Sunday, July 15, 2018

Two for One Weekend: Nashua River and Cheshire Rail Trails

My husband and I attended weekend-long wedding festivities in mid-June in southern New Hampshire, and also explored two rail trails: 12.5 mile Nashua River Trail that spans southward into Massachusetts and a 10 mile segment of the 42 mile Cheshire Rail Trail - that journey stretched northwest from Keene towards Walpole.


The Nashua River Rail Trail was surprisingly all paved and mostly shaded - very welcome on a hot weekend. My favorite part was through a long stretch of forest with pine needles covering the path.

Pedaling beside ponds was a pleasure...

...especially when we discovered a couple snapping turtles near the shore.

Mid-point on the trail.
There were plenty of signs...


and we soon reached the southern terminus in Ayer, Massachusetts.


After a quick snack in the shade, we doubled back to complete 25 miles.


Sunday morning, we located a trail pretty close to where we were staying in Marlboro.What the Nashua River Trail lacked in drama, the Cheshire Rail Trail made up for in dramatic landscapes, steeper climbs, and a few rugged spots. Leaving a hot parking lot, not long after we crossed a well-made and artistically welded bridge over a busy highway.

I appreciate creative benches - this one could double as a bike rack.

Heading north, this paved section quickly left bustling Keene, and passed a golf course...

for nice, shady dirt surface. The incline was noticeable so I took my time. There were many
single track crossings, which made for musings about a local mountain bike community.

We caught up to a couple (or did they catch us?) on suspension mountain bikes, who explained that there was an interesting Narrows section up ahead. My husband and I made that our goal before needing to turn back in time to attend a wedding.

The Narrows was rather dark and inviting, an area near a summit that the railroad appeared to have blasted through. Water seeped down the cliffs.

Unfortunately, it was rough and slow going for our rigid bikes. Pointed rocks protruded from a hard ground - I spent most of my time out of the saddle to gain any momentum.

But we made it through, only to turn around, however the downhill ride made it more manageable on and we noticed rock climbing bolts affixed to the cliffs.

As more and more rail trails are created in this country alone, there's so much to experience! I'm glad we attended the wedding to catch up with old friends, of course, but seizing extra opportunities made the entire weekend worthwhile.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What Is It About the Dahon that I Love So Much?

The Dahon Boardwalk has proven it's worth, opening my eyes to experiences I never expected. (Hint: it's more than it's obvious capabilities as a folder.)

It's easy to become enamored when adding a new bike to the fold, riding the new bicycle exclusively while the other bikes form a layer of dust. This has not been the case with the Dahon. It has a distinct purpose: as an alternative when I require less carrying capacity, when I need to stow it inside a vehicle, or riding short jaunts around town.

And yet, it is a bicycle that's become much more than that.

Simplicity and Versatility
The Dahon is a straightforward bicycle. There are 6 gears with easy twist shifters. There are fenders and a rack for functional transportation rides. Folding capabilities aside, therein lies it's beauty. It's a simple machine: a few gears, two wheels, easy to keep clean.

On might argue that a 3-speed does virtually the same thing, and you'd be right, but a small wheel bike also offers unique advantages. Easy on and easy dismount begs a rider to explore: stop for photos, window shopping,  etc. And, with a quick release seat post, I've discovered the bike can fit almost anyone, doing double-duty as a perfect bike for guests, and because of it's upright posture has been deemed "a fun little bike".

Little Wheels Give Me Big Ideas
The fact that all these simple ideas come in a compact package, has quick turning radius, (handy for squeezing past gridlocked vehicles in NYC), with ample space on handle bar and extra long stem, for a purse, water bottle holder, or almost anything. It's by far the lowest step over bike of my collection, and coincidentally, my first foray into 1x gearing, which I like for it's simplicity.

Of course, the Dahon has limitations. The short rack cannot accommodate my work pannier or haul enough camping gear for tent touring. However, I wouldn't hesitate to bring the Dahon on another Amtrak excursion or try an inn-to-inn tour on flat terrain. And much like experimenting with the Yuba Boda Boda, riding a non-traditional bike has opened my eyes to possibilities I'd never dreamed of.

Another interesting fact: the Dahon is further confirmation that a frame that's easier to mount is what I want as I grow older. And now I have 3 styles to choose from: Peugeot commuter, Clementine tourer, and the versatile Dahon.

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's Been a Wonderful Ride, Miyata 610!

It's easy to become emotionally attached to a bicycle, but in the end they are only machines. I came to that realization a few years ago, especially when our children didn't have any interest in riding the Miyata and I'd gravitated to riding mainly step through bikes. I received a fair price for the bike so I have no regrets. The Miyata is destined to make someone else happy, in whatever incarnation the new owner decides.

As it should be.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

DIY Water Bottle Holder for the Dahon Boardwalk

Homemade handle bar mounted water bottle carrier.
As mentioned previously, I devised a solution to easily carry water on my Dahon for our New York City adventure.

But a holder made of fabric wasn't my first thought.

TooGoo water bottle mount from Amazon.
I can always use this adapter on any bike. 

Initially, I purchased an inexpensive metal clamp. It took me a while to safely tighten the screws and position the "puzzle" lock thing on the handle bars. Eventually, though, it worked and I secured an extra water bottle cage to the mount.

However, I wasn't completely satisfied. Like all handle bar water bottle attachments, the holder is perched high so you can easily grab your bottle and drink. That wasn't so much a problem, yet a folding bicycle has quite a bit of  extra and often unused "real estate", meaning there's a lot of vertical post space before meeting the frame, yet had I wanted to lower the new attachment it wouldn't fit the oversize tubing. And more importantly, I might need to fold the bike and the metal mount would rap or scratch the frame. I knew I lacked the patience to remove the mount and/or also the cage and reattach the parts once we traveled to our destination. (at the time I planned to fold the bike while using Amtrak and save the bicycle reservation fee).

I went back to the drawing board - so to speak - and found this idea on the internet.


Bushwacker insulated water bottle holder.
It was an intriguing concept: secure the carrier with two Velcro-type fasteners! I liked the adaptable, and easily removed nature and could save myself 15.00 and create my own version. It was also an idea that wouldn't mar the frame or bar. And motivation wasn't entirely due to saving money because I enjoy problem solving, am pretty handy with a sewing machine, plus I had all the materials on hand.

So, like most of my DIY bike projects, I place my bike next to my sewing corner to continually adjust and check measurements. This project was relatively simple. I sandwiched quilt batting between material (adding black material on top edge to eventually hide straps) to give the finished product structure, sewed a tube-shape first, then gingerly sewed a circular bottom. The Velcro-type fasteners were attached to black webbing then sewed onto the main body.

The finished product is adaptable and I like that it can be attached to either front or back of handle bar. There is little sway, even with a full large water bottle. It's also relatively easy to remove and replace the bottle - of course, an important feature!

Using the holder on our New York City trip.

The Bushwacker version is constructed with closed cell foam so it has insulating properties and I imagine is a stiffer version than mine. Their model also uses lateral hook and loop fastener to adjust to different sized bottles. I think the price is justified for these additional features. However, for a DIY project that's functional and is magenta colored,  I'm very pleased with the way my model turned out!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Accessory Must-Haves & Other Loves

Switching to ergonomic grips  before I went to NYC made a big difference in comfort.
Old grips in second photo. 
As I've experimented with accessories over the past ten years, my tastes have evolved and certain items have proven their worth to my general cycling experience - namely to make riding easier and more comfortable as I grow older. Other picks are purely for my personal style, as most readers can attest: we all have our preferences!

Ergonomic Grips
All my bikes have ergonomic grips except for my winter rider (which has cushioned bar tape). I have used all varieties from the more expensive Ergon and Selle Royal brand to cheap no-name versions, like the one pictured above on my Dahon. Every style has improved hand comfort on prolonged rides.

Platform Pedals
Platform pedals have proven their versatility countless times. I can wear flip flops, sandals, sneakers or boots and easily put my foot down on a moment's notice. I don't know why it took me years to experiment with platform pedals. I'll never go back to using toe clips!

However  I'm not entirely sold on metal platfor pedals. I'm currently using MKS RMS or "sneaker pedals" on my everyday Peugeot, yet recently I couldn't remove the dust cap when I tried to diagnose an annoying clicking sound (which ended up being not related to pedal bearings). Neither could I locate an online tutorial to help me. It's that kind of specialized, so called "serviceable pedals" that require a a unique tool that has me seriously considering ditching finicky metal pedals altogether...in favor of colorful plastic versions like the ones Randy recently installed on a much loved bike. Orange would look awfully nice on my Peugeot!

Cheap Bell Mirrors
Unlike most riders who buy quality mirrors, I've gravitated to versatile, lightweight Bell type that clamp on the handlebar with a plastic screw. I place the mirror pointing downward, which gives good visibility and doesn't break should the bike occasionally topple over. I find these at a local hardware store and buy 3 at a time.


4-Hook Cargo Net
Once I started using this simple 4 hook cargo net to haul a small duffel on my Dahon's rear rack on our NYC adventure, this piece has come in handy to secure a box of donuts, a dozen bagels, and more recently is a must have as I commute around town for back up when I haul more stuff home than I went to work with. And, the hooks are red which means they're easily recognizable against the black net.

Magenta colored water bottle holder - perfect for my needs.

Strap-On Water Bottle Holder
I made a lightweight water bottle carrier out of fabric, black strap material, and Velcro-type rack fastener because the Dahon lacks water bottle braze-ons. I had initially purchased a metal clamp for the handlebar that accommodates a standard water bottle cage, yet it was finicky and hard to adjust (I expected I'd be folding the bike and didn't think I'd have patience to reinstall it). I installed and removed the fabric holder numerous times  - an easy solution - and may come in handy for additional water capacity on other bikes. (I'll write a separate blog post on construction specifics.)

OTHER LOVES:

Gumwall Tires
I am fascinated by gumwall colored tires. Several of my bikes already sport this retro color with the exception of Miss Clementine who came with solid black rubber and because her tire size is 650B - unlike my other bicycles or any other bicycle in our 4-person family - Clementine's tires will be changed only when worn out - which could be years at the rate I'm riding her!

Orange Bicycle Fanatic
I am attracted to orange bicycles. The turn my head on the street and in blog posts. I missed getting an orange Rivendell Clementine by a few months - by the time I ordered, only blue and mustard colored frames were available. I need another bike like a hole in the head (a phrase that my parents often used) so it's no wonder that I want orange pedals...definitely a cheaper alternative.

Give Me Chrome Any day
I am familiar with 1980's bicycles, a time when all bikes had chrome wheels, handlebars, racks, etc. To this day, I still prefer chrome on bicycles. I've never succumbed to today's ubiquitous black everything, and matte black frames, ugh. I wish manufacturers would bring back more affordable choices in aluminum and chrome finishes on bike parts and accessories.