Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back from Utah.....

Ok, I have been back from my Utah bike trip for a couple of months and since then I have been concentrating on trying to get a new job and filling out applications.  Not fun.  The economy is horrid for those of us that want to move on to new employment.  The competition is fierce for even the most basic and mediocre job.  I'm finding it hard to keep my spirits up and to keep motivated to keep trying.  I know that persistence is the key, but it is also the hardest thing to keep going.  Especially since the type of  jobs that I am looking at are very selective.  I shall continue though, until someone let's me know that my efforts will never be rewarded...

Things I learned from my trip to Park City UT:  When you are changing to a higher elevation than you are used to riding normally, expect 2-3 days before you actually feel like you can breathe....(I know, DUH!!!).  Park City is an amazing place to ride, and one of those hidden secrets.  The trails were virtually empty, and they had some of the most beautiful views and rides that I have ever been on...and I've ridden some world class destinations to compare it to.  Spend as much time with your friends as you can, dinner, drinks, just hanging out.  You don't know how long it will be until you will see them again, and so you must make sure to indulge.  Turn old acquaintances into new good friends.  Make plans to do another week long trip with your friends next year.  Never pass up a chance to laugh.

It's been a while since I posted, and since the last list seemed to get a good is another!  I didn't make this up, so I can't take credit for it...But it is fun!  Enjoy!

1. Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
2. A day without sunshine is like night.
3. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
4. I just got lost in thought. It wasn't familiar territory.
5. 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6. 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
7. I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
8. Honk if you love peace and quiet.
9. Remember, half the people you know are below average.
10. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
11. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
12. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
13. I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
14. Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.
15. Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7 of your week.
16. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
17. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
18. Get a new car for your spouse. It'll be a great trade!
19. Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.
20. Always try to be modest, and be proud of it!
21. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
22. How many of you believe in psychokinesis? Raise my hand...
23. OK, so what's the speed of dark?
24. How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?
25. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
26. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
27. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
28. Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
29. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
30. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?
31. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
32. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
33. I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out
34. I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.
35. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
36. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
37. Just remember - if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.
38. Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak

Friday, September 17, 2010

A List of Lifes Little Truisms....just for fun

A friend of mine sent me a funny list...just thought I'd share and hopefully give you a laugh or two!

Ø   I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness. 

Ø   Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.   

Ø   I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather... Not in terror like the passengers in his car. 

Ø   Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. 

Ø   Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Ø   If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong. 

Ø   We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. 

Ø   War does not determine who is right - only who is left. 

Ø   Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. 

Ø   The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. 

Ø   Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't. 

Ø   To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research. 

Ø   A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station...... 

Ø   How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire? 

Ø   Some people are like Slinkies ... not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down    the stairs. 

Ø   Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish. 

Ø   I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks. 

Ø   A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.    

Ø   Whenever filling out an application, in the part that says "In case of an emergency, notify",  put "DOCTOR". 

Ø   I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you. 

Ø   I saw a woman wearing a filled out shirt with "Guess" on I guessed "Implants?" 

Ø   Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet? 

Ø   Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy. 

Ø   Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America   

Ø   Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.    

Ø   A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.    

Ø   You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.     

Ø   The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!    

Ø   Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.    

Ø   A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip and have your bags packed.    

Ø   Hospitality:  making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.    

Ø   Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.    

Ø   I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.  

Ø   Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.   

Ø   There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.    

Ø   I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure. 

Ø   I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.    

Ø   When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.    

Ø   You're never too old to learn something stupid. 

Ø   To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target. 

Ø   Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Ø   Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Ø   A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

Ø   If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?

Ø   Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to Adjust Derailleurs for Cable Stretch, or How to Get That "Skip" Out of Your Step

I talked to friend that recently really started mountain biking seriously, and she is loving it, but as I talked to her she had a lot of questions about adjusting the basic things. The latest one was her rear derailleur. She told me that her derailleur needed adjusting and that she was going to bring it in to the shop. She said that the chain was “skipping” and that it wouldn’t stay in gear. Well, I knew that the derailleur had been working fine the last time we rode together, so I figured that what the problem really amounted to was the shift cable had stretched, which is common with new cables. Now, I’m going to explain how to do a simple adjustment to compensate for cable stretch. This can be done at any time at home or on the trail.

The first thing is to understand what parts of the derailleur, or cable system, you are going to be actually adjusting. To adjust for cable stretch you will only need to use the “barrel adjusters” located either on the shift pod, or derailleur, no tools required. Both barrel adjusters work equally well, it just seems to be a personal preference as to which one you choose to use. The following pictures show the two barrel adjusters that you can use:

The first, just in case you don’t recognize it, is on the rear derailleur. The second picture is the right shift pod on the handlebars.

What happens when the cable stretches is that it allows the derailleur to move toward the higher gears (harder to pedal) just as though you were partially switching gears. What you want to do is pick a barrel adjuster and rotate it counter clockwise (out) a half turn. Then check your adjustment by shifting the derailleur a few times and returning to the gear that was causing problems. At this point you should be able to hear a difference in the “skipping” sound. If it seems to be getting better then rotate the barrel adjuster another half turn out and repeat the process. The sound should get better and eventually be eliminated as you make the adjustments. Be careful not to over adjust, as this will cause the same sound, but now the derailleur is trying to move up to the next gear (lower gear, easier to pedal). If this happens, just rotate the barrel adjuster the opposite direction (clockwise) until the skipping goes away. Remember that multiple smaller adjustments is always the preferred way to do things.

I just have to warn you that there are some derailleurs that have been made that shift to the lower gears when the cable gets slack, or stretches. The procedure for this adjustment is the same, but you just need to know that you will be moving the derailleur in the opposite direction (rotate the barrel adjuster clockwise). I’ve been working on bikes for years and have not encountered one of the reverse pull derailleurs, so chances are you most likely don’t have one. They are nothing to worry about, just a little different. Also, if your front derailleur is having the same problems, it can be adjusted the same way, but the front derailleur only has the barrel adjuster on the shift pod.

This is a real basic instruction about doing the cable stretch adjustment. It’s good for you to know how to do this as cables have a way of stretching and becoming annoying at the worst times…like when you are on that really cool ride and having loads of fun. This adjustment will keep you riding happy and “skip” free after just a few minutes. My advice is to try doing these adjustments a few times at home, that way you get the hang of it and gain that confidence for doing it out on the trails. (Plus, if it all goes bad, you still have the local bike shop to run to…and your ride isn’t ruined).

Please let me know if this was helpful and if there are any other adjustments or bike related questions that you have. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paying the "Mountain Bike Experience" Forward

My 8 year old daughter has been asking why her mountain bike doesn’t have front “springs” like her sister’s bike, or like mine. So last week I ordered a set of inexpensive suspension forks for her and installed them on her bike. The resulting smile and new found enthusiasm for riding her bike was well worth the $40 I spent on the forks. Plus my older daughter and I had a good time working as a team installing the new part. It was a fun afternoon of bonding with my girls, and the result was that we all smiled at our part in the project, my eldest daughter for being able to help work on the bike, my younger daughter because she now had a bike with front “springs”, and me for seeing the smiles and feeling the bonding with my daughters.

I also realized something as I worked on the bike and saw the resulting joy that was created. I realized that most mountain bikers feel pride in this sport, and that in turn manifests itself as the desire to help others feel that same joy and satisfaction. In fact, I think if you ask most mountain bike riders if they would help someone get started riding, the answer would be that they would be more than happy to assist. I think this is because mountain bikers ride, not only for the exercise and enjoyment of riding, but also for the social aspect too. Many times you will see mountain bike riders in pairs or larger groups talking and pedaling along with big smiles and good attitudes and saying hello to everyone they meet on the trail and completely enjoying the shared experience with their friends.

After helping my daughters with the forks I could also see that it is the responsibility of us more seasoned mountain bike riders to help promote our sport and get other people interested in riding. It is important that we help our sport grow and that we help new riders understand the rules and etiquette involved in being a responsible mountain biker. It is also our attitude toward riding that will show the new riders how much fun it really is to get out and sweat as we pedal up a hill, or race down after that long climb (in a legal and controlled manner, of course). We are integral in the future of the sport, cultivating the enjoyment of new riders, and creating the image that other ‘non-riders’ see when they meet us on the trail. We need to teach technique and social skills, while preserving the fun and adventurous spirit that was originally found by those crazy guys racing clunkers down Mt. Tam in Marin County.

So if you ride a mountain bike, keep in mind what it is that you enjoy about our sport and remember to pass this enjoyment along, either as support for other riders you meet, or as a positive attitude towards those that have yet to appreciate the pleasures of this great sport. By passing on your experience and enthusiasm you will be helping to create positive mountain bikers...who will pass on what they learned from you to the next generation of riders!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Forums can be a VERY Negative Experience (but survivable)

Last night I decided that I would join the forums for a mountain biking website that I am, or maybe was (the jury is still out), a big fan of. I thought it would be a good way to speak to the people that have the same interests I have in regards to the lights that I sell. So on I go, I quickly find a forum that is dedicated to “Lights and Night Riding”, and I proudly ventured to suggest someone take a look at

What a mistake that turned out to be. I quickly realized that the forums there were more of a gladiatorial arena, the weapons being words and narrow minded attitudes. The people that replied to my suggestion could not get over the fact that the light head for the ZigLights systems uses parts from a Chinese made light. I explained that I did use those parts, but if they did a little research on the ZigLights website and Facebook page, they would quickly see that my lighting system is far above the Chinese light in quality, reliability, and performance. Alas, my words fell on deaf ears. The replies ridiculed my answer with obvious lack of thought, intelligence, and understanding of what ZigLights was trying to do for the mountain biking community. I continued for about half a day, giving answers that were courteous and informative. Again, every answer I gave, trying with all my might to be professional, was given a rude answer. I realized that my best option was to bow out of the forum, wishing everybody a happy riding experience.

I vow never to return to ANY forum.

The saddest part is, for a time after conversing with the negative forum dwellers, my positivity and hopeful outlook for was shaken. My hopes that everyone would be enthralled with how much effort and thought I put into my lights dictated how my attitude would react to the negative forum replies. I predetermined my own downfall. Instead of entering the forum with a completely open mindset and being willing to maybe accept that many people have a need to bring others down, I entered it with my head held high and with the thought that everyone would be clapping me on the back for my dedication and hard work. Of course I know that many people will not like my lights. But I suppose I expected to be treated the way I try to treat everyone else, with respect and constructive input.

I’m still a bit down (hence the reason for writing this blog entry…good therapy), but I know that things will feel better with a bit of time. I still think my lights are a great product. I still think that I have priced them very competitively for what the customer will receive. And I still will not return to any forum because I don’t want to deal with the small minds encountered there. I just need to regain that positive feeling and attitude. I know...I’ll feel better if I go for a ride…maybe a nice night ride, using an awesome ZigLights light!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time for a Lifestyle Change!

I’ve decided to seriously change my life. I actually made this decision many months ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I took my new life goal as a real and tangible thing. I’ve decided to become a “Lifestyle Entrepreneur”, or someone that creates an alternative income in order to create a better way to live. For me the choice was really founded on the fact that I am watching my two daughters grow up and I can’t really do anything with them. My job takes so much out of me that I either end up sleeping most of the day, or are just too exhausted to really do much of anything. Add to that the fact that I have absolutely zero personal satisfaction about my job and where I work. I knew that I had to change, but change is scary, and I had enough change the last few years to really cause me to hesitate.

What really got me going at this particular time is the fact that something that I make has been pretty much perfected and I’m ready to start selling them. I make lights for bicycles. They are battery powered, very strong, easy to use, and I think just about the best light out there. I made them to my standards, which are high, and I’ve been using them for months now with absolutely no problems. So I bought a domain name, created a website, bought the parts to make several lights to fill orders, and then stopped…..Scared. Why scared? Hmmm, good question. I suppose it was the fear that what I make will not be good enough, that I charge too much, mostly that I just don’t measure up. I know that these thoughts are ridiculous, but they are always in the back of my mind. I make great lights and everyone that has tried them has loved them. I priced my lights to actually be less expensive than comparable lights using the same technology. And I know I’m a good guy, I try to help people, I strive to be fair, and I know in the long run I measure up. My fears were ridiculous and unfounded….but there still. So I did what everyone recommends and I set a goal for when my website had to be online and made the choice to move against my fears. I figured the 4th of July, Independence Day, was a fitting time. In fact, two days before my deadline, I sat in front of the computer and realized that I had nothing more to do on the site. It was time to take the plunge and upload to my domain. The feeling of accomplishment, the sheer invigoration of knowing I had taken that first step to living my new lifestyle was amazing. I was on my way!

Since then I have refined the website, changed a few things, made it more appealing, but overall the thrill is still there. Now if I could only get a sale! I laugh at this, the stress of actually being online is gone and I am having fun figuring out how to market things and get my website seen. New goals have been set; my first sale, learn better web design, get my product out there for people to see, but throughout it all to keep a great attitude and think positively about where this business is going to take me. I picture my first European vacation with my two girls, paid for by my business. I can see myself traveling and having a good time as I talk to people about mountain biking with my lights and show them how much fun they can have. I look forward to going for bike rides in all the great venues, all as business expenses and tax write-offs with the benefit of having a great time as I do what I have a passion for, mountain biking. I can see myself sharing this lifestyle with my daughters, getting them excited to live in a healthy and fun manner with mountain biking at the center of it all. Plus just having the ability to make my schedule what I want it to be. To take charge of my life once again, and let nobody ever dictate what I have to do for their profit again. I’m not worried about getting rich, the foundation of this change isn’t money, but the freedom to be what I want to be, and the ability to invest in a better way of living.

PS. Check out my lights at and let me know what you think….or buy a set!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Timing is Everything! Or is it??

Yesterday I woke up late. I work the graveyard shift and it really takes a toll on my ability to get rest. So when I have a day where I don’t have to do anything, I sleep. But the downside is that I hate to sleep the day away because it is so unproductive. I had the idea that I would sleep for as long as I needed, then get up and go for a nice mountain bike ride before I would have to go to work. So yesterday I slept a long time, 9 hours. I woke up and immediately saw that time was short and my mountain bike ride would most likely have to wait, it wasn’t “the right time” for me to leave. I sat down, a bit upset that I wouldn’t be riding, and prepared to have something to eat and watch a movie. I couldn’t get over the fact that I had slept so long and had to miss going for a ride. Then a thought hit me…why couldn’t I go for a ride? Just because I got up later than I had anticipated, there was no good reason for me to not get out on my bicycle and have a good time for an hour or two, other than it wasn’t what I had planned as being “the right time” to leave my house. So I put on my gear and went for a ride….and I had a great time!

When is the perfect time? I know that many of us have some sort of plan in mind to do something, whether it is to travel, fix the roof, get an oil change for the car, etc, but we usually are waiting for “the right time”. It seems that “the right time” never really comes along, and whatever we had planned on doing either has to be done out of desperation, for instance now that leaky roof has become a small waterfall and HAS to be fixed, or we don’t get a chance to do it at all, like travel before failing health makes it impossible. Why do we do this?! What makes us keep procrastinating? Why do we put off doing fun things or fail to get necessary things completed merely because we feel that timing is a factor that should be taken into account?

I blame society’s crazy rules. We have grown up and been indoctrinated into believing that we should plan out everything in our lives. We save up for vacations, Christmas, home repairs and continually plan when those things will impact our lives the best. Yet we never seem to understand that the longer we wait, the more reasons we will find to say that the timing isn’t right. How easy it is to say, I can’t fix the roof today because it might rain this afternoon, or it is just too hot? Have you ever heard a young couple talk about when they are going to have a child, yet what is keeping them from the amazing adventure of being parents is that it isn’t “the right time”? It is because we all believe that we have to be completely prepared for whatever it is we are planning, that every detail needs to be taken into account and provided for. But we don’t know what we don’t know….and will never be able to plan for everything.

So the next time that it seems easier to procrastinate because the plan has changed or doesn’t fit easily into “the right time” idea, stop and think. Is there ever really going to be a “right time”? Or could you take control of your own life and decide that NOW is the “right time”? The more you do this, the more you will realize that anything is possible at any time. Don’t let an imaginary rule stop you from living your life the way YOU want to live it, and when you want to live it……

As for me, I think I’ll go for another ride….right now

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lesson #2586 - The Gummi Factor

Lesson learned: Don't leave an open package of gummi bears on the seat in a hot car....(unless you like sticky seats)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The DMV, Part Deux - Logic's Revenge

Just an update on my adventure with the DMV from my post on June 18, 2010….My original hypothesis that the DMV only hires idiots has to be modified. I’ll give you that modification at the end of this little semi-rant. Nonetheless, I had to go back, seeing as my registration was not completed, and I still had to get the motorcycle registration paperwork finished. I decided that since I had to go back, I’d try a different DMV office, one that maybe didn’t hire inept, incompetent, and idiotic simpletons. So I set an appointment with the Newhall California DMV office.

The day before my appointment I printed out the part of the DMV website that explained the rule for the exception for the Brake and Light Inspection Certificate, the California Government confirmation that the Honda dealership I used for the Statement of Facts was licensed to make repairs, and the web page confirming that the Honda dealership was a motorcycle dealership. If you remember from the previous post these things were all bones of contention from the incredibly less than intelligent supervisor from the Burbank (not Glendale) DMV. We’ll just call her Deborah, for fun sake. I felt I had armed myself with the weapons to support my battle with the illogical and stupefying force that is the California DMV in such a manner that even a moron like Deborah would have to succumb to the logic and common sense of the supporting evidence that I had in hand. Confident and ready for battle, I looked forward to my visit.

The next day I made sure that I had all my paperwork in order, packed my motorcycle tank bag, and left for the arena…the Newhall DMV. Upon arrival I was surprised that when I checked in for my appointment I was quickly given a number without showing what paperwork I had brought, unlike the Burbank DMV, which asked to prove I was there for a registration appointment. As if anyone would lie about needing to be at the DMV, where even the masochistically insane avoid going because even they have their limits! I sat down to wait, expecting an extended stay before my number was called, so I pulled out my copy of War and Peace and started to read, with my copy of Mein Kampf ready to help fill the time when I was finished with the first book. I checked my supplies and saw that with proper rationing I could last for a month or so and hoped that this smaller DMV office would be a little quicker than Burbank…or I might be in trouble. Within 10 minutes my number was called! I was amazed and totally unprepared! It must be a ploy by the enemy to catch me off guard…

At the designated window a seemingly nice woman asked why I was there. I explained that I had to complete my motorcycle registration and that I did not have a Brake and Light Inspection Certificate, but I had a Statement of Facts filled out by a motorcycle dealership instead. I braced myself against the counter, steeled my nerves, and leaned forward ready for the storm to strike….but nothing happened. She accepted the paperwork I had, and began to look through it. She saw the Statement of Facts, looked it over, and placed it with the documents that were accepted….She had me fill out a form that I needed and while I was doing that she entered data into the computer. When I finished the form, she entered a bit more data, and handed me my new motorcycle registration, and new license plate tags! I stood there. Mouth open and staring in disbelief. After what must have been 15 seconds or so, I closed my mouth and said, “Thank you.” She told me that I was welcome and that I should have a nice day. I looked at the printouts that I had prepared, my weapons of logic and common sense. I ran through my argument for justice in my mind….and thought how could this be? So prepared to devastate my opposition and not a shot fired? I stumbled out of the office, put the new sticker on my license plate, and rode home, still dazed, but happy that the ordeal was over.

I said at the beginning that I had to modify my hypothesis of the California DMV in regards to who they hire, so here is that modification. The California DMV does hire people that do their jobs and take pride in being efficient. But what the DMV also does is takes every slack jawed moron employed by the DMV, every inept waste of human space on their payroll, every DMV employee that strives to do absolutely nothing for their paycheck, and places them at the Burbank DMV. Making it the largest collection of useless human flesh on the planet Earth. I know this sounds harsh and very unlike what I try to be every day, a positive and constructive person, but every time I have been to the Burbank DMV the frustration and unbelievable inability of the employees there has sent me home understanding why postal workers show up for work armed and hunting their comrades.

I can sit here now and calmly write this down. I know that in the future I will never return to the Burbank DMV, but will drive the extra 10 minutes to go to Newhall and return home much quicker and a happier person. I thank you, the reader, for indulging me this rant and I promise to try and be more positive in the future...but we all have our moments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What to Look for When Buying a Used Bike

Lately I’ve been asked by several people about what to look for in when purchasing a used bicycle. This is a good question, because, like buying a used car, you need to make sure that what you get isn’t going to break as soon as you get it home. Buying a bicycle is supposed to be fun and exciting, something that you look forward to doing because you want to get out riding as soon as you can, and buying a lemon can really ruin your day.

The first thing I look at is the general shape of the bike. Is it clean? Is the paint chipped more than normal use would create? Is there an excessive amount of rust or corrosion on the bike? What kind of components are there, are you paying for top of the line derailleurs, but getting something much less? Chains are so often neglected, is this one rusted and looking like it needs to be replaced? How about the tires, do they need to be replaced, are they of a quality that you need? And what condition are the cables and brakes in? Inspecting the bike really quickly can let you know if this is a piece of machinery that you should be serious about. Now that the intitial quick inspection is done, it’s time to take a look at the bike a bit closer.

First off let’s take a closer look at the frame. This is the most important part of the bike, for obvious reasons. If the frame is bad, it doesn’t matter what kind of cool gadgets and gizmos you have, the bike just isn’t going to roll. Check the areas where all the frame tubes come together, the head tube, the bottom bracket, the upper seat tube, and the chain and set stays, for signs of cracking. Chipped paint, minute cracks, signs of corrosion could all be indications that the frame has problems that could lead to the bike being trashed. Check the major frame tubes for dents or bending. These are signs that something serious happened to the frame at one point and therefore you should pass on buying this bike. If the paint is scuffed or scratched it usually isn’t a big deal. Regular riding can create those minor scuffs and scratches. What you want to be on the lookout for are the really deep marks that show that maybe something bigger than the usual riding mishaps occurred.

Next take a look at the handlebars and controls. Are they showing signs of crashing? Are the grips torn? Are the handlebars bent? You need to remember that this is the control center of you cockpit. If things are broken, seized, or otherwise not functional, then you need to question how the bike has been maintained. Anyone that lets the controls fall apart, when they are your connection to the bike, will let the rest get worse. If the controls are good, then you are ready to move on to the next

Lift the front and rear of the bike and give the wheels a spin. Hopefully the wheels are fairly true. A bike with disc brakes can tolerate rims that are out of true (as long as it’s not too severe), but a bike with rim brakes needs to have fairly true wheels. The wheels can be trued if it isn’t too bad and the rims aren’t bent. But it is something to take into account. If you aren’t too good at truing wheels, then that will be an extra cost at the bike shop. It also indicates that the bike has been ridden fairly hard….While the wheels are spinning take a look at the brakes. Regular caliper or V-brakes should have enough pad wear left to not need replacing right away. They should be adjusted so that they make complete contact with the rim and don’t rub when the wheel is spun. Now this is really a minor point, but if they rub or don’t make good contact, then they need to be adjusted. Disc brakes are fairly easy. You are looking for pad wear and if the rotor is bent. Spin the wheel and if you hear the brakes rubbing, look and see if it is because the rotor is bent. A minor wobble is tolerable, but if you can see a real drastic wobble, the rotor is probably bent and needs to be replaced…this is added cost. Also check out the tires that are on the bike. What kind of tires are they? Will they work for your style of riding? Are they rotting? Are they pumped up and ready for a test ride? If you need to replace them its another added cost to take into consideration….

Next are the derailleurs and cables. Visually inspect both derailleurs and the cables leading to them. The derailleurs should be clean, or not too crusty, and the cables should not be too corroded or frayed. Since you already checked the tires, hop on the bike and go for a quick test ride. The derailleurs should change gears quickly and smoothly. Shifting that is sticky could be bad cables or weak derailleur springs.

Lastly, you need to look at the front chain rings and crankset. The chain rings should not be showing excessive wear from the chain. To replace the chain rings can be fairly costly, especially on a bike that you are just buying. Check that the cranks are not loose and that there is no freeplay in the bottom bracket. If the cranks are loose on the bottom bracket it is a simple matter of tightening things up. If there is freeplay in the bottom bracket, it needs to be replaced.

Remember that if you really like that bike, and the frame is good, all the other stuff can be replaced or repaired. Sometimes just the personal value, the enjoyment you get from a certain model or type of bike, makes all the other stuff you have to do to make it rideable worth it. I’ve purchased bikes that needed so much work that they really weren’t worth what I paid for them, but just the enjoyment of working on a bicycle that I personally liked made it a labor of love and worth every second and penny…In the long run, the bike that gets you out and riding, is the perfect bike!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Hidden Gem in Your Back Yard

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I drove up to Big Bear to spend some time with my parents and daughters, and to just enjoy getting out of the city. It had been several years since I had been up there and I was looking forward to seeing how things had changed. I also had brought along the mountain bikes to go for a ride with my girls. The bike ride was something that they had uncharacteristically requested and that I couldn’t, in good conscience, refuse to do (plus you know that bike riding is always something I’ll jump at the chance to do). I have to admit also, that I always remembered the drive to the lake as being a long three hours of freeway and nasty mountain road. My recall of the drive was so bad, that it really was a deterrent to me making the trip on other occasions, but I had decided to just relax on the drive and not worry about having a schedule on the way up.

So Tuesday at noon I hop into the car and start my trek across America…or at least from Glendale to San Bernardino. I was amazed when I actually reached the base of the mountain in only an hour. I really remembered it taking two hours to get to this point, so I was pleasantly surprised. I stopped for gas and a quick check of the map and continued on my way. Other than the car overheating on the way up the hill (my fault for not checking the radiator water) I had a nice drive. Not a nasty mountain road, but a pleasant drive with fantastic views. Within another hour of driving (not counting the overheating incident) I was in Big Bear at the timeshare ready to relax with my family. Instead of arriving irritated and unhappy about the long drive, I was happy and ready to spend quality time playing and kicking back with my daughters. I voiced my amazement to my parents that the lake was really a lot closer than I ever remembered it being.

I spent the next two days enjoying the great weather, cool breeze, and quiet lapping of the lake against the shore. I went swimming with the girls, took a guided boat tour of the lake, and went on a really fun bike ride with my daughters to the “village” to have a cold soda and a treat picked up from one of the local stores. Our little bicycle jaunt was so fun, my youngest daughter, usually the first to complain about having to actually pedal the bike, told me that she loved going for a ride with me and couldn’t wait to get the bikes out again in the future. My elder daughter was in full agreement. As we rode around the lake I was in awe at how beautiful things were. The trees, the mountains, the lake, everything was so picturesque. I know that there are trails and roads throughout the mountains there, many of them with historic points of interest and views that many people never see because they don’t leave the paved roads. I was beginning to understand what I had sitting virtually in my back yard. Overall the two days at Big Bear lake was an amazing get away and I vowed to make Big Bear a regular retreat and that I would begin exploring the hidden mountain trails on my bike.

My points for telling you all this is simple….First, don’t miss out on something just because you seem to remember it in a poor light. Your attitude about being inconvenienced or not enjoying something can really affect how you look at doing things. Go into it with a fresh attitude and open mind and you just might be surprised. My drive to the lake turned out to be quite enjoyable and surprisingly shorter than I remembered. And once I was at the lake, I wondered why I had been so foolish about making the drive to such a wonderful escape. Second, don’t overlook those gems that are just around the corner. I rediscovered a place that has so much to offer me, as far as mountain biking and relaxation potential, and I don’t have to drive to another state, or even for hours to get to it. This new environment feels like I’m in another world and yet it is so close. I’m sure that wherever you live you have a place that is the same. A place right around the proverbial corner, and never really on your mind as a location to get away from the usual grind. I will be returning to Big Bear a lot this Summer, either by myself for a nice bike ride or hike, or with my daughters to explore the mountains and our relationship with each other.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Creaks, Squeaks, and living in the moment. (or How I got rid of that Annoying Noise)

This past week or so I’ve been dealing with a creak that has shown up in one of my bikes as I pedal up the hill, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to throw out some suggestions for what to do and look for if you run across the same problem. Personally, creaks and squeaks when I am pedaling along drive me up the wall. They disrupt an otherwise peaceful and therapeutic ride with the nagging audible reminder that something on my bike is not functioning the way it should be.

The first thing to do is to clean your bike. Make sure you get all the little dirt deposits out of the nooks and crannies where all the frame tubes come together, the head tube area, the bottom bracket area, the top tube and seat tube junction, and where the seat stays and chain stays come together. You will also want to really make sure your derailleurs, chain, crankset, pedals, and cassette are clean too. Once you have completely cleaned and dried these areas, inspect all the frame junctions for cracks. A crack in the frame could possibly create a creak while pedaling and is a sign that your frame needs to be replaced. I have heard that mountain bicycle frames are really only designed to last about 5 years. Of course, depending on your riding style, your frame can last more or less than the recommended time. I have a bike that I purchased around 1994, and I have pounded it mercilessly for years…and it is still fully functional.

After checking the frame junctions, lubricate the chain and take the bike for a short test ride, just to make sure that the creak is still there. Do your best to recreate exactly what causes the creak to happen. It could be that there was a bit of dirt someplace that washing took care of, and now the offending noise is gone. If the noise is still there, do a visual inspection around the bottom bracket, chainrings (crankset), pedals, seatpost, and cassette. If you see any residual dirt, you will need to disassemble the parts and clean everything thoroughly. My suggestion is that you start with the easiest items first, for instance this order:

Cranks to bottom bracket
Bottom bracket (worn, loose or dirty)

I have had creaks and squeaks due to everything on the list. And just because it sounds like it is coming from the bottom bracket, doesn’t mean it is. Those annoying noises travel through the frame and seem to stop at the bottom bracket (I think it’s a conspiracy), making it hard to really pinpoint what is going on. Another word of advice, if you are taking the time to take something apart, clean it very thoroughly before reassembling it, even if it doesn’t look like it needs it. A few extra minutes of care may result in preventing another problem that was waiting to happen. Also, don’t use grease or oil on anything when reassembling, unless there are instructions to deliberately do so. Grease and oil are great, until you actually hit the dirt, then they just attract the dust like a magnet and those nasty creaks are back.

If your visual inspection doesn’t seem to show anything is amiss, start cleaning the things on the list in the order that I have given (easiest first). Do them one at a time, and after cleaning and reassembling each one, take the bike for a test ride to see if the noise is gone. There is no use in doing more work than you need, and it is a learning experience to find out what is causing that particular noise. The next time you hear the same noise, you might just be able to zero in on the problem immediately.

Of course there is nothing wrong with continuing down the list and cleaning everything. Sometimes it is the Zen of doing mountain bike maintenance that gives you that little bit of calm for the day in an otherwise hectic schedule. Losing yourself in the mechanics of repair and cleaning, being able to empty your mind of the other chores and stress of the day and focus on just the moment, can be worth the extra time taken to clean, repair, and ensure functionality….for both the bike and you.

P.S. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them for me. I am always looking for ways to improve myself, and to help others get the most out of every day.....

Friday, June 18, 2010

The California DMV and Mountain Biking

So I’m going to tell you a story about my experience at the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)…it’s not pretty and this is a bit of a rant. In fact it is a testimony to the incompetence that the DMV seems to celebrate with the hiring of its employees. I live in the Glendale California area, and I’m not saying that I went to the Glendale DMV, but it would be out of my way to do otherwise.

I was going to the DMV to try to complete the registration of one of my motorcycles, and all that I needed to complete was a brake and light inspection. Now, just to preface the situation, I had been trying to find a brake and light inspection station (from this point on I’ll call it the BLS) off and on for about 2 years. Unable to find one locally, I fell back upon the DMV rule that said,

“Exception: When an official California brake and light station that inspects specific vehicles, such as motorcycles or large commercial vehicles is not located within a reasonable distance, the DMV will accept a Statement of Facts (REG 256) from a California repair shop certifying that the brakes and lights are in proper working order.”

So this is the course of action that I followed with no official California BLS within a reasonable distance from my house. I went to a nearby Honda motorcycle dealership and they did the Statement of Facts (from this point on I’ll call this a SOF). Now, you need to remember that dealerships repair the vehicles that they sell, hence a car dealership fixes cars and a motorcycle dealership fixes motorcycles…this will be important later. I know that any intelligent human being understands this, but you will see later that I was not dealing with intelligence.

So with past paperwork from previous DMV visits and my new SOF sheet from the dealership in hand, I go to the DMV to finally get my motorcycle on the road. Once there I waited in line and finally was given the chance to speak to one of the fine state licensing employees, who turned out to be a middle aged gentleman with a rather bored and vapid look about him. I explained what I needed, and what I had, and handed the whole shebang to him. He looked at the papers and I saw that he immediately threw away my shiny new SOF and began typing on his computer. Well to make a long story shorter, he typed and filled forms and typed some more and then asked for $303 from me. Now anyplace else you would receive merchandise upon payment of funds, but at the DMV you apparently get to pay for the privilege of watching them “work”. He took my check and handed my paperwork back and told me (with a thick accent) that I need to provide a BLS inspection certificate. I looked at him with my best “you’re kidding, right?” look. He continued to look blankly at me for several seconds before I pointed out that the SOF that he so quickly threw away at the very beginning of our business transaction was exactly what fulfilled that requirement. With a large sigh he shuffled through his garbage can and found the needed papers. Now, I have to say that almost the whole time that I was watching him type and fill out papers, about 20 minutes or so, there was a rather large woman (another fine state employee) standing behind him and jackjawing to another equally rotund and fine state employee. At this time he turned to the first robust woman (a supervisor) and showed her my SOF. They mumbled to each other for a few moments and she turned to me and said that they needed an official BLS certificate. I told her that there wasn’t a motorcycle BLS station within a reasonable distance from my home and so I fell back on the DMV rule that said I could use a SOF, and further explained that if she were to look on the internet at the official DMV site she could see the very same information. She promptly told me that BLS stations are all over the place. Yes, I replied, for cars but not for motorcycles. OHHHHH, she said, yeah they are hard to find for motorcycles. It seemed to me that I had won a point and that things were looking up. My buddy the paper pusher had assumed his vapid and completely blank look….

Here is where the laws of physics and logic broke down. I must have fallen into Alice’s rabbit hole because the absurdity of what I was about to go through was mind boggling!

The supervisor then told me that I needed a SOF from a BLS station. I looked at her. Hmmmm, well if I had found a BLS station, I would have a certificate….wouldn’t I?! I again explained that the DMV website explains that if I can’t find a BLS station the SOF would suffice. So captain vapid typed some more and moved his computer mouse around frantically…and they both leaned in toward the computer screen. The illustrious supervisor then read to me the definition of what a BLS station is. I told them that was not what I saw when I looked at the site and that they were looking in the wrong place. Super duper supervisor looked at me and said, “I’m looking at the DMV site right now and that is what it says.” I calmly told her that we didn’t need the definition of a BLS station, but the rule about when I could use a SOF, and that was on another part of the site. She looked at me, I looked at her, capt. Vapid stared off into space. “I’m looking at the DMV site and that is what it says“ she restated. I realized that I was not dealing with someone of even average intelligence, that the DMV hiring process seems to have struck again.

I needed to take another line of attack. I decided to agree and then redirect…I told her that I realize that the rule says I needed to go to a BLS station, and I was not arguing that point whatsoever. But that if I could NOT find a BLS station I could use the SOF as a replacement. She actually seemed to accept what I said and looked at the SOF. At the bottom of the SOF it was signed by the service manager of the Honda motorcycle dealership. Now, remember when I told you at the beginning that dealerships also repair the vehicles they sell? Well here is where that comes into play. She looked at the signature and saw that it was a dealership that signed the document. She quickly seized upon this point and stated, “I see here that it was a dealership that signed this SOF, and when I see that I know that dealerships only SELL motorcycles.” AHAAA!!! She made such a point that she could not help getting a very smug look on her face. My jaw dropped open, my eyes stared….my mind thought “ARE YOU F’ING KIDDING????!!!! HOW STUPID ARE YOU????!!!!” I closed my mouth and I calmly explained that it is a motorcycle dealership and dealerships also repair motorcycles, just as if she took her car for a repair to the car dealership. She looked at me, I looked at her, captain vapid looked off into space.

Now I’ve found that stupid people, when confronted with superior logic, tend to let their trains of thought randomly derail and jump tracks, rather than actually admit defeat or have to think. Case in point, she immediately said, “But you need a certificate from a BLS station.” Back to Square One. Ok, so again I am going to jump forward to save time, but let me say that we went through this rigmarole several times, almost exactly the same verbiage coming out of both our mouths…and there was never any sign of her making any kind of logical or intelligent connections. At one point I actually had the gall to suggest that she call the Honda dealership and ask if they repair motorcycles. Of course that meant actually doing something other than talking to her friend, so that was out of the question. I again asked her to look at the correct spot on the DMV website to actually see the rule instead of a definition…she refused that too. I could not believe that someone could be so inept and unwilling to actually do their job that they were volunteering to look like a complete idiot.

This is why the state of California is losing money, we hire people that have realized that they don’t need to do ANYTHING and they still get a nice paycheck….which means the state then has to hire another person to actually do the work that the first person isn’t doing.

Oh, I still have to go back to the DMV…I paid $303, but I didn’t get what I paid for yet. Tell me how they get away with that?

So, you are probably asking how this relates to mountain biking. I’ll tell you. That night I went for a ride with one of my buddies…and as I pedaled down the trail the stress of the day melted away. Once I’m riding the world is a better place and I get to leave the idiocy behind…

Friday, June 11, 2010

Surviving the Recession

In this recession I keep seeing several things more and more. I am seeing more motorcycles on the road. With Gas prices continually rising, the savings (and fun) of riding a motorcycle make a lot of sense. More bicycles are sharing the streets with the cars. If you live close enough and enjoy riding, why not save even more money, get in shape, and avoid the high cost of paying for parking? And I have noticed more people running a business from the comfort of their home, for example, the garage mechanic.

There are great reasons to use the garage mechanic in these times. With the recession (depression?) in full swing and no real end in sight, many people are tightening their budgetary belts and trying to find new ways to not only save, but earn money. Our communities are seeing a flood of newly unemployed people, many of which will never be able to get the same jobs again or continue their career where it was so rudely cut short. These same people are resorting to finding new ways to pay the bills and take care of their families. With little or no money the only option is to run a business out of the home. These situationally created entrepreneurs work hard to get new customers and to do quality work for less money than if you had the same work done at a shop. In fact they are more likely to work harder for you and your business than the shop because they need to pay their bills and put food on the table and only through that hard work can they gain the trust and the business of more people. Have you ever been to a big shop and been treated as though you don’t matter to them? We all have. Yet I have had work done on my car out of someone’s garage and they treated me, not only with respect, but as though I was the only customer they had or wanted. What a refreshing feeling. The garage mechanic also will most likely not charge you tax or make you pay a premium for their hourly wage.

I do work out of my garage on bicycles, and I like giving my customers a degree of service that I know for a fact they don’t get from the big shops. I will take the time to ask them questions about their bicycle that the shop just doesn’t care about. I will spend a few more minutes setting up the bicycles suspension for my clients, with the actual client as the test subject, as it should be. If I need to spend an extra 15 minutes cleaning a part to make sure the bike works correctly, I’ll do it no extra charge. I take personal pride in watching the customer get on the bike for a test ride and come back with a huge smile because the bike works perfectly. And I don’t charge a high price for this service. Because I don’t have to share my earnings with the shop, I get to share those savings with my clients.

In fact it is exactly these things that make it a win-win for everyone involved. The customer saves money, often gets their bicycle (car, motorcycle, whatever) back quicker, gets that personal service, and gets the satisfaction of knowing they are helping a family or individual survive the recession. The mechanic gets that much needed money to survive, gets to set his/her own hours, gets that very personal satisfaction of a job well done, and has time for the family that a regular 9-5 job would not provide.

The next time you need a bicycle tune up, or repair, try asking around a bit and see if you can find someone to work on your bike outside of the usual shop….you might just be surprised.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Of Goals and Attitude...fundamental life skills

So this is the second posting for my blog,  Wow, milestone.  I thought I’d start talking about how important goal setting and a good attitude are in life.  How they can affect everything around you. How setting goals can help you grow as a person, and how your acceptance of a situation is based on attitude.

For example…Every Wednesday night I get together with some friends and we go mountain biking on one of the many local trails.  I like this group because we have one basic thing in common, a positive outlook on life.  I am guaranteed to have a good time, and the chance to share in good conversation.  Two weeks ago we did one of our normal rides, but this time, at the top of the hill, three of our group of five decided we would ride a single track trail down the hill instead of going back down the dirt road we came up.

We parted ways with our other two friends and rode down the dirt road to the single track trailhead.  At that point we took the single track and started having a blast.  About a quarter of the way down the trail one of our crew took an over-the-handlebars spill, deftly avoiding getting tangled in the bike as he went over, he landed on his feet, but solidly on the bike’s fork.  I watched as his foot snapped the fork brace (that U shaped piece of metal connecting the two fork legs together).  Oh, boy.  Well, long story short we were able to piece things together enough order to allow the bike to be ridden and get him down the hill, but without a functional front brake. And off we went, finishing the ride with no further mishap.

I applaud his crash, commend the damage to his bike, and love that he went over the bars!!!  I can say this (having totaled a bike or two in my time), not that I want people to get hurt or see damage to their equipment, but when a mountain biker crashes it signifies something to me.  It signifies progress.

You see, in this case my friend had decided that he was at a level of riding that was comfortable.  And although comfort is good, in order to improve you need to set a goal.  During a conversation with one of the other riders, Daniel, he told me something that made a lot of sense in regards to setting goals, “In order for a goal to have any meaning, it needs to make you uncomfortable to achieve.”  I had never thought of it that way before.  But how true!  In order for a goal to give any personal satisfaction or to create any progress, you need to reach out of your comfort zone and learn something new.  You may not reach that goal the first time, but if you are persistent and continue to learn what you need to achieve that goal, the satisfaction, confidence, and  new level of  comfort is worth the effort.  When my friend crashed, he was pushing his comfort level, he had decided that he was ready to move forward and become faster and better at riding his mountain bike.  His crash was just a result of pushing the envelope a bit too much.

Now how does good attitude play into crashing and basically totaling your bike?  Easy, when he got up and the dust settled, his comment was, “I guess it’s time to buy that new bike.”  He looked at turning something that could easily have been taken as a negative into a positive.  His attitude was such that even though he had been telling me for several weeks that a new mountain bike was really not something he could afford, he now used this opportunity to support a positive outcome instead of becoming angry and upset at the damage.  He didn’t once complain about the crash.  He didn’t become depressed or morose.  He got onto the bike and finished the ride and  commented about how he now understands how important front brakes are (since the broken fork rendered the front brakes inoperable).

In effect, he set a new goal:  To purchase a new mountain bike that would allow him to continue to expand his abilities as a trail rider.  I’m sure the discomfort of this new goal will be explaining to his wife why he needs the money to do this….

Goal setting and attitude…fundamental to living life to it’s fullest.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Introduction to Zen and Mountain Biking

I was just sitting around trying to think how I might be able to help people get introduced to the amazing sport of Mountain Biking. But I also want to help everyone interested learn more about how to repair their bike, stay fit, enjoy the great outdoors on a bike, and maybe bring up a few things about having a positive attitude in life. Although the title of this blog is Zen and Mountain Biking, I need to explain that I can't officially say that I know much about Zen, except the feeling of being in the moment when I ride. The ability to not think but act instinctively and thus thoroughly appreciate what is going on around me.  That incredible feeling of escape that I feel when I am on a bike riding one of the local trails, the stress of everyday living melts away and I get to just enjoy riding.

I'll also give comments about my experiences with equipment, traveling, weather considerations, my attitudes, being a courteous rider, and being a team player when you ride with others. Or anything else that comes up. I will welcome comments and other peoples insights, whether you ride or not.

So a little about me. I have been riding bicycles for as long as I can remember. I can still remember the complete joy I had when I got my first bicycle for Christmas (literally one of my earliest memories). That old purple Kent single speed with a huge banana seat that I got in the late '70s got me started on a lifetime passion. Throughout the years I learned how to repair bicycles (I gained official experience working as a bike mechanic in a well known shop), ride better, help teach riding techniques, and even create my own product to sell (I'll add shameless plugs later). Around 1983 I bought my first real mountain bike, a Schwinn somethin' or another with no suspension and one of those crazy U-brakes on the frame where no brake should ever be. I was hooked. I now race Downhill, am the co-leader of a mtn biking group, repair bikes out of my garage, and sell lighting systems for night time riding. 

I hope you read what I have to say and if you glean just a few words of wisdom, or find something to be of help every once in a while, then I will consider this endeavor to be a success.  Remember, that the most important factor to the success and enjoyment of life is your own attitude and outlook....