Monday, May 30, 2011

Adventures of Brahma : Out and about

On Saturday, the day after Brahma's arrival, we rode to REI Dallas, a trip of about 10 miles one-way from home. The winds were gusting pretty heavily from the south and I was headed kinda east, so I only had to endure crosswinds.

In addition to going out for a nice ride, my main objective was to ask Michael at REI if he would give me any pointers on how to get the right arm of the rear brake lever to get closer to the rim on the dual-pivoted cantilever brake on Brahma, which I inadvertently caused to move away from the rim, the night before. Well, to cut the long story short, the rear mudguard was rubbing on the wheel, which I mistook for the brake rubbing and I ended-up loosening the rear brake cable, which caused the right brake arm to move away from the time, which I did not know how to fix, having never worked with cantilever brakes before, etc., etc., etc.....Well, you guys get the idea...:)

Michael being the expert techie he is, took one look at it and simply asked me to apply pressure on the right brake arm to bring it closer to the rim. Well, while I felt considerably naive, it was a relief. Thanks, Michael :)
Under Michael's supervision, I made the adjustments to the rear brake myself and it is all good now.

So, basically my main objective at REI was accomplished in roughly 10 minutes and then I browsed around a bit. And, after that I ate my lunch under a tree, in the true tradition of a Velo Tourist :)
After lunch, I rode around Farmers Branch, enjoying the sun and having fun spending time with Brahma.
Here is a quick look at Brahma's cockpit, with the Brompton T-Bag attached to the front. There wasn't a whole lot in the bag. This bag has a 24 litre capacity, if I am not mistaken. I only had my tool bag in it.
Brahma - rockin' out in Farmers Branch! Part I
Brahma - rockin' out in Farmers Branch! Part II
Brahma - rockin' out in Farmers Branch! Part III
Brahma - rockin' out in Farmers Branch! Part IV

Brahma - rockin' out in Farmers Branch! Part V. This method of making a Brompton stand is called Parking a Brompton!! Perhaps the terminology is not very surprising, but the method is quite ingenious. You do not need a kickstand.
Close-up of the Schlumpf Speed Drive!
Close-up of the fine brazing job on Brahma!
Close-up of the front fork and the SON dynamo hub!
Brooks B-17 in all it glory!
A close-up of the Brompton BWR SA 3-speed hub. Still very clean :)
A close-up of the Brompton 2-speed derailleur system. 3 speed IGH x 2 rear cogs affords Brahma the 6 speeds. There is more information on the gearing here.
Brahma was so lovely that even these beautiful ducks decided to befriend us!
Light at the end of the tunnel!
Shall we name this the "Tunnel of Love"? :)

After hanging out in Farmers Branch, we headed back to Irving. On the way back, we stopped for quick minute to check out the newly-opened Burke Natural Reserve along Valley View Lane (@ George Bush Turnpike). This area is better suited for a off-road bike, so we didn't explore the area very much.
When we came back home, Rambo was delighted to see us. He even posed for the camera.

Lovely Rambo!

It was a great day to be out and riding! Hope your day was a great one too!!

That's all folks!

Peace :)

Bicycle Maintenance: Derailluer Maintenance

On May 26, I took the Advanced Bicycle Maintenance class offered by REI. The class was all about derailluers.
There were four students, including me, in the class. Micheal was our instructor.

The extent of my knowledge was more or less limited to knowing how to use the barrel adjusters to make the gears work properly. I knew of a few other terminology and concepts, but I had never had to use'em. So, I really didn't know them for sure. If it was anything beyond the barrel adjusters, I needed a mechanic.

This class was very hands-on. I took Gikma to the class to get her all tuned-up.

Topics covered in this class included:
  1. Derailleur jargon
  2. Brands of derailleurs (grades within each brand)
  3. How to check for a bent derailleur hanger
  4. How to remove the rear derailleur
  5. How to fix a bent derailleur hangar using the derailleur hanger straightening tool (I had to fix mine!)
  6. How to adjust the Hi, Lo screws in order to optimize the rear derailleur
  7. How/what does the B-screw on the rear derailleur do?
  8. How to optimize the front derailleur
This class was very hands-on. Not only did we have to understand the concepts in theory, but we had to demonstrate that we understood the concepts precisely. We had to mess up our existing derailleur settings (and make them worse) and bring them back to their optimal state. This was a great class, perhaps the best bicycle maintenance class I have taken so far.

So, if you are in the market for a hands-on derailleur maintenance class, check out the one offered by REI. It is totally worth-it!

Peace :)

As cyclists, we don't have to fear this do we?

No texting while driving for us, eh? :)

Peace :)

Story of Brahma - The Foldin' Bike That Can!

I have always liked the idea of folding bikes. Their unique features such as, their compactness, how much easier it is to travel with them (especially on public transport), how easily they stow, have appealed to me for a long time. traveling, commuting. In 2009, I bought Meera, who vacationed with us to South Padre last April. Even now, Meera still accompanies me to the Table Tennis club and to the Indian Super Market, at least 5 times a month. The brakes on Meera leave little to be desired, primarily because of the old steel rims. So, while I could ride it to work, I do not do it often because of the bike's compromised stopping power. However, Meera is still close to my heart.

I wanted a folder that was more reliable than  Meera. I started researching folders a while in late 2010. I researched a variety of them including BikeFriday, Birdy, Brompton, Downtube, Dahon, RaleighStrida, etc., although not necessarily in that order.

I had several criteria for selecting my future folder. They were:
  1. The folder did not have to be expedition quality.
  2. The bike had to fold very compactly.
  3. The folding process had to be very simple, reliable and repeatable (even when pressed for time).
  4. The folder had to have an IGH (Internal Gear Hub). No Rohloff necessary for the folder though!
  5. The folder had to have great gear ratio in order to facilitate easier climbing without getting out of saddle.
  6. The folder's handlebar had to have multiple hand positions to make it easy on the riders' hands during longer rides.
  7. The folder had to have a SON dynamo and front and rear lamps. 
  8. The folder had to have some load carrying capability. Minimally, it had to come with racks/accessories to carry some luggage in the front and the back.
  9. The folder had to weigh less than my other heavy-duty full-sized touring bikes, namely, the Co-Motion Americano and the Thorn Nomad MKII.
  10. The folder had to fit in a suitcase that I can check-in with an airline. The suitcase had to be either made by the bike maker or be strongly recommended based on real data, by the bike maker. None of the wishy-washy stuff, such as, "we think you can fit it in a Samsonite, just give it a try"!
  11. The folder had to be custom made (for the most part).
  12. The folder had to be stylish.
When I went to the NAHBS in February, I went there with the specific objective of riding a Brompton and talking to the Brompton folks to find out more about their bikes and their philosophy. I felt good after talking to them and especially favorably impressed after test driving one during the NAHBS. The Brompton P-Type with SON, racks, easy wheels, mudguards and 12% reduced gearing fit the bill.

Most Bromptons are made-to-order. Many shops carry the M and S types of Bromptons, some even with Shimano dynamos. The next task was to find a dealer that offered me a good price break, given the size of the order. I talked to several dealers, both out-of-state and in-state, including one in Texas. After several rounds of deliberations, I chose to buy the Brompton from C. M. Wasson & Company, DBA

Brompton take roughly 4-6 weeks to ship the bike to the dealer from the date of placing the order. I placed my order on April 6th and I got my bike on May 27th.

The rest of this post will be akin to a photo-journal. There will be lots of photos and some terse commentary.

Surprise - you have a package at your door step!
Hmmm...what's up with this? Thought the Bromptons were "Made in England"?
Oh, never you mind! The cardboard box belong to this mysterious looking suitcase...
Ain't that one good lookin' suitcase? :)
The suitcase took quite the beating during shipment, as you can see on the right-hand side of the suitcase, right underneath the latch.
Luckily, the inside of the suitcase was quite well padded!
And there is Brahma!
The Brompton P-Type luggage is a front touring pannier. It mounts on a block that is attached to the head-tube of the Brompton and not to the handlebar. I do have a handlebar bag and I know it is useful to have one, but if you overload the handlebar bag, in spite of your best attempts at CRM, I believe it can mess with your handling and might even put some strain on your arms.
Close-up of the T-Bag. Say, did I mention the bag was black in color? :) I wish I had used flash on this photo, but I am sure I will post another picture of the T-Bag in one of my future posts.
Le Brooks! Attached to the saddle is the bag containing a cover for the Brompton. It helps conceal the bike, say, should you have to carry it inside a restaurant, cinema or some such place.
Brahma, compactly folded, still! Soon to be unfolded though!!
Handlebar extended! The two levers on either side of the handlebar are the shifters. The one on the left side controls the Brompton derailleur and the one on the right controls the Sturmey Archer BWR 3-speed hub (specially built for Brompton, with wide gear ratios).
Brahma, unfolded! If you look closer, you will see there are two clamps on the seat pillar. This is because the seat pillar is telescoping seat pillar. It has certain advantages unique to a Brompton user, when it comes to attaching a certain saddle bag using a quick-release mechanism. Dang, I is sayin' too much already :)
A rather horrible, blurry photo of the front lamp. It is similar (if not the same) as the one on the Co-Motion, a Lumotec IQ Cyo Senso Plus, I believe. You can still see the SON dynamo hub on the front wheel, albeit blurred a tad!
Schwalbe Maraton tires!
Brompton pride themselves on brazing. Brahma was ordered with a coat of raw lacquer, so the brazing is very beautifully emphasized on the bike.
All done, I mean with unpacking!
Close-up of cockpit! There is a bell on the right side, do you see it? :)
A quick peek at the IGH! All clean and shiny, at least for now :)
Brooks B-17 Men's saddle - brown with beautiful copper rivets!
A different POV of the saddle!
The Brompton rear rack with easy-wheels. When folded, these wheels enable ease of transporting the bike, for shorter distances. You can simply roll the bike along.
Did I mention, I didn't want to always go too slow? I added Schlumpf Speed Drive to the Brompton. You will see a close-up of the Schlumpf in a future post. For now, if you are curious about the Speed Drive, here is some great info on the mechanics of the speed drive. The item pictured below is the lube, called MoS2-grease, for the Speed Drive. One application is normally good for 2-3K miles. The Speed Drive comes pre-lubed during assembly.

What can I say, Brahma is so special, that he came with an Ivy-League sticker? :)
Last, but not the least, the very beautiful Spanninga rear tail light on Brahma. Powered by the SON dynamo hub.

Since getting the bike, I have ridden it close to 35-40 miles, in all. I will be riding it more in the days to come.

I am an approximately 3 day old Brahma owner. Hmmm....does that make me a Brahman? :)
I do not know all the intricacies of Brahma yet, but I will share my thoughts with you, whenever I come across something worth postin' about!

I will leave you, for now, with this song by Deva Premal & Miten!

Peace :)

PS. Just in case you are a zealous, pious, religious Hindu reading this post, please note that my naming the bicycle Brahma is NOT an attempt at blasphemy. I expect this bike to take me places, where I need to be, leading me, guiding me through this mysterious life and the universe!

PPS. I decided to name this bike Brahma because it jived well with me, so close to the name Brompton, in some sense, and all that good stuff! Runners-up were Brahmi, Brahmini. And, yes, I know that Brahma is a male deity.

Statistically Speaking Of Course: Commute Statistics for May 2011

Total # of days ridden to work this month = (# of work days - 1) = (21-1)!
So, basically I rode approximately 95% of the days during the 2011 Bike To Work Month.

I did not ride on May 2nd, 2011. I plan to ride to work tomorrow.

We have a rather strong south wind, blowing at 20-25 MPH. It has been blowing quite hard out of the south for a while this month. So, I think I will stay home and catch-up on blogging :)

If you are in DFW, I hope you are headed any direction but south, unless you like the south wind or you are a southerner (just kiddin'!).

Peace :)

Vélo compact

Brompton P-Type - Folded and put away for the evening! Kompakte Fahrrad, Gott sei Dank!
Peace :)

Uvex XP-100 retrofitted!

Having multiple bikes for multiple purposes is fun and all, but if you use them at night, it is imperative that they be equipped with proper lighting. Almost all my bikes have dynamo-powered lighting, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I like to have a back-up battery-powered taillight as well. I used to move the taillight to the bike I ride in the past and it worked quite well, but it was not flawless:
  1. I have been known to be forgetful and not move the light to the bike I rode on a given day
  2. Quickly-detachable lights are also an invitation to misfits
  3. I had to replicate the mounting brackets on multiple bikes, so I can swap them. Although, in the case of the Dinotte 140R-AA, there wasn't a need for mounting brackets as the system mounted to the seat-post using an elastic band. But then, I have bikes with differing seat post diameters...well, you get the idea :)
So, I embarked on integrating my battery-powered taillights into my helmet setup. I have done this sorta thing in the past. Later, I changed my mind about it, and now I am back at it again.

The two black pouches that you see on either side of the helmet hold the battery packs. Each one contains 4 AA batteries.
In the rear of the helmet are the Dinotte 140R-AA and the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo.
Lots of silver night-reflective tape to increase frontal and side visibility!
Close-up of the set-up! Do you see the Dinotte 200L-AA-S , just below the battery pack on the right side of the helmet? I use this light to try to notify traffic (merging onto the road that I am on) of my presence. Phew, that was a painful-to-coin sentence :)
The front of the helmet lit-up by the flash. Photo taken in partial darkness.
The rear of the helmet, flash photo! The little circles/dots of reflective tape you see were created using a hole-punch. This was my friend Michael's idea! Thanks, Michael :)
I am yet to test the new helmet setup in traffic. I will let you know if there any surprises.

Peace :)