Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Nexus 8—a mighty fine hub

Getting back to the original purpose of this blog. A man asks the following question in a comment below:


I am from across the globe, Singapore. Came across your blog while searching for more information on Nexus 8 hub. Have a Nexus 8 sitting around. So how’s the ride the nexus?
By the way, really cool blog.


“I have a Nexus 8 sitting around”? How do you have a Nexus 8 just “sitting around”!? Use it, for God’s sake, man! Use it!

But seriously, it rides great. Shifting is easy and smooth. And the internal rear break is excellent. There is very little resistance while coasting. Noticeably less than the Nexus four-speed. And I assume less resistance than their 7 speed as well (I don’t have a 7 speed, but 4 and 7 speeds are the same older technology, I think.). The only downside is the price. But seeing how you’ve got one, “just sitting around,” that shouldn’t be an issue.

And there have been no maintenance issues with the hub at all. And the Bluebird bike sits outside, only two-thirds protected from the elements. I have not had to touch the hub since I installed it (I assumed I tightened the new cables at some point, but that’s just a few turns on a barrel adjuster).

The manual for the Nexus 8 is available online through Sheldon Brown.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Working That Rear

I bought a rear rack for my Bianchi bike. The problem with rear racks, as opposed to baskets or bags, is that you have to tie-down whatever you want to carry. But this is still my road bike and not my packhorse. I don’t want anything flopping around when I ride. But it’s so nice to not carry anything heavy on your bike when you ride. So for long rides I can tie down my bag. For shorter rides I’ll just carry my back on my back like I always have.

The problem with road bikes is they neither have clearance above the brakes for fenders nor eyelets for racks or fenders. Of course, perhaps it’s good I’m forced to keep this bike as simply as possible. But biking in the city, you have to have fenders. And a problem developed. My old rear fender was starting to tear. Here’s the before picture:
You can’t see it in this old picture, but it was tearing lengthwise, right at the front of the fender, behind the extension that connects the clamp to the fender. So whenever I went over a bump, I could feel and hear the thing flapping up and down. My epoxy doesn’t seem to hold on fender plastic. Duct tape didn’t do the job.

So I was looking for a new fender to buy, but then realized I could probably do better and lighter and cheaper and faster with what I had… plus a clippers, a drill, and zip ties.

My old fender had two parts, which I took apart. The extendy-flap connects my previous home-job leg protecting fender with the new rear rack.

The main part of the old fender gives me rear protection.

And I moved my rear blinky light to the back of the rack. It fits in nicely, held by duct tape.

Ultimately, it doesn’t look as elegant as my old rear fender (even if it is a tad lighter). But it does provide complete (if spacious) protection right from the vertical above the rear of the wheel straight through to the bottom bracket. While above the wheel is the most important part of the rear fender (to protect against the streak of water on your back), it’s really nice to have that leg protection if you’re biking in the rain so the back of your legs (mostly ankles and calves) don’t get soaked with dirty water as you peddle.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Transit Strike 2005

Last day of the transit strike. It doesn’t really affect me too much, since I bike everywhere. But it’s kind of a pain when, say, you have to get your wife to the hospital. There wasn’t really any problem in Manhattan. There were plenty of cabs. But getting to and from the City was close to impossible, at least during the day, except by foot and bike.

There’s a kind of street-festival atmosphere crossing the bridges. I got to ride on the other (South) side of the Queensboro Bridge. A nice new view and there’s no ugly fence there (and they’ve just put up a nasty chain-link fence on the bike-path side for no good reason other than to ruin the view). It’s just annoying that pedestrians have no respect at all for the bike lane.

Bikes need so little space. And since we will get by, it would be better for everyone involved if people could say, just stay off two feet of the bike path.

Disaster relief.

Giving out hot chocolate.

It was nice of them to cone-off a bike lane coming off the Queensboro Bridge. This is one of the annoying parts of my normal bike ride home, because you’re forced to go against traffic for a short block. Even though the street is lightly traveled and there is plenty of room to say, cone-off a lane for bike.

Even more annoying there is a permanently closed lane they could use as a bike lane. Instead they block it off with Jersey Barriers (on the other side), keeping bikes out of a never-used lane and into oncoming traffic.

And then, quicker than I can say “Union” and you can say “Power,” they removed the cones so that the lane could revert to it’s normal function: space for illegally parked cars.

There are so many things the city could do to making biking better. Things that would cost nothing and have no downside. But they don’t. It’s very frustrating. The entrances around bridges are key, because every biker from an outer-borough has to use them.

The basic problem is the crappy Department of Transportation has the wrong prime directive: maximize number of cars on the road. Rather than say, trying to reduce the number of cars on the road. The fact that they still allow cars on the roads in the major parks, and it took them over a year to remove dangerous bumps on the Williamsburg Bridge bike path, doesn’t give me much hope or enthusiasm to fight City Hall.

It also doesn’t help that the good people at Transportation Alternatives are much more focused on Brooklyn to Manhattan access (I suppose because a lot of them live there). Don’t get me wrong, most things are getting better for bikes in New York City. It’s just a glacier’s pace. And there’s so much that could be done so easily.

But I took the South side, because it’s normally a (crazy) traffic lane. A new view.

South side path.

Sun over UN.

Roosevelt Island and Queens.

They also opened 5th Ave. to traffic today. Yesterday bikes and pedestrians had the whole street to ourselves. It was great. The right lane was for emergency vehicles.

Some cops shooed you off to battle with cars. Other didn’t care. There were no emergency vehicles. And if there were, I would have gotten out of the way. Bikes, unlike cars, can pull over and out of the way. It is not, or should not be: “same road, same rules.” Different vehicles, different rules. Rules that make sense for large and deadly multi-ton motorized vehicles, really don’t always make sense and shouldn’t be applied to bikes and pedestrians.

There was a long line for the just starting Q60 bus. A very long block-and-a-half line that went around the corner.

Some may wonder why Queens buses end at 2nd Avenue—where there are no transportation connection—when 3rd Avenue is so close, and there is a Lexington Avenue subway entrance there. Well, gentle reader, 50 years ago the Steinway Street Car ended here, at the 2nd Avenue Elevated. Never mind that neither exists anymore. The bus the replaced the streetcar still dumps people off where there used to be a El Train. And in 50 years, nobody has thought to reroute the bus to somewhere logical and convenient. It amazing how many buses still follow the routes of long-dead streetcars. Even when it no longer makes any sense. But you can’t fight City Hall.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Did you know...

...that your new hip looks like a kickstand!