Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Quality Thinking Time on a Snow-lit Path

The homestretch: shifting down to climb the bridge, noticing a plane in the distance.

I've been making riding through a Vermont winter work, once again. Mild weather has helped. Working from home has forced me to get outside at lunchtime, and often again after 5 pm. The darkness is/can be a hindrance, or an opportunity, depending upon your point of view. I love cross-country skiing, also, but without enough local snow, alternatives are walking and riding.

There is much to like about riding on plowed, salt-free, snow-packed rail trails. The surface is generally firm. Interaction with cars is non-existent; studded bike tires lend traction; and the few hardy souls who venture out in the dark are groups of runners and the occasional dog walker. I have the trail mostly to myself!

Senses are heightened. Since my trail is near Lake Champlain, I listen to the rhythm of waves, ducks squawking, or the distant rumble of airplanes slowing on their decent into Burlington. Snow absorbs voices; I see the bobbing lights on pedestrians long before their conversation - a momentary blip - as I roll on by, my tires crunching in the darkness. I search for the moon on a clear night, reflections on the lake, and snow-covered ice forming in bays. I enjoy the white-lighted peace symbol perched high in someone's tree or the dark lump of squirrel nests standing out on naked trees. If I'm lucky, wild creatures appear, often it seems, in threes: an opossum, fox, and raccoon, on one evening, or a fox, raccoon and housecat on another. One time an animal bolted erratically - perhaps a rabbit - ricocheting off my front wheel then continuing across the path.

I let my thoughts wander. I think about upcoming vacations - something that seems doable again, months in advance. I smile in the darkness as I rumble over the arching bridge, marking the homestretch. I think you'll be all right, 2023.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Ideas for 2023

2023 should hold more opportunities for travel, this time with my husband. In his retirement, he has the time to plan our adventures plus fulfill his own wanderlust.

  • I'm a creative soul. Come winter I design and create something, often inspired by a cycling need. 2023's project is a large, lightweight tote bag to hold my Dahon Boardwalk. I want a bag primarily for train journeys, with the ability fold/roll it when done, stowing it, perhaps, behind the seatpost. I've heard the inexpensive IKEA Dimpa bags work well, but question their longevity. I'd rather come up with a customized design.
  • Finish equipping the Bassi Rachel for touring. My new step through queen needs fenders and a front rack. Ultimately, I want the Jack the Bike Rack - initially a Kickstarter project - soon to be available to the public. This rack would provide versatility and ideally I want to avoid a permanent front rack. For a temporary setup though, I could likely fit an older Blackburn lowrider or purchase another simple but effective Sunlite small rack. I have a few options at the very least to distribute weight on Miss Rachel for springtime tours.
  • Touring ideas include a loop connecting the Cross Vermont Trail and soon to be complete Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, doable from home! It's an opportunity to ride dirt roads, pavement, and a gravel railbed, crossing the width of Vermont twice. We can see this loop becoming popular in the years to come. Also on the agenda is touring the Erie Canal Trail, hopefully early enough to avoid crowds, and later in the year, attending the Philly Bike Expo via Amtrak and my Dahon Boardwalk.

Friday, December 30, 2022

2022 Rewind

As I compile my year-end blogpost, a theme often emerges. Like 2020's "gratitude" and 2021's "forward momentum", 2022 will be remembered as a year of welcome changes to the number of bicycles in my possession, keeping a select few - the perfect amount for versatility - ultimately feeling liberated. The hardest part was admitting that a couple bicycles had to go, but once the decision was made - as is often the case - I didn't look back.

January to March was all about making 2022 intentions, investing in new studded tires, and working towards long-term bicycle choices. Spring is all about new beginnings. Feeling content with other parts of my life, it was time to follow through with other changes. As I grow older, accepting that some things are just more important than others, namely that experiences are important and not material accumulation, which includes too many bicycles, is key to my happiness.

April to June felt like I was moving forward at a rapid pace. Our young son - avid bike mechanic - simplified my commuter Peugeot, converting it to a single chainring. Later in the year he surprised me and upgraded it again! I thought about my overall bicycle journey and where it was heading, went on a bike overnight to a hotel, rode trails on Cape Cod, and perhaps the biggest decision, putting the Rivendell Clem-L for sale.

Dahon Boardwalk vs. Bike Friday's All-Packa

July to September continued the transitions. I purchased a Bassi Rachel frame (later built up); sold the Rivendell and my Peugeot UO-14, had an amazing opportunity to test an all-terrain folding bike: Bike Friday's All-Packa, which left a huge impression - something that continues to resonate with me. In late September, I went on a solitary and satisfying vacation, visiting part of the Empire State Trail.

The lovely bridges of the Northern Trail.

October to December unfolded in expected and unexpected ways. Adele and I resumed our Canadian adventures, visiting the lovely Ottawa region despite the chilly forecast. I inadvertently discovered New Hampshire's longest rail trail, the Northern Trail, during peak foliage. I completed 10 years of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, but understanding, contentedly, that it may be my last year of participation. I rounded out 2022 with 3300+ miles, pleased that for the second year working from home, I've kept the momentum going, riding year-round.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Procrastinators Nightmare - I Can't Ride My Bike

Transitions are hard. The seasonal change is gradual, and yet sometimes it slams us and we wake up one morning, woefully unprepared. The intense cold and snowfall that won't go away is normal, of course, as we slide into a Vermont winter, but for a procrastinator, it means I won't be able to ride with confidence until I swap nearly treadless commuter tires for, you know, ones with studs.

It seems to be a pattern with bicycle maintenance too. My Dahon has been sitting in the work stand for a month, waiting for an overwhelming list of deserved repairs: secure fender, regrease rear axle, replace rear tire, replace broken Grip shifter, possibly cable and housing, etc. They are not difficult as separate tasks, but daunting in entirety, especially for someone who doesn't have patience. It will get done, eventually, but after the studded tire session, because, as avid riders know, riding a bike keeps us sane.

Until then, I work from home, staring outside at the snowy landscape, sunshine casting pretty shadows. Longing. 

Tea and frosted sugar cookies will have to do for now.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Unexpected Peugeot St. Laurent Upgrades

Asking for a updated shifter and getting a whole new drivetrain!
I've been running a 1X system on the Peugeot St. Laurent since April. At the time, our son cobbled together some some new and used parts, using a single thumbshifter. It wasn't a perfect system, but allowed me to get used to less gears, which proved brilliant. The thumbie was always the weak part, requiring strength, finesse, and friction mode guesswork!  

The speed shifter allows shifting into higher gears with my index finger -
similar to my mountain bike. Less strain on my thumb!
This autumn I asked for a speed shifter. As is our son's pattern, he works on personal projects after hours for efficiency - nothing like his shop corner, favorite tools, and handy access to used and new parts.

What I didn't expect was getting a new drivetrain!

New cassette and derailleur, plus new, used rear wheel.

I presume he was still learning last spring and wanted to properly set up the 1 x system. He knows how much I like this old Peugeot. Fortunately, it only cost me parts. 

New gold chainring.

I have enjoyed watching our son's growth and confidence bloom since working full time as a bike mechanic. Not everyone is lucky enough to get paid for their passion! Once upon a time he teased me because I had 4 bicycles, but no longer. He has double that, plus two more frames he intends to build up.