Saturday, June 30, 2012

ride report: multnomah county bike fair

Sweetie and I rode our bikes across town to check out the Multnomah County Bike Fair, the final event of PedalPalooza, Portland's three-week bicycle festival. Although the forecast called for showers off and on through the afternoon, the high would be in the 70's, so we wore summer clothes and brought along only minimal raingear. The ride there was pleasant and cool, with a few sprinkles. I figured our clothes would dry at the event during a break in the drizzle.

The MCBF, now in its tenth year, was much smaller than in past years, and had moved to a small location on the grunds of the old Washington High School. I had skipped the event for a few years because of schedule conflicts and the last time I'd attended there were probably four times as many people there as we saw today. There were far fewer vendors, too. I know nothing about the organization of this event but I do know that the rain probably kept a few folks away. Granted, we did show up around 2:20, at the start of things, so the crowds hadn't really materialized yet. Plus, the opening band was horrid, a tiny and poor imitation of March Fourth Marching Band; they were loud, blatty and terribly out of tune. We took a lopp through the booths, said hi to a few folks I knew, and wlaked over to e nearby restaurant for some cheap Thai lunch. When we returned, the crowds had grown a little bit. We were happy to see that next up on the bill was one of our favorites, the Sprockettes -- the first ever all-girl punk bicycle dance troupe celebrating its eighth anniversary this week -- so we stayed to watch:

After watching their routine, next up was tall-bike jousting. Liz had never seen it so we stayed to watch a little of that too. Before the actual jousting began a fellow hopped on a tall bike and rode it around the arena as a demo on nonchalant tallbike style.                                                       

A few passes of tallbike jousters followed by the sounds of another awful band warming up, and we agreed we'd seen enough. We rode back up to NE Portland, stopping in at the home of friends to catch a bit of the prologue of the Tour de France. Finally, it was time to ride home; the cats needed to be fed and it would get dark. We left as a fine drizzle began. Half a mile on the drizzle had become rain and a few blocks later it had become a downpour. By now, we were soaked to the skin and we laughed and whooped out loud at the grand absurdity of riding through a summer downpour without donning raingear. We sped home through giant raindrops and called it a great day for riding.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

want to trade: my 55cm riv longlow for your 53 cm riv atlantis

After hemming and hawing, trying to ride this bike multiple times and always coming home unhappy and uncomfortable regardless of the setup, and realizing that this frame's sizing and geometry just isn't working for me anymore, the time has come for me to let go of the LongLow. 
Ideally, I'd like to trade framesets straight across for a 53cm Atlantis. 
Failing that, I will probably clean it up and sell it as a whole bike.
Here's the deets:

1999 Rivendell LongLow light touring bike. 55cm square (top tube and seat tube), originally designated as a "custom short", indicating that this was a custom built with a shorter-than-normal top tube, which in those days was about as close as Rivendell would get to designing a womens' specific frame without actually calling it one. Includes the second generation of Rivendell lugs, for which Grant Peterson deliberately delayed my frame so it would have them. Hand-built by Joe Starck. Ridden a lot, mostly for commuting and a few lightly-loaded weekend tours. If I had to estimate mileage I'd say it's been ridden an average of 1,500 miles a year for the last 13 years (mileage went down significantly beginning in 2007 so the overall average went down as well).

Beausage abounds, this bike has its original paint job from 1999; kickstand and heavy U-lock use shows up in the paint and the bike has been touched up with various shades of paint-pen and my niece's nail polish. There is a tiny dent in the top tube near the saddle (a friend accidentally dropped something on the bike while it was parked, it does not compromise the structural integrity and you have to look to find it). Will accept most 700 x 32mm tires with fenders, but absolutely no bigger; currently running Schwalbe Marathons in 32 and they fit.
If someone wants to swap me a Rivendell Atlantis in 53 cm, that's the ideal scenario. 
(I've always wanted an Atlantis; that model was in prototype testing when I ordered the LongLow and not quite available for sale to the general public. If it had been, I would've ordered an Atlantis instead.)

Current buildup includes:
Ritchey Logic headset
Shimano cartridge bottom bracket
Shimano triple cranks, 170mm length
Shimano Deore rear derailleur (new style), Alivio front derailleur (older style)
Suntour power-ratchet friction shifters (on the stem, best shifters ever made IMHO)
Shimano aero brake levers, Tektro long-reach caliper brakes (note: custom build NOT spec'd for cantis)
Nitto technomic stem (70mm) and Noodle Bar (42cm)
Velo Orange aluminum fenders (early generation, not polished)
Wheels: The wheels currently on this bike are pretty worn out and so if I have to sell this as a whole bike I will include a generic new wheelset with freewheel hub and basic double-walled rims, with your choice of used Schwaleb Marathons or brand new Rubena Flash tires.
If no one has an Atlantis to swap, then I will sell this as a whole bike (except for pedals and saddle). 
I am willing to ship frameset by mail if swapping frameset only.
If I must sell as a whole bike I'd really prefer not to ship outside my area as boxing and shipping this bike without a car and my life is so insanely busy this summer that I just don't have the time to work out the logistics.

(If you want to buy the whole bike I will include an extensive notebook of all the emails and other notes leading up to the building of this bike, including the spec sheet from Rivendell. I saved all this stuff for historic purposes but don't feel as emotionally attached to it as I once did. I'll also toss in caliper brake pads and other extra minor bits that I will no longer need.)
I am really trying to swap frames if possible!
If that doesn't happen then I'll come up with a whole-bike price.

Photos of this bike in various versions/builds over the years can be found here:

Note to folks who have followed the adventures of this bike over the years: Don't be sad! I am getting older, my body is shrinking and it is time for me to consider a bicycling life that does not include this bike. In order for bicycling to be fun the bicycle has to fit and be comfortable. There was a time when I felt more sentimental about this bike but that time has faded and I am really, really okay with it. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

nothing affordable is made in america anymore. get over it.

Last year, a customer purchased a Burley trailer from our shop. He told us that had done extensive research before selecting the Burley Solo, a nice trailer meant for transporting one child. And by and large the trailer has been working just fine for him. However, he has recently experienced wear-and-tear issues. There has been some tearing of the fabric seat along a seam (the mesh fabric has worn away from the stitching). The trailer hitch arm, meant to be used in two different positions depending on whether you're towing it as a trailer or pushing it as a stroller, is stuck in the stroller position, making it harder to use as a trailer.

 This customer came to the shop asking for help with what he clearly saw as a warranty issue. I promised to contact Burley and see what I could find out for him, but I also advised him that Burley, like everyone else, is having their trailers made in China and as a result some warranty issues might take longer to resolve.

The customer was shocked: "What do you MEAN they make their trailers in China?"

I explained that this had been the case for some time, and that in fact, to my knowledge no company was mass-producing trailers in North America anymore. The customer became visibly upset, not at me but at the company. He explained that he had decided upn a Burley trailer because he was under the impression that the company was still based in Eugene, Oregon and still making their products there. Further, he had wanted to support a co-op and, well, Burley was a co-op, right?


I gently explained to him that Burley had ceased being a co-op about six or seven years ago due to the increasingly difficult economic climate, one in which paying over a hundred worker-owners a true living wage had simply become impossible. Further, Burley had been in the process of moving manufacturing operations overseas for nearly a decade; and if Burley were still making their trailers in Eugene no one could afford them. He told me he felt really upset, even betrayed; and suggested that Burley had perhaps misled him (based on the ad copy at their web site).

I shared this with the fellow at Burley's warranty desk and we both shrugged and sighed deeply. If this guy had really done his homework he'd would know that even Chariot, the Canadian company which makes great trailers, had to stop manufacturing in Canada because the cost-to-retail ratio was unsustainable.

If anyone is making a top quality child trailer in the US, that trailer would have to retail for well over $1,000 in order for the company to realize enough of a profit to stay afloat. Burley's flagship trailer, the Chinese-manufactured D'Lite, now retails for over $600, and already US consumers are whining.

In the retail world, nothing has changed.

Americans want good stuff that will last for many years, with ironclad warranties that will cover every conceivable mishap.
But they are not willing to pay more money to get whay they want, and when they're told that quality costs more, they balk.
When we tell them what we charge for labor rates on bicycle repairs, they think we're ripping them off (and we're one of the more affordable shops in town).
Frankly, too many American consumers think they have it all coming to them -- good stuff, cheap prices, free or cheap labor -- as some sort of God-given right.

Buncha babies.

I love bicycles -- always will -- and I love helping people get onto bikes as transportation, but I'm very happy to be phasing out of full-time bicycle retail.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

siren call, part three: too many rocks

The day after I told my teammates that I was planning to build up a geared mountain bike so that I could race short-track in July, the universe had other ideas and began communicating them to me VERY loudly:

a. I went to the doctor, where preliminary tests indicate that arthritis is indeed settling into my body. In fact, it's likely been settling in for some time and I was doing my best to ignore it -- but even while I was hitting the gym my knees were yelling loud and clear to stop. Now, a year later, they hurt going up and down the stairs at work (especially in the mornings); my hands are stiff and creaky every morning and my elbows occasionally groan too. Blood was drawn in order to determine what kind of arthritis I have but in any case, it's what it is and there is no going back to a pre-arthritic state, either physically or mentally.

b. I continue to enjoy commuting daily, and still like to challenge myself on some of the tougher hills; but really that is about it. Whenever I try to press myself to go faster, I find that it isn't really any fun. I will get up the hill eventually, so why worry about when? This attitude has been creeping in for some time but this past week I recognized it and stopped trying to deny it.

c. When I dream of bicycle technology, I dream of cargo bikes with electric-assist. The Xtracycle Sidecar has me especially excited. When I look at the Bridgestone I don't feel nearly the same excitement.

d. On Monday of this week, a young man crashed at short-track. Badly. In fact, catastrophically. He is paralyzed from the chest down and doctors are saying it's permanent. This gave me sme serious pause and forced me to look hard at the realities of my life.

I'm uninsured and likely to remain so indefinitely.
I am truly blessed to be able to make the career transition I'm making while we live so simply.
But neither of us has anything resembling job security.
If I were to crash catastrophically and found myself unable to recover, it would be devastating for both me and Sweetie.

With the physical and financial considerations before me, racing feels like the wrong thing to do. All my attempts at masking this through trying to conjure up enough enthusiasm to get back into have been met by a serious message from the Universe: I'm doing relatively well right now, and I really shouldn't risk it by racing at this point in time. In fact, I need to admit to myself that my racing days are likely over for good.

When I finally owned up to that, I expected to feel sadness. Instead, I felt relief.
I've contacted my teammates to let them know I'm done. I will still go and cheer them on but have no illusions about my own ability to keep doing this. It was fun, I had an amazing time. I'm happy and ready to let it go in favor of the slower, gentler rides I continue to savor.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ride report: starlight parade

Sweetie had been off her bicycle for the better part of a year, battling knee issues and other stuff. This spring she began a walking and stretching regimen, and got some new walking shoes which have helped her knee issues. Last weekend, she asked if we could go for a ride. We enjoyed a meandering 8.5 miles around inner Northeast Portland.

Last night, we rode into town for the Starlight Parade, the event that officially kicks the civic mayhem we call Rose Festival. 

It was in the mid-60's and cloudy when we left the house, riding aong residential streets designated as Bike Boulevards and down North Vancouver Avenue's bike lane. Late-spring irises bloomed in every shade from bright yellow to whorish eggplant. Starlings, resplendent in their summer speckles, swarmed in yards; cats yawned lazily from porches as we rolled past. Sweetie pointed out beautiful yards, raised beds and fancy front doors (we dream of remodeling way out in that vast realm of Someday), and we noted with delight the appearance of a new food cart at Commercial Street. 

The sky overhead swirled with rapidly changing cloud formations, and the sun broke through at times with long rays that we said looked like the "fingers of God". There was a delightful, gentle breeze as we crossed the Willamette River over the Broadway Bridge. The water was still pretty high from all the spring rains, but the sun broke through long enough for me to see the pale green of the St Johns Bridge way off in the distance. 

We wound our way into downtown, locked up the bikes near the art school and walked the eight blocks to our agreed-upon perch. Bike Buckets from Citybikes ( carried our snacks and cushions; they made decent seats from which to watch the festivities. We laughed and clapped at the marching bands and electric-light festooned floats that passed by while little kids in front of us slapped high-fives with the policemen and Royal Rosarians walking along the route. 

Wanting to get out of downtown just ahead of the crowds, we ducked out a few entries before the end of the parade, making sure to stick around for the entry from my alma mater; Portland State University's entry was a flotilla of bicycles, including students, alumni, the President of the University, and several members of the collegiate bicycle team clad in their green-and-black kit (go Vikings!). 

We enjoyed the ride home under partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures in the high 50s. The moon peeked out a corner here and there from behind the clouds and we pedaled home on a gorgeous summer night. As we pulled into the driveway, the moon shot out long beams from behind a cloud and lit up the sky with a soft glow. A perfect ride on a beautiful evening. Sweetie commented that her knee only twinged once, on a hill; and when she shifted down it stopped hurting. A good sign for future rides together.

(one of my two bike buckets; so handy!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

siren call, part two: the bike

In anticipation of someday having to give up singlespeed racing, I swung a deal to obtain a geared mountain bike in my size over a year ago. It has hung on a hook in the Bicycle Brain Trust, waiting patiently. I had assumed/hoped I'd have a few more years of singlespeed racing in my knees when I got it. But last cyclocross season hurt my knees so badly that in the end I knew I'd have to make the switch sooner.

With my teammates egging me on last week, I knew I'd have to race at least a few times out at PIR this summer. So this weekend, the "new" bike -- a 1989 Bridgestone MB-4 -- is getting its turn in the stand.

Some issues here point up my lack of knowledge about off-road equipment. Of course, I'm trying to equip a nearly 25-year-old bike for short-track racing in the 21st century. Some compromises will have to be accepted:

1. Stem and bars had to be changed for my aging back. For now, I'm trying to make it work with a Misfit FU2 Bar (of course) and a Nitto Dirt Drop stem, though the stem may need to change. My options for a sturdy, off-road stem that's short-reach in a 1" threaded size are slim.

2. I haven't gotten into the drive train yet, other than ascertain that it actually all works and will work better with a thorough cleaning. Drive train is BioPace with LX shifters and brakes. The plasticity of the thumb shifters makes me nervous; even hiding under the bar as they do, plastic seems far more prone to breakage. I am toying with the idea of converting the whole thing to 1 x 7 if I can get it to work without throwing the chain. Multiple gears will mean lots of pesky details and much greater risk of breaking parts.

3. I saved my Conti Explorer tires from last year. They've seen two seasons of use and should be alright for the three or so races I'll do this summer.

4. That saddle in the photo HAS to go; I've got a WTB SpeedShe saddle ready to swap in.

5. I'll need to figure out some decently grippy platform pedals that will work without breaking my bank.

Checking the weather for the opening night of the short-track series, The forecast calls for rain and a high of 62F. That's cold, even for early June. Sweetie says I should go and race. I tell her my bike's nowhere near ready yet, and frankly neither am I. Soon, though.