Aug 29, 2010

Diving-In to Internal Hubs

Today I picked up a used Sturmey Archer 3-Speed AW hub from MMRB for a fair and reasonable price. The purpose of this hub is educational rather than transportational; I intend to dismantle and reassemble the thing until I understand how a 3-speed hub works and how to service them.

Armed with Sheldon's wisdom, I shall be starting this little self-improvement project later this week. If it all goes to hell, I have a few people I can call on as well.

On a sort-of-related note, I had new Sun Rims mounted to my existing SA hubs while I was Canada*, so the Raleigh is now sporting some alloy rims that don't shriek and wobble when I brake. What a luxury! This might be my third set of Thill Wheels, although this one set of wheels re-used some pretty old parts, so they may not deserve that moniker. The wheels ride great, however, so this will be a sweet, sweet upgrade to the 3-speed.

* Canada: C, eh? N, eh? D, eh?

Bay of Fundy Trip Report

As summer draws to a close we snuck in some time for ourselves with a one-week vacation to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to explore the Bay of Fundy.

The trip was a Road Scholar get-away. Road Scholar was formerly known as "Elderhostel" and then briefly "Exploritas". Elderhostel was a seniors-only affair, but they lowered the age-limit with the re-branding to Road Scholar and increased the activity level of the trips to entice the next generation of customers. These are learning vacations - explore the Road Scholar link and you can see the trips that they offer are generally educational and topical based on the location.

We selected a Bay of Fundy hiking trip partly because we have wanted to explore the Maritime Provinces for a long time and have never gotten ourselves out there, partly because of the timing of the trip, and partly because it was hiking-heavy, as we like to tromp through the wilds.

Despite lowering the age-limit for Road Scholar trips, we were easily the youngest people on this trip. In fact, one of the participants pulled me aside at one point and asked me if I was old enough to be on this trip. I laughed it off, but I think there is some tension when the younger folks show up and change the dynamic from what was previously a seniors-only experience.

The hiking was good, for the most part. The Fundy Trail is beautiful (that part which is complete). The "Hearst Loop" hike was only three miles long, but it was some of the most challenging hiking I have experienced - comparable to the most rugged of the Blue Trails in Connecticut. There were some less enticing walks, however; the afternoon hike to Giffens Pond was not as interesting. It was a three-mile walk down an over-grown logging road. The beach at the end of the trail was spectacular, but I deemed this walk our "march to the sea" at dinner that evening, and and that name seemed to stick for the rest of the trip.

We stayed in St, Martins, NB - a very small town on the north shore of Fundy Bay. St. Martins was formerly known as "Quako" but was renamed by the Loyalists that moved in and took over during the Revolutionary War. Evidence suggests that the Loyalists ousted some Acadians in St. Martins (a diaspora that the locals seem to be very reluctant to talk about to this day, although it's a well-known and well documented fact). The Loyalists also relegated the Catholics and other undesirable elements to the outskirts of town (in fact, there is STILL an Orange hall right in the middle of town) and banished family that married outside of their faith. I was very interested in learning more of this legacy of intolerance, but that was not a topic the historical museum interpreters seemed eager to pursue, focusing instead on ship building and the evolution of women's undergarments.

I have mixed feelings about the Road Scholar program; I think if you were able to find a topic that was interesting and had enough content to fill the time allocated to it, these could be very good. Our trip, while very pleasant, was light on the facts and heavy on enthusiasm for the Fundy Trail. A lead-off on regional geology would have been very helpful since we spent the entire week experiencing it, and a more unblinking look at the history of St. Martins would be very interesting and enlightening. The region is great - I would love to go back and explore this ares in a less structured setting again.

Here is a link to our driving route on this trip. I should note that I did not see one bicycle rider during this entire drive, although a lot of it was on the TransCanada Highway. Still, I expected to see more cyclists out there.

Aug 21, 2010

Bike Master Plan and Some Quick Updates

The Minneapolis Bike Master Plan is currently open for comments. The comment period closes on October 1, 2010. The Plan is the master document that will govern all-things bicycle related in Minneapolis for probably the next 10 years, so this is worth taking the time to get right, and with the resurgence of cycling we are currently seeing, and the level of attention that the city is paying to bike issues, this will be a very formative document for the future of cycling, so please, if you care at all, take the time to read and comment. Details on how to do so are provided in the above link. I have downloaded the whole thing and will be tacking this on my rapidly-approaching vacation.

Also, we will be staging another 3-speed ride on Sunday, September 5. The meet-up for this ride will be at 10:00 AM at Trotter's Cafe, which is located on Cleveland Ave. just south of Marshal in St. Paul. I believe that the Gentleman Cyclist list has been advised of this happening as well, so we might have a few more people coming along this time as well. The game plan will be a meander of the neighborhoods south of Marshal between the Cathedral and Cleveland. We almost bought a house over there when we came back from ANC, so I'll be curious to ride around and see what we missed.

It's hard to believe that summer is drawing to a close so soon. Make the most of the weeks and months we have left, friends!! I am about to do that myself...

Aug 18, 2010

Unintended Consequences

When I lived in Anchorage (2003 - 2006) I was quite active in the Anchorage Trail Watch Program. The Mayor's office established the Trail Watch program because there had been several high profile assaults on the Coastal Trail and Chester Creek Trail, and these trails also got heavy use from Tourists and residents alike during the summer season.

My regular Trail Watch schedule was Thursday evenings from 6:00 - 8:00 PM and Sunday morning from 6:00 - 8:00 AM. The two shifts could not have been more different - Thursday evenings were very crowded, with tourists mixing it up with commuters who were dodging roller-bladers and dog-walkers. The Sunday morning "dawn patrols" were very quiet, but I encountered the remains of Saturday night mischief more than once (passed out drunks, stolen bikes that had been ditched, or trash from illegal camp-outs).

The purpose of Trail Watch was to assist tourists, report maintenance problems, report homeless camps, call Community Services if one of the many drunks were stumbling around getting into trouble, warn people to stay away from the moose that frequent urban Anchorage, and generally help to keep the peace and render aid to those that need it.

One beautiful Thursday evening, I was riding west on Chester Creek Trail, a chronic problem area for homeless camps and drunks. Near the Anchorage Aces baseball field, I rolled up behind a little girl and her father, who were riding down the trail at a slow pace. I called out "Hello there! Can pass by?". The little girl looked over her left shoulder at me, turning her handlebars to the right as she did so, and promptly pedaled her little pink princess bike right off the trail and into a nasty patch of alder thicket and ditch at full speed.


I pulled over, and her Dad pulled over, and we got her and her bike out of the vegetation. Tears were dried and some band aids applied to various ouchies, and once more all was well once more on the Chester Creek Trail.

But I still feel kind of guilty that I was somehow responsible for the only incident where I actually had to use my First Aid kit during Trail Watch.

Aug 15, 2010

A Whole New Kind of Ride

We uncorked the second of two 3-speed rides this morning and it was a success, metaphysically speaking.

I was talked into organizing my first-ever group ride a few weeks ago by another Bike Lover who had seen a previous post about the Raleigh 3-speed acquisition earlier this season. She has a beautiful Raleigh Sport and it must be some sort of deluxe edition, because it's got a funky dyno hub and a working electric horn, otherwise it's quite similar to my bike, but in a little better shape. She was interested in doing a 3-speed ride, so I posted up and got one going.

Unfortunately it was HOT for that first ride, but for today's second 3-speed ride the weather was far more clement and favorable to pedal-powered exploration. Our route took us just under 14 miles or so along the Mississippi River (with a side trip to experience Milwaukee Ave. in Seward).

The 3-speed has been interesting because it's unlike any bike I have ridden previously. It's a heavy utility bike and it's impossible to go fast on it. It clatters going over bumps, dose not have "nice" components and you sit too upright on it to feel really efficient in the saddle. And it's got a chain guard, for Pete's sake. I got this bike because 1.) it was dirt cheap, 2.) I have never tinkered with a 3-speed internal hub and am curious about them, and 3.) I figured this would be a fine bike for riding around with my bride in the evenings. Honestly, I did not expect to "like" this bike much.

Having fixed this bike up to the point where it's rideable, and reliable enough to not worry about taking some longer trips, I find there's more to it than that.

There is something kind of zen-like about riding a bike like this, because if you want to go fast, that's really not an option. If you are turned on by fancy components and indexed shifting, well it's indexed but it looks more like an artifact than a high-tech dream machine. Finally, I would dare to say that to most people, this is not a "cool bike".

All of my usual "wants" from a bike don't really exist with this one. I have never been a high end bike gearhead, but I am definitely a sucker for cool bikes, and I have a pretty low tolerance for components that don't work exactly like they are supposed to every time.

Yet this bike is fun to ride, somehow. It's quirky, which I like. What's more, any pressure to go fast or look cool seems to disappear when I get on this thing, which is very liberating ("relax - we'll get there when we get there; in the meantime sit up and look around").

This bike has also taught me that there is such a thing as "good enough" when it comes to component performance. The brakes are a little sketchy, the AW hub works well but the rims are crap, and that's okay right now, because that's what this bike offers.

Stripping away the seductive trappings of nice bikes has helped to reveal the experience of the ride itself. This seems more pure than riding to appreciate the bike. I think I was aware of this problem previously, but had mis-diagnosed it. Loyal readers will recall that one of my cycling goals this year was to simply slow down and enjoy the ride more. I am coming to see that this is not a function of simply slowing down. Rather, the trick lies in experiencing the ride in itself more fully, rather than experiencing aspects of the ride (such as how your legs feel, how good or bad you just did on that hill, and how the bike behaved or misbehaved on the last descent).

It seems that this 1974 Raleigh has taught me a valuable lesson that I hope sticks with me.

Aug 12, 2010

Southern Connection Public Meeting on Thursday

A re-post from the MPLS Bike News email system re: the Southern Connector project:

On Thursday, August 19th , Public Works will host a public meeting to present a draft proposal for the Southern Bike Connection.  This project includes a bicycle boulevard and on-street bike lanes.  The meeting will be held at 6:30 pm at the Stewart Park Rec Center (2700 12th Ave S).  Spanish translation will be available. 

The meeting will discuss:

Changes to 17th Avenue S, between 24th Street and 38th Street  [no link provided]
Proposed bike lanes on 24th Street

Minneapolis Public Works has developed a layout with several options.  All options will not be constructed.  The public will be asked to rank preferences for traffic calming and improvements to busy crossings.  
Public meeting flyers have been distributed to properties along 17th Avenue S and 24th Street E.  Separate flyers were distributed for Powderhorn Park, East Phillips), and 24th Street.  An additional public meeting will be hosted for the Southern Bike Connection south of 38th Street.  The meeting will be held on Monday, August 30th at 6:30 pm at the Pearl Lake Rec Center (414 E Diamond Lake Road). 

If you have feedback or questions, please fill out our online form or contact Rose Ryan at 612.333.3410 or .

Happy Riding,

City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program
The Southern Connector is something we sorely need in South Minneapolis. It would improve connectivity to the Greenway and provide some potential alternate routes to the East Bank and downtown. If you ride in the area, please participate in the public meetings and help to get this project done correctly.

3-Speed Ride II

Three Speed
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
The second 3-speed ride is coming up this Sunday. We will be meeting at Princess Depot at Minnehaha Falls park at 10:00 AM on Sunday, August 15. It was blazing hot last Sunday when we did the first one of these, but we had fun nonetheless. Hopefully, with better weather this weekend, this go-'round will be better still.

I spent a pleasant evening with Bikesmith tonight, getting the bottom-bracket on my cantankerous British beast smooth as butter and talking bikes in anticipation of the ride (so much to learn...).  Hopefully, he and Mrs. Bikesmith, and perhaps some others from the All-British Cycling squad will be able to join us.

If your bike is not quite perfect (i.e. an old English 3-speed) and you still want to come along, I welcome you. No super-hero colored lyrca or crabon fibre frames, that's all I ask. This ride's more about conversation and enjoyment. There's room for Dutch bikes on this ride, I suspect.

Aug 10, 2010

Hunkering Down for Now

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
This has largely been a summer devoted to survival. I have done exactly zero Hiawatha rides, and the only other group rides I have completed this season can be counted on two of the five fingers on one of my hands. No long recreational rides other than a star-crossed adventure on the Luce Line trail into 30 mph head-winds early this spring...

The Great Recession seems to be loosening its grip, and that's much appreciated, but after all this, I suspect more than one person is re-evaluating their life and their priorities at this point in time.

My focus has been relatively short-term for the last 12 months or so. When you report results in a difficult market on a monthly basis, it's hard to really plan for the future. Nevertheless, I have been making long-term strategic plays while making sure to cover the short-term bases, both at work and at home. This seems to help keep me in good working order.

Case in point - I led my first ever (semi-) organized bike ride last Sunday. It was hotter than hell and very humid, so the weather was against us, but a brave contingent turned out for a leisurely three-speed ride around the more scenic parts of South Minneapolis on Sunday morning.

It was fun. Great company, good conversation and a nice breakfast at the end of the adventure. True, we didn't go very far, but this was a positive move on more than one front, and I'll do it again next weekend as well.

Maybe next year I'll have more time and energy for riding and other pursuits. In the meantime I plan to staunchly defend status quo with an eye towards some sort of quirky three-speed century in 2011.

Aug 7, 2010

U-Lock Justice Time

I can't believe it. Brother Yam's beloved Dumvee has gone missing. I was listening to him regale me with tales of how much he loved this bike just last evening.

It was last seen at 34th Street and Minnehaha Parkway. It is a bean-green Surly Big Dummy with an Alfine internal hub, big Albatross bars and wide, white Fat Frank tires. He did not have the cooler mounted on it last night.

We have had an absolute rash of bike thefts this summer, but this is the last straw. If I see anybody riding this bike, which is pretty unmistakable, I may well beat them senseless with my lock.

UPDATE: As of Sunday evening, Brother Yam has his bike back. I have sheathed my u-lock.

Aug 5, 2010

Back in the Saddle

You Never Know
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
For one reason or another, I've been off the bike for what seems like almost two weeks, now. Travel, meetings, sailing class... I've had more than the usual constraints to bike commuting lately, it seems.

Today I pulled on the shants one leg at a time, straddled my trusty Rawland and rolled up the alley into a beautiful morning. I've been riding Chicago Ave. rather than Park and Portland lately because I find the noise and speed of Park and Portland tiresome and the diversity of Chicago Ave. more interesting. The pavement on Chicago absolutely sucks, however. It's like a third world country north of 38th Street.

The hassle factor on Chicago, aside from pavement, is buses. I had a run in with a Metro Transit bus a few weeks ago and reported it. The bus blew by my within inches of my bars, then cut me off to pull into a stop. After dancing around this driver for about 10 blocks (bikes move at about the same speed as buses, so they can be hard to pass) I finally turned off and rode the last leg of my journey on side streets. Subsequent rides have been less confrontational, but the buses still continue to be an annoyance on Chicago Ave.

This evening, I had the epiphany that I don't need to race the damn buses. My strategy as I left the office was that once a bus passes me (hopefully with at least 3-feet of space), I will sit up, shift down, put on a smile and enjoy the fine scenery of Chicago Ave at a leisurely pace until the bus is over the f-ing horizon.

Good plan, but it was not needed - no buses today. Instead I amused myself by taking random pictures on the way home, such as the photo at the top of this post.

Aug 4, 2010

How to Replace a Window in a Skyscraper

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Today we were treated to a free demonstration of how to replace a broken window in a skyscraper. It takes less than 30 minutes to pop out a broken window and replace it with a new one, and there is surprisingly little disruption to on-going operations.

No detailed explanation, but a rather robust photo documentation is provided here.

Three Speed Ride - Revised Plan of Operations

Three Speed
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
After some back-and-forth on when to actually try and stage the what I believe may very well be the first-ever MPLSBikeLove 3-speed ride, we seem to be zeroing in on a plan that calls for not one, but TWO rides.

The first ride is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, August 8 at 10:00 AM. We shall meet at the Princess Depot, located between Minnehaha Falls Park and Hiawatha Ave. north of 50th Street.

The second ride is scheduled for the Sunday, August 15 at 10:00 AM. Same meeting place.

This should give everyone that is interested in trying this a time that works. If there's enough interest, I would consider making this a semi-regular thing, but we'll just take this step-wise and see what happens since planning this kind of stuff does not seem to a strength for me.

This is a friendly, casual, no-drop ride. No tweed required. Three-speeds (new or old) are encouraged. If anyone shows up on a bike that has more than three speeds, we will probably let you come along, but be advised that the management reserves the right to restrict riders of bikes with more than three speeds to the use of no more than 3 speeds at any given time during the course of the ride.

I hope this works out...