Friday, April 12, 2013

Ride of Silence 2013

Here in Trappe/Collegeville, Pa, we're riding our 4th Ride of Silence.  You can see video of our ride 2 years ago on a previous post.

This year we are going to stay solely on Main Street between the two boroughs of Trappe and Collegeville.  We'll do about 3 loops up and down Main Street, with turnaround points in the parking lot of Congressman Gerlach's office in Trappe, and the other at the new kiosk in Collegeville at 3rd and Main.

The event is free, and please wear a helmet.  I'm not sure if we'll have any traffic control help or not. We will ride single file, and follow the rules of the road.  We will stop at the stoplights if they are red.  It will be okay if we are not as a complete group all the time.  With the ride occuring only on a mile or two of Main Street, we will be noticed.  PrintCopy in Trappe is making two banners that a couple of us can attach to our bikes to help others recognize what we are doing.  The ride begins at 7pm, but please be there by 6:30 for preparations (poem reading, application of arm bands, etc...).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You Can't Blame the Bike: A Road Bully is going to be a Road Bully

I was driving our car last Sunday on Main Street.  There was nothing unusual about how I was driving.  I was going the speed limit, staying in my lane, watching for others around me.  I prepared to make a right turn into a parking lot drive way, slowed down, maintained my line, put my blinker on in advance.  However, the driver behind me remained right on my tail as I did these normal (in fact required) things.  Not only that, but he crossed over into the other lane of traffic to pass me at the moment I turned, garnering a honk from the passing car!  Neither of us could believe his behavior I'm sure.  I couldn't restrain myself, I honked too.  As he passed, he was waving his hand up at me.  I don't think I saw the classic middle finger, but I wonder what kind of expletive he was speaking in hopes that I could read his lips.

I'm commenting on this because I was not on my bike.  I want to say that I usually only experience this type of driving behavior when that is the case, however, on further thought about it, I realized that I do in fact experience just as much driver hostility on our Main Street when I'm NOT on my bike!

What does this mean?  It means you can't tell me that I'm 'asking for it' when I'm out there on my bike because it happens even when I'm out there in my car.  The bike really has nothing to do with how others treat me on the road.

It is simply the ATTITUDE of other drivers toward my presence, my very existence, that puts me at risk most.  I am in the way, slowing them down.  In their mind, I don't have a right to be there (even in my car if I have to slow down to turn), and they want me to know how they feel.  So they put me and others at risk by using their car to be 'pushy.'

 Why are Road Bullies so mean?  Where does their impatience come from?  Why can't they just slow down and wait?  Why don't they realize the danger they put others in when they let their bad attitude control the way they drive?

There is no excuse for that kind of driving behavior, and the responsibility lies solely on the driver.  I truly hope my road encounters never get more intense than what I experienced the other day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Left (Crank) Arm

What are you supposed to do when you are left with just a left crank arm!?  Well, I acutally have the right one too, but I'm not going to be using this particular crank anymore (at least for pedaling a bicycle).  But I've seen people trying to sell just one crank arm on Craigslist and Ebay, and I think that is ridiculous.... UNLESS.... you need a small towel rack!

My wife asked me to put a towel rack near our sink so guests can have a towel they would be comfortable using.  I have one, but it is too long for where the wall studs are.  I didn't want to go buy one.  So, down to the basement I went to admire my old unused bike parts, and see if I could come up with something from them.

It didn't take long for me to put this together in my mind.  I immediately envisioned the crank arm serving as the towel rack.  But then I needed to space it out from the wall to make it easier to drape over the towel.  A fixed side bottom bracket cup served the purpose perfectly.  The outer flat side sits against the wall, and the inside threaded cup part sits snugly on the back of the crank arm.  I realized I could simply nail it to the wall, through to the stud of course, but I needed a washer for the nail head to push against.  The crank bolt cover itself is a natural choice and does the job perfectly as well!  Be sure that it is metal though, not plastic.

A side thought.... a variation or easy addition for extra hanging space could be to add a pedal (where it belongs anyway) or even just the spindle of a pedal.  Just remember that the threads are left handed, so lefty tighty, righty loosy.

So voila!  A shiny towel rack!  I don't have the verdict yet from my wife on this though, and I cannot promise you that you'll be able to get away with this in your house.  Hopefully I can though!  Of course it makes it extra special since this particular crank arm says 'FUJI' on it.  :)  Now everyone who dries their hands in our bathroom will realize just how 'Fuji Crazy' I really am (if they haven't already).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Flexible Bodies: The Suntour Freewheels

 Suntour Freewheel body models (L to R both pics): 1. Winner Pro 2. Winner 3. Perfect 4. Pro Compe 5. New Winner

Back in the day, these bodies were HOT.  Oh yes.  And so it remains today.  There are plenty around who still lust after these beauties.  

Their beauty lies in their design.  In The Dancing Chain, Frank Berto says, "The 1983 SunTour New Winner was the most flexible freewheel system made.  One body handled 12- to 34- tooth sprockets, 5-,6-, or 7-speeds, and narrow or regular spacing.  There were 42 different sprocketes available."  The narrow spacing is called Ultra (6 or 7 speed).  This Ultra design allowed for a 6 speed freewheel on a 120mm hub where usually it would have to be 5 speed.  Also, it allowed for a 7 speed on a 126mm hub where it was usually a 6 speed.  

Berto also states in his book, "SunTour started the trend to narrower spacers, and narrower chains, which has led us to 10 sprocket freewheels."  Oh why oh why did Suntour have to die!?  They were also the company who invented the slant parallelogram design for rear derailleurs in 1964.  This design kept the chain equidistant to the cogs as the derailleur would move from larger to smaller sprockets, providing for more efficient, cleaner shifting.  They were a smaller, non-aggressive company, and once Shimano was able to use their designs after the patents expired, it was all downhill for them from there.  

But yes, today when you go buy a new bike, it most likely has at least 9 speeds in the back if not 10 or even 11.  For me though, I don't need that many, and I am completely content using the Suntour freewheel.  My Fuji Royale II is set up with an Ultra 7 speed Winner Pro freewheel in back (12-32) and a triple crank (48-38-28).  That is 21 speeds!  Do I really need more than that!?  

I had never heard of these freewheels before that fateful day in December of 2007 when I received my Fuji Opus III via Fed Ex from an Ebay purchase.  It came with a Suntour Winner Pro "straight block."  Straight block refers to the cog set up, and that there is only one tooth difference between each.  It was set up as an ultra 6 speed with 13-18 teeth (first gear was 13, second 14, 15, 16, 17, and sixth gear had 18 teeth).  I am not a racer though,  and that set up would kill me out on the road!  

Thankfully, I learned that these freewheels had a lot of versatility built into them, and I could change my gearing without spending alot of money.  At that time, a wonderful community bike shop was available to me (Charlottesville Community Bikes), and I was able to find other Suntour freewheels at no or minimal cost.  At that time too, I was able to find some affordable ones on ebay.  Since then it seems, they are becoming more collectible and harder to find at lower prices.  Since the cogs were interchangeable with the bodies, I have been able to set up a freewheel with lower gearing so that I can handle the changing terrain of the road better (i.e. I can ride up the hills easier).  

Over time I have acquired the Suntour freewheel vise tool, the 2 and 4 pronged removal tools and the chain whip so that I can take them apart and mix and match all I want.  I have to say I have quite enjoyed doing this!  I have become very nerdy in how I draw up my gear charts to compare all the different possibilites before I make a final decision on all of my teeth counts for the rear cogs and the front chainrings.  And even though I just mentioned that it seems harder to find them affordably, it is still possible to come across some of these freewheels for free or very low cost.  You just have to keep your eyes peeled.

Two of the best web resources for these wonderful freewheels are:

1. Sheldon Brown's site (of course)...
2. Yellow Jersey (Madison, Wi) If you are using the winner or winner pro freewheels, and think you'll get into taking them apart and putting them back together, be sure to get the very inexpensive tech manual ($3.95) from Yellow Jersey.  It is well worth it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fuji on the Farm : Becoming a Human Ant

Since last September, I've had a 30 foot long Eastern White Pine log laying in the side of my yard.  I had it taken down because I learned that a few years ago, another one next to it had fallen on this house we just bought.  I didn't want that to happen to us!  I decided to keep it and have it milled.  The milling finally happened last week.  I got all of the nicely milled boards set up properly in the backyard for air drying,  found a place for all of the sawdust to go, put the tarp back in the garage, but there were still a bunch of heavy, smaller logs to move.  I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to move them, until I realized I could use my bike!  Of course!  I still have a friend's Bikes at Work trailer on loan, so I hooked it up to my Fuji Bedford, and got to work hauling.  I simply heaved them onto the trailer, and pedaled them about 100 feet to the back of the yard, their final resting place (for now).  It was perfect.  I was able to move much more weight using the bike than I otherwise would have been able to handle.  And it was just plain fun, riding my bike around in the yard, hauling logs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Ride My Bike on Main Street

I Ride My Bike on Main Street
By: Matteo Favero (Collegeville Resident)

For the past two and a half years, I have been riding my bicycle up and down Main Street here in Collegeville and Trappe.  I do not do this just for the fun of it. Though I do enjoy it!  I do it to get to places in OUR hometown. 

Most of the time, I have my two young daughters in tow.  Maybe you’ve seen me on the yellow tandem.  My 5 year old rides in front (don’t worry, she doesn’t steer!).  My 3 year old is in the trailer.   We go mostly to places like Happy Days Pre-school, the Community Music School for lessons, Redner’s grocery or Sears down in Collegeville Shopping Center, church, the doctor’s office, Dunkin’ Donuts (their favorite!),  the Dance Depot for class, the park, the post office, haircuts, and on and on.

How do I get to all of those places on my bike, especially with two young children, you ask?  On the same roads that you use to get to those places!

·         Why don’t you ride on the sidewalk?  That would actually compromise my safety more!  Drivers do not expect to see another vehicle on the sidewalk, and could easily turn into me. 
·         Why not use the trail?  Well, because the trail does not go to where I usually need to go.
·         Why don’t you just drive?  Well, it’s so close, I’d like to get a bit of exercise, and I want to save a bit of gas.  Plus, it’s just plain FUN to ride the bike!

Isn’t it dangerous to be out there with all the cars?  It does seem to be in ways, but our perceptions are often in-accurate.  After over two years of riding up and down Main Street multiple times a week, I am still alive!  Yes, it is true.  I have not been hit by a car.  I’m not trying to say that it can’t happen, but maybe the idea of riding a bike on Main Street in our hometown isn’t as scary as you may imagine.  In my experience cars have been able to pass with ease, and I do NOT hug the curb.
·         I ride about one to two feet from the curb (or more at times) in the lane of traffic.  I do that to be more visible and increase my safety. 
·         I communicate my intentions to drivers with a bit of eye contact and a few succinct hand gestures.

 Most drivers have been friendly and accommodating. 

By the way, as a friendly, accommodating driver, if you stop for me on Main Street to allow me to turn left (for instance into Dairy Queen), and I don’t immediately turn in front of you, I don’t mean to be rude.  I do appreciate the gesture.
·         I may not turn too quickly because the driver behind you is often maneuvering to the right to pass you because you are slowing down.  If I were to make my turn without watching them, and waiting to see what they are going to do, I might get hurt.
·          If you see me waiting in the middle of the lane at the 113 intersection, it is not because I think I am God’s gift to the world.  It is to be sure that opposing left turning vehicles see me as I come into the intersection.  If they don’t, they could easily turn directly into me without realizing I am there; because I was not in their immediate line of vision. 

But people speed on Main Street!  Yes, they do, but it can still be safe and fun to ride your bike there  I learned something interesting when I attended a Trappe council meeting, at which Gilmore and Associates were discussing the current plans for future Main Street design.  When determining certain infrastructure changes, PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), took into account, first, the documented average speed of traffic, as opposed to taking into account, first, the actual posted speed limit.  They gave precedence to what people were actually doing as opposed to what the law states should be done.  The average speed recorded was about 10 miles over the posted speed limit (45MPH for Trappe).  In Trappe the posted speed limit is 35MPH and in Collegeville, it is 30MPH.
·         So, instead of making decisions that would help slow traffic down to the posted speed limits on Main Street, they were making decisions that would accommodate continued speeding on Main Street! 

 Did you know that bicycles were invented before the motor?  But it was pretty tough going on a bicycle (especially the old Penny Farthing high wheeler) on the roads of those early days.  So, one of the first organized bicycling clubs in our country, The League of American Wheelmen, began petitioning for paved roads to smooth out their ride. This was before 1900Roads were first paved for bikes!  Ever since, it has been, and remains perfectly legal and appropriate for bicycles to use our roads.

But please realize, I am a car driver too!  It is convenient to be able to get far fast, but that is our privilege, not our right.  It is my right (and yours) as a driver as well as a cyclist, to use the road.  As both, I (and you) are responsible for our own negligence in regards to the other person.
·         When I come upon a cyclist in my car, I simply slow down, assess the situation, and pass in a safe manner.  When it comes down to it, the time lost by slowing down for a cyclist is a matter of seconds, literally! 

I love riding my bicycle around Collegeville and Trappe!  So does my 5 year old.  When we’re leaving the house she often asks with a hopeful tone, “are we taking the bike!?”  When I say yes, she squeals joyfully, “yay!”  We feel the breeze on our faces, we get to see and hear the wildlife (squirrels, birds, BMX’ers), and we smell things like the tasty food being cooked on the grills of Trappe Tavern, or freshly baked donuts (from you know where).  We have a wonderful bike shop, Bikesport, right there on Main Street (behind Dairy Queen), who will gladly help if you get a flat.   So get your bike out of your garage or attic, and experience our town in a new way!    You don’t have to be afraid to ride on Main Street.  Besides, I could use some company! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Suspend Shelves with Spokes!

The other day I decided that it would be helpful to have shelves in the girls' playroom.  However, I didn't want to spend any money on the project.  I had some planks in the garage that were left here when we moved into the house last summer.  I cut those in half, and painted them with the left over yellow paint we bought for our front door a couple of months ago.  Then I was wondering how to get them on the wall.  After a bit, I thought about the box of spokes I have in the basement left over from the wheels I've rebuilt.  I found some clear plastic pieces which had a right angle.  Each side had small holes, perfect for a screw and the spoke.  I had to make a washer though for the spoke to be sure the head would not be pulled through the hole with weight on the shelf.  To do that I found small round plastic pieces into which I nailed a small hole.  I drilled diagonal holes in the shelf, and secured the spokes with spoke nipples underneath.  The shelf is supported in the back with a narrow piece of wood that is screwed into the wall.

Voila!  There it is.  A spoke suspended shelf.  I didn't have to search for studs because these walls are plywood sheets which are 4' x 8' in size.  I just had to drill a small hole anywhere I wanted, then I could screw into it easily.  I had to measure the distance of each hole from the front and end of the shelf on each side to be sure they were equidistant.  I also had to measure the distance between the holes and match that distance on the wall for placement of the wall mounts.

Parts and Tools that I used:

spokes and their spoke nipples
plastic wall mounts
shelf back supporter (narrow piece of wood)
tape measure
philips head screwdriver

I think this project could be refined for shelving in other rooms.  For instance, depending on your skill and tools, the spoke nipples could be hidden within the shelf for a cleaner look.  If you have money to spend, you could get nicer wood for the shelf, and cleaner looking wall attachments for the head of the spoke.  Maybe the spoke could even be painted or stained somehow to match the decor of the room in which they would be installed.  If the shelf is for books, the spokes serve double duty as book ends too!