Monday, December 31, 2007

Why I have three rear derailleurs

There were only four of us on a "training ride" three weeks back.  One guy was about the same level as me, the other two are really strong guys.  So as we're starting up another hill about an hour into the ride, I shift into the big ring to catch up and promptly drop my chain.  It fell off on the outside, towards my pedal.  I shifted back, hoping to pull my chain back onto the ring (it's worked a couple of times), but it didn't this time.  I felt the chain catch, or I should say lock up.  I tried to force it a bit (just a bit), and then I felt the whole bike lock up.  Fortunately, by this time, I had lost a considerable amount of momentum and the bike was almost to a stop.  The wet pavement helped me from doing further damage to my drivetrain.  I pulled over and noticed my rear derailleur in my rear spokes.  Not good, not good at all.  Worse, the other guys were over the hill and gone, and I didn't have anyone's phone number with me.  So I pulled over and tried to get the bike rideable.  Did I mention that it was cold, like mid-30's?  And windy?  And the sweat in my gear was starting to make me shiver?
I was about to call home and get my wife to come get me (it would have taken her an hour plus) when my ride mates came back over the hill looking for me.  Chris Moore was able to get me one gear, one stinking gear, but that was enough to ride on, and we took off.  My one gear was 53x13 or 14, I forget.  And the derailleur hanger was at a 45 degree angle, so the derailleur pulleys were out of alignment with the chain, meaning a huge amount of drag (Chris said it felt like 50 watts, I have no clue).  It felt very tall.  Well, we went back the next 16 miles to the shop.  The whole way I can't shift.  I can't accelerate worth a flip and I don't want to stop.  At the shop, the wrench (a guy I trust a great deal, despite his misdiagnosis) informs me that, now that he's worked the derailleur hanger back, the derailleur itself is bent.  Time for a new one.  Oh, new ones cost $100.  And it's right before Christmas and with six kids, I'm pretty much broke.  So much for finishing off those last 120 miles to get to 2500 for the year...  So I did what any other near-broke cyclist would do, I went to eBay.  I put the bike in the shop, it needed a new chain anyway, and I told the guy "I'll provide the derailleur and the hanger." I spent the rest of the week looking on eBay.  Meanwhile, another wrench at another shop who's a pretty good friend (I'd buy him lunch on his birthday kind of buddy) says, "Hey, maybe I can find something at home to help you out."  Of course, I'm impatient, so after a couple of days of no news from him, I found a nice Ultegra 9 sp rear der, which would work with my 10 speed system per Shimano, and I bought it the Friday before Christmas.  Then I wait and wait.  I bought it on a Friday.  The following Thursday, I ping the eBay seller.  No response.  I ping him again on Friday, he says "Your der is on its way."  Ouch, no way it will be here before the big ride on New Year's.  Sat night, my buddy at the shop says, I've got a better der, Dura Ace, and it's yours for $5 more than the eBay der, and it's ready tomorrow.  Rock and roll!  The eBay one will be a backup.  So I buy it, take it back to the shop my bike is waiting at (same franchise), and get everything set up.  I picked it up today, but the guy tells me that the "broken" der isn't really bent.  It must have been the hanger.  Dang it, I had that the whole time!  I ordered a spare when Joseph bent one last Summer.  Then I get home, and guess what's in my mailbox?  The eBay der!!  So now I have a 9 speed Ultegra, a 10 speed Ultegra, and a 9 speed Dura Ace, with the last one installed.  Yuck, now I have to go back to try to sell one to make back some change.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Prospero Año Neuvo

I don't know if you can tell, but I came very close to using some foul Spanish in the title for this post. Many years ago when I was a Youth Minister, I came to understand the difference between "Año" and "Ano." One means year, the other means anus. The Catholic Church was making a big deal about the year 2000 and there was a National Office that was created to promote all kinds of stuff for it. They called it a Jubilee year and everything that was written in English was also in Spanish. Unfortunately, they let something slip in a final press and had to recall thousands and thousands of Spanish pamphlets proclaiming the Jubilee for Anus 2000, or maybe it was the Jubilee of 2000 Anuses (Anii?). So fast forward a year, and I'm in Six Flags at their Holiday in the Park, and there's all these signs everywhere with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in different languages, and there's this one in front of me with "Prospero Ano Neuvo!" Happy New Anus! I included it on all my Christmas Cards that year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I really want one of these

In the Netherlands, they are called bakfiets (bach-feets), the plural is bakfietsen. They are huge overseas. Check out this footage of them outside a local zoo.

I especially like all the child sized seatbelts. I don't know how these would play out here unless there emerged a real bike friendly trail system, but I would love to find out. Here's an example of how family-friendly they can be.

Sleeping babies, how cute!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Better than a Blog award!

Today I experienced an epiphany. I checked out Sitemeter and saw that I had a hit. Yes, I know, I'm so desperate for attention that I check out each hit on my blog, but that only proves my eventual point. The entry click for this hit was a Google search for "lame blogs." And yessir, this one came in third!!

Check it out for yourself.

I'm so proud. And I can't believe I'm so proud. It's a tribute to the insignificance of this blog. To all the little people who have never checked out my blog, thank you. Although you'll never know how much your missing this blog was so important to me, and you'll never know you missed it because you never saw it, your apathy and ignorance is a source of courage and inspiration for me.

Edit: *sniff, sniff* I guess the vagaries of Google are beyond the ken of mortals. I am now no longer #3 on the list, but #36. Maybe the very nature of lame-ness requires that you be ignorant of it. Sort of like those folks who are sooo cooool that they shop for plaid pants at thrift stores even though they pull down six figure salaries. If you are knowingly lame, you no longer qualify as lame, but have progressed beyond lame, straight past vaguely hip, around the corner from faddish, to sit down next to passé.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bike Lights

Ok, a while back I put up a post on riding in the dark. It is different than riding in the night, obviously. There are two points to consider. 1) Can drivers see me? and 2) Can I see the road enough to ride at a decent speed? The first point can be handled pretty inexpensively. I've got a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash tail light and the dang thing is bright. It's not as bright as a Dinotte tail light, but it seems to do a good enough job. I even had a driver tell me at a stoplight that he liked the taillight that I had, and that was on a Saturday morning. It was cloudy, but it was between 11 and 11:30 am. If I had a spare $150, I'd get the Dinotte. Joey from Trinity Bicycles showed me one on his bike back this summer and the thing is bright. The pics from the bottom of their photo page that show a huge amount of red light look exactly like what I saw. But the Super Flash was $20 or so. Case closed. I guess if I were concerned that someone was going to hit me from behind, then I'd get the Dinotte. Yeah, the busiest part of my commute is a road that had a shoulder that's a whole lane wide. If I didn't have that, I'd spend for the Dinotte. Despite the high cost of living, it's still popular. You can handle the first question for headlights (Can drivers see me?) for relatively little cash as well. The Fredcast recommends that you actually have two lights for visibility, one flashing on your handlebars and one constant on your helmet. Folks can see that you are looking at them and respond quicker. The one for your head should probably be a relatively expensive one though, so you can use it to see the road better. I got a cheap Cateye LED for Joseph last month. I didn't realize how weak it was until I got it, but it will work as a flashing light just fine.
But for the second issue, can I see the road, you need to be prepared to spend the bucks. I originally got a NiteHawk Phoenix halogen light that had been sitting in the shop for three years. Since it had been sitting there for so long, it was marked down to 1/2 MSRP. I liked the brightness, the charger, and the setup on the bike. Unfortunately, the yellow light tended to get washed out at dusk, especially when there's cars passing by. On a dark night or on a trail, it's great though. So I ended up getting an early Christmas gift from my Pop, a NiteRider Minewt. It's the '07 model, not the one they sold last Spring. It throws the light a bit farther than the halogen and the light picks up contrasts a bit better. It also has three settings: high, low and flash; and the battery lasts longer. My commute is short enough that I don't worry about the Phoenix dying out, but on longer night rides, the 3 1/2 hour burn time is nice.
Last night I rode about 12 miles from the office to try to catch up with the bi-weekly night ride. I brought along both headlights, as I was worried that I might run through the Minewt's battery. I haven't ever had a light go out on me when I needed it, but I'm pretty good about making sure the things are charged up. I missed the ride and had to turn around and go home. So I got a chance to see how the lights worked at twilight, at dusk, and then after sunset. When there was enough light to see the road clearly, I had the Minewt on flash. It gave me the comfort I needed to approach intersections and basically let folks know I'm there. Eventually it got a bit darker and I had to go to the low beam. The high beam didn't help me see the road better, although you could see a difference between high and low, plus I wanted to be able to use it for the entire ride. Turning on the Phoenix didn't give me better vision at this point either. After I figured out that I had missed the ride and had turned back, it was after sunset. I started to head home. Unlike my normal commute, this was mostly through neighborhood streets with no defined shoulder instead of on a major road with a full lane of shoulder. The Super Flash was still adequate but the Minewt just didn't seem to throw out light far enough as I passed from block to block in mostly-darkness. After a couple of miles, I threw it on high. Then I turned on the Phoenix and noticed quite a difference. When I was riding down the major road with lots of light pollution (streetlights, car headlights), the halogen Phoenix was washed out. If I had the Minewt on low and turned the Phoenix on and off, there really wasn't a discernible difference, except at the far edges of the beam. I think this is primarily because most headlights and streetlights are halogens, so the light pollution from them washes out the halogen Phoenix. The LED light freqs thrown out by the Minewt are different enough to help me see up the road. But when there's not much light out at all, the Phoenix was a tad brighter. Using both gave me the best vision though. The Minewt threw the light out a bit farther and the light itself is easier to adjust, so it was tilted a bit further up than the Phoenix. I was planning on giving it to Joseph or to my Brother-in-law, but now it looks like I'm buying some more lights for Christmas for them. Maybe I'll buy them some different types and try them out first.