Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Old Skool

I've ridden over 25,000 miles in clip-in pedals.
First with Shimano 150 "Look Compatibles"
Then thousands in Crank Bros. Quattros
Lately in Speed Play Light Actions

I'm tired of the high maintenance, the unreliability and random pop-outs.
I want more comfort and less hassle.

Today I put on old school flat pedals and commuted in  high top Converse All -Stars, commonly known as Chuck Taylors ( likely inaccurate for my Target bought pair, but if you are going to be a shoe snob, you can bite me).

It rocked. I'm unsure how it will be on longer rides, but my feet can't hurt anymore than they did after the last few centuries. I'll try to tweet regularly with my impressions.

More information and possible wisdom to be found here:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cracked Crank Cutting Corner.....

...and could have creamed calf.

(Note: This chronologically an old post, that I am just finishing up)

I generally avoid heavy alliteration, and the above is why. It can lead down an annoying black hole of sacrificing meaning and content for form and style. In other words, it can suck.

But I had a story to tell about a chain ring, a cracked crank, some pedals and I just got carried away.

First some background:

For a very long time ( 5 years or so), my crank set has been a Dura-Ace FC-7703 triple. A nice set by any standards. For most of that time, the pedals were Crank Bros. Quattros. I have been riding on the original chain rings all that time too. My best guesstimate is between 15K and 20K miles on those, maybe a little less on the Quattros, for a variety of reasons.

I did not buy the Dura-Ace because of its low weight, although it is very light. I don't race and a few extra grams mean nothing to me. Not really concerned about labels either, but I have to mention it or the story is incomplete. I bought it for durability and craftsmanship. I appreciate craftsmanship. And boobs.

Well, the chain rings wore out and I broke a crank arm.

Not at the same time of course.

No, I was suffering with the worn chain rings, both the middle and the outer , which was causing nasty chain behaviour, especially in the climbs. Now, if you recall, this is a triple set, and apparently the middle ring on this set is used nowhere else on the planet. A chain ring, like brake pads, it not something you buy used, unless you are absolutely sure it has virtually no miles on it. So I had to buy new, I had to buy Dura-Ace and the middle ring in particular is a rare part so not a lot of them sitting around ( remember supply and demand?). Bottom line: It was expensive. I had certainly gotten the miles out of them, and it was necessary, so I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of rings.

However, before the new rings arrived, my massive power eventually did the inevitable-I broke a crankarm:

The ferocious physics of force. Minus acceleration, mass is meaningless ( succumbing again to the sweet sirens song of alliteration)

More Background:

  • The left crank on the FC-7703 triple is identical to the left on the FC-7701 double.

  • It's easier to find parts for the double, and , in fact, a whole barely used double ( left and right), including fresh double chainrings can be found for about the cost of the one middle triple chainring, and much less than both middle and outer triple chainring.

  • I would gladly ride a double. I rarely use the granny gear ( although when I do, its a very guilty pleasure)

So, I ending up buying a near perfect double, including both chainrings ( in a better ratio than I currently have, for how I ride) for less than I had just paid for the new chainrings for my triple. But I was stuck with both. Its all about the timing.

Tech savvy readers may note that the bottom bracket would also be different. Lets say, for the sake of argument, that I had a normal Q-Factor. Well, it just so happens that I have a perfect double sized bottom bracket jsut laying around. However, I am larger than most mere mortals, moreso in the pelvis area, so a wider bottom bracket on a double may have been just the ticket for addtional comfort and power...

-Evil C.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Devil's Mantra

First, this is my favorite quote of the day.
"It's every bit as cool as Micheal Bolton, black socks with sandals, and smoking in a crowded elevator." -David, aka Divot
In this case, they were referring to the Toyota Prius.

Moving right along, I had intended to write today about my early morning coffee run, as a follow up to the last post. It was not to be. As I pedaled away from the coffee shop, with horror I realized I was humming this:

Delta Dawn, whats that flower you have on? Could it be a faded rose from days gone by? And did I hear him say, he was meeting you here today, to take you to his mansion in the sky?

And it strangely fit to the cadence of my pedals.

To be honest, I don't know if it was the Helen Reddy version or the Tanya Tucker version ( or god help me, the Bette Midler version), but the shame and anguish is the same.  It was a Helen Reddy/Tanya Tucker song, from  a guy who used to take his dates in college to see The Ramones and who used to scream along to Suffragette City, even in middle school.

Trying to make me feel better by pointing out that they were both kinda hot is a nice try...BUT THAT WAS IN 1972!!

I won't even post pictures of them, even in their 1972ish glory days, as that would bring me down even more.

Deborah Harry was hot too. Why couldn't I be humming Blondie tunes if I was destined to hum songs by female vocalists?

It was  miserable, it was like humming the Devil's own mantra and no matter how much it hurt, I could not get it out of my head.

How did that song get into my head? Was it playing in the background at the coffee shop? Typically they play Jimmy Buffet type music, so possible, but unlikely.

Maybe the caffeine fired up a very dusty,atrophied, cranky, evil neuron from my youth? Delta Dawn was certainly a feature of one or two of the 8-track tapes that got endless reply during our long family vacation drives to the Midwest. It could have been  buried in there for decades, just awaiting its time to rise, like a pop music cicada.

 Another odd 8-track tape that got endless play was "The Monkees and the Beatles Greatest Hits", which was  admittedly a strange combination in retrospect. What producer thought that a good match would be one of the most talented  bands of all time, and a made for TV goof troop? However, to be honest,  I would be much more likely to crank "Last Train to Clarksville" than "Yellow Submarine" nowadays. I just like the Monkees better. Go figure. But  any song from that tape would have been at least okay. Certainly less hellish than "Delta Dawn".

But if we are going to pull a song from the early 70's, why not something from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust? Some of the finest ever. Odd cadence to pedal to though, but maybe if I still had my old Bio-Pace chain rings...

But Noooooooo..... Delta Dawn. Delta friggin' Dawn...

It just keep coming and coming, wave after wave of the same lines. I couldn't remember any other parts of the song, but I could not get rid of the lines  I did know. Like eating bad oysters, they just kept spewing forth, no matter how much you wished it was just over...

In the end, the only cure was a couple of all out sprints that pushed me into ugly  VO2max 
red zone territory. I was almost puking and ready to pass out, gasping for air so hard, I couldn't even hum, but it fixed the issue. I like to think I actually killed those brain cells from oxygen starvation so that they never come back to haunt me, but  instead, I can't remember any of second grade now..

-Evil C.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Daily Grind

The title is  a coffee pun, sort of.

Coffee puns are way overused, mainly by coffee shops. What that means is that my threshold for a clever coffee shop name versus a stupid coffee shop name is pretty high.

I also have very little tolerance for pretentious douchbags. As an example, I like the actual Starbucks coffee and,  due to their ubiquitous nature and the fact that every single one of my GPS navigation devices can find one when queried, I will stop there on occasion. However, because the mystique they market tends to ooze pretentious douchbaggery, I will not call them my coffee shop of choice.

It's one of the many pragmatic compromises I make in my life. Much like hooking up with an annoying girl at last call, it's better to have coffee in the company of idiots than no coffee at all.

This was not that girl:

However, when given a choice, I tend to by my coffee from the Wake Zone in Apex, NC. It's a  single outlet, family owned shop that has good coffee and good staff. "Wake Zone" is one of those coffee shop name puns. They are located in Wake county, North Carolina. Combine that with the glorious stimulant properties of coffee, and you see the pun. But I don't think its a great pun, and typically it would not hit  my above mentioned tolerance threshold.

Back to my pragmatic compromise: Starbucks has no discernible pun in their name,  but they annoy me; Wake Zone has a marginal pun,  but I really like the shop and the coffee. So, in my personal growth category, I have shifted from buying my coffee based on store name to buying my coffee based on an ethereal quantity know as "Douchebag Quotient". Or maybe I just don't feel like struggling with the internal conflict. However, those of you who really get me will see the underlying conflict of "Situational Ethics": If I am near a Starbucks, and want a coffee, I'll stop there anyhow, douchebaggery be damned.

Others may wonder why not just buy it based on the quality of the coffee? Those others just don't get me.

To further muddy the waters, I rarely ride my bike to a coffee shop; because sitting around in bike bibs and a spandex shirt just doesn't relax me, and it generally makes people around me uncomfortable. Or, at least they look uncomfortable judging by the staring. Instead, I drive my fine German steel, a vehicle which some have called the epitome of yuppie douchebaggery.We have met the enemy and he is us.

In an unusual moment of candor, I need to point out that I generally don't actually drink coffee when at Wake Zone. I drink a skim latte. But I drink it in a very manly way, with 3 Equal packets. Um, err, not really selling the masculinity, am I?

Anyhow, I do drink regular coffee when at home, at work, when commuting on my bike or when buying it with Dunkin Donuts. I do like Dunkin Donuts, but my waistline  will chime in here and mention that I have never met a donut I did not like.

And the nice thing about an ongoing blog, is that I don't always have to wrap it up neatly at the end.

-Evil C.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hubris and Karma

Per an earlier blog, I take pride in being my own mechanic. Such pride occasionally turns around and bites me, often in rapid succession. So by mixing two philosophies, I  find myself at the intersection of Hubris Lane  and Karma Street, a seedy part of town no doubt.

After replacing my rear cassette, which worked very well with the new chain that had been replaced a day before, I was feeling very self satisfied. The powertrain was smoother than it had been in recent memory.

I had about 30 miles on the new component combination and was having a rather pleasant commute this morning ( as pleasant as any ride into work can be), when my chain threw a link and left me stranded about a mile from my office.

Now, typically I use a Wipperman Connex link on my chains to make them easier to service:

But, because the Connex link I had was from my old chain, and was as stretched as the old chain, I had gone ahead and used regular old chain pins to join  the latest chain. At this time I can't tell if that is where the chain failed, as that link, post pin install, looks pretty much like every other link, but I suspect that is the case.

So, once again, mechanical repairs I made cause me unpleasant drama. However, in my defense, I didn't make any stupid decisions this time, it just broke. The good news is that I had video rolling of this ride. You can't actually see the chain break, as the camera was pointed straight ahead, but you can see me pull over in dismay:

So, if you enjoy schadenfreude, and I know you do, this is a good moment for you.

Also, you may have noticed I added a live link to Yehuda Moon on my blog. I suspect the writer for that strip and I would disagree on many things, but I did see some common ground that I felt was of value. And he offered a prize drawing for blogs that linked to him.

-Evil C.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Raven Rock Ramble Follow Up

Because I know you care deeply.

I replaced the rear cassette, and now all is right with the world. Road it to work this morning and whistled a happy little Nine Inch Nails tune the whole way.

BTW, as far as I could tell, this girl was not at the Raven Rock Ramble:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Raven Rock Ramble

First, I'm not sure how I feel about using alliteration in the title of a bike ride. It seems like a nice, clever idea when I am laying  on the couch in a drowsy, well fed stupor, but when I am sore and cranky on a Monday morning, it just seems pathetic and childish, like Emily Dickenson for pre-schoolers.

But that's not important, it just sets the mood. The mood is cranky.

I take no small amount of pride the the fact that I built my current bike ( and my two previous bikes) up from custom picked components and that I maintain the bike entirely myself. But with that hubris comes a price: I can only blame myself when I fuck up.

I did so this weekend in preparation for the Raven Rock Ramble. My rear chain had begun to skip gears  and hop around recently, culminating in one disastrous event on a steep climb earlier in the week that pitched me over the handlebars.

Sorry, no real video, but for those of you with no imagination, it may have looked something like this, only going uphill, slower and with nobody around :

So, really very little like that, but everybody wants to see a bike wreck.

I should point out this was my first "unplanned dismount" in quite a while.

Anyhow, skipping gears is a pretty good sign of a worn/stretched chain.

I replaced that chain Saturday night before the Sunday morning Raven Rock Ramble.

In that one sentence, I made three stupid mistakes, mistakes for which I knew better. Stop reading and see if you can figure out my mistakes.

Don't scroll down and cheat, you are only hurting yourself. Oh, and you are hurting the innocent kitten that I have attached to the "Automatic Cheat Detector Flash Web Plug-in", ( ACDFWPI) I enabled on your PC. That plug-in, a  patented design of Evil Labs, shocks the snot out of the cute little fuzzball when you cheat, sending agonizing waves of pain through his little body. Pain which he cannot understand and has no responsibility or recourse.
1. Made a mechanical change right before a big ride;
2. Didn't  test-ride after above unavoidable change;
3. Didn't look closely  if gears on cassette were ALSO worn.

Typically, a chain will wear out faster than the rear cassette. In my case its about 3:1, chain to cassette. I was on about the  third chain, and should have replaced the cassette as well. What happens is the cassette gears tend to wear to match the stretched chain length. So, what I did was make the problem much, much worse; a new chain on a very worn cassettes hops like a frog on acid getting electroshock. ( Don't ask me how I know). I did not notice it until I was staging for the ride Sunday morning and by then it was too late to do anything about it.

This is my worn sprockets ( post ride). Note that the wear is not very obvious:

As the riders were staging, I rode around, testing various combination of gears to see if any worked and cursing myself. For whatever reason, including the possibility that it  had no place to go, but maybe due to less wear on that gear, the chain would  stay on 1st gear. Since  I still have the triple chain ring up front, I was essentially left with a three speed bike.

I asked some of the mechanics who set up repairs stations there if they had an extra 9 speed cassette, but they only had 10's, which are more common nowadays.

A lesser man would have quit at this point. I was at fault, and I was already out of bed, so I decided to take my medicine and see what I could do. In the past, I had ridden a single speed mountain bike in a Diabetes road  ride. I did 40 miles on that ride. In hiking boots, by the way, as the pedals are not clipless.  I thought it would be funny and also to assuage doubts about me being a badass:

I passed the test. It was funny, and I am a badass. Regarding my ass, you ladies are no doubt wishing you could see it in the above shot. You'll have to be content looking at those sweet  locomotive legs.

So, I took off on the ride. It was not miserable. Although it  felt like I was always in the wrong gear on the rolling North Carolina terrain,  the weather was great, the wind tolerable and I actually rode with some people I knew and had a pleasant chat.

However, I did not finish the whole 100 miles. More like 43. Kinda pathetic by my standards. But I learned some lessons and paid for my stupidity with a little pain. I've got a few more centuries to crank on this summer, so I will make up for it.

I will be replacing the cassette and bought another chain as a spare:

And I just found out they got bin Laden, so that cheers me up.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Courtesy and Honesty

I think it's important to point out courtesy and honesty, when applied unexpectedly, can have surprising results.

But, who really cares? If I have to be nice to get it, I don't want it. I bet the Germans have a word for that special flavor of sour grapes.

Cycling Content to follow.

 I am riding more, and currently in training for the Raven Rock Ramble

I'm working hard to shed ~20 lbs before then. Although I have no doubt I can finish, for once I would like to do so without felling like a sack of fecal coliforms. 

Fecal Coliforms look like this:

Here is what I typically look like after a century:
Squint your eyes, and you can see the uncanny resemblance.

Here is what Somer Cooper looks like. Note the difference:

I am currently shopping for rear panniers that work well for commuting. For the few of you you with long memories, I used to commute with a backpack. The backpack worked well when I had a fixed based of operations where I could keep towels and toiletries, and where the dress code was not so strict. However, after changing jobs, things looked grim.

Now I am at different offices  every day, but I noticed that most of the large office buildings are  equipped with showers and locker rooms, so if I can pack everything I need and keep my "Business Casual Clothes" fairly wrinkle free, I can begin to get some commuting miles in again.

I need to be able to carry my laptop and assorted tools of my trade ( Remember the dentist in  Marathon Man? ), and detach that bag and carry it into a clients office without looking like a pin head. The other bag needs to be able to carry clothes and toiletries so I can sneak a shower and then dress and look presentable.

The most important part is the bag that I can detach and carry as a briefcase/messenger bag. It must be cool, to reflect my cool business like manner. It must not look like bike geek wear.

I'll let you know what I find.

Back to the Raven Rock Ramble. I'm thinking I  may be able to live webcast some or all of it, with interactive conversations possible. I need to test this out a bit and will let you know, but it may be kinda cool. It also may be boring. Like this post is becoming.

-Evil C.