Friday, December 30, 2022

2022 Rewind

As I compile my year-end blogpost, a theme often emerges. Like 2020's "gratitude" and 2021's "forward momentum", 2022 will be remembered as a year of welcome changes to the number of bicycles in my possession, keeping a select few - the perfect amount for versatility - ultimately feeling liberated. The hardest part was admitting that a couple bicycles had to go, but once the decision was made - as is often the case - I didn't look back.

January to March was all about making 2022 intentions, investing in new studded tires, and working towards long-term bicycle choices. Spring is all about new beginnings. Feeling content with other parts of my life, it was time to follow through with other changes. As I grow older, accepting that some things are just more important than others, namely that experiences are important and not material accumulation, which includes too many bicycles, is key to my happiness.

April to June felt like I was moving forward at a rapid pace. Our young son - avid bike mechanic - simplified my commuter Peugeot, converting it to a single chainring. Later in the year he surprised me and upgraded it again! I thought about my overall bicycle journey and where it was heading, went on a bike overnight to a hotel, rode trails on Cape Cod, and perhaps the biggest decision, putting the Rivendell Clem-L for sale.

Dahon Boardwalk vs. Bike Friday's All-Packa

July to September continued the transitions. I purchased a Bassi Rachel frame (later built up); sold the Rivendell and my Peugeot UO-14, had an amazing opportunity to test an all-terrain folding bike: Bike Friday's All-Packa, which left a huge impression - something that continues to resonate with me. In late September, I went on a solitary and satisfying vacation, visiting part of the Empire State Trail.

The lovely bridges of the Northern Trail.

October to December unfolded in expected and unexpected ways. Adele and I resumed our Canadian adventures, visiting the lovely Ottawa region despite the chilly forecast. I inadvertently discovered New Hampshire's longest rail trail, the Northern Trail, during peak foliage. I completed 10 years of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, but understanding, contentedly, that it may be my last year of participation. I rounded out 2022 with 3300+ miles, pleased that for the second year working from home, I've kept the momentum going, riding year-round.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Procrastinators Nightmare - I Can't Ride My Bike

Transitions are hard. The seasonal change is gradual, and yet sometimes it slams us and we wake up one morning, woefully unprepared. The intense cold and snowfall that won't go away is normal, of course, as we slide into a Vermont winter, but for a procrastinator, it means I won't be able to ride with confidence until I swap nearly treadless commuter tires for, you know, ones with studs.

It seems to be a pattern with bicycle maintenance too. My Dahon has been sitting in the work stand for a month, waiting for an overwhelming list of deserved repairs: secure fender, regrease rear axle, replace rear tire, replace broken Grip shifter, possibly cable and housing, etc. They are not difficult as separate tasks, but daunting in entirety, especially for someone who doesn't have patience. It will get done, eventually, but after the studded tire session, because, as avid riders know, riding a bike keeps us sane.

Until then, I work from home, staring outside at the snowy landscape, sunshine casting pretty shadows. Longing. 

Tea and frosted sugar cookies will have to do for now.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Unexpected Peugeot St. Laurent Upgrades

Asking for a updated shifter and getting a whole new drivetrain!
I've been running a 1X system on the Peugeot St. Laurent since April. At the time, our son cobbled together some some new and used parts, using a single thumbshifter. It wasn't a perfect system, but allowed me to get used to less gears, which proved brilliant. The thumbie was always the weak part, requiring strength, finesse, and friction mode guesswork!  

The speed shifter allows shifting into higher gears with my index finger -
similar to my mountain bike. Less strain on my thumb!
This autumn I asked for a speed shifter. As is our son's pattern, he works on personal projects after hours for efficiency - nothing like his shop corner, favorite tools, and handy access to used and new parts.

What I didn't expect was getting a new drivetrain!

New cassette and derailleur, plus new, used rear wheel.

I presume he was still learning last spring and wanted to properly set up the 1 x system. He knows how much I like this old Peugeot. Fortunately, it only cost me parts. 

New gold chainring.

I have enjoyed watching our son's growth and confidence bloom since working full time as a bike mechanic. Not everyone is lucky enough to get paid for their passion! Once upon a time he teased me because I had 4 bicycles, but no longer. He has double that, plus two more frames he intends to build up.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Reflections on Challenges

Parting Thoughts

What makes you do the coffeeneuring challenge? Is it the connection to the online bike world? For motivation? To keep your cycling fresh? All of the above?

Since this is my 10th year of coffeeneuring, I haven't found the challenge particularly difficult, since I ride year-round. Joining, for me is not about jumpstarting motivation when autumn turns colder, but whether I come up with an interesting theme that makes me want to participate. Last year, I used natural objects and created artistic designs around my mug - which I thoroughly enjoyed. This years' chosen Loop Theme seemed lame - or so I thought - until I realized I enjoyed figuring out, and pedaling circular routes that I hadn't done before. I also reverted back to many trailside brew-ups, using a new stove - an activity made easier by a heatwave. Typical coffeeneuring weather is 20-45F.  Each ride in 2022 was a minimum 60F!

Ten years, of course, is certainly an accomplishment. But as with anything, sometimes it's better to move on and look forward to other goals. I reserve judgement on whether I'll join next year. The main takeaway from this year's challenge? I've continued the habit of diversifying local rides with alternative loops - certainly worthwhile!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Winter Riding Tips

Let your body and terrain be your guide.

Whether you're aiming to ride in 45F or through a New England winter, take it in stages. Things to consider are listed below in order of importance, devoid of recommended brands (other than lights) - you probably have cold weather layers in your closet. Your comfort level, goals, and climate are also important factors. And remember, it's a process.

Know your body
Do you run hot or cold? Under most winter conditions - darkness, rain/snow - means you'll generally be slower than in summer, spring, or fall. Prepare to be snug and warm when setting out, paying attention to the big three: head, hands, and feet - you can always remove clothing as you warm up.

Know your route and forecast
Preview your preferred commute. Are there bridges, depressions that collect water, hills to be aware of ahead of dropping temperatures? Allow extra time to understand changing conditions and to get to your destination on time. Pay attention to the forecast before heading outdoors. Let common sense be your guide.

Length of time outside
Allow time to learn about your personal cold weather tolerances. Think of it in terms of how long you'll be pedaling rather than distance traveled. Can you stay warm for a 15 minute ride? One hour? Factor in stop lights and intersection crossings if those are part of your route. I discovered I'd stay plenty warm for a 30 minute ride in any temperature.

Take it one step at a time
Start with pedaling when roads/paths are dry/clear. Focus on how to stay warm. You'll develop confidence. Then, if desired, perhaps you'll take it to the next step, riding on snow, if that's of interest. Just riding in colder weather can be liberating!

Day or night
Nighttime rides offer an added dimension: can you see what obstacles lie ahead? Can you spot that icy patch or downed limb? There's no substitute for good lights. Cygolite, Nightrider, and Light & Motion are all great brands among many others. All offer a range of pricing and brightness settings. 500 lumens is a good starting point - plenty to light up unlit bike paths, not to mention wild creatures, plus oncoming pedestrians and cyclists who failed to illuminate themselves.

There's no magic formula
If you want more ideas, check out the following blogposts that illustrate my progress:

2015 - 2016 finding a light, 3 weeks in, the learning curve, motivation, 

2016-2017 gearing up for the 2nd year, preferring to be in control

2017 - 2018 freedom is a down jacket, knowing my limits

2018 - 2019 starting to ride on snowy paths

2020 - 2021 The next level: Studded tires, warm boots, lined helmet, bar-type mitts

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Seventh Cup at North Beach

North Beach is one of my favorite Burlington beaches.

Expansive lake views with a pavilion, bathhouse, and picnic tables.

Sunset at 4:25 pm, ugh.

Looping back along the 127 path. A gust of wind toppled my brand new Rachel. At least now that's behind me!

Making map corrections because I started Strava a bit late.

Loop Rides

The final coffeeneuring was in 60F warmth, though intense west winds hampered a beachside brew up, part of a impending cold front, shifting to more seasonable autumn going forward. I heated water on the leeward side of the North Beach pavilion, happy to have mastered my new stove after several coffeeneuring outings. After sipping my tea, I continued to ride one last unique loop, forgetting to start the Strava app until mile 5.

The Place: North Beach
Date: Saturday, November 12
Drink: Black Tea with milk & sugar
Observation: Very windy, a cold front is moving into our region
Total Miles: 14

Monday, November 14, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Sixth Cup on the Winooski River Bank


Ten years of Coffeeneuring, but first time in a T-shirt! Crazy Vermont November weather.

My Stanley Thermos coffee press makes a good strong brew.

A favorite spot where the single track trail edges close to the river.

Loop Rides

I set out on another unseasonably warm afternoon, purposely riding a figure 8 course for a refreshing take on my Loop Rides theme. Considering I'd broken my toe the previous day, I was happy that I could ride at all! Unfortunately, last year at this time I'd broken a big toe (what's up with that?) so with that experience, and spinning easy miles, I presumed I could still ride. I couldn't miss another glorious weekend.

The Place: Ethan Allen Homestead, Winooski Riverbank (different location from #1)
Date: Saturday, November 5
Drink: Coffee in Stanley Thermos Press
Observation: Happy to be able to ride with an injury.
Total Miles: 15

Thursday, November 10, 2022

A Metamorphosis - The older I get, the More Specialized the Collection

Selling a bicycle recently, I was updating the ubiquitous bike collection page that most bloggers seem to have, when it struck me that I've sold bicycles that were once my primary rides, that are now part of a distance past. It's funny that with all the angst, indecisiveness that clouded my vision (and filled up the garage), once a decision was made, I never looked back.

It seems to happen with age. An ill-fitting bike is difficult to part with even though it has memories. Once our memories align with present day reality, then it's much easier to let go. And, of course, memories do not fade because the bicycle has passed to someone else. My 60 year old body has accepted that it cannot tolerate certain styles of bikes, or those with harder gearing. 

Looking ahead is the best course of action. Find a style of bike that suits you, often opening up opportunities for different ways to travel. I'm looking at you, Dahon. Or pick up a mountain bike for off road adventure. The more I ride rail trails and easy single track, and remove interactions with automobiles, the happier I've become.

Even though I no longer foresee multi-month self-supported bike tours in my future, it doesn't mean that I won't have grand adventures. I like destination exploration by bike, especially if it involves a history lesson. Take the train and a bike for a week or two's riding exploration. Sure, I still have hiking aspirations for long distance trails in the United Kingdom, but equally, I long to explore some of our country's rideable and growing list of rail trails too. And I've discovered many close to home, like the Erie Canal Trail, Northern Rail Trail, and Vermont's soon to be completed Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.

For now, the Dahon Boardwalk, the Trek mountain bike, the Peugeot step through (great for commuting year-round), and the newly built Bassi Rachel (lightweight set up for touring) are a specialized collection. And I'm sure it will evolve over time.

Have you struggled with these decisions? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Fifth Cup at Scout

A cuppa at Scout's outdoor tables.

Attending Burlington's Halloween Bike Ride with a friend and her dog.

There's still lingering colorful trees.

Loop Rides

I rode downtown to meet up with Adele and 100+ others to be part of the Halloween Bike Ride. With a warming trend that doesn't seem to quit, it was great to see lots of families in attendance. 

I avoid coffee shops these days, so the cappuccino at Scout was a special treat. The indoor seating is delightful and patrons were safely spaced amongst tables, but my new bike lacks a kick stand at the moment, and I was happy to sit at the picnic table. 

My roundtrip route resembles a spatula!

The Place: Scout
Date: Sunday, October 30
Drink: Cappuccino
Observation: Third weekend in a row of warm weather!
Total Miles: 15

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Getting to Know the Bassi Rachel

CL Cycles is a Montreal shop and develops their own brand of Bassi steel frames and complete bikes.

CL Cycles' Bassi Rachel frame caught my eye a couple years ago. It was their 2021 model updates, however: ability to accommodate wider tires, a second water bottle cage mount, and V-brake compatibility, that made me take a second look.

I test rode two sizes to determine which fit best.

What I initially liked about the Rachel was its shorter wheelbase and sparkly Beaujolais paint color. I could start from scratch and pay attention to overall bike weight. Our bike mechanic son built wheels, set them up tubeless for starters, working after hours to help keep my costs down. I checked in periodically to watch the build progress. I specified 2 X Low Gearing (love that about the Clem), easy shifting, and it was fine to go with used parts if it made sense. I am picky about handlebars though, so I bought Nitto's Dove bar, a comparable equivalent to the much loved but out-of-stock Soma Oxford's that graced the Clem. 

I vacillated over the housing color - too many choices - and my son suggested grey because it was classy.

Components include Nitto's Dove handle bar, a new Light & Motion coordinated headlight, and used, grimy Ergon Cork Grips, a Velo Orange stem (though I asked for removable faceplate style), SRAM drivetrain and Shimano silver and black click shifters (used?), which are brilliant for my arthritic hands! 

One day, Simple Green and I attacked the grips and I whittled corks for bar end plugs. 

Riding the the Rachel is like night and day from it's predecessor! 

Simply put, it's fast. Our son explained that lightweight wheels, set up tubeless, make a big difference, so I'm glad I sprang for whatever he suggested. I am leery of touring with this setup because it's foreign, and as much as I love 1980's bikes, new bicycle technology has advantages. At any rate, the rims and Rene Herse tires can accommodate tubes, should I wish to go that route in the future.

I have always loved this simply styled English-made steel rack. It graced my husband's 1970's Peugeot when we rode across the country, then I adopted it on my skinny-tired Peugeot, and now with an extension (refitted by Old Spokes Home) it's a perfect complement on Rachel.

Rachel's 55cm frame has 700c wheels.

With a rear rack, I've gained some functionality - something I require of all my bikes. A kickstand is next, along with a setback seat post. Since Rachel (pronounced Ra-CHEL in Canada) is my touring bicycle, fenders and a front rack are on the agenda. I'd like to explore Velo Orange or PDW black fenders, and investigate Jack the Bike Rack as a removable front rack option - made available to the public soon.

Anything I'm missing?

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Fourth Cup at Bayside Park

Bayside Park brew spot.

Autumn color abounds.

Loop Rides

Taking advantage of more stellar weather, I loaded a backpack with coffee outside accoutrements, rode my mountain bike, cruised through the woods and doubled back to hang out on Bayside Park's grassy lawn, overlooking Malletts Bay. I've given up swimming at the beach because of too much seaweed, but fall is perfect for expansive views and few visitors.

The Place: Bayside Park
Date: Sunday, October 23
Drink: Celestial Seasonings Raspberry Zinger Tea
Observation: Most of the boats have been hauled ashore, but docks remain throughout the winter.
Total Miles: 8

Monday, October 31, 2022

Coffeeneuring 2022 - Third Cup at Leddy Park Beach

Beach weather in October? You betcha!

Sometimes it's nice to bring a favorite mug.

Loop Rides

I can't believe this streak of mild weather two weeks in a row! I pedaled beneath a gorgeous canopy to Leddy Beach. I left the stove behind, due to windy weather. No problem! I brought a thermos of tea, a sandwich and an apple, relaxed in the warm sand, and watched kite boarder's riding waves. Afterward, I did an errand while looping homeward.

The Place: Leddy Park Beach
Date: Sunday, October 22
Drink: Tazo Passion Tea
Observation: Blustery, nice to sit on the warm sand.
Total Miles: 9

Friday, October 28, 2022

A Special Ride on the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire

I've tried new bike trails this autumn, from the Hudson Valley to Ottawa. While those were specific bike destinations, other times we find ourselves choosing trails tangentially, attending events that happen to have bikeable trails nearby, like earlier in June. It was the later situation that drew us to West Lebanon, New Hampshire for a day in early October. My husband needed surgery (he's fine) so while he was at his procedure, I planned to check out the Northern Rail Trail, if the weather was agreeable. 

I brought my Dahon, mainly because it could be safely stowed in our vehicle if walking proved a better option. While my husband was in the hospital, I easily accessed a connector trail right from the hospital lot that brought me to one end of the Northern Rail Trail.

I started out in light rain (with improving forecast) and was worried that my small wheels might be dangerous on leaf-covered asphalt, but I kept a straight line and avoided quick turns, which lent confidence. After 3 miles, the surface turned to gravel, a bit rough in spots, but doable with better traction.

I was grinning, of course, because the autumn colors were stunning! And the trail is nearly 60 miles long!

Mascoma Lake - what a sight to behold!

I was also experimenting with a Klickfix type bag and adapter secured to the handle post. So far so good on a less than ideal gravel with periodic larger stones, often hidden beneath leaves. No jostling!

Sturdy bridges provided river views.

At 12 miles I turned around, realizing the grade descended somewhat so I arrived at the starting point a faster than expected. I went the other direction, exploring the connector trail, to it's terminus then doubled back to the hospital to check on the patient.

My bike was filthy! It took several minutes of cleanup before stowing it in the car, but wholly worth the great adventure. Northern Rail Trail, I'll be back!