Monday, May 9, 2022

Dahon Boardwalk Bike Overnight 2 - Doing it Right

Dahon Boardwalk, all packed and ready to go.

The Dahon Boardwalk, in it's current setup, is best suited for simple overnights. As soon as a weekend weather window opened up, I made hotel reservations a 30 mile ride away, doable at my current fitness level. The goal was to recharge in a different environment and pedal somewhere new or where I haven't been for a long time. 

I was also trying out a new front bag, attached with a Klickfix bracket to the handlepost. With a little cable management, and moving the water bottle holder to the seatpost, I added a bit more carrying capacity. I planned to head out early afternoon and our son would would meet me at the hotel after his shift, arriving around sunset.

I was so excited for this adventure, all packed and had leaned my bike against the garage door for a photo. But then I remembered to lock the front door, exiting into the garage - because it's easier - only to tap the garage door opener and watch the bike crash to the ground. Oooof! I was just talking to the neighbor also, who saw what happened. A little beside myself, of course, the equipment and bike were fine, I straightened the new bag bracket, and set out. 

After crossing the Lamoille River, the walking began.

I have always enjoyed the Lake Champlain Bikeways route. The byway hugs the lake, but steers a rider on roads less traveled.

I pedaled by older farms where the smell of cow manure was a comforting reminder of Vermont's agricultural past. Chickens and ducks, plus the odd inclusion of Canadian geese honked from nearby farm ponds.  I noticed the abundance of horse farms and/or small dairies. Daffodils and wild violets colored the roadside. 

Saint Albans Bay - a favorite stop.

Riding a 6-gear bicycle, of course, has it's drawbacks. I struggled against a 10mph headwind the entire way, and walked a few steep inclines, and noted the route was hillier than I remembered, but no amount of setback hampered my enthusiasm! I was traveling by bike and had allowed several hours of daylight to arrive at the hotel. As it turned out, it took me 4 hours to pedal 30 miles.

I arrived at the hotel by 5 pm, and stowed my bike in the room, showered, and walked to a brewery I'd been wanting to try, Mill River Brewing. I ordered BBQ takeout, their specialty, and the timing was perfect - I'd barely returned to our room when my son showed up! Hoofing it to get there before dark, it took him less than two hours to ride a nearly identical route. The fitness of youth!

We were both tired and just relaxed all evening. The next morning we took advantage of the buffet breakfast and pedaled south along a different, and equally pleasant rural route, this time, thankfully, with a tailwind. Two thirds of the way home we took a break and gobbled a huge ice cream cone, then rolled the few remaining miles home. 

This is my first experience using a hotel for a bike overnight, and it was a perfect getaway. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Bicycle Journey

The Trek Marlin 7 outfitted with stem and triangle bag, just enough storage for local rides.

From a touring bike to early 80's mountain bike to step through bicycles to folding bike to hard tail mountain bike, even an old revived Peugeot with 27" tires has contributed much to this 40 year old journey on two wheels.

This is only a brief synopsis, of course. The nuances of each bike seem to take on a life of their own as I adapt each one to fill a certain role. That's where the real magic happens. Outfit a bike with rack and fenders for office commuting. Use one voluminous pannier for easy toting inside, filled with lunch, clothing, purse, and alternate footwear. Or, get creative to equip a folding bike for long distance rides: how to carry a significant volume with limited space to fit a tiny frame? It's these type of challenges and creativity involved that have fueled my interest in cycling for many years. 

My greatest love is bicycle touring. But it's not only about the miles these days, it's about the mission. Where can I go to maximize the experience of discovery? What brewery do I want to visit? What campground would be interesting to stay at? Where can I go via Amtrak to boost the distance traveled? What museum have I always wanted to visit? And Atlantic beaches - don't get me started! 

What has been the greatest impact that has affected your love of cycling? 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Peugeot Saint Laurent - Big Changes and Ready to Roll

Peugeot St. Laurent step through: redone and ready to roll.

2022 is the year for reimagining the stalwart Peugeot St. Laurent step through commuter bike, my preferred choice for most rides. 

Our youngest son has helped me - indeed accomplishing most tasks and suggesting a change to the drivetrain - that otherwise would've been put on the backburner. Aging is inevitable, which has weakened my hands (a bit of arthritis) so tasks requiring hand strength are a struggle for me. I am thankful for my son's assistance. He has an interest in becoming a bike mechanic, and has recently begun working on older bikes to expand his knowledge - lucky me!

New Terry steel stem and matching housing. Formerly, there was black, blue and white!

We began with swapping the old, shortened stem with a removable faceplate variation. This enables me to easily swap bars in the future and raise the bar height. I'm embarrassed to admit I've had this stem for two years and just now getting to use it. The was an easy project and I accomplished this task, mostly myself.

It's no surprise that I dislike the tedious and strenuous areas of bike maintenance, especially re-greasing bearings, and I've lost track with the assorted wheels I have in my possession that fit this bike - 5 wheels I think - saved from previous bikes. Who knows when they were last serviced? It's not pretty, considering this is the bike I gravitate to! I attacked the front wheel after my husband loosened the axle. It's not difficult to clean, remove the bearings, just capture them in a container, then add new grease and gently put them back. My son correctly tightened the axle and placed it back in the fork blades. The rear wheel was another matter! The bolts were fairly frozen, but with leverage on a large wrench, his young strength freed it. And to note, he was able to remove the cassette and regrease the rear wheel in the same time it took me to gingerly deal with the front wheel. Oh to be young, interested, and focused!

What I didn't anticipate was converting the drivetrain to a 1X setup. 

After replacing the wheels, the chain removed, my son asked if I was ready for a single chainring. Heck yeah! Once upon a time, I had considered a three speed conversion, but felt limited by gearing. While we live in a relatively flat region where I frequently ride rail trails, the reality is I will also ride some hills to do errands or ride loops and some easy single track trails. Versatility is key with the Peugeot.

While he raided his parts stash and came up with a crank arm attached to a single ring, I lovingly washed the frame with diluted degreaser. The area where the front deraileur was removed was in tough shape: a bit rusted, so I covered it with a blue nail polish stripe. Then I painted other exposed regions with white nail polish, but refrained from overdoing it. The frame is old, no longer pure white, and has crazing, or as I like to call it "character". It's always best to preserve it from further rust and sprucing up the frame a little.

Put back together for the time being, I rode with my son, briefly assessing the setup. As I expected, I need a higher toothed cassette for lower gearing, so we stopped by Old Spokes Home, rummaged through their used parts bin, but failed to locate adequate parts. Instead we picked up a new cassette, deraileur, and more white housing for aesthetics. 

I've also added colorful Vincita Dutch style panniers. They should be easier to fasten - one buckle on each bag versus two - with my arthritic thumbs. While I was seeking a similar sized replacement to the smaller, simple style panniers, what I got can swallow a large paper grocery bag! However, they are colorful, and I'll learn to live with them. Initially, I didn't care for the hook and loop closure (nor the ripping sound this system makes) on top of the buckle closure but perhaps it will prove to be useful down the road. If not, I'm handy with a seam ripper.

My son wasn't able to index the thumb shifter, but I'm no stranger to friction shifting. The shifting cable was also replaced. However, as my mechanic warned, the thumb shifter is more difficult to operate as it needs to span a larger cassette, so for now I'm getting by with palming the shifter, much like how I operated it last winter with mittens! My son suggested trying a speed shifter - like what's on my mountain bike - should I eventually require a change. For now, in it's new configuration, it's a cleaner, simpler bike. I'm happy to have my commuter bike in operating order!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Gravitating Towards Certain Bikes

Peugeot St Laurent

What determines your bicycle of choice? Avid cyclists tend to have more than one bike, so I've been thinking about why we choose, what we choose. And often, one bike is ridden more than others in the stable.

There can be many factors at play: length of ride, terrain, type of ride, climate, and comfort. Do you ride 10 miles or less? Is it hilly, rolling, or flat? Is the riding purely for exercise or are you shopping en route? Do you need fenders and rain gear or do you live where it's predominantly dry year-round? Are you comfortable with drop bars or prefer an upright posture, wider tires or skinny, etc.?

Since I ride mostly for exercise on flat terrain, but love to be able to haul stuff, whether that's tools, a thermos, or be able to stop for groceries, my Peugeot Saint Laurent ticks all the boxes. It's stable with wide tires, easy step through mounting, has fenders, and sports panniers with front and back racks. It's my most useful two-wheeled machine. And yeah, it's an older bike, one I don't mind locking to racks.

What is the bicycle that you gravitate towards, and why?

Friday, March 4, 2022

One Step Forward

Keeping the fire alive through winter night rides.

As the temperatures slowly warm, I'm heartened that the world is beginning to emerge from it's Covid cocoon. It may be baby steps - rightfully so - but I'm feeling hopeful that more travel will be on our horizon. I talk daily with customers who are planning bike trips abroad. I'm amazed at their optimism, or fortitude, or devil-may-care attitude, or...I don't know, but they possess more gumption than I've allowed myself! I've been extremely cautious for family reasons, but I'm planning a simple overnight aboard my Dahon Boardwalk, with cooperative weekend weather, as soon as mid April. I'm not yet ready to fly, but taking Amtrak last year has boosted my confidence, enough to plan a similar adventure for later in 2022. And, if anything, adventure by bike is surely much safer than most forms of transportation - at least that's what I tell myself.

How is everyone else feeling about bike travel?