It Was A Bike-Fixin’ Sunday!

I did a bit o’ the Bike Kitchen thing this morning, in the comfort of my frontyard.

It’s going to be interesting to see how different the bike rides all reconfigured. Not just with the new seat and tires and bottom bracket, but some dimensional stuff as well. Nothing major, but I’ve gone up to a 52-tooth chainring from a 48, which will make me slower off the line but give me a bit greater cruising speed at the other end. The cranks are a different size, too; down from 170mm in length to 165mm.

A Little Stem-Sell Research

img_5117I rolled into my favorite bikeshop, Orange 20 in East Hollywood on the way home one night last week and queried co-owner Jim C. about stem options for Le Noir. I’ve been riding with the stock long-reach stem the bike came with and it’s been fine, but the last couple months I’ve been noticing a little residual achy in the shoulders and upper back left over from a feeling of being a touch over-extended. Wasn’t sure why it was manifesting now after more than a year, but I decided to explore my options.

Jim gave me some ideas and price ranges and I rolled back in a couple nights later and left with a clean-looking brushed aluminum shortie made by some company called Nitto that’s a full two inches less in length (pix’d at right), which I put on this Saturday.

Riding only my mountain bike the next day and opting out of the rain and wind Monday and instead driving to work, it wasn’t until this morning when I could realize the benefits of the new component.

Boy howdy whadda diff the new stem makes!

Let There Be Lights

The front steps of our house are a pit of darkness. I swear, any ambient street light gets sucked into the risers like a black hole. This is something Susan’s wanted to address permanently for a while, and something we band-aid each Halloween and Christmas season when we install temporary lighting to temporarily provide some decor and  much-needed illumination.

After five holiday seasons of mounting twinklies to the handrail, it finally dawned on me that there might be a way to do that on a year-round basis, and so on the day after New Year’s Day (when all holiday lighting schemes and decorations should be mandated to come down) I put our lights and stuff away , and started thinking about a more permanent solution.

The first one I came up with was an LED-rich rope light, but it was way too garish. I’d been hoping to mount it behind the railing to minimize the excessive brightness, but I had to settle for attaching it along the bottom. It looked hokey and cheap.  Then when Susan and I returned that to Home Depot last week we explored other options and came up a plan that included four hooded deck-style lights that we could mount to the handrail facing and connect to an appropriate landscape lighting wire (rather than just an outdoor extension cord).

This worked out great because I was able to drill holes through the wood and tuck the wiring out of sight along the back of the railing. Susan surprised me with how jazzed she was at the long-overdue project, and how nicely it came together. And while we awaited nightfall I figured the light cast by the four single-digit watt bulbs to be far more decorative than actually functional.  We were both very pleasantly surprised at how well the end result exceeded our expectations:

lights

Dollars & Sense

Last week I was drooling over all manner of new mountain machines. This week I still am — and further stoked by the announced enthusiasms of my friend Michael and his lady Crystal to hit the trails and an invitation to join them — but I’m glad I demonstrated some fiscal restraintitude. Simply put, I can’t authorize a spending bill earmarking such beaucoup buckz for a bike that in all likelihood I’ll ride but once a week — more like once a month after the buyer’s remorse and the shiny new wear off. If that.

Especially since the mountain bike I have right now is fine and not suffering from anything permanently disabling. All it needs is for me to quit half-assing around working the problem instead of the solution.

So instead of an outlay of $600, I’m dropping less than a third of that for a new  fork, a new headset and some required tools/accessories, and that should arrive in time to allow me a visit to the Bicycle Kitchen on Saturday followed by a ride in the Verdugos either afterward or Sunday morning.

This Carbon Fiber Thing May Not Be So Bad After All

I am everything that is old school about bikes. Steel’s my first choice for frames, and I roll single-gear like I did as a kid, in part because it’s pure and simple and because I’m still very much a kid at heart.

So in the wake of my fork-bender a couple Tuesdays ago (which aged the kid in me substantially and put him in a corner with a dunce cap on) I was faced with a rather surprising limited range of online replacement options of the one-inch threaded steerer tube variety. I found nothing on performancebike .com and the only thing nashbar.com had for me to those specific specs was one made of carbon fiber.

Now, I’ve nothing against the higher-quality materials. If bikes can be made better, stronger, faster than so be it. But with that technology usually comes a pricetag at which I’m inclined to scoff and pfffft. Then there’s the fact that such lighter materials are lost on me because on a bike I’m always a clydesdale, never a thoroughbred. My ass may be one made a bit less flabby from the thousands of miles I’ve slowly and steadily logged this year, but it’s the hind end a great dane not a greyhound.

In short, I was entirely retiscent to purchase the aformentioned forks — and probably would not have had:

  1. I been presented any other options, and
  2. This item had not been priced so palatably at $90

As mentioned in the previous post, mounting them on the bike proved a success Saturday morning, but despite an earnest desire to take Le Noir and her new front end for a bit of a test ride, I never got around to it. So it was only with this morning’s commute did I get my first taste of what these carbon fiber forks might be like.

And I just have one thing to say…

AWESOME!

I’ve long heard of carbon fiber for lightness, responsiveness and strength, and that’s no lie. Less aware was I of its magically delicious shock-absorbing capabilities and wow, ain’t that the truth. On the way to work I found myself riding over rugged stuff I’d typically avoid just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And I wasn’t. Low-end they may be, but Le Noir’s new fork makes the road regularly traveled that much smoother.

Now if they only made carbon fiber underwear!