Friday, September 30, 2016

All in the Family Wrenching - Learning Patience

On warm, sunny afternoons one family member might tinker with their bike, which becomes contagious. There is comfort in numbers, it seems, with knowledgeable help ready to lend a hand or a suggestion. Such was the case when I decided to replace the chain and brake pads on my commuter bike.

My son hauls out his work-in-progress single speed, clamps the bike frame in the work stand, planning to put on newly acquired grips. To save money, primarily because this particular bicycle is a second, knock-around project, which seems to soak up money like a sponge, we had purchased simple rubber grips - the kind that requires lubricant instead of lock down screws - because the bike mechanic who sold them to us assured us that the process was relatively simple. His advice: use just enough hairspray or alcohol inside the rubber and twist the grips into place.

My past experience with this procedure dates to the 1990's when a soapy mixture of dish detergent and water was enough to lubricate and apply porous foam grips - the common style at the time. And the beauty of foam was that even with liberal applications of liquid, the grips would eventually dry if given a chance. At any rate, lock down grips weren't yet available.

Once I explained where to get supplies and rubbing alcohol, I left my son to figure out his task while I went back to my own project.

Swapping the chain went smoothly while replacing cantilever brake pads was the easy part - it's the fine-tuning that takes time. I was midway through adjusting each pad when my 14-year-old became cranky. He wanted the grips to slide on perfectly. As it turns out the alcohol dries quickly or not quick enough to satisfy my son. After 20 minutes of struggling and grumbling he threw the grips on the ground.

I'd acquired patience from sipping wine so I calmly told him to walk away and finish at another time. I also promised I'd take a look at his bike once I'd finished with mine. After a previous wrenching episode that involved a tirade, winging something metal (I'm now missing a wrench), throwing down his bike and storming off, well, I didn't want a repeat performance. Fortunately, this time around my son went indoors without a fight.

I often wonder what the neighbors think - they are witness to extreme behaviors, every now and then, especially from this particular guy. If he's not jumping off curbs in the street (thus the impetus to fix up a single speed) he creates wooden and dirt-filled mounds in our back yard. He is a physically talented young dude and creative thinker so once he surmounts his teen years, he'll find his way.

Later I played with his new grips, and sure enough, there was a fine line between too much alcohol and not enough, but after an arm workout I eventually got it to work, leaving only a little play. The following day the alcohol must have fully evaporated because the grips passed the teenage test.

Next time I'll seriously consider springing for the lock down style of grips.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Clementine Boscos Bedecked and a Welcome Surprise

I decorated Miss Clementine's Bosco bars, covering her miles of chrome, which I must admit - the sight of all that metal bothered me more than anything else. I also found a cheap solution, unwilling to invest too much on handle bars that I wasn't sure I'd stick with in the long run. I think they turned out pretty well. I also raised the bars slightly, upon other folk's suggestions and tilted them downward a bit, as per Grant P. I'm beginning to see their functionality.

I used inexpensive "cork" bar tape and instead of the complexities of twine and shellac, I found waxed heavy duty thread. I used Rivendell's video for guidance, so I wound and finished off the ends fairly cleanly. I wouldn't recommend this type of thinner thread because it's difficult to align properly, however for my purpose, hopefully, the bar tape is secure and shouldn't unravel. In hindsight, I wished I had thought of using inch wide pieces of leopard print duct tape as a finishing touch (leftover from decorating my helmet), which would have been easier, more unique, and definitely my style - something to remember in the future!

I transferred the ergo grips from the neglected Peugeot UO 14; these are quite nice, feel wonderful in this new handle bar position and because they are extra long, work well for resting my palms on the wide end and perform two-finger braking or I can slide my hands forward to shift, ring the bell, or grab the brake levers for quicker, safer stopping power.

Previously, I'd moved the brakes and thumb shifters forward to extend my reach. I left the bars in this position when I decided to use the ergo grips. My 14-year-old son loves the retro black grips that Rivendell provided on the Clementine but I'm not ready to part with them quite yet.

I put the Bosco handle bars to the test on a ride with my husband. In general, they felt much better. I will tweak a few things, namely raising stem again, angle bars more, and lower the seat a bit. Interestingly, the maximum leg extension is canted forward slightly, something I hadn't realized until I'd ridden Miss Clementine for several miles, so I will make an adjustment.

An interesting concept: the cables are crisscrossed beneath the down tube.

The pièce de résistance, which I'd recently stumbled on, was the availability of a second set of water bottle bosses tucked beneath the down tube. You'd think I'd struck gold, as I exclaimed my delightful discovery within earshot of my husband, but as I duly noted out loud, ahem, the home mechanics put Miss Clementine together, otherwise I would've seen those two blessed screws long before.

In a couple days I will be off on another multi-day Canadian adventure, pedaling Miss Clementine on her maiden touring voyage. No better time than the present to immerse myself into the step-through bike touring world before autumn's chill arrives on our doorstep.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Yuba Boda Boda - An Easy to Love Cargo Bike

The Yuba Boda Boda is a dashingly handsome cargo bike.

Full disclosure: this was my first experience aboard a cargo bike. The Yuba Boda Boda, affectionately named "Kermit" was loaned to me by Local Motion for a two-week period. There were no restrictions on use, and I was given a quick demonstration on how to use the two-legged kick stand. I used my own lock and helmet. Kevin, who knows I regularly ride a bike, sent me out Local Motion's door, wishing me good fun. I would just have to get the hang of riding Kermit all by myself!

As was explained, the Boda Boda is classified as a mid-tail cargo bike or as Kevin liked to put it "cargo light", which means the bicycle is a shorter version of the long-tail style, yet still capable of hauling children and heavy bags. With an impressive 50 lb. carrying capacity up front, and 150 lbs. in the rear, the Boda Boda is very much a two-wheeled work horse!

I immediately felt at home aboard the Boda Boda. The bicycle sports large platform pedals, the exact same ones as on my Clementine, though in a nice shade of brown. Cream tires, cream bell, brown seat, and generally, a lack of black accessories altogether lightens the visual presence of this utilitarian bicycle. In fact, when I hefted the Boda Boda it weighed less than I would have expected. The bike has a very low step-over height, which attracted me from the get go. That and wonderfully curvy handle bars, easy click shifting, and good stopping power.

On the downside, I could tell immediately that 7 (or was it 8?) gears would not work well in hilly Burlington. Another oddity also: why would a frame maker put water bottle bosses on an inside curve? (See above photo) There is barely enough space to place a bottle rack, not to mention trying to use it! Because of the upright stance it would have been also incredibly awkward - and possibly dangerous - to reach that low.

Instead, I made do with a water bottle wedged inside the basket. Without other items supporting it though, the bottle tended to tip over, once spilling water. If I owned the bicycle, an easy remedy would be to attach a rack to the handle bars or on the outside of the sturdy basket frame.

Once I stopped staring at the basket, which moves with the frame and not with the handle bar (see above photo), and concentrated on the trail ahead, it became an intuitive and delightful ride. Kermit floats over bumps and I felt like a queen perched upright and high, tooling down the trail, ringing the ding-dong bell. The bell had a tendency to softly ding on it's own, but it wasn't so much annoyance as part of Kermit's personality, which made me chuckle. 

I had wondered if I should attach a mirror, but once I'd ridden Kermit a few days I realized that while a mirror might aid rear site line a tad more, sitting upright inherently caused me to be aware of my surroundings, especially peripherally, so I never felt like an automobile or bicycle might sneak up behind me without me noticing.

I rode the bike a few times after dark, easily attaching my super bright light on the handlebar and red light on a rear pannier.

The longer wheelbase, only a mere 10" more than my commuter bike, was enough to smooth out bumpy roads, paths, and sidewalks. In fact, I discovered the Boda Boda rode similar to my Clementine (and eerily both bikes are exactly 72" in length!). As stated in my first Clementine blog post, getting to know both bikes in tandem made me appreciate sitting upright while experiencing two different handlebar styles.

I loved the well-designed rear framework. Maybe this is not unique to the Boda Boda, and possibly all cargo bikes are decked out in this manner, but I felt there was versatility with whatever baggage I might strap on. There is thin horizontal tubing just below the rear seat that accommodates my Blackburn Shoppers Pannier, a bottom loop (not visible in above photo) that held a traditional hook and bungee pannier, and the lowest portion is where I presume a child's feet might cling, but in my case (see below photo) I attached cloth grocery sacks that were similarly supported. And of course, everything you might consider attaching was all protected from the spokes by the black plastic, and highly effective, "skirt guard".

While Kermit was in my possession, I had numerous compliments. He's a looker, that's for sure!

On my first trip to buy groceries, I felt liberated to shop without accounting for every item and where and whether each would fit on my bicycle for the return trip home. It helped to have brought my own grocery sacks and and some sort of attachment device to secure each bag to the frame. Had I owned the Boda Boda I would create open-top panniers so one could stow full grocery bags inside, and when not in use the panniers could be removed.

A note about parking a bike with double-kickstand: account for 12" of set back, something to be aware of when parking at bike racks. And if multiple trips are in order, accumulating goods and increasing the load, be extra careful, otherwise you may need to lift up the heavy bike, to adjust the bike closer to a rack. Using a cargo bike requires a slightly different mind set (think slightly wider turning radius and storage) but the benefits of having additional cargo space, the bike securely positioned and propped on "double feet" while loading heavy items, or the ability to carry children or even an adult, is certainly worth consideration.

The Boda Boda effortlessly handles weight.

I probably didn't lug more than 60 lbs. on any one trip, however, I made several trips within the designated two week time period of Boda Boda ownership. One adventure, as I like to call it, consisted of setting out from home with two sacks of groceries, work clothes, and enough belongings for the Labor Day weekend, hauling it all to work on Friday, then later setting off across town, arriving at our family camp. The toughest part was struggling with full armloads of gear across a parking lot, up the elevator and down a long hallway to my office. And of course the return trip to reload Kermit was equally strenuous.

Wide load!
Though I had slowed, considerably on the route to camp, it was satisfying to carry a weekend's worth of items without being concerned about what it all weighed. And fortunately, that journey was on flat terrain. I used only the 4 lowest gears during the time I borrowed the bike.

Makeshift attachments.

 I love the clean lines of this bike: simple chain guard, metallic green paint, flat crank exterior,

My usual method of watering flowers at the cemetery is a bit precarious. I hang one full gallon of water on each handle bar end in a semblance of balance, however, this renders both brakes useless. Then I glide down a slight downhill, steering into the grass to slow down, with an awkward running dismount, sometimes backtracking because I overshot where I meant to stop. But with Kermit, the basket easily accommodates extra water without batting an eye.  Kermit makes the whole process so easy.

My son used Kermit to haul a few belongings for the 6 mile ride to camp.

If I owned Kermit, I would want lower gears. And in fact, I put off searching Yuba's website because I feared the Boda Boda wouldn't offer this option outside of adding electric assist and cost at least $2000 - what I'd expect from a bicycle of this caliber - effectively putting a cargo bicycle out of reach as a second transport option.

Surprisingly, the V2 model I test rode, starts at $1000 plus $180 for a Bread Basket. The V3 model comes with triple chain ring for $1600 (is the price difference worth it?). The bamboo deck is included but padded seat adds $40. As mentioned, I would eventually put on a front fender, a water bottle rack, and detachable rear bags. And for comparison, I could outfit a V2 model for the same cost as my Clementine.

And yet, even without any modifications, I wouldn't hesitate to borrow Kermit again in the future. Indeed,  I was reluctant to return the cargo bike as I enjoyed having it as an option in our garage. And in reality, the Boda Boda is a stylish, approachable and versatile cargo bike, capable of hauling everything I'd ever use it for.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Riding Four Different Bikes in One Day

This is a first: riding four different bicycles in one day, all for transportation! It was purely unintentional - I was transferring both the borrowed Boda Boda and my Clementine from our family's camp the 6 miles back home, and unwilling to try both long frames on our vehicle's bike rack, over the course of the day I ended up riding 4 bikes.

It went something like this: rode Boda Boda home, returned on Peugeot (my husband riding with me), retraced route on Clementine, then a while later, I rode my commuter Ross, sporting lights, loaded with a few belongings - enough to stay overnight - stopping for a few groceries en route, arriving in darkness back at camp. As I rode the last leg, it occurred to me that all four bicycles had platform pedals.

Have you ever ridden several different bicycles in one day?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rivendell Clementine - First Impressions

When the Clementine box arrived in mid August, I was at work. My son texted me the photo above, assuring me that the box was in top shape.

I was pleased that the Clementine arrived with every piece padded and well packed. This image is
more representative of the actual frame color. 
In spite of the overall excitement, I was still riddled with some anxiety - would this really turn out to be my dream bike? My plan was to wait until until the weather cooled off and slowly put the bike together, and lovingly get to know the Clementine piece by piece. Except my family wouldn't have it and decided to assemble the bicycle for me. I was especially tickled to watch my 14 year old dive in, with confidence gained from his bike mechanics' summer class.

The frame color is much darker than I expected. I was picturing a lighter, Celeste-type aqua color, but in reality it is a rich teal. There are some sweet touches, like the uniquely colored spoke nipples, each a different color, and "Clem" written on the hubs. Rivendell also included a bell and black handle bar grips, and while not top-notch quality, they are welcome items.

I jumped aboard the bike around dusk and rode it for five minutes in our neighborhood. I was a little beside myself because I had expected to immediately fall in love with the Clementine - pumped and assured by other Rivendell owners that I wouldn't regret the purchase - but unfortunately the upright stance reminded me of a cruiser. Over the next couple of days I moved the seat back and pushed the shift and brake levers forward, trying to buy a few inches of reach, which only minimally helped. The handle bars were pretty foreign, however I like the sideways thumbshifters, as I expected I would, which suit the stock handlebars.

Trying to decided which rack from out parts stash would fit the best - both would require a retrofit
because of the Clementine's longer wheel base.
Coming from more aggressive position on mountain bikes, I had quite a bit to absorb so I set the riding issue aside for a while and concentrated on other tasks. I transferred the lovely bird bottle cage from the little used Peugeot UO 14; I attached a mirror, and ordered nice SKS fenders. While I might skimp on some accessories I never buy cheap fenders.

I also had to figure out the rack problem. I'm very tired of black in general, especially because my commuter bike is all black, so this was my opportunity to decorate with chrome or aluminum. And while steel racks look nice, I'm not sold on their weight or hefty price. Blackburn racks have been our household standard for thirty years. Sadly the company no longer makes silver lightweight racks. I'd also like to use a lowrider front rack again, but with much internet searching, I cannot locate the simple style, low cost alternative. The front rack solution will have to come in time.

I used pieces of pipe insulation to protect the frame.
I waited an entire week before putting a rack on the Clementine, because Local Motion gave me the wonderful - and what would eventually become fortuitous - opportunity to try one of their cargo bikes, on loan for two weeks. I loved the metallic green Yuba Boda Boda, nicknamed  "Kermit" by Local Motion fans.  (There will be a separate post on the cargo bike.) It's low stepover height, it's easy handling, even with weight, and the bike's ride quality - as best as I can describe - floats over bumps, yet the handling of the elongated bike is spry and maneuvers with ease. I also adapted well to the Boda Boda's handle bars, I believe a type of Albatross bar.

Back to the Clementine. I installed an aluminum rear rack, but needed to add on an extra metal bracket to lengthen the rack over the rear wheel. Fortunately, the Clementine has braze-ons up the wazoo (one of the truly nice features that sold me on this model) and I had attachment options, depending upon rack size. With a way to carry items, I now considered the bicycle ride worthy, so I took the Clementine out for it's second spin, this time for 6 miles over the same terrain as the cargo bike.

And dang, it was really amazing to me that the Clementine rolled and floated and felt similar to the Boda Boda! I wondered how that could be until I lined up both bikes side by side. Both the Boda Boda and the 52cm Clementine are 72" long, exactly. One is aluminum frame, one is steel. One has a larger cockpit, one is smaller. Wheel size is different. So I presume the wheel base length is somewhat responsible for the floaty effect.

Excited and inspired, I painstakingly installed the fenders. My husband patiently sawzalled (if that isn't a word, it should be!) the fender supports to the proper length. I mentioned to my husband that I'd forgotten how difficult, and often exasperating, it can be to start from scratch and set up a new bike.

The Clementine is done for now. I can't say I love the feel of the bosco bars and I've lowered the bar as far as it will go. They are not as intuitive and comfortable as the Boda Bodas, which was a nice and worthwhile experiment. I also had to remind myself that the stock bar was the one thing about the Clementine that I visually disliked, even when I had ordered the bike, Handlebars can always be replaced. For now, I just need to get to know my Clementine. I am confident she has potential.

Sublime Ride to Work

It doesn't get much better than these early morning rides along the waterfront. At 58F, I refuse to don socks or a jacket, instead riding in t-shirt, shorts and sandals, relishing the colder temperatures because, after the summer we've had, 4 miles of blissful cold toes and chilly arms is a chance worth taking! Besides, the last mile is a gradual uphill and I arrive at the office with a body warmed and ready for the day ahead.

*I promise, the next post will about the Clementine!