Monday, June 27, 2011

Acting Manly

Yesterday was the Pontiac race. A good course and a fairly big local race. I opted out, not because my result was predetermined (take the number of racers, divide by two, round down) but because I just wanted to enjoy riding this weekend at 129 BPM. And it was an excellent weekend of riding. But I feel a mild pang of guilt for not racing.

Today Allie and I set out to get crackle top coat nail polish. Crackle applied over a base coat makes an interesting design, like lacquer checking on a classic car painted by an incompetent painter. Apparently crackle is popular because the first few stores we went to were sold out. We finally found it at Justice. I sat down on a bench in front of the store.

Me: "Why don't I put the base coat on now so when we get home I can put on the crackle?" The truth is I wanted to ride and if I didn't have to wait for her nails to dry, I could.

Allie: "Right here? No Dad, that's not normal."

Me: "I always do your nails. And when have I tried to be normal?"

Allie, whispering in case anyone was listening: "But it's not... manly."

Me, whispering back: "What if I put it on in the car?"

Allie: "I guess that would be OK."

But the final product didn't look good. Allie took it off and we tried again, this time applying just a thin layer of crackle. No, it didn't look right either. Another try, this time only doing the tips with crackle. Still not the look she was after.

Finally Allie suggested we just do her nails in White and she sketched out some type of African print on a paper plate which I copied onto her nails. Brilliant.

By then it was dark out, which is fine; there will be plenty of time to ride when Allie no longer wants me to do her nails.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Horse of a Different Color

My Tomac is as good as new; better, actually, since I hooked up a hyperdrive to my bike over the weekend. I was about to go riding yesterday when Allie reminded me I told her we would go horseback riding during her summer vacation. She had only been out of school for two days but, true to my word, I took her to a riding stable by our house. Of course I didn’t think we could just walk right up and go riding. I was wrong. We rode horses.

The stable is by the Brighton Req area and uses trails right next to the mountain bike single track. Brighton has been able to avoid the equestrian vs. mountain biker conflict that other areas seem to have by dividing the area in half: horses have the West side and bicycles the East. Nothing can fix a conflict as easily as a complete separation

We had a good time and I see the charm in horseback riding but it’s the kind of thing I am content doing, maybe, once a year. I know I looked out of place at the stable just as people who don’t ride bikes look out of place unloading their bicycles at the trail head. We all have a limited amount of time and energy; where we spend it is an important decision. Going forward, I will be less smug when I pass bicycles with reflectors and pie pans.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pretty Perfect Day

WickWerk Chainrings.
Wheels Manufacturing Ceramic bottom bracket.
Shimano cables and housings...
and pulleys.
Fresh Dot 3 fluid.
New Kenda Nevegal 1.95 in front, slightly used 2.0 Karma in back.

Lunch with Em and Allie at our favorite party store. Allie asked to go riding when we got home. A pretty perfect father's day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So after two seasons, my middle chainring was cooked and my outer chainring and bottom bracket were on their way out the door. It wasn’t as simple as just ordering new parts. The XTR bolt pattern is unique and the MSRP for a set of Shimano XTR chainrings is about $400. You can find new M970 XTR cranks complete with rings and bottom bracket for that price. M770 XT cranks cost just over $200 and have the same bearings as the XTR and only weigh 75 grams more. I have a dollar a gram rule, that is, if one dollar will save me a gram, then I will spend it. I have a two dollar a gram rule for rotating mass. My Tomac is slowly dumbing down because of this logic from full XTR to full XT as I replace worn parts. I started to order a set of XT cranks.

But getting rid of an otherwise perfectly good set of XTR cranks bothered me.

My bike came from the Kenda race team with these beautiful WickWerk chainrings. The teeth are tapered every couple inches to form ramps for crisp shifting. I adored these chainrings as much as any man can adore chainrings but I figured they were big, big money so I didn’t even consider buying a set until last week. I was surprised to find out a set of WickWerk chainrings only cost $140. This completely changed my calculations. I bought a set of WickWerk rings and a Wheels Manufacturing ceramic bearing bottom bracket for what I was going to pay for XT cranks.

I ordered the chainrings directly from WickWerks. I seemed to have a problem paying for them through PayPal so I emailed WickWerks. The owner of WickWerks emailed me back right away, verified the order was processed, and threw in an extra middle chainring just because. An extra middle chainring will allow me to squeeze out an additional season on these rings.

I’m happy; although, I find ceramic bearings a little pretentious, like titanium bolt kits. Worse than that, companies shamelessly market ceramic bearings to cyclists the way late night infommercials market weight loss supplements to desperate people looking for an easy fix, the kind of people that foolishly go from one easy fix that doesn’t work to the next because the thought of getting some type of benefit without investing the necessary effort is so gosh darn enticing. Pathetic. But I’m getting off point.

The ceramic bearings in my Black Flag wheelset didn’t seem to help me but this time it’s different. Price Point says “install one [Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket] on your bike and you’ll swear you somehow hooked up a hyperdrive to your bike.” I’m not sure what hyperdrive means exactly, I think it is a concept in science fiction that refers to a way of traveling faster than light. Regardless, I’m sold. My days of being an average bike racer are over; I will thread this puppy into my bike and rocket past other racers at speeds that transcends understanding. That’s the plan.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chainrings and Demigods

My Tomac’s middle chainring is useless. I planned on replacing it before I left for Hanson Hills. An XTR chainring costs $180 which made me procrastinate. I found someone who had a used set that would have worked fine but we couldn’t seem to find a time to meet before I left for the race. I found a bike shop near the race that had a 32 tooth XTR chainring. I started to take off the old ring but discovered the chainring bolts take a torx instead of an allen wrench. I bought a ¼ inch drive torx bit at an ACO but stripped out one bolt. A local bike shop drill out the stripped bolt and I replaced it with a spare allen head bolt I keep on hand. Lost a second torx bolt but found another allen head bolt in the bottom of my tool box. Made another attempt to replace the chainring but realized the cranks have to come off. I have a XT crank tool but the XTR uses a different style. I couldn’t find an XTR tool anywhere near Grayling so I raced Hanson Hills in the big chainring.

Let’s compare my life to that of my older brothers’, just for grins.

Before I left for the race, Dave came by to take my Honda power-washer. He mentioned if I came across his 1964 AC Cobra slot car, he would like it. It was his favorite toy as a child and he had just gotten back from the East Coast where he bought a real 1964 AC Cobra. For $250,000. A quarter million dollars is a lot of money for a used car, that’s 1,388 XTR chainrings to put it in relatable terms. It wasn’t even assembled, just a trailer of parts that could be combined to make an original, number matching AC Cobra. Dave will have restored the car by August.

He has always been that way. Dave built a rat buggy when he was a teenager. Normally these types of cars are powered by a VW engine but he took the engine out of the front of a Cortina and used a crown adapter to modify it to fit in the back of his race car. The Cortina engine put out about twice the horse power of a VW. He beat pro teams.

Dave is a great brother but he set the bar too dam high.

Not too high for my other brother. Glen got the motorcycle in this picture from an insurance company back when he was 15. It was in a garage fire and considered totaled. He rebuilt it, got a salvage title, and patiently waited until he turned 16 so he could (legally) ride it. He is currently building an experimental airplane in his garage.

Tonight I will take another swing at replacing my middle chainring.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Hanson Hills XC

Yesterday was the Hanson Hills XC race, I finished in the middle of 45 - 49 Sport. I won here once, leading me to mistakenly believe I could race Expert. Denny and and his wife were at yesterday's race. We finished 6th and 7th. We have been friends for a long time but I don't typically race against him so this was kind of cool. As we made our way back to our age group we joked about how we have gotten old. It was a perfect weekend.