Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Evening ride with the whole pack

Like just about every evening this time of year, this evening was perfect for a ride. Even better, we had family in town for their annual visit, who were expecting some two-wheeled entertainment.

My nieces knew it wouldn't take much to cajole old Uncle Andy into rounding up an appropriate herd of bikes. After all, we've taken daily rides during their visits every summer since they were knee-high to their current selves. Shortly after dinner we were on our way. This pattern will be repeated for the duration of their stay.

Sisters and bikes.

A pair of Larrys. Human Larry lets fly a wild Minnesota yawp, while Surly Larry the tire grins from the front of my Pugsley.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A long line of pelicans

While on a ride enjoying cooler evening air, we were treated by an encounter with a string of pelicans slowly passing overhead in a flying v formation. Pelicans are rare enough to see in Colorado, and I've certainly never seen this many at once before. It was quite a memorable sight.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wherein I pit my wits against inanimate objects and prevail, eventually

A goat head thorn in an all-too-familiar pose.
Sit back as I relate a story of misfortune and disappointment, followed by fleeting success, then more disappointment, and finally an apparent victory. It promises to be either a cautionary tale or a triumphant soliloquy.

After a trip to visit my brother in Albuquerque a couple of months ago, our bikes sat forlorn in the bike barn with tires and tubes pierced by hordes of remorseless goat head thorns. My Monocog was one that had been struck, as evidenced by dozens of thorns remaining in the tires. However, the Monocog had been given the tubeless treatment, in effect inoculated against such an onslaught. I pulled many thorns from the tires, yet left a few in; those that had lost their heads and were difficult to remove. Though the tires had lost some pressure, I aired them up to 40 psi and took a short ride. By the end of the ride, Stan's sealant was seeping and coagulating in the many wounds, while the pressure held. Within a few days, any remaining embedded thorns were neutralized.
Goat head thorns in a WTB Exiwolf tire on my Monocog. Note the embedded thorns near the center of the tire.

The same tire after some inflation and spinning. See the Stan's sealant working its magic?
Julie's bike, a Raleigh XXIX was equally afflicted with many goat head thorns having deflated both tires. The difference from my Monocog was that her bike's tires had standard tubes, which were mortally wounded, with far too many holes to attempt to patch. It was then that I realized I had a half full bottle of Stan's sealant, a roll of Gorilla tape, and the resources to make her bike tubeless. I was veritably beating my chest with enthusiasm in the task.

Beaming in my confidence and full of the desire to impart some fatherly skill to be one day valued, I summoned my ever capable assistant. With relish, she took to tire wrangling as she has done since shortly after her birth.
The seal on that bead stood no chance against this 8 year-old with a Park tire lever. The fact that she counts this dress among her favorites brings a tear of pride to ol' Daddy's eye. 

Feeling for thorns protruding on the inside of the tire. Atta girl!

The rear tire gets the same treatment.
 In short order, we had removed the old tires, cleaned the rims with rubbing alcohol, lined the bottom of the rim channels with gorilla tape, and fashioned some repurposed valve stems from unusable tubes. As I started up the air compressor, it seemed as though we were cruising to completion of the project.
Cleaning the inner rim surface. 

A valve stem in a tube about to be repurposed for tubeless use.

Do-it-yourself tubeless tools of the trade.

Valve stem in place.
It was then, that the whole project took a turn for the worse. Even with the power of an air compressor, I couldn't get the beads to set. I tried every trick I knew. I applied water to the rim and bead to no avail. I wiggled and contorted the tire/valve/compressor nozzle interface with no luck. I emptied tank after tank of compressor air into the tires without seating any beads.

I couldn't understand where the problem arose. With a very similar setup on my Monocog, the process could not have been easier, with the tires holding air confidently on the first try. The Raleigh's tires, on the other hand, refused to cooperate. Both bikes had WTB rims of the same model, though not the same year of manufacture, both bikes had WTB not-necessarily-tubeless tires (Stout 2.3 on the Raleigh, Exiwolf 2.3 on the Monocog), and both bikes had the same Gorilla Tape/reclaimed valve stem rim sealing job. After several attempts, I gave up in disgust. The transfer of fatherly knowledge had been derailed.

After a few days of thinking and scheming, I vowed not to retreat. It was time for the split tube method. I dug up a pair of sacrificial 26-inch tubes that had been patched multiple times along the tread perimeter, which wouldn't make a difference for my purposes. Then my assistant and I got to work, slitting the tubes down the outside seam, then cleaning any talcum powder from the rubber. Next, we mounted the flayed tubes on the rims to serve as giant rim strips to be cut to fit later.

Filleting the tubes along the outer circumference molding seam.

This step must be done carefully to avoid damaging the tube.

A tube, split and cleaned. 

A split tube mounted on the rim; ready for a tire to be installed.

Note that the split tube is centered along the rim channel.

Adding two ounces of Stan's sealant, or what she likes to call the tire's "blood" as it serves the same purpose as plasma and platelets in forming scabs to patch holes. That's a biology lesson right there, folks.

The doctor applies the syringe to a patient.
Again ebullient with our pending success, I started up the compressor. Within a few minutes, discouragement began to set in as the beads still refused to seat onto the rim. I repeated the old tricks, but the outcome remained unfavorable.

This time, I would not be defeated. It was time for a change in tactics, as I decided to bring more insistent methods to bear. A faint whimper might have been audible as the tire met the ratchet strap, but I assure you it didn't come from me. However, maniacal laughter, I will not deny.

With a fresh round of compressed air, the ratchet strap applied a positive force to seat the bead to the rim, and any resistance was overpowered. Victory was ours, as the beads popped loudly into place. We spun and shook both wheels to coat the inside of the tire/tube strip interface with Stan's sealant, and laid them on buckets. Over the next couple of hours we repeated the process, adding air as necessary until a constant pressure held. When all seemed right with each tire, I trimmed the excess tube from the tire/rim junction.

At last, parental knowledge transfer through tubeless triumph was achieved!
Getting medieval on it.

Check pressure, add air, shake and spin, rest on a bucket. Repeat.

Trimming the excess split tube.
I am happy to report that the final outcome has been in service for about a month, without negative relapses. Realizing that many people have experienced similar struggles in the quest for tubeless-ness, this is just one story. However, I hope that it will serve as encouragement to others to persevere in the face of adversity. I, for one, am wiser for the experience, and enjoyed some valuable kid/dad camaraderie.

Next up on the tubeless quest will be an attempt to finally do it the right way, for once, with all officially sanctioned tubeless parts. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 9, 2014

TSBC/Randi Jo Fab cap

First ride in the cap, on the Dummy with my chipper copilot. Still learning to work the new phone camera, but it is much better quality than the old one.
Waiting for me in the mailbox today was a tidy little package with some hand-drawn decorations outside and some handmade finery inside. Tarik and Randi Jo, you've outdone yourselves. Very cool hat with top notch workmanship and design, and it fits great on me golova*.

Spectating some ducks and geese.
*Somewhat subtle A Clockwork Orange reference. The cap is orange, after all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Monocog to Light Rail to work

Testing out my new smartphone doesn't make me feel very smart, but I'm slowly learning. I wonder if this post will turn out looking OK?

I had to hurry to catch the train and quickly maxed out the Monocog's low gearing. Even still, I made it with time to spare. It continues to be a fast, fun bike.