Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Tack Attack Two-The On Road Vandalism Continues

Follow up: Marlisa Goldsmith of KTHV TV ran a story about this Saturday night. Thanks, KTHV and Marlisa, for helping. The vandals doing this may enjoy the publicity but I think that it is important for the general public to be aware of events out on the road. They may become a little more sypathetic towrds cyclists and someboby might actually step forward with some information.
One way to get through the tack zone.
photo by Crystal Holsted

Frank Kelly shared this photo of his tack collection.

Frank's special tack.
I got reports this morning of another batch of tacks strewn along a popular ride route; this time on Pinnacle Valley Road near the RR tracks and Pinnacle East parking lot. There seems to be little interest on the part of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department or county government.  Update: I did get a note from Judge Buddy Villines noting the difficulty of catching these folks, and a Saturday ride to both scenes revealed no tacks. I'm guessing the the street sweepers had been out.

Last year, when tacks were spread on County Farm Road near the Two Rivers Park entrance, Judge Villines responded quickly and sent a street sweeper out to try to help mitigate the problem. That act caught many riders participating in the ALS Bike Hike.
Last week's attack was on Barrett Road, which is on the routes of the upcoming MS150 fundraiser and the BDB100. Reports of the recent attacks have been met with silence from county officials.
If car tires were being slashed or windows broken, I would suspect that more interest would be taken. Though the safety of cyclists is at risk and many dollars in damage is being done, this seems to be taken as a bit of a joke.
I'm sure that the perpetrators are among the same fools that find humor in buzzing cyclists and threatening them with their cars because cyclists dare to ride on "their" roads. As long as law enforcement turns a blind eye and there are no repercussions, the chickenshxt actions may continue, but folks will not stop riding bikes.
Pulaski County and the cities on Central Arkansas a rightly proud of our bridges, parks, trails, and bike routes that have attracted positive national attention. A few rednecks are trying to prove that "this ain't no place to be ridin' a bike."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dust-up: My Mild Disagreement With Outside Magazine Experts

I recently ran across a "Test Your Bike Repair IQ" quiz at I was shocked to only score 8 out of 10. I missed one question because I didn't consider repairing a torn sidewall by sewing it with an unholstery needle and dental floss. While it may be possible, those are not items I typically have on hand when flatting on my mountain bike. Don't get me wrong, I am a big believer on good dental hygiene, but I don't plan on going all MacGyver to fix a flat. On that question, though, I will defer to the quiz writers.

My other supposedly incorrect answer was #4:

The question was: True or false: Dust your tube in talcum powder before installing it in a tire.

Their answer:
It is an urban legend that talcum powder reduces flats and makes it easier to remove tubes in case of flats. The myth is a carryover from automobiles, which used the powder between tubes and tires to prevent the two from vulcanizing together from the heat. Bicycles don’t generate enough heat to generate vulcanization, and talcum powder can actually cause air to release faster if you flat.

My response is an emphatic, "Hah!", and I have thrown the bullshit flag. 

I will not argue that a non-dusted tube will bond to the tire. (Though, by coincidence my neighbor just found her tube hopelessly stuck to the tire as she took a women's bike class and was learning to fix a flat. )
I will argue that a tube dusted with talc is much easier to properly place on the rim and into the tire.  It also makes it less likely to get the tube trapped between the tire bead and the rim during installation. And the bit of talc that ends up on the rim also makes it easier to push the tire back over the rim. I am a big fan of anything that makes changing a flat faster and easier out on the road.

So, Outside's premise as to why people use talc is outdated and incorrectly associated with the use of talc by modern cyclists.
I don't know what the hell they mean by their unexplained statement ,"talcum powder can actually cause air to release faster if you flat." I would guess that they think if the tube is stuck to the tire it will leak more slowly than if it can move freely. But....what about the urban legend?

The only thing that a reasonable thinking person, like almost all JBarCycling readers, can conclude is that they are full of shit and that I am absolutely correct. Now that you are completely convinced that talcing tubes is good policy, here's how.
I keep a gallon ziplock in my bike gear box with a little talc in it. When preparing a tube for use or for your flat kit, just unroll the tube, drop it in the bag and shake. Blow a little air into the tube and you ready to install.

 For the flat kit, roll the tube back up and wrap it in plastic wrap. Secure it with tape or a rubber band, making a neat package for your seat bag.
 I prefer Scotch tape unless you need the rubber band to hold your hair while fixing a flat. You're going to tear open anyway, and it keeps the tube tightly wrapped. The wrap keeps the talc intact and gives the tube a small measure of protection while in your flat kit.
We suggest this premium branded talc. It is very important that you use bike-specific products that come from trusted sources.
You spent big bucks on a bike, you buy premium tires for your fancy carbon wheels, so you can afford to buy the good stuff! A bottle like this will last for years, so do not scrimp.

On the other hand, there are many generic or store-branded imitations that list exactly the same ingredients and are often priced under a dollar. Do not trust these products. How could they possibly be of equal quality? 
There a few few take-aways here, so I will close with a few bullet points:
- Outside's "experts" are wrong on question number 4.
- I am right.
- JBarCycling would not bullshit you about the relative value of talc brands.
- If you search the web on this topic, you will find varying opinions. When you're      through reading those opinions, refer back to second bullet point.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Out On The Road-Tack Attack on Barrett Road


CARVE riders returning from a Lake Maumelle loop on Saturday report another incident of tacks being dumped along a popular cycling route. This time, the a-hole chose Barrett Road just west of Highway 300 near Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Riders reported multiple flats as the road was carpeted with thousands of tacks with one rider reporting 3 flats before giving it up and calling for a ride. I had passed through the area without incident about 9:30 and the CARVE guys came through around 10:00. It was a year and one week after tacks were strewn along County Farm Road just in time for the ALS Bike-Hike. The sheriff's department had little to go on last year, and I'm not sure that the victims even bothered to report Saturday's attack. Many drivers in this part of the county are hostile to riders, but this kind of behavior is an affront to everyone.
Even after the county sent a street sweeper to clean up the road last year, tack-caused flats occurred for weeks, so be aware that Barrett Road is likely a minefield.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


 Arkansas River Trail Task Force and LRBFCC meetings were held in recent weeks and were the scene of discussions of several topics of concern to the cycling community. Here are a few infrastucture developments that may eventually affect your ride.

I-30 corridor: Discussions and public meetings concerning renovation/expansion of the I-30 corridor through Little Rock are underway. This is the busiest stretch of higway in Arkansas and any redevolopment is bound to have consequences, good or bad, for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Historically, they have been bad, as freeways are among the most daunting barriers to alternative transportation. From my own Park Hill neighborhood near the I-30/I-40 interchange, there are only a very few routes available to cross I-30 or I-40 and those limited routes are far from "bike friendly" during peak traffic hours. Construction may be a few years away but our experince with the Broadway Bridge project taught us that is is never too early to start protecting our interests.

Speaking of the Broadway Bridge...
Many of us remember being told that construction of the new bridge had to get underway in 2013 of the highway department risked the loss of 50+ million dollars in federal funding. My, how time flies! The project is now supposed to bid on September 17, with construction beginning in early 2015.
Construction will close downtown sections of the River Trail for up to 2 years and likely make "closing the loop" a moot point for that time period. That said, the bike advocacy community needs to maintain efforts to resolve this gaping hole in our bike infrastructure.

Detouring The "Temporary " Route on Cantrell Road
Riders who use the permanant "temporary" bike route of the River Trail along the sidewalk in front of the Episcopal Collegiate School will face further challanges later this year.

This will get worse before it gets better.
Before it's all over, sewer lines to this new pump station will have to be installed.

You may have noticed construction at the sewage pump station west of the school at the foot of the viaduct. The pump station is being rebuilt, and that project will include replacement of buried pipe along the road in front of the school. The excavation will close the trail detour for a period of time, so eastbound cyclists will be directed across to the sidewalk on the north side of Cantrell Road. Crossing will be at the traffic signal that serves the school. From there, cyclists are riding the sidewalk across multiple driveways before dealing with a few power poles. Casual riders will not enjoy this.

 Development in this stretch is incredibly dense, with a busy state highway, a rail line, the Arkansas River, and the interests of the Stephens and Dillard families all packed into narrow corridor.

There is room to ride around the poles on the off street side....barely.

After dealing with the 6 driveways and multiple mid-sidewalk power poles, I'm not sure what the hell we're supposed to do. I also have no idea how westbound traffic will be accomodated.

Crossing the viaduct may be safer with a barrier to traffic.
After crossing the viaduct, the sidewalk leads to North Street. From there, riders will need to cross Cantrell at the traffic signals at Izard or at Chester in order to return to the bike route on Markham Street. I waited through a couple of cycles at each of the lights and never got a green light to safely cross Cantrell. I assume they are traffic activated.
A beauty of the bike is that you can almost always pick your way through and around barriers if you know where you are going, whether it be riding on the sidewalks and streets or, worst case, picking up the bike and carrying it. That works OK for locals, but the implications for visitors and tourists attempting to navigate our trail system are a bit murky at best.
There are projects being developed to tie the trail to the sidewalk at this location, but neither will be complete, and likely not even started, by the time the sewer work is done. The pipe replacement in front of the school driveway will have to be done over the Christmas holidays. Other than that, plans for this project are far from clear to me.
After exploring passage along the north side of Cantrell, the current sidewalk route  looks pretty good.
I don't want to be too strident about this, as there are few options within this corridor. My goal is to inform trail users about what is to come this fall.  If I had any better ideas than the current plan, I would have shared them.

Medical Mile Trail Section- Even as progress is being made toward the start of construction of what eventually be the east terminus of the River Bluffs trail section near Dillard's HQ, another potential problem has arisen. You may recall that a section of trail slid off into the Arkansas River a couple of years ago. That slide was recently repaired, but now it appears that another section of trail, just east of the UP RR tracks, is sloughing off. The seriousness of the problem has yet to be determined, but it could affect plans to bridge the tracks and make the trail connection to Cantrell Road.

There may be a problem with the geology here. This is just outside the UP RR right of way east of Dillard's.
Highway 10 Corridor
Look for opportunities to comment on this major project. As I understand, designers of this 10-11 lane rebuilding of Highway 10 west of I-430 have been instructed to make some provision for bike and pedestrian traffic crossing fro Rodney Parham to River Mountain Road. That said, I was recently told that any kind of bike-ped overpass had been ruled out. A suggestion was made at a recent LR Bike Friendly Community Committee meeting that we could await the public comment period. That didn't work too well with the Broadway Bridge as plans were, for the most part, deemed too far along to make substantial changes by the time the public was heard. That was in spite of a design contest that resulted in.....the original plan with some basket handles.
Just talk, for now...
There has been some discussion of a proposal to rezone the park-like residential area at the top of River Mountain Road to commercial to allow for a retail development. I'm told that the chances of this moving forward beyond some inquiries are very slim, but let's pay attention. A big box parking lot at the top of the hill would serve as a sad gateway to our trail system and further exacerbate a traffic nightmare. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Breakdown- Have you ever felt forlorn? Lonely and abandoned?

Were you feeling lonely because your ride partners pedaled away, abandoning you on the side of the road with a preventable mechanical?  Oh, they'll probably stick around until you have a rescue arranged, and they probably won't talk bad about you until they're out of earshot, but you'll still have your ride cut short.

If your eyes glaze over at the mention of the words "hex wrench", just stop reading now and take your bike to your favorite local shop and ask them to check it over. Likewise, if you're a seasoned bike tinkerer, I'm unlikely to teach you anything.

Miles matter.
Many cyclists will get their bike checked out in the spring as the season ramps up, only to ignore routine maintenance, service checks, and repairs as they pile on the miles through the summer months. I'm going to reach into my bag of recent experiences to point out a few things that could go wrong in the hope that it may save you that dreaded phone call home--"Honey, can you come get me? Do you know where Garrison Road is?"
Don't ignore noises.
Most of us know the sound of a normally running bike and of a dry chain in need of lube. For noises beyond that, make it a point to hunt down the source of clicks, creeks, groans, and squeaks. If the bike doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. Most noises can be corrected with a hex wrench or some lube. Some can't.
Noise can precede catastrophic failure..
Usually, stopping a noise can be as simple as greasing your seat post or dropouts, but it may signal a disaster in waiting. Last year, after riding for a couple of weeks with a tube of grease in my pocket chasing a creaking noise, I discovered that the seat tube on my titanium frame was seriously cracked. Only last week, a ride partner found that the source of an irritating click was a carbon seat post that was cracked and near failure. Either of those could have caused a crash or at least that roadside phone call.
Noises radiate through frames, often making it difficult to pinpoint the source. If you don't feel comfortable making minor repairs and adjustments on your bike, take it to the friendly folks at your favorite bike shop.

It shifted OK yesterday....
A change in performance means something is wrong. Sudden problems with shifting, usually the rear derailleur, can signal one of a number of problems, but the source can be narrowed down pretty easily.
First, ask yourself if your bike has fallen over or otherwise taken a blow to the drive train. Then, make sure that the rear wheel is firmly and squarely set in the dropout.
Next, make sure that the cable end is firmly tightened under the retention bolt and has not slipped. Once properly tightened, the cable rarely comes loose, but it's worth checking. If it is slipping, you will likely get phantom shifts to smaller cogs as tension comes off of the cable, and the cable near the retention bolt will usually show signs of having been flattened. 
The next most likely cause is a failing shifter cable. The cable usually breaks a strand at a time, usually inside the shifter housing, effectively lengthening the cable and allowing phantom shifts to a smaller cog.
This cable is on its way to total failure. Roll back your shifter hoods to check for failing cables.

You can usually shift back up to the desired cog, but as more strands break, the derailleur will drop again to smaller cogs. This often takes place over a period of time and a couple of rides before the cable fails completely.
Nothing like a wad o' wire to enhance shifter performance.

My most recent experience with a frayed cable was a little different in that the wad of broken strands prevented the cable from feeding out of the shifter. The result was that I couldn't use my smallest 3-4 cogs.
A failing cable is easy to overlook, even by experienced mechanics, if you are not specific about the symptoms. The shifting can often be adjusted to perfection on a workstand, only to have the problems return out on the road as more cable strands break under the load of shifting. If you suspect a failing cable, check it yourself or ask you mechanic to take a look. Better yet, if your cables are more than a year old, just replace them. They're inexpensive and should be considered a wear-and-tear item like tires and chains.
Cable life can vary widely and can depend on the cable routing. Failures are likely to happen at sharp turns of the cable. The current DuraAce and Ultegra 11-speed groups require several sharp bends to the cable, inspiring Shimano to use more expensive PTFE coated cables for smooth operation. The components work beautifully but I think that cables will need more frequent replacement than on older systems.

More gradual degradation in shifting performance may indicate drive chain wear. That usually starts with a worn chain. If the worn chain is not replaced, it will cause excessive wear to the cassette and, eventually, to the chainring. 

This chain is within spec. A worn chain would allow the .75 tab to drop between the links. A worn out chain will allow the 1.0 tab. 

A chain with excessive wear usually means it is also time to replace the cassette. Most mechanics check chain wear as a matter of routine. If you don't have a chain check tool, it is easily checked with a 12" ruler. This video link shows both how to use the chain check tool and how to use a ruler for the purpose. The host refers to "freewheel", though modern bikes use a freehub and cassette, but the idea is the same. You can replace a chain now or a chain and cassette, and possibly chainrings, later. It usually makes more economic sense to stay ahead with chain replacement.

Tires and flat kit
As always, you want look over your tires from time-to-time to check for cuts or excessive wear. Also, check the contents of your flat repair kit. It's easy to forget using a CO2 cartridge until you need it again.

This is a rainy day post. If you're reading it on Saturday, it is also a good day to check over your bike or to get it to the shop.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Weekend Ride Opportunity- Big River Parkway Levee Ride Event

You may recall a recent article about the Harahan Bridge Project at Memphis
I received this from Greg Maxted announcing a unique ride opportunity for this Sunday:

Wanted to let folks in Little Rock know we are having an open levee ride Sunday Morning.
Hopefully we will have another opportunity in the fall, with more advance notice.
St. Francis Levee Board has given us the OK to start a Demonstration project, West Memphis to Marianna.
Late notice to be sure, but we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity with the Levee Board.
Riders can start early at 7:00 AM, or wait until it gets nice and toasty later in the day.
One can ride all the way to Marianna , or just a few miles to see what it is like.
Might be the start of something really big!
Greg Maxted, P.E.
Executive Director
Harahan Bridge Project


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Along The Trail-Dog Days And Progress Reports

Darn these pesky crowds
I often say that if you want some solitude along the trail, you can head out any time the temperature is over 95 or on most weekend evenings in the dog days of summer. Sometimes, though, the crowds can erupt when you least expect them or you can feel like you were the only one left out of the rapture.

Inexplicable: Last Saturday at noon, temperatures pleasantly in the 80's, a nice breeze, and not a soul in sight.
Our trail system gets a lot of use-over a million people have crossed the BDB- but there are always areas of light usage. Since the opening of the Two Rivers Park Bridge, much of the casual walking crowd has migrated that way, along with riders passing through to the open roads to the west. That leaves much of the North Little Rock trail less crowded than in the past, though still very active.
Open and Shut Case-Culvert Collapse On Trail Along Rebsamen Park Road

We've experienced another infrastructure failure along the River Trail near the BDB. This one was not as painful as the culvert collapse that blocked the trail near River Mountain Road for many months last year, as the bike lanes on nearby Rebsamen Park Road made for an easy detour and repairs were quickly made.

Rider, runners, and walkers found the trail blocked between the BDB and Rebsamen Park on Monday evening.
Yep, it's a hole, alright. Trail users discovered this on Monday morning.
A quick look reveals that there is no structural support immediately under the asphalt, leaving an open 6-8 foot drop to the ditch bottom below. I didn't climb down to check out the structure, but I guessed that the trail bridging the culvert would have to be removed and rebuilt. I was wrong!
The trail had been patched by Tuesday according to this KTHV report, and was to open Wednesday. Good work, Little Rock!
Work underway in NLR
River Road 

The contractor has milled out the asphalt to make the River Road trail section nominal trail width.
The narrowing of the trail near the Rockwater development is underway, and the trail will be detoured for a month or so as landscaping and lights are added. There is currently a lull in construction, leading many riders to go around the barriers, but the road is littered with gravel and the detour is actually kind of a nice change.
Shillcut Bayou
Construction continues as workers put the finishing touches on the approaches to the new bridge. Riders should continue to use caution in this area.
This rider could have used more caution, as he rode into freshly poured concrete. The crew offered him a hose-off and tightened up the barrier of barrels in the area.
The new approach from the east invites speed. Please use good judgement.
The old bridge is closed.
I'm pleased that attention was paid to the aesthetics of the new structure. While it is a pretty utilitarian design, the approaches are being bordered with pigmented, stamped concrete and rock work at each end adds a lot to the visual appeal. The bridge will be with us for a long time so I'm glad to see the finishing touches.
Go ride your bike!