Sunday, June 25, 2017

1988 Peugeot St. Laurent Step Through

The Peugeot St. Laurent is a companion to my son's bike. Same year and model. How cool is that?
Introducing my next commuter bike: a 21" Peugeot St. Laurent! A Craigslist purchase, I found this bicycle close to home from an avid cyclist ready to pare down his fleet. The bicycle was originally being sold with fenders and ergo grips, but the seller accepted a lower offer and kept those items for himself.

The bike has the usual frame wear a 30 year old bicycle should have, but it's structurally solid. Wheels are sound, spokes are tight, with flat rim walls. Front wheel is original Weinmann while the rear is a replacement with a newer Shimano freewheel. The frame has typical fender and rack eyelets of a 1980's bike.

The Shimano thumb shifters are the nicer version than currently on my Ross, though the seller couldn't find a missing cap. I'll try to source this locally or online, but as a last resort I could transfer one from my Trek (now a parts bike). As is, the current shifter functions well but I wouldn't want to expose the inner parts too long to the elements as my workplace bike parking is outdoors. Interestingly, the bike has SIS shifting (index shifting), a bonus and similar to my Trek. All parts appear to be original Shimano components, other than the rear wheel.

The right shifter is missing a cap.

Curiously, both sets of brake pads appear original, using the metal-clad brake shoes, but that seems unlikely for the age of the bicycle. Perhaps someone has gone through the trouble of re-soling the rubber?

I spent a couple hours cleaning what I had hoped was surface grime, which fortunately, turned out to be true. Wheels spin fine, headset seems tight, crank spins well. I will not do a thorough overhaul unless a problem crops up in the future. I will pop on a new chain. I plan to transfer racks, fenders, and handle bar, grips and pedals from the Ross plus, most likely a Pasela tire to replace a wider, slightly worm and nubbed front tire. I haven't decided whether to swap the Peugeot's rear wheel because both freewheels are 28 tooth low gear so I don't think I'm gaining anything by swapping the rear wheels, as much as I love Araya rims.

I'm delighted to have a commuter bicycle frame that's not black, fits me better, and a side benefit: I sit more upright on the Peugeot, which I hope will better prepare me when I transfer to bike touring on my Clementine.

For the curious, a link to the 1988 Peugeout St. Laurent specs.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Enjoy the Journey, Life is a Beautiful Ride

My girlfriend stopped by to share lunchtime together...and gave me this beautiful mug. I'm tempted to bring it along on our next adventure together!

Happy weekend. :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Women-Only Overnight to Grand Isle State Park

Sometimes you have to seize the good weather, pack panniers, and hit the road with like-minded girlfriends. And there's no better destination than Grand Isle State Park because of it's easy proximity to Burlington and relatively flat terrain. Not only is it a perfect route for novice bike tourists, but midway you pedal across the Colchester Causeway where there is jaw-dropping lake scenery.

Pausing on the bridge for a look at the Winooski River.
Paula and I started from my house and met up with Carmen on the waterfront. I'd reconnected with Paula recently after 6 years (I loaned her my panniers) and Carmen is a new friend I met through Queen City Bicycle Club rides around Burlington. After the same overnight ride organized by the Queen City Bicycle Club was cancelled due to weather, I proposed that we do it on our own once mother nature was in our favor.

The smooth, stone dust causeway trail is 4 miles long.
We left at 4 pm. and headed north. the only deadline was catching a ferry ride across The Cut (opening in the causeway to allow boat traffic) by the 6 pm scheduled closure.

The ferry crew rolled our loaded bikes on board for the 3 minute crossing.

The captain got a kick out of the fact that I was bringing Jiffy Pop - visible beneath my cargo netting - and joked that he'd meet us in our campsite for a few handfuls.

On the South Hero side, we dodged a potholed dirt road among late afternoon shadows - a tricky feat - then struggled through a construction zone riddled with chunky, rocky gravel, and were finally relieved to be pedaling on asphalt once again. 

With a warm evening, we stopped at Keeler Bay Store - a haven for travelers - and bought sandwiches, micro-brews, and fruit, bread, and in my case, also an avocado for breakfast. 

Three tents fit easily onto the spacious, grassy site.
The state park was half full and we had our pick of sites, but just in case I had called ahead to confirm their no-turn-away policy for bicycle travelers. In the busy season, the park will accept two-wheeled campers (as I experienced last August) and in the case of full campground, the rangers reserve group sites to handle the overflow cyclists. 

We were hungry and tired by 7 pm arrival, we took their suggestion and set up on #84, close to water and bathhouse. Of special note, all of us were self contained travelers: carrying tent, sleeping gear, stove, pots, and food - by design - because all three of us were trying something new. Paula wished to be independent, hauling her own gear for the first time; Carmen is a veteran camper, but has only ever traveled by tandem - this was her initiation into being independent; and I was using a loaded front rack on my Clementine for her first camping trip. We ate dinner then set up tents, then munched on greasy, tasty Jiffy Pop until we retired around 10 pm.

On Sunday morning I woke by 5:30, well rested, but too early for Paula and Carmen, who had a restless night and crawled from their tents around 8 am. It's amusing to watch what other travelers have for breakfast. I drank tea because I hadn't located my coffee filter at home, while Carmen reheated yesterday's coffee and milk (great idea) and Paula brought instant coffee. Carmen ate oatmeal; (I forget what Paula had!); and I ate an apple and a roll smothered in avocado. 

New this year: three dinosaurs!
By 10 am we set off, crossing the island for a alternate route back to the ferry. The morning was lovely, mostly shaded, rolling by farms, near bays, with a welcome headwind because the day would warm into the 90s.

One of our favorite stops was near the hundreds of crayon-colored birdhouses opposite White's Beach. Every year the birdhouses multiply, and according to Paula and Carmen I missed where the owners had a road side display stand where you could buy your own brightly painted birdhouse, payable by the honor system.

The birdhouse forest is taking on a life of its own, with the addition of dinosaurs roaming the woods.

At the public beach I just had to take my inaugural dip into frigid Lake Champlain. Paula and Carmen probably thought I was nuts and documented my "swim". It's the best way to cool off, wearing wet clothes and riding a bike!

Back on the causeway we take the ferry back to Colchester. By 1 pm the day is toasty.

Seven miles from home Carmen proposes we stop at Charlie's Boathouse. I wouldn't have given the idea a thought because I'm so used to heading to our camp - only a mile away - so it's never been on my radar as a destination, but I've also learned to be flexible. As it turns out, this place is Americana. Step back in time, eat a hot dog, buy worms for fishing, rent a canoe, chat with friendly octogenarians, proprietors and siblings, Christine Auer Hebert and Charlie Auer. And, if you're lucky, Charlie will have made sauerkraut to have on your hot dog.

We eat our hot dogs on the large swing, watch people putting together a dock, pet Charlie's new adopted three-legged beagle resting in the shade, admire overloaded boats unload passengers onto the sandy shore, and become a part of this unique summer community at the mouth of the Winooski River.

Would I do this trip again, even after the hot slog up the hill home?  You betcha!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Queen City Bicycle Club June 2017 Tour

You know that good weather is coming, especially when 30 women show up for the monthly ladies-only, bell-ringing, fun ride around Burlington.

I noticed this sweet house, only after I inspected my photos! It's typical Canadian architecture - a sweeping roof with symmetrical A-line peak. 
We stick to quiet streets, mostly, but who doesn't like to head downtown, rock and roll to loud tunes, and wave to smiling bystanders?

Lately, I've been digging our dizzying loops around the fountain in City Hall Park.

There was a lot more, of course, including a cruise along the waterfront trail. before heading over to Zero Gravity for our complimentary drink. Gotta love that Cone Head! And...of special interest, I have tentative bike overnight plans with one of the ladies for this coming weekend. Weather, are you on my side?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Encouraging the Gift of Freedom Aboard a Raleigh Grand Prix

Our 15 year old son chose Bicycle Touring as his YES (Year End Studies) program for the last 10 days of his freshman year in high school. Last summer he completed a week-long Bicycle Mechanics summer program and loved it so we should have seen it coming, but 15 year old teenagers aren't  as forthcoming and communicative as parents would like, and he sprang this surprise on us at a time when I was an acting single parent - my husband was on a business trip - which meant I had to help whip his bicycle choice: the Raleigh Grand Prix, into shape, according to our son's plan.

We prefer to wrench in the kitchen - the lighting is good and clean-up is easy - so the Raleigh was put into the stand. The previous day, I'd purchased a new tire - a Panacer Pasela no less! - locally to replace a blown tire, plus I surprised my son with bicycle shorts, a well-deserved treat for his 30+ mile daily jaunts. This particular son struggles in school, so for him to embrace a sport, and for his passion to align with our own, well, I will support him as much as possible! As for the bicycle, he likes a lean, lightweight bicycle, which, in his mind, means without racks or fenders. He removed the quick release rear wheel, stripped the tube and blown tire and had replaced the tube and tire himself, mostly, with my additional help cinching and securing the new tire back onto the rim.

Once we finagled the wheel in the dropouts, he adjusted the rear brake pads so they clamped the rims instead of the tire - initial cause of the blowout. He also inspected the front brakes and made similar adjustments, then removed a front fender. He also cleaned up the frame and wiped the chain. I was proud that he's taking pride in his work and improving the Raleigh, a bicycle he seems to have adopted as his own.

The Raleigh Grand Prix lacks bottle braze-ons, but I creatively used rubber gaskets leftover from unused lock brackets, strong zip-ties, and wide velcro to further secure rack to the frame, which had the added advantage of covering sharp, clipped zip-tied edges. I also added a seat wedge bag filled with tiny pump and patch kit.

Three days into his program, our son is enjoying the long rides  He brings home printed maps of each ride and seems to be enjoying himself!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hail, Hail, and I'm Still Here

I could've lingered around the office had I'd known what awaited me a few minutes later, but history is hindsight. 
Photo credit: Geode Hunter

In mid-May I left work, with topped-off water bottle, dressed in tank top and skort, prepared to survive 90F degree heatwave for my 5 mile ride home. The humidity was sky-high and stormy clouds loomed over my shoulder, ready to let loose, but I was undeterred, welcoming a little rain to cool the sultry weather. No sooner had I'd turned from my workplace into the neighborhoods, spinning uphill, when thunder boomed and fat droplets fell. Then, to my complete surprise, gradually small hail pellets fell, bouncing off my arms. I laughed. The air grew cooler, rain, interspersed with hail, soaked through my clothing., making me feel more comfortable. Yet, I was still unconcerned and continued through a park following my normal route home.

Photo credit: NWS Twitter

But quickly the light hail changed to dime-sized bullets, painfully pelting my bare arms, backs of my hands, pinged off my helmet, and created music on my bike rack. I still kept moving, however I glanced longingly at the dry ground beneath the leafy canopy when the storm increased, and with the potential for lightening, I knew the last place I should seek shelter was under a natural lightening rod. As I entered another park bike path, I was thankful for fatter tires crunching over hail-crusted asphalt as I negotiated hills and a wooden bridge. It was totally bizarre - and I was a little nervous - because the hail was bruising my arms. Welts were forming and veins darkened on my hands, but within 2.5 miles the ominous storm passed by. I was completely soaked. My hands were sore for a few more minutes, but in the end weren't too bad. On the rest of the ride, I mulled over the ludicrous situation and realized I had survived a May hailstorm. I'd like to think I'm a hardy soul - I have pedaled through 7" of rain in New Zealand, plus endured a monsoon rain in Thailand - but I've never felt as exposed or as humbled so close to home. At least the weather had cooled off!

Have you ever been in a similar situation that at the outset seem a little fun, if unusual, but eventually turned into a potentially dangerous situation?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Giro's Reverb and Sutton Bike Helmets - Commuter Style with Color Options

Giro's Reverb (on the left) and Sutton (on the right).
Last fall I needed to replace my aging leopard print helmet and discovered that Justine's advice (at Mid-Life Cycling) was correct: Giro helmets go on sale in late fall to clear out stock before introducing the new year's model. I prefer a commuter-style helmet with a visor, multiple vents, choice of colors, plus a way to hook or strap on additional helmet-mounted lights. I have never believed in spending more than 50.00 on a helmet. With the deep fall discount online, I had my pick of colors in both styles and had both delivered for 60.00 total!

Reverb style uses elastic band retention while the Sutton relies on stretchy cord with cord lock.
I've worn the Sutton primarily during the cooler months because it lacks large sized vents. I've appreciated it's substantial head coverage - it weighs more - but fits comfortably, even over a balaclava. It's special feature, that wins bonus points, is the adjustable visor. Flick it up or down in transit, to let in more daylight in the winter, or to accommodate ski goggles on those frigid, blustery winter commutes.

Both helmets have removable and adjustable visors. When the temperatures climbed above 70F degrees I switched to wearing the lighter Reverb style. I've found both styles to fit similarly and both came with extra padding.

Now that I'm a year-round bike commuter there are distinct advantages to owning two uniquely crafted and affordable helmets. I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Broken Spoke to Repair a Tube?

It was warm. I was thirsty. I had a slow leak in my rear tire. I couldn't think of a better way to relax and delve into the mysteries and mechanics of finding a minute puncture hole. Broken Spoke Pale Ale did the trick, along with chips and guacamole. A Drink, quasi dinner, time outside, and the tube is patched, ready for another bike commute.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Miss Clementine Gets a Racktime Topit Front Rack

B. Second time's a charm to refit a Racktime Topit to a Rivendell Clementine.
After two wrench sessions and some creative engineering, the Racktime Topit front rack is installed on Miss Clementine. Before I explain the difficulties I encountered with fit, first let me present my view of front racks in general and how I expect them to carry a load.

History: In the past I've done extended tours with Blackburn low rider front rack in conjunction with a rear rack, distributing the weight approximately 30% front, 70% rear. In recent years, I prefer 50/50, still using the low rider front rack. Funny thing is, I've also lightened my gear since those lengthy tours plus cut back on riding days, now only gone for up to a week. My needs changed. I've explored using simple front racks like the Sunlite version attached to cantilever brakes, which have worked well on both my commuter bike and Miyata 610, allowing a 10 lb. load over the front wheel. 

Once the Clementine entered my house, though, I contemplated Rivendell's low cost alternative to front rack: a Wald basket (sans rack) using provided brackets attached to braze-ons near the wheel. While I like baskets, I preferred instead to use a rack for it's versatility and lighter weight. Benefits include the ability to mount small panniers and/or strap baggage on the platform. Thanks to various suggestions on RBW Google Groups, I contemplated other options, including the full coverage Soma Lucas alloy front rack. However, the Racktime Topit won out in the end due to attachment to mid-fork eyelets, an appealing trait, which reminded me of low riders, plus when I found the rack at half price, I couldn't resist. At the same time I ordered another Sunlite mini-rack, either as back up should the Topit not work, or as an alternative on another bicycle. 

Needless to say, the search for the perfect front rack - neither too heavy or costly, chrome-colored, and the ability to carry a sizable load - had become an obsession.

A. First attempt placed the rack at a steep angle.
I knew that Miss Clementine's geometry might pose fit problems, but initially it was my own undoing that sent me pleading to our LBS for help. I pre-screwed the first bolt into the front eyelet, knowing I needed to "crack" the frame's heavily painted threading, and when it proved a little difficult, continued until the bolt end sheared off, dropping to the kitchen floor. "Whaaaat?" I said, beside myself with horror. I was alone and unfortunately couldn't rely on my husband who's helped me out of sticky situations before. After a few deep breaths, I attempted to gently unscrew the protruding 1/4" of  bolt threads with pliers, trying to not completely shear off the remaining threads, worked at it for an hour, and eventually brought the bike in to a shop as a last resort.

A mechanic was, thankfully, able to remove the bolt using vice grips (now why didn't I think of that?). He said I'd stripped the threads on the end of the eyelet by screwing the bolt at an angle. However, for a few bucks they tapped both eyelets and repaired the damaged end by entering through the reverse side. Phew! Lesson learned!

A. This photo displays the longer bolt and spacer required to clear the rack from the rotating headset.
With a fiasco diverted, I installed the Racktime Topit following diagrams drawn on paper, the kind that lack written clues to accommodate multiple languages. With lower rack ends easily screwed into the mid-fork eyelets, I bought a longer bolt to accommodate fender support and top rack bracket, the later heavily bent in a vice to reach the position near the central hole in the fork, and with a spacer to clear the headset and V-brakes. It was a finely-tuned feat, and when admiring Miss Clementine from afar, I began to understand the rack's shortcomings in it's current configuration.  See two photos labeled "A" above for visual reference.

As my online research indicated, the Racktime Topit can sit traditionally lower, depending on where the mid-fork eyelets are positioned. However, it's not uncommon to see the rack propped higher, much like on Miss Clementine. If the rack platform is horizontal users have reported that hauling gear works out just fine without adversely affecting handling. I suspected however that a steeply angled front rack, as my first attempt turned out, panniers might be awkward and possibly shift while in transit.

It wouldn't be too terrible to live with it's current set up, but after thinking and scrounging in our collection of bike parts, I came up with a manageable retrofit.

B. Second time around, this fix should work (I think).
If you look closely at the photo above, you may recognize a pair of pre-twisted rear rack brackets refitted to Miss Clementine's fork crown's bolts, then afixed to the rack with plastic-coated P-clamps gleaned from left over rack parts. What I discovered, was there are numerous parts one can purchase to use the fork crown eyelets but they are proprietary and I couldn't locate accessories specific to the Topit. The P-clamp I used is a slightly larger diameter than I needed but smaller clamps of similar, as was explained to me "plasti-dipped" design are apparently unavailable in a hardware store (talk about proprietary!), so instead of searching further afield I layered the inside with a piece of bicycle tube which snugged the clamp nicely around the rack. The rack seems quite stable, though time will tell if the mechanism will hold up well under a touring load. What I particularly like about the new arrangement is it allows the rack to be separate from the fender attachment. Having two separate systems seems easier to fix should something go awry, especially if I'm away from home.

As an aside, the fork crown "eyelets" have always intrigued me, this being my first bicycle with this feature, though I didn't imagine I would use them quite so soon! It's a handy option, as I discovered, should you need another mounting point, and two points of contact as opposed to the one longer bolt through the fork should provide more stability to the rack.

To finish up the second wrench session, I replaced my terrible twine job with a couple wraps of leopard print duct tape that better suits my style.

With the new additions, Miss Clementine is feeling more like my own bicycle and developing a personality. I'm taking her on a bike overnight in two weeks so no better time like the present to try out her new front rack!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Floral Bouquet Makes My Day

I was knee deep into a major project at work when two staff members surprised me with flowers, card, and a bag of local chocolate truffles, announcing it was Administrative Professionals Day. The gifts were much appreciated, but it was the messages written in the card, by numerous staff members that let me know how much they appreciate what I do that adds value to the company and their particular projects, that affected me the most.

I couldn't resist bicycling the flowers home, the included box making it easy to attach to my rack using a bungee cord. Too bad I couldn't use this image for the Errandonnee's "You carried WHAT on your bike?" category!

I smiled all the way home.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thoughts on Routine Maintenance and Fascination with Araya Rims

I'm pretty good at keeping my chain oiled and wiping rims - sometimes daily if I commute during inclement weather - so though I may put off other routine maintenance, I eventually get around to those less glamorous yearly tasks like replacing brake pads and chain. I had procrastinated long enough that the lowest freewheel sprocket grumbled underfoot and I avoided that gear altogether until a warm weekend day allowed for outdoor repairs.

Greenfield kickstand - a little crusty but functional.
With the bike in the stand, I had noticed that oiling the underside of the frame during winter rides on salt crusted paths and roads had curbed most of the corrosion, except for the new kickstand replaced in November. The metal has developed some kind of residue and for better or worse is still quite functional. The kickstand wasn't shiny to begin with, rather the color of a five cent coin much the same as the MKS pedals installed late last summer, though the pedals have fared well during the winter months. 

It's customary to replace chains twice a year on my commuter bike. In some respects this feels excessive because I don't remember performing this kind of frequent maintenance on my other bikes, but then again I have to remind myself that winter adversely affects all those moving parts. New chain installed, front brake pads replaced, and rear pads adjusted made my bicycle feel like a svelty machine once again!

Beautiful, squared Araya rims.
However, before I took the bike for a spin, upon closer inspection I noted excessive wear on the freewheel. The rim was also slightly dished, but not overly so. I've seen worse. And for at least two years, the spokes on the left side have been looser than the right, which might account for that annoying creaking which I mentioned last fall had disappeared, but lately has manifested itself once again. And though the wheel has remained perfectly true it's also original to the bicycle and the worn freewheel meant it was time to replace the whole back wheel.

Did I ever mention I'm smitten with Araya rims?

I've used, or should I say, been exposed to Araya rims on most of my 1980s bicycles. The squared rims are fairly ubiquitous in bicycles of that era and provide a unique old school look. The more I work on my bicycles the more those rims speak to me. And for whatever reason, those wheels, like the stout early mountain bikes of the same era, have held up well.

I hated to say goodbye to the rear Araya wheel on my commuter bicycle. I contemplated holding onto the wheel for the axle and rim, but I'm not a wheel builder and frankly it wasn't practical. Emotionally, I had to let that wheel go. And luckily, I had a spare Araya rear wheel and cassette (found in a free bin at a garage sale - lucky me), that I had used briefly a couple years ago. The trade off is the "new" freewheel doesn't have optimal gearing for hills, but I'm happy to still have beautiful, old school style.

Now that my commuter bicycle is running smoothly, I'm pleased. However, I will keep an eye out for more Araya wheels, just because those beauties are still available.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Queen City Bicycle Club - Ladies, Ladies! Plus a Few Rogue Males

New club name, a stellar evening sky, and leader Christine towing her box of tunes. Girls in skirts, blue jeans, and tights. Lots of color and glittery cheeks is the song of girls chatting and ringing bells, riding down narrow streets, crosstown thoroughfares, including the usual hilarious circuits through a parking garage. (scroll to end of linked blog post for video)

We love our loop de loops, which also allows riders to regroup.
Bystanders clap and cheer us on. Ladies pull out of line to momentarily stop traffic so we can stick together through intersections then beeline back into formation. It's a well-orchestrated procedure for such an impromptu guided tour. Thanks, biker police!

A few rogue male riders joined the group. One was a father guiding his daughter, who left before we convened at Zero Gravity Brewery. The other guys filtered in and out, slipping down side streets to join later and ended the tour, sitting at separate tables with their special riding lady.

Again, we took advantage of a free microbrew. I gobbled my usual Coney Island Dog and bought an endless bowl of popcorn for the table, a worthwhile investment to keep us all happy!

Besides catching up with regulars Julie and Carmen, mid-life riders, it was nice to reconnect with Sammie and Joy, two ladies I met at January's Coffee Outside on the waterfront.

We were pushing the weather outdoors on the patio and as the clear sky darkened, the temperature dropped below 50F.

Around 8:30 pm I left for home, but not before snapping a photo of bike parking. Gotta love a bike pile!

I'm looking forward to May's event and, shortly thereafter, the first all-female bike overnight. Here's to low-key social rides!