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!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Colchester Streets Challenge - Rising Water

In late February on a warm weekend morning, I began pedaling Colchester's roads. The first outing involved tacking on 4-5 miles after checking on our family's camp in northern Burlington. I often stop on my favorite Burlington/Colchester border: the pedestrian/bike bridge spanning the mouth of the Winooski River. On this particular morning, I was treated to ice flows moving beneath me, entering Lake Champlain plus hardcore kite boarders cresting waves in 35F degree water.

I also checked on Airport Park's bicycle rest stop, a project I was involved in a year ago, helping construct the covered table and erect the signage. Cyclist's and park users enjoy this spot and is often filled on warm summer days. I was pleased that the structure was holding up well. Afterwards, I looped through a few neighborhood streets.

On my second outing, I struggled with what to photograph. I pedaled through more non-descript neighborhoods filled with raised ranches and older homes falling in disrepair. And to be fair, brown grass is unappealing to start with! However, I came across a sweet miniature lighthouse decorating someone's front lawn, complete with lashed pilings and a crab.

I like the Airport Park neighborhood plus it's proximity to the causeway and waterfront trails.
I am constantly looking at house styles though, certainly a side benefit to this challenge. Colchester has lots of older homes, but has infilled during the past 20 years with new housing developments so there is an interesting mix of old lakefront camps on leased property, 1960's ranches, and over-the-top construction, maximizing on lake views, plus every kind of style in between. There is a high percentage of private roads also -  which I find curious, and now I understand, accounts for all the dotted lines on my map - not included in my "public roads" itinerary. I plan to read about Colchester's history, and in particular, why the high incidence of private roads and neighborhoods.

As I head back towards the waterfront trail, I observed the swollen Winooski River. The water is creeping up the boat ramp in this low-lying neighborhood. I was also reminded of the endangered Lake Surgeon, and because I'm not a fisherperson, it's easy to forget. There's a reason I've only seen this species in a tank.

From the fish and game access, it was a unique view of an area that's been under construction for seemingly a long time before housing goes up. I can tell there's been shoreline restoration and reinforcement, so perhaps the developer needed to get that part done before anything else.

Onward, I stop "on the border", a reversal loop of the previous excursion. This time, the mouth of the river is threatening Burlington's North Cove community.  A lot has happened since that first ride, Hurricane Stella dropped 29" of snow, upriver snow is melting - just this week the lake level has risen 2 feet!

And when I look the opposite direction, I'm reminded how Burlington and Colchester are linked in more ways than one. Both communities share the river as a boundary, and in 2004 they came together to build and commemorate this wonderful bridge that walkers, pedalers, fisher-people, and tourists share - a precious connection that's a real treasure.

Monday, April 3, 2017

50F Plus - The Hordes Emerge from Hibernation

A stellar 50+ degree day and people are flocking to bike paths. Families are playing in the streets. On my ride home from work, I dodged runners, dogs, and go-fast cyclists. I admit I've taken the quiet, winter paths for granted. Pressed for time, I zip downhill, aiming to make up time in the morning. Hopefully there will still be traffic-free paths early morning as spring-like weather continues, but I will expect to be cautious riding towards home. I especially enjoy watching little tykes on straddle bikes, and I ring my bell as I pass - bike riders of the future!