Monday, August 21, 2017

Colchester Streets Challenge - Lake Views, Dirt Roads, and Neighborhoods

I've been plugging along, ticking off more Colchester miles to, hopefully, fulfill my quest to ride all of Colchester's public streets in 2017. Sometimes I encounter the Mr. Ding-a-ling truck, it's driver passing out ice cream treats to anxious cyclists.

I get a kick out significant street signs. Will Superman fly overhead?

Colchester has a lot of dirt roads, this one jutted onto a peninsula, lined with quaint lakefront homes on Porter's Point.

Sometimes I feel like I'm pedaling on private land, but my map indicates otherwise.

My husband accompanies me on several outings, looping neighborhoods and a one-way ride towards a Winooski delta park, except we turned back because of deep water.

I have nearly finished one section of Colchester, though there are many more to go. So far I am surprised at the number of duplexes, Entire neighborhoods consist of duplexes. Others have single family homes, one has a neighborhood pool. One interesting neighborhood sported an abnormal share of homes angled outward on corner lots.

Riding Colchester's roads has been a sporadic affair. I've been busy with other summertime events, but once the weather cools off, I'll get back on a regular agenda.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Retrofit a Tech Wallet into a Handlebar Bag

A thin pouch lashed horizontally, clears frame and snugs against the stem.
I'm smitten with Clementine's bosco bars. However, because of their unique proportions, a typical handlebar bag meant either I would need to install a bracket or another alternative was to attach a barrel-shaped front bag with Velcro. With the latter, which I had on hand, the material rubbed on the frame. Both systems would be more cumbersome than what I really wanted, which was a slim-shaped bag, one that was easily detached and could double as a purse, and hold a few necessities while on tour.  This idea would also allow me to grip the handlebars on either side to take advantage of the extra forward hand positions that make the bosco bars special. In other words, my ideal bag was so specialized, I wouldn't find it online or my local shop. I had to create my own solution.

Locating a bag turned out to be the easy part. I walked into a Staples store with a 5.00 coupon, found what I wanted immediately, and walked out with what's called a tech wallet. It was deeply discounted, so much so, that with the coupon, it was free. The "wallet" is padded and decorated on the exterior with a rose pattern, but the interior is grey with pink trim. The beauty of this little beast is the exterior has one zip pocket and the interior has multiple stash areas, including a zip pocket for cash, plus a fuzzy-lined slot for a phone. The zipper completely surrounds the wallet so when unzipped, the pouch lays flat.

A central strap with buckle secures pouch in place while the longer strap attached around the handlebar, loops back through hole in strap, then clips into other end. I tuck the loose end wherever, so it doesn't dangle or flap needlessly.
I have a collection of straps and buckles just for this purpose, either to fix a purse or pannier, or to create or re-purpose an item to suit my needs. In most respects, I enjoy this type of problem. Sure, I'd love to find exactly what I want, plop down money, and have the product delivered, but if I don't find what I'm looking for, I look at the solution as a creative challenge. I can usually come up with something that will work.

Storage that's up front, easy to access. 
I thought about how to secure the wallet to Miss Clementine, then ended up hefting the bicycle into our basement near my sewing corner so I could try out straps and buckles, until an idea began to form. The bag had to be versatile, a purse and handlebar bag all rolled into one system, yet not take over valuable handlebar real estate.

Exterior pocket is handy for lots of things. My passport is a tight fit, but on a recent trip, it worked well to tuck it away, and feel secure that it wasn't going to slip out every time I opened the bag.

While attached to the bicycle, I can unzip the purse half way and extract lip balm, money, or my camera that I tucked inside.

The waist belt was an actual belt that came with pants. The first round I used the provided rubber buckle, but it kept coming apart when wrapped around metal bar. I replaced it with a black plastic Fastex-type clip.
Because the pouch opened completely flat, I placed the bag in my sewing machine and was careful not to sew through corresponding slots on the reverse side. I tacked the waist belt in place first, decided to only sew 4 vertical lines to secure wide "belt", which allowed multiple slots for strap to wind around bar and weave back through. I knew this would allow more versatility with how I might end up attaching bag to bar.

One of my requirements was to hold a camera, which fits "loose" stored, once pouch is zipped, or without it's case, can tuck inside the phone slot if I don't require a handy phone. The mesh slots hold lip balm, credit cards, whatever, while money is secured inside zipped interior pocket and passport zipped tightly in exterior pocket. The wallet is a trim 3" wide, which means plenty of clearance to grasp the handlebars in the stretched out position.

In the end, the bag is a handbag, purse, and converts into a perfect fanny pack. Because the wide strap was once a belt, it's even long enough to loop crosswise around my body for more security. I'm happy with the final product; it's a perfect accompaniment to Miss Clementine's tour-ready status.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Riding with the Boys, er, Young Men

Riding with our teenage sons is always an impromptu affair: a ride to get creemees, a cruise along the waterfront to capture the sunset, and recently, a 6-mile urban ride on sidewalks and sunny asphalt to greet a far flung family member at Burlington's airport. What strikes me the most is how well we all get along - the rambunctious 15 year old pairs off with his father, detouring through parking lots, while our cautious, college-bound son is content, hanging with his mom, pedaling the direct route. Summertime pleasure rides make me smile. 😊

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Pencil Case Makes a Stylish Bicycle Tool Bag

Why spend a lot of money on a tool bag? If your tools are stored in a basket or pannier, a pencil case makes an inexpensive and attractive option. I found this beauty in our local Staples' clearance section.

My large office pannier is heavy enough without adding the extra weight of tools! 
With my previous commuter front bag, it was easy to include necessary tools (stored inside a black, barrel shaped, neoprene pencil case) plus pump, easily forgotten because all items were hidden beneath material. Using the new basket set-up required a different mindset, regarding tool storage with easy access. And the more I thought about it, it made sense to use a larger tool bag to also accommodate my pump.

The new bag has a low profile so I can easily stow other items along with my tools, like my weekly farm share produce.
A color coordinated bungee cord holds the case inside the wire basket, and also allows easy removal in case of inclement weather. Tuck the stylish bag under my arm or toss in my office pannier and go!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Peugeot St. Laurent is Commute-Ready


I spent several hours transferring items from the Ross Mt. St. Helens to the Peugeot St. Laurent. My goal was get the bike commute-ready over the weekend, in time for Monday's ride to the office. What I didn't anticipate was accomplishing everything in one day! A rainy Saturday helped, along with a few breaks, one of which was riding the bike with my son, and by the end of the afternoon I had finished.

I started the work outside on our deck, then moved indoors once the rain started, using a tarp to protect the wood floor. I wouldn't recommend either method, risking loosing tools through the gaps in the deck (I lost an Allen wrench and two star tools over the porch rail, but miraculously found them beneath day lilies), and indoors because I was uncomfortably stooped. Without a work stand to elevate the bicycle, my back ended up pretty sore for a couple days, however it's my own fault for neglecting to retrieve the stand from our house. Once we're settled at camp, it's often difficult to leave, even though it's only a 20 minute drive home.

Both the Peugeot and Ross are topless (without handle bars)  - I was in the process of transferring the Ross's handle bars to the Peugeot. I slowly dismantled the Ross (on the right) and while I will keep the wheels, I replaced the original  green, straight handlebar so it will travel to it's eventual new owner. 

The Transformation Process & What I learned
  • Starting with a front tire change, I decided instead to switch front wheels, which necessitated adjusting front brakes because the rim was slightly wider. At the outset, it reminded me that there's often more to bike maintenance than meets the eye - very much like home ownership! And I also noticed that the Peugeot's front wheel needed bearings regreased, so I'll store that wheel for a back up and properly overhaul it when necessary.
  • I tossed the gross, shredded seat and put on a new Nashbar Women's FC1 saddle. The Ross's current seat was, quite literally, a PIA.
  • With impending rain in the forecast, I took a break and rode with my son for a few miles to get some exercise. Little did I know we'd end up riding hills and trails! At that point the bike was bare-bones, sans fenders and racks, and I zipped along - definitely a foreign concept to a bike commuter!
  • I swapped handle bars because the stamped, labeled Italmanubri bar, gleaned from my son's Peugeot has always felt right. It was a slow process, loosening brakes and thumb shifters was a little difficult (more so on the Ross because the screws were nearly stripped), but with patience I'm glad to have familiar, comfortable handle bars. 
  • Transferring fenders was relatively easy. There is more clearance on the rear wheel than when the fender was previously connected to the Ross, but I will keep it as is.
  • I am keeping the included 1.5" rear tire because I see value in retaining puncture proof rubber, for the time being, even though I prefer 1.75" Paselas.
  • I had trouble installing the rear rack. I couldn't free all of the bolts on the slider bracket (I stripped a couple Allen heads), ideally to level the platform, so I attached the rack as is. For now the large Blackburn office pannier works okay and I have heal clearance, but I wonder if shortening the bracket would adversely alter the space. I'm not happy with the rack angle so I'll deal with the rack in the future.
  • The front rack went on smoothly, though because the fender also shared the same frame bolt, I attacked both transfers together. Of special note, the lower rack holes are mounted to the cantilever bolt attachments. The Peugeot lacked Allen bolts, but fortunately I was able to swap the bolts from the Ross. 

Above, the Italian stamped bar; below, original unmarked bar. Visually there appears to be little difference,
but in reality they are not the same.

Unexpected but delightful surprises
  • With more space between the sloping tubes, my water bottle is more accessible.
  • I sit more upright - an unanticipated but welcome advantage as this position allows a natural transition to the Clementine (and vice versa).
  • The frame (and it could also be due to tires) absorbs bumps more so than the Ross. My 15 year old son insists the wheelbase is longer; he noticed the increased fork curve. Everyone knows that teenagers are never wrong! I suspect the comfort is due to a larger frame size. Handle bar position seems to sit further back and not above the center of the front wheel. I could be wrong in this assessment, but the frame geometry feels quite different. Whatever the reason, the bike fits and I'm happy!
  • I'm pleased with the new saddle choice, a comfortable seat the first time around!
  • I sprang for a new set of ergonomic grips, Ergon's cork style.
These items: a lock, tool bag, and pump were hidden in the green bag on the Ross. It's a work in progress, storing the accessories in a basket, because I like to leave them on my bike at my workplace rack. I need to find a long term solution.

Other thoughts
  • The Peugeot was the perfect opportunity to use a front basket. In this instance, I used one of two white baskets that I'd grabbed, years ago, from a neighbor's free pile. New bicycle, "new" accessories!
  • I will eventually add anniebikes' style - possibly coordinate with the orange/red color scheme, and/or decorate with leopard print duct tape? I missed pe-ordering an orange Clementine so you can bet I'll play up the orange on the Peugeot!
  • I cannot locate a Shimano cap locally to cover the lost cap on the right-hand thumb shifter. A mechanic found two extra left-hand shifters, but the cap, unfortunately, is proprietary (go figure). In fact, I found the original shifters  hardware on my son's Peugeot in our parts stash - both are missing caps! For now, I'll keep the exposed parts oiled (my bike stays outdoors at work) and continue looking for a replacement online.
  • I've been riding the Peugeot for two weeks. What strikes me the most is how well the bicycle fits, something I've longed for for quite some time. Go Peugeot! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dash for the Sunset

Our heart was not in pedaling to the fireworks show this year as a three-some, without extended family members in attendance. Instead, we dashed in the opposite direction to watch the sunset on the bridge over the Winooski River. We spied Canadian geese and goslings, debris floating downriver from high water, and cyclists high-tailing the other way to catch the fireworks. For once, I was relieved to avoid the crowds and do something completely different.

I will save packages of glow sticks for another time!

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 4th Preparations & Decorations

On my morning commute, I noticed the Independence Day (July 3 in Burlington) celebrations unfolding: red, white, and blue banners, park vehicles hauling a trailer of porta potties, and a blue sky to greet revelers - a welcome sight indeed! I look forward to this evening's annual fireworks festivities and family ride in the dark. Happy 4th!

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?