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The kit came back from the embroiderer just as we left for the long weekend with the family at the Oregon coast. It looks good, reminding me a bit of the Team Cinzano in “Breaking Away.” If only I can be as badass as those guys. This photo followed a foggy morning training ride with my son-in-law, Phillip.
It’s just a month until L’Eroica and the training is coming along nicely. Rode the Lawyer Ride on Thursday and realized just how hard other fellers ride. I felt good along the way, but I was bringing up the rear on every climb.

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The roads and scenery around Trout Lake, Washington bring you within a few kilometers of  two significant Cascade volcanoes, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams by the USGS

With my son-in-law as ride-mate, we took on a loop ride from the Lower Falls Campground in Gifford Pinchot National Forest through Trout Lake and over the western flank of Mt. Adams. The ride includes some very quiet roads, breath taking scenery, steep ascents and equally enjoyable descents. For a map of the ride, go here: Lewis River-Trout Lake Loop.

On family camping trips, the Moseman tandem is usually the machine of choice. This time, my wife decided she didn’t want the punishment. I don’t blame her. She and I have ridden this loop before, albeit without the extra 33K of road between the loop and the camping. My original mapping of the ride had the distance pegged incorrectly and my son-in-law pointed this out before we set off. I wish he hadn’t said anything.

The weather on Saturday, August 6 was beautiful: sunny skies, temperatures in the low 70’s with a light breeze at our back when we started. We thought about that as we knew that the return would be into that same wind.

The first significant climbing occurs after you make the turn toward Trout Lake. The road is perfect, though, with just a few patches of gravel. The gradient is easily managed, even with the relatively high gearing that I cannot escape. We took just about two hours to get to the Trout Lake Ranger Station where we refueled with water and sandwiches and some excellent homemade cookies. Prior to that stop, though, I choked down my first experience with “Gu.” All I can say is that I hoped it helped me in some small way because the experience otherwise is not pleasant.

It’s not long after Trout Lake that you begin the climb of Mt. Adams. Here, the angle is more significant, with steep pitches that are followed by milder climbs and even some descents. The sun was on us, too, so we doffed the helmets and rode like hard men. Phillip was kind to me, letting me catch him as we made our way up the 20K or more of climbing.

Views to Mt. Adams are wonderful here and we had been teased with peeks at the western slopes as we made our way down to Trout Lake. After finally topping out, we rode the relatively flat, then steeply descending road to its junction with our return.

On average, the return is downhill, though there are some rollers that remind you that what looks easy on paper rarely is. Add to this the wind dimension, which at times was blowing quite hard in our faces. That meant crouching over the handlebars and creating the sore necks that we nursed with beers late in the day.

By the end, we had logged 116K of fantastic riding, averaging 23K/hour. As I made my final turn into the campground, I felt proud. Proud, that is, until I realized that to approximate L’Eroica’s long ride, I’d have to make the circuit all over again.

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A waning skill among cyclists is the engaging and disengaging of a traditional cleat in a traditional pedal. With the wonders of the clipless pedal, we just snap our plastic molded, velcro strapped, ratcheting buckled shoes into place. Come to a stop sign or a place to dismount, twist and lift and we’re ready.

Enter the traditional pedal and the slotted cleat. You have to think about it and you have to be prepared to extricate yourself unless you want to be the laughing stock in front of the cafe or pub. It’s really quite simple, though. Just:

Drop—-Swipe—-Lift

At least for the removal. It’s good to have this muscle memory, especially when you’re riding along, enjoying the road and hoping that the rest of the route is downhill. Then, along comes a stop sign or a needed resting point and you’ve “forgotten” that your pedals are as pictured. You cannot use your foot alone to make the move. You have to free your foot from the rigors of the clip and strap. Or, fall down. It’s your choice.

This became clear in the month since I made the transition. It is reinforced every time I get on the bike. If you want to stay upright when stopped, memorize the action above.

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This was the start of last weekend’s training session. I met Rick Wilson, owner of Cafe Velo, at his bricks-and-mortar version of the cafe at 05:00 on Saturday morning. The coffee trike has been making a splash in the Portland bicycle and coffee scene for a few years now. A Dutch bakfiet, it has been carefully and tastefully customized into a rolling coffee making machine. This was a Portland Farmer’s Market day and I was the lucky pilot who took her from her downtown parking spot uphill-all-the-way to the South Park Blocks. I spent the next couple of hours helping set up the cafe while Rick and I talked bicycles, fly fishing, chukkar hunting and fine European double-barrel shotguns.

The all-boy conversation ended with my wife’s arrival. We moved on to the finer things in life, including the excellent coffee that comes from this cart and the fine crepes that are made next door. This training ride was followed by a Sunday ride on the tandem with Sue, up and over the west hills via Saltzman, my touchstone for the local version of the strade bianchi.

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With a bit of spare time and plenty of motivation–see my post on the spring classics book review–I tackled the job of returning the Moseman’s brakes to original form. If you’ve read any of the earlier posts or looked at the photo on the “The Bicycle” page, you’ll know that many years ago,

View of converted brake lever from handlebar side

I converted my Campagnolo Nuovo Record brake levers to something that approximated the Dura-Ace aero levers introduced in the mid-80’s. The pictures show the conversion work. The effort was misguided. At the time, it seemed important.

I’ve known for some time that the levers, and consequently the brakes, did not work as well in the conversion, but I didn’t care. They were cleaner without those exposed cables. Of course, the cable housing was still visible, so what had I really eliminated? A few inches of housing.

Pulley "fulcrum" on the converted lever

Today, after more than 20 years of the more modern look of an aerodynamic lever, the brakes are now returned to their original configuration. The levers themselves are an eBay find since I wasn’t sure whether or not I could salvage the old levers. As it turns out, it would have taken a bit of effort to return them to working order and they have been drilled through. Perhaps at another time, I’ll take them back to their origins. For now, the second-hand goods will do.

The test ride proved to me that the brakes work much better than the conversions. It was all I could do to keep myself on the bike on my first use. Makes me appreciate the quality of the brakes once again.

The cables, exposed.

And, now I can appreciate “the look” of the exposed cables. Original Campagnolo, by the way.

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Depending upon how you count it, a bicycle and its rider are in contact at three crucial areas: the hands, the feet and the bum. Of the latter, it is more accurate to say the ischium because we don’t actually sit on a saddle as if it were a chair. In fact, it’s easy to identify those who know little about the bicycle when they refer to the saddle as a seat.

Those who know me, either personally or otherwise, know that I am a devotee of Brooks saddles, still made in their shop in the Midlands of England. I say saddles because there are many of them in many styles, but they have one thing in common: They are all made of real leather stretched over a frame. They are made as bicycle saddles have traditionally been made and they have all of those same advantages and drawbacks. They are rarely found on racing bicycles today, but are frequently seen on touring bikes, hipster fixies, bike messenger machines and are used more than any other saddle to identify a handmade bicycle frame as a top-of-the-market product.

I imagine that anyone thinking about vintage bikes ridden over the old roads would expect they were ridden on leather saddles. That’s what I’ll be doing. Regardless, I’ll readily admit that most other elements of the bicycle have been improved upon, particularly the components, since 1987, the latest year of construction for a bicycle to be entered in L’Eroica. Pedals, for one, are vastly improved. Many of the other components, though more complex mechanically, show the improvement that comes with greater research, competition and technological advances. But, not the saddle.

Sure, you can now buy and use a saddle that weighs almost nothing. It will be made of composites or plastics or even have padding with a leather cover. It just won’t possess the individualized comfort or the aesthetic of the all-leather saddle.

Apart from Brooks, who dominate the category, smaller producers are making leather saddles including some fine ones from Gilles Berthoud in France. Their weight may exceed, by many grams, those racing and touring saddles made of plastic, but they trade that weight for comfort and durability that cannot be matched. The Brooks Team Pro saddle on the Moseman is nearly as old as the bicycle and provides day-long comfort, not to mention a handsome, well-worn patina.

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When my friends and I started riding bicycles together as adults, we became almost as interested in maintaining our bikes as riding them. We strove to keep races and cones polished to a mirror finish. We exalted in clean chains and shiny seat stems. We labored to be sure that hubs rotated effortlessly, maintaining the delicate balance between loose cones and frictionless tolerances.

Pedals awaiting assembly

Campagnolo Nuovo Record Pedal

We would overhaul our bicycles for nearly any reason. Just completed a long ride? Better check the bottom bracket. Returned home in a sudden downpour? Break down the hubs and repack the bearings. We learned these simple mechanical adjustments and procedures through some guidance from others and trial and error. There was one task, though, that we would delay until the inevitable long ride in pouring rain occurred, and often not then: overhauling pedals.

Our bicycling experiences, on the road and with wrenches, occurred in that time when all bearings were loose and most problems could be cured with a few wrenches. The late ’70’s witnessed the rise of sealed and cartridge bearings, but certainly not under the Campagnolo banner, the place where we were hanging out. Even knockoffs of Campy components stayed true to the free bearing pledge.

That’s fine and it makes for easy maintenance until you get to the pedals. The pedals required a deftness with assembly and tuning that defied the simplicity we experienced with hubs or bottom brackets. One pedal would have 20-24 loose, small ball bearings and sometimes not equally distributed from the crank arm side to the outside. Achieving a smooth, near-frictionless spin on the pedal seemed to take forever.
So, we figured we’d let the pedals go until they had been beaten by all of the elements to the point of no return. That may have been why, when I first assembled the Moseman, it did not have Campy pedals. Why put all that money into something I planned to ignore?

The Moseman today is a hybrid or a Frankenstein. Speedplay X-1 or some other fast sounding product name adorn the crank arms. For L’Eroica, those must be set aside and my choice was to find a good, though not perfect, set of Campy pedals. After several eBay searches and purchases, I found them. I settled on Nuovo Record just because they had a certain style that I liked. And, I believed I could make them turn just like Super Record pedals because of all of those years working on my own bicycles.

If the Flickr Photostream could talk, it would tell you that the time between the first few shots of the assembly until the last shots of the finished goods was about three (3) hours. I don’t think I can expect any offers from any racing teams taking that much time to put 48 bearings back in place. During the process, I managed to spill half the bearings, crawling on my hands and knees to recover the one last bearing that would make the set. And, just like a beginner, I managed to put the left spindle in the right hand cage and vice versa, requiring a complete disassembly and reassembly. But, they are done and soon, the Moseman will sport an age-appropriate set of pedals.

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Tubolari or no tubolari?

Forgive my hacked Italian, but bicyclists will understand the question. As a novice rider, I saved my quarters until I could purchase a set of tubular wheels built on Campy hubs. I don’t recall the rim brand, but the material was aluminum before anodization and hardening were available. The spokes were Trois Etoilles, 3 cross on 36-hole Campy low flange hubs. I still have the hubs, which are the foundation for my current tubular wheels.

I had all but given up on sew-ups, as well called them. I found myself replacing tires too frequently for the little advantage they gave me other than bragging rights as a retro bike guy. Of course, I claimed to love the ride and there is a difference between good tubulars and ordinary or even expensive clinchers. But, is it enough for the hassle?

Then, along came L’Eroica and the tension between tradition and convenience, history and practicality. And, cost. I’m convinced that to ride tubulars again, I need new wheels. The old ones just cannot come back to true and may not be suitable for what I am beginning to realize is more than just a few quaint roads through the Tuscan countryside. These strade bianchi are a mix of smooth, fine gravel and deeply rutted, rocky paths. In the course of the 205K course, which I have convinced myself it is necessary to ride, at least half is on the old roads.

Into this mix, I’ve read that a good tubular, which is something I’ve never owned, that is made for these kinds of roads is likely to be more durable, more comfortable and a better ride. Can it be so? Or, am I just trying to convince myself that a truly “heroic” ride must be on the traditional tires?

I guess it’s time to have some lunch and ponder the question. If you are reading this and holding an opinion about whether or not I should ride on the sew-ups, do tell.

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Should be no surprise that when you begin in earnest to chase a dream, you find others doing the same.
I’ve been fishing about the interwebs and social media, finding more and more references to the ride. Here’s a video showcasing the area and the ride.

L’EROICA (english version) from Edouardi Sepulchro on Vimeo.

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The Moseman

The Moseman as she is today

1981 Moseman Road Bike

The moment I landed my first, good paying job, I visited Rodney Moseman in Lititz, Pennsylvania to be measured for a handmade bicycle. I wanted a road racing bike, one that would be quick enough for easy climbing, but with enough of a wheelbase for good descents. It had to be in Columbus SL tubing, one of only two brands that anyone really wanted for their bicycle at that time. And, of course, it must have a Campagnolo Gruppo.

The bicycle was finished and I have enjoyed thousands of miles of fun rides, a race or two over the years and more than a few comments. Unwisely, I modified its original layout to accommodate the fads or advances of the time: clipless pedals, “aero” brake levers and a welded stem. Fortunately, none of these improvements are permanent.

L’Eroica requires that bicycles be built prior to 1987 or at least conform to the conventions of that time: exposed brake cables, shifters on the downtube or loom tube as they describe it and traditional, non-clipless pedals. The next few weeks will be spent, in those rare moments of spare time, returning the Moseman to its original state.

Pictured here is the Moseman as it is today.

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