Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Brakes, Brakes, Swapping a Wheel, and More Brakes!

The Trek gets a brake adjustment and a "new" wheel.

After spending 1.5 hours to replace a brake cable and housing on my Peugeot St. Laurent, (frozen brakes on a frosty morning!) including the painstaking fine-tuning  required to adjust cantilever straddle cable in cramped space between fender and rack, I took advantage of attending a class on brakes, hoping to learn a few tips. I've fiddled with canti-brakes for 30 years, but until a few years ago I had never replaced my own cables so I was hoping experts could shed some light. It turns out, just as I suspected (but of course hoped I was wrong), cantilever brake adjustment requires time and patience, and, according to the mechanic, perhaps a beer. I had to laugh at his last comment because I knew exactly what he meant!

However, I did learn a few things related to brakes:
  • My Peugeot doesn't have barrel adjuster screws like my Trek Antelope. My adjustments have to be spot on, whereas with the Trek I can get things close then make minute adjustments with the screws above the straddle wire and at the brake levers. Often, it's little features like this that make some bikes much easier to work on. 
  • Cantilever straddle wires are set at a 45 degree angle. This optimum setting would've saved me some frustration. Now I know! 
  • You can lightly sand rims to alleviate squealing brakes. I knew about roughing up brake pads, but not rims. The mechanic demonstrated with 80 grit sandpaper, though I would likely use a finer grain. As the mechanic pointed out, you might avoid this technique on a fancy, expensive bike, but any commuter bike should be fine.
  • You can clean rims with alcohol. Hallelujah! I'm pretty fastidious with rims, but as I later learned, rubbing alcohol (and not the kind you ingest, the mechanic joked) does a bang up job at removing grime.
Funny thing is, less than two weeks after I went to the class, I had to swap the rear wheel on my Trek Antelope winter bike. Adding chunky tires to narrower rims was an experiment, and the rear tire started shifting, rubbing on brake pads (I was nervous about potential failure so I called for a car rescue as I discovered the problem after I pedaled to work) so I swapped the rim to a wider Araya version saved from the dismantled Ross. The rear wheel carries all my commuting weight, so better safe than sorry! The front wheel seems to be fine, but I will keep an eye on it.

The downside is gearing isn't optimal, going back to a 28T freewheel, but certainly doable for the approximately 4 months of winter riding. However, the silver lining could be that if I desire, my main commuter bike, the Peugeot, could have super low gears. The narrower wheel should accommodate my favorite commuting 1.75 tires.

Shiny rims! I took advantage of lightly sanding and cleaning the "new" wheel, per the mechanic's suggestion. Who cares if the rear wheel is wider than the front?

Back to the Trek. Swapping wheels meant another session of brake adjusting angst, one which I took my time at to get things pretty perfect this time around. I didn't want the slightest rubbing, which required finesse but I'm quite confident I made the right decision. The Trek is a fun bike, and with wider rubber it rides some where between my Peugeot commuter and a fat bike, so I've been seeking out single track, often short cutting paved bike path to ride through a frozen cornfield. If that isn't a testament to adding wide tires, I don't know what is!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Decorating the Trek's Handle Bars

When I completed the Trek's makeover recently, I'd intended to cover up the odd feeling, jelly-like grips to provide extra cushion and style, yet at the time, couldn't envision exactly what that was. I went to the fabric store to get inspired and brought home red wool and giraffe-print fleece. I slipped tubes of fleece over the foam bar ends, that benefited one shabby grip, then tightly wrapped strips of both materials so my hands felt better - albeit gloved hands - in the neutral position. I secured the material with waxed thread.

This is bicycle love.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Magic of Riding Dugway / Wes White Dirt Roads

My husband knows how to get me out of a riding rut. Because I've never liked the complications of loading the car, determining the route, and well, driving in general, I tend to ride loops from home, which, of course, limits where I go. My husband (and A-1 riding partner) drove us 20 minutes from home but a world away from the busy city to enjoy riding on dirt roads. Much like our Groton State Forest adventure, it's worth exploring further afield.

Gillett Pond was iced over. We watched something dance across the ice and determined it must have been
 a leaf carried in the breeze.
I expected the scenery would be ugly -it is November after all - but the afternoon sunshine cast golden hues on barren hillsides; we discovered an iced-over pond, ancient mossy old stone walls deep into the woods above the road, and smooth, dirt roads.

An old stone dam contains the water in Gillett Pond.

My camera couldn't capture stunning snow-covered Mt. Mansfield on the horizon.
Wes White Road climbs to reveal open vistas and old pastures with new houses (commute distance to either the capital or busy Chittenden County). I am reminded that Vermont in the early 1900's was 90% sheep farming economy and one can imagine its historical past in late autumn. As I walked the English countryside recently, among stone walls, dodging sheep and cows, I remember reflecting then, that Vermont once had a similar landscape.

November riding can have a magic all  it's own. Leafless trees appear purple in the distance. Water trickles in brooks. A dusting of snow edges the road. Human sounds are there too: chainsaws or holiday revelers cutting Christmas trees, carrying them back to their cars. And we pedal by, smiling, because we've eeked out one more beautiful ride, in mid 40s temperatures, that feels like a gift.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 - Seventh Cup at the Intervale

It was too chilly to take off my helmet.
For the grand finale of my Coffee Without Walls episodes, my husband and I headed for the Intervale dirt roads and trails along the Winooski River. I've thought of these brew up spots as "episodes" because I need pretty lake or tributary scenery, a comfortable place to sit, and a means to "film" each installment that includes coffee or tea. I've been fortunate that my husband has tagged along on 3 occasions and a friend on another, which has made the "filming" and my role in it relatively easy. Have photographer, will travel!

A peaceful spot. A flock of geese circled overhead. Cows on the opposite shore were hidden among the trees. All this only 2 miles from busy downtown Burlington.

My "photographer" and riding partner.

Despite the barren November landscape, there were reflections in the calm river for pretty landscape
 This time around, I made a perfect if somewhat scalding thermos of coffee.

More of my husband's artsy photography, displaying the beaver action taking place.

Parting thoughts
After two years of using the Lake Champlain water view theme I am considering historical spots for next years challenge. I love cemeteries; we have nearby old woolen mills - there's plenty to keep me occupied and with the ability to discover more about each new venue, well, to me the spirit of coffeeneuring is the exploration that happens. And now that I have a trusty thermos I may periodically ditch the stove routine, especially if it opens up opportunities for interesting spots.

And not to worry. I live near Lake Champlain and it's still my favorite place to ride so I promise to throw in some lake view images en route.

The Place: On the Winooski River banks of the Intervale
Date: Saturday, November 12
Drink: Cafe Bustelo
Observation:  It's getting pretty chilly for coffee without walls outings. I'm happy to be done!
Total Miles: 8 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 - Sixth Cup at Mayes Landing

I paid homage today to an often overlooked park, Mayes Landing, at the mouth of the Winooski River where it empties into Lake Champlain. Water views, baby, water views!

The lawn space also overlooks the beautiful bike/pedestrian bridge, site of many stops, destinations, and otherwise awesome views looking west toward New York. But, upriver there is a special beauty in enjoying the swiftly moving current as it collects and moves debris, sometimes eddying before sweeping underneath the bridge.

Today's outing included a maiden voyage of my recently renovated Trek Antelope 830 that now sports 2" tires, the first outdoor use of a new Stanley coffee press, and to celebrate another wonderful ride with my husband.

The stove fuel was running low, even with my husband's panniers shielding the wind. I made the mistake of premixing coffee grounds, milk, and a squirt of chocolate syrup which had jostled on the ride, and then was difficult to press, though I eventually was able to enjoy a lukewarm mocha. I am impressed with the Stanley thermos: It seems to be well-made (I previously experimented with it at home), and can double as a regular thermos by leaving out the plunger/press apparatus. The width does not fit in my water bottle cage as suggested by a Facebook coffeeneur. Nonetheless, I'm glad I bought it because it makes excellent coffee and will fit in my commuter bike's basket.

My husband got a little artsy with the camera. Where's Annie?

There she is!
I'm happy to report I am in love all over again with my Trek.

The Place:
Mayes Landing

Date: Saturday, November 4
Drink: Cafe Bustelo & Hersheys Syrup for a mocha
Observation:  Surprisingly, autumn colors are still vibrant along the waterfront bike path.
Total Miles: 15