Saturday, February 17, 2018

Surly Long Haul Trucker, Chapter 1

I brought the new-to-me Surly Long Haul Trucker (2014 model, in "smog silver") home a couple weekends ago.  Today I let it see the light of day for awhile, as I installed some preferred accessories.  I put some new pedals on (with flat platform on one side, SPD clip on the other)... I installed a Cateye cycle computer... and most visibly, I installed some Planet Bike Cascadia fenders - in bright orange.

I'm quite pleased with the contrast between the silver frame and the orange fenders.

You will notice the upright-style handlebars, which were installed by the previous owner (along with the sweet Brooks B17 saddle).  I'll likely try some other model handlebar.  I don't think I'll go back to the drops - I hardly ever ride in the "drop" position any more - but I'm not delighted with the full-upright position, either.  I'm looking at the Jones "H Bar"; It has an almost flat profile, but offers multiple hand positions, when taped up for such.

This is my post-retirement bicycle, so I've got time to tweak.  Until then, it will probably serve as a "Sunday Rider" - I'll take it out for a spin on picture-perfect days.  (The Missus should be thrilled that this geezer is buying another bicycle for post retirement, rather than a sweet La-Z-Boy.  I'm a firm believer in "use it or lose it."  I'm slowing down, but hope it'll be at least another 15 or more years before I come to a complete stop... or my kids force me to give up bicycling because it's just gotten too crazy.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New steed in the stable

In the next few days, I'll take possession of a "like new" Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle.  I'm pretty excited to make a return to traditional steel.  (I've been mostly riding aluminum bicycles for 25 years or so.)

I intend for the Trucker to be my "retirement bike."  Although the target date for retirement is still more than a year off, I can start fine-tuning my Old Man Wheels.  There's really not a lot to do... it has a Brooks saddle (which will come off and be my "spare" - I'm devoted to the Anatomica).  I've got some pedals to swap out; I'll put a computer on it to tally the miles.

The main thing I hope to get just right is the handlebars.  I've had "drops" for pretty much forever... but the reality is, I use the drop position maybe 3% of the time, so if it went away I wouldn't be devastated.  I'm eyeing some "moustache" type bars... or maybe some "off-road drops" (with a much smaller drop, and kinda flared out).  There are a couple outfits - Soma and Velo Orange - that make dozens of different-shaped bars.  I'm also considering the "Jones" handlebar, which is very popular among bicycle tourists and such.  (The Trucker comes with 2 sets of bars - the factory drops, and some traditional upright bars, with brake levers and shifters - that the current owner added.)

I'll post photos and reports on the Trucker.  I don't intend for it to become my "go-to bike" until I part ways with my employer.  But, I'll no doubt take it out for some "Sunday drives" on really nice days, to get everything dialed in nicely.

I gave some consideration to another bicycle - a Priority Continuum.  It's a commuter-style bicycle, that would probably mesh nicely with my riding habits.  The main feature that caught my eye is the NuVinci constantly-variable rear hub, combined with a carbon-fiber belt in place of a chain.  And the price is an astoundingly-low $999.

I actually bought an (REI) Novara Gotham bike a couple years back, with the NuVinci/Gates combo.  I only had it for a month and returned it for a refund... not on account of anything mechanical, but because it was woefully small for me.  (To this day, I wonder if maybe they mis-labeled a medium size with a large tag or something; it always just felt way too small, even with an extra-long seat post that I sprung for.)

I really liked the NuVinci hub and belt... the shifting and operation was ghostly silent! However, I'm not totally sold on the long-term reliability of the NuVinci hub. It's filled with some sort of special oil that provides just enough but not too much friction... and my experience has been that: 1) oil tends to break down and lose viscosity over time, and 2) oil-filled mechanical devices that have moving parts and seals tend to start leaking. A bicycle hub would accumulate a lot of revolutions under less-than ideal conditions. I hope that ten years from now, NuVinci owner/operators continue to sing their praises... meaningful innovation is a good thing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What a difference a year makes!

Last winter we had what us long-time locals would describe as a "20-year weather event."  It snowed... and it snowed and snowed!  Enough to collapse roofs of houses and businesses in nearby communities.  Enough to cause meaningful flooding as the snows began to melt.

Some photos from last winter and early spring:

This winter has given us a significant turnaround.  Below-average precipitation, and at least for the past week or so, unseasonably warm temperatures.  In fact, we're not even halfway through the month and I've already bicycled more miles than all of last January.

Here's what I'm talkin' about:

(The last photo in each group above was taken in almost the exact same place.)

Winter isn't over yet.  Some folks - the ones who haven't been around long enough to know better - will be disappointed when we get more nasty weather.  And, since we live in the desert, we appreciate how meaningful that snowpack in the mountains is - it's our staff of life!  But just the same, it's always a blessing to bicycle on non-slippery pavement!

Several stretches of the Greenbelt are still closed, as damage from last year's flooding is repaired.  Below are photos of the Greenbelt near Veteran's Parkway, in April '17 and today.  It looks like they want it to stay put this time... that concrete must be 2 feet thick!  (As compared with a thin asphalt slab, previously.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

When is a bike not a bike?

Happy new year!

I've posted a couple times recently, about the arrival and acceptance of "E-bikes" on the "no motor vehicles" Greenbelt and other bicycle infrastructure, and sidewalks, in our community.  I continue to have serious reservations about how it's all going to mesh, or not, during the busy summer months.  Time will tell.

We've had some interesting developments at the office "bike room" as well, over the past year or so.  (By "we," I really mean the people who manage the facility.  But most of them are friends of mine... and the majority are bike commuters as well.)

First it was the guy who rode his low-slung "tadpole trike."  You know... one of those contraptions with two wheels in the front, one in the back, and not quite as high as the hood of a passenger car.  (I worry about the safety of those things, in places where they share pavement with cars... but that's a different subject.)  The tadpole trike takes up three or more bicycle spaces, in the bike parking facility.  (NOT a problem in January... but six months from now?  That room gets pretty crowded on a nice day!)

Then a guy started riding this big "fat bike" with the pedal-assist motor.  The tires are too wide to fit in the bike racks... and I guess it's too heavy for him to lift up onto wall hooks.  (The bike room has some very nice custom features - a horizontal bike rack along one wall, that accepts tires of various widths - but it was built "BFB" - before fat bikes.  On the other walls, there are sturdy rails that bikes can be locked to, and hooks that accept a front wheel for vertical parking.  But you need adequate upper-body strength to hoist your bike onto the hook.)

And then... starting in the past week or so, some guy has been riding one of the biggest bikes I've ever seen, and parking it in the room.  At least I think it's a bike, in the same sense that a Hummer or Ford Excursion is a "car" - it sorta looks like a bike.  But - it occupies more space than either of my motorcycles.  Check it out!

Actually, it is a bike - a Surly Big Fat Dummy - and it has been customized with some interesting features - the big bike-mounted mitten thingies for the rider's hands.  Bags on the back.  Some sort of passenger accommodations... a seat maybe?  I can't tell because it's covered by some sort of thing that's apparently attached to the bike... it looks like a silver rain poncho with a hole for a neck.  But is it a child's neck that goes through there, or a dog's neck, or what?  Maybe at some point I'll get to see it, rolling down the pavement and loaded in all its glory... and I'll understand.

I'm sorta hoping this is just a "winter thing."  IMO, you don't need 4 1/2 inch wide tires to traverse what little snow we've had so far; I've been doing it mostly on 1 1/4 inch tires.  This thing would probably be better suited to Fairbanks, or maybe Minneapolis or Steamboat.  And there won't be room for it in our bike room that already gets very crowded in the summer.

On snowy days, my poor friend Dave rides a "fat bike" that looks pretty tiny by comparison.  You can see it - and the "tadpole"- in the second photo.  But it's pretty awkward for him to lift his fat bike down off the rack, when trying to maneuver around the "morbidly obese bike" (by comparison).

Friday, December 15, 2017

E-bikes soon to be a reality

E-bikes got the go-ahead from the City Council, at the December 5th meeting.  "Class 1" and "Class 2" will have the green light in bike lanes... on the Greenbelt... on many foothills paths, and on sidewalks (!) as soon as the ink dries.

I submitted a report to the Boise Guardian.  You can read it HERE.

At the Council meeting, the City experts had recommended against allowing the electric-assist bikes on the sidewalks.

There was considerable discussion about the different "classes" of E-bikes... apparently those that will be allowed can't provide more than 20mph of forward propulsion, and only when the rider is pedaling.  But I've observed E-bike riders cruising along, "smart phone" to ear, and barely turning the pedals even though the bike is going 20mph.  I guess we're about to find out how they will interact with other Greenbelt users.

Probably 25 members of the general public testified.  The pro-E-bike group was well-represented, including numerous E-bike riders who confessed to operating their bikes in violation of the current statutes.

I anticipate that many E-bike riders will be good Greenbelt citizens.  The lady who likes to take her kids to their soccer practices and music lessons.  The guy who has bad knees and can't ride a regular bike without pain.  The senior-citizen couple.  (Although if they rode REGULAR bikes, they would receive a lot more benefit in the form of cardio activity!)  But there will be some PROBLEM E-bikers... just as there are problem bicyclists, pedestrians, dog-walkers, smart-phone zombies.  And, I expect there to also be doofuses on Gas-powered bicycles... I've urged the Council to make it very clear that the hydrocarbon-burning bikers will eagerly take to the infrastructure, unless they are blocked by statute and enforcement.  (But I'm getting the impression that public comments are a mere formality... our Dear Leaders already know what's best and will proceed with their perfect plan.  Sigh...)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Invasion of the E-bikes

So... what's your feeling about electric-assist bicycles using dedicated bicycle facilities, and non-motorized pathways, etc.?

I've got mixed feelings.

One the one hand... if people are getting out of their single-occupant cars as a result of riding an E-bike, it's hard to find fault with that.  But on the other hand... if you have a motor pushing you along so you don't have to pedal, you're missing out on the health benefits that riding a bicycle can provide.  (I keep hearing that we have an obesity epidemic going on in this country.  Could it be that too many folks don't do anything more strenuous than pushing buttons or turning a steering wheel?)

The Boise City Council is planning on taking testimony on how to deal with the E-bike issue this next Tuesday, December 5th.  I hope I can attend the meeting and testify... but in the meantime I composed a message to various city leaders, part of which is below:

... I probably use the Greenbelt, bike lanes, bike routes, etc., as much as anybody in town... so, I'm quite interested in the news that the City will consider how to deal with "E-bikes" and bicycle-specific infrastructure. ...

Apparently there is a proposal to drop various types of E-bikes into classifications based on their performance - Class 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being the "high performance" E-bikes.  And then SOME E-bikes will be allowed and others won't.

To me, that sounds like a mass of confusion, and an enforcement nightmare.

I would strongly recommend an alternative...

If I understand correctly, in order to be an "E-bike," it has to be a bicycle that can be pedaled by the rider, in addition to a motor that can provide optional "pedal power."

Wouldn't it be much easier to just declare that "human pedal power" is the only acceptable energy, for bicycles of all stripes, when using bicycle and non-motorized facilities?  In other words, you need to keep your E-bike motor turned off, if you're using bike lanes, Greenbelt, etc.  (An exception could be made for people with a disability.  And "Pedaling is HARD!" should not be considered a disability!)

Based on my casual observation, I'd say it's fairly obvious if somebody is cruising down a bicycle facility at 15 or 20mph, and barely pedaling.  I'm already seeing it... and apparently I'm not the only one.  To me, it seems like it would be much more difficult to determine whether that cruising is being done on a "class 1, 2, or 3" E-bike.

As anybody who regularly uses the Greenbelt can attest to, the wide variety of users already poses challenges when you get the mix of pedestrians, cyclists, pedestrians with dogs on 20-foot leashes, skaters, cross-country-ski-rollers, smart-phone zombies, clumps of chatty Cathys, etc.  I see nothing but trouble if you have a new group of people zooming along nonchalantly on their MOTORIZED bicycles.

No matter what you decide, I hope you can also make a strong declaration, backed up with vigorous enforcement, that those stinky/raucous/annoying GAS-powered bicycles have no place on ANY bicycle infrastructure!  PLEASE!  (I've encountered people riding them on the Greenbelt... in bike lanes... on sidewalks!)

Thanks for your attention.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hydrocarbon fury

There's no denying that image is a huge factor in vehicle selection. We fork over big bucks for a ride that will not only get us and our stuff from Point A to Point B, but will also make a statement about the person behind the wheel.

Take this pickup, for example. Shiny red paint! Overt display of patriotism! Oversized rubber! And... check out that exhaust pipe! It's so big that you could store your CD collection in there! It must take quite the man, to even handle all that barely-contained raging fury when the gas pedal is punched!

Hey! Wait just one minute!

Upon closer inspection... that huge exhaust pipe is just pretend! It's just bolted on the end of a much more conventional-sized exhaust pipe.

I'm no internal-combustion engineer... but it seems to me that this giant chrome exhaust tip wouldn't add even a single horse power! Am I wrong? I invite expert opinions that might clarify my misunderstanding, if there is one.

Is this exhaust tip the vehicular equivalent of sticking a cucumber down your tight britches?

(nudge-nudge... wink-wink)