It makes me somewhat uncomfortable that the local Trader Joe's finds it necessary to post a sign reminding drivers that it is illegal to run down pedestrians.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
It was time once again for that comedy of errors that I call routine maintenance. It's been about a year since I did a major tune-up on my main commuter, Champion, and It was getting to the point where I sensed that it was taking a little more effort to crank the pedals (and of course it's always the bike's fault, it can't possibly be the extra poundage that years of beer reviews and my recent obsession with gourmet food trucks have added to the waistline).
And then there is the temptation to let it go a while, since the last time that I found the effort to pedal had gotten more difficult, the extra energy expended helped me to quickly drop around seven pounds (but I soon could feel it taking it's toll on my knees as well, and decided that I would like to keep those around for awhile longer).
This time, besides the the usual adjusting and cleaning, I decided it would be a good idea to replace the ball bearings in my Shimano XT hubs as well, something I had never done before.
As usual I did a great deal of research before attempting this, not wanting to have to buy a new set of wheels right now. I watched all the YouTube videos I could find and read various books and blogs, I asked ask.com and queried how do I do this? At eHow.
Among the many sources I used, the information was all the same. Shimano hubs, including the XT hubs that I had on my bike, used loose ball bearings, not cartridge bearings as many of the newer hubs do, and the bearings in the rear are 1/4-inch, 9 on each side, the bearings in the front are 3/8-inch, 11 on each side. I also learned that to get to the bearings, I would need a cone wrench (which I already had, since you also need one to make adjustments to your hubs), and a regular box wrench or adjustable wrench. Since I had those, too, I was ready to go.
I planned to get the wheels out of the way first, then I would take the chain, gears, etc off to soak in degreaser while I cleaned up the frame a little. This time, I didn't feel It was necessary to remove the pedals and cranks as I had done this last year and replaced the bottom bracket at that time as well.
I figured the rear wheel would be the most difficult so decided to tackle that one first. I removed it from the bike, used a chain whip and cassette tool to remove the cassette (the gears), and was ready to disassemble the hub.
Since I have now been commuting by bike for five years, I have accumulated most of the tools that I need to do just about anything. I started out small, just doing the little stuff that I could do with regular tools, slowly adding some more specialized tools one at a time as I tackled each task and felt confident enough to add another repair to my repertoire.
Having assembled all the tools and parts I would need to overhaul my hubs, I grabbed the cone wrench and started to grab the adjustable wrench when I noticed that something was different from the photos in all the sources that I had scanned. In all that information, not one mentioned that the new Shimano hubs were somewhat different.
My hub does not use a cone wrench and an adjustable wrench, my hub uses a cone wrench and an allen wrench, which was no problem since I own an entire set of allen wrenches. But soon after this, the surprises kept coming.
I have had these wheels for probably a year and a half, so it's not like I have the newest, just-released technology that nobody else has encountered yet. It seems that the newest Shimano hubs, I am not sure about all of them, but definitely the XT's, the ones that are made in Malaysia rather than Japan, have some fairly significant differences, which I was soon to discover.
Luckily, when I first decided I would overhaul my hubs, I ordered a hundred each of 1/4-inch and 3/16-inch bearings. Sure, if your bearings are in good shape, you can just clean them, but bearings are cheap. If you are going to take your hubs apart anyway, you might as well replace them. I had my 1/4-inch bearings at the ready as I removed the cone (the thing that holds the bearing in place). The first thing I noticed was that technically the hubs still use loose bearings, but they are in a plastic holder. I removed the holder from the hub and thought, hmmmmm, these look smaller than the quarter-inch bearings that I have. The reason for this is that the new XT hubs have 3/16-inch bearings in both the front and the back. The non-drive side, which I was concentrating on first, takes 11 bearings which go into the plastic holder. The drive side, which doesn't have a plastic holder, takes 13 bearings.
I cleaned the cups and cones, re-greased everything, inserted the new bearings and reassembled the rear hub.
The front hub, which I had figured would be the easier one, turned out to be a little trickier. It was difficult to turn the bolts on one side without the other side turning. I was holding one side with my allen wrench, but needed the same size wrench to keep the other side from moving. Fortunately I have a Topeak Alien multi-tool which I carry on my commute that includes allen wrenches among its many tools, so I employed that to hold the other side. Without having three arms, this proved to be a little tricky. Most bike shops are equipped with an axle vice which holds one side while working on the other side, eliminating the need to have additional arms. I admit that I am a man of many vices, but axle vice is not one of them.
After cleaning and relubing the front, I started to reassemble it. This was when I discovered another difference in the newer hubs. When adjusting hubs, the golden rule has always been to leave just a tiny bit of play in the bearings because once it is clamped into place, the compression of the axle will tighten it up, eliminating the play in the bearings. Not anymore. The different structure of the newer hubs seems to have eliminated this step. After five or six tries, leaving just the tiniest bit of play in the hubs, clamping it into the frame did nothing to eliminate the play. Once I learned this fact, I adjusted the hub until it was just right off the bike, and it remained just right once mounted.
I removed the chain and left it to soak with the cassette in degreaser while I went to the store to pick up new inner cables for brakes and shifters as well as new brake pads. When I got back home, I started to put everything back together. I had everything back on the bike but the chain. I thought the chain was in pretty good shape. It hadn't been skipping or anything, but after soaking in the degreaser solution, which removed all of the gunk and loosened everything up, when I went to put it back on it didn't even come close to fitting on the teeth correctly. Generally, the gears and chain wear together, so that it is usually a good idea to change both unless you are very diligent about checking your chain wear and replacing it when necessary, but that didn't seem to be the case here. I think the large amount of buildup on the chain kept it together enough to prevent the gears from wearing out badly enough to need changing.
Anyway, it was obvious that I wasn't going be able to reuse this chain, so I had to go buy a new one. First, I went to the nearest bike shop, which is one that I don't really care for, but I'll buy parts there when I need to. This was on a Sunday, and this shop seems to be where most of the locals go to buy their kids' first bikes. I worked my way towards the service department, where the chains are at, dodging toddlers on training wheels on my way there. When it became obvious that I wasn't going to be helped anytime soon, I headed to the second closest bike shop. I was waited on promptly at this shop, so I got my chain, walked home and installed it.
Finally, I had the whole thing back together, took it for a test ride and everything seemed to be working fine.
At least next time I will remember how these new hubs work. As for the 1/4-inch bearings, a couple of my bikes have the old style hubs, so they won't go to waste.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
AND GO, DOWNTOWN!
Having a week off and no funds to do any traveling, the S.O. and I had a stay-cation (I can't believe I am using that particular portmanteau, seeing as how I hate it and all. If you ever catch me saying "mandals", you have my permission to shoot me.) One of the things we did was to explore Downtown Los Angeles a bit, as there were a couple places we wanted to check out, and having lived in the area for over thirty years, it seemed like it was time.
When I used to work as a messenger for a type shop (delivering by car, not bike, which may have gone a long way in developing my dislike of driving) I used to go into Downtown every day, which even 25 or so years ago was an unpleasant experience by car. The S.O. and I went by bus. The Santa Monica freeway express bus is only $2 each way, and even though we spent eight dollars between us for the round trip, it's still much cheaper and less stressful than driving and paying for parking. Until now, I had never considered the possibility of going downtown "for fun."
Since multiple places I wanted to visit involved eating, I had a light dinner the evening before. We got off the bus at Union Station, which is just one block from our first destination, Philippe's, who claim to be the originator of the French dip sandwich (one other place in L.A., Cole's, makes the same claim).
Philippe's is one of those places where the lines are always long, and I'm talking DMV long. The food at these places may not be the best, but it is at least unique (Pink's Hot Dogs and Tito's Tacos are two others who I would put in this category) and after awhile they become local landmarks. Did I kick myself for waiting 30 years to try this place? Naah, though I would go there again if I was in the area, and now that I have been there I feel like a true Angeleno (although I don't actually live in the city of Los Angeles).
From there we wandered around Chinatown, though after just having eaten a pork sandwich and potato salad, we didn't sample any of the food.
From there, we walked to historic Olvera street, the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles, where I accomplished one of my goals I set for myself during this time off, and that was to buy a luchador mask, and on Olvera Street there are many to choose from among the cheesy souvenir carts.
Then, the S.O. wanted to go to The Last Bookstore, so we headed there. Along the way, I noticed that the downtown area is getting a bit more bike friendly than I remember it. Of course, the things I noticed were related more to parking than riding, but it's a step in the right direction. It will be a long time before drivers accept bikes on the streets in Los Angeles, but they are making strides in adding bike lanes on several downtown streets.
After this it was time for our second meal of the day at Wurstkuche, the first of the new sausage and German beer places, and it seems that they started a trend, as they seem to be popping up all over the place. If you had told me a couple of years ago that German sausage and beer joints would be the next big thing I would have told you "Sure, right behind the big plaid shorts with black dress socks and wing tips fad", but I have to admit a fondness for sausages, having grown up in the Detroit area, where Kielbasa is one of the four major food groups. And the bratwurst at Wurstkuche is among the best I have had in quite some time. I would even consider making a special trip to go there again.
Amazingly, I learned that a trip downtown can actually be fun, and it can easily be reached from Santa Monica without resorting to the automobile.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Once again, I seem to have let this blog get away from me. In an effort to kick it into gear again I'm going to try something new. Since I don't always have enough time these days to sit at the computer and write, I'm going to try to write more frequent posts from this here iPad. With various other projects that I am working on as well as our annual shake-up at work, my time once again is scarce. Just when I thought there was no way they could consolidate the company any further, they surprised me once again. Technically, I was correct in assuming that there was no way that the company could further consolidate. What I didn't foresee was the possibility that our company would consolidate with another company.
So now we have even more work, which is good paycheck-wise, but is bad time and health-wise. With the awards season quickly encroaching, this is shaping up to be one of the worst yet. But, as the company is fond of telling us every time they spring more bad news upon us, "The good news is, you all still have jobs."
Now that we have more than 100 people crammed into our medium-sized office, our office bike rack got kicked out of its spot and was relocated to the front of the office. On the positive side, there are now regularly four bikes parked at the rack. On the not so positive side, lacking any empty space, many seem to find the bike rack area the perfect place to stash empty boxes, broken chairs, etc. But for now, at least, we still have our indoor bike parking.
Monday, July 11, 2011
If you live anywhere near the Los Angeles area, I'm sure almost all you hear about these days is "Carmageddon", the name given by the press (I'm sure some Bakelite-pompodoured local "journalist" is proudly patting himself on the back for coming up with that one, who cares if it has been the title of a video game since 1997), because they have to assign some stupid name to anything that even remotely resembles a news story, and refers to the fact that this coming weekend a ten-mile stretch of the 405 freeway is going to be closed for the weekend starting Friday night, reopening in time for the Monday morning rush hour.
To hear people talk you would think they were being tossed in a Mexican prison for the weekend. "Oh my, what are we going to do?" "I can't believe they are doing this to us!" "Think about the children!"
Just who is saying these things? Probably the same folks who for years have been saying "They need to do something about that 405 freeway! It's terrible!"
The reason for the closure? To make it wider. I am not sure how people expect them to make it wider without having to close it at least for a short time, particularly since making it wider involves tearing down the Mulholland bridge which crosses the freeway.
People are so used to being treated like privileged citizens with their smoke belching crapmobiles that the news of having part of the freeway closed leaves them scratching their heads, "Duuh, since thar ain't no other ways to get about besides the auto-mo-bile, what is we-uns to do?"
Sure, some people will have to figure something out. Such as health care professionals who are counted on to be at work on the weekend. I've already read that hospitals are renting rooms for the staff whom have to travel from one side of the hill to the other. That doesn't sound so difficult now, does it?
For those that are worried about such things as "Oh, my God! How am I going to get to the golf course?" Well, I guess you're on your own.
Sure, chances are traffic will be pretty bad on a lot of surface streets, mostly because a lot of people will refuse to give up what they perceive to be their God-given right to drive their car wherever and whenever they damn please.
Many refuse to take public transportation around here and consider it "beneath" them. I take it fairly often and it gets me where I need to go. I have heard reports that the MTA is going to waive the fare on those couple days. We'll see if that will actually coax people to try it. Of course there will be those who will try public transportation without doing any research first and slow things down by playing 20 questions with the driver. "Where does this bus go?" "How much does it cost?" "How do I get to such-and-such?" "How much for the first-class section?" "How long does it take?" I see this fairly often anyway, so I would expect an increase in this type of behavior considering there will probably be a fair amount of bus newbies.
It's practically all everyone is talking about at the ol' water cooler. Of course it is a welcome relief from "Did you see "Idol" last night?
I expect my bike ride home on Friday to be a bit more treacherous than usual, but I will just exercise extra caution.
Maybe people should just explore their own neighborhoods instead of automatically jumping in the car for no reason.
Do I think this situation will get more people to ride their bikes those days? Probably not, and if there were a lot of people riding that usually don't, I suppose that could be a hazard in itself.
But the thing that scares me the most: if there is this much panic and chaos when people are given a month and a half advance notice of the closure, when the time comes that we are faced with a natural disaster, lord help us all.