Monday, August 3, 2020

Getting a Grip on Life Challenges - Establishing a Fluid Routine

This time is weird for everyone and I feel especially lucky.

After a major family move that had been in the works since last autumn, we transitioned a month ago - indeed our new house construction was only 6 weeks behind schedule due to Vermont's entire industry shutting down for a period. A strong seller's real estate market bounced back after a minor hiccup so our other home worries will soon be a memory.

Like many others, I've been out of work for months without any indication I will be returning anytime soon. My husband, whose goal was to retire this past June, has continued working, so I'm thankful and sad because it may be sometime before I'm employed again and carry our family benefits. Fortunately, I'm also preoccupied with new and old house tasks, have sewn numerous pillow and cushion covers, altered shower curtains, and continually help my mother's household. Our governor has handled this pandemic with aplomb, conducting 3 per week press conferences to keep the public informed - all with a calm presence. I'm very thankful we live in a small state with wonderful leadership.

Our adult children continue to live with us: a recent high school graduate and a senior at a local college. The eldest son has found online part-time work while assured he will have a mix of online/in-person classes next semester. The other son is recovering from a broken wrist,  wasn't planning on higher education, so he's trying to figure out what comes next. We had to postpone a trip to Colorado where he planned on attending bike mechanic school. At least he's able to connect with friends and get outside.

Living one day at a time has not come easy. I've learned to also care for my mental health - an important topic in the news recently - by going on almost daily bike rides. Some rides encompass errands; some include bringing a picnic lunch. I ride with my husband occasionally, and have also taken up swimming in the lake again. 

Cycling for me, like for many of my readers, is an emotional outlet. Time to reflect and sort through difficult decisions. I believe the simple yet powerful motion of turning one pedal at a time will pull me through this difficult time.

Monday, July 20, 2020

An Unforeseen Advantage of Different Shift Systems?

I wish I could say I purposely set up each of my four bicycles with unique shifting mechanisms, but it's simply not true. I, like many others, have multiple bikes because of their various advantages for preferred riding styles. It just so happens, for example, that older mountain bikes had thumbshifters; my Rivendell came stock with thumbshifters setup inwardly; a Peugeot UO 14 has downtube levers; and my Dahon folder came with Grip Shift. Whatever the setup, it surprised me, with a recent thumb injury, that only the Dahon allowed me to continue riding with minimal stress to my thumb. I simply allow the questionable thumb to hang while the rest of my digits control steering and braking - easily done on a folder's shortened grips. When I shift, my index finger controls the shifting while my thumb is barely used. 

Once again, the versatile Dahon Boardwalk saves the day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In Praise of the The Joe Blow Floor Pump

A floor pump is one of those understated items that a bike lover must have, yet it's neither sexy nor as exciting as new bar tape or tires. Yet without a trustworthy pump, fixing a flat tire with only a mini-pump is awkward and time consuming. After purchasing too many inexpensive floor pumps that have malfunctioned within two years, we've settled on the Joe Blow Max HP floor pump. Retailing between 30-40.00 it's not the most expensive pump, but has been a reliable companion, even after 10 years of normal use, This model has both Presta and Schraeder connections, a large, easy to read pressure gauge with sliding marker for highlighting a favorite pressure, ability to pump high pressure in a reasonable time frame, and sturdy, comfortable handles. I'd highly recommend this version if you're a home mechanic looking for a reasonably priced floor pump.

What's your advice for a decent floor pump?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Miss Clementine's Makeover

Miss Clementine before and after the bar and tire swap.

2020 is the year for Miss Clementine's upgrdes.
The reason for the update was two-fold: swapping handlebars to create a more aggressive posture plus create more comfortable alternative hand positions for longer rides, and a tire swap to improve handling and further lighten the bicycle.

To back up a bit:
First impressions of the stock 2016 Clementine (Clem-L to be exact) - in my opinion - were disappointing. Riding was sluggish, and the bike was heavier and longer than I expected.  But trusting Rivendell's reputation and with my desired low gears, I put my immediate reaction aside, The weak aspect was always the bosco handlebars - I disliked the angular, cruiser-type setup, but without knowing what exactly I would swap them with, I decided to live with them for a while, which, in the end, proved to be a wise decision. 

You gotta start somewhere
Once I inflated tires properly, went on a few tours, hauled weight, tested hills - that was when the magic began to happen. Miss Clementine seems to climb all by herself! Well, of course, not really, but the propulsion or planing (I think it's called) is rather extraordinary. Once I gain momentum, Miss Clementine is easier to ride. I liked the upright grip on the boscos and even the supplied Kenda tires worked well on dirt roads. Hmm. Like all my bikes, I needed time to sort out what I would change, for Miss Clementine has always been what I foresee as my new touring bike.

Soma Oxford bar is a near equivalent to Nitto Albatross, but less expensive. This aluminum bar replaced the stock Nitto alloy boscos and is much lighter. I gained 4" of forward reach, a position that's a more comfortable fit, with alternative gripping on the curves.

Weight matters as I grow older.
Miss Clementine is a little heavier than I would like in a touring bike. The step-through bones are good. Gearing is optimal. At the present, it's still the right bike for me with a few changes. As I grow older, it's harder to haul the same 40lbs. of gear when I was 30 years old, so paying attention to weight is critical. Besides lightening up my camping gear, I chose the Soma Oxford bars for better hand positions and swapped the Kenda tires for my preferred Panaracer Pasela's in gumwall version.

Ooooh, comfy gripping on the curves!

A world of difference.
Both changes have made a dramatic difference in comfort. Between finding a bar that works better, along with familiar tires, I've lightened the bike by an estimated 2 lbs. Benefits to the new bar include: lighter weight, aggressive reach, and I have gained back the ability to climb hills while standing on pedals whie being in control. The new tires are slightly narrower (though both indicate 1.75" width). I still need to work on optimal rack setup, but already I want to ride this bike more.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ride to Visit Little Free Libraries

In early May, seeking another motivational ride challenge, I visited registered Little Free Library boxes in Burlington, VT. The map displayed 16 locations. I found 12; 3 were missing; and one I could not visit one because of it's location inside a closed university building. During these strange times, many sites are offering cleaning wipes (with little trash cans for waste), puzzles, food items, stands offering local newsprint editions of Seven Days, bee polinator plants adorned one lawn complete with educational material, and another place even cataloged clothing for those in need (see yellow boxes in next photo). Each box was uniquely designed, the only commonality was their official labeling as a Little Free Library. I restrained myself to carrying home two books.

What became clear, after stumbling onto other non-official sites since my quest, is that there's an equal variety of undocumented sites with their own flair that are bright spots in our community. 

Little Miss Sunshine library is also a community resource for clothing and food.