Saturday, May 16, 2009


This is my fortieth post. And it's been a long time coming. Nearly a month since my last. There's been a lot going on in my life of late, and this little project has been pushed to the side for a bit. 40 is a highly symbolic number, and it seemed fitting to me that so much has happened between this post and the last.

I started this blog shortly after moving out of my house and into an apartment. Moving out was surprisingly difficult, and the first week or two I didn't really know what to do with myself (part of why I started writing, I'm sure). But it also gave me an emotionally safe space to call home, and plenty of time to think about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to shape my life going forward. It was a nice apartment -- the backdrop for many of my photos on this blog, and I'm grateful I was able to use it.

Today, I'm writing this from the dining room of the home I bought with my wife nearly ten years ago, three weeks after I moved back in. My children are upstairs sleeping (I'm privileged to have them half the time, now that I'm not in a 1-bedroom apartment anymore), and my wife is living in an apartment in the next town west. I don't really know how long I'll stay here, but I think I'd like it to be a long time. Years, not months. It's hard to say whether that's a possibility, given what's happening in the economy right now, among other things, but it's a nice thought to hold onto.

The house was a complete disaster when I moved back in, for reasons that are largely understandable, and I've still got some work to do to make the place liveable. I'm taking it room by room, and this weekend I'm enlisting the help of my daughters to clean out their room. Once the house is de-cluttered and clean, I'll be able to get back to the long list of projects that need completion -- painting, installing that new post I made over the winter, yard work, adding railings to secondary stairwells, and more. These will have to be done for the house to go onto the market, or I can string them out a bit if I decide to buy my wife out and stay in the house instead.

In between figuring out a new routine and a new schedule, moving, cleaning and taking care of the house, I've been working on bikes, and I've got a lot to share. Too much for this post, and some of the stories aren't finished anyway, but I'll at least set the stage for a couple of future posts.

Juli's Fuji
Juli's bike is pretty much done. The handlebars have been twined and shellacked, and she's taken her first long ride on the Fuji. Today will be her second. She's still getting used to it, and is nervous riding it, but she'll get there. It's an inch too tall for her to stand over comfortably right now, but it fits her just fine from the saddle, paticularly with those bars. I think the bike (at top) looks great -- a little old-fashioned country bike. That wasn't the intent, of course, but the cut-down Velo-Orange bars work better for her than the original drop bars, and that's what matters most. I love how the shellacked tape and twine looks (though it feels a little rough under the palms, honestly, and I'm not sure I'll replicate the look on any of my own bikes going forward). The Fuji still needs a new blinky (I broke the one I'd clamped to the Pletscher rack taking it off the bike rack and standing it on its rear wheel), I need to snug the rack bolts down a bit more, and the headset will need to be at least repacked and possibly replaced, and then it should truly be finished.

Juli's first real ride on this bike was nearly a disaster, btw, and that was really my fault. I assumed she'd remember how to ride on the road, given our time last year riding separately, and given the past few years of rear seat time on the trailer bike. But between the passing months and being nervous about her new bike, she clearly didn't, and she nearly plowed into a passing minivan. Today, we'll exercise greater care on our second ride, and take a less traveled route to the soccer fields. Tip of the day: Don't assume your kids retain safe habits!

My Schwinn Sports Tourer
Since my last post, I've Proofided the green Brooks handlebar tape and twined the ends. One side has since un-twined, so I have to redo it once the blister I got on my right pinky twining the bars is healed up. Then I'll shellac the twine to keep it from undoing and give it a bit of weather protection. I've also installed a 6-speed IRD freewheel and learned a bit more about what will and won't fit the hub. I could probably go with a 7, but right now I'll stick with the 6. This bike is likewise nearly done, but I want to install a blinky and put my headlight on it. I also want to swap out the rear derailleur because the one I have really won't support more than 30 teeth on the rear cluster, and I'm running a 14-32 freewheel. I'm watching a bunch of Shimano XT/XTR Rapid Rise derailleurs on eBay now, so I should have that done any day now.

I also picked up a NOS Suntour Superbe front derailleur with their endless band mounting system, after seeing the one on the Motobecane, and need to install it. I can simplify the front derailleur mount situation on the Schwinn with this derailleur. Today I'm running a brazed-on Shimano derailleur, bolted to an oversized and shimmed adapter mount to allow for the Schwinn's slightly oversized tubing. It works, but it's not pretty.

Also not pretty is the sound the Mafac brakes make when the salmon pads make contact with the polished aluminum rims on the bike, now. They seem to have bedded-in a bit on the first ride this season, so it's better than it was initially, but it's still pretty obnoxious and I need to quiet them down. Oh, and just a note -- the Velo-Orange Course cages I put on the bike are lovely, but they're best used with plastic bottles. The radius of the curve of their outer wire is a bit wider than is the norm, and my Sigg bottles flop and rattle around a bit in them. No big deal, but be aware.

Steven's Motobecane Grand Touring
This bike has been sort of neglected of late, but there are a few things I'd like to get back to over the next few weeks.

I have a replacement headset for it, which I was reluctant to install until I knew the fork would feel OK. A shorter stack on the headset should allow me to use the decaleur mount I have for it. The spokes need to be gone over a bit (they're a little soft), the brake cables evened and cut back a bit, the new hoods installed, and the bars wrapped. The tires should also probably be replaced as the threads are starting to peel on the Continentals that are on there. I'll go with something fatter, I think, since there's plenty of room on the frame for 27x1 1/4, which are far plumper than most anything on a 700c rim. I also picked up a 36 tooth front chainring to replace the 42 (or maybe I'll set it up as a 36/42, rather than a 36/52, just for grins). And I've picked up a Shimano cartridge bottom bracket for it. This is a new old-stock BB UN-72 that cost me $10 plus shipping on eBay. The nice thing about this bottom bracket is you can remove the Shimano cups from the bottom bracket, and you end up with something a bit like a Phil Wood cartridge bottom bracket, but not as nice and a lot cheaper. I just need to get some Swiss Phil Wood rings, and I should be able to swap the old cup-and cone bottom bracket out. But mostly this bike just needs some more saddle time.

I have to say it looks awful with the blue fork. Next winter, I'll figure out the paint situation between the frame and fork, and if I'm flush with cash, maybe I'll get Juli's Fuji stripped and painted as well.

Allyson's Bertoni
I've mentioned that I've been helping a friend get her bike up and running. I'll pull together a more detailed post about this bike at some point, but it was essentially a bit of an overhaul and a bit of an upgrade. It was a nice bike to start with -- just aging. It's been a sporadic project, but Allyson finished her Bertoni a couple of weeks ago by wrapping her handlebar tape and getting the bike fitted at Belmont WheelWorks. The guy who fit her was a little concerned about the depth of the handlebar drops, but she's going to roll with it for a while before making any further changes. In any case, she's now got a bike on which to explore her new neighborhood, which includes the Concord battlefield, Walden Pond, the Alcott house and other historic and literary stuff right up her alley.

Brian's Nishiki
My friend Brian has been family since we met Freshman year at WPI. He's been in New Jersey for 20 years, first at grad school, then with his wife, and now with his kids (fraternal twins, one of each gender, two months younger than Juli). In his neck of the woods, there are old canals that stretch for miles, and their pathways are perfect for riding. He's talked about riding the canals with his wife and kids, but hasn't really done it, in part because he finds his aluminum mountain bike to be very uncomfortable. So I cleverly devised a scheme to get him riding. I found on eBay a few weeks ago a pair of bikes being sold for pick-up in Pennsylvania. Both were the right size for him, but one was suited for club racing, and the other for much more casual riding. That second one was a dusty old Nishiki Riviera in black. Not a high-end bike, but there is no shame to be found in its double-butted frame with forged dropouts. It has potential.

Anyway, the scheme was to win the bikes, drive to PA to get them, swing by his house in NJ on the way home, let him pick a bike (I encouraged him to pick the Nishiki) and sell the other on eBay to fund a refit. That second bike was an amazing find, really -- an unused 20 year-old Bianchi. But I didn't need another bike, so I listed it and sold it (for a nice sum, at that) on eBay. The proceeds from that sale will allow Brian and me to upgrade his "new" Nishiki with new tires, new swept-back handlebars, new brake levers and grips, a Brooks saddle, new chain, new cables and housings, new brake pads, a rack and bottle cages. I'll gather the parts in the next month or so, and Brian will bring the bike up in June for us to spend a weekend on. The goal is to send Brian home with a rebuilt bike, and out onto the canals in comfort and style. So far, so good.

Oh! And I've figured out what to do for pannier loops on my wife's bike (the Nitto R-15 has no loops, and I've been trying to figure out a solution for the lower pannier mounts. I'll implement it and circle back with a picture. I think it's a clever approach -- and multi-purpose at that.

And I think that's it for post number 40. I'm going to try to get back into the rhythm of a Saturday morning post. I've got plenty to drill into already, and the riding season lies before me, ready to unfold. The mowing season, too, as you can see.

All for now,


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