Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Those Bikes"

After a few miles into our See Canyon loop ride we passed a couple of gentlemen a bit more senior than us on road racing bicycles. As we slow-pokishly passed them, one of the two sporting a polka dot jersey said, “ we'll draft you on the way up.” At our 3-5 miles per hour we smiled and gave the obligatory laugh and continued on our way.

See Canyon Road gently pitches upward for the first few miles and then becomes very steep as it winds up the canyon towards the crest. Before beginning our climb we stopped for water and a short discussion about the gearing that may be necessary for the climb. Having done this ride a few times before, I thought I would prepare my fellow rider for what was to come. As we were finishing our discussion the two we had previously passed could be heard as they approached. The riders stopped so that one of them could deal with a loose water bottle and at this point the polka dot jersey rider asked if we were going to the top. When I answered yes, he warned us that it might be too steep to attempt the ride on “those bikes”. I told him I had been up to the top a few times before and I was well aware of what awaited us.

After they departed and we continued our ride the joke for the rest of the outing in jest we refereed to our bicycles as “those bikes.” Was there something wrong with our bikes? Gee, I thought my mountain triple with the 12-34 cassette would be adequate for the task... Maybe the drop bars and the fenders threw him off. Or maybe fellow rider's bike with the upright bars and the basket on the front rack made him think we were a bit off.

About halfway up the grade, the two that passed had turned about and came flying down by us as we crawled up the grade at a brisk 3-4 miles per hour. Yes we had to stop a few times and yes we walked a little. Yes we are both over 200 pounds and yes we are riding 30+ pound bicycles. The panorama at the top looks the same to us as it did to the other two guys that were riding “those bikes.”  At least I know we stopped to take a look, I hope they did as well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday Reflections, Bike Friday that is!

It has been about a year since I ordered my Bike Friday Pocket Llama and I think now would be a good time to reflect upon my feelings towards this bicycle. Seeking a sturdy, high quality packable bicycle that could support a +200 lb rider and 50-60 lbs of touring gear can only lead to one place – Bike Friday. The ordering process by telephone was a pleasure thanks to Walter Lapchynski and before I knew it my Bike Friday was on its way.

Nine weeks later the bike arrived neatly packed in its Samsonite case and within an hour or two it was assembled and ready to ride. Never having ridden a Bike Friday, I quickly realized there are differences in riding this bike compared to “normal” bikes. Mounting and dismounting the bike felt a bit awkward at first but became second nature very quickly. I also discovered to my dismay that when you are straddling the bike not to let it go otherwise it will end up laying on the ground!

Even though this bike was custom built to my dimensions and with a fit similar to my diamond frame touring definitely felt different. Not bad different, just different. The ride, like the fit was also different. The bike feels smooth and solid even on rough surfaces. Looking at the long stem one would think there is a lot of flex.....the stem is rigid and there is no more flex at the handle bars than any other bike... My impression is that the bike is very well engineered in terms of its structural integrity as well as its performance on the road.

After riding the Pocket Llama a couple of thousand miles in various locales in the U.S. and on a variety of road surfaces...I am convinced you can take this bike anywhere in the world and have a great time riding it. The bike has been ridden on rough gravel roads in mountainous Utah, the carriage roads of Acadia National Park, paved roads and paths of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. In every case the bike was a pleasure to ride.

When I ordered the bike, I thought it would only be ridden when I traveled....I now find myself riding the bike 5-6 days a week with it being my first choice as my commuter. With racks, panniers and large saddle bag there is very little I can't take along. Even better, I can do a quick fold and put in the trunk for easy transport to riding spots not so close to home.

Bike Friday would be a good choice even if you never intend to pack the bike for travel.....I ride mine all of the time.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

650b 4 Me

Plan A:  When I first built up the 1981 61cm Centurion Super LeMans I did so with 700c wheels shod with 35mm Panaracer T-Servs.  It seemed like a such a good idea I even laced the rims to a pair of NOS Shimano 600ax hubs I obtained from a local used bike shop.  The bike went together rather well with an eclectic array of new,NOS and just plain old parts I had in the inventory.  From the really cool old Shimano Crane rear derailleur to the mustache bars and the Brooks Conquest saddle......I even managed to throw my old Eclipse panniers into the mix as well...

After all of that it was time to give it a nice test ride down to Seal Beach.  Well, the combination of the 700c wheels, the fat tires and the very tall 61cm frame made for a rather sketchy ride for this not so tall 5' 11' rider.  At one point in the ride when I went to dismount I almost fell to the pavement.  Upon returning home I hung the bike back in the rafters and started on plan B:...

Plan B:  When I ordered the brakes for the build I decided on the Tektro 556s figuring the longer reach would give me some flexibility If I decided to go the 650b route.  After taking a few measurements and crossing my fingers....I decided to build up a pair of 650b wheels.  I found some really nice NOS Shimano 105s with 126mm rears at Loose Screws, the Synergy rims and albatross bars from Rivendell with some spokes from Web Cyclery in Bend OR.  A few days later I had a pair really cool wheels and was eager to rebuild the Centurion into a nice ride for the weekly happy hour ride to Shorline Village in Long Beach.

With the albatross bars, fenders and all of the other accoutrements it sure looked good - but what about the ride?  From a sketchy tipsy ride the Centurion was transformed into a stable, nimble and comfortable pleasure.  Even with the somewhat stout Schwalbe Marathons, the bike rides like a dream.  The bike is definitely my #1 pick for local riding....  650b may not be for everyone or every bike, but it sure made a great bike for this rider.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Usual Loop

You know, the one you have ridden for thousands of miles, the one you tell yourself your tired of but continue to ride several times a week as if it were a religious ritual.  The San Gabriel River Trail  is that ride for me.  Time for a ride on a beautiful Sunday morning in January.

Del Amo Blvd. Entrance

Eldorado Regional Park

The SGRT is a multi use trail 15 feet above a flood control channel (San Gabriel "River")  eventually emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Seal Beach. 

Happy Sunday Morning Cyclists

View From The Seal Beach Pier
 Even with all of its shortcomings in terms of cyclist worth visual and topographical experiences, the passage through Eldorado Regional Park and the terminus at Seal Beach provide sufficient reward for the effort.



After all, the large Sumutra and the cinnamon twist make it all worthwhile.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bicycling With Poor Vision

Up until age 28 I thought I had "perfect" vision until I awoke to an alarm clock and was not able to read the red glow of 5:30 am.  After a visit to the eye doctor it was determined that I needed reading glasses....Well that was many years ago and my vision has become so poor that I need corrective lenses to be able to walk down the sidewalk without stepping off the curb or walking into a light pole.

I realize that I am among many cyclists who are vision challenged and I share with you what has worked and what hasn' least  as far as cycling is concerned.

Contact lenses seemed like they would work  as opposed to just wearing my regular trifocal glasses and they did with a few exceptions.  Even with cool looking "cycling" sunglasses, wind would either dry the lenses out or would blow them off.  In either case I was forced to stop and fiddle with them or resort back to my glasses.  For a short ride close to home that isn't a big deal, but on a longer ride away from home that would be unacceptable......

Cycling sunglasses with inserts was a solution suggested to me by a friend so I though I would give that a try as well.  Well, $500 u.s.d later I had a really cool pair of Addidas Climacools with an RX insert.  The insert was single strength, meaning I could only see distance.....also meaning I had to put on my glasses if I wanted to read a map or take a look at my GPS.  It also necessitated mounting the computer at least 30 inches from my face in order for me to read the numbers on the screen......  I could deal with all of the above inconveniences, but I also thought there must be a better way.

While on a visit to Maine last July -  with a nice little side trip to cycle the carriage roads in Acadia - I thought I would get some help from my cousin who is an optometrist in South Berwick, Maine.   My cousin Paul Vasapoli is the proprietor of and is a true artist in helping people see better.

At first I thought having a pair of sunglasses with my regular prescription would do the trick....and it did.  Paul put my prescription in a pair of Ray-Ban 4151s with a very dark tint to the lenses.  They were great as long as the sun was out.....after a few weeks of trying to ride with my new glasses in the early morning hours I figured out that I had overlooked a much better solution.   I gave my cousin a call and asked him to make up another pair as regular glasses with the Transitions coating.   The new lenses with the 4151 frames are a perfect combination in terms of fit and good vision.  The nicest pair of glasses I have ever had!

With trifocals it is still a challenge to focus on objects by adjusting line of sight and head position.  Even with that my ability to see comfortably on the bike is at its best so far.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maglite Bike Mount

LED Maglites are rather impressive in terms of brightness and battery life.  Having several of these small lights sitting idle around the house I thought a project centered around adapting them to cycling might be a fun thing to do.  With access to CAD software and CNC machine tools, I set out to create a design that was simple in terms of fabrication and mounting to the bicycle.   The mount had to be small, light and capable of attachment to the eyelets and lowrider mounts of the fork.  I also thought it would be cool to mount the clamp to my Nitto M12 rack as well.

The design was worked out with VectorWorks 8, CAD software that I have been using for the last 15 years.  The CAD design allowed me to create the geometry necessary to manually program the MiniMite CNC 3 axis mill that would be used to machine the part.  Two operations were required for each part, one to mill the side profile with another to  mill the bore and counterbore to fit M5 or M6 socket head screws.

Each clamp requires 30 minutes of machining time with an additional 30 minutes to de-burr and polish.  With the tiny milling machine using a .125" end mill with a feed rate of 10 inches per minute mass production is out of the question.  "Prototypes" only at this stage.  Perhaps in time and with a willing market I can find a local CNC shop to turn out a few hundred.......let me know what you think.