Apr 20 2015

Bike Monday for April 20, 2015: Crossing the Salt Flats

Most poets pen an ode to spring sooner or later. Even the acerbic Philip Larkin — his “This Be The Verse” enjoys global notoriety, largely on the strength of the first line — succumbed to the blandishments of spring on at least one occasion, effusing at length about “bright-clothed Trumpeters, of bough, bush and branch,” not to mention “nodding gold [flowers], leaping and laughing in the boist’rous wind.” (And there was worse to follow.) Birds and greenery, the sun-warmed earth, new growth, the endless profusion of wildflowers… These are the strands from which poets weave their paeans of praise to the season of rebirth and renewal.

But what of the sandy, salty wastes that encroach on the shoulders of most northern roads at this time of year? The poets are curiously silent on the subject. But cyclists know this sign of spring all too well. In winter, town and county highway departments compete to see who can drop the most sand and salt. (This is especially true in towns where some upstanding citizen owns a sand quarry.) And there the salty drifts lie, in serpentine ribbons, until the week before Memorial Day, when the same highway crews — now armed with power sweepers rather than salt trucks — raise choking clouds of corrosive dust in an effort to remove the winter’s legacy before the tourists arrive in their free-spending thousands.

In the meantime, in the brief but joyous interval between the last snows of winter and the arrival of the first wave of holiday-makers, we cyclists are left to fend for ourselves, negotiating the salt flats (and the seemingly bottomless drifts of sand that accumulate at many intersections) as best we can. Good luck to one and all!

You're in Deep Sand, Sunshine

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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!

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