It has been a long week.  A tiring week.  But we are making progress.

A few stumbles, a few steps backwards, a few leaps forward.

Learning is a great gift.

Forty hours of classroom work in and this is where we are.


That is a complete fork, one that started out with straight tubes and separate dropouts, crown and steerer tube.

A fork that I would be confident having under me as I sped down a mountain road.

To the left, an almost complete bottom line – bottom bracket at top, chainstays extending downwards to the rear dropouts.  Only the chainstays need to be trimmed to length and brazed into the bottom bracket.

To the far left, from left to right – the top tube, down tube and seat tube.  Those will be cut to length on Monday and brazed into their respective lugs.  By then, it will be an almost recognizable bicycle.  After that, we’ll chase the devil in the details.

It sure is a lot of fun working at 3,000°F and getting metal to work the way you want it to.  Especially impressive is making silver alloy flow upwards against gravity, then let it set to form absolutely solid connection between two separate pieces of steel.

Equally impressive is watching the other five students, interpreting the techniques in different ways and making their own pieces.

It will be quite interesting to see the individual results.

Again, if you desire, click on the image to see it full-sized, with annotations.

Scaled Frame

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, I am currently attending a frame building class.  One where I will walk out with a new bicycle.

That’s not a bad thing.  We already have five bicycles between us, so what’s one more?

Oh, and the two more that I’ll have to build by the time my courses are done.

That fits just fine into the rule of bicycles, which tells us the right number of bicycles to own, which is “n+1”, where n = the number of bicycles you currently own.

Plus one.

Today we spent the bulk of the day designing the bike that we’ll take home next week.  The plans are full-sized, so it’s fun to look at it and picture yourself stretched out and spinning along.

Frame plans

The oddly-shaped dark pieces are the lugs, which will anchor the tubes in place while giving the bike a certain artistic flair.  It’s the way pretty much all bikes were make before Cannondale burst onto the scene in the early 1990’s with their aluminum bikes and filleted seams, which is a direct connection of one tube to the next without the lugs.  Most bikes these days are filleted, but luckily there’s enough interest in the lugs that we can get them cheap and still make classic looking bicycles.

Other than the dropouts where the wheels will attach to the frame and fork, I will have to fabricate the rest of the bike frame and fork.

If you click on the image, it will open in a new tab/window and you can read the details, should you wish.

For you bike geeks, it’s a relaxed townie bike on the back end, but with enough twitchiness up front to make it fun to zoom down the hills.  Enough space for panniers to carry beer on the back, enough room for fenders for the wet.

In other words, the perfect fit between my mountain and road racing bikes.


No new exciting pictures today, just a catch up on bike school.

This week I started a frame building class, which covers everything from designing bicycles of different types to building them by hand.  Since this class has no requirement for previous knowledge or skill (thankfully), we are starting with the basics.

The technique we are using is brazing, which means that we are joining metal (in our case steel) with a dissimilar metal.  Depending on the joint that we are creating, our dissimilar metal is either a silver alloy or bronze.  Those require us to work at either just below or above 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, dependent on whether we are using silver or bronze.

Here is a fairly typical joining of the head tube of a bicycle and the top tube.  The head tube is where the fork runs through to connect to the handlebars and the top tube is the tallest tube on the bicycle, the one that you have to throw your leg over in order to get on the bicycle.  I’m using a lug, which helps hold the tubes in place and establish their relationship to each other, in this case 73 degrees.


Although it doesn’t look like it, that’s silver allow that is connecting the tubes to the lug.  It’s a bit of a messy job, but considering it’s the very first time I’ve ever done that, it really wouldn’t take but 20 minutes to clean it up to the point that you wouldn’t even realize it was there under the coat of pain that is required for steel.

But while it looks fine from the outside, we are concerned about the connections inside, beneath the lug and between the tubes.  And there’s only one way to check the quality of the connections.

Cut it apart.

Cut 73

You can see the discoloration of the steel from the heat and mostly the flux used to etch the steel during the process.  But the part that we were concerned about is where the tubes are joined.   And not a single gap to be found, so the silver is in contact with all of the lug and all of the tubes.  You won’t find that on most mass produced bicycles.

In other words, the tube would shear apart before this connection would tear apart.

Not too shabby for my first time.

A few more exercises like this and in just nine days, save for a paint job and component installation, I will have a rideable bicycle.  One that I built myself.

I think that’s pretty cool.


Full disclosure: I have posted this pic in other media, so if you are seeing this again, I do apologize.

This past week was the final week of the full complement of mechanic’s courses at the Bike School.  It consisted of two days of wheel building, then three days of suspension.

I had no experience with either, other than the fact that I use the wheels and shocks on my mountain bike, a bike that rarely sees dirt, much less a mountain.

On Tuesday, after a day of very focused training on bicycle wheels (you’d be amazed at the forces that those skinny wheels have to deal with), we had our certification test.  There were a few options, but I chose to build a set of wheels for my own bicycle.

Because there’s nothing like putting your trust in what you’ve built with your own hands.


Build:  DT Swiss 240S hubs, DT Swiss RR465 rims, DT Swiss Butted Spokes (2.0mm/1.8mm).

The bluing on the rims is a reflection of the morning sky behind me.

Strobist info:  morning sun providing the back light (hence the shadows on the deck); Canon 580 EXII’s right and left, fired by PocketWizards.

While I am waiting for the results of my certification test (points were deducted as soon as any one of three axes were off by more than 0.1mm), I put them on my trusty bike and gave them a spin today.


Any ride on a well-tuned bicycle, leaving no sound but the whisper of the tires on the road, is a wonderful experience.

But to have that same ride on a pair of wheels that I handmade for myself? Sublime.

Facing & Reaming

Hardened steel on aluminum means that the aluminum has to give.

Small flakes at  a time.

Facing a bottom bracket on a bicycle after chasing/cleaning the threads.

Facing and Reaming
Facing and Reaming

When working on the head tube (where your steering tube runs through the frame), the process is different, but still ends up with lots of aluminum bits.  That process is called facing and reaming, where the facing is done similar to this, but at the same time a different steel bit is reaming the inside of the tube to prepare the surface for a bearing cup.

The purpose of the facing is to make sure that the ends of the tube are parallel with each other.  If not, the bearings and system will not work properly.

This is typically only done once in the life of a bicycle.  If the manufacturer is good, they’ll do it.  If not, your bicycle shop should have done it before selling it to you.  Unless it’s a really cheap bike, when it’s just not worth the time to do it.

It’s all good fun and just reinforces for me what an amazing piece of machinery the bicycle is.  Especially as cheap as you can get them these days.

Wheel Build

Today was a long day at school.  But it was a good day.

We built a set of bicycle wheels from scratch.

I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but it really is, especially when you consider the forces that a wheel that weighs somewhere between 1-2lbs (.5-1kg) has to deal with.  Especially when it’s carrying my wide load, bombing down a twisting mountain road.

We jumped right into it, so I didn’t get a chance to get a picture of all of the pieces that go into making a wheel, but it isn’t much.  A hub, a rim, spokes and spoke nipples that thread on to the spokes and hold the rim to wheel.  That’s where the magic happens.

Our first step was to thread the spokes into the flanges of the hubs.  At times it was like wrestling with an octopus (yes, I know what that really feels like), but there was a method to the madness.

Here are the threaded hubs, with spoke nipples and the all-important cotton swabs for precisely applying grease in the right spots.

Wheel build beginning
Wheel build beginning

Once this step was done, it was time to start connecting the hub to the rim via the spokes, which is quite a process.  It’s called lacing for a reason.  It’s like weaving the spokes in a very specific pattern, in a very specific way so that the forces applied by the rider to the chain are translated into forward motion through contact with the ground.

We do ask a lot of those little 2mm wide pieces of wire.

Once the right (drive) side was laced, here’s what it looks like when the other side of the front wheel needed to be laced.  Still wrestling with an octopus.

Wheel build #2
Wheel build #2

But once the octopus is tamed, we have a very loose wheel.  Luckily it didn’t leave me.

How loose?  I could move the rim side to side several inches.  Although it looked like a wheel, it didn’t act like one.

So it was time to tighten.  And tighten.  And tighten.  All to get perfect balance, not only of weight but of tension.  Because the weight really doesn’t matter.  It’s all about tension.

Get the tension wrong and you’re walking (if you’re lucky).

Wheel Build 3
Wheel Build 3

It took me the better part of the day to get the pair right.  Not bad considering it’s my first set I’ve ever built from scratch.  And while we had looser tolerances today (±1mm) than we will for our certification test in two weeks (±0.1mm), I was able to dial these sloppy old components to the point that I would have passed the test.

That feels pretty good.

So here is the final set, rear wheel leaning against the backstop, front wheel on the truing stand, with various tools that we used today scattered on the bench.  And to give you an idea of how small the relaxed tolerances we had to work with today, the vernier calipers in the lower right are set at 1mm.  If that doesn’t help, stack about 5 sheets of notebook paper together.  There you go.

Wheel Build Final
Wheel Build Final

While that’s all pretty cool, I like the fact that we had until Thursday evening to get them done.  Mine are already disassembled, which gives me plenty of time to focus on the next few days of wrenching.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m having fun!

Hopefully you are too.


As I mentioned early last week, I’ve started coursework at the United Bicycle Institute (UBI), which will lead eventually towards qualification and certification to wrench on bicycles.

I’ve wrenched on my own bikes for 25 years, but after last week’s intro class, I realized several things that I had been doing wrong.

Making things harder on myself than the task needed to be.

So while that course was a refresher on most topics, it was casual, running about 3-4 on a 1-10 scale.

These next few weeks will be different, running about a 7-8 on that same scale, with a few days spiking up to 11.


Tomorrow we will be handed an empty hub, 32 spokes, 32 spoke nipples and an bare rim.  By the end of the day, we’ll have to have made a completely functional, safe bicycle wheel.

Luckily our tolerances will be pretty loose – ±1mm (±0.039′) since we’ll be using well-worn equipment tomorrow.  At the end of the month, we’ll use brand new equipment and the tolerances will be ±0.1mm (±0.0039″).

And I am having so much fun!

Hopefully you are too, doing whatever it is that you are doing.

Rings in the Ring of Fire

We in southern Oregon had a great opportunity this weekend, to ride the Rim Drive around Crater Lake before it was opened for the summer season.  Thanks to a less than average snowfall over the winter, the road was ready to be cleared and opened, which is odd, since it’s typically mid-July before the road is ready for the summer.  If that seems late, consider that the average snowfall at the lodge, which is lower in elevation that most of the road, is 44 feet (13.4 meters) each winter!

There are two parts to the Rim Drive, the West Rim Drive (~11 miles/19km) and East Rim Drive (~21 miles/35km).  The western side had been cleared an open for a while, but the eastern side still had stretches that were under 10 feet (3 meters) of snow just over a week ago.

Here’s what a recently plowed stretch looked like (with my bicycle for scale):

Snow Bike

What made this experience even more unique is that this is the first time ever that the National Park Service has held the road closed over a weekend to give access to only cyclists and hikers.  By early afternoon, it was pretty obvious that they had made a popular decision.

Who could blame the large groups of folks out to take advantage?  With absolutely no traffic to worry about on the two thirds of the loop around the lake, it was easy to relax and take in the scenery.


This view, from the northwest side of the lake looking south, is part of the reason for the title for this post.  Just left of center is Wizard Island, the dormant cinder cone in the center of Crater Lake, which is the remains of an ancient volcano that blew its top.  Further in the distance, frame right, you’ll see the snow-capped peak of Mount Mcloughlin [9,495 ft (2,894 m)].  And in the far distance, just a small peak in this image, but pretty large to view from here in real life, is Mount Shasta [14,179 ft (4,322 m)], down in Northern California.  That’s 107 miles/172km away!

So just looking in this direction, there are three volcanic peaks.

Spin around the other direction and there are several lesser volcanic peaks, but 74 miles/119km to the northeast, a snow-covered Mount Bachelor [9,068 ft (2,764 m)] stood alone over the horizon.

It is pretty impressive to stand here and realize that this is just a very small piece of the whole Ring of Fire, knowing how it is shaping our landscape, not just here, but abroad.  This made me think of when Goddess, The Boy and I were able to sit at the summit of Mount Fuji and watch the sunrise some years ago.

As you can tell, I love the landscape.

So the scenery and the landscape, oh, and a closed road, are what drew me to ride around Crater Lake.  All told, the East and West Rim Drives total 32 miles/51km.  Planning for some upcoming rides later this summer, I knew I needed to get more miles than that in my legs, so I decided that I would do two laps (64 miles/52km).  If I was feeling good at the end of the second lap and if I had time, I was going to consider a third, plus a few miles, to get a nice even 100 miles/161 km.

Mind you, this is at an average 7,000’/2,134m elevation.

Hey, if you’re going to go, go big!

So it was an early start.  A cool start.  It was just 38F/+03C when I started.  Through a comedy of errors leading to a leaking water bottle, I started with a wet jersey and underlayer.  So it felt a bit cooler than that.

When I started just after 8am, there were only two other groups of cyclists starting from the south parking area.  They got on the road about 10 minutes before me, and in typical parking-lot sizing up, I figured I’d see them again soon.


I left the parking lot, walked around the gate that kept the East Rim Drive closed to traffic and started riding, heading counter-clockwise around the lake.  Pretty quickly I hit the first climb.  It continued for the next 1.5 miles at an average 6% grade.  My being cold from the wet top layers was soon forgotten.  A brief reprieve with a gradual descent and it was back up again, another three miles at 6%.  And so it continued.  I didn’t see the others from the parking lot anywhere.  Matter of fact, I did not see any other rider for 90 minutes.  And they were headed the other way.

Then another rider.

Headed the other way.

Then groups of riders.

Headed the other way.

Finally, at about two hours into the ride, I saw the folks from the parking lot.

Headed the other way.

Once on the north side of the lake, I had to cross the gate that kept the other end of East Rim Drive closed and out into the tourist traffic.  Which was surprisingly light for a gorgeous Saturday morning.

That’s when I got the picture of the lake.

A few more climbs and some quick descents while keeping an eye out for traffic and dodging a few inattentive walkers got me back to the car.  It had warmed up enough that I was able to peel some warming layers off my arms and legs, refill the water and fuel bottles, then head back out.

This time I was going to go clockwise, opposite of the first circuit.  This way I could see the views from different angles.  I already knew that I would have some great descents, but also knew from the previous descents that I’d have some long climbs.

But the first 7.25 miles/12km going this direction went straight into a climb.  No respite.  Gaining the same amount of elevation that had taken 12 miles/20km to gain going the other direction.

To see what I mean, here is the elevation profile from my ride.  The bottom of the dip in the middle is where I parked my car:

Crater Lake, 6-22-2013, Elevation

Each vertical line is one mile.

But to give you an idea of time spent, here’s a graph where it’s tracked by time.  The vertical lines are still one mile each.  The further the spacing, the longer it took to cover that mile, the closer the spacing, the faster I was going.

Crater Lake Time, Cycling 6-22-2013, Elevation

So where it was taking me around 7 minutes to cover a mile heading uphill, downhill was usually around 2:30.  But if you look at a few of those very closely spaced lines, I was covering the miles in 90 seconds.  That’s 40mph on the bike, not having to worry about traffic.

Except for the occasional bicycle rider who thought that since the road was closed, they could climb up wherever they wanted.

Not good.

Anyway, as I was on the north end of the lake, back into the closed off East Rim, I caught up with a couple that was riding.  He was riding up the center of the right lane, she up the center of the left lane.  With a blind uphill turn coming up.  I explained my experience earlier that morning on that same stretch, where I came around the corner and a group of six cyclists were taking up the whole road.  And I was moving.

Luckily they were able to move over to give me half a lane.  Otherwise it was going to be ugly.

Once she got over her surprise that I was on my second lap, she then mentioned that no one rides the lake counter-clockwise (my first lap).


Apparently going clockwise is easier.

Someone please look at the elevation charts above and please let me know how someone could figure that.


Granted, I had a lot more miles and a lot more climbing already in my legs when I started the second lap than I had the first, but I still don’t see it.

My only guess is that when going clockwise, when the entire road is open, it’s easier to pull over to the overlooks than it is to try and cross traffic.  Otherwise, I really don’t know.

After two laps, there was no consideration of a third.  I’ll leave that for another time.

I need more miles in the legs to pull that one off.

And perhaps a victim, er I mean sucker, er I mean support rider for that last lap to keep calling my abilities to finish into question whenever I start to cry.

You know who you are.

So the day’s tally – 64.26 miles (103.5km); 10,485 feet (3,196 meters) of climbing.

Some fantastic scenery.

And some amazing inspiration.

Crater Lake Pano(I took this panoramic image from the south side of the lake last November, when I introduced Goddess to the northwest and Crater Lake; this is before the snow fell)

Finally, speaking of inspiration – when I finished after the second lap, I pulled into the parking lot and saw one of the original couples from early morning.  I asked them their thoughts on clockwise versus counter-clockwise and he said that they had never rode it counter-clockwise and he had been riding it for 30 years.  Then he asked how I felt, and I admitted that I was a bit beat after riding the two laps.  They were surprised that I had got two in.  Then he said that he felt pretty good after his one lap, then he said “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do too many more of these.  I’m 84!”.

Any aches, pains or tiredness that I had melted away.

Ashland Trails

One of our favorite parts about this new town?

This is only 10 minutes from the house.

Ashland Trails

OK, 10 minutes by car.

More like 30 minutes by bike, since this spot is about 800′ above the town center.  But only four miles as the crow flies.

I’m looking forward to racing here, since they have both running and biking races up the mountain this summer.

Until then, these trails sure wipe out Skinny!

Last Friday

A bit more reminiscing on 2012 tonight, but in a different vein.

A few comments amongst online friends led me to watch the recap of this year’s edition of the Paris-Roubaix professional bicycle race.

“So what?” you ask?

Read here.

It’s very exciting to watch and see Tom Boonen pull off the victory that he did, even eight months later.  The moment he gradually pulls away from an unbelieving peloton is just a few moments into the video above when he’s still 55km from the finish.

I’ve still got an hour left in the coverage.  I’m keeping an eye out for a glimpse of Goddess, who’s standing on the outer edge of one of the corners immediately after the Le Carrefour de l’Arbre secteur, which won’t be for another 20 minutes or so.

And when he flew past us, his lead was commanding.  Only disaster would have prevented him from winning.

And while it’s a great memory from 2012, I’ll tell you that it was all Goddess pulling off the financing and planning for what ended up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I know that every year I can watch the race coverage and remember what each secteur was like and what it felt like.

Just not fast like the pros.