Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Adios, 2014

Whatever width of rubber you prefer, may you keep it rolling in 2015.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thinking of snow

Scout and Pugsley are ready for a blizzard.
The past couple of weeks brought us some unseasonably cold weather and a bit of snow, but not a lot is left around these parts. During our daily ride today, we were caught in a brief swirling of granules that looked just like crumbly pieces of Styrofoam, but they quickly melted. It's usually around this time of year that I'm in the mood for a nice, substantial snowstorm. In a couple of months I'll likely change my tune, but at present, a thick layer of the white stuff would be most welcome.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

There's always room for one more: DIY hanging bike storage

Lots of bikes don't necessarily have to take up lots of space.
Be forewarned, technical bike nerdery ahead. If you choose to follow the instructions, any outcome is your own risk and responsibility. Please don't attempt any construction if you are not confident in your skills.

Imagine that, one way or another, you've found yourself in a situation where you own more bikes than all your neighbors combined. Or, perhaps, you have a more culturally acceptable quantity of bikes (maybe shockingly as few a one), yet still find that you have more bikes than space for bikes. Alternately consider the not so farfetched possibility that you need to spatially justify a bike acquisition in order to maintain domestic tranquility.

In each of these cases, a better plan for bike parking could improve your life. Fortunately, a good solution is both cheap and easy, using utility hooks available at any hardware store, a few long screws, and some 2x4 or 2x6 scrap wood. You'll also need a drill, a saw, and some other common tools as needed.
The larger type hook on the left allows passage of fatter tires more readily, has a larger diameter steel core, and has a tougher coating than the standard type hook on the right. Bigger is better.
The above materials are combined into a bike hanging structure from which one or more bikes are hung from the wall by one wheel, thusly:
Alternating bars up/bars down for orderly and efficient bike hoarding.
The design of your bike hanging rig depends on a few factors:  1) the available wall space 2) the number of bikes you'd like to hang 3) the length of wood available.

The first step is to measure the length of wall where you'd like to hang your bikes. You'll need at least 20 linear inches of wall for every bike you want to hang. It may require even more space if your bikes have especially wide handlebars, which is the main determining measure. The minimum height of the wall is the length of your bike plus about 8+ inches, so as to keep the bottom tire off the floor when hung.

Next, is to measure and drill holes in the wood in which the utility hooks will be installed. In my experience, a distance between holes of approximately 18 to 20 inches works well to maximize used space while maintaining relative ease of bike removal when hanging bikes in an alternating bars up/bars down pattern. Therefore, the length of wood you'll need can be calculated as in the following example for a 3-bike rig with hooks spaced 20" apart:

  • 3" (edge to first hook) 
  • + 20" (first hook to second hook) 
  • + 20" (second hook to third hook) 
  • + 3" (third hook to edge) 
  • = 46" board length 

Remember, the linear length of wall you'll need is longer than the board length, to accommodate the handlebars of the outer bikes. In this example, the wall will need to be at least 60 linear inches.
I used three 3 1/2" deck screws anchored in a wall stud to attach the 2x6 board to the wall. The more studs, the better, as they say.
Drill the first hole into the centerline of the wood, three inches inboard from the edge of the wood. Again, be sure to allow for the distance necessary for the bike's handlebar to clear the neighboring wall. Note that it is important to drill the holes for the utility hooks angled downward about 15 to 20 degrees to relieve stress on them, as the weight of the bike pulls them down. If installed perpendicular to the wall, the utility hooks will bend downward.
Note the hook angled downward.

I installed these hooks about 18.5" apart on center, in the days before the wide bars that I now so enjoy. I'd lean more toward 20" apart if I were to rebuild.
Subsequent holes should be approximately 18 to 20 inches apart. Once all the hook holes are drilled, it's time to mount the boards to the wall. I use 3 1/2" deck screws in every stud along the length of the board. Be sure that the screws are solidly in studs, as it wouldn't be much fun to have your bike hanging rig and bikes all collapse on the floor. It is beneficial to have a stud located near each end of the board. Use a level to ensure the board is parallel to the floor, and be sure to have it high enough so your longest bike's rear tire clears the floor. The utility hooks can be installed either before or after the board is screwed to the wall.

Two 29ers with 750+ mm wide handlebars are a little snug on hooks 18.5" on center. I may respace the hooks to be a bit further apart.
In the case that you've got fatbikes to deal with, such beasts still work fine for hanging. However, a standard utility hook won't work. Many hardware stores carry a variety of hooks that can successfully grasp a fatbike wheel. I found a heavy duty hook that is about 5" wide that fits the Surly Darryl/Larry combo on my Pugsley.
Pugsley peacefully coexisting with my 30 year-old Miyata. Wide bars on both.

Fatties fit fine.
Just about any bike can be hung using this kind of rig, so long as the bike isn't so heavy that it will pull the hook out of the board. To date, I've hung bikes up to about 60 pounds in weight, with no problem other than hefting a wheel up to the hook.
These hefty old Schwinns hang just fine.
So there you go. I can't claim that this is the definitive method for storing bikes, but I don't know of any other way that is as cheap, easy, or efficient. Bikes hung in this manner remain simple to retrieve for a ride, they won't fall over and get scratched against each other, and the positive aura emitted from a wall of bikes embiggens any aspiring bike barn. Such a rig can also keep an overly abundant bike herd orderly enough so as to support domestic tranquility, though your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blood Moon rising

It's unlikely that I'll be up at 2:17 am to see the beginning of the lunar eclipse tonight, but the girls and I got to see a terrific golden moonrise. Not a bad consolation prize.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy 40th, Pac!

Circa summer 1979.
Hard to believe, but each of these cool guys ended up with a doctorate in one thing or another.

The shortest kid in these pics didn't stay short for long. Happy birthday, big guy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quick DIY top tube frame pack

The pack took about 90 minutes to make in total, from measuring the frame to strapping it on.
After finding out how convenient frame packs are for carrying things, I had been wanting to construct packs specifically sized to other bikes. To this end, I put together a simple top tube frame pack, using materials that I had on hand for this first tester example. The pack is made of about 1/2 yard of cordura pack cloth that's been in my sewing kit for 20+ years, an old steel YKK 19" zipper, various scraps of Velcro, and some 100% polyester upholstery thread. I didn't produce detailed instructions, but if you are interested in building a similar pack, it's a simple process if you have at least proficient sewing skills. The design is essentially a box, shaped to fit the inside of the frame, with a zipper installed on one side.

Cardboard template for the frame pack.
To begin, I took a piece of cardboard, a pen, and a utility knife, and constructed a template of the inside of the front triangle of my 2002 58 cm Surly Cross-Check. The cardboard template guides the shape for each side of the pack. I made sure to mark the locations of cable stops, housing, bottle mounts, etc. so that the Velcro straps cleared them. To connect the two sides of the pack, I used strips 3" wide. On each piece of fabric cut for the project, I added .25" all the way around to account for the seam edge. I also constructed a flap over the zipper, to help protect it from rain, etc., though this pack is by no means waterproof.

The pack easily holds my trusty Stanley cook pot with enclosed pop can alcohol stove and fuel, among other items.  It's big enough to be useful for a picnic, a camp outing, or a small grocery trip.
The pack turned out fairly well, and fits the frame exactly as intended. The design worked well for fabrication, though I won't use the same materials for the next one. The cordura material is quite sturdy, though it's not nearly as light or water resistent as similarly sturdy modern materials, such as Dimension Polyant X-Pac. The steel zipper works well enough, but it's heavy, and its action is not as smooth as plastic. A modern water resistant plastic zipper will be part of the next pack I make. In the end, I learned a bit about how I'll make subsequent packs.

The pack is not wide enough to get in the way of riding.

The right side has no zipper.

The left side has a zipper. Why the left? I'm left handed. Make your own pack how you like.

With the pack installed, there's still plenty of room for water bottles below.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Public service announcement: 1991 Diamond Back Master TG seatpost size

Yep, it reads 27.0 mm on that Avenir 4130 steel seatpost.
 Per request from a reader, here are some images of the seat tube cluster on my 1991 Diamond Back Master TG. As these bikes age, there are likely still many usable frames out there in the wild. A critical element of putting one back together is to source the correct size of seatpost. As this type of info can be difficult to find elsewhere, I'm posting it here. For the record, the frame requires a 27.0 mm seatpost.

If you're here for the purpose of rebuilding an old Diamond Back road bike, you may be interested in learning more about my pepto-pink '91 Master TG, which I discovered nearly unused a few years ago. Good luck with your project!
Seat cluster from the back...

...the left side...

...and the right.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Littleton Criterium

I don't do much with racing or competition on this blog, or in real life for that matter. However, I felt obliged to report that we watched at least part of the Littleton Criterium a couple of weekends back.

We had a good time, and especially enjoyed watching the women's intermediate race. Both girls were duly impressed with the speed of the riders, and enthusiastically rang our cow bell to cheer them each lap.

Dark clouds and nap time approached in the afternoon. We nearly won our race against the downpour, but were caught a few blocks from home. No breakaway for us. Drenched, but still a fine day out.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Happy birthday Uncle Jake!

To Jake in Palau from all of us, enjoying ice cream in your honor at Western Welcome Week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

First day of school

As incomprehensible and summer-stealingly ridiculous as it sounds, today, mathematically not quite halfway through August, is the first day of school. We made the most of it, and had a nice family ride to get there. Little sis was a bit confused, especially when we towed her big sister's bike home, due to after school activities that will preclude the possibility of riding home.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dumpster + Stumpjumper = Dumpjumper

1988 Specialized Stumpjumper in size 21.5 inches, as found in a dumpster.
Please note that the following post will likely only appeal to and/or be comprehensible by the most bike nerdish among visitors here. You are hereby warned and/or welcomed.

I've fished many a bike out of dumpsters over the years. I don't generally go looking for them, but they often have a way of finding me. Some have been complete basket cases and others have only needed air in the tires. Yet, what never fails to amaze me is finding a decent quality bike tossed in the trash. Old bikes aren't like old computers, in that they never become completely obsolete or unusable. Old bikes aren't like old cars, in that they don't degenerate into egregious polluting money pits, but instead are cheap and easy to recondition. Old bikes aren't like old furniture or mattresses, in that they don't absorb unappealing substances from previous owners.

I can understand rationalizing the discarding of a less than functional department store bike that was never engineered to work well in the first place. That which is nearly useless readily becomes useless. However, bikes that were at least initially high in quality of materials and construction, unless mangled, are almost always repairable into good running condition. This goes doubly so for steel mountain bikes from the off road boom era of the 1980s; with sturdy tubing, user serviceable components, and lack of suspension, they're almost indestructible.

Don't get me wrong. I don't pine for the old days and I'm no longer the Luddite I once was concerning the evolution of bike design. I appreciate lugs and fancy steel, but I also know that great advances have been made in materials and technology, and that, venerable as they are, these sturdy old steel bikes are no match off road for something more modern, like my Salsa Horsethief for example.

On the other hand, I'm certain that with proper care the long-term viability of an old steel monolith will far outpace many modern bikes in the utility department, most likely to the tune of decades. There are far fewer things to go wrong with these old bikes as compared to newer bikes, and equivalent parts are still readily available. With components in good order, a set of lights, a pair of fenders, and some method to carry cargo, an old steel mountain bike can't be outmatched for usefulness.

Deore index/friction thumbshifters and Deore 4-finger brake levers.
Now for a little velo-pathology to explore how this bike may have traversed the past quarter century. This particular Stumpjumper seems to have spent much of its life dormant, stored somewhat haphazardly, and perhaps used intermittently. It has plenty of telltale signs of neglect, in the form of nicks and scratches in random places, probably from being leaned against things or falling against other items in a shed or garage, and a veneer of dried on grease and oil from infrequent maintenance. The underside of the downtube is mostly free of rock strikes and the drive-side chainstay shows little sign of chain slap, so I'd wager that the bike traveled most of its miles on smooth surfaces in town as opposed to rough trails.

Non drivetrain side. Notice the pronounced bend in the rear rack's shelf and support struts.
The remains of a decal that once proclaimed the bike's chromo tubing and Taiwanese manufacture.

That's a solid forged aluminum stem. They don't make 'em like that any more. The stem alone probably weighs more than a modern carbon frame.
Though this bike likely hasn't seen a lot of miles, it had no easy life. It spent enough time outside for the graphics to fade, and there is a bit of surface rust where the steel has been exposed due to paint chips. The components that are still present are without exception original and stock, even down to the grips.

The drivetrain and brakes are Shimano Deore, from back in the days when Deore was on the penultimate tier of Shimano's off road lineup. The cranks are in good shape, and the teeth of the very '80s Biopace chainrings look healthy. Bearings haven't fared as well, as the bottom bracket is indexed, and the headset is in poor adjustment. However, the open seat tube is not rusted, and the chain is oily and moves freely. The derailleurs look fine and move well, but the cables and housing are sluggish and gummy. The shifters are intact, though the mount for the left shifter is bent. The good thing is that all the components on this bike are rebuildable, and the bearings are easily replaceable if needed.

There are a few additions to the bike that have occurred over the years. Though now badly bent, a period concurrent, white Blackburn Mountain Rack was a common addition to many bikes of the era. There is evidence of bar ends once installed but now gone, a sign of an update in the early to mid '90s when bar ends enjoyed popularity. A cycle computer mount at the rear wheel, indicates this bike was probably used on a stationary trainer at some point. Bright red paint under the upper and lower Zefal plastic pump mounts along the back of the seat tube signal that they were probably installed at or near the time of purchase.

Drive side top tube.
Drive side down tube.
Non drive side top tube.
Non drive side down tube.
As its year of manufacture is the same as that when I finished high school, bikes much like this one dotted the college campus of my undergraduate career. Distinctive two-tone paint schemes, unique to 1988 and 1989 Specialized bikes, seemed omnipresent for many years.

This Stumpjumper is readily identifiable as being an '88, due to its under the chainstay u-brake, a feature adopted by most manufacturers for a brief period spanning from about 1986 to 1988. Builders and riders went crazy for u-brakes because of the clean looking cable lines and the u-brake's powerful stopping ability. The popularity abruptly ended once the same builders and riders realized that under the chainstay was a less than convenient location for brake maintenance and made for a tremendous mud and debris catchment area. I've owned a few such u-brake equipped bikes, and though the reason the design was quickly dropped remains potentially problematic, the brakes are dependable and powerful if properly adjusted.

I've yet to get my hands dirty with this Stumpjumper, but that I will rebuild it is not in doubt. I'm happy to have saved the bike from an ignominious end, and I know it has at least a couple more decades of service within its capacity. Whether it will be with me or with someone else is yet to be determined.

Bikes like this Stumpjumper are the antecedent to a growing renaissance of steel, multipurpose, high utility bikes, such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Surly Troll, among others. While at present it seems absurd that a desirable Surly frame will ever make its way to a dumpster, 25 years ago it seemed equally improbable to one day discover a Stumpjumper in the trash. I can only hope that in another quarter century, I'll be the lucky one to find a crusty old Troll next to yesterday's coffee grounds.

I threw on a pair of wheels to get a visual. My parts bin came up short in the quest for a 26.6 mm seatpost.