Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ready to Roll

Well, the winter commuter bike is finally done, and I rode it in for the first time today. I had to go to Greenstreet last night to get the finishing touches on my Singulator.  It rides pretty nice. I need to make some adjustments to the handlebars, brake levers, and seat, but nothing unexpected for a new bike. I also need some fenders and winter tires still, so far I have been lucky with the mild winter weather.

The bike ended up as a 42/16, and the ratio feels pretty good. I struggled a bit on the hills on the way in, but nothing that my legs wont get into shape for.  The fact that I didnt have to worry about shifting was vary liberating.

Here is some pics of how she turned out. The black on white combo ended up looking pretty good, even though its going to be impossible to keep looking clean.

(what it looks like at night, with the front tire spinning)

If you want a better look at it, it is currently parked in front of the UP building downtown. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daily Commute Musings for Dec 28

My ride today:

Block 0: Step outside of my apartment building and think that it feels warmer than 19 degrees out. Hopefully I didn't overdress.
Block 1: My nose feels frozen. Adjust neck guard to cover nose better, and then flick my head in a Fabio-ish fashion to get the ball of my Santa hat out of face.
Block 2: I note that while I don't have one now, I will have a tailwind for most of the ride in, and again hope that I didn't overdress.
Block 3: The cold penetrates my top layer, which usually doesn't happen this early on. I actually shiver, but press on, knowing that I am going to turn in a few blocks.
Block 4: A construction worker stares at me as I pass by, either noting my post-Christmas Santa hat and lights, or thinking to himself "Why is he riding in this weather??".
Block 8: I am breathing super hard due to the hills in my neighborhood, and the fact that my neck guard only lets in about 50-60% of what I am trying to breathe. I remind myself that I still need to get a baklava.
Block 9: I take off after at a stop sign after a Honda CRV, which blows a big cloud of exhaust right in my path. I try to hold my breath through it, but still catch a good portion, and it stinks. So much for cycling being healthy.
Block 11: I catch the green light on pacific street, thankful because its a notorious one to stop on due to the hill and heavy traffic.
Block 13: A car passes me on 60th in a one lane section, crossing the double yellows and almost head-on collides with someone in the other lane. There are almost no other cars on the road, and I wonder why he is in such a hurry.
Block 22: I get to the light at Happy Hollow and Leavenworth and realize that I am no longer cold. Awesome.
Block 27: Someone backs out of their driveway fast and hits the gas in order to beat the cars coming. Even though they are in the other lane, the sound of screeching tires startles me and triggers a pang of adrenaline. I try to mentally calm myself down with breathing exercises as I fly down the next hill.
Block 40: I catch the light at the Saddle Creek intersection, and am able to keep my speed from the hill. Woot!
Block 42: A garbage truck passes me a little too close. Scary.
Block 44: My breathing to speed ratio increases dramatically as I pump up the hill on Leavenworth. It seems to take me an especially long time to get up it this morning, especially because my goggles fog up about halfway, and I cant see much. I think about taking them off for a few blocks, but decide to leave them on, because the speed on the next downhill should clear them. Also, I know this road like the back of my hand, and probably no-one will hit me with all of the blinkers that I have going. I hope.
Block 46: My goggles-clearing-plan is faltered by the red light on 35th. Drat.
Block 53: I am rewarded with a beautiful sight of the Omaha skyline beneath a bright pink sunrise. Nice. Touche, Karma, Touche.
Block 70: A pedestrian stops for me on 16th and Harney as I buzz by, and I think, 'that was nice of them'.
Block 72: I arrive at UP, and take stock: Toes are cold, but everything else is a bit sweaty. One of my rear lights is low on battery, and is barely lit. But the Christmas lights on the bike are still blazing, and the sunrise still looks awesome. All in all, a good ride in.

I decided to do a more thorough examination of my ride in today because it highlights a lot of things that one will usually encounter on a winter ride, with the exception of snow and ice. I have also learned that enjoying cycling, as well as many other things in life, is about taking the good with the bad. Even if 3/4 of your ride in is shitty, you have to learn to still see the positives, and let them overpower the bad things. I think thats the trick to enjoying your daily ride, and ultimately, your daily life.

Just my chilled 2 cents worth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: 30

Well, I have officially been under a rock for the last 2 weeks. Due to a pinnacle of increased workload and a lack of snow tires, I didnt ride at all last week. I also felt super sluggish and lazy last week (coincidence?), and so I have braved the slippery streets with my summer tires this week and thus far have had little trouble.

The winter bike has been 'done' since 2 weekends ago, and I was kinda waiting for my tires and a rack for it to come in. The tires have been continually backordered, but the rack for it came last night, so I thought 'To hell with it', and put my rack on the bike with the plan to ride it in today, snowtires or not.  On a whim, I took it for one last test ride in my garage and, sonofabitch, my chain was skipping. Thinking that I had this fixed already, I cursed somewhat loudly in my echoey garage, took the bike back upstairs, and got the tools back out.

It seems like my sketchy Singulator installation (combined with a lack of proper understanding of the installation instructions) was not keeping tension on the chain. Since I hate reading and like tinkering, I took the Singulator apart to figure out what was up. I learned a lot from doing this, namely two things:
First, I did indeed install the Singulator wrong. The spring was not properly tensioned and was slipping inside the unit, which of course was not causing tension on the chain. And secondly, I need a cone wrench to install it right. Ugh. Yet another specialty tool.
This frustrated me a lot, not because I needed another specialty tool (I should have expected that by now), but because I didnt have the tool at the time, and thus could not finish working on the bike.  Sigh... That means that I will be trying to get to a bike shop in the next few days and get this thing on right.

Well, if I ever get to ride this bike, you will be the first to know, and I will post pictures. I did put a few strings of xmas lights on it, so it looks pretty sweet, Im super stoked to ride it.

In the meantime, have a Very Merry Christmas, and as always, ride safe out there!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 22

So close, and yet so far away.

I put on the remainder of the components last night, and thought that I had a working bike. Using some Polish engineering and innovation (see below), I was able to cut the rear brake line much easier.
 Yes, that is a vice grips around the handle of some dikes. Works great.

For those of you that read and commented on yesterdays post, I ended up drilling out the brake stops so that I could run the brake cable housing all the way back. This ended up working well, except for my first attempt with it, when I had selected too small of a bit (not counting for the give of the paint) and scratched my frame, resulting in a surplus amount of cursing over the blemish in my newly powder-coated frame.

After getting everything on, I went for a quick jaunt through my sizeable apartment garage complex, and my chain kept skipping.  At first I thought that it was skipping because I didn’t have it lined up closely enough with the chainring, but when I watched it closer I found that it was actually jumping forward on the chain, a feat which I did not know was possible.  

Figuring that the chain was too loose, I spent the next 2 hours trying to adjust my chain, and quickly learned what a ‘golden ratio’ was – and that I did not have one.  I am running a 42/17 now, so Ill stop by the shop on my way home and pick up a 16 and an 18 to see if I can make one of em work. I have a Singulator at home, but in my stubborn determination want to try to make it work without one.

Hopefully I will be riding it tomorrow (of course, that’s what I said yesterday..).

Stepping back and looking at my apartment yesterday made me laugh. Some people prefer to have couches in their living rooms...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 21

Almost Done

Put on the pedals and started on the brake cables. I had a lot of trouble cutting the cable housings with a pair of regular cable dikes.  The special and shiny Jagwire cable housings that I got are composed of a plastic sheath, then a layer of nylon strings, then a layer of super strong cable strands, then another plastic sheath inside of that. When I finally did get through it with my dikes the cut was so ugly and the inner cables so mangled that I couldn’t get the cable housing caps on.  So I started playing cat-and-mouse with trimming the plastic sheath, then trimming the inner cables, then trimming the sheath again, then trimming the inner cables again.. Finally I had a cleaner end to work with and crammed the cable housing cap on, then put the actual brake cable in and trimmed it to length. When I finally got done it did end up looking pretty good, but took me almost an hour for just the front cable. At that point it was getting late and I didn’t have the energy to go on.

Also, in looking at the rear brake cable setup, I came across a question, and thought that I would table it here.  The cable stops on my top tube look like they have actual stops on them to halt the housing and only allow the cable to keep going. There is two separate places were it looks like the housing is stopped and started. The cable housing goes from the brake handle to a spot on the top tube near the front. Then it goes into a cable stop and only the cable can run along the top tube. Then there is another cable stop, which opens up to allow the cable housing to run again until after the seat post but then there is another cable stop that halts the housing again about 3 inches short of where it needs to go from the brakes.  I have included some pics below of what I am talking about.
So, if I followed the cable stops and housings, then I would have to run a bare cable (or at least put a cut in the cable housing) along my top tube, as well as for about 3 inches above my rear brake. My question for you is, is that right? Is there a reason that you would want to run a bare cable along the top tube, or cut the cable housing like that? Are most mountain bikes like that? I was thinking I could just drill out the side of the cable stops that don’t allow the whole cable housing to go through so that I could run the whole cable housing through the stops, effectively turning them into runners or guides for the cable housing. This would allow the housing to go all the way down the bike, which would be way easier and I think would look nicer. 
What do you guys think about that?

Let me know. Im hoping to finish it tonight, so I need to figure this out by the end of the day. 

Top of the cable stop. 

Other side of the cable stop. You can see here where it blocks the cable housing.

Bike so far, with the rear brake cable housing dangling. Needs that finished, and then tubes and tires and its DONE! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 20ish


Finally I feel that I have gotten somewhere on this bike. Got the crankset on, rear tire put together and cogged, fork on with headset and stem, brakes mounted, and seat mounted.  I need to switch out my chain to a 3/32" spacing as it has a lot of lateral play on both the cog and the crank, but that should be the last part that I need for the bike. I also needed to purchase a new tool this weekend, which was a little thing that looked a lot like my bottom bracket tool but was used to tighten my cassette (or in this case, my cog an spacers) on my rear hub.

Still need to put on the brake cabling, install the chain and pedals, and get the tubes and tires on the wheels. But then I should be good to go! Im excited, especially considering that only a week ago I was so behind and frustrated that I thought seriously about just getting a bike that was built already.

My only concern now is that the new bottom bracket doesnt have the right spacing for the frame, which puts the chainring dangerously close to scraping the frame at the rear. Like, no more than 2mm space there. I will have to make sure that the frame doesnt flex too much and cause it to actually scrape, otherwise I will need a new bottom bracket. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Also, keep your fingers crossed on this weather. I dont have my snow tires in yet, so Im hoping the lack of snow holds out for another week or so at least.

Here is what it looks like so far:

PS - munsoned, you were right about the brake studs. I had to strip them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 17

Started building the bike on Saturday morning with optimism in my heart. Little did I know, the day would be wrought with failure.
I figured that the bottom bracket was the logical place to start, so I got out my shiny new bottom bracket and bottom bracket tool. Watched a quick youTube video on 'How to Install a Bottom Bracket' and got to it. I had a Shimano ball and cup style one, so I started with the ball, as the video instructed, on the right side. It felt a little tight, but with some elbow grease I was able to set it all the way in. Then I started putting on the cup part, and it went it with a few stuck spots until about the 3/4 mark. Then it felt really stuck. Thinking that I could give it a little persuasion, I really cranked on it, and heard a distinct *CRACK*.
The teeth part of the cup that were still sticking out of the frame had separated from the rest of the cup and went flying in multiple directions. The cup now only had about half its teeth, and was impossible to remove as it was. After a moment of panic, in which I had visions of the broken plastic piece of the bottom bracket being stuck in the frame forever and fears that I would have to scrap the whole thing, I was able to remove the other side of the bottom bracket first, and then get the plastic piece out VERY CAREFULLY.

This left me a little frazzled (not to mention minus one bottom bracket), but I decided to press on. The fork assembly was the second idea that I had for where to start, so I tackled that. I soon found that the powder coating had put too much width on the stem, so I couldn't fit it into the fork. Not to be thwarted twice in one day, I gathered my frame, fork, stem, and seatpost (which had the same problem as the stem), and my resolve, and headed over to my grandfathers house (where I was going anyways for a family Thanksgiving get together) to use his power buffer. The power buffer was working well, and just when I thought that I was getting back on track it started shooting flames. Well, OK, no flames, but lots of sparks and lots of smoke, from the inside.  So no more power buffer.
At this point a crowd of my redneck uncles had gathered to drink and watch me work (the use of power tools  and/or beer seems to draw them like flies to dung), and one of them helpfully suggested I use an angle grinder. Dont get me wrong, my redneck uncles are an inspiration in my life, but I knew that the angle grinder was the equivalent of using a sledgehammer on finishing nails.  However, at this point, I was frustrated enough to try anything. (which, by the way, is the point at which you should QUIT. Im just not the brightest bulb in the knife drawer)
So out came the angle grinder, and after a brilliant array of white paint chips and enough vibrating to make me completely numb from the elbows down, I had everything stripped that I wanted to. At this point it was about noon, and I decided that it was 5 O'clock somewhere and started drinking heavily.
The rest of the day was a blurry mess of good beer, good food, and good times. I didnt get home until well past the closing time for Greenstreet, despite my good intentions of getting there.

Im going to try to get a new bottom bracket today and tackle the project again. Wish me luck, I apparently need it...