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Month: August 2013

King Cage / Tallac Design Kargo Cage

I’ve been having difficulties carrying everything I want on my Jamis Nova without putting it in jersey pockets. An under-saddle bag is working okay, but fully filled it occasionally brushes my thighs, which is rather uncomfortable. I also don’t really care for putting things in my jersey pockets, so I decided to try out a King Cage Kargo Cage (same product on Tallac Design’s site), mounting it on the down tube (alternate view).

This device is a combination stainless steel bottle cage and tool pouch holder, with the pouch being large enough to hold a tube and other bits. I chose the larger 9″ size designed to hold a 29er tube, as I figured I could use the extra 2″ of pouch length for things besides a tube. In the photo above I have it carrying a road tube (inside an old sock), Novara patch kit (with chain links inside), and two Park Tool TL-1 tire levers, zipped shut with the zipper pull tucked inside. I’ll probably add some nitrile gloves later, and maybe a small bottle of chain lube.

The pouch itself, manufactured by Tallac Design, snaps nicely to nylon straps which are mounted to the screws between the frame and cage itself. This holds it firmly in place and with a nice, sleep look. Unsnapping the bag is not the fastest operation so it will be a bit difficult to remove, but I intentionally chose for it to hold the supplies that I rarely need (but really don’t want to be without on longer rides), so this shouldn’t be a problem.

The model of Kargo Cage seen here is a newer design than the one pictured on both the King Cage and Tallac Design sites, as it has snaps instead of plastic buckles. I have slight concerns over the snaps rusting, but a light coating of grease on them will hopefully mitigate this. The snap setup seems simpler than the plastic buckles, and it seems like the bag could sag with the previous design whereas this one seems a bit more solid. Because the snaps sit next to the frame and brush it as the bike is jostled I put a piece of UHMW polyethylene tape on the frame behind the snap to eliminate scratching and cut down on potential noise.

It remains to be seen how useful this Kargo Cage is for me long-term, but I have high hopes for it. I am slightly concerned about how it sticks out about 2cm to each side of the down tube (photo) as I suspect it’ll catch a lot of dust and mud, but being vinyl-lined it should be washable. I need to leave it on the downtube for now, as the longer 9″ bag length keeps it from fitting on the seat tube without getting very close to the front derailleur. I’ve emailed Tallac Design (who makes the bag piece of it) asking if I can buy a separate 7″ bag so I can try it on the seat tube and see how that goes. It might also be useful to have two separate bags that I can swap out depending on the kind of ride that I’m doing.

Even with this I’ll still likely keep a small seat bag on the bike, but I only intend that to hold my keys, wallet, multi-tool, and any other small incidentals. Or, I might just put these items in jersey pockets. By moving the tube and repair supplies to the frame I’m allowing the saddle bag (or what is carried in pockets) to be smaller and more useful, while allowing the tube to be sock-wrapped to cut down on wear during storage (as other parts rub against it in the bag). There wasn’t enough room for this before.


Repurposed Carsonite and Fiberglass Splinters

Over the last year Bloomer Park‘s mountain bike route has become increasingly better marked, but unfortunately some of the installed signs had become vandalized. The former Trail Coordinator saved some of these, and today I finally got around to cutting them down into smaller pieces that can be screwed to posts or trees.

These should be quite useful at Bloomer, as there’s a few places which could benefit from additional marking, and it makes me happy to repurpose what had been scrap into something usable. I imagine that when River Bends undergoes its next round of marking we’ll use something similar to what Bloomer will end up with: a combination of tree/post based markers like these and the typical ground-inserted marker.

Out of three 72″ Carsonite Dual Sided Markers I was able to salvage 16 11″ markers and two 8″ markers. With the reflective decals being 3″ tall this should allow for the taller pieces to hold three decals and the smaller to hold two†. Each piece had a 1/4″ hole drilled in the top and bottom, centered, 1/2″ from each end.

While cutting these I made sure to wear a dust-filtering respirator and safety glasses, but I should have worn some nitrile or perhaps leather gloves. I seem to have ended up with a few fiberglass splinters which are small enough that I can’t see them, but whose presence is clearly known whenever I touch something. I hope they work themselves out soon.

† Sizing based on Rockart, Inc’s Tree Hugger marker recommendation that markers be chosen 2″ taller than the combined height of all decals. This is to allow room for the drilled holes and decals while keeping the marker compact.

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Flying Pain

While riding the Macomb Orchard Trail this out to Armada evening around dusk (Strava data) some manner of insect hit my right helmet strap and the side of my face. This has left me with a rather painful, slightly swollen, bright pink sideburn area.

I’d really like to know what it was that got me. Throughout this part of the ride — somewhere just east of the old train trestle — there were a number of large jellybean-size dark insects hovering over the trail. When I’d approach (at 18MPH) they seemed to veer towards my face, almost as if they were IR-seeking. I’d dodged a few of them, but one got my face. Riding along, looking at the scenery, I suddenly heard a sharply interrupted buzzing in front of my ear, almost as if something was caught in the helmet strap.

Right as I reached up and brushed  it away I felt a sharp pain on the side of my face, and I knew that something stung me. Having been stung before and regularly riding in deer fly areas I’m not unfamiliar with such interactions, but this one is different. Sitting here writing this I keep having waves of pain from that spot, and there’s creeping pain up to my temple and over behind my ear.

I seem to recall that Jeremy got stung by something out at River Bends a month or so back, and it was red and painful for quite a while. I wonder if this is the same insect… But what is it that’d just hover over the warm air rising off of trails, waiting to strike? A horse fly? Some sort of bizarre mutant June Bug? I really don’t know…

I thought about grabbing one out of the air to see what it was, but I didn’t want to risk my hand getting hit as well. For now Ibuprofen, diphenhydramine, and a bit of beer are doing a fine job keeping it under control. Hopefully the pain disappears by morning.

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Blah at Highland

Sometimes you have those days when riding where things just don’t click. Climbs aren’t made, previously-ridden descents are walked, you don’t feel great, and things just don’t click. Today at Highland State Recreation Area was one of those days. I set out for a ride by myself, but things just weren’t as keen as I’m accustomed to. I could blame the heat, perhaps being dehydrated, staying up too late with beer and popcorn watching Breaking Bad, but it’s really just a bad day. Those happen.

Here is the ride data in Strava if you are interested. I attempted to ride to Milford for some of the Milford trail (aka Highland Loop E), but needing to pick Danielle up from volunteering at The 3-Day I was short on time and turned back after reaching the Milford city limits. The route between the two is quite easy and straightforward. Hopefully I’ll actually do a Highland A-B-C-D-E later this year.


Fruit Flies!

The kitchen has a bunch of fruit flies in it, and apparantly they are coming from (or at least feeding on) the hole in the top of this banana. Based on their light color I suspect these are very young fruit flies, so they are probably breeding in there as well.

After sealing it in a zip-top bag I’ve thrown out the remaining bananas, but not after taking the most-rotted upper section and putting it in a pint glass, covering the top with foil, and piercing it with a toothpick (photo). Hopefully this will work nicely as trap for the remaining flies that seem to be lingering in the area. Ten minutes or so have passed since I assembled the makeshift trap and it already contains four flies, so it looks promising.

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Not Just The Numbers

Recently I was working on a high visibility end user problem with computer performance that ended up having a somewhat-unexpected cause: the laptop’s external power supply.

For months this person had been complaining of serious performance issues with a JavaScript-heavy websites that he needed to get his job done, and despite numerous technicians taking a look at the machine, none were able to fix it. In attempts to resolve the issue he’d been given new hardware, switched from a 32-bit to 64-bit OS, and had his user profile (all settings) reset to defaults more than once, to no avail. By the time the case got to me he was quite frustrated as fault was now being assigned to his data and the websites he was accessing, so I set up a meeting so he could show me the problem and talk through what’s going on. I hoped to get a better understanding of what he was doing and what was occurring to see what I could do for him.

After some cursory remote poking to check the laptop’s capabilities and be sure the it seemed stable we sat down and talked. He showed me what was clearly unacceptable performance, explained how the issue only seems to occur when he’s in the office at his desk, sometimes when at remote sites, and never when he’s connected via VPN. Seeing a nicely bundled set of cables behind his the monitor to which his laptop was connected I asked if he had a another power supply that he used when traveling, and if the one on his desk stays there.

That was it; the one on his desk was the cause. Newer Dell and HP business-class machines both use the same physical power connector and they’ll often charge each other’s devices, but depending on the laptop model, power supply model, and BIOS differences sometimes the  laptop will significantly scale back its performance. This is to save battery, allow charging on a limited supply, or (if you are conspiracy minded) steer people away from the use of third party power supplies. When in the office or at a borrowed desk at a remote site he was using a mismatched power supply, so the laptop would scale back its performance and the job-critical website would be unusable slow. Working from outside of company facilities (via VPN) he’d use the power supply that he carried with him — the one which shipped with the laptop –and performance was as expected.

When troubleshooting complicated problems like this it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming user behavior, providence (the kind of data being stored), or the big mysterious technical places: bad hardware / software. The numbers. Sometimes one has to step back, sit down, talk to those involved, and look over the whole of the problem. Sometimes it’s as simple tab A being plugged into an incompatible slot C, but without stepping back and taking the user and his/her report into account this can be very hard to find.

Power supply model will even cause power scaling issues within the same brand if a given laptop requires, for example, a 90W supply and it is connected to a 65W supply. There is a POST prompt which warns the user of this, but sometimes users or technicians will see the laptop charging anyway (albeit at a lower rate) and disable it without realizing the consequences.


Another Broken Spoke

I had the following bike problems this evening, in order:

  1. Riding up the sidewalk to Stony Creek with the group, a spoke breaks near the J bend. I stop and twist it around an adjacent spoke and decide to ride with it.
  2. Once I get into The Pines I notice the broken spoke nub is binding the freehub and keeping me from coasting. I leave the group and walk the bike out to the two track.
  3. Deciding that I can ride without coasting, I poke around Stony Creek two track for a while in a very tall gear constantly keeping the freehub engaged.
  4. After riding to the group’s meeting point at the end of the route I remove the wheel to get the spoke nub out; it’d already fallen out. Upon reinserting the rear wheel I find that the brake is now binding significantly.
  5. Looking in my bag I don’t have a multi-tool (nor spare tube) as I removed them for Sunday’s dirt road ride.

After the group arrived I was able to borrow a multi tool and get the wheel spinning freely again. I then rode an easy lap of The Pines and back to the car. Now I need to find a 295mm black DT Swiss Competition spoke and get everything back in order… Hopefully I can find one tomorrow, as I was really hoping to ride this bike over the weekend.

(I strongly suspect this spoke broke after being damaged during the chain dropping at Lumberjack. It then lasted for a while, but today after riding Bloomer and while applying torque up a paved path it decided to go. Better there than somewhere remote, at least…)


Three Washers

By adding three washers to each end of the trainer quick release I’m able to keep the trainer from making contact with the frame on the Jamis Nova. Without these washers the ends of the mounting arms just barely contact the frame, and with the bike moving around while on the trainer I could see it causing a bit of paint flaking and/or damage over time.

I’ve got no interest in riding on the trainer now, but this was a problem that I wanted to resolve long before cold weather arrives, and now it’s done. I’ve also got a trainer tire and appropriately-small tube, so I should be ready to go whenever I decide that riding the trainer sounds fun. I can’t imagine that’ll be any time soon, though.

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New Holland Cap Font Changes

After purchasing a six pack of New Holland’s The Poet a couple days back I noticed that the font used inside of the caps has changed. It’s gone from the distressed font seen on the right (to and ing) to something much more boring (Tulipdone, and earthy).

Judging by the change to the markings on the plastic cap liner I suspect that the cap supplier changed as well. Perhaps they had greater restrictions on the fonts used for printing the inside of caps. Oh well.

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