Nov 30, 2011

That's More Like It

Here's the Muk with pedals. I am glad I held out for the pedals I wanted on this bike. They look really good on there and seem like a very nice set up. They are grippy as hell, that's for sure.

The maiden voyage was short, but tomorrow I'll take this unit along the Mighty Minnesota for a more suitable test ride.


Nov 29, 2011

The Mukluk Has Arrived, But...

The Mukluk is here. I picked it up this morning and it's lovely. Unfortunately, I forgot to talk pedals with the shop and they didn't have anything suitable in stock when I was there. Not a problem - I have a 20% off coupon from the Big Local Bike Shop so I figure I can find a set of decent MTB pedals there without much hassle, right?

Nope! Big Local Bike Shop had basically nothing suitable on the shelves. WTF? How hard can it be to find some decent MTB pedals? I was so agitated and out of sorts at this discovery that I actually spoke to a salesperson.

I learned that it's apparently pretty difficult to find anything you might actually want this week. Why would this be? It turns out that I got Black-Friday'd from behind; inventory has been decimated by after-Thanksgiving sales and there's nothing on the shelves until the re-supply comes in at some time point in the future.

Thanks to my meditation work, I am grateful for this opportunity to learn about patience. But it's still pretty irritating nonetheless.

It was a lovely day today - cold, but sunny and clear. I had hoped to ride the low road today and give this thing it's maiden voyage, but that will have to wait. I left the bike in the dining room (sans pedals) to annoy myself further this evening so I can wallow in the irritation some more.

When I get this beast running I will post some better photos. Until then, be annoyed with the lousy flash photos of the bike in the dining room, just like me.

Nov 28, 2011

Doing What I am Told

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I grabbed my binoculars and went looking for owls this morning. I ended up at a place that's been productive in the past for me somewhere near Shakopee.

Unfortunately, this morning there seemed to absolutely nothing happening on the owl front (or with any wings of the air for that matter). It was chilly and very quiet, with only a few Chickadees chattering away as I walked the trails.

As I wandered down an access road across some floodplain forest, a crow flew into a tree near the trail. I generally talk to the birds I see, so naturally, I said hello to the crow and told him that I was looking for owls today, and asked if he would help me find one. He looked at me for a second or two and then flew off towards the Minnesota River.

I chuckled at myself and followed the crow because that direction was as good as any other. When I got to the river, I had to turn either right or left. I opted for the right, since the tree in the photo accompanying this post is located there. This tree creeps me out and it's always worth stopping by if you are in the neighborhood.

As I stood by this tree thinking about where to try next, three more crows flew over and landed in the spooky tree. They cawed and then flew east, back the way I had come. They were calling as they flew away.

"Okay, things are getting weird now" I thought to myself as I followed the crows back to the intersection and they again flew east another couple of hundred of yards. I wandered east kind of following the crows.

As I approached the roosting crows again, they flew across the river. "Very funny, guys" I thought to myself. It's always kind of a gamble asking crows for any kind of help or advice - they are tricksters and love pranks. I figured I had just gotten "punked" by some birds as I watched them cross the Minnesota River through my binoculars.

However, they joined another group of crows in the trees over there and then the whole group got very agitated and started raucously cawing over and over. They had obviously found a roosting owl (or hawk) and were mobbing the thing.

The show was over in a few minutes when the hapless raptor got tired of the noise and left. I never saw the bird they found, but I still count this as help from the crows. It's not their fault that I can't fly across the river with them, after all.

Next time, though, I think I will ask the crow to find me an owl on this side of the river.

Nov 27, 2011

Belated Thanksgiving Wishes...

It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Sunday night finds me exhausted, and potentially fighting off a cold or something. Nevertheless, I am glad to be home and eager to re-focus.

The Emergency Medical Response course work is now successfully completed. There are two new cards in the wallet (EMR and Professional Rescuer CPR) and new knowledge tucked into my little brain. Hopefully I'll be able to bring those skills to bear at some events in the not-too-distant future. That was a little bit of an undertaking, but well worth the time and effort.

Last week brought us back to the Ancestral Homeland for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was an extended stay, so we packed a bag for the cat and brought him along as well. He's a road warrior and a fine traveling companion. In addition, the roaster oven and other Thanksgiving necessities found there way into the car as well, and we pulled together a wonderful spread for the holiday.

During our stay, we had a chance to tourist for a short time and made it to the Historic Third Ward, which I absolutely fell in love with. The 3rd Ward has great old buildings and a vibrant restaurant and retail scene - it's as if someone took the best buildings in St. Paul, added some of the vitality of Minneapolis, and then mixed them together with good ethnic food a lots of craft brewed beer to create this place. Lovely, walkable and charming. Too bad we knocked everything like this in MPLS down to make room for crap like the TCF Tower.

Finally, the weather was even suitable for travel (a rare luxury - we've driven through messes on Thanksgiving and Christmas for years, now). I'll add that to my "thankful" list.

With Turkey Day behind us and EMR over, I am looking forward to a more normal routine for the weeks leading into Christmas. Hopefully that will include a little riding, a little gym time, and some quality time on "Phase 2" projects I've got in the works.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found something to be grateful for. Although 2011 has been a tough year for a lot of people, if you look closely, and maybe squint a little, there are always flecks of gold in that mountain of slag that makes up our day-to-day reality.

Nov 18, 2011

Mukluk In-Bound

Mukluk 2
Originally uploaded by 3-16
Some men buy sports cars to nurse them through mid-life crises; others take up with younger women. I apparently buy strange specialized bikes...

I'll be adding a Salsa Mukluk to the stable here shortly. The bike was more happenstance than a calculated search-and-acquire effort, and a small measure of luck helped to make this happen.

Thanks to my genetics and early propensity for coffee, I require no more than an extra small Mukluk frame. I suspect that Salsa only makes a few token XS frames per year to say that they offer them, because as the entire bike industry knows, everybody in the f'ing world rides a 56 cm frame, right? Right?*

There is an awful lot more that I have to say on this topic, but in the interest of brevity I will save it for a late-night rant at some future point.

With Mukluks being "hot" right now, finding a built bike in XS is a little like finding the needle in the haystack. The shops that have them tend to have small, medium and large frames (if anything). Building up a frame is an option, but even finding an XS frame is still a problem, and then there is the added expense of a build. Going with a build kit can keep the price more manageable. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to go this route.

Fortunately, an XS Mukluk 2 turned up kind of out of the blue and I got a phone call about it. After 24 hours of debate with myself, I committed to the bike. It was delivered on Thursday and is being assembled now; it should be ready for pick up in the near future - maybe as soon as tomorrow.

An added benefit to this bike is that the frame can be set up as a 29er with a simple wheel swap. Therefore I can mount my 29er wheels that are currently on the Rawland and use this as an (overbuilt) 29er mountain bike (or perhaps leave the big wheel in front and run a 29er in back).

On that note, I am half tempted to mount some 650b wheels and see how the Mukluk does with those, now that I think about it...

That's totally counting chickens before they are hatched, however. I still need to pick up this beast and get it dialed in for a maiden voyage.

The forecast tonight calls for 3 inches of slush, so this might be a just-in-time deliver.

Nov 14, 2011

Fat-Tire Rawland Experiment

Well, the trial separation between the Rawland and I ended late this afternoon.

I put the bike in the basement after some frustrations with it back at the end of June and bombed around on the LHT most of the season. Lately, I've been experiencing some fat-tire lust, though. The quickest, cheapest option was to haul out the Rawland and reconfigure it for fat-tire fun.

There was some pre-conversion screwing around first. I had to swap out the front derailleur for one that wasn't f-cked up (don't ask) and went ahead re-cabled both the front and rear derailleurs (not to self: cable ends are functional as well as cosmetic).

Once the drivetrain and I were back on speaking terms, the rest of the conversion job was easy - pulling the 650b wheels, installing my cassette on the 29er rear wheel, mounting the fat Panaracer tires (45's) and installing the wheels on the bike. I built the 29er wheels last winter (or maybe the winter before - it's all such a blur) and they have seen some miles, but they are still true and round and the bike is disk-specific, so the swap was really very simple.

After the wrenching was completed I rode around Fort Snelling this afternoon, seeking out some sandy trails and such to test the set up. The tires did quite well on the loose surfaces and it was fun to bomb around on the bike like this. I'll spend some more time on it tomorrow (perhaps the Minnesota River Trail) and see how it is for single track.

A couple of observations right off the bat, however...

I still have the original Rando bar installed on the bike. I picked up a Woodchipper and will install that in the near future. The Rando bars, as much as I like them, don't feel right on trails to me. I find I want my arms a little further apart than the hoods of the Rando bars allow. Also, if I get serious about riding this off-road, I think I am going to pop for some slightly smaller chainwheels. I have a compact double on there now. I don't foresee needing a triple, but going down a notch or two on the chainwheels would give me more useful gears and help to push the big squashies down the trail.

That said, the Rawland handled it's short test ride quite well (keep in mind that I am no off-road expert, so a more skilled rider might say it was great). It was encouraging enough that this bike is back in the rotation, and we'll likely be going to Mendota tomorrow.

I'll try to remember my camera so I don't have to re-use old photos for the update...

Nov 10, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different, Again

Since I already have a beard and a stubborn potbelly, I decided it's high time for a tricycle recumbent! This will be perfect for riding down the middle of the Greenway at 9 MPH in every bit of Hi-Viz clothing I have. Suh-weet!

Okay - that's not all entirely true...

I do have a Sun Trike, but it's here only temporarily. This little gem is going to a sister-in-law with some physical issues that preclude her riding a conventional bike. The trike was a good deal on CL and I have ridden this to dial it in and make sure it was in good working order, but this will be moving on next week.

The bike is actually kind of fun - it's got a triple crank in front and a six speed cassette in back with low end SRAM components and disk brakes. The shifting is just fine and gear range is wide, and the saddle bag was included in the purchase, so this should be perfect for my sister-in-law.
This is NOT the care-free ride I anticipated; during my test rides, I did come close to rolling it during some impromptu high speed cornering tests (I blame the testosterone). It turns out that although the center of gravity is pretty low, the lack of lean in the corners requires a, shall we say... more conservative style of cornering than I am perhaps used to. That should not be a problem for the intended recipient, however.

The good news is that the bike works well, I still have all my skin and the near roll-over made what would have otherwise been a mundane ride into a rather exhilarating experience for at least two seconds.

Projects are Getting Backlogged

With the weather turning colder, winter bike projects seem to be lining up like Prius' outside a yoga studio.

I acquired a Woodchipper bar from the gentlemen at HCHQ and will begin make the Rawland into a true Monster Cross bike next week. The trail separation from the Rawland and the sale of the Marin mountain bike earlier this year leads me to kind of miss an off-road bike, so the bar-swap/fat tire conversion will fill that void, at least temporarily. It will also give me a chance to explore that facet of the Rawland frame, which I have never really given very serious consideration before.

I also have a new wheel in the offing for the winter bike. The rear wheel on the Singlespeed, Crotchhatchet, Studded Tire Winter Bike has not one but two rounded spoke nipples from someone other than me using the wrong sized spoke wrench to true the wheel at some point. Of course, but of these spokes are right where I would add a little tension to pull a slight wobble out of the wheel. I considered simply replacing the spokes, but the rim is pretty worn as well and the hub is only so-so, so I am evaluating lacing a new rim to an All-City single/fixed hub I have laying around in the workshop rather than replacing the offending spokes. That project is actually moving up in urgency as the weather continues to edge towards winter, so I need to resolve my plan of action one way or another relatively soon.

Another project that needs some attention but has less urgency is giving The Spouse's Dahon folder a complete overhaul. That bike got some quick attention when she began to ride it regularly (brake adjustment, derailleur adjustments, chain cleaning and lube, etc.) but it really needs to have the hubs repacked. I suspect the headset is in need of a repacking as well. That one can wait awhile though since her folding bike rambles have been called on account of weather.

I am sure other project will reveal themselves as the days shorten, as well.

All this must wait at least a few days longer because I am now in the throws of the final exam for the Emergency Medical Responder course I have been taking and I am in my first week of full EMT training, so I am kind of slammed with studying for EMR and reading for EMT. Hopefully that will settle out next week and I'll be on a more measured pace after that.

Nov 6, 2011

Fat Bike?

Fat Bike Crew
Originally uploaded by 3-16
I find I am tempted once again to get a Fat Bike. About 3 years ago I bought a second-hand Pugsley, so I have experienced these things before and kind of know what I am doing.

That said, I ended up selling the Pug after a year or two because I wasn't really riding it that much. I found the bike to be a little too specialized and was frustrated with the performance of the tires that were available then. I thought the bike should have better traction and should track a little better in diverse conditions. In perfect conditions, the ride was magical, but in less-than optimal conditions, I found I was bogging down, or the front wheel was snow-plowing.

In retrospect, I will admit that I probably did not experiment with tire pressures enough on this bike - that probably would have yielded better performance. I also think there is a much wider (no pun intended) selection of tires for these beasts nowadays, and like the idea of a different tire on the front of the bike than the Endomorph.

What's brought this change on? Perhaps it's winter coming, but I know quite a few people now with these things and going on Fat Bike rides together. Back when I had my Pug, it was a cold, solitary ride that wasn't all that much fun, honestly.

If I do this, I'll need to move a few bikes on. I have two nice road bikes that don't see the sun much these days, so those may be going on the auction block. We'll see.

Alternatively, I could put the real fat 29er tires on the Rawland and see what I think of that bike as an off-roader. I would probably change out the Rando bars for Woodchippers, but other than that, the bike is pretty much ready to go with a wheel swap.

That's the most sensible option, which makes it the least likely of my choices, I suspect.

Nov 2, 2011

Old Clanky Gets an Upgrade

Old Clanky got it's final upgrade this afternoon. I finally got around to installing some new Tektro long-reach brakes on this bike. I've had the brakes kicking around for a few months now, but never got around to the project of changing the old brakes out until today.

The stopping power with the Tektro's is a big improvement. The original brakes were not really what I would consider "brakes". They were more accurately "speed attenuators".  Even with alloy rims, the brakes made me nervous. Fortunately the bike is not fast, because if it was, there would be no stopping it.

This bike now has the most common modern upgrades that a 3-speed gets. The original steel rims were replaced with Sun CR-18 alloy rims (one of the few modern rims in the 26 x 1 3/8 wheel size). The Tektro brakes compliment the alloy rims nicely and add a lot of "stop" to the improved "go" of the rims.

A previous upgrade included some much better tires ("tyres" if you prefer). I pried open my wallet for some Panaracer Col de Vie's. Most people run really cheap tires on their 3-speeds, but the improved ride of the Col de Vie's is worth it to me. I've had very good luck with flat resistance as well with these tires (knock wood) although they are not marketed as puncture resistant.

The other changes I have made to this bike include a slightly larger cog to give it more spin and make the high gear less ponderous, and installing some QBP cork grips in place of the original crusty plastic grips that came on the bike.

Accessories have been added as well. The bike currently sports a Carradice "Barley" bag and a bar-mounted bottle cage. I also clip my Garmin unit the bars if I want route data, although I have been a lot more casual about tracking miles and routes lately.

I am by no means a purist when it comes to 3-speeds, obviously. I am perfectly fine with a few modern upgrades, particularly on bikes like mine (a run-of-the-mill low-end bike of no significant value to collectors or enthusiasts). Rather, I enjoy the ride on this bike and the upgrades make me enjoy the ride more, so as I see it, what's not to like?