Friday, November 24, 2006


Today, I hit the 3000-mile mark for 2006. Might not be so exciting for the randoneurs out there, but for somebody with as many time commitments as I have, it's a pretty darn happy feeling.

Miles per bike were approximately 1600 for the LHT, 700 for the Cross Check, 400 for the Xtracycles, 250 on the Trek 400 and the balance on a coupla other bikes.

Last year totaled about 2900 miles; about 2100 in 2004; 1800 in 2003; 2002 was maybe 1600 and 2001 about 1200. Before that, I didn't really keep track, but I might have come close to 3K one or two years back in college.

This would be year 15 of bike commuting since I started in 1988, and this winter is Wisconsin Winter number 12. (I walked for a few years when work was only three blocks away, and sat out a couple winters with back and prostate problems.)

Apart from a little Achilles tendonitis in my right heel, I feel about as good physically as I ever have in my adult life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Big Dummy

Update 09-30-2007 Early reviews from the Interbike trade show here

Update 01-05-2008 More Big Dummy news here.

Update 03-06-2008 Part one of my review here.

Wow, what can I say? Surly has decided to produce an integrated Xtracycle-compatible frame. A true longtail:

I count about 7 or 8 trusses in this frame. (click for a bigger version)

And a photo of the same bike with the Xtracycle bits and a Stokemonkey installed.

Early reports (November 1) from one of Surly's test riders sound promising:
We currently have one single sample for us to testride and I just got done with my three weeks of testing on it. Here are the results, mainly in comparison to my Instigator frame with the Xtracycle Free Radical bolt-on.

During city commutes with a normal load, the bike is noticeably quicker and more nimble in handling. It's about 1 1/2 pounds lighter just in the frame and fork, yet it's torsionally stiffer and does not fishtail like the Insti/FreeRad. The nice vertical compliance that is inherent in long frames is still there, but it has lessened a bit. With the slight bouncing feeling I got when I'd hit small bumps on my Insti/FreeRad virtually eliminated, it rides much more like a normal bike.

One day I loaded it down with two 5-gallon kegs of beer, a soundsystem and another 40 pounds of stuff. All total the load was about 200 pounds in addition to myself, right around the intended weight limit. This size load would've truly kicked my butt on the Insti/FreeRad, but on the Big Dummy I was able to ride it like a bike without the load dominating my every move. My lower back wasn't forced to sit on the seat to stabilize the load the whole day and I ended up putting about 30 miles on it, both on and off road. Sure, my legs were cooked, but it was nice to know was the Dummy was capable of whatever I was capable of.

Day by day I found myself more comfortable with the geometry and was darting through traffic without having to manhandle it. I never once thought I was at a disadvantage in tight situations while at speed. I even ripped a small section of singletrack much faster on the Dummy than the Insti/FreeRad, proving the off road capabilities are improved. Seriously folks, getting a long-wheelbased bike through a corner and occasionally getting a two-wheel drift is a total blast. Imagine having the your weight loaded equally on both front and back wheels without the real threat of endo-ing, and you'll get yourself going faster than you'd ever think you could go.

Overall, I'm extremely happy so far with this preliminary version of the Big Dummy. We still have some things to tweak and more prototypes coming to test this winter, but the results will only get better.

Gotta give the folks at Surly a lot of credit for going out on a limb for this concept, but it has a whole lot of potential if they do it right. And they're known for getting things right.

Me? I can hardly wait.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Woody Woodpecker Resurection

It's been a while since I've blogged anything, but I've had a very busy fall. I've put a lot of time and effort over the last couple of months winterizing the house, the garden and my bikes. Plus there's work and family and catching colds. All more likely to score time allotments than blogging.

Anyway, I've decided to start blogging some of my bikes. I tinker with bikes quite a bit and like to try lots of different things, so I thought I might like to show some of them to the world.

First up is a Surly Cross Check that I bought as just a frame in 2000. It's one of the early bean-green frames, and one of the last made with Reynolds 631 tubing. This one started life as sort of a fun off-road cyclocross bike:

Sort of silly that I had bought a 56 cm frame, given that I'm over 6 feet tall, with a 34 inch inseam. Should have gotten a 58 cm at least, and perhaps a 60 cm. As you can see, the bars are quite a bit lower than the saddle. Don't get me wrong—it was a gas to ride—but a sure-fire recipe for a stiff neck later.

So I let my sister's boyfriend ride it for a while, but he really wanted a mountain bike. Then I almost ended up selling it, but decided to make it into a single-speed commuter instead:

Turned out to be the right decision. I always liked the way this bike rides, and it continues to be a pleasure with the upright bars. It's currently a 39-18 with a Formula flip-flop rear hub. It has a Shimano 3N70 dynamo front hub powering an Inoled 20+ 2-watt LED headlight, Nitto Dove bars, Zefal Safari 3 rack and Brooks flyer. All of these things I mention specifically because I like them a lot and would recommend them to anyone. The front view at the top of the post shows the dynamo hub and the Inoled on its Inofix stem mount. Also shown is the Woody Woodpecker headbadge, the origin of which is an Ancient German-Irish Secret, and huge homemade mud flap. Note in the side view how the mud flap falls below a line between the bottom of the front wheel and the bottom of the chainring, intercepting the stream of wet, gritty crap present whenever one is in motion during one of Wisconsin's winters.

Because this bike was designed to take the largest tires possible, the chainstay bridge was pretty far forward. There used to be a huge, ugly gap between the fender and the tire and the fender touched the seat mast:

Can't have that. Fortunately, our local hardware store had a 15-cent nylon spacer that now moves the fender back just enough to look good and resolve the touching issue:

Also visible is the no-skid and electrical tape chainstay protector.

The other issue with the fender was a major conflict with the Zefal rack. The Cross Check has only one rear braze-on, so the chunky Zefal rack mounts and the v-stays of the SKS fenders have to attach at the same point. Visible in the side view (several pictures above) is a lot of crossing of rack and fender stays. In the end, they simply weren't going to both attach to the outside of the dropout, so I ran an extra-long bolt and nutted the stays to the inboard side of the braze-ons:

which wouldn't have worked with a multi-speed setup, but works just fine with a single.

This is still a cyclocross bike. It has a high bottom bracket, snappy handling and a short wheelbase that results in some substantial toe overlap with the front wheel. Even so, it's remarkably stable, agile and its horizontal dropouts and enormous tire clearance make it very versatile. It can easily handle 700c 35 Nokian Hakkapeliitta studded tires, which I used briefly this spring (I'll use them more extensively this winter). They have a harsh ride, but combining them with the dynamo hub make this a very capable winter bike.