Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

This Week On Bikes

On Tuesday, we had a small snowstorm blow through, and I rode towork in the snow. Once there, I took a picture of my snowy fixed-gear mtb and wrote a post on my iPhone. I hit "Publish", and the post apparently disappeared into the ether. I didn't realize this, until the next day...

I rode to work that morning in an official blizzard, due to the wind speed. We didn't get a lot of snow, maybe 3 or 4 inches, but the 30-40 mph headwind I rode into made for a challenging ride.

By 1:00 PM, the storm was gone, and the sun was out. The snow melted and the roads were dry by the time I left work, at 4:30.

Yesterday, I didn't ride a bike, but I did a bit of work on the B+ mountain bike. I had decided to use an upright handlebar on it, but I didn't have one that appealed to me. So, I ordered up an Origin8 SpaceBar, with the bend I wanted.

 It has a couple of inches rise, more or less, and the width is nice, as well.

I have put a lot of thought and effort into building this bike up. Maybe, one of these days, I should go mountain biking with it!

Overnight, we got a few of inches of snow, once again. This morning, the neighborhood roads were very icy. So, once again, I pulled out the fixed-gear mtb, with the studded tires, in order to go to the coffee shop.

Every time I ride this bike, it reminds me of how much I like to ride a fixed-gear bike. I suppose I am just a simple guy, because the simplicity of the fixed bike really pleases me.

So, I wonder what the coming week will bring.


Saturday, November 07, 2015

Kindle Paperwhite

I'm a big Kindle fan. I have a basic, no-frills model, and a Fire, as well as having the app on my phone. Yes, there is something to be said about leafing through a physical book, feeling its weight in your hand, etc. but, there is also a lot to be said for having hundreds of thousands of books available to you, all in one small, portable package. That is particularly nice when you travel. 

I've been wanting the Paperwhite version, for quite a while. Its side-lit screen is easier on the eyes than that of the Fire, or my phone. And my basic Kindle is unlit, which makes it not only unreadable in low light, but also in the sunlight. 

But, at $129.99, the Paperwhite seemed a bit pricy to me. Then, this week, Amazon had a promo for Prime customers, which knocked $40.00 off the price. I pulled up the listing, and there was a second offer which knocked an additional $80.00 off if you applied for an Amazon Visa card. So, I ended up paying $9.99 for my new Paperwhite!

I don't really want the Visa, so I'll just cut it up when it arrives. And, I'm sure I'll get $9.99 worth of use out of my new reader!


Sunday, November 01, 2015

Okay, I Give Up! I'll Just Go Tubeless...

Some new things appeal to me, and I become an early adapter. Fat bikes come to mind, for instance.

Other things do not necessarily appeal to me, yet I use them anyway. Suspension forks come to mind, in this instance. Back in the day, when I was still riding competitively, it put me at a disadvantage to run a rigid fork. So, I used suspension forks, and full-suspension bikes, in order to level the playing field. Now, however, I am not competing, and you may notice a distinct lack of boingers on my mountain bikes.

Some new things, I have absolutely no desire to adopt, yet I am forced into it by circumstances. Tubeless tires fall squarely into this category. The Wilderness Trail Bikes tires and tubes that I want to use on my bikepacking rig are nearly impossible to deal with, with tubes in them. As a matter of fact, all of the tires and rims available in that size are tubeless. So, I broke down, bought the rim tape and valves, and spent three hours, yesterday, setting the bike up tubeless.

What a pain in the ass.

The tires are an extremely tight fit on the rims, even with the WTB rim tape. That's a necessity, when running tubeless, I know. But these things are ridiculously hard to mount. They are such a tight fit that I was able to just hook up my floor pump and air them up, in order to seat the beads. No CO2 cartridge or compressor required.

I did some experimenting, and I found that I can get a 700x35 tube inside the tire, in an emergency (assuming I can get the bead of the tire off of the rim, first). I am hoping and praying that I will have the  "no flats in two years" experience that tubeless users brag about. To that end, I put 4 ounces of sealant in each tire. (I started with 2 oz in each end, but decided to double up, due to the extra volume of the 2.8" tires.)

Keeping my fingers crossed.

I know that many, many people swear by tubeless tires, but I have never seen any advantage to them, for me. I don't experience any of the problems that the tubeless setup is supposed to solve. So, the added difficulty of mounting, unmounting, replacing sealant as it dries up, etc., don't really bring me any returns.

Maybe I'll change my mind, after a while, and wonder how I ever did without tubeless. I hope so, because the industry seems to be slowly but surely taking away my ability to choose whether or not I want to go that route.

Unrelated Band News:

Yesterday, I went to look at a bass amp which I had found listed on Craigslist. It belonged to a Korean Presbyterian Church (they have a "worship band"), and it was quite a bit less expensive than it should have been. The only thing I could find wrong with it is that one of the two instrument input jacks is broken. For a $300.00 discount over the normal resale value of this amp, I was okay with that.

It's an Ampeg BA115, 100 watt amp with a 15" speaker and a piezo tweeter. It's even an American-made model (which is a big thing to me).

The 30 watt Acoustic amp (12" speaker) that we had was okay, if the amp was miked, but it doesn't project enough over the guitar and drums in a situation where only the vocals are miked (like The Pit Stop or The Phoenix). Plus, the 12" speaker just doesn't have that big bassy growl that the 15" speaker delivers.

As a band, we have been putting our show proceeds into a pot to put toward this purchase. Next, I think, we should get the drummer a new high-hat. I'm pretty flush with guitars and equipment, myself...


Sunday, October 18, 2015

1985 Flying V Resurrection

In April of 2014, I picked up this 1985 Gibson Flying V, from my friend Jan,  for a small amount of money. It was cheap due to the fact that the guitar had been broken, repaired, then spray-painted with what appeared to have been multiple cans of paint before it was built up with non-original parts.

Still, it was a real Gibson Flying V, and I had wanted one for 40 years. So, where others saw a junk guitar, I saw potential.

You can see that the headstock had been in at least three pieces, at some point. The repair was tight, and seemed stable. So, I installed some locking tuners, and strung it up.

There is a piece of oak, under the stop tailpiece. This guitar originally was equipped with a locking Kahler tremelo unit. It had been removed, and the hole filled in with random species of wood. No attempt was made to match the woods, cosmetically.

I actually played the guitar quite a bit, over the next month, and played it at a May 5th gig, which we dubbed "Veeyo de Mayo", and everyone was surprised at how good the thing sounded. But the spray paint was rubbing off onto my clothes, so I removed it. That revealed another piece of mismatched wood on the front of the body.

I sent the V home with a friend of mine, so that he could refinish it for me. He wanted some practice working on electric guitars, and I figured this would be a good, no-pressure project to get him started. Unfortunately, he was never able to get around to my guitar. Last week, I got the guitar back from him, to test-fit it in a case I had found for it. Once I had it in hand, I decided to see if I could make some progress on the refinishing.

Here, you can see the piece I was talking about, at the neck joint. It is not only a different species of wood than the body, but the grain runs perpendicular to that of the body wood! Yet, again, it is well-fitted and seemingly stable.

(I find it amusing that all of the fittings on an electric guitar, including the strap, fit into a standard cigar box.)

The remaining factory paint was pretty much laughing at my sander. Coarse paper would barely even mark the clear-coat. So, I physically scraped the paint down to primer, then sanded the primer down to bare wood.

Six hours of work later, and I had the body and neck down to bare wood. The neck is maple, on this guitar. The mid-80s were a strange time for Gibson...

I wanted a finish similar to my 2005 Faded V, except I wanted a darker color. Basically, I wanted the guitar to look like the back of my Les Paul BFG. I started with Red Mahogany Danish Oil Finish, and applied it until I got the original wood to the color I wanted. The large patch at the neck joint was still a completely different shade.

So, off to Ace Hardware, where I found a scratch repair kit, which allowed you to "match any color finish". I went to work on the light piece, and finally got it where I was satisfied. It isn't a perfect match, but I never expected it to be. A little bit of wabi sabi is fine with me.

Once I had the finish where I was happy with it, I reassembled the guitar and plugged it in. I was curious if the change in finish had, perhaps, affected the sound of the guitar. If it did, it improved it. This thing is a beast.

The pickups are unbranded, so I have no idea where they came from, but they sure put out some sound. The tone is more aggressive than than the Faded V, and some of my harder-edged songs sound really good when played on this guitar.

As I said, the finish is not a perfect match, but it is close enough for a stage instrument.

From the floor of Herman's Hideaway, I suspect that no one will see the mismatched wood on the front of the guitar.

As near as I can figure, the guitar must have fallen (from an airplane, perhaps?) onto the headstock, which resulted in the headstock shattering and the neck pulling away from the body, along with a chunk of the body. Why the repair person removed the original wood and patched in the new piece, I don't know.

Anyway, it's a good gigging instrument, and the price was right. So, I think the work I put into it was well worth it!


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Long, Strange Trip For an Alloy Frame (And A Long, Wordy Post to Go With It)

This bike has led a pretty varied life. It began as a mislabeled Bikes Direct "Motobecane" frame. It had the model name of their single-speed model laser-etched into the frame, but it was a multi-speed bike. They dumped a container-load of these frames on eBay for, as I recall, $89.00, shipped. Built by Kinesis, in Taiwan, the frame is actually a very nice alloy 29er frame, equal to (and made by the same people as) many big-brand frames.

I covered over the "Motobecane" lettering on the downtube, just on principle, and built it into my first-ever 29er mountain bike, with a rigid fork and 3x8-speed drivetrain. It was my first disc-brake bike, as well. Once I got the FUNK, which took over as my main mtb, the Fauxbecane did duty as a commuter, for a while. Then, I built it up and took it to my nephew.

A couple of years later, I decided I needed a 29er with a suspension fork, for some reason, so I bought another Bikes Direct frame (with RockShox fork), and built it up. After riding it a few times, I realized that it was just slightly too big for me. So, I had my sister sent the Fauxbecane back, and I swapped parts. My nephew ended up with the new frame, and I had this one back. Unfortunately, I didn't really like going back to a suspension fork, so the bike hung in the rafters, as I rode my 1991 TREK off-road.

Recently, with the advent of the "Plus" size tires (sized between a regular mtb tire and a Fat Bike tire), I decided to experiment with tire sizes on the Fauxbecane. First, I shoehorned some 26x3" tires into it. They would roll, but the tire/frame clearance was close to nil. So, I got ahold of some WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tires (a 650b, or 27.5" tire, depending on whose marketing department you ask), and installed them on some standard 650b disc wheels I had left over from a previous project. They fit fine, but the skinny rims (24mm) rounded out the tire and narrowed the footprint.

Alas, 35mm-rimmed wheels were out of my price range, so I figured that I would just plug along with the narrow rims until I chanced upon some wide wheels I could afford. The suspension fork came off, and the VooDoo fork I had originally built the bike with went back on.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon some WTB i35 rims for a decent price on eBay, so I ordered them up. I already had a set of Deore disc hubs in the shop, and the spokes came from Colorado Cyclist. Once they were built (yesterday), I had a complete set of wheels for less than the cost of a prebuilt rear wheel, alone.

The rims built up easily, with no real issue getting them round and true. Plus, with the black spokes, I thought they came out pretty good-looking.

Today, I decided to transfer over the tires, cogs and brake rotors and get the new wheels on the bike. What a freaking chore that was! The tires and rims are tubeless-ready (although I wasn't planning on running them tubeless), which means that they should have a fairly snug fit at the bead, to aid in sealing. Snug, however doesn't begin to describe it.

Back in the 90s, there was run of TREK Matrix rims which were, apparently, at the large end of the manufacturing tolerance of bike rims. Coupled with Continental Tires' normally snug fit on any rim, the combination of those rims and Conti tires produced a phenomenally difficult task in mounting the tires. Tailside flat repair was a nightmare, and resulted in many a walk back to the trailhead, after all available tire irons had been snapped in two.

The Trailblazer/i35 combo makes the old Matrix/Conti fit look absolutely sloppy. I may end up having to run tubeless, on this bike, just to avoid the nightmare of pinched tubes and broken tire irons which I went through, this afternoon. I ended up having to use the handles of Park Tool cone wrenches as tire irons, in order to get the darn things mounted. I inflated them to 60 psi (well above the mazimum recommended pressure) to see if the beads will stretch a bit. I can only hope so. I also plan to carry motorcycle tire irons, when I go off-road. Otherwise, a flat will strand me.

Once mounted, though, the tires were considerably wider on the new rims, as compared to the old.

New rim on left, old rim on right

The measurements show a 20mm increase in carcass width, and nearly as much in footprint.

The difference is visible, looking at the bike, as well.

So, once I am confident I can get back, if I have a flat, I plan on going over to Mt.Falcon and checking out the new shoes. Twenty to 25 psi seems to be the pressure of choice among people who are running these tires, so I will start at 25 and see how it goes.

Once I have the tire intricacies worked out, I plan to outfit this bike for bikepacking, as well as normal trail riding. A frame bag, handlebar roll and large, expedition-style seat bag should do the trick.

I hope that the b+ tires will give me enough float to ride through the sandy stretches in Moab and Fruita. I loved the fact that my fat bike allowed me to ride, where I normally had to walk with standard mountain bikes. But, the extra wheel weight was a bit of a drag on the climbs.

I sold the fat bike (the fellow is coming down from Minnesota to pick it up), so I won't have that option, in the future. Unless, of course, I run the WalMart Mongoose offroad, which is a possibility, I suppose ... I ran the red one off-road with no problem. I would want to swap the hi-ten fork for a CroMo unit, though.

More later (as if that wasn't enough).


Friday, October 02, 2015

An Addition To The Outdoor Living Room

My next-door neighbor moved out, last week, and left me her patio table. I set it under the tree, temporarily and decided that I liked it there. So, today, Carol and I moved some of the concrete pavers from my derelict backyard patio and made a new patio space for the table. 

The chairs are old Murray Industries pressed steel units that another neighbor left me, last year. I plan to have them powder coated, eventually. 

I need to move the pile of leftover pavers, and put my tools up, but I am otherwise done for the day. 

I also hung up this wooden wind chime that, I think, came home from the Phillipines with my parents, 25 years
 ago, more or less. 

Time for a beer. 


Thursday, October 01, 2015

Bigsby Billy

I call my red Gibson BFG "Billy", due to both the "ZZ Top" sound of the guitar and the rumor that Billy F. Gibbons designed its circuitry. When I bought Billy, I thought (and said, aloud) that it was the last guitar I would ever need to buy. And, it remained my favorite, until my 2005 Flying V came along. The addition of the P-94 at the neck, and the Bigsby tailpiece that I added moved the V into Favorite territory. 

Awhile back, I bought a vintage Bigsby B-3 to add to my Japanese hollow-body, in an effort to make a Rockabilly guitar. It didn't work out, because the B-3 didn't produce enough string tension over the bridge. So, I found an equally vintage B-7 frame, on eBay, for cheap, and bought it. I thought I would use the parts from the B-3 to complete the B-7. The tension bar would then make the strings sit tightly over the bridge.

In the meantime, I was playing Cooper (my LP Special, with a B-5) rather than Billy. So, I started thinking about adding a Bigsby to Billy. But, I don't have the cash to buy the adapter, plus another Bigsby. So...

Today, I gathered up the B-3 and the B-7 frame and started to work. 

Disassembly went smoothly, and more easily than I anticipated. 

Driving the needle bearings out was the biggest challenge, but even that only took a couple of minutes per bearing. 

Before long, I had all of the parts swapped, and the B-7 was ready to install. I still didn't have the adapter, so I opted  to do the old-school install. Nothing makes me feel more manly than drilling holes into the face of a Gibson Guitar!

I was careful to get the alignment correct, and I went with slotted screws to stay with the vintage vibe. 

The finished product was just what I wanted! I strung it up and played it for an hour. It holds tune really well, even with the stock bridge. But, I have a roller bridge to put on it, if string breakage becomes a problem. 

I'll be playing Billy for the first set, at The Phoenix, this Saturday, if you want to hear how he sounds.

We start at 9:00.