Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rattlle, rattle, shake

Well, brick streets look very pretty, but they are not much  good for bicycles. I'm sure that's nothing new to any of you out there. I was reminded of it last Saturday when I had a pretty good head of steam up descending a gradual grade and turned left at full speed onto a brick street and like to have rattled right off the handlebars. It also shook loose a bolt on my non-drive side rear rack bracket. The bolt had been coming loose, I believe, before this, and I (because I'm into precision and such) took the end of a screwdriver and bent down the little bit of extra bolt that stuck out past the nut to make it impossible for the nut to back itself off of the bolt's threads.

I believe the last two years' use had created a fracture in the bolt that finally was completely compromised by the extreme vibrations caused by the brick street.

My two oldest boys were behind the bike in the trailer and they were treated to a nice sound of the rotating tire as its tread rubbed against the rear reflector screw which was mounted to the rear fender/mud guard, and was now askew from being aligned with the tires due to the loose bracket.

I fixed this a little later at the hardware store with another bolt and a nylon lined lock nut. They were friendly enough there to allow me the use of an adjustable wrench and a pair of small slip-joint pliers to fasten it tightly. Ideally, I would also have added some of that liquid "Lock-tite" to the threads as a double precaution against vibrating loose.

I'm debating whether or not to have the 27" steel wheels of the Takara trued over the summer. Another debate I'm having is whether I should take time to learn to true a wheel myself. It seems like it would be a good thing for me to learn. It can't cause any harm to increase my knowledge and experience with bicycles, especially if I plan to continue to ride them.

I'm also debating whether or not to shed myself of a few different bikes I have around. They're for my wife. I guess they're for me, as well, but we haven't used them consistently. I don't think they're going to fetch much money. I did spend some good money to outfit them with high quality tires to guard against flats, but I doubt a person would pay for the frame and the good tires.

Do you ever find yourself trying to decide these things? Learn to do it myself or have something done? Sell off a couple bikes, or keep hold of them in case somebody wants to ride them? What are your experiences with this?

Keep on commuting by bike!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Again witht the absence!

Well this entry is long overdue. That goes without saying. So, then, one may ask, why say it? Good question. I don't have a good reason for stating the obvious, other than it's a ploy I often administer to cover up the fact that I'm stalling for something someone might actually consider worthwhile to write about. There are few things more effective for boosting a writer's ego than  putting words on the page that really don't say anything, but yet give the "putter" the feeling of accomplishment for actually putting something on the page, even if they don't really say anything (see previous sentences).

Ah well, I've exhausted the humor in that intro. On with the real meat of the entry:

I find some things on the side of the road while riding my bicycle. Yes, gravel, sand, litter, clipped fingernails, fast food wrappers, fragments of glass, obsolete cigarette lighters might remark. In addition to these worthwhile and stimulating finds, I occasionally find items which at least a small percentage of the population might find useful. For instance, I have a rather impressive collection of black rubber bungee cords I'm pretty darned proud of and of which I currently have no use for, but rest assured dear reader, when the day comes when I need a black rubber bungee cord, or twelve, I'll be adequately prepared for it.

Mixed in among my Craftsmen socket and ratchet set I received as a boy from my dad which now resides in unorganized disarray an old blue metal tackle box , and whose handy plastic travel case it came in has long since broken and been discarded, are some sockets and end wrenches which do not bear the Craftsman logo. That's because I've found a small collection (no more than a dozen) of different sized metric and English sockets and end wrenches. I don't care if you're English or Metric, those things are useful; in the right hands.

Most recently I've come across three valve stem extenders. I'm unsure if that's the name they'd go by, but that's the most accurate name I could come up with, without doing any pesky research. I didn't measure them, but they are probably six to eight inches long, made of a chrome metal tube, and have female threads and a Shrader valve on one end of a machined nut; on the other end, a smaller machined nut and cap which threads onto male threads which all cover another Shrader valve. I presume these are for dual wheel pickup trucks and tractor trailers. I found three of them lying in the gutter in a residential part of the town I live in. I'm certain there were four of them purchased together, then forgotten about on a tailgate or toolbox, until a corner was turned by said vehicle or they bounced off after encountering a particularly rough pothole. Anyway, I threaded two of them onto my bicycle. Why not? They're really not all that noticeable, and I can see no difference in performance. I've not seen any bikes on the internet which have these, so I might just be the first.

It's kind of a random find, I realize, but nonetheless, there is a certain amount of satisfaction which goes along with finding things. If I could begin finding hundred dollar bills instead, I'd be even happier.

What do you find riding on your bikes?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rigging it; or making it work

Winter is pretty much over and spring is on the way here in northeast Kansas. We've already had a few of those warm days where I don't have to wear home the jacket and scarf on the bicycle I wore on the way in the morning. With the spring forward time change, I now leave when it's even darker in the morning. That's okay, it's a beautiful time to ride.

Saturday I hauled my two oldest boys around in their Burley trailer. After pedaling down a short length of extremely rough brick street, I noticed my rear rack was making a lot of noise and had become loose. The small bolt that connected the rack, and two fender struts (?) to the boss (?) by the hub had fallen out. I had to listen to the whir of the tire as it rubbed against the inside of the fender on the way home.

I searched through my big jug of nuts and bolts and found a long bolt and several size washers to reconnect those components to the bicycle frame. An easy enough fix, but very ugly and not ideal. I really need to have a service day for my bike coming up soon. It needs cleaned and lubed and maybe have the wheels trued. I also will need to adjust the brakes once I do the rest.

I expect I'll be seeing more bikes out and about as the weather improves. It's good weather for biking, get out and ride!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are lights making me an easier target to hit?

For Christmas I received a great new headlight for the daily commuter. It's a Bell brand oval shaped 5 led light that gets mounted to the handlebars. With it in the package is a 3 led red tail light meant to be attached to the seat post. This was just in time, as my former led headlight finally lit its last dark morning on the day I last needed it for 2011. I like the light that issues from it. I also like the blinking feature. I almost always use the blinking function with the belief it will be easier to attract drivers' and pedestrians' attention, thus preventing collisions.

What I didn't like was the plastic housing. It looked like it would not last long holding up against freezing cold temperatures in January and February and the near daily jolting it would take from our small town streets. Also, it didn't look water proof at all; no o-ring, no gasket, no cover. So, with the goal of improving the durability of the headlight and improving the water resistance of it, too, I dug through the detritus in the workshop and came up with a used bicycle tube and a jar of rubber cement.

I reminisce on the afternoons when high school classes were dismissed for the day and I'd spend the time, among other tasks, patching motorists' flat punctured passenger car tires. It was simple enough. Once the tire had been dismounted from the wheel, it was forcibly spread open, then the inner surface of the tire around the puncture would be buffed, or roughed up with a pneumatic device. Once that was accomplished, we applied a thin coat of rubber cement to the area and when it dried, an adhesive backed patch was placed over the puncture hole. That's it.

With this in my mind, I used my wife's scissors to cut lengths of rubber from the tube. I tried to make them as uniform as possible, but I can assure you they hardly were. I applied a thin coat of rubber cement to the seam where the top and bottom hemispheres of the plastic light housing met. I also applied a thin coat to the rubber tube strip as well. Then, when both had dried to tacky, I laid it over the seam on the rubber cement.

It doesn't look factory, that's for sure. But, since I continued placing the rubber of the tube over the places I felt would be compromised by rain, I feel pretty confident I've made it pretty water proof.

I didn't like the loose feel of the mounting hardware, either. So, since I had about three feet or more of the tube leftover, I cinched the light down with it. I wrapped it around it and the handlebars several times and tied it off as tightly as possible.

I think this will increase its shock absorption and just provide it with a little more mass to keep it stable on the handlebars. I just thought the plastic a little too brittle for my taste.If nothing else, maybe it won't be stolen as easily if the would-be thief must cut away the tube, or untie it.

I received a great little flexible green light that comes in the shape of a spoke reflector, too. Like most l.e.d. lights, it has a blinking and a steady function. I installed it on my front wheel, and I've got to say I like the green. It looks nice, and seems to be noticeable. I hope it is.

I must look like quite a sight with a blinking white headlight, a blinking red tail light, and a blinking, green light that rotates with the wheel. The idea is to avoid collisions, but I wonder if all the blinking lights attracts the eyes of drivers which results in their inadvertent steering toward me, instead of the opposite effect I desire.I wonder if there's any evidence out there.?

Lastly I was given a single led blinking red light which I mounted to the only flat spot on my helmet, which happens to be on the tip top. It reminds me of the old sheriff's vehicles with the single "cherry" on top. I haven't yet used it; haven't yet switched the power on and rode my bike with it blinking. I worry that it will just be too much.

Of course, some would say too much is never enough when it comes to lighting a bicycle and rider. That may be true, but then I have to suffer through the ridicule of being "that guy", who got even nerdier, just when people thought he couldn't.

Whatever the spectacle does to my self-confidence and esteem, I'm sure I must make quite a sight coming down the road. What I need is another cyclist to wear my reflective clothes and operate my bike with its  blinking lights while I operate a vehicle, just to see what I must look like. Then, I might judge with more accuracy.