Thursday, October 31, 2019

Slow Rolling with Adele - Riding Folding Bikes Around Montreal

Adele and I usually plan at least one bike adventure in Canada every year. This year's adventure came together pretty quickly, cobbling last minute accommodation in downtown Montreal during peak foliage, coupled with a few of my ideas for bike loops. What I didn't expect was that Adele would show up at my house with her Bike Friday in tow! What could be better than two women tootling around the city - and with Adele's penchant for picking out new restaurants and ideas for after hours delights - laughing and exploring?

With three days of stellar weather in the forecast we checked into a downtown hotel early, parked the car, and set out for a loop along the Lachine Canal, returning by way of Rapides Park along the Saint Laurence River.

We ate a picnic lunch at Rene Levesque Park. And basked in the sunshine, watching Canadian geese doing likewise.

It also happened to be Canada's Thanksgiving weekend, which made for empty trails!

After visiting Musee de Lachine, a local history museum which among other interesting information explains the prominence of the fur trade, and it's significance on the peninsula. Looping back towards the rapids we stopped to watch wetsuit-clad surfers briefly trying to catch a wave, then paddle out of the water a few yards downstream, and scamper on the path past us to repeat their plunge for another chance at a good ride. It seemed like a lot of effort but maybe for die hard surfers it was their only local opportunity.

Canada geese were everywhere, apparently not ready to head south. After a shower, and tasty dinner at Foxy we retired for the evening.

I always enjoy pedaling over Montreal's ice bridge, strategically placed to break up winter ice
from hitting the downstream major bridges.
Day two, we rode a loop that took in the ice bridge, and man-made paths separating the shipping channel from Montreal's inner harbor.

 The trees were stunning, absolutely vibrant.

 Detouring a bit, Adele kept wanting to pedal one direction. I kept admiring her front basket.

 But we had to turn around at some point!

 And just in time to watch a commercial boat cruise by.

I couldn't get enough sunshine or beautiful views. I like pedaling around Montreal and nearby communities for their trails and proximity to water.

We locked the wazoo out of our bikes. It is a city, after all. Dinner is Served - History of French Cuisine exhibit was located in the glass-fronted building behind our bikes.
We timed the ride to end up at the archaeological museum for a late lunch at L'Arrivage Bistro, then  to take in a special exhibit on the History of French Cuisine. Because of Adele's penchant for finding interesting restaurants and things to do, I get to enjoy a full cultural experience! But that wasn't all for day two. In the evening we took in live theater, watching - from box seats, no less - a wonderful play about an Italian immigrant family in Montreal called The Chain at McGill College's cozy theater. The acting was amazing - so much so - that Adele plans to see the sequel in 2020.

Our last and third day consisted of a shorter - and as Adele described, an urban ride - loop eastward, using Montreal's on-street marked lanes and bollard/curb segregated paths. The city has an extensive network of bike-friendly routes. I've always felt comfortable navigating through neighborhoods in that manner, but Adele apparently hasn't had much experience or desire. It's a great way to see a city, I noted, also describing how much I enjoyed a recent adventure in New York City, which she couldn't imagine! Like all of our cycling adventures together, we get to share new things with each other.

It's the little discoveries that make tootling new routes a wonderful adventure, like riding through a park with large Adirondack chairs...

Adele wanted her picture taken, wearing a Mexican hat.
...Or stumbling onto an outdoor market!

We also wanted to visit Velo Quebec, located in the back of a light-filled coffee shop, but the office was closed due to the holiday weekend.

Pedaling mostly downhill, we looped back to the hotel and checked out, then drove to the Italian section of Montreal. Adele is Italian, so she gave me a walking tour of Jean-Talon market, a wonderfully large indoor grocery store, plus we sipped cappuccino at a 50's style diner, an institution - indeed I was tired and overwhelmed after a while. Adele is 14 years my senior but has more energy than I do!

Late afternoon, we head home, but not before nearly running out of gas just shy of the border. Because many gas stations were closed - the holiday again - we backtracked and were lucky to find one place open, fortunately, which was a big sigh of relief. In typical fashion, we chat all the way home, marveling how we pulled off another amazing adventure.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Coffeeneuring 2019 - Second Cup at Airport Park

New Places, New Spaces
Getting to know Colchester, the next stop on my Coffeeneuring tour was Airport Park. Once a local airport - as a child I watched small planes land and take off - but for many years has been a wonderful multi-use park, complete with ball fields, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, trails, and a relocated old school house, a water & rest stop on the way to pedaling the causeway, and much more. 

The one room schoolhouse (at left in photo) was built between 1815-1827. The school was closed in 1928 because it no longer met state regulations. In 2000 the school was donated to the Colchester Historical Society and moved 4 miles to Airport Park.

Once again, I left my workplace - smartly, this time - with a thermos of ginger tea in lieu of caffeinated beverage, which had unfortunately kept me up till midnight (though I should know better). 

Looking longingly at my Dahon, parked outside my office.

I made it to the park about 6 pm. just in time to enjoy my tea as the evening was cooling down. However, using a new to me thermos meant I didn't expect the temperature would be scalding, and without a cup, I couldn't drink much. I sipped a bit in the tiny cap and drank the rest at home. Next time I'll be prepared.

This double-walled stainless steel bottle was a good find at Goodwill. Who could resist with a print like that?
I tucked the thermos in the front holder, turned on my lights, and retraced my route.

I stopped briefly on the Winooski River bridge for a glimpse of post sunset glow then bee lined homeward.

As much as I enjoy the freedom of riding in darkness - I really do! - I'm looking forward to weekend Coffeeneuring for more leisurely outings.

The Place:  Airport Park
Date: Friday, October 18
Drink: Tazo Ginger Tea
Observation:  I like that with workplace items on hand I can do impromptu coffeeneuring stops after hours. I have to commit to riding in the dark though, as Colchester is 9 miles away.
Total Miles: 12

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Coffeeneuring 2019 - First Cup at Delta Park


New Places, New Spaces
My theme in 2019 centers around getting to know Colchester, the next town north of Burlington. Colchester's lakeshore is also extensive with public beach access and is home to the Colchester Causeway (currently closed for repairs). Pedaling beside, swimming in, and watching sunsets on Lake Champlain is my happy place. Whether it's a historical or waterways theme it seems I gravitate towards Lake Champlain.

My first adventure was timed before the impending noreaster and an upcoming non-biking weekend, which meant I made up the outing on a moment's notice. I grabbed a stainless mug off my desk and filled up at a Starbucks then beelined to the waterfront trail. I made it to Delta Park 5 minutes after sunset.

Delta Park is a unique and wild landscape comprised of wetlands, marsh, and natural beach. Indeed the short trail had old fallen trees that I lifted my bike over to find a quiet spot with a view.

The Place:  Delta Park
Date: Tuesday, October 15
Drink: Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Observation:  For a relatively obscure beach I was surprised to see a few folks, including a bundled couple enjoying a romantic picnic spread on a blanket, complete with wine and dinner.
Total Miles: 12

Thursday, October 10, 2019

If Money Were No Object - Optimal Bike Setups

What would you do if you had endless resources to upgrade a current bike versus purchasing a new one?

I was thinking the other day, what would my dream setups consist of and if I could replace my existing bike, what would I choose? I've already figured I could get by with only three bikes *.

Dahon Boardwalk
The Dahon is almost there in terms of commuting and touring abilities on flat terrain. After a couple 30 miles rides, and recent updates to crank, adding new tires and chain, I feel confident in the folder's abilities for more travel aboard this small-wheel wonder. For hauling gear, however, I'd like compact rear panniers, but they must be very narrow to avoid heal-strike. I recently bought two sling bags, which when sewn together, should provide exactly what I'm looking for, in addition to a small duffel bag that I currently use for commuting. Plus, when possible, I prefer to use items on hand. A second wish: a wee bit lower-geared freewheel for more effortless climbing - though that's splitting hairs so-to-speak.

Dream folding bicycle: I'd happily buy a new Boardwalk because a steel frame provides comfort, plus, in my opinion, the round tubing of this particular model is timeless! But if money were no object, I'd select a Brompton because of its reputation and build quality coming out of England - as opposed to Asia. With the ability to fold and fly without hassle and expense, I'd tour overseas. Brompton's are cute and come in cool colors, like purple!

Peugeot St. Laurent
Ideally, I'd swap the current Panaracer Pasela tires for the Tour Guard/flat protected version. Otherwise, my bombproof, scuffed Peugeot continues to function well as an all-weather commuter. I'd love to have 1x gearing for simplicity - I fell in love with the easy-shifting of a rented 1x11 mountain bike recently... My Blackburn pannier continues to be a perfect complement and has held up well after my practical retrofits.

Dream commuting bicycle: For a US option, I've always admired the looks and practical functionality of the Breezer Uptown & Downtown series of step-through styles. They are more lightweight with v-brakes. I'd sacrifice a rougher ride on an aluminum frame because the metal would hold up better against salted New England roads.

Rivendell Clementine
For my step-through touring rig, I'd like to explore narrower tires, curvier handlebars, and a splash of color to complement the blue frame, plus a different rack setup. On the other hand, low gears, plush ride, finally a comfortable saddle (4th one), and adequate, unique - if a bit awkward (click through friction) - shifting all make the Clementine a beautiful build. A great base for upgrades. No problem in the pannier department - I have multiple panniers that fit normal-sized racks.

Dream touring bicycle:  With above-noted tweaks, I think Clementine is it, unless a future U.S. market handles more options for step through tourers. I'd always wondered about a built-up SOMA Buena Vista mixte and whether that set-up would've been lighter, and yet, it's still not a loop frame. I love Clementine's ease of use and isn't something I would sacrifice on a whim.

*I've purposely left out the Peugeot UO14 and Trek Antelope from the discussion. Both bikes duplicate functions and if something were to happen to either one - heaven forbid - I wouldn't replace them.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

That Zippy Peugeot UO 14 May Come in Handy!

The Peugeot' UO 14 setup is now spot-on for commuting on flat terrain.
For most of the summer and now into autumn, I've traded commuter duty between the Dahon Boardwalk and the recently upgraded Peugeot UO 14 while I've slowly been sorting out drive-train issues with my Peugeot St. Laurent step-through. I've lamented whether owning five bicycles is really worth it - and I still agree with the reasoning behind it - but sometimes holding onto a unique bike in your stable, quite unexpectedly, has a specific purpose.

Life goes on - sometimes in unanticipated ways.

Now that the Peugeot UO 14's cockpit is dialed to perfection with taller Nitto Technomic stem, Public Brunch handle bars, cushy seat, and pink Kraton grips, plus somehow I had the foresight years ago to put on Panaracer Pasela's Tour Guard tires (flat protected rubber) this lightweight skinny-tired bike is a blast to ride! It cuts 10 minutes off a 7-8 mile commute (from our camp on the lake) compared with any other bike I own. And now that I'm suddenly looking at a 9.5 mile one-way, virtually flat, ride come spring, you can bet I won't get rid of the spirited Peugeot!