Monthly Archives: February 2011

Update: Trail Construction

I was wrong – the city is actually making pace with construction down by the bluffs. In fact, they currently have finished the path connecting to Gates Gully. I’m quite surprised at the speed with which they are progressing every day; after visiting the construction site a few times, they seem to mark progress with posts, which (by my measurements) average 4m of new road each day! At this rate, including all weekends and holidays, the 1.5 km segment remaining between Bluffers Park and Gates Gully should be finished in roughly one year from now.

I accessed the trail via the Guild Inn, just as the last of the dump trucks and Toronto and Region Conservation   authorities were packing it in for the day. That’s right – from what I can tell, this project seems to be planned from a “parks and rec” as well as “watersheds protection” angle, not so much for cyclo-commuting (insert sad emoticon of your choice here). But, I didn’t really expect that it would ever be for that reason – much more likely to prevent erosion of the bluffs as just a simple gravel trail.

The trail was churned-up from dump truck traffic

It was just above zero during the afternoon, enough to melt all the snow/ice and turn the gravel and dirt road at the base of the bluffs into a muddy mess. Not easy going on relatively thin tyres, but boy! was I impressed when I made it to the new construction point. Up until now, the “construction” that has been going on has consisted of merely stacking up piles of debris – I can now see why. They went at it all in one go: no waiting for fill to finish. It took less than a week to build 200m of new road/trail:

All new construction
I’m glad to see that this is making priority, after about 10 years of stagnation. This could mean a completed trail system to the beaches in ~5 years, which would complete the perfect route for commuting downtown.
I’ll leave you with some pictures to finish off:

Newly-built trail’s end

My bike loves mud…
Happy, for once
View from base of Gates Gully
View from end
Muddy, new road
Gates Gully creek in winter

Tube Amp

I have other loves in life other than cycling – some of them being electrical projects. I’ve been working on this baby for a while – but, only recently has it recieved its power transformer. I pulled the transformer from an old ceiling fan; 120v to 24 volts, with ~ 1/3 amp supply capability. And that voltage happens to be *almost* exactly what I need for the heater filament of the single 25EH5 tube that comprises the amp. However, measuring the wall voltage at an actual level of 126 volts, the voltage coming out of the transformer is actually above 25 volts (ie. 120/24=5, 126/5= 25.2 volts). This is well within the 10% tolerance of  the vacuum tube’s operational voltage range, being only .9% off of ideal. Right now, until I find/build a proper wooden cabinet for it, the entire amp resides in an old margarine container.

Fire hazard: kids at home, never mount a transformer to anything
using tape. Even if the tape is electrical tape.

The rest of the amp’s circuit is very basic; it is “single-ended”, has a simple solid-state bridge rectifier (although I was contemplating a tube rectified version…), and uses random bits and bobs for its other electrical organs. Yes, low-fi, but still should have that “mellow”,  interesting tube-based sound.

The dark (and tangled) underbelly of the beast….

I’m still waiting for a cheap 1 watt resistance-matched output transformer, from the 5000 ohms of the tube’s plates to 8 ohm for the speakers. As this has only cost me $15 for all the parts so far, I’d rather not pay $30 for a single part if it can be had otherwise!

Crappy 15-sec B&W exposure of the tube in operation

Custom Gearing is Here!

For any of those who don’t know, the Sport Check in the Scarborough Town Centre is going out of business… and so they are having a closeout sale. No, this is not a promotion for the store – I simply saw a 7 speed wide-range cassette on sale at that store for 30% off, dropping the price to $15. Knowing that my bicycle’s gearing is a bit high for fully loaded touring up big hills (I’m not super strong, either), I took the opportunity and bought the SRAM 12-32 gear cluster to customize my ride.


 I didn’t have what one would call a “high” low gear before this upgrade – with 700c wheels, an 11-28t cluster in back and a 22-32-42t front crankset allowed for a lowest gear of  21.5 in, and a high of 104 in. I almost never used that high a gear, bust still had some trouble up hills with that low gear (especially on tour/ with load). The new 12-32 casette drops a little high-end, in return for a greater low-end; a gear of 18.8 in to 95.6 in. Strangely enough, the % change from one gear to another among the first 5 cogs is actually closer than before, meaning more comfortable control over cadences on the road. The lost two cogs have jumps much greater, but the absolute change in the gear value is small, making it nearly unnoticeable.

New = shiny… my old cassette was once like that…

Two problems: Firstly, my now-16 year old Shimano Alivio rear derailleur has a bit of trouble reaching the 32t cog, and sometimes hits… I’ll fiddle with the b-tension adjuster, and see if this improves. After all, they were rated (I believe) to 34t max cog. Secondly, because I didn’t replace the chain, and the derailleur is nearly at max take-up capacity, cross-over gears have now become a real danger on the 42t chainring/ 32t cog. Other than that, all is well.

Mounted on wheel. Notice how the last two cogs
grow in size quickly; keeps the majority of gears within useful  % change.

I hope to give it a greater test in the weeks to come, but everything is looking good so far!

The Frugal Man’s Patch Kit

Because of all the punctures I’ve had to patch, I came up with a use for the beyond-use tubes I have lying around…. I made them into new patches! Turns out you can use strips of the butyl rubber from old inner tubes to patch other inner tubes quite reliably. The extra stretch compared to regular patches may also be a bonus for high-pressure tubes, or for tubes in really wide tires. At the current price of $2.50 for a patch kit with 10 patches  and two tubes of rubber cement, that’s $.25 every time I patch. However, the glue usually lasts longer than the ten patches, and so I can use about 10-15 more strips of inner tube as patches, halving the cost to ~$.12 per patch.

Complete inner tube first-aid kit

However, if I were to buy just the glue and inner tubes, the price would drop further. Rubber glue is ~$2 for a large tube, and a whole inner tube is $3.00 at my LBS, meaning I could patch about 50 tubes  for $5 dollars. I estimate each inner tube would make 100 patches, so the real cost is in the glue…. maybe I can buy the rubber cement by the jar?

1/2 tube left; just enough for 5 patches!

RIP: Snow Studs

I’m putting the snow studs to rest (for now) for two reasons:
1. There be no snow/ice on the roads as of late, and its > 5 degrees outside
2. They keep popping inner tubes!

Despite my best efforts, and lining each tire with 3-4 layers of duct tape, the occasional screw would be able to wear through the protection and put a cut into the inner tubes. Its quite unfortunate, as they were really quite amazing ice tyres. The only way I can thing of salvaging them is buying a few rolls of Mr. Tuffy or some other tyre liner and completely covering the insides to protect the tubes.

They really only seem to pop in hard cornering or trail/ off-road riding. I was caught out the other day up to my ankles in mud, where I had to change a tyre. I was not happy, needless to say, when I ran out of patches from how many punctures there were.

Homebrew Derailleur Adjuster

’tis time to rejoice – a four-day weekend is here (for me, at least), and I plan on lots o’ biking around. An interesting thing I managed to build up is a little do-hicky for fine-tuning my front derailleur; with a lack of down-tube stops, I had to get a little more creative. I took the adjustment screw from the mounts that came with my RSX shifters, and attached a nut to it, et voila! a 2-cent in-line barrel adjuster:

It does its job, even if it ain’t pretty. It mounts on the side of the shifters, where the derailleur cable leaves.

I’ve already been on a few rain rides, and it hasn’t shown any signs of rust, so the long-term prospects seem good.


It’s Sunday night… I’ve returned from a winter camping trip this weekend, near Acton. On the drive up, the window got stuck in the down position – so, I had a very breezy and chilly ride. 1 foot of snow when I got up to the site, and another foot fell on Saturday night, making the tent sag a bit under the weight. Quite great weather for a winter camp!

Unfortunately, while cutting some wood, I sustained a nasty gash on my knuckle; I was able to see the bone!! Needless to say, I had to get patched up with some gauze, and then head to the hospital for a more permanent ‘fix’. I wasn’t really injured that badly – the blood wasn’t pouring out – so the 2.5 cm cut was held together with 3 stitches. I guess I’ll see how it holds up to swimming tomorrow!


While not strictly pertaining to the object of this blog, it’s here anyway:

Finally: A book costs more in the US than Canada!

Looks as if someone didn’t take care to check for punctuation, which, as we can see, makes all the difference. This is the back of my copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera”, which we had to read for school. Look – the proof’s on the paper…

Fully Completed.

I’ve done it – the bike is completely finished, and it has been distance-proven; I took it for more than 40 km of wintery riding over the past two days. All the riding and abused has allowed me to ‘dial in’ all the settings of the bike: the Brooks saddle has been moved foreward, the derailleur cables have stretched/settled and been adjusted, the handlebars have been positioned, the STI levers have been re-positioned, and more than all these other combined, the new brakes have been worn in and re-positioned.

Ta daaaah!
Hells yeah – ‘Standard’

That’s right; new brakes. Those old Shimano low-profile cantis are gone, and are replaced with one of the widest-of-wide profile brakes; some Tektro 720s. They really have cleaned up the problems, so now there is about 1/2 cm of clearance each side of the rims and more than double the braking power. The quality of workmanship is superb – they come with 6mm allen key fixing bolts, a stainless-steel bushing, both sides adjust, and the cable yoke has and indexing screw so that cable pull can be equalized. It’s the attention to detail that makes them hard to beat. That, and the fact that they look (and work) pretty darn good, too. When running drop bars with cantis, I can now recommend them wholeheartedly.

It even comes with V-style brake pads, that have  a replaceable insert.
The little things really do matter.

The front derailleur problem has also been (mostly) fixed. While, unfortunately, neither my bike frame or the STI levers have places to mount adjustment barrels, I have managed to get the indexing to near-perfection by simply using a cresent wrench, a pair of pliers and some finesse upon the cable adjustment. The other outstanding problem was the difficulty with which my now 16-year-old Shimano Alivio mountain front d. now moves. I was not able to shift without nearly breaking my fingers pushing on the lever! I had read online that problems could occur beacause of a different pull-ration between mountain and road front d’s, but, to my luck, all it really needed was some WD-40 to lube it up gud! Now, it is (relatively) easy to shift with, but still harder than on most road bicycles.

No, this is not the derailleur. But, it does say Alivio…

Update on the Snow Studs: The homemade tyres have held up fantastically, with very little wear on the screws even after >50km of on-road riding. No screws have come lose or rusted, or pushed back into the tyre – BUT- the duct tape liner on the front ripped and let a screw head have its way with the inner tube. Needless to say, I was not happy about having to remove/patch an innertube in a -10C and snowy environment. There are now 3 layers of duct tape in the tyres. Feel free to add more if you decide to make a pair.


I can’t remember what was going on here, but if I had to guess,
I was a little miffed. And cold.

But, I made it downtown before the tire popped. Downtown TO. is always has an interesting look in the snow.

Looking North on McCaul St.