Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Compulsive Mechanic's Best Friend

I have one very small Puritanical streak, and it has to do with cables. I don't like to see naked cable ends. Brake, derailleur, whatever... cover up those frayed, wanton strands! Nobody needs to see that!

That's why this is the best thing I ever added to my home workshop:

Mine are a different brand, but a cable end is a cable end is a cable end. They all work the same. And at under ten bucks for 500, how can you go wrong? That's... (counts on fingers)... less than two pennies each. You can even get them in anodized colors (for more money) if you want to get fancy and/or re-live the anodized excesses of your early-90s mountain biking youth (guilty). Note that they supposedly come in "derailleur" (skinny) or "brake" (fatter, with a rim around the open end making them look like tiny hats), but I've found that when applied carefully, the sleeker "derailleur" style fits just fine on brake cables too.

Here's why I love the paradoxically overindulgent-yet-trivial jar of 500 cable ends enough to waste this many words on it. You're working on a project. It's Sunday night, and you plan to ride the bike the next day. All the shops are closed, obviously. You just put on some fresh cables, snipped the ends, and now there they are, hanging out bare, just waiting to fray into a hundred little finger-poking strands (which are guaranteed to break off under the skin and annoy you for weeks before they finally work their way out). So now what?

Before I had the Big Jar, I'd have to scrounge around my parts drawer and/or the floor just hoping that maybe I'd dropped a cable end somewhere along the way. With the Big Jar, I don't worry. I know I have enough to last me until the end of days. There are hacks (from hot glue to solder to spoke nipples to duct tape) but it just feels right to reach into the jar, pull out a shiny new cable end, and gently crimp it over that fresh cut. Perfection. A shop wrench I used to work with actually crimped a pattern into the ends on bikes he assembled so he could tell "his" bikes when they came back for tuneups. I'm not going to admit to being that nuts, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind with every crimp.

I'm almost tempted to stick a few of these little buggers in my seat bag and cover up the naked cables I find on other people's bikes around town. Is that wrong?

(The only thing that would make these better is if they were knarps, just because I really like that word. Unfortunately, that's a cable doo-dad for an entirely different purpose. Knarps. Knarps. It should be an onomatopoeia for something... the sound of a spoke breaking? Or that noise when you flick your finger against a tire to see how much air it has? I dunno. If anyone has a good idea, I'll use it and see if we can make it "happen" through the Power of Blog.)

Monday, February 7, 2011


Bias alert: I am a Bruce Gordon fanboy. It started way back in 1995 when I was getting ready to do some self-supported touring. I had a perfectly serviceable Cannondale, but THE touring bike to own was one of Bruce's. Didn't help when I crossed paths with a kitted-out Rock 'n' Road Tour while on an organized ride. But as a poor college student, I put my lustful thoughts aside and tried to move on.

Years later, I was lucky enough to stumble into a used BG frameset in my size via the vast world of the Internets. I've since ridden that sucker over hill, dale, and whatnot, changed its configuration about a dozen times, scraped off a large percentage of original paint, had a fresh coat applied, and just generally loved the dickens out of it. So I was crazy-happy to see that Bruce and crew have posted a video history of the Rock 'n' Road family on their blog. With apologies to the Vimeo-haters out there (you know who you are), here it is:

A Brief History of the Rock 'n Road from Bruce Gordon Cycles on Vimeo.

Even as a Bruce fanboy, I learnt something from this video. F'rinstance, I had no idea why mine was just a Rock 'n' Road (like the white one in the video) when all the others I'd seen were Rock 'n' Road Tours. Now I know! And how cool is it to see Rock 'n' Road #1, in lugs, with Bruce's signature (gorgeous) seat cluster treatment? And a titanium, Rock Shox-equipped R'n'R with custom-machined fork crown and brace? Wicked!

I think I'm going to watch that again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Riding and Respect

Proving yet again that nobody has a research staff that reads as much (or has less to do) than The Cycle, one of our crack Interweb end-seekers recently directed me to this blog post about "the relationship between bicyclists and cemeteries." 

I'm not 100% sure where I land on this issue. I can completely understand that if you're in a cemetery paying respects to a loved one, the last thing you want to see is some fat, middle-aged Lance-wannabe doing sprint intervals in Lycra and tossing aside spent carbo-goo packets. But I think there are some compatibilities between cemeteries and cycling that need to be recognized and respected. Both are opportunities for quiet contemplation. Both can remind us of our small place in the world. And both -- for better or worse -- can remind us of our own mortality.

Several of the regular routes I used to ride with my dad featured spins through our small-town cemetery. In fact, I have vague, fuzzy memories of being towed among the tombstones when I was a toddler in a trailer behind his bike. We were never there to ponder the great mysteries of mortality... it was just a quiet, safe, car-free place to enjoy the world from two wheels, take in a view of the river valley, and stitch together the city streets on one side with the open country roads on the other. I had family there, under stones he would point out as we coasted past, the clicking of our freewheels lost in the buzz of cicadas. When I was old enough, he told me there were spaces among those stones for my grandparents and yes, even my parents. And long before I felt old enough, I laid him to rest among those stones.

So is it disrespectful to ride a bike in a cemetery? I don't know. Probably, in some situations. But when I visit Dad, it feels disrespectful to do it any other way.