Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's Your Blog Rated?

Here's a site that rates your blog. I don't know what process it uses to rate your blog, but the rating comes up in the familiar movie rating format: G, PG, R, etc.

This blog is rated G.

That is exactly what I intended (except for the comments left by you). However, after I received the rating, I was a little disappointed. If you know me personally, you'll know that my language is not always G rated.

Maybe I'm just a big phony (as Holden Caulfield would say).

Thanks to the Surly bikes blog for the link.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Snow Bike Term

Today's HC ride was a snow tongue ride (if you had fenders, you'd understand).

I thought I'd show some of the bikes we ride in the snow. Here's Pete's. It's a single speed, soon to be a three-speed. It has studded tires.

Here's Jim's single-speed ATB. I don't know what tires he's running.

Here's a pair of Surly Cross Checks.

We piled our bikes on the snow bank at the coffee shop. They gave us our own room inside. Is it because we were stinky?

Here's a snow udder. See the formation of gunk hanging from the down tube, just in front of the bottom bracket?Here's a closer view.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Is that an ice-cycle hanging from the bottom bracket?

I took this photo with the bike hanging up on a hook in our office storage room. I'm sure the freeze/thaw conditions will lead to an early death of some components. I plan to get this frame powder coated when the snow is gone.

The snow tongue was about a centimeter this morning and it was shaped in a way that showed I had ridden with a quartering, left headwind. I don't a have a photo though, because the cell-phone cam didn't do a good enough job.

May your snow tongue be long and prosperous.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Today's Ride

We had an inch or less of snow yesterday.

I illuminated my bike with my helmet-mounted headlight and took this photo with the cell-phone cam. It's even crappier when you see the large version. Nice. The entire bike was covered with a fuzz of snow.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The HC Melo Saturday Ride

Melo Glaze Donut treats were the reward for finishing the shortest organized ride on record. Melo Glaze is a really nice place. They bake wonderful donuts, fritters, and pastries. They have lots of space with couches, tables, and three or so internet-connected computers available. I'll be back there on my Friday, work-from-home days.

I took the following photo of Ray's fuzzy coat, but the photo doesn't show the detail very well. Ray describes the coat as a toilet tank cover. I think that's pretty accurate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weather Talk

I know I'm getting old, because I love to talk about weather. The next step in aging is incessant talk about health problems, followed by talk of how people died.

"Poor old Dave. He went to the doctor one day with some stomach pains and they operated on him the next day. The doctors said they just sewed him up 'cause the cancer had spread so far they couldn't do anything about it." This an actual conversation and many of us will repeat it sometime in the future.

Enough happy talk, let's move onto the weather.

I felt overdressed on my ride into work today. I was prepared for the weather of the last couple days so I wore too many layers. I stopped twice to make clothing adjustments. Even my feet were warm.

When I got into work, I looked at a weather website. It was about 20 degrees F. and and I had a tiny tail wind. I noticed that tomorrow will be lots colder, about 15 to 20 degrees colder. I'll just wear the same layers tomorrow that I wore today.

Saturday will be brutal. They're predicting a high of -3. The whole point of this post is to show you the icon they placed on Saturday's forecast. That guy looks cold. I blew up the icon 800%. He still looks cold. The HC ride will be awesome. We can ride down the street to the Quickee Mart for sprinkled donuts.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Three-Speed Play

About an inch of snow fell the other day and so I'm back riding the bike with studded tires. That's the one I recently converted to a 3-speed. It's remained amazingly clean. See the silver chain? Pretty, eh?
I've known for many years that 3-speeds have a bit of play in the chain when you start off pedaling from a stop. I'm sure there's a better term for it than play, but I can't think of it right now. It seems normal on an old Raleigh Sports or Roadster. On those bikes, I've learned to live with it.

I find it's more noticeable on this bike though. I'm sure it's because I'm used to the old way this bike was set up. Someone who is used to fixed gear bikes would really notice it.

I wonder if any other types of 3-speed hubs have less play (the new Sturmey, Shimano, Sun Tour, or Sachs (SRAM)).

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's Nice to Ride a Different Bike

Today, I rode this bike. I packed the laptop in the pannier. It's wrapped in a neoprene laptop sleeve and the bag is padded with a section of sleeping pad. It seems like a good way to carry a laptop. A couple of weeks ago, I didn't have the pannier attached correctly and it fell off in the street. I was surprised to find the laptop is working fine. But who can tell with Vista?

This bike has no studs on the tires and the conditions are fine for that now. The ice is gone from most trails and major streets. I had to walk down my alley though. The alley is a rutted mess.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I completed the conversion of my commuting bike to a 3 speed mentioned in a previous blog post. The work went pretty smoothly. I built a wheel, installed the shifting parts and chain, and replaced the rear brake pads and brake cable.

The bike runs nicely again. The new chain is vey quiet. Of course, it's difficult to hear drive train problems over the sound of the studs whirring on the pavement. The other day, I had a U of M student caught in my chain. I didn't notice until I stopped at a traffic light and heard his iPod.

A Very Clean Drivetrain

I think it's noteworthy that I didn't use the 3-speed shifter. Instead, I used the Sun Tour friction bar-end shifter that was already installed. It works fine. I was worried that it wouldn't control the cable well enough to prevent me from finding the slipping spot near the middle gear. I haven't had the problem yet. I know two very experience riders who are using the same setup and they say it works great (Mellow Velo and Boones Farm).

I still want to build a more heavy-duty wheel for this bike. Mellow Velo has a 40 hole hub he's going to sell me. I'll pick that up this week sometime. The wheel I just installed has 28 holes and I intended it for another project I have in mind.

Now, the 3-Speed Blog is more three-speedy than before.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Freerice: Vocabulary Game


A vocabulary tester. I got two wrong on the way to 420 grains. Then it was time to go back to work.

Comment Word Verification

I just disabled the word verification feature. I've been meaning to do that for a long time, but I kept forgetting.

In the past, I was hesitant to disable it, because the last blog I had received hundreds of SPAM comments each day. That forced me to go into the database and delete all the comments from the comment table. I hate that sort of maintenance. For those who care, I was using bblog. At the time, they didn't seem to be able to fix the problem, so I gave up on it. I don't miss the work of manually maintaining my blog software.

Orcs in my Drivetrain

Today, I want to tell you a story about my messed up bike.

During the past few rides I've noticed the rear derailleaur shifting slowly. Yesterday, it only shifted to easier gears. To get to harder gears, I had to reach down and pull the derailleaur cable that runs along the downtube. It was like plucking a bass string. Thunk, and the derailleaur shifted into the next gear or even more.

This happens every winter. In the past, the cure has been a little lube in the section of housing leading to the rear derailleaur.

When I got home, I carried the messy bike into my basement shop and found the culprit to be the section of cable housing coming out of the bar-end shifter. I removed the cable and housing for replacement and noticed the rear derailleaur was not springing back to hold the chain tight. The chain was hanging loose. I pulled the derailleaur off to clean it and found the lower pivot was frozen in place -- no spring action left.

I dug in the parts box and found an old replacement derailleaur. I installed it and noticed the lower pulley was wobbly. I tightened the pulley bolt and found it was already stripped. That must be why it was in the parts box. Ding, dang, darn it!

I sold two perfectly good derailleurs last month on Ebay. Ding, dangedy, darn it!

I decided to make it a single speed by using the 18 tooth cog which is right in the middle of the cluster providing a perfect chainline. However, I couldn't get it just right. The chain was a little too long or way to short. A 19 tooth would have worked, but none of my 5-speed freewheels have a 19 tooth in that position. While I was trying to get the chain length right, I noticed two broken teeth on the 18 tooth cog.

I thought about changing chainrings to make the 18 tooth work, but I didn't want to touch the filthiest crankset in the world. It looks like I used it to hack Orcs apart at a Lord of the Rings battle.

By the way, before I brought the bike in the house, I tried to wash it, but the hose in the garden was full of ice.

Conclusion: No derailleur, no single speed, no other bike that will take the studded tires -- no bike ride today.

I have most of the parts I need to set it up as a three speed. I just need spokes and a 1/8" chain.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

We Drink Coffee at Upscale Places

Here are a couple photos from the Aster Cafe where the Saturday Hiawatha ride participants drank coffee. It's a pretty nice place. I took some photos outside with my new lens, but I had the white balance set for incandescent lights so the outside photos are all blue. I usually leave the white balance on auto, but I set it manually earlier.

As a special treat, I've created an animated gif file of Ray riding up to Hiawatha Cyclery on Saturday morning. If you look closely, you can see that Ray gives me a hand signal. You may have seen this gesture before. I apologize for the blueness, again that was a white balance problem. A lesson I should have learned by now.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Winter Commute

I usually think winter rides are less noteworthy than the warm weather rides. I'm not sure why, because last night's ride home was a doozy.

The snow layer covering the streets and trails had disappeared in many spots, exposing the ice below. The studded tires allowed me to ride over the ice with no worries. It's only when I stopped and put my foot down that I realized how slick it was.

The trails that still had snow cover over the ice were the worst yesterday. The snow had softened into the consistency of mashed potatoes (thanks to Yam for this description). It was especially thick on the Midtown Greenway trail. I got off of it as quickly as I could, because the riding was so difficult.

After I got off the Greenway onto a side street, I discovered something that will probably be of no use to any of you, but I'll tell you anyway. Coroplast signs are very slippery when they are on top of ice.

I discovered this first hand. My attention was on the cars around me at one intersection and I ran over a "We'll buy your house" sign laying in the road. As soon as my tire ran over it, the sign slid out from underneath and I went down in a flash. My winter layers padded the fall. I got up and tried to throw the sign off the road with the angry fury of a badger and the ineptness of a toddler. I was wearing mittens so I didn't get a good grip on the sign. The sign still had the wire legs attached that caused it to be a little unwieldy. The wind caught it and it looped up in the air and landed about a foot in front of me. I thought of kicking it, but I figured I'd land on my butt again because of the icy street. I picked it up and gave it an underhand fling into a snow bank.

I'm sure the auto drivers were entertained by the bicycle crashing, sign throwing idiot.

The side streets were ugly because of the combination of taters and ice. I chose a main street and found the riding much better. Although some of the auto drivers treated like a traffic cone.

Before the sign incident, I took a few photos from on top of the Midtown Greenway/Hiawatha bridge with the creepy cam. The sun was low and I liked what I saw.

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