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Ben Folsom
5,283 followers -
Rules 5 and 9
Rules 5 and 9

5,283 followers
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* Morning commute
* Short sleeves
* US Capitol
* BCC gear
* Smug/pithy comment
* Am I missing anything?

I love riding my bike to work.
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A Taxing Bill

Many employers offer a transit subsidy, in which an organization offers a pre-tax benefit to employees in exchange for the employee getting to work a certain way, typically by way of some sort of public transit or shared ride. The benefit gives the employee an incentive for taking the subway, commuter rail, carpool, etc., rather than simply driving. In return, the organization contributes to reduction in pollution and road congestion. Authorized regularly by Congress for monthly amounts between $130 and $260 depending on the economy, transit subsidy is a coveted benefit and in Washington, D.C., thousands of federal employees use it each day to stay off the roads or let someone else do the driving.

There is, or was, this being the point of the post, a bicycle commuter transit benefit as well, a $20 monthly amount to be put toward a bicycle and maintenance, gear and even possibly a gym membership if the employer does not have a shower. Two-forty a year is pretty paltry sum, but it is not nothing and after years of bike commuting, my back-of-the-envelope maths tell me that is pretty close to what I spend on my commuting habit.

The hard thing was getting the bike commuter benefit. Congressional authorization for a pretax benefit is only half the game; the employer has to fund it and administer it. Anecdotal evidence tells me the bike commuter benefit is pretty rare, and from first hand experience, organizations find it easy to ignore, as bike commuters typically make up a very small portion of employees and are either committed through lifestyle (like me, a long-haul, daily, kitted-out rider) or convenience (live a mile or two from work, making riding a bike the easiest way to get there). Thus, the organization knows demand is inelastic and bike commuters gonna bike commute, so no, we don’t offer that. But hey, here’s a bike rack.

Author’s aside: This treatment of bike commuters as incidental to real planning and incentives for commuting is part of the larger mistake organizations make when they do not materially encourage bike commuting, it is multibeneficial: Saves money, reduces road congestion and pollution, improves employee health and reduces employee absenteeism, but I digress, this is a topic for a larger series. End aside.

And so whether you had access to this benefit, you no longer do. Among the hack and slash of authorized employer pre-tax credits in the tax bill enacted into law in January is an end to the bike commuter benefit, at least through 2025, seven years from now. Add it up with other terminated benefits, like moving and relocation assistance, and employers have fewer tools to attract new talent.

Contact your members of Congress (link in comments) if you want to see the bike commuter benefit reinstated. They could do it with a simple vote at any time.


References in comments.
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A message from Judge Goose:

This is a reminder that the mods of this community work very hard to keep the discussion and the membership on point. This community is regularly flooded with membership requests, and we have a fairly high bar for entry. And why should we?

Because we want to keep this community alive and well, and advancing the causes of bike commuting and transport cycling. If we allow the community to fill with blueheads, shotgun spammers, product ads, off-topic posters, etc., we risk pushing you all away, thus switching off the channel.

Some reminders on what will cause me to reject a request to join:

* Bluehead/no content in profile

* Shotgun spammer (joins a bajillion communities and posts the same spam across all of them)

* Profile filled with apparent random re-shares of other content with no original content (ie, the ones that just share random YouTubes or clickbait stories with no comment of their own)

* Profile content limited to marketing/ads or product pitches

* Existing person with content in profile, but none of it appears to pertain to bicycles or any tangent interest of this group (and I will scroll five or ten swipes down your profile to be sure)

Today I rejected a request from a profile that was all about bikes, but every post in that profile was a linked video on a single topic, with no comment from the user in any of the posts, and no +1's or comments in any of the posts. I expect, were that person to be ushered into the community, that user would be nothing but noise with no engagement, annoying the regulars.

If you have questions, PM me or drop them in comments. Bike Commuting mods: We set the tone.
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It's that time again

Time to open up the gear locker and get organized for cold weather commuting. All the warm-weather gear, specifically the short-sleeve jerseys and fitted bib shorts, is rolled up and sent to the back, and all the cold weather gear is moved to the front: Leg warmers, wool jerseys and sweaters, merino trunks and riding jackets.

This time of year also signifies a change in my daily carry. During the warm months, I carry only a rain cape and a rain cover for my trunk bag, in fact, if the temp is above about 55 F, I do not even put on the cape, I simply get wet. Now that two-way commuting is getting down where I could need cold weather gear in either direction, it is time to load up the bag:

Top row: Fingerless leather gloves, glove liners, light gloves, medium gloves, heavy gloves, OMG so cold crab-claw gloves.

Middle row: Leg warmers, wool boxers, toe covers, shoe covers, wool cap, wool baklava.

Bottom row: Cold weather rain kit (all Gore-Tex: Rain jacket, rain pants, insulated waterproof gloves, insulated waterproof shoe covers, waterproof helmet cover), long-sleeve base layer, short-sleeve base layer.

All of this will live in the non-drive side folding pannier of my Topeak trunk bag (it does not all actually fit, as I am usually wearing some part of it). Each morning and each evening before I ride, I will pick out the gear I need to complement the basic kit (such as wool sweater, bibs and possibly jacket). By carrying it all with me at all times, I never risk leaving home without the right gear.

I love riding my bike to work.
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11/2/17
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1979 American Flyer Roadie: The AF is AF af

Translation: The American Flyer is Anderson Folsom as fuck.

The boy loves it. He is ten years old. This bike should last him at least three years.
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10/19/17
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1979 American Flyer Roadie: Glamour Shots

This job is complete, the bike is tested and ready, time for the glamour shots.

Note: There was a small adjustment, after stringing it all up and taking it out for another check ride, Young Master aka Anderson encountered the chain-skip issue again, albeit a much-reduced version. I faffed and played and adjusted before finally deciding to remove the claw hanger that came with the vintage SunTour Cyclone Mk-II rear derailer and replace it with a new Sunrace unit out of stock. Problem gone immediately. This new claw hanger also has the advantage of installing only one way, keeping the opening parallel and level with the rear dropouts. The vintage unit being replaced simply 'floated' in the dropout on tension, meaning that over time it will migrate down or (most ljkely) up, affecting wheel removal and chainline/chain tension.

Note also: The young man is still dissatisfied with these SunTour Cyclone one-sided pedals. Two-sided replacements are in the mail and will be installed presently. He is quite happy with this bike otherwise, and I fear his old bike, the 1973 Gitane Puma, has ridden its last ride without fanfare.

This project was my 19th complete teardown/overhaul/build/restoration.
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10/16/17
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Hey +Google+, +Google and +Google Photos: Make the products behave identically across platforms. Today's complaint:

1. Share photos from Google Photos desktop (full web page) to Google+. Photo captions follow the shared photos to the G+ post. Images in the G+ post have the original photo captions.

2. Share photos from Google Photos mobile (iPhone) to Google+. Photo captions do not follow the shared posts. Images in the G+ post have <NULL> captions. To make matters worse, captions on photos in the G+ post cannot be edited.

Come on guys, we are trying here. Help us out.
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1979 American Flyer Roadie: Finishing Touches

We have now completed the principal build and gone through a round of troubleshooting in re: a slightly crooked derailer hanger. All seems well and now is the time to complete the build, for Young Master aka Anderson is getting antsy to have his bike ready for the real thing:

* Clamp-on cable guides. This bike has brazed-on cable guides under the top tube (for the rear brake cable) and on the drive-side chainstay (for the rear derailer cable), but that is it. Between the bin and eBay, I rounded up and installed the following:

> Two-sided cable guide, upper downtube. Installed just above the figure eight-shaped bump on the upper downtube. Housing from both shifters will originate at the shifter and terminate here.

> One-sided cable guide, rear derailer, lower downtube. There is another figure eight-shaped bump on the lower downtube, guiding me to installation points for these cable guides. Just below this bump, I installed the rear derailer cable guide, this is a metal ring with a crescent-shaped guide directing the cable through the obtuse angle at the bottom bracket on the way to the rear derailer. This is a one-sided cable guide, meaning there is no built-in guide for the front derailer. Two-sided lower downtube cable guides exist, and in point of fact, I thought that was what I was buying, but alas the three-pack that arrived were all one-sided.

> One-sided cable guide, front derailer, lower downtube. To compensate for the one-sided rear derailer cable guide and the direction of housing, I used a one-sided cable guide, inverted (so the 'SunTour' logo on the clamp is upside down) and mounted it just above the bump on the lower downtube.

> One-sided cable guide, front derailer, lower seat tube. The front derailer cable comes down from the upper downtube housing stop to the lower downtube housing stop, at which point it needs to make an acute angle up to the front derailer. For this requirement, I took another one-sided cable guide, also inverted owning to direction of the housing, and mounted it just beneath the front derailer, specifically with the housing stop rotated so as to be directly beneath the cable clamp bolt of the front derailer. Between the two front derailer clamps, I now have a virtual channel from the lower downtube clamp to the lower seat tube clamp.

* String the front derailer. I cut a length of housing (the young man had chosen grey from options including black and white) to run between the two front derailer housing stops, then strung the front derailer. My derailer and clamp placement were good, and this was a simple task.

* Rear derailer cable 'trainer.' The length of grey housing running from the drive-side chainstay to the rear derailer stubbornly rises in an arc from the brazed-on cable guide, rather then following neatly in parallel with the chainstay. On closer inspection, part of the problem is that the brazed-on cable guide's exit point is wide enough for a housing cap, and I did not install a housing cap on that section of housing (the brazed-on cable guides on all my old Treks are housing cap-sized, serving as their own housing caps, thus I overlooked this detail). A housing cap would at minimum send the housing out parallel to the chainstay, rather than allowing it to arc right out of the guide. To remedy this, I applied a black ziptie mid-length, holding the housing down against the chainstay, far enough forward to allow the housing to arc behind the derailer. A note was made, and the next time I unstring the rear derailer, I will add a cap.

* Install bar tape. As ever, I gave YM maximum latitude to select his own bar tape; with the Puma, he opted for blue Lizard Skin (40 dollah!) on a purple bike. For this ride, he opted for light blue cork gel tape with a dark blue wave design. What the heck, it's his bike, not mine. There were a few steps involved in fixing the tape to the bar:

> Tape the derailer cable housing to the bar. Gravity causes the lengths of derailer cable housing exiting the shifters down to the downtube housing stop to sag. While the small wrap to fix hosing to the bar is not strictly required, as the bar tape itself will also do this, it makes it easier to work with, as the housing stays in place.

> Bar tape underwrap. The Nitto B105 bar on this bike is brand new and is very shiny and slick, not at all like the matte alloy surface of classic SR and Cinelli bars. The way I wrap, often the thin strip of adhesive on the bar tape is not actually in contact with the bar itself, but rather is in contact with the previous layer of tape. In any event, the first wrap would not stay tight and I could tell finishing the job under these conditions would lead to the tape unwrapping in a matter of days. To remedy this, I dug out a roll of athletic tape from my lacrosse coaching days and used it as an underwrap. The bar tape now has a rough surface against which it will not slip. In retrospect, if I had anticipated this problem, I would have applied the underwrap before fixing the derailer housing to the bar, as now the cable housing is under two layers of tape, that will be my problem to fix the on next bar re-wrap.

> Bar tape wrap. The tape itself then went on very easily and is firmly in place. The color combination, a light blue tape with dark blue accents, highlighted by bright blue brake hoods on a dark green bike makes a statement that is perfectly Anderson.

* Bottle cage. This bike does not include brazed-in cage mounting threads, luckily in the Shed I have a collection of old-school Jim Blackburn 'cage clips.' These clamps consist of two metal bands that wrap a frame tube (in this case, the downtube), meeting in the back at a nut/bolt. In practice very simple and logical, but goddamn, they are a pain in the ass to install.

> Rubber tube underwraps. I do not wish the excellent paint job on this bike to be damaged, so I opted to cut two small sections of dead inner tube to wrap under the metal bands. Getting these lengths of rubber the right length and width so as to be inconspicuous was a challenge, as they flatten and lengthen under pressure.

> Position the cage. The way these 'clips' work, you position the bottle cage where you want it, then wrap the bands right over the bolt holes, where the cage would be fixed to the frame on a modern bike. Finding the position is simple, but getting the thing to stay in place while you are working was a challenge.

> Tighten it all down. After struggling (and I have installed these cage clamps before, on the 1983 Trek 620, so I am no rookie) to keep the cage in place, and the bands and the rubber underwraps and GODDAMN I DROPPED THE NUT AGAIN I finally figured out how to get an extra hand: Position it all with hand pressure, then wrap a zip tie around the center of the cage. This holds everything in place while you fix it all down.

It's all done. Next up: Glamour shots.
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10/13/17
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1983 Trek 620: Post-tour Maintenance, Finally

This bike came as a frameset from eBay, i.e., just a frame and fork. It was in excellent shape, not so much cosmetically, but there are no dents or other structural issues. I dug into the original bike spec and pulled what I needed out of Shed supply and off eBay to build this bike darn near exactly as came off the assembly line, right down to the brown bar tape. And while I finished this bike in plenty of time for the two bike tours scheduled for 2016, somehow the build on this bike never seemed perfect.

But it was plenty workable, and I managed to make it through The Heat Dome, a two-day ride from Richmond, Va. to Washington, DC in July (me and the missus, on her first bike tour) and through Bike Hobo Fantasy Camp, a six-day tour from Alexandria, Va. to Crisfield, Md., on the southern tip of the Eastern Shore peninsula (me, +Sean Lally, +❨❨❨RJ Lalumiere❩❩❩ and +Chris Johnson) in August. After that, I made notes on what the bike needed and put it up, I have not ridden this bike since the short jaunt from our luxury hotel in Crisfield to the ferry dock for the trip back to Southern Maryland and the missus waiting to pick us up.

On Monday, I finally got the bike down and started processing the open maintenance tickets from August 2016:

* Front wheel out of true. This bike did not come with wheels, and I managed to source a set nearly identical to the original spec wheels on eBay. I repacked and detailed them as part of the overhaul, and they were true round. However, over the course of the ride, the front developed a lateral wobble that vexed me the most of the ride. I put the front wheel in the truing stand and took care of it. Upon further examination, many of the spokes feel locked in to their nipples, and these wheels will likely to be changed out or rebuild prior to this bike's next tour (currently on schedule for 2021).

* 'Bump' in the rear wheel. From the first ride on this bike, I detected a regular bump occurring every time the rear wheel went round. As I was already getting irritated with the other items in this list, I made a note and pedaled on, my working theory being that the rear wheel had a radial bump in it, of the type typically caused by running the bike into a curb at high speed. Although there are tools (Park Tool makes one) to round out radial bumps, on wheels this old, it generally signals end of line. I had not accumulated a half dozen spare Helicomatic wheelsets yet (I am still terrified of wheel-building), and I just wanted to get through these two tours before dealing with it.

So imagine my surprise when I got the bike in the stand, started checking out the rear wheel... and discovered the drive-side sidewall in the middle of a slow-motion blowout. At some point, the sidewall had started to give way, and as the tube slowly expanded into the slowly growing sidewall gap, it caused the tube to flatten on the tread, causing the bump. How I nor any of my companions noticed this during eight days' worth of touring and two weeks' worth of commuting check rides is beyond me.

Obviously I am happy it did not blow out on the road, as a standard tire boot would be helpless against a gash of that size, and if I had noticed it on the road, I certainyl would have insisted dragging the tour to an LBS for a replacement tire. Although we went through some towns with east access to bike shops, we also spent a lot of time in the Maryland paved wilderness, hours by bike from a shop. It makes me rethink whether I need to bring a folding bead tire as part of my touring kit. I ordered a new tire Monday, it arrived today.

* Sloppy shifting. I have and have tested so many Helicomatic freewheels that I can say with certainty that there is a wide variability in their shifting performance. It may be down to how old and how well-worn they are, or it may be a factor of the sprockets themselves. My testing is not scientific, but in general, all my bikes have new chains on them (so, a testing constant), and yet some freewheels just exhibit sloppy shifting. I went through two or three different freewheels in the build before leaving in the best one, which still forced me to overshift on downshifts and shift back up to find the gear I needed in the middle of the cluster. I have replaced the touring freewheel with another and will test, and if it is still sloppy, will endeavor to test another battery of different freewheels before swapping out the derailer (this is one of the reasons I collect many more Helicomatic freewheels and rear derailers than I could ever need - finicky parts).

* Squeaky brakes. I put a set of Dia Compe 610 centre-pulls on this bike (the most significant deviation from spec: The original bike had Dia Compe 500G sidepulls), but alas the brake caliper arms are not angled for toe-in, and the threaded pads I use do not have toe-in half-washers. On top of that, the Matrix rims still have a great deal of the hard anodizing on them, making them very slick. Both the Kool Stop Continentals and the Dia Compe Grey Matter pads I tried squealed, and I was not able to sort a solution before tour. Since then, I experienced the same problem on this year's touring bike, the 1982 Trek 728, and took +Eric Hansen's advice to get them ground down. I marked the pads and had my guy Taylor at the LBS grind them for me at an angle. The pads naturally have a toe-in now.

This bike will need significantly more attention before it goes back on tour; the goals of this week's efforts was to round out the maintenance list from last year, and to get the bike in shape to ride locally if needed.
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10/12/17
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1987 Trek 400: Tune Him Up

The life of a commuter bike owned by me is complicated, filled with agony and joy. It is always the bike I ride the most, putting in over 99% of total miles commuting, but is always treated the worst. I roll it into the Shed and put it up wet, I let the chain get creaky, and in general ignore small maintenance actions, because my commute is only 12.5 miles / 20 km, and there is little I cannot ignore, compensate for or avoid on a 50-minute ride.

A major thing happened last week, causing me to assess this bike's state and needs, I decided to round up some stuff and give it a fall tune up.

As I was Just Riding Along last Tuesday, in the third mile of the ride, I heard a pop, and the rear tire was flatter than three day-old soda in one second. I pulled over to discover something sharp had taken a large chunk out of the rear wheel, puncturing the tube, both of which were already at the 6000 miles mark. It was the kind of gash you really want to avoid riding on, as the tire casing and tube are directly exposed to the ground.

Luckily, in my trusty roadside kit I have a... hold on, I know it's in here... No come on, seriously, where is it?

WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN I DON'T HAVE AN EMERGENCY TIRE BOOT IN MY COMMUTING KIT?!?! WHAT KIND OF SUPER COMMUTER AM I?????

So the hack goes, if you do not have an emergency tire boot, which is an adhesive-backed latex patch that attaches to the inside of the tire, you can use a folded dollar bill. Of course, this requires you to have actual currency in your wallet, which I almost never do (it tends to burn a hole in my pocket) and did not that morning. What I did have was a stack of paper ATM receipts. I folded them over, stuffed them between the gash and the tube and rode a modest pace to work. The commuter LBS near my office had a proper Park Tool boot for $1.50, which got me home.

Once home, I had a high-mileage Pasela PT with some tread on it left over from the Surly, on that went to the rear wheel, that would get me through the next period of commuting.

But as I thought on it the way home, all the little things on this bike had added up to an impending need for a checkup. I ordered some stuff and here is what I have done to and for this bike:

* Ordered two new tires, we are now on to the "ProTite" version of the Panasonic Panaracer Pasela tire. Whether in the TourGuard, ProTec or ProTite, these are the best value touring/commuting tires, they are less expensive than their puncture-resistant Continental or Schwalbe counterparts, and they essentially never flat. The pair that was on the bike were at about 6000 miles service.

* Ordered a replacement/backup rear derailer and two replacement/backup freewheels. The Shimano Deore MT60 rear derailer (why didn't you get the long cage?) is an absurdly good derailer and works so well with the Shimano MF-Z012 (available in 5-speed and 6-speed) freewheel that I want to keep that band together. None of these replacement drivetrain parts need to go on the bike now, but since I intend on keeping this bike for the long term, I am simply planning ahead. They were not here as of this post, and I will post pics and write it up when they arrive.

* Full wash/polish. My baby was dirty from 18 months of accumulated crud. Yes, I ride this bike at least three times a week, usually four or five. No, I never clean it. Yes, I should do this part more often.

* Wheel check and maintenance. Off came the wheels and rubber. Rims, spokes and hubs were washed and I applied fresh rim tape, two rolls of Velox 16 mm tape per rim. While it was always my practice to use one roll per rim, lately I have determined these older double-walled Matrix rims I prefer have spoke-nipple recesses that are sufficiently large so as to encourage some bubbling in the tube, and on at least one occasion, I have experienced a tube puncture on the inside surface, which matched perfectly to a tire-pressure recess in the tape down into the spoke-nipple recess, so from now on, all rims get double-rolled.

* New tubes and tires, as indicated above.

* New chain. This bike got a new chain in the original overhaul in March-April 2016, and measuring the chain's wear regularly after 2000 miles is one of the few maintenance actions I take seriously. The damn thing just refused to wear down, even after 6000 miles. There were a couple of places in which I could force the 0.75% wear gauge down between links, but not consistently. Even so, 6000 miles is 6000 miles and chains are not expensive. Swapping it out helps preserve the crank and the freewheel.

* Reset derailers and brakes. I released all cables and reset everything. The brakes in particular had worn pads and had developed lots of play in the brake lever and some squeal in braking. I simply flipped the pads, which owing to 18 months of wear, when inverted now have built-in toe-in.

* Fresh finishing tape on the handlebar tape. The black Profile Design foam padding is holding up quite well, though the white finishing tape was dirty and was beginning to fray. Like a window treatment in a house, this non-functional detail provides an aesthetic highlight.

I ride this bike like a virtual single-speed, in the 52-21 combination in every commuting situation, except for the 600-meter, 9% incline in the last mile home. After 6000 miles on one chain, one would expect possibly for that 21t sprocket to be worn (hence the stocking up on identical freewheels). One would be correct in this suspicion, however the wear is so slight as to be barely noticeable. Application of a fresh chain did not induce any skipping, and this freewheel will ride it out for the foreseeable future.

Fear not, 1987 Trek 400, I have the parts to rebuild you.
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10/12/17
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