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Ben Folsom
Works at Bike Commuter Cabal
Attended University of Virginia
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Ben Folsom

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1973 Gitane Puma: New Tires


The Littlest Mechanic

It has been some months (sixteen to be exact, this order was placed in December 2014) since these arrived, and today was the day Young Master's bike got all-new rubber, in the form of a pair of Hutchinson 500A / 28-440 BSD tires and Schwalbe 20-inch tubes.

This bike arrived in February 2014 from Craigslist Cleveland via +Tom Ligman with a rotted-out set of 37mm Hutchinson tires, the original spec on the bike does not identify standard-install tires, however based on the imputed age and condition, they very well could have been original.

Finding 500A (in the French tire sizing system) / 440 BSD tires was a challenge in 2014, and I managed to locate an eBay seller hawking Raleigh 37-440 whitewall tires and tubes, those went on with the original restoration in December 2014. From the get-go I was not super pleased with the fit due to a persistent bulge in the sidewall of the rear tire, at max 54 psi inflation, the bead would prolapse over the rim at the same point, regardless of the tire position and whether it was on the front or rear wheel. It is obviously a problem with the tire, but since 440 BSD tires are hard to come by, I kept the tire underinflated and let it go.

No sooner did I have his bike on the road did I find St. John Street Cycles of Somerset, in England's southwest. They had multiple options and properly-sized tubes (the tubes that had arrived with the Raleigh tires in June 2014 had 408 BSD BMX tubes), so I went with the 27mm Hutchinsons to match the original bike, even though the original tires were fatter and had sweet, sweet gumwalls (these new tires are all-black). Given competing projects and the kids' love of 'skidding out' (they insist on rear brakes tight enough to lock up so they can throw the bike sideways on a hard brake), I was not in a hurry to replace new tires, despite the fit problem with the Raleighs.

Fast forward a year and a half, Young Master is well settled on the bike, and bald spots have appeared on the rear wheel from skidding out. Topping that, a brake adjustment at some point (almost certainly me, though from the photos you can see his interest in maintaining his own bike, and more than once I have caught him red-handed in the Bike Shed turning a wrench on it) put the brake pad on the side of the rear tire bulge in the path of the bulge, gently stripping rubber with every wheel rotation, to the point where the bead was stripping out of the casing. It was time to put the new tires on the bike.

The Twin Turbines are deep in high school sports, so Young Master and I have two hours or more after his school gets out to hang together, today we put his bike up on the stand. He insisted on doing the work, with direction, to the point where he was not physically able. First the front, when I had to remind him of good tire lever technique: Spoon the bead exactly opposite the valve stem, then spoon the second lever two hand widths around to the dominant hand and poof, the bead is off.

Remove the tire and tube, install the new rubber and remount. We discovered significant out-of-true, so we removed the wheel and put it in the stand, I showed him the basics of truing a wheel, then remounted it.

At this point, the Twin Turbines arrived, starving as always from running five miles after school, so I turned to dinner prep. Young Master dropped the rear wheel (with a modicum of assistance in navigating the rear derailer), removed the tire and tube and decided he wanted to check true on his own. I guided him through smoothing the one bump, then he mounted the new tire and tube on his own, with some style pointers from me on mounting tire labels in relation to the valve stem.

Everything centered and pumped up, the bike is ready to go, we will be riding morning errands before school tomorrow.
Ben Folsom's profile photoPeter “Pinch Flat” Mullin's profile photoTom “T-Rex” Ligman's profile photoRoger Lacourt's profile photo
Let's trade kids :) Well from the report his skills are even ahead of my own, as I just properly trued a wheel this weekend.
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Ben Folsom

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This morning just south of National Airport, I came across Chris, he was on a brand-new Specialized Allez that turns out to belong to his brother. They just moved to the area and have decided they want to get back into riding. He was on the side of the trail with a flat. I offered to help and he accepted it (Rule of the road: Always offer assistance to stopped or downed riders). He had tire levers in one hand and his phone in the other, watching a YouTube on how to fix a puncture. I slowly shook my head and assured him, "We got this."

As I have many times before with many other rookies, I walked him through the process: Shifting to the big gear in back, then getting the wheel off, spooning off the bead, pulling out the tube, finding the puncture and applying a patch, in this case a temporary Skabs adhesive patch from his roadside kit.

I then directed him while he put everything back together, then he asked what he needed to buy for his own kit when he got home. I indicated preparation is the father of recovery on a bike ride and listed for him the major items that should be in every roadside carry:

* Two tubes, so you can give one away to the next sad sack.

* Vulcanizing patch kit, maybe two. Adhesives are a last resort.

* Mini-pump. Keep your CO2 if you like, but carry a pump as a backup. If you already feel worthless on the side of the road, just wait until you screw up the injector and vent your cartridges into the atmosphere.

* Pedro's tire levers in pink or yellow. Everything else is like shopping at the Gap. Have some goddamn style.

* Multitool, with hex wrenches, flathead and Phillips.

* 6-inch adjustable wrench, because the next guy you stop to help will have nutted wheels.

* Mini chain breaker. The National Chain Snap Alert System is permanently set to Orange: Significant Threat of Chain Snap.

* Spoke wrench. If you fall over or encounter someone that has crashed but can go on, their wheel may need some roadside attention.

* Emergency granola or cookie. Give it to the unfortunate rider bonking on the side of the road or enjoy a snack when you arrive at happy hour early because your mates are stuck in traffic in their cars.

* Emergency whiskey. Enjoy a tipple while you wait on your mates, use it as an analgesic mid-ride or after a crash, and in emergencies it is also an antiseptic.

He blinked hard and said, "Wow, that's a lot of stuff, do I really need to carry all that just for a quick morning ride?"

With a finger firmly in his face, I replied, "The Zombie Raccoon commands you."

I remounted by bike and with a "Hi-Yo Trek!" I was gone, back on the commute and on the lookout for the next rider in need of assistance.
Hamish “Silber Fuchs” Gaunt's profile photoDean Woods's profile photoBen Folsom's profile photoWilliam Robison's profile photo
BTW +Ben Folsom​ I appreciate you still calling it National and not the new name for the guy that nearly destroyed the aviation/air transport industry. 
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We stayed up late drinking Sazerac, got up, had a crappy hotel breakfast, provisioned at the Giant and now we are on the road, 65 miles for the Hobos today, endpoint: Assateague Island State Park.
Darrell “got myself a hat” Varley's profile photoallen schmitz's profile photoLynne Watanabe's profile photoCurtis Wenzel's profile photo
RJL has the BEST RIDE PANTS. I wear MUSA all summer. Pedal you beautiful bastids.
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Of we go. See you in Salisbury.

+RJ Lalumiere +Sean Lally 
Brendan Brisker's profile photoBen Folsom's profile photoPeter Morris's profile photoRJ Lalumiere's profile photo
+Brendan Brisker​ ha! I asked him the same thing.
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When +Jeff Lesperance gave the Hobos an executive lift over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

+RJ Lalumiere +Sean Lally 
RJ Lalumiere's profile photoMark “Stick It” Holcroft's profile photoSean Lally's profile photoScott “Uncle Grouchy” Loveless's profile photo
Ooh, ooh! Tom Palin could play me!
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Ben Folsom

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Bike Hobo Fantasy Camp: Consolidated Cue Sheet

For those not familiar with the arcane traditions of the cue sheet, a cue sheet is turn by turn directions for a bike ride. While no single standard exists, a good cue sheet contains the following:

* A direction, which is the way you go on the next turn of the ride, i.e., GO LEFT.

* An action, which is the road, path or thruway onto which that direction puts you, i.e., Onto Elm Street.

* A distance, which is how far you travel on that action, i.e., 6.9 miles.

Good cue sheets sum the day's ride by distance, so as you follow the actions, you have a daily summary of total distance. But this measurement is really just a gauge for the riders so they understand the order of the day. If you use a ride computer, like a Garmin, and you stay on route, and don't deviate, make side trips or make mistakes or wrong turns, you can track your day's progress by the total distance traveled.

In practice, using the total day's planned distance to gauge your actions fails, as the actual miles traveled inevitably exceeds the planned mileage. The backstop method then becomes simple math, as the rider ignores the 'daily' distance, instead using the measured distance on his or her computer to gauge the next action, i.e., 2.1 miles until a left on Vague Reference Road, if I have 44.3 miles on my computer, that means I need to look out for the next turn at 46 miles.

A good cue sheet also has the cumulative distance for the entire ride, though again, the number is rarely the actual distance ridden for the same reasons as the daily distance above, it is more of a gauge. Finally, there are notes about specific actions, milestones or locations.

The cue sheet linked has seven tabs, one for the complete ride, and six more, each comprising a day of the ride. It is only organized this way because Google Sheets does not have a function to insert a page break inside a sheet, I wanted each day to start at the top of a page and the only practical way to do this in Google Sheets (besides managing cell height or inserting extraneous rows to push down to a natural page break) is to start each day at the top of a new sheet. The font size and column width have been managed for maximum readability in a bar-mounted map case. This cue sheet conforms to my standard data field format: Direction, Action, Distance, Day Total, Cumulative Total, Notes.

Access to this sheet is read-only, though you should be able to download it to your own Google Drive and manipulate your copy. If you have suggestions or see obvious errors, please drop a comment and let me know.

BHFC: T-minus three days.
BHFC Cue SheetOriginal Bike Hobo Fantasy Camp Cue Sheet Created by Ben Folsom Day One Dir, Action, Dist, Day, Cum, Notes Start, Depart home, 0, 0, 0 R, Commute route w/ Case Bridge to 9th St, 11, 11, 11 S, G St, 0. 2, 11. 2, 11. 2 R, 6th St, 0. 4, 11. 6, 11. 6 L, Southwest Waterfront Trail, 0. 3, 11....
Ben Folsom's profile photoJeff Lesperance's profile photoSean Lally's profile photo
Thanks, +Jeff Lesperance​! 
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Ben Folsom

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1982 Trek 728: Old Brake Tech

The 1982 Trek 728 came outfitted with a set of very rare brakes indeed, the vaunted Dia Compe New Gran Compe 450. Often known as 'NGC450,' they are centre-pull caliper brakes and are very well-regarded, in my research I have seen them called superior, on par with Mafac Racer's, and even 'OMG the best evar.' They appear to have been a favorite of boutique builders back in the day and were outfitted on very few production bikes.

And while this bike is still months out from its big debut on the overhaul runway, it is not too early to start figuring out through which parts and service actions the critical path will flow. For bikes of this vintage, I generally prefer to replace straddle cables on the brakes; while they generally stand the test of time, particularly on bikes that appear very low mileage, as this one appears, the straddle cable on a centre-pull brake is not an item you want failing on a ride in the middle of nowhere.

So I started a search for replacement straddle cables, assuming that like the 610 and 750 double barrel-end straddle cables, they would be easy to come by. They are not. Research led me to find the new versions of the brakes that are still sold by Dia Compe. Those brakes include straddle wires, natch, and are very expensive and are sold online by a very small number of vendors, notably by St. John Street Cycles in Somerset, way in the southwest of England (this is the place where I get ISO 440 tires and tubes for Young Master's 1973 Gitane Puma). Alas, they may sell the brakes, but not accessories for them.

The search led me to Dia Compe's website, where I found the replacement part. Frustrated, I sent a customer inquiry email from an outdated web interface, assuming that I would never hear anything and moved on.

Two days later, Mike Lin from Dia Compe customer service in Taiwan emailed me back. Yes they still make the part, no there are no registered US distributors for this item, no they are not able to sell them to me directly, but hey, what if we just sent you a few? I accepted, requesting quantity six, which would be two for the rebuild and four spares.

At the same time, I was lamenting this on G+ and +Scott Loveless mentioned that they looked a lot like straddle cables for Mafac Competition and Mafac 2000 centre-pull brakes as sold by Compass Cycles. So I picked up a couple of sets of those as well, for good measure.

The Compass products arrived quickly and the package from Taiwan took a bit longer. Yesterday was the day I unpacked it all and set to comparing the products. In the pictures, the Dia Compe product is at the top and the Compass product is at bottom.

The first thing to note is that Mike at Dia Compe put a whole bunch of Dia Compe stickers in with the wires, one will soon adorn the drawer in the Bike Shed, additional stickers will be available from me only to those that have successfully unlocked the 'Commercial Distribution System Circumnavigated' achievement in the Bike Restoration challenge.

Both types of wires have an inline barrel end similar to derailer cables on one side, and another on the opposite end, this one with a gripper for placing the cable in place manually, both types appear to have the same size barrels. My assistant measured the wires, the Dia Compe's are 11.5 cm and the Compass' are 12.5 cm. Length should not matter, as the Compass option is longer.

A big thanks to Dia Compe, they came to help me get this old bike back on the road. This engagement may not be the last time I come to them directly with hat in hand. Additional research today tends to indicate the posts in the smooth-post brake pads are of a proprietary, obsolete or otherwise hard-to-find size, 7 mm. I am not in a position right now to measure a set of Kool Stop smooth-post cantilever brake pads, and will be doing that presently. I found the 'GC450 pad' on Dia Compe's website, and surprise surprise, not commercially available anywhere.

So hey there Mike, any chance you can help a guy out one more time?
Stephen Randall (thedaffodilfish)'s profile photoJay “JayCoyote” Flagg's profile photoSteve Sulkowski's profile photoJeff Lesperance's profile photo
Those straddle cables sound pretty good. I even have a few myself. I just can't seem to figure out how to make them work with my hydraulic disc brakes though.
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Ben Folsom

Admin/Announcements  - 
Heidly ho there commuters, a word from the mods, today I approved seven members and rejected a further 26, a nearly 4-to-1 rejection rate. There are many reasons why a request to join our community would be rejected. Suffice to say, the mods are doing what we can to keep the group on topic and catering to those with a real desire to interact principally on topics related to bike commuting and transport cycling more broadly. Feel free to drop questions in comments.
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Ok, ok, enough already. I am giving 'The New Google+' another shot.
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Using mobile handheld device, same brand as yours, but not using the app. In the browser version I can see the image comment.
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The Hobos have arrived Salisbury, Md. 76.2 miles on the day in 5h53m. We made great time and saw a whole lot of Eastern Shore nothing. +RJ Lalumiere and +Sean Lally made for the showers straight away, I really really needed dat beer tho.

Tonight we have our pick of brewpubs, and also need to sort food acquisition strategy for tomorrow.

But first beer, and whiskey.
Jeff Lesperance's profile photoSean Lally's profile photoStephen Randall (thedaffodilfish)'s profile photoBrendan Brisker's profile photo
Shower before beer, never fear. Beer before shower, hobo power.
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Ready to start day two. Today we ride approximately 74 miles from Grasonville, Md. (Kent Narrows) to Salisbury, Md. Should be way deep into the Eastern Shore countryside.

The Trek's packout is two whiskey drinks lighter and four liters of water heavier.

+Sean Lally +RJ Lalumiere 
Chris Johnson's profile photoAric Smarra's profile photoBen Folsom's profile photo
Good eye, +Aric Smarra, I did not weigh it before leaving, but I am carrying less on this tour, mainly less food as we are doing two hotel nights in a row. We will be bulking up on food in the morning as we are camping on the beach tomorrow.
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The Hobos depart. See you at the Bay.

+RJ Lalumiere +Sean Lally 
Jeff “FunkyStickman” Hendricks's profile photoMitch Sprague's profile photoSteve Sulkowski's profile photoRJ Lalumiere's profile photo
Y'all haven't even seen the lights in the helmet hat yet :D 
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Ben's Collections
Collections Ben is following
  • Bike Commuter Cabal
    Bike Commuter, 2009 - present
Basic Information
Rules 5 and 9
Bike commuter with a wide range of interests, including riding, fixing and restoring bicycles.
  • University of Virginia
    Anthropology, Italian, 1987 - 1992
  • American University
    MBA, 1998 - 2000
Ben Folsom's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
The Flash (TV Den)

The Flash (Coming This Fall to The CW)


Born in Brooklyn, Made in America


The official Google+ for COSMOS.

Weather Underground

The World's First Weather Website

Bike Garage

Bicycle cleaning & bike maintenance tips to keep you cycling longer


Never Fear BikemanforU Is Here

Bike touring for the first time -- 2009 Finger Lakes Tour

On this cold winter day, I can very well use some warm memories of the past, in this case from my first "real" bike tour. "Real" because whe - Cycling Training Workout Videos, DVDs & Downloads -Cycling Training Workout DVDs & Video Downloads with Mark Cavendish & Pete Kennaugh


VeloInk decals make your bike happy :)

Cycling Nirvana/BRIEFS

There are many styles of bikes, types of cycling and reasons to ride... and they're all good!

I Wear Spandex

Trying to fit into my cycling spandex. Losing weight with cycling, low carb, paleo, and anything else that works. Does beer work? Sharing it all on the blog.

Capital Weather Gang

The inside scope on weather in the D.C. area and beyond

Grateful Dead Listening Guide

Help navigating choices in the sea of Grateful Dead shows.