Wednesday, March 4, 2015

drivetrain is on

The chain is on and the derailleurs are wired up. That cheap Altus rear derailleur is more than a match for that big-ass nine-speed cassette (11x34; with the compact in the front, this is a better hill bike than the Yellow Maserati, at least in theory).


I mounted the cassette, rear derailleur, and cranks:

As I've been doing this, I'm learning some of the tricks bike builders and photographers use to get those sexy bike show pictures. If you use some shiny, blingy parts, and keep everything cleaned and shined, you can make even the most clunky toy-store frame look like it belongs in a handmade bike show. But as soon as you lube everything up to go ride, you lose most of the glamor.

That's not to say you should not get a bike just because it's beautiful in the shop. Emerson reminds us that beauty is its own excuse for being, and Hopkins says it in his own way (Hopkins always does; he must have been a pain to live with; can you imagine asking him a simple question about the weather?). But don't expect a bike you use to stay beautiful in that way... the shop-perfection, if you will, will be replaced by what Grant at Rivendell Bikes calls "beausage". (Hrmph. Others evidently use this term, too!)

Monday, March 2, 2015

starting to look like a bike

I've put on the handlebars and downtube shifters. Except for the modern vee-brakes, this bike is fairly old school. (And don't you love that Nitto 115 handlebar? It seems like a shame to wrap it.)

In other news, I was having a devil of a time with the wheels and tires; I could not get the tires on... and I have tire levers the size of butterknives. One of my riding friends, Snakehead Ed, swears by the Stan's No Tubes system, so I started to do a little research on that. There was a discussion of the relative sizes of rim strips, which gave me an idea. I always use the Velox rim strips. They're old-school reliable (and the were WAY better than the rim strips on the Vuelta wheels I used to use), but they're bulky and inflexible. I stopped in at Kim's Bikes today with my plaint, and Mrs. Kim suggested the Specialized strips. They're very tight -- it took me a while to figure a way to get 'em on -- but they're much slimmer and more pliable, and they did the trick. I can now get the tires on & off by hand.

(I think what happens is the bulky rim strips force the tire bead into the channel, instead of allowing the bead to flex inside the wheel. With the newer strips, if the tire starts to bind, I can pinch the beads together so they come out of the channel, and the tire goes on.)

It's too soon to tell, but the Specialized strips may become a Thing that Works. (OTOH, a cursory web search suggests that they're not readily available outside the UK... so maybe not.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

assembly started

Wheels are done. The Crosscheck has "semi-horizontal" dropouts so it can be configured as a geared bike, or as a single-speed or fixed-gear. But the dropouts aren't carefully aligned, so you get these setscrews to ensure that the wheel IS aligned. Another thing I've learned how to do.

The dining room as bike garage. I hope my wife notes the dropcloth on the floor and the plastic on the table. I'm being good, honest. The house will still be here when she gets back.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

when the cat's away...

The Excellent Wife is away for two weeks at a Polish-language immersion experience at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. (Just finding that link was nearly impossible for your monolingual correspondent!*) She had not even left the house before I had turned the dining room into a wheelbuilding shop.

By next week, I expect to have the bikestand in there. I promise to put down a dropcloth.


*Back in the 90's, when I was working at Muhlenberg Medical Center in Plainfield (back when there WAS a Muhlenberg Medical Center in Plainfield), one of the psychiatry techs told me the following joke, which has more than a nickel's worth of truth in it: he said, "A person who speaks two languages is called bilingual, and a person who speaks many languages is called a polyglot, but a person who speaks only one language is called an American."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

net neutrality passes

I feel like justice has triumphed for the first time since 1980. The FCC has voted to reclassify broadband internet as a utility, meaning that ISP's won't be able to preferentially supply their favorite content over content from other sources.

The open standard means more freedom, and (probably) more innovation.

In the earliest days of computing, when standards were wide open, computers suddenly got sound, video, telephony, and magic. Now that there are so many competing standards, I can't remember the last computer innovation that impressed me.

With the open standard of the internet, though, I'm ready to be impressed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

applying the frame saver

Weigle Frame Saver is some sort of (undoubtedly toxic) liquid that gets sprayed inside a steel bike frame to ward off rust. Once there, the liquid turns into some kind of (undoubtedly toxic) sludge that coats the insides of the tubes. Today is expected to be the only day warm enough to apply it before I plan to start the build, so I did.

It's a simple process; I'm linking the video below instead of explaining it myself.

Besides, he's way better-looking than I.

Anyway, the frame and fork are out on the back patio, where the toxic sludge is outgassing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


I haven't taken a math course since 1972, when I nearly failed the New York State Regents Examination for trigonometry and algebra.

But to figure out the stem length and angle for the new bike project, I needed to use trig. The stem can be imagined as the hypotenuse of a right triangle, with the level extension from the steering tube as one side (the "adjacent", if you remember your trigonometry), and the rise (the difference of the stem height at the steering tube and at the stem's far end) as the other (in trig terms, the "opposite").

I know I want a slightly more relaxed position on this bike than I have on the Yellow Maserati, my titanium bike. I don't want any more extension (the distance my hands are from my hips), and I'd like a little more rise (the distance my hands are above the ground).

I know that the top of the head tube on the project bike is about 19mm lower than the top of the head tube on the Yellow Maserati (the head tube is shorter, but the fork is longer). I can get a stem with a 17º rise (instead of the 6º rise of the stem on the Yellow Maserati), but how will that change the rise and extension?

Well, with a little help from DuckDuckGo (I'm reducing my use of Google in the interests of preserving some privacy), I found this site, where I was able to get enough of a refresher on trig to figure the missing numbers in my imaginary triangle. It turns out I'll want about 40-45mm in spacers above the headset, and the 110mm stem length will bring my hands up about 2cm and back about 4mm (which I can nearly ignore). A 120mm stem would bring my hands higher, but the extension would actually be longer than the Yellow Maserati's, and I purposely bought a shorter stem for that bike because I felt too "drawn out". So the 110 stem it will be.

The name of the linked site where I got the math refresher is Math is Fun. I'm not sure I believe that, but it is useful, if you can get your brains around it. I'm making this a "stuff that works"page... because it did.

lacing a wheel

We have weather awfulness predicted for later, so an evening dinner date with friends was moved to a lunch date. I don't want to get the house dirty, and I had some enforced idleness this morning, so I decided to lace up the rear wheel for the Crosscheck project.

The garage is 32ºF (0º in the civilized world), even with the new insulated door, and, although I oiled the hub and spokes correctly, and started the lacing OK, when it came time to twist the hub, I twisted the wrong way. This would have placed two spokes crossing just above the valve, making it difficult to get a pump head on. The way I lace a wheel (the Musson method) is by putting all the trailing spokes on first, then all the leading spokes on one side, then the other. I saw the error when I had half the leading spokes on, so I undid them, turned the whole business the correct way, and tied 'em up again, before putting the leading spokes on the other side.

I'm blaming the cold garage. I did the fix in the warm bedroom, while The Excellent Wife (TEW) wasn't looking.

Below, a picture of the partly-laced rear wheel.

That was just after I fixed the error, and before I put the last spokes on. It's laced now, and in the garage awaiting tightening and truing (that's one process; I tried tightening first, and then truing, on the first wheel I built. It was Bohr-ing.)

(That's an inside joke. Niels Bohr, a physicist, is quoted as having said something like, "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field." I've made a lotta mistakes in my bike wrenching, so I must be approaching expertise.)

The picture is to silence the one critic who complained about my first wheel build that I didn't post pics of the project to prove I did it... but can you imagine anything less interesting than pictures of a wheel each with a few more spokes?

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer, but wet. I hope to put the rustproofing into the frame, and maybe I'll lace up the front wheel.

Edit 5:37pm: Front wheel is laced, too. This one went more smoothly than the first, although I did set a few spokes in the wrong rim holes, and had to backtrack. But the lacing is about 20% of the job; the proof is in the truing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

delivery from local bike shop (lbs)

I got an email this week that the parts I ordered from my LBS (local bike shop), Kim's, were in. They open at 11; I got there shortly after and had a chat with the excellent Bennie. After hacking out the financial details and making sure everything was there (except for a brake noodle, but see below), Bennie loaded the parts into the back of my Prius (in this 14ºF weather! That's -10º in the civilized world!), and home I went.

The frame, below, had the headset and bottom bracket installed. I asked for the headset installation; the headset-setter is a $130 tool you use once per frame (and I know you can dummy one up out of threaded rod and washers, but if you don't get the headset in perfectly straight, you can have real problems). I removed the bottom bracket when I got home; it would have gotten in the way of putting in the anti-rust Weigle Frame Saver I intend to use.

Above, the frame and fork, still in the travel wrapping (when the weather warms up, I promise to clean up the garage, at least a little). In the boxes, the vee-brakes and the cyclocross bar-top levers I intend to install on the beautiful Nitto B115 lever I'm robbing from the hybrid. You can see these parts better in the pic below:

On the right, one of the bar-top cross levers. The cable can pass through this from the drop-bar lever, so I can brake from either position (my first road bike came with this setup, and I like it so much that I've set up The Excellent Wife's [TEW's] bike with it as well.) On the left, one of the sets of vee-brakes. In the accompanying plastic bag, two noodles for these brakes (included!): one with the slightly-less-than 90º angle for the conventional front brake cabling, and the other with the slightly-more-than 90º angle usually needed in the rear... but I'll use that in the front, too: I cable my bikes so that the right hand controls the front brake (instead of the more-common left-hand-front-brake arrangement), and I'll need that extra angle for the cabling to work smoothly.

TEW is off to Poland next week, as I've said, and I'll start building the wheels and assembling the bike when she's away; I can bring the doings indoors without disrupting her life. (I promise I'll protect the floors!)

Lots of black in this bike, huh?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

more parts for the cross check

I got another box of parts that are going into the Cross Check that I'm building. Some of 'em are below:

At top: Who knew? You can buy brake and cable housing in bulk, at about $1 per foot! Those are 25-30' rolls, enough to hold me through several rebuilds of all the bikes. (I asked at Kim's, but Bennie was incredulous that I could get it for that price.)

Bottom right: J. P. Weigle frame saver, for spraying inside and keeping inside rust at bay. The can will do 3-4 bikes, so if somebody's doing a build, I may have some left over.

Bottom left, more bling: polished aluminum skewers from Velo Orange, my favorite neo-retro vendor. (No, my favorite isn't Rivendell Bike, despite the fact that Grant Petersen has been in these posts far more often than Chris at Velo Orange. Petersen is more vocal and colorful a character than Chris, but Chris has lovely stuff; I've spent more money there than at Riv.)

The pic below shows the "VO" logo in the lever end of the skewer.

I like it.

The frame and other parts from Kim's are supposed to be in this week (I have no doubt this dratted snow is interfering). Then, when The Excellent Wife goes off to Poland, I'll build up the wheels and start the bike assembly. It is supposed to keep me out of trouble while she's gone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

how to do everything podcast

I have so had it with being stuck in the house; I'm actually ready to go back to work - but up to six inches of snow are predicted for tonight into tomorrow, and I may not even be able to do that.

When I exercise, I listen to podcasts. Now, NPR has taken to adding a promo to the beginning of each podcast about another podcast that they are promoting, and this morning, I heard a promo for How To Do Everything. It sounded interesting. I downloaded two, and now I'm binge-listening.

It's run by two guys, Mike & Ian, who are tech guys on another NPR show. They take interesting or stupid topics, and get "experts" to offer opinions (for example, they had the lead singer for the group Smashing Pumpkins talk about making pumpkin pie, before going to Paula Deen to get actual useful information). They also have a recurring topic on interesting toilets, and music to listen to while you do whatever you're doing while you listen to the podcast (a woman who counts rings in the bones in fish ears got a few seconds of "Put A Ring On It").

"How To Do Everything" is taking the curse off my enforced idleness. You can put this link in your podcatcher to get it.