Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2017 #4: Western Bike Works

This morning I rode into town for Shabbat services at my shul. It was sweet and contemplative and just what I needed.
 Afterwards, I rode a short distance to Western Bike Works, where I would enjoy pour-over coffee and dry off a bit.
I was very surprised and disappointed to discover that the coffee bar had been removed, replaced by expanded repair check-in parking and a single tall cafe table with chairs (for folks to wait at during short repairs).

The guys were very friendly and one even invited me to take off my wet things and dry out a bit. "Help yourself to some drip coffee," he said, motioning towards the single hot-pot near the counter. "No charge."
So I did just that. A copy of the latest Portland Mercury was on the table, and I had my coffee, an energy bar from my bag and a little glance through Willamette Week's snarkier stunt-double while I observed my surroundings.

My bike felt out of place amidst the brand-new carbon-fiber and disc brakes all over the place.
Meanwhile, a repair stand and tools where  community bulletin board used to be indicated a new spirit in the place.

Considering that all of the tools were (a) still hanging there and (b) pretty darned clean, the more bicycle astute among their visitors would have figured out the vibe pretty quickly without the sign.

Still, it was good to be able to dry off a bit before suiting up again for the ride home. And for drip, the coffee wasn't terrible -- as long as you skipped the CoffeeMate.  And it was free, which saved me money and allowed me to enjoy myself without breaking the prohibition against spending money on Shabbat. (Seriously, though, I make better coffee at home.)                        

Sadly, I'm going to have to rate this one a fail, both for the removal of the perfectly nice little cafe and for the vibe that seems to have moved into the space.
By the time I rode from the non-cafe into downtown I was soaked again. The rain had not subsided all morning. And I was beginning to feel some fatigue creep on me from way inside (the way it does when I've expended myself and the Crohn's is rearing its head a bit.
So I tossed my bicycle on the bus and let Trimet do the driving.
(Below: Holladay Park, through the glass.)

 Total, around seven miles when all was saidand done. And now, naptime

Friday, October 20, 2017

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2017 #3: Kenton Cycle Repair

So right now, I am super-broke, which means I am taking coffee I made at home, sticking it in a thermal cup, and riding somewhere else to drink it.
To try for a stop on my theme-with-a-theme, I chose to ride into Kenton and say hi to my friends at Kenton Cycle Repair.

It was a lovely, damp afternoon and frankly, I've been fighting the deepening mood swings that come with Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, it's a thing, and it's real, and I can tell in minutes when it comes on). Depression can be helped by physical activity. But sometimes it's hard to get started, or even get out of the house.
So I gritted my teeth and headed out. About a mile and a half in, I didn't mind the drizzle or the breeze anymore. I stopped along the way to take a photo or two and the sun peeked out for a little bit. By the time I made it to Kenton neighborhood, some 3 miles away, I felt noticeably better.

The newly-adjusted BStone, with improved handlebar and position.
LOVE the Surly Open Bar I scored for a song. (Yeah, I'm good at that. No, it's not for sale. The old handlebar is for sale if anyone wants it. CrMO. $40 shipped or $25 local pickup.)
Evidence of coffee in bike shop.
Nossa Familia French roast, in Klean Kanteen mug.
This is the good stuff, trust me.
Better photo of the gang, from left:  Josie, Ashley, Rich and David.
If you live in North Portland -- or even if you don't, it's worth the ride -- stop in for some bike love. Nice people who know what they're doing and love ALL kinds of bicycles and bike riders.

Super-cool skull jar.
You know you love it.
Admit it.
Come on.

Everything was great -- even the pouring rain I left just in time to get soaked by, until I made my way to the Kenton MAX station. (The Paul Bunyan statue has been restored, repaired and repainted, and looks very nice.)
While I waited for the next light rail train under a glass canopy, I suddenly felt an intense, burning pain on the inside of my thigh just above my knee. I pulled up my pant leg, but saw nothing. I stood there a little longer and the pain continued to really, really hurt. I pulled up my pant leg again and as I did, a bee (or yellow jacket? Not sure -- it wasn't at all fuzzy and the black and yellow were very bright and vivid) fell out from under my pant leg. As it lay there on the ground, I grimaced, realized what had happened, and stomped the little bugger flat. (Yeah, I know, hive collapse and all that. Sue me. My leg hurt.)
By the time I got home, a tiny dark red pinpoint was visible, and right now, over an hour later, it still stings like hell. I checked closely and found no evidence of a left-behind stinger (phew!). But a fair amount of venom got in there and it's sore. I can breathe and I feel otherwise okay so I'm sure it's all fine.
I probably rode around 6 miles total. I feel better. And it's raining again. Because this is Portland.
Happy riding!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2017- #2: Water Avenue Coffee

I thought it would be nice to collect a few Portlanders who were all taking on the Challenge in one place so I suggested it to a friend, and suddenly there was a Facebook event.
He suggested Water Avenue Coffee as a nice, centrally-located location. I suggested we make it a suit-yourself ride (find your own way there, drink lots of coffee with friends, find your own way home).

So that's what happened.

On the way, I took the route through inner eastside Portland that I used to take to Citybikes Annex when I worked there. I had heard a rumor that the colorful mural, which had be created while I was still a co-owner there (and a small piece of which graces my second album), was totally gone, the entire building painted over with marine gray and the pack lot fenced in.
I stopped and admired the trees that I used to watch turn every fall, every day for so many years. When you watch a landscape evolve over time it becomes part of you in a way.
Even though I didn't take this route regularly (or very often) anymore, I still liked to watch these trees change color.
Due to the lack of rain this summer, the colors have come a little late this year, but most of the trees are still vivid red and orange.

I pulled up to the building formerly known as The Annex and stared. It was as if it had never been a bike shop. Even the cobbwork bench and plexiglass awning, held up with old bicycle frames, had been pulled off the wall out front and was totally gone.

I rode on, taking Stark over to SE Wall Avenue and riding along the bike lane, now lined in many places with so many clusters of tents that they were becoming ubiquitous -- just as the whole homeless population in Portland was becoming.  At one point, I noticed that a homeless encampment had utilized an old bike team awning that I had seen a year or two before at a cyclocross race. Wow.

Inner eastside was still mostly industrial, with truck depots and warehouses, though signs of the coming gentrification were appearing here and there (I believe some re-zoning and some soil cleanup is in order before we'll see hi-rise condos in this part of town).
Still, there are hints that those who will be tossed aside by gentrification won't go quietly.

I finally pulled up to Water Avenue Coffee, where my friends were waiting, and where we were eventually joined by a few more folks who'd seen the event posted on Facebook. It's a nice place, though if you have nut allergies you'll want to have an entree instead; most of the baked goods are vegan and utilize walnuts or pecans to boost the protein.
We had a lovely, lazy time over cups of coffee, and when Katie ordered too much of a good thing she gladly shared it with the rest of us. (I will definitely go back for the open-faced almond button-and-sliced-banana sandwich).


When it was all over, we went our separate ways. I headed over to Rivelo (not exactly around the corner but it's close enough that it took me five minutes to ride there, plus it was nice to visit with John).
On the way home, Another glorious burst of fall color, a large tree near my house that, in spite of having been trimmed clear of the telephone lines, was still majestic.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2017 - #1: Gino's Teriyaki

I know, the rules say I'm supposed to drink something hot.
But after delivering a bunch of parcels to the Post Office (and standing in line and paying a small fortune to mail them all), I was more hungry than thirsty; so I opted for a favorite cheap go-to of mine down the street.
Gino's Teriyaki (714 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR) serves basic cheap pan-Asian food. It's nothing fancy but it is fast, fresh, hot and satisfying. So while I waited for the swirling rain and clouds to continue on their way, I dried off over a chicken bento bowl and the latest edition of Willamette Week, Portland's free hipster weekly.
I was shocked at how little actual story copy was left in this fashion-food-dope rag, and how many pages had been given over to the ins and outs of [legal] recreational marijuana.
Either WW has gotten worse or I've gotten older. Or both.
But the food was great, and at a little over five bucks is about the same as a cup of coffee and a pastry. So I'm gonna call it good.
This stop does not meet my criteria for coffee shops near or in bike shops. But I stopped at the nearest bike shop on the way home (Revolver) to ask for free dead inner tubes (I patch these and use them in my fixer-uppers for refugee resettlement). Maybe a stretch, but it's all good. And I got to enjoy some lovely fall colors to boot.
BStone MB-4, loaded with CDs and perks for folks who pre-ordered my latest recording.

 Good, fresh, hot and cheap.

 Evidence of participation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 preview and Theme announcement

So this Friday marks the start of the 2017 Coffeeneuring Challenge.

It will be my fifth year of participation, and I am working a theme for this year's challenge.

But first, a word from my [un]official sponsor.

If you are new to coffeeneuring this year, you can get the rundown of the rules (there are a few) by clicking on the link above.
And please, pleaes, PLEASE make sure that you bring along a reusable thermal mug for your coffeeneuring adventures. Because too many coffee shops and cafes still insist on serving their coffee -- even if you're planning on having it in-house -- in paper cups. (In some places, they even serve it in -- gasp! -- the dreaded styrofoam.)
Don't be the one who takes coffee in a non-reuseable cup!
Bring your own!

I know, I know. Thermal cups are not cheap. The good ones are double-walled stainless steel and come with various tops that will either keep liquid hot a long time and/or make it easier to sip on-the-go.

But you can find them used and cheaper on eBay and craigslist.

Two makers are especially popular right now:

1. Hydro Flask -- based in Bend, Oregon, Hydro Flask is the new kid on the block. I haven't used their products but a few of my friends love them.

2. Klean Kanteen -- based in California, Klean Kanteen was doing this before it became cool and I love their stuff. Of note are their double-walled thermal cup designs with a loop cap or a easy-sip cap. I have been fortunate in that I've managed to find my Klean Kanteens used, either from garage sales or, in one case, for free. This one I found without a cap while riding across the Broadway Bridge five or six years ago. I found it, took it home, washed it thoroughly and bought a new cap for it.
It's small and portable and I travel with it on tour. I'm drinking from it right now as I type.
People know me by this mug now, which is sort of cute.

Some coffee sellers will give you a nickel or dime off your drink if you bring your own mug, another good reason for go refillable (because self-interest often sells more than guilt).


Now, for the announcement of this year's theme.

Every coffeeneur has the opportunity to choose a theme by which to mark their coffeeneuring route in a given year. There are no extra points for this, it's just a fun thing.  This year, I've decided to seek out coffee joints that are next to -- or inside -- bicycle shops.
It sounds like a no-brainer, and maybe it is. But that's only because we have a few in Portland.
And they're not all near each other, so I'll get in a few miles on the way. If at least five of my seven stops are in or near (within a block of) a bicycle shop, I'll call it good. Stay tuned and watch for updates during the Challenge, here at the blog.


Portland-area Coffeeneurs: There's an unofficial Coffeeneuring group thing n Saturday morning the 14th. Meet up at 9:30 at Water Avenue Coffee, choose your own route there, and those who want to continue the ride can do a flashmobride into Downtown Portland afterwards. Nothing official, don't RSVP, just show up by 9:30 to enjoy coffee by bicycle.

And PLEASE bring your own cup.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

refugee bikes: update

As my readers know, I've been refurbishing old bikes and passing them along to Catholic Charities for distribution to newly-arrived refugees. Each bike is tuned up and/or repaired as needed and comes equipped with lights, rack and a lock.

I took a break for the High Holy Days, and to repair a couple of family bikes; but now I'm back and collecting more bikes and parts.
Because of Portland's hilly landscape (lots of small dead volcanoes out there), I need old geared bikes -- road and mountain bikes, no singlespeeds, please.
-- Adult sizes only (26" or larger wheels), as I cannot handle the liability issues that arise with kids' bikes.

I also desperately need working U-Locks with keys. I prefer not to send out a bike with only a cable lock, as these can be easily cut in seconds and many new arrivals live in places where they must store their bicycles outside.

Other items I like to equip the bikes with include
-- water bottles (new or washed) and cages;
-- flat pedals (metal or plastic)
-- rear racks or baskets
-- upright handlebars

I'm good for lights for now, thanks to a generous donation from the nice folks at Portland Design Works (thank you, Hazel!).

Also -- if you have old inner tubes you haven't gotten around to patching I will gladly accept them as donations. I patch them and use them when tuning up the bikes (and it keeps them out of the landfill!).
(Below: patched tubes, ready to reuse.)

I will be tuning bikes all winter, in between touring and music work.

Thanks and happy riding!

 (Pictured: Recntly-tuned bikes that are now enjoying new life under riders in Portland and Salem.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

bicycling: the wonder drug that works

So last weekend was really tough.

Juxtaposed among my cantorial soloist duties out of town were the start of my period and the hormonal fluctuations that go with that; the lack of access to a bike (or time to ride it); and the ongoing downward spiral of the news of the world.

(Helluva time to have to deal with Yom Kippur, no?)

So on the train back from Bremerton on Sunday, I had time to ponder, in my hormonal swirling haze, the size and dimension of the handbag we're all riding to hell and how the very act of living, of taking up space in the world and using up resources was rapidly becoming seen as a crime by the lords of industry. Because apparently social Darwinism is cool again. (kids -- see: Germany, 1930s)

By the time I got home, I was exhausted (from leading YK services, which takes a lot out of a soloist even on a good day) and heading down, down, down into a very bad place. So bad that, when it came time to build our Sukkah yestyerday, I didn't have the energy or the desire to get started. Finally, the crying jag came on Sweetie's shoulder, during which she said, "when you're finished you can take a nap. And riding to your student's house tonight for a lesson will make you fell better. So will drinking a lot of water."

Of course, she was right. She almost always is.

I was in a much better place after the lesson, and today I will go for another ride in the cooling air of autumn in Oregon.
I am still dog-tired and another nap will be in order; but once again the amazing healing power of a simple bicycle ride can really help.

Happy riding, dear readers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

beauty is all around. slow down and look.

Scenes from yesterday's bike ride around N/NE Portland.

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree, outdoor and nature

  Image may contain: car, tree, house, sky, plant and outdoor
Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Image may contain: plant, tree, bicycle and outdoor

Image may contain: 8 people

Monday, September 4, 2017

in which rapha eats itself

It had to happen.

Rapha, for years the silliest and most overpriced bikewear maker on earth, has been bought with Walmart money, by a Walton grandson.

I am looking forward to witnessing the downfall of a brand that had grown so pretentious and ridiculous that it should’ve been shut down ages ago.
It’ll be interesting to see what used Rapha t-shirts sell for on eBay.
Will they go the way of Fender guitars (“pre-CBS” era versus “modern” era)?

This whole thing — and the way folks are wringing their hands over it — is making me laugh my ass off.

Rapha has been silly and overpriced for a very long time.
Remember that the high price of an item constitutes half its consumer allure.
People buy stuff because it's expensive. They wear Rapha precisely because it makes them look and feel wealthier to ride in a $200 jersey instead of a $5 t-shirt. Almost no one will admit it -- especially since, in more recent years, as Rapha's manufacturing expanded to more place around the globe, quality control has already diminished -- and consumers will have to confront the fact that they paid a crap ton of money for something that more and more resembles crap.

Rapha grew and thrived because it started out exclusive and expensive, and so attracted everyone who wanted to ape the rich. It will lose many of those those consumers for the same reason: rich people don't shop at Walmart -- or any of its subsidiaries.
So yes, I'm gloating,  and thoroughly enjoying the Schadenfreude of it all.
Sue me.

So let's see what happens to the brand.
Will "pre-Walmart" Raphaware become "collectible" and more "valuable" as a result of the takeover?
Will people who are "fans" of the brand (and everything that goes with it, including the race team they sponsor, the magazines of glossy-sexy photos they co-produce, and above all the "prestige" of owning something that says "RAPHA" -- because, money is sexy even when the sex is not) suddenly realize that they've been had?
Or will they actually feel a sense of loss over this piece of pretentious bike culture, a "culture" so fake it may well have been conceived in a circle jerk of "design" consultants?

It'll be interesting to watch.
Meanwhile, I'm gonna guess that Rapha stuff is going to go for cheap on eBay and craigslist.

And as before, lots of folks will still enjoy riding like this, on an older bicycle wearing nothing more than an old t-shirt and cutoffs.
(And sunscreen. Don't forget the sunscreen, kids.)

Happy riding.

Friday, September 1, 2017

the cycle of things, or how i came to think i need less than i used to think i need

When I first began working in he bicycle industry in 1994, I owned a 4-year-old Trek mountain bike that I'd basically ridden into the ground. In my first year as an apprentice, I learned how to overhaul the bearings on that bike, and had also found another used bike which I dismantled, overhauled, repainted and rebuilt under the watchful eye of the master mechanic who'd hired me.

By the time I returned to Portland and began working at Citybikes a year later, I knew how to overhaul and/or tune up a bicycle with derailleurs, caliper brakes and friction shifting. I would complete my apprenticeship (though not my education -- that would never be done) by learning how to overhaul three-speed hubs and deal with indexed shifting.

In the years between 1995 and 2012, when I worked full-time in the bike industry, I enjoyed a healthy worker discount that allowed me to buy and try all sorts of things, including different brake systems, cargo bikes, various trailers, and all manner of raingear and waterproof panniers.
When I left the industry in 2012, I was outfitted with far more than I actually needed, including five bicycles (the most I'd ever owned) and buckets of random parts, plus a full set of shop tools for my own use.

Five years later, I still have most of the tools, and have pared myself down to two bikes that I regularly ride. There's a trailer, too; but I use it so infrequently that I'm considering selling it, or trading it for a smaller trailer.

The upshot of all this is that, during my time in the industry, I got to try out all sorts of technologies as they passed through the shop, and learn about how they worked in real-life riding. And unlike many bicycle mechanics who've kept bits of everything they've ever tried, my nearly twenty years in the industry made me wary of every new thing that came down the pike. I disdained the racing-influenced, trickle-down of technologies that infected ordinary transportational bicycles. As more repairable metal components transitioned to throw-away plastic parts, I realized that many of the skills I had acquired early on were becoming obsolete. No one cared anymore if I could overhaul a freewheel; freewheels were relics of another age. No one cared anymore if Iknew how to replace the main spring in a rear derailleur; rear derailleurs became so cheaply made that they could simply be removed and replaced when the spring wore out -- and newer models had springs that were harder to remove by design, the bicycle industry's blatant version of a planned obsolescence which I came to loathe.
(below: photo of freewheel disassembly. Only serious hobbyists actually bother to do this anymore.)
Related image

(below: another, less ideal way to disassemble a freewheel. Does anyone even USE this old Park tool anymore?)
Related image

Today, I am quite happy to be done with the bike industry, and with the crow-like obsession with every shiny, new thing that manufacturers release each year. At home, I keep a small supply of old friction derailleurs and shifters, old canti and enttry-level V-brakes and levers; and just enough brake and gear cables and housing to allow me to fix up old bikes for refugee resettlement on my part-time, hobby-level basis. I am down to two bikes, and they both have friction shifting and freewheels; in fact, I've overhauled enough used freewheels to likely see me out, each one oiled and carefully wrapped in a plastic bag to keep from rusting in storage.

(below: photo of a freewheel vise, used to overhaul and swap cogs from threaded freewheels)
Image result for freewheel photos

I have more than enough bike stuff these days. And anytime I feel like I have too much, I winnow down.

That's why this Monday morning, I'm having a Labor Day bike parts sale, to clear out whatever feels "extra" and could be of use somewhere else. I still fix up old bikes (though I'll take a break for the Jewish High Holy Days), don't worry. I just do it on a smaller scale that's more manageable and keeps me relatively stress-free.

Owning isn't nearly as much fun as riding.
So wherever you are this weekend, enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

refugee bike update - august 2017

As of today, I've got four completed bikes that will be picked up this afternoon for handoff to Catholic Charities, where they will be distributed to newly arrived refugee families needing affordable transportation.

Just finished this one today:

I scored this back in May at the neighborhood cleanup drop-off site, after gently arguing with an entire family of scrap metal haulers (kids as young as six were helping out and I suspect that's how the family paid its bills). The head of the household told me, "we got dibs on basically every bike someone leaves here."

I verified this with the Neighborhood Association coordinator, who went over to the man and told him she had promised no such thing, and if I wanted to take home one or two bikes to fix up for charity, where was the harm in that?

The man did not appear to be embarrassed at all, simply annoyed that he'd have to share.

I took this bike and two more. One was so badly rusted inside, with a frozen stem and seatpost, that I decided to strip off everything useable for other bikes. The other two bikes, a tall Peugeot road bike and this old Giant, tuned up into decent, rideable bikes. (Note: I cover all finished bikes with random stickers and/or reflective tape to hide the brand names and hopefully reduce the risk of theft by people who know something about bikes.)

I'm especially pleased with this one. It was a bit of a mess, covered with rust and requiring replacement wheels, seat and handlebars. (The wheels came from the stripped-down bike).
I also swapped out the GripShift because, well, I just detest them unless they are basically new.
I decided to toss on a pair of stem shifters -- friction, of course -- that would work just fine and leave space on the handlebar for a bell and a handlebar bag. Everything else loosened up pretty nicely once I applied lube and let it soak in for a couple of days.
This bike would have ended up getting hauled to a metal recycling depot and dismantled, with anything non-metal bits going to the landfill. I was glad to save this bike and make it rideable again.
Is it cost-effective for a shop? Nope.
But it's just fine for me to do as a hobby, on my own time. Plus, it gives me a chance to keep my hand in things and do some bike-related problem-solving.

I am taking a short break from wrenching from now through the end of September, for the Jewish High Holy Days. I'll resume wrenching in early October.
Happy riding.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ride report: Sunday Parkways Outer Northeast

Portland Sunday Parkways rolled out a new route in Outer NE yesterday.
I signed on as a mobile mechanic.
I did nor repair a single bicycle.
Instead, I spent two and a half hours being a mobile traffic cop.
Because of the eclipse, many regular volunteers weren't available. Which meant that many intersections along the route simply couldn't be staffed.
I found out later that there was almost NO Police presence along the route, either, because of budget constraints. Every high-traffic intersection was staffed by one or two professional flaggers in safety vests. In a couple of cases, volunteers helped control traffic flow at these intersections as well.

So I spent a lot of time helping motorists get in or out of the neighborhood, escorting their slowed cars across the route. And while most were patient, one was aggressive and threatening, even charging three of us on our bikes when he sped down the closed street toward us. Thankfully, there were three of us so we were able to block the car while one snapped a photo of his license plate.
Eventually we were able to divert the car off the course, but it was the scariest moment, and the hardest day I've ever had in ten years of volunteering at Parkways.

Hopefully PBOT will learn from this and have a plan for dealing with this kind of volunteer shortage in the future.

I will say that all the other volunteers I saw along the route were glad to be there, and so was every walker and bike rider. That gives me hope for the future of this nice residential route.
Next month -- Parkways Sellwood/SE on Sept. 24th. Be nice to each other and travel safely.

Monday, August 14, 2017

one-off Torah ark (crosspost from

I love the mystery of ritual as much as anyone else. I think that, given the choice between reading aloud from a Torah scroll or from a bound book, I'd rather read from the scroll. But as an Off-The-Grid specialist, I don't have access to a kosher scroll, either (and in fact, some rabbis are not super-thrilled with my dedication to facilitating Off-The-Grid celebrations for unaffiliated Jewish families, but that's another blog post).
This summer, the unaffiliated family of a B'nei Mitzvah student offered to purchase a non-kosher scroll, printed on heavy paper and glued to wooden poles so that their child would have a scroll to read from -- and then, in exchange for a few of the lessons, to give me the scroll to keep for use with future students.
I was deeply moved by this offer and accepted it humbly.
Then, I set about making a proper ark for my scroll. Because even a non-kosher scroll deserves to have a place of honor. The story is still kosher, right?

So here's what I came up with. it's made from assorted car and bicycle license plates, an abandoned wooden planter box, hinges and other hardware that came from my shed or from a local house parts recycler, and some paint that was left over from my time at the bike shop. It took some figuring out, and some modifying when I realized too late that the box wouldn't quite fit the scroll (I too one end apart, rebuilt it and added a "roof" made from a license plate). But in the end, it makes a fine, and a wonderfully whimsical, "SO Portland" home for my little Torah scroll. I couldn't have asked for it to turn out any better. And I am grateful to the family whose bright idea inspired me to make it.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

why don't more people learn to fix their stuff?

One of the beautiful things about getting everywhere by bicycle is that the technology is so elegantly simple that most minor repairs -- flat fixes, brake and derailleur adjustments -- can be done at roadside in minutes.
It's very satisfying to be able to fix a flat, hop back on and resume riding.
And if you were to pay a shop to fix a flat, they'd charge you between 8 and 12 bucks for parts and labor.
So why don't more people learn to deal with the small stuff themselves?

We've arrived at a point in the history of consumerism where more people would rather pay someone else to fix their stuff than to learn how to fix it themselves.
Now, I don't think it's wise to try and fix everything yourself, especially if you're inexperienced; I tend not to attempt to deal with my home's wiring, for example.
But so many of the things we own can be repaired at home for far less money than we'd spend to pay someone else to do it.
Bicycles are perfect example of this.

Once upon a time, lots of people were quite willing to fix their own stuff. Because fifty, sixty years ago, more of us had to. We didn't live near a repair shop or we simply didn't have the money to pay someone else. And thrift was considered a far greater virtue than it is today.

The problem with not fixing your stuff is that if you don't learn how to fix it, you don't fully own it.
People used to own their cars more, back when pulling the dashboard and rewiring the ignition switch was easier. Hell, I learned how to hotwire a car when I was seventeen. It wasn't hard once someone showed you how the system worked.
Today, most car dashboards have computers underneath. And hardly anyone works on their newer cars at home because of those computers.

Thankfully, most bicycles have yet to become so computerized. And older bikes abound, on craigslist and at yard sales. So why not learn how to do the basic stuff at home?
Fixing your own flat will save you $8-12.
Adjusting your own gears or brakes will save you $10-15.
And wiping down your bike's drivetrain every 2 weeks (once a month in the summer) and applying a light coating of oil when the chain runs dry will save you a lot of money on replacement parts, because you won't have to replace them quite as often if you do simple maintenance like this.

Depending on where you live, many bike shops offer basic maintenance classes. Some offer open wrenching nights where you can come in a rent their tools for cheap and work on your bike under the helpful eye of a shop mechanic. And if your local shop doesn't offer this, there are lots of good books and Youtube tutorials to help you get started. Here's a few:

Everybody's Bike Book by Tom Cuthbertson. One of the oldest and still one of the best for basic things like flat fixes, brake adjustments and the like.
The Park Tool Big Book of Bicycle Repair. Available at shops or on eBay. Covers the newer stuff including V-brakes and disc brakes, if you're so inclined. Lots of helpful photos along with concise instructions.
Park Tool and hundreds of others have posted videos on how to do all sorts of bike repairs.
Here's a basic idea of how to fix a flat, by the folks at Park Tool.

If you live in the city, you don't need to bring along more than a small pump, spare inner tube, patch kit and whatever tools you need to remove wheels and/or make very minor adjustments on brakes or gears. The whole thing will fit in a small pouch you can strap onto the underside of your saddle (and easily remove when you go indoors, to avoid theft).

 My basic repair kit, wrapped in a cloth roll and small enough to fit in a pocket of my saddlebag.

Below: Homemade patch kit, including homemade patches (from recycled inner tube squares and tin foil), levers and sandpaper, and tube of glue (sold separately at shops). It all fits in a repurposed cough drop tin.
Yes, your hands will get dirty. And you can wash them with soap and water. Really, it's not a big deal.
Own your stuff. Fix your stuff. And save some money.

Happy riding!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

refugee bike update: august 2017

Now that my music crowdfunder is complete and I am recovering from a throat infection, I'm beginning to tackle the few bikes that were waiting for me since I got home from kansas a month ago.
This one was a donation from the fellas at Velo Cult. Originally a city bike with 120mm spacing in back and a Nexus-8 rear hub, When I got it it was running on replacement wheels of different sizes and nothing worked.
After a lots of modifications, including converting the bike to a 1 x 7 (and spreading the frame to take a 135-spaced rear hub), the bike is now ridable. The integrated headset is a mess and if I open it up and it falls totally apart I'm stuck with a bike I cannot afford to deal with. For the time being, I've decided to go with a slightly-too-tight adjustment to get rid of most of the front brake judder, pour in some Phil's and hope it will be okay for now.

I really cannot stand integrated headsets for basic city bikes. They're a dumb idea. Perhaps the previous owner thought so, too and that's why this became a donor bike for my project. Anyway, it's safe to ride at this point and that means someone gets a bike who didn't have one before.

I am sometimes forced to make compromises like that.

Right now in the stand I have a very tall Peugeot road bike from the 1970s, with original Simplex shifters and derailleurs that work astonishingly fine. I left them on, swapped in some upright handlebars and added a rear rack. I need to go to Bike Farm tomorrow and find a cheap used seatpost to fit the frame and a cheap used front tire, and it's basically all done.

After that, I have two other bikes, both rusty mountain bikes from the late 80s/early 90s. One is so rusty that I may need to strip and rattle-can it -- and I don't know if I want to take the time to do that with all my music commitments coming up in late summer/early fall -- but my other option is to strip the parts for another frame. Gonna sit on this one awhile, I think.
The other bike isn't quite as rusty and needs a few replacement parts, and I will probably try to whip that one into shape when the Peugeot is done.

This week we're expecting a serious heat wave in Portland, with temps today through Friday eaching into the 100s. Sweetie and I will be doing whatever we can in the early morning hours before its gets too hot; and later we'll seek out a city water fountain or a cheap movie with air conditioning. My riding will be minimal, if I do any at all. Not a safe time to ride a bike if you have issues with extreme heat, as I do.

Hopefully it's cooler where you are -- happy riding!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

jumping the shark: off-season coffeeneurring ride

Yesterday, I felt weel enough and thought I had gotten over the worst of my sinus/throat infection that I decided to go for a little ride across town. I stopped off at the urgent care to get a prescription, then rode over to Rivelo and chatted with John for a little while. By the time I left Rivelo I was surprised to find I wasn't feeling so great, and I had to catch the MAX light rail most of the way home.
Today I am stuck at home, coughing up stuff and my throat mostly on fire, drinking enough water and tea to make my back teeth float. But I still had a pretty nice ride, and was glad to have done it before the heat wave that's due to arrive tomorrow and last all week.

Image may contain: 1 person  

Image may contain: sky, ocean, bridge, outdoor and water  
Image may contain: people sitting, bridge, sky, outdoor and water