Thursday, February 16, 2017

one way or another

I've been test-riding a lot of bikes. A lot. One of my favorites has been the Surly Straggler. A mechanic at my LBS says the Straggler just "feels like it wants to go." I understand what he means. I've ridden the Straggler six times now, and I like it more every time.

There's something that mystifies me, though; the rear wheel dropouts on the Straggler.  It's not just that the dropout on one side has a screw pointing backwards and the one on the other side has a screw pointing forwards. No, my quandary is more fundamental: why are there horizontal dropouts at all?

I understand that horizontal dropouts are what you need on a single-speed or a fixie. But the default build on a Straggler is geared. Hey, if Surly can make a 650B Straggler, why can't they make one with vertical dropouts like me and all my old friends ride?

Errgh. I like the Straggler, but I'm not crazy about the rear dropouts. Knowing my general level of mechanical aptitude, I can picture myself missing several meals while I try to figure out the rear dropouts the first time I get a flat.

Well, if I decide I can't deal with the Straggler, there's always the Cross Check with its "semi-horizontal" dropouts. But as much as I like Surly bikes, I am just not crazy about horizontal dropouts. I couldn't tell you why, but they seem like a remnant of a bygone age. It seems to me horizontal dropouts would make it difficult to get the rear wheel straight. Am I missing something?

Picture by Surly.

What do you think? What do you know?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chaos Training

I went on .a bike ride Sunday. To call it training is probably incorrect. Most people who actually train have a plan of some sort. So I came up with the theory of Chaos Training, loosely based on Chaos Theory. A butterfly flaps its wings in Malaysia, I go for a bike ride in California. I think, though, that Chaos Theory actually has some sort of scientific basis, whereas most things I do aren't constrained by either science or common sense.

My Sunday Chaos Training:

  • Take Mystery Dog for a walk to limber up my legs. Actually, let Mystery Dog pull me around the block.
  • Meet a friend. 
  • Ride bikes for twenty miles.
  • Stop at a local Farmer's Market to eat at the best taco stand ever.
  • Ride the additional six miles back to my house.
The parts above almost could have been planned, if I weren't allergic to any sort of planning beyond "let's meet here, and go there." My riding partner called my style of riding "spontaneous, but cautious enough." Here's where the real chaos comes in:
  • On the way home, I realize that there might be something wrong with my front wheel. Possibly I put the quick releases back on in too much of a hurry.
  • I also realize that I can't stop at the LBS to have someone look at my front wheel, because I need to get the pasta sauce I bought at the Farmer's market into the refrigerator.
  • Go home. Put food in fridge.
  • Ice my back, remove ice, get back on the bike, go to the LBS where the mechanic tells me that the front wheel was in slightly crooked, and don't do that again.
  • Come uncomfortably close to buying the latest object of my obsession.
  • Go home without bankrupting myself by making an unwise purchase.
In all the chaos, though, I did get to ride a Surly Straggler. I've done about six test rides on the Straggler and like it more each time. This time I rode it home (about two miles from the LBS), and started to put it in the dining room where my bike normally lives. My wife caught on immediately that it was not my normal bike, and was fairly blasé even when she thought I'd bought it.

Since no post is complete without a picture, here's one of a Surly Straggler. Mmmmm, minty green color...

This picture owned by Surly.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Progress. Decline. Incline. Climb.

On a group ride yesterday, we did a long gradual climb on the Bay Bridge. There was a lovely headwind that tested me just a bit. Did I just say "lovely" and "headwind" in the same sentence? I hate headwinds; they make me feel as if I'm twice as wide and twice as heavy as I want to be.
This is the way I went yesterday, though I didn't take this picture. I was too busy getting to the end of the climb.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

training day

Today is the first training for the April charity event I'm riding in. But after yesterday's rain ride, I'm actually pretty tired. I'm starting this post in the morning prior to the ride. I'll finish it when I come back.


The checklist that the training organizer put together:

  • Have breakfast. Hmmm...not really hungry due to last night's giant Ethiopian feast. I'll have a slice of toast, though.
  • Make sure my water bottles filled up and on the bike. Check.
  • And a bunch of other things that I will do, but I won't enumerate them here, because lists are pretty boring, right? And after yesterday, the thing I care most about is having the correct spare tube. Well, that and having a PB&J for a snack.
And my personal checklist:
  • Walk Mystery Dog. That's not her real name, but we've had her for five years and I'm still not quite sure how she ended up here.
  • Ice my back, because.
I'm going out on the beginners ride because...well, because I am a beginner. I've been cycling less than a year; that's a beginner, right? The entire ride from my house and back is slightly longer than twenty miles, so I don't foresee any problems. Of course, I didn't foresee yesterday's tire rip/tube shred either, so who knows?

Here I would insert a post-ride selfie, but I have to face it; I'm not at my best in the morning. I'm actually not at my best in the evening, either. I'm sure there are a few moments during the day when I am at my best; I just haven't figured out when they are.


The training part of this ride was about fifteen miles. Adding on the four miles from my house and the four miles back, I rode a total plus four plus four miles today. I'm sure you know tell me.

The above is an indication of how tired and out of shape I am. The training part was pretty easy except for a few very short hills that I had to work at.  My front tire remained intact, for which I'm grateful. My rear tire didn't. At least I only had to replace the tube, though.

I'm going to take a moment here to recommend a piece of equipment: the Topeak Road Morph pump. I've had one for a while, but today was the first time I used it. It allowed us to get on the road much faster than any of the other pumps present on this ride would have.

Now I'm going to go replace the Pinhead locks in my wheels with the original quick releases. I can be smart enough about locking up my bike that I don't need the extra security; or at least I've been smart enough so far.  After two flats in two days, I'm a little less enamored with the Pinheads.

Oh, the ride! The people were great, but that's not a surprise. It was a bike ride, after all.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rain roulette

Lately the rain and illness have been working hand-in-hand to keep me and several other cyclists I know off the road. Today is the first day where it might rain lightly enough for me to go out. I still don't have rain gear (my LBS is moving slowly on getting it), but I don't care. I should be able to remain dry enough. I think. And in any case, I'm waterproof.

So I decided to play rain roulette; you know, where you go out betting that it won't rain too hard. And I lost.

Two things you can't tell from this photo: A) it's raining pretty hard, and B) I'm soaked and taking shelter in a shopping mall.

I waited out the rain. Or at least I waited until it sort of let up. And then I headed down the bike path to a freeway overpass. I got cold. I got wet. But I didn't get stuck in traffic.

However, I did get this.

This is exactly what it looks like. Except that my camera makes the colors brighter, so it's kind of cheerful looking.

Decided I wasn't going to change the tube in the rain and got it to the bike store. Turns out the tire was ripped and any tube I put in would've been flat pretty quickly anyway. (I also found out later that I didn't have the right tube with me.) So my laziness/aversion to working in the rain wasn't exactly wrong. I did have to buy a new tire, which I wasn't crazy about. But I did take out one of their Surly Stragglers for a test ride, which was fun enough to counter the "no fun" of getting a flat in the rain.

Big thanks to my support crew (um...wife) who was willing to pick me up so that I wouldn't have to walk five miles in the rain.

Tomorrow I go on the first organized training ride for April's charity event.  If it rains, the ride will be cancelled and a workout on some stationary bikes will be substituted for the training. I usually don't go to these things. There's something about gyms I just don't like. Also, stationary bikes. You pedal and pedal and end up in the same place.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


I often have days where I feel just a little less than special on the bike. In fact, I feel utterly...less than average. I'm not even hitting my average speed of nine MPH. I'm just dragging. I feel like my goals are almost unreachable. Almost? No, just plain unreachable.

And then I read something like this:

Who am I? Nobody important, nobody special, nobody especially talented or athletic. I would never have known that I could cycle at all, much less cycle around the world, had I not gotten on a bike and tried.
Juliana Buhring, from This Road I Ride

That's inspiration.

Monday, January 30, 2017

shut in

The flu that is temporarily reducing the workforce at my job finally sent me home. Not being one of your hardier Northwest/East Coast/Midwestern types who scoff at illness, I haven't been on the bike.

Just prior to getting sick, I did a little maintenance task: moving my saddle slightly forward to see if it helped with my slight back pain. I took a short ride (~4 miles) to see if it helped, and by golly, it did.

So I've been trying to educate myself on other facets of bike maintenance/repair.  I found what looks to be an informative site: RJ The Bike Guy.  The site is full of videos with enticing titles like "Long Cage vs Short Cage Derailleurs - Which Do You Need?" Ok, maybe that's not that enticing, but I find it more interesting than articles like "6 reasons you should get into cyclocross." Yes, that's a real article from a real site, sans link...please don't comment to tell me things like "Yeah, but that site probably has lots of useful articles and you're a wanker because cyclocross is awesome!"

But I digress. I digress constantly. I think it's the flu. I also used the word "wanker" even though I'm an American -- is that word making its way into the American vocabulary? Was I quoting a hypothetical English person? I don't know.

I also don't know how often RJ The Bike Guy updates his site, but I assume it keeps current with his YouTube channel, which was updated three days ago.