Sunday, March 28, 2010


I have a kindred spirit who, among other things, helps me to see. She often forges a trail ahead of me, leaving candles to illuminate waypoints on our overlapping paths. And it is my sincere hope that I do the same for her as I forge my own way. March 29th is her birthday, and with that milestone I celebrate her being.

Happy birthday, Allyson. Do and will.

All for now,



I've made the decision to leave my job. There's a cultural expectation at my company that senior members of the team will leave in a managed fashion, with a transition plan. I've never done things this way before, but I'm in the process of negotiating my exit. It's an interesting experience, to say the least, to be leaving without having a job to go to.

I know I'm very good at what I do, and given the right fit, my next employer will be lucky to have me. But still, the economy isn't great and this approach places much of the risk squarely on me, rather than on the company I'm leaving. As I said, it's interesting.

It's also really exciting, despite the question of risk. Getting real joy from what I do every day is incredibly important to my well-being, and it's been a while since that expectation was being satisfied. Even with the uncertainty, the prospect of change feels incredibly good.

All of this has me thinking about independence and flexibility. One of the down-sides to the suburban bliss track, as I've been calling it, is that for those of us who are mere financial mortals (as opposed to the apparent financial demi-gods that I occasionally see pass in a Ferrari or Aston Martin, here in Southborough), there is an incredible amount of leverage associated with that lifestyle. For all the satisfaction that comes with being able to make the payments on a nice house full of nice stuff, there's a tremendous amount of risk that gets created in the process, and an incredible drag on your net worth.

As I extricate myself from the house and the stuff, I think back to some of my marital stress, and about what has kept me at a job that wasn't bringing me joy every day. And a big chunk is really inescapable: the need to service the financial burden that came with the lifestyle.

So as I leave that behind me, I'm toying with a new vision for myself: Create a life with as little leverage as possible. Focus on building capital, not equity. Experience through doing, not acquiring.

The outcome of that change could include a large dose of of personal satisfaction and achievement, mixed with a degree of independence and flexibility I haven't had in years. If so, if the joy stops again, I'll be better positioned to move on, rather than lingering. Not because I can't commit to something, which my track record shows I certainly can. But because once a relationship doesn't work anymore, it's best for both sides to find a better fit as painlessly as possible.

All for now,


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thinning the Herd

Thinking about unloading stuff (the act of which is well underway), it struck me the other day that I'm going to have to thin my herd of bicycles. My next home is likely to be a small rented house or part of a house, principally because there is little else in terms of housing stock in Southborough -- if I could move to a complex, I would. Whatever that destination looks like, my storage capacity will be radically smaller than what I have today. I had three bikes at my condo in Waltham, plus my ex-wife's pair, and those five were about three too many. I have five of my own today, plus a parts bike plus three bikes for the girls. Nine is way more than five, and way, way more than two. Some simplification is clearly in order, here.

In a way, having to offload any of my bikes is really too bad. But it's also liberating to rethink my approach to cycling after years of specialization. Let's look at what I have to work with:

The Kestrel 200SCi: As I've said before, I love this bike. It's the one investment in a toy that I've ever made that I still look at without an iota of regret. And it's just a joy to ride -- the first stroke of every ride bringing a smile to my face. Unfortunately, it's also getting old and I'm starting to worry that that the carbon fork or frame will come apart on me (and there's really no good time for that to happen). I'll keep it for now, but am considering buying a Rivendell Roadeo frameset, then building it up with the Kestrel's components, and packing the Kestrel's frameset away for posterity.

The Schwinn Sports Tourer: I built this up from a frameset and really appreciate its versatility. It will go pretty much anywhere I want it to go, and it's geared low enough that my legs can get us there. It's the only racked bike I have right now, and I'd like to use it for commuting or overnight trips or what-have-you. The bike doesn't ride as well as the Kestrel or Motobecane, but with its stout tubing and rack eyelets, it serves a purpose those bikes can't. I don't see myself keeping it forever, but for now this one makes sense to keep. I think.

The Motobecane Grand Touring: This was a gift from my friend Steven, but I've put a couple hundred dollars into a rebuild and hours of labor into making it my own. This mongrel has some issues (like a messed up seatpost lug and having been hit with an ugly stick, given its current fork and accessories), but it's a truly lovely ride and I just adore the bike. Unfortunately, it can't match the Schwinn's versatility, so I can't really choose this one over the Schwinn. It would be a shame to lose this one altogether, though, so I may see if a friend wants to pick it up.

The Paramount Series 20 PDG: As mountain bikes go, this is nothing special, but the bike and I go way back, and I'd rather not let it go. If I can't bear to sell it, what I may do is drop it at my folks' house, pick up the Trek 930 my dad has sitting in his den, and sell that bike instead of this one. That way it'll stay in the family.

The Columbia clunker: There's really no way to justify keeping this one. I have a fork for it, rims and hubs that I could build into wheels for it, new bars, and stem and seatpost, etc. I even have a parts Columbia that I still haven't raided for the kickstand, but need to. But this one was bought to serve a role that just isn't going to make sense anymore, if it ever did. I'll install enough to make it sellable, then offload it on eBay, along with most of the contents of my parts boxes.

And there's also the trailer bike plus one bike each for the girls, all three of which I need to keep.

Pulling the trigger as above would take me from four active-duty bikes and a project to two bikes, period. One would be a racy road bike and the other a versatile all-rounder for family and overnight rides. I like the relative simplicity of the idea, though it's not a stretch to imagine going further -- all the way down to one bike. I could offload all of them and pick up a Rivendell A Homer Hilsen with a spare set of wheels to support different gearing and tires (for versatility). I could do the same with the Schwinn, I suppose, but at a less premium level.

But as nice as a Hilsen would be, paring down to one bike is probably overkill. I savor the differences between bikes, and I'm not sure that's something I want to deny myself. The idea, after all, is to simplify, not punish myself for past excesses.

All for now,


Vittoria Rubino Pro Tires

I was off the bike for a couple of weeks until last Saturday. Part of this was the tire casing failure on my Kestrel, and the other part had to do with the post-ride soreness in my left knee.

The orthopedic surgeon I consulted with about my knee has told me to keep riding and asked me to start some PT (though I haven't, yet), so I've started using the rollers again. To let me use the Kestrel, I picked up a pair of Vittoria Rubino Pro tires. I haven't tried them on the road, yet (soon!), but they're pretty impressive on the rollers. They roll so well, in fact, that I found myself training one gear higher than with the last set of tires. I'm also averaging one MPH faster after a two week hiatus, which doesn't make any sense, if all else were equal.

They're orange, which doesn't harmonize with the red and yellow of the Kestrel so much as clash, but I don't really care about that. They were a decent price (orange), and they work really nicely.

All for now,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Letting Go

Things change. When they do, you need to be ready to let go of how they were. Let go even of things that were once really important.

Even as my life changed so dramatically over the past couple of years, I've been slow to realize the need to let go. I thought I could and should hold on to as much as possible, letting only the obviously broken parts fall away. But I've caught on to the need to rethink. Folks that care have even expressed worry as I've pored over the artifacts of the life I built the past dozen years, cataloging the candidates for eBay.

It's not a cause for worry, though. The house I've called home for over a decade is a trap, keeping me locked in a life that didn't work. And the stuff I once thought defined me, however well it helped me hide from the consequences of a choice made years ago, is part of that trap. Woodworking equipment, tractors and attachments, gardening tools -- even bikes. Some, anyway.

Time to let go. Time to simplify. Time to live. And undoubtedly more to come.

All for now,


Monday, March 1, 2010

Velo Orange Bottom Bracket and Phil Wood Rings

I picked up one of these bottom brackets from Velo Orange the other day. Or I should say, I ordered one on Friday and received it today.

I bought it to try it with a set of Phil Wood rings. The Phil bottom bracket in the Motobecane is a smidge wider than I'd prefer (111), and I was hoping that a 107 bottom bracket from VO would work with the Swiss rings, much as the old Shimano UN-72 did. But let me get this out of the way right now -- it doesn't work. The outer diameter of the VO bottom bracket's cartridge bearings are just slightly too large to slip inside the Phil Wood rings the way they should for this hack to work. I suppose I could remove a little material from the outside of the bearing or the inside of the rings, but doing so without a metal lathe seems dicey. Oh, well -- it was worth a shot.

Otherwise, I have to say that the VO bottom bracket is a nice part. It has a nice alloy body, with alloy cups, a chromed spindle and seals on the cups to keep crud away from the bearings. It comes with new crank bolts, pre-swabbed with thread locking compound. The loose cup (the other one is pressed or glued onto the bottom bracket) also has a little plastic spacer at the bottom, presumably to serve as a washer, providing a slick surface so the cup and sealed bearing don't gall and bind up during torquing. Again, a really nice part.

It's unfortunate that it doesn't meet my immediate need, but the part is welcome in my parts box until called for elsewhere.

All for now,