August 29, 2008

Appeasing the God of Rubber

I had the day off.

I haven't ridden much this week, been a touch sick. Laryngitis isn't good when you talk into a microphone 9 hours a day. I've been quite raspy, having to expend more effort just to be heard. At times I've recognized elements of a chain smoker's hack in my voice, and shades of a ranting Nick Nolte. Interesting, but annoying after the nine hours of talking. Luckily I'm pretty much the only one who has to hear it.

The few bike rides that I've gone on the past week have proven to be a crescendo of tire and inner tube troubles. I've been going through inner tubes like water. My commute takes me down the 195 (a highway with a wide shoulder on the west end of town for those of you not familiar with Spokane) which has a ton of gravel and debris. This Spring and Summer I've had pinch flats, snake bite punctures, one blow out and even an 8 penny nail in the rear tire of my commuter. Pretty much all of these have occurred on, or shortly after riding on, the 195. It is frustrating because I'm extremely conscientous about my tire pressure. I'm a big guy--220lbs--and recognize that there is a lot of weight on my back wheel, so I top off the air in my tires pretty much every time I ride (or the night before for commuting).

So the first part of the crescendo was on a Sunday evening ride up around 7 mile (a point in the state park along the west side of town where a road and paved trail run along the Spokane river). Halfway through the ride, as I crossed the 7 mile bridge, I noticed a very regular bump, bump, bump. I noticed a weird, kind of twisted lump on my front tire, like the weave of the tire was coming unravelled. I stopped, thought for a minute, decided that changing the tube probably wouldn't make a difference, and decided to keep riding, though not aggressively in case it blew. It didn't, luckily. I investigated the situation when I got home. The tire was worn out, unravelling, so I pitched it. I mounted the spare that I had and filled the rear tire for my commute the next morning (I ride my road bike when I commute to the Valley--Spokane Valley).

The next morning I woke up late, lost my voice, and my rear tire was flat. I changed the tube after work.

Tuesday I woke up late. Wednesday too.

Thursday I woke up only a little late and decided, "screw it, I'm going to ride even if I'm late." I was a little late, but felt a little better.

This morning I planned to wake up early so I could go on a long ride before anyone really got going for the day, so it wouldn't screw up everyone's plans. I woke up late.

I decided to go anyway. I was going to do a loop that would take me through Cheney and Medical Lake (two neighboring towns). Before I even made it to Cheney my rear tire started feeling sloppy. I bounced a bit and felt it bottom out. Flat. I changed the tube on the side of the road and kept going. I was a little wary. I only carry one extra tube and a CO2 cartridge to fill it with. This has worked for me for a long time since I never go anywhere too far or remote and have always made it home. But this flat came a little too early in the ride, and after all the flats I already had this week, I was losing faith in any air staying put in my tires. But since I was frustrated at not having ridden nearly enough the past two weeks, I resolved to push on. My intuition, however, was correct. After passing Cheney, but before reaching Medical Lake, at pretty much the furthest point from home, the rear tire blew. I was going about 24 mph and nearly lost my balance as I plowed into the gravel shoulder. My tire was ripped up like scraps from an 18 wheeler you see on the side of the freeway. I was done. I called Veep and she found me without too much trouble.

Here's the aftermath.


Later I went to the bike shop and dropped $120 on two new, thicker composite tires that are touted to be puncture resistant--whatever that means--and an inner tube filled with some of that puncture resistant resealant stuff. Heavier, but hopefully now the God of Rubber is appeased. I just can't keep changing these tubes.

The rest of the day was better. After Veep brought me home, I rounded up the kids, loaded my commuter bike, the girls' bikes, and the Burley trailer for Sal, and took them out to the Centennial trail (the paved bike trail) and went for a family ride. The girls were tired in the mid-day heat but didn't complain too much. Sal sat in the trailer, drank a ton of water from the Camelback, and asked me tons of questions. I rode really slow and tried to answer the ones I could.

When we got back to the car, I coaxed the kids to go look at the park across the street--Mirabeau pond. It is a fake waterfall filling a little pond with a dock and picnic shelter. The kids weren't too interested until they saw a small herd of rabbits mingling under the picnic tables. Boofis immediately perked up. She's a big rabbit fan. She cannot sleep at night unless she has her stuffed animal rabbit as a pillow, and is always on the lookout for anything rabbit.


The kids moved slowly over, sat down quietly, and waited for the rabbits to come near. They never got close enough to pet.


Some ladies eating at one of the picnic tables had them at their feet. If only Boofis had some crumbs to share.


The waterfall is fake, but the little pond is kind of nice and relaxing. There were a bunch of turtles on each of the rocks. Can't see them on the cameraphone photo.


Then we packed the bikes back up, stopped for some school supplies (school starts Tuesday) and headed home. No more flats, looks like the indulgence has been paid.

August 26, 2008

Working in Seattle

It is fun to visit the big city once in a while. Veep likes it a lot more than me.


Veep likes finding the weird parts of town.


And taking pictures of them.


I'm happy if we get to our favorite Thai place.


The kids like to go, mainly to visit their second cousin.


And Veep takes lots of pictures of them as well.









And pictures of other things.







But as much fun as it may seem, I am always ready to go home.

August 25, 2008

The Rohloff is Here


What is a Rohloff Speed Hub, you ask?

It is, it turns out, a large and fairly heavy internally geared hub for the back wheel of the bicycle I'm building (putting together, not welding, since Dean asked). It has 14 gears with over a 500% gear range--something of an engineering marvel.

So I've got the hubs for the front and rear wheels and I just picked up the rims this weekend. Now I'm waiting for the truing stand, spokes, and nipples. Both wheels will be 32 spoke (that is the only number the Rohloff will do) with a double crossing pattern. These will be the first wheels I've ever built, so I'm a little nervous. The good thing is that with the Rohloff there is no rear cog set so there is very little dish in the rear wheel and both sides of the wheel have the same length spokes--kind of like a front wheel. I am going to be running hydraulic disc brakes, so there will be some dish and difference in the spoke tension. I haven't quite figured out the exact numbers yet.

This evening I finished installing the cranks after removing the inner chainrings and double checking the chainline (had to rearrange the spacers on the bottom bracket). Measured in millimeters, I'm not sure how exact this needs to be. Plus with the long wheel base and extra long chain I'll be using I think it may be less important. The Rohloff hub has a chainline of 54 mm. As near as I can tell with the grade school ruler I was using, the front crank chainline is either 54 or 55 mm. At this point I think it is as close as I care to get it but will watch it closely once I have the wheels on and can get a sense of the chain tension.

I also mounted the rear chain tensioner, the front chain guide, and the torque bolt which fixes the axle plate of the Rohloff in place. This probably doesn't mean much to many of you reading this, but you'll just have to humor me (I read many of heylucy's craft tips and don't complain :)). This is the first time I've done most of these things so I'm sort of savoring it all and trying to learn as much as I can. It's pretty fun using all kinds of tools. I love specialized tools that work well. I've got some new torque wrenches and allen wrenches as well as a star wrench set that made everything nice and easy, no frustration. It's kind of nice to grease things and get everything nice and neat.

Hopefully later this week I'll get a stem and skewers at the bike shop, and the handlebars and pedals I ordered will come in the mail so I can get the steering mechanism set up. I keep reminding myself that I'm not in a huge hurry to finish this project, I just want to make sure I do things correctly and end up with a well tuned machine. Plus I think with the sort of unconventional drive train, extended frame length, hydraulic brakes, and wheel building I'm biting off quite a bit for my first time and should allow myself plenty of time to take it all in.

Enough about the bike for now. I'll have to include an update of our week in Seattle next time. My experience is easy--work 9 hours, find dinner, watch some Olympics, read a little, sleep. The highlight for me is making it to Thai Tom's in the U district twice. Yum.

August 16, 2008

Notes on Recent Events

Here is the down and dirty on the last few weeks.

1. We went to the airshow last Saturday and saw the Blue Angels. It took us three times as long to drive out of the parking lot as it took to watch their little portion of the show. If you squint, you can see the planes on the ground after the show (trusty cameraphone).



Sal liked climbing in the transport planes they had on display.



2. I've long been fantasizing about building a bike. I've already stared in fact (Warning: masculine techno speak coming). So I've opted to build up a 22" Surly Big Dummy longtail/cargo bike with a Rohloff 500/14 speedhub drivetrain. And when I mean build, I mean build--everything except some of the frame prep because cutting tools for facing and tapping the bottom bracket and head tube would be ridiculously expensive and would never be used again. I do plan on building the wheel set--I've already got the front hub with the rear hub--the big Rohloff tuna--on its way from the Motherland (Germany) as I type. So far I've got the frame prepped with some framesaver (its 4130 Cromoly--real American steel. . . well, actually it was manufactured in Taiwan so whatever--"steel is real" as they say) and just placed the headset and bottom bracket/crankset this evening after work. I couldn't quite finish either one because I haven't gotten a stem yet or a tool to set the star nut in the steerer tube. Plus I'm waiting for the rear hub and wheels to be built because I need to work out the chain line before really being done with setting the cranks. I'm ready to cut the steer tube with a jig and hacksaw, though a little hesitant. So here's a little photo montage.



Have you ever seen such a strange frame? That big rear monstrosity holds panniers and racks for haulin' stuff. It is actually based on the Xtracycle hitchless trailer, so I'll have to get the racks etc. from them.


Setting the headset. Yes, in fact that is a 1 1/8" Chris King threadless headset. I splurged on a headset cup press--starting my own garage bike/ski shop. The headset, front and rear hubs, and probably the pedals will be red. The frame is green. Everything else will be black. A closer look at the tools.


Enough on that for now. I'll save some more of the technical details for later.

3. We are headed to Seattle tomorrow night. I'm working there all this next week and everyone is coming along. Next weekend the plan is to catch the ferry to Victoria. It is nice to visit the big city every once in a while, but I wouldn't want to live there.

4. It is going to be 100 degrees tomorrw. Yuck.

5. I forgot our 12th anniversary last weekend. I still can't figure out how it got by me. I swear three weeks ago I was working out some different celebration ideas but somehow never got back to them. I was probably thinking about my bike. Oops.

6. I've been watching a lot of Olympics this past week. Veep is getting sick of it. What can I say, I like the drama and history. I've got to say I'm impressed with the sportsmanship of our basketball team. I hope they don't screw it up and do something lame.

7. The kids finished up swim lessons a few days ago for the summer. Sal is now interested in seeing how far he can jump into the pool and how long he can stay under water. The girls learned how to dive, but still won't jump off the diving board during free swim time.

8. My parents are headed back to China, right after the Olympics end. For some reason I have this fear that they're going to get sick or something this time.

9. In four weeks we will be starting some work on the yard--finally. Rock work and final grading will be done this fall. Sprinklers, a paver patio, and grass should happen in the early spring. We plan on doing extra sprinkler heads around the perimeter of the yard as a little fire barrier. There was a pretty good sized fire a few miles to the East earlier this summer during a windstorm that destroyed 11 homes. Two of the more senior radiologists had their homes threatened, lost trees and a shared outbuilding. Their immediate neighbors lost their homes. I'm thinking a generator would be good to have too because they turn the power off when there is fire near homes--but we need the power to run the well pump and the sprinklers. Our neighbor has sprinklers on his roof. Maybe we should do that too.

10. It is midnight and I have to work tomorrow, so that is it. I'm actually driving so that we can hit the road sooner after work.

August 11, 2008

"Route of the Hiawatha"

A few weekends ago, we went for a family bike ride on the "Route of the Hiawatha." It's a 'rails to trails' ride in northern Idaho along the Montana border, just over Lookout Pass off of I-90. We've ridden it before, the first summer we lived here in Spokane. That time we towed the girls in our Burley and did about half the trail down and then back up. Not surprisingly, the girls don't remember a bit of it--they were 18 months and 3 1/2 then.

This time we did the main 15 mile section in a downhill direction that is serviced by shuttle busses which bring riders back up to the top (I didn't ride the shuttle bus--is it a railbed after all, only a 1-1.5% grade). This time the girls each proudly rode their own bikes and Sal did trailer duty (which means asking lots of questions and shining flashlights in the tunnels).

Once a scenic train ride, it is now a great leisurely downhill bike cruise through old train tunnels and trusses (restored and safe). The ride starts with a long, 1.8 mile tunnel that is dark and cool. Going from afternoon sunshine to pitch black of the tunnel is a little disorienting. Luckily, I recently got a new powerful LED mountain biking light that I use for commuting at night, which amply lit up the dark so the girls didn't hesitate to enter the tunnel. However, we didn't bring jackets, and after pedaling for twenty minutes in the dark, we were all a little numb and chilly.

We hauled a nice picnic in the trailer and stopped along the way to eat. Temps in the mid 80s were ideal and we only stopped for photos, a potty break, and a few times when the girls hands started hurting. Near the end the kids were getting a little weary, but didn't complain. I was more than pleased with how well they did.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.


The first tunnel.


The crew.


Veep and Sal. My full suspension bike won't hook up to the trailer--bummer.


Lunchtime. Sal is liking PB&J these days, especially on his face.


Schmoopie digs turkey sandwiches.


Family photo op.


Schmoopie on the biggest truss.


Don't look down.


North Idaho is greener than Southern Idaho.


Boofis is intense about her biking.


Sal isn't.




Man down.


More scenery.


The end.