Monday, April 25, 2016

The GT Outpost Gets (Another) New Life

It took some work to get the old GT Outpost into decent condition after being neglected for so long. Once the bike was undressed down to the frame, the components and frame were cleaned thoroughly with soap and water. After that, I attacked any spots of rust with the polishing wheel. The front derailleur and the original crankset were too far gone, so they ended up in the trash. And I figured this was the time to go ahead and replace the old, beat up rear derailleur as well. KC was kind enough to give me a spare Shimano STX RC rear derailleur and a Shimano XTR crankset, and I picked up a Shimano STX front derailleur from Queen City Cycles. Once everything was cleaned up, I bolted the components back onto the bike. Then I slapped a new chain on the drivetrain, ran new cables and housing, and dialed everything in.

I've developed a new-found respect for this bike as I worked on it over the past couple weeks. The triple triangle frame made with 4130 chromoly is pretty much bulletproof. It also has double eyelets both front and rear, so it's ready to handle loaded all-terrain touring. Many miles on the Katy Trail have shown that it rides beautifully on longer trips. And my best attempts at attacking single track have shown that it's highly versatile. While I don't ride it as often as I should, I hope to keep this machine around for many more years.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Overhauling the Outpost

I'm ashamed to admit that I've badly neglected my old GT Outpost. You know that nasty, gray, salty slush that hangs around on the roads after it snows? Last winter, I rode through that stuff and then hung the Outpost back on the wall in the garage without rinsing it off first. Months of continuous exposure to salts, moisture, and other scary chemicals from the snowy road grime left the bike in pretty poor condition. Most of the components are now covered in a thick layer of surface rust and there are occasional spots of heavy rust on the frame. Of particular concern are the chainrings and cassette, which will likely need to be replaced. The front derailleur is in pretty bad shape as well, but I'm going to try to salvage it with a thorough polishing and, if needed, some wood bleach.

Thankfully, most of the rest of the bike is in serviceable condition. The frame will need to be touched up, the wheelset should be fine after the hubs have been repacked, and the rest of the components should be in good shape after a thorough cleaning. It'll need a new cassette and a full tuneup, but Kenneth gave me some replacement chainrings a while back, so I should be able to get the bike back to ride-ready condition without too much hassle. It's been disassembled and the frame is now hanging in the repair stand, so it shouldn't be long now.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Next Pair of Gloves

If you've ever signaled a left-hand turn on a dark night and taken your lane with traffic approaching from behind, you'll have felt the apprehension that comes along with hoping - just hoping - that the car behind you has noticed you signaling your turn and isn't going to plow into you as you merge into traffic. Similarly, you'll also probably covet these new reflective crochet cycling gloves from VEEKA. I discovered these ingenious gloves via CycleEXIF, and I must say, they're right up my alley. Old school looks, with modern safety technology. Does it get any better?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pulling The Trigger On Clipless Pedals

Between commuting, weekend riding out in the county, training for RAGBRAI, and riding RAGBRAI, I'd estimate that I logged about 1,500 miles last summer. Over the winter, I began to ponder whether it was time to pull the trigger on clipless pedals. The increased efficiency afforded by clipless doesn't matter much when I'm bebopping around town, so my little halfsy clips with All-City pedals are perfect for that type of riding. But a bit of increased efficiency over the course of an 80-miler is non-trivial, so I decided to buy a pair of clipless pedals.

After suggestions from a couple friends - my sister's fiance, Steve, in particular - I decided to go with the Shimano A530 pedals. They can be used with SPD cleats, or flipped to be used as platform pedals, so they're very versatile and are highly recommended for touring. Plus, they look great and will work with my existing shoes, which require the two-bolt SPD-style cleats.

I received the pedals in the mail this week, put them on my bike yesterday, and took my inaugural ride with clipless pedals last night. I'm proud to say I didn't fall over! But give it's bound to happen eventually. At some point, I'd like to build up a touring rig and transition these pedals over to it, so I can go back to my All-City pedals for commuting and around-town riding on my Peugeot. For now, I'll probably switch out the pedals on an as-needed basis until I can hunt down a suitable frame or project bike.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On RAGBRAI - Better Late Than Never

I'm late getting to this - about 3 months late - but RAGBRAI was pretty awesome. On about day 5 or 6 of RAGBRAI, I was less sure about the awesomeness. Looking back now, without all the aches and fatigue, I see how much fun the whole thing really was.

For starters, our trip across Iowa from Cedar Rapids to get to the starting line at Sioux City was pretty crazy. We were pretty hammered by the time we rolled into town and while we were stuck in traffic, three elderly locals hitched a ride with us for a few blocks. They asked us what our team name was. When we told them it was Team HJ, they asked what it stood for.


They looked at each other, climbed off the bus, and didn't look back.

The next morning, we broke camp and hit the route. We were pretty happy to get out of Sioux City. The RAGBRAI kickoff party was kind of bogus; the lines for beer tickets were half-a-football-field long and the bars were packed. The final letdown in Sioux City was when we were nearly run off the trail getting to the starting line by a couple of event staff duders in an ATV. Things got a lot better once we were on the road eastward.

All the days of RAGBRAI kind of run together at this point. Sixteen hours of beer and whiskey consumption while putting down 60-to-80-plus miles each day will do that. We fell into a solid routine all week, though. We rode as a group as much as we could, but breakaways would stop before each pass-through or lunch/camp town to wait for stragglers (I was always one of the stragglers). The first couple days were a blast; our legs were fresh, we were only a few days into a very long hangover, and there was so much energy that it made every mile vibrant and exciting. The legs started to give out starting sometime on day 3, and it took hard partying, great company, and beautiful scenery to keep the energy up. Days 6 and 7 were surprisingly great, though. We finished hard and killed some pretty bitchin' climbs. Those two days felt almost as good as the first two. We even went off route for a bangin' bridge party that caused us to get into camp super late that night.

It would have been even better if I hadn't been the guy that was constantly stopping to repair flats. I flatted a total of 6 times, and spent a fortune on overpriced tubes. When I got back home, my first order of business was to ditch the Paselas and go back to my tried-and-true Kendas.

We rolled into Davenport on day 7 totally wiped, loaded the bikes on the bus, and headed back to Cedar Rapids to unload, party, and crash.

If I had to guess, I'd say I'll probably ride RAGBRAI again someday. But as much as the event itself, I also enjoyed the training. This was the first year that I've spent a lot of time out riding high-mileage routes and joining group rides. Even if I don't do RAGBRAI next year, I'm going to try to spend more time in the saddle and drink a few beers along the way.