Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Waiting for Dogot

Rest in peace, Mocha and Willie (but not you, Kato—you're not dead yet...)

Coupla Things

For those of you interested in the whole winter bike thing, Tarik offers a review of the 26" Nokian Extreme 294 studded tire over at his place. There's been a fair amount of chatter about these on the Icebike e-mail list over the years, and Tarik's review is a welcome addition.

Then, it's almost time for the 16th annual Cronometro Bike Swap, organized by the Brazen Dropouts Bicycle Racing Club. It's been a really good swap for the last couple of years and has grown to be one of the larger swaps in the country. It's happening at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on January 13th, from 9:30 to 4:30. Read all about it here.

It's 35 degrees and sunny today, so I went to the garden and puttered around a little. I turned all my compost piles, dug a few carrots (going to try adding some parsnips this year) and mulched the garlic, which is about 3 inches tall. The ground really still isn't frozen yet—or maybe it thawed—so the clods from the spading I did in late October are dissolving. The 27 wheelbarrow loads of leaf compost are settling in and I'm looking forward to a more productive season this year...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bullwinkle Unleashed

This is my dedicated winter bike, the Moose. It's a late-eighties Trek 800, originally purchased at a garage sale for $15. Mountain bikes of this vintage seem to have been made to be ridden in the snow. The long wheelbase and slack angles add up to a slow but steady cruise, well-suited to keeping the center of mass going in the right direction over unpredictable road conditions.

The seat post is stock, but everything else is a mix of hand-picked new and trash-picked old. Nitto Albatross CroMo bars (new) with SunTour BarCons (trash); Zefal Safari 3 (new), Lee Chi 4-finger brake levers (trash), bronze-colored dirt-drop knockoff stem (garage sale, but like new) and huge cheapie BMX platform pedals (purchased new, but now trashed.) Note an ongoing obsession with a big front mudflap that falls between the roostertail of front wheel slime and the crank assembly. Really cuts down on the wear and tear on the (trash-picked, except for the chain) drivetrain. That's a 110 BCD crankset, but it's geared more like compact drive—44-34-24, if I recall. The current rear wheel and its predecessor were both sourced at my local CurbMart (trashpicked.)

Currently running IRC Blizzard 112 studded tires front and rear. Remember those? The 56-stud version was the only commercially-available studded tire I can remember from back when I started riding year-round back in 1989. They're big and heavy, but the studs don't seem to be wearing out after 6 or 7 seasons—even with a fair amount of pavement riding. The best thing about them is that a neighbor who was moving to a warmer climate gave them to me, unused, for free.

This is my other dynamo hub headlight. It's the Shimano NX-30 laced to a Sun CR-18 rim, powering a Lumotec Oval Plus 3W halogen headlight with LED standlight. The whole show is run by Shimano's Nexus automatic switch (visible immediately behind the fork crown.) From what I've read, the automatic switch packs a dizzying array of circuitry for its simple job, but it works remarkably well. Occasionally, early in the morning before the sun is completely up, it will turn out the light while passing over patches of snow on the road surface (the sensor points at the ground) and back on when darker pavement is reached. At night it's perfect. I have plenty of blinkies to attend to, so it's nice that at least one light smart enough to keep up with the task at hand.

Also note the Tirefly on the Presta adapter. Don't see that every day.

The Lumotec isn't as bright or as focused or as wide as the Inoled I'm using on Shirley the Woodpecker, but it's a much cheaper light and was quite good when I purchased it back in 2001. It's been quite good for winter use.

Here's a view from the catbird seat. Coupla blinkies, since I'm a big believer in redundancy. Those Nitto Albatross bars do have quite the span, and lordy, do I love the fact that they'll take bar-end shifters. Thanks Grant! Also should mention that you'd want to get some stretchy grips for this setup, since the shifter cables need to run through them somehow. The old WTBs I have on there had just enough give.

I dunno, maybe I'll get me a Pugsley someday, but this'll do for now.

Friday, December 01, 2006


We're getting about 2 or 3 inches of the big snowstorm that's hitting Chicago right now. So of course, I rode:

Saw a guy on a bike fall down on the street adjacent to a bus stop—a combination of a steeply-crowned Jenifer street and an ice patch created by bus tires. Had to wait for a dual-unit, 30-car Wisconsin and Southern southbound freight to cross North Shore Drive, then rode sorta parallel to it as it faded gray into a wall of driving snow. Turned off North Shore into what seemed like a gale-force westwind. Sirens echoed throughout downtown as emergency vehicles responded to crashes. Watched a huge pickup truck pulling a skidloader on a trailer burn a half a gallon of unleaded spinning its way up a tiny hill, leaving a blue cloud of burnt rubber-smelling smoke in its .0005 mph wake. The Ford Escort behind it couldn't make it up the hill either. Long lines of single-occupant motor vehicles just about everywhere I went. Rode faster than many of them, even on the unplowed bike routes.

Typical snowstorm.

Shirley the Woodpecker performed swimmingly in his/her maiden snow voyage. A little squirrely, but confident overall. The only problem was Tokay hill number three, where I couldn't stand up to pedal because I'd lose traction out back. Had to sit and grind it out, which was fine today, but might become a problem on days when I'm not feeling quite as studly.