Friday, January 2, 2015

The Passion Returns!

Back in January of 2012, I wrote a blog entry (Will the Rubber Hit the Road . . . Again?) about my purchasing a fluid trainer for my bike and actually wanting to get back in the saddle. Well, I am glad to say that back in July of 2014, I finally went through with the idea - albeit, more off-road than on-road!!

But how about a bit of back story - with some pictures for good measure?

I started off as a road racer back in 1984 - my last year of high school. Some success at the local level qualified me for some training/racing on the mainland and my road career culminated with competing at the Summer Games in 1985.

I was working in a bike shop as a summer position during the period from 1985 to 1989 and it was at this time I was introduced to the next "big thing" in cycling - mountain bikes (MTB)! I went through a number of bikes during this time - some good, some bad but my favourite was my Raleigh Technium Chill which I purchased in 1989. This bike had an aluminum frame with no welding but rather "space age" adhesives that held the frame together!! Of course, there was not much in the way of suspension at this time. but I did actually have a Girvin Flexstem and you can see it in the image below!!  All it did was dampen the jarring transferred up the super stiff Tange Big Fork!!

Promo shot I took for my Raleigh!

As far as I know, the first organized MTB race ever held here was circa 1989. The course was near Snow's Lane (near Stavanger) but has since been developed!  The course was rather flat with no technical sections, so it favoured the road racers! Tom Lawlor was first and I came in second - yep, two road racers!!

One of the faves for MTB racing was the side of Signal Hill - just below where the Geo Centre now stands. It had some up and down hills (obviously), some water and a few technical sections.

Climbing on the Signal Hill course!

Cresting a hill and hitting a flat section!

Other MTB courses at the time included ones in Pippy Park (no surprise there), The Goulds, Petty Harbour and St, Anne's Industrial Park,  to name a few! 

In the early 1990's there was a pretty vibrant MTB racing scene but after 1991, I slipped away from the cycling scene altogether.

But not before I had a few more kicks at the cat for road racing!

In 1990 I was hired full-time as a bike mechanic for the newly resurrected Pike's Cycle/Sport store. Besides the perks of incredible deals on bikes and parts, the store also sponsored a cycling team.  This team raced both road and MTB.  Below are two pictures of the 1990 and 1991 road teams.

(l to r) Dan Haedrich,  Malcolm Simpson, Sean Dawe, Tom Lawlor and Todd Manning)

(l to r) Sean Dawe,Todd Manning, Spencer Campbell and  Darroch Whittaker)

My final road race was held on the Pouch Cove, Torbay via the Bauline Line circuit. It was a good showing but it seemed that the triathletes were becoming the next wave of racers and things were more like a time trial than an actual road race. 

The road bike was stabled and the Raleigh was relegated to commuting! Eventually, both were retired and saw no action for close to two decades!!  So hard to believe that what was once an all-consuming passion had simply slipped away - but such is life!!

But life has a way of turning things back on you and, luckily for me, I rediscovered the passion!!

Fast forward to July, 2014! I decided that I wanted to get the old Raleigh back on the trails/road. I found that the outer chainring had a few worn teeth and the chain would skip. A trip to a local bike shop showed that it is not easy to find replacement parts for a 24 year old MTB!! I walked into the shop looking for a chainring and walked out with a brand new bike!! Well, a 2012 Giant Anthem X3 but it was still in the box!!  The full suspension was sooo nice on my creaky joints and the precise shifting and hydraulic disk brakes were light years ahead of my old Raleigh. After a few rides on the new bike, I was hooked!!  The passion was rekindled!! Of course, not having ridden in years meant that I had to buy all new gear - helmet, shorts, jerseys, pedals, shoes, dropper post, tights, gloves, lights etc etc etc!! And oh, how the money rolls out!!!

Nice and shiny - Anthem X3.
But the money spent is worth it when you can get out for a ride that includes such scenes as below!!

Winter ride on the tracks near Seal Cove.

I did not want to limit my riding just to the trails, so I decided to drag the old road bike into the 21st century! Luckily, all I needed was a new set of bars and stem to allow me to attain a position more comfortable. Since the picture below was taken, I've added some new tires. I like to use to road bike to change things up a bit. Do you remember as a kid that you wore heavy boots all winter and then one spring day you put on your sneakers and went outside to play? I find that getting on the road bike feels just like that time you pulled on the sneakers!!

The old Miele ready for the road.

Well, now it's January and the temps have dropped and snow is imminent!!  How does one continue with the passion if your bike is not ready for the snow? I have my road bike relegated to the trainer once again but, as many know, riding a trainer is about as exciting as watching paint dry - maybe even less so!!

The answer is a fatbike! I rode one for a few hours back in early December and had one of those "I've-got-to-get-me-one-of-these" moments!!!

And I did!!

On December 30, I took the plunge and purchased a Surly Pug Ops! I guess I am ready for the snow now!! There'll be no cooling of the passion this winter!!

Surly Pug Ops

One Mean Mother!!

Pug on Ice!!

And since getting back on the bike, I am discovering that there is an incredibly active (and friendly) biking group in this area!! Heck, if they are willing to take on a relic like me . . .

Breaking in the Pug in Pippy Park!!

So, with bikes to cover all the seasons and all kinds of terrain, it looks like 2015 is going to be a great year!!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Testing. Testing. 1... 2... 3...

Today was not only a great day for a short paddle with my lovely wife, Cheryl, it was a chance to test a new work-around on my Bomar hatches and for Cheryl to test her new dry suit!!

The Bomar deck plates on the Black Pearl have always caused me grief when it comes to leakage. Off the shelf, they leaked like sieves, so I worked on the o-rings making the fit a bit tighter. This gave moderate satisfaction but there was always a significant amount of water entering the boat.

Ranger checking out the Bomars!

In April 2013, I tried the idea of bending the deck plates to give a snugger fit against the o-ring. I wrote up a blog entry on this and here is the link. This procedure gave the best results to date but the fit was always hit and miss, so sometimes the boat stayed dry while on others it leaked  - bad!!! 

I've always been on the lookout for materials that will give a better seal than the stock o-rings. Just prior to attending the annual kayaing retreat, I installed a larger-than-stock rubber tubing. I did not get a chance to test it until at the Retreat on our day paddle. When we stopped at lunch I had a hard time lifting the boat on the beach due the excess water in both the front and rear hatches!!! Luckily I had the stock gaskets in the boat so I dropped them back in over the lunch break and continued on.  I am guessing that the rubber tubing, which was supple while warm, became very hard when exposed to the cold water - we were paddling around an iceberg that day so you can imagine that the water was cold!! 

With the stock gaskets back in place, I was back to square one and still dealing with water in the hatches - sometimes so bad that it affected the handling of the boat!!  Time to revisit this issue!! I started by doing a new "bending of the Bomars" The problem with this is that the deck plates have a tendency to go back to their original shape after a time and the seal gets sloppier!!  

Fast forward to Friday June 5 and I was at a local Canadian Tire Store and, as per usual, I was looking for any kind of "gasket" material I could use on the Bomars!!  In the weatherstripping section I came upon a foam product that, I hoped, might work. It was only $5.00, so I took the plunge!!

Foam weatherstripping - 30' for $5.00.

As luck would have it, this stuff fit in the groove of the deck plates perfectly!!  Installation took all of one minute - no joking!!

Foam in place and ready for testing!

The deck plates fit nice and snug and the foam is soft enough not to distort the shape of the plate when clamped down - a very good sign. I did some testing by running water over the plate with a hose. Initial testing saw absolutely no water entering the boat. YES!!! So I moved onto the "standing water test" where water was kept on the deck plate for a length of time. Again, no leakage!!

The standing water test!! A PASS!!!

With "on land" testing a success, the next stage was sea trials.  This was to take place the following day when Cheryl and I decided to fit the water for a few hours on a lovely, sunny and warm Saturday afternoon!!

This was an opportunity for Cheryl to try out her latest gear purchase - a Kokatat dry suit (Gore-Tex) that she picked up earlier the week for a steal.  50% off a big ticket item like this does not come along every day, so when we found the suit, we jumped on it. I should point out that this is a brand new suit bought from a store that is a Kokatat dealer!! I feel compelled to also say that I also picked up a new Snap Dragon spray skirt for half price from the same store. Sweet, because I was looking for a replacement for my Seals Shocker which is a piece of crap!!!!!!!

Cheryl christening the new suit at St. Philip's!!

The Black Pearl pulled up on Lower Beach, Conception Bay!! Yes, that little white dot on the horizon is an iceberg.

So, how did the Bomars make out on the sea trials, you may ask? When I got off the water after 1.5 hours of paddling, there was not a drop of water in either the fore or aft hatches - for the first time EVER since this boat was launched over two years ago! Needless to say, I was a happy camper (paddler)!!  

AND HERE"S THE KICKER - when I got home and was taking the boat off the car, I looked at the deck near the rear hatch. It looked odd - like it wasn't flat or something.  I thought that maybe it was my mistake when building the boat but, I must admit, that I never noticed it before. Could it be that the deck was bowed upward from the air expanding inside the black hull in the direct sun???  I popped the deck plate and WHOOSH, air rushed out and the deck flattened out again!!   Now THAT was a tight seal!!!  Looks like we're good to go!!!  

There are still a few questions left to answered?  Will the foam last? Will it compress and lose its seal. To be honest, these are not troublesome questions. First off, the foam is dirt cheap and readily available. $5.00 will give me a slew of replacements. Second, it takes mere seconds to replace an o-ring - pop it in the groove and cut to length. A field repair is a joke and I will simply keep the package of extra foam in the boat at all times!!

I do believe that the Bomars have finally arrived!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Black Pearl Retrofit Project - Complete

On April 14, I made the first cut on this latest project. Exactly four weeks later, on May 12, the Black Pearl came out of drydock, i.e., the  attic and back into the light of day!

The most notable changes to the "updated" Black Pearl are a standard keyhole cockpit, a retractable skeg and a new, low luster paint job! Other, smaller, changes/additions include a revisited pump location and bow/stern grab loops. For all other intents and purposes, the Pearl is still the same craft!!

The plan is to take the Pearl to the pool tomorrow night for a test run and then, if all works out, we're off to the Paddle Newfoundland and Labrador Retreat this coming weekend. With the new cockpit and skeg, the Pearl  will be perfectly suited for day paddles!!

And here's a few snaps to show how things turned out

Finally, a chance to get a nice shot of the finished product!!

Finished product #2

Finished product #3.

Revisiting the "behind-the-back" pump location. See this link for a previous blog entry on this setup

Top view showing new cockpit layout.

Profile view of coaming and skeg control box. Still haven't decided what to do with the extra Maroske deck fittings left over!! Suggestions?

Stern view.

New grab loops made from rope and rubber tubing. Strong and comfortable.

Full view of deck!!

Bottom's up!!

And bottom's down!!!

Skeg looking cleaner than when first installed!

Just sitting pretty!!

Skeg (again)!

The Black is Back on the Rack!!! 

Back on the Rack #2

Well, it's been a fun-filled month but I am glad to have the project completed and the kayak back on the rack. Now, I am looking forward to some good paddling in the new and improved Black Pearl!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Black is Back (in the shop for some retrofitting)

My, but it's been a looong time since I've made a blog entry!! That's not to say that nothing has been happening, it's just that I've gotten too darn lazy!! But I digress. . .

The latest project involves the Black Pearl. That lovely black craft that exudes kayaking sexiness!! The boat was built with an ocean cockpit, i.e., small, oval and very hard to get into if you are in a hurry or have bad knees. I suffer from the latter. Not long after I built the boat I started to regret the ocean cockpit. It was fine in the pool or when launching from a nice ramp, but a bugger in dumping surf or a hard beach landing!!  But I was committed to the small cockpit because I spent over 150.00 dollars on a custom spray skirt!!! Fast forward to about 2 months ago!! I left said skirt at the pool and, lo and behold, it went missing!!  It never ever turned up. So now I had a boat with an ocean cockpit but lost my good skirt. I had an old one from before but I'll admit I was just looking for an excuse to get rid of the ocean cockpit. My left knee has really been acting up lately and I was having a real bear of a job actually just getting into the boat. These two excuses were enough to plant the seed for a new project - tearing out a perfectly good ocean cockpit coaming and replacing with a more standard keyhole configuration!!  Time to get cutting!!!  Oh, and while I am at, why not drop in a skeg for good measure??

Like I said, I am getting lazy so I will VERY heavily rely on images to tell this particular story!!

Here's the Pearl back in the dry dock awaiting work:

Let's cut that sucker off!!
No turning back now!!

Foam mold and new keyhole shape.

Profile shot.

Laying up the coaming. Took 8 layers of 6 oz cloth.

Make sure to trim after every few layers. Best done before the epoxy sets up hard!!

Roughed in. No sanding at this point!

Pumps on my epoxy crapped out so I went with scales, Very easy and VERY accurate ratio measurements.

All laid up.

Snow leopard pattern that magically appeared after sanding. I toyed with the idea of keeping it like this but opted to paint it black!!

Just hacking another hole for the skeg!!

Skeg slot in the VERY rough. Yes, I cleaned it up, and yes, the skeg fit in there perfectly. And YES, it is lined up with the centre line even though it does not look so in this picture!!

Test fitting the skeg.

Add cutting yet another hole. This time to provide access to the skeg.

Temporary skeg access hatch!

Skeg in place.

Adding a lip in the access hole.

Lip ready to go. Cut out piece in background ready to be dropped in.

A look at the final cockpit.

And another.

Skeg access hatch ready for painting!

Another hole for the skeg control box.

Skeg control box in place!

No evidence of back access hatch now. Gloss black replaced by flat black = a more menacing look, in my opinion!!

And that is the project in pictures. I am just finishing up the paint job now and hope to have the boat back on the water in time for the Kayaking Retreat on the 16 - 18 of May!!