Sunday, June 26, 2011

PMC Fundraising Items for Sale

I'm finally getting around to listing items that I am selling in support of my Pan Mass Challenge fundraising goals.  If you see anything here that you're interested in purchasing, please contact me at  I will keep adding and striking things off this list as they sell.  Items will also be listed on Craig's List.  All proceeds from these items will go to my fundraising commitment!

Columbia Cruiser bicycle:  $100

This is my old Columbia project bike.  I bought it at a swap meet (a good day), immediately bent the cheap fork that was on there, then put a new old stock Tange fork on it, along with a few other things.  It's a hoot to ride, and I'd planned to do more with it, but it doesn't work for my knees.  Hopefully someone else can get some fun out of this old thing!  I'm including a salvaged columbia fork and a chromed stem that will work with its steerer tube.  Obviously, this is a clunker, not a museum candidate or a highly tuned machine, but the fork, pedals, headset spacers, front brake cable hanger, stem (a cheapie) and tubes are new, and I've got way more than $100 into this bike.  The headset is a hard-to-find Columbia part, and it fits properly in the head tube (it is different than a Schwinn/BMX part).

I currently have a bunch of stuff listed on eBay, too:
Two MTB racks (as a pair)
 Three forks (sold separately)

 Three handlebars (sold separately)

 Three 118 BCD chainrings (as a set -- one damaged)

 One cool old SR Custom seatpost

I think that's it -- the rest will have to wait for me to get through a few hectic weeks.  All proceeds will go to my Jimmy Fund sponsorship commitment for the PMC.  If you're interested, I'll send the item numbers -- don't want to clutter this post up.  They will age out of eBay quickly...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

PMC 2011 Fundraising

It's been years since I've ridden in a benefit ride.  Years ago, I participated in a half dozen or more MS-150 rides.  One or two were on the Shogun, but most were on my Kestrel.  But as I said it's been a long time -- maybe fifteen years!  But that dry spell will soon be over, because this year, I'll be riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge -- a benefit ride for cancer research.  And I'll be riding not my fancy old Kestrel, but my decidedly un-fancy hand-me-down late-'70's Motobecane Grand Touring.

If you're from New England and you're reading a bike blog, you've probably heard about the PMC.  The traditional ride starts in Sturbridge and ends in Provincetown, and that's the one that gets all the attention. But the event boasts many routes these days, and for my first PMC, I chose one that starts a few towns east of me in Wellesley, and runs out to Provincetown.  The route is just over 180 miles, and shouldn't be hard, though it will undoubtedly test my stamina, as well as the health of my knees.  I'll be riding at least some of the route with colleagues, as I'm riding with Team Dassault Systemes, but my experience on these rides is that people tend to spread out based on ability and endurance.  Since I'm not riding with a buddy, I expect to be solo much of the time, or to link up with groups here and there during the course of the event.

I feel strong enough to complete the distance today, but I'd like to get in as many 50-mile weekends between now and the ride as I can, to try to build my endurance a bit more.  But training and the ride itself are only part of the story with this event -- the main thing is raising money for cancer research.

My fundraising plan has two major parts.  The first is the traditional note to friends and family, asking for a donation.  I'll bolster that with a Facebook post as well, and use my Paypal account to facilitate donations from folks distant.  When I first started this sort of benefit ride, the fundraising was mostly pen & paper work!

The second part of my plan is more fun -- I'm going to try to sell off the contents of my various parts boxes and a bike in support of the event.  I'll be donating the inventory, but I'll be seeking cash from my readers, as well as strangers on Craig's List and eBay.  Look for a posting with items for sale, soon!

In the mean time, if you'd like to sponsor me, please drop me a note at  Thank you!

All for now,


Monday, June 13, 2011


I was recently inspired (by a date, truth be told) to get back into the woods on a bike.  I haven't really ridden a mountain bike on a trail since a few years before I moved to Southborough.  All of my riding slowed way down when I moved out here, and I barely rode either of my mountain bikes at all, much less in the way they were intended.

The date was with a woman who rides both on- and off-road, and our dinner conversation got me thinking about getting back into the woods.  Then maybe a week later, some of the guys I ride with around here invited me for a run (woah, Nelly) and a MTB ride in the local state park.  I couldn't make that one, but I'd like to catch the next -- except, maybe, for that running stuff.

I sold off one of my mountain bikes late last year, and my old Paramount has been convalescing for some time at my parents' home, largely ignored by my father.  It's been set up with balloon all-surface (Specialized Hemisphere, I think) tires.  These are good for road use, dirt roads, grass and even light trails.  They have no knobs but heavy treads, so they hang in there OK on loose stuff.  I think the last time I rode it seriously was when I took it to the Outer Banks three years ago, and I put maybe 50 miles on it that week.

Of course, to get back into the woods, I'd need something suitable to ride once there, and the Paramount is now pretty much all I have on hand.  Rather than go shopping, I made a swap -- my loaner Shogun went to my folk's house in the Paramount's stead, and it is now convalescing comfortably in their den.  The Paramount, in the mean time, has been shod with knobby Panaracers, and is awaiting some trail riding.  Perhaps I'll give it a go this weekend?  Maybe the weather will cooperate.

Now, one of the reasons Dad doesn't ride the bikes I leave lying around for him to use is that he's got a bum knee.  The damage should be repaired this summer, though, and he's going to need something to ride for physical therapy purposes.  Unfortunately, the convalescing Shogun has old-fashioned road gears (42/52 up front and a 12-28 6-speed freewheel in back), which makes for pretty steep gearing for a guy waiting for a new knee who lives on top of a hill.  So I've started gathering parts (when am I not?) for a new project -- making the Shogun a triple!  For you novices, that means three chainrings up front, rather than just one or two.

There are only a handful of parts needed to make such a change.  First, of course, you need a triple crank.  I found one on eBay for $35 shipped -- a 105SC crankset in nice shape with 30/42/52-tooth rings and 175mm crank arms.  That'll give my dad both a granny gear (is that ironic?) and a little extra leverage in getting up those hills, vs. the 170mm cranks on the bike today.  I'm pretty sure the bottom bracket on the bike now will give this crankset a good chainline, but if not, I have a slightly wider cartridge BB that I can install in its place.

What else?  Well, to move the chain between three chainrings rather than two, you typically want a front derailleur with a different profile of cage than a double-chainring setup.  I found an inexpensive steel Shimano Exage 400LX derailleur on eBay.  It's black and it's a triple chainring setup, with a bottom-pull cable routing. And it was designed for a road bike, so it has the right clamp diameter and offset to support a road frame.  Not all MTB derailleurs would work, because many expect the cable to come from above, and often times they shift the cage farther outboard to support the wider bottom bracket shells found on contemporary MTBs.

Next up?  A new rear derailleur.  A rear derailleur does at least two things -- move the chain between the rear cogs, and take up the slack in the chain as different gear combinations are used.  The rear derailleur with a triple generally has a longer cage (that's the frame that holds the pulleys) so that it can take up more slack in the chain -- slack that's created when the front derailleur is shifted down from the 42- to the 30-tooth chainring.  I looked for a new old stock Shimano LX, just like the one on the Paramount, and found one without much difficulty, also on eBay.  It's black, too, like the new front derailleur.  It's a better part than the Exage front derailleur, but they'll more or less coordinate with each other can clash with the 105SC crank (which is a sort of champagne silver color).  The existing derailleurs (both 105SC parts -- the rear being the original from my decommissioned Kestrel) will go into my parts box for Ava's new Fuji build next winter.

All that I really need from here are new crank bolts (only because I don't have crank bolt covers that match the shade of the 105SC crankset), and possibly a new chain.  Probably a new chain.  I'll see what's on there, but I'm pretty sure it's an old Shimano chain that I put on maybe 15 years ago.  They're a pain to break and re-pin, so I'd just as soon throw an SRAM on there.

When I'm done, the color combination of the bike's components will be somewhat incongruous, yes.  But that's not so important.  What's important is that Dad will have a 30 front/28 rear combination that should allow him to climb the hills around my folks' place with ease. And as he builds strength, the 42/52 rings will keep his RPMs down on the flats.

These are two bikes that are really too good to languish like they've been.  I'm looking forward to getting the Paramount into the woods, again, where it belongs.  And I'd love to go for a ride with my dad next summer.  And Ava really does need some derailleurs for that Fuji project to be possible.  Just a few swaps, and all of these will be in reach.

All for now,


Friday, June 3, 2011

2011 GTI

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Julie and I went to test drive cars.  She's thinking about replacing hers, and I'm a car guy, so she wanted me to join her.  And hey, I haven't test-driven anything since I bought my Mazda, so I was certainly game!

Julie first drove a Prius, which was an interesting experience from the passenger seat.  By that I mean that I'm not sure a Prius is a car in the way I think of cars.  You turn it on like an appliance, you don't start it with a key.  The gearshift is an abstraction of what I use to shift gears.  And the drivetrain takes more commands from a computer than it does from the driver.  Now, I understand that most automatic shifters are connected with wiring to their gearboxes these days, and that there's a massive amount of computing power behind even my relatively low-tech Mazda out in the driveway, yes.  Even so, while the Prius is four-wheeled transportation, I'm pretty sure it's not a car.

The Prius experience behind us, Julie piloted Allyson's Mini Cooper over to the VW dealer, to give the little British BMW a try.  And she seemed to enjoy that experience, too.  At one point I told her to give the steering wheel a little bobble, and the car virtually leapt off center, catching her a little off-guard.  That gave me a giant grin -- it's a fun car.  Not perfect, by any means, but fun, fun, fun!

At the VW dealer, we asked for a 5-door GTI for a test drive.  The car the salesman produced was black, had big "phone-dial" wheels (18 inches, I believe), a gorgeous interior with black leather seats, and a raucous stereo with way more going on than I had time to figure out.  This one was a 6-speed manual, rather than a dual-clutch DSG car (though I'd like to try one of those gearboxes some time).  Oh!  And it had red brake calipers peeking from the five massive holes of the front rims.  Maybe the rears were red, too, but I don't remember.  Actually, that's a good illustration of my problem with the car -- it wasn't memorable.

Julie took it out first.  She's a VW driver, and seemed to appreciate the blue lighting, the quality of the interior materials, and the car's overall zip.  It is a quick car, to be sure, and the controls all feel pretty good in the hands, which is the norm for VW.  The seats are comfortable and supportive, it's got more stuff in it than anyone can reasonably ask for, and it sounds OK, too.

But when I took the wheel, I found it to be an absolute snoozer to drive.  Compared to the Mini, the damping and springing are soft and gentle -- not floaty, but not terribly sporty, either.  Compared to the Mini, the steering is slow and lazy -- hell, that's true when the GTI is compared to my Mazda3.  And though it is plenty strong, the turbo engine's power delivery is annoyingly non-linear.  In traffic, I found myself giving it a little throttle, then a little more because not enough happened the first time, and then having to back off that second bump when the turbo finally spooled up.  I'm sure I'd get used to that, but I wouldn't want to get used to the lazy reflexes.  Where the Mini feels like a racer despite its lack of power, the GTI feels like a mid-sized family sedan.  Where the Mini feels like an athlete, the GTI feels ready for a nap.  Back to the dealer it went, with absolutely no interest on my part of driving another.

Julie seemed to like all of the cars for different reasons, and it'll be interesting to see what she ends up doing.  For my own part, I can't really make a Mini work in my life right now, but that's not at all true of the GTI.  With five doors and a lot more cargo space than the Mini, the GTI would be a perfectly sensible choice for me, the girls and Jake.  But there's absolutely nothing about the GTI that I particularly want.  The Mini, on the other hand, sits out in my driveway right now practically begging me to take it out for a fling around some on ramps.  I'm resisting buying it because it's not what I need right now.  But unlike the GTI, I want it -- I want it bad.

Maybe someday.

All for now,