Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bonus century

Here's a "Run the Map" screen shot of the route.
Shelly went off for her annual Lake Tahoe trip recently so I found myself with a free day to ride! I decided to try a relatively flat century, heading heading out southwest into the Sacramento Valley, then turning north before swinging back to the east, pretty much avoiding any major climbs. Above shows my route as recorded by the Run  the Map app on my phone. The start of my ride took me across rural Loomis and through Granite Bay, eventually coming to Folsom to the American River Parkway, Sacramento's famous bike path which runs along the American River from Folsom Lake to Discovery Park.
Quiet morning on the ARP
Even though I've lived in this region for over 20 years now, you can count the number of times I've ridden on the Parkway on one hand! I'm a little too far for convenient use, plus there are plenty of rides around Loomis. Also, the stories you hear of crowded conditions and pedestrian/biker conflicts kind of turned me off. Fortunately, this Sunday morning was fairly quiet, even though I didn't start riding until after 8:00 AM.

As far as Lake Natomas, things were quiet, but it did start to pick up after that point, I'm glad I didn't start any later! Rode along for a while with another recent retiree and we chatted about retired life, etc. It was fun. I even saw a fellow on a heavily loaded Rivendell Atlantis! I complemented him on his nice looking bike, but I don't get why so many Rivendell riders go for the Wald basket thing!

I was concerned about finding my way onto the Garden Highway from the Parkway, but it actually turned out to be a piece of cake! Just before Discovery Park was a sign for Northgate Road. I took that, (northbound), crossed a bridge and immediately came to the intersection with the Garden Highway! How easy was that!
Heading up the Garden Highway.
The first stretch of this road is not so great, kind of urban jungle like, but before too long you're on the levee road running along the Sacramento River, (as pictured above).  So, all I had to do now was stay on this road until I hit Nicolaus! At first, there are a lot of eateries and bars on the Highway, but when you finally hit the I-5 overpass, you come to the end of a lot of services. There is a public boat ramp there with bathrooms and, (I think), water. I should have filled my bottles there because after that point, you have a long stretch with very few services.
At Verona.
Generally, the Garden Highway is a good road, however, the were a couple of areas after crossing the Sutter county line, where I encountered some incredibly rough road surfaces. I'm pretty sure these rough conditions led to the main mechanical problem of my ride, which I'll explain later.
Same spot in Verona, but this time looking across the highway at the Sacramento River.
The ride through this region is quite pleasant. Little traffic and nice scenery, with the rivers, (the Sacramento and after Verona, the Feather), on your left and farmland on your right. Very nice and rural, but very few services available.
For those who think California is all concrete and beaches...
Eventually, the highway brings you to Highway 99. At this point I was about out of water. Luckily, I spotted a golf course. The portion of the course next to the highway must have been the "back nine" because it was far from the clubhouse. A dirt service road ran from the highway to the course. On a hunch I dropped down that road and sure enough, saw a nice Igloo cooler mounted on a stand adjacent to the fairway. I quickly filled my bottles and scooted out of there. I don't think the golf course people would have minded, but I didn't want to wait to find out!
The little town of Nicolaus on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Soon I was in the little village of Nicolaus and on the last leg of my ride. It was beginning to get a little warm so I started looking for a place to buy an ice cold drink. Well, no luck here! Eventually I had to make my way all the way to Lincoln to get some ice!
I think I found the source of the rattling...
As I mentioned earlier, I did have one significant mechanical problem. I mentioned the very rough roads in Sutter County. At one point I was beginning to hear more rattling than usual and pulled over to check it out. Turns out my rear fender had split at the brake bridge! I used a bit of duct tape to hold the fender together. When I got to Lincoln I pulled the loose section off and tossed it. The forward section was still firmly connected so that remained for the rest of the ride.
Here's a close-up of the break.
This isn't the first time a metal fender has broken on one of my bikes. A stainless steel VO fender snapped in almost the identical fashion on my Motobecane Jury commuter several years ago. Hmm, I'm going to have to figure how to correct that tendency! In the meantime, I've ordered a set of SKS Longboards, (in beige!), to replace the alu fenders for a change. I have used the SKS fenders on my other Mercian and they seem pretty nice, we shall see. I'm riding the Mercian with no fenders for the first time now, and it's kind of nice for a change, but it wouldn't be so nice this winter!

"Run the Map" stat page for this ride.
Finally, here are some stats for the ride from Run the Map. I was pretty happy my performance on this ride, except for a little cramping I experienced in Sutter County. I'm becoming convinced that cramping is more a result of heat than of lack of training.

So this is the second century for me this year! This is a nice and not-too-brutal route, which could be done virtually any time of year, just be sure to have plenty of water!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My new project: Schwinn Racer hack

Doesn't look too bad from this distance...

I wanted a decent city bike to run errands on recently, in order to cut down on my dependency on automobiles. It seems like such a waste to drive a gas guzzling, polluting monstrosity just to go a mile or so to pick up one or two items.

I used to own a Schwinn Typhoon for that, but the design of that bike leaves a bit to be desired. It always seemed to be a lot of work to push that tank through town! And that was considered a middleweight!

Ye olde Typhoon.
I wanted something a little more elegant, something along the lines of the Raleigh 3 speeds. Indeed, I somehow developed a fascination with the old Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, so I started hunting on Craiglist for a likely subject.

The dear old Sturmey Archer AW 3 Speed hub!
I decided that I wanted to go with an older Schwinn 3 speed, ala the Speedster or Racer models because there seemed to be a lot of them around, and I wanted a pretty stout frame. Thanks to the patented Schwinn Electro-welding process, the Speedsters and Racers definitely were stout! Plus, the rest of the components on these models were above average, including the forged handlebar stem, decent quality "American" style one piece cranks and, of course, the Sturmey Archer AW 3 speed hub.

I suppose I have a little bias as well, for back in the prehistoric days of my youth, Schwinns were considered the cream of the crop by my circle of friends! I think I still look at old Chicago Schwinns in that light, although I really don't feel very nostalgic about the Varsity, (my first 10-speed!).

At any rate, it didn't take long to find a suitable subject. I found one on CL for $120. I went over and looked it over. Basically sound, but the the paint under the downtube had been destroyed! The right pedal also felt off, (turned out the crank was bent just a tad), but generally, a usable example of a Schwinn "Lightweight". I talked them down to $100 even and took it home.

When I first looked at the bike, I thought the bike looked almost complete. After getting it home and making initial adjustments, I was better able to ascertain what was needed. I found that a piece of the saddle's frame was broken. The fenders were pretty roughed up with some wrinkling that would have been next to impossible to smooth out. Also, there were a few dings in the steel rims which were original incidentally, the weird Schwinn size. Fortunately, a previous owner had found the proper tires and they were practically new! I could use these until I was ready to upgrade. The chainguard had a small dent which I should be able to straighten. Finally, I confirmed that there was indeed a bent crankarm.

A dent at the "C" of Racer, and the right crankarm had a slight bend.
 The paint, (coincidently the same shade red as my old Typhoon), is badly scratched up, especially under the down tube where hardly any of the color coat is left. The chrome is generally in good condition and even the red handgrips are in fine shape!

First upgrade! (A Brooks saddle with seat clamp inverted to accept it.)
After cleaning and adjusting the first thing I replaced was the saddle. The old Schwinn branded Messinger had a broken cross member. I wanted to use my old Brooks B17N for now. Although it's too narrow for an upright riding position, and has a broken bar, (I can clamp the break with the saddle clamp and use it for a while), I like having the hoops on the back for a saddlebag, and I like riding on a leather saddle. It's comfortable enough for short hops. In order to make the Brooks clamp work, I had to invert the seatpost so that a fat section of post presented itself to the clamp. Incidentally, at this point I should point out that there was absolutely no rust on the inside of the frame. Both the seatpost and the stem slid out easily. That's always a good sign when buying a old bike!

I did a little research online and discovered that this particular bike was manufactured in July of 1971, so when you think about it, this bike was in pretty good condition after 44 years! By the way, here's the link I used to find the bike's age.

I decided to replace the fenders since it would have been impossible for me to smooth out the originals. I was going to buy a new set of Wald chrome fenders but discovered that the Wald fenders only come in very wide or very narrow widths in the 26 inch size. Rummaging through my assortment of fenders, I found some Velo Orange 700C X 45mm Alloy fenders which looked very close to the original fenders in size! I only had to cut off a few inches from the front. The V-O fenders were a sort of dull silver, but a few minutes of buffing with "Simichrome" brought out a nice bright shine which came very close to the original chrome!

VO alu fenders getting a Simichrome treatment.
 In trouble-shooting the crank arm problem, I bought a new set of cheap pedals and installed them. The crank still felt odd. so I reasoned it was a bent arm. I then removed the pedals and took a long length of heavy steel tubing and, inserting the right arm into the tube, I gave a steady, hard push. This method probably only works on a frame as strong as the Schwinn's, but it does indeed work. Otherwise, I would have removed the crank from the frame.

So, here is my Racer in it's current form. The paint job is still hopeless. It will get a paint job in the future, probably a powder-coat. I also plan on getting rid of the steel rims. I found a set of Sun CR18's in the more traditional English 26 inch size...nominal tire bead seat diameter of 590mm...otherwise known as 650A! These are really nice rims and will increase the effectiveness of the rim brakes quite a bit. I haven't yet decided on what I will use for hubs for these rims. If the 3 speed on the bike now proves to be reliable, I will probably use it. If not, I will look for a more modern version of the 3 speed hub, or maybe I'll go with a 2 speed hub! Those look fun.

Shown here with the new saddle, fenders and pedals.
I have to say I am still betting used to a 3 speed, but I like it so far! It seems perfect for around town traveling. I would hesitate to go to 2 speeds because I find I use all 3 in this rig.

I've had a couple of minor problems with the bike so far. One is a popping sound that seems to be coming from the front wheel. I think the bearings may be binding, although I had adjusted them. When I did adjust them I noticed a fair amount of damage to the axle's threading, maybe there is some travel occurring  that is binding the bearings.

Another problem may come from my lack of experience with a 3 speed. I'm not sure it's adjusted perfectly. Sometimes the shift rod seems to hang until I shift the pedals back and forth. I'll have to play with it some more. Could be that the hub is a little sticky and may need more or better lubrication.