Sunday, March 31, 2013

Is Better That Much Better

Back when I was a serious driver I liked finding things that improved the experience and gave me something to talk about (or brag if it made sense). It was more than a few years ago and involved cars like a ’73 Beetle and a ’77 Rabbit. You might ask how one can brag about Beetles and Rabbits. You choose your venue and audience well. One item worthy of mentioning to anyone who knew their way around Beetles was that in 152K miles I never replaced the muffler, but I did have to replace the gaskets sealing the muffler to the exhaust pipes from the motor. The probable reason was that there was little chance for moisture to cause rust. Seldom was the car on the move somewhere. I once had to replace and adjust the ignition points somewhere north of Charlotte on the edge of I-77 using old points and a pack of matches. Being able to use a pack of matches to set the spark gap was pretty much common knowledge. Having a set of used but usable points was also common. Middle of the night and flashlight help in the mouth makes it a mite more interesting.

How does any of this relate to bikes? Tires, that’s how. The TS771s had gone 70K miles when I replaced them with Semperit M401s. I gave the tires to another Beetle owner who used them for many more miles. They sucked in snow but were outstanding otherwise and the choice of many drivers competing in the SCCA’s Showroom Stock. After buying a lot of less expensive tires, some of which are identified as “city” tires, meaning they can handle the rigors of urban streets, my experience has made me a Schwalbe buyer. Just as I liked the Continental TS771s I had on the Beetle, I like Schwalbes on my bikes. Research suggested strongly that Schwalbes were well worth the cost and their performance was exemplary for bicycle touring. As noted in past postings here the Marathon Plus tires I use did exactly what I anticipated on my aborted tour. When I began repairing the Schwinn to be a more useful everyday bike I did not consider any other tire manufacturer.

I’ve ridden the High Sierra enough miles to be able to know that I made a good choice. Whether my preferences match those of someone else is irrelevant insofar as it’s my ride. One criticism of Marathons is that they are heavy. So am I. Another few ounces, even pounds is inconsequential. Much of the HS 348 Marathon Plus’ extra weight (110kg) is a result of the thick layer of rubber under the tread (Schwalbe calls this their SmartGuard) which serves to keep sharp things from doing the highly undesirable poking thing. Urban streets are always debris laden, so any extra protection makes a lot of sense unless you’re really enjoy repairing and replacing tubes. I have the tires inflated to their maximum, 85 psi, and fine the ride to be wholly acceptable. I also like the steady hum they make on long rides.
On the High Sierra I put HS 420 Marathons with Schwalbe’s Green Guard (also weighing 110kg) . They are a higher pressure tire (55 to 100 psi). After starting at 80 psi I have since increased the pressure slightly to 90 psi. As with the 348s the ride is very firm, but not at all uncomfortable. They do not hum like the 348s and roll just as smoothly. It’d be difficult to be more satisfied.

In a discussion about bikes and equipment my opinion about tires, at least, is that better is much better.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Things That Make Cars Dangerous and Sometimes It's Us

Anyone who rides on roads shared by automobiles knows that, like petulant preschoolers, some drivers are not open to sharing. Sharing, of course, is something that should be willing not forced or required, in the playground and sandbox, at least. Roads by contrast do not belong to any single individual and that’s a distinction each of us learns (or should) as we mature and before we begin driving a potential deadly weapon.

The other side of the issue is what might seem to be wanton disregard for personal safety. Why, drivers ask, do people want to ride their bikes on roads and highways? Don’t those bikers know it’s dangerous? Of course we do, but it’s danger is not intrinsic anymore than the simple act of riding a bike is inherently dangerous. The danger arises from the human element, primarily. Sure, tires fail. Animals follow their own rules. Weather compounds errors. Something’s are beyond anyone’s control. Most are not.

The things I have observed and noted below are not part of an exhaustive list. Mostly they are pet peeves, things I have experienced personally. Ever rider (and driver) surely has his or her own list.

Texting while driving (including bike riders)

Few things are as dangerous as a person who believes he or she is competent enough to operate a car while sending or receiving text messages. I’d like to narrow the class of offenders to young people, given the number of college aged people around here, but it cannot be done. At 12 miles an hour it is MUCH easier to see the posture of drivers and recognize the intense downward gaze at the phone in a driver’s lap or the phone-held-upward-so-as-to-permit-visual-multitasking of the road and traffic ahead. Unfortunately, it is not limited to drivers either. Argh! The number is not as large, but bike riders are also guilty.

Talking on phone while driving (including bike riders)

This used to be the bigger issue, but texting has supplanted it. At least (and it is a minimal difference) their eyes are free to make cursory visual scans of the road ahead unless it is an important call. I won’t attempt to define “important.”

Failure to look both ways at intersections (including bike riders)

When I was a driver I developed the habit of looking left-right-left and that habit has continued. In a right-side-of-the-road culture, vehicles coming from the left are the first to be encountered so as you approach an intersection it makes sense to look left first. That’s not advanced science, just logical. Looking right then left again completes what I’d call a cursory traffic check. Looking more than once makes more sense.

On a bike I look both ways multiple times and I seldom, if ever fail to do so. Does that make me better? No, just hyper-cautious, maybe. Many, many, many drivers do not look both ways before entering intersections, especially when making a right turn. Seems silly to me. As with the things above about text messages and telephone usage, bike riders too often behave similarly and, as with a minority of drivers, some riders never look at all, especially if the cross direction is signal controlled, assuming that I-have-the-right-of-way makes one invulnerable.

Failure to respect pedestrian crossings and pedestrians (including bike riders)

Bike riders may be more disrespectful of pedestrians than drivers. Where drivers fail miserably is by stopping with their vehicle blocking crosswalks while edging forward to make a turn. Where riders fail is by not making their presence obvious before passing a pedestrian being approached from behind. There is a dilemma when the pedestrian is using headphones or earplugs and can’t hear a warning. A year or so ago the local bike club addressed riders’ alleged rude behavior because they passed walkers on the Hawthorne Trail without warnings. I bought a bell to use and use it with mixed success because of the high number of walkers and runners who are unable to hear a warning sound.

Failure to respect defined lanes of travel (including bike riders)

I like bike lanes and generally drivers avoid them except when there’s a slowdown and a right turn is approaching and drivers squeeze over to get in to the right turn lane effectively blocking the bike lane. Some drivers get awfully damn close to riders as they pass and many of those drivers are involved in the first two peeves above. Frequently on my ride home while using a bike lane someone driving a pickup would pass very close to me and after this happened several times (same time, same general section of road) I understood he was doing it intentionally. It wasn’t the closeness that was the problem. It was his dog which always surprised by snarling as the truck passed. I guess you can laugh at your own joke a lot of times.

Bike riders manage to violate the reasonable expectation of drivers by riding abreast in bike lanes or when there is no bike lane. “Share the Road” is a reasonable assertion, but riders have to recognize the circumstances and adjust their behavior in a reasonable fashion. In the thousand or so miles I road on rural southern roads I had very few moments when I held up traffic for more than a few minutes. If it was obvious that traffic was backing up I’d leave the roadway and allow cars to pass. Generally, though, by riding as close to the road’s edge as I could gave most drivers sufficient room to pass, even in South Carolina.

Failure to use signals (including bike riders)

How hard is it to signal a turn while driving? Why would you not provide a signal? It all comes down to lack of attention and a denial of the idea that cars are potential lethal weapons. As I detailed more than a year ago, the one accident involving a bike that I witnessed resulted from a failure by a driver to provide a timely signal. The rider failed to be cautious enough and must accept some blame. She failed to embrace the sense of vulnerability we need to have when we ride. It’s our responsibility to be aware all of the time. When we aren’t we can’t anticipate what might happen and be prepared before it does.

On the other hand are riders’ signals. There is no way to claim equipment failure when not offering signals for the sake of drivers. It is also important for riders to separate signals from gestures.

Too fast or too slow for conditions (including bike riders)

As with any moving vehicle it’s important to be aware of the conditions around you and adjust speed to match. Speeding by drivers can cause them to meet riders at the wrong moment. Riders engaging in too-fast-for-conditions speed may not have enough stopping power to avoid an accident. As with virtually every one of my peeves this one relates to a general disregard for natural and logical consequences. Death or severe injury as a result of disregard for potential consequences really sucks.

Windows too dark to allow eye contact with the driver

Here in Florida very dark windows on cars is common. As a driver I liked being able to make eye contact or to see in which direction another driver was looking. Being unable to see through tinted windows compounds all of the above. 

Danger lurks everywhere, but many of life’s dangers result from our inattention, the inattention of others or a combination of both. These elements are common and do not relate only to interaction between drivers and riders. Much of what passes for paying attention is given over to the idea that everything can be multitasked. Maybe it’s just one more way in which I am showing my age.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Storing 12 Miles Per Hour

What do you do with your bikes if you live in a small place lacking sufficient storage space?

A bike takes up space, sometimes too much space, especially when you have plural, so finding a satisfactory way to keep it or them safe without filling too much living space is a good thing. I use two bikes regularly and keep them in a not-too-large (12 x 9) room along with two sets of panniers and, well— like most “serious riders”— other cycling accessories. The room also houses other stuff that comes and goes, so two bikes standing side-by-side makes the room much smaller.

After spending the usual excessive time contemplating how to resolve my bike storage problem I’d concluded that I needed something to attach to wall studs rather than a freestanding device since none of the freestanding type offered the flexibility I felt I needed. I couldn’t be sure from measurements and pictures that the arms used to hold the bikes would move freely enough to accommodate two large frame bikes, one of which is a “29er.” Issues were raised about all economical models and only devices costing in excess of $100 seemed to carry consistently good reviews. Even then, it was questionable whether both bikes would fit well or at all.

I visited my local Home Depot, which I do so with less reluctance now that Matt Kinseth drives the #20 Home Depot car. (Nothing against Joey Logano, but he was a weak replacement for Tony Stewart and after Fontana, neither #14 nor #22 did much to help themselves) The hired help at Home Depot was slightly better than useless in offering suggestions for how I could hang my bikes, but one did suggest I look in “that aisle” which was “storage solutions.” I did and found EverbiltHeavy Duty Storage Hangers (Home Depot SKU 470777) costing about $6. I bought two.

A series of fits and starts commenced when I arrived home. First, I had to find wall studs which has never been among my best home improvement skills. A borrowed “stud finder” seemed to help, though I still drilled several bottomless holes using a very thin bit before striking wood. With a suitable stud finally located and measurements taken, checked, retaken and rechecked, I attached the first hanger. The lift-over height allowing me to hang the High Sierra high enough to put the Safari below while avoiding the ceiling was 78 inches. Instead of the screws included with the hangers I used a couple of Torx head construction screws of greater length. I tried to not feel too pleased with the result, but the result looked like it would work.

Lifting the High Sierra to the ceiling was well within my physical ability, so hanging it on the newly installed hanger was easy enough AND it did not immediately crash to the floor. It hangs with the pedal well away from the wall and otherwise poses no threat to damage the damage the wall.

With the Schwinn in place it was immediately obvious that the Safari could be hung beneath the High Sierra, but there was no reason to do so. I’d already regained the Schwinn’s space, approximately six feet by two feet, and the heavier Safari rested neatly against the wall with the High Sierra suspended above. What will I do with the second hanger? I still have a Giant Boulder hindering access to the washer and dryer. Perhaps the second hanger will get it out of the way, too.

While looking for the link to the hangers at Home Depot I found a description of an interesting bicycle project on Mountain Bike Review where the author made a bench repair stand for $6.50 using the same hanger.

One of the things I did to minimize nicks, scrapers and grease related to keeping my bikes inside was to use a leftover bike shipping carton on the floor and wall. It’s not a styling success, but very successful in protecting vulnerable surfaces. I can replace and lubricate chains and clean accumulated gunk from gunk accumulating places without worrying about greasy accidents. It’s pleasing to be able to solve problems.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Keeping It Safe

Maybe I have had a false sense of security, but until recently I haven’t invested much time in researching the best ways to keep my bike safe when it’s parked and out of my sight. Where I was formerly employed I locked my bike to a “No Parking” sign in full view of someone in an adjoining office. A vinyl coated cable and brass marine lock seemed all that was needed and I thought little of the possibility of someone taking the bike. When I made the move to a bicycle lifestyle and started riding the Schwinn fulltime I purchased a pair of Nashbar Euro Compact Panniers. They are difficult to hang and to remove making theft a little less likely, so I never gave much thought to their safety, either. When I began riding the Safari my attitude began to change.

I accept the truth of the assertion that a determined thief can overcome any system used to secure a bike. Making the task as hard and time consuming as possible is one way to minimize the chances of losing your bike. By any standards my current approach falls short. For each bike I create obstacles, but not sufficiently difficult to overcome under anything but idea conditions for me.

My aged Schwinn is unlikely to be a first choice for a thief. It is looks its age because of the myriad of nicks it has acquired and fading of its logo appliqués. Unless the potential thief is bike-savvy and looking for an ancient hardtail or understands bike accessories its tires and fenders will mean little. Only the FrankenBrooks saddle might seem to have tangible value, but it is modestly protected by a thin cable and combination lock. My sense is that for trips to my busy, nearby grocery store the bright yellow vinyl encased cable and brass lock is sufficient. No longer do I carry panniers, having replaced with my Burley Travoy, so it just a matter of securing the bike and shopping.

Before I set off on my tour I invested a modest sum and purchased a Kryptonite chain and integral lock. I probably had little to worry about in the campgrounds where I stopped, but I felt more comfortable with the chain that I would have with my vintage vinyl covered cable. Since I removed all the panniers and handlebar bag each night and kept them in the tent with me security of those items was a non-problem, too. While the Kryptonite is heavy, weight was (and is) a non-factor compared to loss of the Safari. My current security solutions are make-shift while meeting requirements I think are important, but I think something more focused is necessary.

I once knew a burglar who asserted with a pretty good credentials (for a thief) that time of exposure was critical if he wanted to steal something. he calculated exposure by  considering accessibility. If something was difficult to take because of security measures or problems in getting to it the item was less likely to be taken, lacking a value worth a higher risk. With that in mind, I have read innumerable reviews of locks and chains and cables and cuffs and whatever-else-passes-for-bicycle-security. There is general agreement that a dedicated thief can take anything, given enough time and that is just about the only single point of agreement.

Venerable vinyl covered cable

In the very near future I will replace my vinyl covered cable with another chain from a name-brand manufacturer. I’m opting for chains over U-Locks because of the difficulty U-Locks create in mounting them when not in use and their lack of flexibility in encircling many readily available securing points. Chains require use of heavy duty bolt cutters or powered grinding wheels which would be less likely in the hands of someone engaging in thefts of opportunity. I am willing to take that much chance in security circumstances common to my lifestyle.

I can employ secondary security on the Safari’s Ortlieb panniers and handlebar bag when necessary. Among my secondary measures is a BikeClub which I used for my front panniers before buying the Travoy. It resides in one of the Front Rollers for that single purpose. A Knog Party Frank takes care of Back Roller security. Admittedly, neither the Party Frank nor the thin cables attached to the Ortlieb Front and Back Rollers are going to thwart a determined thief carrying cutters. The idea is to limit exposure, so I seldom carry panniers except for touring. Ortlieb provides a locking mechanism for their handlebar bag which is enough to discourage theft of opportunity.

Party Frank and Pannier Security Cables

Kryptonite in Repose
With a chain for the Schwinn and the vinyl covered cable as a secondary measure I expect it to be as safe as it needs here. In a major city with dedicated bike thieves I know something more would be needed., but even the most secure locks may not be enough. An acquaintance, while in Brooklyn, had his bike stolen by having the frame cut. “Fuhgedaboudit”. Someone wants it badly enough, they’ll take it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Surely It Was Sabotage

I planned to visit my FNBS (friendly neighborhood bike shop) even though it is pretty much not in my neighborhood anymore. When I was working on that side of town it was a short ride and a reasonable walk away. I could arrange for significant repairs to be done between morning break time and the end of the day and lesser issues resolved between lunch and end-of-day. Now, it’s a nine mile one way ride or a three bus (#75, #1, and #27) mass transit journey, but Bikes and More will remain my FNBS. The reasons are simple; excellent service, an awareness of the needs of commuters and a willingness to take care of bike-lifestyle riders.

My visit was prompted by a need to replace the middle chainring on the High Sierra, a condition that has existed for a long time. I’ve avoided the middle chainring, it being more inconvenience than problem, but wanted to make the bike fully functional now that it has excellent tires and fenders. Before reaching the shop things turned worse when the chain refused to pass through the rear derailleur properly by slipping off the guide pulley. Even my untrained eye recognized that part of the structural metal of the derailleur was badly bent. How? Sabotage, I’m sure. While I slept, certainly. Why or how mattered much less than whether it could be repaired or replaced and how soon it could be done.

An evaluation of the problem confirmed that the rear derailleur was broken. I felt mildly vindicated because I had reached the same conclusion. (I still wonder how someone slipped in over night and damaged it!) As I also expected, the chain and cassette needed to be replaced. Faced with replacing most of the drive train I anticipated a large cost and lengthy down-time. Good fortune prevailed (no pressing repairs on the stands at that moment) and Paul (owner and mechanic) said he could have everything completed in less than an hour.

The High Sierra’s original chainrings are Biopace (For Sheldon Brown's discussion of Biopace visit I have never been able to notice a difference in effort, cadence, knee issues or anything else. So, changing to a standard circular chainring made no difference to me; a 38T, 110mm, Origin-8 cost $40. The rest of the parts; Shimano 6 speed Freewheel was $15; KMC chain $14 and Shimano Acera rear derailleur, $40.

Obviously, I did not choose the most costly parts and for, what I consider to be, obvious reasons. The Schwinn is an everyday bike, but it is not ever going to be subjected to the same amount of stress as the Novara. Any repair to the Novara will be an upgrade. The parts used by Bikes and More will work well and last a long time, in part because of the care I give them and mostly because of the ongoing maintenance provided by my FNBS.

It might be difficult for some people to understand spending “a hundred dollars to repair a bike!” To me it’s one of those “duh moments.” How much would it cost to repair the entire drive train on a car? It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Handling the Cold

It may seem paradoxical to talk about gloves and cold weather as Spring arrives and even moreover because here in NorthCentral Florida the cold times are neither as cold nor as lengthy as much of the rest of the U.S. experiences. Yesterday, though, I did not wear my cold weather gloves thinking I could easily tolerate 40 degrees. Tolerate I did, but comfortable would have been much better.

When I began riding the Schwinn I saw quickly the value of good gloves and my first pair were Rhode Gear crocheted back and my experience with that first pair has kept me wearing crocheted back gloves. I’ve never found anything better. They were more padded than modern gloves and the leather was either superior or the chrome tanning made them so. Nonetheless, I still prefer crocheted gloves to more modern designs. I like the feel of cotton backs better than stretchy fabric, I guess, especially when I wipe my sweaty brow.

Currently, I alternate among four pairs; three Nashbar and one PlanetBike. I have used and abused gloves from both Avenir (which I managed to lose somehow) and AeroTech Designs, but find Nashbar’s most durable. As documented previously, PlanetBike’s Kevlar gloves suffered from a manufacturing flaw which has been resolved. AeroTech’s offering, while comfortable, came apart where the velcor fastener connects to the gloves proper. A local clothing repair place fixed them, but they came apart a second time. The Avenir’s were a good fit, though they were longer and fastened higher on the wrist more like a cuff. Unlike many black gloves they did not discolor my hands when they got sweaty the first time. Maybe I will purchase another pair eventually.

Nashbar and PlanetBike Crochet Back Gloves
The one pair of non-crocheted gloves also came from AeroTech. I chose XLs and the fit proved to be bad around the thumb. I suspect Ls would fit much better. Why I chose purple is a mystery? Since neither of the AeroTechs are unusable I tucked them away as possible back-up. Yeah, I know, with four pair in use what’s the chance I will need a back-up pair?!
Aero Tech Designs and Avenir Gloves
A Large Thumb in an XL Thumb Hole

So, What about cold weather? It took time to find the right equipment, but for two years I have done quite well with a set of outer gloves and inner liner. Actual cycling gloves were more costly that seemed reasonable for the amount of time I would actually wear gloves. Harbor Freight provided a satisfactory outer shell; Goatskin Riding Work Gloves (WesternSafety - item #99583). Costing less than $10, they are durable and adequately padded in the right places. Adding a pair of inserts for sub freezing temperatures took care of all my cold weather needs; Smartwool Liner Gloves. As with many people, wool had never been a favorite fabric. Smartwool’s merino eliminated any problems. Cold fingers a never a problem, unless I am too foolish to see the need for full finger protection.
Harbor Freight and Smartwool; Not So Odd Couple

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Minor Annoyances

Sometimes the most minor annoyance can change the way in which we are viewing life. As I was preparing to visit the local VA hospital for a six month examination of my formerly detached retina the small motel room sized coffee maker I commonly use chose to overflow, discharging much of its product on the counter. Why this happens occasionally and without warning escapes detection.

As I cleaned the mess then repeated the preparation process in the full size drip coffeemaker my thoughts turned to my health in general and eye health in particular. It’s remarkable how well our various body parts functions and damn fortunate, too. Even the myriad of aches and pains resulting from aging and injuries aggravated by aging do not change the fact that for a machine to function as well as mine has is pretty impressive.

When I was told that my diminished visual acuity was cataract related I was very unhappy. Yet, I also knew that my former excellent night vision had passed into “back in the day” history. Those “age appropriate” cataracts had increased to the point where the view from within was clearly not very clear. So, in November and December of 2010, I had my foggy lenses replaced with “high-refractive-index, soft, foldable, hydrophobic acrylic material.” The result? Twenty-twenty vision and the need for “readers” which I had been using in much higher magnification prior to surgery.

How does this relate to cycling? Well . . . not only had I become an aging danger behind the wheel of a car at night, I was not as aware of the goings-on around me while cycling. Post surgery (I witnessed the surgery from the inside both times) I had perfect distant vision and was surprised how much more aware I could be. The subtle deterioration had allowed me to believe that things always looked less distinct.

Nearly two years ago (May ’11) I had to deal with a detached retina. I only thought having cataracts was bad! Fortunately, this, too, the VA took care of in efficient fashion. The procedure to fix the retina (cryotherapy) was done in a retina doctor’s office and application of a scleral buckle was avoided. Yay! The right eye is no longer 20/20 falling slightly after this problem to 20/25. The left eye, unaffected by retina problems, has improved to 20/15.

I cannot imagine being unable to ride and the coffee overflow reminded me how large some problems can be. Working at remaining active is a deeply ingrained part of my lifestyle, but I also carry the awareness that things can go wrong. For me, then, the important thing is to make the most of all of life’s moments.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Controversy

I was perusing reddit’s bicycle commuting community today and read assorted opinions about toe clips, clipless pedals and bare platforms. Having never used clipless I can’t speak for or against, but if there was less expense involved I might try ‘em. Needing large shoes (14 or 15) with a toe box to accommodate my arthritic big toes makes the whole process of finding something more troublesome than I think it is worth. Ordinary shoes cost a lot and are hard to find, so I doubt specialty shoes would make the task any easier.

I have used toe clips since very soon after purchasing my Schwinn High Sierra. The philosophy at the time was that you were able to pedal more efficiently and that your feet would be less likely to slip. I was much more interested in the latter than the former reason. I’d had just such a slip on one of my first rainy rides. Disaster had been avoided, but the potential was enough to push me to try metal toe clips or cages, as some people called them.

Initially, there is a powerful sense that you cannot get your feet free and that this is not good. Well . . . it’s not. And I nearly fell several times before I learned how to manage them. There was no one to advise me so I had to learn by trial and narrow escape that I felt safer with the clips very loose and feeling less restrained so emergency removal was unrestricted. Riding well requires that we develop some physical memory and the sense of being restrained does pass. It becomes second nature to slide your feet in and out of the clips and eventually you feel comfortable and safe with some snugness.
Well used clips
Solving the shoe problem, which is ancillary to using clips, hasn’t been too difficult since I discovered Skechers are common in sizes 14 and are often built on a last which provides sufficient toe space. From my point of viewing, there is no controversy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Two Wheels Are Usually Enough

Not everyone can manage without a car. When I worked 50 plus miles from where I lived a car was necessary. Now, as I have documented, I live in a small city with adequate mass transit, few hills and a mild climate. It is a bike friendly place in that there are bike lanes and paths and people in trucks and cars don’t aim at you (generally). The city’s pros far outweigh any of the cons. Hundred degree summer days and hurricanes are an inconvenience.

Months ago my PC quit working. I was immersed in anticipating my long ride and couldn’t spare the money to replace its motherboard. Upon returning, well, if you have read my entries here since August you know what has been going on. Today (ta da!) I picked it up at my Friendly Neighborhood Computer Shop (FNCS). Just as a bike rider needs a FNBS (Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop), computer users will eventually need their own FNCS.

In my past employed life I discovered 43rd Street Computer Repair and they proved to be competent and reasonably priced, a nice combination. Now as an unemployed old guy it is even nicer! And just as the people at Bikes and More (my FNBS) didn’t mock and scorn me when I stripped the tread on the left crank of the Schwinn putting on a pedal, 43rd Street won’t laugh when you have crashed your PC while trying to install memory sticks. I like that.

Transporting the PC was possible because of the designers of the utilitarian Burley Travoy. Using foam packing from the PC’s delivery carton and a bunch of air filled packing bags inside the Travoy’s tote bag then strapping it all in place with bungee cords I made the seven mile jaunt home with no undue jolting.

The Travoy is a damn good piece of equipment. I can be moderately critical of the two straps that accompany the tote bag, as they are often useless because of their tendency to slip on the smooth surface of the tote bag when loads shift. For groceries they are adequate, but for other bulkier items the ubiquitous stretchy elastic bungee is the only option.

The Travoy’s hitch is also a remarkable design. It’s flexibility means you don’t have to be quite so concerned about the loaded trailer tipping and pulling you down with it. Additionally, the one hand operation to slide the trailer tongue onto the hitch is cool.


When I arrived home and considered my circumstances I wondered about the juxtaposition of my bike, which I view as a potential means of escape if the electrical infrastructure fails, and a PC that I love because it allows me to re-immerse in technology. Apocalypse meets technocalypse?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stability Helps

Returning to stability takes time.

Living without adequate income is tough. Returning from the brink takes time, but as stability returns life on the edge becomes less threatening. With the resolution of the unemployment quandary in my favor hope can now spring eternal.

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast; 
    Man never Is, but always To be blest: 
    The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, 
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Too dire. Things are mostly good and I continue to work on leaving a small carbon footprint by investing some of my newly received resources into good tires and fenders, both made of carbon based materials, of course, but very little compared to my past life style.

It’s unpleasant to riding in rain on a bike lacking fenders and my venerable High Sierra, an excellent two wheeled transportation appliance, required that upgrade if it was going to be my daily ride. Almost as important for an urban ride is tires that can handle accumulated detritus found on bike paths and roadsides.

Choosing tires was a simple matter because of my experience with Schwalbe tires on the Safari. I put Marathon Plus (HS 348) on the Safari and have neither complaints nor punctures. Only when one was sliced completely through to the SmartGuard belt during my aborted tour have I had any kind of problem. Even then, the tire lost pressure slowly rather than catastrophically. For around town, everyday use Christian at Bikes and More suggested the updated Original Marathon (HS 420) with its 3 mm GreenGuard layer providing almost the same level of puncture protection. Weighing 730 grams (1.6 pounds) each (versus 940 grams or 2 pounds for HS 348) they are not road racer tires. They’re built to handle what I want; an everyday bicycle lifestyle.

Fenders presented a more complex question; what fenders would fit the High Sierra’s Roller Cam brakes that were popular in the 80s. They are very good brakes with remarkable stopping power, but, as most bike mechanics know, very hard to adjust properly. Adjustability was not the first problem; fitting current-day fenders under the Roller cam mechanism was. Again, Bikes and More took care of the matter.

Paul was able to fit a pair of Planet Bike Cascadia ATB fenders to the bike with a minimum of effort. The only adjustment needed was to the front fender where the spacing between the frame attachment and the fender was greater than normal. Nice fenders! While he was at it also adjusted the Roller Cam brakes. Nice work!

Using the High Sierra as everyday transportation is going to be much more pleasant with the ever-present concern about punctures reduced to a minimum. The Marathons are 100 pound tires (currently inflated to 85) that make riding remarkably smooth and noticeably more efficient. It’s no longer a mountain bike by function, but it is a fine bike.