Life’s got the better of me over the last few months. I’ve spent no time writing and aside from the commute and only a little more time riding. A few weeks ago Dave #1 got me out of the house on a ride to Annapolis a few weeks ago with his swimming friends and I totally blew him off when it came to writing up the experience. That is a shame because it was a really good time. Bad news is my schedule isn’t letting up anytime soon. For the foreseeable future, a few photos & a gps track of a ride is as good as it’s going to get. Trying to get all the details in ride reports and acknowledge all the cool people I meet is just too maddening for me right now. General plan is to work through all my chores, get back a bit of my fitness, and then maybe have something to write about a few years from now. Might want to tune to another station for a while. But before you click…
Sunday was Bob’s Monument to Monument ride.
We couldn’t approach the scaffold-covered monument this year…
I was lucky enough to bump into Gypsybug and Felkerino of Chasing Mailboxes and Daily Randonneur Fame. Nice to meet you both!
Oh, and there was a 50 mile ride to D.C., and another 50 mile ride back. A few hoagies, a milkshake at lunch, and a pint of beer at the Golden West Cafe when all was said and done. If only every Sunday could be like this. It was a blast. Thanks for organizing!
50 cent tour. Great ride Bob concocted for us. This was my 3rd time riding this route, but the first time in the rain. Shorter distance and we didn’t get to ride all the dirt roads up into PA, but the ones in Maryland were just as good. Good group, but I was riding in the back of the pack, which is akin to being the kids sitting in the rearward-facing seat of a giant 80′s station wagon. You’re having a completely different vacation than everyone else on the trip. Still fun! etc…
I’ve gone through a little phase over the last few months. The injuries (while minor) and some life stuff have had me off the bike. The blog has suffered quite a bit. I still enjoy it all, but there have been many weekend mornings when I’ve rolled out of bed, put on a pot of coffee and just stared at whatever set of wheels is hanging out in the dining room that week. There’s no good reason why I wouldn’t go out, I just wouldn’t. When asked about my riding by friends back in November & December I would just say that I hadn’t been doing anything. It felt like I hadn’t been on the bike in a year. Yeah, I get to work and the store but that doesn’t count for much. Something strange happened when I went to write up my experience riding down to Annapolis on New Years Day. I’ll admit that wasn’t an exciting recap, but I glanced back through the blog before writing it and some of 2012 DID start to come back into focus. The Net-Calorie-Gain ride was a great time. Bike camping at the end of September was one of my best 24 hour exploits in years. I had completely FORGOTTEN we rode to D.C. in September. Gettysburg was one of my best rides ever. 2012 wasn’t the best year, but the good parts were really good. Writing these rides up can be a chore at times, but I’m glad I do. I would have never remembered the good stuff from last year if I hadn’t. Back to riding, Bob’s rides keep me on track because given an opportunity to explore with friends I can’t say no regardless of how lethargic I’d be otherwise. Once on the hook I wouldn’t disappoint unless I was on my deathbed.
Choosing a bike – decided on the rando mainly because of lights. I was nervous about the no-pavement sections, but figured I’d work through it. If I could go back in time I would have brought 2 of the e3/dynohub combos last year when they were on sale for 40% off and hooked up the trucker while in wheel-building mode. As it stands I only have 1 bike with strong lighting, so I had to make do.
I woke up in the morning early and cooked some oatmeal and 2 cups of coffee. I was lagging a bit, but still on schedule. With the 6 miles up to the Starbucks mentally mapped out, I gave myself 5 minutes of lag time. It looked pretty rotten outside, but no problem because it was all supposed to burn off by the afternoon. Rolled up to Mount Washington to meet with the group and pick up a second pre-ride snack – small piece of cake and a double shot of espresso.
The group assembles from out of the fog
We took off and I set a slow steady pace for myself from mile 1. I’m still a big guy and know I can break a bike loose from wet pavement much easier than a normal person. Couple that with the fact that I was running my skinniest tires and I decided to keep the downhills and curves in check so I didn’t go sideways. PJ was moving much slower than normal and we hung out for the first half of the day. Ken and his friend Matt kept us company. From miles 1-10 we would fall back and catch up with the main group at a stop light. After 45min or so they finally caught a break and lost us. We saw them for a minute or 2 at the morning rest stop but they left before we were done. We had a nice conversation and traded route stories with 2 older guys who have ridden through the area (bicycles years ago, motorcycles now). One started talking about how nice Sam’s Creek Rd. is for riding and we were off chatting for another 5 minutes. I finished my apple pie, stripped off my rain jacket (which was wetter with sweat inside than out) and we got to it again.
We conversed about bikes and camping for a few miles in the morning. I reminisced about my fatbike adventure last fall and daydreamed about running parts of the C&O Canal or just getting out again this spring in that sweet time between opening day at the state parks and when it starts to get buggy and crowded. The cue sheet listed a bunch of climbing on pages 1 and 2, but I didn’t really feel it in my legs. That was a plus since I haven’t done any rides with sustained hills for at least 5 months. Bob’s route is a nice mix of old dirt roads and quiet thoroughfares. Traffic was typically light for a rainy Sunday morning and the ride was nice. No wrong turns, no drama, and we showed up just far enough ahead of ‘last call’ for breakfast at the Union Bridge Firehouse.
PJ snaps a photo of the rides before we head out again
PJ, Ken, Matt and I chat with the main group, finished up and rolled out a few minutes behind. I had chills coming out of the lunch stop, but the hills kicked in pretty quick. By now it became clear that the sunny skies and 60 degree temps were NOT going to materialize. Instead, it seems to be getting colder and wetter as the day progressed. My wooly jersey was doing its thing well by keeping me warm. I’d look down all afternoon and watch the mist beading up on the outer layer of my sleeves. Drops were rhythmically falling from the brim of my cap every time I’d turn my head. Nothing like a peaceful rainy day on the bike. Matt, Ken, and I kept our steady pace for the afternoon, but PJ took off in search of the main pack maybe 40 minutes out from lunch.
Ken climbs ahead
Only a few more feet to go Matt
The fog just got thicker as the day progressed
Somewhere around mile 70 Matt started to bonk a bit and wondered if it was such a good idea to come out on a hilly January ride. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the weather cooperated, but when we got to the 80 mile rest stop he decided to bail and call for a ride. Nice riding with you and hope to catch up down the road. I had a Starbucks Double shot, a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans I’d been saving all day and refilled my bottles before peeling off with Ken. The guy at the register complimented me on my goofy-plaid-wooly cycle cap with ear-flaps that looks like it’s straight out of Fargo. I couldn’t tell if he was messing with me or not so I just said thanks, wished him a nice day and went about my merry business.
Ken checks in with home, Matt hangs out and waits for the cavalry
Ken and I rode along and talked for a few more miles. We were a bit faster, but the road was still windy and steep so I stayed nervous about letting off the brakes. He was headed home towards Hunt Valley so we parted ways at Tufton Rd. I had a lot of pent-up energy and really turned it loose on the last 15 or so miles. It was wet, but the roads coming into the city were straighter and smoother so I felt better about pushing it. I’d seen deer in the woods along the edge of the road all day — more than ever in fact, but the evening really brought them out. One bounded out 100 yards ahead of me on Hillside and not 5 minutes later I nearly collided with another that crossed Falls road right in front of me and oncoming traffic. Checked my email at the intersection of Falls and Old Pimlico Rd. Nada–Home it is… Got back to the house at 5:35. Saw PJ’s email from Alonzos – I was just past there, but I never imagined that you would have been out on the town guys. Sorry I missed out on the beers.
VO Rando finally rolled right
8:30:59 | 108.77mi | 12.7avg | GPS track | My photos here | PJ’s Photos Here | Bob’s Photos Here | Bob’s Writeup Here
Last bits of advice and some personal thoughts for 2013:
- Have at least one bike that has bright lights. Stupid bright. Brighter than you think you’ll need.
- The VO Rando kicked some serious ass for the first time Sunday. I’ve had problems with shimmy in the descents since day one. I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s related to the wind asymmetrically buffering against the fender or something up front. At the first rest stop I bungied my raincoat to the top of my rack bag and that all but killed it for the rest of the day. Guess a load up front is mandatory. I ironed out all the fender rattles other mini issues last month. Lights operated perfectly. Climbed well (as well as any bike can with me attached). Nothing else to say aside from it needs a bath now.
- I hate core exercises. I hate weights and every form of routine legwork. That being said, I see the value in strength training and have to resolve again to try and do it regularly.
- I also went through a phase in 2012 coming off of achieving my weight loss goals where I have been ‘off the wagon’ with eating clean. I think I got most of the bad stuff out of my system, but I also haven’t tracked my weight in the last 4 months either. 2013 will be a year for getting back a little closer to my optimum fitness, but more importantly “finding balance” and really hunting for that path I can walk consistently with food and activity for the rest of my life — if for no other reason than I have $500 worth of cycling jerseys I need to make fit right.
Ok, we got the year started right. Hope to see you all next month…
The last step I decided to take in bike wrenching is making sure my wheels would roll straight. Wheels are one of those things that are easy to make look good and real hard to make work good. I’ve kicked around my wheel fixin’ kit for a while now and finally have come to peace with it. It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what I need it to do with little fuss. I can build stuff that I can’t wreck which is all I ever wanted.
- Park ts-8 truing stand. Not too much to say about it. You set your wheel in it, adjust the marker close to the rim and turn spoke nipples until it’s true and tensioned properly. My main beef with the design is the hub width adjustment arm had too much play for reliable truing measurements. I wedged some plastic gift card scraps in the edges to stiffen it up. Also, if the rim drags on the marker it sounds just awful. I move it a few 1000′s away from the rim and visually scan for the high/low spots.
- Park wag-4 dishing gauge. Another simple-function tool — basically you measure the rim on one side once true and then flip it over to see if it’s dished properly. If I had to choose between one of these tools I’d keep the dishing gauge before the stand. You could true the wheel in the frame/fork but dishing would be much harder to get perfect.
- Park Spoke Wrench – I forget the size — 0? All the spokes on my wheels happen to be the same size so I’ve never had to buy a second. This one is much nicer to turn than the multi-wrench that came in the bk-2 toolkit if you’re building wheels or truing the same wheel for 5 hours because you don’t know what you’re doing and keep screwing it up (not that I’ve ever done that).
- Feeler gauge set – Mine is so old that the measurement notations are worn off all the leaves. That’s ok because I just find the one I want with the Vernier Calipers. I went through a phase when I was using a dial indicator to watch the lateral runout of the rim in real time, but it doesn’t make it any easier to true the wheel than visually inspecting against the marker on the truing stand. Now I just adjust the marker a few 100′s away from where I want the rim trued to and tweak spokes until I can’t slip the feeler gauge in between the rim and the marker on the stand at the closest and furthest points (lateral tolerance).
Only thing I forgot to snap a shot of is the Park Spoke tension meter you can see in this photo. Great for getting the right tension when building up new wheels, but not really necessary for truing work.
That’s where I have to draw the line. I love to build and would like nothing more than to spend a fortune on frame prep tools, but for what I will build in my lifetime it doesn’t make sense to spend $150 on a headset press or $400 on a bottom bracket facing/chasing tool that I’ll use 3 times at most. Happy wrenching!
Now comes the point in the discussion where I really start to stray from the stuff you would normally find in a bike shop — and get to some of the tools I use all the time that the average person might not have lying around. I’m not photographing my whole toolbox. If you’ve read this much you probably know what a screwdriver looks like.
Figure 1 – Metric Hex Socket set with drive wrench and extenders – If you’ve ever tried to take out an extra-long hex bolt and kept knocking the edge of your wrench against the frame you should already be able to realize the benefits of this. My chief reason for buying is to use with Figure 2, but I grab them for just about everything now. They’re more convenient than standard allen wrenches and a far sight more useful than those silly t-handled wrenches that come in the pro bike kits.
Figure 2 – Torque wrenches – decided to spring for these once I got sick of worrying if stuff was under or over tightened, and got really sick of destroying bolts because I didn’t know my own strength.
- Park TW-1 – for tightening small parts. Something I picked up from Zinn’s Cycling primer is to equalize the torque when tightening parts with multiple bolts. The 4 bolt stem on my Trucker used to come loose all the time. I torqued the bolts to the same spec and haven’t touched it again in 3 years.
- Craftsman Torque Wrench – for tightening large parts. I used to wreck crank arms by not tightening them enough and having the interface get all jacked up when the arm worked its way loose. Haven’t had that problem for a few years either.
Figure 3 – Vernier Calipers – FANTASTIC tool to have around the house — answers such common questions as:
- What size seatpost should I purchase as a replacement for that old frame?
- Is that chain stretched too far between the links and should I replace? (Sheldon Brown has the measurements)
- Are those double-butted spokes, or did they sell me the wrong thing at the shop?
- What size drill should I use with this fastener when fabbing a mount for my new rack?
- How wide are those tires inflated?
- How wide of a tire can I REALLY fit in that frame?
- What size is that bottom bracket shell I need a replacement bb for?
You get the idea. The really good copies cost a small fortune, but you can pick a relatively accurate one up for just a few bucks.
Figure 4 – Calipers – spring loaded and regular. I’m fortunate to have had both a dad and grand-dad-in-law who worked in machining. These are great for measuring in all those areas like inner diameters of tubes or any place you can’t reach.
Part 2 is devoted to all the stuff that I keep using up – lubes, wraps and the like. There might be better stuff out there but I haven’t had to go looking for it yet…
- Phil Tenacious Oil – Super-high viscosity oil. 2 steps away from grease.
- ProLink chain lube – I got a huge vessel of this years ago on sale and can’t seem to use it up. Fine by me because it works great.
- (not shown) Regular 3-in-1 oil.
Figure 2 – For precise application of lubes I got an assortment of needle oilers for a few bucks off Amazon. Good for pinpointing hinges, cables, and the like. The modified syringe is for the Phil Oil which is too viscous to flow freely in the others.
- Boeshield T-9 – I got turned on to this by the guys at Rivendell. I’ve used it as a chain lube, and it is good in dry-to-damp conditions, but I like it most as a waxy lube for quieting squeaky shoe cleats or other metal/metal contact points that can’t be saturated with oil or grease. It works better than anything else I’ve tried for the hinge contact points on the folding bike. The only drawback is I do find myself reapplying it often.
- Repositionable Cable organization wraps – kind of like little mini velcro strips. you can use for light fastening tasks, or sometimes I’ll wrap around the brake lever to clamp shut while I make pad adjustments.
- Loctite Blue – Use on bolts to keep them from seizing or working loose.
- Park Tire Levers – from the bk-2 and my faves so far.
- zip ties – everyone already knows how useful these are.
- park lube – repack hubs, lube seatposts, all kinds of stuff. You can get a 1 pound can of marine-grade bearing grease for less than twice what you pay for a tube of polylube, but that’s like a 5-lifetime-supply for the home mechanic so I just deal with getting ripped off a bit.
Next on the list: Add-Ons
I started tinkering with bike stuff years ago much like I imagine most everyone does — when stuff starts to break. For the longest time I limped along with just a multi-tool and whatever standard wrenches I had around the house.
Eventually I broke down and brought the BK-2 starter kit which Park Tool offered at the time. Sadly, it does not appear to still be available, and that’s a shame since it is a nice case that has a great deal of the stuff I use on a daily basis to keep my bikes in working order. For some reason I thought it’d be a good idea all of the sudden to do a series of posts and run down the stuff that I actually use day-to-day. Park, Pedros, and others make a bunch of great tools but there’s also a lot of superfluous unitaskers and bloated kits out there to unnecessarily yank at your wallet.
BK-2 rollup kit hanging on the wall where it’s been for 7 years
Scanning through the detail pics goes a long way to explain why this kit doesn’t exist for sale anymore — and also why I’m a card-carrying luddite when it comes to bike equipment. Whenever I think about buying a bike with an internal headset or an external bb, the thought crosses my mind that I’ll have to spring for a whole bunch of new tools just to change out parts or do regular maintenance.
Figure 1 – left to right, more or less…
- park hex key set – replaced for most day-to-day stuff by a tool from a future post.
- park chain tool – works with 9 speed and lower chains great
- park multi-size spoke wrench – I taped off all but ’0′ since I kept accidentally spinning the wrench in my hand while I was using it. Doesn’t see action much now since I picked up the pro model for wheel builds, but occasionally gets pulled because it has a squarer profile that helps grip rounded spoke nipples better.
- bmx freewheel removal tool – not part of the bk-2, from my freewheeling single-speed days.
- fr-5 cassette lockring tool – for tightening/loosening rear-wheel cassettes.
- bbt-2 bottom-bracket removal tool – I added a metric bolt with the same threads as the crank bolt and some washers. It helps keep it in place on the bike when you’re wrestling a seized bottom bracket off.
- cwp-7 square-taper crank puller.
Figure 2 – top to bottom
- Headset Wrench – pretty useless in today’s modern threadless headset world, but still sees action with me.
- Combination Pedal Wrench and Chain Whip – essential with the fr-5 if you want to get a cassette off, replace the freewheel, or repack the rear wheel.
- Cable Cutter/End Crimper – Real nice if you want to replace your brake/shifter cables. They are a pain to cut with house tools. I have an old ice pick that I use to ream the edges of cable housing after trimming (not shown).
Figure 3 – Full set of cone wrenches – essential for adjustments to all those little skinny nuts on brakes, hubs, and the like.
Final tool for the essentials is a work stand to hang the bike on. I got the Feedback Ultimate years ago and never looked back.
There are other things like brushes, grease, and tire levers that were included with the kit, but this is the key stuff that I couldn’t live without. Next up: Sundries.