Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thieves Foiled... (time delayed edition)

I just noticed this tonight... when did it happen?  And where was my bike tied up when they did it...?  I'm glad the cable held and pissed that someone was trying to take my bike at the same time.

650B (Part 3 - Front Wheel Build)

Finally!  The wheel building begins... I had a really good time with this, Mark at Belle View Spokes continues to be a great teacher.  I'm about 95% done with the front wheel and will have to start the rear wheel upon my return from San Diego (work trip for the next week and a half).  Rather than bore you with my words on how this process works I'll just throw up some pictures with captions.  If you have any questions leave a comment or shoot me an email.
Everything laid out, the Shimano Dyn-Hub (a generator for powering my lights), spokes, nipples, and of course the rim.

Spokes, read to go

And right into it.... what you see here are the 18 (9 per side) 'heads up spokes laced into the hub and rim.  Heads up means the smashed, curved head of the spoke is facing the outside of the hub flange as pictured here.  Other than knowing where to start lacing to this point is pretty uncomplicated.

Another view of the wheel with the first 18 'heads up' spokes laced on.

And boom... 36 spokes laced.  Not an easy process to photograph so you just get the 'completion' shot.  At this point  while the wheel is laced the spoke tension is very loose and it is not true or round.  The process of adding tension, checking true, checking round, and repeating is pretty much the whole remaining work in wheel building.

On-to the truing stand.

Aaaannddd.... SPIN!

Truing the wheel, at this point it was getting pretty good. It was only after that I realized the iterative process of tension-true-round, repeat.  Getting the spokes to proper tension is essential to wheel strength.

Rounding a wheel is something I hadn't done before, in general my tires and tubes have been on the wheel when I have it in the stand. However you can check for round on the truing stand as well.

According to Mark one of the aesthetic tests of wheel building is locating the hub labeling directly below the valve stem hole on the rim.... CHECK!

I think they pass the test.  The new brakes are long reach, and at least based on this dry fit in the front they appear long enough to make it work. I hope I don't loose too much breaking power with the nearly inch drop in pad height.

A preview of things to come!  I was so tempted to mount the tube and tire just to get the look but decided I could delay gratification.  

Spring Break Ride Report

Spring BREAK.... more than just not working, also not riding a whole lot.  I have been on a bike at least every day this week but most often for quick errands in the neighborhood.  I did have one great morning ride with Wes on Wednesday that got me out on the Trek.  This ride also led me to discover the LBJ Memorial Grove, which is gorgeous, situated just about even with the Pentagon off the Mount Vernon Trail it is a gorgeous meandering path through pine trees with a central  memorial area.  Definitely worth a visit.

The other memorable ride this week was on Friday when Erika and I took the tandem out, ostensibly for a quick trip up to Mt Vernon Ave (not to be confused with the trail by the same name), but we were feeling good enough in our skills that we made the trip to Shirlington and back via the Four Mile Run Trail.  The trip there was fine, but the ride back was nothing short of eye-opening.  We made great speed and had a blast, it was like being on a sled going downhill...  I think it opened up both of our eyes to just what the tandem could be once we get good at it (and dial in the frame a bit).

Happy Spring to everyone!

21.88 Miles (436.1 miles annually) - Week Total
(Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commduting by bike

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Showing off my Velo-Orange Bits

Velo-Orange is an Annapolis, MD based company that builds a couple bike frames but really focuses on hard to find vintage/retro style parts for 'non-racer' bicyclists.  I was lucky to get in on their big winter 'Garage Sale' prior to their moving sites in Annapolis earlier this year. That haul also got me the as yet not installed aluminum fenders and a cool front rack.  The crankset, headset and brakes are keeping the trek in fine style however.

For all of my bike photography check out my flickr photostream.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Half Day and the Coldest Day

A combo post  tonight for yesterday which ended up being a fairly late night and today, which according to Erika was the coldest Mar 21st in several years...

Yesterday's ride in was a bit of a grind, it was fast enough but I felt every stroke all the way in.  In the last two days I don't think my lack of enthusiasm has been linked to the bike but more towards going into work at all... lucky for me (and everyone else) it's down to Friday for this week.  In fact, next week I'm taking vacation to match Erika's Spring Break and after that I'm on travel for a decent stretch, so today was my last commute for a while.  I do plan to log some miles next week, hopefully a couple long ones!

Yesterday's ride was also a first because I biked in and then had dinner and drinks in the city before getting a ride home in the car. Not a bad option, I think as the days get longer we'll do it more!

23.19 Miles (414.19 miles annually) - Two Day total
(Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commduting by bike

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Night Rider

Truly thrilling.... not that I haven't been out at night before but this was my longest late night ride to date.  It may also have something to do with going point-to-point as opposed to a recreational loop ride.  I think the urgency of getting home, for whatever reason, focuses the experience.

Anyway, nice rides on both ends of the day today but the Mt Vernon Trail ride tonight after 10PM was really cool.  The new brakes installed on Sunday afternoon were also a noticeable improvement.  Tough to describe but I guess they just seem to allow for more precise, incremental breaking while still packing alot more wallop when I really crunch them...  pictures to come soon I promise!

18.86 Miles (391 miles annually)
(Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Halv Vasa - WABA

My very first "Queue Sheet!"

One way to keep warm on a chilly March Sunday... ride 45 miles with WABA during their annual 'VASA' ride in conjunction with the House of Sweden!  This was my first experience with WABA and definitely a good one. The ride was well organized, reasonably priced and I was happy to see all the helpers out on bikes to lend a hand if need be.  The other thing I really liked about it was how 'business like' the start was, no long speeches, just sign in, line up and wait for the signal.  Really well run!

All loaded up.  

The serving of the Blueberry 'soup' at the House of Sweden
The reward at the end of the day was a nearly unlimited supply of blueberry soup at the House of Sweden.  Everyone was very friendly and the soup, was closer to what I'd call a cider but hot and delicious.

Joe is ready to Ride!  I was thrilled to have such a cheerful riding partner on this one!
This just seemed like something Erika would have liked.

Joe and I chose to the the 31 mile, 'Halv Vasa' distance and it proved to be the right choice for me.  The outbound leg was mostly hugging the Potomac River and steadily ascending up into the neighborhoods around Potomac MD.  There were two semi-sharp ascents but I managed to stay on the bike, downshift and  move along at a reasonable, if slow speed.  I was really proud of myself, I don't think I could have done this ride as well 3 weeks ago before all the commuting miles.  I'm definitely feeling stronger.

That being said, the 31 miles added to the to and from mileage added up to just about 45 total. Definitely the longest for me this year and right about my max single day mileage ever.  And I am definitely feeling it!  Based more on weather than anything else I've already thrown in the towel for tomorrow's commute but I'm excited to get back on the bike Tuesday.

More tomorrow about the new breaks I just installed at Spokes, Belle View today!

44.7 Miles (372.2 Miles Annually)

Friday Fun-Day

Goodmorning Mr. Jefferson!
Friday was brisk but beautiful, I met up with Wes at Misha's in Old Town for morning coffee before our ride.  It definitely helped with the warm up!  Riding with Wes always ends up making me push myself a bit harder which is good (and sad because I know he's giving somewhere like a 60% effort!).

But I was enjoying myself enough on the ride in to do a quick loop around the Jefferson Memorial catching some soft morning light.

The afternoon was pretty quick and businesslike...TGIF!

19.09 Miles (327.5 miles annually)
(Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Friday, March 15, 2013

650B (Part 2)

All the parts are in!

The parts have actually been in since the middle of last week.  Scheduling, both mine and my bike mechanic/wheel builders, has been a challenge.  Still I believe we will get started on Sunday with the spoke measurements and ordering so hopefully within a week or so I'll be riding on new wheels.

And its not just a change in tire size... oh no, as you can see above I am overhauling the drive train and adding a dyno-hub for battery-less lighting.  It is also very clear from the picture that if I hadn't done so already, I am building a 'FRANKEN-BIKE'...

We start with a nice Reynolds 531 Trek Road/Sport frame from the 1982-83 period and do the following;

-Upside down Nitto Albatross bars, on a Nitto Dirt Drop 110mm stem
-700C to 650B Wheel/Tire conversion (the bike was originally designed to a 27" wheel)
-Front Hub - Generator Shimano
-Rear Hub - Shimano 105 (a 130mm road hub to make for an easier fit in the 126mm spaced rear dropouts)
-Replace the Road Triple Crankset (suigino) with a Velo Orange Polyvalent Double 46/28 (a semi-custom pickup from the VO 'garage sale' back in early Feb)
-Bottom bracket replaced with new sealed bearing Shimano unit
-Headset replaced with new sealed bearing VO Grand Cru Headset
-Pedals replaced with the MKS Grip Kings, popularized over at Rivendell Bike Works
-Rear Derailleur upgraded to the 9 Speed M771 Deore XT, with matching XT 11-32 cassette
-Long reach, custom black alloy sidepull breaks from the VO garage sale
-New Jagwire cables! :)
-VO aluminum zeppelin fenders
-VO front rack
-Topeak MTX modular rear rack with the slide on big bag/pannier combo
-Oh yeah, and the 9 speed Shimano bar-end shifters and break levers

As it turns out, once the wheel conversion is complete this is well and truely going to be a frankenbike.  I'll post some detailed pictures once its all done. Perhaps some sausage making shots as well.  We'll see, I get pretty dirty wrenching on the bike and it isn't as conducive to handling my camera!

After completing my 3rd week of commuting I'm really looking forward to finishing up these last couple projects on the bike.  Of particular, practical and immediately noticeable impact will be the fenders.  And I'm really excited to see how the fat 44mm 650B tires are going to treat me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


One of the local cycling blogs I love to follow is chasing mailboxes d.c..  It is mainly done by the wife of a husband-wife cycling team that get into the pretty extreme cycling niche of Randonneuring.  But one of their fun challenges recently to break the laziness and dullness of winter was the 'Errandonnee'  where participants were challenged to do more errands by bike and record them.

Unfortunately for me the official event ran during the time of my moving houses and getting the old place rented so I didn't even attempt it.  Today on my way home from work I did my first side trip errand by bike when I diverted up into NW DC to the G St Hour Eyes to pick up my shipment of contact lenses.  It was a great extra tour of the city, though PA Ave cycle track ends up being a stop at every single light.  The short 2-3 mile trip from SE DC to G St took a full 28 minutes based mostly on the traffic.  Still I will count it as an Errandonnee success.

As if that wasn't enough I was surprised to run into my wife Erika on the Mt Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point, its the first time she biked out to meet me on the trail. Hopefully the first of many because the ride home with company was even better than usual!

17.64 Miles (308.4 miles annually)
(Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Wind Blown and Forgetful

Well it happened... I made it all the way to work without my ID badges.  Not a problem for some, but since one grants me access to the work place and the other allows me to log in to my computer I'm pretty ineffective without them.

Lucky for me, my lovely wife took the time to come into the city and drop them off. So as it turned out the forgetfulness was rewarded by a lengthy americano to stay at the Lot 38 Coffee bar in SE.

On the bike knowledge/personal accomplishment side, this was my first ever ride on a tube patched by me.  Not only did I patch the tire that went flat on Monday but I even figured out what caused it... on the inside of the rim a small part of one of the spoke ends wasn't covered by the rubber strip in my single walled rims.  So both that and tube fixed and I was back on the road. Definitely confidence inspiring.

15.87 Miles (290.8 miles annually)
10/12 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Monday, March 11, 2013


I can only compare this morning's ride to the act of slowly, painfully slowly easing yourself into too cold water.  First the feet, then the ankles, past the knees... commiting to the bathing suit region... and on up.  Keeping with the water analogy, check out how high Four Mile Run was this morning, just before the trail joins the Mt Vernon Trail (MVT) there was a near wash out.

Four Mile Run under GW Parkway, washing out

It was a number of factors, I hadn't ridden since Thursday, I'd been sick since Thursday, the weekend, the time change... and it was a MONDAY!  So many excuses, anyway all that aside the warmer weather did help significantly and I made it in in a newly slow 41min.  The afternoon on the other hand was grand, no jacket no problem riding.  

As I was unlocking to go home one of my fellow bike commuters struck up a conversation and mentioned as we rode out together that days like this he tried to go home 'the long way',  he called this sort of ride 'Bi-Hookey'.  In honor of this thought I did a bit of a recreational ride though stayed mostly on track.  I diverted south to Yards Park upon leaving the Navy Yard and followed the river all the way over to SW and the Titanic Memorial.  On the other side of the commute I explored a bit of the trail on the south side of Four Mile Run before developing a slow leak in my rear tire.

Unfortunately I've got a full on flat now, and with the prospect of a rainy morning ride and my lack of faith in the current rims/wheels I've decided to call in a lifeline and catch a ride with friends tomorrow morning.  

I'm hoping to start my wheel build with Mark from Spokes one night this week. I can't get the new wheels and tires on soon enough!

16.26 Miles (275.5 miles annually)
9/10 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Saturday, March 9, 2013


After the 'snow' day I've been fighting a chest and head cold, I rode Thursday but threw in the towel and drove for the first time on Friday.   Despite the bug I managed to shave another minute off my best down to the 34 min range on the way home Thursday. Not bad, I also observed that timing green lights in the district can be a bit easier and more regular with some attention. Particularly on I St SW where you have plenty of line of sight, keeping an eye on the traffic movement and the crosswalk timers allows you to ease off or ramp up to keep in time with the lights.

Not a huge revelation but I made all but one green on the way in Thursday, something I'll continue to try and tune up.

15.3 Miles (259.3 miles annually)
8/9 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
8 Max consecutive work days commuting by bike

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ride Fast

Both morning and evening rides, were 35 and 36 minutes respectively.  And I'm not boasting that that ~12.8 mph is an average to take to Guinness  but for me it knocked 5-10min off my averages from last week and Monday.  The morning ride was helped in a huge way by the amazing string of green lights within the District. If you think you are pleased when you get greens in the car then just try it on the bike.  I crossed Maine Ave, 4th St, South Capitol St, then turned onto M St all in sync with the lights making for a very fast last 2 miles or so on my way home.

Fast or not, the morning was COLD.  I wasn't comfortable till I passed the airport on the Mt Vernon Trail... but I did make it to work, shower and dry off (with a towel) in time for my 0730 meeting.  So success all around.

Looks like Wednesday is a no-ride day/snow day.  I hope the trail dries out some before Thursday morning!
Sunrise Reflection off of Four Mile Run under the GW Parkway

15.45 miles (244 miles annually)
7/7 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
7 Max Consecutive Work Days Commuting by bike

Monday, March 4, 2013

No Towel, No Problem....or... Another use for Merino Jerseys

My logistics continues to be laughable, while availing myself of  the newly 'discovered' shower and locker room in my building I realized far to late that I hadn't brought any kind of towel... yeesh.  On the good side, my LL Bean Merino wool mid-weight shirt did the job tolerably well.  What will I forget tomorrow?!?  Stay tuned!

16.72 miles (228.5 miles annually)
6/6 (Bike Commute/Available Days)6 Max Consecutive Work Days Commuting by bike

Saturday, March 2, 2013

650B (Part 1)

The 'final' step in the complete re-furb of my 1982 Trek 614 is about to begin... with some help from Spokes Belle View.  I've been fascinated about 650B wheels for a couple of months now, I'm attracted by a couple things in comparison to 700C;

1. Wider, lower pressure tire options,
2. inherently stronger (slightly),
3. matches my wife's 650B Motobecane Mirage Mixte (should it be known as the M3?),
4. Easier to fit fenders, and
5. cool/different...

Ok so the last one is entirely subjective. I will say that the set of used rims/tires I used in the refurb of my wifes 'M3' sold me completely... that bike is running the Panaracer Col de Vie tires and it is a very comfortable ride.

What you see in the lead photo is really the second of three stages in acquisitions related to the conversion. First was a total lucky break at the Velo Orange garage sale last month, I picked up some prototype long reach, very nicely milled alloy break calipers.  My friend and Park Tool School teacher Mark at Spokes has sourced some of the ancillary parts to make it work and we'll be installing them when the new wheels are ready.  This second stage is the rims (Velocity Synergy), Tubes, Shimano Generator Hub, and tires ('Extra legre' Grand Bois Hetres...)  The only bad news is the fine folks at Harris Cyclery accidentaly sent me a 32 hole version of the generator hub vice a 36 hole one, so I'm waiting to hear back on the exchange/return process.  About the tires, well I bought them, darn expensive bike tires. Can't wait to see how they do, more on that soon!

I'll get some in progress photo's of the wheel building and eventually some good shots of the bike to show off the build.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Blue-Green Palette

Gorgeous morning today, the best sunrise since Monday by far.  Not overly dramatic but the colors were very blue-green...  I didn't have an early meeting so I decided to punctuate my first week of bike commuting by heading up Capitol Hill for a quick shot with the Capitol before work.  I also had a very satisfying eggs and sausage diner breakfast along East Capitol Street - Jimmy T's.  Very friendly people, highly recommended.

The plan is to do happy hour at Justin's here by the Navy Yard and I'll get a ride home with my wife.  I think I'll take the weekend off from riding!


No Happy Hour after all, a final ride home for the week. Strong winds out of the NW kept me down a bit until I crossed the 14th St bridge but after that it was smooth sailing!

17.53 miles (211.8 miles annually)
5/5 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
5 Max Consecutive Work Days Commuting by bike

Staying Flexible

After the tribulations of Wednesday I was skeptical I'd get back out there on Thursday morning but after cleaning up the bike good, degreassing and regreassing the drivetrain and triple checking the chainrings and tire pressure I was ready to give it a go.

I will definitely settle into a routine on the regular maintenance, especially after challenging weather the drivetrain attention was a huge positive. The bike handled great and my ride was smooth.  My fitness/stamina, or lack there of is really showing on day four of biking in.  Even back in the Fall when I was riding 30-50miles a week I wasn't generally riding more than 3 days straight, at any distance.  So my speeds are down significantly from my old, unloaded fitness oriented rides.  I had gotten up to 12-13mph averages on most Mt Vernon Trail rides by November, this week I've been solidly in the 10-11mph average but feel slower.  This will be interesting to keep track of as the days and weeks go by.

The afternoon ride was great, we had a work happy hour up on 8th St (Banana Cafe) so I biked up in my work clothes and just stayed in them for the rest of the trip home.  A really nice ride, somewhat overcast but warm enough.  My clothes were in decent shape when I arrived which gives me some hope of trying to ride in the morning as an option too.

17 Miles (194.25 Annual Miles)
4/4 (Bike Commute/Available Days)
4 Max Consecutive Work Days Commuting by bike

Hump Day

I got a bit behind on the blog this week, and it started with Wednesday. After a lovely morning ride in that was overcast but uneventfull the ride home reinforced several lessons...

As I loaded my bike up at work to head home the bike looked fine, if filthy from the morning ride in the recently rained upon trails/streets.  It took no more than two pedal strokes to realize my rear tire was nearly completely flat (should have seen it as I loaded the rear rack).  I cursed myself for not having a spare tube, patch kit, or pump to hand... then paused and looked at the bike rack next to me.  I'm not positive of the ethics of borrowing in a time of need but a nice looking racy Trek, maybe late '90's aluminum provided a pump which I used to get some air back in the tires only to find that it quickly deflated.  Returning the borrowed pump quickly I set out for the nearest Bike shop.

Lucky for me Capitol Hill Bikes on 8th St was less than a mile away, the bike protested with every revolution of the rear wheel but it made no sense to take the tire alone.  Once at the shop I was quickly sold a new tube and given the use of a floor pump, 10min later I was all set. (I was also gratified to be recognized in the shop where I had participated in two group rides in the fall... BZ to the staff at CH Bikes, I'll definitely be back!)

Almost immediately upon departure from 8th St I started to hear/feel a strange scraping associated with pedaling, I stopped once and couldn't figure it out, then continued on, stopped again, still nothing.  Finally as I was just accross from my former residence at NJ Ave SE I stopped again and recoignized with horror that at least 5 of the bolts holding my inner chainring on my crankset were backing out and banging against the seat tube as they rotated past it... YIKES!

While I was unprepared for the tire situation I did have my Park multi-hex key tool and 5 more minutes of slowly contorting myself to tighten by 1/2 and 1/4 turns (clearances were an issue below the bottom bracket) I was tightened back up.  An hour had now passed from the time I changed and packed up my bike at work and I was just leaving the neighborhood.  Depressing.  The other bummer was my confidence in the bike was shaken enough that I kept fearing that I was loosing pressure in my back tire the whole ride home. 

Turns out the tube was and continues to hold well, the ride was fine and I even met a friendly fellow commuter as I turned off the trail into Del Ray on Commonwealth.  All's well that ends well right?

Definitely lots to think about and I was happy to have managed the trip despite the issues.

15.5 Miles (177.25 Miles annual)