Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good weather for two wheels

It's good weather for cycling here in the midwest: sunny, cool and fragrant in the morning; bright and warm in the afternoon; pleasantly blue and purple somehow in the evening. Birds are out and talking to each other and flying about. The only detriment to cycling this time of year is the wind. When the wind blows against me, my progress is at a crawl. It feels as if I'm slow as jogging, at those times. It has caused me to weave all over the road or bike path as I attempt to accusingly observe my rear brake pads for maladjustment. Alas, buddy. The brakes aren't on.

The fun part of the wind for a cyclist is when the wind gives a beneficial push. But, similar to the down side of the hill, the part where the wind helps us along is never as long as the fight against it.

I've yet again broken off the mount I had rigged up for my rear flashing light. Now, I'm down to attaching it to the collapsible metal wire basket. The rear blinking red light has a little clip that relies on gravity to keep it secure. I'm not pleased with the setup. For one thing, I have to have the basket unfolded, as if ready to carry something. I'm unable to attach the blinking light to the folded basket. The other thing is that I generally carry my daily load in the basket on the drive side of the bike. Utilizing this side for my daily backpack full of necessities (my man purse) allows the bike to stand on its kickstand, barely. If the load is off the drive side, the "down" side of the kickstand, it will fall over every time. I would prefer to have the red blinking light on the left side of the bike, the traffic side.

I finally had a flat tire on the touring Schwalbes after about two full years of year round use, on fine chat, and city streets. It was the rear. I repaired the flat using a patch I cut from an old tube. I cleaned it with some of the soap and water I'd used to find the leak; next I roughed up the area with the buffer that came with the patch kit; lastly, I applied a thin coat of regular school use rubber cement to both the patch surface and tube surface, I allowed both surfaces to become tacky and get a white glaze before attaching the patch to the tube. I have a roller tool that's designed to press the bead and screen into a storm window frame which I use to press the patch securely in place. All these are techniques I learned patching vehicle tires as a teenager.

The patch held, but I didn't seat the tire properly on the rim and sometime during the next day as it was parked the tube crept out between the rim and tire and blew out making it unrepairable. I was disappointed, because it was a Shcwalbe tube, and had a nice threaded metal valve stem that came with a little nut for securing the valve stem to the rim. The tube didn't fail, I was hasty in my desire to get the bike back into service and didn't do it correctly. On my commute the next morning, I felt an annoying  hump as I rode, but it didn't register to examine the tire to see what was going on. If I'd have noticed it, I'd have deflated the tube so it wouldn't be ruined.

Instead I had to purchase a new tube from my LBS (local bike store) a.k.a. Wal-Mart. I took my time reseating the tire this time and it's worked flawlessly these past few days, including the weekend. I lost very little air pressure with the Schwalbe tire and tube combination, and I'm anxious to see how the Bell brand tube will perform in maintaining pressure.

I was forced to ride my "other" bike while my three-speed was out of commission. It's a Hawthorne single speed with a single piece crank, 26" wheels, and coaster brake. It's really an inferior bike, but I keep it for sentimental reasons. It has Schwalbe touring tires and tubes on it also and has gone many,  many miles carrying the weight of me and my two kids without failing.

I paid more for the tires and tubes on my three-speed  than I did for the bike itself. Granted, it's a used 70s era three speed, but it has a butted frame, 27" wheels, and sort of a semi three piece crank. The tires are such a good investment, I can't stress their importance enough.

I hope to go another nearly two years without a flat. I don't carry spares or repair gear on my commute. Since I commute in the town I live in, I'll walk if I have a flat. Other bicycle commuters may have too long of a commute to walk if this happens, or don't have another person to bail them out with a ride if they get a tire failure. Those people should carry patches, and pump. My bike doesn't have quick release wheels either, so I['d have to carry the correct size wrench for that, too.  I just would rather rely on the superiority of the tires to see me through.

Keep on commuting by bike!