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

Friday, November 21, 2014


The month of November begins in earnest the winter struggle of busy-ness, getting things accomplished, holidays, demands on time, and trying to stay sane and in some kind of physical shape (other than round).

October this year was pretty decent weather-wise. There were really only a few days that I consider not rideable. November, though, has been challenging, with very cold temperatures, and now the usual wet. Add in that my wife has been in training for a new part-time job, and my available time for riding these past two work weeks has been my lunchtime. I try to get in the hour (or a little more if meeting schedules permit) of saddle time, but some days it just doesn't happen.

In all that, though, I've gotten two more bike frames near the end of their process -- on in paint, and one nearly so. I'm making a second fork for my gravel/'cross bike, so that will be this weekend's project. Colors? I'm debating with the primer grey/clearcoat on the frame with a red fork and graphics, or going with yellow on the frame instead. I know the yellow/red combination is striking, but the grey/red is more staid and utilitarian. It might depend more on what yellow I can find that will accept epoxy clear topcoat.

A funny thing happened on the way...

The gravel bike I am finishing up is actually the second main frame. It was too long to fit in the jig, and I was having a terrible time getting it set up, so I decided to set it up on the flat table with V-blocks. The seat tube/bottom bracket junction was done in the jig so that it was at 90 degrees, but then I took that assembly to the table with the rest of the tubes in the blocks. Well, somewhere in the process the seat tube got knocked or something, and the whole main frame ended up at a slight angle. The head tube and seat tube were PERFECTLY parallel, but putting the frame on the "whipping post" showed that the head tube was out-of-plane with the bottom bracket by a good 1/2". Ugh. And it was fully brazed, not just tacked.

I tried to "show it who's boss" as Richard Sachs likes to say. That ended badly -- the corner of my flat surface broke off, and I nearly broke my knuckles.

I sighed.

I cried a little.

And I set it aside to start over. I figured I could finish it up at some point as a display-only model.

That was a few months ago. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, with a new flat surface reinforced by planks. For grins I put that main triangle back on the whipping post to see what I could do. 

Some grunting, a lot of flipping it over on the post, lots of checks... And it came into alignment!

Now, if this were for a paying customer, I wouldn't be passing along something I had to do that much cold-setting with, and it'll still end up mostly as a display model. But I've got this extra main triangle that I'm figuring out just how to finish.

Fixed gear? Another 'cross/gravel rig? Maybe play around with the idea of a 29+?

Monday, November 3, 2014

I've been down, but I'm not out.

I don't get sick very often.

Maybe it's that I lead a reclusive lifestyle. I don't really care for crowds.

And shunning showers and personal care products  makes this easy -- crowds avoid me.

Okay, not really. I shower and use decent-enough hygiene that I'm only rarely not socially acceptable. But I still don't care for pressing flesh with 10,000 of my best-friends-I-just-met.

But we returned from Illinois last month with a nice little gift for all of us -- a cold that is just hanging on. Sinuses draining green goo, and a dry throat and cough that is just irritating. It's been two weeks now. Longest cold I can remember.

Which has kept me off the bike for almost 2 weeks now. My last ride was on October 23rd, a little one-hour off-road excursion on my lunch break. Not even something strenuous. But I think that drove the cold well into the depths of my body, and there's is taken up residence like Fort Knox, apparently.

Where did we pick it up? Well, I thought about that... My niece had been sick the night before we left, but by the time we saw them, she was doing fine and I would think not contagious. 

We were in a crowd at the wedding on Saturday. There's a possibility there.

But there was that lady that sat next to me on the flight to Chicago... Fours hours of her blowing her nose, sneezing, and laying her head down on the fold-out tray. Uh, yeah, that's probably it.

Thanks. I got to pay for that privilege.

I expect I'll be back to riding by the end of the week, and maybe by the end of the month it'll be like it never happened. 

Wonderful thing, these healing bodies.

Now I just have to figure out where to get my flu shot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Riding on the road

This is NOT a post about road riding, though the title may imply that. Instead, it's about riding while on vacation, on the road, so to speak.

I had the foresight to ship a bike out to my in-laws this past spring, knowing that we make about two or more multi-day trips to north-central Illinois (yeah, fine, for all you locals who take exception to me calling it "central" Illinois -- southwest Chicago). My mother-in-law is graciously storing it for me. In a shipping box.

The roads out there are laid out in a very geometric pattern, easy to navigate and not get lost, as long as you keep track of wind direction. Bonus is that you can see your landmarks for quite a distance. Meaning there aren't any real hills (by a Pacific northwest standard).

Anyway... I was wanting to find some folks on Velocipede Salon to ride with while I was there this past weekend. While that didn't pan out (and is kind of a relief, as my schedule degraded quickly leaving me only one opportunity to save my sanity with a ride), there was a suggestion to hop onto the I & R Canal Trail and cruise away the miles.

Good call.

I have a few rail-trail conversions not too far from me, and they're a nice, mindless ride when it's not a busy time (like most any weekday -- on nice weekends, look out). They're all paved, however.

On one of our trips out a couple years ago, we had crossed the I & M Canal Trail on the way to a community pool, and I'd noticed that it wasn't paved, though I didn't know just how rocky it could be.

Turns out it's very smooth -- better than a lot of the roads I ride on near home. The surface is crushed lava rock and cinder, and very well maintained. A glorious ride.

The fall colors were nearly in full bloom, something that we don't get a lot of in the land of evergreens.

I look forward to going back and riding more of this trail. Maybe I'll be able to round up a couple cohorts to ride along.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What is the most important part of the bike?

After spending the weekend in Portland at least partially immersing myself in bike culture (the Hopworks Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival), and talking with several custom builders from the area, and then a long drive home listening to The Guardians of Ga'Hoole (yep, the one about the owls... book on CD), I lay in bed unable to get to sleep, and thinking...

Every once in a while, a philosophical question will drill its way into my brain and fester there.

So this particular night, it was the question of the importance of the parts on the bike, or, more properly, what is THE most important part on the bike?

Could it be the wheels? I mean, really, the entire meaning behind the moniker "bicycle" means "two wheels". That kind of defines what a bike is, right?

Or maybe it's the frame. The supporting structure of the thing, which defines its manners, handling, weight balance, and comfort.

Possibly the saddle. The weight-bearing interface between the rider and the machine, where a most-intimate contact can become something that you never think about, or a misery that you can't NOT think about.

Or the pedals and cranks, where the efforts of the rider are transferred into the machine to provide forward progress, the most efficient form of transportation yet conceived-of by man.

Maybe it would be the handlebar, the interface to the wishes of the rider as to where that machine goes.

Well, all those things are important and make the collection of "things" into a bike. Much is made of how that collection of things should look, what are proper proportions, and largely that is what we were celebrating, discussing, and drooling over through the entire show.

But without the most important part of the bike, all that could be nothing more than "art", a lawn sculpture or showpiece. Without the most important part of the bike, the bike is just "a bike". It doesn't do anything. It doesn't go anywhere.

No, the most important part of the bike, to me, is the rider.

I believe that "the bike" is a dynamic thing, and that in order for it to truly be what it was meant to be, it needs to move. And that requires the rider.

Riders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and races. Speed does not make the rider. Being on a bike makes the rider. And likewise, the rider makes the bike. It's a synergy of human and machine -- a cybernetic melding that creates efficient movement.

And if you really get infected with the notion of two-wheeled transport, you become like me -- a rider even when you're not on a bike.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hopworks Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival, Portland, OR

This past Saturday I spent the larger part of the afternoon at the Hopworks Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival, a celebration/expo of local custom framebuilders and craft brewers.

I'm not much of a beer drinker, so after a couple tastes, my wife got the rest of the drink tickets, and I headed off to lose myself in fillets and lugs.

The expo was a little different this time around, not just in how it was configured, but also in my mindset going in. After a year putting torch to metal in my spare time, I was looking at more fine details, processes and configurations, and less pie-eyed about being around some of the builders who've made it in the business.

I was also drumming up some interest in a 2-day ride I'm planning for next summer, kind of a builder's secret ball, if you will, of riding around Capital Forest and surrounds. More to follow about that one in the coming months. Routes are set, location, mostly I just haven't set a date yet.

Anyway, I cruised mostly, letting things catch my eye.

Like the paint on the Machine mountain bike that was a repetition of their logo and had the effect of looking like tire tread. And the TIGHT welds on their stainless steel frame.

The narrow seat tube slot on the Breadwinner road bike.

The segmented fork crown on the Igleheart road bike. Chris had been in a bad crash not long after last year's show, so it was good to see him back in full swing again.

Likewise the segmented fork on the Ahearne rigid MTB.

And the Best-in-Show Winter Cycles.

There were also things like a Huffy Huck, which my wife participated in (and being the bad husband I am, I totally missed getting any of that on film), and adult-sized tricycle slalom races. A break dancing demo provided a break (haha) from staring at tubes as well.

And Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwiches. Good call!

While I was there, I saw a lady getting really up-close-and-personal to the bikes with her camera. I figured she was with a cycling magazine or something. Well, turns out it was Amy Sakurai, who goes by the handle LovelyAngel on Velocipede Salon, and she posted the link to her album from the day's photography and blog post. Great shots!

I'd been invited by Dave Levy of TiCycles Fabrication to bring my bikes down to the show. Being as I really only had one ready, and several more in-process, I decided that I'd pass on it this year. But I'll make my public announcement now -- I'll be there next year, even though I'm not an Oregon builder, and join in the fun from the other side of the booth.

Makes me excited and nervous at the same time.