Monday, August 30, 2010

Big 3

Hey, college students. I'm glad you're back, this town is quiet without you. I'm also glad you've decided to use your bike for transportation. It really is the best way to get around the city. You need some stuff to go with that bike, though.

1. Helmet
Please, just get one. I know you're good at riding your bike, but there are a lot of obstacles out there- drivers, cabs, buses, feral pedestrians, cabs, potholes, other cyclists, cabs. It's like Frogger, without the extra lives. Your friends and family would be heartbroken if something happened to your noggin. If that's not enough to convince you- how much are you spending on school? You will only get a return on that investment if you keep your brain intact. Think about it, your brain is getting expensive.

I can keep going... There are 100,00 good reasons to wear a helmet.

2. Lock
You can't buy a new bike for $40, but you can buy a U lock and keep the bike you already have. I know the cable locks are tempting (they are light and cheap), but don't do it (because they're light and cheap). No one can claim that a lock is "theft-proof". You can't promise something like that. But I can say that I had a heart to heart with a guy yesterday about his stolen bike. He had been using a cable lock, and now his bike is gone. He wanted me to be sure and tell everyone to use a u lock. True story.

3. Lights
If you're going to ride at night (or dusk, or dawn), you need to get some. It's the right thing to do. Nobody likes a bike ninja. Without lights people don't know where you are, and if they don't know where you are they have a harder time not running you over, or walking out in front of you. Reflectors aren't enough because pedestrians don't have headlights. You have to watch out for all types of travelers.

There are definitely other objects out there that could make your bike traveling life easier (pump, rack, fenders, rain pants, xtracycle, gloves, clipless pedals... I can keep going...), but start with these three to keep you riding, and safe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tubular Technique -or- Why do I have a raging headache?

To start I need to give credit where credit is due. I first learned about techniques for gluing tubular tires from Eddie at Cycle Mania. His method involved something about taking one shoe off to use your foot to hold the valve in place. Or something like that. It was a long time ago. I learned the method I currently use from Molly Cameron, Pro 'crosser, and Pro vegan (although that has nothing to do with this). As far as I know Molly learned from other Pros and added a healthy dose of trial-and-error. So it's time-tested and all that...

Reasons for using tubies vs. clinchers aisde, today we're just talking about sticking a tubie to the rim. This method requires lots of time, lots of glue, and lots of ventilation. I like a nice thin glue- Panaracer Pana Cement to be exact.

Here are the steps (more or less):

1. Stretch out the tire by mounting it on the rim DRY and inflating it to the recommended max. Let it hang out like this for a while. Don't skip this, you'll thank yourself later.

2. Cut off a finger from a nitrile glove and put it on your finger. Use this protected finger to begin spreading on thin layers of glue on the tire's base tape and on the rim- 4-6 layers on each. You could use a brush, I suppose, but I think it's messier. Just use your finger. It helps to inflate the tire so it holds some shape. Wait for each layer to fully dry before applying the next layer (this is where the lots of time comes in), so that the solvent from the glue can fully evaporate (this is where the lots of ventilation come in). Take time with this- you don't want to start with a mess. The glue should only be on the base tape and in the 'trough' of the rim.

2a. Did I mention that you should be in a well ventilated area? Do it for your brain.

You can use your index finger. I cut mine with a pair of IKEA scissors a couple of years ago, and it hasn't been the same since...

3. When your tire and rim are both fully layered but dry you want to do one last wet layer on the rim. It should be slightly thicker than the other layers. Keep this layer nice and neat, too.

Spread the glue around the spoke holes, try not to get glue inside the holes.

4. All of this next step needs to be done while that last layer of rim glue is still wet. Let the air out of the tire. Put the rim on the ground and support it on both sides with your feet. You should so this with shoes you don't mind getting glue on. Start by inserting the valve, and applying pressure equally with both hands, stick the base tape to the goopy rim. As you get to the opposite side it'll get tight. This is where you benefit from stretching the tire and keeping the glue job neat. Keep pushing the base tape up and over into the glue on the rim, without dragging the tire sidewall through the glue.

Those are the very same rain boots I use to wade around in the shop basement.

5. When the base tape is fully stuck to the rim, inflate the tire to not quite the max, and stick it in a truing stand to see that the tread is on straight. The base tape and tread might not line up exactly, especially if the tire is old. That slightly thicker layer of glue should still pretty wet so you can push the tire around on the rim with your hands to get the tread straight.

6. Now here's a cool little trick- after the tread is straight, deflate the tire and roll it on a broom handle. Why? This helps to push the base tape down into the lowest point in the 'trough' of the rim. If you don't do this, you'll find that sometimes the tire hasn't made contact with the center part of the rim, and you've wasted all of that glue you very carefully applied.

7. Inflate it back up and let it sit. Seriously, for 24 hours, or more, in a well ventilated place. That allows all of those nasty solvents to evaporate.

I know there's more than one way to glue up tubies. Some people like using a thicker glue, some people like tape, but this how I do it and it's served me well. If you want to know more about it, I'd be happy to geek out... er, answer questions for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010


It's almost 'cross season. If you're unfamiliar with cyclo-cross (or 'cross, or CX, or CCX, or cyclocross), you're not alone. It's a tiny, crazy, sometimes muddy, wicked fun niche in the world of competitive cycling. If you want to learn a little more before we continue, you can read the wiki article or check out Cyclocross Mag.

Ready? Ok. I love 'cross. It's fast, difficult, there are tons of variables (weather, the course, the crowd of spectators) that keep it interesting. I started racing just a few years ago out in Eugene, OR. I started out on a single speed mountain bike (which drew uncreative, but accurate, taunts of "Mountain biiiiiike!" from spectator/hecklers). Here's a pic from my very first race. Look at how fast it looks like I'm going.

Since that first season I've gotten a real deal 'cross bike. It's the one I rode to Maine. It's been stripped down to it's single speed race weight now. I've even acquired a set of used tubies (more about tubular tires in a future post. Stay tuned.).

I completely missed out on last year's season because A) I just moved and hadn't fully unpacked my bike stuff by 'cross season... and B) I hadn't ridden my bike very much last summer so I felt pretty out of shape. I mean, if you're going to compete, you should do some training, right? Excuses, excuses.

This year: A) All of my stuff is unpacked, and B) I probably have ridden my bike less than I did last year, but... No excuses this time. During the time I've spent NOT riding, I've been mentally preparing to not attach any ego to my race results. And it's still early. There's time to fit some riding in. Right? Right. It'll be kind of an experiment- can I be totally out of shape for racing and still have fun? I think so. But there's only one way to tell for sure. Let the experiment begin!