Archive for September, 2006

Flats, flats, flats

My participation in tonight’s Critical Mass cut short. Miserable weather. Cold and wet. Still, I was comfortable enough in my waterproofs. The sticky feeling the Marmot Precip pants give me is already starting to feel normal enough that I don’t notice it. Supposed to be Oktoberfest-themed route, passing by famous Chicago brewing locations. Somewhere just north of Webster on Halsted I discovered that my rear tire was flat again. Third flat this week. All three were on the back wheel. So much for “puncture-resistant” Serfas Seca tire. Every tire is puncture-resistant for a given value of puncture-resistance, I suppose.

I did not fancy looking in the inadequate street lighting for whatever small piece of glass was embedded in the tire, and my headlamp is even more inadequate than the street lights (it serves mainly for motorists to see me rather than for me to see the road), so I decided to take the CTA back and scour the tire for the offending piece of debris back home. Perversely, I actually enjoyed the walks in the rain, wheeling my IRO, from where I flatted to the Red Line station, and then from the #6 bus stop to my apartment. I felt like I was taking an after-dinner stroll with a friend. My best friend is the IRO. Quiet and useful, what more could I ask of it? Those strolls were probably the highlights of tonight. The highlight of the Mass itself was when someone offered me a chocolate chip cookie. I normally have little love for the oversweet calorie bombs but in the cold and wet, surrounded by hundreds of other cold and wet nutcases, it was a moment of bright sensory warmth. Perfect, as the person beside me who had also accepted a cookie said.
Turned out there were numerous tiny gashes on the tire. One of them went right through the casing and had the piece of gravel still stuck in it. That was probably the culprit. At least the tire seems to be more structurally sound than the Duro Hypersonic, that is, most of the gashes don’t go through the casing, and most of them were short (nothing approaching the nearly 10mm gash on the Duro Hypersonic that I replaced). But the frequency of flats is unacceptable. I decided not to be a cheapskate anymore, and splashed out on the Vredestein Fortezza SE. Which, on sale at Performance Bike, is after all only $12 more than the Serfas Seca.

I was really looking for the Specialized Armadillo but there were no decent online deals, and I am too lazy and antisocial to ask around at the local bike shops.

I’m still keeping the Duro Hypersonic on the front wheel. So far just that one flat at BLT, and no major cuts.

While walking to the Red Line station, pushing my bike along, I had to endure attacks of guilt at not even trying to fix the flat and get home by my own leg power. “I won’t be able to find the offending piece of debris” is just an excuse! Really you just don’t want to fiddle with the tire in this awful weather! Wimp.

I really do think I wouldn’t have been able to find that piece of gravel, and would most likely have flatted again on the way back. The power of self-delusion?

If there’s one thing about my battered old Schwinn Intercontinental that I miss, it’s the Specialized Armadillo on the front wheel. I don’t care if it’s a rough ride. I’m sick of glancing down at my back wheel every 30 seconds fearing that it’ll deflate any moment.



I’ve been paranoid about the accumulating scratches on my IRO. Painted them over with nail polish every week, but new ones kept popping up. So I bought two 6′ tubes of foam pipe insulation and wrapped them over every part of the frame except the front halves of the chainstays (not enough clearance with back wheel), the top halves of the seatstays (ditto), and the front fork (not enough clearance with front wheel). I’m now worried that given that my heels were occasionally striking the chainstays when I first started on the IRO (I seem to have corrected myself of my duck-footed pedal strokes now), I won’t have enough heel clearance with the foam on the chainstays. We’ll see. Also, the foam on the downtube looks ridiculous. In fact foam anywhere except on the top tube and the seat tube looks ridiculous. The entire bike looks like it’s about to be packed for shipping. I rationalised my paranoia by pointing out that I’d have to cut the requisite lengths of foam anyway when I ship my bike to Sg in nine months or so.

Now figuring out where to stick my “one less car” sticker. If I decide to remove the foam on the downtube, then I’ll probably stick it there. Otherwise the only remotely large enough space on my bike that isn’t covered with foam is the rear SKS raceblade. It wouldn’t be very visible there though. My downtube rarely gets dinged so I’ll probably end up removing the foam there and sticking the sticker on the left side of the downtube (the better for drivers to read it).

I couldn’t fit the front SKS raceblade without some part of it rubbing against the tyre. Should have bought a larger size. It would be possible to fit this over a 700×23 size front wheel if I could move the supporting struts further up the fork. However, I’m limited by how far I can move up by the downtube. And right now it seems impossible to have the fender clear of my front wheel without cutting off some part of it, which I am loath to do. Will probably try to sell it on Craigslist. Rear fender is far more important anyway.

A Few Things

17 degrees Celsius is a perfect temperature for cycling. Should have gone out in my bike shorts rather than in Marmot Precip pants. It didn’t rain after all. Serfas Seca tyre held out fine. Didn’t want to waste time putting on SKS Raceblades so bike got slopped with grime. Wiped it down immediately. I actually enjoy wiping it down. I enjoy fussing over the one object in my life that I love. After wiping it down spent several minutes just admiring the bike from various angles. Read that track geometry often means a higher bottom bracket, but if anything the IRO Mark V has a lower bottom bracket than my old Schwinn Continental and Varsity. Also compared the bottom bracket height with those of the two hybrids in the bike room, and they were the same, as far as I could tell. I haven’t had issues with clearance anyway. 165mm cranks help, I suppose.

Tried a bit of pulling up on pedals rather than using only the front thigh muscles to pedal. Interesting sensation but I just forgot to do it after a few minutes.

I have maligned the Marmot Precip pants. They are waterproof. What caused the clammy feeling was my sweat, which does not seem to pass through the fabric. So it is waterproof but not breathable. After just five minutes of cycling I was already feeling clammy, and it stayed that way for the rest of the ride.

Serfas Seca tyre

Spent two hours mounting my new Serfas Seca tyre on the rear wheel of the IRO. The Duro Hypersonic tyre had one large gash that went right through the casing. It survived the round trip to the Lyric Opera, but I still don’t trust it.

First tried mounting it with a new Performance thorn-proof tube. Thick tough heavy tube. Inflated it a tad too much before trying to put it on the wheel. As a result couldn’t get the Serfas tyre entirely on over it. Wasted an hour trying to do it, breaking one of my plastic tyre levers in the process, before finally throwing the towel in and removing the tube. Couldn’t deflate it further (it was barely inflated but because it’s so thick to start with it took up a lot of volume anyway) so inserted a much flimsier Novara tube instead. Still a lot of trouble getting the Serfas on, although much less than before. Last 40 degrees of so just wouldn’t go in, and when it finally did go in, it was at the cost of another broken tyre lever and signficantly shortened fingernails. And it still wasn’t right, because the section of the tyre near the valve had trapped part of the inner tube against the rim. Lucky it was that section, because I spotted the problem by how the valve wouldn’t move in and out of the rim hole. If it had been any other section I probably wouldn’t have noticed and would have had a blowout. After some fiddling around (levering that section of tyre in and out several times while pushing the valve around wildly) the tube finally got into the right position. Whew. No more riding time left. I’d only anticipated spending half an hour on the silly thing. Never thought the Serfas could be more difficult to mount than the Armadillo, and I’d mastered that already without breaking any tyre levers. If I ever get a flat on the road I’m pretty screwed. And I bet I’ll get flats because despite being more difficult to mount the Serfas seems to be much less tough than the Armadillo. To tell the truth it is at most only marginally tougher than the Hypersonics! But at least it hasn’t got any structurally damaging gashes yet. Only a matter of time.

Lousy tyres

Second flat on the week. This time just past the 47th St overpass on the lakefront trail. 1/2 cm gash in tyre, right through casing. Air hissing out violently. Patched it. Patch seems to be holding up well at 80 psi but worried about tyre. Ordered new one (Serfas Seca) from REI as a result. Although tyre held up well today on round trip to Civic Opera House. Rear light was stolen. Only noticed when I wanted to turn it on on the return trip so it might have well been stolen from the Ellis bike room, or during the 90 minutes I was lounging in Lavazza, or during the opera itself. These Duro Hypersonic tyres that came with the IRO are pretty awful. The rear already has three major holes in it. I could Shoe Goo all of them but if it acquired three holes in so few rides I don’t think it’s worth persevering with.

My landlord won’t let me store my bike box in the bike room.

Trader Joe’s on Clybourn: best bike parking I’ve seen at a supermarket. A short detour on my way back from Edgewater on my (now almost) weekly ride to the northern end of the lakefront bike path. No question where my grocery money is going to.


To me, nothing says “I can’t cycle and I don’t care about cycling” more than those idiots who ride on sidewalks on seats that are too low for them on shiny hybrid or mountain bikes with earphones on and their U-lock hanging dangerously off their handlebars. Today one of them even had a U-lock hanging there that was not even locked — the straight end of the lock was swinging merrily from one attachment point to the curved end. I do wish their locks would get caught on something and throw them to the ground, like what happened with one bloke on the CCC Hegewisch tour (unsurprisingly, that bloke was also riding with a seat that was too low for him, on a mountain bike).

They can’t cycle — that’s why they’re avoiding the roads. They don’t care about cycling — that’s why they continue to break the law and give a bad name to all cyclists, and ride so sloppily.