These Go To Eleven…

New Local Shop: Service and Smoothies and Specialized

In case you were confused by the subject line, that is a very famous quote from the movie ” This Is Spinal Tap”. I’ve seen that flick at least a dozen times and it still makes me laugh.

But it applies to my new bike. Recall that my friend Steve was test riding my Tallerico for a couple of weeks and really wanted to purchase it. I wasn’t going to sell it, but a different bike practically fell into my lap and tempted me. Here is the story.

Around the end of February I became aware that there is a new bike shop in Lodi. I decided to check it out, and I met Ken Dovak. He owns the shop with his wife Ashley, and he is also doing all the service and repairs. The shop is pretty well stocked with the basics of tubes, tires, tools, etc., and he has a selection of cruiser, city and BMX bikes, along with some entry-level Specialized road bikes. He can also do special orders of many more items. So far the quality of the service work is excellent, repairs are done correctly and finished at the time promised.  I’m happy to have someone close to home and knowledgeable to take my bikes to for the repairs and upgrades that I can’t do myself. Ken’s wife Ashley runs the smoothie/juice bar, and I’ve enjoyed a delicious concoction there on a couple of occasions. Salads and wraps are on the menu too.

Fast Bike, Slow Rider

I  brought in a wheel for Ken to fix a broken spoke, and we were talking about his plan to become a ‘Specialized S-Works Dealer’. That would be a very big deal; Specialized sets very high standards for their top dealers and requires them to keep significant inventory of high end bikes in stock, something that is not always easy for a local shop to do. Then Ken mentioned that he had a bike for sale, but he wasn’t advertising it yet. It was an S-Works Tarmac, and it just happened to be my size.

The Tarmac is Specialized’s road race bike, and the ‘S-Works’ is the pro level model. A couple of  professional teams at the highest level of road racing ride the same frame. The bike has a reputation of being very stiff (a good thing) and either somewhat harsh to painfully rough, depending on who is writing the review. The bike is equipped with SRAM Red 11 speed components, while all of my other bikes are Shimano Dura Ace 10 speed. These go to eleven….

The bike is crazy light. It weighs 14.9 lbs. including the pedals, bottle cages and computer mounts. And the wheels are very nice but far from cutting edge light. A high end set of wheels could easily drop another 1/3 of a pound. My Tarmac is stiff and quick handling, but after 200 miles on the bike I do not think it is excessively harsh at all. I feel more road vibration than on my titanium bike or my Look 586, but it is not unpleasant. I’m not sure a double century rider would want to spend a 12-16 hour day on this bike, but since my limit is around 6 hours of riding a day and most of my rides are ‘only’ 3 hours, that is not an issue.  And the bike is really fun to ride.

A Pro Frame for a Club Rider

Most nice bikes are of course, and the Tallerico certainly was. But now everybody is happy; Steve has a bike that is a big improvement and makes him much faster, Bikes and Bites sold a high end bike, and I have a ‘new to me’ bike to ride and compare to my other bikes. And while I’m happily married to one great woman, when it comes to bikes I’m a confirmed polygamist. I think one spouse and three road bikes are enough, but you never know. About the bikes, that is.

 

 

 

 

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Next Left Brumby Road!

This one is titled 'I Don't Believe It!". My favorite 'Tommy'

My former favorite Tommy: "I Don't Believe It!"

Sometimes it seems as if everything that happens to Stoker and me has a cycling connection. Case in point..

There was an art gallery in Lockeford called ‘Captain Mike’s Outsider Art’. Stoker and I drove by it many times on our way to rides starting in the hills. But one day we were riding our tandem from home  and our route went through Lockeford.  We peeked in for a look and found a painting we were interested in. The piece was reasonably priced and we both agreed it would look good in our house. So later that day Stoker went back and purchased it.

That is how we acquired our first ‘Tommy’. ’TV- Tommyvision’ is how he signs his work. Stoker and I are not art experts, although she minored in art history as an undergraduate. We find his art quirky, colorful, and entertaining. His style is distinctive and not for everybody or for every home, but we both love the ones we have purchased. There are a couple that make me smile every time I see them. We have since acquired a total of 8 ‘Tommys”, most directly from the artist. He puts a picture up on Facebook, we decide we like it, and he sends it to us.

Diane and I both mentioned to ‘TV’ (that is how he identifies himself on the phone) that we would never presume to tell him what to create, but if he was inspired to do something with a tandem bicycle motif, we would be practically certain to purchase it. He said he didn’t really like to work that way, and Diane said we understood perfectly.

But a couple of weeks later TV called and asked if we were going to be home next week, because he was sending us something as a surprise. When we opened the box, look what we found: He titled it ‘Next Left, Brumby Road!”

Next Left, Brumby Road!

Needless to say, Stoker and I love it.  TV has created for us a 6 seat bicycle, with Rich and Diane aided by a goat (we have had 5 pet goats over the years), a ‘Luke-like’ dog, a cat (we’ve had 6, down to one now) and a mouse just for fun. And fun is what this piece of art is, at least to us.

Tommy just said if we liked it we should send him a check for what we thought was appropriate, and based on the thank you card we received he was happy with the amount. But I think he was even more happy to be able to create something that brought us some real joy. ‘Next Left’ hangs at the end of the hall where we each see it many times each day, and we hope it will bring us smiles for many years to come. Thanks TV!

And none of this would have happened if we had not stopped in Lockeford during a bike ride.

Rich, Stoker, goat, dog, cat and mouse. Coming to a club ride near you!

 

 

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Tuesday Tire Trouble

No Coffee Today!

 

Last Tuesday, Stoker and I were doing another hilly ride getting ready for our upcoming trip to France. And we were feeling great. The CoMotion had a problem with the rear disc rotor that the owner/mechanic at Bikes and Bites, Lodi’s new shop, had detected and fixed. What had been happening is that the two-piece rotor was rubbing against the caliper arms outside of the brake pads. A shiny spot on each of the spider arms showed that we were suffering a small amount of drag with each wheel rotation. Small yes, but when we started to ride with the drag-free replacement rotor, we certainly thought we noticed a difference.

So things are going well. We feel strong, we are pretty much keeping up with some of the ‘biker chicks’ (it is their own name, so refrain from accusing me of being a male chauvinist), and we are climbing the hill up the face of Hogan Dam, almost 20 miles into the ride. We are only 2 miles from Common Grounds, one of our favorite coffee break stops, and Stoker and I are trying to choose between splitting a chicken pesto panini or a breakfast burrito. Both delicious. Decisions, decisions…

Psst! Air hisses from our rear tire, which goes rapidly flat. We stop and as I’m getting repair tools and supplies out of the saddle bag, Stoker lets me know that she has found the hole.  And wow, what a hole it is. Take a look.

I didn’t remember hitting anything, and the tread of the tire did not look excessively worn to me. So either I ran over something sharp or the tire casing simply failed.  Either way, I am going to have to put a ‘boot’ inside the tire.

At the suggestion of a fellow club member, I decided to use some cardboard from the box the new tube came out of. In fact, I used two layers to cover the hole. I pumped up the new tube and crossed my fingers. That hole was pretty big, and even though Stoker is a small person and I’m not excessively heavy, there is quite a bit of weight on the rear tire of a tandem.

We decided to take the shortest route back to the car, and skip the break; no burrito for us. We’ve got about 15 miles to go. We rode 9 of them before we heard another Psst! Now what?

Here is where it is nice to ride with a club and have a friend who will help when there is a problem. One rider had followed us to make sure we got back ok. He saw we needed a lift, so he rode his bike back to the cars and then drove to pick us up.

For some reason this member wishes to remain anonymous. He is afraid this kind gesture will undo his hard won (and occasionally well deserved) reputation as a curmudgeon. So I cannot  give him the public credit he deserves. But be assured that he received profuse thanks from Stoker and me, and the next time I saw him I presented him with a very nice Jessie’s Grove ‘Old Vines’ Zinfandel in appreciation for his Good Samaritan action.

I’ve done similar good deeds. Once I drove 20 miles to pick up a rider who had his frame break. Another time I rode 35 very slow miles to make sure a new rider who did not know the route didn’t get lost. So maybe we had some good karma working for us.

I got some grief afterwards for allegedly trying to stretch the mileage of a worn out tire, but everyone who knows me is aware that I do not skimp on equipment or maintenance. Tandem tires do go from ‘looks fine’ to completely worn out very quickly, sometimes in the middle of a ride. At which time it is great to have friends who look out for you, anonymous or not.

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Would You Buy a Used Bike from this Man?

1990's bike tech: Softride comfort over performance

My friend Steve is a relatively new retiree, and has become a regular on the Tuesday and Thursday club rides in the foothills starting in Wallace. The bike he has ridden for years is heavy and inefficient. It has a frame designed around a ‘soft ride’ saddle beam. Between the heavy weight (23 lbs.) and the inefficiency of the bouncing beam and poor aerodynamics of the frame, he was losing at least ½ mph.

 

I told that to Steve, and he said yes, maybe so, but the bike was comfortable and he didn’t really think there was that much difference.

I have been urging him to ride one of my three road bikes to see what a difference a more up to date bike would make.  My ‘Tallerico’ is a carbon frame with a custom paint  job. It is a very nice bike, with full Dura Ace components (including the wheels). It is a little smaller than my other bikes, and it fits Steve just fine. The bike weighs 16.7 lbs. and is a very nice ride. Not as nice as my LOOK 586, but still very nice.

Finally, about a month ago, Steve took me up on my offer, so we swapped out my pedals for his, adjusted the saddle and seatpost height, and he started riding it. I think he liked it: he sent me an e mail saying “Your bike is light.  And it goes uphill like a rabid mountain goat on amphetamines.” He also said “I am now a true believer”; lighter and more aerodynamic bikes are faster.

16.7 lbs. of 2011 bike tech: Light and quick

He said he wanted to buy it. I laughed, and said it wasn’t for sale, but told him to keep riding it for a while. My only motivation was for him to discover just how slow his other bike was and how much he needed a new one.

The next week he said he had his checkbook and would pay a fair price. He really liked the bike and didn’t want to have to go bike shopping when he could buy such a nice bike without any searching. We talked to a neutral and knowledgeable third party, who put the value at what I thought was a pretty high level, but Steve was still was very interested. I was tempted, but while I don’t really ‘need’ three bikes, I ‘want’ three bikes.

But then, through a sequence of unlikely events, I found a new (lightly used) bike I wanted to buy. So I sent Steve an email, settling the price of the bike at around 10% below the bottom of the range set by our ‘consultant’ and Steve agreed to buy it. With alacrity; he really wanted the bike and he got a good deal.

So I said goodbye to one bike. This is the first bike I have ever sold. I rode it around 8,500 miles over the three years I had it. And hello to my new, and completely different, third bike. To be continued….

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A Pedaling Pair at Pedaling Paths

Not really slow after all!

 

My wife’s name is Diane, but in the context of riding our tandem bicycle I invariably refer to her as ‘Stoker’. The term was used to refer to the person who shoveled fuel into the boilers of steam locomotives or the engines on steam ships. It is also used to refer to the second person on a tandem bicycle. That is where Diane sits, and from there she cannot steer, or brake or shift gears, or even see much of anything of the terrain ahead of us. Her role is to pedal and add power to our progress up the road, ‘stoking the fire’ of our tandem engine.

For those who have been reading my ride reports and blog posts for years, this is old ground. I want to make it clear to new readers that I use ‘Stoker’ as a term of great respect. Riding a tandem is a joint effort, and major responsibility falls on the person sitting in front, who is usually the more experienced and enthusiastic (and sometimes stronger) rider, to insure the safety, comfort and ride enjoyment of the person in the second seat.  Because if Stoker isn’t happy, nobody is happy…

That is a running joke between the two of us. I am very proud of the cyclist my Stoker has become. We have done some amazing things riding together. Death Valley, Highwood Pass in the Canadian Rockies, the entire Oregon Coast from Astoria to Crescent City, CA, and ‘Going to the Sun Road’ in Glacier National Park; we’ve done all of those and more on two wheels under our own power.  And we’ve managed to stay married and not have to put the tandem up for sale on Craig’s List either.

When we ride with the Stockton Bicycle Club, we are usually the slowest bike, especially if the ride is hilly. This is not a problem, we are not usually that far back, I know the route, and my friends do not feel compelled to wait unless they want to.

But the tandem really is not that slow. A few years back we did a tour in Southern Arizona with Sojourn Bicycle Tours. There were 18 bikes (19 riders, we were the only tandem), and our CoMotion was faster than 15 of them. But keeping up with the typical SBC Peloton is another matter.

Which made Saturday’s Pedaling Paths ride so much fun for us. The ride is a metric century (100 km) and benefits the Community Center for the Blind. Stoker and I started at 9 am with our Stockton Bicycle Club teammates, who promptly disappeared up the road. But there were 400 riders on the course, and the tandem team passed quite a number of them along the route. It was fun to catch people, call out ‘On the left’ to let them know we were passing, and then power up the road and watch them recede in my mirror.

Honesty compels me to note that we were caught and passed (quite easily) by a couple of young and fit looking racer types, and of course we didn’t see our SBC teammates until the lunch stop and again at the finish. But with 4 miles to go we were swept up by a group of Delta Velo riders, led by my friend Rafi wearing his SBC jersey. The tandem was able to latch on and enjoy a huge draft from the double pace line in front of us cruising along at 19-21 mph. We finished the 67-mile course in 4 hours 10 minutes of riding, an average of slightly over 16 mph. Not too slow at all!

Stoker was really ‘stoked’ at the finish. She enjoyed the course route, commenting on how pretty it was several times. She liked passing other riders and realizing that while we are not as fast as most SBC regulars, there are plenty of cyclists out there that we can keep up with and even pass. She was all smiles at the excellent post ride meal at Davinci’s  in Linden. And we really enjoyed our pre-prandial cocktails that evening. As I said, when Stoker is happy, everybody is happy…

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What a Drag…

There's the Rub!

Stoker and I have begun riding in the hills again. For a variety of reasons (weather, travel, family medical issues) she and I have not been riding much, and when we did it was mostly from our house, which means there weren’t many hills to climb.

But we are going to ride a tandem in France in June, and Provence is not flat. We certainly will not attempt Mont Ventoux, but the rolling hills of Southern France require some preparation. So last Tuesday we headed for the hills.

We started with the Tuesday SBC ride from Wallace. This is a 41 mile loop with lots of little hills, totaling 3,200 feet of climbing. We did fine; we were the slowest bike but I expected that, and our average speed and riding time were quite acceptable. We both felt pretty relieved that we were still able to do this.

I did the Saturday club ride on my single bike (sans Stoker), and I felt very strong. So when we took the tandem to Ione on Sunday for a relatively easy ride up to Plymouth (only 2,000 feet of climbing) I expected a delightful day.

But the grades on Irish Hill Road, which are a bit too steep for tandem comfort, seemed even steeper. The gentle false flat on Old Sacramento Road seemed to go on a long time and we were riding it a lot slower than we should have. And the last one mile climb up to Plymouth was a trial. Stoker and I have done this hill many times, and when we are strong we do it in the middle ring, but today we needed our lowest gear and even that had me puffing very hard. When we finally got to the trailer park for a break I was sweating and a little dizzy and felt awful despite the perfect cool and sunny weather.

As I sipped my Gatorade I tried to figure out what might be wrong, Was I just tired from riding the day before? Was there some mechanical issue? I would never suggest this out loud (I want to stay married and not have to sell the tandem) but was Stoker perhaps not putting out much power? I spent the break a little discouraged and wishing the ride was over.

As we prepared to start back to Ione, I decided to check the wheels in case there might be a brake pad dragging or a bearing seizing or some such thing slowing us down. I thought it very unlikely since I hadn’t heard any noise indicating this was happening. The front wheel was fine, but when I gently spun the rear wheel it went around twice and stopped abruptly instead on continuing to rotate for the 30 seconds or so that it normally would.

Mystery solved! I swore a little under my breath, loosened the brake calipers a bit, and spun the wheel again. Rotation normal, drag gone. There are only a couple of hills on the return trip but we went up them much easier and it felt as if the bike had lost 10 lbs. That rear disc drag had really been a drag!

I have no idea how the drag started. Disc brakes seem notoriously difficult to adjust properly, and the difference between dragging and being too loose is quite small. I don’t really like our disc brake, but it is more powerful that a rim brake and also keeps the rim from overheating on a long descent, because the pads pull against a rotor and not the rim itself.  Overheating rims are not a good thing; we once blew out a rear tire going down Rams Horn Grade before we got the disc brake.

Next time I feel like the bike is glued to the pavement, I’m going to stop and see if there might be some reason other than my own lack of power.  And I’ll never even think we might be going slow because Stoker isn’t going strong. Remember, I want to stay married…

 

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Riding, ‘Weather’ or Not

Perfect and Depressing Dry Weather

 

Often in February cyclists have to decide whether the weather is acceptable for riding. Typical conditions in late winter include cold, damp and foggy days, cloudy skies, and rain varying in intensity from a light drizzle to drenching downpours. Yesterday’s weather, like most of the winter, was not typical.

No one is more concerned about the continuing drought here in California than I am. Diane and I live in the country and get our domestic water from a well. We are surrounded by some of the most productive orchards and vineyards in the world, in a state with a near perfect climate for growing just about anything. Just add water…

And that is the problem. We have wet years and dry years. But there are more people in cities, and far more acres of irrigated orchard and vineyard than there were even 20 years ago. Drive around the countryside and you will see new orchards planted where dry land (not irrigated) pasture and grassland used to be. We haven’t built more dams to store water, so after a series of dry years we really are running on empty.

The ongoing dry weather has been depressing me for weeks at a time. I kind of wonder how everyone around me seems so calm. Don’t they realize the enormous adverse economic impact the drought is going to have if large areas of irrigated farms go dry? Or how irritating it will be to let golf courses and lawns turn brown? Like a clean car? It could get bad enough that washing your vehicle will be banned. Everyone will be adversely effected by this.

Post Ride Smiles: Drought Worries on Hold

Which makes yesterday’s perfect cycling weather a dichotomy. On the one hand, who could not enjoy the clear, sunny, warm but not hot, and wind-free conditions? The sky was blue and the grass covering the rolling hills was green (for now). Our club ride attracted 22 riders and many of us dressed in short sleeve jerseys and cycling shorts, instead of the jackets and leg warmers and caps often necessary at this time of year.

But on the other hand, even as the sun warmed my skin and the cool air kept me from overheating on the climbs, on this perfect day for cycling, I had a sense that I really should not be enjoying myself. And I realize that this perfect day is also another day without the rain and snow we need so badly.  And the days of what used to be our ‘rainy’ season are passing by and there are not that many left.

Today Diane and I are going to do a tandem ride, and although the weather will be beautiful and we will enjoy ourselves, I will have an uneasy feeling. Wondering if I will ever have to decide ‘weather or not’ to ride this year because we actually have some rain to deal with.

 

 

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Boom, Boom Boom!

I'm going to need a new one of these...

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence; the third time it’s enemy action..

 

Last week I spent 5 days doing ‘climbing camp’ with Cycling Escapes in the Santa Monica Mountains. 265 miles and 32,000 feet of climbing. And descending too. Just as I finished the descent of Piuma Road (5 miles of 6-9% down hill) ‘happenstance’ happened.

As I slowed to make a right turn off of Piuma Road onto Cold Canyon Road, there was the loud BOOM! of a rear tire blowout. Happenstance. I was a little relieved that the explosion occurred when it did. I was riding in a straight line and going about 12 miles an hour, when 30 seconds before I had been flying (for me) at about 35 mph through a gentle left hand turn at the bottom of the hill. A potential disaster averted by some fortunate timing.

Although I was not the slowest rider in the group, on this day I was last on the road and the sag wagon was in front of me and headed for the hotel with my blessing, since I only had 10 easy miles to go. I can certainly fix a flat, and I proceeded to do so. I inspected the tire and could find nothing wrong, no glass or metal or rock puncturing it, so I put in a new tube, used my CO2 cartridge to inflate tire and hopped on my bike. I rode all of 30 feet before BOOM! Coincidence?

I was really mad at myself; I assumed I had committed the all too common mistake of pinching the tube between the bead of the tire and the rim. Virtually every cyclist has done this, but I am careful and haven’t made this error for years. I carry two spare tubes, so I cautiously installed the backup and inflated it with my mini pump. I only carry one CO2 cartridge so I had to use my muscles, such as they are, to ‘pump it up’.

Available at fine bike shops everywhere!

 

I got back on the bike and started to ride gingerly toward the hotel. It is hard to believe, but the Mulholland Highway has almost no traffic in this area even though is a mere 3 miles from the busy Ventura Freeway and Calabasas. After 4 miles, as I reached the last summit of the rolling hills, I heard another BOOM! This time it had to be ‘enemy action’. I’m stuck, no spare tubes and 6 miles to go.

This is where having a cell phone and paying a touring company for support comes in very handy. I called Cycling Escapes, told them of my plight and location, and 20 minutes later I was in the van wondering what the heck went wrong. A defective rim? A tire problem?  The tire was almost new and appeared undamaged, and the rim looked good too. My silly and careless mistake twice?

Back at the hotel I purchased a new tire, a couple of tubes and a CO2 cartridge from Rich, the company owner. Another reason to use a tour company; they carry some spares. I also borrowed some electrical tape from my companion Frank, and put a couple of layers around the rim in case the spoke holes were causing the problem. When I looked at the three damaged tubes (yes, I carried them back instead of tossing them on the roadside; I don’t commit litter) they all had slits in the same area. This meant that faulty installation on my part wasn’t the cause since if I did pinch the tube it is unlikely I would do it in exactly the same spot. So I felt a little better, but also nervous about the next day. What if one of those ‘BOOMS’ happens while I’m going down hill? Or if it happens to the front tire? Better not think about that too much.

Not to worry, the new tube and tire performed fine and I soon forgot about the BOOM and was going down hill as fast as ever, which for me is not especially fast. And when I got home I put on better glasses and was able to find the problem; the original tire had a 1/4 inch cut that was not visible on the tread but had gone through the casing. If I had been able to see it I would have used a ‘boot’ (a small piece of rubber) to protect the tube and I would have made it home. So I learned a lesson. Next time a tire goes BOOM I’m going to take my time and figure out why. So I can avoid the ‘enemy action’.

 

 

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The Sound of (mechanical) Silence

I love you, but I don't want to hear you!

A quality road bicycle that is well maintained is a remarkably quiet machine. There are only five sounds that one should expect to hear. The chain should make a soft ‘brr’ sound while you pedal. When you stop pedaling the ratchet mechanism in the freehub makes a soft ‘clicking’ noise. The tires roll along the pavement with a subdued ‘swish’. And when shifting gears there is a distinct ‘click’ followed either by a ‘thunk’ or a brief rattle before the derailleur settles the chain into perfect alignment.

The 5th sound, of course, is my labored breathing as I try to keep up with my friends climbing Stoney Creek Road. This noise was quite audible yesterday. As I rode along in the company of four strong riders, I was struck by how little noise our bikes were  making. Since there was very little wind and few cars, we could hear each other’s labored breathing quite clearly (some more labored than others). But the bikes made not a sound out of place.

This is not always the case. When a club rider’s bike is making an unwanted noise it is quite noticeable. The other day my rear brake make a very loud squeal whenever I applied it, irritating me and my companions. I tried cleaning the pads and the rim, without success. A new set of brake pads eliminated the problem.

An unexpected source of clicks and squeaks

Other times, the source of some unwanted noise is harder to diagnose. Over the years I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what is wrong and how to fix it. Chain noises are obvious and simply cleaning and lubricating will eliminate the noise, unless the chain is worn out (about every 2000 miles).  Sometimes there are little squeaks or clicks that most people wouldn’t even notice, but if they come from my bike they sound as loud to me as a heavy metal band. And the offending component can be hard to identify.

Speaking of metal, and carbon fiber, there are many places on a bike where two surfaces are held together under tension or pressure, and any of those is a potential source of the offending noise. And there are multiple sets of bearings, any of which may become contaminated with dirt or moisture, or simply wear out and start to make noise. Some examples from my own experience:

Saddle rails might squeak or click. A thin layer of grease on the rails before tightening the clamp can fix this.

The quick release skewers have a cam that is metal on metal under tension. A little Tri Flo will eliminate the noise.

If  noise is coming from a chain that is clean and well lubricated, check the cassette and make the lock ring is screwed on tightly. This requires a special tool (about $5).

Squeaky pedals? Clean the cleats and the pedals, and check the bolts holding the cleats to your shoes and make sure they are tight. I like to put a thin layer of grease on the bottom of my shoe when I install new cleats since that interface can be a noise maker.

Bottom bracket creaks and squeaks and clicks are the worst. Sometimes you need new bearings, or sometimes lubricating the threads and crank spindle will to the trick.

Loose bolts anywhere can be the problem. Check the bolts holding your bottle cages; for some reason these seem to come loose and will make a mysterious rattle or click when you hit some rough pavement. And when you install bolts it is a good idea to use a thin layer of grease on the threads unless the directions say not to do so, or specify using thread lock compound. And yes, it is an EXCELLENT idea to read the directions that come with the parts!

Those are just a few, and if I sound like a bike mechanic let me assure you that I am no such thing.  But I don’t want to take my bike to the shop when there is a quick and easy solution at hand. So I will keep playing noise detective and try to keep my bikes quiet. The gasping is another matter; I can’t do much about that.

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3 Feet of Controversy

Does this law keep cyclists safe or make drivers even more irritated?

 

When I went to Colorado for a cycling trip back in 2009, I was a little startled to observe that most drivers who passed me were giving me a lot of room. Even when I was riding on a wide shoulder the cars would move to the left to increase their clearance. At first I thought it was simply that drivers were more considerate and cycling friendly than they are in California. But then I learned that Colorado has a ‘3 foot law’ that requires drivers to give cyclists that much space.

California has recently passed a similar statute, and I am afraid that the difficult and uneasy relationship between motor vehicles and cyclists is going to get even worse because of it.

The biggest problem seems to involve narrow roads in the foothills. Many of these roads are twisty and have limited visibility and lots of double yellow lines. Even if cyclists are riding single file and as far to the right as is safe, these roads are too narrow to allow a car to pass a rider with 3 feet of clearance without crossing that line, at least briefly.

At least this one says 'Please'. A little civility on all sides wound be nice.

Some motorists think this puts them in an impossible position, stuck behind slow moving cyclists without being able to pass. And they are not happy about it. There is even talk of banning cyclists from roads where there is not enough space (in their opinion) to allow traffic to flow freely and safely. In other words, if a bike is going to hold them up for even 1 minute, that cyclist should not be on this road.

Since narrow, twisting and hilly roads are usually a cyclist’s favorite roads, this is a problem.

I’m not a lawyer but after listening to some law enforcement people, it seems true that it is illegal to cross a double yellow line to pass, even briefly. On the other hand, where I live there are lots of slow moving farm vehicles using the roads, and sometimes that tractor is moving slowly enough and the driver of a car behind can see far enough that a quick pass crossing a double yellow line is perfectly safe. Drive around Linden during walnut season and you will see this happening all the time.

I’m going to offer some practical advice to both motorists and cyclists. Both should have some consideration for the other. These are my opinions and I know not everyone will agree.

First for the cyclists: we do not own the road. When we are riding in a group 2 or 3 abreast we are making it difficult for motorists to see and hard for them to pass. Pelotons are fun, but they also impede traffic when they are travelling well below the speed limit. I know many ‘racer types’ despise mirrors, but I suggest every cyclist wear one and use it. And when riding in a group, someone who notices a car behind should call ‘Car back’ and the group should form a single file line to give the car a chance to pass. Once the cars get by and the road is clear behind, we can resume a bunch formation. Pacelines and echelons are fun too, and double pacelines are even more fun, but the roads are not there for our entertainment, and we need to do our part to allow faster moving vehicles to get past us safely.

Now drivers; remember that cyclists have a right to use the roads. And if a car and a cyclist collide, the cyclist could be severely injured or killed. I do not insist on 3 feet of space, but please do not roar past me at 60 mph or more only 12 inches away. Ease past smoothly and safely, and if you can see far enough ahead that crossing the double yellow with two wheels for a brief moment would be safe, do it. Treat me like a slow moving tractor around Linden.

 

 

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    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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