Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Crash, bang, kiss

As predicted, the weather is kind of crappy, with temperatures down to 50 F (10 C), blustery winds, and, of course, rain. That little wipeout put a spanner in the works: I'm still trying to revive the GPS unit (the buttons don't work); the valve of the front wheel's tire tube tore. i.e. it is unpatchable. In addition, the circa 1996 Specialized MTB pump can't pump up to the new 26' x 1" tires' 120 psi working pressure, necessitating the purchase of another pump. The hard cider isn't helping me make sense of the map, but it's sure as hell making me feel better :-P

How do the locals put it?

Cheers, mate!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rain and night

'Ran into an Ugly Singaporean at the check-in line: this gentleman in his mid-fifties, in a safari suit and gray hair, was straddling the space between two counters. When I politely inquired if he is was in line, he gruffly replied, "These two lines are mine." I was in too high spirits to be annoyed by what was basically Ah Pu's retired relative with a terminal case of dandruff, instead, when a counter opened and he rushed headlong towards it — overstuffed luggage (bursting at the seams) and red jacketed Singapore passport in hand, I cheered, "Run! Run! The ship is sinking! Woman and children first!" And made the old fool a laughing stock.

Ah, what a start.

Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog: nobody really enjoys it, and the frog generally dies as a result. (E. B. White)

After touchdown.

It's nice to feel temperatures in the 60s F (16 C) again, despite the rain.

A panorama of Swan River from the top of Kings Park. 'Shot this after a nice, dark (if drizzly) climb up quiet avenues from the campus of the University of Western Australia. Trivia: Kings Park is significantly larger than New York's Central Park.

'Paid a price for that picture though: during the descent, dark roads + speed + slicks + rain + wet leaves = wipe out city. The buttons on the GPS unit stopped responding and there's a leak somewhere in my rear tire. The ballistic AccuCase for my camera paid for itself by protecting the camera from the impact.

Oh, by the way, I didn't have a cell phone on me, and neither did I need one — still managed to limp back. If Reinhold Messner can summit Mount Everest solo, during the monsoon in 1980, when there was no one else on the entire mountain, without a cell / satellite phone, then I can jolly well make my way back from a hill in the middle of a city without one too. (I know it just kills the sheeple out there to hear that :-P )

Friday, July 27, 2007

Don't do this now!

Here's Ivy, feeling a little top-heavy (in more ways than one).

NOTE: video possibly not safe for work (NSFW) — explicit language.


       MURPHY:  OH WHAT THE F**K???!!!

       EDDIE:  Murphy, you broke it!


       MURPHY:  You better not have broken my freaking keg!

       MURPHY:  You f**king broke it.

       MURPHY [squeals]:  AHH! YOU LITTLE C**K!

       MURPHY [High pitch]:  AHH!

       MURPHY [Higher pitch]:  AHH!

       MURPHY [Even higher pitch]:  AHH!

       MURPHY [Going for soprano]:  ARGHHH! NOOOOO!

       MURPHY:  I have it on camera so I know you did it.



(I watched this 11 times.)

Drink one for me!

See you later, folks!


Mary on fire

Mary McConneloug, racing for Kenda / Seven, is crowned Queen of Cross Country (again) at the 2007 US National Mountain Bike Championships.

Mary McConneloug is my alumna from Santa Clara University :-D

Go Broncos!

After earning a degree in music, specializing in vocal performance (and earning her keep by waiting tables in-between singing in choirs), she took up mountain biking and went from Sport to Pro in one year:

My first year, I did two races as a Sport class rider then moved up to Expert. I decided to upgrade to pro because one day I beat the pro rider and got a tee shirt instead of the money.
      (An interview with Mary McConneloug, Nov 20, 2004)

Later, she competed in Olympic mountain biking in Athens, and finished 9th in the Olympic finals.

fi’zi:k fans rejoice: Mary was using a fi’zi:k saddle when she bagged the 2007 US National XC Championships.

Mike giving Mary's bike some TLC.

Some of her cycling honors:

       * 2003 US National XC Champion
       * 2003 NORBA National XC Champion
       * 2004 US Olympian
       * 2004 Afxentia Stage Race Overall Champion
       * 2005 US National XC Champion
       * 6 UCI World Cup podium finishes
       * 2007 US National XC Champion

Follow Mary's adventures here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Merlin Cyrene: ageless, grace in motion

There are moments in our lives where everything around us comes together to create perfection. The humidity is down, the sun is up, the temp - just right. It's that spiritual nirvana that recharges the spirit within. You are on your Merlin Cyrene and there's not another soul in sight. The pressures of the world just melt away as you glide through the countryside as if you were the wind. The seemingly effortless power transfer makes the Cyrene feel almost self-propelled and you are just along for the ride. Beautifully sculpted seatstays soften the vibrations of the road, yet keep firmly connected to the powerband. This richly engraved frame is a rolling work of art that some would put on a pedestal. But you won't. It would be a sin to lock this bike away. This bike is made to ride. It just rides more beautifully than any other in the world.

A little background to her namesake: in Pindar's Ninth Pythian Ode, the Thessalian nymph, Cyrene (Kyrene, or Κυρήνη), is granddaughter to the river god, Peneus, and daughter of the King of the Lapiths, Hypseus and Chlidanope, a Naiad. Renowned for her beauty and strength, peerless in hunting, Cyrene, an attendant of Artemis, was untouchable — eschewing romance, preferring the freedom of the hills and dales.

One day, Cyrene wrestled and fought off a lion attacking her father's sheep. The god, Apollo, who happened to be passing by, saw this and immediately fell in love with her. He spirited the lovely nymph across the seas to the coast of North Africa, where the god seduced her. Together, she and Apollo had Aristaeus, who became a minor agricultural god. Apollo built her a city after her namesake, Cyrene, and made her mistress of it. The region, Cyrenaica, is also named after her. In addition, Apollo also granted Cyrene a long life.

I first laid eyes on Merlin's Cyrene at my favorite local bike shop (LBS) in North California, Cupertino Bike Shop (where I acquired Ivy, a 1996 Stumpjumper FS). Over the years, I would return to gaze in admiration over each new improvement of Merlin's stable.

However, it was at the 2006 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, where Merlin took the leap to full engraving of the Cyrene, that took my breath — and stole my heart — away. No gaudy, loud, eye-frying decals or stickers which hint at a newcomer's insecurity — just understated elegance. Confidence.

An approach reveals intricate, unbelievably beautiful, flowing arabesque detail, on the finest brushed titanium.

Drive side of the Cyrene: there is a total absence of decals on the entire frame. Gone is the traditional headbadge, even the company's logo is engraved.

A close up of the head tube.

No paint to scratch or chip off; no decals to peel or flake; just titanium.

A close up of the non-drive side.

Chainstays. Dropouts are forged from 6AL/4V titanium.

Bottom bracket, down tube, seat tube, even the chainstay bridge, all are engraved.

A high resolution picture of the Merlin Cyrene.

An acquaintance once remarked that I am not so much a cyclist as a collector. I am not sure I disagree. I love beautiful things. I love handmade things. Every quarter, when the professors hand out the reading lists, I fork out the additional expense for the hardcover editions. I own a circa 1835 leather-bound book of poems by Keats. Sure, you can download the entire contents of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems off the Internet in a few seconds, but how can mere pixels on a cathode-ray tube or a liquid crystal display even begin to compare with yellowed leaves which have endured more than one-and-a-half centuries; of thousands of slaughters, wars; and a billion tears, cries, and deaths? In Sun and Steel, Yukio Mishima puts forth that material objects take on the essence of memory and emotions through the passage of time. Thus, a thousand-year-old cabinet becomes more than a mere cabinet, it is now a distillation, a (partial) representation, of the past thousand years — an ark of memory.

In my book, form follows more than mere function.

Imagine this: a bicycle geometry designed by one of the greatest pioneers of titanium bicycles, Tom Kellogg; a frame custom fitted to your unique body dimensions, cycling habits, and personal preferences; forged from beyond aerospace spec titanium; hand mitered and welded by master craftsmen; hand polished and brushed, and then painstakingly hand engraved, leaf by leaf, swirl by swirl, on every tube. All titanium. All for you.

This isn't "Ti-fever."

This is love.


Pulley TLC II

After reading Pulley TLC, some readers requested more information, so here are some pictures and instructions. Of course, these pointers assume that the reader possesses a modicum of mechanical aptitude — well, at least enough not to have his/her extremities hacked off by the derailleur mechanism while removing the pulleys, or getting his sexy goatie sucked into the chain and being asphyxiated. If in doubt, please bring your bicycle down to your friendly local bicycle shop (LBS) and have the mechanics do it for you (in which case, I suggest that it is cheaper to purchase a new pair of pulleys instead).

Whilst Ivy employs a 1997 Shimano RD-M950-GS rear derailleur, Cloe uses a newer 2006 Shimano RD-952-SGS. The pulleys between the two models are not interchangeable: the older RD-M950 pulleys have 10 teeth, while the RD-M952 pulleys possess 11 teeth.

The G-Pulley (or Guide Pulley) sits closest to the cassette / cogs; when mounted, it has some axial float. The T-Pulley (or Tension Pulley) sits at the end of the derailleur cage; when mounted, it has no axial float.

Bent-nose tweezers is a very useful tool to have here.

Squirt some plastic-safe degreaser (Finish Line makes a good product. The child-resistant locking tabs are a PITA though.) on an old toothbrush and scrub off the crud and grime from the pulleys. Rinse off with warm water. Don't worry about getting degreaser or water in the bearings — YOU WILL — but you are about to service them anyway.

G-Pulley. The metal shields should be loose enough to drop off when the pulley is flipped over; if not, use a magnet.

Using the bent-nose tweezers, gently press the axle (NOT THE SEAL) of the G-Pulley until it comes to the end of its travel. A 2 mm gap between the seal's inner lip and the end of the pulley axle will be exposed. Do not push any further.

Now flip the bent-nose tweezers over, slip BOTH prongs under the inner lip of the seal, and gently but smoothly pry the seal off by rocking the tweezers back. The seal should pop off. You want to be gentle here and not deform or tear the seal.

Place seal #1 in a safe place.

Carefully turn the pulley over and use the bent-nose tweezers to push the axle and bearing assembly out.

Place axle and bearing assembly in a safe place.

Now repeat the earlier process to remove seal #2.

Clockwise, from the top. Seals #1 and #2 removed. Bearing assembly. Pulley axle. G-Pulley.

Be careful with the bearing assembly. The bearings are about 1.6 mm (under 63-thousands of an inch) in diameter and would be near impossible to find if dropped. I use a transparent plastic vial with some degreaser (or denatured alcohol) to remove the grease and contaminants.

The G-Pulley axle is bisected lengthwise by a C-clip. This is what limits the axle float of the pulley. Nothing is to be gained by removing it.

Dust shields, axle, seals, bearing assembly, 16 ball bearings (8 already re-inserted into the bearing cage), and pulley, all cleaned, degreased and dried. The Delrin™ bearing cage splits into 2 identical, locking halves. The AA-sized battery is there for a sense of scale.

Re-insert bearings into bearing cage. Put a dab of grease on the reverse side of the bearing cages and gently press the opposing halves of the bearing cages together to form a single unit.

Place bearing assembly in a safe place.

Dab some grease on the outside of the axle.

Gently slide the entire bearing assembly over the axle.

Place seal #1 over one side of the pulley and gently press the seal in place. A little grease might help. The seal should pop into place.

Using a Q-tip, smear the outer race of the pulley with grease, placing extra grease at the bottom, at seal #1. Check for lint after you are done. A foam-tipped applicator (e.g. commonly used in cosmetics) is a better tool as it doesn't leave lint behind.

Using the bent-nose tweezers, lift the entire bearing and axle assembly and drop it in place. Ensuring that your tweezer tips are pressing on the bearing cage and NOT on the bearings, gently press bearing assembly half-way down. Some grease may ooze out, this is normal.

Using a grease gun, fill the gap between the top of the bearing cage and where the seal goes with grease.

Now grasp the pulley, take seal #2 and gently press it into the place. Some grease will ooze out, this is normal. Clean up the excess grease.

Replace dust shield #1.

Turn G-Pulley over and replace dust shield #2.

You are done with the more difficult pulley. Place it in a safe place.

Try to resist the unbearable urge to call everyone in your phone book to brag about what you've just done, they'll hang up on you.

Time to work on the T-Pulley.

Use a thin, sharp tool, such as a utility blade to pry the dust shield off. Very little force is needed. I simply use a fingernail.

Flip the pulley over and repeat for the other side.

T-Pulley with dust shields removed.

Using just ONE prong of the bent-nose tweezers, insert the tip from the inner (axle) side of the pulley and lift. Do not use a blade here as you will cut the seal. Be careful not to tear the seal. The seal should pop off with very little force.

Place seal #1 in a safe place. Flip pulley over and repeat for the other side.

Bring the dust shields, seals, and the pulley to your parts washing basin / sink, use some degreaser and clean them with an old toothbrush. Rinse with warm water and dry.

After everything is DRY, repack the bearings with new grease. Again, a grease gun manages the job with a minimum of fuss and waste.

Grasping the pulley, take seal #1 and gently, but firmly, press it in. Again, some grease will ooze out, it is normal.

Flip the pulley over and do the same for the other side with seal #2.

Using a Q-tip or cosmetics applicator, remove the excess grease. Ensure that no lint is left behind.

Firmly press in the dust shield onto the axle.

Do the same for the other side.

Place T-Pulley in a safe place.

Clean the derailleur cage, pulley bolts, and reassemble everything (remember to include the chain  :-P ). Place a tiny dab of Loctite™ 242 (or better yet, if you can find it, 243) on the pulley bolts before installing.

You are done.