Saturday, June 29, 2019

Maintaining 5 Bikes - Is it Worth it?

Could this be the future of anniebikes?

I've been struggling with whether it's worth owning five bicycles.

Sure, it's nice to have a backup commuter, a long distance rider, a folding bike is handy, etc., but at some point, it becomes difficult to keep up with maintenance. This conflicts with what I said last September, but since then I foresee a future living situation - and welcome at that - with limited storage and I've reconsidered what's a suitable number of bikes that fulfills all my needs.

How did I come to that conclusion?

I'm tired of seemingly having at least one bicycle under repair. And I say seemingly because I've experimented with different handlebars, added new grips just because, outfitted most bikes with mirrors, etc - in other words, accessorizing all 5 bikes takes a lot of effort, expense, and time. Add routine maintenance to the agenda and every weekend I've worked on one thing or the other. Once upon a time I owned two bikes, though primarily only used one - and I don't recall spending as much time fixing bikes!

What to keep?

On the bright side, the Dahon has new tires, chain, smaller chain ring, plus it's outfitted with front water bottle carrying and baggage solution, one of my goals for 2019. The folder has proven to be a keeper: comfortable, versatile, and small also means easier to clean up after riding in the rain - who knew? The regular commuter, Peugeot St. Laurent, will always need upkeep as it's older and sees the most miles, but is an integral bike: good on hills, scratched and old so I don't worry too much where it's locked, and could also double as a winter bike. The Rivendell Clementine is my long distance bike; comfortable, classy, hauls touring gear, and because it's newer, thankfully won't require immediate maintenance. Paring down also means I'd achieved keeping 3 step through versions, what I see myself riding as I grow older.

The caveat here is we aren't planning on moving anytime soon, due to personal needs and a tough housing market, so I'm not compelled to sell bikes. On the contrary, I still wish to raise the bars on Peugeot UO-14. It's delightful to ride a skinny tired bike and very lightweight. However, this exercise in thinking about simplicity is worthy, and of course, doesn't extend to only bicycles. I now know I'd be happier with a lot less stuff in my life.

Anyone else feel the call to pare down bikes?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bell and Grip Bling and a Handlebar Swap

Replacing an old Jelly Bell (left photo) with a colorful Public ding-dong bell on the Peugeot St. Laurent.

I believe that timing is everything.

I've lusted after the simple bling at Public Bikes for some time and nearly bought one of their rear racks. I'm not attracted to their bicycles though. But throw their panniers, bells, and in this case a discounted swoopy-curved Brunch Handlebar at me - that reminded me of the Albatross bar - just when I tired of the flat bar position on my alternate commuter, the Peugeot UO 14, and voila! I was sold.
Old handlebars (top two photos) and new Public Brunch bars (at bottom).
To get free shipping, I threw in two colorful bells, one mini bell, and 2 pairs of leather ergonomic grips (one to accommodate a Grip shift), fortunately also on sale.

The bars are wonderful and feel much better zipping around on the fast commuter. The downside is they have less rise so with the stem maxed out, I'm looking into an alternative stem, plus I need to deal with a loosened headset. I feel a mechanic/YouTube session is in the cards...

As pictured above, the grips and bell worked well, though this style of bell is rather heavy. The low profile silver/black bell for the Dahon turned out to be a great addition. However, Public's style of Grip shift leather ergo grips didn't fit on my Dahon's Grip shifter - right grip needs to be an inch shorter - another case where a folding bike is a whole other animal all together. I'm unable to move shifting and brake levers with minimal handlebar real estate. Nor can I trim the leather grip due to bolt on style and decorative stitching. I'll have to live with the blah, grey, existing grips for now.

While the mechanic's session took place, I also cleaned my parts box and donated a bunch of accessories to Old Spokes Home, which felt good.

I love accessorizing my bicycles, but I often wonder if it will ever end. Someone talk me out of acquiring colorful flat pedals...

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Avoid Buying Bike-Specific Items When it Makes Sense

The more I ride bikes and the more bikes I own and outfit, the more bike-related stuff I've accumulated over the years - something I'm not happy about. Along with thoughts of paring down the fleet someday (I can get by with only 3 bikes), I've been slowly clearing out the parts bin and thinking about how I've adapted in other ways too - maybe not consciously - but by necessity and creatively, adopting a minimalist/re-use approach, using alternative, multi-function biking/hiking accessories that can be accommodated on most of my bikes.

Hardware Store Protective Eye Wear
Need clear lenses on cloudy days or to protect your eyes against dust, road dirt, and pollen? Look no further than your local hardware store. I've had good luck with stylish, safety goggles (see photo above) for less than 10 bucks. There's usually a good selection.

Inclement Weather
You know your climate and what's feasible for your personal comfort and miles traveled. For a relatively short commute, I'm digging a rubberized poncho (see above photo). The idea was born from sweating inside a coated nylon raincoat in our humid summers. I also needed rain protection for a planned multiday hike in a wet climate. I've stuck with the poncho for rainy rides for 2 years now plus I can cover my hands to keep them dry and warm.

Bungee Cords are Your Friends: knot two together for a quasi cargo net. I can't praise enough how useful bungee cords are for strapping down unexpected purchases. My favorite system is using a smaller Delta brand cargo net (with 4 red hooks), but the above photo shows how you can create your own device. My son brought the homemade net along on a NYC adventure as backup. In addition to a net I always carry a lightweight nylon bag (the type that folds into a tiny pouch), handy for unexpected purchases.

Wear What's Comfortable: I'm a t-shirt wearer in summer heat, not caring for synthetic tops because of their fowl odor after one hot ride.  Any type of stiff-soled sandals work well on flat pedals - if desired add a sock layer for extra warmth.

Cold Weather Gear
Look no further than your ski garments: parka, long underwear, warm mitts, neck gator, balaclava, or everyday winter boots.

How to Carry Your Stuff
A replacement for well-made panniers is hard to come by, especially for bicycle touring - unless you're a backpack lover or have constructed bomb-proof Kitty litter container panniers. However, I discovered that small duffel bags are a practical alternative (use that "cargo bungee" to strap it down), size is perfect on my Dahon's limited rear rack capacity and many come with a shoulder strap for handy carrying off the bike. It's also a lightweight, inexpensive solution compared with traditional panniers. And you might already have one in a closet.

A fanny pack (remember those?) is still a viable, safe way to tote personal items. Loop the waist belt around your handlebars and it doubles as a bar bag, easily removed once you're at your destination.

Clean-up Supplies
Liquid dish soap is great for cleaning grimy hands after a bike maintenance session. Squirt undiluted detergent onto hands, rub, and wipe hands with paper towels. Then clean hands as normal. In place of  Citrasolv (though I like the smell) try Simple Green (comes in bulk) diluted in a handy container - good for cleaning squealing rims, quick hand-wiping between handling parts, and grease remover on brake parts or grips (which I inevitably get dirty).

The Common Bandanna
Bandannas are multi-purpose, doubling as nose wiper, potholder for bike camping, neck warmer, hair tie, etc. Having one handy when the inevitable roadside repair happens mean you'll have a clean-up  cloth, a handy item that's easily replaced.

What would you add to the list?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Peugeot UO 14 - A More Practical Setup

I've barely ridden my Peugeot UO 14 in five years, mostly due to an impractical setup. Using only a front basket (pictured below) meant I couldn't swap my work pannier between bikes, should I discover some morning that I had a flat tire. And as functional as the basket is, it's also too large - I had trouble tightening the bolts to keep it from rubbing on the tire.

The old setup.

My husband has a beautiful old English steel rack that hasn't been used in a long time - dare I say the 1980s - when it graced his old Peugeot! It's a perfect, simple solution to add functionality back into my Peugeot. I polished minor rust with steel wool to bring out the shine once again, detached the Mafac brakes to allow the non-adjustable bracket (see above) to connect with the brake bolt. In the end, I also readjusted the brakes.

I test rode the bike in the neighborhood and realized I needed to slide handlebars towards me plus tilt the seat so I sit more upright - apparently my tastes have changed over the years - and this 20" frame feels much better. I've been commuting for several days now on this bike - at least until I fix my regular commuter bike - and enjoy the zippy ride to work, especially on comfortable Panaracer Pasela tires. Stock gearing, however, on this old 12-speed isn't optimal for my aging legs so I ride mostly in the smaller chainring. Still, it's nice to have a fast, alternative bicycle should I need it.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Dahon Boardwalk 6-Speed - A Smaller Chainring is a Winner

Dahon Boardwalk 6-speed with new 48T chainring.
After riding the Dahon 6-speed for nearly two years and struggling up hills near home, I wanted to lower the gearing with cost effective changes. It was rather fortuitous that Beth of bikelovejones had recently upgraded a Dahon of similar gear range, so when I was ready, I contacted Beth to find out particulars.

Dahon with original chainring.
Armed with information, I left my Dahon with Old Spokes Home, but also gave them the opportunity to come up with an alternative solution. The mechanic agreed that swapping the front one-piece crank arm/ring assembly was the best bet and would first take a look in their parts bin before ordering new parts. A couple days later a mechanic called, failed to locate suitable used parts, but could order the new parts, offering my requested 48T plus a 38T alternative. Of note: I regularly only used the lowest 4 of 6 gears, so switching from 52T to 48T made sense, whereas drastically lowering 12 teeth seemed too much of a change. I worried that had I chosen the big drop, then riding on flat terrain meant I would be coasting rather than picking up speed. What I particularly love about this bike (among its varied versatile features) is its surprisingly smooth ride - the bike rolls well and zips along, often keeping up with or passing other riders on descents.

Two weeks into riding with a 48T chainring has made a world of difference! I climb much easier and use gears 1-5 regularly, with only occasional drop into gear 6 with tailwind/and or when I need to get somewhere fast. I think the only other change I might explore in the future is whether the drive train could accommodate a larger freewheel, which might further enhance gearing for optimal range. But that's splitting hairs for a 6-speed, so-to-speak, and I'm perfectly happy with the new setup.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

DIY Versatile Pouch/Water Bottle Holder/Snack Bag for the Dahon

The new and improved water bottle carrier for the Dahon.
After last year's easy remedy to add water carrying capacity to the Dahon, which worked well for a while, but then the fabric and lining lost it's structure as heat and humidity and the hottest summer on record took its toll. It was frustrating to remove and replace a sweating bottle so I vowed to come up with a long term solution.

Prerequisites: constructed with reused material, use Velcro-like loop and fasteners for versatility, hold small or large water bottles or a bottle purchased at a convenience store, and enough stiffness to not collapse like the previous version. I thrive on re-purposing bags, problem solving, and construction  and if it has something to do with bikes, well, this project was right up my alley! Once I discovered Makeshifter's Snackhole Stem Bag, I knew that was the design I would copy, but add my own personality and retrofits for a folding bike's handlebars.

To begin, I made notes, sketches, and started painting with watercolors - primarily to add painting back in my life, even if they are tiny images. It also helped to conceptualize the color scheme, not that you can go wrong with hot pink, purple, and black!

The structure is a piece of 1/4" closed cell foam (saved from who knows what and when), formed into a cylinder (above photo, lower right picture), sewn, then duct-taped because I wasn't convinced hand-stitching would hold both ends together.

Each project session was 1-2 hours on six successive weekends, mainly because of my shorter attention span, inadequate basement lighting (location of sewing corner), and early darkness in winter. And if truth be told, there were so many steps involved - most I made up as I went along - that I needed head space to work out ideas. The process reminded me of wrenching on my own bikes, running into roadblocks, and having to walk away and return with a fresh outlook.

I took apart an old purple backpack, saved buckles and straps (I now have probably too large a collection!) and washed all fabric pieces. The pack had a removable top pouch/flap that is also versatile, which I've used a bit on the Dahon's bars... but that's another exciting upgrade project for the future!

The Snackhole's features held appeal: an exterior pocket for pens, utensils, etc. plus a horizontal strap to secure/clip keys, knife, or what have you - a versatile array of possible uses in addition to holding a water bottle.

I set out constructing the exterior piece first, and for decoration, tried my hand at piecing curved stripes, but it marginally worked, instead stripes look like badly sewn straight pieces, but I'm fine with roughness. The purple cordura material is slightly faded anyway, which seems to fit the overall look. I'm not expecting perfection, at least on this part. I then sewed the pocket section to the larger exterior, then placed and sewed the horizontal strap, tacking it with purple stitching. It was fun to use lots of contrasting thread colors. I sandwiched the circular bottom pieces between foamy packing material, then added a button hole for drainage (Snackhole has a grommet), which looks nice and in theory should function well, but later I add the lining without a hole as it proved too difficult to align lining with exterior. I'm fine with the way it turned out.

I wasn't sure how to make a more versatile attachment system - and Makeshifter's website doesn't show how the Snackhole attaches to handlebars - but an independent review displays it quite well.  I had an epiphany: by using removable Velcro-type fasteners - essentially loops - and placing a vertical strap with various sections to hook each loop (above photo, lower left image), my version of the Snackhole could not only fit various bike handlebars, but could also function as an additional pocket on both my medium-size backpacks, something that's been on my mind as we may be, hopefully, embarking on a multi-day adventure this summer! (Yeah, I chopped up the large backpack for this project because straps were disintegrating, very old, and weighed 5 lbs.!)

Left photo compares old and new sizes. Right photo shows puckering on first sewing.
Fashioning the lining proved more difficult, and after sewing it to the exterior, the completed horizontal edge puckered more that I could stand (above photo, right image). The lining was too narrow at the top portion, where I'd unfortunately sewn the exposed, expansion material because I thought the raw edge would show. As it turns out, I used contrasting pink material to cover up edges (see photos below) anyway, so no need to finish off the raw edge. Unhappy with the result, I painstakingly ripped all the seams to reconstruct the lining, then resewed everything. The finished top edge is much better - not perfect - though something I can live with.

I have a bag that's stylish, versatile, and unique that can hold bottles of water and other sundries, suitable for a bike plus do double-duty as extra space attached to a backpack. It is deeper than the Snackhole, plus has a variety of attachment points. I'm very pleased with the finished product.

This was a challenging project, and perhaps the most difficult project I've ever tackled, mainly because I tried to copy someone else's design, while adding my own features, all while configuring material to wrap around a set piece of closed cell foam. Figuring out each step complicated the process: when to sew straps, pockets, and lining to easily fit each section into the sewing machine. I have tremendous respect for Becky at Makeshifter for her unique designs (she has many) and her construction method, I imagine, developed after many iterations. Do check out her website.

Monday, March 11, 2019

New Bike Shoes, Just Because - Pearl Izumi Ladies

I normally avoid bike-specific garments, but shoes are another thing altogether. I dearly love my Nashbar Ragster sandals and because this second pair is new I wasn't necessarily looking for another pair of bike shoes, but sometimes I can't resist deeply discounted footwear. I came across a pair of Pearl Izumi ladies' shoes, only available in one size - my size - for less than 20.00. Surely, that's a sign!

Previous to bike sandals, I used Shimano shoes until they showed wear and gradually were too tight - about the time when my feet grew one size. I've missed owning a more formal shoe, something that could be used for longer rides. Fortunately, as with the sandals, I can avoid cutting out the rubber-coated bottoms to expose cleat hardware, and wear the shoes as-is on flat pedals, my preferred pedal choice these days.

The new shoes are definitely acceptable, especially for the price. They're narrower than I expected and a more lightweight type shoe than the much older, thicker Shimanos. The Pearl Izumis have mesh sides that are airy so thin socks are a must for early spring and late fall rides. The cord-lock enclosures take some getting used to. The laces gradually loosen over time. However, the neoprene sock-like collar is comfortable and prevents the shoe from coming off. The sole is made from a harder material than my sandals, so I'm careful to avoid sliding on my RMS sneaker pedals. Even with the caveats, I'm pleased to have another pair of stiff-soled footwear, a nice backup to the sandals that I usually wear 6 months of the year.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Leopard Print Thermos Koozie - Love the Fuzz!

For ten years I've been a huge fan of leopard print fabric. I came across a large piece sewn and backed to black fleece - enough to nearly wrap into a skirt - at Goodwill. I had visions of creating an insulated, stylish winter skirt or leg warmers, but fortunately I didn't have enough material or know-how to create either, nor did I think in the long run I would necessarily use them for a long period, so I gave up on both ideas.

I've decided to use the fabric for small, more practical projects like a koozie for my Stanley thermos. As with most Stanley products, they're well made and their thermos is no exception. When used the exterior metal is very cold to the touch, even with gloves. It seemed ironic that on winter days I grasped a cold thermos to sip hot liquid!

The construction was simple. With both fabrics (leopard print is more like velour with a nap than fleece) I wrapped around the cylindrical shape with enough overlap for a strip of black Velcro, sewed the edge, then the fastener. I hand-stitched the circular bottom two pieces to keep them from shifting, then machine stitched the circle to the cylinder.

The finished koozie is snug, stylish, washable, and - most importantly - keeps my hands warm!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Frankenbike - An Antiquated or Appropriate Term?

My initial understanding of a FrankenBike: an oddly, unique bicycle. Image found on Twitter. 

The term FrankenBike has always bothered me, but as I've discovered, it's more the name itself than the actual process: as defined by the Urban Dictionary "a bike built up from various components scrounged from different sources (friends, swap meetscraigslist, etc.)."

My first impression was a bike that was instantly recognized (pictured above), unique in frame style certainly, but functional. Possibly a bike to be used at special events, for short distances.

A typical commuter Frankenbike. Photo credit: The making of a Frankenbike.

But then I started seeing various bicycles called Frankenbikes, and many styles that resembled typical  commuter bikes.

I became confused. Was a Frankenbike a broad term for any bike cobbled together from various parts?

Digging deeper, I discovered Frankenbike's origins derive from FrankenBike swap meets in Austin Texas. This is a German settled area, so thus the reference to Frankenstein (in it's logo) and my image of a miscreated or abnormal bicycle. And interestingly enough, as I understand it, only bike related parts are sold, which means the term FrankenBike has taken on a life of it's own as a loose term for actual functioning bikes created from a swap meet collection (or Craigslist, or a local used parts dealer, etc.)

Apparently the term is fairly liberal.

I wouldn't classify the good work that Beth does, rescuing frames and making serviceable bikes for new Americans, or the cool Randy creations as Frankenbikes, because in reality, I think the term has strayed from it's origins. But then again, beauty, functionality, and exacting descriptions in this day and age of  plentiful, diverse new and used components remain in the eye of the beholder. 

What I do know is I'd love to attend a FrankenBike swap meet!

What do you think about Frankenbikes? Does the terminology bother you?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Ideas for 2019 and Beyond?

Inspired by last year's New York City adventure, I had a general idea to visit family in southern Connecticut, then board a ferry with the Dahon to explore Greenport and Montauk regions on the tip of Long Island. As I age, coastal communities - and of course sandy beaches - are appealing to me.

I'm also interested in attending the Philly Bike Expo and riding Philadelphia area trails. (Thank you MG for the ideas!) It would be my first attendance at a bike-related trade show plus an inaugural visit to Philadelphia, easily reached via Amtrak. I'm hoping a son or two might enjoy a long train excursion and weekend with mom.

But then my husband suggested a European hiking adventure, the Tour de Mont Blanc, which is too good to pass up! I picture rebonding with my husband on this famed, picturesque journey, a region we passed through during our 1990s around the world trip, then revisited 5 years later for day hikes near Chamonix. Though the  100+ mile circuit would eat up my meager two weeks vacation, now that our children are self sufficient, and if the logistics work out, that's where I'm headed this summer.

The Long Island foray make take a backseat, but I'm still considering the Philly Bike Expo vacation. And if not, either outing can be revisited another time. Plus, always at the back of my mind is to attend bike school in Colorado - some day! 

On the home front, I have visions of overnights 10-20 miles from home, plus an annual weekend visiting Canadian trails and back roads.

Bike wise, my primary focus this year is on the Dahon. I appreciate it's versatility and it's obvious benefits while traveling by train. Plus, with the right baggage setup the folder can do double-duty as a commuter.

Tasks/ideas/thoughts on the Dahon's makeover:
  • Install new tires (that I bought last spring!)
  • Sew/reuse material to create bags for the folder. I have ideas and I recently stripped, cleaned, and cut up an old backpack for this project.
  • Explore how to easily lower the Dahon's gearing (new front chain ring?), while keeping the 1x set up.

Who knows how 2019 will turn out? At least I have some goals to work towards...

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Bike Blog Love - 7th Edition

It's that time of year when snowy, icy roads and paths keep my cycling to a minimum. But of course cycling is never far from my thoughts and is a perfect time to share my annual homage to bicycle bloggers. So, without further adieu, enjoy my collection - all new to me in 2018.

Florida by Bicycle
I identify with this couple, and while not yet retired myself, they downsized and moved to a simpler living situation and have learned that owning two bikes each is all they really need. Written from a female perspective, she's relearning to bike tour and camp all over again while setting off on solo journeys. Oddly, readers are unable to post comments. I would love to tell her how much I enjoy following along!

a new recyclist
An Australian cyclist who enjoys restoring vintage bikes. Blog posts are few and far between, but entirely worth the wait.

Bobbins, Bikes and Blades
Another Australian and avid cyclist, who also loves to sew and play accordion.

The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles
Follow this blog for classy restorations of beautiful vintage bikes.

Brenda and her husband are avid adventurers (admirably in their later years) who love to cycle camp in England. Brenda recently got an e-bike that has added dimension - and the ability to keep up with her husband - while maintaining distance to their sojourns.

Bicycle Kitty rides a pink bike! She loves group rides, distance, and stops for coffee. She lives near - if not in - Portland, Oregon. Check out her account of 2018 flat tires.

A busker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and commutes year-round. An infrequent blogger but, wow - what a collection of bikes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Cycling, a Challenge in Itself

There are different realms within winter cycling, whether it's challenging yourself to ride on snowy or only dry roads, ride at least once per month, or to be able to withstand a certain temperature. Throw in commuter cycling versus pleasure cycling and "winter cycling" covers a broad spectrum. Riding in 30 degrees in Washington DC could be very difficult for some while hearty Swedes might consider similar temperature as balmy spring riding weather. We all have different tolerances. Distances, temperatures, and lifestyles are a significant factor in whether winter cycling is doable.

Until recently I've been a fair weather winter transportation cyclist, riding only when dry roads prevail. However, something has undoubtedly changed and I've made a personal breakthrough. It wasn't one big decision, but rather a metamorphosis over the span of a couple months.

In November cold descended early upon Vermont. I struggled to complete the Coffeeneuring Challenge and pedaled on weekends in 20 degree cold aided by a thermos filled with a hot beverage.  Miraculously, I kept warm.

In December cold days prevailed, but I refused to give up weekend pleasure rides and kept at it, dressed warmly, and actually enjoyed sunshine and lake views. It was a revelation that cycling along the waterfront meant peaceful meanderings. Gone were the summer and fall crowds. Hello quiet sunsets and awesome clear air!

On New Year's Day I set out again, breathing in cool air and after stopping for a blazing sunset, popped on my lights and rode home through quiet neighborhoods.

And then, just last weekend during a cold snap I waited until mid-afternoon to get outside. The temperature had risen to 13 degrees. It would've been my first ski of the season on powder snow, and yet because it was faster to dress for bike rides, rather than switching sports and driving 2 miles to a nearby country club, I chose to spin wheels. The Burlington Greenway was sketchy, with packed snow and ice in places, but I prevailed. My feet grew chilled after a while; the remedy was jogging a bit, but that's probably my limit for pleasure rides.

Monday I rode to work in zero degrees or slightly below, depending on which weather source was accurate! I rode on snow covered paths then resorted to snow packed, gritty sidewalks with occasional bare spots. This would normally be beyond my comfort zone, but conditions were rideable and I didn't freak out, but instead slowed to a manageable speed. The downside of those conditions was that I had to clean a dirty drive train.

I don't know if I'll continue riding on weekends. I've pushed my limits - something I never expected - and broken a barrier, so only time will tell whether I will keep it up.