Monday, December 31, 2012

Review It!!

I'll see if I can put something together here that looks like a book review that Mrs Abbott, my 5th grade teacher would give me a passing grade on.

The book is JUST RIDE "A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike". The Author is Grant Peterson.

Everybody probably recognizes Grant's name as the founder/owner of Rivendell bicycles. If you have never been to the Rivendell web site I would recommend it. If you have and you read some of the bike philosophy 
that Grant has written in his Rivendell Readers over the years you have already gotten the basic points of this book.
The premise of the book is that the cycle world is made up of Racers and Unracers and the influence that Racers have on manufacturers and thus what is perceived by the general  cycling buying public who really are Unracers. The idea that whatever the pros use means it must be perfect for everybody. Grant says " Hogwash!!" His idea is that the Racer influence is possibly the worst thing that has happened to cycling over the last twenty years. Grant then works his way through 8 parts in the book covering topics of Riding, Clothing, Safety, Health and Fitness, Accessories, Upkeep, Technicalities, and Velosophy.
He explains his outlook on each topic and supports his stance with logic and fact. I am sure there are many people who will disagree with many of his ideas and take on things. He acknowledges that many will disagree with his ideas and only asks the reader to have an open mind and consider what he has to say.  Grant obviously has strong opinions and by stating them in a book he sets himself up for argument and disagreement.
When you read the book, if you have an open mind, and you are honest with your own riding abilities, then it is my belief that he writes of a cycling world we are all a part of. Not a world of TdFrance racers. He points out that bicycle manufacturers push the TdF race style bikes, yet nothing could be possibly right about a regular person riding a bike like that for fun and comfort and practicality.
Grant does explore the wearing of helmets in the safety section. Here is the one place in the book I believe he contradicts himself. His reasoning is that because you would wear a helmet, then you would feel safer and thus take more risks. He states that he is contradictory himself and does not wear a helmet on short trips around town but will wear one at night. It is also his belief that mandatory helmet laws just turn people away from riding. He thinks it is a touchy subject but feels a helmet should be up to each individual to choose to wear or not. He does have a chapter on how to wear your helmet properly if you do choose to wear one so he is interested in being fair about the helmet issue and helping people.
The book is a great resource for anyone that is new to cycling. The chapters on riding, upkeep, and safety are great for newby's and good reminders for veteran riders.
I found the part on Health and Fitness to be very informative. I have actually adopted many of his ideas into my daily fitness program with some success! Much of this section has very little to do with riding a bike but has to do with fitness and healthy eating habits and many misconceptions that corporations have foisted on the American public. An example of this are energy drinks that really do nothing for you except make you fat. I think this part of the book could help anybody interested in fitness and is alone worth the price of the book.

Bottom line is I recommend the book. If you are the super club racer dude that rides a 14 pound carbon bike and vision yourself to be close to making a team this next year, then the book is not for you.
If you are a regular person who likes bikes as a fun way to get around and experience the outdoor world around you, then this is the book for you.
I think some of his best advice is given near the end of the book when he tells us to stop thinking of your bike as a "tool". Tools are for work. Bikes should be toys, made to have fun on and enjoy the ride.
Order it from Rivendell Bicycles online site, about 14 bucks or so.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Old, Yet it's New

Nope, this is not a story about an aging cyclist. It is a story about an aging cyclist riding a renewed bike. Bear with me while I tell the tale of an almost forgotten bike.
When I first graduated from college and moved to Estes Park I did not own a bike. The bike I rode through my High School years and for college was stolen. I worked with a guy at Hidden Valley who had a summer job at a bike shop and he sold me a new bike that summer of 1979. A Univega Gran Turismo. I really enjoyed my time riding that bike for the next few years. But, as happens to many of us, marriage, job, kids, responsibility, took precedence over hours spent riding a bike. Univega was hung up in the back corner of my wife's horse barn.
When I returned to pick up riding a bike again for fun and exercise I started with a new bike and then renewed my interest in touring and purchased my Surly LHT and was very happy with my choice of equipment.Univega hung there in the barn for a few more years forgotten and dusty sharing space with two horses and a bunch of hay.
Bike evolution and revolution led me back to Univega and wondering how the steel frame would fit me and ride after all these years. I had found the website of old ten speed gallery(OTS) and sparked an interest in me. Here was my own old bike that maybe could become just as pretty and cool as the bikes portrayed on the site! A winter bike project was born in my garage. My goal was to return the bike to its original state with a few improvements. That is how the pros at OTS gallery did things and I wanted this bike to share that glory.

I did not take a before picture, here is the bike when I completed the clean up.
This was a pretty good project for the level of my bike mechanic skills at that time. I replaced all the cables and housing, changed from downtube shifters to bar-ends, added the fenders (I love fenders!), new rubber for the road, Brooks Saddle, Power grips on the pedals. Otherwise I left the bike like she came from the factory. It had that old coolness about it and was fun to ride, but, I had issues with the gearing and the comfort factor for me. My #2 son, Kyle needed a bike to have at college so I gave it to him to use. And use it he did!! Two years went by and a graduation and the bike came home. It had been kept outside, ridden pretty hard with zero maintenance. I spent this summer just kind of staring at it and brainstorming of ways to re-purpose it all.

Condition returned 

I finally came to the decision that if I was going to put the time into this bike, my comfort was going to be priority #1. First thing was to change the gearing to fit the roads that I ride most of the time. The gearing that came with this bike was a triple chainring 52-48-36 and the rear cassette was a five speed, 26-14. Great gears for riding flat roads fast, not so great for grinding up mountain roads that is much of my riding. I had spare parts from a couple of hard-tail mountain bikes that I parted out a few years ago. The new/old triple is a 46-38-26 with a five speed cassette 32-14.

I had issues with getting the old cassette off. You can see it is the old style Sun-Tour two prong cassette removal tool. Man, that thing was stuck!! I knew enough not to force it because it would round off, and strip the two prongs. I was pretty frustrated and just about ready to give up and take it to the bike shop. I did a little internet searching (great bike mechanic help!!) and found a tip on Hugh's Bicycle blog. I put a hex bolt, nut, wash through where the axle goes, through the removal tool to hold it tight to the cassette and could put it all in the vise and OFF!!!. I did not know enough to be careful when I removed the axle and I soon had ball bearings bouncing across the garage floor. So I learned how to repack the bearings and rebuild the axle. Another case of my bike mechanic knowledge growing because of my own stupid mistakes! I could be a bike mechanic at a shop although the shop would lose money on me because I am so slow and most things have to be done twice while I figure out the learning curve!


There was an adjustment of the front deraileur on the frame. It had to be lowered to fit the big chainring. There was also more spacing between the chainrings than the old triple so the front deraileur was maxed out to accommodate the new. Just does work in the highest gear without rubbing! Lucky!

The next comfort change was the cockpit. The original Randonneur style bars had a high "cool" factor but they are very narrow and just don't have very many different places for my hands. I replaced the stem with a Nitto that could be raised to my desired height and I went with the drops that originally came on my LHT. Wide and generous for moving the hands around to stay comfortable. I also tilted the bars up so riding the hoods was a nice upright comfort position for me. I know, not traditional or cool looking in the bike club ride world, but, good for me and that is what this is about, Right?? My personal like is a wrap of gel tape then covered with cloth tape because I like the feel of the cloth. I only double wrap like that from the hoods and top of the bar. Gives it a bit of a clunky/chunky look on the top of the bar, but, you already know.....I don't care how other people think she looks!



I kept the original Dia-Compe center pull brakes because they worked just fine with new shoes on them. I did use the Tektro brake levers that were on the Surly bars. I like the look of the brake cables routing under the bar tape. If somebody out there is doing a classic rebuild and would like these old brake levers and Randonneur bars, you could have them. They are classic with the drilled out lever and cable popping out the top.
I was fortunate because when the bike came back from two years of college life, the rims and wheels were in fine shape. spokes were all OK and the rims did not even need any truing. The original bike came with gumwalls. I like Schwalbe. Schwalbe Marathon 27x1 1/4 gives this bike a good smooth ride. Especially on many of the chip-seal surfaces I find myself on. Such a contrast to my Schwinn road bike where you tend to feel every buzz of chip-seal riding.
What else??  I stole the Brooks Imperial saddle off the Schwinn and away I went on my first ride!

Finished look!
I have been out about eight or nine times for lunchtime rides. There were a few tweaks here and there with saddle and bar position. Did I achieve my goal of a fun comfortable ride???  I did when it comes to the fun factor. I base comfort on my set-up that I have for my Surly LHT and nothing on two wheels will ever match the comfort set-up that I have with that bike. That said, this ride is very nice and I am happy with it. I am a steel frame bicycle guy, probably always will be. I like the smooth, solid ride you get with a steel frame. I understand I am pushing a bit more weight around with the steel bike. Worth it, at least to me!! That is the best part about bikes, we can all ride whatever suits us the best, and never have to apologize for our rides!!

Lunchtime rides are about an hour, so I'll have to test it for a long ride when I can get a weather window that matches up with a weekend day off. I also have not been up into the park for some major climbing. Might be springtime before that happens. Will this become my go-to ride for a century? Not sure until I try it for a 4 or 5 hour ride with some climbing mixed in.

All in all I am one happy cyclist. Holy crap! This bike is 33 years old and is just starting a new life giving me pleasure to ride it!! As is stated at the end of the posts that Hugh puts up at Hugh's Bicycle Blog.
"Rescue, Restore, Recycle"

Recent lunchtime out on Devil's Gulch Road with Twin Owls looking down on us

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Summer Summary, or, What I did on my summer vacation essay

Summer around here has been finished off by the first snow of the season here in town. Summer, how we once loved you and now just tossed aside like yesterdays coffee grounds.

I had such big plans for the summer, I fulfilled some of those plans but circumstances prevented me from seeing fulfillment of some plans.
Last fall I found a great deal on a road bike on ebay and took the plunge. I had never bought a bike sight unseen or un-riden before. Would I regret it?? In this case, no regrets although it took many rides and tinkering with the fit to get it comfortable. My purpose in buying this bike was I wanted to become involved with some charity style rides, group rides of 50, 60, even century rides. I fulfilled that itch with signing up for and completing my first century ride in May at the Santa Fe century ride. I was shepherded along by a new bicycle buddy, Richard who was a veteran of this ride. All of us Eons cyclists who met in Santa Fe had a great time, bikes, beers, margs and fun!!

The jury is still out on the road bike for me. I have the fit dialed in, I can put miles on it and not be sore or numb, but, the quality of the ride is just not what I like. It is a rough ride with the skinny little tires all pumped up to 100psi. You tend to feel every little bump and I never knew why everybody bitched about chip seal roads until I road a skinny tire bike on one. I prefer the ride of my steel frame bikes with longer wheelbases and bigger tires that are run in the 60 to 80 psi range. I understand the draw of light, quick bikes, I just think that my future is going to be pushing a bit more weight around for the trade-off of a smoother, comfy ride. That is the great thing about cycling and bikes, you get to pick yourself what is best for your personal riding style!! A bit of everything out there for everybody!

My next big cycling event was a tour I had spent a lot of time planning and dreaming of during the long winter months. I set things up at work covering for all the staff so they got their summer time off and I planned my two weeks so I had the lumberyard covered while I would be gone. The trip had a mix of paved roads with some miles on dirt county roads. Some camping, sleeping on the ground nights mixed in with some motel, sleep in a bed nights. A good challenging route with some big Colorado passes and some big sky New Mexico high desert. Your basic great trip and a good way to get away from the hectic life. I had put in many miles of riding both the road bike and LHT to be ready. In fact I was very bike fit and creeped my weight down below Clydesdale status for the first time in about five years! That was an unexpected payoff of this trip planning!
Alas, a week before I was set to roll off, we had a family medical issue come up. Nothing life threatning or emergency but something that needed to be taken care of and I needed to be present for. So, poof, months of planning canceled. Oh well, the planing does not go away and I will cover for my staff again next summer so I can fulfill this trip, summer of 2013!
Since I had to cancel, I went ahead and signed up for another century ride, Good Sam Bike Jam, out of Lafayette. Well in between signing up and the ride I had my little bike wreck. Fortunately there was a bit of recovery time so I was able to participate and rode the 62 mile course instead of the century. I'll plan on that century  for next year!

What's up for the winter??? I have a bike project for my shop. It is a long story of a Univega that I bought new in 1980 and has been through one clean up. Now I am going to attempt to rebuild it to be my everyday commuter. I'll have to improve my bike mechanic skills with some help from Zach who works in the LBS. I'll have pictures and the story in a future blog....sucess or not, it will be a story!
I am in lust! No not like lust. My friend Richard has sparked an interest I have had for a while for doing some exploring on dirt roads. I'll never be a single track Mtn bike guy crashing over root and rock trails. Exploring on forest service roads and 4WD roads. Especially here in Colorado where there is so much history and spectacular scenery to be seen. I thought that my LHT would double as a tourer and able to handle this type of road. I'm sure it could handle it but would be tough for the rider. So, I am looking at another bike. I have about a third of the money saved so I look forward to new adventures to plan for next summer and beyond!
It was a good summer for cycling for me. I missed out on a tour but got some wonderful miles in all over Northern Colorado. I hope all of you enjoyed your summer of riding and look forward to many more summers of safe and fun riding. I know I am!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I was a Wreck!

The title suggests that I was in need of some rehab sessions, as in; "Where did Jim go? Oh, you know he had to be checked in for a few weeks."
No, it was nothing like that, No, I just had a bike wreck. Those of you that know me, know I like bikes. Not the shinny fast racers bikes that TdF guys race on, but slow comfy bikes to get you somewhere with a purpose. I'll never be mistaken for a racer dude. I like to commute to work on my bike and I would do it most days except the weather plays a role in where I live and I am not one of those people that proudly rides in any weather. I fact after this morning I am thinking my commute days might be drawing to a close for the season. I draw the line at about 30 degrees and never in the snow. We had 31 degrees and fog this morning.

Anyway I am off subject, the wreck. Three weeks ago. I was just starting my morning commute. I live on a dirt road on the top of a hill. Every six months or so the county comes through and grades the road and puts this oily compound on the roads to keep the dust down. There is about a 1/4 of a mile down this hill then it turns to pavement on Carriage drive and then out onto Fish creek road for my cruise into town. That morning I told myself that the road was graded and with the washboard gone, I told my self to keep my speed down. That is the last thing I remember until I was talking to Cindy, the ER nurse.

Here is what happened by talking with the fire guys and EMT guys who got to the scene and some speculation on my part. My neighbor is who found me as he was driving home. He called 911. He found me laying face down, unconscious, in the middle of Carriage Drive before it intersects on to FishCreek Road. The 911 call went in at 6:59. I left my house at 6:40 and this is about three minutes from there, so I was unconscious for about 15 minutes or so. Dave, from the volunteer fire fighters,was the first responder on the scene and when he got there I was just starting to wake up and move around. He asked me a few questions (like who I was and what day and month and year it was). I must have answered OK because they made the decision to take me to the local hospital instead of moving me down the valley to a big hospital. I don't know who the EMT's were or anything about the ambulance ride. I apparently must have asked Dave to take care of my bike and please put it back in my garage. This happened without me knowing it! In fact I really don't have too many memories of that whole day at the hospital.

My commuting machine, a Surly LHT. This is just up Fish Creek road about a 1/2 mile from where I crashed.
Whenever they put that compound on the roads the tire traffic will track it out onto the paved road and (did not know this!!) it can be pretty slippery. Dave told me that he almost fell down when he got out of his truck. So I am guessing that the bike slipped out from under me and I went down. My head and left side of my face must have hit first. I did not even have time to get my hand out which is good because I probably would have broken my wrist. I cracked my helmet almost into two pieces and my glasses had deep gouges where my eyes would have been. I ended up with a good concussion and broke the #1 and #2 ribs plus some road rash on my face, elbow, and both knees. All in all, lucky! Lucky I had a helmet on, glasses on, and was dressed warm for the commute in.
The aftermath? Three weeks later and the ribs still hurt, I have to have a couple of Advil's to get through the night to sleep at all. I'll know to avoid the days when they put that compound on the roads. I can ride a bike OK, basically pain free although I have a renewed sense of awareness while riding. I had become complacent while riding with a sense of everything was being taken care of. Don't fall into that trap!!! Be as vigilant as you were the first time you went out!!
This wreck was total human error on my part, I can't even blame anything like a careless driver!!! I'm back on the bike and loving it just as much, so it did not curb my enthusiasm for cycling. I'll just be more aware and careful, broken ribs are not something I want to do again!! I replaced my helmet and glasses so I am back on the commute as long as the weather holds up. I will continue to roll out for lunchtime mental health rides and weekend cruises, again, by grace of the weather.

I am a lucky, lucky man and revel in the joy and simplicity of a nice bike ride!