Sunday, August 30

Bicycle Wisdom Rediscovered #1

Aftermath of High Winds in Ocean Shores
When high winds abound, do NOT trust a kickstand to keep your bicycle upright. Better lay it down gently yourself…
Corollary – when high winds abound, and you foolishly trusted a kickstand, make sure the bike won’t hit a car when it DOES fall over.

Luckily, this time, when it fell over, it only bent a brake handle. Neighbor’s car was undamaged.

Kickstands Don't Restrain a Bike Well in Gusty Winds

Saturday, August 22

ABC Off!

Armadillo Still Mounted on Frankenbike's Rear Wheel. Sidewall Was SAD, but Tread Separation was the End of the Tire
I’ve been an ABC Quick Check Failure for many years. It isn’t that I don’t DO ABC Quick Checks, but rather that I typically make a mental note to “fix that later” as long as I decide it will not keep me from completing my immediate trip. Sometimes, that approach proves less than satisfactory. Sometimes, it merely allows one to combine multiple fixes into one session. I’m fortunate enough that this time, I got to do the latter.

This all started back in late spring. My rear tire on Frankenbike was flat one morning. Adopting my usual approach, I pumped up the tire and it held air just fine for my morning journey. The next morning it was flat once again. I pumped it up again and this time it stayed inflated for an entire week. After about four episodes, I decided that my wife’s bike needed exercise (she rarely rides it) and I’ve been using it for the entire summer. After some experience with it, I’ll make a future post about my summer with “modern” bike technology. Needless to say, while I was going through these gyrations I was making mental notes about truing my front wheel and adjusting the brakes, not to mention cleaning and lubing the chain. I also picked up a new tire; a low-cost Kenda.

This all came to a head this week when my three daughters came to visit. Suddenly, Frankenbike was needed for transport once again. I pumped up the tire, but unlike past episodes, this time, the tire went flat within a couple of houses and the kids were not really enthused about riding “Madeline.” Apparently, fixies are not everyone’s cup of tea.

To make a long story short, the family wanted to motor in to the big city (Aberdeen and Hoquiam) to go shopping. My request included four spokes and some rim tape. I already had bike chain lube handy. I provided the old, broken spoke so they could be sure to get the proper length. In due time, I had the parts, including an extra roll of rim tape (for reasons unknown). I set to work and discovered just how pleasant truing an old rim can be when you have a bike stand, a comfortable chair to work with, and you are not in any rush.

Now there ARE a few extra items that don’t entirely fit within the narrative. They include:
  • This is my second Armadillo tire that failed by separation of the tread from the casing. I am now “Armadillo-free” in Ocean Shores.
  • I discovered that rim strips, such as the Origin 8 I have onBuddy, are much less universal than rim tape such as the Velox I used in this repair. The Origin 8 does not come in a 27-inch size and I don’t know if the 700c strip would fit. I’m guessing it’d work fine since the rims are not that different in size, but when the “LBS” bike shop is 30 miles away, I voted for rim tape that’ll fit ANYTHING.
  • I used an ultrasonic parts cleaner to clean the chain. It worked OK, but I was wishing I had either my Park Chain Cleaning tool, or my trusty can of carburetor cleaner.
  • Shiny new spokes really make their 30-year old ancestors look LAME
  • I'm not sure if this is typical, but my new Kenda was MUCH easier to fit to the rim than any Specialized, Vittoria, or Continental I have recent experience with. No "must use hook bead rim" nonsense, either. It also seems that 28c wide Kendas are wider than 28c Armadillos.
  • While I was fixing stuff, I fixed my second floor pump as well (it had a failed pressure head) using the head from my lousy third floor pump. My favorite floor pump, shown here, is still in Texas.
  • Aberdeen, besides being the hometown of Kurt Cobain of "Nirvana" fame, was also the home of America's most prolific serial murderer; Billy Gohl. While there are no records of Billy's first six years of operation, 41 bodies were recovered in his last three years in Aberdeen.

Armadillo Tire as Removed and Ready for Trash. Note the Separation Between the Tread and the Still-Intact Casing
I'm Not Sure WHAT that White Spot is, but it was on the Inside of the Tread When the Tire was Removed

Saturday, August 1

Beyond Advocacy

I've often said on this blog that I am "NOT AN ADVOCATE." That's because many, if not most, advocates strike me as people with their hands held out for money that may or may not make things any better at all for cyclists. LAB is merely one of many in this regard.

Still, there are lots of things that each or any of us can do to make things better for cyclists in big or small ways. Good words about new bike racks is one thing I noted here. The bike racks in question were not optimal, but they WORK and are a lot better than anything any of their competitors provide. Similarly, not too long ago I got told that McDonalds did not allow cyclists to go through their drive-through line. The first time I went through, I had no problems. The second time, I was told I could NOT be served "for your safety". BS - if it is dangerous to have a drive through, the business in question should not have one. I have not noticed stories about carnage in McDonalds drive through lines, though I HAVE seen stories about SUVs driving up on sidewalks. In the receipt I got (after going inside), I took the opportunity to indicate that I did not appreciate them groundlessly shutting out cyclists. I got a personal phone call from the franchise owner and, probably because I requested one, a follow-up email.

In many cycling forums, you hear a lot of "advocates" whining that McDonalds is opposed to cyclists. I have NEVER seen any of these whiners get an "official" response. You can see what I got below. IMO, this is beyond advocacy, and it didn't cost the taxpayer a single penny.

Friday, July 3

25 Years From Flight to Flight

Yesterday marked Canada Day and the first flight of the Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless in Amarillo, Texas. I do not know if this was coincidence or intent. I was fortunate to work on that program for much of its early development, though I was unable to see its first flight in person. It was one of the few “completely brand new” developments that most engineers get to see in their careers nowadays. It was a collaboration of the Bell sites in Texas and in Canada, as well as many suppliers. The first flight is shown below.

A while back I got to see “my own” previous first flight of a “completely brand new” aircraft. It was the YF-23 Black Widow II. It’s first flight will be 25 years ago next month (August 27). Its first flight is shown below. The quality isn’t as good since it was my own video shot at the event at Edwards AFB. Less than a year later, we had signs up around our area saying “will design the world’s most advanced fighter jet for food.” I pray the Bell 525 works out a lot better. Only time will tell. 

Sunday, May 31

God Bless Bike Mechanics

Interior of the LaVogue Bike Shop, in Hoquiam's "Historic LaVogue Building"
This last week, I was reminded that a bike mechanic is more than simply someone who knows how to turn a wrench on a fastener. He or she is someone that can get you back on the road, whether your problem was complex, or simply minor but irritating.

I decided to “multimode” by bike and bus into Aberdeen again, taking advantage of the “local knowledge” acquisition I did here on “Steve’s Day Out.” Well, as it turned out, I had problems of a different sort. My now venerable U Lock has been getting a little cantankerous lately, but still seemed to have a lot of life in it. After getting off the bus, I rode over to the nearby Walmart to see how THEIR film processing compared to that of Rite Aid. As it turns out, their film processing is both quicker and cheaper, though it is clear that the days of quick and good film processing are sadly behind us. Rite Aid has their film developing horse and buggy come by once a week while Walmart has twice a week service. Still, either of those are better than Tall’s “Camera” in Seattle which not only doesn’t handle film developing, but didn’t know of any place closer than about ten miles away.

To make a long story short, after completing my recon at Wallyworld, I rode over to Safeway in order to get groceries either not available at IGA, or with greatly superior value. Pulling up to their bike rack, my lock would not open. Golly! I tried again. Sheesh! Suddenly, it seemed I was 25 miles from home and on a shopping trip with a lock that wouldn’t open. While I felt lucky it didn’t fail with the bike locked inside at Walmart, shopping and a library visit now seemed out of the question. After considering options, I decided that the best option would be to ride over to neighboring Hoquiam and pay a visit to the only bike shop in Gray’s Harbor County.

Front of the LaVogue Bike Shop
The ride was uneventful, retracing a route I rode the week before, and in due time, I was at the LaVogue Bike Shop counter saying “I need a lock” as I plopped the frozen U lock down. The owner indicated that usually, the locks just needed lubrication and he tried that. Apparently, however, lube doesn’t help locks where the mechanism is falling apart beyond making stuff greasy. I indicated that the only thing it would be nice to save from the old lock was the cable which I use to attach the front wheel to the frame/rear wheel/bike rack combination. The owner stated he could probably get the lock apart and proceeded to put it in a vise until a potential customer diverted his attention. It is a wise bike shop owner that will ignore a bike sale in favor of hacking into a now-greasy lock.

U Lock in Happier Days
Still, I was not out of luck. The mechanic in the back of the shop inquired about the problem and I related how the lock was terminal, but I’d like to keep the cable or, if he couldn’t save it, to buy another to go with the new U lock. Being a guy with a golden touch, he cranked away on the lock and soon had it broken in two, with my old cable free to go with the new lock. In reply to my jesting “golly, if you don’t make it as a bike mechanic, you can always go into the business of breaking locks,” he said “yup, as long as I have a vise and a big hammer with me, I can break most any lock.” Well, perhaps a vise and a hammer is not the most subtle way to steal a bike, but I was reminded, once more, that bike mechanics are blessed. Anybody can adjust a working derailleur or replace brake pads, but fixing stuff not designed to be fixed is a talent not given to us all. And they DID sell me a new lock! I let them keep the key for the old one...

I Still Swear by the Combination of a U Lock and Cable