Handy Bike Tip #1

When you get a flat, make sure you check not only the tire for burrs, pokes, nails and bits of glass, but also the rim & rimtape for damage, holes and rough bits. I’m on my fourth tube since swapping my rear Kenda out for a road tire, 100% due to the fact that there’s a hole in the tape. Even the wrenches at the bike shop missed it. (It’s not a puncture issue from the end of a spoke — just as pressure point for the tube.) Wasn’t a problem at 80psi, but became one quickly at 120psi.

Dropped a chain

Which is quite an accomplishment on a singlespeed, I contest. In fairness, it’s been sagging a bit for over a week now, so the blame falls entirely on me.

I was dodging and weaving through the detritus left on Packard after the snowthaw this week, and came to a particularly dilapidated spot (basically the whole block between Hill and Division.) I took the lane and was presented with a more deadly pothole. Puma-like reflexes prevented a Land of the Lost-style plummet into the past, but I think the quick course adjustment is what set bad things in motion.

From the Thompson light to the Division light, my poor bike was making some sort of horrible noise. It sounded like a rubbing brake disc, so spun the wheel to test it out. It was still making the noise, but I figured it would get me in to work without issue. I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but crossing Division, I was suddenly spinning out like crazy. I looked down in mild panic — and ah, yes, chain knotted around crank. I coasted to the crosswalk, got off, and examined the situation. Some sort of mechanical cat’s cradle, it seemed. If there hadn’t been a hearty drizzle going, I would have pulled out my phone to snap a shot. Now I wish I had. I turned the cranks back once, but it was still a mess, so I began walking.

Half a block later, I realized it was foolish to give up on it for two reasons: 1) without a cassette or jockey wheels to tangle on, more backpedaling should clear up the knot, and 2) if it were capable of falling off it must be able to just fall back on. Correct on both counts, I was able to nudge it back around the chainring and finish the ride in. Delicately.

Who doesn’t like a touch of excitement on a soggy day?

First Ride on the Snow Tires!

As it snowed yesterday, I realized it was time to step out to the LBS and pick up a new pair of tires for the winter haul.  I picked up a set of Kenda Small Block 8s and got them installed without issue.  Inconsistently slushy and wet this morning, they were troopers throughout, though my somewhat aggressive gear ratio may end up being a hair too high for my climbs, especially when it gets slippery.  There were parts of the neighborhood with muck bordering on the “breakaway brown snow” which is, deceptively, always the scariest stuff.  Those spots will probably develop it pretty badly by January, and we’ll get to see how serious these tires really are.

Also today, the 5 passed me about as close as anything ever has, which was pretty terrifying… then it waited for me to pass at the next bus stop.  That thing is going to kill me one of these days.

Gas Prices Down, Yet Drivers Still Cranky — Must Be Something Else

With the recent plummet in gas prices, one might think that commuters saddled with the burden of paying for it would be in, collectively, a rosier mood.

Not so, says an encounter I had this morning at Fourth & William.  Northbound on Fourth and slowing for the light, (which I don’t typically get stopped at, because of timings at Packard) actually coasting in the parking lane for the adjacent church.  I’m not big on parking lanes, because they’re full of debris and/or vehicles typically, but it was empty, so as far right as is practicable seemed logical.

Enter a grey Honda Civic S-Type; it passes uncomfortably close to my left, engine roaring.  We’re far enough to the right on this wide street that she would have hit any car parked at the curb.  Hard.

The car stops abruptly at the light (hypermiling is going out of style amidst ~$2.00 gas.)  I coast up the right, and up to the stopline to wait for a green.  I turn back with the dual purpose of glaring and ensuring that the driver has in fact seen me, and won’t be attempting to turn through me.  The car creeps along, and rolls down the window.  The driver ducks her head down to say something

“—- — —- —– —–?” I can’t hear her through my hat.  “What’s that, I can’t hear you?”  “Did. You. Say. Something?” bewildered, I respond in the negative.  Was she looking for a conversation?  “Did… you?” I add.  She flashed me a smile which I can only describe as ‘less than wholly genuine,’ then rolled the window up, and gunned it for a Right-On-Red.

There must be another explanation, then, for this rush-hour irritability.  Perhaps some sort of serotonin imbalance.  More research is clearly necessary.

New Bike!

Yesterday was my first commute on the new Sutra-framed build I recently had done at Wheels in Motion.  Totally awesome.  It was a bit of a drawn-out experience at first, but once I started working with Marc, things came together very quickly.

It’s a Kona Sutra frame from 2007:  The final year they offered this frame with sliding dropouts, which will become important in a moment.  This frame is totally badass.  It has a nice wide fork for a goodly range of possible tire options, and mount points for disc brakes, rear AND front racks, plus some other mount points I can’t even identify.

The sliding dropouts were key because this needed to be an all-weather brute.  I had it on good advice from Charles at the Music Library that singlespeeds are handy in the winter, as there’s way less to go wrong when it gets wet and salty.  For a singlespeed to work, there needs to be some way to tension the chain across both gears, as there won’t be a derailleur and jockey wheels to keep it snug.  Usually one would accomplish this with a horizontal dropout, but the sliding ones on the Sutra frame manage just the same.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘Marc’) built up the frame with all the requisite bits and widgets:

  • Disc-ready hubs + spacers to make up for lack of a cassette (Cheaper than SS/Disc hubs)
  • Caliper-brake rims, (Again, for unknown reasons, cheaper than disc rims)
  • Avid BB7 brakes
  • Sugino crank and some gears and stuff

Of course, with New Orleans 70.3, and, uhm, some ‘other events’ looming on the horizon, I’ll be in the market for a timetrial bike in the coming months.  So it won’t be quite so drastic next season when I’m training and commuting, we finished off with:

  • Vision TT handlebars
  • Profile Design T2+ aerobars.

That’s right, aerobars on the commuter.  I think they’re more comfortable than handlebars anyway.  Coupled with bright orange bar tape (to match my garish bike shoes, of course,) I should be pretty easy to spot zipping up and down Packard.  I’ll add some pictures to this post as soon as Marc gets them sent to me.  Check The Stable for the nitty-gritty on component details and the rest of the photos (when available.)

Phantom Aerobars

The last few weeks, I’ve been commuting on Emilie’s somewhat undersized mountain bike.  First, I should point out that it’s WAY faster than it looks.  Which isn’t saying a lot, but the effect is still a bit alarming.  It’s also, unquestionably, way faster than taking the bus.

This, coupled with the fact that I don’t think I remember how to ride at a casual pace anymore, has lead to an interesting effect.  After making a particularly aggressive manoeuver to pass a ‘sunday driver’ in the bike lane, or along the flat easy stretches on Packard or 4th, I can actually feel my brain trying put move me down to the aerobars.  This is, of course, patently foolish, as there are none, and I would have to be quite a bit more flexible to sustain the posture given the size and geometry of the bike.

While momentarily frustrating on the road, this makes me very excited to take delivery of the beast I have colluded with Wheels in Motion to create, which is due any day now.