Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ant or Grasshopper?

In the traditional story of The Grasshopper and the Ant, the ant works hard all summer to gather food for the upcoming winter.  The grasshopper, in contrast, spends the summer singing and enjoying life.  When winter comes, the grasshopper comes to the ant for food and the ant refuses, instead telling the grasshopper an ant version of "Tough luck, buster" and leaves the grasshopper to die.  I've been feeling a bit like a grasshopper lately when it comes to bike maintainence.  Now that it's mid-September and the last official week of summer, thoughts of winter cycling have been peeking out of my subconscience and making their presence known.  Late summer and fall are really the sweet spot of cycling in Minnesota, at least in my opinion.  The weather is comfortable both morning and afternoon, the rains of summer are mostly done (no April showers), and the turning leaves make taking the bike to work that much more rewarding. 
The turning leaves also act as a reminder of the fact that winter is coming.  And in my case, a reminder that my winter bike was rode hard and put away salty last spring.  The ant in me says that I should pull that bike off the rack, pronto, and start gathering components for the upcoming winter.  The grasshopper in me says that it would be much more fun to start looking for components for the new frame I scored off of eBay a few weeks ago.  Getting the Raleigh ready for winter is very ant-like because there's nothing new or interesting needed on that bike.  All it really needs is a new set of snow studs and some elbow grease (and actual grease).  But to make it a more bulletproof winter bike, here are some wants that could give the project a more grasshopper-like appeal:
  • New front hub:  I would really like to give dynamo hub powered lighting a try.  I've got a decent battery-based headlight system, but it's over two years old and I start to worry about rechargable battery lifespan after 2 years.  I've got my eye on the complete 700c wheel with a Shimano hub build that Hiawatha is selling currently.
  • New headlight:  Getting a dynamo-hub would obviously mean a new headlight.  The DLumotec seems to be the way to go.
  • Internal-gear rear hub:  I picked up a NOS Suntour 3-speed hub from eBay last fall for $20 with the intention of taking a wheelbuilding class and building it into a 700c rim for the Raleigh.  I had a conflict with the Hiawatha wheelbuilding class last fall and since I don't know anything more about wheelbuilding than I did when I bought the hub, it's still sitting on my workbench waiting.

Other than that, the bike has been a solid, if unremarkable, winter beater.  But two winters worth of abuse have taken their toll on the drivetrain, specifically the shifting of the bike.  If replacing the cables doesn't take care of the issue and I can't find an acceptable (read: affordable) way to get the Suntour 3-speed up and running, I might have to do a quick and dirty single-speed conversion on this thing.  Fortunately, I've got a few more weeks to ponder this.  At least that's what my inner grasshopper tells me.

Monday, September 17, 2007


The folks at were nice enough to send me an email last week.  I'm not sure how or why, but they said they needed my help to promote their new website and launch the ArriveMN brand.  Promoting websites?  Launching brands?  They've obviously got the wrong guy, I thought.  But then I saw the magic words:  Free T-shirt. 
Fast forward to today.  After receiving further instructions I picked up my shirt at the downtown transportation office and received a flyer about a Transportation Fair tomorrow morning.  "Join us in Minneapolis at North Plaza of the Government Center Tuesday, September 18 from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. to discover a new way to Arrive!"  I have no idea what it's all about or if there will be freebies and/or snacks, but I'll be there.  I'll be the one in the green shirt.  Be sure to save me some coffee if there is any...

Date: September 11
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Premis
September mileage: 130
Year to date mileage: 2957
Date: September 12
Mileage: 10
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Premis
September mileage: 140
Year to date mileage: 2967
Date: September 13
Mileage: 20
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Premis
September mileage: 160
Year to date mileage: 2987
Date: September 17
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Premis
September mileage: 186
Year to date mileage: 3013

Monday, September 10, 2007

How much for the little girl?

Early this year I was plagued by a series of flat tires.  I was given this sage advice by a friend who cheerfully identifies herself as a Pagan:
Take the tire and spread it out into a circle on the garage floor. Draw the wheel in the middle with chalk. Blow up a balloon and tape it to the middle of the drawing and leave it overnight. The next morning let all remaining air out of the balloon, erase the drawing and bury the balloon and tire. (Yes I know the ground is frozen. You'll have to figure that out on your own.) You'll have given the tire and some extra air to the tire gods and thus they will be appeased.
I believe I will be doing just that on Saturday.  Maybe one night this week if I can find the time.  Or perhaps I need something stronger, because my transportation problems have become multi-modal.  Here is a not so brief recap:
Thursday:  I'd been ill and therefore driving to work (a luxury of being not car free), but was feeling mostly better by Thursday.  Wife and kids wanted to have a picnic for dinner.  So they biked to Ft Snelling to swim at the beach.  I was to drive home, change, grab the cooler with dinner in it and meet them at the park.  What happened was I got in my car, drove about a mile and ran out of gas.  So I walked about 3 miles to the beach where the family was, jumped on wife's bike (which was comically small on me) and rode home to get a different car and a gas can.  I tried to start my station wagon, but the battery was dead.  I knew that I couldn't fit the kids' bikes in the Jetta, so I took our van.  I rescued the vehicle from the side of the road, and we managed to have our picnic.  Thursday night I decided I was done driving to work.  I had two bikes with flat tires in the garage.  So I fixed the flat on the Premis, planning to ride it to work.
Friday:  Tire on the Premis was flat in the morning.  Grrr.  So I took the Jamis.  On the way home I was headed down the hill on Highway 13 when I heard a loud pop and a whoosh.  I'd run something over and flatted the tire almost immediately.  I was less than a mile from home and just walked it out.  Friday night after watching a movie with a friend I went into the garage and changed the tire on the Suburban, planning to take that for the Hiawatha ride.
Saturday:  I came out to the garage to find the Suburban had a flat.  So I considered my options.  Jamis, flat.  Premis, fixed Thursday but flat.  Suburban, fixed Friday but flat.  I thought long and hard about just going back to bed, but ended up taking the Robin Hood off the wall and riding it on the ride.  I threw down the gauntlet to the tire gods and left home without a tube, patch, any tools or a cell phone.  If I had a problem, I was on my own.  After post-ride hobknobbing at the shop, I headed for home.  As I was just reaching Ft Snelling the tire started to rub, and then exploded with a deafening report.  Flat #4.  I was ready to fling the bike over the bluffs and watch it sink in the Mississippi.  But that wouldn't do me any good, so I ditched the bike in the weeds and walked the four miles home.  I came back in the Jetta and picked up the bike.
Sunday:  I spent most of the afternoon in the garage watching the Vikings and fixing flats.  First, I fixed the Premis.  I patched the tube and switched out the tire.  I took the old tire and mounted it on a different rim and mounted that complete wheel on a frame I have in the workstand.  Then I started on the Jamis.  I patched the tube and booted the tire, since I didn't have a spare in that size.  After that was a quick patch on the Suburban.  I took a break to play catch with my daughters in the yard and when I came back to the garage the Suburban was flat again.  I started taking the tire off of that bike and heard the sound or air escaping.  The wheel I'd mounted on the workstand frame was going flat.  Aaargh!  I finished re-patching the Suburban's tire (same spot, the original patch just didn't hold) and decided to ignore the wheel from the workstand.  I can't seem to see a pattern in all of this.  I went through the tires on each bike with a fine toothed comb looking for anything that might be causing the flats and came up with nothing.  I used three different patches, two different brands of glueless and one with glue, and had failures with all of them.
Monday:  I got up to go to work, and the tire on the Jamis was flat again.  I rode the trike.

I think I'm going to start slowly replacing tires with either Pasela Tourguards or Conti Ultra GatorSkins.  Any recommendations of one over the other?  Or a different tire that you would recommend?  And also, let me know if you are aware of any open minded virgins who have nothing to live for and wouldn't mind taking part in a short sacrificial ritual...

Date: September 8
Mileage: 27
Ride type/Bike: Hiawatha/Robin Hood
September mileage: 79
Year to date mileage: 2827
Date: September 10
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Trike
September mileage: 104
Year to date mileage: 2931

Friday, September 07, 2007

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

Tuesday, September 11th, I'll be standing on the corner of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, just north of 1st Street and the Post Office driveway from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. I'll be counting bikes, pedestrians, small mammals, panhandlers, and pretty much anything else that comes across my path. I'll even be recording some of it. So say hello if you happen to be wandering through the area. If you're walking or biking, I'll be sure to count you. Bring me a snack too, if you think about it. Because I'll be late for dinner that night.

Date: September 4
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Jamis
September mileage: 26
Year to date mileage: 2774

Date: September 7
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Jamis
September mileage: 52
Year to date mileage: 2800

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Volunteers needed and other bike info

On Tuesday, September 11th, the Department of Public Works will be conducting bicycle and pedestrian counts, and we need your help! Volunteers will be asked to count the number cyclists and pedestrians at several mid-block locations in the downtown area, in 2-hour shifts from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. The purpose of the counts is to assess the historical trend of non-motorized travel in the downtown core. This year, for the first time, the Department of Public Works will exclusively count bicyclists and pedestrians.

These counts will help to measure the effects of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTP), a $21.5 million federal program which was created to increase biking and walking in Minneapolis. The City of Minneapolis is partnering with Transit for Livable Communities, who will be organizing similar counts on the same day. If you are interested in volunteering please choose from a 2-hour time slot below. We need volunteers to arrive approximately 10-15 minutes before their shift. Please contact Shaun Murphy at or 612.673.2335, and leave your e-mail address, phone number, and a preferred time slot.

6:30 am to 8:30 am
8:30 am to 10:30 am
10:30 am to 12:30 pm
12:30 pm to 2:30 pm
2:30 pm to 4:30 pm
4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

There are two additional announcements; the first being the launch of a new Twin Cities website for bicyclists and pedestrians. An initiative of Transit for Livable Communities, is intended to serve as a resource for new and existing bicyclists in Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.

The second announcement pertains to two upcoming bike tours in the Twin Cities. The 13th Annual St. Paul Classic Bike Tour will take place on Sunday, September 9th. The inaugural Minneapolis Bike Tour will take place the following Sunday, September 16th. Each tour largely follows the scenic and historic parkway systems of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Date: August 24
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Premis
August mileage: 321
Year to date mileage: 2680

Date: August 25
Mileage: 30
Ride type/Bike: Hiawatha/Suburban
August mileage: 351
Year to date mileage: 2710

Date: August 29
Mileage: 12
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Jamis
August mileage: 363
Year to date mileage: 2722

Date: August 31
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Jamis
August mileage: 389
Year to date mileage: 2748