Friday, February 29, 2008

Wow, this is good news...

As reported in today's Marin IJ, Marin's residents log more that 131,000 miles by bike and foot every day. That's every day! Actually, that should read 131,000.8 miles because they forgot to ask me how many miles I ride during my round trip commute. Additionally, Marinites make and estimated 13.6% of their daily trips by bike or by foot. The national average is 9.5% - which seems pretty good too.

It's no wonder that more folks are going to make more trips by foot or pedal with petrol pricing ticking 4 bucks a gallon.

(What's playing: Elton John Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oo-Oo That Smell...

That smell of death's around you. Not in the drug induced sense that Lynyrd Skynyrd's song lamented about, but that whiff you get outdoors when there is a decomposing mammal upwind from you. So it was on my ride this morning when I got "that smell." Just wouldn't seem to go away as the breeze carried it for a good 1/4 mile straight to my nostrils. Every time I smell "dead animal" I can't help but hit the play button in my head for Lynyrd Skynyrd's That Smell.

And then I saw it. One less bobcat in the Pt. Reyes/Tomales Bay area. Bummer. From the looks of the cat, it must have happened during the last rain looking at its fur.

There is always some kind of fascination with a dead animal on the side of the road that makes you want to stop, poke around with a stick, try to find out why it died (although being on the side of the road, it's fairly obvious), and think circle of life. I might have to make this ride somewhat regular to chart its decomposition. I always like looking at the animal skulls in museums and nature centers.

I had a nice close up of its head that indicated fairly clearly that in car vs. bobcat, car wins, but decided against posting it - pretty gruesome. Its teeth were pretty white and healthy looking.


(What's playing: Hank Williams Sr. Long Gone Lonesome Blues)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things that make you go huh?...

A couple of tidbits were posted today in industry news websites.

Tucked in a statement about Kenda introducing 650B sized Nevegals was a note about Kenda also introducing a line of tubular tires at Sea Otter. Very intriguing. A "line" generally also means more than one. That sounds like a pretty big commitment to a tire type that represents a very small segment of the bicycle tire industry. It would be interesting to know how many tubulars are sold in the states and compare that number with the potential market of 650B tires. Tooling up to make a 650B sized tire (of which the tread pattern tooling exists) is relatively small compared to producing "a line" of tubular tires from scratch (if that's what they are doing). I'd love to see a nice 25-28 sized tire in the 250g to 275g range. Mmmmm. Tubulars are back.

Bike Radar posted that Brian Lopes will be riding Ibis bikes for 2008. If the Kenda/tubular news wasn't enough, this really makes one scratch their head. Just seems like an odd pairing based on the riding style of each entity. Maybe this is a signal that Lopes isn't going to focus on racing as much as he will on adventure riding/filming with his friend Hans Rey??? (Well, there ya go with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge to Daryll Licht.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spring has sprung...

Well, at least for yesterday, today, and, hopefully, tomorrow. Hit the road this morning for a ride up Highway 1 to Marshall - about a 20 mile round trip. Even though I still needed knee warmers, long sleeve base layer with long sleeve jersey, it was a perfect day. Still air. Temperate temperature. Mid-morning, minimal traffic. Can't ask for much more than that. Can't wait for tomorrow morning if its going to stay like this.

Thought about several things on the ride that I'll come back to in future posts. A couple things I did think about was the bicycle chain and how darn efficient it is at propelling a cyclist forward and how much I like fat road tires. A nicely sized, supple road tire is the best way to improve the road feel of a road bike. I've gotten so used to at least a 25c tire, that 23c tires look super skinny.

Took some photos up in Marshall. This is the old abandoned building next to Hog Island Oysters.


It's been around a while.


The island where the oyster company gets its name from.


Peaceful, calm day on Tomales Bay.


My guardian vulture made sure I was safe on my ride.


(What's playing: The Raveonettes Aly, Walk With Me)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chain, chain, chain: Observations on the bicycle chain...

I spend a fair amount of time reading cycling related websites like Cyclingnews, VeloNews, and Bike Radar. It's my need to want to know what is going on in the world of cycling outside my slice of the 1800's with cars out here in West Marin. I also want to be able to converse with customers knowledgeably about topics in cycling and new bike parts coming down the pike.

Because of this quest for knowledge, I know that chains and the brand of chain on bikes is a somewhat hot topic. Basically, a chain is what drives a bicycle forward. It is made of inner and outer links and a roller. All the parts are held together by a pin. The pin is the center of controversy as to why someone likes or dislikes a chain. Me, I like chains that are quiet.

For all intents and purposes, I will make the assumption that there are two brands of chains - Shimano and SRAM. There are actually several others. Campagnolo which you only use if you have a Campagnolo equipped bike. Whipperman which you use if you have a little extra cash to spend (they really are nice chains, though). KMC which are okay, but more often found as OEM equipment - although, they do make my favorite single-speed chain, the Z610HX.

Okay, back to Shimano and SRAM. Both chains are interchangeable in either a Shimano or SRAM drivetrain. Both chains used pins pressed into the outer links to keep the chain together. Both chains use some form of "mushrooming" on the end of the pins to enhance their ability to stay connected.

The area where they differ is how one connects the chain together during the initial installation. Shimano uses a special pin that consists of a guide pin that helps the main pin, with mushrooming on both ends, get inserted into the tight fit of the outer links. SRAM uses a special two part outer link that snaps together. One must use a chain tool with the Shimano chain, but can install SRAM's connector by hand. That is, of course, after a chain tool has been used to cut off excess links if necessary.

SRAM link on the left, Shimano pin on the right.


So, what we have are end users who hate Shimano chains because they claim they break during use. Well, they break during use because the special connector pins were likely installed incorrectly. I've never had a Shimano chain break. End users, however, love SRAM chains because they are easy to install, and, they claim, don't break.

Back to the sub-title of this post: Observation Time. Over the past couple of years, since SRAM has introduced road components, I have noticed an interesting sub-theme. SRAM sponsored athletes running Shimano chains. These teams are paid to run SRAM components, yet they continue to use Shimano Dura Ace chains. Why? Could it be that the mechanics and riders feel that Shimano chains are better? After all, that would be a pretty fair assumption since it is absolutely crucial to these folks that their equipment not fail. I noticed that Levi Leipheimer's SRAM equipped/sponsored TT bike sports a Shimano Dura Ace chain. Seeing his bike, I recalled that I'd seen other SRAM sponsored teams using Dura Ace chains as well such as Iban Mayo's ride at last year's Tour de France.

Why do you not hear about these pros breaking their Shimano chains? Because their mechanics know how to install the chains. How does one install a Shimano chain? Easy. Here's my step-by-step chain Shimano chain install (convenient because I've got to replace the chain in my cross bike anyway, or rather flip it as suggested by Wayne Stetina further in this post).

1. Remove old chain and consult Resource Revival to find a shop that will send your chain in for recycling into cool bike related items.

2. Fit new chain on bike and remove excess links. On a road bike, run the chain around the large chainring and through the derailleur and smallest rear cog. The chain length is correct when the two pulley wheels are at 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the level ground. A mountain bike chain length is determined by running the chain around the large chainring and the large rear cog (without running it through derailleurs), bringing the two ends together, and then adding two links (that is one inner and one outer - erring on the longer side if necessary) allowing the chain to be shifted into the big-big combination without tearing the derailleur out of the dropout.

Road bike sizing.


3. This is a crucial step. The orientation of the chain links should be that the new pin should be positioned in the outer link so as the chain runs around the cassette cogs, the pin leads the way through. There is a great article by Lennard Zinn on installing a Shimano 10-speed chain that explains in detail why you want to install the pin in the leading hole in the plate. In another Zinn article on velonews.com, he notes that Shimano's Wayne Stetina recommends flipping the chain over to double its life (which is what I did in the photos here).



4. Use a good quality chain tool (not one of the chain tools included with multi-tools). A good chain tool will ensure that the new pin will be inserted straight into the new chain. Make sure that the tool's pin is not bent, replace if it is bent.

5. Slowly drive the new pin into the chain. I always apply a dab of grease to the new pin to decrease friction as it's driven into the chain plates. You will feel pressure as you screw the tool's handle down as you press the pin into the chain. When the pin is fully inserted, you will feel a noticeable drop off in the pressure of the handle. The pin is in. Don't continue to drive the chain tool handle in. Back off, remove the tool and inspect the pin. The guide part of the pin will be protruding from the opposite end. Before you break off the guide part, feel the end of the pin where you pressed it into the link. It should feel flush. If you are confident that the pin is properly inserted, break off the guide with a set of pliers. If you did it correctly, the link with the new pin will move freely. Don't bend the chain side to side.



6. If you are removing an existing chain and reinstalling it, don't remove it at the link that already contains the special pin. Choose a spot in the chain's length opposite the existing special pin.

7. Go ride!

(What's playing: Elvis Costello Big Tears)

I thought more about the chain and why they break so I added a couple items to the list.

8. While partaking in item #7, learn to shift. I believe most chains are broken because shifts are forced or undertaken under full load. Shimano's advent of Hyperglide was touted as being able to be shifted under full load. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Shifting under full load puts a huge stress on the chain. Sure, there are times then you have to shift under load, but for 99% of the shifts, you don't have to. Learn to back off on the pedal pressure as you are shifting. Your chain will like you for this.

9. Inspect your chain periodically. You inspect your frame every once in a while, don't you? Well, you should. Check the chain to make sure the outer links are not in the process of being pried away from the pins. Spin the crank backwards and visually inspect the chain. A link that is in the process of peeling away from the pin will be very noticeable in contrast to the other links.

(What's playing now: Black Mountain's downloadable concert on NPR's All Songs Considered Live Concert Series. Hey, I had to check it out just because of the name - pretty good stuff.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

I need something better than my brother...

A guy came into the shop earlier today looking for a mountain bike. He didn't find what he was looking for here - and it's unlikely he'll ever find it here, but that's another story. He said his brother just bought a new mountain bike and he needed to buy one now. Evidently, his brother spent "something like $6,000 on it." I figured I'd help him and point him to someone who might be able to better serve him and asked "what brand did he buy" because folks tend to be brand loyal. "I'm not sure, but I need to get a better one."

Wow, talk about some interesting family dynamics at play. He went on to mention that a few years ago he bought some "$4,000 tri bike, used it for a race" and it's sat in his garage unused ever since. I asked him what brand it was thinking I could further help. He couldn't recall what brand it was. How in the heck can you spend $4,000 on something and not know what it is? Well, I guess that might be possible if $4,000 to you is like a couple of bucks to an average joe like me.

In the end, I could tell he wasn't really interested in my helping him find a place where he could buy such an expensive machine so I let his disinterest play out. I'm sure he probably didn't want to hear my take on what fun it is to hit the trails on a fully rigid single speed mountain bike and that one does not need to have such an expensive machine to have fun. It wasn't about fun for him. It was about besting his brother. I wonder what he would have done if his brother was into collecting Star Wars characters and just scored an ultra rare Boba Fett doll, er figurine...

(What's playing: Patsy Cline Blue Moon of Kentucky)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More on the Tour of California...

Without having (or wanting to) access to media from other areas that the Tour of California bike race travels through, to know what local folks in other areas think of the bike race coming through their town, I found it very interesting that the bike race is fairly polarizing out here in West Marin. There are some folks who absolutely hate it and cite safety concerns. Other folks think it's the greatest thing. I'm in the latter camp.

I read some stories in the Marin Independant Journal which seemed to account for only the folks who disliked the tour. It kind of makes me wonder if we all saw the same race. Yes, I saw cars driving fast in sections leading or following the race. Yes, I saw CHP cars driving fast to speed up to upcoming intersections to block traffic. But I also saw nothing out of the ordinary from a typical weekend of, dare I say, yahoos speeding on West Marin's roads. What is preferred? Out of control individuals speeding around corners on their sport bikes and sports cars or professional drivers trying to maintain control of the traffic to allow a bike race to safely pass through town? I know which one I choose.

I wonder what the folks imbibing at the Western Saloon thought about the race as it sped past Toby's. Yeah, I thought so too as evidence by the photo taken from inside the saloon by Cyclingnews.com (click for neat photo).

(What's playing: ZZ Top (yes, ZZ Top) La Grange)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The circus comes to town...

The Tour of California made its way through Point Reyes Station yesterday. Folks from far and wide converged on town to watch the race wend its way north on Highway 1. Lots of cyclists rode took the day off (or had the day off due to the President's Day holiday) to ride out to town to catch the race first hand.

Here's a shot of Jackson Stewart of BMC, who spent most of the day off the front (he was well over 10 minutes clear of the peleton coming through Point Reyes) before being swallowed up before they got into Santa Rosa.



Twelve minutes later, the peleton rolls up the hill out of town with the CSC boys firmly controlling the race and their leader, Fabian Cancellara.



After the race went through town, several of us and our kids drove up to Santa Rosa to catch the finish. Before the race went through town, I figured out how to use the continuous shoot mode on my camera (not bad having owned it for about 5 years). In the past, I would shoot film cameras with a motor dive attached to the base. Digital cameras typically shoot one frame, save it, and then allow you to shot another one after a several second wait. Not good if you are shooting a bike race flying past.

So, with my camera in continuous mode, I positioned myself on the inside corner and just held the shutter down, accepting what ever made its way through the lens and onto the CF card. I was quite surprised when I downloaded the photos to my computer later in the day.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara being protected by his boys.



Hey, how'd those Rock Racing guys get in the shot and next to Cancellara. It's too bad their boss is such a ... well, let's just say he rubs folks the wrong way with his attitude.



World Champion Paolo Bettini. How fortunate was I in catching this shot as I just snapped away? Very!



This rider (Steven Cozza) gets the award for best mustache of the peleton. If the cycling thing doesn't work out for him, he's got a bright future in law enforcement or fire protection or... I also noticed other photos of Dave Zabriske sporting a sweet 'stache. Must be an argyle influence.



(What's playing: White Stripes Apple Blossom)

Friday, February 15, 2008

When 28 - 23 does not equal 5...

I rode my 38c tired cross bike earlier in the week followed by a ride on one of my road bikes with 23c tires. I have to say that the 23c bike felt much faster (could have been the sweet tail wind). I came back with a plan to put on a set of 28c tires. A nice compromise. I thought those 28c tires would look big compared to the 23c tires that previously occupied space on my wheels.

Before I took off the 23c Vittoria tires, I measured their actual width - 24mm. Hmmm, that's pretty fat. I thought that the 28 Continentals would then be the bee's knees and look all fat on the wheels. Got them installed and ... well, my hopes were dashed. They looked no fatter than the 23's I just took off. A quick check with the calipers and lo and behold, those 28's are actually 26! Huh?

So, I'm still trying to comprehend. Try this: attemping to get a 5mm fatter tire, I go from a 23 to a 28 and only gain 2mm. 28 - 25 = 2. New math. I don't like it.



(What's playing: Muddy Waters Got My Mojo Working - I just wish tire companies had their mojo working when they size tires.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Well, guess that dilemma is solved...

The French high cycling authority has, controversially, solved my dilemma of whether to upgrade my basic cable subscription for the month of July. Bikeradar reports that the barring of the Astana team continues with their exclusion from the Tour day France after they were denied entry into Italy's tour. What are they thinking? For sure a bone head move that will only make them look like the playground bully.

(What's playing: Black Sabbath After Forever)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What a great day to be closed...

We've had spectacular weather here the past 4 or 5 days. Beautiful clear skies. Temps approaching and into the 70s (depending how close to the water you are). Not much wind... So when my wife says yesterday "why don't you go for a ride." I know enough to not argue and I'm on my way.

I decided to tackle a longer than usual ride and headed south on Highway 1 to the Fairfax-Bolinas Road over to Fairfax and then back on Sir Francis Drake. The 5 mile climb up to the Bolinas Ridge was just perfect. I chose my cross bike with 34/48 gearing and an 11-27, and 38c WTB Interwolf tires inflated to 60psi. I'm really liking these large volume tires for riding on the road. Comfy and fast feeling. This bike just feels right with it's taller handlebar position and longer wheelbase than my road bike. I didn't even bother cleaning all the mud off from its last ride.

Stopped early in the climb for this shot. I've had to learn how to ride differently that I used to by stopping every once in a while for a breather at some photo op location. I used to just jump on the bike and go as hard as I can until the ride's done.





On the way up Bo-Fax Road, I came across these sandals sitting on the dirt in a turn-out just like you see them in the photo - like they might be if someone was taking off their slippers before slipping into bed. Where did they come from? Where were they going? Well, they weren't going anywhere just taking in the view. Where would they go to next?





On the way up, I got all creative snapping some photos holding the camera on top of the top tube as I rode on up the hill.



Made it to the top of the Bolinas Ridge, a 1473 foot climb in about 45 minutes - with stops.



Stopped at Alpine Lake for a bite to eat and a photo op.



And at the top of the climb outside Fairfax for more food before dropping down into Fairfax. Nice views looking out to San Pablo Bay.





Like I said, what a great day to be closed! Four hours, 45 miles, and 4,700 feet of climbing.





(What's playing: Miles Davis Sketches of Spain)

This rocks!...

Just got the latest copy of Bicycle Retailer and saw that my friends at B&L Bike and Sports garnered a T0p 100 bicycle retailer nod. Good job guys. I'm telling myself my 5 months there had to be a major factor in making the list ;-). I'm shootin' for next year's list...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

2008 Edition NAHBS...

Well, it's that time of year again when frame builders from across the lands converge on one common spot to show off what they've created. I didn't choose to go this year. At one point, I was a little bummed I didn't go - not necessarily for the bikes, but to hang out with old friends and folks I've been conversing with recently. There is a plethora of websites with photos that can put me there.

Bikeradar.com has Gary Boulanger in attendance recording the happenings with pen and digital camera. Cyclingnews.com is present with a multitude of photos. You can even download 53mb worth of photos from Clockwork Bikes' website - which I did to have my own virtual "walk-through" of the show. Bikeportland.org also has a great set of photos on Flickr.

There are a lot of really cool bikes there. However, there are also a lot of very gaudy frames. The concept of something made by hand taken to extremes. Maybe it's because I am a fan of simiplicity, but I'm not digging the super intricate lugwork. Sure, someone put a lot of time into creating those frames, but it just ain't my bag baby. Maybe that's the reason some of these frame makers have multiple year waiting lists - all their time is spent on one-off trailer queens. Something to think about.

A couple of other photos I saw that left me scratching my head:

An example of a tig-welded seat tube junction. Huh? How did that guy even get entry into the show?
Big obnoxious dropouts. Seems some folks have taken Vanilla's elegant dropouts to extremes.


A disc brake rotor mounted to a left crank arm with caliper mounted to the down tube - on a fixie no less.

I didn't quite get this seat stay bridge. And you think they could find a coffee shop other than starbux.


As much as I like a blue/orange color combo and Retrotec's bikes, their triple top tube frame ... looks like a ladder.

Words escape me on this frame.


Sometimes I believe just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What was cool:

Wooden rims.
 

The super sano naked frame of Richard Sachs.


Rick Hunter's suspension frame was very elegant.

This Bruce Gordon was oh so right.


A modern LD stem by Groovy.


I think that trying to find "things" that are cool at the show may be overshadowed by the "concepts" that are cool. The one prevailing bike concept (I hesitate to label "concept" because it should be well beyond the conceptual stage) that is very cool is the bike that is not designed to go fast. The bike that is meant to be ridden from here to there and back. The bike that is fun to ride and can carry something besides the rider. The bike that is so fun to ride that you don't want to drive your car. There were a lot of them at this show. I believe that this is the show and the folks who will help drive the movement to get people out of their car and on their bike for that weekend trip to the market, to the video rental store, to the post office, to the park for a picnic lunch... These frame builders are the guys who are going to make bikes cool again.

(What's playing: Well, it's 2:00 so it's gotta be KWMR because my kid will be on the radio with his selection of 5 songs.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What's good about a 4 mile climb...

A four mile descent, duh. I finally got out for a ride this morning. Took the cross bike down to Five Brooks and climbed Stewart Trail to the ridge top and then headed back home. The climb up Stewart trail is a 4.1 mile climb to Fir Top at the top elev. 1324 feet. The 34/27 gearing on the cross bike is perfect for the climb, but totally inadequate for the climb back if one (me) decides to ride over the top to the Pacific Ocean. Hence the reason, I turned back at the top.

After missing out on riding the previous two beautiful, perfectly clear (read cold) days, I quit making excuses and just went for a ride. It was overcast and a little drizzly. It was also 50 degrees at 9:00 instead of 35 which made for a much more comfortable ride.

For the past several weeks, the only bike I've ridden is one of my fixed gear bikes. It was a very odd feeling hopping on a freewheelin' bike after a bunch of time on a fixie. My legs didn't want to stop turning the pedals and as I was coming to a spot where I would be needing to slow/stop, I could feel each of my legs working against the other trying to stop the bike with back pedal pressure. I kept thinking the bearings in my D/A cranks were shot, but it was just me (after hopping off the bike and spinning the cranks). Took about 1/2 hour to absolve myself of that fixie feeling.

I'm sporting 38c WTB InterWolf tires on my cross bike and at 55-60psi, they feel really smooth on the road - almost like tubulars. I'm really liking the feel and comfort of larger volume tires on the road. There is something about the smoothness that almost makes you feel like you are floating. Wonderful feeling. I wish so many road riders weren't so hung up on 23C tires blasted to 120psi. They would like their bikes so much better with 25C (or even 28C) tires at a reasonable pressure. Great way to transform an uncomfortable riding bike. The problem is that most modern "racing" bikes barely have clearance for 25C tires, but I digress.

As I was saying, the climb up Stewart Trail was perfect. I like climbing and really like climbing in the conditions today - damp trail, some sections a little slippery, diffused light, near absolute quietness (except for the birds and the running water). Decided to bring the camera in case there were some photo ops. Guess there were.









(What's playing: Bob Dylan Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) from Blond on Blonde)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Music is the best...

I remember listening to records on an old record player that was similar to this. The first records I remember owning were Beach Boys Endless Summer and Kiss Alive! I still have them, although they are probably totally worn out.


Well, now it's about 35 years later and my son listens to music on his own iPod. He gets to pick and choose the songs he wants to listen to (except for some Tenacious D songs - he's only 12). He's got Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, The White Stripes, Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Ramones, AC/DC...

Because of his love of music, he's also been asked to help co-host a radio program on the local community radio station, KWMR this Sunday from 2:00-4:00. I'll be working, but will darn sure be listening. He gets to pick 5 songs to play and talk about. He's already picked them and burned them to a CD. Get ready for:

The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son
The Clash - London Calling
John Lennon - Imagine
Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song

(What's playing: No way! Kiss' Watching You from their Alive! album just came up on my iPod, which is playing every song at random - that's 9149 songs. How freaky is that? Guess I better go buy a lottery ticket.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sheldon Brown...

I've visited Sheldon Brown's website (I don't know if what he compiled can be called a website - website seems too small for what he made available to bicycle hounds) hundreds of times. It is such an incredible collection of bicycle history, references, information... I know that Sheldon's website is the go-to place for just about anything that I'm trying to find related to the bicycle. Bead seat diameters for any tire/wheel size, Bridgestone catalog scans, bottom bracket axle lengths for cranks from the '80s... It is all there.

I never met/spoke to/e-mailed Sheldon, but by virtue of the tone of his website, the things he's written, he's one of those folks you feel you do know. Sheldon Brown passed away yesterday. He will be missed, but remembered.