Sunday, October 21, 2018

2018 coffeeneuring challenge # 4: taco bell. (i know, i know.)

I left the house around 12:30 and rode to three different places that all turned out to be closed on Sundays. The fourth place had a line out the door. In the end, I decided to go to Peet's, where I thought I had a little something left on my card. But on the way there, I was confronted with yet another block of tents parked along a sidewalk.

My heart sank.

Shit, I thought. Will this ever get better? And what can I do about it if the people with the power and wealth won't do anything?
An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 men, women and children go to sleep outside every night in Portland, due to a crippling combination of things that all point to the one big thing: poverty.

When you're dirt poor in a city, you can't always access medical or social services. The cost of transit fare may be enough to halt you in your tracks. Rents are rising much faster than wages. There is a severe lack of affordable housing that the city and development interests are simply not acting to remedy.

So we have a ton of people forced to sleep outside.
And their numbers are growing.

Distraught at the sight of another row of tents, I lost all interest in coffee. But I hadn't eaten anything since around 7am and it was going on 2:30. I had to eat something in order to take my meds, so I went to the closest place I could find: A Taco Bell.

Yeah, I know. It really is all that bad.
I ordered a veggie burrito and some cinnamon twists, and ate them with my own bottle of water while I watched the people around me.

Inside and outside the restaurant, people who looked like they hadn't bathed or eaten in days clustered around benches, fell asleep at an inside table, or nibbled the edge of a paper cup that had held liquid hours ago.

My "lunch," such as it was, cost less than three bucks. Fast food is cheap and that's why poor people eat lots of it.

Not sure whether or not I'll continue the coffeeneuring challenge. Today, like so many other things I do in my day to day living, it feels sort of pointless. I'll see how things go tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018 coffeeneuring challenge # 3; arbor lodge coffee

Saturday came and went. After helping to lead services at my shul, I picked up my new glasses at the optometrist, came home and crashed for a long Shabbes nap. I woke up at 4, realized I hadn't ridden all day, and decided to take an evening ride. The sun was low in the sky and would set soon, but there was still plenty of light as I made my way to The Arbor Lodge Coffee. I got there half an hour before closing and was treated to a free cup at the end of the pot of coffee, and a day-old snickerdoodle for twenty-five cents.
I also bought a patch. The price was right (three bucks) and I liked the design. I'll make some space for it on one of my bike bags.

I continued on to Overlook and turned south onto Willamette Boulevard, enjoying the cooling air and the dramatic drop of the sun behind the west hills.

I was also really enjoying the Dahon folding bike, which I plan to take with me to Ashland next week so I can get some riding in between plays at the Shakespeare Festival.

I'd attached a Bushwhacker "Shasta" handlebar pouch to hold my coffee cup, at the suggestion of a reader of this blog (thanks!). It's not perfect -- it hangs at a slight angle because the straps are not positioned exactly to fit the folding bike setup -- and has no extra pockets the way the fancy, locally-sewn ones do; but for ten bucks it fits the bill nicely without getting in the way of pedaling, and it's far more affordable than the locally-made models that start at $50.

Autumn here has been warm and dry, so the leaves have taken their time in turning and falling. But there are enough leaves on the ground now that I think we're on the downward slope of the season. Rain is forecast for the end of next week and after that most of the rest of the leaves will make their way to the ground. I've been enjoying the rich colors on my rides

Sunset at Overlook (with the Willamette River and industrial complex below, and the West Hills in the distance; and moonrise as seen from N. Rosa Parks Way.
Total: around six miles. It was still just barely light enough when I got home that I quickly mowed the lawn before the light faded. One less thing to do tomorrow, and more time to ride.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018 coffeeneuring challenge # 2: world cup coffee & tea

Today's adventure dawned clear and cool. The ride into town was delicious, cold enough to need a sweater, wool cap and full-finger gloves but not freezing. And whenever I rode in the sun my back ws pleasantly warmed.
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I rode into northwest Portland and up to World Cup Coffee & Tea, where I ordered a cup of the dark roast and a bagel. I had invited other Portland coffeeneurs to join me, but none did. It gave me an opportunity to people-watch and enjoy the changing colors of fall.

I also introduced myself to the new manager, gave him my card and told him of my musical history with the cafe. I suggested we talk about me coming in and playing live music some Sunday morning. He was interested and said he'd be in touch.
Before I left, I got a ginger cookie that was absolutely delicious.
So if you go there, get the ginger cookie.

Friday, October 12, 2018

2018 coffeeneuring challenige #1: Starbucks, NE MLK & Ainsworth

I went with the tried and true today, a warmup for Coffeeneuring and a longer test ride of my new (to me) folding bike. Scored well on both counts.

I know some people are down on Starbucks, but sometimes when you need decent coffee and there's nothing else nearby, you know what you'll get there. Because if nothing else, Starbucks is consistent, and consistently far better than Dunkin' Donuts.

I also wanted to try out a longer ride on the new folding bike that I got last month and which I've been steadily upgrading and tweaking to make it better.

A minor saddle adjustment along the way was all I needed to make this a pretty happy ride.

I still can't stand the folding pedals, but I'm not ready to pop fifty bucks for something fancy.
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 The cup I've taken with me on almost every Coffeeneuring ride since I found it seven years ago, from Klean Kanteen, is still going strong and still keeping my coffee hot (or cold, as was the case with today's frappacino). I found this lying on the sidewalk on the Broadway Bridge. The brown paint has chipped off even more and at some point it will all be gone. A great thermal cup and worth every penny, even if I had bought it. Which I didn't in this case.
Tomorrow, the Portland-area social kickoff of the Challenge, a meetup in the morning at World Cup Coffee & Tea on NW Glisan. Cheers!
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

UPDATE: the dahon folder, version 3.0

After installing the B'Stone "half moon" handlebar, I still wasn't happy with the Dahon I'd recently acquired. It was geared too high; the rapid-rise derailleur was fussy and giving me fits; and the plastic pedals were flimsy and uncomfortable. So I resolved to take one more crack at making this bike make sense for me before giving up on it.

1. I ordered a new crankset with a smaller chainring. The loose-bearing bottom bracket came with a spindle that was a touch too short for the new cranks, and the raced bearings were just awful. I overhauled it with loose bearings and a slightly longer spindle from the parts box. Switching from 52t to 48t was a revelation. Also, the cheesy, plastic anti-chain-jump device was no longer needed with chain guards on both sides of the chainring, so I yanked it from the seat tube altogether.

2. I scored some all-metal folding pedals really cheap on eBay. They are sturdier, but no more comfortable than the plastic ones they replaced. I'm not ready to spend $50 on fancy pedals so I'll live with these for awhile.

3. I fine-tuned the stock derailleur, after realizing that installing anything else simply would not work on this frame. I'd have to live with rapid-rise and make it better if I could. The biggest hassle was the placement of the limit screws (really, Dahon? whose bright idea was it to put them where no tool could easily reach without first loosening the derailleur from the hanger hole? Stupid, stupid). Once I sorted it all out, I adjusted it and made it as good as I possibly could.  A smaller chainring up front helped make the gears shift more smoothly as well.

4. A small saddlebag to carry everything while still fitting with a folding bike was the last touch.

The only challenge remains how to carry a water bottle on this bike. There are two eyelets on the main tube but the cage would be positioned horizontally; and where would the cage go if I want to fold the bike? I'm looking for a clip-on bottle cage that will fit the handlebar securely until I'm ready to take it off for folding. (Suggestions welcome.)

The test ride around the block was pretty nice -- better hand position, easier and smoother pedaling, and overall better fit have convinced me that this has a place in my stable, and I'm going to keep it.
Some more minor tweaking is probably still in order, and maybe a different saddle; but basically it's all there.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

now that we know our government is officially corrupt, how do we act?

So let's talk about Mass DIsobedience for a moment.
What does this look like? What does this mean?

A proposal:
-- use social media to and to reach out to like-minded folks and to BEGIN conversations.
-- once connections are established, continue these conversations OFF social media, face to face, on the local level. This is important, because we need to get to know and trust each other and we need to be able to talk and plan away from the prying eyes of five zillion social media consumers (and the government).
-- once local groups are organized, decide what your brand of civil disobedience will look like: protests at City Hall? Helping build bigger and safer homeless encampments? Driving to the state capitol and having a die-in? Chaining yourselves to the doors of a government building?
-- consider the likelihood of mass arrests for these actions.
-- how will those arrested deal with going to jail? The legal entanglements that come after that? Child care while incarcerated?
-- parents of young children may want to consider providing additional childcare for others; or, if they feel called to be on the front lines, they might want to arrange for a safe place (relative/community/etc) to send their kids to, ideally far from the government's reach if possible.
-- Does anyone envision a general strike? It's no longer enough to simply stop coming to work, as there are many, many very poor people who will gladly take your low-wage service job in order to stay housed. A general strike at this point will likely need to include blocking access to the means of production, whether it's an Amazon warehouse, a hotel, an airport baggage facility or an Amtrak depot. Consider what kind of numbers your effort will require and recruit for that.
-- Be willing to acknowledge your white privilege in the presence of black and brown people. Since you cannot deny it, USE it to subvert the dominant paradigm wherever and whenever possible. For some that will mean speaking up when you see a person of color being attacked/harassed. For others it may mean finding more underground ways (both legal and illegal) to use your privilege to benefit others without that privilege (you're smart, figure it out).

Finally, recognize that if you're serious about civil disobedience in 2018, it will mean that your actions can be interpreted as being illegal and punishable by a corrupt government. The law will not necessarily be on your side. So perhaps be prepared to be treated like a criminal even when you know you're not one. And lay the groundwork to protect your loved ones in the event that this happens.
I'm not advocating any particular action over another, or over a lack of action. I'm just laying out some of the many possibilities of what disobedient actors may be up against. Use common sense and consider your options. And then, act in whatever way makes the most sense.
Be careful out there, and look out for each other.

Monday, September 24, 2018

8th annual Coffeeneuring Challenge begins October 12!

If you follow this blog, you know the drill. Each October since 2010, the fabulous Mary G. has facilitated the annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. The format is simple: 7 rides to a coffee shop of your choice (a different one each time, please), two rides a week, for seven weekends. Document your adventures along the way. Choosing a theme (or a theme-within-a-theme, you multitaskers)
is optional.

I'll be documenting my rides right here at Rancho Beth.

I'm on my own Friday the 12th, but will host the official Portland Coffeeneuring Meetup on Saturday, October 13, 9am at World Cup Coffee & Tea in NW Portland.
Be one of the cool kids by bringing your own reusable mug.

Official Rules can be found HERE.

Happy caffeinating, and happy riding.

Friday, September 21, 2018

First ride: Dahon Mariner folding bike

I've never owned a folding bike before. I saw no need, living a mostly local life with a bike that already did everything I asked of it and easily fit on the front bus rack. Since I travel with musical instruments, taking along a folding bike as well would be impractical at best.

Today, a friend handed off a folding bike she'd gotten from someone else. I pumped up the tires, lubed the chain, adjusted the brakes and took it up and down the block. It didn't feel wobbly at all.
So I decided that when I ran errands later, I'd take the folder out on an extended ride and see if it was something I'd want to keep in my stable.

My friend who knows more about folders than I do (and who sells them in his shop) told me it's a pretty nice bike, and probably retailed for $600-650 when new.

As folding bikes go it's not unattractive.

That said, it's still sort of goofy-looking if you're accustomed to a non-folding, standard bike.

This one came with SKS fenders, rather nice road tires and a rear rack that, while proportioned to a 20" wheeled folding bike, would still be useful for at least some portage.

The adjustment range seems adequate for most adults (though anyone over 6 feet would find it a little on the short side for extended riding).

The plastic pedals are cheap and not terribly durable. They're also not very comfortable; and if I keep this bike I'll swap in something easier on my feet.

The straight handlebar is a non-starter for me. If I keep this bike, I'll definitely swap in something with at least a little more sweep, even if it partially defeats the folding purpose.

The biggest bummer on this bike is the shifting. A cheap derailleur, made by an anonymous factory and stamped with the Dahon logo, sits in an odd position, bypassing the cable housing stop and requiring full-length housing to function. Worse, the cage is too short to allow for  good chain-wrap in the largest cog.

And even worse than that, it's a Rapid Rise derailleur, so when you pull cable the gearing actually gets lower, and when you let cable out the gearing gets higher. I know some people like it, but I've never been a fan. Combined with the entry-level grip-shift it does little to inspire me.

Replacing it will be a bother, another reason to let it be and pass the bike along to another home.
But I'll give it a week or two before I decide.

Friday, September 14, 2018

use it or lose it?

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I left Citybikes six years ago this week.

I still had a part-time job teaching at a local synagogue, which kept me commuting regularly by bike for another two years. When I was let go from that job in spring 2014, I had no regular bike commute anymore. Instead, I became a touring freelance musician, which meant I no longer rode a bicycle daily.

In addition, my body was undergoing the very real and sometimes challenging changes that come with perimenopause: mood swings, hot flashes, increased brain fuzziness and depression.

Finally, the effects of Crohn's disease were increasing in frequency and intensity, leading to greater and more frequent fatigue and a lot more time spent in the bathroom.

Over the last six years, and especially over the last three or so, I've watched my body grow slower, creakier and heavier. I've noted that my moods aren't what they used to be. And this week, I had to admit to myself that I'm just not as excited about bicycles or bicycling as I once was.
I tried turning wrenches a few days a week at a nonprofit in July and August, and in the end my hands hurt so much that I couldn't continue past the end of August. (I'm keeping the door open for next spring in case they have the funds to hire me again and my hands are improved.)

And now that the days are noticeably shorter, I've pulled out the SAD lamp (happily scored this summer at a yard sale for two bucks) and my wife and I take turns using it in the morning. Does it help? Not sure yet. I hope so. Because I do not want a repeat of last winter when everything felt awful.

I am pondering a gym membership -- if I can find an affordable one -- and also looking at other ways to create reasons to get out of the house and ride my bike when I'm in town.

I've also bought myself a new pair of rain pants. I don't enjoy riding in the rain as much as I used to, but if I can remove the equipment barrier perhaps that will help.

Looking over the list of physical and emotional challenges that have laid me lower, can I pull out specific causes for why and how this evolution has happened?
I'm a mechanic, so that's how my brain works: find the cause of the problem, fix it, and get back on the road.

However, it's not that simple in this case. The human body is complicated and messy, and everything is wired together in ways scientists are still trying to understand. The fact is that, between entering my mid-50s, perimenopause, depression and auto-immune disease, some people have told me it's a wonder I still ride at all, or that I still have the energy to travel at all. The fact is that all of these pesky things are wired together and fixing one won't automatically fix the others.
Of course, I've asked myself repeatedly if the decrease in my riding (both time and miles) has also contributed to this current sorry state, and it probably has at least in part. But that's really a chicken-or-egg question. Because it's all of a piece. The vagaries of aging are impossible to catalogue so precisely, and I could waste a lot of time trying to do that here.

I've gained 25 pounds since I last raced a mountain bike seven years ago. I don't like that, either.
So today, another bike ride. And some research on cheap gym memberships in Portland. Because I feel the need to try and change this, even in some small way, if I can.

Below: Scenes from yesterday's ride to Kenton.
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Happy riding.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

When your loved ones decide to ride

My nephew has a job he likes, and it's close enough to home that he can ride a bicycle to and from.
So for his upcoing birthday this year, he's asked everyone to chip in on various things to make his commute nicer.
I told him to come over on his way home from work and I'd hand him a bunch of stuff I no longer use that would be perfect for him (we're the same height and close enough to the same size in inseam that a lot of my old bikey stuff fits him).

So tonight, he stopped by on his latest bike, a 29'er that had been abandoned outside my sister's office and which went unclaimed for ninety days.  It's a cheap aluminum mountain bike with a shock fork and front disc brake, and a rear V-brake. After I'd handed him a rain suit, shoe covers, summer and winter gloves and some other small accessories I had extras of, I noticed that his bolt-on rear derailleur had been bolted onto the fender eyelet, rather than into the dropout behind the axle. Besides making the shifting suck, it caused the axle to sit precariously close to the end of the dropout, not an ideal situation.
I insisted on fixing this before he left -- "it'll take five minutes," I said -- and when I was done, I ran the bike through all its gears and he was amazed. "No wonder I only had two working gears!"
(Stock photo below shows what it SHOULD look like.)
Image result for bolt on derailleur

I love it when it's easy to keep my loved ones happy and on their bikes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bad air again today in Portland

Portland friends: If you're planning to go outside today, keep it short. The air quality is sucky due to smoke from wildfires north and south of us (NoCal, Siskiyous, Columbia Gorge and B.C.).

This is expected to dissipate by the end of the week. In the meantime, shorten your trip with transit or take the bus entirely.

If you do go for an extended ride, cover your nose and mouth with a mask or bandana.

Be safe out there -- Love, Auntie Beth

Related image

Saturday, August 18, 2018

E-scooters: is Portland ready for these? I'm not.

If I get smacked by one of these at Sunday Parkways tomorrow I swear I'll toss it in the river.
A running tally of e-scooters and bikes reported as dumped in the Willamette River in Portland, OR
Seriously. I'm riding what may well be my final volunteer mechanic shift at Sunday Parkways tomorrow (after 11 years I'm ready for a break). E-scooters have taken over the city streets and so far, while most people seem to be handling it well, enough jokers are riding these things too fast, the wrong way down the street and often helmetless (illegal but also unenforceable) that it's a matter of when, not if, someone will die.

I wish the City Council or PBOT had figure out how to enforce the rules before letting these things loose on the streets. I've almost been hit twice in the three weeks they've been out there.

I know I'll see E-scooters tomorrow during my Mobile Mechanic shift. They're allowed to be on the route at Sunday Parkways. Let's hope no one g\does anything stupid, because if they do, the City has clearly proven its inability to deal with it.
(below: on the sidewalk without a helmet. Both illegal. Whatever.)

People on electric scooters watch the Hawthorne Bridge go up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

the loneliness of the long-distance rider: or, why I don't play well with others

For almost twenty years, I was a co-owner in a cooperatively-run bicycle shop. We had as few as 8 owners and as many 16 during my tenure. In that time, I learned a lot about how to facilitate meetings, what it means to build consensus, and the importance of checking in with each other before embarking on a new project or making changes to the business that would affect the collective.

I also learned a lot about why cooperatives set up in a socialist style almost always fail past a certain size and/or point in history. Because although we love the idea of cooperation and a collective cause, we've all grown up in a world with a capitalist way of thinking. Past a certain point it's hard for capitalist-minded humans to be altruistic, or to at least think of the others in the group.

Finally, I learned a lot about myself. When my time at the cooperative bike shop came to an end, I recognized that the experience had changed me, too. I was no longer interested in spending half my working life in meetings to process about the work I was doing. I was someone who preferred to just do, to fix, to make, to get things done; and couldn't be bothered with having to check in every time I had a question or an idea. When my time at Citybikes came to an abrupt and unhappy end six years ago, it was in large part because I'd kept trying to invest and believe in the process, and in a group of people with whom I'd done good work over a long period of my life; and in the end they made it clear that they didn't really need me anymore. So I left.

Over the succeeding six years I've grown used to working alone; to owning my mistakes and correcting them myself (or at least learning from them if I couldn't undo the damage); and taking my own risks. Being married, I'm devoted enough to my wife that I happily check in with her before jumping off to my own next adventure, and when we decide it's not prudent I hold off. But as far as working with larger groups in cooperation again, that's not something I'm likely to do going forward. Especially if I don't have to in order to get or keep a job.

So when my synagogue redesigned its cooperative model last year to include still more committees and liasons and chairpeople, I got worried. When my faith community began dropping large hints that the way into community involvement would, going forward, be committee involvement, I watched myself rapidly losing interest. And when they made official the years-long policy of not paying members for services to the synagogue, so that no one would be paid for leading worship or music except the Rabbi, I felt myself completely deflate.

Still, I hung in there. We all need community, right? I know I do. When I came up with an idea for a small, informal gathering that just needed time and space at the shul, I was brought up short with the new reality of the expanded committee system. I was told that from now on, everything would have to be run through that system in order to move forward. Everything would have to be processed in meetings, even my small gathering of folks who would just get together for an hour of Adult Coloring.

And that's when I lost it.

I've been forced to recognize that, after twenty years at a co-op bike shop, I ended up having nothing to show for it besides my pain and my experiences. Now, sixteen years into membership at my shul, I feel that feeling coming on again, and find myself pondering the very real possibility of going on without affiliation at any synagogue, anywhere.

That's not to say I wouldn't have a sense of community. I know lots of people in Portland, and my wife and I have made a nice simple life together here. I don't see that changing. But I do sense that the older I get, the less inclined I am to be patient with process, and with people who love to process. Life is too short for me to just sit around and talk about stuff anymore. I want to just DO, MAKE, LIVE. Don't bother me with another fucking meeting about the meeting we had last week to process the meeting we'd had before that.

If that makes me the lonely long-distance biker, then I guess that's what I am.

When the air quality clears up I'll go for a bike ride and think about what it means to gain clarity.

In the midst of all this noise, I find that I am grateful.
Grateful for the chance to know myself better, to own my shit and to not hate myself for having the quirks and imperfections that I have now.

I mostly ride alone these days on my bike. So it stands to reason that most of my other rides will be less peopled as well. There is loneliness, to be sure, but there is also a great deal of spontaneity and freedom. I've given up enough of the latter two long enough. I'll enjoy them now, and live in a larger circle of friends where the boundaries are more vague and fluid, and I feel freer to simply act.

Happy riding.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 OCBA handbuilt frame show CANCELED: Is too much too much?

The Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association have just announced the cancellation of their 2018 Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, citing "low levels of interest". You can read about it here:
Predictably, lots of readers had plenty to say about why the bottom appears to have fallen out of the local framebuilding scene. Most mentioned gentrification and Portland's unchecked growth, citing new arrivals who want a cleaner, more pristine kind of lifestyle than "old" Portland provided.

Here is my response:

Portland has grown up. We don’t always like the way our kids turn out but now that they have to pay their own rent we don’t really have any say. (And don’t EVEN think you can move back home, because I’ve gone and turned your bedroom into my bike workspace.)


I worked in the bike industry full-time for almost two decades. During that time, I watched a number of trends come and go. Not ONE of those trends catered to lower-income transportational riders who worked on their own bikes because that’s what their budget allowed. Nearly all of the trends can draw a line of DNA back to racing (including mega-distance randonneuring and high-performance, credit-card touring).

Trickle-down from racing — and its accompanying design, production and marketing — is what has provided a great deal of the financial wherewithal to help grow bicycle innovation. Does it go in a direction I personally like? Not usually. But that trickle-down has long determined what our next bicycles will look and perform like.

Custom bikes are just that: CUSTOM, meant for a specific rider, a one-off. Framebuilders take time to learn their craft and longer still to build up a following. But even with carbon, how much of a following can sustain any framebuilder’s operations? (More baldly put: How many bikes does a person want, need or have the capacity to store?)
Past a certain point, growth becomes dangerously connected to excess and excess unchecked can lead to over-consumption.

One of the reasons I’m relieved to have left the new bike industry is that I’ve always been aware of this relationship and I have had an ambivalent, even difficult time reconciling my sense of ethics with that reality.
I greatly appreciate the devotion to craft expressed by our local framebuilders. And I understand the market forces driving the changes that have led to the cancellation of this year’s show. I wish all of them more success and fulfillment in their chosen line of work. I also hope they have other skillsets in case times get really lean.


I have only a couple more days working at Bikes For Humanity PDX this summer, before the demands of my musical work and the High Holy Days take over my life for several weeks. (We'll talk about what work I might be available for later in the fall.)
I've been glad to fix up old bikes meant for folks on a budget. I've also enjoyed coming up with solutions to mechanical issues on the fly. And the folks I work with are the nicest bunch of people you'd ever want to meet. If you're looking for a grass-roots bicycle nonprofit to give some love to, check out B4H-PDX.

Enjoy some good rides with what's left of the summer. Happy riding!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

BIke hack of the day: caliper brake spring tool

Today's hack: caliper brake springs can be hard to reach for adjustment without the right tool.
Make one by filing down a notch in an old flathead screwdriver.
(Bikes For Humanity PDX volunteers -- we now have one of these in the Skinny Bike Tools drawer.)

Put a flathead screwdriver into a bench vise with the tip about an inch above the vise jaws.
Using a flat file, file a notch into the center of the tip, holding file at a 45-degree angle. Sand the sharp tips lightly (so that if the tool slips you won't cut your hand). 


When you're finished it should look like this:
I made this today at the shop when there was a need for such a tool and the shop didn't have one. However, there were plenty of extra screwdrivers on hand, so with my shop manager's blessing I simply converted one.
It worked beautifully.
Happy hacking!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

potential new bikey hangout: golden pliers

Out and about today on my bike, on errands and scouting out potential hangouts where the atmosphere is undemanding.

Today's exploration took me, on a friend's advice, to a new shop called Golden Pliers.

Steps away from the Interstate MAX line, the shop opened about a month ago, offering a combination of accessories, repairs and a bar serving coffee, alcohol and snacks.

I liked the relaxed, friendly vibe which I felt when I walked in. It helped that seconds after I sat down at the bar, a friend from the bike scene came over to say hi, and we enjoyed some conversation while he finished a beer and I snacked on ice water and peanut butter pretzels.

I walked around the small, cozy space and looked at what they offered. There's a heavy emphasis on bike-packing accessories, including tires, tubes, racks and bottle cages. The single repair stand behind the counter included the excellent clamps from EVT (Efficient Velo Tools), and there was a nice selection of reading material to enjoy with my drink if I wanted.
There were also handmade cycling bags and small items from Makeshifter Canvas Works -- the owner is a partner in the shop -- and I could see the appeal for the younger, fitter bikepacking crowd as well as the urban biking set -- especially the "Snackhole Stem Bag", which I've seen in increasing number on bicycles around town.

Just when I thought I could get away with spending only a couple of bucks on a small bowl of peant pretzels, I turned and saw a stainless steel bottle cage large enough to hold an oversized (3.5" diameter) bottle. I had wanted to convert both of my bikes to hold such a big bottle so I wouldn't have to carry two bottles around town. I gulped a little at the price -- $30! -- but recognized that it was strong and well-made enough that I could expect a number of years from it. So I bit the bullet and bought it. Tonight I affixed the new cage, made by a company called Widefoot, to my All-Rounder, where it fits just fine inside the main triangle.
Now I can dispense with all the smaller bottles and just keep one or two oversized bottles going forward.

I had a nice conversation with the two co-owners, and was invited to taste a sample of some coffee whose roaster was trying to get their product into the shop. It wasn't bad at all.
We all enjoyed the antics of another customer and his toddler son, who grinned like a little imp and flashed those Cheeks Of World Domination -- you know, the kind that, when you see them, you will do anything the child wants you to.
All in all, I spent a lovely 45 minutes there, and would definitely come back when I'm in the neighborhood. It's closer to my home than Velo Cult was, and the vibe is pretty darned nice.
Glad I stopped in.
Happy riding, wherever you go.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

bike hacks: how to fix loose headset cups

At the shop today, I was handed a classic mid-80s Trek road bike that needed an overhaul.
It was a very nice old bike, with all original components. But it had seen better days.
The original wheels with their Matrix rims would have to be cut up and rebuilt, a project for another time; we swapped in another set of used wheels that would work just fine.

Then, I looked at the headset. The cups were both loose enough that I could remove them with my fingers. Not good.
I pulled everything apart, cleaned all the pieces and determined that, if properly re-installed with fresh grease it would be just fine.
So I went to work on fixing the loose cups.

1. Remove the cups from the head tube and clean out everything inside the head tube. Examine the inside of the head tube carefully to make sure nothing is cracked, sticking out or otherwise impeding the turning of the fork's steer tube.
Note how smooth the top of the inside looks. There's really nothing there for the cup to gain any purchase on. When the bike was new, this wasn't a problem, as the parts had close tolerances and fit together tightly; but many miles of riding have loosened things a bit, and sometimes the cups will get wobbly.
Ignoring this situation until it's really annoying will cause damage to the frame and fork. Don't wait!

You COULD fix this with a strong two-part epoxy, and I'll admit that I've done it that way once or twice in my early days of wrenching. But epoxy has two strikes against it: it's messy and hard to clean up, both during and after application; and it has nasty chemicals in it that are not good for you or the for the earth. So skip the epoxy and just use tools.

2. Take a chisel and a hammer. Working your way around the inside of the head tube of the frame, carefully aim the corner of the chisel's edge into the metal of the inside wall, and tap with the hammer. Be careful not to hammer too hard or you can risk damaging the headtube's edge. Take your time; a couple of lighter taps each time should do it. What you want to do is deliberately gouge out tiny metal "teeth" into the head tube, thereby making the inside diameter of the head tube a tiny bit smaller so the tolerance between it and the headset cup will be tight again. You don't need to go crazy with this; every 1/4" or so of tiny gouges all the way around should be sufficient.
When you're finished, you should be able to re-install the headset cup. Shop mechanics will be able to do this with a headset press (if both cups are loose, do the same thing on the other end of the head tube, and then install both cups together with the headset press.)
If you're at home, but you can still put your frame in a bike stand, there's another way to do this: Get a section of 2 x 4 (at least a foot long). Wrap it in a shop towel, position the cup on top of the head tube and position the wrapped 2 x 4 on top of the cup, making sure all edges of the cup are in contact with the wood. Take a hammer and carefully pound on the wood until the cup settles into the frame. Check your work periodically to make sure the cup isn't being ovalized, or going in so crookedly you'll need to punch it out and start again.

If all goes well, you should be able to install the cup with no "daylight" showing between the cup and the frame. (On older frames, the edge will already have been faced at the factory. I hope. If not, you have to decide whether it's worth it to pay a shop to do this -- most home mechanics don't have cutting tools. The ugly truth -- I am usually content to live with less than a millimeter of "daylight" if the cup is fully seated all the way around. Most casual home mechanics don't keep cutting tools at home, as they're very expensive and almost never needed for most simpler repairs.)

If you've done everything right, it should look something like this. You'll note that I installed one cup at a time, because the nonprofit where I'm working this summer doesn't have a headset press.
I made do with a 2 x 4 and a hammer, and it worked fine. Obviously, if the parts are very lightweight/higher quality, they will not stand up to this rough-and-ready sort of mechanistry, and you'll have to use a proper headset press, or pay a shop mechanic to do it for you.)

I repeated this process for the bottom cup. Then I added clean bearings and fresh grease, installed the fork and voila! Good as new.

(NOTE: Gouging out the inside of the head tube will only work on steel frames with external headset cups. I suppose it could work on select older aluminum frames, but I've never tried it and wouldn't advise it. And of course, never on carbon!)

Happy riding!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

disc brakes are mostly overkill

No automatic alt text available.
I admit it. I have not jumped on the disc brake bandwagon. Disc brakes are expensive, add an awful lot of weight to a bike, and are easily damaged and fussy as hell to readjust. And frankly, they're overkill for all but the wettest and/or downhill conditions -- or when someone is riding too fast to properly control their bike.
In short, they're a boondoggle by the bicycle industry to sell us more stuff we don't actually need.
(Insert Grumpy Cat face here.)

So a couple months ago, when these decals showed up at a local bike shop, I jumped on the last two and immediately affixed them to my cargo hauling BStone, which has old-school cantilever brakes.
Which work just fine, even under load.
I'm sure I've just sunk my chance of ever working in a full-service modern bike shop again.
I can live with that.

Coming soon: recycling everything in the name of sustainability (aka cheapskate repairs that are totally safe and good).
Happy riding!