Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Appearance

Glen dropped in on shop night tonight. That's like when the Bishop visits your parish.

For the first hour or so, he just kind of stood around, all quiet-like. I think maybe he was trying to fathom how amateur our whole gig is.

At some point, he couldn't stand it anymore and started demonstrating what to him, was some very basic shit. And which to us, was head-slappingly revolutionary.

We can't exactly make our hands do it yet, but we watched and think we understood, and therefore we're pretty sure in our heads that we've got mad new brazing skills.

We will most certainly face reality when we convene again next week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lake Boot Repair

Gear junkie that I am, I've tried a bunch of (too much) winter cycling gear. Most of it I could take or leave. But there are a few items that do their job so well that I don't wanna be without 'em. One such is my Lake boots. They cost a fortune and there are certainly ways in which they could be improved, but they solve all kinds of problems for me. Barring submergence in a puddle, they keep my feet warm and dry. In gear-intense winter, they're easy to get on and off. And they're comfortable.

One of the problems with them, though, is the Boa lacing system, which is pretty non-robust. One of my laces busted at the end of last winter's riding season (which happened to be freaking June, but I digress), and so there was no real reason to fix today what I could put off 'til tomorrow.

Tomorrow being a coupla weeks ago. Fortunately, Boa has a lifetime guarantee on their lacing systems, and they do a great job of supporting it. You just go to this website, order the right parts for the fix, and a few days later they show up. Free parts, free shipping.

Here's the repair kit. It comes with a boatload of krap including two cables (black and silver) and all the parts, tools, and instructions you need to make the repair. Including the tiny spanner wrench.

In my particular case, the cable had busted.

The repair is not exactly easy as pie. It took me about an hour. First step was to remove the adjustment knob.

Then you can remove the cable spool. See the other end of the busted cable?

Threading the new cable through all the guides in the shoe and then fastening both ends to the spool was, honestly, a bitch.

But the satisfaction is overwhelming.

And now I have nothing to fear but winter itself.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cross Country Skiing, Take 1

Patty and I traded in our downhill ski gear for some nordic stuff this year. After many great years of alpine adventure, I've had to face the fact that my thrashed knees just aren't up to it anymore, and Patty's never really had more than a lukewarm interest. Winter's long and we felt we could use another activity that gets us outside, so we thought we'd give cross country a try. Today was our fist day out.

We bought starter ski-binding-boot-pole packages at Fitness Fanatics, along with a Sno-Park Permit that's good for the season. Grand total: $650 for 2 people. Holy hell. That's might buy you one very humble pair of downhill skis and bindings. So there's nothing not to like about the value aspect of this new-to-us sport.

As luck would have it, Patty's bro Scott, his wife Joan, and their sons Ian and Andrew were in town for the holiday weekend. They're Montanans and super-outdoorsey (Scott and Joan's honeymoon was a tandem tour), and we've enjoyed rafting, cycling, skiing and hiking with them over the years. They brought their gear to town with them and mother nature's been in a generous mood, so we were all excited to head up Mt Spokane this morning, where they showed us the ropes.

I've heard lots of buzz about how great the nordic trail network and facilities are at Mt Spokane. I know very little on the details of how it all works, but it's clear that it's driven by cooperation amongst volunteer organizations, public agencies and private companies. Like Spokane Nordic, Washington State Parks, and Inland Empire Paper. I'm sure the history and structure is a thousand times deeper than I know. But what I do know after today is that the trails and amenities are wonderful and just an hour's drive from our house. Here's a warming hut, that isn't yet fired up for the season. It'll be a fun stop when the wind is blowing and the stove is cranking out the heat.

Ian and Andrew were pretty much baptized in snow, I think. They're winter sport studs and know their way around all varieties of skiing and boarding. These days, Joan tells me, they don't board much because it's too limiting in terms of mobility. They like the freedom, adventure and challenge of backcountry skiing. For them, this was a pretty slow day and they were good sports. We love their youthful company. Here's a photo sequence of them rejoining us after getting way out in front and then circling back around. In cycling terms, it's the equivalent of someone blowing you totally off the back on a tough climb and then riding back down the hill so they can get in a little extra work while they wait on you. As your heart and lungs explode.

There's some breathtaking shit to look at up there, for sure.

Downhill is still the king of adrenaline, but nordic looks to have the potential for some wonderful explorey adventure, excercise, scenery, and active-socialness. Umm I mean activity-based-socialism. Wait, that's all wrong-sounding. I mean . . .

Oh hell. you know what I'm trying to say . . . good times hanging out with family and friends who like to get their heart rates up and feed their souls in the outdoors. I'm already so glad we've added it to our winter outdoor activity arsenal.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Crazy Bastards

Sheesh, what some guys will do to atone for their Thanksgiving sins.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Joan Rules

Joan is my sister-in-law, on Patty's side. Patty comes from a big family that has great Thanksgiving gatherings. It's become a tradition over the last few years that someone brings a laptop and projector and we hang a sheet on the wall and look at something fun like a slideshow that someone put together. This year Joan bumped it up a notch, and in a bikey way.

Joan and her family live in Montana and somehow they have a connection to someone who was involved in the making of a certain documentary and this connection gave them a DVD of said documentary and that's what we watched this year.

The name of the documentary? Ride The Divide. Yesss!

It was awesome. Tryptophan was rendered useless.

This year, I'm especially thankful for Joan.

Monday, November 22, 2010

FMMWWE (First Major Media Winter Weather Event)

Tonight's hang was shelved, and for good reason. I was down with the call - it was pretty ugly at hang time.

But I had to laugh. KREM, KXLY, KHQ and the SR all piled on the whole "blizzard" business.

My dog was cooped up all day and needed a run, so we braved this epic event and went for a short ride to the park. I'm not sure how we survived. But we did, and now I have a taste for how bad it can get in places like like in Antartica and Prudhoe Bay. Not.

It's all pretty confusing, but the one thing I'm sure of at this point is that my winter riding skills are sick. And I don't mean the good kind of sick. Sick more like the above nighttime iphone pic.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Here

Brandy loves snow, so she's all crazy wound up.

Me, not so much. But there's no escape. Tires went on tonight. Digging out my winter clothes. Oy.

Here we go . . .

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Senior Pictures

I picked up my new Elephant from Glen about 5 months ago. Ever since, I've been trying to figure out exactly what it is and how to use it. Thing is, it takes me a long time to figure out the personality of my bikes (like up to a year or two) and now that I have the ability to seriously screw up a really good bike with a totally stupid rack, it just takes that much longer.

I only have about 500 miles on it, but never has a bike been through such a rigorous "getting to know you" phase, which has included but is not limited to: a loaded, beat-down, jarring solo trip into the Cd'A NF, a whole different kind of abuse on the Midnight Century, and the urban adventure of seven carless days.

Rack-wise, I equipped it with hastily-built rear and front racks. Then I messed with them and messed with them some more, and more after that.

All the experimentation's been fun and educational, but for a while now I've been feeling a need for some closure. I'm a long way from figuring the bike out, or it me, and things will change for sure, but there's some shit I've definitely learned and feel good about and so I'm settling on that for now and then I'll go from there at some point in the future.

Over the last several weeks, I pushed myself to make some decisions on rack design, get them finished up, and then powder coated. After all that, here's what I finally brought home.

The rack bits along with the recent Frame Saver tear-down left me with this pile o' parts. I think there's a bike in there somewhere:

These days, sunlight is in short supply and my lame camera takes shitty pictures in the shadows of my shop. Which is okay for most stuff, but when you finish a major project, you wanna do it justice, and so I was waiting for today to take it down to Manito Park and take some fun pics under natural light amidst the fine scenery. Last time I did this, Patty laughed her ass off. "You're taking senior pictures of your bike!"

It's pointless to try and refute her assessment. I'm a nerd and I have no case. But they're really good senior pictures . . .

The Velo Orange fenders have been pretty good, quality-wise. I decided to have them powder-coated the same color as the bike, which for a guy who's much more comfortable blending in than standing out was a pretty bold move. The only thing about them that drove me crazy was that the fit between the stay and the eyelet bolt was super sloppy. The stays wouldn't stay put and rattled around.

I fixed it, though.

The front rack came out great. Everything's square and true and the size is appropriate for the bike. It's really not the right machine for hauling a big load above the front wheel.

The fender attachment at the front helps stiffen the fender big-time.

I added a loop at the top and a hook-thingy at the bottom for storing mini-bungees.

All this busy-ness is about mounting the light and battery.

Hopefully this explains it.

The rear rack, on the other hand, is a mess. Nothing on it is square or symmetrical. But it's functional and the powder coating smoke-screens the flaws.

More storage for bungees.

This is the u-lock holster. It's designed to accommodate multiple lock sizes.

Larry commented on a previous post with the idea of using a "broccoli rubber band" to secure the lock to the rack. I adopted his idea, although I ended up using a hacked bungee instead of a rubber band. The lock is super solid in the holster.

Showing you my pictures was sooooo fun. Can I, like, sign your yearbook?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beautiful On The Inside

Steel rusts. It's a fact, Mac.

I've known what needs to be done and yes, I've been procrastinating. But a coupla lately middle-of-the-night half-awake-half-asleep dream panic attacks about rust-induced separation of my Elephant's downtube from it's headtube during a high speed descent compelled me into action.

As is the case with steel frames, my Elephant came with a tough, corrosion-resistant finish on the outside, but nothing to protect the vulnerable insides. While there are other treatments, the gold standard for protecting the internal surfaces of a steel frame is J.P. Weigle's Frame Saver. It comes in a little can like this:

I've had shops apply this product to my frames before, but I'd never done it myself, and in a moment of exceedingly bad judgement, I decided I needed to experience the joy of this process for myself. Holy hell.

The bike was pretty dirty, so first thing I did was to give it a crazy-serious bath. Outside, with a hose and bucket. In November. Yay. (Yes, I even individually washed every spoke.) Thinking being that if I was gonna tear it apart, I'd like the parts to be as clean as possible. (Second moment of bad judgement and super huge waste of time, as far as thinking I was gonna keep things clean.)

Anyhoo. Clean bike, let the teardown begin . . .

And continue . . .

And continue . . .

Until it's just the frame at which point you would normally stop, but since this bike has couplings, you take it a step further . . .

Because that will make your job so much easier because you can just spray Frame Saver into the open ends . . .

. . . which would be wrong.

So once you have your bike stripped totally down, you can start spraying Frame Saver into the insides of all the tubes and rolling the frame around so that the puddle eventually wets all the surfaces. Here's a shot of the head tube, with a puddle on the bottom, so that you can see what this nasty, yet wonderous shit looks like . . .

One can is supposed to be enough for 3-5 frames, but I burnt the whole thing down on just one bike. Thinking being that after all the the work to tear it down and build it back up, no way was I going skinny on a $12 can of juice. I applied two generous coats, 24 hours apart, to give the the first coat time to, umm, "set up", as they say. Like many things in life, I think this is one of those that if you can't do it to excess, why even bother.

Only downside to that theory is that there's only so much juice your frame can suck up and the rest of it runs out the vent holes all over the outside of the bike and down your arms and sleeves as you're trying to rotate the frame around so that you get every square millimeter of the inside of your tubes covered and a lot of this motion is disco-ish, complete with some low and high moves, sans music, and there's no way to avoid becoming a super spaz outside in the moonlight on a cold night which is where you've moved so that you don't dump this smelly, toxic shit all over everything in your shop, all the while with your neighbors looking out their windows, bewildered and maybe a little scared of the latest episode of bike weirdness from next door.

At least that was my experience.

What I didn't absorb into my clothes and skin, I sopped up with paper towels.

With the frame finally all coated, last thing I did was to drill a hole in the bottom bracket so that if water does get inside the frame, it has a way to drain out at this low point. (Of course I got Glen's blessing. Don't be ridiculous.)

I'm sure there are tons of tricks to applying Frame Saver. Unfortunately, I don't know any of them yet. What I do know is that this frame is seriously protected from internal rust. So then. Good. I feel way better now.