Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How's Your Bar Tape?

It sure felt good to be back on the bike yesterday after getting over this local disease that has afflicted everyone lately. While I was “down and out” I had the opportunity to do a few things to the bikes that I’ve been meaning to do for some time. One of those things was to swap out a couple of handlebars and change some bar tape.


Now here's an interesting wrap job, eh?

Are you picky about your bar tape? I mean, do you have to have it wrapped just so and finished off with that “pro” look? Well, I was always curious about why my tape never looked as good as those “pro” bars looked. So, a few years back I began to practice and ask questions about how to get that elusive “pro” look. I guess it is a bit anal to care so much about how your tape looks, but it really does matter to me. I work in a bike shop on occasion and I’ve seen some of the most unbelievable wrap-jobs you can imagine. Some people apparently never changed their bar tape since the first time they purchased their bike. These people are either really cheap, or they just don’t seem to care what the bike looks like. The bar tape jobs that really make me cringe are the ones that look like they have been drooled upon, sweated through, and used as a plate for lunch. You know, the nasty faded, slimmy ones that look like the colors have bled together so badly you can't make out the original design. Nasty for sure! Not to mention the colony of germs and other microscopic creatures that probably inhabit the handlebar.


A rather crappy wrap job in this photo
(Notice how bad the finishing tape looks)

Here’s another example. How about those wrap-jobs that seem to come unraveled all by themselves some place in the middle of the bar. The ones where the overlapping has disappeared and show the bare handle bar. Kinda looks like some kid did those jobs. And finally the finishing tape. My favorite for sure. This is where I’m really picky. I like that sharp, together, pro-look. Not that I need to use the finishing tape that comes with bar-tape package because that stuff can be really hard to work with. I’m talking about a nice neat, even wrap of either black or colored electrical tape. With just a little extra effort, I’ve managed to get some really professional looking bars by just using good ‘ole electrical tape.


This my Trek 5900's bars wrapped with Bontrager finishing tape


The Tarmac finished off with red electrical tape


The Roubaix with Blue electrical finishing tape

On occasion while working in the shop, I’ve seen what looks like miles of electrical tape wrapped and overlapping everything on the handlebar in some of the most heinous ways. The one crap job I get the most kick out of is the one where there is about one-quarter inch of electrical tape on the bar tape and about 4 or 5 inches wrapped off the bar tape and onto the handlebar itself. I guess whoever wraps the finishing tape like that must wanna make sure the bar tape stays firmly on the bar. So, they use just a little extra! Oh, and who can forget the, “I was in a wreck, ripped my tape, and decided to repair the rip with a few extra wrappings of electrical tape” type folks. I like those too. Can’t spend some bucks on new tape so I’ll use a yard and a half of electrical tape to fix the rip.

This is an interesting wrap. Notice that there is no finishing tape

Ok, so what’s the point? Well, here is what I do after years of raveling and unraveling bar tape. I start with the color. Hands down the best color is black. Plain and simple. Doesn’t show dirt, grime, and black always looks black. Unless of course you are one of those acid sweating, bleach anything with my bodily fluids kind of guys/gals. If you are, go for the synthetic mostly plastic stuff. It will last longer for ya. I start off at the bottom of the bar and wrap towards the outside. In other words, wrap the tape towards yourself as you make your way around the bar. Next, keep it a little taut as you make your way around the bar and wrap with about one-quarter inch overlap. Ok let’s get to the finish because wrapping the tape step by step can be somewhat boring and I think you get the idea. So, once you get to the end, hold the tape in one hand and scissors in the other.

This the proper way to start the wrapping

Cut the tape at an angle so that the factory finish side remains on the outside. This gives that factory finish wrap look all the way to the end. By cutting the tape on the inside (towards the stem) the final portion is covered by the finishing tape. Finally, wrap the tape around the bar tightly and follow up by securing the bar tape with some electrical tape. Be sure to wrap the electrical tape neatly over and on top of itself. This is were the extra effort pays off. You can now put the fancy finishing tape over the electrical tape, or you can find an accent color you like and use that over the top of the electrical tape. Voala! You now have “pro” looking handlebar.

This won't work. Notice that the wrapping pattern is backwards. Your pressure on the tape will cause it slide off of itself.

Some bar tape wrapping links:

Park Tools: How to wrap bar tape.
Planet Bike Instructions
Bicycling Article
Stupid Hurts I know article and pictures
Velocity Nation: Article and Youtube Video

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hal Rothman — Tribute to a Cycling Buddy

Hal is the one in the yellow jersey. He couldn't ride any longer.

This time last year we lost a good friend and cycling buddy to ALS or what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. His name was Hal Rothman: cyclist, husband, father, and down-right genius if you ask me. Ted Kennedy said that Barrak Obama inspires him. Well, Hal Rothman inspired me when he was alive, inspires me today, and will most likely inspire me for the rest of my life. I must say, I've not met too many people who were what you would describe as bigger than life, but Hal Rothman was that way to me. I was never very close to Hal and you wouldn't describe us as best friends, but everytime we ending up riding together, you would think we were related somehow. Hal had a great way of making you feel part him, especially when he would expound on a particular historical subject or political topic. Hal was Jewish and I remember asking him about the Mideast situation and what he thought of it. What ensued was an oral dissertation on the creation of the earth by God, to the present situation today complete will all the details somehow packed in between. I used to just ride my bike and listen; often wondering how one person could stuff all that knowledge into their cranium!

Hal was a history professor and Chairman of the History Department at the University of Las Vegas Nevada, author of several books; and a nationally recognized expert on Las Vegas history, not to mention just about everything else. Hal was a great writer and he loved to talk. In fact, Cowboy, another riding buddy of mine, said, "yeah, you could never get him to shut up." That was Hal: ask him a question about some historical subject and he would expound for what seemed like hours. To this day, and I'm sure many more, when I think about Hal yaking up a storm while riding, it will always bring a smile to my face.

I've included some links below to things written about Hal. Please take a few minutes and explore them.

A few articles and some information about Hal Rothman.

UNLV Bio of Hal Rothman

Las Vegas Life Article about Hal

Review Journal Article about Hal

New West Article featuring Hal and his work.

Some of Hal's quotes.

Hal's Books

A couple of Hal's ride reports: Click on the links.

Lake Tahoe Century — 2005

Tour de France — 2005

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finally Did It — Butterfied Double Century!


Click on the graphic for 2008 Planet Ultra report and results

Finally after 4 attempts (albeit weak ones), this one is finally in the bag. Butterfield changed this year and actually reversed course that included an all new route. The organizers warned everyone before hand that this route is rather urban, so if you don’t like stoplights and local traffic, pass and do another ride. Altogether, the route was very tolerable and absolutely beautiful in most spots. I gotta tell ya, when the weather in Cali is nice, the riding is superb, hands down. A pretty large contingent of Nevada riders showed, and we even had 3 tackle the beast on single-speeds: Mike and Steph and Frank. True heroes and a heroine of pain to be sure. Especially that 8-10 percenter right after lunch, ugh! All honor to their names! The rest of us slackers used our geared bikes to guide us up and through the tough climbs. Urban is not necessary bad, especially early in the morning and on a Saturday. We did, however, have our share of red-light runners (shame on you) and urinating on state-park property thugs, however. All of which were singled out and chastised profusely by the Planet Ultra higher-headquarters ride organizers. As a result, they are gonna put marshals out there next year to catch all you hooligans who think that red lights are only for cars. So, keep the Johnson where it belongs and use the provided facilities next time, OK? Forewarned is forearmed!


Mozam, Steph and Lisa cruise the PCH

Butterfield (which will be renamed to something else later) gives you a bit of everything really. Cruising along the beach; a bit of urban sprawl complete with some of the biggest estate homes you will ever see; to a gorgeous countryside spattered with horse farms, avocado orchards, and a few killer climbs thrown in just for fun. The support was pretty damn good too. If you are looking for a stop every 25 miles on these doubles, pass because you will be sorely disappointed. But, the SAG stops available were always stocked with plenty of food and drink, not to mention some pretty cool folks who managed to keep a smile on their face for some pretty long hours. My hat is off to these people. The most they get is a t-shirt and a surly comment from some idiot who can’t seem to appreciate what it takes to support one of these events. So, I always make a point of being very thankful and outwardly appreciative for all they do so I can enjoy myself.


Mark and Al cruisin' out of the Mountains

I relearned quite a few lessons on this ride. I basically violated every rule I had ever set for myself when riding a Double Century by not staying true to my riding plan. First off, we waited around at every rest stop for way too long. That’s basically a show-stopper in and amongst itself. You get tired, stiff, and suffer from mental fatigue. So, it is better to spend as little time off the bike as possible. We also stopped at points along the way much too often. It is better to slow down and let someone catch up than stop rolling altogether. We also lolly-gagged at lunch way too much and that compounded our timing problem even further. The bottom-line: keep moving and learn to refuel and hydrate on the bike as much as possible. Finally, I highly recommend sticking with your plan once you establish the plan in your mind. Compromising your plan for others will only lead to frustration on your part over the long haul. Once I realized that I had completely compromised my plan, the impact of my actions did not hit me until I tagged up with a group of really cool folks with about 7 miles to go to the finish. The guy next to me in the peleton said, “well, at least we will make the time limit!” Holy shit, I thought as I looked at my watch. I had ridden 187 miles and I was in a potential situation of being disqualified because I couldn’t complete the ride in 17 hours. I felt like a complete idiot because I had completely lost track of where I was and what time I was supposed to be there! So, keep the stress level to a minimum by following your own pacing schedule, the ride goes a lot smoother and you are a lot happier with results of your efforts.

Ending on the upside: It was a gorgeous day with perfect riding conditions. I met some really cool new folks towards the end of the ride, and I just had a blast bombing down Santiago Canyon in the pitch-black darkness. I know, sick isn’t it? And…I got to ride through some beautiful California scenery that can only be appreciated when you see it from a bicycle. I’ll be back next year, you can count on that!

See a slide show ride here
Read about the Butterfield Double Century here

Monday, February 11, 2008

Too Many Bikes?

My Trusty Steeds Await!

I was in my garage the other day and a question popped into my middle-aged noggin’: Geez, do I have too many bikes? Nah, you can never have too many bikes, right? It is a guy thing I guess. Kinda like too many tools! You can never, ever have too many tools. I can prove it too. When my Dad died back in 1991, my Mom gave me all his tools, at least almost all of them anyway. What I discovered was that not only did I get my Dad’s tools, but I got his Dad’s tools too!

Seems every time someone comes over to visit, the inevitable tour of the house follows, and they always say the same thing when they enter the garage: “Man, you have a lot of bikes!” And…invariably they always start a verbal count…one, two, three, on…and on…and on…until they satisfy themselves that I, indeed, have too many bikes. Then the conversation usually centers on my justification of too many bikes and the fact that I, indeed, ride every single one of them. I even get a little embarrassed sometimes and add, “well, I do build my own so the cost stays down.” Robin Williams is a big cyclist (50 bikes, last I heard) and he buys a new bike practically every time he sees one. His wife commented one day saying that he had too many bikes. His reply: “well, they could be Ferrari’s.” Man, I can identify with that statement for sure. I’d feel a little guilty about having too many bikes, but I do in fact ride every one of them, and I enjoy it.

I even tried to get rid of a few frames once, but they are kinda like old friends now ya know. They keep coming back like homing pigeons or something. I tried to sell the Team Fuji on EBay, but nobody wanted the darn thing even though I lowered the price several times. So, I gave it a face lift and turned that puppy into a single speed. And it was a good thing I did, too. I’ve never had so much fun on a bike before. I also tried to get rid of the old Trek 2300 first-generation carbon-aluminum frame and nobody wanted that either. Couldn’t even give the darn thing away. So, I kept that one too and my plan is to turn it into a straight-bar road machine for be-bopping around the neighborhood.

OK, You can stay...But you can have only one gear!

They say the measure of a man is what people remember about him once he’s dead and gone. Well, as far as I’m concerned they can remember me as: Mozam, the guy who had a lot of bikes!