Saturday, May 20, 2017

Giro's Reverb and Sutton Bike Helmets - Commuter Style with Color Options

Giro's Reverb (on the left) and Sutton (on the right).
Last fall I needed to replace my aging leopard print helmet and discovered that Justine's advice (at Mid-Life Cycling) was correct: Giro helmets go on sale in late fall to clear out stock before introducing the new year's model. I prefer a commuter-style helmet with a visor, multiple vents, choice of colors, plus a way to hook or strap on additional helmet-mounted lights. I have never believed in spending more than 50.00 on a helmet. With the deep fall discount online, I had my pick of colors in both styles and had both delivered for 60.00 total!

Reverb style uses elastic band retention while the Sutton relies on stretchy cord with cord lock.
I've worn the Sutton primarily during the cooler months because it lacks large sized vents. I've appreciated it's substantial head coverage - it weighs more - but fits comfortably, even over a balaclava. It's special feature, that wins bonus points, is the adjustable visor. Flick it up or down in transit, to let in more daylight in the winter, or to accommodate ski goggles on those frigid, blustery winter commutes.

Both helmets have removable and adjustable visors. When the temperatures climbed above 70F degrees I switched to wearing the lighter Reverb style. I've found both styles to fit similarly and both came with extra padding.

Now that I'm a year-round bike commuter there are distinct advantages to owning two uniquely crafted and affordable helmets. I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Broken Spoke to Repair a Tube?

It was warm. I was thirsty. I had a slow leak in my rear tire. I couldn't think of a better way to relax and delve into the mysteries and mechanics of finding a minute puncture hole. Broken Spoke Pale Ale did the trick, along with chips and guacamole. A Drink, quasi dinner, time outside, and the tube is patched, ready for another bike commute.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Miss Clementine Gets a Racktime Topit Front Rack

B. Second time's a charm to refit a Racktime Topit to a Rivendell Clementine.
After two wrench sessions and some creative engineering, the Racktime Topit front rack is installed on Miss Clementine. Before I explain the difficulties I encountered with fit, first let me present my view of front racks in general and how I expect them to carry a load.

History: In the past I've done extended tours with Blackburn low rider front rack in conjunction with a rear rack, distributing the weight approximately 30% front, 70% rear. In recent years, I prefer 50/50, still using the low rider front rack. Funny thing is, I've also lightened my gear since those lengthy tours plus cut back on riding days, now only gone for up to a week. My needs changed. I've explored using simple front racks like the Sunlite version attached to cantilever brakes, which have worked well on both my commuter bike and Miyata 610, allowing a 10 lb. load over the front wheel. 

Once the Clementine entered my house, though, I contemplated Rivendell's low cost alternative to front rack: a Wald basket (sans rack) using provided brackets attached to braze-ons near the wheel. While I like baskets, I preferred instead to use a rack for it's versatility and lighter weight. Benefits include the ability to mount small panniers and/or strap baggage on the platform. Thanks to various suggestions on RBW Google Groups, I contemplated other options, including the full coverage Soma Lucas alloy front rack. However, the Racktime Topit won out in the end due to attachment to mid-fork eyelets, an appealing trait, which reminded me of low riders, plus when I found the rack at half price, I couldn't resist. At the same time I ordered another Sunlite mini-rack, either as back up should the Topit not work, or as an alternative on another bicycle. 

Needless to say, the search for the perfect front rack - neither too heavy or costly, chrome-colored, and the ability to carry a sizable load - had become an obsession.

A. First attempt placed the rack at a steep angle.
I knew that Miss Clementine's geometry might pose fit problems, but initially it was my own undoing that sent me pleading to our LBS for help. I pre-screwed the first bolt into the front eyelet, knowing I needed to "crack" the frame's heavily painted threading, and when it proved a little difficult, continued until the bolt end sheared off, dropping to the kitchen floor. "Whaaaat?" I said, beside myself with horror. I was alone and unfortunately couldn't rely on my husband who's helped me out of sticky situations before. After a few deep breaths, I attempted to gently unscrew the protruding 1/4" of  bolt threads with pliers, trying to not completely shear off the remaining threads, worked at it for an hour, and eventually brought the bike in to a shop as a last resort.

A mechanic was, thankfully, able to remove the bolt using vice grips (now why didn't I think of that?). He said I'd stripped the threads on the end of the eyelet by screwing the bolt at an angle. However, for a few bucks they tapped both eyelets and repaired the damaged end by entering through the reverse side. Phew! Lesson learned!

A. This photo displays the longer bolt and spacer required to clear the rack from the rotating headset.
With a fiasco diverted, I installed the Racktime Topit following diagrams drawn on paper, the kind that lack written clues to accommodate multiple languages. With lower rack ends easily screwed into the mid-fork eyelets, I bought a longer bolt to accommodate fender support and top rack bracket, the later heavily bent in a vice to reach the position near the central hole in the fork, and with a spacer to clear the headset and V-brakes. It was a finely-tuned feat, and when admiring Miss Clementine from afar, I began to understand the rack's shortcomings in it's current configuration.  See two photos labeled "A" above for visual reference.

As my online research indicated, the Racktime Topit can sit traditionally lower, depending on where the mid-fork eyelets are positioned. However, it's not uncommon to see the rack propped higher, much like on Miss Clementine. If the rack platform is horizontal users have reported that hauling gear works out just fine without adversely affecting handling. I suspected however that a steeply angled front rack, as my first attempt turned out, panniers might be awkward and possibly shift while in transit.

It wouldn't be too terrible to live with it's current set up, but after thinking and scrounging in our collection of bike parts, I came up with a manageable retrofit.

B. Second time around, this fix should work (I think).
If you look closely at the photo above, you may recognize a pair of pre-twisted rear rack brackets refitted to Miss Clementine's fork crown's bolts, then afixed to the rack with plastic-coated P-clamps gleaned from left over rack parts. What I discovered, was there are numerous parts one can purchase to use the fork crown eyelets but they are proprietary and I couldn't locate accessories specific to the Topit. The P-clamp I used is a slightly larger diameter than I needed but smaller clamps of similar, as was explained to me "plasti-dipped" design are apparently unavailable in a hardware store (talk about proprietary!), so instead of searching further afield I layered the inside with a piece of bicycle tube which snugged the clamp nicely around the rack. The rack seems quite stable, though time will tell if the mechanism will hold up well under a touring load. What I particularly like about the new arrangement is it allows the rack to be separate from the fender attachment. Having two separate systems seems easier to fix should something go awry, especially if I'm away from home.

As an aside, the fork crown "eyelets" have always intrigued me, this being my first bicycle with this feature, though I didn't imagine I would use them quite so soon! It's a handy option, as I discovered, should you need another mounting point, and two points of contact as opposed to the one longer bolt through the fork should provide more stability to the rack.

To finish up the second wrench session, I replaced my terrible twine job with a couple wraps of leopard print duct tape that better suits my style.

With the new additions, Miss Clementine is feeling more like my own bicycle and developing a personality. I'm taking her on a bike overnight in two weeks so no better time like the present to try out her new front rack!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Floral Bouquet Makes My Day

I was knee deep into a major project at work when two staff members surprised me with flowers, card, and a bag of local chocolate truffles, announcing it was Administrative Professionals Day. The gifts were much appreciated, but it was the messages written in the card, by numerous staff members that let me know how much they appreciate what I do that adds value to the company and their particular projects, that affected me the most.

I couldn't resist bicycling the flowers home, the included box making it easy to attach to my rack using a bungee cord. Too bad I couldn't use this image for the Errandonnee's "You carried WHAT on your bike?" category!

I smiled all the way home.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thoughts on Routine Maintenance and Fascination with Araya Rims

I'm pretty good at keeping my chain oiled and wiping rims - sometimes daily if I commute during inclement weather - so though I may put off other routine maintenance, I eventually get around to those less glamorous yearly tasks like replacing brake pads and chain. I had procrastinated long enough that the lowest freewheel sprocket grumbled underfoot and I avoided that gear altogether until a warm weekend day allowed for outdoor repairs.

Greenfield kickstand - a little crusty but functional.
With the bike in the stand, I had noticed that oiling the underside of the frame during winter rides on salt crusted paths and roads had curbed most of the corrosion, except for the new kickstand replaced in November. The metal has developed some kind of residue and for better or worse is still quite functional. The kickstand wasn't shiny to begin with, rather the color of a five cent coin much the same as the MKS pedals installed late last summer, though the pedals have fared well during the winter months. 

It's customary to replace chains twice a year on my commuter bike. In some respects this feels excessive because I don't remember performing this kind of frequent maintenance on my other bikes, but then again I have to remind myself that winter adversely affects all those moving parts. New chain installed, front brake pads replaced, and rear pads adjusted made my bicycle feel like a svelty machine once again!

Beautiful, squared Araya rims.
However, before I took the bike for a spin, upon closer inspection I noted excessive wear on the freewheel. The rim was also slightly dished, but not overly so. I've seen worse. And for at least two years, the spokes on the left side have been looser than the right, which might account for that annoying creaking which I mentioned last fall had disappeared, but lately has manifested itself once again. And though the wheel has remained perfectly true it's also original to the bicycle and the worn freewheel meant it was time to replace the whole back wheel.

Did I ever mention I'm smitten with Araya rims?

I've used, or should I say, been exposed to Araya rims on most of my 1980s bicycles. The squared rims are fairly ubiquitous in bicycles of that era and provide a unique old school look. The more I work on my bicycles the more those rims speak to me. And for whatever reason, those wheels, like the stout early mountain bikes of the same era, have held up well.

I hated to say goodbye to the rear Araya wheel on my commuter bicycle. I contemplated holding onto the wheel for the axle and rim, but I'm not a wheel builder and frankly it wasn't practical. Emotionally, I had to let that wheel go. And luckily, I had a spare Araya rear wheel and cassette (found in a free bin at a garage sale - lucky me), that I had used briefly a couple years ago. The trade off is the "new" freewheel doesn't have optimal gearing for hills, but I'm happy to still have beautiful, old school style.

Now that my commuter bicycle is running smoothly, I'm pleased. However, I will keep an eye out for more Araya wheels, just because those beauties are still available.