Thursday, December 31, 2009

What 'N Tarnation Happened Tonight?

John's weekly bike hang was going all good, I thought. Until the checks came and suddenly everyone at our table went for their REI credit cards like cowboys drawing their pistols.

You've heard of the Stepford Housewives. Meet the REI Automatons:

They totally went off . . . espousing the benefits of membership, and spewing the terms and conditions of their agreements. I need to reiterate that this came out of f'ing nowhere.

Patty and I, ummm, "needed to get going". Creeped us the hell out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't Get Any On You

I'm in a major funk. It's the holiday season and I should be all glorious, but it's gotten out of my control. Don't know why, but I just feel like a piece of burnt toast.

Apparently, when you are in this mood, you retreat to your shop and measure shit.

I wrote down what I measured, which is even sadder. I don't know exactly what I am measuring or why. I think I just want spring to come. Last winter was good for about the next five years.

Sorry to drag you down. Well, actually, I'm not. If I'm going, I'd rather take you with me. I didn't start this blog as some kind of charity event.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Battling The Elements

I'm pretty okay with pulling on my long johns and peddling happily through this arctic bullcrap. Whatever, your body pedals and generates heat and you sweat to death while your toes and fingers and face freeze and fall off. It's not as bad as it sounds.

But this winter I have racks to build and I need to stand in one place on a slab of frozen concrete and it's different than the riding thing because there's no movement, and I am NOT happy. It's colder than balls out in my shop and 30+ outside is fine, but when it gets into the low 20's and upper teens, well that's just beyond stupid.

The dumb little heater I have is like peeing into a lake. No way you're gonna raise the level even one fraction of an inch. 23,000 pathetic Btu's in a sea of cold.

So somehow, Patty took pity on me and let me drop a coupla hundred bucks on a mighty new 70,000 Btu heater (probably because I let her buy that goofy fake Christmas tree) that will will keep me toasty warm despite the fact that it uses up oxygen and generates carbon monoxide like a mother, all in a closed space. I've been pretty hard on my brain cells and don't have a lot to spare, but even so, oxygen deprivation and inhalation of poisonous gas seem like a small price to pay for staying warm.

The directions said to break it in outdoors, so I did. It roars, figuratively and literally, and I can only imagine how impressed my neighbors must be.

As part of the stay-warm package, I also picked up a digital indoor-outdoor thermometer to gauge my happiness. Finding something this basic was not an easy task, since the whole thermometer industry has gone to a multiple-transmitter system that is driven off the internet and atomic clocks or something, and is designed to give you the temperature in every micro-climate that you might possibly be visiting, along with trends and historical lows and highs, and requires about 4 dozen double-A batteries and an instruction manual that looks like a phone book. Krap, I just wanted to know the temperature in my shop. Sometimes I just picture some Chinese designers sitting around, going all crazy with new features for some very basic device (you've seen the talking bottle openers??) and laughing their asses off, because they know that whatever kind of crazy shit they can dream up, a bunch of dumbass Americans will buy. But I've gotten way off track here.

Anyway, the top part is the outdoor temp and the bottom part is the indoor temp and you can see the dramatic difference after running my new badass heater for about 45 minutes. (Just ignore the number in the middle, which were put there by Chinese designers to stimulate wide-eyed, gee-whiz Americans.)

Just so you don't get the idea I don't care about my own well-being, these are the dampers at ceiling and floor level that let the air in/out so I can get the O-2 that my highly-evolved brain craves. I'm still fine-tuning the whole how-much-is-enough thing.

Sure is good to be warm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Worst Winter Cycling Gloves Ever

The "experimental phase". For many, it involves a late night college study session, too much caffeine, and a member of the opposite sex. For other, it's spring break at Ft Lauderdale, too much alcohol, a member of the same sex, and a sleezy millionaire with a video camera.

After all these year of dreaming and waiting, my experimental phase finally happened last winter, and it would put you right to sleep. It was all about winter cycling gloves, and I went a little crazy. There are no emotional scars, but here's the material aftermath:

They say that the human mind can't remember pain over time. So apparently, that's why I forgot how much I hated my Planet Bike Borealis gloves last year. And it might explain why I thought it was such a great idea to go ride with them tonight.

The Planet Bike Superflash blinkie is the bomb. It makes me want to love all things PB. But tonight I hate those damn gloves worse than ever and the switch on my PB 1W headlight quit working, so I had to take the batteries out to shut it off. But their marketing rules, so I'll probably keep buying their krap.

Anyway, I want these gloves gone. They cost me $35 + shipping. First person that puts ten bucks in my pocket walks away with a fabulous pair of slightly used gloves and an opportunity to prove that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

Or, they'd make an excellent Christmas present for someone you don't like.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I've Never Been Happier

Holy krap, I just now realized what I just said. I would like to append the following statement: "EXCEPT FOR MY WEDDING DAY, OF COURSE".

Maybe you thought I was stupid enough to fall into a trap I had set for my own self. Okay, not "maybe", "probably".

Think again.

I know I beat you down pretty bad while we were building our first rack. I can see why you would be pissed and might want to take this opportunity to extract a certain amount of revenge.

Just keep in mind that I was super-stressed. I hope you can see your way clear to giving me a pass. But on the off chance that you are seeing nothing but red, let me remind you that I have the power to delete all comments. If you have something to say, maybe you should start your own damn blog.

So anyway, back to what I wanted to talk about in the first place.

Tonight, I finished closing up the ceiling of the shop.

This is huge. It means that I can contain a small amount of the heat that I generate which means that the inside of the shop will be slightly warmer than the outside. Everyone with their snide comments over the last coupla weeks about how it feels colder inside than outside can kiss my ass.

At long last, I don't have to quit working at night because I can't feel my fingers and I understand that this whole post may seem way not-bikey, but fabulous exciting bikey shit will constantly now be happening and I hope for your sake that you can let byegones be byegones and get on the right side of this whole deal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hang Report

John got this idea about doing a once-a-week winter bike hang. Then he implemented the thought. Or maybe it was Nate's idea, I'm not sure. Whatever. Nobody knew what to think at first, but now these hangs are low-quantity, super-high-quality events that are not to be missed. I've been out of town for the last couple and was really looking forward to this week's edition. I was not even a little disappointed.

Wade brought show-and-tell. This is the righteous trucker-biker-mudflap-blingy-shiny decal. You're looking at V2. The V1 boobs were too small and if you're gonna do something, you might as well do it right, even if it involves re-work. So says Wade.

That's Glen on the left. Wade is illuminating himself from above. Stephanie and Nate are getting into position. John had already bailed.

That's Glen on the left. Wade is illuminating himself from below. Stephanie and Nate are in top form. John had already bailed.

Somewhere along the way, Wade hatched a plan for a summertime Sunday morning ride that's all about getting to a ballfield and playing a game of kickball. We would have to tote beverages and BBQ. And of course, the ball. Brilliant. I'm in. If you believe that necessity is the the mother of invention, you are sorely mistaken. It's obviously beer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dear Santa,

This year I would like:

(1) ea Victor® J-28 Torch Handle #0382-0127, (1) ea of either a Victor® 1-W-J Light Duty Welding Nozzle #0387-0041 (Clamshell) or #0325-0084 (Box), along with (1) ea Smith #14779-4-10 Kevlar Brazing Twin Hose (A & B Fitting).

I've been pretty damn good.

So I don't see a problem, but it's not my call. I really need this stuff, so if you could let me know one way or the other, that would be great. I have some projects in the hopper so I need to get this stuff ordered if you're not gonna come through for me.

But if there's any way you could swing it, then I could save that cash for other stuff . . . we're out of heating oil and we've had to burn newspapers to stay warm and grandma's medicine is sooo expensive and the holes in the soles of my shoes keep filling up with snow whenever I shovel Mrs. Olsen's sidewalk for her. Brrrr!

If you're kind of on the fence or maybe you've done some fact-checking and your and my idea of good are a ways apart, we could talk about some custom rack work for the sleigh, to sweeten the deal.

Anyway, safe travels and I'll leave a light on for you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You Damn Bastards

I had to leave town for a while. When I bailed, it was cold, but not all crazy ridiculous. Your hands might get a little cold, but you could still get shit done.

And then I return to Spoberia. I don't know how to sugar-coat this, and besides, we've always been brutally honest with each other: I LEFT YOU GUYS IN CHARGE! How could you let this happen???

Just look at what I found on my workbench . . .

When I left it was a perfectly useful bottle of drinking water. And now, ummm, that's the liquid part on top and air on the bottom. In other words, it don't flo no mo'. It would make a bitchin' bowling pin.


I have bike stuff to do . . . how am I supposed to work in this environment?

The ceiling in the shop never exactly got finished, so I can't hold any heat in.

Doctor Phil would advise me to take responsibility for my own inaction and stop blaming you, but I'm not ready for this kind of personal growth.

I had to stop and pick up six sheets of OSB to plug the hole in my little sky. I froze my ass off in the parking lot and I froze it off again when I unloaded it at home.

I'm sending you the bill.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap-Up

All my outlaws came to town this weekend. A river of beer got drank. It was hard, but I fought through the chaos and got some minor bikey stuff done. You have to just do what you can and be glad with that, which I am.

So here's my lame story and prepare to get your ass bored to death . . .

Deal is, I'm not at all happy with the first go at the black reflective tape. OCD gets such a bad rap, but it's responsible for making our world a little better, I think.

The first shot was so pin-stripey and didn't throw much light. Not havin' that.

Not even sure if you can tell the difference but after a thousand hours of re-do, I am so much happier. I've always wanted to be the best at something and now I am: Pinstripe removal.

So the other thing is, I put studs on the Xtracycle and that actually took a long time, 'cause I also had to dink around with putting fenders on, and all that.

But so anyway, two bikes are now shod, which pretty much guarantees a mild winter. Now you know who to thank.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Requisite 09 Studded Tire Post

(... gotta write about studs once a year, per the northern bike blogger code of ethics . . .)

I've been denying it as long as possible. But the view out the window this morning made it pretty clear that winter has arrived. Krap. I'm still burnt out from all the shovelling last year. But let's not dwell.

On the bright side and just in time, my new studded tires arrived this past week.

They're Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700 x 40's and I know exactly what you're thinking: "Pat, how many damn pairs of studded tires do you need?"

Well, just one more, apparently.

Here's the rundown on the studded tires I've collected since I moved back to Spokane 9 years ago and the twisted thinking that led me to buy another set.

The set at the bottom is my first pair, purchased in the winter of 2000/2001. They're Nokian Mount & Ground, 26 x 1.9 (160 studs per tire), that I bought from Peter White Cycles and they're a pretty decent all-around, do-a-little-of-everthing tire. Peter White's kind of grumpy, but his studded tire page was really helpful in sorting out what to buy and I figured I owed him my business. Plus, back then, studded tires were quite a bit harder to find.

Second from the bottom is a set of Kenda Klondike Wide 26 x 2.1 (252 studs).

I picked these up a coula years back at North Division Bicycle, 'cause I wanted something that was a little gnarlier to put on my mountain bike. They are quite a bit wider than the Mount & Grounds, so you can run a little lower pressure and float over the loose stuff more better. But that also makes them more slower.

Second from the top is a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 (as in 106 studs) 700 x 35. Peter White again (I think). I got these as an all-around tire for my cyclocross bike. They're probably my go-farthest set and I've done some pretty long rides on 'em. They do well, but the drag is higher than you'd think. Not really a problem running around town, but it can really wear you down on a long ride.

On top is a set of Nokian Extreme 294's (yep, 294 studs per tire), 29 x 2.1. These mothers are the baddest studded tire out there. I rode up a damn wall of ice last year on these things. I would swear I was lying to myself except that there were witnesses. When you drop the pressure down to 20 psi or so, you can float over really junky stuff and you have so many studs in your contact patch that the grip is just obscene. Downside is that you will work your ass off pushing these things around. They are heavy and there's lotsa drag. But if you don't mind going a little slower, they're the ultimate grippers.

Now. About the new ones. Last winter I made it my goal to ride consistently all through the winter. Mission accomplished. But little of it was commuting. My round trip is 34 miles and the roads on the work end are pretty winter bike un-friendly. This year, my goal is to see if I can commute through the winter, even if it's just one day a week.

To do that, I gotta be able to roll good. And the pundits say it's gonna be a warmer drier winter, which to me means less of the deep stuff and more black ice. So I think the tire for the job is the Schwalbe. Purchased from Peter White, for the same reasons. There are no studs in the center, so you can pump it up and roll there with minimal stud contact, or if you need to, you can let some air out and get some studs down on the ground. I'm hoping the inverted tread pattern lets it roll with a little less drag. Plus it has reflective sidewall, which I have come to really dig. I changed tires a bazillion times last winter, which got super old, so I wanna park this tire on my bike for the season and see what I can do with it. Here it is next to the Hakkapeliitta.

Here it is, mounted up.

Geez, this post has gotten way longer than I intended, so I need to cut to the chase.

No one needs 5 sets of studded bike tires.

The Kendas are going on the Xtracycle.

The Nokian Extremes are for sale - $125 for the pair. They go new for between $90 and $105 each, so this is a good deal, considering they're like new. If you have a 29er and wanna do some winter mountain biking or get around town with complete confidence, this is your tire.

So that leaves me with two set of tires - the 26 x 1.9's and the 700 x 35's. I could sell them, but I have a different idea.

Winter cycling continues to grow in popularity and every year there's a new batch of folks that wanna give it a try. It's great fun and I'd like to help. Winter gear is pretty intensive and dropping big bucks on studded tires can be tough. So I'd like to offer these two set up as loaners, so people can try before they buy. I have no idea if there's even any interest, but we're gonna give it a shot. The plan is pretty loose, but something along these lines:

You give me a shout and reserve the tires. Come on by and pick 'em up or I can help you mount 'em, if you need. You try 'em out for a coupla a weeks, maybe longer if no one else is in line. The idea is to get them into the hands of as many people that wanna try them out as possible. Maybe you find out that you can't live without studs and go buy a pair of your own. Or maybe you decide it's not your thing. Either way it's a win.

You can learn more about all the these tires on Peter White's page except for the Kendas and they are here.

If you wanna buy the Extremes or try either pair of Nokians, email me at pat[dot]sprute[at]gmail[dot]com.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Magic II

This has zero to do with Black Magic I, but I think bloggers aren't supposed to name two posts the same. I mean, that seems like common sense. Maybe that only applies to good bloggers and I coulda gotten away with it. But it seems stupid to take chances when all you have to do is add a "II". So I did.

Last night I executed a project that was over a year in the hopper. That kind of tells you how important it was.

Deal is, I wanted the decals gone from my karate monkey. I don't hate 'em or anything. Don't exactly love 'em either. They're just kinda loud on a bike that's supposed to be sorta stealthy and mainly, they needed to go away to make room for something else.

So yeah. Just take the decals off. Piece-a cake. And then I wore a coupla fingernails down to nothing and the decals still looked like the day they were put on. So how do you actually do that?

In moments of crisis like this, I always go straight to the internet, which for a topic like this, is a great place to find boatloads of people that don't know anything but aren't afraid to speak with great authority. After sifting through all the great advice and testing various theories, what worked for me was a heat gun and a credit card. Well, a club card, actually. And let me just say that nothing about this whole project was more satisfying than destroying this dumbass "membership" card that I am required to sign up for and use, and in the process surrender certain personal information, in order to avoid getting reamed every time this giant corporation benefits from my patronage. Which is why this giant corporation hardly ever benefits from my patronage. Wow, thanks for letting me get away with that mini rant. Anyway . . .

If you get things up to the right temperature, you can scrape the decals off fairly easily. Leaves quite a mess, but if you hit it with some tape while things are still warm, you can pull a lot of junk off.

Then you're left with this "shadowey" look from where the decal was, but that was cured with some lacquer thinner, which is a lovely and highly useful chemical. I did find out that it will soften and mess up powder coating, so I learned to be careful.

With the decals finally gone, I could move forward with the application of the 'something else'. Which would be black reflective tape. Yeah, I know!!! Crazy talk! That's like, an oxymoron. But the science is here, sure as shootin'. That's a roll of 1/10th inch wide pinstripe and a sheet of some shorter, wider stips.

Laying pinstripe onto the seat stay (camera flash turned on):

Wider strip on the rear fender, camera flash on . . .

Same view, camera flash off . . .

whole bike with shop lights on, flash off . . .

Shop lights off, flash on . . .

Okay. I think I'm ready to go ride my black bike in the dark.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Style Points

Nothing wrong with the regular method . . .

Normalway from Pat S on Vimeo.

. . . but it's hard not to love this . . .

Withflair from Pat S on Vimeo.

Great to see all you bikey friends at the races today. Hope you've managed to get your toes thawed out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rackufacture: Karate Monkey Rear Rack, Part 2

Hi. Here's the marathon follow up to Part 1. Exact same warning as last time. (Eric: popcorn time.)

So when you're designing a rack, you have to consider interchangeability and versatility. Or in other words, do you want your rack to be able to fit on more than one bike and do you want it to be able to do a bunch of different things. This rack is on the way far end of both spectrums. It only fits this bike and it only does one thing: carry panniers, and (hopefully) carry them well.

Part of the reason for this is my over-reaction to my frustration with off-the-shelf racks that try to be all things to all bikes and end up doing nothing well, and part of it is driven off of aesthetics and my desire to get away from the boxey, squarish look of every other rear rack. I might still add a removeable, boxey, squarish deck at some point, but for now, I just want something different and clean.

So these are not all, but most of the parts that're gonna go into this thing.

Here's a rough brazed joint. Coupla things: it looks like krap because when you're a newb, you pile brass on like there's no tomorrow and usually end up with way too much and then you have to bust your ass filing it off. Buy it, melt it, turn it to dust. Yay. This looks like something from hell has been gnawing on it because I found that the easiest way to remove a bunch of excess brass is with a wood rasp when the brass is still super hot. / Other thing is that little sleeve. That's gonna get brazed onto the main hoop to keep the panniers from sliding around, but not until the very end. There's four of them and it's a major PITA to keep them in the right section of the hoop while your brazing all the parts on. This one ended up on the wrong side of the brace and I had to cut it and move it, so that's why it has that diagonal joint.

When you're totally freaked on racks and you're in sleep deprivation mode, smooth filleted joints become your addiction. I got a fix here, but it won't last long, it never does. I'm in living hell.

Early attempts at fixturing. I have a lot to learn.

This next part I'm pretty damned proud of. One of the things that this rack has to do is allow me to get to the mounting bolts of the rear disc caliper. Reason for this is that with horizontal droupouts, you have to be able loosen the caliper to remove the wheel. So when I have a flat at twenty below in the dark, I don't want to have to mess around with removing the rack to get to the bolts. It took some goofing but the joints were screamin' tight before brazing (wish I had a pic). I think it came out great.

Here's a fender mount. Started out as the thing sitting on the fender - it's a braze-on you buy from a framebuilders supply house. Rad, if I do say so myself.

First one worked out so well that I decided to do the second one exactly the same way. Which was to take a welding blanket, and wrap it around the joint to protect the fender, tack it in place, then remove the rack and finish brazing.

Except for that this one was a little shorter which means it got a little hotter. Ooops.

Ah well, nothing a little sandpaper and spray paint won't fix. Besides, I think some stainless 29er Berthouds may be in this bike's future. That would be crazy cool.

Here's the fab sequence for the rear light mount . . .

When you're done brazing up your rack, it's covered with flux that has turned harder than glass. It's damn near impossible to sand or file off without destroying all your handiwork. Luckily, it's water-soluble, so you just soak your rack overnight.

You've left vent holes in the rack and water gets into these and dissolves the flux inside, too. So there's some water left inside and you need to get it out. You do that by heating it with a torch and boiling it out. Turns out the satisfaction of watching the steam come out is damned-near beyond words. Closest thing I can think of is ripping off a truly righteous fart when no one else is around. (Probably shared too much there.)

After all this you have a dry and flux-free, but rusty rack. More cleanup work. What's new.

So then I cleaned it up and dropped it off to be powder coated. That was last Friday. Yesterday I got my black rack back:

I've seen lots of powder-coated stuff, but I've never had anything powder coated. I couldn't stop staring. Only thing that came to mind was the childhood experession, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it."

I had the work done at Powdertech. They were great to work with and the price was super-reasonable. Because it's black. Get your checkbook out if you want your own color.

One other design feature I wanted was rack/fender integration and the ability to quickly remove both as a unit. There are the two mounting points at the canti bosses and two more at the dropout eyelets.

The short post last night was about the fifth mounting point. Here's the fab sequence . . .

The whole deal about this is that I wanna be able to remove the fender/rack without removing the wheel. Doesn't it drive you crazy to have to pull our wheel to get at that last bolt that holds the very end of your fender to your frame???? Okay, maybe it's just me. Anyway, this still needs a little tweaking. That's why it's zip-tied and not brazed. But getting close.

At long last. Doesn't look level, though.

Must be an optical illusion.

Previously floppy fender is super-solid now. Wish I could do away with that last set of stays, but they must stay. At least they fasten to the rack now and have a shorter reach, which stiffens them up. I put 'em inside, so they wouldn't mess with the bags.

Here's the stops for the pannier clips:

Done deal, finally time to ride.

Inevitably, the question will come up as to whether I would ever try to financially run myself into the ground by attempting to sell racks. Please! This is my passion and I have no desire to profit. I am an ARTIST! But I do need to eat. So I would merely like to cover my hours at minimum wage. Please send me a check for $2300 and I'll get started on your rack right away.