Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for February, 2011

Singlespeed Ramble

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

On Saturday, I took the Little 500 bike out for a spin. I rode down to the bike path that follows Sare Road. I’ve ridden on that path just a couple of times. That’s kind of silly, since it’s just about a mile from my house. My impression of the trail before was that it wasn’t all that great, but I hadn’t really explored it much.


Quickly, I found this creek just off to the side.


And this frozen pond.


I made my way into a rather new subdivision that looked kind of fancy, but it was also a bit odd. The houses all appeared to be basically identical, except a few different-colored panels.


I spotted another trail running behind the houses in this neighborhood.


Considering that it ran right behind a subdivision, the trail had some nice wooded views.


The trail was snowy and icy in spots. The singlespeed has 32mm tires, wide enough to manage well enough.


The trail had been paved to this point, but the pavement ended. The trail was rather muddy, but still ridable. I rode through a field on a thin ribbon of trail.


The trail reconnected with the first trail I had been on, and I rode on. I stopped by this pond, which also happens to be outside my doctor’s office.


Here’s another pond right down the street, but this one was still frozen.


I paused by a field before heading back.


I rode home by way of Olcott/Sherwood Oaks parks. There’s a decent-sized ravine, with one park on top, the other below. This meant a good downhill, followed by a climb.



I stopped at the bottom to admire the creek. As I did, a couple of other guys rode by … both of them were also on Little 500 bikes! They didn’t stop to chat, and I didn’t get a decent shot of them, sadly. I turned my attention back to the creek.



I decided to extend my ride slightly on the Jackson Creek Trail.



Now I had a good climb out of the ravine. I was curious how it’d be on the singlespeed, and it was just fine. Very doable. The gearing on the bike is rather low, at 42×18. It may take a while to figure out the ideal gear ratio.

By the way, here’s a closer shot of the weird rear brake configuration. Mike asked about this and mentioned I might be able to install a long-reach caliper. I *think* the bike was designed with this in mind, but I don’t know. Does the photo help at all? It’s hard to tell, but the rear bridge is drilled right behind the canti straddle cable.


This was a great, if short, ride on the new singlespeed. I hadn’t intended to take it offroad, but it handled fairly well.

I put the bike to a much better test today — more about that soon.

Whining some more

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

It seems like I’ve been a little whiny lately on my blog. It’s not intentional, but I get cranky when I don’t get adequate saddle time. The past few weeks have been nothing but commuting, and frankly, most of it has not been much fun. Especially since I’ve basically been sick the past two weeks.

I had hoped to do a long ride over the weekend, and the weather was good, but I have a lingering cough that results in some real coughing fits, even just during my 5-6-mile commute, so riding for an extended period of time was not a viable option.

But yesterday I hit rock bottom, riding-wise. I started feeling sick again yesterday morning and rode to class anyway. I felt worse and worse as the day went on. I left my last class a bit early and rode home. I felt awful. I was dizzy and nauseous, and a windchill of 5°F, including a harsh headwind, made me feel worse in every way. I had multiple coughing fits on my way home. My ears were in severe pain — lingering effects of my ear infections, made worse by the cold. A few times I seriously wondered if I was going to make it all the way home. That should give you some idea of how bad I felt — it’s only a six-mile ride. It was probably the most miserable 30 minutes I’ve ever spent on a bicycle. After I got home, I immediately collapsed on the bed for 2-3 hours. I felt a little bit better when I woke up.

Today, I drove to class and work, for the first time in ages. We have single-digit windchills again today and I just didn’t think my ears could take any more abuse. I thought the rest of me could use a break, too. Driving felt weird, but I do think this may help me finally recover.

This is the first time I’ve driven to class. Parking wasn’t really a hassle, but only because I decided to pay for a spot in a parking garage. $3 for one class period. Yeesh.

In other news, I’ve decided NOT to attempt the 200km brevet on February 19. It’s just too much, given my lack of training. It’s been weeks since I got to go on a long ride.  There’s another 200k out of Carbondale, IL in May. I am contemplating making that my new goal. It seems more realistic. But, that is dependent on getting my butt in gear and doing some serious training between now and then. I think it’ll be doable once I finally get over this lingering illness.

I’m sorry for complaining so much, but sometimes it’s important to recognize that cycling isn’t always fun, especially if you are a daily commuter. Most of the time I really enjoy it, but being even just a little bit sick can make it miserable. I feel like I’m on the mend now. I hope I’m right. I’m going to go crazy if I don’t get to do a fun ride soon!

An unexpected find

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I’m in the habit of keeping my eye out for used bikes. It’s surprising how infrequently I find anything worthy of serious consideration, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’ve long wanted to try single-speed riding, so that’s been mostly what I’ve been watching for.

A couple days ago, my wife sent me a link to a Craigslist posting. Someone was selling a Schwinn-made Little 500 bicycle, which they had setup in what they described as a “cyclocross build.”

Long story short: today I connected with the seller, took the bike for a test ride, and bought it. It’s a little hard to tell in the photos, but it’s a very nice cream color. By the way, I was thinking about passing on this deal, but my wife encouraged me to go for it. I’m very lucky.


The Little 500 bicycle is a bit of an oddity. Stock, they come as a singlespeed with only a coaster brake, single-piece cranks, fairly wide tires, and platform pedals. In fact, the race rules require them to be ridden much like this.

There are only two sizes of these bicycles. It just so happens that the “men’s” size is 56cm, and I ride a 56-58cm.

This particular Little 500 bike is odder still. It has cantilever brakes. But, the frame/fork weren’t designed for them. So the rear brake has a weird bracket thing that attaches to the caliper mount. The front brake was added by swapping the fork out with a Surly Cross Check fork. It also has a nice SRAM crank, which I believe was installed with some sort of bottom bracket adapter. Obviously, someone had gone out of their way to set this bicycle up just how they wanted it. Conveniently, this is just about the ideal setup from my point of view, too.


So far, I’ve found one issue that is sort of problematic. When you apply the front brake, it squeaks and shimmies rather badly. I’m hoping I can figure out a solution (any suggestions would be great). The previous owner hadn’t even attempted to fix this problem. He pointed it out to me before I even did a test ride, and he knocked the price down a bit to compensate, too.


The bike came with everything, except pedals and saddle. I put my Brooks B17 saddle on there, which I haven’t used for a while, along with a pair of platform pedals.

I also need to adjust the handlebar height. The bars are just too low. I plan on flipping the stem, but it looks like I’ll have to buy new brake cables/housing so they’ll reach.

I did another test ride after dark around the neighborhood, and the bike is a lot of fun to ride. I went down a large-ish hill so I could try climbing with the single gear. It was very doable.  I’ll be curious to see how it fares on bigger, steeper hills. I’m excited to log some singlespeed miles on this fun bicycle!

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