Is it rainin’? Are you wet?

“Is it rainin’? Are you wet?” I don’t know – does every Brit use these circular statements, or just my mother?

As a child growing up in the Midwest, it would not be uncommon for me to reluctantly walk indoors out of a torrential downpour, a swiftly congealing conglomerate of mud and water pooling at my feet on the kitchen floor, only to be greeted in such a way. Tornadoes might be ripping up the county with days of thunder and lightning in the forecast: I’ve always enjoyed thunderstorms, and despite the obvious, yes it is rainin’ and yes I was wet. Very, very wet.

Despite this, I’m averse to cycling in the rain. I feel like I need little windshield wipers and a defrost for eyeglasses that polka dot with rain droplets before immediately fogging up. The looser clothing that I prefer for riding suddenly becomes form fitting when drenched. I don’t like those things, but I accept them. What I cannot abide is the spray of road grime upon my bottom bracket and feet and chain stays.

So thank goodness for fenders.

Properly set up, they keep the bulk of the crud off the bike, off the rider, and out in its natural habitat of “anywhere except me.”

I like full coverage fenders. Of course they lend a look of old world leisurely classiness to the raciest of bikes, but they serve a real purpose. Front fenders that reach nearly to the ground will keep your feet drier than they might otherwise be. The spray of grime projected off of rotating tires winds up on the inside of the fender and not dripping down one’s legs or the down tube of the frame. And the rear fender keeps the same muck off of the saddle and rider’s back, preventing that lovely “skunk stripe” that many non-fendered riders come to know so very well after a ride along a wet road.

The fenders I added to my 1971 Raleigh International are plastic and have great coverage. These are SKS Longboards and I’ve never had cause to regret them. They look right on this bike, and function perfectly.

With mud flaps installed, the VO fenders work well on my Boulder. Originally I hand cut leather mud flaps as illustrated here. Over time I discovered that the leather became too supple and moved around too much to be effective. I’ve since replaced the leather with high-density polyethylene – the stuff milk cartons are made of. The perfect material for this is the cheap three-ring binders one can find at The Dollar Store.

One complaint I have about my Cycles Toussaint Velo-Routier is that the spec fenders are simply too short. Even with mud flaps, this is true. Thus, I find this to be a limitation for riding in crappy weather conditions.

As much as I enjoy the SKS Longboards, I’m a bit disappointed with their brethren, the SKS P35 Chromoplastic fenders. They are flimsy and are not straight: the front edge skews to one side and makes getting a perfect tire alignment impossible. Plus, they simply don’t have sufficient coverage. I’ll go with Longboards next time.

So on a day like today, when the air is damp, the sky overcast, the atomosphere foggy, and the roads clammy with wet grit, I’ll still be out there.

“Is it rainin’? Are you wet?”

Thank you for asking, but I’m doing just fine.

A graphic violation

When I begin a bike project, I put a lot of thought into my actions. For instance, I tend to tread pretty lightly when it comes to refinishing a frame’s surface. There’ve been a few instances when the paint was in such a remarkably poor state that I felt the frame itself would have eventually been in jeopardy had I not stripped and recoated the steel. But there’s a sort of honesty to a surface that shows wear, and I see this in abundance on a1946 Hobbs of Barbican frame build up I’m currently pondering. The box lining is faded and barely visible. The down tube lettering is chipped, but still very readable. And the seat tube graphics have nearly disappeared: there remains but a shadow of the original badge and “sergeant stripes.”

The name and club affiliation of the original racer is still quite readable along the top tube, although much of the printing is gone. And yet all of this appeals to me.

What I cannot abide is the crudely painted over head badge. Someone in the last couple of decades decided to blob on model paint, a grim parody of the original lettering. I feel strongly that this must be rectified!

Paint thinner removes this atrocity, but it also removes the underlying graphic. I could order replacement transfers from Britain for cheaper, but I choose instead to have a new printing done. As a recovering graphic designer I find myself enticed by the challenge of recreating the insignia (my art is at the top of this post.) The build will be comprised of components that also show use, but I will allow myself this one indulgence, this one vanity, and otherwise respect a record narrated by the beausage of the frame.

Thanksgiving Riding.

Earlier this week my hands were so cold I could barely feel my fingers. The wind made everything feel one hell of a lot colder than the prevailing temperature, and as I coasted downhill things felt far colder still. I couldn’t find the ear wraps I use in cold weather, so the tops of my ears hurt like an S.O.B. The wind nipped at my cheeks. Even my eyeballs hurt.

Thanksgiving Day, and my annual ride was … well…short.

And then yesterday rolled around.

Nearly sixty degrees, warm winds coming up out of the south, sunny and warm – hot even, as I pedaled along, feeling really strong after days of short rides and worse yet, several evenings of indoor boredom atop the trainer. Today was even warmer, and cycling along a straight shot of rolling hills I almost immediately shed outer layers and peeled down to shorts and a light wool jersey. I raced a slow moving train for a mile or two (and lost.) It felt great and I found myself pedaling nearly the entire route, seldom pausing to allow the freewheel to spin: this spring-like day my legs were resilient and I was not even thinking about coasting.

And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow we’re back to winter once again.

Missouri weather sure is weird.

1946 Hobbs of Barbican: A First Look

The serial number, near as I can tell, is 4601207, which is notable for a couple of reasons. First, the serial number indicates this is a 1946 frame. Second, if I’m reading the number correctly it is exactly the same as one that is specifically mentioned on the Hobbs website. Curiously, that site doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2002. It raises the question in my mind: If this is the same frame then where has it been over the past fourteen years and by what circuitous route did it travel getting to my garage?

Also interesting is the owner’s name and club affiliation painted along the top tube: ” A BURNET MIDDX R.C.” I interpret the latter to be “Middlesex Road Club,” which is still in existence, and which lists an “A Burnet” on the MRC Club Records page for the 24 hour men’s solo in 1947. I’ve reached out to the club in hopes of discovering a bit more information.

I rather fancy this frame and am a bit torn about how to build it up. First off, I do not foresee a repaint taking place – the aged surface is quite lovely and there is a real honesty to the beausage. Clearly every mark was earned over the life of this bike. In all likelihood, this model – a Superbe, if I’ve pegged it correctly – would have had a three speed hub. The 110mm rear spacing (actually, more like 113) leads me to consider either a three speed fixed, or a single speed fixed. Period Airlight hubs paired with 27 inch rims would be a really nice touch. I think I have a Williams 42t cottered crank in the parts bin, which might have been an appropriate choice back in the day.

There are lots of nice details to appreciate, tempered by a rather painfully ham-fisted repainting of the head badge graphic. The graphic appears to have been touched up with model paint, and I’m hoping to be able to gently tease that garbage off of the frame with a careful application of artist product…my fingers are crossed!

The Reynolds 531 transfer dates to the 1946 – 49 era, I believe.

Cloudy, Rainy Day of Cycling

Not really pushing things hard at all, simply path riding at the lake, bouncing along on paved trails that are – well, paved – but in desperate need of repair from previous years of frost heaves; the tarmac ripples like an ocean, but so much less forgiving than water. Thank goodness for the comfort of low pressure/high volume 650B tires!

We’ve already tried to ride at Smithville, but got cut short less than half a mile down the path…the trails are closed for a managed hunt. Not wanting to be mistaken for a deer, we pack things in and head to another locale.

On this day, I stop occasionally to play with my newest toys, supplemental lenses for my iPhone, which has become my defacto camera the past couple of years. This selfie – and oh, how I loathe that term! Whatever happened to “self portrait?” – anyway, this self portrait was taken with the Photojojo Fish Eye Lens. Is it an awesome toy? Too early to tell yet. I’m frustrated that the lens kit which works “with just about any iPhone case”… well, it turns out that the Otterbox I have paid big bucks for is the exception. Still, it’s a fun way to extend the functionality of my iPhone camera, even if it is a pain in the ass.

I haven’t updated The Early Morning Cyclist is a month, and I feel a bit guilty for that. Weather has conspired against me riding. Work has been busier than usual. And I’m grumpier than normal for having had to ride the indoor trainer while the thermometer hovers in the teens. Needless to say, it was nice to be outside, no matter what the trail conditions.

And if you do happen to see me out on the road, please don’t shoot!

Perfect Day.

Perfect weather.

Perfect riding conditions.

Just a perfect October day.

And just about a perfect end to a perfect day, with an ice cold mug of Warsteiner Dunkel to enjoy while smoked brined pork chops seared on the grill. The bike got cleaned up after a day of riding. Chops picked up at The Local Pig this morning were liberally seasoned with roasted garlic, Rosemary, and sea salt. A generous rind on the chops held in the flavor, and I’m thinking to myself that these very may be the best tasting pork chops ever.

I’m quite content at the moment. And the dog got a pork bone, so she’s very content as well.

Sitting down to write, I’d actually planned to review the Cambium C15 saddle that Brooks sent me to test. But the World Series is on, and I’m feeling so satisfied at the moment that I think I’ll save my comments and comparisons for another day. Go Royals, and play ball!