Tuesday, April 24, 2018

30 days of biking - update

So I'm six days from the end of this month-long bicycle party and here's how it's going.

Knowing that I'd be traveling out of town for a gig, I decided to "bank" some rides in advance by going out twice a day for a few days before I left.
This allowed me to have a ride count for each of the thirty days of April.
Yesterday I flew home from the East Coast, napped for a couple of hours, and then went out to the shed to finish up a refugee bike -- and then, to tally another ride and get myself current, I took that bike for a test-ride. It rides great, and while I was super-tired from flying I was also glad to get in a quick ride.

(the bike)

 (evidence of participation)


Today it's supposed to be near 80F! You can bet I'll be getting a ride in before my hebrew student comes this evening. Cheers and happy riding!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

dear minneapolis (a love note)

Dear Minneapolis: Fine. You win. You're all the baddest-assed bike riders in April because there's ten feet of snow on the ground and you're out riding in it with spiked tires and heating up beer and venison over a camp stove at the park or whatever.
But if you come visit me here and I hear even a PEEP about how horrible it is to ride in the rain every day, or how it's amazing that all these gray days don't make everyone here clinically depressed, or some other ninth-circle-of-soggy-hell blah blah blah, I will make you ride with me across the Tillikum Crossing bridge while it's 38F and raining sideways.
Both ways.
Without fenders.
THEN we'll see who's the bad-ass.
Love, Portland

P.S. we'll have a fresh pot of real coffee waiting for ya.
..::all of the above typed with tongue firmly planted in cheek::..
Happy riding.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

presenting (drum roll, please)... Stompy, version 3

I acquired this bike about a year ago, and hadn't had much time to mess around with it until after I got back from camp last summer. By then, the short-track season was half over and I was too fatigued to contemplate ever racing again; but I did want to investigate the newly-opened Gateway Green cycling park. (I never got around to that last summer, either, but I digress.)

So after we hosted a lovely Passover seder at home, washed every dish in the house, put the extra table away and saw off all our out-of-town guests, I spent the first half of today sleeping in, from a combination of a depressive fluctuation and extreme fatigue from getting so much done over the last week.
I didn't wake up until almost noon, and it took me another two hours to find my equilibrium again.

After hemming and hawing I finally decided that, since the rain was returning tonight, I wanted to get something done before the day got away from me.
So I went out to the workshop, finished a refugee bike that had been sitting in the stand, and pulled down the new Stompy to put the finishing touches on it.

It's a simple bike -- it began life as an entry-level mountain bike from Iron Horse. Their low-end bikes can be found in big-box stores, while their high-end models are for sponsored racers and generally found in few bike shops (at least here in Portland).
I swapped in some V-brakes from another old mountain bike, knowing I'd appreciate the stopping power in dirt and mud.
I also had to remove the cranks and bottom bracket, which had rusted badly.
Turning this into a singlespeed would require a different crankset and bottom bracket. Since I was trying to spend as little money as possible on this, I settled for a NOS splined bottom bracket and some NOS cranks I found in the back room at Citybikes. (With my ex-worker discount they were dirt cheap, less than $20 for everything.)

I was able to use the same rear wheel and swapped in a singlespeed freewheel, which I found in a bucket at Bike Farm for five bucks. Yes, the gearing is super-low; I'm an old fart and figure that I've earned it. I don't mind coasting more these days.
The tires that came with it had been replacements, and hadn't been ridden much. 26 x 1.9's will be fine for this, at least until I decide how much I plan to ride it off-road. They're not fancy and have a decent, basic dirt tread that should work in wet or dry conditions for just noodling around.
Some Odyssey BMX pedals, used Oury grips and my Misfit Psycles FU2 bar (swapped from bike to bike to bike and having now taken up residence on every version of Stompy to date) completed the bike.  (** see Sad Note, below.)
As a singlespeed, it's lightweight and nimble.

It fits fine, will be simple to care for a a lot of fun to try out at Gateway Green when things warm up just a little more.

**(A SAD NOTE -- Misfit Psycles appears to have gone out of business as of late November 2017. There is still an online store but inventory is quite limited, just t-shirts and a few small parts. There's also nothing of theirs on on eBay. So you can't buy this handlebar anymore and boy, am I glad I saved mine.)

Friday, March 23, 2018

scraps of the world

Yesterday I ran errands by bike. it was cold but sunny and I managed to get everything done.
Plus, I scavenged some free parts for future refugee bikes.
Double-plus, I found this vintage Deco nightstand sitting out at the curb and -- YESSSS! -- I had a way to get it home.

Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor
Amazingly, I was able to strap this to my little porteur rack (with some John's Irish Straps -- available at Rivelo, go get some and keep them in your saddlebag because when you need them they are awesome and perfect).
Pro tip: wider upright handlebars make heavy front loads easier to handle on the bike. My current bar of choice for this is the Surly Open Bar but anything similarly shaped will work fine.

Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor

In the end, I think I'm going to totally re-do my side of the bed to make space for this and pare down what I keep there. because I really really like it.
Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor

Scavenging is a way to keep stuff out of the landfill and also how I keep my squirrel-brain engaged and happy. I may not be rich -- or even financially secure, frankly. But I have a scavenger's eye and that helps me keep it together. And sometimes I even find something useful along the way.

Happy riding.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

all the beautiful bikes: spring bicycle plans

I've taken delivery on some basic, complete bicycles that I'll spend the next couple of weeks whipping into shape for Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement. Then I'll be taking a bit of a break for my summer touring season in May and June, and I'll resume the bike-love in July when I'm back in town.

Thanks to everyone who has brought me bicycles, locks, racks and lights, and to a few folks who kicked in money to help make a couple of frames complete with the procurement of some forks and other bits I couldn't scavenge on my own. When these bicycles are finished by early April, you will have helped over 40 newly-arrived families obtain sustainable, affordable transportation, reducing
their dependence on cars and giving them a freedom of mobility some may have never known  before.

Thanks so much, and happy riding!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

resistance takes many forms. some are actually legal.

I've been thinking lately about my income taxes and what they actually support.

As more social services have their funding drastically cut and more money is diverted to building up our military, I think more and more about what it would mean to be a tax resistor.

And then I realize I already am one. Without breaking a single law.

My work history makes me a tax resistor. I have spent my entire adult life working at lower-income, hourly-wage jobs or, more recently as a piecemeal freelancer scraping to get by. In both cases, my low income has reduced and sometimes eliminated my tax burden. The government has precious little to thank me for regarding my work history. And since I did not get a whilte-collar job or obtain all the trappings of a middle class American Dream, I have precious little to feel guilty about.

My lifestyle choices make me a tax resistor. I don't engage in annual tourism -- a vacation for me is a three-day campout somewhere close by, if we can get away. I don't own a car. I ride a bike or take public transit everywhere. I don't buy new clothes (and haven't in a very long time). I get food from the back shelves, heavily discounted because it's past the sell-by date (but still perfectly edible).

And probably most important of all, I decided long ago that I would value time over money -- which meant that I seldom worked overtime during my years in the bike industry, because I felt a body and mind needed regular rest and recovery. I didn't kill myself in order to have extra to put in some retirement fund; I simply worked to earn what I needed to live. I still do. I have no retirement fund,  and I don't exactly have what would traditionally be called a career. I am having an interesting life, though, and that feels like the better choice for me.

When I die, I will die poor. And I'm fine with that. I think that's the way it should be.

And all of these choices, conscious and not-so-conscious, are perfectly legal.

I am doing my part to not support the current regime in its quest to out-Korea North Korea. I will not help the current administration kiss Russia's ass. I will not invest in anything even remotely connected to a stock market that has always rewarded the rich at others' expense. I absolutely refuse to support a regime that purposely disenfranchises anyone who isn't white, Christian and male.
 And so, I resist in the ways I can, quietly and legally and intentionally.

Below: The latest refugee bike, liberated from a friend's garage and delivered to me earlier this week. After a tune-up, a replacement saddle and a basket, it's ready to take someone to school or work in style (dig those old-school chrome fenders!). And I'm positively delirious that the person who will ride it is someone who is making a fresh start here in the US, someone who escaped war and terror and risked everything to get here. I would love to run into this bike and its rider next summer at a Sunday Parkways, or pass it on the street as its owner rides it to work or school. Almost nothing is better than that. Because that, too, is a sort of resistance against the lopsided power structure in this country.

I am still accepting donations of complete bicycles, locks and lights.
If you're in Portland and need more space in your garage,hit me up. Thanks and happy riding!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

steady growth is not a sustainable earth model

I have been sneaking peeks at the racing scene periodically, just to see what's up.
These have been fewer over time, but today I took another peek and found two things:

1. The Giro d'Italia plans to have its Grand Departure in -- wait for it -- Jerusalem, Israel.
Right, I know. Israel has almost NO road cycling scene (though mountain biking is huge and flatland BMX enjoyes a youth following in the cities), owing largely to the fact that it's mostly desert and it's in the middle of an otherwise inhospitable Arab Middle East, half of whose residents would like to see Israel nuked off the map. So yeah, it's kind of a wacky place to begin a road race that will be in Italy the rest of the month.

Then, there's the environmental impact. Bicycle racing is anything but "green" -- watch the trailers and trucks in the parking lot at any road or mountain race and you will see piles of waste being generated with every repair, ever souvenir, every rush-job to sublimate a leader's jersey with the right team, etc. etc. etc. And most of that waste, in the new era of the collapsed plastics market, is bound for the landfill.

Fast forward to this morning. I held an informal bicycle tools and parts yard sale while I finished a repair on a friend's bike. A few people came by, all of them folks I knew from Portland's cycling scene and most of them current or former local racers. As they poked and prodded their way through my boxes and selected their purchases, we talked about the unsustainability of all things carbon, the unsustainability of new bike manufacturing, and the sheer madness of a constant-growth business model that is emblematic of the bicycle industry. The truth is that I got out of the industry just in time to avoid the worst of the hypocrisy -- of carbon-fiber, disc brake-equipped commuter bikes, of $400 childrens' bikes (seriously? Who can afford or justify a bike your kid will outgrow or destroy in a few weeks?) and the trickle-down from racing that refuses to die and still, sadly, informs too much of the consumer bicycle market.

In the end, it's all stuff, mountains of stuff, way too fucking much stuff. And I've grown weary of it.
I've grown weary to the point that I doubt I'll ever buy anything new again (including tires and tubes; they're readily available in decent used condition all over the city, mostly free for the taking). Who needs jerseys? Who needs padded knickers if all you're doing is riding to work and back? Who needs an eleven-speed drivetrain, for crying out loud? Nobody I know personally really uses much of that anymore. We all just ride our bikes. And when they break down, we fix them ourselves.

A new generation of consumers has moved into Portland, people who don't seem as interested in getting their hands dirty at all -- witness the rise in the number of mobile bike repair businesses and also the number of downtown bike parking facilities that keep a mechanic on staff.Shops that used to do a steady business in used bikes, parts and tools have shifted to selling those items online, where more money can be made from overseas collectors. And yes, I've been guilty of that, too; though I am now rethinking that part of my scavenging and reselling schemes.

Because when you get down to it, this emphasis on always making new stuff and shipping it around the world may be great for economies, but it's lousy for the planet. It's lousy for the poorest among us. And more and more I fear it's becoming lousy for our souls.

It's highly possible that in the future there won't be a need for this blog -- I may eventually reach the conclusion that curating my life feels less and less necessary and so I won't write here as often.
I'm not done yet, but wrapping this up is a distinct possibility in the future.
And now, a bicycle ride.
Happy riding!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

bicycle stuff yard sale: sunday 3/11 9-noon

Portland bikey peeps: I'm selling off a bunch of parts, tools and accessories in an effort to make space in my workshop and my life. Sunday, March 11, 9am till noon.
Go to my Facebook page and PM me for location.
Proceeds will support my ongoing Refugee Bikes project.

Below: The latest, a department store bike back when department store bikes weren't so terrible.
A tune-up made it nicer to ride, and someone is going to be happy to take this to work or school very soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

off-season coffeeneuring: society hotel cafe

On Friday, I rode into downtown Portland to meet my sister for a cup of coffee. I suggested we check out the cafe at the Society Hotel in Old Town. The hotel is co-owned and was remodeled by an acquaintance of mine, and has gained a following for its cozy, hostel-styled rooms and affordable pricing. But I didn't know about the cafe. So we met there.


https://scontent-sea1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/28468192_1525717870890071_6994266544885313900_n.jpg?oh=a6b8d9f23753f4d6c29bc3111fbc98ff&oe=5B4BFB03  I have to say that, while the atmosphere was pretty nice -- and the acoustics still allowed for conversation, an increasingly rare thing in Portland eateries these days -- the fare was merely okay. The coffee was fresh and hot but not amazing; and my sister told me she's had far better Dirty Chai drinks at at least a half down other places. (My coconut macaroon was actually good, moist and substantial.)
I'd say that if you know you'll be in Old Town and need to make a stop, this would work just fine. But as far as cafes go it's not a destination stop, especially with so many other choices nearby.
I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10 stars, with the caveat that it might be worth checking out in the evening when the menu changes up a little. (We were there at 1:30 in the afternoon, kind of a down time for hotel cafes in general.)
Happy riding!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cheapskate hack: Porteur rack

I'd been wanting to try a real porteur-styled rack on my bike for a long time.
I liked the idea of a platform that sat close and low to the fork crown, allowing for larger and/or more oddly-shaped loads. But the cost of new, factory-made racks remains prohibitive, averaging over $150. Custom models start at around $200.

Inspired by a similar rack on a bike I'd seen several years ago, I decided to try making my own.

1. I obtained a canti-boss mini-rack cheap on craigslist ($18)
2. I mounted it on my bike. Then, I used hose clamps to install a miniature broiler grill (sans drip pan, about 13" x 9") that I'd found at Goodwill ($4)
3. Finally, I mounted a discarded rail from a very nice factory-made rack that I had scored at the CCC's Salvage Sunday for something like $0.50.
Additional hardware needed to put it all together -- hose clamps, L-braclets and various nuts a bolts -- came to another $6 and change.

Photos below show the basic assembly process.

After I'd installed the platform, I realized that carrying any load more than around 3 or 4 lbs. on a rack mounted on cantilever struts would break the rack. So to increase strength and triangulation, I installed additional full-length struts I'd salvaged from a WALD basket.

Hose clamps hold the platform securely to the mini-rack.

L-brackets (above) hold the guard rail securely. Front pair of bolts also secure the full-length Wald basket struts (bottom end incorporated with fender stay bolt, in fork eyelet.
Total cost of creating and assembling my porteur rack came to around $30 and change.
And it actually looks okay. My bag fits nicely in the rack, and with the addition of a couple of lashing straps it's sturdy enough to manage a short case of beer or a trio of growlers (something to keep in mind for summer barbecue season).
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cheapskate repairs: Blackburn rear rack

In my ongoing quest to scavenge free parts and accessories for my refugee bikes, I sometimes come across components that are broken seemingly beyond repair. They get thrown out and I rescue them from dumpsters and scrap metal piles.
This rear rack was lying on the ground next to a dumpster -- presumably someone aimed for the dumpster and missed -- because the rear half of the struts had broken away from the top platform slats.
The welds weren't all that great to begin with, and the aluminum made for a weaker weld anyway.
So if I wanted to make it useful again I'd have to find a way to repair the broken connections.

(Left: The chipped paint reveals the break in the aluminum weld, between the end of the cross-slat and the round outside tube)

I tried epoxy, which didn't really work. (The forces involved in mounting a rack and carrying loads should have told me that.)

So then, I drilled holes in the top cross-slat, and then used galvanized metal stripping folded over on itself a couple times, wrapped it around the outside of the platform, and bolted it in place.

It held securely.

But then, I needed to cover the sharp edges  so anyone loading the rack wouldn't cut their fingers. So I added a few wraps of cloth handlebar tape, covered with a layer of electrical tape.

I tested the rack by sitting on it sideways on the ground. It held in place without problems.

I'm pleased with the repair and look forward to mounting it on the next bike I fix up.

Coming next: A porteur rack from spare parts, including a small broiling pan, to replace the old front basket on my BStone.
I hope to get started on this before the week's out, but may not finish it until I get back from my music convention in a couple of weeks.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

on value (real and perceived)

The latest round of donor bikes for my refugee resettlement project includes some older mountain bikes that, while not top-drawer, were still quite fine in their day.

When I get a nicer bike as a donation, I have two and a half choices:
1. I tune up the bike as it is, slap some stickers on the logos, add the accessories and send it out;
2. Remove the most desirable/high-end parts, swap in perfectly functional cheaper parts, finish the tune up, et al, and send it along;
3. Strip the bike down completely.

Option #1 is the easiest and most direct. It's what I do to 98% of all the bikes I get.
But most of those bikes are very basic, entry-level, department store bikes that, once tuned, will be perfectly okay as daily transportation.

Option # 2 is a little more involved. It's much more of a judgment call as to which parts need to come off. The decision-making process is determined by two things:
First, I cannot afford to pay totally out-of-pocket for the accessories I think ought to go with each bike (rackm fenders, lights, decent lock, etc). Selling off the higher-end parts separately helps to fund the cost of the accessories.
Second, most of the bikes are being handed off to families who will end up living in low-rent housing and in less-safe neighborhoods, where bikes get stolen every hour or two. Bike thieves have gotten much more savvy about what vintage parts are worth, and act accordingly. So if I can remove some of the bling before the bike goes out, it may stay in the recipient's hands longer.
That's why I cover up logos with stickers and take off the super-fancy bits that occasionally come with a donated bike.

Case in point: Right now, I have a mountain bike in the workstand that's a little over twenty years old. It wasn't high-end to begin with, and it's pretty worn. And I probably won't swap anything else in unless it's to replace a non-functioning part. But because it's a vintage mountain bike I will go ahead and cover up all the logos with hard-to-remove stickers and reflective tape.

(The bike, with logos obscured and cheaper crankset swapped in. The better crankset was sold on Craigslist and paid for some used fenders, replacement inner tubes and a rear rack.)

Why go to all this trouble?

Why not just fix up the bike as it is, leave the cosmetics alone, and send it out into the world?
Why buy into the hype about "value"?

Well, I didn't invent this system. Even if I wanted to pretend it doesn't affect me, and you, and every person in a modernized country that rides a bike, it mostly does on some level. Because, try as we might to pretend that a bike is a bike is a bike, whether the downtube says Magna or Nishiki or Rivendell, what it says on the downtube actually matters out there in the world. That's why carbon-fiber racing bikes end up under guys who are wearing filthy, tattered clothes and who are wobbling back and forth on the bike because they're way too short for it. That's why thirty-year-old mountain bike parts that show signs of rust and dirt from use end up on eBay priced at twice what they sold for new. And that is why, although I don't really have to, I outfit every bike with as good a lock as I can afford for it.

Because value is a weird thing when it comes to bikes.
In a developing country, a bike that works perfectly is incredibly valuable.
Because in a remote place with no running water or reliable electricity, getting somewhere on foot takes forever and getting there on a bike could literally save someone's life.
But in the United States, a new department store bike can be had for a hundred bucks. A used department store bike can be had for twenty-five.
If you ride under the bridges in downtown Portland and along the East Bank, you'll find any number of bicycle "chop shops" where bikes are dismantled and parts are sold back and forth by homeless men (often the same ones who stole the bikes). Look more closely, if you can get that close without arousing suspicion, and you might notice that quite a few of those bikes and parts are fairly high-end.
Because here in the US, "value" makes some of us silly, or stupid, or mean.

And as long as I'm trying to do this on my own, as a hobby, as my own personal mitzvah project, I have to buy into the whole, overblown concept of "value" so I can help fund these bikes for people who really, really need them. I stopped beating myself up about this disconnect awhile ago. Because the idea that I'm giving someone a free bike so they can go out and get a job working for someone else and helping the capitalist wheel spin around and around would make me crazy if I let it.
So I simply tell myself that, on some level, perhaps giving bikes away for free to those who need them most -- regardless of perceived "value" -- is my little way of swatting back at unchecked capitalism. And I leave it at that.

So if you're reading this and live in the Portland area, I can always use more U-locks (with working keys, please, no combo locks), rear racks and lights. If you've got any to spare -- or if you work in a shop and they'd like to help out with a donation -- please hit me up.

Happy riding.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

i took a break. i may take more. but for now, i'm still loving my bicycle life.

But for now, Here I am.

I made a few calls, reached out and asked for help, sought resources to help me make my next steps.
It really helped, and although I am still tired, I feel better.
So today, after a leisurely morning with Sweetie, I decided that, while it was too cold and I felt too tired to ride my bike, sitting on a stool and doing some light puttering would be a good thing to do.
So I went out to the Bicycle Brain Trust and straightened up a bit. Then I grabbed a pair of old mountain bike wheels I'd gotten as a donation, and took a closer look at them.

Single-walled rims, stainless spokes, high-flange hubs. These were original on some bike from the 1980's -- nothing spectacular, but nothing super awful either. The front wheel looked like it would be fine with just some lube and a light touch in the truing stand, but the rear wheel's hub bearings felt horrible and I knew I'd need to open it up to inspect further.

Turns out that the wheel had been outfitted with cheap raced bearings.
I took the hub apart, and saw that the races (the metal hoops that hold the bearings in place) were a mess and that some bearings had either disintegrated or fallen out completely from years of inattention. The bearing grease had turned to a hard sludge that required a small screwdriver to scrape out before fresh grease could be applied.

On the drive side of the hub, the dustcap was so malformed that it was basically useless for retaining bearings, and I had to replace it with a used one from my drawer of bits.

Looking closely at the bearing races, the drive side race was empty of its bearings -- I assumed they'd all fallen out -- while the non-drive side race still had some left. I removed both races and tossed them into the recycling bin.

When I was learning how to fix bikes years ago, the shop I worked at was guided by a strong re-use/recycle ethos, meaning that if anything could be repaired and reused, that was usually preferable to simply slapping on new part every time. That ethos continues to guide my work as a bicycle hobbyist and volunteer today. I clean, sort and save old parts with the hope of reusing them on another bike down the road. That includes bearings, which I would rescue from the trap in the bottom of the shop's parts washer. When I had enough to fill a small coffee can, I'd toss them in pour some solvent over them, and swicsh them around for several minutes to get rid of the worst of the sludge that still clung to them.
Then, I'd transfer them to an old mesh noddle strainer and swirl them around for a few minutes more. Finally I'd put them into small bottles, take them home and label them as recycled. I've collected quite a supply of these old bearings, mostly 1/4" for use in rear hubs and bottom brackets. When a job calls for an overhaul but the hub or bottom bracket shows wear,and the bike is either a donation or a repair job for someone with limited funds, I'll use my recycled bearings and some thick red grease to get the bike back on the road.

I would never do this in a shop.

But then, repairing bikes in a shop has changed so much in just the last decade that most shop mechanics would rather replace an entire wheel than overhaulthe existing hub, especially if the rim shows wear as well.  Most shops today won't even take in certain old bikes for repair at all, knowing that a full overhaul on something so old will be a money-loser (based on the shop's hourly labor rates). It's simply easier -- and cheaper, for a shop -- to replace rather than repair.

This is why today's mechanics aren't being taught how to overhaul internally-geared hubs (today's hubs aren't designed to be overhauled, anyway) or take apart and replace individual cassette or freewheel cogs (again, it's cheap and faster to replace the whole thing -- and new bikes don't come with freewheels anyway).

After I finished overhauling the hub, I considered my options for procuring a rim strip -- so I could mount a tire and tube. Single-walled rims generally do well with a simply rubber rim strip, available at any shop. But they don't last, and unless they're in really good shape when they get to me, I don't save them. It's not ideal to use thicker cloth tape in a single-walled rim (the tube will malfom and if the cloth tape comes loose it can actually cause pinch flats).
So in the end, I added a couple layers of electrical tape. it's cheap, plentiful and lasts longer than a rubber strip anyway.

When I was done, I checked it in the truing stand and discovered that the wheels was basically straight and pretty consistently tension all around. I installed a used tire and tube and called it good.

I examined the front wheel of the pair, discovered that the bearings felt good and just needed a spot of lube, and took care of that. When I go up to the CCC tomorrow for Scrap Sunday, I'll check the bin for a free tire I can use on my front wheel and then I'll have a set of wheels ready to install on a refugee bike.

My love of repurposing, recycling and scavenging is a big part of why I much prefer being a hobbyist and volunteer mechanic today. After all my years in the industry, I got really disheartened by all the waste I saw, and vowed that if I ever set up a workshop of my own I'd dedicate some space to rescued, repaired parts. Although my space is quite limited, I've regretted that decision.
Now I just need to wait for a mountain bike frame to be donated that I can use these wheels on.

Nap time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

taking a break

Portland has been graced with a few really nice, unseasonably warm days this month. So I got out and rode my bike.

Lately it doesn't feel like enough.

The world is a mess, I'm struggling with depression and -- to be frank -- something akin to poverty (we're not hopeless, we still live in a house, but we are really broke and barely have the ability to pay our bills and I can't seem to find work).
So far most of the last six months, when I go coffeeneuring I take coffee I made at home, sneak it in, grab a table and try to look like a customer.
Today I couldn't do it. I couldn't pretend to be middle class or anything remotely close to it.
So today I stayed home. Without a regular job, there's nowhere for me to really ride to -- especially when most of my local friends all work and have jobs with regular hours and I'd ride alone.
So yeah, that's what depression and being poor look like.

I am seriously considering selling off the nice bikes and riding a piece of crap that's less likely to attract thieves.

because if they want your bike, they will take it.

Below: A bike rack outside The Fresh Pot last summer, where someone with a Sawz-All tried to but through a rack. I assume that if they hadn't attracted attention or something, they would've stayed long enough to finish the job.

I am struggling with depression, lack of employment and frankly, a lack of interest. On my good days, I can do things and feel pretty good. When I'm done, I feel tired from the effort.
On my bad days I feel like crap (physically and emotionally), and I can't do much of anything useful and I feel like just giving up.

The freelancing thing is exhausting and stressful, so stressful that I haven't had enough energy to actually create new music in awhile because I'm using all my available energy to find ways to make money so we can pay our bills.

So that's what it's like to be me these days.
Which is why I think I'm going to stop posting her, at least for awhile.
It takes energy to curate the few good experiences I DO have, and I really need that energy for other things right now. I feel, in fact, a lot like that bike rack looks. Not entirely broken, but pretty raw and vulnerable and really beat.
So I'm taking a break.
Ride safely, please.

Friday, January 5, 2018

off-season coffeeneuring 2018: #3

A lovely loop today, on a sunny afternoon between rainy fronts.
Along the way I got some supplies at Harbor Freight (what would any of us tinkerers do without Harbor Freight?), grabbed some coffee and a peanut-chocolate krispy bar at New Seasons, and enjoyed the sunbreaks through the clouds as I pedaled. I could feel my mood lighten, proof again that riding a bike is usually a good idea.
(It also helped that the temps were warmer today, with highs near 50F.)
It's hard sometimes to describe what riding feels like, especially to friends who don't ride.
I'm slower these days, but when I turn the cranks my form still feels as smooth and easy as when I raced. And the form feels good enough to more than make up for my lack of speed. Riding up and down the back alleys was nice in the late afternoon sun as I rolled over gravel and potholes and grassy stubs.
It just felt really nice to get out and ride. I'll do some more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

really, no big deal here.

This week, while I fight sleep deprivation due to caring for a family member, and try to book more gigs, and hope to get in a bike ride or three, I get this weather report:

Before my non-Portland readers get wigged out, you should know that this is fairly typical winter weather here. When it rains, the temps hover in the low to mid 40sF. When it's dry, the lows drop down to freezing or a little below.
Extremes like cold snaps in the teens, or snow and ice, are not a frequent occurrence here. Yes, we'll see that sometimes, but not cnsistently throughout the winter. Most of the time, it sort of looks like this.
Relax. If I manage to find the energy to ride, I'll have full fenders, raingear and woolies. And I won't drown. Really, our weather is no big deal here.
So give a little love to Florida, where they are seeing lows below freezing and have every reason to freak out. Their oranges -- OUR oranges, really -- are dying from the frost. And Floridians generally do not own whole trunkloads of winter wear (unless they ski in Vail every year, but why would you live in Florida if you love to ski? Moce to Colorado and be done with it).
Perhaps a wool sock drive for South Miami is in order.

Meanwhile, here in Portland, I'll put on a heavy sweater and snuggle on the couch with the cat.
Winter is a great time to be a cat, or anything else completely covered in fur.
Stay warm, and happy riding!