Thursday, November 30, 2017


Every once in a great while, the Mechanical Gods cut a big slice out of the humble pie, glop some hubris on top, and force-feed it to me. Here's a prime example:

Ugh. Just looking at that photo again makes me throw up in my mouth a little. What you are seeing is one end of a no-longer-produced-and-increasingly-rare/somewhat-coveted Salsa Bell Lap handlebar. I picked it up as part of a long-forgotten Craigslist bike purchase (seeing a trend from my last post?), but at the time of purchase, it didn't look like it had lost a battle with a rechargeable drill. In fact, it was nigh on pristine, a real survivor.

So what happened? Near as I can figure, when I installed brake levers on the bar, the mounting bolts were too long and protruded out the back side of the clamp, drilling into the bar before they could sufficiently tighten the levers. How was I so stupid and ham-fisted that I couldn't feel that happening? I have no idea. The multiple puncture wounds tell me that I was that stupid and ham-fisted not once, not twice, but thrice (and the not-pictured other end of the bar provided evidence of yet another thrice).

Thankfully, I was struck by the urge to swap these bars to another bike and discovered my stupidity before putting too many miles on them in this condition. Talk about the mother of all stress risers... it wouldn't have taken too many cycles of my girthy torso flexing them to snap the ends right off and send a mouthful of expensive dental work to the pavement. I took a hacksaw to them multiple times before throwing them in the trash just to ensure that they will never grace a bicycle and risk someone's life and limb again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Project Update: Klunker v2.0

Just popping in to show off the progress of my recently acquired cruiser/klunker/olde school MTB project. It's looking pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (and I do):

Kickstands make garage posing so easy.

Changes since this steed last graced these pages:
  • Disintegrating cruiser whitewalls replaced with Tioga PowerBlocks.
  • Similarly disintegrating foam grips replaced with some from my stash.
  • Rubber block pedals replaced with big BMX flats.
  • Several tons of steel seatpost and couch saddle changed out for an aluminum post and slightly more svelte saddle.
  • Original chromed steel bars swapped for aluminum ones with slightly less sweep.
  • Added a full front/rear BMX caliper brakeset (with cable zip-tied on, because I've made peace with the zip-tie -- and it is a klunker, after all).
  • Accessorized with a bottle cage, lights, and a bell.

I also dropped the stem a bit to give a more balanced riding position -- still far from what I'd consider aggressive, but at least I don't look like I'm doing the shopping cart when I ride it. In a completely vain and superficial bonus, I think it makes the front end look more retro-MTB cool (those chubby blackwall PowerBlocks help too):

Since it still has the original 3-speed coaster brake wheel, I have a bit of brake redundancy in the back with the BMX rim brake. It's been so long since I rode a coaster brake regularly that it just isn't as natural to me as reaching for a matched pair of brake levers. Plus, since this will likely be my snow bike, an extra means of slowing down in sloppy conditions isn't such a terrible thing.

If it's truly going to be a utilitarian city brute, it probably still needs some means of carrying stuff, but for now, I'm happy with keeping it (relatively) stripped down and wearing a backpack if necessary. The nice thing is, most of this stuff came from my stash, so I was able to customize it to my somewhat eclectic whims without driving up the total cost too far. Bless you, Craigslist and deep parts boxes.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Looks Good on Paper: The Public V7

One of the downsides of being an amateur/armchair bike blogger is that nobody's clamoring to send me stuff (especially bikes) to review. After all, what's the benefit to the bike company? They spend money to ship me one of their bikes, and I either like it (which about three readers will see) or I hate it, thus branding it as a dud to every casual Googler from here to eternity.

One of the upsides of being an amateur/armchair bike blogger that nobody's clamoring to send stuff to, however, is that I can wander around the vast internets and choose stuff that looks good to me without all the hard work of actually riding and reviewing said stuff. Sure, it's a clear-cut violation of my own Advertising & Review Policy, but that's why I included the "mutable at my whim" clause. So, consider it muted for this post, as I give you the (never ridden by me) Public V7:

(Image horked from Public's site, where you can learn more about the bike.)

During a recent globe-trotting, the hotel where I lay my head kept a small fleet of remarkably sensible-looking bikes on hand for guests to borrow. I never did, but I was intrigued enough by them to internet-stalk the maker and model, and it turns out it was this here Public V7, wearing the hotel's logo.

To me, this simple steed (and any number of hipster-bait, Americanized-Dutch clones) is all the bike most people need. In fact, if I'm being honest, it's probably all the bike I need. Here's what I like:
  • Chubby tires for comfort.
  • Fenders to keep your butt dry.
  • Upright riding position for (again) comfort.
  • Easily adjusted and maintained dual-pivot brakes.
  • Simple, user-friendly 1x7 drivetrain.
  • A chainguard to keep your pants out of said drivetrain.
  • Stylish/non-garish paint and decals.
  • Brazeons for carrying stuff.
  • Bolt-on hubs to thwart wheel-thieves.

Being a picker of nits, I would tweak a couple things, of course:
  • Threadless steerer, please, even though I know it kills the traditional/retro look. I just like 'em better.
  • White tires? And white Kenda Kwests (Tires of the Zombie Apocalypse) no less? Double pass. They'll look like crap after one ride, and ride like crap forever.
  • I'm meh on the brown saddle and grips, but that's aesthetic, not functional (yet they had me at color-matched rims, which is probably just as silly).
  • $500 MSRP, while perfectly reasonable for the feature set, is still pretty steep for the casual "not bike people" audience this thing is targeting (there's a singlespeed version for $100 less, but then you're trading versatility for simplicity and cost).

Again, I cannot stress enough that I have never ridden a Public V7. For all I know, it could go down the road like a walrus in labor. But it ticks many good, sensible boxes... and if someone from Public (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) happened upon this review and wanted to help me make it more exhaustive, I certainly wouldn't refuse a visit from the Big Brown Truck.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

All Hail the Humble Dork Nut

Technically, it's called a presta valve nut, and if you're unfortunate enough to haunt the online bike forums, you've likely heard its utility/necessity debated ad infinitum and ad nauseum. It's the (usually knurled) metal donut that comes with every presta valve tube, designed to be threaded onto the valve once the tube is installed.

What's it supposed to do? Shoot, I was a mechanic for years, and I've ridden presta valves since the days I was tight-rolling my jeans, but I have no idea. I suppose it keeps you from pushing the valve down into the rim when you put a pump head on it (which, 99 times out of 100, the air pressure already in the tube will do, and in the other one time, your hand can suffice), or maybe it keeps the the valve perpendicular to the rim if your pressure gets low and the tire/tube rotates on the rim (though in that case, the valve is just going to get ripped out of the tube, a slightly more troubling development than a valve at a 70-degree angle).

In my experience, the only thing a dork nut does when installed in its intended location is slowly loosen and rattle. Thus, I don't use them on my wheels as designed... but I save and hoard them like precious currency. Why? Because they make great spacers. To whit:

Installing a bottle cage on your seat tube but the stupid front derailleur clamp is in the way? Dork nuts to the rescue! Note how one dork nut installed between cage and frame on each bottle brazeon creates just enough space to clear the clamp on my trusty Rockhopper. The knurled-ness just adds a bit of custom bling beyond an (equally functional but not as pretty) stack of washers. One is sufficient on the thin steel clamp of the vintage MTB front derailleurs I prefer (like the one shown), but you might need a stack of two per brazeon for the clunky clamps of Shimano's more modern offerings. Just make sure your bolts are long enough to engage the brazeon fully.

Another place where I often use a dork nut (though not on the current fleet, so you'll just have to imagine it without one of my terrible photos) is on the driveside rear rack/fender brazeon. If I install a rack or fender and find that the bolt protrudes beyond the brazeon enough to keep the chain from engaging the small cog, I'm usually way too lazy to find a shorter bolt or cut the one I have. A dork nut under the head of the bolt takes up that extra space with minimal effort, and I'm good to go. You can also hide the nut between the brazeon and whatever you happen to be mounting, but I'd be wary of doing too much of that with something load-bearing like a rack. Will a couple millimeters of extra leverage on that bolt really matter? Probably not, but why chance it?

Minutiae? Sure. But it's a good hack using something you probably already have littering your garage floor, at least if your garage floor is anything like mine.