Thursday, January 31, 2008

Warehouse Woes

So Monday was the last day at Richmond Heights. We cleared the last pile of stuff, cleared out the last trash, and even swept the floor. I even had to turn in the key. It kind of felt like when I was selling my beloved car, and handed over the keys. Watching my car drive away that day, most likely never to see her again was this real mix of satisfaction of completion, and loss of a good companion. Locking up the store for the last time felt the same way. I had worked there almost every day for two years, trying to grow our customers, get in the right inventory, and best handle all the bumps along the way. I had helped make that store what it was. And then she was taken from me. I know they want me to take over the Bridgeton location, but she's no Richmond heights. The customers won't give me that 'Hey, how have you been?' smile. I can't ask people how their riding has been coming along, knowing the struggles they've been dealing with. I won't be able to ask if that new saddle helped their soreness, or if that new angle on their stem stopped their back pain. No, my customers are once again strangers, bringing with it all the excitement of a first date, but leaving out all the familiarity of the long term relationship. Either way, good or bad, it is sure the end of one era, and the beginning of another.

After the last truckload left Richmond heights, I threw my bike in with it, and caught a ride to the warehouse. The last few days have been sorting through an entire store's worth of stock, organizing it, splitting it up, and shipping it to all the other locations. It's sad to see your entire store sitting in a pile in the middle of a warehouse. And I will tell you one thing. The next time you deal with a company - whether it be a large local business, or a corporation - think of the guys in the warehouse that make this stuff possible. That is some hard, tedious, and never completing work, and it takes some hard people to handle it. I've only been working in the warehouse for a few days now, but between the sorting, the shipping, the receiving, just to sort it and ship it all over again... I can say this is not my line of work. So to any warehouse workers reading this: You're awesome! And to any non workers out there: Just think about these guys making your life so much more efficient, and everything that goes into it. I swear, every time I've had a new job, I learn a whole new appreciation for those who do it. I almost think everyone should be required to have a new job every year until they land their career. Seems like you'd have so many less people treating waitresses, customer service people, laborers, and all the other jobs that don't have inherent esteem, like total crap, and like they're somehow less than human. Not saying that every one of those people is out there doing the best job they possibly can, (because I know some do not) but just think twice before talking about them like they're expendable drones. OK, ok, I'll get off my box.

On the plus side, going through a warehouse for a bicycle shop that has been open for 35 years, there are some amazing treasures in there. I found a Campagnolo Record (the pinnacle of Italian engineering) 8 speed front derailleur, brand new, sitting in a box. Granted this isn't the elusive Record 8 speed "Titanium" rear derailleur or shifter set, but hey. For a place that doesn't even sell campy stuff unless you special order it, this is a pretty good find. (oh, and don't ask, I already bought it) Other finds include: A medium Campagnolo waterproof jacket, 9 campy speed titanium cassette lock ring, and a less than common schrader to presta valve adapter. (just in case you only have a fancy silca pump, but your kids mountain bike has schrader valves??) There's tons more, but these are just the ones I had to mention. So at least, in all this mess, there's still come cool things to discover.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


So stickers for the head tube badge are officially being made. I sent out the graphic and they should finish them, and be able to send them here in about two weeks. Right now, I've ordered twenty black stickers, and twenty white. I didn't want to get too many off the bat, as I'm still not totally convinced that they logo may change at some point. That, and I may change over to some sort of lost wax casting to give it a 3-D coolness. Any comments are welcome (good or bad), as I'm always trying to think of how to make my logo better.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cold day off

Well today was my "day off." Which meant doing whatever has been piling up during the week, and try to get some good work done on Marc's frame. Today I had to ride all around town running errands. Today never got out of the 'teens, so I was getting some good testing on my cold weather gear. I never stopped anywhere for too long, so I was outside riding half the day. My Lake shoes seem pretty good as long as I am riding. I think that the stepping down of the pedaling pumps the blood through my feet. But if I had to stop for a long light, my toes did start to get pretty chilly. But as soon as I got pedaling, they were OK. For some reason my balaclava (a light-weight Sugoi model) has been acting up. If I start going fast, or the wind picks up, a gust will come in between my eye and cheek bones, and chill the heck out of my ear. Also, if I pull it up over my mouth, it doesn't want to stay that way for too long. Maybe it's getting stretched out? Either way, it's good for in the 20's, but I may look into getting something warmer for at least the longer rides in the cold.

I did meet some interesting people out today. At one particular light, a guy in a car gave a quick tap on the horn. I look to see if he's angry that I'm taking up the last remaining two square feet of pavement, but instead he taps his faced in fist to his heart, then gives the 'atta go' uppercut in the air. I gave him a smile of appreciation and nodded a bit. Then riding away, I realized he couldn't see my smile through the balaclava. Oh well, maybe he still saw the nod. At another light, a cyclist was in the left turn lane, and a car turning left from his right. (should pass in front of him, then go down the road in the opposite direction that he has been going, yea you got it) So the car instead turns behind him, wedging his way between the cyclist and the car waiting in the non turn lane, pushing the cyclist further out into the intersection... It's stuff like this that make me want a helmet cam to catch that action and their license place, and mail it into the local authorities. (which would present another problem, as they don't give a hoot) I mean, there wasn't even a point for him to do that. I caught up with the rider, who told me just the other day, someone forced him off the road. He got more and more into the gutter until he had to try to get up on the sidewalk. But being loaded up (commuter) on a road bike, he got the front wheel, but slid along with the rear, blowing out his tire. It's this kind of stuff that makes the US suck.

Car - "This is my road, get off!"
Bicycle - "Not only is it legal for me to use this road, but I'm paying the same taxes you are to fund it. So really, it's our road. Not to mention there's enough room for both of us."
Car - "Roads are for cars, ya sissy!"
Bicycle - "Huh?"
Car - "Don't confuse me boy! Or I'll come down there and learn ya one with my size twelves!"
Bicycle - "That doesn't even make sense... I'm late for work now."

I got more miters done on Marc's frame, and did all the braze-ons for the main triangle. This thing is starting to come together. Another day off, and hopefully I'll have the miters all done for the main triangle, and for the dropouts in the chainstays. Another day off, hopefully I'll have the chainstay to bottom bracket miters done, and just maybe if that goes quickly (haha), I'd go ahead and braze up the whole thing. (minus the seatstays) But with one day off to do everything in the world, chances are that will be yet another day. I've decided that it just really isn't worth having one day off per week. I think the only way I'd ever want to do such a thing, is if I was single, didn't have any outside interests, and was very excited about my job. Right now, I only kind of have one. And with moving the store, and dealing with all that crap instead of working on bikes, the excitement factor is definitely waining. I just really need two days off.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Busy Times

Well what can I say... the S&!# finally hit the fan at work. My shop (The Touring Cyclist) is closing down my location. (Richmond Heights) They let us know Saturday, that by the end of the month, we had to be moved out of the store. Starting then, we had 12 more days left. Monday, we probably moved out half the store. But I imagine it was mostly the easy stuff. We still have to go through all the tiny accessories, clear out all the tools, (some of which are freakin' heavy. I'm not sure how the loading will even go for those) then the best part of taking down all the racks, wall grid that has been there to hang stuff on, benches, fixtures.... yea, it's gonna be a blast. Luckily though, I still technically have a job - they're moving me to manage one of the other locations. But my commute went from a pleasant 2.1mi, to a good rides' ~15 mi each way. The entire way to work is slightly up hill, in either direction there are some good hill climbs, and (this time of year) in the snow. So I really will have a grandpa story to tell. "When I was your age, I used to ride 30 miles in the snow, up hill both ways to work! I don't want to hear about your piddly nonsense!" Sigh... I can't wait. But for now, at least I will get to further test out some cold weather gear.

Well, as far as the frame building, I'm going to take my latest frame in to get powder coated, hopefully Tuesday. It's a geared road bike, with some custom lug work, internal top tube routing for the rear brake, with a bit quicker than standard geometry. It's something that I've been wanting to do for some time now, and it seems that it's just about to be finished with. If you want to see the build process, head on over to my flikr site, and look through the old pictures. As soon as I get it back from paint, I'll be putting some up here. Also, I've been talking to Don Ferris (maker of my jig), and I think I've solved a few issues I've been having. This jig works a bit different than the last one I used, (an old Henry James model) and it ended up changing how my brazing sequence will go. I used to make sub assemblies, then piece them together. But now, I'll have to tack the front triangle, and chainstays in one go, take it out of the jig, check alignment, finish the brazes out of the jig, clean, finish, check alignment one more time, then slap the seatstays in to lock it all in place. It's too late to do that with Marc's frame, (as I already have one braze done) but I should be able to account for that, and have a good end result. But I guess from now on, this old man has to change his ways.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Project: Marc's Bike

Now that I'm back from vacation, it's time to dig my teeth into the next project: a road-criterium frame. He already had a pretty good fit on his last frame - which was destroyed in a crash - but a few tweaks should make it more than a "good" fit. The tubes came in before I left (Dedacciai COM 12.5 - Oversized), and I was able to get the seat tube joined to the bottom bracket shell. I also got a few miters ready for the next step: the main triangle. This frame I'm joining the tubes by fillet brazing. (Yes, that's why I use my last name for my bikes. It's quite the clever play on words. So clever, in fact, it needs this explanation just so you can wrap your mind around such a complex association. Fillet - Fellet... genius) So anyhow, I'll get some more practice with that. It will be slow goings with working between shifts at my "real job" (bicycle shop manager), but I'm hoping to get it done before things thaw out here in STL. Plus, I'm still getting used to using the new frame jig, but so far, I have to say I like it a lot. So I just have to turn this:

Into this:

...well sorta

I also got a few toys for Christmas, that I'm looking forward to trying out. The first is a stem jig, so I can start making custom of any length/angle. I'll be busy trying to get Mark's frame done, so he'll get off my back, but as soon as I get the chance, I'll be making one for both my road bikes. That way I don't have to use a dreaded shim. (just because I don't have a 1-1/8" steer tube on my forks apparently makes me completely out of date)

The second is a pair of winter riding shoes. Last winter I had darn cold toes on many of my commutes, and a little frost bite the days when it got single digit on me. I figured it would be worth keeping my toes, and giving me one less excuse to even be tempted to borrow the lady's car one cold morning. I have the 2007 version, but as cool as the '08 version is, it doesn't seem like they made it any warmer. So far, I have to say these things are Soooooo... much better than what I was using last winter. (some road shoes with covers) That's obvious. But so far, with some wool socks, I've kept my toes toasty on long rides well into the 20's. (I've ridden in the single digits with good luck, but they were also short rides, so I can't say for sure.)

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