Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Drooping Marlo: The Inverted Jenny of Park Tools

wikimedia commons image source here

When I was a stamp collecting kid, the Inverted Jenny was my dream stamp. Not only because it was worth a king's ransom, but because it was rare, difficult to obtain, and distinctive. Only 100 instances are known to exist, all produced due to an error on one fateful day, May 10, 1918. Because of countless stamp collecting and precious object hoarding kids like myself who grew up, a single example is apparently worth north of $800,000. What made it rare was that it was an unusual and distinctive manufacturing defect which sneaked through quality control and made it all the way through the point of sale into the hands of someone who had a feeling he had something special. I never did obtain an Inverted Jenny, but I have just purchased something similar, which I'm hoping may turn out to be worth a few hundred thou itself.

I present to you: the Drooping Marlo! The only one known to exist!

The Drooping Marlo has three distinctive defects: the very clear droop along its length

The Drooping Marlo is a Park Tool MT-1 Rescue tool, new out of the package, which was recognizably askew. With Park's excellent warranty I could probably return it, but no way*! I'm holding on to the Drooping Marlo (named after its MT designation, basically) until its value appreciates and I can trade it for an Inverted Jenny. That's my plan, any way.

A less obvious but still notable droop sideways, too

And some roughness and what look like pinch marks along the top edge

In retrospect, the Drooping Marlo probably would be worth a lot more if I had left it inside its original package. But, I wasn't sure what I had until I took it out and looked at it more closely. It's still in Excellent, uncancelled condition. A mold defect? Or an unmolding mistake? 

I wonder how something like this, so visibly obvious, slips through QC. Or, alternatively, maybe it passed quality check, maybe these deviations are not considered quality issues if they don't affect functionality**. For that matter, do they affection functionality? Should I use this thing? Or would it be better to encase it in a glassine envelope after rubbing it lovingly with a few drops of Phil's Tenacious oil for safekeeping, set aside for that future day when a bicycle tool collector, pockets bulging with cash and/or rare lightweight handmade randonneuring frames, comes calling? The Drooping Marlo will appreciate in value rapidly, growing to become a fair 1-for-1 trade for any number of bikes currently parked at the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel. I have a feeling it's something special.

*seriously, not going to return it. 

**which would surprise me, since I would expect a toolmaker to require that tools sent out for sale are straight, true, and free of noticeable droop

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sometimes 1mm is All It Takes

Scene of the repair (and note those pristine shoes, so fresh, so needing to get dirty...)

I put new cleats on new shoes, but when I tried to click into the pedals, it was no-go. Conceptually I knew what was wrong, but emotionally I thought if I would just STOMP a little harder they would engage. STOMP. STOMP! No, not quite. STOMP!!! No, still no engagement.

I knew that almost certainly the tread on the shoe was interfering with the pedal engagement with the cleat. The first thought was to grab a knife, or perhaps a Dremel, and remove enough tread to allow the engagement. Messy. Non-pristine.

But then I remembered the thin, black shims that came with the cleats, and I thought, why not? They didn't seem thick enough to make any difference. In fact, I measured, and they are only 1mm thick. What difference would that make? Easy enough to try, though, see what happens.

Hey! Let's get engaged!
Not only did the 1mm shim provide enough clearance for the cleats to engage with the pedal, but now the tread sits snugly on the sides, almost as if the whole shebang was designed that way! How cool is that! Good job, pedal, cleat, shim and shoe boffins, well done. Brand new 2012 shoes, some cleats from 2009, some pedals from 2002, and they fit together with sub-mm precision. That's enough mechanical joy in one small project to warm the cockles of a thrifty retro-grouch's "things should just work" heart. Before shim, this was not possible, not with me wedging the pedal under the shoe and putting all my weight on it. After shim, CLICK! Just like that.

I did this quick-fix and took the photos, then caught up on some blog reading. Over on Lovely Bicycle!, the inimitable Verlouria was exploring the platform support of...Eggbeaters! What my little project showed is that the difference between the shoe sitting too proud to engage the beater vs. providing just the right amount of room to engage and then also provide support is in the 1mm range. With the shim in place, the tread compresses just slightly as it sits on the outer parts of the pedal body. With these stiff shoes, pedal and shoe become one upon engagement. I don't see that a larger pedal body would provide more actual platform support, although it would look more like a traditional pedal, providing some possibly needed psychological support. If you really need platform support, Crank Bros. make Mallet pedals, which provide pedal function in case you miss-clip in a tricky moment.

Apologies if I am a little over-enthusiastic about the engagement. This was a truly shimtastic moment for me, though. I can get me some shimisfaction.     
Mill Avenue Bridge. 80°F. Gravy. Engagement. Happy.

To celebrate my shoe victory, to bask in the glow of precise engagement, I took off on a purely gravy Tri-city Tour (TCT). The TCT is an awesome 22 to 30 mile loop mainly on paths and canal bank, depending on which turns I take, that goes through Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. The paths were empty, the air was clear, the shoes were snugly, yet successfully, engaged.

The TCT is not exactly flat. With the elevation varying from 1280 feet down to 1148 feet at Tempe Town Lake, there's enough change in some sections, particularly the Crosscut Canal path, to feel it on the single speed. Depending on where I start, stop, and turn, it can feel a lot like the flight path of those birds on the bench. Standing on the pedals to mash up the hill up and over the buttes by the Crosscut Hydroelectric plant pond felt secure, knowing my 1mm shims were performing their function. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

In the Know: Bicycles and the Law

My current collection of printed material related to cycling and the law ("Effective Cycling" omitted due to space)

"Let's say you're riding in compliance with this statute, and you're nevertheless cited for violating the statute. It happens, because police officers often do not understand the statute." --Bicycling and the Law, p. 61, regarding the ride as far to the right as practicable statutes, in Arizona for example, ARS 28-815 

"I didn't even know that statute existed!" --an otherwise knowledgeable and wise person/driver I work with, regarding ARS 28-815

"I know bikes have the right of way and all, but coming up on them riding in the lane like that, well, they just don't belong." --Repair guy I was talking with, about a family of four cyclists he overtook on a 45mph road

 [on blaming bicyclists for accidents even when drivers are negligent since bicycling is risky or dangerous anyway] "Would this argument make any sense to you? Hopefully not, and yet that is exactly what is being claimed when the assumption-of-risk defense is used in the context of auto/bike collisions...barring a few exceptions, courts have universally agreed that it is not a legitimate defense outside of the sporting context." -BatL, p. 25

I wish the laws related to cycling were clear but they often seem unclear. I wish more people who use the roads, by whatever conveyance, knew of and understood the traffic laws, and in my case particularly those related to bicycling, but the general level of understanding appears low. Finally, I wish the laws somehow protected cyclists, which is even on the face of it shaky (I know but that is how I feel), but the news items this year about cyclists being killed by drivers who faced minimal consequences compared to say killing someone with a shovel "accidentally" have me considering giving up cycling entirely. Not only or merely because I value my own skin, but more because I have responsibilities to my family. I don't want "The killer never saw the victim, so we'll only give him a small fine," to be my epitaph. 

Trying to learn more about the laws related to cycling, I picked up the book "Bicycling and the Law," by Bob Mionske, JD. Capsule review, it's thorough and fascinating, an engaging read, and while it provides excellent guidance and insights, like the law itself, it often seems to raise more questions than it answers.

All the stuff about "duty of care" sounds extremely encouraging, for example. He quotes this 1962 Supreme Court of Idaho Drury v. Palmer text, "It is the obligation of an operator of a motor vehicle to keep proper lookout. The whole theory of motor vehicle law is based on the requirement that the operator keep his vehicle under control at all times, considering actual and potential hazards, which of necessity contemplates proper lookout by the operator. It is not only the duty of the operator to look, but it is his duty to see and be cognizant of that which is plainly visible or obviously apparent, and a failure on his part in this regard, without proper justification or reason, makes him chargeable for failure to see what he should have seen had he been in the exercise of reasonable care." Yes! But, while reading that, I couldn't help think about Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler in Texas, and Shawn McCarty in Scottsdale (G00gLe for details). "Duty of care" and "proper lookout" sound powerful, but in the actual practice of our legal system seem to evaporate when it comes to matters related to cyclists.


But, you know me, I'm not going to give up bicycles. I will stand by the concept that knowledge is power, and make every effort to learn as much as I can about bicycling and the law. In addition, I will also try to learn and practice as much safe riding technique and strategy as I can, in an effort to at least lower my risks to the extent possible. The Mionske book seems like good support for increasing legal knowledge.

Compare and contrast, 2004 pamphlet with 2011 "Share the Road" pamphlet regarding ARS 28-815

While comparing the newer "Share the Road" pamphlets with the older, I found a couple of interesting changes. First, the addition of the "or if the lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle" phrase (which also appears in the 2007 and 2008 versions).

Relatively new addition to the pamphlet

"Practicable" in action....

The newer pamphlets suggest 5 feet of passing space when riding past parked cars...more than in this pic.

 25 miles of my Sunday ride was like this, where the duty to care, and proper lookout, are unambiguous to me.

I stopped and dismounted to allow this couple to cross the path. I felt a duty.

These pedestrians deserve some care, too

The least of these

After reading these, I've come to the conclusion that if anything beyond a simple ticket or very minor crash occurs, I'm consulting a lawyer. Preferably one familiar with bicycles, and bicycle law, and ARS 28-815 among others. 

I love life, but I don't know much about law.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Thoughts

Where is everyone?

Family members seem weird and sometimes get on our nerves because we know them so well, as they also know us, and knowing is loving. I plan to practice tolerance and understanding over the holidays, and treasure the moments of insight and understanding afforded us by this close knowing.

I plan to remember those who used to be with us, but are now gone.

I plan to not shop at all over the next few days, and like last year, visit somewhere slightly wild and very quiet.

I plan to thank all those in uniform for their service. If the holidays are rough for me, I can only imagine what it must be like for someone fighting thousands of miles from home.

And there will be cycling. Much cycling. If not for peace, at least for some quiet.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Measure Twice Ride Once

Utility ride fuel
That is sliced dill pickles on a extra chunky peanut butter on a toasted baguette, and it's crazy how something so crazy sounding can taste so good. I plated that before riding to the home store to get my list of plumbing, electrical, and window parts needed to take care of a few honey-dos.

The plumbing parts worked out perfectly. The flat washers stopped the dripping. I noticed in the store that I was only getting 9 for the price of 10, that someone had cracked open the package and helped themselves to the one that they needed, but that's OK by me, and it was the only package left of the size I needed. Faucet no longer dripping, check.

The ceiling fan light switch in elder daughter's room broke. Like they always do. What a crock. The motor still goes, the fan blades will withstand a blow or two while on full speed as long as you rebalance them, but those switches always go bad. I wonder how many fans have been replaced whole for lack of functioning light switch. Anyway, I bought two, since I know another is going to break eventually, swapped it in, pulled the string, nada. Weird. Checked the bulb, and somehow it had popped in the same timeframe as the switch failed. Related? Pull on the string harder to make the bulb light? Surge when the switch failed? Will never know. New switch, new bulb, elder daughter can get back to her furious NaNoWriMo obsession, now with light.

On to the window! Or not. I thought I took down all the info I needed, even drew a little picture in case it mattered, but I didn't measure the key dimension, which meant I had to choose between two that differed only by one inch. Could not choose. Don't force me to make such a choice, please. My wife said she would have bought both and taken one back, which sounds like the prudent move, since I'll be headed back there eventually to get the right one, and by following her method, at least we would have a functioning window in the interim, and on top of that, be certain that we got the right one even if I measured wrong. Me, though, I guess I'm a perfectionist, and need to make the measurement, and need it to be right. So I measure once and ride twice. And sit eating my pickle and peanut butter sandwich. It's almost as if I made that mistake on purpose, to have to ride down there twice. Apparently, I would rather be out riding on a gorgeous November afternoon than fixing a window. Hmmm.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Bikey Brunch

Just another dog-friendly, bike-friendly brunch at O.H.S.O. along the canal in Phoenix.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tire Test Distracted by Convenient Rack and Chocolate

New slightly wider tires for the fixed gear commuter / grocery-getter

I've opted for slightly wider tires for my fixed-gear commuter, and in a bold experiment for me, no slime sealant in the tubes. These are 32mm Continentals, which have a recommended pressure of 70 psi, and are supposed to have good puncture resistance. Since I am heavier than average I will try running them in the 75-80 psi range, and adjust for comfort. Tubes came from the recent bike swap in Tucson.

Still plenty of clearance on this frame and fork for running even wider tires. Love the noobie spikes.

I'm no longer sure of any reason a non-racer would ride on 23 or 25mm (or narrower) tires, or why most road bike frames currently sold only have clearance for such narrow tires. Notice I said "reason," I'm aware of the cultural and marketing influences that have led to it, but if you ask a non-racer why they have frames that are restricted to such skinny tires, I'm not sure they'll be able to come up with an actual reason they prefer them over wider tires. It's more likely they're stuck with them because that's all their frame will admit. In any case, I like having the freedom to experiment with different widths and pressures to see what works best for me.

All set to go for a test ride on the new tires, I looked up and found myself near a grocery store at a hungry time of the afternoon, and what looked like a shiny new bike rack. As I was locking up, a store employee said, "Well, I believe that's the first bike I've see parked in that rack." So I don't know for certain, but anyway, it seemed like a good enough reason to pick up some groceries in mid-test.

Super convenient

Spontaneous grocery acquisition and transport
One of the items I picked up was some dark chocolate. Which I think I shall go and consume now. Wait, was I talking about tire pressure theory in there somewhere? I'll get back to the rolling resistance and wide tires with supple casings, and bump absorption vs. rider energy expenditure, with opportunity for reviewing the excellent real-world tests and recommendations on tire drop* done by Jan Heine and Bicycle Quarterly, but for now, into the dark.  

*I see that he recommends a lower pressure in front than rear for me on my bike with 32mm tires, I will give that a try

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's a Bike Light!

Go on world, you know you want one.  This post brought to you by the thought that more gigantic light-up flowers on more bikes would make the world a better place.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Canal Convergence Bike Ride: The Sound of Water

Ride starting off along Washington
The sound of the water
says what I think.
-Chuang Tzu

When ride leader Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker (pictured below during the safety talk) kicked off the ride saying that we should be thinking of a line of poetry or verse that came to mind during the ride, for later use at the Arizona Falls, where we would stop and do some interesting word-mashing, I thought of Chuang Tzu. I'm always up for some interesting word-mashing. In the event, we ran short of time, and bypassed the AZ Falls. Or, at least the formal ride did. I rode over there afterwards anyway, to listen to the water saying what I think. 

A few words of direction and inspiration

Starting the ride

Soon after we started, I was fortunate to strike up a conversation with Laurie Lundquist, an artist responsible for several excellent public art works that I have long admired. As we rode along the Crosscut path, I mentioned that I appreciated the "Centerline" green granite sidewalk art by Barbara Grygutis, but that some of the shape references in it to nearby things were still obscure to me. The triangles for Hunt's Tomb, for example, were obvious, and it seems like there may be some big horn horns, but I haven't figured out some of the others. We tried together to figure out some of the others. Not sure we were 100% correct, but sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

Then she told me that she not only knew where the marker is which shows the spot of the tunnel dug by the German WWII POWs came out near the canal, but that she designed it! I have been looking for that thing for ages, and found out today that I had been riding right past it every time. It also turns out that she was involved with the Tempe Town Lake bridge project, which dedicated readers will know I followed a little bit obsessively as it went in.

Laurie Lundquist near the POW tunnel marker

The escapees were planning to float down the Salt River to the ocean, but found only a bed of rocks...

The marker, finally located!

Waiting to cross Indian School, location of the future OSG 64th St "Master Link" Bridge over the canal (dreams)

Joseph Perez, City of Phoenix Bicycle Coordinator

Arrival at the Soleri bridge, cyclists near solar noon (note dagger of light near red line)

When we arrived at the bridge, there was music and brunch waiting for us, which is always nice, and also the art that's been put together for the Canal Convergence event. "Sonic Pass" is cool because as you ride or walk through it, it senses your passage, lights up, and makes sounds at you. One of the pillars was kind of cooing and humming at me while I was taking its photo. Hello pillar!

Christopher Janney "Sonic Pass"

This sidewalk path reacts to you, acknowledges your passing, and probes your subconscious

Sparkly fish! (installation by local artist Christy Puetz)

Sparkly fish!

"The People's Flag of Arizona" by Tex Jernigan and Dominique Karowski

Ant Farm Collective inflatable structure

Inside the structure, the outside world is blurred out

Mighty muffin from Dottie's True Blue Cafe for brunch!

Floating out there in the canal beyond the muffin is "Nodal Water Garden" by Jeff Zischke. It's solar-powered, it lights up at night, it floats.

Art with muffin and coffee. But not just any brew, no: CARTEL COFFE LAB perfection in a cup

The "Nodal Water Garden"

Arizona Falls through a bicycle wheel
In the end, after the art and brunch, I rode out to Arizona Falls to listen to what the water had to say. I've stopped here on hot summer days, I've taken wallpaper-worthy shots of models posing behind the water, I've refilled my water bottles after long rides to the outskirts and beyond, recognizing that home is still a few miles further on from here, but near enough that the water's encouragement doesn't ring hollow. They mentioned on the ride that there's a bit more canal bank paving on the way, spiced up with some Laurie Lundquist art. Imagine art floating down the canal, moving farther and farther through the city, past the rusty fish of light on the corner, insinuating its sometimes puzzling, sometimes provocative, always enriching presence deeper and deeper into the minds of the residents of vast housing developments of Pumpkinville.   

The falling water at Arizona Falls seems to think that I love public art, and bike rides on perfect days, and talking with people who carry the warm beating human heart of the city inside them. Then the water told me something else, something I didn't even know that I was thinking:

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
it's always our self we find in the sea.
-e.e. cummings    

A stray node, attempting to float down to the ocean. Go little node, escape, go! Freedom is yours! (taken a few nights ago)