Monday, October 05, 2015

My Bike Friday, The Green Machine From Eugene

I have been working at Bike Friday for a bit over three months now. It's a job I love and Bike Friday is a super interesting place to work. It's a working factory: steel tubing and various small components are worked up into complete bicycles right here in Eugene, Oregon by skilled craftspeople. With a few exceptions, most of us don't come in the door with every skill needed to build a bicycle, but Alan Scholz has a clever way to help every Bike Friday employee increase their skills and understanding of the various aspects of the production line. Each employee is given a generous materials budget that can be used towards the building of their own personal bike. Employees are encouraged to do as much work on their own bikes as they can, working with others to learn new skills.

The bike pictured here is my bike, more "my bike" than any bicycle I've ever owned, but I didn't build it alone. Over bits of lunch breaks here and staying an extra half hour there, I learned some about building a bike and a lot about how good my coworkers are at their jobs. I also learned that my initial impression of them being smart, generous folks was well founded.

Despite being shocked that I opted to build a decidedly non-fancy bike ("You know money's not really an issue!") Jordan made sure I connected with the right people for every step of the build. Hugh helped me through the component procurement process. Kelly mentored me through bending and cutting tubes and he taught me to braze. I'm still not great at brazing, but by the end some of my joints were looking pretty good. Of the non-pretty ones Kelly encouragingly said "well, at least it's not going to fall off!"

Kelly and Alan both heartily approved of my decision to start with Bike Friday's least expensive bike, the Pocket Companion. The major structural joints on the bike are welded while some of the smaller bits are tack welded and then brazed in place. While I did much of the brazing, I'm not sure if it was Mike or Ryan or Kelly who did the welding. But they made sure my frame got good, solid, clean welds.

Once all the welding and brazing was done, Leo helped me with the sand blasting and powdercoating. 

My very first Bike Friday was Green Gear Green and I knew that's the color I wanted my Companion to be. My friend Michael says "all bikes are green, no matter what their skin color" but my new bike is green in every sense of the word.

Michael has taught me a lot about alignment in the past three months and in my job I often do alignment adjustments to bikes we are repairing or refurbishing. The frames come out of the jigs in pretty good shape but heat from brazing or powdercoating can introduce some warping. One of the many great things about steel is that you can cold bend it, so the final tweaking is done on an alignment table with some spooky big levers.

I've built wheels before but Damon walked me through the process of using our automated wheel lacing machine and the wheel truing robot. Both these machines are amazing with lazers and photoelectric eyes to track the spoke holes and the rims and little servo grippers that grab spokes, tweak tension and measure various parameters. Even with all this tech, the final truing is done by a skilled human. In the case of my bike, that human was me.

Last Friday I had all the pieces in place and ready to assemble and Saturday afternoon I spent a few hours finishing the build of my bike. I'm kind of biased, but I think it's beautiful.

Of course it folds up. I wanted a bike that I could pack up for travel or storage, but I don't need to fold it on a daily basis. If I did want a super quick folding bike, I would have built a Tikit. With my Companion I loosen two Allen bolts and one quick release (and if I want to I could replace those Allen bolts with QR levers), fold the pedals and the whole bike folds small enough to fit into this nylon bag.

If I remove the front wheel and the rear rack, I can get the bike small enough to fit in a Samsonite suitcase. I've owned both the suitcase and the soft bag and prefer using the larger soft bag. If I want more protection for the bike, I pad the inside of the bag with cardboard and clothes.

I'd ridden to work on a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day that I'm borrowing while I train for the Eugene Disaster Relief Trials. So naturally I carried my new Bike Friday home from Bike Friday on a Bike Friday.

That Haul-a-Day is a pretty handy bike.

My Bike Friday has a really nice head badge.


This is one of the more interesting features of the Companion and the Haul-a-Day. The frame length is adjustable. If you want to buy a bike for a growing kid, or you might want to share one bike between a couple of different sized riders, or you want a bike that you can loan to different sized friends, you might want a bike like this.

We make them right here in Eugene, Oregon.

My bike is a somewhat modified Pocket Companion. A stock Companion comes with a black fork, seat tube, stem riser and chain guard ring. I used my inside connections to get all those parts done up in green on my bike.

I found this nice brass turtle bead at a shop in downtown Eugene and mounted it on the stem cap. It's more my style than a Garmin or heart rate monitor.

Eventually the bike will get fenders. For now a tool bag and the rear rack will keep any road spray off my butt.

I changed the gearing a bit from stock. I'm running a 53 tooth ring up front with an 11-32 8-speed cluster in the back. I prefer the simplicity of not running a front derailleur but in case I change my mind down the road, my Companion does have a tab for a braze-on front derailleur.

I love Ergon grips. These are slightly cut down Ergon GP4s. I like the shape of the GP4 and I cut a bit from the inside so I can use them with the twist shifter. That's the stock Microshift shifter on the right. On the left is Mirrycle Grip Bell. The light is a terrific little commuter light, the Cygolite Dash 320.

 Here's another look at that nifty chain protector ring.

The pedals are another item I up-specced. They are MKS FD-7 pedals and they are very nice.

My Bike Friday is super fun to ride. And I must have done a decent job aligning the frame, I can ride it no-handed.

Yep some of the brazing is lumpy and the powdercoat is a bit rough in the spot I should have sandblasted better but this not quite perfect little green bike is perfect for me. It's the Green Machine From Eugene, built by me with a lot of help from my friends.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Coffeeneuring with Christine: Sweet Life Patisserie

I've often said that randonneuring is bicycling mixed with bookkeeping. Coffeeneuring is similar in that it involves bikes and rules but it adds hot beverages to the mix. You can see the full list of the rules at:

This year, Christine and I accepted the challenge and today was our first trip.

We chose one of our favorite places, The Sweet Life Patisserie, for our stop. We rode the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day that I am currently borrowing from work. I'm training for the Eugene Disaster Relief Trials in a few weeks and Christine is helping me out by serving as cute cargo this morning.

We shared a pot of Earl Grey tea. Christine had a hearty bagel and I had a wonderful serving of biscuits and gravy. We both also got little treats for later on.

The Sweet Life less than half a mile from our home so we added some distance by going to the Mini-Pet Mart to get some cat food, cat litter and a little treat for Inkling.

We are living the carfree dream in Eugene.

The Haul-a-Day is a terrific bike, but our future coffeeneuring adventures will probably involve other bikes since coffeeneuring doesn't require much cargo. We know we'll go to other places. One of the many rules of coffeeneuring says you can't repeat. We'll keep going to the Sweet Life (we go at least once a week) but for coffeeneuring credit and variety we'll be logging rides to other wonderful spots in Eugene. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Exploring the Solar System by Bicycle

While Christine and I were exploring the Eugene bike trails, we came upon a one-billionth scale model of one of the planets. It turned out to be part of a larger work, a model of the solar system. Today we hopped on our bikes and completed a lovely and educational tour of the entire installation. Riding from planet to planet, reading the signs and seeing the relative sizes of the models really help give a sense of the vastness of space and the place of our tiny home world within it.

It was a beautiful morning for riding and we rode out to the farthest reaches of the solar system.

The official space scientists might have demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status, but Eugene still recognizes it. It is really tiny. At this scale it's only a few mm across.

We roll on toward Neptune.

Neptune is much bigger than Pluto.

The signs tell about the planets and contain a map showing how they are laid out along the trail.

The arrows at the base give the distance to the sun.

The real sun (not the model) is out in force today. It's still early so it's not too hot.

Christine claims I take too many pictures of her.

Here we are at Uranus.

On to Saturn.

The model makers totally had to fudge on the scale for the thickness of the rings to make them visible and durable.

Jupiter is the biggest planet. Like Saturn it's a gas giant.

The inner planets are all relatively close to the sun and in this model they're all near the duck pond on the north side of the river. Mars is about the size of a little marble.

After visiting Mars, we stop off at Earth. As the Grateful Dead said, "A peaceful place, or so it looks from space. A closer look reveals the human race."

This shows how close the Earth and the Moon are. This trip really made me appreciate the relative complexities of various space missions. Getting to Mars is much harder than going to the Moon. The fact that we could get a probe out to Pluto to get those recent pictures in flat out amazing.

Christine admiring Venus.

Now we've made it to the closest planet to the sun, Mercury.

Here's the sun. It's kind of weird seeing the model sun in the light from the real sun.

And that concludes our tour of the solar system. I hope you enjoyed it.