Sunday, December 30, 2007


The cessation of hostilities 'between governments' is not the same as if the sentence read 'between cultures,' or 'between tribes.' Nor does the cessation of chemical input equate physical dependence to psychological dependence.
Stepping away from a physical addiction is similar to a government cease-fire; easy to enforce, easy to follow. Until emotions get in the way. That's when the tribal, ritual, cultural dependence comes into play. Expressions like, "It's always been that way," "That's how we do it," "Gimmeafuckinsmokenow," become the mantra of the defenders of the faith. Ritual memories boil forth, tethering the want-and-desire to the psyche of the victim.
Once the rebels have access to these memories, the struggle becomes harder. The physical body, chemically clean, must suddenly suffer the manifestation of the tribe's pain. Physical discomfort coupled with the psychological attacks threaten the government stronghold, the capitol, the palace.

"What the hell does this have to do with bicycles?"
Not much, except that I quit smoking about four days ago, which will improve both my cycling, and my enjoyment of cycling. Not to mention the air around me, the way I interact with people, the number of years I get to ride my bikes...
...but which has also got me eating most everything I see, squirting herbal remedies reminiscent of the ass-end of an ashtray in the back of my throat, and chewing on a meerschaum cigarette holder in a pale mimicry of Hunter S. Thompson.
My next post will probably be a detailed description of the dead, black cells I cough up when I ride.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Loss of Etiquette

Frame preparation is a lost art. So many bikes come straight out of a box, partially assembled, and the shop lubes, checks , and tightens, and *bam* it's a bike. Even though many, probably most, shops do custom builds; a bare frame and a selection of parts, very few have the tools once deemed necessary to properly assemble a bicycle. I am referring to the "facers and chasers", those precision t-handled monstrosities that (hopefully) live in a suitcase of sorts. If you're fortunate, the suitcase is wood and has 'Campagnolo' burned into it. If you are somewhat fortunate, like me, they say 'Park' and you got the box elsewhere.
One tool served the purpose of chasing the bottom bracket threads; making sure they were clean, and cut well. Another cut the faces of the bottom bracket shell to a smooth parallel, and another performed that same function on the head tube.
Some would argue that this is an unnecessary step, that it exposes raw metal; never a good thing, especially on steel. The bare metal is easily solved by a couple coats of lacquer. Unnecessary? Not if you want your headset and bottom bracket to work as designed. In both cases you have two sets of bearings working in tandem at opposite ends of a piece of tubing. Any variation from parallel puts strain on two points in the system, creating drag and wearing those areas unevenly. This equates to more work, less efficiency, and the need to replace parts more often. Systems such as Grease Guard© are designed to last many years longer that sealed systems, yet a slight, uneven pressure can wear down a bearing cup very quickly, destroying the system.
I admit that I am fortunate to have access to these tools. It's why I build my own toys. But shops have access to these tools, also, and while they are expensive initially, the added degree of mastery to your final product will more than justify the expense.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Twisting Nipples

The act of building a bicycle wheel (or any spoked wheel, for that matter) is somewhat spiritual, somewhat zen. There is a symbiosis between the parts and the builder; a hoop of fragile aluminum, a machined heart, a bundle of bent wires with threaded ends, and a crusty human of questionable morals. With care and attention these parts suddenly transform into a solid, lightweight (relatively speaking) balance point for the rest of the assembly. And if building a wheel seems sublime, riding that wheel adds exponentially to the feeling.
To ride, to comprehend the physics that keep you aloft, to have had a direct hand in the physics involved. The only thing better is to build a set of wheels, sign them, and then see them again, years later, when they come through the shop for a tube or minor truing.
If I knew I could pay the bills, I would willingly take a year off to do nothing but build wheels.

"Light, strong, cheap; pick any two." - Keith Bontrager

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Today was the first off-road ride I have done in over a year. And my body is reminding me, very pointedly, of that truism. I was hoping for some of the previously described snow, but no luck; it stayed warm and we got rain. Which meant that everything was a complete mud-bog. Climbs with traction were still a no-traction situation due to the build-up on the tires. At one point I couldn't even get the bike to move there was so much gunk and gravel packed into the brakes. But it was fun. "Oh-yeah-this-is-why-I-did-this-for-years" kind of fun. It definitely won't be another year before I do it again.
It was an odd adjustment getting on old faithful after riding a cross bike for the last few months. Such a different feel. It wasn't noticeable on the trail, since that's what the bike is set up for, but riding the road to the trailhead and back felt like I was on a kid's BMX bike. Then there were all those gears...
My legs have definitely strengthened, and some skills are still sharp, but many of my skills are vacationing in Tortuga, and my black lungs have expatriated to Tuscany, with little chance of returning. I've got to get off the smokes if I ever hope to be able to breathe properly again.
Hell, I'm so beat that I think I'll join the Tuesday Night Frolic this week.