Not mechanically inclined

Pentel Sharplet-2 mechanical pencil with 0.5mm leadI found a Pentel® Sharplet-2® mechanical pencil with 0.5 mm lead in my desk drawer at work today.

I am sure it is a fine mechanical pencil, but mechanical pencils and I do not get along. I press too hard and the lead breaks. I drop them enough times to break the lead. When a lead is nearly used up, it spins to the flat side when I want to use the sharp side.

Although I do not remember putting the pencil in my desk drawer, I probably did. It is the only one in the collection of pens and highlighters, and putting a single pencil into someone’s drawer isn’t much of a joke.

On the other hand, grabbing a handful of mechanical pencils from the supply cabinet and putting them into a coworker’s drawer could be fun.

Done. Seven should be enough, don’t you think?


Racing the sun

Racing the Sun is a short film from Salsa Cycles, featuring Tim Ek, his ride in the 2013 Dirty Kanza, and why cycling is part of his life. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did.

(YouTube sometimes restricts videos to viewing in full screen mode only.)

You can also see the film and more on Salsa Cycle’s website.


Spring seems to have finally sprung for good now. Taking a peek at my cycle log, you will see that I am finally putting on miles on a bike that goes places instead of spinning a wheel in place.

My going places came to a noisy halt with a misbehaving rear derailleur. I assumed this was merely the new chain, rear gearset, and rear shifting cable all settling down a mere 109.4 miles after replacement.

Can we fix it? Yes we can…’t

So, I did the obvious thing: find a video online showing how to readjust my Shimano rear derailleur. (If the video does not display during playback, switch to full screen mode.)

Looks easy enough, right?

I shifted through all the rear gears to verify that the upper and lower limit screws were adjusted properly. Still looked good after 109.4 miles, so I moved on to adjusting cable tension.

I tried a couple of times, succeeding in making derailleur behave even worse. I watched the video again, and tried adjusting cable tension again. Another four or five times, I had to call it quits. Now the chain wouldn’t even make it all the way to the largest gear. Time to quit while I was ahead.

Madone shift cablesBack to the bike shop.

Moments later the true problem is found: crossed shifting cables. Ghostbusters don’t cross the streams. And bike mechanics shouldn’t cross shifting cables on a Trek Madone.

A few minutes later the cables were back to factory specs, and I was on my way home. Too late to ride, so that would have to wait.

Ready to roll… back

The next day I was more than ready to ride. It didn’t take long to be disappointed by a still malfunctioning rear derailleur. I tried a quick twist on the barrel adjustment, but still the chain skipped on downshifting. At least the bike was still functional enough for the short ride back to the bike shop.

I assumed my visit was going to be a quick in and out. Well, you know what they say about assuming. I lost count on the number of adjustments and test rides, but I refused to give up.

WP_20140413_006 madone rear dual controlFinally, the bike shop mechanic had a lightbulb moment. He asked me whether I pressed the downshift lever to the click or beyond. To the click and beyond, like I always did. He suggested a gentler touch and sent me out for another test around the parking lot.

Qapla’! (That’s Klingon for “success!” What do you expect, I ride a Trek.) Alas, too late to ride anywhere but back home. But now my rear derailleur shifts trouble-free once again.

Let that be a lesson

The next time my bike needs shop work on the rear gear set and associated cabling (which I could have done myself had I the time), I will be double-checking for crossed cables before bringing my ride home.

Now in 3D

Last weekend I headed to the grocery store for a cereal I couldn’t remember the name of, and apparently had been pulled from the store shelves. I knew it had flax seeds and smallish flakes, and I knew I’d recognize the box when I saw it. But, none of the boxes in the cereal aisle sparked any sense of recognition.

One the way home I spotted Target. Maybe I bought it there? Again, no spark of recognition. Strolling back toward the entrance, something in the toothpaste aisle caught my eye. The promise of whiter teeth.

Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor with sparkling smile in the opening titles for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (season 2)

Image © 1977, 1978 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

While I like tea and coffee, let’s just say neither contributes to having a Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor in The New Adventures of Wonder Woman sparkling smile. In fact, a glance in the mirror that very morning revealed just how non-sparkly my smile had become.

Oh, I’ve tried the whitening strips a couple times. Success was, shall we say, next to non-existent. Maybe if I had a set of perfectly aligned teeth. Maybe if they had adhered to my teeth the way the instructions said they would. Maybe if they weren’t so annoying while in my mouth, so I could stand to endure more than three days of treatment.

3D Crest® White® Brilliance toothpaste & Brilliance Boost polishing treatmentA sparkling whitish box captured my attention. Crest® 3D White® Brilliance Fluoride Anticavity Toothpaste with Illuminating Complex, Mesmerizing Mint flavor. It promised unlocked surface stains. It promised luster and shine. It promised world peace. It promised noticeable results after the first use. Well, OK, maybe not world peace.

Next to it, Crest® 3D White (no ®?) Brilliance Boost Polishing Treatment, and its promise of amplified whiteness. (Also, no world peace.)

I looked at the prices. Whiter teeth for about $12 vs. $35-60 for the strips. Basic tooth brushing vs. sitting around for who knows how long with strange-tasting strips uncomfortably covering my teeth with leaking saliva soaking my shirt.

Tooth brushing option: sold.

Green checkmarkLong story short, Crest 3D White Brilliance toothpaste and polishing treatment really does work, with the first treatment revealing the most dramatic results. I used both paste and polish every day, twice a day for about a week. About the only negative was that my gums felt a little irritated during brushing by the fourth day. I am back to regular toothpaste again.

Now that my teeth sparkle like Steve Trevor’s, I am sure Diana Prince will spin explosively into action, bringing world peace as Wonder Woman any time now.

Cycling habits: a questionnaire

Inspired by my previous questionnaire-inspired post, and Rick Helfrich’s questionnaire-inspired post, where he mentions his unquenchably quenchable thirst for other cyclists’ habits and provides the sordid details of his tabloid-worthy shocking revelation, I thought I would take a tour of Bicycling Magazine’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Poll.

Now the survey has already come and gone, so I don’t have the benefit of the actual questions. But the results show enough that I can limp along on a half-flat rear tire suffering from a poorly done patch job.

1. How many days a week do you ride? How many would you like to?
Where I live winter is still gasping it’s last, second to last, third to last–oh heck, winter will never end. But let’s pretend otherwise. The I typically manage one or two rides a week, but I’d love to be able to ride every day.

2. Where do you like to ride?
I like me a good road or bike path. Fortunately for me, there is a plethora of both near me. I do have to say, some cities understand the concept that a bike path should taper gently to street intersections. Others make the experience so jarring, that they practically force a cyclist into the street.

I notice all the event choices in the poll are races. I’m not a racer, but I do like me a good tour event. The Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride comes to mind for some reason…

3. Indoor cyclist?
See my answer to question 1. Usually, if I am on a stationary bike I am participating in some kind of cycling class.

4. Ridden to a job interview? Delivered pizza on two wheels?
I have never ridden to a job interview on my bike. In my college days, I did bike to work a summer or two. None of my jobs have involved pizza delivery, expect perhaps once or twice, from hotel kitchen to hotel room.

5. Would you rather…
Century or grand fondo? Century
Tour de France or Giro d’Italia? I suppose the Tour, but honestly, I don’t really keep up with the races. Maybe if the sports channels offered something other than football, baseball, basketball, and golf.
Chris Horner or Jens Voigt? Who?
Carbon or steel? I love riding my carbon steed, but I have to admit to wondering if steel would ultimately be more durable for long distance rides.
Quads or calves? Tough one. Looking down, my calves look pretty hot by the end of the summer. Looking in the mirror, my quads look better.
Shorts or bibs? I’m still a shorts guy. I have considered bibs, but when nature calls shorts are already enough of a production.
Roof racks or trunk racks? I have a trunk rack, think I would prefer a roof rack, but usually end up putting the bike inside the vehicle.
Sun screen or tan lines? Sun screen, no question. Firstly, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Secondly, my skin doesn’t tan; it reds and burns.

6. How many states and countries have you ridden a bike?
Two states and one country.

7. What celebrity rides/riders are on your bucket list?
None really come to mind. With the exception of Greg LeMond, all are all too far away. And really, I am sure Greg is much too busy to ride with the likes of me.

8. Are you in the market for a new bike this year?
No, I am quite happy with my Trek Madone 4.7. However, the more I consider going beyond century rides to brevets, the more I think a bike suitable for carrying more gear than can fit in a saddle bag the size of a couple fists.

9. Which gear trends excite you?
I don’t know if it counts as a trend, but I have had my eye on the Infinity Seat. I used to be far more excited about the seat, and even tried to order a couple months ago during the early bird sale. But, I could never get their shopping cart service to take my order, and my multiple requests for help went unanswered. Since then the people behind the seat have been tight-lipped on any real progress updates, and now there is confusion about what version of the seat the Kickstarter backers will be getting. Hopefully, the production issues will be resolved soon.

10. Your relationship with your saddle is…
A little complicated. I like the one I have, but I don’t think it is “the one.”

11. Have you been hit by a car while cycling?
No, and I plan to keep it that way. I have, however, had a couple close-calls. Both times the driver wasn’t completely paying attention.

12. Have you ever been issued a traffic ticket while cycling?
No, although I will admit to speeding. It’s hard to keep it at no more than 10 mph when the trail is wide open.

13. Have you ever broken a collar bone while cycling?
No, and I hope I never experience that. One guy I have ridden with on occasion suffered a nasty break that required hardware store’s worth of screws and metal to mend. I saw the X-rays. It didn’t look like fun to me.

14. Have you ever had your bike stolen?
Yes. It was my hybrid, a Trek 700. Stolen right out of the garage before I had even had a chance to ride it. I shared a garage with my neighbor, who had a habit of leaving the garage door on his side open. My dear bike was recovered by the police about a week later, both wheels ruined.

15. Which animals have you encountered while cycling?
A dog that came out of nowhere, growling, and chased me. Squirrels, though thankfully none had have decided to try running through my wheels. A couple deer, that thankfully did nothing more than stand by the side of the trail and watch me roll by. I have also had a couple bees or wasps collide with me. One stung my ankle with vigor, but apparently I was working hard enough at the time to have sufficient adrenaline available to ward off most of the venom. The other managed to sting me at the other end of my leg. Let’s just say I’m glad it wasn’t any farther up my leg.

16. This year you want to ride…
Faster, with less effort, for longer distances. Oh, and more often. I didn’t ride nearly as much as I wanted to last year. I’d love it if my wife or kids joined me on some rides, but cycling isn’t quite their thing. But I continue to hold out hope.

17. How do you recover after a ride?
If I am in reasonably good condition, such that a 40- to 50-mile ride doesn’t phase me, just give me some chocolate milk, a beer, and/or a snack. Or nothing at all. After a longer ride, a good hearty meal works for me. A good steak is extra good after a century ride.

18. How long to you stay in your cycling clothes after a ride?
Usually, I’ll peel them off and shower up right after.

19. When you ride regularly, do you…
Feel happier? Yep.
Fell less stressed? Probably.
Have more energy? Yes, especially on stairs.
Look better? Spare tire? What spare tire?
Think more clearly? I’m sure that’s debatable, no matter what.
Eat healthier? Possibly. Betting on it would not be prudent.
Play nicer with others? My wife has said so, so I will defer to her judgment.
Eat more? Yes, though not too much more.
Save money? No, not if I am riding with a group. Then I’m chipping in on post-ride buffets.
Have more sex? Might as well take advantage of the hormone boost!
See your friends more often? Yes, if riding with a regular group.
Forget things less often? I can’t remember.

20. What is your cycling soundtrack?
I don’t really have one. Indoor classes are all leader’s choice. Outside, nothing.

21. Is it OK to…
Latch on to a paceline of strangers? Sure, I stay uncreepy about it. It depends on the vibe of the group.
Wear compression socks? If you need them, why wouldn’t it be?
Carry a pet in a bike basket? Secure them in a kid trailer, please.
Skip a ride if it is raining? Of course.
Drop slower riders? It depends on the group.
Give victory salutes on solo rides? I am not sure I understand the question.
Wave to other riders? Of course. At least give a nod.
Ride without a helmet? Anything longer than that 30-yard maintenance test ride, no.
Change clothes in a parking lot? Do what you gotta do, but be aware of any eyes.
Leave your bike unlocked? That depends on the bike and location.

Extra: Do you shave your legs?
No. Is the supposed decrease in wind resistance even measurable? I doubt it.

Well, there you have it. More than I expected to answer, and perhaps more than you wanted to read. We have pedaling to do, after all.