Bikes and Biking 2012

February 2012 – Winter Exerciser

After restoring my old bikes and getting back in the saddle last year (see, I dug out the old Vetta trainer that has been kicking around my garage for the last 15 years. It was rusty, dusty, and ready for the dump, but still worked.

A bit of metal polish, some silicon spray, a dash of oil, and about an hour worth of elbow grease brought it back to usable condition. It’s not good as new, but it is good enough for the living room. The raised hearth provides a handy step for mounting and dismounting.

April 1, 2012 – Early Season AMC Ride

It doesn’t get much better than this. Perfect weather, pleasant company, great views, and no hills. Six cyclists showed up in Fairhaven Sunday morning for the first Appalachian Mountain Club Southeastern Mass Chapter Easy Rider ride of the season.

Leader Jon Fortier planned a ten-mile ride that passed the starting post after five miles in case anybody got too tired. We were all feeling so good, however, that we added three side trips, bringing the total ride to 16.5 miles.

The ride covered the rail trail from the Fairhaven waterfront into Mattapoisett, with side trips to Fort Phoenix and along the hurricane barrier to the New Bedford harbor entrance gate; along Arsene Street through the South Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area to the waterfront at Little bay; and down Brant Island Road and Brant Beach Avenue in Mattapoisett to a private beach and jetty.

Co-leader Jack Jacobsen, who has lived all his life (so far) in Fairhaven, led a tour past the ornate brownstone town hall and library that were built for the town by oil baron Henry Huttleston Rogers.

Jack also mentioned that he makes a fish chowder served by a local restaurant called Simmy’s, and suggested we all gather there for lunch after the ride. We were a little uneasy when Jack ordered a hamburger, but those of us who had the chowder agreed it was outstanding.

May 28, 2012 – A New Temptation

I thought I was set for life with the two good bikes that I kept, but I’ve been bit again and am now considering blowing my budget on another one. Surly is now making its Long Haul Trucker with a 64cm frame that perfectly fits my size and style of riding. It even has 37mm wide tires that should be a good choice for the unpaved rail trails in Maine and New Hampshire.

Icing on the cake is that it comes in a gorgeous dark green color, and is fitted out with excellent quality components – not the cheap Chinese junk now found on so many bikes. I would swap out the crankset for the 180mm cranks and Biopace chainwheels from my Fuji. The Fuji would then become my exercise bike, with the Surly taking over for longer rides. I still like the Jamis a lot, although I find it tiring after about 18 miles.

June 10, 2012 – Another AMC Ride

Six early-risers showed up for the 8:00 AM start in Falmouth Sunday morning. The weather was ideal and the traffic on the Shining Sea bike path was just beginning to pick up. We rode to Woods Hole, where a few of us indulged in the wonderful pastries at Pie in the Sky.

We then took a quick spin through the village and around Eel Pond before heading out Church Street to Nobska Light. On Nobska Road we saw more bikes than cars. We then got back on the trail for the ride back to the starting point at Depot Road.

Linda, Marie, and Nicole decided that the ten-mile ride was enough, although Linda had pedalled a few miles before the start. John, Wes, and Jon continued up the trail to West Falmouth Harbor and back for an 18 mile total ride through very scenic territory. Perfect weather, few hills, and great company made for a most pleasant morning.

June 29, 2012 – Reality Check

After a disasterous attempt at a club ride last Sunday, I have reevaluated my biking situation in light of advancing age and a major reality check.

Less than a mile into the group ride on busy roads in Duxbury, I realized I was way over my head. I had become so used to the easy shifting of the Alfine hub that I had trouble going back to the derailleur system on my Fuji. And the first fast downhill in close formation on a state highway left me absolutely terrified. At that point I told the co-leader I was dropping out, and cautiously made my way back to the starting point.

A week of soul-searching brought me to the reality that I am now 71 and no longer able to do what I did at 35. There are twice as many cars on the road now as there were then, and far too many drivers are drunk, stoned, elderly, angry, distracted, or otherwise impaired. My reflexes aren’t as good as they were and are likely to get worse in coming decades.

I have decided to limit my riding to rail trails, of which there are many all over New England. I’m also going to limit my rides to 25 miles or less and pace to 10 mph or less. That means I don’t need a new road bike, and that my reconfigured Jamis should serve my needs for the rest of my life.

Cane Creek Bar EndsSo, given that the Jamis will be getting a lot more use, I ordered a pair of Cane Creek bar ends. I found that holding the bar at the ends relieves the carpel numbness and these extensions will give me something better – and a lot more comfortable – to hold onto.

349_PEDAL_SILVER_PAIR_SMALLERI also splurged on a pair of White Industries urban platform pedals and nylon toe clips. These pedals are wider than most, have large kick plates, and should be comfortable and efficient with any shoes.

I will keep the Fuji for exercise a while longer, but will eventually sell it, probably selling the frame and components separately.

But, then again, that Long Haul Trucker sure looks like a sweet ride.

July 19, 2012 – Unexpected Expenses

Riding the Jamis along the canal last weekend, I noticed a persistent clicking sound with each revolution of the cranks. When I got back home, I oiled the chain, checked its alignment, cleaned the chain tensioner, adjusted the transmission cable, changed the pedals, and tightened the cranks and chainwheel. I also added spacers between the chainwheel and chain guard. It still clicked.

So yesterday I took the bike to Serious Cycles in Plymouth, where I bought it seven years ago. They confirmed my suspicion that the bottom bracket was shot. While it was there, I asked them to also shorten the chain and adjust the front brake, which was dragging on one side.

Some $225 later I now have a new bottom bracket, shorter chain, and new brakes. This was not the original bottom bracket; it was a Sugino that Harris Cyclery installed less than 200 miles ago. The replacement was about $65 installed, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was a front brake that needed to be replaced.

In all fairness, the tech offered an Alivio unit for $20, but I opted instead for the more robust Deore at $60 plus labor. When I saw the new brake, I had him replace the rear one too, so the total came to about $150 for the brakes. Chain adjustment and a new chainwheel nut wrench rounded out the bill. The broken brake was one of the very few components I had kept from the original equipment. It was apparently as shoddy as all the other components.

Fortunately, the frame and fork were among the last that Jamis had made in Taiwan before switching to mainland China. The same model that I bought a month later for my now ex-wife was far inferior, with a chrome-plated frame and stamped rather than forged drop-outs. That bike got her into cycling, though, and she now rides a carbon-fiber Trek road bike.

July 20, 2012 – Equipment Update

IMG_2955The new White Industries pedals are simply incredible. They look more like aerospace components than bike parts. The large flip tab makes slipping into them easy and intuitive. The inboard location of the outer bearing, and the small end cap, allow safe cornering even with long cranks and a low bottom bracket.

IMG_2954I found that the Mt. Zefal nylon toe clips fit my cycling shoes so snugly that I no longer need straps. They don’t work well with my street shoes or sandals, however, so I’m using them on my Fuji instead of on the Jamis.

The Cane Creek bar ends are also a big improvement. They are about twenty percent smaller than I expected, but are surprisingly comfortable and easy to use. I expect they will help avoid the carpel tunnel numbness by giving me an extra handhold that puts the pressure on a different part of my hands.

While I had my tools out working on the Jamis, I also made some changes to the Fuji. I took the carbon fiber chain guard off and replaced the 48-tooth outer chainwheel, restoring this bike to 18 speeds and giving me a few more downwind gears. I then attached a VO polished alloy chain guard that I had on hand. I also replaced the rear brake pads with Kool-stop salmon units to try to improve the brakes. They didn’t help much.

August 18, 2012 – New Grips (again)

IMG_2970Although I like the Specialized grips and Cane Creek bar ends on my town bike, today I switched them out for a set of Ergon GP-3L grips. These are Ergon’s most comfortable grips, with an integrated four-finger extension that can be separately adjusted. This model is apparently no longer being made but I found a set on-line for a good price.

At the same time, I cut an inch off each end of the bar. I’ve never been a fan of long-horn bike bars and felt that the 58cm bars on this bike were just a bit too wide. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these bars are hardened aluminum alloy. I thought they would be steel like the original seat post.

August 19, 2012 – Testing the Changes

A 14-mile ride along the Cape Cod Canal today, along with some further tweaking of the grips, showed that the changes I made yesterday were all good. The Ergon bar ends are quite different from the Cane Creek ends, but I cannot say that one feels better than the other. The Ergon ends definitely look better, though.

August 28, 2012 – Still Tweaking

Dimension finally made another run of its 135mm stems, so I ordered one the first day they hit the market. This stem moves the bar about 1/2 inch forward and up, bringing it level with the top of the saddle. I was pleasantly surprised to see it did not have the Dimension logo applied.

I also picked up a pair of Lyotard #23 platform pedals with 9/16″ English threads, and an extremely rare Sugino chain guard on eBay. I will store the pedals for future use on a trail bike, but the chain guard will replace the garish one on the Jamis, eliminating even more unwanted logos.

September 16,2012 – Riding a rail trail

My annual road trip this year took me all over New Hampshire. I brought along my Jamis town bike, planning to ride some of the Granite State’s trails. I started with the Nashua River Rail Trail, which runs between Ayer (MA) and Nashua (NH). It is about twelve miles long and similar in design and scenery to the Shining Sea Path on Cape Cod.

I parked in East Pepperell, MA, and rode the trail south eight miles to Ayer. The trailhead parking lot in Ayer is also a commuter rail lot and was full, even though it was mid-week and off-season.

Returning north, I continued on to the Nashua trailhead, where I saw two women unloading bikes from a car. The northern terminus is not marked, so I asked them if this was the end of the trail. One of the women replied “No. It’s the beginning”.

Nashua River Rail Trail. Well worth the trip.

The next day I visited Wolfeboro, where the old Wolfeboro Railroad has been made into a twelve mile trail. It is paved with fine stone dust placed between the rails, which remain for much of its length.

This trail is most unusual in two respects: it crosses Lake Wentworth on a narrow causeway; and people who collect and restore old railroad maintenance doodlebugs use it for outings. Only a few yards into the ride, I realized that my 32mm tires were not wide enough for my weight on this pavement. I’ll try it again another time with a wide-tired mountain bike.

Moving on to Franconia Notch, I planned to bike the 8-1/2 mile long Franconia Park Trail. This is not a rail trail, but it is paved with asphalt. It’s only about four feet wide, however, and full of oops, doons, and sharp curves. It is 600 feet higher at the north end than the south, with lots of steep climbs along the way in both directions.

Many riders start at the high end, tear down the trail to the low end, then pay a $10 fare for a van ride back to their cars. I biked it about 100 yards before deciding that I am probably past the age where I should do this sort of ride.

October 12, 2012 – The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail

Yesterday I drove to Pittsfield, MA, to pedal the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

Like the Nashua River trail, this one is similar in length, construction, and scenic value to the Shining Sea Path. You can also see from this photo that it is very much like the Nashua trail. The south end is on Route 8 just north of the Pittsfield border. The north end is at the Berkshire Valley visitors center in downtown Adams.

The weather was a bit iffy, with clouds and a stiff southwest wind, but I wanted to ride this trail at the height of the leaf-peeping season. Turns out I was off by a week or so, but it was still a nice ride. The trip to Adams was a breeze, with the wind at my back.

After a chat with a volunteer at the visitors center, I headed back south and realized it was not just the wind that made the trip so easy. The trail climbs more than 200 feet on a steady grade for three miles coming out of Adams. It then climbs steadily at a lesser grade for the next three miles.

When the trail finally leveled off at the Cheshire Reservoir, I faced that wind that was so helpful going the other way. All in all, though, it was a most enjoyable ride. Well worth the 380-mile drive and $75 worth of gas to get there and back.

October 12, 2012 – Planned Changes

It’s been a bit over a year since I got back in the saddle. I’ve only ridden a few hundred miles, but am gradually rebuilding both strength and confidence, and enjoying every ride. Now, with the year’s experience behind me, I’m about to make some more changes to my bikes.

I have decided to replace the Fuji with a new bike set up specifically for longer rides on rail trails. I will then modify the Jamis to make it more comfortable for short, slow, scenic tours, and suitable for use even if I’m still biking 30 years from now at age 101.

December 3, 2012 – Getting More People on Bikes

How do we get more people to use and enjoy bikes? I think one simple change would do it: ditch the derailleurs. Most casual riders don’t know how to use them anyway, and many simply don’t shift. And certainly nobody but racers and hard-core exercise nuts need more than eight or ten gear ratios.

I have been using an Alfine 8-speed hub for more than a year now, and will never go back to chain shifters of any sort. My gears range from 27 to 83 inches. Nearly all of my riding is done in 63 and 73 inch gears.

I’m about to build a new bike that will use a 44-tooth Biopace chainwheel, raising each gear a couple of inches, giving me a range of 28 to 87 inches. The Alfine hub shifts instantly and silently, whether I’m pedalling, coasting, or standing still. It has never missed a shift or jammed the chain. Read all about it at:

My Jamis town bike will then get a Sturmey-Archer 5-speed hub and shed three gears that I never use, while retaining the gears I use most often.

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