Thursday, March 26, 2020

the latest: refugee bike #72

The latest finished bike in the Refugee Bikes collection began with a beat-up frame (no fork).
The top tube had a dent in it, the paint was chipped in many places and there was no clear place for cable routing for the front derailleur. Still, I had a fork that could fit with some help, and a pile of parts. So I went to work.

Everything went together reasonably well. I did have to clean up some threads in the (rear) derailleur hanger and the bottom bracket. When I go to the head tube, I knew I'd have to either find a 1 1/8" fork, or I'd have to adapt the head tube so that it could receive a 1" headset. Not having a fork with a 1 1/8" steer tube of the right length, or cutting tools to re-thread a shortened head tube, I opted for the cheaper route of ordering the adapter kit by mail.
When it arrived, I had no difficulty installing it, and then following it by pressing in 1" headset cups.

Once that was done, parts were added to make a working bicycle. I had to rob some from another donor bike (since I couldn't go to a bike shop and the donor bike may not be worth refurbishing at this point anyway). Then I had to tweak and make all sorts of adjustments so everything worked.

Best of all was that this bike, with no cable routing for either kind of front derailleur, allowed me to make a choice and then to make a fix so my choice would work.

I'm not a huge fan of top-pull front derailleurs. They require more exposed cable and make it annoying to put the bike in a stand for repairs later (you have to either clamp it at the seatpost, and/or be tall enough to use a really tall repair stand attachment like the ones from Efficient Velo Tools, neither of which is a good option for me). But, when given a chance to offload a functioning top-pull derailleur from my pile, I tend to want to send that out into the world on a bike that's not likely to see the inside of a bike shop right away. So I grabbed a top-pull from the pile, installed it, and set about making a cable stop to work for it. (Oddly, though this bike had cable stops on the top tube indicating a top-pull derailleur, there was no cable stop on the seat tube to correspond with that.)
I saw that the rear rack eyelet would get the cable close enough in alignment with the derailleur to make a cable stop there work. So I found an old seatclamp-mounted one, turned it around to improve the alignment, and installed it on one of the rack eyelets, like so:

When the cable was hooked up to the front derailleur, the alignment was actually quite good, if farther away from the seat tube than it normally would be on a production installation. No worry, it worked fine. (If the owner wants to use a rack they'll have to find one that camps onto the seatpost, or just use a front basket.)

After that, the rest of the bike came together pretty easily.

The fork, donated by a local bike enthusiast, weighs a ton; so do the steel cranks I found. Both make the bike quite a bit heavy than it probably was when it came out of the factory. But since it's a commuter, that shouldn't be a big deal. Someone is going to have themselves a perfectly nice bike for daily riding to and fro.
I love it when I can problem-solve unusual situations mechanically.

And voila! Another example of reliable, sustainable transportation.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

crisis pricing: the new normal?

Now that we all have to socially distance, self-isolate, shelter-in-place or whatever the hell your local government is asking of you, I'm focusing a lot more on fixing up the pile of donated bicycles that I didn't have time for while I was still a touring musician.

In the interest of transparency, I've sold a couple of them to pay for more parts to fix up the other bikes (which will go to refugee resettlement efforts when we can all move about freely again -- IF the Tangerine Wankmaggot ever allows more refugees to enter the country, but I digress).
My latest two projects have been a couple of naked frames that Upcycles donated to me last fall. I had plenty of parts to build them up -- or so I thought. Now that I'm working on the second of the two bikes, I am missing a couple of things that I've been trying to source free or used.

Today, I found this ad on eBay, and it made me, well, really sad.

The drop-down allows you to see what's left. As of today, most of the bike has been sold off in bits and pieces. What's left is priced along "perceived scarcity" guidelines; $25 for one brake's worth of cantilever brakes,  $15 for the front derailleur, $15 for the bar-ends (does anyone even ride with those now?), and $25 for a very basic straight ATB handlebar.

The Giant Iguana was not a very exciting bike to begin with, just a basic affordable mountain bike that you could hand off through two or three growing siblings or turn into a perfectly fine campus bike. If he'd kept it together he might have realized $150-200 at most (depending on location -- bikes sell for more on the coasts than in the heartland, as a rule). But dismantled and sold off one piece at a time he's probably made twice as much, factoring some of his shipping costs into the price per part so he can charge "free" shipping.

It makes me sad, because this was once a perfectly rideable bike and someone could have tuned it up and ridden it away. Instead, the seller is maximizing his profit by selling it off in pieces, and since times are hard (and about to become much, MUCH harder), he'll get every penny he's asking for this way.

Someone asked me if I intended to keep fixing up bikes "for poor people".
He suggested that, since they're not going to allow anyone else into the country for a long while, I'd do better to fix these things up, leave off the protective stickers and just sell them all. But then I'd be competing with everyone else in town who's doing the same thing (and some of them are my friends, which makes it feel squidgy to me). Plus, fixing these up to give away is therapy for me, and giving the bikes away is part of the therapy. Doing it all for profit would change the vibe and then it would just be work again.

On the downside, I am running out of space to store bikes securely and won't be able to find a second secure location to store the extra bikes. So there's that to think of too.
The truth is that, as we shelter in place and try to stay busy and engaged at home, it will be harder for me to keep doing this in the time of COVID-19. What will I do?
I don't know, but I am definitely thinking about it. We are headed into a world that is going to be very different, possibly permanently, and that is already proving to be a difficult adjustment for many to make.
Meanwhile, I will try to get the bike already in progress finished. I'm waiting on the one part I had to order online to finish this one off, and then I'll ponder my options going forward.
I may just ask potential donors to hang onto their bikes awhile longer until I have space to store them safely, and hope that at some point I can go forward again with the way I've been doing things.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

get fatter: why fatter tires don't suck

Yesterday, while we had an unseasonably late snowfall here in Portland, I went into the Brain Trust, plugged in the little space heater and finally did some work on MY bike.

You now how it is if you're a mechanic. Your bike is the last the get any attention. A bike mechanic's bicycle is a semi-orphan; we keep it cobbled together and plugging along well enough, putting it up in the stand only if something threatens to truly derail our ride, and if we ever get around to actually throwing some real love at it (like new parts or a change of cockpit), well that might happen once every two or three years at most.
For at least three years I'd been sitting on a used set of PB Cascadia fenders that I'd intended to put on the All-Rounder, just as soon as I scored the right tires to swap in. The tires showed up last winter. And everything sat, while I worked on a slew of refugee bikes, tuned up and overhauled family bikes and pursued my regular job as a freelance musician.

Then COVID-19 came along and shut everything down. Suddenly I had time on my hands.
So back int the Brain Trust I went, this time with the Rivvy.
In just one leisurely afternoon I swapped in the new tires and fenders, cleaned up the frame a bit and swapped in some thumbies for the stem shifters that had been on the bike for the last six years.

I'd been wanting to put wider tires on the All-Rounder for awhile, since before the newest fatty craze had become ubiquitous. What held me back was that I already had fairly wide tires on the BStone, and wanted to avoid making my two bikes too similar. The other was that the All-Rounder, while marketed as a cross between a mountain and a touring bike, was not designed to take anything much wider than a 1.9 tire. I decided to find a fairly wide 1.75 and see how that would work.
I lucked out when I scored these Continentals. They fit with room to spare, under the wider fenders I'd set aside for the purpose.

I really wish Continental still made their Top Touring tires. Even the TT2000 model, the second generation of the tire, had a great tread and delicious feel.

I replaced the stem-mount shifters with these very basic friction thumbies, which are durable and work well. The set up required me to move my bell, which I now have to stretch my thumb to reach. Good thing I have long thumbs...

The revised cockpit looks clean and still pretty wide open, in spite of the addition of longer cables for the shifting.
And now my knees won't hit the shifters on the rare occasion that I still choose to ride out of the saddle.

When I was all done, I took a short spin around the block tot est it all. It rides great! The fatter tires don't slow me down at all, and the added cushion makes for a VERY comfortable ride.

I can't wait to take it out on longer rides this week.
Tomorrow's high: 60F and sunny. I'm ready for it.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

bicycle riding is still okay. really.

So we're on lockdown, pretty much all over the world.
This means that we're going to have to put up with each other (if we live with someone else), or with solitude (if we live alone).
It means eating the same old repeat of whatever we were able to stock up on in the last days at Costco.
And it means that we probably shouldn't even travel across town to see family and friends, for at least the next couple of weeks.
So here's one thing we can do (in addition to video chats, watching Netflix and all the other stuff they tell us to do to alleviate the pressure of being cooped up at home).

We can ride.

Now, obviously, we can't ride in tight packs and go all peloton here; the CDC says we really need to keep 3 to 6 feet of space between us and the next person.
So if you think you can handle riding that far away from your companion, go for it and enjoy.
Otherwise, enjoy the beauty of solo rides in your neighborhood, or on the roads outside of town.
Spring is arriving in all her green and floral glory. Birds are changing their migration patterns to reflect the longer days and warming temperatures. And while we can't have friends over for dinner, there's no reason we can't ride to a park, spread a big blanket, sit at the corners and enjoy lunch together.

Go ride your bike. You'll feel better.

Friday, March 6, 2020

living in complication: mourning and celebrating at the same time

Even as my country is burning down and the planet is burning up, I sit in complexity.
Alongside the fear of the above, I glory in the small beautiful moments of daily life.
I wake up every morning to the warm smile of the one who loves me the most.
I drink hot, fresh coffee and revel in the deep purr of my cat nestled in my lap.
And when I can, I ride my bike.
Often, to nowhere in particular, but just around.
And when I do I celebrate small beauties.
Hope the coming weekend will give you all a chance to see the small beauties around.
May each one calm and gentle you, and give you a moment of grace between the scarier moments of the time and place in which we live.
Happy riding.

Monday, March 2, 2020

don't freak out. just keep living.

So it travels fast, this coronavirus thing.
As of tonight, six people have died in a Seattle nursing home, and at least three cases have popped up in Oregon, including one in the metro area that forced the home quarantine of hospital staff who treated him.
Sweetie and I are supposed to travel to Astoria this weekend for an event were being paid to lead services at. it's not much money, but it also includes room and board. Neither of us is excited about going -- we've both been low-energy, me with various pesky autoimmune things and Sweetie with the grieving process for her Dad, who only died a little over two months ago -- and while neither of us has broached the possibility with each other, I went ahead and quietly emailed the event organizers, asking that if for any reason they decided they had to cancel the event, to please let us know by Friday morning (before we pack up and drive to the coast).

I am secretly hoping that, with an audience largely composed of elderly retired folks, they might decide to cancel or postpone the event out of caution. Especially since the elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and there's not yet a vaccine for this shiny new virus.

I know, that's a terrible thing to hope. Canceling the event would cost the shoestring non-profit a chunk of change they can't recoup. Not to mention it would disappoint everyone who's sgigned up to attend. But there it is.

They haven't responded and maybe they won't. But I asked out loud, just in case.

As for what to do here at home, that's another set of issues. neither of us is wealthy. We barely make our bills every month and it's a struggle. Being involved in performing arts, we both depend on people being able to attend concerts and shows at pubs and whatever. Cancel concerts and shows and the two of us lose paying work.
Then, there's the whole "Eergency Preparedness" thing, something that here in Portland has attained a cultlike social activity among certain of my friends as they've run out to join neighborhood task forces and emergency management teams and such. They long stopped asking me about my own emergency plans, because they know my answer.

When The Big One comes, whether in the form of an earthquake, terrorist attack or pandemic, we will have stocked up on food and water (there's already a few gallons on hand here and I'll pick up a few more or fill some jugs from the tap), laid in non-perishables and spare batteries, and hand-cranked flashlight and radio and made sure we know where the sweaters and extra blankets are (in case they have to shut off the gas heat).
And of course, we have multiple bars of Ivory soap so we can wash our hands the old-fashioned (and best) way.
I cannot, on Medicaid, lay in extra supplies of my prescription drugs.
I also cannot ask for help stocking up on extra food via my SNAP funding.
As far as staying indoors for up to two weeks, well, good luck with that. I'll certainly stay on the property, but if I need to hole up in my workspace to putter on bicycles so I don't go completely stir-crazy, I'll do it.
I have an appointment tomorrow downtown. When I'm done, I'll swing by my local supermarket and see what's left on the shelves, and try to buy a few things if I can. Then I'll ride home and spend the day puttering and perhaps practicing some music for the coming weekend.
But more than that, really, there's simply no point in overthinking this thing.
If the shit hits the fan hard enough that the supply lines dry up and I can't get what I need or even get to a doctor for a truly prolonged period -- like after the Big Earthquake everyone talks about but so few have realistically planned for -- well, then...

If no help comes and no relief is in sight for long enough, I guess I'll get sick and die.

Not a whole lot I can do about that except to put my affairs in order (which, as long as I'm this broke, they already mostly are) and be with loved ones. And maybe piss people off by riding my fat-tired city bike places that cars can't go, just because I can.

Seriously, these things always sell fear to generate more fear (and in turn, a wave of consumerism that helps to bump up the stock market for a few days, which is what people with money want anyway).
So why waste time over-worrying? Why freak out needlessly?
Just go out and ride your bike, make sure the basics are taken care of and spend time with your people. And remember that you're still breathing and upright and that's a good thing.
So please, PLEASE don't freak out. Just be grateful for this day, and ride your bike.