Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Stuff

In an effort to single-handedly stimulate the economy of the nation, my Paypal exploits have taken on Herculean proportions. I am only three hundred and thirty one transactions away from a new star.
eBay is evil.
The brakes on the Beach Bike were howling like a castle full of drunken banshees so I decided to change out the calipers. Unfortunately, the Shimano XT brakes I got did not fit so I turned them around on Craigslist and got these:

So far so good. Some squeal, but for the most part quiet. I think I just need to wear them in a bit.
I also switched chain lubes from Prolink to Boeshield T9. Though the T9 is a bit tacky, it does not appear to attract as much grit and sand. It is also cleaner; meaning it doesn't turn the chain into a greasy mess. So far I like it.
I decided to go all OCD on the chain so I bought this:

Hopefully using Park Tool's Cyclone Chain Cleaner every hundred miles or so with the Boeshield should make my drivetrain last a bit longer.
Park also came out with a new spoke tool. Instead of having to get all the different sizes, they now make this:

No, I only bought one; I photoshopped a front and back shot into a side by side. Oh, and for some reason, I took the picture in black and white.
I was trying to capture the true essence of the object. Evil Hoku should get a laugh out of that.
I also changed the handle bars on the Beach Bike. I went with twenty-seven degree sweeps so it moved my hand position further back. To offset the change, I got a new stem:

At one hundred and twenty millimeters, it's long; I mean long. It had to be that long in order to set the grips back to their original position.
I'll put up pics of the Beach Bike after I'm done adjusting some(more) stuff on it.
And just to prove to myself that not all my purchases are frivolous, I had to order me this:

I hope this is not the start of a new trend(see below). Actually, I'm not a real Dr. Seuss fan; I am more of a Babar groupie:

I am helping a student get through first year French, so perhaps I can write it off.
I'll just include all this stuff in The Flat Tire Stimulus Package.
You can thank me later.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Grow Up

I have been faced with making a difficult decision this last few weeks.
What to get my one year old nephew for his first birthday.
While this might seem easy at first, if you think about it hard enough it has the potential to drive one quite daffy.
First I though I would get something educational. Then I decided to get something artistic or creative. Then I thought about something that would be entertaining or amusing. Then I gave up.
I came up with alot of neat things. Until I began to think about what exactly a one year old kid does.
Well, I don't exactly know what a one year old kid does. Sleep alot, would be my guess; that's what I would be doing if I didn't have a job or have to go to school.
In my epic search, one thing became a common theme: Beware of small parts.
Not having any children, I looked around at my living room and realized that I live in a potential death trap.
I like small parts.
I like things with small parts.
I like things with small parts and big parts.
I like to have small things to fix the stuff with the small and big parts.
And, I like to have more than one small thing to fix the stuff with the small and big parts (see below).
You can see where it became a problem finding a suitable gift.
The other difficulty, I came to realize, is that I think like a small child.
While not immature (okay, maybe), I tend to see things like I'm seeing them for the first time. Or at least I try to. That means to me, everything is amusing and entertaining.
I still enjoy the toy department. As I shopped for my nephew, it all looked good. It became a one for me, one for him, kind of ordeal.
In the end, I regressed.
Yes, I dug down deep and searched out a side of me reserved for when I have to deal with grown up people. I got something practical.
I know the kid can't read yet, but I thought books would be safe so I got him these:

Those are books I grew up with and enjoyed. My sister can always read to him until he learns to read them on his own. Maybe they'll even be passed on to another kid someday.
Oh, and as I was perusing the childrens book section, I just couln't help it.
I had to get me this:

Maybe one day I'll just grow up.
I hope not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yards, Muffins and Worst Case Scenarios

Hawaii recently took a look at the three foot law to protect bicyclists. Basically, motor vehicles must yield three feet to cyclists riding on the road. Fifteen states currently have this law on the books.
Police here testified against it, saying there were already similar laws and that it would be too difficult to enforce.
Recently there have been a couple of cycling related deaths, so I suppose it is the city councils response in regards to bicycling safety.
The city has also revamped their bicycle lane project. Your comments are welcome here.
It seems that at the very least, cyclists are on the minds of people in government.
While most of my miles have been accumulated close to home, I have ridden in town and on the east side. I have never had a serious problem with a motorist while riding my bike. Sure, I have been buzzed and yelled at, but mostly, I have felt safe and confident riding our streets. While driving my car, well, that's another story.
To use the theme of "Two Degrees of Separation" and taking it for another ride (see Sept. 12), here quite often, people are literally related someway or somehow.
That fact seems to keep a lid on escalating road violence. The chances are almost one hundred percent that you and a complete stranger can find a common acquaintance. Or family member.
Hawaii is a small place and everybody knows somebody.
What scares me the most is my own stupidity. Or lack of cycling skills. Or a combination of both. Now that is a cocktail for disaster.
I often imagine myself running over something on the side of the road, such as a palm frond or baby coconut (don't laugh, not uncommon), and falling into traffic.
The car in back of me would swerve to avoid me and hit the car in the on-coming lane while the car behind him, not seeing me, runs me over.
Well, after thinking about all the possible scenarios my stupidity could cause, I went and got one of these:

You can check out the folks at RoadID here. What you get is nice piece of polished stainless with any important information you wish to laser etch upon it. It attaches to various places on your body. If you like, you can even subscribe to a service that allows emergency personnel to call a toll free number that relays your vital information.
The way I look at it, in case of the above scenario, at least they'll know where to drop off the body.
Then again, I have a cousin that works Fire and Rescue, and hopefully he's told all his co-workers (see 2TOS above) to look out for that crazy guy riding around Kailua with the blueberry muffins strapped to his bike.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Addictions Part Deux

I went on an Evil eBay shopping spree last week, so now the fruits of my labors are beginning to arrive at my door.
My latest acquisition is a Park Tool hex wrench, which I decided I needed late one night whilst flipping the stem on the Beach Bike.

It appears to be a quality made tool that features the three most oft used sizes of hex wrenches I use. I should know for right next to the computer is this:

I frequently use my Snap-On hex set but found that while using the individual wrenches, I would often misplace them so the Park Tool wrench seemed handy. Then I began to think about all the hex keys I have around here. I remembered the set I got when I first got into cycling:

The Topeak Alien has about a hundred different tools on it so it was not very practical to carry around. It was also a bit cumbersome to use although it rests on a shelf approximately six feet from where the Snap-On set and I sit.
So I got this:

The Park Tool I-Beam is a nice compact multi-tool that is equipped with a chain breaker so I keep one in the saddle bag on my bike. I liked it so much that I got one for each bike:

I don't think I've ever used the second one.
Now I bet most normal people at this point would stop and marvel at all the different hex wrenches in their possession. They would probably feel safe and think that they had the right tool to tackle almost any bicycle related job at any time.
Not me.
I don't know why, but I often carry this around:

The Topeak Mini-6 was a gift from Evil Hoku so it doesn't qualify as an acquisition. It is about the size of a Zippo lighter and very convenient to have around. Especially when I am too lazy to open up my saddle bag or walk over to the shelf and use the Topeak Alien or use the individual wrenches sitting right next to me.
I think I'll put the new Park three way wrench about four feet in front of me with some other bicycle stuff just in case I need a wrench and am not carrying the Mini-6 or am too lazy to walk to the shelf and grab the Alien or use the Snap-On wrenches or open my saddle bags.
I've been thinking that those hex keys with the ball ends might be nice to have around.
Park Tool makes a very nice T-handle mechanics set.
You know, just in case.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Same Old Tired Story

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Same old story.
It's been four days since I've been on my bike. I did take the Beach Bike to Safeway to pick up a couple of cheese rolls. Other than that, I have been feeling a bit peaked. Well, not really sick, just tired.
Come home, turn on the TV, fall asleep on the couch tired.
Why? I'm not sure. Work has not been overly stressful; I seem to be getting enough sleep. I don't think I have tired blood.
I am getting my supplements regularly:

And you thought the Epogen thing was a joke.
Well, I actually am powered by Epogen.
The thing is, I think I felt better when I wasn't. Okay, not really.
My hemoglobin levels are maxed out. Maxed out for someone on Epogen that is. For you normal folk, your hemoglobin levels should be at 14-18 gm/dl (that's grams per decilitre, for those of you who like to know) for men and 12-17 gm/dl for women. My level is at 11.7 gm/dl (it used to be as low as 10.2), which is right below the maximum recommended by the clever folks at Amgen, manufacturers of Epogen.
Since Epogen is considered a performance enhancing drug (PED), especially for those athletes involved in tests of endurance, it seems ironic to me that Amgen should be a major sponsor of the Tour of California bicycle stage race. Actually, I don't think racers are taking Epogen anymore, CERA is latest boutique PED. Wiki has good explanation here. Basically, CERA is EPO that lasts longer with lower dosages. I believe the overall effect is that it increases the amount of oxygen carrying red blood cells thus allowing athletes to sustain and/or recover from strenuous efforts. In my case, Epogen allows me live a normal(?) productive life.
That's the good part.
The bad part is that you can die from it.
Since folks abusing this miracle drug have been dying, Amgen has recommended that people using Epogen not exceed a hemoglobin level of 12 gm/dl. Apparently, not only does it increase the number of red cells, but it also thickens your blood.
So much so, that if your heart rate gets too low (like when you are at rest or sleeping), it may cause your heart to stop. Sort of the thing that may keep you awake at night don't you know.
What does all this have to do with my lack of energy?
I don't know.
There are times when I wish I knew what it would feel like if my hemoglobin levels were closer to normal. Would I feel stronger on the bike? Would I be able to climb those hills a bit faster and with less effort? And the big question: would I be faster?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I do know that I wouldn't mind trying to push my hemoglobin levels up to "normal" to see if there is any difference in how I feel and perform.
Then again, I like waking up.
Even if I am tired.

Note: In no way does The Flat Tire staff encourage or condone the abuse of any prescription drug. The writer is prescribed the above drug while under the care of a qualified physician.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two Degrees of Separation

Things are beginning to get rolling in the fabrication shop/studio. The two forty volt outlet got hooked up and the kiln is on line.
It's been three years since I've done any serious work and some ideas have started to percolate to the surface.
It's not like I haven't had any time, it's just that eBay, the internet, and USA network are evil.
Speaking of evil, Evil Hoku comes over to start things off. He hasn't touched clay since his BFA (Bachelors of Fine Arts) graduation show which was a year before mine.
I break out the Jeff Eisler Wheel (Jeff, I hope you are getting tasty barrels wherever you are), and Evil Hoku begins to work about three or four pounds of clay.

He's doing well. Working on the potters wheel is like riding a bike; you never really forget how, and it's all about making something spin in a circle.

Now what? Evil Hoku asks. This is how I felt like last year when I first started riding again. Okay, I can ride around without falling down, now what?
Evil Hoku goes with the old standby: the Winnie the Pooh Honey Jar.

Most beginners, when working on the potters wheel find early that it's not good to overwork the clay: there is a definite time to stop.
Evil Hoku is not a beginner. He decides to stop.

Well done! For a photography major.
Evil Hoku and I both hold BFA degrees. His just happens to be in a flat and lifeless medium called photography. I graduated with the three dimensional, avant-garde artists in the sculpture department. I originally hoped to take my degree in ceramics, but switched over to the sculpture department for reasons I will not get into.
Your turn, Evil Hoku says.
Being older than Evil Hoku makes me wiser. I haven't worked on the wheel in so long, I am afraid he's shown me up! I respectfully defer to another day.
Little does Evil Hoku know, but his stuff will be the test pieces for when I fire up the kiln. I mean, I wasn't going to use my stuff in the first firing!
Not that anything could go wrong don't you know.
The sad thing about art students is that only a few get to continue on after graduation. The realities of life take precedent and soon one finds there simply is not enough time to devote to one's passions. You must make choices.
In my case it was not about time, it was about the process. Ceramics is done in stages, and you need the equipment to complete it.
After all this time off, I hope this is the start of a new journey.
I thought it ironic that Evil Hoku was the one working the clay and I was the one taking pictures.
While we hold degrees in different mediums, there's not that much separation in what we do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Beach Bike II

Yes! The sequel you've all been waiting for! More action and more thrills than the original.
So here's the Beach Bike all decked out in the stuff I had laying around:

Actually, I didn't have much to change on it. I added the Easton Flatboys, Specialized BG grips, computer and cut down the bars to twenty two inches. The tires are Continental Sport Contacts in 700x37, but they are actually like 35s. I had to wait until today to get the Axiom Journey rack put on; there was a problem with the length of the stays. Oh, and that's a Tacx Tao bottle cage.
But wait! you say. That is NOT the same bike!
What are you talking about? Of course it is.
I accidentally left it out in the rain last night and it grew by four centimeters.
Actually, a funny thing happened on the way to the supermarket.
I came home on Saturday night and started to "tune" my ride. In my quest for top end speed, I thought to take off the rear reflector that was mounted on the seat post. That was when I noticed that the seat post was adjusted about three quarters of an inch above the recommended depth. I took the post out and measured it; turns out it was only going in about halfway through the top tube/ seat stay joint. If you look closely at the frame, this means that only about two and half inches of seat post is secured in the tube. Not good.
The first frame was a forty five. It fit well and I had no problems with it except for the seat post. On further inspection, I noticed that the seat was adjusted all the way back on its rails. I went out and tried the next size up, which was a forty nine.
And there it is. I guess the moral to the story is: ride one size up and one size down, just to make sure. And make sure everything is up to specification.
Here's the thing about the Globe Vienna: it has an usual geometry. At least in this size.
We/I had to modify the stays on the Axiom rack in order for it to fit. Thankfully, Evil Hoku found some longer stays at the shop. They were about two or three inches longer that the ones that came with the rack; only thing, there were two right sides. I saw this when I got home, so I had to use my fabrication skills to put a mirror image bend in the stay that was for the left. Actually, I put it in a vise and tweaked it. It came out okay:

Here's another funky thing about the Globe. It has a rider friendly cassette. It's an eight speed; what the gears are I have no idea. All I know is, one of them is big:

If I had to guess, I'd say it was a seventy five or so. If you can't get up the hill with that, give it up and walk.
Out in the fabrication shop, I find an old bungee cord. I tie it on to the rack and off I go! My first stop is the hardware store to buy more bungees. Cool! I find a pack of four that look perfect for my rack:

Off to Safeway I go, excited to make my first run at the store. I get my cargo, only to find that:

The hooks are too small for the rack! WTF? Tail between my legs, I use the old large bungee to fasten my cargo and ride on home. Oh well, I'll just have to take the new bungees to the fabrication shop.
On the way home, I decide to mash it, cargo and all. My massive legs hammering on the pedals get me to twenty seven mph.
What was I carrying?

Four blueberry muffins and a couple of cheese rolls.
Oh ya baby.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Beach Bike

So, my display bike is down da road (DDR), now in the hands of someone who will actually ride it. I'm sure it is happy.
Now comes the hard part. What bike to get next?

I sort of had an idea of what I wanted: cruiser/utility bike that I could run to store or to the beach. It had to have a rack or basket and it had to have 700c wheels. I thought I could get in and out of the bike store in an hour. It took me two and half.
Of course Evil Hoku was there to help me out. He managed to talk me out of my original decision.
I had actually narrowed my choices down to two bikes: the Globe Vienna and the Kona Smoke. Evil Hoku actually had an older Smoke that I almost bought so it was what I thought of first. The Vienna has been out for only a couple of years and I thought it looked pretty cool. I was leaning toward the Smoke though, mainly because it was steel, and I didn't want another aluminum frame.

It's a nice bike that comes equipped with plastic fenders, CityRide tires and an eight speed grip shift drive train. Very nice and cushy. The top tube is bit on the long side and it stretched me out some. The fork bothered me. Tubular steel and it flexed like bamboo. Yes, I know, probably part of the compliant ride, but it unnerved me still.
So I took the Vienna out again.
And I took the Smoke out again.

I cannot relate how important fit is. Now that I know better and know what to look for, I was able to adjust the bike to my liking. This was not like my first bike purchase which involved a ride around the block and an "okay I'll take it." Although I was spending half as much moolah, I wasn't going to compromise comfort.
The deal breaker was the position, the grip shift and the cup o'noodles fork.
So in the end, I bought this:

The Vienna has integrated shifters/brake levers and a massive low gear for them thar hills. It is an aluminum frame, but comes with a springer seatpost that kinda sorta works. I think it will do me well.
I have to mount the rear rack (Evil Hoku made me get the more expensive one!) and find a nice basket for the front. I'll change out the pedals for my old Easton Flatboys or try some toeclips, though I'm wondering if the clips will accommodate my multi-tool slippers. The bars will have to be cut down some; I'm changing out the grips and adding bar ends. No, they will not be pointed straight up. Oh, and I'll probably flip the stem. Evil eBay will supply the new brakes, probably Avid Single Digit Sevens. My old Specialized computer goes on as well. I'm still trying to figure out the size of the fattest tires I can squeeze into the fork.
Maybe I'll even find some time this weekend to ride it on over to Lanikai and hang out at the beach.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Finally got around to replacing my cassette. It was getting so bad that it was skipping almost every time I mashed it or went up a roller. At first I attributed the skip to the massive amount of power my legs were putting out, then I woke up.
I was surprised by the amount of wear on the cassette. Okay, maybe not considering where I ride. Going through Lanikai cannot be the best thing for your drive train.
I do clean and oil my chain about every fifty miles though, knowing that it tends to pick up dirt, dust and sand. I guess it didn't really help.
Here's the cassette:

You can see how the teeth on the two gears in the middle of the cassette have worn. Some of them have started to "hook" a bit and there is a difference in size compared to the other teeth.
I use the 17 and 19 almost all the time. Even when climbing hills, I usually only drop the front seeing as how I have a mountain triple. Evil Hoku says that makes me lazy, since I don't push all the gears when I ride.
Here's a closer look at the teeth:

As I said, I was surprised by the amount of wear and its effect when pedaling. By my count there is only about 2700 miles on the cassette; all those stories of getting five thousand plus out of one are kind of suspect. Then again, I got Lanikai.
I am going to switch over to a different lube also. I am going to give T9 Boeshield a try. I used it on some of my power tools and I wasn't aware it was used on bike chains. It's a dry wax lube so it may be more suited to the kind of conditions I subject my bike to.
My old cassette was a SRAM 12-26 and I am now on a SRAM 12-23. I decided on it mostly for the 16 tooth gear. Most cassettes skip the 16 and drop from the 17 to a 15. I also figured that if I couldn't climb any of the hills around here with a 22/23 combo, you might as well take my bike away. My new found gearing allows me to crush the souls of old people and young children with ease.
Which reminds me of the time I was riding my warm up stretch early one morning on the display bike when I came upon an elderly gentleman apparently on his morning ride. Coming up from behind him, I paced him for bit before deciding he was going a bit too slow for me. So I passed him with a "on your right" and lead him to the next intersection. I slowed to make the left turn, he came up from behind me, gave me "the look," cut me off on the turn, and proceeded to lead me on the next stretch. Now this sort of bothered me as he resumed his pace and I did not want to overtake him again. After a half mile I decided enough was enough and passed him on an slight uphill, into the wind stretch and did not see him again.
I'll remember "the look" old man, and next time, when you see my gleaming new cassette, you'll think twice about messing with me.
I got the new gear just for you.