An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The moral number.

I remember a talk I attended several years ago, given by a very wealthy man, and he related some interesting mindsets he'd run up against over the years. One he liked to call "the moral amount."

It refers to a certain amount of income above which it is considered sinful, amoral, downright evil to make. You know, that famous Bible verse that says "money is the root of all evil" (which is a misquote, by the way). And the funny thing he found was that it correlated very closely with the income level of the person making the judgement.

People who make around $50K a year think it's okay to make, oh, about $55K, but anything more than that, and you're just chasing the dollar.

People who make around $75K a year tend to think that anything over $80K is flirting with the devil.

And people who make around $150K a year believe that anything more than about $160K is positively corrupt.

Quite an entertaining observation. Which went on to a completely different point (being that the TIME one spends making all that money is more of an indication of the "love of money" rather than the amount by itself, but I digress). My point is that people will pass a moral judgement on others based solely on their own station in life.

Why am I going on with this?

An interview posting on BikeRumor on Julie Ann Pedalino on March 11th, and the ensuing comments, brought all this on. The crux of the issue seems to that Ms. Pedalino was showing two of her bike frames at NAHBS (North American Handmade Bike Show), in the "new builder" area, and that those frames represented her 3rd and 4th frames produced. Among the assumptions made by many posting comments is that she is offering her frames for sale to the public after only making four. And that she should not have been allowed to show at NAHBS with so little background in frame building. [I'll leave all the sexist drivel out of my discussion here.]

As a new builder myself, I do struggle with the idea of how many is "enough" to begin offering my wares for sale to the general public. At what point is my background deep enough to not be looked down upon by potential riders?

There are several long-time framebuilders who grew up (building-wise) in an era when bike frame manufacturing jobs were in the USA, and you could get several hundred frames under your belt with a manufacturer before venturing off under your own shingle. Some went to other countries (England being a primary example in the 70's) and got jobs with master builders and production shops making frames all day, learning the trade. Most of these long-time builders will quote out a number of frames one should have under their belt, often will into the triple digits, before they should be trusted under a paying customer. A long time, very in-demand builder with a wait time of YEARS (and rhymes with tax) will often throw out 200 as the benchmark.

There's that moral number. Different for each person, and very closely tied with how they came into their own framebuilding business.

But the industry has changed. Those jobs aren't available any more. And none of the USA masters are willing to take on an apprentice.

Yes, UBI (the United Bicycle Institute) has a certification program that'll put a nice plaque on the wall, and for some people that might mean a whole lot. Doesn't mean bupkiss to me. I've worked with enough educated derelicts, thank you.

For some one like Julie Ann Pedalino, what matters is that the design and construction is sound. SOME ONE has to be the first paying customer, and to that person, as long as the bike does what they want it to do, and it holds up to all the abuse they wish to dish out, the number shouldn't matter. But are there enough of those people to get to that "moral number"?

It's a dilemma, one I face now, with two trade shows coming this year that I plan to attend as a builder/exhibitor. I'm not going to lie to some one by inflating my numbers, but how do you convince some one that your designs and construction are sound? I've got several hundred miles on the first build I did for myself, and it shows no signs of giving up the ghost.I've got two more nearing completion (again, for myself), plus a few more on the street under some other people.

My total isn't impressive, but I've also never buried a frame out of embarrassment, nor had one fail yet.

And yes, I've got my liability insurance in place, protecting both myself AND my customers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is wrong with people these days?

It seems we've become a species of disowners. As in disowning one's responsibilities. Or even human decency.

In the past week, I've witnessed one traffic incident, and also had one cycling friend left lying in the road after colliding with a car that stopped in his lane.In both cases, the offending car sped off to avoid any repercussions from their actions.

The scene of the accident. The fleeing car turned left
at the light in the distance.
In the first case here, it happened while I was out on my normal lunchtime ride. A work truck had passed me, and was slowing to make a right hand turn into a driveway. It was well in front of me, so there was no danger of either of us impeding the other. Another smaller black pickup passed me... A full second of skidding tires followed by the second truck delivering a glancing blow to the turning truck's bumper. Plastic shards ejected. And then the second truck accelerated and sped up the hill, making a left turn on a red light to evade sighting. After I passed (I was going to try to see where the fleeing truck went), the first truck pulled back onto the road and followed. I indicated that it had turned, and then followed, looking in every driveway and cul-de-sac along the way. A little over a mile later, I saw where the first truck had pulled into a gas station/convenience store, abandoning the pursuit, so I stopped to offer my information as a witness.

The driver declined, saying that it was apparent no one was hurt, his truck was fine, and any damage would just be his deductible. But he did call his insurance company.

While that first driver basically shrugged it off, it made me a bit angry -- what would that second driver have done if he'd hit me?

Well, the general insulation of drivers and lack of care for other humans reared its ugly head just two days ago.

A friend of mine was out riding on his normal lunchtime ride, only a few miles from my house, going down a gentle hill... I'll let his own words sum it up:

Location of the accident, from my friend's viewpoint.
"I was heading north (just before 23rd Ave) on Shaw. The car was heading south on Shaw (uphill)...& turned left in front of me. He stopped in the middle of the northbound lane. I hit the brakes...& rear wheel locked. Rear wheel pitched around to my right & tossed me about 10-15ft. I hit the ground (right side & back of head) & then hit the car (bumper?) left side of head (so, I must've rolled/bounced). The gash on the left of my helmet would suggest I hit the license plate (frame). I lay there in a heap...gathering my senses. Driver asked 3 times if I was "OK". I never I was out of it. A witness walking his doggie saw me on the ground when he looked up at the see the driver back up, then head south on Shaw. He asked him, "Where are you going?!?"...
I was going at least 30-35..."

The bike's forks shattered. His helmet made the ultimate sacrifice to save his brain. He hit the pavement, suffering a good bit of road rash.

And the car continued on with its way, disappearing down the road, leaving my friend laying in the road, bleeding, unsure if his condition.

Fortunately, the road rash was the extent of the injuries, according to his initial reports and the assessment of 911 responders. What if that WASN'T the case?

But what possesses, or may DOESN'T possess, some one to have such disregard, not only for the LAW (fleeing the scene of an accident), but for a fellow human being whom they've just cause injury? What could be more important at that moment?

A line from Terminator 2 comes to mind. The 'tween John Connor is with the Terminator, on the run to Mexico. They stop at a gas station, and two children come running around, playing a game of shoot-'em-up. John looks at the Terminator and says, "We're not gonna make it. People, I mean."

The Terminator replies, "It's in your nature to destroy yourselves."

Telling stuff. Where are we headed as a species? With such disregard for our fellow humans, it's not difficult to imagine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I love it when a plan comes together.

That famous line by George Peppard, playing Hannibal Smith in the old series The A Team. Usually when they've saved some scheme from certain disaster by the skin of their teeth.

Well, I wasn't flirting with disaster, but some things have kind of fallen into place in the last few days, and it feels pretty good.

First, the car that I just bought a week ago had the "check enine" indicator light up the morning after I got it home. With all of 15 miles on the clock since leaving the lot. Wow.

It's a used car, with the "as-is/no warranty" sheet we sign on any previously abused vehicle. I was a bit worried taking it in to get it checked out. The dealership could have just said "tough luck" and fully be within their legal rights. But they traced down the cause of the #3 cylinder misfire and replaced a few parts on their dime, with little asking on my part.

That's the kind of service that will have me, if not going back, at the very least giving good rep to Auburn VW.

On top of that, the insurance for my framebuilding business is in place. That means my customers are protected should anything go seriously wrong with a build. And it protects my family from the same.

Also, I attended the Seattle Bike Expo this past Sunday. Though the show was smaller than in years past, and there were some notable absences, I made some important connections with some local builders, got some information about the Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Fest in Portland this fall (where I plan to exhibit for the first time). I also gleaned a few ideas for making the displays -- simple and effective, easy to transport.

But one of the things that has got me really jazzed is my connection with Hopworks Urban Brewery. Dave Levy at TiCycles Fabrication indicated that they'd be likely very willing to support the Lucky Deuce Gravel Crusher in July, so I sent them an email. Within a couple hours I had a return phone call, and we worked out some of the details. They're going to supply some of their craft brews for the evening get-together! Free beer!

So I'm riding a bit of a wave now. Feels good.

Monday, February 23, 2015

High-tension day

Sometimes it's good to throw something new into the training regimen.

Even when it's not planned.

Today is a good example. Or maybe a bad example. Or... well, you decide.

I missed an awesome riding day yesterday due to getting the "new" car (see Haulin' post). So I made sure to get out today, even if it was just for the hour-plus standard lunchtime loop.

Everything was going great, in spite of a nearly empty water bottle. About 4 miles in, I hit the shifter to downshift and "thunk"... Suddenly pedaling got a LOT harder. I stopped to take a look, and, sure enough, the cable anchor on the rear derailleur had loosened.

This has NEVER happened to me before. But, okay, the bike still pedals, and sure it's hard...

About a half-mile later I pulled into a Pro-Build lumber store to see if they had an allen wrench I could borrow. Yeah, yeah, Boy Scout isn't prepared. But they had one that fit close enough (I'm sure it was an SAE size, but close enough to 5mm) that I could get the anchor bolt to hold. I was back on the road.

Starting out again, I was pushing my top gear getting going. I cross-chained it to the small chainring, got started, then downshifted to accelerate. And downshifted. And downshifted. THEN the gear started changing.

I got 3 cogs up the cluster, and hit the last detent in the shifter. Oh boy.

While I'd tightened the anchor on the cable, I hadn't gotten it pulled all the way through, so I was limited to my 4 tallest gears on a 10-speed cassette.

Well, I guess that means I'm over-geared for the day.

I soldiered on, with only a few short and not-so-steep hills (hard to actually call them hills when they gain less than 100 feet) remaining, giving myself an impromptu high-tension workout. Standing up on almost every rise, pushing a lower than normal cadence.

In the end, my average speed was right in line for what would be normal on this loop on this bike. Including the stop to tighten the cable. What does that tell me about how I've been possibly dogging it on my rides? Of course when you're over geared like this, you can only go SO slow before you have to just power through it.

You single-speeders know what I'm talking about.

I usually carry a couple wrenches with me for several rides after a new build or any extensive servicing. I figured I was past the shake-down phase on this bike. I guess I should just carry them anyway, all the time, eh?


My car is a bike-transport vehicle first, and a people mover second.

I usually carry two bikes in the back of my car daily to work, so that I can ride during my lunch hour-and-a-half. Why two? Well, one is for road, one for off-road, and I let weather, temperature, and mood determine which I ride on any particular day. It has just enough room to put the bikes in front first, with the bars wrapped close to the front seats.

So last Thursday, when my 2001 Ford Escape decided to have a melt-down, the cost of which to repair approached the value of the car for a private sale, the time was at hand to replace it.

Oh, what to get.

Obviously bike hauling capacity was the first priority. I put up a thread on the Velocipede Salon forum to get some feedback, and some of the responses were interesting. I'd specified being able to put the bikes INSIDE the vehicle. After some looking around online including a Bicycling magazine article "The Four Best Cars for Cyclists", which included NONE that would take a bike IN the car, my wife and I made a short list of used vehicles to check out, shuttled off the little one to a friend for an afternoon, loaded up the bike as a test-fit object, and hit the road.

First up was a Honda Element. Roomy, infinitely practical for my intentions. Unfortunately the one we looked at was a salvage title, so we passed on that one. A newer Escape was on the list, and while it was newer, the automatic transmission coupled with the 4-cylinder engine made for weak, anemic acceleration on the flattest of roads. I joked that you hit the gas, and then mailed in your request for more speed.

Many vehicles got eliminated right away due to not enough room -- the Chevrolet HHR, the Honda Fit (which a lot of people DO put bikes in, even 2-3 at a time -- I just couldn't get it to work easily), the Mitsubishi Outlander, anything Mazda.

The Dodge Grand Caravan was a good second -- back seats folded down, and the mid seat tilted forward, there was ample room. But it's a mini van... Yes, I had a Plymouth Voyager back in the day, a 1990 that I bought new (one of the few cars in my life I've ever gotten new), and rarely had the bench seat in it. I was racing on a team at the time, and it was often designated the "team car". On one team road trip, I had 13 (I think, that was a long time ago) bikes in the back for a stage race in Oregon, all the road and time trial bikes for the guys.

Anyway, we found a nice Honda Element locally, in good shape, and for a good price (after strong-arming the dealer a bit). Taking out the back floor panel and replacing it with a fitted piece of plywood, on which I bolted some old fork mounts, and I'm ready with two bikes in the back again.

For anyone out there hauling sports equipment, and especially bikes, the Honda Element seems the ideal ride. Too bad they discontinued production just a couple years ago.

Hopefully by the time I'm in this position again, there will be more options out there.