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Month: May 2014

Lubed Mukluk Freehub

After Saturday’s freehub failure on the El Mariachi Ti I figured I should check up on the freehub in the fatbike. It’s been behaving fine, but as I last lubed it 2+ years ago (and replacement is very expensive) I wanted to be sure everything was fine.

A couple years back Salsa released the video Winterizing The Mukluk Hub in response to too heavy of grease for winter use having been installed by the factory in the freehubs. This would apparently freeze up, cause the pawls to only partially engage, and then break. Pawls aren’t available standalone, so people were left buying replacement freehubs at ~$90/each. Replacing the grease with something lighter was a very good proactive measure, so as soon as I became aware of this (after my first winter of riding the fatbike, but a light winter) I did so with Buzzy’s Slick Honey.

This hub is extremely easy to disassemble, so checking up on the freehub takes little more than removing the wheel, pulling off an endcap, and unscrewing another cap before pulling the freehub off. The cassette doesn’t even have to be removed, although I did so because makes cleaning the freehub itself much easier.

The Slick Honey held up for around 1500 miles, 200+ hours, and an incredibly wide range of conditions. I believe that bike has been ridden in temperatures ranging from 0°F to just over 100°F. Even today, despite being a bit discolored, it still had its familiar texture and was lubricating the pawls as it should. Regardless, I cleaned out the ratchet mechanism and heavily lubricated it before everything went back together. Here’s to another couple of years!

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Failed Fatbike Superlight Tube

Just about a year ago I switched the fatbike to using Q-Tubes Superlight 26 x 2.4-2.75″ tubes with polyester ribbon rim strips to save weight. This worked, but today I suffered a flat at Poto as a result. It turns out that the place where the tube bulges up through the rim holes has decayed, and these eventually fail to pinholes. I’d patched one a month or two ago, and today’s flat was another.

I’m not sure if the issue is simply from stretching, ozone exposure, UV exposure, or perhaps even the soap used when washing my bike. I mostly suspect UV or ozone, but I don’t know enough about failure modes of this material to say for sure.

I still feel these tubes are the best low cost option for lightening up a fatbike, so I’ll end up ordering a few more, swapping the existing tubes, and going for another year. Even at $20/year in tubes it’s still a lot cheaper than going with some carbon fiber rims. Although, some carbon fiber rims set up tubeless (with the Hope Fatsno hubs picked up in November) would solve a whole bunch of problems at once… They’d just cost a lot.

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Danielle Saves The Day

84 rides, 2367.44 miles, 213:44:52 is how long the freehub on the Shimano FH-M785 from the Salsa El Mariachi Ti lasted. Today while out on a longish ride (intended to be ~6 hours) with Dana, heading north on Hosner Rd. just north of Drahner (Google Maps), the freehub seized up and the wheel would no longer coast. This happened very briefly last night while riding at River Bends with Danielle, but it was only a gentle tug feeling before it let go again, so I figured it was only transient or something that wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Unfortunately, it was. After acting quirky a couple times over fifteen minutes, and once somewhat badly while riding up Markwood, it went very wrong on the descent from the monastery. Flipping the bike over, it only did this: video. I pulled the wheel, found that it was VERY difficult to advance the freewheel, Dana called her husband Josh (a professional bike wrench) for suggestions, and then I called Danielle for help. She ended up driving out to where we were — about half an hour away — bringing my single speed so I could finish the ride. Sure, it wasn’t great spinning along at 100 – 120 RPM on rail trails and dirt roads, but it worked out pretty well and very surely saved the ride. We were able to do another 54 miles, including some of Bald Mountain South, a full lap of Bloomer, and most of River Bends before calling it a day.

Unfortunately, neither of us had realized just how close we were to doing a century (100 miles). Had I not reset my bike computer during bike changes I would have known to put in another 10 miles… I had plenty of energy and food left, so it wouldn’t have been a problem. Oh well.

Here’s the data for today, as seen in Strava: Part 1: Gears / Part 2: Single Speed.

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Garmin Express and Proxy Settings

Garmin has recently moved to using Garmin Express for syncing and updating a number of its devices. I recently had to troubleshoot an issue where it wouldn’t work from within a corporate network that uses proxy servers. This has been widely reported on the Garmin Forums (eg: 1, 2), with the general consensus being that Express doesn’t support proxies. It turns out that this is incorrect; Express does support proxies, but because part of it runs as the LocalSystem Account (NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM) it typically doesn’t have access to the proxy settings.

First, the cause:

Garmin Express has three main components: a service called Garmin Core Update Service which is Garmin.Cartography.MapUpdate.CoreService.exe running as SYSTEM. The second is a tray applet, ExpressTray.exe, which automatically launches on boot running as the currently logged in user. This in turn launches Express.exe, which is the program’s main user interface. The Garmin Core Update Service handles the network communication with Garmin’s servers — something which would normally use proxy servers — but since the default in Windows is not to have proxy settings for the SYSTEM account, this service doesn’t know how to communicate with the outside world.

Now, a couple workarounds:

The first workaround is to change the Garmin Core Update Service to run as the user who needs to run Garmin Express. This works, but may experience wrinkles long-term. Setting the service to run as a specific user requires that user’s password, when password change time occurs (something fairly common on corporate networks) the service will likely fail to start. Additionally, it changes Garmin’s application architecture and may have other untold consequences such as becoming undone when Express updates itself, keeping Express from properly functioning on multi-user machines (read: tablets), etc.

The second workaround is to use the ProxySettingsPerUser policy setting to make the computer have one set of proxy settings for all accounts, user and SYSTEM alike. This is normally defined by Group Policy, but can be manually set by setting the registry value ProxySettingPerUser in HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings to DWORD 0x0. After changing this setting, resetting the proxy settings in Internet Options may be necessary.

By having one set of proxy settings system-wide, processes running as the SYSTEM account will then be aware of the proxy settings. However, if the corporate network uses some manner of authentication for its proxy servers then communication may still fail as Express may not have access to appropriate credentials.

I do not feel that either of these is a proper solution, neither good long-term or enterprise-wide, but both are usable for an individual attempting to resolve problems with a one-off installation. Ideally I’d like to see Garmin change Express so that network communication is handled as the user running the UI. Additionally, some customizable proxy options (eg: Use System Settings, Manually Specify Proxy, etc) as many other applications offer would make Express‘ internet communication considerably more flexible.

(This post applies to Garmin Express only. Newer versions may change this behavior.)

6 Comments Server Issues and Disk Replacement

My current webserver,, has been working well for a couple years, despite needing a proactive (due to bad BIOS chip) motherboard replacement and the normal quirks. This past Saturday morning, about 10am, one of the hard drives failed. Due to the use of a ZFS mirror pool for the root filesystem this shouldn’t have caused any problems, but it did. On top of that, due to not rebooting the server in 600-some days I ran into a few other quirks. Here’s what all happened, in chronological order, to get it running stable again:

  • Second hard disk, /dev/ada1, fails. ZFS throws up on itself and the storage basically falls out from under the OS. As a result, everything not in memory and database-backed websites fail.
  • An OS initiated reboot wouldn’t work (seemed to loop during sync) I powered off the server manually.
  • Upon powering the server up disk performance was really bad until /dev/ada1 was removed from the mirror pool. After this point disks settled out and all was good.
  • Outbound email from server wasn’t working due to DKIM-Milter / OpenDKIM failing to start. This could be bypassed, but this wasn’t a good solution because the MMBA Forum sends a fair bit of email notifications. DKIM-Milter failed to start because OpenSSL had been rebuilt due to Heartbleed  bug, but as I hadn’t restarted it since upgrading OpenSSL I didn’t notice the issue.
  • DKIM-Milter couldn’t be upgraded from Ports because FreeBSD 9.0-RELEASE (which was still running) had been depreciated and Ports intentionally broken on this release.
  • OS upgraded to FreeBSD 9.2-RELEASE-p6 using freebsd-update. DNS and mail broke, but this was fairly easy to fix. Update otherwise went smoothly.
  • Ports updated, OpenDKIM rebuilt, mail working again.
  • Upgraded ZFS on remaining disk with zpool upgrade -a command, then wrote new bootcode to ada0 using gpart bootcode -b /mnt2/boot/pmbr -p /mnt2/boot/gptzfsboot -i 1 ada0.

At this point the server was stable and I was able to replace the failed disk. The previous setup was with two Seagate ST1000DM003 disks (the mirror pool) and one Crucial M4 SSD (L2ARC). The biggest difficulty in replacing the disk is not the $54.44 cost of the replacement purchase; it’s setting up time to access the server in the data center. Since there was still one free disk bay in the server, instead of just replacing the one failed disk I decided to put two new ones in. These will then be configured into a three-way mirror pool with the SSD L2ARC. It cost a bit more, but now when the next magnetic disk dies (remember, all parts die eventually) I can drop it from the pool and still have two properly working drives, all without another data center visit.

During lunch today I headed over to the facility housing the server in Southfield (conveniently, only 15-20 minutes from work) and within the span of 12 minutes I’d met the escorts, downed the server, swapped the disks, and brought it back up confirming that they are in place and functional.

After getting the disks back I used hints from the FreeBSD Root on ZFS (Mirror) using GPT article to get the new disks partitioned for swap and boot, then added the /dev/ada1p3 and /dev/ada2p3 partitions to the mirror pool and made sure the L2ARC was working. Now everything’s (essentially) back to functionally normal, hopefully with better reliability than before.

So, what’s next? Probably a FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE upgrade, and better staying on top of patch levels so I don’t suffer the same fate as last time. Being a whole version upgrade there’ll need to be a good bit more planning and testing than this go around, but so long as I’m doing it less urgently, all should be good.

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2006 Honda Civic Navigation System GPS Data Viewing

Back in late 2005 when I purchased my current car, a 2006 Honda Civic EX, I found that the built-in navigation unit could record log files to a PC Card. Knowing nearly nothing about reverse engineering data files I gave up on the idea of using them for anything. Fast forward to a few months ago, and while poking around with GPSBabel for converting some mountain bike trail mapping data I noticed that it supports Honda/Acura Navigation System VP Log File Format (vpl), the format that I’d hoped to interpret all those years ago. The most basic, latitude/longitude parts of the format are documented here in

This morning I dug out a 512MB compact flash card and PC Card adapter, fitted it in the navigation unit, and used the hidden menu to enable logging. After grabbing the log file and running it through GPSBabel the end result is just what I’d hoped for: easy logging of wherever my car happens to go.

While it’s not terribly interesting to see the routine, boring local trips that I make, I am interested in recording a month’s worth of data and making a heat map, or perhaps visualizing a long trip I may take. This’ll be fun to play with, I only wish I’d noticed the converter sooner.

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Cutting Coroplast on a Table Saw

Some of the local mountain bike trails that I work on are in need of more signage, so a few months back I picked up a few sheets of Coroplast and a fellow CRAMBA-IMBA board member printed up some vinyl bicycle decals and directional arrows. This evening I finally got around to cutting the Coroplast, and after trying a few different methods I settled on using a table saw. While I only had a wood cutting blade I found that by using a fence and feeding at just the right speed I was able to make quick cuts and short work of producing 6″ x 4.5″ signs.

Now that this part is done I just have to get the decals applied distribute them as appropriate.

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Footbeds and Shims for Specialized Pro MTB Shoes

After a couple rounds of toe numbness and pain on longer rides with my new Specialized Pro MTB shoes (3+ hours, and on 4+ hour hard rides with my older shoes) I stopped by Fraser Bicycle and Fitness intending to pick up a set of higher arch support footbeds. Chris Goddard happened to be there and he checked me over, gave me a bunch of great advise about things to try, and set me up with 2x 1.5mm varus shims for each foot,  blue/moderate support footbeds, and the suggestion that I move my cleats back. While I only had my old shoes with me, these were enough to get a good feel for what I should try.

Upon arriving home I immediately put the footbeds and shims in my new shoes, moved the cleats back a bit (maybe 7mm) and hopped on the trainer to try it out. While I only got in ~10 minutes of spinning, the shoes felt like they fit much better to my feet than they had before. I’m looking forward to a longer ride, but I now feel more like my feet are solidly planted in the shoes when I begin applying force, not that they press into place as I pedal. I hope this translates into even more comfort while riding.

I’m pretty happy on all of my bikes, but these new shoes had me a bit worried. Then with a bit of foot pain during a six-hour endurance race on Saturday using my old shoes, I got a bit more concerned… This seems like a good way forward.


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In The Nick of Time

It’s a good thing that I decided to give the El Mariachi Ti a quick wash and a once-over before this Saturday’s race. I’d noticed some quirky shifting on the last couple of rides, and apparently this was the cause. I hadn’t planned on replacing the cable and housing this evening, but I was glad to do it now than angrily after dealing with a cable failure (and emergency single speed conversion) mid-race.

I’m really glad it didn’t let go on any of the other rides I’d done recently. I’d been noticing some issues with shifting near the top end of the cassette recently, but after recabling things those quirks seem gone and the bike is ready to ride.

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