A Tiring Frustration.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the time in my life when I liked bikes, but not liked bikes. What I mean by that is a “bike” was just a bike, and I didn’t think too much beyond that. Things were changed out when they broke, not because I felt a need to change things “just because”. And tires were just tires, and always black. I never thought about tires until I got a flat.

This previous “golden” era ended around 2005, when I did my first bike tour and realized that I’d like a nicer bike. While I indeed have owned nicer bikes since then, it started me on this whole road of Bike Fanciness, of stressing about aesthetics and esoterics. While this definitely makes for interesting reading (either for you, dear reader, or for me, because I like those blogs too), it sometimes comes back to bite you in the ass.

Which brings me back to tires. Over the past years tires are the part of the bike I obsess too much over. I want nice tires. I want nice looking tires, and also nice performing tires. This seems to be an endless quest.

A few months ago I decided to get some knobbiesque tires for my Raleigh Crested Butte to make it a more off-road capable machine. I got a set of Continental Traffic tires, as they seemed to have the right balance between on and off road conditions. I had them on for a few months, realized that I didn’t really like them, and took them off and replaced them with the cream-colored Rubena Cityhopper tires that were on there before that. Everything seemed fine and dandy until a few weeks later I noticed a nice gouge running the entire circumference of the sidewall. Uh oh. The gouge was caused by a misaligned brake pad. I knew that I was now playing with borrowed time on this tire, so I needed a new one.

It would have been simple to just get a replacement Cityhopper tire, but nooooo, we can’t have that! After looking around for a bit, I decided to get the tires that I’ve been wanting to get: a set of Schwalbe Big Bens in their lovely terracotta brown.

Now switching out tires is theoretically an easy job, but it’s one I never can do quickly, as I’m not a great mechanic. And I end up futzing with other stuff on the bike at the same time, including cleaning out the underside of the fenders. (This is the type of thing a shop ain’t gonna do.) So this “simple” job takes me a few hours. But I got it done. Everything seemed fine in the stand…but the next day when I rode the bike around, I realized that there was a problem: The tires are too big.

wpid-wp-1429068695909.jpgY’see, the Cityhoppers were rated 52 mm wide, whereas the Big Bens were listed at 55 mm. 3 extra millimeters shouldn’t be a big deal, right? But I forgot a couple things:

  1. Tire width measuring is an oddly inexact science. While one may think all you need is a ruler or micrometer, you know, a measuring device of some kind, it’s hard for tire makers to know exactly how wide a tire will be until it’s been produced. And on top of that, tire manufactures are not consistent with that width number. Some manufactures typically lowball the measurement, others highball it. I forgot that Schwalbe’s tires tend to run on the “wider than usual” side. Which brings me to number two:
  2. My Crested Butte, while a mountain bike, does not have a lot of room for big tires. This is mostly due to the era when it was manufactured, 1984. Back then, MTB tires only came in at around 2.0″ or 52mm wide, what my Cityhoppers were. There wasn’t anything wider, so why would you need a bike with more tire clearance?

As much as I tried to make it right, there’s just not enough clearance in the stays to make this tire work. Not only that, but if I threw it down to the granny gear, the chain would rub the tire. Not good. To paraphrase the great Mark Borchardt, we’re not back to square one, we’re back to square zero. I have to get a new set of tires…again.

And it’s hard for me to think of all the time wasted for this “learning experience”. Hours upon hours looking online over the past few years, hunting for “the perfect pair of tires”. Especially something not black. I’ve read online reviews, forums, etc etc. Then there’s the several hours I spent mounting tires that simply don’t work. I think of these things and see it as time wasted. Time I could have spent drawing, getting needed projects done, cleaning my room, doing creative things, heck, writing another post for this blog!* I don’t want to be one of those people that you see on forums, people who obsess over every little piece of bike minutiae rather than actually ride a bike. I’m not getting any younger. But at least I know that I’m not the only one like this, and others could be much, much worse.

If there is any silver lining to this, it’s that I can use those Big Bens for another upcoming bike project, on a bike that they’d actually fit. (So don’t ask for them!) But this meant that I had to get other tires, since I didn’t want to put the Cityhoppers back on (and I already gave them to my roommate), nor was I going to put those Conti Traffic tires back on either (and I sold those.) So I decided to get another tire that I had been eyeing for a bit: the Continental Retro Ride. They have them in cream, but now they also have them in brown. At 26″ x 2.0″ or 50-559, they are smaller than both the Big Bens and the Cityhoppers, so I knew they’d fit. The brown is nice (though not as nice as the terra cotta on the Schwalbes) and compliments the bike well.

So I hope that I don’t have to think about tires for this bike for a long time!

*Of course all this nonsense did lead to this post, so I guess that’s something?

Tweed Ride report: 12 April 2015

Another year, another Tweed Ride! After three years of being an organizer, this was now a ride in someone else’s hands, this time ably handled by Carla Bartow. I wasn’t able to make it to the start due to work, but met the ride halfway through. The turnout was decent, maybe 100. It didn’t hurt that the weather was good, no rain and pushing 60F/16C. Almost too nice, as a bit cooler and/or drizzly is so Tweed Ride weather! ;-)  There was a lovely picnic stop at the Skidmore Bluffs, and the ride terminated at Old Portland Hardware for music and libations. Fun!

The Devil’s Gear needs your help!

Let me take a moment to be a bit serious. The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop in New Haven CT (my sort of hometown), is in danger of going under and they have an IndieGogo fundraiser campaign going to help them back to solvency. While they were never “my” bike shop, as it opened after I left the Constitution State in 2000, I’ve stopped there a few times over the years when I’ve been back home and can attest to its greatness. Owner Matt Feiner is a great guy who believes in the transformative power of bicycles, and also believes in the Elm City. Consider donating some cash:

Devil’s Gear Bike Shop Fundraiser

And PLEASE, if you “like” or reblog this post, consider contributing! I’ll be watching you! ;-)

Yep, I drew this flyer back in 2005. So note that the address on my flyer is for the old location.devilsgearflyer2005

Train Day Ride 2015: Saturday 9 May

Yep, once again Dan Haneckow of Cafe Unknown, Sir Andrew, and myself are putting on this annual ride! Train Day is changing this year as a “travelling exhibit festival” by Amtrak, so I don’t know if any official Train Day stuff is going to happen at Union Station. But even if there’s nothing official, we are still doing this!

The details:

Train Day Ride

Saturday May 9th

Union Station (meet at the obelisk at NW 6th and Irving.)

meet up at 10:30 am, ride at 11 am SHARP!

Experience how Portland history has been shaped by rails. This approx 15 mi ride starts at Union Sta. and heads across the Willamette into SE with many stops in between. Not a loop, ride ends at Oregon Rail Heritage Center.traindayride2015

Stuff for sale: Bags and tires

Once again, it’s time for a parts purging. All items can be paid for via Paypal. Sorry, no checks in the mail, but I will (obviously) accept cash for pickups in Portland. Shipping not included, but (obviously) you’ll pay less for shipping if you buy multiple items. Please contact me at urbanadventureleague@gmail.com if you want to purchase any of these items or have more questions.

First up is the blue “hip pouch” or if you prefer, fanny pack, manufactured by North St. here in Portland. It’s a fine and functional li’l bag for on-the-road essentials. It’s served me well for years, and made it with me on the Cross-Continent Tour in 2011. The interior is one big pocket with two smaller pockets sewn in, and lined with with a waterproof material. The exterior is cordura. $20

Next is a small black shoulder bag made by Philosophy Bags, another Portland maker. The bag measures roughly 12″ x 9″ x 3″, comparable to a Rivendell Brand V Grabsack, and is made of canvas and leather. I’ve used it as a “day bag” for the last few years. It easily fits into a small Wald basket or a Carradice saddlebag. The strap (included) clips onto two rings, and without the strap the bag can be theoretically used as a pannier, using straps or clips to mount to a rack. (I’ve never tried it myself, but Philosophy made the bag with that thought in mind.) PLEASE NOTE: This bag is NOT waterproof. $20.

To note: both of the above bags are structurally sound, but show the wear, blemishes, and fading of years of use. I actually use the stuff I have, folks!

And finally, a set of tires: Continental Traffic tires, size 26″ x 2.1″ (54-559). These knobby tires are meant for mixed pavement and off-road, but designed more for on-street riding. I had them mounted to my Crested Butte for a few months, but found out I just don’t like them. Maybe several hundred miles of use, no flats, and yeah, a little dirty in that used knobby tire way. (Sorry!) $25 for the pair.

April 4, Portland, Oregon.

PSX_20150404_155950I didn’t realize it until I was in the shower on this Saturday morning: This day has significance. No, I’m not talking about significance in the US/World history sense (and to note: it is the day that MLK was killed, not a great anniversary.) And not in a Successories “This is the first day of the rest of your life” sense. No, April 4 is a significant day in my personal history: It’s the day I moved to Portland.

On April 4, 2001 I departed Amtrak’s Empire Builder at Portland Union Station and started my Grand Portland Adventure. It’s had its ups and downs, but for the most part there wasn’t any other place I wanted to have that Adventure over the past fourteen years.

Like anything to do with the passing of time (or getting older), it’s weird to think of that day. On one hand it feels like it could be yesterday, on the other hand it seems like another lifetime. In a sense, it was, as I’ve had many “lifetimes” living here in the Rose City.

Man, 2016 will mean fifteen years of living in Portland. Fifteen! It’s not the longest I’ve lived anywhere (I had 24 years in Connecticut, my home state) but sometimes it feels that way. And it gets harder and harder to remember my life back in the Constitution State. My old life becomes more a collection of hazy memories of things done with people I haven’t talked to in a long time.

But how much longer will I be celebrating this anniversary?

I’ve made a few noises over the past few years about moving out of town. While there’s always a bit of romance involved with starting over in a new place, for the most part those impulses have subsided. But what I (and many other folks) in Portland worry about is leaving not out of desire, but out of necessity. Of being priced out of the city they love(d). It’s one thing to move because you want to, or want/need a change, it’s another to move because you feel forced to.

While at the basic level the Portland of today is still the city I fell in love with in 2001, there have been many changes. An influx of new folks that increases exponentially each year, and with that means a more crowded, more expensive city. I’m not going to be one of those who feel that no one else should move here, that Portland should be “closed”, or that there was a “perfect” time 10/20/30/whatever years ago, but when more people move into the same space, something’s gotta give.

I’ve lived for the past year and a half in Woodlawn, a neighborhood on the northern edge of the city. I like the neighborhood okay and we have a great deal on the house. But it’s a rental, and the rent may go up at some point, or they decide to sell the place. And it’s a seller’s market right now. How much further do I need to move out to be able to survive? Oh sure, I can always get a “better” job, but I’d rather not pay a lot on rent if I don’t have to. And I’d like to live alone at some point, but that notion gets harder each year. What do I do next? Move to one of the neighborhoods on the far east side of town along with everyone else forced out of the closer in neighborhoods? A suburban apartment complex? Across the river into Washington state?

The problem has become cliche. When I meet with people that have been here awhile, we start talking about the changes, how expensive housing has become, then start worrying aloud about what to do. No one has a good answer.

I still love Portland. It’s overall been a good place to me. I’ve learned a lot about this town and this area. I still love the Pacific Northwest and right now I don’t want to live anywhere else. Hell, there is still so much to explore around here, which is its blessing and curse. (I could do a month bike tour around the state and feel like I haven’t seen everything. If I did a week tour around Connecticut, I’d feel like that’s too much!)

But I wonder how long it’s all going to last.PSX_20150403_164354

Bike Overnight to Ainsworth State Park (Columbia Gorge), 24-25 March 2015

Ah yes! Another month, another bicycle overnight camping trip. As has become almost a tradition in March, the destination was Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia Gorge. (We seem to go here in March because it’s the first month it’s open for the season.) Five of us total made it out there. I’ve written about camping at Ainsworth pretty extensively in the past few years (go do a search), so I’m not going to bore you with the minutiae. But here are some savory details:

  • This was the first time Zack had biked out in the Gorge, so I rode with him. It’s always fun biking with a Gorge newbie, and helps remind you how amazing this area is.
  • The weather forecast was, how you say, crappy. But we couldn’t back out since we made reservations. Thankfully the rain mostly held out. Zack and I got a sprinkle at the start and a decent rain for the last few miles between Multnomah Falls and Ainsworth, but the real rain had the decency to hold off until after midnight, after we were all in bed. And it ended before we woke up, with just some light drizzle on the ride home. Thankfully Nate brought a good-size tarp, which we set up over a picnic table. While we never needed to huddle underneath it, it did keep the table dry for the morning.
  • Just like the trip I did here during Spring Break two years ago, the place was pretty packed, including all of the prime hike-in sites where we were. Good call on reserving them!
  • The crappy bike rack at Crown Point was gone! While it was fairly useless, it was still a bike rack. After an comical (in hindsight) exchange with the “help desk” (ha!) folks at Vista House (which resembled a “Who’s on first?” routine), I found out that it will be replaced with something functional. But when? I don’t know.
  • We opted to take I-84 back, with a quick stop at Bridal Veil post office to get our post cards hand stamped. Zack and I stopped at Rooster Rock State Park to make coffee. This place is loaded with ground squirrels! They are sort of cute…when they aren’t trying to get into your food. (Which they will.)

Okay, April looms. Where will I go next month?

Ride Report: Three Speed Ride, 21 March 2015

Originally posted on Society Of Three Speeds:

After a very long period of time that can be best described as “fake summer” in Portland, the weather on Saturday was more akin to what we normally see for Vernal Equinox: a high in the mid-upper 50’s, a 50% chance o’ showers. It just felt…right, especially the moodiness of the sky. (I could have done without the stiff wind from the south, though.)

Eight folks (including myself) showed up at Overlook Park. Mostly familiar faces, but a new member, Michael, showed up with his new-to-him green Raleigh Sports. Nice one!

The beginning of the ride involved riding into that stiff headwind (sorry!) down to the Eastbank Esplanade. A quick stop to adjust some stuff with Michael’s bike provided a good opportunity for a group photo.

From there we continued southward, stopping to observe the brand-new Tillikum Crossing  Bridge, then we rode the new bike path/lanes that parallel the brand-new…

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