Monday, October 31, 2011

Turkey Xing

Happened too fast to take a photo,  but on Saturday when I was leaving Star Market on the Cambridge/ Watertown line, I had to merge into the left lane to avoid the pair of really large wild turkeys  who were in the rightmost lane of Mt Auburn Street.    Fortunately traffic was light, so I signaled, moved over, and then resumed my path of travel once I was past.

Those guys better make themselves scarce,  it's getting close to that time of year that someone might want to try "free range" turkey...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How the Pedals failed

One (hopefully) last data point on pedalpalooza.

I ordered a triangle head screwdriver online after striking out at Radio Shack,  and promptly took apart the dead pedals, and one live right pedal.

Removing the black end cap reveals a circuit board and LEDs, which lifts up off of a bayonet mount 

There are three gears.  The one with the visible screw head is the end of the drive shaft (pedal)  The large one in the foreground has two tiers,  one in back with 18 teeth, and one in the front with 35.  The smaller cog mates with the pedal spindle, and the larger one mates with the generator spindle (the metal one on the left), creating current.

Bayonet mount for the circuit board on the right

When I removed the intermediary gear on the two pedals which no longer work, it became obvious why they don't work anymore- a section of teeth on the smaller cog are sheared off.  

When I took apart the right pedal (which has never been installed)  the circuit board is handed, but the other parts are basically the same, just a mirror image.   I took the center gear out of the good pedal, and put it in the bad pedal and reassembled it and the generator and the  circuit board and LEDs are perfectly fine.

So,  if only I could get replacement gears I could at least fix the one bad pedal whose threading I didn't mangle.  A cursory search though shows that it's not that simple.  I could probably get them custom made, but finding one with exactly the right diameter and number of teeth on both the top and bottom, the right bore for the spindle and the right height "stock" would be a real challenge.  I found a very technical post on getting custom gears cut for repairing a iRobot Roomba, and it sounds like the tooling is pretty expensive ($300)  and only starts to make sense if you are making hundreds of them.

I may contact Pedalite and see if they would sell me replacement gears.  Their customer service has been really good,  so they might do it.  It means that I would have at least one more left pedal that would still be operational, and a right pedal that's never been installed,  and I could put both of them on another bike- which might be good if I start riding Minerva more.  It's also possible that if they have a lot of failures of this gear they could/ should consider making it out of metal instead of plastic.  It would probably cost a few cents more, but maybe they'd consider it in order to make a more durable long lasting product.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Bike ride

I will probably not make it this year, since it's a weeknight, but it's a fabulous time!  More information here 

If you're going, you really should go in costume,  you'll stick out like a sore thumb without one,  lots of people spend lots of time on fabulous costumes and decorated bikes.  (link with bonus shot of old kitchen- wow it's even worse than I remembered it!)

Awesome DIY gloves

This morning was the first really chilly ride of the fall- complete with thin crusts of ice on a couple of puddles, and a tiny bit of snow on a couple of cars.   I've been wearing gloves all week, but my leather and thinsulate gloves aren't going to cut it much longer- my fingers were pretty chilly today.

Looking for "urban cycling gloves"  I found these amazing gloves which light up in a chevron when you close your hand into a loose fist. Check out the video of her making a right turn!

I think I'm going to go order some LEDs and some conductive thread right now!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Biking = convenient

Although this is often true, it was doubly so in Cambridge this weekend, as the annual Head of the Charles Regatta snarled traffic and made parking impossible in my neighborhood.  I had to borrow the Scientist's car to take Gilbert out to Harris for an emergency pedalectomy,  and it was pretty awful.

Adam at Harris was pretty certain that the crank I had bought at Broadway was french thread,  which would explain why it devoured my pedal so quickly.   He managed to scrounge a compatible (if not matching) crank from a Robin Hood parts bike,  and even was generous enough to swap out my stripped but otherwise perfectly  good left pedal with the left pedal on their display model, which doesn't need to do anything except flash.

Interestingly my thought about "permanently" affixing the pedal to the crank wasn't that crazy, as he felt like the (worn) threads of the new old crank might be a bit wobbly, and installed it with red loctite,  the kind that you need to heat with a torch to remove.   Luckily, I have a torch,  but Adam gently suggested that perhaps for an everyday year round workhorse bike I should bite the bullet and spring for a Phil Wood BB and singlespeed crankset that would be a bit less finicky and more robust than a cottered system.  Raleighs of this vintage having an odd 26 tpi bottom bracket threading so it's either a Phil wood, which makes a special Raleigh cup, or one of the "universal" threadless sleeves. I know that Velo Orange sells the latter, but I don't know how well they work (Adam suggested not that well).   I have certainly considered swapping systems, and he's probably right about a more durable and simple system for a workhorse bike.  Will put it on my future plans list.

When I finally fought my way back home, and found parking many many blocks from home, I spent a couple of much needed hours organizing and cleaning house in preparation for dinner guests.

When I was finally ready to start cooking, I needed some ingredients, and Gilbert's red loctite was still setting, but I wasn't about to drive.  I had ordered special axle nuts for Minerva, but through a warehouse error, they sent me the wrong size.  The new ones won't arrive until next week (they're sending them for free in apology for their error)  but I decided that the front wheel was stable enough for a couple of quick stops.   Riding down Prospect street, the cars were so far backed up that I felt comfortable filtering, and soon found myself in a little crowd of  completely unrelated riders.  We joked that we were a mini-mass,  and as the lane narrowed at the intersection, we took the lane together- 6 riders in approximately the same footprint as a midsized sedan.  I managed to whip out my phone and catch a couple of shots before the light changed.

Bright smile and cute flats!

At Trader Joe's people had decided it was easier to bike as well- there was this aggregation of interesting bikes- AVelorbis with a cool front wine box, a longtail, and a bike I'd never heard of called a Von Backhaus (that Google tells me is a Danish brand), all locked together in a giant nugget of transport bike goodness.

The "Von Backhaus"  had a unique skirt guard that I'd never seen before.  My first thought was DIY,  but with all the snaps across the back and the difficulty of sewing that kind of cordura nylon, it's probably storebought.

At the head of the Charles, the road was closed to cars, and there were tons of bikes everywhere, locked to anything that wasn't moving.   They did have some temporary bike racks, but only in one location,  so people locked to whatever they could.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perplexing Pedal Problems

I’m having no end of frustrations with Gilbert's left pedal.
While I love the additional visibility of the flashing Pedalite pedals with the internal generator, I’ve had three pedals fail on the left side.  Inconveniently the pedals are sold only in pairs, and I'm starting to accumulate a large collection of right threaded pedals!

Ever since Gilbert's initial build, it felt like there was a noticeable “wobble” in the left pedal- which was especially noticeable when I’d been riding another bike, and got back on Gilbert.   I looked for a long time for a replacement vintage crank, and then after deciding the ones on ebay were awfully pricy for something that also might be broken (buying other people's problems!), I bought a left reproduction crank.  Unfortunately when it arrived it was poorly made and the cotter pin hole was out of round and too small.  Unfortunately I only realized this after I’d removed the old crank!

Looking at the crank it didn’t seem bent in any way,  and I wondered if having installed it with poor quality cotter pins could have caused the wobble.  I also needed to ride to work the next day, so I reinstalled the crank  with the fancy pantsy cotter, and went ahead and threaded in the brand new pedalite pedal to see how it worked.  I followed the same procedure that I've always done, greasing the threads with Phil's waterproof grease, hand threading it and then hand tightening it with a box wrench.

Unfortunately I had put the crank too close to the bottom bracket, and the crank was hitting the kickstand a tiny bit- just enough to make a tic-tic tic noise.  I tried to remove the kickstand to reposition it, but I couldn't loosen the bolt  and it was getting late, so I hit it with some PB blaster and decided to try it again in the morning.
I couldn’t get it in the morning either, so I decided that I could live with the annoyance, and headed to work.  On the ride home, I noticed the pedal was quite wobbly, so I tried to pedal mostly with the right leg (!)  and limped home.   I tried to remove the crank, only to find that the pedal threads AND the crank threads were completely fubared.    And NO, since you asked I did not force a right pedal on a left crank- I know because I tried that for about 10 seconds, realized my error and got the left pedal.  I used the left pedal,  I didn't use any unnecessary force, and although I understand that crossthreading with steel pedal threads and aluminum cranks is a common cause of damage, this is a steel crank,  and although I can underestimate my strength, I have a hard time believing that I torqued it enough to force it on and do that kind of damage.   I am NOT certain that the crank wasn't previously damaged, but I didn't notice anything unusual when I hand threaded the new pedal on.

I was lucky to find a replacement left crank in the parts bin at Broadway bikes.  I checked it out against a Raleigh sports that was in the shop for service, and measured it and it seemed the same as the ones I have.  It was stamped L,  and didn’t have the little Sir William etching that mine had, but otherwise seemed identical to the old one.

So I replaced the crank, mangling an artisanal cotter pin in the process, making certain to put the crank outboard the same distance as the drive side pedal to duck the kickstand issue (for now).   Since the brand new pedal’s thread was destroyed, I thought I’d put an old rubber block pedal I had on for the moment.
Strangely, these pedals didn’t want to thread onto the crank (yes, I know that seems like a warning sign)  but I did have one of the old pedalite pedals on which the electronics had failed, but the threading seemed fine.  And it screwed  in easily to the crank….

Again, rode off to work, and on the way there, noticed that the pedal was unthreading itself from the crank !!!!  I’ve never had this happen,  and I had tightened it reasonably but not excessively.  I pulled over, and it seemed not only unthreaded but loose, and it looks like the threads are destroyed in the same way the new pedals were!!   

Can't tell for certain, but the threads on the crank look undamaged, or at least less damaged.

At this point I’m not sure what to do.   I understand that it's fairly standard to have the crank tapped out and use a threaded bushing for a new pedal,  but then I’d have to buy yet another set of new pedals.  Also Harris has the bushings and the tap, but are hesitant to do it to a chromed steel crank.  additionally, I don’t know if it’s possible to cut new smaller threads on the brand new pedal that’s ruined to make it fit somehow with one of those 1/2 to 9/16" adapters?

This is going to sound extreme, but if this new crank has damaged threads, and the new pedal has damaged threads, I’m seriously considering epoxying the pedal into the crank,  and using it until it fails from weather or old age, and then tossing both crank and pedal,  and solving the problem then.  My only concern would be damaging the BB.  And that that point I'd just scrap the damn cottered cranks,  buy a threadless BB bearing and new crankset!
Before I do that I’m going to take Gilbert to Harris and see what they have to say.
Until then any suggestions from the blogosphere?

Bike the Emerald Necklace?

Frustrated with the lack of safe pedestrian and bicycle connections at Rt 9?

I'm not as familiar with this area as I am Cambridge and points west. The tweed ride came through here though, and it's a pretty lame connection between two otherwise very pleasant off road paths.
Brookline is having a meeting on improving this connection and would like your input:

Public Meeting: Brookline, Emerald Necklace Bicycle and Pedestrian Crossings Committee Meeting
Thu, November 3, 7pm – 9pm
Brookline Town Hall, Board of Selectmen Hearing Room, 6th Floor, 333 Washington St., Brookline, MA - map

Project Objective: The Town of Brookline would like to explore safety and connectivity options at this connection (where the Riverway and Olmsted Park is seperated by Route 9) and the need to develop a preferred alternative that could be advanced to develop a final design solution which will: increase the connection between the Emerald Necklace Parks included in the project area, improve the ability of pedestrians and bicycles to cross Route 9 (Washington St.), reduce confusion and improve the overall circulation of all modes, and make the area more attractive and livable.

Agenda: -Introduction of Committee Members and Design Team -Review Scope of Project -Committee Members and Public opportunity to provide input on needs, issues, and goals of the project -Next Steps and Schedule

For additional information, please go to Public Works/Projects at . If you have any questions please or call Robert Kefalas at 617-730-2258

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Third Charles River Connectivity meeting

Just a reminder- meeting tonight, Tuesday the 18th at the Morse School in Cambridge,  6:30 to 8:30!  Come by and convey your connectivity concerns to the committee.

 One I'd like to add after riding home from the Tweed ride on Sunday-  why on earth is the sidewalk just east of the BU bridge on the Cambridge side so darn narrow?  The merging lane is only one lane wide, but it's easily 16' wide,  while pedestrians and bikes are crammed into a narrow 4' with a railing on one side and a 1' dropoff curb on the other!

Bike Parking bonanza

Cambridge is reconstructing  Dunster street between Mt. Auburn and Mass Ave.  They're putting in raised crosswalks (where the crosswalk is the height of the sidewalk, and the cars have to go up and down instead of the pedestrians.   They've also put in a generous parking area (I think 12 racks or 24 spots)  which is much needed in this area, just down the street from the substandard racks at Au Bon Pain:

Even though it's not completed or "open" and it was a nasty rainy night, people were taking advantage of the facilities already!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A ride in the woods

Last weekend, I was invited to participate in the 2011 version of Apple Picking by Bike.  Cris, silentq, and their friend R  were heading to Nashoba Valley Orchard/ Winery from Arlington.   I had already bought so many farmstand apples that I didn't want to actually pick the apples, but was interested in the ride.
I compromised by riding to the end of the minuteman with them, and then turning around and heading home, with a stop in Arlington heights for lunch with a co-worker.

The weather was lovely, and the trail was packed.  This group of girls had the "location, location, location" thing down for their lemonade stand:

The most fun part of the ride though was after the "terminus" of the Minuteman proper, when we headed out on the "Reformatory Branch"  trail,  which evidently used to be the route to the prison in Concord.

It was a kind of riding that I don't do very often- "off road"  but more like a logging road than a mountain biking singletrack.   I don't think that Gilbert is really equipped for serious off roading, but he handled this lovely path through the woods with aplomb.

I would love to do more riding like this,  as it was lovely and tranquil.  We saw only a couple of pedestrians, who I believe were neighbors of the trail rather than "through hikers"  and a single pair of bikers, so it didn't have the complications of a MUP.

When we hit 62  it seemed like the path ended (subsequent perusal of a map indicated that it continued, but was not well marked)  so I turned around, while the rest went on for apple picking.  It was a glorious day and a wonderful ride, and I was glad that I got to do at least part of the ride.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Charles River Connectivity Meeting Notes

I went to the first of the three connectivity study meetings, and was a little surprised by what it was.   I thought that Mass DOT was going to be reporting on findings of a study.  Instead the meetings this week and next week are to solicit public comments and recommendations for improving connectivity in the Charles River basin.  The study team, which includes Halvorson design and Alta planning have done existing conditions analysis (including a "field trip" actually getting DOT and DCR staff out on bikes to ride through the entire area- which was evidently eye opening for them!).

They're now soliciting (your?)  input and then will put together recommendations which they will present in a meeting in the spring.   These are "unfunded" wish lists, but by having the research done now, they'll be more ready to respond when funding for improvements becomes available,  and closer to "shovel ready" if more infrastructure money becomes available.

I won't get too much into the details, but if you have a particular pet peeve about getting to and from the river paths, or about connections parallel to the river,  the next two meetings (this Thursday and next Tuesday) would be a fantastic time to bend the ear of the design team,  who were writing down comments on giant maps as people made them.

My "hit list"
Hawthorne st crosswalk just west of Harvard sq.  There's hope of putting a light there at some point as part of the reconfiguration of JFK/ Mem drive.

Connections between Allston/Brighton/ Newton and the river along Nonantum.  The combination of a steep slope,  industrial land and a significant grade change make crossing to get to the river pretty awful from North Harvard st to Watertown sq.

Crossing across Rt 2 near the Elliot bridge to get to BB&N,  Watertown, or Mt Auburn street is really tough as a pedestrian or biker.

Connections parallel to the river around Western Ave- River Street on the Boston side which are godawful right now.

What would be your "hit list"?

Basically the designers and DOT/ DCR people were saying all the right things.  What concerned me was that several people, including the longtime active transportation advocate Marty Walz were complaining about how much of a menace scofflaw bicyclists were, and how increased cyclist facilities and numbers (hubway) were making it more dangerous to be a pedestrian.   The DCR guy (whose name I didn't catch- might have been Dan Driscoll) did mention that it goes a bit both ways and that a weaving texting headphone wearing pedestrian can be a menace as well.   It's hyperbole for Marty to say that  "stepping off the curb you're taking your life into your hands,"  (all the jaywalkers on Water street downtown didn't get that memo I guess)  and she knows as well as we do the relative risks of being hit by a car vs a bike,  but still, "we've" got to find some kind of way to stop alienating pedestrians.

Pedestrians and bicyclists should be natural allies in the quest for safer, more livable streets,  which is why it's so disturbing to hear that rhetoric.    I commented that as long as pedestrians and bicyclists are fighting for crumbs of the roadway,  no one will be comfortable, and that adequate facilities were key in reducing conflicts.   In the meantime though, "we" have a major PR problem.  I think that even bikers who don't "blow" lights,  tend to look for cars and then proceed, without much thought for pedestrians.  Let's not even talk about sidewalk riding.   Enforcement would be a good start,  but self restraint would be an even better one.   But it's a conundrum- how to discourage individual behavior that reflects badly on an entire class?   I don't think anyone in the advocacy community has any ideas on how to solve this problem,  and it's going to either be, or be perceived as, a bigger problem as bicycle ridership grows.  It's complicated by the fact that the people most likely to display jerky behavior are the least likely to be accessible through an advocacy campaign, or to care about the public image of all cyclists as a class.   They're just hell bent on getting where they're going, other road users be damned.

So what should "we"  do to improve the image of bicyclists as respectable citizens who obey laws and are considerate of others? Assuming that all of you reading this are models of bicycling rectitude,  what can be done about those we see menacing pedestrians,  fueling cager talk show host rants by blowing lights, or endangering other bikers by riding as ninja salmon?  Does shaming work?  Should we encourage police crackdowns?  Education?  We gotta come up with something, because so far just trusting that better facilities will attract more civic minded cyclists isn't working.


A couple of events worth noting for Boston Area folks:

Charles River Basin Connectivity meeting- Mass DOT is presenting the results of a study they did identifying gaps in connecting the river paths with the communities they serve.   There are three meetings to come and ask questions (and encourage them to build more connections, not fewer!).
Tonight October 11, 6:30-8pm Shriner's auditorium near MGH  51 Blossom St.
Thursday Oct 13,  6:30 to 8pm Community Rowing,  20 Nonantum Rd, Brighton.
Tuesday Oct 18th, 6:30- 8PM  Morse School  40 Granite St, Cambridge.
I'll be at the first and third, volunteering for LSA,  so come by and say Hi.

Tweed Ride-  next Sunday Oct 16th, meeting at the Frog pond at 10:30.  Bring a picnic lunch for the ride out the Emerald Necklace to Franklin park and back.   I was so inspired by the lovely ride this spring that I attempted to overhaul Agnes (the 1936 Lady's Tourist) with Koolstops and a new, more road worthy rear tire.  I'm struggling with the rear brake linkage though.  I "think"  that at the top most connection where the rod that comes down from the lever goes into the first adjustment point, the rod is pulled too far out of the tube, so that there isn't enough travel to pull the rear stirrup forward at all.  However, I'm not able to move the rod at all to push it further "in"  I left it marinating in PB blaster, and need to see if that had any effect.

It's a more complicated system than Minerva's brakes, with a set of counterbalancing springs on both front and back brake shoes.   If all else fails, I'll ride it sans rear brakes (weather permitting)  and solicit advice from the group.

My old bike mechanical travails notwithstanding, it should be a lovely time, and I highly encourage everyone to attend!  Neither old bikes nor costumes are required, but a spirit of good genteel fun is.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I have a confession to make.  I've been casting admiring glances, trolling for "dates" on Craigslist, and I've been coveting another's property.    In short, I've been looking for a touring bike all summer on Clist and in various vintage venues (say that three times fast).  I even talked the Scientist into driving me all the way out to Dudley MA for the swap in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.

I went so far as to dig out the bike my Dad bought me in high school,  on which I have ridden many miles, mostly in the rolling hills of the Ozarks,  but also in the steep hills of Salt Lake City,  and the flatlands of Houston and Boston.
Old Skool
 It's a Trek 420 from1989.  A completely decent "sport tourer".  It's a featherweight compared to Gilbert,  or any of my other bikes.  After striking out so many times (a near miss of a Miyata 610 in my size was particularly heartbreaking), I thought that maybe I could fit out the Trek to be a touring bike,  because The Scientist and I have dreamed about doing some long rides, and even maybe some multi- day touring.   While I've successfully ridden Gilbert 70 miles in a day,  I don't think that that's really a solution.

The last time I rode the Trek was in 2008, which I remember all too well because I was right hooked.
It was the only time I've had an accident in four years of daily commuting. Robert was in the shop, so I rode the Trek.  I was filtering up, and someone in the slow moving queue suddenly turned right.   I managed to stop/ swerve/ push off their quarterpanel,  and was only scraped up by falling,  but it was scary, and I was convinced that if I'd been riding an upright bike it wouldn't have happened.  It wouldn't have happened if I weren't filtering either, and it's one of the reasons that I generally don't anymore.

So I thought maybe I could make it into a touring bike.  I have it, it basically fits (maybe a touch small) and it's a decent frame and a perfectly fine set of Shimano components (Biopace!!).  Additionally I was having a stressful summer and decided that strenuous exercise was a better solution to stress than Ben and Jerry's  Despite years of neglect,  all I had to do was pump up the (Specialized Armadillo) tires,  remove the misguided clipless pedals *, and re-install the original toe-clip pedals that were still lingering in my bike parts bin. (moral of the story-never throw ANYTHING away)

* there's a whole post about how terrible an idea the clipless pedals were...I also raised the stem to the "max" line.
Gilbert looks on in horor, as I excavate the Trek from the depths of the bike shed

Why yes,  that is the legendary  "flickstand"

I took a couple of 10 mile rides, mostly alone, but a couple with the Scientist.  And,  well, I'm not sure it's worth the effort of conversion.   Compared to Gilbert, the Trek was so squirrely- feeling like it will turn on a dime,  when all I want to do is cruise effortlessly along.   It probably doesn't help that while I feel comfortable going fast on it,  I'm very tentative when going slow, which unfortunately, makes me slow even further, when perhaps I should speed up for greater stability.  (I have this problem skiing too).  It's a lot of fun to really go fast,  and with legs honed by pushing 45 lbs of bike around an hour every day for years,  I could easily keep up with the longer legged Scientist.  I even tried drafting for the first time,  which was a bit too much for my fledgling confidence.
The downside of no chain case
 I was comfortable for the long and mostly deserted straightaways along the lightly trafficked river roads in Watertown,  but once I ended up in traffic either in Cambridge or in Waltham, I found myself tensing up, worrying I would lose control and be hit by a car,  or when on the path, worrying I would hit a pedestrian, feeling like I had to contort my body just to see where I was going.  Gilbert may or may not be perfectly adjusted for my body,  but after so many rides,  I've adapted to him, and feel like the bike is an extension of me.  I don't have to think about turning, I just lean and shift and I'm turned.  I feel like I have to think (worry) too much on the Trek.

Turning veeeerrrrry carefully.
I rode a Clist Shogun 400 and despite somewhat crappy components, and a way overblown price,  it felt a lot more comfortable than the Trek.  Maybe not quite as "go fast"  but a lot more like a bike you could ride one handed for a minute without crashing.  My coworker P-  who has done a lot of Clist finding and seeking,  says that winter is the best time to find bargains,  so I'll just keep looking and hoping for the right bike to come along.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In case you feel like

Spending 1 1/2 hours on a weeknight making a kick a$$ batch of enchiladas,  might I suggest this recipe, from the ever reliable Homesick Texan blog (now with bonus cookbook).
Apologies for the photo- decided they were blog-worthy only after they were aloquatted into Tupperware

The Scientist is having a tough week in the heart of the semester, so I thought it might bolster his spirits to have some genuine, made with love enchiladas.

I won't say that they're a simple meal on the table in 30 minutes or anything, but they're really really tasty.  I never used to cook "Tex Mex"  when I lived in Houston, but now that's the only way to get a reliable fix of "the good stuff."   Since people who live in Texas just go out for this kind of food, there aren't many recipes for Tex mex (lots of good ones for mex- mex.  but I've found that Homesick Texan ( a Texan who found herself craving the foods of home while living in NYC) is a reliable passport to the foods of my youth.

I'm hoping to get the cookbook for my birthday or Christmas (hint hint), and the real downside to making a recipe from a digital screen is that you can't write in the margins "double sauce recipe".
maybe this weekend I'll make a double sauce recipe up to the point where you add flour, and then can it for a night when I don't feel like spending so much time, but could use some comfort food.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Last day for reduced price Hubway

Just a reminder-  if you've been thinking of buying a Hubway annual membership, today is the last day to get the reduced $60 annual rate.   I'm sort of shocked at how much I've used it,  being a regular commuter with my own bike.

 I've used it to rent a bike to bring a friend along,  on days when it was pouring in the morning but nice at night,  on days when I just didn't feel up to riding the whole way in,  or when my bike wasn't available for some reason.

I know that they'll be going away in November sometime, but the annual membership will be great to have in the spring when they bring them back out, including on the other side of the river!  I definitely feel that I've gotten my money's worth, even in a couple of weeks,  and having an unlimited annual membership makes me a lot more likely to use it than if I had to evaluate the worth of each trip.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ironic packaging and artisanal cotter pins

I bought a package of brake pads for Gilbert two weeks ago (haven't managed to put them on yet) and they were sitting at the table as we ate dinner.  The Scientist was remarking that he needed pads for his roadbike, and I was looking at the packaging, and remarking that it must be Amsterdam in the photo- Women in ordinary clothes on city bikes,  tons of bikes parked in the background,  no helmets.  Looking further I noticed something that I found fairly humorous, given that they're selling brake pads.  Can you spot what it is? *  Hint at bottom of post

I also received in the mail "Artisanal" cotter pins.   Gilbert's left (non drive side) crank seems to be bent just slightly.  It's enough that when I ride another bike I notice that the left pedal feels "weird" and when I switch back, Gilbert feels "weird" and it's murder on the light up pedals that I like so much.  It eats them up- I've replaced the left one three times now!  Anyone need a right side pedal that flashes? - I've got an extra!  I suppose I could make it a prize for whoever first guesses the irony in the photo.

Anyway, after looking locally for a replacement vintage crank, I bought a repro left hand crank online,  although it doesn't look like it's fantastic quality.   I've heard that the absolute best cotter pins to be had are from Bikesmith in MN.   He makes a famously helpful tool for removing stuck Raleigh bottom brackets as well as a nicely made hand cotter press for home mechanics.  So on a bit of a whim, I ordered what should be a lifetime supply (6) of grade A cotters.

These "artisanal" cotter pins are turned on a lathe instead of stamped,  and then he goes through and custom files the bevel to match the raleigh slope, "even the nuts are turned on a lathe"
Honestly I'm not sure I'll notice the difference, and I feel a bit sheepish in a boho bourgeois way for ordering bits of metal to pin the cranks to my bike that have a longer and more lovingly  described provenance than an item on a trendy restaurant menu.  On the other hand,  it's making a guy a living doing manufacturing in the USA,  and it will hopefully help everything go together smoothly and not wobble and destroy cranks or pedals.  Some people spend a lot of money on designer clothes or fancy cars,  I just spent twenty five bucks for cotter pins.  Silly I know, but less than a tank of gas.

*And now for the promised hint- look at the handlebars on the bike on the left.