame
-White Brothers suspension fork
-Bontrager Race disc wheels
-Avid Juicy 3 brakes
-Truvativ single speed crankset (33)
-Sram stuff (9-speed cassette, RD, shifter)
-Conti Mountain King tires
-Bontrager bars
-Race Face seatpost and Deus headset
-Easton EA50 stem

It's a nice bike!! I was able to cobble this all together for just a shade over $700. A new build I think would have been something more like $1600, so this was the only way I was going to pull off a decent bike at this juncture. Seems like it'll be a long time before I need to tinker with this formula as A) I'm getting a grip on my purchasing insanity in general and B) I'm just not as obsessed with the aesthetics of mountain bikes. I think this is a good looking bike, but it's no Serotta Legend or anything in the looks dept.

Anyway, I'm pretty gimped out now, regular daily activities are taking 30 to 50% more time, but I'm keeping a good attitude and am very thankful I did not screw myself up much more badly. Onward! Let the healing begin.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

you can do it!


Here is a pretty interesting article from Scientific American (discovered via Bike Pittsburgh) regarding the rather large national gender gap in bike commuting. The gist of it is that women are A) more risk-averse than men and B) still tend to do more of the practical, errand-running trips in a family and the conclusion drawn is that this large difference (which incidentally in not the case in most of Europe at all) tells us that existing bike infrastructure in most of the country is somewhat unsafe and also not conducive to practical trips.

In Chicago (and many, many other cities to be fair) I would say this is all on full display. While the city has done a pretty nice job of doing all the easy and cheap stuff, i.e. painting a bunch of lines down the sides of a lot of streets and putting up cute little junior street signs with the mileage and direction to local destinations, it's the more expensive and politically difficult things that will help to close this gap and increase cycling as a real way to get things done. Where are the "safe" places to ride a bike? The lakefront (though safety is in question for this route as it is, on most decent days, a veritable Frogger game of trying not to crash into texting fixie riders passing on the left or headphone wearing rollerbladers, legs akimbo all over the route) and the North Branch and North Shore paths. Not exactly the most practical routes for your daily needs.

Anecdotally, I see a lot of women riding down Milwaukee, etc. but it ain't the safest route in the world, and I'm a pretty reckless rider to be making that statement. It's high time for some separated bike lanes, and paint just ain't enough. In NYC where there is a nice 3 to 4 foot paint "barrier" cops and delivery vehicles are still parked all over the bike lanes along with UPS dudes rolling dollies full of stuff the wrong way down them, etc. Separate bike lanes are what will move cycling from a popular fringe activity to a real alternative to sitting in traffic fuming. One of the more promising things that I am hearing more and more about is the idea of making the street laid out this way:
sidewalk-bike lane-car parking-roadway-car parking-bike lane-sidewalk

This can mostly be done with new lines and has the added benefit of making the Chicago human right of passing recklessly on the right no longer an option. This place could use some serious traffic calming anyway and the possibility of doors opening to cars rather than bikes should definitely move things in that direction.

In the hopeful category, I'm in Clarksville, AR for a friend's wedding and right outside the Hampton Inn off the I-40 feeder road, there is a lonely little yellow "Share the Road" sign with the ubiquitous bicycle silhouette. These have been popping up in the darnedest places too. If this picture were any good at all, you'd be able to see what I'm talking about: