Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eight hundred views

It seems like only yesterday I was celebrating 400 views, and now here we are at 800+, and it didn't take that long to double the views, so thanks everyone.

It is supposed to be cold and rainy the next couple of days so I will be setting up the trainer in the garage in order to fine tune the fit of the Falcon. I think it's pretty close to where I need it, but I'm sure that over a few hours of garage drudgery I will be able to dial it to an alomost perfect fit. The real riding season approaches, and I'm starting to get ready; I woke up this morning at 5:15. Over the next few days I will push that to 4:15 in order to make time for my morning rides, and I'm going to add in some strength training a couple of mornings as well.

I sort of got off track there, but I do want to thank all of you (both of you) for reading. Shall we move on?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Finally, something interesting again!

I rode the train last Friday, because it was supposed to be a nice day, and also because my brother now has a bicycle - we made plans to go for a ride at lunchtime and eat. That was all very nice, and I love riding around on a nice day, but it was what I saw in the morning that got me excited - wierdness on the train!

I got to the station at about 7:05 and bought my ticket. All I had was a five dollar bill - and the machine didn't have change, so I ended up with a voucher for a dollar. A little ironic, as I was a dollar short last time I bought a ticket and had to beg for change from a passer by.

Dart has now implemented the new low entry car on most trains, and it really is a boon if you are riding a full sized bicycle. These cars even have benches that fold down and allow one to hang a bicycle in order to keep it out of the way. Luckily I was on the car early enough that I was able to politely ask the woman sitting in the seat if I might use the spot for its intended purpose. She moved grumblingly to one of the dozen other empty seats in the car, I hung my bike, and enjoyed the sunrise as we pulled out of the station.

Artsy morning shot

The ride was fairly uneventful, though more crowded than the last couple of times I rode. Admittedly, both of those rides were on holidays, so I should have known what to expect. I rode along just fine with my bike hanging from the hook until about Lovers Lane station, where I spotted the blonde woman who inspired this post, and moved to get a photo for you all.

Look, special effects!

Before I tell you what got my attention, let me remind you that the train is a fairly bouncy, sometimes rough and jerky ride. I have been thrown off balance more than once, but thankfully I have the reflexes of a cat and the legs of a sailor, so I have never fallen - though I have seen people stumble into others more than once. Additionally, this woman was standing on the stairs in the car, with no place to grab should she stumble. The lack of handholds doesn't matter, though, as both of her hands were busy.


Knitting! With a needle in each hand and the yarn coming out of her bag. I can understand knitting when you are sitting down on the train, but standing? I tip my hat to your balance, older crafty lady!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Self indulgent drivel.

I take the title from a statement that my lovely wife made about blogs and bloggers in general. This post was actually written in July of 2009 - shortly after I started writing it the city of Plano tore up the roads that I was riding on, and effectively put a stop to my early morning routine. I tried to find another route that was as good, but was unsuccessful. The roads are finally finished, and the weather is warming up enough for me to start again, so I completed and published this post to inspire myself - and to indulge myself as well.

I wake up at 4:10 when my alarm goes off - and sometimes when it doesn't. This has become a routine for me; my body doesn't really need the alarm now, but I think my mind needs to be reminded. I drag myself out of bed and into my bathroom to put in my contacts. Contacts inserted, I shuffle down the hall - I am the only thing in my house that is awake. The dog used to wake with me, but she has realized that there is nothing in it for her, and my early morning movement is no longer a cause for concern for any of the creatures in my house.

Once into the kitchen I brew an expresso and fill my water bottle for the ride ahead. I go into our pantry and suck down an energy gel to fuel me for my ride - I like the Clif Shot "Double Expresso" flavor - it is thick and strong tasting, and I like java to be the first thing I taste in the morning - it has been that way since I was 14 or so, and now is no different. As I sip my expresso to wash down my expresso flavored gel I get dressed. I apply my chamois cream (an intimate process that my wife caught me at once - she still giggles when she sees the tube), shorts, heart rate strap, and then my jersey. I have to wet my heart rate strap so that it will pick up my heartbeat, and I just use some water from my cup - the shock of strapping on the now ice cold strap always makes me gasp - the shock is as much a part of the routine as the rest of it. Once dressed, I put on my shoes and socks. Bicycle shoes are an interesting thing; special shoes for a sport that involves no walking - and ideally in the morning mine never touch the ground except to walk to the bike. I use Speedplay pedals, because they offer great retention and double sided clipping in. Since I am riding a fixed gear my pedals are moving if I am moving, and the Speedplays allow me to siply step on the pedals, without looking. I listen to music on my weekend rides, but not in the morning. I try to keep these rides simple and quiet

After getting dressed, I go into the garage and power on all my lights - my helmet light first, follwed by both headlights, and my two blinking rear lights. After the lights are on, I put on my helmet and clear glasses (to protect my eyes from bugs; generally gnat clouds), open the garage door and wheel my bicycle out. The bicycle I use on these morning rides is an eighties Sears marketed Suteki that I have converted to fixed gear. A fixed gear bicycle is a little different than most bikes in that it does not coast - if you are moving, you are pedaling. I use a fixed gear workout because it I assume it must be a better workout. Lots of hipsters ride fixed gear bikes in the city for transportation, but I use mine to try to get faster and fitter. So far it's not working that well, but I'll get there.

The first few pedal strokes are slow to get me into the street. I have a neighbor who has his porch light on a sensor, and when that light comes on, that's my cue to really put my legs into it. One lap is 3.3 miles. The first two laps are fairly easy. I get into a rhythm quickly, and the small hills on my route seem to flatten themselves. By lap three, I am breathing hard; I'm also trying to talk myself out of the final three laps I have planned.

By the fifth lap I am spent. There is one spot in the route where I allow myself to take a drink of water. Once I was in my designated drinking zone on the fifth lap and I was so exhausted and uncoordinated that as I took my water bottle out of my jersey pocket I threw it directly in the sewer opening. Had I been standing in the street trying to throw it in, it would have taken a couple of tries, but riding by at 14mph I hit the opening like I had the Force.

When I hit the hills on my last lap, they seem to be flattening themselves out again, instead of swelling up as they did for the last few laps. As I am heading home, the cars have started to come out, people driving to work. I don't like to ride too long with morning drivers, so I try to time my laps to avoid them - it's the reason I start so early. As I make the final turn onto my street, I sit up and ride no handed, as if I have won one of the grand tours. I am powerful, I am fast, I am a cyclist.

I ride into the driveway and put my bicycle back in its spot, log my statistics (speed, distance, heartrate) go inside, have a sip of water, and make lunches for the family. Once sandwiches are made and packed up, I go in the bathroom and shower. It's my shower that wakes up the girls - my wife sees the light as I go into the bathroom, and my daughter hears the water running as I wash off the sweat. It's been a good ride, but every one of my morning rides is good - it's time when only I am awake, and I own my little track. In the garage, the bicycle waits until tomorrow, when I will suit up and go again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Building a singlespeed.

Not too long ago, my brother asked me if I had a "spare" bicycle that he could borrow to ride to the gym. This is almost like asking someone if he has an "extra" cigarette. There is no such thing; every cigarette is meant to be smoked, and every bicycle is meant to be ridden.

Luckily for him, I did have a bunch of spare parts, including the Fuji frame that all of the Falcon parts were on originally. Doing a quick mental inventory, I told him I'd build him a bicycle, so I did. I made him buy the conversion kit to convert the bicycle to singlespeed, and away I went. I had all of the other parts I needed handy with the exception of a crankset and bottom bracket. I made some phone calls and secured a used FSA road crank and bottom bracket for $25, and began the build. First I had to convert the crankset to a single from a double. I had a lot of trouble removing the bolts from the crankset and busted my knuckles pretty well - those teeth are sharp!


I did pretty well for the first three bolts, but the last two were very hard. I don't know what tool I was supposed to use to hold the back There is a slot there, but it's much wider than a screwdriver - and holding a screwdriver sideways doesn't give you much leverage.

After I got all of the bolts off, and removed the inner ring, I installed the bottom bracket. The green you see there is grease. you should always put a little grease on if you are using this type of bottom bracket. If you don't, you will end up with a creak when you pedal.


Here is the bike in the stand awaiting the rest of the parts.

I mostly deal in roadbikes, so I didn't have any spare grips around. I wrapped the bars with some recycled bar tape, and I really like the way it turned out.

The bike is almost complete here - time for cables and tuning.

Once assembled, I had to take it for a couple of test rides, obviously. After taking a few links out of the chain to stop it from skipping, the bike was perfect. I rode it to the train station the next morning, presented it to him at work, and made him take this picture.


I liked riding the flat bar so much I'm going to rebuild my fixed gear with a flat bar instead of drops.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Justin and the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad morning.

As I said a few posts ago, my brother asked me to build him a bicycle to ride to the gym. I happily did so, and decided to ride it to work today to give it a sort of a shakedown ride, and to get yet another bicycle out of my garage. I made to the station just fine, if a little winded. Once I got to the station, things started to go downhill, and not in the way I'd prefer when riding a bicycle. DART recently (well, since I stpped riding regularly) raised the price of a single day ticket by $1.00. This isn't a big raise, and isn't really that big of a deal, I suppose. Well it isn't that big a deal if you have all four of those dollars when you need to buy your ticket, which I did not. I swear to you that I counted all four dollar bills out, and put them in my pocket before I left, but somehow one of my dollars managed to free itself and was nowhere to be found when I went to buy my ticket.

I actually arrived at the station just as the southbound train was pulling in, and while I wildly searched my pockets for the missing dollar I watched the train pull away. As I stood there staring at the machine and cursing our cashless society and the fool that decided not to put a credit card swiper on the ticket machine I realized that I didn't even have my debit card with me. No debit card means no easy cash at 7:10 in the morning. I was stuck.

As I stepped away from the ticket machine, an older gentleman wearing a day-glo yellow motorcycle jacket (with no motorcycle in sight) stepped up after me. I saw him paying for his ticket with a five dollar bill, and I heard the change drop in the return as he got his ticket. The train lights were flashing signaling an approaching train, so I stepped to him and said,
"Sir, I'm not a bum, but I am short a dollar for my fare. Can you spare your change?"
He looked me over very closely and kind of shook his head as he tried to decide wether I was really a bum or not. I always have a "lucky" silver quarter with me, and I quickly offered it to him in exchange.
"This is worth at least $4.00 - it's real silver. I'm happy to give it to you for your dollar."
He handed me his change and said "I don't want your quarter - here."
As I thanked him from the bottom of my heart, the train pulled up to the station. Turning to the ticket machine, I saw another woman who had sidled in behind me during my panhandling session trying to stuff the limpest, most wrinkled dollar bill I have ever seen into the payment slot. In went the dollar - then immediately out again. Three times. Finally, the fourth time it went through, and we had to wait while her ticket was printed. As I stepped to the ticket machine, I waved a the driver and held up the universal "hold on one second" finger. Unfortunately the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, and my universal sign language did not work. I could literally hear the machine printing my ticket as the train started to pull away.

I gave him a different universal finger sign as he made his merry way down the tracks.

During my foray into hustling for change, I had unzipped the smaller outside pocket on my (fairly expensive) Munsingwear backpack to offer the quarter, and when I tried to zip it back up, I had a zipper blowout. There I was, standing at the train station, struggling with my backpack and headphones (which kept getting caught up in my struggles and being pulled out) when the water bottle I had in my bag decided to come open and spill all over my bag and leg. Fantastic.

When the next train arrived, it was thankfully empty, so I didn't have to add to the rough morning by struggling for a spot to put my bicycle. I walked in, stood at the end of the car, took a photo, and watched my iPhone shut off as it died flat.

I have had better mornings, for sure.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Charity begins on the rails.

I've written before about the trash at the train station and on the train; lots of people have a hard time understanding that the world is not their trash can. Littering has never really made sense to me. I won't say I'm the neatest person in the world, but I'm what Holden C. called a "secret slob" - and I have respect for public spaces. If everyone just dropped their trash where they stood, we would be knee deep in garbage all of the time, idiocracy style.

While there is plenty of litter in and around the train, there is a phenomenon I have noticed at the station - street charity. Thus far I have been spared a whole lot of interaction with the homeless when I ride. Sure, I've had people ask me for my ticket when I'm getting off of the train in the evening, and if I have a day ticket, I'm happy to hand it over. After all, I'm done riding for the day, so what does it matter to me? Lately I have noticed people taking their train charity even further than I do.

I saw this pair of Jordans in the station one day, and I was intrigued. These shoes were obviously worn, but not worn out. I have seen plenty of people down on their luck wearing shoes that looked much worse than these; there were many miles of walking left in these shoes. While I do admire the selflessness of leaving these shoes for someone to find, I do wonder what the story is behind these shoes. Did the owner find a better pair of shoes where these were and switch? Did they carry these shoes to the station for the express purpose of leaving them for someone to find? Had they just bought a new pair of shoes and decided to change before getting on the train?

Shoes are not the only thing that people will leave for other folks to find and use should they need them. After I saw the shoes, I became aware that not all of the trash at the stations was really litter. Most was, of course, but I did take a photo of another anonymous donation, this time at the Plano station.
This is a pile of new, wrapped tampons and pantyliners. I can only assume that a kind older woman was going through menopause and cleaning out her purse at the station, came to the realization that while she had no need for these there might be some less fortunate train rider who would. Kudos to you, charitable older woman.

I also thought I'd show you the kind of train riders that need charity. This fine fellow has an obvious need - or perhaps it's everyone else around him that has a need.
Won't someone please leave a shirt at the station for this poor man to find? Obviously he cannot afford sleeves - and judging by the towel around his neck he is a sweaty fellow as well, though luckily I was too far away to find out whether he was too poor for deoderant.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to build a bicycle, part the fourth.

I am now just about finished up with my Falcon, and I have some new photos and notes for you.

The initial photo I have of this bicycle is not great - it was taken on an iPhone, and I regret not taking more pictures of the bicycle in its "as found" state. I did, however, take some photos of the stripped frame before I sent it off to be powdercoated.

In this photo you can see the oxidation from the cable clips on the top tube. You can also see the general poor condition of the paint.

Here you can see the poor condition of the fork, and if you look on the rear stay you can see where the paint (probably) went on thin and wore off over the years.

I took some more time to start really assembling the bicycle over the weekend. I went ahead and got all new cable housing, as the original shifter housing was too short, and I didn't have enough brake housing from the donor bike - the Fuji had cable guides brazed on the top tube, so it had much less housing.

I spent a lot of time over the last week polishing up the last of the shiny bits - all cable hangers, cable clips, and the seatpost especially. The Falcon originally came with an old style seat post, really just a pipe with a clamp attached. I happened to have an alloy fluted seat post to put on, but it needed some serious polish. In addition to polishing all of the old pieces, I took the time to clean off everything that was going on the bicycle. I can promise you that the derailleurs I put on this bike haven't been this clean since they came out of the box.

I bolted on everything that needed bolting, and then I started to string cables. I'm using the original centerpull brakes on the bike for now, and after a little tuning they seem to do the job just fine. I do want some modern brakes but I don't want to alter the frame any more than I have by drilling for recessed nut modern brakes, so I need to save my pennies for a nutted pair.

Here is the bike in the stand being built. No seat yet and no chain.

After brakes came the derailleurs, and I'll admit I haven't changed out the cables. I have new cables for both front and rear, but I didn't have them handy when I was putting things together. The rear derailleur shifts and works great, but the front needs a little more tuning to make it work correctly. The cable for the front is certainly too short, so tuning it is not working out that well. I'm going to replace that cable and finish up this weekend, but for now the bike is rideable at least - so that's what I did. I put on some pedals and went for a spin. The headset needed a couple of adjustments, but other than that everything was as smooth as butter.



Here is the bike after the initial test ride. I haven't taped that bars yet, because I am still fine tuning the fit. Other than that and the front cable, this bike is ready to ride. There will be a little more garage tuning and fitting on the trainer, and then at least a ten mile ride to make sure the fit is really dialed in befroe I tape up the bars and call the project complete.

I enjoyed documenting the progress on this project very much. My next project will be turning the Fuji frame into a singlespeed bike for my brother to ride to the gym. I'll probably document that here as well, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Too cold for the train.

It's been the coldest week in a decade here in Dallas, and I will admit that I broke my New Year's resolution to ride the train at least once a week - but I do have a post for you, left over from last year.

There are signs all over the train prohibiting gambling, music without headphones, and eating and drinking. When I lived in San Diego, I used to ride the MTS express down to the border with Mexico at least once a week, and when I'd ride the train back to base late at night there was always a light rail dice game going on in the last car of the train. The players always got a little more boisterous than most of us who weren't gambling were comfortable with, and fights would break out quite often - so I certainly understand where the no gambling rule comes from. I also understand the music rule; I suspect that most people wouldn't like what I generally listen to, and I also figure that most of the folks who would be interested in playing loud music on the public transit system would not care if their musical tastes weren't the same as everyone else on the train. Eating and drinking I also understand, as I have noticed that for some reason people seem to be ok waith littering on the train; the cars almost always have some trash under the seat, on the seat, or in the aisles. If you mix food, indifference to mess, and a sometimes bumpy train ride, you would end up with an entire train full of garbage and seats you can't sit in. In today's world, however, we humans find it very hard to go without a drink for very long. If we are awake, we generally try to have a Starbucks, a soda, or at the very least a bottled water in our hands so we don't die of dehydration before we can make it to the next convenience store or soda machine.


This girl needed her hydration as well, and I don't fault her for that, but her choice of vessel is what caught my attention. When I first spotted her, her mason jar had a lid on, and was about half full of yellow liquid - a liquid which I assumed to be urine, to be honest. Needless to say I was a little surprised to see her spin the lid off and take a sip. Now I'm not going to pretend that I've never had a drink from a mason jar in my lifetime, but I will say that I've never used one as a to go cup - unless it was full of moonshine.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How to build a bicycle - part 3.

I know most of you are bored by this, but I put the last sticker on my frame last night, so if anyone is interested, here is how it works.

I bought my stickers from Cyclomondo on eBay, and they really are great. I made the mistake of putting the top tube sticker on first, and in the process got a big wrinkle at the seam that I couldn't staighten out, so I had to order a new sticker from New Zealand to fix my mistake. I will say that Cyclomondo makes great stickers, and is a great guy to deal with. The stickers are very robust, in fact they are very hard to remove - it took me quite some time to take the one that I wrinkled off.
Falcon without top tube sticker - here you can see the bicycle is starting to come together - The bottom brakcet and crankset are installed, as are the brakes and cable hangers. I'd prefer a nice shiny set of silver wheels and crankset, but I have these, they work, and will allow me to ride and save my pennies for a nicer group.

Once removed, my frame was ready for re-application. I chose the "wet" application again, as I did with the others, so I thought I'd show you how it works.

First, you have to clean the area with soap and water, then you take your soapy water and re wet the top tube. On the letter that Cyclomondo sends with the decals, he says to use a drop or two of soap in a cup of water - I'd actually recommend using more soap than that, as the more dilute mixture will dry too quickly - which is why I screwed up the first application.


Here you can see the soap bubbles on the top tube, waiting for the sticker. Once it's soapy enough, put the sticker on and carefully align it as you please. Mine went on fairly well this time, and I was able to do a much better job of lining up. This time I have no wrinkles, and maybe one bubble that I'll be able to remove with a tiny pinprick - I had to do it on one of the other stickers, and I know it will end up just fine.


Here is the sticker on the top tube. If you have sharp eyes you will notice that the stickers are positioned differently from the original stickers. I had to do that because my frame ended up with a chip that needed to be covered by the sticker. I am ordering a second complete set, and I took measurements from the original stickers, so when I reapint (not re-powder) the frame I can put them back in their proper places, should I choose to do so.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How to build a bicycle part two.

We celebrated Christmas with my parents and grandmother today; and while it was lots of fun, it was also a long day of chasing around a couple of two year olds around. When I got home and got Anna to bed I went into the garage and got to work on the Falcon. A couple of nights ago I tried to line the lugs of the bike with a paint pen and did a terrible job.


There looks like there is a dent in this one, but that's just reflection.

As a result, I have spent the past few nights trying to remove the paint from the frame. I thought that a paint pen might not be durable enough to do the lining in the first place, but the paint proved itself to be much more resilient than I thought. Niether mineral spirits or turpentine would remove the paint, so I thought I'd test the rumors about brake fluid and paint - sure enough, that took the paint pen right off of the powdercoat just as easy as you please. I had already spplied the decals to the frame, so I had to be careful not to drip. I very carefully used my best gun show purchase ever.


I bought this box for a dollar at a gun show years ago, and I have found so many more uses for long wooden swabs than I ever thought I would. I wish I'd spent $5 and bought 4 more boxes. With this project, I'm getting pretty low on my supply, and I know I'll never find them for the same price again.

I will take a couple more photos of the bike tonight. I have polished the metal bits going back on the bike, and things are starting to look pretty nice. I'm going to a bike shop to pull the bottom bracket off of the now stripped Fuji so I can start putting things back on the frame as I clean them. I'm hoping to have the Falcon together by next week, so look for a nice long photo post in the next few days.