Apr 18 2015

Protecting Chainstays With Cable Wrap

Rear derailleurs tension chains, but whenever you ride over a bump, your chain will still flap up and down, and as it flaps it can easily strike your right chainstay. Chipped paint is the likely result. That’s mostly an aesthetic problem, though if you ride a carbon frame, chips can sometimes lead to cracks, and this isn’t good. I ride steel, as it happens, but I still protect my right chainstay with—wait for it—cable wrap. AKA “split harness wrap” or “pre-split corrugated wire loom.” No foolin’! I use the same stuff that Radio Shack sells to help you keep the tangle of cords behind your home entertainment center from taking over your living room. Here’s what it looks like:

Split Corregated Cable Wrap

I have to admit that it ain’t exactly elegant. But it does the job. It’s flexible, it’s tough, and it’s literally a snap to install. And it’s cheap. How can you go wrong? Just slip the split tube over the chainstay and the job’s done. Like this:

Protect the Stay

I bought a three-foot length from the local auto-supply store, measured out what I needed, cut it to length (I used sturdy scissors, but a knife or hacksaw will also do the job), and fitted it into place. Nothing could be easier. Just be careful you don’t cut it too long. If you do, the forward end may foul the teeth of your small chainring. I also cut a short piece—it’s just visible in the picture above—to keep the two spare spokes with which Surly adorns the left chainstay of the Long Haul Trucker from popping off on bumpy roads and bringing my rear wheel to an abrupt (and destructive) stop. Insurance never came cheaper.

Ride Lots

Of course, you could buy purpose-built chainstay protectors from a bike shop or mail-order supplier. But what if you’re on a tight budget? Or just fancy a no-frills look? Cable wrap works. And it leaves you with money in your pocket for something more important. Like new brake shoes, say. Plus, you can use the leftover length to corral that clutter of wires behind your computer. Win-win scenario, right? Right!

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Apr 17 2015

Photo Finish for April 17, 2015: End of the Ice Age

Eight weeks ago, The River looked like this:

Otter Playground

You say you can’t see it? Well, neither could I. But it was there, imprisoned in ice and swathed in drifting snow. Need proof? Look carefully and you’ll see the tracks of river otters.

Four weeks later, things had changed. The days were longer, and the ice and snow had retreated before the sun’s advance:

General Winter Retreats

And now? The River is flowing free, though there’s still plenty of snow beneath the hemlocks and cedars on the valley’s wooded slopes. But the only ice to be seen anywhere takes the form of stranded slabs, their substance rapidly succumbing to the power of the spring sun. Soon nothing will remain of them but meltwater — and that will be on its way to the Golfe du Saint-Laurent.

Stranded Ice

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Apr 16 2015

Dressing for Success: Are You a Frogman or an Amphibian?

From an Amphibian's Closet

The seasoned whitewater boater knows herself to be the butt of one of nature’s best jokes. The time of year when the rivers run fastest and freest is also the time of year when the water is coldest. So we armor ourselves against the chill as best we can, balancing our need for protection against the constraints of the household budget. But what of paddlers who confine their activities to more temperate seasons? Or those of us who use our boats as transport — boaters for whom canoeing and kayaking are not only ends in themselves, but also the means to other ends. Like fishing, say. Or photography. Or following in the wake of early explorers. Or simply drifting lazily wherever a gentle breeze takes us. Are we also condemned to spend our days on the water encased in rubber from nape to ankle, sweating for hours on end in the sun in order that we not shiver for minutes in an unexpected dunking? Or, to paint the picture in its grimmest light, in order that we not die in a capsize?

Those well‑meaning experts who urge safety at any price won’t hesitate in replying in the affirmative to this loaded question. And there’s no denying that they have many good arguments on their side. Who among us has the right to take any avoidable risk, after all? Who would wish to leave children unparented, spouses unhusbanded (or unwived), employers inconvenienced, insurers out of pocket? We are none of us solo travelers through life, are we? Others depend on us. We have obligations, responsibilities, creditors. Our lives are not ours to hazard as we see fit. QED. The conclusion appears inescapable.

And yet… There is a counter‑argument to be made. To be sure, it is both selfish and shortsighted. But it resonates nonetheless. Colin Fletcher, who often found himself defending his fondness for solo treks in dangerous and inhospitable places, flung a ringing retort at his critics:

[I]f you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone either — or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. … Wear wool next to the skin. Insure every good and chattel you possess against every possible contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half‑cripple the present. … And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.

Good advice, all of it. Especially the bit about wearing wool next to the skin. And that brings me to my point: There’s a middle ground between fecklessness and the full rubber jacket, and while this middling attire won’t suffice for early season whitewater, it should satisfy the demands of the reasonably prudent paddler in the months of the year when the sun is high and the waters are more or less clement.

So let’s take a closer look at the very different worlds of frogman or amphibian… Read more…

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