Monday, March 10, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
|Portland Design Works Big Silver pump: thoughts on beautiful tools|
It must be similar to my early obsession with the fabled One Match Campfire back when I hiked and camped a lot more than I do currently. This particular obsession arose in my head out of a desire to achieve what seemed like the most aesthetically pleasing camp fire setup: engineer a stack of flammable stuff such that it would only require one match to ignite a veritable blazing bonfire visible potentially from space, using no accelerants, and only with materials gathered from nearby the campsite along with a knife and one match. I not only accomplished this in a fire-and-forget hands-off manner, but did so alone, on a summer evening when monsoon-powered gusts of wind seemed intent on keeping me from success, on the first try, and such that the resulting blaze served as a guide in the darkness to help my companions locate me.
With a small pit, and some stones from nearby, I protected the initial bundle enough from the winds so it would catch, and by the time the larger pieces were burning, the winds helped my fire to rise up to a mightly blaze. These winds inspired my fire with the spirits of their breath, if you consider the older meanings and sources of the word.
Another reason to perform the single-stroke bicycle tire inflation exercise, though, would be to show the relationships between pump barrel diameter, target pressure, required number of strokes, air volume, and work. If you ignore losses via friction and heat, which, I realize, is anathema to cyclists, you more or less have to do the same amount of work to pump up a bicycle tire to a given pressure, regardless of the type or size of pump you use. A larger pump requires harder strokes but goes faster. A smaller pump requires easier strokes but many more of them. I've explored the boundaries of these relationships via products I've purchased:
|A bracket of mechanisms for exploring effort vs. number of strokes to inflate a bicycle tire|
After working through this range, and not having actually executed the single-stroke exercise (yet), I have previously settled on the top two in the photo above: a rather traditional frame pump, and the very good Topeak Road Morph. I also have a Mountain Morph, both of which show a lot of thought going into what it takes to convert getting a flat tire somewhere away from your home base pumping station into a tolerable or even enjoyable experience. Somehow, though, over time, the lazy, impatient, and demanding side of me has settled on the traditional frame pump, probably because it's an extremely reliable way to inflate a high-pressure tire with a minimum number of strokes.
The opposite tool on the number of strokes dimension is probably the Crank Bros. device at the bottom of the photo. It has a lot going for it, including its diminutive size, excellent design, reliability, and perhaps greatest of all, a switch which changes it from high-volume pumping for the beginning of the job to high-pressure to finish it off. This is an intellectually pleasing concept which almost motivates me to stick with it through the high number of strokes such a small pump requires. Almost. But not enough, so it spends its days snuggled in the spare tools bin next to the Park Tool mini pump, which unfortunately seems to embody almost all the drawbacks of a mini pump except that it's made by Park Tool and seems pretty tough.
The latest addition to this range of my pumps is the PDW Big Silver in the middle. It's gorgeous: made of forged and machined aluminum, polished and precise, all internals replaceable, mounts out of the way beside the water bottle cage, and includes a feature not even boasted of in its marketing copy: there is a magnet inside which retains the handle in the compressed position with just the right amount of force to prevent in-motion rattles.
All of the pumps above will inflate a tire. The PDW Big Silver, though, with its particular combination of beauty and features, appears poised to upset my lazy mind from its minimum number of strokes stubbornness over to the side of aesthetics and overall pump experience. Because, as I've blogged about before, well-built precision stuff makes me happy.
Out there, with a fresh or patched tube in place, the work of inflation must be done. Barring [ha ha pressure pun] CO2 cartridge "cheater" devices (unless themselves filled by ratcheting up by hand a car to a certain height over a fat-barreled pump and storing the results of that exertion of work inside said cartridge, which, hmmmm). Previously, my mind seemed to settle by lazy preference on the reliable one requiring the least number of strokes. However, when the beauty of the thing enters the equation, the PDW Big Silver may just displace the old frame pump, since in addition to everything else I've mentioned, the PDW's mounting location does not break up the lines of the bike frame like the frame pump. I'm going to try it for a while, and see how it goes. (For at-home tool aesthetics, go and drool over J.A. Stein, and EVT, including relevant to this post the BAM BAM inflator, ooh la la).
In the end, though, the most aesthetically pleasing bicycle tire experience is one in which they don't go flat in the first place. This is why I commute with Slime in my tires, and ride on the weekends with Continental Gator Hardshells. When you live in a place rife with goathead thorns, broken glass, and roofing staples, the most beautiful bike pump is the one that almost never gets used, but is ready when needed.
I will mount the Big Silver in its rightful place, gaze upon its silvery beauty, and hope that on its day of final need, the beauty of the ride remains whole via the bending of the mind to the task of operating the pump for the required number of strokes. The aesthetics of work is a complex subject. But in the end, it's why we need pretty things in our lives, like precision tools, and beautiful art, to inspire the tasks we must perform.
as usual, the blog disclaimer covers this post, too.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
So quickly we release,
and lay broken in the road.
Shaft rusted and marked with the furrows of long use.
If carefully tightened according to instructions,
pressed with the palm until resistance is felt, just,
the release stays, the lever closes.
You spin it, spin it, spin it like a fan, though,
you spin it, spin it, spin it like a fan, though,
and the lever tightens not,
the fastener does not hold fast,
and snap! In the road it lies,
sunning for no one.
A snapped lever offers no advantage.
A loose nut holds no stretch.
Insufficient torque may yield the fastener.
Sun-blasted, you ride off in one direction,
your wheel rolls off in another,
and there's a moment of no-time before the burn.
The saddle drops, and you ride home like some cartoon character.
So quickly we release, the last time.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
|Respect: we all know what it is, yet it's hard to define, and sometimes in short supply out there|
Maybe it was because I was riding this trail while the Arizona governor was deciding whether or not to veto SB 1062, I'm not sure, but the sign above caused me to stop and consider its many messages much longer than one might think necessary.
There are three main message areas: SHARE the trail. YIELD in a specified, logical hierarchy. And, most relevant to this particular post, RESPECT, itself also divided into three: OTHER VISITORS, THE LAND AND WILDLIFE, and TRAIL RULES. My first response to this sign, to be quite open, was that it represented some idealistic, utopian view which made me wonder what bright-eyed sign author would possibly ascribe to the typical trail users I encounter such lofty capacities of politeness and compliance.
But then (and I ask you to consider my probable mood, given that a majority of my state's legislators had just voted to pass a bill which tried to erase 140 years of progress in civil rights, betraying a strong desire to resurrect the horrible phrase "we don't serve y'all kind in here") I thought, you have to have high expectations of your fellow man in order to encourage civility. Perhaps this sign with its high aspirations would elevate the thoughts of my fellow trails users, to inspire them somewhat to aim higher.
SHARE the trail is a somewhat complex notion, given its relatively narrow width. Two pedestrians meeting from opposite directions, or one roller blader swinging his arms enthusiastically, more or less consume the entire width. For a cyclist, sharing this trail in itself involves a degree of dodging, weaving, slowing, increased awareness, and flexibility. Sharing is linked to Respect directly in this way, with the "slow down and communicate when passing" item under Respect.
The YIELD hierarchy is commonly displayed on its own around here. As I often do, I thought about the horses. I've mentioned it before, but I always do yield to horses, and will typically dismount and stand beside my bike, when it seems like the safe thing to do, on a narrow mountain trail, for example. But on this trail next to the end of the Arizona Canal, I wondered how many horses I would really see, since they are fairly rare. Six total, as it turned out. You never know.
It was the bottom section on respect that struck me most. I know we all think we know what it is, and that we all want it, and that we know how to give it, and so on, but I stood there next to sign and tried to define "respect" specifically, and got somewhat stuck. What is it, exactly? How does it work, in detail? What's "respect" really about? I had several ideas, but decided to set those questions on the shelf in order to continue riding along the trail.
When I got home, I looked it up, and found a satisfyingly complicated and thorough exploration on the Stanford site. A lot of it is relevant to respect on this trail and in the public or civil sphere in general, but in particular, I found this section particularly relevant: "respect is ... something that is owed to, called for, deserved, elicited, or claimed by the object. We respect something not because we want to but because we recognize that we have to respect it (Wood 1999); respect involves 'a deontic experience'—the experience that one must pay attention and respond appropriately."
"Deontic" was a new word for me, meaning something having to do with duty and obligation. And the part about paying attention, and responding appropriately because we have to, or because we must, or because it is the moral thing to do, resonated with my thoughts on the ride.
Sometimes respect is compulsory. I do not think I would be far wrong in thinking that for at least some of fellow trail users, including some close friends and even family members, one sense of this is the respect commanded by a cowboy packing a six shooter. This type I suppose is the one compelled by threat of violence. Dirty Hairy, Rambo, American movie archetypes fit here.
A related type, still in the authority zone, is something like the British Bobbie, still compulsory due to authority, but not so much by the direct threat of violence, but rather by a sense of propriety, order, governmental power, and at least in the older "Dixon of Dock Green" image of the Bobbie, because he is known to you and you to him. Police in the U.K. still often do not carry guns. Whatever respect they command, whatever authority they wield, does not issue (at least not close to hand) from a gun.
There is also respect due to an analysis of the utility of it. For example, bees are a type of wildlife we should respect and nurture, not merely from the threat of their stings, but more importantly because of the utility of their pollination of the plants which grow so much of our food. This respect is made perhaps a bit more rounded and wholehearted for me through an understanding of the methods and lives of bees, which are truly remarkable, and to my eye beautiful, creatures. Flowers, by their connections with bees and by their own merits, may fall similarly into this category.
|Objects of respect, of both utility and beauty, that I encountered along the New River Trail|
I felt like the five kids on skateboards who were not sharing the trail, not yielding to pedestrians or horses, and who were harassing other users including cyclists, were not on board the respect bandwagon at all: not of civility in general, nor toward others using the trail, nor even toward themselves. One of them had a plastic bag of spray paint cans slung over his shoulder. The structures and walls built to enhance the bridges and infrastructure along the trail strike me as expressions of the respect of a society for persons who would use that trail, while kids defacing those structures with spray paint strike me as disrespectful of those very same ideas.
|Three of the six horses and riders I saw on this ride|
|Globe mallow, one of my favorite desert flowers, tough (loves heat and dryness) and loved by pollinators|
|A bridge structure across the canal which can represent respect, and also its opposite when defaced|
|The city ordinances enumerated on the sign in the park also relate to a form of respect (for laws)|
|Some of the other visitors to the trail, who I communicated with when I passed|
|This map also expresses respect for visitors, on several levels, similar to other informative signage|
|Another form of the respect of persons: a place to rest, with shade, in a design pleasing to the eye|
|Out near the end of the Arizona Canal, the trail (along the left) is again shaded by native trees|
Signs like one at the top of this post hold up a mirror to us. They remind us of what we know we ought to do, even what we ought to be. One has only to rise to the challenges it presents in order to do the right thing, and be the admirable, respectful person, who is also worthy of respect, I suppose. Why don't those taggers on skateboards follow the sign, too; why don't they try to do that, to be that better person? That's the question, isn't it? Why don't we take better care of bees, or flowers for that matter? Why don't all of us pay more attention to them, and to our duties and obligations?
Where does this deontic insufficiency come from? I don't know. I think I wish to understand it better, though. Maybe I will understand more of it through further rides along trails marked by signs which try to remind us to do better. According to that trail map, the New River Trail goes all the way to Happy Valley Road. It's a long ride, but maybe it's where I ought to be.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
|This bike, made for beach riding|
Hello memory, this happened. You needed it. It was not long, or strenuous, or particularly epic, just a meander along the beach path for a couple of hours, along with lots of others who appeared to have exactly the same goal in mind.
I want to fold this ride up, carry it in my back pocket, and pull it back out at certain times, for the positive effects it had on me. The agenda: ride along the water, stop here and there to watch the birds, or to have a coffee, or to grab a snack, then ride some more. That's it. Excellent, an afternoon to remember in more hectic, less beachy times.
Yes, this is Venice, CA in February.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
|Why is this picture a sick ride? I was sick. I was riding. QED.|
I know it doesn't feel particularly comfortable in the breathing area. I'm not saying it was hard to breathe, that would be foolish to continue riding, just that the change in breathing mechanics makes it uncomfortable. But, anyway, I haven't seen any studies that found that you get sicker if you continue your nice medium speed commute rides, and other than the slight discomfort from altered breathing mechanics, the ride overall still makes me feel better. Sunshine. Fresh air. Motion. Outdoors. A sick ride.
The ride did make me want to ask what-if this question: if you had a cold, and your nose was 100% stuffed up and swollen shut, and you sneezed really hard anyway, could your head actually explode? I've known people who've cracked ribs while sneezing, so, could it? Sometimes it feels like that.
Dude, that's a sick ride. Thanks. Do you ride sick? Or is it a bad idea?
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
|I want a microdwelling! Great, hope you like your pizza oven steam shovel.|
There were a bunch of bicycles there, which I unaccountably neglected to photograph. They were lined up along the fence, and locked up where they could be. Not only was the weather perfect for an art ride to the Shemer, but also there were many more cars there then I expected, parked in the street out front, and filling the auxiliary lot out back. The Shemer is in a neighborhood of macrodwellings of grand proportion, which I suppose provide interesting contrast to these tiny structures.
The people here this afternoon seemed incredibly convivial / friendly. The hydrogen shack guy seemed willing to try to answer just about any question I threw at him about the solar-powered hydrogen generating shed: How many therms does it make in a day? How does the fuel cell work? Did you build that Stirling engine yourself? How many neutrons does a hydrogen atom have, anyway?
Many photos follow. I enjoyed perusing the tiny buildings immensely. As I finished though, and just as I was thinking I might want one, I realized that the lifestyle changes entailed in a switch to microdwelling, include some major divesting of stuff and cruft, while laudable in general, would mean reducing or eliminating most of the bicycle fleet. Unless alternative arrangements could be devised, which seems at least possible, since these structures seemed all about innovation and imagination.
|The Beadle Box!|
|Shipping container, coated in reflective ceramic intended to reflect solar heat|
|Repurposed cotton wagon|
|Within the cotton wagon: the bedroom|
|Stryo-futuristic pod action|
|Steam shovel pizza plans|
|Igby brat close-up, non-micro|