Monday, July 28, 2008

Addicted to (the) speed

You know, I'm one of those single-speed band wagoneers. I just up and bought one two years ago. I was attracted to the simplicity of it. I had been a roadie, you know, the shoes, lycra, cyclocomputer and also an off-roader, front-suspended, cross country, shoes, lycra, etc. etc. etc.

I just got tired of all the stuff, of lugging shoes around, of suiting up to go anywhere, of worrying about my average speed and cadence. Sick and tired of it.

So single-speed, no clips, just made sense. And I was hooked pretty quickly. I thought originally that it was the simplicity of it, the purity that all the nerds talk about that got me. This morning I realized that it's actually the speed I'm addicted to. Riding single has made me faster. Not thinking about gearing has made me faster. Not having any components hanging on my bike has made me faster.

And I just love the speed. I love to sprint across the city, dusting cabs and commuters. I love the traffic weave. I love the twitchy steering and the lack of options. And, as I mentioned in my last post, I love the smooth, quiet hum of the straight chain.

I don't wanna talk about single vs. fixed right now. I'm not even sure it's worth talking about. If you love to ride, it doesn't matter what you ride. Ride a $6000 all carbon road bike. Ride a vintage three-speed cruiser. Whatever.

Me? I just wanna go fast.

Change Is Good.

What a mind shattering thing! My work announced shuttle buses last week that go from the city where I live to my office. This is so cool. I'm going to save HUNDREDS of dollars in gas, maintenance, and insurance (now that my miles have gone done). However, this totally throws a wrench into my cycling routine.

I'm not a recreational cyclist. I'm a commuter who loves cycling. I have a very hard time going on a "ride". In my mind I can't get over that I'm not going anywhere. I'm just going in some big circle. There is no point to it in my mind. People can give me great reasons to ride and I can think of some myself, but I can never convince my brain. I hope I can change this, but so far no good.

So a big thing thing in my life was my driving part way to work and cycling the rest of the way. I was doing about 17 miles round-trip. I had a safe park and ride to park in all day for free. I had a great route through some trees with a wide generous bike lane. I had a really good time and I was getting better at cycling. I was feeling really good about myself too.

However, with the money I'm saving from the shuttle and extra time I have to get some more work done on the commute (we have wifi!), it's like for me to bike to work, I'd be paying to ride. That's just money out of my wallet. I can't do that right now. So, my park and ride days are numbered for now.

This puts a two options on the table for me now. My first thought was to bring my bike to work (which I do anyway) and map out a local ride near the office. Ride in the morning before work. This is a pretty good idea. In fact I'm going to actually try it in blatant disregard to my brain saying it's just a big circle and what's the point.

There is a catch here tho. The more I ride, the more I want a new bike. However, the bus doesn't have bike racks. It's basically a big Greyhound bus. You have to stow your bike underneath and just let it roll around anyway it wants to. If there are other bikes in the hold, then well, they're going to hit against each other. Since most new bikes have carbon fiber all over them (my new carbon fiber seat post mentioned over and over again that if you breath on it funny you need to see your local bike shop and have them inspect it) I'm guessing having your carbon bike hit up and rub against other bikes for 35 miles each way isn't a great idea.

Ok, so maybe no new bike. But wait, it's the second option on the table! My commute to the bus station is only like 5 miles each way. I could still get a new bike! I mean if a new bike was what I really wanted. I could get a single speed! Robot keeps telling me about his bike and there is something very pure sounding about it. Plus, no gears and derailleurs go get bent up in the bus's hold. I dunno. I'm not like swimming in dough right now, but I like the idea!

Honestly, I think what all this blathering on is about, is that when you don't have an optimal ride to work, be it distance or bike friendly streets, you're forced to come up with creative ways to make bike commuting work. I could just drive to the bus station each day. I could easily park my car there, but that wouldn't feel right. I want to bike. I want to not use a car. I want to get that exercise. Mostly I want to feel the world go rushing by as I pedal faster and faster. I want to have the bike in my daily life. I think I need to have the bike in my daily life. So I'm taking these changes in stride and I'm going to try to find some bike goodness in them. I'll even try to share what I learn.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Victory, thy name is SRAM

Well, I went to the LBS and bought a new chain, an SRAM 9-speed, nickel-plated chain. I as assured that being nickel-plated was a good thing. Other than that, the dude who sold it to me didn't have a lot to say. I mean, it's a fucking chain, right. He offered me the KMC colored chains, red, blue, gold, etc., but I decided I'm probably not that cool. So I bought the SRAM.

It was $11.99.

It fixed my grinding problem. I cut it down from 114 links to 94 and then lubed it up with Chain-J (for the record, I really don't know what the best lube is for the East Coast misery we endure here), and VOILA! No more grind.

Happiness is a new chain. So clean. So quiet.

I bought a Surly Tuggnut chain tensioner too, but it won't go on right. The screw won't turn. When I get it on, it seems to grind against the hub of the rear wheel. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong, or the spacing is wrong on my wheel, or whatever.

It's a challenge for another day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trouble-shooting that grinding feeling in my right pedal

I ride a single-speed bicycle. It's supposed to be smooth and quiet. And yet, it is not.

There is a brief grinding in my right pedal on every other pedal stroke. When I really torque the pedals, it is more pronounced.

I took the machine to the bike shop to see if they had some idea. Was it a bad bearing in my bottom bracket? Perhaps a bad bearing in the pedal? A lose crank? The bike mechanic at my LBS first tightened everything in the neighborhood of the grinding, without either confirming or denying that he felt the grinding.

His efforts produced a tighter, but still grindy, drive train.

Another mechanic came over, a guy I trust, and he said that he thought the chain and chain ring were worn down. He offered to put a $20 chain ring on my bike. I demurred. I resolved to try to fix it myself and promised to bring it back once I had fucked it up, so he could do it right.

We laughed and parted ways, though I could see that he was irritated with me for letting him diagnose and then not paying him to repair. Whatever. Like I want a $20 chain ring. Doesn't he know I'm the modern day Fausto Coppi?

Something about his diagnosis just didn't ring true with me. Why would a worn chain ring produce a grinding sensation only at the top of every second pedal stroke? Chain rings are round. If there was a defect or worn spot, it would produce the grind on every pedal stroke.

I have been thinking about this, literally, for weeks without buying a new set of cranks and a chain ring. I did replace the pedals, but only because the ones I had were a little smashed up from all the times I've crashed that fucking bike.

And so, on the way home last night, I was obsessing about the chain ring and trying to ignore the grinding feeling and it was slowly driving me crazy and suddenly it struck me. The source of the problem is obvious. I have a bad link in my chain. The chain ring has 48 teeth. If the chain has 96 links (which seems about right) that would produce a grinding every other rotation of the pedals. A new chain costs $10.

If I prove myself correct, I am going to celebrate by buying a new chain ring. And probably a set of cranks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Sickness

I am buying a new bike. That's less a statement about what I am doing currently and more a description of my general state at all times. I am buying a new bike.

What that means is that I am constantly trolling Craig's List, eBay, VeloSpace, et. al. looking at frames and parts. Mostly I'm looking for a new single speed, but I don't know whether that means an old, steel Italian road frame that I hang new parts on, or a new track frame, or one of these in-between kind of jobs like a cross bike with aggressive geometry or whatever.

Everyday I decide exactly what I want, and the next day I second guess myself. I am very susceptible to the advice of others. Even if they know less than I do, which is not much.

I have begun to feel bike sick.

Bike sickness is marked by an unquenchable lust for the next ride. Purchasing the next ride will only redouble the symptoms of the disease. Further, there is an inexorable slide toward malaise as you spend more time reading about bicycles than riding them. It is a most dire affliction. If not arrested at its outset, it can sometimes lead to working in bike shops. Don't let this happen to you.

The only cure is riding the bike you've got, preferably fast, then taking it home, cleaning it and taking a long, hot shower. Breathe in, I don't need a new bike. Breathe out, I love the bike I've got. Breathe in, I don't need a new bike. Breathe out, but maybe a single-speed 29er MTB will make me happy...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Of Hemorrhoids and Helmets

How the H-E-L-L do I follow the Cyclosaur's bloody sphincter?

Fuck it. I don't know. Just gotta get back in the locker room, push some weights, work hard and leave it all out here on the field.

Wear a helmet. Stop not wearing a helmet. As cavalier as I was about obeying traffic signals in my last post, I really think you ought to wear a helmet.

And by all means, cut it with the headphones. If you can't hear me giving you the "ON YOUR LEFT!" then there's a good chance you're going to swerve over and kill me. Forget about the cabs that want us both dead. Now you're dangerous TO ME!

And CHRIST! If you refuse to wear a helmet AND wear headphones while you ride, you're practically begging Charles Darwin to pluck you from the gene pool. You want to die. Do me a favor and don't die in the bike lane. Where will all the cabs park?

To be clear, I don't like wearing a helmet either. When I ride bike paths or other no-traffic routes, I will, occasionally go helmetless. This is, I think, a calculated risk, a low one.

But not wearing a helmet while riding in city traffic is begging for a shattered melon, a permanent speech impediment, a gimpy walk. I like your cycling hat. It's a cool hat. You look hip. Now put on a fucking helmet.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The New Seat Post.

I got the seatpost. I got it last Friday. That's a fast trip from Kentucky to my door. Nice. Now it was a matter of getting time to get the seat out of it's box and on to my bike which considering everything that I have going on, was going to be a challenge.
On Saturday I spotted an opening and hit it. With UPS box in hand I went out to the studio in the back yard and went to work on my bike. First thing was to clean off all the grease. The Easton EC-70 instructions said to do this. I pretty much did everything they said. They repeatedly threatened my life every other sentence. I'm surprised they didn't say anything about how if I goofed anything up installing the post, the seatpost would kill me and then come for my family like Keyser Söze.
Well I cleaned my bike. Got all the old grease out and put in the seatpost. I used my new torque wrench (very glad I bought it) and tightened everything down after fitting it to my size. However, I was out of time. The test ride would have to wait.
Sunday morning arrived with me waking up far earlier than I would have wanted. I sat in bed and realized I was the only one up. This was a good time to ride the bike. It was a foggy California morning and I rode down to the ocean and rode until I was pretty much wet with a good slick of salty fog water. The seat post actually did deaden vibrations I was feeling. I was actually shocked. I sorta didn't think it would work. So there I was riding alone on early morning roads with salty ocean air and actually feeling kind of comfortable. Not bad.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here's Where It Goes Off The Rails.

From time to time this site will employ blue humor. I should really say "brown humor". We love us some poop stories and jokes. Like this one:

So as you've read my ass has been hurting. Turns out I have/had a hemoroid. I say "had" because I went and took a big dump after lunch and when I went to wipe it was like I stumbled upon a double murder in my ass crack. For reals. Like two people were brutally murdered with a log of shit. Like they were bludgeoned to death in there. Just horrific.

Sorry, to break your cherry like this, but I don't think it's fair to give you the impression that this sort of post isn't going to happen. I'm pretty sure my wife has just grabbed her head in disbelief and is hoping that none of her friends ever read this. But honestly, is this worse than me jumping in the Willamette River behind a JC Penny's naked yelling "I AM THE SNOWBUCK!" This was to be expected as exhibited by a previous pattern of behavior.

Instant Gratification.

So, where I last left off, I was dealing with a sore ass from my cheap aluminum bike. I really should say sore grundle/taint (use Urban Dictionary if you don't know what I'm talking about but you probably know). Anyhoo, I had taken steps to fix this. I have NO idea if my steps will fix anything. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I ordered a carbon fiber seatpost.

I went to Colorado Cyclist and ordered an Easton EC-70 Carbon seatpost. I read some reviews and the prevailing vibe was it didn't suck. I figured at about 100 bucks that's my price point to be allowed to make a mistake every few months. Besides, this wasn't going to make anything worse. I felt excited that this could be good. So excited that I splurged and got 2nd day air/error.

Why look how cute I am with my "air/error"! What's the error? Let me tell you! So I keep checking my mail. Looking for my shipment notice. The rest of the afternoon, the rest of the night, the next day, I keep checking then finally it ships! Hurray! However, I'm a bit miffed that it took so long to put in the mail but ok, things happen.

The next day I check the tracking info. My seat post is in Kentucky. I live in California. My seatpost was sent from Colorado. Uh. That's sorta in the wrong way. I mean you can keep going east and it'll get here I suppose, but... Ok. Maybe it's some sort of UPS hub? I dunno. To UPS's credit they did a fast ass turn around on moving the package to a plane on it's way to Oakland, CA.

So this morning I look at the tracking info and the seatpost is out for delivery. That's good. I'll have it for the weekend. Which is good. BUT, I had wanted it on Thursday - 2 days from after I ordered it. So I'm pissed. I'm not sure if that's ok tho. UPS did do 2nd day shipping. They were fast. Colorado Cyclist was not fast. I went under the assumption that something with a shipping upgrade would get put in the mail ASAP. I mean I chose 2nd day. Don't they think I would want it 2 days from the time of purchase? But maybe I ordered it too late in the day for them to process it? I can see that, maybe if it's not in the morning when the order comes in it has to go out the next day? But should I expect that maybe their website has the logic to say "Hey, you chose 2nd day air and it's too late in our day to meet that. Expect to get your stuff a day later." I'm pissed but not sure if I'm right to be pissed.

I can also allow that one of the reasons I am pissed is that 3 local bike shops didn't have carbon fiber seatpost even in stock. Performance Bikes had one but it was like 250mm. Way to short. So that doesn't count as in stock. Don't shops stock seatposts? I can see where they don't with them being 100 bucks and up. That's a lot of dough to tie up in an item that doesn't exactly fly off the shelves.

Ugh. So frustrating! I WANT SOMETHING! GIVE IT TO ME! I WILL PAY YOU! HANDSOMELY EVEN! Sigh, maybe I'll feel better when I get home and my post is waiting for me or maybe I'll be out of my mind pissed when I find out UPS wouldn't deliver because no one was home and they're closed on Saturday or something. Why is this gotta be so hard? Like I needed a 2nd pain in my ass.

Lights, Laws, Rebellion

Do you stop at stop lights? Do you go at go lights? Do you slow down at slow down lights?

As a Robot, I am programmed to respond to simple cues, such as colored lights. BUT!!!! I am a special kind of robot, a punk rock bicycle robot, and I have overridden this light-sensitive programming. I don't stop at lights. To be clear, I stop when stopping is necessary, as when automobiles are passing parallel to my path at great speed. I do that. Self-preservation is innate, even for a robot.

In general, however, I use traffic lights as advice. Sometimes the advice is good, and sometimes the advice is bad. There was a time when I never stopped at all. I was reckless. Then I had baby robots and began to think more of them than for my own wanton speed-lust. More and more often now, I heed the advice the lights give me.

This brings me to the topic of whether or not it is ok to disregard traffic lights. From a legal perspective, the answer is clearly: NO. From a moral perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. The lights represent the rules by which we all must live, and to ignore them is to erode the fabric of society.

From a practical perspective, the answer is probably also: NO. As cyclists we need the drivers of automobiles to respect us. As soon as they see us as annoying scofflaws, they begin driving in our designated lanes (though there are few of those where I live), pushing us off the road and generally operating their machinery as if we don't exist, all of which is dangerous for us. For that reason alone, we should probably all obey the lights.


If I wanted to wait through every red light I came to, I'd drive a freakin' car. Cycling isn't just transportation to me. Cycling is power and freedom. Sometimes, when no cars are coming, I exercise that power and freedom to zip off across a static intersection, leaving the befuddled drivers to worry at their radios and drum their fingers on sun-faded steering wheels. The immature part of me sees the streets as the place the us vs. them plays out. My running of lights is the middle finger I extend to those who choose to move on four wheels.

I am not proud of it, but it is in my nature.

You should not run lights. The lights are the law and running them is unsafe. Don't do it. Don't do as I do, unless of course there is enough punk rock in you to see that the fabric of society could use a little erosion, that those who drive cars are the ones who also make the traffic laws. Those laws are made for monstrously large and dangerous vehicles that seriously impinge on everyone's way of life, clogging our streets, polluting our air, bankrupting us in the name of selfish convenience.

Plato said that it was far more noble to rebel against bad laws than to adhere to good ones. It is by running lights that I express that nobility and slowly, slowly, slowly change the world I live in.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Kind of Robot I am

I am the kind of robot that rides bicycles, velocipedes, two-wheeled, gyroscopic transportation devices, or as I like to think of them, movement robots. They take me to my work. They take me to my home. I ride them with my little robots. My wife unit makes funny jokes about my preoccupation with them. Other places I take them include: grocery stores, cafes, the homes of friends, fire stations, churches, libraries, bike shops, et. al.

What the Cyclosaur has invited me to do is share what data I have about cycling with you, the human reading public. I will endeavor to format my data in a way that is pleasing to your aesthetic sensibilities. As I share a basic anatomy with you, or, at least, the male half of you, I should be able to provide some insight about not rupturing certain valuable, corporeal components, what you call "nuts." I will also, whenever possible, try to imagine what it's like to operate a bicycle while in possession of a vagina.

Very soon I would like to share my thoughts with you as regards the red, yellow and green traffic regulation devices you call "lights." That is all.

Hey man, what's up?

I'm not really a fan of comics that start with "the origin". I like to start with a good story. Some real suspense, a classic villain! Let the origin unfold around issue 6 maybe. But slowly, so by issue 25 maybe you can drop a HUGE bombshell! Something like, the main villain is the hero's father and HIS hand was cut off with a lightsaber TOO!

So that's what I'm hoping to do here with this here blog. Tho The Robot may do something else completely. Probably something that makes sense, is well thought out, and properly spelled. I will not reveal my origin story in these first posts. I will attempt to solve a simple crime and hint at my major villain to come.

If you're looking at this first post as a whole you may be thinking or saying (much to the annoyance of the guy in the cube next to you), "What?! 3 paragraphs? That's your opening salvo?" Yes. That is. Baby steps and all that. But since you may have read this far and I hope not aloud, I will give you a major hint at what a future post may be about! I have an aluminum bike and my ass hurts (yes I have a seat attached to the seatpost). What could possibly happen!? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008