Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flashblog Seasonal Upgrades

Greetings, and, as always, welcome to Flashblog,

I'm your host, Flash, sifting through the detritus of modern culture for molecules of joy, seasonal and otherwise, as it relates to my almost obsessive interest in bicycles and bicycle riding.  In this edition, I get to report some very good news.  I've acquired even more bike parts since the last installment!  Here's an intriguing fact:  all these parts are brand new, the result of throwing cash around locally, and all over the internet.  Flash is doing great things for the economy!  And supporting the Euro as well, I'm proud to say.

"So just what are these parts?" you are probably asking yourself and I was hoping you would ask that.
The first thing is a new bottom bracket for my Lemond road bike.  Yes, it is at the bottom of the bike, but no, it is not a bracket at all.  What it is is a hollow splined axle with ball bearings inside a sealed metal tube.  I know, that's pretty fascinating.  I could let the warmth and tingleyness stop there, but I'll go on.  You see, the bottom bracket, in this case a type called ISIS, is an important thing in that it connects the gear thingys to the pedal thingys, and lets them go round and round smoothly.  If it fails, the "smoothly" part goes away and it literally becomes a drrraaaaaaaaag.

Here's what it looks like,but you don't see it because it is hidden inside the bike frame

Anyway, my previous BB got a little bent somehow, so the gear thingys (chainrings)  were pulsing side to side a bit, rubbing on the derailleur.  And dragging at the same time.  Bummer.  So I dropped some cash at the LBS (local bike shop) and let them order the part and install it.  Costs more this way, but its time I gave them some business as they've been very good to me.  ISIS, by the way, was an interim technology to combat the market supremacy Shimano appeared to be gaining when they "dropped" their proprietary Octalink splined system.  ISIS was formed by a consortium of competing parts concerns to combat Octalink, so they basically copied the Octalink but put on 10 splines instead of 8.  Time would show that the ISIS system, while stiff laterally, has a bearing design that wears out faster because it is forced to use more, but smaller ball bearings, thus more bearing surface area compared to a system of larger balls.

Thus, The Market then "rolled out" the external bearing system which put larger bearings on the outside of the bike, fixing the inherent shortcomings of the splined systems.  The external system is not so good for sealing out water and dirt, but it is stiff due to its larger axle shaft.  The hollow axle is integrated into the crankset, a light and efficient setup.  

This is what the external bottom bracket looks like, bearings on the outside. 

Even newer is the BB30 system, invented by Cannondale but now also on many  high end bikes.

Note the large bearing races sit inside an oversized frame tube shell.  Lighter, stiffer, most efficient.  The BB30 system results in frame swelling in its nether regions to accommodate the large bearings.

I know what you are thinking:  "Flash, why didn't you just upgrade to an external bearing system?"  Because I didn't want to also have to buy a new crankset to fit it.  My current crank features my time tested 52/39/28 gears that can not be had in a modern triple, which is commonly 50/39/30.  Beside, that would have been a $400 upgrade, just to modernize a bearing system.  I decided to put that cash into a different area, so I just replaced the ISIS unit and I'm back in biz for a good long time. 

So where did I put the cash?    Here:

Giant P SL1 Road Wheelset 

Designed for performance road riding, aimed at enthusiasts and beginner racers seeking a stiff, durable wheelsystem.
  • 6061 Rim · Forged 6000-series hubs
  • DT Aero bladed Stainless steel spokes, 18 front, 24 rear
  • Single handed wheel release
  • DT Swiss sealed hub bearings
  • 21mm wide rim
  • Weight 1775g per pair
The 2012 Defy Composite 1 with the P-SL1 wheels

I went on a wheel research bender, and got quite overwhelmed.  Brands such as Easton, American Classic, Shimano, Most, Neuvation, Velocity, Rolf, Rol, and a myriad of boutique wheelsmiths all claim to make the best wheel at the best price.  At first, I was thinking about a very light climbing wheel like the Easton 90, which comes in at under 1500g per set.  Or Rol Alp Duez at 1490g.  Then I started reading reviews over at and it became clear that the lighter the wheel, the greater risk of breaking spokes or of wheel flexing.  Not to mention the cost skyrockets commensurately. The Rolf Vectors I have been using the last few years weigh in at around 2000g, so these Giants save about 200 grams, or about half a pound.  I found them on Ebay, at a great price, so threw down for them.  They feature a wider rim than usual, 21mm vs the 19mm normally found on road rims.  However, the Rolfs measure a spindly 17.9mm wide, so the new rims are something like 15% wider.  When mounting 23mm tires on the 21mm rims, the resulting tire cross section profile looks less like a lightbulb and more like an airfoil.  So this is reported to result in better cornering and road feel, almost tubular-like.  

What I can report is that when I spin the new wheels, they are completely silent, so utterly smooth that if I closed my eyes I could not tell if they were spinning.  This is new to my experience, believe it or not, I've never had spanking new wheels on a bike.  This is going to be a treat!

Road report:  SWEET!  I definitely feel a small but better difference going uphill.  It feels easier going up.  Descending feels about the same as before.  Cornering is better, and overall ride feel is zingy-er without being harsh at all.  Drawback:  changing a tire on the road is HARD.  Not sure if this is due to the Lithium tires mentioned below or the wider aspect of the rims.  I've now included liquid soap in my saddle bag to make the next road repair easier.  I kid you not!

Lastly, I contacted my people across the Pond, and they sent me over some Michelin Lithium 2 tyres.  I really like the Lithium as it rides like a ProRace, but has better puncture resistance,and is the most cost effective tyre in the line, I got a pair for $42 American. 
In progress shots.  

The wheels with tires on looks how I want them to look, understated yet with a high tech, no-nonsense appearance.  The black, gray and white colors fit the bike's overall scheme quite well.  The wheels appear as climbing wheels should look, light and purposeful, none of this aero, oversized, super deep dished carbon  excess so prevalent in bike marketing today.  Here' a fine example of blingtastic wheels:

Ugg. I hate this look on a bike.  It reminds me of this:

I just improved my machine quite a bit.  It runs like a Swiss watch and goes just a little bit better than before.  Riding should be about the fun, and it is fun that I'm having right now.  Oh yeah.  

Lastly, my New Year's resolution is to add a second ride name to my personal roster.  This name is inspired by the recent news of a long covered up family story that due to a philandering enjoyed by my grandmother  I may in fact be 1/4 Italian!

Ride On My Friends

Ciacomo Gordoni

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Day/Night/Wet/Dry/On Road/Off Road Urban Assault Bike Build

I've been wrenching on my bikes again.  It's a fun hobby.  I put them together, then take them apart and put them back together differently.  This is the beauty of bikes.  They are accessible.  Simple.  Easy to work on.  And the variations are endless.  Here's my latest and how it came to be.

Plz clic pics

I've increased my commuting by bike to work up at Chabot Space and Science Center.  I was using my Lemond road bike, which is by far the fastest and easiest way to get up the hill.  But the Lemond is relatively fragile, especially the tires, which have suffered on the mean streets of Oakland.  I also want to keep it clean as I have bad memories of riding it 200 kilometers in the rain and the major work I had to do on it after that.  I've also ridden my fast commuter, the Miyata, to work, and while almost as fast, it's a harder grind because the gears are too high, and again, the tires take a beating.  The streets of urban Oakland are in bad shape and I find myself constantly dodging potholes, cracks and seams that could not only wreck a wheel, but cause me to crash.

A few years ago, while in the midst of a steep hill climbing phase, I modified my Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike with smaller, fast rolling tires, and rode it up some of the steepest streets in all of the Bay Area.  Marin Ave. in Berkeley, for example.  Very, very steep, up to 25% grade, or more.  While the ultra low gears of this bike served me well in this endevour, the overall heavier weight of the bike made it hard for me to keep up with my riding buddies on road bikes.  After a 40 mile hill ride on the Rockhopper, I was beat like an abalone.  So I wrenched it back into a dirt bike and it was a favorite ride of my exchange student, Lorenz from Germany.  So favorite in fact, that upon returning to Deutchland, he bought an even better mountain bike.  In fact, the last time I had an off road adventure, this story developed from it.
I encountered this bike 2 years ago and was inspired by the audacity of the thing

The Rockhopper has been hanging on the wall, awaiting a new purpose.  I didn't do any dirt rides on it this year.  So one evening, my inspiration fueled by Charles Shaw merlot, I decided to resurrect the road version of the Rockhopper.  It was just what I envisioned:  A ruggedized bike frame with bomb-proof wheels, wider but still fast rolling puncture resistant tires, front shock absorbers, powerful U-brakes, and low gears for getting up the 7 mile hill to work.  And I would need fenders for wet roads.  And lights for when it gets dark at 5pm.  And reflectors.  Lots of reflectors.  I got to work.

For tires I use some generic kevlar belted city tires from Performance, the City-K, size 26x1.25.  They look like baby tires compared to the knobbies they replace.  But the small diameter also serves a secondary importance: they provide fender clearance.  For fenders, I stole some 1975 vintage rusted steel parts of my junk project bike I call "entropy".  I never ride it anymore, and it is just sitting outside rusting away.  But I've always admired the rust on top of the old chrome fenders, and their sturdy construction.  The Rockhopper was never designed for touring type fenders so I had to get creative with the mounting, relying on zip ties, bolts, and even Gorilla glue.
Front fender detail:  metal fender tab affixed with 2 zip ties to the fork bridge, and Gorilla glued to prevent sideways slippage

Rear detail:  the bike's left stay has a rear eyelet to bolt to, but none on the right side, so I used a piece of bent wire and a loop of cut innertube to create a flexible but tight connection.

The fenders are bent to a 27" arc, so they are a tad large in diameter, thus the generous tire clearance fore and aft.  I cut a rubber mud flap for the front and bolted that on.  One of these will greatly deflect road spray off your feet.

Here you can get an idea of how well the reflector tape works, even better in the dark under car headlights

Next, I installed my largest saddle bag, and put into it my Park Survival Tool, a spare tube, and other tools.  For night riding, a rear LED tailight, a front LED headlight, and the Bikeglow e-light wire for the frame, taken of the Kaptein Dutch Bike.  I also made a vestigial mount for my Nebo Redline 220 lumen flashlight which will light the pitch black road of Skyline Blvd. at night.  I also will run a 2 LED flashing red light on my helmet.
Bikeglow battery pack and Topeak pump. Note front mud flap

Lastly came a set of ultra bright yellow stick on reflectors by Nathan, available at Alameda Bicycle.  I put these on the bike and on my commuter helmet.  They glow intense yellow when lit by a bright light, just what I want.  I also applied a large yellow reflector triangle on my backpack for the ultimate light throwback.
Night riding is the most dangerous time for bike riding, I want to be seen a half mile away, I think I've achieved that.  The road going weight with everything except a water bottle is 33 lbs.  That may sound heavy as many of us ride road bikes almost half that weight, but it doesn't feel that heavy.  50 lbs feels heavy.  33 lbs feels normal.

I rode this bike to work yesterday, and while not as fast as the road bikes, it is not slow either, it's moderate, which is fast enough for commuting uphill.  It takes me 10 minutes longer to ride up the hill.   Downhill however, is a blast, as this bike runs like a small motorcycle, has front shock absorbers, and powerful brakes.  This is my favorite downhill bike, even better than the Lemond, which is a sterling downhiller.  The upright position is much more fun when going fast as I can see more not being hunched over.

A funny thing happened on that ride yesterday:  as I was climbing Skyline, I got the sudden urge to go offroad.  I considered the smooth tread tires but also considered that this is a mountain bike after all, so why not try it?  I turned off the pavement at the Sequoia-Bayview trail, which is flattish and hardpacked, and instantly my ride was transformed into something almost religious as the cathedral of trees towered over me. "This is my commute to work!  How lucky am I?"  I mused.  I knew the trail eventually got steep at the Sequoia horse arena, and I was prepared to walk, but to my amazement, I was able to ride up the soft slope in my lowest gear.  Using street tires.  A revelation!  So after work I hopped right onto West ridge trail to Graham trail, and enjoyed about a mile of dirt downhilling. More slowly than usual, to be sure, but still, I was doing it and the bike was handling fine, and I was loving it.  The fenders did not fall off.  Here was icing on the cake in terms of my one-bike-does-all build!

This bike is making me really happy for some reason.  It's a great 20 mile ride machine, and can handle anything in that 20 miles short of challenging dirt riding.  I feel more confident on it, that I don't have to worry about breaking it, that I can roll over holes and other crap and it will just suck it up in stride.   And even if I wanted, I could not buy this bike.  There are many variations on urban bikes out there, but none exactly, or even close, to this.  It's safe to say it's unique.

Build it and Ride It My Friends,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Stove Whisperer

Greetings and welcome to Flashblog!  I'm your host, Flash, and tonight I have a very special presentation for you, my first guest Flashblog, written by my good friend and hearty cyclist John "Sweeps" McNulty.  Not having time lately to write a fresh blog update myself, it is my good fortune that Sweeps invited me and Flashette to his house recently for dinner.  What transpired there that evening was nothing less than a desperate man quickly losing his sanity,  driven semi-insane by an infernal stove noise, but pulled back from the brink of the precipice by a Flashly insight born of squeaky chains, clicking deraillers, screeching seatposts, and howling brakes.  And don't forget my daily work up as Chabot Space and Science Center, where I hone my fixology skills on a daily basis.   Ok, it was a lucky guess, but Sweeps makes it seem oh so much more than that.

So grab a glass of wine, put on some light jazz, and read Sweep's intriguing adventure down the rabbit hole of (old) technology.

Ride On,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Pre-Flash 15 Mins of Fame---1987

Before my evolution into Flash, way back in my 2nd Cycling Incarnation, I was known simply as Jim Gordon.  There were few road riders back then as mountain biking was taking off like a rocket and what riders there were abandoned the pavement for the dirt.  There was no blogging for there was no internet or computers, at least for civilians.  I remember the fun of the hand drawn sketches of bike parts in the Nashbar catalogs back then.  I was getting into distance riding, and did a few centuries, none of them easy or comfortable.  I even did a hard climbing century in the heat with a full aero fairing on the front of my bike.  I only tried that once.

One of my friends convinced me to try racing, so I signed on as a Cat 4, at that time the entry level position for wannabe racers.  I did some local Oakland criteriums, and a few short road races---I never placed in the top 10, but then again I never crashed or dropped out either so that's something.  I did witness some horrible race crashes and I think that informed me more than the actual racing.  The following story occurred during these times.  One day I found my phone ringing off the hook by local sports media people, and I had no clue why.  Here's what went down as reporters and photographers descended on Alameda:

(Click to enlarge scan)

I found my old racing license recently, then this old article showed up in a drawer at my parent's house.  I've been looking for a copy I had, and had given up finding it, then it just appears.  A Flashblog story meant to be.

Note authentic period details in the photo:

Note in the article I referred to myself at age 32 as an old guy.  I wonder what that makes me today?  I also stated I was riding 150 miles a week which might have been an embellishment of the truth, but to be honest I can't recall actual mileage from back then.  By the way, I still own that bike, a Novara 12 speed made in Japan.  It currently lives in Tacoma Washington, slightly modified with flat bars into a commuter bike for my son Max.  I still have all the original parts so someday I will restore it.

I hope you've been amused by this rare artifact of a by-gone era.  All I can say is I'm very happy to still be out there turning the pedals a quarter century later.  Such is the beauty of cycling.

Ride On My Friends

Friday, October 7, 2011

How To: Dutch Style Flat Repair finally happened.  I was riding the Kaptein one warm Indian summer evening recently when I noticed the rear end was getting noticeably squishy.  Really?  My tire was going flat?  How was that possible?  As I've recounted in earlier posts the last time I had the rear wheel off, one year ago, is when I installed  new Continental Cityride puncture resistant tires, along with plastic rim strips to ensure I would not flat unless I rolled over a land mine.  There were no land mines this day, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary that I had rolled over.  I felt disappointed, yet curious as to why my system failed.

Flashette was with me, but she had to go home to work straightaway and could not return with the car to pick me up.  I was off at the far end of the island, in fact, in front of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier museum.  I checked my bags for my repair kit...and it was not there.  I had taken it out before my last grocery run.  The pump was not present either.  I sat there in the warm orange rays of the setting sun pondering my mistakes. My biggest mistake was assuming I would never get a flat on this bike.  Just...Flashtastic.

I could have slowly walked the 3 miles home, but my sister was in town, with her SUV, so I called her for a ride.  Luckily, with the rear seats down we could stuff the whole 50+ lb machine in in one piece.  Things worked out for me to avoid that long, slow walk, but in more normal circumstances I would have been in a jam of my own recipe, as it were.

Fast forward to repair time.  As I've said, taking the rear wheel off these bikes is a bitch  headache pain in the ass challenge.  I suppose if you work in a Dutch bike shop and do this every day it is easier and faster.  It takes me about an hour to remove the wheel and re-install it.  Here's the breakdown:

1. remove screws securing upper and lower halves of chaincase.  Using screwdriver, pry the two halves    apart along the horizontal middle seam, pull halves away from chain.
2. remove 3 speed shifting chain from rear hub
3. remove rear brake cable from drum brake
4. remove rear drum brake positioning arm from frame mount
5. remove axle nuts
6. remove axle positioning stay nuts
7. remove chain from rear cog
8. shove rear wheel forward until stay bolts clear the frame
9. jerk wheel from frame.

That's the quick and easy part.  Then I fix the tire.  Getting it all back together in the proper order takes 3 times as long and the dexterity of 3 frisky cats put together.

However, I heard about an alternative rear flat repair method that does not require removal of the wheel.  In a nutshell, the tube is repaired within the frame.  This can actually be done on any bike.

Notice that Bike Bro here shows you how to remove the tube on the FRONT tire.  Even Bike Bro fears the rear wheel demonstration--- let alone the actual fix.

First, start by getting the last bit of air out of the tube.  Starting at the bottom of the wheel, use your tire levers to lift the tire bead from the rim.  Its easy on this bike as the tires are large and not tight as on a road bike.  Begin to work your way around the rim, turning the wheel as you go.  Soon, one side of the tire is lifted off the wheel.  Pull out the tube.  Note that you cannot remove the tube, it is locked in by the frame and wheel axle.

Here's the tricky part---you have to find the puncture.  Put some air in the tube, taking care not to overinflate it or have it push against any sharp parts on the bike.  You should then hear the hisssss of air escaping somewhere.  Use your stereo hearing skills or finger to locate the escaping air.  Mark the spot using a black Sharpie pen.  Make you marks horizontal and vertical, at least 3 inches long, the hole in the middle of a large "X" mark.
Next, sand the tube with the sandpaper that came with your patch kit.  The "X" will be mostly removed, but enough will remain to see the hole.  Put a good pea sized blob of glue in the middle of the X, and smear it around in a circle with your finger.  The glue circle should be slightly larger than the diameter of your patch.
Let the glue dry for 3 or 4 minutes.  The instructions state 5 minutes, but I feel that dries the glue a bit too much.  After 4 minutes, separate a patch from its backing, and taking care not to actually touch the rubber part (handle it with its plastic wrap cover) place it centered over the X.  Take the blunt end of your Sharpie and burnish (rub vigorously) all over the patch. Don't peel the clear plastic wrap off the patch.

At some point be sure to carefully inspect the tire, outside and inside.  You want to find whatever punctured the tube and remove it.  Sometimes you can't see anything, but if you run your finger on the inside of the tire you feel glass or a strand of wire poking through.  Dig it out of there using whatever you have or whatever you can find on the side of the road.

Put the tube back into the tire, and put the tire back on the rim, essentially the reverse of removal.  Make sure the tube is nicely seated within the tire and not under the bead.  Inflate with your method of choice.  Voila!  A nicely repaired  tire.

When I had my tube out I saw what went wrong with my system.  When I initially installed the tube and rim strip  I was not careful enough and a 4" long section of the polyurethane puncture strip folded over, laying up on the sidewall instead of the bed of the tire.  Sure enough, a piece of glass punctured the tube within this 4" section.  OF COURSE IT DID!!  Murphy's Law.  I am not thrilled with the Conti puncture resistance system, this piece of glass was puny but it still got through the puncture belts within the tire.  Anyway, I repaired the rim strip ( had to blast it with a heat gun to mold it back into flatness) and now the rear tire should perform as I hope it will---that is to say, no more flats.

So I learned a new flat repair method that works, is easy, and saves much time and effort.  I may just use this on my road bikes as well just for additional practice.  Of course, all of this hinges on whether or not you would even consider patching your own tubes.  Bike shops love flat repairs for the easy money.  Support your LBS!  I think tube repair is one of the fundamental skills of the true wheelman or wheelwoman;  its rewarding,  green for the planet and saves a lot of money in the long run.

Doing whatever it takes to keep riding,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lemond To Lemon To Lemondazed

I got my new parts last week and set about to putting the Lemond drivetrain back together and enjoying some sweet hill climbing bliss.  I'm a pretty good bike mechanic.  I have an innate sense of how things go together.  Most of my ideas are feasible.  So sometimes I coast on my build resume and overlook the more subtle aspects of the project---little things that can make or break it.  Such was the case this week.  Let me share the process with you.

When I dismantled the 52 and 42 chainrings, the 42 was large enough to slip over the spider arms.  However, upon installing the 39 replacement ring, its smaller inner diameter was just a tad too tight to slip over the spider, so I had to remove the crankarm assembly.  The Lemond uses an ISIS type splined bottom bracket, which is similar to Shimano's Octalink, but they are not compatible.  Having the crank off made installation of the rings much easier anyway.

The first puzzlement was the alignment of the 39 ring as it had a ramp and pin system on the inside that was completely different than the Bontrager part it replaced.  I rotated the ring round and round and finally I figured out it made no difference, as the pins would catch the chain at some point anyway.  The 52 ring is finished much simpler so I just bolted that on.  Lastly I greased the spindle and bolted on the crank assembly.

Next I shortened the new hollowpin chain by 5 links to match the length of the old stretched chain.  Only AFTER I shortened it did it occur to me that the old chain is longer than it should be (because it's stretched, right?) , maybe by 1 link length overall.  Oh well, that would make the new chain 1 link longer than needed, no big deal (?).  I put the new chain on, lubed it with Boeshield lube, ran through some gear changes and patted myself on the back.  Job done!

The Next Day, riding to work.
My initial feeling about the 39 was justified, I can more easily climb moderate grades compared to the 42.  However, the shifting was not so great in the rear, noise, ker-thunks, and balky shifts.  The front derailler was rubbing on the chain in several positions.  I was riding up Park Blvd, adjusting the cable barrel, when I got a rear flat.  This is the 2nd ride up in a row on the Lemond I suffered a rear flat.  At this point I was not feeling the love for the bike, even though it was entirely not the bike's fault---it was society tossing its glass my way, and me, for not taking the time to do fine adjustments on the shifting.  While working on the tire, I noticed on the 52 chainring that it's outside chainstop peg, which is supposed to be positioned so that it stops the chain from jamming between the spider and arm, was like 150 degrees rotated on the crank and just sticking out naked in the air, not doing a thing.  DOH!!  I repaired the tire and noisily climbed to work, but it was not much fun.  I was beating on myself for turning my bike into a lemon.

It was then that I realized that part of the essence of a great ride is having your bike work flawlessly and quietly.  If I have to think about what's NOT right with my bike while I'm riding it, it taints the whole ride experience. But I wondered why the changes to the shifting?

First, I had put a new chain on old sprockets and chainrings.  There are going to be teeth meshing tolerances out of spec compared to new.  Audible proof of this that when pedalling on the 39, the system  purrs like a kitten, but on the 28, it has a ratcheting sound.
Secondly, I removed the crankarm assembly and reinstalled after greasing.  I think I was able to get it further onto the spline than before, and that put the chain a millimeter or two closer to the derailleur cage.

So I put the bike back up on the rack, popped a cold PBR (the hipster's choice), and set to adjusting the front and back shifting.  I won't go into too much detail, the rear is a matter of turning the barrel back and forth until things get as quiet as possible.  The front, that's a horse of a different feather, as you have 3 index stops plus 2 trim stops, 2 limit screws, side to side alignment, plus cable tautness. By no means do I feel that I have mastered the front triple derailleur.  For instance, the Shimano technical bulletin on this part states that the 2 trim settings are for the middle chainring.  On my bike, they only serve the small inner chainring, there is no trim when I select the 39.  All this is controlled by the shift lever, the various stops and trims.  The derailleur itself is a "dumb" slave device.  No way do I even want to attempt to get into the workings of a shift lever.  In this case it is what it is, it works so I'm happy.

Then I took the outer rings off and rotated the 52 so the chainstop peg was in the right place. I laughed at myself.  When I put that on it was truly a "no brainer".

So having made all the adjustments, I rode to work again today, and the difference is like night and day.  The bike shifts well again, its quieter, the chain does not rub, there is a sense of harmony to the ride, which, like I said earlier, is essential to the gestalt.

So now I can say I put the Lemon in Lemond, and when faced with that, made Lemondade.

Ride On and Be Safe Out There My Friends,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Lemond On Blocks

So...last time I mentioned my serious hill climbing bike, I was having a FlashZone ride, lubricated with free, found Chevron motor oil.  It reminds me of some irresponsible parties of the past, that are so good and you just don't want them to end, and then... it's the next day and there are some huge bills to pay.  Using motor oil on your bike chain is like that.  So easy, so seductively smooth. Oh so frictionless, oh so Astrolubed for a couple rides, then one day you notice a black, grimy mess all over your chain and gears.  The slightest touch of this tainted substance leaves your fingers and clothes black as night.  Oh, how I had sinned against my loyal Lemond!  I knew better but did it anyway!  Sometimes I'm an idiot, in hindsight.

Detail: 28 tooth front chainring, 42/52 removed

So the inevitable time came to clean up the mess.  I found myself loathing what my bike had become, soiled, blackened, almost infected.  I put on some old clothes and spent a good 2 hours disassembling the parts and cleaning.  Its intimate quality time with your bike.  First, I tackled the rear cassette with a toothbrush, orange cleaner, and shop rags.  Next up, I took apart the chainrings for the same treatment.  I removed the chain with the Powerlink (a must have feature on all my new chains) and cleaned the frame.  The chain was last, and always the most difficult.  After totally blackening my hands and several rags, I had a clean chain.  Only then did I decide to measure it for stretch. DOH!  It measured 12 3/16", that's very stretched.

Detail: 11-32 rear cassette and Deore XT derailleur

A new chain should measure exactly 12" from any pin to another one 12" down the line.  Use a metal ruler and a taut chain.  So I had cleaned that chain for nothing, I could have just removed it and ordered a new one.  Which I did, I'm waiting on a SRAM PC 991, which is their top 9 speed chain.  The 991 features sexy hollow pin construction and thus light weight and better shifting qualities.  I also ordered a 39 tooth middle ring to replace the 42 I have been using.  My instincts tell me that with the 39 I will be able to climb in the middle ring longer, thus the climbing abilities of the bike are enhanced overall.  I'm looking forward to the new parts.  I really am.  (for more on the subject of gears read The Low Gear Manifesto)

The Flashco Flying Trapeze, 2004

I built this hanging bike appliance years ago, but it dawns on me that I haven't featured it in Flashblog up until now.  This really makes bike work easy.  It's simply two 2x4 studs cut to length and mounted  between two rafters in my basement.  When I am not working on bikes, it swings up and nests in the ceiling.  Two large hooks support the bike from the top tube.  I incorporated a shelf above the hooks which serves as a handy tool or beer rest.

So this week I've been riding my Miyata to work as part of the Great Race Commuter Challenge.  It's a harder hill bike, it's lowest gear is a 25x36, which is only semi-compact.  If it had a 39 in front it would be a pro-racer gearset.  I feel it in my body, more stress on joints and muscles.  But between the two bikes, so far in Sept. I've bagged 110 miles and 7,500' of climbing---riding to work and back!  But I'm ready for my new drivetrain and low gears and some Indian Summer hill riding.

See you out there, 


Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Grocery Hauler- v.2

After reading my recent story about my Woodie homebuilt trailer, my work compadre Jim K. free-cycled a complete jog stroller and saved it for me, thinking that at least I could use the wheels off it for a future project.  Being in the afterglow of the Woodie project, I took it thinking I would not have a real need for the parts, but the wheels were nice.  So it sat stashed in the garage for the last few months.

One night last week I was reclined on the couch reading a magazine, and BAM! like a bolt out of the blue I had the urge to make something out of the stroller.  Do not know where that came from or why, sometimes it happens that way, like a dormant seed pushing itself up through the soil to find the light.  So down I went into the garage and opened up the stroller.  It was a big dude: canvas seat, sunshade, backpack storage, 16" wheels, mostly aluminum frame.  It had a third smaller front wheel on a fork, the fork made of steel.  Nice stuff.

I started by tearing it apart.  Before I did that, I considered giving the stroller away to someone who might need one.  I could just leave it on the sidewalk and it would disappear overnight.  Nah.  This was given to me to re-purpose, so re-purpose it became as I took my Ryobi screwgun and drilled out the frame rivets, removed all the canvas parts, and disassembled everything into three piles:  aluminum parts, steel parts, and wheels.
Low center of gravity, bigger wheels, and flexible tubes yield a smooth ride

Now at this point I should disclose that the Woodie, while successful, and very cool looking,  is not a brilliant design.  For one thing, it's HEAVY:  I was shocked when I weighed it and the result was 32 pounds!  That's as much as a full suspension mountain bike.  Secondly, it's very stiff, and with it's relatively small diameter wheels, it bounces over pavement wrinkles, and porpoises noticeably.  ( a rythmic shifting of weight forwards and backwards)
Third, it's BIG!  I can't wheel it through doorways or narrow spaces so it lives in the garage, taking up space.

It was great when I had exchange students, you can see from the pics that I filled it with stuff.  Now that the kids are gone, Flashette and I use far less resources, and I have been doing my shopping on the Dutch bike, filling the panniers and a box I bungee cord on for shopping.  So my limit is 3 grocery bags, and also large items are a problem. So those are the reasons that congealed to form a new trailer idea, a smaller, much lighter trailer that would allow me to carry 4-5 bags of groceries, and/or larger items.
Flashblog's organic strawberry field to the right of the rig

Once I had the parts disassembled and on the floor, I started dry fitting frame parts and soon enough it was clear that the stroller handle would fit right into the rear axle assembly, forming the chassis of a small trailer.  Too easy!  Then I took another aluminum section and cut it into two crossbars, and bolted them onto the handle part.  I decided to greatly simplify the hitcharm by using a piece of steel lawnchair frame that I bent into shape, painted black, and attached to the left side of the unit.

So far this project was flying together, and looking very promising.  The crucial item that required the most thought was the hitch mount to the bike.  I really wanted to keep it simple.  The re-purposed bicycle fork method I used on the Woodie is heavy, clunky, and just a tad bizarre.  So, using a variation of two eyebolts that I used with the Woodie, I've created a very minimalist attachment:  1 P-clamp, 2 eyebolts, and a combination lock serving as a hitch post.

It works.  It allows not only swiveling, but also leaning if necessary.  I took the trailer out for the September East Bay Bike Party night ride, and banged it over all manner of ruts and potholes, expecting it would fall apart rather quickly if the design was flawed.  It held up fine!  The P-clamp loosened up a bit, but further tightening fixed that. Voila!  So now I have a 12 pound trailer that is light and flexible, that is so smooth I can't even feel it behind me when I ride, even with 30 pounds in it.  ( I do feel the overall weight)  I think it looks good behind the Kaptein, and I painted the hitch arm and wheels to compliment the black aspects of the bike.  (The Kaptein is a much more appropriate tow bike with it's long, stable wheelbase.)   The blue storage box is what I had on hand, and works great, but something more stylish that matches the bike could present itself as well.  Finally, I can detach the trailer and easily carry it into the house or wheel it from room to room... much more practical.

So my original hope of leaving the car home and biking for all my around town needs has been refined.  When I made the Woodie I was thinking too big, but I had a lot of fun with it, and it is still here for those really big loads.  I could have just purchased a trailer and felt good about that too.  But there's nothing like the feeling of creating something new from something old, with zero cost and only using my hands, tools, and brain to fulfill a dream.

Let's Green Our World My Friends!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ridin' In A Ghost Town: Crying Over Spilled Coffee

Welcome back to Flashblog, I'm your long lost host, Flash, checking in from a dimly lit booth in a roadhouse located on a dark back road in the middle of nowhere.  Hey, at least they have wifi here, always look on the bright side.
Flashblog recently went on assignment to points north---Oregon, Portland specifically, then Washington---Olympia, and points even further north, nearly to Canada.  Then back again via the awesome spectacle that is Crater Lake.

But the roadhouse I speak of is not along that 2000 mile route.  It's the Roadhouse of My Mind, where the coffee costs 10 cents and the refills are unlimited.   By the way, I'd like to thank all those people who, upon hearing about the 2000 mile trip, piped up with " and you did it on your bike, right?"  I do appreciate that.  It shows you know where my priorities are.

Almost all those people know me as "Jim", my alter-ego, they are not familiar with Flash.  Yet.  However, this month is Commuter Challenge month, when companies sign up to compete with one another and for prizes by using any transport other than their cars to get to work.  So far for September, I am 100% alternative with two work days biked.  Yeah, ok, I know, only two days.  But I'm fired up for this, and for a brief window of time at work, Jim will be overshadowed by Flash.  Flash can be devious, using tools such as carpooling to keep his stats high.  Stay tuned for more on that.

The Tragic Coffee Incident:

So I have been night riding a fair amount the last few months.  I've installed something like 8 different lights on my Opafiets Dutch bike, primarily for visibility but also for artistic cool.  I was heading over to San Fransisco last night for a Bike Party, and decided I needed a coffee to boost me after my two days of bike commuting to work.  (hey, its 10 miles and 1500' climb to where I work, it ain't even possible in the minds of ordinary non-bike people)
I had installed a cool old-timey handlebar mounted water bottle cage on my bike, and after purchasing the coffee, black with cane sugar, I wedged it into the bottle cage.  It was too hot to drink anyway, so I thought it a good plan to let it cool an the way to the BART station.  Soon enough, every crack and dip in the road was causing hot java to spurt up out of the sippy hole in the cover, and the cover was getting  a steady pool of dark brown liquid pooled in its recesses.  So I stopped and sipped some coffee to reduce the level.  Mmmmm.

I was climbing the Fruitvale bridge, looking in my mirror at approaching cars and did not see the asphalt lip ahead of me.  When I did see it, it was too late---my front wheel hit it popping up in the air, transferring energy up the frame, to the cup of coffee, which instantly popped it's lid and emitted a geyser of steaming hot  dark liquid.  The geyser, erupted into a 10mph headwind, flew back onto my knees, the front lights, the Indian brass horn, the front fender, the pedals, my feet.  A coffee tsunami!

My thoughts, in order were:  " NO!!!! MY COFFEE!"  then "AW CRAP, ITS ALL OVER EVERYTHING!" then "WHY DID I HAVE TO PUT SUGAR IN IT???"  I pulled off the street and stopped and just started laughing, I really cracked myself up.  What an idiot thing to expect the coffee not to spill!  ( engineering analysis shows that the cup was too short to bottom out on the cage, thus putting stress on the lid, which was just ready to blow)  BTW, I did finish the now cold coffee on the BART platform, waiting for the train.  I'm a rule breaker alright, drinking cold coffee and bringing a sticky bike onto the train.
Stickin' it to the MAN! so to speak?

Next time I shall purchase the Large cup of coffee.  Problem solved.

Flash caught in the act of turning on the lights  (photo: Nelson Planting)

Bike Party # 6, San Francisco:  Theme: Ghost Town

The fog had come in, with a blowing wind, not the best weather for night time outdoor adventures.  But what the heck, I was over there.  Not as many people as the East Bay rendition, maybe 2-300 total.  By their own admission, all the hip, cool people were out of town at Burning Man, thus Ghost Town.  Now, here's the thing with any Bike Party:  It's only as good as what people bring to it.  The people who bring sound rigs are, shall we say, instrumental to the successful vibe.  Secondly, people who light up their bikes.  Thirdly, people in costumes.  These three things set the tone.  I noticed the sound people were out in good numbers, but the light displays and costumes were much weaker compared to East Bay.  Thus I got a lot of attention.

The Kaptein Dolphin as fitted out now has a super bright Redline 200 lumen led torch for lighting the way, a Planetbike led light for alerting oncoming cars, a rear red 3 led blinker, a 3 led rear solid light, red, blue and white downward aimed lights for ground effects ambience, a blue light over the rear fender, and the neon green Bikeglow framelight.  Compared to some East Bay BP neon light setups it looks kind of weak, but in SF I was something of a standout.  That was my contribution, that and walking my bike up the hills.

(This one petite young woman was riding a big cargo bike towing a big sound rig that was pumping out deep bass riffs.  The whole thing must have been near 200lbs.
She was effortlessly rolling along, passing by , which puzzled me because I was really working hard, and then it occurred to me---her bike had an electric motor in the rear wheel!  She smoked us all on the big hill, the big bass beats receding into our future.  Awesome!)

By walking my bike up Scott street, which kept increasing in tilt until I could hardly even push it up on foot, I made everyone else look REALLY GOOD as they rode past me.  Hey all you SF riders, you're welcome!
I knew I would end up doing this so it was no ding to my ego.  The thing I didn't consider at all, and I don't know why, is that there were equally steep downhills.  I've never tried the Dutch bike on a slope like that.  In the dark.  In the fog.  Surrounded by dozens of other riders.  Not even knowing where I was going.

So suddenly I am plummeting down Scott street, grabbing fistfuls of brake handles, and I asked myself, "Self, how long will these drum brakes, designed for the flat waterways of Amsterdam, hold up under this kind of gravitational stress?  Self had no idea.  Really.   I figured they could hold out or just as easily start smoking and fading, and then things would get REALLY exciting very quickly.   You know what?  They worked like a champ, smooth, like a car.  Awesome!

The party rolled onto Crissy Field and during the mild descending roads through the empty Presidio, I noticed the Kaptein is one fast downhill bike as I was reeling in everyone ahead of me, even folks on road bikes.  I chalk it up to all that weight.  But it was a hoot to find a performance area it is not light years behind in.  I love this bike, I really do.  It is truly unique but it just does not do what most people would want a bike to do, which is: be light, pedal effortlessly, go up hills like a goat, and leave the rider refreshed feeling at the end.  This bike makes up for all those things in one area:  Class.  It is a classy ride and makes me feel like a classy rider.
Actual film of actual Flashblog interview in progress with the Grilled Cheese Guy, East Bay  Bike Party  8/11
GC Guy carried the table, gas stove, skillet, loaves of bread, cheese on his bike, providing free sandwiches for the asking.  Awesome!  (photo: Nelson Planting)

I left the ride early and proceeded back to the BART station where an extremely interesting social experiment developed.   To my utter dismay, as I was by then weary in mental and physical state, I saw the train platform crammed with Giant's fans.  NOOOOOOO!!!!  I've been in this situation before.  It can get ugly jostling for train space.  So when the train came, and I saw people already standing in it, I thought I had no chance for this one.
However, after the baseball fans entered the train car (last car)  there was a hole.  Just big enough for me and my bike.  There were people on the platform who did not enter the car and were just standing there, so I went for it.  I was on the train!  YES!  Hardly 10 seconds passed before the train conductor came on over the PA and announced "YOU BIKE RIDERS FOLLOW THE RULES----NO BIKES ON BART DURING COMMUTE HOURS----YOU KNOW THE RULES!!!"   I was like "What????"  I looked at my watch:  10:40pm---Commute hours?  What??  The standing people in the car looked at me wondering what I would do.

So, perhaps in my weary state,  beaten down by the conductor's beratement,  I backed out of the train onto the platform.  A lady on the platform said to me "There's room on that train, get back on there!"   I replied, " but she said its commute hours...."  and the lady replied " She ain't seen you, she talking to those people at the front" , and I looked at the length of the 10 car train, and the front was WAY far away, and I knew she was right.  The Giants fans started chiming in " Come back on!",  " Quick, come back!"  So I did, I made a quick forward move just before the doors closed.  YES!!  I was back on the train.  Giant's fans ROCK!

What the Cop Said To Me:

So I rode home from 12th street, and when I approached the Park St. Bridge to Alameda, I saw a police car parked in the right lane of the bridge, it's two officers interviewing a "person of interest" who was standing against the bridge's sidewalk railing.  Officer 1 had a notepad and was taking notes, Officer 2 had his back to me and was standing in "ready position", which if you saw it you would know what I mean.  He was blocking the sidewalk.  So I gave them my Dutch Ice Cream Truck bell jingle.  As I rode up the bridge ramp...

Officer 2:  "  Evening Sir"

Me:            "Evening Officer"

Officer 1:   "Now THAT'S a bike with lights!"


That made my night, it really did.

Ride On My Friends, 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Ride "In The FlashZone"

When I awoke this morning I wasn't even sure if I was going to join Team Alameda for a group ride, having the feeling they were going to a less-fond place of mine. The morning was gray, I was feeling a little groggy from a full day yesterday, not so motivated. I checked the website and it validated my instinct about their destination, but as I started sipping my morning cup of Joe, the idea of seeing what was up with the group sounded good so I began preparations for that.

Saturday I led an easy ride designed for my wife Cathy aka Flashette, and was joined by Sweeps and Z_rider, Shel, Bob, and Rick M. I explained the ride would be "touring paced". It was. Everyone was ahead of us as Flashette is just getting back her hill legs. But all was cool and mellow, and we even did a bit of Shel-cutting, as he led us...well, actually I led us up the back side of Leimert which is never easy and illicited some moaning, then Shel took us on a scenic cruise of upper Piedmont down to mid Piedmont, then I again led down to Lake Merritt. It was a very nice 25 miler and a good workout.

So today I set off with a big group of around 2 dozen riders out to Berkeley, which is a flat ride that meanders through west Oakland, then Emeryville, then Berkeley along the waterfront. What I usually do is separate at Gilman street and head for the hills, solo, as no one opts to join me. That is what I did today as well. I almost had some company, but at the last minute they went with the big group. So solo it was.

My first priority was to get some oil for my bike's dry chain. It was dry yesterday, and even dryer today, and squeaking constantly. I just forgot to oil it. As I pedaled up Gilman St. I visualized the locations of the nearest bike shops. None were near by except for REI and that seemed awkward to take my bike into that place busking for spare oil. Just then I happened upon a Chevron gas station and the solution hit me square in the brain: scavenge the trash can for an empty oil bottle. Even an empty quart always has swashbacks in it, and that would be enough. So I dug into the trash and there it was: a blue bottle of 5W-20 motor oil. Eureka! I got some paper towels and set about dripping the precious lubricant upon my chain. Oh this made me happy! There was more than enough "black gold" to do the job. Thus oiled, I set out again, with a smoothly operating chain. Ah, so much better!

Just a half mile further east, I was passing the outdoor cafe on Hopkins and Monterrey and suddenly it sounded really nice to get a cappuccino and sip it outdoors. So I did that, it felt good to relax and the coffee was as good as it gets, dark, robust, delicious. I also ate a just ripe banana and half a power bar, made a phone call and used the restroom. Good to go to somewhere...but where?

So I started up Monterrey, which, if you have ridden this, is a fairly steep residential street. It looks easier than it is. The last two times I turned up this street I regretted it, as it hurt and I felt the lack of conditioning I used to have. Then, after Monterrey turns into Marin, comes a 3 block street named Los Angeles, and this one really hurts as it is probably 12% grade, at least. After that is a turn onto Spruce and a short steeper section before it levels out. A hard way to start into the hills.

Today, half way up Monterrey, I had the realization that it was not hurting like the last time. I enjoyed the relaxed climbing effort I was having. A bit later, on Los Angeles, I found myself spinning in a low gear, still relaxed. What was going on? This was quite different than a month ago, and as I climbed up Spruce I exulted in the feeling that I was in the "zone", a mythical place in cycling lore where the body does what is required without pain or suffering, with a feeling of abundant energy and power. I recognized the zone. Long time since I've visited that place.

I used to play computer games with my son, role playing games where you are a medieval figure questing for rewards, items, and power. The structure is simple: you start from level 1 and work your way up to, say, level 100 over time. As you gain levels you benefit from increased strength, dexterity, stamina, energy and life. You obtain better items, armor, equipment that makes your questing better. Today it occurred to me that what was happening is that I had metaphorically "gained a level" along with a strength and energy boost reward. It certainly felt like that. Maybe it actually happened and I got off the plateau I've been on?

Maybe it was the double cap combined with the food. Maybe it was the vitamin supplement I started this week. Maybe it was the Pearlizumi gloves that arrived in the mail yesterday (better items!) Maybe I'm bi-polar and going manic. I can't say what it was but I knew I was experiencing the Holy Grail of cycling, the Zone Ride where everything comes easy, everything comes together. The humming of the tires on the road, the bright sun, the wisps of fog blowing over the hill, my legs motoring along, it all seemed seamless and connected, and as it should be.

Soon I was cresting the summit of Grizzly Peak. The view to the west was splendid. I took my hands off the handlebars, sat up and rode with arms hanging by my side. What a feeling of...freedom. Just then two riders in team kit summited South Park and turned towards me. As we passed I waved and said "South Park....Woohoo!" They replied "YEAH!" I felt a bond of kinship with those guys, and they felt it too.

I pulled into the Steam Trains for water. Young parents were lined up at the bathrooms with their kids. For some reason I wanted them to know this was me 20 years ago and hey, look at get your life back! Strangely I felt like connecting with strangers.

I continued on down Grizzly, across the ridge to Tunnel Road, and stopped at Sibley. I saw a cyclist there I know from Peet's Montclair...Mike from Berkeley. He could be my son in another life. I actually remembered his name the moment I saw him. Man, I was having a good day! We chatted for some time. He was riding a new old Colnago he built up. It was a "Dream" model, white with tiger stripes. I almost won a similar bike years ago on Ebay. Almost. So Mike's bike spoke to me about my bike that almost was. Mike said he could not go back to his Orbea, the Colnago is so sweet. How would my cycling life story have changed had I won my Colnago Ovalmaster Titanium? I don't know, but my workhorse Lemond was feeling almost as sweet, like an eager steed.

I continued South on Skyline and Mike caught me and zoomed by. He's young and fast, he could be a pro if things went differently for him. I rode past Chabot Space where I work, and suddenly I had the epiphany that Tuesday would be my ride to work days from now on. How did that happen? I descended Butters Canyon, Monterrey, 35th to 38th, I was really booking downhill.

When I got to Alameda I was getting the "hollow stomach" feeling, a belly crying for food. I know from experience that the dreaded bonk follows this feeling about 15 minutes later, but I rolled up my driveway in 10, the "motor" running on fumes. Perfect timing.

I didn't set any records today. No personal bests. I've ridden further and faster many times in the past. But those things don't matter. The reason I cycle is to find the elusive state that enveloped me today. I found myself living in a cycling dream, being altogether in the present but sensing the weight of my personal history at the same time, a moment of intense nostalgia of remembering it happening while it was happening, it was so good. Its as if every ride I've ever taken on a bike that has led up to today was to make today happen. That's the best I can describe it.

Yeah, I'm thinking it was the cappucino.

Ride on my friends,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeing What Condition My Condition Is In

MacGyver, Flashette, Z_Rider and Emily at Bike Party! photo McSweeps

Welcome back to Flashblog. If you were looking for regular updates last month, I'm sorry, I was... distracted by Life. That sounds like a lame excuse, especially to a reader of Bike Snob, who's prolific daily blogging output seriously boggles my mind. I don't know where he gets his ideas or his inspiration to keep it up to a high level five days a week. Maybe if I got paid to do this like Snob, I might find more inspiration. Then again, maybe not. The creative spirit can be a fleeting and unpredictable thing. Indulge me whilst I ramble here a bit.

My mother passed away a few weeks ago from complications of heart disease and plain old age. I was fortunate enough to be there with her. One thing that came out of it was that it steeled my resolve to live with mindfullness, to think about every bite of food I put into my body and consider if I really need to drive my car when I could use my bike instead. I'm actually very good on both counts already, but like most things, I could tighten it up more. Its very hard to eat like a Monk and live without convenience. Life is compromise. Whatever you do, ignore the old saw that "I can eat whatever I want within 30 minutes of a finishing big ride!" That's nonsense. Fat is fat and it won't magically disappear after eating. If I leave you with one tidbit today its "consider critically everything that you eat". Ask me about what I've learned. Preferably over coffee!

For instance, I could be riding my bike to work more often. I'm employed by Chabot Space and Science Center, and our facility is located at +1550' elevation, the uppermost point of the Oakland Hills. That sounds pretty ideal as a cycling commute, doesn't it? I've done it only a handful of times in 6 months. It is a lovely ride, but it requires getting up an hour and a half earlier than usual. It also takes a lot of energy that after a day of work leaves me pretty well spent. So I'm lazy in this regard. I have a great opportunity everyday, but I take my car because I prefer an easy morning routine.

I think I am now picking and choosing my cycling days more carefully. Two years ago when I was at the peak of my conditioning, I was riding all the time, preparing for things like the Death Ride. Yeah, I was in great shape, but yeah, I was tired and sore all the time. Yard work did not get done. Cleaning the garage did not get done. Ordinary chores were overlooked due to lack of energy to do them. My car was filthy. I gave it all to the bike. I successfully completed my epic ride. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Its something they can never take away that I carry with me everytime I pedal down to the fruit stand for an avocado. Ha! Not really, I don't think about it much but when I do it's a nice memory.

What I find myself doing these days is riding my Dutch bike to the market, to the end of town after work, on East Bay Bike Party night rides, to my dad's house for a visit. The Kaptein is almost ideal for Alameda. I say almost because Alameda features consistent afternoon winds off the bay. The Kaptein's 2nd gear is too high into the wind, and too low with a tailwind. When I ride it along the beach into the wind, you better believe my legs are getting a workout. The 50 pound bike requires downshifting to 1st gear at lights to facilitate a smooth start. I mention this because my time riding in the hills has been less this year, and I was fearing a drastic reduction in my climbing power because of it. But the Kaptein has kept my legs strong for power grinding, so for instance my Team Alameda ride of last Sunday with about 3000' of climbing was pretty normal, just a little slower than before. No suffering because these short around town heavy-bike trips really do make a difference and keep the legs fit.

It's funny how a chance ride up Grand Ave last year and finding the Kaptein at a used furniture store put my biking world down different paths, the paths of city riding and night riding. The night riding is almost totally inspired by the Bike Party. I have spun off into bike lighting and lighting effects, with the Kaptein as the test bed. It now has two 1 watt headlights, a less used dynamo powered halogen headlight, a solid red tail light, a 3 LED blinking tail light, two mood lights that shine down upon the frame and wheel hubs, and the green BikeGlow eletroluminescent wire. This is all great stuff for being seen at night, and I've gotten dozens of admiring compliments from other cyclists. However, it's not so great for actually illuminating the road when its really dark, so I've taken the next step and have ordered a 220 lumen LED flashlight/headlamp that should pretty much turn night into bluish day. Lighting is so much fun, I highly recommend it as a whole new dimension to explore. And with that comes the very cool aspect of riding at night, its so different and can be very beautiful and peaceful.

July's Bike Party travelled through Alameda with a party stop along the beach. It was awesome as usual. I missed the first part due to work lateness, but our group of Me, the McNultys, Flashette and MacGyver met the rolling bike parade by Fruitvale BART, did a U turn, and rolled back to the island with this tsunami of bicycles. What a great time. Tribal dancing on the sand and in the parking lot of a Dollar store, it doesn't matter, anywhere the migration stops is a prime party location. The vibes are so good, despite the watching eyes of The Man. MacGyver said it gave him hope for humanity. I have to agree. It is a world apart from the regimented type A roadie- training-for-a-Tour-de-France-that-will-never-happen mentality. I pretty much despise Bicycling Magazine. (grist for a future blog right there)

One other thing that has been on my mind lately is the still gestating concept that cars and their drivers are terrorists to us bicyclists. They may not strap bombs to their bodies and blow up the police station, but they terrorize and kill each other on a daily basis and especially terrorize us cyclists by taking on an entitled world view of the road and their ownership of it. Cars with blasting exhausts, blasting audio systems, DVD movie players, texting, phoning, distracted, angry, late, sad, depressed, over-caffienated, asleep, medicated, armed, drunk drivers---all on the road at the same time, passing us, cutting us off, dismissing us as children or bums, opening their doors without looking, they are nothing less than terrorists who don't know it.
Its part of the game and I try not to think about it, but sometimes I do, the full weight of what I am putting myself into out there sinks in and I admit, its frightening. So I usually don't think about it. All we can hope to do is change their attitudes and evolve our cities to separate us from the cars.

So in closing, eat well, love well, bike well. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

BIKE PARTY!! June 10th...Chasing Skirts

Sometimes I have these vivid dreams filled with random and surrealistic sensations, colors, sounds, and people. In the best dreams I get swept up in infinite possibilities and float like a twig in a gently flowing stream, one thing leading to another, and when I awake, I feel a unique oneness with the universe, and I feel like everything is going to be alright. I feel deeply happy.

It's 5pm Saturday and I still haven't come down all the way from last night's Bike Party. It's like I've awakened from my vivid dream and am still lying there in bed thinking about it. This is the magic of Bike Party. It's one of my dreams come to life, or maybe, life is transformed into the dream and what I am having is a very lucid experience, more real---but at the same time---thankfully less real than the ennui of daily existence.

Bike Party takes time to percolate down. It's a lot to take in, something of sensory overload really, and the mind needs time to filter it and extract the ecstatic bits from the blur the dark night memory becomes. And there were ecstatic bits, these are intangible and happen quite suddenly. At these moments the merely fun shifts gears and Awesomeness breaks out, flows like a wave through the pedaling masses, and magic happens as onlookers feel the rush of rocking music, tinkling bells and horns, shouting riders, and a light show to rival Disneyland, their metaphorical hair blown back as if a bracing, refreshing wind had just blown up their block.
I get a feeling of ecstacy when it happens, and I suspect we all do, and this is why we do it. We're on a mission to find that dormant part within each of us that responds to beauty, to helping others, to working towards the Greater Good. It's ecstatic to share this with all the other Bike Partiers. It works on so many levels.

Something happens when you find yourself in this moving amoeba of positive energy, this multi-celled intelligent party organism---you lose your sense of self, you lose your ego, and willingly submit to the collective consciousness of the Many, because part of you, on some deep level, understands that this is the path to understanding that can only come from letting go of the Ego and submitting to the Hive Mind. The synapses start firing on dormant instinctual hard wires that in turn stimulate glands that secrete the feel good juices. There is strength in numbers, there is power in numbers, there is hope in numbers; and when we have hope, strength and power we can change the world.

My Dutch Bike fitted out with BikeGlow optics and colored lights, I got several great comments on it, and it was VERY easy to find in a dark park, so it became the regroup point for my friends.
(I remounted the Bikeglow optic cable by wrapping it around the frame like they show on their website, it is brighter this way and the coils are very cool looking)

This blog's author competing to fix a flat, I lost by 5 seconds as I attempted to "MacGyver" it using only my hands

Alameda's own bike royalty, Gene Oh, was there to officiate the festivities. Indeed, it was his bike parking stations at Ashby and Shattuck that launched and landed this Bike Party. Gene Oh---making the world a safer place for your bike---since, well, a long time.

My partner in Biking and Partying....the Dean of stopping to smell the Infrared Roses, McSweeps McNulty on his one of a kind one speed Swiss Kronen bike which got much sycophantic admiration from Those In The Know... or maybe it's Those Who Want To Know and Ask Too Many Questions. We also befriended Mary Elizabeth, a cycling cap maker from our own Alameda.

This is what the throng looked like just before the grand roll out. The theme for this party was "Skirts!"

Rolling along either Adeline or West streets in Oakland. We traveled through parts of Oakland known as Ghost Town and Lower Bottom. I've never been on these streets before, not even in my car! The reputation of this part of town is daunting, but it is slowly improving for the folks that live there.

Whoa! Now that's a road bike!

Party stop in Defremury Park, ground zero of the dance action. The "official" word was stops limited to 15 minutes...Yeah, right! Nice, long layover here. The second rest stop was pretty near the first one, in a grassy, dark open space. It was here, feeling the beat and watching the dancers, that I felt the bike as religion pagan ritual worship thing happening. So much positive energy!

Then we rode some more, here, there, up, down, all around.

We ended up in Berkeley at the Bike Station on Shattuck. The inside space was way too small for everyone and the in-the-wide-open-view-of-The-Man outside loitering limited the consumption of party refreshments considerably. Bikes and riders were everywhere and regular folks out for the evening must have been amused and bewildered at the same time.

One of my favorite Bikeboomers. I mentioned this guy last time and he was just as good this night

I leave you as I did last Bike Party! report: with a happy dancing girl.

I'd like to thank the Bike Partiers who posted pics on the BP Facebook site, I lifted a few of those to fill in what I missed, as I often forgot I even had a camera with me! Totally distracted? You Betcha!

That's it for now, check back as I might add to this as I remember things. Also, you might be interested to know the hot rumor about July's Bike Party... coming very close to Flashblog world headquarters?

Ride On and Ride Safe