Monday, April 30, 2007

Bike Changes

I retired the coroplast fenders. They were getting a little soggy. I replaced them with Berthoud stainless steel fenders. Very nice.

I replaced the cranky old Sun Tour rear derailleur with a Shimano Crane.

The front of the bike.

A brass buckle on the saddle bag.

The brake lever on the dirt drop bars.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chequamegon Fat Tire

I received my confirmation card on Monday that told me I got into the 2007 Chequamegon Fat Tire 40. I try every year to get in, but because it's a lottery, I don't always make it. That makes it even sweeter when I make it.

This gives me something to shoot for during the summer. I'll ride a little harder and a little farther. I'll try to be nice to all sorts of people with the goal of finding this year's Shuttle Boy. That's the person(s) I rely on to drop me off at the start line and meet me at the finish line. It requires most of that person's day and they have to listen to lots of bicycle bullshit talk. After the race, I have to relive every turn and bump in the trail in torturous detail. It becomes annoying after a few minutes, but I go on for hours. If Shuttle Boy rides bikes, he is usually hooked and wants to ride it the next year. That's good. If they're not interested, they seem to be conveniently unavailable for Shuttle Boy duty the next year. Selfish bastards! Shuttle Boys never last more than one year.*

My riding buddy, who I believe also got in the race, has a new helmet cam. I think that will help us relive the glory.

I have another bad habit related to this race. I tend to buy a new bike very close to the race date. That reminds me of a fun story. I'll post that later.

Now, it's time for more coffee.

This is a random photo of the finish line area of the race at Telemark Lodge, Cable, WI. The festival after the race is fun. I don't know the shirtless hooligans.

This photo is sunset at my brother-in-law's cabin where I often stay after the race. There's a loon calling out there somewhere, can you hear it? Actually, it's the sound of the drunk couple down the shore arguing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lake Pepin Ride

On Sunday, I rode around Lake Pepin with seven others. It was lots of fun and the group of riders were very compatible in riding styles. I suffered a little at the end, but not much. Some people think suffering is good, I don't know. But I'm sure you can't always avoid it.

The group was also pretty compatible with regard to equipment. That's to be expected, because the ride was organized by the Hiawatha Cyclery guys. Thanks for the ride, Kevin and Jim.

The equipment included lots of Rivendell-inspired stuff:
- Steel frames including actual Rivendell frames
- Canvas bags
- Fat road tires
- Fenders
- Racks
- Platform pedals
- Bar-end, friction shifters

This photo includes a Romulus, a Goodrich, and a Rivendell, and some people too.
I'm not one of those silly worshippers of all things Riv, but I appreciate the practical aspects of the Rivendell-recommended equipment. For example, it rained during the ride and the fenders prevented the rooster tails from going into the following riders' mouths and eyes. I bought a jar of home-made apple butter from a roadside vendor. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see her sitting at a table past the bakery. I carried the jar the rest of the ride in my saddlebag. I also had a camera, rain gear, a cable lock, and various other items in there. The saddlebag is very helpful and improves the ride experience by allowing me to bring stuff along.

Jim bought a barrel of pickled beets from the same vendor. I hope his wife enjoys the beets.

I'm not saying every rider had a complete Riv-inspired equipment list. No. We have each picked the items we like and use them. Some of us had skinny tires. Some of us had STI.

But we all enjoyed the ride.

Here are a couple of shots of John's bike. It's much nicer than the photos show.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Word Verification

After a drink or two, some of these Blogger word verifications are really tough.

I was helping a friend evaluate his bike the other day. His bike had some problems. Among them was a tight headset. I told him it was notched. "Here. Feel it," I said as I showed him how to swing the bars and feel the notched sensation.
Some other cyclists were nearby and one of them piped up with the jewel of all bicycling knowledge, "It's called brinelling."
I'm very familiar with the term, but I've chosen not to use it. If I'm talking to someone who isn't familiar with the word and I use it, then I've also got to explain it and even enunciate it in a pedantic, exaggerated way, because most people want to say, "brindling."
If instead I say it's notched and let them feel it, they understand perfectly and immediately. Then we can move on to other things.
Generally, I prefer common usage of the language. If a term isn't well known and another term that means the same thing is well known, then I'll use the well-known term. I think this approach should be called, "looking for easy synonyms."

I've done some reading about brinelling and may write a little history of the term, but you probably won't hear me use it to discuss worn bicycle headsets.

The guy in the photo is Johan August Brinell.

Warning: I Edit my Posts

Do you ever edit your posts after publishing them?

I've been doing it lately. My recent post about the bicycling lighting alternatives was a messy example. The text didn't wrap, I had misspellings, and typos. My hyper links didn't work either. So I fixed it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Trivial Mental Connections

This is a thing that I've been thinking about for years, but never put into words. When I eat black olives, I think of freshly sharpened pencils. Today, while eating a sandwich containing black olives, I had the thought again. This time, I caught the thought and held onto it long enough to become aware of the connection. To me, black olives taste like the smell of sharpening a pencil. I don't know if the smell is caused by the lead, the wood, the paint on the pencil, or a combination of them.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Novel Ways to be Visible

I'm in the process of creating a list of ways to make
bicyclists more visible.
Aside from conventional headlights, blinking tail
lights and safety vests, what else is there?
Let me know and I'll add them to this list:


Along those same lines, I have an idea to create a
lighting device that makes cyclists
look larger than they already are.

In a brainstorming sort of way, I'd like to invent a device
that would project a halogram
of a semi truck around a cyclist.

Since that's not happening anytime soon, I'm trying to come
up with other ways to get that effect.

Overheard in Traffic

The other day, while stopped at a traffic light on my bicycle, a guy pulled up next to me, pretty close, in a car and said, "Hey, you're not a car."

"I know," I answered in a matter-of-fact way.

Because he pulled up so close and I've heard the same comment from others in the past, I expected trouble. I turned to look at him and he said something else, although I couldn't understand it. So I asked him to repeat it. Asking a guy who just confronted you to repeat something is a sure way to escalate an already tense situation, but I truly did not understand him.

Most guys know about this. It's like when Joe Pesci plays a mobster and asks, "What are you lookin' at?"

But he didn't escalate. He asked me if I was one of those bikers who flip people the bird. I told him that I used to, but I stopped that a few years ago. I added that I don't think anything good comes from that. He smiled and nodded. His girlfriend laughed a little and they drove off as the light turned green.

I rode off too and thought about the little conversation for a long time. It's stuck with me although it really had no substance. Maybe it was that I expected something regrettable to happen and it did not. Was he ready to make trouble? Or was he just one of those guys who talks to everybody?

I don't know the answer, but the exhaust from his lowered '80s Maxima was dreadful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Fine Taste of Exhaust

My new commute takes me through much more auto traffic than my previous route. I used to ride a bike path along a creek that led to a bike path along the Mississippi River that led to a road ride through a few sleepy St. Paul neighborhoods. I rarely sat at stoplights and rarely sucked exhaust fumes.

My new route allows me plenty of chances to belly up to the smoke and fume bar. After a couple of weeks inhaling auto exhaust, I've developed a taste for it. I've grown fond of the taste of exhaust from old Camaros that need a ring jobs. And the taste of ethanol fumes is delicious. I look forward to a world where most cars are fueled by E85.

A rare treat is being stopped behind a diesel Golf running on waste vegetable oil. I think I'll carry two water bottles from now on. One will contain white wine and the other red. Then I'll have the perfect accompaniment for any flavor of exhaust. White goes with standard gas exhaust (better with a touch of burning oil) and red goes nicely with ethanol blends.

What goes with waste vegetable oil you ask? Beer, of course. That's where the big, dorky Carradice-style bags come in handy. I can easily haul a 4-pack of Guiness along for the ride. I think I should look into a handlebar bag though. That'll allow a quick-draw style of drinking while in traffic.

I think I'm developing the ability to tell how many miles are on a car based on the taste of the exhaust. Mmmmm.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Someone in my office is a real sicko. This miscreant arranged my little fake lego guys* in a way that makes them look like they're "wrestling." I describe it as wrestling, because there's a chance young, innocent eyes are reading my blog. I doubt those same eyes see the comments though.

This pose was struck a few months ago and I took a photo of it with my crappy cell phone camera back then. I just downloaded it today and thought some of you might find the sight of fake lego guys wrestling to be funny. I thought it was very funny, but my boss didn't. He fixed it right away. He's got a great sense of humor, but he doesn't want anyone to be offended around here. You never know how the other folks will view such wrestling poses.

* These are not real Lego guys. They are the knock-off brand Mega Blocks. While writing this entry, I couldn't remember the name of the fake ones so I googled for them. I found this link about fake legos. The fact that I found this entry while conducting a random search is pretty frickin' remarkable, because the guy who writes Primate Brow Flash is a prime suspect in the case of "Who posed the fake lego guys." Actually, I'm just about positive he's the one who did it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday's 100K Ride

I told myself that I needed to do a long ride in preparation for something or other. I stuck with it and rode 101K on Saturday. I started by doing the Hiawatha Cyclery ride. Only a handful of stalwart lads showed up for that.

Then I rode home to install a pair of chemical foot-warming devices. My feet were too cold during the HC ride and I knew without some assistance, my feet would not make it through a longer ride. The foot warmers worked perfectly. I never thought about my feet again until at the end of the ride I removed my shoes and found the warmers stuck to my socks.

I rode up the chain of lakes and out the Midtown Greenway to St. Louis Park. Then back on the Cedar Lake Trail. Each time I take this route, I enjoy the smell of the Ovaltine factory. The steam coming out of the pipe in the photo is a chocolatey emission from Ovaltine production. It's a bothersome smell if you're hungry. Actually, I'm not sure if it's Ovaltine. That's what I've heard.

I also saw some vandal art. It made me laugh. He's a friendly looking robot, don't you think?

I jumped onto Wirth Parkway and rode north to Victory Memorial Park Drive. They've repaved the bike path and it was excellent riding.

More sculpture. This is the Lumberman.

I continued east to the Mississippi River where I found the Port of Minneapolis.

Washington Avenue is lined by old, industrial buildings in vary states. This one was the most interesting.

I stopped at the Aster Cafe again. I like that place. It's a real cafe, not just a coffee shop.

The downwind side of the lakeshores are covered with ice sculptures.

I rode one extra lap around Lake Harriet to get my 100K.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My New Commute

My cue sheet worked for me, even in the early morning darkness.

I enjoy the new route. It reminds me of all the things I took for granted about my old, very scenic route. The new route is busy, lots of traffic lights, stop signs, cars, and pedestrians. My route takes me along Cedar Avenue to the West Bank area of Minneapolis. That's where part of the University of Minnesota is located.

The thoughtlessness of the pedestrians is only exceeded by the cab drivers.

I go north out of the U of M area via the 10th Avenue bridge. Somewhere along the line, it turns into 19th Avenue as it crosses the Mississippi River. I'll learn to accept the silly road name thing as soon as I have the ride directions ingrained in my brain so thoroughly that I don't think about them.

I then go east on Como Avenue. Before this route, I thought Como Avenue only existed in St. Paul. Then I zig zag across a few roads (29th Avenue, Larpenteur) and get on Industrial Blvd. It's not as scenic as West Mississippi River Road, but it looks better than my next road, Terminal Road. I got honked at while I was riding in the middle of the lane avoiding giant potholes on Terminal Road. It's located in an industrial park. I'm sure it's difficult to maintain a road that mainly carries semi trucks. I hope there's nothing prophetic about the name Terminal Road.

There's always a tasty smell in the air at the industrial park.

The new building I work in has a shower. The old place did not. I thought it would be difficult to give up the wash-cloth baths, I mean they are so personal. Well, the warm water coming from the shower head is pretty nice too. No photos of this part of the route.

I took the long way home last night and found the ice forming on a little tree. The tree is located on the east shore of Lake Calhoun. My toes felt the same.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New Place to Work

The company for whom I work, just moved locations. They were polite enough to tell me the new address. I tried to ride there on Sunday and it was a disaster.

I got lost in NE Minneapolis. The streets are crazy up there. In my part of Minneapolis, the avenues go north-south and the streets go east-west. In NE Minneapolis, the avenues go all directions. This sort of thing is an example of what threw me off.

I'm usually very good at meandering around on my bike and finding where I want to go. That didn't work yesterday. I was so lost, I started riding around to find a horizon that showed me the skyline of downtown. The clouds were low, but I found downtown and meandered my way back there and rode home. It took 2 1/2 hours and I only got close to my new workplace. My feet were very cold when I arrived home. My wife even began to worry, she said.

Today, I consulted a map, a little more thoroughly, and found a good looking route. I used it to get to work in my car. That's pathetic, yes.

Tomorrow, I'll roll right in with my cue sheet in hand. If I'm lucky the forecast for snow will come true.

On a related note, I installed new brakes one week ago. I rode them 6 days, mostly in the rain and the brake pads are worn out. Yesterday, they became ineffective even with all the slack taken out of the cables. When I arrived home, I inspected them closely and found they looked like someone pressed them against a belt sander. They were Shimano M pads that have a terrible reputation. I replaced them with Serfas pads. I hope they last a little longer. Brake pads are about $12 a pair and I don't want to replace them as often as I have been lately. The grit of wet conditions really eats them up.

Has anyone commuted with disk brakes enough to tell me if they are an improvement? I realize that installing disk brakes requires a new bike. But that never stopped me before.

"The purty tires don't look so nice now, do they boy?"
As you can see, the bike needs a bath. With wet conditions forecast all week, I'll wait until a sunny day arrives. That'll be soon enough.

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