Saturday, June 29, 2013

Heather Glen, Balgriffin, and Ballantrae

Today we promised the kids we would take them to the spray park at #5 Ballantrae Park. It was supposed to be right after lunch, but things got pushed back and we weren't able to leave until after dinner. The weather was looking pretty ominous:

But we rode on. The dark clouds continued to gather, so we stopped by #25 Heather Glen to spend some time and see if they would blow over.

Heather Glen has a little gear driven race car track that is pretty unusual among playgrounds:

And I was happy to see that they had a little trainer for a manual car transmission:

A three way slide gave us a chance to set up a race:

Which Henry won in a photo finish:

The skies were lightening up so we headed towards the splash park, past #4 Balgriffin Park. They have a frisbee golf course here:

But then things got dark again so we stopped at the playground:

Yet another three way slide:

We started to head for home, but rode past the splash park to think about what to do. Turns out, you can't go near a splash park, with kids in swimsuits, and not actually stop. So we did:

Henry and Kate have really progressed in their ability to enjoy water since their swim lessons at the Dublin Rec this summer. They both got soaked:

Sam, not so much:

But they all had a great time:

We toweled the kids off, wrapped the twins in a dry towel and bundled them in the trailer, and beat the rain home to a nice warm bath!

Three down, 27 to go. More than halfway done!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shannon Glen Park (again)

Back when I was still a rookie blogger, we made a visit to #44 Shannon Glen Park and left without pictures. To rectify this issue, we returned tonight, camera in pocket. I had my Globe, Kate in the trailer, Henry on his bike, and Sam on his Strider. I think the Strider is cute when it's leaned up against a tree like this:

The unique feature of Shannon Glen is this sliding trolley:

The kids like it, and I have to admit that I do too! Not just fun, it's good for the abs too. Yeah, that's it... it's just good exercise.

We stopped to check out some ants that were feasting on a sucker stick:

Then we were on the way back home. We made one quick stop to check out the lightning struck tree in Avery park:

Some thoughtful park worker carved a viewing hole in the tree:

Then it was on to exploring the creek:

None down, still 30 to go.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How many bikes do you need?

One of my favorite writers is Peter Egan from Cycle World, and one of my favorite articles of his is, "How many bikes do you really need?" In the article, he settled on five: a sportbike, a sport touring bike, a dirtbike, a great big hog, and an old crock. Similarly, I spend an irrational part of my waking hours trying to determine the correct size and composition of my bike fleet. I'm currently at an uncomfortable seven. They are (oldest to newest):

1. Surly Cross Check:

I've the CC about four and a half years, and it's done most everything: fixed gear, touring bike, cyclocross bike, town bike, etc. It's not perfect--I'd like to drop the bottom bracket, lengthen the head tube, and lighten the tubing up a hair, but it's so versatile and fun that it's earned its spot in my constantly churning fleet.

2. Soma Juice:

I've had the Soma only over a year, and it's mostly been a rigid/single speed mountain bike, with a brief foray into bike camping. Is it bad that my second oldest bike is barely a year old? Maybe I shoulda kept the Fargo...

3. Specialized FSR

As I mentioned earlier, I picked this up on a whim about a year ago, but I've really been enjoying it. Clearly, it's pretty much used only for riding single track. Quickly.

4. Soma Double Cross:

Currently set up as a child puller and around-town bike.

5. Rawland Nordavinden

My pure, geared road bike for those long, solo road rides I always think I'm going to do, but rarely actually do. Yes, it has toe clips--I ran out of clipless pedals. These things happen with seven bikes.

6. Specialized Globe Vienna

Another child puller, but a cheap one. And it's actually a dedicated hybrid, not a repurposed 'cross or mountain bike.

7. OS Blackbuck

Er, another rigid/single speed mountain bike.

(A quick aside to my wife: seven bicycles take up much less space and money than five motorcycles!)

I've long maintained to myself (and the few people who will stand around to listen), that I really only need three bikes: a mountain bike, a road bike, and an around town/utility bike. However, when I seriously think about my riding patterns, I could actually get by with just two: I'd drop the road bike in favor of the utility bike, since most of my road riding is actually just errands around town, short hops through the metro park, or pulling the kids around.  Forced to radically downsize like this, it would be the Surly as the town bike and either the FSR or the Soma as the mountain bike.      

Insightful readers will see the downfall of the two bike plan in that last sentence: I have to choose between the FSR and the 29er? But some days I want the pure simplicity of the single speed, while on others I want the speed and comfort and ease of the FSR. Selling one might just cause me to buy some variation of it back later, which isn't the smartest economics--I should know, as I've done this many, many times.            

So right now, I'm working on a plan to get down to just four:

1. Mountain bike: FSR--too much cheap fun. 26" full suspension bikes are at a sweet spot for buyers right now, with great technology at blowout prices.

2. Alternate mountain bike: Soma or Blackbuck. I say this like it's a tough decision, but the Soma will win. I'll give the Blackbuck a few more rides to somewhat justify getting it, then it's going on the block.

3. Road bike: Rawland--I need to do more road rides, and I want to try out the new brakes I just got for it. Also, it "planes" like a Chris-Craft. Whenever I get inspired by my issues of Bicycle Quarterly, I can jump on this bike in all its flexy glory (and none of its 650B silliness)

4. Town bike: Surly or Soma or Globe. Another easy choice: the Surly is the only definite keeper here. But then what do I do when I want a fixed gear ride?

Such are the the dilemmas I wrestle with.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Indian Run Meadows with the Cousins

Cousins Greyson and Jackson are staying overnight with us, so right after dinner, we hit the road:

There's still a lot of construction along the Avery road bikepath, so we cut through the Trabue Nature Preserve. Of course, we had to stop at the pond:

Loading up, Sam said his favorite part so far was relieving himself in the pond. I won't show that picture! But that boy sure has some range.

We were quickly on the road again, heading for the evening's destination, #28 Indian Run Meadows Park.

This is one of the kids' favorite playgrounds, mostly because it has two well-separated play structures that make for an exciting Monster game. This time, we also played with swords. And jumped off stuff:

Is it wrong to ask your kids to jump off something for a good blog photo? I didn't realize blogging would present such ethical conundrums.

Another issue I wrestled with was a Krampus frame going for only $425 on ebay. A great price, but it has some issues that I'm not sure I would like (short head tube, slacker front end). Maybe some more 29+ frames will come on the market soon. In the meantime, I let the Krampus go with only one bid. Not too much remorse here. Not much. Now maybe a new town bike frame, on the other hand...

One down, 30 to go.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twins and Park Place

I got home later tonight so we only had time for a quick spin. Henry is at my parents (with his cousins, he may never want to come home), so it was just me and twins. We headed out on a mission to find a new playground, that I kinda sorta remembered was on Park Place, maybe out near #39 Post Preserve. I was riding my Globe, trying to decide if the aluminum frame "planes" at all for me at all, so I didn't mind the extra time wandering around the neighborhood. Sam and Kate encouraged me shouting, "faster! faster" as we sped along:

(it's really hard to take a picture of your trailer while riding hard)

After some time, we gave up and circled back to Post Preserve. Sam had been there, but not Kate, so he showed her the ropes:

This is really a pretty nice playground:

Kate, as always, loves to rock:

But we were already past our usual bedtime, and I wanted to make one more stop before home, so we didn't stay long here. We ended up at #38 Park Place park, which we've been to before, and that turned out to be the park I was looking for in the first place (I didn't realize this until I checked the map back at home)

The interesting thing about Park Place is that it's a twin of #38 Bishop's Run Park

And here I was with the twins... this was actually my backup plan for tonight's theme.

Sam in the Monster base, waiting for a heroine to rescue him:

Kate made the rescue, she's fast!

The jury is still officially out on the Globe. It feels OK, but as the low bike on the totem pole and me feeling crowded with bikes, its days are likely numbered.

One down (and one duplicate), 31 to go.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bike #64 Intro: OS Blackbuck 29er

Just to be clear, I don't currently have 64 bikes. Even my ever-patient wife would be giving me the evil eye way before that point. The Blackbuck is my 64th bike since I started biking as an adult (since 1990, basically), but "only" the 7th I have in the garage currently. Even at seven, I'm getting itchy to start unloading... but there's always one more out there, isn't there?

Anyway, after my less than enthusiastic reception of a Canfield Nimble 9, I was ready to try something different. Where the Canfield has a notably slack front end, the Blackbuck is notably quick. Blackbuck offers three forks lengths, and this is the shortest (I think of it as the "baby bear") fork available: at 435mm axle to crown, it's a touch shorter than most 26" forks, and it has more rake to boot. All of this will reduce the trail and sharpen the front steering. More on this later.

Oddly, this is the second Blackbuck I've had. I bought an early arrival of the 2nd generation two summers ago, but with the "mama bear" middle fork (455mm):

As it happened, I ended up selling that Blackbuck that same summer, when I had a brief affair with a titanium hardtail. I've had some seller's remorse since then, because the Blackbuck has so many things I like in a bike:

- it's a steel 29er

- with skinny, not too-stiff oversized tubes

- with a pinch bolt eccentric bottom bracket, maybe the best way to tension a single speed out there

- and a tall head tube, so I can use less spacers (150mm on the large frame)

- and, of course, that quick front end. Check out that minimal gap over the front tire:

But, the Blackbuck's signature elements, the curvy seatstays, still look kind of odd to me. I think this is part of the reason I unloaded it earlier-it never fit my traditional idea of what a mountain bike should look like. But how does it ride? Today I hit P2 to find out.

Handling: Very quick. Not as quick as my old Rawland Sogn 650B with low trail geometry:

but plenty quick. It is very, very easy to place this bike on the trail. See a 2" gap between a root and a rock? You can nail it with the knobbies scraping on either side. It's good for a rider who likes to read the trail and pick a good line. The Rawland was kind of like this too, but in the Rawland's case, if you let your eyes wander for a second, you'd find yourself three feet off the trail. The Blackbuck gives you some margin to make up for any mistakes.

Acceleration: As hard as I can pedal, this bike will go. But that's pretty much true of any bike.

Ride Comfort:  Just OK. If you think those curvy seat stays offer some compliance, well, maybe they will for you, but I don't detect any benefit from them. My Soma Juice is smoother, but again, that's about the smoothest hardtail I've ridden.

Build Quality: Pretty good. The paint is maybe too thick, and tends to chip off around wear areas (dropouts, seat clamp so far). But more importantly, the EBB is solid, squeak free, and easy to set up. Many types of single speed mechanisms I've tried can't nail those three requirements.

Oddities: the down tube has three bottle braze ons. I understand this was intended to fit the  (no longer available) Blackburn Bomber cage, but it also fits the Salsa Anything cage. Which would be great, but doing so blocks out the seat tube water bottle:

Also, and I need to get a picture here, but the downtube has a pair of cable stops near the head tube, then a line of single hose attach points running down the down tube. Mark Slate (the Blackbuck guy) tried to explain this to me, but I can't see any logic here. If you use the cable stops, there's no start point for the other end of the cable. If you use the clamps for full length housing, you have to share one clamp for up to three cables.

I mentioned trail earlier. Let's dive into that a bit more. In general, more trail makes a bike more stable (less willing to change direction, harder to knock off a line), while less trail does the opposite. There are many other factors that affect steering (wheel inertia, rider position, wheelbase, tire size, etc), but trail is a big factor in front steering. I've had bikes with a broad range of trail. I calculated the values from here:

Canfield Nimble 9 at 100mm: 95mm (unsagged), ~81mm (sagged)

Soma Juice, rigid: 74mm

Blackbuck, mama bear: 60mm

Blackbuck, baby bear: 53mm

Rawland Sogn: 39mm

In my experience, the sweet spot seems to be right around the Blackbuck with the mama bear. The Rawland was too nervous to be truly enjoyable. Baby bear is much better than that, but I don't see any real benefit here from what I remember from the Mama bear--that was a sweet handling bike. The Juice at 74mm is pretty good, but not razor sharp. And of course the misnamed Nimble 9 didn't really work for me at all.

I'll give the Blackbuck some more seat time this summer, but so far, I like my Juice a bit better. I'm also starting to think that I might be getting old for a rigid single speed. During today's ride, my mind wandered some to the FSR hanging in the garage. But when I eventually get tired of the complexity of a full sus, then what? Maybe a Surly Krampus. Something for me to chew on while I try to find a demo ride.

And Happy Birthday to my brother Jason! Go Huskies!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Coffman Park and Frog Jump

Today was the day of the annual Kiwanis Frog Jump at #13 Coffman Park. Trying to beat the heat, we packed up the bikes at about 9:30 and were on the road. Henry led the way, as usual:

Jodi brought up the rear on her Trek:

Once there, we met the Big Frog:

I don't envy the guy in the frog suit today, it was about 90F and humid out. I can't imagine it's too nice to be the third or fourth guy to climb in that suit today, either. Yuck.

Next, we hit the rides, starting with the obstacle course:

Then the big slide:

Then the bounce house:

What's a guy in a Subway suit have anything to do with frog jumping? I'm not sure, but we got a coupon for a free sub:

Then it was time for the front jump. We carefully selected our frogs and got ready:

And then the frogs were off!

Or maybe not:

I'm not sure any of our frogs made it to the outer circle finish line. But Henry can still show off a winner's pose:

Of course, we stopped by the playground:

The playground has a music theme going on:

and quite a bit of public art:

On the way to the park, we were stopped by a Dublin bike ambassador (who knew, right?). Since the kids were wearing bike helmets (or strapped into the trailer) each kid got a certificate for a free ice cream treat. So after lunch at Chipotle, we had a cool stop at Cold Stone Creamery:

One down, 32 to go.

Billie Bar Review, with bonus Pine Tar Soap review

I placed a Rivendell order the other day to try out a few new products. My main purchase was a new bar for my Fuji. The Billie bar is an evo...