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“Bicycles thrive on attention. They fall apart without it. Sometimes while you’re on them.” – Byron Kenyon Engle, Bicycling for Fun & Health


25 August 1989. My electronic speedometer froze up today after some 6700 miles. I guess I will not return it to Japan for repair. The history is that the first one failed at less than 1000 miles, the replacement at about 1000 miles, and the repaired one at 6700. I will relegate it to that large class of gadgets that continue to sell year after year but never work for long. Some of them obviously could not work (glue-on towel racks, for instance) but that does not seem to hinder sales. Of course most towel racks don’t cost $100 as the electronic speedometer did. So it goes.

29 August. I have a squeak in my left-hand pedal when pushing hard on it. These pedals have sealed bearings so have required no attention since they were new (maybe 3 or 4 years ago). I have not really examined them to see how they can be serviced but I obviously will have to try.

The newsletter of the Potomac Pedalers says their annual century will be from Nokesville, Virginia, on 10 September. This is the route I have ridden so many times in the past but not at all for the last three or four years. I am looking forward to participating in the ride.

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11 September. Son David and I rode the Potomac Pedalers National Century yesterday along with 500 or 600 other people. When we arrived at the parking lot just before 7, it was already full of people, and the rest stops throughout the day were crowded. It will be interesting to find out from the newsletter how many riders there were.

For the first two hours we rode in a dense fog. The fronts of our shirts and shorts were wet with condensing fog and glasses were unusable. There is not much traffic on these small Virginia roads at that hour on Sunday morning, but I did worry some about our lack of visibility to motorists. When Dave was riding 50 yards ahead of me, I could sometimes not see him at all. We made the first 50 miles in 4 hours with no difficulties, but almost immediately after the rest stop, Dave’s knee started hurting – he has had difficulty with it before – and by 60 miles we were proceeding slowly and with grave doubt about whether he would be able to continue.

At about that time I was having a low myself, and if a sag-wagon had happened along just then, we might well have cut the ride short. However he decided to try to make it to the next rest stop which was at 64 miles and decide then what to do. At that stop he was able to purchase aspirin in the country store and decided to continue. As it happened the worst hills immediately followed that stop so after making them with some difficulty, he decided he would probably be able to finish the ride. There were five rest stops on the ride instead of the usual three. I think it was because the metric, the half, and the quarter century routes overlapped the main route, and they were trying to provide rest stops for all the rides. It was, in any event, quite nice to find a stop at 74 and at 92 miles even if it did increase the time for the century.

After the wet start, the sun came on strongly and by noon the heat was a factor. The temperature in Washington hit 96 yesterday. I don’t think it was that hot out in the country but would guess that it was in the low 90’s. Anyway it was debilitating, and I felt several twinges in my thigh muscles late in the afternoon. I’m always scared of cramps at those temperatures but none developed.

Our time for the century was 9 hrs. 45 min. I guess that Dave’s knee held us back somewhat, but I don’t think I’d have done much better in any case. It was just too hot and I was too exhausted to make much better time.

When I got home, I weighed and found that I had lost 6 pounds during the day. Naturally most of it is lost water and will come back within a day or two, but 10 hours at 10 mph on a bike is calculated to use more than 4200 calories. This will use up about 1.2 pounds of fat.

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18 September. Yesterday I rode the Oxon Hill Fall Century. It started at PG Community College which is only about 15 minutes from my home. The ride consisted of two 50-mile loops from the college. It rained hard most of the day before the century, and it was damp and foggy when I started my ride at 6:50. I may have been the first to start. Anyway during the next hour, I was passed by seven riders and then repassed four of them – three were beside the road fixing flats. About an hour later I stopped on a little road where there was a forest on both sides and the trees along the road almost arched into a roof above. I could only hear the sound of water dripping – I imagined that it was like being in an Amazon rain forest. The temperature was pleasant, probably about 60, and I made good time – about 12.5 mph for the first 25 and about 12 mph for the first 50 miles.

The second loop started off being very hilly, and by the time I was at 60 miles, I experienced a low point. Between 60 and 65 miles I was riding against the wind and mostly uphill and simply grinding it out. The sun had now come out and the temperature was about 80. I seemed to be getting nowhere. If I had not had periods similar to this in previous centuries, I would have been tempted to quit, but, of course, there was no way to quit immediately since I was 15 miles from my car and waiting for a sag wagon is always likely to take a long, long time. Anyway by 70 miles I had recovered and actually rode the rest of the way in reasonable comfort. Right at the finish, my thigh muscles (quadriceps?) started to feel strange as if cramps were imminent but nothing happened.

I finished the century in 8 hrs. 55 min. – the fastest one I have ridden for some years. As I did last year, I listened to the Redskins-Eagles football game as I rode. I think it helpful to have that distraction in the long miles of the afternoon. The less said about the game this year the better. However the part of it that occurred during the ride was very good – the unspeakable part came as I was driving home.

Had a little trouble sleeping last night as I sometimes do after a century because of aches developing here and there. This morning I feel a bit stiff but otherwise very well.

2 October. According to the Oxon Hill Bicycle & Trail Club’s newsletter, 112 riders participated in their fall century rides of which 65 attempted the full century, and 62 finished the century. I’m a bit surprised – I thought there were many more riders because I kept seeing quite a few all day. Usually unless there are several hundred riders, you can go for hours without seeing any of them.

23 October. Rode today for the first time in 9 days. First I had a slight case of bronchitis, and then it rained for nearly a solid week. To my surprise the left crank arm became loose while I was out. I had a crescent wrench, but the nut is recessed so that the wrench will barely grasp it. I managed to tighten it enough to get home where I could use a socket wrench on it. The bottom bracket (a bottom bracket on a bicycle is the axle, bearings, and retainers, called cups, which connect the cranks) has a little play in it. I guess I should overhaul the thing – it has never been opened since the bike was new.

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27 October. While riding day before yesterday, I became aware of a grinding noise which I finally determined was in the bottom bracket. When I got home, I disassembled the bottom bracket and found that the races for the bearings on the removable cup and on the axle have become pitted. The whole assembly will have to be replaced. I hope I can find the same brand in a local store because the fixed cup seems to be unremovable. It seems to be in good shape so if I can find the same brand, presumably I can leave the fixed cup on the bike and replace the axle, bearings, and removable cup.

29 October. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here for over a week. The high is about 75 and the low is about 45. No better riding weather can be found anywhere than in the Washington area in the fall.

I obtained the parts for the bottom bracket replacement, and, as it seemed a simple job, I dressed for riding and then did the work. The new axle (I learned they’re really called spinners) was about ¼ inch longer than the old one. No problem, the clerk in the bike store said. And sure enough, it was easily assembled and everything seemed fine. Started on my ride and discovered that the difference in length demanded that the front derailleur limits be changed. Out with the screwdriver only to discover that the screws that adjust the travel of the derailleur cage were rusted in place and could not be budged.

I applied Liquid Wrench, but there was no way, with the derailleur on the bike, to apply sufficient force on the screws to break them loose. Removed the derailleur, which required that the chain be unlinked. After another application of Liquid Wrench and with the derailleur held in a vise, I, at last, succeeded in breaking loose the adjusting screws. Reinstalled the derailleur, after cleaning it thoroughly, relinked the chain, and adjusted the derailleur – a tedious trial and error job – only to find that the limit of the derailleur did not allow smooth shifting from the small chainwheel to the large one. I then tried various measures such as putting a 2-point shim (a 2-point lead) under the derailleur mount but still could only shift with great difficulty.

Off to local bike stores to find a spinner of the right length and succeeded at the third store. I removed bottom bracket assembly and replaced spinner and reassembled everything. Adjusted the derailleur, and a trial ride showed the shifting to be silky smooth. Of course, by then I had been meddling with the bike for 4 hours, and I was too tired to go riding. I shall try again this afternoon. God bless Liquid Wrench and WD-40.

18 November. First really chilly riding day. Installed new toe muffs which are foam-filled cloth material instead of leather as my old ones were. They install by a velcro strap which goes around the tow clip and seem quite effective.

I found 4 beers today – the first since my 33-beer find. Had to hide one of them to pick up another day as I could only cram 3 into my saddlebag.

25 November. We had snow for Thanksgiving – first time in 50 years. This afternoon the temperature was in the middle 40’s, and I had a very pleasant ride.

4 December. The thermometer was at 17 when I got up this morning – too cold for any riding today.

15 December. I have as yet not ridden a single day in this month. Following the cold spell early in the month, I had a slight cold, and by the time I recovered, we had two snows and more cold weather. Snow is expected today – we still have several inches on the ground from the last one.

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20 December. Still have not ridden any this month. Snow has been on for two weeks, and it is the coldest December in this area since 1917.

31 December. Did not ride once during this month. This turned out to be the coldest December in this area since they started keeping records.

My mileage for this calendar year is 3131.

2 January 1990. Rode 20 miles today and it felt like 50. I am really out of condition, but perhaps January will be better. Found a can of Budweiser today to start the year on the right note.

17 January. Yesterday was quite warm, and today the temperature was nearly 70 degrees. I took very nice rides both days. January has been much milder and much more pleasant, so far, than was December, and I have been riding quite a bit. Usually in this area, we do not have much really bad weather until January, but for the last two years, January has been mild and December very cold.

25 January. Though I have not played tennis in almost 50 years, I have recently been suffering from tennis elbow that makes inflating bicycle tires rather painful with the pump that I carry on the bike. I have obtained a floor pump which should be easier to use so that I can at least leave home with the right pressure (100 psi) in the tires.

28 January. Received today an amusing letter from Keith Larson about my biking journals. “One can draw by inference that you enjoy your bike riding, though your report in Boxwooder 246 made it all sound like a pain in the ass, as it literally is sometimes. I would like to see what you see, hear what you hear….”

I was reminded of the laureate judge who wrote in the December 1979 NA: “Some effort on the part of the writer could turn this into a solid presentation of merit. As it is there is no effort to go beyond a recording of events and a rather cute title.”

I replied to Keith, but not, of course, to the judge, that my intent in this diary is to keep pretty much to the bare facts and let the interest fall where it may. I don’t know exactly why I want to do it that way, but I do.

1 February. Gorgeous weather today, near 60 degrees, fine riding. Stopped to pick up an 11/16-socket and found a quarter as well. Later found a pair of pliers in good condition. Rode 377 miles in January.

3 March. The whole month of February was more like spring than winter. The only cold days were three or four right at the end. It was the second warmest February on record for this area. March started out rainy, but today it cleared up and the temperature must have been about 60. Very pleasant riding, and I got in 32 miles today.

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27 March. For years I have been using tires that can be inflated to 100 psi. I never had a gage so I just pumped them up as hard as I could with the hand pump. The new floor pump has a gage and I was surprised to find that I have, all these years, been underinflating (or the gage is wrong). At 100 psi, the tires are harder than they have been which should make them roll easier and certainly makes bumps harder. The floor pump has a fairly large barrel so it’s not easy to reach 100 psi, even with it.

9 April. We had our spring in February, and now we are having our winter in April. It has rained nearly every day and snowed on the 7th. Yesterday it was about 40 when I started out into a strong, cold wind for my first ride this month. Finally warmed up enough to be pleasant. I found 2 16-oz cans of Budweiser and a plastic pouch with a set of 14 allen wrenches in it. Someone has spread gravel all over Beaver Dam Road, making it impassable on a bike. I trust that this is preliminary to laying new asphalt, but it has been that way for several weeks now causing me to have to change my usual route through the farm (Beltsville Agricultural Research Center).

19 May. Beaver Dam Road is still covered with gravel. Now and then it looks as if they are about to pave it, but it hasn’t happened. I ventured onto a section of it yesterday and, in turning where the gravel barely covered the paved surface, had the bike slip out from under me. Left a little skin on the gravel. My helmet hit the road quite hard, and I again blessed it for saving my head as it has done several times. The weather lately has been marvelous for riding except for the hazard of getting caught in a thunderstorm.

30 May. After several rainy days yesterday was a beauty for riding. Just after starting, I became aware of a slight clicking noise which seemed to come from the left pedal or the bottom bracket – no way to tell which. It rapidly got worse so after 5 miles I decided I had better return home for repairs. Replaced left pedal with an old one and noise was still present. So I then removed the spinner from the bottom bracket and cleaned and greased the bearings and the cups on both sides. That evidently did the trick.

2 June. Beaver Dam Road has at last been repaved – at least the parts were covered with gravel. It’s nice to have my old route back again.

11 June. My odometer turned 80000 miles today. Actually, of course, it turned to 0000.0 since it caries only five digits including the tenth mile. I replaced it at this point with a new one. Generally odometers will last longer than 10000 miles, but dirt gets in them and the numbers get hard to see so I usually replace them.

The weather here has been absolutely great for riding. It has been cool and dry – very unusual for June.

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17 June. Dave and I attempted a roll-your-own century yesterday. Our plan was to make two 40-mile loops and one 20-mile loop from my house. A number of things went awry.

Our first loop of 42 miles went fairly well except that the left pedal crank on my bike somehow worked loose. It requires a socket wrench to really tighten this nut because the crank housing does not allow a good grip on the nut with a crescent wrench. Of course, I don’t carry a socket set with me. I had to stop every few miles in the last 20 to tighten that nut. We got back to my house in 3 hrs. 40 min.

There, I used a socket wrench on the troublesome nut. On the second loop, after 20 miles of road travel, we rode on a 4-mile bike path through a local park. It was so pleasant there, and I happened to be riding easily that I persuaded Dave to make another round on the bike path and do 48 miles on this loop before our rest stop. Dave was already tired (He hadn’t ridden his bike since the fall century we did together.) and the distance exhausted him.

He started lagging behind and had great difficulty with some small hills in getting home. At about 89 miles (a mile from home), I stopped to see how he was doing and got my foot tangled in the toe clip and fell painfully, spraining my left thumb. Every time I go down, I sprain a thumb. This is very annoying since a sprained thumb can take anywhere from a day or so to weeks to heal.

Dave was so tired that he decided not to complete the last 10 miles of the century. I had a quick snack and took off again before my thumb got so sore that I couldn’t ride. I finished the final 10 miles with only fatigue as a companion. The whole process took 10-1/2 hours.

Today I feel very well except for sore joints which do not allow me to rest long in the same position.

27 June. The left crank became loose again while I was riding today. When I got home I tightened the nut but on a trial it almost immediately became loose again. Examination showed that it now slips too far back on the spinner, and it is impossible to tighten the crank adequately. Perhaps it became worn from coming loose on the century as described earlier.

The cranks are made of some aluminum alloy, and it may not take much to increase the size of the square hole that fits on the spinner. I thought I might have to buy a new crank but decided to try using a 24-point copper space for a shim. That worked for an hour, and then it came loose again. I then substituted a brass space for the copper, and it now seems as solid as when it was new. Copper and brass spaces have lots of uses beyond their intended purpose of spacing out lines of type.

25 July. At a rest stop today I noticed that my rear hub was broken and two spokes were hanging free. This is the second time I have had a rear hub to break. When I arrived home, I found a crooked rear wheel that David replaced on his bike some years ago, and I transferred the tire to that wheel and installed it on the bike. I have a good rear hub on hand from my last rear wheel failure in which it was the rim that failed.

I took the hub and a rim to a local bike store and was not surprised to hear that the charge for rebuilding the wheel would be $48 while a new wheel would cost $52. I went to a second shop and got slightly different numbers, but it was clear, as I suspected, that I should order by mail a pair of wheels for $60. It is strange that two wheels would be about the same cost as one. I already have one brand-new front wheel from my last replacement.

When I bought this bike, almost exactly 13 years ago, most rear hubs were 5 speed, but over the years there has been a change to 6- and 7-speed hubs. As far as the frame is concerned, the rear fork is 120 mm wide for a 5-speed hub Bike Nashbar catalog there is not a single 5-speed hub for sale, and no 5-speed freewheel is available. One can still buy the made-up wheels which have the proper width for a 5-speed so I decided to order one while they are available. At a bike store the owner said that there were millions of 10-speed bikes requiring 5-speed hubs and freewheels, and he could not imagine why replacements were becoming unavailable. I will simply reserve my 5-speed hub for future emergency use in case they become completely unavailable.

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If it becomes necessary, I can lace the rear wheel myself using the rim and hub that I have and take it to a bike shop for truing and dishing. (Rear wheels are not centered on their axles but have to be centered on the combined width of the axle and freewheel. This off-center configuration is called “dishing” and is more than I want to undertake.

3 August. The new wheels arrived today. I spent the entire afternoon working on the bike. I decided that I might as well install both new wheels which, of course, required me to mount tires on both. Rims are constantly getting more narrow. My original rims were about 20 mm wide, the last replacements were 14, and the present ones measure 13 mm. Tires have also been getting smaller; many are now less than one inch wide, but I’m still using the one-inch ones. As the rims and tires get smaller, it gets harder and harder to get the tires on the rims – it is now a real struggle.

I have needed a new chain for some time (In fact I bought one last October.) so I installed it today which, of course, required disassembling the freewheel and installing a new cog. Getting a freewheel off the bike wheel and disassembling a freewheel are always difficult tasks even with the special tools. I spent a total of about four hours replacing and adjusting. I took a brief ride, and everything seemed to be ok, but it will take a longer, regular ride to be sure. The new wheels roll very smoothly. I was rather surprised at the apparent improvement over the old ones.

5 August. I took my normal 27-mile ride today. As usual replacing the chain has led to difficulties. I replaced the 17-tooth cog on the freewheel but hoped I could make do with the old 19-tooth one because it had not been used as much; but it is no go. It will have to be replaced. The cogs wear with the chain though it is hard to believe. The new wheels really seem to improve the riding although it’s difficult for me to believe the old ones, though a bit sloppy, really had more friction than the new ones.

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12 August. The chain has been popping on both the old 19-tooth cog and the new 17-tooth one. Today I replaced the 19-tooth cog and rode a bit around the neighborhood. It seems to be ok, but one can never really tell until it is tested on a normal ride. I want to solve all chain problems before the September centuries, if possible. I surely don’t want to have to cope with the chain popping off the cogs while climbing hills on a century ride.

13 August. Chain situation is much improved though not entirely satisfactory. It sometimes takes a few hundred miles for a new chain to settle in. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably have to try another chain. It’s a mysterious business.

15 August. Expenses for the year:

wheels… $60.64
19-tooth cog… $6.29
floor pump… $19.90
17-tooth cog… $5.24
toe muffs… $11.40
2 tires… $13.80
bottom bracket parts… $31.95
rim tape… $2.00
shorts… $24.95
shipping… $12.85
2 century fees… $15.00
ball bearings… $5.85
chain… $4.99
money found (9 occasions)… -($1.35)
total… $216.51

End of fiscal biking year. Odometer stands at 80622. Thus I have ridden 2920 miles this year. Expenses this year were about 50 percent above my 13-year average. Aging bike, perhaps. The total of expenses for 14 years is $2067 or 2.56 cents per mile. Centuries are up 3 at 39. I believe I found only 7 beers – a woefully dry year.

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Handset in Deepdene. The lower case 12-point is brand new for this issue (sorts equivalent of 30 fonts). Display type is Glamour Medium. Edited and published by Jake Warner who printed 380 copies on an SP-15 Vandercook. The cover was printed on a 10×15 C&P

The Boxwood Press
Greenbelt, MD 20770

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