Saturday, June 10, 2023

From Thin to Thick

It's easy to feel a sense of dread and despair when thinning a garden, especially when the new shoots have just barely come out of the ground. Looking at all the bare dirt between the plants can seem like an impossible gap to bridge.

But never fear, for life finds a way.

I'd say I definitely didn't thin it back too much.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Sticky Fork, Innit?

So one of the few components I didn't upgrade on BlackBirb, during my recent reconstruction thereof, is the fork. It was doing fine, despite years of almost complete neglect, and so I saw little reason to mess with it.

However, those years of neglect were not without consequence, and on my most recent post-rebuild rides, I did start to notice that the suspension action was not quite as buttery smooth as I remembered it once being, so many years ago.

So, a fork service was in order. Now there's two kinds of fork services: a simple "lower service" where the fork lowers are removed, cleaned, lubricated and reinstalled, and a more invasive full service where the air spring and damper are removed for more invasive treatment, and various seals and o-rings are replaced.

Luckily my fork showed no signs of needing the latter. Specifically, its damping performance seemed as tight as ever, and the air spring did not have any issues with leaking down. Thus, the much simpler lower service would be all that was needed.

First things first, we need to get the victim into the OR.

And then it's off with its head!

Cruel and brutal, perhaps, but necessary for the greater good.

Lucky for us, a bike stand makes a great vice for working on a fork, so with the lifeless body cast aside, we can proceed with the operation.

With a few twists of a 5mm hex bit, a few taps with a hammer to loosen up the damper and airspring shafts, and a firm tug downward, we see the fork spilling its precious life blood.

Hmm, there's something missing here.

Yes, the precious life blood. That would be what's missing.

Well, good thing we're doing the service. On with the show!

These foam rings sit right below the wipers in the fork lowers, and are designed to hold onto some fork oil so that it lubricates the upper fork legs as they slide past. These are not supposed to be black. So, as the instructions instruct, we clean them.

They say perfect is the enemy of good, and I declare this to be good. Good enough.

Now I just need to saturate them in fork oil again, only there's one minor problem: I do not have fork oil. Not yet, at least.

There's two options for buying the required fork oil. For around $18 you can buy a little bottle containing 150ml of the precious fluid. Since each lower service requires just a little over 10ml, and with an optimistic yearly maintenance schedule, this means that this meagre investment would yield a solid 14 years' supply. But then, for $28, you can buy a whole liter of it, which is much, much cheaper per ml, but is simply an absurd quantity for a home-shop tinkerer to ever go through.

Thus, I made the logical, sensible choice.

Well, never gonna run out of that.

Anyway, the foam rings go for a swim.

And then we do our level best to cram them back into the lowers without getting them all folded up and twisted, a task which is a little easier said than done.

Now before we go reassembling the lowers back onto the uppers, we have one more lubrication task at hand: We need to smear some SRAM Butter inside these wiper seals. SRAM Butter is a light grease which sells for approximately $18 for a 1oz tub. Of course the exact same lubricant is available as Slick Honey for $23 for a 2oz tube. I bet you know where this is going. That's right: I bought Slickoleum, also the exact same product, netting me 15oz of the stuff for $25.

Luckily Slickoleum has uses outside of just doing a yearly fork service, so I'll have no problem using it up... eventually. (I actually bought it ages ago and have been using it for general greasing purposes for a while now).

Anyway, the important thing to note here is that, while usually a thin coating of grease is all that's required, since any excess will tend to just get smeared away and collect dirt and generally be a nuisance, in this case an ample application is actually appropriate. The inside of the wiper seals is actually concave, and the space it forms there can hold onto an awful lot of grease. So, go ham with it.

Right, so with that done, we're on to the second hardest part of the fork lower service: getting the lowers back on the fork. This takes a bit of struggling and a bit of cursing, as the wiper seals are slightly smaller than the upper stanchions (for obvious reasons). Luckily the seals on my fork were still quite soft and supple (not to mention incredibly well lubricated), and thus only took a moderate amount of struggling and swearing before things were back in place.

Finally we can give the fork its injection of life blood, 5ml of it in each leg.

And this is also the reason why a bike repair stand makes an ideal vice for doing a fork service.

Because in any other orientation, this fork oil would just end up on the floor.

So with the oil in and the bolts buttoned up and twerked to factory spec, there's only one thing left to do.

We need to get the bike back together again. And try to remember which way the cables were tangled up so they don't get all twisted and weird when the handlebars go back in place.

And there we go. It is, once again, An Bike. It rides like a dream; the fork soaking up the tiniest bumps with ease, with not even the slightest sign of stickiness to be found.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Viewing Streets

When we last left off, I had just purchased a shiny new 360 camera, the Insta360 X3.

I discussed this upgrade in a previous post, so I'll skip ahead to the experience of actually using it.

The first capture I did was this short stretch of closed off road, which is mostly used for fire/emergency access to the neighbourhood just up the hill.

I captured this using the Insta360 app on my iPhone to record GPS, because the X3 sadly does not have a built-in GPS.

I also captured this neighbouring fire road.

As well as an adjoining trail, which you can't see, because the recorded GPS track contained errors. This is about to become a theme.

I also recorded some other segments in Belgatos Park, such as this lovely little connector path.

So with things... sort of working, I set out on my bike to record some longer stretches of trails. Specifically, I captured this happy little trail that goes behind some apartment buildings, and connects to a gravel road that runs along a canal.

I also captured that gravel road, but the import of that segment seems to have gotten curiously stuck, so I guess we'll see what happens with that.

I was still having problems with GPS errors, but I decided to roll with it and see if I could just recover the files later. To that end, I set out a few days later to climb up Kennedy and capture Limekiln trail. One might wonder why I didn't also capture Kennedy trail, and the answer is that I don't have enough battery to capture that length of trail while slowly climbing it, and I only get one descent per climb. Capturing Kennedy will wait for another day.

Anyway, the result is this.

Which you might notice is incomplete and contains gaps. Because, again, GPS errors. The good news is that I know how to recover from these errors, and I'll be posting that in a follow-up later.

Anyway, I was getting rather sick of these GPS errors ruining my day, plus the requirement to keep my iPhone running screen-on for the whole capture was a bit of a drag, so I bit the bullet and forked over a few more bucks for the Insta360 GPS remote dongle.

Which you may or may not have noticed in the image at the top of this post. This resulted in far more reliable GPS captures, which I validated by riding up Dirt Bohlman. Which is more commonly known as Aquinas Trail.

This resulted in some very reliable captures, as you can see here.

The bench was a little less busy on the way up, so I was able to stop and enjoy a short snack before bombing back down with the camera rolling.

Anyway, so far it's been a bit of a mixed bag but I think I've got the process fairly dialled in at this point. I still have a few GPS-botched tracks to recover, but I can get to those when I get to those. In the meantime, I'll just let my legs recover a little from a long weekend full of way too much pedalling on my bike.

Monday, May 22, 2023


So I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a new 360 camera to replace my Theta-V which Ricoh never bothered to update to support the new streetview system (and which was kind of a terrible camera in the first place).

Rather than send Ricoh more money for their newer cameras, I decided it would be more prudent to spend my dollars with a company that seems more interested in actually serving its customers. So, I bought a Insta360 X3 instead. Here's hoping this isn't a grave mistake.

Below is a quick test video I shot in my back yard. Except that the video embed doesn't seem to enable the 360 controls, so you might just end up seeing a fixed panning shot of the back of my house rather than the full 360 glory.

I also took a still photo, which I used to be able to upload in such a way that it was navigable, but sadly that got broken a while back due to an unrelated change with how Blogger serves images, so you'll just have to put up with it looking weird and distorted. It's at least somewhat viewable in the middle.

I have yet to try an actual street view capture, but so far I have high hopes of it working at least reasonably well.

As an aside, it does annoy me that nobody seems to care about maintaining technology, or keeping different systems working with each other. It feels like this entire escapade is just one long story of companies half-assing things and leaving their customers to pick up the pieces. It's a damn shame.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Life Springs Eternal

The daikon sprouting is a good thing. Too much daikon sprouting is less than ideal, as they need about 4-6 inches of space between them. My haphazard sewing of the seeds did not result in the ideal spacing.

There's a few patches where I didn't end up with any sprouts, and there's not really much I can do about that. There's also patches where the sprouts are much too thick on the ground, and there is something I can do for those.

Overseeding like this is actually a pretty normal technique. The idea is that you plant more than you need to hopefully ensure you aren't left with any gaps, then once the sprouts pop up you pinch out the weaker ones to make room for the stronger.

Provided these actually grow properly, they should spread out their leaves to cover most of this space. Maybe. I'm still not entirely confident in this actually happening.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


It looks like the daikon seeds are still good.

At least, they're good enough to sprout. It remains to be seen if they'll grow properly or not, but I think if I keep them wet for a few more weeks they should have a chance at least. I'd really like to see them form a proper taproot this time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Night of the Living Spray Foam

The slime mold in the back yard continues to amuse me.

A new lump of it just appeared overnight, not far from where the previous lumps had been. I guess the mulch is pretty tasty here, if you're a giant single-celled organism. Either that or one of the witches in the neighbourhood is trying to spoil my milk.