Thursday, March 31, 2005

Couldn't have said it better my self

This is photoshopped from a panel in Pearls Before Swine, but I love it.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Off into the sunset...

The Bluebird and I had a bittersweet farewell as Zora rode her off towards the wilds of Northern Astoria. I wish them godspeed and hope to see them again some day...

Here's to you, Ken! (glug)

Write and ye shall receive. Ken "Why would someone devote a website to an obscure tire size?" Stagg left a very useful comment:
"You can fix the large gap between the tire and fender at the bottom bracket with a wine cork and a longer zip tie. Cut the cork to the proper length, drill out the center and thread the zip tie through it (both ways). I did this with my Heron conversion but haven't taken any pictures of the detail yet."

It's simply a brilliant idea. There are so many good aspects to this mini-project:
1) It involves wine. Luckily, I had just openned a bottle when I read this comment. Even more luckily, I "spurged" on a $12 bottle of wine, which means the cork is of halfway-decent quality.

2) By moving the fender back, I can access the kickstand screw with my wrench and have no problem tightening it.

3) The fender looks normal now!

After removal of the kickstand, you can get a good idea of the small space.

Then I drill a hole throught he cork. Interestingly, this is the only use of a power tool in the whole bike building process.

The cork is installed.

And the finished product:

Friday, March 25, 2005

Doh! (and I love pin spanners)

It turns out I already have a 14mm socket wrench. It came with a bike toolset. I forgot because I’ve probably never used it. Anyway, I e-mailed Rivendell and told them to cancel that part of the order (I also ordered CDs of all their back Reader issues). I don't think it will be a problem.

Here’s the wrench (the 14mm side is facing away from the camera. Of course, it still won’t work on the kickstand nut because the seat-post tube is in the way.

I did, however, check the crank-arm nuts (important part that connects the crank arm to the bottom bracket). The nuts were turn-with-your-hand loose. Yikes. I knew I didn’t tighten them well (for lack of a 14mm socket wrench). But having one of those fall off would be dangerous, to say the least.

Getting to these nuts allowed me to use one of my favorite tools, the pin spanner! I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do. It’s primary purpose is to take off old-style bottom brackets. But it’s also needed for screwing off and on the crank-arm dust caps. (For light-weight duty, of course, you could use spoke ends or very small allen wrenchs. But that's no fun.)

This pin spanner is surprisingly versatile. Though I can’t think of any examples offhand, I know I’ve used this tool countless times for things unrelated to bicycles. And you can be pretty certain that when a strange little adjustable two-pinned contraption is what you need, nothing else will do. And as I like to say, “There’s nothing like a good tool properly misused.”

14 mm wrench

After 33 years of never needed a 14mm wrench, I now have two parts on the Bluebird that need a 14mm socket wrench: the old-school crank-arm nuts and the kickstand tighening nut. So I ordered one. $14 from Rivendell.

They blink

On one hand, I suppose that bar-end lights fall in the general category of things I don't need and probably shouldn't buy on-line after a few too many drinks. On the other hand... what could be a better purchase than lights? Especially for a girl who doesn't wear a helmet.

This involved a little wittling of rubber. Very easy with a leatherman knife.

I read somewhere on-line in the past few weeks that Windex is great for getting handle-bar grips on and off. Sounds fishy. WD-40, I can see why. But Windex? Turns out it's true. These tough grips just slipped right on and then they stay put. Maybe my Big Fat Greek Wedding was right, Windex is good for everything ("409 glass and surface cleaner" in my case).

I want one

It does occur to me that the bike I'm building for Zora is, not surprisingly, really a bike I want for myself. Despite the three bikes I have in my home here (I also have the Screaming Salmon in Boston, a fixed gear and the only bike of mine that actually has a name, and a one-speed in Amsterdam, a wonderfully speedy Batavus Barcelona).

I could use the Bluebird. It's a great cross between my bianchi road bike and my one-speed hooptie. The Bluebird may be the best of both worlds: fast and light, yet with a rack and bags to carry groceries.

I’ve always been tempted to put more crap on my bianchi to make it more functional. Rear rack. Full fenders. Chainring guard. But as a road bike, it doesn’t come with any of these things or make it easy to add them. And I do love putting on my bike shoes and riding fast and free. That’s what the bianchi is for. That’s why I have spare normal shoes in my office at work. Of course, I also come home with shopping or supplies, and then I’ve got a heavy bike bag on my back. I want a fast and striped-down road bike.

And my one-speed has been very good to me. I actually found the bike in Inman Square just when I was looking for something like that. I had to replace the fork and pretty much added everything to the bike. But the frame and wheels and bottom bracket were in great shape. She’s a cruiser with BMX handlebars, fenders, front hand brakes, rear coaster brakes, and a rear rack with collapsible metal “baskets.” But almost 10 years and two cities later, a good bike it has been. Still, even though it rides well, it’s a heavy motherfucker. Great for around the neighborhood. But not exactly fast and fun to ride. She’s a tank.

It sure would be nice to have a Bluebird for, say going into the City or Brooklyn and carrying something.

Tight squeeze

I had a tough time putting on the kickstand. Zora's old kickstand turns out to work just fine. I guess new ones just come extra-long to fit all bikes, and you cut it down to size. But, kind of strange for Rivendell to sell them assuming the buyer has a grinder. I mean, I'm building a bike and I don't have a grinder.

There's not much room for the kickstand (you can also see the bottom bracket spindle is a few millimeters too long as well). You can barely see part of the metal stay between the fender and the kickstand clamp. There's a small hole in it for attaching the fender. But installing the kickstand necessitated replacing this little screw with a zip tie. This town wasn't big enough for the little fender-screw nut and the big-ass kickstand screw that attaches the kickstand to the kickstand clamp. So the fender screw had to go.

The clamp attaching the kickstand is actually very rare, but available at Rivendell so that nice bikes can have kickstands. You won't find it in their on-line catalog. But they have them. I'm wondering if I should get a kickstand on my Bianchi. I probably won't.

And I don't have a 14mm wrench (I've got every other size), so I can't tighten it very well. The adjustable wrench is a bit too big to get in there.

You can also see what I consider the only funny-looking part of the bike as a result of the 650B wheels: the large gap near the bottom bracket between the fender and the rear wheel. Oh well.

Here's a shot of the rear cog. I'm showing it because of the two little yellow lines on the shifter. They're supposed to line up in fourth gear. It's a nice little Shimano system for easy shifter-cable adjusting. You can make minor adjustments in the cable with barrel adjusters. It sure as hell beats the guess work of adjusting an old Sturmey-Archer hub (and the no-traction danger of being between gears on a Sturmey-Archer). Sturmey-Archer is the standard old 3-speed hub found on old Raleighs--great bikes, but a bitch to work on with their English measurements, cottered cranks, and their everything-comes-apart-what's-Shimano components.

And, perhaps most importantly, Zora came back home last night. She was very happy to see her bike (though it wasn't a surprise, given this blog and my tendency to shift all conversation to things bike-related)... and me too, of course.

She had to run off to work today and will take the Bluebird for their maiden ride tomorrow, I assume. I'll be there with a camera, like for the first ride after you remove the training wheels.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


I got a headset wrench in the mail today.

My old one is “multisized” and not very good at any of them. Tools pay for themselves, some tool seller once said. I got that and a new front light and some dorky (or cool) handlebar-end lights. They don’t fit on my bike though, which was the plan. But they do fit on the Bluebird. I guess that’s where they’ll go. All this stuff adds up, money wise. But I don’t count late accessories received after the bike is ridable as part of the bike. Shifty mental accounting. This is an operating expense.

But there is something weird about the headset. I repacked it with grease. Fine enough. But the locking nut can’t go down far enough. There is already one space-taking washer in there (strange, I said, when I first saw it). but I guess it needs two.

And I think I bent the front fork slightly getting it in the car last night. Not enough for me to do anything about it. But now you have to apply a little spreading force to get the front wheel on. Godverdomme.

The Bluebird: Day One

The Bluebird came out fighting today. A trial by fire… and ice. She’s a great bike. Rides well. I’m not quite certain what makes a bike a good ride. So as I’m building her, I can’t help but worry: what if she’s not a good bike?

One test of a well riding bike is: can you take your hands off the handlebars. I’ve never been too comfortable with no-hands riding, but it’s still a good test. A bike should stay straight and true. The Bluebird does.

The Bluebird passed the test with flying colors. Light, fast, frisky, and eager to please. She came back home in pieces, but that wasn’t the bike’s fault. I had to take off the front wheel and the handlebars to fit in the back seat of Katie’s car coming back from nice drinks with Deb and Joel in Greenpoint. I have nothing to prove. I rode to school and back to Greenpoint. And even I, very rarely, say, “yes, thanks, I will take you up on that ride.” It’s nasty out.

The funny thing is that the last time I rode my bike in such bad weather was the last time I was Greenpoint with Deb and Joel (they were getting married). Maybe that's why I try and stay in Queens.

Given the weather here, I wouldn’t have ridden to work. But I had to scout out a meeting place for a meeting I have tomorrow in midtown. So I rode her to work. It was hailing. I don’t mind cold, and rain, or most weather. But hail sucks. It hits your face and hurts. But the bike itself was great.

The hail today wasn't constant, but it’s there. Hail hits your face like little cold pinpricks. Did I mention it hurts? You have to put your head down to let the bike helmet take the harsh blows. The hail was bad for a few blocks right when I left school and then again going across the bridge. But leaving the hail aside, the traction was fine.

Bikes are surprisingly good in weather even when driving seem precarious. Whatever physics keeps a bike upright takes you right through snow and over ice. I learned about that in physics in high school. It all seems hazy now, but that spinning wheel works some magic.

My foul-weather riding gear consists of: a brimmed helmet or hat (so you can lower your head and not get rain or hail in your eyes), cheap Dutch rain pants over blue jeans, normal shoes, wool socks, some rain resistant jacket, and gloves that have an outer waterproof cover. It’s really not that much. And glasses aren’t good to wear when it’s raining.

The gear ratio on the bike seems pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. I had to choose the number of teeth on the front and rear cogs. It matters. I tried to figure it out:
1) based on the bikes I have and knowing that fifth gear on the Shimano Nexus is the "natural" gear.
2) based on Sheldon Brown's concept of gain ratio. I tried to make the gear range as close as possible to the gear range on my trusty old well-loved great-in-the-city 14-speed bianchi road bike.
Still, I didn’t have much confidence in my figuring. But I guess I figured it out pretty well.

I have strong legs, but first gear seems plenty low enough for all of New York’s need. And 8th gear allows you to peddle hard while going downhill on the Queensboro bridge. So that seems perfect. And she’s got full fenders, so biking through rain, snow, and hail with accumulating slush on the ground wasn’t so bad.

The difference between winter here and, say, in Chicago is that in Chicago, winter comes and stays. In late December and January and February, Chicago has winter. There’s no denying it. People put on hats and snow is on the ground and it’s cold. Brutally cold for a few weeks. But in New York, winter comes in week or two bursts. And then people bitch about winter weather because they never accept it. Because winter never sets on New York so that the only hope for salvation is Spring.

The past couple of weeks here have been seasonally beautiful weather. But today we have entered a period of Amsterdam-like miserableness. Oh well.

But the Bluebird was great today. I rode with extra tools (10mm wrench for the brakes, adjustable wrench, spoke wrench, allen wrench set). I expected some parts I forgot to tighten to fly off. But all seemed in order. No funny sounds. The wheels stayed true.

It's always wise when you make repairs to bring the tools for that repair with you for the first ride. But I didn't bring flat-tire changing tools. There's no point, given this bike’s rear wheel. It's a bitch to remove. The Bluebird isn't a change-the-flat on-the-fly bike. But Zora's isn't going to change a flat on the way home. So it doesn't matter. If you get a flat, take the subway. That's why we live in New York.

It was slow riding, though. Braking power was minimal because of the wetness. But that only makes me want to hook up that weather-proof rear roller brake even more.

The bike itself was a dream: sporty and fun, just like I was hoping. The handlebars have no grips and are just wrapped with a thin layer of electrical tape, but this weather demands gloves, so it wasn’t so bad.

And I cleaned up the living room and put away all the tools and took out all the trash.

Tomorrow I’ll put the bike back together and eagerly await Zora’s return.

Here's the bike. She's got a lock, a light, and even a bell!

It is March 23, 2005. About three months after I starting thinking about this project and about three weeks after I actually started buying parts.

The Bluebird is ready to fly

I got the package of fenders and tubes today! This bike reminds me of that old Johnnie Cash song where he builds a car "one piece at time." Of course, that didn't cost him a dime. But it's interesting to see a bike come entirely in the mail.

I fixed the bike tire (man, that new tire is tough to get on, with its tight bead.)

I installed the fenders and put on Zora's rack and bags. One great thing about the fenders is that the fender stays provide a sort of structure that will keep the bottom corners of the saddle bags out of the rear-wheel spokes (a contant problem of saddle bags). The Bluebird is starting to look like a real bike. And though I've still got to redo the cables and hook up the rear roller brake, she is, in fact, ready to ride!

Meanwhile, I'll be happy to clean up and get my, uh, "workshop" back.

The 26-foot test track

I put in the tubes (I'm afraid there's a slow leak already in the rear tube, but I'm not sure. Maybe the valve was just leaking at first, but now it's fine? But some air was definitely coming out. But now it seem to be fine. I'll guess I'll know in the morning). The tires list their maximum pressure in BAR, 5 of them. How cute. I've never seen that on a bike! Those crazy French.

I seem to remember from high-school chem/phys that a BAR is about 1 atmosphere. But that doesn't help me. Tires in Amuurica are inflated in PSI, pounds per square inch. Luckily, the web tells me that 5 bars is equal to about 75 PSI, which isn't bad for a 32mm-wide tire. I'll put the front at 70 and the rear at 80.

Then I rode the bike down the 26-foot test track.

I'm a professional driver and this is a closed course, so no worries, mate. The track runs from the rear wheel in the bathroom to front wheel hitting the counters under the kitchen sick. That's over 3 full wheel revolutions! The test track is 2-feet wide at it's narrowest, as it passes the table by the front door. So don't try this at home. Plus there are clogs and stools to avoid.

Anyway, the wheels creaked a bit, which is what I wanted. Less than I expected, which is good sign that the wheels are built well. The creaking is sound of the spokes settling into place under the 200-some pounds of me on the bike. And all seems well...

...except the damn rear wheel which is going flat. Fuck. I could have bought an extra tube, but no, I thought, "why buy an extra tube when six are coming in the mail?" But now I can't ride the bike until I get another tube. Oh well, I got to put weight on the wheels. I guess there's really nothing anything else for me to do until the new cables or the fenders or Zora arrives at my door.

On the plus side, the toe clips seem to have enough clearance, at least for a few peddle revolutions as you get the bike going.

You can also see the obvious difference between the clearance on a standard 27-inch (700mm) wheel.

No room for fenders or nothing!

On the otherhand, the Bluebird sports sexy 26-inch (650B) wheels. Look at all this exciting room:

What's the downside? None that I can think of.

tubes and foods

I'm done with another hard day at the office. Off to bike home. I picked up two tubes for the Bluebird. So I can make the bike rideable and give her a little test spin tomorrow! Very exciting. Then I'll probably have to re-true the wheels. And the handlebar grips are waiting for Zora's return. Because there's still a choice of handlebars.

After getting the tubes, I was looking for food between the bike store at 47th and 9th and John Jay at 59th and 10th. On 10th and 47th, there's a little bodega/Mexican grocery store. I did a double take when I saw a "free delivery" sign. Sure enough there's a kitchen in the back and a bunch of stools. I got 2 tacos and they were great. Gee-are-eee-aye-tee. And a cute short pudgy older friendly mexican woman making them all.

There were far better than any Astoria bodega taco. Spicer and saltier and simutaneously more subtle and more bold. The meat was chopped finer, which helped. I got one chorizo and one bifstek. The chorizo tacos had potatos in it, which was interesting. More condiments on the counter, too: pickled peppers, salsa roja, verde, limes, and nice little mixture of finely diced onions and peppers and lime juice and maybe cilantro. And the tacos were still the standard $2. This may be the first time I've ever had better food in Manhattan than I can get in Queens.

A bike without a basket is like a woman without a fish

I received an e-mail from my Godmother. She is very concerned:

"Dear Peter, I love the blue color but am concerned about one thing, where's Zora's bike basket? Am I showing my age here? But a girl's bike must have a basket, no? Preferably one of those large wicker ones."

How right she is! In fact, not two weeks ago, Zora and I bought Tamara a wicker basket just for that reason. And while, alas, I have no plans for a basket on the Bluebird, Zora may do as she wishes.

Back to the Bluebird: Damn those cables

Back from Chicago, the brakes had arrived. But annoyingly, the tubes and fenders weren’t even shipped from Boston. Some screw up on their end.

I don’t like putting cables on bikes. I never had. I don’t know why. It always takes longer than it should. It’s hard to cut cable housing. And getting the length just right is important.

And I kind of screwed up doing it. "Kind of" because I’ve got to buy more parts and do it again. But only kind of because the bike is functional as is. It’s just not how I want it.

Cable housing is important not to protect the cable (cables can take care of themselves), but rather to provide compression-proof strength. It’s not intuitively obvious to me, but if there was no cable housing, when you squeeze a brake level, nothing would happen.

Think of trying to pull something with string. If there’s slack in the string, and you pull the string an inch, the string just gets a little less slack. To pull, the string or cable has to be tight. But bike cables are never tight, because they have to curve and accommodate the handlebars swinging around.

Road bikes use cable housing at the beginning and end sections and un-housed cable running along the tube lengths, using the frame itself and little welded cable holder to keep everything fixed for the length of the bike. The cable housing serves as a rigid frame which allows the otherwise slack cable to actually pull something.

Here's the rear brake set up on my bianchi road bike:
proper cable setup

Anyway, the first thing I did was cut the shifter cable housing to make it fit the snazzy little cable holder the bike is made for (and had to buy this little piece for the not bargain price of $15).

Then I realized that the whole set up with these components is meant to have the housing run the whole length, which leaves nothing (like the bike not having cable fixtures) to chance. The problem with this intended system is that it doesn’t look good to have cable housing running the length of the bike attached with zip ties, it wastes the nice features of the frame, and the brakes and shifting would probably be more sluggish since the long length of cable housing probably would have some amount of compression in it.

Here's a shot of the bottom bracket cable guide. But it only works for un-housed cable:

The problem with the way I want it is that there is no cable holding fixture on the right side of the chain stay, since these frames aren’t built for internal hub brakes. And the fixture for the derailleur-shifting cable on the left side is positioned for a derailleur and not this kind of shifting hub.

I also didn’t initially see how the rear brake has a built in holder for the housing.

The brake arm is the black piece hanging down kind of on the right. When it pulls forward (left in the picture), the brake activates. The black piece coming out to the left is where both the chain stay attachment and the holder for this special nut that attaches to the bottom of the piece. This special nut then holds the end of the cable housing. (The shiny piece to its left, hanging down from the chainstay, is the brake arm clamp that will have to attached to the same black piece before the brake can work safely.) If you zoom on the picture, you can also see the screw that goes into the drop out. I was actually quite pleased to get a frame that has this feature. This, I have to assume, is designed to make it easy to reinstall the back wheel to just the right position. This is kind of useful because the chain tension has to be just so, not too loose or too tight. And the wheel has to be properly centered in the frame. It's not something you need, but it's kind of nice to have.

By the time I did figure all this out, I had already cut the cable and now it’s too short to reach to the rear hub brake (a much longer distance from the brake handles than the distance to standard rear squeeze brakes).

So I had to order little cable-holding clamps for the chain stays. And new cables (which are cheap). And new housing (which is expensive). That means at least another week for delivery. Sigh.

On the plus side, I did rig up the rear caliper brakes that came with the brake set (I only needed the front brake, but they came as a set). But they’ll go when I get the roller brake connected. And the front brakes are fine, even though the housing needs to be shortened some more. But I want to make sure the handlebars are at the right height before I make the cables too short.

And I put on Zora’s old peddles. There may be a ground-clearance problem with her toe clips if they're facing down when not being used. The peddles are a centimeter or so closer to the ground than on her old bike. But we’ll see. Maybe not. I did buy some new-fangled “power grips” to replace to toe clips. I've never seen them, but they sound cool. And unlike toe clips, they're not rigid.

They may be great, but we may never know as they’re not compatible with Zora’s peddles (which have screws only on one side). So if the toe clips don’t work, then we’ll have to get new peddles.

But as soon as I get some inner tubes installed, the Bluebird will, if not be finished, at least be rideable and ready to go!

The hand grips aren't really on yet either. Everything has to be in place before the hand grips go on for good. They kind of finalize everything as they're a pain to remove and prevent anything else from being replaced.

Maybe I can get some tubes tomorrow just to get the bike on the road. And I ordered a thin cable to lock the seat from dumbasses who would steal it. Of course, a cable isn't a lock. How are you supposed to lock anything with a cable? None of the places that sell “cable locks” explain that dilemma. I guess they would protect quick release items. But thieves around here carry allen wrenches. But some guy in a bike store in Brooklyn told me how a bike chain makes a great lock. They’re strong, and thieves don’t carry chain-link removers. But chains are also heavy and metal. So I use just a few links of bike chain to lock the cable to the seat.

I also hope the Bluebird doesn’t get a lot of flat tires in her rear wheel. With good new tires, she won’t get a lot. But when she does, you have to take off the brake-arm clip and the shifter cable and the brake cable before you can take the wheel off. Kind of a pain. I could get tire liners, but that isn’t part of the fast-bike vision.

The Bluebird!

She's going to be a handsome steed: swift in motion, yet steady afoot; demure in public, yet wild in private; mischievous by nature, yet polite in mixed company; her hubs stay loose and her wheels tight; femme enough to turn all the boys' heads, butch enough to be the center of attention in any dyke bar; as stern as a librarian with thick-rimmed glasses and hair in a bun, yet beautiful with contacts and flowing hair; spontaneous, caring, a good listener; intelligent, yet not threatening; she likes a quick race down the block, or slow rides in the park; she wants to love and be loved; in her bed you'll find tools, a pump, and lube; being put together is sexy, being ridden is sexier; she wants play and to have a serious relationship... I could just go on and on. But I think I've said enough.

The chainline seems nice and straight. Not that you can really tell just by looking. But it least it's not way out of wack. It's also still a link too long. But I'll deal with that later.

Now where have I seen those colors before... Of course, riding old subways! The bike's color scheme closely resembles the old World's Fair Bluebird subway cars.

Hence, I christen her the Bluebird!

Don't listen to those foamers who point out (in a high, nasel voice) that technically, this subway car isn't a Bluebird. "That car pictured above was a Redbird painted blue to match the color scheme for the 1964 World's Fair in Queens. 'R-33 World's Fair' car, please!" But, well, calm down. What else are you going to call a Redbird painted blue? And World's Fair isn't such a great name for a bike. The Bluebirds are dead. Long live the Bluebird!

Is she smiling because she can't get over how many sexy men love subways or because she has visions of a Bluebird reflected in her glasses?

And I like the little sticker on the Bluebird's chainstay. For all your triathalon needs:

One moment of stupidity. I put on the kickstand and noticed that with the kickstand down, it's way too long and the bike falls to the opposite side. That's because the wheels are smaller than normal. Doh! I'll have to have cut the kickstand down to size.

The raw excitement of rim tape! (and my round-spoke fetish)

Well, actually, putting on rim tape isn't too exciting at all. But it's kind of satisfying because it's cloth and it fits very nicely in the rim. I put a screw in the tube-valve hole to hold the tape in place. But the wheels are very finely trued and ready to go. At least as soon as the tubes come in the mail.

Before I put the rim tape on the front wheel, I waited for one suspected bad spoke to pop out of its nipple again. When I was lacing the wheel, it popped out... twice. I replaced the nipple... twice. After the second time, I realized it was probably the spoke and not the nipple. But not before I lost track of which spoke it was. Doh! Anyway, one spoke did indeed pop off again when I was tightening it and I replaced it. Replacing one spoke of a built wheel takes a little grace and force. Anyway, I hope that is problem solved. And then I put the rim tape on. When the rim tape is on, you can't access the nipples. So I was waiting for the spoke to pop before replacing spoke and nipple. I wanted to put a new nipple on the questionable spoke, just to be on the safe side.

I should probably explain the process of wheel building and truing a bit more… but I won’t. Feel free to ask me in a comment if you actually care. Cause if you ask I will tell.

The front wheel has “aero” spokes. They're “double flanged”: round at the ends but flat along most of the length of the shaft.

Leaving aside negligible weight gain, flanged spokes are supposed to be better because you can tell when the spoke gets twisted when you're tightening it. That makes sense. With normal round spoke, it's all good. Or at least that's the way it looks. But of course it’s not all good and the spoke will straighten on its own at some point under stress (like when you sit on your bike), thus throwing the wheel out of true.

And now I realize that it really is important to, like they all say, counter-turn the spoke after you tighten or loosen it to make it straight. Very educational. But I still don't like something about the aero spokes. Rounds spokes are very sensual. They feel nice to hold. They’re round. And smooth. Aero spokes are kind of sharp on the edges. In this picture the flanged spoke is in front and the round spoke in rear.

Grabbing a handful of round spokes to release tension is a sinful pleasure. Like S&M with your bike wheel. It seems like is should be bad for your bike. But it's so, so good!

Contrarily, grabbing a handful of aero spokes makes me think of razor wire. While aero spokes aren’t really that sharp, they’re not something you’d just casually fondle when you’ve got nothing better to do. To put it another way (I'm still on the analogy kick ever since they did away with my SAT). A aero spoke is to a round spoke like an anorexic shoulder blade is to a nice firm ass.

But I’ll sacrifice my fetish for better spokes. Sigh. But I do like the way round spokes feel. And I didn't realize that till I built my first aero-spoked whee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Washington Heights

Victoria hosted a wonderful birthday party for Tamara. I went there with Katie, who drove. Very exotic to drive around Northern Manhattan. Especially up to 181st St and Broadway. I walked up Broadway once, but it’s still a foreign land. Washington Heights: Big apartment buildings. Hills (gosh, do we turn our wheels when we park?). And lots of Dominicans. And when you go that far up North, you realize just how not-to-scale that subway map is.

While looking for parking, I was thinking how I could never get these damn little bike parts I need. I needed rim tape and a brake-arm clip. Bike stores in Astoria are closed on Sunday. And I work all day Monday. But after finding parking on a side street, I noticed a sign for a bike store half a block down. And lights were on, apparently open at 8PM on a Sunday.

It was just like a little Amsterdam store-front bike store. Except that it was Dominican. And included a posse of six young to middle-aged Spanish-speaking men holding court between the ugly new mountain bikes hanging from the ceiling. The man, whose English was raised-in-New-York good, seemed baffled by my demand for rim tape for road-bike wheels and a part for a rear coaster brake. He kept asking me if I had a road bike or a mountain bike. I didn't think he really wanted the full story. I told him I knew what size rim tape I needed. I just didn’t know what size he had. Neither, apparently, did he. I was insistent. And I made him bring me a ruler to measure the width of the rim tape. I got two rolls of 16mm tape (that’s a little wide for the front wheel, but it should be fine).

He eventually figured out what I meant by brake-arm clip. Though shockingly essential for safty on a coaster-braked bike, this part is a pretty insignificant little piece of metal. It clips the coaster brake to the chainstay of the frame so that the whole wheel, axel, and locking nut apparatus doesn't start spinning wildly if you brake hard.

It's sold, according to the package, by the name of “coaster brake strap.” I sure don’t know what it is in Spanish. But he found it without too much trouble. Little bike stores tend to be good for coaster brake parts. They even had the nice wide yellow pants strap I like, but only have one of. So I got one of those too. $10.50 later, the happy transaction was completed. In theory, this is my last bike purchase! Except for a 14mm socket wrench. But that's a tool and a hardware-store purchase, so it's in a different category.

The little metal band bends around the chainstay and screws shut to itself and the coasterbrake arm.

Then I go outside to find Katie wearing pink pants in the middle of Washington Heights spritzing her freshly cut hair while standing in a girly-girl pose I didn’t think she was capable of. I suddenly felt a long way from home.

Some assembly required

I officially decommissioned Zora's old Tour de France (RIP). I took the handlebars off. The grips came off without too much trouble. Luckily they’re very hard plastic, so I could get a strong grip on the with adjustable pliers without causing real damage. The handlebars are standard (Walt brand) with 25.4mm diameter that fits standard handlebar stems.

So Zora's got no fiets (bike) till this one is done. The seat post was too small for the new bike (another $15). But the rack and bags will be good. They will also hide the rear wheel a bit.

I put the wheels on the new bike and measured for brake reach (a veeeeery long 76mm) and fenders clearance (44mm front and 60-some rear). So I placed the orders for brakes ($15 for a pair of Tektro Brake Arch Set, 61-78mm) and fenders (SKS P45 Road Fenders Black) and a mounting kit.

And the tires and kickstand came today. Rivendell messed up the shipping and included a handlebar stem rather than cork hand grips. I really don't need either, but the stem is more expensive than the grips I paid for. Luckily it’s a 22.2mm stem, which is the correct size. So I guess I'll keep it. Like I want to bother with mailing something back. Now Zora gets a choice for positioning. The one they sent is angled up and has a shorter reach then the one I was going to use.

So what I hope are the last shipments are headed my way. All I need to buy is rim tape, a 14mm socket wrench, and a brake arm clip for the rear-hub roller brake. That shouldn't be more than $10-15.
That bring me to...

The total cost: $1,042. No charge for labor, at least.
Frame $108 (not including $40 for the useless frame), Harris $233 (rear hub and shifter), Harris $97 (chain, crankarm set, chainring bolts, bottom bracket, chainring), Harris $214 (rims $100, front hub $50, spokes $70), chainring guard $17, rivendell $155 (tires, kickstand, handlebar stem), locking skewers ($40), Loose Screws $108 (brakes, seat post, misc), Harris $100 (fenders, 6 tubes, and old Raleigh-style handgrips), $10 rimtape.

The wheels still have to be trued and then there's probably a day of assembly. If all goes well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Chain length

sizing the chain

shortening the chain (with another wonderful little dedicated bike tool--it just pushes out the little pins in there).

The future is now!

Hey look! It kind of sort of looks like a real bike! Imagine this with bottom bracket and chain and cranks!

A chain ring and cranks adds to the effect:

Annoyingly, the bottom bracket doesn't use an alan wrench like my bianchi. So now I've got to buy a 14mm socket wrench so I can take the bottom bracket out.

I should mention the website loose screws. It's easy to buy brakes. Or wheels. But where to you go to buy, say, barrel nuts or dropout adjuster screws? Or a washer for your fender? This place sells all the little bike nuts and bolts that your bike store doesn't really want to give out and hardware stores don't carry. It's indispensable. And I just discovered them 2 weeks ago.

These pictures are all more for show though, as the wheels aren't done. Except for the chainring and cranks, it doesn't really make any sense to keep these parts (like the wheels) on the frame for now.

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Cold Setting"

"Cold setting" (AKA bending) the frame. This is where I bend the frame so that it can fit a rear hub as big as the one I've bought (which is 132mm long between the locknuts).

Have I done this before? Of course not. An astute reader may wonder how I know what the hell I'm doing? Ahhh, I owe it all to Sheldon Brown, a man I've never met. He tells the world how to do things like "cold setting." And tons of other things. If it weren't for his website, I never would have started such a project. Certainly not with confidence.

So what does "cold setting" entail? You stick a piece of wood in there and press down gentle but firmly on the seatpost tube. Then the left (upper, in the picture) dropout gets pushed out (up, in the picture) away from the other dropout.

This spreads the dropouts (where the rear wheel goes). Initially, the dropouts were a (old) standard 128mm.

128 mm spread on the dropouts (the dropout you can't see is below).

I had to spread them to 132mm. That's how big the Shimano Nexus hub is. 2mm more on each side. The dropouts can easily be pulled apart that distance, but you have to give them a little force to permanently spread them. That way it's not a pain everytime you take the wheel on and off (like when you get flat).

After. Now we're at 133mm! Perfect.

The string is a way to make sure that the dropouts are evenly spaced from the center. After a few adjustments, they were.