Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bike Overnight Aboard the Dahon Boardwalk


Loading up the Dahon Boardwalk for an overnight bike camping trip has been on my radar for a while now. With an upcoming vacation, it was one of my goals to access the viability of traveling by folding bike. 

The primary factors to figure out were baggage space and and bike handling. Could I carry enough gear to be comfortable plus ride without the added weight affecting steering?

I allowed two hours to pack my bike, loading the front purple bag several times, shifting straps, but eventually the solution was to add lightweight bulky items inside, tent poles and stakes in the rear sleeve, plus strapping the ground sheet on the exterior. I looped an extra webbed strap over the handlebars for extra support because all the weight is suspended from the handle bars. I'm happy that I had the foresight to add daisy chain webbing to the bag during construction as it allows maximum versatility. With the remaining portion of the tent compressed, it fit nicely behind the seatpost, snugged against the rack and attached with only one strap. I used a favorite short, lightweight duffel bag for most clothing and a sleeping quilt (more on that later), and stuffed the panniers with stove, pots, and remaining items wedged inside the panniers.

My husband and I set out from home - he, carrying his own gear - and crossed the causeway via the bike ferry, and cruised for the mostly flat 13 mile ride to Grand Isle State Park, a place I've camped at a few times. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike handled the weight. The front system didn't sway; the tent stayed in place and my legs cleared it fine. Obviously, the bike was slower, so riding in lower gears meant the bike handled like a touring machine!

We arrived at the campground without mishap, set up our tents, awkwardly as it turned out because the ground was basically all gravel. My husband used rocks to secure most of his free-standing tent while mine needed staking. Fortunately, I had brought new aluminum pegs that worked well enough, pounded with a rock. Next time, we'll ask for a grassy site!

We cooked dinner using both stoves. I had initial trouble with mine, a 25 year old Coleman screw onto gas cannister model, because it was in pieces, literally, when I collected gear the day before. But my son and I were able to put it back together, but didn't try it until camping the following day. With the second stove as backup, my Coleman functioned fine and we used both stoves for two meals.

It was a warm and humid evening, never dipping below 60F, so it wasn't an ideal climate to try a new sleeping arrangement, but my new Cosmic Quilt and repurposing a sleeping bag liner as a sheet, should be a better system for colder weather going forward. As it turns out, by trying to save weight with a super lightweight down bag which then was eventually supplemented with a liner, essentially a sack with drawstring opening, that in turn wasn't appropriate for my particular needs. I would often frantically throw off the covers to cool off and/or struggle to extract myself from the liner. The things we learn! The Cosmic Quilt was an inexpensive solution. It is synthetic and thicker, rated to colder temperatures, compressible, has a toe box to keep my feet warmer, and secures in place beneath my blow up mattress with adjustable and removable cords. I was able to toss and turn all night without the bag or liner sheet moving - a sleeping revelation! The quilt can also function, more or less, like a sleeping bag (because of the toe box) but, of course, without a zipper. This system should provide more warmth and versatility on future trips.

It rained early the next morning so I was thankful to have covered my front handle bar bag and panniers. But I began to think about rain and camping/traveling on a folding bike. How would I keep gear dry when traveling? The front bag, especially with external attachments and pockets, would be a challenge to cover. And the small panniers? What would I do, short of taking up internal space by stuffing items inside a plastic bag? The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that a multiday camping journey, which may include inclement weather and the need to carry extra clothing, was not suitable on a folding bike with my particular set up. 

My September vacation, which now includes my husband (yay!), and the real probability of riding dirt roads to avoid the more heavily traveled routes, means I'll be taking my Clementine. But I have proven it's possible to bike tour on the Dahon Boardwalk. My specialized baggage might be better utilized for carrying extra clothing and if staying indoors, and if needed, would have the opportunity to dry out. So many possibilities for future adventures!

We arrived home safely and thankfully avoided a rain shower - a successful adventure.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dahon Boardwalk 6-speed vs. Eco 3 7-speed

I have ridden my Dahon Boardwalk and Eco 3 almost exclusively for the past two months. Swapping between the two periodically has allowed me to compare their differences and similarities, their unique qualities (rack, fenders, handle bars, folding mechanisms) plus, the most important factor: road handling.

From a riding perspective, the Boardwalk has always been a comfortable bicycle, I suspect, primarily because of it's steel frame. However, the Eco 3 has been surprisingly smooth and zippy. I haven't burdened the red beauty with as much baggage, so initially I suspected it's spritely ride feel came from a lighter aluminum frame with added steel fork to dampen stiffness. Or was it a combination of all three features with seemingly decent, if old, tires?

After getting to know the Eco 3, it impressively felt like a larger bike. How could that be? The wheels seemed larger, the top tube larger, and of course, without the front bag I was used to on the Boardwalk, I could visually watch the front wheel zip around corners - what I especially love about folders, their nimbleness.

While both bikes are low end 20" wheel Dahon folders for their respective eras, it means the newer Eco 3 (model offered in 2010-11) has updated characteristics that are especially appealing. I like the cockpit comfort, which feels more upright and has a more ergonomic, slightly curved handlebar with telescoping handle post for maximum adjustment. The pedals are grippier; the rear rack is aluminum; the fenders are either aluminum or a stiff, molded plastic that neither rattles nor shifts even when folded. I presume the Eco 3 weighs at least 3 lbs less. While the components are lower end compared with the Boardwalk, the easy shifting, better braking (could be newer brake pads), and similar if not the same low gearing, and secure hinges, means this shiny, barely ridden folder holds a lot of appeal.

Interesting that the center of crank distance to ground and the crank arm length are the same - considering frame geometries and style are quite different.

Riding impressions aside, it was the actual dimensions that shed more light. The Boardwalk's wheel base, seat post to handlebar length, and lower top tube show how it's a longer touring machine compared to the Eco 3. In the photo, the Boardwalk's seat and head tubes are obviously at slacker angles. 

While I generally enjoy the classic Boardwalk style, the red Eco 3 captured my eye, and upon further observation, it's clean lines, chrome accessories, and a curved fork, which I, in hindsight, obviously, couldn't resist - it oozes vintage Dahon. And who could resist a bike that was in pristine condition?

My first love.

There's room in my heart for this one too!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Allowing a Little Light In

The ups and downs of this year have been overwhelming. I'm trying to find glimmers of hope, and sometimes that's in unexpected places. Like this beach scene above. In sweltering heat, I've donned a swimsuit and bike shorts and hightailed it after work to swim at different beaches, several days in a row. The rainbows and sunsets have been incredible - I even tried to view a sunset and full moonrise in the same evening, but unfortunately clouds obscured the eastern sky.

I've primarily been riding both folding bikes. It's been a fun comparison because each have their strengths and I'm fixing to measure key details so I can assess why they perform so differently. One of these days I'll fix the flat tire on my commuter bike...

Riding with the Queen City Bike Club has provided a social outlet - my only social network, other than monthly get togethers with two dear friends. 

As we all navigate this new normal, it's important to have goals  - close to home if it feels right or further afield, whatever is within our comfort zone. It's okay to ride a roller coaster, so-to-speak, but oh so important to remain positive. Go ride a bike!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Vacation Ambivalence and Fatigue

What is a vacation? For me it's a time to recharge, travel, and do something meaningful.

In that vein, I'm planning two weeks off in September for a bicycle adventure, preferably out of state. But the logistics in the light of rising Covid cases, and personal comfort level, has made me have second thoughts.

And I'm tired. Tired of the unknown, Tired of thwarted plans. Tired (and jealous) of all the visitors entering Vermont this summer because of our relatively safe environment, when in fact, despite our wonderful leadership, we're not immune to rising virus cases. Tired of doing my best in a difficult situation as if living on unstable soil. I imagine we're all exhausted. I'm due for a good cry.

We put one foot in front of the other - some days literally - and march onward, stoic, because it's the best we can do. I'll pedal somewhere in September - whether it will be meaningful and restorative remains to be seen. I'm hopeful that remaining flexible means I'll point my wheels somewhere and return home in a better headspace. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Flying By the Seat of My Bike Shorts

Riding scary trails at Perry Hill until I discovered less crowded part of the system.
Slowly meandering in the woods was more my style.

This summer has been a whirlwind, escaping the home office for rides of any flavor: mountain biking on weekends, evening tootles anywhere, and sometimes setting out without a particular destination, hoping for inspiration en route.

Foam Brewery has a nice terrace.

I check out outdoor restaurants and breweries, wishing for available tables, often finding crowds and waiting lines - not a comfortable dining situation for me at the moment. I got lucky one Tuesday evening at a popular microbrewery and spent a delightful time by myself - a one woman party until sundown - eventually cruising homeward on a balmy night. 

What a refreshing plunge into lighted pathways again! Normally dodging pedestrians and ringing my bell, I'm reminded how much I miss the quiet night and the sounds of crashing waves on nearby Lake Champlain. 

I've had a grand time trying out different Terry bike shorts. Who knew I'd love compression and padding, least of all this aging cyclist? I have favorites that I prefer, and shockingly love capri/knicker length style when conditions warrant extra coverage. I'm not sure where this current opportunity is going but I'm enjoying daily comfortable bike rides.

We escaped Vermont for a Father's Day overnight ride to visit a friend in New York. Surprisingly, our youngest son tagged along, seizing the opportunity to try his new gravel bike. It was rather hot, but taking a ferry across Lake Champlain, and shady New York roads were delightful.

Charlotte covered bridge, a favorite route to the ferry dock.
And returning the next day, our friend and her companion lead us on an alternate route back to the ferry.

On the home front bike shop, I'm slowly getting to know the Dahon Eco 3 by fits and starts, firstly by adjusting the derailleur, surprising myself that I could actually do it! Up next will be a new seat and remove the obnoxiously large and loud bell, assess the tire condition, then head out for a 10 mile shakedown. As in life, you take one day at a time with some projects, figuring it out as you go.

What else is new about 2020-2021?