Monday, October 31, 2011

Brevet Series #2

I didn't have time to photograph the sign warning us "Pavement Ends".
But it did. And the gravel began. Although I was slower than everyone else, I felt pretty fierce for stepping (riding!) outside of my comfort zone. There is more than one key to happiness and finding it requires crossing scary terrain that won't always be perfectly smooth.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Miyata, Part Quattro E Mezzo

This post is named part four and a half because no actual progress has occurred. Work is at a standstill on the butter beater project, which I'm considering renaming the goldilocks project.

A new fork is on its way from Amazon. Yes, Amazon had the chrome, lugged fork with rake that I hope will be just right. This will be fork number three! 10/31 update: It's here! (pictured below)

A new brake caliper is also on its way from the jungle of bike parts Amazon had to offer. A standard-nut long-reach front caliper brake which should reach the rim and go through the fork's small brake mounting hole.10/31 update: the new caliper brake will not work. I'll need to drill a larger hole in the fork. Awesome!

Meanwhile, I've realized the bars I bought are too wide. Every other part has gone through several tries, so why not the bars too! The upside is that this creates homework.

Butter Beater homework: Remove stem. Remove brake levers from bars. Remove bars from stem. Clean, sand and polish the stem. 10/28 update: done!

The Apex: the $10 mountain bike project can now move forward because the stuck seat post is OUT! Homework: Install new seat post. Install saddle. Install new tires. Install, install, install!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fear - Amended

Hey, let's talk about fear, shall we? What is fear? Websters defines it as.......just kidding. We all know what fear is.

I'd like to think (or write) out loud some recent thoughts and revelations I've had on this topic. Fear can be grand. Fear can adrenalize you. But fear can also totally suck.

It can suck the wind right out of your sails. It can manifest itself as dread. Dread for something that hasn't happened yet and may never happen. The fear-dread can have power over you by preventing you from moving forward. By stopping your plans because you might fail. Or get hurt. Or die.

We're all going to die, no doubt about it. (If you're a vampire or zombie, please skip this part). The decision we get to make is whether or not we're going to die while we're living.

These ideas help me put certain fears in perspective. Like the fear of falling on gravel. Those are just little bitty pebbles! It's only a pretty red trickle of blood that may (or may not!) run down my leg. I'm going for it.

10/27 amendment: after posting this entry yesterday, I borrowed a book that included a chapter named "Intimacy With Fear". Pema Chodron states that fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. Now I really have something to consider. More amendments to follow.

10/28 amendment (I'm sensing a trend here!): I can't believe I wrote an article about fear without mentioning my fear song. I try to save it for real scary situations, not just minorly sketchy ones. Currently, the song features the original tobacco verse along with my originals: the mop verse, the clock verse, the bike/art verse, the veil of tears verse and finally the heart verse. Nothing bad has ever happened to me while belting out this little ditty, so it has a certain protective magic that grows every time I sing it.

10/31 amendment: (last update to this post): I did it. I conquered my fear of riding in gravel by getting intimate with that fear. Right close up to it. Exhilaratingly worthwhile.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tandem Vs. Single Speed

I've ridden on two tandems in my life. The first time the captain deliberately tried to scare me and I peed my pants. Really. The second time was my wedding day and I was captain - big mistake - I should've stoked. I'm coming up on my divorc-iversary so these things cross my mind.
On a single speed, you can't go as fast or get to the top of hard climbs as easily as a geared bike. But there's less weight and fewer moving parts so less can go wrong. And riding a single speed makes you stronger so when you're ready to get on a geared bike you can kick ass.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Miyata, Part Quattro

What I had hoped would be the final session on the butter beater project instead revealed a bent fork.

Also, the clamp I found to hold the Shimano 105 downtube shifters will not work. The good news is that the SunTour gift shifters will and they are now installed, along with the derailleur cables.

So far I've gone through: two forks, three headsets, two stems, two pairs of brake callipers and two pairs of downtube shifters. Just because you like pink ponies, doesn't mean they're easy to find. Oh wait, here's one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weird Stuff I See On Bike Rides

Stopping to breathe on the way up Bald Peak (this looks like a heart to me).

The slough bike path near work (cloth ghosts and a Halloween tree).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brevet Series Opener

Joined the Randonnerds on Sunday for a 75 mile adventure featuring a lovely climb up Bald Peak through several miles of gravel. Shocking, but I actually enjoyed the non-paved surface!

I showed up with the only man (A Sisyphean Hill Rider!) on the ride. We hung back while the ladies raced off. My cue sheet had a few wrong turns, which only added to the fun. In true Sisyphean style, we climbed some unnecessary hills. A great day.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Miyata, Part Tre

Rode kiss bike around this morning in search of the perfect quill stem. One inch threaded, ninety degree, 120mm stem to stern. Cory tempted me with a pretty lugged one that would double the cost of the project. Luckily, City Bikes (once again) had exactly what I needed. A Nitto for only $18!

Back home to grab my (#$%&$#!) car and the butter beater. Met the knowledgeable Kristina at the Bike Farm, who helped me pound the crown race onto the fork and press the headset into the head tube.

Then it was time to cut the steer tube down to size. Apparently this is pretty advanced stuff, which I found exhilarating. After my uneven cut, we had to file just the right amount of the thread off.

Finally, finished putting the headset on and installed the new stem.

Homework: continue down tube clamp quest, put the bars in the stem and toss the front wheel on. Next work date: Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Going Up Alone

52nd hill repeats Wednesday. Rocky Butte Thursday. Rocky Butte Friday.

My motivation to ride has always been social. But when no one could go this week, I rode anyway. Hard & lonely, but worthwhile all the same.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bike Geekery

Guy comes in the shop the other day. To show me this.

Shiny chromed scrolly lugs turn me on.

The head badge is like jewelry!

How about those chain stays?!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Miyata, Part Due

Monday night's segment of the newly named butter beater project brought some disappointments with it.

The bad news:
This shiny fork (pictured above) is threaded too high up on the steer tube.
The downtube shifter clamp I need will be impossible to find.
My powder blue stem left over from another bike won't work.

The good news:

I was hooked up with a set of downtube shifters that may work instead.
City Bikes had the right fork, headset and bars.
City Bikes took my triple crankset, track bars & the old fork in trade.
The Bike Farm had a 12cm reach stem for only six bucks.

In other news:
I received some very wise advice, wise for general use but specifically to figure the stem size for butter. The measurements from both the middle of the seat tube and from saddle nose to the front of the stem on all of my bikes will prove valuable for many future projects and a better understanding of my geometric needs.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Brer Fuchs, Brer Tarrypin

Saturday's Harvest Century was spectacular. Gorgeous weather. Beautiful scenery. Bonfire smoke in the air.

Ride-a-long mechanic status provided free entry and owl tees and only required one flat fix.

Beer tickets galore and geeking out over bikes, followed by a long train ride downtown, was the perfect finish to a lovely day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday's The Cure

Never Looking Back:
This sign on Fremont set the tone for early morning coffee and a hill climb.
I Don't Care About You:
Free beer at the Bike Commute Challenge party, which included a free lecture. Getting lectured is not as fun as riding a bike.

Watch The Walls Instead:
Unfree beer at the Artcrank party. Fantastic fork discussion with Frank of the Bike Farm. Long and lovely chat with one of my top ten favorite people - Edwin of Sprout Cycles. Playing the mingle game with strangers. Art.
Finally, a peaceful spin home with a big new poster rolled up in my jersey pocket. Title: The Chase. A bunny on the bars, the fox stoking. I hope the fox catches that bunny. Go, fox, go!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Miyata, Part Uno

Last year, I crashed and broke my beloved Miyata 712. Since then, I've been obsessively trolling Craig's List in search of a replacement Miyata frame, in my hard-to-find 52cm size.

Finally, just last week, it came to me. A butter yellow Miyata 710, circa 1983, without a fork. Here's a picture I took after paying a mere $55 for it. Please note its extreme beauty.

I've always been one of those cyclists who pays others for bike mechanic work. A few weeks ago I broke that pattern by learning to change my cassette and chain. And now, thanks to the lovely people at the Bike Farm, I will continue the streak by building this bike myself.

2011 has been a incredible year of personal growth for me, so why not step outside of my norm and get my hands dirty?! Like so:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The first Cyclocross race I ever saw happened in Golden Gate Park about 15 years ago. You know, before Cyclocross was cool. I believe it was an unsanctioned race. The racers, all men, wore dresses. The course was a very short loop through the trees and over some felled logs. The crowd, or more accurately, the handful of people watching, all seemed pretty confused. There were no cowbells.

The second one I saw happened last year in Las Vegas during Interbike. It was in a soccer field at night and all the racers seemed pretty pro. The course didn't seem that hairy to me, although it was too crowded to get a good view. There was a giant praying mantis dump truck that shot flames out of its antennae during the final lap and an Elvis impersonator awarding trophies.

The third and best CX race I've ever seen was Sunday's kickoff of the Cross Crusade series at Alpenrose. There were bad-ass women and men and bicycles of every ilk and riding ability you can imagine. Racers' faces showed fierce determination, contempt, torture, exhaustion and glee. Sometimes all at once.

Mud, blood, bells and screams. Deflated riders re-inflating with spectator encouragement. Bikes tangling in crashes. Crazy challenging run-ups where the cleated slick shoe soul meets the textureless muddy slope. People pushing themselves to the very brink of their ability and beyond.

Now I get it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Character Building, Advanced Class

Saturday started innocently enough.

I felt cautious about my healing shoulder so I started the day with a hot bath and took the bus to meet up with Sisyphean hill climbers Nick and Scott. A quick tiger balm purchase and we were off!

After crossing the 205 bridge, I experienced new levels of pain, and hence, endurance. A new goal in life is to never ride the horribly bumpy, barely-paved, crap-ass, uneven, tortorous eight mile stretch of SR-14 ever again.

Alone on Washougal River Road, I had a serious discussion with myself. "Suck it up, Wussy McWuss-alot. Life hurts, feel it. Just ride on this little piece of pavement. Do not quit." and so forth until I gave up that tack and sang camp songs instead.

My riding partners somehow managed to put up with me and slow down their usual scorching pace. By the time we reached the Bridge of the Gods, I was ready to ride five extra miles if it meant beer. These big smiles tell the story.

Fishtailing on the high, metal-grated, bridge with a line of cars following certainly reminds one of their mortality. I had a strange - very strange - sensation of equal parts fearlessness and terror.

Each bike ride is a microcosm of life. It isn't easy. It hurts like hell sometimes and you can choose to either give up or continue on. Choosing the latter leads to limitless rewards. Like riding through a cloud.