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Category: cycling

Things I Learned Today

Today after work I rode to Rochester, then a little ways down the Paint Creek Trail, then back to work. It was a total of just over 16 miles, but they were particularly tiring. I also learned a bunch of things during the ride, and here are some of them:

· Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills are named that way for a reason. What is a fun, hilly area to drive is hell under one’s own power. A few miles of uphill with no trees gets tiring quickly.
· The gates at work will not open for a pedestrian or a person on a bicycle, regardless of if a person is swiping a badge or the guard is pressing the button. There seem to be hall effect sensors or something similar in the pavement, and my bike is too small, too non-ferrous, or both. Thankfully an AT&T guy was pulling into one of the data centers behind me, so I just pulled forward until the gate opened for him.
· The sort of crosswalks Rochester has installed on the Clinton River Trail are crap. Here is one. It has a raised median on which it is too small for a bike to stop, but it is ringed with plastic posts making it difficult to traverse in one go. These should be replaced with crosswalk signals and flashing yellows which turn red when someone presses a button. It’d then be easy to cross in light traffic, and easy (despite stopping) if traffic is heavy.
· I could ride to and from work in a reasonable amount of time, but the area near work would make it pretty unpleasant. I’d also be quite stinky and there aren’t showers at work. As I’ve now ridden this route in two separate pieces, one day when I have more daylight available I’ll do it in one go.
· Armhair, particularly mine, is very good at trapping gnats and other small insects when riding through swarms.
· I still don’t feel very comfortable on non-paved areas nor around other people while using pedals which attach me to the bike. I may need to loosen the tension, and I definitely need to work on the positioning of the cleats themselves on the shoes.
· Way, way too many people don’t know how to handle themselves around bike. When someone says “passing on your left”, don’t stop and turn around. Yes, you have the right of way, but you should be reasonably comfortable with where you are as well. You also should be courteous and not take up the whole width of the path with strollers, dogs, or your desire to ride two or three abreast at all times, particularly when you can see people coming in your direction.

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Bloody Knee

My knee after falling twice while getting comfortable with clipless pedals. The upper (closer) injury is a puncture wound from the brake lever and the lower is from the pavement. Both happened while stopping and failing to unclip my right foot.

Having a bike I was bound to fall eventually. Unfortunately today I fell twice, both times on account of not being familiar with the new Shimano PD-M540 pedals I installed last night.

The first time I was at the intersection of 24 Mile and VanDyke, on the sidewalk, and as I went to press the crosswalk light button I didn’t get my right foot unclipped and I toppled over against the pole. Because of how I fell the rear brake lever stabbed the top of my thigh, just above the knee, making a nice puncture wound. The second time I’d just returned home and I pulled up in front of the mailbox and again didn’t manage to get my right foot unclipped before I toppled over, with my right knee, the rear rack, and the handlebar all hitting at just about the same time. The second fall hurt a lot more, but only scraped an area about the size of a dime. It still hasn’t finished bleeding.

Beyond my needing to get familiar with the pedals, I think I like them. I rode just over 20 miles today and for the most part I had no problems dealing with them. I just need to get the idea of pivoting my foot before moving it more ingrained.

There’s no GPS plot of the ride because I didn’t feel like logging one, but I rode from my house to the head of the Macomb Orchard Trail by way of 24 Mile Road before winding my way back home. Here is approximation of the route, save for the bit of trail leading from 24 Mile to Dequindre, and a few bits of wandering down side roads.

Oh, and the wind. ~20 MPH gusts aren’t much fun, particularly when you are riding straight into them. I had a hard time maintaining 12 MPH for the route down VanDyke back to 22 Mile.

I feel dumb about falling over, but it just shows that I need to get more familiar with using these pedals. My bike shorts and shirt are in the wash so that I can bring my bike to work tomorrow and possibly go riding from there. There’s a bunch of nicely accessible trails and paths leading from the end of the road my building is on, so it’d be a nice place to go riding. I’d just need to be sure to sort out dinner beforehand. And not fall over while practically standing still.

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Shimano PD-M540

Detail of the Shimano PD-M540 clipless pedals installed on my bike after cleaning it up and having the wheels trued.

While at Fraser Bicycle & Fitness (my preferred local bike shop) after work to get my bent wheel trued I ended up grabbing a pair of Shimano PD-M540 clipless pedals. I had originally been looking at the PD-M520 which has, but something about the PD-M540s jumped out at me. In particular, they are tightened down a bit differently (hex bit through the back side of the crank), and they appear to be easier to disassemble for overhauling (no need for a special tool). At US$79.99 they were only US$5 more than Amazon, so the price was pretty reasonable as well.

I was told that if my front wheel gets bent again, it’s most likely going to have to be replaced, but for now it’s pretty much straight. There’s a very slight wobble (1mm – 2mm at most), but it seems pretty good otherwise.

Before putting the wheels back on my bike I disassembled, cleaned, and greased the rear pulleys (jockey and tension). I also gave the the inside of the derailer cage and other dirty bits some special attention before giving the whole of the frame a washdown. It was pretty muddy from Saturday’s rainy ride and I wanted it clean again.

It was after 10pm so I didn’t want to test the new pedals out tonight, but hopefully I’ll be able to do that tomorrow. The cleats are fitted on my shoes, but I’m sure they’ll need some tweaking position-wise before I’m comfortable with them.

There are more photos of the pedals on this page, if you are interested.

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Meijer Special

I found this sheet of VeraTron VHS tape labels in the parking lot in front of my condo one day after work.

While checking the mail after work today I found this sheet of labels for VeraTron-brand VHS tapes sitting in the middle of the parking lot. If I remember correctly this is/was one of the Meijer house brands.

Due to work being kinda crappy today (poor scheduling, yay!) I was unable to take my bike wheel in. When I got home I took a look at the rear wheel and it too has a bit of wobble, but nowhere near as much. I ended up removing both wheels, pulling the tires/tubes off, and cleaning them up (including the rear cassette) before putting them in the car. I also took the time to remove the chain and give it a quick wash in some citrus-based degreaser. I’m really amazed at just how much crud was on there. Everything from dirt to little (dust-like) sparkly metal bits, which I presume wore off of the brand new chain.

Washing the chain was done by putting it in a juice bottle with a couple ounces of solvent, alternately shaking it around and letting it sit for 10 minutes before fishing it out, giving it a quick rinse in hot tap water, and spinning it dry outside. I then let it sit on a paper towel while working on the wheels, then applied some ProLink Chain Lube. Then I alternately lifted one end of the chain then the other, working the lube in, and now it’s sitting on the washer. I figure the light solvent which carries the heavier grease will evaporate as it sets there, and it’ll be ready to go back on my bike tomorrow or Wednesday.

Tomorrow I’ll (hopefully) get the wheels sorted out, then clean the mud off my bike from Saturday’s rainy ride, clean off the dirty parts of the other drivetrain bits, then get my bike back together. This week’s forecast looks to be just beautiful, so I’d like to try and get in at least 50 miles by the weekend. Come the weekend I’d like to try and top 30 miles in one go; likely by trying to ride from my house to the end of the Paint Creek Trail, or maybe to work and back.

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Park Tool SW-7

A Park Tool SW-7 Triple Spoke Wrench I picked up so I could try straightening my front wheel.

After bending my front wheel a bit yesterday while riding I headed with Danielle over to REI to grab a spoke wrench. I ended up getting a Park Tool SW-7 for $9.99, and after getting home I read up a bit more on wheel truing and gave it a go.

Not having a truing stand I tried using a chopstock, some non-slip padding, and a small bar clamp in place of a feeler, but it didn’t work out very well. I was able to get the wheel to wobble less, but it still didn’t seem perfect to me. Also, I worry that I’m screwing up the dish of the wheel.

I think that tomorrow after work I’m going to try and go by Fraser Bicycle & Fitness and see if they can sort out the wheel for me. I really hope I don’t have to buy a new one. I imagine I won’t, as the wobble isn’t too bad. Hopefully it won’t cost too much for them to fix it, either…

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20 Miles In The Rain

Cateye Strada Wireless computer on my bike, wet from riding in the rain.

Despite what I said in my last post I went for a nice, long bike ride today. Sometime mid-afternoon the weather was looking better (only a few occasional drop falling) and I was feeling crappy, so I put on some BDU pants, my normal boots, a rainproof jacket, helmet and gloves, and hopped on my bike. I hadn’t intended to go particularly far, but I ended up doing a bit over 20 miles.

I started out by going west down 22 Mile to VanDyke, VanDyke north to 23 Mile, then 23 Mile west to Dequindre north. Not long after getting on Dequindre I came across a possible destination, the easternmost end of the Clinton River Trail. This is right near Onyx Ice Arena, and right where it meets with the Macomb Orchard Trail, which Danielle, Brian, and I rode a five mile section of last weekend. I then got on the Clinton River Trail, headed into downtown Rochester, and rode along the marked route to the beginning of the Paint Creek Trail.

After stopping for a few minutes to look at the river and grab this photo I turned around and headed home. Not long before this the rain had picked up, and so the rest of the ride home was in a steady drizzle. As noted a week ago it’s good to get out in the rain, and it really isn’t that bad.

This ride wasn’t all good, though. While crossing Shelby Road along 23 Mile, and preparing to cross to the south side of 23 Mile, I made a slow, but very sharp turn at a crosswalk. When doing so my front wheel slipped sideways and I almost fell, but was able to hop off and catch the bike. As this happened I felt my right leg above the knee quite gently, but thought nothing of it. Continuing to ride, I noticed that my front wheel now has a distinct wobble. After getting home I’ve since noticed that there are two loose spokes, 90° apart, on the same side of the wheel. I guess tomorrow I’ll pick up a spoke wrench (yes, I know, I really should have one of these) and have at sorting the wheel out.

That said, I’m almost tempted to just bring the front wheel into the shop where I bought the bike. It’s hard to imagine that it should have gone out of true so easily, and they do offer a free bike “tune up” after buying one, which I never took them up on. I could pick up a spoke wrench at that time too, I guess.

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Coffee in Lieu of Biking

Making coffee in a classic Bialetti Moka one rainy Saturday morning.

I really wanted to go for a nice 25 mile ride today, but the rain is making that difficult so instead I’m sipping coffee, eating vanilla yogurt with Trader Joe’s berry granola, and poking around online.

There was a really nice rainbow hanging over M-59 on the way home from work yesterday and then a hail-producing, sky-blackening storm right at dusk, which I hoped would be the end of the inclement weather. Unfortunately it’s not.

Maybe I’ll go clean up the kitchen and start (and hopefully finish) laundry, and then if I’m lucky tomorrow will be a bit nicer out.

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Good Customer Service

Those of you who know me know that I’m not particularly shy about complaining about poor products, poor customer service, or other things which I’m not too happy about. While I also will mention products and companies I’m happy with, I don’t make particularly permanent record of it.

Recently I’ve had a couple good customer experiences and I wanted to make note of them, so I started a page on called Good Customer Service. The three which I currently have listed are Cateye (replaced a broken part, although it’s arguable if this is good or just acceptable), VG’s (who put in a bike rack on request), and Cequent (who sent me a new bolt after I stupidly broke the last one).

On a slightly related note, I received a fastener kit from Cequent today which included the U bolt I broke, and I had no problems fitting it on to the car. I even torqued it down with the questionable wrench, but only after first exercising the wrench to be certain that it’s appropriately clicking when reaching the desired torque. Now that I understand it and it’s shortcomings, it’s a reasonable, but cheap torque wrench. I don’t think I’ll be returning it.

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Riding to River Bends

After work today I decided to try riding to River Bends Park in Shelby Township, just west of here. I wanted to get there safely using as most pavement as possible, and I did, going as far as one of the old buildings from when the park land was a Nike Hercules missile site. The military standard yellow paint can still be seen on some of the steps above.

Lots more about the Nike program can be found at Wikipedia and Ed Thelen’s Nike Missile Web Site .

Riding there with 20 MPH winds right in my face was a bit challenging, and they caused me to swerve whenever I’d be riding perpendicular to them, but they made riding home nice and easy. I then wound my way home for a total of about 13 miles, put the basket on my bike, then went up to the store for some groceries. All in all I think I rode just abotu 16 – 16.5 miles.

Hopefully another day this week, or maybe this weekend, I can try to make it all the way to Stony Creek via a reasonably safe route.

Here’s two KMZ files, one from yesterday when Danielle, , and I rode a bit over 10 miles on one of the local converted railroad trails, and one from today when I went over to River Bends:

· 06-Apr-2008.kmz (Google Maps)
· 07-Apr-2008.kmz (Google Maps)

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Broken U Bolt On Hitch

This is what happens when one uses a torque wrench expecting it to work right, without a understanding of what 20 foot pounds feels like. Before heading off to the park with Danielle, I decided to take my new (and admittedly cheap) Michigan Industrial Tools torque wrench and check the torque on the bolts on my hitch.

I set the wrench for 20 foot pounds, put it on the bolt, and pushed. Since the torque wrench is supposed to click when it reaches the amount of torque specified, and I didn’t hear any click, I figured it had to be tighter, so I pushed a bit more. The bolt turned, then I pushed a bit more. Suddenly there was a BANG and the bolt clattered to the ground having broken off.

Later in the evening I hooked the torque wrench to another wrench and tried it out, applying force every way I could think of, and it wouldn’t click. I played with it a bunch, turned the adjustment all the way in and out a few times, applied more force to it, and after about 20 minutes of playing it finally freed up and started working. I then found out how little force 20 foot pounds actually is.

It took my working the adjustment part of the tool back and forth a few times, and then applying a solid amount of force opposite the direction the torque wrench should be used in (that is, against the arrow) before I felt something loosen up inside the tool and it started working.

So, it turns out that the problem seems to have been caused by my lack of knowledge and the torque wrench’s generally being crap. I’m still torn as to whether or not I should return it. Sure, it only cost ~$30, but if it’s not reliable it’s not particularly useful.

The bigger problem is finding another bolt. What I need is a 3/8-16 u-bolt, for 9/16″ outside diameter pipe, but I can’t seem to find it. Checking both McMaster-Carr and Grainger, all I can find is 1/4-20 parts at that spacing. McMaster-Carr lists the 1/4-20 stainless steel part as having a working load limit of 435 pounds, which is probably 4x or 5x what the bikes and hitch weigh. I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it might be my only choice.

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