Schwinn Collegiate

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The fixed gear bike

To talk about a "fixie" in cycling circles is to invoke an emotional response.  To talk about a "fixie" in certain social circles is to invoke an emotional response.  To talk about a "fixie" in almost any other circle is to raise eyebrows of confusion and elicit an "eh?".

At its core a fixie is a fixed gear bike.  Once upon a time all bikes were fixed.  This means that the rear wheel is fixed to the cog that the chain sits upon.  Eventually, this became replaced by the freewheel.  Freewheels only spin in one direction.  This makes it so that when you pedal forward, it propels the bicycle.  But when you pedal backwards, nothing happens.  With a fixed gear bicycle, pedaling backwards propels the bicycle backwards (were one to have better balance than I have!).  Of course if the bicycle is in forward motion, and one resists the forward momentum, then the bike slows.  The two major effects of this is that one must always pedal when riding a fixie (there is no coasting) and one has very little need for brakes (especially the back one) because one can simply slow the bike by resisting the forward momentum.

For those outside of bicycling, this probably warranted little more than an "oh."  Perhaps even a "that's weird."  So the next question is "why all of the emotional reactions?"  The answer to this revolves around an urban subculture.  The members of this subculture, sometimes called "hipsters" (rarely in a flattering way) are the main riders of fixies.  The riding of fixed geared bikes became popular with bike messengers who were looking to gain control of their bikes in the tight urban environment of big cities. The fixed gear bikes also offered them simple bikes that were easy to maintain.

So how did a bunch of hipsters end up with these bikes?  This I cannot entirely answer.  Trends spread, especially in urban environments and within subcultures. For whatever reason, fixies have become popular in the this subculture and even beyond.  Not only do people ride fixed gear bikes, but they make them fashion statements.  They are often repainted or powder coated bright colors or a matte black.  In contrast various components are often bright loud colors.  It is not uncommon to see brightly colored cranks, handlebars, chains, wheels, saddles, and more.  These make for wonderful simplistic works of art.  However, this of course augments the notion that these riders are more interested in making a fashion statement than riding a fixed gear bike.

Fixies also lend themselves to stunt riding (riding backwards, skid stopping, etc.) and can have a bit of a learning curve for new riders.  This leads to the occasional blunder as riders fail an attempt at a "cool" trick or forget themselves and attempt to coast at an inopportune time.  This of course garners annoyance and subsequent ridicule from drivers and pedestrians (not to mention other riders).  Hence the emotional reactions begin.  Many bicycle enthusiasts see fixie riders as wannabe hipsters who just want to ride (or perhaps just own a bike) to be cool and hence degrade the hobby that the enthusiasts love so dearly.

Those who resent fixie riders for social reasons are usually part of the same subculture or one in close contact with it.  Part of this subculture is the need to constantly be original and differentiate oneself, and of course conforming to fixie riding is grounds for sanctions as a conformist.  Of course those who aren't part of the subculture probably see it as a badge for that subculture and may resent fixie riders for the same reason.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


This is all Mike's fault.  He told me to start a bike wiki.  I guess this makes a lot more sense than trying to accumulate all of the information myself.  Well here it is:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My bike is taller than you are

During the early 80s a number of Japanese bike companies caught on to the need to make taller bikes for American riders.  Because of this a number of very tall Japanese bikes float around the market.  For whatever reason, Fuji in particular seems to have made some giant beasts.  However, even at my size (6'4"), I am lucky to be able to find a number of large bikes (usually around 25.5").  The good news is that because of how few riders there are my height, I am usually able to get a pretty good deal on these bikes.  The bad news is that once I buy these bikes, selling them is nearly impossible because there is such a small market.  This has led me to accumulate more and more bikes with no outlet for the excess/overlapping ones.  While I am happy to keep all of the bikes that I love so much, I am running out of room in the garage, and lack the ability to sell off the ones I don't use to make room for new better ones that I find.  Not an easy situation, but I guess it just means I need to be more selective in my purchases from here on out.  In the meanwhile I'll just need to keep riding and enjoying them all. I wouldn't want any of them to get jealous!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Keeping it classy twine-style

Today, Teresa and I took advantage of the warm weather to  finally get to a project I've been putting  on hold.  First I had to find some twine and shellac.  The twine was easy to find (I picked it up at Big Lots!, but it is really readily available in any hardware store).  The shellac was another story.  The people at Michael's looked at me like I was using the term "negro" when I said shellac.  I was told it was a term that "was no longer used".  Long story short: they didn't carry it.  I didn't see it at Lowe's either.  The employee at Sherwin Williams said it was really hard to find because of VOC laws.  He suggested I try a local hardware store.  Finally, I found it at Aubachon.  All they had was clear shellac, but I figured that would be perfect and grabbed their last one!

I started with the handlebars in order to cover the black electrical tape that held the tape in place.

To see how to do this, check out Rivendell's video.  It looked a bit confusing at first, and it is a little tricky to get started, but once you figure it out, it is a breeze!  Then simply apply a generous coat of shellac every hour or two and ta-da!

I'd seen a lot of people do the water bottle as well.  It seemed like a good idea so I did it too.  Of course, then it became very tricky  to fit it into the bottle cage.  Stupid.

I didn't want the frame pump to get jealous, so I did it as well.  At first, I did the long silver shaft, but I thought that looked strange, so I reversed it and covered the two parts seen in the photo.

I'd seen kickstands done as well. I thought this turned out great.

While we were at it, I put on some new pedals and the tan argyle power grips on.  It's argyle, so of course it is classy, too!

We also did the rear rack.  I'm not so sure how I feel about it.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the way it all came out.  I think it keeps the Gran Turismo looking classy, which is what I was always going for.

Ride:  Around town, to Wheaton, to Tsang's, Down Freeman St., and back home
Time: ???
Distance: 15 miles

Wald 582 Rear Folding Basket

I bought the Wald 582 rear folding basket(s) for Large Marge so that I could transport whatever I need.  When I went to install them, I realized that the mounting brackets were far too small to wrap around the bracket to mount it.  I thought maybe this was Large Marge's fault, so I looked it up online.  Not so much.  Many other people seemed to have faced the same challenge.  It wasn't really a big deal though.  I used some tie wraps, and it secured the baskets nicely.

On the top of each basket is a metal clip that secures the basket shut when the bike is not being ridden.  This clip can be a big of a challenge to close, but it is actually really effective at preventing the basket from rattling during the ride.

When open, the baskets provide a strong and fairly roomy area for whatever it is you want to transport.  They certainly aren't huge, but they fit my groceries (minus soda 12 packs).  My one misstep with them has been when using them with reusable grocery bags.  Upon removing one once, it got caught on the clip that secures the baskets closed and tore the bag.  Other than that, it has been a really good experience overall.

Overall Rating:  A-

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Team Fuji goes into the shop

So, for whatever reason, today I decided to use the Team Fuji as my guinea pig for repacking bottom brackets.  I picked up a crank puller this morning and went home.

I had read that it was important to regrease the bottom bracket every six months or so if I ride the bike regularly.  Being that most of my bikes are at least 30 years old and that many had been sitting unused for some time, I decided it was probably a good idea to learn how to do this and to actually do it to most of my bikes.  The purpose is to make the spinning of the crank arms (which the pedals mount to) smooth and keep the components from breaking down by keeping them clean.

To do this, I would need a tool to remove the crank arms, so I bought the crank puller.  I also needed a tool to remove the lock ring that keeps the bottom bracket on the bike.  I looked it up and it is Park Tool's HCW-5 wrench.  It looked a lot like my HCW-17 that I bought to undo the lock ring on my fixie so that I could change the cog on it.  I decided I'd just wing it and see if the HCW-17 would work, and it sure did!

I removed the bottom bracket using the HCW-17 and a standard adjustable wrench.  I cleaned everything using a car brake cleaner and a lot of rags.  I repacked the cups and bearings with some real cheap heavy grease from a car parts store and began to reinstall the bottom bracket.  At this point, I realized that it just wasn't going to work and I was missing a tool.  After a little research I realized I needed a pin spanner to reinstall the bottom bracket.  I went to the same store and picked one up (SPA-1?).   Not long later I was able to completely reinstall the bottom bracket with freshly packed grease. 

Perhaps I was emboldened with my "success," but I then decided to take another shot at the Team Fuji's fork crown.  I tried all my old tricks again and decided that I think I'm going to just need to paint it.  However, when exploring this option, I boldly disassembled the headset and removed the fork.  In doing so, I realized the bearings looked far rougher than did the ones in the bottom bracket.  I cleaned it all like I did the bottom bracket, and I prepared to repack them with which point I went to get vegan soft serve. 

Somewhere in the process I found time to switch out the wounded Team Fuji and replaced it with the "Grand Prix" all plastic saddle that I bought off Ben the bike boy with my bar end shifters.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer bike plans

So I have a lot of summer plans in the works for my bikes, and I figure I might as well get some of them out on "paper".

The fixie!  I find this bike difficult to ride.  I'm a weenie.  It is set to too high of a gear ratio.  I bought a Surly cog, a wrench, and a chain whip to hopefully remedy this situation.  I do fear that this might be too low of a gear ratio now or not fit, but we shall see!

Guess who got this on clearance! Yay!

I also purchased a set of inexpensive bullhorns to mount on this bike rather than the straight bars.

I've been stocking up on various components to convert this Gran Turismo.  I have a pair of suntour bar end shifters, and some of the cables.  Now just to install them, wrap the handlebars in brown cloth tape, and mount a brown saddle.  I also plan to twine and shellac the electrical tape and cloth tape itself.

This Gran Turismo is also in line to get the twining and shellacking treatment.

Who wants to see that black electrical tape contrast? Yuck!

I also plan to move these pedals to another bike (Team Fuji perhaps?)

And replace them with another pair of these MKS Sylvan Touring pedals which are great along with a pair of power grips.

Not much to do with the Gran Touring.  I might replace the saddle and some day put some fenders on her.  But for now, she's right where I want her.

Ah, yes. Team Fuji.  You need some love.  Since this photo, I have given her a good cleaning, and she is shining a bit more, but there is much to do.

Ugh, rustmeister.  I tried to derust these, and may have permanently injured them with a naval jelly mistake (I thought they were steel, but they are actually chrome. I admit it, I'm dumb).  I plan to try to derust them a bit more and either spray paint them silver, or spray paint them black (sad, I know).

I've done a log of work trying to derust this chainstay, but even with the rust removed there are simply gashes here.  I have an ambitious plan to wrap this in black twine and shellac it in order to hide its deep wounds.

This saddleclearly needs to be replaced.

The bars need to be retaped, the cables probably need to be replaced, and the hoods of the brakes need to be replaced.

 And, then there is the dent.  I could try to touch it up, but I'm actually thinking about trying to twine and shellac the top tube.  I haven't found anyone else who has done this, so it might look dumb, but the dent isn't exactly attractive.

Hopefully, this Sportour is coming home with me tomorrow.  Assuming it does, I am going to try it as it is, but if not I think I'm either going to try to make it a porteur transportation bicycle with upright swept-back handlebars, fenders, and a large front rack, or convert it to a single/fixed gear bicycle.  I'm not sure this is going to happen this summer, but it's a plan, so who knows!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dispatches from Attleboro: the community garden

I rode to the community garden to water it, and it raised two difficulties.  Less importantly, it illustrates how hard it is for me to take pictures with my phone...especially at night!

The bigger challenge is one of the challenges of the suburbs; there are no bike racks.  Where does one expect bike racks? Where the hippies congregate down town.  Where is the community garden? Where the hippies congregate down town.  Of course there is no rack though.  Even if I wanted to lock up my bike, I certainly couldn't fit it around this very wide telephone pole-turned fence.  In fact, when I think about the places in Attleboro that have bike racks, I can name them on one hand: the library, schools, train station, and YMCA.  OK, that might be it, and these are just the old school large racks meant for 7 bikes (not small but plentiful racks like seen in most cities).  Where else?  The parks? No.  The community garden? Apparently not.  Downtown businesses? Nope!  I think that might be it.  Unfortunately, I think Attleboro just rides that rail between big enough to warrant bike usage, but too small to warrant a healthy supply of bike racks.  Where else am I forgetting?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dispatches from Attleboro: the deer

Today, when I went for a ride, I really just wanted to coast around the city and scope out the sites, but I knew I needed a little more exercise so I went for a longer ride.  As I went towards Wheaton, I decided to take a turn off the main road to check out another path.  I went up into a woodsy area and as I traveled, I didn't think much about my surroundings and just got lost in my thoughts.  At some point I looked up and saw a massive deer standing in a driveway.  I was shocked! It was huge.  I knew I had to turn around and try to snap a picture.  As soon as traffic cleared, I whipped around and returned to the scene of the deer.  It was gone :(  I was sad, and started fiddling with  my phone to see how far out I was.  When I looked up, I saw the the deer had moved into the woods next to the driveway.  I quickly snapped a photo.  Do you see it?

I thought you might not, so I zoomed in.  Clever me!

Ah! Now I'm sure you see it!


You don't?

Me either :(

P.S. As I was snapping pictures (past the "No Trespassing" sign), a pick-up pulled into the driveway.  I nervously waited for him to ask why I was photographing his intimidating home.  Instead, he smiled and waved and pulled into his driveway.

Ride:  Down Pleasant St., up South Worcester St....a lot.  Then I turned around and came home the same way.
Distance: 13.14 miles  
Time: A little under an hour
Average speed: 13.37mph

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bigfoot strikes again!

All of my Univega touring bikes come with these same Sakae touring  pedals.  They are beautiful and look like they are probably incredibly comfortable....for someone with a normal sized foot.  For me, the small horn at the end of the pedal that I believe is supposed to help secure your foot on the pedal, instead digs into the center of my fat foot.  I have unfortunately found that I've had to start switching out my pedals.  My first swap was for Shimano PDM324 pedals which are flat on one side and clipless on the other.

The Shimanos are perfectly fine little pedals, though I find the clipping system a bit challenging to me.  So for my next pedal change, I tried larger pedals and power grips rather than clipless pedals.  My next choice were a pair of MKS Sylvan tourers.  These are longer and and feel very comfortable for my wide feet.  However the power grips are proving to be a challenge for me....but that story is for another day!

Ride: Down Upland, up Bank St., down County, up 1st St. to Cliff St. and back home via West St.
Distance:  Short

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's a Trakstano?

Because of a lot of rain recently, I started to consider getting a trainer.  No sooner did I consider it, than I found one on craigslist.  It seemed like destiny.  Not only was it on craigslist, but it was in Attleboro! Fate!  So I trucked the short distance and picked it up.  It looks brand new and is a Blackburn Trackstand Defender.

Now, I have never used a trainer before, so I have very little to compare this to.  Here is my experience.  I set up the trainer in my living room and it was easy and someone idiot-proof (thank god!).  Speaking of idiots, when I first looked at the stand I thought it was called a "Trakstano".   Anyways, this is a magnetic trainer which is not as good as a fluid trainer but not the worst either. 

I did find it challenging to figure out how much resistance to put on the bike.  When I looked it up online I got a couple contrasting opinions, but something like 2.5 turns on the tightening bold after the resistance roller first hits the tire.

Once on the bike, I found the resistance to feel very....unnatural.  I was worried it was setup wrong, but as I read about it online, it seemed like it was setup appropriately.  Once I got going I was able to hit a pretty good pace.  However, after a couple minutes two things went wrong.   First, I started to overheat A LOT.  I just started pouring sweat and it felt like it was a thousand degrees in the house.  Apparently, the wind of riding outside is incredibly important to staying cool.

More disturbing was the sound the trainer started to emit.  I can't quite pinpoint what it was, but it did not sound good.  It was some sort of loud high pitched moan it seemed to be making from the resistance unit.  I'm not sure what the solution to this is yet, but it is keeping me from using this like I should.

On one final note, I find the trainer to make an excellent stand to work on my bike!  Not really the appropriate use of this tool, but exciting never the less.

Ride: To Wheaton and back
Distance:  11.82 miles
Time: 50 minutes

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


For the love of everything holy, please tell me this isn't my only option!

So I decided to go for a ride tonight before bed.  I think it may have been the guilt of watching so much of The Biggest Loser.  It was a little past 9:00 and I figured if I biked for about an hour, it'd be bed time, and I'd have gotten a nice little ride in.  In the fall I went for rides that were a similar time length and good ole Large Marge would haul me along slowly  and steadily.  Today it was the orange Gran Turismo.  It has been quite warm up until yesterday, but I knew it was a bit cooler tonight.  I dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, a t-shit material hoodie, and a raincoat.  When I first started out, it was a bit too cold and I was worried about how cold my hands were.  I have two helmets, so I wore the warmer one to keep from freezing!

As I rode I forgot about the cold and must have warmed up nicely.  But right when I reached route one, I realized I was overheating a bit.  When I stopped to make the turn, I also realized I could see my breath.  I couldn't believe how warm I was on such a cold night (50 degrees).  As I went I started to drip sweat a bit.  Then it got worse, and I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead over and over.  I started to wonder how real people handled this.  Did the racers of the Tour de France wear sweatbands?  By the time I got home, I had sweated through my shirts (all of them) and was pouring sweat.  What is this solution to this grossness?

Ride: Down West St. down North Ave. to Toner Blvd up to Route 1, down Draper Ave. to the Old Post Road.  From there I turned down Mount Hope/Linden St. to South Ave down West St and back home.
Distance: 10 miles
Time:  49 minutes  or so

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Conciliatory Lube-Based Ride

So my goal this weekend was to make it to Wildflour in Pawtucket, which is 9.4 miles away.  Unfortunately, yesterday was extremely rained out, and today Flower was incapacitated by her ongoing mysterious stomach pains.  Today, I went for a conciliatory shorter ride (sans Flower who tried to make it but couldn't).  Before I left I gave my chain a little squirt of Tri-Flow Soy-based Lube.  I have never actually bothered to lube my chain, but I also didn't expect much of a difference.  Once I started riding, I couldn't help but notice how smooth the chain rolled.  I was really surprised!  I guess this is a valuable lesson in the importance of bicycle maintenance.  I am a bit worried that the greasy chain will now be a magnet for dirt, so I might need to wipe the chain down from time to time, but I think a little more reading on the subject will help me figure this out. Anyways, I was pretty happy with the performance of this lube and happy to see it was soy-based.

Ride:  Down West St. down Clifton/Freeman Street to Toner Blvd. up to Route 1, down Draper Ave. to the Old Post Road.  From there I turned down Mount Hope/Linden St. to South Ave. down West St. and back home.
Distance: 10.49 miles (not the 15 I should have started at)
Time:  52 minutes (including a couple brief stops)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reviving the Brooks saddle

Today I got the Brooks Proofide in the mail that I ordered.  This is an oil cream that is used to treat Brooks saddles.  It treats the leather and keeps it moist and helps to waterproof it.  I felt a bit guilty not having it for the saddle I already had on my orange Gran Turismo, as I wanted to make sure I took good care of it.  But with the recent purchase of a used dried up old black saddle (with a small tear), I thought it would be a good idea to try to give it a heavy application to re-hydrate the saddle.  Here is the before shot.

It took a thick slathering to coat this thing. I thought this stuff would be stiff and hard to spread, but it was quite soft!  This is the after shot.

It looks shinier now, but that is because the oil is left to sit on the saddle for a night.  I'll buff it off in the morning and see how it looks then.  It might need another coating or two, I'm not really sure.  I decided while I had it out that I might as well give the old brown saddle on the orange Gran Turismo a coating.  So now I have to wait until tomorrow to ride on either saddle! Total bummer (get it?!)

Ride: To Stop and Shop and back
Distance: 3 miles