Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You knew it was coming

Hey old bike guy, what's your take on the now infamous bike rider/bus driver/bus passenger incident and lawsuit in our fair city? Is it still safe for us youngsters to ride in this town?

—The kids are Albright?

Hey Kid,

Was it ever safe? I doubt it's less safe now; just don't ride alone at night, when cover of darkness and consumption of substances lower inhibitions and increase vigilante impulses all around. [Update: City government seems to have recognized the menace of balkanization on the road and has launched a campaign for decency and civility. Good on them.]

But since you asked, here's my take:

When the cyclist left the bike lane approaching the Hawthorne Bridge and rode in the right-hand part of the traffic lane, he showed bad form. If you're gonna take a lane, then throw down a traffic-speed interval, get out in the middle, and take the damned lane. By weaseling along on the right-hand edge of a narrow, high-traffic lane (see for yourself), the cyclist invited the close encounter with the bus.

But what if traffic speed is too fast to match? That's a clue to stay out of the lane altogether, unless you're from Manhattan and you're comfortable with such close quarters. Obviously he wasn't.

Ostensibly the cyclist left the bike lane because the gravel from recent snow-control efforts made it unsafe. But he put himself in much greater danger with his non-committal lane position and pace. He could have just negotiated the bike-lane gravel at an appropriate speed for a few hundred yards, then been home free. As I've said before, there's no need to be a martyr; this is supposed to be fun.

So the cyclist makes a bad decision, invites a close call, then goes postal when it happens—breaking at least three laws in the process. And he gets an equally brutish and unlawful reaction from the bus driver and passenger. That's fine; arrest all three, cuff 'em, throw 'em in a holding cell and let 'em hate on each other for a few hours. They deserve it. Too bad the cops didn't see it.

Sadly, though, we all pay for their shared caveman complex now. Balkanization accelerates and we cyclists—who also drive cars now and then—get hated as a class. Meanwhile, we taxpayers have to pay for a boneheaded abuse of court time. Thanks a lot, law-suit guy. Nice advocacy. Nice riding.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Unstealing bikes: progress report

One potential donation of a complete-ish bike fell through, but two other bikes are coming along, thanks to parts contributions from Patrick and others. Here's an update for anyone who's interested—especially David, Nellyda, and Connie, the upcoming recipients.

Bike 2 is a Norco Bigfoot, a pretty sweet mountain bike back around 1992 (the year I did my last mountain-bike race, come to think of it). The frame size is a tad over 19 inches, with a 23-inch top tube and a 31-inch standover height. It's most likely a fit for David, but might also work for Nellyda if David says "pass." It's got street tires, not knobbies. It still needs a front brake cable hanger (to fit a 1 1/8" steer tube) and may need a fork (6 3/4" threaded steer-tube length should do) if I'm unable to align the current one.

Bike 3 is a fairly recent Pacific mountain-style bike. Yes, that's a discount-store brand, but it's certainly not underbuilt and it does have alloy rims, v-brakes, and click shifting. It's a 17-inch frame with a 22-inch top tube and a standover height of 29 1/2 inches. It most likely fits Connie, if she's still interested. It needs "noodles" for the v-brakes and some axle nuts for the rear wheel (10 x 1 mm, I think), both of which should be easy for me to find.

Nellyda has indicated a strong preference for a road bike and may want to hold out a little longer in case anything comes up.

Meanwhile, Jay received the first "unstolen" bike about two weeks ago. The plan is for it to help him get to his new job at a shipping distribution center located miles from any TriMet line. It was nap time when I delivered it, so I didn't meet his wife and baby—but brightly colored toys were scattered all over the living-room floor, just like at Casa WOBG.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Lining up Langster

I just bought a Specialized Langster and I notice the chainline is off by about 3 cm. I need to move the chainring inward to get it right—but I can't move it to the inside of the spider, or it will be off in the other direction. My question is, can I adjust the crank spindle at all? It's a sealed cartridge with square-tapered spindle.

—LANGuiShing left of cenTER

Dear Lefty,

Off by three centimeters!? Ye gods, it's a miracle you can pedal that single-speed more than six feet without throwing the chain. I'll assume for now that you meant three millimeters.

To answer your question, you can't adjust the spindle inward or outward by conventional means. With a Shimano or Shimano-style cartridge bottom bracket, you can only remove it completely, hurl it far away with a cathartic scream (feel better now?), then buy a new one in the spindle length you need. However, the Langster comes with a 103 mm spindle, and you'll be hard-pressed to find one shorter than that. Maybe you could change the bottom bracket and the cranks together—to some track-classic set such as Sugino 75—but I've heard of Langster owners having crankarm/chainstay clearance problems when they try that.

So what to do? You might be able to safely use an old-school trick. Back before cassette freehubs, when all freewheels screwed on, you could get a spacer to place underneath the freewheel to move it out a millimeter or two. Freewheels and bottom bracket shells have the same diameter (as long as both are English thread), so you could use the same spacer(s) between the bottom-bracket shell and the lip of the right-side cup, to move the spindle outward. Then you could move the chainring inside the spider, and voila—you do it all over again with one more or one less spacer. But eventually you get the perfect chainline.

Now all you have to do is call around and find a shop that still has such spacers (and maybe also Prince Albert in a can). If young whippersnappers tell you there is no such thing, don't give up. This is a case in which—unlike the old hippie/boomer slogan—you can't trust anyone under 30.

Now just in case you did mean three centimeters, I'll bet you bought the bike used, not new. (You didn't say which.) If so, I'll bet someone blew up the original bottom bracket and bought a replacement carelessly—so instead of the original 103 mm, you have a 122 mm intended for an early 90s mountain bike. You'll just need to find a 103 mm, and I hear tell that FSA makes a good one. You might also check the rear hub and right crankarm against what's spec'd for Langsters on the Specialized web site, to see if those parts have been replaced.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Unstealing bikes: Everyone wins?

I have what I think is good news about the "unstealing" bike project. I was expecting hundreds (or at least tens) of entries from people who had bikes stolen and needed transportation. But I got just four.

With so few entrants, my original "first finder is keeper" plan for releasing the bike is no good. I might pick the wrong part of town, where none of the four can reach it easily. I would likely stay with the bike for a long time, then finally have to leave it with its minimal lock, and then someone would steal it before one of the entrants got to it.

The good news is that I can probably get bikes to all four—but it will take some patience on their part. I'm going to release the completed bike to the person who it fits best, then continue building on the other frames and partial bikes I have, releasing them to the other three as I finish them.

The completed one is an entry-level mountain bike in a small frame size: 16 inches along the seat tube, 20 inches along the top tube, and a standover height of 28.5 inches. I'm sorry to say the bike has no fenders, lights, or reliable lock, so the winner may have to obtain those things fairly quickly. (In the future I hope to have a connection for such accessories.)

Here's how it shakes out:

David: Sorry man, but it would be painfully small for you, a six-footer. The good news is I have a frame that should fit you; I just have to round up some more parts for it.

Connie and Nellyda: This finished bike would sort of work for either of you, but not really. With your long leg length for your height (typical for women), it's likely you would forever be scooting way back on the saddle, trying to find a better position over the pedals that the bike just can't give you. The good news is that I have a frame (and some parts, but not all that are needed) that should work better for you, and I also need to follow through on another complete-ish bike that's been offered to me.

Jay: That leaves you. With your short leg length for your height (typical for men), you could make the best use of this small frame. You'll be riding very upright because the bike also has a short handlebar stem. You may want to change to a long one when you can, to stretch out your upper body more. Let me know what neighborhood you live in, and we can figure out a good place and time to meet.

I hope this is an uplifting outcome for everyone. I'll be in touch with the other entrants as I get the other bikes finished.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Unsteal this bike

Great news: The first unstolen bike is ready to release, thanks to a source known only as Li. This is a bike-shop-quality mountain bike that was retired and then rejuvenated. It can be yours for free if your bike was recently stolen. Within a few days I'll email the bike's general location (within a radius of a few blocks in Portland, Oregon) and lock combo to everyone who qualifies; first finder is the keeper.

So how do you qualify? If your bike got ripped off and you desperately need transpo, email me by midnight Thursday and tell me your story. Don't bother BSing, 'cause 1) the bike really isn't any prize pig, and 2) I work as an editor, so I know crap when I hear it. Tell me how tall you are and what your inseam length is so I can make sure you'll fit. If you won't, I'll keep your entry on hand for the next release.

If you win the bike, use it as long as you need to, then pass it on to someone else in need.

I'm hoping this is the first of many "unstolen" bikes I'll build and release, and I could use your help. Do you have any frames, wheels, or parts lying around that are (mostly) mechanically sound but ordinary or obsolete, and scratched up or otherwise uglified? I'm talking stuff that you might not even bother taking to a swap meet. If you want to get rid of them, let me know and I'll pick them up.