Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Ebb and Flow of Blogging

It is with heartfelt misgivings that I've watched some truly wonderful bicycle blogs end. Perhaps the intentions and priorities behind the scenes have changed over the years. Or the devotion has gone. Other writers have taken breaks. Being a writer myself, I have not totally understood these feelings or lack of commitment, until now. I must write as a form of therapy and connection to the bicycle life that has taken me many places, quite figuratively and literally over the past 30 years. And then there is being outdoors, the exercise, this glue that bicycles hold for me as an integral device for clarity.

But the shift has occurred even for me. Life happens, as the saying goes, which holds true for all of us. Priorities have changed and more important matters must take precedence. It feels right as this moment in my life to reign in my writing and time spent at the computer to devote my energies toward more important matters.

Since the spring, I have been posting less, perhaps only once a week. At first it didn't feel fair to my readers, but as the months gave way I realized it felt right for me, the person who really matters in this arrangement. And so, this is your warning that I will be writing less but also my apology to fellow bloggers for my lack of understanding over the years. I finally feel a kinship with cyclist bloggers, one I hope will continue for years to come.

It goes without saying that I will be bicycle commuting, conjuring up some new upcycling projects, and squeeze in at least one bike overnight for 2015 (cross your fingers for good weather in September). a more difficult aspect of my life now that I work full-time. And then there is my quest to ride all of Burlington's city streets, plus researching my dream bike. Rest assured, bicycles are still key to my happiness.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Patching vs. Replacing a Bicycle Tube

Photo credit:

Do you prefer to change a bicycle tube every time you get a flat? Or do you economize and decorate with 10 patches before finally succumbing to total replacement? Barring any major tears in the rubber, my practice is to patch a tube 3 times with the fourth flat or slow leak necessitating a new tube. Ultimately, whether you patch or swap a new tube is more about personal preference and what makes a cyclist comfortable and confident on the road.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Decorating My Workspace

It's taken me a while to decorate my new office space. The Eiffel Tower pencil sharpener reminds me of the last time I was in Paris on a sub 24-hour walking tour after several days of cycling in Provence. The troll is a dear friend I appropriated from my son more than 10 years ago. I love her to pieces. Her helmet straps are barely hanging in there - I'm almost afraid to dust her! I received the Papyrus card this summer. It's a 3-dimensional work of art made of paper, plastic and metal. If the bicycle were real, it might be the swankiest ride ever - flower power to the extreme!

I'm sure I'm not the only one who fills her cubicle with bicycle love. How do you brighten your office?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Burlington Streets Challenge - New North End, Complete

Another installment in the series to ride every public road within Burlington's city limits in 2015.

I have mixed feelings about finishing this segment of my challenge. It means I will no longer have motivation to seek out neighborhoods I'd yet to explore within proximity of our camp, easy weekend access. It was in this exploration that I discovered the true nature of neighborhood diversity: entire street of fourplexes without a soul in sight versus active neighborhoods full of children versus quieter immaculately groomed yards, usually (but not always) signifying retired homeowners.

And contrary to my husband's proclamation that North End neighborhoods are unpredictable - he insists a neighbor might work on cars until all hours of the night - I see the positives. I love flat, easy to navigate by bicycle landscape. It is acceptable, even preferable, to ride on sidewalks; busy North Avenue is currently dangerous (soon to be redesigned to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists). There is more space in general: wider streets, larger yards than older Burlington neighborhoods. Proximity to waterfront bike path is an added bonus, which connects to downtown, South End, or northward into Colchester.

There are garage sales to stop at, again easier to meander when roads are flat. On a recent family bike ride, one son bought a recliner. We paid the seller, continued on our adventure, then returned later with the car to transport his chair.

There is a sense of shared community here - perhaps even rivalry - if elections results are any indication. North End is a working class neighborhood whereas the South End and downtown neighborhoods are increasingly gentrified. Between high rental properties and house prices, driven by students seeking apartments close to downtown campuses, the North End is the last affordable place to buy a Burlington home.

A neighborhood of single story ranch homes.
The North End also has a centrally located shopping district, the only one of it's kind within city limits. You can visit a doctor, post office, dentist, bagel shop, hardware store, and food store within walking distance or three minute bike ride. The grocery store has the best bike racks: upfront and under cover. All North End neighborhoods are within one mile of public parks and lakefront access.

Oh, honey, I beg to differ. I could see myself someday living in this region.

Completed Streets to date:
  1. Henry Street
  2. Crombie Street
  3. Cedar Street
  4. Volz Street
  5. North Prospect Street
  6. Woodbury Road
  7. Woodlawn Road
  8. Brierwood Lane
  9. Balsam Street
  10. Vine Street
  11. Edgemoor Street
  12. Cayuga Court
  13. Dorset Lane
  14. Birch Court
  15. Fairmont Place
  16. Cottage Grove
  17. Tracy Drive
  18. West Road
  19. Oakland Terrace
  20. York Drive
  21. Western Avenue
  22. Cross Parkway
  23. Loaldo Drive
  24. Janet Circle
  25. James Avenue
  26. Gazo Avenue
  27. Sandra Circle
  28. Lori Lane
  29. Matthew Avenue
  30. Randy Lane
  31. Charity Street
  32. Hope Street
  33. Faith Street 
  34. Ledge Road
  35. Clover Lane
  36. Turf Road
  37. Pennington Drive
  38. West Haven Drive
  39. Algird Street
  40. Borestone 
  41. Riverview Drive
  42. Fairfield Drive
  43. Westward Drive
  44. Hardy Avenue
  45. North Avenue
  46. Browe Court
  47. Forest Street
  48. Brooks Avenue
  49. Maple Street

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Did You Know...The High Point of Kansas Has a Sunflower Made With a Bicycle Chain?

Who would have known there are such special places in the U.S. full of bike love - and a high point at that!

My husband and son are vacationing in several states; their primary goal is climbing summits and exploring along the way. My favorite by far is Kansas's amalgam of summit paraphernalia and my family's experiences with horned toads. If you want to see what's in the mailbox in the above photo, follow their vacation blog.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why Surely, I'm Looking for a Surly

A Surly LHT, drawing cannibalized to suit my needs.
Pedaling home today, it occurred to me that what I really want is a step-through Surly. According to Surly's fans it's the functional beauty, durability, hauling capabilities, reputation, and bang for the buck that keeps it's riders happy. That's exactly what I'm looking for in a step through bicycle. I also want a touring machine, the bicycle that will take me into my later years. Unfortunately, Surly fails to offer anything remotely close.

Truthfully, neither does Soma or Velo Orange, two other highly regarded companies that have similar reputations. Soma offers a Mixte style, but it's cost and untested touring potential, or for that matter without an opportunity to swing my leg over a frame, are factors that have me looking elsewhere. And frankly, I'm afraid any Mixte will not have the step-over height like I'm currently used to. And as tempting as the Rivendell's Clementine is, again, if I can't take it for a spin I would be silly to purchasing it sight unseen.

With my purse, a custom bicycle is not an option. The Rodriguez Makeshift is pretty. I love the step over height of the Pilen Lyx (more transportation than long distance tourer, but mass produced frame) and style of True North's version. Well beyond what I can afford; however it's fun to look.
Photo credit: Specialized
But hey, what about the aluminum Specialized Source Step Through Bike (phew, what a name!) so new that it's not yet reviewed? I'm not fond of straight forks (and ugh, it's available in only black) but it sports braze on for a low rider rack, supplied with fenders, rear rack, triple crankset and comes in a large size. Intriguing. I am giddy to think manufacturers may offer more step through machines. Or is it only a glorified commuter bike? I suppose only a test ride will tell.

Test rides are the crux of the problem. In our little city, burgeoning with riders, there is limited bicycle supply, and with the variety of bikes offered, as G.E. succinctly describes, that are so many styles offered that new riders are confused, but of course, bike shops must handpick what they think will sell, while experienced riders like myself are searching for a specific niche product.

So, as I pedal my Ross Mt. Saint Helens homeward my thoughts eventually drift back to the 1980's...where early mountain bikes boasted rugged frames, some with fork braze-ons as standard equipment. A few companies offered the step through frame.

If my readers ever spy the Peugeot Saint Laurent Express Step-through in 21" (white frame). A rarity for sure, but at the moment I'm in dreamland anyway, Give me your best shot.