Thursday, June 25, 2009

My First Taco Ride

Tonight Roxanne and I did our first Taco Ride. Basically the Taco Ride, if you don't know, is a weekly, Thursday night ride from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Mineola, Iowa where hundreds of cyclists gather to eat cheap tacos and drink cheap beer. The ride is 10 miles down the Wabash Trace, a crushed limestone trail that was once a rail line. You can learn more about the Taco Ride at

Earlier this week, Brady suggested that we go. He had never been either, so it was a new experience for all of us. Brady rode from downtown Omaha, and Roxanne and I brought our bikes to Lake Manawa and rode on in from there. We've been cycling for about a year and this was the first time that we have loaded our bikes up to drive somewhere for a ride. We had to run some errands after the ride, so having the truck was necessary, otherwise we may have ridden the entire time. I hope that doesn't sound like bike snobbery!

The ride was a lot of fun. The heat was made bearable by the wonderful canopy of trees shading the trail. The trail was in great condition, and the company was awesome.

I brought my trail camera. I must have had some setting off because many snaps turned out blurry, but I'll include them here, anyway.

Brady arrives at the trail head on his mountain bike.

Roxanne on the trail.

Brady's cruising.

Scott and Roxanne, a bit blurry.

It's crowded inside the Mineola Steak House. There's a wait to get a table inside.

It's crowded outside the Mineola Steak House. No open tables here, either, but there's room to sit along the walls and fences.

Small fries on a big plate. Another option for vegetarians.

I don't remember his name, but the guy in red shorts is a city planner. It's nice to have city planners who are also cyclists. He's got our back.

The Taco Ride is really something special. I urge all Omaha metro area cyclists to get on a bike, any bike except the ones with the skinniest road tires, and give it a try.

Monday, June 22, 2009

650B Conversion Hits A Wall

In my last post, I wrote that the 650B conversion project rolled forward when I purchased a set of new 650B wheels to go on the 1976 Schwinn Le Tour 10 speed frame. I was really jazzed because I knew all I had to do was slap on the new wheels, fiddle with the brakes and I'd be good to go.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite play out that way. I knew there would be an issue with brake reach, as the calipers would have to reach down a little farther from the old 27 inch wheels to the 650B size, about 23 mm more, or 9/10th of an inch.

650B wheel using stock brake

Knowing brake reach would be in issue, I ordered a set of Tektro 556 long reach brakes. These brakes range from 55mm to 73mm from the center of the mounting bolt to center of rim. This was complicated by the fact that the supplier sent only the rear brake, but they've acknowledged the error and have put the front brake in the mail.

However, I wasn't prepared for the disappointment when I got the brake and found that it's no longer than the stock brake that came on the Schwinn!

650B wheel using Tektro 556 brake

In the next picture you can see that I am pinching the calipers against the rim. You can see how far down the mounting bolt needs to be.

Pinching the calipers against the rim to simulate the desired mounting position

The stock brakes have a long hex bolt with nut that runs through concave shaped nuts that hold the brake in place against the horizontal brake mounting tube. The Tektro brakes use recessed mounting. I've read that I can drill the rear hole in the tube and in the fork crown to allow me to use the recessed nut. I've also seen Sheldon Brown's "drop bolt" solution. Any suggestions?

Stock brake on the left. Tektro 556 on the right. Notice the reach is about the same.

Today I got the Panaracer 650B x 38mm tires in the mail. They were about $20 a tire and have an interesting inverted tread. My LBS is ordering some 650B tubes for me.

So, again at a cross roads, I am not sure what to do. Here come the obligatory lists.

Continue to 650B-ify the Schwinn:
  • drop bolts on brakes (ugly, but cheap)
  • have frame maker move the mount (pretty, but expensive)
  • find longer reach brakes, if they even exist (probably expensive)
Abandon the Schwinn/650B project:
  • Convert it to 700C and use the original brakes
  • Convert it to 700C and use the Tektro brakes after figuring out to to use the recessed mounting bolts
  • sell the 650B wheels
  • keep the 650B wheels and find another frame
As usual, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

650B Conversion Rolls Forward

The next stage in the life of the Schwinn Le Tour II project is an attempt to convert it to a 650B "country bike." I don't know if it's doable, but I've made a real attempt to start it, rather than only talking about it.

Today I took possession of a set of low-end 650B wheels (Deore M530), ordered through the Re-Cycle Bike Shop. Mike, the mechanic and owner, is spreading the frame to better accommodate the extra width of the new wheels, as well as checking the spoke tension on the new wheels.

I was amazed as just how small the wheels looked in the Le Tour II frame when he had it up on the work stand. There's an amazing gap between where the existing center pull brake shoes are and where they need to be. Going from a 27 inch wheel to the 650B is quite a jump. According to Sheldon Brown, the 27 inch is ISO 630mm and the 650B is ISO 584mm, making the distance difference half of 46mm, or 23mm.

I ordered some Tektro 556 extra long reach brakes and some 650B x 38m tires. I'm hoping that with the new brakes and tires, I'll be able to get the 650B on the road for a test ride within a week.

Possible complicating issues might be:
  • brake mounting compatibility
  • lower drop on the frame might make existing cranks too long
  • cabling is different from center pull to side pull brakes
  • not entirely certain I've got all the clearances I need with 38mm tires
  • might need new brake levers if new brakes require more cable to be pulled
As usual, I welcome your comments, hints, advice, and gotchas in this endeavor. I'll try to get some pics up later.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Princess Redd-Shift

Or, Emily's Sweet Schwinn

Since I started bike commuting, cycling has become a bit of a family affair. My daughter has a Trek children's mountain bike that's almost too small for her rapidly growing, long legs. My wife commutes to work often, and our son sometimes rides to the gym.

Since I got bike crazy, my daughter, Emily, has acquired a bit of a bike eye, and had begun to notice the difference between modern mountain bikes made for kids and more stylish vintage bikes. Since her legs are almost too long for her MTB, I started looking for a suitable lady's bike that she might like. One idea was to go the 650B conversion route and go with fat tires and fenders, perhaps adding a rack and/or basket.

Craigslist turned up an old Schwinn, the same color as my Le Tour II. We got a good price ($40) on the bike and proceeded to take it home to evaluate it. On the way home, I stopped by the Trek store to get some gloves and took the opportunity to ask Mark about the bike and how it might take new parts such as quick release wheels, new brakes, paint or powder coat, etc. His first remark was that the bike used Shimano's Positron shifting. This was an early attempt at index shifting using a freewheel in the pedals and a fixed rear hub. The idea was that shifting could be done while coasting. The system never really caught on, and it would be another ten years before indexing shifting really got into gear.

I'm not ready to attempt to convert the drivetrain to a traditional drivetrain, but the old rusty wheels had to go. I moved over the 27 inch chromed wheels from the Le Tour and so far, it seems to be a good fit. The shifting isn't quite accurate, but works. I think some play with the limit screws might help. I tightened up the brakes.

We went for an easy six mile ride to Blue Planet and Emily reported that the ride was super smooth. I guess the higher pressure, narrow and smooth tires were better on the bike path than her knobby MTB tires. The hills back home were a little tough since the heavy bike wouldn't shift down into the granny gear. There was a little pushing involved.

We'll add some new bar tape to replace the original cellophane orange stuff, replace the too-soft gel aftermarket seat, maybe get a paint or powder coat job and we'll have one spiffy looking, smooth riding vintage girl's bike with little investment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hey Sister, Can You Spare A Shoe?

Here's an odd request that I am putting out to the tiny readership of the Redd-Shift blog.

May I borrow your shoes?

Specifically, I am looking to help my wife, Roxanne, decide if she wants to try clipless pedals on her hybrid bike. I've got an extra pair of SPD pedals I can put on her bike temporarily, and I've got an extra set of cleats. Before buying a pair of shoes, we simply wanted to see what she thinks of the clip/unclip process, as well as the general feel of connected pedaling.

She wears a ladies 9 to 9 1/2 (perhaps 40 to 41 European).

My experience with clipless was, "I want clipless, and I will learn to use them, even if I lose some teeth." Her idea is, "I will use them if I like them."

On a side note, I've been lucky so far and haven't yet fallen. Rafal says there are two kinds of clipless pedal users:
  1. Those who have forgotten to unclip and have fallen.
  2. Those who lie about never have forgotten to unclip and have fallen.
Honest, I haven't fallen, but there have been a few close calls, almost always in view of motorists.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A New Bike, and New Things Learned

A New Bike

The bug bit again. My trusty Trek 7300 hybrid gets me to and from work in all kinds of weather in smooth comfort. It's also the no-brainer choice for grocery store shopping, using the rack and panniers. But I've been feeling the need for something lighter and potentially faster, but still rugged enough for daily commuting.

I began restoring the 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II, and while that was fun, I don't have the time, knowledge and resources to complete it at this time. And, truth be told, I am still not 100% what I want to do with it.

On Friday afternoon I saw a Craig's List ad for a 2006 Specialized Tricross. I began researching what a cross bike was all about, and specifically, what the Tricross had to offer, and decided that this might be the bike for me.

Some of the features that attracted me were:
  • road style frame and bars
  • light, by comparison to the 7300 and Le Tour (about 22 pounds)
  • carbon fiber fork and seat post for reduced weight and vibration dampening
  • wide enough tires for bumpy city streets, gravel, and maybe dry dirt
  • skinny enough tires for smooth, fast rolling on the paved trail and streets
  • lots of braze-ons for racks, bottle cages, etc. The carbon fork can even take a rack.
  • wide handlebars with extra brake levers on the tops
  • short enough reach to make the bike comfortable sitting up, as well as on the drops

I called the owner and make arrangements to go look at the bike. We met in a parking lot and I rode it around a bit. The next day we met again and gave him the cash and he gave me the bike, and even threw in a bell. (Thanks Mark A.!)

This morning I took the Tricross out for its maiden voyage (for me; Mark had already put 5,000 miles on the bike!). I rode with Munson and Miles on about 40 miles of pavement and gravel. I was comfortable on the saddle the entire time, so I think it's a pretty good fit so far. There may be a question about the 54 cm. frame being a little small for me, but it seems to fit my inseam well enough. Time will tell, I suppose.

Here are some photos of the Tricross:

Here is the Tricross after the dirty, wet ride

And now after a bath. The previous owner, Mark A. kept it so nice, I feel obligated to keep it clean and well oiled.

Here's a view from over the rear wheel. Specialized took some liberty in using oddly shaped tubes and stays. It creates an interesting effect.

I've never seen cantilever brakes up close before. They still look weird to me. How can I keep them from shrieking like a banshee?

New Things Learned

I met Miles and Munson at 7am this morning for a gravel ride out towards Bennington. Munson had seen a gravel road called Dutch Hall Road and wanted to see where it went. Once we left the pavement and started climbing up and down wet gravel roads, I realized it was going to be slow going. I ride a lot of hills on my commutes, but my five to fifteen mile commutes are pretty short, the hills are short, and there's not time enough to get tired.

I got tired.

The levels and downhills were fun, though it was a little scary bombing down a wet gravel road on a bike I'd never ridden before. However, the constant climbs wore me out in a hurry. I firmly believe, though, that riding with stronger riders is the only way to keep myself honest and push a little harder than I might if I were by myself.

Both Munson and Miles were very gracious and kept the pace where I could hang on, albeit, back a bit, but fast enough to keep me honest. Miles had ridden a race yesterday and said he was on a recovery ride, anyway, so I'll claim that I was helping him hold the slower pace to keep from overdoing it. :)

I like lists, and I like lessons learned, so here's a list of new things learned on this ride:
  • the street signs were misprinted. Instead of "Dutch Hall Road," they should have read "Dutch Hill Road"
  • when a cyclist says "riding gravel", they really mean "riding hills." Munson explained that this is because the minimally improved country roads aren't graded the same way as city streets and highways. They follow the terrain.
  • as much as it stinks to climb slowly, it's a nice sense of accomplishment when I get to the top of a long hill
  • the Shimano 105 STI shifters are not too hard to get used to after a while, and actually seem pretty darn efficient
  • I like the multiple hand positions available on the wide bar, especially with hands on or around the brake hoods
  • lighter bikes really do go faster
  • when riding gravel right behind someone on a mountain bike, prepare to get a lot of little rocks in the face. Though eating a little rock never killed anyone.
  • wet gravel isn't as much fun as dry gravel
  • wear gloves next time to help with hand fatigue and chaffing
  • consider proper cycling shorts rather than simple exercise shorts, especially when I might get wet
Here are a few things I think I got right:
  • brought extra snacks to share
  • brought extra shirt, which I was glad to have when it got cooler after the rain
  • brought rain jacket, which I didn't need, but it's nice to have
In summary, I am really pleased with the new bike. I am glad that I was able to find a nice deal on a really nice bike, and to quickly find that it was comfortable and exciting to ride, plus I think the red, black and white color scheme is super sharp. I appreciated the opportunity to ride with Munson and Miles and see some roads I would have never found on my own.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bike Commuting in Omaha: A Video Perspective

I've been commuting to and from work by bicycle for almost a year now. In my experience, it's always been a safe activity. I've not encountered many aggressive drivers. In fact, more often than not, I am passed with caution and occasionally waved through intersections by motorists who have the right of way. I've even received random words of encouragement.

Now I have proof that bike commuting in Omaha is a relatively safe mode of transportation. Using a home-made camera mount for my handlebars, I used a low-end digital camera to record a video of my ride home yesterday. In this video you will see many safe overtakes by automobiles, and general respect at traffic signs and signals.

The video runs about 10 minutes. I have edited it for time by speeding up the video to double-time. I also removed a little bit of some long stretches to help get it under the 10 minute limit imposed by YouTube. I added some annotations to provide some extra information and to try to keep it interesting. The distance is five miles, and the ride was about 25 minutes.

Over time, I may add some more videos showing early morning or night commutes, showcase area trails, and commuting in a variety of weather conditions. Feel free to leave comments, either here at the blog or on the YouTube video (direct link).