Monday, February 29, 2016

when riding a bike is fraught with risk

I saw this in the New York Times:

Women in Gaza, prevented by an unwritten rule from riding bicycles, are pushing back against the Islamic authorities and riding anyway. They want to be healthy, to travel under their own power, and feel like flying -- all the regular reasons people enjoy riding.

Just a little bit of bicycle happiness to start off your week.

Rubber side down, kiddos.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

fix all the things: carradice camper longflap repair, finished

Tonight I finished my repairs on the Carradice bag.

Today, I scrubbed the burned fabric with a mixture of baking soda and water, to neutralize whatever might be left of the battery acid. I rinsed with boiling water and left it out to dry in the sun while I went for a ride.

When I came back, the bag was mostly dry, so I finished patching the bottom and sidewalls.

Using doubled-up Thomson stem bags and small, close stitching, I was able to effect a repair that, while not professional-looking, will be strong enough to hold for quite awhile.

I ran out of dental floss, so I switched to a coat-weight, heavy-duty thread tat was actually harder to work with (it kept coiling and snagging). But it should hold up well enough.

I found some old straps to attach the bag to a saddle with (the bag had n't come with straps or a dowel).

I re-attached the pocket strap that was hanging by threads, and I removed the leather-and-metal brand tag on the front flap because I've never liked that style. If I can find an older Carradice patch to sewn on there, I might do that.

I think it will make a perfectly nice saddlebag for daily commuting and errands. I haven't decided if I'll keep it or pass it along, but I'm glad it's fixed and usable now.

Friday, February 26, 2016

fix all the things: an occasional series

Matthew Crawford, in his wonderful book "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work", suggests that, in an era when more of the things we buy and own have become so complex that regular folks can't repair or maintain them anymore, we have become owned by our stuff. He's right. Manufacturers don't want us to know how to repair our own things, because frugality and resourcefulness are bad for a company's bottom line.

Too bad.

I believe that I should know how to repair and maintain as much of my stuff as I am able to. Not to cheat the manufacturers out of another buck (though that's certainly a good reason), but to be the master of my stuff. If I can repair it, it will last longer, and I will understand a little more of how it works.

My mother (z"l) taught me how to hand-sew when I was very young, no more than five or six. And since then, I've mended lots of my own clothes, bags and blankets; and even sewn a couple of quilts.

Here's a quilt I finished in the spring of 2000.

I sewed the whole thing by hand, using one of my mother's old top sheets as the backing (I folded the sides in on top of the quilt as a border). I use this quilt regularly in the summer as a picnic blanket, and sometimes in the winter as an extra layer when I'm relaxing on the sofa.

Recently, I came into possession of a Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag. The Camper is the largest transverse saddlebag Carradice makes. Constructed of waxed cotton and leather straps, it retails for around $150 new. The seller had spilled some battery acid inside the bag and burned some holes into the fabric; he had also removed the dowel and replaced it with his mini-pump. He sold it to me for less than a third of the reatail cost, a heck of a deal even if I had to fix it up. The bag came to me with no dowel, no straps to attach it to a saddle, and still feeling vaguely of batter acid residue mixed with wax.

I began to figure out how I would patch the bag; the acid had eaten away entire square inches of the bottom of the bag and part of one of the outside pockets as well. After turning it over and over, I decided I would patch the holes in the bottom, then reinfoce the areas around the holes with more stitching, and finally reconstruct the bottom and sidewalls where the outside pocket once attached. I also decided I couldn't save the bottom of the outside pocket, so I cut it awat and closed it up shorter. it would be asymmetrical, but functional.
For patching material, I used a Thomson stem bag, doubled up and hemmed underneath, from a stack of these I got last year.

(I'm using doubled-up dental floss as a very strong thread. It also smells minty, not a bad thing in this case.)

After I'd gone this far, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be good to try and neutralize what remaining residue there might be. So I took the bag outside, and poured vinegar on the affected fabric. In a little while I'll boil some water and pour that over the area, and let it dry outside all day.
(It's waxed cotton, so I can't just toss it in the washing machine as was recommended by several sites.)
Then, once it's dry and I can continue mending it, I may add fabric inside to completely line the bag and keep any remaining residue from getting on whatever I carry. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than doing nothing.

Admittedly the bag will look odd with Thomson logos covering the holes and reconstructing the sidewalls near the pocket. I have tons of this fabric, and it's pretty sturdy. So I think the liner will be made of the same material, several bags opened up and sewn together to make a large single panel that I can then trim and sew to fit as a lining.

I'll post my progress as the repairs near completion. If it works out I may eventually put this on the Bridgestone.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

baskets = good

I recently came into an assortment of used baskets in various states of disrepair.
I'd been thinking about adding a front basket to the Bridgestone and finally did it last week.

Removing the front rack was a no-brainer. I wasn't likely to use two sets of panniers since I'm pretty sure my self-supported solo touring days are behind me; and a basket would prove immediately useful.
Wrapping the fork legs with a layer of cloth tape gave the clamps something to grip so they wouldn't fall down the leg under load.
Ideally, I'd use shorter struts and run them to rack eyelets but this fork doesn't have any, so there it is.

I am using an old waterproof messenger bag as a default basket bag for wet weather. I've also added an elastic cargo net on top to keep things from bouncing out on bumpy roads.
I've already used it for several grocery runs and took a bunch of old parts to Citybikes to trade in. As long as I don't overload it -- say, no more than about ten pounds of stuff -- it rides and handles fine.
I might want to swap in a taller stem, but that's not urgent.

Empty, the basket doesn't weigh that much (It's a medium-sized Wald 139, now sold as the 1392). Bigger that the 137 by several inches, but smaller and lighter than the industrial-strength 157 (aka "newsboy" model).  I feel like adding a basket makes the bike instantly un-racy and more useful at the same time. Try it on a bike you like to ride.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

i love projects: 1984 sekai big foot

Just scored this as my latest project.
1984 Sekai Big Foot. All TIG-welded. Seller pointed out the reason the price was so low: The bottom bracket shell had cracked and he had a local framebuilder repair it. The repair looks good and it's been clear-coated to protect it from rust. The piece de resistance is the fork crown, a sexy bi-level affair that just makes my heart sing.

It needs a few parts -- the grip-shifters and saddle HAVE to go and the badly bent front wheel may not be truable -- but If all I wanted to do is overhaul the loose-ball bottom bracket and headset (assuming the latter is still good -- it's pretty tight right now), clean up the drive train and slap a new chain on, I couldn't go wrong. It even has decent upright handlebars for city riding, on what I'm guessing may be the original stem. Add fenders and a rack or basket, and voila! A perfectly nice city bike.
Oh my goodness -- just look at that fork crown.
I don't know why, but for me the fork crown is one of the sexiest parts of a vintage bike. Even on a budget-level model like this that crown stands out.


The seller upgraded the cantilever brakes and they seem totally fine, so I'll keep them. I'm not setting out to restore thing, just to make it a nice rider. Swap in some new rubber, friction thumb shifters and a new saddle and it'll be fine.

I'll post pictures of my progress with this beauty. It's a diamond in the rough and a great spring project.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

city of bridges, part II: Tillikum Crossing

Yesterday I enjoyed a multi-modal ride over to Rivelo to say hi To John and see the bicycle goodness.
To get there, I hopped the Yellow Line into downtown Portland, got off, and rode over the Tillkum Crossing Bridge, the newest of Portland's bridges (completed 2015), and the first bridge in the USA designed to be used exclusively for public transit, bicyclists and pedestrians.
It was a breezy but beautiful afternoon, perfect for showing off a gorgeous Portland sky. There are amazing views from many points on the bridge, and two turnouts allow one to pull over and admire the view at length without blocking foot or bike traffic.If you plan to stop for an extended time to take photos, it's best if you use one of the turnouts. They're pretty obvious when you see them.The path is divided into two lanes, one for bicyclists and the other for pedestrians. So far, people have been pretty respectful of each others' space; still, bicyclists need to watch their speed when sharing the path as neither lane is especially wide.

A huge mountain of clouds grabbed everyone's attention and lots of folks stopped to gaze in wonder.

Because the entrances to either end of the bridge involve multi-modal transportation -- including lanes for private cars, which cannot go on the bridge but are diverted elsewhere -- people need to be especially careful and obey ALL signs and crossing signals. Definitely stow the iPad and ear buds while riding through this area, since MAX [light rail] and the Portland Streetcar are both pretty damned quiet and you will never hear them coming if your ears are clogged.
The signage and signals aren't bad, but folks who use the bridge frequently say there's still room for improvement. You can always contact the folks at PBOT with comments, questions and concerns about the infrastructure in place here (and elsewhere in the city). Though Tillikum Crossing was completed in September 2015 and is rapidly becoming a popular crossing for walkers and bikers, I suspect more refinements are in the works, so stay tuned.
Happy riding!