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.