Friday, July 25, 2008

Good stuff: The Kool-Stop tire bead jack

Behold the Kool-Stop tire bead jack.

My 1994 Cannondale road bike rolls on a set of Campy Omega Strada wheels. They must be a smidge larger than they should be because they absolutely do not play well with tires-- especially Continental tires. Most especially.

Over the years, in mounting tires to these rims, I've sprained both thumbs, broken several sets of conventional tire levers, ruined a QuickStik (yes!), and expanded my vocabulary of curses exponentially. I've herniated my eyeballs and frightened small children and grandmas that happened to pass by during my struggles.

Things improved slightly when I bought Park Tool tire levers and several additional QuickStiks and developed a weird, complicated technique involving three tire levers, two QuikStiks, spit, cornstarch, soap, and Astroglide and just a few of my very best expletives. By going slowly and pausing frequently for refreshments I was able to get the tire mounted with out injury and broken tools. And only one or two pinch flats. So, after only a couple of hours I was ready to roll.

Panaracer tires seemed to be the easiest. Why didn't I just stick with what worked? Why did I have to give Continentals another try? What made me think that, after 8 years, the Campy rims would like Conti tires any better?

This was the occasion that broke a QuickStik. When this happened, I knew I was in trouble. Serious trouble. I wasn't going to be cowed by some stupid disagreement between erzats German tires and snooty Itialian rims.

So I went shopping for a badass tire lever. Down at my LBS I expressed my desire for their baddest tire lever. The poor sales guy first tried to interest me in a set of standard tire levers. Those aren't nearly badass enough I told him. Then there was some funny tool from Crank Bros. I shook my head-- Not badass enough. The sales guy was ready to give up when I spied the tire bead jack. The glint of avarice in my eyes at that moment would have frightened Baptist preacher right off his pulpit.

I quickly threw down plastic and booked back to my home shop. The Conti gave in with a visceral POP! The tire was on!

The straight arm of the bead jack braces on the opposite side of the rim and the hook lifts the recalcitrant bead over the rim and drops it. Ka-pow!!

Awesome. Took like five seconds. No broken tools, sprained thumbs, or sailor-talk.

Go here for more info (scroll down a bit), or visit your LBS:

Note: Kool-Stop must just import the tool as it has "Simson" molded on the handle.

I hope I don't flat on the road. Crap. I probably just jinxed myself.

Oh crap. Now I probably really jinxed myself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

10-wheel drive...

That was the title of an Outdoor Life article about Eddy Matzger that totally turned me onto road skating. See, at the time, 5-wheel in-line skates were speed skates. Speed. Yeah.

I got my bad self some plastic-booted jobbies from Performance Bike (Yes-- them) and wore them out. The wheels, anyway. The first pair developed a crack in the cuff-- split. I had only had them for a few weeks and Performance has the sooper-dooper "return-it-whenever" policy. So-- for the first time in my life I took a company up on their ridiculous return policy. When I took the skates back to a Performance store one of the clerks asked me if ran small wheels to increase resistance. Actually, I had skated on them so much in such a short period of time that I had literally worn the 72mm wheels down to 50mm nubbins.

Well, whatever. The store manager gave me a dirty look and swapped my skates. I felt guilty as hell.

Pretty soon I installed the largest wheels I could in there-- 76mm whoppers. On the first skate I felt like I rolled from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. Without even pushing.

Immediately I was hooked on speed. I skated everywhere and got pulled over by the cops. I found little residential loops and skated laps until I was dizzy. I lost so much skin off my ass it wasn't funny. Well, to my "friends" it was funny. The best one was when I was booking down a street and my feet shot out in front of me and I just went ker-plunk on my butt. I skidded to a stop immediately, got matching abrasions on my two all-beef patties, and my shorts were yanked up in an atomic asphalt (no pun intended) wedgie.

Yeah, okay. Shaddup.

So where am I going with this? Last Monday, when I went early to the MTB short-track with my son we caught the last of the speed-skaters milling around after their turn on the PIR asphalt. Awesome. Speed skates look a little different now-- 3 HUGE 100/110mm wheels instead of 5 smaller 80mm wheels.

I want to skate again. I want some fast skates. I don't think that I want actual speed/racing skates since I don't want to be limited to smooth asphalt, but I do want something fast fast fast.

Time to start selling off stuff I don't use anymore...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Le Tour Des Wimps?

No no. I don't really think those guys that ride in Le Tour are wimps. They're pretty badass when it comes to dropping the hammer.

However, they flat and a mechanic comes leaping out of the team car to change the wheel-- or even provide a new bike.

They don't do anything besides ride.

Okay... bear with me for a few minutes. Sherman! Set the WayBack machine...

A long time ago, in a Tour far far away... the cyclists were allowed NO support. They rode on single-speeds. The roads? Well, many of them would give a modern XC-er pause. You want to talk "badasses"? Those racers in the early Tours were the baddest badasses.

My favorite cycling story is the one of Eugene Christophe (Pardon my lack of accent marks) and his broken fork in the 1912 Tour De France. See, on stage 6 his fork snapped. So he runs several miles to the next village and stopped at a blacksmith's to fix it. That's right-- fix. No team car came up to dispense a new bike. Tour judges observed his repair efforts and penalized him 10 minutes because he had the shop boy (apprentice?) work the bellows. The rules of the time forbade outside help.

That's one thing that drew me to mountain biking. Self-sufficiency. That's a quality that I've always valued. I think it would be awesome if we could see just a little bit of that self-sufficiency creep back into Le Tour.

Another thing that bothers me about the support "infrastructure" of Le Tour is all the cars cars cars! And trucks and buses! I wonder what the "carbon footprint" of Le Tour is? It just seems a little excessive to me. A bike race that probably has more automobiles on the course than bikes!

Eh. Just something I think about as I lounge on Le Futon sipping tea in the AM.

A recent email from Dirt Rag had a link to this article:

Brain Farts: Self-Supported Road Racing?

Awesome! I can totally picture the XtraCycle team support bikes laden with water bottles and wheels. It's like recapturing the early spirit of LeTour with an extra measure of badassedness thrown in! I love it.

Pass the donuts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mt. Hood Skibowl XC 0wned me.

One last thing:

The XC race yesterday at Mt. Hood Skibowl totally hammered me. I even crashed hard on the first lap. Which is sucky because for an oldster like me that totally takes the wind out of my sails. At my age, one just doesn't pop right back up and take off. No. It takes a bit longer for all the bits and pieces to report in with an "A-OK". And then you've lost your rhythm so the rest of the race is like your first dance with an actual girl where you're completely awkward and stepping all over her feet and just can't get with it.

I mean-- after I almost got ran over by the guy barreling down the trail after me, I rolled over to the side and felt a spreading warm wetness across my chest. I thought my forearm was jetting blood on my jersey. No. Just my Camelbak leaking.

And I think I bonked. Maybe just a little. Or maybe it was the altitude. Or maybe I was wishing I was at home on the futon watching re-runs of the Tour and eating a donut.

Licensing for cyclists?

Actually I should clarify-- "Adults on bicycles". The term "cyclist", for me at least, denotes competence. A certain level of skill and knowledge. Not everybody riding a bike is a cyclist.

No. This is not about snobbery.

This is about safety and sharing the road. I saw three folks on bicycles riding on the wrong side of the street!! Two of them were smart enough to wear a helmet and they both appeared to be commuters of some sort. One guy was super preppy on a Trek Portland. But he was on the wrong damn side of the street. And he pulled some bullshit short-cut move through a gas-station parking lot. The third was some kid coming at me. No helmet. I told him that he was on the wrong side of the road and left it at that. He doubtless thought me some short of elitist bike-lane hog.

Now you may be wondering about the gas-station short-cut and why I'm calling bullshit on that. Because the guy on the bike wasn't behaving like a car. He was being unpredictable.

When I'm out on the road I'm an adherent to the notion of "vehicular cycling". That means that I act like a vehicle rather than someone playing around on a toy.

And that brings us to the thing that really pisses me off and makes me think that any adult riding a bike on a public road should be required to have a license (and pass the tests required to get it). When people get out on bikes and ride on the wrong side of the street, ride on the sidewalk and then shoot out into a lane of traffic -- acting unpredictable -- they are just a ninny on a toy. Not someone operating a vehicle. And that makes motorists not take the rest of us seriously. That makes motorists perceive us as roadway dilettantes.

MTB Short-Track #4-- Ssssmokin'!

Yeah. This is a bit late.

Short-track #4 was awesome. Felt good the whole race. Things just seemed to click. I even got major-rad air at the finish-line. Okay, okay... well maybe like 3 feet of air. On my sweet Sledgehammer with shocks and pegs. Booyah.

Anyway-- nice fast course this time.

There was no crashing, no near misses, no hammering my taint on the top-tube. No bobbles, dabs, or washouts. Almost a perfect ride!


A few days later my bubble was burst by the results. Somehow, despite being on total fire I didn't finish on the same lap as the leader. I didn't get lapped. But maybe almost. *shrug*

My wife said: "But what does it matter? YOU felt like you had a good ride. Why let some numbers ruin it for you?"

True enough. I just felt so on. That was an incredible buzz for $20.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Le Tour de Futon

Watched a bit of the Tour (live) this AM before heading down the hallway to my office. (I need a TV in my office. Just for the Tour.)

Is there anything better than sitting on the futon, in the cool of a summer morning, mug of tea in hand and watching cycling badasses?

Yep. It's doing all of the above AND EATING A DONUT!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

MTB Short-Track #3

All portents were bad.

I left the house late. Traffic was stalled. I signed in with a mere 10 mins to go on the clock. However, the beginners were still going so I relaxed a little. I decided to go warm up a little, but kept the starting area within view.

Brrrrr. Brrrrr. Rrrrrr go my tires. Hm. Still no one lining up at the start... must be running a little late today. Caught a break there.

5 after. Still no one at the start. A little weird... better go in for a look. I happen to overhear the announcer mention that the starting line is "over there". Where? What?? Uh oh. I spy a cluster of healmets over BEHIND a building by the regular starting area.

As I speed around the corner I see a group of riders racing off in a cloud of dust. I ask one of the guys at the back "Who just went?"

"Under 40. Go go!"

So off I went in a cloud of curses. (Not really a cloud, just a single curt exclamation.) I caught up with the back fairly quickly and managed to work my way up to the middle before I faded. I must have spent my meager reserves on that first lap. Foo.

This time around the organizers had us climbing as many of those short, steep MX jumps as possible. By the last lap I was just CRAWLING up them. Ha!

Good news? I think I finished on the same lap as the leader. I hope I managed to save myself from teh suck.

The Fire XC Pros are working well.

I don't know how pro Shannon Skerrit does it. It's like he's in his own race-- I see him go by and it seems like 5 minutes later the rest of the pack comes by. How do people do that? I was just slobbering and grimacing and foaming during my race and he just zooms by like he's on a motorcycle... AND SMILING!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Keeping me safe...

So today my car is in the shop. No sweat-- I had a few errands to run and the bike is my preferred method of getting around. So me and kiddo saddle up on the trailer-bike, picnic lunch in my bag and head to the bank and then stop by the park.

I've been through the "drive-through" of my local Wells Fargo branch on my bike several times before. They have no bike rack there and all I ever do is deposit checks. So the drive-through is convenient to use.

Well this time the manager must have been out and about and decided to enforce company policy. I'm guessing it was a policy call-- the claim was that cars go through the drive-through "really fast".

So now I have the trailer-bike to deal with. So I end up leaning up against the ash-tray thing outside and go indoors to get my receipt.

This makes no sense. I suppose that the argument might be that pedestrians aren't allowed and thus bicyclists aren't allowed either. But pedestrians have no vehicle to park (or lock up) or in the case of this particular branch-- find a shrub to lean my bike against. What if I was on a motorcycle? I suppose that would have been okay. Why? A person on a motorcycle is not any less vulnerable than I am on a bicycle. So it's the engine that makes the difference? (Although I'm making an assumption about the motorcycle. maybe they don't allow motorcycles through.)

What a hassle. If I lived in Portland metro I would be fine. Out here in the 'burbs is like a different planet. Nothing out here is really set up to accommodate folks riding bikes. Bike racks are either non-existant or placed in really goofy locations. Like the nearby Albertson's: The rack is around the side of the building, near the back by the bottle/can return machines. At night the rack is conveniently located in the shadows and there is a convenient, I mean EXIT to an adjacent apartment complex.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I made chocolate chip cookies tonight. Shortly after they came out of the oven I ate a few. Mmm.

It's been a long time since I've had this pleasure.

Those of you out there that are gluten free can understand this a little. It's not like I can just swing by any old bakery and pick up a big-ass cookie to get my fix. (I remember back when I used to pick up bags of fresh-from-the-oven cookies at Albertson's.)

Making 'em my self is a bit more work... but the payoff? Oh yeah. I'm glad I'm not a pro racer-- I can do this kind of thing. Cookies are power food.

MTB Short Track #2

Well, I thought race #1 went okay. I went hard enough that I felt like puking at the end. I crashed a couple of times-- stupid, graceless little things that I attributed to loss of traction at the front.

An friend in the sport class (Will Cortez) finished 4 places in front of me. I didn't realize that we were that close together. After I saw the results I decided to use this as motivation. "Get Will!"

So for race #2 I bought some new tires-- something better suited to dry conditions with hardpack and loose terrain. My combination of front/rear Panaracer Dart/Smoke just wasn't cutting it. The front end was washing out like crazy. And the Dart just doesn't have the tread to offer good braking control.

I shod the F700 in some new Panaracer Fire XC Pros. I feel that they performed pretty well. I felt quite confident in dry hard corners and off-cambers. Maybe I had them aired up a bit much but they still performed quite well.

Unfortunately I seemed to be behind every racer that bobbled, stalled or just crashed. To be fair I had my own share of infuriating stalls. While I didn't crash I had a couple of near misses that lost me plenty of places. I'm not -- repeat NOT -- on other racers. I'm not a pro or some awesome cyclist, but it's still irritating when some guy in front of me is stalling and keeling over because of a miscalculation and then I wind up cramming into them.

I also discovered another little detail about when I can feed prior to a race. NOT within and hour of the race start. At least not for something so short and intense as these short-track events (which will include cyclocross races this fall). I drank a small bottle of HEED (That stuff tastes funny. Must be the xylitol. It's not bad--- just different.) and finished it 30 mins before the race start. I experienced some mild stomach cramping and "urping". Damned distracting. So I'm going to have to push back the feeding time at least 30 mins. Maybe more.

One highlight: I was closing on a racer from Team Beer and was set to take him on the inside of a turn when he dived down and totally shut the door on me. It was a great -- and gutsy -- move and totally made the race for me (even thoug we were somewhere in the middle of the pack). I tried to compliment him as I finally passed him, but he thought I was giving him grief for being slow or something. Next time I'll save it for after the race! Anyway-- I found him after the race and explained myself. So everything was cool.

So, looking forward to race #3 (and the half-way point of the series) I will:

1.) Try to get a little better starting position.

2.) NOT feed withing the hour before the race. Maybe even 90 minutes.

3.) Look ahead and predict trouble spots. I will not get hung up with other racers.

4.) Catch Will Cortez.