KC/DC Cycle

Ride to live... live to ride

Monday, February 19, 2018

Riding and living in Thailand

Thailand is my latest passion. I've come here for a change. It's been an adventure. It's been 9 months at this point. On day 3 I was hit by a motorbike which was passing too close. It seems like it was just a young kid who was playing. It was such a gentle collision that I didn't even go down. It didn't even piss me off. My adrenaline didn't rage. I think he bumped my arm. After the bump we rode along for 50 feet side by side. It was a bizarre encounter. Anyway, besides that incident on a tiny little deadend road leading to a waterfall it's all been nice for riding here in Thailand.

There's been some nasty traffic, but no more bumps with others. I've ridden motorbikes, cars, buses, trucks and bicycles - all good. Motorbikes are expected in traffic here. They swarm at intersections. They sift forward at traffic signals to form a block that is, again, part of the plan. In fact there is a painted area in the front of most traffic signals set aside for motorbikes. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fat tire city

My latest vehicle is a fat-tired bike. This one has 4" tires which require special wheels. It is run to ride, but the tires are expensive. I have enjoyed using it in special situations like up to 4 or 5" of slushy snow or ice and on the beach at the ocean. I have a 27 speed mountain bike version. The brand I found on Craigslist is a Surley Pugsley. It's a great build quality and I paid about half the Retail price. I was amazed and pleased that I could ride the bike over the dunes at the ocean and along the beach. I have always wanted to do this. This bike also has disk brakes. Since the hub itself is very wide it's very interesting to look at the frame and the rims. The nipples enter the rim not in the center of the rim but offset on one side. The frame itself is offset. Look at one yourself if you get a chance. I would not ride this bike in general situations, but it is fantastic in rough terrain. It soaks up roots and rocks and cracks. I've never used a bike with shock absorbers but this probably feels at least as good

Monday, November 03, 2014

I thought I would offer a little help to those looking for a bike. First of all I am a advocate of buying used. This is especially helpful when you don't know the options as when you're new to cycling. Buying used reduces your investment and allows you to try several types of bikes if the first one doesn't match your needs. If you have a lot of money and just want to buy something new, buy a used bike for someone who can't afford a bike.

The inspiration for this post is was a french bike I noticed for sale on Craigslist. When I see a motobecane or peugeot for sale I immediately get a red flag in my head. Here's the deal on that - threading. There are different standards for threading: French, English and Swiss. They are not compatible. If you're buying a bike prior to 1990 you have to be aware that it may be more difficult to get certain parts like bottom bracket and headset parts.

The typical bike has changed over the years. In the 60's and prior the typical bike was a single speed or 3 speed with wider tires and fenders. The English racer 3 speed was a classic and had narrower tires and lighter weight frame. The American balloon tired bike was single speed and had a focus on style and less on function. During the 70's 10-speed bikes took center stage and everyone was riding race bikes. The race bikes of the 70's had very narrow tires, dropped handlebars, Many of the American made 10-speeds had 27" tires. That's another red flag in buying a used bike. 27" tires are not on bikes nowadays. You can still get the tires and probably the rims, but you don't get the price and variety you do with 700c which have been used in Europe for many decades.

The third piece of advice I would give would be to try to buy a bike that is set up the way you want it to be. If you want fenders, racks, bags, special pedals it's best to find a bike that already has all of that included. I live in the Washington, DC area where there is a signficant cycling community. There's a huge advocacy group called WABA. There's a touring group with thousands of members call Potomac Pedalers. What I can find here is much different than what you might find in Wheeling, WV. The idea I'm trying to avoid is buying a bike and replacing a lot of parts. The price adds up quickly and the results are not satisfying for the novice.You might buy what you think you like and then you change your mind after you've spent the money and done the work to modify it. It's often cheaper and less complicated in the long run to sell your bike and buy another that's set up the way you want.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


After 50 years of riding and finally dialing in a lot of what's important to me in bicycle setup I've come to the point where I can appreciate a good tire. Previously I had only been concerned with a thick enough tread so that I will not be susceptible to punctures. This is a very important part of cycling. A worn out tire is not just a tire without tread.

This post has more to do with quality of ride. My bike listserv talks frequently of planing which has more to do with the geometry of the frame. The quality of the tire has to do with handling and performance in another way. I haven't ridden tubular tires enough to know their quality, but apparently that is the ultimate ride. I have started buying Schwalbe brand tires and really appreciate the handling and durability of that product. I have a set of Big Apples on my Troll and another model on my Long Haul Trucker.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

I have had a workshop in my house for a few years now. I have gathered tools to fix and build various bicycle components and of course, house repairs over the years. It is not a neat, orderly affair. It is like an artists palette. I have a pegboard on the wall. I looked up at the pegboard yesterday and I saw the story of me. It showed a bit of who i am and where I've been. In my bicycle life I've spanned a variety of skills and bicycle innovation. The mark of time in bicycle innovation in my life has been crankset design. I have tools that mark that time. There are specific tools for assembling and adjusting  bottom brackets, which are what cranksets are hooked to. I have boxes in my workshop of all sorts of parts. I sorted thru some of the stuff and found I'd accumulated about 15 pairs of gloves and mittens. Three are the long-sleeved mittens which are great for the coldest of weather because they don't let air get in at the wrist. I get most of my equipment from thrift stores. I also found 3 pairs of cycling booties. These are covers that go over your cycling shoes for the coldest weather. I rarely use them, but I got such a good deal on them I bought them.

I've currently got an inventory of 7 bikes. 4 of them have generator hubs. That is my latest thing. I love riding at night. Most of the time I used to just ride at night without lights. Batteries didn't last long. Often when I used batteries they weren't finished recharging when I wanted to ride. I didn't want to pay for all the batteries. Batteries were a bad idea. But oh! the generator hub brings a new world of life to riding at night. Keep in mind that I don't ride in busy areas at night without a light, kids. I frequently hit the long winding Rock Creek park for a late night excursion. I have enjoyed since I was young the exhilaration of whirring thru the dark quietly ticking off the miles.

So that's my shop - several bikes, a bunch of parts and tools for every imaginable description. Sometimes I've even bought tools at the thrift store because they looked interesting. I like the idea of figuring out what a tool is used for. I guess it's the engineer in me.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Can't have it all

So for the first time in 50 years of riding I haven't. For about a month I've ridden two or three times. The rest of my life I've ridden most every day or at least every week. I ride in winter, summer, rain, snow. I almost always take my bicycle on vacation. I build bikes, I repair, I commute, I live and breathe bikes. What happened?

I think I was a little depressed. I just didn't feel a desire to pedal. I didn't take leisurely rides. I didn't go to the store by bike. I didn't ride to church thru the park. I didn't hang out in my workshop or stare at the computer dreaming of the next component I wanted to try. I didn't plan an exciting bike vacation. I didn't exercise period.

Today I rode again. I didn't want to get up early. I rode my bike 11 miles to work in downtown DC. When I got here I didn't even take a shower. It was the perfect day for cycling. I rode the Surly LHT with the fairly new Carradice Camper longflap. Everything went very smoothly. Now as I consider the ride home I've got a headache.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sensory awareness

I still remember the sounds of my early bikes like the sound of the front wheel hitting a rough spot on the road. It was like a metallic clink. Now I realize that the noise was a result of a cheap bike combined with underinflated tires. Over time I came to the realization that an air pump was a vital tool in my shop to keep the bike maintained. As I look back I can also imagine the cheap hubs/bearings those old bikes must have had. The quality of bearings makes a difference in how smooth the ride will be and how long you can roll without pedaling. The bearings on the headset also affect handling. When they are loose or worn you can get some really hairy handling problems. Now with my bikes I have a practiced confidence. I know, by sound, when something is wrong or questionable.

I have gained a sense of when bearings are loose too. I can feel the looseness in steering. I remember when I was young I had a wheel where the bearings were almost falling out. Now when I buy a used bike I have a routine to check the wiggle in the main bearings - front & rear hub, bottom bracket, headset. So many bikes are ridden 50 or 100 miles and stored that it is sufficient to do minimal repairs to keep a bike for a short time. I have bought so many of these bikes that have barely any wear on them. Often they sell for a cheap price as well.

Another sense I have is when cable housing is binding. I was so impressed when I went to the Schwinn shop as a kid and the brakes and shifters operated so smoothly. The cheap bikes I rode always had problems. Cable housings were bent and damaged I would grease or oil them regularly. I couldn't afford to buy new ones. When the brake is loose on the frame mount it shudders when you apply the brake.

I was terrible at truing wheels too. I've gotten better but I don't have all the fancy time-saving equipment. I have to live with an imperfect wheel. Improper truing affects how tight you can adjust the brakes. If the wheel hops/jumps it affects the ride.