Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rule #12

6. Rowlf (1986 Colnago Saronni Master)

21 February 2016

Rule #12: "The correct number of bikes to own is n+1."

In order of acquisition:

1. Kermit (1997 Waterford 2200, Reynolds steel, used, 2000 Trexlertown Swap Meet, originally painted British Racing Green, re-painted Colorphoria at Waterford in 2008):

This the first bike I'd rescue in a fire.

2. Gonzo (LeMond Zurich, Reynolds steel, date unknown, used, eBay 2003, originally painted white with red trim, powder-coated City Lights by Powtech in 2015):

This bike is a tank. It refuses to die.

3. Grover (2007 Cannondale F300, aluminum):

Before I messed up my back, I tried to hop logs. Now I'm not allowed. Towpath.

4. Miss Piggy II (2015 Cannondale Synapse, carbon, warranty replacement for 2011 Synapse, in a color scheme that is far too sedate for my personality):

For hills because I can't climb for shit.

5. Beaker (2014 Tommasini Techno, Columbus steel, painted without logos by request):


Roy's, Wrenching, and Recovery


21 February 2016

People come out of the woodwork when I announce that I'm going to go easy on them. Yesterday, ten riders showed up for a flat 40-45 mile trip to Roy's from Mercer County Park. Seven of them were Hill Slugs and members of Tom's Insane Bike Posse. Three were Freewheelers I'd never met before, or, if I had, I didn't remember them.

I left my house on Kermit. Snakehead was on the Love Child. Plain Jim was hauling the Krakow Monster. Pete, who refuses to fetishize his bicycles, was riding a nameless carbon Cannondale.

Tom had created the route and sent it to me with the proviso that he had the right to change it at any time. He did, within the first mile. We went down the stretch of Line Road that has been closed to traffic for as long as I've been in the club. I pass through there less and less frequently, and when I do, there's less and less road left.  It'll be single-track soon enough. We'll be able to tell how long people have been riding by how wide they remember Line Road used to be.

When we got back onto the cue sheet, we had a handful of extra miles.  Nobody cared. We'd had a tailwind half the time (!), and the temperature was a good 45 degrees warmer than it had been a week ago.

Walnford Mill, 20 or 28 miles in:

We did get to Roy's eventually, at 37 miles (29 for the smart folks who started from the park).  There, we partook in the ritual Sharing of Laura's Muffin Stump, which we had to explain to the three newcomers.

After the break, we started to get spread out. On the northern side of the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, Tom and I decided that we should probably shave off a few miles. We did, and, by sheer luck, arrived back at the park with exactly 45 miles (53 for us loonies).

Windsor Road:

We pulled into my neighborhood with just under 62 miles.  I couldn't let that stand, and did a few laps around the block until I had a metric century. Jim was beat. I told him that hauling the Monster around with a pannier on one side did him no favors in the wind. "You'll get back on the Yellow Maserati and kick all of our asses."

After doing my best not to eat anything that wasn't nailed down, I set about taking care of the pile of bike work that had to be done.

First up, Grover's new tires. I'm allergic to rubber, and these new tires are nothing but. The tubes, being Slime tubes, are heavy rubber too. I have to wear glove liners and gloves when I get near this stuff. I figured I was in for a long afternoon; my mountain bike rims are a three-lever job. I got lucky, though, because the new tires went on easily. The room stank from rubber, though. Having rested the wheels on my legs, my pants were probably impregnated too. I tossed them in the wash.

Next up, Gonzo's front end. My goal was to move the shifters up on the bars to where they ought to have been in the first place, and then to tackle the problem of the rattling headset.

After a bout on the stationary trainer during the big snowstorm, the center bolt had come loose. I'd tightened it again, but when I was bringing the bike to the front door before a ride a week later, I felt the fork drop. One of the narrow lock nuts was loose. I don't have a skinny crescent wrench to fit it, so I'd used a vise grip instead. I tightened things down to a small wiggle. I'd later consulted Jim, of course, who suggested a round of treatment.

Moving shifters means re-taping. While Jack watched "Father of the Bride" with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, I made a mess of old tape and miscellaneous trash on the floor. I listened to the movie while I worked. The plot wasn't the least bit interesting. It was about as captivating as a blog post about bar tape. I decided that I needed to finish my job before the movie was over, which I just about did.

I couldn't fix the headset. It stayed loose while my hamstrings tightened up.

What I needed was a recovery ride and a trip to Hart's. I asked Jim, Ed, and Sean if they wanted to mosey up to Boro Bean in Hopewell on Sunday. Jim was in. After some back and forth about the bolts, he said he'd stop by early to take a look. Failing that, Hart's would open at noon. I knew he wouldn't mind in the least swinging by the shop if we had to.

Jack was giving a talk near Red Bank on Sunday, so we were up early enough to get him to a train. My legs were sore.  Today's ride was going to hurt.

Jim took a look at Gonzo, loosening and tightening the same parts I'd loosened and tightened the night before. The wiggle remained. He assured me that I wouldn't break the bike or my face by riding Gonzo in this condition, so off we went.

I didn't have much of a plan in mind. I figured I'd follow the old Friday night C+ route (is that a thing anymore?) and break off from it on Carter Road for Hopewell.

"Cows!" Jim called out on Van Kirk Road.

When we approached the intersection of Province Line and Rosedale, I asked if he'd ever seen the old bridge over the closed section of Province Line. He hadn't. I hadn't been there in many years either.

The last time I was here, the bridge was full of holes and plywood patches. We'd crossed it gingerly. I expected a dangerous mess when we rounded the corner. That's not what we saw. I don't know when the D&R Greenway bought the land around the bridge and restored it, but they did a good job.

We continued along the road as far as we could go before we hit the end of this section of Province Line. At the top of the hill are a few hundred yards of mud, a barrier of boulders, and the continuation of Province Line to Cherry Valley Road.

We doubled back to Cleveland and made our way up Carter to Crusher Road. From the top, in the winter, one can see down to Hopewell Valley:

We tooled around the back streets of Hopewell. This was the train station:

A chocolate factory, once upon a time:

We spent a while at Boro Bean, where we drank coffee and met Charlemagne.

We caught sight of one of yesterdays newcomers, Andy, who joined us for a while.  By now it was late enough that we could get to Hart's shortly after they opened. On the way, I had a flat. I'm going for one per weekend, apparently.

Pete was working on a rear derailleur when we walked in.  "People work out on these compu-trainers," he said. "They get get sweat and sports drink all over the place. It's a mess."

Speaking of which. "I had this on the trainer," I explained, and showed him the wobble.  Five minutes and two simultaneous skinny wrenches later, everything was tight again. "Keep an eye on it," he suggested.

I'm convinced that the best way to figure out what might go wrong with a bike is to put it on a stationary trainer and hammer in the big ring. Last year I killed a rear hub and bottom bracket. This season I've worked a headset loose. Jim is convinced that Gonzo is indestructible. I'm not so sure. In 2017 I might just snap the frame.  Gonzo is the only one I'll subject to that kind of torture. I care too much about the rest of my fleet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 20 February

17 February 2016

Today the idea was pitched to me to go to Roy's Deli out in the flatlands. It's only February, so who cares if we're not beating ourselves up yet*? Also, Roy's is not Clarksburg. Let's go.

The ride will be at an easy B pace and will be between 40 and 45 miles.  We'll start from the East Picnic Area in Mercer County Park, on Edinburg Road, at 9:30 a.m.

If you want 16 extra miles, let me know.  I'll be biking over from my house at 8:45.

(*I'm sure I can make up for this between now and the official start of spring.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stay Warm. Stay Caffeinated.

Ice Floes, Delaware River from D&R Canal Towpath, Ewing

14 February 2015

It's a Hallmark holiday, or as we call it around here, Sunday.  It's minus a bajillion degrees out. It's past 8:30 a.m. and I'm still in bed. I'm looking forward to breakfast, slow coffee, and a long bout with Gonzo on the stationary trainer, after which I'll probably pull apart his bar tape and move the brake levers up on the bars to where they should be. At some point, Jack and I will go food shopping. I should probably clean the house.

Right now, though, I'm going to check my email and Feedly and Facebook for the blooper reel of last night's GOP poo-fling and more prognostications about the Supreme Court. 

The first Facebook post I see is this, from John K:

4 degrees?
I have a half baked idea to take a bike ride down the canal path and through Trenton, to the Trenton Coffee House!
Is anyone else certifiably insane?
It IS sunny at least, and there will be coffee.

Well, hell, yeah. I respond:  I have half a mind to go with you.

John: That's a qualification! 

John:  Leave about 10 from my house because the temperature will DOUBLE! (from 4 to 8!)

John, after some private messaging back and forth: So, Bike Ride to the Trenton Roasters Coffee Shop is a thing! 11:15 from my house!

One of his friends: Your dedication is impressive. Stay warm.

Me: Our crazy is impressive. Stay caffeinated.

We'll be on the towpath for most of the route, which means its a Grover day. The Slime in the tubes is getting old and the valves are sticky. Sometimes they don't close all the way, and slowly lose air, so I tighten them as hard as I can before I wheel the mountain bike out to the car. 

I'm putting my helmet on when John rolls up on his old Serotta road bike. Uh-oh. "I'll never be able to keep up with you," I tell him. He's not concerned. Today's not about speed anyway. 

"Someone else is supposed to meet us down by Wilburtha," he says. "I forget his name. He texted me."

We start by descending towards the river on Scenic Drive. The wind is so cold it hurts my face. I'll enjoy pedaling up this hill much more than this. Crossing River Road is easy at this hour. From the towpath we can see chunks of ice moving downriver at an impressive clip. We're just south of Scudders Falls, where, John tells me, kayakers practice whitewater paddling.

It's warmer on the towpath; we're protected by trees. I stop for pictures at Upper Ferry Road.

Coming towards us is Ron M, the mysterious texter who, until this moment, hasn't met John face to face. Turns out they're both local boys, and as we bumble down the path towards the city, they point out the landmarks and who they know who lived or worked or went to school there. I've never been on this part of the canal. I'm just taking it all in.

Including this, where the canal runs above Parkway Road. It takes John pointing it out for me to realize that the normal state of things -- road over water -- is reversed.  Whoa. I've been too focused on the railing to look beyond it.

I stop once more for a picture, but it's so cold out that my camera battery has died. I don't bother with pulling out my cell phone.

When we leave the canal for the city streets, the temperature drops again, especially when we ride in the shade of the buildings on West State Street near the Capitol. I've been to some of these places before, like the county courthouse and the saloon across the street (for numerous land use battles and once for jury duty) and the county administration building (more land use stuff). We get a glimpse of the gold Captiol dome every so often. We pass the Mill Hill Playhouse. I know I've been there, but I can't remember why. Was it a concert or another site fight?

I try to keep track of where we are: State, Broad, Hudson, State again, and then, somehow, Cass Street.

John slows in front of a nondescript door with a tiny sign reading "Trenton Coffee House and Roaster." We lock our bikes and go in.

I want to buy some beans, but Ahmed explains that he wasn't able to roast any yesterday because the vent from the roaster to the outside let in so much cold air that it was messing up the temperature sensor. He'd need the two small bags he has left for today's customers.

"I can deliver," he says, but I know that he would deliver by bike. "I don't want to make you go all the way to Lawrence," I tell him. He doesn't seem to mind, but I don't give him my address. Instead, the three of us order pour-overs and wait as he meticulously prepares three cups. I do my best to talk the guys into drinking the coffee black; I succeed, mostly. Some sugar has found its way in to John's cup.

 John and Ron

The water in my Camelbak line froze early on because I forgot to blow into it early enough. Blow early, blow often. I go into the bathroom to run hot water over it until the line is defrosted.

When I emerge, John is eating something.

"What is that?"

"Toast. Artisanal toast."


We take our time. I go looking for a trash can and head to the front. Ahmed says, "If you want, you can take a bag. It's 1:00. I have enough for the rest of the day." He's closing at 3:00. He double-checks the grinder while I get the money. We start talking about bikes and frames. At the end of the conversation, I realize I haven't yet told him my name, so I do, and then we leave.

The camera has come back to life in time for me to get a picture of Ron's wacky, but eminently functional, bar mitts. "Bar mitzvah!" John says.

We retrace our steps back to the canal.  I feel myself dropping back and going sludgy. I look down and my rear tire is losing air.  "Guys!" I holler, and pull over. I'm assuming it's the valve again. All I have to do is pump some air in and get rolling again.

Nope. I guess Slime doesn't work below freezing. These are the Rims from Hell; even at Hart's it took Oscar three levers and 20 minutes to change a tube. It takes me longer than that, and there's no way I'm going to hold these guys back or freeze my fingers trying to change the tube. I try using Ron's CO2 as a desperate last measure. The air goes in and straight out again, we can't tell from where.

I could start walking, and I do, but that's too slow, and the rear wheel resists as I push the bike forward.

It's not that far back. I'm going to do the thing one is Not Ever To Do: ride home with a dead flat tire. I'm sure to kill the tire. If I'm lucky, I won't damage the rim. I shift into a low gear and spin.

Brrrr-UP! Brrrr-UP! Brrrr-UP!

What had been a leisurely ride has now become a workout. I'm going anaerobic. I'm glad for road crossings. Ron leaves us at Lower Ferry Road. I have to stop once more. John and I see it as a good place for a picture. He takes a selfie of us as I set up the shot.

The towpath appears level, but it's not. When you're dragging a dead tire, you feel every change in grade.

It occurs to me that these tires are now nine years old, which might have something to do with this mystery flat. Damaged or not, it's time to get a new set.

Brrrr-UP! Brrrr-UP! Brrrr-UP!

"I kinda like how that sounds," John says. I think it sounds like a sick frog.

Despite everything, I'm enjoying this ride. At the same time, though, I'm hoping that every turn in the path will be the one that has the bridge back to River Road. I might be dog tired, but at least I'm not cold.

Now there's the matter of climbing back up Scenic Drive. I just about have control of the rear wheel on the path. I'm hoping it'll be better on the blacktop, but I'm also worried about damaging the rim on a surface that doesn't give way.

I fishtail a bit on Route 29, take the turn onto Scenic Drive slowly, and start to spin like mad up the hill. The back end is having none of it. I dismount.

John, being a gentleman, dismounts too, and we walk the last mile up the hill, talking politics.

(The rear tire, now thoroughly tenderized, came off the rim with ease, its innards speckled with gobs of Slime. The tire died so that the rim -- still round and true -- should live.)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

We Have Wheels!

The Sourland Mountain as seen from Wheelfine Imports

13 February 2016

Over the past few weeks, on weeknights when was still awake enough, I worked on Rowlf's wheels for half an hour or so. 

Thursday morning I decided enough was enough and scheduled time on Saturday afternoon with Michael at Wheelfine. "I'm having trouble getting them round," I told him, "without screwing everything else up."  He told me that I needed to get the wheels round first, not last. 

Jack and I were out with lab friends on Thursday evening. I figured I'd have only Friday night to work on the wheels. When we got home around 10:00, I headed downstairs to take care of the litter boxes. I never got that far; the wheels beckoned. 

The rims were dancing a vertical hula. I set about making them round, losing the lateral true and the dish in the process. Once I got the wheels close to round, though, the rest came quickly. They were far from perfect, but at some point one has to call it a night. I called it a night at 12:00 in the morning and took a short video of the rear wheel.

 (Moxie is in the background, waiting for his nightly Greenies.)

I left a day-long meeting an hour and a half early so that I could get up to Lambertville with a few hours left in the work day. I arrived at 2:40 p.m.

Michael was tending to a couple building a town bike from a beefy Bianchi. I waited an hour, but it was a fun hour. He was very into what he was doing, telling stories along the way, letting us yammer on while he put in one crank, decided the spacing was too tight for comfort, put in another, rummaged through hubs to find the exact ones, and distracting himself from his own story line to tell another in between.

Before starting with me, he stuffed the wood stove to the top with logs. Outside was below freezing. The front of the store was straight-up cold. The back, where we were, was chilly enough that we could feel the cold air coming through the cracks in the walls.

I gave him the rear wheel first. He squeezed the spokes and measured the tension. "Kinda mushy," he said. Although I'd brought them to the tension we'd planned on, that had been an estimate based on another set of wheels. "I like a tight wheel," he explained. First, he tightened the drive side, then started to make the wheel round.

Michael's wheel-finishing sequence:

1. Make the rim round;
2. Tighten the drive side;
3. Flip the wheel over and true it;
4. Dish it.

What I did:

1. Tighten the drive side;
2. Flip the wheel over and true it;
3. Dish it;
4. Make the rim round.

Right order, wrong starting point.

"I'm sorry to make you do this," I said.

"I don't mind. I like doing this."

Unlike last time, I could follow exactly what he was doing when, and why. I could even feel it, the way we can feel the road when we drive past a cyclist. What he did, he did quickly, and before long he was dripping Loctite into the spokes.

 (That's Michael talking, always talking.)

I handed him the front wheel. This I'd made more round. It didn't take him long to straighten it out and tighten the spokes beyond where we'd estimated.

(More Michael talking) 

Between wheels he poured fresh water in to the can on the stove. This is the shop's humidifier.

The middle room is so full of bikes that, at the end of the day, Michael pulled out a pole that reached across the room to the light switches to turn them off.

Next up, outfitting Rowlf.

I'd decided on Campagnolo Athena (thanks, FreeWheeler gearheads!) and brought my my bike fit measurements with me. I could tell that Michael truly digs doing this stuff: he even knew exactly which handlebar shape to put on to preserve the old school look.

He leafed through catalogs to find the saddle I wanted (I called home to triple-check:  "Hey. Where are you? Can you do me a favor? Can you tell me exactly what it says on the side of Beaker's saddle? Beaker. The Tommasini. The blue one. Antares VS? That's what I thought. Thanks. Scalia's dead?!?")

The toughest part will be figuring out what stem to put on. That will have to be last. He'll do all the big stuff I don't have tools for: the headset, the crank, and probably the pedals. "I'll do the cables," I said. "I need to learn that better. I'll get friends to watch me." (Hi, Jim!) "I don't trust myself yet."

He's going to restore the paint, too, just a little, to fill in the chips and keep the rust away.

When I left the store, it was 6:00.

And it was still a little bit light out.  Four more weeks till we move the clocks an hour ahead!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Salt and Sparkle

Grandview Road

6 February 2016

After a five year hiatus, Gonzo has returned to duty as my winter bike. With old racing wheels replacing older sludgy ones, the bike moves forward when I want it to, not when it wants to.  That helped in the small hills today, but Gonzo is still a tank, and I can feel it in my back at the end of a ride.

There was the small matter of snow and ice from yesterday morning's little storm. I'd asked my scout in the Sourlands what the roads were looking like; she warned me to stay away from her part of the mountain. 

The road I live on is north-facing and shady. It's a good proxy for the hills in winter. If there's room for friends to park in the street, there's room to ride up north. As luck would have it, I'd already come up with a route that would keep us on the southeastern part of the Sourlands. I decided to stick with it; if things looked grim, we could bail and wing it without having to cross the mountain twice.

Snakehead and Pete met me at my house. In Pennington we picked up Chris, John K, and John's buddy, Marty.

For the most part, the roads were clear on our way up. Once in a while we'd have to swerve around a frozen runnel. Just as often we'd run through puddles or veer around an errant mound of road salt. Our dark tires would turn white, then wet, then white again.

I feared that the worst roads would be at the top of the mountain, but that's where they were clean and dry. We took Stony Brook to Van Dyke:

We followed Featherbed to Rileyville, climbed to Ridge, hauled ourselves over the last hump on Lindbergh, and turned onto Zion.

I've been riding long enough to remember when Hollow Road was a preferred means of descent. Then came the potholes and repaving. Now, coasting down is like riding over a washboard. I thought I had a flat or that my fork was coming loose. Note to self: use Hollow for climbing only.

We collected at the wooden bridge on Grandview:

After that, the traditional view-gawking and subsequent straight-line plummet:

We made our way east to Canal, where, against all odds, the road was not even a little flooded. The Griggstown Causeway had been under water, though, if the mud-ice in the parking lot is any indication.

Two thirds of the ride were over when we got to our rest stop at Main Street in Kingston. Pete's phone had been ringing for miles; work beckoned, and he left for home without going inside. Marty had never been there before and was in awe. Snakehead, ever ready to use his panniers, bought macaroons to take home. Inside, we talked about beer and wine.

Our trip back to Pennington had a few more hills in it than I'd remembered, my knowledge of the roads from Kingston to the Princeton Ridge being somewhat less than thorough. Chris trash-talked at John: "He's not 29 anymore." I said, "Neither are you."

We had our chance to hammer downhill during the last handful of miles. Plain Jim not being present, I dropped into 53/11 with impunity (55-60 rpm, I'd guess, and only for a minute).

As we reached Pennington's Main Street from our side-street home-bound shortcut, we stopped for traffic and noticed a new sign in the cluster of shops across the street. "Coming soon," it said, "Sourland Coffee." Hmm...

Back in the parking lot at Pennington, John gave me a bag of coffee beans from the Trenton Coffee House. It's at 750 Cass Street, open whenever, and run by a fellow who roasts and sells one small batch at a time. John is fond of the place and the owner. You can read about them here and here. It might be a destination for a cold-weather MTB ride down the D&R canal and through the city.

On the way home, I mused to Snakehead, "We could start a ride at Sourland Coffee, ride somewhere to get coffee, and end with coffee. I'd never sleep."

"You're like one of those little dogs," he said, "You know, the ones that have to stop at every bush?" He should talk. He didn't go straight home from my house. He went to Rojo's in Lambertville to pick up beans, and then to Pure Energy (bikes and coffee!) to pick up a new pair of carbon wheels.

I need to stop blogging now. I have wheels to build, and Gonzo needs a bath.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Saturday's Hill Slug Ride is ON

5 February 2016

The ride is on with a delayed start. Meet in Pennington at 10:00 a.m.

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc UPDATE

5 February 2016

Check this space tonight and tomorrow morning for updates. The ride depends on how much snow is left in the roads at sunset today.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, 6 February 2016

4 February 2016

Saturday's ride will be in the hills. I'll try not to torture anyone. We'll go 40-45 miles. Meet for a 9:30 a.m. start at the Hopewell Administration Building on Main Street, across from Ingleside, in Pennington. Extra-milers can start with me from my house at 9:00 (RSVP).