Friday, March 30, 2012

Loaded For Bear

"BikeWorks" very nicely provides red shop aprons for us to wear while we volunteer as bike mechanics.  Visitors can wear an apron as well although theirs are coloured black to help distinguish who is a volunteer and who isn't.

After many shifts of wearing the red apron, I decided that having one big pocket on the apron wasn't going to work for me.  I found it too difficult to fish around for whatever tool I needed.  I needed something more organized to hold the handful of tools that I use on a regular basis.

From having taken in my bike to United Cycle for repairs, I knew their mechanics wore overalls with many pockets on the chest flap and I thought this was an excellent way to retrieve tools.  So there is no confusion when I empty my pockets, I use my own tools.
A convenient way to access tools

On the far left (right in the photo) is a pen which can also be used to check the smoothness of bearing races by running the ballpoint along the race.  Next is a mini flashlight which comes in very handily when needing to read a tire size or catch a glimpse of the inner workings of a shifter.  Next is what is called a "Quik Stik" - one of the best tools for tire removal and on the far right is my chain - checker.  The longer end of the chain - checker can be used to let the air out of a tire.

Down below most of the tools is a cute little pocket which nicely holds a picker made from a shortened and sharpened spoke.  Convenient for poking out the gunk from any number of crevices.

My left pocket holds a Zed shaped allen key and my right holds a bike tool and a pocket knife which has many uses.  Not only for cutting zip ties but I like to use the flat screwdriver blade to clean off jockey wheels.

I guess I should have looked for red overalls so that cyclists visiting "BikeWorks" would be able to tell that I'm a volunteer and not a mechanic visiting from United Cycle.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Let's Go To The Shop

You never know what to expect when you volunteer for a shift at "BikeWorks".   An older dude might come in with an 1980's department store bike in terrible condition.  Frayed shifter cables, worn out brake pads, a chain that needs replacing and everything coated in motor oil (one of the reasons I wear disposable mechanics gloves).

A twenty something university student with a bike that she had bought from us last year and wanting some help tuning it up will come in and meekly put the bike up on the repair stand.  Too shy to ask for help, she'll putter with the bike until one of us mechanics sees that she needs assistance.

You see a lot of afficionados with well tuned and immaculate machines who don't need any help but after watching you dart about the shop fixing this and advising on that, they will pull you aside with an arcane question like "Wouldn't you say that the 46/16 on my mountain bike and the 52/12 on my Moulton are the same as the 53/19 or 39/14 on my road racer?"

Or the fellow who pulls in with an arm load of gear consisting of a new rear cassette, a new chain, a sealed bottom bracket, new front and rear derailleurs with fifteen minutes left on the clock before we close for the day.  It's up to the shop's lead mechanic to inform him that with so little time until closing that he might as well not start on any repairs at all.  Which ten times out of nine means that he'll ignore your advice and begin anyway - which also means that you'll be lucky to leave the shop by 5:30 and then have to race home on your bike so that you won't have a pouting spouse and a home filled with smoke and the smell of a burnt dinner wafting through the air that sets off the insistent blare of the smoke detector.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SteamPunk Dreaming

Darryl over at Sanctuary suggested a few weeks ago that we have a SteamPunk Ride.  I didn't even know what SteamPunk was at the time.  I've googled the name and have some idea that it involves fantasy, science fiction and Victorian elements.

A SteamPunk bike

On Sunday, our daughter took us out for lunch at a charming restaurant called "The Clever Rabbit" and it was while eating the wholesome food they had prepared for us that we discussed in more detail the idea of a SteamPunk Ride. 

At first we thought that holding the ride on Father's Day would be ideal since Jackie and I have gone for a Father's Day bike ride for the last several years.  Then we remembered that we want to support the Ride for Autism on that day.  We have a friend with two autistic children and we enjoyed riding our bikes in support of that event last year.  Then we hit on the idea of having the ride during June, which is Bike Month here in our city.

Bikeology is the organization that organizes "Bike Month" and my contact there, Karly has given us an initial go-ahead to plan this ride so now all the questions arise - "How do we do this?  What route should we take?  Start at Sanctuary and end up at "The Clever Rabbit"?  We posed the idea to one of the sisters that owns the restaurant and she thought having the ride end at their establishment to be a great idea.  What restaurant wouldn't?

Just think of what we could do with this bike

Jackie and I have decided to use the tandem bike since it has such a distinctive look already and I'll rely very much on Jackie, Darryl and the staff at Sanctuary to help me with the "Look" and with punking up the bike.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Potatoes

Pootle:  To ride a bike in a leisurely manner with no fixed schedule or destination.

The pootle begins
 And so began the first special ride of 2012.  The above title refers to a benediction that Keith (raving bike fiend) quoted as we hoisted our glasses of Innis and Gunn to celebrate this most important Irish occasion.  The fact that we were quaffing a Scottish beer in an English pub didn't lessen the joyfulness of the event.

The good old E&C
 After zipping across the High Level Bridge and locking our bikes in front of the Elephant and Castle, Keith apologized for the high speed of travel that he was responsible for as he led us to the south side of the river.  He mentioned owing us a quarter - it must be a cycling protocol of which I have no knowledge.

We have the highest respect for the law and it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we used one of the law books from the booksleves lining the pub walls to prop up the wobbly table we had chosen in the upper lounge area of the bar.

Breaking the law?
 Over the boistrous sounds of laughter and conversation, Keith explained to us his blessing of "Dobra Papusta!" while we clinked glasses, was a Polish expression meaning "Good Potatoes!".  Which was good enough for us to enjoy each others comapny and talk shop (bike shop).  Coreen described the merits of winter riding on 20" wheels and I disclosed a verbal altercation that I had had with a bus driver while on my way to the Sherlock Holmes.  This prompted the others to relate bike stories which included one person reaching into an offending vehicle and pulling the keys out of the ignition and throwing the keys away and another cyclist having twisted the words of an angry motorist in such a away that the driver ended up declaring that he was going to have abnormal sex!

Our next stop was less than a block away and we were introduced to another bike co-op volunteer - Jessica who happened to be working at the Pour House and served a fine tasing Irish stew that warmed right to the bones.  And that was gladly received since it had begun to rain outside and there was lots more riding and celebrating to do on this particular St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bike Bike Everywhere a Bike Bike

It seems everywhere I look lately, I see references to bikes.

 I took a couple of bread bags out from under the kitchen counter and both bags had bikes on them. The bread itself was called Mack's Flax which reminded me of a joke from grade four.  "Did you hear what happened to Helena Rubenstein?  Max Factor."

I see a weekly magazine with a bike on the cover.  My daughter works at a curio shop (Sanctuary) where recently I saw a belt buckle with a retro bike embossed on it's surface.

I open the mail and there is a notice from the city about bike lanes.

All of this is either a sure sign of spring or evidence that the biking culture is gaining momentum in a place where "Car is King".

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Party

You would expect volunteers at a community bike shop to ride their bikes to a party honouring their dedicated service.  And Friday night was no exception.  The party was held at the old log cabin that overlooks the scenic river valley.  The cabin itself is nestled beneath giant condo towers and when you enter the living room, the wide open design of the log walls and the cheery stone fireplace conjure up images of the wild frontier.
At the cabin

As cyclists pulled into the large yard that is protected by a tall fence, they could choose to go inside the cabin and cozy up to the crackling fire that Brett had so carefully made or saunter down to the blaze in the outdoor firepit.  For me it was easier to enjoy the fire in the fireplace as the roar from Bernadette's chainsaw  as it chewed through numerous wooden pallets would have disturbed my fireside reverie.

You've all had the experience of getting together with people you know and with whom you share common interests.  Talking to Rob about an article he wrote about Mordecai Richler's derogatory comments about our fair city or yakking with Kevin about his upcoming bike tour where he plans to start in the southern U.S. and ride north with spring.  Coreen wanted to show me a rugged camera that she had found near her property and Bernadette wanted to discuss the merits of camping overnight during one of the MS bike tours.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay long at the old log cabin as I had to be up early to do my volunteer shift at the library (where it seems I'm the only one who rides a bike to get there).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

St.Patrick's Day Pootle

Just received word of another special bike ride.  This time on Saturday, March 17 - St. Patrick's Day which is only a weekend or so away.  In year's past when I didn't ride my bike in the winter, I would only just start my riding season on March 15th. (If the weather was suitable).

This ride begins at the Sherlock Holmes Pub and will take us who knows where?  I'm interested in the Sherlock Holmes since I recently visited the one at West Edmonton Mall and a week later entered the Sherlock Holmes Pub in central London (downtown London?).

While quaffing Innis and Gunn beer,  my friends and I did wonder, knowing that I would soon be visiting the one in England, if the W.E.M. version was at all similar.  I can tell you that the Sherlock Holmes Pub in London is tasteful and almost ordinary.  Not like the one at the Mall whose walls are covered in dollar bills and gaudy soccer scarves, cardboard drink coasters, and other tat.  While the Central London version is busy - especially at lunch and after work (it is close to Whitehall where very important government business takes place), it is a fine place to unwind after a busy day.

I don't think that I'll dress up my bike in any way like I did for the "Jingle Ride".  It will be all I can do to find something green to wear on that day while I enjoy sipping my Innis and Gunn in the quant version of the Sherlock Holmes Pub in the central area of our fair city.

The other real thing

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Get Your Bearings"

A simple but helpful tool
Here's a simple tool that is easy to make from an old spoke that will help you if you go so far as to service/repack your bearings.  The looped part is used to scoop individual bearings from their races and the pointy end is handy for dislodging an errant bearing that may have fallen into the channel created by removing the axle.
Make a right angle bend with blunt nosed pliers
This is what it should look like
Bend again
Will look like this
Using hands, bend the long part up
Like so
Keep bending and press the long part into the crook
Cut off half of the remaining spoke

When cutting off the excess spoke, don't be tempted to use a pair of cable cutters.  I've seen numerous pairs of cable cutters in the shop ruined by this practise.

A file works well to sharpen the end of the spoke or if you have access to a grinder, you can do a quick job of it.