Tuesday, August 2, 2022

What Bicycles Catch your Eye?

Red bicycles are classic, in whatever style!

We all have our own preferences for bicycles. What I'm curious about is what captures your fancy? When out riding, or driving, what makes you look twice? Is it a particular style, color, or is it a special accessory, or combination of several things? 

I used to be over the moon when spotting a step through bicycle, especially a loop frame. Nowadays, it's harder to spot those gems in a sea of commonplace, easily mounted ebikes.

Folding bikes turn my head. In our region, they are still rare, fortunately, highlighted by riders in upright posture, spinning faster on smaller wheels.

A wire basket on the front makes me smile. If a bike has a basket it generally means someone has an old bike that they've repurposed into a commuter. I enjoy seeing older bikes given a new life.

For color, red trumps all! If the cheery red frame is also one of the above loves, even better. Lookout, I may be the wacky rider stalking your red machine for a closer look!

What type of bicycle(s) turn your head?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Bye Bye Rivendell Clem!


My Rivendell Clem is on it's way to Connecticut, where I hope the new owner will love it's smooth ride and easy step through design. I liked the wide low double gearing - something that may grace my next bike! Panaracer Pasela tires are old favorites, plus the new Soma Oxford bars were A-1 comfort, a definite improvement over the stock Boscos.

Trying to make the Clem my forever touring bike, though, had it's drawbacks. It's long. It's heavy. In the end, those two factors were not something I could live with and avoided even riding the Clem, barring a multiday trip, where low gearing was needed. In the future, I will never order a bike online - especially an expensive one - without trying it first.

I do have a replacement in the queue, building from the frame up - first time for everything! I won't be doing the work myself but rather providing input. Light wheels for starters. More on my Beaujolais babe later.

For now, goodbye Miss Clem. May you provide the next rider with lots of smiles.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Reimagining a Randor Terrain Buster Mountain Bike


Randor Terrain Buster, a tank in this condition.

Our son recently acquired his grandfather's bicycle, a Randor Terrain Buster. A Randor? Both my son and I Googled the brand, only coming up with several Randor BMX bikes, but there is a distinct lack of information on this particular model. We knew it was most likely some low end department store brand, possibly that didn't catch on in a sea of  better equipped Treks, Bridgestones, Marins, Gary Fishers, etc. What caught my son's eye, I presume, was the slack 80's geometry, square fork crown, and bullmoose handlebar. The clean frame - nary a scratch - made it all the more attractive for the bicycle's age. I'd been eyeballing the bike for years, and enough time has passed since my father left this world, that my brother was finally willing to part with it. 

Initial inspection in the basement, our son loved the head badge, "Randor Par Excellence". He removed the wide sprung saddle, composed of at least 20 small steel springs. It must've weighed 5 lbs.! He discovered the steel wheels, and at first glance liked the pattern stamped on the brakes. He noted the rack had to go. My son had a vision, but he's a man of few words.

I figured it would make a great simplified commuter bike for him - he already had 26" winter studded tires. I didn't doubt he would fix up the bike to his satisfaction; what I couldn't foresee was all the amazing details and effort he would put into his grandfather's bicycle to make it his own.

The gorgeous Terrain Buster! 

The bicycle disappeared for a month, stored at the shop where he's a bike mechanic. Without updates along the way - I think he wanted to surprise me - he'd come home late almost every evening. He stripped the bike to the frame and fork, in the end those were the only original parts - as he built wheels, had eyelets brazed by a coworker, set up a dynamo front wheel, added cantilever brakes, and red bling up the wazoo! His coworkers affectionately called it the "Terrain Buster" - one of those silly names for mountain bikes (like my Trek Antelope) that made you laugh. I never imagined the effort he would put into a seemingly low end frame, yet like his other bikes, he spares no expense.

I have to admit, the end result is sweet!

He is not stopping there, it seems. There are and will be more improvements. He's since swapped the brakes for ones with more efficient braking. He's considering a handle bar extension to lift the bars a bit higher. Technically, the frame is too small for him. He's continually learning and experimenting.

I know my father would've been proud of his grandson.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Riding Cape Cod Trails

Shining Sea Bikeway

In June we went to Cape Cod for a wedding, but why not tack on extra days and call it a vacation? It was a lesson in packing two vehicles with five bikes and five family members, who fortunately were also happy to help drive, as I was still feverish from a shingles vaccine reaction (3 weeks!). We arrived a few days before the wedding, so we explored the area trails and beaches. I was mostly well during the day, distracted by all the Cape's beauty.

Eastern Box Turtle.
I'd never seen an Eastern Box Turtle before. This 6" creature was at least 20 years old, the age when reaching maturity and maximum size, though they can live up to 50 years old. Such a cute, colorful little guy!

At the junction of the Cape Cod rail trail and the Old Colony trail, waiting for my family.
We rode the main Cape Cod Rail Trail in opposite directions from our conveniently located condo in Brewster. Some days we never used the car!

Eldest son visited from Colorado.

His girlfriend and my husband.

Once we drove to Lighthouse Beach in Chatham.

Other days we pedaled to nearby beaches.

One of my favorite trails was located in Provincetown. While dropping off eldest son to hang out with friends in the busy arts district, my husband, youngest son, and I visited nearby Province Lands National Seashore. We didn't plan to hang out on beaches this time, especially because young son had a nasty burn on his torso - what sunscreen? 

Rather, Province Lands holds the distinction of having the oldest cycling trails on Cape Cod. And not just any trail, but a paved trail rolling up and down huge dunes with flowering bushes and through a section of woodland, with one way feeder trails radiating off it to visitor centers, beaches, and historical lifesaving buildings. It was a hoot and only difficult on a couple occasions for me as I was riding my folding bike. A short walk to regain a hilltop was worth it to experience this unique place.

This mini vacation holds a special place in my heart. From experiencing a wedding on the beach, to spending time with our two sons, to renting a comfortable condo, to watching seals play in the surf, and enjoying sand between my toes, to riding shady trails in early season comfortable sunshine, the vacation will resonate with me for a long time. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Two Favorite Saddles: Zefal and Nashbar FC1

Women's Zefal and Nashbar FC1
Zefal women's saddle and Nashbar's FC1.
In my quest to purge bicycles, I've been shifting around saddles lately, keeping my favorites. I've been partial to the Zefal, pictured on the left, and Nashbar's FC1. Neither are expensive saddles but are perfect for more upright riding, and sadly are no longer available.

Nashbar FC1
What I find interesting is how similar both saddles are in shape and weight, yet vary widely in fabrication. Both have a wide cutout area, that suits me fine, and in fact cradles my body - best way to put it! They have similar drop noses and are not chunky looking. Both are women's wider version with synthetic covers: Nashbar has one type of covering overall while the Zefal is partly constructed with lycra-type material on top for comfort and with smoother, abrasion-resistant grey material for a two-toned look.

Women's Zefal saddle
Don't touch my Zefal!

The thing is, while I work for Terry Cycling - and use a couple of their models - not one of their saddles comes even close to these dimensions! As I learn more about saddles, I realize how lucky I am to have found these two gems that should suit me for years to come.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Dahon Boardwalk Bike Overnight 2 - Doing it Right

Dahon Boardwalk, all packed and ready to go.

The Dahon Boardwalk, in it's current setup, is best suited for simple overnights. As soon as a weekend weather window opened up, I made hotel reservations a 30 mile ride away, doable at my current fitness level. The goal was to recharge in a different environment and pedal somewhere new or where I haven't been for a long time. 

I was also trying out a new front bag, attached with a Klickfix bracket to the handlepost. With a little cable management, and moving the water bottle holder to the seatpost, I added a bit more carrying capacity. I planned to head out early afternoon and our son would would meet me at the hotel after his shift, arriving around sunset.

I was so excited for this adventure, all packed and had leaned my bike against the garage door for a photo. But then I remembered to lock the front door, exiting into the garage - because it's easier - only to tap the garage door opener and watch the bike crash to the ground. Oooof! I was just talking to the neighbor also, who saw what happened. A little beside myself, of course, the equipment and bike were fine, I straightened the new bag bracket, and set out. 

After crossing the Lamoille River, the walking began.

I have always enjoyed the Lake Champlain Bikeways route. The byway hugs the lake, but steers a rider on roads less traveled.

I pedaled by older farms where the smell of cow manure was a comforting reminder of Vermont's agricultural past. Chickens and ducks, plus the odd inclusion of Canadian geese honked from nearby farm ponds.  I noticed the abundance of horse farms and/or small dairies. Daffodils and wild violets colored the roadside. 

Saint Albans Bay - a favorite stop.

Riding a 6-gear bicycle, of course, has it's drawbacks. I struggled against a 10mph headwind the entire way, and walked a few steep inclines, and noted the route was hillier than I remembered, but no amount of setback hampered my enthusiasm! I was traveling by bike and had allowed several hours of daylight to arrive at the hotel. As it turned out, it took me 4 hours to pedal 30 miles.

I arrived at the hotel by 5 pm, and stowed my bike in the room, showered, and walked to a brewery I'd been wanting to try, Mill River Brewing. I ordered BBQ takeout, their specialty, and the timing was perfect - I'd barely returned to our room when my son showed up! Hoofing it to get there before dark, it took him less than two hours to ride a nearly identical route. The fitness of youth!

We were both tired and just relaxed all evening. The next morning we took advantage of the buffet breakfast and pedaled south along a different, and equally pleasant rural route, this time, thankfully, with a tailwind. Two thirds of the way home we took a break and gobbled a huge ice cream cone, then rolled the few remaining miles home. 

This is my first experience using a hotel for a bike overnight, and it was a perfect getaway. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Bicycle Journey

The Trek Marlin 7 outfitted with stem and triangle bag, just enough storage for local rides.

From a touring bike to early 80's mountain bike to step through bicycles to folding bike to hard tail mountain bike, even an old revived Peugeot with 27" tires has contributed much to this 40 year old journey on two wheels.

This is only a brief synopsis, of course. The nuances of each bike seem to take on a life of their own as I adapt each one to fill a certain role. That's where the real magic happens. Outfit a bike with rack and fenders for office commuting. Use one voluminous pannier for easy toting inside, filled with lunch, clothing, purse, and alternate footwear. Or, get creative to equip a folding bike for long distance rides: how to carry a significant volume with limited space to fit a tiny frame? It's these type of challenges and creativity involved that have fueled my interest in cycling for many years. 

My greatest love is bicycle touring. But it's not only about the miles these days, it's about the mission. Where can I go to maximize the experience of discovery? What brewery do I want to visit? What campground would be interesting to stay at? Where can I go via Amtrak to boost the distance traveled? What museum have I always wanted to visit? And Atlantic beaches - don't get me started! 

What has been the greatest impact that has affected your love of cycling? 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Peugeot Saint Laurent - Big Changes and Ready to Roll

Peugeot St. Laurent step through: redone and ready to roll.

2022 is the year for reimagining the stalwart Peugeot St. Laurent step through commuter bike, my preferred choice for most rides. 

Our youngest son has helped me - indeed accomplishing most tasks and suggesting a change to the drivetrain - that otherwise would've been put on the backburner. Aging is inevitable, which has weakened my hands (a bit of arthritis) so tasks requiring hand strength are a struggle for me. I am thankful for my son's assistance. He has an interest in becoming a bike mechanic, and has recently begun working on older bikes to expand his knowledge - lucky me!

New Terry steel stem and matching housing. Formerly, there was black, blue and white!

We began with swapping the old, shortened stem with a removable faceplate variation. This enables me to easily swap bars in the future and raise the bar height. I'm embarrassed to admit I've had this stem for two years and just now getting to use it. The was an easy project and I accomplished this task, mostly myself.

It's no surprise that I dislike the tedious and strenuous areas of bike maintenance, especially re-greasing bearings, and I've lost track with the assorted wheels I have in my possession that fit this bike - 5 wheels I think - saved from previous bikes. Who knows when they were last serviced? It's not pretty, considering this is the bike I gravitate to! I attacked the front wheel after my husband loosened the axle. It's not difficult to clean, remove the bearings, just capture them in a container, then add new grease and gently put them back. My son correctly tightened the axle and placed it back in the fork blades. The rear wheel was another matter! The bolts were fairly frozen, but with leverage on a large wrench, his young strength freed it. And to note, he was able to remove the cassette and regrease the rear wheel in the same time it took me to gingerly deal with the front wheel. Oh to be young, interested, and focused!

What I didn't anticipate was converting the drivetrain to a 1X setup. 

After replacing the wheels, the chain removed, my son asked if I was ready for a single chainring. Heck yeah! Once upon a time, I had considered a three speed conversion, but felt limited by gearing. While we live in a relatively flat region where I frequently ride rail trails, the reality is I will also ride some hills to do errands or ride loops and some easy single track trails. Versatility is key with the Peugeot.

While he raided his parts stash and came up with a crank arm attached to a single ring, I lovingly washed the frame with diluted degreaser. The area where the front deraileur was removed was in tough shape: a bit rusted, so I covered it with a blue nail polish stripe. Then I painted other exposed regions with white nail polish, but refrained from overdoing it. The frame is old, no longer pure white, and has crazing, or as I like to call it "character". It's always best to preserve it from further rust and sprucing up the frame a little.

Put back together for the time being, I rode with my son, briefly assessing the setup. As I expected, I need a higher toothed cassette for lower gearing, so we stopped by Old Spokes Home, rummaged through their used parts bin, but failed to locate adequate parts. Instead we picked up a new cassette, deraileur, and more white housing for aesthetics. 

I've also added colorful Vincita Dutch style panniers. They should be easier to fasten - one buckle on each bag versus two - with my arthritic thumbs. While I was seeking a similar sized replacement to the smaller, simple style panniers, what I got can swallow a large paper grocery bag! However, they are colorful, and I'll learn to live with them. Initially, I didn't care for the hook and loop closure (nor the ripping sound this system makes) on top of the buckle closure but perhaps it will prove to be useful down the road. If not, I'm handy with a seam ripper.

My son wasn't able to index the thumb shifter, but I'm no stranger to friction shifting. The shifting cable was also replaced. However, as my mechanic warned, the thumb shifter is more difficult to operate as it needs to span a larger cassette, so for now I'm getting by with palming the shifter, much like how I operated it last winter with mittens! My son suggested trying a speed shifter - like what's on my mountain bike - should I eventually require a change. For now, in it's new configuration, it's a cleaner, simpler bike. I'm happy to have my commuter bike in operating order!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Gravitating Towards Certain Bikes

Peugeot St Laurent

What determines your bicycle of choice? Avid cyclists tend to have more than one bike, so I've been thinking about why we choose, what we choose. And often, one bike is ridden more than others in the stable.

There can be many factors at play: length of ride, terrain, type of ride, climate, and comfort. Do you ride 10 miles or less? Is it hilly, rolling, or flat? Is the riding purely for exercise or are you shopping en route? Do you need fenders and rain gear or do you live where it's predominantly dry year-round? Are you comfortable with drop bars or prefer an upright posture, wider tires or skinny, etc.?

Since I ride mostly for exercise on flat terrain, but love to be able to haul stuff, whether that's tools, a thermos, or be able to stop for groceries, my Peugeot Saint Laurent ticks all the boxes. It's stable with wide tires, easy step through mounting, has fenders, and sports panniers with front and back racks. It's my most useful two-wheeled machine. And yeah, it's an older bike, one I don't mind locking to racks.

What is the bicycle that you gravitate towards, and why?

Friday, March 4, 2022

One Step Forward

Keeping the fire alive through winter night rides.

As the temperatures slowly warm, I'm heartened that the world is beginning to emerge from it's Covid cocoon. It may be baby steps - rightfully so - but I'm feeling hopeful that more travel will be on our horizon. I talk daily with customers who are planning bike trips abroad. I'm amazed at their optimism, or fortitude, or devil-may-care attitude, or...I don't know, but they possess more gumption than I've allowed myself! I've been extremely cautious for family reasons, but I'm planning a simple overnight aboard my Dahon Boardwalk, with cooperative weekend weather, as soon as mid April. I'm not yet ready to fly, but taking Amtrak last year has boosted my confidence, enough to plan a similar adventure for later in 2022. And, if anything, adventure by bike is surely much safer than most forms of transportation - at least that's what I tell myself.

How is everyone else feeling about bike travel?

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Trek Marlin 7 Handlebar Update - Ritchey Kyote

Taking comfort up a notch with Ritchey's Kyote bar.

I've owned the Trek Marlin 7 hardtail for more than a year. After dialing in the perfect seat, the next step was to gain more comfort in the cockpit. Also, it's become apparent that I can no longer tolerate flat bars for prolonged periods. Priorities were: seeking a comfortable hand position, more forward reach (if at all possible), with more rise - all without compromising leverage required to snake through the woods.

whatbars.com - curvy Ritchey Kyote compared with existing flat bar.
I used whatbars.com to help confirm the bar switch on my Clem-entine so I felt confident applying the same process on the Trek. First, I researched several handlebars before leaning towards Ritchey's Kyote handlebar. The Kyote's price and reputation, confirmed with online reviews and YouTube videos, sold me. Then, whatbars.com was proof that the Kyote bar's forward curves and sweep put my hands along a similar if not slightly forward reach, seemed ideal, all while possibly using the existing stem. 

Voila! The Kyote bar looks like it should work.

Our son talked me through the replacement, even teaching me how to use a torque wrench! We agreed to cut the bar one inch on each end for starters (he did that), then with further testing I may want the bars shortened further. 

I'm pleased with how nice these new bars look on my bike!

There's no question the Kyote bars will be a huge improvement. I'm sure there will be further adjustments once spring mountain biking season rolls around. At least the difficult portion of the project is finished. Currently, we're navigating snowy bike paths on studded tire bikes!

Friday, January 21, 2022

What Model of Studded Tires are the Best?

Last winter I used the 1.75" studded tires on the right and fell in love with snow travel on plowed bike paths. There was adequate traction except when rolling through deep slush. The tires had sat unused for many years, but once purchased for our son's middle school commutes. A couple months ago he reclaimed the tires to use for cold weather transportation. No problem, I thought, I'll just get new ones for myself!

Buoyed by Schwalbe's reputation and my own experience with their tires, I figured I couldn't go wrong with their Marathon Winter Plus model (left in above photo), also available in 1.75". Ideally I'd prefer wider tires, but fender clearance would then be an issue. The new tires seemed to work well until maneuvering through an inch of snow. The front has purchase but the rear tire frequently fishtails as I struggle to move forward, keeping momentum. I could ride my son's full suspension bike, equipped with the previous studs for comparison (brand unavailable), but his bicycle would obviously feel quite different.

The primary difference, visually, is his tires sport a deeper tread. Does that alone provide more purchase? Or does tread pattern? Air pressure? Does the weight of a bike also matter? I'm sure there are a lot of factors at play, but I only mention this because there are a wealth of studded tire options. Had I done better research, at the very least, I would've investigated another Schwalbe offering - the Ice Spiker Pro.

Using any model of studded tires for winter riding is better than none at all. I may experiment with air pressure. Next time I'm in the market for new winter tires, I'll make an informed choice. Enjoy January's sunshine and lengthening daylight. Dress for the weather and get out there!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Ideas for 2022

While plans could change in an instant, I expect 2022 to be similar to 2021, so it's important to roll with whatever situation arises. But that doesn't mean we'll be stagnant. On the contrary, there are plenty of ideas to be creative, get outdoors, and ride!

I have a few fun bike projects on the agenda, focusing on further fine-tuning bike setups and go on more bike overnights, whether close to home or planning mini-vacations. Amtrak is set to roll into Burlington sometime in 2022, so close proximity for a one-way adventure is always a possibility!

  • Replace rear panniers on my commuter bike. I appreciate smaller panniers for shorter rides, reserving large capacity bags for touring. While the Delta panniers have held up well for low-cost storage  for 10+ years, they're falling apart. I'm interested in trying Vincita's economical roll top version. The bags are offered in a variety of colors and include a rain cover.
  • My goal with my folding bikes is figuring out a solution to carry additional gear on the handle post. I'm limited to bags attached in this manner (without a frame block), so I'll need to pay attention to upfront weight. I'm considering a bag with Klickfix handle post adapter setup in addition to my purple bag. At present, I'm interested in the thoughtfully designed Head Tube Bag by Downtube Nova. As a fallback, there's always the option to carry a small backpack. For rear loads, I'm attracted to Downtube Nova's low cost rear Coconut Bag with foldout pockets. While I currently use the retrofitted sling bag converted panniers, the trunk bag may offer larger capacity at a nominal cost plus consolidate rear bags into a one piece design.
  • Replace handle bar on Trek Marlin 7 for more comfort. I plan to swap the straight handle bar with an ergonomically friendly version. I was initially interested in the Tumbleweed Persuader, Soma's Odin and Dream Riser. I'm currently leaning toward Ritchey's Kyote. The Kyote seems like the sweet spot between comfort, affordability, and correct width. In addition to a more enjoyable hand position, my son has already purchased a beefier front tire for me so I'll be shredding mountain bike trails with more traction and comfort in 2022.
  • I hope to commute to work part-time at some point if our current health situation improves. I'm looking forward to pedaling to an office again!
  • We're attending a wedding on Cape Cod in June, where I hope to spend a few extra vacation days to enjoy riding on trails to more Atlantic beaches.
  • I have a new camping stove, which makes me want to expand my local overnight camping horizons. It would also be an opportunity to test the new setup on the Dahon.
  • And, quite the opposite, I'm also dreaming of riding to a cabin or hotel for an easy, pampered overnight experience. That would be a fun, novel adventure for my husband and me!