Saturday, June 29, 2019

Maintaining 5 Bikes - Is it Worth it?

Could this be the future of anniebikes?

I've been struggling with whether it's worth owning five bicycles.

Sure, it's nice to have a backup commuter, a long distance rider, a folding bike is handy, etc., but at some point, it becomes difficult to keep up with maintenance. This conflicts with what I said last September, but since then I foresee a future living situation - and welcome at that - with limited storage and I've reconsidered what's a suitable number of bikes that fulfills all my needs.

How did I come to that conclusion?

I'm tired of seemingly having at least one bicycle under repair. And I say seemingly because I've experimented with different handlebars, added new grips just because, outfitted most bikes with mirrors, etc - in other words, accessorizing all 5 bikes takes a lot of effort, expense, and time. Add routine maintenance to the agenda and every weekend I've worked on one thing or the other. Once upon a time I owned two bikes, though primarily only used one - and I don't recall spending as much time fixing bikes!

What to keep?

On the bright side, the Dahon has new tires, chain, smaller chain ring, plus it's outfitted with front water bottle carrying and baggage solution, one of my goals for 2019. The folder has proven to be a keeper: comfortable, versatile, and small also means easier to clean up after riding in the rain - who knew? The regular commuter, Peugeot St. Laurent, will always need upkeep as it's older and sees the most miles, but is an integral bike: good on hills, scratched and old so I don't worry too much where it's locked, and could also double as a winter bike. The Rivendell Clementine is my long distance bike; comfortable, classy, hauls touring gear, and because it's newer, thankfully won't require immediate maintenance. Paring down also means I'd achieved keeping 3 step through versions, what I see myself riding as I grow older.

The caveat here is we aren't planning on moving anytime soon, due to personal needs and a tough housing market, so I'm not compelled to sell bikes. On the contrary, I still wish to raise the bars on Peugeot UO-14. It's delightful to ride a skinny tired bike and very lightweight. However, this exercise in thinking about simplicity is worthy, and of course, doesn't extend to only bicycles. I now know I'd be happier with a lot less stuff in my life.

Anyone else feel the call to pare down bikes?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bell and Grip Bling and a Handlebar Swap

Replacing an old Jelly Bell (left photo) with a colorful Public ding-dong bell on the Peugeot St. Laurent.

I believe that timing is everything.

I've lusted after the simple bling at Public Bikes for some time and nearly bought one of their rear racks. I'm not attracted to their bicycles though. But throw their panniers, bells, and in this case a discounted swoopy-curved Brunch Handlebar at me - that reminded me of the Albatross bar - just when I tired of the flat bar position on my alternate commuter, the Peugeot UO 14, and voila! I was sold.
Old handlebars (top two photos) and new Public Brunch bars (at bottom).
To get free shipping, I threw in two colorful bells, one mini bell, and 2 pairs of leather ergonomic grips (one to accommodate a Grip shift), fortunately also on sale.

The bars are wonderful and feel much better zipping around on the fast commuter. The downside is they have less rise so with the stem maxed out, I'm looking into an alternative stem, plus I need to deal with a loosened headset. I feel a mechanic/YouTube session is in the cards...

As pictured above, the grips and bell worked well, though this style of bell is rather heavy. The low profile silver/black bell for the Dahon turned out to be a great addition. However, Public's style of Grip shift leather ergo grips didn't fit on my Dahon's Grip shifter - right grip needs to be an inch shorter - another case where a folding bike is a whole other animal all together. I'm unable to move shifting and brake levers with minimal handlebar real estate. Nor can I trim the leather grip due to bolt on style and decorative stitching. I'll have to live with the blah, grey, existing grips for now.

While the mechanic's session took place, I also cleaned my parts box and donated a bunch of accessories to Old Spokes Home, which felt good.

I love accessorizing my bicycles, but I often wonder if it will ever end. Someone talk me out of acquiring colorful flat pedals...

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Avoid Buying Bike-Specific Items When it Makes Sense

The more I ride bikes and the more bikes I own and outfit, the more bike-related stuff I've accumulated over the years - something I'm not happy about. Along with thoughts of paring down the fleet someday (I can get by with only 3 bikes), I've been slowly clearing out the parts bin and thinking about how I've adapted in other ways too - maybe not consciously - but by necessity and creatively, adopting a minimalist/re-use approach, using alternative, multi-function biking/hiking accessories that can be accommodated on most of my bikes.

Hardware Store Protective Eye Wear
Need clear lenses on cloudy days or to protect your eyes against dust, road dirt, and pollen? Look no further than your local hardware store. I've had good luck with stylish, safety goggles (see photo above) for less than 10 bucks. There's usually a good selection.

Inclement Weather
You know your climate and what's feasible for your personal comfort and miles traveled. For a relatively short commute, I'm digging a rubberized poncho (see above photo). The idea was born from sweating inside a coated nylon raincoat in our humid summers. I also needed rain protection for a planned multiday hike in a wet climate. I've stuck with the poncho for rainy rides for 2 years now plus I can cover my hands to keep them dry and warm.

Bungee Cords are Your Friends: knot two together for a quasi cargo net. I can't praise enough how useful bungee cords are for strapping down unexpected purchases. My favorite system is using a smaller Delta brand cargo net (with 4 red hooks), but the above photo shows how you can create your own device. My son brought the homemade net along on a NYC adventure as backup. In addition to a net I always carry a lightweight nylon bag (the type that folds into a tiny pouch), handy for unexpected purchases.

Wear What's Comfortable: I'm a t-shirt wearer in summer heat, not caring for synthetic tops because of their fowl odor after one hot ride.  Any type of stiff-soled sandals work well on flat pedals - if desired add a sock layer for extra warmth.

Cold Weather Gear
Look no further than your ski garments: parka, long underwear, warm mitts, neck gator, balaclava, or everyday winter boots.

How to Carry Your Stuff
A replacement for well-made panniers is hard to come by, especially for bicycle touring - unless you're a backpack lover or have constructed bomb-proof Kitty litter container panniers. However, I discovered that small duffel bags are a practical alternative (use that "cargo bungee" to strap it down), size is perfect on my Dahon's limited rear rack capacity and many come with a shoulder strap for handy carrying off the bike. It's also a lightweight, inexpensive solution compared with traditional panniers. And you might already have one in a closet.

A fanny pack (remember those?) is still a viable, safe way to tote personal items. Loop the waist belt around your handlebars and it doubles as a bar bag, easily removed once you're at your destination.

Clean-up Supplies
Liquid dish soap is great for cleaning grimy hands after a bike maintenance session. Squirt undiluted detergent onto hands, rub, and wipe hands with paper towels. Then clean hands as normal. In place of  Citrasolv (though I like the smell) try Simple Green (comes in bulk) diluted in a handy container - good for cleaning squealing rims, quick hand-wiping between handling parts, and grease remover on brake parts or grips (which I inevitably get dirty).

The Common Bandanna
Bandannas are multi-purpose, doubling as nose wiper, potholder for bike camping, neck warmer, hair tie, etc. Having one handy when the inevitable roadside repair happens mean you'll have a clean-up  cloth, a handy item that's easily replaced.

What would you add to the list?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Peugeot UO 14 - A More Practical Setup

I've barely ridden my Peugeot UO 14 in five years, mostly due to an impractical setup. Using only a front basket (pictured below) meant I couldn't swap my work pannier between bikes, should I discover some morning that I had a flat tire. And as functional as the basket is, it's also too large - I had trouble tightening the bolts to keep it from rubbing on the tire.

The old setup.

My husband has a beautiful old English steel rack that hasn't been used in a long time - dare I say the 1980s - when it graced his old Peugeot! It's a perfect, simple solution to add functionality back into my Peugeot. I polished minor rust with steel wool to bring out the shine once again, detached the Mafac brakes to allow the non-adjustable bracket (see above) to connect with the brake bolt. In the end, I also readjusted the brakes.

I test rode the bike in the neighborhood and realized I needed to slide handlebars towards me plus tilt the seat so I sit more upright - apparently my tastes have changed over the years - and this 20" frame feels much better. I've been commuting for several days now on this bike - at least until I fix my regular commuter bike - and enjoy the zippy ride to work, especially on comfortable Panaracer Pasela tires. Stock gearing, however, on this old 12-speed isn't optimal for my aging legs so I ride mostly in the smaller chainring. Still, it's nice to have a fast, alternative bicycle should I need it.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Dahon Boardwalk 6-Speed - A Smaller Chainring is a Winner

Dahon Boardwalk 6-speed with new 48T chainring.
After riding the Dahon 6-speed for nearly two years and struggling up hills near home, I wanted to lower the gearing with cost effective changes. It was rather fortuitous that Beth of bikelovejones had recently upgraded a Dahon of similar gear range, so when I was ready, I contacted Beth to find out particulars.

Dahon with original chainring.
Armed with information, I left my Dahon with Old Spokes Home, but also gave them the opportunity to come up with an alternative solution. The mechanic agreed that swapping the front one-piece crank arm/ring assembly was the best bet and would first take a look in their parts bin before ordering new parts. A couple days later a mechanic called, failed to locate suitable used parts, but could order the new parts, offering my requested 48T plus a 38T alternative. Of note: I regularly only used the lowest 4 of 6 gears, so switching from 52T to 48T made sense, whereas drastically lowering 12 teeth seemed too much of a change. I worried that had I chosen the big drop, then riding on flat terrain meant I would be coasting rather than picking up speed. What I particularly love about this bike (among its varied versatile features) is its surprisingly smooth ride - the bike rolls well and zips along, often keeping up with or passing other riders on descents.

Two weeks into riding with a 48T chainring has made a world of difference! I climb much easier and use gears 1-5 regularly, with only occasional drop into gear 6 with tailwind/and or when I need to get somewhere fast. I think the only other change I might explore in the future is whether the drive train could accommodate a larger freewheel, which might further enhance gearing for optimal range. But that's splitting hairs for a 6-speed, so-to-speak, and I'm perfectly happy with the new setup.