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September 25, 2014

TRP HY/RDs on Bike Friday NWT

Traveling for work gets me down sometimes, especially when I go to Real Cities. One such trip was to Seattle back in the spring. I rented a bicycle while I was there, and went for a few 40 mile rides on weekends. It was wonderful, although the bicycle was not ideal -- an aluminum-framed hybrid that was in need of a tune-up.

A recent trip to San Francisco left me unable to rent a decent bicycle for under $55 per day. That was too much. While I was there, though, I stopped by a local bike shop that specialized in folding bicycles. I took a Bike Friday out for a spin. It was a pretty nice ride, so I decided to custom build on.

I settled on a New World Tourist with drop handlebars and disc brakes, so that it would match my favorite bike, my Surly Disc Trucker.

The comparison isn't really a great one, of course. My Disc Trucker's 700b wheels can take a wide range of tires, while the NWT, even with its more-common 406 wheels, has a somewhat limited tire selection. The NWT is a bit more of a 'squishy' bike as well. Lacking a top tube, the steerer tube flexes a lot even on the flat riding in Indiana.

Still, I am quite pleased with my purchase. I'm sure that it will be a welcome friend on upcoming trips to Japan, Hawaii, and Miami.

Of course, I can't stand the stock BB7 brakes. BB7s have that gritty feeling that I've described before, and they also interfere greatly with rack and fenders.

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The BB7 on the front fork sticks way out, interfering with the fender mount

As with the Surly, I was a little nervous about fit. I decided to 'test mount' the TRP brakes from my Surly before buying another set. The clearances checked out, so I took the plunge...

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Rear wheel clearance. The brake fits just as well as the BB7 here.
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Front wheel clearance. The brake is closer to the front spokes, but still fits just fine.

One of the great things about the HY/RD brakes is that they are flush with the outside of the mount that they are attached to. This means that things like racks and fenders fit far better than with BB7 brakes.

Unlike the Surly, the TRP brakes feel a lot more squishy on my Bike Friday. I think this has a lot more to do with the lever than anything. My Surly has Tektro levers and barcon shifters, while the BF has Sora/STI integrated shift levers. The brake cable on the Sora levers sits much lower inside the brake lever housing, meaning that the brake lever does not have as much mechanical advantage as the Tektro levers. I will have to test out the different levers and see how much cable they actually pull in order to verify this.

I'll have a more thorough review of the Bike Friday once I am done breaking it in...probably while I'm cycling around Tokyo with it.

August 30, 2014

TRP HY/RD on Surly Disc Trucker

I bought a Surly Disc Trucker last spring. It's been a wonderful bike. I've taken it on quite a few long distance rides. So far my longest has been with a local Randonneuring club, riding a 200k Brevet. The bike was extremely comfortable, and the ride was quite enjoyable.

One of my complaints about the bike has been the lackluster brakes. It came standard with Avid BB7s. I didn't know much about maintaining these brakes until recently -- I rode the bike for over a year (a few thousand miles) without doing any maintenance on the brakes. Oops!

It turns out BB7s need to be adjusted pretty regularly. The outside pad is actuated by the lever arm on the caliper, and the inside pad stays still. The inside pad wears away, until it is inside of the caliper body, and then your braking is happening because the rotor is being pushed against the caliper body! Not a good situation. You have to 'regularly' check the inside pad and screw it in (requiring a torx screwdriver) as it wears. The brakes very rapidly lose their braking power as they go into 'rotor rubbing against caliper housing' mode, since the metal caliper housing doesn't provide very much friction against the rotor.

BB7s are also pretty noisy, and have this gritty feel that I just can't stand. It's as though sandpaper is being used, and the feeling runs right up the cable to your hand.

I guess BB7s are a decent brake, all things considered. They are cheap, and as such are introducing disc brakes into the lower end of the bicycle market, which means that said cheap bikes get disc brake mounts. This is a nice thing for me, as I'm a fan of disc brakes. I've worn through many wheelsets simply because the rims wore down (the hubs were still fine). The cost of rebuilding a wheel (or paying to rebuild a wheel) versus the cost of just an entirely new wheel is always a concern. Since it is cheaper to replace a brake disc and/or pads than an entire wheel, I'm a big fan.

Anyway, I recently came across TRP HY/RD brakes from a friend, Kevin Harvey (he builds the most amazing bicycles, check out his website). They use cable brake levers and have the brake caliper and master cylinder on one little unit. He uses them on his custom touring bikes, which frequently have S&S couplers. The TRP brakes are wonderful there, since he puts a splitter on the brake cable. This allows the bicycle to break down more easily.

Since I have no intention of buying road hydraulic brake levers (they are still extremely expensive), I bought a pair. I was a little bit nervous: I was not really sure if they would fit on my Disc Trucker, as the Trucker uses one of those annoying 'brake caliper inside the rear wheel triangle' designs that made my Novara Fusion dangerous. I also read reviews of the brakes concerning the lever pull -- some people reported that they had to pull the brake lever almost to the handlebar to get good braking from the brake. So, I was a little bit tepid, but figured, 'it's only money.'

The rear brake. It fits fine inside of the rear triangle.

The rear wheel, showing potential cable rub. I bent the brake wire towards the wheel to save my paint.

Thankfully the brakes fit very well on the Disc Trucker. My Surly is a 56cm frame with 700c wheels, so your mileage may vary.

There are two tiny caveats to installation. The first is that the TRP brake needs just a little more cable to work with than the BB7 did. I didn't want to trim my cable housing, as i figured the current housing provided plenty of maneuverability. Both the front and rear cables were just slightly too short (like 1/2"!). So, I bought a new cable for the rear brake, and re-used the rear cable for the front brake.

The other tiny caveat to the fit is that, on the rear brake, the tail of the brake wire rubs against the seatstay. Surly is notorious for their cheap, crappy paint jobs (part of their 'rusty bike mystique'), so I would recommend putting some thick tape or wrapping a little bit of old tubing around this spot if you want to save your paint. Or, save your paint another way by just bending the end of the brake cable in towards the wheel (but not too much, there isn't a lot of room until it's hitting spokes).

The front brake. It fits better than the BB7 with a fender.

One nice thing is that the TRP brakes are less bulky horizontally. I was one of the suckers who bought SKS Longboard fenders for my Disc Trucker, and fitting the fender stay around the BB7 brake was...not ideal. I am happy to report that the TRP brakes provide a lot more room for the fender mounts.

I've ridden the bicycle with the TRP brakes for a little while now. My guess is that TRP has taken some of the reviews about lever pull and made their brakes with shorter throw. I found the lever pull to be about as tight as I had with my BB7s (once I started adjusting them). The lever feel is a huge improvement. I no longer get that gritty feeling when I pull the brakes. Instead it feels a lot like my hydraulic discs on my mountain bike (old-style Hope Mini disc brakes). The hydraulic fluid does a great job of uncoupling the brake pads from your hand.

I recently ordered a Bike Friday New World Tourist folding bike with disc brakes (BB7s!), and I think my first upgrade will be to replace the brake calipers with TRP HY/RDs. But, that will be a tale for another day.

June 19, 2013

All Great Books

I just returned from my grandmother's memorial service.

I am shattered.

I have stored in my hippocampal cells more lovely and loving memories of my grandmother than I can recall in a day. She was one of the more grounded members of my family: a well-educated teacher of English at Rutgers University, an avid bicyclist, a connoisseur of fine foods, a lover of the written word, a corrector of the family's grammar.

A lot of people like to think that their grandmother is (or was) perfect, but they are in error.

Only mine was.

It's the truth.

My fondest childhood memories all revolve around our times in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Each summer I would go away for a week or two to stay at "Gam's House," my grandparents' cottage on Stone Court. It was just a block north of the Stone Harbor bird sanctuary, a few quick blocks from the ocean, and a dozen or so blocks to Bob's Bikes and Stone Harbor's main strip.

I would spend hours each day boogie boarding and swimming in the Atlantic there. She would soak up the sun while reading a book. Often I would be out swimming so long that I would come back to find her asleep, her tiny, bunioned feet buried in the sand. In later years we would talk about Shakespeare (which she loved) and Star Trek (which she hated).

We had a wonderful times in Stone Harbor, always. Whether it was time on the beach, time spent bicycling with her up to Avalon, time spent catching hermit crabs in inner tidepools, or hours spent just sitting around the cottage and reading my silly sci/fi books in the shade, we always had fun.

Even the best books eventually come to their conclusions and run out of pages.

The best thing about the festivities of this weekend had to be the post-Memorial-Service Memorial Service...we wandered to the south tip of Stone Harbor with a portion of her ashes. Each of us picked up a small sea shell from a collection gathered at her other ocean home and filled it with said ashes, then walked into the ocean to dispose of them as we saw fit.

I was practically paralyzed at this. I grabbed the first shell that my hand came upon. The bag of ashes came my way. They were so white, with small fragments of I could only assume bone. I felt uneasy.

I am not religious or even particularly spiritual. I know that her views were fairly similar to my own. My unease was primarily over the idea that this was, two weeks ago, the material that composed my grandmother's then-living body. Flashes of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land entered my head. Thoughts of eating the dead out love. Touching the dead out of love, at least. I cast aside notions of grossness because...well...I love her. The idea of scooping her up into my hands is a bit odd, but carries an intimacy that I will cherish always.

I collected a small portion and began to walk into the surf. My eyes watered. I stopped being able to breath. This was, in a weird way, going to be the last time I went swimming in the Atlantic with my grandmother. I dwelled on this thought for a moment. Part of me was tempted. Oh so tempted. To. Just. Keep. Going.

My jeans were soaked. So was my face.

Breath, I remembered.

I sank my hands into the Atlantic, and I watched my grandmother go, off to swim on her own.

The shell, I thought. If I keep it, does it become a white elephant? Some silly memento of this moment that I spend too much time of my life futzing over?

All things are impermanent, just as my grandmother was, and just as I shall be. Perhaps I should let it go. Cold waves continued to lap up my jeans, soaking me from the bottom, while hot tears kept coming, soaking me from the top.

What would she do, if our roles were reversed?

I guess that's not important now. What would I do?

I decided to keep the shell. She is gone now, but not forgotten. I held the shell in my hand for a while, and walked down the beach in hunt of something interesting while hoping that my face, maybe even my pants, would dry off.

Honestly, I'm actually not looking forward to a time that I can think about our last swim together without getting wet.

March 21, 2013

Using your own Cisco Phone with SpeakEasy

If you know me, you know that I love hardware. I buy electronic doodads so that I can take them apart, hack them, and do something fun with them.

My new'ish job is another 'virtual job.' Mostly I work from home, though I do hit the road for months at a time sometimes. The company gave me a laptop loaded up with software including a voice-over-ip-phone application. The software is set up to use a VoIP provider called SpeakEasy.

I decided that it would be fun to get a physical phone to use with the service. I'm not very good at doing the pre-purchase research. Mostly I just like to buy something that looks like it might work, try it out, and if it didn't work I'll usually figure out why I bought the wrong thing. It's a learning process. S. Hadden said it best, I make a great government spender.

Anyway, getting the phone set up with SpeakEasy is not very easy. A lot of forum posts have info saying, "It can't be done." When I called them up, tech support also said that it couldn't be done -- they had to provision the phone, put their own firmware, yadda yadda yadda. They were very adamant about this, and recommended that I buy a pre-provisioned phone from them for some insane price.

Thankfully SpeakEasy/Megapath tech support is full of it. I got my phone working.

To start, I updated the phone firmware to the latest version (7.5.4 as of this writing). I then played with a lot of settings to make it work. My home network has 4 layers of NAT firewalls, with various partitions, VPNs, etc. Many of my network enclaves don't allow egress traffic except over a VPN connection, so that if some day my NAS gets powned it won't exfiltrate all of my data :). Strangely, my phone works behind 3 layers of NAT, but not 4. I haven't yet tried a STUN server, but the phone is well-protected where it lives for now. I'll tinker with STUN and see if it helps.

Anyway, on to the actual configuration!

The main is on your Extension configuration. Enable Advanced Settings and then set the following: Proxy is, Outbound Proxy is, Use Outbound Proxy set to Yes, Register set to Yes, Use OB Proxy in Dialog set to yes. Note that these settings will not be available to you unless you log in as administrator and choose 'Advanced' in the upper right hand corner of the web page.

Under Subscribe Information for your line, set your Display Name to your name, User ID to your user id (of the form XXXXX_PHONENUMBER_YYY). Don't append the domain to the user id, this will happen automatically because of the 'Proxy' setting above. Punch in your password, say "Yes" to "Use AuthID", set Auth ID to your phone number without any punctuation, and set Reversed Auth Realm to 'BroadWorks' (no idea if this last part is actually necessary, but a packet capture of VoIP soft phones used it and it works).

Next you'll have to play with SIP settings. Go to the SIP tab and scroll down to NAT Support Parameters. If you're using a NAT router like me, say "Yes" to "Handle VIA received", "Insert VIA rport", and "ASend Resp to Src Port". Say No to everything else. If these settings don't work, try using a STUN Server (there are plenty of public stun servers available here.

After that, reboot your phone and you should be good to go.

September 21, 2012

Motorcycle Unmaintenance

Out with the old...

My old bike: a classic 1977 Yamaha XS650(d)

And in with the new...

The new bike: a 2012 Triumph Bonneville T100

I spent a long time working on my last motorcycle, and not nearly enough time riding it. This time around I've decided to go high-tech and get a modern'ish bike with fuel injection that should, I hope, get me around for a long time.

Once the new bike is broken out, I'm hopeful to have a little time to make it back east while onboard. A long-distance motorcycle trip sounds just about right right now.

Further back...