Archive for November 2011

Future Snow Bike Light?

This evening while straightening up the basement I decided to play around with combining parts from two previous projects (a commuter light picked up at the MMBA Expo and the Bicycle Video Recorder) and it seems to work. I’m able to use the rather large LiPo battery and voltage regulator to get the requisite 6V, and it seems to power the light nicely.

The light should be mountable on the crown of the Mukluk, so maybe I’ll put this to work as a low-mount night riding light for winter use. I’ll just have to sort out the battery mount, but that shouldn’t be a big deal. Yay, another project!

Low-Cost Fat Bike Stand

With the acquisition of a fat bike I needed a way to store it standing up in the garage but my favorite rack, Feedback Sports’ RAKK, won’t work with a tire this wide. So, I set out to build my own. The result is what’s seen above, a collapsable stand which holds the rear tire at the bottom in a channel and at the top/sides to keep it from tipping over.

There are some other PVC rack designs floating around online, most similar to this one from Bogley Outdoor Community, but they all seem to have derailleur or brake rotor interference issues to one degree or another; see this photo for one example. By building an L-shaped stand I was able to completely avoid this.

The rack also has a lip extending off the back of it which serves two purposes. First it keeps the rack from tipping backward when pushing the bike into it, and second, by jutting out just a bit further than the rear tire, it keeps the stand just far enough from the wall that the rear tire doesn’t touch. Thus the bike can be inserted into the rack by pushing the whole assembly against the wall (without holding it), and it keeps the rack from inadvertently being unusably close to a wall. This latter point is a problem with the Feedback Sports RAKK, as if it’s sitting too close to the wall the bike cannot push the spring loaded arm backward and the rack must be slid away from the wall before a bike can be inserted; a bit of a hassle when the rack is set close to others in a small garage.

Total parts cost for this project was US$13.08 (after 6% Michigan sales tax), purchased at Lowes, not including incidental supplies or tools:

1″ Schedule 40 PVC Pipe:
· 1x 10′ Pipe
· 4x End Caps
· 2x 90° Elbows
· 8x Tee

Presuming a 7/8″ inset in each fitting the 10′ piece of pipe is then cut into the following size segments:

· 10x 4.25″
· 2x 24″
· 2x 11.25″
· 2x 1.25″

If your pipe fittings have something other than a 7/8″ inset or if your tire size is a fair bit different from mine you’ll want to adjust these lengths as necessary to ensure that you’ve got the appropriate distances between support pieces. The spacing that I found to work for my Salsa Mukluk 2 with a Surly Rolling Darryl rim and either an Endomorph or Larry tire has a base rectangle with inside dimensions of 4.25″ x 11.25″ and an upright with a 4.25″ x 24″ opening. Bikes with narrower (or wider) rims or tires may require this opening to be adjusted.

I did all of my cutting with a hacksaw or bandsaw, depending on which was more convenient. Once all pieces are cut the ends need to be deburred and slightly beveled with a file or razor blade. Before assembly I also scrubbed the colored labeling off with some acetone and paper towel, but this isn’t a necessary step. If doing so caution must be taken as the acetone dissolves / etches the PVC, so one should be careful not to damage the surface or let it pool. It is also extremely volatile and flammable and thus any cleaning of this sort should be performed outdoors.

Assembly proceeds as pictured here, with all items cemented in place except for the where the upright meets the base. Parts were liberally coated with PVC cement (no primer, as this doesn’t need to hold water), and before this could set the parts were tapped into place with a dead blow hammer, measured with a ruler to ensure appropriate gaps, and aligned by pressing the parts against a flat surface. I found it was easiest to assemble the short cross pieces first, then fit the longer pieces, then the legs, and finally the end caps.

The resulting stand works out very nicely, solidly holding the bike by either the front or rear wheel. This integrates well with the row of RAKK-supported bikes in the garage, and now I don’t have to lean by bike against a hose holder, garbage can, or wall. I’m quite happy with how it came out.

Broken Rake, Fixed Rake

Know what’s exceedingly stupid on my part? Tossing a log down while collecting stuff for a log pile and having it land on the handle of my rake, snapping it in two. Whoops!

Thankfully a year or two back I found a rake handle in the woods and kept it sitting in the garage for whenever I needed a random pole to meet some need. It just happened to be from the same model of rake as I had (which I’d found curious), so I was able to swap it on to the rake head this evening after getting back home. Now, fixed rake!

This morning’s work was building a new log pile at River Bends. There was a corner that was a bit tight and thus it screwed up the trail’s flow a bit, so I wanted to straighten out one of the jogs in it. The straighter route looked perfect for a mid-trail log pile so we left the original trail route as a bypass and everything is looking good. The new trail segment, log pile, and bypass can be seen here.

The log pile has been skinned and grouted with dirt so it’s a bit hard to see in the photo, but it’s generally the same kind of obstacle as the one pictured here, built a couple months ago along another section of the trail.

Everything Dust

The Everything bagel that I purchased from VG’s must have been the last one made, just as the baker was running out of everything topping. It is only coated with a dusting of crumbs and flavor-y bits. It worked out fine for me because I was applying cheese and a bit of olive oil and black pepper to it to make a sandwich, but the lack of meaningful toppings looks a bit sad.

Plastic Bottles, Foil, Visine, and a Shoe

Oh, the things that one finds when looking for a route for some new trail. There were three or four of these, an empty bottle of Visine, and one shoe are all laying within 15′ of each other next to a hiker / game trail leading from some apartments to the main two track. If I’m able to route a trail as hoped then another piece of return trail will pass through this area and make for a small segment ending directly across from the current trail start.

I came across this while looking over a place for a new segment of trail after finishing up some tweaking of the newest segment of trail in the park. There were a few poorly designed corners to sort out, some overhanging brush to trim, and some weirdly rough/lumpy trail surface to smooth. It was a fun 3.5 hours of work on a very nice autumn afternoon. Now, to ride it and see what else needs adjusting.

AMB χ1: Complete

Yesterday evening I finished up retrofitting my AMB Mini³ headphone amplifier with the AMB χ1. This is a battery management board which replaces the original charging circuitry and 9VDC NiMH battery resulting in a considerably faster charge and longer runtime. By using a Lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery the runtime has been extended to ~25 hours (for my high performance version) while the charging time has been reduced to ~1.5 hours. (AMB.org claims that this is a 10x improvement in charge time and a 3x improvement in run time.)

The photo above shows the rear end of the Mini³ without the end panel, showing the two LiPo packs (the silver / strapping tape pieces) the edge of the χ1 PCB (top), and the bi-color charge/fault indicator LED. Assembling this involved removing a small handful of diodes, regulators, and resistors from the Mini³’s PCB, adding a header in place of the LM7812 voltage regulator, and plugging the χ1 into that. As documented on AMB’s site building the χ1 was pretty straightforward and involved only a handful of medium-size (and easy to solder) surface mount parts. I almost wish the design was all surface mount so I wouldn’t have to deal with as much through hole, but I understand his desire to not go all-SMT in order to keep things easy to assemble.

I use this headphone almost every day at work while listening to music from my iPod, and thus far it’s sounded great. However, due to my weird patterns of not being in the office I haven’t been leaving it plugged in for long enough lately, so whenever I’ve been wanting to use it I must plug it in to use it. Hopefully this new version with a shorter charge time and longer run time will sort out that problem.

Now I want to build something else, but I’m not really sure what. I’m somewhat considering a beefy Class A amp and new monitor speakers for my desk at home, all nicely integrated with a USB DAC and tucked under my desk. I could even build the monitors themselves, but this would end up being a pretty big project and I’m not sure it’d get me enough benefit…

Why Intuit? Why?

Dear Intuit, why is this option in Quicken 2012 necessary? I would have hoped that a modern application would be able to detect a date change and handle this itself without needing a restart.

UPDATE: Here are two posts that Nick found where Quicken support folks explain the issue away as “…this would have required extensive reworking of Quicken, and possible other bugs while working it all out” and “The “Quicken Restart” process is like a mini reboot of the program, to make sure that all services are properly dated/timed/synchronized.”. Isn’t sorting those things out what the sales of Quicken are supposed to pay for?

I suspect that Quicken reads the date on startup, that gets used a bunch of places, and it’s presumed by most of the app to be static. I imagine this option is because they aren’t interested in doing the heavy lifting to have the date-consuming pieces of the app handle being notified of a date change. Or something. Either way, needing to restart an app just because a date changes smacks of incompetence.

Having been a regular Quicken user for more than ten years now, I’ve noticed that Intuit seems to have little interest in moving the app forward. I wonder if this is because they are hoping to get most people over to mint.com or something and let Quicken die.

Keyboard Cleaning Time

A visible build-up of finger gunk on the flat surface and laser-etched numbers on most-used keys shows that it’s time to clean my keyboard. To do this I first use Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner at full strength, then a generic glass cleaner to remove the Simple Green residue, then 99% isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining residue. Each is applied to a clean paper towel and used to carefully scrub both the keys and gaps between. Being one of the (excellent) modern, flat, metal-body Apple keyboards it’s particularly easy to clean, and after I’m done the keyboard feels like new.

Rainy Ride on National Guacamole Day

Just before noon Jeremy Verbeke and I set out for a ride through River Bends and Clinton River Park Trails (CRPT). I was riding my Mukluk 2 and Jeremy was on his new Specialized Epic Comp 29er and it was an excellent day for an autumn ride; cool, cloudy, and comfortable. While out at CRPT the rain started, so we hastily made our way back to River Bends and even managed to get sleeted on for a bit while in Utica.

Even though the ride got cut a bit short, it was still a really nice day. Hard riding on the way back was enough to keep warm despite the cold water falling from the sky, and I only really started feeling uncomfortable while sitting in the wet car on the way back. A warm shower once home sorted that out, just in time to get called by work and have to start looking into a problem. Oh well…

Park Tool BBT-19 vs. Truvativ Howitzer Team BB

This evening when beginning assembly of a friend’s new snow bike I ran into a bit of frustration while fitting the bottom bracket. Due to the design of the Truvativ Howitzer Team BB that he chose it’s not possible to use a Park Tool BBT-19 bottom bracket tool to torque it to spec. Because the spindle has to be inserted before both cups are fitted and the tool itself isn’t very deep, the spindle keeps the tool from fitting on the cups for final torqueing. To finish the job I instead had to use a standard box-type wrench for external BBs. This did the job, but it would be nice to know that I got the torque spot on.

The stuff shown above is the initial assembly of Bob Costello’s new Carver titanium snow bike, and includes an E-Type front derailleur. This is the first time I’ve fitted one of these derailleurs, and it was a pretty easy task. However, as I was warned, the Finish Line Anti-Sieze (Ti-Prep) compound which needs to be applied to all metal fastener surface is quite a pain. It seems to be a fine metallic powder suspended in a grease, and the resulting compound is sticky, staining, and it ends up just about everywhere. Unlike grease it’s not easy to wipe off of anything but metal and solid plastic surfaces; it soaks quickly into skin and is even difficult to remove from nitrile gloves. Thankfully ProGold Lubricants’ Shop Towels do an amazing job of cleaning it up from both frames and hands.

Unfortunately, we ran into a little quirk with the acquired parts which put the build on hold for a bit, but I imagine that’ll be remedied soon.