Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carless Days

My re-focus on riding over the last several days has been the best kind of medicine for my soul and body. John and Joe took me out this morning and finished off anything that was left of my legs on the trails at Riverside and the South Hill bluff. I need some recovery, so tomorrow I'm off the bike, resting and eating. Not stupid eating, but whatever I want of good healthy stuff.

For a while, I've had this pretty serious obsessive thought about doing a 7-day car-free stint. Why 7 days? Because that means you could get through the routine of one whole week without relying on a car. My rules are no driving or riding in a car. Bikes and public transit are cool. I realize that for a lot of my harder-core bike friends, 7 carless days is childs play, but for me it's fairly epic and a worthy challenge.

So four days into my bike cleanse, I suddenly realize that I'm well on my way to seven carless days. Furthermore, my schedule looks good. There's challenges, but no real showstoppers. I tell Patty about it, and she's totally cool with biking where we need to go over the weekend. Unfortunately, something family-wise came up yesterday and I had to abort. No big deal, just wasn't supposed to happen right now. But I seriously can't wait to give it another go.

Even though I didn't do the week, I got into enough of a groove to re-remember some of the great things about getting out of your car and onto your bike:

- If you eat halfway reasonably, you can drop weight like crazy. You burn about 600 cal/hr riding, so 1-1/2 hrs of riding gives you almost 50% extra on a 2000 cal/day diet.

- I process mental shit like crazy when I ride. I dream up wild new ideas and put the day's problems to bed.

- The fears of what can happen in the dark and bad weather totally evaporate once you are actually on your bike. Once you start riding, you just go.

- If you can just get there, you will figure out a way to get home.

- Something interesting and memorable happens on *every ride*.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Instead, I'll be thinking about my next assault on the 7-day barrier, and hoping that you're getting out there on your bike, having the same kind of fun as me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Cleanse

The holistic food people have theirs. Juices of raw stuff are always involved.

Every religion has theirs. Think penance and fasting and self-denial.

By comparison, the bike cleanse is relaltively simple: You just shitcan your other priorities and go ride your bike. Which is exactly what I've been doing for the last four days.

Things got way out of hand, unbalanced . . . bike-related stuff was keeping me from riding. How stupid is that? Allow me. Really stupid. Sadly, it's not the first time and likely won't be the last.

For the time being, though, my alarm goes off at five. I do almost all my riding in the dark. My legs are tapped and I wobble when I walk. I tried to go out to the shop tonight, but my head won't do math. I'm kind of surprised I can do grammar. I've never been happier. Bikes rule. I have to go pass out now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Too Cheap

On the tool quality continuum, we all dream of the high end. We are sure that only the finest hardware belongs in our toolboxes. Unfortunately, for most of us, financial realities most often dictate that we end up somewhere in the middle. Snap-On's the King, but Craftsman's a pretty sexy Queen. And sometimes, dire circumstances coupled with urgent need sends us to a certain company that rhymes with Arbor Phreight. Which is okay. We know that what we are getting ain't great, but it oughta be good enough for what we need. Until we can afford the real deal. But every now and then, we get blindsided with something that is such garbage that it doesn't belong on the face of the earth.

At times like these, we must take a stand.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rackufacture: Rear Rack Jig

Glen was wondering if I might be interested in building a rear rack for one of his new Elephants. I'm pretty sure the Pope is still Catholic.

The timing was good because I've been thinking about fixturing and jigs and this gave me an excuse to get my feet wet. Glen gave me his construction drawing for the frame and I worked off of that to develop a drawing for a rack jig. It was supposed to be something simple and then it mushroomed into something way more complicated (my special talent), that could be adjustable so that you could build racks of the same style for different bikes, 'cause every one he builds is a little different. Not that he will ever ask me to build another one after he sees the kind of krap work I do, but it's not about that. It's about really wanting to do it and having half a reason to justify it. Hmmm, sounds like a lot of my bike purchases.

I don't have any machine tools, which limits how accurate the thing was gonna be and so I knew it probly wasn't gonna be a huge success this first time around but I also knew it was time to jump in, because you can only learn so much from reading and looking and then you have to learn from doing. I'll end up making lotsa mistakes, learning from them, hacking it up and itterating and making it better. So I guess that's my apology in advance for a C- on this first report card. Nuff said.

Ideas on paper . . .

Transferring the ideas from paper to steel . . .

A thousand hours later, all done . . .

This rack design uses that same two attachment points as most off-the-shelf racks: bosses on the dropouts and bosses on the seatstays. Here's the dropout end of the jig. It's adjustable for varying widths . . .

Here's the seatstay end, along with the feature that allows vertical adjustment relative to the dropout end (this will make more sense a few pics from now) . . .

Here's the feature that allows horizontal adjustment relative to the dropout end . . .

This is where the decks sits and is adjusted to the right elevation . . .

This is kind of a side note, but I have a problem with my method for making these large-radius bends. See the flat spot at the start of the bend? That ain't gonna do. I have some plans and parts for a home brew bender sitting on my bench . . .

Laying out the front struts . . .

Cut to length and ready to cope . . .

Another side note. I'm having a helluva time controlling heat with my new torch. Some days I wanna switch back to the bulky old POS. But the new one was a Christmas present to myself, so I can't, or I'll hurt my feelings. I have switched from a #1 to a #0 tip. That's helped, but I think I might have to go to a #00. Either that or develop some actual skills, 'cause I'm still getting things too hot. I can tell you're dying to know, so here's the diff between the #1 and #0 . . .

Front struts brazed on the topside . . .

Here's where this might start to actually make some sense. The deck and top struts are brazed in place. (Yup, same clamps, good eye.) The vertical strut assembly is brazed up and bolted to the jig. But the odds that I could braze this up and it would bolt to the frame are slim to none, so the vertical strut-to-deck joints will have to be brazed off the jig and on the frame . . .

As luck would have it, I met up with Glen at last night's bike hang and he told me that the frame hadn't been painted yet, but was going in tomorrow, which is now today and almost tomorrow. He said I could have it overnight. Found a 5-gallon can of midnight oil in the shop . . .

This pictures don't show it because I don't want them to, but things did not work out well. Nothing fit right. And since I was on deadline, I pushed too hard, which made everthing worse. I had to hack and re-work some stuff. And then I finally got it dialed in (so I thought), brazed up and finished off. Somewhere in the wee hours I closed up the shop and took the whole thing in the house with me overnight so it wouldn't get any rust blooms. I was exhaused but happy, and passed out sitting up, looking at it.

This morning, I drug my ass outta bed and before I could even get one sip of coffee in me, I took a look at the rack and noticed that it was badly misaligned. You can't really tell in this picture, but it's off in the left-right direction. Shit.

Glen say's he thinks it'll be alright. I'm not so sure. There's no easy fix. At this 5 minutes I'm not sure what went wrong, but I'll do the forensics and fix whatever the hell happened. You'll probably never know, because that would be the most boring blog post in the history of the universe. But if I do another one and get it right, you can be damn sure I'm gonna make you look at it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Nope, not flashing you one. I'm coming out and admitting that I am one. Braze-Aholic, that is. Hard core. Last thing I think about before I fall asleep, first thing on my mind when I wake up. It's all I can do to focus on my work and when the whistle blows, well, get the hell out of my way, cause I'm makin' a beeline to my torch.

Thing is, I've been paying attention to the Brad Thoma story.

Wish I'd have thought of it myself. But I'm thinking there's got to be more than one seat aboard the gravy train and that maybe I can parlay my own disability into a boarding pass.

To be honest, I don't have much of a scheme yet. Or any kind of one, to be a little more honest. But whatever it turns out to be, I'm pretty sure it's gonna end up in court. Which means that I will need some bloggy friends to testify that my BA affliction is real and that it dates at least all the way back to January 19, 2010.

So I can count on you, right?

Oh really. I thought we were tight. When the chips are down, you find out who you can count on.

Fine. Whatever. I can do this on my own. But me and Brad are gonna have some wild parties. Vegas showgirls on wind trainers. That's just the tip of the iceberg. It's gonna get totally outta hand.

And I don't do evite, so you're gonna be sprinting out to your sad little mailbox every damn day, desperately hoping that your invitation arrived. And USPS holidays will be your worst nightmare.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Damn Autofocus

I was trying to shoot the frame. Honest.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My bike stable has been a little screwed up. See, there's nothing in there that would make a bike thief vomit. Sometimes you need to run downtown to drink . . . errr, I mean, shop . . . and you don't wanna havta get all anal about looking out the window every 2 seconds to see if your bike's still there. That's why a guy needs a downtowner.

I rectified the situation on New Year's Eve, because I needed just such a bike for New Year's Eve. I'd been eyeing it on craigslist for a few days. Now it was action time. A small amount of cash was exchanged in the dimly lit third floor hallway of a lower south hill apartment building. It was about 7 pm when I got home.

If you remember that night, it snowed, and it was the wet, slippery, treacherous kind. I told Patty that we were going to celebrate by bike. She told me to go to hell. I told her to suck it up. She told me to shove it. I breathed a huge internal sigh of relief, while faking all silent, brave and irritated on the outside. It was slick like snot and we would have been off our bikes and hoofin' it down the hill, if we hadn't actually crashed and died first. My wife totally rules and once again saved us from me.

So we, uhhh, "compromised". That is, we loaded our bikes in the truck, hauled them to the bottom of the hill, and rode from there. We met up with Mike and Sarah and had a damn fine time, even though we didn't come anywhere close to making it to midnight.

The Spokane art scene is obviously alive and well. Coolest curbside urban snowman ever.

So the bike, I know. It's not that ugly yet, but give me some time. It's steel from one end to the other and now that I can (barely) braze, sky's the limit. People will eventually be crossing the street to avoid this thing. And that's a new year's resolution that I think I can finally keep.

Is it me, though, or is that one sweet rack? Probably worth the whole price of the bike, right there. (We added the basket. Patty's idea to leave the tails on the cable ties. She obviously gets it.)

Anyways, last bike I'll ever need. I swear. And holy shit from hell, do I love to swear.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rackufacture: The Saga Continues

I thought for a while that the massive rackufacture blitz that happened between October-something and November-something was maybe just a comet entering the atmosphere and exploding into flame. I did get a little temporarily fried, and then there was a business trip and then the holidays. But now that the smoke has cleared, I'm all refreshed and as excited as ever, except with maybe just a pinch of sanity thrown in.

There hasn't been any complete projects happening, but there's been a lot of "setting the table" things going on. First off was the critical task of getting the shop to the point where I can work there in the cold weather. I now have a solution. It's not the best, but it's workable and something I can build on. I've been able to hang out in Glen's (Elephant) shop a little lately and he's doing this crazy mix of all these different kinds of heaters and that whole approach is kind of growing on me, so I think I'll add some electric and propane heat to the kerosene I'm already using. Anyway, the heat thing is taken care of. Plus, it'll be spring pretty soon.

Then, there's the whole matter of the right torch for the job. I issued this plea, but I somehow knew in my heart of hearts that I was on my own on this one. Thing is, the guy was super-reliable when I was a kid, but lately I can't count on him for anything. Maybe he's burnt out or something. Anyway, I took the guesswork out of the equation and made damn sure I was gonna have a Merry Christmas. Got here on the 23rd, just in time to stage this most memorable holiday photo:

First thing, of course, was to build a new torch stand. The last one was a little fanciful, but this one was as simple as I could conceive it. I'd rather be building racks.

Here's the mondo behemoth old torch alongside the lovely dainty new one. Unfortunately, I still can't braze for shit.

I've never let a lack of talent stop me from forging ahead and I don't think this is the time to start. I've been excited to bend up my first rack deck from a single piece of tubing. That's where you lay it all out and mark the bends and then, hopefully, it comes together at the ends and it's halfway square. Here it is, marked out and ready to bend:

Glen turned me onto this $35 digital Craftsman level which I didn't need but had to have. It'll come in handy for measuring all kinds of angles and dangles and there was no reason to use it for bending up this deck but OTOH, why the hell not. Digital is where it's at.

So you already know that I am extremely lame and have no balls. This is why I didn't cut the tube to the exact length, but instead, just marked the tube where I would have cut it, if I actually had the balls.

Holy hell! Dead nuts! I think I might be able to get into this rack thing:

Here's where I've cut the ends and am just about to join them together. You can see the finished product sitting in a bucket further down the page.

So also, I'm just barely smart enough to realize that if you build a rack from start to finish and make every damn, stupid little piece as you go, you will quickly grow old and die before you get much done. But if you can make some of the common stuff 4 or 6 at a time so that they're ready when you need 'em, your life will be that much more pleasant. Plus, it's the kind of thing you can do when you have an hour or two to kill here or there.

I've also been wanting to try out an oval deck. I've decided in no uncertain terms that oval is sexy. Gonna be gettin' pretty heavy into oval, I think.

Hot 'n sexy:

Sexy and Straight-Lace, hot-tubbing:

So anyway, I can kind of feel the rack tension. Not quite exactly sure what's gonna be happening or when, but I have a sense that the Rackufacture shop is gonna be putting out some cool shit in 2010.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ronde Van Palouse

There's a new kind of bike race coming to town. It's not like it's never been done here, but it's been a damn long time, so it's as good as new.

It's a Roubaix, and we're overdue here in Spo. "Roubaix is the new Cyclocross." I just made that up, but I think I'm dead nuts on. It will hurt you so good. It happens just after Easter, so you can eat chocolate all the way through Lent and then do all your penance retroactively and condensed. I'm pretty sure that's the texbook definition of Purgatory, which is exactly what we're talking about here.

You ride a road bike, 'cause if you do it on a cross bike, you'll get killed. You might mount up some 25's, or you might do it on your normal 23's. This particular 23-mile loop, done multiple times, has 4 miles of soggy dirt roads and is littered with endless, demoralizing rollers. It's suitable only for hard boys and girls and I will be fantasizing between now and then about the hard girls.

Here are a coupla preview shots:

My favorite bike club is hosting, so watch their website or the WSBA calendar for details. Then get ready to show up and throw up.

Here's the map.

The schedule rocks: You can fry your early-season brain and body at Frozen Flatlands on Apr 3-4. Then, on the following weekend, you can drag your un-recovered mangled self out to the RVP on Sat, then get up at the butt-crack-of-dawn and load your wasted bike and self into a car and drive your sorry ass over for the Rocky Mt Roubaix on Sun and get your massive roubaix fix in on one epic weekend. After that whole deal, the whole rest of the racing season will seem like a walk in the park.