Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ready for Spring

New England has been a cold and snowy place the past few weeks. We got a big storm before Christmas, followed by a couple of ice storms, and we've since been whacked several times with 4-6 inches of snow per storm. This was all punctuated with multiple intervals of single-digit temperatures that have kept everything more or less solid, and even burst one of my two outside spigots (which I forgot to turn off and drain after a mid-fall power-washing escapade). The driveway is a sheet of ice, save for the spot where the minivan is normally parked. It's a good time to have a Gravely with a snowblower attachment, and mine is getting a workout. But not such a good time for riding.

That said, it is a good time to work on bikes. I've had some maintenance tasks mapped out for some time, and in the past few weeks have added a few fun things to the list.

The Paramount is mostly all set. I installed the replacement fork a few weeks ago, so all I really need to do is put some off-road tires on it, and it's ready again for the woods. And even there, I suspect I could manage a fair percentage of the local singletrack with the tires it's currently wearing. I also want to put the stainless King cages on it, as I mentioned in my last post, and move the Specialized cages onto the Schwinn. Finally, if the old Brooks remains unbearable, I'll put the red Selle San Marco from the Fuji on the Paramount, and mount Juli's honey B-17S on her Fuji (an option she has approved). Ava is still pretty small, and shouldn't need a wider saddle on the trailer bike this season, so I won't sweat saddle choices for her right now.

I have a set of stem-mounted shifters I want to put on the trailer bike, so that I can reclaim my Shimano barcons and unload those on eBay (I'd like to reclaim a few hundred dollars from my parts box, from these and other components). The stem shifters are neat -- they're Dia-Compe retrofriction Power shifters that I bought for an eventual city bike. But it's not practical to start another build right now, so Ava can have them instead. That's all I've planned for the trailer bike, unless Ava complains about the saddle.

The Kestrel needs nothing at the moment, and won't get anything. Ditto my wife's Bianchi 650B conversion, ditto her Gary Fisher mountain bike, and ditto the Trek 950 MTB currently in my father's den.

The Schwinn needs new tires. Its Continentals don't have many miles on them, but are old and are starting to shed casing threads. A set of Panaracer Paselas with wire beads will do the job cheaply. And I'm toying with getting a set of the Silver bar-end shifters from Rivendell and moving the Suntour barcons back to the Fuji. That will reclaim a second set of 8-speed Shimano bar-end shifters that I can offload. Strictly in the fiddling department, I need to mess around with the fenders on that bike a bit, because they don't sit quite right. And I need to likewise fiddle with the rack's front strut and also figure out how to mount my panniers to that rack (or possibly replace the rack).

Juli's Fuji needs a headset repack, in addition to the possibility of swapping saddles. I also need to reposition the downtube clamp for the shifters to free up the steering a bit (which is tight because of the way I routed the shifter cables all the way along the bars). My hope is I won't have to replace the shifter cable housings and bar tape in the process, mostly because it's a pain. And I want to put a rack on it, which I'll get back to in a few minutes. Other than that, it's ready to roll.

Ava's puppydog Specialized Hotrock is going to be treated to new bearings and grease in the bottom bracket and hubs. This is mostly so we will have a project to do together, but I'm guessing I'll find the bearings dry anyway. And the training wheels will come off too, in preparation for her indoctrination into true two-wheeled riding. By the way -- if you have young kids, and have done the stooping over thing one day too many, trying to teach them to ride, there is a better way. I won't give the secret away, out of respect to the author, but I can attest to the effectiveness of this e-book. I took one simple thing away from the it, and that one thing made all the difference with Juliana.

Back to bike projects; lastly, I've been helping a friend revive an older Bertoni. Most of the parts she needs have been accumulated, and it's about a day's worth of work to get them all installed. We need to find a Saturday or Sunday in the next few months to do that, so she can get out there this spring, herself.

All good stuff to do on cold winter weekends, as long as you have a warm place to work. And though there's a lot to do, here, each of "my" bikes requires at most a couple of hours of work, and only a few dollars worth of parts, if any. Besides, the work is easy when you have something to look forward to.

And I do: Apart from just looking forward to spring riding, I'm going to take my girls on a combined biking/camping weekend this year! That probably means the three of us will take my wife's Odyssey to a campground, taking the bikes with us, and set out on a couple of lightly packed day trips from there. It will be the first trip of this kind for them. I've done a few like this, and will probably do a few more on my own or with friends this summer, but my goal is to do at least one with the girls, possibly two.

The purchase of a rack for the Fuji is all about getting ready for this first trip. I'd also like to get Juli a saddlebag or trunk bag so that she can take part in schlepping stuff around on a bike. Not too much -- she's still young after all -- but enough to give her a sense of pride in contributing. Maybe she can carry our lunch each day, for example (and I have a cooler bag that I'd just need to figure out how to secure, to that end).

I picked up a classic Pletscher rack for the Fuji, though it may prove to be too large. It's the old cast aluminum rack with the big spring-loaded clip on it that you've probably seen a hundred times. I didn't have one on my Raleigh, but one of my friends had one on his Varsity. I'm assuming the strut rods will be too long for a bike with 24" wheels, but I think I can fix that. I'm more worried that the rack itself will be ridiculously large for the bike's little frame. If it is, I'll have to figure something else out, and keep the Pletscher for a future project. But assuming it fits reasonably well, my plan is to shorten the struts (the rods that prop the back of the rack up, bolted to the eyelets on the dropouts), heat and flatten the ends, and then drill them. If I screw that up, I'll buy a set of Nitto struts and strut bolts, drill out the rivets that hold the the Pletscher struts, and use the Nitto struts instead. Or something. Once I figure it out, I'll post a picture. I may have had enough rack adventures by then to justify a broader rack post, as well.

This little trip will also require a new tent. I've had a basic orange and blue pup tent since I was a kid, and have suffered much ridicule from friends for it as an adult. I was probably 11 when I got it. It's a terrible tent by many standards, honestly -- poorly ventilated, lots of condensation, no rain fly, and a lightweight bottom panel. But it's pretty light, compact enough for cycling and backpacking, goes up and down quickly, and though it's seen only modest use, even so it has served me pretty well for maybe 30 years (and how many things can you say that about?). Unfortunately, it won't hold three people, and it's time to get something bigger and better.

I also need to get another sleeping pad. I have a couple of lightweight, 3/4-length, self-inflating Therm-a-Rests the girls can use (and they'll work better for their light little bodies than my big, heavy one), and I want to pick something more substantial up for myself. I don't much like waking up all stiff and achy from lying on the ground all night, to tell the truth. But most everything else I need for a camping weekend, I have.

One of the great things about having kids is being able to share in first experiences with them. They had their first experience with really looking at snowflakes this winter, for example. They were scrapping with each other in the car, and the antagonism stopped immediately when I pointed out they could actually see the 6-pronged shapes of the snowflakes on the car windows. Hopefully this will be another one of those memorable firsts. Could go either way, I suppose, but I'm sure I'll treasure the memory of the experience either way.

All for now,


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