Friday, October 31, 2014

Wheels, Sing Me a Song

As I pedaled my bicycle back and forth to work this week my wheels sang a hollow tune. It came out of nowhere, once again, like a warm breath of contentment. The next day the rolling song disappeared. It's a phenomena that I first noticed a few years back, front wheel (as near as I can detect) emanating a steady hum and—as close as I can describe—sounding like a cross between a hot air balloon's engine blast and a purring cat.

Singing with me through Autumn.
I mentally tried to decipher it's cause. Did the sound emanate from a particular bike, tire pressure, tread, tire width, recently greased bearings, type of rack, panniers, gravel or pavement, wind direction, weather? However, after a few years, my sleuthing abilities came up short. There was no determining factors that accounted for the noise (I'm pretty proud of that fact that I keep my drive-train fairly clean and attend to annoying rattles)—in fact the resonance occurs on all my bikes, with the exception that it happens more often on my Trek Antelope.

A painted scene in the waning October light. A horizontal cloud streaks
above Mount Mansfield's summit.
I also pondered the possibility that the hollow melody was always there. Perhaps a quiet mind and environment opened my eyes. However, I don't think that's true. Cycling for me sparks reverie and creativity like nothing else can. Surely, I would have noticed the beautiful sound long before now.

Sunset glows highlight the remaining color like nothing else can.
It's been a breathtaking week.
And so, with a wistful longing I've finished another year of bike commuting to my countryside office. For the next few months I'll drive and watch out for brave souls who pedal through darkness at 5 o'clock. I'll still ride my bike on weekends—nothing, short of ice, snow, and below zero temperatures (okay, maybe 10 F) can stop me. The depths of winter is still far off. Until then, I'll be listening for the peaceful sound in my wheels. It's time to quit analyzing and just enjoy the journey. That's what the noise means to me now: contentment, acceptance, and a smooth running bicycle.

Wheels, sing me a song.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - Fourth Cup

Hankering for a ride after several rainy days, I set out to check
on our family's summer camp. 
 I decided to dress up for coffeeneuring this time around. Just because.

I also wanted to try out my new floral tights. Multi-colored tights must be all the rage in Italy - my girlfriend bought them on vacation and she presented them to me as part of a birthday gift package at our last Girls' Night Outing. The tights are comfortable, even while riding several miles, though the skirt tended to hike up after a while. Good thing the coat provided adequate coverage.

The best bike parking - visible in front of store.
On the way home from a well-deserved ride after too many wet days in a row, I decided to try Scout's coffee. Scout is a new shop that's sprung up along a main thoroughfare, but book-ended by housing and far from a commercial district. I rather like their location. The shop seems out of place in one respect though, appearing empty behind huge glass panes. Indeed, once inside, the furnishings are industrial and spartan - stools, chairs, a few tables - and could accommodate twice the amount of seating if needed.

I'm giddy over the blue cup and tiny spoon - and that's before I taste the coffee.
More shops should pay attention to tableware and coffee presentation.
I clipped my helmet around bike frame and rack - this time not because I'd forgotten my lock! On the contrary, I could easily keep track of my bicycle from anywhere inside the coffee shop. Now that's my type of bike parking.

I was in the mood for cappuccino. While I waited I wandered along the counter, wishing I had enough cash to try a scone or muffin, I stumbled upon a man holding a two gallon ice cream carton. I started reading a listing of interesting flavors, "corn with lavender, caramelized walnut, etc."

"Do you make your own ice cream?" I asked. I suddenly remembered patrons eating ice cream cones at outside seating this past summer, though with brisk autumn weather, cold treats were the furthest thing from my mind.

"Yes, we do. Wanna sample?"

That's how I tasted the aforementioned flavors. Bike riding and ice cream go together like, well, bike riding and coffee. Or, better yet, bike riding and coffee ice cream (I salivate over mocha chip). I will certainly return to Scout to eat a dish of ice cream at some point.

The cappuccino was very smooth, dark, and arrived in the cutest blue cup with saucer. Coffee tastes better when presented in charming glass or ceramic dishes. If a shop only serves coffee in paper cups they lose a notch on my coffeeneuring scale.

I wonder: would Scout consider indoor bike parking? They have the space.

Just the facts:
The Place: Scout & Company
Date: Friday, October 24
Drink: Cappucino
Observation, Bike Friendliness: Highly visible bike parking. A neighborhood coffee shop away from the commercial fray ranks high on my coffeeneuring list. 
Total Miles: 12

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peugeot UO 14 - Adjustable Handlebars

Inspired with the Peugeot St. Laurent's new 5" riser handlebars and their versatility,  I put similar bars on my brother's old Peugeot. I rode for several miles, testing height and set back just to be sure of position before re-installing the Wald basket.

The new bars made a world of difference in terms of width (for leverage on hilly terrain), ability to lower a short stem (common in 1980s bicycles), and dial in a proper height and reach. Reach has been an ongoing problem for me on most of my bicycles - I'm taller than the average woman, riding bikes made for the masses - and I've learned to solve fit issues with versatile handlebars and seat position.

Walmart has stopped offering the Zefal seat for sale.
If only I'd bought two, but who knew?
And, as much as I love the leopard print saddle cover, the seat has got to go. Positioning on the Peugeot is fairly upright, resembling the Ross. I'd like to find the same Zefal seat - or something similar, wider than my other saddles - as it would round out the Peugeot quite nicely.

I still can't fathom how much I'll ride this bicycle. It's strictly a fair weather machine and one I invested little expense and effort in to bring it up-to-date. It does not duplicate what our other bikes can handle in terms of racks and touring potential. That's the beauty of a simple set up. Without toe-clips but with the ability to carry goods up front, on zippy tires, perhaps the Peugeot will fill a niche as an easy going, approachable ride. For visitors. For quick trips to the store, or as an alternative, old school beauty.

Again, squealing brakes necessitated replacement, this time with Grey Matter rubber. However, I can't get rid of my collection of Peugeot metal shoes (Mafac and Shimano). My husband says I'll never go back to metal - they're a hassle to resole and cost a lot more. He's probably right. Yet, I can't get rid of them either. Perhaps they'll make great Christmas ornaments? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - Third Cup



My mission was two fold: to experience the Burlington waterfront in peak foliage and coffeeneur.

Even the garden grasses were filled with autumn color.
My son had a card for a free cookie at Great Harvest Bread company, which I offered to cash in for him (anything with chocolate, mom!) so my coffee shop of choice it became. After I'd had my fill of leaf peeping I steered inland and pulled up to my destination.

It wasn't until I found the rack, helpfully placed a good distance from the road, that once again I'd forgotten my bike lock. I can change a flat tire en route—no problem—I remember to transfer pump and tool kit, but apparently I'm scattered when it comes to insuring a lock gets stuffed in my front bag. Again, I secured my bike with helmet and bungee cord. I would step inside the store, purchase coffee and goodies and enjoy them at the picnic table near the bike rack.

Of course, any bread shop smells like heaven! I picked up a chocolate oatmeal cookie, a loaf of farmhouse bread, apple crunch bread sample, and sadly only coffee again in lieu of a latte. But at least the coffee was locally roasted—in fact, Speeder and Earl's Coffee is literally right around the corner.

Just the facts:
The Place: Great Harvest Bread Company, Burlington
Date: Friday, October 17
Drink: Speeder and Earl's medium roast
Observation, Bike Friendliness: It's pretty embarrassing that I seem to forget my lock on coffeeneuring outings. Adequate bike rack on patch of grass next to gardens.
Total Miles: 18

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oh, the Autumn Color!

Friday morning is brisk but also sublime. River valleys are ablaze in color - indeed, this is nature's last hurrah.

Checking out North Beach for possible Coffee Shop Without Walls setting.
Could I be lucky enough, second time around, to encounter as lovely skies?
It's a great impetus to get outdoors...

...before glorious leaves are but a puddle.

There are lots of yellow and orange colors, with sumacs a stunning red...

...and evergreens for contrast.

A perfect marriage all together atop dark tree trunks.

At the Winooski River I detour to check out a pocket park. A fisherman is transferring his poles and tackle to the picnic table.

It's a different vantage point. Usually, I'm buzzing across the bridge, listening to the boards rattle under wheel.

It's good to shake things up, so-to-speak, insuring common routes remain fresh and pleasurable. In fact, I'd forgotten about this sign. Soon it will be completely covered in leaves, and eventually snow.

Looking back towards the bridge, I noticed an old utility pole and wondered if it dates back to when the railroad was in use. Funny how I'd never noticed it before.

Leaves collect atop the bridge arches...

...and pool on the decking.

Further south as I pedal over the barge canal, I delight in new rail decoration: stenciled autumn leaves!

Lake level is unusually low. There are sand bars everywhere. I spy Canadian geese and something else.

I push my bike across the sand...

...and I'm pretty sure people have been stacking stones on a rocky ledge. They look like little monuments.

There is an ending to this bike ride. It involves coffee, of course, Words for another time...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - Second Cup

Indian Summer snuck up on us, along with intense windy days. I grabbed my mesh sack, already packed with mug, stove, matches, and utensils, added requisite liquid and drink of choice, then set out for Wheeler Park.

The treehouse is a smaller version of the granddaddy treehouse I strolled through last year. though built around a dead and not living tree. However, the location is beautiful, with views of the surrounding flower and vegetable gardens. Until recently a birch bark tepee was a neighbor, and it's hard to beat the stupendous hillsides awash in color with Green Mountains as purplish-blue backdrop.

I wonder how long the foliage will last with these windy days!

I roll my bicycle aboard, delighted to find a picnic bench. I tuck away my gloves and headband, keeping an eye on my belongings, lest they tumble off the platform. Clearly, I won't be cooking atop the table!

Bottles anchor the table cloth: Silly Cow Farms hot chocolate and milk.

Hunkering on the floor, I light the stove twice - it's a difficult prospect, and in fact I give up after a while, knowing the chocolate is lukewarm, but it's drinkable. I hadn't though to bring a windscreen nor wanted to cook beneath the treehouse, spoiling the ambiance.


I wrap an extra bandana around my head to harness the fly-away hair.
Just the facts:
The Place: Wheeler Homestead Park, South Burlington
Date: Monday, October 13
Drink: Silly Cow Farms hot chocolate
Observation, Bike Friendliness: A bright tablecloth (a bandana) lends class to a Coffee Shop Without Walls outing.There's always bike friendly parking when you brew your own drink!
Total Miles: 6

Monday, October 13, 2014

Peugeot St. Laurent Express - Project Complete

I also was delighted to finished painting the railings on our new front porch 
on the same day - culmination of two big projects.
After another marathon session, this time outside in warmth and sunshine, I completed the Peugeot St. Laurent's renovation. In fact, when I finished I was so tickled at the outcome that I knocked on my neighbor's door to thank him again for The Conversation About a Kickstand. Without it, I would never have received the bike.

A break for sustenance and bike maintenance reassurance at the funky table. 
Of course, I left the difficult process of adjusting shifting until last. With my husband's suggestion, I compared the project bike with our current bikes, figuring where to place the chain on the cogs, and when to tighten the cable. A quick spin on the bike revealed I'd done it correctly, however the right shifter is a bit sluggish, and frankly I can't tell the difference between index and friction mode. Anybody's Bike Book says that index shifters work well if set up as a whole drive train package. I had originally used the nice Shimano shifter because I'd hoped to provide easy index shifting for my son. However, now that I know about it shortcomings, I will leave well enough alone. For now. A functioning mismatched pair it is. My son doesn't care one way or the other.

The simple not-very-practical handlebar.
The commuter's handlebar. Gotta have a bell and lights.
(I'd add a mirror too, but that's just me.) At my son's request,
I wrapped a cable lock in the empty space.
I couldn't interest my son in a wire basket or crate secured to his rear rack. He only wanted a bungee cord. But then again, he's pretty new to this commuting stuff. Give him time...

Breakdown of costs:
  • New cables 10.00, bought locally
  • A pair of thumbshifters 18.00 (includes cables and housing, of which I used half), ordered from Rivendell
  • Handlebars 20.00, bought locally
  • Ergonomic Grips 25.00, bought locally
  • New chain 13.00, bought locally

Parts from our stash:
  • front brake pads (original pair proved to be a squealing nightmare!)
  • used tires
  • seat post
  • some housing and cables
  • rear shifter

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Just-Right Bell Handlebar Bag

This bag fits my Trek perfectly. Best of all, the fabric does not scrape the frame, unlike a wedge bag that used to dominate the bar in the Trek's early years. You can see how the paint was worn down to metal.
I'd been on the lookout for a simple, versatile handlebar bag, one I hoped to swap between several bicycles. Something to hold a camera, wallet, keys, and a snack. For a while I thought I'd create my own upcycled bike bag, but the supply of second hand purses was either too large or too small.

Then I came across a Bell brand pouch with easy hook and loop attachment whose style reminds me of a camera bag. Only 13.00. Perfect.

In fact, the bag was quite useful on Hazen's Notch/ Lake Carmi Overnight. In addition to above items I also carried a phone, pen, and a map. Not bad capacity for a mini bag - and all without sagging.

Long hook and loop straps allow versatile attachment to most any bicycle.
The new bag also fits the mustache bars on my Miyata. I now have easy access to my camera while commuting to/from work, especially ideal for burgeoning fall foliage. The nearly flat top also acts as platform for a headlight. I'm pushing sunset on October rides home.

The zipper pull is a cute, oval-shaped mirror - I noticed this feature long into day one of the overnight ride. The only downside: I wish the bag included a two-way zipper, which could be opened with either hand or allow an item to stick out, if necessary. However, it's a minor quibble. I'm tickled to have found this sweet, functional handlebar bag.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - First Cup

Chai tea accompanied by chicken salad on a sesame bagel. Prime seating
 to watch over my unlocked bicycle.
I prefer mixing Coffeeneuring jaunts with errands to maximize time on my days off from work. Because I live in a medium sized community, coffee shops are abundant—several are within a 5 mile radius, easily accessible on two wheels. So, my focus for Coffeeneuring 2014 will be on patronizing new (to me) coffee shops or eating establishments that serve hot drinks.

I discovered I'd forgotten my lock at my first errand destination: Barnes & Noble. With a little ingenuity, I fastened my helmet around rack and frame because the bike would be out of my sight for 15 minutes. I also wound a bungee cord like a spiderweb between front wheel frame and rack. I feel confident with makeshift security in a pinch. My bikes are old and while they are of personal value they are not prized by thieves.

Bike thieves don't lurk in parking lots.
After another stop to pick up a quart of paint, I treated myself to lunch at The Bagel Place. This place opened a year ago. There's a plethora of bagel joints in the Queen city area, one pretty much similar to another. I couldn't easily find a bike rack, railing, nor sandwich board to which I could affix my bicycle. The only option was to attach my bike to a utility pole out of sight, but for obvious reasons I did not. The best solution: clip my helmet to frame and front wheel, right in plain sight of the shop's windows. 

I was looking forward to a latte or mocha, however bagels and sandwiches are the primary attraction, with several kinds of cream cheese listed on the chalkboard menu. No espresso machine on the premises. Coffee is offered in pump pots. I opted for Chai, brought to me in a paper cup with tea bag. To The Bagel Place's credit, they offer Uncommon Grounds coffee and Vermont Artisans Teas, both local and much loved entrepreneurs. The chicken salad tasted fresh, made chunky style. The ambiance was pretty basic, much like the bagels, but I basked in front of the large windows which allowed ample natural light. I observed vehicles come and go, and of course, watched protectively over my bike.

Just the facts:
The Place: The Bagel Place, South Burlington
Date: Monday, October 6
Drink: Chai
Observation, Bike Friendliness: I can still coffeeneur, even if I've forgotten to bring a lock. Strip malls are auto-centric and often do not accommodate bike racks in convenient, highly visible locations.
Total Miles: 3