Late September

This time of year always reminds me of that old Rod Stewart song.  I really should be back in school.

Steady drizzle for my ride to work this morning.  Whenever it rains this time of year, it’s always awkward figuring out what to wear.  The temperature this morning was in the mid 60s, which is too warm for a jacket.  I just end up sweating underneath it, which kind of negates its purpose of keeping me dry.  Shoe covers are another story; if it’s raining, they keep my feet dry in any temperature.  But to be effective, I need to wear rain pants to wick water over the tops of the shoe covers.  But the pants make my legs sweat more, and they’re more effective when used with a jacket, because the jacket covers my waist line and keeps water from seeping in through the waist band.  Today I ended up skipping the jacket and just going for a long sleeve jersey, hi-vis vest, rain paints, and shoe covers.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked out.  We just need to get those morning temperatures down into the 40s, and then there won’t be any question how to dress for the rain.  🙂

Rockhopper Headset

The rebuild of my old Specialized Rockhopper continues.  Last week I stopped by my local Performance bike shop, and picked up a Cane Creek 1-1/8″ threadless headset for a little under $25.  It’s a perfect fit for the bike’s head tube.  This morning I pressed the headset cups into the frame, using the nut-and-bolt technique described at  I went to Home Depot and picked up a 5/8″ by 7″ hex head bolt, 5/8″ nut, 4 3/4″ flat washers (outside diameter 2″), and 2 5/8″ flat washers (outside diameter 1.5″).  7″ turned out to be the perfect length for the bolt, and the washers had to be at least 2″ O.D. to fit over the headset cups.  Be sure to get a bolt that’s threaded along its entire length — a lot of the bolts I saw at Home Depot only had about an inch of threading.

Pressing the headset cups into the frame wasn’t all that hard, but it wasn’t completely straightforward either.  I greased the cups and the inside of the head tube, and the top cup went in fairly easily.  The bottom cup went in a little crooked initially, started to bind, and I had to tap it back out a bit to get it straight.  I was then able to get it to fully seat.  No damage done, but if I were to do this again, I’d go a little more slowly and make sure the cup was straight the first time.

When doing this, it’s important not to use too much force when tightening the nut.  If the headset cup doesn’t seem to want to fully seat, back the nut off and make sure the cup is going in straight.  Don’t overtighten the nut or you risk damaging the cup or the frame.

Next up, I need to get a new fork, stem and spacers.  The Surly 1×1 looks like a good, solid fork for not a whole lot of money, so I think I’m going to go with that.

Moving Ubuntu to a New Hard Drive

Well, I guess it had to happen some time…  the system disk on my home Ubuntu server started going south recently.  Just a few errors here and there, but once it starts, it only gets worse.  So I thought I’d write down the steps I took to move my system to a new disk, partly for my own reference, and partly in hopes that someone else will find it useful.

First, grab a copy of a “live boot” Linux distro that will run off a CD.  I use Knoppix, but there are others available too.  Attach the new disk to the system, boot off the CD, and mount both the old and new disks.  Make sure the old disk is mounted with ‘errors=continue’ option so that it’ll keep going when errors are encountered.

Use “tar” to copy the root filesystem from the old drive to the new.  Example:

cd /oldroot

tar cvpf – . | (cd /newroot; tar xpf -)

You might want to capture the output of the tar command as well, so you can go back over it and see where it found errors on the old disk.  That way you get an idea if any important files might be corrupted.

When the tar command completes, make sure you have a more-or-less complete copy of the old root filesystem.  An easy way to do this is to run ‘df’ and make sure both copies take up roughly the same amount of disk space.

If your old disk has multiple partitions, you’ll want to copy these as well.

Shut down, remove the old disk, and jumper the new one (if necessary) so it appears as the same device.  Reboot into Knoppix and re-mount the new disk.

Install the grub boot loader on the new disk:

/sbin/grub-install –root-directory=/newroot /dev/sda

Some Linux versions refer to disks by UUID rather than device name.  If this is the case, you’ll need to go into /etc/fstab and /boot/grub/menu.lst and change the UUID to reference the new disk.  You can find the new disk’s UUID by looking in /dev/disk/by-uuid.

My old disk had a swap partition, and I didn’t create one on the new disk.  Instead, I commented the swap partition out in /etc/fstab, booted the system without swap initially, then created a swap area on the filesystem:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/swap bs=1024 count=4194304

mkswap /swap

swapon /swap

This gave me a 4-gig swap area.  To automatically add it at boot time, add to /etc/fstab:

/swap swap swap defaults 0 0

I’m sure I’ve left something out somewhere, but that’s the general idea.

’93 Rockhopper Rebuild

My first “good” bike was a ’93 Specialized Rockhopper, which saw lots of mountain biking action in the ’90s, but has been largely neglected ever since.  It has an old front suspension fork with a blown seal.  I’ve decided to fix the bike up and use it for winter commuting, and maybe some occasional single track.  I think with a little TLC, it’ll make a great third commuter bike.  The initial plan is to install a rigid front fork with threadless headset and stem, then possibly convert it to single speed.  I’ll also swap out the cantilever brakes for v-brakes, and replace the brake levers.  Among other things, the bike will need new tires, tubes, brake cables, and pedals.

I started out by removing the front fork and headset cups. The bike has a 1-1/8″ steerer tube.  Following instructions I found at, I fashioned a cup removal tool out of 3/4″ copper pipe I had lying around.  1″ would have been a better fit, but I didn’t have any on hand.  With a little care, I was able to pop the headset cups out of the frame without too much trouble.  I put the frame in a repair stand, braced the head tube against my work bench (padded with a towel), inserted the makeshift removal tool in the tube, and pounded the cup out with a ball-peen hammer.  The frame is now ready for a new headset and fork.

Next step is to pick up a new threadless headset, and make sure it fits the frame.  I’ll buy the headset locally, so I can return it if it doesn’t fit.  Then I’ll buy a new fork and stem and put everything together.  I’m considering a Surly 1×1 fork.  Stay tuned.

Long Sleeves

Not much noteworthy about today’s ride, except that I wore a long sleeve jersey, for the first time since probably May.  As hot as this summer has been, I didn’t think this day would ever arrive.  Won’t be long, and I’ll be griping about how cold it is and how I wish I could get back to wearing summer clothes.  I did pack a short sleeve shirt for the return ride this afternoon.

I raised the stem height on my fixed-gear bike yesterday, hoping it would make the bars a little more comfortable.  Fortunately I had a little more height available on my threadless steerer tube, and was able to rearrange the spacers and get the stem up about ¼”.  It helped a bit with the reach, but not really with the hand positions.  I think I may need to swap out handlebars.  The bike currently has “bull horns,” which are indeed popular on urban-style fixed gear bikes (and also time trial bikes), but I just don’t find them comfortable for everyday commuting.  I’m still undecided as to what to try.  Standard drop bars are an option, but I’ve also heard good things about “moustache” style bars.  Either way, I’ll also need new brake levers.  Will need to give this some thought.

Going to try to get in a quick swim this weekend.  It may be my last time in the pool this season.  Our solar blanket was falling apart, so we got rid of it earlier this summer, and now we’re missing it.  It can be a pain to deal with, but it does extend the pool season a bit.

Mid-life crisis?

My latest kick these days is getting rid of stuff.  The junk accumulation phase of my life is over, and it’s time to downsize.  My new best friends are the recycle bin, the dump, the paper shredder, eBay, and the Salvation Army.  I’d like the house to eventually be neat and organized.  I’d like us eventually to move to a smaller house that’s less of a money pit.  When that happens, I don’t want to have a lot of junk to move, so I’m getting a head start on things now.

There have been a couple of recent exceptions.  I recently repaired my old electric guitar, a ’79 Peavey T-60 which I bought in the mid-1980s.  These are versatile, well-made guitars that can produce a wide variety of different sounds, due to a unique “coil tapping” circuit that uses the tone control to dial in variable amounts of resistance across the pickup coils.  However, on mine, the neck pickup never worked.  I found an OEM replacement on eBay and soldered it in, and now it’s good as new and I’m having lots of fun with it, after it sat neglected for 20-odd years.  (Incidentally, when I first picked it up, it was still in tune.)

Next up is my old mountain bike, a ’93 Specialized Rockhopper.  It’s been mostly neglected for around 10 years. The old front suspension fork is shot, making it unrideable.  My plan is to replace it with a rigid fork, upgrade the headset and stem, and use it for winter commuting and some occasional single track.  If it works out, I’ll replace the old cantilever brakes with v-brakes, and possibly convert it to single speed.  It’s got a well-built frame, and if I can fix it up for $250 or so, then there’s no need to shell out big bucks for a new mountain or cross bike.

It’s a bit nostalgic fixing up the guitar I had as a teenager and the bike which I rode in my 20s.  If this my mid-life crisis, I guess it beats buying a sports car or a boat.


I slogged up Ilchester Rd. again today.  It went a little more smoothly than last time.  Hill-climbing rule no. 1:  If you know you’re going to need the granny gear, shift into it while still seated, before it gets too hard to pedal.  If you wait ’till you’re standing up, your derailleur will pick that moment to dump the chain, and you’ll either fall off the bike, or nearly fall off the bike, looking really stupid in either case.

Ilchester Rd. is one of 3 hills in my area (along with Gun Rd. and College Ave.) that are so steep, that it feels like the front wheel is going to pop off the ground if I don’t lean forward to weight it.   It would probably help if I wasn’t riding with loaded panniers.  I’m trying to do Ilchester around once a week now.  I go up Ilchester, then right on Beechwood, and right on Bonnie Branch, back to the starting point.  It’s a nice loop that extends my morning ride while keeping me out of school traffic.  The initial goal is to be able to get up Ilchester in the granny without feeling winded.  Then we’ll see where it goes from there.