Saturday, August 3, 2019

Voila, A Handlebar Bag for the Dahon!

Using a Gregory backpack top pouch for the Dahon's handlebar bag.
When I took apart an old Gregory backpack, I cleaned and saved a few items that might come in handy. One of the nifty features of this late 80's style was it's modular design. The top pouch was removable and could be combined with the beefy waist belt - also easily detached - to fashion a large fanny pack, should you only want minimal storage on a hike. I also purchased a separate fanny pack-specific piece (in hindsight I don't know why) that also functions similarly: connected to waist belt. My husband has the same pack in a beautiful rust color - and he still uses it - but at the time, purchased two vertical pockets, necessary feature in today's backpacking world where all packs come with water bottle pockets - and a downside with our model.

The top pouch, with it's abundant lashings, side buckles, and sturdy zipper, is versatile enough to latch onto the Dahon almost anywhere! I gave the bag simple structure by adding a sleeve (pictured above) and inserted a dowel - the only modification.

I hooked a shoulder strap to the "bottom", just because I plan on using this extra pouch eventually connected to another backpack for an upcoming trip which will also double as shoulder bag on a flight to our destination. For now, I use the strap to further secure the bag around the Dahon's handle post.

Side view shows massive volume.
As mentioned, versatility is amazing - the current setup stores bike lock, tool bag, and pump. I also can squeeze in other items because of the flexible material.

I recently installed new tires,, a new chain, and previously mentioned new, lower-toothed front chainring assembly - all welcome upgrades.

I am smitten with a little bike with big capabilities that rides like a dream! In fact, the Dahon has become - happily - my main ride until I sort out (ugh) further problems with two other bicycles. And, I've recently purchased two sling bags that should work when connected as mini rear panniers - more on that later!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Law Island Overnight

My Peugeot St. Laurent, all packed and ready to go.
Organized by Old Spokes Home, I finally was able to meet up with folks for the third edition of the Law Island Overnight adventure, on a Friday afternoon in May.

Our watercraft transfer: a canoe with electric motor, transported by e-bike!
The beauty of this overnight: the end goal is to wild camp on Law Island, a mere 10-mile bike ride from the Old North End of Burlington, which makes it accessible to novices - a perfect introductory excursion.

I could barely keep up with the canoe hauling crowd. I have a love-hate relationship with e-bikes (my husband calls them cheater-bikes). Lugging a boat is certainly justified grounds for electric assist, and yet when you ride at 15 mph - at least in my opinion - then even novices have a difficult time keeping up!

We convened at Airport Park, which was a welcome regrouping spot. Our leader, Eric, did a good job checking on everyone.

First-timers. Without racks on her bike, one lady used a large backpack.

Since we had to leave our bike on the narrow causeway and with a high lake level, only a few trees were available for locking to. However, we were creative, using the canoe trailer plus basically piling bikes together with locks. It felt strange leaving my bike behind, but of course, we had to!

It was tricky loading the canoe with people and their gear, especially since the crossing was rough. With 40-degree water and heavy loads, the 10-minute ride was scary.

I thought these ladies were nuts and they were part of our group!

We all made it safely, however, and we enjoyed an evening around a fire. For some reason, after setting up my tent, I discovered I left my sleeping bag behind. I knew I would endure a sleepless night! I borrowed a lightweight jacket, and fortunately, I carried a bag liner and a fleece blanket that I'd planned to supplement my sleeping bag, so that helped. I survived mid-40s F.

The adventure, in spite of my hiccup, was a lot of fun. We saw a full moon rise, a bald eagle fly overhead, and the sunrise was beautiful shimmering on a calm lake, which made for a smooth crossing back to our bikes.

Would I do this trip again? You betcha.

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?