Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Verdict

no mas?

As I had written in the previous post, my road bike had sustained an injury in the way of cracks in the head tube.

the crack

On Saturday, I took the bike to a local bike shop, one that has quite a good reputation, to seek professional opinion about this damage. I did read up quite a bit online about cracked aluminum frames and it looked mostly hopeless, but still I didn't want to retire it without having it looked at by an expert. Maybe there is a chance they know an aluminum welder who can fix it?

Well, the verdict was that there was pretty much nothing they could do other than to sell me a new frame. They asked me if I was the original owner of the bike (I wasn't), so perhaps the manufacturer can replace it it or sell me a new one at cost if I had bought it as new. The final piece of advice was "not to ride it anymore".

I actually rode the bike there and back. The ride home was one of mixed feelings. The weather was super nice, perfect bike weather, so it felt very pleasant, but I was quite sad that this may be the last ever ride on this bike.

I spent the weekend mostly indoors. Ironically, the weather was what I'd been waiting for the last few weeks, so I would've definitely gone for a ride had the bike not been decommissioned. Instead of actually riding, I did so vicariously through watching the Paris Roubaix super early Sunday morning. After the weekend, I felt quite unhealthy from the lack of exercise and keeping irregular hours. On Monday night, I had the worst stomach ache I've had as far as I can remember. I don't think the lack of physical exercise was the only factor that caused it, but I had been feeling kind of unhealthy and in need of some physical activity. For me, because I work at home, I tend to lead a very sedentary life and riding around town for errands on the other bike isn't quite enough exercise for me. That other bike KT (Kao's Trek) is a road bike with Milano bars set up for upright position, so I could put drop bars on it again, but then I wouldn't have the town bike which is much better for short utilitarian rides.

It's such a waste to have this bike that I had dialed in and it was just the beginning of the season to go out for long rides. Well, I don't know about long rides, but at the least, I felt the need for it as it provided me with my only prefered way to exercise. So, I made a quick trip to the local hardware store and fixed the bike!

the treatment

Well, it's a temporary fix for sure. I have no illusion that I will be able to keep on riding it this way for too long. But at least, I will have it to ride a couple of times a week. Maybe it will last until I move to Japan. The other change I made was to switch the pedals (yet again) to platform pedals, just so that in the event that the headtube cracked, I wouldn't be clicked into the pedals and be able to react quicker. The clamps are quite strong, so I think it will keep it from further damage. Anyway, I will keep an eye on the crack with each ride and if it seems to have gotten bigger, then I will stop riding it.

This is just something I'm doing on my own accord and I wouldn't recommend anyone to do the same if they had the same problem though.

The things I've learned from this are two things. One is that aluminum bikes may not be as reliable as I had thought. I had two aluminum bikes prior to this and I had no problem with them. One I sold to a friend and one I got stolen, but they seemed almost bomb proof (especially the mountain bike) and worked perfectly while they were in my possession. The other thing is that buying a used bike online without looking at it first is risky business. After having had my mountain bike stolen, I knew I wanted a faster bike I could ride longer distances with, but such bikes are quite expensive new, so I went to Ebay to scout used bikes there. I am no expert at Ebay, so I probably didn't look carefully enough at what I was bidding on. I bid on a few bikes and when I finally won the bidding for this bike, I was just so happy that I was able to buy a bike of this quality for probably third or quarter of what it would cost new. It wasn't quite perfect when I got it and when I had the bottom bracket replaced, the mechanic at the shop told me the bike looked like it's been crashed. That was a bit scary and the bike did make mysterious noises which seemed to come from the lower end of the frame, but I never suspected any damage around the head tube. I'm not sure if I just didn't notice it or if there was damage which was hidden under the paint until recently, but either way, I think it was not me that caused the crack. I think it was already damaged when I got it and just got aggravated more as I rode it.

Anyway, so I think I've learned my lesson and I will do neither of these things next time.

In fact, I'd been looking at what options there are in Japan. I saw one place that can build custom steel frames as low as 80000yen (about $860). That sounds pretty good to me. I would have to look into it more, but now I'm actually excited about getting a new frame.

I think just as we humans cannot take good health for granted, you can't take a bicycle's health for granted either. I think some may last longer than others (steel longer than aluminum), but while you have a good working bike, you should really enjoy it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

life is finite, most certainly for bicycles


Just as I was growing more fond of my Special K...

I went for a short ride yesterday to enjoy the rare sunshine and as I sat down on a bench at the Eastbank Esplanade, I shot this video to capture the moving platform and the river.

Then I looked at my bike in the bright sunlight and noticed something quite disturbing.

(this picture was taken after I got home)

Can you see the cracks in the headtube?

First I thought it was just cracked paint, but with a closer look it looks quite a bit like the aluminum under the paint is cracked as well. I did some reading online to see what this entails for Special K and it didn't look very promising. It could be that the days are numbered for Special K. Repairing it may be difficult and may not be worth it as it could be costly and could happen again.

I will have to get a professional (at a good bike shop) look at it first before I decide on what to do next, but I started thinking about all the possibilities.

Maybe get a new frame? The first frame that comes to mind, Rivendell Sam Hillborne, is too expensive for me. The Soma Saga and Velo Orange Polyvalent are much more reasonable, but they will require different size wheels in my size, so more expense is needed. Getting a new frame won't mean just the frame. It will require other parts as what's on Special K may not be compatible with the new frame. Also, it's may be worth it to wait until I've moved back to Japan to get a new frame as getting a full bike there will definitely be more expensive than just the wheels and the parts. I think for now, if there's something that can be done to prolong its life (maybe clamping the tube around the crack?), I will do that, then I will have time to save up and look for a good frame instead of getting a quick fix that may not be the right choice. Anyway, I will go to a shop today and seek out advice. If they tell me, it's too dangerous to keep riding it, luckily I have another bike at my disposal. It may not be a bike to ride long distances with, but at least it will help me in my daily life.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Special K ver 3.0 (?)


I think it was wishful thinking that we would have enjoyed more sunny Spring days lately. We had a few days of nice weather a couple of weeks ago, but it's been mostly coludy rainy days since. It's my third Spring here in Portland, but I guess I'm still not used to having so many cold rainy days in the Spring.

I thought I would have done some rides to places I haven't been to and written about them, but with the uninspiring weather, I haven't ridden as much as I would have liked.

Instead of writing about rides I haven't done, I thought I would write about modifications I made to my bike. So, this is going to be a bit tech oriented post. I sort of feel unsure about what this blog should be with posts that only may interest "avid cyclists" though. Recently, Copenhagenize blogged that "avid cyclists" are unnecessary for advocating cycling. I can understand that, but it doesn't mean that I can be less of an "avid cyclist" or be less interested in bicycles. I'm neither here nor there. I'm not a full on racer nor a cycle chic utility rider, but in between. It's not like this blog has so many readers and there's a clear mission, so for now I'll just write about things that interest me.

Anyway, so I have made a couple of modifications to Special K. Can you tell what they are in the picture above?

I replaced the stem and the pedals.

This is what the stem looked like before.

I felt a bit stretched out with this stem and recently, I've moved the saddle back a bit which made the reach even longer, so I wanted to get a shorter stem to get a more comfortable position. I looked around a bit for a new stem and my first thought was to get something more understated without the graphics. I looked at velo orange, but they didn't have any stems that could accommodate my bars. I also wanted to get a stem that could be adjusted to find the right position. There are stems that have pivots, but they were quite expensive and I wasn't sure about their reliability. Then I looked at Specialized stems because I knew they were adjustable with a inner sleeve. I am not loyal to the Specialized brand at all, but it seemed like the most adjustable and reasonably priced of all the ones I saw, so I decided to get it. I got the 90mm Comp-Set stem.

for blog use
It has 10 possible angles or something like that, so you can fine tune your position as you see fit.

So, this is how it looks after I made the switch. It still has some graphics unfortunately, but it's slightly more subtle. I can definitely do without the "Innovate or Die" copy though. I don't know why the faceplate isn't black like the main body of the stem, but it does now cover the Specialized logo on the bar, so I would say the overall look is a slight improvement. Now if I could get rid of the red lines on the bars...

The other change is the pedals.

I (think I) first saw these Time Z pedals on Bike Hugger's modal bike (can't seem to find the link) and they looked like just what I wanted which were clipless pedals which could be ridden with regular shoes. It's been an ongoing search for me to find pedals that are perfect. My last pair which were the Crank Brothers Candy C pedals were great clipless pedals, but not at all good to ride with regular shoes. These Time Z pedals did look very promising as it has a wide platform and the binding mechanism didn't seem to protrude as much as other pedals did. The only way to find out was to get them and ride them. So, I did that.

I had high expectations for these and they are more accommodating than any other clipless pedals I've ridden with regular shoes, but still they are not like platform pedals. So, I think it was a slight improvement, but I'm not sure if it was worth the price.

I thought if I had regular shoes that are specific for these pedals, maybe they would fit better. I didn't want to buy new shoes just for this purpose, so I looked for used shoes at thrift stores and got these.

What I've done here is to cut off a couple of lugs of the sole to accommodate the protrusion of the pedals. This was also just a slight improvement, but it doesn't achieve anything near the feel of regular shoes on platform pedals. It's a very simple thing, how your feet feel on pedals, but I can't say that I'm satisfied with these.

For now though, I can't think of anything else I might try with these pedals and I can't justify buying another set of pedals, so I will just get used to these. I have been riding with this set up for short rides around town and I'm starting to get used to them although they still feel a bit funny.

So, that's what's happened with Special K. I'm not sure if this is interesting reading to anyone though. One thing I have been thinking is that though this bike isn't particularly special in any way, it's becoming more special for me personally with little modifications and some TLC. There's all kinds of beautiful bikes to be seen online (like at the recent NAHBS), but I think almost any bike can be special if you want it to be.

old man carrying aluminum cans by bike

I caught up with the old man at the corner
I talked to him and he told me "this is not heavy" and laughed.