Friday, December 30, 2011

Oo La La...More Bicycle Gifts

The snow is falling as whiteness descends on Burlington. I wrap a scarf around my face, tuck it inside my coat. I don long underwear for early morning walks with the hub. Except for an occasional ride - if the weather warms and roads are clear - I'm done cycling for a while. Yes, winter is here.

Santa was good to me. I now have red fleece gloves - my favorite color. They'll look good on spring rides.

Another beautiful gift...chain link earrings from Resouce Revival. Very appropriate with my spoke bracelet.

And bicycle clips from a dear friend. I can always count on her for something bikey, plus her homemade chocolate covered brittle. Sorry, no picture. I gobbled those quickly. Thanks, Patty!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wiggle Room

noun room to maneuver; latitude.
A rash of unfortunate accidents last summer to cyclists who were either too close to trucks, or the drivers of the vehicles were unable to see the bicyclists, resulted in needless deaths. It happened in Chicago, New Hampshire, even here in Vermont. It's sad when these tragedies occur, and whether I know the victim or not, it leaves a hole in my heart.

I pulled up to an intersection on my normal route to work one morning this past summer, stopping on the left side of a right-turn-only lane. This is my pattern: to be on the right in a 3-lane wide road, going straight beyond the traffic light. A large truck pulled up beside me in the left lane, but only three feet away. I couldn't see the driver so I suspect I was likewise blocked from his vision. I shifted further forward into the crosswalk (there were no pedestrians) putting myself in view of the driver and also at a safe distance. I have this fear of falling under the wheels of a large truck. It could easily happen. A misplaced foot in my toe clip, an article of clothing caught in the gearing - anything to topple an unsuspecting cyclist into harms way.

So I leave you with this thought. Give yourself that "wiggle room". Change your position. Give yourself options - whether it's proper bike etiquette or not. Only you know your own area's traffic patterns and what constitutes safe cycling. Be seen by autos and most especially those large vehicles: moving vans, delivery trucks, UPS and FedEx drivers. We are the little fish in a traffic stream, and must be proactive to keep ourselves safe.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Miyata 610 Love

The Classic Miyata 610 Touring Bike post consistently ranks high in my stats. By doing some research and stumbling through bike repairs on my own Miyata, I've learned that this particular model is highly coveted by bike mechanics and other lovers of classic steel frames. I bought the bicycle for touring. I vacillated between a Univega of similar build - the Miyata's price fit my budget. Now I own a bike that's worth more than what I paid for it in 1983. Go figure.

The Miyata 610's banner years were from the mid-1980s when the lightweight steel frames made in Japan, and Shimano components were a bargain for a decent ride. I can attest to it's comfortable touring and road absorbing qualities.

There are lots of other beauties out there in various renditions, still ridden and loved. I wanted to share a few with you. If there are any that I've missed, send a photo and information and I'll add it here.

A cheery, cherry red. 1986. Neal Lerner.

Lean and clean. 1983. Flickr Hivemind.

I like the leather handlebar tape. Sportsgroups.

Touring in dry country. 1981. Sonofabike.

Nice mud guards. Velospace.

Made for hauling. Matt's Miyata. Ecovelo.

Flat bar love. 1984. Flickr.

Original condition. 1984 by BentDave.

Upright with a basket for baguettes. SDBikeCommuter.

Here's to all the Miyata 610s out there. May you have long and happy lives!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Burlington's Bikes

The sky was moody, spitting snow flakes. As I walked through the university campus, reveling in the student break quietness, I was struck by the late afternoon light and the dusting of whiteness on the abandoned bicycles.

I try not to take this desertion personally. It's hard to ignore sometimes though, especially if I spy a bike that I'd like to love...

The architecture on campus is stunning. My favorite buildings tower over the The Green, a 2 block by 1 block tree-filled park, high on the hill.

As I continued on I thought about how bikes can take on hidden personalities - just by their relation to structures. For example: this bike has congregationalist leanings.

Or, these bikes are well-read. (This is our city library.)

Nothing brain-full here. Just a parting shot on the Church Street pedestrian mall with lots of cheer and twinkles.

I hope you all had a festive holiday. Pedal on.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ireland I - Dublin and the Hostel

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50 miles, July 15

We backtrack through Newry, skirting the Carlingford Lough then bee lined for the Republic of Ireland border. Because we avoided the downtown area we didn’t expect to encounter the army, but ascending a hill there was an army base and four soldiers trotted across the road, bolting uphill into tall grass. Traffic was diverted through a “Control Zone” where cameras and observation towers watched our progress. As if that wasn’t unnerving enough we also had to relieve our bladders. Thankfully the frontier crossing went quickly and half a mile later we pulled into a side road.

The Mourne Mountains view from north of Dublin. Photo credit: Drimnagh Birdwatch
Andy and I withdrew 100 Irish Punt (pounds); 60 cents equals 1 Punt, similar to England’s exchange rate.

All signs are in Gaelic and English. The hills are behind us now – this feels like a different country. As we walk the shoreline near the campground the Mourne Mountains are light blue pastels on the horizon.

40 miles, July 16

Andy left the tent early for his ritual bathroom visit. I lie awake listening to the raucous crows on what has become a morning habit. I struggle to get back to sleep. Then a scratching noise coming from near my head startles me. Andy left the vestibule unzipped and we store food in this extra space at the tent entrance. I suspected that the crows had taken advantage of easy pickings. I rolled over and came face to face with a good sized fox. He was paralyzed for a moment until I yelled and he bolted away. I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. I didn’t have my glasses on and had all but convinced myself that I’d mistaken the animal for a dog when Andy returned, all excited, “You wouldn’t believe what just ran by me!”

Mid-afternoon we cruised into Dublin and left our bikes at an International Youth Hostel. Using a simple map provided by the staff, we walked the busy streets just as the sunshine emerges. Double-decker busses grumble by, emitting foul diesel clouds onto pedestrian and street vendors. The thick of young people with short cropped hair, round glasses, dressed in black, crowd the sidewalks. We are wary of pickpockets, warned at the hostel, and clutch our fanny packs to our stomachs. Signs overwhelm our vision, so used to the greenery of the countryside: Tennent’s, Guinness, Confectioners, and lots of furniture dealers. It’s our first large city since leaving Seattle over two weeks ago. We continued on, dodging employees loading chairs and couches into trucks.

Dublin Castle. 
We entered the Dublin Castle grounds at 5 p.m., immediately drawn to the inside of an ornate church. All the colors of a rainbow streak through the stained glass, coupled with intricate stone carvings and sculpture that come to life like dripping cave ceilings. Goosebumps prickle my arms. An age of beauty and craftsmanship coursed through me, but then we were suddenly ushered outside because the chapel was ready to close.

Christchurch Cathedral. Photo credit: Wikipedia

In the glaring western sky we squinted our way past Christchurch Cathedral, a magnitude of stone and glass. The building grounds were ancient, the oldest section from 1030.

Shops close by 5 or 6 p.m. and we do not find a large grocery at all because there are none in Dublin, at least not in the inner city. Every other block boasts a “Confectioner” or “Tobacconist”, a tiny grocery. Each stocks everything from toilet paper to spaghetti to small tipped cardboard boxes of fruits and vegetables outside the front entry, like a garden spilling onto the sidewalk. Vendors pull metal garage door-type awnings to the sidewalk, slamming shut their wares.

Burned out cars on Dublin's streets.
Photo credit: Citizen's Free Press

Andy and I were edgy, aware of ambling through a district devoid of stores, trash littering the streets and alleys. Three vehicles on a vacant cobblestone thoroughfare had been burned; only a skeleton remained. Without wheels, the frames seemed to sink into the street. We asked two women pushing strollers, directions to the hostel then picked up our pace.

The hostel is an amazing place. It was once an old church with attached buildings that encompass an entire city block. The bicycles are safely stored in a shed in an enclosed courtyard. In the evening sunshine people relax in patio chairs, drying tents, writing in journals. Many different accents drift over tendrils of cigarette smoke; stories swapped as if around a crackling campfire. I mended a pair of black cycling shorts while Andy darned his yellow wool sweater.

Dublin's International Hostel

The hostel is divided into sections: TV room, kitchen, restaurant, lobby, housing bunk beds to accommodate 450 people! Rather then pay additional for a “couples room” we are currently tucked away in the restaurant until we are tired enough to retreat to segregated dorm rooms.

The restaurant’s kitchen is located under an arch – the church’s alter. Wooden tables and chairs line the rest of the building in rows, the placement like former pews. One long table extends perpendicular down the center aisle to the opened arched “front entrance”. The last of the sunshine has dipped below a horizon of buildings, the cool evening whisking shadows onto that table where Andy and I reside. We’d eaten at the hostel’s cafeteria, but afterwards munched our way through a cache of fruit, bread, soup and cheese. Our appetites are enormous: we eat every two hours.

Friday, December 23, 2011

22 Degrees and the Good Deed

While I was out Christmas shopping today the north wind was biting and patches of ice littered the sidewalk. For the most part I avoided the slippery spots. Fortunately I ducked into stores, which deterred the cold.

With helmet on head, gloves, and basket full of goodies filling my arms, I must have been a humorous sight. The cashier rang up my purchases and I paid, suddenly remembering that I'd worn the helmet indoors to redeem the Bicycle Benefits discount. The employee wouldn't honor the decal once I'd paid so I turned to the next person in line and they let me give the 10 percent to a lady with a full shopping crate. Later, while I was outside reattaching my basket, the woman came up to me to hand me a package of cookies as a thank you. I smiled and said, "No thanks. Just pass the favor forward sometime. Have a nice holiday." I hope I made her day.

After buying animal treats at our local pet store and cuddling a rare rodent, a Degu, I went on a roundabout ride for more exercise before heading home. Hardy pedalers on blogs have inspired me to keep out there as darkness and cold descends.

A couple miles later the cold seeped into my shoes and my hands had difficulty retaining heat. There's a fine line between pedaling fast enough to keep the blood moving and staying safe while avoiding the spotty ice. I was miserable. Sadly, I 'd reached my personal limit and turned into the bitter headwind to shortcut my ride. When I got home I realized it was 22 degrees, and with the intense gusts, the windchill must have hovered at 10 degrees. It's no wonder I couldn't stay warm.

I walked over this bridge.
There will be a time when I give up cycling for the remainder of the winter. But that's not always a bad thing. It allows time to re-evaluate my three bikes, peruse and order from bike catalogs, perform much need maintenance, and lurk on Cragslist searching for the next girly bike. I'll also be planning for my 50th birthday adventure with a close friend and another trip with my husband.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Bike Ornament Collection

I have two of these red bicycles; at 25 years old they were the first in my collection. My children spin the wheels as they hang each on the tree.

Last year the hub delighted me with four ornaments in a package. The Shoe.

The Shirt. (Not my favorite, as I prefer wearing t-shirts instead of jerseys.)

The Water Bottle.

And a ducky Little Helmet, complete with fabric straps.

The miniatures are the cutest things.

I treasure this bike and think of my grandfather. An uncle brought this ornament and placed it on my grandparents tree a few days before grandpa's ailing health finally got the best of him. After decorations were taken down the ornament was passed onto me, knowing my love for grandpa and his bicycles.

What bikey things decorate your tree?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bike Oil Alternative?

When I run out of bike lubricant I might use what I have around the house. Recently I experimented with Marvel's Mystery Oil. I filled Grandpa's Oil Can with the red stuff, after my dad's praises - besides, he'd given me a bottle. I'd used it on the brakes and derailleur, but never the chain until now.

For a while it seemed to work. No more squeaks and groans...or so I thought. But gradually the pedaling felt rough under my feet and worsened  until the chain was literally grinding over the cogs.

At first I thought the year-old chain needed replacement, but after measuring links I determined that wasn't the cause. I borrowed a bit of my husband's bike oil and applied it in place of the Mystery Oil. After wiping the chain and pedaling a few laps of the neighborhood, the problem cleared up - just like that.

I learned my lesson: always use specific bicycle lubricant. But this irks me, in a way, because a bike is a machine and there must be a multipurpose oil that could replace those expensive small bottles, only found at a bike store.

In a pinch I've used motor oil on a chain, but it was a one time event - I have no idea how this stuff works over the long haul.

What kind of lubricant do you use?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Spy Christmas Decorations

I spy...a Christmas tree and wreaths. The Union Station building at One Main Street is all a splendor on a Friday morning.

One of these years I expect to find holiday frivolity on the winged monkey.

One of my favorite structures is the Follett House. Once a lumber barren's home, it has a bird's eye view of the Burlington harbor. Every year the pillars are swathed in yards of real garland. How you'd like to hang that wreath? I spy...a tree on the landing.

And, back home, my window boxes are filled with pine and cedar boughs, sprouting red berried branches. I spy...Mardi Gras beads.

All on a morning's ride.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Northern Ireland II - Mourne Mountains

July 14

It was difficult to specifically follow the Ulster Way in the Mourne Mountains. What started out as the main path from town quickly forked, dividing into many unmarked pathways in the forest. We headed up a small valley, accepted a short lift, then found a nice path up onto a high open plateau. The ubiquitous black-faced sheep grazed, their long matted coats and horns often spray-painted blue, marked for identification against the rock-stud hills. Mists waved across the summits, the air kissing the pink-blooming heather at our feet. So peaceful and quiet, except for an occasional bleating sheep.

Photo credit:

Eventually we made our way back towards Rostrevor, this time on more pathway than road, I was often startled, at first by a sheep scampering from behind a rock or emerging from waist-deep ferns. When a newly shorn animal makes itself known, it looks embarrassed. Without its protective coat, the sheep is scrawny and shivers. Bizarre razor-track patterns cross its pink-tinged skin. The curious creatures seem to say, “Don’t look at me until I have my coat back!” I smile and continue on.
Photo credit:
Tired from the long walk we arrived back in town to a torrent of rain. We shopped then went back to the campground. I must have been grumpy because Andy stopped at the on-site snack bar and bought me a Dove Bar. My favorite! Just when I’m miserable, about to give up and rest under an awning, he appears with a treat. I’ve often thought he knows me better than I know myself.

At the wash facilities we met a woman from Belfast. Through a school program she sent one son to Minnesota to stay 6 weeks with a family and is preparing to send off another. The cost is minimal: passport plus 70 pounds. The American family foots the other expenses, allowing a teenager firsthand experience with how religions can coexist. All Northern Ireland schools are currently segregated by religion. There is one secondary school that is trying a mixed religion program, but until that one proves successful she believes the cities that desperately need help with the religious hatred, like Belfast, will not improve. She has hopes that this unique program, designed to send Protestant and Catholic kids to Minnesota, may be a step towards harmony in her homeland.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Flat Philosophy

I've noticed different outlooks when it comes to changing flat tires. I prefer the patch and pump routine while my husband will think nothing of removing the offending tube and immediately replacing it with a new one. While one method is neither right nor wrong, I lean towards the minimalist approach - anything to avoid getting grimy.

Patch & Pump
Photo credit: bicycling
1. Spin wheel and look for obvious object stuck in rubber, squeezing as you go. Pinching the tire will often display a cut or shiny piece of glass or metal.
2. Remove object if found. Mark edge of tire with pen or scrape with a stick or tool.
3. Otherwise, if tire looks fine, pump plenty of air into tube.
4. Slowly rotate wheel and listen for a hissing sound.
5. Identify leak location and mark.
6. With tire levers, loosen rubber from rim in the specific area of leak and pull out a section of tube.
7. Inspect and inflate tube again if you need to further pinpoint hole. Be sure to inspect inside of tire in case something is still stuck in the rubber.
8. Mark hole with an X over puncture.
9. Completely deflate tire.
Photo credit:
9. For on the road repairs I love Park's Glueless Patches. Peel and stick. It's instant adhesive.
10. Re-seat tube back into tire and pop back onto the rim using the levers.
11. Pump and go.

Remove & Replace
Completely removing the tube requires popping the quick release levers, loosening brakes, and if it's the rear wheel, finagling with the derailleur so the wheel can be freed from the chain and freewheel. What a pain! I only resort to this if the tire has too many patches or the cut is an inch or larger. If I can, I leave this project for when I'm at home.

Then again, I suppose there is also a third view on the subject. Some folks would rather not deal with the situation altogether and have a bike shop do the repair. In this instance, Call your spouse for a ride.

What is your approach?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hauling a Christmas Tree on a Bike

Last weekend we went to pick out a Christmas Tree. As we waited a bit in traffic it occurred to me that maybe I could've hauled one home on my bike. A rear rack can handle 50 lbs. Sure, it might be awkward, but I presume it's a possibility. One year I brought home 3 wreaths in this manner.

In 2009 a family used a cargo bike with lots of twine. And that's also lugging children, plus the tree weight!

Photo credit: Full Hands
Wow. This year there is even a Trees by Bike business in Portland, Oregon. Noble and Douglas Fir trees delivered right to your door. Service with a smile.
Photo credit: Trees by Bike
Check out this video by Mike Vogel. He uses a cargo bike to carry his pick. Who knows how far he has to pedal home?

Back at our house I cut a lower branch off the tree before bringing it indoors. I struggled under the weight and sheer unwieldy nature of the 8-foot monster. The trunk is pretty heavy. I called to my family for help. I truly wonder whether I could balance such a load on a regular-sized bike rack. Theoretically, the measurements work, but load carrying and torque may be factors I hadn't considered. Plus the shear pull on the rear wheel. I might be doing wheelies all the way home.

I could always down-size the tree and carry it like a sack of groceries like the Dutch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bridge of Addison County

We are fortunate that the new Champlain Bridge is open to traffic, linking New York with Vermont. Thanks to federal dollars and to all that chimed in on a design preference, it's a swanky look reminiscent of the older, crumbling structure that was condemned two years ago.

New bridge. Photo credit:
Old bridge. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Important to cyclists and pedestrians, the bridge now has sidewalks - and two, at that! Two years ago when I pedaled over the old bridge, one lane was already closed, full of heavy equipment and workers. At that time a light at each end managed the traffic flow. I got to the top of the bridge and trucks began crawling up the opposite side right at me. I had nowhere to go so a guy in the construction zone came out and waved the truck backwards. Helpless, I watched several vehicles inch back off the bridge. Needless to say, the new structure is welcome.

The hub and I recently drove over the bridge and marveled at its sleek new design.

For more information and photos, visit:
Local Motion Blog
New York State Dept. of Transportation