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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Trek recall -- really? I mean, REALLY?

I'm having a really difficult time putting my feelings into words regarding the Trek quick-release recall that was announced on Monday. At least words that won't offend some people. So I guess I'll just say "whatever" and go with it.

I think the part that chaps my hind-quarters the most is that this is being called a "defect", when the reality is that the ONLY danger is when the quick-release is used improperly -- as in not tightened. At all.

I got my first road bike when I was in 8th grade. The dark ages, really, something like 1978. It was a garage-sale special (but turned out to be a pretty decent bike for the time), and the only thing wrong with it was a broken front-derailleur cable. This bike had quick-release levers on the wheels. I thought that was all kinds of cool.

I didn't have ANYONE instructing me on how ANYTHING on that bike worked. And I think it took me all of five seconds to figure out how those quick-release levers worked. Sure, I checked the Barnett's manual from the local library (I was very blessed that the library in that back-water hovel even HAD a Barnett's manual), read it cover-to-cover, and learned all I could about how to fix that bike, but I had those levers figured out long before I got to that point.

A cam lever is about the most simple of mechanical devices on the planet. Really, people, they're not that difficult.

Somewhere along the lines, lawyers got to sniffing the blood in the water when people were not getting these cam levers tight on the front wheel, and it was causing crashes. The birth of "lawyer tabs", "lawyer lips", or wheel retention tabs on the fork tips. How to make a quick release a non-quick device. Now the cam lever becomes something that has to be adjusted each time a wheel is installed or removed. Because the thickness added by those tabs is more than what the throw of the lever can clear.

Those tabs were the first thing to go on EVERY fork or bike I bought for myself (with the exception of bikes with front disc brakes -- that's a subject for another discussion). Hateful things, they were.

But with having to now turn the nut (and in fact most times it's turning the lever end like a wing nut) to get the quick-release lever to where it'll tighten properly, it's not a stretch to see that it'd just get turned until the whole thing was tight -- without flipping the cam lever to the "closed" position. I've seen it a few times. I've stopped a couple people on the local rail-trail and instructed them on how to use the lever properly. 

Either that, or the wheel is just dropped into the fork, the lever is flipped, and it's nowhere near tight. Or even touching the clamping surfaces.

But anyway, the whole thing about the recall is that when the lever is in the "open" position (and usually is imprinted with the word "OPEN" right there on the lever), it can lodge in the disc rotor.

Trek started the recall, but the particular quick-release lever is RIFE in the $600-1000 bike range, regardless of manufacturer. There will be more recalls, to be sure.

Recalls because there are people out there that can't figure out the most basic mechanical device ever conceived, and feel that it's some one else's responsibility to compensate them for the trouble.

As was stated in a forum thread this week, this whole thing just proves that the most dangerous part of the bike is the nut attached to the handlebars.

The race to Idiocracy is a tough competition.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Getting faster sucks.

Greg Lemond is quoted as saying, "It doesn't get any easier, you just go faster."

You see, I made a goal for the year to ride 500 hours. My previous top year (in recent years anyway -- I've kind of reset the clock since I was peak bike racing many years ago) was 2013, when I had 459 hours. That was the same year I did the Leavenworth Gran Fondo.

Anyway, like a good little engineer, I made up a spreadsheet to track my riding time, with a daily average, how far I was behind (or ahead) for the year, etc.

On February 10th, I was about 10 hours behind my needed total to that point to make 500 hours by the end of the year. So in typical Type-A behavior, I got on it. I made sure I logged at least the needed daily average, plus a little bit more to catch up. Eventually.

It felt like it was taking forever to make up that time. Minute by minute, though, I chipped away at the deficit.

And currently I am about 5 hours ahead of pace. But with the daily average at 1 hour and 22 minutes (and 12 seconds, if it comes to that), it wouldn't take long to fall behind again. And with things like vacations planned later in the year, and inevitable days off due to life, I don't really feel this to be a comfortable cushion yet.

So that gets me to the whole subject of getting faster, and how that sucks.

I've got some "normal" loops that I ride during my lunchtime at work. I get in early most days to make up the time that I ride on a longer-than-regulation lunchtime. Anyway, I get about an hour and a half of saddle time each day. But those loops are taking less time as I get faster. So in order to keep at the 1:30 (ish) mark, I have to start extending the loops.

But extending the loops means going "around the block" at some point on the loop. Out in these areas, "around the block" can be several miles. So it doesn't just add 5 minutes. And it means I have to juggle more time vs. getting back to work. Perception (of co-workers) gets around when it comes to job evaluation. None of my co-workers are anywhere near work when I show up -- some by several hours.

Sure, I could slow down....

As if!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Don't bother hitting the "Comment" button -- it's turned off.

Or more specifically, it's now restricted to "team members" only.

Who are "team members"? No one. At least not you, anyway.

When I started up this diary (diarrhea?) of thoughts, I welcomed comments, a discourse, reflections of my thoughts on others, reactions, derision, and maybe the occasional slap across the face. And I've gotten a few.

What I got a whole lot more of is "comments" that are nothing but a link to some webstore, porn site, smoking cessation plan, or whatever. I've never actually clicked on any of the links. Some of them are at least creative enough to add a few words (usually of very broken English) with the "check out my blog -- http://..." at the end.

A couple of these a day I can handle -- click on the Delete button.

It's gotten to several every hour. Ridiculous.

A look at the statistics of this blog shows a very interesting and telling story -- almost half of my pageviews come from Ukraine and Russia. That explains the broken English. Phishing and scams.

So if this works, I may eventually explore opening the comments section with some securities in place at a future date.

In the mean time, sorry to my legit audience, you'll have to hold your tongue for a while. Or find another way to vent your frustrations. Maybe go flog your bike or running shoes.

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.