Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another commute into work

I rode the fixie into work yesterday and had an about as expected ~16mph average speed. I was really surprised though on the ride home when according to the stop watch on my HRM, I managed 20+mph average speed on the ride home.

I haven't gone that fast on the commute home in a while, even on my Bacchetta Strada high racer.


I'm guessing the main thing was that it forced me to go up hills in a higher gear than I normally would (the fixie being ~66 gear inches with a 48/18 on a 36-559 tire).

I think I'm also more aero on the fixie with moustache bars than I am on my DF geared road bike with drop bars.

I really need to get some new photos with the moustache bars. A guy at work even commented on how cool he thought the bars were.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Moustache bars rock! Plus misc. happenings...


A few weeks ago I bought a pair of these moustache bars from Nashbar.

one each in the 52cm and 56cm width, the intention being that I'd use the 52cm bars on my fixie and maybe use the 56cm bars as USS (underseat steering) bars on my ActionBent Tidal Wave bike.

Since the bars are a 25.4mm clamp diameter bar, I'd either have to use the adjustable height, threadless stem from my parts bin (long removed from my Specialized Sequoia Sport road bike), use a shim with my 26.0mm stem, or heck, get rid of the kludge of a threadless quill adapter and threadless stems and get an apropriate quill stem.

Since I was at Performance and needed to get over a certain total to get a discount for a grand opening sale, I bought this stem.

(strangely not on the Performance site, but it cost only $15, so why not!?)

It's practically perfect for what I need. If the reach were maybe a little longer, it'd be perfect, but it's pretty good the way it is.

The moustache bars work really well. Lots of hand positions, good access to the brake levers. I haven't done any long riding with them, but I expect them to work great. In fact, I may even convert my regular road bike from Sora brifters to these with barend shifters. We'll see.

There's gotta be a downside though, and it is weight. The bars and the threaded stem are made of steel, and are *heavy*. But they're also quite solid. I know that aluminum (heat treated) moustache bars are available, but they're $$$. I got the ones from Nashbar for like $10 each on super sale, before 10% discount.


I also got some Planet Bike Freddie Fenders full coverage fenders for the fixie. I'm working on equipping this bike as my "go to bike", my "foul weather bike". They went on fairly easily, nothing exciting there, except I'm hoping for the next rain to come so I can try them out :-).

I hope to have a picture or two of fixie with the moustache bars and fenders installed, but in the mean time, it kinda looks like this bike.


The pulsing I was experiencing while braking the front wheel on the fixie turns out to have been a loose headset! I tightened it up and now the front wheel breaking is "like buttah".

Oh, and because I put on the front fender, the Tektro Mini-V brake I had on there previously won't fit anymore. I tried to put on the original cantilever brake, but then realized I didn't know how to reassemble it. After a few hours of futility, I decided to look for instructions. I found an exploded diagram on the net for a similar brake and that worked great.

I'm still using road brake levers though, so until I get a Travel Agent installed up front, I'm living with having close-in brake pads and a very light (too light) action to actuate the brake. It seems to work fine, but definitely will put the travel agent on there unless I can find a cable guide solution for the cantilever brake at a local bike shop (I know I can mail order it from some places, but it's not worth ordering just for that).

DESTROYING A WHEEL (the no fun way):

I was doing some bike maintenance and noticed my Sequoia's rear wheel (the spare I took off my Tidal Wave when I broke a spoke nipple on the Sequoia's original wheel) was slightly out of true. This is a Ritchey Aero OCR Comp wheel with zero dish rim and hub. I bought this wheel from REI a while ago pretty cheap and it was out of true out of the box, came with the wrong size skewer, etc. A trip to REI took care of both problems. It was destined for my Tidal Wave, but since I don't ride that bike much anymore, I used it as a spare.

The issue with truing though is kind of difficult--due to the zero dish nature. You'd think it should have even tension on both sides, but it doesn't. But it's also not like regular, dished rear wheels, so bike mechanics may not be used to dealing with it.

Anyway, when I plucked some spokes, I noticed that the tension was quite uneven around the wheel even though it was fine in roundness and only a little out of true. Rather than taking the practical route of just tuning it up to be true, I figured I'd follow some net.advice about how even tension is more important than absolute trueness. Well, as I made the tension even, the thing turned into a slight potato chip. I backed off all the tension and redid it and got it nearly true, but then it was quite out of round. In trying to round it, I turned it into a major potato chip.

I'm on the verge of giving up on this wheel, or at least the rim. I suspect that the rim wasn't really round and flat out from the factory and when it was built up, they tweaked the tension to make it kinda, sorta close to round and true. I tried a few tricks to flatten the rim, but to no avail. I think I'll try to rebuild this wheel from scratch one more time and if it comes out OK, I think I'll just keep it for trainer duty, as I have intended to do with the Tidal Wave for a while now.

In the process of adjusting tension on this thing, I squashed like 8 or 9 of the nipples. Not rounded, but squashed. They went from square necked to oblong necked. I was lucky I had a few spares. I need to be more careful and make sure the spoke wrench is fully engaged before turning up the tension.

I got those spoke nipples a while back to fix that one broken one on the Sequoia's wheel. So I finally put that wheel back on that bike, and I'm good to go again.

Friday, July 14, 2006

One Less Cycling-Hostile Force on the Road?

As I was waiting at the end of the driveway of my office building, waiting to turn onto the main road while it was drizzling and threatening to thunderstorm, a couple in a BMW X3 SUV pulled up, flagged me over and asked for help.

They said they were lost and needed help finding a road. I gave them directions and in thanking me, they said something along the lines of:

"We take back every bad thing we've ever said about cyclists, and will never threaten a cyclist again."

My immediate reaction was that I was glad that they've had a change of heart and will indeed not threaten cyclists again. But then the thought that these seemingly normal people, if not joking about threatening cyclists, were actually thoughtful in their actions of threatening cyclists in the past.

I guess I don't know which is worse, or at least more dangerous, threatening behavior due to obliviousness or that which is due to active thought. I suppose thoughtful threats kept in check and not carried to fruitition are probably less likely to cause physical harm, but are equally disturbing.

I have to wonder what would have happened if I had left work 30 seconds earlier and actually been on the road with these people who were frustrated at being lost at the time they would be passing me on the road.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Hour Record (for slow riding?)

I wonder what the record is for the least distance covered in an hour of constant bike riding on level ground, no trackstanding allowed.

I don't think I broke that record, but I gave it my best shot on the fixie, going maybe 2.5 miles?

The family decided to walk to a local store about 2.5 miles away. We made it about halfway when the usual suspect decided he was tired and wanted to turn around.

I tried to match the family's walking pace, but I just couldn't go that slow, so I'd ride ahead as slow as I could manage, then circle back.

Wow, that was a real workout--not aerobically at all, but a workout in control and muscle fatigue from constant leg braking to go as slow as possible. It was kinda fun, though when I got off the bike I could hardly walk.

So that's yet another cool thing about fixies--they make it fun to go slow.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

First Commute on the Fixie

I put some white handlebar tape (to match the saddle and rear rack) on the bike and I rode into work today, ~22 miles round trip on rolling hills. Going up hills is really fun. Flats are OK. Downhills are a pain in the... Independent of the downhills, the long, low reach bar configuration are a pain in the lower back and hands after 6 or 7 miles. I think I definitely need a higher rise, shorter length stem, or maybe mustache bars that go up and back.

It still need to try riding fixed with clipless pedals to see if that would help things on higher cadences vs. the cageless platform pedals I've been using.

I think I might need to work on the chain line or maybe chainring "truing" since I'm getting some noise under torque that I don't hear when just rolling the bike around on foot or when pedaling really slowly.

I had a couple of incidents of verbal abuse from stereotypical "Soccer Dad" (on the way into work) and "Young Redneck in a Pickup" (on the way home). In both incidents, they were annoyed that I was taking up a whole lane while approaching an intersection where I needed to make a left turn. In both cases, there was little traffic on the road and they could have had entire lanes to themselves if they wanted. I guess some people just have way too much stress or whatever else is wrong with their own lives.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

First fixie ride beyond the neighborhood

I did a quick test with an adjustable rise stem and the Specialized Body Geometry handlebars that I had taken off my road bike, hoping to raise the bars a little, but the swooping shape of the BG bars actually ended up putting the bars lower. Plus they're too narrow (42cm). I restored the original stem and bars I had on before, moved the brake hoods up higher, rotated the bars up a little and it looks like a good configuration even with the bars a few inches below the saddle.

After a few loops around the neighborhood to build confidence, I took the bike out in fixie configuration out to the supermarket, a mostly flat route, but I took the variation that added some hills. It worked out pretty well except for a couple of things:

- the front rim has a noticeable bump at the joint that is enough to give a bit of jerking while braking (I trued up the rim and added tension as best I could, but I can see building a new front wheel in the near future)

- over one speed bump, I forgot I was on a fixie and tried to coast over it--doh! That was actually near the end of my return trip home, so it's not like I hadn't properly traversed more of the same just minutes before

I can already see that I'll enjoy riding fixie on short trips without too much traffic. Perhaps with more experience, I'll see it as another option on any ride I'd do other than perhaps those with the biggest hills.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eagle Leaves the Nest

I finally took it out for a real ride yesterday, to the supermarket to pick up a few groceries. I wimped out, riding it in single-speed mode rather than fixed, though I did take a risk in having only a front brake installed :-). It's a Tektro Mini-V brake connected to Tektro R200 brake levers (apparently clones of Campy's aero brake levers).

The Mini-V brake is intended to be used with road levers. It's got shorter arms so less cable pull is needed vs. full sized V brakes. It leaves very little clearance with the 38-559 tires though, and the levers do get quite close to the bars before giving strong braking power. I might eventually put a Travel Agent cable pull multiplier on there. I will certainly do that when I install a full sized V brake on the rear.

On this ~4 mile ride, I think the reach to the bars is too long for me, so I may need to get either a shorter stem (currently 90mm) or maybe mustache bars rather than the drop bars on there now.

I also did some extended, super slow speed riding in fixed mode just to get a feel for it and try out braking and coming to a stop. I found speed control to be pretty simple, but coming to a complete stop took several tries before I could feel remotely comfortable doing it, even on level ground. One time I tilted the bike too far to get a foot down and managed a low speed pedal strike. Ooops :-(

I also tried a few sprints--man, those are fun and the direct feel of the bike is amazing. Until my left foot slipped forward off the pedal. I ended up putting both feet up in the air and letting my speed drain going up a slight incline. Kinda scary!!! I hope never to do that again. Gotta get some clipless pedals on there.

One more annoying thing is that I can't seem to get the seat post tight enough. I had swapped the posts from a Kalloy 26.2mm two-piece post (a pain to adjust) to a Kalloy 26.2mm one-piece post, so they should be a perfect match. I think the QR seatpost binder may need replacing since I can turn it even when it's engaged as tight as I can get it.