Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In Praise of the The Joe Blow Hand Pump


A floor pump is one of those understated items that a bike lover must have, yet it's neither sexy nor as exciting as new bar tape or tires. Yet without a trustworthy pump, fixing a flat tire with only a mini-pump is awkward and time consuming. After purchasing too many inexpensive floor pumps that have malfunctioned within two years, we've settled on the Joe Blow Max HP floor pump. Retailing between 30-40.00 it's not the most expensive pump, but has been a reliable companion, even after 10 years of normal use, This model has both Presta and Schraeder connections, a large, easy to read pressure gauge with sliding marker for highlighting a favorite pressure, ability to pump high pressure in a reasonable time frame, and sturdy, comfortable handles. I'd highly recommend this version if you're a home mechanic looking for a reasonably priced floor pump.

What's your advice for a decent floor pump?


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Miss Clementine's Makeover

Miss Clementine before and after the bar and tire swap.

2020 is the year for Miss Clementine's upgrdes.
The reason for the update was two-fold: swapping handlebars to create a more aggressive posture plus create more comfortable alternative hand positions for longer rides, and a tire swap to improve handling and further lighten the bicycle.

To back up a bit:
First impressions of the stock 2016 Clementine (Clem-L to be exact) - in my opinion - were disappointing. Riding was sluggish, and the bike was heavier and longer than I expected.  But trusting Rivendell's reputation and with my desired low gears, I put my immediate reaction aside, The weak aspect was always the bosco handlebars - I disliked the angular, cruiser-type setup, but without knowing what exactly I would swap them with, I decided to live with them for a while, which, in the end, proved to be a wise decision. 

You gotta start somewhere
Once I inflated tires properly, went on a few tours, hauled weight, tested hills - that was when the magic began to happen. Miss Clementine seems to climb all by herself! Well, of course, not really, but the propulsion or planing (I think it's called) is rather extraordinary. Once I gain momentum, Miss Clementine is easier to ride. I liked the upright grip on the boscos and even the supplied Kenda tires worked well on dirt roads. Hmm. Like all my bikes, I needed time to sort out what I would change, for Miss Clementine has always been what I foresee as my new touring bike.


Soma Oxford bar is a near equivalent to Nitto Albatross, but less expensive. This aluminum bar replaced the stock Nitto alloy boscos and is much lighter. I gained 4" of forward reach, a position that's a more comfortable fit, with alternative gripping on the curves.

Weight matters as I grow older.
Miss Clementine is a little heavier than I would like in a touring bike. The step-through bones are good. Gearing is optimal. At the present, it's still the right bike for me with a few changes. As I grow older, it's harder to haul the same 40lbs. of gear when I was 30 years old, so paying attention to weight is critical. Besides lightening up my camping gear, I chose the Soma Oxford bars for better hand positions and swapped the Kenda tires for my preferred Panaracer Pasela's in gumwall version.

Ooooh, comfy gripping on the curves!

A world of difference.
Both changes have made a dramatic difference in comfort. Between finding a bar that works better, along with familiar tires, I've lightened the bike by an estimated 2 lbs. Benefits to the new bar include: lighter weight, aggressive reach, and I have gained back the ability to climb hills while standing on pedals whie being in control. The new tires are slightly narrower (though both indicate 1.75" width). I still need to work on optimal rack setup, but already I want to ride this bike more.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ride to Visit Little Free Libraries

In early May, seeking another motivational ride challenge, I visited registered Little Free Library boxes in Burlington, VT. The map displayed 16 locations. I found 12; 3 were missing; and one I could not visit one because of it's location inside a closed university building. During these strange times, many sites are offering cleaning wipes (with little trash cans for waste), puzzles, food items, stands offering local newsprint editions of Seven Days, bee polinator plants adorned one lawn complete with educational material, and another place even cataloged clothing for those in need (see yellow boxes in next photo). Each box was uniquely designed, the only commonality was their official labeling as a Little Free Library. I restrained myself to carrying home two books.

What became clear, after stumbling onto other non-official sites since my quest, is that there's an equal variety of undocumented sites with their own flair that are bright spots in our community. 


Little Miss Sunshine library is also a community resource for clothing and food.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Bike Blog Love - 8th Edition

Every year I seek out new bicycle blogs to follow. Here's my annual ode to a new (or at least new to me) batch of two-wheeled bloggers. Spread the link love!

HandsOnBike
I discovered this blog while researching possible upgrades and pannier solutions to my Dahon, Boardwalk, but have since followed his thorough evaluation of other projects. Check out how much work he put into his Boardwalk.

Super Biker Woman's Bike Touring
Colleen lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves to bike tour alone or with friends. I admire that she sets out with a general route idea and let's the days evolve from there.

My Life on Two Wheels
Heike travels the world and is an amazing photographer. She writes from the heart.

Adventure Cycling Blog
Some thought provoking material and good advice for those new to bike travel.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bye Bye Trek 830 Antelope

Trek 830 Antelope
Too small frame, no longer fitting anyone in our family.
Over several sessions, I broke down my once beloved Trek 830 Antelope, kept parts that might come in handy on our other old mountain bikes, and donated the frame to Old Spokes Home, where magic happens and they will rebuild it back up again for someone to use as transportation. 

I haven't seen this bike without a rack since 1985.

 Deore LX derailleur looks to still be in good shape.

Letting the crank and sprockets go with the bike.


In 1994 all the original Suntour components were replaced with the recommended Shimano group set, in preparation for our around the world journey.  As I lovingly dismantled the bike, I noted that the only thing still original were the stem and handlebars - a testament to how long these old mountain bikes can last and why they still make wonderful commuter bikes.

I have no regrets - how liberating to part with an ill fitting bicycle!

I'm now down to a manageable 4 bicycles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Moving on from Bosco Handlebars

Soma Oxford (upper, darker version) vs Rivendell Bosco. Comparison, using whatbars.com
I know I'm not the only one who dislikes Rivendell's bosco bars. While Miss Clementine is suited to upright riding, I've always felt that sitting like a queen with all my weight on the seat wasn't right for me, especially my intended purpose, which is for long rides, overnights, and touring. Also, though the grip position on the ends of the bars are quite comfortable - stellar, really - however, alternative hand positions on the bar are just awkward. The height and reach difference is too dramatic. After 3+ years of experimenting, I'm ready for a change.

I have long admired the svelte, sexy look of the Albatross bars. Soma's version, the Oxford, is a more affordable option.

The slightly wider Granola bars compared with Oxford and Bosco.
At the same time, I'd been advised online to try the VO Granola bars, which I'm also attracted to. I was all set to order both bars (I want options and may have a place for the unused one) because I want the nail down the perfect bar this summer. In addition, I have a shorter, removable faceplate stem, which might come in handy to get my desired body position.

But then I discovered both stem clamp diameters are 25.4 and the Granola bars require a 31.8. Ugh.

Bosco vs VO Curvy. Would this bar work with shorter stem?

Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed with bar options. I may need to go down the rabbit hole of searching RBW Google Group - someone must've posted a similar question. But I thought I'd also throw out the question to my readers: Does anyone have suggestions for an aluminum bar that can handle thumbshifters, brakes, plus give alternative hand positions without too much reach? And how wide is too wide for a bar on the Clementine?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Burlington Historical Signs Challenge Ride

I received a tip on an interesting bike ride around our city - ride to all 20 Vermont Historical signs within Burlington's city limits. I love local quests (see City Streets Challenge) and needing to stick close to home these days, and enjoying local history, the quest was right up my alley.

Always delighted to ride dirt in the Intervale. At 6 pm on a weekday, the trail was quiet.
By using a documented resource for roadside markers, I zipped around town for 15 miles, including riding the Intervale Trail. Most importantly, I avoided the busy waterfront trail.

My favorite sign, by far, is the newest, implemented in 2019. The bilingual nod is aimed at our Canadian neighbors, who in better times are frequent tourists in our region. I had no idea international hockey games were played on the Burlington Waterfront!

Next up: linking all the city parks?

Are there any themed local rides that might keep you motivated?

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Some Positives in an Otherwise Strange Time

Relaxing on our camp deck

Like everyone that has been severely impacted by the current situation, (we are selling our home and building another - and we're fortunately healthy) it's important to remind ourselves of the positive impact of staying at home.

  • More family time (college and high school age sons both at home)
  • We are finding patience with each other
  • We spend less money dining out, thus eat healthier meals prepared at home
  • Furloughed (VT has 23% unemployment), I have time to continue sprucing up our current home and accessorize the next - guess which one is more fun?
  • Ability to help my mother/brother's household
  • Time to reconnect with friends
  • Lots of time to ride and work on bikes

In Vermont, because of our smaller population and quickly implemented SIP orders, we've escaped severe impact of the virus - so far. In Burlington, Vermont's largest city, we have room to spread out for daily walks and rides. With the popularity of our waterfront trail, it gets dicey on weekend days, so I'm finding alternative routes.

Like others who've suddenly found themselves at home, I've run the gamut of emotions: first delighted to have a couple weeks off to take advantage of lots of projects, to daily crying because I felt inadequate, to now a more acceptable mental health state, being kind to myself, lowering expectations as far as productiveness around the house.

As the spring warmth descends, it's easier to adjust, wandering outside, watching birds and squirrels, puttering (productively, of course) and for once, I've kept up with weeding my perennials. While each day blends into the next, I've found it's important to just keep moving forward - the excitement of  watching construction on our new home is keeping me upbeat!

What are positive impacts to your daily lives?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hot Pink Reflective Vest Love

Seeking a new, easier to wear reflective vest, I spotted another commuter merging onto the bike path ahead of me one morning last winter. wearing a hot pink vest with various sized reflective polka dots. Hot damn, what a great vest, I thought and picked up the pace to catch up with the person to ask where she got it, but she was speeding up! When I realized the person was riding an e-bike, I slowed down, figuring I would find the style online and have it delivered to my door.

Or so I hoped...

I scribbled down what I could recall, but in the end failed to find anything remotely similar. Hmmm.


Adding drawing back into my life: envision what the vest might look like post-alteration.
What's a girl to do? I couldn't source local fabric or reflective material (pre-lockdown), so armed with a vision, I made do with a pre-made vest, knowing I could alter the style to suit my needs. And, who knew there's a site dedicated to women construction workers? (though not who I ordered from)

Ta da! I shortened vest length by 4", just enough for more freedom of movement without having to move the zipper.

Then I carefully cut out triangles and circles and re-positioned shapes in a pleasing arrangement, taking care to place shapes right-side up (material is reflective on only one side).

Then I resewed shapes and opposing fabric.

I rather liked how the backside turned out - less triangles and more circles!

A fun reflective pattern on the back side.
Like many projects that I thought I would get to after we moved, the fall out from Covid-19 had other plans and I have more free time now. 

In addition, as much as I like Dewalt's low cost, comfortable eye wear, I may have to get hot pink safety glasses to match my new vest. (If you scroll down to second option, there's even an "Annie" version.)

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Brilliant, Simple Evo Pannier

The sleek and effective Evo pannier.
I found a simple, large volume pannier at Sierra Trading Post last fall for 20.00. Since then the Evo grocery pannier has come in handy as a supplemental carrier when I need more capacity, say if on a whim I decided to shop at lunchtime and wanted to carry home my packages, needing extra cargo space. The pannier is normally left at the office. Since it holds a grocery bag's worth of items, I knew it would also come in handy to haul my once a week, farm share pick up home.

Off the bike, fold over fasteners so they don't snag on clothing.
Last week I used it to lug my laptop, keyboard, mouse, and heavy power brick home. What a brilliant, lightweight addition for my commuter bike!

Made of rip-stop nylon with ample sized tote straps, the bag attaches to rack with two extra strong hook and loop pieces placed over the rack then threaded though plastic loops and doubled back onto the webbing. The system is easy enough in theory, except  a full bag is heavy so I am often balancing the weight in one hand while trying to attach the first 'hook". Afterward, the second one goes more smoothly.

The top zipper works well, but if you happen to over stuff the bag, leaving the bag open in transit does not create dangerous sway. Pretty ingenious, considering the bag lacks bottom attachments - all weight is suspended by the two very secure straps. There's also an internal small zippered pocket. A quick wipe down of the material is all that's needed if it becomes dirty from road spray. The bag lies flat against the rack until packed (if empty) or stored collapsed inside my office cubicle, taking up little space.
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For low cost supplemental storage, the simple Evo pannier has nailed it for style and functionality. Unfortunately, it looks like it's currently only available on eBay.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ideas for 2020

Until a month ago, our focus in 2020 was moving in May, adjusting to a longer bike commute, and life situation, with my husband transitioning to part-time work. We presume events will still happen - just a little later than expected.

Priorities may look different, of course, with travel likely postponed. Instead, I'm planning to focus my energy on Miss Clementine's makeover this year.
  • Explore a new upright bar setup, possibly using a removable face plate (that I bought last year and is shorter reach). I love the svelte look of Albatross bars, but I'm also considering Velo Orange Curvy or Granola bars. Alternative hand positions are just as important as bars with less rise (or no rise) than Rivendell's Boscos currently fixed on Clementine. After 3 years, I need to make a change. With two stems  and 2 types of bars (Curvy One and Granola?), I will have options and may put the unused bar on my Peugeot St. Laurent commuter bike. I've found whatbars.com to be very helpful.
  • I've been having discomfort using thumbshifters on my winter bike, but once I transitioned to the Peugeot for spring commutes, shifting has been easier/smoother, so for now I'll leave thumbies on the Clem. 
  • I need to redo racks! After the Racktime Topit failed on a WTF adventure, I'm rethinking how best to setup the Clem for tours by shifting racks between bikes, hopefully saving another expense.  
  • Less of a priority is switching tires. Although current 2" wide tires are functional and perform well on dirt, they are sluggish on paved roads. Visually, I dislike black tires. I may replace them with 1.75" gumwall Paselas.
I plan to also dismantle the Trek Antelope this year as it no longer fits me well. I will save many of her accessories and components to be used as back-up for the Peugeot commuter, including the wheels that will live on as extra wheel set with studded tires, making safe winter riding on the Peugeot as easy as swapping wheels!

What's on your bike agenda in 2020?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Maintaining Equilibrium During a Hectic Spring


It seemed fitting that along with Daylight Savings Time and a glorious Monday morning, with warm extended forecast, I transitioned to the Peugeot step-through darling for the foreseeable future. Upon leaving the driveway, in a fit of excitement, I instinctively lifted my leg over the seat - old habit from mounting the diamond-framed winter bike. Every time I switch bicycles, I also wonder what shape I left the bike in before abandoning it for a while. Thankfully, the Peugeot's shifting is smoother, and with narrower tires, I sped to work in record time.

Ah yes, this spring is going to be a wild ride.

I cross-country skied only twice this winter in local environs. In the mountains there's still plenty of snow.  Though I'm always torn between skiing and riding bikes, being outdoors on two wheels is daily exercise and peace of mind while we've been fixing up our current home and making far reaching decisions about our new place. Fortunately my husband and I feel like we're over the hump with house repairs and purging/packing boxes. With the weather change, I'm ready for outside chores that need to get done. Daffodils are bursting from the grey, flattened stalks that I never raked last fall, and birds are chirping.

Our new home site sits safely above the Winooski River with wonderful views. I  noticed the river ice has thawed, Canadian geese were honking overhead, and construction is coming along nicely. We move in May and establish ourselves into new routines. With the waterfront bike path two minutes away, we'll all be pedaling on two wheels, more than from our current hill location. It's all good.

Everything about this move just feels right!


Friday, February 28, 2020

Best Things about Cycling into My Senior Years


There are many advantages to cycling in our later years beside the obvious: benefiting physical and emotional health. Aches and pains are a given but the wisdom gained from experience lends a certain comfort. I expect to continue riding for many years to come, and when I think about it, there are aspects to aging that should help me keep the momentum going.

I no longer care about mileage or speed. As long as I can get to work, have mini overnights/or tours where I arrive before dark, or embrace the multi-modal mindset - what matters is having adventures and moving.

Bicycles are for riding and not for show. I've discovered it's more about riding a comfortable bicycle and less about aesthetics. As we age, a bike may no longer fit like it once did when we were more flexible. Best to sell/donate/part with a bicycle that's unused so it puts a smile on another's face.

Being able to afford and store multiple bikes. Remember when we were thrilled to have even one bicycle? (Mine was a Schwinn Continental.) And while I believe owning too many bikes and dealing with maintenance can be overwhelming (because, remember, bikes are to be ridden), it's nice to have a back-up when one requires repair.

Unafraid to tinker. Being able to change a flat tire is liberating, and often the first step toward freedom for some who'd love to pedal beyond the radius of a LBS. I can repair more things now than when I was 25 years old, of course. I have on many occasions used a LBS to fix my mess or repair something more complicated (anything to do with wheels!). I continue to add bicycle-specific tools (love a recently acquired master link removal tool) as necessary to my overflowing toolbox.

Adaptation is key, life-long learning required!  It's necessary to have new experiences for personal growth. I'm a traveler at heart and my goal is to visit at least one new place every year. It doesn't matter if it's in an adjoining state or in a different country. For adventures close to home, I explore coffee shops, parks, beaches, get groceries by bike, There are Meet up groups galore: over 50, all women, WTF, etc. Attend a maintenance class at a local bike shop. I've tried a cargo bike, fat bike, folding bike, bike share, e-bike, etc. We may not have time on our side but we currently live in a era of bike styles up the wazoo, which means if our physical needs must adapt to a different style of bike, that ought to keep us older riders going for a long time.
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What do think is cool about being a senior cyclist?

Friday, January 31, 2020

Thankful for QCBC Wrench Series



How to work on your bike in good company? Attend a weekly Queen City Bike Club Maintenance Night! New this winter, when it's too cold or snowy to hold the usual club ride and later gathering at Zero Gravity, you can attend an open session at Old Spokes Home to address any bike issues. Guided by a lady staff mechanic, I showed up to clean my Trek Antelope's drive train, popping the chain into an ultrasonic cleaner, plus replaced the right shifting cable and housing. The next session is in another week or so and with scarily soft brakes, that's the next item on my agenda.

It's great to have dedicated time to get some much needed maintenance done.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Dirt Jumper 2.0


Late 2018, after breaking his quasi dirt jumper, our youngest son bought a new and appropriate  frame to handle the stress of all his antics. The above photo was his first attempt, namely transferring components, Since then he's added disc brakes, a strong rear wheel, blue pedals, and recently some purple bling to his handle bars. He's put his bicycle through the ringer in the past year, going with friends to a public jumps course, made new friends there, and I unfortunately had to take him to ER with bloody face once - and hopefully only once - because he had a concussion.

His passion lately has been being a member of all three seasons of running sports in high school. It's been great to watch him grow comfortable within this group as he entered his senior year. I've noticed that he hangs out with both sets of friends who often overlap. As a parent, who's known since he was an infant, that he was a mover, and in his toddler/elementary school years we paid him to run laps outside around our house - in the snow also - until he took to doing it without payment as a personal challenge and part of his daily routine. It's funny how children's personalities can develop at a very young age. His current thing is wanting to go to bike school after graduation.

Because of watching our youngest son grow, create, experiment, his enthusiasm for dirt jumping, attending fat bike demo days with me, renting downhill bikes with friends, has influenced/introduced me to dirt riding. And I think the comfort of riding Kingdom Trails last summer has sealed the deal.

I must have my own off-road machine.