Monday, February 23, 2015

A Pedal Kind of Day

Have you ever had one of those days where everything you touch turns into a lesson in patience? At some point last summer between What Not to Do with Creaky Pedals and the finale and eventual solution: Pedal Update to Trek Antelope 830, I took a commenter's advice and attempted to dismantle four allen bolts on each Tioga Surefoot pedal...

I completely took apart one pedal, though I stripped a bolt head. A menagerie of parts and tools, strewn, but semi organized. Driveway bike mechanics: liberal use of rags, greasy hands, with spray cleaner nearby, just in case I have to answer the phone at a moment's notice.
...Which led to semi-frozen bolts and semi-frustration, exasperation and a lot of groaning on my part. (Heaven help if any neighbors were within earshot.) And semi-success. But, at least I tried to save my beloved pedals. In the end, I tossed one and kept one for back up.

After setting my unsuccessful salvage project aside, I replaced the pedals on one of our children's bicycles from spiky metal things—which my husband and I thought our kid would relish using toeclips (what were we thinking?)—back to simple, rubberized platforms. An easy, successful and satisfying fix.

We all need projects like these every now and then.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Winter Bike to Work Day Excitement


Winter Bike to Work Day is getting a lot of press. Even here in the Great White North a bike shop is giving breakfast to attendants: the mayor will ride a fat bike as part of Ride 365 (started in 2013 to welcome Budnitz Bicycles to Burlington); and later on Friday, another business is offering pizza and a winter biking workshop.


You'd think with all the hullabaloo I'd jump on the bandwagon. Think again. Between plummeting temperatures and a high of 2 F on Friday—not to mention 90% snow-covered bike paths—the farthest thing from my mind is getting on a bicycle.

I've got my eye on errandonneering in March. Now that I can handle. (I think I can. I think I can...)

Enough of my bike weenie woes. Who's riding to work on Friday?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Upcycled Inner Tubes - A Stitch in Time Saves...

Not bad for my first attempt at sewing inner tubes.
Sewing used inner tubes is not for the faint of heart.

Initially inspired by Jessie Kwak's use of inner tubes on an oilcloth pannier and later, tips about equipping a home sewing machine with a Teflon presser foot and titanium needles, I set out to experiment, ensuring I had plenty of tubes to spare.
(Check out her Bicitoro blog for more creative things to do with inner tubes.)

I overlooked picking up a Teflon presser foot, but found that my quilting arm worked just as well. Primarily, the arm feeds the top material, or in this case, the top layer of tube, in conjunction with the bottom for even feeding through the machine.

But be prepared for lots of practice with the tension. Start by setting it higher than normal and experiment. I had trouble with bobbing thread bunching and balling. That's when I got friendly with the seam ripper, especially when I doubled the tube, attaching buckles. As Jessie recommends, you might need to further adjust tension to account for double thickness..

Once I was on a roll, however, I stitched to my hearts content, experimenting with zigzag and straight stitching, creating patterns. I have a project in mind for these straps: a continuation of upcycled bike bag tutorial.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thoughts on Riding in February

I spied fat bike tracks near the fishing pier.

Now that my quad injury is 90% mended I'm starting to think about riding to work again. Infant stages, really. Current weather patterns (temps. around 0 F) aren't conducive to keeping warm—or shifting frozen gears—for that matter, even on a short 5-mile new work commute.

However, it's light until 5:30. That's progress.

February is often wintry in Vermont, while March breathes warmth and fluctuating conditions. It's a coin flip as to whether I have riding opportunities this month or next, but snow covered bike paths will eventually clear. And I'll be ready.

For once, my bikes don't require any maintenance going into the "season". I don't know how I've come to this state, but perhaps I've gained confidence and mechanical skills. I also have arrived at the stage where—good or bad—niggling noises, slow shifting and braking are annoying and must be dealt with right away.

In the meantime, I'm scouting possible routes and alternatives, and plan to complete a trial run. I observe a mile stretch of the bike path while driving the car, but it's the unseen portions that retain snow and ice that I'm most worried about.

Out walking, getting my dose of Lake Champlain view, which I dub The Lake Effect.

I remain optimistic, in light of the groundhog's prediction, that by mid-February, mother nature will provide glimpses of spring. Plus, there's Winter Bike to Work Day on Friday the 13th. (Not that I'm superstitious, but perhaps the organizers are trying to overcome multiple obstacles here?) And, I wonder if MG at Chasing Mailboxes will hold her annual Errandonnee, which thankfully she moved from February to March in 2014.

I'm dreaming of rising temperatures. First step is to test my legs aboard skinny skis. Spinning wheels in brisk sunshine can't be far behind.
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Note to self: stock up on hand warmers and pray to the weather gods.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cold Weather Dilemma - How to Ensure a Child uses Bike Lights?

We have a plethora of lights; these are all mine!

In a New England winter, when it's dark and roads are slick, frosty, and I worry about keeping warm, well, I don't ride a bike. It's that simple.

But our hardy son is unaffected by adverse conditions and rides to school, everyday. And it's been recommended that he should have lights.

Hold on a minute. Easier said than done.

I'd be remiss, especially as a bike riding parent, if I'd never considered equipping his bicycle with lights. That's not the problem.

The problem is he's 12 years old and it's frigging cold here.

He has the gumption to get out there, but he's hellbent on getting to school before the school bell rings. So, I have not approached the lights issue with him. I know our son, obviously, and safety is, unfortunately, an afterthought. December and January are, quite frankly, the darkest period when lighting is cause for concern, and only in the late afternoon.

And then there's the issue of what kind of lights. Handlebar and rack mounts, where the lights would freeze for hours? (Every middle school kid should have a contentious gnome sitting on their shoulder.) The only solution I can think of is helmet and backpack lighting where items are taken indoors. But I'm not holding my breath that my son would remember to switch lights on and off.

The good thing is, it's plenty light out there in late January and the issue is behind us, for now. Thank goodness for his orange helmet!

Just stay on the sidewalks, kid, and watch out for cars. And quit telling me how many jumps you get air on, while cruising to school.