Watching Austin City Limits a couple of weeks back, I came across Brandi Carlile singing Madman Across the Water:
We’re somewhere in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak…
Brandi Carlile is here to save us.
I just went for a ten minute bike ride. It wasn’t planned. I jumped on my simple orange single speed and pedaled around the neighborhood at dusk. No gears, no kit, no prep (other than a quick tire pressure squeeze).
Would my road bike have been faster? Certainly. But the orange “crate” was the right bike for the ten minute moment.
I try to write ten minutes every day.
I try to post a photo a 365 photo every day, which takes about ten minutes.
What else can we do in ten minutes?
Kiss the dog
Kiss the spouse.
Consider your future.
Learn a language.
Make a small change.
I’m slowly sunsetting BeenThereBikeTours. Building the indexes of 600 or so bike tours around the world was largely powered by Google searches. But now and then I discovered an unusual tour that somehow Google hadn’t found (or at least weren’t on the first page of results). Here’s a collection of offbeat city bike tours that you might not find by Googling:
|Dallas||Dallas Brewery Tour by Bike||Self-guided|
|Denver||Bike Into Denver’s Past||Self-guided|
|Durham||Durham Mural Tour||Monthly|
|Lexington||Cycling Through the Centuries||Self-guided|
|Minneapolis||Hidden Music Landmarks||Self-guided|
|New York City||Bike the Boroughs||“Virtual” with Maps|
|Portland||Best Rides Around Portland||Maps|
|San Antonio||Brew Tour||Listing – No Map|
|Tampa||History Bike Tampa||Free BYO Bike for Monthly-ish History Tours|
Look for updates with whatever comes along post-BTBT.
My bike mechanic skill level is probably best described as “shade tree”. I know what I know and can pretty confidently change tires/tubes, adjust brakes and shifting, tighten spokes, mess with handlebars and steering, and keep things more or less lubed.
On a recent ride, I had stopped to enjoy the sunset from my usual “Big Hill Near My House” location. While I was waiting for the sundown, I noticed my rear quick release was open. It became apparent as I went to close it that the thru axle was loose. I’ve never paid much attention to how the thru axles connect to the frame, but it was obvious that whatever it screwed into wasn’t there any longer. The nut on the front fork appeared to be about the same shape as the empty “pocket” on the rear flange and assumed that’s what I needed to find. In the grass. In the looming dusk. Assuming that it had just fallen off. I quickly realized that was fruitless and began to consider whether I needed to walk home. I’d been riding an unknown amount of time with it missing, so after a careful test, I rode home slowly with frequent glances to check that the axle was staying in place.
Later, after the repair was complete, it occurred to me that the axle must have been loosening over a reasonably long period of time. The axle would (eventually) thread into the new nut completely. That said, I wonder if some recent “tuning” to the (not so) quick release might have started the process.
Before beginning the hunt for a replacement nut, I studied some photos of the bike, both that I’d taken and online at Diamondback.com. I wasn’t 100% certain that the front and rear nuts were the same, particularly given the difference in the flush mounted front fork and the rounded rectangle pocket for the rear.
Next stop, Diamondback’s online parts. And, of course, no thru-axle nuts to be found. I submitted an online support request and was pleasantly surprised to get both a prompt email and an actual phone call within hours. And, happily, Diamondback DOES sell the nut….in a kit located under the “derailleur hanger” category. A kit which costs $40+ after tax/shipping:
More google-age turned up one more option. The nut alone is available from Kinesis in the UK for a mere £2.92 (less than four bucks “American”!). Unfortunately, actually shipping TO America is north of £23 or $31 in greenbacks. If this part was for something non-mission critical (say, the washing machine), I would have gone the cheap route. But I really wanted to get my fast bike online for the quickly improving weather and upcoming SXSW.
This story is already longer than it should be, but there’s one more thing. Getting the nut to press fit into the frame was a bear. I spent literally hours on it along with using half my tool box. It has a tiny O-ring that serves the dual purpose of making it nearly impossible to seat and being the secret to retaining the nut in the frame. After a few more emails with DB, some advised “wiggling”, square holes and round nuts…it seemed to set into place.
Kudos to Diamondback for their responsiveness. A little less kudos for their kit “deal” of unrelated parts and spendy shipping. Kudos also to my local REI. The mechanic there spent some time chatting with me about the problem, followed up with DB, and ended up learning the same lesson as me.
A few years back, I started up BeenThereBikeTours, dedicated to finding every #citybiketour on the planet. I hoped, and still do, to ride and review as many of them as possible.
The website has (soon to be had) a blog, tour reviews and an index by region. For example:
There are over 600 commercial or regular city bike tours worldwide. And dozens more self-guided options. New York City, at 14, had the most in one city at last count. And there are tours in cities you might not think much about, like Kuching (in Borneo) or Da Lat (Viet Nam).
I’m not aware of any other website that has attempted to index them all. Unfortunately bike tour companies come and bike tour companies go. Keeping that list current with new tours and frequently validating that the listed companies are still in business has become more work than I’m willing to dedicate.
The real fun is actually taking bike tours and making up my own DIY routes. And writing the reviews is rewarding and helps preserve the memory of the day. For years, I’ve written personal “trip reports” for vacations. It’s a habit I learned from keeping a journal of my month in Germany when I was 17.
So…I’ve decided not to renew my hosting for BTBT. After June 10, 2019, BTBT and its indexes will be gone. On the bright side, I’ve transitioned the ride reviews here.
Most of the commercial bike tours are pretty easy to find via Google. For example, here’s Berlin. Unfortunately, the tricky part is that search doesn’t reveal some of the more offbeat tours and rides. Not to worry though, I’ve consolidated the best of them here.
Finally, I had originally hoped to attract some sponsors for BTBT. Unfortunately that has not happened. I don’t believe there is enough traffic to justify placing some Google ads. The net is that I’m spending time and money (hosting) for little benefit. Adios then to BeenThereBikeTours.
The city of Austin has placed usage counters on 20 of the city’s urban trails. The counters are able to differentiate between bikes and pedestrians. #19 at the south end of the Mobility Bridges and #20 at the beginning of the southern extension of the Violet Crown Trail are especially interesting for Southwest Austin.
The Mobility Bridge counter should see a considerable uptick when (if?) the city gets the south Mopac connector trails in place to the Industrial Oaks area. I had a chance to speak to city’s Urban Trails Program Manager recently about this. At least a portion of that connection will be via the YBC Trail.
The Violet Crown trail counter (#20) is at the northern end of lengthy run of new trail to the south including a new bridge en route to the Veloway.
I’ve been riding more often, some longer distances, and, occasionally, with others. Especially when riding with new Bike Austin friends, the need for speed has become more important. I especially noticed at the recent COTA ride that the drop bar riders definitely sped down the hills faster than me. Better bikes? More aerodynamic? Lighter weight? Probably all three and I started looking into a new bike. I soon ran into the “sportive/endurance bike” concept. I was hopeful that the relaxed geometry would make it easier to adapt to drop bars. I had never become comfortable on my previous drop bar ride.
First stop, Craigslist. I found this 2014 Diamondback in my size, and nearly new condition. I was pretty interested, this bike had Shimano 105, a carbon fork, and most important, it was the right size.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t budge on price (as of this writing, still on CL at $50 less than original). Later I did some more research on the bike and quickly discovered that Diamondback had some steep discounts on 2017 bikes shipped direct. I ended up choosing the Century 1, which was a full 33% off of list price and, seemingly, VERY similar to the Century 2 from Craigslist. I doubt that I could have committed to a bike that I hadn’t test ridden. But the Craigslist bike test allayed that fear. That turned out to be “not-exactly-right”.
I had mixed feelings about losing the carbon fork, but I was gaining disc brakes, wider tires, and a brand new bike for only $150 over the Craigslist Century 2, no tax, free shipping. Seemed like a no-brainer.
The bike arrived in about a week and required only minimal, “Ready Ride” assembly (wheels, handlebars, saddle, and pedals ) plus a couple of minor brake and derailleur adjustments. Of note, there were a few scratches/dings in the paint, especially on the seat post.
Assembly completed and I hopped on for a quick test spin and discovered a big problem. “Big” as in big feet. Both heels would hit the chainstays on every crank revolution. A quick glance at the rear of the bike revealed the problem.
The chainstays bend noticeably outward to accommodate the 11-speed cluster on the right and the disc brake assembly on the left. That, combined with size 13 shoes, was a big problem.
Googling “heels hit chainstays” revealed a lot of ideas and potential solutions.
Going clipless with this bike was already on my mind, but I didn’t want to invest in that until I was certain that the bike worked for me (Diamondback has a 30 day return policy). And, although narrower shoes and clip adjustment might solve the problem, I’m likely to stick with platform pedals since so much of my riding is urban.
Pedal extenders, most notably Kneesavers, looked like my least expensive option to continue evaluating the bike. I ended up ordering a slightly less expensive alternative from Amazon mostly “because Prime”.
Two days later, I installed the extenders, which worked perfectly, at least at first. My primary concern was that the extenders might shift my knees into an uncomfortable position. I compared my foot separation with my daily ride, a Trek 7.3 and it seems comparable. The crank arms on the new Century are narrower than the Trek.
A problem arose quickly, though, on the first ride. The right side extender began to creak. I was initially concerned that I had a bottom bracket issue, but tracking it down to the extender/pedal connection was pretty straightforward. A quick re-tightening solved the problem. Until the following day, when it returned and quick become louder as it loosened further. Another REALLY TORQUING things down seemed to solve that, at least for the moment.
Unfortunately, in the process of removing and re-tightening the extenders, I managed to cross-thread the steel extender into the right side aluminum crank arm. With an abundance of caution and after several tries, I managed to get the pedals and extenders re-installed VERY tightly.
Even though I seemed to have the situation solved, the stock pedals were, frankly, crap. And I still felt a bit uneasy about the double connection using the extenders. Surely, someone manufactures long/oversize pedals? Of course they do, and of course, Amazon carries them. Two days later:
Had to go for the blue 🙂
Turns out these platforms are the exact same length from the crank to the outer edge as the stock pedals + extenders.
Now that I seem to have the pedals worked out, it’s time to start working on my neck muscles and racking up some miles.
The best writers don’t just write — they constantly share what they know and what they’ve learned. Take Seinfeldia author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, for example, whose blog is a gold mine for aspiring and professional writers alike. Here, we’ve compiled bits of Jennifer’s advice on the craft and business of writing.
While researching for her upcoming book on Sex and the City, Jennifer interviewed Candace Bushnell, author of the series. She was inspired by Candace’s thoughts on point of view — that to be a writer, you need to have your own take.
If you find yourself with “writer’s block,” ask yourself: Why am I here? What am I trying to say? Presumably there’s something; if not, go do something constructive like cooking dinner or going for a run.
Inspired by novelist Michael Grothaus’ journey of quitting his six-figure tech job to write…
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“Punk rock” and “bike tour” are two phrases you don’t expect to see together. Throw in “history” and you’ve got the East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour. When I saw this in my news feed a few weeks back, I knew that I had to make the trip. The ride was co-sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and began looking for a rental bike that wouldn’t make me look like a tourist who’d escaped from Fisherman’s Wharf. Shout out to Golden Gate Rides who set me up with a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike that was perfectly suited to a long weekend in the Bay Area.
The sellout ride began at the museum in downtown Oakland. The 30 or so riders mingled prior to a welcome and pre-ride briefing from the WOBO board president, Chris. CBGB and Dead Kennedy T-shirts replaced the typical cyclist kit. And there was a bit of minor incredulity that someone would fly 1500 miles to participate. Each rider received a pocket-sized Powerpoint deck detailing each stop of the tour.
Here, and at each of the eight following stops, Kamala and Kate related stories “from the day”. Stories of starting bands, communal living, and less-than-normal rental practice spaces shared with semi-legal tattoo parlors and offbeat print shops.
More than half of the nine stops no longer resembled their punk rock roots, due to gentrification, remodeling, and new construction. This ride was not about sightseeing as much as about the stories. After each stop’s story, the guides played a song from one of the associated bands. There’s nothing like a punk rock soundtrack on a bike ride.
Here’s a quick video of the music portion at one of the stops:
(East-bay-punk-rock.mp4 upload to youtube and place here.)
One particularly interesting detail about gentrification stuck with me. Most of these neighborhoods were, at one time, inexpensive warehouse spaces or housing. They were often very ethnic and dubious of the punk squatters. Gentrification in the early 90’s hadn’t started, but Kate expressed regret that they didn’t try harder to build bridges with the existing neighborhoods.
The final stop on the tour was 924 Gilman which is a:
The route from OMCA to 924 Gilman was just under nine miles:
Stretching to Berkeley, the ride also provided a quick glimpse of some of the exceptional Bay Area cycling infrastructure, e.g. bicycle boulevards.
To top off the post ride, WOBO sent a playlist of the tracks played at the stops and during the ride:
02_Special Forces_South Africa.mp3
04_Neurosis_Double Edged Sword.mp3
05_Christ on Parade_Just Pretend.mp3
10_Fang_Berkeley Heathen Scum.mp3
13_Isocracy-2 Blocks Away.mp3
15_Operation Ivy_Junkies Running Dry.mp3
16_Mr. T Experience_Gilman Street.mp3
17_Blatz_Berkeley is my Baby.mp3
19_Lookouts_Big Green Monster.mp3
20_Screeching Weasel_Ashtray Song.mp3
Most of these titles seem to be available on Youtube.
Although this wasn’t a commercial bike tour, I’m including the usual:
What We Liked
What Could be Better
And, finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the East Bay punk scene, check out a new documentary titled: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.