Greg LeMond’s first pro bike

August 1, 2021

The image below shows LeMond’s first pro bike, bought by his father in 1974. What’s amazing about this image is that it’s a painting!

Greg liked the painter’s work so much that he commissioned Nickalas Blades to paint his yellow Cinelli.

Awesome.

Allendale Avenue berm a memory

July 29, 2021
A berm on Allendale Avenue in Saratoga was removed several years ago to improve road safety.

Today while riding east on Allendale Avenue, close to West Valley College, approaching Quito Road I was reminded of how much safer it is to use this stretch of road.

I don’t know who took the initiative, but they deserve recognition for going to the trouble of removing a troublesome berm, sometime in late 2017 or 2018.

I used Google Maps to display the road in December 2017 (right) and today.

Not only is the berm hard to see, it’s not something you would expect to find in a bike lane.

The most convincing evidence for eliminating the berm is shown in the image from 2017. Notice the garbage cans blocking the “bike lane”!

I always chose to ride in the street to avoid obstacles like trash cans.

Every time I ride by here I think to myself, “Sometimes our city engineers right a wrong, and everyone is better off.”

Palo Alto ped/bike overpass opens in August

July 27, 2021
Palo Alto ped/bike overpass looking north from baylands side.

The long-awaited Palo Alto ped/bike overpass at Highway 101 opens in August. It looks like it’s almost complete.

This span costs $28.8 million! The Mary Avenue/280 ped/bike overpass cost $14 million and that seemed like a lot at the time.

However, this is Palo Alto where a modest tract house sells for $2 million.

The bridge has been planned for at least four years to replace the Adobe Creek underpass, which was never meant to be a ped/bike facility.

That trail flooded regularly after a storm, so it was closed at least half the year.

The new bridge meets specifications for Americans with Disabilities Act, which explains the huge curved ramps on both sides of the freeway.

There’s a steep ped/bike overpass a mile north, but it’s ADA non-complaint.

E. Meadow Dr. looks like the best approach street with wide bike lanes.

This overpass will see lots of traffic going to the popular Palo Alto Baylands and Mountain View Shoreline Park.

Old Adobe Creek underpass at Hwy 101.

Laurence Malone made his mark

July 23, 2021

I didn’t know Laurence beyond watching him race once, and for his masterful article about Jobst Brandt published in Bicycling magazine.

He made his mark in cyclocross starting in the early 1970s. He won some championships and competed in Europe, coached, and then disappeared.

Laurence was a free spirit who grew up in Berkeley, but in my mind he was a Santa Cruz kind of rider, easy going and not one to be concerned about the good life.

He lost his life in a car crash in California while driving to his home in Chimayo, 6,000 feet altitude, north of Santa Fe.

Cycling News article

Here’s two photos I took in 1985 at the cyclocross state championship in Santa Cruz. I guess the barrier was too high for him to use his trademark “bunny hop.”

Laurence Malone in 1985 cyclocross championship

Laurence Malone on YouTube

Topeak’s JoeBlow pump has a flaw

July 7, 2021

Stripped threads in aluminum base caused JoeBlow pump to fail. Poor design.

(Update, July 20, 2021: I didn’t say how my operation turned out because I wanted to give the pump time to recover fully. Like people, pumps need time to settle in after an overhaul/disassembly. The operation was a success. The pump works as well as can be expected for its age. It’s suitable as a back-up pump.)

I’ve been using the JoeBlow Sport pump since around 2000, and it has been a workhorse. The only other floor pump I owned was a Silca.

The Silca got old and died, which happens to all pumps. It served me well for about 20 years.

I bought the JoeBlow Sport III and now I wish I hadn’t. I should have bought a Park or Levitan. They support their product with replacement parts and show how to maintain them on YouTube. Topeak, not so much.

But on to the flaw. My floor pump failed for a simple reason. The base plate is held by three socket-cap screws. They’re too small for the job.

My new JoeBlow has the same problem, puny bolts, and it looks like the design has not changed in 20 years. I tightened them down, and they needed it, even though the pump was new.

Before I go any farther, to get the most life out of those screws tighten them every few months or so with an allen key. They need to be tight. Had I known when I bought the pump, I probably wouldn’t be writing this column.

The screws keep the floor plate attached to the tube. Standing on the floor plate and jerking on the pump when inflating strains the screws,

Now for a deep dive that explains how to fix the problem. Only do this if your pump’s screws are stripped out and you have nothing to lose.

I know about tapping stripped threads, but I’ve never tried it. Adam Savage of MythBusters fame has a fun and educational guide on how to tap threads on YouTube.

The part that needs tapping is the round plug that sits inside the base of the pump tube. It’s machined aluminum. Aluminum is much softer than steel bolts, so it’s easy to see why the hole threads stripped.

JoeBlow sport pump disassembled, minus the base plate.

After checking the bolt diameter, it turned out that a 1/4 inch 20 (thread count) one inch socket cap screw would work, barely. I say barely because the aluminum plug and its holes are perilously close to the outside edge.

I pressed on because I had nothing to lose. My tapping experience went as well as could be expected for a newbie. I didn’t break the tap and the threads were as vertical as I could make them. That’s crucial. They need to be vertical.

Before you tap, be sure you tap in the right direction. The aluminum disk has a raised lip that faces down. An O ring rests in the lip notch inside the base of the tube. Drill up, the screw’s orientation.

Topeak uses screws with only a small amount of thread. The rest of the screw is smooth. I didn’t find anything like it, so I had to tap the pressure gauge plastic and the base plate, both trivial but be sure they’re as vertical as possible because the thread goes through three parts. Using fully threaded screws makes for a much stronger base.

I purchased the Azuno 17-piece tap and die set in US standard thread measurement. English is less expensive and parts are more readily available than metric.

Note that not all taps are alike. Ideally, you would use a tap that begins its threads at the tip. The Azuno has a void area at the tip. That meant I had to drill clean through the aluminum disk. I don’t think it matters. I can’t imagine air escaping through the threaded screw. If you’re concerned, plug the holes with something.

Disassembly and assembly of the pump is a pain. Removing the pump shaft requires using a screwdriver to press in a plastic tab in two holes at the top of the pump shaft, hidden by a piece of plastic. It’s a terrible design. (That was 20 years ago. The new pump doesn’t use that design today.)

Getting out the aluminum disk requires a long stick or pole. Another O ring sits lose on top of the aluminum disk. Weird.

While you’re at it, clean and lubricate the parts, using heavy oil, but not car grease.

A one-inch screw will work better than the 6/8″ screw length the pump comes with. That’s another reason the Topeak base screws failed. They had only five or six threads in the aluminum. Terrible engineering.

After going through this nonsense, I realize that Topeak’s product offering is inferior to other pumps on the market. I’m not saying they’re terrible, just mediocre. Lesson learned.

Bridge work at Almaden Reservoir

July 2, 2021

Bridge work underway at Almaden Reservoir.

Just below Almaden Reservoir on Alamitos Road, expect delays for road repairs.

An old bridge is being worked on. It’s hard to believe any reservoir has water after two dry winters (8.5 inches and 5.5 inches at my house), but Almaden looks good.

Gone are the days when I rode over Hicks Road and made a loop.

Fatigue Limit – 15

June 27, 2021

Dunlop’s first pneumatic bicycle tire, circa 1887. (Wikipedia)

“Why not buy here?” I asked. Carl discounted my comment. “Frame size for one. Unavailable. This bike will be one-of-a-kind.”

Carl lifted his glass and toasted Paul. Engineering principles called for a triangular configuration. “My frame is elegant, clean, simple, and will last. A bike is no more than a top tube, down tube, head tube, seat tube, and rear stays. I only want essentials. These Rover, McCarthy, Rambler, and Cogent frames with the crazy curves are an awful idea. I wouldn’t be seen on one.”

He fingered the drawing. “This is a rim brake I found on an old bike, but the design didn’t catch on. With a rear brake like this one, dropping Gary on the descent would be easy. Can you make one? I want another on the front as well.”

Paul studied the sketch. “Sure, I can fabricate anything, given time. Are you going to patent this?”

“I secured a patent for my cyclometer this month after endless paperwork. I don’t care about bike patents. That’s not how I pay the bills. If somebody wants to build one, they can.”

Paul shrugged. “Not a wise idea Carl. Royalties could buy a lot of bikes.”

Carl ran his finger over the sketch and stopped at the wheels. “These are what hold my attention — wheels and tires. Three-cross spoke pattern. Forget radial lacing. Then there’s the crowning achievement in tire technology: a pneumatic called a tubular. They glue on to a wood rim. An inner tube is sewn inside the tire casing. I told Dupont how to simplify his complex tire. He’s making some samples to test. These tires lighten the wheel and lower rolling resistance. The lone obstacle is flats. They take an hour to patch. In a couple of years the inner tube will sit free inside the tire, held on the rim with pressure alone. A flat can be fixed in a few minutes. Dunlop is considering a half-dozen designs, so the industry is still determining which one is best.”

 “What does a rider do when a tire loses air?” I asked.

“You carry a spare or two behind the saddle. The glue is strong, but you can yank off the tire and put on a new one in a matter of minutes. Ride quality overshadows all the drawbacks. These tires will smooth out the bumps, and the decreased rolling resistance will more than compensate for the time needed to change a flat. No more solid tires!”

Fatigue Limit home

Fatigue Limit – 14

June 20, 2021

Bicycle patent from 1890.

I returned to sit next to Carl, who engaged Paul Johansen in a hushed conversation away from the other riders.

“Tab, Paul and I are working on a project. Keep it to yourself. Understand?”

“Sure. Off the record.”

“Paul is building a frame using the latest in structural engineering and metallurgy. I’m reviewing the details now. What do you think Paul?”

“Anything’s possible. I’ll need some time though. Making components for the headset isn’t easy. I ordered some nickel iron. Lightweight tubing is hard to find in the U.S. The Brits have it on us. We’re using all their steel to build guns. I’ve got a lot of work ahead. This is all on the side, you understand.”

“Of course. Buy the lightest tubing. I don’t care about the cost. The main triangle is straightforward. No curves. Use a protractor. Make a bearing headset for the steering tube. And I want the seat post to fit into the seat tube.”

“I’m getting used to my new brazing jig. Once I’ve practiced, I’ll make you the best bike in the world. I like a challenge. All the U.S. manufacturing is back East in Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts.”

If anyone could build Carl’s bike, it was Paul. He had some of Gary’s physical features, but their personalities differed. I got to know him during long days in the saddle. His rapier wit more than made up for his laconic manners. Carl and Paul often engaged in verbal jousts using words as they would swords. I learned his father owned a blacksmith shop. Paul studied metalworking from an early age. His knowledge of modern metallurgy came from his father, books, and trade shows. Fledgling automobile companies often sought his help for building custom parts. Carl consulted with engine manufacturers, and hired Paul on numerous occasions.

Fatigue Limit home

Fatigue Limit – 13

June 13, 2021

Agricultural Park race track in San Jose (today’s Race Street) in the mid 1890s. From Sourisseau Academy

Several riders gathered around to hear Carl. “Go on.”

“I entered a ten-mile contest at the Agricultural Park track when I was young. My penny’s clunky wooden wheels slowed me down, while the top racers owned the newer rubber-clad iron wheels. They dismissed my antique. Well, once we got underway and I left them behind, they stopped laughing. Jack Barnes used chicanery to snatch my victory. He took most of the local races using his persuasive ways. He exhausted himself to catch up and then recommended we trade off in the final five miles.

I knew the value of drafting. I joined him and we powered our way to the finish line, leaving everyone else behind. What wasn’t so apparent is I did the pulling. That’s what the young and strong like to do. Age gave him the advantage in other ways. With yards to go he unleashed a sprint and sent me off the back. I learned my lesson. Never again. I quit racing.” He went back to drinking his beer, circulating among the riders and trading stories.

I wandered over to where Gary sat and listened in. I needed some quotes from the racing sensation. He told us about his plans, and mentioned the race in San Francisco as a possibility. “I’m going to do my best to be invited. They might pay for my races back East, if I can win.”

The riders suggested Gary contact the event promoter for an invitation.

“I think I can help.”

Gary gave a puzzled look. “Your name?”

“Tab. I plan to enter.”

Gary just stared. “You’re a racer?”

I laughed in a lighthearted way. “I can hold Carl’s wheel on a good day, but I’m a reporter. I’ll write a daily story. My work for the newspapers will help.” Little did Gary know I bluffed. I hatched my plan right there.

Gary gave me his address and asked that I keep him informed. I assured him I would as I jotted it down in my notebook.

Fatigue Limit home

Saving the planet, one turtle at a time

June 10, 2021

This turtle got a helping hand crossing the path.

Today went about as well as could be expected in these uncertain times, and I helped a turtle off the road.

It’s amazing to think about all the events that transpire in just a short ride around Santa Clara.

I started the ride by picking up trash along the San Tomas Expressway recreation path between Homestead and Monroe. I’ve been cleaning it monthly for a while and I usually collect a bag and a half.

My best find was a cell phone, which I returned to the owner via the police.

It’s obvious that some of the trash is generated by the homeless, but not all. Some people weren’t brought up right and have no regard for their environment.

Continuing north, Nvidia’s second headquarters expansion looks like it’s moving into its final stage. Will employees return?

Intel’s working on its second new building just down the road from Nvidia. The first one is ready for occupancy.

More fancy apartments are opening near Scott Boulevard and the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek path.

Screaming voices have returned to Great America! School’s out and the rides are running again after more than a year in lockdown.

Levi’s Stadium continues to vaccinate residents, but it’s down to a trickle. No waiting.

In Alviso I rode around a police barricade, including SWAT wearing body armor.

On the approach to Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge on Grand Boulevard I once again picked up trash and cleared the road.

Topgolf, located next to the Guadalupe River recreation path is open for business and balls are flying.

On the way home I had a stiff tailwind. Who could ask for anything more?