Monday, June 21, 2010

Gold Belt Century

It's been forever since I've posted to this blog, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to resurrect it.

This past Sunday, I made the jaunt down to Colorado Springs along with John, Brett, and Eric for the Gold Belt Century. The ride was originally planned for the previous Sunday, but good 'ol Colorado weather led to a prudent cancellation and rescheduling of the event for this Sunday.

The organizer, Eric Althen, put together a great route. Several other riders joined us, including Rad, Peter, and Kirk (organizer of the upcoming Dirty Century) for a total of 8 riders. Dr. Steve drove the SAG vehicle, and I must say that he provided the best SAG I've experienced on any ride!

Eric's site does a great job describing the route, so I'll sum up my experience quickly: great company, beautiful scenery, 24 mile climb, hardest saddle known to mankind, awesome weather, delicious pizza, more climbing (!), car accident, 7 emergency vehicles, temporary road closure, crazy fast 11 mile descent, 40mph pinch flat on 'cross tires, weird sculptures, and a very satisfying ride overall.

In keeping with the century-a-month schtick I started in Jan. 2009, this is the 19th century in 18 months. Second one on the 'cross bike, 6th this year.

Friday, September 05, 2008


I went for a quick one hour jaunt up over the Wall and out Hwy. 128 to US93 and back this evening. On the return trip, a rider named Will from Vitamin Cottage caught up with me so I jumped onto his wheel and chatted with him for a little while. No more than half a mile after Will turned off, my rear tire went flat--about a mile from my workplace. Figures. I was hoping that I could ride the tire soft, but it lost air quickly. When I inspected the tire for the cause, I found this:

The casing was showing through nearly-bare spots all around the tire. I guess it was about time for a new one. I threw on a blue Maxxis Detonator--the season is winding down, so a training tire seems like a good choice. Besides, it looks cool on the Giant.

On another note, fellow rider Brett was hit by a car today! Fortunately he's mostly OK, but his wheels were trashed and his helmet cracked, among other things. Knowing Brett, he's downplaying the severity of his injuries. The driver was at fault for running a stop sign--but as anyone who rides regularly knows, it doesn't matter who's right when you're on a 15lb bike vs. a 2-ton vehicle. Brett's advice:

Stop at the stop signs, and always wear your helmet.

Hope you heal up well, Brett!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

So close!

Anyone who knows me also knows that I have two cars in the garage that haven't run in a long time. The one that I refer to as 'the 2G' (for second generation) is a 1995 Eagle Talon TSi AWD. It was running just fine when I pulled it into the garage last October to undergo surgery. It has not run under its own power since!

The initial plan sounded so simple--basically just upgrading the puny stock T25 turbo to an MHI EvoIII 16G, plus a few supporting mods. Those few supporting mods rapidly grew, however, as it often makes sense to make multiple changes at once to save money and effort in the long run. Thus, a quick rundown of some of the changes that are taking place with this round of modifications includes:
  • upgraded turbo (EvoIII 16G), ported compressor outlet, clocked and polished compressor housing, ported hot side, welded for external WG
  • FP Race Manifold, ceramic coated
  • 2.5" SS O2 housing w/ recirculated external wastegate
  • 38mm Tial wastegate with upgraded 'racing' valve for race gas compatibility
  • port-matched extrude honed 2G intake manifold, polished plenum
  • 1G NT 60mm throttle body
  • phenolic spacers for both intake manifold and throttle body
  • Treadstone TR6 FMIC (22x6x3.5", small by most standards)
  • Custom 2.5" SS IC piping
  • Custom 1" valve cover vent
  • ProVent 200 air/oil separator rerouted to intake pipe
  • Custom cold air intake (places S&B dual cone filter in stock SMIC location)
  • HKS 264 cams, degree'd per cam card
  • Fidanza adjustable cam gears
  • EvoIII oil filter adapter (to replace water/oil cooler with air/oil cooler)
  • Setrab 625 oil cooler w/ -12AN plumbing
  • Stacked plate power steering cooler to replace OEM "cooler" (line)
  • polyurethane front and rear engine mount inserts
  • Kosei K-1 TS 17x8 +35 Gunmetal wheels
  • Hankook 245/40R17 Ventus R-S2 tires
  • Red splined Gorilla lug nuts, for bling
  • smoke colored bumper lights, again for bling
  • A/C removal (weight savings for AutoX)
  • Cruise control removal (again, weight savings plus simplicity and less clutter)
There may be others I'm forgetting, and there are tons of details that are glossed over in a bulleted list like that, but it's pretty obvious that it's taken a long time to get this far...and the car still doesn't run!

Thankfully, my friend Bert gave me some motivation to make that last push to get it running this weekend, and we almost made it! Bert offered his services for a workday on Thursday, so I took Thursday and Friday as vacation days at work to make for a continous long-weekend work block. The two biggest obstacles keeping the car from running at the beginning of the weekend were the intercooler pipes and the O2 housing. On the last workday (many moons ago, it seems) Bert helped me to cut and fit the upper intercooler (UIC) pipe, which has remained in its taped-together state since then. It just needed to be welded...simple, right?

The thing is, I don't know how to weld. I bought a TIG welder from Harbor Freight a long time ago, but that was the easiest part. I subsequently had to purchase a tank and regulator, figure a way to get 220V in the garage, buy welding rod and tungstens, bought a stainless restaurant table to use for welding deeds, bought a bandsaw for cutting deeds, blades and lubricant for the bandsaw, fixed the grinder and belt sander (WIP) that my Dad gave me...and oh yeah, still had to learn to weld!

Long story shortened a bit, the Harbor Freight welder is not the easiest welder to learn with. Namebrand welders have features like foot pedal controls, and more importantly high frequency or lift starts. I'd take either--the scratch start used by the Harbor Freight version has a tendency to contaminate the tungsten easily if you don't get it just right, which makes it very hard to weld unless you go grind the tungsten to a good tip again. The thing is, the Harbor Freight welder was only $200, versus the $1000+ one would pay for a namebrand welder. Yes, cost alone was my motivation!

I've taken some time to practice over the last few months, and I've made some progress, but I'm still not very good. Nevertheless, at some point I was going to have to break this stalemate. So, thanks to Bert's encouragement, I finally broke out the welder this weekend to do some "real" welding. We started by tacking together the turbo compressor outlet elbow and the UIC. Sounds simple, but I was having major problems relearning the scratch start and it took much more time and energy than such a simple task should have required. Ah, the joys of learning!

We then cut and fit the LIC, which required a blade swap on the bandsaw. I've learned the hard way that not using the correct blade pitch will quickly result in a busted and worthless blade.

With the intercooler piping all tacked together, we took a break for lunch. Bert was in the mood for sandwiches, so we hit Silvermine Subs on the east side of Longmont--where we just happened to run into his wife Alex and daughter Lily, who had just come from a manicure at a neighboring nail salon in preparation for the wedding of Alex's sister on Friday. Small world, eh?

After lunch, we decided to move on to the O2 housing. This proved to be a rather frustrating end to the workday. We deliberated about our cuts for a while before making the first cuts on the $100 stainless "donut" that we had purchased for this project. The cuts went as expected, fortunately. We then spent a great deal of time deciding how to "cheat" one of the cuts (meaning cutting it on a bias relative to the centerline of the tube), since the stock O2 housing isn't a simple bend. The cut went as planned, but this is when the frustration began as we realized how difficult it was going to be to meet all of the requirements with only one cheated cut. Bert had to take off, so I spent a few more hours cutting from a scrap bend and fitting small tubing "slices" before finally setting it aside for later.

The last thing I did was to remove the cam gears from the Galant to be used on the 2G. They started out as anodized red, but they turned a bleached pink color when I was cleaning the head with brake cleaner a while back. I bought new red gears to put on the Galant, but I wanted to remove the rest of the pinkish red anodization from the old gears before putting them on the 2G. Bert had suggested hydrogen peroxide, but a quick test confirmed our thoughts that the weak 3% drugstore solution had no effect. So, I exercised my Google Fu and came up with oven cleaner and Drano as alternate solutions. Our oven is self-cleaning, so Drano was the top choice.

I initially cut the solution with water a good bit to slow down the chemical reaction, then slowly added Drano to increase the concentration once I was comfortable that the reaction was relatively slow. I used a Scotch-Brite pad to help remove the anodization, soaking the cam gears for a minute or two at a time, and in the end it turned out quite nice--all silver, at last! Of course, with the anodization removed the aluminum is prone to oxidization; but fortunately, I like the dull grey color of oxidized aluminum and the gears won't be exposed to elements that will make it a structural concern.

The gears done, I pulled the stock cams...then realized I don't have spare cam seals. Honestly, it was a bit of a relief to realize that there was no chance the car would run this weekend, as I was a bit overwhelmed with how much was still left to be done. At this point it was 4am, so I decided to call it quits for the "night".

The next day didn't start until almost noon for me, and a lot of the work is all blurred together in my memory. I welded up all of the intercooler piping, tapped the holes on the BOV flange, and ground the end of the stub pipe for the BOV flange using a piece of software called Tubemiter as a cutting/grinding guide. Welding the BOV flange proved to be the hardest part of the project for me--on one end because I wasn't used to welding to a thick flange (let alone a 90-degree joint), and on the other end because I didn't think things out well ahead of time and had a very hard time fitting the gas cup and tungsten between the 2.5" pipe and the flange. D'oh! After welding the stub pipe to the UIC, I drilled a hole in the middle and hogged it out with a carbide bit on my air grinder.

I just have to mention my air compressor here--the new 60 gallon compressor my wife let me buy last winter has no problem keeping up with my tools, and that absolutely rocks! Pair that with the auto-retracting hose reel that Michelle bought me for Xmas and the super-flexible Flexzilla hose I used to replace the super-stiff hose that came on the reel, and I'm super happy! The only questionable part of the setup is the "universal" quick couplers that I bought from Home Depot, as they occasionally stick open when removing tools and have a tendency to pop off the industrial style connectors if they're even slightly worn. I think I may be headed back for other connectors.

Somewhere in here I took the time to modify a couple of OEM hydraulic lash adjuster (HLAs) to work as solid lifters for the purpose of degreeing the cams, installed poly engine mount inserts front and rear, installed the intake manifold and (rebuilt) NT throttle body with phenolic spacers, and attached the coil pack and power transistor to the manifold. I also trimmed the stock radiator intake shroud to fit perfectly between the FMIC and radiator, and attached a foam rubber strip to the fiberglass inner bumper to seal against the upper edge of the FMIC. I purchased some smoke colored bumper lights on eBay as a reward for my hard work this weekend, so I popped those in to make me feel good about my weekend progress.

So, now that the weekend is over, I finally have intercooler piping! I still need to have the pipes beaded to prevent them from blowing off under pressure, but that's a minor concern. The O2 housing is the last real obstacle to getting the car running, so I'm going to have to mull that one over a bit before attacking the problem again. In the meantime, I need to purchase a few parts to complete my cam degreeing setup and place an order for some OEM parts like the cam seals. It's great to see things coming together, and at last I feel like I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once it's running, I'll have to make sure I enjoy it for a little while before starting the next round of modifications (I have shelves' worth waiting in the wings...).

So close...just need to build up for one final push!

(pics to's a bit late to get them transferred and uploaded)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Crazy Frog - Axel F

I promised some of the Ride Against The Machine crew that I would post this video since they haven't seen it, so here it is. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hot, hot, hot!

I spent the early part of the day working on my mom's 91 Civic, preparing it for sale. It's pretty sound mechanically, but pretty ugly looking. I bought some bumper slide brackets on eBay to re-attach the front bumper, and I ended up machining a 3/4" spacer with a couple of holes for the mounting bolts on the driver's side to even out the bumper since the metal bumper had been pushed in. I also did a bit of MacGyver engineering on the rear passenger's side busted slide bracket to make it work. Finally, I spent some time with rubbing compound trying to buff out the oxidized paint before deciding that it was going to take far too much effort to make a real difference. There are a few little things I might still fix (cracked DS mirror, cracked windshield, busted antenna), but I'm going to post it to Craigslist this weekend and fix the other items as time allows until the car sells.

I haven't blogged in a while, and it's not because I've been riding a lot. In fact, I only have ~1200 miles on the road bike this year, which is pretty sad. I'm going to try to make a late season run at a reasonable showing in the King of the Rockies race at WP next month, and right now that means I need to log some miles.

Because of the car work, I got a late start on my ride, leaving the house around 4pm. I was worried it was going to be super-hot since we've had a near-record-setting 14 days in a row of 90+ degrees in Denver; but fortunately, the clouds were out and I never felt like I was overheating. I did, however, feel the need to consume a lot of water.

I stopped for water at the little shop just before the big downhill on the north side of Carter Lake. They have a bike rack out front and a sign that reads "Cyclist Parking", which (to me) implies they are cyclist-friendly. I walked in, water bottle in hand, and asked politely if I could fill my water bottle. I was shocked by the rude response: "No. We have to pay for that water." I walked out without saying another word.

So, looking at a recent Longmont utility bill, I pay .002530 dollars per gallon for the first 10,000 gallons of water I use. Let's say that this campground needs to have water delivered and stored in a tank due to its remote location, and with gas prices going up...let's say it's 10x as expensive. Thus, we're talking 2.5 cents per gallon. An average water bottle holds no more than 22oz. of water, even less since I had brought along some Cytomax and dumped it in the bottle, but let's stick with the 22oz. figure to be on the safe side. Thanks to Google for the conversion:

22 US fluid ounces = 0.171875 US gallons

Hence, filling my water bottle would have cost

0.17875 US gallons x 2.5 cents/gallon = 0.45 cents

I could have rounded up and offered him a penny...think he would have been offended?

In any case, the ride was 68 miles of goodness. I hit 54.5mph on the backside of Carter (on the low side of what I usually see), then continued up over the backside of Horsetooth into Fort Collins and back. Sights along the way included some pigeons humping in the road, a deer crossing right at the deer crossing sign, a yellow Lamborghini Murcielago cruising the opposite direction just as a Larimer County Sheriff's vehicle passed me, a Volvo 164...nothing so interesting that I regretted not having a camera with me, but enough to keep me entertained.

I rolled up to my door around 7:45, and I was very happy to be done. My legs were very tired (on the verge of twitching for the last half hour--must have been low on electrolytes or nutrition!), and I had a hot spot under the middle metatarsal of my left foot for the last 1.5h. That's become a pretty regular occurrence, regardless of what pedals or shoes I'm using. I should probably go see a podiatrist about it.

Tomorrow Craig is coming up early for a ride at Hall Ranch, so it's off to bed I go!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


It's been ages since my last post, so I figure I'm due for at least a quick one. (For what it's worth, I have several 'saved up'...I have a bad habit of getting them mostly done but not having the pics uploaded, and that sort of thing. Look for some magical pre-dated posts to appear as soon as I wrangle some time to catch up, hopefully this weekend!)

Tonight was the 4th of the seven races in the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series held at Cherry Creek State Park by the ACA. This is my third year racing the series. It's a little inconvenient for me to drive down for the races since they're on Wednesday evenings and rush hour traffic turns it into anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours of stop 'n' go, but it's really nice to see the rest of the Ride Against the Machine crew each week and race each other into shape. The course is a mere 10.5 miles long, mostly flat out-and-back with only one hill of significance.

I considered missing tonight's race. I haven't been on the bike since Thursday, which was the day of my PRK surgery (posts to come, promise!). I was off the bike for a couple of days due to the surgery, but then I caught some sort of stomach bug that made me so miserable I didn't even want to ride the trainer. On the bright side, I lost about 4lbs. this weekend because I couldn't really eat or drink for a few days. The weight loss was probably all water or muscle, the worst way to lose weight, but I'm trying to stay positive here.

Anyhow, my sleep habits went WAY south--as in 5 hours laying in bed trying to fall asleep Monday night, feeling absolutely miserable and exhausted, finally crashing for a few hours in the morning before dragging myself into consciousness to get to work on Tuesday and be productive. Last night I was able to extend the "sleep" period to about 4.5 hours.

Prep for today's race? Let's see...lack of sleep, check. Poor nutrition (instant ramen and a Monster energy drink), check. Dehydration, check. Oh what the heck, I haven't missed a race yet, including the blizzard-like conditions two weeks ago.

I got to the course WAY early for a change, and actually had to waste some time before starting my warmup. Marni borrowed the fluid trainer to warm up, so I brought along my ancient Minoura wind trainer for the warmup. I did a long (for me) 50min warmup, and timed my wrap-up the same as last week since I made it to the starting line in perfect timing. That would have worked great...except I didn't account for the fact that it takes longer to tear down the wind trainer. D'oh! So I missed my official start by just over a minute, as I had to wait for the minus-one-minute-rider to start before I left the line. Oh yeah, the PowerTap head mount broke again on the way to the starting line after hitting an expansion crack despite my quick epoxy fix at lunchtime. Grrrr! You'd think a $1k gizmo would have a better mounting system...

It was windy (ugh!) but nice and warm (almost too warm for my preference--my engine runs hot). Several of the RATM crew missed their starts as well tonight, and one of the side benefits for me was that I had some fast rabbits to pace me on the outbound stretch until they pulled out of my sight. With the PowerTap mount broken like last week, I again rode "blind" and just went by RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion). At the finish line, my unofficial time per my PowerTap file was 27:03, which is only 11 seconds off my PR that I tied last week. For any geeks that care, my normalized power was 204W (201W average), slightly down from last week. Considering the circumstances of the past week and the strong wind tonight, I'm very satisfied. The official time doesn't particularly matter to me because I'm pretty slow, so it's not like I'm fighting for standings or points.

The rest of the RATM crew also rode very strongly, with most people pretty darned close to their PRs considering the wind (in my opinion). The actual TT times are hard to decipher due to the missed starts, but unless I hear otherwise I think we all did pretty well. Quite frankly, this was one of my favorite CCTT nights yet. The missed start didn't really bother me, and the only real downside in my book is that allergy season apparently started for me tonight (but fortunately not until after I finished the TT). A few of us grabbed some grub at Tokyo Joe's, and then I fought heavy winds for the 60 mile ride home! Thankfully the Jeep did most of the work. *cough, cough*

I'm very much looking forward to next week's post-TT RATM BBQ at Scott's place! G'night.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Band Saw Nirvana

My newest garage addition arrived Friday afternoon. A while back I went shopping for a bandsaw to cut metal, since I do a fair amount of fabrication for my cars. I ended up purchasing an older 12" Craftsman band saw off eBay. It's a pretty neat design--the table remains flat and the entire bandsaw head tilts up to 45 degrees to make bevel cuts. Even better, it has a DRO (Digital Read Out) for blade angle, speed, and tension. I ordered some nice expensive bi-metal saw blades from MSC Industrial and thought it was the cat's meow.

That was about two years ago. Fast forward to about a month ago, when I started preparing for some more metal fabrication projects on my 2G Talon. Even though the saw cut metal pretty well, it was clear that it was cutting too fast. When cutting aluminum, the blade would get so hot that the aluminum would fuse to the blade and occasionally even seize! I had never truly investigated blade speeds for metal cutting saws; instead, I had taken the seller's word that it was "metal cutting". The slowest blade speed on the Craftsman is 1500fpm. Recommended blade speed for my applications are ~90fpm (stainless steel) and ~300fpm (aluminum). Clearly there was a problem here!

I started by pulling apart the bandsaw to see if I could slow it down via resized pulleys. Some simple math made it clear very quickly that I would need multiple sets of pulleys to gear the bandsaw slow enough for metal cutting. This would require a fair amount of expense and effort to do, with no guarantee that I'd end up with what I wanted in the end. To paraphrase a quote from Top Gun, I decided it was better to retire the saw and get a new one than push a bad position...

Any sane person with my budget would have probably just headed over to Harbor Freight for their 4x6 bandsaw (so named for its cutting capacity of 4" x 6"), on sale at the time for $160. This same saw can be had under many different brandnames from numerous sources, but they all use the same castings as far as I can tell and are basically the exact same saw with very minor changes (different motor, slightly different base, nothing significant). We have one of these saws at my workplace; and despite the fact that it's the most inexpensive bandsaw available, I am of the opinion that it's an overpriced POS.

I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a portable bandsaw, as used on construction sites. I found this Vertikut accessory that would allow one to turn a Milwaukee portable band saw into a vertical metal cutting saw (which I thought I preferred over a horizontal saw--more on that in a bit). Milwaukee also sells an accessory to turn the saw into a horizontal cutting saw, but it uses a chain pipe vise--not ideal for the varied cuts that I expect to be doing. In the end, it would end up costing a pretty penny to go this route, and once again I felt I would be pushing a bad position.

At this point, my problem was that a "good" bandsaw that had all the features I desired was at least 3-4x as expensive as the 4x6 HF version. As much as I love having good tools, I couldn't convince myself that it would be worth spending that much money. In my research I found that there is a subculture of garage machinists out there, some of whom have taken the time to put together some very nice pages detailing 4x6 bandsaw mods (also one here and another one here). Problem is, I want to spend my time on my car, not tweaking a saw! (Ask my wife how easily I get sidetracked...)

I was just about to suck it up and head over to HF to pick up a 4x6 saw when I received an email that made things very interesting. A few days earlier I had found a very nice (albeit somewhat large) saw on eBay at a low price with zero bids. I emailed the seller to request a freight quote--why not, right? Well, his response came hours before the end of the auction, and no one had bid on the saw yet. Adding the two numbers together, the price was very appealing and well below anything I had seen on Craigslist, HF, and eBay. I quickly started researching this particular bandsaw, and I liked what I saw. So, I got an OK from my incredibly understanding and supportive wife, and I bid on this saw--and won! Final price including freight was several hundred below the lowest price I could find on the web without freight, and less than half the price that most places are asking. I think I got a pretty good deal!

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. I was preparing to list my bandsaw on craigslist at a significant loss. I mentioned this to a coworker that sits two cubes away, and he seemed interested in the saw. Sure enough, he picked it up a few days later. I gave him a good price, and I'm happy to know it's going to a good home. Even better, I now had space in my garage for the new saw! Thanks to good Q2 FY08 performance, my employer gave me a half-day last Friday. I arranged for an afternoon delivery with the freight company. We had a going-away party for a couple of my coworkers, so I was a bit late getting home. I almost missed the delivery, as the driver was preparing to drive away! Needless to say, I tipped him for the inconvenience.

Here it is, in all its glory:

For those who care, it's a Clarke Power Products 7in. band saw (model BT1025). As the photo shows, it's a horizontal saw (although I've noticed it has provisions for mounting a simple baseplate for vertical saw use like on the 4x6 saw). It has a hydraulic downfeed, which is probably my favorite feature. Unlike the hokey spring tension downfeed adjustment on the 4x6 saw, the hydraulic downfeed allows me to precisely adjust how quickly the saw head "falls" and hence the pressure on the saw blade at the cutting interface via a small knob on the side of a hydraulic cylinder. The saw also has a coolant pump with drip tray, flexible spray head, and bucket reservoir. I haven't cut with coolant before, but I'm excited to have it--heat is definitely the enemy when it comes to cutting metal.

I spent an hour or so aligning the saw and setting it up to make straight cuts, and here are the results of the first few cuts:

The "smeared" cut on the far right was from the Craftsman, in contrast with the other cuts from the new saw. These cuts are a bit rough, most likely due to the relatively coarse 8tpi pitch of the blade that came on the saw, but they're as square as the carpenter's square that I used to set up the saw (i.e. the best I can measure). A few quick passes on the sander will quickly clean up and deburr the edge. I never made cuts this square with the Craftsman vertical saw, even using a guide--they always required refinishing after I made the cut, and occasionally I had to start all over because the part ended up underdimensioned. The Clarke's blade is a whopping 3/4" wide, which certainly helps make the cuts straighter. It's also a bi-metal blade instead of a cheap carbon steel blade like the one that comes with the HF 4x6, so it ought to last a very long time.

Overall, I'm really psyched about my new saw, and I'm looking forward to creating some great new stuff with it!