Tuesday, December 30, 2008

4-Speed Again

This is the third time I've converted this bike to an internal gear (Sturmey Archer 4-speed). Maybe I've gotten it right this time.

I've had two problems using internal gear hubs with this bike in the past. The hub slips in the drop outs as if I hadn't tightened the axle nuts enough. This happens no matter how tight I make them.

The second problem is this bike has short horizontal drop outs. I haven't measured them, but they are just short enough to make it difficult to get the chain tension correct with certain cog/chain ring combinations. It seems that the ones I've tried are all difficult ones.

I've tried a few cures, but they didn't work. I mentioned this to Bikesmith and he sold me these beautifully made Sturmey Archer anti-rotation washers shown in the photo below. Previously, I'd only used stamped washers with a single "tooth." The new ones provide more surface area for the hub to bite into the drop outs. The new ones looked like they'd work, but they made the second problem worse by shortening the effective length of the drop outs. I tried this anyway and couldn't get the chain tight enough to stop the chain from jumping off the cog. So I put a rear derailleur back on the bike a month or so ago.

Compare my drop outs shown below with the array of drop outs shown on Sheldon's website (scroll down to the entry for drop outs). If my bike had long drop outs, setting chain tension would be easy.

A few days ago, I decided to try the anti-rotation washers again and add the chain tensioner mentioned in the last post. I installed it all today and gave it a ride. It seems to work. I've learned, however, that it'll take more time on the road to determine if it slips. Last year, I had it working until I installed clipless pedals in the spring. Then it started slipping again. I have hope for this setup though.

It's snowing and there are lots of ice ruts hidden under the snow. This prevented me from really putting the pressure on the pedals. It's time for skiing anyway.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back from Vacation & New Bike Project

I returned from vacation. My family and I traveled to see my dad and brother. I had secret dreams of getting out on a bike, any old bike would do, but it didn't work out.

I'll share a few photos out of the hundreds I took. The digital camera gives me more freedom to experiment with photos and one or two of them turned out nicely.

Back home, I tried to ride my winter commuter and found the new chain rusted into an orange mess. I tried to loosen up the stiff links with oil and by gently bending it sideways. I didn't see much improvement. The bike is unrideable. I've had this problem before, but never to this extent.

I have a solution, a permanent one. Tomorrow I'll install the 4-speed hub again. Some of you may remember I had chain tension problems with that setup. This time, I'll use a chain tensioner.
The newest version of the Surly Singleator impresses me. I owned one of the originals, before it was called Surly, and it was less refined. The old one worked, but it required fiddling. The new features on this one look like they'll address the old ones shortcomings.

The work will begin tomorrow, because I want my bike ready for the HC New Year's Day ride. If it's like last year's, it'll be memorable. It was on that day that we got to see more of Jim than we expected.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I'm going on vacation today for a week.

It's with great pleasure I leave you with this YouTube video I found on BoingBoing. Have a little patience -- the fun starts about 25 seconds into the video. I'll never be able to dance again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dec. 13 Hiawatha Cyclery Ride

About ten riders turned out for today's HC ride. Most of us complained of being overdressed as the temperature had risen to 20 degrees F and kept climbing throughout the ride. By the end of the ride the snow was mush and didn't provide the oatmeal quality it had earlier in the morning. Oatmeal sounds funny, but it makes handling difficult. It never lasts very long though, because it can only exist in a certain temperature range. When the temps warm up, the oatmeal turns to pudding and when the temps go down, it turns to angry ice.

The sun came out and I think the ride was one of the best ever. I can't tell you why, but that's how I felt.

After the ride, I attended our neighborhood holiday party and ate my weight in egg dishes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Old Blog Posts are Worth Reading

I was looking through my old blog posts for a certain photo. Which photo is not important to this purpose of this post. The important point I want to make is that it's fun to read the old posts and the comments. I laughed and laughed.

The posts in which I describe bike projects are useful too. They helped me understand the progression of bike changes.

It's nice to reread the posts and remember things I'd forgotten. Over the past few months, I've questioned the value of a blog. After looking over the old posts, I have the answer: my blog is valuable to me.

Maybe all of you already found that answer, but if you haven't, I recommend you take a look at your old posts.

The Photo?
I took the photo on yesterday's ride to work. This is the Minneapolis skyline from the top of a hill north of downtown Minneapolis. I think that someday I'll capture the photo in a way that pleases me. But I haven't done it yet. I took this with a pocket camera steadied on my Frost River saddlebag. Yes, a better camera and a tripod would help. I set the shutter speed to about 1/4 of a second. I tried lots of other shutter speeds and froze my nipples off in the process.

Shopping Season Music

I went shopping the other day for xmas gifts. I heard lots of xmas songs while wandering around the stores. Lots of them are old songs with a beat track added, like Bing Crosby's version of White Christmas with a fake drum beat added. I don't like it. These songs become really stale after being over played, but adding hip-hop beats doesn't make them better.

I tried to find an audio clip that I could put in my blog, but I had no luck in the 30 seconds I spent searching.

For a good example of the bad music I'm referring to, go to this link and listen to any song on the list -- wait, first put a bucket in front of you to catch the puke you're gonna spew.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dry-Skin Season Tip #1

I found another advantage of having a shaved head. During the dry-skin season I sometimes put too much lotion on my hands and need somewhere to wipe the excess. My shaved head is perfect for this.

A Little Snow

I rode the winterized commuter to work for the first time today, because we had a little snow. It turns out that the amount of snow was too small to deserve the studded tires. I know this because at the end of my ride, the snow tongue was tiny.

But the headwind was huge. I don't know the wind speed, but it was enough to make me cold. The good side is that I'll fly home, unless it changes direction. If it does change and I ride home in a headwind, I'll whine about it here.

I saw tracks of three other bicyclists along the Diagonal Trail in NE Minneapolis. This trail doesn't see much traffic so it was nice to see others out at such an early time of day in the snow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winterized Bike

I installed studded tires on the commuter bike today, because the crappy weather is here. The studs don't show any indication of wear from last year.

While I had the bike in the stand, I installed a "new" rear derailleur, cassette, chain, rear brake pads, and new brake hoods.

The right hood is purple and the left one is green. I bought them as pairs at the Hiawatha Cyclery sidewalk sale and mixed them together. No one has ever accused me of having good taste in colors. But the crazy colored hoods make the bike faster, really.

I also installed platform pedals. The only way I can keep my feet warm in the winter is to use heavily insulated boots and that requires platform pedals.
The winterized machine in its entirety.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday's Lonely Ride

I stayed in bed this morning and missed the HC ride. I went out alone. I found less than an inch of snow had fallen overnight.

I discovered a new trail had been built. It's at Minnehaha Falls Wabun picnic area. Ride up there and give it a try.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Lunch Ride

I rode the Sekai today on the lunch ride. The bike rides great. I need to make a few changes:
1. Replace the saddle. I've got one in mind that I like the feel of and it will match the bike better.
2. Replace the brake levers. I want a set of old Mafacs. Anyone? I started with a set of aero levers, but they looked like grandma using a bluetooth earpiece. The current levers feel wrong and slip. When I tighten them, the lever binds.
3. Tape the bars with tan cork.
4. Install metallic fenders. I like hammered Honjos, but Mellow Velo nearly convinced me they are too fragile for regular bikes.
5. The gearing is too tall for me. The crankset, to which I am attached, has a 47 tooth chainring. If anyone can find me a smaller three-arm SR Custom chainring, I'll be happy. But with a 20 tooth cog on back it is a little steep for me.
6. Build a dedicated single-speed rear wheel.

That's it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How many miles of trails?

Tex69 asked how many miles of bike paths exist in Minneapolis/St. Paul?

I didn't know, but I recognize a good blog topic when I see one.

I spent a couple minutes researching this question. Here's what I found.

The City of Minneapolis website says 123 miles of paths already exist and 45 more are funded for construction in 2009-2010.

I'm already thinking about lunch.

St. Paul's website says they have 101 miles of paths. Neither of these figures include bike lanes and routes of which there are many.

I don't know how many miles exist in the suburbs, but there are lots of paths out there also.

A few of the paths are not very well designed or implemented, but most are very useful. My ride to work is about 10 miles. I guesstimate I can ride on bike paths for about 2/3 of my route.

We have lots of trails around here and I use them when it makes sense.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I created this post in Google Docs.

I rode to work in the daylight today. I like light. I think light is important. It makes photos look better, even from the creepycam like the photo below.
I created this post in Google Docs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We Like Letterboxing

I regularly read Midnight Rider's blog. He's written about letter boxing and it sounds like fun. I read about letter box locations in my area (Minneapolis, MN) and thought my kids would enjoy it. Today, I picked one location and we found it.

The letter box is located between Ft. Snelling State Park and Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. The directions were a bit vague, but I just followed what I felt was the spirit of the directions and we easily found it.

My kids immediately liked it and planned to search for more letter boxes. They even talked about creating our own.

After finding the box, we hiked around the area. It's right next to the Mississippi River.

We found a benchmark too.

Hiawatha Ride, November 15

We rode to the St. Anthony neighborhood in St. Paul, MN. This took us near the home of Primate Brow Flash. Red Alaska was in town and rode his 72.5 lb Murray cruiser. People from Alaska are tougher than the rest of us.

We stopped at the Finnish Bakery which is co-located with a Dunn Bros. coffee shop.

Nice rack.

They roast their own beans at each location. It's one of my favorite coffee shops.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lots of Icy Bridges

Ice fell during the day and I rode home on mostly melted ice. I don't have the studded tires installed yet so I'm glad I didn't need them.

I noticed something a little different though -- every bridge crossing was still icy and there are lots of them on my ride home. I never thought about how many bridges I use, but without them my ride would be much more difficult and dangerous. The bridges take me over interstates, railroad tracks, busy roads, and water (the Mississippi River).
You can't see the ice on this little bike/pedestrian bridge, but it's there. When I stomped on the pedals to take off after taking this beautiful photo, the rear tire slipped. I cleaned, lubed, and adjusted this bike last night and the ride home was wonderful.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest Project

I hastily put together a little project this weekend. I hastily took a few photos of it and was really disappointed with the photos. The sun was setting, so available light was too low for good images. The photos also highlighted some mechanical and visual shortcomings of the bike. So I'm not showing much of it until I correct a few things.

Anyway, here's a single photo. This crankset will stay. This bike is a garage sale Sekai. I really like the ride and so I'm building it up just the way I want it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday Hiawatha Ride (Nov. 8)

We toured the city and our toes were cold.

We saw these anti-Scientilogists (I misspelled it on purpose) on Nicollet Ave. in downtown Minneapolis. I like their guts and the cops were keeping an eye on them too. "Don't taze me, Bro!"
Later in the say, my wife and I visited the Reuse Center in Minneapolis. This bell is the size of a washing machine. I'd love to add a belfry on my roof and install this bell. I'd get a hunchback costume to wear when I ring it at dawn every day.

Friday, November 07, 2008

More Talk about Bike Trails

On the way to work the other day, a truck driver pulled up next to me and began screaming. He spewed the usual stuff about riding on the bike path and the millions of dollars we spent on paths.

I told him to use the highway and rode off. He passed me and gave me the bird. His behavior exceeded my expectations. I felt really stupid the rest of the day, because I should have come up with better things to say.

Here's some background on this trail. The reason I don't ride that particular bike path is because it's a gloried sidewalk, or at least that's been opinion. I rode the path one time before. It has a railroad crossing that is so rough, my tire bottomed out on the rim. I didn't get the expected pinch flat, but I decided to ride on the road instead. A couple months ago, I stopped to help a rider near the same crossing. His bike had a pinch flat probably caused by the rough tracks. The crossing on the road is pretty nice in comparison. Another reason I didn't use the trail is that they didn't plow the snow on it last year. Also, just last week, I noticed a large construction dumpster parked across the trail. It was there for a couple days.

On the way home, the same day the trucker yelled at me, I noticed some repairs had been done on the bike path railroad crossing. This morning, I decided to try the trail again and found it serviceable. The trail avoids a busy intersection that I feel is dangerous. Using the trail also allows me to avoid a left-hand turn at a four-way stop in the dark.

I guess I'm rethinking my decision to not use the trail. But if the trucker sees me on the bike trail, he'll think yelling at people is the way to get things done.

I'm thinking of wearing a big sign that says, "To the trucker who yelled at me: I'm riding this trail because I chose to not because you yelled at me. And fuck you anyway!"

I think that sums up my feelings pretty well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm Cold

It's cold this morning (27 degrees F). I didn't wear enough layers and my skin is bright pink. I'll do better tomorrow.

I hope there's hot water in the shower.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Big Dummy Ride

Today's Hiawatha Cyclery Ride had two big dummies in attendance. One of them carried a pretty large pinhole camera mounted on the board. I think this may be a niche market.

We rode over Interstate 35W in Minneapolis on the 42nd Street pedestrian bridge. The interstate is closed today for work. With no cars underneath us, it was really quite and nice.

I converted my commuter bike to a 4 speed. Through a trade, I got the 4-speed guts and installed them in my already built 3-speed wheel. The shifting is pretty stiff. I'll lubricate the hub and all the shifting pivot points. That may improve the situation.

Click on the photos for the larger version. The detail captured by the camera was pretty good, because the light was very nice.

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