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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017



I’ve had some issues with darkness lately. And apparently I’m not alone.

It started last Wednesday, when I left my home to go to the day job.  

Night-time darkness. You know, lack-of-daylight. And cars. Read on…

I regularly leave home to go to work anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00am. My normal routine is to start the car and turn on the parking lights so I can see the dashboard. I don’t turn on the headlights until I pull out of my driveway and onto the road so as to not shine them into the neighbor’s windows. So on this particular day, I followed this routine, and the result was… nothing. No headlights. I tried again, and still had nothing but darkness ahead of me.

A quick turn-around, back into the driveway, and I went inside the house to get a flashlight. I checked the fuses (after firing up the laptop and consulting with Mr. Google to get a look at the fuse diagram), and they all looked good. The puzzling thing was that the high beams worked just fine, it was just the low beams that wouldn’t work.

A quick search online pointed to the possibility of a relay being the culprit.

I took my wife’s car to work, and on the side of my job did some searching around to find the relay part at a local store, all of about $6. Picked it up on my way home, thinking I’d gotten off easy… And nothing. Again.

Further searching pointed to the multi-switch on the steering column as the next-most-likely item to eliminate in the cascade of possible causes (and next cheapest at $35).

The fear was that this might not solve the issue. Apparently this is an issue that is fairly wide-spread, across many Honda models and years. Mine is a 2005 Element, a car that I love for its interior space and utility. Carrying two bikes inside on fork mounts and being able to keep one of the rear seats inside (90% of the time with a child seat attached) is a boon. In an online search, I found the same issue reported by many, many people, ranging from Elements, Pilots, Accords, and even a couple Acura models, spanning several years from the mid-oughts (2003-2008). If you have a Honda product from that era, take heed. The issue isn’t in the easy and cheap parts to replace, but in the wire harness that leads to the steering column multi-switch. The wire in the connector to that left stalk has a nasty tendency to overheat, warping the connector and then losing connection.

The wire harness itself is cheap. The labor involved to be able to disconnect and install a new one at the lower end requires the entire dashboard to be removed. Shop standard for that operation is 6 hours. To do a 5-second swap of a wire harness. Nine-hundred-eighty-eight dollars later, after a weekend in the shop waiting for the parts to come in from Portland, it’s back on the road.

Why this isn’t a recall item from Honda is beyond me. I’m sure the bean counters are driving this. Maybe it’s not a safety issue because you still have high beams available.

So I had to ride my bike to work for three days. That in itself isn’t torture, but the days weren’t exactly what I’d call dry (we haven’t had much of that lately). It forced me into some fender exploration on my grunge bike. I picked my car up yesterday afternoon, and immediately had the opportunity to exercise that new wore harness driving home from my elder daughter’s choir concert. The headlights all work now. The multi-switch has a slightly different feel, but it works okay.

But now the backlight on the tachometer is out…

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Hajj

NAHBS… North American Handmade Bike Show…

The Mecca of the custom and handbuilt bicycle world in America.

I’ve watched it  happen for several years, wanted to go. The timing and location have always made it between difficult and impossible. It travels from year to year. Houston, San Jose, Portland (OR), Indianapolis, Richmond (VA), Austin, Sacramento, Denver… This year it landed in Salt Lake City, a mere 14 hour drive away. Close enough. And since my wife had never been to Utah before, and I have friends that live there (and graciously hosted us to make the trip even cheaper), it was a go.

After having participated in the Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival in Portland twice, I was curious as to whether my skills measured up to the premier event for handmade bikes in the country, and whether this might be an event into which I would throw my hat in the future.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of NAHBS. And after three hours of walking and looking, I still hadn’t gone through it all. And then there was a list of things I wanted to go back and take a second look…

Highlights of the show for me:
* Seeing a wide range of product (and builder skill) at the new builder’s tables.
* Meeting and catching up with Matt Haldeman, who raced on the same team as I did back in the 90’s. He was manning Don Walker’s booth.
* Having extensive conversations with Steve Hampsten, Peter Graham, and Dave Levy regarding the Oregon show, and potentials for a Seattle handmade show.
* Meeting Andy Hampsten, Steve’s brother and winner of the 1988 Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy). His win is cycling legend, earning the lead in a snowy stage over the Gavia Pass.
* Meeting and talking extensively with Mike and Joni Taylor at the TexMarket booth. We talked riding shorts (not bibs), weather, and Reno. They were as enthusiastic about their home town as they were their products.
* A boatload of really, really cool bikes.

In some ways, though, I was surprised. There were some booths that contained examples that had me scratching my head wondering why the purveyor had chosen that particular item to display. Quality seemed to be lacking – things like tube joints which were not completely welded or brazed, mismatches, file marks. I can deal with looking at bikes that display the patina of use. To me, that shows the proof in the pudding, so to speak, that the design and fabrication stand up to the rigors of actual riding, and isn’t just a pretty face. But when one is supposedly displaying their best work…

I had, in part, come to answer the question of whether showing at NAHBS was something that I felt I could do, and if it would benefit me. I came to the conclusion that, yes, I think I measure up, I could put together a booth of bike-like-objects that wouldn't be out of place or put to shame. But also, and especially with the location of next year's show, I don't think I'm really after a national or international market at this point. My efforts would be better spent elevating the hand-made market in the Pacific Northwest, and especially locally in Seattle/Tacoma.

That effort is already under way, rallying the Washington builders to the Pedaler’s Fair in Seattle on July 2nd.