Friday, May 31, 2013

Trek Tribulation

Completing errands on the Ross, after dropping off the Trek for repair.
I like the monogrammed lock post.
I suppose it goes without saying that the more you ride a particular bike, the more that bicycle will need for maintenance and repair. Enter my Trek 820 Antelope. After procrastinating for weeks (don't we all do that when we own multiple bikes?) I replaced a couple chain rings. No biggie. But just yesterday while riding home from work, a grinding noise emanated from the rear wheel. Along with that, the pedals and chain rotate when walking the bicycle. I figured the freewheel and hub needed a good cleaning. However, I didn't feel up to the task after last weekend's basement bike mechanics, so I brought my bike to the LBS.

Diagnosis: freewheel connection to hub is worn. I don't understand exactly what that means or looks like, but I trust their judgement. I also had him assess the rim. It's seen some wear and is dished; however, I don't know how much is considered dangerous. Because this bike will see touring miles this year, I'm not surprised he recommended a new rim. Might as well, seeing as it needs a new hub anyway. I normally like having the LBS rebuild wheels, but unfortunately the cost is significantly higher with this method. So, long story short, I'm getting a new pre-built rear wheel. And, I'm going back to Schraeder tubes—personal preference.

And while they're at it, the mechanic will tighten the shifting cable and crank bolts. I fiddle with my bikes to save money, but when the bike is in for heavy duty repair, it's an opportune time to have a professional back me up.

*While writing this post, I called to remind the mechanic about the Schraeder rim hole. It's my lucky day. He had located a decent used wheel for me, cutting the cost in half. Yipppee! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Repose at 8:15 a.m.

Early morning drop off at school. A day off. Without demands or errands.

A book in tow. Heading for Maglianero for coffee.

The stunning view across the lake draws me past the cafe.

In for a closer look.

Blue everywhere. Sky, water, mountains.

A lone sailboat resides in the harbor. I am happy to just be.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day Fix

Notice the pointy center sprocket. This is worn and must be replaced.
Doggone sunshine for Memorial Day! Yay! After 6 days and 7" of rain we deserve some nicer weather. And just in time to squeeze in a ride with my man. Well, at least a short one as it seems lawn mowing is in order after the long stretch of bad weather. This gave me the impetus to replace two chain rings on my Trek Antelope—something I should have done three weeks ago.

Gunk buildup beneath the chain rings. Fortunately, I have a sealed bearing hub cassette,
which requires replacement as opposed to cleaning. It still spun freely.
I removed the  exterior gunk with rag
I would occasionally notice some chain skipping—a sure sign that rear cassette, chain, or front gears needed some attention. I cleaned the freewheel; it's only five years old. I replaced the chain about a month ago. That helped for a while, but as I inspected the chain ring teeth, I knew at least one ring needed replacing. I use the middle chain ring the most, and thus after about 15 years it's worn. I ordered a new one along with a granny gear ring. I seldom use the large sprocket.

My husband helped locate our removal tool and guided me through the process. Again, I'm learning that brute strength can be replaced with a rubber mallet. Tap, Tap, tap. Loose.

I cleaned up as much of the grease as possible on large ring and crank arm. Bolting on the new rings was relatively easy. The only difficulty was tightening the stack/cinch bolts (new terms for me). In my effort to regrease all parts, I lubricated the bolt receptors, which apparently is a no no. I unscrewed all five connections, cleaned them as best I could, and put it together again. After Internet browsing, I used a screwdriver and a dime to secure one of two notches in place while tightening the Allen bolts on the screw heads. However, only two of five still properly tighten. Fortunately, it's secure for the time being. Short of buying a special tool to hold the receivers in place (notches are pretty tiny), or purchasing new hardware, I'll monitor the situation as I ride. I'm hoping a couple of wet rides will remove more grease, then I can properly tighten the remaining loose Allen bolts.

 Clean front sprockets. So nice.
Voila! Two Memorial Day fixes: a smooth drive train and a long awaited ride with my favorite partner. About time...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Going Bikeless Crazy

Wet maples abound in our yard.
At times I've struggled with keeping my head above the weather, so-to speak. I try to calm myself when it's humid, but it doesn't work. It's below zero and I dream of warm sandy beaches. Right. I admit I have zero tolerance for extremes, and as my husband puts it, "a low threshold." I'm okay with that. I've learned to turn on the air conditioner in summer or sleep in our cool basement. In winter, I can tolerate 64F indoor temperatures for a while, then I take a hot shower—my concession for lower heating bill.

Left: Puddles in our driveway. Right: Looking through my bike wind chimes to the wet street.

Ever since Wednesday, rain washed out bridges, closed roads and schools, dipping temperatures into the 40s F. Wetness is seeping into our basement and around the windows on our sleeping porch. And we're not talking about showers, but heavy non-stop drenching rain (6" so far). Despite a sewing project, which is thankfully almost finished, baking brownies, watching movies, reading a novel and bicycle magazine, the sedentary life fills me with anxiety. And this time, it's not only me but our entire household. We've all exhausted our patience, including our two boys who find it difficult to keep hands off each other without an Internet babysitter. So we divide projects and errands, keep our distance, send one child at a time to a neighbor or friend's house. It works, for the most part. However...

I am going bikeless crazy.
It's been four days without much exercise. I cannot willingly ride a bike in cold rain. Walking is an unpleasant affair with wind inverting the umbrella and drenching horizontal rain. Impossible to keep feet dry. I have, however, attended my first yoga session in years, one that holds promise to stretch this creaky body and calm a cranky mind. And, so it goes. I drive the car one mile to yoga class. Strange.

Looks like we'll get a reprieve on Monday.

What do you do when a stretch of bad weather hits your area?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mud Pond Report

Older son is more cautious and stayed behind with mom.
Last weekend we set out for Mud Pond mountain bike trails. It's a fairly easy ride, except for roots which, according to neighbors, have become exposed over the years. Fortunately, the trail's name is misleading; it was quite dry. I suspect the name comes from the pond access trail near where we parked the cars, only open to foot traffic.

I had to take my time. Without shocks, it's a trickier ride. After my husband went over the handle bars because a plant obscured a pointed rock, I became gun shy. But that's okay. Better to walk sections than give up altogether. On the other hand, our youngest son and his buddy (both in yellow shirts) had a blast on their bikes with shocks and knobby tires. We heard whoops and laughter as the two boys stayed just ahead of us for the entire 3 miles.

I'd like to go back sometime with a mountain bike. Now that both our boys have adult-sized mountain bikes I can borrow one and explore the upper loop that we bypassed in favor of returning to the car.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bicycle History Tour

Luis Vivanco is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Vermont. He also loves bicycles. I often see Luis and his family riding to our children's school and at fundraising events. When I saw he was leading a historical tour, related to his recent book Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (Old) Thing, well, I couldn't miss it. After listening to his lecture last winter, I knew Luis had done his homework on Burlington's bicycle history. I was ready for a fun time.

The artistic entrance way at Old Spoke's Home.
We met at the Old Spokes Home.

Unfortunately, a start time discrepancy waylaid some riders. Fortunately, owner Glen Eames invited riders inside to see an ordinary get a new wheel.

A rare treat, indeed! Glen owns one of four surviving high-wheelers by a certain craftsman, whose name escapes me.

Glen holds the wheel.
A bike mechanic snakes a cable through the solid tubing (the same rubber used on wheelchairs). He says the pink rubber is hard to get nowadays.

The tubing is wrapped around the big wheel. Then the extra wire is strung through a hand-cranked winch, which tightens the tubing onto the wheel. At some point the wire is soldered and the rubber shrinks to form a perfect circle on the rim. It's a precise procedure, requiring lots of practice.

Glen suggested I check out a new acquisition, a Stearns Yellow Fellow. I went up stairs to the attic, part museum, part stock of reconditioned bicycles crammed together, but still organized. Museum pieces are displayed behind a barrier. It's not particularly a good place to photograph singular bicycles, but there she was: a golden Stearns.

If a Stearns looks familiar, it's because I use it for my blog icon. Now I can say I've finally seen one in person. Glen picked this beauty up from a lady in Aberdeen, Washington.

A home on Loomis Street once held Lane Bicycles.
But enough of bicycle drool. Luis led the flock, stopping at residential houses, which were once at the center of the 1880s-1890s cycling heyday  A large grey home stands virtually unremodeled. It's two car garage held the largest and longest standing bicycle dealership.

Luis takes his costume seriously, reciting more history.
A few more stops, one depicting a county fair where a horse track was used  to race bicycles, (now city residences) and it was on to pedestrian friendly Church Street, the heart of our Queen City. It was once bicycle central with 6 shops selling bicycles, plus sewing machines and hardware.

The magical bicycle tour, as Glen Eames coined our adventure, ended in a parking lot, former site of Howard Park, state fairgrounds for 15 years and home to more track racing. All that remains from that time period is the brick building on the left.

With cycling gaining momentum today, it's nice to recall when bicycles outnumbered cars, when one could race a trolley, ride macadam roads without mud crusted ruts (Burlington had great roads early on), or go for pleasure rides with your friends.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Woman Down - Upside Down!

On the very last day of Walk and Roll to School Week, I escorted a neighbor child along with my skateboard loving son.

The early morning brisk weather was pure heaven; blue skies meant another day full of parents and children arriving at school by foot-powered transportation.

All was well until I pulled out my camera to shoot footage of both boys in an awesome coast through vacant university paths. The younger neighbor boy is more cautious than my son, so much so that I was caught off guard when he stopped where I least expected him to. With camera in my right hand, I squeezed the left brake to avoid a collision, which of course sent me into an unavoidable left-leaning catapult over the handlebars. Ugh. Front panniers came unhinged upon impact. I let go of the camera, which I'd managed to hold onto during the fall. Lying on my side, I was pinned to the asphalt by the handlebars, my feet still in the toe clips, wheels suspended overhead. I suppose I rather looked like a beetle, momentarily upside down with legs wiggling in the air.

Upon hearing the crash, my son came back immediately to help. I fared well, considering the embarrassing predicament (I've now fallen twice due to taking pictures while on the bike). My head was spared. My boy retrieved the camera (my first concern), said it was okay except for scratches. He lowered the bike while I slowly got up. Somehow I only scraped my palm a bit, however my thigh hurt—bruised for sure—though I could still walk. Quick mechanical assessment revealed the bar end had taken the brunt of impact. It pushed into the brake lever; thumbshifter also rotated. I forced the bar end back into position, which rendered brakes and shifting functionable. I pulled myself together, reattached panniers, and continued to school.

Twenty minutes later I was heading off to work, by then feeling much better. I was, however, silently chastising myself for, once again, placing myself in danger so I could photograph while on the fly. But just then two Canadian geese flew overhead, evidently headed for an open field. I watched them tuck and hold wings in downward position for landing, like two synchronized divers. They honked and—I swear—glanced at each other, possibly conferring on landing location. I laughed. And not only at the geese. The irony of my earlier incident suddenly hit me. I smacked the pavement within 300 yards of the hospital emergency room.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bye Bye Schwinn!

I sold the Schwinn Super Sport. Since it went to someone who plans to give it new life, I may see it's pretty red frame someday cruising Burlington's streets.

Now I feel much better about a planned splurge on new panniers later this summer. Or earlier.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Path of Thoughts

Will my beloved hay rolls survive as new housing consumes the landscape?
As I pedaled home yesterday, I passed an old sign for The Ride of Silence, an organized group ride that recognizes cyclists killed in automobile collisions. At the same time, traffic was heavier than I remember it being in a long time. I soon passed one of two construction sites. New housing is slowly replacing open fields. A year from now, my commute could be very different.

Man (collectively) is forever digging, moving dirt from one place to another.
It's easy to see how thoughts could drift in a downward spiral. However, I was determined to remain positive.

Ivy climbed the sign and twisted into the air. Artistic.
A tailwind was like nature's hand, pushing me home. Recent rain brought out the lilac scent, puddles on the road. On a separate pathway now, I passed a baseball field. Little Leaguers practiced. I liked the sound of metal bat connecting with ball, the ping like a sharp bell. Two boys practiced toss and catch smack in the path. Not sure why they weren't in the grass. I slowed and rang my bell. A parent immediately instructed the boys to move aside and let me pass. I smiled, thanking them.

It's times like this that we should curb our tempers and show patience, tolerance, kindness, and generosity. Appreciate birds, smell nature's perfume, smile at children's laughter. I also noticed beautiful patterns as the wet asphalt dried...

...and an old style lamppost in a new housing development.

Change is inevitable. How we perceive it and adapt is the key.

Pedal on and enjoy your commute.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Italy - Saint Peter's Basilica & the Appian Way

Follow New Posts in the Around The World series on Mondays.
Click here for the Introduction.

31 miles - Saturday, October 15

We pack up and ride to Saint Peter's Square. Because of the tourist's throng it's prime location for theft. Andy offers to stay behind with the bikes, taking first watch while I slip a paisley skirt over my shorts to comply with regulations.

Saint Peters Basilica is the largest cathedral in the world. As I step into its cooler interior, red, white, and green marble covers the floor, the walls, columns. I am in awe. I've always loved churches for their solitude, a place for contemplation, but this space is unique. I feel it's historical significance, its grandeur. It has riches beyond compare. Tall columns line the interior. Bernini's Bronze Canopy, supported by four ornate, twisted columns stands beneath the main dome, which towers 120 meters overhead. The dome itself, full of scenes, with the light filtering downward from its green and golden hues, is breathtaking.

An example of one of many 10 foot high paintings.
Every wall is highly decorated. Panels of Renaissance art. Cherub sculptures. Gilded Latin writing. There are wooden confessionals, each one in a different language. Incense faintly perfumes the air. Several 10-foot high canvases painted by famous artists and many colossal statues adorn the basilica. Visitors are but specks. Footsteps sound like whispers. The whole effect is grandiose yet unpretentious. I am thankful the Vatican preserves artistic wealth and keeps it in the public eye. Full of riches, Saint Peters holds the power to entrance, to understand the influential role the Vatican plays in this region. Even for far reaching prayers, as Andy notices later, a candle lit for the Bosnian/Serbian conflict.

Bernini's Bronze Canopy

There is a better photo of La Pieta here.
In an alcove, I stumble on Michelangelo’s La Pieta, protected behind glass. It's smaller than I expected, but to understand the artist carved this beautiful sculpture at 21 years old, the intricate expressions, the draped clothing, all sculpted from a minuscule marble brings me to tears. And I hadn't even seen the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s culmination of his life's work, drawing on existing plans and forming a cohesive architectural plan for Saint Peters Basilica, is a tribute and lasting testament to a great artist.

Out in the heat, we confer on the 15.00 per person admittance to the Sistine Chapel and decide to bypass a visit. The chapel is currently under restoration, also. It's a difficult decision, however, not knowing when or if we'll ever return.

Andy, on the left, while a local pedals by the Colosseum.
We pedal eastward across the city, now unafraid to ride down the wide avenues. We stop at the Colosseum again, mainly to gobble pizza slices we'd purchased. We visit briefly with two guys from Colorado on mountain bikes who we'd run into the previous day. They'd spent their first night in the woods. On a five week holiday, their plan is to catch a ferry to Sardinia and eventually to Greece. Andy and I clued them into Italian customs. At the same time they explained the Colosseum today was free to visitors. We took advantage of this news and took turns gawking at the oval interior before heading out of Rome.

A drawing in my journal.

Inside the Colosseum.
Aqueduct on the Appian Way.
We wait at a traffic light with Port San Sebastian arch ahead, an ancient entrance once connected to Rome's walls. Three gypsy kids skillfully begged, moving around the cars. One girl has an infant on her back, coaxing it to look sad and hungry.

Past the arch we leave the city behind and gain the Appian Way, one of the oldest roads left from the Roman Empire. It connects Rome to southern portions, once a strategic, “appian”, means “queen” or long distance road. We quickly pedal a one way, low trafficked paved road along a broad, open ridge. The landscape is dry. Intact aqueducts surprisingly appear in the distance. A few pine trees line the Appian Way, where two high-heeled prostitutes step out, one dressed in red miniskirt, and wiggle an index finger at my husband. We chuckle at their brazenness. It seems like some scenarios remain unchanged, the same profession once tempting Roman legionnaires.

By way of back roads we reach the coast at dusk. With numerous directions we encounter two closed campgrounds. At the second place, the manager understands our situation, allowing us to stay the night. Showers are not available, but water and pit toilet suffice. Grazie! We eat a hearty meal of pesto con pasta and wash it down with a 2.00 bottle of Merlot. And call it an early night.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spring Fragrance

Pardon the closed eyes.
When a morning shower passed by, the lilac bushes perfumed the whole city. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "heaven sent". In this case "heaven scent" is more appropriate. Add those flowering wonders to the multitude of blossoming crab apple and cherry trees, and it's aromatic bliss.

Because of the early rain, my son and I took the bus to his school. When I met him later we walked home together. At least until he commandeers my bike...

...and rides it like a scooter. I think he missed his skateboard. I wasn't particularly anxious to ride anyway. There are too many fragrant trees to dawdle under, inhaling as I go. The wonders of Spring are fleeting. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.