Grocery Pannier?-CG Post #583, April 14, 2021

I must admit that a pannier for the bicycle that serves one purpose may not be on the the top of the list of things bicyclists think of when augmenting their carrying abilities when on the bicycle. But this little gem has made me a believer. I found it at a cycling co-op local to me, where I spend a bit of time volunteering. It was made by Bontrager. And I will be the first to say that it was made quite well. I like the design and the obvious quality used in its’ manufacture. And it has some impressive details.

It is good that it folds closely to the rack when empty, aided by a strap. That makes it less aerodynamically and literally a drag. The flat and sturdy base makes it open well and hold more stuff. I also like the locking rack mounts, that close when you push the handle down and open when you pull up on the handle. That corresponds to the mounting and removal action quite nicely. The straps are also a nice touch, and are long enough for even a big person like myself to use them. They also have some grips at the tops of the straps to keep the wearer comfortable.

For a rather narrowly used item, this has a lot going for it. The pannier could also be used for touring. I would want to figure a more secure top roll holder for it. Maybe a couple of spring clamps or the like. Just enough to keep honest people honest. But the main purpose of this is to haul groceries. Regular panniers do a good job of this. This pannier does a better job. The flat bottom makes it easy to load. The presence of the straps across the top makes it easier to overload. That is something you definitely do not want to do with touring panniers.

New Tires Lead to a New Saddle- CG Post#582, April 11,2021.

I’ve made a few changes with the cycles this week. As I was getting ready to ride this afternoon, while there had been showers off and on, the weather decided to favor me with a deluge of seemingly biblical proportions. But just for a short while. After a bit, the weather cleared for today. This being spring in the Midwest, I expect more rain tomorrow as well. I got busy making some changes to the bikes in my fleet while it rained. I have a bit more room, now. The Trek Navigator has been moved on to a new home.

One of the changes I have made is to remove the Alpha-One leather saddle from the Panasonic MC 2500 26″ tourer. That saddle, while good in some applications, does not work well with the Panasonic. The Panasonic is made of Tange steel. I see that steel as not as comfortable as say, Reynolds 531 at absorbing road bumps and the like. At least with a hard saddle and 100 p.s.i. tires. Something had to give, literally. Since I like the tires and the frame, the saddle was my best route to mitigating this problem.

I had found a rather nice Specialized saddle some time back. It has flex, but little padding, and vent holes that also act to keep one firmly adhered to the saddle, through a combination of covering fabric and design. The fabric kind of keeps you from sliding around on the saddle. The plastic underframe flexes, much like a leather saddle does. On an 8 or 9 mile run, it worked out very well for me. This saddle has gone a long way to solving the comfort problem with the narrower and higher pressure tires. Sometimes I find that one problem with the bicycle can be solved by changing an unrelated component or accessory.

Short Trips on New Tires-CG Post #581, April 7, 2021

I have recently fitted some Bontrager high pressure 26″ tires to the Panasonic, and they seem to do quite a job. They improve my speed a bit, and my speed needs improvement. My speed is so low, everything looks like up from here. Things will improve as my riding continues. The tires are a little sharp at 100p.s.i., so I guess they may need to go a little below that. Again, I will do a lot more miles before deciding. Changes could be made that will ease the ride without taking air from the tires. I have no need for pinch flats.

I made both a grocery run and an unladen run on the Panasonic with these tires, and I am happy with the result. Distances are not yet what I consider long enough to judge touring capabilities properly. Any longer tours will be in the province of the Raleigh Sojourn anyway. I see the 26″ touring bike as a low mileage per day sort of machine, for off road and gravel road touring. I like this bicycle best in those situations. The Raleigh seems best at the longer distances on good roads. I am planning some big changes in the roster.

I like the Diamondback hybrid I use in the winter enough to turn the Fuji frame I have into a flat bar road bike. I think the frame may be a tad small for road cycling, but just right for upright. We will have to see how that turns out. I also have a large Fuji frame from a Grand Touring. That bicycle worked out well, but it too would be comfortable as a flat bar cycle. Many bikes will have to make some accommodations over the next few years. I like drop bars, but it is becoming harder for me to crane my neck up to see over several miles. Or I could just ride more. We will see, when all the dust of 2020 has settled.

Conversions-CG Post #580, April 4, 2021

A 27.5 inch wheel, a 26x 1 and1/2 tire, adds up to a 650b combination.

You learn something new every day. I have been looking for inexpensive 650b tires for some time, as I would like to do a conversion. I had some 27.5 wheelsets that I knew would fit 650b tires, but I had no idea that the solution lurked in my stock of old tires. As a matter of fact, you may have some sitting around as well, if you have old enough tires or wheels sitting around. I found that 26x 1and1/2″ tires, like one finds on old three speeds, often have the same size as the 650b. ERTO numbers are quite close, actually. Sometimes, the interrelations in cycling are quite baffling.

Now, why I never thought to check the ERTO numbers before is another thing I find hard to explain. The first ERTO number says how wide the tire is. Not how wide the tire is said to be, like 700×23, but the actual width of the tire, and this can vary. The second is the inside diameter of the tire. Again, not all tires are the same. I would advise caution when doing this, as always with tires. Inflate about half way, then check that the bead is seated all the way round. Then carefully pump the tire to the recommended pressure.

This gives us some tires for gravel riding that can convert that old 27″ frame for gravel, as well as some 700c bicycles as well. This gives you better compliance and traction than 700c rims and wheels on less formal road surfaces, and you can run the tires at lower pressures as well. I think they change the bicycle handling as well, so it is something you may want to test out over more than one frame. They offer a different choice for tires, handling, and grip on the road, and may rejuvenate that old frame that just doesn’t work for other uses any more.

I must also add that the tire mentioned here is what is sometimes referred to as a fractional tire, as opposed to the decimal tire. The fractional is marked as 26x 1 and1/2 inches, and the decimal, or mountain bike tire of the mountain bike tire size is marked as 26x 1.50. And the tires I put on this rim, going back to the ERTO numbers, are actually 1.6 inches wide, instead of 1 and 1/2 inches. Both tires are about the same height when standing on the ground, gauging by where the axles are, but the fractional rim is much larger than the mountain bike rim. The mountain bike tires are much deeper, though. Just something I ran across, in my relation with these new fangled tire and wheel sizes.

Work Gets in the Way, but it Pays the Bills-CG Post#579, March 31, 2021

I missed out on another bicycle today, like I need another bicycle at all. Work gets in the way of a lot of things lately, but I sure do enjoy it. I like that I still have work to go to, outside the home, and I appreciate that. The fact that I cannot respond to advertisements and notices is not so big a thing, in the light of the fact that it pays bills and provides money for such escapades as bicycle purchases and accessories. But it does put a crimp in the amount of bicycle refurbishment I can show on this blog. It will soon get better, as I have a project that may be accessible at my leisure, let alone the Raleigh project that is about halfway done. When the workbench is complete, that project can move ahead quickly.

Let us all be hopeful that when all the current situations have resolved themselves, things will get back to some semblance of normal. Not that I think that things will return to exactly how they were. That boat has sailed. But perhaps there will be some more room in the world for more bicycles and bicycle transportation. Perhaps more people will work from home when they feel the need to, or just want to. My hope is that both governments and corporations can see the need for more exercise and better health care and health maintenance. I could see cycling as a good fit for such endeavors. Just encouraging may not be enough. But encouragement may be a start.

The bicycle co-op is getting busy again, and that is a good sign, and a counter to the sellers of both cheap bicycles and to those who sell little but expensive bicycles. We need to expand that middle ground, and I believe that fixing up old bicycles is a good way to do that, and provide economical, yet enjoyable transportation to those who cannot afford a car, or cannot drive a car. And a dependable old high end bike costs less to run than a bus pass costs. Let alone the irony of the concept that someone is an essential worker, yet is not paid a living wage. A good bicycle, then, can be an economic opportunity, or at least a way to continue on and perhaps improve one’s fortunes.

New Ways-CG Post #578, March 28, 2021.

I have to admit that I was skeptical when I first started working on bicycles for others. I did not trust my skills, so I rode my repairs until I was confident I could do as good work for others as I did for myself. I have always worked as a “volunteer”. I use quotation marks because I think I profited more than those receiving the bicycles I worked on. I also found, prepared, and sold some bicycles for resale. By this, I had a lot of experience working on many types of bicycles. All levels of value, but mostly those on the lower end. I also started buying bicycles from auction and garage sale venues. All of these gave me a lot of experience in what goes right and wrong with bicycles.

When I first started volunteer work, I worked for an event where hundreds of people were given bicycles at a one day event. We would work for months preparing a whole fleet of bicycles, and they would all be given away in a morning. Some of them found their way to resellers quickly, but most provided transportation for folks who could not otherwise afford a new bicycle, so a used one worked out just as well. This grew into the co-op where I currently volunteer, same folks, but now an ongoing benefit to the community. The co-op mostly charges for bicycles. You can work off the cost of a bicycle, though, if you do not have the cash. Either way, it is far less expensive than other sources of bicycles.

Most bicycles have problems relating to maintenance. Greasing bearings, lubricating cables, chain, and derailleurs all make the problems of bicycles disappear, as does hub care and maintenance. We generally follow a checklist of many more items, but these cover a lot of ground. Oxidation, caused by water, salt, and bimetallic corrosion are the main enemies of a properly functioning bicycle, as well as dirt and disuse. Regular maintenance and a good dry place to be are what a bicycle needs from its’ owner. For that, the bicycle can give you fitness, transportation, adventure, and camaraderie. Seems like a pretty fair exchange.

Recumbent Ride and Flag Hack-CG Post # 577, March 24, 2021.

I got out the recumbent the other day. It was a good time to take advantage of the beautiful weather at the weekend to run to town and around the trail. New pedals had been fitted. Thicker and apparently more durable they seemed a bit more robust than the basic Shimano mountain bike pedals I had mounted before. I am truly impressed with this tricycle, now that the many problems have been worked out. It had no idler wheel when I got it. The chain had actually started to damage the frame. The disc brakes had problems as well. These required a good deal of cleaning and adjustment to work correctly. I had to make a new axle for the idler wheel, as my previous 1/4″ axles had bent. When I finally wound up going to a #10 hardness bolt, my problems were solved.

I wound up traveling about 10 miles, near to downtown and return. The trails were crowded, and almost every other person was walking a dog. Dogs of all descriptions, as varied as the people walking them. I was riding quite slowly, just a leisurely ride to take in the scenery and enjoy the fresh air. After being cooped up inside all week and half the weekend, it was very nice to get out. It certainly helps to get the recumbent out into the sun. I can see how dirty it became over the winter. It will need a good wash down. That is the problem with the banana color scheme. It shows all the dirt. What dirt the black does not accentuate, the yellow does, and vice-versa. A good wash and wax and refurb will be needed soon.

I stumbled upon a rather handy hack for recumbent riders as well. I have two water bottle mounts behind the seat on this machine. I also have a worn out water bottle. I wound the flag on my bicycle taut around its’ pole, and fitted it through the hole on the water bottle top, then screwed the water bottle back together and fit it in the holder. This gives me a flag I can remove and replace readily. It is both secure and convenient. This solves a lot of problems with placing a flag on my recumbent, and I like to have a flag on this ride because it sits so low to the ground. I do, as well. It makes things seem as if I am moving faster.

I like the tricycle recumbent. It is like having a chair, wherever you need it. The recumbent is fun to ride, even if the pedaling efficiency is not what it is on an upright bike. The recumbent also works a whole different set of muscles. Balance is not required. While it is painfully slow in climbing hills, it seems to make up for it on the flats and downhills. The upright bicycle is better at speed and agility, as well as balance. The upright bicycles and recumbent bicycles are also better at promoting upper body strength. This seems especially true with upright bikes. Now that spring is here, the important thing is to get out and ride.

Spring is Here! CG Post# 576, March 21, 2021

I always enjoy spring. This year, with the relative brevity of the winter, I am still ready for the weather to turn nice and the fields to turn green. The bicycles have to get all their maintenance done, and I was planning that for this week, but other considerations have intruded, and I need to reorganize all my equipment and throw a rudimentary top on the grand workbench. I have a nice frame going there, just no work and storage surfaces. When that work is done, I can get down to the basic maintenance chores of examining, cleaning, and greasing bearings. I also check chain wear, remove mounting bolts and grease them, and make sure everything that needs oiling gets oil.

I am also trying to work out storage and placement for all the machinery. I have all the polishing, cleaning, and metalworking apparatus that I have dedicated for the bicycle projects and their maintenance. Once I can consolidate my efforts in this area, future projects will go more rapidly. That will contribute to more riding time and less wrenching time. So I am considering the time I take now will pay dividends in the future. It will cut down on searching time and also on work time through efficiencies and economies of motion. It will also help that the bicycles get a little more space, and can be better organized for future rides. Panniers and gear will also benefit. I’m looking forward to making some progress and showing some results through more and better illustrations of ongoing processes and projects for the blog as the storage and work areas improve.

With warmer weather, I may be getting out on a few longer rides this spring, depending on the situation. I may go along with a couple of local groups as well, if I am feeling confident that I can keep pace. Health issues will be a factor in this. I have been getting good marks from those who judge my health. I am pretty mediocre on the speed at this point. But all those considerations aside, I feel it may be a good thing to try again. It may also be overconfidence, born of springs’ subtle charms and warmth. But I think it is still worth a go. A few short solo tours will also be on the program, just micro tours to a few local places of some interest.

Tires and Other Dilemmas-CG Post #575, March 17, 2021

I seem to be gravitating toward a fleet of 26″ tired upright bicycles. I do enjoy their more rigid ride and durability. I still plant to have a few drop bar road and touring bikes as well. One or two. But I seem to be heading towards a greater recumbency and MTB reliance. Single speed has already reached a compromise, and that may be applicable for the other drop bar bikes. Going for the mustache bar change-over may take some time. I like to keep these little projects spread out. The Raleigh Sojourn already has some pretty shallow drops and wide stance to the bars. It seems to work out fine, far better than I thought a compact frame touring bike would be. My frame is not compact.

I am also considering narrower tires for both the Trek Navigator and the Panasonic 26″ tourer. I am also still drawing up conversion hardware for the gigantic basket for the Trek. I want to carry this basket as low as possible on the frame so the center of gravity and balance are less affected by heavier loads. Once design is complete, the metalworking can begin. I am trying to lighten this load, but I still plan to use steel for the necessary durability. I would not use aluminum here, as this bike tends to get used a lot in the winter, and I am trying to avoid bimetallic corrosion. Which means I will need to insulate the aluminum frame elements from the steel.

I am perhaps setting up for a new big project for after the Raleigh is complete. We shall have to see how that turns out. I still must complete the workbench and the Raleigh before taking on new projects, but I may be able to offer some previews if things work out. I am also adding a little hardware to the recumbent for chain retention. My projects, large and small, are all being put on hold by work demands and church duties this week , just one of those times when everything competes for and demands attention at once.

Sojourn After Groceries-CG Post #574, March 14, 2021

It may seem like a shame to use a touring bicycle to get groceries , in the eyes of many people. But I find it both a good way to train myself for longer touring, and a way to get used to riding with a load. That is more than you might imagine. I have heard stories of people who have shown up to start a cycling tour having never ridden a loaded bicycle before. That had to be a somewhat unique experience for both the rider and his companions. That sure would not be my cup of tea, but I am rather cautious about having learned how to do something well before I inflict my shortcomings as a cyclist on others. I have had a couple such experiences, but those were both sudden, medical issue oriented occurrences.

That is a part of why I like to get some spring training in before the weather gets really nice. The Raleigh Sojourn is good for this training. It is a bit heavier than my other bicycles, and it rides a little better under load. Most touring bicycles have this characteristic. The bicycle also has wide tires. although they are also at 100 p.s.i., so they roll quite well. I also have disc brakes on this bicycle, so it stops well, even with a front and rear load of full panniers. All of this builds confidence in this bicycle being able to handle a touring load over distance. For a compact frame touring bicycle, I am impressed at its’ handling, ride quality, and stability.

My next test for this bicycle will be in how it actually handles my touring load itself. Nothing tells me how a bicycle will perform better than the bicycle, rider, and load all working together as one. It is the one valid test of what needs changing, and why. Any accessories need to also make their debut at this time, so I know where I have space and need for them. Speaking of accessories, that Pryma leather saddle, and the Roswheel panniers, have been doing good service on the Raleigh Sojourn. I was worried about the Roswheel panniers causing heel strike on this compact framed bicycle. But such has not been the case. Everything is working well together.