In 2011 my family and I took a vacation to Three Lakes, Wisconsin (near Rhinelander). While I was there I was able to take my new mountain bike out for a spin at the Anvil Trails.
After that, I told myself I’d buy a front suspension fork.
I looked and looked, created spreadsheets, compared weights and prices (and price per weight). The hardest part was finding a fork that didn’t require me to switch to disc brakes. After expanding my search, I found what I was looking for on eBay 😬
It’s hard to admit, but sometimes Chinese knock-offs wind up serving markets that Americans never thought of. I bought a Spinner mountain bike fork off of eBay. Everything about it screams Rock Shox knockoff including the fact that is weighs only 1480g. Other OEM fork brands like Suntour often weigh twice that. I tried a Suntour fork briefly, but it was soooo heavy that it entirely changed the way the bike handled and behaved.
Spinner offered something that that the light-weight Rock Shox forks don’t: brake mounting posts for v-brakes. When I got back into cycling, linear pull “v-brakes” were the norm. They are so much better than the caliper brakes of yester-year that I don’t feel the need to upgrade to disc brakes. I’m sure the many bike-riding Chinese find v-brakes to be equally adequate, cheaper to maintain, and the suspension welcome on poor roads.
It came with a remote lockout – a switch mounted on my handle bars that I can flip to lock the suspension to be rigid, or to be like normal suspension. I keep it locked for the road, and turn the suspension on as needed. 🚵
Just before Christmas in 2016 my 2002 WRX didn’t want to start. It was the day after the coldest day of that winter, and that apparently took its toll.
I initially thought it was my fuel pump because normally when I turn the key to “on” before starting, I can hear the pump prime. After getting it towed home, I realized my series 1 AEM Engine Management System had died. I couldn’t get it to connect to my computer to do any sort of troubleshooting. After going to AEM’s website, I learned that support for the series 1 EMS ended on December 31st, 2014 – two years earlier.
So back in went the stock Subaru engine control module (ECM), and I was back on the road but with my check engine light on. I knew the light would come on because I had removed the factory narrow-band O2 sensors and replaced them with an AEM Wideband unit that provided the AEM EMS (and the driver) with more accurate air/fuel ratio information.
Also, I had installed a different boost control solenoid valve. Since this was an AEM option the stock ECM wouldn’t recognize, I simply unplugged it and let the turbo wastegate be regulated mechanically. It would only allow for half the boost of normal, but I was OK with that since I just needed to get it to drive through the winter.
Then one day after work it had a rough idle with some low RPM hesitation. It drove fine that morning, so I suspected something electronic had failed.
Dealer Visit 1
I brought it to the subaru dealer thinking they could give me some better clues, but without the stock O2 sensors installed, the check-engine light codes would only indicate that problem.
What bothered me about that first visit was the service manager repeated everything back to me that I told him when I dropped it off (thanks!?). I felt they were relying only on their Subaru scan tool results and not their years of expertise. The service manager tried to tell me that without the boost control solenoid my car would run unlimited boost! I remarked that without the sensor it’s a mechanically regulated system that would only allow half the normal boost pressure. Did he not understand how a turbocharger wastegate works?!? He then remarked that I seemed to know more about what’s going on with the vehicle than he did.
Oy – I brought it to the Subaru for their expertise. I could have taken the car to Midas and received the same response.
So I took it home and reinstalled the factory O2 sensors and boost control solenoid. As I suspected the problem wouldn’t go away, but at least now the check engine trouble-codes were more accurate. Misfires on cylinders 3 & 4. Not particularly helpful, but at least more correct in assessment.
Dealer Visit 2
At the dealer, they were convinced the misfire had something to do with the valvetrain. Could be carbon deposits, a burned valve, a valve guide, etc.
In total I spent $400 for them to tell me
- You need to plug your stock O2 sensors in.
- You need to plug your boost control solenoid in.
- You might have carbon on your valves (or worse), preventing them from closing fully.
Also they sold me some “top engine cleaner” that looks to be SeaFoam in a Subaru branded bottle.
I’m not saying $400 was an unfair price for the diagnosis. I was glad to pay the money to find out what was really wrong. I was more upset that I felt they were relying on their computer scanner more than their actual experience.
Air, Fuel, or Spark?
So I took the car home and started doing the diagnosis myself. The factory service manual suggested troubleshooting rough idle by checking fuel pressure and intake manifold vacuum. Fuel pressure good, vacuum seemed a little jumpy.
One of the possible reason for the jumpy vacuum was valvetrain problems, but there were others. Before tearing into the engine, I still felt some electronics were at fault.
The way it drove, the idle was very rough, but occasionally once the motor reached 2-3k RPMs under load, it would “kick-in” and surge back to life.
With fuel good and air within range (just jumpy), it was time to investigate spark. Years ago I had replaced an ignition coil pack. I don’t remember the rough running being this bad, but I thought it was worth a shot. On a whim, I ordered not one, but two ignition coil packs for cylinders 3 & 4.
Voila! $180 later the car was running as it had for years. No need to rebuild the valve train. Just enjoy the ride. Sometimes you need to trust your gut (and the feeling through your butt), to get the full picture, and not just blindly listen to the computer.
Normally I write about these rides before they happen, but this year we went old school. We printed over 1,000 of the flyer above and distributed them through Fridley’s elementary schools. I was excited to see it on the front of the take-home packet when my son brought it home.
Jules was very excited to go this year as he recently learned to ride and it’s quickly become his favorite thing to do. He is getting a bike for his birthday, which we graciously let him have early for this ride.
Since our flyer was going out at elementary schools, we wanted the distance to be easy and fun. We started at Riverview Heights Park and rode an easy 1.8 miles to Springbrook Nature Center. There, we invited Grandpa’s Ice Cream for a post-ride reward on a hot day. Here’s the route from Strava:
The best part about the ride was that we got to ride with Mayor Lund. Not only did he go on the ride with us, he rode his bike from his home (near the new City Hall) to Riverview Heights Park, Springbrook Nature Center, and back home. He put in more bike-miles that day than I did!
The ride took us through my favorite Fridley neighborhood, Riverview Heights. It’s right along the Mississippi river and several of the houses were built before the city was incorporated in 1949. According to the Mayor, they were likely homes for railroad workers or commuters that took the train into the city.
Then we went into Coon Rapids shortly to get up to 85th Ave NW where Springbrook is located. Big shout-out to my fellow Fridley Environmental Quality and Energy commissioner, Mark Hansen. His work at the City of Coon Rapids was instrumental in getting a bike path built on the south side of 85th Ave NW. It’s a county road, so I fully understand the political maze that needed to be navigated. It’s a valuable connection from the neighborhood’s west of Springbrook to the park and shops east of there.
Milk crates were surely one of the first accessories ever strapped to a bicycle. It’s the simplest way to add significant carrying capacity to any bike. One of the first things I did when I got my bike was add a rack and a milk crate – but I wasn’t quite smart about it.
I wanted the crate to be removable, so rather than securing it with zip ties, I recycled some old tire tubes and inter-wove them with the rack and the holes in the crate. It seemed pretty solid, so I thought I’d make a trip to the liquor store. The problem with the tubes is they’re made of rubber, so they stretch. They stretch a little too much for a beer-laden milk crate.
When I got out of the saddle, rocking the bike ever so slightly was enough to stretch the tubes, and send my beers flying. I burst some Surly’s halfway home. Lesson learned.
At $50, the TrolleyTote is the most expensive milk crate you’ll ever buy. It’s worth it for me because it is easily removable and super-secure when on the rack.
The TrollyTote can fold up which I guess is a feature, but I find it to be more of an annoyance, as the clips that hold it “unfolded” don’t fasten very tightly. But no beer has been spilled over that issue. The retractable handle and wheels are handy, but honestly I could do without them, especially if omitting these “Extra Features” would lower the cost.
I’ve used the crate for numerous grocery and beer runs and haven’t spilled a drop (or broken an egg) since my first misfortune with my poorly rigged crate.
I set up a new testing environment for IE11 through VirtualBox on my computer running Ubuntu. But I couldn’t get to any of my sites that are served by the Ubuntu host. I had to do some tricks to get this working on my old work Mac, and the same principle applies for Ubuntu.
On my Ubuntu system, I use Dnsmasq for local DNS so I can test sites locally like
client2.dev, etc. Normally those fake top-level domains resolve to a localhost IP: 127.0.0.1. But when you bring VirtualBox into the mix, the host and the guest both have their own notions of localhost. We need a common ground to communicate on. This is solved with a loopback alias.
A loopback alias is just another IP that you can assign to your localhost loopback device. To add one, add the following to your network interfaces configuration file:
sudo vi /etc/network/interfaces
auto lo:0 iface lo:0 inet static address 10.254.254.254 network 10.0.0.0 netmask 255.0.0.0
sudo service networking restart
Now instead of having your fake TLDs resolve to 127.0.0.1, we need them to resolve to our loopback alias address – 10.254.254.254. Depending if you’re using Dnsmasq with or without NetworkManager, you can edit/add the following file (respectively):
sudo vi /etc/NetworkManager/dnsmasq.d/01_localhost
sudo vi /etc/dnsmasq.d/01_localhost
sudo service network-manager restart
Lastly, we just need to tell our VirtualBox guest to use the DNS from our host system. These instructions work for both OSX and Linux hosts: https://serverfault.com/questions/453185/vagrant-virtualbox-dns-10-0-2-3-not-working/453260
I’m using the 2nd option to make the guest use the host’s DNS settings:
VBoxManage modifyvm "VM name" --natdnshostresolver1 on
Test everything out by starting your VM guest and pinging 10.254.254.254 for network connectivity. Then try to ping a
.dev domain from the guest. If it looks good you should be able to load a
.dev domain through Internet Explorer on the guest OS.