Sunday, July 26, 2015

ride anyway.

This morning, I woke up feeling groggy. I sat up and immediately felt dizzy.
Which was annoying, because I had signed up to work a volunteer shift as a roving mechanic for Sunday Parkways. I did not want or need to be dizzy.
So I took a shower, dressed, ate some breakfast and felt the waves of dizziness come and go. I convinced myself that, once I started riding, being outside in the cool morning air would help clear the dizziness away. I would ride anyway and things would get better.
And, by and large, they mostly did. I enjoyed a slow loop around the Parkways NE route, and was surprised to be asked for help only once my entire shift. Still, it was cool and cloudy and very pleasant to ride around, and occasionally bump into friends along the route. I brought a camera but in the end opted not to take photos. It felt better when I was on the bike and moving, so I did that for a couple of hours, enjoying riding down narrow, tree-lined residential streets I might not otherwise explore but for the route.And mostly the dizziness was kept at bay and I had a lovely ride.
But the dizziness has a connection to my cycles of peri-menopause and to my depression. So it was no surprise that, along with the dizziness, I also felt emotionally a little out of sorts all day. And physically, quite tired -- even though I'd gotten a decent night's sleep last night.
So I bailed about half an hour early from my shift, ate some lunch and went home, where I went straight to bed and slept hard for a couple of hours.
When I awoke, I felt groggy and out of sorts physically and emotionally. I knew that it would be useless for me to try and get any musical work done, so I just sort of sat around and did very little. I was not feeling panicky -- that's been a good outcome of the treatment I've been seeking for depression -- but I was highly aware that my emotions were not in a great place. I could feel the downward slope of my mood as it happened. By dinner time, I was ready for another nap. But I styaed up, ate a little something, and chatted with a friend electronically for awhile.
Now, at the end of my day, I can feel the dizziness returning, and I know that if I go to bed now I will probably sleep through the night.

This isn't something where I feel like I need to call the doctor and ask for treatment to block or bury these symptoms. I've come to understand that it's all of a piece, peri-menopause and depression and all the related chemical changes that I experience with hormonal shifts. It's not something to try and avoid. It's something that just happens. And really, there isn't a whole lot else to do but be aware of it when it does, and hope that I'm in a good place to allow myself to sit with it until it passes. Today, I was in a good place. I was able to ride my bicycle for a few hours, and then I was able to come home and rest. So although it was not my most productive day, it wasn't a total loss, either.
I got to ride my bicycle.
And I got to come home to my Sweetie.
And now I'm ready for bed.
Hopefully things will be a little easier tomorrow.
That I am able to entertain hope is a good thing.
Plus, I get to ride my bicycle again.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Could not knowing lead to not caring? Maybe. Maybe not.

In today's VeloNews coverage of the Tour de France, now just a week away from its finish in Paris, VN Editor John Bradley writes an interesting, if somewhat depressing, analysis of his love affair with bicycle racing in the wake of nearly two decades of doping scandals. Is it possible, he asks, to love a sport that probably cannot be truly clean? Is it enough to love the sport because it leaders are trying to clean it up? When a rider performs unbelievably, consistently well, we now suspect that performance-enhancing drugs may play a role. Bradley suggests that, given racing's more recent history, it's impossible not to be suspicious. But the truth, he guesses, is that we'll never really know if someone at the elite level of racing is doping or not.

I think there's something beautiful about the sport of bicycle racing. The speed, the technique, the strange and storied groupthink that passes for etiquette in the peloton and which occurs in no other sport (when a opposing player falls down in football, you don't wait for him to get back up, you run over or around him. And if you're his teammate, you don't stop and help him to his feet again. You run over or around him, too, and finish the play).  Perhaps that odd sense of "gentlemanliness" has contributed to the tension around doping and testing and how much we can take a racer's word for it when he says he's racing clean.

But how, then, to explain the recent hacking into a team's performance records to look for proof against their star rider? How to justify that same rider getting splashed in the face with a cup of urine from an angry fan? Neither is justifiable, but both are understandable, especially for fans of a certain age and older. If you cheered on Greg LeMond in the 80's, you'll take a different view of doping than someone who was a kid when the Festina or Puerto scandals erupted. The younger fans grew up watching racing under a different set of social mores. People cheat. Sometimes they get caught, sometimes they don't. That's racing, because that's life. In short, younger fans of racing seem to accept the rules of life more readily than someone in my generation might. Because if you're over 45, you remember a time when cheating was actually a real scandal, a source of shame.

Today, it's not such a big deal. Today's fans accept an ambiguity that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around, in sports and in life. I grew up thinking that if you worked hard and played by the rules you might get ahead. That's simply not true anymore. The difference is that young adults today grew up with that mindset, while I had it shoved down my throat in a series of rude awakenings between 1981 and, oh, 1998.

So forgive me if I don't follow the Tour more closely.

I still love bicycle racing, the form, the beauty, the suffering (yes, in racing, even the suffering is beautiful, and I can say that as both a spectator and a former racer). But the politics and the drugs and the ever-growing mountains of money involved -- all of which are tacitly supported by the sport's international governing body, the sponsors and race promoters who stand to profit -- turn me off. It is nearly impossible for me to watch a racer in the Tour and NOT wonder what he's using to enhance his performance. Mere mortals cannot ride for 20 kilometers up a 12 % grade without going into cardiac arrest. The only way a racer becomes so invincible is to take drugs. Younger fans may read this, and shrug, and not really care. But I can't NOT care. Because once upon a time, the sport was beautiful. Today it's as sullied and corrupt and lacking in integrity as damned near everything else in the world. And I can't help but feel sad about it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

on overhauls

I am in the process of overhauling the All-Rounder.

Overhauling a bike basically maneas that, in addition to thoroughly cleaning every inch of the bike -- frame, rims, components -- and lubing and adjuting the brakes and gears, and replacing parts that are worn (like the brake pads or chain), you also open up any bearing surfaces (headset, hubs, bottom bracket) and service the bearings.
If the bearings are loose-ball, this means taking everything apart, replacing the bearings if they're starting to look at all pitted or worn, and cleaning and re-greasing everything before reassembling it. 
If the bearings are sealed, then it may mean either replacing them with new sealed bearings or, if they are of a certain brand and vintage, sending the part back to the manufacturer for this service. In the case of Phil Wood, their first-generation hubs require that you send them back for servicing. Newer Phil hubs can be serviced by your local shop (or by you, if you have the tools).

Overhauling loose ball bearings is a dirty job. Some shops won't bother doing it anymore, especially loose-ball bottom brackets. They'll strongly urge you to replace that loose-ball BB with a cartridge model. Cartridge models, even cheap ones, have gotten better; and one should last you at least eight to ten thousand miles if you don't totally abuse your bicycle. I don't mind overhauling loose bearings, simply because I know how and don't mind the grease and filth. So I set about overhauling the A-R.

(Below: replacing loose ball bearings in a headset -- NOT mine, an old photo from work)

After I built up the Bridgestone as a city bike, I felt far less urgency about getting the A-R overhauled, and so I've taken my time. One night I did the headset and cleaned up the front half of the frame. The Ultegra headset that came with this frame almost eight years ago (and which I overhauled right around that time) showed traces of bright red grease at the edges of the dirty gray grease, a good sign of both the seals and the quality of the grease. I pulled it apart, cleaned it thoroughly and examined the cups and bearings. Other than one tiny gouge in the metal at the edge of the bottom cup, everything still looked fine. I added fresh grease and reassembled it.

Another afternoon I did the drive-train, removing and cleaning it, and hanging the parts up to dry in the sun. I've been using up the El-Duke degreaser, which I purchased in a gallon jug when the guy was still trying to make it a going concern on a larger scale.  I'm down to about a third of what I started out with, and since then the guy has turned his business into a very small-scale cottage affair, selling small batches only through Rivendell Bicycle Works. Still, the stuff is amazing because it's plant-based, biodegradable and so safe you don't need to wear gloves when you clean parts with it. Some soaking time and a bit of elbow grease will remove most grit and grime from even the filthies metal components.

While the drive train parts were drying I cleaned up and examined the rear wheel. I built these wheels when I got the frameset, ordering hubs from Phil Wood on my shop discount and selecting some good, basic Sun CR-18 rims to lace them into. Since then I've replaced the rear rim once already. Examining it, I took a close look at the ridges caused by the brakes pads (and occasionally, by grit caught in the brake pads). I decided the rims still had enough life in them to get me through at least the rest of this year. I'll rebuild the rear wheel before the spring.












Tonight, I examined the original parts closely. The chainrings are worn down enough that they're starting to curve offset, like cartoon ocean waves. I'd been sitting on a Sugino crankset with triple chainrings for several years, and decided to go ahead and use it on the A-R. But I'll need to get a bottom bracket cartridge with a shorter spindle.

(Below: Chainline is sort of catty-whumpus/crooked, twisting the chain at extreme angles. It can and should be better.)





































(Below: Innermost chainring too far out from chainstay. Should be no more than 3-5mm.)



















I'll have to scout around for the next spindle size shorter, and that should fix the issue. It will also let me remove the spacers I put behind the freewheel, which only helped the problem a little bit (but not enough). Tomorrow on my errands I'll see what I can find.

I hope to have the A-R rebuilt and ready to ride before the end of next week. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the Bridgestone as a city bike, and will probably ride it next weekend at Sunday Parkways-NE.
It's summer, and I no longer work in a shop, and that means I have the time to actually give my own bike some loving care. It's a welcome change. While I am very glad to know how to do all my own work, I am also glad I don't have to do it forty to fifty hours a week anymore. That said, I am still glad to be of help for friends and family, just as a way to keep my hand in it. I still love the machinery and always will.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

for you a rose in portland grows

Wednesday evening neighborhood spin around Peninsula Park Rose Garden.





















I've been enjoying the BStone since swapping in a seatpost with some setback and installing my old Brooks Flyer (originally from my cargo bike). The riding position is just about perfect now. And since swapping flat pedals on my Rivvy a couple months back I can honestly say I'm considering letting go of toeclips altogether. Even in the rain (I can always use a shoe cover).





Overlook area, near sunset.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Since I stopped tracking miles, I enjoy riding more

That's pretty much it.

I felt a little fidgety the first day or so, and then I stopped caring.
Just like that, three things happened:
1. I enjoyed my rides more.
2. I think i'm riding a little slower and that is totally okay.
3. I am preparing to toss a bunch of cyclometers up on CL to sell.

The refurbished Bridgestone has been amazing to ride. I did get a seatpost with a little setback and I think that will really dial things in; but otherwise it's all there. Loving it.
Tonight I'm towing my guitar to a rehearsal with the trailer. And though it will be blazing hot, with highs today near 100F, I don't care. The key to riding slower and enjoying it is to leave the house a little earlier. So simple. So pleasant.

Wherever your rides take you this weekend, have fun getting there!

Friday, June 26, 2015

tracking miles and un-racing

I am home after nearly a month away for work.

For the first three weeks, I rode my blue Kansas bike and towed a trailer on loan from a family at my annual summer gig at B'nai Jehudah. I rode fewer miles this time around -- camp kept me busy during the day and dates with friends kept me out many evenings -- but I rode more regularly each day.
I also did something else this time around. Or rather, it's what I stopped doing that made a difference.

I stopped tracking my mileage.

My last entry in the composition notebook that is my latest bike log dates from the day before I left Portland in late May. I didn't bother to track miles during my Kansas stay, at first because I saw no point in tracking such short rides; my homestay was less than a mile from the temple. In the end, it became less about the distance and more about a lack of necessity. I simply lost the need to track my mileage anymore. So I stopped.

I haven't ridden a bike since I went to Austin for the Women Cantors' Network conference, about a week. I plan to ride tomorrow, in spite of temps in the high 90s (I'll go early in the day). Tonight I swapped out the All-Rounder for the newly rebuilt Bridgestone. I'll ride the latter while I spend some qulity time tearing down the former and overhauling it, including rebuilding the hubs onto new rims. I got this frame almost eight years ago and I haven't done a full overhaul on it in at least five. I figure it's time.

The Bridgestone rides nicely. I've got  slightly smaller set of chainrings on it than I would like, but I may swap in a larger set later -- or a smaller set of cogs in the rear. I added front and rear racks that I'd been sitting on awhile, and NOS fenders from my former shop. I think I'll enjoy riding it this summer.


Before: B'Stone MB-4, circa 1989, retro-fitted with racy bits as a short-track mountain bike
                                                                                                                                                                    





















After: B'Stone MB-4 circa 1989, rebuilt as a sturdy, go-everywhere UN-racer.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

achieving un-racerdom: bridgestone conversion

As my readers know, I dabbled in racing for several years and enjoyed it. However, the rising costs and time demands involved with the sport -- not to mention my decided lack of meaningful improvement -- made it inevitable that it would come to an end at some point.
That point came for me, after several fits and starts, this [ast winter, when it was clear that there simply was no room in my life for racing anymore -- and that I found I was really okay with that.
I'd had a good run. And I still have friends who race and I enjoy watching them and cheering them on. But I don't really miss the effort myself.

 So I've been sitting on this Bridgestone mountain bike that had been retro-fitted with racing parts, and I decided this spring it was finally time to sell it, or turn it into something else.

I stripped off the racy bits and sold them off to help finance a rebuild as a more sensible commuting bike. It's a work in progress, and I probably won't get it all done before I leave for my teaching residency; but if I get it most of the way there before I go then it will be a simple matter to finish it off when I return. My goal is to have, essentially, a "replacement" bike to ride while I do a full teardown and overhaul on the All-Rounder. The All-Rounder needs its wheels rebuilt and all the bearings overhauled and/or replaced, which will have to be done in pieces with my work schedule. So I've got a plan, and got this far on the BStone conversion today:


 I've swapped in a Wald #8095 Touring bar (that was salvaged from my niece's bike -- I had to buff the rust off it but it works fine and will be comfortably upright). Kept the stem, seatpost and headset. Everything else got stripped off and sold.












I got some very affordable Vuelta cranks with steel chainrings -- they should keep me awhile while I rebuild the All-Rounder -- and UpCycles sells a good, basic Tange bottom bracket for $20 that should definitely last a couple thousand miles at least.
The WTB saddle will go, to be replaced by either my Brooks saddle (from the A-R) or an old Avocet Touring WII that I recently found.  I also plan to install some old Blackburn front and rear racks on it, which are aged beautifully but still have plenty of life left in them.


 The cool part: I am using Shimano Altus derailleurs and cantilevers, and Suntour brake levers and thumb shifters set on friction mode. It's what I had on hand, and the shifting works fine.
Though to work with the frame I have, I will need to install a narrower tire so the front derailleur can have its full range of motion unimpeded. (Right now it still has the small block tires I used at short-track; I'll be swapping in some Rubena 1.5 Flash tires tomorrow, which should do the trick.)








































The bike is grey and will be sort of sombered out with grey and black components and accessories -- I plan to install some grey fenders I have sitting around -- but I'm okay with the blse, quasi-stealth look. If it means my bike won't get noticed right away that's fine by me. I get lots of stares at my All-Rounder, even with all the paint nicks and dents. It will be nice not to attract so much attention.

I'll try and get enough done tomorrow morning to make it rideable, and if possible do a shakedown cruise to watch my friends race at PIR tomorrow evening.