Friday, August 11, 2017

Retrofit a Tech Wallet into a Handlebar Bag

A thin pouch lashed horizontally, clears frame and snugs against the stem.
I'm smitten with Clementine's bosco bars. However, because of their unique proportions, a typical handlebar bag meant either I would need to install a bracket or another alternative was to attach a barrel-shaped front bag with Velcro. With the latter, which I had on hand, the material rubbed on the frame. Both systems would be more cumbersome than what I really wanted, which was a slim-shaped bag, one that was easily detached and could double as a purse, and hold a few necessities while on tour.  This idea would also allow me to grip the handlebars on either side to take advantage of the extra forward hand positions that make the bosco bars special. In other words, my ideal bag was so specialized, I wouldn't find it online or my local shop. I had to create my own solution.

Locating a bag turned out to be the easy part. I walked into a Staples store with a 5.00 coupon, found what I wanted immediately, and walked out with what's called a tech wallet. It was deeply discounted, so much so, that with the coupon, it was free. The "wallet" is padded and decorated on the exterior with a rose pattern, but the interior is grey with pink trim. The beauty of this little beast is the exterior has one zip pocket and the interior has multiple stash areas, including a zip pocket for cash, plus a fuzzy-lined slot for a phone. The zipper completely surrounds the wallet so when unzipped, the pouch lays flat.

A central strap with buckle secures pouch in place while the longer strap attached around the handlebar, loops back through hole in strap, then clips into other end. I tuck the loose end wherever, so it doesn't dangle or flap needlessly.
I have a collection of straps and buckles just for this purpose, either to fix a purse or pannier, or to create or re-purpose an item to suit my needs. In most respects, I enjoy this type of problem. Sure, I'd love to find exactly what I want, plop down money, and have the product delivered, but if I don't find what I'm looking for, I look at the solution as a creative challenge. I can usually come up with something that will work.

Storage that's up front, easy to access. 
I thought about how to secure the wallet to Miss Clementine, then ended up hefting the bicycle into our basement near my sewing corner so I could try out straps and buckles, until an idea began to form. The bag had to be versatile, a purse and handlebar bag all rolled into one system, yet not take over valuable handlebar real estate.

Exterior pocket is handy for lots of things. My passport is a tight fit, but on a recent trip, it worked well to tuck it away, and feel secure that it wasn't going to slip out every time I opened the bag.

While attached to the bicycle, I can unzip the purse half way and extract lip balm, money, or my camera that I tucked inside.

The waist belt was an actual belt that came with pants. The first round I used the provided rubber buckle, but it kept coming apart when wrapped around metal bar. I replaced it with a black plastic Fastex-type clip.
Because the pouch opened completely flat, I placed the bag in my sewing machine and was careful not to sew through corresponding slots on the reverse side. I tacked the waist belt in place first, decided to only sew 4 vertical lines to secure wide "belt", which allowed multiple slots for strap to wind around bar and weave back through. I knew this would allow more versatility with how I might end up attaching bag to bar.

One of my requirements was to hold a camera, which fits "loose" stored, once pouch is zipped, or without it's case, can tuck inside the phone slot if I don't require a handy phone. The mesh slots hold lip balm, credit cards, whatever, while money is secured inside zipped interior pocket and passport zipped tightly in exterior pocket. The wallet is a trim 3" wide, which means plenty of clearance to grasp the handlebars in the stretched out position.

In the end, the bag is a handbag, purse, and converts into a perfect fanny pack. Because the wide strap was once a belt, it's even long enough to loop crosswise around my body for more security. I'm happy with the final product; it's a perfect accompaniment to Miss Clementine's tour-ready status.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Riding with the Boys, er, Young Men

Riding with our teenage sons is always an impromptu affair: a ride to get creemees, a cruise along the waterfront to capture the sunset, and recently, a 6-mile urban ride on sidewalks and sunny asphalt to greet a far flung family member at Burlington's airport. What strikes me the most is how well we all get along - the rambunctious 15 year old pairs off with his father, detouring through parking lots, while our cautious, college-bound son is content, hanging with his mom, pedaling the direct route. Summertime pleasure rides make me smile. 😊

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Pencil Case Makes a Stylish Bicycle Tool Bag

Why spend a lot of money on a tool bag? If your tools are stored in a basket or pannier, a pencil case makes an inexpensive and attractive option. I found this beauty in our local Staples' clearance section.

My large office pannier is heavy enough without adding the extra weight of tools! 
With my previous commuter front bag, it was easy to include necessary tools (stored inside a black, barrel shaped, neoprene pencil case) plus pump, easily forgotten because all items were hidden beneath material. Using the new basket set-up required a different mindset, regarding tool storage with easy access. And the more I thought about it, it made sense to use a larger tool bag to also accommodate my pump.

The new bag has a low profile so I can easily stow other items along with my tools, like my weekly farm share produce.
A color coordinated bungee cord holds the case inside the wire basket, and also allows easy removal in case of inclement weather. Tuck the stylish bag under my arm or toss in my office pannier and go!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Peugeot St. Laurent is Commute-Ready

I spent several hours transferring items from the Ross Mt. St. Helens to the Peugeot St. Laurent. My goal was get the bike commute-ready over the weekend, in time for Monday's ride to the office. What I didn't anticipate was accomplishing everything in one day! A rainy Saturday helped, along with a few breaks, one of which was riding the bike with my son, and by the end of the afternoon I had finished.

I started the work outside on our deck, then moved indoors once the rain started, using a tarp to protect the wood floor. I wouldn't recommend either method, risking loosing tools through the gaps in the deck (I lost an Allen wrench and two star tools over the porch rail, but miraculously found them beneath day lilies), and indoors because I was uncomfortably stooped. Without a work stand to elevate the bicycle, my back ended up pretty sore for a couple days, however it's my own fault for neglecting to retrieve the stand from our house. Once we're settled at camp, it's often difficult to leave, even though it's only a 20 minute drive home.

Both the Peugeot and Ross are topless (without handle bars)  - I was in the process of transferring the Ross's handle bars to the Peugeot. I slowly dismantled the Ross (on the right) and while I will keep the wheels, I replaced the original  green, straight handlebar so it will travel to it's eventual new owner. 

The Transformation Process & What I learned
  • Starting with a front tire change, I decided instead to switch front wheels, which necessitated adjusting front brakes because the rim was slightly wider. At the outset, it reminded me that there's often more to bike maintenance than meets the eye - very much like home ownership! And I also noticed that the Peugeot's front wheel needed bearings regreased, so I'll store that wheel for a back up and properly overhaul it when necessary.
  • I tossed the gross, shredded seat and put on a new Nashbar Women's FC1 saddle. The Ross's current seat was, quite literally, a PIA.
  • With impending rain in the forecast, I took a break and rode with my son for a few miles to get some exercise. Little did I know we'd end up riding hills and trails! At that point the bike was bare-bones, sans fenders and racks, and I zipped along - definitely a foreign concept to a bike commuter!
  • I swapped handle bars because the stamped, labeled Italmanubri bar, gleaned from my son's Peugeot has always felt right. It was a slow process, loosening brakes and thumb shifters was a little difficult (more so on the Ross because the screws were nearly stripped), but with patience I'm glad to have familiar, comfortable handle bars. 
  • Transferring fenders was relatively easy. There is more clearance on the rear wheel than when the fender was previously connected to the Ross, but I will keep it as is.
  • I am keeping the included 1.5" rear tire because I see value in retaining puncture proof rubber, for the time being, even though I prefer 1.75" Paselas.
  • I had trouble installing the rear rack. I couldn't free all of the bolts on the slider bracket (I stripped a couple Allen heads), ideally to level the platform, so I attached the rack as is. For now the large Blackburn office pannier works okay and I have heal clearance, but I wonder if shortening the bracket would adversely alter the space. I'm not happy with the rack angle so I'll deal with the rack in the future.
  • The front rack went on smoothly, though because the fender also shared the same frame bolt, I attacked both transfers together. Of special note, the lower rack holes are mounted to the cantilever bolt attachments. The Peugeot lacked Allen bolts, but fortunately I was able to swap the bolts from the Ross. 

Above, the Italian stamped bar; below, original unmarked bar. Visually there appears to be little difference,
but in reality they are not the same.

Unexpected but delightful surprises
  • With more space between the sloping tubes, my water bottle is more accessible.
  • I sit more upright - an unanticipated but welcome advantage as this position allows a natural transition to the Clementine (and vice versa).
  • The frame (and it could also be due to tires) absorbs bumps more so than the Ross. My 15 year old son insists the wheelbase is longer; he noticed the increased fork curve. Everyone knows that teenagers are never wrong! I suspect the comfort is due to a larger frame size. Handle bar position seems to sit further back and not above the center of the front wheel. I could be wrong in this assessment, but the frame geometry feels quite different. Whatever the reason, the bike fits and I'm happy!
  • I'm pleased with the new saddle choice, a comfortable seat the first time around!
  • I sprang for a new set of ergonomic grips, Ergon's cork style.
These items: a lock, tool bag, and pump were hidden in the green bag on the Ross. It's a work in progress, storing the accessories in a basket, because I like to leave them on my bike at my workplace rack. I need to find a long term solution.

Other thoughts
  • The Peugeot was the perfect opportunity to use a front basket. In this instance, I used one of two white baskets that I'd grabbed, years ago, from a neighbor's free pile. New bicycle, "new" accessories!
  • I will eventually add anniebikes' style - possibly coordinate with the orange/red color scheme, and/or decorate with leopard print duct tape? I missed pe-ordering an orange Clementine so you can bet I'll play up the orange on the Peugeot!
  • I cannot locate a Shimano cap locally to cover the lost cap on the right-hand thumb shifter. A mechanic found two extra left-hand shifters, but the cap, unfortunately, is proprietary (go figure). In fact, I found the original shifters  hardware on my son's Peugeot in our parts stash - both are missing caps! For now, I'll keep the exposed parts oiled (my bike stays outdoors at work) and continue looking for a replacement online.
  • I've been riding the Peugeot for two weeks. What strikes me the most is how well the bicycle fits, something I've longed for for quite some time. Go Peugeot! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dash for the Sunset

Our heart was not in pedaling to the fireworks show this year as a three-some, without extended family members in attendance. Instead, we dashed in the opposite direction to watch the sunset on the bridge over the Winooski River. We spied Canadian geese and goslings, debris floating downriver from high water, and cyclists high-tailing the other way to catch the fireworks. For once, I was relieved to avoid the crowds and do something completely different.

I will save packages of glow sticks for another time!