My asthma medication costs $300 a month.

Just for Advair and Singulair, not counting the emergency inhaler at $40 a pop. That made me think about all the cool things I could buy with $300 a month.

  1. Join the Phil Wood wheel-of-the-month club!
  2. Order two custom Rivendells and have the money saved by the time they’re ready.
  3. Buy a sweet LED bike light. Every month. For the rest of my life.
That would be if I had $300 a month that isn’t spent on housing, food, utilities or beer.

I never did find anything cooler than breathing, though.

Skate deck pedal redux

**Update** These pedals are now available for sale from

A while ago I posted about the skate-deck platforms I made to clip into clipless pedals. I screwed old Eggbeater cleats into cut-out chunks of skateboard deck, then clipped the platforms into the pedals, so I could ride in regular shoes.

After more than two years of almost daily use on a couple different bikes, I finally broke one. The pedal pulled off the cleat on a hard pedal strike, stripping the screws right out of the wood.

I filled in the holes on both platforms with wood and glue, figuring to redrill a small hole and thread the screws in, but I chickened out, when I realized that the plug (a random dry stick, broken to fit) was a lot softer than the laminated skate deck.
Instead, I cut the pedals down to a smaller size, and drilled new holes.

The new size is about the same as a caged mountain bike pedal, but with a lot more contact area. The old ones were 3.5″x4.5″, and the new ones are 3.5″x3″.

The part I cut off was the curve I’d had in the originals. It was fine with all my shoes, except the Keens I got this year, so I wanted to try some skatepedals that were (mostly) flat.

In the course of the refurbishment, I sanded the old graphics off the decks and put on some varnish, so they look a little nicer. New grip tape would really round out the package. I’m still really enamored of grip tape for pedals.

Sheldon Brown

When I read that Sheldon Brown died this morning of a ‘massive heart attack,’ I had to take a break and go ride my bike for a bit. I only knew him on the internet, but he was “bicycling on the internet.” I feel for his family, and the people whose lives he was a part of in a more tangible way. That just sucks.
For us internet bike geeks, he really was a great personality, helpful and kind. He was directly responsible for me putting together my first fixed gear bicycle, and (I believe) a direct inspiration for the design of Quickbeam. How many bicycles and bicyclists did he inspire? 10,000?
What a loss.

I was bummed out all day, and tonight after dinner I semi-idly clicked into the new Facebook account I set up to reconnect with some old friends, and WHUF there was Sheldon’s smiling face. He’d befriendstered me over the weekend. It made me really sad, but it also kind of encapsulated his spirit – befriending people right up to the end.

Midge Bars

With a little help from various internet friends (thanks!) I drop-barified the Bontrager. Midge bars, Dia-Compe 287v brake levers for the V-brakes, bar-end shifters. The friction shifters seem to work fine with the 9-speed drivetrain, but I’ve yet to use them while tired and climbing on dirt. The stem extender is the key, here. According to Miles’ BikeCAD drawing, it would take a 180mm stem with a 52 degree rise to get the bars to the same spot.

I thought the bars were short in the ends, but the length is perfect with the bar-end shifters installed. Like they were designed for that. I did have to wrap the Planet Bike cork tape ‘foreskin’ fashion to cover up the scratchy bolts in the shifter pods, but it’s working okay so far.

Ahh… I think that’s the best look for the front of a bike. They seem to flare a little less at the ends than WTB drops, and the tops are wider. I think I can hang my Carradice “Junior” bag up there, which is too wide for the WTB bars.

I’m a dork. Portly, too.

How not to photograph a bike. Junky backyard crap and a dog’s tail! Zero contrast in the part of the shot you want to show off… can a bike photo get any worse?

Oh my gwad.

Canadian dollars are worth more than real dollars.

We’re completely screwed.

I see Matt Chester is planning on building bike frames again, which makes me pleased and happy. I’ve rooted for him ever since I saw his bike on fixedgeargallery and said “you bastard!” because he nailed my mtb-meets-roadbike aesthetic down to the ground.

What’s the German for ‘opposite-of-Schadenfreude’?

He had some hard times for a while, and stopped taking orders for frames, but now he’s getting married, moving to Canada and he’ll take new frame orders in March.
$2200 Canadian for a custom titanium frame. “That’s a bargain, eh? What is that, like $1800?”

No, y’hoser, it’s more like $2353.57!

Well! The opposite of Schadenfreude is mudita, taking delight in another’s well-being. That’s cool.

silver wire bar wrap finisher

DSC08006, originally uploaded by Philip Williamson.

This is the Quickbeam tape finished off with much much finer silver wire. I also spent a lot more time winding cleanly and put the loop underneath the bar where it doesn’t show.
There’s definitely some room for improvement in my technique to get a more uniform wrap, but it’s a lot nicer than the job on the Ross. I might like the look of the copper wire better, though.

Copper wire to finish off your bar wrap.

I aired up the Ross and oiled the chain to ride it to work today.
It takes four minutes to drive, six to ride. Then it takes a couple minutes to park, but can I carry the bike up into the office, where my new bosses also ride their bikes to work. Cool.

Unfortunately, the cork tape I’ve had on the bike for years and years (six?), and re-wrapped a dozen times has unraveled like the sleeve of time. When I came home for lunch I took five minutes to secure the ends, but couldn’t find any electrical tape. Also, I’m pretty sure the only tape I’ve got that wasn’t old when this bike was new is red, which doesn’t work with the severe black-and-silver Gondor theme I’ve got going here.
It’s a fairly plain bike, made of pure Allentown 1020, so maybe more a Lyle Alzedo / Oakland Raiders theme.

Anyway, I’ve never been a fan of the Rivendell twine finish for bar wrap, but I stole the basic principle and applied it to copper wire. I did a thrash job for a couple of reasons:
1. I’d already eaten lunch and only had a couple minutes until I had to be back at work.
2. As Pablo Picasso said, great geniuses are too busy breaking new ground to make things look beautiful. Leave that to the lesser artists.
3. I was going to change the bars tonight, but I blogged about the old ones instead.
4. Pablo Picasso was an asshole.*

This is what came out of the art bin, but I know I have some stainless steel wire. Which I bought for art purposes. Which is what I’ll use when I get fresh tape and put the moustache bars back on.

These are the essential tools: wire, needle-nosed vice-grips, dikes so old that little Dutch boy probably lost a finger to them. Beer.

Put down a loop of wire, and then wrap over it.

Wrap, wrap, wrap wrap wrap.
I went from the ‘far’ end toward the loop, leaving spaces but pulling tightly, then back and forth, dropping the new wraps into the old gaps. I crossed under the bar, so the top looked more smooth. Next time I’ll put the loop underneath, too.

When I was ‘done’ wrapping, I put the newly cut end through the loop I started with…
I’d been working off the spool, which was in my pocket – kept it close and corralled, but let it unspool cleanly.

Oh yeah: “um, started with…”

…and pulled the other (original) free end back underneath the wrap with the pliers. The loop part disappeared under the wrap, along with the captured second end.

Snip snip on each end, then kind of shove the one sharp end under the wrapping with the tip of the dikes and Bob’s yer uncle!
Copper-wire-finished bar wrap.

And it’s darkening outside… time to put the kid to bed.

*In his avocado el Dorado.

Illustration for Dirt Rag

Amanda Zimmerman, the new Dirt Rag art director, commissioned an illustration from me to go with ‘Last Chance For Gas’, which is the piece that closes the magazine. Amanda encouraged me slip in a cycling bird reference, too, which was fun.

We went back and forth with sketches of the inside and outside of the shop, and the narrator and the new commuter he sees outside. Finally it all came together with both, and I floated the panel anchored by the big rectangle of the window that separates the two people.

Calling the the shop ‘Paradise Cycles’ was about the last idea, when you’d think it would’ve been the first. My favorite part of the finished picture is the pile of tires on the left.

Great Divide Race

Update: Well, the race is over, two guys beat the course record, and several guys were laid low by dehydration. Praise be to folks who are smart enough to drop out before they damage themselves permanently. After the last couple years, finishing on a fixed gear is starting to seem… impossible. Nathan Bay, the only finishing singlespeed rider this year (and only the second after Kent Peterson?) finished 8 hours over the limit. Topofusion shows it as 8 minutes over, which boggled my mind at the unfairness of it all. :^)

Follow it here.
Read the posts from the bottom, one at a time. This would make a great movie, just the phone messages, some maps and lots of footage of the route. It would be hypnotic.

These guys are racing from Canada to Mexico down the spine of the continent. On bicycles. Unsupported. Everything they need, they carry on their backs.

Here are the stats from Topofusion, updated by Scott Morris (probably not the same one I knew at Sony). A lot of the positioning is best-guess, since they self-report from payphones to an answering machine, and some of them don’t seem to do much of that. Tom Purvis transcribes it all onto the GDR blog.

Dave Nice is doing it on a fixed-gear machine. Whoa.

It’s the only sporting event I’ve ever found remotely interesting, and I wish them all the best best best. Holy cow, man.


I almost didn’t make it.

My original sooper-genius plan (unencumbered by facts) was to ride my bike to Salem, take the train to San Jose for the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, rent a pickup from Enterprise and drive home with a bunch of plants we’d left with Sharon when we moved.

Ha. Haha. Enterprise only rents one-way in California. U-Haul costs $900 to go one-way from Santa Rosa to Portland. Five half-barrels filled with herbs aren’t worth it. Ryder is a bargain, though! $600 one-way. Most other companies don’t do it at all.

After much poking, I found that Avis rents one-way, and their biggest, most capacious vehicle is a mini van. That thing isn’t that mini, either. It’s a 6 cylinder Chevy with a long nose that looks more like a low-rider SUV than a mini van.
$150 dropped off in Salem, where I always get lost.

In the end, I drove my car, drove all around Salem looking for a bogus address before I found the Amtrak station. After 24 hours on the train, I was 7 hours late getting into San Jose so I got two hours at the show in a frenzy (but had a great time), went to San Rafael with Mark, had lunch with my Dad at Fred’s in Sausalito the next day, and got a ride (I drove) with him to Santa Rosa.
My train diary.

Belgian girl’s blog:

Monday morning I rented the van, loaded up with garden statuary, the Kaiserin Frederich rose Angelina waited a year to get, lots of art and art supplies, including four cases of letterpress type(!) and jammed home.Santa Rosa to McMinnville, new Personal Best of 9:45 total time, including a 45 minute Denny’s stop in Redding. Stopped to eat, stopped to pee, stopped for gas.

It took me about a week to recover.