Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mountain bike personalization '20

The whole civilized world is dealing with a virus outbreak right now.  The smart people are limiting unnecessary contact with other people, washing their hands, avoiding crowds, etc.  Then there are some who are apparently using their spare bedroom as a toilet paper repository.  (It's truly weird!  Toilet paper consumption is 1000x what it normally is!  If I'd known, I'd a-told my finance guy, "Put all my money in Charmin!")

One VERY nice thing... so far at least, bicycling is a good way to maintain that recommended social distance, while also maintaining a healthy outdoor lifestyle.  March has been a good month for me.  (Yesterday was a little dicey - I think everybody was on the Greenbelt!  Probably due to the nice weather.  It was jammed with walkers, dog walkers, cyclists, E-cyclists (you know, bike riding without the exercise), skaters.  And obviously lots of 'em got a little rusty over the winter.)

I've also recently applied some upgrades to my Cannondale mountain bike... equipping it for the kind of riding I do.

For one thing... I added a DROPPER SEATPOST.

Traditionally, a person installs a dropper if they need to lower their seat to negotiate particularly difficult or technical stretches of singletrack.  I did it to ease getting started!  My bike is so tall that the saddle hits me at about the waist, when I'm straddling it!  The dropper post (which is controlled by an onboard lever - like your office chair) can be lowered when I'm "parking."  Then when I'm taking off, I get to moving and raise the saddle back up to normal level.  (At some point it might also come in handy if I'm on some technical singletrack - time will tell.)

I also replaced the tires.

The bike came with some "almost fat" knobby tires - perfect for slow riding in loose dirt, etc.  But the fact is, I expect my riding (on that bike) will be a mix of brisk pavement riding, dirt-and-gravel road riding, and the occasional offroad "traditional mountain bike riding."

(But what, truly, is traditional mountain bike riding?  I'm guessing most mountain bikes are ridden more like what I'm anticipating - lots of pavement, some dirt.  I always smile to myself when I see guys lumbering along on FAT BIKES on the Greenbelt!  ALWAYS guys!  That's the opposite of an E-bike - "bike riding with TWICE the exercise!")

Another factor - I wasn't able to hook up my BOB trailer to the mountain bike - not enough clearance for those semi-fat tires.

So... I replaced the 2.35 inch tires with some 40mm tires.  That about 1.6 inches.  They are "knobby" tires, but with a fairly wide solid center ridge, which will allow for brisk pavement riding... or at least that's my line of thought.  Recommended pressure is 50-85PSI.  They should roll pretty nice at 85... and if I get to some gnarly trails, I can bleed some air, and they should be fairly adequate.  And - the trailer can be attached!  (They are Schwalbe "Land Cruiser Plus" tires, with a puncture-resistant belt.)  I hope to provide a review, after some miles and experience.  In the meantime, I'll try to survive the virus with my family, and accumulate those miles and experience.

Stay well, friends!

Friday, March 20, 2020

My new favorite "mail order" bike parts merchant

I always feel good about patronizing the good Local Bike Shops.  They are here for us... those that I deal with are consistently reasonably-priced, particularly with service fees.  If you need a part in a pinch, you can often find it the same day at a well-equipped LBS.  (I've also got to give a shout-out to Boise Bicycle Project.  They are a good source of knowledge, as well as binloads of good used parts that are still 100% functional at amazingly reasonable prices.)

However, as a guy who goes through a considerable number of tires, tubes, and other "consumables" (up to and including brake pads, chains, chainrings, cassettes, etc.), I'm always on the lookout for good prices as well as reliable shipping and delivery.

And - my new favorite parts supplier is not only out of town, it's out of country!  Maybe 5000 miles away!

Chain Reaction Cycles is across the pond - in Northern Ireland.  They have a fantastic inventory of stuff at very competitive prices.  I've ordered from them several times, and their service is really quite remarkable!

Most recently, I placed an order for two tyres (they sell tyres - but they substitute nicely for tires!) and three tubes.  I deliberately ordered a little over $60 of merchandise, which qualified me for free shipping.  The order was placed on March 16 (Monday).  I got an email from the shipper (DHL Express) on Tuesday... enroute, scheduled to arrive Thursday.  I got a follow-up email from DHL on Thursday morning, "Your delivery is today."  And by 10am, I was slicing through the packing tape on the box.  Sah-WEEEEEET!  (I've ordered from the two big state-side bike mail order companies - "N" and "P" - for years, and it typically takes a week to 10 days for the stuff to arrive.)

If you occasionally go to an out-of-town supplier, I'd suggest you put Chain Reaction on your "go to" list.  Remember: tyres = tires, spanner = wrench, etc.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Group ride!

'Twas an almost-perfect day today, and I went on a somewhat rare ride with somebody else.  That "somebody" is somebody very special to me - my granddaughter Laurel.  Her momma and daddy won't allow their kids to go until they're a year old - Laurel turned 1 year in February, and we're off to the races!  (I get a LOT more smiles from other Greenbelt people, when I have one of the grandbabies along.  This is the third who has used this little up-front bike seat... their parents gifted it to me, many moons ago, and we've gotten lots of mileage out of it.)

Friday, February 28, 2020

I'm Saddle-Rich!!

In these times of financial volatility, I'd suggest you consider what I'm doing - INVEST IN BICYCLE SADDLES!

A few weeks back, I noticed that one of the screws on my Selle Anatomica saddle was missing. I rode on home... and upon closer inspection I discovered that I had broken another one! (D'oh!)

I've commented at length in the past, about my "Anatomica Experience," including HERE and HERE. In a nutshell, they are the most comfortable saddle I've ever sat on. And comfort is a major consideration when choosing a saddle... no? But unfortunately, at least for me, I've had negative results with their relative longevity. The models I have used are theoretically designed for riders weighing up to 250 pounds, and I'm often close to that threshold... I tend to tip the scales at 235-245 pounds, depending on time of year. (I'm at the high end of that range right now, since it's the end of "holiday eating season," and "ideal riding season" is not yet upon us.) I've probably broken five Anatomica frames in the ten years I've been riding on them. (If they last less than a year, they are covered by a no-questions-asked warranty. After a year, it costs about $50 for a replacement frame... send in your seat and they send it back, fixed.)

The current broken seat is an "H2" model... it's different from the older ones, because it's "modular" - it has screws instead of rivets, and a 3-piece frame. (As seen in photo, above.)  And, it was one of the cast frame pieces that broke - NOT the rails this time.  I chose that one because I expected to have to fix it eventually, and figured it would be less expensive.

I sent a message to the Anatomica people.

While I was waiting for a reply, I decided to check out the alternatives... and ended up deciding to try a seat I hadn't tried before - a BROOKS FLYER. I found one for a very attractive price, on the "Amazon UK Global Store." I have a BROOKS IMPERIAL on one of my bikes, and I've been pretty happy with it. It's almost, but not quite, as comfortable as the Anatomica. The "Flyer" has springs! And... if you register it, they promised to extend the 2-year warranty to 10 years! What's not to love! I ordered one... with about a 2-week delivery window, since it's coming across the pond.

Meanwhile... Anatomica replied. The nice customer service gal told me they'd send me the replacement frame piece for $20, and also made me an irresistible offer on a "B-Stock" new saddle - supposedly with minor cosmetic flaws, but nothing affecting ride quality or warranty. I said, "Send me one of each!"

So - I got the Anatomica shipment a couple weeks ago. Fixed the broken saddle in 15 minutes using common household tools. Was very happy with the "B-Stock" new one... immediately installed it on my "main rider." (I figure I should use it while the warranty is in effect. And supposedly they are using an upgraded CR-MO in their construction now, to make them stronger. We shall see.)

Here's the new Anatomica. Pretty sweet. And just as comfortable as expected, right out of the box.

Well... yesterday the new Brooks arrived. And it's pretty sweet, too!

So - now I've got two fully-functional SPARE sweet saddles on the shelf, waiting for their turn.

I think I'll just have to try out this "sprung" Brooks Flyer. (Brooks saddles have a reputation for needing a couple hundred miles of break-in, before they achieve cosmic comfort. So I expect that... but I'm also anxious to see how the springs affect both comfort and rideability.)

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Nature (bike) hike

A warmer-than-usual day afforded me an opportunity to bicycle downstream once again, along the Greenbelt on the south side of the Boise River, and then upstream on the north side.  Some of the sights I observed:

Once you get out of the heavily-populated river banks, you start seeing more bird nesting areas.  I always enjoy seeing these comorant nests...

When I was snapping these photos, a nice lady out walking her dogs gave me a heads-up about some blue heron nesting activity a little farther downstream...

On the way back, due to some inspiration I received from a photo posted on social media, I thought it would be fun to try some macro photography of moss.  Usually I just ride on by, but even the tiniest slice of nature can be strikingly beautiful.  Below are two close-up photos of "moss canyons," each followed by a farther-away photo that includes the close-up scene...

Friday, January 31, 2020

Banner January

We had unseasonably warm weather through most of the month of January, and being an old retired fixed-income guy, I was able to take advantage by doing a lot of cycling.  (NOTE to people from elsewhere, considering moving to Boise - it's usually AWFUL in January!  Snow... cold... smog.  We just got lucky this month.  Don't move to Boise!)

And as is my custom nowadays... at least this time of year a large percentage of my cycling was on the Greenbelt.  It's not as pleasant in the dead of summer when the pavement is overrun, but in January there are not Greenbelt traffic jams.  And, let's face reality - with the meaningful influx of newbies in cars, the streets are getting less bicycle-friendly and more stressful all the time, year-round, at least on the streets without bike lanes.

I covered the area from the "Highway 21 high bridge" upstream...

... to Eagle Road downstream.

Some nice scenery between the two, as well.  Good times.  (What a blessing it is, to have a flexible schedule that enables me to hit the road at the peak time of day.)

But - the highlight of the whole month was earlier today, when I got to take my granddaughter Laurel on her first ever bicycle ride!  (It was a delight for me... serious business for her!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New decade... quality saddle time!

Good fortune was mine...  took advantage of the nice weather.  You know it's going to be a good year and decade, when you squeeze in 20 miles on Day 1!

Out Orchard and Gowen, for an armament check.  (Gotta make sure we're ready for the Ayatollah and his minions!)

Did a loop around the Boise Air Traffic Control Tower.

TRIVIA: The tower is the tallest ATC tower in the northwest.  It's the second-tallest building in Idaho, behind the Zion's Bank Center downtown, which is 28 feet higher.  (But the bank building includes an unoccupied vanity tower on top, that's probably the top 40 feet.)  I was lucky to get a tour of the Air Traffic Tower with a Scout group, just before it was turned over to the FAA back in 2010.  Nice view!

From there, out Pleasant Valley Road, Hollylynn Drive, South Cole Road, Lake Hazel, and back into town on Orchard.  I also had a very pleasant stop along the way to visit with my friend Bob, who I hadn't seen in probably five years.  (Airport tower is still visible in the last photo.)  So - time well spent all around!