Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Out out damned cantilever chatter!

Lennard Zinn had been teasing us for weeks now with his apparent solution for all time! -- to the dreaded and hated cantilever brake chatter that seems to be so common on cyclocross bikes these days.

Unfortunately the article doesn't go into quite as much depth as I'd like but it does confirm a few things for me-- namely that the brake pads were skip-slipping on the braking surface. Erk-erk-erk-erk! Some time ago Sheldon Brown had indicated that fork-crown mounted housing stops reduced or eliminated front cantilever brake chatter. And it's for the same reason that linear-pull brakes also don't suffer from the chattering.

A prime factor is the rigidity of the front end of the bike. Van Dessel discovered that forks with a tapered steerer (1.5" at bottom to 1.25" at top) vastly improved braking action. The larger crown race plus larger fork legs created a more rigid structure that resisted flex.

But what do you do if you have a convention bike? I sure as hell don't have the budget to go buy a new bike.

Well there are a few things you can do-- number one seems to be to run a linear-pull brake. You'll need to get a "Travel-Agent" adapter to enable use with your aero (or STI) brake lever or buy an aero brake lever designed to work with linear-pulls (Cane Creek and Dia-Compe both produce such a lever). Shorten the front brake pads-- this would entail cutting off the rear end of the brake pad as mush as possible. Apparently this is something the Richard Sachs CX team does.

Fortunately this is not something that's a problem for me. My LeMond still has its OEM Kenesis aluminum fork and I'm running Paul Neo-Retros. Under hard braking from speed I do experience some front-end shuddering but it's not "scary" or "dangerous" as some other riders have reported.

Go here to read the full article on VeloNews:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good Stuff: Topeak SmartHead upgrade kit

So I finally got a replacement chuck (and hose) for my floor pump. The Topeak SmartHead.

#1 It's pretty nice that I was able to replace only the broken part instead of having to buy a new pump.

#2 It's pretty nice that the replacement part actually improves the performance of the pump as a whole.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


No matter how fast and furiously I pumped the handle, air just continued to leak out of my floor pump's chuck. Take off, turn bezel tighter. Must have been leaking past the seal. Damned pump. Replace and flip the lever viciously-- that'll make it work! PSSSsssss...PSSSSsssss...PSSSSsssss.

No amount of fiddling seemed to have ANY effect. I finally discovered that air was leaking from the Schrader side of the pump's chuck. What? I've had an uneasy relationship with this Performance brand pump. I want to heave it through the nearest window (preferably with glass in place to give a supremely satisfying ker-ash!) but that would just be a waste. The damned thing has always been a little fiddly-- all because I was trying to be a tight-wad.

Can I get a replacement chuck? Looks like Topeak produces an "upgrade kit" for any floor pump. Hopefully I can find a replacement chuck locally. I hate ordering stuff anymore. We'll see.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wheel repair...

Remember my "dented" rear wheel on my F700? Yeah... about that. Well I took an adjustable wrench and gently coaxed the rim hook back into shape. And then it just broke. A big chunk. Right out.

Yeah-- there's no fixing that.

Fortunately I managed to score a "new to me" set of wheels. Mavic X139 rims with a Deore rear hub and... zuh? A Specialized "Stout" front hub with some sort of crazy-ass skewer... axle... thing. Oh wait-- I get it. So it's a big fat skewer/axle. A skaxle. A skewrle. So I guess the deal is that it makes the whole thing stronger and capable of putting some serious squeeze (skweze?) on the fork drop-outs. A good thing with disc brakes, I suppose. Although damn, it's got that stupid external cam design. Jeeze. I put some REAL Shimano quick-releases on there not too long ago. (Real as in-- internal cam.) Not these cursed scrotty externally cammed things that are impossible to close properly because they rely on those stupid little plastic meniscus things that deform under load and don't really do anything else besides annoy the heck out of me and why are they the only deal now? Cheaper to make? Lighter?

Sherman, set the WayBack machine...

Once upon a time (like 1991??), some teensy company thought that there wasn't enough color in our quick-release world and decided to churn out CNC'd bits. What on earth was their name? Man... that's bugging me. Anyway-- the stupid levers (externally cammed like most of the levers today) were a pain in the ass to get sufficiently tight and even harder to open! Stupid things. So guess what? After a year or so they re-released them called "Twist-Flips" or "Flip-Twists". The idea was that first you flip them closed to get them initially tight and then twist the lever to snug it down. How retarded. It's still stupid.

Don't believe me? Well, here's what Sheldon had to say about the damned things. "Despite the marketing hype associated with these "boutique" skewers, they are actually considerably inferior in functionality to the traditional type."

So now what.

I guess I need to find a new front hub-- a Shimano.

Oregon Action: Cross Crusade #1

Note: This is a repost of my entry at the Crossniacs blog

A few days of light rain prior to Sunday’s opener of the Cross Crusade series had me hopeful for some mud at Alpenrose dairy. Not so. We wound up having “excellent” weather– sun and mild temps in the high 50’s/low 60’s. Since my family was coming along this was indeed perfect weather.

The course was not dusty which was a plus, but all the bumps were there out in the back straightaway.

The Alpenrose race always seems to be the most highly attended, likely due to its close proximity to downtown Portland, and this year saw a NEW record set for attendance — 1438 racers, not including the huge crowd of spectators — handily breaking last year’s record of 1267. Where do all of these people come from?

Anyway– parking was a mess and we rolled in about 10 minuted before my Master B race. Spying fellow Crossniac Jim Hendricks, I pulled up seeking help locating parking and was instead treated to a view of shirtless manflesh. Hurrying on my wife spotted a vacant parking spot. After shearing off the side view mirrors I hustled everybody out the windows, threw the cars keys at my wife, waved to my son and sprinted to the registration shack to barely, I mean barely, get my registration in for the race.

Caffeine overload plus Pre-Race Bladder Syndrome forced my to the row of Honey Buckets. (Ah! That self-sponsored racer’s home-away-from-home!) After what seemed like hours (but what was less than 5 minutes) I rolled up the back of a field of 248 racers (Master B, Master 50+, and Junior men). I had missed the lottery-style call up based on race numbers (I should have been in the very first group!). Ever the humble push-over I accepted my fate as just.

The start was typical Cross Crusade #1 Alpenrose Wal-Mart After Thanksgiving Sale stampede.

Fortunately the course designers had done a pretty good job and bottlenecks were greatly reduced.

Time for an “Unfortunately/Fortunately” story!

Unfortunately, halfway through my race I flatted. Fortunately I was almost to the pits! Unfortunately, in my haste to get to registration I had left my pit wheels in the car. Fortunately there was neutral tech support provided by Shimano! Unfortunately I was hypoxic and the pit officials had to walk me over to the wheels and actually put one in my hands. Fortunately I was able to get the wheels changed! Unfortunately the Dura-Ace wheel (nice wheel, btw) had a fat-ass tire on it and was rubbing on my brake pads! Fortunately I had plan. Unfortunately it involved leaving the rear brakes disconnected– whee! Fortunately the Shimano tech twiddled with my brakes, told me I had the wrong kind of brake pads (Get away from my Kool-Stop Eagle Claw II’s shut up!) and sent me on my merry way.

After two more laps I struggled back to finish DFL. Wait what? How could I push until I saw stars to finish DFL… ow wait. In my category. There were still hundreds and hundreds of racers out there.

So. DFL my first race in Crossniac colors. 123 out of 123 (There were two that DNF.) But I finished with a smile and squeak of the shark horn and ON THE SAME LAP AS THE WINNER. So I was DFL but not lapped. Booyah.

Fellow PacNW Crossniac Will Cortez had finished 88th in a field of 159 Cat C’s (Zoinks!), Jim Hendricks was 42nd out of 58 Clydesdales, and Guy Smith was 180 out of 187 Master C’s (Double Zoinks!!)

Next up: Rainier.

I’ll see about getting a photo or two to post here…

Monday, August 31, 2009

Complete "Duh" moment.

So the latest SS klunker (actually the only klunker since what I was previously calling a "klunker" really isn't since it's my SS MTB) project has been sitting hanging in my Man Cave waiting as new-ish parts slowly accumulate. A few weeks ago I realize that the project is pretty much a "go" for reassembly save for a big wrench (a couple of 'em) to disassemble the 1.125" threaded headset.

Boy well I'm going to have to go BUY a couple I guess. Provided I can FIND headset wrenches that big.

Well what the hell. Tonight I discover, in MY OWN tool chest, not one, but TWO such wrenches. And I don't even remember buying them. Why would I buy such huge wrenches (36mm)?


Game on! Project "Grocery Getter Errand Bike With Fenders (Oh. I need to buy some fenders!) Rack And Pannier Bags" commences!

Oh, But I just remembered. I need to repair the dented rear wheel on my F700. Not only did I pinch-flat on that damned curb, I put a dent in the wheel. Now it has a nice hop and wobble. That means I'll have to remove a couple of spokes and go at it with a mallet.

Having more than one bike is nice, but sometimes they can be lots of work! :)

Time to get serious...

So according to my training schedule today was my "off" day. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my "on" day. Bring the intervals.

Evenings on alternate days is for strength training.

Cyclocross season is nigh upon us!!

Super-Duper Seriously End Of The Summer Wrap Up...

Just when I thought I might be "done" with racing for the summer I realize that I had forgotten about the new mountain bike short track (stxc) series down in Salem. I had almost slipped into "lazy" mode and begun to put on my protective layer of later-summer flab when I was awakened by the siren-call of inexpensive racing fun.

I managed to get in the last two (of four) races. All in all it was a fun little race on a very short course-- I was able to get in about 9 laps in 30 minutes compared to half that at the PIR series.

My fellow Crossniac Jim and I managed to activate our wonder twin powers for the final race by donning matching Super Grover jerseys.

Me (L) and Jim (R) absolutely failing to "get air" of the top of this teensy molehill.

However, the race would not be quite so frabjous for me. The evil (not really) race dudes had the course going around the OTHER way and sent us all UP an evil (really) curb. After doing a pathetic monkey-hopping thing up the curb I thought maybe I should actually just hop over the curb. Well the curb said "No you won't, either!" and ka-pow I dented the hell out of my rear wheel and got a pinch flat. Psssssss-sss.

We were racing for not 30 but 40 minutes tonight so I figured that I had plenty of time to fix a flat. Which is rather funny because I had thought about taking off my seat bag. "Nah... I'll just leave it on."

Which reminds me of the time I went hiking with my family at Silver Falls. As I was hoisting the pack on my back I thought "Should I take the first-aid kit? Ah, sure. What the heck." And of course my son fell on the trail and hit a nice pointy rock with his head (resulting in a wound which required being glued together later).

Good thing I brought that seat bag! And remember that time I broke my chain at the PIR races? Good thing a spectator had a chain tool! So Maybe I should start packing my seatbag for the races?

So, where was I? Oh yeah-- ka pow. There goes the "Lunar-Light" innertube. I lost a lap and a half. Never did catch up to my SuperGrover teammate.

My son had fun riding his race again-- but the big payoff, for him, was getting to ride on the BMX track after all the other races were done. Whee!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I want a new road bike

I guess. I dunno. I bought my Cannondale road bike in 1994 because I just HADDA have a road bike and took what they had on sale (as it turns out, a 56cm frame) and I've finally come around to thinking it's a little on the big side for me. It's got about an inch of seatpost showing above the collar.

I keep thinking about those inexpensive SS road frames hanging in the Performance store (they ARE a "local bike shop"). But I'd need a headset, stem, fork, and, eventually, new wheels. But they also sell a built up SS for a paltry $299! But the frame is blue. Woah-- wait. What am I DOING? Wanting a cheap-ass bike? What happened to my dreams of a nice bike? Something custom? (Or at least custom-ish.)

But what the hell, I want to repaint Stumpy so it can be an AWESOME bike again so it's not really wise to be wanting to buy something else and put off paining Stumpy AGAIN. And what's wrong with my road bike right now? So what if it's a little big. Is that really REALLY a problem? Is the real problem the fact that it's only showing an inch of seatpost above the collar? Am I afraid of what others will think of me? Oh, I'm so vain.

Still... a nice steel road bike would be nice. Single speed free/fixed.

My kingdom for a seatpost or two...

So I need a new seatpost for my SS MTB. It's a 1989 Specialized Stumpjumper. Every other bike I own uses a 27.2mm diameter seatpost. Thus a have a few extra posts laying around.

But noooo... the Stumpy needs a 26.5 (!) diameter post. I can go down to the Performance store and pick up a 26.8 (smallest they carry). But no... Now I have to hit the used bike shops in downtown Portland. Oh twist my arm. But it's still a bit of a hassle since I have to get around downtown Portland. And I hate driving.

Oh and my beater (truly) SS MTB? It needs a 26.2. What?! Really. I'm not imagining things.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Late Summer Wrap-up...

The end of Mountain Bike Short Track at PIR
Well boo-hoo. The MTB Short Track series is all over and done with. Just fading memories now as I start thinking about the approaching cyclocross season. The final race, with its ultra-crazy team relay race, was big fun. After my single, all-out, lung-bursting lap... I thought I might just pass out. And then explode. Or something like that.

No, I didn't win the Chris King custome wheelset. Again. Luciano (the man on the mic) had to go through a few tickets before he pulled the name of someone that was still present. I tell you, one could have cut the tension with a knife with each successive name pulled from the tub. Oh the huge manatee!! Pick me...pick me...pick me! Awwwwwwwww. Damn.

Winning a Yakima rack would have been nice. Could definitely use something other than the pathetic Thule racks I'm dealing with now-- those things keep failing on me. Out of 5 I'm down to 3 now. Fiddlesticks. And now I've got a goofy-ass trunk rack. I won't bother going into that. I really don't know why the manufacturers even bother producing a trunk rack that has NO WAY of preventing the bikes from swaying and banging into each other. Seriously, how hard is it to make some sort of flippy-gizmo. I'm NOT using wads of towels and rags and shit to secure my bikes.

Well, anyway-- the thing is for emergency additional capacity. Not regular use.

Portland Bridge Pedal
The Bridge Pedal was great fun this year. Kiddo enjoyed it. At first he wanted to ride his own bike. Then he waffled and wanted to ride the trailer bike. Then his own. And finally the trailer bike (probably a wise choice). But I think he could probably ride on his own next year... well, maybe not. That's 14 miles over a couple of hours with a few nice and steep climbs. I did it on the SS MTB again. Booyah. I grateful that I'm relatively young and strong. Such a pleasure to ride a bike and keep those pedals turning. If I had to explain... you wouldn't understand.

It's an indescribable feeling sharing the bridges with nothing but bikes. It's just fantastic.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death to bike lanes?

The Tigard (Oregon) city council just voted to amend city planning codes to NOT require bike paths on specific downtown streets. has the details.

In the comments there was a lot of fuss and bother about how Tigard has magically become bike-hostile.

However, the city's planning manage had some very rational sounding reasons for the amendments.

I don't really care for bike lanes. I think they're terrible and often filled with debris. After the winter storms, they are filled with gravel and go from annoying to hazardous. Furthermore, bicyclists just become invisible to cars once in the bike lane.

The best solution is education! Everyone must understand that they are sharing the road and must learn how to do that effectively.

It can be done. Bike lanes are not the answer. They're really only a "band-aid" that make people feel like they're being taken care of.

MTB Short Track #5

It was "casual night" at this week's short track race.

Which was excellent. We had just come back from a weekend camping trip and some camp food was not sitting well with me. After my second urgent trip to the bathroom that day, I had begun to worry about even racing. So the invitation to dress in "casual" attire for the race was a salvation. Or excuse. I could dress in my loudest Hawaiian shirt and just toodle around the course. Yay.

It was scorching hot, too.

But it was a fun time-- lots of noise, cat-calls, cheers and jeers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oh-- about Lance

Yeah-- I've kinda had it with Lance-mania. But still. Still... it's a little thrilling to see him do so well in Le Tour.

It's also fun to see local company Columbia plastered all over the jerseys of a ProTour team. But their kit design reminds me of some Underoos I had when I was a kid.

Tillicum Beach

Going on a two-family camping trip to Tillicum beach this weekend.

According to "Kissing the Trail" by John Zilly, there's a short little loop nearby. Close to Yachats/Cape Perpetua.

Well well... maybe I can get in a little trail riding this weekend. I'll feel so guilty sneaking away. They probably won't even notice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

MTB Short Track #3 and #4

Work work work. How does life get this crazy that I'm so messed up so easily? For the past few weeks I've managed to get out and ride maybe one other time besides the short track race. When I don't get exercise I get grumpy. I hate it.

I though that all the riding I did over the winter would add up to something. Apparently not. I though that the "fartleks" that I was doing would confer some badassedness. Nope.

So I continue to suck. But you know what? Monday nights I'm out at PIR redlining and enjoying it. I'm not pissy that I'm not really moving up in the results. I just can't get angry. Is this what keeps me from being a badass? That I'm having fun? Must be. Out in the middle, maybe with less than two laps to go I feel like pulling over and taking a nap or maybe barfing and THEN taking a nap, but at the same time I want just one more lap. And then another. And once it's all over and I've recovered I'd like to go again. Although I'd likely be even slower and good for fewer laps.

What the heck.

So about race #3. I can't really remember race #3 except that my son didn't want to go.

"Will there be a kiddy race that's just one lap?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Eh. I think I'll go watch mom play volleyball."

What a bummer. My race was fun, though. Until my beloved Botrager InForm R saddle's pointy bits RIPPED GIANT HOLES IN MY BIBS!!!!

Oh gosh. I was just sick. Still am. My favoritestest bibs. Pearl Izumi Slice. (Oh, the irony.)

So I made the saddle PAY.

The first photo doesn't really do the point bits justice. They are POINTY.

Once I hacksawed the points off, getting the cover back into place was terribly fiddly. Anyway-- I managed to get it done and while it looked a bit ugly (I hope to remedy that soon) it worked really well for...

Race #4

My son came out again and had a lot of fun. We stayed out after the races playing on the MX course until the OBRA folks were ready to kick us out.

My hacked saddle worked out really well-- I was able to move around WITHOUT my shorts getting ripped to shreds.

I wonder-- why the hell did Bontrager, after spending two years and millions of dollars on creating the most comfortable, ergonomically-correct saddle EVAR -- why did they bung it up by giving the saddle that pointy-ass little cut-out shorts-ripper thing in the back? What good does that do? Why won't anyone think of the shorts!?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crossniacs kit-- ordered!

Oh, one last thing. Just ordered my Crossniacs kit.

Long sleeve skinsuit (for CX) and a ss jersey for other stuff.

I would like to have gotten some bib shorts too, but...

Money money money.


Anyway, the new design looks really good. I'm excited.

Carbon composite seatposts on off-road bikes-- take 'em off!!

Oh-- quick note about Race #1. Saw some guy break his composite seatpost. Jagged, nasty looking pointy shards sticking out of the seat-tube.


C'mon folks. Get the carbon composite components off of bikes being ridden off road.

Well, at least composite forks seem to be doing okay. I've not seen one of those break yet. Just lots and lots of composite seatposts.

Portland Mountain Bike Short Track Series: #1 and #2

I've been super busy lately. It's weird how much stuff falls by the wayside. A little disappointing, too. So for the last couple of weeks I've been able to get out for a "training" ride maybe once a week. So that's left me feeling a little cold for the Monday night races.

Race #1
Still I had fun. The first race was a HUGE disappointment because in the weeks prior to the first race, the organizers had made note of the fact that they would split the kiddies up into two groups, with the older kids doing a slightly longer race on the more challenging motocross course instead of out in the relatively flat and grassy part under the trees outside the MX course fence.

When we showed up, we were hanging around the MX track awaiting the start of the "big" kiddie race. In fact, once an official set me straight, we dashed over the the trees only to discover that the race had ENDED. A mere three minutes after it started.

Total bummer. My son was visibly upset -- you know, 6 year-olds -- and seemed to be on the verge of tears. I can understand. When you get all keyed up to race and then something happens to prevent that release of pent up adrenaline it can be a hard crash.

What was worse, what I felt like I had let my son down after weeks of talking up the new kiddie race format. My son was stoked about racing on the MX track: "I get to race on the part with all the bumps?"

Last summer he came out to a couple of races with me and at the end, I'd take him out on the MX course (which was part of the race course) and let him ride the whoops and table tops while I ran around picking up cones. He loved it.

"I feel like I'm flying!!"

No kidding. He actually said that.

But the regular kiddie races -- where he's with kids being pushed on trikes, kids on "like-a-bikes", and kids with training wheels -- just leave him wanting something more challenging. And he's obviously not alone.

I wonder if maybe I should try to see if there's something I could do to make a "bigger kiddie" race happen? But's it kind of an issue of time-- it's tough enough getting out of work early enought to get to PIR by 5:30.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if maybe there's a liability issue with having the little kids out on the MX track? I have to admit there were a couple of times when my heart skiped a beat as my son came zooming and bumping down one of the short and steep tabletops.

(But I think we all know how that feels: "I want MORE! Let's do it again!")

Well, he missed race #2. If he comes out with me to race #3 we'll see what happens. I'll have to pay attention.

Race #2
Anyway-- race #2 got off to a good start. I arrived to the course with about 20 minutes to the start. *whew* I was so pumped with nervous adrenaline (Will I make it? Will I make it?) that a pre-race warm-up was not really needed.

I went with the first group -- the Masters -- and was feeling pretty good and holding my own. For a little I was dicing with some guy in WHITE shoe covers.

Yep. White. Shoe covers. Off road. In actual dirt. Dirty dirt.

Shoe covers.

Anyway, there was some pushing and shoving since he seemed to be having some trouble negotiating the turns. That's racing! But I was eager to get by him and those white shoe covers.

After we left the MX track and headed out into the trees, I came to the log between two trees. I was ready to ride over it but the guy in front of me decided to hop off and do the "straddle-tippy-toe" to get across the log. He was occupying most of the opening between the trees so riding through was not a terribly viable option (I didn't want to cause a crash or get caught in one if he keeled over while doing the tippy-toes.)

So I dismounted and ran through on the inside -- bump push 'scuse me -- and dropped my bike back down and hopped on.

Yeeee-hoooooo! My legs just spun round and round so fast! My chain had decided to take a flying leap.

I was rather a funny thing to look down and not even SEE my chain. At all. Where the hell was it? A group of the Team Beer folks across the trail were asking "Dude, where's your chain??" :)

A guy called out that he had a chain tool handy and offered it to me. At first I thought "Foo. I'm done." Then it was "What the hell-- I'd rather be riding than sitting around." So I motioned him over and while I held things in place he removed a link and put things back together. A quick shake of the hands and I found out his name was Jason.

Thanks Jason! You rock.

It was weird how my concentration and rhythm had been broken. For the remainder of the race I felt so off. The chain kept making popping noises and I was worried about it breaking on one of the steep little climbs so I wound up just creeping up them.

But that didn't really matter-- I was riding.

The 8-10 oz. of HEED I had chugged about an hour before kept wanting to come back up. Bleah.

Silly tummy!

I'm looking forward to next week! Maybe I'll put my seat bag back on my bike. Even if I never use it, maybe I can help someone else?

Although I don't think there's any helping someone that wears white shoe covers in a mountain bike race. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm a new Crossniac and now I find out we have new kit?

Got a rather breathless (y'know... in tone) message from Will today about a new design for the Crossniac kit.

Unfortunately there was no image attached, or even a description.

Well gee, one could cut the tension with a knife! Let's see it already!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am now a Crossniac.

Thanks to a gracious invitation from Will Cortez, I'm now a part of the Crossniacs. I certainly dig their motto "For the love of cyclocross". Indeed! I hope to give a good account of myself while wearing the Crossniac colors. :)

I need to buy a skinny-- time to start gathering change from under the futon cushion and the car seats.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I'm a convicted murderer and I ride...

I'm all for better looking cycling jerseys-- No one pays me a dime to ride my bike so I'll not be wearing a billboard for a line of pens, pregnancy tests, or an industrial adhesives manufacturer. Or a gas company. Or multi-national bank. Or even a transportation authority.

I have a soft spot for anything featuring a skull or other skeletal components. Primal Wear has produced some of my favorites-- the Bone Collector, Grand Trunk (no longer in production), and X-Ray. There's also the Jolly Roger, but I'm not such a fan of flames. Overdone, IMHO.

Northwave produces a very simple, striking Skeleton jersey. Just black and white. They have a Punisher skull jersey. Very badass, but...

(Sorry, Rock Racing's skull design is right out.)

So whenever I see a jersey utilizing a skull motif I pay attention and go in for a closer look.

This time, however, I was rewarded with a real stinker.

Behold! Deathrow Velo!

So are they a "team" or association of cyclists that are united in their incarceration for heinous crimes (and thus unable to ride-- how ironic)?

No, no... that can't be it. Wait a minute... there has to be something here. Um. "Deathrow Velo" is all about being hard-core. Something about being sentenced to death, right?

"Dude. I ride bikes and thus am sentenced to death! Because I'm hard-core!!"

No, no... that doesn't work. Riding bikes is too much fun.

Wait! I've got it. "Dude, I just murdered that trail/sprint/runup! And thus must be sentenced to death. Awesome!!!"

That still seems just so awkward and clunky.

I give up. Maybe "Deathrow Velo" is just a poorly though-out concept for a line of so-so cycling clothing. Trivializing the state-sanctioned murder of a human being (and the victims of deathrow inmates) seems like a pretty poor tactic to make jersey designs seem badass.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Toxic ProTour teams

For the last few years I had been wondering about the "carbon footprint" of the big bike races. Especially the big tours and classics in France, Italy, etc.

Well, just recently Lennard Zinn (of VeloNews) fielded just this question. While he wasn't able to provide much of an answer (other than "huge", which I'd agree with) he DID mention a ghastly practice of many of the team mechanics-- cleaning bike with diesel fuel! And then just dumping the rinsate on the parking lots which then drain into nearby waterways.

I’ll let you calculate that, as I don’t know how to do it. I would imagine that on average each of the 22 teams has five station wagons with roof racks full of bikes, one bus and one truck, all of which drive an average of 200km per day. Then of course there’s laundry, food, lodging, etc. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg compared to the entire race itself. Think of all of the transport of race barriers, grandstands, concessions, start village, etc., not to mention transport and lodging of the fans, publicity caravan, media, organizers, etc. Big footprint.

But if you’re interested in environmental impacts of the race, nothing grates me more than team mechanics who continue to use diesel fuel to clean bikes, spraying it and dumping it in parking lots of, for example, seaside hotels along the Lido di Jesolo in the days before the Giro’s start. Many do use biodegradable cleaners, but plenty don’t, and the first rainstorm it goes right in the Adriatic.

(Excepted from VeloNews Technical Q&A with Lennard Zinn)

What the hell?

I think that the ProTour teams need an injection of badassery. Enough of this ridiculous pampering and ourtrageous pollution.

They need to ride a dirty bike and have it last. A dirty bike is a working bike.

Contrary to what the nicenastys over at BKW may claim about looking PRO, some buildup of road grime or mud actually demonstrates PRO-ness. The dirt says "I ride." A dirty bike and a well-maintained bike aren't mutually exclusive.

For most of the time all my bikes have encrustations of dirt. When they do get cleaned it's typically a "dry" cleaning-- a toothbrush gets rid of excessive buildup. A good chain-lube precludes the need for constant degreasings and cleanings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last chance to see...

Here's a short video overview of Cannondale's manufacturing process. It's a trip watching the robotic wheel truer.

How Stuff Works: Assembly Line: Cannondale Bicycles

This was pretty much the reason why I liked Cannondale bikes so much.

It's interesting to see how many of the people don't look like the type to ride bikes. I mean, I suppose one could be a NASCAR (I'm recalling the guy who seemed to have a NASCAR-themed deco on his welder's helmet) and still hit the trails on a bicycle. But that's just my bias-- I would never work in a car or motorcycle factory because I don't really like internal combustion engine vehicles.

Perhaps a job is just a job. :)

Holy H. Crow-- do I sound like a dork or what?

Fighting for the right to drive a car

You may or may not know this, but in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive a car. Apparently it's not law, just custom.

A 24 year-old Saudi woman, Areej Khan, recently completed her MFA thesis at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Her project "We The Women" is a campaign to spur debate (and dialog) about Saudi women's right to drive a car.

Part of her project are little downloadable "speech bubbles" that women can download and print out, then write in their thoughts and post them publicly. Car windows, utility poles, etc.

Her project is getting a lot of attention. Here's a blog post on The New York Times. In it the author quotes another story by the English-language paper Arab News:
"...most women believe it is their God-given right to drive."

Let me start out by saying this: I feel that the oppression of one group by another is a blight on humanity. More to the point it's just cowardly.

I find the notion that driving an automobile is a "God given right" a bit perplexing. But that's just my perspective from the "bottomless bike culture" of Portland, Oregon. I've never felt that a driver's license was a right; it is a privilege.

I see so many ills associated with autos: traffic jams, road rage, pollution, the ruination of neighborhoods, and the current dire financial troubles of the US auto manufacturers (because people stopped buying so many cars).

It makes me feel a little sad that women in Saudi Arabia are clamoring, not just for freedom of choice, but to don the yokes of automobiles that their men have had around their necks for so long.

No no no... I'm not insinuating that women are somehow better off without the "right" to drive. I'm thinking laterally here.

Maybe the women of Saudi Arabia should look to the bicycle for liberation. After all, that's what happened here in the USA in the late 1800's.

Susan B. Anthony is credited with saying that the bicycle had "...done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

The bicycle added fuel to the "women's movement" of the late 1800's and enable women to take control of their lives in a way previously unimaginable. The effects rippled through society. Notable was the effect on women's fashions: as more and more women adopted cycling as transport (and even sport-- Here's to you, Annie Londonderry!) the impractical multilayered dresses and restrictive corsets gave way to more practical "cycling clothing" and forever changed the way women dressed.

So I'm all for women in Saudi Arabia taking control of their own lives and "driving" their own destiny.

But I wonder if there might not be a way they could just sidestep the male domination altogether and not try to wrest "rights" from men, to not play that game, but instead to take their ball and start a new game on their own-- one in which they set the rules.

Maybe the bicycle could be their vehicle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good Stuff: Bontrager Inform R saddle

At the end of last MTB season (Which, here, seems to end in May) I noticed that my trusty, relatively comfy Avocet O2 saddle was getting a bit threadbare.

Yay. Time to buy more bike stuff!

I love the OBRA email list. It's a great way to connect with other like-minded folks and there's always a ton of used good stuff circulating. This is where I found the next saddle.

I scored a Fizik Pave Sport for a paltry $30. Yay, deal. It was like new and I happily mounted it to the Thomson seatpost. Well, my mountain bike pretty much sat idle the whole winter as I spent all my time on the SS MTB.

So. A couple of weeks ago I take the MTB out for a little fun in the park-- it's the maiden voyage on the Fizik saddle. (Apparently Fizik is supposed to rhyme with "physique", but it should rhyme with "yeowww", or eventually "What the hell? I can't feel my dick!!")

Immediately the thing is beating the tar out of my ass. It really was like sitting on the end of a baseball bat. With a doily on it. The best part was that the plastic scuff guards were digging into my soft butt. So it was like sitting on the end of a baseball bat. With a doily. With nails in it.

Removing the scuff guards helped tremendously but it was still damned uncomfortable. I mean really, the saddle is so narrow that it's almost inside me.

What, are Italians really that skinny? Or do I just have a big butt?

Well, as fortune would have it, I found myself in one of the local bike shops for an unrelated matter. I discovered that they had all their saddle on sale. I had been eyeing the Specialized Body Geometry saddles for a while since I'd had pretty good luck with one on my road bike. They didn't have the width I wanted in stock and steered me to the new Bontrager inForm saddles. The sales-dude had me sit on this weird squishy bench that revealed my assal pressure points. These correlated to various widths of the saddles.

I was shocked to discover that I was right on the cusp of the widest size-- 154mm!

With tears in my eyes, I blurted out "I've got a big butt!" I turned back to the display wall and began grabbing at several very sporty racing saddles: the "Le Gouger", the "Terriblé Race RL", and the "SuperCry Narrow Sport". I vowed that I'd live with a numb penis before admitting that I had a "wide load". Visions of super-wide "health saddles" crowded out svelte racing imagery.

The helpful sales-dude reASSured me that "internal bone structure doesn't translate to exterior size". Yeah, whatever.

But I bought the 154mm wide Bontrager inForm R saddle because it was barely $60 and I needed a saddle for my first big MTB race of the season in just a few days. Plus the saddle had a 90-day return policy. Parker Lewis Can't Lose!

After mounting the saddle and taking it for a quick test ride out in the street I was amazed at how comfortable the saddle was. It was instant. Like putting on an old pair of jeans. It just fit! The only other time I've had a component fit me so quickly and so well was the OnOne Midge handlebar.

The saddle passed with flying colors just a few days later at the race. Not a single problem. No numbness, no hot spots, no chafing. Just incredible.

And the saddle doesn't look like it belongs on a cruiser or anything.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old wounds...

Click the photo for a nice close view of the awesome boots...

I was just recovering my iPhoto picture library after a recent OS meltdown when I came across this photo from 1991.

Me and a few college friends were taking advantage of the new gondola service on Silver Mountain (up in Kellog, in northern Idaho). Ride the gondola up, ride your bike down the various and sundry cat tracks and access roads and trails and stuff.

It was nice enough, I suppose. Unfortunately I don't remember much of the trip. I think this was actually on our first run down that I shredded my knee. About all I remember from the trip is my accident, trip to the hospital, and waiting around down at the base while my pals got in a few more runs. Bastards. And one of them was riding my bike! Bastards! (I think it was Eric. The chain on his bike broke. So I let him borrow my bike. Or maybe it was Doug?? Bastards!!) (Update: It was Eric. And it was the BB spindle that went kablooey, not the chain. I remember now that he spoke with a rather higher-pitched voice for the remainder of the day...)

"Hey dude, my bike's busted. Since you're not using yours, mind if I ride it?"
(Thanks for the photo, Eric!
Cycling "fashion" noted without comment.)

So my front end washed out on a very gravelly, rocky access road. I evidently hit a nice big rock with my knee. I remember doing a tuck-n-roll over one shoulder and coming to a stop sitting up. Then I saw my knee. Yipes! It looked really scary-- I wasn't sure what would happen if I tried standing up. Would my leg bones just pop out through the gaping hole in my knee? So I didn't bother standing up. I remember the rocks poking my butt as I sat there, afraid to even wiggle. (Gosh-- such a wimp! In retrospect I could have coasted the rest of the way down. But I was afraid of all that dirt and dust getting into my... leg hole!) One of our gang, Jayson, rode the rest of the way down to get his truck. Nice guy. (But he became a bastard!!! later with the rest of them as they later continued to ride without me. I didn't even score sympathy from "buff nugs" as I lounged around down at the lodge. I digress...)

So we're all sitting there, my pals very nicely hanging around and keeping me company, pretending that they didn't hate my guts for crashing and raining on their collective parade -- Hey, we all had to pay for the damned gondola ride, we're wasting daylight you clumsy jerk! -- as we wait for Jayson to return with the truck/ambulance/meat wagon.

It seemed like we were there for a loooooog time. We must have been. I remember thinking "Hey, this is an access road, wouldn't it be great if an ATV or motorcycle or jeep or limo full of buff nugs came along and rescued me from all these people who are just pretending to be my friends but I can see it in their eyes-- they want to slit my throat, throw my lifeless body in the bushes, steal my awesome bike and rad rad Axo MTB boots and keep riding. So where is Jason, anyway??"

Unbelieveably, an old coot on 4-wheeled ATV DID show up. I couldn't believe my ears! Saved! Such a nice looking chap with a kindly face and a great big comfy looking rack on the back of his large, capacious ATV. He rolled to a stop and inquired politely about my dreadful looking wound, made some small talk about remoteness of our location and how it would be the perfect sort of spot to slit someone's throat, dump their lifeless body in the bushes and make off with their bike and Axo boots. If one was that sort of person who was so inclined. Then he made some sort of encouraging noises at me, kicked his quad into gear and continued his merry way up the road. Bastard.

The rest of the wait is a blur. I can't really remember anything. After about a year, Jason roared up in his truck. Hurray! I very tenderly dragged myself into the bed of the truck and one of my "friends" thoughtfully threw my bike in after me. The ride down the mountain was a joy as me and my bike slid and rattled around the bed of the truck. With every little bump and rattle, every single sharp and poky part of my bike stuck me right in my shredded knee. Right in there!

I got into the nearest hospital ER where the doctor shot my knee up with novocaine and then disappeared for 45 minutes.

He came back in time for most of the effect of the novocaine to have worn off and began picking gravel out of my knee. Apparently I was "lucky" that nothing penetrated the connective tissue capsule surrounding the joint. (See? I was right to have freaked out just a little bit.) I refused to watch and settled for listening to the "tink, tink, tink" of bits of gravel dropping in a metal tray.

Then came the cleaning. So far so good as I couldn't yet feel too much.

However, about halfway through the suturing (Was it 11 or 14 sutures?) the novocaine had pretty much completely evaporated. Jiminy christmas did that ever hurt. The weirdest part was feeling the suturing filament sliding through my skin. Maybe by "weirdest" I mean "worst".

At one point the noise of my teeth grinding must have distracted the doctor as he paused in his work and fixed me with an annoyed glare. "Are you okay? Do you need more novocaine?"

Lying through my clenched teeth I told him "No thanks." I didn't have any kind of health insurance (I was a poor, dumb college kid at the time) so I was trying to be good and not rack up a huge bill with all sorts of needless extras.

Finally I was whole again, fitted with a brace to immobilize my knee and shoved out the door with a sampler pack of Advil.

Jayson, Travis, Eric (I don't think I've ever seen a photo with Eric where he's actually wearing a shirt), Doug, Yours Truly, Kenny, Trent (Sometimes shirts, sometimes skins.)
Kellog Hospital, 8-31-1991 Thanks to Eric for the photo.

Back to the mountain we went. While I put my grievous wound on display at the lodge patio, casting about for sympathy, my "friends" continued their rollicking good time up on the mountain. Bastards.

But who's got the awesome scar? Who ultimately scored the hot chick? I did.

But I don't have the Awesome Boots anymore.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Criminally poor kids bikes

Last Saturday I volunteered my time at a nearby middle school bike safety fair.

A bunch of people came together to help kids ride safely. It was great. The organizers had done a great job and the event ran like clockwork. The kids watched a video, got fitted for free helmets, and then could ride through an obstacle course under the watchful eyes of the Beaverton bike police.

Me, a couple of other guys and a couple of mechanics from Hillsboro REI were spinning wrenches for a few hours making sure kids' bikes were safe to ride. One of the REI guys, Erin (Aaron?) called it "bike triage" I think.

I took it a step further on one bike and performed emergency battlefield surgery. More on that later, maybe.

One thing that struck me was the astoundingly low quality of components on childrens' bikes. Truly awful stuff! It seems almost criminal that bicycles intended for children should feature such poor-quality components-- the brakes in particular.

I saw brakes that were so loose that the caliper arms would wobble back and forth an inch or more when applied; brake pads that were badly cupped and slipping under the rim (and into the spokes); disconnected brakes; and tangled, twisted, rusted, frayed cables and housing.

The fragility of bicycles was readily apparent. They aren't bullet-proof or maintenance free, yet none of the bikes I saw couldn't have seen more than a squirt of WD-40 in the past few years. To be clear, I'm not criticizing the children or their parents for just simply using the bikes. It just seems like the bikes that are destined to receive the least maintenance are the ones that actually need more care due to their lower-quality components.

I worked on a few bikes that were downright dangerous to ride on. One in particular: the right-side pedal had worked itself loose and destroyed half of the threads. The thing was only held in place by one or two threads and a lot of rust. I don't know what it would have taken to break that tenuous bond. Maybe coming down off of a curb? Hopping on the bike? Maybe just some random pedal stroke?

I kept wondering to myself if the collective genius of the bicycle industry couldn't come up with a few simple components that would be durable, reliable, and very low maintenance. I suppose the real problem would be cost-- anything that would meet those criteria would likely add significantly to the cost of the bike. Plus it seems that most childrens' bikes are "disposable" because by the time they DO fail or become unridable the child has already out-grown it and is ready fo the next size up. I guess this is what Wal-Mart is for.

But this brings me back to something that I feel pretty strongly about:
That a bike that is safe and reliable and that functions properly is more fun to ride and thus the child will be more likely to KEEP riding. When a bike doesn't function properly and, as a result, is difficult to ride, I could see the child becoming disenchanted and opting to have mom or dad ferry them around in the car. At the very lease they lose an avenue for healthy exploration and transportation. (I remember my first bike as a child-- what a sense of freedom! It was like I had been given wings.)

Anyway... I overheard that about 400 kids when through in just a few hours. We breathed new life in to lots and lots of bikes that needed a little TLC and I hope that we helped to keep the kids enjoying their bikes and the freedom of riding. I also hope that we gave them a favorable impression of "bike people".

Ride on, kids.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Trials Unicorn chaser...

This is something of a"unicorn chaser" to counter all the doom and gloom of the previous Cannondale posts. Plus, as I was reminded, I know nuzzink, nuzzink! Of business management and it just rends the souls of the...

Oh forget it.

Watch this. It's just amazing. I mean it doesn't even seem real that a human being on a bicycle could do that stuff! It's like magic or something. I would like to have just a tiny fraction of the balance and handling skills (and brass monkeys) of the rider, Danny MacAskill.

Good grief. I can't bunny hop without clipless pedals. The times I've tried it on platform pedals I've almost neutered myself-- oof.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Poor Dorel- "Pained" to cut the soul out of Cannondale

The story just keeps getting better and better.

Mind you, this is not a story about "American jobs" being sent overseas. This is a story about a megacorporation clueless about how to take care of the shiny new toy they just bought. Why not about jobs? Well, I'm a graphic designer by trade with a focus on brand identity. I also like bikes. I have several Cannondale bikes. So this particular "story" is like the perfect storm for me. It's also a bummer.

Another thing: I happen to think that Taiwan hosts some of the best frame builders in the world. So does Portland, Oregon. :)

Anyway-- more claptrap from Dorel (actually the following statement was from the president of Cannondale Sports Group. However-- what other "sports" are there in Cannondale? Cycling, of course.But what else? Curling? Cricket? Polo?). The emphasis is mine:

Dorel Industries executives say it pained them to end U.S. production of Cannondale bicycles, but said the cost of domestic production made the decision "crystal clear" from an economic perspective.


"It was painful to make the decision we took today; the people in Bedford are the soul of Cannondale," Jeff McGuane, president of Cannondale Sports Group's North American division, told VeloNews Thursday. "We've got a bright future for Bedford, for the team that's remaining and hopefully will expand in the future; but right now the economics around frame construction are just crystal clear."

Read the full story here:

The economics might be crystal freakin' clear, but you don't cut the "soul" out of a brand and hope to retain anything. You have no brand. Nothing. A name is all that's left.

I'm going to quote Seth Godin directly here because he puts it so well:

What's a brand?

I think it is the product of two things:

[Prediction of what to expect] times [emotional power of that expectation].

If I encounter a brand and I don't know what it means or does, it has zero power. If I have an expectation of what an organization will do for me, but I don't care about that, no power.

Go read the full text of the article here:

Beginning in 2011 what will "Cannondale" mean? It will be just another name on a line of bikes produced by bike manufacturing juggernaut, Taiwan. It will be like "Scattante" or "Tirenno" or whatever.

"Feel it"?

Zero power. Zero resonance.

Since Cannondale no longer has the "soul" that it once had, since it's just another brand from Dorel, purveyor of all that is bland and boring and "me too" I don't care about it.

Zero power.

So Cannondale is a big nothing right now. Is that what the suits at Dorel want? To start over, fresh and new, to re-invent the Cannondale brand?

I had posted the last entry regarding Dorel's decision to gut Cannondale on the OBRA email list. Someone recently responded that they thought is was no big deal since we live in Portland, Oregon-- the nation hotbed of custom/inependent/small bike fabricators -- and that it would be much better to "buy local".

Sure-- I understand that. Unfortunately that's a bit besides the point. Furthermore I really can't afford to buy a sweet sweet super-custom steel frame from a local builder, no matter how much I'd want to.

My point is that Dorel are a bunch of idiots focused on the bottom line-- not what's important. Marketing isn't about making a fast buck anymore. (It shouldn't ever be, in my opinion.) It's about relationships. People will buy because they believe and care about the company, how it does things, what it stands for. Not because it has the lowest price-- that's just unsustainable.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Farewell Cannondale. So long and thanks for all the rides...

Dorel is busy consolidating its bike biz into "centres of excellence" and will be moving 100 percent of Cannondale's manufacturing oversease to its Taichung, Taiwan facility.

I can't say that I'm really surprised. I was waiting for this bomb to drop ever since Dorel bought up Cannondale. (C'mon, Dorel?! Don't they make training wheels or handlebar streamers or somthing??) To me, when that happened, Cannondale's brand value went into the toilet.

Now it's been completely flushed and is rapidly degrading in the septic tank.

I bought three Cannondale bikes BECAUSE of how they were made. I bought into the story of Cannondale. I loved (still love) my bikes for that. Some years ago Bicycling magazine published a story about Cannondale and we got to see the folks that built, sanded, painted and assembled the bikes. That article reaffirmed my love of Cannondale and their bikes.


Dorel -- I don't care how much money they make every year -- has absolutely NO IDEA how to deal with brand equity. Yeah, Cannondale really shot itself in the foot by making motorcycles under the Cannondale flag and paid dearly for that. I mean that was pretty much the beginning of the end for Cannondale -- a serious blow -- but it didn't change the way they made their bikes.

Goodbye Cannondale. It's been a fun ride.

Go read the full story here:

Support my local bike shop? Maybe.

Here's another rant triggered by a post to the OBRA email list.

The owner of a big Portland bike shop sent in a letter to OBRA members urging the support of local bike shops (and other sponsors) in these tough economic times, because the local bike shops (and sponsors) have been supporting OBRA members and activities (races) for so long.

Here's the message:

Open letter to OBRA members

Having just passed our 14-year anniversary, I have spent some time reflecting on River City Bicycle's position in Portland and the biking community. I'd like to thank all of you for the support that you've shown River City over the last fourteen years. While we are proud of what we've done so far, we would not have been able to give back to the community in the many ways we have if we did not have the support back from the bike community.

One of the things I am proud of is the long-term relationship we have maintained with many biking organizations around Portland. Many of these we started at the early beginnings of the store such as Team Rose City, John Benenati's B.I.K.E. Cyclisme' program, and Emerald Velo, and have since expanded to the Vancouver Specialized/River City team, Sorella Forte', the River City shop team, Hammer Velo, and Rapha Racing. We have also maintained long-term sponsorship with some great OBRA events, the Mt. Tabor race series, Tuesday Night PIR (and now Monday Night), Oregon Mountain Bike race series, Alpenrose track series, and the River City Cross Crusade Cyclocross Series. There are probably some others I'm forgetting at the moment. The total costs of these programs to River City exceed $50,000 annually.

Racing sponsorship is a very tricky proposition for businesses. This should be obvious to any fan of the sport, considering the revolving door of trade teams that come and go at every level. From my perspective, it can be a very difficult expense to justify at times, particularly if one just looks at the numbers or at the direct return on investment. But for River City, what we count on most to justify our continued support of racing sponsorship is the fact that each and every one of you is considered to be the expert on bikes to all of your friends and acquaintances, and that you will suggest to them that River City is, indeed, a good bike shop, and worthy of their business, whether or not we support your specific team or event. We do our best to live up to the recommendations that we get from our good customers, and are constantly improving what we do and how we do it. We have a very high caliber of staff here, true bike shop professionals who take their jobs as seriously as you take yours. As the bike industry gets more technical and complex every year, we are able to maintain a high quality of staff for many years, some almost from our inception. This should be considered an asset to the biking community, as I'm sure most, if not all of you, have had bike problems that have had to be fixed by an expert.

To conclude, I would like to thank you for continuing to support not only River City Bicycles, but also all of the sponsors of Oregon bicycle racing. This is a difficult business environment for everyone and we all need to recognize who we count on for support. So when you are thinking about that next bike related purchase please consider that the internet company or national chain that may offer a perceived lower price is doing so without the service or contribution to OBRA and our local biking community that we all benefit from and enjoy. We all vote with our wallets, and we all decide what is important to us in the long run.

To the road,,

David Guettler

He raises some very good -- and important -- points. However, it is the last bit that bugs me-- choose your LBS over the cheapo internet retailers.

I do support local bike shops and sponsors. I send emails to sponsors thanking them for their support (and free food or whatever). I also BUY their product (if it's good and I can use it.) I shop at every bike shop within range-- I have three that are close to me. I also shop on-line. One thing that I take issue with, however, is the discrepancy in the level of service between a physical shop and an on-line shop.

At just about every physical shop I've patronized, I've had various and sundry problems (overcharged, poorly performed repairs, salespeople who try to sell me something that I do NOT want). Who hasn't, I suppose. The real difference between buying from Mom & Pop Bikes and is in how they handle those problems. Without fail, the online stores have gone out of their way to help me out or fix the problem. At Mom & Pop's the best I've gotten is a grudging accommodation. I've been made to feel like I'm imposing on their time.

It doesn't matter if a local bike shop will "be there" after the sale when an on-line store cannot, if that physical presence just doesn't seem to care or has an elitist attitude.

Maybe this is why Joe Q. Public stays away from bike shops and instead picks up their ride at Wal-Mart or similar. Going to a bike shop is sometimes too much like going to an auto dealership.

The local bike shops have to capitalize on their advantages over a remote on-line retailer. They have to fulfill their promises every day-- without fail. It's not enough to beg and plead and try to get customers to come in simply because your business is "local".

Cyclists are dangerous road hogs...

Here in soggy Portland there's much ado over motorized vehicles and bikes sharing the road.

On the local OBRA email list there's been some hand-wringing lately over how our actions on the road affect motorists' perceptions of cyclists.

I got all fired up and drafted a reply to a recent post. After I was done writing, the need to reply to the email list had subsided-- and I would have probably just pissed off a lot of folks anyway. I think I'll post it here instead. This is my journal. So there.

Here's the post that inspired me to finally respond:

I've thought a lot in the last few years about the 'reputation' cyclists
have, and are getting in this town. As a poor excuse for a bike commuter
I've felt all ranges of self righteousness anywhere from being sick of
getting cut off and solving that by holstering a 45 on my left hip with the
back of my jersey being silkscreen with "I carry a Gun, Here (arrow)", to
just being hyper sensitive and slowing down everywhere expecting everyone to
come out in front of me, cut me off, and change lanes into me all the time.
And then this happened.
Meditating at a full spin northbound from se Stark on the 205 bikelane
crossing the Market intersection. Decide that the little stop sign means
rolling through at 20 since my limited periphery shows no vehicles. Shows
no vehicles including the mother in the bronze ford contour coming from my
left and the Old chevy converging on my right. My reaction time was great,
but didn't due much since my hands were not on the hoods or in the drops.
Her reaction time was great too. At try two of breaking, I was already in
the street seeing how my front wheel was going to be connecting with the
front corner of the contour right in front of my fork and that that was
going to catapult me over her hood, into her windshield, and over her roof.
Somehow, this didn't happen.
My judgment was correct though, my bike and her car did infact stop in a
wonderful spooning position. Her bumper corner, and the crux of my fork and
wheel. But unlike spooning, the gaze at which the driver gave me was much
less than loving. Probably due to the fact that like me, she slammed as
hard on her brakes as possible, but unlike me, her 9 month old toddler was
in the back car seat just trying to hold its head upright. Feeling like a
moron is an understatement.
I backed up so I could let her by, apologizing profusely and unable to get
my shaking legs to clip back in anyway. After she passed, then the chevy
rightfully added insult to lack of injury by saying, when I motioned him on,
"You're already in the middle of the road, I'll wait."
Shaking legs and the taste of my breakfast in my mouth, meditation
shattered, I clip in and peddle along.

I did not give bicyclists a good name that day, accident or not. It's our
responsibility as cyclists to ride lawfully, and safely, for ourselves and

I liked the bit about packing heat. I've certainly felt that militant after some jerk seems to go out of his way to threaten me with his car.

Anyway. Here's my response.

I understand the feeling that we (cyclists) have to prove ourselves on the roads. Bicycles don't own the roads, cars do. That we have to be better, cleaner, and smarter than motorists.

However, it seems that many of you, while you're busy falling on your own swords, are missing the fact that motorists already have a bad reputation. Motorists break the traffic laws everyday either through accident, ignorance, or disdain. They receive the same verbal abuse from others in cars.

By all means, please ride safely and pay attention. Slow down and yield. But don't beat yourselves up because you made a mistake. Motorists make mistakes all the time and the cost and consequences are far far greater.

You only give cyclists a bad rap when you really do ride like a jerk and behave erratically and unpredictably in traffic and display a disregard for other users on the road.

Hm. maybe I will send this to the email list...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Press Release

April 1, 2009
Portland, Oregon

For Immediate Release

Formerly an unattached Privateer, Brian Johnson, who races both off-road and cyclocross, has decided that 2009 "will be the season of more cookies!"

"Over the past couple few seasons I've come to the realization that there aren't enough cookies on my training table and in my jersey pockets. While some folks might think that cookies can be found just about anywhere, this is not true-- especially of gluten-free cookies. Their additional cost and relative scarcity make including them in a training regimen, in any meaningful way, quite difficult. I plan to change that for 2009. To quote that blue furry guy 'Me want cookie!'"

Mr. Johnson has been seriously involved in "middle-of-the-pack" racing since 2006, and will be placing a greater emphasis on mountain bike events for the 2009 season.

"I know that some might look at my results and ask 'Where's the top 30 placing? Are you even in this list... Oh-- here you are. Down here.' but I like to think that I'm doing more that just going 'round and 'round in circles. I'm trying to focus on my message of inclusion... and cookies. You CAN eat your cookies AND have your race, too!"

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surprise! MTB racing is here!

And by "here" I mean close to home, races that don't require an entire day or overnight stay. (I'm such a homebody/family man.)

I don't know why this surprised me-- the "Horning's Hustle" MTB circuit race is this weekend and I'm not really prepared mentally. I was also off the bike for most of the last two weeks-- a one-two punch from work and personal life. Fortunately my bike's ready to go. There's that at least. And it's really raring to go. I've been on the road so long... I can't wait to hit the trails.

But I've put a different stem and saddle on it and haven't been out on them yet. It's looking like this race will be the first time. No drastic changes, though, so I should be okay. I dunno-- if the saddle kills my ass I guess it's better that this is a relatively short circuit race instead of a much longer XC race.

Wait-- I do need to rebuild the pedals (Crank Bros. Candy Cs). I'll have to double check those-- maybe they've got one race left in them.

The next race is towards the end of April-- the Bear Springs Trap XC race. That was an awesome one last year. There may still be snow up there at race time. We'll see.

A different sort of place, a different sort of bike commuter...

We spent last week in sunny SoCal in that happiest of places-- Disneyland.

We stayed in a hotel a few blocks from the park gates and had a rental car. I had the need to visit the local grocery store a couple of times and so go to see how the locals did things.

I was heartened to see plenty of adults riding on bikes. At least I figured it was "plenty" considering that I was in Southern California and all roads seem to be what we would consider "highways". I did note some interesting differences between the riders there and what I'm used to seeing around here in the Stumptown area.

Not a fixie to be seen (Not entirely true--I did see ONE as we were leaving Disneyland one afternoon) and every bike I saw was on the department-store variety. All the riders were in jeans and long-sleeved shirts and none appeared to be riding for "fun".

This reminded me of an article in Bicycling magazine a few years ago. I think it was titled "Hidden Riders" or something similar and was about folks (mostly immigrants) in L.A. who rode their bikes -- depended heavily on their bikes, in fact -- strictly as transportation. The notion of a bicycle over US$500 was the wildest of fictions.

Anyway, I don't really have a point to this. It was just interesting to see so many bikes being used as transportation instead of status symbols, toys, or hipster fixations. (Pun intended.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dropping 20 bucks to ride around in circles...

Part of the reason why I enter races, despite being far from awesome, is that a race presents an opportunity to push myself harder than I ever would during a recreational ride. Even if I'm doing intervals ("fartleks").

A race tests me like I cannot test myself. Sure, on some sunny Sunday afternoon in the park I might be able to run barriers and feel like a juiced Belgian pro doing it, but on a cold and soggy Sunday morning, in with scores of other racers, screaming spectators and clanging bells? Yeah-- I can only BUY that. Can't simulate it.

Anyway-- I finally fixed the flat on my road bike and took it out instead of my SS. Wow. After three months off it felt... weird. Different. "Whippy."

I also caught myself just noodling along at one point, taking advantage of all those gears. (Well, the bike is only a 7-speed. Don't laugh, it's a 1994 Cannondale.)

I keep thinking that all the time I spend on the bike (Which I love.) must be doing me some good, right? Maybe not, if I'm slackin'.

I read a good training article ("Finding the Time") by Jason Sumner over on VeloNews. It's got some good advice about the difference in quality versus quantity in relation to busy and changing schedules (you know-- life is what happens when you're busy making your kick-ass training plan.)

"...the key is finding that critical balance between high intensity and adequate rest. Better to crush yourself a couple times a week, and then have several short truly easy days, than to noodle around whenever you can and rarely take time off."
Noodling around whenever I can is a lot of fun. I love riding the bike. But if I want to kick just a little ass this summer and especially this fall I need to stay focused. I want to kick just a couple of asses, that's all. A few maybe. About a dozen or so. I don't need to squeeze all the fun out of noodling around, but maybe not so much with the noodling.

Another good idea presented by the coach in the article is this:

“Try practicing some strategies,” suggested Coach. “Plan a scenario where one teammate is the attacker and another set ups to counter if the move keeps getting brought back. Doing things like that is great way to have a purpose for a training race instead of just dropping 20 bucks and riding around in the pack.”
Of course! It's fun to race, but I should also take those opportunities to look around. Practice some tactics. For instance in CX (or any short-course, multi-lap race) I need to accelerate out of corners rather than just sitting on my duff and mashing the pedals. Watch the good guys and the lines they take. Chase the guys that pass me. Dice with them. Work on my form through the barriers. (Like Tonkin teaches-- run through the barriers, don't jump over them.) Every race is an opportunity to learn and improve, not just go round and round.

Although the last sentence provides me with a great out: "Yeah.. that was just a training race for me."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lance Armstrong shares tubeless sealant removal technique

A few weeks ago I bought a couple pair of ("New To Me!") tires. Two of those tires have old dried-up tubeless sealant on the insides. I posted a question to the OBRA email list looking for a quick-n-easy way of removing the stuff.

A tacky film of tubeless sealant-- likely Stan's

I had hopes of receiving a reply that entailed the use of a squirt of Oxi-Clean and a quick swipe of a ShamWow leaving me with like-new looking tires.

Not so. I got a couple of useful suggestions, but those sounded too much like work.

Undaunted I ran my problem by the email list again. I added in a smidge of sarcasm hoping that this would spur cooperation from my fellow OBRA-listers. This time I received what I assume was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to invoke the name of the "Lance Armstrong". I thought that I would go one better and seek out the legend's wisdom directly. (Thanks to Rick Johnson, fellow OBRA-ite for the suggestion.)

I appealed to Lance, showing him the above photo of the tacky, elastic membrane.

Lance's unsurprising reaction to the residue of sealant.

After some thought, he came back with this advice: Use your thumbs. (Actually, what he said was "Make your mechanic use his thumbs to get that gross stuff off." I told Lance that I don't have a mechanic, that I was my own mechanic, to which he replied, "I didn't understand a word you just said.") So off I go working working working at rubbing off the cursed rubbery crap with my thumbs. And you know what? It wasn't that hard and it was very effective. No mess. However, this is was my reward for about five minutes of work:

I felt a bit like Brett in Alien when he discovered the xenomorph's molting. Ick.

Nice-- a little stretchy wrinkly bit of junk that looked like something one of those creepy Giger Aliens might leave behind after vigorous dermabrasion at the day-spa. My thumbs were a little crampy, too.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to leave one of my moltings laying around like that. Here, let me take care of that for you."

Anyway, squicky artifacts aside, the technique was relatively quick and easy to do. Well, maybe a little labor-intensive and kinda hard on the thumbs. Well, here's what the tire looked like after about five minutes:

So we've got "after" on the left and "before" on the right.

I showed the results of my work to Lance. He made a show of being pleased with my progress and patted me on the head. He then asked if I thought I would be able to match his power output of 600 watts while removing the rest of the residue. I asked him about Mr. LeMond's persistent questions about doping... to which Lance responded by hurling my Poprad under the wheels of his black and yellow Hummer and driving over it repeatedly until it was unrecognizable.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Timbuk2-- Seriously Awesome

I recently bought a bag directly from Timbuk2. The whole experience was fantastic. The order confirmation email was fun to read (Yeah-- I actually read these things and they're typically very dry and to-the-point.)

The coolest part? The bag itself was good -- typical Timbuk2 Awesomeness -- but the bag it was delivered in was sheer genius. The tough plastic bag was also a MAP. Of downtown San Francisco.

Click the photo to see a larger image.

No-- I don't live there nor will I visit anytime soon, but as a graphic designer involved in marketing and branding I just totally flipped my lid over this. I've never ever seen such bitchen packaging.

Apple's packaging is also cool-- but after playing with it for a couple of minutes and admiring the lustre of the material and the spare graphics it's off to the recycle bin and/or trash.

But the Timbuk2 shipping bag? Inspired.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Still going...

Yesterday was awesome. Another day to lift my spirits-- another message that spring's on the way.

Today is a bit more gloomy and cloudy.

But I'm still riding. I think I'm riding more than I ever have. (Well, it's only 12 miles during my lunchtime that I'm squeezing in, but still...) It's nice because I generally feel better and less irritable. The downside is that if I miss more than a day I get all grouchy and crabby.

My ss is just filthy and there's not much point in washing it. I just go after the dried road grime with a toothbrush.

I hope that this pays off later this year...

Monday, February 23, 2009


Went out for a quick lunchtime ride.

Quite rainy. I was glad of my "waterproof/breathable" jacket.

However, back at home, as I shook the rain off it I discovered that it was also very wet inside.

It just seems that anything more waterproof than a wind-block is pointless. If you get just as wet on the inside from perspiration as on the outside from rain-- what's the point?

Still, it was good to be outside. It's so good to ride the bike with the pavement rolling by underneath my wheels, the wind and rain in my face.

The UCI vows to act all pig-headed and bitchy

Sometimes I wonder about these UCI folks. I can just imagine them all sniggering behind their hands as the fiddle the rules again to mess with the racers' heads.

"No this one goes here that one goes there!"

VeloNews story: UCI prez plans to "clarify" existing rules.

I remember a long time ago that they forced Cannondale to make a batch of team bikes with narrow-diameter frame tubes, because the large-diameter tubes were "against" UCI rules regarding frame materials. The delicious irony of it all was that the rule, intended to ensure that "skunk-works" technology didn't give a team or rider and unfair advantage by making teams use "off-the-shelf" equipment (something mere mortals could buy at retail, in theory), had the exact opposite effect.

Cannondale was forced to make bike frames that were not (and never would be) available to normal folks because Cannondale was invested in making large-diameter thin-wall tubing.

A steal of a deal-- only USD$2000!

I was alerted to this scorching hott deal by a post from Will on the OBRA email list.

I'm not posting the actual Craigslist link, because this deal is just too smorkin' to last long.

Yea. That's an MGX "mountain" bike in the photo. Available at finer Target stores. Or is it Wal-Mart?

USD$129.00 and it rolls home with you. So that's $1,871.00 in tools 'n' stuff. At full retail I suppose. Unless the seller failed to mention the fact that the contents of the garage (drill press, metal lathe, welding jig, complete Super Ultra Park Tool Pro set of tools) was also included in the generous price.

But that bike is a pretty honch set-up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sun is more than a big ball of burning gases...

...It's a big fat happy pill.

Yeah, we've had a few sunny days already. But this was a special day of sun. It was in the high 50's (F) and, well, it was just so nice out. I could tell that spring was actually getting close. The sense of urgency about making sure all the bikes are ready began building in me.

I went out for a quick ride this afternoon on the cyclocross bike (the Poprad) and it felt so sporty and kick-up-the-heels-y after a couple of months of nothing but singlespeed. It was like a new bike.

I had to stop and take my wind vest off. That's nice out.

Spring is definitely on the way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Still sick?!?

I'm beginning to fear a sinus infection.

It's been a loooong time since that scumbag has bothered me, so maybe I'm paying some karmic dues?

Basically I've had a few days of pathogenic plateau. Loads and loads of green goo come out of my head. Twice daily nasal/sinu irrigation seem to provide only temporary relief and have no long-term impact on my sinuses gross domestic product.

So screw this, I guess I'm going riding. (Later, of course.) My head can just deal... the rest of me seems fine. And wanting some time on the bike.