SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Things I Want

Been doing more thinking than riding lately (again!), and as such these are some things bubbling around in the ol' grey matter...

Admittedly it's half vanity, but also balanced by equal parts functionality, I'm frequently thinking about and searching for the ideal bike-commuter wardrobe. Everybody (well, everyone who does it) does bike-commuting a bit differently, from a half-mile jaunt down the lane with coffee in hand (probably doesn't require a change-o-clothes) to a multi-hour, full-on ride where you'd definitely also need a shower along with a full set of office-appropriate clothes. My commute's kinda in-between and there's a train-ride in the middle, so what seems to work for me is to wear some sturdy trousers that are passable at work (I despise riding in jeans) and a thin wooly T-shirt that I swap for a button-down once I get to work. I pack the folded dress shirt in a zippered travel packing pouch to keep it from getting too wrinkled, and toss that in my Timbuk bag. I also prefer to ride in clipless pedals (fixie) so I keep a spare pair of street shoes at work, too. If it's spring or fall chilly (usually) I wear my favorite Bontrager cycling sweater (wool blend), and if it's winter-time cold I add a thin fleece vest underneath that. This system has worked fairly well for me for several years of on-and-off bike-commuting, but is getting a bit stale. Inspired by both the Velocouture group at Flickr and the discovery of a good-n-cheap sewing machine, I might have to try my hand at modifying some clothing to get what I want:

  • I'd like to modify some trousers so they have a gusseted crotch (no seams to chafe) and discreet snaps at the hems to bind them up at the ankles to prevent chain snagging (I usually just roll up the legs but this is sometimes too chilly when the weather turns cold, and I hate fumbling with those goofy velcro ankle-straps). Another idea I had was to sew some reflective ribbon onto the insides of the pant legs so that it gets revealed when the leg is rolled up to perform its car-warning duties.

  • I'd really like to find the ideal commuting jacket -- preferably wool but nice fleece might work too (windproof shells get too hot), in a not-too-dark-yet-not-eyescortchingly-bright color, and not super expensive. I've heard great things about the nice-looking Ibex jackets, but they seem pricey (meaning >US$100). That sewing machine might come in handy here to add some subtle reflective bits here and there, too.

  • Clipless-compatible shoes that don't scream "bike geek"! I've been wearing the same pair of Specialized Ground Control Sport MTB shoes for over ten years and the soles are worn enough that the cleats click when I walk around. I like the looks of the Specialized Sonoma and the Adidas Cyclone, but finding these shoes in the US at a decent price seems difficult.

Last summer I built a LED-based bicycle headlight and, now that the days have gotten shorter, I've started using this light in earnest. I'm quite impressed with it, but I've realized that while my bike is well-lit from the front and from the rear (Planet Bike Super Flash), I've little in the way of side-marker lighting. Yeah, I could screw those goofy spoke reflectors onto my wheels, but I'd rather work out a proactive lighting solution instead of a passive reflective one. I've seen a bike with TireFlys installed, and those are definitely noticeable at night. Unfortunately they seem to mainly be offered in strange, non-vehicular colors like blue, green, and red -- I'd prefer white or yellow. I might try to come up with a DIY solution using a few self-blinking LEDs spaced evenly around the wheel...

I also really really want a Park TS-2. I have a wimpy folding stand that flexes so much it's hard to see where a wheel wobbles. Now that I have my own work bench, I want a TS-2 to bolt to it.

And finally (for now), I want my damn Kogswell frame to get here!!!



All About Shimano XTR M-900

The 1992-1995 XTR component group from Shimano is widely regarded as some of the finest mountain bike bits ever made. Shiny, strong, practical, and functional without too much added bling or plastic...these parts still command high prices on the used market, especially the cranks and hubs. Here's a web site I found that provides more info and photos than you probably want to know about the various components and their permutations over the years.

There's also info about the other versions of XTR, and it looks like XT and LX are forthcoming!


A Micro Movie Review

Last night I watched the movie "The Flying Scotsman" on DVD from Netflix.

It was kinda a weird movie, I'm still not sure if it was supposed to be about Obree's cycling career or about his issues with depression -- neither were addressed very well. Also, the movie is really not very faithful to the book.

I recommend reading the book instead, which although not a great book still offers good stories about the author's racing career and gives better insight into his personal demons than the movie adaptation does.

SF Bay Area Stolen Bicycle Alert!

Forwarding this on from the RBW List to help get the word out!

Riv-style 650B conversion stolen, please watch for

My step-daughter's 650B conversion was stolen on the afternoon of October 25th, in Palo Alto, California. It is pretty distinctive, so if you hear about it or see it, please let me know.

  • Green Peugeot mixte frame with custom "FINGLAS" decals and a Peugeot headbadge
  • Berthoud steel fenders
  • Albatross handlebars with cork grips
  • Rivendell silver bar end shifters
  • Grand Bois tires
  • Veolcity Triple-V rims
  • Terry Liberator X saddle
  • Rivendell Pa canvas panniers

-Doug Shaker
1304 College Avenue 1-650-739-0810 fax: 650-739-0814
Palo Alto, CA 94306 d...@theshakers.org cell: 650-619-7809

If you see this bike, kick ass and take names, and ping either me or Doug! Thanks!



Today, for the first time in about three weeks, I got to work today via my bike+Caltrain.

Felt. So. Good.

Hooray, I'm a bike-commuter again!

Nobody leads Critical Mass

It's fairly well known that nobody leads or manages Critical Mass rides. Apparently the same goes for their website, http://www.critical-mass.org. Oops!


Kraftwerk -- Tour de France

This is what it's all about...

...or if you like, the "live" version...

It still gives me chills.


Bike Shops from My Past

I just discovered that Google's Streets View completely covers Pittsburgh, PA, which is where I started cycling "seriously" as an adult. As such, I used this feature to nab some screen shots of bicycle shops I have known and loved (some, not all).

Pittsburgh Pro Bicycles in Squirrel Hill was the first shop I discovered in the early years, since they were closest to my apartment (in South Oakland). I'd purchased an old, beat Peugeot UO-8 for $60 when I moved into my first college apartment in 1990, intending to use the bike to get to and from class a couple of miles away. Of course, I caught the bug, and soon decided that I needed a pump, helmet, and cleated cycling shoes -- which I bought from this shop whenever they had a clearance sale. At the time, I think PghProBikes was at a different location (on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill), it appears that they've since moved to a larger location and have also opened a second store.

Another shop I found was Snitger's Cyclery. I visited this shop a few times but I don't remember buying anything there; I was looking for old French parts for my UO-8, and the guys there kept directing me towards Kraynick's instead. Once, in the midst of winter, I bundled up and headed out, determined to ride to all the bike shops in the area. When I stopped by Snitger's, I found a 1986 Nishiki Prestige on consignment for $150. It was my size, and I fell in love with the bike. I few weeks later, I bought the bike (after talking them down to $130) as a sort-of consolation gift to myself after my then-girlfriend had dumped me. A few years later, I tried to get a job there one summer but they didn't have any openings -- but that inquiry led to me getting a job at Gatto Cycles, another shop in the area. Snitger sold the business to Gatto Cycles a short while after that, and ironically I wound up working at that store a couple of times, filling in during the holiday season. It looks like Snitger may have moved to a new location in Beaver, PA.

Snitger's pointed me to my all-time favorite shop in the whole wide world, Kraynick's Bike Shop. If you've ever been to Da 'Burgh and ridden a bike there, you've probably heard about this shop. Four floors of old-stuff goodness, run by Gerry who inherited the biz from his dad, who originally started the shop in the prehistoric era. I used to hang out there nearly every Saturday and bought many, many cheap components to first upgrade my UO-8 and later repair and rebuild many other bikes. I eventually memorized where most things in the shop could be found ("seatposts are on the 2nd floor in the back corner") which made people incorrectly assume that I worked there. Oh, how I wished for that, but Kraynick's was (probably still is) strictly a one-man show! I still have some "Gerry parts" in use on at least one of my bikes! Although Kraynick's focused mostly on older parts, unexpectedly he was also the area's first (and only?) recumbent dealer. Due to health reasons, Gerry had started riding recumbents -- first there were some homebrews, then the original aluminum Linear long-wheelbase models, and later some fast-looking rigs from Lightning, including a red P-38 that I often drooled over. I sobbed the final time I left that place. This article describes what makes Kraynick's such a special place at least as well as I can, so just read it. Hallowed ground indeed!

I mentioned that I worked for Gatto Cycles. When I asked about jobs at Snitger's they told me that they weren't hiring, but that they'd keep my application on file in case anything opened up. A month or so later (this'd be Spring '93), I got a call from the Gatto Cycles store in Verona, PA asking whether I was still interested in a job. Joe, the manager, was looking to fill a couple positions and in conversation with some of the Snitger guys my name had come up. Verona is about 10 miles north-east of Pittsburgh, so I hopped on my bike and rode out there to meet Joe. I don't remember details, but he asked me a few questions, checked out the details on my bike (the same Nishiki Prestige I'd bought from Snitger's and overhauled), and offered me a job for $5/hour, 10am to 6pm, 6 days a week. Gattos is (or at least was) family-owned, one of the largest bike-dealers in the area, and at the time they owned a chain of around five bike shops, plus a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership. The Verona store sold road, mountain, and hybrid bikes from Cannondale, Schwinn, Trek, Specialized, and Giant. We sold exercise equipment (mostly Schwinn AirDynes -- man those things were heavy!) and kids' bikes, too. We were the basic neighborhood bike shop -- we didn't really have a focus on any specific style of riding or racing. The brown building in the photo looks like it's now a copy center, but that's where the store used to be. I still have the Silca floor pump I found in the shop's basement and repaired. Gatto probably decided to leave Verona because of the competition: directly across the street from this location is Dirty Harry's, who were focused on higher-end MTBs and into the racing scene. I think Dirt Rag magazine was also somehow affiliated with Dirty Harry's. Quite expectedly and given that MTBs were most popular at the time, most of the bike sales in the area went to Harry's. I remember spending two or three hours with one guy who was shopping for a mid-level MTB; pouring over the details of the similar Trek, Specialized, Giant, and Cannondale models and setting him up on multiple bike test rides. I was probably pushing the Giant ATX770 -- one of my favorite bikes to sell, since I thought it had a great combination of frame, wheelset, components, and details at that price point. At any rate, after spending all that time with him, educating him on what I thought were the key things to look for when bike shopping -- he went across the street and bought a bike from Dirty Harry's. Oh well. I worked in that shop during the summer of 1993 and then sporadically that fall and winter. I rode my bike (the UO-8) to work 20 miles a day, 6 days a week, and got really skinny (I think I weighed 138lbs. at one point) despite eating everything in sight. I was in quite good cycling shape, despite the fact I did little weekend riding -- I remember riding a century with friends one weekend with relative ease. I recall working sometime right around Christmas, filling in for someone on vacation, riding to work on snow covered roads that had stopped traffic. I think that was the last time I worked for Gattos -- I'd moved on to a different job by then...but that's another story!

Been Sick.

All last week, I was sick with a chest cold and a scratchy throat. Finally near the end of that week, I started feeling better, and Carlos and I managed a nice sandwich ride on that Saturday.

Then on Sunday I started feeling sick again, and (so far) all this week, I've had a nagging cough and a(nother) scratchy throat. I'm quite tired of feeling unwell.

Not to mention, there's this sense of dread that

1) The rainy season is upon us, meaning the end of mixed-terrain riding season (and dammit, I've not received my Kogswell yet!)

2) It's getting darker earlier, which impinges upon riding in general and makes for crappity bike-commuting

3) I've got this feeling, like a bad taste in my mouth, that (unlike last year) I really haven't done that many big-epic rides this summer...so I'm really gonna pay for it come brevet season, which is only three short dark wet chilly months away.

4) Bike projects are stacking up around me right and left, but I can't get to those because of the pre-emptive stack of house projects -- anyone want to clean my chains and patch a flat? Or paint a room and waterproof a deck?

Sheesh...where did the summer go?!?



Handmade Cycle Fenders Class @ Techshop

Fender sample
Yesterday afternoon I attended the Techshop class How to make Aluminum Cycle Fenders on the English Wheel. This was my first Techshop experience and as such, I had some mixed feelings, though overall the experience was great. I did learn a good bit about making bicycle fenders from scratch, and brought home a decent sample as proof. Overall, it was a worthwhile experience, and I am planning on returning to Techshop for more classes in the future.

I'd first heard about Techshop through a mention on the Framebuilders list (thanks Alex!). It's been a life-long dream of mine to have access to a machine shop, so I was shocked to learn that Techshop has been active just a short drive away at their Menlo Park, California location since mid-2006, and I was only now discovering it! On their website I read about the large, well-equipped facility and about Techshop's origins. I envisioned a tidy, energetic place, bustling with creative activity. However, when I arrived for my class, I entered a mostly quiet, somewhat-shabby environment that was fairly devoid of people. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a guy ride up on a titanium fixed gear bike -- I instinctively knew he'd be in my class and that I'd be in good company. As I entered the building I was greeted by the receptionist, who (after guessing my name) informed me that there were only two students registered for the class, and had me complete and sign a waiver. I inquired about the usual class size, and learned that the maximum number of students per class was five -- I'd expected that it'd be three or four times that!

We met our instructor, who gave us a quick tour of the building's mostly-empty rooms. We first passed through the general project area -- a space containing about twelve large work tables with general-access parts/scrap storage shelving along one wall. Techshop members are encouraged to clean out the junk/scrap/excess from their home workshops and contribute to this community parts pool. If I remember correctly, there was only one individual working on a project when we passed through this area. At the opposite end of the large room is a lounge/kitchen area with a few scattered tables and chairs, and a bank of computers along one wall. I didn't ask, but presumably these PCs are for people to use when they visit Techshop -- I noticed several computer-graphics books next to one computer. Behind the lounge area is the main machine shop, featuring several milling machines, lathes, and other large machine tools. Most of these machines were silent: there were two guys working on a couple of the mills, but I couldn't see what they were making. Down a hallway, past some administrative offices, we saw the tool storage room where small hand tools, safety gear, and other equipment is housed. We stopped in at the paint room and saw their small vent-hood system as well as the powdercoating system. I asked how much it might cost to powdercoat something there, specifically wondering about paying for the powder I might use, and was told that small, one-off jobs in stocked colors were included in the normal Techshop membership fee -- but if I wanted to do a production run or needed special colors, I'd be responsible for covering that. Next door to the paint room is the laser-cutter room, where one person was engraving a photograph into a mirror to make a psuedo-three-diimensional portrait. The final room we visited was the metalworking and welding room, which is where our class took place. There were a few more people in this room finishing up a welding class, and they left shortly after our class started. One side of this area held MIG, TIG, and OA welding equipment plus a large computer-controlled plasma cutter; the other side of the room housed a sheet metal brake, cutting tools and a rotary stamping press, a work table, tools for bending, shrinking, and stretching sheet metal, and a small English wheel and an air-powered planishing hammer mounted on a shared pedestal. After my class was over, as I wandered around searching for the restrooms, I passed many more dark and empty rooms: a sewing room housing industrial sewing machines, a few rooms marked "Private" or "Project in progress", and a retail area with some books, small parts, and tools on display.

Our instructor started our class with a quick overview of the tools we'd use to make cycle fenders: delrin hammers and leather bags, the English wheel, the sheet-metal shrinker, and the planishing hammer. He used the power shear to cut some sheet aluminum into samples for us to work on, roughly 2x8 inches in size. To curve the leading and trailing edges of the fender, we used a scribe to trace around the bottom of a soup can and then cut the arc using metal shears. We gently filed the cut edges of the piece to debur them. Next we used the delrin forming hammer and the leather sand bag to rough in the compound curve. The spherical end of the hammer stretches the metal when struck against the bag, and the soft surfaces insure that no work-hardening of the metal takes place, which can lead to cracking during later forming stages. Once the compound curve is formed, the ridges and imperfections in the part are smoothed using the English wheel -- this tool has flat upper and curved lower wheels which you pass the piece between. The gap between the two wheels is adjusted by a large screw, which you tighten as you work the material back and forth through the tool. It's important to keep the part pressed against the curved lower wheel so the material adopts its shape. After the part was smoothed, we moved on to the shrinker tool to curve the sides of the fender inward even further. The shrinker has two sets of plier-like jaws which grasp the material and then squeeze together sideways incrementally, forming little ripples in the material. (The stretching tool, which we didn't use, does exactly the opposite -- the jaws clamp the material and then move apart). The final forming step was the air-powered planishing hammer, which works like a miniature jackhammer driving a flat hammer against a domed anvil, and imparts the characteristic dimpled appearance onto the material. The planishing hammer mainly smoothes the surface, although it also stretches, thins, and forms the material as well. The lower anvil can be swapped for other shapes to acheive different results and/or depending on the size of the part being formed. The air pressure driving the hammer can be adjusted, ours was set at 20-25psi depending on the thickness of the aluminum sheet. Finally I used a beading tool to roll the long edges of the fender inward, to simulate the shape of Berthoud fenders.

Although Techshop wasn't exactly what I'd expected, I had an enjoyable experience. I imagined a bustling hive of activity (what self-respecting DIY'er wouldn't want to play in a machine shop all weekend?!) but, perhaps because it was a Sunday afternoon, the facility was fairly empty and quiet, save for the occasional machining noise. The instruction I received was quite loose and informal -- I would've preferred something a bit more structured and comprehensive -- but given that it only cost $30 for nearly three hours of facetime it's a good bargain. I learned a lot about hand-fabricating bicycle fenders (and now have renewed appreciation for Honjos and Berthouds!) and I might attempt to make an actual set of fenders at some point (if I can find material to work with), although frankly given that you can buy a set of quality metal fenders for $40-50 these days, it's certainly not a good investment, time-wise. I definitely want to return to Techshop in the near future for more classes to learn the basics of TIG welding, using the Bridgeport mill and the lathes, and other exciting DIY topics!

Postscript for those in the SF-Bay area: I asked the instructor about local sources for aluminum sheet and other metals -- he recommended Metal Supermarket @ 2999 Spring Street in Redwood City, CA (650) 299-9856. From their website, it appears they have other locations throughout the USA and Canada as well. I'd never heard of them so I wanted to pass this along...

Update: Here's another source for many of the tools used in this class: http://www.eastwoodco.com. They have a video demonstrating the shrinker/stretcher tools (requires Quicktime).


Triggering Traffic Signal Sensors

More than you ever wanted to know about how those pavement-embedded traffic signal sensor loops work, and how to best trigger them with your bicycle.


650B Cometh!

According to UPS Tracking, my new-to-me 650B wheelset is scheduled for delivery sometime today. That means I should be able to join this club this weekend!

It's all part of my new Master Plan: Experience It for Yourself! I've grown weary reading about what people think of 650B wheels, low-trail geometry, and a bunch of other issues on the usual-suspects bikey forums; listening to the various arguments and wondering who's right. I've decided that the best way to find out is to form my own opinion based on my own unique experience -- and the only way to accomplish that is just to pony up, buy the stuff, and put some miles on it!

So -- at the risk of accumulating Still More Bike Junk and pissing off my wife -- I'm buying Yet Another Wheelset and (as a separate experiment) Just One More Bike Frame (a Kogswell P/R to check out this low-trail thing) and find out whether I like it or not. It's an educational investment, if you will. Whatever I don't like will get resold and passed on, whatever works well will stick, and hopefully in the process I'll learn a thing or two and I'll also be able to streamline the bike-fleet somewhat.

The results will get posted here.

UPDATE: The wheels have arrived (at my wife's work)! Picking them up tonight hopefully! Velocity Synergy rims (offset rear) laced 32x to 105 8/9spd hubs, shod with Nifty Swifty tires. Brakes will be Riv's Silver (rebadged Tektro R556).

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"How To Make Aluminum Cycle Fenders on the English Wheel"


"How To Make Aluminum Cycle Fenders on the English Wheel"


Custom 650B fenders anyone?

I just signed up for that class next Sunday! ;)

They have classes on TIG welding, plasma cutting, using a lathe, industrial sewing machines & embroidery equipment, vinyl sign making etc. It costs $30/day to use any of their equipment, and they're open from 9am to MIDNIGHT seven days a week (they're looking into 24/7 access as well). Techshop calls itself a "Kinko's for geeks". I am SO THERE.

Techshop, where have you been my whole life?!?!?

More info and lots of photos of Techshop's equipment at Guy Kawasaki's blog!


Why a city-wide bike rental program in San Francisco is doomed to fail...

So, it seems that San Francisco is considering implementing a public bike-rental program similar to those used in Paris and other fancy European cities...

Unfortunately, this will fail.

From sfbg.com:

In the wide world of illegal activity, bike thievery seems to occupy a criminal sweet spot. It is a relatively painless crime to commit, and city officials do little to stop it. As McCloskey readily admitted, bike theft is not a priority for law enforcement, which he said has its hands full with more serious crimes.

"We make it easy for them," McCloskey said of bike thieves. "The DA doesn't do tough prosecutions. All the thieves we've busted have got probation. They treat it like a petty crime."

Debbie Mesloh, a spokesperson for District Attorney Kamala Harris, said most bike thieves are not prosecuted, but that's because they are juveniles or they qualify for the city's pretrial diversion program. The diversion program offers counseling in lieu of prosecution for first-time nonviolent offenders. Bike thieves qualify for it if they steal a bike worth $400 or less. Mesloh said the District Attorney's Office prosecutes felony bike thefts, but it doesn't get very many of those cases.

"The DA takes all cases of theft seriously," Mesloh wrote in an e-mail.

As for the police, McCloskey was equally blunt. "You can't take six people off a murder to investigate a bike theft. [Bike theft investigations] are not an everyday thing. No one is full-time on bike theft. As far as going out on stings and operations, I haven't heard of one in the last year. Bike theft has gone to the bottom of the list."

McCloskey's comments were particularly interesting in light of the conversation I had with Veysey, whom I met at the Bike Hut, an off-kilter wood shack near AT&T Park that appears as if it might collapse under the weight of the bicycle parts hanging on its walls. Veysey has a loose blond ponytail and greasy hands. He wields a wrench and apocalyptic environmental rhetoric equally well.

"Bikes are one of the four commodities of the street — cash, drugs, sex, and bikes," Veysey told me. "You can virtually exchange one for another."

Veysey believes bike thefts are helping prop up the local drug market. It sounds far-fetched, but it's a notion McCloskey and other bike theft experts echoed. The National Bike Registry, a company that runs the nation's largest database for stolen bikes, says on its Web site, "Within the drug trade, stolen bicycles are so common they can almost be used as currency." Veysey believes the police could actually take a bite out of crime in general by making bike theft a bigger priority in the city.

So, given these arguments, putting those rental bikes out there is essentially the
same as tossing cash out on the street.


Furiously Fancying a Folding Fixie!

[note: I mentioned this on the iBOB list, but it's been lingering around long enough in my brain that I'm featuring it again here...]

On their web site, Performance Bike has the single-speed/coaster-braked Dahon Boardwalk S1 on sale for $179.97.

Looks like it might be a good candidate for fixed-gear conversion!

And I found a blog post where the owner describes chopping off the "T" handlebar/stem and
replacing it with a normal threadless stem and handlebars, claiming better
handling and improved stability:

Oddly, the Dahon Boardwalk S1 isn't listed at Dahon's web site -- is it an older model, or perhaps a European-only model?

I've always been curious about folders, and this seems like a cheap entry