Saturday, April 30, 2011

Test Ride #2

Test ride #2 on the Motobecane road bike was not so much about the bike but rather a test of the engine.  Fueled in large part by the excitement of new bike I decided to throw down an all out effort and set a base line for my fitness at the beginning of this riding season.  I chose the Richland County B & O Trail as my course.  The flatness of rail trails can be tedious but I take advantage this as it makes it very easy to maintain a steady peak output without the fluctuating heart rate that comes naturally while riding the roads.  I parked at the southern end of the trail which is something I don't usually do.  From this end the trail gradually climbs in elevation.  The gradient is almost imperceptible but I wanted to stack the deck in my favor as much as possible and take on this part of the trip while fresh.  There was a light breeze coming from the South-East that caused a headwind on the second half of the ride but at least I had the knowledge that I was traveling slightly downhill all the way back.  I felt great the first hour but as the miles racked up past twenty I could sense my power fading.  The last five miles were not very pleasant at all.  I was working like a dog to keep the pace arrow pointing up.  All in all test ride #2 was a huge success.  The bike rode fantastic but I am just as pleased with my performance this early in the season with so few rides under my belt.


Spring is in the air finally!

I did make a couple small adjustments to the bike since the initial test ride.  The Motobecane is about a half an inch shorter at the top tube than the Lemond so I swapped out the short 70mm stem I had been using and went to a 90mm length.  This change dialed in the reach and after raising my seat a bit I am reasonably satisfied with the machine-man interface.

There is one trait of the new road bike that I want to note that I didn't notice on my short first ride.  I believe Motobecane nailed it with their choice of head tube angle and carbon fork supplied with the frame.  Because of all the storms and wind we have had lately the trail surface was littered with small twigs and branches as most of the trail is tree lined.  As I gently weaved around the debris I noticed a very neutral feel and absolutely no twitchiness in the handling.  After my slight input lean to arch around a stick the bike smoothly returned to it's original course.  The bike loves to roll.

Distance:  30 Miles
Ride Time:  1:56
Average Speed:  15.4 mph
Max Speed:  22 mph

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Test Ride #1


The ride is very smooth.  Just the ticket for the aging pavement found on roadways near me.  The best way I can describe the ride quality of a titanium frame is to think in terms of a comparison.  Cyclists will know what sensation I am talking about.  Older asphalt road surfaces that appear lighter gray as they age also become rougher.  The tar is worn away or recedes leaving the limestone aggregate exposed creating a bumpy texture.  In a car this surface is completely imperceptible but rolling on a rigid metal frame a bike literally buzzes with vibrations from rougher pavement. 

Most road going cyclists have probably at some time come across a stretch of freshly completed high way.  The pavement is solid black and smooth.  The smoothness is instantly noticeable as you cross over onto the new asphalt surface from the older weathered roadway.  That soft fluid feel is the ride quality a titanium frame yields regardless of the condition of the road surface.  After a couple hours in the saddle traveling rural county roads is when it really pays off.   

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shop Notes 2

This bike project I have been looking forward to for a long time.  I have been a mountain biker for over twenty years and there was a time when the ATB was the only bike I owned.  As time went by and being the ever curious person I am I branched off into road riding and the recumbent world.  About seven years ago I got caught up in the Lance Armstrong/ Tour De France craze and decided I needed a road racing bike.  I bought the Lemond at my local bike shop and have enjoyed riding the skinny tires ever since.  One of the first upgrades I performed on the Lemond was to replace the heavy stock crankset and it's stamped steel chainrings with a Shimano Ultegra triple crank.  Other than a new set of wheels I picked up from a riding buddy that he couldn't use the rest of the Lemond's componentry was good enough for my sporty recreational rides.  My long term goal was to eventually upgrade the aluminum frame to something a bit more comfortable like titanium and just remove and reinstall my existing components from the old frame to the new. 

Yesterday the UPS man dropped off this shiny 48 cm Motobecane road bike frame at my front door.  After taking some pictures I could not contain my excitement any longer and succumbed to the urge to begin the build up.  My first task was to install the splined bottom bracket and crankset from the Lemond.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bottom bracket broke free from the shell with minimal effort. 

With the successful crank swap the project is off to very a smooth start.  Over the next couple days I will press on in the evenings and hopefully road testing by Friday and ready for the first real ride on Saturday.  The weather report shows that as my window but who am I kidding, I would be happy to ride this thing in the pouring rain.  As an added bonus titanium doesn't rust. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shop Notes

Days of rain on end have kept me indoors but not idle.  Now that the temperatures are warmer I can tend to the routine bike maintenance that always seems to be waiting when one operates a small fleet of bicycles.  The photo shows my small workspace adjacent one wall of the garage.

In this picture I am removing the drive side crank from a square taper bottom bracket.  The bike is a made in USA Trek 850 steel mountain bike.  It was my wife's first ATB purchased new in 1993. 

 I think I have mentioned before on my blog before that I love machines.  Bicycles are amazing machines that I have enjoyed tinkering with since I was a kid.  Over the years I have learned much about the fine art of keeping a bicycle in good working order.  For me the small projects are a welcome distraction from fast paced daily life and the modern computerized world we live in.  Long ago are the days of busted knuckles and although I still suffer the occasional vanishing washer a little shop time is good time. 

April showers bring May flowers... and fenders.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The N3ZN Ironman

This is without a doubt the finest Morse code instrument I have ever laid a finger and thumb on during my short time in amateur radio.  It should be fairly evident based on the ham radio content of this blog that I love all things Morse code related.  In particular I am fascinated by the the little switch mechanisms we radiotelegraphers use to generate our dits and dahs.

This iambic paddle dubbed the "Ironman" is a new color scheme for the ZN-9A series paddles custom made by Tony Baleno, N3ZN of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I had been looking at his website in the past and after some time had gone by I went back for another peek at Tony's amazing creations.  Upon opening the updated home page I was captivated by the stunning image I beheld.  Stainless steel, carbon fiber, machined aluminum and a handsome gray textured finish combined in perfect measure with a cool name too.

In short order we had exchanged a couple emails and the deal was done.  Luckily there was just enough time to fill my order before production was suspended allowing time for Tony to prepare for the upcoming Dayton Hamfest. 

A project of mine that has paralleled the development of my Morse code sending and receiving skills is a study of the evolution of the equipment used in Morse code operation.  From my first shaky cw contact using a simple straight key I built my confidence and month by month increased my speed.  As my abilities expanded I played around with single lever paddles, built a Sideswiper  and learned how to use a Vibroplex bug.  This past Christmas I blogged about my first dual paddle key, the Vibroplex Iambic.  Although I am a fan of the Vibroplex Company and its century old heritage I wanted to experience the culmination of 200 years of Morse code key development.  After all the Vibroplex Iambic is a design over 30 years old.  It has been quite a journey these past two years.  One part immersing myself in historical study of the code and its associated equipment and another part actual hands on practice using various keys in my amateur radio pursuits.  Often I lament how lucky we radio amateurs are today to have such a varied and interesting choice of data entry vehicles at our fingertips.  My ubiquitous qwerty keyboard has nowhere near the class of these Morse instruments past and present.

Click the image for a closer view and check out the fine threads on the 10-56 contact adjustment screws.  Very precise contact spacing can be attained allowing for high speed operation.  I have the spacing set at .0015" Tight!  Another feature of the ZN-9A not found on any of my other keys is magnetic lever return which is adjustable by screwing the knurled knobs in and out.  This along with sealed cartridge bearings at both the top and bottom of the low mass lever arm trunnions is a sure fire recipe for high speed precision.

I now have six contacts in the log using the Ironman for a total of about an hour and a half of actual on-air sending and I am seriously happy with this key.  During the last two contacts I had the electronic keyer set at 20 words per minutes and sending was effortless.  I have to really concentrate on leaving small spaces between characters so my code is legible and not run together and hard to copy.  The ZN-9A just begs to go fast.  I look forward to continuing to develop my copying ability and I am confident the Ironman will easily do its part pushing the speed envelope.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

American English -- Palace Theater -- Marion, OH

Yesterday my wife scored some last minute tickets to see the Beatles tribute band American English at a local theater.  Although small town venues can't book the biggest contemporary acts in the land, excellent performances can still be had for not a lot of money and this show was no exception.

The band hailing from the Chicago area has steadily gained notoriety even attracting the attention of Sam Leach, the Beatles' original promoter from Liverpool.  Leach was impressed by American English and is now promoter and manager for the fab four cover band. They have toured to faraway places such as Tokyo, Japan, the Caribbean and even headlined in front of an audience of 50,000 Beatles fans at International Beatle Week in Liverpool, England.

As a Rock and Roll fan and lover of live music in general the show was a great experience.  The band played two long sets opening with songs from the early years then transitioning on to psychedelic tunes from  Sgt. Pepper's Magical Mystery Tour.  The show culminated with very well done versions of iconic White Album classics such as Hey Jude and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  The Beatles era was just coming to a close when I was born so I have no memories of "Beatlemania" or the excitement generated by their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Like countless other music loving teens I discovered the Beatles by listening to the original recordings on vinyl, cassettes and finally compact disc.  The American English show was a unique opportunity to relive the history of one of Rock and Roll's greatest bands with all the energy that only a live setting can provide.

(My apologies for the grainy and blurry photography.  In the challenging conditions of a darkened theater my poor point and shoot was taxed to it's limits.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD160 CALIFORNIA

I noticed this baby signal on eBay. After an auction with no bidders the insulator was re-listed with a make an offer option.  I could wait no longer as I have a soft spot for the little California insulators.
The unique feature of this particular insulator that caught my eye was the manufacturing flaw in the base visible in the second photograph.  Its awesome how the glass dried in it's molten shape.  Apparently not enough material was placed in the mold and the pressing came out just short of complete.

For these images I set up on the patio under high thin clouds. This might be my favorite condition for recording the pale tones of the glass.  Except for the darker more opaque colors I think full and direct sunlight can overpower the lighter pastels.  I enjoy the experimentation of photographing my collection.  The challenge is to reproduce the color as closely as possible into the raw image at the camera without using digital enhancements further down the production chain. 

The new baby signal beside a very similar colored CD160 CALIFORNIA from my collection.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Road Bike Ride


I rode the Lemond today after work.  This is the first time I've been out on 700c wheels this spring and I have to say big wheels are a blast.  My computer has ceased to function even with a change of the battery so I have no ride data to log.  Conditions were simply amazing with dead calm air not even the slightest breeze with temps in the mid 60's.  Really the quintessential perfect weather for a ride.  I had a hard time heading for home.    

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Taming the Bicycle by Mark Twain

I like Mark Twain.  When I was very young I remember my Mom read me The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Later in high school A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court became my favorite Mark Twain book.  As I have gotten older I have come to appreciate Twain's satirical style and wry sense of humor.  I think he would fit right in today as an author.

I never knew he rode a bike until I read a short essay Twain wrote about learning to ride a Pennyfarthing. I found the piece at an interesting website that collects bike related literature.  Read the essay here:

Here is a drawing of a Pennyfarthing or Highwheeler to help with the comic effect.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recumbent Ride -- A Short Loop

It looked like we might be spared rain so I took off on a short loop with my camera and a bottle of water this Saturday afternoon.  A steady westerly wind was blowing as it always does this time of year so I struck out in that direction.  The skies were gray and forlorn with only an occasional break in the clouds to let out a peek of sunshine.

Often when it is cold and windy in the early season I look out the window and try to talk myself out of going for a ride.  Later out on the road, warmed up and cruising under my own power I am once again reminded that no matter what the conditions, a bike ride never fails to lift the spirit.

I noticed this old cemetery just a few miles outside of town so I stopped to check it out.  There was some very old graves in the little plot.  It is thought provoking to say the least reading the names and dates carved into stone now weathered and faded.

I stopped and walked some field edges where the recent rains had eroded the bare soil exposing lots of rocks.  I didn't find any Indian arrowheads but I did find an excellent fossil. 

The Brachiopod was a marine animal similar to a clam in appearance that existed 248 to 543 million years ago during the Paleozoic Era.  This type of fossil is plentiful in Ohio as the region was the bottom of a vast sea in prehistoric times. 

Short Loop Stats

Ride Time:  1:18
Distance:  15.87 Miles
Average Speed:  12 mph
Max Speed:  26.8 mph