This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Monday, April 10, 2017


     A  frustrating week of torrential rain finally came to a close and provided a weekend of incomparable sunshine and intoxicating temperatures.  It was time for a little bike ride.  I had wanted to use the entire spring break for a camping trip, but the train kept me from doing it locally and I did not have enough time for a multi-modal trip I'd considered.  That will all have to fit in at another time.  I loaded up the Hunq in  about 30 minutes and set off for the lake shore.   It's a fifty mile afternoon ride to get to the state park and the wind was a little helpful since I took a southern approach.     My goal was to ride a section of rail trail I hadn't been on so I took a westward exit from home on the Red Arrow Highway to the trail head.  The Van Buren Trail state park runs from Hartford north west just short of Lake Michigan south of Sough Haven.  I knew it wasn't paved and expected a crushed limestone or packed gravel trail.

I was a bit disappointed to find it overrun with grass.  
It's really an abandoned two track running between farms,
except for this exquisite piece of real estate which was in hot competition with the city dump.
        I rode along, lucky to top off 8 MPH on the mushy overgrown mess.  It appeared there was no decent surface for riding and I bailed onto the county roads to meander to the State Park.  After leaving the lame excuse for an MUP (dump some snow on it and run back and forth on a snowmobile, but forget anything else) it was a leisurely trip to the state park where the campground was sparsely inhabited.  
    After setting up camp, I made a run to the grocery store for provisions and kicked back with a couple of beers at the campfire for the evening.   A few of the sparse neighbors stopped by, tentatively,  but made for some convivial company after they got over the absence of a car.
     Being the early spring, I had brought a heavier sleeping bag which I did not need.  Despite the wind, the temps stayed in the 60's throughout the night.  I slept like the dead.   I woke up late, got in no hurry breaking camp after breakfast, and finally left the state park in time for lunch.   After a great Reuben sandwich at the Phoenix Inn in South Haven, I headed out for the Kal-Haven trail.    There's not much to say about the afternoon going back.  The wind was greater and more gusty than Saturday so I stuck to the trail.  The wind was crossing from the South and the roads ultimately lead up greater grades directly into it, so I toughed out the predictable 1_1.5% grade and cross wind on the trail.  It was still a test of patience but a pleasant day and good overnight shake down trip to start the season.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Preventing a cycling specific allergy

     My predictably disappointing experiment with converting to tubeless tires left me with little confidence in bicycle marketing, but also a bottle of Stan's sealant.  The reviews and videos I have seen have been extremely positive when it comes to flat prevention.  It's an important part of cycling because as you grow ahh..."more mature" in the sport you will  develop sport specific allergies.  Flat tires make me break out in embarrassing obscenities.  If a couple ounces of this obnoxious looking chemical can prevent these outbreaks then it's worth the experiment.
       The procedure is rather straight forward.  Using an inner tube mounted in the tire, remove the valve stem.  That is the little threaded knob sticking out of the big threaded thing.  Usually unscrewing it with  needle nose pliers is easy.  Stan's does sell a special tool, nice of them, but I've never needed anything more than pliers.  The only risk is ruining the threads on the little knobby top which means I might not be able to use the plastic cap I normally forget.  So there's really no risk.
       Next a special proprietary syringe is threaded onto the remaining threaded post.  The plastic line from the syringe needs to be clamped shut (use vise grips) in order to fill the syringe with the right amount of sealant.  If it's not clamped, fluid will immediately drain into the tube and the measurement won't be accurate.                        
         After filling the syringe with the prescribed amount of milky stuff, release the clamp and use the plunger to force all the stuff into the tube.   Once that's done rotate the tire so the valve is not at the bottom of rotation, wipe off any excess stuff and screw the valve stem back in place.  I usually need to give the valve stem a little tweak with some pliers to make sure it's seated.  I did 5 bikes in a little over 30 minutes.  Now if this stuff works I will probably not know until I wear out a tire.  I suppose any small puncture will be sealed at the tube and I won't see the stuff come out as shown in those dramatic You Tube videos.  When I replace a tire I expect to see little white smears on the tube and inner casing, but we'll just have to wait and see...I'm so excited.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

So why not?

          Since I have forsaken the use of my car around town, I  get caught up in all kinds of  conversations about it.  Most people express some admiration for my "dedication," environmental consciousness, frugality and health.  Never do they consider that I just like to ride my bike.  Invariably, they (especially club cyclists) tell me they wish they could.  Then comes a list of excuses, most of the excuses revolve around clothing.  They have to change at work, there are no showers at work, and of course they need to change shoes at work.   Most don't understand that riding 5 miles through traffic to work requires a more measured and leisurely pace than their weekly pretend race.  They don't know they won't have to shower since they won't be totally exhausted and sweaty.  They don't understand they don't have to wear a team kit to make their bike operate or that clipless pedals are only marginally better than platforms, if at all.  Consequently they don't understand they can walk comfortably after dismounting their bike.
They would be much more likely to go to the mall, a theater, restaurant
 or grocery store if they didn't look like a pretentious weekend warrior. 
          The worst excuse I hear is "I ride a road bike, I can't leave that outside."  Now there's a problem.  They have my sympathy for riding a modern road bike anyway but the idea that they can't lock it up outside speaks volumes.  Apparently the bike is more important than the ride to these people, but they are right.  It would be dangerous to lock a modern CF bike to a post or, god forbid, a bike rack, somebody might bump it and break the damn thing.  The amazing thing is that most of the critters who scamper around the countryside over the same route at the same time on the same day each week have never actually gone anywhere on their vehicle.  Most don't haveone which was made to go anywhere but back to their car.
           Ironically Lycra, clipless pedals and carbon fiber are commonly considered by the "experts" as three of the most important advances in cycling, but they are the three most frequent excuses to not ride a bike.  Let's face it, if people had a comfortable aluminum or steel framed bike with platform pedals, they would be able to ride more often.   It won't help them with their Strava score, but who's gonna tell?


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dipping my toe into the morass of the future

       It's pretty obvious to everybody that I have trouble letting go.  Most people think I am just an irrational retro grouch who simply won't accept innovation.  Well I am here to tell you that I installed a threadless headset once.  So there, I know what this modern stuff is about.  I just like to see that the things I do are somewhat practical.  After all, I use my bikes to go somewhere different than my car and I'm not afraid to ride alone without some bizarre social network attached.  Let's face it, most of the improvements in cycling revolve around competition.  If it ain't your interest there is no reason to buy all the carbon fiber underwear, electronic brifters and personal heart rate powermeters to compare your metabolism with your Facebook buddies.  I just ride my bike and wonder if index shifting is another fad.  
         Occasionally the commercial world brings something that hits home--no flats.  I mean shit!  It has to make you think.  As little as I do, I wrenched my head around the idea of tubeless tires.   Enough people are talking about them and changing over that there might be something like a derailer at the bottom of this.
         Videos like this from a confirmed, sadistic tire beater excited me even more.
If I could only abuse my tires in such manner without disturbing the quiet reverie of my afternoon communions with clouds, blackbirds and roadkill, I would like it.   I need new tires for the Hillborne so I bought what I needed to make the conversion.  

My first attempt failed rather predictably.  According to internet legend, just about any tire and rim can be converted, but a powerful air compressor is usually necessary to force the tire to seat on the rim without a tube.  I tried a CO2 cylinder but there just wasn't enough mojo there to make the tire behave.  I searched for alternatives with the most reliable documentation I could find--
You Tube.  

    There I found a few examples of DIY compressors which would fill the gap.   I'm not brave enough nor poor enough to take the risk of building one by myself so I bought a Specialized Air Blast from a friendly e-tailer.
The sturdy metal container was much more reassuring than a Coke bottle and duct tape.  It's a well manufactured gizmo which can be charged up with pressurized air from a normal floor pump and is made specifically to zap the tires onto a tubeless setup or conversion.
Taking the old tape off and putting on the new rim tape is a simple exercise.  The valve is just molded into a giant rubber band.  It's like a cut out part of a tube, but fits tighter.
           After installing one bead of the tire and partially installing the other, I dribbled in the requisite 2 ounces (1/4 cup)  of Stan's Sealant into the tire, twirled the tire around and mounted the rest of the tire bead.  It was fun, I pumped up the AirBlast all excited for this new adventure in a flatless cycling career.  I was both disappointed and amused.  Yes it looked like the casting room for bike porn (I had to get that out of the way).  Now matter how I turned the wheel, or what position the valve was in the bead would not budge, the tire would not hold air or the amusing ooze.
              I suppose that a tire with a more rigid bead and sidewall would be more likely to convert, my studded snow tires are candidates.   Unfortunately, I like the Pasela tire with supple sidewalls and reasonable price tag, I just want flats to go away.  Looking through the Schwalbe, Panasonic and Continental websites, I found no reference to tubeless mounting on any tire I would like to use.  There are a few 23mm road tires, lots of MTB racing tires and one "gravel racing" tire which might be usable on a future build I have in mind.  Once again the industry is patronizing racing, creating products to benefit the high priced impractical market and leaving us with a product that amounts to snake oil for any practical application.  Right now I'll take the more passive approach and inject some sealant into the tubes and hope for the best.