Friday, January 31, 2020

Thankful for QCBC Wrench Series

How to work on your bike in good company? Attend a weekly Queen City Bike Club Maintenance Night! New this winter, when it's too cold or snowy to hold the usual club ride and later gathering at Zero Gravity, you can attend an open session at Old Spokes Home to address any bike issues. Guided by a lady staff mechanic, I showed up to clean my Trek Antelope's drive train, popping the chain into an ultrasonic cleaner, plus replaced the right shifting cable and housing. The next session is in another week or so and with scarily soft brakes, that's the next item on my agenda.

It's great to have dedicated time to get some much needed maintenance done.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Dirt Jumper 2.0

Late 2018, after breaking his quasi dirt jumper, our youngest son bought a new and appropriate  frame to handle the stress of all his antics. The above photo was his first attempt, namely transferring components, Since then he's added disc brakes, a strong rear wheel, blue pedals, and recently some purple bling to his handle bars. He's put his bicycle through the ringer in the past year, going with friends to a public jumps course, made new friends there, and I unfortunately had to take him to ER with bloody face once - and hopefully only once - because he had a concussion.

His passion lately has been being a member of all three seasons of running sports in high school. It's been great to watch him grow comfortable within this group as he entered his senior year. I've noticed that he hangs out with both sets of friends who often overlap. As a parent, who's known since he was an infant, that he was a mover, and in his toddler/elementary school years we paid him to run laps outside around our house - in the snow also - until he took to doing it without payment as a personal challenge and part of his daily routine. It's funny how children's personalities can develop at a very young age. His current thing is wanting to go to bike school after graduation.

Because of watching our youngest son grow, create, experiment, his enthusiasm for dirt jumping, attending fat bike demo days with me, renting downhill bikes with friends, has influenced/introduced me to dirt riding. And I think the comfort of riding Kingdom Trails last summer has sealed the deal.

I must have my own off-road machine.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Rewind

If there is one word that describes 2019, it is transition. I'm proud of a leap in creativity, overcoming and fully embracing riding on snow, thoughts on replacing one bike for another, an amazing hiking adventure that stretched my physical limits and unfortunately lowers the bar for future long distance hikes, and finally an upcoming relocation that's filled our thoughts since October.

I find writing this year end blog post very therapeutic - a chance to reflect - so I can move forward. Equally important to recounting is writing (and referring back to periodically through the year) a future goals/ideas type of blog post - not so detailed to feel overwhelming - but to set an intention, which gives me something to look forward to. When winter rolls around, I anticipate future trips, thoughts, new places to see, etc. for the coming year. It keeps me going!

I fully embraced the Dahon in 2019, focusing on lowering the gearing, fixing a broken fender, making a water bottle holder, pouch thingy, (from scratch!) and creating small panniers. While riding the brilliant, easy to mount folder, quite a lot this year, I realize I would be perfectly content if I had to make a choice of having one bike - the Dahon is it. This simple realization is liberating.

My heart wasn't in planning my own overnight excursions in 2019, but I found a solution: hook up with a cool trip to Law Island and a WTF Explorers weekend. Both adventures stretched my comfort zone - never forget your sleeping bag! In addition, Adele and I made our annual pilgrimage to Quebec happen with last minute planning. I'm so fortunate to have an adaptable companion.

In September I went on a two week hiking adventure with my husband, a 100 mile circuit of Mont Blanc, often referred to as the TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc). With daily steep ascents and descents, it was very difficult terrain, but easily the most beautiful scenery. With complications in places to stay, and the busiest trail I've ever seen (in the off season no less!), and very sore knees (yours truly), it was a wonder we were able to finish every mile. Going forward, I've given myself permission to avoid difficult hikes from now on.

The Coffeeneuring season has turned me into a confident winter rider. For the second year in a row, November's arctic blast and early snowfall meant toting a thermos when I otherwise might've stayed indoors. With a chosen theme to explore a neighboring town - where we'll eventually move in 2020 -meant a least a 15+ mile round-trip ride, often in temperatures of 20F. Because of the coffeeneuring challenges, I believe a year from now, when my commute distance doubles (9.5 miles each way) on mostly flat bike path, I'll be able to ride to work on many wintry days.

Emotionally I'm ready to let go of one ill fitting bicycle. I am also considering acquiring a hard tail mountain bike as I have a desire to ride trails. I've also accepted that blog posts will remain infrequent (though follow me on Instagram at @annie.bikes for photos). I'm content with this social arrangement.

I'm ready for 2020 - are you?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

DIY Inexpensive Mini Panniers for my Dahon

After successfully commuting on the Dahon, using a small duffel bag on the rack, the last item on my to-do list in 2019 to finish focusing on the folder was to fashion small panniers for added capacity. My preferred prerequisites: a lightweight, removable, and inexpensive system to use on existing rack that also avoided heal strike - easier said than done!

I've admired trunk bags with fold-out panniers, like Downtube Nova's, and though good bang for the buck, this system meant I couldn't stack my small duffel on top. Then I stumbled on dog panniers, which provided the narrow fit and low cost I was searching for. In the end, the best option was a pair of Eddie Bauer sling bags on sale for 30.00 total, in a myriad of colors.

Lightweight means stowable into a built-in pocket - a feature I wouldn't need for the project.
I chose dark grey with red accents. The beauty of this particular style? It has a wide shoulder strap, exterior zippered additional pocket, plus bonus carry handle and reflective bits. All these features would adapt nicely to Dutch style panniers - my intention from the outset - and be stylish too.

Original condition: dual buckle system at bottom.

As with all my projects, I store the bike near my basement sewing corner to adapt and fine-tune fit.

The Process

1. Removed stowable pocket and key clip (not pictured above, inside exterior zip pocket). The idea being to get rid of anything extraneous. Set aside for possible re-use.

2. Cut off sling straps, leaving a few inches to cinch together as Dutch pannier. Set aside to re-use buckles.

3. Stuff panniers to simulate actual use.

Bags are not mirror image, which means one unzips in rear, one in front,.To me this is not a big deal.
4. Double or triple stitch bags together at top. Fit on rack to (figure out the next step!) to see how and where to further secure the bags. Doubly important at every step -I checked for heal-strike.

I always liked the dotted strap on an old helmet. Looks nice here. (Semi-hidden beneath carry handles).
5. Sew a buckle and clip from my stash to cover seam which secures pannier to rack top. (I used a buckle and strap from an old helmet.)

Because of lightweight "pannier" I was able to wrestle and sew all buckles and straps in my sewing machine.
6. Re-use sling strap buckle and secure to bottom middle of pannier. With cinch tightening, the idea is to clip into either buckle, though I intend to primarily use one to keep pannier from sliding forward on rack.

7. Cut 4 Velcro-type strips and place where needed to prevent sway. My plan is to connect one to frame and the other to fender stay.

8. There is a panel conveniently located inside each bag where I placed a bubble wrapped, package piece for stiffness (thank you Amazon).

Voila! The panniers are easy to mount, remove, and coincidentally have built-in handles for carrying. Of course, practical use may require further adjustment, but for now I have two extremely lightweight panniers for additional storage.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Journey: Becoming a Year-Round Rider

It's been a slow process, from adjusting to riding in complete darkness, wearing appropriate winter clothing, switching to flat pedals, finding and altering the perfect (for me) work pannier, stretching coffeeneuring outings a little beyond my comfort zone, to seeking out weekend rides in winter. And lately, I've been quite comfortable riding on a little snow. A traffic-free route has allowed me to experiment with what's possible, adjusting attitudes, lowering speeds, and walking when it makes sense: to warm feet, negotiate a steep incline, or to skirt a patch of ice.

It's been totally worth it!

Traveling at 10 mph is my favorite way to explore. I enjoy walking also, but by challenging myself to stretch my idea of what's rideable, or not, I've been pleasantly surprised at what I can do.

All of this feels like a culmination, and liberating! It's made our decision to move further away from my office very acceptable. Living closer to the lake means I'll have a much longer though a welcome, prettier commute. It will be an adjustment, I'm sure, but in the end worthwhile.

One step at a time.