Monday, September 29, 2014

Re-Tired Table

The table is a perfect 26" diameter for tires.
After I wisely gave up on the idea to re-use old tires on a bicycle, I put the old rubber aside for a while. I considered heaving them out with the garbage, donating them to Bike Recycle - they make belts - or refashioning them into something useful. Except, I didn't particularly want to create extra work for myself either.

I was able to smooth the puckered tire so it rests flat against the glass.
So, I revisited a creative idea, one that came about because we purchased used outdoor furniture earlier in the year to adorn a new deck. I suspected the table's diameter might be mountain tire width at the time of purchase, but my husband rolled his eyes at my suggestion. So, with instant rejection, I put the "silly" idea aside.

We lived with the set for the summer. Previous owners had left paint splatters on the table. I was able to clean it off the glass, but spots remained on the green edge. It wasn't terribly noticeable and I could've lived with it's "character" or eventually sanded and repainted. However, when used tires entered the equation I put my "silly" idea to the test. My husband also wasn't around to offer an opinion.

I cleaned up the flexible tire; the other being a stiffer, flat-proof version I presumed wouldn't lend itself as easily to the task. First I tried folding the tire around the rim - exactly like you would on a wheel rim - but the 1.5" height was too thick. One last try: I cut the wire bead (1" into gumwall) off the rubber. This was just enough to stretch the rubber in place. The cut side is down. And, if I need to deal with rainwater collecting underneath, I have a leather hole punch that should do just the trick, adding unseen drainage holes.

When my youngest boy came home from school and admired my handiwork, he smiled and gave me a high five. Then I called a neighbor over - who also loves bikes. She gave her approval and immediately invited her husband to admire what I'd done. I felt better.

That's when I decided my husband is living with the "new" table.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knobby Tire Lasagna?

Aaron Stein is in love with using found items for his art. He is also in love with the automobile. And their positive and negative influence in our lives. This quirky image made me laugh. Thank goodness I spied a bicycle tucked inside his office.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deadheading Flowers - A Change in Plans

Osteopermums, my new favorite flower. I have purple and white variety in my
window boxes. They love cooler weather.
It's a beautiful, crisp morning. I've made a thermos of coffee and applesauce muffins. I show up at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, ready to lead a group of women. It will be a 1.5 hour jaunt along easy, flat trail and neighborhoods.

Except, no one shows.

Undaunted, I call my husband, a prearranged back up plan. No sense wasting a bike ride. We have sustenance. We love to ride. Chilly weather means we don coats and gloves.

As I wait, I watch couples slowly ride by, deep in conversation. I watch women in groups of two pedal by. Walkers, joggers. Hockey parents, shuttling loud rolling carts of gear past me to the nearby rink. An out of town bus operator loops behind building and exits on pedestrian path, realizing his mistake too late. A pole planted mid-trail prevents such dangerous intersection with Burlington's busy bike path. I don't envy the driver's recourse, backing a behemoth bus in reverse. The beeping alarm slices a sunny, brisk morning filled with birdsong and quiet thoughts.

Sipping coffee, I decide to deadhead Osteopermums near park sign. Pretty the place. Ponder why women are not drawn to this year's Women's Ride Series. Is it the Sunday morning venue? Too casual a ride? Do beginners tend towards impromptu arrangements? Should we include men or reclassify schedule as family rides?

Clearly, I must consider what riders - new and seasoned - would like to experience. Or perform a survey.

Meanwhile, I just ride.

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Create More Bike Commuters

Bike Commuter 101 classes lean heavily on safety. First, it's all about the bike. Are tires properly inflated? Do your brakes work? Is the chain oiled? Do you know how to change a flat? Lights? Reflective clothing?

Once the bicycle's condition is addressed, other questions must be answered: What's the safest route to follow? What happens if it rains? How do I carry my stuff? Where do I lock my bike?

There are so many steps and options for a first timer, it's enough information to give many a headache. No wonder most wannabe commuters resort to their usual transportation - the automobile. It may not be the healthiest solution (for body and planet), nor the cheapest, but it's comfortable. As adults, change does not come easily.

Make no mistake, commuting by bike is a big lifestyle change. But do bike commute workshops have to be fraught with does and don'ts, scaring away potential commuters? These meetings are held with the best of intentions: to get more people on bicycles. However, I wonder if harping on safety (bike- and road-wise) has an underlying, adverse affect, much like the helmet debate wars.

I think instructors are missing the point, one that might stick with folks at least amenable to the idea of riding a bike. FUN. Teachers are focused on accounting for every dangerous situation - and they would be remiss if they avoided the subject altogether - that they forget to emphasize the obvious, "Just get out there and have fun."

We should all recall what it was like to ride like a kid.

Remember the first taste of freedom, pedaling through woods, down the street, with friends, pumping roller coaster style in a sandpit? Or riding with no hands? Danger was the furthest thing from our mind. We had wheels. We had transportation.

If I had my way, transportation cycling classes would be held outdoors, for starters. I'd preach by example, bringing an old bike. Together, we'd ride on the bike path, detouring in the woods, through parks, weave on the sidewalk, taking not necessarily the most direct route, but the most enjoyable, avoiding narrow, litter and pothole riddled bicycle lanes. Then I'd suggest decorating our bicycles: finally putting reflective spoke beads on my own wheels. And what's wrong with playing cards in the spokes? Tassels on handlebars? Wire or ziptie plastic flowers on a rack? Pinwheel on a handlebar? (Give me back my banana seat bike!)

The inevitable questions would come, unique to their situation, whether it's riding at night or in traffic. One by one. Not presented like the big bad wolf looking over your shoulder.

This post was inspired by Bicycle Times' Ride Like a Kid article, by Andrew Titus. Issue 031, October 2014.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sometimes I'm Tempted to Reuse Old Tires

Don't be fooled by good looking older tires, whatever the tread.
Safety comes first. Replace old rubber.
It's my general practice to discard old tires from any project bike, particularly when the sidewalls appear cracked or threads are poking out, like fine hairs. It's just plain dangerous to reuse tires that have been sitting for years, even if the bicycle has been stored inside. Rubber deteriorates. Blowouts can happen, possibly placing the rider in a dangerous situation. And considering this bicycle is one I'm refurbishing for my son (more on that in another blog post) I want him to ride a bicycle that's safe.

With that said, I discovered the rear tire seemed in fine shape. Plenty of tread. Sidewalls are okay, I think. Then I found the tire was a puncture-proof Nimbus Armadillo, like the one I put on my Trek Antelope. I wondered. Should I consider reusing it on my own bike?

Thankfully, I researched further. Old rubber not only disintegrates, but becomes stiff. Inflexible tires do not corner well. I will heed others' advice: if you don't know the bike's history or suspect it's been in storage, why take a chance? Do yourself a favor, replace the rubber. Period.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Paying a Fair Price for Bike Repair

A sign at a produce stand.
Take what you need. Pay what you can. Please be fair.
A statement like that could feed the world. Well, that message wouldn't solve all the world's hunger, I suppose, but it's an interesting approach to a farm stand full of produce. I helped myself to a bunch of kale and two onions, used the provided plastic bags, then put the veggies inside my panniers. I left a "fair" contribution in a metal collection box.

Later, I wondered about the "pay what you can" approach. In the world of excess veggies where rotting is the alternative to bringing in extra cash, it makes sense (think piles of zucchini that most folks are happy to give away). Applying this theory to bicycle business, could this practice work in a low overhead shop environment?

I like to work on my own bikes, but sometimes need a freewheel removed, brake cables tightened, or better yet, I would love to have a knowledgeable mechanic inspect a bike overhaul (I'm thinking of a current project). I'd gladly pay a fair price (35.00/hour is local rate, exorbitant in my opinion) for professional expertise.

It may be a dream, but a retired bike mechanic could service bikes from their garage (my grandfather did, as a self taught mechanic). Many people have the know how, tools, and ability to accept less payment*, but I suspect, if there are such mechanics in our area, they operate under the radar, so to speak, to avoid business license fees, etc.

Does anyone know of legitimate bicycle operations that practice the "pay what you can" business approach?

*There's got to be a worthwhile wrenching person that would accept a 20 dollar bill. It pays for a 12 pack of micro brew.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Friend Champ

On blue sky days, living is easy. Riding a bike is easy. Getting outdoors is easy. Contrary to overcast, dreary weather, I set out on my bicycle, looking for things to do, places to visit, errands to run. When there's a string of gorgeous weather, especially in September, I wander. It's how I encountered my friend Champ, all by himself, looking like he needed some cheering up.

Ever since Champ was relocated (or he swam) during the 2011 lake flooding, his residence is now hidden from the vast majority of  cyclists on the bike path. If cars are lined up, waiting for the ferry, a tourist may snap his picture or investigate the sculpture. Otherwise, he's hidden behind a building and it's up to Burlingtonians who frequent the waterfront to give Champ attention.

Much like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, there've been numerous sitings of a huge water creature lurking in the lake. With 400 foot depths, who knows what's living between Vermont and New York?

For now, I smile at the lovable land-locked green monster on the lawn, give him a pat, notice he could use a new coat of paint then set off on another exploration, this time looking across the water, hoping for a glimpse of the real Champ.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When a Biking Friend Happens to be a Great Cook

Stow the bikes and let's eat!
Who cares whether bikes are locked when returning from a ride?

Not in my friend's driveway, it seems. Because well, when food is on the agenda and time is short, let's not get picky.

Would you bother locking up when cheesecake and iced coffee are waiting? And not just any cheesecake, mind you, but an Italian cook's ricotta version accompanied with strong tasty espresso. In glass cups, Chilled with frozen coffee cubes. Really. Regular ice is so passé.

She's a creative genius, if you ask me.

Geesh, where are your priorities my conscience worries over my beloved Miyata. Outside. Unlocked. Out of my vision. It'll be okay. I think.

And yet, almost every ride with my friend ends this way. We are foodies, throwing practicality out the window. In it's place is a mouthwatering treat. As it should be.

Seeking Relief

Early September provided some very hot summer-like weather. I drank 20 oz. of water each way while pedaling to the office, took a shower, and sat, fan-side all day. It was with relief that returning home one particualr day, the sky was filled with gorgeous clouds. Hallelujah, shade! I am a cloud person, always observing the sky for changes, birds, and any sign of heat relief, so this simple swirling mass overhead signaled a weather front.

Recently, Canadian geese are flocking southward and solitary monarch butterflies float by on their annual journey. Cool, breezy fall like weather is upon us. It's my favorite time of year. With friends and blog acquaintances on or out to embark on European vacations, I'm yearning for a bike overnight.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

One Big Crank

I fell in love with this huge artistic sculpture - and what bicyclist wouldn't - on a busy Burlington Street. There are other metal behemoths  too: a human-sized wing nut and three 8-foot high entwined nails (yes, the type carpenters' hammer into wood).

All outdoor art pieces are part of South End Art Hop, Burlington's South End celebration of artists' studios. Eat and drink your way down a mile long corridor of businesses. Get tickets to watch a recycled art fashion show (I've heard this one is freaky, creative, and fabulous), or meander for hours visiting numerous artists' studios and exhibits. It's often an eclectic mix - all part of the fun. My boys loved Barbie heads in a gumball machine; their headless torsos later displayed in an antique fortune teller machine.

Imagine the size of the bike?

I couldn't resist inspecting this beauty up close.

A freewheel in the cougar's thigh is only one bicycle part of many included in this spectacle. If you have a spare 5,000. this big cat could be yours!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Are Panniers Old School? Well, Yes and No.

Office wire baskets: lightweight, strong, and cheap.
Toss anything inside and secure with a bungee.

As more and more people take to the roads on two wheels, hauling groceries and/or work items is a necessary component. And not everyone can afford high-end panniers. Ingenuity is key, especially in a college environment where second hand bicycles provide inexpensive transportation. Almost anything goes for containers.

Crates come in many colors and sizes. They are highly visible to road users.
Backpacks and messenger bags aside, riders are becoming creative, using any type of metal or plastic container. I've seen front wicker baskets strapped to rear rack. Plastic crates are everywhere; they can be stylish, available in various colors and sizes, and are a sturdy as they come. Opaque storage containers with lids are handy when it rains. Commonly, office-type coated metal baskets are being re-purposed, zip tied to racks. They are a lightweight alternative to a crate. I grabbed two white ones from a lawn giveaway pile. I like their versatility: use on front or rear rack.

I love tulips, especially adorning panniers.
What panniers I see are often cheap and practical, reminding me of Dutch-style bags. They are basic, have one compartment, and come with straps that link both panniers, which renders hooks and springs unnecessary.  A simple Velcro strap secures bags to rack. When a rider needs to haul a myriad of items, enclosed and out of sight, this type of bag is a perfect compliment to any bicycle.

Panniers with volume - perfect for groceries.
While durable panniers may be old school or unaffordable to the masses, they're still the right choice for touring. Nothing beats compact storage, multiple pockets, snug and secure rack fit, and the ability to remove bags, separately, keeping gear and clothing organized.

What ingenious baggage solutions have you seen in your cycling community?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dorset Street Bike Path - A Grass Roots Effort

I'd passed the sign for two weeks - I'm the last to arrive home for dinner so best mash the pedals and make good time. With an hour commute each way I'm reluctant to tack on mileage in either direction, with the exception of picking up groceries or pet food, which alters my route a mere quarter mile. Yesterday, curiosity go the better of me and I stopped. In hindsight, had I noticed the tiny description "Extend the bike path down Dorset Street?" I would've pulled over the first time I zipped past the sign.

I took a slip of paper inside the plastic bag dangling from the cardboard. Residents are distributing an online survey, gauging users interest in a path extension. I dutifully gave my feedback. Yes, of course I'd love a longer path, or at the very least connecting two sections whose gap is a stone's throw. As it is now, I bypass the path heading south, opting to pedal on-road, because of that issue - crossing traffic both ways would needlessly put me in danger. That short connection alone would benefit myself and others.

Anyone else encountering grass roots efforts to jump-start a bike path in your community?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Warm Showers Guests - Michiganders

The Kona duo.
Kate and Jakob are regular bike commuters in Kalamazoo, Michigan but are new to bicycle touring. They set off for a two week Vermont sojourn, exploring Burlington, Craftsbury, and around lake Champlain.

Enjoy the ride Kate and Jakob. Come back and visit us again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Chalk Drawing for Bicycle Fans

There is something about the rich colors of chalk drawings that appeals to me. From coffee shop menus to street art, the fact that each lovely creation is temporary, makes my enjoyment all the sweeter. I love this latest sandwich board display, especially because it captures riding on our waterfront path with our own fabled lake monster, Champ, lurking somewhere on the horizon.