Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bye Bye Blackburn

Or, as the Beatles might have said, "Blackburn keeping me safe at night"

A few weeks ago I got a Chrome Citizen bag to carry my gear when riding my rackless Schwinn ten-speed. Since the black bag would cover any reflective or bright clothing I might wear, I wanted a nice light to put in the supplied loop.

The Bike Rack had a great display of lights where I could try each one out. I walked from side to side trying to select a light that had good side visibility. I figured side visibility would be important when using a bag mounted light that can move around , as opposed to a fixed light attached to a seat post.

I settled on the the Blackburn Mars 4.0. This 1 Watt light was a little more expensive than other lights, but was super bright and came with many mounting options, and was very visible from multiple angles. The loop clip was good, but tonight I was going to wrap a little tape around the clip, just to be sure.

However, sometime over the weekend I lost it. I think I rode only 3 miles over the weekend, so that makes it suck even worse. In all likelihood, the Blackburn might even be kicking around the aisles at the local Bag N Save, since that's where I went, twice, on Sunday.

Fortunately, I have an extra Trek Flare 3 that's missing a gasket. It's not a terribly bright light, but a couple of turns of black tape to make up for the missing gasket, plus a couple more turns around the end of the clip should turn it into a usable bag light.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Omaha Cycling News Update

Thursday, March 26, 2009 I pedaled my bike to the First United Methodist Church at 69th and Cass to sit in on their monthly Sierra Club meeting. The topic was "Bicycling as Commuting" and was presented by many notable local authorities on the subject of cycling, community, and health.

First to speak was Stuart Shell, with RDG Planning and Design and a board member of the Community Bicycle Shop of Omaha. Stuart introduced the CBSO and reported on the wonderful work that they do to mentor Gifford Park children by teaching bike mechanics and promoting bike safety to the community.

Up second was Kerri Peterson, Executive Director of Our Healthy Communities Partnership. She spoke about how cycling can help treat some of the health problems affecting our society. Many modern health issues stem from inactivity. Other health issues are related to urban pollution, most of which comes directly from automobiles operating within the neighborhoods in which we live.

Finally, Marty Shukert, also with RDG and former Director of Planning for the City of Omaha, provided an update on the Omaha bikeway, tentatively called "Bike Omaha." Among other things, Marty mentioned:
  • a logo has been designed to use on signage. It appears to be a circle with the top half showing a stylized image of the soon-to-be iconic image of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, and the bottom half showing a spoked bicycle wheel.
  • the northen part of the 20-mile bikeway will be called the Fontenelle Route and will be the first part to be marked, possibly this year
  • the central part will be called the Aksarben Route, and will include a sidepath "climbing lane" up Leavenworth between Saddle Creek Road and Elmwood Park. This will involve construction of a new sidewalk/sidepath
  • Woolworth Avenue running through the Field Club will get proper shoulders
  • the proposed Saddle Creek Road relocation project includes a bike lane
  • the City of Omaha will consider incorporating bike lanes/paths as part of the transportation plan when building new roads, and more importantly, on reconstruction projects. This may be a shift in thinking where previously the City might not allocate street money to bike facilities unless bike money was specifically provided.
Before adjourning, another gentleman, whose name I didn't note, spoke on the Nebraska Legislative Bill 134. LB134 is a proposed change to the statutes of Nebraska that restrict natural resource districts in their ability to construct trails unless said trails are along a flood control system. This bill is in response to a planned path to connect Omaha and Lincoln via a trail. If this is important to you, please consider contacting your state legislator and ask them to vote no.

Some great things are happening in Omaha with respect to cycling as transportation. Be sure to get out and participate in the cycling community, and as always, keep pedaling.

Stuart Shell speaks about the Community Bike Shop of Omaha.

Kerri Peterson talks about the importance of living an active lifestyle.

Marty Shukert presents the latest information about Bike Omaha.

A possible design for the Bike Omaha logo and signage.

Proposed routes for the Bike Omaha system.

Ten Speed vs. Hybrid: What A Difference A Week Makes

For the past few weeks I've been working on, and now riding, a 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II ten speed road bike. Prior to that, I'd put over 2,000 miles on my Trek 7300 hybrid bike, mostly in daily commuting, since July 2008.

At first, I was a little intimidated by the more aggressive leaned over riding style of the Schwinn, plus the lack of suspension and smaller diameter, skinnier tires. In addition, the lack of a rack to carry a pannier was discomforting, as I need to be able to carry a full change of clothes, including dress shoes, my lunch, plus a small tool kit, tube, inflation, etc.

I rode the Schwinn every day for the last two weeks (except for a rainy day where I rode the fendered hybrid), even moving over the clipless pedals from the Trek, and used a backpack to carry my stuff. At the end of the first week, I got a sweet looking Chrome messenger style bag to replace the ugly and uncomfortable backpack.

I've made several trips to the grocery store, and found that as comfortable as the Chrome bag is, it's unforgiving on the clavicle when overstuffed with heavy things like jugs of laundry soap and cans of garbanzo beans. The Trek hybrid, with special grocery panniers mounted on a sturdy rack, is a superior "grocery getter" bike.

Last Sunday I rode the Schwinn in the rain to the grocery store. I've ridden in the rain quite a bit over the past eight months or so, but always on the hybrid with fenders. I was curious what it would be like on the ten speed. While it was a little fun, it wasn't socially acceptable (or comfortable) to walk around the Hy-Vee with a dirty, wet bottom. Unless I multi-purpose the Schwinn, it will likely remain in the garage during the wet days.

As I mentioned, there was rain in the forecast last Monday. In anticipation for this, I moved the headlight back to the Trek 7300 and rode it to work on Monday morning. I was totally amazed at how I had gotten so used to riding the Schwinn ten speed that it felt very strange riding the hybrid. The upright riding posture felt weird, as did the extra weight and different gearing of the Trek. It just wasn't as speedy and nimble. On the positive side, the wider tires and suspension head and seat post, and gel saddle made for a very smooth ride.

In summary, It's fun having a second, differently styled bike to play with. I now have choices about how I want to ride. I still think the hybrid is a great "go anywhere" bike, and would recommend one to someone just starting out with bike commuting, utility and general purpose riding.

Rafal said once that everyone needs at least eight bikes to satisfy all riding requirements and conditions. I think I'm beginning to understand.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Surprise! It's Fits!

On a whim today, I fitted the 700c/35 front wheel from my Trek 7300 on the old Schwinn Le Tour, just to see what would happen. The Schwinn has 27/1.25 heavy chrome rims. It's a pain to move the Schwinn's brake pads around so that I can remove the wheel, so someday I'll want to quick-release brakes there.

Surprise! The 700c wheel fit just fine! You old-timers probably could have told me that, but it was fun to learn that on my own. It looks like the existing brakes would work just fine, as well.

I didn't try the rear wheel. I'm not sure what the ramifications of fitting a different rear wheel with seven, eight, or nine cogs in the place of one with a five cog cassette would be.

According to Sheldon Brown's tire sizing chart, a 27 inch rim (or is is that the tire?) is really 630mm, and a 700c is really 622mm. This means that the 700c wheel is actually a little smaller than the 27. Also, for reference the 650b is 584mm.

I'm excited about this because it could give me some easy options on refitting wheels. I'm assuming that 700c wheels and components are easy to find, since they seem to be so prevalent. The existing chrome wheels, while pretty, are heavy, not entirely true, and have bent axles that no amount of truing will fix.

I still haven't ruled out the idea of doing a 650b conversion on the Schwinn.

Erik J: If you are reading this
, please send me a note at "scottredd", the AT thingie, then YAHOO with a DOT and a COM appended. I'd like to talk with you about this idea.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Schwinn Le Tour II Restoration, Phase 2

In my last post, I wrote about buying the 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II bike and my plans on fixing it up into a road worthy bike.

A couple of weeks later, the bike is ready to ride. There are still some things that need some attention, but I think it's ready for casual riding. My initial goal is to sample road cycling at minimal cost. Should I enjoy the activity, and should the Schwinn frame seem suitable, then I may begin to upgrade components.

Now, let's cut to the chase and see how it's worked out so far.



Note that the before picture was taken in the evening, and the after picture was taken during the day. So, literally, the difference here is "night and day."


In reality, not much has changed. There are very few new parts:
  • tires
  • tubes
  • cables
  • cable housings
  • brake pads
  • bar tape
  • chrome valve stem caps, given to me for free at the auto parts store when I went for some bearing grease. The manager discovered he'd been shipped a pack of caps with only three in the package. "I can't sell these, do you want them?"
Everything else was just cleaned up:
  • rims, spokes cleaned with WD40 and fine steel wool
  • cranks, pedals, chain rings, all other shiny parts also polished
  • frame wiped down
  • chain lubed
I learned a little maintenance:
  • trued the wheels (they aren't perfect and should probably be taken to the bike shop for a proper truing
  • overhauled the front and rear hubs; took apart, degreased with WD40, wiped clean, and repacked using fresh grease
  • stripped off all old cabling, replaced housing and cabling for brakes and derailleurs
  • the worst bar tape job since the invention of bar tape, but it will last until I replace the handlebar with something to match my shoulder width
And discovered more things wrong with it:
  • 1970s braking systems pale to modern brakes. If this bike is to be ridden with any regularity, especially in commuter traffic, the brakes must be upgraded
  • both axles are warped slightly
  • a big rust spot on the inside of one of the rims (see photos). Chromed steel rims should probably be replaced with modern aluminum rims
  • handlebars are just too danged narrow for me
In summary, if I enjoy riding this bike and consider it a "keeper," then all of the 1970s components will need to go and be replaced with moderns ones:
  • wider, more comfy handlebars
  • clipless pedals
  • new brakes
  • new shifters, derailleur system
  • new wheels, including hubs, and hardcase tires
  • new saddle
  • maybe a rack for commuter bags or maybe I'll wear a messenger bag
I really appreciate all the comments and advice I've received on this project. I welcome further comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Confirmed: A Severe Case of "Bikeivitus"

There's no such thing as bikeivitus, but if there were, I'd have it. My definition of bikeivitus is an addiction to bikes such that I decide I need another one. Any readers of this blog probably saw it coming.

The Short Story

I've purchased a used 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II as a restoration project, and to try out road cycling.

The Long Story

(At this point you can close your browser or click off to Break or The Onion)

Several weeks ago I came really close to ordering a 2009 Trek Soho. It's got a really cool belt drive and seven speed internally geared hub and disc brakes. It's a really nifty bike. The only trouble is that they haven't shipped yet for 2009. The best estimate I heard from the local Trek shop was May. Lucky me... had it been in the shop, I probably would have bought it.

Another problem I had was justifying acquiring a second commuter bike. I could better justify to myself if I wanted the second bike to be something different, like a road bike or a mountain bike. The Soho, as cool as it is, wouldn't be used for anything different than my daily commuter riding.

Fast forward to yesterday. I saw an ad on my company's bulletin board for a Schwinn Le Tour II for $75. I viewed the bike this morning and the seller and I came to agree upon $65. I think this is a great deal, especially considering the bike is mostly ready to ride. The large frame seems like it will be a good fit for my height. The combination of condition, size, brand, and fair price was too good to pass up.

My plan is to clean up the bike, and possibly upgrade some components. I suppose I need to decide upon the objective of the restoration.

Do I want to:
  • Restore the bike to its original 1976 condition, with all original parts, paint, decals, etc?
  • Restore the bike using whatever's handy, ending up with a cool looking retro styled bike, but without original parts and branding?
I don't know yet. Any ideas?


Determining the Date of Manufacture

A restoration project is supposed to be fun, and so far, it has been, though all I've done is a bit of research. Using "teh Internets," I was able to track down lots of information about the manufacturing process and history of Schwinn bicycles.

Based on the serial number stamped on the left rear axle hanger, and a date code stamped on the Schwinn shield, I was able to determine that the date of manufacture December of a year ending in the number six.

The number stamped on the shield is "3496", which means the 349th day of a year ending in 6.

The serial number starts with "L6", where L = 12th month and the 6 is the year.

One is left to ponder if it's 1976 or 1986, using decals and components as clues. However, there are two other items that cinch this. There's a number stamped on the crank which reads "76.11" and the other crank reads "76.12". I'm almost certain this is another date code.

Finally, on the down tube there's a state licensing sticker from Minnesota. It's validity dates are from 1983 - 1985, totally ruling out the possibility that this Le Tour II was manufactured in 1986. Plus, I think the 1986 versions of this bike had a different style of serial number and were possibly made as 12 speeds.

So there it is; a 33 year old bike made in Japan but "Schwinn Approved." I would have been seven at the time this bike was manufactured. Very likely I drooled over this impossibly large "big boy bike" when I saw something like it in the store selling for $169.95.

What's Wrong With It

As I said, the bike is ready to ride, but there are some things that need attention.
  • The original tires are cracked and splitting in places. Remember, this bike is 33 year old!
  • The cabling should be replaced. The rear brake cable is very sticky.
  • The brake pads aren't as grippy as they should be, and should be replaced.
  • The chain needs to be conditioned, or replaced. It's very dry, but doesn't have any overtly visible flaws.
  • Rust spots on the rims. I'm not sure if these can be cleaned off, or if I should replace the rims.
  • The front wheel is either warped, or needs to be trued. This is really the most serious problem, as the wobble is quite visible, even rubbing against the brake pads.
  • Lots of scratches in the paint and decals, however, no visible dents, cracks or rust.
A Long, Strange Trip

Shopping for a bike on a bike can be troublesome if you make a deal. How do you take the new purchase home?

Fortunately, I work downtown, where I picked up the bike. To get it home, I walked both of my bikes to the bus stop on the corner. I grabbed the first of two buses that pass within either a half mile or a quarter mile of my home. I boarded the first, since there's no way to know if the next bus (the one that gets me closer) will be equipped with a rack.

After disembarking, I walked the two bikes the final half mile home.

I'm sure I looked like a bike thief leaving the racks at the office with two bikes.

The Riding Experience

I took the bike on a short spin this afternoon. It seems light and fast, but completely different from my hybrid experience. Rather than sitting mostly upright, I am mostly hunched over. My belly feels cramped if I lean all the way over into the dropped bars. Perhaps if I take the seatpost down a bit it would be a little more comfortable. I know a lot of this will simply be getting used to the new style of bike.


This is going to be fun, and hopefully, not too expensive. Watch for updates to the blog. Watch for the bike on the racks and streets of Omaha.

The Resources

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I Survived The 2009er Dirty Wicked Tour of Omaha and I Didn't Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt

But I did order the book.

If I were the hooting type, I'd let out a whoo-wee!

Wow, that was a blast.

The Tour

Last night about 15-20 cyclists showed up at Don Carmelo's in midtown Omaha to prepare for a 28 mile tour of old Omaha organized by Mark of MOD-SPOT fame. You'd think several inches of unplowed, rutty, slushy snow and 10° temps would discourage any sane person from showing up. If anything, it seemed to encourage participation.

I won't do a blow by blow account of the action, but here are some highlights:
  • Farman Street is the best plowed street in the city, as evidenced by the multiple snow plow passes observed while gearing up to head out. Too bad they didn't hit any other streets we rode on
  • Many wipeouts by many riders. I'm amazed at how fast I went from fully upright to laying on the ground without any memory of the actual wipeout.
  • EB took the Hickory Hill climb prize, though I and a few others didn't witness it. We waited at the bottom of the hill for the big group to come down.
  • A flat tire near Conagra slowed things down a bit. I'm amazed at how quickly the rider was able to change the tube given the conditions. The area was well lighted, though, so that helped.
  • The Blue Line Coffee Shop is nice and warm. It was a good place to decide that the ride would be abbreviated and would soon adjourn to the Crescent Moon for final drinks. I am sure the hills of north Omaha would have been considerably worse that what we'd already seen.
  • Riding California Plaza through Creighton's campus was very cool It was a several block long pedestrian mall that was much more interesting than riding the streets.
  • The Crescent Moon is extremely crowded on Saturday night. However, EB seemed to know everyone there. Mark had all the sweet hookups to get us into a private room where we could sit and chat a bit.
  • On the wall behind an swinging door is a really bad place to hang a one eyed dead deer head. Bury the thing. Really.

I didn't take many pictures. All I had was my iPhone's camera, and it doesn't do well in the dark with the lens fogged over. Lucas was there taking many photos with high-end equipment. Mark had a camera, as well. I sure hope they post some pics.

The Map

Jeff recorded the tour on his GPS receiver. Below is a Google map rendering of the track data.

View Larger Map

I think everyone had a great time. I know I did. I've no doubt that we could have done the full tour, even in 10 degree weather, had it not been for the troublesome snow. I got to meet a lot of new folks, and put some names to faces that I'd seen on the blogs. I look forward to this event next year, where hopefully, I might ride closer to the middle of the pack than at the end.