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Friday, 19 December 2014
First kill all the lawyers (or at least keep em under control -- lawmakers too)

Shakespeare's immortal quote about what to do with lawyers is perhaps more timely now than ever before.  Everyone has them, like it or not, and they -- and the other lawyers, who work for the government, and make the laws they work with -- are now affecting how everything gets done.

it was funny when fear of lawsuits -- or prohibition resulting from some horrible bad press and a bloody accident -- led to things like lawnmowers that said "keep hands out of blade". 

 It became more ironic when you started seeing fire logs for sale whose packaging read: "Caution, flammable".

But it's downright disraceful when you have a track bike -- even an entry level one -- being sold with a hodgepodged back brake, clamped on with metal clips sure to damage the paint before it is even sold -- all in a seeming effort to make the bike company (in this case Bianchi) seem more "responsible".

I'll be clear: I have a pista ... an old one.  It's not drilled for a back brake and it certainly didn't come with fugly metal cable clamps scraping the paint.  So, why the change?  Simple.  A back brake a day keeps the lawyers away.

Myself and most everyone else who ride a fixed gear use only a front brake -- unless offroad or with a freehweel or flip flop.  And if they had to equip the new Pista with a back brake, why not use plastic zip ties?  They're cheaper, cost nothing, and won't gauge the paint.

But they also won't stand out.  The shiny metal cable clips say to all:  Look at me, I got a back brake.

Which is saying to all, look at me, the lawyer's got my balls in his briefcase.

There's nothing wrong with putting a rear brake on a fixed gear but let's try to make sense.  If you went into a bike shop and bought that bike, then went to take the cable for the rear brake off and found the point gauged or chipped under the clips... what do you do?  You could return it, but the next one would be spec'd the same.  And what for?  Because of concern about bad press.  Or busybodies.  Or lawyers.

I am very disappointed with Bianchi. They used to be bold; now they jerry-rig a deliberately ugly bike in order to ward off the laywers and busybodies.

Ol' Billy Shakespeare was right about them.


Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 9:00 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 8 March 2015 5:20 PM EST
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014
20-year prohibition to end!

Progress? Maybe.  As of November 18, 2014, after constituent communication to the Board of Freeholders on the issue, Union County has said it will be ending its nearly 20-year ban on mountain biking in Watchung Reservation.  The ban, first begun in 1995, was enacted without passing any law or ordinance, and without public input.  This time the Freeholders are heeding the voice of the citizens. Spokesman Sebastian Delia, speaking with the authority of the Board of Freeholders, said on Nov. 18th that mountain biking WILL be included in the upcoming “trail master plan” Union County is developing for Watchung Reservation’s trails.  Hope they actually follow through on it.

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 8:41 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 8 March 2015 5:21 PM EST
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Monday, 10 November 2014
Klunker far so good!

building a "Klunker"

If you don't know what a Klunker is, or think it's an old car that Obama wanted to pay you cash to get off the road, never mind.  But if you're an avid bicyclist you probably hear the term Klunker and think more along the lines of this; an old cruiser bike with a cantilever or other reinforced frame, curvy stays, and a mishmash of old bmx style and road parts, sporting dirt-covered, knobby tires.

The term Klunker was sort of the agreed-upon description for the early proto mountainbikes of the late 1970's.  Many were built out of old frames, using whatever parts were available, which wasn't much.  The bikes were masterpieces of improvisation -- or deathtraps, depending on your philosophy.  I lean towards the former, which is why I decided to build one.

Sure, I have a modern mountainbike, as well as a vintage old one... two, okay.  But there is a general rule, referred to in some fo the biek forums as "N+1", which roughly translated to English from the Psuedo algibraic shorthand means, "you can never have enough bikes".  And, not for nothing, building a Klunker is a learning experience, because just like all those radical dudes back when, you have to improvise.

Area of Improvisation Numero Uno: The bb.  The frame I got was an old Schwinn Typhoon, accordign to similar images i found on the net.  It had been repainted and then in storage at my LBS for years (thanks Steve).  Apparently it was fairly rare as it two thin bars under the top tube, but unlike a traditional Schwinn "cantilever frame" they were not curved, nor attached to the stays.  Anyhow, I found pictures of bieks witht he same style frame online; they said they were typhoons.  Several had even been built into Klunkers.

Regardless fo what kind it is, a Schwinn style frame has what's called an "American Bottom Bracket".  It's a big hole in the bottom bracket shell, larger than a road or modern mountainbike bb, and completely unthreaded.  Early BMX bikes had the same; some kids bikes and beach cruisers still do.  This style bb, also called Ashtabula,  used a one-piece crank with pressed-in bearing cups.

To use modern cransk you need an adapter.

I got lucky; my friend's LBS had one.  Yay! 

Now I had to work with the headset.

The early bmx stuff copied a lot of Schwinn sizing, so I picked out a threaded 1" bmx headset.  The bearing cups fit the frame.  Great!  Except... oh, drat.  I need to get a fork in there.  The bearing race that fit on the fork race crown is the wrong size.

I fidn a second one that fits and use that, putting the other back in the box.  In goes the fork and... oh no! It's too #^%&*ing short!  I forgot "stack height!"

I take the thing home from the LBS. The two mtb forks i wanted to use for their front cantilever brake mounts are too tall; the threaded portion starts way above where the headset nuts have to be.  I cast around and find an old overbuilt road fork.  It's fork that fits but I'll need to use a long reach bmx sidepull.  No prob.  I set that up, and one of the old moto-style diacompe's that looks like it was taken of a motorcycle.  

But!  Wait!  Okay, the fork height is correct, the fork, although a road fork, is sturdy and will take mtb tires up to 1.6" wide, even semi-knobbies.  It can fit a brake.  And it happens to already have a crown race that works, or seems to.

But... I put it in, put on the brake, and went to get the stem in and--- it won't fit?

Yeh, bmx stems are narrower, so the top nut on an old style 1" threaded bmx headset has an overhanging lip that narrows the opening into the inside fo the steerer tube. Crud.  i dug aroudn in old boxes of parts and found a 1" threaded top nut from a road or moutnainbike.  It matched the silver color of the rest fo the headset but allowed me to fit a "nornal" 1" threaded quill stem.  Success!

Back to the bottom bracket... Now I had to find cranks to put on it.  The cransk had to fit two things; the frame and the chainline.  Since without some kind of bolt on bracket, or brazing on cantilever brake posts, i wasn't able to run a rear rim brake, I had to plan on a rear coaster brake.  That meant I probably wasn't going to be tweaking the chainline by shuffling spacers and a single cog, as you can do with a cassette hub set up as a singlespeed.  So the crank had to line up with where a coaster brake wheel would have the cog.  Problem.  Had no coaster brake wheel yet.  D'oh! as Homer Simpson would say, eloquently.

I found a wheel, pulled off an old Columbia that's probably older than the Schwinn.  It's 26" and coaster brake, and it's old ratty tire still holds air and the brake works.  Fine.  I go to put it in and it's too narrow!  i put some spaces on the axles and then fit it into the bike. Alright, i can tighten it without quishing the rear triangle.  I cinch it down.  Then I attach the cranks I had in mind, a pair of old "RoadVX" 170mm taken off an old ten speed roadbike, with a 110mm bolt pattern.  I run a chain.  Viola!  It works!  A pair of old style "bear trap" pedals, and all that's missing is the seat, seatpost, and clamp.  Standing on the seatless bike, I pedal it across the floor of the garage then stop.  Only a shot distance, but the coaster brake, almost twice my age, worked.  So did the front brake.

Now I just have to find a seatpost and seatclamp.  Of course it's a narrow size uncommon on modern bikes; I'm told it's 13/16".  I looked in my parts bin.  All the seatposts are metric.  Go figure. 

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 8:44 PM EST
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Saturday, 20 September 2014
NYC accident should prompt reconsideration of safety, not anti-biker Blitzkrieg

A recent crash in Central Park where a woman was hit by a bicyclist should be prompting people to reconsider issues of road safety and the importance of being aware of your surroundings.

Instead it has prompted a rash of "anti cycling" ranting from the media, which, to paraphrase an old line, is full of sound and fury -- and signifies nothing.

 In typical ignorant fashion  one NY Post article on Sept 22, 2014 said that "Witnesses said Marshall was speeding down West Drive and tried to swerve around Tarlov, rather than brake just moments before he careened into Tarlov on his $4,000 Jamis Eclipse bike".

Let's examine this statement.  According to witnesses, he was going fast.  What happens on a bike if you try to slam on your brakes?  You lose control, and crash.  Safe riders ALWAYS try to dodge or engage in other evasive action.  At cruising speed, slamming on your brakes is a guarantee of an accident -- for you, or the other party -- unless you are extremely lucky.

As to the bike, whoc ares how much it cost? Would a cheaper bike have done less damage to the pedestrian -- who has since died from her injuries? 

The woman, the wife of a CBS executive, was crossing the street and was hit by a cyclist.  Media coverage has been extremely negative, with one newspaper even basically saying, who is this guy on the fancy roadbike to be using our streets.  However, while no one knows the entire story, or maybe ever will, the people who were actually there have more facts in hand than random reporters.  In this case, from what I heard, the bicycle rider, an experienced cyclist and accomplished musician, was riding safely and then forced out of the "bike lane" by a crowd of pedestrians blocking it.

A woman then jumped into his path -- and he couldn't stop in time.

He did however have the presence of mind to try and shout a warning -- which either wasn't heard or heeded.  Of course, the media turning this into another "evil" of "cycling", as if he was shouting at her to look out because he was rude.  No, he was shouting at her to look out because he didn't want to hit her!

What happened?  Why did this woman step in front of a moving vehicle? 

Most avid cyclists have had plenty of experience with careless or clueless people stepping in front of them.  I myself have nearly killed several of these flying squirrels -- avoiding them only by dumb luck and some degree of learned skill.

It may be that in this case the pedestrian didn't see the bike because there was a large group of other pedestrians blocking the side of the road.  If she was crossing from that side she may not have seen him because of the angles.  Or maybe she didn't look.  Or maybe she looked -- but only in the "bike lane" the cyclist had to pull out of to dodge other pedestrians.

Or maybe she just figured somehow he could stop -- a fatal mistake and one that would mean she caused the crash, not the rider.

It is not unusual for riders to have near misses with careless and clueless pedestrains.  While fatal or near fatal crashes are less common, they do happen.  And cometimes they are even the fault (at least partly) of the cyclist.  In one famous case a few years ago, a cyclist was riding the wrong way down a street and a pedestrian was crossing; they hit, the man later died.  However, cyclist culpability is such run-ins is rare.  And few avid cyclists go the wrong way down a street.

Some have argued leaving the bike lane on this stretch of street is illegal.  if that's so, it shouldn't be; cyclists have a longstanding legal right to the street that predates bike lanes.  And not only is such a traffic law patently absurd -- when a bike lane is blocked, it can cause havoc.  For example, if people thinkt hat on that section of street the bikes aren't allowed anywhere except in the bike lane, they probably won't be looking for them there -- another potential contributor to the accident.  This is the danger of "the convention of seperation" caused by bike paths and bike lanes, without also adequate understand of road use; merely by its existence the infrastructure teaches people -- unless they are taught otherwise -- that bicycles won't mix with other traffic.  ultimately this leads to les safe roads and more confrontation, not less, and drivers become increasingly intolerant of cyclists on regular roadways, and both drivers and pedestrians stop looking for cyclists, figuring they no longer have to

so the fact that the cyclist may have left the bike lane "illegally" -- accordign to the Post -- means nothing -- except, perhaps, it is time that traffic law is revisited.  Blockign the bike lane is supoposed to be punsiehd by a fine -- why doesn't the Post talk about THAT rule?  Oh, because hten it would have to admit he left he bike lane only to AVOID AN ACCIDENT -- and was then later the subject of another one when someone crossed in front of him.

According to a regular at the local bike shop, who knows the New York rider involved, he was a careful cyclist who would not have carelssly crashed into anyone.  Also, apparently, the bike lanes in Central Park are often taken over by foot traffic, who then force the cyclists to dodge them like obstacles, as happened in this case.

While there are some careless cyclists, just like there are careless drivers, pedestrians, and for all I know, careless boat captains, what amazes me is how anytime there is a cyclist-pedestrian crash, the assumption is that it is the cyclist's fault.  Has no one ever heard the phrase "look both ways"?   We teach this to kids but forget it as adults.  On virtually every street in the union, you see pedestrians just launch themselves into traffic.  Most don't even stop before enterign the roadway; few bother to look.  many are distracted; others cross against "don't walk" signs and many step in front of vehicles -- including bicyclists.  While no one knows if that's what happened in this case, it seems the cyclist was operating as safe as he could around people who were not (namely the peds blocking the bike lane).  Again, he dodged the obstruction in the bike lane, and when someone stepped into his path, he called out a warning ans swerved, rather than panicked and hit his brakes.  This is everything anyone could do to avoid a crash in that situation.  The only person who could have done anything else is the woman who got hit; she could have stopped walking and waited until traffic (yes a bike is traffic() passed before she crossed the street.  Why she didn't we may never know. 

But people need to take a step back and examine the facts.  If the cyclist was riding safely, then maybe the issue is something else.  in this case, it could very well be a carelss pedestrian who stepped in front of a moving vehicle -- and paid the price.  But that would require people to reaxamine their own attitudes and behaviors, which is too much to ask for many.  instead, they blame the cyclists.  This is easier for them, but it doesn't bring us any closer to the truth -- or a solution to this problem.

The very fact that the media has had to resort to snide remarks about how expensive the bike is, or miscatagorize the riders actions -- dodging, shouting a warning, swerving -- says there is nothing there.  The press is an emporer with no clothes on this one.

Heck, they even went on a rant about how the rider uses a GPS to track his speed and mileage -- as if that's something new.  Almost every avid rider tracks this somehow.  As to the fairly fast speeds mentioned by the post, so what?  I once got pulled over by a cop for doing 43 in a 25 on my bike, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be going 43 mph through downtown or whenever.   To quote the max speed the guy tracked on his GPS says nothing about how fast he was going at the time, beyond that it could have been fairly quick because he had the skill and fitness to do so.  And speed and bikes is a funny thing; as the GPS mentioend illustrates, speedometers aren't standard bike equipment.  So how can you tell if you are speeding if you don't have one?  In my case I had a digital speedometer back when I clocked my 43mhp, but it was at night, So I couldn't see the speedometer. In such a case, or if you don't have such a device, the only way to tell speed is by feel -- did I feel in control?  As an avid rider the answer was yes, so I didn't realize I was going so fast.

And that's the other irony; by trying to bash this cyclist all the media has done is illustrate he is an experienced rider not likely to make a horrible mistake.  If he nromally rides fast, he knows how to handle himself and bike.  If he normally rides a lot, he's used to handling various situations.  Etc.  What's more likely -- that an avid experienced rider simply plowed into a woman with his eyes closed?  Or that, maybe, something else caused the accident? 

Grant that, sad as her iunjury and later death was, it might even have been the actions of the other party, who like many people was probably not also a cyclist, and therefore night not have looked for bikes, might not have noticed a bike, or might have misjudged it's speed?

For that matter, instead of bashing cyclists, how about an expose of the pedestrians who block the bike lane?  How about rexamining the convention of seperation that bike lanes can create, and the danger it can lead to, if they are not accompanied by some reaffirmation that yes, you are still going to have to be aware and look for bikes, they are still part of traffic? Perhaps one could reaxamine those foolish and probably illegal tickets for leaving the bike lane, a stricture that is implemented in spite of every known traffic safety principle, probably just to mollify ignorant and impatient drivers? Maybe even examine the issue of bike lanes themselves, that if they come with all this negative baggage, they are not a worth while trade off for riders? Or a newspaper article on all the people killed by car drivers on cell phones?

How about this: acknowledge that the road is a potentially dangerous dynamic of moving variables, some at high speed, and exercise the amount of awareness of your surroundings as you think your own life is worth.  Oh, and ticket malefactors who are careless (this would include all those careless pedestrians who enter traffic at the last minute no doubt thinking they are immune from physics).

But most importantly, don't blame the victim of careless conduct.  And yes, if the bicyclist was caused to crash by a careless pedestrian, then he was the victim of her misconduct, not the other way around.  It is very sad this woman was injured.  But blaming an innocent person who was involved in an accident is no help.

Also, in the "big picture", where is the media's priorities?  Drivers in cars kill 40,000 people a year, mostly in prventable accidents due to operator error  -- in other words, some carelessness or mistake.  Which works out to 109 per day, average.  But you don't see "anti-car" crusades like you see people arguing we should go after bicyclists.  And what you see even less of is any attempt to crack down on careless pedestrians who jump out into the street like lemmings. How about those hundred dollar tickets for blockign bike lanes?

I don't know if that is the case here.  But I certainly know there are enough doubts the cyclist did anything wrong that the media should stop focusing on blaming avid, skilled cyclists and start talking about the clueless and inept who flood our streets, in whatever form they take, pedestrian, driver, rider.

After all, lives could depend on it.

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 6:19 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014 7:07 PM EDT
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Friday, 22 August 2014
How to report on mountain biking

Mountain bikers were banned from South Mountain because a few isolated genuine concerns were magnified way out of proportion by professional agitators who had no concern for the real issues, only their desire to ban bikes.  Nevertheless, the misrepresentation of mountain bikers and mountain biking helped get riders banned in Essex.


In Union County, that same misrepresentation was at work, only at a much more below-the-radar level; the ultimate decision was made at a closed door meeting and people were not informed until afterwards.  However, the Union County government was basing its actions on the misrepresentations of mountain bikers everywhere, including at Essex County.  When asked to produce the documents they relied on to determine mountain biking should be banned at Watchung in an open public records act request, Union County provided the questionable trail survey done at South Mountain, not Watchung, and three random news articles about biking “conflicts” in trails other than Watchung – one in Connecticut.


Reviewing how both bans came to be, one feeding off the misrepresentations of the other,  one is struck by the similarities to Daniel Greenfield’s satirical column in which he provides – in jest – a blueprint for how to report on the middle east with consistent bias.  So let’s examine (with apologies to Mr. Greenfield),

How to write about mountain biking:

Writing about mountain biking is a booming field.  Cycling is an increasingly popular sport, and gets a boost in popularity both from modern environmental and health-centered trends.  Mountain biking is no exception.Writing about mountain biking is not hard.  Anyone who has consumed a steady diet of average media fare already knows most of the main points.  The trick is to regurgitate and present them in the right order for the day’s latest outrage.Mountain bikers get hot, even in winter, being engaged as they are in physical activity, and wearing packs and helmets and other vaguely paramilitary-looking gear that many find unsettling, so it is easy to suggest that there is conflict – even violence – simmering just under the surface.  The trails and woods in which they ride should be described as “troubled land”.  Throw in ironic references and metaphors comparing conflict between mountain bikers and others as a tense standoff, and insisting that peace is very far away.

There are two types of people involved in the issue of mountain biking; the mountain bikers with their multi-thousand-dollar machines and their moisture-wicking shirts and helmets and the latest in electronic and technological gear, and everyone else, mainly, hikers and equestrians.  The mountain bikers are fanatical; the hikers and equestrians are passionate.  The mountain bikers are destructive and hate-filled; the hikers and equestrians are simply embittered.  The mountain bikers want everything; the hikers and equestrians feel they will be left with nothing.  Never bother to mention that many of the hikers have just as many technical do-dads as the mountain bikers; indeed, make sure not to write about any of the BMW’s and Mercedeses you see in the lot by the local hiking trail head. 

 If you happen to notice that, as happened in Essex County, some of the hikers went out of their way to sabotage the trail with tacks or glass, or blatently lied about and misrepresented the conduct of the bikers, don’t mention it. 

Don’t ask the hiker (or equestrian) how many mountain bikers he caused to crash with sabotage or slandered, or how much he makes a month.  Likewise, with equestrians, you may notice that their horses eat better than some mountain bikers.  Do not comment on this.  Instead, ask both the hikers and equestrians about their hopes for peace on the trail.  Nod knowingly when they say it’s up to the bikers.

Weigh every story one way; depersonalize the bikers, personalize the hikers and equestrians. One is a statistic, the other a precious individual.  A ban on bikes, or even deliberate trail sabotage against bikers, is always justified retaliation for something, but the mountain bikers who try to ride trails after they’ve been closed are perpetuating a “cycle of violence”. Center everything around negotiations.  If mountain bikers do things besides shred and tear up trails, such as maintaining them, or volunteering, don’t dwell on it. Frame everything in terms of how the mountain bikers will compromise, and what they are willing to give up for peace.

Mountain bikers can be divided into two categories; there are the good bikers, who wear glasses, live in young trendy neighborhoods, and use i-pads.  They typically have a trendy hybrid car with a rack on top and drive to the trailhead, where they mount up their logo-covered brand-new bike that still has the price-tag on it.  They drink overpriced Starbucks lattes and fancy energy drinks.  They do often donate to or volunteer for some environmental cause, but don’t mention that.  However, mention that they are the only hope of an otherwise brutish group that is too busy having an adrenaline rush to hear the tortured screams of mother earth. Then there are the bad mountain bikers.  These are the tanned, often somewhat older riders.  They may or may not wear glasses, but most of their gear is not new; it gets too much use. Many of them will ride to the trail head -- if their local trails remain open.  Often they work on or rebuild their own bikes, many of which have no logos, or are covered in stickers, but they probably don’t know how to use i-pads.  They drink plain old black coffee, or water or Gatorade.  A good IPA is considered a well-earned post-ride refreshment.  They are interested in riding, not environmental activism and Gaea theory.  If asked, they’d tell you they are an environmentalist in the same way that Teddy Roosevelt was.  In fact, they may even use the sexist, old-fashioned term outdoorsman!  If you have to write about them, make sure you present them as out-of-touch with the earth, and totally lacking in a social conscience.

Mountain bikers generally should be depicted as looming menacingly over children and little old ladies.  They are also best shown as zooming past.  If you can get a photo of someone on a downhill, the blurrier, the better.  Make it seem as if the speeds reached on long straight downhills are typical of tight winding turns and narrow climbs. 

When reporting on any actual trail conflict, try your best to make sure the hiker who claims she was run off the trail by the speeding biker is a pregnant woman.  Failing that, two elderly people are best.  If you can’t find any cases of actual trail conflict, make them up.  Are there no incidents of bikers endangering people?  Then quote hikers who say the cyclists give them dirty looks, or were “rude”.  Rudeness is extremely useful; it makes one an instant victim yet it actually means nothing, anyone can be perceived as rude according to some standard.

Do not ever mention any connection some of the hiker-equestrian agitators or parks officials might have with anti-bike groups or agendas. If a groups, like the Sierra Club, is well-thought of, keep it that way; do not mention that they have a policy of advocating the exclusion of bicycles from offroad trails.  This allows them, when quoted, to seem like a neutral party.  Meanwhile, convey to your readers that there is something alarming about how mountain bikers cling stubbornly to their trails, while making it clear that they will have to be ethnically cleansed from the parks for there to be peace.  But do not use the word ethnically cleansed, or others like it, such as apartheid, which suggest, quite rightly, that you would be unfairly targeting or singling out one group of trail users.  Instead, say they will be banned for the protection of other trail users – and the betterment of the environment.

Write about the hills and the blood-red sunsets over the trees, mention all the soldiers from the American Revolution that probably passed over them in a history you never bothered to learn. Talk about your mixed feelings as a former mountain biker, or someone who has bicycling friends, at the sight of mountain bikers oppressing another people. Describe the deep soulful eyes of a hiking or equestrian or government parks department leader or agitator.  

Write about tire tracks.  Specifically, compare tracks to ruts, even if this isn’t really honest, and then compare ruts to scars on mother earth.  Write about how all the bicycle tire tracks you see on the trail make you uncomfortable, but never dare mention a footprint, let alone a steaming pile of horse poop.  Close with an old man who expresses hope that one day peace will come to this troubled land.  Then go home.   

Sound a lot like most media coverage of mountain biking controversies?  Surprise!

…In short, it is as easy to denounce mountain biking as it is to report on the middle east in ways that bias the issue.  You just have to tilt your viewpoint slightly off center, in everything. 

If this seems like satire, it is, but then again, it also isn’t.  The sad truth, is it might very well have been the blueprints used to denounce and forbid mountain biking at two of New Jersey’s best local parks.

And that says a lot.

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 12:36 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 August 2014 11:43 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Wierd mtb mods...

So I built up the Airborne mtb as a singlespeed, using a Surly chain tensioner.  34x16 was overgeared for the orange trail at LewisMorris, nearly killed myself.  And the tires were tiny. Now it's sporting 2.25x26" tires and 34x17 gearing.  I have an 18t cog if needed.

However, the upshot was I took the old tires, put them on my spare 26" rims (old ones due to be replaced when I get the $) and put them on my Raleigh 29er.

Let me say, i like the 29er.  It rides over stuff real good.  The tires are cushy.  But i admit what others have said is true... it is long.

With 26" rims and 1.95" wide tires, the 29er bb is only 3.4 of an inch lower than the bb on my Airborne which is intended for 26" rims.  And the frame, looked at from axle to axle, is only about 1" longer than a 26" frame.

It rides okay around town.  I'm betting with bigger tires, or maybe 650b wheels, it'd be a kick @ss mountain bike. (or I could go back to 29s).  

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 7:46 PM EDT
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Thursday, 24 July 2014
Gangster Government?
Topic: In the news

We are living in the time of gangster government.  Whether Obama bringing “the Chicago way” to Washington, a city that was hardly a pinnacle of honor to begin with, or whether it’s local county officials who refuse to explain themselves or account for the impositions they impose on citizens, it seems the most common aspect of all government, lately, is arrogance.

Arrogance is defined, according to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1953, as “a sense of superiority which manifests itself in an overbearing manner; presumption in claiming rank, dignity or power” (page 49).  This could be an accurate and true description of the local or federal government – or of some jerk who thinks because he knows the right people, he can push citizens around, maybe even extort money from them, or something.  In short, the arrogance of the government of the type shared by  organized and not-so-organized crime.   New Jersey is familiar with both types.  Back to the concept of Gangster Government.

Most citizens often think of their government as arrogant when it purports to be able to give massive powers to one agency or individual, who will then be responsible for attempting to duplicate the function of every independent mind throughout the country in a given field.  Examples include the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, and just about any “czar” position created at the federal level.

But government arrogance is manifest in other ways besides for the government trying to say one man or woman is capable of duplicating the free interaction of minds all over the nation.  It is also known for overt hostility to anything that threatens that strangle hold.  The government is not just overbearing and arrogant, it is emotionally needy.  The thing it hates most, if for people to realize it is irrelevant and not needed.  This it ferociously attacks any aspect of American life that might result in less direct dependence on government.  If people are allowed to own guns, they might not be at the mercy of the government for protection; they could protect themselves.  Horrors.  The government institutes a massive gun control agenda.  If people are economically successful, they might not be as dependant on the government financially.  Oh no!  So the Washington crowd torpedoes the economy with massive “bailouts” that started with the GOP and grew worse under Obama. 

If people risk being able to keep their own doctor and make decisions about their own health care coverage?  Unacceptable.  The government must step in and take control.

However, the government’s flaws, at many levels, are more than simply being an emotionally needy gangster bully and dangerous know-it-all.  For instance, the government also has low self-esteem, which means it is apt to be easily offended, and risk violence or coercion if offended, the same way some thug or gangster who feels he hasn’t been given enough “respect” might bust someone’s leg.

In this case, a prime example was the NJ Parkway authority pursuing an absurdist legal case against a small Florida eatery, according to an article in the July 24, 2014 Star-Ledger newspaper (pages 9, 11).  The restaurant employed a sign with a round green logo.  It was similar in layout to the NJ Parkway logo, but that’s where the similarities ended.  The sign said “New Jersey PIZZA, subs, cheesesteaks, pasta”.  But that was close enough for the New Jersey Parkway officials, who have filed a lawsuit alleging not only trademark infringement, but absurdly claiming treble damages because of the bogus argument that the eatery is trickign people into thinking it is run by the Parkway.

The Jersey-themed eatery is getting a taste of how things really work in the Garden State, whose legislative mascot should by the Garden Snake.  As in, lower than a snake in a wagon rut.

“Coming after someone down here, 1,300 miles away, that’s ridiculous,” said one of the restaurant owners, quoted in the Star-Ledger article.  It is added that “no one would mistake the restaurant with a government entity in charge of the roads”.  Probably not, unless there was a long line at the counter and really big holes in the floor. 

Nevertheless, the fact that the government’s position is absurd, is not an effective deterrent against it.  Many of the government’s positions are absurd, at many levels, and many of them are nevertheless persisted in.  Why?  Gangsters want respect.  For the Parkway Authorities, there are no serious worries about a small restaurant in Florida being mistaken for their agency.  However, that is not the point.  The point is that the agency, or key people in it, or its legal department, felt disrespected.  So they decided to employ the power of the state to assuage their bruised egos.  Gangster government.

We’re seeing gangster government at the federal level.  Blatant refusal to enforce immigration laws has resulted in a massive border crisis, with tens of thousands of illegal aliens, many of them minors, many of them unchecked for diseases, marching across the border.  But gangster government is not confined to the federal level.  Indeed, it sometimes seems typified by the government of the state that is famous for three things, corruption, traffic, and gangsters. But perhaps worse than the state government are county governments.

Citizens of Union County, NJ might sympathize with Parratt and DiMatteo, the Florida restaurant owners being hounded by the Parkway officials. 

New Jerseyans in this county are subject to a government that is not much better.  Union County is best known for it’s allegations of corruption, but among cyclists, it is best known for its absurdist ban on mountain biking at Watchung Reservation.

The ban was a reaction to a similar one passed in nearby Essex County, by County freeholders who ended up investigated, and one indicted, while County Executive Triffenger exited under a 20-count corruption indictment.  Matter were made more absurd when the rule in question was clearly an archaic artifact that predated offroad mountain biking for recreation and therefore could not have ever been intended to apply to it.  

In Union County, similar logic was used, with a rule that talked of "sidewalks" and "footpaths" being used to ban riding on singletrack at Watchung Reservation. But no one can get a straight answer as to how it happened.  The Board of Chosen Freeholders or some other county entity – possibly park’s man Daniel Bernier – acted to outlaw mountain bikers, the park’s most numerous trial users, but two decades later no one will come clean about how or why.  Rumors had it the reasons were similar to those for the blitzkrieg against the Florida eatery.  Someone, somewhere, within the power structure of the state felt slighted.  So the heavy hand of government was set in motion.

Now, over twenty years and one Star-Ledger article on July 6, 2014 later ("Cyclists" pursue access to Watchung trails"), no one – including the cyclists effected by the ban, ordinance, rule, or whatever – can get a straight answer as to what actually happened, which makes it difficult to go about challenging the ban.  As a result, riders are forced to ride under a black flag, or drive almost an hour to Morris Coutny, whose park system is run by people with sense.

But that’s the problem with gangster government.  Its power isn’t just misused to protect the fragile emotions of the agents of the state; it has no accountability after the fact, even when it is clearly wrong.

This isn’t purely a New Jersey problem, any more than it is a 21st century one.  In fact, back on July 4, 1776, the founders of this nation wrestled with a similar problem.  It was almost identical in nature to the problem we face, except the founders did not call their problem a gangster government.  They called it a monarchy.

Nevertheless, one would do well to study history, in particular, the many objections to the rule of King George III contained within the declaration of Independence.  It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that almost all of what was so Objectionable about the rule of the British monarch, is almost entirely true now, of our own gangster government, at varying levels.

One would do well to look up that definition of arrogance again.  The government that so often oversteps its bounds, at every level, would do best to recall that arrogance is only “the presumption in claiming rank, dignity or power”.  All of the latter are reserved for those who have earned them.  And the government surely has not.

Governmental gangsters may currently be a fact of life, but one looks forward to when, like actual gangsters, they end up behind bars, held to an accounting for all that they have done, and the reasons for which they have done it. 

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 9:21 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014 7:58 PM EDT
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Sunday, 6 July 2014
Let's take back the Watchung Res

A 7-6-14 article in the Star-Ledger newspaper ("Cyclists" pursue access to Watchung trails") highlights once again the importance of government being run fairly, and with limits on its power.


At issue is whether the Watchung Reservation (and also south mountain), the only major county parks closed to offroad cycling, are public lands for the enjoyment of all, or a private club for a few hikers and horseback riders funded at taxpayer expense.


Obviously, if the land really is a public park, the public should be allowed to use it.  Prohibiting offroad cycling is such an unreasonable act I've never observed it elsewhere.  Lewis-Morris, a Morris County park, is open to hikers, equestrians, and of course, mountain bikers.  and in Arizona, I observed hikers and bikers sharing the same mountain trials.


Why is it then that in Union County so many seem incapable of sharing?


The Star-Ledger article, like most on the push to remove the prohibition at the Watchung Reservation, mentions that many are astounded they cannot ride there, and concludes that the general belief is "that the Watchung bike ban comes from a fear of a conflict between groups of people using the trails for different purposes."


This has been a common belief because it was what has prompted trail closure attempts elsewhere, namely, one intolerant hiker, or a horseback rider whose mount turns crazy if it encounters another member of the public on a public trail.  Then there are environemtnalists, who oddly enough, object to bicycles when they venture offroad.  The fear is that the bicycles will damage the trails.  How come 20-something pound bicycle with rubber tires is an erosion concern, but horses weighing thousands of pounds with metal shoes that gouge out the dirt isn't?  Well, no one ever said radical environmentalists made sense, least of all the radical environmentalists.

 Actually, the closing of the Watchung Reservation is not so much a cautionary tale about interaction between cyclists and other trail users, or the narrow-minded ways of Earth Firsters.


The Ledger quoted D'Elia, a county spokesman, who says he has no idea why the trails were closed, then guesses it was because the bikes won't fit on narrow trails, or maybe erosion.  All this illustrates is his ignorance not only of cycling but the Wastchung issue generally.  It is understandable if he himself is not a mountain biker.  What is not  understandable is how he can allow himself to be quoted in a news article, when he works for the county, confessing he has no idea why the county did what it did. 

Actually, from what I've heard from people who rode there then (I was one, as a teenager) the story of how it closed is a cautionary tale of another sort:  The dangers of the uncontrolled power of the government.  The truth is, no one knew much about it until one day we were just kicked out.

  Back in the 1990's, apparently a handful of people got annoyed at the bikers and simply decided to ban them.  It was a decree --- sort of like King George -- that there would be no more bikes allowed.  This may be why unlike every other article ever written about a ban, the Ledger article mentions no ban, law, or ordinance.  Why?  Maybe there never was one (Edit: After a month of OPRA requests it later turned out there was not.  Rather, a handful of unelected gov't employees decided to ban mountain biking in a back room deal, without, according tot he county, any legislative authority or citizen input) 


Yet, while there was apparently no rule to restrain one man's whim for ruining the park for thousands of cyclists, to say nothing of those yet unborn, there is apparently a whole set of rules and procedures about how to remove the ban.  Let's get this straight.  On a whim, to exclude offroad bikers, all that was needed was one man raising his fist in the air and shouting, "by the power of grayskull!"  But when the time comes to admit the county government was wrong to let him do that, and revoke the ban, a whole forest of obstacles stands in the way.  The Ledger talks about a proposed "Risk assessment to figure out if bicycles would actually damage the trails.  If bikes are found to be safe, the freeholder board could then set a policy with detailed rules for biking the Watchung trails"!


Keep in mind, that pack of rigmarole is actually coming from a Freeholder Chairman someone who wants to consider removing the ban, "because he's received requests from residents who want mountain biking allowed". 

Maybe since such rules are so difficult to remove after the fact, like a stubborn fungus, there should be more deliberation involved in making them, and citizen input.  That way we might never have to deal with this sort of nonsense again. 

So.  A cautionary tale about too much power and too little oversight.  All it takes is one angry man to make a rule affecting thousands, but for some reason, removing the rule is a lot more complicated.   Every summer the county puts out ads calling for desperately needed trail volunteers.  The funny thing is, when mountain bikers used the Reservation, they had plenty of volunteers.  Now, some of the trails are so overgrown that they are barely passable.  Why?  With only occasional riders sneaking by under a black flag, there is not enough trail use to keep them from becoming dilapidated.  Certainly the volume of hikers isn't doing it.


Here's a "policy with detailed rules for biking" the Watchung Reservation, Freeholder chairman, that you can adopt forthwith, and it’s how it works at Lewis-Morris park in Morris County.  Unfortunately, Lewis-Morris is 45 minutes away, by car.  The Watchung Reservation trails are close enough to bike to, literally in our own backyard here in Union County.  It seems a shame to let them die because some gov't employees, twenty years ago, were angry for one brief moment.

 The rules? They’re pretty simple:  Come to Watchung Reservation.  Bring bike.  Ride.  Go home.  Come back soon.  And have a good time.

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 9:12 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 8 March 2015 5:27 PM EST
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Monday, 23 June 2014
Moustache bars -- and an X0-1 clone

Well, took the moustache bars off the Lemond, but only because I needed it for other stuff. 

However, the moustache bars have migrated to my Bridgestone mb-5 mountainbike and combined with slick 1.5 street tires it is riding awsome. 

Plus it looks wierd; half the people I passed today were probably wondering "what is that?  A mountainbike?  A roadbike?"  Questions first asked of the bridgestone x0-1, which I attempted to copy, based around an mb-5 frame.

Even with only a 46t outer chainrign it cruised at 17-20 mph going through the great swmap, a local flat route, but when I took a shortcut on a dirt path through the woods it worked fine (until I reached where the pathw as overgrown -- doh!)

Putting a 52t chainring (to appraximate xo-1 gearing) would mean I'd have to lose the innermost "granny" gear as the derailieur isn't long enough to run that too without the chain rubbing, but then the gearing 52-34 should work okay, it works for most road compasts and this thing has even smaller rims than those (26" vs. 700c") so I shouldn't be over geared.  I never actually used the granny gear, onroad or off, so far. 

Offroad or onroad, the moustache bars on a mountainbike do indeed give a unique position.  Only change I would make is to eliminate the slight "drop" in height and have the bars be completely flat. 

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 11:20 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 23 June 2014 11:28 AM EDT
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Monday, 7 April 2014
Press fit bottom brackets: A solution in search of a problem?
Topic: Bike gear

(To get on a soapbox for a second, however) Regarding new technology and the impression it doesn't have trade-off's: it does.

If fact, the BB30 might be a prime example. Invented according to lore by Cannondale, it is now used on many other bikes and been observed on many high end, high dollar frames -- Cervelo, the aforementioned Cannondale, etc.

Since these bearings are "press fit" they have to be removed with a mallet. WTF? Really? On a ,000 bike?
Second, being press fit, the bearing tension is adjustable only by the bb shell width of the frame itself. In other words, a slight tolerance issue in frame sizing and the bb will be either lose or tight, no way to adjust it (although one might sand or file down the edge of the frame?)
Similarly a BB30's advantage, according to one Cannondale spiel, was it's stiffness. However, A press fit bottom bracket with improved stiffness is just that. What'd that Ancient Greek guy say? Give me a lever and a place to stand... and I'll move the world? The crank is the lever and the BB is literally, where it stands. Is anchored. Here's the problem; Imagine a massive strong lever. It is more effective at transmitting energy. Good, right? Yeh. But it doesn't help if at some point a long the way all the energy is wasted. Say, you have this awesome lever -- but are standing on a soft yielding surface. Or something slippery. Maybe you're wearing roller skates. Okay, the lever won't flex a micron -- but you will lose energy because you, who are holding the lever, slip.
A press fit bottom bracket is like that. The newer, stiffer bb may be more efficient at transmitting energy, with less flex, and the lighter bb may mean that less of that energy is wasted on moving a heavy bike part down the road, or in a circle... but if the attachment point is a source of wasted energy, all that stiffer newer bb means is more squeaky bottom brackets where the press fit parts hits the frame's bottom bracket shell. Squeaking, for those who don't know, is the sound of movement. That movement means the loss of energy.
Indeed, you have a new stiffer spindle and stiffer bottom bracket -- that's press fit into a frame with a new stiffer bottom bracket shell and frame area.

See the problem? The bb to bb shell/frame interface is press fit -- the weakest link in the chain running from your feet, through that newer stiffer bb, to the rear wheel.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but all that stiffer bb will do is creak more. And with only a press fit attachment point it's not like there are threads that can be greased. in short you have to remember the bike is the sum of it's parts, at least in one respect. The bb is only as strong as its attachment to the frame. Now if you are okay with a k bike - or any bike - that squeaks, so be it, but I wouldn't be.

Make no mistake, the BB30 has advantages, but let's just not forget that like everything else it has a trade-off too. Cyclists -- like anyone else -- engage in such trade-offs all the time. For instance, A carbon frame is light, but not very great at surviving impacts unscathed. So you make a call -- which is more important, short term performance vs. long term durability? For racers this is a no-brainer. For the rest of us, it is a real question, because most of us "real world" riders have to buy our own equipment and don't get new stuff every year. Also our bikes have slightly less specialized roles than racer's bikes. For the regular rider, his bike isn't just a piece sporting equipment, it's also a vehicle, a way to get to the store, etc. And while granted, a person is probably not going to commute on a pure race machine, they could. This is where one of the other great misfortunes of modern cycling technology comes into play, the horrible lack of tire clearance on many bikes. Sure racers aren't running 25s or 28s, but then racers don't have to ride after work in the dark or early Saturday mornings over post-winter roads. Have you seen the potholes out there?
True there is a place for specialized racing machines -- see the classic racing aesthetics of a lugged steel frame, chrome, and Campy N. Record! But... even though you want to be able to ride as a racer, you shoot yourself in the foot if you totally lose all ability to use the bike for anything else except keeping up with the guy in front of you. The fact that if you are really an avid cyclist, you probably have a less "racy" bike to commute on, doesn't change this observation.

As to the trade offs; they aren't new. Old Vitus frames were light, but reportedly flexed a great deal. Aero or v-section rims are more aerodynamic, allegedly -- but heavier rotational weight (more material. To try and minimize this trade-off they use carbon for many of the high-end aero rims; it's light but more delicate; another trade off. An aero rims also need special long valve stems.

Not all trade-offs are worthwhile -- or commercially viable. The Lampert and Viscounts both claimed to use airplane related materials and technologies -- and became obsolete curiosities, mainly due to the fear that their fork blades would come off. Not all new technology is successful. It is ironic, then, to note that the Lampert had a press-fit bottom bracket, like the BB30. And while Viscounts and Lamperts are in my humble opinion really awesome vintage bikes, as well as sort of iconic historical things, you wouldn't probably want to put 5,000 miles a year on one. At least I wouldn't. So while the modern cyclist, who "knows better," may smile knowingly at the somewhat quaint images of the decades old Lampert ads touting "aerospace technology!", are we any more sophisticated when we run out and buy a BB30 -- just because it's "newer and stiffer and lighter"?

The modern press fit bb, the BB30 included, has the same practical trade-off as any other technology. For example, a BB30 *is* lighter and stiffer, or *should* be if made properly; a press-fit design needs less material in terms of thickness than a design with threads in it, as the threads consume part of the initial thickness. This is true on both the frame and removable bottom bracket. And a wider spindle is stiffer. The downsides are a squeaky bb-bb shell/frame junction, and no real adjustability to bearing tension.

 Oh, and having to whack your expensive lightweight fragile frame to get it out using a mallet.

BB30's may actually feel nice while riding.  They definately have potential weight savings.  But... gee, how much is that Cervelo worth?  Three grand?  And you're gonna hit it with a hammer?

Of course with modern cartridge or self-contained bearings adjustability is less of an issue anyway, and has been less of an issue, for years, since before outboard bearings, back when we all used square taper bb's and nothing else. Once bb's went to cartridge or self-contained bearings, that was a big change, bigger perhaps than bearing size or location. Because the purpose of the bearings changed. Now they were more replaceable parts than an integral component of the bottom bracket itself. You didn't adjust the bearings as they loosen; you threw em away and replaced 'em. It is a different attitude.

 Without it we'd never have seen BB30's.

Maybe it's the attitude of the future. We'll see. )


Personally I think they should bring back 3-piece bottom brackets, with the bearing cups and square taper separate spindle.  These were lighter than sealer bearing ones, though probably not as lighrt as BB 30's and the ilk -- although they contain adjustibility the lighter more modern design doesn't -- and none of it's flaws.  They sure don't creak.

Dust off that thirty year old catologue.  What used to be old might be the next New Thing!

  Hey it worked for press fit bottom brackets (or, more to the point, it didn't, and doesn't).

Posted by blog/bicyclerider at 5:25 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 7 April 2014 5:31 PM EDT
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