Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tipping the 3,000 Mile Mark and a Self-Healing Bicycle

My new helmet provides the only color in an otherwise black wardrobe.
I need to start wearing my reflective vest!
Deep into October at the point when I'm giddy with Vermont's foliage extravaganza, I tally my riding miles, just to get a hint of where I might end up for the year. To my surprise, 3,000 miles was easily attainable, and so, without fanfare, I rode home in the 25F dark last night, knowing I surpassed a special goal.

The mile marker, in and of itself, is not something I specifically strive for each year. After falling short for several years, I'd come to terms with my personal riding goals, preferring instead to set other forms of motivation: accomplishing more bike overnights, riding all of Burlington's city streets, and lately, pushing myself to ride more in the winter. As I grow older I am learning to expand my cycling horizons, which don't necessarily align with conventional wisdom. I realize I am anything but conventional these days, which suits me just fine!

The miles are a bonus. How I accomplished 3,000 miles still blows my mind because I didn't feel like I was riding more than usual. I believe it was a culmination of a mild winter, commuting as many days as possible, completing a record four bike overnights (of which two were multiple days adventures), test riding a cargo bike, coffeeneuring stints, and generally, riding. It's the riding and not the distance that puts a huge smile on my face.

Boots are necessary once the temperatures dip into the 20sF.
My Ross Mt. Saint Helens continues to be my primary bicycle. A sturdy, dependable friend that I keep fixing because I know it won't let me down. I continually search for a replacement in a larger frame size, but that's just an exercise on the rare chance I'll stumble onto the 1988 Peugeot models: St. Laurant ExpressU.S Express,  or Montreal Express, the only year, apparently that Peugeot sold an equivalent mountain bike in my preferred 21" size. Until then I will upgrade my trusty Ross.

Cosmetically, the Ross has seen better days, but that's why it's also the perfect experimental winter commuter. It's also the perfect year-round commuter. As such, the bicycle gets lots of maintenance. A new chain every year. Periodic wipe downs. New tires when needed. Local shop service for repairs beyond my ability. I baby this bike because, for obvious reasons, I need to keep it going.

However, an odd squeaky noise has been driving me bananas for nearly two years. It's been difficult to diagnose. The sound would come and go, in every gear, each chain ring, whether I stopped pedaling, stood in the saddle, etc., sporadically, nothing I could easily pinpoint. For a while I thought the noise stemmed from the plastic pie plate, seat post, or the older wheels. I couldn't even determine whether it was front or rear noise and would never exhibit itself once I put the bike in the stand. Talk about frustrating! During that time period the crank, seat, chain, and pedals were replaced in the course of regular maintenance, but the noise continued. But this past October, thankfully, the noise simply disappeared. Just like that. Now how can that be, I wondered. But by then I'd given up trying to find a solution; the noise never got worse and if and when the bike failed, well then I could tend to the problem. Now I don't have to!


  1. That's an awesome accomplishment! You are well ahead of me - I am at 2,063 miles for 2016 through this week.

    1. My accomplishment is pretty minor in the grand scheme of bike riding. As long as we are happy and enjoy cycling it doesn't matter whether it's 200 or 5,000 miles. It's fun to keep a tally though, wouldn't you agree?

    2. Yes, it is fun to keep tally. My wife and I use Polar bike computers and collect all the data from our rides on their website. For us, it is motivating - especially after you've done it a while and can look back and see it start to add up. 3,000 - you set an impressive goal for us to emulate!

  2. 3000 is amazing! My tally is a mere 1000 and something, but that's more than I've ever done, so I'm pleased.

  3. Hooray for riding! Hooray for miles! Hooray for keeping old bikes going! Boo...hiss for mysterious sounds. They make me crazy trying to figure them out. I'm glad yours went away.

    This will be my biggest mileage year ever, and I have decided not to try for more miles next year. This number feels right for me. It's a stretch, but not so much that pedaling feels like work. I had been aiming to do longer and longer rides, but increasingly I find that I prefer riding on a near-daily basis to riding all day when I do go out. So, getting around town, going to work, meeting friends for lunch, and, once a week or so, a mid-range ride just for fun is just right for me.

    1. I'm glad to hear you are content with your yearly mileage. I think we can get caught up in numbers whereas we should enjoy bicycling for what it is (at least for me): a means to get outside, get exercise, and be self sufficient. I enjoy my commute immensely and is most likely the reason for 3/4 of my yearly mileage.


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