Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Intermittent Melt Phase

What a difference 10 degrees makes. It's been about 36 degrees all day, so the piles and piles of sandy, fluffy, impossible-to-cut-through deep snow has been transformed into hard packed, easy-to-glide-and-slip-on roadway.

The trail above is the "goat path" that connects the dead end at Altamont and 33rd with the Park-and-Ride at Regal. Riding this trail was fun. Only the center of the trail -- about 6 inches or so -- is solid enough to ride on, if you go off at all, your wheel will sink into a foot or so of unpacked snow.

Incidentally, the city owns this patch of land and the goat path is currently penciled into the Master Bike Plan as a connection.

Last night, I was checking out Spokanarama pics from his early morning walk downtown. His pics inspired me to get excited about riding down town; I even laid out my clothes. Instead, I woke up this morning to 6 inches of new snow and rolled back over. Ugh.

I think I'll take a run at that ride again tomorrow morning.

I really like riding around downtown around 6 AM. Especially in the summer. Of course, lately, my thinking is that I enjoy riding anywhere at anytime if it's in the summer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Snow Woes

I have no idea how many times I've read about how lower pressure tires help in the snow. Probably a million times or so. Yet, I've never fussed with the air pressure on my Fuji Turd, which has big fat 2.1" tires on it. I just pump it to 50 and go on my way.

So, I guess it takes about 15 inches of snow, compressed, and messed up by traffic to get me to do the bleeding obvious. No matter how you slice it, riding around in this kind of snow is not easy. But running 2.1" tires at about 20 psi, instead of 50 psi certainly helps.

Even then, I'm only good for short rides and I'm all over the sidewalks if they're shoveled. I know my buddy Ken has continued to commute in this. And Liza rode down to work at REI today. You guys rule.

It took me over an hour to walk to Maddie's preschool and drag her back on a sled. I think the preschool is about 1.5 miles away. What a slog.

The streets were plowed for a bit yesterday morning, which allowed Liza to take Maddie to school on the kicksled. Once she hit the deep stuff, Liza did not dig the kicksled.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Big Snow, Hub Part II, Fancy Forks

This is crazy snow. They say it hasn't snowed like this since 1992. It has been snowing solid for 24 hours now.

Maybe someday we'll get a Pugsley. I've talked to friends about going in on a pair of Pugsleys and sharing them, but the problem is, on a Sunday like this where the snow is 2+ feet deep, everyone would want to ride it. It's still worth considering. Using Sheldon's pricing as a starting place, we're looking at about $4500 for two bikes. You get 10 people in on the deal, that's $450/each. Or you could just do a single bike for the same cost among 5 friends. But it seems lame to have a bike like that and not be able to enjoy the experience with a friend.

Speaking of Surly, I took the plumbers torch to my hub today and wrestled the enduro bearing races (what's left of the bearings) out. After I worked the races out, I applied a bunch of grease and pushed the new bearings in, which need to be set by lightly tapping them with a mallet.

I was curious to see how well the bearing would pop out, all freshly greased and all. I bought some little enduro bearing pullers with the bearings. The way these bearings are jammed in the hub is just not a good design. I couldn't get them out. I didn't try that hard, but I don't think I'm going to get these hubs again, which is a bummer, because otherwise I really like them.

I got the fixed back together with the new fork on it. The fork was naked, so I gave it to Patrick at The Scoop to give it a coat of paint. I bought a bunch of model enamels and some spray paint at a discount shop. Patrick did a great job. The Japanese writing says, "Everyone's Bike." Or as Liza joked, "Free Bike." Huh. Not sure about that. But I think I'm going to sandblast the frame and have him do the whole thing... if he's up for it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Off to the Powder Coater

Today I dropped this pile of bike stuff (not the tires) at Novation. Novation is the place in town to get your stuff powder coated. I've got a frame there, two sets of forks, a rack, and the orange bag contains my buddy's cranks. It's all going to get sandblasted, cleaned up, and powder coated. The color? Clear. I like what my other buddy describes as "naked" steel. All this for $155! What a bargain.
Here's a Rivendell prototype with a clear powder coat --

Photo sniped from here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

F'ing Ride Tonight

It's a full moon, so the FBC rides tonight. Meet at the Pear Tree Inn early enough to warm up. Ride leaves at 9 PM.

With a temperature of around 10 F, I'm assuming the FBC will be finding the shortest routes between bars tonight.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stinkin Surly Hub

Before you read this post, see my follow up -- where upon I realize what a dolt I am -- there is a right way to remove and install these bearings. When I wrote this, I didn't know the right way. That is the core issue here -- not the hubs.

The hub on my fixed Trek 720 is screwed up. I put the new forks on the bike last week and took it for a spin around the block. Immediately it was obvious that something in the rear wheel was screwy. Turns out I shot the bearings already.

This is the "new" Surly Fixed/Free solid axle; 135mm hub. It takes the Enduro 7901 RS bearings.

Well. I've not even had this hub for a year, so it's kind of lame that the bearings are shot already. And it's not like this is my only bike and it's got thousands of miles on it.

But to be fair, I am hard on my bikes. I don't really maintain stuff as I should. I barely keep the the chains in order. This time of year I tend to take notice of my chains only when they are orange with rust. So I'm certainly not out in the garage fussing with the bearings in my hubs. And since these are sealed bearings, why should I? Right?

So, it's not a huge deal that I busted the bearings already. I can kind of live with that. But the problem is, the bearing races are stuck in the hub. The hub is aluminum and the races are steel and they're seized up. Therefore, I can't swap in new bearings until I can unlock the old ones. Nice. Now that is cheesy.

This means that when the hub was manufactured either no grease was applied to that interface, or not enough grease was applied. The dust cover on the hub is great to keep out dust, but the world is wet too.

So I've learned my lesson.

If I buy a Surly hub again, I will pop out the bearings first thing and grease up the inside of the hub. And then apply a big fat layer of grease under the dust cap to ward of the wetness.

Meanwhile, I'm applying some harsh petroleum-based hazardous poison anti-rust stuff to the hub. If that doesn't work after a few days -- I'm getting out the torch.

I like Surly stuff. But this bugs me. I can't help but think of the too-cool, super hip Surly dudes building this stuff and then forgetting details like this. It's the execution! The details. Come on guys.

It's like the bottle-opener on the TugNutt -- it's really cool -- cause it shows that you drink beer, but it gets in the way of fenders. And I know how hip and cool it is to wear the mud tail of shit up your back after you ride in the rain, but frankly, you shouldn't be drinking beer if you must have a bottle opener attached to your bike to do so. Errg.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I'm tired of the ice. Today the high has reached 25F so far.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Three Pictures

Three Cateye lights
Sent from the Cateye folks. These came in the mail today. I sent the Cateye folks the faulty ones in October. They were a bit slow, but they replaced the bad lights. Hopefully these hold up. My gut says the core issue here is how the light piece attaches to the lamp; it's non-intuitive, error prone, and fussy. We'll see.

The Hairy Gary Convertable Rack

Nearly complete. Made for the Nitto mini-front rack. I will soon have three forks with eyelets that will fit this rack, which uses the same braze-ons that my super fancy awesome rad rack uses. The plan is to have 3 bikes that can take one of three rack configurations: a single Nitto rack for carrying a small front bag; the Hairy Gary convertable for carrying medium-load whatevers; or the rad rack for carrying bigger whatevers. Yes, it's overkill.
Anyway, the "convertable" rack idea is from Alex.
Gary is a machinist by day and a bike builder by night. He obviously went with his machining side on this project. He's still finishing it, so I don't have it yet.

Zip Tie Heaven
At House of Hose. Dig those huge ones on the right. You could build houses and other big stuff with those monsters.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

CSF Ride

Breakfast of Champions

About a month ago, I started a Cycling Spokane Forum. The primary reason was to create a place where people looking to take chilled rides could post ideas/plans. There are other local forums (well, at least one) that is great for finding rides where --judging by the comments in the form -- pushing hard and fast is the goal.

I'm slow and I like to stop and take photos and maybe have a snack or look at something. The purpose of the forum, generally, is to find folks that like a more laid back ride. I'm not diss'in on fast/hard pushing rides or cyclists. I just want an alternative. Cycling doesn't have to be an extreme activity.

I guess my goal with the forum is to provide a place where the stop-and-smell-the-roses types can find riding company without the fear of slowing others down too much. We're not slugs, but we're not in a super hurry either.

Five of us took a ride today and ended up at De Leon Foods Deli and Grocery. Most of us tried the menudo and most of us had huevos rancheros for breakfast. Damn good destination. Over breakfast some other ride ideas sprouted:

  • Tour de Taco: A good Saturday afternoon ride. Take a tour around town to all of the great taco-wagon-type Mexican places and have a taco and beer at each one. We came up with 3 or 4 places stretching from the northside out to the valley.

  • Overnighters: starting with a "shake down" overnighter for the uninitiated. This would be at Riverside State Park in early spring. The idea would be to try out your gear/packing/etc and be close to home so it's not awful if you screwed up. Next overnighter: Long Lake.

  • Rail trail tours: from Rosalia out the John Wayne trail to where ever. Or: how far into Montana can you go 0n Rail Trails?

  • The Bead/Priest Lake weekend: ride or drive up to the Priest/Bead neighborhood, set up camp and ride the logging roads for a long weekend.

Anyone is welcome to join the forum. If this stuff sounds fun, join in the discussion and take a ride with us.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Describing Snow

It seems everyone is familiar with the legend of how the Eskimos have 50 different words for snow. This has largely been exposed as hyperbole at best. According to linguist Pinker, "counting generously, experts can come up with about a dozen."

That's a bummer, because if that many words did exist to describe different kinds of snow, I think it would be fun to revive them and use them.

We've had gobs and gobs of snow this year and I've just about had enough. Liza loves it. She's all over the place on her kicksled. Maddie had enough a month ago.

We woke up to 3 more inches today. That 3 inches is on top of the 7 inches that fell yesterday on top of the hard pack ice/snow from the last melt-freeze. Riding around town on this stuff, you get just about every kind of snow surface, except the wet-slush, though if you believe the weather reports, that's coming at the end of the week.

The hard part is the deep, sandy stuff at the intersections; even with my fatty 2.5" tires, I get hung up. The snow is more sandy when it's cold. The same intersections when the temp is in the high 30's will be easy (but messy) to cut through.

I stick to the side streets with this kind of snow. The arterials are barely cleared enough for cars. I figure since I'm on the side street, where there's one set of tire tracks, I'm not going out of my way for cars that want to get by. They have to wait, as it's way more inconvenient for me to drive off into the deep rutted stuff to let them pass, than it is for them to wait or go slowly until they can get around me. This approach has been working for me this year and I've not even gotten a sour look. Mostly waves and smiles.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Scary Storm Grates: The "Snuff Box"

Freaky-scary snuff box at Cincinnati and Indiana

I'm in a rut of posting about things that suck. Maybe that's winter kicking in finally. This will be the last sucky post for a while -- I don't want to turn into one of those nattering nabobs of negativism.

This particular grate is called a "snuff box" by the engineers. How appropriate, as the grates are likely to snuff any roadie or other narrow-tire riding cyclist who is not paying attention.

So, this scary-ass storm grate does suck, but there's kind of a silver lining: The city knows they suck. The city also knows that there are 540 of these in the city of Spokane. When ever a project is scheduled where these grates exist, the city replaces the grate at a cost of $500 - $1200 per grate.

That's the good part. The not-so-good part is that the city doesn't know exactly where all 540 of these grates are. It would be righteous to have this data for the Master Bike Plan. The other bummer is that replacing a snuff box, when it's not part of an existing road project, costs as much as $10,000 per grate.

So there's that.

Looking through my e-mails with the city engineers on this, it seems only fair to post one bit of correspondence from them:

I checked and we do not have a complete inventory of these types ofgrates. Our Hansen/GIS system lists some 540 "snuff box" type catchbasins, the kind shown in the photo sent by Mr. Speare, out of a totalof about 17,000 catch basins in the city system. That's about 3% of the total grates but this number may be low. It's only been over the last few years that our techs have been going back in and revising our electronic records to note specifically the type of catch basin or inlet as a snuff box or other when confirmed in the field. As you know, and eluded to in your previous email to Mr. Speare, these are old style grates and inlets that were installed years ago all over the City that we replace whenever they are encountered in a capital project or streetbond project. I know a number of these snuff boxes are to be replaced in the upcoming 2008 street bond and other projects. I was also told by Brian, in charge of our construction crew, that they plan to replace a number of these snuff boxes along Wellesley this summer too.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sucky Bike Racks: #2 and #3

Sucky Bike Rack #2
You see this rack everywhere. I think it's so popular because organizations that must have racks like the looks of this one. It's just kind of neat looking.

I picture some low-level bureaucrat being handed a book or maybe being pointed to a website with some instructions, "according to corporate policy 1-3B-L6, 'Cheap amenities to add to building projects that portray perception that our org is green,' you must pick out one of these bike racks for the front of the new store." To a non-cyclist this one is a no brainer. It's just so swoopy.

While not as bad as Sucky Rack #1, it is still mostly silly. That rack takes up a sizable footprint and I think you'd be lucky to lock up more than 4 bikes. Again, the designer didn't think about front racks or fork-mounted lights. And actually, the light I have mounted atop my bars here must be minded or it will go crunch as you pass the wheel under the arch. You can see the clearance in the picture above.

At least I can lock up with the U-lock on this bike. If I was riding my Trek with the giant front rack, I'd have to lock up to the outside bar of this rack. So you must ride a bike that fits the designer's idea of what a proper bike should be.

Sucky Rack #3 - That is such a depressing picture. And it's not just the rack.

This one is so bad that I feel mean for even having it here. It's like bullying someone with Down Syndrome. But, here goes.

This rack design is straight out of the 70's. It's great, if:
  • your bike has a kickstand or you're running 20" or smaller wheels. Otherwise the wheel holders are intended to sort of "hold" your wheel. If you have any kind of weight on your bike, it won't stand up. And the wheel is unnecessarily stressed (laterally) by the weight of the bike leaning against the rack -- this is nitpicky, but it's unnecessary and lateral durability is the Achilles heel of wheel strength.

  • your front wheel is attached to your bike with bolts (For the youngsters: in the old days you attached your wheels to your bike with a strange thing called a solid axle. This "solid axle" ran through the hub like a normal hollow axle, but instead of quick release, it had big nuts on it that you would tighten. This came in very handy when you locked your bike to this rack, since all you had to do was run your plastic-wrapped chain through the front wheel and your WHOLE bike was secured.)

  • you use a chain or cable to lock your bike. I think the only way to make a U-lock work with this would be to lay the bike down just so and hook the front wheel/frame to the rack. I should've tried that.

  • you like to block 1/2 the walkway with your bike, thereby engendering even more bike-love from car people that already think you're a freak for riding your bike to the store.

This rack is outside Super 1 on the south hill. Here's how I ended up locking:

Once again, the shape of that cart holder is eerily similar to the simplest and most effective rack design in all of human history:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sucky Bike Racks: #1

Sucky Rack #1

Most bike racks suck. This fact is one of those maddeningly frustrating little things in life. How can so many people screw up such a simple tool? And why do so many places buy them? This is first in a series of sucky racks and why they suck.

The rack in the picture above is at city hall. There are also a couple in front of Madeline's and in front of Macy's. I've seen these at other places too.

Like every other cyclist I know with a U-lock, when I lock my bike, I pass the lock through the front wheel and the frame and lock it to the bike rack. I would say that's a pretty standard method.

It's hard to illustrate with a picture, so you'll have to take my word for it: if your bike has a large front rack, then adequately locking your bike to this silly rack with a U lock is impossible.

You can't get the bike in where it's supposed to go, so you're forced to lock to outside of the rack, where there's a HUGE tube that is gong the wrong way/angle for the U-lock to wrap around, even if you try raising the bike off the ground. I do believe it is practically impossible. (Ok, for the impractical, I could tilt my bike to about 85 degrees to get the angle right for locking to the big tube, putting a bunch of stress on my front spokes and raising the rear wheel off the ground about 4 feet. So it's not *strictly* impossible.)


The root issue here of course, is a common design problem. The person designing the rack has an extremely limited understanding of the problem they are trying to solve. Or, the designer is making a conscious decision to produce a rack that is incompatible with certain bikes. The designer made this rack for bikes that fall into a certain height range and with no front racks. There are likely other non-standard bikes that might have issues with this rack (recumbents, smallish folders, etc).

I should also note that I smashed an E6 light (that was mounted on my fork) on this rack about a year ago. I busted it and had to get a new lens for it. ($35?) I'll take some of that blame, but the rack requires that you push the bike into it in order to use the smaller diameter tubes for locking. The designer had not likely seen any lights on a bike except for handlebar mounted blinkies, so the "push in" requirement was not an issue.

This wouldn't drive me insane if designing a useful rack was a hard problem. But it's not. I can't think of (nor have a seen) a better design for a bike rack than this one:

If it's more involved than that simple design, it's over engineered.

For what it's worth, here's how I ended up locking my bike:

Note that the railing here has a strikingly similar design to the simple rack noted above.

Oh yeah. And if the piss poor design of Sucky Rack #1 isn't enough to make you crazy, here's a cherry for the top:

Yes, that's a big American flag on there. And yes, those tiny words at the bottom say "Made in Canada." I don't care where it's made, but it's obvious that the intention here is to make you think, at glance, that this is American-made. That is sleeze. Even if it was a great rack, I wouldn't buy it for that reason alone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Riding To DOL

I rode up to the Department of Licensing today. It's on Lidgerwood, a block north of Francis. Usually when I go to the central-north part of town, I'd take Monroe on the west or Crestline on the east.

Today, I decided to see what happens when you hook up with the bike lanes on Buckeye and how well that hooks you up with Addison. Addison is a popular route and one I've not ridden before.

View Larger Map
Generally, I was impressed with how well the signs are done. This is a real route, in the sense that you are provided on-street directions with a number of turns. Signs will guide you from Buckeye, across Ruby/Division to North Foothills, left on Mayfair, up to Lidgerwood, across Liberty and finally onto Addison. That's pretty good signage.

The hard part of this route though is crossing Division/Ruby and then this beauty:

What a mess. So, you (the cyclist) are to ignore the "Dead End" and "Road Closed" signs and just see follow the Bike Route sign. That's a bit confusing. But whatever. You continue north about 1/2 a block and you hit this:

The signs are a bit hard to see here, but there's a "Do Not Enter"in the foreground and a "Wrong Way" about 50 yards up. I also chopped off another "Road Closed" sign with a bit of a barrier on the right side of this road.

The deal here is that this is a one-way road. We are routing bikes against traffic on a one-way road. That's bad. The fix is pretty simple though:

- For each "One Way," "Do Not Enter," "Dead End," and "Wrong Way" sign, attach an "Except Bikes" sign to the bottom.

- Stripe a bike lane up the right hand side of this hill (which has a blind corner at the top as a nice added touch -- so, make that, "we're routing bikes against traffic on a one-way road with a blind corner at the top"). Maybe there is a striped lane for north-bound bike traffic. There's snow, so I don't know.

I'm not really sure that's the best way to fix this -- my gut tells me that creating on-the-ground, bike-specific expectations to normal traffic law is not good planning/policy/idea. Why is this a one-way road in the first place?

On the way back from the DOL, I took the same route and saw this sign:

This is heading west on North Foothills. This sign is on the block b/t Ruby and Division. After Division, this street turns to Buckeye. Not a particularly pleasant part of this route and one that would need some work to get most non-daily cyclists to ride this section.

Anyway there are two things about this sign that I wonder about:

1) What is with the Bike and 2/395 signs randomly placed around town? I understand that Division is also part of Hiways 2 and 395, but what's with the bike?

2) As a cyclist, I feel like this sign is telling me that taking a left there on Division is recommended or part of some Hiway route. Bikes are illegal on Division. It's the one place (besides I-90) in the Spokane area where it is illegal to ride a bike. Why is this sign pointing here?