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My first experience with Capital Bikeshare

Posted: October 01, 2015 in Misc | Add Comment

Last week I had SQL Server training.  It was a 5-day class, and I had two choices of class locations - one in the middle of DC the week before the Pope's visit, and one near Union Station during the Pope's visit. Since I already commute to the latter location every day, I decided to brave the Pope to get the better location. Unfortunately, I took the training from a place called ONLC Training, and because they are a bunch of colosal anuses, they waited until I paid for the class, then bait & switched the location to put me right in the middle of DC. During the Pope's fucking visit.  Lovely.

Note to self.  Avoid ONLC at all costs.  Anyway, back to the topic.

I had three options for getting from Union Station to the middle of DC.  They are, from worst to best:

  1. The shitty DC Metro. (motto: Almost better than walking),
  2. Walk (approximately 19 blocks),
  3. The Circulator bus,
  4. Capital Bikeshare.

Now, normally the Bikeshare would be more expensive than the Circulator (which is a buck per trip), but in this case I was able to borrow my friend Jonathan's fob, so the bike was free.  Err, monetarily free.  I was in fact not free if you count my lost wits.

I figured, "Hey, I ride a LOT! I'll have NO problem on a bike! I'll just have to deal with a little traffic and I'll be good."  It turns out actually that the traffic was the least of my problems.  Despite all the douchebag drivers in the DC area, I had not a single problem while on the bike.  Most of them were probably flabergasted to see a bike actually stop at a light. (in DC, pretty much all bikes roll red lights and completely blow stop signs, but that's a separate rant).

My problem on the bike was both the bike itself, and the situation.  First off, there's no warm-up when you swing your leg over a bike in the city.  You're on it, full, right from the get go.  After two or three blocks of twirling the pedals at around 110rpms (the thing has no gear range to speak of), my heart rate was somewhere around 199, only to shoot up to 299 when I grabbed both brakes and.... nothing.

I think the brakes are some kind of attempt at being lawsuit proof or something, because you really have to throttle the crap out of them to get the thing to stop.  And the fact that the bike weights about the same as an aforementioned Circulator bus probably doesn't help.  Fortunately, subsequent bikes I tried had slightly better brakes, but it's my luck to get the dodgy one on my first pick.

So you're spinning the pedals frantically, but you're doing it with an enema.  That's because the seat is way too wide at the back, so the downward motion of your legs pushes you off the front. Plus, the nose of the saddle is tilted down too much. This, combined with what feels like a crazy steep seat tube angle, puts you "on the rivet" for the entire ride.  Which in this case means the nose of the saddle is jammed deep into your rectum.  Not comfy.

Eventually you arrive at your destination, sore assed and heart pounding, and yep - you guessed it! No open docks for your bike.  To be fair, this only happened to me a few times out of the week.  There was one day I decided to walk, one day I had to walk because there were no bikes at Union Station, and one day where I found a bike at the next station a few blocks away.  On the other end, I had one day where there were no docks at my class location, and one where there were no open docks at Union Station.  Each of the no dock times I was able to find one at the next closest station, but had I been rushing to catch a train, eh.

So there you have it.  Not a horrible experience, but there's room for improvements.  But no matter how bad it is, it's still a thousand times better than Metro.

Alligator ILink Cables

Posted: September 06, 2015 in Cycling | Add Comment

As soon as I got my Emonda, I wanted to do something about the rat's nest of red cables hanging off the front of it.  The red cables looked pretty good on the satin black 5500 with minimal logos, but they look VERY out of place on the Emonda.  After looking at different options, I decided that I wanted to try the compressionless housings from either Alligator or Jagwire.  In the end I went with the Alligator, though I should have gone for the Jagwire.  I went with the former because they were a little cheaper on Ebay, but the seller had poached all the actual inner cables from all the packages, forcing me to buy them separate later, so it was a wash.

How were they to install? Pretty much a pain.  First you have to figure out how long you want the housing.  Then once you have it the right length, you have to feed the inner liner into it.  Of course it catches every few inches, so it takes forever, and if you push too hard, you kink the cable, and that causes drag.  Do this a few times and you end up having to toss the liner and start over.  Also, the housing without cable is pretty flacid, so you really have to fiddle with it to get it to behave,  Think about trying to cable your bike with cooked pasta.

Once installed, I have to admit it looks pretty slick.

Alligator Ilink cables

Alligator Ilink cables

Emonda with Alligator Ilink cables

How does it ride?  Not bad actually.  The shifting is on point, once you get it adjusted, especially if you avoid crossing the cables inside the downtube like I did the first time (ugh). The braking is noticably firmer because the housing doesn't compress at all.  The only problem is that I did manage a couple of kinks in the inner liner, so I might replace that if it doesn't iron itself out.  I think the return springs on my circa 1992 Dura Ace brake calipers are a bit weak, so that might have something to do with it.  I wish the levers had some more return force.

Another small bump in the road was the inline barrel adjuster.  I stupidly ran the liner through it, which put a ton of drag on it. When I tried to turn the barrel, it would just wind up the housing and turn back.  I eventually took it apart and cut the liner, then flared it out with the tip of a philips scredriver to keep it from migrating inside the housing.

So in summary:


  • More positive braking action,
  • As good or better shifting action,
  • They can bend in much tighter arcs than regular cables,
  • When you need new cables, you can just buy the inner cable and reuse the housing,
  • They look pretty cool and alien-like, and come in several cool colors,
  • They're noticably lighter than traditional cables.


  • A bit pricier than traditional cables,
  • A royal pain to install,
  • Kinking the liner (easy to do) can negate the smoothness of the system.

Overall, a recommended upgrade.  But I'd go with the Jagwire kit from a reputable (non-Ebay) retailer.  That way you can be sure you won't be ordering cables and waiting for them to arrive while your bike sits in your garage.

Finally some new wheels

Posted: June 13, 2015 in Cycling | Add Comment

After pulling some spoke eyelets out of my 2009 Bontrager Race X Lites, I've been in the market for some replacements.  This hasn't been as straightforward as one might think. 

At first I decided to go with some readily available wheels, like the Dura Ace C24.  The problem is, those are a little pricey unless you get them from the UK, and if you do they can get hung up in customs, which means delays and possible duty fees.  So that was a no go.

I decided to see what I could get in the custom market, so after figuring out exactly which wheels fit the bill, I sent out some emails.  I probably sent at least 8 emails out, and only got three replies, and those replies weren't even very prompt.  Some people didn't seem at all interested in selling me a pair of wheels.

Fortunately, my first choice (Rob at PSIMET) got back to me a short while after my initial email.  After a short discussion, I settled on these very fetching hoops.

PSIMET wheels

PSIMET wheels

Needless to say I'm itching to get out on them, which will probably be tomorrow afternoon.  It'll be nice to get off of the Vista SL noodles that rub the brakes whenever I put any decent power down.  These are right around 1400g too, which is over 300g lighter than the Eastons, and even a bit lighter than the Bonties. Can't beat that!

On the road again

Posted: May 26, 2015 in Cycling | Add Comment

This past Saturday was my first time riding since May 4th, when I suffered what I think was a mechanical failure related to the front derailleur (or its cabling) that resulted in my dropping the chain during a big ring sprint, slamming my hip down onto the stem, going over the bars, and skidding along the pavement at 20+ mph.

My injury list:

  • Road rash on my left calf, left knee, left thigh, left side under the arm, left forearm and elbow, and left shoulder,
  • A huge bruise on my left hip,
  • A cracked helmet.

Fortutaly, there was no damage to the bike other than some saddle scuffing.  I have since replaced the front derailleur.

Saturday's ride was only 10 miles, but boy did it feel good to be back on the bike.  So good in fact that I did another 10 miles ride when Jess got home, then a 27 mile ride on Sunday, and 21+ on Monday.  But after what pretty much amounts to a month off, I did lose a good bit of fitness, and I still can't put full power down until this hip swelling has subsided.

In other news, I finally have a new set of wheels coming from Rob at Psimet.  I'm really looking forward to getting on a decent set of wheels again, especiially after being on my noodly Eastons for the better part of this year. The new wheels aren't quite as aero as I would have liked, but they promise to be very light and responsive.  Plus, they're black on black on black, which will be a nice change from the unappealing white spoke/silver rim look of the Bontys. Plus I'll finally be rid of that ghastly paired spoke set up.  Huzzah!

Another pair of Bontrager wheels go belly-up

Posted: April 15, 2015 in Cycling | Add Comment

I've been having a lot of problems keeping my rear wheel (a 2009 Bontrager Race X Lite) true, and this week I found out why.  Turns out I'd pulled an eyelet out, so every time I'd tighten up that spoke, it would just pull the eyelet out a little more.  Thus, I'm in the market for a new wheelset.

Right now, I'm demoing a pair of Rolf Prima Vigors.  So far they're a really nice, light pair of wheels, they accelerate and climb well, and they don't seem to suffer much in cross-winds.  But at just over $1k, I think they're a bit steep for what you get.  But they sure do look good on the bike!

Also, I'm not crazy about the paired spoke setup.

On my short list are Dura-Ace C24s, Soul 2.0 or 3,.0s, or the Flit Cone-a.  As long as I'm sub-1500g, and have around a 30mm depth, I'll be good.  I'd also prefer black rims and spokes, but the red spoke nipples are optional.  I have to give the Rolfs back this weekend, so hopefully I'll make a decision by then.

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You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is.

- Ellen DeGeners

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