In Da House

So, apparently even in Vienna I am incapable of riding just one bike. Now I have Jacqueline the lady's Waffenrad and Kurt the trackbike living with me. Jacqueline stays in the courtyard, chained to a pipe. Kurt leads a pampered lifestyle indoors.

Here are his posh private quarters, under the loft stairs and on my housemate's nice rug. Amazingly, she does not object to her new tenant.

I have been riding Kurt every day after work since having gotten him on Monday, but today my legs demanded a break. My "adventures" so far have included getting a flat 5 miles from home and learning why tubular tires outside the track are not a great idea (you can't patch them up). With the rim and tire combination on this bike, it is actually okay to cycle on a flat slowly, and that is how I got home. But my hands were not too happy after the "vibrant" ride of shame. Later, Wolfgang switched out my entire front wheel for another one with an intact tire. I am guessing they don't make tubular tires with kevlar, eh?

Another fun thing that happened, was that the bolt came off one of my rear drop-outs and I did not notice until much later. I am guessing this happened from riding on potholes. Thankfully, the bolt on the other side of the wheel remained securely attached, but it was still scary to see. Today I bought a replacement (good Lord, Campagnolo bolts are expensive!), so all is well. From now on I will inspect the bike carefully before taking it out - which, I am realising, is something one needs to do on a bicycle like this.

I have been delighted to discover that the geometry of this bicycle activates the thigh muscles in a way that after 5 days I can already see a difference in the contours of my legs - very nice. Kurt is welcome in my house any time - I just hope he has the good manners to keep his bolts on and his tires inflated!


  1. That's the problem with guys: They don't know how to keep their bolts on!

    Anyway...Tubular tires are reparable--if you have a lot of time and do a meditation or something else that will calm you down before you start. I used to ride tubulars, but gave them up when good lightweight clinchers came along and even the racers started using them. These days, I don't even ride tubulars on my fixed-gear bike.

    Clement, once considered among the best tire-makers, used to make tubulars with Kevlar belts on them. However, the sidewalls on them were very thin and light, as they are on most tubulars, and they collapsed under the extra weight. Plus, they just didn't ride very well.

    If you build yourself a track or other fixed-gear bike, you can use regular 700C road tires and rims, for they are the same diameter as tubulars. In fact, when I was riding tubulars I also had clincher wheels I could swap out when I wasn't racing or pretending to.

  2. Some tubulars can be patched...but it is a slow painful process...been there done that! We used to repair our "silks" because they were very expensive, one sound you hated to hear was a blow out on one of those, because it meant you just blew half a weeks pay!

    Glad to see you and Kurt getting along so well.


  3. Sorry, I didn't mean that they can't be repaired at all - just not en route, because they'd have to dry overnight. And I've been told it's safer to get new ones anyway once they get a flat - maybe that depends on the type?

    Anyhow, when I build my bike (I already have a frame, I think!) I will definitely use normal 700 rims and regular tires. In the US I won't be going on the velodrome anyway; the one in NH is too far away and I don't want to drive my bike there.

  4. Velouria,

    It has been a delight to follow your process of learing the wheel for the last year :) You have a wonderful way of aproaching each situation and being able to tell that to others.

    There was a time when all I rode were sew-up tires for training and racing [two different sets of wheels and tires].

    I would like to point out that the tires are called "Sew-Ups" and the rims they are used on are called "Tubulars".

    I would ride with an extra tire [or two] in a special long seat bag, made to carry sew-up tires for spares. You would pre-glue the spare tires a bit [letting dry before folding up in your bag]. When you got a flat [or rolled you tire off in a corner], you could change the tire [and limp home].

    When home you could find the tire leak, by soaking in soapy water. Mark it, dry it and then cut the threads in that spot. Pull the tube out in that spot and patch the tube inside. Re-sew the tire up and all fixed [but never really the same, so used a new spare tire].

    Then you would take your re-placed on the road tire off. Clean the glue off the rim with solvent, dry it, then re-glue the new tire.

    New tires are also very tight, so you would have spare rims around with new tire on them, being stretched out. A stretched out tire is much eaiser to mount and to not get glue all over you, the rims and sidewalls of the tire.

    The only thing I miss about the whole mess, is the very soft ride that sew-ups have. They are also very light and the tublar rims are much stronger than a clincher rim/tire,as well as less flat prone to pinch flats.

    Keep having fun with the bike it looks great :)

  5. I like to affirm people who opt NOT to repair their sew-ups,for whatever reason. Especially ultralight racing tires. Then I like to encourage them to let me see that they are properly disposed of.

    When I was in college I was the only person around that was willing to fix them, the shop I worked at would'nt touch them so I did it on the side. I made less than $5 an hour if I remember correctly and charged about $10 to fix one, discounts for quantity. I could do a beautiful repair in 15 or 20 minutes after awhile and always had other peoples tires stretching on old rims laying around my dorm room. Most weeks I fixed 4 or 5 and once I called in sick for my shop shift and fixed 14(go to work and get yelled at for 3 hours for $15 or hang out with my girlfriend and make almost 10 times that...Hmmm,what to do...). I still get some of the skimmings from my friend Les' shop. I especially appreciate the local triathletes who feel that $80 tires are the minimum required for their level of "commitment"(I didn't say performance),and just can't "justify" risking a flat on a tightly managed training ride let alone a race. One flat and it's trash, ya know. I once was given 6 slightly used tires and 2 brand new unused spares for prepping and stretching a bunch of new tires for a guy who changed brands.

    So what that I have never in my life actually bought a tubular tire and am so spoiled I only ride the good ones, that I mock the people that provide me with them and am so slow that any tire that merely keeps the rim from sparking on the pavement is really good enough. DON'T JUDGE ME! Im like the crabby wino dishwasher at a fine resteraunt, swilling the leftovers and cursing the fools who don't drink the best.I could write a blog, dammit...


  6. It's not the bicycle's geometry that is activating your thigh muscles differently, it's the fixed wheel or fixed gear. Back pedaling works a part of the outer thigh that doesn't get worked on a coaster.

  7. "Anyhow, when I build my bike (I already have a frame, I think!)"

    And I am now somewhat actively looking for one.
    You are a caution, Miz V.
    I look forward to seeing what you've found.

    Nice pics. I love the typeface that Kurt's logo is rendered in. It screams Jugendstil to me.

    Sew-ups are a mystery that I never penetrated - clinchers were ubiquitous by the time I got into bikes. They sound...arcane.

    Corey K

  8. Did Justine imply that you were overweight : )

    "However, the sidewalls on them were very thin and light, as they are on most tubulars, and they collapsed under the extra weight."

  9. Sunshine Award to you

  10. Road tubulars are not extraordinarily flat prone. The ones that came on my bike went flat, but the replacements, which I bought after discovering that they were deteriorating generally, have had no flats. This has the positive aspect that I'm relieved not to get flats, but I also get no practice repairing the things. It is definitely something one needs to do several times before getting everything right.

  11. Robert: I am in no position to say that anyone else is fat. I meant that the sidewalls on the tire could not withstand the weight added by the Kevlar belt. I was skinny when I rode those tires; so were many other cyclists who experienced the same problem with those tires.

    Besides, I said that Clement used to make those tubulars, which means Velouria never could have ridden them. Hence, her weight would have had nothing to do with those tires collapsing.

    But I stand by what I say about men and nuts. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about!

  12. Are these bikes allowed in Austria? In Germany (at least in Berlin) you have a good chance that the police take your bike with them when there are no brakes attached.


  13. ANTBikeMike - Thanks so much for the encouragement and for setting me straight re sew-ups. It's funny then, that even manufacturers call them "tubular tires"! To be honest, I still don't entirely understand how they are made or attached to the rim after reading about them; need a couple more tries to get it. I do like the ride quality though, which surprised me; you are right about the "soft" ride.

    Corey - I have a chance to get a nice Francesco Moser frame in my size from a friend of a friend. But I am afraid to speak too soon, because I still need to find a way to transport it back to the US. If the frame doesn't fit in my suitcase, maybe I could mail it.

    Spindizzy - Your comments deserve an award : ) The frame I mentioned above comes with wheels (tubular rims), if I want them, but sadly those will most definitely not fit into my luggage.

    Steve - The ones on mine were not for the road, and I am probably the first person to ride this bike on the street in over a decade. Which did you buy as a replacement, and does this mean that you still ride them?

  14. Robert/Justine : )) Who knows, maybe my big butt is what caused the flat in the first place. Although wait, it was the front tire! But actually I know exactly what caused it: The first ride I went on with Wolfgang, we went off-road, and I decided to repeat the feat on my own. I must have not been careful enough going over the rocks and things. These tires were really only meant for the track.

    On a related note, I actually found it easier to navigate "off-road terrain" on a fixed gear bike. Am I crazy, or is this a common notion? I can certainly see the point of a fixed gear mountain bike, if the off-roading is not hilly enough to require gearing.

    Zweiradler - Good question. I suspect a Viennese person's reply to this would be: "Come on, we are not like the Germans and things are not so strict here" : )) - Meaning, I am pretty sure it is illegal, but most policemen would probably not bother enforcing it. It is also illegal to ride without lights, but people do it (which I hate and wish the police would enforce). But in any case, I do not ride on the streets of Vienna in traffic. If you're familiar witht he area at all, I go on a quiet bit of the Donaukanalradweg to the Prater, and then through the Prater itself and the back alleys behind it. I think in this context, it might not even be illegal.

    Doug - My impression was, that it was the leaned over position. I get the same type of muscle activation (but to a lesser extent) when I ride a bike with drop bars or any other aggressive lean, even though those are not fixed gear. But not on an upright bike, those muscle hardly get involved at all.

  15. There ARE fixedgear mountainbikers, some friends of mine use "fixiebombers" in the Shenandoah 100 mountainbike race every year(they are exactly half my age).

    I messed around with one of thier bikes on a hilly part of the course(actually with 14,000 feet of climbing, it's all hilly) and found it, oh, I don't know...terrifying. It is really, really great till you get to a downhill that's too fast to pedal, then you unclip and "rest" your feet on the toptube. I still can't believe they used the word "rest" to describe any part of an experiance so like trying to find a safe spot on top of a runaway threshing machine. It was SUCH an epic crash. My friend Kurt said he saw a faceplant, a SUPERMAN!(airborn, arms outstretched, stern look)with roll-out and something he called a "backspin bulldozer". I looked like I fell off a train.

    Fixed gear mountainbikes, we may as well just roll discarded farm tractor tires around in the woods. It couldn't possibly be any more difficult uphill and on the downhill part we could just curl up in the middle, abandon the charade of control and just enjoy the terror and motion sickness. I always say I am never doing something that stupid again, my problem is that I seem to only be able to identify "stoopid" in retrospect. I can typically identify it then but the basic ingredients of a great moment of foolishness(homemade fireworks, an anvil welded on a rollerskate, insect pinata, the list goes on) always seem so benign and "fun" in the "planning" stage. My wife says I need constant adult supervision and that my judgement might actually improve if I started drinking in a determined way. Maybe so.


  16. Truthfully, that sounds like an experience I want to stay away from! Though I am really worried that the Co-Habitant will want a fixed gear mountain bike after reading this.

  17. "It's funny then, that even manufacturers call them "tubular tires"!"

    I'll have to take exception with Mike on this one. "Sew ups" (because they are sewn into the form of a tube) is a colloquialism, but the proper term for the tires is "tubular," because, well, they are tubular after you sew 'em up.

    If, however, you went into a shop and asked what they had in stock for rims, they might respond, "What kind?" To which you would say "tubulars." Which in context is shorthand for "rims for tubular tires." Tubular rims in our time were most commonly made of an extruded aluminum tube, but are not necessarily so. They could be a simple C section or even a solid. So tubular rims weren't called "tubular" because they were made from extruded tube. They were called "tubular" because you fitted tubular tires to them, which were made in the form of a tube, always, 'cause if they weren't, they weren't tubulars.

    Say "Good night," Gracie.


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