Sunday, December 28, 2003

Just a few photos to post, no ride today.

Here’s the Basso fixie. Jim, the original owner, will now send me an e-mail telling me he can’t believe I sawed off his shifter bosses and derailleur hanger. The photo is a little misleading – the right brake hood has no lever and you’re seeing the left brake (front) lever in the background.

Here’s the Belgian beast after a foul weather ride. I’m still impressed with the handling and road feel of this bike, especially with 25c tires. Note that this was taken before I got the new Shimano M520 pedals – these Nashbar clones are now permanently on the Basso.

And here’s my daughter in her Burley trailer (second hand, old design). My brother gave me our first trailer second hand and we wore it out – this one is from a garage sale down the street.

Things look good for a New Year’s Day ride up the mountain. Check back frequently.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Trailer ride with my daughter – 6 miles

Dear daughter decided she wanted an ice cream cone this afternoon so we decided to take the trailer. First though we’d have to go to the bike store and get a new front derailleur (see yesterday’s story). Got everything ready to go, but then had a hunch that I should bring the broken derailleur along in case there were any questions about what kind to get. Broken derailleur is a Campagnolo Athena braze on type for double chainring but I figured just about any braze on double would be fine since FD’s just aren’t that picky about gruppo matching.

We went to Encina Bicycle Center (they don’t have a web page for me to link to) because they’ve always been very helpful there and they helped me a lot with my Klein since they are authorized Klein dealers. It’s a family-owned shop with two branches. I show the first guy my derailleur and he’s kind of stumped about the braze on mount – the store is about 1/3 kid’s bikes, 1/3 MTBs, and 1/3 road bikes so this shouldn’t be that unusual of a request. I looked at a couple of the road bikes in the shop and see that although most bikes had clamp-on mounts the braze-ons that were still being used were exactly the same as on my 11 year old bike so I can’t believe this is really going to be a problem. First guy passes the derailleur to the second guy who is a friendly older management type guy that I’ve seen there for years – he takes one look and says they don’t have anything that will work but they’ll be happy to order me something. Then a third guy, sort of a mid-level mechanic, looks at it and says, “No, nothing will work except the equivalent newer Campagnolo version.” Finally I say, “Look, it’s only this little sleeve thing in the back that broke and then the FOURTH guy, a senior-level mechanic, grabs it and says “You might just get off lucky here.” and opens a drawer in a parts box and pulls out the perfect little sleeve thingy to fix my existing derailleur and charges me $2. I was prepared to drop $30 or $40 for a new derailleur so I was pretty happy and I’ll go back to Encina Bicycle Center again and maybe I’ll even buy my next MTB there too.

And no, we didn’t forget to stop for the ice cream cone on the way home; she ordered chocolate ice cream in a cake cone and we sat inside the store and chatted while she ate it.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Trek Scout Helmet

I got one of these for my daughter (at Encina Bicycle Center!) last spring when she outgrew her “baby” helmet and it’s been really great. The problem with kids’ helmets is trying to keep them level on their heads and this one is very easy to use. It has a little knob in the back to tighten the band so you can put it on loosely, fasten the chinstrap, and then tighten the knob. Putting the helmet on is now much less hassle than it used to be and my kid likes the cool graphics too, although she has last year’s model, which has cooler colors than the ones in this picture.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Diablo Junction plus South Gate Road and Danville Blvd. 36 miles

Today is the day after Christmas and folks are doing holiday things so there was no plan on when everyone would be riding. The weather forecast was for COLD and rain to start sometime this afternoon and continue on through the weekend so I figured today was my best opportunity to ride.

The roads were dry but I decided to take the Merckx anyway since it would give me an excuse to ride at a more relaxed pace. The section of Flemish Pave below the Gate was still pretty sloppy and there was some run-off from trees and irrigation systems so I wouldn’t want to subject my pretty bike to that slop but the Merckx loves it.

It was bitter cold, about 27°F. I was wearing some new gloves I got for Christmas (thanks Clark!) and most of my cold weather gear; there was no wind though so it was really pleasant once I got my core warmed up. At the Gate I stopped just long enough to lather on some lip goop and pull up my tights.

I saw a few guys on their way down but the mountain was pretty empty today. At the bottom of the Bump I saw a couple of mountain bike guys unloading their car. At the Junction they both arrived about 5 minutes after I did and it turned out one of them was a guy I’ve been seeing up there for years. He’s a short stocky bald guy, probably in his early 60’s and he always rides a mountain bike – today he had a titanium one with front shocks and disk brakes. Several years ago he rode the whole length of North Gate Road no handed. He comes across as an amiable guy with a spirit of friendly competiveness and he obviously loves riding. Today though he had pink newspaper baggies (like the delivery guys use on rainy days) over his feet, held up on his calves with rubber bands – what a character.

Product Review: Manzella Windstopper Gloves.

These gloves are great at stopping the wind. They're shells and designed to wear over an insulating layer but I found that they were so good at wind blocking that I could take my liners off on the climbs which means more finger flexibility. With the liners on going downhill I still wished my fingers were a little warmer but these gloves did a better job than my other system which doesn't have the windblocking layer. I think if I had the Manzella thermal/insulating liners to use with these it would be about the best system I could think of for the super cold days like this (that's a hint for next year Clark!). The gloves are not cycling specific and they have some reinforcements in areas like the tips of the fingers (which may make sense for cross country skiing?) and they don't have any padding but they are very well made - no stitching problems, they have a velcro wrist strap and a pull string too so they fit very comfortably loose and they look pretty snazzy too with a simple pattern in the black Gore-Tex type material.

Shortly after the two guys got there, Peter came up too and we chatted for a while before I went down South Gate Road. I saw quite a few more people coming up this direction and all of them had a friendly wave for me. I was planning on taking the “hole in the fence” shortcut but somehow I missed it and wound up going right on Diablo Blvd, which is fast, but narrow.

In Danville I stopped at the California Peddler to check on new pedals. I’ve been dissatisfied with my old Nashbar SPD clones and wanted to see what else was available for an affordable price and the guy sold me some M520’s for $40 including new cleats. They click in easier and they don’t make that grinding feeling while I’m pedaling but they do have more float than I really need. Watch for a product review coming soon but first impressions are very good.

As I was leaving Danville I up shifted the front and my derailleur broke! The little sleeve that holds the two plates together in the rear somehow just disappeared so both plates were now cockeyed and unable to move the chain in either direction. I limped the next 12 miles home in low gear but it was still fun. Now I’ll HAVE to clean the mud off the frame to get a new FD on there.

I also got this cool jersey for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!). A great jersey for warmer weather, but today it’s in my drawer.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Diablo Junction plus Blackhawk, 41 miles.

Today’s ride was an exact repeat of last Saturday’s ride, including the weather, except Rick came too so it was he, JB, and I on my Belgian Beast again.

I was a little late as I made the turn off of Oak Grove Road and I saw Rick’s Explorer in the church parking lot. He only parks there when Nicole doesn’t come so I knew I’d better hurry. The last half-mile stretch before the gate has a really bumpy torn-up section of pavement where some construction work has been going on. There was thick fog and the sky was gray; with the rotten road condition I imagined I was chasing down two guys on a break in the Ronde van Flanderen. At the point where I could first see the gate I also caught a glimpse of JB’s yellow Gore-Tex jacket rolling away. I was about ¼ mile back and chased hard but it took me almost a mile to catch up to them.

The fog was so thick we had a hard time orienting ourselves; we all know this road like the proverbial backs of our hands but we were really confused for a good chunk of the lower mountain.

On the switchbacks above the Bump I saw a guy coming down carefully who had the same bike as me! I saw him last week too. If he’s a regular up there he wasn’t riding his regular bike.

JB and Rick pulled away from me as we popped out of the fog near the Upper Ranches and that was OK with me… I was feeling pretty unfrisky. The view above the clouds was something really special, as it always is on days like this.

No other riders were at the Junction and we hung around long enough to put on the extra clothing layers for the descent down South Gate Road and the trip to Blackhawk. It was a little eerie descending through the fog with near-zero visibility. We did see a few riders coming up along this stretch – more hardcores like us obviously.

Wildlife Encounter: A group of about eight wild turkeys on Blackhawk Road, running across the street toward one of those gated community developments. These were big birds and a collision with one would definitely cause some injuries to a bike rider.

Rick and I did a couple little hill sprints but he easily took all except one of them, my legs were getting a little rubbery by this point. Rick has one of those prostate-friendly saddles with the wedge shaped cutout at the rear and the road spray from his wheel made an interesting pattern on the ass of his black shorts!

As we turned off on Tassajara Road we saw a group of about 20 Diablo Cyclists coming the other way – lots of hardcores in the slop on the road today. We stopped for coffee at Cerubini coffee house in Alamo and Rick talked about picking up his new car (Toyota Prius) later in the day. After we split up, JB flipped off a Hummer LINK on Bancroft St. A superb day on the bike.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Tonight I attended a BART planning meeting. BART is Bay Area Rapid Transit, the regional commuter train/subway and very heavily utilized. The Pleasant Hill BART station sits between a residential and commercial neighborhood and there is a plan to provide a shortcut from my neighborhood, through the neighborhood next to the station to make it easier, safer, and faster for pedestrians and cyclists to get to the station. There's also a plan to build a large retail complex at the station and to connect this shortcut to other multi-use bike trails in the area. There are 4 potential routes for the shortcut and the meeting was to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each route.


The residents in the shortcut neighborhood showed up mostly to complain and whine about how this plan would create fire hazards, ruin their little community, destroy their property values, and invite homeless people to camp in their backyards. Everybody on potential route A insisted that potential routes B and C were far superior - and yada yada yada. Everyone in this neighborhood knew when they bought their houses that this was potentially going to happen and BART has property and easements on both sides of the track so BART can build a path whether the residents like it or not but of course wants to do it in the way that benefits the most people and inconveniences the fewest.

One lady said that cyclists should just take the existing roads because her kids did it for years - then later mentioned that one of her kids was hit by a car doing just that!

One guy said first that no one would use the trail so it's a waste of money - then later said if the trail were built "thousands of people" would be biking and walking through his back yard!

And then there was "Jean". Jean brought a picture of a homeless guy "with his bicycle!" camping under a bridge nearby and surrounded by junk people had dumped there. She said that's what would happen in her backyard if the trail were to go through. She refused to believe that there was any difference between a secluded area under a bridge and a bike path.

There was a contingent of cyclists attending also and we discussed how the shortcut would be used and what safety improvements would be necessary. Some representatives from the park district and local police were also there to confirm that homeless people don't camp out on trails, and that crime is very rare on trails. There was unfortunately a woman murdered on a trail in my city about 6 months ago and one of the police officers mentioned that but kept it in perspective.

At the next meeting in mid-January we will probably be selecting which route will be recommended to BART and the county development committee but whether or not it actually gets built will depend on a lot of other issues like funding and parallel projects.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Commute to work ON MY FIXIE!

So after convincing myself that I could do this safely I grabbed the Basso and risked getting a flat because I don't have a tube, pump, or tire spoons and off I went. It was easier than I thought it would be but I definitely have some new skills to learn. Remembering not to coast is really not the problem, it's the little things like exactly when to put my foot down at a stop light, how to get off the sidewalk onto the street, how to do a trackstand without backpedaling… little stuff.

My commute consists of about a mile and a half of surface streets with heavy traffic and stop lights, followed by two miles on paved bike/pedestrian trail, and it ends with a little jaunt through a middle school drop-off point where I usually have to weave my way through a mob of adolescent slackers and then mix it up with their parents in minivans and SUV's that make illegal but tolerated U-turns in the 4-lane road I have to cross to get into the parking lot of my office building where we've got some good bike racks in the covered garage. Whew, sorry… that was a long sentence.

This bike could be a good winter commuter if I transfer my lights over but I think I'll mostly ride it when I'm sure I can get home before dark. It's too small to do longer training rides on but it's sure fun for shorter distances.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I’m Fixed!

Got my track hub and sprocket and accessories by UPS yesterday, built my wheel and took off my big ring today after work.

It’s been a while since I built a wheel so I had to consult my articles to make sure I laced it up properly but it went together quite easily and dishing was just not an issue – it sort of self-dished. Yes Jobst, I did the stress relieving according to your directions and I also set the spokes in the flange with the screwdriver method. I was prepared to adjust the chain tension as in Sheldon’s literature but it just wasn’t necessary. The chain line seems just fine but there does seem to be a little more noise than I was expecting – I might toy around with this a bit later. New hub, new spokes, very old Campy rim 36° 3-cross… I used lots of Phil’s Tenacious Oil in the threads and ferrules.

I got some chain ring bolts for single rings but damned if I know what tool you’re supposed to use on those things… they’re hex on one side but you need like a really wide flat blade screwdriver on the other side – I improvised with a chisel but I couldn’t provide too much counter torque. Anyway it looks cool and I doubt if my chainring will fall off but I’ll check it after a few rides.

My sprocket is a 16t and the hub is a true track hub with a reverse threaded lockring. I picked the gear after analyzing cadence vs. speed for a pretty wide range. The 16t gives me a 71 inch gear which means I’ll be going 12.4mph @ 60rpm and 24.8mph @120rpm so that seems to be the right gear for a commute bike while still allowing some fun training rides.

The saddle is about 5 inches higher than the handlebars, which gives the bike a real no nonsense, look and the brake totally sucks which is good enough for a fixie. I put on my Nashbar SPD clones and they were a good choice because they’re very easy to get in to and plus I can now justify something better for the Eddy Merckx.

Got it all together and went for an 11pm cruise around the neighborhood and I was pretty happy with the result. The FUBAR fork and front wheel alignment didn’t totally screw up the steering and I think I could even ride no hands after a few more practice rides. I did some stops like I may have to do in traffic and quickly got the hang of that. I tried to do a track-stance a couple of times but found that to be quite a bit more difficult than on my derailleur bikes.

So, first real test will be my commute tomorrow – stay tuned… same BAT time… same BAT gear. I’ll have to get there early since I don’t have lights on this bike (early in = early out).

I should have photos up shortly - since I don’t have a digicam I have to wait until Costco develops my film and then scan in the prints. What a fun project!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Diablo Junction plus Blackhawk and Danville Blvd 41 miles.

There was a pretty good storm last night and the roads were wet and sloppy but it wasn’t raining so I grabbed my steel Eddy Merckx off the hook and headed out. This bike has such a great ride that I’m really glad I still have it even if it’s only for sloppy rides.

Just JB at the Gate and he was on his Trek touring bike with the homemade fenders and all so we were in for a leisurely ride up to the Junction. He mentioned right away that he wanted to do South Gate Road to get in a few extra miles and I was cool with that because I did to… end of the season mileage goals and all that.

At Moss Landing he was already in his smallest chainring, I was in my 25t sprocket, and we just spun and talked the rest of the way up. He’s doing the planning for his Rivendell Atlantis that should be coming in to the shop any day now. He bought it as a bare frame and will be building it up himself – he did get the Brooks B17 saddle though to get the full Rivendell experience.

Wildlife Encounter: Just above the Upper Washout a smallish coyote with a very thick warm coat of fur trotted down the road toward us, he sort of circled around and gave us a lot of space to go by but he was completely calm and uninterested in us.

Up at the Junction we came across Peter, Martin, and Gary who must have started well before 8 o’clock. Someone noticed Gary’s rear tire was showing casing threads and he was surprised to see how worn it was. We told him they don’t get that way overnight and he joked that he brings his bike in to the shop for a check-up every two years whether it needs it or not.

So JB and I started down South Gate Road with all of our extra cold gear. He has a very thin ear jock that fits better under his helmet than my thick ski-type one.

On the fast roads around Danville, his homemade fenders really slowed him down but today was one of those days when speed just wasn’t that important. It felt really good to be out just riding for fun and not worrying about training regimens.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just doing a little testing to see if I can post some of my own pictures here.

Hey it worked! This is JB and me waiting for Rick to fix his flat on Scotty's Fall Century in October. Wow, now that I understand this better I can put all kinds of photos up here!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

I apologize for the lack of recent posts because of lack of riding. Holidays and bad weather and busy schedules equal insufficient time on the bike and that means nothing to write about.

OK for the last couple of months I’ve been obsessed with the idea of riding a fixed-gear bike. Made some usenet posts about some ideas and questions and even got a few responses from helpful folks over there. So I look around and find quite a few new low-end track bikes for around the $600 level. That’s a good price of course but I’m not sure how I could justify spending even that much. But what I really want is sort of a messenger bike built up out of odds and ends; the kind of bike that only a guy with a garage full of assorted bike parts spanning 20 years of cycling history could make. Then I remembered the Basso. A friend of mine (hi Jim) moved out of state about 5 years ago and unloaded a bunch of HIS cycling odds and ends including this Basso. It’s too small but it’s rideable, it’s early ‘80’s vintage with spacing for a 6/7 freewheel and it has the unmistakable paint markings of having once been stolen. This frame is a junkyard treasure! I had originally intended to have this bike mounted permanently on a wind trainer (also a freebie from Jim) but it never happened and it’s been collecting dust the whole time I’ve had it. Jim even moved back to California last year but he hasn’t asked for his frame back yet. Actually it may have been his wife’s because it’s about a 48cm frame (I ride a 55).

So I read all the articles I could find about road gear conversions (several good ones at )and put together a plan. I have a front wheel built on a Shimano 105 hub with bad bearings and 36 spokes – perfect! I have a good tall seatpost in the right diameter to make up for the small frame size. The Basso still had a decent crank and headset so I was OK there. And I found my old Cinelli Mod 64 handlebars and 14cm stem from the Ciƶcc I bought in 1985! I also had a decent 36 hole Campy Omega 20 clincher rim that would make a good rear wheel built up on a track hub, and a Shimano 600 brake caliper for the front and Campy Chorus brake levers with hoods. That means I still need a track hub with spokes, sprocket, and lockring for my rear wheel, tires and tubes, a chain, some bar tape and chainring bolts for a single ring.

I made my order for the track hub and wheel items from CaptainBike (Sheldon Brown) and picked up some tires, chain, a $5 saddle, and Cinelli bar tape (natural leather color – way retro) at VeloSport in Berkeley. Saturday night I started to put it all together and soon found out that I was in for a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.

I attached the front brake and put in the front wheel and I had a very difficult time getting the old single pivot sidepull caliper adjusted. Then I noticed that the rim wasn’t centered in the fork – it was off to one side. I knew the wheel was true so I tried to bend the fork blades (!) This helped a little bit but I couldn’t get the rim to go exactly where it was supposed to so I put a channel locks on the brake arms and bent them (!) When I was done I had a front end with a shitty hub, tracking off center, and a shitty brake with one arm tweaked to the outside – what a jewel! Then came the fun part of hacksawing off the shifter braze-ons and derailleur hanger. The cable guides popped write off with a Vice Grip wrench. There was also a funky little pump peg attached to the top tube… GONE!

I certainly didn’t want to wait for my order to arrive before I test rode the bike so I installed the chain onto my sew-up rear wheel and sized the chain for the 17t cog. My fixed wheel will have a 16t cog so I may have to take another link out when I get that done but for now… I have a fully rideable single speed! There’s about a foot of seat post showing and the bars are quite a bit lower than that but I love how it looks and it is definitely rideable.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Sorry if any of you sent me an e-mail that bounced. My addy has been pummelled by the SWEN worm and my inbox exceeds my allowed capacity faster than I can delete the virus-containing messages.

Just got back from a nice vacation in Colorado, more later.