Tuesday, December 15, 2015

bike porn: 1970 raleigh fireball

It stopped raining yesterday, and I went for a bike ride to Velo Cult to see a new batch of vintage bikes they just got in.

Here's a few shots for your viewing pleasure. First up, a 1970 Raleigh Fireball, which is apparently super-rare. This one is minty-delicious.

Who knew Brooks made saddles like this?

Raleigh Twenty, all original.

Below: Velo Cult rando bike, custom built by Mark Nobilette.
The ride home was brisk (39F) but dry, and provided a beautiful winter sunset along the way.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

keep riding anyway, no matter how long or short

I got some interesting news from my GI doc last week. My Crohn's disease, which I've had most of my life, is getting progressively more intense.

This is not a surprise. When I had my surgery fifteen years ago, the doctors reminded me that surgery would not cure me, and that I could expect a re-intensifying of the disease (most likely at the same location) later on.

So I wasn't surprised, but I was sort of bummed. Intensifying of Crohn's helps explain my decreased energy and lack of interest in daily riding (especially in cold weather). It means, among various things, that I willr equire a stronger medication regimen, one that will compromise my immune system slightly and make me more susceptible to colds and such. It will mean that I cannot push myself too hard on my bike anymore, for fear of triggering an auto-immune response that could land me in bed. And it could mean a few others things, depending on the drug selected and its side-effects. There are almost always side effects with these stronger drugs.


What's a gal to do? Well, for now the answer is: Keep riding when I can. If the weather's especially nasty and I decide I'm not up for it, I try not to get down on myself. But if it's dry and not too cold, I go out, believing that even a very short ride -- to the store and back, or whatever -- is better than nothing.

To help encourage myself, I've done a little puttering on the All-Rounder, including adding a basket and swapping in some beautiful old stem shifters.

 (I pulled the Shimano "beehive" thumbies because while I still love them, they take up too much room on the bars for me to have a bell and rear-view mirror there. Plus, money's tight. So they're for sale. You can see them over at my Flickr page.)

Took a short ride today, to a coffee shop and home again. It was dry and overcast, and not too cold (high near 50F). It was nice to just ride around the neighborhood. It felt good to spin the cranks and glide along quiet side streets, while southbound geese honked overhead to remind me that winter is here.

Tonight we'll light the first candle of Chanukah.

May this season bring you warmth, light, health and peace.

Happy riding.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The case for flat pedals in a clipless pedal world

I tried clipless pedals back in the late 90s when I dabbled in road racing and time trialing. I will say that I only had one mishap while trying to unclip where I actually fell over. Still, I never felt entirely happy riding with them and eventually went back to clips and straps.

Clipless pedals are for racers. That's my opinion, not some holy writ.
But if you think about it, it makes sense. If you go clipless, you need to buy pedals, special shoes, and, periodically, replacement cleats. There's a trial period while you dial in the right fit (and if you don't know what you're doing, take it to a shop or you'll do some serious damage to your knees). And in the end you can spend between $200 and $400 to get set up (including a bare-bones adjustment session at your local shop, because they charge for that stuff).

Clips and straps, the way many of us rode before around 1989 or so, remains a reliable option. Your foot has some more wiggle room if you don't cinch the straps down tight -- and the only reason to do that is if you race, and if you race you've probably moved on to clipless pedals anyway, so it's moot.

In which case, why not just go all the way and install flat pedals on your bike?
Seriously, if all you do is ride for fun and transportation, flat pedals will do just fine. They come in all shapes and widths; accommodate almost any kind of shoe from heels to boots; and allow your foot to move naturally while you pedal, constantly readjusting along the way and preventing some knee and ankle injuries (because your foot isn't locked in one position).

There a literally hundreds of different styles of flat pedal out there. Here are a few that are proven to work well:

1. XLC alloy mountain pedals. These can be found at many bike shops as a budget alternative to the fancier pedals. Designed and supplied by Seattle Bike Supply (a wholesaler), they are solidly made and pretty reliable for their sub-$20 price (most shops retail them for around $15 a pair). When I worked at Citybikes we brought these in and they became so popular with customers and staff alike that we had trouble keeping them in stock.

2. MKS "Lambda" pedals. Available everywhere for an average price of $60 retail. Designed and sold by Rivendell Bicycle Works under the name "Grip King", these pedals are not my personal favorite, but some riders I know swear by them. A nice hack is to drill out a few of the craters and install self-tapping pins for extra traction.


3. VP-001 Pedals. Sold by Rivendell as "Thin Gripster" pedals. but available elsewhere online and in shops at an average price of $80 retail. I ran this pedal on my All-Rounder for several months. Sealed bearings, replaceable pins and a lower profile make this a very nice pedal. One drawback is the raised "hump" in the middle, a result of the low profile (you still need space inside for the spindle); It's not my choice for long distances, but for a ten-mile spin around town it's fine.


4. Redline Lo-profile sealed platform pedals.  At a price of around $45 retail, this is by far the best value in the bunch. This design is one variation on a theme made and sold under hundreds of makes/models. Very likely made in the same factory as similar pedals sold under "Wellgo" and other brands. The sealed bearings are smooth after break-in, and the platform is comfortable on longer rides because the profile isn't so low as to require a "hump" for the spindle inside. These have become my favorite flat pedals. I have them on both of my upright bikes now and they are super-comfy and grippy. If you're on a budget, there's a version of these with molded pins and loose bearings for less than half the cost. They're just as comfortable but will require overhauling much sooner.

5. I would remiss if I didn't mention the MKS RMX pedals. They're not for everyone, especially those of us in wetter climates (there's just not enough traction in the rain for my liking). But they are a pretty comfortable platform, and among the more affordable "brand name" pedals out there. They're totally fine if you live outside the rainy Pac NW. Some folks really like their looks, too.


Platform pedals make riding simpler and easier for non-racers. If you need to keep your shoes dry in the rain, wear shoe covers, galoshes or Rivendell Splats. (I prefer the Splats because they come in different sizes and allow my sole to remain uncovered and in full contact with the pedal for the most traction in the rain.)
If you're really paranoid about traction in wet weather, do what my friend does and apply skateboard grip tape to the surface (especially good if your platform pedals have no pins).

Flat pedals also give your bike a nice clean look, a small thing but in my book still a perk.
(Below: Sweetie's bike with very basic flat pedals)
Happy riding!